Sunday 28 January 2024

Not close and no cigar

Having seen a lovely photo of what seemed to be a very friendly Scaup from a gravel pit in Kent, Mick and I made plans to go and get better ones. Hah! Fat chance. We did find the bird, a Kent tick no less, but whoever the photographer was had been extremely lucky with the bird in close. We had no such luck on what we hadn't realised was a pretty big lake, with the bird staying steadfastly right in the middle! I won't bother posting my distant effort here, even with the 800mm and converter it was a dot. Most birds remained distant, a boat would have been excellent.....but I got a couple of photos of a slightly closer Great Crested Grebe that are blog-worthy. Still - and something I am beginning to appreciate more and more - it was nice to be somewhere new and different. Once upon a time I was somewhere different every other weekend and I remember it being fun. These days I am usually at home, yawn - I blame the pandemic for changing my pattern of behaviour semi-permanently. Need to break out of it, get back to day trips, get the camera out more often. I used my tripod today, a rare event, but I have to say that it makes it a lot easier. It's just bulky, heavy, annoying, painful.....

After dropping Mick back I crossed over the river and went to Rainham - my starting game plan for this weekend. It was great to be back, I should go more. I spent a bit of time on the sea wall and a bit at the top of the ramp. Pick of the birds were 50+ Avocet in Aveley Bay, and a pair of Raven on Purfleet. I left about 20 minutes before a Goshawk flew over.... Can't complain, it wasn't that long ago that Raven was a Rainham tick, number 198 to be exact. I'm on 201 now, a decent total for a single site, even it is the best site in London. Wanstead isn't that far behind in raw numbers, but it'll never compete with river.

Saturday 27 January 2024

Southend Pier

Let me start by saying I dipped. Let me also say that I knew I would dip and that I didn't care and I went anyway. For those of you wondering what on earth I am talking about there was a White-billed Diver off Southend Pier on Thursday. A stonking rarity anywhere, particularly in Essex. There was a vague report Friday afternoon, but it sounded duff and deep down I knew it wouldn't be there on Saturday, but as I wrote about earlier I wanted out of Wanstead and this was the perfect excuse. Somewhere different, somewhere with different birds, and not too far away.

Being feeble I went out on the patch first, adding Great Black-backed Gull, Teal, Siskin, and a bacon roll. I leave it up to you to decide which was the most appreciated. It was cold and clear, very nice in fact, and I didn't begrudge it at all. I love living here, with Wanstead Flats on my doorstep. It might not be the countryside but I couldn't contemplate living anywhere without a green space nearby. Nonetheless by around 11am I was all done and in need of something different.

Astonishingly I'd not been to Southend Pier since 2012. Wow. That is a measure of how quickly time flies. I used to bird a lot in Essex and it was good to be back. The train has been significantly modernised, with the old train carved up and made into shelters alongside the tracks and at the far end. There was a small crowd assembled, none of them seeing large banana-billed birds, and amongst them were Bradders and Mick. I spent most of my time on the upper level above the Lifeboat scanning east, picking up a few Great Northern and Red-throated Divers, a couple of Razorbill and a Shag, but of the prize bird there was no sign unfortunately. 

No matter, I had my camera and when I got bored I descended to the lower level and took a few photos. Arriving later than the others I had missed the glassy conditions and there was now a bit of a breeze getting up making the water choppy, but I had fun papping a few Med Gulls and so on. A nice afternoon actually, better than sitting around at home doing nothing, and I am pleased I went. Here are a few more photos, including the one Turnstone that had only one leg. After all the trouble I went to getting down low I could scarcely believe I'd homed in on the lame one, but there you have it.

Friday 26 January 2024

Thank you Isha, Thank you Jo-ce-lyn

Channelling my inner Alanis Morissette a bit with the title there, but I am sure you get the picture. Yes, winter storms, of which there seem to be an ever increasing number each year. Surely it can't be the climate breaking down can it?

