Saturday, 24 March 2018

Reconnected & Running News



Romsey Abbey in the snow

Wild daffodil

We've been without internet, house or mobile phones for the best part of a fortnight. This has affected me less than other members of the household, but even my patience was worn wafer thin by the terrible customer service we received. 

After a week of waiting for it to be fixed, I drove into Romsey to find sufficient signal to find out what was happening and spent fifteen minutes sitting in the car in a car park running through a seemingly never-ending loop of the game can you spell your postcode? followed by one of can you spell your email? Why do you need my email? I queried. So we can update you on progress. But I don't have any internet at home so that would be rather pointless. There was a short pause, then: well, I need it to fill out the form so I can ask someone to find out why you've got no internet. It went on like that for half an hour and I was none the wiser at the end, poorer by half an hour of my life and consumed by the desire to deprive the customer service representative of her phone line for a fortnight. It's back on now, although at a slower speed than before it got broken.

The snow that came last weekend put an end to our plans to drive to Devon on Sunday and run the Grizzly. Our running chums were here for supper on Saturday night. The meal was dominated by frequent glances outside to gauge when they needed to leave to be in with a fighting chance of making it home, and doubts that any of us would be going anywhere tomorrow. In the end, the only friends who ran the reduced course (bravo to the organisers for stoically marshalling in freezing blizzard conditions) were those who'd driven down before the snow came. I've seen the pictures- it looked epic. It was the first year all eight of us had got in so we're sad we couldn't be there as planned, but everyone gets priority entry for next years' race so I expect we'll all do it then instead.

M went out on Sunday with the intention of running 20 miles at home instead, and returned three and a half hours later having done 24, and with a frozen face that meant that, for five minutes at least, he was unable to make much sense. Once I'd ascertained it wasn't permanent and he wasn't in pain, I allowed myself a good ten minutes of being bent over in a fit of giggles at his fish-lips and failed attempts to force coherent sound out.

Pop and I did a more sensible 7 miles along snowy lanes and through snowy woodland with not another soul present. It was bliss, and very beautiful, on virgin snow.

On Tuesday, we did a half marathon (13.1 miles) together around the lanes at home. Poppy celebrated afterwards with some posh dog nosh and I celebrated with a starbar (which I think you'll find is an essential component of marathon-training kit).

Yes, that's right, I did say marathon. I've been steadily upping my miles over the past six weeks and after successfully navigating the half on Tuesday, can now let you all in on a secret: my marathon ambitions for 2018 have been reinstated. Barring complete disaster (and you never know with endurance running), in nine week's time Poppy and I shall be setting out on our first trail marathon together. M is cycling to strategic points where, if she isn't happy, he will collect Pop and cycle on to the next one with her. We are in discussions at the moment as to whether she goes in a basket on the bike or in a rucsac :o) 

Joking aside, I have taken advice from people who run marathons with their dogs and the organisers of the race and the general consensus is they are more than capable of doing 26.2 miles, as long as they've done the training and the weather is appropriate. So, if it's a boiling hot day, the fall-back plan is for her to join me on the last six miles only. She won't like that but her welfare is obviously my top priority. I have no qualms about her being fit enough to run the distance- she did a fast 19 mile run with M last year and after Tuesday's half, she slept for an hour and then was up annoying Ted chasing him round the house and garden all afternoon. You'd never know she'd been running at all.

I'll leave you with a text exchange L and I had this week while I was trying to find him after the bus had apparently returned to the bus stop without him....

Have a great weekend, all.

CT :o)

Monday, 12 March 2018

Proof That Badgers Don't Hibernate In Snow & That Woodcock Like Peanuts

I put the wildlife camera out during the recent snow and promptly forgot about it. Today I've been out to retrieve it. Quite pleased with the results. The woodcock is a first for me on any camera. I'd never have got the shot without a remote motion-activated one attached to a tree. The nearest I normally get to woodcock is when they explode at my feet, utterly hidden thanks to their cryptic camo until I nearly tread on them and they shoot up into the air. He is a bit gorgeous, don't you think?

The temperature reading on the camera for that pictures shows -5. There is an accompanying video which rather delightfully shows him probing through the snow for the peanuts in shells I'd put out for the badgers, which lie buried under about 4 inches of the white stuff. Just shows how hard it is for birds in those conditions.

The other two photos are of the bodgers. Also out in very low (minus) temperatures and ferreting about in the snow for the peanuts. If anyone insists on telling you that badgers hibernate through winter you can put them right (with photographic evidence) now :o)

BTW, ignore the date on the bottom pics, I'd put new batteries in the camera and forgot to reset it, and the time is also wrong for the same reason!

Hope you're all well,

CT :o)

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Bees, Toads, Dogs & Cross-Country Racing

So, another busy week closes. Summer 'is a cumen in' (as the old song has it)- I had my first bumble bee rescue of the year on Thursday. On my way into town I discovered a large bumble snoozing on the car. I couldn't leave her there so I picked her up (ignoring the leg lifted in warning telling me how ferocious she was) and transplanted her onto the daphne, where she hung for ages feeding. Tired and hungry and a little chilly after a winter hibernating underground, no doubt. The last thing a bumble wants to do is sting you; they go through an elaborate warning routine to put you off picking them up which involves lifting a leg or two then showing you their sting, but as long as you're careful they are fine being gently picked up and placed somewhere more safe.

The toads have also come out of hibernation. A few nights ago I woke and heard a tawny owl calling softly outside the window. In the pauses between his 'whooos', the toads could be heard, also singing They make a soft, cooing noise a little like a bullfinch's call. It's a lovely, quiet song that I look forward to hearing every spring. I have lost count of the number of times I've been serenaded back to sleep by a toad.

