Saturday, 23 February 2013

Caught in the Crossfire

I took leave on Friday because we planned to drive down to our favourite haunt, Aberystwyth. But there was a change of plans. Babe woke up with a hideous headache and it was too late for me to catch the bus to work. While Babe went to bed with a hot water bottle plastered to his head, I did the laundry and a bit of gardening. I was wrapped up warm. It was freezing as Britain was blighted by biting winds and frost. Light drifts of snowflakes were falling as icy gusts blew in from Scandinavia. This adorable Blackcap kept me company. Coventry D7000 X14  28-02-2013 13-09-41

Around noon, Babe came down feeling much better and we went into town for a change of scenery. By this time, the mercury had plunged back towards freezing. We parked the car above the market and walked towards Broadgate. We’d a nice surprise when we saw 30 huge tulips popping up around the square. These giant illuminated tulips had been installed in to welcome SPRING!!!. The bulbs lit up at night and provided extra seating underneath the illuminated petals.  Coventry D800  22-02-2013 13-22-54

We then walked towards the Cathedral because I’d read about a Coventrian gladiator had been buried there. What an amazing piece of history. His tombstone laid clearly visible by the footpath in the ancient graveyard surrounded by clumps of snowdrops.  We walked closer and read his epitaph. Coventry Cathedral D800  22-02-2013 13-29-35

"To the memory of John Parkes, a native of this city he was a man of mild disposition. A gladiator by profession, who after having fought 350 battles in the principal parts of Europe with honor and applause, at length quit the stage sheathed his sword and with Christian resignation submitted to the grand victor in the 52nd year of his life Anno 1733"

More details at

We also checked out the atmospheric medieval ruins of the Cathedral of St. Michael that became a spiritual beacon for the nation and an important landmark for the community. This special place reminded us of our human capacity to create, to destroy and to reach out in friendship and reconciliation. Stabilisation work were being carried out in the south-west corner of the ruins to repair a large crack. Vital repairs included repairing the crumbled masonry, providing coping to wall-caps and re-routing drainage. Coventry Cathedral D800  22-02-2013 13-36-01

From here, we noticed this huge poster covering the entrance of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and decided to check it out. Caught in the Crossfire was an exhibition that explored how artists grappled with both of the brutality of war and the desire for peace. It took us on a challenging journey from the home front to the frontline and back again, as seen through the eyes of artists, soldiers and people affected by conflict. We travelled through divided lands, debated the role of protest art, explored the aesthetics of violence and machinery of war, and reflected upon the aftermath of war where hope emerges and lives are rebuilt. A section of the exhibition focused on the work of kennardphillipps made in response to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Coventry D800  22-02-2013 13-44-45

We browsed the permanent exhibitions in the History Gallery and walked through life in late medieval Coventry from 1450 to 1509. This was a golden age for the city as it was the largest city in the Midlands. Then we came to the Victorian Coventry where watch-making and ribbon making industries dominated the city. The story of modern Coventry started in 1939, the year WW2 began. It was a quite a small but intimate showcase. We also made a pit stop at the Old Masters where the room was covered with paintings from wall to ceiling. Some of these previously hung in St. Mary’s Hall, the old town hall. Coventry D3100  22-02-2013 14-11-41

We left the museum and walked on the cobbled Bailey Street past the Guildhall. Amongst its many functions, the Guildhall had seen extensive use as a theatre. The Great Hall with its raised dais was a regular venue for a troupe of players which included the Bard himself, William Shakespeare. The visits of Shakespeare had been recorded because opposite the Guildhall entrance, on the side of the window directly to the left of the South Porch of the Old Cathedral was a carving of the man himself. Coventry Cathedral  D3100  22-02-2013 14-56-30

