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.

Long life expectations

It's a sad reflection on the entire human race to think that there are great swathes of people who still do not receive an education. There are perhaps even more that do not receive as much education as they should. Worst of all are the millions who just accept a basic school education, whatever country they live in, never trying to increase their knowledge or abilities.
Perhaps the most successful person is one that is almost wholly self-taught. This takes an inner strength and patience and an unseen sixth sense - a mixture of obstinacy and endurance. There is an old saying "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" it is a saying that has the ability to hold people back from their aspirations for to deny ourselves of knowledge keeps us teetering with our other primate cousins.

The American Dream

The American Dream is difficult for the rest of the world to comprehend. When we look at America from our television screens it appears that to attain "the dream" would require the rest of us to have major surgery to re-sculpture our bodies. Familiar faces that stare back at us from a corner of the room all seem to have similar characteristics as they all allegedly have plastic surgery. At least many of those in the public eye seem to have face lifts where their skins are stretched as tightly as permissible before a tear might appear to pull the whole appearance in two. Many seem to use jet black hair dye or perhaps wigs and hair pieces. Their eyes shine with confidence as they flash open mouthed smiles with two rows of teeth the colour of Xerox paper. No longer could you use the poets language and describe these teeth as pearls! What would Leonardo make of it all? The lines of wisdom attained through years of learning, screwing a forehead whilst deep in thought. Squinting at lines of print by a flickering candle. Straining at the horizon to determine a shape in bright sunlight. All this living, all this knowledge ironed out of the countenance in the pretence of everlasting youth.


Random fun video ~
Keepon dancing to Spoon's "I turn my camera on"

Are these for sale yet?

Yes Ma'am - I met the Queen

She was much larger than expected. It was two days ago and a cold, damp, dark and dismal evening - the cat charged through the kitchen leaving the back door wide open. All at once, neatly attired in yellow and black livery, the queen in all her glory came passed my face, missing me by a whisker. She headed straight for the small twisted bright light bulb and forced her way through the woven metallic shade. Backwards and forwards she moved not showing any signs of wanting to go out the way that she came. I rolled up a sheet of newspaper and gently tried to persuade her to leave the light and step onto the sheet. I turned off its brightness but still she persisted and hung on tightly with her light, neat, feet. She was unbelievably silent as three members of the family tried their utmost to show her to the door. Eventually she climbed onto the rolled up paper and was quickly evacuated outside only to buzz away at speed like a wraith.
The Queen of wasps should really have been hibernating until the warmth of the Spring wakes her up like Sleeping Beauty after her long Winter nap.


Is it fair to say that it's an English thing to appreciate a game played well rather than a game won at all costs? May be. I can't help feeling a sense of disbelief when I watched the latest game played by England. It wouldn't be fair to criticize either the manager or the players without mentioning the fact that they were playing on a pitch that was almost reminiscent of a bog! What chance would there be to show off even the most aspired footwork on a pitch that was an utter disgrace to the sport of sports to red-blooded keen paying supporters? The fact that the ground itself is named Wembley makes the whole farcical affair even worse. The game should never have been played there. Should any future major game be played there? As a nation that enjoys sportsmanship more than most we should at least have given our own sportsmen 'the England football team' a fair and fighting chance of beating the opponents - a pitch that bad is taking fair play too far!


As a young child my mother always greeted November with the following saying "no sun, no moon, November."
November is still a month of moisture with rain, mist, occasional fog and a dampness in the air even on the sunniest of days when the fine droplets of water or morning dew outline the spiders' webs - secretly tucked into the hedgerows. It no longer holds the threat of the thick swirling "pea-souper" that used to cloak the land like a blanket. Fog had a thick almost yellow tinge and an acrid smell that would almost bite the back of the throat it was considered a threat to life. People would hold handkerchiefs over their noses and mouths or wrap scarves around their heads to avoid breathing it in. Every year there were bronchial troubles and deaths that were attributed to it.
Now in 2007 it is lovely now to see some November sunshine. Sometimes the days are grey and hold the threat of rain but at least the month now holds the promise of being able to see the sun and the moon. There is always one day during the month Winter opens its gates and we have a glimpse of snow - just to warn us that December is on the way!

Black, white and retractable

I had always had dogs and was determined never to have a cat. Cats to me always seemed either very distant and cold or over friendly and constantly rubbing around your legs. No happy medium. So I was going to always stick with dogs.
My resolution was changed one year when we took a holiday on the Isle of Man. My son, whose only interest in pets up until this point were stick insects had declared that he would really like one of the cats with no tails. For those who have never been to the Isle of Man their cats come in three varieties: long tails, stumpies, and most renowned are the tail-less ones. Apparently any of the cats can bare each type of kitten either a normal long tailed version, a small one-and-a-half to two inch tail version, or a none or nob tail (no tail) version. As I later found out it is apparently caused through a birth defect similar to spina bifida in humans, which can cause obvious complications. Besides the usual Manx cats there was a very unusual tabby cat - it was a real bagpus - yes it was a definite pink, so much so I asked whether it had been dyed but was told no there were cats of that colouring on the Isle of Man - so for cat lovers everywhere >>> that must be where pink cats come from. I have never seen one since - they certainly don't appear to reside where I live!
Our family cat pictured above, came as a kitten from an animal sanctuary. She had been the runt of the litter. Very small, born to a very young cat - really only a kitten herself. The whole litter including the mother cat had apparently been discarded. All of the other kittens had died one by one until only one tiny one was left. She was so small that they kept her at the sanctuary until she had turned four months old. When we were allowed to bring her home she was very quiet. Not a sound came from her with the exception of a purr. She still purrs now almost continually. As a kitten, she stayed in the house for a long time before she would venture into the garden and it was months before she eventually explored any further. Her favourite game at this time was to hide either somewhere within the house or behind a plant or bush in the garden and wait until one of us walked past - then out would shoot her paw - and latch on to a raw leg, foot, shoe or trouser. Her young claws were as sharp as a surgeons scalpal. It's quite strange because whereas with a young puppy it's easy to say "no" and they look at you with doleful eyes and soon catch on. A cat is totally different - they just stare back at you and continue to play the game.

Black and White

Over the years it has been hard not to notice the increase in the amount of magpies there are about. Yesterday ten were boisterously strutting about on the lawn. This time of the year they have the look of a raptor about them and it is not hard to imagine a somewhat similar creature from a few million years ago making the same aggressive movements in the time of the dinosaurs.
I can remember thinking (when hearing the old rhyme about magpies that predicted how good your fortune was going to be "five for silver, six for gold") well that's impossible because you never see more than one or two at a time. They now come into the garden in flocks. There always seem to be a minimum of three or four. They also are less shy than they used to be and venture onto the bird table. Their appetite seems to be increasing and they appear to have a taste for most food stuffs.

Powdery particles of paper

Over the years toilet paper appears to be getting more and more powdery. I have tried various brands and it almost seems that the more money that I pay for this product, the more powdery it is. You may have never noticed this unpleasant feature in the brand which you are using. As it is a product that we all use each day then perhaps it is time to take a moment to ponder and investigate the matter.
If you are fortunate enough to have sunlight streaming through your bathroom/toilet window then you will, no doubt, have seen the billows of powdery dust that fly about the room. Everything gets a generous powdery dusting of the stuff including yourself. You breath it in .... is it dangerous? You wipe your skin with it - no doubt depositing the powdery residue wherever you have applied it. You may have used it to blow your nose and yes you may well have left some of the tiny particles behind.

Our space - is it safe?

