Sunday, 24 June 2007
I was feeding my two mantids today with some juicy flies.
“So?” I hear you ask.
Truth is, I have found a secret cache of them at the top of the garden near the compost bins. The place is positively swarming with the critters, so, armed with a jam-jar in each hand (one recently vacated by a very delicious, locally-produced, apple jelly and the other recently emptied of, presumably, strawberry jam – by the look of the very decorative top, covered, not-so-very-discreetly, with very large pictures of the plump red fruit), I patrolled the area several times, and honed my jam-jar, fly-catching skills for well on half-an-hour. Mr. Miggins (the Vietnamese mantis) made it perfectly clear that he is not at all pining for the late Mrs. Miggins, by swiftly catching and digesting a nice plump greenbottle dropped into his Jungle Jar for his delectation. This may not be of any great surprise to anyone who has ever, or still does, keep mantids. However, the fact that whilst doing this, with swift, almost arrogant, ease he caught another large specimen with his other arm, and held it in reserve whilst chomping on his first victim may. I thought it was pretty impressive – if not a little greedy - and never saw my dear Matilda do such a thing. But then, she was female and, therefore, perhaps had better manners!
What else has been going on in CFZdom today? Not too much, considering it is Sunday, but Richard and I have been doing some more work on the crypto book. Jon, bless him, has been feeling ‘under the weather’ today so we did not carry on with work on the new Exotic Pets magazine as we had intended so to do. However, the articles have all been written and laid out, and we are now in the throes of proofing and tweaking to make sure all is as it should be.
Mentioning locally-produced apple jelly reminds me that I did not tell you about the foray into the North Devon Food Fair, held at nearby Atlantic Village, towards the end of last month. There is not much to tell really, apart from responding to the sharp intakes of breath that may pass through many of this blog's readers at the very idea of taking Jon, Richard and Oll to such an event. As has been well documented, by Jon himself, practising anorexics they are not and letting the The Three Caballeros loose in such a place may not have been the wisest choice ever made!
However, it was not as bad as it could well have been. Yes, all four of us came back with armfuls of deliciousness such as chutneys, sausages, cheeses, breads, sweets, rhubarb juice, and even a couple of plants. Apparently, though, nowhere near as bad as Jon and Richard's past visits to such events in Exeter where they proved Robert Heinlein wrong because, as far as they were concerned, there is such a thing as a free lunch. Anyway, that aside, I am all for the practice of supporting local businesses in these days of the giants and can report that every one of the purchases we have tried so far has been absolutely wonderful.
Guess we shall be heading the same time next year?
Friday, 22 June 2007
There is the danger, though, of forgetting how to think for yourself. You could quite easily become quite blasé about where you are heading and not even bother to check out the road signs anymore. You don’t even have to check speed limits, for the machine will beep at you rudely if you exceed them. The feminine directions lull you into soporific comfort and the masculine voice booms at you of blackspots. It is like being back in class again, under the supervision of a particularly vehement English teacher, who makes you sit bolt upright in your seat and pay extreme attention to what is being said to you.
It would also be a very good idea for a book. Just think – if someone tampered with a batch of sat navs and sent the drivers off into the unknown to meet their doom at the hands of some deranged techno-mass murderer. Or even some unsuspecting high-ranking profile person could be kidnapped – led to their captors by a little box on their dashboard. Hmmm interesting concept eh?
To end, today I have come to realise that my blog entries are like London buses. You don’t see one for ages then you get five all at once!
Oh well, better that, than none at all.
After a hundred yards you have reached your destination ...
Now, you may be wondering, who is this hero of mine that caused such delight and excitement? None other than the very talented ex-frontman of that excellent 70s band Genesis – namely Peter Gabriel. I first saw Genesis in the early 70s at Brunel University (I used to live about 3 miles from there). I used to frequent the university quite often to see bands and was always chaperoned by my elder brother, Ant. My parents probably thought he used to stay with his little sister all evening, but none of that I can assure you lol. He used to walk me there, leave me to my own devices while he did ‘his own thing’, but, to his credit, he was always there to walk me home again. Anyway, I digress.
On that particular evening I experienced my first taste of, in my opinion, the best musical show ever. The music, the words and Peter Gabriel’s marvellous theatrics mesmerised me and there began my journey into the wonderful world of ‘Supper’s Ready’ and the famous ‘sunflower routine’. My friend, Sioux and I, then began years of attending every London-based show we could get to.
