Sunday, 11 August 2019


Who’d be a female Rusty Tussock?
File:Vapourer Moth . Orgyia antiqua. Female. - Flickr - gailhampshire.jpg
Female Rusty Tussock
Image courtesy of gailhampshire, Wikimedia Commons
She has only vestigial wings so cannot fly to escape her suitor, even if she wanted to. Apparently, she resembles an overweight hairy woodlouse – not a flattering description designed to elicit gasps of wonder and delight. As soon as she emerges from her pupa she emits pheromones to attract a mate. After she has successfully mated she lays her eggs – several hundred of them! - on the cocoon from which she has hatched and dies. A short and not very merry life, it would seem.
Male Rusty Tussock, Vapourer moth
Image courtesy of Ben Sale, Wikimedia Commons
Meanwhile, her handsome day-flying moth mate is free to soar, frequently seen in the afternoon sun and sometimes attracted to light at night. As the name Rusty Tussock suggests, he is a rich red-brown colour. Each forewing has a noticeable white eye spot.
Rusty Tussocks are Vapourer Moths. When I heard this name I had visions of Edwardian lady moths swooning and needing to be revived with smelling salts. If one does not eat, one feels faint. The Vapourer does not eat during his short life but does not feel dizzy, as far as we know, and dies in the autumn or winter.
Vapourer Moth eggs
Image courtesy of gailhampshire, Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, the several hundred eggs inside their hard shells overwinter to emerge as very hairy caterpillars in the spring and proceed to feed on a variety of deciduous trees and shrubs. The caterpillars are eye-catching, in their colourful livery, and can be seen between May and September. Their dark bodies are covered in small red spots and short greyish hairs but resist the temptation to stroke them as the hairs can cause skin irritation. (That is advice for children. Six-year-old Frankie stroked a bee one day and was stung for his affection!)  In addition they have four yellow chimney-like bristles on their backs and tufts of black hair fore and aft, two and one respectively.
Rusty Tussock, Vapourer moth, Orgyia antiqua

The one pictured here was feasting on a sweetly-scented white Buddleja. Rusty Tussocks are quite common, particularly in the south of the UK, but this was the first one I had ever noticed.  


Friday, 14 June 2019

You’ve got to laugh, or you’d cry.




 You’ve got to laugh, or you’d cry.


Altogether now, sing along with me. (It doesn’t quite scan, but never mind – everything else is out of kilter!)


Oh, dear, what can the matter be?

Who will they choose Tory’s leader to be?

Seven entrants all claiming authority,

Everything’s up in the air!



They promise to give us a bright, shining future,

Something much better than we’ve got right now, that’s for sure,

But can we believe that their guarantees will endure

Longer than fun at the fair?



So it’s, oh, dear, what can the matter be?

What is happening to our security?

The laughing stock of the world we are set to be,

Led by clowns for eternity.





Friday, 31 May 2019

Scabiosa


The following piece of nonsense is written in response to a prompt from ‘Words for Wednesday’ now retitled ‘Words for Wednesday on a Friday. This meme was started by Delores and now is hosted by various bloggers. The aim is to encourage writing – a poem, a story, a song, or whatever comes to mind, using some or all of the prompts.

This week’s words are supplied by Margaret Adamson and Sue Fulcher and can be found here. Please visit to read more offerings.

1: solicitude
2: rampant
3: toes
4: form
5: knocking
6: pin cushion
And/or:
1: reel
2: grappled
3: perfume
4: courtroom
5: squad
6: general
 

pincushion flowers (Scabiosa)

Is there such a thing as rampant solicitude, I wonder? Knocking one’s toes on a brick wall while tending one’s pincushion plants can be painful, it’s true, but it’s not good form to draw attention to oneself. It would seem excessive to have someone commiserating with one over such a foolish bump. Far better to remain silent, even while screaming inside, and possibly reeling from the shock, however slight.

The perfume from this member of the honeysuckle squad is beautiful and flowers in general are a joy to perceive. Having grappled with garden pests, I am glad not to have to face what seems like a courtroom of a flower show. My blooms are for my delectation alone and if they are smaller or apparently less perfect than anyone else’s, it matters not one jot to me.



Curiosity and the Cats


Curiosity and the Cats – and Lolly.

I think it is generally accepted that cats are curious and our Ocicats are certainly no exception. In addition, they are very attached to us, following us around the house. When we go to bed at night they all come up with us, choosing their spots on the bed, between the dogs. Somehow, Barry and I manage to carve out space for ourselves and some while thereafter the cats move on to our legs. They are heavy! Lenny the Somali, who is actually one of Susannah’s cats, comes to bed later and sleeps next to my head. He used to try sleeping on it but I dissuaded him from that.

Lenny is a very vocal cat and it is possible, even obligatory, to have lengthy conversations with him. He greets everyone, two-legged and four-legged, with enthusiasm. For a fairly small cat he has a loud and insistent voice.
Lenny speaks! 
We have two wooden buildings at the end of our garden. One houses the endless swimming pool and the other is a gymnasium. One morning recently, Barry stepped into the garden to be met by Lenny, vociferously miauing and running back and forth in the direction of the gym.  Barry chatted to him but Lenny was insistent that Barry should follow him. Naturally, one cannot disobey a cat and so he followed him. On opening the door he was met by Herschel and Jellicoe, who had slipped in behind him a few hours earlier and found themselves shut in. It was remarkable how persistent Lenny was. Clearly, he did not want his friends to remain trapped.

The next day Barry went to the swimming pool and when he opened the door Jellicoe shot out like a bolt from an arrow, desperate to relieve himself. When Barry had gone to check the water temperature the previous evening Jellicoe had followed him in, unnoticed, and had been locked in all night. We don’t allow our cats to stay outside at night and usually count them before we go to bed, leaving fresh chicken in the kitchen for their supper. Somehow, we had neglected to do this so poor Jellicoe was not only imprisoned but left to starve. Such cruel humans! He has been unusually attentive and lap-seeking since then.

In mitigation, we had been hosting Lolly the Labrador while her humans went on holiday, and had needed to ensure she went upstairs before the cats were fed. There were two reasons for this. The first is that Lolly is very good but not used to cats. She knows she must not chase them but sometimes the temptation proves too much. Our Ocicats treat her with disdain so she soon abandons her pursuit of them, although to be extra sure of safety they frequently take to altitude. The exception to this is Isambard, the most nervous and timid of our cats, who nonetheless does his utmost to make friends with her. Foolish Lenny and his brother Solomon run away and so Lolly is encouraged to give chase. Feisty Zula the Abyssinian, the smallest of them all, hisses loudly and wise Lolly keeps her distance from her. The second reason concerns the gate – a baby gate! – into the kitchen to prevent our dogs thieving the cats’ succulent raw chicken wings. It presents no obstacle to Lolly who is very athletic and leaps over with ease. She is not a greedy dog – for a Labrador! - but chicken is alluring and it is amazing how quickly a dog can siphon up food.
Frankie loves the dogs and enjoyed having an extra dog for a couple of weeks. Here they all are in Simons Wood, left to right : Gus, Jenna, Frankie, Bertie, Lolly, Roxy
Lolly has returned home now and life has returned to normal, or as normal as it ever is in our house. It is also a little quieter, because Lolly, being a London dog, is very protective of Bethan and her children and transfers that care to us when on holiday with us. She has a loud, penetrating bark and encourages the rest to join in. Five barking dogs are a great deterrent to potential intruders and much more effective than any doorbell.

Sadly, Lolly was getting used to the cats again and they were sleeping next to her, but next time she comes to stay we shall have to reinforce the lessons learnt this time – and last time – and the time before. Lolly is very intelligent but there are some things she pretends  - or prefers - not to understand.





Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Soup


Soup


From Delores

Poetry Monday

Poetry Monday is the brain child of Diane from 'On The Alberta Montana Border'. Each week she provides us with a theme and anyone is welcome to join in and write a poem.  However....and it is a BIG however...Diane has been on vacation for a loooooong time.  Jenny and I were at loose ends so we've started taking turns providing poetry themes.  We've had ice and snow, socks (thanks Jenny) and this week the theme is (are you ready for this?) SOUP.  Yep...you heard correctly...SOUP.

