Monday, 31 March 2014

Pearly Kings and Queens, Tree Bees and It's Quite Tough Studying And Being A Mum.

Did you know Starlings have declined by 70% in recent years? As a result they are now an RSPB red list species.

We used to see them performing their brilliant displays in the skies in Sussex where I grew up, all twisting and turning like one enormous wave as the sun set. I haven't seen that for years, and then earlier this month one appeared in our garden.

And then this morning there were two...

They are glorious looking birds. We used to call them pearly kings and queens after the colourful londoners of the same name. I hope they stay (even though there is currently a particularly disgusting chocolate and banana cake (I am not responsible for- it was foisted on us by my father in law who  ate one bite and declared it disgusting) sitting on the bird table. If the birds have any sense at all they will turn their beaks up at it and give it the wide berth it deserves...

While gardening this weekend I saw a bee I was reading about only last week. Tree Bees are a new species which were first spotted on the Hants/ Wilts border in 2001. They are colonising the UK quite quickly, but are not considered to be a threat to native bumbles. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust are asking for all sightings to be logged with them, because the Tree Bee constitutes an 'unparalleled opportunity to track the spread of a distinctive new species across the country.' (BBCT newsletter).

They are really distinctive so you can't miss them- they have a huge shock of ginger hair on the back of their heads. Mine was too busy looking for a nesting site to hang about for a pic, so this is from the internet (hope it comes out). If you see one, email the sighting to as I shall.


L has options to take at school at the mo. As this means he has the chance to give up art and music, he is thrilled. He has surprised me by expressing a wish to do Food Tech (what we used to call home economics). He is, it turns out, rather a Brilliant Cook, although in the tradition of all Great Chefs he expects me to do the tidying up after him. Years ago I ran a pub and all the chefs I worked with were the same. Food was the creative bit- tidying was deemed beneath them.

Anyway, he's been making copious amounts of bread this weekend, which has been delicious. Granny got a load made for her for mothering Sunday. They were in various shapes, including this one which was my favourite. There was also a turtle which I thought was marvellously inventive.

He surprised me with a beautiful house jasmine for Mother's Day which he'd chosen himself and bought with granny (ie no prompting) and a card that has the kind of words in it there is no way he'd ever say out loud unless he'd a) done something appalling or b) wanted something.
'Did you chose this yourself?' I asked him.
'Yes,' he said, letting me hug him and plant a kiss on his head before he bolted for the computer.
 I have warned him he's set the bar Quite High this year....

Poppy got into trouble yesterday for going upstairs and fetching down a pair of M's socks. I thought it was Rather Brave of her, and not just the going upstairs bit. She also shredded a tissue I'd hidden in the sofa and ate some of M's hair when I gave him a hair cut. She seemed satisfied with all of that until this morning when she upped the anti by weeing on the carpet and eating a lump of Cleo poo on the ladybird door mat, leaving bits of it for me to tread on later. Ho hum. 

Butter wouldn't melt

Just to prove that you can occasionally Spot Moths without needing a hideously expensive box, I found this little chap snoozing on the sheets that were drying outside for the first time in ages yesterday...He's an Early Grey, and I had to move him onto this rose leaf for fear M would fold him up with the sheet and put him in the airing cupboard, which would not have been good.

Spartacus has taken to sitting on the small table I use for the moth box in the garden. He stands there for ages staring at me. I know Jackdaws are clever people so I'm wondering what he's thinking when he's staring at me like that?

'Why Spartacus?' asks M, when I was telling him this yesterday.
'Because there are lots of them and I'm never sure which one he is,' I say.

I'm feeling smug because I've just more or less finished off two essays that are due in over the next month for college. Studying with a family and work and the dogs and everything else is proving Hard Work right now and I am looking forward to term ending at the start of June.

There is a lot to get through and a lot to learn, much of it stuff I haven't covered for ages, some of it never and I feel my age some days! There's also an exam in May.... :-(

This morning I sat down at 9am to start writing this woodland habitat piece and I didn't get up again until 3 when I had to go and collect L from school. The dogs didn't get walked, the washing is still sitting in the basket upstairs, I barely managed lunch and I still have a list a mile long of things I need to do. I just about managed to remember a dear friend's birthday card this morning (her birthday is tomorrow).

