Thursday, 27 January 2011

Journey Down South

We planned to leave the casa at 9am but then the chatty tree frog (sat. nav) refusedWales Trip D2h   21-01-2011 11-10-51 to talk. We were seriously thinking of driving over to Halfords to replace her when she started talking. I bet the thought of being replaced for a newer model woke her up. It was 9.30am when we hit the road. Traffic wasn’t too bad.   But the temperature kept on dipping.

It was -3C when we drove through frozen Shropshire. The view was impressive. The sun was low and bright in the sky, and the hoarse frost glistened on the trees and shrubs. It was like entering the scene from the Chronicles of Narnia. We stopped at a lay-by and took photographs of the incredible views in the freezing cold. It was worth it.

The temperatures started climbing as we drove into the Welsh borders. A quick wee J stop at Newtown before we continued our journey. Look at these gorgeous views over the valleys. What a pity there wasn’t any place that we could stop and take better photographs. I took this while Babe was driving. I really missed theseWales Trip D2h   21-01-2011 12-26-33 rolling and rugged contours of the Welsh countryside. 

We stopped at Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre for a quick lunch and off course, to get some shots of the Red kites. There were a few to be seen but they were high up in the sky. I guess we had missed their feeding time. But there were plenty of Siskins and chaffinches about keeping us occupied. They were so busy feeding on the pine cones that they just ignored our cameras. We ate our sandwiches watching their antics. Their noisy chirpings and acrobatics were a joy to watch.Wales Trip D50  21-01-2011 13-52-27

I wished we could drive into Aberystwyth sea-front cos I would love to dip my feet in the sea. But Babe wanted to check into the Travel Lodge before it got dark. We passed our old playground, Llanon, where we lived in a very tiny stone cottage with a fireplace for 7 fantastic years. Lots and loads of memories came whizzing past. We stopped at the top of the hill where we could see the stunning view of Cardigan Bay and Llanon. And oh what a view it was. 

I’m glad we stopped here. We saw at least a dozen Red Kites soaring over the hills and valleys. They had spread far and wide. As we were on a hill, we could see their eyes gazing down in calm curiosity as they flew reconnaissance flights over us. What a magnificent graceful bird of prey. Scavenging was always their wayWales Trip D300s  21-01-2011 13-53-87 of life and that was why they fared well in this sheep country. There will always be carcass especially now in winter and at lambing time in spring. We even spotted a few lambs gambolling about in the nearby field. Isn’t it a bit early for them to be born? Winter wasn’t over yet.

At first we thought of driving through the Preseli’s, the highest point in Pembrokeshire. But the road was getting icier and it was going to be very slippery so we took the much safer route through Narberth. We reached the Travel Lodge safe and sound at about 4.30pm. After checking in, stowing away our stuff and having a hot drink, we decided to pop over and say hi to Babe’s Mum. Since we’ve been sitting for the past 6 hours, we decided to stretch our legs and walked to her pad which was only a few blocks away.

We had to make a pit stop at Pembroke harbour to check-out the mudflats. The usual sea-gullsPembroke Dock D50  21-01-2011 16-32-16 and terns were out and about, making themselves heard, before settling for the night. A pied wagtail kept on darting around us, presumably checking us out. Suddenly we spotted a beautiful Little Egret feeding on the mud-banks. What a lovely surprise. Unfortunately it was very dark at this time. The hedges and trees nearby were full of tree sparrows roosting for the night. As we continued walking, Babe spotted this strange looking bird. At first we thought it was a blackbird but then Babe saw the white crescent mark on the breast. It was a Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus), our first sighting of one. Another lovely surprise.

We spent about an hour at Mum’s casa. She wasn’t feeling well and what’s happening at the moment doesn’t help either. She introduced us to her 2 gorgeous kittens, Angel and Precious. They were so adorable and very affectionate. I bet they kept Mum busy. Fran, who was still on the train from Ipswich, will be staying with her for Pembroke Dock D300s  22-01-2011 09-13-33the weekend.

After saying goodnight, we browsed in Asda for coffee creamer and bottled water. Then straight back to the hotel for dinner. We were just too tired to check out the night-life. We played a few board games on the I-Pad. Babe had an early night while I finished reading Steig Larsson’s ‘The Girl who kicked the hornet’s nest’, the final instalment of the crime trilogy. I was completely enthralled by the whole series, the tense and the apocalyptic conclusion, not what I expected. I just couldn’t wait for the film to be out on DVD.

