Horses, owls and a parrot

Today is the start of operation ‘Get Back On Track’.

While I might have been ‘happy’ with my weight maintain yesterday at Slimming World I’m only OK with it because I plan to make sure I make up for it this week.

Yesterday would have been a tough day to start. Not only did I still feel really crappy but it absolutely POURED with rain all day long. I only realised how awful it was outside yesterday evening when I saw a gondola gently sail past my front window followed by a fishing boat.

(Note – author has flights of fancy and an over active imagination. He actually lives on a quiet residential street with zero nearby waterways.)

This morning however is a very different kettle of fish.

The forecast for the whole day is sunshine – and when there isn’t a clear sky there will be little fluffy white clouds with more sunshine. After that sunshine is expected, which is highly likely to be followed by more sunshine.

A regular follower of this blog who likes outdoor Kindle reading in sandals will note that the UK is experiencing rather good weather of late and is an ideal travel destination.

Honestly no-one is more surprised than I am!

So – it was clearly time for a walk, and nothing motivates my movement more than the promise of coffee, which also seems to suit a Sunday morning unbelievably well. I set off in search of it. With a flask of coffee… well… because… well… you just can’t have enough coffee.

As I briskly moved toward town, looking at the blue skies I couldn’t help but think that sometimes a day appears to just develop a theme all of its own. Initially I’d thought it would be the onset of autumn (due to all the leaves falling down around me) but it turned out instead to unquestionably be animals.

With my jaunty exercise playlist propelling me forward as I moved down the hill I felt good, and wanted a record time on my first mile. I need to get it well under 20 minutes (this has so far eluded me) so I can eventually cram more into shorter times. The eventual goal is four miles in an hour.

As I strode ever faster I could could hear a strange distortion on my headphones. I played with the volume. Nope – the noise was real. It sounded like hooves.

I turned around and approaching behind me was a herd/pack/posse/team/group (or whatever the collective name is for them) of around 15 horse riders. There were some absolutely lovely animals – all slowly clip-clopping down the hill at a pace that made it possible to walk alongside them for a short while and say hello to the riders while I took pictures.

The horses were a wide variety of colours and in a two by two formation with one solo guy bringing up the rear. The club all seemed really happy and were saying hello with big smiles as they passed.

Soon they overtook me as the gradient levelled out and when they reached the bottom of the hill they all broke into a canter and headed (like myself) toward Leamington.

As I too got closer to the bottom of the hill I realised how much energy I suddenly felt I had when ‘The Edge of Glory’ by Lady Gaga popped up in my playlist and my speed increased. Maybe having a few days off has been a good thing after all. I felt like I had legs full of Duracell batteries!

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I couldn’t walk to Leamington without sitting down. Today I wanted to make another little milestone – which is not stopping for a breather at all on the way. When I do pause it’s usually really short (maybe 30secs?) but it irritates me that I have to stop at all. I want it to be continuous.

Today on the way in I did it with only three pauses and it took me just over 35 minutes to walk the 1.7 miles to the top of town.

I stopped before reaching the coffee shop because unexpectedly there was a market on the high street and the roads had been closed to vehicles. My attention had been instantly drawn to a sign saying that there was a bird of prey display further up the road.

Coffee could wait. I love birds!

When I arrived it wasn’t quite what I expected. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about so many captive wild birds on public display, but they were obviously being cared for well by the Central England Reptile Rescue & Bird Of Prey Sanctuary (website). Each bird seemed healthy and quite calm – so I can only assume that they’re used to seeing lots of people.

All had different reasons for why they had ended up in captivity. Few of them had been born in the wild (one for instance was bred in a prison as part of a birds of prey inmate rehabilitation program) – but the one thing they all had in common was that they were undeniably beautiful. I’ve seen owls before but never such a variety in one place – most breeds of which I don’t think I have never seen before.

There was a Tawny Owl, a Little Owl, a Kestrel (who was very camera shy and wouldn’t look at me), A Snowy Owl, A Barn Owl and a Great Horned Owl.

According to their Facebook page this group do try to release wild animals back into their natural habitat if at all possible – and the man there genuinely seemed to care for them. I guess when it comes down to it they need money like anyone else and this is a good way to educate people and get donations.

