Monday 30 November 2009

Mother or Mistress?

Frodo is spending the morning with the vets. He's having bile tests and a scan to see how his liver is functioning. One of the medications he takes to control his epilepsy, Phenobarbital, is known with prolonged use to have a deleterious effect on liver function. His latest blood results last week showed a greatly increased rise in one of the liver enzymes, ALP (Alkaline phosphatase) hence his in-patient status today.
So the morning routine was disrupted because Frodo was not allowed to eat before the first bloods were taken. All the animals variously yowled at me, patted me, followed me, threatened to trip me up as they waited in vain for breakfast. Gus was particularly insistent - he is not just a hungry puppy but a hungry Labrador puppy with very strong instincts for sustenance.
I took Frodo to the vet just after half-past eight. He was somewhat surprised to be there again so soon but is a very adaptable dog and accepts his lot in life. The consent form duly filled in I prepared to leave at which point Brenda, the head receptionist, said, 'Come on, Frodo - you'll see your mummy again soon.'
This is not the first time I have been referred to as 'Mummy' to our animals. (I don't think they call Barry 'Daddy'!) Usually I make a passing reference to being an old bitch - or cat. I started to wonder which is preferable - to be a mother to an animal or a mistress. I suppose the maternal role is slightly more respectable as mistress implies a woman of somewhat easy virtue. What title should I have? Owner, handler, companion, partner-in-crime? I think 'servant' might be the correct term!

Sunday 29 November 2009

Something to make you smile . . .

Before the advent and popular acquisition of radio, and later, television people used to go to the theatres for light entertainment and the Music Hall was a popular venue. Here comedians, singers, variety acts of many persuasions performed for their audiences. Oftentimes a monologue would be declaimed by comics like Max Wall and Tommy Handley. The following is an example that we might do well to follow! You can see more monologues here.


There is nothing the matter with me.
I'm as healthy as I can be.
I have arthritis in both my knees
And when I talk, I talk with a wheeze.

My pulse is weak, and my blood is thin
But I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.
Arch supports I have for my feet
Or I wouldn't be able to be on the street.

Sleep is denied me night after night,
But every morning I find I'm all right.
My memory is failing, my head's in a spin
But I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.

The moral is this, as my tale I unfold,
That for you and me who are growing old,
It's better to say "I'm fine" with a grin
Than to let folks know the shape we are in.

How do I know that my youth is all spent?
Well, my "get up and go" just got up and went.
But I really don't mind when I think with a grin
Of all the grand places my "get up" has been.

Old age is golden, I've heard it said;
But sometimes I wonder as I get into bed
With my ears in the drawer my teeth in a cup,
My eyes on the table until I wake up.

Ere sleep overtakes me, I say to myself,
"Is there anything else I could lay on the shelf?"
When I was young my slippers were red,
I could kick my heels over my head

When I was older my slippers were blue,
But I still could dance the whole night through.
Now I am old, my slippers are black,
I walk to the store and puff my way back.

I get up each morning and dust off my wits
And pick up the paper and read the obits.
If my name is still missing, I know I'm not dead
So I fix me some breakfast and go back to bed.

Today's Flowers #68 Late blooms

Barry took these photos during the week in between rain squalls. It's still relatively mild in our southern part of England so the flowers continue to bloom in the garden and the hanging baskets. The marigolds have flowered generously but are beginning to look a little bedraggled and rather too bright for the quieter tones of Autumn.
The geraniums are bright too, but are in keeping with Nature's palette at this time of year.
The flowers of the scented-leaf geraniums are not showy but are nonetheless very pretty when noticed. These plants will have to come indoors very soon when frost threatens. Unfortunately, most of the labels are illegible so I have to guess whether they're pineapple, orange, mint, apple and so on! I don't really mind - I just love the scents!
Busy lizzies work hard to earn their place in the baskets and planters. I've taken cuttings so may have some throughout the winter.
Thank you to the Today's Flowers team of Luiz Santilli Jr, Denise Gullickson, Laerte Pupo and Valkyrien for hosting this fabulous meme.
To see what others have to offer
please click here

Saturday 28 November 2009

Camera Critters #86,Pet Pride, Sleeping Puppy

Dogs with good hip joints are able to sleep with their hind legs stretched behind them. Many of our dogs have been able to do this but we've never before seen any of them cross their paws at the same time! Sleeping with the tip of the tongue poking out is very common. Dreaming of earlier times at the milk bar, maybe?
Gus is 12 weeks old today and has had all his vaccinations. In another week we will be introducing him to some of our favourite walks. What fun!

Thanks are due to Misty Dawn for Camera Critters and Bozo and his human for Pet Pride.
To enjoy more wonderful critters and pets please click on the appropriate title.

Six Word Saturday Cold morning sky

Cold morning sky, bright new day
Thank you to Cate from 'Show My Face' for hosting this meme.
What are other folks saying? Click here to find out!

Thursday 26 November 2009

SkyWatch Friday Season 4 Episode 20

Late afternoon sky in Berkshire, 26th November 2009 The sky looked very grey but apparently was blue . . . . . . and I hadn't realised the clouds were so noticeable . . .
This oak still hangs on to its last leaves . . .
. . . and the waxing moon peeps through the branches of another oak!

I love looking at the sky in all its moods. If you share that interest, please click here and remember to say 'Thank you' to Klaus, Sandy, Fishing Guy, Wren, Louise and Sylvia who host this enjoyable meme.

