Wednesday 31 March 2010

March Full Moon 2010


The stars around the fair moon fade
Against the night,
When gazing full she fills the glade
And spreads the seas with silvery light.

Sappho (c.610 – 570 BC)
Translated by H. De Vere Stacpoole

There was a full moon last night or so I believe. We couldn't actually see it as it was overcast and raining so these photographs are from March 2006. I love the golden glow and it is apt that one of the names for this month's moon is the Lantern Moon.
Another of the names for the March Full Moon is the Sap Moon which seems appropriate for a month in which dormant plants are waking up and sending out leaves and tendrils and getting on with life. Even on a blustery, dull day such as today, the fresh green leaves and the daffodils which have finally put in an appearance brighten the view and gladden my heart. The birds are busier than ever, flying in in pairs, trios and gangs. Yesterday I saw goldfinches flirting in and out of the holly tree and the woodpeckers are drumming vigorously, pointing out decaying trees. The starlings, as ever, squabble and screech and long-tailed tits skitter in like tiny, prettily painted shuttlecocks.
This full moon is also called the Crow Moon.
There are always crows to be seen in and around the garden – after all I live in Crowthorne! – and though they are the rapscallions of the bird world, I very much enjoy their antics. They are remarkably big birds but somehow manage to balance on the bird feeder to peck energetically at the fat cake.
They will also perch on the arches and bow solemnly to Jenna-the-Labrador and call to her. Although she's the same colour as them I don't really think they regard her as a four-legged crow but it is amusing to watch. She just gazes back at them. I think Gus will answer them – he's rather more vocal than his sister and, of course, still only a pup. This morning a pair of magpies, also corvids, courted gravely on the bird table. Occasionally, jays and jackdaws visit but they are shyer relations and rarely stay long.
The final name I have for the moon is the Lenten Moon which really needs no further explanation.
As we approach Easter I wish you all a peaceful weekend, whatever your beliefs or lack of them.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

ABC Wednesday Keys and key rings

It's ABC Wednesday again and our thanks go to the hard-working ABC team whose members, inspired and led by Denise Nesbitt, organise this meme. You know you want to see what others have chosen for K so why not click here?
Recently I wrote about my fascination with stationery – notepaper, pens, pencils, paper clips, drawing pins – in fact, just about anything to do with putting words on paper or putting papers together or on things (so include fridge magnets!) I know my daughters share my enthusiasm – hardly surprising, since their childhood Christmas stockings were stuffed with boxes of pencils, crayons, pens, stickers, unusual post-its. My husband and son are not devotees to the same extent though they both appreciate fine fountain pens. (Ooh, the smell of ink – how wonderful that is!)
There are other things that appeal to me, too, one of which is keys and, by association, key rings. This interest may have arisen in my childhood. When I was five years old my parents bought a shop which sold newspapers, confectionery, tobacco and stationery. We lived in the flat above the shop and the only way into it was through the shop door. There was a back door out to the garden but this was not easily accessible. Anyone wishing to get in that way would have had to climb into the garden of the public house next door and clamber over a brick wall into our garden.
My parents, my father in particular, were very conscious of security and made sure the shop door was securely locked for the night after closing time. Only on one occasion did the nightly check fail and that was the occasion on which my parents woke from a deep sleep to find a beat copper standing at the end of their bed. In those days, police had regular foot patrols around the streets through the night and checked all the locks on business premises. The constable had found the door unlocked and walked through the shop and up two flights of stairs before finding my parents. Thereafter we were all very aware that doors must be checked and double-checked before we could relax.
Eventually I reached an age when I was allowed out on my own and although I wasn't permitted to stay out late there were occasions when I would reach home after the shop had shut. My parents decided I should have a key which I would have to guard very carefully. It was a key at the end of a long shaft and one day, to my horror, it broke as I unlocked the door. Expecting to find myself in trouble I didn't say anything but took it to the local hardware store to see if it could be mended. It couldn't. I had to have a replacement made and that took a few days.
I spent most of my summer holiday at the local outdoor, unheated swimming pool where I met my friends
and would return home at the end of the day when it shut by which time, of course, the shop was also shut. While I waited for the replacement key I made sure I reached home before the door was locked. This was unusual but was not commented on. I realise now that my parents must have known all along what had happened. All the traders knew each other very well and were customers in our shop so it's more than likely that my 'secret' was relayed to my parents long before the new key was safely in my hands. It was never mentioned – very wise, my parents.