On Saturday, the Arctic weather looked set to continue as temperatures stayed below average. The UK felt the chill as the country faced temperatures colder than Moscow!!! And it looked like Spring which was due to officially start soon could be on the back-burner. February’s full moon had long been dubbed the ‘Snow Moon’, because February was often the snowiest month of the year. But that didn’t stop this adorable wood mouse from having a little nibble on the bird-feeder.Coventry D300s X14  22-02-2013 12-01-055After a frosty start, it was a cold and breezy day with sunny spells. We were driving along Brandon Lane when we saw a very handsome Buzzard surveying his kingdom from a lamp-post. Unfortunately there was no place to park the car safely. In the reserve, we were harassed by the usual culprits. It was hilarious when Babe brought a tub of mealworms to the Robins for it to feed. The things we do huh… Brandon Marsh D3100  23-02-2013 12-04-30

At Baldwin Hide, a pair of Great Crested Grebes kept us entertained. I just loved watching their low-slung appearance, striking head plumes and aloof manner, their heads held high as if they can’t be bothered with anything but their own vanity :-0. The elaborate head feathers only appear during the breeding season. The male whom we named Broken Beak had been successfully fishing, diving and coming up with a fish. He gave a low growling “gorr” call and we saw the female swimming towards him, accepting the fish from him. Aww… who said romance was dead. Brandon Marsh D300s X14  23-02-2013 12-20-062

We waited in anticipation on what was going to happen next. They started a synchronized display,  the “head-shaking ceremony” which was usually an introduction to other more spectacular displays. Both birds face each other with necks erect and they shook their heads up and down and from side to side. We were hoping for the pinnacle ‘weed display’ but not today. They swam opposite directions, the male dived off and the female paddled away.Brandon Marsh D300s X14  23-02-2013 12-29-015

So, every year when laughing Spring

Dissolves the snow, on eager wing

The birds of forest, hill and glen

Return to know their trees again---

To build their nests, to peer and stir

Among the leaves of which they were;

~Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943)~

Brandon Marsh D300s X14  23-02-2013 12-29-33

We made a pit stop at East Marsh Hide. Large flocks of Wigeon were grazing on the opposite bank. 2 pairs of Shelduck were flying, chasing each other, around the reserve with their striking black and white pattern clearly visible. Noisy Oystercatchers with their black and white plumage and startling orange bills were feeding on the mudbanks. Willow Island had re-appeared and were covered with Gulls. A huge flock of Greylags flew in and among them was the White Goose.Brandon Marsh D300s X14  23-02-2013 12-54-10

Carlton Hide was packed with the Bittern watchers. We sat at the end of the hide and waited for something to appear. A Kestrel appeared and hovered for a while before flying off. We spotted a flash of the Bittern as it flew into the reeds. It was just too quick for us. This handsome Pheasant flew in and kept us occupied. GH came in and told the crowd that there was a Green-winged Teal in Riverpool. A cue for us to leave and check it out. Unfortunately, it was too far away and hidden among the reeds.Brandon Marsh D300s X14  23-02-2013 13-40-25

On Sunday, I walked to Gallagher Retail Park to check-out my favourite shop in the world, TK Maxx. The store was buzzing with a DJ set and a face-painting session. They were raising funds for Comic Relief. I bopped along to some up-beat songs searching through the handbags. I wanted a leather bag in either yellow, orange or purple. None caught my eye. But I did take a beige Gigi leather satchel home with me. I have been a good girl and didn’t buy anything else.

We went to our favourite playground again in the afternoon. This  time we spotted a Kestrel perched on a lamp-post with its head perfectly still as it searched the ground below for signs of small mammals. We managed to find a safe place to park and Babe rattled off dozens of shots. When it spotted us, it flew off to the next post before flying into the adjacent field.Brandon Lane Warwickshire D800 X14  24-02-2013 14-10-10

“…by the Two Brewers pub I watched them – flickering arrowheads – quartering their territory on chestnut-red, slender wings and hovering at bus roof height.”

