We had Half Term last week and a couple of daughters and a grandson popped up to see us. The weather wasn’t that bad until the day they were due to go home. We arrived at Talkin Tarn for a last opportunity to stretch our legs prior to the long journey home. As we drove into the car park, the heavens opened and dumped an inch of hail on us. It slackened off, and we decided on a dash for the coffee shop, we hardly had the car doors open and – the sun came out. Still, the decision to go to the coffee shop first, stood, I’m pleased to report. This turned out to be one of many such hail storms – almost as though, all through the half term week, the weather had been holding itself in until it burst. Since our guests left we have had those nasty cold winds and rain, hail, rain.
We popped down to see the beck this morning during a break in the rain and sleet. He had on his old brown overalls and was busy giving his bed a good shake-out, bundling all those odds and ends he had collected along the banks off down stream and away. One by-product of this enthusiastic life laundry, I’m pleased to report, is that the stick, which had become stuck in an eddy near the bank during last weeks Pooh Sticks league battles, has at last moved on.
This isn’t your last chance to have a Happy New Year – we still have the Vernal Equinox to come – so, if you find you are reluctant to allow yourself the luxury of a whole year of happiness, you can always wait for that.
One of the things that we do have in abundance around here is sheep. So to have a year of them won’t seem to be strange or different for us. Those of you who have had to struggle through years of horses, snakes, rats and monkeys, might be feeling a little relieved to have safely navigated the stormy seas of astrological beasts to reach Sheephaven. But for us – it will be business as usual.
The most important thing to remember this year is that friends and family are there to be imposed on. Got a problem? Don’t keep it to yourself for a moment longer than you absolutely have to. Get a friend to buy you a coffee while you immerse them in your troubles. Phone your Mum. Tell her that you really need her advice – and has she made any of those cheese scones lately? It is never too much trouble to organise your friends to listen to your troubles – you only get a year, so make the most of it.
By the way – do you know under what circumstances, New Years Eve and New Years Day fall in the same year?
We keep a sharp eye out for any sign of Spring. It’s not that we are impatient for Winter to be gone, we wouldn’t be so impolite, but we would like some reassurance that Spring still has us on her To Do list. We have snowdrops everywhere, and many green spear-like leaves promising hyacinths, bluebells, daffodils and crocuses.
Now, there is a difference between birdsong and bird calls. Birds call all year round, but most only sing during the mating season. The blackbird is one of those with a markedly different set of sounds for Spring. With it being such a long time since last year, he can’t quite remember how the tune goes. As soon as he’s sure that Spring is really on the way, he will find a quiet corner and practise a few trills quietly to himself.
We’ve caught him doing this a few times these last few days – so I wrote him a poem.
In the hedge as I passed by,
in winter’s branches brown and dry,
I chanced to hear a blackbird sing
stirring in me brief thoughts of spring.
The melody was not so strong,
as if some half remembered song.
Softly, he sang this private bird,
not knowing I had overheard.
I, embarrassed to do such thing
silently left him to his practising.
‘Oh. Hello. I didn’t see you there. The rest of them? Oh, they’re off over that way somewhere. Sometimes you just need a hole in the hedge and a little me time, don’t you? A bit of peace and quiet. A chance to think, without some over-helpful soul offering you a penny for your thoughts.
‘You know – you need to weigh things up. I mean, if you’re a heavy thinker, you can end up with a lot on your mind – the cares of the world on your shoulders. I suppose you’d have to try to arrange to have the biggest and flattest thoughts at the bottom of the pile. You wouldn’t want the whole heap to topple over. How many thoughts do you reckon you get in a pound? Would a pound of weighty thoughts be worth a pound? Is a frivolous day dream fairly cheap? That would be a popular line – you could get a good price, I’d have thought.
‘Well, it makes you think, doesn’t it, what could you think about that would only be worth a penny? I mean, in for a penny, in for a pound and all. If you are going to spend your day thinking penny thoughts, you may as well not think at all.
‘Come to think of it, that may explain a lot.’