Friday 24 December 2021

In the Beginning

 We're now in that fag end time of the year when if like me, you get no enjoyment out of all this Christmas stuff, life can get a tad tedious.. What's more, the weather tends to be cold and miry making most activities outside quite unattractive. I spent some of the time this last few days improving a 40-odd page document that I wrote a few years ago that detailed the daily life of myself and my friends during 1965 to 1968.

It is entitled "In the beginning - out of the shadows," because having experienced an unhappy childhood and a boring early teenage spell, it documents my discovery of a group of people of similar age and interests. I've always felt that my real life only begun it's life long trail from then on and many of the friendships still endue to this current day. To give you a flavour let's start at the start of that document:-

In the beginning, early 1965, there were two thirteen year old schoolgirls walking along Rose Street on their way home from school and as my workmates and I drove by there was something about one of them that made me take a longer look. It was her hair that stood out - later, it was always her hair - it was long and it tumbled in waves and curls down on to her young shoulders in the most wonderful deep, gingery red colour that flashed fire in the sun. Other than that she was just a skinny young schoolgirl and it was only a moment and then, still chattering to each other the two girls were gone. I guess that in that moment, although I wasn't aware of it at the time, my dice were thrown but the gamble still had to be made.

Shortly after that I stumbled on the group of people that I've mentioned, we all worked conventionly five days a week but we were folk music fans and so in the evenings, the weekends and holidays, we drifted around out town as it's resident hippies, long-haired and scruffy. It continued in that way for the next year, we drank too much, smoked pot, played guitars, we slept rough, had a few girlfriends and we hitch-hiked to London for long weekends. Fast forward to June 2nd 1966, I'd packed in my job because three of us were due to spend some time hitch-hiking between London and the south coast. That day was hot and sunny and a gang of us, including some old girlfriends, were sitting in a local park alongside the sea front sea wall. Because of the weather the sea front was very busy with people in swimming and suchlike and as we chatted, I casually looked along the people sheltering out of a slight breeze behind the sea wall. I was suddenly struck by the fact that of two young girls busy drying themselves, one was the gingery-haired girl that had caught my eye the previous year. Intrigued and attracted to her, I left my friends and walked over to the girls, who of course had no idea who I was but long-haired and dressed in denim I had some romantic notion that she might be awed by my appearance. What could I say by way of introduction and so I mumbled something about "I'd like a swim, could I borrow your towel to dry off after," to which she agreed and so in my jeans I had a quick dip and sat alongside them drying myself off. We chatted for some time, I told her about my plans to go hitch-hiking in a couple of days, my music interests, my friends and she told me that her name was Christine and she's had her fourteenth birthday just a few days previously. There was me, a month short of my nineteenth birthday becoming infatuated by the minute in this rather young looking girl with the ginger hair and we agreed to meet again the following day. Those moments by that sea wall saw our lives change directions from wherever they were naturally going, I went hitch-king, I came back, we re-connected, she grew up, we fell in love and four years later we got married.

Wednesday 22 December 2021

Year End

 At last we have now seen the passing of the Shortest Day of the year. Technically the length of each day will now increase, although in reality, little of that will be noticed much before the end of January, but if nothing else it encourages daily optimism. For me the most significant day of the winter is January 1st, when we cast off the shackles of the old year and can look forward with hope and inspiration at what a new year will bring.

After several days of continuous gloomy, damp and cold days when it rarely seemed to get fully light, we ended yesterday with an hour or two of sunshine. That led to a hard overnight frost and a beautiful morning today of white frost, blue skies and frozen ground that was a relief after trudging round in ankle deep mud at times. It might also help to nudge flower and fauna into accepting that we are actually in mid-winter, some flowers have been acting as though we are in either autumn or spring. 

Coinciding with this mini cold spell, this week has begun to see the arrival of the first White-fronted Geese of this winter - 64 on Monday had risen to 150 this morning. Unlike the large flock of feral Greylag Geese that are resident on the marshes here, these White-fronted Geese are truly wild birds that fly in to winter here, from their normal homes in the more remote areas of Northern Europe. A lot of their number are family groups, i.e. two adults with this year's bred juveniles. They are lovely geese and a great favourite of mine but unfortunately, because of their wildness, they are also a favourite quarry of the wildfowlers that shoot along the front of the reserve. Hopefully the geese will stay out of danger for much of their stay. 

Another bird that always puts in an appearance in the winter is the Stonechat. They are a resident breeding bird in the British Isles but for a couple of months in the winter they leave their favoured heathlands and wander around the hedgerows and reed beds of the coastal marshes. We have 2-3 pairs of these dapper little birds on the reserve at the moment and I love to watch them rise up above the tops of the reed beds and briefly hover there like a puppet on a string.

There's not much else to say really, both the reserve and the surrounding farmland are looking quite bleak at the moment but I shall be out on the reserve with little Ellie, early every morning over Christmas and the New Year, hoping for that something different to occur.

Monday 13 December 2021

Been a Long Time

 Gawd, August since I last posted, how far away that now seems. Then I was hoping for a decent spell of possibly hot and sunny weather, well we did get some but overall, this summer has been pretty average. Now, it's December 13th and one of those gloomy, never getting fully light sort of days and as I start this it's 3.30 pm, the afternoon is closing down and passing cars already have the headlights on. In another hour it'll be fully dark and another fourteen hour, long night of darkness will begin. Dear me, how do some people love winters?

The nature reserve approaches the New Year with continuing low water levels and as a consequence the wildfowl numbers are also very low, in fact bird numbers there generally are very low. Few winter thrushes have arrived, only immigrant Blackbirds and Chaffinches are about in noticeable numbers. That's not to say that the reserve is totally dry, the heifer flock has seen to that. We've had enough rain to soften the ground and their obsession with pressing against any gateway that is holding them in, in whole flock loads, has seen those gateways turn into areas of a combination of liquid mud and cow poo. All the heifers are pregnant and due to calve in two/three months time and so this week, I'm assured, they're due to be taken off the reserve to calving sheds and pens - can't wait, they make access round the reserve so difficult. In their place we already have 200 of this year's ewe lambs. Lovely looking, sturdy animals and happily supplied by a local farmer in order that we can keep the sward levels of the grass at a low enough level throughout the winter, and therefore benefit the Lapwings next Spring as they begin to breed.

The farmland alongside the reserve now sits pretty much cultivated for the rest of the year. Next year's rape is now over a foot high and the winter corn a few inches high. Any fields now lying fallow will do so until next Spring and then almost certainly be sown with maize to feed the local bio-digester plant with. The only thing that disturbs the farmland tranquility now is the odd crop sprayer and the weekly game shoots. 

The weather patterns these days are all quite crazy really, a few mild days next month will already see the catkin buds on the willows starting to swell and even burst and currently in my garden some daffodil tips are just beginning to push through the soil. But Covid permitting, we'll carry on carrying on and soon the dark days of winter will be behind us.