Sunday, 31 July 2011

Saturday Centus #65 Only in the UK!

Jenny Matlock hosts this weekly meme. Thank you! J

Her challenge to participants this week is to use the prompt and up to 100 words to produce a piece of writing in any style. Click here to read more and perhaps be inspired to join in! This week’s prompt is a picture of a fried egg!

Occasionally the sun shines during summer. This is exciting but sometimes the temperature rises until everyone complains about the heat, remarking how it is the hottest day/week/month since anyone started noticing.

Soon the newspapers start reporting how it has been so hot that people have been frying eggs on the pavement or the bonnets of cars or their unfortunate children’s backs – no, I made up that last one!

Interesting but has anyone considered the health ramifications? Pavement eggs must carry every disease known to mankind and some that await identification. Cars? Dust, petrol, bird droppings . . .

Sunny side up?

Today's Flowers #154 July 31st

Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) - second flowering
Rambling rose
Honeysuckle
Clematis
 Loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata)

To see more beautiful blooms please click here.

Whoops! or A New Way to Wash the Floor

I know that tea-leaves used to be used to clean carpets in the nineteenth century. Used leaves were spread across the floor and then swept up. I learnt this from one of Valerie Martin’s novels where there were frequent references to a servant carrying out this task.

I have not heard of tea, particularly hot tea, in recently brewed liquid form, being applied to bare floors but this is what happened this morning. It was unintentional and was dispensed from this vessel . . .
. . . as Gus barged past. He received a hot shower, and so did Barry. Gus’s thick coat prevented any damage and Barry’s trousers did likewise.

Sadly, the mug broke when it hit the floor.

It is appropriate that it was dispatched by one of the breeds depicted on it.

Succinctly Yours Week 19

Grandma's Goulash at Succinctly Yours hosts this microfiction meme. 

Each week she posts a photographic prompt for inspiration and the challenge is to write a story using no more than 140 characters or words. 

Below is this week's photo followed by my offering. As an extra challenge, a word is offered for inclusion and this week’s word is proliferate.
He had been told to go forth and proliferate but it was not a friendly suggestion. The actual words used were short and only two in number.
(139 characters)

Saturday, 30 July 2011

It is Christmas!!

Xmas tree.svg
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Further to my post of 28th July it seems that it is Christmas already, at least in two famous London stores. Quite by chance I discovered that Selfridges had opened its Christmas shop on July 29th, 149 days before Christmas Day. 

I was astounded but today I found out that Harrods had opened its Yuletide shop two days earlier. Apparently, it has always followed the practice of selling early for Christmas but as I don’t shop at Harrods that fact had escaped me until now.

I decided to use Christmassy colours for this post to  . . . celebrate? . . . match the mood?                 

Bloggarts

How did they get there?

One of my blog posts has sprouted 29 links. I’ve no idea how they arrived but there they are, bold as brass! A couple of them are from a blogger who has not posted anything since February 2010.

Do these links come like thieves in the night? They certainly weren’t there yesterday. The thought of A. N. Other sneaking into my laptop and creating havoc has me quaking in my boots – well, my shoes, actually. Arethere impish blogging fairies like the boggarts – I suppose they’d be bloggarts – intent on mischief?

The bloggarts take liberties with my laptop in other ways, too. There was the case of the missing cursor, for instance, and the links I appeared to have put on other writers’ blogs, but hadn’t. There’s the case of the shifting font; I will have chosen one that I like but even as I type the whole page changes to a completely different typestyle and colour that I would never choose in a million years. Suddenly, this turns into this. Sometimes it returns almost immediately but often I have to adjust it with Home, Select All. Tiresome!

Maybe I should make offerings to the great gods of cyberspace. What would be a suitable donation, I wonder?

On the other hand, perhaps it’s just Blogger playing silly fools again. It has been misbehaving this week, first not allowing me to comment on other people’s posts and then denying me access to my blog. It didn’t sulk for long but it was annoying.

Friday, 29 July 2011

The Sixth Family Birthday of the Year

Today my only son’s only daughter celebrates her tenth birthday.

Eve is dark-haired, dark-eyed, a dainty, neatly-made little girl with an enchanting smile and a great deal of charm. She wears her heart on her sleeve and could be described as ‘sunshine and showers’ – she’s quick to tears but just as quickly coaxed out of them. She also has a very strong streak of determination that some might call stubbornness, particularly Nina, her mother, with whom she has some vigorous ‘discussions’.

Eve is a self-confessed ‘girly girl’ but is not as fond of pink as she used to be. I think purple is her favourite colour now. She enjoys the traditional female pursuits of dressing up and – very occasionally – wearing nail polish. When she has the chance she likes to apply make-up to any willing adult and does so quite skilfully. She is the youngest of our three granddaughters and it is good for her to spend time with her teenage cousins who enjoy gently indulging her. As the only girl in her own family she sometimes finds it hard to make her voice heard above her two brothers’ robust remarks.

Eve has loved reading from an early age and takes every opportunity to open a book and lose herself in it. Consequently, her vocabulary is extremely good. She belongs to the gardening club at her school and impressed Barry the last time she was in our garden with her knowledge of the plants. She is also creative like her younger brother, Louis, and spends much time drawing and making things.

When I go to Eve’s house to sit with her and her brothers while their parents are out, she and Elliot are most solicitous, offering refreshments at regular intervals. She is a lovely, sweet-natured child but becoming more serious as she grows older. She, and her brothers, are a credit to Nina and Gareth, and a joy to us all.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Is it Christmas already?

Xmas tree.svg
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons
It’s July 28th and today my first Christmas catalogue arrived. It’s true that it was disguised as the Autumn RNLI publication but inside are pages of cards and calendars, diaries and festive goodies.

I support the RNLI and recognise its need to raise funds but  . . . but . . . words fail me. I 
expect there will be a bucket-load of Yuletide catalogues arriving in the next few days. 

Maybe it’s just as well that we haven’t put the Christmas decorations away, yetJ (Do we ever? Occasionally!)

In Tandem #3 Brown eyes

In Tandem comes from the agile brain of Jinksy.
Here's what she says this week . . .
'This week the Tandem has two riders! Margaret Bednar has offered one of her original artworks to accompany mine.  I thought our two styles of portraits might make an interesting contrast...
They seemed to have a strange affinity, one with the other.'

studied the children at the gymnastics class and the young man with them, the father of one of them, I guessed. One little girl had blonde curly hair and big brown eyes. Her face had the roundness and flush of just-past infancy and it was difficult to see how it would develop. She was still little more than a baby but already her mouth seemed to have a stubborn set to it, a determination to have her own way. She was a pretty child, no doubt about it, but perhaps wilful and difficult – ‘a proper little character’ as some would say, thinking themselves fortunate that they would not have to witness evidence of her individuality. As I watched, she smiled and all hint of contrariness disappeared.

My attention was diverted by my own daughter executing a perfect back walk-over. When I looked back to the two children I decided that the other child, slightly older, I thought, was the young man’s daughter. She had the same straight, dark hair and deep-set brown eyes. Her cheekbones were more pronounced and a slight dimple in her chin confirmed it for me.

As the class came to an end, my daughter ran up to me, excited by the praise and encouragement the coach had given her. She looked over to the two little girls and waved at them. They were about to start their class.

‘Do you know those two?’ I asked.


She told me they were called Anne and Sarah.


‘And is that their daddy with them?’


She giggled. ‘No, he’s Sarah’s big brother. He’s watching them both until Anne’s mummy gets here.’


I nodded. The likeness between Sarah and her brother was remarkable.


As we were leaving a tall blonde woman came in and I waited a moment to see the greeting between mother and daughter, to confirm my deductions. To my surprise, she hugged the child I had thought was Sarah, shook hands with the young man and said ‘Hello’ to the little blonde-haired Anne.

For a moment I felt like saying to the tall blonde, ‘Are you sure?’ but common sense prevailed and my daughter and I went home.

(I have made the same wrong connections in the past and also other people have wrongly assumed my blonde daughters belonged to someone else!)

Barry and the Labradors

Gus, Jenna and Tia
Since Barry has taken over the feeding of the animals (which has turned into a scientific exercise) they, or the Labradors at least, have honoured him as their leader and follow him everywhere.

This slavish devotion (no, I’m not envious, really!) is most noticeable around meal-times – theirs, not ours, although they’re pretty keen when we’re eating – or rather when Barry is, because he frequently gives them small titbits and puts his plate on the floor for the bio-wipe of eager tongues. (All dishes go into the dishwasher!!)

However, they are  almost as dedicated to dogging his footsteps whenever he goes upstairs because ascending to the upper floor may mean that he is about to don suitable footwear for walking – and that means there will soon be an opportunity for much retrieving and splashing about in water and mud and hunting in undergrowth and bracken, brambles and bushes.

