After it seemed like decades of rain, you might think could there possibly be any rain left in the sky above the UK? No, neither could I but down it poured. It poured and it poured and it poured and then it poured some more. Oh, when was it going to stop. There was no immediate end in sight. The rain still fell, the high winds still blew, storms still lashed the coasts and there was no let up yet to this wild spell of weather we’re having. So much of the country was flooded and water logged. Fields transformed into lakes, roads and rails impassable and lives wrecked. This winter, the weather had been mild because the winds came from the West. The air came from the Atlantic and it warmed up as it blew across. It was the same westerly winds that made it stormy and wet. I’m practically living in my quilted waterproof coat and high boots. It was the fashion du jour.
Apart from the rain, road-works were popping everywhere. Whose bright idea to do them at the same time? Long queues greeted us at every turn and it was made worse when the winter graduation ceremony was on simultaneously. Last year, snow greeted the graduates and this year it was the rain. What ever the weather, life goes on. And despite the grey weather and persistent rain, the monthly market was still on. FG and I checked the stalls, when there was a gap in the clouds. Long queues were snaking everywhere that it was difficult to know where it started or ended. I managed to get a masala lode, an Indian street market food, said to be from Malaysia. Honestly, I’d never had it before while I was in Malaysia. It was a wrap filled with potato curry. It was very spicy, filling and delicious. What you need on a very cold, wet day.
Then it was Burns Night. I was invited to a poetry reading session at the PG Hub but couldn’t make it. But I hoped the session went well and everybody had a wonderful time. I planned for a Burn’s Supper of haggis, tatties and neeps but Babe wasn’t too keen and so we’d the usual steak and chips. We don’t drink but we still toast a wee dram to celebrate Scotland’s greatest poet.
“Our sulky, sullen dame
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm”
I’d to call in sick on Wednesday as I was up all night with food poisoning. I was running to the bathroom because of vomiting, diarrhoea and tummy upset. Thankfully Babe didn’t catch it because he’d a meat paste sandwich while I’d a fish finger butty. No more fish fingers for me. We put the rest of the frozen fingers in the garden for the foxes to enjoy. I spent the day, wrapped up warm, on the sofa with plenty of water and a hot water bottle trying to catch up sleep.
It was One World Week again. For a week, the campus was buzzing with a series of debates and discussions, parades and performances, with a host of sporting tournaments, events, cultural exhibitions and workshops. In its 19th year, it was a student run non-profit initiative which aimed to stimulate personal development, inspiring views based on acceptance and appreciation of global cultures, and encouraging awareness of and positive action on issues which affected our world. I browsed the market days which was characterised by the various regions along the silk road journeying from the East to West. It was a nice surprise when a group of students from the Malaysian Students Association came on stage and performed the dikir barat. It was such a rousing performance that everyone dropped whatever they were doing and watched. Well done.
This week my colleagues and I attended the final Library Competency Framework training. Competencies were the skills, knowledge and behaviours that led to successful performance. In simpler terms, it meant a required behaviour within a job role. It will be used for recruitment, performance management and development discussions and decisions about progression. It was very theoretical and full of jargons. We all used competencies on a day-to-day basis in our roles, often without thinking about it. Therefore, it was good practice to reflect on the skills, behaviours and knowledge required to do our roles and how well we were applying these. I couldn’t wait to apply these ideas for my Annual Review.. It would be very challenging indeed.
We also had our first departmental meeting for the year and it was a very long one. EK briefed us on what was happening in the EMT meetings such as the financial update which looked good for this financial year and about the Project Management Framework for the Library. He touched upon the re-labelling project and that the Collection Management team were going to start on floor 2 materials. The Web-Cat Development Group will be looking at where the Library were going with the Discovery platform. And the best part was that the team will be involved in a special collections project for the Warwick 50th anniversary in 2015. I couldn’t wait to start.
Then a quick dash in the pouring rain for a peek at the Chinese New Year celebrations at the PG Hub again. It was the Year of the Horse and the Hub was buzzing with people horsing around. There was a session on calligraphy, paper folding and making dumplings. I enjoyed a few treats like lucky coins, cookies and love letters. There were fortune cookies and we’d fun reading our fortune. What a wonderful end to the week for the students to learn about Chinese culture and enjoy the hospitality.
This important Chinese festival was also known as the Spring festival. It marked the start of new life and the season of ploughing and sowing. The festival was traditionally linked to honouring the household, heavenly gods and ancestors. There was a popular Chinese proverb that shed much light on how to live a fulfilling and happy life.
If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing,
If you want happiness for a month, get married,
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune,
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.
I took part in the RSPB Birdwatch which was the largest garden wildlife survey in the world when people spent an hour counting birds in their garden and submitting the results. We’ve a feeder in the garden which was actually several feeders that Babe had attached to tree branches. There were 2 suet baskets which held a block of homemade suet cakes, a nut feeder which was filled with nuts, a feeder tube which was filled with niger seeds, 2 long feeders were filled with suet balls sans green plastic wrappings, a squirrel-proof feeder filled with mixed seeds and 2 trays filled with mixed seeds and mealworms. A green plastic ball feeder was filled with seed balls and they were hung in the hedges. Apples were stuck onto the railings and some thrown onto the grounds.
The trays were replenished daily while the rest was as when needed. A bird bath was nearby and they were cleaned weekly. Our feathered friends were treated well and we were always rewarded for our generosity. The feeder was always a hive of activites as the birds flit back and forth between it and the hedges that ran the length of the garden on 2 sides. They cheered our hearts to the very core.This was what I spotted during the hour : robins, blackbirds, house sparrows, great and blue tits, dunnocks, starlings, wood pigeons, and collared doves. All common birds but still a joy to us.
