The week before I left for my study week in Durham was quite interesting.
The week began with strange noises in the night which saw me in my pyjamas and wellingtons out in the road, passed through days with time spent with an American Handbell team, quite fantastic, and ended with a lost chicken, a rugby tackle and a huge mistake!!
It began during the night after my birthday: we had spent the day getting the hay crop in, interspersed with a birthday picnic in the field. It had been very hot (by our standards) and tiring, so after all the guests left we were grateful for an early night. However, I was woken up at about 12.46 in the morning by a loud screeching which sounded like a magpie in the mouth of a cat or fox, fighting for its life!
I rushed out of the house in my pyjamas and wellington boots to find silence reigning in the countryside. However, the horses were charging about their field so I wandered up the lane to see what I could find. I stood and waited at the field gate and suddenly two young badgers came charging down the field, did a ‘handbrake’ turn round my feet and one went charging back down the lane claws clattering on the tarmac, while the other reversed and fled back up the field. Clearly two youngsters were beginning to fight for territory.
The horses were still agitated so I stayed with them for a while until they wandered off: but one still had his ears up and was listening intently. Then I heard a great thrashing about in some undergrowth and the badger who had retreated up the field came into sight, having decided to try to make his way around me and cross the field just above where I stood.
I must have remained in the warm night for about three-quarters of an hour before all was still again. Leaving two relaxed horse I made my way back home: clearly the fracas was over, and the badgers had returned whence they came. As I climbed back into bed I heard the rain begin: up again to close the windows. The forecast had been right and we had got the hay made and stored just in time.
The next evening we went out to hear a Handbell Team from the US, Strikepoint, who were on a UK tour: the tickets were a birthday present from a friend who plays the English handbells. To be quite honest, I was not really looking forward to a whole evening listening to handbells, it is different I’m sure if you are an enthusiast. The team come from Duluth which I gather is in Minnesota. http://www.strikepoint.com/
Apparently the Strikepoint is the point on the bell which produces the purest sound and the truest pitch.
Here they are playing in two video clips:
Wizards in Winter-Strikepoint
More Videos & Games at FamFamtv.com
More Videos & Games at FamFamtv.com
But, I was blown away. Tables were laid out with some huge bells on them and then suddenly we heard bells ringing and the team came in, literally running, already playing a piece of music and they kept perfectly in time despite running! They took up their places and continued to play, alternating several different bells each. It was a vibrant piece of music and very show stopping on lots of different levels: I think the way the team worked together was the most amazing. As one person put down a bell, another would pick it up: some turned music for the person next to them whilst still ringing: others moved behind one or two neighbours to place bells ready for them, literally only one beat before the bell was needed, and then ran back to pick it up again.
The speed, accuracy, and vigour had to be seen to be believed. Then suddenly they began to hit their bells on the table, rather like a tap dance, to give a different tone and rhythm. Then they began to alternate ringing, with banging the bells, and hitting their bells with wooden sticks. The changes in tones, as well as pitch, and the different types of rhythmic effects were stupendous.
At one stage they asked us to click our fingers to sound like falling rain and at the end of that tune they places the sides of the mouths of the bells in bowls of water to bend the notes: a fantastic effect. In another tune the children in the audience were given soap bubbles to blow on the audience and asked to run around blowing them over us.
Then there was a tune about a party and we were given beach balls to throw around and asked to make loud party noises and hoot and wolf whistle and anything else we could think of to sound like a rather inebriated, happy crowd. It was a fun-filled, life affirming, energy giving evening. I was so impressed that I bought a couple of their CDs and found out that they were giving one more concert here in Sheffield the following day. In the morning I rang friends to let them know about it and arranged to take my grandson out of school, it was only two days before they broke up for the holidays and he plays drums in a marching band and I thought he would like this.
He did!! He and the rest of us were allowed, at the end of the next day’s concert, to pick up the bells, some of which were huge, and try to tap, bang and ring the bells. Now he wants to join a handbell ringing team but I had to admit that English handbell ringing is a more conservative and less exciting method than that from the States.
A day later husband came in from walking dogs and mentioned that a hen was pecking around in our field. It was a little silkie. We used to keep them and knew that they are quite delicate. We assumed it had just wandered down from a neighbour and would take itself back by bedtime. However, the next morning, it was still around, this time in the road, and looking very wet and sorry for itself. We two and a neighbour decided to try to catch it and carry it home. I took a bag of corn with me to tempt it: it was indeed very hungry but the three of us could not catch it although we managed to herd it off the road and back into our field. The neighbour had to leave, so I and husband slowly herded the hen over the field and managed finally to persuade her to head up behind a field shelter. Husband went to one side of the shelter and I went to the other: being very cautious and slow because I did not want to alarm her I gradually crept closer and closer and finally did an inelegant rugby tackle and grabbed the poor thing. I hid her head under my jacket so that she would be in the dark: this always helps birds to calm down. Then we walked up to the farmhouse belonging to the neighbour who keeps chickens. He was out at his day job but we went up to the hen house. However, this was a small delicate chicken and all the ones I could see were large breeds. No way was I going to put this ball of fluff in with those bruisers! I found a separate pen, gave her water and corn and we departed feeling well pleased with ourselves.
Our neighbour rang later to thank us: a few days later I discovered that the hen had not been his at all!! He had been too kind to mention it at the time. So we had infiltrated a completely strange hen into his carefully arranged runs and pens. Thank goodness I had put her in a run by herself or she might have been killed as a stranger by the other birds. As a postcript to this little adventure, I discovered later that our neighbour had taken the hen to other poultry keepers quite a distance away, assuming her to be theirs, only to discover in his turn, that she did not belong to them either!! However, they said they would keep her and look after her. So no one knows where she came from or how she arrived in this area.
All this in a week when I was meant to be catching up with household duties and packing ready to go away. Life is never dull.