Brr…This week the whole country was shivering. The Beast from the East crept closer with bitter Siberian winds bringing more freezing weather and heavy snow. Fierce gales from Russia lashed the country with severe cold weather, icy conditions and heavy snow. I woke up to a freezing landscape. Temperature dropped to –4C overnight and we were blanketed by heavy freezing fog. The ice and freezing fog caused travel chaos for air, road and rail passengers across Britain. The cold snap added more misery to those battling the floods.
I took the bus to work and there was a dusting of snow here and there. I braced the cold as I got down from the bus and walked through the fields that had been coated in frost, transforming them into a carnival of blue, white and wintry colours. During my lunch break, I took the opportunity to be out and about and capture the beauty that such perilous conditions can create. The thick sparkling frost had coated much of the university grounds, leaving many places with a winter wonderland look. It was lovely covered in a glittery mantle of ice and frost. Everything was frosted as if painted with a magical crystal brush and made even more magical by the waning December sun which shone in the winter sky. A false sun as it brought no warmth with its sunny glow. The ground looked like it had been covered with snow, but it wasn’t. The tip of Jack Frost’s brush touched here and there as he danced across leaving his mark upon this wintery wonderland. Each bush and cobweb looked as if they’d been dusted with icing sugar. The trees were bare and berries hung like glittering baubles on twiggy branches. A magic crystallised world.
Indoors, the Xmas baubles were up in the office, I meant they were hanging everywhere ;-). We’d the last Data Services meeting of the year. I bought a box of chocolate biscuits to be shared among my colleagues. Our manager outlined what we would be expecting in the next academic year 2013/2014. I’m looking forward to processing the Hispanic Collections. So I guess, I better brush on my Spanish eh. There will be more digitization projects which thankfully, I haven’t had my fingers in, yet. There was a discussion on the Competency Framework which we planned to go over again in the new year. We also touched on Print-on-Demand books and off course, RDA.
We ended the week with an end of year staff open day. Staff was encouraged to dress down and unfortunately, I don’t do dress down. We started the day with plates of Danish pastries washed down with hot water for moi, because the organizers forgot to provide herbal tea bags. Note to myself : must remember to bring my own. Then we were marched into the Teaching Grid and listened to several briefings. The highlight of the day was a session on creativity where our creative juices was pressed and bottled up. Then a lovely buffet of finger foods was laid out for lunch. We’d a lovely time polishing them up.
Then it was back at our desk, trying to work with a very full tummy. It was hard trying to stay awake :-). And the best thing was that my colleagues and I ended the day with a Chinese banquet at Wing Wah. Eek…The freezing Siberian blast didn’t faze us and eating was a good excuse to keep warm anyway. We were given a booth in the newly-renovated restaurant. We took turns to fill our plates. My first target was the sushi bar. Yummy…sushi and makis.
Next, we headed for the starters. I filled mine with crispy seaweed and lots and loads of seafood. It was night of bonding, laughter and good food. After washing down with cups of steaming Chinese cha, I checked out the main course. Again more seafood which included the mussels in garlic and topped with Fried Singapore vermicelli and crunchy Chinese vegetables. A few customers celebrated their birthdays and we joined in with the singing and clapping. There was a new Indian counter which I gave a miss and headed for the Teppanyaki bar. This chef was busy frying my dish of squids, bean-sprouts and hor-fun noodles. Finally, I ended the night with just a creme brulee. My poor tummy. Then it was time to drag our feet home. CC gave me a lift. Thanks. At home, Babe asked me if I’d heard of the latest news. I was stunned and felt a tremendous sorrow, a deep sadness for these families that have lost a child. Not only they, but the families that lost an adult member of the family. Adam Peter Lanza, fatally shot twenty children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Connecticut. Earlier, he had shot and killed his mother. After killing the students and teachers, he killed himself. All of these affected families needed our prayers. The road to recovery for the rest of the other children that were back at school was going to be a long one. America needed to think long and deep about their obsession with guns. How many more deaths???
