Monday, 27 June 2016

Cheering ourselves up

After a dismal, dismayed weekend following the Referendum result on Friday it’s time to shake ourselves out of the gloom.

It’s Bertie’s birthday today – he’s five years old. He is a most affectionate and loyal companion. He is very sensitive – if Barry gets cross with a rugby referee, for example, (on television, that is) Bertie slopes off upstairs, out of harm’s way, just in case it’s his fault!
Bertie (left) and Buster
 Bertie poised to attack
Bertie all paws
Buster (left) 'helping' Bertie with the aqua kong
Purposeful Bertie

Bethan and Robert came home from Italy on Saturday and called to collect Lolly yesterday. Lolly nearly turned herself inside out with excitement.
Lolly: 'I'm ready, I'm ready'

Frankie was delighted to see his baby cousin, Charlie, and enjoyed playing with him. Of course, Charlie, ten months old, has no real appreciation of how to play, but Frankie didn’t realise that and enjoyed his company anyway.
Frankie (left) and Charlie
'Give me the moonlight . . .
Give me the girl . . .
And leave the rest to me.'
Frankie wearing his playhouse!

Post-Referendum Blues
It’s a complicated story. Prime Minister David Cameron was continuing to have long term problems with so-called Euro sceptics within his party and an emerging threat of losing votes to UKIP. He thought a good way to quieten the Euro sceptics and minimise vote loss to UKIP would be to have a referendum on the European Union. This promise was made before the last election and was probably an important element in the Conservative win.  

Most unusually, the Great British Public was invited to vote to Remain in the EU or Leave. We have never been invited to vote on other serious issues, like Hanging or Fighting in the Falklands/Iraq/Afghanistan or even declaring war in 1914 and 1945 so why choose this subject? The promise of a referendum was a device to save the Conservative party and most immediately enhance their chances of winning the last election.

 Aren’t our politicians voted into power precisely to discuss and attempt to resolve disputes? Now, generally speaking, MPs are well educated and better informed than a large proportion of the public. If they’re not knowledgeable about a particular matter they work to acquire the facts and their advisers, including a large band of public servants, help them to understand.

There are some MPs I respect who stated that leaving the EU would be good for the UK. I don’t understand their reasoning.  Very little has been explained concerning the outcome of their solution to leave the EU. It is difficult to find any factual basis for the assertions that we would be better on our own, without the support of the other nations in the EU, that our trading potential would be greater, that we would be able to regain control of our country and our borders.

Here are the ten points made by the campaigners for Leave.
1.        Freedom to make stronger trade deals with other nations.
Apart from other members of EU we already trade with Russia, China, Canada, USA, Japan, South Africa, Algeria, Brazil . . . need I go on?

 We’ll need all that rather illusory freedom since our EU departure means we will cease trade agreements with the whole of the European Union nations. Moreover, trade agreements take considerable time so it will be quite a while to get back to where we were before Brexit even assuming that such an outcome is possible in the long term.

2.       Freedom to spend UK resources presently through EU membership in the UK to the advantage of our citizens.
This doesn’t even make sense! I think there’s a verb missing.  

3.       Freedom to control our national borders.
We already control our borders, possibly not well, but much of that is due to our poor Border Agency performance not Brussels. On the matter of immigration, Brexit is critical of the numbers but repeatedly fails to give answers about what they think are the right numbers.

4.       Freedom to restore Britain’s special legal system.
A system so ‘special’ that is it full of outdated and anachronistic laws. EU legislation and policy is the main driver of UK law and policy in agriculture, fisheries, external trade and the environment. In other area, like welfare and social security, education, criminal law, family law and the NHS EU direct influence is far more limited.  Brexit fails to mention that the vast majority of these laws are wholly acceptable and we played a major part in their creation... Moreover, the move towards EU common law enhances trade since it reduces the complexity of commercial legal matters and cost Brexit also fails to mention that leaving the EU will involve a huge legal task that will affect both Westminster houses with the obvious impact on time available for other important legislative measure. Brexit also fails to mention that all this legal retrenching will require civil servants with their host of expensive private sector consultants, mega quango which the overtaxed British public must pay for. Recent press reports suggest that it will take ten years to unravel EU laws.

