Sunday 31 January 2010

Pet Pride Teething

I think Frodo may have been a dentist or a doctor in a previous life as he is always the first dog to fuss over ailments in any of the animals in his family, including the humans.
Lately he has been paying a great deal of attention to Gus's mouth which Gus has thoroughly enjoyed.
As soon as Frodo stops licking Gus paws at his nose to ask him to resume!
Frodo usually obliges!

Oh, bliss!
Thank you to Bozo and his human for organising and hosting this meme. To see more wonderful pets please click here.

Today's Flowers #77

My flowers today are not real but representations. My mother was a skilled needlewoman and produced many lovely things in her lifetime.
The first photograph is of roses. There was quite a lot of gold thread in it; metallic threads are very difficult to work with - they twist and knot, or separate, and it is hard to create even stitches.
The second photo is a close-up of three of the roses.
The third embroidery is bright and cheerful. My parents loved gardening and their garden was always filled with colour and interest which attracted birds and insects.
Thank you to the Today's Flowers team who work so hard to organise this weekly meme.
To see more flowers please click here.

Saturday 30 January 2010

Camera Critters #95

This morning I noticed what looked like a dried-up leaf in the small space between two cupboard doors. However, there was no possibility that any plant had been anywhere near these particular cupboards so I resisted the impulse to remove it and looked a little closer. It was a moth.It was beautifully marked and soon identified as an adult Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa) The adults usually fly between May and October but can be seen at any time of the year. It is quite common in the south of Britain and can often be seen resting on dead flower heads, fences or walls, where its camouflage makes it inconspicuous. The larvae live on plants like Berberis, Hazel, Oak, Silver Birch, Hops, Geraniums and Chrysanthemums. They will also feed on docks, nettles, chickweed, ivy and brambles.
Its main predator is the ichneumon wasp (Ophion luteus)
(This is my 500th post!)
Thank you to Misty Dawn for hosting this meme (hope you're feeling better soon!) To see more Critters please click here.

Friday 29 January 2010

The first full moon of 2010

Full Moon by Walter de la Mare

One night as Dick lay fast asleep,
Into his drowsy eyes
A great still light began to creep
From out the silent skies.
It was the lovely moon's, for when
He raised his dreamy head,
Her surge of silver filled the pane
And streamed across his bed.
So, for a while, each gazed at each –
Dick and the solemn moon –
Till, climbing slowly on her way,
She vanished, and was gone.

Tonight, if the skies are clear, astronomers in UK will be able to see the January full moon. It is the biggest and brightest full moon of the year, known as a perigee moon. Perigee is the closest point in orbit to Earth. Apparently it will be as much as 14% wider and 30% brighter than moons later in 2010.
In addition, Mars has been shining ever brighter in the east since the middle of the month and tonight it will be at its brightest and in opposition to the sun, meaning that it is really close to Earth, as close as 61.7 million miles! The red planet will be most easily seen closest to the Moon around 9:00 pm.
The January full moon is called variously Moon After Yule, Wolf Moon, Old Moon or Winter Moon. If you are a gardener planting according to the phases of the moon, which method is thought to produce bigger, stronger plants and higher yields, you should be planting root crops, bulbs, biennials and perennials from now until the Last Quarter.
Hopefully, if the sky remains clear (and we remember!) we'll manage to capture Mars and Moon together later on.

Thursday 28 January 2010

SkyWatch Friday Season 4 Episode 29

We have had many grey skies recently but it has been dry if a little chilly. Last Sunday there were some clouds hanging in the sky.

A little later the sun broke through and transformed the mood of the late afternoon.

The sun gilded the tops of the Scots pines and enhanced the pink buds of the Silver Birches. Since this photograph was taken the plantsmen from the Forestry Commission have planted Scots pine saplings in the furrows.  These replaced the earlier little trees that disappeared without trace. Inevitably some have already been uprooted.

Two days later the sky was afire as the sun set. Poplars and oaks stood starkly skeletal in the wonderful light. 

Thank you to the SkyWatch team for all their efforts in hosting this lovely meme. If you would like to see more skies please click here.

