The Last Days of Thunder Child

The Last Days of Thunder Child
War of the Worlds - spin off adaptation novel.

Friday, 18 May 2018

The Chronicles of Aveline: Awakening by Ken Fry (My Goodreads Review)

The Chronicles of Aveline: Awakening

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set against the backdrop of England's last days of King Henry II and the start of King Richard I (Lionheart). Aveline is a young lady of noble birth and an aptitude for weaponry. Especially the Bow. There are a collection of consequences. She falls in love and everything seems to be going very well. But then there is the underlay of scheming priests. Aveline must undergo some unwanted endurance tests. These are enforced by the self-righteous and powerful religious orders of the day. Aveline must come through her ordeal before she can go on a quest. A quest for love that will take her to the holy land. Here it is the time of Saladin the Great. Jerusalem has just fallen.

I am assuming this is the first story. As we go through all of these ordeals with our heroine. There is a very gripping battle scene too.

The story ends on a fresh hold. We are left standing in the doorway for a further quest. In other words, there has to be another story. I, for one, look forward to the next part. A splendid tale and would recommend to anyone who enjoys Medieval/Crusade stories.



Thursday, 17 May 2018

H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O'Brian (My Goodreads Review)

H.M.S. Surprise (Aubrey/Maturin #3)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a gripping yarn. We are taken on a journey to the Indian Ocean with confrontations on land and sea. I am truly a fan of these Aubrey/Maturin naval stories. This one is no exception. The battle scenes at sea are presented to a degree where I thought I was there. The small points are taken into consideration by the Captain as the galleons square up to each other. Trying to get abeam of the ship as it leans over from the wind. This prevents it using its bottom line of guns. Thus a smaller ship fights a bigger vessel using the elements to advantage etc. There are so many things like this during the story. Splendid stuff all the way. The characters and the dialogue are marvellous as usual. I can't recommend these naval stories high enough. Well worth reading.



Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens (My Goodreads)

The Old Curiosity Shop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story started off in the first person singular. Master Humphery tells the story. Then after a few chapters, it becomes a third person singular story. I think it was originally published in episodes via a magazine. The story follows Nell Trent who lives with her Grandfather. It is a very moving story and also rather sad. As with all Charles Dickens stories. The characters and the dialogue are wonderful. It was these gorgeous things that compelled me. It is always the same with Charles Dickens. Well worth reading.



Carson of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs (My Goodreads Review)

Carson of Venus (Venus, #3)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this many decades ago. I think I was lured by the front page picture, which is not the one on the cover for this review. I remember there were Amazon women and submissive wimpy men in one part. I thought it might be along the line of Conan the Barbarian in space or something like that. It was ok, but it was not a story that gripped me. Obviously, pulp sci-fi/fantasy which is fine if you like this sort of thing. There are many people that like such escapism but it was not for me and I never followed the series after reading this.



Saturday, 12 May 2018

A Close Run Thing by Allan Mallinson (My Goodreads Review)

A Close Run Thing (Matthew Hervey, #1)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would have liked to give this 3 and a half, but there is no allowance for that. I would not go to four for one reason. The first chapter.

This was a very enjoyable story set between 1814 to 1815. The reader sees a backdrop of historical development where Napoleon is banished to Elba and then his return for the 100 Days War. In between, our British cavalryman takes two months leave and then is stationed in Ireland, before returning to mainland Europe to fight the Battle of Waterloo.

My only gripe with the story is the first chapter. It was full of narration and was intense in historical detail concerning cavalry etc. It read like a textbook and what little dialogue there was, seemed short. This made the characters look a little wooden. By the time I finished the first chapter, I was pondering on whether or not to abandon the novel. I stuck with it and I am most pleased I did. For it seemed as though the author wanted to get some of these explanations out of the way. The story started to roll and the dialogue got much better. The character of Matthew Hervey bloomed. I found him easy to identify with as his adventure began.

As the novel progressed and new things had to be explained, it was often done without the long narration and sometimes the characters told the reader through dialogue. This worked much better. I don't understand why the author, who obviously knows his stuff, could not have shown the reader the cavalry things of the first chapter via dialogue with the nun/nurse at the nunnery where the first chapter was set. As I say, this was a smashing story apart from the laborious first chapter. I will read the second book in the series The Nizam's Daughters as I did enjoy the period settings and have warmed to Matthew Hervey.



