Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Teaching L to Drive, Why Can't I.....? And A Friend's Funny Story

I often find myself fascinated by the things in life that appear small and insignificant but can turn out to be the opposite. 

This is something that comes through in my healing work - things (events, words, actions) that at the time appear insignificant and to have little or no effect, can work away inside a person, eating at their natural balance until, years later sometimes, they resurface, having had by then quite a mighty effect, and it is only when they are properly addressed that their impact fades or becomes negligible.

This theme popped up the other evening when M was searching the internet for an answer to the question "why can't I play a film on my Ipad through the TV?" He got as far as typing in "why can't" before google tried to complete the question for him with a range of helpful suggestions. 

The top five were: 
I Sleep?
We be friends?
I get pregnant?
I poop?
I lose weight?

I was struck by how these five simple questions must reflect common concerns held by so many. There was something very poignant in these pleas for help and understanding of simple everyday worries, made all the more so because they were to all intents and purposes silent and private, echoing only through the ether. 

This theme was still on my mind yesterday when my dear friend Mrs B came to visit. We took the dogs and our boys out for a much-needed tramp around Mottisfont Estate, across damp fields, through dripping woodlands and along puddly lanes. Everyone felt refreshed afterwards, even the boys, who managed most of the walk without repeatedly asking "how long now?" which has to be some kind of record. We even remembered to collect the bags of dog poo we'd tied to the fence opposite the Abbey (to avoid having to carry them with us the entire length of the walk), so brownie points were earnt there too (apologies for that Awful and Unintended pun).

The boys disappeared off to the Xbox as soon as we got home, the dogs promptly fell asleep in baskets and on the floor, and we put the kettle on, got the biscuit tin out and settled down for a Jolly Good Natter.

I've known Mrs B for years, our kids were at nursery together, so we know each other's life stories, responses and reactions to things pretty well. She has a heart of gold and is someone I could call at midnight for help if I needed it. She's also someone who seems to attract The Most Unbelievable situations, which, although we always have a giggle about them, can also be stressful for her at times.

Her Most Recent Encounter runs thusly.

Her daughter has been having music lessons but has also recently got into a school sports team and the two clashed so music got rearranged. On arrival for the first lesson at the new time she was informed by the teacher that she had no-one to look after her young child, so would Mrs B mind doing it for the duration of the lesson? Mrs B, somewhat taken aback, nevertheless agreed, because she is kind, and doubtless thought it would be a one off, and we all like to help each other out, particularly mums who know how hard it can be trying to find suitable childcare. 

But at the second lesson the same thing happened with the addition of the child having a stomach upset that required the use of the potty at regular intervals. Mrs B's kids are both at Secondary school so she is way past the potty and nappy stage and probably, like the rest of us, thought it would be many years before she revisited it with Grandchildren. At the end of the session, as per the time before, no reduction in the music lesson fee was offered by way of thanks.

At the third lesson the same thing happened and by now it was a bit difficult to say no without the whole thing seeming awkward. At the fourth the child had conjunctivitis which as we know is contagious. 
All this time there had been no mention of a reduction in lesson fees and Mrs B was starting to get a tad fed up with the situation. 
The fifth time Mrs B couldn't babysit so she offered her husband instead but was refused, so her daughter had to miss the lesson. At the seventh lesson the child had impetigo and she was told not to touch it's face because it was highly contagious. By now Mrs B was seriously wondering what she'd got herself into and how she could extricate herself without the whole thing becoming difficult.
At the ninth lesson the teacher asked if Mrs B could babysit past her own daughter's lesson and cover child care for someone else's!

In the middle of all of this, she was at the Launderette washing the family duvets when a hassled looking woman came in carrying a ten month old baby and dragging a two year old behind her. The launderette owner suggested to the woman she buy some detergent from the shop next door because the one the launderette supplied may be harsh on young skin, so the woman simply thrusts the baby at Mrs B, says "oh, would you mind...? Just for a minute while I go next door and get this soap?" And promptly exits the shop leaving Mrs B dangling a stranger's child on her lap.

Mrs B is by now wondering what on earth is going on with all these people she either barely knows or doesn't know at all depositing their children with her. This sort of thing never happens to me, so we decided, after having a good old laugh about it, that she must have an Open, Capable and Trustworthy face, while I clearly have the look of someone who eats other people's children for breakfast.

As she left yesterday she still hadn't decided what to do about the babysitting sessions. I suggested she was being made use of and at the very least ought to ask for a reduction in the fee, but it is a difficult situation. Most of us have the impulse to help one another out, but I do think this teacher is pushing her luck. It also struck me as very strange that some people should be so willing to leave their very young children in the hands of people they either know only a very little, or not at all. 

