The World Of Bug's

Behind Bars

What have I done wrong in life to deserve this? Bars – shiny bars – trapped, there’s no escape. But the chance will present itself, and I’ll seize the moment and be gone! Just you wait and see. Mind you – on saying that – is it in my best interest to escape? I mean – all things taken into consideration, life’s pretty cushty in here. I may be deprived of love, affection, and company, but at least I’m fed and watered, and look at all this straw, there’s enough to stuff a pillow. I wonder what the penalty for escape is; death! The worst they can do is kill me. My mind’s made up, I’m going to go for it, tomorrow, or the day after – I will have my freedom – just you watch!

The heavy oak door opened. Muffled voices, almost whisperers, and the sound of shuffling feet, lots of feet, reached my ears. This sudden activity a total contrast from the occasional gurgle of a water-pipe amidst the stillness of the night. But this is routine, the same time every morning. Except for weekends that is, then I could die and rot, no one would notice or care. As long as I stayed still, I would be ignored, maybe glanced at, but left in peace. Most who walked in front of my bars did so obliviously, not in any way, shape or form registering my existence – let alone my presence. Except for one that is. A mean, evil looking individual, who seemed to enjoy the attention that being cruel brought him. I remember the first time I saw his fat, acne covered face. He pushed a large stick between the bars, jabbing, poking, provoking me into a reaction. Johnny, the culprit’s name was, he obviously got pleasure from mistreating me because the big cheesy grin never left his fat, puffy face. I hated the very sight of that brain dead moron, and then some. I swore that one day I would have my revenge. One way or the other.

“Come along Children – quick as you can – keep the noise down, you’re not at a football match. – Pick your feet up Johnny.” Instructed Mrs. Honeybuttock over the din of the Children as they filed into class. The sound of scraping chairs lessened as the class settled in, then subsided completely. The Children, hands clasped together on their desktops, eyes front, focused on Mrs. Honeybuttock, now looked angelic, as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.
“Right Children, pay attention! After I call the register, we need to start preparing for End Of Term close down. ”
Mrs. H, as she was referred to by her pupils, behind her back, of course, was a stereotypical, glasses on the end of the nose, Dickensian battle-axe, who didn’t flinch or hesitate to clip an ear or scuff a head with an efficient slap.

Mrs. Treadwell (Joyce) was ecstatic, her new sofa was due for delivery this morning. She’d waited a long time for this moment, five years in fact. She sprang to her feet full of excitement.
“They’re here! I mean it’s here. Get the door, Fred. Hurry up, they’re coming up the path, they don’t want to be holding that new sofa all day.” Faffed Joyce.
“Calm down Pet, you’ll wet ya’sen.” said Fred, folding his daily paper, then tossing it onto the dining room table. He stood up, hooked his thumbs under his bracers then stretched them over his shoulders. Bending at the knees, he performed a Rock – on – Tommy impression, that failed to impress Joyce then he headed for the door.

” Come on Chaps – straight through – mind the step.”
” Morning Mr. Treadwell. It’s not heavy, just awkward, but we’ll manage. Just make sure the way is clear.”
” No probs – just head for that heavenly choral sounding foghorn.”
” Yoo-hoo! In here pet’s. Mind the best China.”
The two delivery lads followed the instructions given by Joyce, and soon the Sofa was in its place, unwrapped of its protective plastic, there for everyone to see and admire.
Full of glee, Joyce held out a brand new un-creased slippery fiver.
” Here you are Lads, get yourselves a bag of chips.”
Fred and Joyce stood on the step, waved goodbye to the Delivery Men, then dashed back indoors to admire the new, all singing, all dancing sofa.

Mrs. Honeybuttock clapped her hands together to attract the classes’ attention. Satisfied they were all hers, she continued.
” Right Children, according to my records, Johhny Treadwell, it’s your turn to look after Clive.”
Clive – that’s me. Yes, I know it’s a stupid name for a Hamster, but I had no say in the matter. I’m sure you’ll all agree though, my real name, Terry, is much more fitting.
” Aw, Miss! Must I?”
” Yes, you must! You know the rules, just make sure you remember to take Clive’s goody bag home with you and bring him back in one piece.”

After a day spent showing off the new sofa, and testing various sitting positions, Joyce and Fred sat back to await the arrival of their beloved offspring, Johhny.
” Here he is now.” Declared Mom. ” What’s that he’s carrying?”
” It looks some sort of cage, you never know with that little bleeda.”
” I’m home!” Yelled Johnny.
” We’re in the front room pet.” Shouted Mom in reply.
Johnny, with his arms full, entered the room.
” What’s got theeya son?” Asked Dad.
” It’s the Class Hamster – and his names’ Clive. I’ve got to look after him until after the Holidays.”
” Bring him here, let’s have a dekka.”
As Johnny approached the sofa, holding the cage at arm’s length, Mom pulled her legs up and squirmed.
” Don’t bring it near me! You know that I hate the furry critters!”