~Kenneth Allsop~ 

We met AH and KH in Baldwin Hide and had a little natter. The pair of Great Crested Grebes was nowhere to be seen. An Oyster Catcher was asleep on the pontoon. We then made our way to East Marsh Hide and had something to eat and drink. It was freezing in the hide. We then heard grunts, groans and screams coming from the reeds and knew a Water Rail was in there. We didn’t have to wait long because suddenly it appeared and dashed off to the next reed bed with its long red bill and impressively barred flanks. We didn’t check the other hides and went home. We were slowly turning into ice cubes.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  02-03-2013 16-02-002

This week was Go Green Week in the University, a student-led environmental campaign which aimed to raise environmental awareness and encourage participation in action against climate change. I tasted the delicious bike-powered smoothies which was designed by Engineers without Borders and made an on-line climate saving pledge. I am now taking the bus to work and walking in. At the Animal Ethics Society stall, I learnt more about their ongoing ‘Meat-free Mondays’ campaign. Instead of windowsill herbs, the Allotment Society gave me a pot of peas for pea-shoots. Yum..yum. I’m looking forward to harvest them for salads.

My colleagues and I attended another RDA webinar and this time on Serials. GLW and CC brought some delicious snacks to keep us awake. We had a good chuckle when the tutor stressed that the webinar was for professional cataloguers. But on the flow chart, the first question asked was ‘Is this a serial???’ It went downhill after that. I think we must be selective in choosing the webinars to attend.

Late February, and the air's so balmy snowdrops and crocuses might be fooled into early blooming. Then, the inevitable blizzard will come, blighting our harbingers of spring, and the numbed yards will go back undercover.

~Gail Mazur~

Brandon Marsh D2h  02-03-2013 14-18-53

Sunday, 17 February 2013

February’s Fair-maid

Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid,
Ever as of old time,
Solitary firstling,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid!


Coombe Abbey CP D3100  16-02-2013 14-12-41 February was snow-drop show time. What prettier sight, what more heartening sight could one see than the dainty snowdrops with their shyly hanging head, making an appearance. The blanket of snow which coated so heavily on the ground had barely disappeared when the tiny white flowers suddenly sprung up to take its place. The genus Galanthus had arrived to inform us that the “gay time” of spring will soon be with us and of the summer, fingers-crossed, with its roses.  Coombe Abbey CP D3100  16-02-2013 14-10-04

And so the miracle of spring, the time of Nature’s great awakening, was once again taking place before our eyes. I couldn’t wait for the grand spectacle to unfold. Unfortunately, huge carpets of snowdrops were rare in Coventry but we know of a place where there were drifts of them. I was so excited to check them out and hoping that we’d arrived in time. And yes, under the shadows of the trees, we spotted drifts of the harbinger of spring. I was grinning from ear-to-ear. What a beauty. Coombe Abbey CP D3100  16-02-2013 14-25-04

When we arrived at Coombe Abbey, we were shocked to find out that it cost us £3.65 to park the car. The price had gone up again but that didn’t stopped hundreds of people from enjoying the park. We scanned the lakes for unusual sightings and among the Mallards, Coots, Mute Swans, Greylags, Tufted ducks, Moorhens, Canada Geese and Gulls, we spotted an Egyptian Goose and this very serene Chinese Goose.  Coombe Abbey CP D300s X14  16-02-2013 14-15-035

We walked along the path where a lot of the bushes and trees had been cleared away. It was a lovely walk by the river towards the hide where we saw Great Crested Grebes basking in the warmth. Wigeons were whistling noisily, dabbling happily up and down the river. Buzzards were circling high in the sky, their mewing echoing around us. When we reached the hide, we saw the Robins, Wrens, Great, Blue and Marsh Tits flying in and out the bushes. The Marsh Tit was very vocal with their high pitch rattling song. Coombe Abbey CP D300s X14  16-02-2013 14-42-18

We spotted Cormorants and Herons flying in and out of the heronry. Soon, they will be taking a very deep interest in the nest. I couldn’t wait. Dunnocks and a Mistle Thrush joined in the feeding frenzy. And then a brown rat popped out and started feeding. It was hilarious when a trio of boisterous brothers bellowed to their Mum that they’d seen a hamster. That made our day. Coombe Abbey CP D300s X14  16-02-2013 15-10-030