Thursday, 10 May 2018

Post Captain by Patrick O'Brian (My Goodreads Review)

Post Captain (Aubrey/Maturin, #2)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second Aubrey/Maturin story. They are set during the Napoleonic wars at sea. In this story, we see our heroes up against it with debt collectors threatening. Jack Aubrey needs a ship because while at sea, he can keep the creditors away. The dialogue is splendid and some of the narration has that old fashion feel too. It all makes for a great atmospheric feel. The battles at sea are particularly gripping. Even if, like me, you know nothing about sailing at sea; you'll get sucked up into these dazzling adventures. I'll definitely go for the third story after being thrilled by the first two adventures. I can't express how good the dialogue is. I know I've mentioned it before, but this is what makes the story so fine. The speech is how one might well imagine how people of such times would talk. I felt as though I was there. Walking about the old port towns and visiting well to do people. Some of these parts of the story had an almost Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austin feel about it. Then there are the descriptions of men at sea and the workings of such magnificent vessels.



Monday, 7 May 2018

Fire Power by Chris Dempster (Goodreads Review)

Fire Power

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this back in the early 1980s. It was lent to me by my Brother-in-law. It concerns the British mercenaries out in Angola during the conflict of 1974. A former Portuguese colony is becoming independent and the various factions are fighting one another. The Communists have Cuban and Soviet advisers etc. Another group has predominately British mercenaries. They are led by a man of Greek Cypriot origin. An ex-British Army man who is given the alias of Callen. In a short time, Callen becomes notorious for attacking the Communist coveys and even executing his own men. Then there is the public televised trial. The author, Chris Dempster is also present at this time and he has his own story to tell. As a young kid, I can remember watching the court case on the news and the stories in the newspapers of Callen. The whole thing is well written by someone who was there, but I can't help feeling there is a little bit of the macho bravado aspect to this. A lot of ordinary people on all sides of the conflict died brutal deaths.



Fall Out: A Year of Political Mayhem by Tim Shipman (My Goodreads Review)

Fall Out: A Year of Political Mayhem

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

God Lord! Who would the hell want Theresa May's job after reading this entertaining and very gripping account? If she is weak? No blooming wonder! The pro-Brexiteers are waiting in dark alcoves with knives drawn and ready to pounce at the slightest sign of wavering. The other dark places are inhabited by the sour EU-remain brigade who are also ready to try and character assassinate her at any moment. Then there is the fickle electorate - the nation's voters who she mistook to have won trust from. With ill-deserved confidence, she calls for another election for an EU mandate. Many of the Brexiteers are old Labour voters etc. They were not going to allow a hated Conservative a mandate to impose dementia tax etc. Many think she is trying to impose wicked penalties for defying the government. The plebiscite rebellion still distrusts all political parties. The whole thing seems farcical. The left-wing Labour party offered free everything and still could not win. The British Prime Minister is caught between a rock and a hard place concerning the EU. She knows that the British electorate expects her to deliver on the Brexit referendum. That one principal is all she can do. But either way; she is going to make enemies. No good calling her weak. The Prime Minister is having everything thrown at her from every side. I would highly recommend this follow up to Tim Shipman's All Out War. Splendid stuff!



Friday, 4 May 2018

Do You Enjoy Boxing?

Sugar Ray Leonard v Dave Boy Green



Male Dominated Sport.

There are many sports that fascinate me. I’m glued like a rabbit in the headlights. I'm mesmerised by the bravery of such men. And I am talking only of men. A world of men. Perhaps the politically correct might say, male-dominated and intentionally chauvinistic. Perhaps this is true. This is not out of disrespect for ladies. It is because the sports I refer to are completely for the world of men.
The main one is boxing. I know ladies do box in certain categories, but it is of no interest to me. I know they play football. I like to see the ladies football sometimes but there is still not that zeal or buzz to grip me. I think formula one motor racing has the gritty edge of a dangerous sport. Still, not too many ladies grace this high level. Even though, I believe some woman might be able to compete alongside men in the motor racing sport.

