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Light at the end of my dark tunnel.

Believe or not I am still around despite the long gap since my last blog entry in December and this one.

The reality of it is that my life has been extremely complicated for me these past few months, I’m not going to bore you with all the details, but suffice to say that with the winter months, severe weather conditions, as well as low mood due to my depression/anxiety it did have a huge impact on my well-being, which was only made worse by some  unnecessary stress at work.  I can now say though, thank goodness that I have now emerged from the other end of that horrible dark tunnel, and once again can see the bright light shinning ahead of me.  With a conversation I had with my GP about 5 years ago, she suggested I might also be suffering from SAD. I brushed this off thinking it was just the fact it was winter months, dark when you go to work and dark when you get home, cold wet weather, and lets face it none of us like the winter months for those reasons, but I have to admit it does now look like my GP was right and I was wrong. One of the things on my agenda this year is to invest in a SAD therapy lamp, and take more vitamin D from October, hopefully this will help keep the black dog from nipping at my heels again next winter.

Over a number of years I have learnt three very valuable lessons regarding depression, firstly, that when some people think they are doing their best by helping you, they don’t seem to realize it can be more of a hinderance, and can in actual fact slow down ones recovery process, I am not saying that is the same for everyone. Secondly I know of and have heard of people who have seen family and friends suffer depression, and they believe they ‘understand’ what it is like for those sufferers, people who have never suffered depression themselves and have not gone through that personal and individual agony of depression will never know or truly understand how it really does feel, in reality they can only actually see or simply imagine what a sufferer goes through, which is not the same. Thirdly, and most importantly, each and every person who suffers from depression suffer the same collective symptoms of the illness, but the cause that triggers it can be for very different reasons. Some may suffer a life changing illness at some stage of our lives, or lose loved ones, they may witness some horrible and upsetting things in their lives, but we all cope with those problems in very different ways. But where as one person can get back up and carry on with their lives, it doesn’t mean others who have faced the same problem can get back up in the same way.

Fortunately for me I have learnt over the past 20 years how I can cope with my bouts of depression without interference from others, daily medication, self-help techniques, CBT, ways to motivate myself and a little bit of time just being left alone to do what I need to in order to pull myself through. I suppose I am one of the more fortunate ones to be able to do this, as I know others are not so lucky, but more often than not they are unable to seek the help they need in the first place.

When I look back to 20 years ago when my depression first started, and I look at things now, I know I have come along way  since then, after all I am still here to talk about it, and prove to others through my blog that it can get better, and that life can be good, in ways most wouldn’t think or believe,  more importantly however, despite every brick wall I have come up against I do some how find a way to crack and breakdown that wall down and turn the next corner. I know I am not the most cleverest of people, and as I have got older I have found I have slowed down mentally and physically, and I have learnt some hard lessons along the way, but in the end I do have this ability to be logical which is one of the tools that helps me to move on. I have firmly believed through logic that yes things can get really bad, but then they will also improve, and I like to make the most of those times as it helps me to look forward to them again if things do go downwards again, trying to focus on that helps me get better, and encourages me to try harder next time. Like my photography, I can be hard on myself to do better. More recently at work, several colleagues have told me I am too damn hard on myself, but in all honesty I have to be hard on myself as it is my way of getting back on top, it is my own way of stopping me sliding back down into the dark pit and staying there. Sometimes it can be the simplest of things in life that help people recover.

The horrible bad weather we went through this winter did mean I was unable to get out with my camera, which in itself was bad enough and made me feel low.  But in addition to that it was also the second Christmas without my dad. Some how it affected me more this time around than it did the first one without him. I think in all honesty the first year it was still so close to losing him that it hadn’t properly sunk in, and my life was on automatic with other things going on causing my stress levels to fluctuate, and get through other day-to-day trials, that I tried not to ‘over think’ about it too much, however this time around it had sunk in more and I felt it more, and it therefore had more of an impact on me.

In February I did get my first chance to go out to my local Conservation Park in Birmingham one of the afternoons I had a half day’s holiday from work, I wasn’t up to venturing off too far, but with the sun shinning a little, and despite  the temperatures being extremely cold, it was good to get out in some proper fresh air, and walk without slipping on snow and ice, but most importantly to be able to get out with my camera and see the wonders of nature. I could sit and watch these animals for hours at a time, especially the little guys below. The Conservation Park do an incredible job at looking after these animals, and they are part of a European breeding programme for the more rare and endangered species. Seeing these animals happily running around up to their own little tricks does put a smile on my face. I sat outside the cafe at the park for about an hour, directly opposite the Capuchin enclosure to have a coffee and sandwich, watching them did lift my spirits.

 

Red Panda, one of my favourites at the Birmingham Conservation Park.

 

Golden Head Tamarin.

 

Emperor Tamarin

 

Capuchin Monkey. I sat and watched this troupe for at least an hour – they are so funny and clever to watch.

 

Geoldis Marmoset

 

 

On the weekend of my birthday, I was also able to do one of my most favourite things, such as walk an Alpaca at Lucky Tails in Hurley, Warwickshire. with three of my very dear friends, I think I have converted them to becoming Alpaca lovers 🙂   I have lost count, but I believe that was my 6th visit in the last 2 years that I have done the Alpaca walks, and I am already planning the next trip there, hopefully the beginning of June…….can’t wait!!    This time I walked the handsome blue-eyed boy Norman.

