Fifteen Shades for Grey

I bought it, read it, laughed a lot, left a review, and all for a grrreat cause.

“A collection of heart-warming stories to raise money for rescued animals.

This is a book of stories and poems about animals, kindness and charity. Animals add so much to our world and can make an enormous positive difference to our lives.

Grey, the handsome lad on the cover, needs an ear operation. Buying this book makes a difference not only to Grey, but to all the other rescue dogs, ducks, cats, chickens and ponies at Wooffles Animal Shelter.

All these authors donated their work for free.
All Wooffles volunteers work for free.
Every single penny from the sale of this book will go to Wooffles.”



Magical Times

Dropping wifey at the train station meant that me and the Olster got to visit the lake an hour earlier than normal. Unprepared, I did not take any food for my pal Sir Robin. Once at the lake, away from the lights and the rush hour hustle, the light changed to an enchanting moulin blue reflected, or perhaps glimmering, from the frozen surface of the lake. Snow crunched underfoot, the stark trees stood naked and still as stone. This was the stuff of Christmas cards and I’m sure if I’d listened hard enough I might have heard the tinkle of bells.

Ollie was first into the copse. He went straight to sniff at the bread tree. In seconds Sir Robin arrived, landing on a branch only three feet away. I said hello, and apologised for not bringing any food. Sir Robin took a spring forward then another until he was perched almost above my head and certainly within my reach. Sir Robin is small and fat with an orangey puff of breast and an intelligent face. Taking this opportunity to stare at the detail in this beautiful beast, something moved in my peripheral vision. Through the sticks of silhouetted trees and down the clumpy embankment to the frozen lake below, was a fox, a big ginger fox, and he was padding slowly over the ice, head swaying from side to side. The Olster was at my feet, too low to see the fox himself, but I knew if he heard or spotted it he would be off like a shot – and he would not stop. I had visions of him falling through the ice some twenty feet out, and me trying to save him. Now the fox was only three steps from the embankment, its breath puffing the air, and I knew it was coming to inspect the warren I was standing on intent on finding a nice bunny breakfast. One more step and the fox would touch snow, would start to climb the embankment – the Olster was still at my feet, Sir Robin threatening to poop on my head, and the amazing blue light brought magic to a scene which had to come to an end.

                So I coughed. Mr Fox halted, looked up in my direction. I coughed again and he lurched away, scampered across the frozen surface and I watched him go. Sir Robin had gone too, to another tree, watching me. I promised I would return with food.

                The walk back to the car takes us up a small rise where two old clay pits sit, each around twenty feet in diameter. As we passed the first pit, two smaller foxes – last year’s cubs I guess – were climbing from the second snow-covered pit. In the still half-light the Olster didn’t see them. The two foxes entered a shrub and I watched their little faces as they watched us go by. A truly magical start to the day.

                We returned at twilight armed with bread for Sir Robin, and he was there waiting. As soon as I stepped up to the bread tree he came and sat in it. I wondered if he’d take from my hand and so offered my pal some crumbs along with some encouraging words. He came closer, took a good long look but would not take the final leap. Instead he looked impatient. So I placed the bread around the branches as usual and stepped back. Sir Robin dropped down instantly and began to feed. All well and good, yes? No! Suddenly there was a commotion, a flash of brown dart, twits and twitters and whistles and shrieks as a second robin was now dive-bombing Sir Robin off his perch.

                That’s stupid, I said, there’s plenty room for both of you and enough bread to go around. So I went to the bread tree and the two robins scarpered. I took some bread, placed it in the next tree, and by the time I’d walked a few paces away the robins were back, each in its own tree, each scoffing heartily.

                Returning to the car I spotted one of the smaller foxes climbing from the crater. It slumped away, watching us, and once again the Olster never saw a thing. Magic moments, called so because they are rare, perhaps? Magic times – when those magic moments stretch to minutes – even rarer. Yes, a very magical time.

Sir Robin says hello

After a freezing weekend and five inches of snow, I went back to the lake armed with bread and camera. Sir Robin was there in an instant and seemed to enjoy posing for the camera.







Ollie likes the snow, although I did have to stop him from venturing onto the frozen lake.

Sir Robin of the Lake

The lake is part frozen. Ice creeps from its sides towards the middle where the gulls, coots and swans, among other birds, are congregating. Over the past week I’ve continued to take food, not just for the birds, but others that might share. There’s squirrels, rabbits, voles and mice, and also deer have been seen wandering round these here parts, so any old veg leaves, carrots, will help when natural food is scarce.

I found a new place to leave my offerings, somewhere sheltered, an old hawthorn in the middle of a copse. Under my feet is a rabbit warren. It seems to run beneath the whole of the copse of trees because the earth is disrupted, lumpy and bumpy, where the rabbits have forced its shape to make their burrows and little bedrooms among the roots of the hawthorns.

