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Look at the Harlequins! Tour, Part 2: Winchester, Ham Wall, & Sofar Frome

On the double-decker bus from my friend Jack’s house to the train station, I sat at the very front on the second floor — or is it the first floor, and you enter on the ground floor? Either way, I watched out the huge front window as we appeared to narrowly avoid colliding with all of London.

Vegan pie and mash and mushy peas!

A hop, skip, and a jump later, I was in Winchester! Reunited with my dear friend Rex, who very graciously played host, tour guide, and roadie for the next few days. We went to a pie-and-mash-and-comic-book shop called Piecaramba!, and I had a delicious vegan pie and mash, and my very first mushy peas. (Which I loved. So minty! So mushy!)

We returned to Winnall Moors, a wonderful place Rex showed me during my first stay in Winchester in December 2017. The entrance recalls to me a Shinto Shrine’s torii gate, which “symbolically marks the transition from the mundane to the sacred” (Wikipedia). The top beam of the gateway is carved with Winnall Moors as you enter and Winchester as you exit, suggesting that the moors, though located within Winchester, are somehow apart from Winchester. A Narnia type arrangement, maybe.

In a tree where, on my last visit, someone had told me to look for a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo), I again found no buzzard, in spite of it being the perfect place for one. In lieu of a buzzard were two Common Wood-pigeons. This was truly the tour of Wood-pigeons — I don’t know if it’s always like this in June, but there were just tons and tons of them everywhere I went birding, in both the UK and in Russia. In addition to the Wood-pigeons, though, Winnall Moors afforded me glimpses at my first Reed Bunting, Eurasian Reed Warbler, and (most noisily) Sedge Warbler. There were also two Mute Swans with several cygnets, and a funny Eurasian Wren who apparently preferred to sing while seated.

After this, we went for a stroll/hike at Old Winchester Hill, “a chalk hill … surmounted by an Iron Age hill fort and a Bronze Age cemetery” (Wikipedia). We had barely left the parking lot when I saw a Eurasian Kestrel! I think it was at that point that I also saw a Red Kite, but my memory is a little fuzzy. An interesting fern-like plant (possibly a fern, but who knows) was plentiful along the trail to the hill. In contrast, the adjacent forested area had absolutely no groundcover whatsoever.

When we reached the fort/cemetery area, a sign alerted us to the presence of ground nesting birds. If any birds were nesting on the ground, they stayed well hidden while we were there, though we did encounter a Eurasian Magpie, some spectacular Yellowhammers, and my very first Greater Whitethroat. Also present were some Common Swifts, Carrion Crows, Eurasian Blackbirds, and (briefly) a few rosy Eurasian Bullfinches. We also heard the distant call of a Ring-necked Pheasant.

And, of course, there were stunning views of the English countryside, with more shades of green than you can shake a stick at.

Our return route involved some of the deepest and most irregular stairs you can imagine. Let the fact that I took no pictures of these stairs be a testament to the focus required to navigate them.

Poppies of Cheesefoot Head.

We stopped by Cheesefoot Head (“Cheesefoot” pronounced like “Chessfut”), which Wikipedia describes in part as “beauty spot”. As I recall, in December 2017 it was full of Rooks. This time the fields were full of daisies, red poppies, and other wildflowers.

Just in time for sunset, we went to a lookout on St. Giles Hill and enjoyed the view of the city before heading to dinner at Gurkha’s Inn, a restaurant serving Nepalese and Indian food.

In true English fashion, the next day was a rather wet one. I dashed out to Winnall Moors in the morning, where — as in 2017 — a passerby told me, “There’s a buzzard in the dead tree up ahead!” I hustled down the path, quickly realizing that it was farther than I’d initially thought. When I reached the spot with the tree, it was empty. Not even a Wood-pigeon! Birding is about the journey, though, and along the way I saw a Coal Tit, a few exuberant European Robins, and a couple of pretty little Eurasian Blackcaps.

The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty. Not pictured: dead pigeon in the pond. (Though of course I took a photo for Heidi Trudell and her Dead Birds 4 Science! group.)