Alas, as the years passed, and with the band’s ever-increasing popularity, the distance between us and the stage grew greater until, on the last gig, the band were but mere pinpricks ahead of us. However, at Brunel they were but an arm’s length away and I was hoping that, at the Eden Project, I could achieve full circle and be, one more time, at arm’s length.
Gone are the days of standing outside the stage door awaiting the band’s emergence for eagerly awaited, and now much cherished, autographs. Gone, also, are the days when events like catching my hair in Phil Collins’ bomber jacket zip occurred (well, it was a very windy evening!) However, here was a long-awaited chance to hear Peter’s dulcet tones live again. He is one of those charismatic, quiet, unassuming characters of the music industry, whose soft voice could read you bedtime stories at night.
Alas, the weather was inclement to say the least. An outside gig in the atrocious weather we have been experiencing of late here in the West Country – and at my own admission, severely underdressed for the occasion – put paid to that dream. We did, however, witness the whole session from a very good vantage spot and, for my part, greatly enjoyed it. From what I overheard from other attendees who stopped off at our spot, we had a better view than if we had been down in the main arena.
Jon, by the way, proved that his claims not to be a hippy are nonsense, by dancing happily in the rain for most of the evening, and occasionally saying ‘groovy’. You see - no self-control!
Not only did I take back to the hotel a rather damp set of clothing, and, no doubt, a chill to boot, I also took back the memory of being able to see my hero again after some 33 years of absence.
If you will excuse the pun, even the leaking roof upon our return to Woolsery, did not dampen my spirits!
I thought I would add an entry about LAPIS, as this was one of the reasons for us ‘going oop t’north’ in the first place.
After leaving the others at Low Peel Near, Jon and I stopped off at a motorway services on the M6 to have dinner. Well, I say ‘dinner’. This actually consisted of a couple of pre-packed ‘wraps’, a cup of cappuccino for me, and a cold drink for Jon. If nothing else, you can assuredly claim that those on the road for the CFZ certainly spare nothing on their meals! I did not really care what I ate by that time though – I was tired, hungry and thirsty, and I reckoned that junk food was about as good as no food at all.
We got to the B & B in Lytham St. Annes at about 9 o’clock to be met by a very congenial landlady called Barbara, who seems to be able to remember all the first names of her clients with amazing ease and clarity – my brain is too soft and squashy to remember my own sometimes let alone another ten or so more virtual strangers! We met up with the other speakers – Larry Warren, Joe McGonagle, Alan Murdie, as well as organisers Janet Walkey and John Nuttall.
For those who do not know, here is a brief introduction to LAPIS, pinched from their website, which I hope they do not mind!
“LAPIS (Lancashire Anomalous Phenomena Investigation Society) is based in Blackpool and has been investigating strange events on the Fylde coast for over 20 years.
The group has been involved with many exciting cases over the years, some of which have attracted the attention of the national media. Since 1989, we have also held a series of highly acclaimed conferences putting on many respected speakers including a former astronaut!
The club meets on the last Thursday of every month at The Guards Club, 37E Whitegate Drive, Blackpool, FY3 9DG.
The Club has a cheap bar with a wide rangeof beverages and is open late on most nights. Everyone is welcome to attend our monthly meetings, whatever their views on the subject. Come along and relax in like-minded company!”
For more information try out: www.lapis.org.uk
Alan Murdie’s talk about ‘the man who was killed by a UFO in 1969’ was first on the bill. This was an interesting piece about an encounter in Columbia, South America. Alan has been tentatively booked to speak at next year’s Weird Weekend and is also, hopefully, going to write us a book about South American phenomena. (www.ghostclub.org.uk )
Over the years there have been reports given by pilots of cigar shaped or "missile-like" objects that have been buzzing planes inside British airspace. Joe McGonagle (www.uk-ufo.org.uk) explained how a lot of this material has never previously been publicly presented and demonstrated the incapability of the powers that be to deal with unidentified flying objects, whatever their origin may be.
After lunch, it was Jon’s turn for his presentation. He had been billed to speak on anything ‘crypto’ and on this occasion he decided to speak about eels and the on-going investigations into the possibility of larger-than-normal creatures in the lakes of the world, including the current expedition to the Lake District. Many large lakes across the world boast stories of monsters and it is the CFZ’s quest to try and prove that these monsters are extraordinarily large eels.
Last on was our very own Larry Warren, who showed a recent TV film, about the Rendlesham incident to the audience – a very intriguing case indeed and much enjoyed by those watching. Larry is attending this year’s Weird Weekend, together with the co-author of the book ‘Left at East Gate’ which documents this event, Peter Robins.