There are many thoughts about how safe are the surfaces around our homes and work places. So many items are either steeped in chemicals during their manufacture or produce noxious substances whilst we innocently go about our daily business. There are also the products which we choose to buy that may contain chemicals that could be having devastating effects on our planet. The clue that, in our busy lives, we fail to see - comes in the ever lengthening list of ingredients in the packets and bottles that land up in our shopping baskets. There are a series of programmes currently being screened on Channel 4 that has been examining these issues. It is being fronted by Sarah Beeny - http://www.channel4.com/health/microsites/T/toxic/ and if you are able to view is worth a look. It would have been good if the programme showed a list of companies that produce items that are free from the chemicals and also advised where they are available and a group of people that had tested out the various items. We could have then perhaps seen an honest view on whether the chemical free alternatives really were a sensible choice for people to switch to. It would be nice - that as we are apart of the EU they could reign in the use of some of the more dangerous chemicals, many of which have been banned in other parts of the world (according to the programme). Not to mention the fact that we may be importing goods that contain the banned substance DDT.

I thought only ducks went "quack"

There are a large population of grey squirrels in the area where I live. Up until recently these small furry creatures have been quietly scurrying - swiftly making their way from one patch of green to another and then running up any nearby tree. This week, however, there have been a number of these squirrels that have been up trees and letting out a very loud quacking like sound. Perhaps more like "quark."
As it is now Autumn - it cannot be a mating call. The last squirrel that was making this unusual call was on Tuesday and it sat up in a tree, looking at a ringed dove and appeared to be calling to the dove in this very loud quacking or quarking type voice.

Rose tinted glasses don't always see

Beautiful, feminine, rustling gowns that made the most clumsiest of women glide with the beauty of a swan on a calm lake. This was the image portrayed by films and books. Along with trim waists and high heaving bosoms. There were rich velvets trimmed with fur in the winter. Fine lawn cottons piped with lace in the summer. And we, onlookers from another age were all sucked in to this illusion. This life style was soon to be changed on having a conversation with my grandmother who as a young girl had worn these very gowns that kissed the floor with every step. "You have no idea how dreadful they were." she had advised me. Then continued on what life was like on a daily basis when there was no choice but to wear them. "We had to sew ribbon on the bottoms to make them last longer as they would become ripped and frayed as we walked." She had added. She also said that every time a woman or girl stepped out their skirts would drag over everything. Whatever was on the floor would end up attached to the bottom of the hem. The edges would become caked with mud, dog excrement, spit, vomit ... whatever was on the floor would sickeningly end up on the hem. As the ribbon tore and ripped it had to be unpicked and a fresh length sewn on to extend the life of the skirt or dress. Often, washing the dresses especially on a daily basis was out of the question. Once dry the hems were brushed to relieve them of the heavy burdens of caked on dirt - this my grandmother confessed was a foul job to do. When they were washed, can you imagine how dreadful it would be. Laboriously rubbing up and down on a washboard and scrubbing at ground in dirt (no washing machines, no rubber gloves). Once they were clean, rinsed, dried and pressed - the whole process would begin all over again! The one lesson that this conversation taught me in life is that things are not always as they first appear. It pays to keep this at the back of the mind as it can often be the case that things are rarely as they first may seem to be.


The first time I encountered anyone with an allergy was at school. A young girl who was covered over every inch of her body with little tiny flesh coloured spots beneath the surface of her skin. Every day cream was applied but never did I here her complain about the inconvenience, discomfort or unfairness of her lot.
Indeed, at one time it was a rarity to have an allergy. Now it seems, not only are the variety of allergies growing so are the people who develop them. How do you know if you have an allergy? Well it seems that any symptom could mean that you have one. The obvious being a rash - the less obvious could be anything from an ache, bloating, pain, blister, general feeling of ill health to gut problems.
Doctors do not always recognize allergies immediately. In fact, it has been reported that people with coeliac disease may not be diagnosed for up to thirteen years. Coeliacs cannot digest foods containing gluten so have to exclude many grains from their diets and also many standard products can be off limits as well from various chocolate bars, cans of soups, the more obvious cakes, bread and biscuits. Some people find themselves suddenly becoming allergic to a food stuff that they have eaten every day of their lives and never had problems with before. It is probably sensible therefore to vary the diet as much as possible as it can be inconvenient and possibly upsetting if a person suddenly finds that they are unable to eat a particular item. It may also take a very long time before their particular food intolerance or allergy problem is diagnosed. There could be people who have minor food intolerance problems that are never diagnosed. For instance there are those who suffer from acid or indigestion which leaves them feeling that they have a food intolerance of almost every food item. Whereas the problem may be being caused through possible shortage of stomach acid that may merely be cured by a spoonful of honey in hot water first thing in the morning. According to health articles, a person can check to see if they are producing enough stomach acid by placing a level teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda into half a tumbler of water. It is said that with normal acid production of the stomach, a burp is released almost instantaneously - if a person has to wait quite a while for this reaction then they may not be producing sufficient stomach acid in which case they should seek medical advice. Such advice never seems to be widely given - imagine how many gallons of stomach medicines and how many pounds of indigestion tablets are sold on a daily basis which if a person were not making enough stomach acid could possibly worsen a condition even if bringing temporary relief.

Light energy saver

Finally, a sensible law has been passed. The phasing out of standard light bulbs and introduction of the low energy light bulb throughout all homes in the United Kingdom has to be the way forward for reducing carbon emissions. We changed all of our indoor lights a while back after managing to find some smaller versions that didn't poke out of the ends of the light shades. What proved an interesting observation was that the temperature in our rooms also decreased after changing to the new bulbs. In our lounge the temperature dropped by two whole degrees. The new light bulbs are long life and should last around seven years. They are also slowly coming down in price. Will the rest of the world follow suit and change to low energy bulbs, I wonder?

Finalising the Gif Animation

Open up your animation where it has been saved - then open up Gif maker.
Drag the saved picture onto the Gif maker. This has to be done until all of the pictures that have been chosen to make up the end Animated Gif have been dragged into position. Then decide how long each picture needs to stay on the screen - and what colour you would prefer the background to be or perhaps choose to leave it transparent and may be choose to restore the background. Decide how long it is to run - how many times. Then, finally test out what the end Gif will look like using the forward arrow. You can amend any part at this point from the background to the length of time you would like each picture to run until you are happy with the end result.
Finally, once you have decided to save the completed Gif you will need to find an image hosting company on the web that will host your Gif so that it can be viewed as an animation on a website or in an email, etc. My tree is hosted by Image Shack. The following web address is for signing up to the ImageShack site : http://imageshack.us/

Making Simple Animated Gif's

There appear to be few websites that help the novice animater free of charge. So for those who have never dabbled in creating an animation but would like to have a go at seeing their own achievements here is how to do a simple animation in the paint program. Firstly, it is best to come up with a simple idea something that you find reasonably easy to draw. Perhaps sketch out the idea on a scrap of paper. Choose the size which you want the end product to be and also the background colour and save the blank canvas as a 24-bit Bitmap (*.bmp; *dib). Find this in the save as type pull down arrow underneath the File name line.
Blank canvas - saved as 24-bit Bitmap
Once this has been done then open up the saved Bitmap once more and use the magnifying glass to enlarge the canvas. Decide on what features you would like to animate and draw your picture to that point before once more saving as a Bitmap. Sometimes if your drawing is made up of many lines then it could pay to save it as you are going along but place a simple note alongside it such as "nfu" not for use in your final animation.

draw the skeleton outline of the picture you intend to use - then save this picture before adding more information to your picture -

As this is called 'tree lights' the next step is to decide where the tree lights are to be placed.

After placing where the wire of the lights should go - the lights may then be added.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Finally, all of the bitmap pictures that you want to use need to be saved in Gif format and dragged onto a Gif maker. Three pictures have been used in the above simple picture of tree lights flashing.

