My visitors today

Monday 16 January 2012

What a treat

St.John the Baptist Cathedral, Norwich
by Susie Mallett, 6th January 2012

 Finn and Moos, River Yare

Otters in University of East Anglia Broad 
by Susie Mlallett, 6th January, 2012

A kingfisher fishing the broad
by Susie Mallett, 6th January 2012

A special bits-in-between-day-for-conductors
An amazing Janet and John, or Enid Blyton, sort of day!

My first adventure was a viewing of a knitted Christmas tree, the second a walk with the dogs, two lurchers.

This day was not only special for me, it was a grand occasion for lots of other people. It remained exciting even days after when the stories had been told and pictures shared again and again. The only thing that was missing from the adventure was the lashings of ginger-beer, but Dad and I made up for that by opening a bottle later that same evening!


I have been with my family. We had a few family-outings to celebrate the coming of the New Year but for me this one just about topped them all.

Twelfth Night

Dad had got the decorations out this year. This had always been Mum’s job, she kept and reused, with tender, loving care, all the Christmas decorations that we used for years to decorate my Grandmother’s pub. This year my Dad carefully unwrapped all of it to place it all over the house, and on the tiny tree, ready for my arrival at the end of the year. It looked a treat.

On the sixth of January I had the pleasure of returning the ancient “bling” to its just-as-ancient Tom Smith’s cracker box. It was a wonderful hour full of happy and interesting memories of my life, of the strange but lovely family Christmases that we spent at that pub just down the road. Memories too of joy, remembering how much Mum loved all these tinselly things and how she had cared for them so well that we could still enjoy them now. I had an hour to spend thinking about her and about her Mum!

With the re-filled cracker-box stored safely at the top of the house for one more year and the eighty Christmas cards that Dad received all in a pile on the dining-table, for him to look through later, I got ready to go out.


My first stop was the Catholic Cathedral that is situated just outside the city-wall, on the opposite side of the city to the Church of England Cathedral and my also my family-home.

My sister met me at the Cathedral. We were there to see something that we had been looking forward to seeing ever since she had heard about it: a knitted Christmas tree!

The tree had been made as a fund-raiser by a group of disabled people and their carers, friends and supporters of the charity involved.

You can see the photographs above of the tree and the building. Sis and I took the opportunity to look at the lovely architecture, and gorgeous flower arrangements, and as we are neither of us proud to say that after over fifty years in Norwich we have never been into this beautiful church! I use the other Cathedral often as a short cut into the city or for a coffee break, and it is always a first stop when we have visitors as it is so near to home. The Catholic Cathedral on the other hand, that always looked so dark and ominous from the outside and was never a venue for school events, was until now a stranger to me.

Not any longer, I expect my sister and I will make a point of taking our visitors there in the future and watching out for any other unusual events such as the knitted tree and nativity scene.

It was quite an impressive object, that tree. It would not have fitted into our living-room that’s for sure. It did not look out of place in the wonderful towering arches of the cathedral either. A lot of very hard work had gone into the design and making of this work of art.

It really was a work of art. Blankets made from knitted squares and stuffed knitted toys are usually seen on stalls at the church fete. Many artists would turn up their noses if anyone ever suggested that they were art-works! But here, on the tree, were knitted shapes artistically sculpted together. Leaves and grass, paper-chains, crackers, candles, lanterns, presents, toys, and even a knitted star, really did create a wonderful work of art.

The story behind the creation of this sculpture made the whole event even more special. Read about it here:

There was more about artistic work with people with disability in the news in Norwich this week:
“More than just basket-making at the centre for the blind and partially sighted”

I now know where I will be taking the art materials that I have had stacked away for thirty-years under several beds in my Dad’s house!

On with the tales of adventure

With two dogs waiting patiently for their part of the adventure we carried on with our journey to the outskirts of the city.