We think we know what the spider has been up to!

Barry took some more photographs. (Can you tell he has a new lens to play with?) Barry thinks the female spider has wrapped her defunct mate - the equivalent of putting food into the larder. I argued that it might not have been her mate and how did he know it was a female anyway? He riposted, 'You can tell by the size of her mouth!' He decided at that point to go elsewhere before any harm befell him.
If you're not tremendously squeamish you can see more detail by enlarging the photo. Look closely and you will see legs inside the cocoon.

What has this spider been doing?

It looks as though there are two spiders here but there are only eight legs!
Has a female spider eaten her mate - legs first?? Unlikely - surely the body is the juiciest part? (*shudders* I can't believe I'm saying this!) In any case, males are smaller than females.
Has the spider sloughed off its skin? That seems possible but there are still only eight legs!
We enlarged the photograph to try and see more detail but it wasn't clear enough to make a judgement.
Has anyone any idea what has been happening?
I believe I am gradually overcoming my arachnophobia - hurray! This is a very common phobia affecting 50% of women and 10% of men.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

ABC Wednesday Round 3 S is for . . .

S is for . . . Stargazer Lily


Sailing, Spots and Shadows


Salix integra
White-lipped Snail

Seed head

Thank you to Denise Nesbitt for hosting this meme. See what other people have found for 'S' here

Monday 23 November 2009

In the not-too-distant future . . .

As Barry has become ever more involved in schemes and plans his memory allocation for the mundane stuff of life has greatly reduced vanished. Add to that the plethora of books, letters, instruction leaflets, scraps of paper/old envelopes with important information scribbled on them and my memory bank becomes over-stuffed as I am the noter and finder of lost things. Isn't there a saint involved in that? I know Saint Jude is the patron saint of lost causes. Just looked it up – it's Saint Anthony. If I were of the correct persuasion I might spend time on my knees asking both these venerable saints for their intercession. First Saint Anthony would be invoked and later Saint Jude after we had abandoned hope of ever finding whatever we were looking for.

Therefore, in the not-too-distant future Barry will be equipped with a special suit to which is attached everything he is likely to require in the course of a day. Of course this may mean that he is unable to move very far or at any great speed but at least everything most things will be to hand! Bless him!

We had considered bells and whistles on all the items he uses daily but we already have a houseful of machines and applications that ring, bleep, warble, shrill, buzz, trill, chirrup, tweet, chime, clang, tinkle, jingle.

What does Facebook say about you?

Facebook, the social networking site, which claims to be a superb way to regain contact with former friends and maintain relationships with friends and relations, has many followers. Its members may post photographs, join groups of like-minded people, support a myriad of causes, communicate with each other openly or in private through the inbox. There are many sometimes addictive games to play and quests to be followed. It can be an outlet for housebound people, a means of escape from problems or ills but beware what and how you post for it seems that other eyes are monitoring your actions and judging you. This Facebook user in Canada has discovered that the hard way in a very worrying turn of events. It seems that the time of George Orwell's Big Brother has finally arrived!

Think hard, look harder before you switch off!

Some of the things that catch my eye are very troubling. Presumably we've all heard of PSV - Persistent Vegetative State and have heard of the court cases, arguments and judges' rulings surrounding patients suffering this condition. Some argue for life-support machines to be switched off, others want their use to be continued indefinitely and always there are well-meaning, well-trained advisers suggesting one action or another. Undoubtedly it is heart-breaking for the families and friends closest to the patient when there seems little basis for optimism.
For the patients themselves it can be a living nightmare. As a child, when my understanding of death was less than it is now, I had waking nightmares of being buried but still conscious, trapped and unable to make myself heard. Those patients who are aware of everything going on around them but unable to communicate in any apparently meaningful way live the nightmare every moment of their lives, screaming silently, panicking and incapable of escaping.
The man in this particular case lived with the horror for 23 years. Who can imagine the feelings of freedom and relief he now experiences? For him the day his condition was truly recognised really was his second birth.
There, but for the Grace of God . . .

Sunday 22 November 2009

The Second Blog of Augustus Lazarus Cooke (Gus)

Hello everyone!

Well, I've been here for three weeks and I really like it. There's always something going on and I'm constantly interested, especially if it involves food – and it often does!

There was a lot of sadness in the house last Friday. Frodo and I went to the vet and while we were there Mr Human asked Nadia for some advice about Dominie. Later on he took Dominie out and she hasn't come back and he was very upset. Then Mrs H took the big dogs out for a walk. We don't really understand where Dominie is but Mr and Mrs H said something about her being stardust now and they smiled sadly and gave all us animals an extra cuddle and a kiss. My sister, Jenna, was very depressed and Frodo and Monty were unhappy too. I miss Dominie; I didn't know her for very long and she couldn't really play with me but she was kind and licked me and she was good to snuggle up to. I sleep on her cushion now when I'm in the kitchen and Jenna and Monty and Winston and occasionally Buddy sleep on her settee in the sitting room.

I was really excited on Sunday because Jenna started playing with me. She grumbled a lot at the same time but that was just to let me know I had to behave as I am the youngest in the family. Then Frodo began to play and that was awesome. The three of us played together – it was great! Now she plays with me a lot and she's not making so much noise. She brings me toys to play with - isn't that sweet?