I was soo looking forward for another Wassailing event at our favourite playground. But the weather turned into a herculean breath of a gale, accompanied by drenching heavy rain. We waited until it turned into a few spits and spots of rain. And by the time we arrived, the event was over. According to the receptionist, the brightly coloured Morris dancers managed to perform for a very short time before the heavens opened. Wassail is from the Anglo-Saxon wes hal, meaning good health, and the idea was for it to cast aside the winter to make way for spring.
Although a bit gutted that I missed the performance, we continued our adventure. The paths towards the main hide was flooded again. We hand-fed the robins but not for long because they were being territorial and started chasing each other away. All you could hear were the sharp ‘tick’ and high-pitched ‘tsee’ calls, warning off the opponents. But we still left a few mealworms in strategic places so that they could feed in peace.
Since the main path was flooded, we decided to check out Steely Hide. The path was soo muddy as our boots squelched in the sodden ground that we’d to walk very close to the hedges and I’m glad that I did. A high-pitched ‘sree-sree-sree-sree’ cries caught my attention. As I peered closely into the very thorny hedges, a very bright yellow colour flashed and flitted about. I rattled a few shots and I found out that it was a pair of Goldcrests. I think, the male was courting because it was displaying his crown to its best effect to the female.
We continued our walk but were distracted again by the harsh screeching calls of Jays. We stood still as the calls came closer and it landed onto the forest floor and started feeding. What a handsome bird with its colourful plumage, body buff with a black moustache. The Jay was the most arboreal of the crow family and the most retiring in its native habitat. When he spotted us, he flew up the tree to play-hide-and-seek with us but another Jay spotted him and joined the game. It was lovely to see 2 Jays at once. We decided to head home when the heavens opened.
Another trip to Draycote Waters was inevitable. Lately, it had been our 2nd most favourite hunting ground. It was freezing, very windy interspersed with sunshine and showers. It was a challenge trying to stand upright. And as usual the Pied wagtails led us to a merry dance around the rocks, dipping and wagging vigorously. They were quick and alert in their movements, running this way and that as they hunt, stopping every so often to peer, with their head tilted, as if thinking of something.
Little trotty wagtail, he went in the rain,
And tittering, tottering sideways he near got straight again
He stopped to get a worm, and look’d up to catch a fly
And then he flew away ere his feathers they were dry.
We were again distracted by the honkings of the Great Crested Grebes. At this time of the year, their delightful courtship displays should be in full swing. Once persecuted by Victorian ladies, when the soft white breast plumage had became fashionable in the trimmings of clothes and hats. We watched a pair practising their mating rituals. I was willing them to do the whole courtship actions. But so far, they were swimming towards one another, necks outstretched and shaking their heads gently. I guess, they weren’t quite fully committed yet…
in the winter waters,
a diving grebe
We waited for the familiar cries of the Meadow pipits but they were no where to be seen or heard. We noticed that the grass had been mowed and there was no place for the insects to hide. No insects meant no food for the pipits. As we continued walking, scanning the waters below. There were hundreds of Golden Eyes bobbing up and down the waters. And among them was the drake Smew. Whoop… whoop finally we met. Smallest of the sawbill ducks, this handsome chap was truly impressive, with dazzling white plumage, black lines on body, black eye patch and back. He really stood out among the black Tufted ducks and dark Golden eyes. He seemed to epitomise winter, white ice cut with black cracks.
We made ourselves comfortable at the hide and waited for the albino squirrel to turn up. While waiting, we warmed our cockles with a cheese and onion pasty, crisps and washed down with hot coffee. Coots were bobbing up and down in large groups while Moor hens were being quite territorial, chasing each other away. A flock of Teals flew in with their melodious ‘krick’ calls trailing behind them. From here, we noticed the very high waves and breakers rippling on the lake. This was nothing compared to those affected in the Somerset Levels and the coasts. My thoughts and prayers were with them.
After about an hour, the albino failed to turn up. I don;t blame him. Who wants to be out in this atrocious weather!!! Then Babe noticed, a Little Egret flying in and landed on the nearby inlet. A pity it was hidden from the hide. I decided to check it out. As I walked along the route, I came across a boardwalk which I’d totally forgotten. A flock of Redwings flew in and were busy feeding on the berries. I was enveloped by the liquid cries of the high-pitched ‘srit’ calls of the Tree-creepers. Unfortunately, it was too dark to photograph under the thick undergrowth. I was soo distracted that I’d forgotten about the Egret and flushed it out. :-(
We left as the winds were getting stronger. The Pied wagtails too were heading home, flying towards the visitor centre. Hundreds of gulls were flying in to roost. They were flying very low skimming over the lake. As I was photographing them, the Great Northern Diver popped up. He appeared like some black rock, the snaky line of the back, neck and head, and the mighty wedge of a beak, immobile among the thrashing waves. We followed him as he dived and popped up ahead of us until it was too dark to see him.
Although the weather was still atrocious with more on the way, we try to make the most of the bright and dry interludes in between. Rain had never stopped us from enjoying the outdoors. As we walked to the car, the sun was sinking low in the horizon, the dark clouds were gathering again and we felt more rain on the breeze. It was time to go home to the warmth and safety of our casa. Please stay safe.
After clouds, the sunshine,
After the winter, the spring
After the shower, the rainbow…
For life’s a changeable thing.
~Helen Steiner Rice~