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Swell The Gourd

Tonight the sun will set at 10 o’clock. Precious, precious sun. I want to sit in the back yard, tune out the sqwarking baby upstairs and the village skanks in their Vauxhall Corsas, then watch the sky until the last bit of light has drained.

This will be my fourth Scottish summer. I’ve completely erased the memory of Australian summers, where it was so hot I was an apple in the mouth short of resembling a pig on a spit. Now I’ve completely adapted to the Northern Hemisphere, thus finding today’s maximum temperature of 21 degrees (70’F) positively subtropical.

Would you believe that for the past three days I have walked to the train station at 6.45AM without a jacket. After months of darkness, scarves and coats, it feels almost obscene to feel a breeze crawl up the hairs on your forearms. Not to mention sunlight oozing over bare toes! You may as well be naked.

Until I lived here I never understood the big deal about seasons. I remember in high school English, when John Keats asked, “Where are the songs of spring?”. My response was, “WHO CARES!”.

And how dull to write a whole stinking Ode To Autumn in the first place. Seasons to me were just endless variations of Hot, occasionally interrupted by rain or hayfever.

But now I’m sad bastard who crows at the sight of a blossom after a long winter. I’d gladly pen poems about bunnies and bumble bees if only I had the rhyming skills.

Instead I’ve been doing the next best thing: tuning into Spring Watch. Non-Brits will remember Bill Odie as the wee one from The Goodies, but apparently somewhere along the line he turned into a birdwatching camouflage-wearing nature-guru TV presenter.

bills.jpg
L: Goodie Bill, R: Spring Bill

At first I couldn’t believe something as tedious as Spring Watch would be allowed on air. Basically, there’s Bill Odie and crew on some farm in England, poking cameras into ponds, nests and burrows. Then they wait and they wait and they wait. Then the footage of various creatures engaging in springtime activities is broadcast in a prime time slot every weeknight. There’s a lot of bird migration stories, bird-on-bird action stories, bird laying eggs stories, bird fishing for insect stories, bird leaving the nest stories.

When Spring Watch returned last week I screamed at the telly, “Not freaking Bill Odie and his freaking birds again? WHO CARES!?”.

Because British animals are boring. They don’t kill you. They don’t bite, maim or strangle. They don’t have to trek through a desert for water, or run like the clappers from a roaring bushfire. They don’t sit in trees getting drunk on eucalyptus. They don’t eat babies. Without fangs, poison or fearsome jaws of death, where’s the entertainment value?

But somehow this year I’ve been hooked, just in that idle half hour before The Daily Show starts. I blame the Red Squirrels for being so rare and prettier than the bastard Grey Squirrels. Then the badgers were endearing, digging tunnels at midnight. Then the kingfisher was fishing and the otters were frolicking in Shetland. All these creatures I’d only previously known from Beatrix Potter books. Tits, swallows, robins, wrens!

British animals may not be cold-blooded tourist killers, but they are cute and wholesome; and entertaining in their own way. Where was I going with this? I can’t remember. It’s 10.47 now and there’s still bits of blue outside.

Spring Rules. That’s all I meant to say.

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About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m an author, copywriter and old school blogger. I love telling stories about life and helping my clients to tell theirs. Find out more about me and how we can work together.


32 thoughts on “Swell The Gourd

  1. Sunset at 10pm? I thought our just past 9 was good 🙂 But then again does your sun set at 4pm in the winter over there?

    I always tell people I was meant to be born in Australia…I HATE the cold with a passion. My favourite season is Summer…the hotter the better, you will rarely hear me complain. The winter? I want to hibernate like a bear…me and my fat, sleeping the awful cold away 🙂

    But I am with you…I love watching the Niagara Escarpment come to life (spring to summer) and even die (fall to winter), which I have a wonderful view of from my condo. But as soon as I’ve seen the leaves turn and then fall to the groun…can we immediately go back to spring? Please…pretty please?

  2. I think I’m going to have to get my American husband to start reading all your stuff about living in the UK, so he can prepare himself for a planned stint living there in a few years. I can’t tell him what it’s like to live there coming form somewhere else, only what I remember from it being HOME since I was born. I love the little random bits and bobs you pick to write about, you notice such great details on your travels and adventures.

  3. I certainly envy you that, being winter here in Sydney, the sun is disappearing around 5pm at the moment. 🙁 It’s a time for electric blankies and ugg boots and hot chocolate.

  4. I am daydreaming with passion about your balmy 21 at the moment – Melbourne this week has been like an ice box! I guess in all your Scottified glory you’d scoff at a 12 degree day, but my poor nose is not enjoying this at all 🙂

    I suspect your rose coloured glasses are on, forgetting Canberra winters!

