Voles, holes, bats and hedgehogs

Today, June 1st, is the first day of meteorological summer for those of us in the Northern hemisphere. I am assuming there are other measures of when summer starts, although don’t ask me what they are! I imagine it may be related to the retail world and start when the shops want to sell new school uniforms . So a little guidance towards parents reminding them that their little darling will soon be in need of yet another uniform for the new school year in September!

As I child I used to really enjoy my long summer holiday and hated seeing TV adverts by about week two of that break promoting back to school!

But school and school holidays are a long time ago for me now…

For now I just embrace the seasons! Here in the UK we are experiencing a bit of a heatwave and have just had our driest May on record.

This evening’s sunset over my local reservoir

Now as I mentioned a few weeks ago in this blog, I am avoiding writing specifically on the subject of Covid 19 and the personal impact of it. I do realise many people are impacted but much has already been said and I don’t feel I can add to this.

However one of the side effects of our different way of living is the change to our environment and our human perspective on it and each and everyday I see the impact of this.

Many more of us seem to be embracing nature and finding a new appreciation for what is around us. Some of this is just having our eyes open to what is already there. But there are also scientifically proven reductions in pollution, increased opportunities for wildlife to prosper and present themselves to us at closer quarters than normal.

The humble garden vole has now made a significant comeback in our area to the extent that part of our garden is now criss crossed with numerous moles tunnels closely resembling the Spaghetti Junction motorway interchange in Birmingham. Hedgehogs too are having a good season due to reduced road traffic, but are actually suffering now from water shortages. My last gardening job of the day this evening was to create a semi submerged hedgehog drinking vessel, suitable for hedgehog access but not one it can drown in!

And finally bats…maybe not everyone’s favourite animal…although really it’s just a flying mouse that helpfully eats lots of insects. The bats seem to be thriving too and not needing any human intervention.

Life at the moment is hard and very challenging for many, but for those who can embrace it, nature is giving us all a bit more love at the moment, we just need to open our eyes to what is out there.

Another late arrival

Just as I was a latecomer to the world of blogging, I really am late to the world of Instagram. If I was age 19 or even 29, I would be using Instagram as my means of social media connection with others, photographing every meal, and in short recording my life in images.

As is very evident, age 29 is a distant memory and my use of Instagram is only as a photograph album that I share with family and friends.

Ok, until I realised my privacy settings were, well not so private, I was also sharing my photographs with the world. Not a problem in its own right, but I did seem to encourage ‘connections’ offering me Russian brides (….If only they knew that I am not the route to a passport and a large bank account), Medical Enlargement Clinics offering surgery free treatment presumably to ‘improve my prospects’ with said Russian brides and of course Bitcoin Riches to ensure that myself and new wife Tatanya Yelga Anastasia can live in wealthy bliss back in Vladivostok.

In a way though, it’s more than a photograph album , but a means of me wearing my heart on my sleeve and declaring my love for clouds, sunsets and generally the countryside around us.

But I sense I am not alone…search on #sunsets, #clouds and so on and you will find I am in good company.

Well, maybe just me and three sparrows like these clouds but you know what I mean…

A bit like my blog, my Instagram account is there to be enjoyed by anyone who passes by and drops , but blissfully ignored by the remaining others…..or 99.99999999999999999% of the world’s population as I like to call them.

As always, I hope you enjoyed this. Feel free to comment, share and like.

For the opacarophiles (sunset lovers) just head straight to my Instagram page late.again

The Wheels on the bus go round and round

The wheels on the bus was a very popular song for my children and their generation.In fact it seems equally loved by the next generation , as our our prime minister during electioneering for his current post some 6 months ago decided to do a quick verse of it when visiting a primary school in a vote garnering exercise.

Three important lessons – one: only sing a song if you know the words; two: only sing if you can sing and three: (the relevant bit now) …be careful what you wish for. Boris, did you really want to become Prime Minister? To be fair, he probably thought the worst demons he would have to face would be Brexit (both the remainders and the leavers), angry Northern Ireland Unionists and even more angry Scottish Nationalists.

He most definitely didn’t get the memo saying there would be a pandemic.