After the talks were over, we all had a pre-booked dinner at the bed and breakfast and spent a congenial evening talking about our various experiences of UFOs, ghosts, paranormal activity etc. Jon and I were exhausted by then, so we left the others to it, and retired, to fall asleep pretty much as soon as our heads hit the pillows.
After a hearty breakfast, we learnt that the festivities had continued until nigh on 2.00 am and various apologies were made to us for any noise that may have occurred. However, both Jon and I assured them that we had been blissfully away in the land of nod and had not heard a thing.
Eels awaited, and Jon and I headed on back up the M6 to reconvene our investigations at Coniston Water as I have told you about in my previous entry.
Strange isn’t it, that a couple of weekends ago I spent the time travelling up and down the eastern side of the country; this last one was spent travelling up and down the western side! Which reminds me, for those of you who, like Shosh, detected the deliberate grammatical error in my last entry, Olivia does, in fact, share the same father as her! Well spotted Shosh!
The weather was fine until we hit the Black Country. True to its unfortunate sounding, rather dreary, description (and I mean no offence to anyone who may live there) the skies darkened, the rain fell un-relentingly, and the wind began to rock the car as we sped along the motorway. By the time we reached Windermere, it was more like autumn rather than nearly at the summer solstice. However, when we reached our rendezvous point with Lisa (Dowley) at the Bluebird Café, on the shores of Coniston Water, the skies began to clear and the wind dropped, almost as suddenly as it had started.
It was, of course, on Coniston Water that Donald Malcolm Campbell’s ill-fated attempt at bettering his own water speed record of 276.33 mph took place. It was 4th January 1967, and Campbell was nearing the end of his second run in Bluebird, when she flipped high into the air and nose-dived into the water. Rescuers who raced to the spot found only Campbell's helmet, shoes, oxygen mask, and his Teddy bear mascot, Mr. Woppit, bobbing on the water. It was not until 28th May 2001 that Donald Campbell’s body was recovered from the waters and laid to rest in Coniston cemetery, in September of that year.
As I have said, we had arranged to meet Lisa at the Bluebird Café – named, of course, after Donald Campbell’s boat - and we arrived there at 12.30 pm, seven and a half hours (and a few coffee breaks and calls of Mother Nature) after leaving sunny Woolsery. There has been a café building on the site since the Furness Railway Company built it in 1860 after the rail network was brought to Coniston. Its purpose then was to act as accommodation for the crew of the original SY Gondola which travelled up and down the lake in Victorian days. Now you will find the café is full of Bluebird memorabilia, and boasts a beautiful spot on the shores of the lake.
After a much needed cup of tea, whopping great big slabs of fruit cake, and then a spot of filming, we all regrouped at Low Peel Near, where we had been based last year, to wait for the arrival of our diver Kevin, and his brother-in-law, Ken.
If any of you reading this has ever been to the Lake District, you will know about the long, narrow winding lanes that take you across the wild countryside. In places, these roads are not for the fainthearted as the bends are sharp, with sheer drops into the lakes banking them, separated only by low man-made walls of stone. In the remoter parts the lanes become single lane traffic only, and it took us three attempts to get around one particular corner, due to the need of having to reverse every time we ventured our noses around the bend, as we kept meeting oncoming traffic. There is something oddly claustrophobic about these lanes – I think it is because the stone walls seem to close them in. You may say that lanes in Devon cause the same feeling, but, to me at least, although the lanes here are sunken, they are banked by high hedges, and do not cause the same kind of insecurities.
We all spent a good few hours exploring the area. Jon, Richard, Oll and Kevin did a spot of kick-stand testing and turned over stones in the water to see if anything of interest rushed out – they caught a few minnows and interesting beetles, but, alas no sign of any eels.
Jon and I arranged to meet everyone again on Sunday before we left the others at Low Peel Near at around 6.30 pm to make our way back down the motorway and into Lytham St. Annes for the annual LAPIS conference, where Jon was speaking.
After returning, as planned, around lunchtime, we spent the rest of Sunday at the shores of Coniston Water. Towards dusk we were witness to a mass hatching of mayflies which burst forth from the, by then, calm water into the still evening air to act out their last few hours of life.