I'm much bigger than I was – that's what Mr and Mrs H say. I think they must be right because I can leap onto the step from the patio mostly in one go though sometimes I still have to do it in two jumps – well, a hop and a scramble really. Mrs H always giggles when I bound onto it and all four paws land at the same time. I don't think it's all that funny but then I'm not a Human and I can't see me.

Monty and Winston are still bigger than me. I like chasing them – it's fun. I'm going to have to stop though because they don't really like it. Monty bats me and hisses. Winston tries to hide but it's just too easy to corner him. I only want to play with them but I'm beginning to think they're not really dogs at all. They make funny noises – I don't know any dogs that hiss – and when they talk to the Humans their voices are high – and they have a thing called a litter tray; they don't ask to go outside like me. I like the litter tray – it's interesting. I was a bit worried the other day when Monty started chasing me so I scurried away and sat next to Frodo in his bed. Frodo's big and he's strong – and heavy. He's cool! Sometimes he treads on me and makes me yelp. Buddy walks on me too because he can't see very well. I'd like to play with him but he doesn't play with anyone; the Humans call him a real cool dude. Of course he's quite old and just wants a quiet life. He's the leader of the pack now.

What else have I found out? Oh yes, the dogs eat raw meat and I have a little too. It's scrumptious but I have to eat my special food too to make sure I grow properly and not at funny angles. When I'm a big boy I'll have raw food all the time like the others. Even Monty and Winston eat raw.

I can climb the stairs now too. I started doing that four days ago on Wednesday. We were all going to bed and Frodo was ahead. He bounded up the stairs in three leaps and I wanted to follow him (I really like Frodo) so I concentrated very hard and got all the way to the top. I'm not allowed to go downstairs though; Mrs H says it wouldn't be good for my joints but I don't mind being carried. I like being close to my Humans.

My next challenge is to clamber onto the furniture. I can nearly manage it but haven't got quite enough spring in my back legs. Mr H settles me next to him on his chair and that's lovely. Mrs H tuts but I don't think she's really cross. I can't wait till I can get on their bed every night with Jenna and Monty and Winston.

Foxy and Tia and their Humans are here for the weekend. Tia won't play with me but Foxy's ever so nice. She doesn't play rough and tumble like Jenna but rolls around and lets me climb on her. That's lots of fun.

I wonder what the next weeks will bring?

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

Saturday 21 November 2009

Camera Critters #85, Pet Pride, Shadow Shot Sunday #79

Gus says:
I can play with my sister Jenna . . .

. . . and sometimes I can play with Frodo, who's not my brother really but that's what I call him. (I really like Frodo - I hope I will be as big as him one day!)

Frodo says: No chance, Gus. You'll always be a pipsqueak next to me.

Thank you to Misty Dawn for Camera Critters, Bozo and his human for Pet Pride and Tracy from Hey Harriet for Shadow Shot Sunday.
To see what others have been up to please click on the underlined titles.

Six Word Saturday Full house

It's a full house this weekend!
There's no particular reason for it - we don't have Thanksgiving - but it's always nice to have family to stay.
Thank you to Cate from 'Show My Face' for initiating and hosting this meme.
To see what other folk are thinking of please click here.

Friday 20 November 2009

Where do you buy YOUR cosmetics?

I discovered this really bizarre news item when I logged on recently. If the date were April 1st I would probably dismiss it as an April Fool's joke. I do hope it turns out to be a hoax. If not, then I truly despair for mankind and mankind's appetite for wealth.

Oh, it is gross . . .

SkyWatch Friday Season 4 Episode 19

Roiling clouds in the November sky over Berkshire UK.

Thank you to the SkyWatch team for hosting this meme.
Why not look at other skies around the world by clicking here?

Tuesday 17 November 2009

ABC Wednesday Round 3 R is for . . .

Rainbow Bridge . . . and Relief . . . and Remembrance . . . and Reminiscence

I'm not superstitious but last Friday 13th developed into a bad, sad day.

Our Gentle Dominie took her last trip to the vet. For several months she had been unable to walk unaided but seemed otherwise happy, alert, involved in everything around her. For some time she had rear wheels to assist her hind legs when we went out. When she could no longer control those we put her in a 'DoggyRide' so that she could accompany us to the forest. She would walk for ten or fifteen minutes, helped along with a hand under the back of her harness, then ride for the rest of the time. Back at the car she would walk again for a few minutes, catching up on peemails and poohmails. She greeted visitors vociferously and made her wishes known. When she whined she was telling us she was hungry, thirsty, wanted to turn round, needed to relieve herself or simply wanted to give and receive affection. During the last couple of weeks she cried more frequently and insistently in the daytime needing more lifting and turning. She didn't seem able to get comfortable though she slept more soundly at night.

In the past we have always found the advent of a new puppy – or baby – or kitten – has sparked interest in our elderly companions, both animal and human. We hoped Gus's arrival would help Dominie but although she was mildly interested, licking him and nudging him, she really had little energy to cope with his persistent attempts to play. She was unable to escape his attentions but enjoyed having him snuggle next to her when he was tired and quiet. Dommydom had a strong maternal instinct and was always a kind and understanding mentor to pups but she could no longer teach and this puppy needed to learn.

