Friday 28 August 2009

Camera Critters #73 Pet Pride Monty and the jigsaw

Both Winston and Monty like to see what's going on in the house. 'What are the humans up to now?' they ask each other and follow us around. Recently, I've been doing jigsaws. Every so often I revert to childhood and while away (waste) a few hours testing my powers of observation. I like to do them without reference to the picture on the box but Gillian prefers to study the picture. As she was staying with us recently, the picture was on show.
Winston likes to jump onto the jigsaw board, stretch his claws, sharpen them and then settle down to watch and eventually sleep. Monty leaps onto the jigsaw, clambers into the box of pieces and scrabbles around then walks across the partially complete jigsaw and lifts the blocks with his claws. After that he decides that he can do as well as the humans so picks up the pieces in his teeth. Eventually he lies down on the jigsaw making it impossible to fit any more parts.

We discovered three pieces were missing as we neared completion - h'mmm . . . MONTY!!!
To see more Camera Critters or candidates for Pet Pride please click on the appropriate title.
Many thanks to Misty Dawn and Tammy for hosting Camera Critters and to Bozo and his human for hosting Pet Pride.

Thursday 27 August 2009

SkyWatch Friday Season 4 - Episode 7 - Evening walk

Our eldest daughter has been staying with us for a short while with her children. A few days ago we took the dogs for an evening walk. It was good to breathe the fresh clean air in the forest.
The second and third photos will enlarge if clicked - don't know why the others won't . . .

It was getting late - past eight o' clock - and the sun was setting.

Marnie was hauling Dominie on her wheels. In this photo she and Callum and Kiri are pulling Dominie out of the pond. The Labradors, Tia, Jenna and Foxy were enjoying lots of swims.

Frodo and Buddy were following their own trail not too far away - they rarely stray far.

We returned home refreshed and happy and glad to be alive.
Thank you to Klaus, Sandy, Ivar, Wren, Fishing Guy and Louise for hosting this meme.
To join in or to see more beautiful skies from around the world please click here

Wednesday 26 August 2009

The eternal triangle!

Foxy: C'mon, Dominie, let's play - Jenna's not looking!

Foxy: Oops! Spoke too soon!
Dominie: Mind where you're stepping, Jenna . . .

Foxy: She's gone - c'mon, c'mon . . .

Dominie: Jenna, Foxy's playing with me. No, we don't want to play chew the bone. No, no, we really don't . . .

Foxy: I'm not saying anything.

Dominie: Ignore her - she'll soon go away.
Foxy: . . . but she's my friend - you're my friend - I want to be friends with everyone.
Last evening Gillian and I were in the dining room and we were gradually joined by most of the non-human animals and Barry. The three youngest humans in the house were in bed, supposedly going to sleep. Foxy, Gillian's fox red Labrador was lying next to Dominie and they were playing very gently. Dominie chewed her muzzle and when she stopped Foxy pawed her to ask her to continue. Jenna was trotting around with one of her toys - she has a basket of toys and rootles through each day to find the particular one she wishes to play with, usually taking it to bed with her at night-time. Some days it's a ball, sometimes one of the cat toys (!) at other times a nylon bone. Yesterday it was a stylised red plastic bone. She walked across Dominie and Foxy several times as if she were pointing out her relationship to them both. We could hear her saying, 'Foxy, you're my friend and I play with you. Dominie's my friend and I play with you. You and Dominie can play with me but you can't play with each other.' It was the typical three-girl triangle!
There was no aggression in her activity - she was simply being aggravating. She soon stopped when she realise they were taking no notice of her antics.

The Jackson Factor

The late unfortunate Michael Jackson is in the news again – and again – and again. It would appear that UK news stations are determined to continue to exploit him. We think there is a phenomenon at work which we call 'The Jackson Factor'. It works thus – the amount of news coverage is in inverse proportion to the importance of any event. The highest Jackson Factor score would be 10 where news items of no global impact are given excessive/continuous exhaustive air time. The lowest score of 1 would be awarded to events of global significance that receive little or no media attention.

