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.

Who’s been eating my porridge?

I had been giving my bird table occasional glances – having put out some seeds for finches I was hoping that I might see one or two. In our area there has been an influx of many of the larger bird species and whereas we used to have small flocks of finches, sparrows, tits, starlings, wagtails (especially the pied), the odd song thrush or two, a glimpse or two of the dunnock, the local blackbird (which is still ever present), and the resident robin – these all now are pleasures to see. The smaller song birds have all but been squeezed out into oblivion by magpies, crows, jackdaws, doves and wood pigeons … how quick they gambol into the garden and will eat anything that is put out … even though according to many bird books the crow family eats carrion, in our area they will eat cake! Even the doves and pigeons will peck at cockatiel seeds … I know as I have tried varieties that are positively exotic.

Today, another visitor peeped at me from the far side of the bird table … they have been in the garden before but it’s the first time that I have seen one make themselves at home on the bird table. What was it eating? Well I often make porridge (slightly different recipe to the type I like myself – for the birds, hedgehogs and other wild life I make a mixture of oats, animal fat and a little water with the occasional bit of nut or other titbit) which is either spooned into an old coconut shell or shallow tin. Added to this at least today I had crumbled up a few digestive biscuits … but how did the squirrel find out? Does it understand the chatter from the starlings or the cooing of the doves? Or does it simply routinely survey the local patch in the hope of a tasty snack?


Squirrel on bird tableSquirrel peepingSquirrel playing peepo … Boo!! can you see him? 

English Rose

How could a rose become more beautiful? Am I becoming impatient rushing to take pictures too quickly? On this occasion I have been caught out. We are experiencing a most wonderful ‘little heat wave’ at the moment and so rather than the petals on the flowers being blown and dashed they are slowly reaching perfection. There is nothing quite so perfect as an English rose … if only this medium would allow the publishing of smells as this one is soft romance interlaced with a touch of feather beds, sweeter and more sugary than honey. I feel as though I could bathe in the smell and wash its fragrance all over me.

Both pictures are of roses from the same plant. The first is the same pink rose, now more fully open, of the rose captured a few days ago. The second is a rose just two feet away – it doesn’t quite have so many petals but is showing its stamen softly sprinkled with yellow pollen. These pictures were taken within a few seconds of each other on exactly the same setting and yet the lighting looks so different …

Englsih rose in the shade

Englsih roseEnglish rose

Wonderfully white

The white Christmas cactus has now bloomed three times this year … that is if you can count the first one which began its flowering season in November and ran through and lingered over the New Year and into January.

It hasn’t really grown in height much since those first early flowers but continues to delight with short rest periods of no flowers in between Christmas cactus – Angel.


Angel cactus - Christmas cactus white Angel cactus – Christmas cactus white

Peep pot pus

There is a bank or rather a small mound of earth in our garden. It is made up from the soil that was removed when we extended the pond. We have toyed with the idea of making it into a rockery but now have concluded that we would experiment with it instead. So, thinking about the wildlife we decided to begin by sinking two large flowerpots on their sides to make areas that might entice wildlife … our cat had other ideas and we caught her peacefully snoozing in one of the pots … but “What big ears you have – and - all the better to hear you with” pus heard the click from the camera and soon alighted and went on the prowl.


Peep pot pus Sleeping cat

Peep pot pussy prowlsProwling cat

Winding woody woodbine, heady hardy honeysuckle

Honeysuckle years ago was mainly called woodbine. It has a surprising number of varieties and variations in colour. This particular one, is a very old English variety and was my mother’s favourite. These pictures were taken in the early evening when the perfume of the plant is particularly strong. This variety of woodbine or honeysuckle has a rich strong perfume that is a subtle mixture of vanilla and cinnamon. The smell of its flowers is at its richest when the evening dew descends upon the blossom or there is a light, fine rainfall that moistens the whole plant …

Woodbine or honeysuckle - perfumed with vanilla and cinnamon

Woodbine aka honeysuckle Woodbine or honeysuckle in May

Close-up of woodbine or honeysuckle Woodbine or honeysuckle

Picture perfectly poised pink petals

Today the first heavily shaded rose opened its petals and wafted a soft fragrant perfume of pink femininity. This particular rose clings for dear life to a wall and has a naked nudge of Victorian scent that sweetly lingers on the muffled afternoon breeze.