I will never forget what happened next. One minute I was curled up in my bed of straw, dreaming that I was having a luncheon on board a Carribean yacht with Mrs. Honeybuttock, next thing I know, I’m gamboling through the air. It felt as though I was in a tumble dryer, but that’s another story.
Suddenly, there was such an almighty crash bang wallop. I thought my time had come, my little heart pounded. After what seemed like an eternity, I poked my twitching nose outside. Devastation, complete and utter devastation, my entire little world had been trashed. The water bowl had tipped up, soaking everything, my dish of De-Lux Rodent Pellets was in three pieces, the contents everywhere, swelling in size with water, and my wheel, my beloved wheel, the one that I used to spend hours in, running round and round, lay on its side on the roof, that was now the floor.
And then I saw it, the cage door was open, a gaping square hole. I tell you what – I’ve never reacted and moved so fast in my life. While the Humans bickered, I made my move!

” You stupid little oaf, now look what you’ve done! ” Scolded Dad.
“But – but they’re your slippers, you shouldn’t leave them lying around, someone could break their neck.” Said, Johnny, defensively.
Mom’s bum was two feet off the sofa when she screamed. ” Aaaaghh! THE BLOODY HAMSTER’S OUT!”
I ran up Fred’s leg, then dived between the cushions, and squirmed my way into the dark interior of Joyce’s new sofa. Outside the bickering continued, accusations and curses flew. Five podgy fingers groped blindly in the dark.”I’ll get the little toe rag, Mom, get the cage ready.”
I was cornered, the podgy porkers touched my whiskers, and then grabbed me.
“GOT HIM – GOT HIM!” Yelled Johnny triumphantly.
His grip was so tight, I thought my ribs were going to crack, so I opened my mouth as wide as possible to reveal my two milk-white incisors. Without hesitating, I bit down hard, drawing blood, and achieving instant release.
His scream, I bet it was heard two streets away. Serves him right.

Seven Months I’ve lived here now, life’s a doddle, they’ll never catch me, unless Joyce carries out her threat, and gets a Cat.


Fantastic things adjustments, they make everything perfect; we all make them, sometimes to suit ourselves, but also selflessly to suit others. A change can be anything from something as simple as an extra sugar lump in one’s coffee to a massive overhaul of one’s mindset and beliefs after an OMG moment that has impacted every aspect of one’s existence. A little over a year ago, I wrote about the tragic event that happened to Aberfan. When, on the 21st of October 1966 in the blink of an eye, the routine of everyday life in that small, close-knit, Welsh mining community changed, forever. The impact of that tragedy affected the lives of everyone and sent a tsunami of emotion that spread around the Globe. 
It is from the people of Aberfan and what they have endured that I draw my strength.

12 years ago I experienced my own personal disaster; what a day that was, I’ll never forget it. It was a beautiful August morning, bird songs filled the garden, and even at the early hour of five-thirty, the Summer Sun was beaming in a cloudless blue sky.
Dressed and ready for work, I leaned lightly on the washbasin and stared at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Everything seemed normal, and I was good to go. It was going to be another routine sunny summer day. Or was it?
In the blink of an eye; my life changed, forever.
Suddenly, I felt hot. It was a heat that came from inside my core. This feeling of overheating was joined by a sensation of dizziness, that made me tighten my grip on the sink. I watched the changing expressions of my face, reflected in the mirror; it was glowing red, wet with sweat, and covered in a frozen expression of confusion and fear.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was already on my way down; the bursting blood vessel in my brain felled me instantly.
I died that day, literally. I spent the blue-light, siren-filled journey to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in that warm, cosy place that is only found between life and death.

I thought my life was over. After enduring the immediate pain and discomfort of my Bleed, I had to spend the next three months in what seemed like a state of helpless infancy, being looked after by professional, caring people. I was moved from Hospital to Hospital as I steadily progressed along that seemingly endless road to recovery. After what can only be described as the darkest days of my life I was finally allowed home. Accompanied by my Dad (since deceased), my younger Sister Meggan, and my loving wife Jackie, I arrive back at Ladybirch – our home. I was in a wheelchair, but I was alive. Never, until this moment, had the phrase Home Sweet Home felt so relevant or sounded so pleasing.
Adjustments had to be made, lots of them, and not only by me but by all of those around me too.

What’s brought all this on? I hear you ask. Well, let me tell you. Since that dark day, remembered by us all, for all the wrong reasons; a lot of water has passed under the bridge, and lots and lots of adjustments have been made.
I eventually realized that I was guilty of blindly bumbling along from one moment to the next, always at the limit of my endurance, testing, pushing, digging deep for that extra bit of strength (which made me irritable and grumpy), never stopping to smell the roses; but instead, hacking through life regardless, oblivious to the beauty of the life around me, and the adjustments made by others to make my existence better.

I owe much to a lot of people for their commitment; It is thanks to others that I’m here today; They ask for nothing in return, other than to see a smile on my face.

The land of Dragons and rainbows

Three days we spent hunkered down, man and beast alike, from the seemingly endless chain of storms that came rolling in off the Atlantic. Day and night the wind relentlessly howled its Banshee scream; bending the leafless trees back and forth, making their timber groan under the strain of remaining upright. Rain, sheets of torrential rain, fell horizontally onto the sodden ground; it lashed the window, blurring the view of the green hillside and garden outside.
The Sheep huddled along the hedgerows for protection; the humble Woodpigeon stayed in its Ivy roost.
For three whole days, our garden friends did not show; Like a boxer on the ropes, they shielded from the storms lashing blows amongst the leafless shrubs and waited for the storm to run out of steam. And sure enough, it did.

