Monday, 31 May 2010

Spatially immature!

At this time of year young starlings scream around our garden feeders, arguing with each other, practising aerobatics and gymnastic pyramids. They boldly face up to wood pigeons and woodpeckers and overwhelm blackbirds, thrushes, robins, nuthatches and all the small titmice. At an unseen signal – or maybe an alarm – they take off in a great cloud and fly over the house to a safe vantage point. That is to say, most of them do. In their haste, or panic, to leave the site, some of them crash into the windows. This is not because our windows are sparklingly clean like the purest of spring water – far from it, they are smeary and nose-smudged and licked (by the dogs, I hasten to add!) Even when I have just cleaned them they only just allow clear vision so I cannot believe that the youngsters don't see them – they simply have poorly-developed spatial skills (a little like me, in fact!)
Most days there are thumps and thuds as unfortunate birds collide with unforgiving glass. Sometimes the impact is so noisy that we all jump and the dogs bark. Occasionally, thankfully rarely, the strike is fatal. Yesterday was a busy day for the young birds with a great deal of coming and going and several of them hit the windows. Some appeared to bounce off and continue their frantic flight but two of them, within a couple of hours, were knocked out.
The first one was thrown back from the patio door onto a net on a garden bench. She lay motionless for a minute or two but was still breathing. (I think it was a female since she had a hint of pink at the base of her beak and males have blue)
After a while she got rather groggily to her feet and a few minutes later flew off to join her friends and family.
A little later one of her male relations hit the glass and landed on his back on the patio.

We feared that this one might not survive but these birds are fighters and he was soon on his feet, though looking a little glassy-eyed.
We watched him carefully and he seemed to be recovering.  Gus was agitating to go out so Barry decided to move the little bird to a safer location - as he approached the starling flapped his wings and flew away.There haven't been any collisions today.

Face of the Week #14 Eve at the helm

Eve is our youngest granddaughter. Here she is taking the helm a couple of years ago.
Thank you to Sistertex from 'Spacial Peepol' who organises and hosts this lovely meme. Click here if you would like to see more entries - and maybe join in!

Testing Windows Live Writer

Attempting to insert a picture . . .

Microfiction Monday #33

Susan from 'Stony River' organises and hosts this weekly meme. She provides a picture and the challenge is to create a story in 140 characters or less.
Click here to read more marvels of microfiction – and perhaps be tempted to join in.
Here is this week's picture and my offerings follow – two for one today.
'Now look here, Merlin,' said Arthur, 'Turning me into a dragon won't change my mind. I'm still going to be king.' 'You sure?' said Merlin.
(139 characters)
'I'm giving you one more chance. Breathe fire or I'll turn you to stone,' said Merlin - and that's how Dragon Stone Hill came into being.
(138 characters)

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Pet Pride - winsome Winston

Winston at his winsome best - he knows that if he keeps that beguiling gaze fixed on a human face and gives an occasional quiet miaou he might receive a little treat.
Thank you to Bozo and his human for hosting this lovely weekly meme. To see more pets - and maybe join in - please click here.

Today’s Flowers #95 – chives and rosemary

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) have pretty flowers but their scent may not be as attractive as that of other flowers!
Chives are the smallest members of the onion family and the only one native to both the Old and the New World. I use it in salads amd stir-fried vegetable dishes. It is thought to be an insect-repellent, though the flowers are immensely attractive to bees, and it has been cultivated for around 5000 years.The Romans believed chives could relieve sunburn and sore throats and that it would act as a diuretic.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)is native to the Mediterranean region. The Latin name rosmarinus means 'dew' (ros) and 'sea' (marinus) meaning 'dew of the sea' because it is often found growing near the sea. There's no salt water anywhere near our garden (nothwithstanding we live on a relatively small island!) but it grows well here. I don't often use the leaves fom this evergreen herb but maybe I should since I've just discovered it is extremely high in iron, calcium and vitamin B6.Perhaps I'll steep the leaves in boiling water to make a tisane! It has many culinary uses which you can read about here.
Many thanks to the  Today's Flowers team for their dedication to this lovely weekly meme. To see more blooms - and perhaps join in - please click here.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Weekend Mailbox #7 Postman Pat

