Sunday, 2 February 2014

Sunday Morning's Walk With Grumpy Teenagers. Birds In The Garden and Some Ahhh Moments With Ted And Poppy

I had a busy start to the weekend in the form of a call from a very shaken-sounding step-father on Fri morn to say my ma had just fallen off Shanti at mid-gallop and was not in a good way and could I come over and bring the arnica please? So I beetled over and found ma white as a sheet wrapped in a blanket on the sofa, breathing badly with pain in the side of her chest, a massive already-purpling bruise on her leg, and not able to talk all that well. A quick chat (or gasp and croak in her case) and a check where and how it hurt established the saddle had slipped and Shanti had been frightened and taken off and ma, caught unawares, had plummeted to the ground. I didn't think anything was broken, and even if she has cracked a rib the advice would be to rest up. She was pretty shocked though so we gave her a G&T, shoved some arnica down her and wrapped her up to keep her warm. I went out to the stable to put Shanti in the field and she seemed calm as calm can be so I don't think it was anything more than an unfortunate accident. By the time I got back to the house ma's colour was better, her breathing was easier, her voice had come back to normal and she was joking about getting sozzled on G&T before 11 o'clock. No major problems there then. Phew. She made it to supper with us on Sat night and was looking a good deal better.

I collected J and F from the station Fri eve to the news that J has had offers from all the universities she wanted, which is excellent. She's predicted good grades and this is reflected in the offers she's got so she'll have to work hard to get in but that's what she does so we're very pleased.

I spent most of Sat preparing food and the house for the family supper we were hosting that night. All of us, plus both sets of grannies and grandpas. I cooked roast pheasant for 9, with trifle (rather too much sherry but as my step-father said it was one of mine so he was expecting it) and brownies a la the recipe I gave you all this week. 

My father-in-law, who was present at supper and is aged 83, decided to get a tattoo done around Christmas time. He's a keen fisherman and it is a lobster. It looks a lot like a Scorpion and he gets furious if you tell him that, so of course that's what the kids keep saying. Is he the oldest person to get one? 

We all think it's hysterical. He was busy bouncing up and down on a pogo stick at his 80th, and spent two days up a ladder fixing some lighting in a stable for me last year, which tells you all you need to know about him really...

L surpassed himself at supper by sprawling the entire length of the sofa when everyone arrived with a dog curled up beside him so no-one else could sit down ('get up!' said Grannie, as only grannie's can), showed off his questionable gymnastic skills by leaping on to and prancing along the top of the coffee table before diving for the door, declined to eat much of the pheasant having filled himself up with crisps and coke beforehand while the rugby was on (during which I managed to finish my book while Poppy slept on my feet, despite the howls and periodic leaping-up-and-fist-shaking of various male members of my family), and finally, collected his champagne glass with such an ornate flourish I found myself seriously considering whether he should be thinking about taking up a career in stage and screen, and, flashing a wicked grin at his gran and me, swanned off to watch Russell Howard's good news on TV.

After that I felt in need of some restorative fresh air in a beautiful place, so the weekly Walk With Grumpy Teenagers took place at the historic Hospital of St Cross, a 12th century church and almshouse set in the water meadows just outside Winchester. It is the oldest charitable institution in the United Kingdom and was founded by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, brother of King Stephan I, grandson of William the Conqueror and all round savvy twelfth-century political-operator. It has been called the most perfect example of a Medieval Almshouse and it is still alive and kicking as one today. Opposite St Cross is St Catherine's Hill, the city's Iron Age Hill Fort. It is a place I have been coming to for years and it was lovely to see it in sunlight this morning.

L (who can usually be trusted to bring the 'grumpy' element of 'grumpy walks with teenagers') was, for once, in a sunshine mood. To be fair he is a sunshine person, it's just that going on walks with his parents is not his most favourite occupation. This sunnyness was surprising, considering he'd been bawled out by his step-father for perfecting the art of teenage deafness seconds before getting in the car (see how well we have implemented the advice from the brain talk to stay calm, and not shout?), and also considering the fact he was out on a walk and not super-glued to his computer. He chatted away happily about friends and the various games they are currently working on, and helped me take some photos of bullrushes by the river which I was struggling to get into focus....