Pink rose

Pink rose open in May Pink fragrant rose

Apology, sorry …. well that’s all right then, isn’t it?

Where has this idea come from – where people are under the illusion that no matter what they do in life, it is all washed away with an apology? It all appeared to have started with the banking community just around the time when we were all beginning to realise the state of the world economy and how it may affect us as individuals. Those first speedy mumbled apologies shot out of our televisions along with some of the most self-righteous smirks I have ever encountered. Now everyone, no matter what they have done seems to be following suit.

I have news for all those who use this mediocre way of trying to extricate themselves from a bad position – sorry is simply not enough.  It doesn’t undo any wrongs and it doesn’t help put them right. We currently have the biggest scandal to have rocked the Houses of Parliament … where our MP’s have been caught claiming all kinds of sums of money for all kinds of goods and services. This list is so long and varied that a person could dedicate a whole blog about it. One of the most bazaar being ‘a floating duck island’ – Floating Duck Island Storythis was claimed by a member of the British Conservative Party.

All I would say to this ‘I am sorry brigade’ is simply do the honourable thing and RESIGN!!

Wicked wondrous Weekend woven webs

Sinewy spiders secretly spin and leave magical moments captured in time for us to appreciate their intricate works.

Web in a wood

Spider web

Spider's web 

Ghost web

 Garden spider web

Startling Starlings

Starlings have always fascinated me one way or another. As a child I would watch the Starling flocks take to the evening sky as they swirled complex patterns with military precision. Sometimes the flocks would contain as few as thirty birds whilst other times the numbers swelled until they took over great swathes of the sky. They flew a hundred or so metres in one direction then quite abruptly the whole flock would turn at exactly the same moment to shoot in a different direction. When the flocks were large they would create patterns as two-thirds of the flock would fly one way whilst the remaining birds would all shoot upwards or downwards … it was hypnotising. They would eventually finish their ballet with what looked like a death plummet from the heavens to the earth below where they would suddenly fly off in different directions to their various roosts for the night.

At the bird table they would remind me of ‘washer women’ or ‘busy gossips’ as the bustled, busied and pushed their way to the prize pieces of food. They barged in front of the finches and tits and even the Blackbird and Robin where quickly hustled out of the way as they squawked and shoved all other birds off the scene.

As they have such capabilities in their feeding habits it seems strange that their numbers have diminished so greatly. Over the last five years I have hardly seen any but I managed to capture a picture of two young juvenile fledglings as they called in this Ash tree.

Fledgling Starlings


Starling young

Juvenile Starling fledglings

Curious, complicated Columbine

One plant that I have always loved is Columbine some people call this plant Aquilegia … but it is a wonderful old-fashioned, hardy plant and in ancient writings is always called Columbine. The variety in my garden is the traditional one but there are more complex varieties available. It is easily grown from seeds and will readily self-seed and grow anywhere the wind has blown each seed. It appears to thrive in any type of soil and will even self-set in rough pea shingle. The seeds are shiny and mostly black. The wild and traditional varieties are available in white, pink, mauve, purple and deep violet blue and mixtures of all of these colours.

Pink Columbine


Pale Pink Columbine


Pale Pink Columbine

Rice Pudding

As a child I thought everyone knew how to make rice pudding … but it is surprising how many people haven’t experienced the pleasure of making their own.

For those who would like to try out this most English of puddings then here are the basic instructions:

The oven should be set to approx Gas Mark 2/300F/150C.

For best results you will need to purchase a packet of pudding rice (polished short grain rice); granulated sugar; whole pasteurized milk or sterilized milk; butter; nutmeg.

