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.

Slim code of life

Many years ago, I knew a lovely young woman. She was independent, happy and very slim. At the time it was very rare to see anyone obese but most women dieted from time-to-time to maintain a reasonable weight. One day we were discussing both weight and diet. She looked at me very profoundly and said:

    • “The difference between you and me is – that I eat to live, whereas you live to eat.”

She explained that she would never have a problem with weight, no matter what age or what circumstance because she never had enjoyment of food. She was neither anorexic nor ill and ate three meals every day but she never thought about food, lusted after food or saw someone eating food and thought that might be nice I wonder what it tastes like? Therefore, she was right – she was slim and she would always be thin!


I have heard this statement many many times since and it surely has a ring of truth in it; those people who eat to maintain life will always be more slender than the rest of the population!

Cats’ whiskers

Every animal has secrets. Probably one of the most intriguing of a cat are its whiskers. The purpose of a cat’s whiskers is for the cat to determine whether the rest of its body can safely climb through a space. However, this is only relevant if the cat is of normal weight. A vet may, therefore, use the width of its whiskers as a useful guideline to determine whether the cat is of a healthy weight, prior to placing it on the scales.

Although a cat has very sharp eyesight whilst looking for objects (especially those of potential prey – in other words creatures that move), it has difficulty focussing on anything that is close by and is heavily reliant on its whiskers to see if it is in bumping range of things. Its whiskers are therefore essential and should never be cut – they are as necessary to a cat as a blind person’s stick in order for the cat to feel relatively safe. Whiskers, like all forms of hair on mammals, are made up of keratin but are set deep within the face of the cat and close to bunches of nerve endings making them both useful and sensitive to movement.

Cats' whiskers

Domestic short-haired cat, DSH, Felis catus

My cat, is now thirteen years old. She has not lost any weight which according to my vet is a good sign as many cats may become thin and struggle with health issues once they have lost weight. She has a varied diet: she enjoys fresh, roast chicken and jelly, canned tuna, Felix senior (as good as it looks dinners), Sheba delicious morsels with chicken & turkey, Iams adult light 1+ years sterilised proactive nutrition – roast chicken flavour (these are biscuit like and very tiny and easy to digest) I have tried her on other dried foods and find that they are too difficult for her to chew. She also enjoys an occasional two or three Thomas treats … Apart from the treats and the roast chicken, the other items in her diet are eaten by her every day …… yes, she eats more than me!! She gains a little weight during the Winter months and loses it when the warmer weather arrives … the ideal scenario for any living creature.

A mite tiny

Life is fascinating. The fact that we are built up of millions of cells, each having their own purpose and lifespan - and miraculously those cells are held together to form us … a unique individual, is magnificent. We in turn, are little planets that supply nourishment to a series of creatures most of which are not visible to the naked eye. One of the most intriguing is a tiny, thin creature that is called a follicle mite or Demodex follicarum. These often live at the base of our eyelashes. In measurements that we can understand this tiny mite is approximately one hundredth of an inch in length. It has a fierce mouth with needle sharp cutting devices and minute clasping claws. It uses its claws and mouth to bury itself deep inside a hair follicle and remains there its entire life for it can only move in one direction and that is forwards. It is, however, one of the most efficient creatures on the planet as it makes use of the entirety of its food supply (us) and has no need of an anus as it produces no waste. When it eventually dies it harmlessly dissolves and leaves the hair follicle remarkably clean. Not everyone will home this little creature and as yet it appears there is little knowledge on how it travels from one person to another … but if you do have them they are it is alleged, entirely harmless.

Follicle mites,; sometimes referred to as - eyelash mite or face mite - Demodex follicularum

Follicle mite,  Demodex follicarum

Face of a Follicle Mite

Head and legs of the Follicle mite, Demodex follicarum

The sun daisy

One of my most favourite of daisies is the Dandelion. Round, soft, golden yellow, a spit of petals that is in fact a composition of tiny flower heads, which eventually all create their own separate seed head and feathery parachute which forms a delightful round, white, silky pompom. The flower head often faces towards the sun and usually closes as evening approaches keeping the many flowers safe in the darkness. There is wonderful advice in a saying about dandelions ~

    • ‘Blow the clocks near fields of crops.’

