Hanging on


Is there anyone there? Life seemed to have paused for the last two weeks. Our mail dried up and there was no familiar tap as the letter box lid dropped. Then as we travelled over the Pennines on the motorway for Christmas in Yorkshire everything seemed so quiet. There were few lorries and the Highway staff were on strike so we were told that the roads would not function as they normally do.

‘Work paused for holidays,’ said a roadside notice. What work? Who? It seemed as if everyone was away for one reason or other as we crept on seemingly without any support. We were spending Christmas in our little family home. Suddenly we joined lots of cars pulling caravans and then motor homes joined us. Other people seemed to have the same idea. They were off to the seaside. The camps were full of people like us maybe looking for a few days of a simple life away from all the strikes and mayhem and cost of living.

All the time though, I was thinking of saving on the energy costs. Should you have Christmas lights? Should you have the heating full on? Should we even be using petrol to drive so far? Were we safe with the country paused like this?

Somehow, we were safe and even ventured another meal out. The last time we ate at a restaurant in Suffolk there was a warning that the meal could take a while because they cooked from fresh. This time we had ‘bangers’ and mash with peas from the freezer but there was also a notice telling us to be patient as it would take longer to prepare. There was a shortage of staff here. I do not know whether they were ill, or no one wanted the job, all I know is that the staff who were working were rushed off their feet. We sat outside overlooking the North Sea and for all its simplicity the meal was good.

And another good thing happened at the RSPB reserve. There were tree sparrows in abundance and I sat there and watched as the birds eyed me and looked longingly at their food. We once had these little tree sparrows here in our Shropshire garden but sadly they have disappeared over the last few years and I had forgotten about their little chestnut brown caps and their shyness as they hid in hedgerows waiting to dart out for corn. They are so rare now that they are on the RSPB red list and I felt very lucky to see them.

Back home our cards arrived, the celebrations were over and a new (better?) year was beginning.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)

The tree sparrow has disappeared from our garden


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