The one with all the birds

Kites! First one is definitely a Red Kite, and the ones in the gallery are probably Black Kite(s). I can’t figure out the differences >_<

It’s my birthday today! Of course today has just been a normal working day, but I celebrated with my family over the weekend. I’ve been seeing a lot of birds of prey lately – I get red kites that fly over my apartment and around the local area. They are amazing to watch, but of course always so high up in the sky so that I can never see them up close, or appearing when I’m driving and thus unable to watch. So I requested for my birthday that we had a family trip to see some kites :) As luck would have it, there is a Bird of Prey center near where my parents live so, together with my sister, thats where we went. It turned out to be amazing – they had loads of different birds, the birds were well looked after and happy and the whole place had been put together nicely, with a cute little tuck shop, beds of flowers around the enclosures and friendly (and knowledgeable!) staff. We had a general look at the birds then there was a meet and greet where we could pet a ferret and a tiny owl <3 the highlight was then definitely watching them excercise the birds i.e a flying show!

Tiny Owl and some of the other birds. All I know is that No1 in the gallery is probably a Peregrine Falcon, and No2 is definitely a Kestrel.

They brought out a bald eagle, an owl, a raven, a secretary bird, a stork, two vultures and about twelve kites. Twelve! All at once! It was incredible. Hard to take in, but incredible to see them up so close. One flew right over my head! Seeing them up close in their enclosures and then in the flying show was really special. They are truly beautiful , elegant creatures. The other birds were also amazing – the secretary bird showed us how it kills snake using a fake snake which was hilarious (think of the way cats start viciously beating their toys with their back feet then return to cutely playing as if nothing happened), the raven was young and clumsy, and all of them riveting to watch. The keepers told us all their stories and their names which was really interesting too (and I loved their names – like Sharon the bald eagle, Scooby the raven, lady the secretary bird haha )

(Did you know Ravens have the intelligence of a 5 year old child? Isn’t that amazing? Scooby could fly off whenever he wants, but he knows he has the easy life at the center, so he willingly stays.)

Kite, Stork x2, Bald Eagle x2, Secretary bird inspecting the snake

Afterwards we gathered at a local ice cream farm for something delicious and cold then went back to chill at my parents house, sitting in the garden to soak up the beautiful summer weather.

The next day my sister couldn’t join in as she was busy :( but I went with my parents to a local National Trust property to eat cake (my mom very quietly sang me happy birthday before I tucked in haha) and look around the gardens. It was really pretty and sunny.

Then I just had to pack and slog home. Thankfully everyone was watching the football so my journey was quiet and uneventful.


As for turning a year older? Being 26? I honestly don’t feel at all different from last year….I don’t think I’ve really changed at all this past year. :/ It is a little scary how close I am now (and how quickly I am moving towards) the big 30 though.

Fear

Cotton Grass on the moors, Shutlingsloe from the distance, a resevoir, and sheep.
This lovely, sunny bank holiday weekend I am stuck at home recovering from a particularly annoying cold. So I thought I would share photos from last weekend; I went home to see my parents, and my father and I went for a walk on Sunday to Shutlingsloe, in the Peak District, and a nearby forest. As I had a bus to catch home in the afternoon, we made our walk a very early one – starting at around 9am in the morning. We first climbed Shutlingsloe, taking advantage of how quiet it was in the early morning, and how cool it still was. There were flowers out even on the moors- sloeberry bushes beginning to form their fruits, and rogue daisies, and fluffy cotton grass. I picked a stalk of those, running my fingers through the soft flower. We ascended and it was still up there, for once, and we sat and snacked as we gazed out onto the countryside and the hazy profiles of Cheshire and Greater Manchester in the distance. We then descended and went for a long meander, country roads, bare and gloomy pine forests, and then a grove of sycamore trees where, to our surprise, a huge amount of bluebells were carpeting the forest floor. It was stunning. We continued walking, exploring more mixed forests and another pine forest, and were quite tired by the end, as the sun got stronger and stronger, but it was very refreshing, and very pretty out there.

