Monday, 16 August 2021

In Which I Visit Mars, and the Moon

I have been aware of the work of artist Luke Jerram for a while - I've seen his Museum of the Moon before, in Lincoln Museum, and Gaia, in Salisbury Cathedral, so when I saw that he has now created a version of Mars, and that it was going to be on show in Bristol, I had to book to visit.

Mars was in the Wills Memorial Tower, which I spent a lot of time in as a student doing my post-graduate course, so it felt strange to be going there, not for an exam or lecture, but to see an art installation! 

Mars is 7m in diameter, which means that 1cm on the model represents 10km of the real planet. (Like his other astronomical works, this uses NASA images to  create the surface of the planet)

Photo of large red-brown sphere hanging in a large, hall, with tall windows covered by blinds on each side.
Mars: Bristol University

It's beautiful, and the Great Hall made a fantastic setting for it.  As well as the planet itself, there was a surround sound accompaniment, including music speech recordings and sounds suggestive of what it might be like on the surface.

I spent about 40 minutes just taking it all in.

It was only in Bristol for a week, and I saw it on the second to last day - it's a shame it wasn't there longer, I might have gone back to see it at a different time f day, if it had been there longer!

Then , (because I follow the artist on Facebook) I saw that the Museum of the Moon was also visiting Bristol, this time, the cathedral.

It's free to visit whenever the cathedral is normally open, but there are also various additional events - one of which was evening opening with restricted numbers, which was what I picked.

 The last time I visited Bristol Cathedral it was to see Antic Disposition's Richard III in 2017, and on that occasion there was not much opportunity to look round the cathedral itself, so I enjoyed doing that - The cathedral has a long history - for some reason, I'd thought of it as being fairly modern (perhaps assuming that, like so much of Bristol, it was built with the profits from slavery and tobacco) 

In fact, it was originally the abbey church for an Augustinian monastery, founded by the Berkley family, who are still around, and claim to be the only remaining family in England who can trace their lineage back directly, father to son so before the Norman Conquest. The one who founded the abbey was an Anglo-Saxon  who cannily supported Henry II back before it fashionable to do so, and married his son off to the previous lord Berkley's daughter, who chose poorly in that particular conflict.   Presumably they have always been either very lucky,  or very adept at changing allegiance as necessary, since they still have a stonking big castle where the family has been living for the last 850 years.   

The oldest parts of the church were built in the 12th Century, although I was right in part,  in so far as the original nave was demolished, (The monks were planning an upgrade, but due to Henry VIII never got to build the new one) and  the current one built  in the 1860s. 

There were some lovely tombs of early abbots - I do like the star-burst surroundings.  There are also some rather nice bits of early vaulted ceilings, in one of the side chapels.

The setting is a great one for the Moon.

I enjoyed playing with looking at it from different angles, and seeing the interaction between the ancient and traditional building, and the Moon.

Although I think I may need to go back to spend more time in the cathedral, in daylight, sometime soon. The Chapter House, which is apparently very good, was closed when I was there, and I should like to be able to spend some time looking at the various memorials, and sculptures (they have a fragment of an Anglo-Saxon carving showing the Harrowing of Hell, which it was too dark to see properly, by the time I got to it, for instance)

It was an interesting evening. 

I also learned that the Moon is coming to Wells cathedral, in October, so I may pop in to see it there, too.

If you're in or near Bristol, it's at the Cathedral until 30th August.

Sunday, 15 August 2021

Hamlet - Sir Ian McKellen

When it was announced, last June, that Sir Ian McKellen was going to play Hamlet, I signed up for the theatre's  mailing list. Originally the production was planned for last Summer /  Autumn, but as we all know, many plans went awry.

 However, in March, the theatre mailed to say the show was back on, for this summer, so I contacted two of my best theatre-going friends, and we booked tickets, and on Saturday, met up in Windsor to see the show.

We met up early enough for drinks and catching up, which was wonderful, then we went for  a delicious Moroccan meal, at  Al Fassia  before heading to the theatre.