Preferably use a medium Pyrex dish. Rub a small amount of butter around the dish roughly a third to half-way down (only a small smear is required). Wash two heaped tablespoonfuls of rice and place in the bottom of the dish … add one or two level tablespoonfuls of sugar … pour on one pint of milk (568 ml) … gently stir round three or four times … lastly sprinkle a little nutmeg on the top.

Place the pudding quite low in the oven … When cooked a lovely dark skin forms on the top of the pudding whilst the bottom becomes thick and creamy … this usually takes between two to two-and-three-quarter hours.

The pudding may be eaten either hot or cold.

Try it and enjoy it!

Note: To all my American friends …… please remember that an English pint is larger than a US pint – you will need 568 ml of milk …… also an English tablespoon is around double the US tablespoon - you will need the equivalent of four teaspoons (20 ml) for every tablespoon measurement.

Curl unfurl

May is the golden month of the fern which begins at the very first day with this wonderful plant pushing its leaves up through the soil in perm tight curls. Day-by-day it slowly unfurls each leaf at the same time with an incredible growth spurt until by mid May many ferns have completely straightened out and are within sight of their yearly height limit.

Ferns are very special plants as they are the oldest known plants on the planet with specimens found around 400 million years ago. They connect the human race in a way that no other living plant can. When you touch a fern you are wiring yourself into life itself as its ancestors have been touched by your ancestors.

When you turn a fern over you will see its seeds neatly stored on each leaf … some say that these are the ‘eyes and ears’ of the plant. It is also alleged that if you have to make a difficult decision it is best made near to a fern as it is likely that you will make a ‘good and wise’ choice.

‘Good decisions come from wise discussions with the ancients. They stand near to the fronds of time.’ Anon

Note: The leaf of a fern is known as a frond.

Fern unfurling

Pale green fern

The top picture is an old fashioned garden fern that grows both tall and wide whereas the bottom picture is a small gentle delicate fern

These ferns were both wild – I normally would not advise anyone to dig up a wild plant for their garden in case it was protected or rare – but usually ferns are fairly common and it is wonderful to gently prise out a small fern seedling, plant it in a tub or in the garden and nurture it until it has become a handsome specimen. Many varieties will also thrive in the home and it is the one plant that many believe to be the ultimate pet … so for those who are unable to have traditional pets then the answer may well be to get a fern and be in touch with your ancestors. Perhaps we should all have a fern!

Pigeon coo

A pigeon camped out on the bird table roof top. It simply sat and sat and sat. The cat went by and it didn’t flutter a feather. Other birds came and went pecking at seeds and fruit … but the pigeon was virtually motionless until a second pigeon flew onto the bird table. Then the second pigeon, took off into the air turned a complete circle and flew directly at the sitting bird like a spitfire in a dog fight. The startled creature flew a short way and landed on a piece of garden furniture and the second pigeon again bombed at the first with its beak jutting straight as a spear. I went out to take a look at the proceedings unsure what was really happening. It seems that the original bird who had so diligently sat on the bird table roof top had some kind of problem with its beak. There was a large lump on one side of it, perhaps a growth as the beak didn’t look split in any way. Before I could make a decision about what to do the second pigeon attacked again. The poorly pigeon flew into an apple tree and then onto the fence but the other pigeon was relentless in its attack.

Since then, I have been looking out for the bird with a lump on its beak but … so far it has not returned to the garden.

Pigeon on bird table roof top joined by second pigeon which later attacked it

Pigeon on floor later becoming violent 

Pigeon with type of growth on its beak

Pigeon on bird table roof top …


I am now a spy! I am able to spy onto my garden from my PC Monitor any time night or day … This is because the prices of Infrared cameras has plummeted and they are now the same price as ordinary digital cameras. These wonderful technical toys for adults, offer some unusual facilities. They can be used inside or outside … and set to view wherever you place them but give you the option of taking a still or moving shot.  The camera has motion sensors with an additional option of an automatic emailing facility that sends still shots anywhere in the world.


pigeon wood

This picture was taken remotely at late dusk … it was quite dark … note how dead things like wood, roof tops, brick, pots, and so on all retain their natural colour whilst living things such as the grass on the lawn and the trees and bushes have turned a magical shade of pink!