I have always made sure that I am here for my kids if they need me - that's the most important part of life for me, so everything else has to fit around that. That is my rule and it is one I won't waver from. I want them to know that if they need me I am here, for the small needs as well as the big ones. But there is a general sense in the world I think that motherhood is somehow not quite as important as work, and that attitude both infuriates, saddens and wearies me.

We make a huge fuss of mothers on mothering Sunday- witness waitrose packed with people spending a fortune on bottles of wine and elaborate bunches of flowers all wrapped up with candy pink paper and silver ribbons over the weekend- but does the world as a whole support motherhood as much as it should?

It seems to me you still have to make a choice- either stay at home and raise your children or go out to work and experience the pressure to constantly put them second. I'm not sure there is much in the way of middle ground there.

To me, nothing is as important as my children's security, happiness and welfare, because secure, happy, well cared for children turn into capable, loving, secure adults. Parent's first and foremost responsibility is to look after their children, but I do sometimes feel like I'm having to fight for that more than I should be. 

My own great grandmother got pregnant and was an unmarried mother at a time when that was a really really tough thing to be, and I'll bet she had to fight and fight to keep her boy. She did eventually marry and she did manage to keep her family together, and I have HUGE admiration for her, because I suspect much of the reaction she got was either appalled silence or very vocal condemnation.

On my step-father's side of the family there is a relation from a similar time in history who had her child forcibly removed from her because she was unmarried. I have a feeling the mother was sent to Canada to cover the family's shame. How terrible that must have been for her and thank goodness things are better than that now.

I'm very lucky that I have a husband who feels exactly the way I do about looking after our children, while at the same time giving me loads of encouragement and help to study and expand myself career-wise into something I feel matters. I know there are lots of people who don't have that (I was one myself for a number of years), so I just wanted to say to all those mums (and dads) out there who love their children and are feeling under siege, as if the world is trying to make them choose between their kids and their work/ study/ other commitments: KEEP GOING! What you do for your children now will make all the difference to their lives later, and it is something only you can do for them. You are unique to your children; there isn't another person like you in the whole world to them, and bringing them up is probably the most important thing you'll ever do, so you have every right to make it the centre of your life and frankly, stuff anyone who doesn't understand that.

I'm sure it is possible to work/ study and raise children well, but I don't think we're quite there yet.

And speaking of that, I saw a sight in Romsey today that brought all those maternal instincts and then some out in me: a little chap who'd just started to walk (judging from the way he was moving: as if his legs were new and surprising things he hadn't fully worked out how to control) was wobbling downhill too fast towards his mum. You could see the fall coming long before he realised that toddling fast downhill when you don't have working brakes isn't a great idea. And sure enough he'd just reached her when he went over, flat on his little face. 

And d'you know what she did? 


Absolutely Nothing.
She just stood there, hands on hips, dispassionately watching him struggling to get up.

D'you know, I very nearly couldn't bare it. I'm not usually an interferer, and it was probably a good thing I was in moving traffic in the car, because if I hadn't been I very much doubt that I would have been able to just stand there and watch him lying on the ground and do nothing at all to help him. Surely most mums and dads would have seen that fall coming as I had long before it actually happened, and caught him before he went down?

Maybe she wasn't his parent. Maybe she'd been up all night with him and was exhausted, I don't know. All I know is it took every ounce of self possession I had not to stop the car, get out, go over and pick the little chap up and give him a cuddle to make him feel better. It upset me all the way home.

Anyway, I've got all of that off my chest: it has been brewing for a while.

I'll leave you with some photos of our wrens taken yesterday. They have been Singing Like Mad all weekend. Judging from their voices we have tonnes of them about. Did you know that boy wrens have to make lots and lots of nests and the lady wrens choose their favourite and all the rest are discarded? 
I told M who raised an eyebrow and grinned.
'Is that a cunning bird-related way of telling me there is something you want me to do in the house or garden?' he said.
'Actually,' I said, 'I do have a list....'

Presumably they are nesting NOW, so I'm not sure what all the shouting is about? But it doesn't matter, because they are Gorgeous and I love seeing them. They always remind me of my Granny.

Hope you're all having a good week?

CT x


  1. I`m enjoying catching up on your recent posts!

    We have a few starlings here every day. I hope they will stay around to nest in the old hawthorn hedge again.