Word verification

The letter sequences that appear for ‘word verification’ are bizarre and unpronounceable – until you practise. I’m sure I’m not the only one to have thought of this but I decided to make a note of the ‘words’ I was asked to copy. So, since yesterday I have written down some of the sequences I tapped in. In alphabetical order they are:-
aftera arlegra balenes colonic comalkin diterai faire gongle hypteda inesswei micklik pinesti resmul rhaciter sates snons thufa tisin tomakin
Now, what to do with them? I wrote some doggerel.
Aftera the balenes
Faire gongle inesswei
Arlegra to thufa
Snons tisin diterai

Hypteda in resmul
Sates thufa tomakin
Colonic for micklik
Pinesti rhaciter

What would you do with them? I'm sure I'm not the only person ever to have considered using them as more than verification – and incidentally, why is the symbol that of a wheelchair user? Is it perhaps a subtle, snide comment on the efforts of us lesser mortals?

Wednesday 27 January 2010

A bouquet of flowers

It is always delightful to receive flowers. When we were courting (I love the romanticism of that old expression!) Barry sometimes greeted me with a beautiful bouquet. Ours was a long-distance romance as he was in the army and I was at college so our times together were infrequent and marked by long separations. Though naturally I couldn't have foreseen it this pattern was a sound preparation for our marriage as Barry spent much time away from home, either because he was working long hours late into the night in various UK locations or was physically in another country – this continued and became more evident after he retired from the army at the grand old age of 32!
I know of husbands who give their wives flowers on a regular basis – Friday evenings, for example, as well as the more usual birthdays and wedding anniversaries. It's a charming idea but I wonder if it becomes a habit that is barely noticed and perhaps not fully appreciated. I love to receive flowers but for me they are all the more special when they are given spontaneously. Even so, the traditional floral gifts marking a baby's birth were wholly acceptable. I know of one husband (not mine) who realised that it was customary to give something to a newly-delivered mother. He decided he wanted to find something different to the usual posy, thought long and hard and proudly presented his wife, the exhausted mother of his first child, with a set of saucepans! If she had been less weary she might well have set about him with them.
Barry frequently came home from long days in London on the last train. (Occasionally, he fell asleep and missed his stop!) He would pass the flower sellers near the railway station and often bought flowers from them. One night he arrived home happily bearing a large bunch. It had been a miserably dark and rainy evening and he felt sorry for the flower seller who simply wanted to rid himself of his stock and go home. Barry gave him all his loose change. They were lovely flowers though I cannot now recall what they were. I unwrapped them to arrange them in a vase and as I did so all the heads fell off! However, it was the thought that counted and made me smile – and not the thought that I might be pleased but that the flower seller had had a happy ending to his day thanks to my husband's kind heart.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

ABC Wednesday Round 6 B

This is our second BaBy with our first dog. He is holding an ABC rattle! This BaBy is now the father of three BaBies of his own.

Bethan and Barry

Biddy, our first Parson Jack Russell. Two of her puppies are in the photograph aBove.

Buddy Liver Spots

Binoculars, useful for watching Birds like . . .

BlackBird . . .

. . . and BramBling



 Ball with which to play footBall
Thank you to the ABC Wednesday team for hosting this meme. See what others have chosen by clicking here.

Monday 25 January 2010

Microfiction Monday #15

'The ceremony started without me,' she wailed. 'I can't find a thing to wear. If only I could reach the top drawer.'
Thank you to Susan at Stony River for originating and hosting this meme. To read more Microfiction please click here

Sunday 24 January 2010

Winston’s late January blog 2010

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

First of all I must wish you all a Happy New Year though it's not so very new now. It was very busy in the house at Christmas with lots of people coming and going and SIX dogs again. Still, they all entertained each other so that was all right. There was some nice bits and pieces of food and me and Monty got to try some. YUM!

Gus is ever so big now and me and Monty have to look twice to see which black dog we're staring at. The Humans keep saying he's going to be bigger than Jenna. I hope he don't get as big as Frodo and Buddy 'coz two big dogs in the house is quite enough, don'tcha know. We did have three for a while but Dominie didn't get in the way like they do.

You know, I often wonder about Humans. I mean, I know they can't see or hear as well as us cats – and dogs, too, I s'pose. They can't smell things like we can and they can't taste the air and they certainly can't leap as high as us or do yoga without lots of
years of practice. When you think about it the only bits us cats can't wash are the backs of our heads, under our chins and between our shoulder blades. (That's why it's good to have a cat friend.) Anyway, even though they're really quite backward compared to us cats, you'd think they'd do the simple things right, right?

