Pleased to report that the weekend away went very well! And yesterday morning we were delighted to welcome everyone back at Wattlebury. We soon got down to the business of grub control, but it wasn't all hard work as Mum had bought us an Angel Cake (our favourite) to celebrate. Dad had met up with lots of friends from all over the country and had a jolly good time too! Gordon and Sylvia xxx
Dad's away! Up at 3.30 and out of the door, overnight bag in hand, on his way to The Big Show at Telford!
I am extremely proud that some of my great nieces and nephews have accompanied him as have two fine young relatives of Sylvias. We wish them all the very best of luck and a most enjoyable weekend. Gordon xxx
"So many birds on the feeders at Wattlebury Cottage this past week, Gordon. Lots of little blue tits, great tits, a coal tit yesterday and of course the Starling Gang who vie for the peanuts and Fatballs with the Wilf, the Greater Spotted Woodpecker. Robin, chaffinches, sparrows, pigeons. So many!" Mum told me.
I nodded in agreement. It has turned cold and their supply of bugs, berries and insects have become scarce.
"In 'The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady' at the beginning of December in 1906, Edith Holden wrote:
'[1st December] For many weeks past the birds have been coming to be fed in the mornings. Today I put out a cocoa-nut, to the great joy of all the Tom-tits, numbers of them were pecking away at it all through the day - mostly Blue-tits.
[7th December] Crowds of birds came to be fed this morning. There were great battles among the Tits over the cocoa-nut, and once a robin got right into it and refused to let the Tits approach, until he had had all he wanted. I don't think the Robins really care for cocoa-nut; but they don't like to see the Tits enjoying anything, without claiming a share.'
Very little has changed in 111 years then Gordon - only the spelling of coconut possibly!"
Moving on from the sometimes rather gloomy blog of yesterday, I was delighted to be able to point out to the youngsters that spring was really just around the corner. It was a beautiful sunny day at Wattlebury and the catkins were already dancing on the hazel tree.
We could see buds everywhere once we started looking for them although I explained that if we had a hard winter (perish the thought) - they would wait until the weather warms up before starting to sprout their new leaves.
Little Dixie and Dougie spotted a rather intimidating sticky bud as it pointed it's shiny finger down at them.
"What tree is that, Uncle Gordon?" Dougie asked.
I explained that it was a Horse Chestnut Tree and of course, being inquisitive, they wanted to know why it was called that.
I told them that the leaf stalks leave a scar on the twig when they fall, which resembles an inverted horse shoe with nail holes. This association with horses could explain why conkers used to be ground up and fed to horses to relieve them of coughs, and could be the origin of the tree's name.
Their curiosity now unleashed, they wanted to know more. So I continued and told them that the Horse chestnut is a deciduous broadleaf tree native to the Balkan peninsula. It was first introduced from Turkey in the late 16th century and widely planted in the UK. A mature tree can grow to a height of around 40m, and can live for up to 300 years. The bark is smooth and pinky grey when young, which darkens and develops scaly plates with age. Twigs are hairless and stout, buds are oval, dark red, shiny and sticky (like the one pointing at you) and the palmate leaves comprise 5-7 pointed, toothed leaflets spreading from a central stem.
"Which are great fun to root in!" added Dixie as her friends joined in the fun.
The flowers appear in May - individual flowers have 4-5 fringed petals, which are white with a pink flush at the base and once pollinated by insects, each flower develops into a glossy red-brown conker inside a spiky green husk, which falls in autumn.
"Yes! We loved playing with those" Digby enthused.
I reminded him of his Great Uncle William the Conkerer who was a dab claw at the game, the first record of which was from the Isle of Wight in 1848. Other uses of the conkers besides horse medicines, are as additives in shampoos and as a starch substitute. Chemicals extracted from conkers can be used to treat strains and bruises. And deer and other mammals like eating conkers.
"Why are there so many bees and birds buzzing around the flowers in the spring?" asked little Dolly.
I went on to explain that the flowers provide a rich source of nectar and pollen to insects, particularly the bees. Caterpillars of the triangle moth feed on its leaves, as well as the horse chestnut leaf miner moth, whose caterpillars provide food for blue tits.