On Sunday, Babe wanted to do a circuit of the Warwickshire countryside. Our first destination was the beautiful 17th. century Chesterton Windmill. We were here about 3 years ago during the National Windmills Weekend and had never been since. The Grade 1 listed building was one of Warwickshire’s most famous landmark standing on a hilltop near the Roman Fosse Way (an old Roman Road also known as the B4455).  This unique cylindric tower windmill stood on six stone pillars, supporting two raised floors and was made of local hard limestone and with sandstone detailing. Chesterton Windmill D800  17-02-2013 13-11-54

Erected in 1632 from a design attributed to Inigo Jones, it was probably built by Sir Edward Peyto, who was Lord of the Chesterton Manor House. We planned to come here at different seasons of the year because from here it gave a very impressive view of the local Warwickshire countryside. The main problem with photographing the windmill was that the sails were facing into a very very muddy fields and there was a sign to remind visitors not to be in the fields. Chesterton Windmill D800  17-02-2013 13-03-32_stitch

But for me, the highlight was seeing a Skylark. As usual, they were often heard long before they were seen. A very distinctive, melodic, seemingly endless song from a great height in the sky caught my attention. It swooped down, blending well on the ground before it displayed its renowned flight, vertically up in the air. When it landed on the ground, we crept very slowly and managed to spot the crest which was raised. I guess the bird was either excited or alarmed to see us. Then off it flew away. Chesterton Windmill D300s X14  17-02-2013 13-16-18

And still the singing Skylark soared

And silent sang and soared to sing

~Christina Rosetti~

From here, we drove on the famous Roman Fosse Way to Cathion Lane. A few brightly-painted canal boats were docked along the very sleepy Oxford Canal. The car-park closest to the bird feeders had already been taken. We stood a distant away and watched the feeding frenzy. We didn’t stay long because it was freezing and it was very dark under the trees. As we were about to get in the car, we saw this Nuthatch and a Marsh Tit taking turns to feed on the kerb. Someone had put a pile of seeds there. Cathiron Towpath D300s X14  17-02-2013 14-07-16

Our final destination was our favourite playground. It was no surprise to see the car-park full. A pity that there was more people than birds. It had been very quiet on the birding front. Reed buntings were plentiful by the Fisherman’s car-park. Robins were too busy singing and being territorial to beg for food. We met AH and KH who were on their way out by Swallow Pool. We stopped and had a little natter. We’d a pit stop at Baldwin Hide and again it was very quiet. Brandon Marsh D300s X14  17-02-2013 14-35-58

We wallowed through mud to get to East Marsh Hide. I think at least 3 cm of mud had stuck at the bottom of my boots. It was a challenge to stay upright. We’d coffee and something to eat while waiting for something exciting to happen. There were dozens of Wigeons whistling happily in the lake. A pair of Oyster Catchers were sleeping on the island opposite Wright hide. I hoped the Trust do something quick to retrieve back Willow Island from its current watery grave as these birds were among the early breeders for Brandon. After about an hour and slowly turning into ice cubes, we made our slow trudge back to the car. Brandon Marsh D300s X14  17-02-2013 15-16-48     

Earlier this week, we were caught by surprise when the Midlands woke up to several more centimetres of snow. It came as forecasters warned the cold snap was here to stay for another month. An Atlantic weather system had triggered  the topsy-turvy weather. February swung back and forth between snow, rain, sunshine, mild, ice, rain and back to snow. All repeating and changing from one day to the next. Yellow weather warnings were issued because of the danger of ice following the snow. As usual, everything went to a standstill and I was late for work. Coventry D3100  11-02-2013 08-30-22

I checked out the newly formed Professional Development Group before I decided whether I wanted to fully commit. The aims and objectives were quite vague when it was presented. Most probably because it was still in its infancy stage. The idea was to share and exchange experiences and information about the different courses and workshops that each member had attended. It would be a challenge due to the different grades of the members and also job-descriptions. It sounded like an interesting concept.   Coventry D3100  11-02-2013 08-45-22

I got a lot of slack on Shrove Tuesday because my pancakes were from Asda. I just didn’t have time to make them in the morning. In fact, I seldom have time for breakfast if I’m rushing off to catch the bus. Why the big fuss, huh? I know we can have pancakes any day of the year, but there was something special about this day. It was like a birthday for pancakes and it was wrong not to celebrate :-0. Pancakes were traditionally eaten sprinkled with sugar and a squeeze of lemon. I like mine with maple syrup.