The splendid Barcod coch (Red Kite)

Ravens take to the sky, throwing out their rough, deep croaks as they fly wing tip to wing tip like ice skaters dancing, touching fingertips as they glide across the ice. Common Buzzard’s showboat effortlessly on an updraught, stretching and parting every primary, and fanning their geisha tails. When high enough the display is turned up a notch, wings are folded back and the bird hurtles like a bullet towards the ground at breathtaking speed then easing off to climb again and rejoin its mate. The displays are briefly broken off to mob the Red Kite that as appeared from its perch in the woods. Slow and methodical, the Kite uses the wind to steer its low-level flight across the open fields as it searches for food. This large bird of prey (two-metre wingspan) uses its large red forked tail to steer its course, twisting from one side to the other to counteract the wind.
The Red Kite is my dragon, the dragon I said I couldn’t find. I discovered an even bigger dragon while watching the Northern Lights from the comfort of my bed. There it was, DRACO! How could I have missed the biggest Dragon of them all? A twinkling cascade of stars falls from the zenith between the plough and the north star onto the treetops.
By day, after the Woodcock and Barn Owl have returned to their roost, the garden is invaded by hundreds of birds, all keen to eat. Jackie and I watch the goings-on over the tops of our tea mugs. A Host Of Sparrows dash from cover to cover, filling the garden with their busy chirps and chatter. Seven Bullfinches pick meticulously at the buds of the Blackthorn; a charm of twenty-five Goldfinches alights the leafless fruitless apple tree, to warm in the early Sunlight. Flashes of vivid lemon yellow are emitted from the drab, sleeping shrubs by Siskins as they bicker amongst themselves.
Catkins are swayed by the gentle breeze, unfortunately not a scirocco. Brrrrrr. It’s still nippy.

The meagrest amount of sunlight has changed the mood of everyone and everything around us. Snowdrops grace the embankments and Daffodils emerge from the soil like missiles from their silos. I like the German name for Daffodil, it’s Oester Glochen, Easter Bells. Crocus produces explosions of colour on the garden floor.
Local Farmers are getting ready for lambing, some have even washed their pickups.
Yes, Spring is here, and there’s so much more to see and enjoy.
Take care.

Poppy and Kracker

Goody Goody

The City that never sleeps. Towering silver skyscrapers, reach up into the night sky, their multitude of lights polluting the darkness. Lights of every shape, size, and color flashing, pointing, advertising sex or liquor. A heaving tide of late-night revelers shuffle along the crowded sidewalks; yellow cabs and cars the size of spaceships, their drivers gesticulating and honking horns in frustration, clog the Streets. The City that never sleeps.
The silence of the monochrome interior of the glass-fronted apartment on the 74th floor was broken.
“That was one hell of a fantastic night out!”
“It sure was. I haven’t had that much fun in donkeys. I’m glad it wasn’t raining, I despise going out in the wet. “
“Yeah, ditto. I felt a tad uneasy on the dance floor in that nightclub; for the first five minutes anyway. Did you see up that women’s dress? It was hard to miss, she wasn’t shy at all.”
“I saw, and that flirty bitch don’t know how close she was to getting a good kicking.”
“Now now, don’t get jealous, I made things up to you under the table. Did I not.”
“BOY! You sure did. If there’s one thing I love it’s the intimacy of under a table.
I hope you don’t me saying, but you were starting to smell a bit erm sweaty.”
“And so were you. As a matter of fact, the word whiffy springs to mind.”
“Whiffy am I. “
“Yes, you bloody well are; and you’re black!”
“Hark at the kettle calling the pot black, you’re black too.”
“It’s a good job, we’d look stupid together otherwise.”
“You can have black and white together you know. There doesn’t have to be a hard border between the two.”
“I suppose you’re right. Married together correctly the two colors go well together.”
“They do! Now change the record.”
“I wonder when and where we’re going next.”
“Lord knows. As long as we are together, I care not.”
On that tender note, the two shoes, side by side, in front of the patio door closed their eyelets and went to sleep.
Nighty night everyone.

Next Week, join Mr. and Mrs. Welly on a trip to the Pig Farm.

All Around The Wrekin

The Wrekin, an extinct volcano that rises 407 meter’s above the Shropshire Plain. It is a prominent landmark that when viewed from afar it looks nothing more than a pimple jutting from an otherwise featureless, flat horizon.
There is a local saying that goes ‘All around the Wrekin to get to Wellington’. Wellington is a small market town next to the ancient hill.
The saying roughly means to go the long way around doing something.