To illustrate the point take the example of serious life-threatening water shortage for millions of people. For many years the UN has warned that water shortages will become one of the most urgent problems worldwide in coming years. One estimate is that four billion people will be affected by 2050. India, with a growing population and increasing agricultural and manufacturing output, is facing huge problems of water supply in rural and urban areas. Climate change may mean there will be less rainfall in future. Northern India has experienced the driest season for more than eighty years; the monsoon is late and the people are praying for rain as they struggle to live through a widespread drought. Fights have broken out and murders have been committed as desperate people rush to fill vessels with water during the limited periods that water flows through the pipes. For example, in Bhopal, known as the 'City of Lakes', the thousand-year-old largest man-made lake has shrunk from 38 sq km to 5 sq km. The population, some 1.8 million, has had water rationed to 30 minutes' supply every other day since last October. That ration is now reduced to one day in three. Indore, not far from Bhopal, is rationed to 30 minutes' supply every seven days.

In the south Mumbai has had heavy rainfall and flooding but even so levels in the lakes have dropped, forcing the water supply to be cut by 30%.

This startling, appalling chain of events scores extremely low on the Jackson Factor scale. It fails to grab reporting honours for the following reasons: it lacks 'celebrities', it is happening in an impoverished continent not inhabited by Westerners, it has no spectator participation with the attendant thrill of feeling that 'your vote counts'.

Recent Michael Jackson UK media coverage scores 10. Calamitous events in Bhopal score 1. Casualties in Afghanistan, while not global, affect many nations whose military forces are engaged and receive very little coverage. Deaths are reported while large numbers of maimed survivors are barely mentioned. Civilian casualties in Afghanistan are rarely mentioned. Low Jackson Factor of ??

Can we expect or predict that this over-reporting of 'non-news' will continue in a downward spiral to banality? Are we seeing the end of serious reporting of dramatic global events that will affect us all? Has sensationalist celebrity reporting overtaken the serious business of presenting information on matters of international and global importance?

It would be interesting to know if this phenomenon is being seen in other countries around the world.

Winston’s short quick August blog update

Winston here . . . p'rrrrr, p'rrrrr . . .
Thought you'd like to know I'm supplementing my diet. Caught and ate a spider yesterday – bit peppery in parts but that'll teach Mrs H to restrict my food intake don'tcha know.
(Note from Mrs H – if Winston's going to eat spiders I'll cut his food even further!)

Tuesday 25 August 2009

The Dog Days of My Life: #12 - Frodo

We were quite content with our two dogs, Dominie and Buddy, and were not intending to add to our pack. I had given up my full-time job and was enjoying the freedom to walk with the dogs at any time of my choosing rather than having to fit it in around work. They were well-behaved, friendly and extremely good company.

We went to lunch one Sunday with a friend of Barry's from long ago. One of the other guests was looking for a home for an adult Munsterlander. We talked about it during our ninety minute drive home and then decided that if we really wanted another dog we would prefer a Dalmatian, another running companion for Barry. After many phone calls we came across a five-month-old dog from a very well-known kennels. His breeder, Karen Goff-Leggett, had three young males and had to find a home for one of them. She had decided that Frodo would be the one but she wanted him to go to a home with other dogs, preferably Dalmatians, where he would have company and be well-exercised. We duly travelled to Lincolnshire and returned home with the piratical-looking Frodo. He was born around the time of the release of one of the 'Lord of the Rings' films and had been named accordingly. His registered kennel name is Washakie Lord of the Rings. (One of the others was called Dudley as he was born at the time of Dudley Moore's demise.)