A family of ducks had kept us company for most of the afternoon – they seemed to like the remnants of various sandwiches and pork pies that we tossed in their direction and hung around eagerly awaiting further dietary supplements. Later on we also had a visit from a common merganser (Mergus merganser) mother - a large sized duck - and her four offspring. The little ones were charging through the water, their heads just under the surface, lapping up the fry that had congregated near the shoreline. I think everyone present all went “Ahhh how cute” when we saw two of the little ones jump on to mum’s back for a lift. We also saw her, on two occasions, at great speed racing after, and catching, two perch that she swallowed with relish. We were all of the same opinion: “How is it that we spend all afternoon trying to catch one perch and she manages to catch two in the space of about five minutes?” C’est la vie … sigh.
No, we did not catch any eels either. But we did see several. We also got bitten to buggery by the midges, but that is what it is all about isn’t it? Getting out there and experiencing the ups and downs rather than sitting in a chair talking about it. If nothing else, here at the CFZ we pride ourselves with doing just that - getting stuck in – cuts, bruises, bites, wet feet and all. Even Kevin entered into the spirit of things – albeit slightly by misfortune! He managed to slip on a rock and fell, fully clothed, into the lake at one point, but true to CFZ form, got up, shook himself down and carried on as if nothing had happened.
By the time we got back to our board and lodgings for the night, all the eateries had closed so Oll, Jon and I had a ‘picnic’ in our room which consisted of left over pork pies, crisps, tuna salad and chocolate – oh yes … lots of chocolate! Well, it’s good for you – or so Jon keeps trying to convince me. He even claims it is therapeutic for his diabetes! Yeah, right Jon – you may like to think that.
Monday morning and it was time to commence the journey back to Devon. We had decided that we would stop off at Blackpool on the way, to visit the Sea Life Centre there. This was a brilliantly laid out aquarium nestled amongst some of the most seedy seaside vendors I have ever seen. I am sure Jon will tell you about some of these in more detail in his own blog – he has some pictures that may, or may not, shock some of you!
However, the young man who showed us around the aquarium, Sam Young, was really nice and certainly knew his stuff. We spent a good hour and a half in there. I would thoroughly recommend the place to anyone who may be visiting the area, or in the vicinity – the displays are well thought out and the animals in their care are certainly looked after very well.
We eventually reached the comforts of home at around 10.45 pm after a very long drive, exacerbated by a hold-up due to an accident (not ours!) on the M6/M5 junction which cost us around three-quarters of an hour.
In my main capacity for the trip as driver for the CFZ headquarters here in Devon, I clocked up nigh on 950 miles over the four days we were away so come Tuesday morning I was hesitant to arise from my bed. I did so around lunchtime, but found myself spending the rest of the day staring aimlessly out of the window and trying to get my body to function – without much success. I probably even slept in the driving position!
I am at present reading his book, ‘Confessions of a Chatroom Freak’ and, although finding it a bit too close to the truth for comfort, it is a thoroughly entertaining and funny book. I am sure there are many members of the ‘female of the species’ out there who would agree with me if they were to read it. From personal experience of entering into the realms of chatroom cyberspace, I have often come across the likes of the creeps who are mentioned in this book, and it still makes me angry that these vile little people think they can just sit there and get away with it. Yes, OK, the character in the book does take the piss out of them, but they sure as hell deserve it.
Aside from all this, Paul is a really nice chap and we all look forward to welcoming him, and his family, down here again. Unfortunately they cannot make this year’s Weird Weekend, but hopefully they will be able to come in 2008. I have a feeling it will be just up Mr. Biffo’s street!
Saturday, 9 June 2007
My blood pressure rose again, however, upon trying to work out how to pay for the blasted parking ticket. Perhaps the blood was blurring my vision, or perhaps I was merely being thick, but I read the instructions several times, and someone did forget to explain the most rudimentary elements of how to pay for more than one day. Eventually, after a couple of failed, clumsy attempts, I did at last manage to place said ticket on the dashboard of my car - with about ten minutes to spare before my train was due to arrive.
Settling into my unusually spacious, and comfortable seat, on the train, I began to feel, as it sped down the track, that perhaps everything would be OK after all.
Did I just say that out loud?
Hmm, well a delayed train at Westbury put the kibosh on that. Just over six hours after leaving Jon cosily wrapped up under the duvet, I actually managed to get to Portsmouth before my eldest daughter, Shosh (who had very kindly volunteered to pick up Olivia’s belongings from Uni as she has a bigger car). I instantly agreed with Olivia that things would not fit in the car on one journey - she had sent me a text whilst I was waiting for my connection at Westbury to inform me of this, rather tardy, revelation.
