Sunday, March 17, 2013

Snow (gone now), more birds, busier blogging

Never did see such a thing in March, in my recollection anyway. Started last Monday night,

driving straight into the back windows, and continued all through Tuesday,

so the back garden and terrace looked like this. Note paw prints.

Mol likes the idea of snow, and continually asks to go out in it,

though the reality of cold wet paws and snow between the pads is less appealing.

There was a powerful wind through the night it came down, so in places it drifted very deeply.

The birds were very hungry, and we still hadn't any birdseed, so they ate a lot of bread, porridge oats and hulled sunflower seeds.  Their need was greater than ours.

The robin, two of them in fact, Mr and Mrs presumably, since they are aggressively territorial amongst themselves, was very much in evidence,

These aren't great bird photos, but it's always fun to watch them at these times (and I've noticed American readers are always curious about European robins and how different they are from American ones).  The blue and great tits (that's a blue tit in the pic above, the great tits, which my Dutch friend E has been known to call in English 'big tits', have black heads and a black chest stripes) took advantage of the fat balls in the feeder,

queuing for their place on it on the pillar and looped extension lead hung on it.  The blue tits, despite their smaller size, are feisty little buggers and weren't averse to dropping onto the great tits from above and driving them off when they reckoned it was their turn, as the one in the photo above might have been thinking of doing.

the finches looked up enviously from the ground below.

and after a time one or two greenfinches, in spite of their bulk and lack of agility compared with the tits, had a go at eating from the feeder.

The snow stayed with us here in the hills for longer than anywhere.  An afternoon's teaching was cancelled on the Wednesday - I didn't fancy the roads still and the student had barely been back at school anyway and had little to work on - and postponed a visit to H in St Brieuc until the Friday.  I read a lot, mostly Victor Hugo's The Laughing Man (thanks Joe).  I think I quite like Victor Hugo, as French classic novelists go, for, try as I might to get on with them, they mostly seem to me a bitter and twisted lot.  I've heard it said their are writers who love and writers who hate, and an elderly student of mine, an enthusiast for Balzac himself, after we had been reading some Dickens, (in fact the passage in Great Expectations when Pip first meets Miss Haversham, and you don't really get much more bitter and twisted than that) said that 'Dickens was a writer who loved, Balzac was a writer who hated'.  I think perhaps it's a very fine line, and the resulting love or hatred very often comes from the same impulse to compassion.  Hugo was perhaps more a writer who loved; I just wish it didn't always end up so morbid and melancholy with him.  I'm not sure all writers either love or hate, some are just quite dispassionately interested, and some just have an eye to what will sell.

I also decided this was the moment to teach myself to knit socks, which I have been meaning to do for a long time.  It's very difficult and very slow for me, but deeply compulsive.  I have not finished my first sock yet (it's very thin wool and 2mm needles) and I am trying not to think about the fact that I will necessarily have to repeat the whole procedure. As I am not someone who can knit and read, I have listened to quite a lot of radio, notably Roger McGough's fun and funny translation/version of Moliere's The Misanthrope performed at Powys Castle on Radio 3, (the link is to the ETT's site for the performance, since the Listen Again is about to expire and there doesn't seem to be a podcast, which is a shame), and a lovely programme about RS Thomas and birdwatching. I shall perhaps feature the socks if and when they are completed.

And now there is scarcely a sliver of snow left in the ditches; I saw stitchwort and even a few forget-me-knots coming into flower, and the robins have resumed singing like mad.


I've set myself a modest blogging challenge this year: the beginning of November will see Box Elder's seventh birthday, and I am some fifty-five posts short of a thousand posts. If I can average a steady couple of posts a week, I should be able to effect a simultaneous seven years and thousand posts by the required date, and at the same time perhaps encourage a bit limbering and strengthening of the blogging muscles for me, which can't be bad...


Sabine said...

Same here, we (and proper locals) have no memory of that kind heavy winter in March. Although it only lasted for a couple of days.
For the first time I learnt that the migratory birds (not the storks) that pass through the Rhine valley have actually turned and flew back for a bit.
Lovely bird pictures and good luck with the socks.

Zhoen said...

Here, it's much more normal, and I expect a snowstorm before summer. Need it, really.

Mol, yeah, looks wonderful, doesn't feel as good as it looks.

the polish chick said...

ah, a typical canadian march! we usually get our last big storm in may. i used to complain but i decided that it's a silly thing to do. might as well complain that the sky is blue.

as for the writers, my mom always said that there are writers who love people and those who hate them, so a very similar labelling system. over the years, i have found that if i cannot be bothered with an author, it is usually because he or she is of the hateful ilk.

zephyr said...