Well, the other day, just after breakfast (raw chicken wings, yummy!) Mrs Human got out the tablets for the dogs. She does it every morning, has done for years. Frodo has to have special medicine to stop him falling down – he's got ecstasy, don'tcha know, that's why the Humans call him Frodo the Faller – and all the dogs have vitta mints to stop their legs and backs wearing out. Anyhow, she puts all Frodo's pills in an egg-cup and when there aren't none left at bedtime she can go to bed and so can we all 'coz Frodo don't need no more for that day. So, she got them all out, counted them like what she does every day and set out the three piles. Then she got out the peanut butter 'coz that's where she hides the pills – stoopid dogs don't know that but us cats can't be tricked like that. She always gives F t F his dose first, always, then it's Buddy's turn, then Jenna's and last of all Gus gets to lick the spoon. At any rate, she doled out the first pills and then said, 'OH' 'coz who was looking at her but Buddy. Now she was really defused and couldn't work out what had happened. Mr H wasn't no help - he just laughed but Mrs H said, 'I daren't give Frodo another dose in case he's already had his.' I thought, 'WHAT?' Still, there was a lot of dogs milling around 'coz Tia and Foxy was visiting for the weekend and Foxy's really greedy and quick so she has to be careful. The Humans decided to 'WAIT AND SEE' – humans do a lot of that, don'tcha know. It was soon ovbious that Buddy had had F t F's medicine 'coz he couldn't control his legs. Monty and me giggled but I don't think the dogs realised. Did you know that when cats sneeze they're really laughing? We sneezed quite a lot that day. Buddy slept a lot! We felt a bit bad though when F t F had a fit later on but it was very short and he was all right. Mrs H was a bit very cross with herself 'coz Frodo had gone NINE WEEKS without one and she said he might have gone longer if she hadn't mixed up the pills.

The next day Mr H kindly reminded Mrs H which dog was which but she wasn't very at all amused by his helpfulness. I must say, though, it was a bit very odd 'coz Buddy and Frodo look quite different. I mean, they've both got spots (should use 'Clearasil' like the younger Humans) but Buddy's are brown – what? Oh, all right, they're liver – and his eyes are blue now 'coz of his uveitis and Frodo's are brown and his spots are black, plus he's got a huge spot over his eye like a pirate's patch (I've heard the Humans say that about the pirate's patch – don't know what they mean, really, but I 'spect they do) She said the dogs usually always wait their turn and they know the routine and for some reason Buddy decided to go first but me and Monty think she's losing it (whatever it is) I mean, she's really old. Even her children are old. Even her grandchildren are old. They're all older than me and Monty so they must be old.

I think that's it for now. I'll see you again in a little while – I'd say a month but I don't know what months are. The Humans aren't all that good at time either – they're always saying they don't know where the time goes. You'd think they'd look after it when they keep saying they mustn't waste it.


Today's Flowers #76 Tulips again!

The tulips I bought last week - and photographed so hurriedly - have opened and are now dropping their petals. Barry took macro photos of the anther and stamens of each remaining bloom and it was interesting to note the difference in the anthers.

I don't suppose it signifies anything?
Thanks must go to the TF team for their continued hard work in organising and hosting this pretty and popular meme. To see more beautiful blooms from around the world please click here.

Pet Pride Monty and Gus

Monty loves to snuggle up with a dog or two, particularly a Labrador. Yesterday Gus was the chosen companion. Monty leapt gracefully up and balanced precariously near the edge of the sofa cushion. (Sometimes he falls off!) Naturally, Gus was delighted that his friend had joined him and proceeded to chew his ear.

Me: Gus, you will be careful won't you? Be very gentle.
Gus: Yes, I'm always careful. Monty's ear is so soft.
Me: I know you mean to be careful but sometimes when you lick my feet you forget and start chewing.
Gus: Sorry!

Monty: Mmmfffrrr . . .
Gus:Eh? What did you say?
Monty: I said, 'You're squashing me.'
Gus: Just having a little rest, that's all.
Monty: Why'd you stop? I like you playing with my ear - it's relaxing.
Gus: Oh, okay.

Me: Gus . . . . ??!!
Gus: It's all right - he wants me to. I'm being gentle, really I am.
Monty: Ooh, that's nice - right there, yes . . .