For me, the ultimate admiration is reserved for boxers. When two men go out into that arena, it is something truly brave. Perhaps, a little crazy too. I could never do such a thing. Yet I’m compelled by the people who do. Good boxing never fails to fascinate me. I could pick out hundreds of names from the history of boxing. Many of us would know of them. Boxers that seemed invincible, are suddenly defeated in a blinding crescendo of punches and rounds of gruelling punishment.
The solitary bravery of these lone warriors never fails to amaze me. Even when some poor boxer is getting battered about the ring. When somehow the brave and outmatched adversary is still hanging in and taking the punishment. The big mouth pre-fight slanging match before the press and then the fighter enters the ring and is taken out with an embarrassing knockout in the first round. There are all types of defeats. And most boxers, no matter how good, will end their careers in defeat.
It is strange to say that I can never get things right with up and coming boxers. I see impressive men who have all the attributes. They dispatch a collection of adversaries with impressive fights. They seem unstoppable. Then they step up a notch against someone who looks less able than some of the boxer’s previous competitors. Surprise! The unimpressive looking challenger takes out the magnificent boxer I have been following for some time.

Photo

Prince Naseem Hamed vs Marco Antonio Barrera




Variable Expectations on Certain Boxers.
This happened with Ricky Hatton. I thought he was so impressive. He won a string of victories in two weight categories. The man was dynamite in my opinion. Then he suffered a spectacular defeat against Floyd Mayweather Jr. It seemed to take a lot out Ricky Hatton and I don’t think he was the same after this.
There is also a flip side to that coin. Every time Joe Calzaghe got into the ring, I thought his luck was going to run out. It never did. He even ended his career undefeated because he had to retire due to his hands becoming brittle and broken. Some of the opponents that stepped into the ring with Joe Calzaghe were most impressive. He first shocked me when he beat the formidable champion, Chris Eubank. I thought Chris Eubank was good and he was not defeated easily by Joe Calzaghe. Yet the Welshman seemed to have this impressive speed dogging and quick sequences of punches. He was amazing. I thought it was a one-off. It was not. An intimidating assortment of fighters would come and be dispatched by Calzaghe. Every time he stepped into the ring I thought, “This is it! This time Joe is going to lose. One such opponent was Bryon Mitchell, an American who seemed to have the credentials. He was certainly bristling with confidence and could talk the talk. Well most of them can talk the talk. In the first round, Mitchell put Joe Calzaghe on his backside. The first time the Welshman had been put down in a big fight. He was up quickly and before the first round ended, Mitchell was put down too. I went from shock to awe as in the second round Calzaghe dispatched Mitchell with a technical knockout. The American seemed to have no answer to the barrage of blows that were hitting him.
I often remember Calzaghe’s opponents holding the gloves to their faces as the quick punches kept coming. No matter how formidable the opponents appeared, once they started protecting their faces, there were no punches back. If one did get slung, Calzaghe often was able to dodge the swing or ride the blow. He would always return a fast succession of blows. The boxer was amazing.

Joe Calzaghe was Undefeated.
Muhammad Ali in White Shorts.

Defeated Opponents that Keep Coming Back.

