Random Ramblings

Random Ramblings: Personal observations on a wide variety of subjects. Photographs of creatures and things that are taken on seeing the unusual as well as everyday things.

Back to real time

The clocks across Britain are turned back at 1.00 am to 12.00 am today back to Greenwich Mean Time or real time. This is the time of our forebears and our ideal body clock time. It is reported that this may well be the last time that we turn back our clocks as once more the ‘darling Southerner's’ of our land are calling for ‘Summertime’ to be made permanent.

I can honestly say that I speak from experience when I tell you that I have tried this before on several experimental attempts to ditch GMT and adopt British Summertime permanently. I can only speak for Worcestershire or middle England. The months from December through until the end of February are more than dismal on Summertime settings. Frost and darkness make mornings treacherous – both the journeys to work and school full of misadventure with drivers and pedestrians appearing to be at the very best bleary-eyed. People would say at the time – ‘it’s like working down the pits!’ Of course, this is untrue for working down a coal mine is undoubtedly far, far, worse but the fact that it was even compared to this shows just how unpopular it came to be. The further North a person lives the darker the morning remains which does not bode well for those who have to make a living outdoors. There is nothing that can be done to extend the length of light of a Winter’s day but it is selfish of those who live in the South to assume that everyone benefits if their day time’s are going to be improved.

I love turning back the clocks – I feel that my body is ready for this step back and lengthening of sleep time … I have tried Summertime and I have even experienced double-Summertime (two hours forward) but for Midlanders and Northerners alike, I can honestly say that mornings feel so much more safer and pleasant when we turn back the clocks for Wintertime!

Clock - turn back the time from1.00am to 12


I never thought that I would feel excitement from finding an earwig … but it has been years since spotting my last earwig and I was beginning to wonder whether they had become extinct in my area along with so many other insects. This was a splendid male. Male earwigs have round rear pincer like protrusions whereas their counterpart females have rather straight protrusions with just the faintest suggestion of a small outward curving wobble in them. This particular earwig is the common variety which grows to between 10 to 15 mm in length. There are four different species of earwig in Britain, all of them usually go into a sort of hibernation during the colder months of the year so perhaps this male was looking for somewhere to spend the Winter months … he has wiggled away during the night so I’m not sure if he found a good hiding place to take a long nap in. Although earwigs have wings that they tuck away they rarely ever use them to fly with.

Earwig - common

Common earwig - Forficula auricularia

The earwig’s name comes from earwicga which actually means ‘ear beetle.’ It was a widely held belief that the earwig crawled into ears whilst a person slept and some people even believed that earwigs laid their eggs deep inside the ear, there were also people also believed that the earwig crawled so far into the ear that they were able to lay eggs in a sleeping person’s brain. This widely held myth is still believed by a few people to this very day.

The female earwig is, in insect terms, a loving mother as she lays her eggs some twenty to sixty and occasionally eighty and stays with them whilst they hatch. She will gather her eggs up to keep them safe and checks the eggs keeping them in a tidy group. She will move the eggs and clean them regularly this keeps the eggs from developing mould in the damp nest. The young earwigs are the same shape as their parents and the ‘loving’ earwig mother stays with her young guarding them and providing them with food until they are large enough to fend for themselves. Once her job is done and her young have matured enough to live safely on their own in the big wide world, the mother earwig finds her final resting place and dies.

The earwig is a useful garden insect as although it may be seen eating flower petals it also tucks in to aphids and other garden pests as well as eating dead and decomposing plants and animals. This helps to keep the garden tidy and clean … so be thankful if you find an earwig for they are a friend to the gardener and quite lovely garden insects.

The Nation’s best patient website

A site that has been highly praised by patients and doctors alike is called ‘Patient UK.’ The site has been compiled by doctors and professionals and aims to answer medical questions, various patient issues and other advice with a variety of ways including videos. There are also free links to over 1300 medical journals through the site. So if you need advice here is the link: Patient UK.

Get well soon

Malnutrition and the Western world

Whenever we hear the word ‘malnutrition’ we almost always think of the impoverished world. The idea that malnutrition is on our doorsteps or even in our homes never crosses our minds. The fact that so many of the illnesses and complaints of today are in some way connected to the food that goes into us and our bodies ability to process this food effectively is becoming more and more apparent.