As an afterthought, I added that the horse chestnut leaf miner can occur on trees in huge numbers, causing the foliage to turn brown and fall early. We have often seen this happen to the trees on Wattlebury Hill - but there is no evidence to suggest this harms the trees, as most of the damage occurs later in the season.
The magnificent Sticky Bud! Gordon xxx
We have had a mixture of weather this November, which isn't unusual as Novembers are often like that. We have had drizzle and fog; strong warm winds from the south-west; strong cold winds from the north-west; bright days and dull days; sharp frosts and ice. And in 28 days, from seeing the trees still in full foliage, they are now practically bare. Even the most resilient oaks that stalwartly hang on to their bronze leaves are looking decidedly stark and the once green bracken fronds are now pale yellow. They make the dark bramble leaves along the path to Wattlebury village look even darker.
Our friend Robin is noticeable by his presence - ever upbeat and Solomon Song Thrush lifts your spirits as he sings so beautifully to brighten the shortening days. Mr and Mrs Blackbird too are still darting low across the path enjoying the last of the autumn berries.
We are lucky in having a ready supply of food dished out to us on a daily basis, but we do like to visit Nan and Grandad at the kitchen window for warm toast in the mornings. Gordon xxx
It is raining. Mum had scurried around feeding us early this morning after having read the local weather forecast. Unfortunately she sang at the top of her voice as she fed us. It seems to make her go faster.
"Oh there you are!" she peered in to Pauly and Lucy's box where we were sheltering. Pauly was in a good mood - luckily for us - and allowed us all to join her in the warm and dry of her stable (and library).
"Today is Cyber Monday" Mum announced, quite out of the blue.
Old Bob the Buff Orpington misheard and started preening himself ready to head off to The Pooch and Pullet for a pint of scrumpy.
"What does Cyber mean, Gordon?" Mum asked.
I didn't have a clue.
Luckily Pauly overheard and rooted in her reference section in order to extract a fairly unscathed encyclopedia.
"Cyber is a prefix used to describe a person, thing or idea as part of the computer and information age. Taken from kybernetes, Greek for "steersman" or "governor," it was first used in cybernetics, a word coined by Norbert Wiener and his colleagues."
We all were immensely grateful for this most revealing and earthshattering information delivered by Pauly, who was still in a good mood.
"Today is the big online shopping day before Christmas. Deals and things. Discounts. Bargains. People are predicted to spend millions of pounds shopping on the internet. And I wonder how much shopping will be done on work computers in work hours?" Mum mused.
"Who is Norman Wiener?" asked Dandy.
Shaking the straw from another tome, Pauly cleared her throat in a rather frightening way.
"He was an American mathematician and philosopher. A very clever man it says here. He became an early researcher in stochastic and mathematical noise processes, contributing work relevant to electronic engineering, electronic communication and control systems. A scientific genius - he laid the groundwork for the last half-century of art, literature and electronic music."
Wow! Hats off to Norman! But it was all too much for Old Bob to take in and he shuffled off to The Pooch and Pullet anyway. Gordon xxx
Monday started off calm enough, but it was rumoured that it could get very windy. We got on with the grub control around our little farm and busied ourselves whilst avoiding tumbling, twirling ash leaves as they sallied down like little yellow whirligigs.
But as the afternoon arrived the sun was getting more shrouded by clouds and every time she managed to peek through, she got redder and redder. Then it became very dark as the sun could no longer compete - and we sent Tom and Dick up to the top of the barn to see what was happening.
"It is coming from the south," Tom announced.
"And it is rolling towards us and getting more rolley." Dick added.
As the grey became orange and day became night we retired to our roosts.
"Bedtime!" I proclaimed. Night had come early today.
But after 30 minutes it brightened up and we hopped back down from our perches and ventured back outside. Only a few drops of rain had fallen and had bizarrely splattered mud as they had landed.
Stella Stargazer explained to the inquisitive young Sebrights at school yesterday that the orange skies and red sun on Monday were down to Hurricane Ophelia. She originated in the Azores and as it tracked its way northwards it dragged in tropical air from the Sahara. This meant dust from the desert was brought with it. The dust got picked up in the air and went high into the atmosphere, as it did across the UK. The particles in the air caused blue light to scatter, leaving longer-wavelength red light to shine through. Good gracious!