In the ensuing years I found keys most interesting. There were tiny keys to safeguard the secrets in private diaries, ornate keys for winding clock mechanisms and jewellery boxes, keys to wind musical boxes or clockwork toys, briefcase and suitcase keys, Allen keys for radiators and bikes and assorted other items and huge mediaeval door keys for churches and manor houses. I liked the idea of a châtelaine as a rather superior housekeeper but I liked the thought of wearing a châtelaine more. (In fact a châtelaine would be a very good idea for Barry but he'd be weighed down by the number of things that would have to be attached to it so we'll continue the daily games of 'find the keys/wallet/pen/remote control/glasses . . . ')
I have never owned a châtelaine but I have had many key rings. Below are photographs of the one I've been using for the last few years.

It's easy to spot!

I was going to give the little leopard key ring to Eve but she was only three then and had no need for keys - so I kept it. I'm sure it was a sign that we would shortly have Ocicats in our home.

These show the front and back of my key ring purse. Susannah gave me this for my birthday. It is just the right size to hold credit cards as well as coins and paper money. You might just be able to see the small bone attached to the end of the chain in the top right-hand corner of the second photograph.
Marie Curie Cancer Care charity shopping trolley token

SSAFA Forces HELP token
door key, Royal Veterinary College token, retractable measure.
Fold-away shopping bag with the Marie Curie logo.
I even have some keys on my key ring!

Monday 29 March 2010

Face of the Week #5 Gus at 6 months

Gus has been with us now for more than four months though it seems much longer! He's a delightful young dog, very friendly and trusting, needs no rebuke other than a firm tone and is big pals with everyone. He is a tribute to his breeders at Threevalleys Gundogs and their careful wide gene pool breeding and care of every puppy that's born. 
He's still got quite a lot of growing to do and is already taller than his half-sister Jenna. We look at his paws and wonder just how big this boy is going to be!! (I cropped this head shot from a larger photograph that I have tried and failed several times to upload. Is it me or is it Blogger?)
Sistertex at 'Spacial Peepol' dreamed this meme and organises it each week. If you'd like to see other folks' interpretations of this entertaining meme (and who wouldn't?) please click here.

Microfiction Monday #24 On the bridge

A picture paints 140 characters – or fewer.
Thank you to Susan from Stony River who hosts this entertaining meme.
'They thought thousands watched the Boat Race. It was in Oxford wasn't it? Or Cambridge? They cursed.'
The 2010 Boat Race will take place on Saturday 3rd April.

Sunday 28 March 2010

Today's Flowers #86 Spring bouquet

A beautifully-scented Spring posy for the day on which the clocks went forward - British Summer Time is here!
Thank you to the Today's Flowers team for organising and hosting this lovely meme. Please click here to see more beautiful blooms and blossoms.

Camera Critters #103, Pet Pride

I'm thinking of changing Jenna's name to Moses!
. . . and now I shall have 'How did Moses cross the Red Sea?' running through my head all day and I haven't thought of it or sung it since I stopped full-time teaching several years ago.
Thank you to Misty Dawn who hosts Camera Critters and Gattina who does the same for Pet Pride. To see more please click on the appropriate link.

Friday 26 March 2010

No more this year please!

