Ahead of speaking at the Sussex Ornithological Society conference on Saturday I stayed in a B&B nearby on Friday night. It was quite a posh B&B , and very nice, but hard to find. Well, it wasn’t the B&B’s fault that it was hard to find, I think that was partly my fault and partly a closed road nearby. The diversion caused by the closed road was very exciting, it took me on a c30 minute diversion through woods with Fallow Deer and Foxes running across them, through towns and villages and then brought me back, precisely, to the place where the road was blocked. Hmmm.
Never mind, when it doubt, ask at the pub and there was a pub down the other road and the people at the Sloop Inn said I was almost where I wanted to be. In fact they said ‘See those lights? That’s where you are going’ so that was quite easy. If only I had adopted the ‘Ask at the pub’ strategy earlier – but earlier I hadn’t noticed the pub and had put too much, way too much, faith in the satnav and the diversion signs.
Never mind, the good thing about being near a pub is that any uncertainty about where to eat that evening had disappeared – The Sloop Inn it was, and very nice it was too. Good beer, good food, pleasant staff, a nice bar with WiFi and very close to the B&B. Hooray!
As I was settling into my second pint, the landlady and a gentleman in a tweed jacket were setting some questions for an up-coming quiz at the pub and I couldn’t help but point out to the man that he had got the title of the government minister in the question wrong (the details don’t matter) and so we got chatting and he admitted to being a livestock farmer and I admitted to having worked for the RSPB. He told me that Margaret Beckett had been the most loathed Agriculture Secretary ever and I said we’d quite liked her. We agreed to differ, in a very friendly way, just two blokes in a bar, and he said, as people often do, ‘Well I expect we agree on lots of other things’ and I said ‘I wouldn’t be too sure about that’ so we ran through a few other government ministers (Nick Brown, Elliot Morley, Owen Paterson) and our views were poles apart which made us both laugh. But we did find something we agreed on – Michael Gove. My farming friend said ‘This Gove guy looks promising, but I’m not sure I trust him yet’ and I said that was exactly what the whole environment movement was saying too. So we found some common ground. Hooray!
On the short walk back to the B&B I was thinking that it said something about Michael Gove that we had that shared view. You can decide whether it says good things or bad things.
And so to bed – and through the skylight of the B&B I was distracted by the clear sky and shining stars (The Plough) for a few minutes.
In the morning when I awoke there were still stars and as expected after a clear night in January, the ground, once visible, was frosty.
In the next door field the grass was white with frost. First one Magpie was feeding, and then two acting like a pair. I watched them hopping about in the knee-high (that’s Magpie knees) grass. They would hop or walk a few inches and then turn over the dead leaves that were littering the field. When I say turn over it was more like ‘toss away brusquely’ than ‘turn over’. There was an awful lot of leaf tossing going on but I didn’t see either Magpie definitely eat anything for at least 10 minutes. Were they finding small morsels that I didn’t see them eat? Maybe. Why the leaf tossing – what’s that all about? And how many leaves have to be tossed before a Magpie finds something worth eating?[registration_form]