When I see one of these coming and look at the forecast I always have a sense of dread. Our house and garden contain a lot of glass - greenhouses, conservatories, french doors...all protecting precious tropical plants. Oh and family members of course, which are my chief concern naturally. As the winds gradually build to a ferocious howl, to the point where I can actually see the glass bending, my heart is in my mouth. Will I get away with it, or will there be damage.

As I surveyed the damage after Isha I breathed a sigh of relief that I appeared to have had no significant issues once again. Yes lots of plants had been blown over, including ones I can barely lift, but such is their height and exposed surface area that the gusts from these storms easily topple them. A greenhouse vent had come loose and smashed itself to bits, but the panel was deliberately polycarbonate so I can simply find some replacement nuts and bolts and put it back together. Other than this there was nothing that would cost money to fix, for which I am thankful. It could have been a lot worse. One day it probably will be.

I didn't have time to fix the vent between Isha and Jocelyn, they came one after the other without pause, so I bodged it and hoped for the best. I was worried that the wind exploit the obvious weakness, dispense with the so-so vent very rapidly, and then enter the greenhouse and explode it from the inside. But that didn't happen. Of course Jocelyn did re-topple all the same plants that I had picked up after Isha, and as I stuggled to get them upright again before work after it (she?) had passed I wondered whether I shouldn't have just left them on the ground where they were. Would have been easier.

Sleeping is the biggest problem. Up in the loft where we sleep the windows face the Atlantic. Well, not really, but the room faces south-west so we align directly into the path of these Atlantic storms and are buffeted mercilessly each time, pounding wind and lashing rain. It is very noisy, and it gets a lot colder too. These storms seem to occur overnight more often than not, although there is no logical reason why this is the case. I'd prefer to be at work in Canary Wharf in a nice sturdy office when they go through, but it always seems to be when I am trying to get some rest.

No, not much birding, why do you ask?

Tuesday 23 January 2024

An enthusiasm for numbers

In a post towards the end of last I spent a lot of time obsessing about numbers. Amongst other things about how I had not quite managed to see 1000 birds during the year, how I might have another go this year, that kind of thing. Of interest to noone but myself really. Ideal blog material...

Obviously it is a lot easier at the beginning of the year, but I just noticed that I had already cleared 300 in 2024. 220+ species in The Gambia and Senegal in the first week of the year has clearly made quite the difference, but more importantly it has generated enthusiasm that is not normally present in January. Not only about the prospect of foreign travel and a nearly blank year in the calendar to fill up, but also about what a day on the coast might bring at this time of year, or a simple visit to Walthamstow. What might a trip to Fife add? All of a sudden I find myself thinking about salt marshes and mudflats, rather than where the local Mistle Thrush is hiding (a great deal of energy, both physical and mental, expended on this so far pointless question!).

I love planning, and whilst I don't have the mental capacity to work out exactly what the remaining 698 species are and where I will see them, I can at least start to consider some ballpark numbers. A trip to America in April for instance, how many might that add? What if I were to go to Spain, that kind of thing. 

I think I'll start closer to home though. If these relentless storms would just pack it in I might be tempted by Kent. If not, a quick spin around Rainham perhaps, I've not been there for ages and winter is a good time there, I could add all sorts of things, and it would make a pleasant change from traipsing around Wanstead which I have been doing a lot of lately. Yes, I think I'll do that.

In closing, here's a photo from Argentina of a knacked old Ford truck from the barrio of La Boca in Buenos Aires. No particular reason other than I don't have a photo of a Mistle Thrush.

Sunday 21 January 2024


A final foray out this morning before storm Isha pummels us with wind and rain. On balance I think I prefer the crisp cold, although if I worked outside like Gav I would no doubt feel differently. Mind you, working outside in a raging storm probably isn't much fun either, and I imagine that more than a few people in outdoor professions will be finding reasons to have a short hiatus from work over the next day or so. I'm lucky, or unlucky depending on your point of view; my job continues no matter what. Pretty sure I've not missed a single day due to weather ever. Once, when high winds cancelled a return flight from Spain back to London, I simply worked from my company's office in Madrid. There are literally no get out clauses!

