GoFLY!

For Christmas, my brother gave me an “Experience” but suggested I choose my own so that it would be something that I wanted.  I decided it had to be fairly local and reduced it to 4 possibles:  a skid pan at Thruxton, a hot air balloon flight from near the leisure centre, a falconry day at the Hawk Conservancy or a flight/trial lesson in a small plane from Old Sarum airfield.    I decided the first was too scary, the second was a waste of champagne (why do all balloon flights include champagne?) and couldn’t decide between the other two, so let my brother decide.  I think he tossed a coin and it came out on the flight.  He then arranged this (the voucher was only for 6 months so not until a about May) and GoFly phoned me up and sent me the voucher.

Voucher

Voucher

I then had to arrange the date and time with the company and they sent me confirmation by email.

The day dawned and it was quite windy and a bit rainy, but that gradually cleared so the flight went ahead, instead of being cancelled as I feared.  The lad who had done the flight before mine, had his cancelled on 2 or 3 previous occasions. I arrived early – and managed to park in the wrong place so had quite a way to walk instead of just a few steps.  The young man in charge showed me the weather map and the rain going and the wind decreasing.  Then the instructor led me out to the plane.

The instructor on the plane

The instructor on the plane

He had to get on first to make sure everything was OK and to fit in the extra bottle full of water (seen below the wing) behind the back seats to give us extra weight for ballast.  I think I am not heavy enough!  The instructor then got on board and told me to follow him.  I should only walk on any bits painted black.  I got in, the door was shut, the seat belts done up and lots of pre-flight checks done.  Then the instructor spoke to the “control tower” (2 huts on top of each other!) and we taxied to the end of the grass runway.  He then did more tests, spoke to Boscombe Down air traffic control as they are in charge of the local air space and we had to clear the flight with them.  Heights etc would depend on what aircraft they were flying.  After waiting ages for the Old Sarum control to respond we were given clearance to take off.

We gathered speed along the (slightly bumpy) runway and were then in the air and banked to pass Old Sarum.

Old Sarum from the air

Old Sarum from the air

We then headed up the river, initially, and then up to the A303 and Stonehenge.  We didn’t get very close to Stonehenge as I think we were not supposed to cross the A303.

Slightly blurred picture of Stonehenge from the air.

Slightly blurred picture of Stonehenge from the air.

I tried to take several pictures of it but the wing blocked out most of them.  We then headed roughly southwest passing over the countryside where one can see some of the marks left from previous ages agriculture and settlements.

Wiltshire countryside

Wiltshire countryside

It is from the air that one can see how rural Wiltshire is and how the fields cover much of it and the houses and roads very little.  There are a few wooded areas and the instructor pointed out that the flight was more turbulent when we were going over the trees.

Some wooded areas.

Some wooded areas.

Then it was my turn!  The instructor pointed the plane in roughly the right direction and showed me where to aim for.  Turn the wheel left for left, right for right(!!), towards for up and away for down.  I was told the pedals are only for steep turns/banking.

My side of the controls

My side of the controls

I think I did OK – until it got a bit rough again and I wasn’t sure if we were going up or down – the control panels are all at the instructors side.

Control panel.  (Salisbury Cathedral in distance)

Control panel. (Salisbury Cathedral in distance)

After that we banked and turned again so that we were heading for the Fovant Military badges.

Banking to head for the Fovant badges

Banking to head for the Fovant badges

We flew alongside these…….

Fovant badges

Fovant badges

…….and the headed back towards Salisbury.

Heading towards Salisbury Cathedral

Heading towards Salisbury Cathedral

We flew south of the city ready to turn towards Old Sarum airfield.

Heading back to Old Sarum

Heading back to Old Sarum airfield

As we approached the airfield we had to look out for other planes, but we didn’t see any, which was good.  The instructor contacted the airfield and got clearance and did a really good landing – then spoiled it by saying he doesn’t always manage such good ones!  We taxied to the place where the plane was left – and that was my “experience” finished.

Plane returned

Plane returned

We went back to the headquarters of GoFLY – a wooden hut – and I was presented with my certificate!

My certificate!

