'I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out 'til sundown, for going out, I found was really going in.' John Muir

I've seen the top of Everest (from a long way off), smelled the breath of a whale (from way too close) and lived on a boat in Greece (for a few years), but I continue to experience some of my most precious moments right outside my backdoor.

If comments are proving difficult to do, please email me; sleepysparrow@yahoo.co.uk

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

A Tweet a day keeps the blues away

Music is returning to my garden. Birds are tuning up for spring.  I stick my head out of the back door into rain and wind and sky the colour of an oil-spill and hear the sweet, sharp sound of a dunnock, like two pieces of polystyrene being rubbed together, though the dunnocks’ song doesn’t make me wince, it makes me grin.  Great-tits are teacher-teacher-ing, robins softly trill, their sound as watery as the winter sun and great spotted woodpeckers pik- pik like squeaky toys.  My shoulders relax, my heart beat slows, my face muscles soften as I tilt my head in different directions to catch each song.

Blackbirds are back in numbers from wherever they’ve been hiding, though silent still.  They’re playing  three-a-side, dribbling apple pieces up and down the lawn. Starlings peck at past-their-sell-by-date mince pies, clicking and whistling like old men adjusting their hearing-aids . 

During a winter bird survey yesterday,we shocked two woodcocks into a zig-zag, wing-whirring, brown-blur flight and chuckled at the site of a moorhen in a tree.  There were also bullfinches, not the usual two or three but – what’s the collective noun for a group of bullfinches?  A ‘plump’ of bullfinches perhaps, or, if you own an apple orchard, a ‘pest’ of bullfinches?  Their soft, sad whistles gave them away.

Birds or, more particularly their songs, may be good for your health.  There’s an interesting article on the internet - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22298779 called Surprising Uses for Birdsong. Recordings of birdsong have been installed in the corridors of Alder Hey Children’s hospital in Liverpool.  Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport uses birdsong in a quiet lounge where people can relax before their flight.  The National Trust suggests people listen to birdsong for a few minutes a day to combat low moods.  Radio Four’s Tweet of the Day is very popular.  If you don’t hear it at 05.58 each morning, you can download the podcast.  Or if like me, you can hardly wait for chiff-chaffs and willow warblers to arrive from Africa, go to the website and listen now!  http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/totd


Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Have a Happy and Slow New Year

January can be a difficult month.  The Christmas decorations are back in their box and rooms are no longer filled with twinkling lights and glistening glitter.  The sky’s the colour of under-the-bed-fluff and the ground squelches beneath my yellow wellies.  Spring seems a long way off.
There must be something good about January... 

Well, it’s an ideal time to be ‘slow’. 

Snuggle up and read, read, read. Try a bit of poetry, I love Billy Collins.

Empty your veggie draw,open those tins of butter beans and chick peas you’ve had at the back of your cupboard for ages and make vats of nourishing soup to freeze - whilst listening to warming and passionate opera arias,(try Anna Netrebko and Rolando  Villazon singing ‘O Soave Fanciulla’ – bliss, you’ll find them on YouTube).
Keep some strings of fairy lights up throughout January and February.

Light lots of candles and sit and enjoy the sound of the rain beating hard against your windows.

Get cosy in your Christmas pyjamas and listen to a talking book.  I can download them for free from my library via One Click Digital and the Flintshire.gov web page.  For some extra warmth, choose a story set in a warm climate.
Visit a spa.  My nearest one at Deeside Leisure Centre offers two people, two hours in the spa for £15. Laying on my towel in the muscle warming sauna, I could be anywhere I choose.
Write letters to friends you haven’t seen for ages, send silly things, stickers, leaves, doodles on post-it notes in the envelope.  It’s great to receive a hand written letter through the post.
Plan an adventure.  I love to unfold my maps and spread them on the living room floor. I lay down beside them and trace routes with my finger.  This year I'm looking at cycling along The Loire, walking the Welsh Coastal Path - and then there's Rannoch Moor. Have you seen the O.S.map for that area? It's well worth lying on with your magnifying glass, wow!
Watch the birds.  This morning we had 6 black birds in the garden, eating chopped apples and having minor skirmishes.  I spied a plump, pink bullfinch pecking at buds in the tree opposite my window. A circus troupe of blue-tits came swinging and leaping from feeder to fat balls and a squabble of sparrows bullied for seed space.  January 25-26 is the time to join in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.
Join an exercise class.  I love my local spinning class where we all perch on fixed bikes and pedal like the wind to disco music.  Clare's Dru Yoga class at Theatre Clwyd is wonderful on a dark and soggy January afternoon.  And there’s coffee and cake to be enjoyed afterwards in the cafe and lovely art to gaze at along the corridor galleries.
How will you make the most of this SLOW month?