The Sunshine Blogger Award

blogger award - CopyThe Sunshine Blogger Award is about positivity, kindness, and bringing a few rays of sunshine into the lives of readers. But those drops of sunshine are brought about by those who write the blogs which get nominated, and I’m honoured that my blog is considered worthy.

Way back in March when I was still in the US enjoying being with my family and grandchildren – let’s call it BC – before coronavirus, I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by Carol Kubiki. She has ever-itchy feet and writes about her campervan travels in her Back on the Road Again blog. Thank you Carol for nominating me. Carol visits plenty of interesting places in the UK and overseas, has had many accounts of her travels published in MMM Magazine, and has won an award for her travel writing. She has a penchant for ice cream too. Go take a look at her blog and read about some of her travels.

I was pleasantly surprised that Carol has nominated me, but that was back in March in Houston. Now it’s May, and I’ve finally caught up with the challenge that goes with this nomination. Since arriving back in the UK we’ve been in lockdown for weeks after making that dash back to the UK so we didn’t get “trapped” in the US. Being trapped with grandchildren would have been no bad thing, we had a roof over our heads and were in the good company of family, but there were small worrying details like travel, health, house insurance and US visas which had limited length to run.

I did initially heed Carol’s comment on her blog that she’d discovered this award comes with a fair amount of work/writing (it does) and I’ve been back to revisit the award guidelines. I’m (sort of) willing to have a crack at it, and I’m going to bend the rules a little because it’s proved to be a bit of a challenge to do the whole thing so I’m not convinced that the 11 people I “should” go on to nominate will be so fulsome in their thanks and praise of being nominated! I follow a fair number of photography blogs, so as much as I enjoy looking at them, these bloggers are more photographers than writers so they’d probably turn tail and run! So my nominees will be fewer than the suggested 11, and of course it’s entirely up to them if they want to take up the challenge.

It’s lockdown days at the moment, and a challenge is always character building and good for the soul, so they say. And rules are meant to be bent a little, so let’s call them guidlines instead. Here goes with my take on things:

The Rules (aka Guidelines)

  1. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you for a blog post and link back to their blog. Thank you Carol!
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you. Another blooming hefty challenge which I have interpreted in my own way!
  3. Nominate up to 11 new blogs to receive the award. Leave a comment on their blog to let them know they received the award and ask your nominees 11 new questions. I’ve nominated 5  blogs.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog. Done it.

My Nominations

1) Jane Fritz in Canada who writes Robby Robin’s Journey. Always sensitive, thought-provoking and on the button. I’d be so happy to meet her and talk.

2) Graham Welch who writes A New Life In Lille, telling of his ongoing journey from being a UK resident to a resident in France, and on the cusp of opening a cheese and wine bar in the Dordogne. If we get to France when this lockdown is over, we’ll drop in.

3) Little Miss Traveller who writes of her many UK and overseas journeys in her Love Travelling Blog. I don’t know how she’s managing in these lockdown days, but am sure she’ll have plenty of happy memories and photos to sustain her.

4) Karen Harding writes of life from the magical perspective of being over fifty and proud of it in her Some Kind of 50 blog.

5) Paul Handover writes about Learning from Dogs, and as a fellow dog owner I enjoy reading some touching and hearwarming tales on his blog.

And there I’ll stop, throw the ball to them, and answer my 11 questions.

My 11 Questions (set by Carol)

What is your favourite thing about blogging?

It’s a space to express/share/rant/mull over/discuss/pontificate even, about something that catches my interest or triggers a response. It doesn’t matter if nobody reads it (although it’s nice if they do!) because I’m doing primarily for me to keep my writing wheels oiled, my brain active, and to express something which is important to me.

What would be your top tip for a new blogger?

Just do it!  Get on with it, write even if you’re not sure where it’s going, but don’t give up. Keep at it and don’t let a good idea disappear down the plughole of intertia.

Assuming you are still with us, do you think you will still be blogging in five years time?

I’m not quite sure what Carol meant here – “no longer with us” sounds a bit like final curtains…..of course, she could have meant if I was still blogging. In 5 years, who knows? But then I started my first blog in 2006 and kept it going until 2017, when I left it’s presence on the web as a resource centre for anyone interested in Astrological Psychology. On the strength of that, 5 years doesn’t sound all that long.