The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelp'd by any wind.
From 'Frost at Midnight' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772 - 1834
On Tuesday Jack Frost painted intricate patterns on our conservatory roof. His mastery of the icy brush is sublime and astonishing.
Before homes were centrally heated, when the one source of heat in the house was a coal fire in the communal sitting room it was fun to toast crumpets on the end of a long toasting fork, roast chestnuts, throw salt on the fire to see the flames flare briefly in a gorgeous show of dazzling greens and blues. It was homely and companionable to sit close to the fire although I knew I risked scorching my legs and developing chilblains on my hands and feet. I tried to hoard the warmth in my body like a storage heater to sustain me as I scurried out into the arctic extremities of the rest of the house, filled my hot water bottle and dashed to bed in my freezing room. The sheets felt glacial as I tucked my feet up inside my nightdress, turning myself into a foetal entity in a cheerless womb. Gradually, the bed became warmer, I relaxed and slept and stretched, to wake hours later to the unpleasant sensation of cold flabby rubber, unless, of course, there was a cosy cover on my hot water bottle.
Now the next challenge faced me. I had to leave my warm, comforting nest and step out onto the cold floor. I would delay the moment as long as possible, the tip of my nose attesting to the extremity of the temperature. Even thus, when I looked at the window panes, I wondered at the beauty I saw etched on the inside of the glass, glittering and glistening in the early morning light. Curiosity would overcome dislike of the cold and I would draw closer to examine the remarkable and transitory works of art.
Those days were long ago and though I certainly do not miss the iciness of an unheated house, the compensations, for a child at least, were not to be understated.
I hope we have seen the last of heavy frosts this year. This week's offering did not touch the grass or the pond – I suppose it was an 'air frost' - the temperature was 1˚Celsius (33.8˚ Fahrenheit) I know that if the pond freezes the frogspawn will be killed. When this happens it turns milky white and then decays and another generation of frogs is lost, to this garden at least.

Thursday 25 March 2010

SkyWatch Friday Season 4 Episode 37

This afternoon the sky became very dark, the clouds ominous and there was thunder, lightning, hail and then heavy rain. I took the photographs from inside the conservatory.
It was nothing in comparison to what Perth, Australia, experienced earlier this week!
I wish I could paint as well as Nature  . . .
The garden is flooded -again! but hey! the clocks go forward on Sunday so the weather should become more reliable then - shouldn't it?
Thank you to the SkyWatch team for their dedication to this meme. Why not look at other skies from around the world? Just click here.

Winston’s frog blog March 2010

Winston here . . . p'rrrrr, p'rrrrr . . .
I know you'll all be surprised to be hearing from me again – twice in one month, whatever next?
I just wanted to let you know that I've got a new hobby. You know that me and Monty are ornithologists. Well, there's plenty of our little fevvered friends in the garden to keep us happy, it being Spring and all. There's also lots of frogs crashing around in the pond – and making ever such a din, too. I think they're practising for a gin-ass-ticks display – you know, one of those things where they all climb on top of each other and the winner stands on the top and everyone claps. They're doing it in water so I s'pose it's – you know, whaddya call it? – sinkromized swimming or something or is it aquarobics? (Mrs H does that don'tcha know) but we can't see much of it, 'coz we're not in the water.
Anyway, my new hobby is photography. I don't actually take the pictures. I mean, come on, I'm a cat, don'tcha know. I'm not built the right way to hold a camera and my claws aren't made for pushing buttons that small. No, my new interest is in editing the pictures Mr H takes. I've been watching Mrs H when she edits and it's dead simple and I can do it much quicker than her.
So I thought you'd like to see my first efforts.
How many frogs can you see? (There are at least four!)
I think they're pretty good for a beginner and a cat, at that. Mrs H was ever so impressed 'coz I did it so quick and even she don't know how I managed to turn them from colour to monochrome and I star-rated that coloured one (five stars, natch!)

I hope you're as impressed as my Humans.
See you again soon.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Frogs galore!

Common or Grass Frogs, (Rana temporaria) which live in our garden, hibernate in the winter at the bottom of the pond beneath piles of mud and decaying leaves. They survive because they can breathe through their skins. The very oldest of them will live to about eight years of age but many provide a tasty snack for crows, rats or foxes long before they have had a chance to live out their natural span. Some don't survive beyond the spawn or tadpole stage, feeding fish and dragonfly nymphs.

