Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep

Where’s your mamma gone – where’s your mamma gone, little baby Don, little baby Don ,far, far away.

Apologies that song has been in my head all day, like an ear worm, so I decided to pass it on to you :0  If you’re too young to remember the song, have a look on you tube – it is a 1970s addiction!

The reason for my strange musical interlude is that we have been making bird feeders – hence the chirpy chirpy cheep cheep, being in my head.

Anyway we are surrounded by pine trees and I have a multitude of pine cones once again and there are only so many things that I can use them for.  We make Christmas decorations, we fill baskets around the house with them.  I add scent to them and at this time of year, I do a bit of alchemy and turn them into “magic” colour changing fire lighters.  What happens is that by adding different things to the pine cones, they will then change the colour of the flames in your fire.  So I have red, green, blue, purple and bright white flames.

I am still always left with tons of them, so today we decided to make pine cone bird feeders.  I have regular style bird feeders and now that it has gotten considerably colder and the fruit from our orchard is gone, it’s time to feed the birds again.  We do now though have a couple of squirrels in the garden, so the feeders get raided regularly.  I could go out and change all our feeders for squirrel proof ones.  However, I have too many other priorities for our money right now and the girls do love seeing the cheeky squirrels up close.  So I have decided to compromise with the squirrels.  I’ve filled a couple of the feeders with peanuts and the rest with seed.  Adding the pine cone feeders, should also make sure that the birds are getting plenty to eat.

These are cheap and very easy to make, plus our eldest daughter had a great time making them.

What you need are a few of the largest pine cones you can find.  The softer more closed varieties work really well.
A jar of peanut butter – I bought a big jar of Sainsburys Basics for 62p.
Wild Bird seed – I bought an enormous bag at our local pet supplies store for £8.00, it should last through most of the winter.
String and some newspaper to catch the mess.

Spread out your newspaper.  Tie some string around the middle of your pine cone.  Make sure the string is long enough for tying around a branch etc.  Pour some bird seed into a dish or bowl. Coat your pine cone in peanut butter (this is messy, but fun).  Roll the peanut butter pine cone in the bird seed.  Shake off any excess back into your dish and that’s it, you’re done.  Hang the feeder in your desired location (High enough to avoid cats)

Cinderella Syndrome!

I love living in the countryside, I love the peace and quiet, I love being surrounded by nature and an abundance of wildlife.  I love that our daughters can play securely outside, with complete privacy and safety.  I know that they can’t be snatched from the doorstep by some random weirdo, the location of our house makes it virtually impossible for anyone to get near us without being seen or heard.

It can be a little isolated in winter, when it snows we tend to get snowed in and yes some days if we don’t get out, it can be lonely.  On the whole though it is a wonderful place to raise children.  Apart from two things that is!

Mice, bloody mice, they are everywhere, they move into the house regularly.  We have a year-long ongoing battle to keep the little blighter’s at bay. We have caught 8 in the last 3 days alone.  They get into the space between the downstairs ceilings and floors above.  They rumble around sounding like a bunch of badgers, instead of tiny little creatures.  They gnaw, scratch, scrape and scrabble about, making a complete racket, normally at around 3am!  Getting kept awake by my children is one thing, but by mice!

The other thing that I loathe are the “delightfully named” Devils Coach Horse Beetle.  These beasts appear every year from about mid September until November.  They are horrible things.  They are about 3cms long, shiny black with a nasty looking pain of pincers on the front.  What makes these little beasties so “charming” though is their ability to curl their tail upwards when threatened, so that they look like mini scorpions.  They can also spray a disgusting scent and apparently can give a nasty bite!  I can’t confirm that as I never let them hang about long enough to find out.  I’m afraid, I squash them, although that in itself is difficult to do.  They have quite a hard outer shell, so you need something hard to whack them with!

I have attached a photo of them in case you’ve never seen one of these beauties!  Stupidly I have no pictures of my own partly because they move so fast and also, by the time I think about photographing them, I’ve already flattened them!  So these pictures are from google.  I will try to remember to take a picture of the next one I get in the house, before I take my shoe to it!

 

 

 

So country living is great, full of positives,  but sometimes I can’t help wondering, with all these mice and other creatures invading our house, where is the Fairy Godmother.  If I go out and buy a pumpkin will it turn into a golden coach?  As I type this the pitter patter of tiny feet scurrying around is right above my head – AGAIN!

 

 

A Precious Life

When I first joined the RUC as a very young girl, I was taken under the wing of an experienced officer, John.  He was also a family friend and had watched me grow up, so he almost treated me as his little sister and endeavoured to keep me safe, teach me how to look after myself and show me how to be a good police officer.