Animated Gif's

Since having my first computer I have always been intrigued with animated Gifs. I suppose that it could be compared with the thrill of seeing the first cartoon as a child. I have always found it rather magical the way that animated gifs can be copied and pasted onto emails and they carry on working.
I have drawn a simple 'growing garden' Gif to see if I could produce one by using the paint program. I used the pencil tool within the paint program and drew straight onto the PC screen. When I had finished I used an Image Hosting website to get it to work on Blogger. I was pleased with the result and will definitely have a go at drawing more Gif's.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Hedgehogs "the night spooks"

Recently there have been two young hedgehogs shuffling about outside the back door. One is possibly about a year old and is of medium size. The other is very small, approximately half the size of the first one and may be too small to survive the winter months. Hedgehogs need to be of a certain weight to secure their chance of surviving hibernation. Many of the under weight ones can be seen trying to eat during the day time and these need to go to rescue centres if they are to stand a chance of survival.


This weekend, by chance I turned over quite a large stone and underneath it lay an ants nest. This is the first time that I have encountered three different stages of ants eggs visible at the same time. There were those very recently laid, ones that had been laid a few days earlier and finally ones that looked as though they were near to hatching. When an ants nest has been disturbed, ants always collect their eggs and take them to a place of safety. I don't know what I expected to see but was amazed that every available ant began to cart away the eggs that were near to hatching. Not one ant showed the slightest interest in the younger eggs. Eventually, however, all of the ant eggs were carefully removed from their exposed place on the surface of the mud and taken into one or other of the various tunnels that had been carved out of the earth. The one thing that I did notice about this particular ant colony was the fact that it moved much more slowly than previous ant colonies I have witnessed. Usually, ants appear to almost scurry at a fair speed if part of their nest is disturbed. These ants however were totally lethargic almost as though they had been sedated. There was not the usual sense of urgency about them. I found their slowness most unusual and completely out of character for this little insect.
Ant eggs recently laid

Ant eggs a few days old

Ant eggs almost ready for hatching

Believe it or not

I am not sure what the press is like throughout the rest of the world - as I live in England and buy British newspapers. Sometimes, I am disappointed with the British press as there are times when it willingly sells out the feeling of unbias news reports by paying people involved in certain breaking stories. The news then becomes a tale and the feeling is that perhaps it may be untrustworthy as a certain slant clouds over what may be truth. When this happens and we read "someone's story or their version of events" there may be the feeling that this could result in truth becoming smudged.

Bee gone!

I suppose it may be that Autumn is creeping in and although the days are currently pleasant, once evening arrives it brings on dampness. As a poem that everyone knows by John Keats to Autumn says "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!" These very mists appear to have driven away the bees from the little insect house. There are only one or two of the canes that may now be nurturing some bee young behind leaf chambers that appear to have been left deep within the wooden stems. The soft plums have now all been picked and eaten. The remaining fruits that are continuing to ripen on the boughs are the Bramley apples, Williams and Conference pears. These fruits are mostly fully grown and are all slowly ripening.

Black cat

There is a new black, fluffy, wide-eyed cat that comes to the back door. He waits just outside and peeps in through a crack in the door, looking at every movement and sniffing. Our cat has always loved fish. Not just any fish - it has to be tuna. Not just any type of tuna - it has to be chunky or tuna steaks soaked in brine water. Now as too much salt is bad for everything, including the cat, I have to wash the tuna in fresh water. I rinse it several times before mashing approximately one third of a can onto a saucer. She usually eats the entire can in three separate meals. The cat loves her tuna. She will not eat pilchards, sardines, sild, herring or even salmon and she recoils away from any form of fresh fish. She is an independent lady and she definitely knows what she likes. One of her daily treats (of which she eats at least three times a day) is jelly pouches. At the moment her favourite flavours are Felix - chicken and fish and Morrison's - chicken and fish. She also enjoys a variety of kibbles. I wonder what food is given to the black, fluffy cat - because every chance he has he eats my cat's food, especially her fish - followed by any jelly pouch remainders. Today, our cat hissed when she caught sight of this fluffy stranger and its response was a mournful miaow. post extra: day 38 and 39 after St Swithin's - it has been cool with a breeze. Sunday day 39 there was rain during the night and a slight shower in the morning. Monday day 40 after St Swithin's - it has been breezy with sunny periods. "Although it rained on St Swithin's day - it certainly has not rained for the forty days and nights since, but then it has been a very unusual year and the weather has been quite strange over the entire globe!"

Silent bee

Today, whilst checking on the insect house, I noticed one of the larger bees tucked inwards on one of the middle bamboo canes. It appeared to remain in this position all day, as every time I peered at the little house it lay still in a semi-sideways position with its back facing me. At first, I thought that it was adhering some of the green leaf to make fresh egg chambers - but as it didn't stir from the same cane all day, I'm wondering if it has become ill. Compared to yesterday there was not as much action with the bees today. The fruit on the Brambly apple trees and also the Williams and Conference pears should soon be ripe enough for picking. There have already been quite a few windfalls with the apples. The plum tree is now down to its last few plums - they have all been soft and sweet and readily fell off their stones. post extra: day 37 after St Swithin's - it was fairly dull with a couple of brief episodes of watery sunshine with a cool breeze.

It's all in the cut

The leaf cutter bees are busier than ever. They seem attracted to leaves that are of a certain thickness and reasonably soft to the touch. Leaves which have a slight point to them also seem to be preferred. I now have a garden with so many circles cut from the leaves it has formed a sort of patchwork. I think, by the quantity of circles being carved from the leaves there must be more bees in the vicinity than the ones using my little insect house. Today they have been going in and out of the bottom row of the canes. In addition to the industrious behaviour of the bees in the bottom row, there have been occasional visits to ones slightly higher up. Whether this is to inspect possible hatchings or whether it is to add more eggs, I am unsure.
post extra: day 34 after St Swithin's - quite cloudy and considerably cooler; day 35 after St Swithin's - quite pleasant with a cool breeze. Today day 36 after St Swithin's - fairly overcast with an occasional sunny period - a light wind lasted all day.

Merry Monday

The sun greeted the morning with a cool brightness. The day soon changed and became overcast. It was noticably much colder than the previous days had been. It is a holiday today - bank holiday Monday. post extra: day 33 after St Swithin's - the weather has begun to change, the afternoon has been cloudy and quite cool.


The devastation in Greece at the moment is truly terrible. To have fires take out whole swathes of landscape, animals and now with the inclusion of many of the people who lived there is catastrophic and frightening. It is made worse by the announcement that these fires have been started deliberately. What kind of a mentality could want to kill all life form, people, animals, birds, reptiles, insects, trees and plants ... how could anyone posses such a twisted mind?

Sunday serenade

The insects are finally beginning their overture of humming softly as they peruse the flower beds. There has been a selection of hover flies, numerous small flying ants, wasps, bumble bees, honey bees, gnats and several other flies and of course, the bees in the insect house. I have also seen a few collared doves, an occasional wood pigeon, several magpies which now use the bird table as adeptly as the sparrows of which do not frequent the garden as often as I should like. I have always enjoyed the interaction that you see when there are several sparrows feeding all at the same time. post extra: day 32 after St Swithin's - it has been lovely and sunny all day.

Busy bees

The weather has decidedly changed for the better. This has brought about greater activity with the bees using the small insect house. They are now proceeding to fill in some of the bottom row of bamboo canes - busily taking in small pieces of nibbled off leaves. Strangely, several of the bees have been going in and out of the lower part of the insect house. This bottom compartment is currently occupied by a family of woodlice of all different sizes and ages. The woodlice mainly huddle in the top right-hand corner of this little box. On the floor of their compartment is a selection of pieces of bark and what looks like large specks of soot. This is most likely, woodlice excrement! post extra: day 31 after St Swithin's - has been one of those glorious summer days with the sun hot in the pale blue sky with only an occasional wisp of a cloud, topped off with the softest sigh of a breeze.