Norman the blue eyed Alpaca. such a sweetheart and quite  a character is our Norman!

I wonder why it always feels so good to be around animals, they are so soothing and just may be they are far less trouble than some humans!!

With the Spring now upon us and Summer just around the corner, I am looking forward to having odd days holidays out visiting different places with lovely scenery, rivers & canal walks, plenty of wildlife, places like Trentham Monkey Forest, Charlecote Park, Foxton Locks, Albert Docks, Worcester, Stratford and the Costwolds .  All  places I have visited over the years and find that I want to go back to them as each visit is different to the last time.

I wouldn’t say I am a perfectionist, but I am one of those photographers who are critical of their own work. I look back at pictures I have taken, and tell myself I could do better with camera next time around……so where better than to go to places you have already been and try again and improve upon the last time.

Another comfort that I have missed these past four years is my rabbits, especially Sootykins, who I had for nine and a half years….which was a really good age for a rabbit, and they really were a huge part of my life. I do have a budgie called Charlie, but being a bird you can’t really hold and cuddle them the same way as a four-legged furry friend.  I did think again about last year getting another rabbit, but instead over the Easter weekend, after much thought and deliberation I decided to go for a Syrian Hamster. Which for obvious reasons in the picture below I decided to call her Patch.

Little Patch, Syrian Hamster. I was going to call her Dora (as in Dora the explorer,) as on the first weekend I had her she managed to slide down from a table and wandered around the lounge and managed to get under every nook & cranny to play hide & seek with me.

Whilst hamsters sleep during the daytime and come out and play at night, it gives me the chance to spend a good hour with her to play and pet her before I go to bed. Overall, having her climb in and out of my hands and up on to my shoulders is very relaxing, she is very well-behaved, and has only bit me once, that was on the second day as she was still trying to settle in to her new environment. And let’s be honest…. she is so cute and adorable, and to all intense and purposes she is very clever, and she is a wonderful little addition to my home life.

The beauty, survival and wonder of wildlife,flora and scenery amazes me no end, and I am always inspired by this old favourite hymn, and I often wonder what Alexander, Cecil Frances, (1818-1895)  was thinking about at the time she wrote it, the words are so simple and yet so meaningful.

Chorus
All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful: The Lord God made them all.

Verses
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well….

Alexander, Cecil Frances, (1818-1895)

 

Many thanks for stopping by.

 

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Thinking about it…..

I Sit And Think.

I sit beside the fire and think of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies in summers that have been;
Of yellow leaves and gossamer in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun and wind upon my hair.
I sit beside the fire and think of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring there is a different green.
I sit beside the fire and think of people long ago,
and people who will see a world that I shall never know.
But all the while I sit and think of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet and voices at the door

by J. R. R. Tolkien

 

I was recently asked a question that has made me sit up and do a lot of deep thinking.

I was asked ….Who or what inspires me the most?

The poem by J.R.R. Tolkien, ‘I Sit And Think’ really sums it up well.

Originally I answered the question instinctively. My answer was very simple, I’m inspired by people who like myself have been able to ‘overcome’ severe health issues, whether on a physical or mental level, and escape near death experiences. For me it summed it what incredible abilities we all have, to fight our battles, no matter how hard they are, or what odds are stacked up against us. Then there is the question why have I been able to overcome these obstacles and fight back at my depression?

Then I got to thinking more deeply, as why I gave that answer,  or even why we have been able to overcome these massive obstacles, and I had to try to narrow down my answers and analyze constructively.

To begin with what initially became a ‘recovery tool’ about seven years ago, has gradually built up to become a passion for me, because from it, it has helped me in more ways than I ever could have imagined.

My passion for photography has inspired me enormously over the past few years. It has greatly contributed in many ways to my well-being, both mentally and physically.

There is without a doubt a form of art in photography, but for me it’s a lot more than that. Photography has taught to me to evolve, for want of a better word. It has made me understand more, become more knowledgeable and it has taught me self-discipline and in addition to this, it has encouraged me to go to places I probably thought I would never go to. It has opened up my mind and opened up my life. It’s given me a new direction and a new purpose. One of the things it has allowed me to do over the last few years is to move out of ‘my own personal comfort zone’, get back into socializing and mixing with people including family and friends. I still don’t like huge crowds especially noisy ones, it makes me nervous and anxious, but I think in all honesty it is more to do with the fact that I just enjoy peace and tranquility…..which is probably why it explains my love of nature.

On and off over the past 17 years whilst I was going through some of my worst bouts of depression and anxiety, I lost interest in a great deal many things.  With depression it affects each and every one of us in different ways, myself personally, I felt that I didn’t want to do anything, go anywhere, see anyone I stuck to the minimal basic routine of working sometime eating and sometimes sleeping, other than that I sat on my own and cried until I had no tears left to cry, and had no emotions left in me to express. Just always negative thoughts, no ambitions or interest, and no matter how hard people wanted to try to understand how I was feeling, they just couldn’t understand. The only thing I can remember ever wishing for in those dark periods of my life was an off switch so that I could completely switch myself off from my life and the world in general.