Love your bird shots
(am sorely tempted to replace "bird shots". i am beginning to understand the desire to travel just to see birds. Yes, your robins are adorable and ours are giants, compared--being thrushes. Our finches are quite squabbly and become very colorful in the next few weeks.

Lovely snow photos, too. Those drifts certainly are impressive. We had some snow this year, but not really that much. It's been very unusual in that more snow has fallen east and south of us, which is a reversal, this winter.

Congratulations on your forthcoming milestone...i look forward to reading along with you.

Julia said...

ah yes, snow here too, which made for a relaxing Sunday with book once I'd risked life, limb and car to venture forth in search of loo paper, too busy trekking to London to notice its dwindling. No mammoth carcass alas
love the feathered photos
and does this mean my brambles in Brittany have been flattened? I do hope so!

Roderick Robinson said...

"Never did see such a thing..." We can beat that by a long way 'ere in 'ereford. Our annual holiday during the middle two weeks of June is preceded by attendance at the Hay Festival (late May/early June). Three years ago it was shockingly cold at Hay and I recalled this later to a friend who comes to stay with us. "Ah yes," he said, "that was the year when the test match (ie, cricket) was cancelled because of snow."

US robins and Joe Hyam form part of the RR anecdote pantheon. He visited us in Pittsburgh and my elder daughter (Professional Bleeder) pointed out a robin in the garden. "That's not a robin, Miss Robinson," he said, quite outraged, "it's far too big." "Oh yes it is, Mr Hyam," said PB. The argument (which continued) meant nothing, it was the polite use of honorifics that delighted us.

Perhaps I should race you to 1000 posts, I'm presently on 751. But we'd need some ground rules. You write bigger than I do.

rr said...

Socks! So exciting. The structure is so interesting I find. And thanks for that link to the RS Thomas programme - an all-time favourite, the combination of birds and poetry :-)

Lucy said...

Thanks good people. Snow in March is of course not unknown hereabouts, but in these quantities very unusual.

Sabine - hello! That's astonishing about the birds, I suppose they may have been blown back, those northerlies were very strong, but I rather thought once birds were headed in the direction they were going they persisted, even if they perished in the attempt. We'd normally start seeing the first swallows and sand martins in a couple of weeks, I wonder if we will.

Zhoen - when we first moved here they told us snow was pretty rare altogether, but we've had other winters when we've had heavy falls into February. Dogs always rather like snow.

PC - yes, I think it was at yours that I read that, which your mum said about loving and hating. I suppose it depends a bit too on the reasons for hating people, if it's because one is outraged and disgusted with their behaviour and their injustice, in which case one can feel great pity for the people who are the victims of it, which I think might be said of Balzac, say, or whether one hates them because one is a basically nasty person oneself! In some ways the disgust that comes out of righteous anger is sometimes more bracing and refreshing than too much pathos, which is a bit the problem for me with Hugo.

Zephyr - I'm not a twitcher, and don't go to great lengths to spot unusual birds. A lot of bird-watching, it seems to me, is really bird spotting, ticking them off a list, while the actual observation of their details and behaviour, which is very satisfying, is often secondary. But ever since I was a child, holidays and travel were never complete without the presence, or acquisition if necessary, of a bird book so I could look out for local species. Birds have been one of the important constants in my life for which I am very grateful. And yes, European robins rock!

Julia - no loo paper? Aargh! And nothing flattens a Breton bramble I'm afraid!

Robbie - that's a dear little story!(Wry smiley emoticon). I don't think American robins have any wintry associations, so the whole thing about the robin as a kind of secular Christmas icon is unknown to Americans, which I feel is a loss for them. You've got a lot of posts to write to get to 1000 though. I think one of the things I need to concentrate on is not writing so big, by which in fact I tend to discourage myself, but more little-and-often, though I can't see my adopting your 300 words discipline so rigorously.

RR - aha, you are the sock queen par excellence! It is a rather amazing process, though I'm not too confident of the results on my first pair, they may only be good for bed socks! I have also found a 'sockulator', a sock pattern generator, which seems to me a most ingenious concept, albeit only to be found in inches not metric, but you can't have everything. Enjoy the RST programme, it seemed to be available indefinitely.

Unknown said...

Robbie beat me to it with his recollection of the robin argument. It taught me that confrontation is usually a mistake. Better for both sides in an argument to establish the facts. A robin is a robin is a robin or is it? as GS might have written.
I'm not sure that I agree with your elderly student. Balzac's range is immense,impelled with curiosity and unlike Dickens often impelled by irony; and what I have read across a fairly wide spectrum doesn't leave me with the idea of a novelist who hated. Rather the contrary.
Hugo manages to convey love as an undelying theme above all in Les Miserables, but teeters on the edge of the sentimental. Hence the musical. Worth a treatise. Time to belt up.