As a boy, I sat for many hours on my Bedroom windowsill, using the angle of the frame as a backrest, and drawing my knees to my chin. My attention was quickly drawn from the activities to my immediate front, the Village Allotments, with bent figures tending the soil, and the glimpse of an occasional truck on the M6 as it passed through a distant fold in the landscape, by the pimple jutting from the Western Horizon. What lay beyond that hill? Daydreaming, I would find myself alone on the summit of this hill feeling the freshness of the breeze on my young face, and the sound of the Voodoo-like chant that filled my head – come – come! I was in no mans land, the border between the known and the unknown.
Behind me, to the East, was all that I knew, the comforts of home, before me, to the West, a vast unknown, a Land of fire breathing Dragons that flew around rain-soaked mountains of black slate, where the folk spoke a language as old as the hills themselves.
I always turned back; down the slope, I’d go, back to my windowsill and home.
Until one day!

In my early teens, thanks to a friend’s mom and dad allowing me to join them on their Summer Hols, I got to go beyond the Wrekin. I remember watching its wooded slopes pass by until once more it became a pimple.
But where were the fire-breathing Dragons? I didn’t see any! The only Dragons I got to see were red ones on flags that were displayed by local patriots. But they were there – hiding – watching. Of that I was sure.
We traveled along narrow roads that twisted and turned, snake-like, through forests of lichen-covered saline oaks. Torrents of peat brown water frothed along the wooded valley floor, exploding in silver showers as it tumbled over moss coated boulders; coursing its way to the sea.
The Car was full of joyful songs and laughter. As old Ced steered us along our happy way, we greeted each twist and turn with whoops and whoas of adrenalin-filled excitement as if we were on a Rollercoaster.
We’re all going on a Summer Holiday.

The Wrekin has been my subconscious companion all throughout my life, acting at first as a lure, then a launchpad. A launchpad to the Heather covered tops of the Berwyn range, where at daybreak a damp grey mist shroudes the ridge, clinging to everything, refusing to budge; hiding the croaking Raven and the Sun.
It was on these misty, isolated hilltops that I felt most alive.
From my resting place on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Tannat Valley, I could be lulled into the past or future, simply by listening to the silence and feeling the warmth of my coffee cup that I held in my hand and smelling the aromatic vapor that rose from the hot liquid in search for my senses.
It was from here, this humblest of spots that my spirit soared and looked back at the time I spent working in the dark, dusty tunnels of the Staffordshire Coalfield; or the endless hours patrolling the violent streets of Belfast, where my walking staff became a rifle, the smell of coffee was overpowered by acrid smoke, and the dampness on my brow was spit. Venomous spit.

West of the Wrekin lies a land of Myth and Magic, and Dragons appear for those that look. Although my resting place has changed, and my beloved Meindle’s (Boots) have been exchanged for a Wheelchair, it is now, that to this land, with my wife Jackie, I return, to rejuvenate, and once to more smell the coffee.

This is the view from my new resting spot.
The coffee smells lovely.

I suppose I can now say that I’ve been All Around The Wrekin.
(And what a ride!)

The Swelling

Northward, onward, the harbinger of Spring pushes on against all adversities, driven by the strong desire to breed, and secure the continuation of its species; cementing its place as one of our favorite Summer arrivals.
Who knows how many miles it has traveled, what adversities it has faced and overcame to get here; but get here, it has.
The patchwork of bare fields passes below the Swallow’s belly, as it hugs the contours of the steadily awakening land on its long journey to its Summer Home. The crops of these fields are still hidden below ground, their identity a mystery to all except those who planted them.
That same patchwork of fields after being fed and watered looks so different now. Crops of corn, wheat, and sunflowers reach for the golden sun. They stand shoulder to shoulder, hemmed in by margins of tall grass that have been bronzed by the season, then dotted with vibrant red poppies.
Imagine the view from a Buzzard’s perspective as it circles effortlessly in the Summer Sky, looking down upon its Quilted hunting ground. Imagine the scene from the perspective of the young rabbit, that watches from the protective cover of the towering stems. It sees the Buzzard as if by magic disappear into the glare of the Sun. It’s gone! Or as it? The Rabbit moves.
At the beginning of each new day, the Dawn Chorus of unseen Birds, through open windows, has reached our ears. The morning air has been scented by a multitude of blossoms, before being laced with the aroma of morning coffee.
Ducklings, freshly hatched, have run, tumbling and tripping over twigs and themselves in an effort to keep up with their proud, cautious, protective mother as she leads them from their feather-lined nest onto the open pool. On this pool, they’ll learn the harsh reality of life in the wild.
Broods of young birds, freshly fledged, have followed their parents from tree to tree, bush to bush, and back again; constantly calling demanding food from the ragged-looking guardians.
Most of these hungry youngsters are an absolute delight to watch. Their little fluffy bodies, clumsy flight, inquisitiveness, bright yellow gapes, and the sound of constant begging always raise a smile. But a slightly less delight, is a flock of up to 30 ravenous Jackdaws landing on the front lawn; they do not know the meaning of peace and quiet.
They sit in the surrounding treetops, watching my every move, waiting for me to finish my feeding rounds. As soon as I disappear from sight, down they come.
Squawk, squawk, squabble, and squawk. They’re like a coach load of rowdy football fans arriving in the car park of a usually quiet rural pub.
With the bedroom window wide open because of the nighttime heat and mugginess, there’s no way that Jack can sleep through the Corvids Breakfast Banquet.
It’s half past four now and the night as retreated, revealing a grey mist that blankets the fields. Only the tallest trees protrude from its surface. There is no wind, nothing stirs, the only sound is that of the humble Wood Pigeon. It is wonderful.
To the East, the Sun peeks its head over the treetops, sending a ray of light, that transforms the mist from a milky grey to a magical, illuminating gold. The same ray of light kisses the roof of the garden shed before crossing the garden to further its magic in the next field.
Bees, leaving the hive, unwittingly fly through the golden shaft of sunlight, briefly, very briefly, transforming their little dark bodies into flashing golden bullets, before they disappear out of sight into the countryside beyond.
The Sun climbs steadily towards its zenith, replacing the cool freshness left by the night with the blistering heat of a furnace.