At last

I have been unable to get into blogger but finally, today - my screen has at last opened! There has been a great improvement in the weather today. A real English August Summer day and hopefully leading on to a magnificent bank holiday weekend! post extra: days 28 and 29 after St Swithin's - the weather hasn't been too bad and appears to be improving, if a little overcast. Day 30 after St Swithin's - Summer has finally returned with a glorious, wonderfully sunny day!

Successful sighting

At last, today I have seen two more of the bees - deep inside the bamboo canes. One of them was crawling on the side of the hollowed out bamboo and eventually sped off over the shrubbery. Earlier in the year, we added to our mini back garden orchard of five Brambly apple trees, two Williams and one Conference pear trees, and a sweet cherry. We planted several small plum trees, three of these were gauges, one Victoria as well as a damson and a second variety of cherry. Today we began picking and of course tasting our crop of the Victoria plums and they are beautifully sweet! post extra: day 26 after St Swithin's - quite pleasant though mostly cloudy. Day 27, today has been cloudy with a very cool breeze.

Sunday Secrets

Another dull and wet day which started quite promising. I think that the bees, having laid their eggs in the bamboo have now left their eggs/offspring to hatch and alight on their own. There is no longer any sign of adult bees. Apart from the sealed cells housing the young bee eggs/larvae, and the bottom woodlice compartment the remainder of this little wooden home is apparently empty. post extra: day 25 after St Swithin's - moderate showers.

Water's wet

Today, it has rained, and rained, and rained. The rain at times has been heavy and other times has been light but the kind that penetrates clothing and wets you through-and-through. It has persisted all day. I have not ventured out to check on the insect house and see what has happened to the bees! post extra: day 24 after St Swithin's - what can I say except rain, rain and yes more rain.

Bee still

After another day of poor weather, the bees have not shown themselves all day! As one of the leaf covered chambers has been opened and the next leaf-door is now approximately an inch down. This could mean that one of the bees has hatched or attacked by an enemy. I am hoping for the former and think that this is very probable as I believe bees that are produced in separate chambers hatch from the outside in. post extra: day 33 after St Swithin's - showers early with bright periods especially in the afternoon.

Bee quiet

With all of the rain that we have had over the last two days the bees have not been buzzing around the insect house. Today, which has been much brighter, has brought the emergence of two of the bees and they have opened up one of the leaf covered entrances. There are no visible signs of bees or anything else within this open bamboo cane. Will we now have an increased bee activity? Have baby bees increased the numbers? post extra: day 30 & 31 after St Swithin's - thunderstorms and torrential downpours ..... wet! day 32 - quite pleasant and fair with sunny periods - one or two showers throughout the day but mainly morning and early afternoon leaving the rest of the day quite good.

Pale abs ... stranger

Today, a bee with a much lighter abdomen turned up at the insect house. It seemed to be of the same species - the patchwork leaf cutter bee - but underneath instead of the rich golden abdomen of the other large bees, this one was a creamy lemon. As it came in to land on the edge of the canes, its body seemed to throb and undulate. It then took off and landed on the ground where it carried on the motion. Finally it landed back onto an empty hollow bamboo cane and went inside. post extra: day 29 after St Swithin's - slightly cooler than yesterday but still sunny and a little more breezy than Sunday. note: the bees have begun to carve small pieces out of the cherry tree leaves, to add to the numerous other plant species that they are using to place into the bamboo cane hollows.

Toby Twirl Adventures

When I was a very small child, my parents bought me a book called "Toby Twirl Adventures" by Sheila Hodgetts. It introduced me to the wonderful world of make believe and the mysteries that were housed in the written word. Occasionally, I meet someone who also has the pleasure of this book. It probably isn't available anymore but I have never forgotten it. Toby was a little pig, portrayed as a person. Most of the stories were set in rhyme and with a picture above each part of the tale. It was this book that introduced me to both China and America. post extra: day 28 after St Swithin's - rain showers began just after midnight but the day was sunny and warm.

Bee detective

I have found that that the bees in the small insect house have been carving small semi-circles and almost perfect circles out of the leaves of a red rose that is growing in the front garden. I am uncertain of the name of the rose but it smells like the rose fragrance from Turkish delight and is cramped so that it looks as though it has almost too many petals in each perfectly formed flower. The same patterns have been carved out of a lime coloured leaf of a fuchsia plant, an ash tree and lastly a small buddleia bush. These are listed as carpenter bees. There are notes in Collins Complete Guide British Wildlife that refers to "Patchwork Leaf-cutter Bee" but this guide states that the bee uses 'leaves of garden roses.' There is no mention of using a variety of leaves. The bees are still taking chunks of leaf to the hollowed out bamboo canes of the insect house. I am puzzled as some of the holes are plugged with what appears to be mud. There also appears to be a smaller bee that flies up to and sometimes into the holes of these leaf cutter bees even when the larger leaf cutter bee is inside the cane. post extra: yesterday was the 26th day after St Swithin's - a really lovely day, warm and sunny. Today which is day 27 after St Swithin's - it was kick off for the new football season and as with every year (you can guarantee it) it was hot and sunny with only a few wispy clouds - magnificent!

Frogs on a very black night

The sky is cloudy creating an inky black night - the frogs are out trying to catch their dinner. Everyone mentions cat's eyes in the dark of night - but the frogs manage to catch the smallest of insects that hover over the coal blackness of the water with the swiftness of an arrow fired from the longbow of the yew tree. Frogs eyes do not appear to reflect the light - insects, no chance! post extra: day 25 after St Swithin's - another beautiful English summer's day.

Soft sphynx relaxed repose

Our cat often lies in the Sphinx position, sometimes she hides her front paws - neatly wrapping them inside each other - can this really be comfortable? I suppose that it must be. It seems not to cause any ill effects - if she hears a noise and wants to investigate she immediately bounds to the door - gracefully of course! post extra: day 24 after St Swithin's - a lovely sunny summer's day.

Are you gullible?

No? Have you ever bought an item advertised on the TV, radio, or in magazines or newspapers? If the answer is yes then you may be gullible. This may also mean that you could easily be taken advantage of - so be careful. Think again before you purchase that new item that you have never tried before, do you really need it? Listen carefully and be quick not to judge others on here say. If you are or could be the type of person that is gullible then you may also be dangerous. How can someone be dangerous in these circumstances? What if you were a member of a jury? What if you were persuaded that a person on trial was guilty by clever rhetoric rather than by definite proven facts? What, also, if you were weak enough to be badgered into changing your opinion of a persons innocence or guilt by persistent bullies while the evidence and rhetoric was being sifted through by all the members of the jury? Could you then say that the jury system offered justice? There is also the dreadful scenario, as an innocent person in court and on trial by the jury system how could you be assured of a fair and just trial? If people can be so easily persuaded by others to come to specific conclusions, then the chances are that your trial would carry the risk of being unjust and unfair. Whatever your opinion, it is obvious that the jury system is flawed - and the evidence for this statement are the amount of people found guilty in "trial by jury" who in later years, sometimes decades later, are eventually proven to be innocent. In years gone by, when the death penalty was still used, some of these people have been hung - only to be declared innocent after the event. Perhaps, we should think about trying to find a different way to sort out a person's innocence or guilt of a crime if we believe in true justice for all. post extra: day 23 after St Swithin's - slightly cooler than yesterday but warm, sunny and breezy with a few odd spits of rain.

Another brick in the wall - another leaf in the hole!