Our seats were in the stalls, which meant that we had a good view, but rather a crick in the neck when watching bits of the play as characters clambered up to the walkways which formed parts of the set!
The production has  age-blind, gender-blind and colour-blind casting, so as well as McKellen  playing the title role (with Jenny Seagrove, as his mother Gertrude) we had Frances Barber as Polonius and Francesca Annis as the ghost of Hamlet's father, and Ashley D Gayle as Laertes (He had taken over the role at short notice after the original Laertes, Emmanuella Cole, left the production, and he did it extremely well)

I was not enthused by the set - lots of metal ladders and walkways, which I didn't feel added much but which did squeak and rattle when used, which I found distracting, and also meant looking up at a very awkward angle when actors were up on the walkways!

I thoroughly enjoyed McKellen's performance - his first appearance was in deep mourning - formal black suit, silk top hap, dark glasses and astrakhan collar - a very Victorian / Mr Holmes vibe, however the costuming and setting generally were modern - later in the play he appeared in trainers and on an exercise bike, for example, which seems to me to be taking the whole too, too, solid flesh  speech a bit too literally.

I was also not enamoured with the decision to present Ophelia (Alis Wyn Davies) as an angry rock chick - we first met her singing doubt thou the stars are fire.. , accompanying herself on guitar, and then in the mad scenes, again she sang, and accompanied herself, and the control this needed  meant she seemed more angry than mad.  And Gertrude's odd accent as a disrtaction, never explained.

The director had also decided to use hair as way of indicating mental distress - Hamlet cuts his hair off, stripping down for revenge. Gertrude's wig is pulled off, leaving her exposed, as she is shown by Hamlet the causes of his grief, and Ophelia apparently finds time to cut off her own hair as she goes mad. I felt it was a mistake to use the  same metaphor repeatedly like this, it would perhaps have been effective if used for one of the three!

Over all, I felt the production was a bit patchy: There were excellent performances - Ian McKellen is always a joy to watch, and it was wonderful to see and hear him speaking the verse (perhaps a touch fast, in the To be, or not to be soliloquy, but that's a minor criticism) , I never quite forgot his age, but it didn't prevent his performance being convincing, and moving.I was impressed by the performances off Ashley Gayle (Laertes) and Ben Allen (Horatio).

I'm happy that I saw it, and that McKellen decided to give it another go. And I am looking forward to seeing The Cherry Orchard , with the same cast, in October. It's a play I am far less familiar with, so will go in with a much more open mind!

Thursday, 5 August 2021

In Which I Go OUT! And there is Theatre, and Meeting A Friend, And Food

 It's been a long time.

But a few months ago, after I had been able to book both my vaccination appointments and knew i would be fully vaxxed by now, and when it looked as though we were getting back to normal, I booked tickets to go to the theatre, with a friend.

The show we booked was Under Milk Wood  at the National Theatre, with Michael Sheen, and we went to the final matinee. It's the first time I've been to the theatre since March of last year, and the first time I've been anywhere except to work, and to spend time in my bubble.

photo of London skyline - looking over River Thames , with St Pauls cathedral in the distance

It felt very strange.. There were people, lots of them, and some of them not wearing masks. And then we went to  a restaurant and ate(delicious!) food cooked by someone else!. Fortunately I don't seem to have completely forgotten how to behave in pubic. 

Then we went for our socially distanced performance. we were sitting  with 3 empty seats between us, as when we booked, being from different households/bubbles, we couldn't sit together, and there were lots of empty seats to keep everyone distanced. Were it not for the knowledge of how difficult this makes it for the theatres, I could  get to quite like the extra space!

I've never seen Under Milk Wood before, although I have read it,and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was, in this production, some additional material; the play began with a group of nursing home residents, and the (unexpected) visit from the son (Michael Sheen) trying to speak to his father (Karl Johnson), who appears unable to understand or respond to him, until he starts to show him old photos, and encourage his to remember his childhood, and all the characters of that little Welsh town, Llareggub...

It makes for a  fascinating take on the play, seeing the characters played by the elderly cast members, and Johnson's almost wordless performance was particularly impressive.

I'm very glad I got to see it. (We saw the final matinee, I'm not sure if it was filmed at ll and whether it may yet appear on NTLive) .

Since I was going to brave the trip to London, I decided that I might as well make the most of it and see a second show, so I had booked to see Constellations as well.

It's a short, two character play, about love and  quantum physics - this production has four different casts, and I saw the second, Zoe Wanamaker as Physicist Marianne, and Peter Capaldi as beekeeper Roland.