The next morning we got up early, again to check-out natives at the harbour.  It must have been a very cold night cos the car was caked with frost. As we walked towards the harbour, we spotted a few Redwings feeding on the frozen ground. The tide had risen so there was nothing much except for this lone stone pipit trying to catch the morning sun. A few Shelducks were spotted on the water. Then a slow walk towardsPembroke D2h  22-01-2011 11-36-59 the pier

We walked back to the hotel for a quick shower and breakfast. We checked out early and drove to the imposing 12th century Pembroke Castle and parked the car there. We walked around the medieval town walls and millpond, and from the opposite bank of the river, we viewed the castle in all its splendour, surrounded by this peaceful stretch of water. I spotted a few Little Grebes enjoying a morning swim and as we continued walking, a lone Redshank and heron were having breakfast by the mudbanks. There were quite a lot of people taking advantage of the lovely day. A Mistle thrush was seen darting in and out of the bushes, hunting for food.

At about 11.45am, we walked through this gate towards the Haven Church where Trish’sPembroke D50  22-01-2011 11-47-44 memorial was carried out. We were given a small bag filled with a pebble engraved with a robin, Trish’s favourite bird, a bookmark of her favourite hymn and a heart-shaped coloured paper where guests were asked to write their thoughts and memories which were later collected and kept in a scrap-book for the children. What a thoughtful, sweet gesture. The church was nearly full and we sat, with the rest of the family members.

The memorial went for an hour. Hymns sung, prayers said, testimonials from friends,  families and colleagues read out. A video presentation charting Trish’s very short life was beamed on a screen accompanied by a lovely ballad, Everything by Tim Hughes. Not a dry eye in the church. Good-bye to my beautiful sister-in-law…We met, hugged and chatted with Phil and the 4 children and other members of Babe’s family. We didn’t stay long because we still had a long drive home.

There was silence in the car. We decided to take the scenic drive home via Fishguard to settle our minds. The views of the rugged coastline did the trick.We stopped at Lower Fishguard harbour to stretch our legs. Lower Fishguard D300s  22-01-2011 14-24-10 I just love this quirky little place. Out of nowhere, a little gem can be found. I spotted a Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) feeding among the seaweed-covered rocks. I was mesmerised watching it flicking sand and weed over its shoulder as it hunt for food.  Babe  spotted a few more through his powerful lens.

Finally, we arrived at Aberystwyth. First a quick stop at Morisson to use the facilities and then a bit of food shopping. We drove towards the South pier where we’d a late lunch and watched a beautiful sun set. Babe spotted a flock of starlings circling the pier and whoosh disappeared under it. Huh…they were roosting. And then we saw another huge flock, and then another and another…We quickly drove to the pier and there were hundreds of people already there with cameras, video recorders and camera phones. We managed to get a parking space and I quickly dashed towards the pier. My oh my…there were thousands and they were still coming in. The noise was unbearable and off course you need to put your hood up. These birds can literally cover you with s—t!!!

What a pity they didn’t do any aerial displays or murmurations . A “murmuration” of starlings, as this phenomenon was known, must be one of the most magical, yet underrated, wildlife spectacles on display in winter. Perhaps it was too cold. I took a few shots but it was already too dark.  Aberystwyth D50  22-01-2011 16-49-53 I find it strange that their Welsh name was adern y eira or snow bird. I guess because  they were regarded as winter migrants. We decided to come back in a few weeks time armed with a video camera. I could not wait!!!

We continued our drive home but had to do a 20 mile detour because the road from Welshpool to Shrewsbury was closed for roadwork. Grr…It was quite disheartening cos we were already very tired, it was dark and we’d to drive through places where we’d never been before. It was going to be a loong night. About 45 minutes later, we got on the road that we were familiar with. I closed my eyes and Babe woke me up when we were near the Corley Services. Wow, I’d slept for nearly an hour.

We arrived safe and sound at about 8.30pm. It had been a very long day. We quickly unpacked our bags. I made soup and had pasties for an easy dinner. I’d a quick wash, did the Ishaq prayers thanking Allah for the safe journey and then ZZZZ while Babe downloaded more than 1k photographs!!! Good night, sleep tight; don't let the bed bugs bite!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Trish A. (1964-2009)

God in my living
There in my breathing
God in my waking
God in my sleeping
God in my resting

There in my working
God in my thinking
God in my speaking

Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything

God in my hoping
There in my dreaming

God in my watching
God in my waiting

God in my laughing
There in my weeping
God in my hurting
God in my healing

~Tim Hughes, Everything~

There wasn’t a single dry eye when the above song accompanied a visual presentation for Trish’s memorial. Babe was inconsolable when the first visual was of him as a 5 year old with his new baby sister. It was soo heartbreaking. Then another photograph of Babe giving away Trish on her wedding day.

