open the curtains

and take a look out the window if you want to know what the weather's like


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Swan Baby Gone

February 15th 2013 

The first daffodils are showing in the cemetery. Early catkins strand dull branches.

The first cherry blossoms are spreading a veil of palest pink on trees in gardens and hedgerows. Velveteen buds where last week, nothing.  Five o’clock and the sun’s still not drifted down behind the headland. An evening walk becomes late afternoon again. Families and students on the beach after school and uni.

Two swans alone on Swanpool. I scan the lake for any sign of the grown-up cygnet. She’s nowhere to be seen.

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Seven(th) Swans a-Swimming

It looked like a bright day outside. The wind was loud and boisterous. It was whipping my skirt, my scarf, my hair. Stinging my eyes. Cold forehead. I wished I’d worn a hat. Leaves blew up and whirled round. It grew less and less bright as I stepped onwards, and not just because it was past three o’clock on a December afternoon.

The Swanpool swans were dabbling at the pool edge by the benches at the roadside. The seven-month-old cygnet has not yet left his parents. Each time I come down here I wonder whether he will have flown the nest yet. Continue reading


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Stretching the Wings

There’s something about beautiful weather in September that I find so much more appealing than a full blown summer’s day. Perhaps it’s because I live in a tourist destination, and now the schools have gone back but the university term’s still a month from restarting my locale is experiencing a temporary lull.

All in all this summer has gone by very quickly. It’s hard to believe that only four months have passed since the swans of Swanpool hatched their pair of chicks – especially when you look at the size of the surviving cygnet stretching her wings at the waterside.  Continue reading


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How to tell it’s August despite the weather

Packed beaches. Ambling tourists in shop doorways when I’m in a hurry on my lunch break.

The same weather we’ve had all year is now moderately warmer if no drier or less windy or more predictable, thus adding humidity to the list of general meteorological discomforts of 2012.

Too many types of vetch, umbellifer and mustard in flower. I got as far as tufted vetch with my flower book but got disheartened by the similarity of cow parsley, burnet saxifrage and sea carrot. Garden escapees are in full throttle, rashes of near-artificial colours on the cliff edges and road sides: crocosmia, fuchsia, red hot pokers. Petals from a naturalised hydrangea litter the pathway like snippets of fallen sky. Epilobium is pink on the coast path, convolvulus white in the cemetery, a hedgebank strewn with cotton hankies. Ox-eye daisies, tansy and red valerian, which is often pink not red, all smell unpleasantly polleny. Honeysuckle smells of sun drenched hedgerows and buddleia smells of honey.

The corpses of three juvenile herring gulls have been mashed into the tarmac of my road.

A Green Flag  Award for Swanpool recognises it as among the best green spaces in Britain. Continue reading


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Seven Week Cygnet

After a string of unsummery days – eye-level cloud and low visibility followed by an airless warmth interspersed with dank mizzle and unseasonal showers – today’s brighter sky and cheery breeze was a welcome change: and on my day off too! Hung out the washing and set off to visit the Swanpool swans, who I haven’t seen for a whole month having not been much at home in the last few weeks. Continue reading


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Water Babies

Rain stopped play yesterday so I only made it back to Swanpool today to check on the progress of the nesting pair of resident swans. Down at the water’s edge a bevy of mallard quack expectantly in my direction. Their luck’s in: a family with toddlers and a bread bag are also passing. So are the seagulls, airborne the better to snatch a snack. Cue cries of bullies on wings! from the bread throwers: they’re monsters! they take the chicks as well, you know, one elaborates, while the dad quickly snatches up a vulnerable toddler as if he were too at risk of gull predation.

South end of the pool, no sign of the swans. I head in the direction of the nest, but before I get near I see a white shape in the reeds – no, two white shapes – Mr and Mrs, then: the eggs must have hatched! And yes, there they go, out into the pool with some little shapes bobbling behind them; or rather here they come, as they’re heading in my direction. I realise I should have brought bread as this is clearly what they’re expecting, but it’s ok, the bread-throwing family were here before me and there’s a tideline of soggy crusts where the wind’s flopped the water over the edge of the pavement.

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