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.
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.
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.
"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 http://www.historyextra.com/qa/gladiator-profession
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.After 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…
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.
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.
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)~
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.
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.
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.
“…by the Two Brewers pub I watched them – flickering arrowheads – quartering their territory on chestnut-red, slender wings and hovering at bus roof height.”
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.
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.