My certificate!

Did I enjoy it?  It was slightly scary at the start when I saw how small the plane was and that it only had one propeller/engine!  But once we got up it was wonderful and it would have been great to have a bit more time doing the actual flying so I got a better feel for the controls.  I would love an hour next time (hint, hint!!) when I understand one flies down to the Isle of Wight and round the Needles and back.  With the sun out it actually got quite hot in the plane.

Many, many thanks to my brother for the experience.

Another trip to Bournemouth

My friend T tends not to go for walks unless she is with someone, so I said I would go for a walk with her one Monday and where would she like to go?  She later asked if we could we go to Bournemouth for the day instead.  Well a day in Bournemouth is a bit longer than a walk but I gave in, especially after another friend had pleaded for her – and at that stage the weather forecast was quite good.  As the day got closer the forecast deteriorated so I wasn’t happy, considering the weather last time I went.  In the end we had a bargain that if it rained she would buy my lunch and if it was nice she would come for a paddle.

The day came – cloudy and drizzly and it even rained while we were on the bus.  It had stopped by the time we arrived, so we could have a coffee/tea in the Lower Gardens.  Then we headed for the front.

T on the promenade

T on the promenade

As a walk had been the original purpose of the day I made T walk with me to Alum Chime as it is somewhere I remember my grandparents liked.  Having got there I didn’t dare tell T that I wanted to walk up and explore it!

Alum Chime from the beach

Alum Chime from the beach

This time there were quite a few beach huts open (there is one in the picture above) and more people on the beach.

People on the beach

People on the beach

Also more people in the sea.

Swimming and paddling

Swimming and paddling

However, having reached Alum Chime it was time to head back to town for lunch at a cafe T had in mind – if she could find it!  This was successfully  accomplished – a place called “Flirt” which she told me was an LGBT cafe.  I probably wouldn’t have realised if she hadn’t told me, but there were features which did indicate it!  As it was not raining we paid for our own lunches.

Then we headed back to the beach.  On the way we passed a “Build a Bear” shop, which I had heard of but never seen so I insisted that we go in and have a look.  We got the general idea – choose bear (or dog or …..) get it stuffed to ones required hardness, get it sewn up, choose extras.  The clothes for bears seemed quite expensive and I don’t think I need another bear – Arthur might get jealous.

We then made it to the beach for our paddle, but couldn’t go in deep as T’s jeans wouldn’t roll up very far.  Guess what?  It was cold!

One wet, sandy pair of feet

One wet, sandy pair of feet

And a second pair

And a second pair

Even though she had been reluctant, T decided that she had actually quite enjoyed the paddle.  The sand now seems to be at the same level as the promenade so there was nowhere to sit to dry our feet and put our shoes and socks on.  We had to lean against a lamppost instead.

It was then time for our ice-cream, but on the way we encountered a group of drummers and stilt dancers.

Stilt dancer

Stilt dancer with drummers

The drummers

The drummers and dancers

Female stilt dancer

Female stilt dancer

As there were people talking to some of the audience I think they were trying to convert us – but I am not sure what to!  They didn’t approach us so we went and got our ice-creams – not the nicest we have had, but a necessary part of the experience of being at the sea-side.  We sat on a wall to eat them, but T’s legs were too short so she was swinging them backwards and forwards like a small child!  (I have seen her do the same in church sometimes.)  However, it was me who spilt ice-cream down myself.

Eating ice-cream and swinging her legs.  I like the street name too - very appropriate,

Eating ice-cream and swinging her legs. I like the street name too – very appropriate.

It was then time to get the bus home.

Was it a good day?  Well T said she enjoyed it!  It was MUCH better than last time because although it wasn’t sunny it was dry, much less windy, mostly quite bright and warm.  It was good to paddle and have ice-cream and walk and have a good lunch – so yes, a good day.

 

 

Take things to the charity shop

As I no longer work at the charity shop I have been building up a pile of things as I don’t take them when I am going anyway.P1010753

The white bag contains “clothes rag” i.e. clothes that have got beyond the stage of even wearing them round the house!

Mostly books....

Mostly books….

The items are mostly books and jigsaws – some of which I got from the shop in the first place!  There are a few gifts which I know I will never use and the pot was given to me with the instruction to take it to the charity shop if it was no use to me (it wasn’t!).P1010754

I have replaced the suitcase with a new one with wheels and the bag had gone into holes – a pity, it was very useful.  I used  those to take the things down to the shop – although I have only done one load so far…..

Will the things be useful?  Well, I hope they can sell some of them and they were always wanting books when I worked there.

Drink coffee with friends

Meeting in a coffee shop for a drink and a chat is has become a major part of weekly retirement activity – perhaps too major?  I have two places that I often go so have loyalty cards for.

The first is the SP2 coffee shop & community centre, where I volunteer on a Thursday morning.  I have several friends who I meet there, usually on a Saturday morning, but it can be at other times too.  If I go in and am not specifically meeting anyone there is usually someone around whom I know and chat to.

SP2 loyalty card

SP2 loyalty card

The other regular haunt is the Cathedral Refectory – the plumbery, as it is where they used to do the lead working for the Cathedral roof.  There is one friend whom I meet there and we go so regularly that we are sometimes mistaken for Cathedral guides, who I think get reduced rates!  We haven’t taken advantage of this mistake, though.

Cathedral Refectory loyalty card

Cathedral Refectory loyalty card

There is a major problem to this – I have decided that I am not sure I really like coffee!  The instant stuff is fine but the real stuff is a bit strong and bitter and the milk is a bit filling.  In the Cathedral I have started ordering “one shot, skinny” which is usually OK but is still too strong sometimes.  In SP2 I have been having a can of Elderflower Pressé when the weather is warm – but that doesn’t count on the loyalty card which only applies to hot drinks.  Otherwise I can have a pot of peppermint tea or sometimes a regular latte or cappuccino if I need waking up and it is not near lunch time.  When I work there I get a free drink anyway.  I used to have a mocha, but I have gone off that at the moment, too.

SP2 is closed on Saturdays over the summer – so where are we going to meet?  And the other friend whom I see at the Cathedral, has a sick husband, so is having problems leaving the house for long enough to go into town for coffee!  Fortunately I have plenty of other things to do……

So?  I don’t have to worry about what I want to drink until September!

Have a day in Bournemouth

As another of my “days out instead of a holiday” I had been planning to take the bus (using my bus pass!) to Bournemouth.  I really wanted to go before the school holidays proper started, so as things worked out it had to be the day after visiting the “dig”.  As my grandparents used to live in Southbourne (50 years ago!) I always assume that I know Bournemouth, but in fact I don’t think we often went into the town and even if we did it has changed enormously since then.

I packed a rucksack with suntan cream, sun hat, cardigan and waterproof – but in the end only needed half of those!  What a contrast in the weather – it was very hot and sunny at the dig, and though the forecast for the next day was cooler, it turned out to be damp, drizzly and misty with a cold wind – typical British summer holiday weather, in fact!

The bus down was better than a “standard” bus – the seats were more like those of a coach and more comfortable, too.  It takes about an hour and a quarter (depending on traffic and number of stops and number of passengers).  The only excitement on the way down was when the driver had to break hard as a trailer in front “lost” two portaloos!  Don’t know how he would get them back on – and they spilt chemical as they landed on their sides, of course.  We didn’t wait to see.

The Lower Gardens

The Lower Gardens

I got off at The Square and walked through the Lower Gardens to the sea-front and pier.  First stop was the Information centre to pick up and up-to-date map.  Then it was time for a coffee – but looking at the weather that changed into a hot chocolate!

Cafe for a drink - not very busy as it was a bit damp!

Cafe for a drink – not very busy as it was a bit damp and cold!

I looked at the pier and the beach.  There were some brave (mad?) people in the water, but it wasn’t very enticing.

The pier - and people in the water!

The pier and beach.

So I decided to walk along the Undercliff to the lift.  None of the beach huts along there were open – what a surprise, considering the weather.

Beach huts along the Undercliff

Beach huts along the Undercliff

When I got to the lift I had a surprise – there had been a cliff fall so the lift was closed.  One of the rails is bent and it was very obviously not up to being used.  They are checking the stability of the cliff and have matting to help and say it will be at least 2 years before it can be repaired.

Damaged East Cliff lift

Damaged East Cliff lift

Instead I walked back a bit and up the zig-zag to the top and the Overcliff.

Half way up the zig-zag

Half way up the zig-zag

I then walked back along the East Overcliff Drive to the pier, stopping to look in the gardens of the Russell-Coates gallery.  As it was lunch time and I couldn’t be bothered to go into the town, I had lunch at the Oceanarium cafe.  When I came out the land-train was there but it wasn’t due to run for nearly an hour, so I walked westwards along the promenade to the west cliff lift.  There didn’t seem to be much sign of that working, either, so as it was very damp and misty and windy with no views I walked back to the Lower Gardens……

Lower Gardens

Lower Gardens

……and strolled through them (less misty and breezy) and across the bridge back to the bus.

Lower Gardens bridge

Lower Gardens bridge

There was a short wait for the bus – which became full of foreign students – and an uneventful journey home.

So was it a good day out?  Well, I have known better, but it did help me re-orientate myself to Bournemouth.  I will have to go again as I didn’t paddle or have an ice-cream – both compulsory for the sea-side, but it really wasn’t the day for either.  I might get off the bus at Boscombe next time and walk towards Southbourne.

Visit an Archaeological Dig

I have been doing a short Future Learn course produced by the University of Reading called “Archaeology: from dig to lab”.  The first week of this described their work in the Pewsey Vale, between Stonehenge and Avebury, where there have been digs for the last two years and again this year.  On further investigation I found that one could visit the site.  The first time I thought I would go it threatened rain and then for the Open Day I had a horrible cold and felt very unwell.  So the Tuesday after that I managed to get there!  It turned out that they had about 700 people on the open day, so I am quite glad I didn’t make it.  When I went they didn’t have many visitors so students could give me individual tours.

The first part of their “field school” was on Marden henge.  They use the field school to train their archaeology students how to carry out digs.  I managed to find it without difficulty – the instructions on the website were good and a search on Google maps also helped – along with my 1999 road atlas of Britain!  Having left just before 10.00 it took about 45 minutes.  There was a field with a few cars and some portacabins which, having parked, I approached.  A young man carrying a camera came towards me and offered to show me the site.  He was one of the students and his job for the day/week(?) was filming, but I think he wanted a change!

Marden Henge is a very large henge.  I had to look up what is meant by a “henge” and it seems it is a Neolithic earthwork  that features a ring bank and ditch, but with the ditch inside the bank rather than outside. As an enclosure with an external bank and an internal ditch is not very good for defence they are believed to be for ceremonial purposes.  We walked across the field to approached where they have dug trenches this year.

Trench at Marden Henge

Approaching the trench at Marden Henge

In fact the call for a tea break went just as we arrived, so most people downed tools for a bit.  They were excavating the inner henge and had found floor level and post holes.  It is all very subtle and relies on slightly different soil colours.

Floor level and post hole

Floor level and post hole – note the sort of steps on the left

The infill from the post hole or a ditch is a different colour and texture and sometimes these infills are sent back to the lab so they can be more carefully examined for “finds” and also maybe for things like pollen so they can find the type of crops growing at the time.

Further along the trench

Further along the trench

On the “cut” behind it is just possible to see differences in soil colour.  Each is given a “context” number so finds can be related to these.

Context numbers marking the different levels

Context numbers marking the different levels/contexts

I was shown some of day’s “small finds” which included some pottery (Neolithic?) and a tooth and an animal jaw.

The animal jaw - sadly out of focus!

The animal jaw – sadly out of focus!

They were all in a tray marked with the context number so they could be carefully recorded later.

Small finds in tray marked with the context number.

Small finds in tray marked with the context number.

