Squirrel

Squirrel,
wrecker of the bird feeder,
I do not begrudge you your meal;
it is winter and you are hungry too.
How I enjoy your antics but —
a little less destruction
if you will.

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On Your Bike

It occurred to me that it is some time since I wrote about my cycling activities here. That is probably because cycling has taken a bit of a back seat of late.

As regular readers will know we were away touring through France to Spain and back for a couple of months in the autumn last year. We took our tandem with us and whilst individual trips out were of varying lengths, some quite short and others longer, we covered quite a considerable number of miles peddling around with great enjoyment. It is an excellent way to see the countryside.

Since we got back however we haven’t been able to spend as much time on the bikes as we would have liked; an angina diagnosis for my husband, a sciatica attack for me, extreme weather (snow and ice) in this part of the UK and Christmas approaching fast all took their toll. When we did get out it was often separately as my husband didn’t want to go too far or too fast and was trying to avoid hills, just spin the legs and see how he got on. Although prepared to cycle up to usual speed I wasn’t sure how my sciatica inflamed back, hip and leg would stand up to it so didn’t want to ride out too far from home either. This meant that we restricted ourselves to the occasional ride of between 3-6 miles, weather permitting, until after Christmas. We have also interspersed these rides with short sessions on the turbo trainer in the garage – is it just me or is it really much harder work on the turbo? And it’s so boring!

Gradually things are settling down for both of us and we are upping our cycling activity again, making sure hubby doesn’t overdo it. Having done some rides of 8-12 miles over the last few weeks we went out on the tandem yesterday cycling a grand total of 15 miles, the longest distance completed since mid November. We are looking forward to better weather soon so that we can work our way up to our more regular distances before too long and perhaps go out again with the  Sunday morning gang.

We do have a few cycling aims on the plot for this year, depending on how my husband gets on. For the last two years we have been to Spain in the spring to take part in a cycling event for classic road racing bikes called La Pedals de Clip, however we have decided against doing it this year as the event is taking place a good month earlier than usual and this is not convenient for us due to other commitments, plus we have no guarantee that my husband will be fit enough in time. Instead we are looking at possibly taking part in a similar event in June here in the UK and we are also looking at participating in a sportive/fun ride event in May which starts and finishes, conveniently for us, at the marina where we keep our boat. If fitness is not an issue there is also usually a cycling event in support of our local hospice in April that we could consider.

We have not committed to any of these as yet as it all rather depends on how things go health wise. On the plus side at least my sciatica is now gradually easing up and I expect to be fully back on form before too long, especially once the weather begins to improve and spring wins out in the battle of the seasons. Fingers crossed I will soon be able to cycle off the couple of extra pounds accrued over Christmas and New Year!

Hints

Snowdrop buds appear,
hints of beauty yet to come.
Winter darkness fades.

Echoes

The house looks bare,
the tinsel’s gone,
the baubles packed away,

no holly swags
now deck the halls,
no berries bright and gay.

Our feasting’s done,
just echoes now,
no carols left to sing,

but all around
I see the signs;
soon it will be Spring.

Twelfth Night

Twelfth night;
Wise Ones visit
to welcome the new-born
sun.

Pheasant

Yuletide
pheasant visiting.
Will he stay
when the shooting season
ends?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Around about the time of the Solstice a cock pheasant appeared in our garden and he has been visiting almost every day since – I think he has only missed two days. The first day he appeared I put out some seed which he gobbled up greedily so I re-filled his supply and he gobbled that up too. I’m guessing he has strayed from the fields up the road to avoid the shooting and wonder if he will return home once the shooting season finishes in a few days from now. Meanwhile I’m going away tomorrow for a long weekend on our boat so have given my youngest son, who will be holding the fort, instructions to look out for him and make sure he has food. Interestingly a second cock pheasant turned up the other day but my resident friend soon saw him off!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

I’m back again, but other than to wish you all a very Happy New Year I haven’t really planned anything to write about so this is on the fly!

I do hope you have all had a wonderful festive season though I confess I have found it hard this year to get into the festive spirit and somehow it seems even more depressing when you know it is a time of jollity and celebration but you are just not in the mood. This has not been helped by my husband’s recent angina diagnosis and the return of the sciatica I suffered last winter which this time seems even more painful, and then on Christmas morning the sad news that my daughter and partner’s lovely border collie Rufus had to be put to sleep on Christmas Eve to relieve his suffering from cancer!  Despite that I did have a wonderful time and everything fell into place just as it usually does, with most of the family around me.

Now is the time, they tell us, for making New Year resolutions. I confess I’m not really into this – if I make any I usually forget what they were within a few days and as for keeping them…. that’s another issue altogether! Perhaps I ought to write them down so that I can refer to them from time to time, but this seems a little too organised for me. One resolution I will make though is to try to look out for all the good news during 2018 and not let myself get bogged down in all the bad news that the media seems to prefer to report in the most dramatically depressing way possible.

