Our Christmas this year has been greatly saddened by the sudden death of my step father, although I was too old to call him that and he was certainly too young to leave us so soon, just a week before his 65th birthday.  He had bravely borne the rapid development of Parkinson's Disease over the previous three years and had enjoyed Christmas morning opening his gifts before suffering a quick and ultimately fatal heart attack.  Farewell Donnie and thank you for all the happy memories of early morning Lorne sausage rolls, cups of tea and kindness. We head north for his funeral next weekend with hopes that his passing will be marked by one of Scotland's beautiful blue baltic days.

We enjoyed such a day in the softer south today and ventured out in hats, scarves and gloves for a canal side walk through Bradford on Avon starting at the Tithe Barn.  It dates from the mid 14th century and it's curious looking up at the heavy beams where marks left by chisels over 600 years ago are still clearly visible.  It was also colder in the barn where the sunshine couldn't reach so we didn't linger.

Outside were bushes covered in these little beauties.  Wispy, feathery things, so delicate they don't appear capable of withstanding the harsh frosts of winter.

It was a muddy walk along the canal where there were narrowboats hugging the whole length of the towpath.  Some were shut up and covered in tarpaulins, others had evidence of activity with bikes on the roofs, fading christmas trees and welcoming smoke billowing from onboard stoves.

Dog v duck.  Duck won.

The tow path was quite busy with cyclists, walkers and dogs.  We think most were making their way to the cosy pub at the end of this stretch of canal.  If you have a muddy dog (guilty) you can sit outside and enjoy a mulled cider or hot chocolate.  Not that I drink hot chocolate.

Oooh.  What's this?  Yes I normally prefer my chocolate cold, undiluted and slab-like but on a chilly day it's a very welcome way to warm frozen fingers.  

Our return walk took us alongside the river where we spotted a flock of these small birds flitting about.  I was lucky to get a shot of one and on consulting our Big Book of British Birds (or something similar) we've discovered it's a long tailed tit.  I thought it was a wag tail but apparently they are completely and utterly different and I'm a crazy, mad fool to get them confused.

The river was very still, giving almost perfect reflections in the water below.  Reflections seem appropriate at the moment, not just for the year that's gone but also to remember a good man whose humour and spirit will be missed.