It’s a Kinda Magic

Well. I finally did it – and boy, was it worth it! I’ve been wanting to attend an Arvon course for so long now that I was half certain the actual experience would never live up to all my expectations, but I have to say that in fact, it exceeded them.

It all happened at Arvon’s centre at The Hurst, when 16 travel worn souls uncertainly entered the doors to seek guidance from two established experts in the field – and walked out a short week later with notebooks brimming with ideas, the beginnings of promising first novels and an address book full of brilliant and supportive friends who could always be counted on to provide advice and encouragement along the journey.

The course, titled ‘Starting to Write’, was designed for those of us who are looking for some sort of validation that yes, we should indeed take the plunge and commit to the writerly life. Taught by the dazzling, and utterly organised, Kate Long and the witty and insightful Simon Thirsk, the objective was to help us find our voices, bring out our stories and help us embrace ourselves as honest to goodness ‘Writers’. A tall order by any measure, but one that was delivered in no uncertain terms.

Simon and Kate provided a perfect complement to each other, covering multiple genres and styles between them, guiding us through topics ranging from brainstorming characters, planning plot and managing your time to defining yourself as a writer, approaching the world of publishing and prioritising your work when back in the real world.

Out there, nestled in the Shropshire hills, cut off from cell phones and wi-fi, surrounded by literary goodness and the warmth of friends and mentors – it really felt that we could conquer the world and had stories worth telling. I think we have all come away with a renewed desire to commit to the labour of love that is writing and I look forward to reading the wonderful novels, ranging from psychological thrillers, to historical romances, to literary fiction, that have been conceived during this lovely week in a most memorable November by the talented writers I am proud to call my new friends.

Heartfelt thanks to the Arvon staff, Ilona, Deborah, Kerry and Dan; our wonderful tutors, Simon and Kate, and the amazing writers – without whom the experience would have been incomplete. If you have the slightest inclination to explore your writing, I would urge you to try an Arvon week on for size – you will certainly not regret it.


Hedgehog Diner

The blog may have been quiet but it has been quite busy here behind the scenes!

As the cold weather began to make an appearance numerous hedgehogs were spotted rooting around the garden trying to fatten up before hibernation. So we decided to build a little feeding station to help them along.

Stocked with fresh water and a hearty helping of ‘Super Meaty’ catfood – the station is wiped clean on a nightly basis as hedgies big and small help make it a neighbourhood hot spot. We’re delighted by how popular it has become!

If you click through you’ll find more details on the station and how to make your own if you have any night time visitors! 


Morning Sunshine

So after a few restless nights and a couple of hours of tossing and turning, I finally passed out late last night and was looking forward to sleeping in today…

You already know how this goes, don’t you?

Yep. Lily decided that a pre-dawn raid on the garden was crucial to today’s strategy, jumping up on the bed and prying my sleeping form up out of my warm little hollow with her muzzle. She punctuated these attempts with yips and grumblings, clearly translatable as lectures about seizing the day, early birds, my being a lazy bum and something about vagrant cats getting a head start.

Well. She’s nothing if not pushy, our Lily. So I hauled myself up and out of bed, staggered downstairs, let her out to do the needful and came to terms with the morning having started earlier than planned. May as well make the most of it, eh? So I got to the washing up, putting in the laundry, swept the living room etc., got to my desk, started organising the day’s workload…..and after a while I realised that though Lily had come back in, she’d been conspicuously undemanding – in fact, I hadn’t heard a peep out of her for over an hour.

Unprecedented.

So I went to look for her – she was not anywhere downstairs or outside…and then it dawned on me (the words that accompanied this dawning I will not sully my little blog with) and I marched upstairs and sure enough, madam was curled up in my bed, fast asleep.

$#%!#*&%!#*&%#


In Memory

Sometimes the man of the house can be really thoughtful. He suggested that we plant a tree over our little friend’s grave to commemorate his short life. And so it was done. We decided to go for an apple tree, which will doubtless feed the birds as well as other tiny creatures, and we also got some lovely bulbs that will come out staggered over the spring months, helping the bees at their business – a little salute to British wildlife. And it is here that we lay down our little friend, and hope that we are fortunate enough to meet many more as life goes on.