We then went back to the portacabins and looked at some of the pictures.  They had done a lot of geophysics – resistivity and magnetometry – partly to find out if the river had been in a different place in Neolithic times and partly to see if there were any other changes in the soil, which might indicate something of interest.  I can’t say I could interpret the photos though!  I was then taken to the “finds” hut, where another student was recording the finds.  She showed me several things including a tiny broach – which even had the pin and I think she said was Saxon.  There were some flint scrapers and a beautifully made flint arrowhead and a decorated piece of bone which probably was part of a comb.  There were also 2 trays full of pottery, all decorated in the same way so probably part of a large pot.  There were loads of other things but too many to show.

I was then given a map to the other part of the field school dig – at Cat’s Brain longbarrow.  I managed to follow the instructions and get there without any problems.  This link (I hope) shows an aerial photo of the dig site.  The dark areas show ditches which surround the central part of the barrow.  The entrance is where the gap occurs and they thought that the rest was a semicircle, but are finding that at the opposite side there might not have been ditches so it might just have been 2 parallel ditches.  That is part of what they are investigating and one place where they are digging now.

Cat's Brain longbarrow site

Cat’s Brain longbarrow site

They were again finding post holes, which would have had wooden posts to hold up the roof, and these are being excavated.  Much of the soil from the ditches is being removed for sampling and to search more carefully for “finds”, as ditches are so often where rubbish is thrown – and yesterdays rubbish is today’s archaeological treasure!

Containers for soil to be taken for sampling

Containers for soil to be taken for sampling

The chalk that seems to have been used for the mound and the ditch infill material are at least clearly different colours!  It was suggested that the chalk was fairly local, but had to be brought in and the white colour would have shown up – in the same way that the “white horses” cut into the hillsides do today.

Investigating part of the ditch

Investigating part of the ditch

It was all fascinating, but needs a really good eye for detail – the changes in soil type are sometimes quite subtle.  I hope that what I have written is correct – but it is quite hard to remember all the detail and there was more, I think, that I don’t remember!

It is interesting that they have to finish digging by Saturday – and there is still a lot they hope to uncover.  The final week is for “back-filling” – putting the soil back so the farmer can use his fields.  It is a good thing I didn’t wait another week before I went!

So did I enjoy it?  It was fascinating.  I have done several Future Learn archaeology courses, but this is the first time I have seen a “dig” in real life.  I don’t think I would be very good at the practical stuff – hard physical work, in hot sun or rain and looking for details I would find it hard to pick out!  Could quite fancy working on the finds and classifying them maybe?

I think this counts as one of my “holiday” days – days out instead of a holiday – even if it was only half a day.

Faint…..

Having been told I had a bloodshot eye one evening, I foolishly looked at it first thing next day.  Even more foolishly, I then thought about it – I am very squeamish about eyes….. I then thought that I was feeling sick……  Next thing I couldn’t work out what way up I was or where I was!  I realised I was on the bathroom floor…..

Having sorted that out I got myself back to bed, having vaguely noticed that there was blood on the knob at the bottom of the radiator.  When I had rested a bit I turned over – and noticed there was blood on my pillowcase…… I then had to consider what to do, as I was still a bit groggy.  I decided to phone my friend K, who has my key and is a nurse (even though she no longer does everyday nursing).  She was concerned enough to come over.  She looked at me and mopped up the blood which was on my shoulder just below my neck – not on my head, which would have bled a lot more.  She also phoned the doctors, who said that a doctor would phone back.  Meanwhile I had some breakfast and K had a drink.  When the doctor phoned back she decided she ought to see me, so made an appointment for 12.00.

K went home and I washed and rested and pottered a bit until K picked me up and took me to the doctor, who looked at me and asked me questions – like had I knocked myself out?  How would I know? I would not have been conscious whether I had fainted or knocked myself out and I had no idea how long I was on the floor.  She took my blood pressure and decided I ought to have an ECG, so we had to wait until a nurse could do that.  The eventual result was fine, but my pulse was low as is my blood pressure – but not as low as when I had my health check earlier in the year.  The doctor also thought I should have an X-ray of my neck in case I had cracked a bone in it!  That had to be done at the hospital and not until late afternoon.  K took me home again and I found someone else to take me up to the hospital – I was very grateful to K but she had already done a lot and was also trying to sort out her mother who was moving into a care-home.

