Tuesday 29 January 2013

Winter Thrushes Abound.

Male Adult Blackbird
The recent snow has gone, all remaining traces having disappeared overnight, and the temperature outside has rocketed to 8 degrees.  The snow seemed to trigger an influx of birds into the garden, especially the various thrush species.   We often have 3 or 4 blackbirds and a single song thrush, but with the first snow came about a dozen blackbirds, almost all being males, several fully adult with their bright yellow beaks, and a number of juvenile males.  Blackbirds in close proximity to each other  inevitably brings squabbles, probably, at this time of year, over food and territory, rather than the females. 

Mistle Thrush
Next to arrive was a mistle thrush which was fairly tolerant of the blackbirds, unless they went too near the food, at which point they were seen off, but in a fairly gentle way.  I rated the mistle thrushes as being rather more sophisticated in their actions.   The next day though, there were three mistle thrushes, and two, probably males, threw all that classy behaviour away, to indulge in some spectacular low level aerial dogfights.  Blackbirds were still seen off, and lower down the pecking order yellow bills trumped  younger males.  At the bottom of the deck, a veritable two of clubs, was the song thrush, who was chased off by everyone else. I thought that I saw a fieldfare at the bottom of the garden, and this was to be confirmed the next day when there were about 20 fieldfares, gorgeous birds, along with 4 or 5 redwings.  The redwings avoided trouble, but the fieldfares were able to chase away blackbirds from their apples.
Greater Spotted Woodpecker Photographed Last Year
When added to the usual daily roll call of 2 or 3 woodpigeons, 3 collared doves, 4 bullfinches, half a dozen greenfinches, 3 chaffinches, about 20 goldfinches, a few dunnocks,  several coal tits, blue tits and great tits, a robin and a wren, the garden became very lively.  A greater spotted woodpecker came on a couple of the snowy days too.   The sparrowhawk missed the surfeit of food by being absent this week.   

Fishing has been fairly good too.  I ignored the frozen stillwaters and went after the grayling again.  4 on Wednesday, couple over a pound, but no record breakers.   Out of season trout were busy too.  A little worried about whether I could get the car back up the narrow snow covered road, but by careful use of gears speed and clutch, all went well.    Damned cold day, with light snow the whole time.   The wind was not too bad, but added 5 or 6 degrees of windchill.   Two woolly hats proved inadequate so I fashioned a stylish over-hat from a Tesco plastic bag.

1) Pull bag over head.
2) Tie the handles in a knot under the chin.
3) poke a hole in the front so you can see out.
4) Adjust to suit.

I hasten to add that the third stage of the hat creation process should be accomplished fairly quickly. Failure to do so will result in you seeing very little.  The plastic kept the wind off me very well and I may re-use the process on other cold days. 

Friday 4 January 2013

Why I Will Catch Nothing Today. Grrrr!!

I am not superstitious, but the year 2000 and thirteen has not begun well for me.  Having caught a couple of fair perch of late, another outing for the giant lobworms was planned, and the weather being ideal, I was expecting fish, and probably, good fish, with stripes.

It was not to be: I loaded up the ever faithful old Saxo with my gear and set out in darkness, with enough time to spare for a pre-dawn start at the venue.  The two rods were ready assembled and had been lain from the rear driver's side passenger seat, to the front left dashboard, diagonally across the car.  I soon hit the clockwise M60 ring road, and stayed in the left hand lane, intending to turn off at the next junction.  Traffic was fairly heavy, early rush hour, and visible very close in my wing mirror was a huge yellow truck, cruising down the middle lane.  I was thinking either, that he was very big, or very near, but I cannot remember which of the two it was, maybe both. Either way, what happened next was a complete surprise to me.  Had the truck continued to cruise down that same lane all would have been well, but, whilst in my blind spot, under cover of the darkness, he decided he rather liked the lane that I was in.  So he turned in, hitting my car somewhere around the rear door, driver's side.  Instantly my car was spun around to the right, and I just had time for a mental  "Oh sh... No!" and a rather terrifying thought that  I was then heading out into the two outer lanes of traffic!.  But  I quickly found myself sideways on, being pushed down the motorway at about 60mph by a huge articulated truck.
The truck seemed to be slowing gradually,  and I had a view of a truck radiator no more than a foot from my face, for what seemed to be about 25 or 30 seconds.   It may have been less, or more, as I am told time can seem rather distorted when you are in fear of your life.   I didn't enjoy the feeling of helplessness, that I could do nothing to affect the outcome. The door glass had shattered, covering me with glass fragments, although I did not realise this until the car was being uplifted by the RAC recovery truck. Oddly I remained very calm throughout the process, feeling no fear as I was pushed sideways, brain working overtime of course, and the truck eventually stopped on the hard shoulder. Worried about a possible car fire, I fought my way past the rods and out of the passenger door.   Hampered in this by a thick fishing coat, and heavy waterproof boots, it took a little longer that I would have really liked.  

