The heavens opened. And it wasn’t the white, fluffy feathery stuffed that everyone dreamt of. Instead, a good solid few hours of wall of rain lashed the country. The weather was foul for most of the week. The wind was howling, tossing the trees roughly, brown leaves scattered everywhere, and the rain was hammering down. A great swathe of driving rain engulfed the entire country, with downpours and fierce winds put a dampener on any hope of festive snow. Apart from that, Merry Xmas from us.
My cousin, NIST, arrived safely yesterday by bus from Kent. It took her about 6 hours and arrived in one piece at 7.45 pm. We made honey waffles for our Xmas breakfast. I’d the waffle maker for ages and had not used it for quite a while. Freshly-baked and topped with maple syrup, it went down as fast as we could make it on such a cold morning. I must make waffles more often. We then decided to brave the elements and check out the natives at our favourite playground. As expected on the way, there were floods on the road but nothing prepared us for the lake we met when we turned off the A45 onto Brandon Lane. Babe thought twice before he drove very slowly through the flood with half of the car on the pavement.
When we reach the car-park, we weren’t surprised to see a few cars there. Babe loaned NIST a camera so that she could take her own photographs. We were going to introduce to her what we loved most, wildlife and photography. Flocks of birds were flying around the reserve enjoying the solitude. As we walked along the main food-path, we came across Goldfinches feeding on the thistles. We just stood there, silently, watching these beautiful birds with their high-pitched twittering.
‘Sometimes goldfinches one by one will drop
From low hung branches; little space they stop,
But sip, and twitter, and their feathers sleek,
Then off at once, as in a wanton freak;
Or perhaps, to show their black and golden wings,
Pausing upon their yellow flutterings.’
We continued on walking as the heavens opened again. As we expected, the path towards the main hides was flooded and it was the highest we’d ever seen. A Robin flew in to see what the fuss was about and got closer and closer. We gave NIST some breadcrumbs, asked her to stretch her hand towards it and see what happens. As expected the Robin flew for a quick feed and flew off again. It was too fast for either of us to get a photograph.
“The robin flew from his swinging spray of ivy on to the top of the wall and he opened his beak and sang a loud, lovely trill, merely to show off. Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off – and they are nearly always doing it.”
~Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden~
A fellow photographer told us that Steely Hide was flooded too which meant that only Wright hide was accessible. We walked slowly along the very muddy path being serenaded by flocks of Redpolls, Long-tailed tits and Siskins flirting from tree to tree. Unfortunately, it was too dark under the trees. In front of Wright hide, we saw hundreds of Canada Geese, a few lapwings and a Common Snipe huddled on the nearly flooded island. A pair of Golden Eyes swam by. I spotted a Great Crested Grebe in its winter colours below the impassable East Marsh Hide. Our tummies rumbled and it was time to head home and tackle the Xmas dinner.
This was NIST first Xmas celebration here in the UK and we wanted it to be special for her. We bought chicken but it was too big to fit in the oven that we decided to roast only the crown. We’d it with the usual trimmings of roast potatoes and parsnips, Yorkshire pudding, steamed carrots and Brussels sprouts with lashings of onion gravy and washed down with glasses of Schloer. Yummy and there were plenty of leftover for the following day’s dinner.Babe took photographs of us messing about during dinner and also by the Xmas tree. NIST wanted to send some to her parents back in Malaysia. We’d a wonderful time mucking about and making faces.
Blend equal parts of Faith and Hope mixed well with Charity,
Stir in Goodwill and Sweet Content and Precious Memory
Add Kindness, Helpfulness and Joy; of Gratitude don’t spare;
Then drop by drop Love’s essence sweet, and Praises freely share.
And don’t forget such spices rare as Laughter, Smiles and Fun,
Taste often for the best results, (Tis sweet to mince upon)
Now add a
Thankful heart and then, the recipe’s complete,
Your Merry Christmas all will like…so try the season’s treat.
~Esther Lloyd Dauber~
On Boxing day, NIST and I walked in the rain to Gallagher Retail Park to check out the sales. And we weren’t alone. It was buzzing. I guess everyone was out and about to let off the excess food consumed yesterday. I saw on tv that people had spent the night in the cold so that they could be the first in the sales. Our first stop was TK Maxx which was a bit silly because they don’t have a sale on. But it was my favourite shop in the world. I was searching for a leather handbag, either in purple, orange or yellow. They didn’t have any but I still came out with some lovely soaps and a decorative bird box.
We nipped over to Matalan and the shop was packed. We browsed a bit and left. The queue to the till was snaking around the shop. NIST treated me to a McDonald meal of fish fillet, fries and vanilla milkshake, my first in years. The fast-food outlet was also buzzing with patrons loaded with shopping bags. Our excuse to be here was to wait for the rain to stop.
We also took NIST to Slimbridge WWT to introduce her to the waders. The weatherman said that it would be sunny here. As we drove over the River Severn, we saw that the river had overflowed its banks. I meant seriously overflowing. My thoughts were with those who were affected by the floods. I bought a pack of seeds for NIST so that she could feed the ducks. As usual, as soon as they saw her with the goodies, they came running over.Then we checked out Rushy Hide to see if any new migrants had arrived. There wasn’t any but plentiful of Pintails, Shelducks, Lapwings, Mute swans, Greylags and Bewicks about. We didn’t check out the other hides because we wanted NIST to see the rest of the enclosures where the exotic ducks were out and about. And feeding the endangered Hawaiian Nenes was not to be missed.We went to Zeiss Hide to see if we can catch a glimpse of the elusive Bittern. The hide was packed and it was just too loud. Why??? They were birdwatchers and should have been aware of the etiquette about birdwatching. Nothing will appear with that much noise. It was getting louder and louder that we’d to leave. By the stream, we spotted these wild Mandarin ducks. Babe said they were wild because one of them flew away. The captive birds had their wings clipped which made them unable to fly.We checked out the sleeping Greater flamingos at the Flamingo Lagoon. Most of the inhabitants were very subdued except for the adorable whistling ducks. They were a noisy lot. We arrived in time to see the otters feeding time and sat down to listen to the commentary. Babe parked himself at his usual spot to get the best shots.Then we went back to Rushy hide for the swan feeding session. We were a bit late and the best seats had been taken. Every few minutes, small flocks of Canada Geese, Bewicks, Mute and Whooper Swans started flying in and trying to land as graceful as possible on the lake. The warden came into the hide and started whistling which alerted the birds. Their heads went up and started looking around. It was pandemonium when the warden came out pushing a barrow of seeds. The waders were scrambling over each other to reach the food. Some of the brazen ones went straight to the barrow. More flocks were flying in the dark to join in the feeding frenzy. We left when the warden pushed the barrow in front of the Peng Observatory where there were more people sitting in the warmth. We’d a very laid-back but wonderful Xmas. It was time for families, good food and plenty of laughter. It would have been perfect if we’d a white Xmas. There was a December weather lore.
Snow at Christmas means Easter will be green not white.
You have been warned.
In the midst of the festive season, we received the news that our cousin Dek Wan had died suddenly due to pneumonia. He was only 19 years old and was waiting for his high school results. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during such sad times. Innalila wa inna lilla hirajiun :