The play is a serious of short scenes - a party, where Roland and Marianne make a connection, or don't , spend a night together, or don't.. And we watch as the same scene plays out in slightly different ways, as different choices are made, or not made, or news is good or bad.

It was interesting and unusual, and I enjoyed it, and seeing these two actors on stage (I have see Zoe Wanamaker in other productions but this was the first tie I'd seen Peter Capaldi on stage)

The performance I saw was the last they did, but there are two other cases still continuing!

As the last train home is currently very early, I stayed overnight, and then had a pleasant walk back through Kensington Gardens, and some quiet back-streets, to get back to the station.

It was all quite tiring - I did find being out around so many strangers quite stressful, and I had forgotten, over the past 16 months how much difference the poorer air quality makes to me, personally,  but it was wonderful to see a friend I've not seen for so long, and I did enjoy both shows, despite feeling a bit nervous.

Monday, 29 March 2021

One Year On

 The first National Lockdown here in England  was announced on 23rd March, 2020 and became mandatory on 26th, so we're now a year on, and we're still locked down, although there have been periods when it's been eased.

In the Before Times, this blog was mostly about the exhibitions and plays I was seeing, so material has been rather thin on the ground in the past twelve months.

I have seen some productions - via the wonders of the internet and TV: I've enjoyed the 'Culture in Quarantine' on the BBC, which included releases of several RSC productions such as the Christopher Eccleston / Niamh Cusack Macbeth, and the various NTLive shows which were streamed free (I particularly enjoyed being able to re-watch the Tom Hiddleston Coriolanus and the Mark Gatiss Madness of George III)  and have also seen a number of new, online productions - Michael Sheen in the Old Vic In Camera Faith Healer, and What A Carve Up  and, more recently Romeo & Juliet  (Which uses green screen filming to make it appear that actors are on stage together when they aren't) and the RSC's Dream  which uses motion capture and CGI, coupled with extracts 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' to present a vison of how the fairies might appear. 

There have, too, been lots of other events - online lectures and interviews with writers, actors and academics which to some extent replace the events I might otherwise have attended in person. And some of which I wouldn't have been able to see in person, as they were too far away. 

But I do miss live events. 

There are, of course , some advantages.  I was able to watch 'Faith Healer' in my pyjamas, with a large glass of wine in one hand and a kitten on my lap, which isn't normally practical in the theatre, and there's none of the irritation caused by people who won't stop talking, or who let their pones ring during performances, but on the whole,I'd rather live with those things, and be able to see performances live. I do hope, however, that as things return to normal we we keep some of these positives - so productions can be seen time and again, and are available to people who can't, for whatever reason, get to the theatre. 

I've missed eating out,too. Particularly the social element. I've tried various options - one of the pubs in the village, which normally offers fine dining, has reinvented itself to offer a fruit & veg shop (expanding to include fresh meat and fish, fresh bread, essentials such a loo roll and, in the early days of empty supermarket shelves, flour (decanted into brown paper bags from their huge 25kg sacks and to offer take away food such as fish and chips, pizzas and excellent burgers and fried chicken. I've also tried food from national delivery options - Lebanese street food from Borough Market, and a glorious (if expensive) meal from Mere to heat and plate at home

I have also been, on the whole, enjoying taking my #Permitted Exercise. I had, about a year before all this started, made a decision to try to get fitter and perhaps to lose some weight, so I had already been working (mainly successfully) on getting in at least 10,000 steps a day, but this was mostly through taking (repetitive) walks around the town during my lunch hour in the week, and aiming to do more on foot and make less use of public transport when out and about at weekends, while I had done some walks from home, most had been a bit further afield. 

One positive of being locked down has been getting to know that area immediately around my house much  better,  from watching the gradual seasonal changes, to learning where and when to see wildlife, from foxes, to deer, to badgers.

I see myself as being very lucky to live here, in the country, where I have this, literally on my doorstep, rather than being in a town 

I have been very fortunate that my close family have all stayed well. although I have friends who have not been so lucky, and of course there is the constant anxiety, for myself and others.

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Devon - Walks and wildlife

I took a couple of days off in order to relax and to give myself a long weekend just after  my birthday, in mid-october

 I went to Devon, to visit my parents (Prior to the new lockdown starting, and we have formed a support bubble, so all allowed) 

The weather wasn't forecast to be great, but was pretty good when I arrived, so I suggested that we go out that afternoon and we went to the RHS Garden at Rosemoor, to look at all the autumn colours. There  are some formal gardens - the roses are past their best, but the new cool' ( water features, and plants in blues and purples and grey-greens) and 'hot' garden (reds, yellows and oranges) were looking good.