Infrared view from the desktop

This is how the Infrared camera looks from the desktop monitor. It’s amazingly clear and as there is a motion sensor on the camera it means that every time there is a movement from a bird or animal in the garden, the camera will automatically take a picture of it and all for just a few pounds … :)

It’s the Ides of May and Silver Surfers’ Day

It’s the Ides of May today and the launching of Silver Surfers’ Day … the aim is to get people who missed out on computers when they were younger to now embrace them and to see what valuable assistants they can be. For those wanting to know more why not visit Silver Surfers' link and see how much more is now available …

Factoid fun: The Ides are on the 15th day of every month.

Gone in the blink of an eye

It’s May and it should be a calm, warm and pretty month. A month of reflection, rebirth and vibrant with a million variations of every colour of the rainbow – in the air, on the ground and in the trees and bushes. The wind and rain has other ideas and as it gushes in fits and starts along with heavy spatters of hail and rain we are left with only glimpses of the brightest of jewels on the landscape.

I managed to snatch a quick photograph of one of my most favourite of poppies. I found these beautiful golden flowers whilst holidaying in Scotland. I plucked off just one flimsy head of the yellow flower when it had barely gone to seed and just crossed my fingers in the hope that one or two seeds would be advanced enough to germinate. Not only did they grow but two years later several of the flowers changed colour and became either deep gold or bright orange. This Celtic poppy is often found in both Scotland and Wales busily bouncing its flowery heads by the roadside verges. It makes an excellent garden border plant being both colourful, long lasting and a hardy perennial.

Celtic poppy

Celtic poppy affectionately known both as the Welsh or Scottish poppy

Piercing pain

I sometimes wonder at the amount of information that I have acquired through conversations I have had with various relatives over the years. A long, long time ago I was sitting at my grandmother’s table. She was slicing a thick piece of bread from a shiny black-topped cottage loaf and liberally spreading it with creamy tub butter. The conversation turned to ear-rings. She told me that when she was younger she had longed for some lovely, feminine, dangly ear-rings and I asked her why she had never had never had her ears pierced. I was surprised by her reply. She informed me that she had and went on to tell me all about it.

In her day, children became young adults at the age of eleven. That is when they left school and started to earn a living. She never actually advised me when but at some point after leaving school she was with a group of friends and they all decided to have their ears pierced. So they got together the equipment: one clean bottle cork and a large darning needle. The needle was sterilised and then thrust firmly through one of the girls lobes and into the cork and so on until all of the girls had throbbing lobes dripping with blood but sporting a hole. Then those that had ear-rings got their friends to thread them through whilst those that couldn’t yet afford any took some clean, sterilised plucked broom bristles and had those threaded through and tied at the bottom in a knot.

My grandma, still saving for her ear-rings had broom bristles pulled and pushed through her holes …… she told me that it was so painful and eventually she pulled them out and they healed up. She never had them pierced again.

Pierced ear-rings

High on a roll

He’s back! The ‘stray’ cat that has cried at my back door in the cold, that meowed a curdling dirge night after night … sleekly and silently he pawed his way over to the catmint and began furiously rolling about in it. As he sucked in the strong, heady wafts of minty aroma his eyes rolled about and he was clearly out-of-this-world. My own cat looked on from a distance. She has never used this plant in such an audacious way … she has always just lay on the path a little below it, catching an occasional whiff on the breeze before rolling onto her back and lolling gently back onto her front. She has never been high on catnip …

Cat high on catmint

Cat in catmint

Creep creep creeper, creeper

Some medium sized green leaves pushed their way under the fence from next door. They appeared interesting as in the sunshine the leaves looked as though they had been sprayed with a silver white thick line slightly away from their circumference. The thick tendrils mysteriously crept along the clay soil in several directions … I had to wait and see how they developed … I searched my mind to see if I could recall ever having seen a plant like this before …

It was not until it flowered that I recognized the plant -

Yellow Archangel or Weasel Snout

Yellow Archangel or Weasel Snout

Yellow Archangel known affectionately as Weasel Snout

This was a plant from my childhood. It hung about down country lanes, on the far side of ditches and on canal towpaths. When I first spied one I thought it was a nettle and remember saying “look at that yellow nettle.” I was much older when I learned that it was Weasel Snout which belongs to the mint family rather than the nettle family. So … the beautiful creeper that crept under the fence from next door’s garden was not an exotic plant but, in fact, a wild flower!