Boris actually has quite a history with buses. Being a keen cyclist he got rid of bendy buses when he was mayor of London, and then had a new jump on, jump on bus designed to replace the old iconic routemasters that had the open platforms. Very convenient but not very high on health safety…or warmth.Anyway, back to the wheels on the bus……We live quite near a senior school and we see the school buses trundling by at the beginning and end of each day and it reminds me of my school days…or at least the travel to and from.I was fairly ambivalent about school, not really falling into either camp of ‘best days of my life’ or ‘worst days of my life’, but I did enjoy going on the school bus.The school bus was the place where you caught up with homework on the way there; caught up with the gossip, used it as a taxi service to get you to other places you wanted to be after school such as friends houses, shops or wherever.Homebound it was generally a journey where you let off steam and had fun, be that playing stupid games, flirting (actually, that perhaps also was in the stupid games category) , or even fell in love. I went to a catholic secondary so many of the pupils were from Glasgow’s large Italian community, and being an impressionable 13 year old boy with an eye for the girls, my heart was broken a few times by the blossoming beauties in my midst…but just for the record Francesca, I’ve got over you now!In the UK we don’ t generally have the specific purpose built school buses, normally yellow in colour, that are common place in the US, Canada and some other countries, but would just get any vehicle that a local bus opertor could provide.When I say any vehicle, I really mean that!Somewhat unusually, my secondary school was completely newly and opened with an intake year one and therefore only 1 years worth of pupils initially, we only needed one coach from my local area.The contract was awarded to a ‘one man and dog ‘ operation with an ancient coach, but a very personable driver Henry Crawford (aka the owner of the company).The bus didn’t even have radio, but after Henry learnt the hard way from a few noisy journeys that a radio would drown out the noise of the pupils, he found an old car radio and fitted it to the charabanc.Designed for a car , it needed amplification so he rigged up an old record player loudspeaker in the bus to assist in amplification.As the school added a new intake each year, so did demand for the buses and Henry grew his business to become a sizeable and respected Bus and Coach hire company .Many years later, I remember seeing a sleek, modern, very new , state of the art coach parked on London’s Park Lane opposite the Dorchester Hotel bearing his name….I am sure Henry is no longer with us, but it seems the next generation have really developed the business to a new level.Conversely, my own children have a habit of seeing their school buses in unexpected places. One of the more unusual locations was high up a mountain in the Austrian Alps when it pulled into the car park alongside our car!It is a small world!

A house, a car, a holiday and a very large bar of chocolate

Ask many people and it appears that quite surprisingly, well surprisingly to me anyway, is they have a ready prepared list of what they would buy if they had a substantial lottery or premium bond win.

For readers outside of the UK, I probably need to explain Premium bonds. Quite simply it’s state sponsored gambling where you might be a winner (and that’s a very, big extremely unlikely kind of might) or you will at least not be a loser. Why? You always get your money back when you exit. Even years later. Great Auntie Flo would buy you a one pound (and that’s money, not weight) Premium bond for your Christening and each month it goes in a draw for prizes ranging from 1 million pounds down to 50 pounds. Thirty years later, having not won a million pounds , or even more than 50 pounds very occasionally , you can then “cash in your chips” and get your original pound back. What’s not to like about that?

Unlike poker, you always keep your ‘stake’ with premium bonds

Anyway, people have these lists and often they start with something practical and fiscally prudent such as a house, then an item that is somewhat frivolous and is often a totally impractical car.

And then final item is usually disproportionately small, such as a bar of Cadburys Milk Chocolate or a multi pack of Tunnocks caramel wafers but hey, why not!!

I don’t have such a list, but if I did, my number one item would be a Beach Hut. It sort of gets itself in all three categories of being sort of practical, a bit frivolous and also rather small.

Beach huts are not completely unique to the UK, but they are a very British institution and often found in the more genteel seaside resorts of Aldeburgh, Southwold and Frinton-on-Sea. Beach Huts are in some ways very impractical.

You can’t sleep in them, they have no electricity, no toilet or washing facilities are very hard to insure and stand a high chance of being wasted out to sea, and turned into matchwood to be washed up at Blankenberg, Belgium one stormy January day. Oh , and did I mention they are hard to buy with long waiting lists and are very expensive, a bit like any true love!

And then having finally bought one, you then need a clever name for it. Sea view or Ocean gaze just don’t meet the standard. Creativity with names such as the Dog House, Cat Nap or Vitamin Sea is how you get yourself noticed!

I haven’t quite thought of a name yet for mine , but Late Again does appeal for obvious reasons. 😁

Ah…so it is Monday then?

I have deliberately not posted about Corona virus over these past weeks.  Not that I  don’t recognise the huge  impact it is having on people’s  lives  – from not only the obvious health related aspects on family, friends and loved ones,  but the economic and social aspects as well….but there are many posts  on many sites  and I don’t think I can really add to what is being said, other than that  I have the greatest sympathy and concern for anyone suffering from this at the moment.

