Wednesday, 30 December 2009

ABC Wednesday X is for Xanadu


In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

Down to a sunless sea.

Extract from 'Kubla Khan' written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) and published in 1816

Xanadu, previously known as Kai Ping, was the summer capital of the Yuan Dynasty. The Mongolian Yuan Dynasty was founded in 1271 by Kublai Khan, grandson of Gengis Khan. It ruled China from 1279 to 1368. Emperor Kublai Khan made Dadu, present-day Beijing, the capital of his empire, but the summer heat and humidity of the city persuaded him to establish an alternative capital closer to the cooler plains of his native Mongolia.

Xanadu first came to the notice of the Western world after Marco Polo visited the city in 1275. It was portrayed by him and later by Coleridge as exotic, mysterious and filled with riches.
Thank you to Denise Nesbitt for her hard work in organising and hosting this meme.
Click here to see what others have found for X.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Camera Critters #90, Pet Pride Gus-in-a-box#2



It's amazing the things that come boxed these days! Here's the little chap chewing his way out like a bird from an egg . . .
Grateful thanks to the organisers of these memes for their hard work!
To see what others have to offer please click on Camera Critters and Pet Pride

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

ABC Wednesday W is for Warrior




figurehead

HMS Warrior

cannon
All images © Rémi Jouan, CC-BY-SA, GNU Free Documentation License, Wikimedia Commons
HMS Warrior was the pride of Queen Victoria's fleet and was the first iron-clad warship to be built. When she was launched in 1860 by Queen Victoria she was the largest, fastest and most powerful ship of her day. It took 35 months to build her and she was powered by steam and sail. She is the only surviving ship of her kind in the world and revolutionised naval architecture. However, the pace of technological development was so great that within ten years she was obsolete.
For the next century she was used as a depot ship, a storage hulk and then became part of the Royal Navy Torpedo Training School at Portsmouth. Following that she was used as an oil jetty in Milford Haven before being rescued and towed to Hartlepool where work began on restoring her.

Now she is berthed in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard where she is a popular tourist attraction. She is a stunning, sleekly built, strikingly impressive warship. The Warrior Preservation Trust's remit has been to restore her as far as possible to her original condition. A tour around Warrior shows visitors how Victorian sailors lived on board.
Thank you to Denise Nesbitt for organising and hosting this meme.
To see what others have been finding for 'W' please click here.

Meet Gerard Culpeper

Gerard Culpeper is a pastry chef. He is a pleasant-looking fellow – you know the type, neither handsome nor plug ugly. His skin is clear and smooth and his dark hair clean and well-cut. He's of medium height, around 5'10", and moderately well-built. He's no Mr Universe (how do those muscle-bound men manage to move?) but he's not flabby. I imagine he follows an exercise régime of some sort probably involving walking or running, perhaps cycling or rowing, all of which activities must be pursued in a gymnasium since he works long hours and often does not leave his place of employment before dark falls. I can't see him playing squash or badminton or any team sports since he spends his working days in close confinement with many other people and needs the relaxation of being solitary for a while. He's about 35 years old and though he is well-known to his colleagues and well-liked if not popular, for some reason his name escapes them. He thinks it is because he is a quiet sort of chap, a listener rather than a talker but so tired has he become of being called Jack or Jim or Colin that he has taken to wearing a badge with his name printed neatly on it.

GERARD CULPEPER

Pastry chef

How do I know him? The truth is, I don't. Gerard Culpeper sprang fully-formed into my consciousness as I woke this morning. Why he should have chosen me as his channel of communication I do not know. I have never met anyone called Gerard or Culpeper, though of course I have heard of Culpeper's Herbal. (Culpeper's Complete Herbal, written by Nicholas Culpeper and published in 1653.)


Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
I frequently encounter odd characters in the moments before I'm quite awake but rarely remember them. To the best of my knowledge I never see the same 'person' twice. Do you?

Monday, 21 December 2009

The North Wind doth blow . . .



The north wind doth blow,

And we shall have snow,

And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?

He'll sit in a barn,

And keep himself warm,

And hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

This British Nursery rhyme is thought to date from the 16th century. It was intended to teach children to associate safety, warmth and security with home while allowing them to empathise with the situation of the robin.

The birds have been busier on the feeders since the weather has become colder, building up their fat reserves for the weeks to come and the huge expenditure of energy in the breeding season which starts much earlier than we may appreciate. During the autumn and early winter the robins have been defending their territories preparatory to pairing off. The female robin does all the chasing and eventually decides on her mate after visiting several males. The first indication of a pairing is two robins feeding alongside each other but they will not breed until Spring.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Today’s Flowers #71 – Guzmania

These bromeliads were named in recognition of the 18thcentury Spanish naturalist Anastasio Guzman and grow wild in the tropical and sub-tropical forests of America. Most are found in the highlands of Colombia and Costa Rica and are epiphytic but some of the larger ones have adapted to grow in the soil. Dead leaves, bird and monkey droppings decompose and nourish the plants and the rosettes of leaves collect rain droplets to water them.
It is relatively easy to keep bromeliads as colourful house plants. They require bright light and humidity but not direct sunlight which might scorch the leaves. Water should be poured carefully onto the leaves from where it can filter down to the soil. Too much water causes rot!
Thanks are due to the hardworking members of the TF team who organise and host this 'blooming' meme!
To see other contributions please click here.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Camera Critters #89, Pet Pride Fun in the snow!

My apologies for the strange formatting . . . it's driving me insane (not a difficult undertaking!!) A different interpretation of snow shoes



Gus: This is fun - let's play!
Frodo: Interesting sniffs - the snow adds a certain je ne sais quoi.


Jenna: You can pick up the ball, Gus - I don't mind.
Gus: Then what?





Gus: Frodo, I want to be as big as you one day.
Frodo: Dream on, little boy.











Gus: Wait for me, wait for me!




Frodo: I'll play with you.
Jenna: Come on then!
Gus: I'm coming too.
Buddy: Huh, kids!









Frodo and Buddy: Is there food?
Jenna: That's the way, Gus, but wait for it to be thrown first.
Gus: Look, look - I've got it!




Time to go home . . .
Frodo: With a single leap I make it into the car.
Buddy: I used to be able to do that.






Frodo: That's nice of you to help him, Janice.
Buddy: Ooh, oof, nearly there . . .









Jenna: Come on, Gus, Dalmatians in the back, Labradors in the front.
Gus: Hurry up, Jenna, I'm tired and I want to go home.












Jenna: I really enjoyed that walk. Thank you!


Gus: I had a good time too but now I'm so sleepy . . . z ... z ... z
Thank you to the organisers and hosts of Camera Critters and Pet Pride. We appreciate the trouble you take.
To see more critters and pets please click on the appropriate title.

The Third Blog of Augustus Lazarus Cooke (Gus)












Hello everyone!

I'm fifteen weeks old on Sunday and growing fast . . . I'm nearly half the size of Jenna!

I told you in my last blog that I had learnt to climb the stairs. Now I do it all the time and I can come downstairs. I'm ever so careful like Buddy but Buddy's careful 'coz he can't see very well and I'm careful 'coz I don't want to fall and hurt myself. My Humans still carry me down during the night if I need to go out and first thing in the morning. They say I'm getting ever so heavy. I can get up onto the settee now and that's great. I can lie next to Buddy – I even rested on him the other day and he didn't grumble once.

I still like getting in Frodo's bed though I don't fit as well as I did. (I really like Frodo!)









I think he likes sharing with me 'coz the other day I was in his bed and he got in with me. He trod on me a bit but not for long and it didn't hurt. He's ever so warm to cuddle up to. (Oh, I really like Frodo – he's great!)

I go out walking with the big dogs but we don't go for long walks 'coz I'm still quite young and my Humans say I mustn't overdo it (whatever 'it' is!)

Today was ever such a lot of fun 'coz there was cold white stuff all over the forest – it's called SNOW and it smells funny – nice, but funny and all the usual smells are hidden underneath it. It's hard to run in and I got tired quite quickly. Frodo and Jenna ran so fast they slid on it but they didn't mind. (I think Frodo's really cool – I want to be just like him when I grow up.)

Jenna plays with me lots except when we go out, then she's only interested in the ball the Humans fling for her. Today I discovered that if I pick up the ball before she does she's more interested in me. Actually, I think she's trying to show me what to do and I'm learning 'dead' which means 'drop it in front of the Humans'.

Mrs H is going to find a class for me – I don't know what that means but I expect I'll like it. I've liked everything so far. Something called 'Christmas' is coming and I don't know what that is either but I think there are going to be more visitors and some new people for me to meet. I'm looking forward to that.

It's been a busy day so I'm going to have another snooze, specially as Tia and Foxy are coming tomorrow with their Humans for a couple of days.

Hwyl fawr am nawr! (That's Welsh for 'Goodbye for now!'

Thursday, 17 December 2009

SkyWatch Friday Season 4 Episode 22 Winter skies

Yesterday dawned with a heavy frost and felt bitterly cold. It was no surprise when snow started falling. When we took our afternoon walk the light was fading fast and mist was thickening. It was invigorating and the dogs had great fun. Earlier in the year these 'fields' were thick with trees.
They were harvested, the ground turned over and saplings planted. Our familiar landscape had changed and revealed new walks. Fresh ponds were created.
This morning was beautiful - blue sky and bright sunshine and it felt warmer but as the day wore on dark clouds gathered and there were several falls of snow which didn't settle.
By the middle of the afternoon, around 2:30, clouds were scudding across the sky changing the skyscape every few seconds.
Full darkness came early and with it a drop in temperature. Ice is making the ground treacherous and we're promised more snow tomorrow. Because our weather changes so rapidly on this small island we don't usually have long spells of one condition and never seem to be prepared for 'bad' weather so doubtless there will be all sorts of transport problems. However, most schools will have broken up by the end of the day so there will be a noticeable drop in the volume of traffic on the roads.Thank you to the hard-working SkyWatch team for organising and hosting this fascinating meme. To see skies around the world please click here.