Example: Do you live a spit away from the ocean? In other words when you go for a walk near to where you live are you able to feel sea spray on your face? If the answer is no – and it will be for most of us then the next few questions are vital for normal body weight. Do you eat ocean white fish two to three times each week? Do you include seaweed in your meals once or twice each week? Do you enjoy regular portions of shellfish? Do you regularly add garlic to your meals? Do you always use sea salt in your cooking? If you are constantly answering no – then the chances are your body might be crying out for iodine. Malnutrition from this one element alone causes several major problems these include: inability or great difficulty to lose weight no matter how hard you try; gaining weight very easily which is difficult to shed; constipation; very cold hands and feet even during the hottest of weather spells; lack of energy and the desire to sit down for long periods; a general apathy to life or difficulty to get motivated.


When you add to this all of the other elements or minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and so on it is easy to see that we are all lacking or becoming malnourished with every day we draw breath and we are unlikely to ever know anything about it, other than not to feel as good as we should.

So when you next take a trip to the doctors be honest with your replies regarding your weekly intake of food. Without complete honesty to the doctor they will not be likely to ascertain whether you have an illness caused through lack of an essential nutrient or whether you may have something caused by bacteria, fungus, virus, or other varieties of causes. Never has the statement ‘you are what you eat’ been more frighteningly true. The problem is that few of us will ever really know what being 100% fit really feels like. Many will be told that they are simply greedy, idle, lazy, boring, bad tempered, violent, nasty, hypochondriacs ……. when truly the majority are most likely just suffering from malnutrition.

Take care -  try to eat a little of everything … be concerned if you do not eat certain foods because you do not like them – be concerned if you are a faddy eater – be concerned if your weekly food never varies, your menus contain the same food items or you rarely try new things … all of these type of eating habits can result in malnourishment.

Seek help if you constantly feel unwell as it is not a natural way to feel.

Steel ice Winter weather

If legend is correct - we are in for a very long, bitter and harsh Winter as the environmental barometer of the ‘steel ice weather’ period, the Bewick’s swan has migrated from Siberia to our English shores more than three weeks earlier than normal this year. This small, delicate sweet swan flew some 2,500 miles and landed in the Midlands region bringing with it blasts of Arctic air which has brought us our first frosts. In folklore, the earlier that the Bewick’s swan arrives on our shores predicts both the Winter extension and the overall biting harshness of the season’s weather …

Bewick's swan png   Bewick’s swan

The Bewick’s swan is similar to the Whooper swan in features apart from the overall size – the Bewick’s being only 115 to a possible 125 centimetres from bill to tail. The other main feature being the beak. Both birds have long triangular yellow and black bills but the Bewick’s bill has black creeping  upwards over the nostrils whilst the Whooper has yellow creeping downwards, the nostrils in this larger bird therefore present themselves surrounded in the yellow portion of their beaks.

Fettered fungus

Life is full of surprises. There is nothing quite so astonishing than to see how some forms of life spring to being almost from fresh air. One day there is no evidence of life the next something quite outstanding, complex and unique. Today, whilst placing some carrot and parsnip tops onto my open compost heap (I have two – one is open and one is a large plastic enclosed bin) I saw something just under half-way down on the near side of the open topped heap. It was early evening and just beginning to get slightly dark. I bent down and there growing at the side right up against the metal caging was a large variety of mushroom. It was growing sideways and had a very long and sturdy stem and even though mushrooms and toadstools are quite delicate in that they can be bruised or crushed when man-handled, this one had made room for itself and had pulled away the compost from the side of the cage. Normally the compost squeezes itself right up against the wire – if someone had asked me whether it was possible for a mushroom to pull back compost in this fashion before actually seeing it for myself I would have replied ‘No!’

Mushroom in the compost Mushroom growing in the compost heap


Mushroom growing in a compost heap Wild mushroom sprouting out of the compost heap

Purple potato

The latest super food to hit the high street is the ‘purple potato.’ So for this weekend I thought I would buy a few to try them. Thankfully, the most colourful and unusual varieties of potato are finally spreading throughout the world from South America. They are easy to grow either in the garden border, vegetable patch, tub or any container that can hold a fair bit of soil to house the potato crop. Whenever peeling potatoes always save any large potato eyes on the outer skin and bury them somewhere in your border – the chances are they will produce a lovely crop of potatoes for you without any expense or trouble.

Purple potatoes are packed full of anti-oxidants as well as a wide array of vitamins and minerals. They are noted for helping to maintain healthy blood vessels. Most importantly, they taste wonderful and are inexpensive to buy.