  5. I know how you feel, Shauna. I explained to someone this week that the cold wet weather we’ve been having here in Tartu is just like the winter weather in Sydney. Hopefully it’ll warm up soon – maybe for Mid-summer’s day.

    Last night I opened our front door to glimpse a hedgehog run across our front steps into the garden in search of bugs & slugs. I love seeing nature in real life!

  6. Another hilarious post, Shauna. As a new Zealander who practically grew up on Bill Oddie in the Goodies, it’s so bizarre and yet comforting to see him now on UK telly doing Springwatch – which rules, by the way.

  7. King fisher, just a wee flash Kookaburra if you think about it.

    As ever Shauna, you make me larf.

  8. What are clappers as in “run like the clappers”. We don’t have that expression in the US.

  9. hiya stephen! it doesn’t really mean anything… except… run really fast 🙂

    janie – you know, i deliberately wrote SPRING because i thought a pedantic reader would point out that summer does not officially start here until June 21 😉

  10. Haha, good riposte there on the spring/summer issue. Indeed, 21 June it is, at 12.26 p.m. GMT I believe.

    May I add even further to the pedantry by mentioning that meteorological summer began on 1 June, however?

    Seriously though, what a wonderful post. It allows us locals (North-West Europe that is 😉 to get some perspective about the loveliness that surrounds us instead of just complain about it.

    I’m a few pages short of finishing Bill Bryson’s Down Under and reading about the boring British animals made me chuckle as I remember his amazement about Australian wildlife all too vividly.

    Sorry for the extended comment and thanks for posting!

  11. I was in a grumpy mood before I read this and now I’m laughing. Thank you! And Scottish summers may not be reliably hot – ok, certainly aren’t reliably hot (eg today) but I too really love the long evenings.

  12. Yes. Yes it does. Spring does rule. I really don’t think I appreciated it at all before I left Austraya, but at the moment the ability to walk to work in a T-short makes everything seem worthwhile. How strange! How humbling! How spoilt I have been! XXXX

  13. Officially maybe not but in terms of weather, this year we seem to have gone straight from winter to summer with no spring AT ALL! It was freezing this time two weeks ago. The world gets freakier and freakier meteorologically… very concerning.

  14. Oh my god, I’d forgotten all about the Goodies too. Can’t believe how old Bill Oddie is — I haven’t gotten that much older … I’m sure of it.

  15. And the comments are closed on the Census entry but I just wanted to say that I found your blog about four years ago while I was Googling Bathurst one night in a fit of homesickness (which shows how bad it was — to actually google BATHURST). And I read the Mothership entries and your entire blog — think I stayed up all night. Then you went to Scotland and I grew up in Denny, Scotland then moved to Australia when I was 11. (Then to Minnesota when I was 30).

    What’s New and Miss JenJen (Paperback Writer, Clumsy Gambol) where the highlight of my day, then she disappeared. Does anyone know whatever happened to her?

  16. As I’m easing into winter in Melbourne, I can’t help but be very, very jealous of your talk of bare toes. Hmmmmm, that sounds stranger than I’d intended.

    But that photo of Bill Odie was too fantastic for me not to put something inane up just so I could congratulate you on the photo!

    Cheers.

  17. Coming from NZ, where the weather is a variation on wet (“ooh look, it’s raining, yet there’s a rainbow: it must be summer” or “5 lambs drowned on McCarthy plains” – spring) I’m LOVING living in Prague.

    Sure, the winter was a bit of a bastard, with lips chapping when you opened the front door, let alone walking swaddled to protect from the -19oC cold (WTF!!) but this? THIS?

    The first buds appeared on trees and I thought that nature was marvellous. Blossoms littered the street like snow had a month previous and I thought I was in a forest. Then the sun FINALLY decided to shine…

    With summer comes beer gardens. And THAT can only be a good thing. From the delicious 23oC…

  18. Hi Shauny – I used to drop by and read you years ago… but stumbled across you again tonight while googling ‘scandinavia nappies’ (I am trying to find out what kind of trees the Scandinavians grow to make the fluffy pulp in Bambo Nature Nappies – now having an 11 week-old son to deal with!) Google kindly directed me to your entry about fathers discussing their baby’s first poop, and I suddenly felt like I’d rediscovered an old friend… so a big HI from from one of those out-of-towners who used to stumble in occasionally to get glared at by the locals 🙂
    (I’m west of Sydney, out in the bush with the wallabies & wombats…) Just thought you’d like to know you are back on my favourites list from which you inadvertently disappeared in some long ago hard drive crash 😛

  19. hello comrades! especially the new/old faces, i will email you separately 🙂

    it rained today and it’s only meant to be 16C tomorrow… looks like i jinxed it!