However one of the impacts of the different lives we are living at the moment is that the days of the week really   blur  and we lose the structure of our normal weeks.   I have also been taking some annual leave from work as well  and this too has helped merge the days.

Anyway, net result is that today is Monday…and I seem to have lost Sunday,  somewhere in the days after Friday and Saturday so the planned Sunday post now is being published on a Monday. 

 So how have I spent today?

Well, mostly tending to a fire!

Despite living in a highly technological world, there seems to be something hardwired into us males  that draws us to making and tending to fires (it also manifests itself  for most men with barbecues,  but that’s a tale for another day!)


I have quite a large garden, and have spent much of my free time over the last two to three weeks trimming trees, shrubs and generally tidying up. Net result… a huge pile of  branches, twigs and general garden waste  that would fill a room!  I have been determined to burn this pile for many days now but each day so far has not been right… too windy, too wet, too wet and windy, too nice (neighbours in garden and windows all open), and so on…..

But today all conditions were perfect,  so a bonfire was called for, and a huge and satisfying blaze ensued. 

Now I really like bonfires…but its really not so much the blazing inferno at the beginning  as  in some ways they just are a sad reminder of the various forest fires we have seen this year. 

But actually its more than just the hunter, gatherer, fire maker urges in me being satisfied. What I really enjoy is  the residual smouldering pile that remains and will burn quietly for hours or sometimes days, occasionally flaring up, but always sending little wisps of smoke.

Now these really do remind me of my childhood and gardening with my parents.

Nothing more evocative than the smell of wood smoke on a spring evening.

Happy days!

I’ve missed you….

For those thinking this is the first line of a romantic monologue, prepare to be (slightly) dissapointed.The object of my affection here is Parkrun. I know I have written about this before here (do click and have a read if you have a minute) and indeed for those for whom even the thought of spending the first 30 minutes or so of their weekend running around a park is not a pleasant prospect, I wholeheartedly apologise.However for the thousands (actually tens of thousands) who do this in the length and breadth of the UK and much beyond, I really have missed your company, friendship and motivation.
I have had a 3 month hiatus (sounds very medical, but I just mean interlude!) for a whole variety of reasons not for discussion now, but culminating in a long abscence.
Anyway last Saturday was great, Spring Like weather, a park starting to wake up from the lashings of winter, and friendly faces not seen for months.So here we are on Friday evening again, it’s not too late for anyone to find their nearest Park run (or equivalent) dig out those trainers and a tee shirt and start the rest of your life .…I’ve yet to meet someone who has not started and been overwhelmed by the camaraderie, friendship and personal improvement that will transpire.
Happy Friday! See you in the morning…..  got to walk the dog? No problem, they are welcome too!
Enjoying this blog? I hope so, please do comment, share and like.

Happy Valentine’s day!

Valentine’s day I know triggers many emotions ranging from hope, disappointment, cynascism, indifference and probably a whole raft of others too.Many of us have probably experienced all or some of these depending on our range of life experience i.e. how old we are!In my early teens a Valentine’s card (or extremely rarely ….cards plural!) would arrive, anonymous of course and then detective work that Agatha Christie would have been proud of then commenced…handwriting analysis, postmarks, even steaming off stamps to look for clues underneath the stamps (none were ever found!) , questioning of likely suspects, interrogation of friends of the suspects and so on.Sometimes when the sender was identified it was a disappointment, at other times perhaps a kindly gesture sent by my sister…or a just an unanswered mystery, decades later.Later in life…….I remember at about age 19 I had a girlfriend who would send me two valentines cards…although both were anonymous, the first card was more her style and I was confidently able to determine it was from her and put it on display and thank her for it. The second was sent as a test…to see if I admitted to her I had received another card! I hasten to add she and I parted company fairly quickly after that….and she probably went on to have a successful career working for a ‘honey trap service’…Yes they do exist, I hadn’t realised until I saw a TV documentary about them a short while ago!Later in life when it’s husband to wife and wife to husband cards, although the mystery goes, it’s still an opportunity to recognise that person is the one you have chosen as life partner.Having said that, in the same way as the Animal Welfare TV advertising of the 1970’s used to remind us that ‘A dog is for life, not for Christmas’ , the same applies here too. Why have a specific day to tell someone you love them? Do it every day..maybe not in words but in gestures, actions or kindness.It’s a bit like my pet hate of New Year resolutions….if you decide you want to make a change or take a new direction, why wait for some fireworks……or a new calendar to arrive before you do it.In the words of Nike….just Do It.Anyway, I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s day and happen that it is all you want it to be.