Love the dog wood in this shot

His humour did diminish somewhat when he realised we were, in fact, heading for a monastic foundation, but by that point we were equidistant from the car so he had no option but to continue and come with us. This is a Devious Trick I have learnt to perfect the hard way over the years.


The Old Almshouses

beautiful vaulted ceiling and old cart with the church in the background

Detail of a door hinge (I'd like these on our house)

Old flint wall

herringbone brickwork

The river Test opposite the Almshouses with St Catherine's Hill in the distance. The Hants Wildlife Trust are working on this area to rejuvenate a wild flower meadow here which will be beautiful in summer.

The inner quadrangle. St Cross is reminiscent of Cambridge Colleges

St Catherine's Hill

Same shot with focus on bramble in foreground

The Hospice of St Cross seen from the water meadows

Detail of Stained Glass Window in the Hospice

The same window

Wonderful wonky roof!
Poppy was equally well-behaved considering the route was a busy one with lots of dogs around. She only managed to knit her lead round every fourth person she saw and tripped up one elderly golden retriever, whose bottom she had been enjoying sniffing while at the same time twirling round and round until his legs were mired in the lead and he couldn't stand up any longer. This dog's father stalked on ahead unsmiling and unsympathetic so I suggested to Pop next time she might like to trip him up instead.
Ted was just relieved to complete the walk looking like the sensible one in comparison and also that no-one mistook him for Poppy's mother this time.

I bought the dogs two new toys this week as two old ones had to be rushed into casualty earlier- a cow who's squeak had been punctured and who's stuffing had been systematically removed and distributed around the sitting room and Ted's pink pig, whose bottom, I'm afraid to say, had been bitten off. 
Neither toy pulled through, so instead I got them a pink thing bearing the legend 'been there, chewed that' (which proved to be sadly prophetic and harbinger of its own doom because it's already has its innards ripped out), and a sweet looking giraffe with plaited brightly coloured strings for legs and a squeaky tennis ball for a tummy. That's dead too. It lasted about a day and a half before it's legs were pulled off and it's stomach disemboweled. It's also only got one ear left.

In the process of dismantling it Pops nearly swallowed the squeaker, which she is a devil for locating and ripping out. She would have choked had I not recognised the look in her eye, grabbed her when she was preparing to bolt, prised her jaws apart and retrieved it from the back of her throat where she was attempting to hide it. 
She also splintered a biro that she found in L's school bag this weekend, with the result that I spent all of yesterday watching her like a hawk in case she started coughing up blood or keeled over with stomach pains.
She rounded off the weekend by doing a poo at the foot of the stairs right where it's darkest and weeing under the dinner table while everyone was eating last night. Sigh.

'Who- Me?'

Captain Sensible (in comparison)
Garden bird sightings have been Really Rather Good this week, thanks to a combination of spots of sunlight and the fact M and F moved the birdtable right up to the kitchen window while they were beating each other with croquet mallets yesterday afternoon and forgot to put it back afterwards. The Robin and the Nuthatches are least bothered by my close proximity, so I got some reasonable snaps of them as a result...

Love this one

The LTTs continue to come to feed in the garden. As far as I can make out there are 8 of them...

And both blackbirds are present most days now too...

Mr B
I watched Mr Pige perform his bowing and nibbling routine in the branches of a silver birch this morning, but guess what happened? In the middle of his routine, just as he had his nose down and his bottom stuck in the air with his tail prettily fanned out behind him, an interloper landed in the branch next door and preceded to show off his bowing (he wasn't allowed to get close enough for a nibble). 

Mr P, when he realised what was happening, righted himself sharpish, which made him wobble in an ungainly fashion, but Mrs P, the faithless thing, didn't even notice- she was far too busy casting admiring glances in the direction of the new bower and would-be-wooer.