Karen had already entered him for the Windsor Dog Show when he would be just six months old. I needed a crash course in handling for the show ring. Our first visit to Ringcraft class caused Frodo to bark at every dog that came near him – not an auspicious start. We survived the first show – in fact Frodo qualified for Cruft's which is not as great an achievement as it sounds; a puppy qualifies if it comes in the first three of a class in which it's entered in a Championship show. I entered him for several more shows but the summer of 2002 was very hot and I thought it would be unwise to subject him to extreme temperatures so didn't take him along. At our next show, a Dalmatian show, we galloped round the ring with Frodo attempting to take lumps out of the other competitors as we passed. When it was his turn to have the judge 'go over him' he growled at her – just a very soft, back-of-the-throat growl – and for me that was the deciding factor. Maybe he would have grown out of his mistrust but I felt he was not happy in the ring and so his short show career finished. In fact, he is a very reserved dog until he knows someone and then he's a friend for life. He is the same with other dogs unless they visit our house.

As it transpired the decision was a good one for he developed epilepsy just before his third birthday. It is not very severe – his seizures are short and his pre- and post-ictal behaviour are neither pronounced nor long. He has had one eleven-month seizure-free period but now the fits occur every three to five weeks.

Because of his wary attitude to strange people and dogs we worried greatly about introducing young animals. We need not have been apprehensive for he has consistently shown himself to be the gentlest of dogs with puppies and kittens (and babies) He had never met cats before he came home with us but was fascinated by the two elderly blue Burmese cats we then had, nosing and licking them. When Singleton passed on he and blind Pansy searched for her for a whole day, looking in all her usual haunts – they were both very puzzled by her absence. A year later Pansy died and once more he came to question me with his beautiful, intelligent eyes. The two Ocicats we have now are very relaxed with him, batting him with soft paws, licking him and curling up to sleep with him.

We laughingly call him the 'Velcro dog' for he sticks to me like cleavers. When out walking he rarely travels more than ten seconds without turning to see where I am. Indoors he is my constant shadow when awake. The anti-epilepsy drugs he takes cause him to sleep very heavily, like a puppy or an old dog, so that I can leave a room without him waking and following me. However, should the phone ring he's awake and howling instantly. Indeed our neighbours tell us that they always know when we're out because they hear the howling. I hasten to add this does not happen frequently – we rarely leave home without our dogs!

So, although we originally had no intention of acquiring another dog our handsome Frodo has brought much laughter into our lives as well as quite a few challenges. He is extraordinarily affectionate and very protective of his pack. I could walk anywhere with him and feel completely secure. Of all our dogs he is the most responsive returning immediately when called or whistled - the others come when they've finished their interesting sniffs, or in Jenna's case, the pursuit of deer!

To learn more about Frodo you might like to read the 'Frodo the Faller' posts - 'The Adventures of Frodo the Faller' and 'The Further Adventures of Frodo the Faller'.

Monday 24 August 2009

Winston’s late August blog

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

Do you like my latest portraits? Mrs Human thinks I'm putting on too much weight but Mr H says I've got a lovely tiger tummy – it swings when I walk and even faster when I run don'tcha know. Anyway Mrs H says she's putting me on a diet. Monty's got a tiger tummy too but she's not putting him on a diet. Well, she started it the other day and Gillian laughed and said I'd turned into Hunter Cat coz I was prowling around by the conservatory door while Monty ate his chicken wings. Then I went in and had mine. It's all right – I mean, I'm not starving – well, not yet, anyway.

Gillian and Mrs H have been fiddling about with small bits of coloured cardboard. Someone must have broken something and they were trying to put it back together again. It takes hours to mend just a little bit. Anyway, they mended one the other day and they were quite pleased 'cept they said there was a piece missing and wasn't that a shame? Looked all right to me and it was nice and warm to sleep on.

Next thing I know Marnie's broken it again. Monty and me thought she'd get into trouble after all the time it took Gillian and Mrs H to put it together but they actually thanked her. Then Mrs H brought in another box of broken bits and they started all over again. There's a special board they put it on and it's just right for stretching my claws, then I curl up on it and watch them till I fall asleep. Monty's a bit of a pest though coz he likes to get in the box with the bits and scrabble around. Gillian's afraid he'll think it's another litter tray coz the bits make a rattling noise like our litter. Sometimes he walks all over the mended bits and pulls them up with his claws. I walk over them too but I don't break them. I only pull up the keys on Mrs H's laptop – only by mistake though.