What has this to do with the Small Things I was talking about before? I guess it's about perception. Perhaps to the teacher asking Mrs B to care for her child was no big deal, and also for the lady in the launderette, but it is a big deal for Mrs B. These are exactly the small everyday things which, if left unsorted, grow into huge great big monsters that require painful extraction to get rid of.

Thought For The Day over, I shall move on to L's driving lesson this morning, which went swimmingly. 

 First, adjust the driving position, because actually being able to see out of the car is considered a bonus when driving

Second, ensure your appreciative audience is in place

Third, drive! 
With no hiccuping, bunny hopping or stalling. How impressive is that? Not bad at nearly 12, and  completely different to your mother who spent at least seven hours stalling, hiccuping and bunny hopping like mad the first time she got behind a wheel at the age of 17

Fourth, collect your Gran and take her for a spin

 Fifth drive off into the sunset (or in reality, to the field shelter)

He did incredibly well, put me to shame as I was no-where near as competent at 17 as he is at 11! But then he has been driving tractors since he was seven and last year was happily behind the wheel of my automatic landy taking it for a spin independent of me round the fields and up the farm tracks. Next stop, second gear!

To finish off with, we have just bought a new chess set, because L has been playing it with a friend at school who has some form of ADHD and therefore spends a lot of his time in the Inclusion Unit (which should more properly be called the Exclusion Unit). This friend is Very Good At Chess, and has taught L how to play, which just goes to show that giving a child a label like ADHD doesn't convey all their talents fairly.
Here is our new board, complete with wooden pieces. L will now have to re-teach me because it's years since I used to play with my Pa.

And even more to finish with, a pic I forgot to post before of Daddy Chaffinch feeding his Rather Adorable Child....


 Have a good afternoon and evening all,

CT :-)

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Rain Brings An Unexpected Visitor and The Swift If Manic Dispatch of Flies

I think the post title says it all.


And is set to continue until this afternoon when we have friends arriving, so that's quite good timing.

Everyone in the garden is very Wet And Soggy Indeed, although they are also Happy, because yesterday I went out and bought them all Lots Of New Seed and Interesting Food-Type things. They had run out over the weekend and were giving me grumpy nay filthy looks whenever I went out into the garden empty-handed.

Needless to say I am now back in their good books, but too late to save a load of M's tomatoes which have been nipped off whilst still tiny and what's more inside the greenhouse. The Culprit? Well it was either one of the Baby Wrens who got stuck in there yesterday, or the Naughty Blackbird's Child who has been hopping past eyeing them greedily, and we all know how inventive she is when it comes to nicking bits of food.

The pige may look bedraggled but he was enjoying a dip and wiggle in the bird bath just before this pic was taken.

The Possible Tomato Thief

A Very Soggy Indeed Bluetit

 If you look closely you'll see the Great Tit at the top is actually in the air

Sharing with a Bluetit

The Other Possible Tomato Thief, one of the of the Noisy Wren Children

 The Scene Of The Crime

While typing this post up I have been Assailed By Flies. There must be about forty of them buzzing around landing on my fingers and my head and they are DRIVING ME CRAZY. Flies are No Respecter Of Personal Space and although I consider myself a peaceful soul who on the whole dislikes murder and mayhem and tries to adopt a live and let live attitude (which is not the same as suffering fools- I can't abide fools), these flies have turned me into an hysteric. I have been running about the room with my arms going like windmills screeching at the top of my voice in an attempt to shoo them away, while they just flounced off out of reach onto the beam above my head where they sat nudging one another and pointing and laughing at the funny mad lady. 

I was Very Cross Indeed. But I took some breaths, calmed down, thought. And hit back. 

And now there are approx two and a half flies left.

My efforts have been aided by The Spider Who Lives In The Kitchen. Regular readers will know I am Not A Big Fan Of Spiders on the whole. I know they have their job to do but I am, essentially, scared of them. This one, however, proved himself My Best Friend, by cunningly ensnaring a fly who was looking back at me and laughing as he flew away from the Swat, and therefore Not Looking Where He Was Going. He flew straight into the spider web and the Spider In The Kitchen was on him in a flash and right before my eyes wrapped him up pronto by twirling him round and round in a manner which made me feel dizzy (not a good idea when you are perched precariously on the work surface holding the camera up to record the moment). This quick action by the Spider In The Kitchen resulted in one less irritating buzzy thing flying around my ears. Well Done Spider (and you won't hear me say that very often).