The Frog
Be kind and tender to the Frog,
And do not call him names,
As 'Slimy skin,' or 'Polly-wog,'
Or likewise 'Ugly James,'
Or 'Gap-a-grin,' or 'Toad-gone-wrong,'
Or 'Bill Bandy-knees':
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.

No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair;
At least so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare.)
Hilaire Belloc 1870 – 1953

A frog he would a-wooing go,
Heigh ho! says Rowley,
A frog he would a-wooing go,
Whether his mother would let him or no,
With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley.
Traditional nursery rhyme

Although the water is not boiling and roiling with hundreds of over-excited frogs as it has in past years there is quite a lot of activity in the pond and already several clumps of spawn. Usually and unfortunately some larger clusters of frogs, all desperate to ensure the preservation of the species with the males tightly gripping any part of a female they can reach, or, in extremis, another male, become so entangled in weed and with each other that they drown. Nonetheless, the remaining frogs continue to make merry and much procreation is still occurring.
Have you ever looked into a frog's eyes? Admittedly it is not an easy thing to accomplish as frogs have no natural defences and duck and swim rapidly out of sight or hop soggily away into the undergrowth if they're away from home when danger threatens.
Reflected in this eye is part of the back of our house, one of the garden arches and Barry hiding behind the arch.
(Don't frighten the frogs!)

Look not in my eyes, for fear
They mirror true the sight I see.

From 'A Shropshire Lad' by A E Housman (1859 – 1936)
A frog's eyes are sited on the top of the head and the large horizontal lenses give a wide field of view, essential for an animal which cannot turn its head very far, and have a focus of about 6". The advantage of being myopic is that the background is blurred which makes things in the foreground more easily discernible. Frogs appear unable to see things which don't move and would starve if their food remained stationary! Once aware of a meal the frog can extend its long sticky tongue remarkably rapidly to capture flying insects. They will also consume slugs, snails and worms. Adult frogs feed only on land though younger frogs will feed on land or in water. The cacophonous amphibians outside my house do not eat during the breeding season. Sex is urgent and surpasses all other instincts!
Where they most breed and haunt, I have observ'd,
The air is delicate.

From 'Macbeth' by William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)
Tadpoles are herbivorous but as they begin to metamorphose the digestic tract shortens and changes its character to accommodate ingestion and digestion of protein. I was always under the impression that they will not complete their metamorphosis unless they eat meat. Frequently they eat each other!
So far they are still encased in the jelly which will sustain them as they grow and become ready to emerge and live independently.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

