Apr. 29th, 2012

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I awoke at 6.43am exactly this morning, and with the sun streaming in through the bedroom window (readers in southern England may at present find this rather hard to believe, but there you go) and announced to J that today would be a perfect day to tackle Ben Arthur (aka 'The Cobbler').

No, quoth he, without putting his head above the covers.  Too cold.

I huffed.  I squawked.  And then I gave up and went back to bed.  And when I next woke up at 8.57 precisely, I went downstairs and stuck my nose out of the door.  To be hit by a sub-artic blast of wind which made me think, yeah, maybe it is a bit early in the year to be sitting on the summit of a rather tall Corbett eating lunch... 

So sayeth the person who climbed Helm Crag on the 21st December last year, but...  Scottish mountains are seriously malevolent creatures when they want to be, and tackling even a Corbett is not a matter to be taken lightly. 

In the end, we went cycling.  I upped the mileage to twelve miles or so today - I'd hoped to get a few ten-milers under my belt last week, but, alas, it was not to be.  My legs are now toast: this is good, as I've been trying to pedal at a rate which is more like a lively trot than a leisurely saunter, which means churning merrily up slopes and inclines (I haven't encountered any proper hills as yet - thank goodness!!).  In fact, I think I'm judging it just about right for my current level of fitness. 

When I came home, I was working in the garden - as usual - when one of the neighbours paused at the wall for a chat.  She's leading a campaign to slow down the maniac motorists who keep charging up and down our street, and of course she's got my wholehearted support.  In fact, she's trying to do something to improve the image of the town as a whole.  Evidently, we're entering the 'Britain in Bloom' contest, so she asked me whether I'd signed up for the event with my garden, because it was by far the best in the street,

I shook my head, and replied with a polite 'no.'

I must admit that I've considered it.  But this is what I'd like to call a 'stakeholder' garden.  I'm the managing director of a thriving concern in which the needs of everyone (except maybe the ants and the slugs, who occasionally get ASBO's when they get too unruly) are attended to.  Why, even the vine weevils have a purpose - as some of my robin and blackbird friends can attest to, because they were greedily scoffing a few grubs that I uncovered in the pots and threw in their direction yesterday.  My daffodil leaves are left to rot down in their own good time, the lawn's uneven, the wild flower patch can look a bit weed-ridden and scruffy and there's bald patches under the laburnum tree where the bird feeder gets placed. In other words, it looks good from afar, but if a couple of 'experts' from the Royal Horticultural Society came snooping round it looking for faults, they'd have a list as long as a respectable sunflower stem.

So I guess I'll keep my distance, and give it a miss.

And now the latest in the Squinty saga.  You may be wondering why I haven't been talking about Squinty the blackbird just recently.  The truth is, I just haven't seen her.  She vanished about five weeks ago: it wasn't a sudden disappearing act, it was more like a tactical withdrawal.  She had her own things to do, and since we were about to go on holiday, I was quite relieved to know that she was doing her own thing and being completely self-reliant. 

On our return, a female blackbird settled into Squinty's old familiar role, but -and I may make myself very unpopular here, and get branded 'blackbirdist' - all female blackbirds tend to look the same, and I wasn't sure if it wasn't Squinty herself.  But the more I got to know this blackbird, the more I suspected that it was in fact Cresty.  Who is distiguishable only by her slightly natty haircut (hence the name), her furtive manner, and her slightly mis-shapen beak. 

Of Squinty, there were occasional possible sightings around the garden, but she was still largely conspicuous by her absence.  Cresty, meanwhile, was throwing her weight around like there was no tomorrow, beating up the robins, and every other blackbird who dared to go anywhere near her.

J said that Squinty had come onto the fence looking for food last week, only to get seen off by a furious Cresty,  I was slightly skeptical, but today -lo and behold! - when I was potting on the petunias, I heard a familiar clucking, and there was Squinty,  But right on cue, Cresty came down like a guided missile and there was a spat.  But the blackbird that emerged victorious, though timid, had no natty haircut, so I think it was Squinty, and not Cresty,  I tried to get her to eat on the step, where Cresty still does not dare to tread, but she was understandably a bit furtive. 

It was very good to see her again, and to know that she seems to be doing very well for herself.  She's still plump, and very healthy looking.  Now all I need to do is to get Cresty to eat her food elsewhere in the garden so that both birds can get their fair share of RSPB Fruity Nibbles and not end up having a fisticuffs each time.

Oddly enough, this method has worked quite well so far for the males.  They appear at different times (mostly!), eat their fill, and then move on.  It's the girls who are being obnoxious - perhaps this is because their territories aren't as big.  Though neither of them are nesting in the garden, so I don't really know what they're up to...

I guess this is what happens when you interfere with nature....

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