For me, whenever Bryan Adam’s on air, my memories of Trish will come flooding in. We went to see him together in 2009, I think. We’d such fun bopping and singing our hearts out. I will always treasure that wonderful time we’d and thank you for being a very wonderful sister-in-law.

The tiny church was full with friends, family members, neighbours and her colleagues. Tributes, hymns, songs and prayers echoed through out the memorial celebration. It was short, deep and meaningful. We said hello to family members and gave  bear hugs to Phillip, Shawny, Elly Jelly Belly, My Little Man and Holly Ball. We didn’t stay long because we’ve a long drive home. But we will always be in touch.

For Trish, R.I.P and Al-Fatehah from both of us.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Dear Tooth Fairy

In this pocket you will find
A teensy, tiny tooth of mine.
So while I sleep where
dreams are made,
Let's see if you
can make a trade.
In this pocket I will lay,
the little tooth I lost today.
Please, dear fairy,
tonight as I sleep
leave me a coin.
My tooth you can keep.

-~Author Unknown~

Hmm…I wonder how much the tooth fairy’s going to leave under my pillow? And my tooth’s not tiny. The very nice Polish dentist took it out last Friday. An experience that I’m not keen to repeat any time soon. The bleeding has finally stopped but it was still very sore and swollen. I’m not a happy bunny at the moment.

The weekend weather too reflected my lousy mood. There was another grey start to the day when I got up this morning. The wind was still blowing roughly. I could hear the wind chimes rattling at full speed. And it was freezing again but at least it wasn’t raining. It was definitely a day for staying indoors, the curtains closed against the gloom outside with the heating on. Apart from the visits from my feathered friends, the garden was still hibernating as the weather prevents any gardening activities, which in turn urging me to seek refuge indoors.

But we still need to get the weekly shopping done. We went out before the football traffic descends around our casa. The Sky Blues were playing against Sheffield United. First we checked out Tesco at Walsgrave not the one  near us. I bought a lovely Biba-influenced tunic which would go well with a pair of black pants. Then a quick browse at Aldi before queuing for petrol at Asda. There was soo many cars that we changed our mind and went to Morrison. The cost of petrol here was £1.26 a litre and it was shooting up and up. It was going to be very expensive to fill up the car.

Last week, the traffic had been horrendous on the way to work. I know the students were back but it wasn’t this bad before. We left the casa earlier and earlier and still arrived just on time. We lived less than 10km away…At times like this, I wish I have wings :-). Babe took this lovely photograph of the Greylags flying away to roost at Brandon Marsh.Brandon Marsh D300s  11-01-2011 14-58-45

Monday, 10 January 2011

Starting work with a thud

It was only a 4 day week  last week and 2 days were spent away from the work-station.Coventry D50  02-01-2011 10-09-36 We’d an away-day at the Westwood Business School because the office was undergoing some electrical repairs. I couldn’t believe that I could be so knackered. That’s what happened if you had been away for a month. And it was good to be back at work. My colleagues were soo jealous of moi’s golden tan :-).

We sat, listened and stayed awake for 2 days of packed programme. I thoroughly enjoyed the 23 things project which we were encouraged to participate. I will try my best to complete the whole programme with a little help from my colleagues. That should be fun. We also understood what was happening to the other teams/department after the restructuring. Hmm…lots of things had changed and as they say, lessons need to be learned.

I supported my colleague with his presentation on catalogue developments. Coventry D50  02-01-2011 10-12-04 Our department had supported Airpac for Smartphones and introduced an updated version of the library catalogue after the introduction of a new cataloguing interface, Encore in the spring. GLW kept the audience captivated with his presentation. I also attended a talk on the students as researchers. Lots of acronyms used made me glaze over. The talk on annual review gave me plenty of ideas for my next meeting. Overall, I’d an enjoyable 2 days easing my way into 2011.

The weekend was spent just chilling out.Groby Pool D50  09-01-2011 13-15-27 I’m glad the sun finally came out on Saturday cos I did a lot of laundry. After vacuuming the casa, I walked to the Arena to checkout the sales. But I was too late. It had all gone. I checked out M&S, bought 2 belts at New Look for only £2 and tottered on a lovely pair of red heels at Next. But it was just too high for me, 7cm!!! I was gutted. At Tesco, I fell in love with a red tunic and a pair of wedged boots. I’ll check them out next week cos I’d already bought a pair of Crane Active shoes which was suppose to tone you while you walk. So far, I could feel something’s happening…

Suddenly, there was a thunderingBradgate Park D300s  F  09-01-2011 15-46-15 roar with loads of singing and cheering echoing from the Ricoh. The home team must have scored a goal. The Sky Blues team were playing against Crystal Palace. Later I found out that they won 2:1. There will be another major clash on the weekend of January 29/30, when they meet their fourth round tie with archrival Birmingham City staged at St Andrews. That should be a good game. Good luck boys.

