“Fairer of the months
Ripe summer’s queen
The hey-day of the year
With robes that gleam with sunny sheen
Sweet August doth appear”
~R. Combe Miller~
A tropical hurricane swirling around the Bahamas brought the summer back with temperatures soaring. While Hurricane Bertha brought downpours and flash flooding, Hurricane Cristobal brought the Caribbean sunshine and warmer climates. The 3rd. named storm of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane, narrowly missed the UK but it drew high pressure from the continent, and brought above normal temperatures and abundant sunshine. The high pressure was maintained as the jet stream moved to the north of the UK and brought settled conditions. Day time temperatures reached to mid-20’s but unfortunately the spell of warm weather doesn’t fit the definition of an Indian summer, yet because we are still in August. I’m keeping my fingers and toes double-crossed that this warm weather will be prolonged until October.
It was also that moment in the garden when I sensed that everything was tipping over. I loved the languid feel of August as I enjoyed watching the changes day by day as we slid into summer’s end and waited for autumn’s glory to come. Many of the flowers in the garden were past their best, going over and the flowers were slowly going to seed. Everything were looking slightly bedraggled. Some were still blooming , but the sense of things drawing to a close was tangible. But, the Hydrangeas were going strong.
First discovered in Japan, the name was from the Greek ‘hydor’ meaning water, and ‘angos’ meaning jar or vessel. This translated to ‘water barrel’ referring to the plant’s need for plenty of water and the cup-shaped flower. With their wooden stems and lacy, star-shaped flowers packed closely together in a pompom, the colour ranges from white, blue, pink and purple which was determined by the acidity level of the soil. According to the experts, it was much easier to change the colour from pink to blue by adding fertilisers low in phosphorus and high in potassium to the soil which I am tempted to try. Watch this space.
I started the bank holidays by taking a bus into town. First stop was at the Cathedral where Warwickshire Wildlife Trust had set up a peregrine watch stall. The Trust were raising funds to install cameras on prominent places which I tool will be quite a challenge because there were 3 very tall spires in the area and also the peregrines were nesting somewhere else. One of the volunteers took me to the cathedral ruins where he’d set up a telescope trained on a female peregrine, resting high up on a balustrade in the church tower. While keeping an eye on the gulls circling overhead, she was keeping an eye in a pair of pigeons cavorting around the lower edges. A familiar face, Greenman, was also there checking the bird out. We’d a little chinwag before the heavens opened and we went our separate ways.
I was in and out a few shops like Primark, Dietchelm, Claire Accessories, M & S but came out empty-handed. I did try a few clothes in Primark and was thinking of purchasing one but the queue to the till was just too long. And it was boiling in the store. I bought dried apricots from Holland and Barrat because it was BOGOF and I got it much cheaper by using a voucher. As the saying goes, every little helps. I stopped by the square for a drink while listening to some amazing flute tunes from this colourful musician. Thankfully, his list doesn’t include Una Paloma Bianca. After a few songs, it was time to head home.On Sunday, we checked out the Festival of Motoring at Stoneleigh Park, We and a dozen others followed the signs round the rolling Warwickshire countryside for the parking site. The organisers seemed to change the entrance every year. After paying the £5 parking fee, we walked for about 10 minutes and joined the thousands already in the grounds, where the festivities were in full swing. The flagship element of the festival were the 500 vintage vehicles which had already left the Park for the spectacular 50-mile Historic Vehicle Run through Coventry and Warwickshire.
The first thing that we spotted were the shiny Steam Traction engines. gleaming in the sunshine. Traction engines or general purposes engines were the all rounders of the steam world. They were commonly used for threshing corn, sawing wood, crushing stone, haulage and many more varied tasks. Following WW1oil powered internal combustion engines began to catch up with and overtook steam power on the roads, favourable taxation accelerated this decline and by the end of 1930’s steam had all but disappeared from British roads. But thanks to vintage steam enthusiasts, these beautiful machines were often seen in various shows.
Then we’re off to the main entertainment area to check the lawnmower racing demonstration with the North-West Lawnmower Racing Association. I have never seen this sport in action before so I was quite looking forward. It was supposed to be a fun sport but the participants seemed to take it very seriously. Lawnmower racing was a form of motorsport in which competitors raced modified landmowers, of the ride or self-propelled type. The engines were retained but the blades were removed for safety. I was surprised to see how fast they go, covering the spectators with flying dust and grass with the smell of burning oil in the air.
There were plenty of things going around us but we stayed put. We just moved around the field to get the best view because next was the Broke FMX motorcycle stunt show. Above us shone the brilliant sun that was gaining strength. The show featured two of UK’s top ranked riders, incorporating the latest heart stopping tricks, often seen on television. The thrill of seeing them jumping 35 feet in the air pulling acrobatic stunts over gaps of 100 feet was a sight to behold and challenged the very senses, much to the delight of the cheering audience.
It was a thrill-seeking experience for everyone. Featuring motorbike stunts, ramp jumps, wheelies, stoppies and backflips, the riders gave the audience the adrenalin rush alongside a hysterical non-stop commentary that escorted the 30 minute show. Using custom made takeoffs and new ramp technology, FMX featured impressively high jumps and extreme stunts. With such displays, the show turned into one of the most breath-taking adrenalin pumping and skilful motorcycle stunt shows. Even more impressively, these riders have no footers and handlers when performing their dangerous tricks.