Of course one could add other great boxers. Everyone on the planet will know of Muhammad Ali. The man always told us he was ‘The Greatest’ and I for one, would not argue. His career did eventually end in defeat. However, he did come back from defeats to reclaim his title on several occasions. The boxer was a phenomenon in the world of heavyweights. He was put on his backside a few times, but when he got back up, he was usually revitalised. I remember a fight with Chuck Wepner in 1975. It seemed like a mismatch. Perhaps it was. Wepner was a boxer that appeared to take a lot of punishment yet kept coming back for more. Ali was toying with the brave opponent who would not go down or give up. Despite the arduous punishment he was taking, Wepner was tough. He had a face that looked like it had been put through a meat grinder and had come out the other side battered and hacked, yet still, it was there. He got to round 9 when he went out to face Ali again.
It is important to say, that Ali was so good that even if someone scored a punch against the man, it was something to gas about. It would be so for Wepner. A grand moment was all that most of Ali’s opponents could hope for. But such moments against ‘The Greatest’ could earn you a place in the history books and the hall of fame. One’s small moment of glory. A moment that echoes in eternity. Especially if captured on TV.
Wepner’s grand moment came and it made the fight a little bit special. He caught Ali with a body blow and floored heavyweight champion. It caused an uproar. For a moment the unknown Wepner was higher than the stars. Just for a fleeting moment! A moment for Wepner who would be able to live off of the fame for the rest of his life. To put ‘The Greatest’ on the canvas was a feat. The Great Ali then got up. Revitalised from the shock and a look that suggested he was put out by Wepner’s audacious affront.
The brave Chuck Wepner had to pay a further price for his hard-earned aurora of nobility. But he must still know to this day, it was worth it. For a few moments, he was up there in the clouds and so was the excited audience. He wanted to dance in the bubble of adulation. For a while, he tried. The great Ali went on to win the fight convincingly though Wepner was only put down in the 15th round with 19 seconds to go.
The body blow that floored Ali, earned Wepner a wonderful celebrity. One little move, standing the punishment and going the distance was what he managed against Muhammad Ali. The Rocky movies were said to have come about from Chuck Wepner’s boxing match with ‘The Greatest.’ Perhaps they did. Wepner lost a fight but gained a page in boxing legend. You can become famous for losing in the ring. Fame is a double-edged sword. To be fair, Ali never really looked like losing the fight. But perhaps he realised Wepner may have been able to gain another opportunistic punch. He appeared to respect Wepner a little more and began to work on the man. The brutish Wepner went through that meat grinder again and came out the other side with honour intact and a little halo of endeavour. Ali was still ‘The Greatest.’ He always will be.


Muhammad Ali v Chuck Wepner

The Accidental Fame of Some Boxers.

There are hundreds of moments that delight me about boxing. One splendid celebrity of the ring was a little-known lightweight called Usman Ahmed. This young man gained popularity for a dynamic loss in the ring. He had a splendid entrance whereby he did all these wonderful dancing moves towards the ring. The crowd cheering and the rap music playing. His entourage of trainers and promoters behind him. The wild crowd was lapping it all up. He went into the ring and fought well. He lost on points but put up a good show. This was a Commonwealth title fight.
Then sometime later, Usman Ahmed got into the ring with another opponent called Ashley Sexton. Uzzy Ahmed was knocked out cold in the first round. What followed was a YouTube video that went viral. It showed Uzzy’s grand dance moves from his Commonwealth title fight. This was the fight where he went the distance and lost on points. Then as he steps into the ring, the video edit is linked to the fight where he confronts Ashley Sexton. Therefore, we see a cocky young man doing all the moves and then – POW! Round one knockout. And I do mean a knockout!
Everyone wanted to see the cocky boxer get his just dues because he was being so arrogant. That is the trouble with an audience. We all like to see the banter, but we are all fickle. If you win, all well and good. If you lose, there is no mercy. You are thrown to the wolves. This is why I admire the guts of any man who steps into that ring. Uzzy had the guts to do it. He lost! He was humiliated further by a doctored video to heap further indignation upon his loss and wounded pride. But then something happened. When Uzzy went out and about in his local area, everyone knew him. His fame was established and his acceptance of such celebrity turned from ridicule to respect. He got lots of TV interviews and was able to tell his story and he did so with a great attitude. The young man instantly became a hit among his listeners and became famous for the laughable yet unfair video clip of his demise against Ashley Sexton. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to Ashley, but Uzzy is more famous because of his glass jaw knockout. However, I’m sure Andy Sexton can live with his great boxing victory. I’m speaking from the entertainment point of view and the boxer who dares to step into the ring deserves respect. No matter how he approaches the contest.



Usman Ahmed - The Grand Entrance.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian (My Goodreads Review)

Master and Commander

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I almost skipped this first story and would have started on Post Captain, which is the second of these acclaimed stories of the Royal Navy during the time of Nelson etc. However, I was informed that the movie of the same name is nothing like the first Patrick O'Brien novel of the same name. All the characters are there, but I think the movie is more like another Aubrey–Maturin story called the Far Side of the World. The movie was most enjoyable, so I'm not trying to knock it. I just thought I might already know the story.

