• Happy New Year to all those that celebrate. On Radio 4 last week there was a woman who was asked if she was glad 2020 was over and very smugly replied that years are just arbitrary concepts and so she didn’t think one ending was important or significant. It annoyed me. I don’t disagree but can we just let the basic people who find comfort in marking the passage of time live?!. Haven’t they been through enough? Anyway. To all the time truthers out there - I see you, but save it for when we’re all feeling a bit less emotionally worn.
  • We spent the void between Christmas and New Year, 2020’s gooch if you prefer, on the edge of the Peak District with my in-laws. I spent it reading Monty Don’s new book, looking at the bird table and trying to work out if those are coal tits, blue tits or great tits (stop laughing at the back). I identified a nuthatch. It snowed the second day we were here, so Lachie and I made an igloo which our nearly-three-year-old very wisely refused to go in. We went sledding. We walked to the one place there is to walk to - a coffee shop. It’s is on a road, so definitely accessible via car, but I have no idea how that road connects to the roads here as I have only ever gotten to it over a variety of fields and bridleways. The snow made everything seem otherworldly. I saw a lot of robins sitting on snowy fenceposts, turning each still moment into a British Heart Foundation Christmas card.
  • Monty Don’s book is a lot like Gardener’s World. Slow, warm, relaxing. Short dispatches from his house near Monmouth. I’m learning a lot about birds -
    1. Robins used to be called ruddocks, and then redbreasts, and then finally robins. Redbreast is a name that predates the arrival oranges, and the concept of “orange”. If we’d had the word “orange” at the time we’d probably have called them “orangebreasts” (or not, because that sounds rubbish). I guess the same goes for red squirrels and people with red hair.
    2. Moles eat worms by biting off their noses and then leaving them, alive but paralysed, in the walls of their tunnels for later.
    3. The only birdsongs I remember from growing up are those of the wood pigeon (coo coooo coo) and chaffinch, which is a tweety up-down thing that sounds like someone excitedly saying “cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep it’s a sneak preview!”. I’ve never heard the chaffinch sound anywhere else and when I returned home this year I noticed the song was similar but had more trills than I remember. Well, thank you Monty Don for explaining that mystery to me - it’s because chaffinch songs are passed between generations, with each new generation adding its own variations, causing them to change over time.
  • Lot of bird content this week so we’re going to rebrand as… Beaknotes 🐦

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