I have always said to pet people that one knows when the time comes to say goodbye. Perhaps that is true but human nature is largely optimistic and, though it's a cliché, where there's life there's hope. We saw the warning signs but chose to interpret them for our comfort. We asked our lovely vet Nadia for impartial advice, knowing in our hearts what she would say and what we had agonised over for weeks. It fell to Barry to take the Dom to the vet. Our menagerie is well-known there and the nurses are kind and caring.

When Barry came home he needed to be alone so I took the three adult dogs for a long walk in the forest. It was raining hard and the wind was blowing but it cleared my mind and dried my tears and I reached home drenched but more relaxed than I have been for a very long time. It was a strange evening and we felt Dom's absence keenly. The rest of the pack was quiet but watchful. Jenna was particularly questioning and depressed – she would often take Dom a toy or lick her nose. Frodo would also wash her and that had always seemed to please her. Monty Ocicat, who had spent a lot of time cuddling up to Dominie latterly, was prowling and restless. Gus, the puppy, took over Dominie's cushion in the kitchen where she would keep me company each evening as I prepared supper. He sleeps on it now in the same attitude as she did, with his head hanging over the edge, nose pointing to the floor.

The thing we noticed most was the silence. We had become so accustomed to her calling to us ever more frequently and now there were no requests. We realised clearly for the first time how much attention she had demanded and we acknowledged the relief we felt now that she was at peace. We had kept her too long and her ever-louder and more determined calls recently had been telling us it was time for us to let her go. She wasn't in pain, simply tired and worn out. Dominie was a big dog with a robust constitution and my keen desire that she would die peacefully in her sleep was never going to be realised; all the years of running with Barry and walking with me, of swimming in the ponds and lakes and playing with pups and young dogs had kept her physically fit, mentally alert and made her heart strong. We often watched her as she slept, running effortlessly in her dreams, but her waking hours were frustrating.

We all come from stardust and to stardust we will return. Dominie has her place in the cosmos now. Rest in peace, gentle girl, dream sweetly and be free to run again once more. You gave us all so much love and trust, our gentlest girl, so many memories for all our family.

'The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of her master.' Anon

'When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.' Kahlil Gibran: 1883-1931
Dominie (Theakston Terrisa) 25.04.1994 – 13.11.2009

Thank you to Denise Nesbitt for initiating and hosting this meme.

To see more posts for ABC Wednesday please click here.

Monday 16 November 2009

Making bread, breaking teeth . . .

I was reading a post by Cate from 'Show My Face' and it reminded me of our forays into making bread.

It simply isn't true that all you have to do is follow the recipe and success is guaranteed. I tried and Barry tried. Now I'm accustomed to my efforts failing. Usually it's because I've lost interest in the whole venture half-way through or started reading a book or made some telephone calls. Perhaps I haven't got all any of the correct ingredients and those I have substituted are incompatible with each other or occasionally usually simply wrong. I mean, have you ever tried using pickled onions instead of fresh?. . . when poaching white fish? It might even be because I've had a glass several glasses of wine. That brings to mind the jokey card which depicts a woman declaring, 'I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.'

I start with enthusiasm for part of the process. It may be that I've found a recipe while having my hair rearranged by the hairdresser. (I hate going to the hairdresser, of which more for another time.) I will have written scribbled the whole procedure and, relieved at escaping from the hair salon (why salon? Why not workshop?) I have gladly traipsed the food aisles in search of ingredients. Of course, by the time I reach home, I've lost any passion I briefly felt because a) the ingredients I needed weren't available; b) I couldn't read my scrawl (I've never quite grown out of that childhood phase of trying to make my writing look adult which implies writing very fast and apparently fluently) c) the queues at the check-outs were so long I decided to use the self-service check-out which failed on every second item in my basket; d) I forgot where I'd parked the car and had to search (it's a long walk home!) e) all vehicles on the road (apart from mine) were being driven by brainless idiots who wouldn't give way to a herd of charging elephants; f) I'm so hungry and tired that I just grab bread and cheese and fling something easy in the oven.

It's relatively recently, in the last few years, that I've discovered that I can actually produce edible food and sometimes it even tastes delicious. My family learnt a long time ago to be sparing in their praise of anything remotely palatable as the chances were that I'd be so thrilled relieved that I'd reproduce it day after day. It's no surprise that all our children have become excellent cooks – they realised early on that the only way to avoid serious digestive disturbances was to cook for themselves as soon as they could reach the worktops. They learnt their skills from their father. Barry is an imaginative and enterprising cook. He tastes as he goes and tweaks the mix accordingly. I never rarely taste – that way you may be sure none of my germs go into the concoction. The downside of this is that pretty much all my dishes taste the same. They all contain garlic in great quantities as that is good for your heart and also disguises overwhelms the slightly overdone burnt taste.

Anyway, back to the bread – I carefully obeyed all the instructions and left the dough to rise in a place neither too warm nor too cold. The allotted time passed and I peeked expectantly at the soon-to-be-bread. The dough had not moved. It lay sullenly in the dish, staring up at me resentfully. I covered it and left it for a little long while more. Without much optimism I gazed again on its sulky face – nothing, zilch, zero – and thus it remained, as cold and hard and heavy as stone.