Anyway I may have missed 100% of the Lapwings that the cold weather brought, but that Ferruginous Duck more than makes up for it. That won't happen again for a while, in fact never again is the most likely scenario. Walking around the patch this morning the ice largely persists but you can feel the warmth in the air, and pretty soon than warmth will also continue moisture - lots of it! I made the most of the brief window and went through the Park and across the Flats. Despite the continuing ice there was definitely a bit more clear water, especially under the overhanging trees, and I was pleased to find a couple of drake Pochard hanging out. Even better a pair of Little Grebe made themselves known, and then on my way back home a Linnet chupped overhead. That puts me on 62 for the year, a vaguely acceptable total for this point in January. In years past I've got to this number on January the first, but these days I don't have either the stamina or the inclination. Well, more the inclination I suppose, I could still toddle around all day if I absolutely had to!

Changing the subject completely, I've just got back from The Gambia and Senegal, and I had time over the last few days to have a quick spin through the many photos I took whilst out there. I've not had sufficient time to process them all, but here is one that jumped out, a glorious Red-throated Bee-eater. Birds like this lift the soul, the perfect tonic for a cold, wet, blustery and generally miserable January.

Saturday 20 January 2024

Screwed up

Well I messed that up. I dedided to go to the Park this morning to stock up on year ticks. What I should have done was go to the Flats, where 99 times out of a hundred I would be on a Saturday morning. So I was stood by the Roding in the Old Sewage Works year-ticking a Little Egret, a bird that frankly I could see just about any day I fancied, when a flock of Lapwing flew over the Flats. Excellent. I was about done anyway so hurried back and spent the next two hours scanning the sky from my usual vantage point. Guess how many Lapwings flew over? 

Shoulder of Mutton just after first light

The other thing I messed up was my spreadsheet of targets. I thought I had added two birds in the Park as I had also seen a Kestrel, but it turns out that I hadn't yet seen Gadwall or Grey Heron either, so with the addition of a Reed Bunting on the Flats I now find myself on 59, one greater than I ended last January on. And tantalisingly close to 60 of course. But missing Lapwing, a bird that I should have prioritised the merest possibilty of. Oh well, plenty of time left. I think I remember saying that throughout last year....

Friday 19 January 2024

Weekend Targets

The weekend is upon us. Praise be. It was a tough week here in Wanstead. Well, in Canary Wharf more specifically. But it is over and the next two days are mine. Birds are required. I thought about going somewhere different but there is a lot to do here in Wanstead, a lot to try and eke out.

Blackbird fell this morning on Wanstead Flats. The Central Line has been suffering from a lack of trains, the one thing that you might hope that it had lots of. Rather than spend half an hour on Leytonstone platform each morning I've been walking across Wanstead Flats and getting on the Elizabeth Line which has the required number of trains to able to take people to work. Most mornings it has been deathly quiet, no life in the frigid landscape, but today there was a bit of a flurry with Blackbird, Jay and Stonechat falling quite quickly. This puts me on 54 for the year. I had thought it was 53, but I had of course forgotten Cormorant, much as I do every year. This means that there are a lot of targets. Do have a spreadsheet? Of course I do.....

I hope to find at least some of these tomorrow. My January average is 64, so ideally I'd like to see slightly over half of these before the month is out but let's see. It will be nice to spend a little bit more time out there rather than have to yomp rapidly across, but I fear the mostly frozen water bodies will have seen off a fair few of these targets. They will be back I'm sure. Maybe 60 is a nice number to aim at, and a bit more realistic. I'll be in touch.