Sad News

Wildlife folks contacted us and said it was unlikely that at 4oz and in his current condition, the little hoglet would make it. And indeed, in the early hours of this morning, the little guy breathed his last. I really hoped he would make it and am heartbroken at the loss of this tiny life that has left a huge vacancy in the house and in our hearts. Rest in peace little dude, I hope that the last couple of days of your too short life were comfortable ones.

Care centres and rescues around the country are dealing with hundreds of these little Autumn orphans. Many are underfunded and understaffed, some operate out of tiny rooms and little sheds, and many carers pay for their treatment and care out of their own pockets. I have been overwhelmed by the time and effort people around the UK put in to help these little creatures and other native wildlife and I am humbled by the way they reached out to this tiny creature in my care, calling and messaging and making themselves available at all hours. In particular, I’d like to thank Bob Fleming from the Cardiff Hedgehog Rescue for his non-stop assistance and Jackie Burke at Leighton Buzzard Hedgehog Rehabilitation for her advice and encouragement.

If you are able, I would ask that you donate what you can manage to the BHPS, one of the individuals mentioned above or contact one of your local carers to find out how you can help or donate towards their costs. It doesn’t take much – just £5 can feed 20 hedgehogs a day.

 

Please consider a donation to these causes. They make a big difference to these delightful little endangered creatures.


Hoglet Photo Update!

Just a quick photo update since little dude was up and about having a smackerel. He was also weighed on my kitchen scales so I could send his stats across to folks who can tell me how to care from him for the time being. If you click through, you can see the BHPS page that indicates his possible age.


Hoglet in the House!

Britain’s hedgehog population has been in a state of steady decline - down by a quarter over just the last ten years! For a creature than is beneficial to our gardens and a delight to watch and be around, this is well and truly a shame. Intensive agriculture, encroaching development and being too slow while crossing roads (!) have all led to a sorry situation all around. But there are people willing to help. There is the British Hedgehog Society as well as smaller recue and care centres, like Willows Hedgehog Rescue, dotted around the country.

Some of you may know just how mad I am about hedgehogs. I’ve signed up at Hedgehog Street and recently joined Wild About Britain to learn more about how to get involved in their care, rehabilitation and conservation (both incredibly informative and highly recommended).

And yesterday, a little hoglet decided to take me up on that!

Lily and I were out for a quick run around the dog field in the middle of the afternoon (on our previous visit we’d been roughed up a bit by two massive boxers the owner couldn’t quite control, and since this is often the case we had been avoiding the field in peak times). As we entered we noticed a gentleman walking his pitbull around the field on a leash. Since it’s unusual to see leashed dogs within the field, I thought that he might be a bit hard to handle and for safety’s sake kept Lily on a leash as well. Turned out that there was a wee hoglet in the dog field and the bigger dog had tried to get at it, hence the owner had slipped the lead on him – I came upon the little bundle of prickles and touched him lightly to see if he was alive and he was! The other dog walker came up to me and explained about his dog and what had happened earlier. We couldn’t see how he’d got into the field, and clearly it wasn’t the place for a wee hedgehoggy to be, seeing the dog traffic, so I decided to take him home and call the wildlife folks and see what was to be done. Lily was very well behaved and after the other two left I let her off leash and she ran about while I collected the little dude in my fleece.

As we were walking home I started wondering whether I’d done the right thing – but all the reading I’d done suggested a) dogs would maul hedgehogs and often did – and b) a hedgehog would not be out during the day unless something was wrong. I got on the Wild About Britain forum where I got immediate responses providing advice, contact numbers, encouragement and agreement that it was in the little guy’s best interests for me to have brought him home.

I called the county rescue but just got a message saying they weren’t taking in any more casualties (its the time of year when they are quite overwhelmed and, very likely, under-funded) – so will try again today, just to get him checked over and make sure he’s fit and fine.

He didn’t look too tiny (I’ll weigh him later today) so I imagined he’s about a month old and weaned. I mashed up some of Lily’s food and put it in the cover of a jam jar, same for water and put them in a box set up with newspaper, a hot water bottle and a towel. And sure enough, the second he smelt the food, his nose began to twitch and he scuttled right to it and pigged out noisily! Since then, he’s eaten a few times, drank some water, taken many naps, spent the night pinging around all over the little run I put together for his nocturnal meanderings and been a regular marauder! His poo has become firm and he generally looks like he’s in good health.