5.       Freedom to deregulate the EU’s costly mass of laws.
See above.

6.       Freedom to make major savings for British consumers.
The argument here is that British money from British taxpayers should be spent on British interests. We will no longer receive money from EU. The argument is pure blind assertion with no supporting evidence.

7.       Freedom to improve the British economy and generate more jobs.
This is a very woolly statement and does not explain HOW. It is wholly at odds with the views of most business leaders.

8.       Freedom to regenerate Britain’s fisheries.
The Common Fisheries Policy sets quotas for member states stating the amounts of each type of fish they are entitled to catch. Fishermen claim it threatens their livelihoods, although fishing stocks were in decline long before the policy was framed. The CFP was created to manage fish stocks. Isn’t that a good idea?

9.       Freedom to save the NHS from EU threats to undermine it by harmonising healthcare across the EU, and to reduce welfare payments
It will cost the NHS more to continue in its top-heavy, over-managerial ways. The NHS needs overhauling.

Moreover, the NHS has considerable catching up to do to equal many of the EU equivalents.

10.     Freedom to restore British customs and traditions.
This is ludicrous. We still have cheese-rolling, Easter egg hunts, Maypole dancing, Morris Dancing, Guy Fawkes (usually called Bonfire Night), ceilidhs, Jack in the Green, well-dressing, wife carrying, pancake races, ferret racing . . . I suppose that some want to see fox-hunting restored, then why not cock fighting and dog fighting, and let’s import a few bears for bear baiting.

The young people in UK who will have to live with the fall-out from the decision by the so-called Brexiteers to leave EU, are rightly angry, for they will be affected for the rest of their lives – job prospects, housing, pensions, freedom to work in Europe.

The Referendum Leave campaign relied heavily on scare-mongering about immigration. I don’t know why they didn’t simply say, ‘Charity starts at home  . . . and that’s where it should remain’ for when (some of) those who voted to leave were questioned it was immigration that they all mentioned. I am reminded of Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘rivers of blood’ speech in 1968. The full text is here and his reasoning is chilling.

Nothing much has changed. Great swathes of people fear and despise those they do not understand. When will the penny drop that Great Britain is and always has been a melting pot? We have been invaded, occasionally enslaved, for centuries. There is no such thing as a pure-born Brit. When will we appreciate the rich diversity of our ‘new’ countrymen and the things they bring for us to savour?

However it would appear that the United Kingdom is less united and more divided than ever. Scotland wants independence, Wales wants independence, Ireland wants reunification, London wants independence. How long will it be before the UK, or England at least, returns to the Heptarchy of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages?

From Wikipedia:
  The Heptarchy (from the Greek πτά hepta, "seven" and ρχω arkho, "to rule") is a collective name applied to the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of south, east and central England during late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, conventionally identified as seven: East AngliaEssexKentMerciaNorthumbriaSussex and Wessex. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms eventually unified into the Kingdom of England. By convention, the Heptarchy lasted from the end of Roman rule in Britain in the 5th century, until most of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms came under the overlordship of Egbert of Wessex in 829: a period of European history often referred to as the Early Middle Ages or, more controversially, as the Dark Ages.
The term has been in use since the 16th century, but the initial idea that there were seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms is attributed to the English historian Henry of Huntingdon in the 12th century and was first used in his Historia Anglorum.
Meanwhile the pound continues to fall, meaning that goods will be more expensive and our standard of living will fall. Mortgages will be more difficult to arrange. The interest rate is falling. We must hope that we do not once more become the Sick Man of Europe as we were before we joined the EU.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Sisters Death and Night

For each night’s sleep is a little death
When the Sisters enter, arm in arm,
Smiling gently at each breath,
Wondering which of them will charm
The soul to dream or travel on?

And if at dawn the sleeper stirs,
Death nods to Night, cedes her downfall,
On this still morning she defers
To Night who knows Death conquers all -
Death whispers soft, ‘Anon, anon.’

A small amount of plagiarism – I had not realised I had used Arthur Schopenhauer’s words in the first line, or a variation of them, until I thought them rather familiar and researched them

To see more and better verse please follow the link here

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Desperately seeking . . .