My youngest daughter used to love Postman Pat. My mother knitted  Pat and his cat Jess for Bethan and she had hours of fun playing with them.This is one of her books - this edition was published in 1982.  I think I must have bought it somewhat later than that as Bethan was born at the end of 1981 and was still at the rag book and stiff card book stage in 1982!
I always found it odd that the cartoon characters had only three fingers!
The following video is from YouTube and I'm sure you'll all be singing along to it by the end :-)

Big thanks to Gemma from 'Greyscale Territory' who inititiated and hosts this meme. Click here to see more

Shadow Shot Sunday #106, Camera Critters #112

Bumble bee on pyracantha flowers in our garden
Cropped and enlarged
Thank you to Tracy from 'Hey Harriet' and Misty Dawn from 'Camera Critters' who work hard to organise and host these memes for our pleasure. To see more shadows or critters please click on the appropriate name. 

May’s Full Moon

'Full Moon over Kilauea' by Jules Tavernier  - oil on canvas 1887
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Child Moon
The child's wonder
At the old moon
Comes back nightly.
She points her finger
To the far silent yellow thing
Shining through the branches
Filtering on the leaves a golden sand,
Crying with her little tongue, 'See the moon!'
And in her bed fading to sleep
With babblings of the moon on her little mouth.
Carl Sandburg 1878 – 1967
Quite why May's New Moon should be called the 'Milk Moon' I don't know. Could it be that it coincides with the cows being turned out to pasture from their winter quarters? I think they may go out earlier so perhaps by May the milk is reflecting the benefits of fresh Spring grass.
I can understand the moon being called the 'Planting Moon' for May is the month in which many seeds are planted though I suspect it may derive from farming lore. We did a lot of planting a few days ago and already the flowering plants have put their feet down and lifted their heads and many of the seeds are germinating. The goldfish and rudd in the pond are becoming very active, racing to the surface for their food and flicking their tails to dive again, so a different sort of planting will be taking place soon – or rather a sowing of seed. Not much of the spawn survives – it is laid and then eaten by the prospective parents, the resident frogs and newts, developing dragonfly larvae (these somewhat unattractive creatures are known as 'nymphs' – isn't that picturesque?) and visiting crows and magpies. Those few eggs that go on to hatch must still elude the snapping jaws of the community they hope one day to join. We usually see two or three baby fish each year and there is little fear of the pond being choked with half-starved fish - the numbers have not increased dramatically over the years.
'Flower Moon' is an equally appropriate name for the May full moon. The garden is alive with colourful blooms and a thousand buds foretell the blaze that will erupt in June.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Music has charms to soothe a savage breast . . .

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
William Congreve (1670 1729) extract from 'The mourning bride' 1697
A policeman in Northern Ireland used his initiative when faced with an unruly mob of drunken teenagers. They were throwing missiles so he decided to use the address system in his vehicle to relay music to calm them. He chose music usually associated with patrolling ice-cream purveyors rather than patrolling panda cars. His plan worked! The teenagers stopped throwing things and started laughing.

However, he has been told that he must expect to explain his actions and is to be disciplined. I think he should be commended for his insight and common sense! Would the authorities, whoever they are, have preferred the situation to escalate out of control so that force should be used? Whatever happened to common sense in this world?

I say, 'Well done, officer, and more power to your elbow!'

The Spirit of Dunkirk

The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships is marking the 70th anniversary of Operation Dynamo by returning the original 'Little Ships' once more to Dunkirk. The flotilla of around fifty set sail from Ramsgate, Kent, at 0700 BST and expects to arrive at its destination around 4:00 pm. These small craft have been lovingly and painstakingly restored and preserved over the decades. They include fishing trawlers, pleasure craft, paddle steamers and lifeboats. They are being escorted by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Monmouth and the RNLI is providing a lifeboat escort.
This photograph of some of the 'Little Ships' was taken at Chatham Navy Days in 2002.
Photo courtesy of Colin Smith, Wikimedia Commons
On Saturday 29th May a commemorative service will be conducted at the Allied memorial on Dunkirk beach. A minute's silence will be followed by the playing of the national anthems of Britain, the Czech Republic, France and Belgium, the countries whose troops were rescued seventy years ago.Operation Dynamo was planned in the Secret Wartime Tunnels of Dover Castle. Churchill estimated that only 30,000 to 40,000 troops would be rescued, but in the event 338,000 were evacuated. He later described the operation as 'a miracle of deliverance.' The manoeuvre gave rise to the expression 'The Dunkirk Spirit' meaning indefatigable British determination and courage in the face of adversity and apparently insurmountable odds.
The Royal Naval ships had to wait off-shore in deeper water and the 'Little Ships' played their part by getting closer in to land so that they could transport troops to the larger vessels. Many soldiers made their journey back to Ramsgate in the smaller craft.
The original 1940 fleet of 900 naval and civilian craft made their hazardous journey across the English Channel (La Manche to the French) under the protection of the RAF. They had to avoid minefields and were fired on by the Luftwaffe whenever the weather allowed. The evacuation of Dunkirk is fittingly remembered as a victory over tremendous odds and it is right and proper that such events should be remembered.
(On a more personal note Barry's father had a cousin who was killed at Dunkirk. He was his parents' only son. His father, Barry's great-uncle, fought in the First World War and had been blinded in a gas attack. Barry met him only once and was shown this grand old man's collection of WWI shell cases – a display that made a deep impression on a young boy. His wife was German and the family history reports that she died of shame shortly after her son's death because of what her country had done – blinding her husband in the first war and then killing their son in the second. Poor woman!)

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Winston’s mid-May blog 2010

Winston here . . . p'rrrrr, p'rrrrr . . . 

I've just got back from seeing Nadia-the-Vet. It's all right, there's nothing wrong with me -I just had to have my annual booster. It doesn't seem like a year ago that me and Monty had our boosters and I got so embarrassed when he misbehaved. Who'd have thought he wouldn't be here this year? Poor Monty!When I got back today all the dogs rushed up to say hello and give me a good sniffing. It was nice to get home again and go back to my soft cushion in the conservatory. It gets really hot in there – soooper!I like going to the vet. Everyone makes a fuss of me and tells me I'm beautiful. Nadia-the-Vet's ever so nice but she did say I was a little overweight. I was rather hurt by that – I think I'm a fine figure of a feline and my tiger tummy looks very impressive. Still, I'll have to lose a bit of weight – I know it makes sense. It's been hot lately and the birds have been busy in the garden. It's fun watching them but I'm not interested in chasing them. They're ever so noisy and they start so early in the morning, before it's light. They're still flying about as it's getting dark, too. Don't think I'd like to be a bird! Too much like hard work, don'tcha know.

The stinging, buzzing things are flying about a lot as well. I leave them alone 'cos when I was a kitten I was playing with one and it left its sting in my chin. Mrs H got it out and I was all right and the lump soon went down but I don't want that to happen again and I definitely don't want none in my mouth.I heard that Foxy has got something wrong with her hips – hip displaced I think Mrs H said. Anyway, she's going to have some treatment, just like Jenna, but maybe one day she'll have to have a new hip. Poor Foxy! 

The tiny mice in Jenna's and Gus's ears have moved away now so everyone's pleased about that. Gus is ever so big and he's still growing. Jenna looks really small next to him. He keeps jumping on her and sometimes she yelps so Mr and Mrs H are making him stop. He don't mean to hurt his sister; he is only a puppy – just rather a large, strong one. Sometimes he jumps on me but I can hide in smaller or higher places than Jenna can. I think he's going to get as big as Frodo – I know he'd like to be as big as him 'cos he really likes Frodo.
What else has happened? Ooh, yes! There was water coming through the sitting room ceiling the other day but it's all right – Mr H knows what made it happen and he stopped it. He's ever so clever. Gus had a new toy and it had to be mended twice almost as soon as he started playing with it. Now all the stuffing's come out and the squeaker's gone. He keeps taking my toys, too. Gareth and Louis come over one day to collect their barbephew what Mr and Mrs H looked after when they was in Noo Yawk. Louis played with me – he likes me. Oh, and Mr H went off for the day – he went ailing and when he come back he was all red and ever so tired but he said he'd had a really good day and then he fell asleep. Mrs H had a quiet day at home all alone – apart from us, of course. It was really hot and all us animals slept all day. Mrs H didn't', though.

That's it, I think. Be good!


Tuesday, 25 May 2010

ABC Wednesday – S is for Starlings

Did you know that the Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is in decline? Though it is still a very common garden bird, particularly in the south of England, globally it is threatened and the RSPB has designated it a Red List species. Red is the highest conservation priority, needing urgent action.
These are noisy, gregarious birds and in May, when numbers have been swelled with hungry youngsters, our garden echoes to the prattling, screeching squadrons of starlings that flock in by the dozens to feed.
One year we saw a pure white starling. We only saw her once – for some reason we felt she was a female – and I suppose she was doomed from the moment she put on her unusual apparel.
Starlings are marvellous photographic subjects as they argue and manoeuvre to appropriate the best position on the feeders. The following are some photographs Barry took this week. For those not fluent in Starlingese – or is it Starlingish? – I have provided translations. The language, after all, is in the movement.
Left-hand starling (Lhs): Come on if you think you're hard enough!
Right-hand starling (Rhs): Hey! I'm just stretching my wings - calm down.
Lower starling (Ls): I thought this was a quiet neighbourhood.
Lhs: That's better - get them down!
Rhs: Okay   - they're down now. Happy?
 Ls: Just stop the gabbing and eat, why don'tcha?
Lhs: Have you seen that thieving magpie today?
Rhs: I saw him over there just now . . .
Ls: I'll fill my boots while I can!
Lhs: Have you ever seen anything like that? Oink, oink!!
Rhs: Yeah, leave some for us!!
Lhs: Don't look now but Show-off's on the way!
Rhs: Yeah, I can see him out of the corner of my eye.
Show-off: Mee-ee-ee-owww . . . Hi guys, did you miss me? 
Mumbles from the rest: Yeah, like a pain in the butt . . .
Show-off: Aww, I know you love me really!
The onlookers say: We'd love you a lot more if you stopped treading on us.
Lhs: Ouch! Get off my knee!
Rhs: I don't need your foot on my neck to find the food . . . so get OFF!
Show-off: Hey, just call me Isaac . . . (quotes) 'If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.' (Sir Isaac Newton 1642 - 1727)
Thank you to the tireless ABC Wednesday team for organising and hosting this weekly meme. Click here to see more Ss!

A walk in Simons Wood

It was very hot yesterday so we decided to take the dogs to Simons Wood where there's plenty of shade.
Decades of fallen leaves have bequeathed a soft, friable surface, soundless under foot and paw. There is an abundance of Scots pines in the wood and they were releasing clouds of pollen with their wonderful scent. The solemn mien of the pines is alleviated by the uncurling fronds of bracken, the grace and brightness of silver birch and the wild rhododendrons which are everywhere in abundance throughout this area.
Jenna is still not allowed free exercise. She recently finished her anti-inflammatory medication and after a few days she started a course of Cartrophen (Pentosan Polysulphate Sodium) injections to regenerate her damaged joints. She has had two at weekly intervals so far and will have another two in the next fortnight, then she will have monthly shots and finally, hopefully, annual boosters. This compound is not licensed for use in humans as it must not be used with steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin. Animals do not have free access to over-the-counter analgesics but humans do and a mixture of the two could be fatal! There is a large lake in Simons Wood with a small island in the middle where Canada geese nest each year.
Mallards and coots abound but this year all the ducklings and coot chicks and most of the goslings have disappeared. There are no pike in the lake but three large terrapins (turtles) have been spotted and they have come under suspicion for the demise of the baby water birds. I suspect that the terrapins once lived in someone's aquarium or garden pond and were rehoused in the local lake when they became too big or troublesome to look after. (I hope no-one is keeping baby crocodiles; they wouldn't survive the winter if similarly disposed of but could do a lot of damage before the cold weather arrived! I'm joking – I trust!)
As we approached the lake Frodo's stride lengthened and he plunged into the water to cool off, followed hotfoot (hotpaw?) by Jenna and Gus. Hydrotherapy is the only unrestricted exercise Jenna can undertake at present and she thoroughly enjoys her gambols in lakes and ponds. Buddy keeps well away from all water!
As Jenna and Gus tirelessly retrieved a large stick they were joined by a pretty Golden retriever who played with them for a while.
After she had gone home, a Jack Russell bustled up. He paddled rather than swam and was really more interested in playing chase on land with Gus. Much play-growling ensued, each in turn playing the part of catcher.
Eventually, he, too, went off with his master and we realised we had been out much longer than intended and returned home. The rest of the day was quiet, the peace being disturbed only occasionally by the snores of contented dogs.