If you could have something named after you (either your real name, nickname, or blog name) what would it be?

Maybe a rare butterfly, if my real name would translate into Latin for the scientific listings!

If you could have one super power what would it be?

Flying, like a bird or a butterfly – what else?!

What is your favourite road trip film?

Now that’s an interesting one. I’ve taken several road trips in the US since my son and his family went to live there and I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. But the film that springs to mind in response to this is Thelma and Louise.

What is your first drink of the day, tea, coffee, smoothie, water or something else?

Orange juice

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Here the choice is difficult – maybe a mash up of the following:

Thank you for the Music by Abba; Human by The Killers; Shine On by Chris de Burgh, The Logical Song by Supertramp and Tallis’s utterly sublime Spem in Alium motet which has 40 different voice parts.

If you could go back in time, what event or period would you go back to?

The Roaring Twenties & the Jazz Age

I was a chef in a previous life and love cooking and eating, what is your signature dish / favourite thing to cook / eat?

My signature dish is risotto, which is often a lot better than some risottos I’ve had in Italian restaurants in the UK.

Where in the world do you feel you most belong?

Here and now at home in lockdown feels pretty good. That aside, and travel once again being permitted, I’m happiest in Audrey, our palace on wheels (aka campervan).

 

Jack-in-the-Green

It’s a year since I wrote this post to coincide with the May Day celebrations in our town. This year they have been cancelled, for obvious reasons, but people have rallied around and decorated their homes and front gardens to mark this rather special festival. It’s loved by children, as it is the mainly the children of the town who dress up and take part.

The rather grumpy-looking May Queen is in a front garden nearby – caption “We are not amused that our May Day Parade has been cancelled” – and Jack-in-the-Green (the Green Man) turned up in my own front garden…..

Eyes in the back of my Head

P1070289

The May Day parade in our small town is always led by the same three characters: first comes the Marshal, mounted on a gleamingly groomed horse, followed by the Town Crier ringing a bell and calling “O-yez”. Behind him comes Jack-in-the-Green, a walking tree mounted on a wood and wire frame. It’s all very English.

Jack is my favourite character as he represents the pagan origins of May Day celebrations. I wonder, each year, what sort of shoes the person in Jack’s green costume might be wearing. This year the shoes were hardly visible. I spotted a flash of sensible brown leather. Maybe the days of the white trainers and socks, which in years past have provided chuckles of amusement for the watching crowd, are over.

P1020628The Green Man, who Jack-in-the-Green represents, is pagan but his image appears in Christian churches around the world.

I always look out for him…

View original post 29 more words

Covid-19 – why now?

It seems to me that the world, the earth and all that lives within it is taking a pause in order to do some much-needed healing. No longer is nature under the dominant thumb of human life, as humans are being forced to step back, to back off from the usual greed of consumerism and the exploitation and spoilation of nature that accompanies this greed. I am struck by how we, the human race, are being forced to take care, to be in fear of contracting this virus, to live with caution and to respect others. Many people are starting to appreciate what we already have, and have always had, because they’ve become aware that nature is part of life and not something separate. As tragic and scary as the pandemic is, it’s also our wake up call to make changes – big fundamental changes – in the way we live.

I can't believe it!

Why did covid-19 emerge now, at this particular point in history?

Rational mind might start to argue about the possibilities – the wet markets in Wuhan, an escaped virus experiment from the nearby Chinese research facility, an act of sabotage in the US/China economic war…?

I suggest the real reason lies in the world of meaning, not in the world of facts. In bringing the whole world to varying degrees of lockdown the virus has choked off economic activity and forced a slowdown in the consumption of fossil fuels, those same fossil fuels that are bringing about climate breakdown, which we know represents an existential threat to current human ways of life across the globe.

This is synchronicity, not coincidence, it has meaning. The warnings are getting louder and louder, the floods, wildfires, refugees, collapsing countries. And now covid-19.