One thing I will try to take on board this year is to not plan to use an untried recipe for a special occasion. I had planned to make a raspberry swirl cheesecake when the family all came to us for Boxing Day, having spent Christmas Day at my eldest son’s. This was as an alternative to the Christmas Pudding I was doing for dinner, knowing that not everyone likes Christmas Pud. I had found a recipe that seemed very quick and easy to whip up. Fortunately before I made it my youngest son informed me that his girlfriend, who was joining us, didn’t want to come empty-handed so was bringing a cheesecake as an offering for the meal. I say fortunately advisedly!

I had bought in all the necessary ingredients so I thought, OK I’ll make it later in the week. I made it yesterday when only my husband, my youngest son and I would be present for dinner. Yes, it was relatively quick and easy to prepare but as I was making it, having checked the ingredients several times, it seemed to me that there was rather a lot of liquid and it wasn’t thickening up. I thought perhaps it would thicken once put into the fridge to chill so I poured it onto the biscuit base anyway, and indeed it did seem to set in the fridge – until I went to get it out for the meal. Then I discovered that all the raspberry juice had leaked out of the bottom of the loose-bottomed flan dish and was all over the shelf in the fridge! Needless to say I couldn’t risk taking it off the flan base as it had an exceedingly soggy biscuit bottom. One the plus side, it did actually taste delicious but if I make that recipe again I shall cut back on the liquid. I’m glad I didn’t make it for Christmas after-all, though I guess we would probably have had a good laugh about it. Now I have the problem that there is rather a lot of it for just three people and it is going to take several days for us to eat it up – we’ll probably be sick  of cheesecake by then. Ah well, worse things happen at sea, as my mother used to say.

As a footnote I must say that my gluten-free Christmas Cake was a success and that recipe is definitely one to use again (see previous post here). I hope all your culinary experiments were successful and that all your dreams come true in 2018.

Season’s Greetings

Season's Greetings

As usual I am taking a break over the Christmas period so this will be my last post until the New Year but I couldn’t depart without wishing you all the joys of the season.

Apparently, so we are told, to say ‘Merry Christmas’ can be offensive to those for whom it doesn’t accord with their own religious or non-religious view. I tend to feel this is quite untrue, but here in the UK we do try to bend over backwards not to offend those of other religious views. I am sure that most reasonable people are just as happy for us to recognise our own traditions as they do their own. These days Christmas has, for most, become a very commercial concern anyway, with very little to do with religion at all.

The ‘Nativity’ has been side-lined, despite the name Christians give to the season being Christ-mas. However this is a country based on the Christian ideals and even if we are not regular church goers, those ideals are none-the-less a great moral code to live by. What’s wrong with a good seasonal story about a baby (the son/sun) born into poverty but destined to bring ‘light’ into the world? Besides, I confess that hearing young children singing ‘Away in a Manger’ always brings a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat.

In order not to cause offence some people have decided that the Christmas season should simply be called ‘Winter Festival’ and people should say ‘Happy Holidays’ as a cover-all, but to me these are all too vague. Mid-winter Festival might be more accurate and mankind has always held festivals at this time of the year, to celebrate the winter solstice – when the year turns and the sun (or son to Christians) returns, bringing light back into the world. As for ‘Happy Holidays’ – for me this is utterly meaningless. It could just as easily apply to our summer break or a holiday at any other period of the year. It is non-specific, vague and sounds insincere and bland.

In the past the season has been called ‘Yuletide’ – a name which due to its Pagan association has now been  phased out from mainstream awareness and yet to the Scandinavians ‘Jul’ is the word they use for Christmas. I miss the Christmas cards we used to see when I was a child which were just as likely to say ‘Yuletide Greetings’ as ‘Christmas Greetings’. This is the term I favour for the season, I like traditions, I like to keep these things going, also it recognises our northern heritage.

But even ‘Yuletide Greetings’ may be considered ‘offensive’ to those of other traditions (and some Christians), or so we are led to believe. So the problem remains; what term can we use that is potentially least offensive to the greatest numbers of people. I have settled on a phrase that says exactly what it is – Season’s Greetings to one and all! See you in the New Year.

Seaonal Banner

Frozen

Snow covered footpaths,
despite warm sun still frozen.
Postman did not come.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We had our first delivery of post yesterday after a week of nothing – apparently the postmen were not allowed to deliver due to ‘health and safety’. That’s a new one on me, never before have I known the postman to miss more than the occasional day due to the weather!

Melting

Snow
slowly melting,
green grass peeping.
Chance of White Christmas
fading.

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