Bluebells. *_*
We have done that walk, or a walk like it, Shutlingsloe and the surrounding area, so many times now, so familiar now, there’s probably an entry on this blog with photos like this, but it’s still one of our favourites , and there is something to be said for the familiar. Even that can surprise sometimes, such as with the unexpected swath of bluebells. I was sorting through some old files the other day and stumbled upon a video of my father, my sister and I climbing Shutlingsloe several years ago, I was still small and chatting away to nobody, my sister was a teenager, whiny and annoyed, and my poor father meanwhile was just trying to film some scenery. It was snowing. And it surprised me to see us out in that weather, to see myself so confidently striding through the snow , ascending and descending what surely must have been a slippery path, surely, without concern. It’s amazing how fearless we are as children, and I wonder when fear and worry begins to set in? When do we become aware of danger? I wouldn’t go out on a walk like that in the snow now; I’d be scared of slipping and hurting myself, of getting stranded in freezing conditions. Younger me clearly wasn’t so concerned – even in simple trainers, she was happy to just walk. I guess that’s ultimately all there is to it, but it’s our minds that get in the way as we get older.

I recently went to see a new therapist and we were talking about my history and she asked me when it began – my anxiety- and I wonder too. It feels like it’s always been there, but when I look at pictures and videos of myself when I was younger I’m so bold and outspoken that clearly there was a time I was not? I must have just taken growing up a little too hard, or something. It’s puzzling how different I am as a child and as an adult. Something must have gone very wrong somewhere along the way.

Stack of fresh cut pine logs – my father and I counted the rings of the bigger ones and estimated them to between 50-60 years old. Forest scenery, an old road, and a small abandoned house in the forest. Someone had gone to the effort of researching the owner of that house, printing out and laminating a small information sheet and laying it at the base of the house. Very interesting.
Anyway, to go back to the topic of therapy – I decided to go private this time, sick of NHS waiting lists and the inflexibility of treatment options, and it’s very expensive, possibly too expensive to be feasible in the long run, but very thought provoking. I hope this time I can get a handle on my anxiety. Life is still not going well. I am grateful for the good moments – for forests full of bluebells and my family, and an hour with a therapist (an impartial voice) who understands. Life did not go the way I expected after graduating, and being an adult is hard.


I wish I could go out and explore this weekend – to another forest, another moor, to the seaside. It’s so nice to get out and breathe in some fresh air when your brain is all anxious and unhappy. Alas, stupid cold. I’m going to have to waste this weekend. :(

“I end up feeling empty, like you’ve taken something out of me, and I have to search my body for the scars, thinking ‘Did he find that one last tender place to sink his teeth in?'”

This weekend was another long weekend for me: I’m disorganized enough that I booked the Friday off without realising I was doing so directly after a long bank holiday weekend. Oh well. I went home to my parents on Friday and stayed with them over the weekend. On Friday and Saturday we chilled at home and I showed my parents all my photos from my trip to south Africa, and then on Sunday I went for a nice walk with my dad into the Peak District, before traveling back to my flat. It was a nice weekend, but also awkward, with the usual bickering and arguing to listen to, and try to blank over. Arguments between my parents, my mom ranting at me, and my sister came round once just to shout at everyone which made it all awkward, and it’s just tiring, that kind of atmosphere. I wish my family got on better. Or rather, that we could find some middle ground. Either we are getting on or we aren’t and it’s often hard to tell when the tide has turned. I felt particularly sad to be shouted at by my sister, who I usually get on well with, but she has a cruelty to her, which shows itself randomly and in that way, always takes me by surprise. You never know when she will turn on you, and that makes me feel vulnerable and sad. (It’s confusing – how just a week ago everything was fine and yet now it’s not.) It hurts to see such ugly sides of the people you love. Sometimes it feels like the only one who really wants me to come back, and who enjoys me being there, is my father. It’s a little disheartening – to endure over two hours of boring public transport, and to pay the ridiculous over expense of it, to go there and just end up feeling tired and drained. But I guess if it’s making just one person happy, I shall continue to try and be good and visit my parents as often as I can.

Still. Once going home to my parents felt like a refuge, but now it feels like just another place I need to put on a mask and craft a careful personality in order to avoid stirring the pot or doing something wrong, much like work. It’s not great. I feel unbelievably tired of it all. It was a good walk on Sunday though – the sun was trying to shine, it did not rain, there was no wind, no snow or ice, and the air was warm but not too warm, and smelt fresh after rain on Saturday. We did have to squelch through some terrible mud at one point, but otherwise it was not too hard and very pleasant.