The bees continue with their unusual behaviour and have now started to block the entrance of yet another of the hollow bamboo canes with circular leaf shapes. This time, the new activity is on the second row from the bottom. Is there going to be a colony of baby bees? Is this a food storage area? What on earth is going on? I have looked in books and on various bee sites but as yet have not been able to find anything resembling this - at least not within the bee family.

Powder puff pollen

Bring out the turmeric there is pollen everywhere! It's on the breeze, here's another sneeze ... There seems to be more pollen about than is usual for the time of year which is unexpected in some ways as we have had so much rain in July. Perhaps, the amount of pollen is due to some plants flowering much later than usual and others flowering at the right time. A couple of years ago I read an article about turmeric quelling the symptoms of both hay fever and rhinitis - especially preventing runny eyes. I purchased some in tablet form and thought 'here goes - I've probably been conned again into buying something that will be a complete waste of money' but surprisingly it did work. post extra: day 22 after St Swithin's - a light shower early, followed by a very pleasant day. Quite sunny and warm and hot in the direct sun with a soft warm breeze.

Heady, hazy, lazy, hot, sunny, Sunday

It's the very first Sunday in August. The weather is perfect. There are white, wispy, watery clouds gliding slowly over a brilliant blue sky. A warm breeze gently rustles its way through the leaves of the apple and pear trees. The breeze occasionally picking up speed just enough for the sword like tips of the montbretia to bend briefly and dip its spears into the trickling water of the pond. The perfect scene was enhanced by the first sighting of a dragonfly this year. It measured between two and three inches in length and was coloured mainly a bright vibrant green with a few suggestions of blue green on the body. Its wings seemed to dance with various colours as it hovered for a few seconds above the water. Then it was gone so swiftly - I felt elated by its fleeting visit, yet almost cheated at by such a swift departure. I didn't have my camera to record its perfect beauty - may be next time! post extra: day 21 after St Swithin's - perfect. Note: the bees had a new visitor today. Another of the larger bees tried to enter one of the bamboo cane hollows but was fiercely dive-bombed by one of the smaller bees. This new larger bee fell harshly to the ground stunned. After a few moments if flew off quickly away from the insect house.

Bully off

There is an ancient primitive behavioural pattern that occurs within the animal kingdom that some people unfortunately display, almost wearing it like a badge. It is the abusive act of the bully. Found in all walks of life from the youngest of children to the oldest of people it is present in the playground, classroom, public transport, work place, in fact, anywhere there are people. As with any form of abuse it can have lasting damaging effects on the recipient. Whatever our background or beliefs - do we really think that any form of bullying is acceptable? And yet, are we superior to those who would bully? Do we prevent it? Do we intervene? Do we draw up laws to protect those who are unable to protect themselves? Do we claim to say no to abuse and yet turn a blind eye to those who suffer? If we do not offer solutions then we too are being bullied. Perhaps it's time that we all do a little more to make this beautiful planet a wonderful place for everyone to live. post extra: day 20 after St Swithin's - there has been patchy clouds with a warm breeze.

Riddle rounds

Today, the bees were behaving bizzarly. The larger bee began tossing out what appeared to be small chunks of either pollen or wax from one of the bamboo canes. One small round lump after another was jettisoned from the entrance of the cane. Then entering another cane - the bee placed its mouth/tongue onto the inside and began to grind backwards and forwards like a miniature hoover. The bee moved back to the first bamboo cane and a larger circular blob landed heavily onto the path. It was the exact size of the open round of the empty bamboo. I retrieved it and it was full of a heavy orange substance. I dipped my finger into it and it appeared and smelt like beeswax. See the picture above, middle item next to the penny. What are these bees doing? post extra: day 19 after St Swithin's - today has been pleasant and sunny with a soft breeze.

Hedgehog hike

Late last night, a very young hedgehog was nibbling at some small crumbs of cat kibble outside on the garden path. It looked like a small, round, brown pompom. When it had eaten its fill, it ran off on such long legs and at such a quick pace - within a few seconds it was invisible in the blackness. post extra: day 18 after St Swithin's - rainfall mid-morning and one small light shower in the afternoon. On the whole it was quite a pleasant day.

The first day of August

"A pinch and a punch it's the first of the month!" or if you are in need of good fortune "white rabbits!" ... today has been lovely. A real English summer's day. The sky has been a soft, powder blue with an occasional small cotton wool cloud. The air is sweet and fragrant from the lavender and phlox. At last there are a few insects whirring about. The little bee colony in my insect house has been particularly active. The larger bee appears to be in charge, shuffling in and out of the various bamboo canes. Other slightly smaller bees have been flying to and fro from the various flowers and back to the larger bee. The larger bee is now getting more protective of the insect house and at one point, whilst I was in the process of taking a picture of her (as I think that this bee is a female and possibly a queen), she flew out and proceeded to chase me around the garden. Her buzzing did not appear to get louder so although this appeared to be a warning she did not seem to be becoming too aggressive (I hope). post extra: day 17 after St Swithin's - perfect summer's day weather.

Gracious gift

We are born with the free and private gift of thought. Thoughts give us both freedom and individuality. They separate us from the animals and enable us to have the power to develop and progress mankind. Sometimes thoughts may be stifled or changed by an over zealous teacher, relative or friend who strive to impregnate the heads of others with their own private thoughts. Such people are not satisfied with a head full of their own musings and dreams, they feel the need to smother and take over others. It is important that in order to be free and not to degrade our species, we hold on to our own thoughts and dreams. We should not live our lives by fulfilling others dreams, hopes, thoughts and aspirations. Life is too precious for this and to live life to the full our thoughts must remain our own and should be forever cherished. post extra: day 16 after St Swithin's - it has been very warm in the sunshine but a little cooler this evening. Note: the bees have been busily going into and out of the bamboo of the little insect house, all day - more have joined the little colony. One bee has been busily cementing more bits of chewed shapes of ash tree leaf into one of the bamboo canes whilst another bee has been systematically removing the glued bits of leaf from inside another of the canes. I still have no idea what these bees are trying to do.

Baby squirrel has bathtime licked!

This little grey squirrel decided to take a stroll in my garden - and whilst it was sunny and dry he managed to clean himself from nose to tail. What a quick bathtime! post extra: day 15 after St Swithin's - sunny and dry with a cool breeze.

England, my England

I have always considered myself fortunate to have been born in England. On the whole, the weather is usually moderate. The summers are pleasant and the winters are tolerable. There is an air of freedom within the people that surges from the core of each individual. We have a love of our country that comes from deep within our souls. It is strange to think that this love has grown without any aid. We do not have to swear allegiance to our country. Neither do we indoctrinate our children with daily chants that tie them to the state or flag. There are no pseudo salutations and we do not stand to attention and hold on to our hearts. Our love of our land is stronger than this and yet we never have to remind ourselves of it. post extra: day 13 after St Swithin's - Saturday was warm and sunny, clouding over in the late evening with rainfall starting at 6.50 pm. Day 14 after St Swithin's - Sunday, warm and sunny with a cool breeze. Note: there is now an addition to the bees a third bee has arrived on the scene and spending the nights tucked deep into the bamboo canes of the insect house.

Hedgehog hoovers

Today has been dry and reasonably warm with a welcoming breeze that has been slowly drying the soggy, damp ground. Flowers that are usually the restaurants for most of the flying insects were eerily devoid of customers. One solitary bumble bee dipped in and out of the lavender. Not a single sighting of a ladybird, lacewing, beetle, or hover fly. No grasshoppers, crane flies or frog hoppers. This evening just after dark, a fairly young hedgehog came hunting into the garden and stopped off for a very long drink after nibbling a little cat kibble. Hopefully he'll chomp through a few of the extra large slugs and snails that have grown and multiplied in all of the extensive rainfall we have had. post extra: day 12 after St Swithin's - we have escaped the rain today, it has been sunny, warm and breezy.