Retrieving is as instinctive to a working Labrador as swimming is to fish but they each have their own methods. Gus, the youngest, not quite two years old, watches carefully and races to where the Aqua Kong lands. Once in the general area he relies on his nose to locate it. Jenna, six years old, anticipates where it will land and dashes off – cheating, really! Our daughter’s dog Tia is ten and she watches even more conscientiously and notes where it has dropped. She is not as speedy as the younger dogs and has not yet learnt that the quickest route is over ground. If the Kong has landed on ground on the opposite side of the water she swims across while Jenna and Gus sprint round the edge. The three of them are more evenly matched in the water but while Jenna and Gus leap out at the closest point to land, Tia continues to swim back the whole distance. Foxy, Gillian’s fox red Labrador is six but does not compete with the others – they are faster and she knows it. She has retrieving practice with a sturdy stick. In fact, she is perfectly happy simply swimming but we encourage her to retrieve. Her fastest retrieves occur when biscuits are involved!

We have never trained our dogs for field trials or to the gun, which is a crying shame really as they come from generations of Field Trial and working champions. However, they have a good life with plenty of opportunities for mental stimulation and to use their skills.  When I throw the Kong into a pond or lake and they all reach it at the same time it often gets pushed under the surface and then they look as though they’re dipping for apples as each tries to grab it. I’m sure I could train them to take part in synchronised swimming as they spin round in the water.

Sometimes the Kong gets entangled with water plants or simply sinks into the sludge and then they are thoroughly exercised looking for it. A couple of days ago it became completely immersed so that all that could be seen was the knot at the top of the attached rope. The dogs could smell it, even under water, and as they bobbed again and again for it their coats rapidly changed from black to chocolate – apart from Foxy, who went a rather attractive bi-colour red and brown. Gus, a very keen bobber, soon had a mud-covered face, but, undeterred, continued to work.

Now, the bitches - my youngest daughter hates me calling them that so, okay, the girls have superior sighting skills – I think it’s something to do with having the responsibility for bringing up puppies – but even so, Jenna, the champion spotter, needed a lot of direction to find the knot. I did a good deal of pointing and encouraging and eventually she saw it and caught it.      

They are such willing workers and it’s a wonderful sight to see the three blacks and occasionally a fox red, quartering the ground and working together in the undergrowth, tails wagging all the while. We can always tell when the quarry has been found because the tail wags become much faster.

But before that comes the trotting in time, like two pairs of carriage horses, clattering across our bare floors after the Master. They stamp around our bedroom, playing rough and tumble, before following Barry down the stairs again, attached to his heels by invisible cords.

Getting into the car is a noisy business, with much pushing and shoving and complaining. Gus performs a neat body slam to Jenna as he leaps and twists in the air to go in hindquarters first.  Foxy and Tia, knowing the attractions ahead (much water) behave like most young children on holiday, squealing with delight and being grumbled at by the grown-ups. Jenna and Gus are quiet and Frodo only has eyes for me.

And when we reach home again, with five tired, grubby, wet dogs, Winston is at the door, miaouing a greeting and asking us where we’ve been.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Poetry Jam Sixty-seven

Poetry Jam invites consideration of the age of 67. (I think consideration AT the age of 67 would be better.)

A further challenge is to write in an unfamiliar form. 'If you're a rhymer, don't rhyme. If you're not a rhymer, rhyme.' 

H'mm! The trouble is that I'm a wordy soul(that's WORDY not WORTHY) and never know when to stop. Maybe it's just my age;-)

I’m sixty-seven now, have been for months -
It’s just another number 
Or so I tell myself and believe it
Until I pass a mirror!
Though I swim and garden and walk the dogs,
Getting up from a chair is tough -
It’s nothing to do with the passing years,
I was fine till New Year’s Eve.
Then I danced and jived in my high-heeled shoes
Until the midnight hour.
Long journeys to take the dogs to Dorset
Who spent the night with daughter
And then home again the very next day
Caused sacroiliac pain
So that I lurched like a drunken sailor -
You’d think one leg was shorter.
It’s much better now, though I use a pole
When I’m walking in the woods;
It’s just for confidence, you understand -
Tripping on tree roots is jarring
And a folding stick accompanies me
If I have to walk elsewhere.
My daughters and son worry about this –
It’s an unusual sight for them.
They see beyond the casual excuse,
Believing that I’m ageing.
I shall not dance again next New Year’s Eve,
Or at least not in high heels.
When I’m sixty-eight I’ll be walking straight
And rising with ease from seats.
Don’t they say that great wisdom comes with age?
How much older must I be?

Barry and I both use Pacerpoles. He uses two because he's sensible. I use one, because I'm not and also I need one hand for the AquaKong - or to grab Frodo, the over-protective Velcro dog.


ABC Wednesday Round 9 B is for . . . Bee!

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!
Isaac Watts (1674-1748) ‘Against Idleness and Mischief’

We were concerned earlier in the year when there didn’t seem to be many bees in the garden. When I look back at photographs from other years I can see that we had cause to be alarmed. There were bees flying in April and May but not very many.

Now though, in high summer, the bees are busy enjoying the plants we have grown specifically for them.J (That is actually quite accurate – our garden has been planted with wildlife in mind.)

The nectar that honey bees (Apis mellifera) collect is stored in their stomachs to be transported to the hive. While in the stomach it is converted into honey by proteins and enzymes produced by the bee. This takes about thirty minutes.

Honey bees store the honey in the hexagonal wax cells of the honeycomb and fan the thin honey with their wings to evaporate the water and thicken it. (The nectar from which honey is produced is about 80% water. Honey has about 16% water.) When a comb is full it is sealed with wax and the bees start to fill the next empty comb.

Bumble bees also make honey, though not in sufficient quantities for it to be a commercially viable proposition. They produce only enough to feed their young. They are larger, slower, gentler than honey bees.

The bumble bees Barry photographed on Monday I have identified, probably erroneously, as Bombus hortorum, the Garden bumblebee. We think they were queens since they were very large and lovely and bumbling. The Garden bumblebee has a very long tongue and likes to collect from trumpet-shaped flowers, like honeysuckle, foxgloves – and nasturtiums! It has a much longer face than other bumble bees when seen from the front. 
In general, honey bees sting only when protecting the hive or if stepped on or roughly handled. Bees evolved the ability to sting other insects whose external surface is not elastic like the skin of mammals.  Thus, a honey bee may sting an insect and live to tell the tale, or, if the sting is broken off, she may continue to exist without it. When a honey bee stings a person, the barbs are caught in flexible flesh and she cannot pull her sting out. In this case, still affixed to her victim, she may be swatted and killed or she may pull so hard that the sting, poison sac and some of the contents of her abdomen will be dragged from her body and she will fly away to die. Honey bees are the only bees to die after stinging. 

Interestingly, the poison-pumping muscles will also probably still be attached and can continue to operate for a short while. You may choose to pull out the sting or scrape it off. Either way, the sting will hurt for a considerable time.

Whether I have named them correctly or not, the pleasure we get from watching and photographing them is not diminished. I don’t think they would mind if they’ve been misnamed – they enjoy the flowers, I’m sure. 

Incidentally, did you know that bees haven’t got ears? No, neither did I!
Going in!
Nearly there!
I can't see you so you can't see me.
All done.
I'm off - and yes, I have got wings. They're moving so fast you can't see them.
Does my bum look big in this?
Yum!
. . . and away I go, too!

See more Bs here:-)

Monday, 25 July 2011

Poetry Jam Temptation

The prompt at Poetry Jam this week is 'Temptation'

   Temptation 

Can I tempt you to try one?
I’ll persuade you, I know -
Tantalising and such fun 
To let yourself go. 

Seductive, inviting, 
Just one little goody 
Makes exciting biting
For a fasting foody. 

Can I attempt to exempt you, 
Pre-empt your objection 
To tasting a small piece
Of chocolate confection?

No? All the more for me, then! 

Magpie Tales #75 Marianne

Thanks go to Tess Kincaid who organises and hosts this meme J To read more Magpies please click here.
 Image courtesy Tess Kincaid
Freewheeling along the twisting country lane on a fine July day Marianne relished the warm air caressing her naked breasts. Tossing her head back, her long blonde hair streaming out behind her, she looked up and, extending her right arm, pointed her index finger at the sky. She felt that if she reached just a little higher she would be able to touch the brightest star in the heavens.

‘Sirius,’ she murmured, ‘the Dog Star, more ancient than time. I’ll look out for him tonight. What a wonderful way to spend a holiday, cycling by day and stargazing by night.’

The road surface was becoming rutted and Marianne realised she must concentrate if she were to avoid an accident. Still caught in her reverie she didn’t notice the crowds lining the way. Dimly, she heard roaring and gradually understood that people were cheering and clapping. A motorcycle passed her, the pillion passenger wielding a large video-camera. Seconds later a cyclist in bright, skin-tight shorts and jersey sped past, followed at a short distance by several other cyclists. Cars carrying quantities of bicycles tracked them.