I’m hoping that he can be checked over by the rescue people or otherwise the vet, and that he’s in the pink. Perhaps they’ll let me keep him around, our garden’s been overrun by slugs and could do with a resident Hedgehog-in-Chief when he’s older. We’ll have to sort him out with regards to having an outside run and a place to hibernate (if he’s old enough to survive it) or learn how to over-winter him inside if he’s not – but the man of the house says that’s all doable and if we can convince him to adopt our garden it’ll be a win all around.

Do click through the picture to read a great article in the Guardian about how beneficial they are and how to lend a helping hand by making your garden hedgehog-friendly. I’ll keep you updated on what happens to our little friend. I haven’t named him as yet – thought we’d wait till be got an okay from wildlife folks, but the shortlist so far is:

Rashers

Truffles

Hogden Dash

Do let me know if you have some suggestions, we’ll add them to the pile and take a family vote if he becomes a permanent resident.


A Spot in the Sun

A few days back we had a sunny spell, so I thought I’d quickly grab some sunshine time in the garden. I put out the blanket and went in to make some ice-tea (sunshine doesn’t work properly without ice-tea), and when I returned, her royal doggieness had taken over my spot! Please note the very firm ‘I belong here, don’t try and mess with me – now go fetch me a snack’ look I got from her. She rules with an iron paw she does.


Ordinary/Extraordinary

Lily and I always seem to discover new things on our walks, even though we take, what are by now, long familiar routes. Lily’s interests are fairly olfactory though she does enjoy listening for other dogs barking and watching out for the odd cat that may happen to saunter past. I quite enjoy seeing things I haven’t  come across before, as well as appreciating cool winds on hot days, rays of sunshine on cool ones, the smells of the countryside, new flora and fauna, etc. – we are happy wanderers on most days. I also love meeting people and having conversations in passing, lives criss-crossing as you go – it seems the nicest of human interaction, no expectation, no formality, just a few words, happily exchanged.

I thought I’d share some of what we’ve experiences on our walks this week.

Day before yesterday, in the field that the cows are usually hanging out in, we saw a drove of pigs – something I’d never seen before. They ambled across towards us and flopped down into a muddy pond – and it is with great pleasure and an inordinate sense of satisfaction that I can report  that the saying ‘as happy as a pig in the mud’ is well based in fact.

 

 

 

 

 

Not so much a discovery as a little ‘wow’ moment for me, but I saw, for the first time ever, a combine harvester harvesting (well, obviously) the wheat field! I’ve been walking past this field every day from when the field was fallow, to when it was tilled in preparation for the seeds, to when it began to grow into a tall green sea of waving stalks. And all through summer as it’s slowly turned to gold, heads heavy with the weight of the grain and started to bend gently, back towards the ground. So yeah, big moment for me and I’m glad I got to see it. As Lily and I walked past I found myself whistling a tune. Click the picture to hear what the song was, teehee.

 

 

 

 

This last discovery is a bit of an old one, but Ms.Lily here feels that since it’s really because of her that we go for walks at all, that she should get to have her absolute favourite discovery in the list.

Fox poo is the Chanel No.5 of the dog world.

The.Best.Most.Ultra.Stinky.Glorious.Smell.Ever.

And if you can’t roll in fox poo, ’tis better not to roll at all.

The End.


Come Into My Parlour…

Living in the country has it’s many charms and no shortage of wildlife that regards your home a shared space. From garden visitors to home invaders, there are quite a few new creatures I have had to grow accustomed to if not grow to love outright.

Spiders fall into this category.

We have an amicable enough relationship, in that we can peacefully coexist so long as neither party decides to invade the other’s physical space. We watch out for each other, I try not to hoover them up and leave active cobwebs alone (old abandoned ones are fair game) and they in turn do away with any pesky flies or flying bugs that may wander into the house. The man of the house is particularly fond of the spiders we host, and holds them in high regard. Initially I was suspicious that this was a clever way of excusing the lack of sweeping that was evident in the house when I arrived, but I have grown accustomed now to his many peculiarities (and I believe vice versa!), and I accept that the spiders are part and parcel of the house we live in (Lily, however will snap them up if they unwisely skitter within reach – she’s a ‘take no prisoners’ kinda gal).

And, because my guilty conscience will not let me be, I must admit that yesterday while scrubbing the bathroom floor I accidentally caused one of our wee arachnid friends to lose his leg – I was mortified as he hobbled frantically back to his spot, and I truly am sorry.

So here’s to you little friend, I hope you live long and prosper out there, behind the bin: