Wednesday 30 June 2010

ABC Wednesday X is for Xanthosoma

It's ABC Wednesday again and our thanks go to Denise Nesbitt and her eXcellent team who organise and host this weekly meme.
X is for Xanthosoma, a class of about fifty perennials which have either underground tubers or thick stems above ground. They are all native to tropical America and are mainly grown for their attractive foliage. Many species, like Xanthosoma sagittifolium, are cultivated for their starchy edible tubers, which can be used in stews and soups or boiled and eaten much like potatoes.
Xanthosoma sagittifolium
photo courtesy of Tau'olunga and Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Update on our Scottish visitor

It has been slightly cooler today after a few days of high heat and humidity and I suspect our visitor has flown, beginning her long journey back to her home loft. I guess she has at least 400 miles to fly, possibly more.
I contacted the Scottish Homing Union to seek advice as I was concerned that the local woodpigeons were beginning to bully her though she continued to feed, sharing the station with them and with the collared doves. She, and they, gave way to the harrying starlings and I can understand why. They're not fussy who or what they land on and the shrieking and bickering is enough to give any self-respecting creature a headache.
The SHU advised that stray pigeons can take about a week to regain body weight and muscle before they attempt to continue their journey. That we could not catch her was a good sign as it meant she was strong. Then they said that she would probably start to fly off in the early evenings and attempt to get home, which is a classic sign of an experienced bird.
This has confused me a little (not a difficult achievement!) because I asked Janie of 'Janie and Steve's Utah Trails' for some information. (Thank you Janie!) Steve used to raise racing pigeons when he was a teenager. He said that birds were released for racing in the early morning so that they had all day to fly and stragglers might arrive days or even weeks later but that as far as he knew they would not fly at night.Our visitor certainly flew in the evenings – from our roof to roofs two or three houses away (not a great distance) and then she would return to our house. It's now evening here and there has been no sign of her so I'm sure she has departed. I hope she makes it home – we'll never know. I gave the SHU her details and a couple of photographs so I suppose there's a slim chance that we might hear – I'd like to think so.

Monday 28 June 2010

Face of the Week #18

Sistertex of 'Spacial Peepol' organises and hosts this enjoyable weekly meme. Thank you, Sistertex! Click here to see more 'faces'.
Callum and Kiri in wetsuits -  the sun was hot but the water is deep and takes more than a couple of days to warm up! The lifejackets are essential, even with safety ropes.
Barry took our eldest daughter and her two younger children sailing at the weekend. The weather was perfect and everyone enjoyed themselves. Gillian and the children wanted to swim so Barry attached them to ropes and in they plunged. They are all excellent swimmers but a lifetime of sailing has made Barry very aware of how quickly conditions can change. They awoke the next morning to thick fog!

Brought to mind . . .

I have just been reading Denise's post (An English Girl Rambles) about the first gift her husband, at that time her fairly recent boyfriend, gave her. It was so romantic and I sighed happily and smiled and thought, 'What was the first thing Barry ever gave me?'
I asked him a few moments ago if he remembered and he replied instantly and, what is more, correctly! I was most impressed. It was, after all, a very long time ago! He was then an officer cadet at RMA Sandhurst, frantically fit, a boxer (excellent), runner (life-long) and enthusiastic participant in many another sweat-inducing sport and pastime. He was straight-backed, square-shouldered, blue-eyed and blond. To be more precise his hair was sandy rather than golden. It was this that made me compare him to a child's toy, a bear, and to his credit he was touched rather than irritated! The next time he came to see me he gave me a cuddly, growly teddy bear, which kept me company all the times we were apart and who later growled for our small children to make them smile.
My bear still has his growl, but he lost his original ribbon many years ago – I think it was red. His fur is worn and thin in places and his stuffing is forcing its way out. He really should spend time in the dolls' hospital but I don't want to send him away so he lives quietly in a drawer now, only occasionally emerging for a quick cuddle or, as today, a photo call!
Thank you, Denise, for jogging my memory. My bear was the first of many thoughtful gifts from my husband. Barry's hair is still sandy, touched with grey, his eyes still blue, but the military bearing disappeared long ago, the result, he swears, of all the cross-country running he's done through the decades.
A growly bear and flowers whose heads fell off remain memories that always make me smile – and the fact that he used to shave in the train on his way to see me.

