Thursday, 8 July 2010

Busy Thursday

Jenny's at a Darwin College Wine Committee meeting, so will be a little late getting home, which gives me time to do a blog posting. The Wine Committee meets occasionally to sample wines from the college cellars to see whether they're ready to drink. I think they discuss other things as well, but from my perspective, that's the most important aspect.

One of the hardships of being on this committee is that the 5 or 6 of them try quite a few wines and then there are all these bottles lying around with just a glass or so taken off the top. Insisting on doing their duty to avoid waste, the committee members each take home a couple of bottles. Tragic, I know, but it's got to be done!

You might think that, being unemployed, I'd have loads of time, but in fact it's not proving that way at all.

One unexpected outcome of my initial interview at the Job Centre was the offer of some training, so I'm down for Microsoft Access and Word, basic HTML and Dreamweaver, four courses all completed sitting in front of a PC with a set of audio instructions and a workbook. I started Access early last week and I've got 3 lessons to go before I finish. Then I'll do Word.

In fact, the only software I'm not partly familiar with at all is Dreamweaver. I did a bit of Access about 10 years ago (yes, hasn't it come on!) and like the rest of the world, I've been using Word for nearly 20 years, but when I looked at the course content, I realised that there's a lot about Word that I don't know.

When you teach yourself something, you end up learning to do the things you need to do, not learning the whole package in a structured fashion, so there's lots about all of these that I don't know, and I'm planning to fix that, at least as far as one of these rather basic courses can help me.

Anyhow, the other thing I've been doing, which I've mentioned before, is volunteering at the Fowlmere RSPB bird reserve. It's a happy coincidence that Thursday is volunteering day, and the training centre where I am doing my courses is closed on Thursdays. Result!

Today a guy called Mike and I were allocated the task of digging a couple of test pits in an area where the warden was thinking of digging a series of new ponds. He was on a ponds course last week, so is all fired up about ponds on the bird reserve. He wanted a couple of holes about a metre across to show how deep the water table was.

Having pointed out where he wanted us to dig, he left us to it. We started the first hole together, then when we began to get in each other's way, Mike went to the second site and dug the second hole. This was a smart move on my part as breaking through the top 10 cm was pretty hard work as it was covered with some sort of sedge. Digging down until we found the water table was much easier!

We only had to go about 75 cm down, so it was no big deal, and then we went back to the main nature trail to wait for the warden to reappear.

We were sitting by a chalk stream with wild watercress growing in it, quiely chatting and just generally passing the time of day, when suddenly there was a movement in the stream. It was a bit like a wave running from right to left, but then resolved itself into an arrow shape, which meant it was an animal of some sort, under the water.

A tail appeared out of the water and curved away back under the surface, slick, dark brown, pointed.

Then a head appeared in a small patch of water amongst the watercress. For just a few seconds, we watched an otter, until it caught sight of us and vanished once more. We had been no more than three metres away from it. Now that was worth the day's work! Having quizzed us quite hard about whether or not it might have been a mink (no, it was too big, at about 75 cm long) he decided to be delighted and wrote it down in his sightings book!

After spending an hour or so locating and digging up a few buddleias (nasty invasive alien weeds!) from within a fenced area being coppiced, we spent lunchtime sitting by a stream, where I took this photograph. It was idyllically quiet and peaceful.

And one of the bonuses of being a volunteer is that they have surplus logs which volunteers can take away, so I'll never have to buy logs to burn on the open fire in our living room again!

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