Wednesday, 26 April 2017

After Dad

Dad passed away a month ago tomorrow. It feels like forever and no time at all. It was both tragic and sad and yet a relief and a blessing. Dad was brave to the end having a long conversation with me on the Monday prior to his death about a Rebus book he has leant me (and I'm still only 100 pages in) but was obviously starting what I anticipated to be a slow decline. By the Thursday he was much worse and by Friday evening he was bed bound. A long, hard weekend of caring for him with my mother (I used to be a nurse, she is a practice nurse and it afforded him far more dignity than having nurses come in) and then he slipped away quickly and quietly by Monday lunchtime surrounded by those that love him. Euphoria was our initial reaction as it was over and he was no longer suffering but this was soon replaced by intense sadness and a reflection on our time together and a future without him.

Dad, me and Tom atop the Moors in North Yorkshire, probably at Danby in the mid 90s when we were in our early teens.
This post wont be too awful I promise, just rationalising why I haven't been blogging and a quick reflection. My brother Tom came over from Australia for the funeral and was here for a fortnight. I was off for three weeks as well as I work 120 miles from home and wasn't in the right place to be away from home. Tom, Mum and myself worked through Dad's clutter. He appeared to have kept every paint tin and door handle since 1987 and considering how prolific a decorator my mother is that was quite the feat. Two skips full of junk plus a couple of dump runs and charity shop donations mean't that Mum didnt have the dispiriting process of working through his belongings. Dad would have preferred it that way. He had no truck with us having a shrine either physical or mental to his life and whilst he hoarded crap would have been glad we got rid of it without ceremony. Mum seems ok and whilst sad managed very well.

Dad in 1980, the wildman that Mum fell for. Terrible hair. The beard followed soon after and I didnt see his face until I was 11.
We couldn't get a funeral for Dad for a fortnight so on Wednesday, April 12th we said goodbye to my hero. He was far from perfect as a person but he was the best Dad I could have wished for. Caring, compassionate, proud of us and good fun, we shared many a joke (often at Mum's expense). Tom read a fantastic eulogy summing up Dad's devotion to his family unit and whilst his childhood was touched upon it was his life as a father and a husband that defined him and where he succeeded so well. Tom, my brother-in-law Ady and myself were 3 of the pall bearers. We were expecting 6 in all but it was so heavy which I couldnt believe. It was only at the wake afterward that my brother told me that only 4 of us carried him in. I was at the front with Ady so we couldn't see how many there were. It was an honour to carry Dad in and one I'm so glad I did. We had a trio of songs that summed up Dad's life with him coming into 'One More Night' by Phil Collins. Dad wasn't a huge fan but it summed up his devotion to Mum that they endlessly played Yahtzee to terrible white-boy soul that Mum loved on an evening and it reminded us of the late 80s early 90s period. The curtains came round his coffin to 'Chasing Cars' by Snow Patrol. Dad's musical repertoire didn't increase much after he hit 50 but this was on loop in his car or when he was on the computer. Finally we left the crem to 'Come Up and See Me (Make Me Smile)' by Cockney Rebel. Dad loved this song and found it galling that Mum saw Cockney Rebel live twice when she didn't really care for them. It lightened the mood and we said goodbye. For me Dad started my love of rock music and whilst he was generally pretty mainstream he loved listening to decent songs and set me off with a number of touchstones which I fondly returned to this month.

At his happiest, relaxing outside. Usually with a fag.
A special mention must go to Reverend Roy Shaw, a close friend of my father who had few of them and a former colleague (briefly) of my brother, mother and myself in various guises when he was a social worker. Roy conducted the funeral with a great aplomb and I personally couldn't have been more grateful for his efforts which I know were extremely trying for him. Also to my sister and my wife who read poems that looked at Dad's life and the future and how we must move forward with him our hearts. And move forward we shall. Tonight is the first time I have connected with the emotions Dads death left inside me without a torrent of tears. I'm ok, I'm coping ok but I love my Dad and I miss him dearly. A difficult month but one to treasure and remember as well. Good times, bad times.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Patchwork Shenanigans

A byproduct of the current home situation is that I am off work and needing time to get away and process. Birding has always been my escape and thus it is once again so. Spring is just getting underway at Flamborough and new additions have been flooding in with 8 new in the last three days despite missing an excellent seawatch this morning.

Crane - one of three.
I started off with a little seawatch on Wednesday which produced a few nice birds including three Little Egrets south which were the first record for the year. The other bits and pieces are here on Trektellen. It was the first 'trek' seawatch I had done entirely by myself at Flamborough so it felt good to be contributing data. There was also a Great Northern Diver on the sea amongst some modest movement. It was however interrupted by a Whatsapp message from the obs group which came through 40 minutes late about a party of three Cranes on Northcliff Marsh. I screeched up to Old Fall Gate and started scanning but with no luck as it appeared they had cleared off. Then I heard some bugling as they flew low towards me. They saw me as they approached the road banking up from a couple of metres in height to 8-9 giving me a scrambled chance to get some photos. Not the best but I was a happy lad. They landed near the cliff edge apparently but I didn't see them again in the gloom.

A Little Bunting was seen briefly at this point in a private garden but I didn't manage to see it as it disappeared and efforts whilst scanning the Yellowhammers at South Landing only yielded a displaying Lapwing and a singing Chiffchaff, both of which were new for the year on patch. Soon I was back to reality and headed off to complete chores.

After missing the first I managed to connect with the second and third LRP of the day.

Yesterday I missed the first good seawatch of the season but made amends somewhat with some common migrants in the North Landing area. Two Sand Martins over Thornwick Pools were the first of five seen whilst a cat moving down the side of the pool flushed four Snipe which then made themselves at home beside the lower hide. I had at this point missed Craig's LRP which had already moved onward. A further Sand Martin hunted over Thornwick Bay itself. A Chiffchaff sang from beside the pools and an interrogation of Holmes Gut revealed a further three along with two Goldcrests.

A tour of Thornwick cottages turned up four Wheatears including just a single male bird but a jaunt up to North Dykes produced just a single Buzzard and two final Sand Martins. A message on the local grapevine alerted me to a brace of Little Ringed Plovers back at Thornwick and upon arriving Brett and Cynthia kindly put me on to them for my fourth year tick of the day and my PWC list hit 101.

Annoyingly I have missed 10 species over the last few days, most of which I should get back but there was some quality with Iceland Gull, Little Gull, Med Gull, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Swallow, Woodcock, Hooded Crow, Firecrest and Shoveler seen. Hopefully I should get plenty of time in over the next couple of weeks and add a good few more.

How brains and birds become mutually exclusive