"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Monday, 1 February 2016

Afternoon Tea, Books, a Theatre Trip, Cake, a Church and Garden Birds

E was on holiday the week before last and she treated me to Afternoon Tea at Lea Marston Hotel.

It really was very tasty and the choux pastry swan was delightful :)

Even though we don't have a dog I really must remember to take a "doggy bag" with me next time as there was a little too much!

Last year I read "Crow Country" by Mark Cocker and it was one of my favourite books of the year. It made me see corvids in a totally different light and I would thoroughly recommend it if you haven't read it.

(Sorry, the book is on my Kindle and for some reason it refused to stop on the cover of the book to let me get a photo!).

I've just started reading "Claxton" by the same author which promises to be another exceedingly good book. It is a series of extracts from newspaper columns he has written following the course of a year mainly around the village where he lives. I am finding it very inspirational and his observational skills change the way you look at local nature.

I'm also reading "Inglorious - Conflict in the Uplands" where Mark Avery puts forward his case as to why driven grouse shooting should be banned. This is a superbly researched book and it won't be long before I am sending a series of letters to my MP! Its an issue that is likely to get me "jumping up and down" possibly as much as the dreadful badger cull does! If you worry about the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers and raptors its well worth reading.

On Saturday D and I went to Birmingham Rep to see "Macbeth". Anna Maxwell Martin (who played Merrily in the TV series "Midwinter of the Spirit) and John Heffernan (who was in BBC's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell) led the cast. It was a superb production and the choreography of the dance scenes was particularly excellent. I think I enjoyed it more than a version we saw at the RSC a few years ago.

For #ChocolateCakeDay recently I made Jo Wheatley's Malteser Blondies - the recipe was in a Sainsbury's magazine called "Bake". The cake was very nice especially if you like white chocolate and maltesers :). The magazine was only £2.50 and is stuffed full of scrumptious looking recipes so well worth the money even if I do already have dozens of baking books!! :)

I was in Solihull shopping last week and was hoping to go for another look round St Alphege's Church. The church dates back to the 13th century and features in Simon Jenkins's 1000 Best Churches book. It has a very beautiful Chantry Chapel and the stained glass includes a window by Kempe. However, when I got there an organ recital had just started and I wasn't sure how long it would last. Much as I would have liked to attend this and look round the church I didn't have time so just took a few photos outside.

The light was awful - it had just stopped raining and I had to use the exposure compensation button which always gives the skies a rather odd colour tinge!

Stained glass in the porch

Solihull's War Memorial

Snowdrops were flowering in the churchyard.

I'll try and visit again next time I go into Solihull.

I took part in the RSPB Garden Birdwatch yesterday. Only nine species seen this year (probably the lowest count ever) but bird-wise the garden has been very quiet this winter.

I went a drive round local lanes near Wishaw on Friday afternoon as a flock of Golden Plover and a few Grey Partridge have been reported in the area for several weeks now. Unfortunately, I didn't see either but I will hopefully return.


David said...

Some tasty looking morsels and some interesting looking reading material, what more could you want?

The Claxton book looks just up my street and I think I will have a look for that myself, and I hope you enjoy, if that is the right word, Inglorious by Mr. Avery. I don't agree with everything he writes, indeed far from it, but in this case he makes an extremely compelling case against 'traditional' moorland management.

Glad you enjoyed the performance of Macbeth. Anna Maxwell Martin actually went to school with my two elder sisters would you believe!

Hope you are well and my sincerest regards to all :-)

amanda peters said...

I have only been to afternoon tea once, it's such a lovely treat..

"Crow Country" by Mark Cocker is one of the books I have read and enjoyed to, and the Claxton book looks interesting, you will have to let me know what you think. I have just ordered (The Beauty in the Beast: Britain's Favourite Creatures and the People Who Love Them
Warwick, Hugh)

I had 11 species, which was ok, the wind and snow stopped play. As well as decorating the front room!
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

David - Thanks so much :) Do have a look at Claxton - it really is a great book. I read a similar one by Stephen Moss a few years back "Wild Hares and Hummingbirds" which was good too. About a quarter of the way through the Avery book now - I know its a very contentious subject but as you say he is making a compelling case. The sad part is that in my view I doubt the two opposing sides will ever reach agreement and in the meantime birds of prey are still being slaughtered. As I did with the badger culls I will read the opposing view as well but I suspect I will always come down on the side of wildlife. I may know quite a bit about hen harriers already but I am certainly learning a lot of new things about grouse moors and shooting!

I must tell David about your two elder sisters - he seems quite a fan of Anna Maxwell Martin!

Hope you are all well too David and best wishes to you all.

Amanda Peters - Thanks so much Amanda. I'd never been to an Afternoon tea until about 4 years ago when I treated E to one for part of her 21st bday - we went to a lovely hotel in S. Warks. E treated me to one for one of those birthdays ending in 0 and then she "won" one at work and she loves them that much she wanted to go again!! :)

Will let you know when I have completely finished Claxton - about one third of the way through and loving every part so far! I've heard of the Hugh Warwick book - would love your opinion too when you've finished and will add it to my wish list :)

Gosh, are you still decorating too - horribly never-ending :( Have come to a halt for now with back living room as need new fire and patio doors and may wait until warmer weather! Rest of room done. Just have our bedroom, bathroom and kitchen (latter 2 need almost complete refurbishment :( ) and it will be done. Dreading those 3 rooms and the chaos it will cause not to mention expense!

amanda peters said...