Depression is one of those illnesses you have to experience to truly understand what it does to you, how it makes you feel, including the overall effect on your ability to just function normally in life or to just live.

Once I had started in my recovery process, I got to getting back to a little bit more normality, and bit by bit edging out of my depression zone into a new comfort zone. Now I can honestly say, I have moved out of my comfort zone and have become a little more adventurous, enlightened and a little bit more confident in my knowledge and abilities. Although, I have to say there are still times I have self doubts, and lack confidence in myself.

My photography has enabled me to go out exploring, it has given me the chance to prove to myself I can do something and do it well and learn something new in the process. It has increased my interest and therefore my knowledge in nature and wildlife as well as history. they all go hand in hand, and that is what inspires me.

How many times does one go for walk or run just for the purpose of needing to exercise to stay fit and healthy?

For instance, I see a great many people in parks taking their dogs for a walk, or people going for a quick jog with their earphones in listening to music and concentrating on running to the beat of the music, some go to local parks with bags of bread to throw down and leave for the wildfowl to help themselves to. Others use park as a short cut to get somewhere else. I see a lot of ‘basic stuff’ going on, but rarely see people with real interest in their surrounding area of beauty.

Whenever I visit a park, any park, I like to take in the surroundings, listen to the birds, sit down near the lake, get close to the flower beds and have a look at the bees on the flowers, watching butterflies fluttering by and trying to identify the species. In the summer especially I enjoy taking a little picnic lunch and I like to explore the area I am visiting. All of this in itself drives my passion to take photos and capture those once in a life time moments for ever. In the past I would just simply hear a bird sound and think about what species of bird it was. Now, however, I love the opportunity to actually try to see that bird, find out where it is, and just watch it for a while, see its beauty and study its character. It encourages me to learn about its surroundings or its behavioural patterns. Just over a year ago, I persevered and made friends with a little Robin who after several weeks of patience, fed out of my hand, and did so every day for several months until it was time for him to fly off with his new little family to pastures new, however I was able to get up close to him and he allowed me to take some photos of him. A permanent reminder of just how close you can get to nature and how fortunate I was to be able to do this.

My interest in birds, wildlife and nature has meant I have been able to explore other places. I have been able to go to Charlecote Hall nr Stratford Upon Avon, and see herds wild Fallow Deer roaming freely over the acres of beautiful parkland next to the River Avon. On the same estate they also have a flock of rare breed Jacob Sheep. This year I was able to sit and watch a pair swans and their little family of  cygnets on the river looking for food by diving down into the weed, and trying not to get tangled in it.

Part of the wild herd of Fallow Deer at Charlecote Hall nr Stratford Upon Avon. They roam freely on the estate, but are cared for by the estate staff.

Beautiful wild Poppies, and varieties of other wild flowers growing all around the estate.

A beautiful Peacock Butterfly, spotted resting in the long grass.

A couple of the rare Jacob Sheep, part of a large and thriving herd at Charlecote Hall estate.

Walking up to Charlecote Hall and its beautiful estate. Sometimes the Fallow Deer graze on the grass at the sides of the path. It’s lovely to sit on the benches at watch them.

A Mute Swan tending her young on the stretch of the River Avon that runs through the Charlecote Estate.

My photography has also encouraged me to go to different places as well as return to old familiar ones. When I was very young, my brother and I would go on a coach trips in the school summer holidays with mom and dad. A couple of the places we used to go to often was in Wales, normally Rhyl or Aberystwyth, or to Blackpool to see the lights. My memories of Wales in those days were of a little seaside town, shops that sold ice cream and rock.  Beaches that were pebbles and stones and unwelcoming, as well as the unfortunate experience of it raining almost every time we went there. In my mind for many years I told myself Wales held no interest for me to go back there, neither did Blackpool.

When I was in the Special Constabulary back in the late 1980s and early 1990’s, myself and several other friends from the Specials did a sponsored charity jump and rescue in to the sea at Tenby, also in Wales, with the RNLI. I can still remember how nervous and anxious we all were, there were about 10 of us, the sea was extremely rough and choppy that particular day of the jump and we were in old police uniforms over the top of wet suits. On the morning of the jump we had thought about cancelling it, but then realising this is exactly what the RNLI do on a daily basis, it made sense to go ahead and do the jump, thus enabling us all in raising quite a bit of sponsor money for the RNLI and our maternity hospital special baby unit back home in Solihull. I do clearly remember we all joined in with a couple of hymns, Eternal Father Strong to Save…… which included the line ‘For those in peril on the sea’. And a couple of verses of Abide With Me, a last-ditch attempt to stay strong and focused. Fortunately for us, we all did the jump and were all rescued from the sea and arrived back on shore safe and sound. We went back to Tenby a few months later for a plaque dedication and cheque presentation service at the RNLI. That was the last time I went to Wales. At least until May of this year.

An opportunity came about because of my interest in birds and wildlife, it meant I had the chance to go back to Wales to an RSPB  reserve on a coach trip in May. At first I was put off  by the idea of it being Wales, the memories of those old stony, wet seaside towns came back to me. However, I decided I was going to go outside my comfort zone again, and so booked up the day trip to Lake Wyrnvy RSPB.

