Monday, 14 December 2015

December Already?

So it is! The weeks have been flying by and it's now only a week until Yule!

Apparently, November was unusually warm. Not that we had much sun - it was also unusually dull and wet. The relative warmth was due to the lack of frost here, only one real frost so far this winter and that didn't occur until around the 21/22 November. I can't remember the exact date, and didn't take a photo even though the fields behind the house looked rather nice dusted with ice, but I do remember thinking that it was about a month late compared to where I used to live.

We've had four winter storms in the seven weeks or so since the Met Office and Met Eireann started the named storms project to raise awareness of severe weather and to track how many storms we get over winter. I don't think I need my awareness raised, but it seems some people still don't take enough notice of severe weather warnings.

I understand that storms and severe weather warnings (and for that matter, the EA flood warnings) have a linked but separate existence, but I'm unclear on the criteria for a storm and for severe weather warnings. South West Wales was outside the area for severe weather warnings during storm Desmond, and yet there was heavy rain, flooding, and damage from high winds. In fact, when I went out to teach the other Thursday evening as storm Desmond started to build, it felt worse than on the previous Monday, when I cancelled a class due to the (then) severe weather warning. I left a comment on the Met Office Facebook page asking for clarification; given a reasonably high likelihood of the forecast, how much rain and how high a wind speed/gusts are required to be thought impactful enough to generate the severe weather warning? And when is stormy weather bad enough to be a named storm? Unfortunately, it seems the Met Office doesn't answer their visitor posts. And, judging from some of the comments on their posts, many of their visitors don't read the older posts or really understand the forecasts either, so there's lots of whinging comments about naming storms and the inaccuracy of forecasts.

I'm seeing far more birds now than earlier in the year, including a Robin who regularly comes to the garden, Blue Tits searching out spiders from the window frames and many more Starlings. The Swallows slipped away gradually at the end of the summer, and although I've seen flocks of winter thrushes flying over, none seem to settle on the horse fields behind the house. Back in September, there were often early morning skeins of geese flying over and I saw a Kestrel out looking for lunch one day when I was emptying the compost caddy into the main bins.

In the last week of November, I started to see Lapwings over and on the horse fields, with numbers building daily from 16, then 30, then 45, then 75. The flock flew back, forth and around, spilling a few members at a time until all were on the ground. They were happy enough on the ground with a few rugged-up ponies, Starlings, Rooks, Jackdaws and a mix of Herring and Black-Headed Gulls, but the occasional loud bangs from the other side of Langford Farm, where the new school is being built, was enough to send them all into the sky again, presumably in search of somewhere more peaceful. I reported this sighting to the Pembrokeshire Birds blog, which contains all sorts of sightings. Pembrokeshire is outstanding for birding, with passage migrants, accidentals and a huge variety of resident birds. If you want to do a spot of birdwatching and want to know where to look and what to look for, it's worth checking out the blog!

Over the following couple of days, the numbers of Lapwings reduced and I haven't seen any now since probably the beginning of December. On one of the last sightings, there was a glimmer of sun between showers which really set off the iridescence of the feathers as 30 or so Lapwings sheltered on a muddy strip of the field, poached by the horses' hooves as they wandered up and down a line of electric tape fencing. Everything was peaceful until some Herring Gulls started to get stroppy with a Buzzard, who had evidently wandered into their personal space. There has often been a rather wet and sorry-looking Buzzard pacing around the fields, presumably taking advantage of worms, slugs and other invertebrates in the grass. On one occasion there were two Buzzards, presumably a pair since they wandered around happily only a few metres apart from each other. Anyway, the Lapwings were fine with the Buzzard, but the Herring Gulls saw it off.

The colder weather has revealed what an unevenly-heated house this is. Downstairs is quite draughty, especially the extension, where the wind sounds like a kazoo as it forces its way in past the seals on the side door and through the outlet hole for a tumble drier. The big windows, so great for solar gain, are pretty cold when there's no sun. Suddenly, insulating tape, curtain poles and lined curtains have appeared on my priority list. And in order to put the curtain poles up, (once I decide what I want and can afford it!), I needed a combi-drill. When I was thinking about curtains, I suddenly realised that this is the first time I'm in a place where I can please myself about decor. No landlord, parents or partner to allow or object and the only compromises are related to the structure of the house and what I can afford (currently, not a lot!). The second realisation was that I no longer have any idea what I like or want by way of decor!

Cleaning, unpacking and sorting is still ongoing. It's a good job I have a lot of dusters and I get some daily satisfaction from tossing used ones into their wash-bin. I thought I would have finished within six months, but it is something of a constant problem-solving exercise and there's only so much I have the time and energy (and money!) for every day. For example, the co-ax cable from the TV aerial was too short to reach the TV. I was sure I had an extension cable, so unpacked more boxes until I found it. Then found the connector on one end was wrong and I didn't have an adapter, so went to buy an adapter, but couldn't find just the adapter, so had to buy another extension. I still haven't found the cause of the problem with my turntable, although I solved the problem with the speaker connections. And I think I may have a solution for using the old video player for playback, but need a type of lead which I definitely don't have anywhere and haven't been able to find in town. Similarly, I also need a wireless dongle for the TV, now that I can't easily run cable from the router to the TV.

One of the next jobs is to find the Christmas decorations, which have gone unused for at least six years, and make the place feel more festive. My place is looking a bit drab compared to the neighbours'. I've had two 'Christmas' dos already - a meal at a local pub with the local over-50s exercise class, and the Ceredigion belly dance classes' party which is always great fun. I was thinking of having a Yule party, but a friend has invited me to hers instead.
A late lunch, one of the cats and the To Do list are all calling me ....

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