ABC Wednesday Round 6 J is for Jane

Jane is a Hebrew name meaning 'God's grace' or 'God is gracious'. It is the feminine form of John and has been popular since the 17th century. It was a favourite name of my mother's and she very much wanted to give it to me. Our surname was Mayne so it really wasn't advisable. Thus I was called Janice, a form of Jane. Two of my nieces, one of my daughters and one of my granddaughters have Jane as a middle name and I've known and liked many Janes.
The Jane for whom I feel great sympathy lived during the 16th century. Lady Jane Grey was Henry VIII's great-niece (or grand-niece) born to his sister Mary's daughter in October 1537. Jane was an uncommon name at this time and it is thought she may have been named after Jane Seymour, Henry's third and most-beloved wife, who died shortly after giving birth to Prince Edward.
Lady Jane Grey learnt to speak and read Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Italian and English as a young child. She was strictly, even harshly brought up, rarely pleasing her parents who always expected more and better from her even though she was a clever and eager student. At the age of nine she left her home in Bradgate Park, Leicestershire to live at court under the guardianship of Catherine Parr who had married Thomas Seymour after Henry VIII's death. Catherine treated her lovingly and kindly and when she died after childbirth Jane was the chief mourner at her funeral. Jane remained one more year as Thomas Seymour's ward before he was executed for treason.
So Jane, now 12, returned to Leicestershire to become the ward of the Duke of Northumberland. He was the most powerful man in the country after the King (Edward VI, who was sickly and destined to die young.) It is probable that he influenced the dying King to change his will to name the Protestant heirs of his aunt, Mary Tudor, as his successors. Northumberland plotted with Jane's parents to marry her to his last unmarried son thereby protecting his position of power and securing the crown for his son, as Jane's mother had agreed to forego her own claim to the crown.
Thus Jane was forced into marriage with a man she barely knew, becoming at the same time the daughter-in-law of a man she disliked and mistrusted. The marriage took place in London on 25th May, 1553. (It was a triple ceremony. Her younger sister and a daughter of the Northumberlands were married at the same time.) Jane was dressed in gold and silver brocade embroidered with diamonds and pearls. She was not quite sixteen.
Four days after Edward VI's death Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England. She had not sought the rôle of monarch but was powerless to resist the machinations of her supposed protectors, her parents and her guardian. The proclamation was greeted with silence and resentfulness by the people who were still grieving their young King and felt that Mary was the rightful heir to the throne.
It was the custom that English monarchs stayed in the Tower of London until their coronation, but Jane Grey remained there for the rest of her life. Her cousin, the Catholic Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, rallied support for her claim to the throne and rode triumphantly into London.
The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (le Supplice de Jeanne Grey)
Painting by Paul Delaroche at the National Gallery of Art, London, 1833
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Parliament revoked Jane's proclamation and she and her husband were found guilty of high treason. The traditional punishment for women committing treason was to be burned alive or publicly beheaded on Tower Hill. Queen Mary allowed that her young cousin should have a private beheading on Tower Green inside the Tower of London. This very young woman maintained her composure until she put on her blindfold and then she panicked because she could not find the block for her head. She was helped to it and then beheaded. She was not yet seventeen and had been Queen for about nine days.
Thank you to the ABC Wednesday team for organising this meme. To see more Js please click here.

Face of the Week #4 Love is in the air!

Love is in the air (well, in the pond actually)
Just two of the amorous frogs in our pond today. Obviously they are still at the romantic, hand-holding (web-holding?) stage.
Sistertex at Spacial Peepol organises and hosts this meme so why not visit her to see who's playing this week?

Monday 22 March 2010

Pet Pride - The Gang

Tia and Foxy are staying with us at the moment. Taking six dogs walking is great fun but not for the faint-hearted. It's quite difficult to get all the dogs in one frame. The Dalmatians are happy to stop when we stop and stand around or sniff about here and there. The Labradors are rarely still. If they're not retrieving a ball, they're picking up sticks - or digging them up - to carry - or playing chase - or simply jumping in the water for a cooling swim. However, we managed one group call yesterday.
From left: Buddy Liver Spots, Tia and Foxy behind him, Gus, Jenna, Frodo the Faller.
Thank you to Gattina for taking over this entertaining meme. To see more pets to be proud of please click here.

Saturday 20 March 2010

Camera Critters #102

Jenna and Gus play together much of the time - until we all go for a walk. Then Jenna is interested only in retrieving and ignores Gus. She has realised that he will not follow her into the ponds, so that's where she goes when his attentions become too pressing. That is, until this week when his urge to follow overcame his natural caution. He is beginning to enjoy the water, as all good Labradors do, but is not yet swimming. I'm sure he soon will be, though, as Tia and Foxy are staying with us and they swim as keenly as Jenna. Gus will not be left behind for long!
Gus watches and thinks . . .
 H'mmm, Frodo likes the water - and I like Frodo - so perhaps water is good!
Jenna leaps in every time. Could I do that?
I can step in carefully . . . 
. . . ooh, it feels nice!
Jenna, Jenna, look at me! I can jump in just like you. Look! Look!
Frodo, did you see me? Was it good?
Buddy, Buddy . . . oh, I forgot, Buddy can't hear very well and he certainly doesn't like water.
Here I am, Jenna - I can play with you in the water now!
Misty Dawn organises and hosts this lovely meme. Please click here to see more Critters around the world.

