I read years ago that there is a critical mass of friends in terms of numbers; if you go above it you don't have sufficient time to invest properly in each individual person. So you can have a hundred friends, but only seven of them will be getting real value from you. Another good friend of mine carries out a periodic "pruning" of people to keep on top of this. She says you can collect people without really thinking about it and end up feeling squashed by them- giving little bits of time to too many people without ever really connecting properly with any of them. If I haven't heard from her in a while we have a laugh that I've been "pruned". Anyway, the optimum number of good and close friends is supposed to be around 6. These are the people you would call at 2am if there was an emergency. Whether it be coincidence or not, I have 7 close friends who fall into this bracket and Mrs M is definitely one of them.
Mrs M and her hubby are the sort of friends who, as well as offering emergency aid, can also be entirely relied upon to come up with the goods when the call goes out for a fancy dress party. Indeed, the four of us have been known to sit down to supper at the Massey's on a summer's evening with the boys in short trousers, caps and school ties and Mrs M and I in uniforms and pigtails, as if it were a completely normal thing to do.
When they had a nativity-themed Christmas party a few years ago Mrs M and I went as angels, Mr M and my M as the inn keeper and a sheep respectively. My father-in-law had kindly offered to babysit that night and the poor man looked rather stunned when we came downstairs all dressed up and ready to go. Our kids took it in their stride (being used to it) but I guess nothing prepares you for seeing your forty year old son wearing a full-body (including head) sheep costume and your daughter-in-law sporting a long white wig complete with hovering halo, wings and silver leggings. I think he thought we were mad, although he was too polite to say so. But that was nothing to what the other drivers thought, judging by the looks we got on the way to the party. I don't suppose you often see a six foot sheep driving an angel in a small red car along a quiet country lane at Christmas time.
Anyway, Mrs M and I spend a lot of time laughing together, which is probably why we're friends. On the whole I think we probably don't often tell our friends what they mean to us, and as I know she'll be reading this (and blushing) it's a good opportunity for me to say: Mrs M you are a star, and I love you (and Dan you're not bad either).
Our lovely friends, the Masseys
Anyway, yesterday we were having a natter and she asked if I'd like to come and see her baby blackbirds. For the last few years the Masseys have had a blackbird nesting next to their house. The bird gets very used to people and this year was no different. I couldn't believe how near to the house she'd chosen to make her nest (they're in a bush which is attached to the house wall about four foot up near the back door) and how unconcerned the babies were at visitors as a result.
I popped back this morning with the camera because it isn't often you can take pics of babies in a nest that close up and not worry either them or the parent. So here they are. Mrs M tells me there are five children in there, all a good size and all looking about ready to fledge.
The nest is in this bush on the wall to the right of the back door
After a few anxious weeks on the baby bird front it does now seem that things are finally moving in the right direction. Just before the gloaming (my favourite time of day and a great word) yesterday the long tailed tits brought their brood down to the twisted willow outside the breakfast room. I counted eight birds in all, so with two parents that means six babies. They all looked well, round and fluffy with shorter tails than their parents, and were very vocal and busy flitting about in the branches. The parents were flying from the tree to the feeder and back, stuffing food into hungry beaks.
Yesterday's fledgling dunnock has also been joined by a sibling who looks equally well. Both are feeding for themselves with the occasional top up from mum and dad. Thank goodness. All I need now are the robins and the blue tits to bring their children to the garden and I will feel normal service has been resumed. It we get a nuthatch and a woodpecker baby I will fall over.