We decorated the front room because we put the fire in, it did need doing. We just painted the walls, only took a day.
There is just our bed room to do now, I need a good clear out before that happens !
I would love a porch on the back too, think I have decided we are going to stay here, so I might as well have it how I want to..why wait....
Book arrived to day, need to stop and have time to read it.
Amanda xx

Wendy said...

All those cakes look gorgeous, Caroline - I love afternoon tea! I'm very interested in the books, they're just the kind of books I like to read these days. I'll have to read Mark Avery's book, too, although it will be a difficult read given the appalling situation of the hen harrier.

Macbeth is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays so it's interesting to read your thoughts on this production. And my bird watch didn't really have any surprises either, although I did see two coal tits together (instead of the usual one). Hopefully they're a nesting pair!

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks Amanda - hope you are pleased with your new wood burner (very envious!).OH has just mentioned here that I need to have yet another massive decluttering exercise so he can decorate our bedroom. Unfortunately clutter removed from downstairs rooms that I didn't want to part with has ended up in boxes in there not to mention the hundreds of books that won't go on the new bookcases. Not looking forward to tackling it because I am a dreadful hoarder :( Worries me that once ours is all finished and its how I want I won't want to move! We certainly won't consider moving this year as the bathroom and kitchen also need complete and utter refurbishment.

Hope you enjoy the new book - please let me know what you think :)

Wendy - Thanks so much Wendy - I am so pleased you are starting to blog again - have so missed your posts and photos. I know from past experience with my mother how difficult it can be to find time for yourself when you have to care for someone.

I would heartily recommend Mark Avery's book - I can't put it down although as you say its not easy reading re: hen harrier situation. I seethe with every paragraph I read but its very informative and there is so much I hadn't realised about grouse moor management and grouse shooting. I do admire Avery for standing up for issues - his blog is good reading too.

We studied Macbeth at school and its always been one of my favourites too - I love the language in it. I thought John Heffernan's interpretation of Macbeth was very good.

Do hope you do have a nesting pair of coal tits - only occasionally see 2 here! The Great Spotted Woodpecker has returned this morning - the first sighting this year!

Take care Wendy.

Deb said...

The afternoon tea and your cake looks gorgeous. The books sound interesting too, I must look them up.

Ragged Robin said...

Deb - Thanks very much :) Trying to catch up at the moment on all the unread books on my Kindle (before I buy some more!! ) :)

Countryside Tales said...

Lovely post Caroline, the afternoon tea looks delicious. I have ordered the crow book thanks for the recommendation. I see corvids differently now having studied ecology for the last two years. Very intelligent birds, plus we have a pair of Ravens locally who fly over most days and I have become very fond of them. Their call is so different to anything else, my ears tune in to it immediately. Hope you get to see the plover and partridges. I saw plover a few months back, a large flock in a field.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks CT :) Am sure you will enjoy Crow Country :)

Will try and go back to Wishaw - was on my own driving and its not easy along narrow country lanes to drive and look for birds and didn't have time to stop and walk. Last time we saw a flock of Golden Plover I had my son with me which made it a lot easier!

Millymollymandy said...

Sounds like you had a very enjoyable week especially the cakes! That tea looks delicious and how come I haven't heard of chocolate cake day? :-) I've managed to eat up all the chocolate in the house now (bar cooking chocolate) as I have put too much weight on so I won't be buying any more chocolate!

Ragged Robin said...

Millymollymandy - Thanks Mandy. Chocolate cake day was mentioned on Twitter! I need to go on a diet as my knees are playing up and family blame all the weight they are carrying!! Was so desperate for some chocolate on Sunday I did actually consider opening a bar of cooking chocolate! :)

Lou Mary said...

Both Claxton and Inglorious - conflict in the uplands are on my 'to read' list! Love the cover of Claxton - always plays a part in whether I read a book or not, how naughty to judge a book by its cover in the true sense!

We did the BGBW and only got 5 species! last year we got 13 I think. Maybe it is because they are finding food elsewhere or perhaps they are just not around. Worrying whichever option!


Ragged Robin said...

Lou Mary - Thanks so much. I'd been waiting for Claxton to come out in paperback and as you say the cover is irresistible :) Should really have bought if for the Kindle though! Its very good am thoroughly enjoying. Mark Cocker has a brilliant way with words. I've just finished Inglorious - superb book and well researched. Mark Avery really does put forward a compelling case for banning driven grouse shooting. I learnt an awful lot although I have to say I was seething the whole time I read it (almost as much anger as I get in over badger slaughters!).

We've had a few more birds on feeders now its gone colder but I think there may be plenty of natural food available and that combined with mild weather means they are not coming into gardens or visiting feeders so much. Had to replace fat balls recently as they'd started to go mouldy!