A Viscount’s diet

Lords, Ladies, Viscounts and thin people don’t usually need to go on diets so why does the rest of the population and why hasn’t anyone spread the word to say how we can lose weight without dieting. “Oh yes – we can!”

There are three simple rules to a Viscount’s diet … remember thin people take smaller mouthfuls, they chew for far, far, far longer …

When placing food into your mouth put less onto your fork or spoon – and once your stomach feels full – never continue eating!

  • Take one-quarter of the amount of food that you normally place into your mouth each time before …
  • Chewing each small mouthful slowly for FORTY times before swallowing
  • Have one small wineglass of water half-an-hour before each meal and one small wineglass of water half-an-hour after each meal

It is useful to use a simple rhyme rather than count each chew such as:

“The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat. They took some honey and plenty of money wrapped up in a five pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above as he sang by a small guitar, “Oh – lovely Pussy, Oh – Pussy my love – what a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are – what a beautiful Pussy you are!”

A person who chooses a rhyme of more than forty words will be less inclined to cheat and swallow their food before it has had a chance to begin the digestion process. Food needs saliva, which contains digestive enzymes. A mouth is similar to a cake mixer, food processor, blender - it is designed to slowly crush each mouthful into a paste before passing it on to the stomach. This is vital not only for the brain  to register that we have eaten but also to tell us when our bodies have had enough and our stomachs are full. People who don’t allow this process - feel hungry for a large portion of the day. They may suffer with wind, headaches, stomach aches, indigestion, depression and a variety of other complaints.

We are taught how to do so many things but rarely is any time given to teach us the correct way to eat. It is vital to eat properly to maintain a healthy weight … the population of the world is getting fatter and fatter. Emphasis is placed on education … people, in general are learning more but no-one is teaching the most important thing of all … how to eat properly, how to masticate (chew) food – best practise for us all to become healthy and remain healthy …

So … if you need to lose weight -


“Shhh! This was once a secret, but no more – the cat’s out of the bag so pass it on … Blog about it, tweet about it, share it with the world  - and when you do please add this little note.”

Rollicking, rich, Ramsons

The flowering perfusion of the precision pressed, small star flowers of Ramsons should take its place in the flower gardens of the world. Ramsons is a beautiful wild lily that will grow just about anywhere – in sun, shade, muddy mulch, crunchy clay … It has small, thin bulbs which are easily uprooted – just a little tug will provide a wonderful, healthy plant. It produces small ball bearing sized black seeds which can be randomly scattered on top of the soil to give a crisp green and white display. This lovely lily’s main appeal is its use in cookery. The white star shaped flowers may be lightly scattered on top of a dish for garnish or in a salad (they have a soft slight onion flavour). The flower stems may be thinly chopped or sliced and added to soups, stir fries, salads for a very mild garlic flavour. The leaves, the young leaves are preferred – have a stronger garlic flavour and may be added to any dish to liven it up or add a subtle twist to the flavour.

Ransoms also known as wild garlic

The above picture shows Ramsons: in the foreground are very young plants, followed by some just beginning to flower and at the back are plants in full bloom.

Ramsons - wild garlic

Ramsons which is affectionately called Wild Garlic and in some areas Stinking Lily


Medicinal uses: Ramsons has long been used for loss of appetite and digestive disorders (use leaves only finely chopped for these conditions). Over the centuries it has allegedly been used for the treatment of asthma, high blood pressure, rheumatism and digestive problems.

WARNING: Ramsons should never be planted in a garden that has Lily of the Valley … the Lily of the Valley leaf is almost identical to the Ramsons Leaf but Lily of the Valley is a poisonous plant. As Ramsons, Wild Garlic is used for eating then it is commonsense never to plant the two species in the same garden.