(Apologies to Flanders and Swann. Should you feel so inclined, the following can be sung to the tune of ‘The Hippotamus Song’ chorus!)



Soup, soup, glorious soup,
Nothing quite like it
To make eyelids droop;
The veggies go under,
And then split asunder,
While turning themselves into
A glorious soup.



 And just for fun, here's a video clip of The Hippopotamus Song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QW85kfakJc




Friday, 1 February 2019

Snow!

Snow

We have had snow! Not a lot by some standards, just about 2” (5 cms), but enough to make the garden look pretty – or, at least, different. The local schools, along with many across the country, had a Snow Day.

I took photographs with my little Sony just before 8:30 a.m.


 The dogs ruined the pristine layer. They charged out and round the garden then galloped back in again. 
Barry took some photographs later with his superior Canon.

Zula, Susannah’s little Abyssinian, 2 years old today, dashed out and returned immediately. Herschel decided to investigate. He stepped delicately in the snow, flicking it off his paws and sniffing at the funny white stuff.  


Jellicoe went out later and stayed outside for some time, inspecting the scene, but Isambard viewed it all with suspicion from the safety and warmth of the sitting room.

The anemometer and wind vane had more than a dusting of snow but managed to spin in the wind that sprang up. 

The bird feeder (h’mm, should clean and replenish it!) has not had any avian visitors today but there were numbers of gulls wheeling round the tree-tops this morning.
The best barometers in the house are the cats, guaranteed to discover the hot spots. Two of them, the Somalis Solomon and Lenny, spent considerable time in the conservatory (I’m sure they enjoyed watching Le Mans with Frankie)

Herschel cuddled up with Bertie while Isambard appropriated my chair and didn’t object when I almost sat on him, happy to share and at the same time help me compose my  blog post. 

Jellicoe, however, found the prime spot, on the bookshelf above the radiator. From the photographs you can see that he has a bent for Natural History, particularly Ornithology.
 


It is snowing again and is forecast to continue for several hours. We are unreliably informed, by someone who knows much better than the Met Office, the AA, the RAC, and all the weather forecasters in the media, that the amber warnings of bad weather are ‘scaremongering’ and the snow is ‘localised’, with none in Wokingham, 4 miles away. This is not true but we shrug and smile – there’s no point in arguing with someone who is always so right, though usually so wrong!



Thursday, 31 January 2019

Just a bit of nonsense

I just came across this post from March  2010. It made me smile - I hope it does the same for you.


Just a bit of nonsense - or Love's Young Dream 


It was the worst moment of the worst day of the worst week of the year. Effie stretched and yawned and grumbled to herself. January 2nd in any year was the pits. She wished she wasn't a miner's daughter and hadn't agreed to the annual meeting at his workplace. 'Maybe,' she dreamed, 'I will meet a handsome, strong young man.'

Effie's snoring woke her and she struggled out of bed, heaving a sigh, which fell dully at her feet. She cast her eyes heavenwards and caught them as they descended, then threw back her head and laughed. It bounced off the wall behind her. She really must take more care of herself. She was so tired these days – it came of burning the candle at both ends and she was having difficulty keeping both points alight. She had had her fingers burnt more than once but ignored the pain each night (or was it morning?) as she lit the twin flames.

Though she was a miner's daughter she had been born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Her aristocratic mother had taken one look at her new-born child and expired at the sight. Doctors were able to remove it and she had kept it as a memento knowing that it was extremely valuable and, should the occasion ever arise when she could no longer keep the wolf from the door, she would be able to sell it. Anxiously she glanced out of the window and was relieved to see that the doorstep was free of Canis lupus.

As she dressed she wondered why she never managed to meet the right man. She sang softly to herself, 'Why am I always the bridesmaid, never the blushing bride?' Certainly she was tired of wearing the unflattering pink frock with the big puffed sleeves and the huge satin bow but supposed that was her fate, for now.

At the mine, Effie walked towards the pit shaft looking for her father. After 45 minutes she was ready to call it a day – Wednesday perhaps or Saturday – when her father appeared at her elbow. She looked down at him. Miners were reputed to be short and stocky but really! He was only 3'6". Still, he couldn't help his lack of inches. 