Photo shows a plant with bright oyellow/orange flowers (Yellow 'Red Hot Pokers'
'Red Hot Pokers'

And in addition there is parkland and woodland, and the beginnings of an arboretum.

So of course there are lots of trees and bushes with wonderful foliage.

photo of Red maple leaves on a partially bare branch, against a grey sky
Acer leaves 

There is a small lake, surrounded by trees.

And    a little lake, and there's a hill with woods. And quite a lot of birds, most of  the ones I saw were robins. We finished up with the kitchen garden, full of ornamental cabbages, and herbs, 

We had a pleasant, if slightly grey and chilly walk.

Then the following day we went out again, this time to Heddon Valley / Heddonmouth, where we walked through the woods and dow to the sea, and saw a seal!

 We spent most of  Sunday indoors cooking stuff  and then eating them, then on Monday, when the weather was starting to deteriorate a bit, we went to Morte Pointe and went for a very windy, bracing walk along the cliffs, 

There were clear views across to Lundy, and we saw 4 or 5 seals; one out on the rocks, and the others swimming and hanging out in the sea nearby. Apparently they're there a lot.

They seem so much more exciting and strange, than seeing 'normal' wildlife like deer and foxes! 

It was wonderful to be able to spend a few days just relaxing, and spending time with family.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Autumn is here

My regular walks have petered out a little, the arrival of a new kitten is very distracting, and makes staying in the house in the evenings much more attractive, and in addition, the nights are drawing in,and there has been a lot of rain, both of which also reduce the opportunities for pleasant walks! 

photo of a grass field with trees and bushes to both sides and in the distance, all under a blue sky with a few small clouds

However, when I get the chance I am still going out. During the week, when it doesn't rain I often take the opportunity to go for a short walk near the office,


photo shows a sun-lit path under green trees. The path is pale coloured sand or gravel, with dappled sunlight and shadows from the trees

There is a community park, which has some scrubland and open space, and various footpaths, so I can take half an hour of my lunch break and get some fresh air, and sometimes sunshine.

photo shows a small toadstool with a white stem, and a red cap with white spots (Fly Agaraic) against a background of bright green moss

I have been spotting different types of mushroom and toadstool, some more dramatic looking than others, and have come across some unexpected sculptures, too (unexcepted not least as this one is off the path and not visible from it, I only found it because I turned up a little muddy gap between trees to get off the path as there were some other people coming and it isn't very wide. Perhaps it is more visible from the path in winter, when the foliage dies back.

Monochrome photo of a  sculpture of a man riding a bicycle. The sculpture is flat, cut from sheet metal, and stands in front of trees and bushes

This Saturday morning, I woke up rather earlier than I consider reasonable for a weekend, and found that there was a rather nice sunrise and a beautiful bright, crisp morning, and contemplated going out for an early(ish) morning walk. However, by the time I had washed my face and cleaned my teeth the sun had gone in, so I went back to bed with a book and a couple of cats for a bit, then went for the walk after breakfast instead.

It was still a nice day. For the first half of my walk the sky remained grey and overcast, and it was definitely chilly,  but enjoyable - there was still heavy dew on the grass, and lots of mud.

photo shows a single brown oak leaf, lying on grass. There are several large drops of water on the leaf

There were also some lovely autumn colours - yellow gorse flowers, and bright red hipsand haws.

photo shows gorse bush with bright yellow flowers, againt a background of bramble bushes with dark green leaves

As I continued, the sun came out, so the second half of my walk was made in bright sunshine, under a brilliant blue sky. 

It wasn't the right time of day for foxes or badgers or deer, but I did see lots of birds, and several cheeky squirrels.

And the sun was still out when I got back home, so I was able to put some washing on the line, and to let Vashti explore the garden a bit. 

Photo shows two black and white cats on a paved path. The larger cat, on the left, is walking away from the photographer, the smaller cat is facing away but slightly turned, so her left side can be seen.