Microfiction Monday #37

Susan from 'Stony River' organises and hosts this weekly meme. She provides a picture and the challenge is to create a story in 140 characters or less. Click here to read more marvels of microfiction – and perhaps be tempted to join in.
Here is this week's picture and my offerings follow.

'I've got grit in my eye.'
'Can't see it.'
'Hurry – I'm on watch.'
'Did you see rocks before you foundered?'
'I told you – grit in my eye.'
(135 characters)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
'What's the matter? Lost your tongue?'
'Yes, actually. Gain legs, lose voice – that's the contract.'
But of course, no one could hear her.
    (137 characters)

Saturday 26 June 2010

Camera Critters #116, Shadow Shot Sunday #110

The European Hornet (Vespa crabro) is usually simply called 'hornet'. This one appeared in our garden earlier this month. We see them less frequently than common wasps since they are not attracted to human food . They feed on insects, including bees, and ripening fruit.
I discovered that some people believe that three stings can kill an adult and seven can kill a horse - neither of these beliefs is true! Though their stings are painful they are no more dangerous than any other wasp sting, unless you happen to be allergic to them, in which case, keep your Epipen handy! In fact, hornets are less aggressive than other smaller wasps. If approached they will gradually retreat and then fly off rather than attack. However, a colony will defend its nest if the workers sense danger.
While verifying facts I learnt a new word - 'eusocial'. It describes the highest level of social organisation in hierarchical communities. The hornet is the largest European eusocial wasp.
I also learnt how to differentiate a male from a female but my photograph is not clear enough to count the segments on the the antennae - a male has 13 segments and a female has 12. The male  has seven visible abdominal segments while a female has six. I think the insect in the photo is a female.
Thank you to Misty Dawn of 'Camera Critters' and Tracy from 'Hey Harriet' for 'Shadow Shot Sunday' who organise and host these entertaining memes. To see more posts please click on the appropriate title. 

Friday 25 June 2010

Weekend Reflections #40

The Royal Observatory, Greenwich is home to London's only planetarium, the Peter Harrison Planetarium. It seems only right that it should be reflecting the sky on this bright June day. 
Thank you to James from 'Newtown Daily Photo' who organises and hosts this weekly meme. Click here to see more reflections.

haiku my heart friday

I found this meme through Sarah of 'Circles Of Rain' and just as she did, I thought it would be fun. Thank you, Sarah.
Mock orange blossom -
Would it be wise to use it
In wedding bouquets?

Rebecca from 'recuerda mi corazon' organises and hosts this meme. Please click here to read more!

Thursday 24 June 2010

SkyWatch Friday Season 4 Episode 50

Tuesday 22nd June 10:38
Tuesday 22nd June 11:03
It was hot and it grew hotter - the sky was so, so blue you could drown in it.
Thank you so much to the SkyWatch team for their efforts every week. To see more skies around this blue planet please click here.

Just a few howlers (not monkeys!)

On infectious diseases:
Control of infectious diseases is very important in case an academic breaks out.

On the importance of the railway in 19th century Britain:
The railways were invented to take the weight off the motorways.

On the work of Margaret Atwood:
'The Handmaid's Tale' shows how patriarchy treats women as escape goats.

On sustainability:
Sustainability is about not ruining life for our ancestors.

Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink.
Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large pollutants like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists.

Liver and cheese

A Chihuahua, a Doberman and a Bulldog were in a bar when a pretty Belgian Tervuren approached them and said, 'Whoever can use liver and cheese in a good sentence can take me out.The Doberman said, 'I love liver and cheese' and the Tervuren shook her lovely head, saying, 'That's not imaginative enough.'
The Bulldog grinned and said, 'I hate liver and cheese' but the Tervuren smiled and said, 'That's not creative either.'
Finally the Chihuahua said, 'Liver alone . . . cheese mine.'

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Kulula Airlines

Barry received this in an email this morning. Click on the photos for detail - it's worth it!

Nominee for best paint job on an airliner
Kulula is a low-cost South African airline that doesn't take itself too seriously. Check out their new livery.

