Thursday, 25 February 2016

Cold Thoughts

At last, this awful February is drawing to a close, although it looks like March might start off in the same vein. As a fellow blogger said to me the other day, "you go right through a mild winter, get to the end of February and begin to dream of Spring and then winter proper starts". See below, the reserve in all it's early morning, frosty glory.

Mind you, just saying the word March somehow makes the month see better, after all it is the first Spring month, flowers spring up and summer migrants begin coming back.
On the reserve we're inching towards Spring, the water levels are continuing to drop, possibly a bit to quickly, many wildfowl are noticeably in pairs and Chaffinch song is now coming from some of the hedgerows and thickets. The Richards Pipit still commands a daily audience of one's and two's who haven't seen it after three months, just as the Shorelark at Minster Shingle Bank does. The Shorelark must be the single most photographed bird in the UK this winter but then it is remarkably tame. In my garden pond, frog spawn has appeared, only for the pond to ice over the next night, so probably that will be a failure this year.

Reading an article the other day about somebodies memories of school in the 1950's quite stirred me. Going to school when I started, aged five, in 1952, was quite a simple process. Having stayed home with my mother until I was five (normal school starting age - mothers rarely worked in those days), in the September I was taken up the long alley that ran along the bottom of several local side streets and deposited in the school playground. I was terrified and immediately beat my mother back home, whereupon I was given several slaps and dragged back up the alley again and told to stay there. After that, until I left school in 1962, I loved every minute of the three schools that I went to. 
In the winters of those early years, when we still had proper winters, my mother would un-pick old jumpers and re-use the wool to knit me balaclavas. Off I would trudge in those awful itchy and stretchy items of head gear to brave what the winter could throw at me, which in those days was a lot of snow! But the classroom in my infant school at least, was a joy to enter. There would be a large coke fire burning, surrounded by a high wire fire guard, on which we would place all our wet and soggy clothing to dry for home time. At break time the teacher would sit us round the warming fire and while we ate the sandwiches that we had taken, in my case marmite ones, would read us a story.

In the winter when it had snowed and built up like a deep white blanket on the roofs of houses and covered all the back yards and gardens as one, we would bound out of the house like wanderers suddenly coming upon an oasis in the desert. The alley outside our back gates was a deep, white, unspoilt surface marred only by the tracks of passing dogs and cats. We became great game hunters and followed the tracks of these animals as though we were hunting lions and tigers from the books that we had read. But they inevitably ended up disappearing over the high wooden fence of the mysterious old lady that kept lots of animals, had long growths of hair on her chin and shouted at us when we climbed up the fence. We lost interest, and donning old pairs of socks as our gloves, set about making snowballs to throw at the next cat that we saw and when none appeared, threw them at each other.
At lunchtime my father, fresh back from collecting driftwood from the nearby beach to keep the one fire in the house burning, threw more on the fire and it burnt with blue, salty flames. Outside, the day was losing light already and warmed, by the fire and the soup, I stayed indoors and read my books. 


  1. Derek, visited on Sunday. State of the road very good and pretty accessible. Terribly windy as it seems to be interminably whenever we hit Kent these days. Nice to see the walkway pretty devoid of mud but the gale alas !

    The Richard's has so far alluded my friend and I, galling considering we have quite a reasonably high number for Kent. Best part of five hours around the seawall drew nothing not a sniff. Including between 50-200metres at the first bend.

    Most disappointed and we were both surprised that the Pipit doesnt spend more time in the fields as allegedly the species is prone to do sitting up prominently.

    Plenty of waders off the water and numerous close up views of tens of the White-fronts was something of a qualifier.

    Again between 10.00am to around 3pm no sign whatsoever of any Hen Harriers or Short Eared Owls.

    The wind in the last few years seemingly every other weekend is really driving me to distraction. Funny though as there were numerous Skylark around and the odd Meadow Pipit.

    The Swale is not in my good books at the minute ! LOL

    Life encounters and Kent encounters with a Richard's = ZERO.


  2. Oh dear, most people get to see it, or think they do!
    I was there from 4.15 to dark on Sunday at the sea wall hide doing the monthly harrier roost count, which at the last knockings of light saw a ringtail go in to roost.
    The wind was very gusty but luckily I could stand inside the hide.
    The next day at 12.00 I was back, in pouring rain, doing a monthly WEBS count, that achieved a good count but left me soaked. At 69 I wonder if I'm getting to old for all this.

  3. Nice memories of school and home, Derek. I hated school and remember being in trouble quite often. Loved learning, but school was not conducive to learning for me - I think I learned in spite of school.

  4. A shame that you couldn't get on with school Wilma and I bet there was at least one teacher who said that you'd never make anything of your life - now look at you.

  5. What sweet memories you brought back Derek - weren't we lucky that we had such a good time at school and enjoyed it.

  6. Like most things back then Pat, life was simple and not cluttered with all the needs and clutter that there is today.