Gus: Just a lick and a polish to finish off.
Monty: z z z z z z  . . .

Thank you to Bozo and his human for organising and hosting this lovely meme. If you'd like to see more just click here.

Saturday 23 January 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday #88; Camera Critters #94

My Critters have provided my Shadows this week.

My husband frequently travelled to Malaysia on business and brought back these Royal Selangor pewter cats from one trip. They reminded him of the Burmese cats we then had. Royal Selangor pewter is the world's leading manufacturer of pewter. In 1885 a young man called Yong Koon sailed from China to the Malay peninsula. He established a cottage industry employing pewtersmiths from his family and friends. About ten years later the thriving business became known as the Selangor Pewter Company. In the early 1970s Selangor Pewter moved to its present location in Kuala Lumpur and in 1992 became Royal Selangor to mark the bestowing of a Royal Warrant by the Sultan of Selangor.To celebrate its centenary in 1985 it manufactured the world's largest tankard. It stands 6' 6" tall and has a capacity of 4920 pints. 
Today Royal Selangor produces a wide variety of items including jewellery, hallmarked silver and hand-painted collectables as well as pewter.

The second photograph shows the pewter cats in company with some other cats and a couple of human critters.The figurine of the little girl asleep at her desk is called 'Forty Winks'. It was modelled by Peter Holland for the Great Ormond Street Hospital series and was produced in the Queen's Golden Jubilee year, 2002. A percentage of the purchase price went to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.
The Royal Doulton sculpture of the little boy was modelled by Adrian Hughes and issued in 1991. It's called 'Welcome Home' and represents the return home of a wartime evacuee in a series called 'Children of the Blitz'.  

Thank you to Tracy from 'Hey Harriet' for hosting Shadow Shot Sunday and to Misty Dawn for 'Camera Critters'
Please click on the underlined titles to see more interpretations of each meme.

Friday 22 January 2010

Hair Affairs #2 and other ramblings

Chris from 'Life on the hill' told me how her twin brother cut off one of her plaits – just one! How cruel! Did he cut off the first and immediately regret it? Did he think the reprimands would be only half as severe if he left one plait in place? Perhaps Chris ran away. You will have to ask her! It woke distant memories of which only one is really related to hair.

My brother is six years older than me and occasionally he would be obliged to suffer my company; at such times our views on life showed marked differences. If we played cricket in our long narrow garden I was always the batsman so that he could practise his bowling. Pleased to have his attention I stood for what seemed like hours trying to hit the ball and generally missing.

I enjoyed writing and boasted one day that I could write about any subject – oh, the conceit of youth! Brian then said, 'Write about nothing' and I was completely stumped. What should an eight-year-old know about such a concept? It was an effective way to shut me up for I was a chatty child while he, from a young age, was introspective.

Sometimes Brian would be forced to entertain me at weekends to give my parents some time to themselves. 'Let's imagine' was my favourite pastime and I would appoint rôles – 'You be the King and I'll be the Princess.' Some days we were what we then called 'Red Indians'. (Years later my brother worked with the Tsilhquot'in people by which time we had all learned not to insult them so.) He must have been thoroughly disenchanted by the heady imaginings of a romantically-inclined sibling. One day 'Let's imagine I've been captured and tied up in a tower and you've got to come and rescue me' (shades of Rapunzel, I think) must have irritated him inordinately because he tied me to a drainpipe by my plaits and wandered off to follow more interesting pursuits. Caught up in the game I waited patiently for his return but it was my sister, fifteen years my senior, who rescued me.

While my brother quite understandably seemed to resent spending time with me, my sister loved to take me out. We would go shopping on a Saturday morning, spending much time in W.H. Smith where I would select a book and read as much as I could before we had to move on. Before we returned home on the bus we usually went to 'Lyon's Corner House' for refreshments, another little treat I really appreciated. I'm sure those trips were the basis for my life-long fascination with stationery. I find it difficult to resist the lure of little notebooks with pristine pages and neatly packaged pencils and pens. Envelopes, files, folders and note paper always draw my eye. Coloured paper clips, especially the ones in the form of miniature clothes pegs, and drawing pins in their neat little transparent boxes are irresistible and I can even rhapsodise (almost) over packets of elastic bands and the variety of staplers and drawing pins. A new book of plain pages is to be savoured before being despoiled. The first mark is carefully made but I'm no calligrapher and my scrawl soon turns the special into the commonplace. I love the smell of ink even though my 'writer's bump' seemed to be almost permanently stained when I was at school.