To my amazement I had the most incredible day, the scenery en route, as well as the scenery around the lake was absolutely magnificent. I saw several species of birds just a few feet away from me through the hide window. The lake itself and the area immediately surrounding it was stunningly beautiful. No more was the Wales as I remembered it so long ago as a little girl.

Looking down and across the incredible and beautiful view of Lake Vyrnwy in Wales from the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel.

Looking across and up at the hotel from the other side of the lake.

A chance to see a Greater Spotted Woodpecker up close from the RSPB bird hide window.

Another close up at the bird hide of a male Chaffinch. He was going back and forth collecting food from the feeders to feed his youngsters in a nearby nest.

The highlight of my day….we heard him several times, and then suddenly there he was, a beautiful Cuckoo. My first ever sighting of one, whilst we were walking up a lower section of the mountains to a waterfall.

It was just a few weeks later I went on another trip to Powis to the Royal Welsh Show, it was very crowded and in all honesty very commercialized, but enjoyable all the same. Normally, I would see the outline of sheep in a field from a distance. At the Royal Show you could walk up and down long pathways seeing close up all the different breeds of sheep, and could also see how their character, facial expressions differed.

In July, not long after I started my new job, I went on a long weekend coach trip ‘down south’. This had already been booked up a while beforehand. One of the places I had been hoping to visit the past couple of years was the New Forest, and I had heard of the wild ponies roaming freely in the area. In addition to this the location we were staying was a Warners Holiday Village in Hayling Island, and a couple of day trips included the New Forest on the Saturday morning, Bournemouth in the afternoon and on the Sunday a day in Portsmouth visiting the historical naval dockyard, and the highlight of the weekend was a tour of H.M.S. Victory, the flag ship of Lord Nelson. The combination of all these sights meant I took several hundred photos and as a result have some wonderful memories captured forever on camera.

 

Wild Ponies walking in the road of one of the villages in the New Forest. Of course the coach stopped and gave way to these local inhabitants.

A packed Bournemouth beach on one of the hottest days of  summer.

On board the H.M.S Victory, the chance of a life time be one of the most historical ships in British history.

At the ships wheel on H.M.S. Victory.

A piece of history, the exact spot marked by a plaque, where Lord Horatio Nelson fell and died at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Throughout this past 12 months I have been fortunate to have visited many places, odd day trips here and there including Alpaca walking, visiting Monkey Forest, Iron Bridge in Telford, Twycross Zoo, several  parks and nature centre and much more, I have  been able see so much and capture it on camera. I like the idea of challenging myself to do better in my photography by encouraging myself to go the places again and do better next time. I can now set myself goals, and make the effort to achieve them. I have learned to appreciate wildlife, nature and even history more than I could ever have imagined. there is so much more out there that inspires me and its down to my passion for photography but it is also my passion for photography that inspires my love for nature and wildlife.  Capturing the moment and being able to look back and understand something about what is in each photo. All of this inspires me….

As the poem says

and think of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies in summers that have been:

Of yellow leaves and gossamer in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun and wind upon my hair.

Thank you for stopping by

 

 

Spring at last.

What a dreadful few months this has been. Since before Christmas I have been back to fighting those darn demons again, but with spring on the horizon things are starting to look up a bit better once again. Through out these 3 months I just haven’t had it in me to write my blog, despite so much going on in my life.

The news that I was told in October that I would lose my new job, totally gutted, along with several other colleagues, it was a bolt out of the blue, and as the time is drawing ever so close to the finishing date (sometime during the first 2 to 3 weeks of April) it has become more and more difficult to comprehend what is going to happen job wise in the future. Already the job searching has begun, and last Thursday I had a job interview for what I do see as a perfect job and an added bonus it is very close to home. Just one thing, so many people have been interviewed for the position, I won’t know for a few more days yet but I doubt very much if I will get it, but at least I managed to get an interview and tried my best.

However, one thing is certain now in my mind, this current job I am in was not meant to be after all, and may be it’s for the best I am being made redundant. I wonder if anyone remembers the old saying, although we can’t see it at the time, things happen for a reason. I believe in this case it to be completely true. But it has given me several more months of very valid experience and knowledge in another specialized industry.

It was the first Christmas and New Year without my dad, and somehow we got through it, although it was very sad and strange not to see him Christmas morning, and then round the dinner table with my brother, sister-in-law and my nephews. It is also very strange to realize that next month, on my birthday, it will be the first anniversary of dads passing. I can’t believe where this past year has gone, it just does not seem real without him around.

The dark mornings and evenings with the dismal weekends throughout the winter months, travelling too and from work have taken its toll on my physical and mental well-being. In January I ended up with a virus that knocked me off my feet for a few days and then a severe bout of laryngitis in February. On top of all this I found out my diabetes has got worse and I am now on daily medication for this as well as new medication for a couple of other problems associated with the diabetes. Not really the best start to the year.