On Friday the dogs had their hair cut. They smell nice and look neater. Ted is all ears though and Poppy all eyes. 

Yesterday, we were up early and off to Wiltshire for White Star Races' Larmer Tree Half with friend Sue. I wasn't running (too slippy hilly for the knee just yet) so contented myself with cheering instead. Apparently, it was a cracking course, a little over 14 miles with a couple of big hills and a thigh-high snow drift thrown in. M and Sue had a fab race and there were lots of people dressed as peacocks.

Last night we went into Winchester to see The Importance Of Being Earnest at the Theatre Royal. One of my favourite plays at one of my favourite venues. It was a treat from M and we had box seats where we had hot chocolate (me), and beer (M) and salted caramel ice cream (both). The play was excellent, very funny and perfectly performed. I didn't fidget once, which is very unlike me, and found myself laughing out loud (If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated.” And: "To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution."). Algernon was particularly good.

This morning, we've been into the New Forest for a CC6 race with fellow club runners. 5 miles along forest tracks, through mud, up a few tidy hills. I really enjoyed it, ran a steady pace with my knee newly strapped using a fancy strapping technique done for me on Friday by Angela, and all was well. It was bloomin' freezing out on the plain though, a really cold, strong wind that had everyone shivering and reluctant to peel off the layers at the start. Once we got into the trees it warmed up and I rather regretted my layers. A cup of tea and some lovely homemade cake at the end were just the job and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. A good way to end the week. Now it's onwards to the Grizzly Cub. Happy Days :o)

Hope you are all well?

CT :o)

Monday, 5 March 2018

The Third Rescue

The snow has more or less gone and life has returned to normal. L is back at college, M is back at work, the dogs and I enjoyed a peaceful hour walking round the fields this morning and now I have a pile of work to settle quietly to. Which is no bad thing as Pop and I ran 11.5 miles yesterday and I'm feeling it today, both in my muscles and my energy. We popped over to the Heath Robinson exhibition which is currently on at Mottisfont (brilliant and well worth visiting if you can) after the run, and half way round I was struck down with the most monumental, sudden and desperate hunger, so we high-tailed it to the tearooms where we refuelled on Victoria sponge and hot chocolate. It was just the job. Poppy is showing absolutely no signs of either tiredness or extra hunger today, but then she does have Super-Dog powers so I'm not really surprised (plus she had a special bone made of dried fish when we got back from the run which she wolfed down. Her version of vicky sponge).

They say things come in threes, right? And after the buzzard and the girl in the car we were all joking about me maybe staying indoors for a while. But rescues have a habit of seeking me out.

A few days ago, in the middle of the coldest and snowiest of the ice days, L and I were walking down the lane together when I noticed a redwing sitting in the stream.

Near her were two wrens, a grey wagtail and a snipe. The wrens and the wagtail live in and around the stream feeding off small invertebrates in the water, and the snipe, a passing visitor brought closer to people by the snows, is a water bird so these were all normal things to see in the stream. Redwing, however, (members of the thrush family who visit our shores for winter and fly back to their native Scandinavian homelands in springtime), are not water birds. We continued with our walk to see whether she would move but ten minutes later she was still there. I climbed down the bank into the stream. The snipe was long gone, they don't like being anywhere near people. The wagtail fluttered off and the two wrens hopped onto a low branch where they sat, watching me intently. The redwing didn't move. She didn't even move when I reached down to pick her up.

She was so cold and the water she'd been sitting in was freezing and I hoped it was just the cold and lack of food and that warmth would revive her, so I put her inside my coat and we walked home. When we got back and I could check her over properly I realised there was a wound on her back. I suspect it was a cat attack.

Not knowing how bad the injury was and aware of the amazing restorative powers of warmth to overcome shock, I decided I would sit with her on the sofa and read and see what happened. She seemed content to be snuggled between my coat and my shoulder and after a few minutes I thought she was rallying- she opened her eyes, hopped closer to me and then tucked her beak under her wing and slept.

But it wasn't enough. Whatever injury she had sustained was too great and she died a couple of hours after we found her. I know the majority of wildlife rescues don't end well. By the time a wild animal is sick enough to allow a human to get near it it's usually too poorly to recover. I know this- I've been doing this for years, yet I still mourn every single small soul that passes despite our best attempts to save it. Over the years we have had successes- a fledgling swallow when I was ten who survived to migrate in the autumn, joining all the others gathering on the telegraph wires before flying to Africa; a baby blackbird more recently who for a while would fly out of the nearest tree and come to me when I whistled for her; a nestling sparrow who survived against all the odds; Bop, the baby tawny owl who we found injured on the side of the road when he was a few weeks old and who came back here, a few months later, to successfully fledge out into the wild. It is these successes that make me continue, despite the fact that I know most of our attempts to help don't succeed.

So that's the third. I had a feeling there would be one.

Hope you're all well? I've a busy week ahead so may be back to one post a week without the excitement of the snow to keep me house bound!


Saturday, 3 March 2018

Snow Westie

What do you do if you're fifty and at a loose end on a snowy Saturday afternoon? Why, you make a snow Westie in the garden, of course!

We think it looks very like Ted, what do you think? I'm not sure he knows what to make of it :o)

Yesterday, L ventured into the outernet. Good luck, fresh air, with getting past those teenage defences...

M and I walked the dogs across snowy fields this morning....

And then cleared snow from the drive so we could get the car out....

We can get out into civilisation now, although if it freezes tonight the lanes will become skating rinks. The half mara tomorrow has been cancelled. A sensible move, I feel. I've had my two days of snow, now I'd like it to go so I can get back to normal, please.

Hope all are well,

CT :o)