Rex and I spent the day in a variety of historic locales. First we visited the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, which to this day houses twenty-five men who are “single, widowed or divorced, and over 60 years of age” (Wikipedia). The gardens were beautiful and lush, and the buildings themselves held interesting glimpses at life in medieval England. There was also a dead Wood-pigeon floating in the pond. As for living birds, there were Barn Swallows nesting in whatever little nooks and crannies they nest in, and more curiously, a couple of Eurasian Goldfinches clinging to the flint stone on one of the hospital walls.

Goldfinches perched on the wall.

Monument to “Beware Chalk Pit”.

We then went to the Farley Monument, the burial site of a horse named “Beware Chalk Pit”. The inscription read: “Underneath lies buried a horse, the property of Paulet St. John Esq., that in the month of September 1733 leaped into a chalk pit twenty-five feet deep a-foxhunting with his master on his back and in October 1734 he won the Hunters Plate on Worthy Downs and was rode by his owner and was entered in the name of ‘Beware Chalk Pit’.”

One Skylark skylarking.

While skirting the outside of this very unique monument, I happened to witness a Eurasian Skylark skylarking! That is to say, he was hovering high in the sky above a field and chattering up a storm. (Not exactly a new bird for me, but still exciting. Previously I’d seen Japanese Skylarks, Alauda arvensis japonica — a subspecies of Eurasian Skylark. For now.)

Rather than avoid the rain, we leaned into it, opting to take a walk along the River Itchen. This proved fruitful, as we saw several Gray Wagtails skipping themselves like stones up and down the river.

Rex in the rain!

Our flexible itinerary allowed us to spontaneously jump on board for a tour of Winchester College that happened to be starting as we were passing by. It was really a fantastic tour, and if you find yourself in Winchester I highly recommend it. As an American, when I hear the word “college” I think of university, but in this context a college is for students aged 13-18. The whole place was more like Hogwarts than I could have ever imagined possible, and I found it fascinating from beginning to end. Oh! And at the end, we got to go into the chapel where they filmed Valjean’s death scene in Les Miz!

“sure to blow your mind”

We ended the day with dinner at Wagamama, a British chain serving Japanese-ish cuisine. They had a vegan bowl called “avant gard’n,” created by chef Gaz Oakley and featuring a “vegan egg” that was interesting but very unlike an egg in everything but appearance. (That probably makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy it — I actually really liked the dish! The “egg” was just sort of silly, especially because they played it up so much on the placemats, boasting that it’s “sure to blow your mind”.)

Finally, it was the day of my show in Frome! But first — you can probably guess — we did a bit of sightseeing, immersing ourselves in the tiny, picturesque town of Shaftesbury — most famous for Gold Hill, a street featured in this bread commercial. It was like stepping into a bygone era, an era of unspeakably steep and lumpy roads.

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Shaftesbury Putt-Putt.

Apart from Gold Hill, Rex and I indulged in a substantial audio tour of the ruins of nearby Shaftesbury Abbey. It was a bit like walking through an ancient mini golf course, following numbered placards from one pile of stones to another. Meanwhile, the pre-recorded guide in our handheld audio devices told us what on earth we were looking at. Often his straightforward little lectures were followed by more impassioned performances by a voice actor portraying a nun who lived at the Abbey at the time of its dissolution and demolition. While I can’t recall any of her lines in their entirety, I do remember her hissing the phrase “servants of sin” to describe the people ransacking the Abbey.

Next, we made our pilgrimage to the Ham Wall Nature Reserve — my first close encounter with the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds — similar to the Audubon Society in the US). The RSPB manages the reserve, and from this birder’s perspective they’re doing a damn fine job of it. There’s quite a diversity of paths and habitats — with public art interspersed — and a truly awesome feeder setup behind some blinds at the entrance. I always love it when reserves have feeders. When you combine feeders with excellent habitat, you can see so much! And it’s just nice to have some low-hanging fruit, in case a place isn’t otherwise very active when you happen to be there.

At the feeders there were Eurasian Blue Tits, Great Tits, Dunnocks, European Goldfinches, European Robins, and at least one Eurasian Collared-dove. One of the feeder highlights was an adorable cluster of juvenile House Sparrows. I also saw a Eurasian Jay, which I’d seen before but only briefly. This, too, was not a lengthy encounter. And thinking about it, I’m pretty sure I have yet to hear a Eurasian Jay make any noise. Eurasian Jays seem to be less in-your-face than the North American jays I’ve seen (California Scrub-jays, Steller’s Jays, and Blue Jays).