Everyone's getting excited coz Gareth and Nina's coming at the weekend. They've been in Noo Yawk for two years in a place called Man at'em ever so high up and now they're coming home. There's goin'to be a party coz it's Kiri's birthday on Sunday – she's ever so old don'tcha know – fourteen. It's goin' to be a party for Eve too coz she was eight in July but they were busy packing up to come back so Mr and Mrs H kept her presents here. Don't know if the others are coming. I'll tell you in my next blog.


Sunday 23 August 2009

Today's Flowers #54

French Marigolds (Tagetes patula) are brightly coloured daisy-like annuals and are easy to grow. They have a long flowering period and are useful in the garden for attracting insects and as companion plants for vegetables. They are believed to repel white fly and secretions from their roots kill nematodes in the soil. Yellow dye from the flowers is used to colour foods and textiles. In Asia leaf and flower extracts are used to stop nosebleeds.
'Marigold' derives from 'Mary's Gold' and the plant is associated with the Virgin Mary. Tagetes were brought to England by Huguenot refugees. They fled France after the St Bartholomew massacre of 1572 when tens of thousands of French protestants were murdered by Catholic mobs influenced by the French queen Catherine de Medici.

The name 'Pansy' comes from the French 'pensee' (can't place the acute accent on the first 'e') meaning 'thought' as the flower is considered to resemble a human face.

Thank you to Luiz Santillo Jr for creating this meme and for hosting it with Denise Gullickson, Laerte Pupo and Valkyrien.
To see more beautiful flowers please click here

Pet Pride - the boys wait . . .

Whenever Barry or I have the temerity to leave the house without the dogs the girls settle down to sleep but the boys wait by the front door urging our return. They squeak from time to time and Frodo occasionally howls which causes Buddy to howl too. Upon our return we are gently nipped, nosed, barged, whipped with hard tails and grinned at.
Frodo the Faller and Buddy Liver Spots

Come on - where have you GOT to?

Buddy: If I put my nose very close to the door I might be able to force their return - magic, you know.

Frodo: Just calm down Buddy - though I suppose a bit of howling might help. What do you say?

Thank you to Bozo and his human for creating and hosting this meme.

To see more lovely pets please click here

Saturday 22 August 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday # Qu'est-ce-que c'est que ca?

Qu'est-ce que c'est que ca? or - What the blazes is that?

No prizes but I'd love to know your guesses - no holds barred! The background is my garage floor if that helps . . . (can't see that it would . . . )

Thank you to Tracy from 'Hey Harriet' for creating and hosting this meme.

To see more Shadows from around this wonderful world please click here or on the logo

Camera Critters #72 noses and paws

I love dogs' noses. Jenna-the-Labrador was playing with Gentle Dominie yesterday. Dominie really enjoyed it. She can't initiate play now but she's still very much an alert and interested dog. She comes into the kitchen every evening nose a-twitch when I'm preparing supper just in case there are any titbits to be had.

A dog's sense of smell is thought to be 100,000 times better than a human's. Dogs can smell things as diverse as drugs, electricity, underground gas pipelines, insects in woodwork. They can smell week-old human fingerprints. Specially trained Jack Russells are used to detect brown tree snakes in the loading bays of aircraft in Guam. Dogs can even smell illness and can alert their owners to pending heart attacks or epileptic seizures. Their accuracy in detecting some cancers is greater than hospital scanners.