Barry's efforts were suitably rewarded with gracefully rising promises of treats to come. Triumphantly eagerly he placed his splendid results in the oven, neatly separated into small mounds, for we were to have rolls. They baked and filled the house with the unforgettable and mouth-watering smell of fresh bread and we duly salivated. The plate bearing the delicacies was brought to the fireside and we each took an offering. 'Mmmm, tasty, lovely, delicious . . . ' Many and varied were the compliments as we bit into the rolls. The initial mouthful was indeed delectable – dense, chewy – yes, excessively chewy. In fact it seemed to take took quite a very long time to reduce the first bite to a form in which it could be swallowed. Visions of snakes swallowing elephants came to mind. We struggled gamely on, the children and I, reluctant to hurt Barry's feelings. He was still happily munching but after a while even he had to admit defeat. I think he managed to consume one complete roll. All thoughts of further food that day disappeared. We were replete, sated, stuffed!
Strangely, we didn't attempt to make bread for some considerable time until we bought a bread maker. Now that is the way to produce home-made bread. Yes, it's cheating and no it's not the same – it is infinitely better. Even so beware, it's still possible to fail. Forget one of the ingredients – not usually the flour, it's true – and the whole thing founders but it is a great deal more reliable than handmade home-made bread, at least in our house!

Sunday 15 November 2009

Discover the facts before you react . . .

Two British traffic patrol officers from North Berwick were involved in an unusual incident while checking for speeding motorists on the A1 Great North Road. One of the officers used a hand-held radar device to check the speed of a vehicle approaching over the crest of a hill, and was surprised when the speed was recorded at over 300 mph. Their radar suddenly stopped working and the officers were not able to reset it.
Just then a deafening roar over the treetops revealed that the radar had in fact latched on to a NATO Tornado fighter which was engaged in a low-flying exercise over the Border district, approaching from the North Sea.
At police headquarters the chief constable fired off a stiff complaint to the RAF Liaison office.
Back came the reply in true laconic RAF style:
"Thank you for your message, which allows us to complete the file on this incident. You may be interested to know that the tactical computer in the Tornado had detected the presence of, and subsequently locked onto, your hostile radar equipment and automatically sent a jamming signal back to it. Furthermore, an air-to-ground missile aboard the fully-armed aircraft had also automatically locked onto your equipment. Fortunately the pilot flying the Tornado recognized the situation for what it was, quickly responded to the missile systems alert status, and was able to override the automated defence system before the missile was launched and your hostile radar installation was destroyed.
Good Day..."

Today's Flowers #66 Autumn colour

Not flowers I know, but definitely growing plants. When the sun shines the forest seems to glow and burn with vibrant colour and onlookers can feel their souls expanding.
Thank you to the TF team of Luiz Santilli Jr.,Denise Gullickson, Laerte Pupo and Valkyrien for hosting this meme.
Do please click HERE to see more offerings for this colourful meme.

Saturday 14 November 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday #78 fire iron

Thank you to Tracy of 'Hey Harriet' for initiating and hosting this meme.

To see more shadows please click here

Camera Critters #84, Pet Pride, cyclo-dogging

Cyclo-dogging requires a bike, a rider and a dog or two. Here are Barry and Buddy. Buddy's tail never stops wagging when he's happy and he's very happy here. Almost blind, walking or better still cyclo-dogging on an extending lead gives him confidence - he doesn't have to worry about where he's going, though he does sometimes trip over unexpected (unseen) obstacles. Cyclo-dogging gives him more rigorous exercise than walking (though fewer chances to stop and sniff) something he has missed since Barry had to stop running.

I tried cyclo-dogging the other day - Buddy stopped and I didn't - oops! More bruises and a reminder that I need to hone some skills!
To appreciate the sheer beauty and athleticism of a Dalmatian, horse-riding or cycling is imperative. The dogs don't change their cadence, just lengthen their stride, and they are magnificent.

Thank you to Misty Dawn and Bozo and his human for hosting these memes. To see more please click on their names.


The Oracle at Delphi conjures visions of grace and wisdom. An oracle foresees events and advises on effective ways to deal with them. An oracle is noble, commanding respect.

It has another meaning in Berkshire, UK. The Oracle in Reading is a large indoor shopping and leisure mall on three floors. It is situated on the banks of the River Kennet and has cinemas and restaurants to afford relief to weary shoppers.

It takes its name from a 17th century workhouse once located on The Oracle site.

What puzzles me is how a workhouse and subsequently a temple to commerce can be 'associated with soothsaying. For its unfortunate inhabitants a workhouse foretold only abject misery and little hope of escape for no other crime than being poor.

Shops selling luxury ephemera perhaps forewarn of credit crunch and crash to those who have eyes to see. The revelation The Oracle affords is of a nation seduced by advertising to spend hard-earned money on things which are not necessities.

I understand the lure of 'retail therapy'. I do not understand why classical names are given to what is after all merely 'trade'.

Thank you to Laini and Megg for initiating and hosting this meme.

To see more interpretations please click here.

Six Word Saturday

It's a windy wet November day
Many of the remaining autumn leaves will be tugged from the branches to join the rest in an unlovely soggy muddy carpet in our sodden garden. The birds will take every brief opportunity to visit the feeders before scurrying back to their places of safety. Can birds scurry? Probably not! Well then, the squirrels will scurry and the birds will . . . NOT. They will dart away, hopefully avoiding the attention of any watching Sparrowhawk.
Periodically the sun attempts to break through but I fear it's fighting a losing battle. The day reflects the sombre mood in our house but that will improve and the weather may not.