Mix a pancake.

Stir a pancake

Pop it in a pan

Fry the pancake

Toss the pancake

Catch it if you can!

~Christina Rossetti~  

And then a few days later, everywhere you turned, you were reminded that it was Valentine’s Day. We didn’t go out for expensive meals. We wanted to try out the Sainsbury’s Valentine meal deal but it was sold out. We hey… it looked like a lot of couples were eating in. We ended with a posh pizza which was horrible !!! There were no expensive cards or over-priced bouquets. We did exchange soppy cards. Babe gave me a ‘Groovy kind of love’ CD and I got him the Spartacus part 2 DVD and a box of Thornton’s chocolates. For us, love was something that was spontaneous with acts and words of affection and thoughtfulness. However way we show our love, I wish everyone had a very wonderful and loving of days.Coventry D3100 F  09-02-2013 11-10-09

Here’s a quote from my heart to yours

If there are as many minds as there are men, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts

~Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karerina~

Finally, I managed to find time to meet FK, a fellow Malaysian, for lunch. I met her about a year ago after prayers in the mosque. We e-mailed each other regularly and promised to meet for lunch. But we just couldn’t find the right date. Luckily, it was the Reading Week and she was available. We’d a wonderful time chatting over fish and chips at the Library Cafe. Hopefully, we won’t take another year to meet again..

I ended the week with a wonderful news. Our HR manager informed my colleagues and I that RSC had just given birth to a baby boy. Wow…he was in a hurry to see the world. He was 10 days early. Congratulations and well-done. I was chuffed to bits because I predicted that she was going to have a boy.

What are little boys, made of?

Frogs and snail,

And puppy dog tails,

That’s what little boys, are made of.


Brandon Marsh D300s X14  17-02-2013 14-30-024

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Return of the Beast from the East

Britain faced another week of snow and biting winds as bleak weather continued to sweep the UK. So don’t stow away the scarves, hats and boots  cos winter had shown no sign of loosening its grip. Arctic gales blew into the country bringing icy conditions and snow showers. A biting wind from Russia, nicknamed the Beast from the East, made seasonal temperatures of 5C felt colder than it actually was. Blizzards and gales caused chaos on the road. Coventry D3100  11-02-2013 07-44-31It was blooming freezing while waiting for the bus, with a nasty blustery wing plunging the temperature further. When I left the casa, the flower pots were scattered everywhere. It began to rain as I got down from the bus and got heavier, as I walked to my office. By lunch time, huge wet snowflakes began floating down and by 5.30 pm, a blizzard mass of white blanketed and transformed the earth. Temperature wise, it was flipping freezing cold.

Snow and sleet, and sleet and snow

Will the winter never go

~Katherine Mansfield~

On Saturday, I woke up to a very thick blanket of snow. The bird-feeder was buzzing. There was a party going on and, hang-on, I spotted a feathered friend who looked familiar. Grey-brown with a very distinctive black cap !!! Woop…woop…woop it was the adorable Black Cap. I was grinning from ear-to-ear. He was a very shy bird often hiding among the undergrowth. This enchanting little bird was nicknamed ‘Northern Nightingale’ due to its fluting songs which unfortunately I’d never heard before.Coventry D3100  09-02-2013 11-00-32

Under the twigs the blackcap hangs in vain

With snowwhite patch streaked over either eye

This way and that he turns and peeps again

~John Clare~

Coventry D50  09-02-2013 11-15-35

After the weather had settled down, we went to checkout our favourite playground. We walked through the forest to see if there were any fungi about. Nada…zilch…non. A Robin harassed us and burst into a song. I paid him with a handful of meal worms which he obliged and flew onto my palm. But he was just too quick to photograph. We continued walking where we met 2 adorable boys with their dad. I shared the mealworms with them and the way their faces light up when the Robins flew in to feed was just priceless.Brandon Marsh D50  09-02-2013 14-11-36