However, for much of the time I amused myself. I loved reading aloud, often to myself or to whoever would listen and would regularly call into various shops on my way home from primary school to read to owners who were friends of my parents. I read voraciously, losing myself in classics like 'Black Beauty' or 'Heidi' or 'Anne of Green Gables'. I would emerge hours later, sometimes in tears, and immediately turn to the beginning again. My mother understood for she had a similar relationship with books. Words have a profound effect when used to draw in the reader. To this day I cannot read aloud Oscar Wilde's 'The Happy Prince' without tears springing to my eyes. Michael Morpurgo's 'The Butterfly Lion' has a similar effect on me. I always enjoyed reading to the classes I taught – indeed I considered it essential – but frequently I had to stop and explain to the children that I was overcome and sometimes suggest that they should continue to read on their own if they wished so to do. At other times I was overcome with mirth and could not continue.

Almost as much as reading I enjoyed playing the piano – or perhaps that should be playing at the piano. My father was a very good pianist and encouraged me in my endeavours. I could never get to grips with tonic sol-fa so was never able to vamp like he could or change key and carry on. My eyes were – and still are – firmly fixed on the black marks on the manuscript. I had lessons for about a year and then my teacher had a baby and that was the end of my formal training. Nevertheless I continued to 'play' the piano, my fervid imagination conjuring up an appreciative audience for my outstanding performances. I can still play – badly - 'Für Elise' without music and part of 'Moonlight Sonata' (I was keen on Beethoven!) The only other piece I can play without reference to the printed note is the Battle Hymn of the Republic ('Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord' or 'John Brown's Body') The problem with my piano-playing was that I liked to practise in the evenings, quite late, and my parents finally became rather weary of me hammering out Chopin's Funeral March or Rachmaninov's Prelude in C# minor at 11:00 pm. They didn't say anything as far as I can recall but one day I came home to find that my father had chopped up the piano! I don't remember being upset and I'm quite sure they were relieved and looking forward to peaceful early nights in bed.

I also thought I had a dramatic flair and would perform on top of the coal bunker, which became a spotlit stage in my mind. Despite never having had dancing lessons I attempted to tap and twirl as I sang. We didn't have many neighbours which was probably fortunate. We did have a garden wall, however, which became my trusty steed. I desperately wanted to learn to ride – I did eventually, when my own children were little and learning too. Thank goodness my parents didn't have a video camera or its early ancestor. By the time they had a ciné-camera I was older and had grown far too self-conscious to do more than grin, chimp-like, in the general direction of the device.

So, although I spent a good deal of time on my own I was never lonely and rarely bored. I am grateful to my parents for actively encouraging me – and my siblings – to find pleasure and solace in books and in so doing to develop a life-long passion and desire for the printed word.


Rickets is a condition associated with poverty and poor diet. Children's bones soften and do not grow properly and the most obvious consequence is that the legs become bowed and painful. Dental deformities and muscle weakness are also common. It was prevalent among the poor of nineteenth century Great Britain and is one of the diseases most frequently seen in children in developing countries.

It arises from a lack of Vitamin D, most easily obtained from ultraviolet in sunlight but also present in oily fish, eggs, margarine, butter and fish liver oils. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium.

The shocking news is that doctors in GB are seeing a rise in cases of rickets. Medical experts believe that modern diets often lack Vitamin D and this, coupled with many children's more sedentary lifestyles, is contributing to an increase in this condition. (Another disease linked to poverty and poor nutrition and believed to have been almost eradicated is tuberculosis.)

It is hard to believe that this is happening in this affluent 21st century western country.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Further to ‘Threat levels’ re: TEA

Barry replied to the original email:

As a point of historical fact, the British Government was so alarmed about the risk to morale over a lack of tea available to its Armed Forces at the outbreak of WW2 that it purchased the entire worldwide stock of tea.  It is also worth pointing out is that at its height the British, Empire and Commonwealth forces numbered twelve million  - perhaps it built to that strength to justify the tea purchase.