My daily routine starts when I get up between 5.45 to 6.00 am each morning and get ready for work to start a journey to work that takes about 1.1/2 hrs plus. This includes two bus journeys as well as waiting around time for connecting to the 2nd bus services and then a 15 to 20 mins walk down what has to be one of the dirtiest, and most dangerous roads in Birmingham which is a route to a major freight company in an industrial area. On the good side they say a brisk 20 min walk is good for you every day.  The road and footpaths are littered with rubbish that has been deliberately dumped, including large truck tyres, as well as the rubbish thrown out of the windows of speeding cars. The footpaths are blocked by trailer lorries which one has to walk into the road into oncoming, and sometimes speeding traffic in order to get around these parked vehicles. Normally I would be able to avoid this long walk and take a short cut, but unfortunately there is major bridge repair work going on which means the short cut is cordoned off until further notice. I’m guessing it will re-open the week after I’ve finished this job!

On arriving at work each day for an 8.30 am start I then have to deal with one particular male colleague who has to be the most arrogant, big-headed, loud mouthed and disrespectful person I have ever had the misfortune to meet in my entire working career. This has lowered my mood considerably over the past few months, but now I won’t have to work with him much longer which is a huge sigh of relief.  The rest of the team I work with are a fantastic bunch, and it is down to them that I have managed to survive and get through each day in this job, and the fact I have been able to learn so much about the concrete industry. Then, on finishing work between 5.30 to 6.00 pm I have to repeat the same journey back home, this time through a crowded city centre and finally manage to get home around 7.00 to 7.15 pm. feeling exhausted, but not able to get ready and go to bed because of having to have a light meal in order to have my evening medication and allowing the meal to digest before I can go to bed. If only life was so much more simpler.

This is a very long day with travelling and working in any ones book, and to do it through the winter months and through the dark mornings and nights has taken its toll on my health. Thankfully the past couple of weeks has been a big improvement, lighter in the morning when I leave home and of an evening when I leave work, which has made it more bearable and also a few warm mornings with some bright sunshine and blue skies.

The Saturday mornings I have had to work, which is one in every third Saturday, have usually been the better Saturdays regarding the weather, but because of having to be up at 5.00 am to be in work for 7.00 am by the time I finish around 10.30/11.00 am I am too exhausted to do anything, including going out with my camera. On my free Saturdays the weather has been dismal and so this has kept me indoors.

With all this going on I can understand why so many British love to go to warmer, sunnier climates during our winter months.

The last couple of Saturdays I did finally manage to get out and about with my camera, a trip to my nearest local zoo in Dudley and then last week-end to the Birmingham Nature Centre. Just pushing and willing myself to get out on both those days has helped me to start fighting back those demons. There is something about being around animals that does help to lift ones spirits. It means that with the better weather comes the chance to get out and about more, go on walks which in turn should help the diabetes and my blood pressure. I even have a couple of day trips planned. I also want to find time to relax and do some fishing in the summer months. I always used to find sitting on a river bank watching the fish rising to the surface and splashing, hearing the birds singing and the water rats and voles diving in and out, always made me smile and even gives me inspiration. In all honesty I think they all look forward to the spring as much as we humans do.

I probably say this every year, but I do love spring. It’s a new beginning, a fresh start, a colourful time of year, to see the carpets of  daffodils and crocuses rising from the ground, it warms the heart, and also allows our souls to breathe again. I realise I have a few  busy and uncertain months ahead of me, the stress of job searching, then starting a new job, working with new people, adapting to a different environment all over again, improving my diabetes, but I also intend to give myself some me time whilst out exploring with my camera, this is something I haven’t done properly for a few months.

 

Approaching Spring

Spring soon will be here
Away from the winter’s snow
Drying up every frosty tear
And causing the landscape to glow

But the shine of spring I need right now
I need all the help I can get
To wave goodbye to this past winter
In hopes that I can forget

I’ve lost all my real friends
And almost ever other friendship too
Right now I am just amazed
That I haven’t yet lost you

The approaching spring will hit restart
It’s something that we all need
The approaching spring will fix our hearts
And allow our souls to breathe

by Matt Burgett

 

Many thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

Given the circumstances.

Yet again its hard to believe another Christmas is upon us, over the years I have come to accept the fact that as I get older, then so the years appear to go faster. This year has been no exception, the year has fled by, which in some ways is good and in other ways not so good.

Each Christmas time and New Year I take time out to reflect on the year past and the year ahead. This year is no exception. It has certainly been a very mixed one for me, one of personal achievements, some enjoyment, new challenges and one of sadness and sorrow.

Just one year ago this week I was breathing a huge sigh of relief at the fact that although my dad had a major health scare, twice in the space of a little over a week, he was still alive and able to enjoy his Christmas with us all. What none of us realized at that time was the fact it would be his last one. looking back at 12 months ago it was all very scary.

As 2016 unfolded and I started to make plans for the year ahead, I knew it was going to be an uncertain year, more so on the job situation than anything. Not knowing if the lady whose job I was covering was going to come back or not. Only one thing was certain I knew I had another 8 solid months of commitment to my job, one that I loved doing. How many people today can honestly say they love their job I wonder. I  had made some incredible new friendships with the team I had been working with, and we still stay in touch and meet up for a meal and a chat every few weeks.