Alas, I did not. The whole Aubrey–Maturin saga starts off splendidly in the Mediterranean. Our two heroes are on the island of Majorca. This is where they first meet at a concert hosted by musicians and wives of the British gentry. I was absolutely enthralled by the dialogue of these many seamen and the author presents the times wonderfully well. The characters are splendid and the action sequences are gripping. I would highly recommend this novel. Especially if you enjoy historical fiction of a nautical flavour. I will eventually read other stories of the Aubrey–Maturin series. I am now a fan.



Monday, 30 April 2018

A Spy by Nature by Charles Cumming (My Goodreads Review)

A Spy by Nature (Alec Milius #1)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read another Charles Cumming story that I enjoyed. That was a Thomas Kell novel. This one, (A Spy by Nature) is about a character called Alec Milius. It is in the first person singular. As much as I enjoyed the other story with Thomas Kell, I found this one to be even more enjoyable. It got down to the nitty gritty more and gave an insight into recruitment and the depths that a spy might go to in order to infiltrate other organisations. This story was clever and involved industrial espionage at a corporate level. I liked the Alec Milius character. He is flawed in many ways but he is also creative and a very good liar. The entire plot is cleverly contrived as Milius presents himself as a disillusioned young man who is bitter and resentful at being unrecognised for his talents. He is bait for foreign CIA operatives - he is prey secretly hunting the hunters. It is not overly complex for the reader. Yet it is wonderfully devious as we see the groundwork laid out. It is also strange because the competitors are the Americans who are our allies in many areas of security. I will definitely read the second Alec Milius story after this one. If you like a good espionage story or John le Carre, then I would highly recommend this spy novel - splendid stuff.



Friday, 27 April 2018

Rapscallion by James McGee (My Goodreads Review)

Rapscallion (Matthew Hawkood, #3)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the third Matthew Hawkwood story that I have read. This one was very exciting too. Our Bow Street Runner is sent, undercover, as an American prisoner of war. He is among French prisoners on a prison hulk that is at anchor in the River Thames close to the Medway and the Isle of Sheppey. Very soon, Hawkwood and an escaped French sailor are caught up in a smuggling ring of dynamic and well organised criminal abilities. The reader is taken on a lavish and nail-biting adventure. Great story and I look forward to the next Matthew Hawkwood story. I would also like to add that these stories would make for a fabulous TV period drama show.



The Watermen by Patrick Easter (My Goodreads Review)

The Watermen (Tom Pascoe, #1)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Absolute peach of a read. Set in London in 1798. A young Captain of a merchant vessel and ex-Royal Navy brings his ship into the port of London. His arrival coincides with the forming of a marine police force. Through a set of twisting circumstances, our hero Tom Pascoe embarks upon a new career as a marine policeman. He comes up against a formidable gang of villains led by a notorious Irishman named Brolin. Lots of twists and turns - friendship, murder, mystery and mayhem all the way. I enjoyed the old picture of the London streets I know well. Especially in the E.C. area where I worked as a postman for twenty years. It is where all the banks and reinsurance companies are today. Yet at this time, there are residential dwellings etc. My childhood districts of Bow and Poplar are mere marsh areas with fields etc. I thought the picture of this old style outer fringe of what is today East London was brilliant. I would highly recommend this story. It is the first book in a saga of Tom Pascoe stories. He is a river policeman in the port of London. Smashing stuff. I will certainly read more of these adventures.



Thursday, 26 April 2018

War of the Worlds Spin-Off. (HMS Thunder Child)

Thunder Child Attacks! πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦πŸ‡¦πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡³πŸ‡ΏπŸ‡―πŸ‡΅



This was the moment! 

All were pragmatic. 

The plucky little ironclad cruised forward. 

It’s mission, to engage the alien abominations from Mars. 

As the crew steered their old craft through the swell towards the diabolical fighting machines, they trained their guns upon the closest. 

Steady and with patience the guns took aim. 

Steady and with further patience the crew waited for the captain’s command.