As we meandered down a walkway on the edge of the wetlands, I noticed a low booming call that I knew could only be coming from a Great Bittern. From the sound of it, we were practically on top of the bird, but they proved impossible to track down. Instead, on the water, we saw many Great Cormorants and Mallards, as well as Canada Geese, Mute Swans, Tufted Ducks, Gray Herons, one Great Egret, and a family of super cute Little Grebes.

Still, I was bound and determined to find a Great Bittern. I wish I could build the suspense up longer, but just a few minutes later I found one! Hoorah! And shortly after this, a Eurasian Marsh-Harrier swooped by!

Finally, I had heard that there were owls potentially visible from a very remote blind, so I left Rex behind and hustled out to meet my destiny — which ultimately turned out to be some Carrion Crows. But as I speed-walked back to Rex, I FINALLY saw a Common Buzzard!

We spent a few more minutes enjoying the feeders at the entrance, then bid Ham Wall adieu and headed to my Sofar Sounds show in Frome.

Actually, while the show was organized by Sofar Sounds Frome, the venue for this particular show was in the nearby village of Chesterblade, in a heritage stone farmhouse. After some trial and error, we found some signs that ultimately led us to our destination. (The directions would have made complete sense had we been coming from Frome like normal people.) Following the signs down a rustic driveway, we pulled up alongside a gloriously quaint stone building strung with fairy lights.

The very first thing I did in the parking lot was brush my bare leg against a clump of stinging nettles. Welcome to the English countryside!

Of course, from the nettles there was nowhere to go but up. In my tradition of overusing the word “magical” to describe shows, the show was magical. And not just the show, but the whole Sofar experience. Anna-Dina and Ed — the Sofar Frome team leaders — were so welcoming and completely lovely. The farmhouse’s chilly interior was draped with colorful tapestries and furnished with cozy armchairs, sofas, and blankets. The mere presence of Nichola Devine’s harp onstage added an ethereal touch. The green room was divided from the public area with a huge playground parachute.

The audience began to arrive and soon the place was packed. My set came second in the lineup of three artists (the usual Sofar arrangement). It was so calming to listen to the otherworldly violin-playing of Clarice Rarity before my set, and after, the equally exquisite Harpoetry — spoken word and movement with harp accompaniment — of Jodie Jaimes and Nichola Devine.

I played “Sparkbird,” “Overwintered,” “Pompeii,” and “Varied Thrush”. The audience was so kind — including the people sitting on the floor in the very front, even though I know I spat all over them while I was singing!

Afterwards, I had the heartwarming experience of interacting with a number of listeners, one of whom went so far as to compare my music to that of Joanna Newsom! (Thank you, Zoë!!! Such high praise.) I also had the great pleasure of meeting and chatting with Sarah Swales, the photographer for the event, who used to live in Seattle! These four photos were all taken by Sarah:

And then, though it always feels hard to leave such a warm community, it was time to go back to Winchester. I needed to pack and attempt to sleep at least a few hours before the drive to Heathrow and my flight to Kaliningrad, Russia.

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Hopefully at least Rex has made it to the end of this long entry! Rex, how can I ever thank you enough for all the support you have given me? Without you, I would have none of these memories, nor the many that I didn’t manage to fit in to this post. I’m truly, truly grateful. You’re one of a kind!

Till we meet again. ❤️

Look at the Harlequins! Tour, Part 1: London

I scheduled a long, long day for myself when I booked a show in London for the day of my arrival from Portland.

A month later, I sit at home coughing and blowing my nose as I write this blog. Since I left New York a week ago, I’ve been sick — for several days with a fever. I can’t remember ever being sick in June/July. (The only time that comes to mind is when I was born, because I had congenital heart disease. So, I was pretty sick in July when I was 0.)

So, did three weeks of burning the candle at both ends finally catch up to me? Maybe.

But did I have a fantastic tour? YES. Did I live it to the fullest? YES.

Book against standard airport carpet.

Frankly, I maximized the shit out of this tour, and it started even before I left. I found out that you can order books to pick up at the Powell’s airport bookstore, and since my friend Peter’s partner Ocean Vuong’s highly-anticipated novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous was hitting bookshelves on the 4th, I decided to select it as my tour reading material.

