Monday, 28 November 2016

Chance encounter

After a lazy uneventful morning, in which the only unusual thing I did was paying our domestic water rate bill on-line, I made an effort to get out of the house to enjoy blue sky and afternoon sunshine and hunt for wildlife with my camera along the east bank of the Taff. As I approached Blackweir bridge, I was hailed by a neighbour, who was walking along with a friend, who greeted me as if he too had recognised me. But I doubt if he would have done had he not been told who I was. We'd not seen each other for fifty three years. 

Roger Hacker was a classmate in Pengam Grammar school, a sixth form Chemistry student as I was. After A levels I went off to study in Bristol Uni, and he'd taken a job selling ice cream for a year, while he waited to go to Aberystwyth Uni. We'd never seen each other since the results were announced. He'd emigrated to Canada, spent his career there in teaching, then eventually moved to Australia to teach, and that's where his he and his family now live, although he also retains his links with Wales through a family house in the Gower. What an amazing coincidence to have just bumped into them like that, when I'd wandered down to the river across the playing fields for a change, rather than by the usual path. 

Life is full of surprises, I mused to myself as I walked on. There was a Cormorant keeping watch on top of the pillar from which Blackweir bridge is suspended. It's not a nesting place, but is a safe place to roost and enjoy the sun. Sometimes two birds are up there. Beneath the east bank below the weir a heron surveyed the swirling waters hopefully. I got within ten metres of it before being seen, but wasn't quick enough to get a photo as it spread its magnificent slate grey wings and fled downstream.

In places there are still bright yellow leaves attached to trees, even some that are still pale green, all looking luminescent in the low afternoon sun. Squirrels are very active in the woods, both at ground level and jumping between trees or bushes as they forage for food to store for winter. I spotted one of the Jays that inhabit both banks of the stretch of river by the SWALEC stadium, but in the only photo I obtained the bird's head was perfectly obscured by a leaf not yet fallen. The photos are never as good as I hope they'll be, but it's fun to try.

I walked for over two hours in a chilly breeze, so I walked to the Tesco superstore and then to Staples to browse for bargains and get warm again before heading for home, by crossing the Taff in order to walk down the long tree lined avenue bisecting Llandaff Fields from north to south. The sun was just reaching the horizon by this time, and there were snatches of birdsong, blackbirds and tits plus others I didn't recognise. Sometimes huge flocks of starlings occupy these trees whistling and chattering among themselves. Other times, you hear a solitary thrush or several blackbirds announcing themselves to each other in song at this time of day. Maybe it was too cold, or I was a little early, but although birds were making noises, it was hardly a delighful song-fest this evening.

How fortunate we are to have such a large stretch of well managed parkland with wild areas plus a fine clean river running through it, as a defining feature of the city centre environment. The main shopping streets were decorated for the festive season early this month. One notable addition is a group of four wire metal sculptures of reindeer, painted gold and covered with lights. Quite tasteful really, in stark contrast to the alternative to a traditional Christmas tree, a plastic conical structure said to be 40 feet high, whose gold coloured surface is meant to represent a host of golden baubles. Spectacularly tacky, and meeting with general disapproval from people on social media. It's on hire for £10k per year for three years, according to the Western Mail. What an embarrassing disaster, when seasonal decorations are, for the most part, pleasing to the eye.

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