About 3.30 the friend picked me up and she knew where we had to go for the X-ray.  There is sometimes a long queue, but it wasn’t too bad and moved quite fast, so they took 3 photos at different angles and said I would be told if there was any problem.  Then I was taken home again.

I had been feeling a bit groggy for part of the day, but by the evening I decided I was well enough to walk to the polling station and vote – not that it made much difference in this constituency.  I decided that I was back to normal by the next day – but avoided looking at my eye!  I also removed the dressing from my shoulder/neck as it was not bleeding and was better with the air at it.  I think I probably knocked my head on the radiator as there was a sore bit when I washed my hair next day, but I am glad I wasn’t aware of that before or it would have been hours in A & E!

A week later I bought 2 lots of flowers and delivered them to my friends as a thank you for taking care of me and giving me lifts to doctors and hospitals.

The scabs on my shoulder/neck came off but it is still quite itchy where they were.

So?  Must remember not to look if people tell me there is something wrong with my eye – they can tell me when it is better or if I should take it to the doctor!  I suppose I could look if I am sure there are only soft things to fall on…..

Visit Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Having failed to book a holiday this year, as I wasn’t up to thinking about it, and then realising I wouldn’t have the energy anyway for my usual walking holiday, I decided to have a series of days out, instead.  There was the trip to the Hawk Conservancy, of course, but that was giving a friend her birthday present, so I am not sure if it counts.  Anyway, I decided that I had heard a lot about “The Mary Rose” but had never been to see it so that should be one of my trips.

I then worked out that it was almost half-term and during that week it was likely to be busy and after the holiday schools often take children on educational trips, so it could be full of children.  That meant that the week before half-term was likely to be best, so it became my first trip.

It is an easy train journey down to Portsmouth Harbour, so I got the 9.33 train – so I could use my senior railcard and get a day return.  Taking a book to read on the train, I had a very easy journey down and it is less than 5 minutes walk from the station to the “Historic Dockyard”.  There were bag searches at the entrance and then I decided to get an all inclusive ticket for the dockyard which includes all the museums, a harbour trip and can be used again at any time within a year.  By the time I got my ticket and got in it was only a short time until the next harbour trip so I decided to wait the 10 minutes or so and do that first.

The boat for the harbour trip

The boat for the harbour trip

The boat was “The Jenny M” and as it was a lovely day we mostly sat outside, but under the shade of the awning.  We sailed down the side of the harbour, keeping the regulation distance from the destroyers, which were in port.

Ships and cranes in the port

Ships and cranes in the port

We also saw some of the ferries that sail from Portsmouth – for Spain, France and the Isle of Wight.

One of the ferries.

One of the ferries.

We then sailed back, closer to the other side of the harbour, looking at the marinas and the hillside beyond, then across the mouth – after we had waited for several ferries – they were bigger than us!  Some of the forts beyond the mouth were pointed out.  I think they said they were being turned into hotels for holidays?!

Fort beyond the harbour mouth

Fort beyond the harbour mouth

We sailed passed the Spinnaker tower and it was explained why it is blue, rather than the red Emirates colour, even though they are the owners. (All to do with football!)

Spinnaker Tower

Spinnaker Tower

We dropped some people off at Gunwale Key and picked others up there, before going back to the dockyard.  The trip was supposed to take 45 minutes, but was actually about an hour.  We got off the boat near HMS Warrior, which comes from the late eighteen hundreds – something to visit on another day.

HMS Warrior

HMS Warrior with Spinnaker tower behind

I then thought it was time for lunch, so had that in one of the cafes – but it took a while as there was a queue to get food and another to pay.

After lunch I set out for the building holding “The Mary Rose”, which is at the far end of the dockyard.  On the way up one passes what I think are figureheads from ships.

From the Admiral Benbow

From the Admiral Benbow

Then to “The Victory”, again something for another trip.

The Victory

The Victory

This is undergoing restoration work and the topmasts have been removed as they think that the weight of them is pushing the masts through the hull!  There is another figurehead near there – “The Trafalgar” I think.

