A matter of black and white

The albino blackbird that is a regular visitor to a friend’s garden.

ISN’T he handsome? This rare albino blackbird is a native of South Wiltshire and lives in a village a few miles from Salisbury.

My friend, who took this photo, says the bird is in his third mating season so he has done exceptionally well not to have been killed by a passing car.

After all, blackbirds are notorious for diving across the road as cars approach.

It is not known so far whether he has fathered any more albinos but time will tell.

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UFO mystery soon solved

THE Happy Moonraker always likes to share a good sunset, with power cables present or otherwise. This time, though, the shot looks as though the scene has been invaded by a UFO.

It wasn’t until I turned around that I realised that my UFO, albeit motionless, was actually a reflection of a metal mobile hanging from the kitchen ceiling.

Technically it became a USO, or Unidentified Stationary Object.

A shiny mobile reflected in the glass door masquerades as a UFO.

Questions for Fiona

THE Happy Moonraker will be watching BBC Question Time this evening when Fiona Bruce takes charge for the first time. Politics aside, it will be interesting to see how she copes in her new role.

There are sure to be tricky situations, although it should be borne in mind that the programme is normally transmitted, carefully edited, approximately 40 minutes after the recording has finished.

David Dimbleby, in typical pose, during a recording of the BBC’s popular Question Time in Salisbury. Vince Cable, William Hague and Martin Bell were among those on the panel that evening in May 2009.

Question Time chairman, David Dimbleby, was happy to sign autographs before recording began in the City Hall, Salisbury in March 2006.

A quiet farewell to the old year

Tilly the terrier has some thinking time in Salisbury Cathedral on Christmas Day.

AS we left Salisbury Cathedral on Christmas Day, the light was fading fast. Tilly the terrier and I were determined to get some fresh air and get away from people so we went for a late walk round Old Sarum.

We saw no-one after days of seeing rather too many people, and we enjoyed the sunset, with the trees looking like black lace on the skyline above the castle. Long strips of mist lay in the fields on the valley floor on the west side.

Trees silhouetted on the skyline at Old Sarum during an end-of-day walk.

The farmer who keeps sheep and cattle in the fields below the castle was also out late: he could be seen with powerful lights shining from the top of his cab as he arrived with a huge hay bale for his bullocks. They started mooing excitedly as he drove into their field.

The tractor arrives with hay for cattle grazing at the foot of Old Sarum.

Tilly and the Happy Moonraker hope that you haven’t suffered from a surfeit of people and food, and that you will have a happy, healthy 2019. We are not the only ones who will be glad to see the back of 2018.

Tradition matters in my tree design

The Happy Moonraker’s traditional tree.

“WHAT theme will your Christmas tree have this year?” That’s what some bright spark asked The Happy Moonraker, to which I replied that there is never a theme. Our tree is strictly traditional.

Green tree, white lights and countless multi-coloured decorations hanging off every branch.

I cannot imagine being such a slave to fashion that I feel obliged to adopt a particular theme each December.

After all, each one of the tree decorations has a story to tell. There are the delicate glass ones that date back to my childhood. The little red crocheted hearts made by a Swedish friend, 40-year-old handmade decorations that are created from edible things like pasta, red lentils and dried white beans.

And what about the carefully cut out koala and kangaroo, on gold and green card, sent by friends in Australia?

There are hand-painted wooden decorations made in eastern Germany in the days before the Berlin wall came down, as well as a little Czech-made tinkling glass bell that has defied gravity and a lot of handling over the decades.

Red felt snowmen and multiple Father Christmases, tiny knitted reindeer and mini-Christmas stockings all created by long-departed loved ones, and so on.

There is a time and place for fashion, but definitely not when it comes to The Happy Moonraker’s Christmas tree. Tradition rules.

A Christmas tree with a definite colour theme.

A festival of fungi

WE are heading fast for the shortest day of the year and autumn is truly over. Abiding memories of the past few weeks are some of the most magnificent fungi that I’ve ever seen. The top one (above) is known as Lion’s Mane and was spotted growing on a tree in private woodland in Dorset, not far from the Wiltshire border. The other two (pictured below) will have to remain anonymous. Although the Happy Moonraker has been given a beautiful book to help with identification, it has so far proved impossible.

Moving tributes to a lost generation

Moving in both senses of the word: a Royal British Legion lighting installation that projected huge poppies on the west front of Salisbury Cathedral for three evenings. You had to be there to watch as the poppies appeared to tumble gently down before reappearing at the top.

IT is more than two weeks since it all happened, but the memory is no less moving for that.

Yes, the British do it so well but the organisers still had to do a huge amount of planning to ensure that enough people were taking part, were making poppies, coming up with good ideas, attending events, and joining in the many initiatives across the country to mark the end of the Great War 100 years ago.

Like tens of thousands of other families, the Happy Moonraker lost a family member in the conflict, at Ypres. Almost 70 years later, his older sister couldn’t even look at a photograph of him without weeping.

Salisbury Guildhall adorned with hand-made poppies and cut-out models to mark the centenary.

A close-up of the carefully made poppies on one of the pillars of the Guildhall.