Thank you to Cate from 'Show My Face' for initiating and hosting this meme.
To nosey into other people's thoughts please click here.

Thursday 12 November 2009

SkyWatch Friday Season 4 Episode 18 Red Kites

These photos were taken through the car window as Barry drove us speedily along the motorways to Shropshire on the last day of October. It was a lovely afternoon - it would have been lovely whatever the weather as we were on our way to pick up Gus. As we drove through Buckinghamshire we saw many Red Kites. They were introduced to that county nearly twenty years ago and are thriving.
Red Kites were widespread throughout the British Isles until the 18th century but were almost wiped out by gamekeepers who thought wrongly that they preyed on game birds.
In fact they are mainly scavengers and helped to clear the filthy rubbish in the streets of mediaeval and Elizabethan London. They also feed on small mammals, rabbits, fledgling rooks and gulls and occasionally worms and frogs.
Their flight is graceful and apparently effortless and they can soar for hours over feeding grounds which include refuse tips. The kites which children fly took their name from these beautiful birds.
Thank you to the SkyWatch team for hosting this meme.
To appreciate more skies around the world please click here.

Jenna the gundog

Slightly fuzzy photograph of Jenna showing that she can pick up and would be a very good worker in the field! That's a duck she's holding in her soft mouth, by the way.

The Jains

Sleepy Gus - 8 weeks old

As I have tripped over Gus or trodden on his paws or tail I have begun to slow my pace, adopting a sort of shuffling gait around the house. This is essential when small, fast moving animals are in the vicinity. I was shambling from cupboard to work top yesterday when I flippantly remarked that I should join the Poor Jains.

I have always referred to them as Poor Jains – maybe I was mixing them up with the Franciscan order of Poor Clares.

The Jains have always impressed me with their respect for all forms of life. I understood that they walked slowly and carefully in order not to harm any living creature, however small or insignificant. I thought they would not scratch an itch for fear of destroying life. Beyond that I knew very little so I researched . . .

Traditionally Jains are vegetarian and the strictest adherents will not eat root vegetables because pulling the root from the earth kills the plant and they believe that all living things have a soul.

Jains believe in reincarnation, aspiring to a release from the cycle of birth and death into a perpetual state of bliss for the soul. This is achieved by ridding the soul of all karma – in effect denying or resisting influences which affect purity of thought, word and deed.

Jainism is a living, thriving religion with followers in many countries though the greater majority are to be seen in India. Information about Jains in the UK can be found here.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

ABC Wednesday Round 5 - Q is for Quercus

A wise old owl lived in an oak

The more he saw the less he spoke

The less he spoke the more he heard.

Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?

The oak is traditionally considered to be the national tree of England, long associated with ship-building. Its acorns or 'mast' provided food for pigs and the tannin in its bark was used in the production of leather.

Britain has two native oaks, the English or Pedunculate (Quercus robur)and the Sessile or Durmast (Quercus petraea). The English oak is more rugged than the Sessile though there has been a certain amount of interbreeding between them. The English oak has short-stemmed leaves and long-stemmed acorn cups and the Sessile has long-stemmed leaves and stalkless acorn cups. The acorns of both trees are green like their cups but turn brown by autumn.

The Holm Oak (Quercus ilex)is Britain's only evergreen oak and was introduced from the Mediterranean in the 16th century. The leaves are long with no lobes and the acorns are short with at least half contained in a downy cup. The acorns are green at first and take two years to ripen.
The Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) has deeply lobed leaves, mossy-cupped acorns and rough dark grey bark. It was introduced in 1753, probably from the Balkans.
The Red Oak (Quercus rubra) has light grey bark and sharply angled lobes to the leaves with the veins of the lobes extending like bristles beyond the point. The acorns are short and broad in shallow cups. They ripen in the second year. The Red Oak is one of several North American red oaks planted in Britain for the richness and beauty of their autumn colour.
Oak woods provide food and shelter for a great variety of wildlife and their leaves rot into a soft mulch to support trees and shrubs such as Ash, Hazel and Holly. Their open canopies allow much light to filter through so that flowers like primroses, bluebells and violets thrive in the rich soil.
An oak tree supports at least 350 insect species, more than any other tree in Britain. Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Tree Creepers feed on the insects that live in the bark. Squirrels harvest the acorns and act as gardeners, burying their hoard in several different places. Wood pigeons, rooks and mice also feed on fallen acorns. Birds and small mammals in their turn attract Sparrowhawks, Buzzards and Owls.

I couldn't tell you which oaks are these in my photographs - I think they are English oaks though the first one looks more like a Sessile oak . . . too late and too dark now to go into the garden and carry out an identification!
Heart of Oak is the official march of the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy. In this clip it is played by the Band of the Royal Marines. In case you feel like singing along, the words (written by the acclaimed 18th century English actor David Garrick) of the first verse and chorus are below! The 'wonderful year' of the verse is 1759-1760 during which the British were victorious at the Battle of Lagos, the Battle of Quebec City,the Battle of Quiberon Bay and the Battle of Wandiwash in India.
Come, cheer up, my lads, 'tis to glory we steer,
To add something more to this wonderful year;
To honour we call you, as freemen not slaves,
For who are so free as the sons of the waves?
Heart of oak are our ships, jolly tars are our men,
We always are ready; Steady, boys, steady!
We'll fight and we'll conquer again and again.