As Marianne absorbed all this she heard a whirring behind her that grew in intensity but before she had an opportunity to risk looking over her shoulder she found herself, to her alarm, being carried along in a mass of men and machines. None of them appeared to notice her nudity, so concentrated were they on maintaining their individual cadences. The different colours of the helmets and racing strip made an eye-catching kaleidoscope of high speed motion. At last, Marianne realised that somehow she had been caught up in the peloton in the penultimate stage of the Tour de France.

When the racers crossed the finishing line, officials rushed forward to offer Marianne a jersey; it wasn’t green, yellow, white or polka-dotted but black and knee-length. Blushing, she was led away to be interviewed by the race committee.







Sunday, 24 July 2011

Saturday Centus #64 Before I die

Jenny Matlock hosts this weekly meme. Thank you! J

Her challenge to participants this week is to use the prompt and up to 15 (fifteen???) more words to produce a piece of writing in any style. Click here to read more and perhaps be inspired to join in! The prompt is in red italics.

Before I die I want to see  
Peace and love and honesty
In this world for you and me.

Today's Flowers #153 July garden flowers

dianthus
dianthus
dianthus
pyracantha with hoverfly
pansy
calendula
nasturtium
Do you think the little hoverfly knows how beautiful it looks against the nasturtium?
The colour certainly suits him!

To see more lovely flowers click here.

Camera Critters #172 Hoverflies

Click here to see more Camera Critters


Hoverflies July 2011

I Saw Sunday Week 45 Foxy and the Magic Dish

 I have seen other blogs featuring I Saw Sunday and, today being Sunday, I decided to join in.


(Foxy is my eldest daughter’s fox red Labrador. She and Tia are staying with us while their family is on holiday.)

Foxy and the Magic Dish

Every morning Foxy finishes her breakfast and immediately crosses the kitchen to investigate the other dogs’ bowls. This is not unusual – all the dogs check each other’s dishes just to make sure there are no morsels remaining, then return to their own to confirm that there really is nothing left. Some of the more hopeful dogs wait for Winston Ocicat’s bowl to be available for perusal. Foxy is always one of this number.

The same ritual is performed at supper time. Despite the recurring disappointment of never finding any scraps, at various points during the day the humans are eating and there is a slim possibility of crumbs being offered for canine delectation. Again, sadly, the dogs are usually thwarted.

Foxy, however, is the eternal optimist and the kitchen rings to the sound of metal dishes clattering across the floor as she enthusiastically licks, and licks, and licks again, rushing from one bowl to the next, tail wagging, tongue working overtime.

I think at some point Foxy must have heard the story of the Magic Porridge Pot and truly believes that if she tries really, really hard, the dishes will magically refill and she will be in seventh Labrador heaven. I fear she is destined to perpetual deflation – which is just as well, since she would otherwise be subject to huge inflation.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Two in Tandem Embroidery

Jinksy organises this challenge here
Image copyright Jinksy
From his vantage point on the mountain peak he looked down on the monastery with its fortified lodge. It once had been an emperor’s stronghold, the mountains behind defying invasion, the flat land before allowing no hiding place. When the last empire collapsed a calmer realm evolved; its peoples, sickened by the old tales of bloodlust and inhumanity, had turned to the gods of nature for direction. The fort became a temple and its priests invoked the spirits of trees and rocks, water and air to temper and guide them.

Years passed and the memories of the old empire faded. The people were content but neither questioned nor wished to progress. For them the turning of the year was a mystery, the passage of day and night even more so. They relied on their priests to ensure that the sun would travel the sky each day and the new order of priests believed that the brilliance of sunrise and sunset indicated a colossal, omnipotent god who must be assuaged if he were to allow his face to be seen each day.

Sandstone slabs were hauled into place by sweating labourers who believed that their priests knew the correct rituals to follow and when they proclaimed that human hearts were necessary to propitiate the Sun God, they were sad but resigned. Each family hoped that it would be spared but as the priests chose so they accepted. So time went on and the new religion took occupancy.

All this he pondered as he gazed on the landscape from his eyrie. The vivid blues and purples contrasted strongly with the lush green of trees and bushes and the silvery stream and meadow flowers. The land was nonetheless powerful and strange, steeped in myth and primeval fears.

The photograph he mailed to his mother was the last she received from him. When she received the news that he had fallen to his death she wept and grieved but took his last image and translated it into embroidery.

Backstitch, chain stitch, stem stitch, satin stitch, lazy daisy, feather stitch – and finally, French knots, which matched her tears as she completed the picture.