And as soon as the show finished, we were keeping our ears and eyes on the skies. The closing act of the day was the Flypast of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with 2 legendary fighters, the Hurricane and Spitfire, in the air. It was lovely to see them zooming across the Warwickshire countryside. It was a fitting mission to the aims of maintaining and flying historic RAF bombers and fighters to members of the public with the sight and sound of a by gone age. Known as a “museum without walls”, it was a “living and breathing tribute” to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. A pity that it was over in 5 minutes.
Finally we were able to browse among the 1000 cars on display from the various car clubs. But what caught our attention was the newly restored 1916 Maudslay Subsidy chassis. It was one of only a handful of the 1.7k Coventry-built vehicles used during WW1 still surviving. Used by the War Department for airfield duties in Scotland during the war, the Maudslay had been used as a showman’s caravan and as late as the 1970s was use as a holiday home. Since been discovered in a Dundee farmyard the volunteers and museum staff from the Coventry Transport had been been restoring it to its glorious form. The eerily bit was the staff had successfully start up this lorry for the first time in 40 years on 4th August 2014 which was exactly 100 years since Britain went to war.
Then it was a pit stop at the 2 main halls. We’d been so occupied in the fields that we decided to see it at the end of the day. Thankfully, it was still open and we weren’t alone. Most of the spectators were thinking of the same thing and everyone queued to get in. As most of the people stopped at the first hall, we went straight to the second which was at the end of the building which was taken over by the Imagineering Show. This production was a showcase of the imagination, ingenuity and extraordinary innovation of companies in Coventry and the sub-region. There were exhibitions from prestigious companies, including Jaguar, The Imagineering Foundation, BMW, Formula Gravity, MIRA, Coventry Robot Club, the IET, Fiat and many more. The hall was buzzing with hands on activities and workshops. The highlight was the 6 metre walking Godiva and her 10 metre tall Cyclopedia which although we’d seen several times was lovely to see again.
I was also impressed with the Mantis robot demonstrated by the creator, Matt Denton. This giant hexapod spider was currently working on the next Star War movies with Harrison Ford. But courtesy of Ford’s broken leg, it was able to be seen in Coventry. Then we walked through the Hall 1 Marketplace and craft stalls. It was very busy as most traders were pitching for their final sales. We stopped at the petting zoo but the poor animals were already too exhausted to play. Most were asleep and hiding in their cages. I guess they too had a long day. We walked back to the field trying to remember where we parked the car. We’d a wonderful day out and were looking forward to next year.
Although we’d a tiring day at the Festival of Motoring, we went into the city-centre for an easy stroll and check what the peregrines were up to. We scanned the skies and the spires of the Holy Trinity Church and the Old Cathedral ruins. At first, we didn’t see anything but then Babe spotted the raptor on the spire of Holy Trinity while we were in the ruins. We dashed towards the building when we realised that there were 2 raptors. As we got closer, one flew off with the screeching noise it made as it circled the spire. We tried to make ourselves comfortable and cranked our necks to take photographs of the peregrine perched on the edges of the 72 metres spire.
Along with keen eyesight, peregrines have a good hearing. They don’t make warning cries, but they listened to the warning calls of other birds. They were usually silent while hunting and dived with their tapered wings slicing the air and dropped like a missile the fastest feathered thing on earth. When a peregrine dived at its prey, it struck first with the razor-sharp back talons which usually killed the prey instantly. As we were busy rattling more shots, harsh, heckling cries that even made the pedestrians who were walking by looked up. The other one had returned and alighted on the ledge with something between its yellow talons.
I think that was the adult and as soon as it landed, the juvenile was screeching and heckling begging to be fed. But the adult ignored it and continued plucking its food. The juvenile edged closer and closer and then there was a tussle when the it fell off the edge and flew off with a piece of meat. There was a lot of squawking and flapping in between. The adult stayed on and continued eating, most probably one of the hundreds of pigeons living in the city.
Meanwhile, during the last week of the school holidays, we have been baby-sitting our neighbour’s cat called Puss-in-Boots or better known as Boots. We have no problems looking after this very laid-back tabby because he’d been in and out of our house ever since we moved here. MA gave us a huge box of cat-food pouches and crunchies. He was fed in the morning and evening and in between he has a bowl of the crunchies. Everyday, a bowl of water was placed outside the door. Thankfully, Boots spent the night outdoors. He was a very affectionate cat and kept me company on the sofa. Now, he was alternating between the two houses although he knew that he won’t be fed here.
As usual, most nights Babe and I were in the garden, photographing the moths. One night, I heard snuffling and scuffling at the rose arch and there was a hedgehog having a walk-about. Whoop…whoop. I went into the house and took a handful of dried meal worms and left it on the steps. It sensed the worms and all I could hear was the sound of crunch, crunch. It was enjoying the meal. From that night onwards, I put out mashed dog-food laced with dried mealworms for them. Babe put water on an unused stone fountain bowl for the hogs to drink. We were looking forward to see if more will enjoy this nightly buffet.
August was the month of our wedding anniversary. We’d 2 weddings a week apart and we celebrated every year with oomph, in our own little way. We exchanged cards and gave each other a gift for fun. We celebrated with a takeaway dinner from my favourite Chinese restaurant, Noodle Bar and finished with a cheesecake. Simple and sweet. Here’s to more wonderful years together.
“I will remember always that marriage, like life, is a journey –not a destination – and that its treasures are found not just at the end but all along the way”