We don’t always have our weekends planned out, so many times, we go places at the last minute.  That happened a couple weekends ago when we decided to go to a heavy horse show in Eridge.  We had seen the signs for a while and didn’t know what to expect.  It wasn’t the best of weekends, cloudy and all, but we didn’t want to sit indoors.  So, we decided to check it out. [ad#ad-1]

I looked on the internet first to see the start times.  I found out they had dogs and birds of prey in addition to the horse show.  It was a charity event for the Working Horse Trust.  We arrived just after some competition had ended and were worried that we had missed the main event.  It turned out they had quite a lot planned, some had to be cancelled due to illness, etc.  But, we got there just in time to see a “Bird of Prey” demonstration by Chris Neal.  Apparently, he has done some nature programs on TV previously, and it really shows in his performance.

I’ve always had a fascination for birds of prey.  I used to love watching them circle in the sky.  When we were in New Hampshire, we happened on a bird of prey display in support of a wildlife rescue program.  It was amazing to look at the birds close-up.  But it was just a display.  In Ohio, watching the buzzards return in the spring was a major event for some locals.  I never saw it, but I always saw them sitting in trees, on barns, and even in front of some people’s yards.  Again, it seemed I had a morbid fascination with them (even though buzzards aren’t technically birds of prey, they’re always included).

Chris Neal did things differently.  He invited photographers out onto the field with him so that they can photograph the Harris hawks as he flew them here and there.  He also challenged them to photograph the birds as they attacked a “prey” (fake).  He said that if they got a good shot, he would take them out on a day with him in the Shropshire moors.  My husband didn’t show him his pictures, but he hopes he has a good enough shot to send to him and perhaps get invited.  I don’t know if my husband has ever had a fascination with these birds, but after that day, he showed some serious interest. 

Mr. Neal then brought out an eagle owl. It was huge and graceful.  He invited the kids out to get close-up.  He had them lay on the ground while the eagle flew above them.  Then he had them form two rows and the owl flew between them.  Our older girl was game for anything and was out there in a jiffy.  She loved it.  Our younger daughter gets scared easily, so she sat out.  However, there were two demonstrations during the day, and at the second one, she did go out.  She came back smiling but said it scared her.

Lastly, a falcon came out.  That was the best part, especially during the first demonstration, not just because it was new, but because the demonstration was more rushed the second time as we started to get a little shower and he couldn’t fly the birds in the rain.  He allowed it to fly so far out that we lost sight of it.  When he came back, he was just a speck in the sky, and this guy’s eyes were so good that when people pointed out possible sightings, he knew it was a “pigeon” and not his falcon.  Mr. Neal brought out the lure and the falcon came swooping in.  It was fast!  And beautiful![ad#ad-1]

Since then, we have seen two more demonstrations, though not as spectacular.  One was at an animal farm that my older daughter insisted on going to (she was not interested in the birds, just the other animals and the play area) while we were on vacation.  Though the demonstration was not as good, they did have an amazing collection of birds and the girls liked looking at them.  We even saw a golden eagle.

The other was in the safari park (to be discussed in another post).  Since it was not the main attraction, it was a smaller collection than at the farm.  But it was still fun to watch these birds and we learned different things about them at each demonstration.  Each of the last two demonstrations also invited adults and children to come out and handle the birds.  We did not take advantage of the opportunity for various reasons.  My husband wants to take some falconry classes and become a falconer.

This weekend was the perfect example of the summertime British festivities. [ad#ad-1]

We were aware of one fayre in our general area, but would have been unable to make it due to other commitments.  Namely, Stagecoach.  But, when we arrived at the school for Stagecoach, the kids refused to go.  The older one was tired after her morning gymnastics practice and had a meet the next day.  The younger was really just feeling lazy and used her stomach as an excuse again. 

However, she had homework for the mid-term break, so we decided to stay in the town and get the homework done – it required mapping out one of the main streets.  Afterwards, they wanted ice cream.  We thought we’d stop for ice cream and they might change their minds about Stagecoach, since we were an hour early.  However, on our way to get ice cream, we drove through Lindfield, a small village surrounding Haywards Heath.  Right there in the center, was a fayre.  And a very proper and traditional British fayre it was.  Rides, games, stalls, tombola, raffles, fancy dress competition, and food.  Things missing were shows, races and physical competitions.

Needless to say, they wanted to stop for that.  In the midst of having fun in the fun house and spending money on games, they forgot about their ice cream.  That is, until we had to leave when we ran out of money.  They still refused Stagecoach, but they wanted their ice cream.

Next day, we had the gymnastics competition in Horsham.  Our daughter competed in the morning session (8:30-12:00), but she wanted to stay for the afternoon session to watch other teammates.  In the middle of it, she was tired and wanted to go outside to play.  I stayed to keep our seats, while my husband took the girls out for a short spell.  It was unbelievably hot and the younger one came in after a while saying she didn’t feel well because of the heat. 
However, there was a fun-fair right there in the park where the gym was.  I believe it was a charity event.  The kids wanted to stay after the competition to enjoy the fair, but we were exhausted, especially since we had only been snacking all day.  We needed real food and were not about to pay a lot of money on junk at the fair.

But this weekend showed us that we were entering the season of fun.  On the way to the gym, we saw signs for a horse show and another for a dog show.  All of this, happening in one weekend.  I hope we survive this summer without going bankrupt or dealing with too many tantrums.