Barry's respondent replied: Also worthy of note is the service once offered (and maybe continues to be) by the India Tea Council advising on the best way to prepare tea. I contacted them some time ago to answer a dispute I was having with some northerner who reckoned that 'mashing' tea i.e. stirring it was the way to make the best cuppa. Now having been taught by a good naval man (my Dad) I wasn't having that and the ITC were able to confirm that you must never stir tea as it bruises the leaves! 1 - 0 to the good guys!!

Janice's input: tea leaves produce an infinitely superior pot of tea but I like my tea unstrained – the leaves are good to chew on! . . . and Earl Grey is very refreshing . . . especially with lemon! It's the bergamot that enhances and perfumes it so delicately.

Latest threat levels or How to offend everyone in one short posting!

Barry recently received the following email:-

Latest threat levels
The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorised from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance." The last time the English issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588 when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Dirty Bastards" They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country's military capability.  It's not only the French who are on a heightened level of alert.

Italy has increased its alert level from "Shout loudly and excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."
The Germans also increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbour" and "Blitzkrieg".

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual, and the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Americans meanwhile and as usual are carrying out pre-emptive strikes, on all of their allies, just in case.

And in the southern hemisphere –

New Zealand has also raised its security levels - from "baa" to "BAA!". Due to continuing defence cutbacks (the air-force being a squadron of spotty teenagers flying paper aeroplanes and the navy some toy boats in the Prime Minister's bath), New Zealand only has one more level of escalation,  which is "I hope Australia will come and rescue us".

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be right, mate". Three more escalation levels remain:  "Crikey!', "I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend" and "The barbie is cancelled". So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.

Cadbury #2

Kraft had to seek funding to allow it to put in an acceptable bid for Cadbury – that is, a bid so huge that Cadbury shareholders will find it almost impossible to reject when they meet to discuss it. Some of the shareholders are expressing doubts and fears but will have to abide by the majority decision. It is safe to assume that it is a done deal.

Banks will not always lend money if the risk is considered too great. However, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has no such qualms. It has lent the money to Kraft. About a year ago RBS had to be bailed out by the British government because it was in danger of collapsing. Now, secure once more thanks to the British taxpayer it feels confident that it can conduct business effectively, efficiently and profitably. (Who will profit is a moot point.)

So the situation is this: RBS, shored up by British taxpayers, has lent money to the American company Kraft so that it may buy the British company Cadbury. The banker/s who secured the deal will undoubtedly receive a very handsome bonus no matter what happens subsequently to Kraft/Cadbury. Am I the only one who finds this very odd?

Wednesday 20 January 2010

ABC Wednesday Round 6 A

A is for Agapanthus, known also as 'The Lily of the Nile'. It is a perennial herbaceous plant native to South Africa. I have grown them in tubs in our garden for many years and love them for their colour and form. The one in the photo below is 'ripening' - the flowers take a long time to open and then reward patience with a beautiful display for many weeks. Sadly, last summer's display was most disappointing, with just one bloom. Usually, there are 10 to 12 stems, 2' in height.

There are many shades of blue.This flower head is 'ripening'.

There are white forms too. The flowers on this stem are beginning to open.

Our white Agapanthus didn't appear at all!
I understand that these wonderful flowers are considered invasive pests in Australasia - oh, that it were so in our garden!

Thank you to the ABC team for hosting this fascinating meme. To see more illustrations for A please click here.

Tuesday 19 January 2010


So it has been decided. Kraft is to take over Cadbury. Does this make sense?

Cadbury was founded in 1824 in Birmingham by John Cadbury, a Quaker who sold tea, coffee and cocoa as alternatives to alcohol. Later he formed a partnership with his brother Benjamin. Chocolate was very expensive at that time but thirty years later import tax on cocoa was reduced, thus making it more affordable for more people.

By 1873 Cadbury chocolate products were so popular and profitable that the brothers decided to stop trading in tea and concentrate solely on chocolate.

John Cadbury retired in 1861 and the business was taken over by his sons Richard and George who bought the 14½ acres of the Bournbrook estate in 1878, renamed it Bournville and opened a factory there. In 1893, George Cadbury bought another 120 acres close to the factory and designed a model village to 'alleviate the evils of modern more cramped living conditions.' Eventually the estate covered 330 acres with 313 cottages to house the Cadbury employees. Further houses were built later on in the 20th century. All the properties were notable for their modern interiors and large gardens which enabled residents to grow much of their own food. The philanthropic Cadburys believed that their workforce should be encouraged to be healthy and fit and incorporated free sporting facilities and later medical and dental care. No public houses (inns) have ever been built in Bournville.