We spent Saturday checking out the supermarkets just to see if there was anything new that we must have. We bought a few bits and bops in Asda. We browsed in Matalan and the newly refurbished Dunelm Mill. We eyed the washing machine, cake mixer and active fryer that we planned to purchase during the Boxing sales (if any). Then we drove back to Boots in Arena Park where Babe bought me a bottle of DKNY Heart as a Xmas pressie. Thanks darling. I got him a Jessop tripod. In Tesco, I bought Jamie Oliver’s 15-minutes meal which I planned to try out as many recipes as I could during my long Xmas holidays. By this time, the shopping mall was buzzing.
Sunday was spent chilling out at Slimbridge WWT. Winter was the best time to check out the White-fronted geese and Bewick's swans, both of which breed in Arctic Russia. White-fronted geese were the most significant species to the WWT as they were the reason that Sir Peter Scott started the Trust. Today only 500 of these geese were spending the winter here. They weren’t endangered, but most chose to winter in Holland as it was now warmer than in the past. The Bewick's swan was another bird that Peter Scott dedicated much of his time to watching and studying. The research program at Slimbridge was the longest ongoing study of any species of bird in the world. Since the early 1950's, they have been fed by a Warden three times a day on the Rushy. During the day they were seen all over the reserve feeding on the managed grass, and saw a huge flock feeding on the nearby fields on the way. We planned to see the feeding session later.
Our first stop was the Rushy Hide to see what was about. And we weren’t disappointed. Hundreds of Pintails, Pochards, Tufted ducks, Gadwalls, Teals and Shelducks were about. From here, we could also see clouds of Lapwings and Golden Plovers swirling in the air near the Holden Tower. I think they were spooked by a predator. We couldn’t wait to walk there to get a better view.
Along the very flooded and muddy route, we were entertained by robins, chaffinches and this chiffchaff. We spotted a Goldcrest but he was too deep in the bushes. We stopped at a newly-built hide opposite the Robbie Garnett Hide. A Brambling was sighted earlier but we didn’t see it. We didn’t stay long because rain had got into the hide and it was flooded.
The uncrested wren, called in this place chiff-chaff is very loud … It does only two piercing notes.
We popped over to Robbie Garnett Hide. During this time of the year large parts of the reserve were deliberately flooded. We spotted European wigeons, Golden Plovers, Dunlins, Curlews, Lapwings, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Canada Geese, Bewick’s Swans and Mallards feeding. As usual. the Wigeons shrilling whistling, one of the great sounds of winter, drowned everything.
The heavens opened and we walked back to car to get the camera water-proofed. While waiting for the rain to stop, we’d our lunch of cheese and onion pasties and washed down with hot cups of coffee from the thermos. About half an hour later, the rain stopped and we continued our adventure. There were lots of families bringing their children to see Santa at his grotto near the duck hut. We walked through the boardwalk where this adorable pair of Mandarin ducks kept us company.
We headed straight to Zeiss Hide to see if the Bittern was out and about. There were several sightings near this hide. It began to rain and the faster we walked, the heavier it fell. We managed to get a seat opposite the reed-bed and waited and waited and waited. It was very windy and freezing cold. There were lots of crows feeding on the field and after an hour, we gave up. We need to be by Rushy hide for the feeding frenzy.
We were early and watched flocks of about 3-5 swans flying in every minute from different parts of the reserve. The lake was getting a bit crowded and it was hilarious to see them trying to land. A few managed quite a disgraceful landing and some even landed on the others. Every day at 4pm, the warden do a commentated feed on the Rushy with the public enjoying stunning views from the heated Peng Observatory. Unfortunately, you can’t get good photographs from the double-glazed walls. It wasn’t just Bewick’s swans that come in for the afternoon feeds. Around 2,500 wildfowl arrive by late afternoon ready for feeding. For us, the feeding frenzy at Martin Mere was the best spectacle that we’d ever since.
This week was Trish’s 3rd. anniversary.
May the roads rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.