Desperately seeking . . .

Yesterday I was desperately seeking inspiration. I tried two different prompts and wrote some very indifferent verse, even more indifferent than usual, that is. I gave up in the end, fed up. I was beginning to wonder if my brain was shrinking but actually I was tired and today is a better day so I turned to the photographs Barry took recently in Simons Wood.

I have been going to Simons Wood regularly in recent months because the ponds in Crowthorne Forest have been polluted by a heating oil spillage from Broadmoor Hospital. This is not the first time this has happened but on the last occasion, several years ago, we had Dalmatians who enjoyed the water but could be dissuaded from going in the ponds. This is not possible with the Labradors we now have. They make a bee-line for any body of water and will swim just for the sheer pleasure of the experience. I really wanted to have some photos of Roxy in the water when she first started swimming but I can’t cope with four/five dogs, the ball flinger, four (!) balls and a camera. She swam vertically! As Bethan said, ‘She looks as though she doesn’t want to get her hair wet.’

Jenna, one of the four balls in her mouth.

Left to right: Jenna, Lolly, Gus, Bertie, Roxy playing at being a hearth rug. The human is me.
My Master Photographer does not yet trust his new knee sufficiently to walk as far as the lake and his old knee, soon to be replaced, will not allow him to stand for extended periods. That makes him sound a poor old crock but he isn’t; it’s just that his knees got knackered through too many sports injuries. His left leg is now straight and soon his right leg will be too. The odd thing is that he lists to the right because that leg is shorter for the moment.

 Simons Wood is lovely – a mix of evergreens and broad-leaved trees with decades of leaf mould underfoot combine to produce a beautiful, calming environment. There are many different paths to take but the one the dogs like most is the one leading to the lake.

Lolly is staying with us at the moment as Bethan and Robert and Charlie are in Puglia in Italy. She is very good but I’m sure she misses her family. She heard Bethan’s voice yesterday when she called to see if Lolly was behaving herself and her ears pricked up excitedly. The compensation for her is having the company of our dogs, particularly Roxy. She and Roxy play together constantly and are exhausted by evening. When Lolly goes home next week she will probably sleep flat out for a couple of days.
Isambard, the dog whisperer
Lolly has not yet learnt that the cats have not been provided for her entertainment. She watches them closely and leaps on them when they move suddenly. Our Ocicats are tolerant – Isambard, the dog whisperer, makes every attempt to befriend Lolly and is gradually persuading her to accept his advances but Susannah’s Somalis take a very different attitude. They’re small and feisty with sharp claws and teeth. Lolly will learn eventually, hopefully not the hard way. J
This is how the cats expect dogs to behave (Jellicoe, back, Isambard fore.) Bertie is their favourite dog.
Bertie and Herschel
Herschel (fore) and Solomon. 
 I am linking to Saturday’s Critters, hosted by eileeninmd and Camera Critters

Saturday, 28 May 2016

England in late May 2016

As ever the weather is variable – warm sunshine one day, heavy rain and hail the next. Despite the uncertainty Mother Nature continues unperturbed, showing off her wondrous beauties to those who care to look.

The bird feeders need constant replenishment as myriads of starlings descend, whistling and shrieking and squabbling, each trying to garner the greatest amount of food. The young starlings, milk chocolate in colour with dark eyes, clamour to be fed though they are entirely capable of feeding themselves. 

It is rare to see a solitary starling – they are social creatures and there is definitely safety in numbers though one fell foul of a magpie recently and was dispatched in masterly fashion.

Its cries were piteous to hear but all wild creatures have young to feed. The sparrowhawk, whose diet consists almost exclusively of small birds, watches from a safe distance, choosing its moment to swoop down and capture a meal.

The collared doves share the feeder with the starlings but see them off if they approach too closely. Wood pigeons balance precariously, spreading their wings to compensate for their unwieldiness. At this time of year even robins and blackbirds and thrushes come to the feeders though they prefer to eat on the ground. 

A black cap darts in and away again . . .

. . . and the titmice seize their opportunities when the starlings vacate the fat cakes. 