"And Mrs Stargazer said that there is another area of low pressure that will have some strong winds associated with it. Severe gales are expected which will affect the south and west of the UK on Friday and Saturday!" Dandy stopped momentarily for breath.
"Although there is no weather warning in place yet, the Weathermen are expected to put a yellow warning out, but if that is upgraded to orange then they will name the storm.”
"What will it be called?" piped up Pauly.
"Brian!" said Dandy with great aplomb.
Of course - October 8th - World Octopus Day!
Tell me, O Octopus, I begs
Is those things arms, or is they legs?
I marvel at thee, Octopus;
If I were thou, I'd call me Us.
by Ogden Nash
and as little Daisy rightly remembered he also wrote 'The Duck'
Behold the duck.
It does not cluck.
A cluck it lacks.
It is specially fond
Of a puddle or pond.
When it dines or sups,
It bottom ups.
Wattlebury School had invited local astronomer Stella Stargazer in to talk to the youngsters about the forthcoming Meteor Shower. To say they were inspired would be an understatement.
"It will come from the direction of the constellation of Draco the dragon and the Draconids are caused by Earth's atmosphere coming into contact with debris rock and dust from a passing comet. The peak time to see the shooting stars is tomorrow around 9 p.m. Can we stay up late and watch? Please Great Uncle Gordon!" pleaded Digby.
"I was named after a comet," said Dandy as he hurried towards Pauly's Library.
I explained that he was named after a Comic.
"I'll come with you Dandy," said Dick, the young Peacock. "Pauly can be a bit fierce at times."
The boys asked Pauly if they could look in her Reference books for ideas as they had been told to bring something into school on Monday relating to Astrology.
But Pauly had definitely got out of the nest the wrong side and was having none of it. She sent them packing with a flea in their ear.
Drongo was watching proceedings from a safe distance and felt a little sorry for the keen young lads. He had an idea!
Tom, Dick, Digby and Dandy were seen running along the path to the Wattlebury stores a short time afterwards and are sure their Teacher will be thrilled when she sees what they have brought in on Monday.
A Milky Way, a Galaxy, a Mars bar and a packet of Starburst!
"Good morning Gordon. What sort of a night did you have?" Mum was leaning at a strange angle.
I replied that it had been an uneventful one, the sort of which I am always grateful for.
"I didn't sleep at all well. That is why I am walking skew-whiff. I'm sure there was something hard in the bed." And with that Mum zigzagged off with a buckled gait.
It reminded me of The Princess and The Pea story. But of course Mum was no Princess and whether or not there was a pea under the mattress remains unknown. Although Mum does make a fuss about a single grain of corn if it drops into her Welly Boot. Perhaps she does have royal connections after all?
"Do tell us about The Princess and The Pea please, Great Uncle Gordon!"
So I climbed onto the upturned bucket and tried to remember the tale.
"The story tells of a handsome Prince who wants to marry a Princess, but is having difficulty finding a suitable wife. Some are too fat, some are too thin, some are ugly, some are greedy and he just can't be sure they are real princesses. One stormy night a young woman soaked by the rain seeks shelter in the Castle. She claims to be a Princess, so the Queen decides to test their unexpected guest by putting a pea in the bed she is offered for the night. Then she covered it with 20 mattresses and 20 feather-beds. In the morning, the young woman tells the Prince and his family that she had endured a sleepless night, kept awake by something hard in the bed that she is certain has bruised her. The Prince is jubilant! Only a real Princess would have the sensitivity to feel a pea through such a quantity of bedding, so the two are married."
Seemingly satisfied with that version of the tale, the youngsters got on with their grub-controlling duties.
"When I get back to Wattlebury Cottage I will definitely have a look to see if there is a pea under the mattress Gordon! I will let you know."
And off lopsided Mum.
"Nanny! You have uncovered my most treasured piece of Pig's Ear that I had hidden from Harvey!" Honey was inconsolable.
Certainly no Princess then!
Hello! My name is Gordon and I am a Gold Sebright and my best friend is Sylvia. She is a Silver Sebright. We live with our foster parents on a small farm in the country. We thought that we would put our take on life and what we get up to through the year into a diary for you. All the characters are real and the events are a true record, interpreted with a modicum of poetic licence. We hope you enjoy it. Love Gordon and Sylvia