Just for fun

Here's a fun website where you can upload a picture of yourself and turn yourself into a "Simpson from Springfield" - Make me into a Simpson Cartoon Figure

Bang, dash, splash and crash

As a child whilst on holiday, I lay in a deep sleep - only to be awoken by someone banging and bashing at the door of the holiday caravan. It was a dark, moonless night. The pitch blackness added to the terror of the shouts and the bangs at the door. The river had swollen and was getting higher, the rain was falling and there was a fear that the banks would burst before high tide. We were instructed to go as we were, no time to pack, but to make our way to a Public House which stood on high ground. By morning the banks had burst and the water outside the Pub gushed past at high speed, pouring over the car park and down to the caravan park where it began to rise alarmingly. Eventually, high tide came, the rain stopped but we had to wait as the water was waist high. We were lucky as the caravan that we were staying in only had water up to its bottom seams and didn't enter inside. Not everyone was so fortunate - some vans had been washed away. We waited and eventually borrowed some fisherman's waders to get back inside the caravan. What was surprising was the strength and violence of the water. To avoid falling over in it we held on to each other and grabbed at trees and anything sturdy. Eventually we clambered up the steps and back into the caravan where we stayed until the water retrieved to shin height. There have been times over the last few weeks that I have thought about how violent the water was. Animals dead and floating, unrecognisable shapes swirling about and the stench violating the nose. I feel for all of these people who have had their homes taken over by these stagnant and dirty waters. It is still pouring with rain outside - there seems no end to this wetness. post extra: day 11 after St Swithin's - it has poured with rain all through the morning with heavy showers in the early afternoon.

Splish Splosh

There has been much talk today regarding extensive wild life losses. Rodents, such as rabbits will have perished in their burrows. Many badgers will have drown in their flooded sets and although foxes are fairly resilient many will be lost through exhaustion either trying to find safe, dry land or unexpectedly in their dens. Little attention, it seems, has been paid to the insects. It has been noticeable that there are considerably fewer flying insects about. Many of the annual border plants are dying down without producing their yearly yields of seeds. The ants have only once swarmed this month which in itself is unusual and even then very few had sustained flight with most struggling along the sodden ground, even though many still had retained their wings. There have been fewer lacewings and shield bugs lightly clambering their way over the lush green stems and leaves. Sadly, the ladybirds appear to be drowning in the rain as their wings are becoming so wet that their usually bold, bright red coats bedecked with dark, shiny black spots are appearing to take on a dull and darker hue. Butterflies have been virtually none existent for several weeks. Their have been a few mosquitoes noisily whirring their way through open doors and windows. Yesterday, I observed two or three wasps pushing their way past the bumblebees into a few of the lavender flowers. There has not been a sighting of a crane fly for more than a week and this year I've yet to see a dragon fly! post extra: day 10 after St Swithin's - the day has been overcast with heavy showers in the morning and occasional showers in the afternoon. Note: the bees have positioned themselves deep into the bamboo canes this evening - could this be a warning that the weather will be worse tomorrow?

Bee entering small bamboo cane

This is a picture of the bee entering the small bamboo cane next to the leaf covered entrance. The bee turned around and began to clean out this particular bamboo. I have yet to discover why the bees are doing this!

Busy, buzzing, bustling, bees ....

The insect house, as described and pictured in my earlier blog of the 9th July is in full action once more. Today has been a respite from the rain and with the sun and warmth the bees have been active in the bamboo insect house they appear to have made their home. They seem to operate in pairs one being slightly larger then the other. Today, the larger one was carrying small pieces (about a quarter of an inch) of chewed leaf and stuffing it into the end of one of the bamboo sticks that make up the top part of the insect house. The first delivery of leaf that I saw it trying to attach to the hole was in fact two carefully chewed shapes. The first of which tumbled to the ground. The bee continued successfully to attach the second piece. The first piece was left on the soil and not retrieved for use. A little while later, the larger bee squashed itself into the top smallest hollow bamboo cane and somehow managed to turn itself around and began to push out what appeared to be nibbled grains and sandy pieces from the cane. Both bees kept going backwards and forwards in and out of the bamboo. I still have not identified what these bees are.
post extra: day 8 after St Swithin's - there were showers on and off ~ day 9 after St Swithin's - today has been lovely, the weather was warm and sunny (the forecast for the rest of the week is yet more rain).

Curious carrion candidly cracked it

A few short years ago, magpies seemed to be solitary distant shadows that occasionally flew from branch to branch in what appeared to be the tallest of trees. Jays were spied only once every five years and that was by the very fortunate. Rooks kept their distance flocking about the rookeries. Jackdaws squawked parrot like but were spotted only a few times each year. Crows would swoop down in amongst the sparrows to steal the biggest crust thrown out onto the lawn but then only once or twice each week. Suddenly, all of these carrion seem to have 'elbowed' out their distant smaller cousins like sparrows, green finch, chaffinch the robin and the blackbird and now have the reign of the bird tables. Magpies frequent the hedgerows and gardens in small flocks. Admittedly, the flocks are usually only four or five at a time - but this is a change in their behaviour pattern. They fly down and stretch their legs across the lawn almost looking demonic when they push their beaks forward resembling distant two-legged dinosaurs. Jays flap precariously in front of the windscreens of cars on the dual carriageways and crows gaze down from lampposts, aerials, rooftops and trees making occasional swoops onto anything edible. Many of the crows in this area have the odd white feather this is usually duplicated on each wing. Some have quite a few and the first few times that I caught a glance of them I thought that I was looking at a different species, one that I had never seen before. It was only on seeing them for a second or third time that I realised that they were standard crows that somehow had acquired new white markings. Many of these carrion are still eating when other birds have retired to their nesting positions for the night. I have found that when placing food out for the hedgehogs, after dusk and just before it's too dark to trip over any random flowerpots - magpies will swoop down and gobble up everything before flying away into the night. There are mournful, distant caws and screeches where once there used to be soft hoots from the tawny owls. The carrion appear to be changing the environment, or perhaps its the other way around. post extra: day 7 after St Swithin's - I have witnessed no rain today although floods throughout the midland counties (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire - Yorkshire and Berkshire were also flooded badly a few days ago) are extensive with more to come according to broadcasts. Floods have exceeded the flood plain areas and towns and villages which have never suffered flooding before are now deep in water - some homes (particularly mobile homes) are completely submerged . . .

Smashed in the wind and the rain!

The wasp nest that was so perfect when originally discovered began to fall apart a few short weeks later after heavy rainfall and gusty winds. I discovered then, in fact, that the nest wasn't empty as I had first thought for now I could see evidence of dead wasps inside the comb cluster. I think that these may have perished some time before the nest began to disintegrate as I believe there would have been more sightings of the adult wasps if the nest had been thriving.
post extra: day 6 after St Swithin's - the day began very wet continuing on from yesterday, although this afternoon we had a rest from the rain, the dampness hung in the air and there have been soft showers on and off for the remainder of the day.
Note: advert removed from comment section - genuine comments only please.

