In reverse order….

It’s back to school tomorrow and the Christmas decorations are still not completely squared away.  We are not busying ourselves to get it all sorted, instead we are taking it at a leisurely pace.  So much so that I have had the time to finish a book I bought yesterday:


It’s an excellent short read about a very cold winter and an extremelly bad irish famine.

“On the last day of 1739, Ireland awoke to find itself in the grip of a mini Ice Age.

Rivers froze, mills seized up, and houses could not be heated above freezing point. Some people were enchanted by the novelty of it all. Carnivals, dances and sheep-roastings were held on the ice.

But the euphoria proved fleeting. In its wake came an almost biblical ordeal by drought, flood, fire, famine and plague, that has few parallels in the recorded history of the island.”

I love discovering little gems like this that you would rarely see in normal book shops.  This one was discovered in the gift shop at Castle Espie.  The lovely Sharon and I decided to take a day bird watching.  Years ago she tried to get me interested in birds as she was brought up on a staple diet of twitching and is very good at telling her Brents from her Barnacles.  I never got into it and did not really understand or take joy in it.  I simply saw birds; and where she saw amazing beauty I simply saw coloured birds.  Recently that has changed, so much so that I requested, and got, binoculars from Santa.

The thing that was my hook was the crows.  I love crows.  They are a group of birds that humans have always felt some sort of a connection to whether it be as messengers (like Hugin and Mugin), as bringers of light, as good omens, as bad omens or as the wise wolf birds.  In recent times we have discovered them to be the most intelligent of birds, more so than even the owls or parrots that can talk.  So now with my  interest in birds ignited I do see beauty in the colourful ones like the Mandarin ducks at Castle Espie (not my photo):


However, I see even more beauty behind the eyes, and in the behaviour of, the ravens.  I love hearing the Ravens in the Mournes break the silent mountains with their kronks in the mist.


(not my photo either)

New years was spent with family at Portrush.  We enjoyed oven cooked M&S nibbles and frosty walks along the beach.  Two events stand out in my memories; one was spotting two chubby sanderlings as the ran along the lapping tide and being able to tell the lovely Sharon(the supposed pro) what they where.  My bird book hidden in my pocket helped.  The other event was the sad heartbreak when my nephew was told it was time to go home.  He had got confused and thought he was staying 3 nights instead of 2.  The night before heading home he excitedly told the lovely Sharon that he was here for 3 sleeps and he has only had 1 already.  Moments like these echo back to childhood, the adventure and excitement of going on a holiday.  Of no school and no work for parents.  Of spending all day just doing whatever with your family.

One visit to the mountains was not enough for one holiday so I met up with a few friends and we went for a dander


We saw where kerb stones grow.



We saw what grows there.


We saw climbers spending all day with a brush and hammer cleaning potential new routes.



And we made a go at scrambling up the Great Gully only to find a tiny little patch of  it far too slime covered to attempt without climbing gear.