We checked out the hides and it was very disappointing with very little on show. Apart from the Robins, there was a distinct lack of birds in the trees and bushes along the path. The few Lapwings, Mallards and Gulls were all hunkered down on the disappearing island. A Pheasant was the only colourful bird, feeding on the bank opposite East Marsh Hide. We checked out Teal Hide and watched a flock of Teal dabbling about in the flooded lake with their melodious calls cutting through the very quiet reserve. It was very quiet in the birding front.

Hurrah for the laughing water

The songs that the streamlets sing!

Whish! The teal duck’s mate has sought her

With a stroke of his mottled wing!

~William Henry Ogilvie~

On Sunday, after doing the shopping in Asda, we’d to cancel our plan to go to either Bradgate Park or Coombe Abbey. The weather had turned for the worse that we decided to check out the playground again. As we turned into Brandon Lane, the road had flooded. Hmm…we bet the reserve was also going to be under water. We were surprised that it wasn’t. It began to rain and we headed straight to East Marsh Hide. Babe spotted a Water Rail but it disappeared into the reeds before he could take any photographs.Brandon Marsh D300s X14  10-02-2013 14-31-15

We’d coffee and something to eat to keep our cockles warm. We were surprised to see a dozen Shelducks paddling happily and feeding in the lake. From time to time, they will flying in and out of the reserve, their whistles and barking trailing behind them. We checked out Teal Pool and had a nice surprise when we spotted a Little Grebe swimming among the reeds. We didn’t stay long because it was freezing.Brandon Marsh D300s X14  10-02-2013 15-14-07

This week we finally evicted our unofficial lodger. After living in our bedroom for nearly a month and after weeks of trying, we finally caught him in a box of clothing. Babe covered him in clothes to calm him down and moved the box into the bath. Wild woodmouse can’t climb the bath sides. Babe took a few dozen photographs before we transferred him into a cake tin and then took him into the garden. Coventry D3100  03-02-2013 19-35-38

Babe opened the cake tin slowly and we stood there watching him making his escape.  And off he goes into the night, with a final glance towards us. We were quite sorry to see him go because he was such an adorable creature with big beautiful eyes. Babe took lots of photographs because you seldom get the opportunity to get this close. Coventry D800  07-02-2013 22-24-03b

“I hope we never lose sight of one thing—it was all started by a mouse”

~Walt Disney~

Coventry D800  07-02-2013 22-34-011

Our department welcomed a school work experience student to our office for half a day. I couldn’t take him under my wings because I need to process a dozen super urgent Harvard Business case studies that was requested yesterday !!! My colleagues from Acquisition Dept. had warned me to expect them and I wanted to blitzed through them ASAP. I managed to complete the task before lunch time and around 2 pm, my colleagues from Collections Management came down hunting for the books. The Processing team had already taken the books away and they should be in the Short Loan Collection.

The horse meat scandal was getting from bad to worse. And then came the news that pork was found in halal meat pies for Muslim prisoners. What concerned me was wasn’t the producers/bakers Muslim, or was this another long chain of un-traceability? I sincerely hoped that my Muslim brothers haven’t betrayed their imprisoned brothers. If they’d, it was just unforgivable. One more thing, what was the point of having  a Food Standards Agency that has done nothing to safeguard the British food chain. This seemed to be the pattern with the quangos. The Care Quality Commission and the abuse of the elderly; The Financial Services Authority and the catastrophic credit crunch. What’s next? Which quango was monitoring the NHS, Offgem, etc !!!

Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest, and drinks a wine that flows not from its own wine-press

Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking

~Khalil Gibran~

It was RSC last week at work before she was off for her maternity leave. She was taking 2 weeks off before the arrival of her baby. We’d been teasing her with some fantastic ridiculous names for the baby. She will be taking a year off and we were going to miss her loads. We gave her a warm send-off with a huge bouquet of flowers, a gorgeous good luck card and a luxurious pampering goodies. We wished her a quick and pain-free birth. I promised to text her everyday next week :-).