The Trafalgar

From the Trafalgar

Then it was on to the Mary Rose building.  There is first an introduction to the ship and its history and a short film representing the ship sinking.  One then passes on to the museum.  What is left of the ship itself has been reconstructed and one can view it from several levels.  One enters at main deck level and on the opposite side of the room to the remains of the ship, a replica has been made to show what would have been there.  Later on one moves to the lower decks and then to the top.

At the ends are the artefacts found with the ship – the number is amazing although less than half of the actual ship still exists.  They are mostly displayed in themes, such as the chief carpenter and what he owned,  wore and used.  There are loads of explanations and I found some of the belongings quite fascinating – like the shoes of various people and how different they were and different sizes.  They had provided stools to take round to sit on and I wished I had taken one as there was so much to read.

The Mary Rose building

The Mary Rose building

About half-way round I got tired and wasn’t taking in what was there although some of the things on the archaeology looked really interesting.  I decided I would do better to come back another day to see the rest – especially as I got caught up near a group of noisy school children!  I walked through to the end of the “visitor route” taking only a cursory glance and went and had a cup of coffee in the cafe.

It was then time to go back to the station and catch the train home.

So was it a good day out?  On the whole, yes, and the good weather helped!  It was tiring but I look forward to going back to see the rest of the Mary Rose display and the Victory and maybe HMS Warrior – although I know nothing about the latter.

Prepare things for “Samara’s Appeal”

Samara’s appeal has been running for several years now and some people from our church are registered collectors and have been taking clothing, blankets etc to Brighton to send to Iraq and Syria.  Last year or the year before, I spent a long time sewing up squares that (mostly) other people had knitted, to make blankets.  There were so many I had to give some to others to do and said I would never do it again!  I have also previously used Nectar points and Boots points to get some of the things on the list.

This time I started knitting after Christmas with some wool a friend had given me and made squares (in autumn colours) and then bought a couple of extra and used some half balls of wool to make a blanket.

Blanket - mostly autumn colours

Blanket – mostly autumn colours

By the time that was finished and sewn up I was bored with squares and knitted a jumper from a pattern I have had for years.  The neck was a pain, so I bought a pattern with an easier neckband and managed to complete another jumper before the deadline for collection.

Blanket and jumpers

Blanket and jumpers

Meanwhile, I was also collecting things to complete a “Dignity bag* which was described on the website.  I ordered the bags and the shampoo bars from the sites suggested and printed off the sheet which explained in English and (I assume) Arabic what the shampoo bar was and how to use it.

Contents of the dignity bag with shampoo bar at front right

Contents of the dignity bag with shampoo bar on the right

The other items were obtained locally and mostly with Boots and Nectar points again.

Contents of Dignity bag

Contents of Dignity bag

I also printed and completed a “tick list” of the contents – again in both English and Arabic – to include for checking and to explain what was there.  Everything was put in the bag.

Complete bag

Complete bag

Then it was just a matter of handing the knitting and the bag in at the right times and right places.  Since the knitting went to a friend, I also got a cup of tea and a view of her garden when I took it!

Is this something worthwhile to do?  I hope so and the knitting keeps me busy – providing something to do when listening to the radio.

 

Visit the Hawk Conservancy

A friend, T, had a birthday in January, but I didn’t know what to give her.  From some discussion we had I thought she would like a day’s experience as a falconer, at the Hawk Conservancy but that was too expensive, so instead I gave her a voucher – looking something like this:

This voucher entitles

…………………………………..

to a day out at

The Hawk Conservancy

with entrance fee payed

Her name was filled in at the top.  I then had to redeem it!  We decided we had to have a decent day and when they were running the summer programme but before there were hoards of children there, so we decided on the day after the May day bank holiday.

We took another friend, D, who needed a day out but she was a little slow getting ready to go (fell asleep again!) so with that and having to go back for the forgotten cigarettes (!) we arrived a bit later than we hoped.  After getting our tickets the first priority was coffee so by the time that was finished we had missed the beginning of the Wings of Africa flying display, so had to wait at a distance until the fish eagle had finished collecting his fish.  We were then let into the seats.

