My sister Lucy has been in a pretty bad state mentally over the last few weeks and it has really affected both Vivien and myself too – this is partly the reason why I haven't been out birding or posted much over the last couple of weeks. Lucy has become so institutionalized since not being able to do so many things since Covid and now she is allowed to be taken out by us, she has found it difficult to even do that. She has only been out with us once so far and has declined all weekly offers from us to be taken out, but yesterday she at last changed her mind!
Lucy still has to follow so many rules, she can not go into any shops at all or any indoor spaces, other than where she lives. She can walk outside, but nothing else. To be fair she apparently is allowed to go into shops with a member of staff from where she lives, but doesn't wish to do this. She can go out with Vivien and I in the car, but we all have to wear masks in the car with the windows open – I really hope these 'rules' change soon for Lucy and all other care home residents.
I knew that Lucy wouldn't be able to tolerate a typical jam-packed 'Penny' day, so I had to make it chilled and simple and let her choose what she wanted to do. After picking up lots of naughty food and picnic stuff from the supermarket, I arrived at Lucy's at 11.30am and had to present my 'negative' lateral flow test (Covid test) to a member of staff. Then, Lucy and I went to the Castle Rising Tea Rooms and sat outside at a nice shady picnic table. Lucy loves to come here and her last visit was well over a year ago. We had their renowned granary bread sandwiches – Lucy had prawn and I had brie and grape, basket of chips and drinks. Lucy enjoyed the food, but was quite paranoid about the people sitting at other tables, so she wasn't overly comfortable being here. But she did enjoy feeding some of her crusts to an appreciative Robin in the gardens.
We left and headed to Hunstanton, a place Lucy particularly loves. Parked up along a side road close to the bowling green and cliff top. Sat on a bench on the grass and enjoyed a chocolate dessert from our picnic bag. Lucy was so much more relaxed once we had arrived in Hunstanton and seemed really happy. We viewed the cliffs and watched the Fulmars gliding overhead and then ambled along the cliff top gardens and past the ornamental fish pond. The flowers here were absolutely stunning, a wonderful array of colours and scents. Of particular note were some strongly scented roses and herb borders and thistles. We reminisced about our childhood days and our walks to the fair ground with our Grandmother 'Hess' (father's mother) who lived in Hunstanton. The small round fish pond has been here since before we were born and normally holds some large orange coloured fish, but after much peering into the murky water, we couldn't see any. A pair of Mallards were chilling at the edge of the pond. There were quite a few people around, but not so many that we were not able to social distance, which was good. Lucy does not like to walk too far, so kept my promise of short walks and rests on seats! We stopped at the western most end of the gardens and sat on a seat and Lucy seemed so blissfully happy just sitting here, people watching and looking out to sea. She also looked excited to see the famous Helter Skelter along the prom, which we have been on so many times as small children!
Even though there was a huge array of plants and flowers along the cliff top gardens, it was alarming not to see a single butterfly along here! We did see several bees and hoverflies though. Several House Sparrows were merrily chirping away in the bushes and we saw a Robin, Goldfinches and Wood Pigeons. On the way back we came across a lovely elderly gentleman sitting on the seat of his 4-wheeled walker at the fish pond – he started to chat to us and said he was waiting for the Mallards (currently in the pond) to leave the pond so he could feed the fish. We were flabbergasted when he told us there were around 100 fish in there!!! He told us the drake mallard didn't eat the food, but the female did. We waited and the Mallards waddled out of the pond. The gentleman then threw some square shaped pieces of fish food into the water. We waited and watched. The murky water suddenly erupted with large orange fish almost leaping to the surface to eat the food!!! There were so many, such a surprise and Lucy was smiling away! Such a wonderful moment. It got me thinking about how deep that small fish pond actually was?! Anyway, our meeting with the elderly gentleman continued to surprise us, after I discovered he lived in Hunstanton for a very long time, I asked him if he had known our father, to which he replied in an excited voice "I did" – he then went on to tell us how how "your father and Graham Byford" had started the observatory at Holme!!! I couldn't believe it, when he also told us that he had known our Grandmother Hess and he said "I remember her very well, with her white grey hair and her cat". What a fascinating encounter! The man told us his name was Brian Payne. I could have chatted to him for far longer than we did, but I could tell Lucy wanted to return to the car.
We then drove to Old Hunstanton duck pond by the church – a really pretty spot and then parked up in the grassy village car park and set the picnic table and chairs up, by a long grassy flower meadow surrounded by mature trees and hedges. Whilst we sat here and had something else to eat and drink, we saw a Common Buzzard, Robin and heard a Chiffchaff and a Blackcap singing. Also saw a distant dragonfly and one butterfly only: a Gatekeeper. I decided this would be a good place for a snooze in our chairs, as Lucy said she wanted to go to sleep and that she felt very tired. As is typical in this situation with Lucy, you shut your eyes for a snooze and Lucy does the opposite, she wanted to chat about all kinds of things! We had chocolate eclairs and apple cream puffs – Lucy was extremely happy eating these! She has a very sweet tooth, even more than me! Lucy's sense of humour can be so funny, she said "there are only four eclairs Penny?! I pointed out that neither of us needed more than two each! She smiled in agreement, well kind of!
We left here and via Ringstead we drove along the back roads to the single track road by the reservoir at Thornham for the fabulous coastal sea views of Holme and beyond. Lucy couldn't understand why she couldn't see the iconic white and brown NWT Firs House amongst the pine trees – she was quite taken back when I explained that it has been reclad entirely with brown wood, so it doesn't stand out against the dark green pine belt anymore, which is a shame, but there we go.
We were going for our final picnic stop at Holme reserves (on the NOA car park), but after the car rocked along the Firs Road for a few metres, Lucy said she couldn't stand the pot holes and demanded to turn back! So, we did and had our last picnic stop in the village carpark at Holme. We enjoyed a vegan type salad and more sweet stuff and then headed home to King's Lynn. Lucy was fairly quiet on the journey back as she was tired now. Dropped Lucy off where she lives and I returned home and promptly fell asleep on the sofa.
Note: I had a beautiful Swallow-tailed Moth on the patio doors last night.
Vivien and Ray have been to look at another longer narrow boat recently and have just had a survey done – its looking good so far, so will keep my fingers crossed for them both. Boats they looked at last year failed all surveys they had done, which was obviously costly, frustrating and time wasting for them. Hopefully this latest one will be ok!
I have finished my six months rotation in the Stroke Community Team and now back working (as of last week) in the Acute Team on the ward for the next twelve months, well that is if the roof holds up that long! Not looking forward to hot sticky Summer days in the hospital, to be honest with you. Hopefully when a new hospital is built, it will have air conditioning throughout, to make patient and staff lives more bearable!