'Where have you been?' she asked sharply.

'The bus was late,' he explained.

'You could have walked or hitched a lift,' she spat.

Her father wiped her spit off his face and said, 'There's no need to jump down my throat' as he spluttered and removed her head from his mouth. 

Effie rolled her eyes and her father stopped them with his foot as they neared the shaft and handed them back to her. She thanked him and started to speak again, but realised he was giving her the cold shoulder. She shivered and rubbed her back. 

'You know, you drive me up the wall, Dad,' she complained as she clambered back down to the ground.

'Effie, I do my best for you. I introduce you to nice young fellows and you just throw yourself at them. Most of the time they're so surprised they forget to try and catch you. You don't know which side your bread's buttered.'

She gasped and said, 'So that's why my sandwiches are so dusty.'

'You fool,' said her father gently and the bells on her jester's hat jingled as she nodded. 

At that moment a tall, dark, good-looking man approached them and Effie's father introduced her. His name was Patrick O'Mahoney. Effie's heart melted, which made living difficult as her blood started turning to black pudding, but she pulled herself together, tying up the laces that kept her from falling apart, and sighed. 

Patrick spoke, 'Would ye be after joining me for a drink?' he asked.

Effie giggled. 'Why, are you broken?'

'Begorrah, it's the luck of the Irish I have, to be meeting a lovely girl like yourself with the brains and all. Aren't you just the girl of me dreams, so?'

Effie sighed, entranced by his looks, his voice. All her chickens had come home to roost and she must go and lock them up for the night.

Hand in hand, the two young lovers stole quietly away (quietly was made of gold and diamonds and quite a treasure!)

Effie's father watched them go, a song in his heart. He joined in with the chorus and prepared for his day's work.


Monday, 28 January 2019

Socks


Socks


Delores set the subject for this week's Poetry Monday. Trot along and see what others have posted here and here.




 Bought in pairs, carefully matched,
All is well until wash day
And then
My washing machine becomes
A court.
Couples enter together
Then leave.
Sometimes they are reconciled,
Sometimes they part for good,
But always,
When I’ve thrown out the odds,
Their partners turn up sneering.


And did you know that some shops
Sell pairs of mismatched socks?
Strangely they seem quite perfect -
The look rocks,
Not like my drawer of oddments,
My efforts to pair them
Ever mocked.
Is it wrong to wear odd socks?
For some it’s a fashion choice -
But inside me a little voice
Always says,
'They don’t match.'

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Gus


Gus

Gus-in-a-box
Puppies sleep soundly. Only when dogs become very old will they sleep again as deeply
For a while Gus was smaller than the cats
Gus is a big black bear of a dog, very strong, very loyal. He will defend us to the death, mainly by deafening intruders with his bark, including the ones he sees on the television. He keeps the other dogs under control, apart from his half-sister, Jenna, to whom he shows the utmost respect. He is never unpleasant but they know not to overstep the mark.

Out walking in the woods, he greets other dogs kindly but is not really interested in playing with them, unless they are Dalmatians. He was brought up with the Spotted Ones and becomes excited when he sees one.
Frodo was Gus's greatest influence
Gus was in awe of Frodo
Frodo plays with Gus

 He plays with Bertie and Roxy, and he and Roxy are inveterate stick collectors.

He likes people but shows true affection only to his human family, particularly the ones with whom he lives. He is rarely to be found far from them. He is the dog most likely to be lying quietly next to one’s chair. He is nine years old now and seldom jumps onto our bed at night. It seems that dogs reach an age, around eight or nine, when their own baskets become just as attractive as their humans’ bed.
Gus was once smaller than his half-sister, Jenna
 Now Jenna is smaller than Gus
He has the sweetest smile, a wrinkling of the upper lip and nose to show just the front teeth.  
Like most gundogs, Gus loves water
His beauty lies not in elegance but in strength and he is often admired. He runs like a rocking horse, his gait not having changed much since puppyhood. 
 Aerodynamic Gus!
The retrieving instinct is powerful, though he is reluctant to relinquish his prize. 
 Retrieving in water
Balls stand no chance in his mighty jaws and the slobber he generates when mashing them is scattered across his back when he shakes his ‘prey’. 