Ted, meanwhile, who hates the Fly Swat, had slunk off into the hallway, from where he was casting me Reproachful, Doubtful and Mistrustful looks. I was probably taking an Unreasonable level of Glee and Grim Relish in my Fly Destruction, but even so, from the looks he was giving me you'd think I spent my life beating him with it.

Note the fly on Ted's back in this pic.

He hasn't moved far from his bed today. A half-hearted amble round the garden for a wee an hour ago and the retreat to the hallway while I was fly-swatting and that's been it. Oh well, he'll get a walk later when his friend Gypsy Dog arrives.

The enforced idleness of the morning has had its (the highlight here is for Denise, as I know how incorrect apostrophe usage on pronouns unravels her) benefits. If I hadn't been sitting here working on the computer I would not have seen this Interesting and Unusual Garden Visitor sitting on the Greenhouse. He was there because on Sunday there was a Large White stuck inside and the two of them performed this Interesting And Increasingly Frenzied dance for a few minutes as the butterlfy tried to escape out of the window and the bird tried to get in. In the end the butterfly escaped and the bird was left to ponder quite how it had happened.

I'm not a hundred percent certain, but I think this is a Garden Warbler. Perhaps Margaret will be able to confirm or correct me? (Update from Margaret: This is a young chiffchaff, not a garden warbler. Didn't know we had them here so am very pleased! And thank you M for correcting me). They are very nondescript birds and I have caught flashes of them before. They don't come to the feeders, and this one soon hopped down off the greenhouse (when he realised there were no butterflies inside today) to join a bluetit who was pecking at insects in the sweet pea and black eyed susans, along with one of the Wren Children.....

The Wren Children have been amusing me by chasing each other round the patio, not looking where they are going and bumping into the greenhouse window (softly). They are adorable, and Very Noisy.

Anyway, I've come to the end of this post and Lo! it has stopped raining, which is good, because I need to fetch the Caterpillar Children more leaves, not to mention feed my own Child, who has been living off polos this morning.

Until next time, enjoy whatever you are doing.

CT x

Monday, 29 July 2013

Froglets, Mothlets and Spiderlets: a Time of Wild Children

I've been keeping a close eye on the moth eggs I found on one of the egg boxes inside the moth box last week, but they still managed to take me by surprise yesterday morning by hatching out much more quickly than I'd anticipated. Here they are- very teeny weeny moth caterpillars...

The single biggest problem they face is that I don't know which moth laid them and therefore finding the correct food plant for them is going to be a challenge. Moths tend to eat trees and shrubs such as ash, poplar, willow and rose, but many are plant-specific and will only feed on one or two types of plant material. The best I can do for them therefore is put as many of these native food sources as I can find in the box with them and hope one of them is the right one. Even so I have to say I am not overly hopeful for their survival. 

A second batch of moth children arrived last night, hatching out on the wall in the breakfast room above the window which just shows how tiny their eggs are- I hadn't even known they were there! These ones have very small sharp hairs all over them, but I'm none the wiser as to species.

All our moth children are now in a big plastic container together (moved there very carefully with cocktail sticks because they are too tiny to handle with your fingers without damaging them) and they have everything from ash to hawthorn to fuchsia and rose in the pot with them. All I can do now is cross my fingers, wait and see if any survive, and look for holes on the plants as a clue to what, if anything, they are eating.

 It was whilst I was hunting food plants for the moth children yesterday that I found an extremely tiny baby frog on the lane outside the house. Concerned he would be squished by a passing car I scooped him up (gently) and carried him back to the house (in no small amount of excitement I can tell you) where M took lots of pictures. 

Denise (at the marvellous Much Malarkey Manor) had made me Very Jealous Indeed earlier this month with her tiny frog, but it's Alright Now because I have one of my very own. Isn't he sweet? A perfect miniature froglet.

I put him up by the pond where there is shelter, water and food in the form of grubs and insects so hopefully he will be OK and grow into a Large Frog. We do get froglets in the garden from time to time so I'm on more confident ground with him.

While collecting willow for the moth children I discovered these extraordinary eggs under one of the willow leaves. Stupidly, I brushed the accompanying very small spider away thinking they were moth eggs and she may be damaging them, only to discover after doing some research on their very distinctive shape that they were in fact spider eggs and she had been busy laying them! I felt terrible. Stupid Interfering Human. I was very cross with myself.

They are amazing things aren't they? And about twice the size of their mum, which is why I didn't put two and two together sooner.

 You can see the female spider, of genus Paidiscura pallens, on top of the egg on the left.

As with the Moth Children, as I am responsible for moving these eggs from their tree I will now look after them and see if we can hatch them out and return them to the wild safely. Even though I am generally Not At All Keen On Spiders, these ones are tiny so I reckon I can just about cope, plus I owe them. I've also rescued some Large White butterfly eggs from M's cabbages (well, from M really) which we have waiting to hatch in another tub. Hopefully they won't contain parasitic wasps as has happened before. 