Thursday 18 January 2024

Great White Egret

It has been a very nice and relaxed start to the patch year, made even better by being in The Gambia for a week and seeing far better birds than are available locally. More to come on that later, probably a lot later as I'm still stuck somewhere around July 2023 on that front. Maybe I'll just skip ahead a little? 

Anyway, the usual jam has occured and not only did I manage to see Waterthrush in Essex, but back in Wanstead I also scraped the Ferruginous Duck which turned out to be a one day wonder. I also picked out the Med Gull on Jubilee on a short afternoon thrash after the twitch to Essex, and as I mentioned briefly in that post also had the good fortune to be standing around chatting to Nick when a Great White Egret flew over us and appeared to descend. We hoofed it over there to discover it had indeed landed - a rare sight indeed. It was of course extremely short-lived, and two of the innumerable off-lead dogs that occupy the patch every minute of every day caused it to fly off. I didn't have my camera, but had the presence of mind to whip out my phone and video it as it flew right past us. I've just worked out how to post this so here it is.

In other news whilst looking for the Ferruginous Duck yesterday I also saw the Water Rail on Jubilee, presumably the same bird I found in late November last year. As the pond is now almost entirely iced over it showed very well, and in keeping with my relaxed approach to patch birding this year this was just my 51st species of 2024. Slow and steady wins the race or whatever the phrase is, and there are still plenty of things I've yet to see that will gradually eke my total upwards. Such gems as Little Grebe for instance, and Blackbird..... It has always been a life goal of mine to see GWE and Ferruginous Duck on the patch before Blackbird so I'm very pleased to have finally managed it.

Wednesday 17 January 2024

Patch tick

I hadn't really thought I'd get a patch tick this year, and certainly not in January. Or maybe I hadn't spent much time considering it as any new birds are just so random these days. When I think about what we've had, and what my biggest gaps are versus some of the others who bird here, there is really nothing very obvious that sticks out. So it is all about rarities, and of course these can turn up at any time. Cold snaps, such as they one we are currently in, are often good, but the expectation here is a rare (but resident) wader, pushed off an icy field, lake or shoreline, and a high likelihood of it being a very brief flyover as we have no suitable habitat. The expectation is definitely not a Ferruginous Duck swimming about on a tiny pond as that would be ridiculous.

But that is what has just happened. No doubt a Fudge Duck can get pushed off a frozen lake just as a wader can, but this is random dialled up to 11. Where has it come from? (Who does it belong to?! Ha!) Actually it looks good, or as good as a Ferruginous Duck can. There are no traces of hybridism, there are no rings, and as yet it hasn't got involved in eating bread. Looking at BirdGuides the closest and most recent drake that hasn't subsequently been reported is a bird at end of last week in Nottinghamshire, 160 miles away. Could it be this one? There has been some very cold weather there. There is another one a bit closer, in Norfolk, but that's still there, or was on the morning that our one turned up. But for this bird, wherever it came from, to end up on the smallest and most accessible pond in Wanstead is just crazy! I mean the chances of cold weather displacing any individual bird are exactly the same, rarity or resident, but in that case where are the 100 Pochard and 250 Tufties? Nope, just this one.

It's credentials are impossible to know and we will almost certainly never find out. In these situations I'd like to think it would get the benefit of any doubt. Regardless, it is a super find by Tim, and needless to say a first for the patch. It's my 168th bird here and I am within touching distance of another milestone! Jubilee Pond is tiny, and when the bird arrived was already about 75% frozen. It was thus limited to a much smaller area of open water and showed brilliantly, almost too well actually, but we are putting that down to the need to feed and there being no other option for it. All the wild Shoveler and other ducks are having to do the same.

Almost all the regular patch birders managed to see it, now we just have to see if stays. Part of me wants it to depart immediately so that it remains unblemished, but I'd like those few who have so far missed out to see it - this is a collective patch despite the competitive element. I managed a couple of brief photos late in the day in sub-optimal light. Not ideal, but on the plus side the bird was extremely close in to the edge.

