So many kinds of sea bird…
‘I don’t take kindly to your tramping so near to my nest and my fledglings. Kindly desist’
‘We’re only here to take photos. We’re birdwatchers – kind of – and we’re only here for a couple of hours’.
‘We’ve met your kind before. Go away or I’ll peck a hole in your hat!’
‘That’s unkind. We’re kindred spirits here. We love the Farne Islands too. All you Arctic terns, thousands and thousands of you. And so many other kinds of bird too’
‘Frankly, you kindle nothing but feelings of irritation and annoyance. Just … go away.’
So long as the weather’s been kind, that is.
Walking in Studley Royal the other day, my interest was kindled by an odd yelping call coming from one of the trees along my path. It wasn’t from any bird I recognised. That’s because it turned out not to be a bird, but a grey squirrel. An alarmed and agitated grey squirrel. This one.
I don’t know what the problem was – nothing that I could see. But he was at it as I arrived. I watched him for more than five minutes, and he was still at it as I went on my way. This is what he sounded like.
It’s time for our weekly day out. We’ll stay in the UK this time, but I’m going to whisk you from destination to destination – ones that aren’t at all crowded, and where there are all kinds of shells and stones and rocks and seaweed and birdlife to enjoy, whatever the weather turns out to be.
Here are just a few among dozens of apple varieties displayed at last year’s Apple Day at Ripon’s Walled Garden. It’s where adults and young people with learning disabilities are supported into employment through the skills they learn in this wonderful garden environment.
It’s that time of the month again, when I re-publish a post from our years in France. This one made me sad. It reminded me of times when people could simply be together enjoying each other’s company; where kindness and friendship were easy to demonstrate; and when an affectionate hug was nothing to fear. Kindred spirits. Ah well…
Walking for the Masses
October 10th, 2010
The French love walking – as in hiking. The Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre is an immensely popular organisation with all age groups, and with a somewhat younger image than the British Ramblers. The French walk alone, with friends, in groups such as ours, Les Rando del’Aubo, and …..on mega-rambles.
We first came upon the mega-ramble when our own group went along, a couple of years ago now, on a walk organised by the FF Randonnée Midi- Pyrénées group. We and about 800 others. It’s something of a military operation. Breakfast is offered, refreshments along the route, which has to be signposted beforehand and cleared afterwards. Photocopied maps are handed out, and when it’s all over, there are exhibits to mooch round, apéros to drink, trophies to award (the oldest walker, the person who’s travelled furthest to participate, that sort of thing). There’s often a sit down meal on offer too, though not that day.
Interesting, but walking with dozens – hundreds – of others isn’t really our thing. This means we quite often sit out the Sunday walk, because these occasions happen pretty often.
Today, I made an exception. In France, basic health care is free, but most people chose to top up by insuring themselves with a Mutuelle, which covers all the bits the system doesn’t pay for. To publicise themselves, and various health charities, the Mutuelles of the Ariège organised a walk near Mirepoix today, and they needed our help.
Early this morning, under the covered market hall in Mirepoix we set up tables, prepared healthy breakfasts (breads, cheese, fruit juices, dried prunes) and registered walkers. Some people waymarked the route, others acted as marshals, and lots of us got to walk as well. Only 171 walkers today. Why would we be so public-spirited? Perhaps this picture tells you why.
Something else though. Sitting down with everyone after it was all over, I reflected how far we’ve come. This week, Malcolm’s been in England, so apart from exchanging English/French conversation on Tuesday for an hour, and enjoying lunch with an English friend on Friday, I’ve spent the rest of my time walking or eating with friends, shopping, singing, going to the gym and all the rest, entirely in French (well, I’ve done some hard labour at home too. But I only had myself to talk to). Over two years ago, when we first sat down for a communal meal, we could see people’s eyes glaze with fear as they thought they were going to be stuck with that English couple. Could we speak French? Well, yes actually, but both easy chit-chat, and more serious discussion were difficult for us in a noisy group situation. Today I was happy to be the only foreigner in the group: instead of fearing me, it was ‘Is that chair next to you free? May I sit with you?’
Out here in the sticks, little lodgers are part of life: usually field mice. They usually fall for the old trick of heading for the peanut butter and apple wedged into the humane trap, and that’s it. They are indeed trapped, and next morning we’ll take them a long way down the road and invite them to make a new home elsewhere. I guess it’s not really all that kind or humane at all, but a traditional trap with certain death at the end seems even less appealing.