Monday, 18 January 2010

Holiday Hymn.

Bullfinch , originally uploaded by Sergey Yeliseev.
I've just spent the weekend at a Center Parcs holiday resort near Penrith. I'll be honest, I wasn't looking forward to it. In the main, those who know me raised an eyebrow in concern when I revealed where I was going to be spending my birthday. It seemed doomed from the start. I pushed my expectations down as far as I could, stopping only when the frozen ground arrested my progress. In the end, it wasn't as bad as it could have been, but beyond enjoying the pleasure of The Kids, it was a fairly joyless excursion.

I knew I wasn't really going to enjoy the subtropical super-duper heated swimming pool environment. It really is Not My Thing. For the record, though, I did go in after being thoroughly pestered into it by The Eldest, who seemed to think that I would be won over by the fact that the place had at least three hot tubs. That was on Sunday. On Saturday The Family went in without me, leaving me with a free two hours, binoculars and a bike to use as I saw fit.

I used the time frivolously, first of all I cycled round and round the complex, looking to see where there might be some opportunity to use the binoculars, but the more I cycled the more I found myself in an Ikea flat-pack council estate parachuted into the middle of a forest. It took me back to 1976 when my family moved from Salford to Grantham so my Dad could work for Oerlikon-B├╝hrle (they went under the name British Manufacturing and Research Company - BMARC or the more vernacular Marco's, but the Swiss wore the trousers), which meant we were gifted a new-build council house surrounded by fields as far as the A1 and beyond. Beyond being more and more fields as far as Harlaxton Manor. And beyond.

Bruised by nostalgia, I followed the signs to The Bird Hide, which was along a short path adjacent to the main car park. It was the only part of the park which hadn't been adequately sanded, and I suspect it was because nobody was using The Bird Hide (on the three occasions I visited I saw nobody else). To be fair, it must have been a recent addition - the smell of fresh wood permeated the air. The Hide itself wasn't hiding any great secret, it was more a box from which to view very well-stocked feeders. A free bar intended to persuade the hungry and the lazy to put on a show for the mildly curious. The feeders were buzzing with coal tits, feuding and fighting amongst themselves, along with the usual parade of species you see at these outside barbecue events - The Tits, The Finches, The Robins, The Blackbirds, The Pigeons and The Pheasants. A Center Parcs for birds.

Thanks to Sergey Yeliseev for this lovely picture of a Bullfinch in Moscow; taken earlier today at roughly the same time of day I admired his Center Parcs equivalent, perched beyond the gaze of the bird hide.

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