Loki came out too, whether for company, or in a purely supervisory capacity,I am unsure. I don't think Vashti approves of wet grass, although she does enjoy visiting the Outdoors, at least for short periods. I weighed her today and she is now 2.1kg so she should be able to have her op soon - the vets will put her microchip in at the same time, and I shall then be able to start teaching her the Way of The Cat-Flap. 

Two balck and white carts, smaller on the left, facing each other. The smaller cat is on a paved path, the larger standing on grass

The afternoon turned pretty grey, but it was a beautiful morning. 

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Faith Healer - Old Vic in Camera

 For obvious reasons, I have not been to the theatre much this year - and not at all since March. I have been watching many of the productions available online and on TV - I particularly enjoyed seeing some of the NTLive productions, such as Coriolanus, again, and watching some of the RSC shows available on the BBC's 'Culture in Quarantine' stream, but I have been missing live theatre a lot. 

photo shows an open laptop, the screen is balck with the words "Faith Healer" in large white capital letters, below which in smaller type reads 'a play by Brian Friel' To the right of the laptop a black and white kitten is sitting on a blue chaor , the kitten is looking at the laptop screen and it's head obscures one corner of the screen

So, the Old Vic has been doing a short run  'Old Vic In Camera'  of plays performed live on stage to an empty theatre and a bunch of cameras.

I booked a ticket, and duly got my 'Zoom' link to watch live.  It was an interesting experience - I mean, a kitten blocking my view is not something which normally happens at the theatre, but on the other hand, the seating was much more comfortable than most theatres, and the refreshments cheaper! 

The play itself is interesting - it consists of 4 monologues, by Francis Hardy, the titular Faith Healer (played by Michael Sheen) his wife, Grace (played by Indira Varna) and his manager, Teddy, (played by David Threlfall),and then Hardy again,  as they reminisce about events in their life on the road, and we the audience get to gradually  unpick the contradictory stories they tell, and to get drawn into their love and grief and loss.

The intimacy created by the filming, and the power of the actors, made it a very intense, gripping play, and while there were a few issues with the format - some distracting super close-up, zoomed in so you could not see the whole of the actor's face, for instance, and one or two moments when there was interference with clothing brushing against mikes, but over all it worked well, and I did like the feel of watching live rather than a recorded or edited performance. 

I shall keep an eye out for others.

I admit, I would not be willing to pay as much as for a 'real' theatre ticket, but was happy to pay at the lower end of the available range. I would be happy of theatres were to consider similar options even when we are once again able to return to 'normal' live events - there are ,I suspect, a lot of plays productions I wouldn't travel to London and pa £40+ for a ticket for, but would be happy to pay £10-£15 to watch live on the small screen, and no doubt there are a lot of others who can't get to the theatre who would do the same. Perhaps a fixed camera, 'sitting' in the centre of the Royal Circle or equivalent during a live performance,  could become the norm, to widen the range of options for those of us who love live theatre!

I am slow writing up this post - I watched on 19th Sept, and the run was only for  4 days, They will be ding 'A Christmas Carol' at Christmas, however, and while tickets aren't yet on sale, you can register to be updated when they are, and, of course, as the event is online, you can watch from anywhere in the world, although as it's live, your timezone may dictate whether or not it is at a suitable time of the da y or night! (Details on the Old Vic website )

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Autumn, kittens, deer and a hedgehog

 I have been a bit remiss with blogging, because there isn't a great deal happening - although I am getting a lot of entertainment from Vashti's adventures.

photo of small black and white kitten climbing up a glass panelled interior door, kitten is clinging to the second frame up

She and Loki are getting along better - mostly because Loki is tolerating Vashti's bounciness and adopting a policy of mostly ignoring her until she bounces too close or too often, at which point he will hiss and (usually) move away, and occasionally growl and/or cuff her around the ears if she doesn't take the hint.

                               balack and white kitten in left foreground looking startled, with arched back, looking towards large black and white cat sitting and ignoring it.

Vashti is  not noticeable daunted by any of it, but will generally cower a bit to show willing, before bouncing at home again as soon as he turns away!

Two black and whte cats, one small (on left) and one large (on right) sharing a footstool, cats are touching noses

I have been going out for walks as much as possible, although with the nights starting to draw in, and the distractions caused by a kitten at home I have been out less frequently!

I haven't seen the badgers for a while - I suspect that now the ground isn't so dry, it's easier for them to find food so they are perhaps not ranging quite so far, and pf course th young ones will be getting older and more wary. 