Today I started work at another office, which requires a much longer commute. To get there, I drove on narrow, winding, pot holed, country roads for a good deal of the way, feeling pressured to go much faster than I was comfortable with the entire time by other people driving on my tail. I don’t see what they think they are acheiving by driving on my bumper, except making me more nervous and prone to mistakes. Sigh. This morning there was a thick mist which obscured my view, so it felt like I was driving into nothing. It was very disorientating. Thankfully it had cleared for my evening commute. And, although I was even more stressed this evening, tired and desperate to be home, not bumping along on the country roads with some person on my tail, the countryside was beautiful, and I saw a lot of wildlife. Tommorow I’m trying a different route though, which should hopefully be less in the country. Some much better roads. I hope it goes well.

“It’s so painful, it’s so joyous, it’s so difficult, I’m yearning…”

I arrived back into the UK yesterday after two and a half weeks back home in Cape Town, South Africa. Where I was born, partially raised, and where most of my relatives are. It’s been a weird two weeks, there have been awkward moments, but also amazing moments, and it feels like I was just begining to settle into it all when I had to leave again.

It had been about seven years since I’d last been back. It’s a very long time and a lot has changed in that time. Two and a half weeks hardly feels enough to make up for it. (Though it is better than nothing, of course.)

In many ways, I have made peace with my dual nationality. Too South African to be British, but too British to be South African. I am South African/Scottish but I sound neither, and I can joke about that now. When we first immigrated to the UK I had no idea what was going on, I thought it was just a big fun holiday and everything would go back to how it was. Realising that it was not any such thing, that I would have to stay in a place where no one liked me and nothing felt familiar was pretty awful. I wanted to go home. For years I was determined that I would go back. I had no appreciation for adult concerns – finance, healthcare, social security. I was lonely and sad and I didn’t fit in and I just wanted to go home. Home became something magical to me, took on a brighter tinge. I wanted to escape back to what I had, which of course was wonderful and perfect. As I grew older I had to face reality. And now, coming back to South Africa and seeing the lives of my family there, I can appreciate reality even more. It was a good thing my parents did for me, to take me to the UK. Free healthcare and schooling and benefits are nothing to scoff at. No power cuts or water restrictions too. I have an independence that maybe I wouldn’t have, and I have a very good job, a very good home. I know these things. I was grieving for a long time, angry and sad and resentful, for the loss of what I could have been and the life I could have led, whatever that would be. I wondered how I’d look, if my personality would be more extroverted. I’d try to picture it, even though it’s impossible. But I’ve finally come through to the other side of my grief. The last stage is acceptance, right?

I have accepted the immigration and its benefits. and in many ways it’s freeing. It was brilliant going home with that acceptance. I could struggle to understand people in my home country and laugh it off. I could speak without feeling ashamed of my accent. I could embrace my otherness, and be a tourist in my home country, and not let it get to me. I surprised myself with just how well I did at not caring about it all. That was good. That helped a lot.

And I tried to enjoy being with my family, and reconnect with them, without all the miles and years between us getting in the way. Tried to have the same easy going acceptance of what is, is. That was a lot harder.

There is a distance, and it hurts. And it’s not just that, it’s hard to be with someone on borrowed time, hard to slip back into their lives and then out again. Especially as my grandparents grow older I am left sitting there wondering – is this the last time? There is a pressure to have everything just so, because of the limited time, and it ends up feeling a little forced and sometimes, yes, it was awkward. Wearing a mask and putting on your best behaviour. It shouldn’t be that way, really. We don’t really know each other, but yet they are family, and I love them, and I know they love me, despite all the thousands of miles between us, and I can’t bare the thought of losing them. I lost two of my grandparents in the last seven years, without being able to say goodbye, and I’m not sure I could do that again.

Even as practically I can appreciate my privileges and all that I have, nothing can take away the pain of having to say goodbye to your grandmother at the airport, not knowing if it’s the last time you will ever see her. It just hurts. It’s a stone embedded in my heart, a wound that won’t heal or allow itself to be erased. It’s home, and that’s just the way it is, and although I have boxed up my grief and loss and tucked it away, it’s still there.

I want to go back, I don’t want to go back, I should go back, I shouldn’t go back, I can go back, I can’t go back.

It feels like I’ve just been woken up from the most beautiful dream.

My head: it’s ok. Time to get on with reality.