It was a glorious day on Sunday. We went for a drive to checkout Bradgate Park. as usual, a pit stop at Groby Pools to feed the natives at a semi-frozen pool. Lots of people were feeding them but they still scrambled for every bit of bread. It was lovely to see these hybrid ducks again.

It came to no surprise to see Bradgate Park Bradgate Park D200  09-01-2011 14-44-44buzzing. Lots of people with dogs so I guess the deer will keep their distance. We’d a lovely walk enjoying the wonderful sunshine and lots of fresh air.  Our favourite noise-box wasn’t seen or heard on the way in. But on the way out, we could hear his distinctive whistling ‘whee-oo’.  And there he was among the mallards, gulls, a tufted duck and a hybrid duck. It was soo good to see him again and I bet he was also pleased to see me with a loaf of bread.

As we continued walking, we saw a Coventry D50  02-01-2011 10-10-57herd of Red Deer stags chilling out in the middle of the field. They were immediately on guard when a few visitors and their dogs got closer. It was lovely to see these handsome males observing the visitors observing them. We got as close as we could to get some beautiful photographs. They relaxed when they know that we were harmless. Just look at those amazing antlers.

We also had an amazing number of birds Coventry D50  02-01-2011 10-11-24feeding from our bird-feeder. It was so lovely to look out of window and see them. We were very honoured to have these feathered friends in our garden. Babe even made yummy fat-balls with peanut butter, peanuts, seeds and mealy worms just for them. Aren’t they the most pampered and well-fed birds in Coventry :-). The birds including Mr. Bushy tail on this posting came over to have a party. They take turns to feed and would wait (im)patiently among the shrubs.

I set the table full of food
And here they come, my hungry brood,
All flocking down with eager haste,
And not a morsel goes to waste.
A blue tit, swift on dancing wing
Is first to find the peanut string,
And then a robin, bold and bright
Is quick to feed . . . and quick to fight!
More mannerly, a song thrust calls
To glean the fruit and fat that falls
While finches swoop with joyful speed
At any sight of sunflower seed.
A blackbird's choice is apples, sweet
Yet sparrows care not what they eat
But gorge as long as food is there
Then fly away without a care.
No "thankyou" ever comes my way
For all the meals I set each day,
But my reward is in their song . . .
I'm serenaded, all year long!

~Margaret Ingall~

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year 2011

"The first of January rolls around
Like clockwork it appears
I find it’s timing most profound
As it brings us each new year
Right on time, It’s never late
Has never ever blown it
Apparently this wise old date
Refuses to postpone it
Drink a toast to January one
For annual consistence
It’s coming means the old year’s done
Let’s drink to it’s persistence."

~Stanley Cooper, Happy New Year, 1926~

I called my parents to wish them a very happy new year.   Babe and I celebrated 1/1/11 by taking a long,Coombe Abbey D50  01-01-2011 13-09-43 leisure stroll in the grounds of a thawing Coombe Abbey Park. And we were not alone. Hundreds of people were out and about taking advantage of the lull in the weather.

We were greeted by at least a dozen squirrels at the car-park. It was lovely watching them chasing each other, running up and down the trees and waiting patiently for food. I guess a lot of people have been feeding them. Seeds were scattered on the ground for the birds and off course the squirrels were taking advantage of them too. Babe took a lovely photograph of this wren checking things out.

I brought a loaf of bread to feed the ducks. And again I wasn’t alone. Everyone seemed to have the same idea. There was plenty of food to go around but the natives just seemed to be squabbling over every scrap. It was Coombe Abbey D300s  01-01-2011 13-07-31like a stampede in water.  Vey chaotic and very noisy. Just look at the scene below. The swans even had their necks entwined chasing after a doughnut:-)

We walked through the woods towards the bird-hide. Along the route, we saw herons waiting patiently by the semi-frozen lake. I bet they must have been very hungry. Not much activity at the bird-hide. It was also getting too dark to get decent photographs that we decided to call it a day.

I hoped that everyone had a lovely break and a wonderful time recharging their batteries for the coming year. I truly wish all of you, a 2011 filled with love, health and happiness. My new year resolution is  to be a BETTER person and NO plastic bags!!!

A very big thank you to Zetty for giving  Dee and Emil a ride to UITM, Penang. Coombe Abbey D300s  01-01-2011 13-25-5