  20. i just googled myself and supposedly i’m on your Amazon interesting persons list. i think that may be from my days online known as “wantwit” but i could be wrong. that said, i don’t quite remember who you are but cheers.

  21. You do have a way with words – I just loved the apple in mouth/pig on a spit comment. Now I’ve got a little picture of that! And I know how you feel – as a pasty skinned, redhead (Scottish mother and Welsh ancestry on Dad’s side) growing up in NZ I got sunburnt every summer despite being fairly fastidious about slip, slop, slapping. And the humidity made me flop on the couch most of the time lifeless. But, like you, I am reallycoping (nay, enjoying!) the UK summer. It was 32 degrees here in London yesterday and while that was HOT and a bit uncomfortable it was nothing like Kiwi summers – even though our temps were lower. I presume the insane sometimes 80% humidity had something to do with that. Or the fact that the heat dragged on for weeks. Here it lasts a week or so and then gets cool again for a while.

    I was all prepared to yell at you to lay off Bill Oddie. He was always my favourite Goodie and I was very surprised to see him doing a new turn. (But there’s also Kim Wilde being very unlike an 80s pop/rock chick in her garden…) But Springwatch is so cool. I got hooked last year or maybe the year before. It’s just so cool to see little baby animals developing. And we’ve even taken to doing a bit of our own nature watching – our local park has Swans with signets and Ducks with ducklings. The are so cute and fuzzy. Ahh.

  22. I dont´t think I could live without the seasons. I love autumn, with rain and wind and storms and lovely colours. I love winter with all that sparkling white snow, the cold and the cosiness, I love spring when it seems the world starts living again and I love summertime, sweet summertime. The seasons here in Norway are quite different, but each has it own charm. Oh, and by the way, we don´t have grey squirrels, we only have red and they are certainly not rare. Wonder why they are so rare in Britain? Anyway, love Scotland, been there several times and will most certainly be back!

  23. I totally hear all of that – I didn’t get the whole seasons thing until I got here, either. I mean really, our seasons are Almost Winter, Winter, Just After Winter and Construction. Here, they have *spring*. They have *autumn*, and it’s beautiful.

  24. We only get sun until a little after 9pm here. I remember a trip to the Isle of Skye a few years ago – in June. Our B&B hosts drove us to the cliffs to watch the sun set over the ocean – at midnight! It was great!

    Love your writing – too funny. I may have to use “run like the clappers” in a sentence today because it’s so hilarious.

  25. I am planning to move back to Holland temporarily and am already DREADING the long long looooooooong rain/hail/sleet filled autumn and winter….

    Only the knowledge that, once safely ensnared, my victim and I will happily trot back to fragrant plant life, blinding beaches, shiny seas and lovely, glorious spacious space to move keeps me going.

    You’re a stronger woman than me, Shauny!!

  26. You watch The Daily Show in Scotland? The Jon Stewart Daily Show?

    Spring Watch sounds lovely. Animals make me super happy. I go around talking to birds, squirrels, rabbits, foxes, whatever, whenever I encounter them…I’m a regular freakin Tom Bombadil.

  27. I have been enjoying Spring Watch too, Shauny baby. Oh how I rejoiced when Runty the Blue Tit fledged last night, as I’m sure you must have too. 😀

  28. Thats what I liked about growing up in Melbourne compared to the rest of Australia, we always had four distinct seasons. OK, ok they might sometimes all occur in one day but still! I always loved Spring here because it was such a relief after what then seemed like the long-grey-misery-of-winter. Five years in the netherlands have taught me a thing or two about long-grey-misery I can tell you!

    Its been very cold here in Melbourne lately but the BIG difference, heaps of sun! Other Melbournians look at me askance when I mention it but honestly, you wouldn’t see this much sun and blue skies in a Dutch summer so if this is winter, BRING IT ON! You get to wrap up in toasty woollies and live the winter-fantasy without the bleakness. And then after three months when you’re sick of it, its Spring. You don’t have to wait another six months! Is this heaven or what!

  29. yes! fly away, wee runty! hehehe…

    treehugger – oh yes, the same daily show. we get it with about a half day’s delay 🙂

    faith – i completely agree! it’s not the cold that’s the problem so much as the horrible lack of sunlight. you get so many winter days in oz that are so beautifully bright and crisp… you get the fun of rugging up without the crippling depression, hehe 🙂

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