Thanks are due to Mrs Nesbitt for hosting this meme. To see other 'Qs' please click here.

Take a quotation . . . #2

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

I have often quoted the first part of this verse from Proverbs but never the second. It came to mind yesterday for no particular reason. Is it a function of growing older that I am remembering, unbidden, things from my younger days? Oh dear, does this mean my short-term memory is shutting down along with the rest of me?

I exaggerate of course. I am strong and healthy and thankful for it when others my age - and younger - are severely compromised by poor health and reluctant joints and muscles. Mindful of the truism that things atrophy and die if not used, swimming, walking and cycling are all part of what passes for my routine. Brains also need exercise and to this end anything which stimulates interest must be investigated. Since I started blogging in February this year I have learnt such a lot, some of it rather mundane – for example, how could anyone enthuse about downloading a camera chip or inserting hyperlinks? I did! I have also researched spiders and butterflies, moths and wild flowers. In the past these things interested me but I had rarely recorded them and so often did not retain the names and knowledge. Now the electronic scrapbook called jabblog is my Commonplace book. I keep a personal quotation book too – an eclectic collection garnered from many sources and written in a large address book. At its commencement it posed the minor question of whether to cross-reference or not. I decided not – I have a tendency to over-complicate matters and then they become abstruse. Of course the corollary is over-simplification – oh, decisions, decisions!

I have also learned much from other blogs and been privileged to peek into the lives of people of all ages and persuasions across the planet. Thus my world expands and new knowledge brings fresh opportunities for research through books and the Internet, all of which must be used carefully. It's not enough to read information from one source for it may be incorrect. For example, one veterinary guide I possess claims categorically and completely inaccurately that epileptic seizures occur only during sleep and never when the animal is active. Another book, published in 2009, states that Ocicats are not registered in the UK – that is, the breed is not recognised by the GCCF (Governing Council of the Cat Fancy) Not true!

To return to the quotation: some people maintain that an argument allows the expression of different points of view. For these people an argument is a discussion or a debate. Other folks declare that it is good, maybe even necessary, to 'clear the air' of misconceptions, misunderstandings, grudges. For them an argument is a row or, less commonly in Great Britain, a fight. Yet others hold the view that hot tempers give rise to hasty wounding words, the sting of which lasts long after the original altercation, putting the lie to the old saying, 'Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.'

I am not confrontational. I hate arguments. Moreover it makes me feel physically ill to see people haranguing each other. I don't know that my 'soft answers' turn away wrath Рit's more often the case that 'silence is golden.' This is not to say that I don't express my displeasure or grievances РI do, when the heat of the moment has passed. (Goodness, there are so many clich̩s springing to mind today!) Rather, I prefer to state my opinions calmly and quietly in the expectation that they will be heard and understood. I could never be a politician! I'd be reduced to a shivering wreck on the stump but as I have no ambitions in that respect I shan't worry about it.

Monday 9 November 2009

L'esprit de l'escalier

Continuing my 'stairs' theme I came across this quotation - 'L'esprit de l'escalier' by Denis Diderot(1713 - 1784) and the loose translation that followed - 'Staircase wit' - meaning that the appropriate riposte or witty rejoinder only comes to mind as one descends the stairs from the drawing room; that is, too late to deliver.
What a neat phrase it is and one I fully understand. I am in no measure witty and can only ever think of suitable retorts a long time after the stimulus!
You can find out more about Denis Diderot here and here.

Bob’s your uncle . . .

I use this expression infrequently but decided to try and discover its origins. Its meaning is obvious to those who have grown up with it in the British Isles and the Commonwealth– it simply means 'there you are', 'okay', 'it's done', 'it's simple'.

Quite why Bob is your uncle is another matter altogether.

There is a theory, not proven, that it arose out of an act of political nepotism. Robert Cecil, the Victorian Prime Minister Lord Salisbury, appointed his nephew, Arthur Balfour, Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1887.This was the most controversial in a series of posts and one which amazed the country for the young man, though intelligent, was a dilettante and seemed singularly ill-equipped for the job. In fact his sound performance confounded his critics. The British public concluded mischievously that to have Bob as your uncle guaranteed preferment and success.

The word 'nepotism', meaning undue favouritism to one's relations and close friends, is derived from the Latin nepos for nephew or nepot for grandson. Since Italian popes referred to their illegitimate sons as nephews and favoured them for promotion the link seems plausible.

However, the phrase was never used in satirical writings of the time and was not recorded until 1937 when it appeared in Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English.

The most likely and more prosaic explanation is that it derived from the 17th century phrase 'all is bob' meaning everything is in order, all is well.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Camera Critters #83, Pet Pride, Halfway down the stairs . . .

Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair where I sit:
There isn't any other stair quite like it.
I'm not at the bottom,
I'm not at the top:
So this is the stair where I always stop.

Halfway up the stairs
Isn't up, and isn't down.
It isn't in the nursery, it isn't in the town:
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head:
'It isn't really anywhere! It's somewhere else instead!'
A A Milne 1882 - 1956
Recently I seem to have thoughts of stairs running through my head. The poem by A. A. Milne was set to music and was a song I enjoyed teaching to various classes of young children who passed through my singing lessons. I must confess that I liked singing it too and playing the delicate piano accompaniment. The photo, around 20 years old, is of Biddy, the founder of our Jack Russell pack, who often sat half-way down the stairs. Frodo does the same in his capacity as my guardian so that he can keep a close eye on the door into the front porch. Biddy was just busy and nosy and great fun.

