Walk Into Winter

Winter is finally here! I’ve had many heated discussions with friends and acquaintances over my hibernal preference but I can’t seem to get through to these sun-worshippers how tiresome the constant sweatiness and closeness of summer becomes. Add to this the twice – or sometimes thrice – daily application of Factor 50 required by us English Rose types (especially those with reduced follicular coverage). Maybe they could try and understand my annoyance? Not that I like the persistent Mancunian drizzle. We’ve been lucky over the last few weeks to have a few of those crisp, clear, and cold early winter days, where the low sun dazzles and the frost remains crunchy in the shade well after lunchtime.

These glorious (if short) days have afforded me ample opportunity to explore the greener parts of South Manchester of the last couple of weeks. I was pleasantly surprised by the arrival of 18 cormorants at the lake in Platt Fields Park, I guess to escape the winter swells at the coast, who seemed to be making the best fist they could at eating every fish in the lake. They certainly seemed a little incongruent next to the swans, geese, and ducks whose domain they had so suddenly invaded, even more so compared to the bright green parakeets who live in and around the park.

The Southern Cemetery was virtually overrun with squirrels, who seemed to be making the most of their last few weeks of abundance. As the last few leaves of the year were drifting off the trees, I managed to spot a couple of brief, bright flashes of a jay collecting nuts near the monument to Capt. John Alcock – the Mancunian who piloted the first plane to cross the Atlantic.

The lake down at Chorlton Water Park was absolutely brimming with migrating waterbirds: gulls and geese in their hundreds honking and squawking away like a chorus of floating, defecating foghorns. It was uncommonly quiet (barring the feint background roar of the M60), however, on the stretch of the River Mersey between Chorlton and Didsbury, with only a handful of walkers and joggers. The seclusion was more than worth it to catch a glimpse of the metallic blue sheen of a kingfisher darting along the riverbank, diving into the water after a tiddler, and then zooming off in the opposite direction again. It always makes the mind boggle on a chilly day to wonder how such tiny animals can keep warm when you are wandering round in jumper, coat, hat, gloves, and boots, still feeling positively Baltic!

Winter walks have afforded a welcome respite from the more mundane aspects of Uni life. Another week of research and note-taking was put off with the arrival of 30 first-year essays to mark. When you think about it, it’s probably only a couple of day’s work, but the thought of the hours of work involved is a bit like a lodestone on your subconscious. After a few days of procrastination, and abortive attempts, I managed to rouse myself into marking 5 in one go, and all of a sudden the whole task didn’t seem so mountainous. With essays marked, it was back to the research, and another week sat in front of a computer screen, but hey, this is the life we choose! I’ve arranged meetings with my students next week to discuss their work now they have it back, and although it will be a couple of afternoons where I can’t get on with my studies, I’m looking forward to what is often the only chance to have a one-to-one chat. Hopefully it is helpful to their development, but also gives me a chance to assess what it is they have enjoyed (or not!) over the last semester.

This week, I have been mostly drinking: Piddle Ale at The Victoria in Withington. The name kinda says it all.

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