I was looking forward to a holiday, and actually ended up having two different breaks… a week up in Scotland in August as well as a much-needed long weekend break down in South Devon in early July visiting Paignton, Plymouth & Dartmouth. Then in September I started my all new important permanent job….only to find 5 weeks down the line that I am going to be made redundant in the coming April/May. Having to have more surgery, to sort out the first lot that didn’t work

In the February I was diagnosed with diabetes, which has meant some big life changes over the past few months, but the one really good thing that has come out of this is that it has encouraged me to take a lot more regular walking exercise. As  I love to go out and explore nature, and do some photography, it has encouraged me to visit new places and get much more exercise.

Earlier in the year I drew up a ‘bucket list’ I have had the opportunity of going out and doing different new things, for instance for the first time I have been able to go to Charlecote Hall & Park to see fallow deer and shoot them close up (with a camera that is!) In October I finally got to go to see London Zoo, in July the Monkey Forest nr Stoke On Trent, in October, Warwick Castle where I got to see close up an amazing birds of prey display. Early November I achieved a long time ambition of mine to take an Alpaca for a walk, also in November I got to go to the West Midlands Safari Park and a little over two weeks ago I saw the most amazing colourful display of lanterns at Longleat House and Safari Park. In August I managed to finally make the trip to Liverpool to meet up with a very dear friend.

Overall it has been a very mixed and eventful year, and despite the turmoil in my life it has been a year that I have manged to cope with and stay pretty well on top of and come through the other end of it. I’m not going to kid myself or anyone else for that matter, but the combination of the right medication, positive thinking, photography, keeping busy with the new job and an incredible group of family and close friends is what has kept me going.

This season however doesn’t have the same feeling for me. Like many others they too have lost family and friends throughout the year, and it has felt very strange that as we approach Christmas day I have had to come to terms with the fact that my Dad won’t be with us this time or ever again to celebrate Christmas.

Because of my Dads failing eyesight the last couple of years, it meant my sister-in-law and myself would sit and write Dads cards for him. This year however I have found it an almost impossible task for me to sit down and write my own cards to family and friends. this past couple of weeks or so it has hit me more harder than ever and I have found myself having a little cry every time I think about how much I miss him, and how much I will miss him not being around at Christmas for the first time ever in my life.

My Dad was always very much a man of tradition when it came to Christmas, and this is something I have always embraced, he always used to look forward to his Christmas lunch, he had to have the turkey leg on his plate with the usual mix of sprouts, carrots and roast potatoes and always lemon & thyme stuffing, a pint of bitter and then Christmas pudding and custard to finish (in the old days every year my mom used to make her own for all the family, from scratch and my dad brother and I used to have a hand in the preparation and mixing of the puds) At 3.00 pm we were always ready to sit down to watch the Queens speech and then later on a cup of tea and mince pie.

Every year since I can remember, Dad  always bought himself, my sister-in-law and me a Poinsettia plant for Christmas. Usually after a couple of months they would shrivel up and die, that’s just the way it is with this type of plant.  Dad always had the knack on how to keep his going for several months. When he passed a way earlier this year, his Poinsettia from last Christmas was still sitting on his kitchen windowsill. I decide to take it home with me, not really expecting it to last very long. Dad had given me a tip earlier in the year as to how to best water it, every few days put some warm water, never cold water, at the bottom of the plant pot and sit the plant in it. The plant is thriving, and it is a year old this week, although it doesn’t have the usual big red leaves, it is full of healthy green ones, I’m sure Dad has been helping me to keep an eye on it these past few months.

 

 

 

 

The year ahead will be another very challenging one for me, come the spring I will have to start the process all over again of looking for another new job. So much uncertainty ahead. Hopefully the chance to go and explore new places and do lots more photography. Health and finances permitting, I am already planning my holiday for next Sept. One of my main ambitions for over 20 years is that I have wanted to go on cruise to see the Norwegian Fjords. I have heard of so many people say what a beautiful and unique experience it was for them, and this is something I feel will be absolutely spectacular to photograph.

At the moment in my thoughts it’s all about trying to remain positive for the year ahead, and getting though my first Christmas without my Dad……and as the poem says, For I know that in my heart you’re here.

 

To all my family, friends and readers I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year ahead.

Walking with Alpacas.

Hands up if you have ever walked an animal, other than a domesticated pet such as a dog? What! None of you!

Oh dear, then you’re missing a real treat!

As my readers know I am a bit of an animal and nature lover, and I do love to explore places where there are different animals. All the better if the place I am visiting is somewhere other than a zoo or nature centre.

I love to do something a little different every now and then, and recently decided to try to tick another to do off my bucket list.

One of the most unusual creatures I have read about over more recent years, and only seen in zoos is the Alpaca. This is an animal related to the Camel and Llama family. I have always been fascinated by its lovely characteristics facial features and its temperament.

A couple of years ago I started to read articles and see advertisements about being able to ‘go for walks’ with these beautiful creatures. Earlier this year I came across a website and a particular story about a young lady called Sarah Booth.

In Sarah’s own words….

”I went on an alpaca walk and it turned out to be a life-changing experience…..
I’d just been diagnosed with a serious illness and my partner, Stuart took me on an alpaca walk as a treat to cheer me up. It was amazing, and I decided that I wanted to live and work with alpacas.”

I thought to myself, that sounds just like the sort of day out I would enjoy….an Alpaca walk, and this particular place it was not that very far away from where I live.