Spring 2010

Has Spring sprung or merely gently yawned and stretched?
Last night, for the first time this year, I heard a frog calling with that distinctive rolling chirp. In 2009 the frogs started singing a full month earlier than this. There are a few individuals in our pond and the fish are swimming about in the expectation of tasty frogs' eggs though I think they may be disappointed for a while yet (not French, our fish, nor gastronomes – no taste for grenouilles). I'll feed them anyway so that some spawn may survive – if eventually it is deposited.
Spring is certainly taking its time to wake up. The Spring flowers are late. Usually the tête-à-tête daffodils are in full bloom by St David's Day on 1st March but they've only opened in the past week. Other daffodils in the garden and in pots are still in bud, their glories yet to be revealed. Tree buds are beginning to ripen but everything seems reluctant to show itself.

Common Ninebark  (Physocarpus Opulifolius) 'Dart's Gold'
I suppose Spring always enters shyly, disclosing her beauty gradually so that we may appreciate it the more. Our Common Ninebark (Physocarpus Opulifolius) is almost in leaf – I love the bright yellow-green of its foliage and of course the hazel catkins are shaking their tails in the breeze.
 Corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana contorta)
I discovered some hellebores bravely blooming, their heads barely raised above the ground. The crocuses were late, too, and the lone snowdrop I've seen stands tall and proud – and late - in the shelter of the ninebark.
Somewhat battered Hellebore
Perhaps Spring is performing the dance of the seven veils. Maybe she always does but as I look out on this dank March day I feel that this year she is being unnecessarily coy. If the sun shines later – or ever – I will definitely feel more hopeful but for now the wind is sharpening and the drizzle is determined to grow up into rain.

Six Word Saturday

Up too early for a Saturday . . .
Up too early for any day . . .
It's a dark and miserable day . . .
Things can only get better!
 (Thinking in six word sentences today.)
Thank you to Cate from 'Show My Face' for hosting and organising this meme.
What are others thinking? Click here to see!

Friday 19 March 2010

What are our children learning at school?

Name one of the achievements of the early Romans.
Learning to speak Latin.

What was Sir Walter Raleigh famous for?
He is a noted figure in history because he invented cigarettes and started a craze for bicycles.

The following were published in TES (Times Educational Supplement) Magazine in July 2009.

Excerpts from 'F in exams: The Best Test Paper Blunders', published by Summersdale.

We start with Religious Education:-
Q: What do Christians celebrate at Christmas?
A: When Joseph and Mary had baby Jesus. They travelled to Bethlehem by plane and Pontius was their pilot

Q: Christians have only one spouse. What is this called?
A: Monotony

. . . and on to Biology:-
Q: What does terminal illness mean?
A: When you get sick at the airport.

Q: What is the highest frequency noise that a human can register?A: Mariah Carey.

How about maths?
Q: A car company is having a sale. A £25,000 car now has 50 per cent off. What is the new price?
A: Still too expensive

Q: What is conditional probability?
A: Maybe, maybe not

Q: What is a random variable?
A: Someone with multiple personalities

Q: Write two hundred thousand in figures
A: Two hundred thousand in figures

Inspiring Words Week - Serendipity

Yiota from 'shells and bells showers and flowers' has invited who wishes to join her in her 'Inspiring Words Week.'
At the risk of pejoratively being called 'Pollyanna' I have chosen one of my favourite words

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines it thus:
  • noun the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

  — ORIGIN from Serendip (a former name for Sri Lanka): coined by the English politican and writer Horace Walpole (1717-97), after The Three Princes of Serendip, a fairy tale in which the heroes were always making fortunate discoveries.
The following quotations come from my own 'Commonplace Book' as did my quotations yesterday. I have discovered them in many different places. 
'We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make our world.'Buddhist saying
'The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different.'
Hippocrates ca. 460BC – ca 370BC
'Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.'Dr Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel 1904 – 1991)
'I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.'Rita Rudner 1953 –
'Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.'
John Ruskin 1819 – 1900
'A house without a cat or dog is the house of a scoundrel.'Portuguese proverb

'In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.'Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900
'God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees and in the flowers and clouds and stars.'
Martin Luther 1483 – 1546

'The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart.'
Mencius 372 – 289 BCE (most accepted dates) Book IV
'Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul.'
'Butterflies are self-propelled flowers.'
R A Heinlein 1907 - 1988