A gentle nudge from a dog's nose is one of the most trusting and loving acts a dog can perform.
I also love dogs' paws. These belong to Jenna - she has amazingly large feet for a relatively small dog. Labradors' feet are slightly webbed making them fast and efficient swimmers. In their original homeland of Newfoundland they were used by the fishermen to haul in their nets from the icy sea. Their thick wiry coats insulated them from the cold. A Labrador's coat can hold an enormous volume of water and onlookers are advised to stand well away when one or more Labradors emerge from deep water unless, of course, they like a cold, usually muddy shower!
Thank you to Misty Dawn for creating this meme and to Misty and Tammy for hosting it.
To see more Critters please click here.

Friday 21 August 2009

The art of photography . . .

In 1901 it was possible for members of the public to purchase a Kodak Brownie with which to take photographs. However, before cameras were widely and cheaply available those wishing to have a pictorial record of family life and events went to their local photographer's studio to have a likeness made. The photograph below was taken in 1904 in Southsea, Hampshire and shows my grandmother holding my father, the youngest of her three sons. When my father was ten his father drowned off Sheerness in Kent when his ship went down. His name is on the Royal Naval Memorial in Portsmouth.
I believe this is a school photograph of my father's class. It was taken around 1910. Class sizes haven't changed much since then. Look carefully and you may see a terrier-type dog between the girls in the front row and another small black dog at the right of that row. I think my father is fourth from the left in the second row.

Thursday 20 August 2009

SkyWatch Friday #58

Photographs this week were taken from the passenger seat of the car as Gillian and I drove from Berkshire to Dorset. We were caught in slow-moving traffic. Tom Tom informed us that there were delays just after we passed an alternative road - very helpful! We were told repeatedly that we were on the fastest route as we chugged along at 4 mph!

It was a pleasant sunny day and the sky was interesting. Despite the 'No U-turn' sign some drivers decided to risk it!
Beyond the fence there was a pig farm.
They had plenty of room to root around, adequate shelters and water and there were many crows keeping them company. Pigs need shade as they can suffer from sunburn.
It's good to know there are parking lay-bys ahead with public telephones. Cars overheat or break down and it's not always possible to get a signal on a mobile (cell) phone.

When we reached the turn off to Stonehenge we saw the cause of the traffic jam. There had been an accident on the opposite side of the road. Ambulance and police were in attendance and people on our side of the carriageway had been rubber-necking. Ghouls!

The traffic flowed freely thereafter.

If you would like to see other skies from around the globe please click here

Thank you to the hosts of this meme, Klaus, Sandy, Ivar, Wren, Fishing Guy and Louise.

An educated newt and an ambitious Mallard

Smooth or Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The independent school in which I was teaching was housed in a Victorian building that had once been a small hotel. It was warm and welcoming but not appropriate for the twentieth (soon to be twenty-first) century. The rooms were very small and the facilities minimal and it was becoming difficult to entice fee-paying parents to entrust their cif hildren to us. Eventually it relocated to a purpose-built building designed to foster every imaginable talent, though it too soon proved inadequate, requiring a separate annexe for art and science. The land on which it was erected was low-lying and close to water and nearby was a sinkhole which would take flood water in times of excessive rainfall - every fifty years or so, apparently.
The corridors were wide and spacious and carpeted in hard-wearing broad-rib cord. One day I was returning to my classroom when I noticed a little creature moving quite fast across the ridged carpet. On closer inspection I saw it was a smooth newt for which the carpet must have been like a ploughed field. I found a container and put the newt into it - my class found this very entertaining and kept asking to take off the perforated lid to see it more closely. At the end of the school day I was pleased to see that the newt was still alert and transported it carefully to my garden pond, several miles from its home territory. I felt rather guilty about this for I didn't know if I was sentencing it to a solitary life without friends and relations but over the course of the next few years I found several of these amphibians in varying stages of development.
In conversation with my next-door neighbour I told him about the newt and he said, 'I've got a newt and I call it Tiny.' I asked why and he replied, 'Because it's my newt.' (Ba-boom tish!)
(To be strictly truthful I didn't ask why until he prompted me because I was intrigued by the thought of him naming a newt - sometimes I take life too seriously!)
The school had a very successful Nursery class (kindergarten) with a small enclosed garden and playground. Children played happily and noisily there and one day the staff noticed that a Mallard duck had laid her eggs in a sheltered spot. They did a wonderful job of protecting her from the trampling feet and inquisitive fingers of three-year-olds and she hatched twelve eggs, giving cause for even more interest. Eventually the day came when she felt she must lead her brood to water. To reach this she had to leave the sanctuary of the Nursery garden, cross the large playground and negotiate her way out of it. The playground was uneven and punctuated at intervals by deep drains over which were heavy metal grids with large holes - potential death traps for tiny ducklings. I organised my class to marshal Mrs Duck and her babies safely round these hazards and although she was a little disturbed by so many humans around her she proceeded determinedly, her brood peeping as they skittered after her. I don't think she ever returned to her busy nesting spot.