Spherical nest

Two Summers ago, after being slapped on the face once too often by one of the long stray tendrils branching out from the honeysuckle, I decided it was time to prune it back. The whole plant was thick with juicy, orange berries and some of the branches looked as though they had been dipped in honey where the aphids huddled together. I clipped off those midway to begin with, as they were at eye level. Then I nipped off some of the bottom branches. This left me with the stragglers at the top reaching upwards towards the sky. As I was stretching on tip-toe for one that was slightly beyond my reach, I noticed what appeared to be a child's ball wedged deep in the heart of the shrub. I clipped back more of the branches to try and pull out the ball. Eventually, I was able to see it quite clearly - it was almost buff in colour, and there were branches protruding through it. I examined it more closely to find a small hole in its bottom. It was then that I realised that it was a nest. A wasps' nest. Despite this nest only being six feet from the back wall of the house there had not been any evidence of wasps in the vicinity throughout the entirety of the Summer. Not a buzz, either inside or outside the house. This wasp nest was between six and seven inches in diameter. It was well constructed, almost a perfect sphere, it looked as though it had been made out of parchment. I left it untouched but only saw one or two wasps near it over the next few weeks. I presumed that the young had been reared and had flown off. post extra: day 5 after St Swithin's day - we have had torrential rain all day and according the weather forecast it is expected to continue until 6.00 am tomorrow morning -

Washed in on a wave

The sea can be a violent place. Pulled by the moon and the sun, and whipped up by the wind. A beach may look cleansed when the tide has turned and the water begins its passage back to the ocean. Sometimes in the ferocity of the waves and vigorous currents, the sea leaves behind some unexpected specimens. So perfect are some of its offerings that it leaves spectators wondering how creatures from the depths can be coughed up and left behind. This small, British, Dogfish Shark was left on the sandy shore where it lay perfect, but dead. I didn't see it struggle and gasp its last breath. It had died moments before. Still to be discovered by the gulls to fill their ever empty stomachs.
The tide must have rushed out so quickly - and the Dogfish Shark was left facing the direction that it wanted to swim in - and there it died.
post extra: day 4 after St Swithin's day - the sun has shone all day, it has been warm with a pleasant breeze but at 8.30 pm we have had thunder followed by heavy showers and more thunder plus lightening!

Tails and Whiskers

The first time the cat presented a mouse to me she dropped it outside the back door, ran inside the kitchen then rubbed my leg before bounding outside and sitting by the small, brown, body. I went over to it. There was no apparent injury, no blood showing, so I checked to see if the creature was alive or dead. It was dead. It was then that I noticed that its tail was on the short side. The tail was between half to two-thirds the length of a normal tail of a mouse. I wondered whether she had nibbled it off but couldn't see any evidence to suggest that she had sheared through it with her young and very razor sharp teeth. Many other kills followed and on each occasion I checked the tails - every one had a short tail. Perhaps it is some genetic mutation in my area, I'm not sure. I was lucky enough to spot one that escaped her deft paws and noticed as it scampered away that it also had a short tail. I was then able to conclude that she definitely wasn't biting the tips of the tails off. Last year, whilst I was in the garden a mouse ran onto the lawn then stopped so still, if it hadn't been covered in fur it could have been mistaken for a statue. The cat ran over to it then also stopped still. This mouse had a normal size tail - the cat left it alone - I was able to dart inside grab a camera and there it stood motionless, not a whisker twitched. The cat was still looking at it, her eyes glued to the spot where the creature stood. I called the cat but she didn't move, not a single muscle. In the end the mouse stood up, lifted its front legs off the ground and began to look at the cat. Both seemed to be staring each other out. The mouse eventually strolled off - the cat didn't follow. post extra: day 3 after St Swithin's - it rained this morning changing into a beatutiful, warm, sunny afternoon - 9.00 pm there are heavy, grey, clouds lurking overhead ...

Gooseberry fool!

There is an old, gnarled, gooseberry bush in the garden. It grows beneath a Bramley apple tree at the side of the compost heap. Perhaps heap is the wrong word, as it is neatly housed in a square, with thick wire mesh on three sides and a wooden keep on the fourth. The gooseberry bush produces a fair amount of tart green berries each July. In between the showers of rain the gooseberry bush was inspected to see if its fruit was ready for picking. Surprisingly, for the first time since it was planted, this old, woody bush has produced berries that are turning red. In fact, some have changed to a colour betwixt red plum and damson. As this is by far the wettest Summer in my lifetime perhaps this is the cause of the fruits sudden change of hue. Do they taste the same? Well may be - but on reflection perhaps a little sweeter! post extra: and just for fun, day 2 after St Swithin's - there has been beautiful sunshine, heavy showers, more intermittent sunshine, thunder, lightening and alternating rainfall and sunny periods!

Have you ever heard a hedgehog?

The first time that I heard a hedgehog, I was in the bathroom. The window was open and I heard a noise that sounded like a cross between sawing a plank of wood and someone impersonating an old steam train. Until that point, I had always maintained how stupid horror movies were - where heroes and heroins would venture into dark, cold, damp, dungeons knowing full well that they could be attacked or even slain at any moment. Admittedly, I was not venturing into any such place, but I did go outside into the pitch blackness to try and discover where the noise was coming from. The relief, when I almost tripped over what must have been a grandfather of all hedgehogs (it was on the large side), was such that I laughed. These little harmless mammals have also caught me out when they have been crunching on cat kibble in the blackness of night! Despite all of the rainfall we had during the day, they were out in force last night. It may well be that there were a multitude of earthworms slithering over the surface of the lawn. Or, perhaps the overwhelming plagues of slugs that are oozing their trails over what seems to be every inch of the pathways, not to mention the plants. Certainly, something appeared to be drawing these little prickly creatures into the back garden. post extra: despite it being St Swithin's day yesterday, the weather has been quite pleasant until 5.00 pm when the first spots of rain began to fall - by 5.50 pm came a loud clap of thunder . . .

The portend

Anticipation often brings on the inevitable. Today is no exception. I awoke early to the musical sound of 'plip, plop, plip, plip.' Once again it was raining. Today, however, is no ordinary day. It is the 15th of July - otherwise known as St Swithin's day - as the saying goes if it rains today then so shall it rain for forty days and forty nights. What a very wet Summer we shall have. The English, and I'm no exception, converse quite often about the weather. We live on a small island where the weather changes so often as to be noticable. A day may begin with clear blue skies and bright sunshine only to change in late afternoon into rolling clouds, a hefty breeze, clap of thunder and distant flash of lightening. The impression visitors may receive upon arrival to our shores is that we are obsessed with the weather. This is not really the case. We tend to use it in conversation. Where in other parts of the world people probably greet each other with "hello" here often the "hello" may be left out and the greeting go straight into conversation relating to the weather such as "Wasn't expecting this today, were you?" or "Just look at it, can't believe it, it hasn't stopped all day." There are a hundred and one variations, often spoken with an added nod. We don't really notice that we're participating in these conversations although they are ones that are spoken to milkmen, shop assistants and strangers at bus stops.

Artist of today

Today, I met an an artist. Her name was Lynda Kettle. She specialises in pastel and water colour. Her pastel pictures are the finest pastels I have ever seen. They are completely flawless. The picture that I particularly liked was the clock tower and great hall of Birmingham University. If you get a chance, its worth taking a look at her work. post extra: for those who may be interested, I have now found the web address for her work it is - www.lynda-kettle.com

The Blob - almost Sci Fi

It's amazing the things that often appear on the beach after high tide. Whilst strolling over one of those wet sandy beaches, with the breeze softly spraying the ocean onto my face, I almost trod onto the largest beached jellyfish I've ever encountered. It measured approximately 2ft 6ins in diameter. I did one of those bizarre movements trying to avoid tripping head first into its centre and looked as though I was practising some peculiar choreographical movement freshly invented. I eventually hovered at its edge trying to confirm whether it was showing any signs of movement. The water had only just lapped away from it - the tide on its way out. I would have expected a mass of tentacles with such a large jellyfish - but as you can see there appeared to be none. As I continued on my way, I found several more. All appeared to be the same variety - although I'm unsure what variety it is - I have neither seen them before that day or since.

'Pop' goes the Weasel!

