Sunday, 30 December 2018

Happy New Year!

So how was Christmas for you? It was a muted affair here. M and I were supposed to be running a relay marathon together on the 23rd. He came down with a bug a few days before and decided on the 22nd not to run (sensible), so we hot-footed it down to Portsmouth to upgrade my entry to the full marathon. Half an hour after we got home my throat started to ache and by the morning of the race I knew there was no way I could do it. I spent Christmas Eve in bed feeling yuk and although I did get up for Christmas Day we had a very quiet one. The big family get-together has been postponed till Wednesday.

This morning we went down to Porchester for a race which M won (I sat it out as not yet 100% fit), and when we got home I discovered what I'm fairly sure is a Lesser Redpoll in the garden. Cue huge excitement from me as I've only ever seen one here once before and that was a few years ago. It's the first bird in the pics above. If anyone thinks it's anything else (Redpoll/ Linnet) shout. Also back in the garden are the Siskins and our resident Moorhen, who is very shy but rather beautiful. In the spring I see them paddling about on the lake and nibbling the grass on the edges with three or four small balls of fluff in tow.

In other news, I totted up all the races I've done this year and was chuffed to discover that we've done 33:

3 x 5k
4x 5 mile
17x 10k
1x 9 mile
2x 10 mile
4x half marathons
2x marathons

Not a bad haul. Next year, if all goes well, there will be more marathons and fewer shorter distances. I'm currently planning our racing diary for 2019. All good fun. I've entered a marathon later in the year which is billed as the UK's toughest as it's got lots of climb. It's in the Lakes and I've wanted to do it for a while so I'm really looking forward to that one especially. It'll be interesting to look back next Christmas and see how much of what I set out to do I've achieved, as well as the unexpected things that always crop up!

Hope all are well? Wishing you all a lovely New Year.

CT :o).

Tuesday, 25 December 2018


Happy Christmas to all of you from all of us. Thank you for reading and/ or commenting this year, Wishing everyone a lovely festive season and New Year.

With very best wishes from all of us here at Countryside Tales.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Christmas Birds In The Garden


Great tit

Blue tit

Coal tit

male sparrow

male sparrow cleaning his tail


male chaffinch

dunnock! :o)

coal tit

blue tit

blue tit and goldfinch

stock dove

long tailed tit

male and female sparrows

female sparrow

female blackbird

great tit

About this time today, M and I should have been nearing the end of a marathon relay we were doing together around Langstone Harbour in Portsmouth (running a half marathon each), but M came down with the lurgy on Wednesday and decided at 4am on Saturday that he wasn't well enough to run, leaving me with the option of a) not doing it either or b) upgrading to run the full marathon. Of course, I chose b), only to find as bedtime yesterday approached that I had a distinctly odd feeling in my throat, and to spend half the night awake feeling yuk. So, no running today.

Instead, I have been watching the garden birds. It's a snowstorm of feathers out there with, I estimate, between 30-40 feathered friends gathered in the garden at any one time.

The goldfinches are the top birds in so far as they dominate the feeders, not allowing anyone else much of a look in, and the dear little coal tit is bottom, and has to dart in, grab a seed and nip away with it, to hide it somewhere in the garden for when he needs it later on.

I am glad to see the Stock Dove, who is a rare garden visitor here. I hear them more often than I see them. Likewise the greenfinch who was here yesterday. Another regular visitor at this time of year who didn't make an appearance while I had the camera out is the moorhen. She hops over the hedge and potters about beneath the feeders clearing up dropped seeds. Despite her size, the other smaller birds don't seem to object to her presence. She is very nervous of me though and is off at the slightest movement.

The Dunnock is for My Orcadian friend who rarely gets dunnocks in his garden. Instead, he regularly sees Marsh Harriers which I almost never do, so we are indulging in an avian cultural exchange. I apologise for the quality of the picture, but dunnocks are hard to photograph well as they are rarely still.

One bird who was in the garden yesterday but who was in and out so fast that all I heard was the whoosh of air as she sped past the window, causing the smaller birds to dive for cover in the hedge, was the sparrowhawk. I was telling a friend about it over a mince pie yesterday and he told me that he was sitting in his garden in Southampton once with his arm stretched out when a sparrowhawk landed on it! I have had this happen with blackbirds before, but never a bird of prey. He said she turned and stared at him with those intense yellow eyes but didn't move away. He didn't know much about hawks so was worried she might go for him, instead she surveyed him and the garden for a bit then took off and flew over the fence.