I was uninjured, not even a bruise, but by this time the automatic processes were kicking in, and I was in mild shock, legs all wobbly and hands trembling, my body seemed to know how close I had been to death before the rest of me was anywhere near  sussing that out.  I didn't really think about death, apart from a weird thought about living long enough to draw my government pension...due fairly soon unfortunately. And although I swear very little, (unlike much of today's youth I have other adjectives and adverbs to play with ), it never occurred to me to swear, neither during the crash nor afterwards.  I even remember thanking the truck driver for slowing down cautiously.   Didn't get to say much more at all to him because an "off duty para"   para-medic, not 'chutist, grabbed hold of me to check for signs of any remaining life functions.  I was trying to phone 999 at the time, and I insisted on making the call, probably to his annoyance.   I only asked for the police, but there being no-one injured they did not attend, much to my own annoyance.  Someone else must have also called 999, for an ambulance turned up soon afterwards and I was dragged into it, kicking a bit, for I was in data gathering mode by then.   Fortunately a witness from a following car, took most of the relevant details for me.  He had seen it all and confirmed that the truck had turned in on me.  In the ambulance I was informed that the trucker had thought he merely had a blown tyre, and that he was very surprised on getting out of his cab, to find me and my car straddling the front of his truck.  He did not even know that I was there as he slowed down.  Hard not to interpret that as "he had not seen me".  Ever felt like one of those flies on your windscreen?
By the time the ambulance staff released me the highways agency had pointed my car the right way around, and the truck had gone.   So much for the data gathering, but missing bits were filled in later by various means.
In the first second or so of the crash I felt like I was being spun out into the rush hour traffic, so I suppose in retrospect being pushed along by the truck was a pretty good deal.  I was surprised that the tyres had not even come off the wheel rims, surely after that distance they should have been destroyed?   It turns out that the car still drives well, but, as I said to the RAC, who towed me home, I would not have wanted to rely on tyres that had had that sort of sideways scrubbing treatment. 
So, physically unhurt, my day's fishing wrecked, and I have now had two night's disturbed sleep.  Waking up from a weird, but scary dream, in which I am a crab running down the motorway, being chased by a giant version of that yellow cartoon car in "Roger Rabbit", its radiator teeth snapping at me.  I figure I am a crab because of their usual sideways walk.  But in the dream the crab is running awkwardly forward.
So, I am very lucky to be writing this....or do I mean you are very lucky to be reading it?   I suppose that if one is to be uninjured in a crash, it might as well be a spectacular one.  The most painful part of the whole event was the prick as the ambulance staff took blood from by finger.

As the RAC towed me home, the driver said that the crash had made the radio "major incident between J1 and J2 clockwise, causing some havoc"  or similar words.   Some exaggeration, because all three lanes were moving more or less normally, with the front of my car only protruding a few inches into the left hand lane. I guess some driver, or his passenger had telephoned in details to the radio station.  I suppose I am lucky that people did stop and become witnesses, rather than just calling in to Radio 2.  Unlikely that the two of you will ever read this, but my thanks to the two car drivers who stopped.

I occasionally fish the River Mersey, and I find it quite astonishing that the crash site actually straddled this river.  I have probably become the first person ever, to cross the Mersey sideways in a car. I have caught chub, albeit small ones, within easy casting distance of where the truck finally stopped.

I do have approximately 3750 maggots, together with 47 lobworms, all of whom wish to claim for whiplash injuries.  I do suspect some of them are showboating with false claims.   You just cannot get good reliable bait these days.

The car is of course going to be written off, two doors wrecked and front wing damage.  Such a shame, it is my wife's car and we have had it over ten years, during which time it has been ultra-reliable, and still has only 65,000 miles on the clock.  We had expected at least a couple more years of it, maybe more. No point in swapping it just to get something prettier.

The insurance company has arranged a hire car.  The documentation they sent me said a "car of similar age and specification to my own" would be provided.  Didn't seem likely that they would have any 12 year old small hatchbacks in their hire fleet.  But apparently a one year old Mercedes is similar?????   Problem. Big problem.  My wife does not want me to go fishing in it as it might get dirty and smelly!  After all this time, she still does not understand just how much fishing, and being out in the countryside means to me.  Let me assure the reader: this car WILL get used for fishing trips.

Finally, I do feel annoyed that the police were unable to attend.  This was a major incident in which I, and possibly others could easily have been killed, had the car not been trapped in front of the truck.  The police chase up those who are not seat belted, or those who are doing 35 in a 30 limit, yet do not have the resources to attend something like this.   The truck driver, in this case, must be very relieved at the outcome, and he will probably get away completely with his mistake, with no blots on his licence. I wonder if he has to report a trucking accident to his car insurers?

P.S.  It is now 3 weeks post accident, the truck driver has accepted full liability for the crash, and the insurer's have just paid out for the car.   Surprisingly they managed to value it at £870, rather more than I had anticipated.   A few months ago, when we were trying to insure it for our 23 year old son, (who had just qualified as both a doctor and a driver),  they valued the Saxo at just £350.  This did not stop them from making their cheapest insurance quotation as £4200!   So I bought him a bicycle from Decathlon on the day he passed his driving test. The search is now on for a new fishing car, as I lose the hire car in about 4 days.