Thank you to the hosts of Camera Critters and Pet Pride. Please visit them to see more.

Six Word Saturday

It is a cold, bright morning!

This is a gift of a November day. After recent rain the sky is washed clean and fresh. We shall enjoy our walk today. Actually, we always enjoy our walks, no matter what the weather, provided we are wearing the right gear. The dogs, of course, can't change theirs.

Thank you to Cate from 'Show My Face' for hosting this meme.
What have others got to say? Click here to find out.

Friday 6 November 2009

Yesterday upon the stair . . .

This is Biddy, senior Jack Russell, taken about 20 years ago.

Yesterday, upon the stair,

I met a man who wasn't there

He wasn't there again today

I wish, I wish he'd go away.

I had only ever known this verse and didn't realise there was more to the poem. It goes on:-

When I came home last night at three

The man was waiting there for me

But when I looked around the hall

I couldn't see him there at all!

Go away, go away, don't you come back any more!

Go away, go away, and please don't slam the door . . . (slam!)

Last night I saw upon the stair

A little man who wasn't there

He wasn't there again today

Oh, how I wish he'd go away.

The poem was called 'Antigonish' and was inspired by a haunted house in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, which boasted the ghost of a man wandering on the stairs.

It was composed by Hughes Mearns and formed part of a play called 'The Psyco-Ed' which he had written in 1899 at Harvard. It was performed in 1910 by an amateur company.

In 1939 'Antagonish' was adapted and set to music. It was recorded by the Glenn Miller Orchestra and was a popular song on the hit parade.

The verse has been adapted over the years to accommodate different events and personalities. For example, a 2008 version allegedly written by a Labour minister in the Brown government runs:-

In Downing Street upon the stair

I met a man who wasn't Blair.

He wasn't Blair again today.

Oh how I wish he'd go away.

William Hughes Mearns (1875 - 1965) was a graduate of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania. He was a poet and an educator.He espoused a view unusual at the time, that children should be encouraged to express themselves in what is now known as 'creative writing'. His philosophy is encapsulated in the following quotation:

'You have something to say. Something of your very own. Try to say it. Don't be ashamed of any real thought or feeling you have. Don't undervalue it. Don't let the fear of others prevent you from saying it . . . You have something to say, something that no one else in the world has said in just your way of saying it.'

William Hughes Mearns (1875-1965) Creative Power: the Education of Youth in the Creative Arts, 1958

Thursday 5 November 2009

Giving thanks challenge

Well, it's proving to be more of a challenge than I can meet! It's not that I have few blessings, far from it, more that the day doesn't stretch far enough.
So today, this evening in fact, I'm thankful that I can babysit for my son and daughter-in-law's children now that they're back from NYC. I'm happy that we shall see more of them and that they will see more of their cousins from both their mother's and father's families.
I must be sure that I am truly thankful and don't seem smug.
To see others' blessings please click here and thank Leah for hosting this challenge.

White in the moon the long road lies

November full moon in Berkshire, UK - 2nd November 2009

The following poem is from'A Shropshire Lad' by A. E. Housman 1859-1936


White in the moon the long road lies,

The moon stands blank above;

White in the moon the long road lies

That leads me from my love.

Still hangs the hedge without a gust,

Still, still the shadows stay:

My feet upon the moonlit dust

Pursue the ceaseless way.

The world is round, so travellers tell,

And straight though reach the track,

Trudge on, trudge on, 'twill all be well,

The way will guide one back.

But ere the circle homeward hies

Far, far must it remove:

White in the moon the long road lies

That leads me from my love.

The November full moon, like that of October, is called the Hunter's Moon. It is also known as the Frosty Moon, the Beaver Moon or the Freezing Moon. Certainly in November we can expect to experience frost and sharp cold weather.

I found the following information on 'Keith's Moon Page'. (I cannot add any hyperlinks - don't know why!!)

Celebrating The Chinese Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival dates back about 3000 years. It emerged from the moon worship of the Shang Dynasty and is reputed to celebrate Chang Er who flew to the moon and has lived there ever since. The Moon Festival honours the legend of Chang Er and is about harvest and family reunions; it is usually celebrated in late September or early October.

As with all festivals food and wine play an important part and moon cakes are made and consumed by the light of the moon. They are circular and made of flour and brown sugar and filled with a variety of sweet ingredients, from white sugar paste and brown date paste much favoured in the North of China to ham, walnuts and apricots among other things in Southern China.

Moon Biscuits are another traditional treat. They are shaped like a crescent moon and have whole hazel nuts to represent the full moon that is to come.

Recipe for Moon Biscuits

250g/9oz wholemeal flour

75g/3oz soft light brown sugar

175g/6oz butter or margarine Large handful of hazel nuts


Preheat oven to 300F/150C/gas mark 2

Beat butter/margarine with sugar until blended
Add flour and mix
Knead dough on a floured surface
Add hazel nuts and flatten dough to thickness of about 1⅜cm/½"
Cut crescent moon shapes
Bake biscuits on a baking sheet until light golden brown.
Americans enjoy MoonPie originating with the Chattanooga Bakery which, it is believed, produced them for coal miners in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.