A couple of weeks ago we took another owlswalk on the wild side. I just haven’t got round to writing about it until now. It’s yet another example of the kind of retirement activity I swore I would never get involved in and it needs to be ruthlessly exposed. I confess, we joined a walking, history group around Leeds. The invitation to join the group came from the stained glass window church visit that I wrote about a while ago. Still that’s no excuse we didn’t have to say yes. But we did.

Let me say right away that this was a smaller group than the stained glass desperadoes. Teachers always say that smaller groups are better behaved and learn more – I’ve never been sure about this, at least not until now. This was a group of 7, 3 men and 4 women plus our female guide. There was none of the wandering off of the previous visit, no inattentiveness, rudeness, vandalism, of the stained glass group. Just the occasional cupping of hands to ears and turning to your partner and asking ‘what did she say?’ Traffic noise you know. And do you know when we got to the toilet stop, so beloved of the elderly, we, as probably the youngest in the group, were the only people to use the facilities. What does this tell me about my disdain for the retired person?

The focus of the tour was / were the owls of Leeds. One of the little blighters has flown to France and another only made it as far as Headingley, probably stopped off to watch the cricket and never left. Most couldn’t be bothered to travel and remain in the city centre. There were still, we were told, 25 owls still in the city centre. The owls in the city are apparently inspired by the owl on the coat of arms of Leeds. What’s interesting is that it seems that nobody knows why an owl appears on the coat of arms in the first place. The best explanation is that an owl features on the coat of arms of Thomas Danby way back when and he was a local benefactor, so maybe that’s why. All I know about owls is that they come out at night (perfect for Leeds’s aspirations to be a 24 hour city) and kill things which is not so appropriate. Also that they are the symbol of Sheffield Wednesday which, as the name suggests, are in Sheffield. So all a bit of a puzzle.

But the why isn’t really the problem, it’s the where owl1+that’s challenging. Even when  they’re pointed out to us by a knowledgeable guide they can be hard to spot. I have a friend who, in retirement, has discovered a passion for bird-watching. I know he can sit for ages without spotting anything resembling a bird, but when the damn things are stationery, or is it stationary, you would think you’d easily be able to say, ahh, yes, there they are. Look at the photos I’ve attached and judge for yourself. This one is on the old post office building and I’ve helpfully ringed this one for you. Even people with binoculars, which we had forgotten, and with instructions like – just to the left of the native American Indian (really), see, between the sheep and the pointy tower, we couldn’t always find them elusive owls.

We had left the pups in their cage. In the daylight hours they’re not keen on this arrangement, so after three hours we decided we needed to head for home and release the beasts. So we didn’t get to see all the owls. The ones we did see we enjoyed, to the ones we missed well, that’s the way it goes with owls. As a  retirement activity would I recommend this kind of activity? Well, maybe, but beware, this kind of activity is pernicious. I’ll be joining a retirement group next. Oh, yes, that’s right, I already have, but that’s a confession for another time. This retirement business is a hoot isn’t it?

Spot the owls. This one is tricky. It’s the Catholic Cathedral and the owls (yes, there’s more than one) are above the drain pipe.


This one we could seeowl1Back to the tricky ones, I’ve ringed it againowl++Two easy ones to finish onowl3 owl4



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