My parents and I are 5th, 6th and 7th from the right  in the front row. It was my 20th birthday nine days later.
In 1964 my parents and I travelled by specially commissioned train to Bournville. My parents were successful small-business owners and had a large order book with Cadbury and had been invited to spend a day at Bournville with other business people from south-east England. We toured the factory and had a group photograph taken. My parents were directed to sit in the front row, as they were considered to be significant customers of the company.
My major recollection of the trip is of the smell. It was overwhelming and very sickly. The employees wore protective clothing, including gloves, but even so finger-marks could be discerned on some of the items. For a short while I didn't want to eat chocolate and although this phase didn't last (unfortunately) thereafter during many months that followed I inspected every piece of chocolate before it went into my mouth. I'm sure every process is completely automated now.

Astonishingly the sale of Cadbury to Kraft for £11.5 billion has been the second biggest news story this week in Great Britain. We have little left to sell. We are Little Britain – no longer Great because of the unique loss of our engineering, technology and other national assets to overseas interests. In effect we have become economic satellites to other countries. We were in the forefront of so many industries and technologies but they have been sold, asset-stripped. The only significant growth has been in banking and government employment, both with enormous liabilities now and in the long term.

Over the past few decades my husband has travelled the globe on business and learned that many nations could not understand why we in the UK seemed only too willing virtually to give away our national industrial and scientific treasures to the rest of the world. A sure sign of our failure to address this was today's televised Parliamentary Commons Business Select Committee at which Peter Mandelson completely failed to address the issue of longer term interests against near term hedge fund profits. Amid the unbelievable waffle of his answer was the statement that he had had 'a good meeting' the previous week about the subject which had brought about recognition of the need to promote the benefits of ethos. This must revive the 'Great' even if it is followed by BS.

So to return to Cadburys – near term benefits (cost cutting) will undoubtedly be necessary given the HUGE price paid. Investment will be difficult – the rest we know well given our 2020 vision of UK industrial decline over the past few decades.

Consider the following short list:-

Aircraft industry – owned by France, Italy, Germany

Defence industry – sold to France, Germany, Italy

Electronics companies – most of our companies, Decca, Ferranti, GEC, Plessey have gone to France, Germany, USA - in reality even British Aerospace is a US company

Motor industry - Aston Martin, Leyland, Bentley, Daimler, Jaguar, Rolls Royce - sold to China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Kuwait

Nuclear energy – sold to France

IT industry – France, Japan, Germany

Space technology – France, Italy

Even our basic need for water is provided by France

(I think France is taking revenge for her defeat at Trafalgar!)

Our leaders proudly proclaim that we have an open economy. Why is this considered such an important attribute? Other countries are not so open. Asian countries including China and Japan are closed. Are we right? Is everyone else wrong?

So what is left? We are one of the leading financial centres of the world. There has been a huge increase in the number of government employees during the last ten years with the attendant requirement for index-linked pensions to which all tax-payers contribute.

Oh yes, we 'do' ceremonial and tradition better than anyone else in the world.

Monday 18 January 2010

Microfiction Monday

‘Don’t look now but we’re being watched.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Look in your mirror. See?’
‘No. This polished bronze is rubbish.’
Thank you to Susan at 'Stony River' for creating and hosting this entertaining meme. To read more contributions please click here.

Sunday 17 January 2010

Today's Flowers #75

Tulips are Barry's favourite Spring flowers so when I saw these I had to buy them. The tulips in our garden are showing their stems and leaves but the buds aren't visible yet. These flowers are reliable and cheering perennials and come in many different guises but we both really like the simplest blooms though the multi-flowered tulips are beautiful too.
I would try to claim that my photographs are 'artistic renditions' but the truth is that I was impatient and didn't take enough time - tut, tut!

Thank you to the Today's Flowers team for organising and hosting this meme. Please click here to see beautiful flowers from around the world.

Pet Pride Poetry in Motion

Frodo the Faller, eight years old, January 2010
Thank you to Bozo and his human for hosting this lovely meme every week.
Please click here to see more beautiful pets.