Sunday 14 January 2024

Playing it cool for the Waterthrush

I made the trip to Heybridge this morning to see the Northern Waterthrush. I had wondered when the first over-wintering Yank would be found after the mega-fall in the autumn, but a bird an hour away in Essex had not been on my radar at all. It was found late last week I think, just as I was leaving the country. There was no need to panic as I'd seen the bird on Scilly many years ago, but part of me felt that fear of missing out. A Waterthrush! In Essex! Happily it was still on offer when I got back yesterday. Otherwise engaged, I had to wait until today, but the bird played ball.

Mick picked me up around 8am, and by 9.20am we were on site. Twenty minutes of that was the walk from the designated car park near Heybridge Basin, so it was of course rather disappointing (but not in the least surprising) to discover that many there had decided that parking opposite the bird and in front of people's houses at 7am on a Sunday morning was absolutely A-OK. Clearly more convenient but imagine if that were your house. I'd be properly pissed off.

We had missed the early morning showings, but the bird returned a few hours later as has consistently been the case the last few days. A good thing it did as by this point, sitting on the cold ground, my backside was numb. Shutters went nuts as you can imagine, including my own, although somehow I had managed to dial in the ISO to 8000 when I had meant to stop at 3200. Oh well, at least it meant a reasonably decent shutter speed - it is quite dark in the bird's favoured ditch. It landed in small oak first, giving the game away with its sharp metallic call as it dropped in. Pausing momentarily it then skipped into the ditch and started to feed along the edges, coming ever closer. Oh boy. 

It may have jumped up onto the nice mossy culvert wall, but we will never know as when the bird was reasonably close and getting closer a long blast of a car horn sent it skittering back down the channel and soon after that it was off. Presumably this was a local venting his or her frustration at having to slalom down their own street. People were sarcastically irritated - "Thanks mate!", "Bet that was on purpose", but you reap what you sow frankly. 

In other news I had a quick mooch around the western side of Wanstead Flats later in the afternoon, hoping to pick up Tony's Med Gull that Richard had refound when I was in Essex. I wasn't holding out a great deal of hope that it was there still, but soon after meeting Nick and agreeing that it had likely done one I picked it out in the melee. A bird I didn't get on the patch last year - alongside Snipe and Lapwing, both of which have already fallen (to others!) this year. Funny how these things pan out. It was to get better though, as standing chewing the fat with Nick back towards my house he picked out a Great White Egret flying over us. Remarkably it landed in what we call the 'Boggy Bit' and as the inevitable flushing by our four-legged friends occured I was able to video it flying off. This was my 7th GWE for the patch, all of which have been since 2018 - clearly increasing. So all in all a fine day with a few decent birds to kick off the year with.

Wednesday 10 January 2024

Flower wonder

Just a quick update as we head towards halfway through January to say that my Strelitzia flower has become evem more impressive. If you recall it burst into life on December 18th, so this has been in bloom for over three weeks. I have some plants whose flowers last just one day, like Mayflies. This one on the other hand has some real longevity. If you go back and look at my original photo you will see that more petals and spathes or whatever it is that they are called have emerged, and that the flower head now looks spectacular. Also note how the angle has changed to nearly 90 degrees as the flower has matured. It is just magical how it does this.

You can also see that it is leaking nectar profusely. I had a quick taste and it is incredible sweet, a shame that there are no native insects to take advantage of it. I've been having to mop up pools of it from the floor underneath plant, and it shows no signs of giving up. Eventually of course it will fade and dry out, but I may cut if off at the stem and keep it as an art installation in a swanky ceramic vase for a while. The next step is to repot the plant in the spring, if I can get it to get really big it could end up producing multiple flowers each year, a bit like my larger Aloes.