Ocean’s book was so brand spanking new that it was hand-delivered in a paper bag 30 seconds after I asked for it at the Powell’s counter. (Had I realized they delivered books to the airport one at a time, I might have just picked it up for myself at Powell’s on Hawthorne. On the other hand, three weeks later I saw the book on display in a bookstore at JFK. Butterfly effect? You’re welcome, Ocean.)

As we took off, a Killdeer flew alongside the plane. Bye, Portland!

Birding in Jack’s backyard.

I read a third of Ocean’s book on the plane, and it is a mind-blowingly great novel.

At this point I want to take a moment to thank the person who sat next to me on that direct flight from PDX to Heathrow. I was in the window seat; they had the aisle. They got up at regular intervals to use the restroom, which relieved me of the discomfort of having to ask to be let out, like a dog. I appreciated this.

Ah, London! What a lark! What a plunge! I made it to my friend Jack’s house and hung out in his backyard for a while, watching birds. There I saw my lifer Common Swift, a Eurasian Collared-dove, and some Rose-ringed Parakeets — perhaps some of the same birds I’d seen on my previous European tour in 2017.

Weirdo Victorian megalosaurus.

When Jack got home, we headed to the Crystal Palace area to hang out before my show. At Crystal Palace Park, we saw a collection of bizarre Victorian dinosaur sculptures. Then we navigated a fun/confusing Victorian maze. At the same time, I became reacquainted with a number of Victorian birds — or Eurasian birds, anyway. Most exciting to me were the baby Eurasian Moorhens!

Crystal Palace ruins.

We also walked among the ruins of the Crystal Palace itself, weaving through some kind of fitness boot camp that was taking advantage of some old palace stairs. Life goes on!

Show at the Library of Things. Photo by Jack Kennerley.

My show at the Library of Things went well. My energy was starting to wane, but it was still a lot of fun, and everyone was so sweet. I should play more shows in libraries!

Ship of Fools by Kehinde Wiley.

The next day, Jack and I braved the drizzle to do lots of fun touristy stuff. We went to Greenwich and saw, first and foremost in my mind, Eurasian Magpies who proved very difficult to photograph. We also went to a 16th century mansion-turned-museum called the Queen’s House, where they had some amazing contemporary artwork by women and people of color juxtaposed with all the typical colonialist stuff. For example, in one room there was a bust entitled Olaudah Equiano: African, Slave, Author, Abolitionist, 1745-97. In another, an enormous painting, Ship of Fools by Kehinde Wiley, occupied almost an entire wall. (From the museum label: “Kehinde Wiley inserts figures from marginalised communities into settings that echo famous paintings of the Western tradition.”) There was also a series of photographs showing diverse young women of Greenwich, a project by Bettina Von Zwhel in response to the Armada portrait of Elizabeth I.

I’m a magpie paparazzx.

We trekked up a hill to the Greenwich Observatory and stood very near the Meridian Line, but not on it because that costs money. (While everyone else in the world admired the view of London from the hill we’d just dragged ourselves up, I finally snapped a pic of a Eurasian Magpie.)

Afterwards, we crossed busy, blue Tower Bridge on foot and scored free tickets to the Tower of London from Jack’s boyfriend Nick. Having been raised on YA/middle grade historical fiction about Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey, I was especially thrilled about this visit.

We’d heard there was a baby raven at the Tower… but we saw this baby pigeon! Even better!

Strolling around the castle grounds, I imagined my Quaker ancestors quaking at the sight of the Tower in the distance as they paddled down the Thames on the raft that would ultimately carry them to the New World. Perhaps they even caught a glimpse of one of the Tower’s six ravens.

One of the six ravens.

“Legend has it,” I told Jack and Nick, “that the kingdom will fall if there are ever fewer than six raisins at the Tower.”

Nick: “Did you say raisins?”

Outside the Charing Cross Theatre.

In the evening, Jack and I went to the penultimate performance of Amour, an under-appreciated Broadway musical I’d been obsessed with in high school. On Broadway it lasted maybe two weeks before being shut down, and its West End debut suffered a similar fate. We originally bought tickets for a performance later in June, but the run was cut short. Thankfully Jack was able to exchange our tickets.

Amour playbill.