On Sunday, the Year of the Snake slithers in. Hisssssss…..Millions around the world celebrated the Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year. It was a time when family, friends and neighbours get together and wish for health, prosperity and happiness. Symbolic red paper lanterns decorated doorways, and fireworks crackled and popped, ushering the year with a joyous bang. We joined in with the celebration with a Sainsbury’s Chinese banquet as a treat. Kong Hee Fatt Choy.

Keep your mind as green as the bamboo shoots this New Year for good prospects to bloom in thousands.

There was a 21st birthday barbecue party for my lovely niece, Emil, at my parents in Malaysia. That was an awesome party by the beach. Happy birthday sweetheart and I love you loads. Coventry D800  05-02-2013 16-33-55

Friday, 8 February 2013

I want to know what’s in my food, and how it was produced.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Batten down the hatches

Warwick University S40  22-01-2013 09-09-01 Beleaguered Britons continued to suffer from the effects of last weeks Big Freeze, with torrential rains plus the Big Thaw causing flooding in low-lying areas. And then it was blowing up a storm. After the morning showers, conditions were wet and gloomy as the temperatures rose to 9C. Strong winds continued gushing through Coventry and Warwickshire and walking to work in the morning was a challenge but fun. I arrived at the office looking as if I’d been dragged through the hedges backwards ;-)

"Why, what's the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?"
~William Shakespeare,  Much Ado About Nothing~

Bradgate Park D300s X2  27-01-2013 14-24-047

This week was One World week, the biggest student-run, non-profit event on the campus. This year, the aims of the Days were to act as the platform for societies to showcase their unique activities and draw visitors into a whirlwind of different cultures and workshops. The Days each represented a different region, namely – Asia and Australasia Day, UK & Ireland Day, Americas & Caribbean Day, Middle East & Africa Day and Europe Day – which encompassed the unique cultural traditions, dances, food, colours and overall experience of their respective regions. Unfortunately, due to the atrocious weather and bad timing, I wasn’t able to attend any of the events.

We’d our first Data Services meeting of the year. Mr. manager gave us a quick overview of what had happened so far and what we would expect in the future. Each of us presented something new and I highlighted the presence of RDA codes on the 336, 337 and 338 fields. The department will be welcoming 2 new colleagues in a few months. One will be a maternity cover for RSC and the other a temporary Digital officer. Wow, it looked like it’s going to be a full house again.

Before the meeting, I attended an EBL (Ebook Library) Book demonstration. It was another platform for e-books offering titles in a wide range of subjects featuring content from hundreds of publishers. According to the supplier, it was a lending service that integrated seamlessly with local collection management and catalogue system. What interest us most was that we were able to extract a lot of data about the users that would be useful for the library to plan for the future. 

On Friday, as part of National Heart Month, I joined the thousands dressing up in red for Rock Up in Red. I could stop traffic and I think I did when I crossed the road. Except for my shoes, hat and handbag, everything was red. Touch wood, none of my family members had succumbed to the disease. But, I know a lot of people who had been affected by them and I’m supporting them to promote awareness of the charity.

I took the afternoon off to do a few chores in town. First, was to collect my glasses at Specsavers. I must remember to put them on when I’m working !!!. I wanted to get some deodorant at Bodyshop but there wasn’t any in stock. According to the manager, she wasn’t able to restock since Xmas. That was a surprise. We checked out HMV because Babe wanted to get Spartacus part 2 but it wasn’t out yet. I bought a pair of Fair Isle leggings on sale from H&M that should keep me warm and cosy this winter. I noticed there was a new Polish supermarket on Shelton Square and it has a bakery. I must check it out on my next trip. Babe wasn’t feeling too good and we need to be home ASAP.