Mr P reassembled his dignity and grimly sat it out on the branch next to her, throwing the interloper disgruntled looks every now and then. I'm not sure how it worked itself out because breakfast was calling, but they are always around so I'm sure I'll be able to update you on the drama of our pigeons later in the week. Poor Mr Pige, it really isn't on at all.

Mr Sparrow has been having similar problems with his wife, except Mrs S isn't as silly a bird as Mrs P and therefore is less likely to have her head turned by some fancy new young thing strutting his would-be stuff in the hedge. Besides, Mr S still has the biggest chin marking of them all and we all know what that means....

I'll leave you with some pics of those two doggy people looking rather lovely by the fire. No doubt about their affection for one another, hey?

My Special Big Friend

'Who- us? We didn't do anything!'

'Love you Ted. Don't worry: I'll Keep Watch while you're sleeping.'
Hope you've all had a good weekend too?

CT :-)


  1. I hereby grant you a week of holiday in order to recover from your incredibly hectic weekend. And I hope Ma is feeling better after her stunt plunge from galloping horse. My, but your family are a resilient bunch. Xxx

    1. Bless you D. Country folk, see? Ram a G&T down your throat and keep going like nothing's happened XXX

  2. Lovely place to visit CT, beautiful bird pics. But I can't forgive you for the pheasant.

  3. It sounds like you had a hectic but very enjoyable weekend :) The Hospital of St Cross looks a lovely place to visit and I would imagine it is rather atmospheric :) I hope your Ma is ok after her fall.

    1. Much as they always are... :-)
      Definitely atmospheric and at this time of year not over-run with tourists either. Mum seems on the mend so fingers crossed. I think that's what you'd call a baptism of fire :-)

  4. Crikey, you had a busy weekend! Sorry to hear about your Ma's fall and hope she'll be fully recovered soon. The Hospital of St Cross looks very interesting with all that history, lovely photos of it in the sun. And I love all the bird photos and their stories - and those two gorgeous dogs, of course. They always look so innocent and blameless!

    1. It certainly flew past!
      Winchester is a fabulous place for history, so many interesting buildings and so much has happened there over the years. I'm very spoilt to live so close to it really.
      Yes, ted and pops have perfected the innocent look! But then they aren't ever really, really naughty :-)

  5. Sorry to hear about your Ma's fall it must have given you all a fright. Hope she will soon be on Shanti again. After telling my husband about the brain talk, I too was told over the weekend I wasn't following the advice! Wonderful images of your visiting birds and your lovely dogs. Sarah x

    1. Not the best start with a new pony, still, it was bound to happen at some point so probably good to get it out the way early :-)
      I think my brain needs training too! xx

  6. I felt sick when I was reading about your Ma as that's exactly what happened to me when I broke my neck and back. Just a matter of luck....I'm so relieved she's okay! It just shows how the most docile and lovely ponies can spook and cause an accident. Love the shots of the dogs together....would make a lovely drawing one day! xx

    1. Sorry to remind you of a nasty time Em. It is just the luck of the draw isn't it?
      You know I will be asking for a drawing of Pops and Ted together before long- just waiting for her to grow a bit more first! xx

  7. Naughty Poppy-but she's so cute she can be forgiven easily I'm sure. St Cross looks beautiful. It's so good to see other peoples photos of the garden birds as my garden is empty at the moment.

    1. She get's away with sooo much because she is a poppet:-)

      Sad to hear you are birdless- we're not doing too badly here at the mo. Hoping yours all come back before long, and in the meantime I shall try and post birds picks each time for you to enjoy. I know how much I would miss ours if they weren't about. Won't be all that long before furry moths make a come-back either! :-)

  8. I think it is great when older people get tattoos! Nice to have a walk around your local almshouses - my mum works at our local ones. Lovely images of the nuthatch! Ted and Poppy look absolutely adorable! They really do look like the best of friends. Big bro looking after his adopted little sis! x

    1. We all thought it was a transfer at first! It's quite a nice blue colour :-)
      I should think working in an almshouse is a nice job to have- beautiful buildings at the least.


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