Incidentally, did you know that the blackbirds currently in your garden are likely to be European birds who have come here for winter? Your blackbirds, in the mean time, have taken themselves off to southern Europe or Africa and won't be back home till March.

I hope everyone is keeping well and has Christmas under control. We're all set here.


Tuesday, 18 December 2018

What's the last thing you want to happen nine days before Christmas?

The Gods were smiling on us this weekend. Usually, as you know, we are helter-skelter around the country doing various running adventures. This weekend, no races. We went off to parkrun first thing on Saturday and returned with the intention of painting the new bits of bathroom that were going to have things fixed over them this week. For this reason, we were upstairs when ordinarily we would have been miles away.

M moved some chipboard and I noticed a damp line in the carpet.

Me, pointing: What's that?
M: probably just wet from the chipboard.
Me: But it's spread round the corner where this is no chipboard.
M: Hmmm.
Me: I bet the new shower's leaking.

I hoiked up the edge of the carpet and to my alarm saw water swimming beneath it. A hasty call to the builders resulted 20 mins later in two of them appearing and taking ages to umm and ahh over what might be causing it while all the while the pool of water seeped further into the carpet and across the room.

Eventually, the plumber was called, a hole was cut in the bedroom wall (because Builder Martin had just finished all the wall coverings and shower tray and doors etc in the new bathroom and it would have been nightmarish seeing them all removed this close to Christmas when they'd taken a fortnight to be put in) and the culprit was discovered. As I'd said, the new shower pipe was leaking.

It was wrapped up in tape like an Egyptian Mummy, tightened and declared sorted and everyone left. I'd just got on with the painting when a sudden and loud noise of deluging water made me assume that M had inexplicably switched on the new shower.

Why have you turned the shower on? I yelled.
I haven't! He yelled back.

Oh S*!T.

I rushed round the corner in time to see water fountaining out of the hole in the wall, jet spraying across the other wall and flooding the room. In seconds the carpet was under an inch of water and it just kept coming.

M sprinted down stairs and wrenched the main stop cock to off but we were still left with a swimming pool where our bedroom usually is.

Towels and buckets mopped the worst of it and when the plumber returned and capped the culprit he showed me how a piece of the joint had sheared away.

I have a strange sense of humour and often feel it's better to laugh than cry when something like this happens. And because we'd been home and caught it quickly, was relatively able to see the funny side. HOWEVER, as M pointed out, had it been a usual weekend for us the likelihood is we would have returned to a flooded house; the ceiling undoubtedly would have fallen in and we'd have been looking at spending Christmas in a hotel and goodness knows how long the repair work would have taken. Far worse than this though is that the room directly beneath our bedroom is where the dogs sleep and they would both almost certainly have been killed. 

So like I say, the Gods were with us.

The offending pipe has been replaced but I have told them not to block up the hole in the wall until after Christmas. I want to be absolutely certain that it won't leak again :o(.

On to happier news. I've just finished wrapping all the prezzies which are now beneath the tree, have sorted out the stockings, bought all the food except the fresh stuff and got the booze in. Tomorrow, I have to make 40 mince pies for the friends who are coming after parkrun on Saturday and after that I'm more or less done.

L has been home with a temperature, so I'm really hoping we don't succumb to that! He has valiantly gone in to college today although I am on High Alert for a text to go and pick him up. 

In the meantime, I'm running in the fresh air with the dogs through the countryside as much as I possibly can in order to stave the bugs off!

I'll leave you with a short vid of Romsonians singing Silent Night during Christmas Carols in the Market Square last night, which we went to and thoroughly enjoyed. It was absolutely packed with the Romsey Youth Choir, the Romsey Male Voice Choir and several others all present as well as lots and lots of locals all singing away. Our friend Raymond was conducting (he is very funny and had everyone laughing throughout) and everyone was in fine voice, even if M and I had to hum/ make up the words in some places as we didn't have a carol sheet. I kept getting the giggles as M suddenly dropped an unexpected octave when the range got too high for him. This is acceptable during Christmas Carols, but I get into terrible trouble with it during funerals :o)

Happy Crimbo All!

CT :o)