|Imprint of the Hare's back feet in the earth|
|Mr & Mrs Sparrow|
How are you all?
It's been another busy week here chez Countryside Tales. I've finished the last assignment that I needed to do before college breaks up for Christmas (phew), had my last session with the first years before next year (during which I forgot whether it was a mink or a pine marten we were looking at in the ID test I'd put together for them, and then thought a grey partridge was a ptarmigan- it must be time for a holiday) and more or less finished wrapping all the Christmas presents and have sent off all the cards. I spent this morning taking everything out of the kitchen and scrubbing the cupboards and the oven (yuk), washed the sheets and towels, baked some bread, made some profiteroles for later, mucked out L's bedroom, took the dogs and my husband out for a two mile run and listened to the Marsh Tit (see above) sneezing in the hedge.
On Friday, I spent the morning sitting in a freezing concrete barn on a farm near Dorchester listening to talks about cover crops with a bunch of tweed-clad country folk and flat-capped, John-Deere-overalled farmers while staring wistfully at a heater which, despite roaring out an impressive looking yellow flame was about as effective as a chocolate teapot. It was interesting, but the cold meant my mind wandered to a Yellow Hammer who was sitting in a tree just outside the barn along with a gang of sparrows and chaffinches and one or two wagtails. The afternoon was spent in a freezing field looking at cover crops growing and staring in to holes in the ground while being gently rained on. The high point came when a hare shot out from beneath our feet as we walked back to the barn for a hot pasty and revealed his form- something I've never seen before. A Hare's Form is the shallow he digs out of the earth to lay in (see the pics above). Brilliant! I was so taken with it I forgot most of the things I learnt in the morning.
Yesterday, we took Uncle Charles out for tea. He's got this nifty new zimmer frame thing on wheels that folds up when you don't need it and it's helped his getting-about-ness no end. Unfortunately, the carpark was full of pot holes and puddles, which is not a good combination when coupled with Uncle Charles' gung-ho attitude to life and wobbly legs. He set off at terrifically determined pace heading straight for a puddle. Mind the puddle! we yelled, holding our collective breath as he swerved at the last possible second and avoided a dunking. This had the effect of sending him tottering off at such a wonky angle that I covered my eyes with my hands, certain he was going to fall over, but the next second I uncovered them at the sound of his exuberant Ha! in time to witness him narrowly avoiding bouncing off one car and ping-ponging in to another. A few staggers later and he'd regained his balance and was zooming cheerfully on. Oh God his wife breathed in my ear, but quietly, because she's been married to Charles for a long time.
A nerve-wracking few minutes later (which included crossing a small bridge over a lake), we had made it into the tearooms in one piece and sat down, relieved. The antique hearing-aid boxes were retrieved from a plastic boots bag and scattered liberally across the table and we all set about listening to a story about the time Uncle Charles was in the Arctic (again), swiftly followed by some questions about which bit of Scotland I'm off to next year and would I like his old maps of the Cairngorms? I shouted yes please, choosing to ignore my husband's gentle snorts into his napkin, because the maps will be at least fifty years old. Surely mountains don't change much in fifty years though?
Then we all had a bit more shouty conversation (because the hearing aids don't work) about the time his wife crossed the channel in a long boat and how long it took to get to South Africa just after the war, before moving on to a discussion about the best place to buy printer paper. I plumped for WH Smith, Uncle Charles went for a small shop he's found off Fisherton Street in Salisbury, informing me with a triumphant grin that a ream there cost him £4.80 to my £5. I saw him his £4.80 and raised him an offer of buy two get one free, and then felt bad when he looked a little crest fallen. Finally, we rounded off the afternoon with a debate on which gsm of printer paper we all liked best. I couldn't look at M by this point, and felt, all things considered, that I did rather well to keep a straight face and answer seriously that I had always found 80 gsm to be adequate.
Only twelve days to Christmas! I'm off to decorate our tree, with a little help from T and P.....
Hope you're all well?