Magpies are opportunistic and feed where they can. They wait and watch until the pond fish are fed then fly down to enjoy an alternative feast of floating fish sticks.

Meanwhile a red kite soars gracefully overhead.

The fish have been spawning for some time and expend considerable energy trying to ensure their genes are passed on. Hopefully some of the eggs will survive and develop.
The early spring flowers are fading now – there are still a few bluebells and violets and forget-me-nots. Herb robert grows in abundance and flowers throughout spring and summer and well into autumn. It is a weed but so cheerful and pretty that it seems harsh to treat it as an unwelcome intruder and root out every sign of it.

The fruit blossom has set and it looks as if there will be a good harvest of apples, pears, cherries and blueberries, if the birds (or Frankie) don’t get to them first.
Choisya ternata (Mexican orange blossom) has bloomed beautifully and as it begins to wane the ceanothus is ready to burst into flower.

In gardens and woods rhododendrons are aflame with colour. 

Though they can be a bit of a woodland thug and have to be restrained it is good to see the purple glowing in the sunshine.

May is also the mating month for ladybirds. 

Judging by the number in our garden I’m wondering if there will be a glut of aphids this year. In similar vein I have noticed a great deal of blossom on pyracantha and holly – does this mean a hard winter ahead? I think that’s probably myth . . .

Another kind of ladybird . . . last year, 2015 . . .

 . . . and this year, 2016 . . . faded but still smiling.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

A Boy and His Dog . . .

Last Sunday was a gloriously sunny day, a day for little boys and young Labradors to play together . . .

I'll paddle . . . you drink . . .
High speed Roxy . . .
Boy with boat

Monday, 2 May 2016

Second hand car salescat.

Would you buy a second hand car from this cat?

I don't think Frankie would be very pleased to see Herschel on his 'road'.

He's asleep on the job, too . . . Disgraceful!

Sunday, 1 May 2016


I am snatching a few moments to reacquaint myself with my sadly neglected blog. The first thing I had to do was find my way around Word again – it’s been such a long time since I put fingers to keyboard.

So, what has been happening in my neck of the woods? Actually, not a lot, at least not a lot that has been earth-shattering – just as well, really.

Last August my eldest granddaughter got married. You may know that it is traditional for the bride to be late. Well, Marnie took the tradition to new heights, keeping her nervous groom waiting for forty-five minutes. The enforced wait in the old church gave the guests time to chat to each other and listen to some stirring bagpipe music. In fact it was so rousing that poor Frankie, innocently playing with a car, got the shock of his little life and burst into loud sobs. He still talks about it . . .

It was a lovely wedding and we all enjoyed our day.


Four days before the wedding my youngest daughter had her first baby, Charlie. He is, naturally, delightful J


Susannah nearly bought a house but the transaction fell through and the search continues. I don’t think any of us thought she and Frankie would still be living with us two years after they first moved in. We enjoy them being here – it’s good to have young life around us.

At the beginning of January Frankie started pre-school. He loves it, particularly Spanish and Mandarin. Now, I can recognise Spanish when I hear it but Mandarin . . . ??

In February Barry had a total knee replacement. For the first time in decades his left leg is straight. He is conscientious about doing his exercises and is making very good progress. Yesterday he and I went for a walk in the woods with the dogs. 

It was good to have company again – human company, that is. He will have his right knee operated on in August. None of us had fully appreciated how much the parlous state of his knees was affecting all our lives.

My son phoned the other day. He told me he had pests in his loft. ‘Moths?’ said I, thinking he would have said if it were mice. ‘No, glis.’

I had never heard of glis so looked them up. Myoxus glis (Glis glis) the edible or fat dormouse, was a delicacy in Roman times and bred by them for their delectation. They look very pretty, like little silver squirrels, but can do much damage in houses and are very difficult to eradicate. As with so much of our wild life they were imported to be part of a private collection but some escaped and made their homes in the wider countryside in Buckinghamshire. You can read more about them here and here.

So, that is what has been happening in my life. One thing I know for sure, if I had ever doubted it, is that I could never be a nurse!

This is us - or some of us!

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Berkshire, United Kingdom
Wife, mother, grandmother, Always curious, good listener, interested in people. I'm on Twitter @jabblog