Two old magpie nests, two pigeon nests, a smaller nest belonging to I don’t know what, and there’s a tiny nest box with the number 2 painted in orange only two foot off the ground. Strange.

Anyway, I’ve been taking food every morning and leaving it at the `bread tree`. I place the bread, fruit, nuts and seeds among the stumpy branches, and any veg goes on the floor. Returning in the late afternoon, the Olster will run to the bread tree to investigate, up on his hind legs sniffing at the traces of the beasts who have visited and vanished the offerings away. He seems to be amused by it all.

On the second day of dressing the bread tree I noticed the robin. He kept his distance, watching me. I love robins. Maybe it’s their red breast and quaint deportment. Or maybe it’s because the robin was always my mum’s favourite bird. She would watch from the kitchen window as the same robin visited the rose bushes every day. She would say hello, ask it how it was, and sometimes I think the robin knew what she was saying. My robin, the one in the copse, began to whistle. I know that robins are territorial, and can be vicious, killing other birds who try to muscle in on their patch AND they’re on record for attacking humans, too. So I kept a close eye on him, and wondered if he had his eye on the tiny nest box. Every day the robin would be there, watching from a safe distance.

This morning, while I dressed the bread tree, and Ollie dog inspected the rabbit holes, a movement out of the corner of my eye. The robin. This time he came real close and perched on a branch on the tree nearest the bread tree, only four or five feet away, watching my every move. I bid him good morning, asked if he had a name, but he didn’t answer. So as I dropped my last carrot I named him Sir Robin of the Lake and bade him good day. I moved to the other side of the copse, turned to look, and Sir Robin had already settled himself on a stumpy branch and was pecking away at the bread.

I guess Sir Robin must have been really hungry, and that I am his food source while the freezing weather is here. This is getting interesting. I’ll take a camera this next week, see if I can get some snaps of Sir Robin.

For the love of dog – befriend a crow.

According to Wikipedia’s last count, over 156 million – YES 156 MILLION – blogs are scattered across the enormous web. So I guess there’s room for one more.

I’m going to start with Ollie dog – his name’s Ollie, but for some reason everyone refers to him as Ollie dog. We got him from the pound, the only dog that wasn’t barking, Ollie sat patiently at his cage door, surveying the passing humans. We knew that this observant little pooch was the one for handsome boy

That was two years ago, and I’ve realised since, that forming a bond with any animal is an extremely courageous thing to do. The odds tell me that our family will outlive the Olster. To lose a pet which has become as important as one of your own children is not a nice thing, yet we still do it. We give them a home, food, warmth, comfort, play times, and we take them walkies even when the temperature is down to 3 degrees and the persistent rain isn’t stopping for anyone or anything.

So we go to the lake every day, the Olster and me. Sometimes twice a day if the field’s too muddy for fetch. Ollie loves the lake. It’s out of the way, parking’s not easy, and many of the pathways are overgrown. Often it’s just Ollie and me and the wildlife.

This morning, as we came to bend one where the tall beech straddles the bank and the water, we heard a commotion of squawks, twitters and screeches. We moved around the tree to get a better view and saw the most amazing thing. Two crows were attacking smaller birds among the branches, coming in like black airplanes, dive-bombing the little ones – which turned out to be blue tits.

Crows are scavengers, eating almost anything. They clean up roadkill, as well as rubbish from our gardens. Finding a fresh `hit` the crow will put the animal out of its misery by penetrating its brain with its beak through the eye socket before enjoying the warm innards. Friendly, helpful creatures, are crows.

Watching these crows attack the tits, amid this freezing blanket of rain, made me wonder if I could do anything to help. Of course I could. I could make some tit traps, capture as many tits as I could, then present the crows with an easy lunch. Suggesting this to the Olster brought  a derisory snort. Then he ran off after a squirrel and barked it up a tree.

I’m kidding of course.

But there was something I could do.

Back home, I gathered up all the fruit from the fruit bowl (bananas and apples), half a punnet of strawberries from the fridge, along with two bread loaves and some cabbage leaves. I returned to the lake and planted my offerings among the beech’s sparse branches.

Five hours later the whole lot was gone. Two crows sat high in the tree next to the beech, and a few tits remained, flitting like fleas among the web-like branches. Interesting. Those crows looked suitably appeased, the tits no longer under attack.

I bought an extra loaf on the way home, and some pears, reduced because they weren’t at their best. Tomorrow my crow friends shall have another feast, and the tits and squirrels will probably share too.

It’s particularly hard for all wild animals at this time of year. Many die because food is so thin on the ground. So next time you take your dog friend to the woods, gather up your scraps of fruit, veg, and bread and go make friends with the crows, too.