    I`ll look out for that beautiful Tree Bee. We seem to get so many different bees when the cherries and lime tree are in flower.

    Good luck to your son if he has an interest in cooking and catering, but tell him he also needs an interest in clearing up as he goes LOL.

    1. I shall certainly pass that on DW- not sure how much impact it will have though :-) Defo keep an eye out for the bee- I'd be surprised if you didn't see one this year as all the data suggests they are doing well. A good news wild bee related story at last! Lucky you re the starlings- I'm thrilled they've appeared here and am really hoping they stay.

  2. Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment :D
    Spartacus is an inspired name for the Jackdaw! I have a very elderly cat who gets up to the kind of things your Poppy did!!!

    1. Hi Yarrow and thanks for visiting too :-)

      Your drawings are lovely, I'm looking forward to seeing more.

  3. I'm glad that you had a good day yesterday and that you get to practice mothering as you wish to with the support of those around you! xx

    1. Hopefully a day will come when looking after children is regarded as as important as working etc. I'm not convinced we are there yet as a society :-)

  4. Fabulous post. I loved the starling pics and then I was particularly moved by your words on motherhood now and unmarried mothers in the past as both subjects are close to my heart. l I share your view also that mothering is the most important job and if possible mothers (or fathers) should care for their children at home - after all it is only a miniscule part of a lifetime. My own daughter has four girls and has not gone out to work, she shares my views but she is in the minority in her generation which is sad. I would have felt the same as you if I had seen that toddler fall, it would have upset me.

    1. Thank you Cait. I was very moved by your poem, which has stayed with me and was in my mind while I was writing this post.

  5. Love the Wren, they are busy singing their tiny hearts out here too. We get moths, ladybirds and an assortment of bugs on the washing, so it always has to be shaken out before folding and taking in.
    Well done L on being such a good cook...the girls will love it!
    I will watch out for that bee, thanks for the link.
    Even though I'm not a mother, I agree that being a parent is a most precious thing, not something to be put aside or downgraded because you want more from life. Hubby said he has seen and heard examples where people call it a job....isn't that crazy!

    1. Busy time in the garden at the mo- glad it sounds like your garden birds have reappeared?

      I love the idea of bugs on the washing- we get loads too, perfect sunbathing spots I guess.

      Let me know if you see the bee- be very interested to hear from anyone who sees it.

      And re motherhood being a job, I guess you could call it that, a job that lasts 24/7, 365 days a year for as long as you're walking the planet! Oh, and unpaid too of course :-)

  6. Its very sad about the decline of starlings - we used to get dozens every day and now I'm lucky to get a couple of sightings in the garden a year :( There used to be huge murmurations in Birmingham City Centre years ago when I worked there but not any more :( Its interesting though how species interact - read a very interesting article yesterday about how possibly the decline of starlings in woodland may be a factor in increasing Great Spotted Woodpecker populations which in turn could be a factor in the decline of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers due to competition for resources and nesting predation.

    Tree Bumble Bees are lovely - I first spotted one here a few years ago and saw a Queen in the garden a few weeks ago.

    Hang in there with the studying and other demands. Its not easy especially when you have to find extra time for essays/assignments and revision :( but you'll get there in the end and it will be well worth the effort :)

    1. That is interesting about the starling/ woodpecker connection. I know there are more GWSs about than there were. I wonder how many of these changes are natural fluctuations that would happen over time anyway, regardless of mankind's activities?

      The Tree Bee map is an interesting one - it is definitely heading North steadily. Be interesting to track it's progress over the coming months and years.

      Thanks for your words of encouragement re the course. It is a balancing act, and at the moment the scales are tipping a little too far in one direction, when I could do with them being level, but I'm sure it will even out again :-)

  7. Replies
    1. Boiling here today Dave- 19 degrees! I'll send some of it up to you! :-)

  8. HI Thank you for this post.Loved the shots of the Starling and Wren. I will look out for the Tree Bee. I agree with you on Motherhood. A very previous time especially when children are young.

    1. Hey Margaret :-)
      The Tree Bee hasn't made it to Ireland yet, (although I expect it will, as they've seen it in Iceland), so you could be the first to spot it. In which case, you must definitely let me know! :-)


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x