I wonder how many of the youngsters survived to live their lives like the drake and duck above
The Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is a dabbling duck common throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. In New Zealand it is presently the most common duck species and is considered a pest because it is hybridising local related duck species. It is the ancestor of all domestic ducks apart from a few derived from the unrelated Muscovy Duck (Cairinia moschata)
Mallards are found in most wetlands including parks, ponds and rivers. A flock of Mallards is called a sord. Oftentimes two or more drakes will court a duck but there is also a high incidence - as much as 19% - of homosexual pairings.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Yet another butterfly

Yesterday, while hanging out the washing I saw a pretty butterfly ( . . . now haven't I said all this before on another occasion??) Anyway, it seemed to be taking its ease on a windowsill so I went indoors to fetch my camera and was delighted to find it was still posing helpfully so I took a photograph - well, I would have done but I'd forgotten to replace the memory chip after downloading to my laptop :-{. Needless to say the butterfly fluttered off before I could do the necessary. Muttering to myself I continued with the chores. (What chores? Gin and tonic please. . . . tada! . . . groan)Later on, Barry was walking the estate, camera at the ready, and took photos of a very pretty butterfly supping on the Candytuft - and it was the very same one I had seen in the morning, or at least a very close relative. I had no idea what it was so referred to 'Britain's Butterflies' by David Tomlinson which is illustrated beautifully with photographs, maps and drawings by Rob Still.
It is a Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) a butterfly that is very successful in the southern half of England. In recent years it has been gradually extending its range northwards. It is sometimes called the Hedge Brown because it favours shrubs and hedgerows. It lives in colonies of variable size and doesn't stray far from its community. It likes to rest with wings outspread in the sun.

Gatekeepers start to fly in mid-July with a peak of butterflies at the beginning of August. The flight period ends with the end of the month.

This particular individual is a female, already looking a little ragged on the hind wings. Males have a dark band of scales on the forewing - this is called the 'sex brand'. Although they are common and widespread they are vulnerable to intensive agricultural practices and removal of hedgerows.

Candytuft (Iberis umbellata) is a member of the Brassicaceae family, related to mustard. The name derives from Candia, the former name of Iraklion in Crete.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Pet Pride - the full complement

Taken a couple of years ago in the forest. The Labradors and the black-spotted Dalmatians have just come out of the pond. The two Labradors on the left belong to Gillian and come to us for their holidays. Buddy Liver Spots (on the left) dislikes getting his paws wet . . .
. . . but he likes standing in the long grass!

Thank you to Bozo and his human for creating and hosting this meme.

Saturday 15 August 2009

Camera Critters #71

There was a tiny spider on the conservatory the other day. Although less than 4mm it was a voracious hunter and as I watched it captured a small fly and proceeded to devour it. I don't like spiders generally but this one was so small and rather atttractively patterned.

It is munching the fly in the following photograph, difficult though it is to see.

On the Japanese Anemone a hover fly hovered . . .
A ladybird was busy inside the antirrhinum . . . (this is the only photo that will enlarge . . . no rhyme or reason to it!)
Thanks are due to Misty Dawn for creating this meme and to Misty and Tammy for hosting it.
To see more Critters please click here