Purple potato - variety 'Purple Majesty' Purple potato – variety ‘Purple Majesty’

Purple potato - variety 'Purple Majesty' sliced Purple potatoes sliced through


Some of the special ingredients packed into these wonderful super food potatoes are claimed to be: zinc (helps to ward off both bacterial and especially viral illness and used for around two hundred different enzyme processes many of which are linked to the immune system. Zinc also helps in the production of insulin, healing of wounds and eruptions on the outer skin, sperm formation. Zinc is required for aiding the body digest protein); iron (good for enriching the blood, helping the body make red blood cells to transport oxygen to keep the brain alert and keep organs healthy); magnesium (required for stress busting and good quality sleep. Magnesium aids the body in the digestion of carbohydrates. It is also used by the body to help the brain clarify information. Magnesium is required by the body to help the absorption of calcium to strengthen the bones); phosphorus, potassium, vitamin c, vitamin B6 (helps to convert protein foods into energy, keeps a balanced mood, helps with repair and healing), riboflavin, thiamine, folic acid (required for building anti-bodies, folic acid also has the capacity for lowering homocysteine levels, preventing anaemia), etc.

Little Dorrit

One flower that I can remember from the moment of my childhood is ‘Little Dorrit.’ Its sweet pin-point stars fill the air with fragrance as it bustles its way from baskets, tubs, pots and borders spilling over pathways with an urgency to throw itself into every little corner of the garden.

Although it may be purchased already growing in small pots or plugs, it is so easy to grow from seed that this must be the best option even for the most sallow of green thumbs out there. Seed packets are available from most nurseries, garden centres, department stores and supermarkets and may be found for as little as 29 pence for a small packet. It will grow anywhere and needs very little soil to parade a most wonderful show. The seeds are a surface scatter variety – just simply throw where they need to grow, preferably after a rainfall so that they begin to swell and thrust out their roots almost immediately. Although they are an annual, they willingly self-seed so will flourish year-after-year. Some of the parent plants will flower for a second year which is an added bonus. Below is a picture of one young adult plant a few months after sowing still sturdy and strong well into October and it will continue flowering until the arrival of heavy frosts. At less than one penny it is the flower for thrifty times.

Little Dorrit Little Dorrit known also as Alyssum, Bianco, Lobularia maritima

Who owns you?

When I was young a wonderful and wise old lady asked me the question:

“Who owns you?”

I said in a heartbeat, “Why my mother and father.”

The wise old lady laughed and said “Your mother and father didn’t purchase you they made you from their love so that one day you will go out into the world and do your very best to have a good life, but they do not own you. So, who owns you?”

I thought once more - very deeply and decided upon a different answer, “Why God, of course.” I was relieved that the answer had come to me.

“No,” she said “God watches over you but he doesn’t own you. So, who owns you?”

“I know,” I said “my country!”

She smiled then said “You may choose to serve your country when you are older for you are one of its citizens. You can buy part of its land so you are more likely to own your country than your country to own you. So, would you like me to tell you the answer?”

“Yes.” I said more baffled than ever.

“Why,” she said “you own yourself, of course. It is a big responsibility as you must choose what you would like to do with your life, what foods you should eat; what books you should read. What words you should say. Everything in life needs to balance, rather like a see-saw – then you will always be happy. You should never do any one thing without balancing it with something else. Try and remember that and always remember, no matter where you go and whatever you do you will always own yourself!”


Wonderful, beautiful and wise and special old lady

Dwarf Evening Primrose – Evening Sunflower

The sun was shining brightly this afternoon which encouraged the few remaining late flowers of the dwarf evening primrose to bloom. I have two of these, one of them produces spotted bud casings whilst the other is plain green. Apart from that both the flowers and leaves are identical. They are large and showy and look magnificent in the rockery. Both plants are now quite old, they are both compact and have frequent flowers that bloom especially well on a warm sunny afternoon and evening.

Evening Primrose - taken in Worcestershire Dwarf Evening Primrose


The weather has been wonderfully mild this weekend with glimpses of an Indian Summer. I managed to pot out a few late border plants in the hope that they will survive the Winter and help brighten up the Spring. Whilst pulling a few weeds I came across some bird table escapes including a very pale flax or linseed flower growing between the slabs.

Flax Flax or Linseed

Flax is usually a pretty shade of blue but this bird table variety is almost white with a touch of mauve. I wonder where in the world it originates from?

blue flax flower

Blue flax flower

Nigella seed, Black cumin, Black caraway … Egyptian gold

The magical black seed is known by many names and thousands of years ago was prized by Kings and paupers alike for its healing properties. So why do we now find it of so little value that the Western world tosses it onto bird tables to feed finches? Years ago it was so prized that it was, it is claimed buried with the most powerful people in their tombs. Some of these seeds are even alleged to have been found buried with Tutankhamun.