I have, however, continued to see deer quite regularly.

photo of Roe deer standing in field of stubble. Deer is side on to camera and facing rightis f

The deer continue to be spectacularly bouncy, 'pronking' vigourously.

I've also seen a hedgehog - I went out to put the bins out rather late, and heard a lot of rustling, in the hedge, which I assumed was Loki, so went to greet him, and found it was in fact a hedgehog, so I gave it some cat biscuits and wished it well. I haven't seen it again, but it makes me happy to know that there are hedgehogs (or a hedgehog) visiting the garden.

It is starting to look and feel quite autumnal - it's definitely chilly in the mornings, and I may have to consider putting the heating on soon, although I am hoping to wait until October!

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Foxes and Badgers and Kittens, Oh My!

I have continued, despite the bad examples set by our politicians and their advisers. to stick to all of the guidance and lockdown rules, and have been remaining at home except for my daily walk, and occasional forays to the office when it hasn't been possible to work from home. 

I have been doing a certain amount of gardening - I now have containers with tomato plants, pea plants and  courgette and carrots and a plant which I thought was going to be patty-pan squash but which I have now determined (on the basis that it has produced several small cucumbers) is in fact a cucumber plant. I had planted both, but clearly somewhere along the line, what with thinning and planting out seedlings,my labelling obviously went awry. 

Since my last post, things have moved on. I continued to see the fox cubs for a while, until they got bigger (as did the nettles and brambles near their den) and harder to spot - the last few times I saw them they were some distance from the den and getting much more cautious.

I have also been seeing badgers quite a bit - I was fairly sure that there were some living in the woods as I had seen what I thought was the entrance to a sett, but didn't expect  to see the badgers themselves,until I went for a walk later in the evening than usual and saw one out in a field digging for earthworms. 

Then after that I saw them quite a lot - they are surprisingly hard to spot, unless they are looking straight at you, as their grey fur is excellent camouflage, but if you are walking quietly on your own they make quite alot of noise digging and crunching roots and things. 

And from time to time, if they are young and playful, making loud squeaky noises, as caught on video one evening in June!
Squeaky Badger

I then also found a second sett in a different area, and struck lucky one evening and saw about 5 or 6 badgers within about 15 minutes, including one who was industriously clearing out the entrance to the sett.

photo of a (european) badger standing in long grass
Of course, with no consideration for passing humans wanting to take pictures, they had built their sett in a ditch surrounded by lots of dense foliage, and had then emerged at twilight, so I couldn't take any very good photographs...

As lockdown here has eased, I am no longer working from home, but am now mainly in the office, where we have gallons of hand-sanitiser, lots of rules about keeping at least 2 metres apart, boxes of masks and restrictions on the number of people allowed in at any time. Fortunately we have older buildings - so most of us have individual rooms, or rooms large enough to stay distanced, and no aircon, so we can avoid major risks.

I have become used to attending court by phone or video instead of in person.

Meanwhile, a new member of my household has arrived.

You know how these things go. You casually mention in passing to one person that you are considering whether getting a second cat would be a good idea, and the next thing you know, a co-worker shows you a photo of a kitten they just happen to have going spare, and then a new furry overlord arrives in your home.

This one Vashti, She is, as of today, 10 weeks old and weighs just under 2lbs.

Loki is not yet convinced that this is a good idea, and there has been a good deal of hissing, but we are slowly making progress. I m ensuring that Loki gets lots of attention, extra treats and some kitten-free time with me, and am cautiously optimistic!

I have also, finally, after a long delay, had the guttering on my house replaced. It was very old and would leak and overflow badly in several places, but I had difficulty finding someone to do the work, then when I did, Covid happened and everything got put on hold.
Of course, sine the new gutters went up last week we haven't had any heavy rain so I have not yet seen them in action, but knowing they are up is a huge weight off my mind, as water pouring down the walls and not into the drains is not a good thing.

I am still going out for walks on a daily basis, kitten or no, but am seeing less wildlife at present - I think perhaps the young and incautious are growing up, and there is more food available so they don't have to forage as far! 

All in all, and considering that we are still dealing with a global pandemic, things are OK. Mercifully, my family remain well. Running a business in these circumstances has its challenges, and I am sure that, like many businesses, it will not be a great year, but compared to what many are coping with, I am doing alright.