It has long been known that dandelions are the gold mines of the garden; they help other plants to crop more heavily and if allowed to grow around orchards and berry bushes, the fruits are said to generally ripen more quickly.


Dandelion - Taraxacum officinale

Dandelion clock - seed head

Dandelion clock or seed head

Dandelions have always been used as an extra salad vegetable. Their leaves (the youngest and most tender) make a wonderful addition tossed in a salad. The flower heads are often used in the making of wines and soft drinks. The roots are sometimes roasted and crushed – hot water is then poured on to the root to make a type of coffee. They help to clear the body of extra water but should never be eaten or drunk whilst taking medicines.

The haunting

As a child, I lived in a hamlet. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a hamlet is a small village, especially one without a church. Everyone in our hamlet without exception waved, smiled and greeted everyone else. We all had to be patient as despite there being very little in the form of shops, garages and buses there was always a queue and often a long wait. In the Summer one of the local houses sold ice-cream. They had a long, white, crunchy drive and you could smell the vanilla for at least half-a-mile away. The corner shop sold most essentials. There was goat’s milk for which you needed to produce your own jug; bacon and ham, some of which was grown at the back of the shop in the form of three beautiful lop-eared and very friendly pigs that were housed in a stone walled sty; eggs that contained both feathers, mud, straw and poo on their shells; potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips and swedes that were all covered with the local clay from the fields; spring cabbage, cauliflower, peas and beans when in season; cans of several varieties on the back shelves; tea, sugar and other dried essentials; biscuits some of which were sold loosely; chocolates, sweets and ice lollies – milk lollies being my favourite. I was allowed to choose a milk lolly on grocery day, which was always a Friday.

We had a village hall, sturdily built of stone; a church annex which most would call a chapel it was set off the road and secluded in a small wooded area that contained several pine trees the smell of which crept through the open door along with the sunshine. The vicar wore a large round smile and white floating smock that flapped in the breeze like a field poppy.

Now as a youngster, I was encouraged the same as all other children at that time – ‘to be seen and not heard.’ We would sit on walls and make daisy chains whilst adults talked and talked and talked. We would climb the small thick boughs of trees and straddle our legs either side swinging them backward and forwards as though we were driving a donkey to market. If no other children were about we would eavesdrop on what was being discussed.

On one occasion whilst waiting in a queue I happened to be standing next to a lady who appeared quite elderly to me but she was probably still short of fifty. Passing the time of day I asked her if she went to church. A twinkle came into her eye and a smile teased her bright red lips and she answered in words something like this: “Goodness me no, I gave up doing wicked things a long time ago and so don’t have the need of visiting a church any more!” ………. haunting conversation.

Annex -chapel


Lilac - Syringa vulgaris

Lilac - Syringa vulgaris

    • ‘Of all the flowers that I see, the sweetest is the lay-luck tree.’ Anon

Usually pronounced lie-lc, lie-lek. The Lilac tree is both fragrant and is said to bring good luck to a household when it is planted in the garden. The purple is known for its strongest fragrance but all varieties are popular. This is a picture of my white Lilac as yet my purple variety has not flowered this year.

To hear the pronunciation of Lilac please click the link and then the following symbol:  Click to hear the UK pronunciation of this word

Cockchafer, May-bug or Melolontha melolontha

The other night I came face-to-face with a Cockchafer. It is the first time that I have seen one of these large beetles. They are night time flyers and make quite a lot of noise during flight. They grow from between 20 mm to 30 mm and are easily recognisable by their pointed backs. The adult beetles eat leaves from trees and shrubs whilst their young, a large – fat, juicy ‘C’ shaped grub feed on roots of all different kinds. The Cockchafer is very common in England, Wales, the lower parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Eire.