He was a great policeman, he worked hard, he wanted what most of us wanted and that was peace and security in his country.  He didn’t want his children growing up in a country full of terrorists, full of bombings and full of shootings.

He looked out for me and I had huge admiration and respect for him.  One day I arrived in the station and went to get changed for work.  In those days it was unheard of for us to travel to work in uniform.  Things were so bad we didn’t even hang our uniforms out on the washing line to dry.  You never drew attention to the fact that you were an RUC officer.  You were a terrorist target, whether on duty or off.

I had just changed and was on my way to the Duty Detail Room.  This is where we were briefed about what incidents had and were happening, what we had to watch out for, or more often than not who we had to watch out for.  Suddenly the whole station went into chaos.  People were running around everywhere, shouting instructions, making phone calls etc.  Then the Chief Inspector appeared.  I knew it had to be something serious for him to come to the briefing room.

The room filled up, not just with the newest duty shift, but with every available officer in the station.  The Chief Inspector then delivered the news to us that a land mine had gone off and a police vehicle had been hit, we had officers critically injured and possibly some dead.  As he told us who was in the vehicle I felt sick, because my “big brother” John was amongst them. 

One officer died that day.  John  had been thrown from the vehicle by the impact of the blast and although very seriously injured, he survived.  It was a dark and sad time in our station, we’d lost one of our own and three others were badly hurt.  The officer who died left behind a wife and a very young family, it was heartbreaking.

About six months after the incident, John  returned to work.  He was badly scarred on his face and hands and had a permanent limp from his leg injuries, his eyesight and hearing had also been affected.  Almost worse than the physical injuries though, were the mental ones.  He suffered from survivors guilt, he tried to put it behind him, but he struggled.  He couldn’t perform his usual duties and was pretty much confined to a desk job – which he hated.

As time moved on, he didn’t, he couldn’t.  He began to drink to block it out, to escape what had happened.  He then moved to a smaller quieter station and I heard less and less about him and from him.  After I left the job, I would still find out how he was and although he put on a brave exterior face, he was destroyed inside.

I found out today that he had died.  Died, primarily because of alcohol and that breaks my heart.  He was a lovely, decent man, with a lovely family.   He maybe didn’t die “In the line of duty, but in my mind, his job actually cost him his life, his desire to preserve human life, his desire to fight the terrorists to make his country more secure, cost him his life.  Because of that bombing incident, that he couldn’t recover from, he turned to alcohol and that is tragically sad.  Will his name be added to the RUC Roll of Honour – probably not, that also makes me sad.  Another life wasted because of a stupid pointless “war”. 

It’s just another one of those little things, a little story that people never hear about, that reiterates to me, just how precious human life really is.

The Curse of Thursday

Thursday used to be a really good day for me.  I was able to get all my housework and laundry done, batch cook any meals I wanted to and have everything sorted for the weekend.

The afternoon would then be spent playing, baking, painting or going out to do things with the girls.  I used to love our Thursdays.  However, for about a month or more, some strange metamorphosis takes place on a Wednesday night and by Thursday morning, my normally fun, mischievous, happy little girls are both transformed into screaming, fighting, destructful, disobedient nightmares.

From the moment they get up, until they go to bed (after a fight to get them there) they are dreadful.  They hit each other, throw things at each other and at me.  Spit out food, crush it on the floor, break toys and anything else they can get their hands on.  Our littlest, who is now a “big” one year old, refuses point-blank to shut her eyes for any kind of rest or nap.  All day long she keeps going, even through she is desperately tired, she will not close her eyes, she will not sleep.  That of course makes her more and more grumpy and bad-tempered.  I once read an article that said one year olds can’t throw a tantrum.   I’d love to invite the author of that article to meet our daughter.  Because if stamping her feet, screaming until she is red in the face and flailing her arms about and occasionally throwing herself on the floor and kicking her feet, isn’t throwing a tantrum, then I don’t know what is!

Every Thursday it’s the same thing, the pattern is repeated.  I’ve tried everything in my arsenal to prevent or deflect this from happening, but to no avail.  I’ve altered our routine.  Instead of even attempting housework, I leave it and dedicate myself completely to them, I’ve taken them out for the day.  I’ve changed our play days with friends to Thursday.  I’ve left them with granny for a couple of hours.  I’ve come up with different activities to occupy them. I’ve pretty much exhausted everything, but it makes little or no difference.  It is mentally and physically exhausting, but I try not to make an issue out of it with them.  Maybe I’m lucky, because so far it does only seem to happen on a Thursday, the rest of the week they are pretty easy-going.