The uncanny atrocities looked down through their repugnant eyes. 

The Martians did not know what to make of the strange craft that steamed towards them.

What is it?

Ker-BOOM!

Too late!

One of the vile monstrosities was up close and within sight of the wicked sting. 

The Thunder Child's vengeful guns had roared.

The metal projectile smashed into the alien body casing.

A hit! 

A fine one too.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Tales of a Victorian Detective by Jerome Caminada (My Goodreads Review)

Tales of a Victorian Detective

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Biographical memoirs of a police detective of Victorian Manchester and surrounding area from the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s. For historical crime buffs, this is a good read of personal recollections. I enjoyed it, but the most interesting cases seemed to be at the start. Then the following chapters were good and informative, but not as interesting as the first stories. Still, I would recommend this as not everyone will be as fussy as me. It does make one wonder about the crime of the time. People that say things are dreadful today and it never happened years ago; are so very wrong. 



Sunday, 22 April 2018

A Splendid English Sunny Afternoon for a Saint George's Day Fair.


My wife and I took a midday stroll along the river bank towards the town centre. The high road had been closed off and there were hundreds of stools selling all types of things. Everywhere were the English flags of Saint George. All the canal boats were adorned with them and the small town centre was buzzing with activity around the Saint George's Day fair. 

I always like the cheese stools and the bread stool. I bought a caramelised red onion 'Nibble Nose' cheddar. The 'Nibble Nose' was the brand name. Plus an Italian Tomato and Basil cheese. When I got home I was able to eat some with the special bread of melted cheese and pitted olives inside the dough. This was also Italian. After a little wander about the fair attractions, we bought a few other things including some salted caramel fudge. It was a bit too surgery for me, but my wife Carole loves it.  

Back home, we sat in the garden for the sunny afternoon eating our fairground market buys. I had a Guinness to help me wash down my bread and cheese.



Blood on the Cobbles: A Victorian True-Murder Casebook by Grahame Farrell (My Goodreads Review)

Blood on the Cobbles: A Victorian True-Murder Casebook

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an interesting book about some outrageous crimes of the Victorian age. With death sentences hanging over many of these murderers, one might think the deterrent would thwart such crimes. When we remember our grandparents saying, "It would not have happened in my day." You will be able to respond; "What a load of tosh!"

Some of these murders were diabolical beyond extreme. Especially one of a serial killing doctor who used poisons and life insurance. Each chapter is a story of a different murder. Much of this is shocking and certainly opens one's eyes to the way Victorian Britain was. It was not the ordered and proud society many of us like to think of. It was an absolute den of iniquity.

Because each chapter was of a different murder, the cases seemed to be rushed through. Interesting though they all were, one could have devoted a full-length documentary book to each foul act.

I found the book compelling. A collection of articles to make the book. But I wanted to know more detail about each case. Perhaps that is just me. For this reason, I drop the score from four stars to three. I recommend it but some cases could have had more depth.



Thursday, 19 April 2018

Wildlife and the Fenland Garden

Wildlife and the Fenland Garden

Away from the smoke of the city. The countryside is ambient and calming.

I Love the Fenlands


The Fenland

The entire area is tranquil. There are a few old market towns but most of the Fenland is like the video below. Much of this is what I see every day. Coming from a big city, I found it hard to adjust at first. Then it gradually grew on me. When I visit my old abode, I can't wait to get back to this tranquil solitude. The way of life is different. No one is in a rush. It looks bleak in the winter but the Fenland is far from this. Things happen all of the time.

