Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ground (Still) Stands Hard as Iron

The novelty of the wintery weather is starting to wear off a bit now. The return to school, usually a dull and dismal prospect signifying the end of the Christmas fun and festivity, has been made far less oppressive by the deep, crisp layers spectacularly coating the neighbourhood. The Bright-Eyed Boy has been mightily cheered by it all, which is a massive relief as I was dreading that his earlier anxiety symptoms would return with the start of the term. So far though (touch wood), so good: the snow has most certainly been a mitigating factor, with the prospect of snowball fights with friends and probably more sledging this coming weekend acting as a distraction from any lurking worries. I do hope that it was just a passing phase, although if it does return, I think that we'll probably be better able to cope with it.
Daughter #3's school has been operating irregular opening times, which meant that she has been returning home just after 2.30 in the afternoon, much to her delight. On Monday she had a teacher-training day, so she took herself off for a morning's sledging, complete with flask of hot drink and bags of biscuits.

The bird table in our garden has seen a mass of frenzied activity of late. I've made sure that it's re-stocked everymorning with crumbs, fat, bird seed and mealworms (popular with robins, apparently). The avian clientele seem to wait in the surrounding trees and bushes until I've done my duty (which includes making sure they have fresh, unfrozen water) and then descend. There is a definite heirarchy: the starlings arrive first, then the blackbirds, sparrows and the thrush (singular) and finally the ring-collar doves and the wood pigeon, who is too fat to sit on the table and sits underneath it waiting for stuff to drop to the ground. The blue and great tits arrive whenever they feel like it and tend to prefer the balls of fat that I've hung from the cherry tree at the end of the garden. I haven't actually seen the robin lately, although (s)he was around before Christmas.Very occasionally, I've caught a glimpse of a wren which bobs around at low-level, seldom above the bottom-most plank of the wooden fence. Last year, and the year before, blue tits actually nested in the box that the Husband carefully constructed from approved RSPB plans (did you know that size of the entry holes are variety specific?). However, unless blue tits are able to dispose of their egg shells completely - we opened the nest box up to clear it out in the autumn - I don't think they raised any young in there.
The guinea pigs are still living inside too, side by side in two large plastic tubs filled with shavings and hay. They've been in for three weeks now, but I'm not going to risk them outside in their hutches until the temperature increases somewhat. We lost a rabbit and a guinea pig to something like pneumonia when the children were small, and I still feel pretty guilty about it today. I did take them to the vet when I noticed the symptoms, but despite antibiotics and a special diet their conditions just deteriorated. And it is very difficult to bury even small pets at this time of year, as the ground is like iron. Last year daughter #2's budgie died at around this time and he had to wait about ten days for his funeral. Luckily, because it was so cold at the time, he remained quite well preserved round the back of her house, in his little shoe-box coffin.....

So Arthur and Albert - the guineas - remain inside, and pretty boring it must be for them too. Like solitary confinement. Roll on the days when they can laze around in their runs in the sunshine and vocalise abuse at one another! Albert (tri-coloured and short-haired) gets pretty noisy during the evening, which encourages the whole family to respond with squeals of their own. Arthur, albino, long-haired and quite, quite mad, maintains a more dignified silence. It's a shame they can't keep each other company in the same pen, but they just don't get on. When we tried it there was lots of eye-rolling, stiff-legged, wary circling and hostile chittering. Don't fancy taking them to the vets with battle-wounds either!

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