It is during this brief spell between spring and Autumn that wonderful magic occurs, Blossoms become berries, flowers become fruit. The tomato plants in my greenhouse that I have nurtured since March have grown, producing vines of irresistible juicy red globes. Runner beans have curled around their canes and climbed to the top, producing a pyramid of red flowers that have now become little beans. Apples swell, getting bigger by the day, they’re a treat for everyone.
During this short spell of time, the young must grow up fast, very fast.
I like to refer to this time of plenty as The Swelling. It all looks fine and dandy when observing The Swelling from the shade of a tree, sipping an ice-cold drink, but, there is another side to the coin.

It is now almost 4am and time for me to start my daily chores, but before I go I’d like to say hello and thank you for reading.
Take care.

Opening up

It is time to open up, we’ve endured all that Winter as sent our way. It’s time to allow the spirit of the seasons back into our lives; but gently, as slowly and gently as an opening bud, or a butterfly pumping life into its shrivelled wings. Think of the baby Rabbit exiting its burrow for the first time; stopping, cautiously sniffing the air for signs of danger. We’ve all bolted back into the burrow for safety, now it’s time to reemerge, wiser, bolder. One step at a time. – that’s the way.

If we are fortunate enough to open our eyes, not only are we awake, we are also alive. Alive and capable of enjoying the abundance of beautiful free gifts provided by none other than Mother Nature herself.
For me, the most wonderful of these free gifts is the dawn chorus. Throughout Spring, this short, sweet, delightful experience provides the perfect supercharge needed to strengthen my connection with the natural world.
Each morning an advancing tide of light laps against the shore of night. At first, it is a soft, gentle, light, that soothes away the blackness of night.
This fine line, where the incoming tide of light, of the new day, touches the blackness of the night, is hard to detect and is missed by many of us. But fear not, help is at hand, no, not in the form of a cockerel sitting on a farmyard fence, but by a choir of feathered songsters, whose melodic song helps clear the listener’s mind.
Presently, here at Ladybirch Cottage, it is the Pheasants who respond to the call of duty first. Pheasants are not renowned for their musical ability, but their sharp clucks act like a conductor tapping his baton, bringing everyone to attention. Maybe roosting up in the Oaks gives them a slight height advantage over the birds’ in lower cover. Robins are next to fire up, followed by the Song Thrush, then the Blackbirds. Within minutes bird song pours from every tree and bush reaching a cacophony of sound that makes it difficult to identify individual performers.
As the season progresses, the list of performers grows, including the migrants returning to share our Summer.

In the Swedish language, there is one particular word that I’ve taken a shine to.
That word is smultronstalle, it means favourite place. Smaltronstallen can be anywhere one likes; they are places where one feels content, safe, and happy.
I’ve got several smaltronstallen dotted around the place; I’ve even got one in my head.
When the chance arises, find your smaltronstalle, and spend a little time there, and grab a freebie or two.

My new roof

420 years I’ve stood here; I’ve seen people come, and I’ve seen people go. My claim to fame is that in 1651 after the Battle of Worcester I witnessed King Charles The Second being escorted past my front door on his way to Boscobel House, which is only a few fields away.
I’m very proud of my roof, it’s called a thatch. There are only 38 of us in this shire (Staffordshire), so I guess that makes me a bit special.
Anyway, that’s enough rabbiting, let me tell you about my crowning glory.

The passage of time has unfortunately seen the demise of my sort, probably due to the cost and impracticality of maintaining our good looks.
Excuse me if I blow my own trumpet, but, as you know, if I don’t, no one else will.
Luckily for me, I’ve been designated as a grade two scheduled building, Which means people must maintain my original splendorous looks. To reassure me further, a small number of individuals have trained in the artisan craft of thatching, and become Thatchers, thus guaranteeing me a place within the British countryside for the unforeseeable future:)

The last person to do my thatch was a chap called Dave, a Master Thatcher. Dave was helped by his Father-In-Law, Barry, and watched over, for educational purposes, by Mick, the bloke who lives in me now.
It was quite enlightening listening to the questions and answers that were being bandied about. I took it all in.

I didn’t know that here in England there are two types of material available to thatch a roof.
There’s Norfolk Reed, this is reckoned to be the best, making it the most expensive, then there’s straw, it’s cheaper, and more readily available. Yes, you’ve guessed correctly, I got straw. Not that I mind, it’s all I’ve known over the years, and I’ve never heard anyone complain about it.

A Thatcher is often thought to only work during the Summer,visualized as working aloft on a cottage roof, wiping the back of his hand across his brow as he briefly breaks from his labors to look at the glowing Summer Sun – that’s not true! Dave and Barry turned up to do my roof at the start of the New Year 2016. January, it was bitter cold. That’s the only working on a Summers day myth out of the window.
I remember Mick getting a bit panicky about the whole affair. The Plonka actually thought that a 40ft Truck laden with straw was going to turn up and that Dave would remove the roof, the whole roof, and nothing but the roof, all in one go. All of his ill-feelings were unfounded, Dave rolled up in his white van, ladders strapped to the roof rack, and only the straw he needed for the day’s work in the back. Phew!
After standing on the lawn with a nice warm mug of tea each, and exchanging small talk; hands were briskly rubbed together, and work began.
Dave and Barry hauled a large green tarp onto my roof and spread it out covering all of my south-facing side, they then pegged it down, securely. The tarp was folded back to reveal a third of my roof. This was going to be the section they worked on that day.
Unseen at a distance, the roof is covered in wire mesh. This was cut and removed.
The straw of my roof is in three layers, each layer being about 25cm thick. Only one layer at a time is replaced.
What I found interesting at this stage was the fact that the bottom layer dated back to the 1960s. Dave removed an ear of corn from this layer to prove this point; he held it next to a new fresh one for comparison. The difference between the two ears was amazingly clear. Twice the amount of golden grain clung geometrically in two rows to the fresh ear, demonstrating perfectly the advancement genetics had made over the years in agriculture. Not all the ears of wheat are separated, so my roof is a big larder for critters of all kinds to plunder.

The decoration along my ridge is called the Pie-Crust; this is made up of lengths of split hazel called Ligers and Gadds. The Liggers are the long pieces, the tram lines, and the Gadds are the short pieces, that form the cross effect. The style of the bedroom window is an eyebrowed window.

As if Dave hadn’t made me look wonderful enough, he turned up a day or two later to put the cherry on the cake, so to say. He’d only made me a pheasant out of straw, to take pride of place on my ridge.

Well, that’s me sorted for the next 20 years; I’d better get back to doing what I’m best at, that’s looking good and keeping everyone warm and dry.
Bye for now.

The Square Window

The Square Window, from my side. The warm side.

A thin, brittle pane of glass. That’s all there is separating my World from theirs. I love being in their world; but the truth of the matter is, that at this time of year, I wouldn’t last a night. So, I stay on my side of the glass and watch.

Curtain call is always roughly one hour before dawn. Davenport, one of the ten Robins that grace my garden, sings his flutey song from his roost within the woodshed.
My flection in the square window looks back at me. For a brief moment, it has my undivided attention, prompting my awareness, highlighting the reality of the here and now; my grey hair, the paunch of good living, and the fact that I’m sat in a wheelchair. It is at this point that I snap out of my daydream, and look beyond the image that sits before me.
Tawny Owls, three of them; out there somewhere in the surrounding leafless oaks, sound their atmospheric quivering hoots, or occasionally a keeewik; broadcasting their whereabouts to each other. At other times, the panicky cluck of a Pheasant explodes in the stillness of pre-dawn, as it leaves its lofty roost. Probably spooked by one of the Owls.
The distant bark of a Fox cuts through the frosty night air, reminding me of the threat to any old, weak or injured creatures as it lurks stealthily amongst the shadows of the freezing night, searching for prey.

Throughout the month, the Wolf Moon as grown. At the moment its luminosity is magnified by the recent fall of snow that now blankets the ground. Night as almost become day. But only in the sense of light; the threats of the long, cold, January nights remain.
Regardless of the time of year, the dark hours form a barrier as formidable as The Berlin Wall between myself and the birds and animals with whom I share my time. I worry about them. Is there any need to? Maybe I’m being too over-sensitive, or it’s the feeling of helplessness created by the fact that they are beyond my protection.
I suppose there is only so much that I can do to prepare them for the long dark nights of Winter.
In the fading light, as the day returns to the Wolf, I question myself, asking not so much if I’ve done enough, but if I’ve done my best, my utmost. When lives are on the line, second best isn’t good enough.

I’m looking beyond that reflection of a portly, ageing, grey-haired man now, watching as the day’s dimmer-switch, turns tantalizingly slow, to reveal the detail of my outdoor surroundings.
Davenport as started singing his cheerful song, I can hear Harry (he’s one of our geese) honking, Jack’s just come in after finishing seeing to her horses, Kracka and Poppy.
The new day will bring its challenges for me, and for those outside who are bearing the brunt of this testing season.

The curtain is raised, the show as begun. One by one the players appear on the stage that is the square window, and I’ve got a front-row seat.

Easier times are ahead. At the moment they seem a million miles away, but they are so unbelievably close. Already, Birds are becoming territorial and even attempting to sing. It won’t be long before shafts of golden sunlight and the sound of bird song pour into our lives.
Keep well.

Before you go, I would like to say a special thank you to Andrea, who writes the Blog Harvesting Hectate for the helping shove.

Thank you, Andrea.


It had now been three months since Sid had entered our lives. During that short space of time, he had tugged on our every heartstring, and lead us along a path of emotional ups and downs. Now, on this cold Winter Saturday night, in the warmth of our flat, it was time to ask and answer some pretty serious questions about his future and make the most heart-wrenching decision of all. When should we release him?
Sid, as per usual, was stood on the roof of his little nest box perch, digesting his mackerel supper, oblivious of the fact that all eyes were upon him, scrutinizing his every move.
Ian, Steve, Jackie and myself spent the evening discussing the pros and cons of Sid’s pending release. Comments were made in an attempt to lighten the mood and remove the worry from our minds. Our thoughts and emotions were pushed from pillar to post, pulled apart in a tug o war between sentimentality, reality, and necessity. After much discussion, a decision was reached. Tomorrow it is then, we all finally agreed.
Sunday, mid-morning, on what must have been the coldest day of the year; with the biting east wind blowing unobstructed across the open water of Chasewater. [a sizeable manmade reservoir, poplar with people and wildlife alike] We stepped out of the car. It was Brass Monkeys weather and then some. I leaned into the back seat of the vehicle, the interior was warm and cosy. I would have loved to have climbed back in, but we had a job to do. We had a Bird to release! Soon, that job would be done and dusted, and we could all get back into the warm. From outside came the sound of stamping feet and words prompting me to get a move on. I reached forward and grabbed the large cardboard box that contained Sid. I was conscientious not to cause him any stress or make him lose his balance. We walked in silence to the water’s edge. The sound of a distant speedboat churning the dark liquid of Chasewater into a milk-white froth as it sped around in a tight figure of eight reached our ears. A Cormorant, disturbed from its preening by the Speedboat, left its perch and flew, its wings lightly touching the surface of the water and its breast dampened by the spray that the wind lifted from off the choppy veneer, to a more secluded position. Great Crested Grebes, in their drab winter plumage, bobbed briefly into view, as the belly of the depression in which they swam quickly rose to become a crest, then sank again. A gaggle of Canada Geese were bobbing their heads boasting about the expertise of their landing in such windy conditions.
I placed the box onto the sand, and slowly, cautiously, one by one, I pulled open the interlocking flaps that had been Sid’s roof. Sounds of feather rubbing the box’s interior, and newspaper being ruffled and trampled under webbed feet indicated Sid’s excitement at being released.
Holding the 4th and final flap, the last barrier between Sid and freedom, I paused. This was it, the time had arrived for us to say farewell to our loveable new friend, Sid. After making eye contact and presenting a faint smile to Ian, Steve and Jackie, I rubbed my watering eyes with the back of my hand, then stood up straight; opening the remaining flap of cardboard as I did so.
The four of us stood a comfortable distance behind the box, looking down into its square interior. Sid blinked as he turned his head from side to side, it was as if he were looking at our faces one last time. We held our breaths in anticipation of the impending flurry of activity to come. But no flurry of activity came, Sid just turned his head backwards 180 degrees and started to preen.
The cold wind was now making itself felt, so this job had to be completed pretty sharpish. I stepped forward and very slowly began to tip the box so that the floor became the wall, and a wall became the new floor. The opening now faced the open water and freedom. Well, that was it, Sid came out of that box, not like a rocket slid on rails as we expected, but more akin to a snail on crutches. He walked out of his means of confinement with all the poise of a Victorian Gentleman exiting a beach hut, then gingerly, slowly, he walked toward the water. We half expected him to stop and test the temperature of his new oversized bath with the tip of his toes, but no, our loveable friend continued, undaunted, until afloat. And what did he do? Bathed, that’s what; dipping and plunging his head underwater, splashing, preening, followed by more plunging of the head, and so it went on.
We couldn’t walk away and leave him to it, we had to watch out for him, make sure that he came to no harm as he settled into his new environment.
Our teeth chattered with the cold, the wind grew stronger and stiffer, but we were determined to see this through.
Sid, now politely referred to as that bird, bathed for two hours solid. Two hours!
We were freezing, but we stayed and watched. During these two windy hours of bathing, Sid had drifted out of our reach, into open water. Now, just as the Grebes were only visible on and off, so was Sid.
Our attention had been so focused on watching Sid that had it not been for the increased droning roar of the engine we wouldn’t have noticed the approaching Speedboat. It was making a Bee-line straight for us. The Helmsman was going to give his two windswept passengers a ride to remember, and us, his audience, a show we’d never forget. He pulled back the throttle, sprays of white water arced out from its bow, its fibreglass belly slapped the water with a thunderous thud. We waved our arms to attract the Helmsman’s attention, we pointed with stabbing fingers at Sid. We were shouting frantically for him to open his eyes and change course.
Smack bang in the middle of all this commotion was little Sid, still bathing.
The shouting and arm-waving stopped, open-mouthed we watched in horror.
Sid didn’t flinch a muscle, he didn’t have time to. The Speed boat veered sharp left meters in front of him. The stern lowered in the water, and the propellers churned the water into a hectic turmoil as the Helmsman levered back the throttle for more power. It departed, the noise lessened, and calmness returned. Only the smell of its exhaust and settling wake remained, and in that settling wake was Sid; no longer bathing.
The incident had startled him into action, his wings slapped the diminishing wake, and his feet paddled and pushed the air as he attempted to get airborne. We willed him on, encouraging him to dig deeper, deeper than he’d dug before, and he dug. We feared that a combination of muscle fatigue and water-logged feathers would bring him down, but he pushed and pushed until his feet no longer left concentric ripples on the surface and his wingtips only beat the air.
He’d made it! He was airborne!
I watched Sid glide the length of Chasewater and land safely on the North Shore amongst a small Colony of Gulls. I watched him until the weight of my binoculars made my arms ache, and I could no longer identify Sid from the Gulls around him.
Sid had returned to his world, we turned and went back to ours.
Farewell, Sid.

Thank you to the Photographers for taking the pics – and thank you for reading.

Sid’s Manor

Woottons court – a leafy cul de sac, tucked away just off Cannock’s busy town-centre, a capillary leading to Sid’s Gaf. It was here that Jackie and myself once resided. Initially, I bought the one-bedroom apartment on the advice of my mother; when I was footloose and fancy-free. It was a typical bachelor pad; furnished with deep guardsman red Axminster shagpile carpet, soft, black, hand made Italian leather sofas, and a glass-topped coffee table on which to place our Nik-naks.
Our neighbours were mainly young professionals, who, after a day’s work, also enjoyed the peace and quiet offered by this much sort after location.
For weeks no one was aware that Sid had moved in. Life went on as usual. People passed each other, either on the carpark or in the stairwell. They gave the nod, and a glance to each other then went about there business.
Sid The Seagull was by now firing on all cylinders. He could stand up, preen and even walk about a little. It was a real joy to watch him.
Every Saturday night, we were visited by two very close friends, Ian and Steve, both of whom were keen birders. They had enjoyed witnessing Sid’s remarkable recovery, preferring to watch him rather than whatever was on the tele. I can’t remember exactly who suggested it, but someone pointed out that Sid needed a perching post. All that We had to hand, in the boot of the car, was an old weathered nest box. Jack went and fetched it. We watched as she placed it on the newspaper next to Sid’s nest of towels. We chuckled at how Sid stopped preening, and in the same moment moved cautiously to the side, and then, with a stern, concerned, what’s going on here look on his face, he went into pecking mode and had a go at Jack’s hands. His pecks were single stabs, aimed beak butts; they were totally harmless unless he caught the skin, then it was like being given a sharp pinch. Jack was having none of it, she grabbed Sid in her special double overhanded gull-grip. Sid wriggled and squirmed, his head twisted from side to side searching out Jack’s hands so that he could give them a peck and a pinch. His toes were stretched to their fullest, showing the entire span of his webbed feet; as his spindly, pink legs frantically kicked the air. Jack plonked Sid onto his new perching post, then released her grip. Sid shook himself, ruffling all his feathers, dislodging a few bits of white feathery down that sank slowly past his snow-white body, some landing on the newspaper, some on the carpet. I’m sure that if he could talk, he’d have said, maybe in a Cockney accent, watch it! Watch it! Try that again, and I’ll have you.
Bath time. By now, Sid was familiar with the sound of running water – he only had to hear the toilet flush or the kettle being filled, and he was off. He would jump from his post, then with his wings raised and outstretched for balance, he would do a sort of side-ways bound across the living room along the short hallway into the bathroom. There Sid would stand, on the side of the bathtub, waiting, turning his head excitedly, anticipating the dip to come. It was during this procedure that we got a scale of just how big he was. What an impressive wingspan! 1.4 metres.
Of course, we couldn’t disappoint the chap; we had to run him a bath. Amazingly, he knew how deep the water had to be before he plunged in; it seemed as soon as it was deep enough Sid got the green light; go for it! Wild horses couldn’t hold him back, he was straight in there. He used to pace excitedly along the edge of the bath looking down and stretching his neck in an attempt to get his head under the running tap. It was more than likely his over-enthusiasm that caused him to overbalance and topple in. He floated like a cork. After the briefest of submersions, he’d pop back onto the surface, and preen his breast and mantle; while paddling his feet, propelling himself along the length of the bath.
After his initial, sometimes over-enthusiastic burst, which lasted up to half an hour, he’d just float, drift, with the occasional paddle to alter his position. Jackie, Ian, Steve and myself used this time to chat amongst ourselves, occasionally looking in on Sid if things went quiet or there was any excessive splashing.
On average, Sid liked to spend about two hours in the tub. After which Jack would go into the bathroom and lift him out and return him to his perching post. It was as if Sid was preparing for the local Seagull Of The Century competition, she would have to plug in the hair drier and give Sid a gentle blow-dry. The gentle flow of warm air rippled his snow-white plumage as he delicately and precisely used his yellow bill to put each feather back in its place. He would even raise a wing, one at a time, from his body so that Jack could direct the airflow under his armpits.
After this three-hour physio stroke groom and manicure session, there was nothing Sid enjoyed more than to settle in and watch Match Of The Day. With a saucer of pilchards in tomato sauce and a few garlic and herb croutons; washed down with a bottle french non-vintage Still Mineral Water. Preferably volcanic filtered. Happy days.
Thanks for reading. Join us again for Sid’s farewell.