The highlights of the display included:

Tolkien, an eagle owl

Tolkien, an eagle owl

Dr Know, a secretary bird

Dr Know, a secretary bird………

……..who demonstrated “killing” a (rubber) snake by stamping on it and again when it was a “cobra” and rearing up.

"Killing" a snake

“Killing” a snake

There were then vultures (now much endangered) showing their flight.

A hooded vulture (I think)

A hooded vulture (I think)

And for the finale they had yellow billed kites (or were they vultures?) flying over smoke where they usually catch insects (too fast to photograph) and then water and then sacred ibis and storks and (right at the back, on the rocks) were meerkats.

Stork, sacred ibis (and meerkat?)

Stork, sacred ibis (and meerkat?)

After the end of the display it was time to go and “Meet an owl”.  This was Troy, a tawny owl, who had been picked up and looked after before being passed on to the conservancy, so had been “imprinted” and thinks he is a human (or that humans are his parents?).  He can’t be released as can’t fend for himself and is forever like a teenager.  We were later told he had no head for heights and had to be trained to go into trees by one of the keepers climbing trees to encourage him!  My friend, T, decided he was her favourite of the day!

T with Troy

T with Troy

As most people then went to the restaurant we waited a bit and looked at some of the birds and then went for lunch when the queue had gone.  I had a very nice sausage baguette!

T and D while looking at birds.

T and D while looking at birds.

It was then time to go and see the “Valley of the Eagles flying display”, which started with a merlin, the smallest British bird of prey, I believe, flying to the lure.  He had to swoop down lots of times before he was allowed to catch and eat it.

The merlin after it had finished.

The merlin after it had finished.

We had vultures flying above our heads – except Butch Cassidy who was around our feet looking for food!  Butch had discovered that visitors had sandwiches etc. and being a scavenger, like all vultures, would go looking.  We were warned about him before they came.  Sundance Kid and their two friends were much better behaved.

Two of the vultures - not Butch

Two of the vultures – not Butch

Another larger bird of prey (not British) was then flown to the lure…….

......after being displayed for us to see.....

……after being displayed for us to see while still wearing his hood…..

……but didn’t have to fly so many times before…..

.....being allowed his reward.

…..being allowed his reward.

A very large eagle was then flown from some distance.  They told us where it was, but I have to say I didn’t see it until it arrived.

Arrival - apparently from the tree in the far distance.

Arrival – apparently from the tree in the far distance.

The black kites flew for us for a finale – but they were much too fast to photograph.  Even better, two of the local, wild red kites came to join them and one was really joining in and catching some of the meat thrown up for the kites to catch.  I assume they have learned where and at what time to get an easier meal.  It was a brilliant display – lovely to watch.

We then had a chance to “fly” a Harris Hawk – well, let it land on our gloved arm.  There were not many adults wanting to do this so T had two goes.

T with Harris hawk

T with Harris hawk

D was too shaky and unsteady (unwell at the moment) to try but I had a go.  I gave T the camera to hold……

.....but she was not supposed to use it!

…..but she was not supposed to use it!

After this it was time to go to see the Woodland Owls Flying Display.  We met Troy, again and another eagle owl called Cinnamon.

Was this Troy or Cinnamon who came and sat just in front of us?

Was this Troy or Cinnamon who came and sat just in front of us?

One of the larger owls displayed flying between two people, with a gap between them less than its wing span and they demonstrated how they enabled Troy to overcome his fear of heights!

I think this was a long-eared owl

I think this was a long-eared owl

My favourites were the barn owls, who were released from the tower of a pretend chapel.  The male was very well behaved and did what was hoped, but the female was around for a short time and then went off hunting for herself!

Male barn owl

Male barn owl

I just love the way they float silently across the woodland.  It is no wonder they were considered ghosts.

Barn owl taking off

Barn owl taking off

After the owls we had another look at some of the birds and then went for a cup of tea before going home.

So was it a good day?  Yes, definitely and the good weather (just look at the photos) really helped.  And we will probably go again as T wants a “Day with Birds of Prey” experience for her birthday next year.  We might go again anyway as she so loved the owls!  Taking photos of birds is hard though – they don’t stay still.