With a session booked online for mid morning  Sat 21st Nov, a couple of train and bus journeys planned, I found myself there, looking across this big 6 acre field and farm watching all these beautiful animals grazing and enjoying the November morning sunshine.

Prior to my walk with my chosen Alpaca, I was able to take a little walk around the farm, where there were free range chickens, ducks and turkeys all happily running around in a great big open space. Obviously  this was agreat photo opportunity for me. Camera….free roaming animals, what could be better. Oh, and I must not forget Stella!!

The other visitors arrived between 10.30 to 11.00 am and we all spent a bit of time listening to Sarah explain a bit about Alpacas in general, as well as about her own herd. Then we were all led out in to the yard where a group of male Alpacas were ready to be chosen and taken for a walk around the farms field.

One by one we were introduced to ‘her boys’ as Sarah affectionately called them. We were told their names, and a little bit about their characters and temperaments. If I had the choice I would have loved to have taken each and every one of them for a walk….alas, I was only allowed one. The little guy I chose was Dodge.

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the next 40 plus minutes. It was an absolute joy to be able to take this little guy for a walk around the field, along with my other co walkers and their chosen Alpacas. We were also allowed to walk in the next field where all the girls were.

What is also wonderful about this experience is that because these are such gentle creatures, they love to be stroked and they allow you to cuddle them, and their fleeces are so soft and delicate. My whole experience with these animals left me feeling  soothed and relaxed, and wanting to go back there again very soon.

This is an experience that I really do highly recommend to any animal lover, especially if you want to try something different, and especially so to any one who wants to get up close and learn a bit more about these adorable animals.

 

Let me introduce to The Lucky Tails Alpaca Farm

Lucky Tails Alpacas is a small and friendly farm run by Sarah and Stuart. Its situated in the beautiful Warwickshire countryside on the borders of Birmingham, Staffordshire and Leicestershire. It is home to some of the very best alpacas in the country. We have genetics from all around the world including an award-winning stud imported from New Zealand-SILVERSTREAM FORERUNNER OF ANZAC. We invite you to come and see for yourself.

info@luckytailsalpacafarm.co.uk

Dexter lane
Hurley
Atherstone

CV9 2JQ

 

Let me introduce you to some of the Alpacas and other animals on the farm.alpacas-4 alpacas-12 alpacas-36 alpacas-63 alpacas-88 alpacas-102 alpacas-104 alpacas-117 alpacas-177 alpacas-183 alpacas-187 alpacas-195 alpacas-197 alpacas-204 alpacas-206 alpacas-209 alpacas-214 alpacas-220 alpacas-229 alpacas-237 alpacas-255 alpacas-262 alpacas-281

My companion for the walk 'Dodge'. Delightful little fella

My companion for the walk ‘Dodge’. Delightful little fella.

alpacas-315 alpacas-325

 

Some of the other charming little animals on the farm. all left to roam around free…. what a wonderful life they have.

chickens-11 chickens-16 chickens-25

 

Not forgetting Stella……

dog-1

Stella...part of Sarah and Stuarts family.

Stella…part of Sarah and Stuarts family.

ducks-3 goats-6 lucky-tails-alpaca-farm-347

 

 

turkeys-12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, this was an amazing couple of hours, and is something I do highly recommend doing if you get the opportunity. I do however also recommend wellies and old jeans.

Stella is adorable, as are the little goats they are all very friendly, they do however like a bit of fuss and the chance to leave some muddy footprints on you.

I’m looking forward to my next visit in a couple of months time.

 

Thanks for stopping by

 

 

 

A new road ahead.

It has been a very long strange and mixed 12 months. Some really rough and tough times these past few months on a health level and with the passing of my father in April,  but also some great times on the work side, and also the chance to develop my love of nature and photography and visit more places in order to do this.

Having said that I am now at yet another crossroads in my life, and yet I am seeking a new challenge and am looking to take the next step forward. In two weeks time on August 5th my current contract comes to an end, and yet again I will be looking for a new job, to some to find a new job it’s as easy as tossing a coin in the air, but for those of us who suffer depression and anxiety, it can be a very daunting prospect.

In many ways I have been very fortunate with this current position, I have far exceeded my own expectations and discovered new things about myself in my ability to tackle and solve problems and overcome a lot of obstacles. I have been able to maintain a  high level of professionalism, Iv’e been able to do so much in-depth work, and not just doing one or two stages of a job and then passing it on to the next person to do their part, but I have been able to follow many stages of an entire process through from start to finish. In addition to this I have been able to implement several new job procedures and carry them through to prove they can and do work, and Iv’e learnt a great deal about the rail industry, and I have also been extremely fortunate to work with some incredible and wonderful people and make some wonderful friendships in the process. Overall I have exceeded my own expectations, and I believe in all honestly exceeded my employers expectations of me, and I have to say that does feel good, and it also makes one feel proud to have made such an achievement.

One thing is for certain, I do feel a little more confident about my future job than I have done for many years, that is of course providing I get the right opportunity by a company willing to take a chance and give me the opportunity to prove myself. For the first time in many years I actually feel confident in my own abilities.