Just as Frodo played with puppy Gus, so Gus played with puppy Bertie . . .
. . . and after play comes rest. Small puppies like to nestle next to big dogs
He and Bertie are great friends and both make a terrific din when the time comes to have collars put on, having first followed Barry upstairs to make sure he really is putting on the walking trousers. They both understand English so we have to spell the word ‘trousers’ or refer to them as ‘Ts’ or ‘pantalon’ or ‘lederhosen’, the latter a little confusing as Barry has never worn leather trousers, nor ever will!’

Gus has a few issues. 
 Gus and the Collar of Shame. He had to wear a collar after an operation but it made him so depressed we removed it
The vacuum cleaner used to make him shake and shudder though he has become less nervous of late. Familiarity breeds contempt or, at least, tolerance.

In common with many other animals, fireworks reduce him to a shivering, panting wreck and he does then clamber onto our bed until the frightful noise abates. Thunder has a similar though lesser impact, and yet gunfire, of which we hear a lot, being close to RMA (Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst) training grounds, has no effect on him. He is, after all, a gundog.

The thing that most disturbs him is strange or unfamiliar objects in his path, (not outdoors, they were always Cariadd’s and Dominie’s bĂȘtes noires) but in the house. He is often to be heard tap dancing on the landing outside our bedroom, trying to pluck up courage to pass the chair or suitcase or laundry basket that impedes his progress. 

‘Come on, Gus,’ we call cheerily and there’s a clatter of claws as he rushes in. Sometimes, though, he cannot face the perceived peril and then, cautiously, delicately, meticulously he edges into the room backwards. Once safely past the obstruction he dashes for his basket and settles immediately, soon to sleep.
 Never far from water, if he can help it. His coat sheds water very efficiently.
 Water with friends is even better, here with Bertie, Jenna and the late, great Frodo
 Providing a steadying head for Frankie
 Looking and listening, ever ready to please
 In the woods with the rest of his friends and relations
He is a wonderful dog, our Gus. We call him Augustus *Lazarus Cooke because he nearly didn’t survive his birth and came to and took a breath almost at the moment all hope had been abandoned.

*Lazarus was brought back to life by Jesus.



Monday, 21 January 2019

Muses


Muses
 The Nine Muses by Lodewijk Toeput c.1550- 1603/05

I fell to thinking the other day, as one does, about Muses – you know, those mythical beings who inspire poets, writers, musicians, in fact, artists of all hues. I suppose, actually, I was musing!

Are Muses always female, I pondered, or could they sometimes be male? I had always heard of them being referred to as female. So, I decided to look up ‘Muses’ and lo and behold I was slapped in the face by my lack of a classical education, for, had I studied Ancient Greek or Roman mythology I would have learnt (though probably not retained) the following.

The Muses were nine goddesses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who supervised the arts and sciences. Calliope presided over Epic Poetry, like The Aeneid or Beowulf, while her sister, Clio, managed History. Did she work backwards, I wonder, or did she foresee the future? I can’t quite understand how she carried out her duties.

Euterpe and Erato both undertook lyric poetry. This is a form of poetry that expresses personal emotions or feelings and is often spoken in the first person. William Shakespeare’s sonnets are examples of lyric poetry and in the 20th century (last century, for Heaven’s sake!) Walter de la Mare and A.E. Housman both used the lyric form. Erato, as you might infer from her name, governed erotic lyric poetry.
In Ancient Greece, the lyric was accompanied by a stringed instrument, commonly a lyre, and Erato oversaw this as well as lyric poetry, while her sister, Euterpe, managed flute playing in addition to lyric poetry.

Terpsichore presided over choral dancing and song, and people sometimes humorously refer to dancing as ‘a terpsichorean activity. It was first used in this context in 1825. A dancer may also be called a terpsichorean. Terpsichore also carried a lute and is often depicted singing.

Melpomene ruled over tragedy. She is frequently shown holding a tragic mask in one hand and a knife or club in the other.

Thalia, in direct contrast, was the goddess of comedy and light verse, and Polyhymnia governed hymns and later, mime.

I wonder if you can guess what Urania controlled? If you surmised astronomy, you were correct.