A while back, when the weather was dry and I was able to venture outside I walked towards the lawn and spied a small elongated ball of fluff. As I slowly approached it, I realised that it was a weasel. It lay motionless - I bent down to see if there was any sign of life at all - but sadly it was dead. How fortunate to see such a beautiful animal at such close quarters. How unusual and rare to see one on the lawn. But what a shame that such a beautiful, perfect, little creature should be dead! I wonder how it came to meet its end? The only thing that I can think may have happened is that it was killed by a cat. Either our own or one of the many that live in the vacinity.

Slippery, slithering, shiny slug slime

More strange things happening. It may be because of all of the rain we have had - slugs are climbing the walls! I have also noticed one with a large hole in its back. Nothing seems to be oozing out of the hole, but it's attracting other slugs. One had small orange or red creatures running all over its skin, it was difficult to determine their actual colour in the dark. The slime didn't seem to cause any problems to these little creatures and the slug didn't seem to mind the invasion of the strange little beasts! What could they be? What is the hole in the slugs back? I wonder if I'll see anything similar ever again?

Curious Behaviour - Bee

Last Spring we invested in an insect house - the label declared that it was for lacewing and ladybirds to hibernate during the Winter. The directions were quite explicit - fix so that the box faces a southerly direction. The ideal spot was found and it was securely nailed to a small garden shed. The Summer arrived and slowly the wood faded, by Winter it looked as though it had been there for a good five years. There were no signs, however, of any ladybirds or lacewings - just the odd woodlouse. Yesterday though the strangest thing occurred. I noticed that a few of the bamboo lacewing shelters had been sealed over. Shortly afterwards, a couple of bees came buzzing around entering the holes then turning around and coming out again. This was happening all day. I'm not sure what variety of bee they are, although they do resemble honey bees. What are they doing? Are they making this into a hive? Could they be breeding in the insect box? I suppose we shall have to wait and see!!

Beautiful Day

Where was I yesterday? It was the first beautiful dry day that we have had in quite a while - so I was outside and wondering why after all the rainfall, did the hydrangea's flowers and leaves look quite so floppy? How fast the ground drank in the rain. Just a few hours of brief sunshine dried off the topsoil even though it was 19o C, the slight breeze crisped off the earth extremely quickly. At least the hydrangea has recovered and today is looking its old spectacular self! The forecast for today was rain from 9.00 am - so far, the sun has shone down beautifully! Then by mid-afternoon ... I should have have known - this afternoon the skies once more clouded over with the darkest of gray clouds and then there was a loud grumble of thunder - rain clouds ... and rain drops followed ... here we go again!

Money Saving Advice

I found this site quite by chance and was amazed at how much useful advice it holds. http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/ I have heard Martin Lewis talking before, and have seen him on television offering really good advice on all kinds of information - but I didn't realize that he had set up his own website. Well, I've dipped my toes in and toured around the site and saved it in "my favourites" in case I ever need it again!!

Wet - Wet - Wet ....but not too wet for the frog!

It rained yesterday, it rained last night, and it has rained and rained today. This is one of the local frogs and even he has jumped off the lawn and onto a stone for a rest out of the dripping grass. At least he's at home in this weather but the slugs and snails are multiplying so much that he and his family can't keep up with munching them all down. Even with the help from the hedghogs ..... the snails and slugs appear to be winning in the multiplication stakes.

The Cat - relaxed feline

Why is it, that when sleeping, the cat finds herself in the most unusual of poses? How can she be fully relaxed, yet stretched at the same time? Every time she falls asleep she seems to find a new pose to lie in .... perhaps that is why she is always slender - all that stretching, even whilst sleeping!

Red Frog

There are a family of frogs that live in the pond. They all have very similar markings and features. Most of them line the edges of the pond pushing their noses up between the rocks. Some are quite friendly and welcome a stroke on the top of their heads. A few back away shyly. Occasionally, something is spotted that takes the breath away - one such visitor is pictured up above. A red frog. It is similar in size and shape but its markings are different. It is quite friendly with the rest of the frogs - perhaps it is related. A red frog in the heart of England, is I think quite unusual ...... perhaps it may be due to global warming ...... perhaps something else ...... perhaps there have always been red frogs in English gardens!

Energy Saving Light Bulbs

The first time that I tried energy saving light bulbs - I was extremely disappointed with the result. Firstly, the poor light quality reminded me of a quote my mother used to make when entering a poorly lit room. She would always say "it reminds me of the workhouse." Not as she had ever experienced the workhouse but it was the unpleasant ambiance that a poorly lit room always seems to have. Secondly, the long length poked awkwardly from out of the lamp shades. Overall the result was dreadful. Recently, however, whilst on a shopping trip to B & Q - I found some that were shaped like squat twists that also had bayonet fastenings. We have a multi light and so I purchased quite a few of these bulbs. After placing them into the glass shades - I was pleased that they were not too long - but I almost held my breath as I pressed down the light switch. The result surprised me as the effect was much brighter than the traditional variety. I just hope that B & Q have more when I go back!

It's Sunday

It's Sunday - it started once more, with a light downpour of rain. It feels quite mild and pleasant though. For the first time ever we had a squirrel scurry past the back door. It was quite plump for a squirrel of the grey variety. I suspect that it had been nibbling at the cat kibble that had been scattered for the hedghogs. As it came by the door, which was slightly ajar, it gave me a cheeky sideways glance and scurried down the path and through a little bolt hole that has deliberately made in the fence for the cat to pass through!

'Donny' Pudding Pie >> >> >> >> (Doncaster)

DONNY PUDDING PIE (Heat the oven) Ingredients: 4 Rounded Tablespoons of white rice flour 1 Rounded Tablespoon of oatbran 4 oz butter [113 grammes] 1 Level Tablespoon of granulated sugar 2 Medium Eggs 2 Level Teaspoons of Baking Powder Small pinch of salt Splash of sparkling mineral water Pinch of sesame and poppy seeds for decoration One or Two cupfulls of Raspberries Extra sugar to sweeten Place the rice flour, oatbran, baking powder, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl - Add the softened butter - roughly fork the mixture together. Add the two eggs and beat in. Add the splash of water. Place the washed raspberries into a pudding dish and sprinkle with sugar. Pour on the pudding mixture - and sprinkle on the sesame and poppy seeds. Place onto a medium to high shelf in the oven at a temperature of Gas Mark 6 or Electric 200 C for 15 minutes and turn down to Gas Mark 4 or Electric 180 C for a further 20 minutes - then check to see if fully cooked (some ovens take a further 5 minutes to complete the cooking time). Allow to stand and cool - serve with a blob of whipped cream - and most of all *enjoy*

Own Experience

People only really learn and change from their own experience. Hence the only way you may affect their mind is to give them an experience to reflect and maybe learn and change from.

Family Tree

A while ago, thought it might be a good idea to investigate the family tree. A lot of the records are not only visible from actual copies from original records but also a typed version where records have been transcribed. When looking at the transcribed versions it's amazing how many versions of a name are found. Some look nothing like the actual written version while others give a similar outcome with an occasional letter being wrong.

Competition - Britain's Got Talent: Observation

It was wonderful to have variety to view once more. However, I surely can't have been the only one to observe that on each of the four competitions (three semi-finals and lastly the final), the entrant that appeared last on each occasion was the overall winner! This should be a lesson to anyone entering this type of competition to somehow steer themselves towards being last on the bill. It would have been nice to have seen a couple of judges that were dedicated to variety. Perhaps Bruce Forsyth may have been a good choice!


Sunday is a beautiful day. A lie in, liesurely breakfast followed by the Sunday papers. This week featured a man who was 100 years old who was studying at the same college as his great grand son!


Hello everyone out there, welcome to the Kloggers blog.