O, the month of May, the merry month of May,
So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!
O, and then did I unto my true love say,
Sweet Peg, thou shalt be my Summer's Queen.
Thomas Dekker (c. 1572–1632)
We’d weird weather conditions as we headed towards the end of May. It couldn’t make up its mind what it wanted to do. Sometimes we were basking in temperatures of up to 22C with brilliant sunshine and blue skies one minute, and black clouds with torrential rainfall the next. We were battered by 40mph gales, with the mercury plunging below the May average of 15C. This unsettled weather was due to the jet stream being further south than normal, allowing low pressure system to track across UK rather than further south.
Have you walked in the woods lately? Do you know that May is Walk in the Woods month? You can always find me in the woods during my lunch break or at the weekends. It was my ‘me’ time, a time to rewind, refresh and recharge. Just walking through the woods, listening to the sounds of nature and away from the hustle and bustle of life helped restore my sense of calm and wellbeing. All across the country at this time of year, trees were covered with pale green shoots and provided the perfect canopy as beneath them were carpets of lesser celandines, wood anemones, ramsons and for the quintessential sign of British springtime, bluebells.
And what a memorable sight it was to see the sun filtering through the trees and below it, a sea of bluebells. Pollinated by bumblebees that drown in a heady fragrance of nodding bells, spreading a mist of cobalt blue that hovered above a bed of bright lettuce green as far as the eye can see, bluebell woods was one of Britain’s most iconic countryside images. It was no wonder that it topped a poll on its VisitWoods website as the country’s favourite spring flower. I was so blessed to have access to an ancient bluebell wood at Tocil Woods.
“I met her in the greenest dells
Where dew drops pearl the wood bluebells
The lost breeze kissed her bright blue eye
The bee kissed and went singing by
~John Clare (1793-1864)~
We checked out our favourite playground when we drove past cars parked along the roads. Then only we realised that it was the Open Day at BMNR. It was well-attended as the car-parks was already full by the time we arrived. Thankfully, someone was just leaving and we managed to secure a parking space. It was buzzing. There were talks, pond-dippings, stalls selling wild flowers, local honey and beer. The Trust was also collecting donations for Save the Hedgehog fund. I told them that they should have brought a few hoggies along when I came across this gorgeous human-size hedgehog. She made my day.
We left the hustle-bustle and headed straight to the hides. More visitors were wandering around the reserve. The natives were very quiet too, skulking in the undergrowth. We heard the Cuckoo calls echoing around us. We checked out Baldwin Hide. The Oystercatcher was still sitting on eggs and her partner was lingering nearby. The black and white plumage was pleasantly relieved by its orange-red bill, crimson irides and rosy-pink legs and toes. I held my breath when I spotted her getting up and slowly turning her eggs. Ooh, I couldn’t wait for them to hatch.
Then we checked out East Marsh hide. Hawthorn blossoms normally seen in late April were just blooming now, along the path. Peacocks and Orange Tips were flying up and down, too flighty for photographs. From the hide, we spotted Lapwings and another Oyster-Catcher sitting on eggs. A Sedge Warbler was busy foraging for larvae among the reed beds. Whitethroats were plentiful, also busy foraging for food.
We made a pit stop at Carlton. It was very quiet except for a family of Coots with their very ugly but adorable cootlings. We quickly made our way to the screen where 3 Hobbies had been sighted earlier in the week. With the temperatures increasing, they were hunting more frequently. Since it was too early for dragon flies, they were hunting mayflies. They provided impressive aerobatic displays spending much of their time in high soaring flight before plummeting earthward with closed wings at a great speed. We observed their exceptionally fast pursuit flights which involved dashing over treetops, diving earthward, sailing skyward to hang in the wind and then careering high in the heavens.
