Saturday, 2 February 2013

Here comes the Sun..

The faint sound of gentle guitar picking in my ears and the soft, liquid caramel voice of Nina Simone singing 'Here comes the sun, little darlin'...ah, bliss. It was there all the time, tucked away in the centre of our tiny solar system. But hidden from us by a barrage of heavy winds and torrents of rain all last week. The winds whipped up last Saturday and - apart from a reprieve on Wednesday afternoon when it seemed safe to unchain oneself from the wind resistant anchors and take a very short, almost daring walk up the road - they pretty much remained the dominant force in the Irish universe up until yesterday afternoon. 
Red - another king of Charleville
And now, here we are, absolutely and 100% surrendering to the awesome presence of the sun. It's the second day of February and January has left the building. Sure it's 99% psychological, but that small difference in the name of the month, those precious extra hours in the evening and today's burst of glorious golden shine - well, it's the most welcome stress and tension dissolver. You can feel the strain of tensed shoulders shivering for the last month just melting away in the warm embrace of the sun. Word of caution though, this morning the weatherman said make the most of it, so we certainly did ;)

The day started with an early trot over to see the famous King Oak - ( vote for it) - over the road on the way up to Charleville Castle. Holly was busy rooting through rotting leaves while I was just enjoying the morning sunrise through the trees, when all in a flash - a flash of russet red to be exact - the fastest Red Squirrel ever, crossed my vision in a blur and scarpered into the safety of the very same King Oak's branches. Great to see, always. It's not so common a sight, and the vulnerable Reds are losing out to the more aggressive Grey Squirrels (a non-native species 'introduced' decades ago as what seemed then a great birthday present idea for some very rich aristocrat, and then escaped into the wilds to reproduce and spread and for various reasons squeeze out Red). 
Red Squirrel - top middle of photo ;)
taking refuge on the King Oak
With my phone I managed to capture the tip of his ears as he watched us for high safety - you'll do well to pick it out in the picture posted here. After that, it was a a late enough chorus to call it dawn, but Blackbirds and Robins were in full voice, and Jays seemed to be popping out of every corner of the wood. The woods in Charleville are pretty special - there's plenty of variety in terms of species, and plenty of hidden corners and secret places to entertain the walker throughout the year. Bluebell time is probably my favourite though. Or that time in mid June when you can walk through the woods as late at 10pm and still see for the shade. Every time we leave the wood, Holly always finds a suitably over-sized schtick to bring home to add to her growing stockpile - today was no exception ;)

more schticks
Basking dog
After that it was time to bask in the sunshine, and we made the best of it. No work today - apart from making the most delicious banana-chocolate chip bread for the returning hard working man of the house. But that wasn't really hard work, and I followed HIS own easy recipe - half a cup of brown sugar, half a cup of butter (I used cooking oil), 1 egg, 1 cup wholemeal flower, 1 cup self raising flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon all spice, a dash of rum, enough chocolate chips for your own taste (plenty!!!), four large bananas and milk to make the batter just moist enough - all in the oven at 180deg for just about an hour. A beautiful cake that is perfect for sitting outside - yes outside - with a cup  of tea and soaking in the sunshine on this fine Spring day. 

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