ABC Wednesday W is for Wondering and Worrying

Thank you to Denise Nesbitt and her Willing Workers Who organise and host this Weekly meme. To see more Ws please click here.
Since early Monday morning this Scottish racing pigeon has been feeding and drinking several times a day in our garden.
She seems undisturbed by the presence of other birds. This young starling is drinking, lifting its beak to swallow. Pigeons and doves don't need to do this and so they can drink continuously.
One foot in, one foot out! Our dogs do this with their food bowls to stop them slipping. Perhaps she's doing the same thing.
I think Woodpigeons are handsome birds but I have to admit they'd come second in a beauty contest with a homing pigeon.
I've read that stray racing pigeons Will feed and rest and then resume their journey after a couple of days. This pigeon is Worrying me now. She has been here for three days. She has eaten heartily and drunk the fresh water I put out daily for the birds. I know she can fly and I saw her preening her feathers this afternoon. The advice is to capture strays and put them in a safe container, like a cat carrier, but this bird sits on our roof  and basks in the sun and When she's feeding she's looking around Warily every few seconds, though she seems less Worried With each passing day. What is really Worrying me, though, is that the Woodpigeons are getting bolder. Last evening two of them were tentatively pecking at her as all three gobbled seed. She didn't seem concerned, didn't attempt to retaliate and calmly carried on eating.
If she's still about tomorrow I'll contact the Pigeon Fancy and ask for advice. Maybe she's decided she likes it here - free food and no races!

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Face of the Week #17 An unexpected visitor!

Sistertex from 'Spacial Peepol' organises and hosts this meme. To see more, please click here.

You can find out more about our visitor here.

A Scottish visitor

When I glanced blearily and wearily into the garden early yesterday morning I noticed a pigeon busily feeding. It took a little while for my sleep-deprived brain to recognise that there was something different in the appearance of this bird.
It was the same size as a woodpigeon but that has a grey back and this pigeon's back was pale grey with two broad, long black bars across its wings. I began to think it was a rock dove. Though the white 'shield' over its beak was too prominent for it to be a pure-bred dove – increasingly rare, apart from some areas of northwest Europe - its colouring and patterning were perfect. After observing her for a time (I decided this bird might be a female – Barry asked if it was because she had a big bottom!) the realisation dawned that this might be a homing or racing pigeon and sure enough, when I focused on her legs I saw she was wearing two rings – a green one on the left leg and a white one on the right.
Our homing pigeon came to the bird feeders several times giving us plenty of photo opportunities. When I looked closely at the photographs Barry had taken I was able to identify her as a Scot! Her number was SU04 NE 757.
The local woodpigeons were rather perturbed by the interloper and gave her plenty of time and space to sate her hunger and thirst.
If a homing pigeon gets lost it will sometimes seek shelter near a house or garden so that it has an opportunity to rest and feed before continuing its journey. If it is still around after a day or two there is a stray pigeon service – one such is 'Pigeon Force Couriers' – that will collect a pigeon that's flown off-course and return it to its loft if it comes from a distant location, like our visitor. So, if this beautiful bird is still with us tomorrow we have the job of capturing her! If we can accomplish that she will apparently be perfectly happy in a cat carrier. Racing pigeons are accustomed to travelling with others in wicker baskets to the starting point of their races.
She has visited the feeders twice today and has also spent a long time on the roof ridge, basking and dozing in the sun. She really is a very pretty bird and looks fit and healthy so I'm hoping she will resume her journey and reach her home without attack by sparrowhawk. I suppose we will never know if she arrives safely – sigh!
Pigeon racing is very popular around the world. It is banned in Chicago!

Monday 21 June 2010

Microfiction Monday Disappointment

Susan from 'Stony River' organises and hosts this weekly meme. She provides a picture and the challenge is to create a story in 140 characters or less. Click here to read more marvels of microfiction – and perhaps be tempted to join in.
Here's mine!
The billboard had been snapped so it should have read:
Lazy Dogfish
Camp- resort FULL
Cabins – pool UNHEATED
Hot shower – EXTRA
(138 characters)

Sunday 20 June 2010

Today's Flowers #98 lilies

I've lost the label for these lilies! They are Asiatic lilies growing with herb robert.
They are splendid, showy flowers but have no scent. So far this year I've only found one lily beetle - we had loads last year.
Thank you to the Today's Flowers team for tirelessly organising and hosting this meme. Click here to see more flowers around the world.

Pet Pride Peaceful sleep!

Bozo and his human organise and host this lovely weekly meme.
Buddy Liver-Spots is sleeping soundly. Look at those adorable little white eye-lashes. All Dalmatians' eye-lashes are white. Buddy has been keeping us on our toes and we could do with some extra sleep;-)

Buddy keeps us on our toes!

It was a lovely day on Wednesday. Barry had gone to a formal lunch in London so I took the dogs out on my own. We didn't meet a soul and it was good to feel that we had the forest to ourselves. Jenna and Gus played in and around the ponds and Frodo went in for a refreshing bath. Buddy was sniffing interesting sniffs and happily wagging his tail as we walked along in the sunshine. There was a pleasant breeze to complement the bright sun, the birds were singing and all was well with the world. It felt good to be alive.
When we reached home the dogs flopped down to snooze. After a while Buddy got up and went to the patio door, asking to go out. He started pacing restlessly then began coughing and frothing at the mouth. My first thought was that he had something stuck in his throat though he'd had nothing to eat since breakfast several hours before and I knew he hadn't picked up anything during our walk. He became ever more agitated, stumbling almost into the pond, and I looked in his mouth to see if anything was there. At the same time I noticed that his stomach was bloating and becoming very tight and hard. Within minutes I got him to the vets' surgery – fortunately, it's only two minutes away by car – and managed to help him out of the car. By now he was extremely distressed and I was very relieved when a nurse came after a minute or two to take him through to the treatment area.

When Mark-the-Vet came back to talk to me he looked grave. Buddy was in a bad way. If he was suffering from gastric dilatation a tube could be passed down his throat to relieve the build-up of gas, it would be clear that the stomach had not twisted and he would instantly feel much better. If the tube could not be passed other measures could be taken to release the gas and reduce the pressure, namely inserting a needle or catheter into his stomach from outside. An x-ray would help to determine the state of Buddy's insides. Ultimately, an operation might be required but it was not a procedure to be undertaken lightly in view of Buddy's age – he's fourteen and nearly died three years ago from meningitis. I had to sign a consent form for anaesthesia but could hardly write because my hand was shaking so much. I may always look calm and collected but under the surface everything's racing! I went home to await further information.

As I walked into the house my ears were assailed by noise. The house phone was ringing, as was my mobile. In my haste I had left it behind. Added to this was Skype donging determinedly on my laptop. Barry was on the train and trying to contact me to let me know when to meet him. When he couldn't get an answer from me he started worrying that something had happened and contacted Gillian to phone, email and Skype me. No-one is allowed to remain unreachable in our family!

As luck would have it, when I left to meet Barry at the station Mark-the-Vet tried several times to contact me. He was phoning every ten minutes to discuss options. It was clear that Buddy had a twisted stomach, usually called gastric torsion or volvulus. There were dangers inherent in an operation; general anaesthesia poses a risk in any animal, more so an elderly one. The stomach wall and abdominal organs might be badly damaged if the blood supply to them had been reduced, and the recovery period was critical. Finally we decided that it was not the right time to let Buddy go – in general, he's fit and healthy, though almost blind. He deserved his chance and so we gave our consent for the operation. Mark-the-Vet phoned at 9:30 that evening to let us know how it had progressed. He had never performed this procedure and had called in another vet, whom he assisted. The stomach was undamaged and had only twisted once. In order to prevent it twisting again in the future it had been stitched to the abdomen wall and Buddy was recovering. Around two hours later Ben-the-Vet, the operating vet, called to tell us that Buddy seemed well but that he would stay overnight to keep an eye on him and would we like him to call us at 3:00 am? We declined! Thursday was an anxious day but my mind and time were occupied very pleasantly by Susannah, who invited me to meet her in London, so I left Barry to wait for news. Mark-the-Vet and Kate-the-Vet phoned two or three times to give an update on the boy's progress and it seemed that Buddy would not be ready to leave for a while. We anticipated him being away over the weekend but on Friday afternoon we were told that we could take him home on Saturday, once final checks had been done. Yesterday, at 3:00 pm, almost exactly three days to the hour that I had rushed him in there, he wobbled out from the treatment area, wagging his tail and obviously pleased to see us. The rest of the animals were excited to see him and sniffed him all over.
Sleeping peacefully - sleep is the best cure of all!
Last night I slept downstairs with him as managing the stairs would be difficult for him. He was a little disturbed by this – he's accustomed to sleeping in our bedroom - and kept going to the foot of the stairs until I shut the sitting room door.
One could be forgiven for thinking that Cruella de Vil had been taking samples!
He woke about 4:00 am and wandered around for an hour or so before having a small meal and going back to sleep.
A Dalmatian's spots really are skin-deep! They are spotted within and without - even in their mouths. Buddy has had two analgesic patches. I think the second one may be removed on Monday.
He goes back to the vet for a check-up tomorrow – I don't know whether he'll have a fresh analgesic patch. He has antibiotics for the next few days and needs lots of rest to recuperate.
It's good to see him back in his place on the settee! He's a great character and we would have missed him sorely. His time will come – but not just now. There's life in the old dog, yet - and we have our great vets to thank for that!

Saturday 19 June 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday #109

A nameless sculpture by an unnamed sculptor in Canary Wharf.
There are a number of sculptures but none of them (that I saw) carry any information.
Thank you to Tracy from 'Hey Harriet' who organises and hosts this weekly meme. To see more Shadows, please click here.

Camera Critters #115 In step

I think the collared doves parading across our gymnasium roof last week were practising their marching. Perhaps they wanted to be part of the Trooping the Colour on the Queen's Official Birthday last Saturday, 12th June.
Left . . .
. . . right . . .
. . . left . . . oops! Not quite in step . . .
. . . right . . . that's better!
. . . oh dear! More practice needed!
Thank you to Misty Dawn for organising and hosting this meme. To see more Critters please click here.

Friday 18 June 2010

Weekend Reflections #39

Weekend Reflections is hosted by James at Newtown Area Photo. Thank you, James!
This brass plaque commemorates the lying in state of Admiral Lord Nelson in the Painted Hall of the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich. I didn't realise there was a reflection on it of the ceiling of the Painted Hall. 
Nelson was killed at Trafalgar on 21st October 1805. His body was placed in a cask of brandy which was later replaced with spirits to preserve it during the long journey home.  

Tuesday 15 June 2010

ABC Wednesday V is for Vermin or ‘Who’d be an aphid?’

Definition from Chambers:
singular or plural noun
1 a collective name for wild animals that spread disease or generally cause a nuisance, especially rats and other rodents. 2 detestable people. verminous
adj1 like vermin; parasitic; vile. 2 infested with vermin.
14c: from Latin vermis worm.

I have stretched the definition and taken the phrase 'generally cause a nuisance' to apply to aphids. The usual colour is green and in Britain they are called greenfly, which sounds quite attractive; they can also be black (blackfly) brown or even pink. In other countries they are known as plant lice, which definitely sounds repulsive. Whatever their nomenclature, they are universally acknowledged as some of the most destructive insects attacking cultivated plants in temperate climes.
It's rare to see just one greenfly! Where are its friends and relations?
They are very successful organisms and have been in existence for about 280 million years. They are preyed on by many enemies, including birds, ladybirds, parasitic wasps, lacewings and even some parasitic fungi.
There they are! All shapes and sizes and moulted skins too - delightful! 
There is a strange relationship between some ant species and aphids. The ants are said to 'farm' the aphids. They protect their 'ant cows' on the plant food, fighting off predators, and eating the honeydew they produce. These 'dairy farmer' ants have been observed stroking the aphids with their antennae to stimulate them to release honeydew.
Blackfly on a dock leaf stem. Safety in numbers?
Here is Farmer Ant with his herd. One of the aphids has wings, maybe preparing to fly to another feeding station.
Some species of ants collect and store aphid eggs in their nests through the winter, carrying newly-hatched young back to the plants in the spring.Aphids produce many generations each year. In March eggs that were laid the previous October hatch into wingless females. No males are hatched. As the female nymphs grow they moult several times. Once they reach maturity they give birth to live daughters without recourse to fertilisation, a process known as parthenogenesis or asexual reproduction. The new generation of females grows quickly and reproduces asexually but some of the daughters will develop wings and fly to new food plants. The pattern repeats throughout the summer, with winged and wingless generations generally alternating. A change occurs in October, when the first male aphids are produced. They have wings and fly to a tree to be joined by winged females. These females produce wingless daughters and the males mate with these when they are mature. The resulting eggs are laid on the tree, ready to overwinter. They are black with thick shells to withstand extremes of temperature. 
Aphids are very interesting creatures but can cause a great deal of damage. Their numbers increase rapidly, doubling every four to six days. While their natural predators help to control the population explosion, some other means are usually needed. A simple way is to spray them with a strong jet of water – this may not help more delicate plants! Another method is to put a couple of drops of washing-up liquid in a gallon of water and use this mixture as a spray. Companion planting may help. Chives, spearmint, garlic, basil, coriander, alliums are all said to deter aphids. Flowers like nasturtiums are particularly attractive to aphids – the black variety in our garden! – but will keep nearby plants free of them. Sunflowers attract ants and aphids and are such strong plants that they are usually unaffected by these little beasties.
Thank you to Denise Nesbitt and her willing team who organise and host this weekly meme. To see more entries please click here.

Monday 14 June 2010

On the Square (Part 1)

Hong Kong 1928 - aged 24
For more than sixty of his eighty-four years of life my father was a practising Freemason. His father, who drowned when his ship went down off Sheerness in 1914, was also a Freemason. In fact, his Masonic regalia was washed ashore and returned to his widow and eventually passed on to the youngest of her three sons, my father, who was then ten years old. He in turn passed it on to his only son, my late brother, in whose care it went up in flames with the rest of his possessions in a log cabin in BC, Canada many years ago. Freemasons who have only just met me know within a very short time of conversing with me that I am a Freemason's daughter, not because I tell them but because there are certain expressions or words I use that are a key to this knowledge. I don't know what they are! I used to observe my father discovering a brother mason through apparently casual conversation but never fathomed how he did it.
My father always maintained that Freemasonry was not a secret society but rather a society with secrets; there is a subtle difference. He often stated that anyone could find out anything about Freemasonry if they carried out some research. Throughout his time in the Royal Navy, which totalled more than thirty years, he knew that, as a Master Mason, wherever he went in the world he would be welcomed as a brother at any Masonic Lodge governed by or affiliated to the United Grand Lodge of England. The language might be different but the ritual was familiar and comforting. Added to this was the fact that he was an accomplished organist and pianist and could be called upon to play at meetings if required. At a time when naval commissions could take three years, recognisable surroundings and ceremonies provided a pleasant change from shipboard life and a reminder of home in often exotic locations.
My father's eldest brother, Will, was also a Freemason and continued his participation after he emigrated to Canada. Whether Harry, their middle brother and their mother's favourite, was ever initiated was never known since he removed himself from the family and cut all contact, leaving their mother heartbroken for the remainder of her life.
It is not clear how and why Freemasonry arose as an organisation. In its ritual it makes reference to the builders of King Solomon's Temple but I have always thought that its origins lay in the formal foundation of guilds of stonemasons. I suspect I was told this indirectly by my father as I'm sure this is what he believed.
The term freemason was believed to have been coined in the fourteenth century and there are several definitions of it. One of these describes a worker in free-stone. Quarry stone used in everyday building was unevenly laid down and had either a coarse crooked grain or a grain like that of a plank of pine wood. This meant that it could not be cut or carved with any degree of accuracy as it might split along any of its grains. Stone used for carving needed to have either no grain or a very fine grain so that it could be worked without cracking or chipping and could be polished if required. This stone was called free-stone. Thus a mason working with this material would be known as a free-stone mason.
Another definition describes how local stonemasons under normal circumstances were constrained by guilds and civil law to work only in their own parishes. However, masons involved in church and cathedral work were not restricted and could move freely from parish to parish. This was at a time when an ordinary workman going into a parish other than his own would be regarded as a foreigner, even if he had travelled from a neighbouring parish. Street riots could be caused by incursions from such outsiders.
Mediaeval stonemasons traditionally served a seven-year apprenticeship. Apprentices were indentured, or under contract, to their masters in payment for their training. At the end of his contract the apprentice would be examined and then set free as a master mason to follow his trade. Accordingly a master mason was considered to be a free mason.
A city or town charter is a legal document establishing a municipality which is a clearly defined area governed by a mayor and his council. This concept was developed in Europe in mediaeval times. When a town was granted a charter it was able to govern itself and its residents became citizens, free from bondage to local landowners. Within the town or city walls there was freedom from serfdom. Outside serfdom persisted legally up to the 17th century in England. So a mason in a chartered town would be a free citizen while a mason outside the walls would not be free. Strangers entering a municipality with the intention of living there might receive their freedom or citizenship after a residential period of one year and one day.
Free stonemasons working on ecclesiastical buildings restricted their contact to other masons, keeping themselves apart from local workmen working with them. It would appear that they did this under the authority of the church. Stonemasons were highly skilled, the élite of the workforce and held in great respect by other less accomplished artisans. The craft attracted the more ambitious candidates among otherwise poorly-educated recruits.
It is uncertain how or when or even why guilds of working or operative masons began to accept speculative, intellectual, non-operative masons. What is known is that some lodges in England were composed entirely of non-operative masons by 1646.
Where does the expression 'on the square' come from? It is understood as meaning an individual behaving honestly and straightforwardly in his dealings with his fellow man. Around 945 BC, at the time of the construction of King Solomon's Temple, the ancient Egyptians referred to truth and justice as being 'on the square.' In 500 BC Confucius spoke of 'the squareness of actions' and Aristotle in 350 BC linked 'square actions' with honest behaviour. So to be 'on the square' is understood, from ancient times, to be resolute and dependable.
(I have used many sources in my research. I have been unable to recover the links but am indebted to those whose work has provided me with a greater insight into Freemasonry. I believe I have not plagiarised anyone's work – that was not my intent – there is a large body of information 'out there' to which I have added my own small knowledge garnered from my late father according to the facts he felt able to share with me.) 


There are lots of young birds in the garden, most all of them entirely capable of feeding themselves. Yet still some many squawk and screech for their parents to bring titbits. The blue tits seem to be are the most demanding. They flit from twig to stem, fluttering their baby wings and widening their cavernous gapes.
The two in the following photos caught my attention last week.
'Where's my mum? Where's my dad? Where are they? I'm hungry, they should be here. Mum? Dad?'
'I'll have to help myself. Mmm, this is good, nice and fatty. This'll put muscles under my feathers but I wish Mum and Dad would come. I want them to feed me.'
'At last! Dad, where have you been, Dad? Where's Mum? I'm hungry, Dad. Dad, Dad, I'm hungry, Dad. Dad, Dad, are you listening, Dad? I'm hungry.'
'Son, your mother and I are exhausted. We're still feeding you and your brothers and sisters and it's time you looked after yourselves.'
'Dad, Dad, I'm hungry. Feed me!'
'Son, I told you, I'm worn out. Look at me. My feathers are falling out and I'm losing weight while you put it on. Please, please, be quiet now.'

The poor bedraggled adult looked ready to collapse. I think his son must have listened and told his siblings because this week none of the young blue tits are begging!

Face of the Week #16 Daisy

Sistertex from 'Spacial Peepol' organises and hosts this lovely meme.
Daisy was born in our bedroom on August 13th, 1978, the only bitch in a litter of five Jack Russell puppies. If you're interested in knowing a little more about her you can find out here.

Microfiction Monday #35 Taking tea

Susan from 'Stony River' organises and hosts this weekly meme. She provides a picture and the challenge is to create a story in 140 characters or less – including punctuation! Click here to read more marvels of microfiction – and perhaps join in. It's fun!
Here is this week's picture and my offering.
 'That's hot,' said the monkey.
'What did you expect?' said Alice. 'Iced tea? And by the way taking sugar in your tea can make you go blind.'
(139 characters)