Perhaps the main reason for this magical cure all to go out of fashion is the fact that so many black seeds are now being sold as ‘pure black cumin’ but unless you purchase the correct seeds then you cannot possibly hope for a cure to your ailments.

It is important for man to regain control over these amazing seeds and start using them for their medicinal properties once more. It is doubtful that the medical profession will ever recognise their potential unless it is persuaded to conduct extensive testing. The black cumin seed, it is said, was known as fitch in the Bible and their wonderful alleged properties are legion:

    • Firstly it is claimed they boost the immune system
    • They may be used for internal disorders
    • A cure for headaches
    • Relief from sinus pains
    • They aid asthma disorders
    • The seeds promote well-being
    • A cure for respiratory ailments
    • Everything except for death itself

Nigella seed Nigella seed

Black cumin is sold in various forms including capsules and oil. It is probably best to purchase them at a reputable health store as there are so many other black seeds that are being sold as these magical cure all ailments seeds … some of which would be harmless but useless, others may prove to be dangerous.

Cashew nut – poison

Cashews are expensive and this is most probably because of two main reasons:

    • firstly the cashew is not a true nut but grows beneath a sort of bulbous fruit
    • secondly the cashew forms in a sort of kidney shaped vessel that contains a thick, poisonous liquid

When the cashews are gathered the outer casing and liquid filling has to be separated from the actual ‘cashew nut.’ If any part of the outer layer or liquid remains on the cashew then it becomes poisonous to eat. To make it safe it is cooked at high temperatures, the juice becomes thick and oozes out and the outer layer is then peeled off. The cashew should never be eaten raw as there is a risk of consuming the remaining poison that is left on the ‘nut’ and even small amounts can cause nasty side effects. The consumption of a small amount of this poison allegedly leads to a whole array of symptoms. It is claimed that these range from nausea, sickness, diarrhoea, headaches, pains and even various skin rashes. When purchasing cashews it may be wise, especially if they are pale to bake or boil them before eating … just to be on the safe side.


Cashew growing Cashew

Cashew nuts - raw

Cashew nuts – purchased as raw

Although the top part of the fruit is almost shaped like a pear it is often called a cashew apple. It is the fruit of a very small evergreen tree that grows in South America especially around Brazil and it is often known by its Portuguese name of Caju. The cashew apple is non-poisonous and very sweet, it ripens extremely quickly making it excellent for jam and jelly making.

Sedum seduction

Sedum’s come in all shapes and sizes and are cherished for their groups of tiny star-shaped flowers that are clustered together to form the look of a larger flower-head. One of the most easiest to grow flowers, needing no attention whatsoever once it has established itself in the border, is the Sedum Ice Plant. It is erect and splendid and at its best in the Autumn. The flowers early in Autumn are like pearl pink nail polish in colour, deepening to Christmas paper pink, an almost red towards early October. If allowed to remain on the plant it naturally dries out and then may be used for flower arrangements. Many people choose to spray the flower heads gold to mix in with table arrangements or to added to natural door ornaments which are often displayed on front doors as a celebration to mark the Christmas period.

Sedum Ice Plant - taken October 2010Sedum Ice Plant

Grim harvest

October has arrived. It came with rain, heavy and persistent in over hanging clouds of dark, dull grey. There is a change in the air. When I was young it was considered a fearful month as it bore a heavy toll as people keeled over with bronchitis, influenza and pneumonia. It was the month when mothers would wrap up their young and bring out the scarves, woolly hats and balaclavas. Vests and liberty bodices were retrieved from the back of cupboards. Old men’s chests would rattle and wheeze and fill up with phlegm. Both inside and out there was the sound of artillery as sneezes machine gunned out of mouths, one after the other spraying the air with the bio weapons of Winter. Coughs would hack like a persistent wood cutter attacking a large knot in the trunk of an old tree.

I remember, whilst walking with my mother, sometimes passing a lovely man. He would wave, say ‘hello,’ or occasionally stop and discuss the weather. He wore a dark suit and a white open necked shirt. My mother would comment and say ‘you ought to cover-up, wear a scarf, you’ll catch your death!’ One year the poor man did just that … October can be such a grim month.

Grim Reaper

October Curse