Christmas and New Year celebrations: December 2017 – January 2018.   Leave a comment

With 2017 fast receding and the New Year well underway I’d better post something about our time leading up to and during the ‘festive period’ before its too late.

This post deals mainly with social events. I’ll upload another with an account of my winter birding/ringing activities shortly.

 

Christmas: the time of the year when it’s perfectly acceptable to fill a balloon with your virus and bacteria infected breath and then release it via a nozzle that emits long fart-like noises over the heads of fellow diners!

 

As neither of us have a work ‘do’ to go to we joined members of the Phoenix organisation at a Christmas dinner-dance at a Bournemouth hotel. I wasn’t very impressed with it this year. The hotel had packed so many tables in the room it was hard move away from your seat and it was very noisy. The food was ok but quite a few people didn’t get what they ordered. We found that other rooms already had their tables cleared and folks were dancing before our dessert was served. With no sign of any imminent dancing by 10.30 we made our apologies and left. Oh well, better luck next year.

 

Just before Christmas we went to see the folk-rock band Steeleye Span at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne. I first saw the band in Leeds in 1970 when the admission fee was a mere two shillings (10p). I became a firm fan and have seen the band many times since. This is the third time Margaret and I have seen them in the last eleven years.

 

The only band member who has been with them for most of the last 38 years is vocalist Maddy Prior (she left for a few years in the 90s) although several of the current line up have been with them for a very long time ….

 

…. such as drummer Liam Genockey, whilst violinist Jessie May Smart has only been with the band since 2013. I love their versions of traditional folk material played mainly on electric instruments and feel they have made a massive contribution to folk music revival.

 

And so to Christmas. As with the last few years we spent it at Margaret’s daughter Anita’s place in Maldon, Essex. This year there was a big difference, many of Anita’s husband John’s family were arriving from South Africa, London or other parts of the UK. With our Dorset contingent as well there would be 25 for Christmas dinner! Obviously that created problems with accommodation, some slept at John’s sister Lois’ place nearby, all rooms in the house were filled with inflatable mattresses whilst we slept in a caravan in the front garden. That would have been ok except for the fact that the next door neighbour’s Christmas lights flashed off and on all night. By night two when found a way to block out the light with towels we slept soundly and kept quite warm in spite of the cold wind.

 

If finding beds for everyone was an issue, finding a place to eat wasn’t thanks to John’s spacious man-cave (aka double garage). Rather than expect everyone to bring a present for everyone else, Anita instructed us all to buy a single present and add it to the mix. Gifts were then exchanged by a complex series of exchanges at the end of which I found I had received a large supply of biltong that Margaret had purchased!

 

Then of course there was the issue of catering for 25. Being mainly South Africans the traditional braai (BBQ) was called for. John and his brother and brother-in-law spent all Christmas Day morning constructing this apparatus …

 

…. made from an old bike, a length of rubber tubing and an old washing machine motor. In the cold and windy conditions it took four hours to cook the meat but it was absolutely delicious. Fortunately our fears that the motor might switch to fast spin mode and send the meat into orbit were not realised.

 

Between the food and the many party games there was time for photos. Here John (left) is joined by sister Lois, sister Heather and brother Paul. The first three live in Maldon but Paul flew over from South Africa. The fifth sibling, Andrea stayed in South Africa with their elderly father.

 

In this shot the four siblings are joined by Anita (on John’s lap), friend Angela and (standing) Lois’ husband Gavin.

 

Many of the younger generation were there – Heather’s three daughters (L-R) Erin, Lana and Sheena.

 

The three sisters were joined by (standing L-R) Paul’s son Alex, Lois’ son Lyle and far right, distant cousin Kim. Sitting between Sheena and Lana are Lois’ daughter Shan and Paul’s daughter Elisha.

 

With Anita and Margaret are granddaughters Amber and Kara …

 

…. whilst I couldn’t resist photobombing this shot. Janis, Margaret’s other daughter (and mother to Amber and Kara) was present but had a bad cold and retired after the meal.

 

Among the many games played was one where we divided into lines and each line to rearrange itself in order of say, height, shoe size etc. Here Shan (L) tries to organise the line of girls (presumably by shoe size judging by their gaze).

 

Boxing Day was much quieter and I went out for some birding accompanied by Heather. Like her father, Heather knows the birds of South Africa well, but has having just arrived little idea about identifying British species. Over the period she accompanied me to Abberton Reservoir and the Blackwater Estuary where we saw a wide range of waders and wildfowl.

 

We left early on the 27th to drive to my brother’s place near Derby. It was raining when we left Maldon but that soon turned to snow. By the time we reached the M11 it was affecting the traffic flow and by the time we were on the A14 it had slowed to a crawl. Fortunately we turned north on the A1, not the parallel M1, as we had to pick a friend up at Nottingham, The section of the A14 between the A1 and M1 was blocked by a jack-knifed lorry and snow. If had gone the other way we wouldn’t have arrived until the evening.

 

We met our friend Nigel in the centre of Nottingham about an hour later than planned. Down from Leeds, he had been visiting his sister over Christmas. We drove the short distance to Breedon-on-the-Hill to visit Di and Steve (seating far end of the table). I have known Di since the early 70s as I shared a house (and later a profession) with her first husband Clive who tragically died in a motorbike accident in 2001. When ever I see their daughter Hannah (front left) I am struck by how much she looks her father, my dear departed friend. Also in the picture, Hannah’s husband Karl (standing,) daughter Mai, Nigel (between Hannah and Steve) and of course Margaret.

 

Di’s granddaughter Mai is almost three years old and of course is a bundle of fun. Her sister Rosa is only born a few weeks ago and slept through most of our visit.

 

We spent a couple of nights at my brothers just north of Derby and visited friends that I have known since school days. We also went to the picturesque Carsington Reservoir for a bit of birding on a beautiful, sunny yet bitterly cold day.

 

Back in Dorset, on the 30th I joined friend and fellow ringer Ian Alexander (left) and my friend from Shetland Paul Harvey (back in the south to visit his family) for some Dorset birding. There has been a substantial arrival of Hawfinches this winter and we were able to watch a series of flocks that numbered somewhere between 80 and 120 individuals (hard to sure when the flocks kept moving, merging and splitting apart.) More about that in the next post.

 

We just stayed in and watched the TV on New Year’s Eve but on New Year’s Day we joined the New Year Bird Boat that Mark Constantine kindly puts on for volunteer Webs (wetland bird survey) counters. This year a smaller boat was required as we cruised up the Wareham Channel and Frome River almost to Wareham. The number and variety of birds seen was staggering and the final total from everyone’s sightings combined amounted to 95 species.

 

Here we pass Brownsea Island Castle on our way to view the lagoon. Many agreed that it was the best New Year bird boat ever.

 

More on birding and ringing during the winter will be posted shortly.

Posted January 3, 2018 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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