The Fenland Garden


An Ambient Little Pond Feature for the Fenland Garden

One of the sad and annoying things about my job is fly-tipping. I live in a very rural and beautiful part of England. Yet still, we have the odd few who spoil the countryside. They drive out into the isolated areas and get rid of their rubbish in a small layby or wooded area. Sometimes I find the odd thing of use. However, the vast amount is garbage.
A short time ago, I found the mould of a small garden pond. It was dumped along with fly-tipping down a country lane. It was brand new. Never used. There were no punctures and I was at a loss as to why it was cast away. I brought it home and left it in the garden before returning to work. When I returned home after work, my wife Carole had dug a hole and placed the pond within. We had a lot of loose stone and rock which she had placed around the pond. Filled with enthusiasm, we went for a drive to the village of Murrow. There is an aquatic pond life centre there. Here we purchased a water pump and waterfall. We also bought some oxygenating plants.
We were like a couple of excited school kids. In no time at all, the filter pump and waterfall were working. The pond plants were put in. Our next trip was to a huge garden centre where we bought rockery alpine plants and peat. We even stopped and picked up bags of horse manure. Carole and I were on a roll. Our garden pond would be a delightful addition to the already developing garden. A couple of days later we acquired some pond fish. Six in all. In no time, we were sitting on the decking and listening to the ambient sound of the water feature and the waterfall. The alpine plants took to the task of enhancing our wonderful pond feature. It all looked and sounded relaxing.

Marsh Harrier


The bird hides of Manea

Everything is wonderful in the Fenland when it is summer. The winter has its appeal too. However, the fields are no longer full of vibrant crops. Everything is back to the ploughed and furrowed earth. The birds of prey are always easier to spot in the leafless trees. Especially the Common Buzzards as they stand sentinel over the bleak rutted fields. Often we go out down the country lanes towards a village called Manea. There are bird hides here. These scattered hides command a view across a Fen that floods and turns into a lake from November to March. The River Delph bursts its banks and the marshy meadows become a natural floodplain. In the distance, and often through marshland mist, we can see the spire of Ely Cathedral.
The appearance of the lake attracts all sorts of waterfowl. They are bobbing about in their hundreds. Various breeds. Carole, and I sit in the hides for a few hours looking at the many birds. I’m just interested in the birds of prey. The marshy fen is a favourite haunt for the many Marsh Harriers that come across the lake. The waterfowl always give us a warning when such graceful predators are gliding by. The game birds all start squawking and scattering. Their wings flapping in panic as they try to make way for the raptor. The spot that is vacated by the flustered multitude is always where the more fearsome bird’s flight path will be. I home in with the camera and hope for the best. Through the melee of confusion comes the unwelcome guest. Usually, the Harrier is too far off to get a good photo shot, but sometimes the odd one comes out fine. There are also other birds of prey to see. We have seen Hobbys, Buzzards, Red Kites, Kestrels and a Short Eared Owl. These raptors are always about the isolated bird hides. Carole and I go here regularly through the year.
During this summer, the lake vanishes and one can see the River Delph. The fields are occupied by grazing cattle again. The whole scene looks fresh and new. The trees are full of lush green leaves when they were bleak and bare a few months earlier. The whole land has come to life. The spring and summer bring swallows and swifts. There is a Kingfisher that comes along the River on the hunting patrol. There are rivers and Kingfishers everywhere. Also Reed Buntings and Reed Warblers.

The Hobby.


Fenland Birds of Prey

Common Buzzards, Red Kites, Marsh Harriers, Sparrow Hawks, Hobbys, Kestrels and many types of Owl. I have seen them all in the bird hides of the Fenland.

The Garden is full of Growing Wildlife.

Carole and I have some fabulous days. Not just at the hides but at our home by the open Fenland. Our bungalow looks out across the meadows. She loves the garden and is always tending the flowers and lawn. We have a grand decking area where we sit. Here, we enjoy the summer evenings when I return home from work. Over a period of time, we have put up bird boxes to try and entice Finches and Sparrows etc. The bird boxes have not been taken yet, though we did have a Jenny Wren look one over. Carole says a Jenny Wren male will make several nests. The female will then inspect the various choices of home and choose where to lay her eggs. Sadly our bird box was rejected by the female Jenny Wren. Perhaps next year she might look more favourably on the bird box.
However, in our ceonosis bush, Carole came upon a small nest. The bush is inside the coop where our ducks are kept. Carole was collecting the morning eggs lay. She saw a small Dunnock (hedge sparrow) leave the bush from the top and over the fence. She peeked into the ceonosis bush and found a nest with tiny blue eggs inside. Also, our magnolia tree had a pair of Goldfinches build a nest close to the top of the tree. I took some photos of the Dunnock eggs and then left the tiny birds to do their thing.
We had bird feeding tables put up and we watched the various small Finches, Sparrows, Robins and a Pied Wagtail. A blackbird was using the pond waterfall as a shower each morning and in the afternoon. The whole garden was a hive of activity. We enjoyed watching the creatures of habit. Carole and I were feeling exceptionally pleased with ourselves. In a short time, we noticed the Goldfinches coming backwards and forwards to their nest. Their eggs had hatched and the male and female were taking it in turns to bring food for the young. The three Dunnock eggs hatched too. I managed to get another photo shot of the young.