It is a Time of Wild Children it seems.

Some other things going on in the garden include....

Cape Gooseberries Growing Well
(even if it does look like a hot air balloon. Don't let that fool you- you'd be in terrible trouble if you tried sailing off into the sunset underneath one of these. You'd last approximately 0.000005 points of a second before crashing)

M's Colourful Sunflowers Bedeck The Front Wall Cheerfully

Borage Blooms Beneath The Sunflowers In A Very Blue Sort Of Way

 The Cinnabar Moth Children Are Now Officially FAT, bordering on OBESE

Because They Have Done THIS To All The Ragwort
(never mind pulling the stuff up by hand- all you need are some Very Hungry Indeed Cinnabar moth children and the job's done)

More Sunflowers Are On The Way
(this one, rather endearingly and appropriately, is called "Teddy." Which is the plant name by species, not a name I have Christened it with. I know I can be silly but I've not quite reached the level of giving individual plants people-type names- yet)

We've had some rain at long last...

Which refreshed everything (and washed the patio furniture so I don't have to. Thanks Rain :-)

The Plants had a wash too, and then turned their raindrops into show-off type jewels...

Hedge Rose

(wish the camera could capture smells- this one is beautiful and washes over you whenever you're near it.)

Wild Sweet Peas

Hollyhock (fab colour)

Having had Trouble With Butterflies at the start of the year, it seems that ever since getting fed up with my total and utter failure to photograph them and heading off to the Tropical Butterfly House, out Native Species have been flocking round me like no man's business, as if to prove that they are every bit as beautiful as their Fancier Foreign Cousins. 
This Green Veined White was Sitting In The Greenhouse last night and was Pretty Amenable To Photographs, although not Remotely Amenable To Rescue, as I discovered to my cost when I tried to free her. I suspect this was because she was having far too much of a laugh watching me getting Wrapped Up In Squash Tendrils and Falling Into Tomato Plants as I tried to reach her. Has anyone else been Viciously Attacked by the Extremely Sharp Hairs on these plants this year?

And then today, whilst out walking with my lovely friend Mrs Massey and my lovely son L, and our lovely dogs Teddy and Oscar in Ampfield Woods, we saw these beautiful butterflies which are New For Me. Apologies for slightly dodgy pic quality, it was taken on my mobile, because how could I walk past and not get a picture?

Silver Washed Fritillary (male) on Common Fleabane

And then, the Most Remarkable Sight I have yet seen in terms of butterfly behaviour. A Green Veined White inside a squash flower.

You can just make her out deep inside the cup of the flower

I wonder if she was the same one from last night? She was there such a long time I almost started to get worried about her, but I've just checked and she's gone now, so All Is Well.

Right, I'm off to bring the washing in, sweep the floor of Cleo's room which looks like it's been carpeted with a Unique And Interesting Mixture of white fur, bird seeds, broken up Ted biscuits, bits of thread, tissues that have accidentally been through the wash and the odd ancient sock to a depth of several inches, but in reality is just covered in cat hair and Other General Utility Room Detritus because I've done no housework in it for several months; after that I have to clean up Teddy's watery sick which he's kindly left on his rug at my feet, collect the eggs from the hen house before the rats get them, heave L off the computer and forcibly eject him into the garden for some sunlight, and, oh, probably a thousand other jobs that need doing...

Till next time, enjoy whatever you are doing and have a pleasant evening all.

CT :-)

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Magdalen Hill, Where All The Small Things Are Safe

One of the off-shoots of watching the Springwatch Butterfly And Moth Special (which could have spent more time featuring moths) was that we learnt of the existence of Magdalen Hill. Now, I have lived in and around Winchester for more than twenty years, but I had never hard of Magdalen Hill before, so today we paid it a visit.

It is an area of natural Chalk Downland which was historically the site of an ancient fair, but is now a nature reserve stuffed full of native plants and native species. My special reason for visiting it was that it is home to the Chalkhill Blue Butterfly, and I have a special thing for Blue Butterflies.

We parked opposite the cemetery, crossed the B3404 (an old Roman Road straight as a lance) and walked up the footpath. Within seconds I had seen my first butterfly- a marbled white, feeding on a Great Globe Thistle, and things only got better. 

This is the kind of view that greats you when you arrive....

We had barely entered the reserve when these Gorgeous Creatures appeared...

Large White

Small White


 Marbled White (with red parasite behind the head)


Meadow Brown



Red Admiral

I was marveling over seeing nine butterfly species in virtually as many minutes when we reached the Chalk Downland Proper, with it's view of the M3 snaking through the valley below....