Walking dogs

I enjoy walking with my sister and her husband and their two dogs. Both dogs are lurchers. One looks exactly like a border-collie, even though his mother was a whippet, so he attracts a lot of attention. The other, only seven months old, looks exactly like a lurcher should look, skinny and shaggy and grey, with a long neck, hanging head and doleful eyes, so he gets his fair share of doggy-comments too.

We trudged through the mud from the car park, across the parkland down to the river. I suppose the mud was preferable to the ice and snow that I encountered on my last walk in the same place. The dogs paddled, one even had a quick swim, before both shook water all over us before chasing each other and a variety of interesting smells.

As well as observing the action of the hounds I observed nature, and what a lot of it there was too.

Our walk followed the River Yare towards the south-west end of the University of East Anglia Broad. 

We then turned turning sharply left to take us though an ancient wooded area where bluebells were already bravely showing their bright green shoots through the decaying leaves, before making our way towards Earlham Hall and its parkland, leading us to the Park Café and a warming cup of tea.

The Café allows dogs on leads to enter as long as they do not bark!

Before entering the bluebell-woodland we walked close to the reeded bank of the Broad and it was here that our adventure continued.

It was at this point that we encountered several dog-walkers and non-dog-walkers all facing the water in silent observation. In whispered tones I asked what was happening, I could hear, splashing and rustling and chomping but could at first recognise nothing in the wintering colours and tangle of decaying vegetation.

It was an otter!

The first man in the line, whose dog was patiently waiting several yards behind us, told us that he knew that there had been a mother and her three cubs spotted in the spring by walkers on the adjacent river. 

Cubs stay with their mother for quite some time so maybe this was not just an otter but several, perhaps the same family from the river. From the noise being made chomping on the fish it could have been a whole romp of them.

I had been watching for quite some time before I remembered that I had my camera in my pocket. I had never seen an otter in the wild before and I was fixed to the spot with my eyes peeled and with a fixed grin on my face.

What no pics?

I had not considered that I could be taking photographs. I did not wish to miss a second of the action through fumbling with my camera. When I was certain that the close proximity of a dozen adults, a couple of children and several well behaved dogs, was not disturbing these rare creatures too much and I felt sure that they would stay in view for a while longer, I reached for my camera. I began snapping in the direction of the noises and the moving weeds hoping that when I got home I would see something on the computer pictures. I certainly did, we spotted three if not four creatures on one picture.

After a couple of shots the commotion in the shallow water moved over to the left and all of a sudden out popped an otter on to a log, already chewing on a silvery fish, probably a dace. He remained in full view, just a couple of metres away from us for several minutes, and at the same time a blue flash flew through the air between us and the otter.

Young enthusiasm for wild life

I had been distracted earlier in my otter viewing by two little girls, who were beautifully dressed and looked as if they had just stepped out of an Enid Blyton novel or the Janet and John first readers from infant school days.

These children were so excited about the otters but even more excited when they were able to show me where, in the tree just above the otter’s head, the most beautiful kingfisher was sitting. Just at the moment that I had it in my site it plummeted down into the water, like a bomb dropping, to emerge seconds later with a silvery catch in its mouth, just like the otter’s catch but much smaller.

As my Dad described to me later, the kingfisher took his catch to eat on a lower branch before returning to his look-out position.

I had never seen a kingfisher before either!

As you can imagine I was delighted with our nature walk!

The Janet-and-John-children were delighted to see all the photographs of the otters in my camera, they enthused over my artistic skills and lamented that they had not had a camera with them. They were so excited when their mum swapped email addresses with me so that the girls would have pictorial-proof of our adventure to include in their nature diaries at school on Monday morning. A real nature trail would be travelling through cyberspace!


Janet and John

Enid Blyton

Tom Smith’s Crackers


University of East Anglia

Rolling Stones – Walking the Dog

River Yare at Earlham

University of East Anglia Broad

1 comment:

Andrew said...

What treats. And what a fantastic video on the knitted Christmas tree. This looks the most innovative and fun fund-raising process since Calender Girls and Service Wives, and the video was a goodie too.