Monday 8 January 2024

Coot takeover

The local Coots have started warring again. Maybe they never stop? Earlier this week I had four in a face-off, warily circling one another, necks and heads to the water. From time to time one would lunge at another one, and the other two would then pich in as well, though whether in defence of the first one or in cohorts with the other was impossible to tell. Eventually one would have enough and shoot off with the other three in pursuit and then this curious western would begin again on a slightly different part of the pond. They seem to have no off button.

Alexandra Lake currently has the most Coots, I counted 59 at the start of the year and that is probably under-selling it. The biggest concentrations, gangs if you will, is at the end near the car park where people arrive to dump rotting veg, bread, rice and other wholly unsuitable foot stuffs. I've blogged about this before, no need to again, but when this happens you don't just see a melee of Gulls and Geese, the Coots are front and centre, all their battle training coming to the fore. You don't even need to have food, just the fact you stand on two legs is sufficient to have them all hurtling out of the pond to stand at your feet. So far I've not been attacked for being empty-handed, but you feel that day will surely come for one poor unsuspecting visitor, and they will be mercilessly pecked to death and then dragged into the shallows to be consumed. The Moorhens - and there are quite a few - will take the scraps.

No I didn't see a Northern Waterthrush at the weekend in case you were wondering.

Thursday 4 January 2024

Creeping up

After spending the first day of 2024 not birding in Wanstead, my patch list stood at two on the morning of the 2nd. Time to get to work. The weather being a bit so so, and me being very much a fair-weather birder, at least locally, I was limited to looking out of the window at home before I went to work. Nothing surprising at all, but I found I could hear two separate Song Thrushes, and all the regular Gulls flew over. I ended on 15, upped to 16 on the commute with a Stock Dove on the way to the tube. Meanwhile all my birding compatriots having diligently flogged the patch on Monday were on about 50. I am not too concerned, this is a marathon and I am good at those. Not running ones obviously. I recently found out that I came top of last year's patch list which I wasn't expecting, and this despite no Snipe, Wigeon or Lapwing. It wasn't a great year for anyone by the sounds of it, including for Nick who usually wipes the floor with all of us by virtue of being out all day every day. With the amount of time I spend off patch I am amazed I stayed in the game, but I did put a lot of effort in when I was here. There is no prize beyond kudos, and barely any of that, so we have all reset to zero and are starting again. Hurrah!

So January 2nd wasn't great but it started to come together on January 3rd when there was a brief gap in the constant deluge. I got out on the Flats nice and early and did a complete circuit before going to work. Nothing spectacular, but Chaffinch and Greenfinch were a little unexpected (this is a measure of how dire it is at the moment) and I ended up on 38 before catching the Elizabeth line in.

This morning there was another brief gap in the weather and so I headed out on my annual foray to Bush Wood. In about an hour I managed to pick up both regular Woodpeckers, both Crests, and Nuthatch, and as I was working from home today Collared Dove fell pretty easily. I  also stopped by the Basin for Great Crested Grebe whilst running an errand at lunchtime. 45. 

My January average is 63, with a max of 72, so there is still a long way to go. I confess I am not feeling it very much though. Northern Waterthrush in Essex? What seems like eons ago I went to Scilly for one of those, one of the best birding weekends I have ever had. Everything falls eventually. I had been wondering if the September storms might have squirreled away some goodies, a bit like that Yellowthroat at Rhiwderin in February 2012, but I hadn't predicted Essex being the place!

Blast from the past. 2011

Anyway, Happy New Year to one and all, hope all your birding wishes come true.