Face of the Week #13 Rickshaw man

My father travelled the world while he was in the Royal Navy. One of the treasures he brought home was a silver condiment set in the form of a rickshaw. This is the face of the man pulling the rickshaw.
Sistertex of 'Spacial Peepol' organises and hosts this meme. Thank you, Sistertex. To see more please click here - and perhaps you will be inspired to join in!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Microfiction Monday #32

Susan from 'Stony River' organises and hosts this weekly meme. She provides a picture and the challenge is to create a story in 140 characters or less. Click here to read more marvels of microfiction – and perhaps be tempted to join in.
Susan has kept this meme going despite undertaking a BIG move – so let's hear three more rousing cheers for her now that she's safely back in the USA J

Here is this week's picture followed by my offering.
'My book's falling off my lap because of this straitjacket,' the middle monk grumbled.
'Try reading like this,' said the monk on the floor.
(138 characters)

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Today’s Flowers #94 Scots Pine

Who leaves the pine-tree, leaves his friend,
Unnerves his strength, invites his end.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)
(I pinched this quotation from Brian Johnston's site, linked below, because I liked it!)
Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris)
We saw these cones as we finished our walk the other afternoon and I asked Barry to photograph them. I thought they were developing cones.
In fact, when I started researching, I discovered (on Brian Johnston's most informative site)that these are male pollen-producing cones. I shall be looking for females next time we go past some Scots pines!
There's such a lot still to learn!
Thank you to the Today's Flowers team for their work each week, organising and hosting this meme. Click here to see more flowers across the world.

Pet Pride - Gus and Winston

Winston enjoys the dogs' company - here seen with Gus - but he doesn't actively seek them out like Monty used to. He's not as fond of the rough and tumble either, but at least he doesn't knead them - or not very often.
Thank you to Bozo and his human for organising this meme. Click here if you'd like to see more pets.

Camera Critters #111, Shadow Shot Sunday #105

This 'very berry' fat cake, as CJ Wildbird Foods' markets it, is attractive to blackbirds and song thrushes among others. It also attracts grey squirrels! As the song has it, 'All God's creatures  got a place in the choir!

Chorus: All God's creatures got a place in the choir,
Some sing low, some sing higher;
Some sing loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, their paws or anything they got now!
Listen to the bass it's the one on the bottom,
Where the bullfrog croaks and the hippopotamus
Moans and groans with a big to-toot,
And the old cow just goes moo.
The dogs and cats they take up the middle,
Where the honey bee hums and the crickets fiddle,
The donkey brays and the pony neighs,
And the old gray badger sighs.
Listen to the top where the little birds singing,
All the melodies and the high notes swinging;
And the hoot owl cries over everything,
And the blackbird disagrees.
Singing in the night time singing in the day,
The little duck quacks and he's on his way;
The otter hasn't got much to say,
And the porcupine talks to himself.
It's a simple song of living sung everywhere,
By the ox and the fox and the grizzly bear,
Grumpy alligator and the hog above,
The sly old weasel and the turtle dove.
All God's creatures got a place in the choir,
Some sing low, some sing higher;
Some sing loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, their paws or anything they got now!

Thank you to Tracy from 'Hey Harriet' for organising Shadow Shot Sunday, and to Misty Dawn for 'Camera Critters.'
To see more please click on the appropriate label.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

SkyWatch Friday Season 4 Episode 45 Billowy clouds this week

Billowy, pillowy clouds in Berkshire this week.
We have had SUN - delightful to see and very warm (for a Brit)
Thank you so much to the SkyWatch team who tirelessly organise and host this weekly meme. Click here to find out what other skies in other continents have been presenting.

To the rescue!

Photo courtesy of Press Association 
When a stag was spotted with his antlers snagged in a rope swing a few days ago the RSPCA was contacted. It called on the expertise of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service which sent its animal rescue officers to the site in Hook in Hampshire.It was a hazardous operation because the stag was full-grown with an impressive rack, which could have been lethal to approaching humans. He was very distressed, kicking out and throwing himself around, in danger of breaking his neck.
A long pole was used to place a towel over his eyes to calm him. As soon as he had quietened an RSPCA officer and a fire officer were able to cut the rope to free the uninjured stag which walked off into the woodland.
The rope swing was cut down to prevent potential entanglements of more wild animals.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

ABC Wednesday Round 3 R is for Roses

Everything in the garden seems to be rather late this year. I am looking forward to next month when our roses should finally be blooming.
These are photographs from previous years. Our roses have to work very hard - they have to flower, preferably for several months and have sweet scent and some of them have to climb and clamber over the arches.
I haven't given their names - pushed for time today :-(
Thank you to the ABC team for hosting this meme. What have other people found for R this round? Click here to find out!