View original post 438 more words

Black vulture, Turkey vulture

P1080446This pair of black vultures were hanging around on the trees by Buffalo Bayou in Houston while we were there, taking a walk one sunny morning. It’s not a particularly good shot with out of focus leaves blurring it, but it offers a clear enough view of the scaly bald head of this bird.

I find vultures fascinating. They’re fairly ugly and they have grim associations with carnivorous tastes for dead animal matter. I didn’t at first like their scaly heads until I learned that they’re bald and without feathers so that the bird can insert its head into the carcass and feed without getting head fearthers messed up. Quite a neat trick of nature really, and rather practical in a gruesome kind of way.

There are always plenty of black vultures around in Huston, and they can be seen wheeling overhead in gangs or, as we noticed on this visit, hanging out on the banks of the bayou. We once counted 21 of them on a dual carriageway road tussling and vying for a morsel of the dead squirrel which several of them were having a tug of war over. Those not joining in were watching from nearby rooftops. It was reminiscent of a scene from Hitchcock’s film The Birds.

Turkey vultures are similar but significantly different. They also have bald scaly heads, but theirs are red, not black. They are larger, their wings have white patches underneath (not visible in this photo because taken against the light) and they’re more likely to be seen in open countryside. They soar overhead seeking out carrion and have a keen sense of smell.

P1080539

When we visited Brazos Bend State Park, a group of them were involved in seeking out something hidden on the ground, repeatedly wheeling around returning to the same spot. Nature being nature. I took this shot of one of them and its red head is just about visible. Its finger-like wing feathers make it easy to ID. Trying to get a shot of them on the wing is always a bit of challenge though.

Since I’ve been back in the locked-down UK, I’ve been doing a fair bit of on-line singing with my choir and think I must have been doing too many vocal warm ups because as I typed the title  “Black vulture, Turkey vulture” I started saying it as a tongue twister – like “Red leather, Yellow leather”…….oh dear!

A day of birds and beasts

P1080567

Wetlands and Spanish Moss on trees, Brazos Bend State Park

Following our truncated stay and hasty departure from our visit to family in Houston ( to get back before all planes stopped flying, no other reason!) I’ve finally got around to looking at the photos I took there. So distracting and disorientating is this period of lockdown (what day is it…?) I’d forgotten about our family day out at Brazos Bend State Park and what we’d seen there.

It’s one of our “must go to” places when in Houston, so before our departure we had a family day together and enjoyed a walk around these wetlands. They are alligator- inhabited, a bit of a birder’s paradise, and they always delight us. We’ve seen roseate spoonbills, ibis, blue herons, bitterns catching fish just feet away from us, red-winged blackbirds and alligators basking on the banks.

Trees are festooned with Spanish Moss, noisy American coots hoot and squawk, anhingas (cormorant-like) sit with wings spread in the sunshine and large dark blue butterflies make their presence felt as their wings brush by.

P1080543There’s always something new to see, and this time it was the large brown furry creature in the marshy area, which some of our party thought was a beaver, some thought was a coypu, and some some just didn’t know. It’s taken me a while to get round to the ID job, and I had to check it out and do a spot of research too. It’s a nutria, which I’d not heard of before, but they’re quite common, are similar to beavers and are related to coypu, which are found in Europe. It’s the size and tail which give the answer – large body, rat-like tail. Beaver tails are flattened.

One down, one to go. What was that unusual bird with an orange and black head I saw lurking in the undergrowth? I took a few shots very quickly and managed to get enough for an ID. But what was it? I’d seen something like it before but couldn’t remember where.

P1080546Lockdown days offer more time to browse photographs. This bird looked vaguely familiar, so I tried a long shot and looked at photos I’d taken in Costa Rica, and there it was – a Crested Caracara. I’d seen one there. They’re listed as being seen in Texas, and specifically at Brazos Bend. It was quite  thrill to see this large bird – and not only that, on the way to Brazos by I spotted a male Hen Harrier (called a Northern Harrier in the US) flying low over a field.

This was probably the most significant sighting of the day for me. Hen Harriers are persecuted and endangered in the UK, and although I’ve been fortunate enough to see both male and female of this species on the wing in the UK, they still give me goosebumps on my neck when I do.