As I described in my Instagram post after the show — it was pure magic. Having waited 16 years to see Amour, it was almost too much to handle. I was elated to see how everything was staged, and to hear songs that weren’t on the original Broadway cast recording. I cried at least three times, not because I was sad, but because it was everything my teenage self had dreamed of and more. Afterwards, I met every cast member I could and told them all the same thing: that seeing this show fulfilled a long-held wish, and this memory will be special to me for the rest of my life.

Graylag Geese, or Here Comes Everybody.

On my last day in London before heading to Winchester, Jack and I went to Walthamstow Marshes and Reservoirs. The wind there was just unbelievable. Nonetheless, there were birds aplenty! We saw oodles of Common Swifts feeding over one reservoir, along with at least one Bank Swallow and a couple of Common House-martins. (I think I saw my lifer Common House-martin from Jack’s backyard that morning or the previous day.) Along the rim of the reservoir, I finally saw my first Graylag Geese! Unfortunately they were very friendly, in a way that means people must be feeding them. Boo! Don’t. Feed. The. Waterfowl.

We also saw many Tufted Ducks, Great Cormorants, miscellaneous gulls that I couldn’t identify at a distance (particularly in such a mighty wind). My favorite part was seeing a couple of Eurasian Coots building a nest. One partner remained on the nest while the other one sought and retrieved nesting material. Then they’d help each other place it, which was the cutest thing ever. But most readers won’t have to take my word for it, because I got video!

#MuralOnTheMarsh.

On the way out, we passed by this fantastic #MuralOnTheMarsh. Hoorah for public art! The mural runs along either side of a paved multi-use path and features Gray Herons, Great Cormorants, Great Crested Grebes, Canada Geese, and (for fans of mammals) Red Foxes.

That night I watched “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” (the Miley Cyrus episode of Black Mirror) with Jack, Nick, and their friend Jésus, over vegan fish and chips. And the next morning, I left for Winchester!

To be continued!


New(ish) year, new blog

Hello!

It's Stephan!

My friend Angelica suggested I create some sort of written account of my recent tour, so I will do that here, and hopefully I can do some little posts from the road in the future, for those of you who are interested in more structured narratives than I tend to provide on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

It's easy for me to get carried away when I'm writing. On my 2017 Japan Tour, I tried keeping a physical journal, but I wrote in so much detail that I filled 3/4 of the notebook with maybe a week of travel. And a lot of that was done weeks (and even months) afterwards, because the bullet trains were too fast to get any writing done on them.

On the 2017 Incredible Distance Tour, which took me to the UK, Europe, and Morocco, I didn't keep any kind of journal. I wrote a fair number of postcards, tried to do the social media thing, tried to keep up communication with Adam (my partner), tried to read The Left Hand of Darkness...

So, this will be as much a record for myself as for you.

November 28 - December 4

After picking up copies of the sneak peek demo version of the Incredible Distance EP from Atomic Disc in Salem, Oregon, I took Amtrak to Tacoma, Washington. The next day, I flew Norwegian Airlines from SeaTac to London Gatwick. The first Vegan Meal was disappointingly bland (if I wanted the Bland Meal I would have ordered it), and the second was Not Actually Vegan (a sandwich with dairy cheese on it). The first season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel had been released that day, and I had downloaded it all to my iPad, so I watched a few episodes. It's great, though I think the attempts at diversity are pretty weak, especially when the writers have comedian Lenny Bruce evidently coining the [verb]ing while black expression.

"Meanwhile, I went to college to learn Russian." I hear ya, Midge.

"Meanwhile, I went to college to learn Russian." I hear ya, Midge.

I landed in (or near) London and met up with my friend Jack on London Bridge. We walked around a bit and visited The White Cube, an art gallery where we saw Gilbert & George's The Beard Pictures and Their Fuckosophy.

"Fuck fate"

"Fuck fate"

On our way to Sky Garden, it started snowing, and there were some flurries while we were up in the garden as well. The elevators were fast, the view was nice, the plants were real even when they looked fake.

The highlight of this first day was definitely the Phoenix Garden, which I mention in my song "Limits" ("A Phoenix Garden wren in a sudden igloo sticks to sticks!") but had only visited in my imagination. I didn't see a Phoenix Garden wren, but I did see a Phoenix Garden robin — my lifer European Robin.