I don’t normally give money on a whim to people on the street, but I couldn’t help putting a few pounds in the collection box. Caring for these truly stunning birds can’t come cheap and they need to be protected at all costs in my view.

Shorty after a punnet of fresh strawberries (two pounds from a local grower’s stall further down the street) and a large coffee from Starbucks I headed home.

I hadn’t managed to get under the 20 minute mile barrier on the way DOWN the hill, but after walking around the shops for a while I was warmed up. I wondered wether I could get home without stopping for a breather at all, and make the whole journey as brisk as I could make it.


When I stopped the clock (rather breathlessly) on my doorstep I had actually managed to hit my target of not stopping AND get under 20 minutes in the averages! For some weird reason I was faster uphill than I was on the way down (although I wasn’t photographing horses on the way back!)

I’m pretty pleased that despite still not feeling 100% I’m definitely ‘cooking on gas’ again (a phrase beloved by my well travelled father) and a few miles closer to kicking the ass of the scales next Saturday!

Finally – as I mentioned before, sometimes the day seems to tangibly present a topic, and it’s as if I’m being invited to write or think a certain way.

When I sat down to begin this post a radio programme caught my ear in the background (Bookclub on Radio 4. Yes – I’m THAT dynamic).

It was about birds. Specifically birds of prey.


Helen MacDonald, author of ‘H is for Hawk’ was talking about her love of falconry, and how she used the training of a Sparrow Hawk after the death of her father to get over the grief she felt overwhelmed by when he died.

It was a fascinating insight about how we can identify with certain creatures in times of crisis, and she talked candidly about her wish that she was cold and emotionless like her bird, who just got on with life regardless of the death that was it’s every day reality. She also shared how for several years she lived frugally off the land with very little income while the animal hunted for her and regularly provided the main ingredient of rabbit stew.

Although she cared for and trained the bird it almost seemed that during the period of her bereavement it was the dominant party in their relationship. Through it’s emotionless relationship with its surroundings it enabled her when she felt at her lowest to connect with the world.

It doesn’t require a bird of prey to give an entry point into society however. The author also had an interesting anecdote about meeting a man walking down a busy street with a parrot on his shoulder.

When she approached him to interact with the bird she talked briefly to the owner, and he explained why he walked around in public with his unusual companion.

‘I’m painfully shy.’ He said.

‘But surely you must realise that walking around with a parrot on your shoulder means people will keep coming up to you?’ she replied.

‘Yes’ He said ‘but there aren’t coming to talk to ME – they are coming to talk to HER.’

He was using his bird just like she was, to maintain a relationship with the world even if he himself felt unable to interact with it.

It struck me at many points today how complex our relationships with animals are, why they enter our lives, and what we get from them. I must admit this afternoon to feeling that in part I understand this lady (and to an extent the guy with the parrot).

I had another idiot hanging out of a car calling me fat on the way back up the hill – ironically enough just as I was breaking the 20 minute barrier and doing something to improve my life.

I guess I should expect it. It’s been several weeks since I was last abused, and I can’t seem to go too long without it happening.

Sometimes internet people are really crap – but all of the beautiful, proud horses and stunning owls (and dogs – there have been lots of dogs!) today have made me feel as if it doesn’t matter, and that I’m right to just be focused on my task, and driving myself forward one step at a time.

They don’t care if someone calls them a name – they just get on with life.

Today I’m an owl. People can look at me as much as they like. I don’t care. I’m still ace.



  1. The image of an owl really fits you! 😀 I am sorry you again had to deal with insensitive idiots, but am happy to read that you don’t allow it to get to you. 🙂 You are doing really, really well and you should be super proud of your newest achievement! 😀 As always keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. They are! They can be majestic and cute at the same time!
        I would love to hold one on my hand one day. I have actually done that with a falcon during one of those shows when I was a child! It was absolutely awesome.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’d need a SERIOUSLY thick glove – the talons on these owls were incredible.

        When they were standing their big ‘feet’ looked really cute – but I can only imagine the damage they could do if grabbing you from the air. They looked really sharp!

        Even the little teeny tiny cuddly cute super small fluffy one looked like he could easily fly off with an orange on each side!

        Although I doubt he could have easily peeled them – which is maybe why he prefers mice…

        Liked by 1 person

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