And of the Old Church at St Cross off in the hazy distance

And then we saw them.....

  The Chalkhill Blues

You know when people talk about walking through a meadow and clouds of butterflies rise up before them? Well, that was what it was like here. There must have been close on a hundred of them, small blue people fluttering around in front of me, landing on the ground, twirling up around one another in the air in a delicate dance. I don't know how long I spent on my knees crouched over photographing them but it must have been a while because M and Teddy were almost asleep when I went back up the hill to find them. 

 Two Chalkhill Blues. 
The males are blue and the females dark brown, so this was a World Of Boys

Glorious, aren't they? I could watch them All Day Long, but my family would probably definitely disown me, or more likely drive off and leave me there and I'd only notice and wonder where they'd gone when it started getting dark. Teddy wouldn't though: Teddy would stay with me because he is a Loyal Hound, who also happens to quite enjoy running through clouds of small blue butterflies...

When I'd had my fill of Glorious Butteflies, it was Time For Moths.....
Yup, even here I can't get away from them (and nor do I want to). The reserve boasts some lovely Day Flying Moths, such as the 

 Silver Y 
(which I've only ever seen in the Moth Box at home before, so it was rather lovely to see this one flying wild and landing on plants. He is Very Well Camouflaged and was Hard To Spot, but I have a well-developed Moth Radar after these past weeks Getting To Know Them, and got the pic I wanted).

Dusky Sallow
A New Species for me

 Rather splendid isn't he/ she?

Forester Moth.
I think, Never Having Seen One Of These Moths . 
Very Exciting. You can imagine the state I was in by this time. Poor M rather regretted not having brought his running kit with him as he was forced to walk VERY SLOWLY while I stopped every two seconds to ooh and ahh over something new and take ridiculous amounts of photos. Next time he'll go for a nice run and meet me back at the car all hot and sweaty, which will be lovely for me to sit next to On The Way Home, won't it?

Six Spot Burnett.
Yipee! This one is New For Me Too and I've been Wanting To See One For Ages. 
We've not had them at home before so this was A Very Thrilling Moment Indeed.

Two 6 Spot Burnetts Mating. 
(Don't you think that's an infringement of Moth Privacy? says M).

And a Close Up of what I think are a pair of 5 Spot Burnetts, also a new species for me.
(You'll get arrested by the Moth Police, grinned M).

A Lovely Irridescent Green Beetle Whose Name I Sadly Do Not Know
 Can Anyone Help?

Ditto this one. If you look closely you'll see the wing casing on his left wing has been torn off half way down and the brown crumpled looking thing sticking out underneath it is actually his wing. Poor soul. I hope he will manage alright like that.

 Yay! Another Native Ladybird

 And another one!
(in fact there were loads, I just didn't photograph every single one, feeling that was a bit unfair on M whose mask of serenity was, by this time, starting to slip)

 Red-Tailed Bumble

I love the Pollen On His Bottom in this shot!

Even the birds were getting In On The Act, with this lovely Bluetit feeding among the seed heads. There were long tailed tits too.

 White Knapweed

 Great Globe Thistle

Beautiful Seed Heads

And More Wonderful Views of the English Countryside in Late July

Ripe Wheat

And a Funny Hen who was waiting for us beside our car 
when M finally succeeded in dragging me away.

If you are looking for a wildflower meadow and fantabulous reserve with oodles of life in it then I can't recommend Magdalen highly enough. Winchester, that fabulous Cathedral City that I love and have posted about before, is five minutes down the road, so you could spend a whole day doing the nature reserve and enjoying the beautiful City (where there are LOTS of fabulous places to eat and stay too).

We shall be returning in August because they have the Painted Lady butterfly on the reserve then. This is an amazing butterfly who migrates in stages from Africa by laying eggs in different countries. The eggs then hatch, the caterpillar pupates into a butterfly and flies to the next country, where the process is repeated again and again until eventually they reach the UK, when they turn round and do the whole thing again in reverse. Astonishing. And only recently discovered too.

Sunday evening and a pheasant is roasting in the oven so I'd better stop there. Just a quick note on tomorrow's post- I found a baby froglet in the road this afternoon which I will put up here tomorrow. He is now up by our pond. Also, the moth eggs have hatched! More on that later too.

Enjoy your evening all,

CT :-)

ps- I haven't checked for spelling or grammatical errors so if you find any please be kind and ignore them. The photos took HOURS to upload, so I've been writing this post since about three- I'd better go and spend some time with my family before they forget what I look like and wonder who this stranger is in their house!