So what is it about Thursday?  This bizarre Thursday phenomenon may continue to plague me for some time and boy am I ever shattered by the end of the day.  I’m pretty sure the high frequency squealing has perforated my ear drums!  I guess, I just have to console myself with the thought that, tomorrows Friday and maybe I should invest in some Bose noise reduction headphones!

Cheats Never Prosper – Sometimes They Do!

I make no secret about loving entering giveaways and competitions online.  I’m not a “hardcore” seriously dedicated comper.  However, when I have the time I like to look through the competitions and enter the ones that I’d really like to win.  I have been marginally successful, nothing of major value, mainly because most of the ones I enter are for smaller value prizes.  I do occasionally enter the “win a dream holiday”, “win a car” type, because as the saying goes, you have to be in it to win it. Or at least I thought so.

Recently though I was reading a great blog post by Di Coke, or Super Lucky as she’s known.  Di is a brilliantly successful comper, she has been entering for many years and has learnt many of the best methods of creating an outstanding entry.  Hard work and effort on her part has netted her some amazing, enviable prizes.  So in my opinion she knows her stuff, she understands the comping world and the people within it.

I have made no secret about loathing voting competitions, especially those on Facebook, you know the kind, submit a photo, comment etc and then drum up support by spamming your friends and begging for votes. I am very cagey about putting family photos onto Facebook.  Yes my wall is full of photos of us, but I restrict and review who can see them.  Part of this comes from being Ex RUC and my hubby being ex Army.  Because we still live in Northern Ireland, we are still programmed to be aware of our personal security and of course there is an element of the population who still hate us because of the jobs we did.

The other reason though is that more often than not the best entry never wins, the person with the enormous friends list willing to vote for them wins.  I keep my Facebook friends list small, everyone on it are people who I actually know, but I have a friend who has over 900 people on hers, the majority of whom she has never laid eyes on or spoken to!  So someone like me has no chance of winning whatsoever, regardless of how good my entry is.

Reading Di’s blog though and this brilliant post here, it would appear that having a small friends list isn’t a problem.  There are ways of exchanging votes and worse still buying votes.  The vote exchange I don’t have a huge problem with, if you are a member of an online community and vote swap with another member who has entered a comp.  I still think it’s a little unfair, on those who put in tons of work and effort and get nowhere because someone has exchanged votes in an online community.

I read her posts with naive shock at the levels of underhanded activity and sadly too, cheating, that goes on.  I was gobsmacked at the lengths some people would go to in order to win.  In some of the cases for not even that significant a prize.  I totally recommend you give her blog a read.  I ended up spending about 2 hours just pouring over the information she had, the links that she included to some big brands competitions that were rife with cheating and arguments about the winners, in some cases winners were disqualified due to underhanded tactics being used against them and then the genuine “cheaters” winning. It fascinated me and stupidly I truly didn’t realise things like this went on.  Yes of course I know where there is competition, there will always be a cheat, I just had no idea there were that many or people who are that determined to win every prize. This post “entertained” and kept me reading for ages - Di’s Blog

For me it kind of ruins the spirit of competition, it makes me even less likely to enter a competition that requires some work and effort, if it would all be in vain.  The sooner that these promoters stop taking the “easy” route for them and judge the entries themselves the better.  More people might be inclined to enter.

I was daft enough to believe that entering a competition gave you as much of a chance as anyone else, now I’m not so sure that this is the case.  I’ve won a few things via Twitter, but what I have noticed is that Twitter competitions seem to be regularly won by the same person or persons.  There are names that come up that I now recognise because I see them win constantly.  So is this really chance in a non skill RT to win competition or is there more to it.  I guess I’ll never know the answer to that question, because I’d have to know how the draw was carried out, what mechanism they used.  I often wonder if your name comes up for one thing does this trigger something else within the way promoters chose from Twitter.  I say this because I won 3 times in one day and twice on another day and one particular name I see regularly will appear at least twice on their winning day. Their name seems to pop up several times a week. This person seems to be a prolific Twitter winner and it happens so often now that I am now doubting that it is all down to chance.

I’m not a sore loser, yes of course there are things I’d love to win and don’t, but I still get a little buzz out of entering and hoping that it might be me.  My bubble often deflates quite quickly though when the winner is announced and it’s the same person AGAIN!

I’ll just carry on though entering when I get a chance and who knows, maybe someday I’ll win a biggie :)

If you get the chance read Di’s blog posts, they are a real eye opener, be warned though, you are liable to get sucked into a reading frenzy and could be there for hours.