I have had a great year discovering the local nature reserve, through all the changing seasons, made friends with a Robin who I called Buddy. He has in recent weeks  flown the nest with his little babies, and despite knowing I will most likely never see him again, unless we both happen to make return visits to the reserve and his particular favourite tree. I do feel very privileged that I was able to make friends, share a trust and have a special bond with a wild bird and be able hand feed him.

That aside, I have also this year had to cope with the diagnosis of  Diabetes,  problems with my kidneys and cholesterol level, another lot of surgery and then in April the sudden and unexpected death of my Father.  An extreme combination of  similar problems that 15 years ago brought to my knees, and  my first dealings with  depression, but now despite how hard it is to cope with all this…some how I have managed to cope and  I have come to realise that it is due to a combination of the right daily medication, some really incredible family and friends, the pursuance of my love of nature and photography, and a job I love doing, but more importantly positive thinking and the confidence in ones own abilities, and to try not give up so easily.

So, my next step forward is to take a much-needed short holiday up in Strathpeffer  in Scotland the week after my job comes to an end, give myself chance to recharge my worn out batteries, take in the wonderful Scottish air, scenery and hospitality, take plenty of photographs and discover the wildlife up there, and also hopefully treat myself to a glass or two of some very fine single malt whisky from that region.  But, I do realise that I also need time to think about what sort of job I would like to do next, and how to balance my work life with managing my diabetes and also prepare myself  mentally for upcoming job interviews. So who knows what new opportunities await around the next corner.

 

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate.

– J.R.R. Tolkien

Many thanks for stopping by

 

Trust in nature…..meet my Buddy!

One of my ambitions for this year was to be able to become more involved  with nature and wildlife.

My readers may recall in my December posting that I wrote about a little Robin redbreast that had become friendly at the local nature reserve close by to where I am currently working. He had decided to come and settle near me to feed each day from a bench seat, and I believed that eventually I could entice him enough to have him feed out of my hand. I had to name him of course, and after a lot of thought because he has become my little buddy….I decided to call him just that ‘Buddy’

Since the beginning of this year with a little gentle encouragement, persuasion, perseverance and patience and building up that trust between us (and of course the correct choice of food) he has done just exactly that. I have to say that I feel very privileged that this little wild bird has grown up enough to trust me and feed directly out of my hand. When I was younger I had heard stories of such things happening with others, but never thought I could achieve the same thing. Making friends with nature this way is truly amazing. People walking past have been amazed and stop to chat with me and asking how I have managed this wonderful friendship with nature.

As I enter the reserve and approach ‘his territory’, I give a few little whistles and within a matter of 15 to 20 seconds he appears there on the one of the branches. Without fail, come wind, rain, snow or sunshine, in the morning before work and after work on my way home, he is there (as am I) I place a small amount of mixture of dried meal worms, suet pellets and seeds in my hand and before I have time to fully extend my arm out he flies onto my hand and pecks at the food. Sometimes he may sit on my hand for a while, other times he flies on grabs some food, flies back on to his branch, gobbles down the morsel of food, looks at me flies back on to my hand and repeats the process several times. Once he has had enough he will fly up to the top of  ‘his’ tree and sing his little heart out.

Seeing this little guy is a wonderful addition to my daily routine even if it is just for 10 or 15 minutes a day. In recent weeks however I noticed he started to act ‘a little differently’. He was taking a little longer than usual to come when I whistled him, I’ve also seen him chase other different birds from his territory if they dare show up. That is except for one other little Robin who has started to appear regularly. By watching  Buddy’s behaviour during the past 5 to 6  weeks my suspicions have been confirmed….Buddy has taken a wife!!

The other little robin appeared several  weeks ago, and I have watched Buddy take food from my hand, fly off to her and feed her. he is very attentive towards her, and is also very protective of her and will keep an eye on any other approaching birds and chase them off. Over the past 3 weeks she has started to come closer towards me, she is obviously very nervous of coming on to my hand yet, but like Buddy, given a little bit of time I’m sure that will change. To encourage her, I have made a small green cup feeder to hang off one of the branches of  Buddy’s favourite trees. Once I put a bit of the feed in there and take a couple of steps backwards, she will fly down to it, perch on the edge and take a few morsels. I’ve watched him grapple with long worms in the soil, and then with the worm in his beak fly down to his partner and give the worm to her. When I see this happen for some reason it  reminds me of the Disney film Lady and the Tramp

The two of them are never very far apart and he will come and perch on my hand to feed whilst she feeds from the cup. I have watched him from a distance perform the typical male mating ritual…. sitting in front of her, his chest all puffed out, fluttering together in mid-air, serenading her with his sweet little voice. Of course, now that spring is upon us, I guess it will be time for them to build their new nest and hopefully may be the chance of starting his own little family. It will be even more important now to feed him over the coming weeks, to ensure he is able to fly food into the nest for his little wife, and then hopefully his babies.

Spring is my favourite time of the year….new life, fresh beginnings.

 

 

Meet Buddy….

BUDDY - KNNR - FEB 2016 (16)

Buddy’s new wife

BUDDY - KNNR - FEB 2016 (69)

My little Buddy

BUDDY - KNNR - FEB 2016 (134)

Serenading his wife

 

 

Many thanks for stopping by. Have a great day.