European Robin on an oak bench.

European Robin on an oak bench.

I wrote "Limits" after Jack's brief visit to Eugene, Oregon, in 2016, and it was this song broke a few years of songwriting silence for me. So it felt very fitting to start this tour in London, visiting Jack and the Phoenix Garden. (Additional birds added to my life list in London: Song Thrush, Eurasian Magpie, Common Wood-Pigeon, Eurasian Blackbird, Tufted Duck, European Goldfinch, Lesser Black-backed Gull.)

But my first show was actually in Southampton, so the next day I headed in that general direction, connecting with Rex on the way and enjoying a chilly, windy afternoon at Stonehenge. As we neared Stonehenge, I briefly glimpsed my first (and still my only) Red Kite, whose forked tail made them easy to identify at a glance. By the henge itself I saw my lifer Eurasian Jackdaw and Rook. I wondered (as I would wonder about birds all throughout Europe) if these individual birds' ancestors were hanging around in this exact spot in ancient times.

Eurasian Jackdaw and sarsen stone.

Eurasian Jackdaw and sarsen stone.

Before delivering me to Southampton, Rex introduced me to Winchester Cathedral, where the Christmas Market was in full swing. The Cathedral itself was bathed in an eerie purple light, and the nearly full moon and partly cloudy night sky added to a feeling that was more Halloweeny than Christmasy. (It may just be that we don't see much of the sky in December in Oregon.) I was graciously given a more thorough tour of Winchester over the following days.

The next day, I had my show in Southampton, hosted by the lovely Angelika and Ricky (and their dog Dottie and bearded dragon Little Mei). Before the show, Angelika and Ricky played nature guides, escorting me around Lower Test River Saltmarsh (on the River Test) and New Forest National Park (where I was able to put some wellies to good use.) At the Saltmarsh, I added several species to my life list: Eurasian Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Eurasian Treecreeper, and Great Tit.

So-called New Forest (newness questionable).

So-called New Forest (newness questionable).

My show was in the afternoon, and this is where it would really help me to blog as everything is happening, because there are names I want to mention but can't quite recall. I want to say thank you to the friend of Angelika and Ricky's who lent me a keyboard. Thank you, you!

There was a nice little gathering of adults and children and non-human animals who attended the show. Ricky made an abundance of tasty sandwiches, and after some hanging out, chatting, and snacking, everyone got comfy and the show began, as my shows generally do, with "I am not a stranger here".

Shows are generally a blur to me, so it's hard to say much about them. I played, I talked a little. People listened, people looked thoughtful, people said nice things afterwards and I felt grateful and lucky.

Me at the keyboard before my show at Angelika and Ricky's house in Southampton. (Photo by Rex Duffy)

Me at the keyboard before my show at Angelika and Ricky's house in Southampton. (Photo by Rex Duffy)

I spent the next two nights in Winchester in the Armadilla, an Airbnb that I thought was one of a kind but I've only just realized is one of many such structures. (I was already familiar with Tiny Houses in general, but not tolypeutine ones.)

The Armadilla, a highly sustainable armadillo-shaped dwelling.

The Armadilla, a highly sustainable armadillo-shaped dwelling.

While in Winchester, I saw the famous Cathedral inside and out, in daylight and at night. I traipsed all over the very old, very delicate tile floors in my clunky but stylish boots. I also saw the deathplace of Jane Austen.

At Winnall Moors, I added Eurasian Siskin, Common Chaffinch, and Eurasian Blue Tit to my life list. Along the River Itchen, I saw my first Redwing, European Greenfinch, Mistle Thrush, and Common Chiffchaff. I also had a momentary view of a Common Kingfisher (a species I had seen all too briefly in Japan as well). If you go birding in Winchester, I definitely recommend both Winnall Moors and the Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail. Both are great places to stroll.

Mistle Thrush up on the housetop, quick quick quick.

Mistle Thrush up on the housetop, quick quick quick.

I more or less finished my stay in Winchester with a memorable sunset in the countryside, at memorably named Cheesefoot Head, while hundreds of Rooks swarmed in a nearby field.

At an ungodly hour on Monday, December 4, the eternally kind and generous Rex drove me to Heathrow for my flight to Gdańsk, Poland. And that's where I'll end for now!

- Stephan