Wild West Yorkshire, Tuesday, 28 December 2010, page 2 of 2
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WHEN THERE'S nothing more inspiring to draw, you can often catch sight of a chimney through an adjacent window. It's an architectural detail that encapsulates the style of the whole building. A piece of social history.
On Christmas day I drew a council house chimney (and a passing crow), while during an appointment in Wakefield on Tuesday, I was able to draw the grander stone-built chimney of the magistrate's court.
We'd been worrying about our heating arrangements on Christmas Day when a neighbour said that she could smell gas and we realised that we could smell it too, all around our house. It wasn't until Boxing Day that another neighbour - who had also thought that his gas installation must be to blame - tracked down the source of the gas leak when walking his dog; the smell was at its strongest up at the top end of Coxley Dam, half a mile away, where a gas main crosses the beck alongside the footbridge.
Still, frosty nights had resulted in stagnant air pooling up here at the lower end of Coxley Valley, leading us all to conclude that the gas leak must be here too.
I drew the Pussy Cat known simply as PC at our friends' Diana and Malcolm's. PC is a nosey cat, rummaging in the bag that we'd brought the Christmas gifts in and turfing out its contents, which didn't include anything edible, on the carpet.
Exchanging gifts and cards is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family. We just wouldn't have got to see half of them without the festivities looming. It's good to have Barbara's mum back in her own home for Christmas. Like Dorothy in the final scene of The Wizard of Oz she tells us that 'There's no place like home.' Getting her installed comfortably there has taken its toll on Barbara and I who have both felt the strain and gone down with colds, so the mid-winter celebration has been a brief but welcome change to the constant problems that have been arising.
On Christmas Eve, after no fewer than four mum-related appointments - nurse, social worker, doctor and pharmacist - we turned down an invitation to mulled wine with our neighbours as we were ready for an early night and, for the first time since 1975 or 1976, I missed out on Midnight Mass at St Peter's in Horbury. Hopefully we'll get there next year. My faith might be a little shaky, very shaky really, but Christmas - or the Winter Solstice if you prefer that - is still a good time to celebrate the days getting longer, the promise of new life and generally the concept that there's something more to our lives than the never-ending struggle for our material wellbeing.
Another seasonal fixture for the last 27 years has been going for a birding walk with my friends from schooldays John and David who, without fail, migrate back to Horbury for Christmas. But where can we birdwatch on a frosty Boxing Day?
In previous years, we've found RSPB reserves closed on Boxing Day. They, and the other places that we'd normally head for, will all be frozen over this year. I phone a friend for advice; Eddie, who regularly visits the wetlands on his home patch of the Calder Valley near Wakefield.
He suggests Calder Valley Wetlands (left), which are former gravel pits now adopted as floodlands and scheduled, when the developer finally gets around to handing them over to an appropriate conservation body, to become a nature reserve.
Today they're almost entirely frozen over apart from a couple of pools that appear to have been kept open by the movement of the water birds but the River Calder that runs alongside them is ice-free and there we see goosanders, tufted duck, goldeneye, gadwall, teal, moorhen, cormorant and just a few pochard.
Tufted duck, wigeon, teal and goosanders
The next day David and I make a brisk circuit of the frozen canal and the river at Addingford near Horbury. The Wyke (right) is completely frozen over but there's some open water in the adjacent drainage ditch where a drain that passes under the canal flows into it.
Gadwall and heron
Richard Bell, illustrator
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