Tuesday 18 June 2024


Pussy cat, pussy cat . . .  


where have you been are you going?

This cat came to live with us a little while ago. He just looks like a boy cat to me and I love his smiling face and pink cheeks.

He is going to live on the front door step, with a pretty plant growing in him.

I actually bought a plant – the one plant I bought at the garden centre a while ago - a bright verbena, which may have been pink or red. I cannot tell the colour now, as it seems to have died a death. I suppose it may resurrect itself but I’m not optimistic.

I’m considering what I might try in there instead. At the moment, I’m thinking of nasturtiums, but I’m not sure. I’ll keep you posted.

Pussy cat, pussy cat,

Where have you been?

I’ve been up to London

To look at the Queen.


Pussy cat, pussy cat,

What did you there?

I frightened a little mouse

Under her chair.

This traditional rhyme was first published in 1805. The queen referred to in the nursery rhyme is believed to have been Elizabeth I, who reigned from 1558 until 1603. Illustrations often depict the queen of the verse in Elizabethan costume, some 200 years after her death. Some suggest the queen might have been Caroline of Brunswick, the estranged wife of George IV, again based on the style of dress illustrated, but she was queen from 1820 until 1821. The truth is that we do not know the exact origins of the rhyme and it really doesn’t matter.          

Monday 17 June 2024

String of hearts


String of hearts

Ceropegia woodii is a succulent flowering trailing plant native to South Africa and Zimbabwe. It was discovered in 1881 by John Medley Wood, the curator of the Durban Botanic Gardens, hanging from rocks on Groenberg Mountain. In 1894, J. M. Wood sent a living plant to The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The plant eventually flowered and was named for the man who discovered it.

The plant has heart-shaped mottled grey-green leaves and thrives on benign neglect. It dislikes being heavily watered and the recommendation is to allow it to dry out between waterings, some say until 'the top two inches of soil are dry.’

It is grown principally for its pretty leaves, but also produces pale pink tubular flowers in summer. In its natural habitat, its trailing vines can reach 4 metres, though it is unlikely to reach such lengths in a Northern European conservatory.

Other names for it include rosary vine, sweetheart vine and chain of hearts. 

Sunday 16 June 2024

Daily column


Daily column

                                        Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Professional writers who produce a daily newspaper column find inspiration where they may. Sometimes, it’s personal – a reflection on a recent colonoscopy, perhaps, or a death in the family. At other times, they look to the news, good, bad or indifferent, and weave a story from it. Entertainment can supply a rich vein of material, but the requirement remains that a column must be written, of a certain length and by a defined date and time.

Even more taxing, I imagine, is the job of the cartoonist. It is difficult to encapsulate current affairs through drawing. Some artists are very successful and manage to convey their comment clearly, with small, telling details half-hidden to be discovered with joy by eagle-eyed observers. Other cartoons are almost indecipherable. On such occasions, it is often comments from readers that make matters clearer.

When there is a rapid turnover of political figures, it is not easy to caricature people relatively unknown to the public.

At present, with at least three elections being contested, political commentators and cartoonists are spoilt for choice. Biden versus Trump (how can that continue - a convicted felon being allowed to stand for re-election?), Sunak versus Starmer (and maybe Davey), and Macron versus the rest, all present rich pickings. 

Every gaffe, blunder, outright lie, is picked over and dissected mercilessly, and speculation, already rife, is approaching fever pitch, or would be, if there were anything riveting to discuss. We are three weeks away from the General Election in UK. The French election must be done and dusted before the onset of the Olympics on 26th July and the American election rumbles on in its hugely divisive manner until polling day in November.

 I’ve just received a notification on my watch to say that Trump has a significant lead in the contest. Oh, dear!

Saturday 15 June 2024

Regimental mascots


Regimental mascots

                                            Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

A regimental mascot, also known as a ceremonial pet or military mascot differs from a military animal, in that it is not deployed for any purpose other than ceremonial. Since the 18th century, British army regiments have adopted mascots, to bring luck and strengthen morale among the troops.

Some mascots have official status, with a regimental number and rank, and can be promoted or demoted, according to their behaviour. For example, Lance Corporal Billy Windsor, the goat mascot of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Welsh, was demoted to fusilier in 2006, charged with unacceptable behaviour and disobeying a direct order. He had marched out of line, in front of Queen Elizabeth II, and attempted to head-butt the drummers. He eventually regained his former rank and retired to Whipsnade Zoo three years later.

While he was the regimental mascot, he received two cigarettes a day to eat and a drink – maybe a pint! – of Guinness.

The Royal Welsh and their predecessors have maintained goats as mascots since the 1770s. The legend is that during the American War of Independence, at the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill, a wild goat wandered onto the battle field and led the Royal Welsh Fusiliers’ colour party from the field. From that time the Royal Welsh have always had a goat as their mascot. The current mascot is Lance Corporal Shenkin IV, 3rd Battalion, the Royal Welsh.

                                        Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

A more unusual mascot was a Bengal tiger, who was named Plassey after the famous battle of 1757.  He belonged to the 102nd Regiment of Foot (Royal Madras Fusiliers) and in 1870 he travelled with them and two leopards, to Dover, where he lived at the regimental base. He was not chained and wandered at will, but had a habit of frightening the local populace and so was given to London Zoo, where he died seven years later.

The cap badge of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, successors to the 102nd Foot, depicted a tiger, a symbol in Indian culture of grace and strength. The Royal Dublin Fusiliers were disbanded in 1922, following the establishment of the Irish Free State (Eire).

The Staffordshire Regiment has as its mascot a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, always named Watchman. The current holder is Lance Corporal Watchman VI. Their association started during the Egyptian War in 1882. When leaving Cairo by train, the South Staffordshire Regiment were accompanied by their bull terrier, Boxer. He was frightened when the train started and jumped onto the tracks. He was assumed to be dead, as he lay so still. A few days later, having arrived at their destination, the soldiers noticed a dog following them. Remarkably, it was Boxer, who had run 200 miles across the desert to rejoin his regiment.

                                    Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Other mascots include a Shetland pony, a Welsh mountain pony, an Irish wolfhound and a ram. The 2nd Battalion the Royal Yorkshire Regiment has two ferrets, Imphal and Quebec.    

                                                Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In other countries, the mascots can be unusual. Major General Sir Nils Olav III, Baron of the Bouvet Islands, is a King Penguin and Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian King’s Guard. He lives at Edinburgh Zoo.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, has Quintus Rama as their mascot. He is a Sumatran tiger and accompanies them during military parades. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment has a wedge-tailed eagle, Courage, the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment has a dingo called Wooly, and the 1st Aviation Regiment has a peregrine falcon called Penny Alert.

Friday 14 June 2024

Trooping the Colour


Trooping the Colour

                                        Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The King’s Birthday Parade takes place every year in June. Commonly referred to as Trooping the Colour, the ceremony takes place on Horse Guards Parade and has marked the Sovereign’s official birthday since 1748.

This year it is the turn of the Irish Guards to lead the military parade and troop, or carry, their colour through the ranks.. 

                                    Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

At the head of the massed pipes and drums will be Turlough Mór, a beautifully bred Irish Wolfhound, known as Séamus. He will be wearing a solid silver collar and a specially tailored scarlet cape and will walk proudly beside his handler, Drummer Adam Walsh.

The ceremony starts at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday 15th June.

Thursday 13 June 2024

Crime scene


Crime scene

In the woods a pile of feathers indicates that an attack has taken place. There is no body, no blood, just a sad collection of hastily shed plumage, so there is some hope that the victim escaped, shaken but safe. The feathers belonged to a wood pigeon.

These woods are not used for shooting. In all the years we have frequented them, we have heard gunshots only once, so it is pretty certain that it was not a gundog that caused the feathers to fly, so to speak. Gundogs, particularly young ones, dislike picking up wood pigeons because the birds have loose feathers that can fill a dog’s mouth and put them off retrieving. Someone said that the dog looks as though a pillow has exploded in its mouth! With careful training, the reluctance can be overcome.

So, who was the culprit? It may have been a fox or a sparrowhawk or possibly an enthusiastic dog. We will never know, but I, for one, am glad that there was no corpse. Nature may be red in tooth and claw but I prefer not to see too much evidence of that.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Lipstick plant


Lipstick plant

The botanical name of the lipstick plant is Aeschynanthus radicans rasta. It grows in the forests of Asia as an epiphyte and prefers a warm, bright humid atmosphere to thrive. Although in its natural habitat, it grows on trees or in rocks crevices, it will live happily in a pot in free-draining soil.

The ‘lipstick’ flowers emerge from dark red tubes at the ends of twisted leaves carried on cascading stems.  


It is relatively easy to look after, with one site saying that it is ‘perfect for those new to plant parenthood’ and suggesting that the soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings. It looks well in hanging baskets, providing interest all year round.