Gusty gales

This May, so far has brought with it gushes of gusty gales … and so it is speeding by without people being able to fully enjoy the tapestry of colours that are woven into the hedgerows and garden borders. The lilacs are currently in full bloom – the white almost appears to be a much weaker plant then the purple, mauve and lilac versions. Within a day or so of the white lilac blooms opening they became bruised and tinged with brown. Their perfume is only a faint ghost of the richer, darker, plush, feathery plumes of the more traditional varieties.

White lilac - ravaged by gales

White lilac – ravaged by gales

Lilac - purple

Purple lilac

Purple lilac

Factoid fun: sunshine is the engine of the wind.


Although rhubarb is eaten as a pudding, the rhubarb plant is in fact a vegetable as it is the stalk that is cooked and eaten. Rhubarb has been used for hundreds of years as a cure for both constipation and diarrhoea dependent upon the quantity used (old books usually say a goodly portion for constipation and a nugget or two for diarrhoea).

The price of rhubarb in the shops is now at an all time high and in some places is around £3.00 for four sticks … so it is best to consider buying a plant. Rhubarb plants will thrive in the corner of the garden and provide several crops every year, which can be used in just a simple pudding or pie or made into a sumptuous compote for adding to ice cream or spreading on toast. Remember when growing rhubarb to only harvest the stalks – cut off the leaves for composting as they are deadly poison!

rhubarb, chives and a cowslip

My young rhubarb plant next to some chives and nestling below a cowslip.

It is Monday, 4th May today and is a National holiday in England ~ Happy May Day Everyone!

Cooking: In general it is usually roughly cut or chopped in pieces measuring around one inch or two centimetres. Place in a saucepan - add one teaspoonful of sugar for each stem and one teaspoonful of water for each stem. Simmer slowly - rhubarb softens up (cooks) very quickly - it also produces a large amount of juice so doesn't need too much water added to it - just enough to stop it sticking to the saucepan bottom.

Picking the bluebells in the merry month

This is probably one of the most rewarding months in the garden especially for flower lovers. It is the month where soft, sweet perfumed flowers open up their petals to welcome in the bees and hover flies. Gone are the fluctuating fast showers of April as May is usually a gentle and mild month with sunshine and soft breezes. It does provide rainfall but with less frequency.
posy of bluebells - red campion - buttercups - cow parsley - wild garlic
A May posy of Bluebells, Red Campion, Buttercups, Wild Garlic and Cow Parsley
A few little sayings and mottoes for May …
“Picking the bluebells in the merry month of May”
“Beware of taking vows in May the vows are said to melt away”
“Born in May – smile all day”
“Make a babe in August to show the world in May”
“The cuckoo sings every day in the merry month of May”
“Shear your sheep in May and shear them all away”
Don’t catch a fish on a bright May morn or the fry will not rise from this year’s spawn”


‘Hip hip hip hooray! The finest month, the month of May will take your sorrows and spear your woes – will worry all nations and weaken your foes.’ Anon

It is the first of May … “White Rabbits!” It is time for Maypoles to be hoisted, adorned with beautiful ribbons … “let’s dance around the Maypole.”

May ... bluebells

We had a special song that we sung at school to celebrate May and although we skipped and tripped around the hard wooden floor of the Dining Hall there sadly wasn’t a Maypole in sight. Here is the song that we sung …

“Come lasses and lads take leave of your dads and away to the Maypole high – For every fair has a sweetheart there and the fiddler’s standing by – For Willy shall dance with Jane and Johnny has got his Joan – To trip it, trip it, tri-ip it, trip it, tri-ip it up and down - To trip it, trip it, tri-ip it, trip it, tri-ip it up and down.”

The most favourite saying for May is:

“Don’t cast a clout ‘til May is out.”

Years ago I always assumed that this meant that you shouldn’t dress in Summer clothes until the month of May had ended and June had begun. I think though it is probably a fair assumption that it means … keep on your Winter clothes until the hawthorn blossom (the May blossom) opens its flowers!