The Dunnock's Eggs and Nest.


The Hatched Young of the Dunnock.


The Goldfinch Nest.

Then one morning as I was making a cup of tea, Carole came in from the garden. She was all flustered and said that the Goldfinches were jumping from the nest. One had fallen in front of our Ragdoll Cat, Bob. He is fat and very lazy and will not run after anything. But the helpless Goldfinch was right before him. Food from Heaven. He snatched it up, but Carole managed to get the poor thing from his jaws. I went into the garden and heard a fearful commotion from the top of the magnolia tree. The infant Goldfinches came fluttering down from the top of the nest. They were panicking because a group of sparrows were attacking them. They were just shy of fledging and in a terrible dilemma. Three of them landed on the lawn. I gathered the little creatures up and took them into Carole. The sparrows were still making a racket by the nest as I got my step ladders. As I placed them on the tree, the sparrows flew away. I climbed the ladder to the nest and saw the last baby Goldfinch. Sadly, it was blooded and dead.
The Goldfinch that our cat Bob had picked up died soon after. I think it was traumatised by the ordeal. The other three baby Goldfinches were also huddled and quite. Carole phoned the animal sanctuary and they gave us a number of a rescue centre close by. A lady answered and told us to try and keep them warm and in a dark place. We put them in a small hamster cage with some bedding and then in an airing cupboard. In a short time, a volunteer from the charity came up the drive. The lady was another helper from the rescue centre. She began to feed the chicks with a syringe and the little things responded well. One of them started hopping around the cage. The Volunteer seemed very confident that the birds would soon fledge. The woman took the Goldfinches away to nurse them through the final stages of their growing cycle to fledging successfully.

The Goldfinches were attacked by Sparrows.


The Goldfinches Deserted Their Nest

Of the five Goldfinch chicks, only three survived. I would not have realised sparrows could be so destructive. The parent Goldfinches came back and were stressed that their young were gone. They would not know that three of their chicks had survived. Eventually, they abandoned the nest and flew off.

Dunnock (Hedge Sparrow)


The Sparrow Hawk

Over the next few days, the Dunnock chicks left the nest and began to hop about the garden lawn. They always returned back to the Ceonosis bush where their nest was. One day when I was at work, I got a call on my mobile from Carole. She said she was sitting on the decking doing her Sudoku book. She was alerted by a commotion. A Sparrow Hawk had banged into the passionflower shrub growing up the side of the fence. The bird of prey’s high pitched screech filled the air. It was caught up in the vines, but got lose and flew off. It had one of the fledgeling Dunnocks in its talon. There were three of them. Now there were two. When I came home from work, Carole was telling me all about the Sparrow Hawk. We were sitting on the decking and the camera was on the table. Sometimes a Buzzard flew over and I was chancing for a photo shoot. Low and behold. As though on call. The very Sparrow Hawk, Carole spoke of, landed on the fence. It was looking for small birds that went to our bird table. I managed to take a few shots of the little raptor before it shot off. It was so quick. It dived low and then rose across our garden. Then swooped upwards and shot over the fence. Talons first it hit a huge bush in the garden next door. I don’t think it got anything, but it was an attempted strike at some small hedge bird. Carole or I could not see a catch as the Sparrow Hawk flew off.
This raptor passed by on a daily basis. Our garden was part of its hunting ground. The two remaining Dunnocks fledged and moved on. At least that is what we assumed. Also, the other smaller birds that visited the bird table seemed to continue. We never saw another Sparrow Hawk strike in the garden for the rest of the summer. It probably got results in other gardens.

Suddenly the Sparrow Hawk Appeared.