Tuesday 2 January 2024

A Positive Start

I've had a great start to the year. My Wanstead list stands at two. Brilliant. Robin before the sun rose on New Year's Day, and then a Magpie. On January 1st I left Wanstead behind as threatened and went to Essex, a great choice. Door to door service from Mick S to Abberton, where we gave the Aythya flock a good grilling. I had meant to go on the 31st but had wimped out in the end, preferring to stay local, where of course I saw nothing. But of course Monday was a brand new year, and why start it off somewhere I will no doubt visit endlessly? Abberton it was. Mick had dipped the Canvasback the previous day, but the weather looked good if a little on the cold and breezy side. Nonetheless I was confident it would be there and that I could find it. It was and I did. I am still amazed that Howard found it without knowing it was there, that is just next level birding. Even knowing that it is there somewhere it is very difficult indeed but somehow I picked it out amongst the hundreds of Pochard and was able to get everyone on it. The all black bill is the key, at which point you realise that it is a shade lighter than the Pochard and maybe a little bigger in all dimensions. Try to use those two distinguishing features when they are all asleep however and it is virtually impossible. We both had quite large cameras lenses and had high hopes of getting some decent photographs but it was not to be; the part of the flock containing the target remained steadfastly distant at all times.

Moving from Layer Breton to Layer-de-la-Haye we added Smew and Goosander to the day list, and then a quick scoot around to the screen below Abberton Church added the long-staying Velvet Scoters as well as a Glaucous Gull that had just been found and that was an  unexpected Essex tick. Back to the small causeway and I was able to pick the Canvasback again east of the road but it was still at the far side, nice scope views but no photographs other than distant record shots. At this point we gave up and decided to join the throngs in Colchester for the Waxwings, a species I confess I have been very keen to see despite really not wanting to be a part of a group of middle-aged men standing around in an industrial estate. I guess sometimes you just have to do these things. Ebird tells me that I last saw a Waxwing in the UK in 2013 so it is not as if I do this very often. They didn't stick around long but I was able to have a bit of a play with my camera which I had not used since October in South Africa. It still works thankfully, though I am far less conversant with it than I was. Once upon a time I could alter the settings without taking my eye off the viewfinder but today it was a bit of a struggle.

Back to Layer Breton to discover the entire flock asleep on the far side. Seemingly mission impossible but we did eventually manage to pin it down on the mantle colour alone - hurrah! So a fun day out in Essex, just over fifty species to kick off the year so nothing monumental but a little bit of quality. I'll probably have a quick check of the patch in the next few days. Amazingly Tony found a Med Gull on Monday - we didn't get one at all in 2023 and then it goes and falls on January 1st. That's patchworking for you I suppose!

Monday 1 January 2024


I read a scary line the other day that went something like this: "2040 is closer to us than the year 2000 is distant". Not a complex proposition I suppose, simple maths, but it did make me stop and think. Not only is it true but where exactly has that time gone? The years have passed incredibly quickly. I've worked at my company for nearly 25 years. I've lived in the same house for nearly 20 years. My children are 20, 18 and 16. 

In 2040 I will be 65 years old. Imagine that! I still vividly remember my Dad's 40th birthday party in Cambridge, sat with my sister at the top of the stairs as our normally quiet house filled with people downstairs. I am significantly older now than he was then. 2040 also came up the other day when I was looking to get some wine delivered. I noticed I had a case of Port that people recommend starts drinking in 2040. Starts! That made me go and look at the end dates for wine in my cellar - I have a fair few cases of red wine that goes out to 2050 and beyond. Some of it will be particularly long-lived - to 2070. Predictably that made me start thinking about my end date. I'll be 95! Or more realistically I won't be here at all. And even on the offchance that I am the nurses will probably have banned wine anyway. 

The start of a New Year always tends to provoke these kinds of thoughts in me. Time rushing by, famous Pink Floyd lyrics etc. A lifetime is literally the blink of an eye, you have to make the most of it. I urge everyone to think about that the next time they contemplate half an hour watching crap TV, or as they endlessly doom-scroll on their phones. And I urge myself to take my own advice. Get out there, stop pissing about. You, yes you! Get out of that chair and go and do something! Or stay in the chair. It's comfy, you're warm and you're quite happy, and a glass of something is to hand. Do what you want to do, enjoy yourself, you're only here for so long. 

PS. You bought that wine for one reason, and it wasn't with inheritances in mind! Drink up!

Christmas 2023