A hobby in high aerobatic pursuit of flying prey demonstrates a wonderful mastery of the air. Victims were almost invariably taken on the wing. Babe took this spectacular short as the bird lowered their undercarriage and grab the insect before taking off like an F15 jet. It ate the mayfly in mid-air and we could see even the fly’s wings floating down to earth. Simply amazing.
Their shadow dims the sunshine of our day,
As they go lumbering across the sky,
Squawking in joy of feeling safe on high,
Beating their heavy wings of owlish gray.
They scare the singing birds of earth away
As, greed-impelled, they circle threateningly,
Watching the toilers with malignant eye,
From their exclusive haven--birds of prey.
They swoop down for the spoil in certain might,
And fasten in our bleeding flesh their claws.
They beat us to surrender weak with fright,
And tugging and tearing without let or pause,
They flap their hideous wings in grim delight,
And stuff our gory hearts into their maws.
~Birds of Prey by Claude McKay~
This week the Hitless Squad Rounders team had another match. This time we were against the Trampolinis, from the Trampoline Society. Without even batting a ball, we were already beaten when we saw our opponents, fit, young students. We were also at a disadvantage because there was only 6 of us and 9 of them. They let us play 3 extra chances. But we didn’t barter hard enough because when it came to fielding, they’d 3 extra bodies. Babe said we should have asked them to rest the 3 so that it would be balanced. But, hey ho, it was still a good game and we’d fun. We still lost 7:16!!!
Then it was time to sample some street food. The Piazza was buzzing with stalls from local retailers. CC and I checked it out during our lunch break and the queue was snaking from one end to another. We’d a wonderful time trying to find out which queue belongs to which stall and where was the start or the end. It was hilarious. The exotic burger stalls selling ostrich, kangaroo and wild boar was a hit. We checked out every stall before deciding what to purchase. I bought a very posh wild deer pie (sorry Bambi :-0) and samosas for dinner. One delicious samosa was quickly demolished.
I also took a group of mature students from the Shenzhen University for a tour of the library. They were only here for 4 months. As usual, the mobile shelving, self-service issues and returns were a hit. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take them to floor 3-5 because they were quiet and silent study floors. It was examination time and I don’t want to disturb the students. A lot of video recordings and cameras flashed. Ooh…told them that I don’t want to be on You Tube. A lovely group and I hoped they’d a wonderful time in the University.
DC was in town and my colleagues and I joined her for a drink at Dirty Duck. It was lovely seeing her and Rich again. I’d not seen DC for nearly 2 years since she left for newer pastures in the Netherlands. She was as bubbly as ever and we exchanged news, gossips and laughters. We’d to shout to make ourselves heard. It was so noisy plus with the juke box was blaring away. The funniest thing was that we kept on joining tables as more and more colleagues turned up. DC had to walk from one end to another to talk to them. By the time CC and I left, DC was sloshed because everyone kept on buying her drinks. It was so cute.
“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”
May will be remembered as the month where my cooking skills were tested. We came home from work to find out that the freezer had a melt-down. The switch was accidently switched off and the first 3 trays had defrosted. Oh no!! We ate as much ice-cream as we could and threw away the rest. Fish was on the menu for the foxes. I roasted all the sausages and chicken nuggets. I made 4 portions of cottage pies, 2 portions of chicken curries and stews, meatball sauces for pasta and sausage casseroles. Packets of roasted vegetables were made into ratatouilles. All were packed in containers, labelled and back into the freezer again. I spent 3 days batch cooking and for nearly a week we ate burgers, pizzas, onion rings and chips. Never again… But, at least, when I’m too tired to cook, there was always something already cooked in the freezer.
“It was the month of May, the month when the foliage of herbs and trees is most freshly green, when buds ripened and blossoms appear in their fragrance and loveliness.
And the month when lovers, subject to the same force which reawakens the plants, feel their hearts open again, recall past trysts and past vows, and moments of tenderness, and yearn for a renewal pf the magical awareness which is love.”
~Sir Thomas Malory, La Morte d’Arthur~