Saturday was Love Your Library Day. The Midlothian council in Scotland had this bright idea to hold a free pole-dancing class in their library in Dalkeith. A spokesperson said that it was a “fun way” of getting people “to try out all the services on offer and ultimately borrow more books!!!” Words failed me. What was the librarian thinking of allowing such cheap gimmicks? Let me guess. They’d no say at all. I went to my local library and thank god, no pole dancing classes was on offer.

Having fun isn’t hard

When you’ve got a library card

~Marc Brown~

Brandon Marsh D50  02-02-2013 12-56-39

After my usual weekly calls to my parents in Malaysia, we made our way to our favourite playground. It was packed. The rain had stopped and everyone was out and about, taking advantage of the lull. Outside the visitor centre, we were greeted by a Bullfinch and a Nuthatch at the bird-feeders. We stopped to have a natter with AH who we’d not seen for ages. We’d to cut short our conversations because it was freezing and AH was also on his way out.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  02-02-2013 12-57-038

Outside Baldwin Hide, a flock of Redpolls were helping themselves to the depleting alder cones. We noticed a lot of children testing their shiny cameras and binoculars. It must be Xmas presents. It was lovely to see them taking an interest on birdwatching at such a young age. I hoped they stick to it. From the hide, we spotted a Great Crested Grebe in its winter colours, plenty of Pochards and Galdwalls. The island in the middle of the lake was still underwater.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  02-02-2013 13-52-59

Then a very tricky walk towards East Marsh Hide. We’d to stop to feed a Robin who was so excited when I rattled the container. Scarlet Elf Cups  were popping here and there on the rotting tree trunks. From the hide, a White Goose flew in with a gaggle of Greylags. A Shelduck was asleep on the far island. We continued towards Carlton Hide when a couple told us that we’d just missed a Bittern. The hide was packed but there was nothing much except for this hovering Kestrel. We left after the Kestrel flew off.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  02-02-2013 14-41-55

On Sunday morning, to my utmost delight, a flock of Long Tail Tits were having a party, on the bird-feeder. Woo-hoo… The air rings with their chatters, chirps and peeps. I just love the way their tail dipping up and down during their short, undulating flights. Little heads of House sparrows, Blue Tits, Great tits and Robins were popping in and out of the hedge, flitting from the feeders and back again. Blackbirds and Dunnocks were congregating beneath the feeders to feed on the crumbs and seeds that had been scattered down. Starlings, Collared Doves and Pigeons were waiting impatiently for their turn on the fence. Coventry D3100  03-02-2013 09-27-33

John Clare (1793-1864) was described as “the finest poet of Britain’s minor naturalists and the finest naturalist of all Britain’s major poets”. He described the Long Tail Tits as “bumbarrels” after the shape of their domed nests. This classic line about them were in his poem Emmonsail’s Heath in Winter. 

“And coy bumbarrels, twenty in a drove

Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain

And hang on little twigs and start again”

~John Clare~

Coventry D3100  03-02-2013 09-28-22

Later in the afternoon, we decided to check out the Cathion Lane feeders that AH mentioned to us yesterday. It wasn’t that far from Brandon Marsh. A lovely secluded car-park beside the calm Oxford Canal. A few cars were already parked there. We walked along the canal checking out the place. We chatted with a fellow photographer and when he left, Babe reversed into his space. We sat in the car and waited with anticipation. And then the party started. The trees were teeming with Robins, Dunnocks, Blue Tits, Marsh Tits and Great Tits. But the highlight was getting up-close and personal with several Nuthatches. It was amazing watching them scuttering about the trees. We will definitely check out this place regularly, especially when it wasn’t that far from the playground.Cathiron Towpath D300s X14  03-02-2013 14-17-016

Another poem by Clare

“Deep in the woods of some uncommon bird

It makes a loud and long and loud continued noise

And often stops the speed of men and boys

They think somebody mocks and goes along

And never thinks the Nuthatch makes the song”

Cathiron Towpath D3100  03-02-2013 14-12-37

February was often quoted as a month for dying because everything was dead.  But actually, there were a lot going on. So wrap up warm, donned the wellies and have an adventure. Go on …I know you want to :-)

Cathiron Towpath D3100  03-02-2013 13-56-18