My heart: I want to slip back into that dream.

(Home is still something slightly magical, something otherly to me. I said to my coworker before I left that it, the holiday, won’t feel real until I see Table Mountain appear out the plane window as we circle to land. But I lied. It never felt real. There was so much that was so wonderful, and South Africa is just too beautiful for words. I love my home and I hope I can go back again, just have this at least once more…)

(Why does it have to be so expensive and time consuming to go home? It’s so frustrating.)

“Once more, back to those times. It would have been…”

Heather in bloom across the moors
I had a terrible week last week, so I decided to go home to my mom and dads to allow my parents to look after me and help me relax/recover. It was a bank holiday after all – I wanted to make the most of it and really have a good break.

Peak of the Roaches
I got home on Saturday afternoon and spent the remainder of the day chilling at home. My parents and I sat outside for ages, making the most of the warm summer evening. We had a braai, then my dad got out his incinerator to burn some papers, and as the evening chill set in, the fire kept us warm as we talked. The next day I went for a walk with my father. He claimed it would be a short walk, but we ended up walking over 9 miles. Ouch. It was a beautiful route though. We started out near Gradbach Scout Camp then followed a path through the forest near Black Brook and the River Dane to get to the Roaches. There we paused to buy ice cream from an ice cream van placed very strategically at the bottom car park for the Roaches. (So. Clever.)

We then ascended the Roaches. From up there, the countryside stretched out for miles and miles. It was a clear, bright day. All the heather was blooming, in various shades of pink and purple. We were very lucky to spot a Peregrine Falcon as soon as we reached the top, and then later, as we sat down to lunch, there was another Peregrine Falcon scouting out the fields right in front of us.

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon, probably.
Although the zoom on my camera is not the best, I am still amazed and very pleased with the pictures I managed to get. Birds of Prey are so hard to photograph. I get red kites around my flat, but I either never have my camera on me when they are out, or by the time I’ve got my camera out they’ve flown off. The first falcon was too far away. But from up on the Roaches we had the perfect vantage spot to watch, and capture, that falcon hunt.

Doxey Pool

Doxey pool at the top of the Roaches
We carried along the Roaches after lunch, and then descended to make our way to Hen Cloud. We ascended that, briefly spotted a couple more Falcons, a pair this time, circling around each other, although they were too quick to capture. It’s really wonderful to see birds of prey doing so well; they are easy to see these days, even if only fleetingly.

The Roaches with Hen Cloud in the distance
We descended Hen Cloud into a small forest, which opened up onto a country road which followed beneath the Roaches. This was a fairly dull part of the walk, a bit of a slog really, and we were exposed to the bright sun far too much. From the road we could see all the rock climbers out and about – the Roaches is a popular site for it. There were hordes of people out, actually, walking and rock climbing and picnicking. We got back to the ice cream van, stopped for another because why not it was extremely hot and exposed out there, and then headed back the way we had come. (Thankfully, back into the shade of the forest, though it was still hot, sticky. I had expected it to be cold and damp and was woefully overdressed.)

Except we decided to take a detour from our original route to go see Lud’s Church. Lud’s Church is basically a big chasm that has opened up in the forest. From the hot, humid forest above we descended into its cool, damp interior. Moss and bracken coated the sides. Unfortunately my camera lens was dirty so a lot of my photos were marred. But truly, its hard to capture the scale of the place, and its subdued, chilled atmosphere.

Lud's ChurchFrom there we headed back through the forest to the car park, thoroughly tired out. I headed to my sisters that evening for junk food and to play with her cat. The next day I had to go back to my apartment, where I chilled out and enjoyed the remainders of my long weekend. It was tough going back to work today. Work is a little boring right now which doesn’t help. Still, in the end I got the relaxing break I craved. And my parents, as always, spoilt me and for just a while, I could be free of the responsibility that comes with being an adult. It was nice to take a break from it all. And I’m glad the weather played ball – it was bright and sunny the whole weekend, with hardly any rain. :D

Heather in bloom

Note 1: I posted about the Roaches also in this entry here. (It’s funny how weather influences a walk – the Roaches and Hen Cloud were far less intimidating this time with the sun shining, compared to how they were in the snow and rain.)
Note 2: For more information on the Roaches, including some fascinating tales on Wallabies and Yaks, I highly suggest checking out the Roaches website.