This one I carried gently and placed safely in the garden on an Iris flower.

Cockchafer or May-bug - Melololntha melolontha

Cockchafer, May-bug – Melolontha melolontha

Cockchafer or May-bug

Cockchafer also known as May-bug

Oxlip, cowslip, primrose and false oxlip

A simple guide on how to tell the difference between the Spring primula family is as follows …

The Primrose, Primula vulgaris – is the shortest of the plants with pale yellow flowers with slightly darker centres growing singularly on short stems. It likes to grow in shady places. Its leaves are oval, crinkly-edged and fairly even.

Primrose - Primula vulgaris

Primrose – Primula vulgaris

The Cowslip, Primula veris – is long-stemmed, up to 25 cm. The flowers form in groups on the top of the stems. The petals are small and a deep golden yellow.

cowslip - Primula veris

Cowslip – Primula veris

The Oxlip, Primula elatior – is usually shorter than the cowslip, growing up to 20 cm. It is quite rare and is mostly resident in South East England. It is easy to spot as its flowers, which sit on the top of the stem, all face the same direction.

Oxlip - Primula elatior

Oxlip – Primula elatior

The False oxlip, Primula veris x vulgaris as its Latin name suggests, is in fact, a hybrid formed from the close proximity of a cowslip and primrose producing seedlings of sturdy flowers. These grow the same height as the Oxlip but their umbels fall in all directions similar to its cowslip parent.

False oxlip - Primula veris x vulgaris

False oxlip – Primula veris x vulgaris

These beautiful False oxlips suddenly appeared in my garden. It was a lovely surprise as I have had both primroses and cowslips for many years and it is the first time that they have produced a mixed off-spring and what wonderful plants they are.

Ingrowing toenails

The most common cause of ingrowing toenails is damp feet. With trends of modern shoes being manufactured out of man-made materials, the foot especially around the toe area, often becomes over-heated and damp. When toenails are damp or wet they expand in all directions as they mop up water like a sponge. This causes them to become misshapen and often they dig into the surrounding skin. So if you are prone to ingrowing toenails – keep your feet dry.

    • Wash feet - thoroughly dry them, firstly with a cotton towel then using a hair dryer set to cool, blow them dry to make sure that there is no moisture left anywhere near to the toes.
    • Wear comfortable, loose fitting leather shoes, preferably sandals so that fresh air can get to the feet. Avoid trainers or anything similar.
    • Choose cotton or cotton/wool mixture socks and change them regularly two or three times each day.
    • Make sure that toenails are kept fairly short, straight and neat and always use a good quality nail file rather than scissors or clippers.
    • Finally, if too much damage has been done and the ingrowing toenail does not go back to normal then seek a doctor’s advice on possible surgery. Surgery usually involves a small slither of nail being removed from each side of the toenail completely down to the nail bed. The extra width of nail will never grow back and so this is often the option that many consider if they participate in sports and suffer with the pain of ingrowing toenails.

Toe nails

2011 and it’s May

The end of April was hot and sunny with temperatures hitting 27°C. Rather than April it was more like August and Spring flowers began to wilt. May began with bright sunshine and blue skies but the temperature dropped to 16 °C with a cool breeze. The flowers and even some of the bushes are beginning to wilt with lack of rainfall. For the first time ever it has become necessary to freshen up some areas of the garden with the watering can …

Domesticated bluebell flowering in May

Domesticated bluebell growing in May

Bluebell - domesticated


Columbine sometimes known as Aquilegia

Columbine also known as Aquilegia

Columbine is often sold in Garden Centres and Nurseries but it is probably the easiest of all plants to grow from seed. The seeds are large and black and will grow just about anywhere … simply scatter them wherever you would like them to flower and you should never be disappointed. They will come up year after year flowering throughout the Spring and Summer and often into early Autumn. Do watch out though as they are inclined to be prolific in multiplying their numbers around the garden. They even make themselves at home in gravel, sand and between slabs and cracks in concrete.