After practising the ‘square peg into a round hole’ routine, all three of us at last trundled off back up to Hatfield, via Uxbridge (where we ate) and got back to Shosh and Gav’s (her boyfriend) mid-evening.
Saturday was the day for serious shopping for bridesmaids’ dresses in Oxford Street. Did we have any luck? Well not quite. The first establishment visited had exactly what was desired and I thought to myself: “Blimey Corinna, this is a stroke of luck - perhaps we can do a bit of sightseeing as well”. Hush my mouth for thinking such a thing, for it became all too obvious that Olivia’s was too big where Shosh’s fitted perfectly. Clasping my hands to my cheeks in a pose indicative of that famous painting by Edvard Munch, I screamed inwardly to myself.
This was the story for the rest of the day - if one fitted Shosh the equivalent did not fit Olivia and vice versa, or the required size was not available for one of them. Monsoon, Marks and Sparks, Debenhams, John Lewis, Selfridges etc all got a visit. (Why is it that shops don’t bother to restock the average sizes?)
After limping down Regent Street towards Piccadilly, it was decided that the original dresses were the best after all and that Olivia would just alter hers to fit. By that time, though, our feet felt like bricks, and the hustle and bustle, and the heat and the noise, were all getting to us. We were, therefore, not willing to walk one more step, so we went back to Hatfield empty-handed, with a rather more despondent air about us than had accompanied us on our journey into the City that morning.
Saturday evening was upon us, and it was time to work out what to do with the rest of Olivia’s worldly goods that were still languishing down in sunny Portsmouth. Several permutations of how to effect a collection and drop off of the already transported items were discussed, and these talks ensued till into the early hours - tempers getting a bit frayed all round, exacerbated by the exhaustive and disappointing trip into the sunny capital.
Sunday dawned, and it was decided that the only option was for Shosh to drive us up to Lincolnshire, drop off what we had with Olivia’s father and then Olivia would collect her car, and drive it down to Portsmouth. Here comes the time to explain that Olivia has not been driving for that long, having passed her test not long before going to Uni, and has never driven on a motorway. She was scared rigid about doing it on her own. The thought of her doing so, also scared me rigid.
Olivia and I went back to Hatfield, where we had a very nice Sunday dinner cooked by Gav and Shosh, before high-tailing it down to Portsmouth to collect the rest of the things to come back on Monday. After sleeping in the Uni halls - with all its rather odd sights, sounds and smells - we were up at 7.30 am and loading the car (that old square peg again, and this time the round hole seemed even smaller), and signing out officially, before driving back up to Stamford. Then, for me, a return train trip from there down to Tiverton to collect my car and drive back here to Woolsery. Thankfully, by the time I arrived back home, the marks caused from sleeping on the metal bed frame without a mattress had faded. My body had the appearance of a giant waffle when I woke up! I really do live the life of luxury eh?
You may be wondering why I have told you this - well apart from the fact that I am floundering for something else to talk about in my blog, I thought I would share with you how a shopping trip to London turned into a full blown road trip up and down the eastern side of the country!
The dresses? Ah well, I did find out that there is a Monsoon branch in Barnstaple so I went in on Tuesday and there they were - exactly the right dresses in exactly the right sizes. How is that for irony? And they had only come in the day before too so I was lucky. Phew!
Now all I need is my dress … no just kidding - got that ages ago!
Anyway, girls, if you read this - thanks for all you did Shosh, and well-done Olivia on your first driving experience of motorways, let alone the infamous M25.
I forgot to add - in all this I forgot Jon and I were supposed to see the vicar Monday night to organise banns for the wedding. So I also managed to piss Jon off a bit too for carrying out my motherly duties. Ah well, that all got sorted in the end too.
To close, and further to my light-hearted musings at the end of my previous entry, I could add here that I returned home Monday night to find beer cans on the lawn, fag ends in the loo and a mess of indescribable proportions all over the house.
But I don't think anyone would believe me ... or would they?
Friday, 1 June 2007
Now, to update you on the main things happening here at Myrtle Cottage since my last entry: Graham has started work on the aviaries, despite being hampered by somewhat inclement and diabolical weather, and Jon, in between sneezing and spluttering, has been continuing with the new Exotic Pets magazine. It is looking pretty good I must say.
I am off to stay with my eldest daughter in Hatfield for a long weekend tomorrow. Her sister is joining us and we are all off for a busy shopping trip into London. No doubt, whilst I am away, the knotted hankies will be dusted down, beer cans will emerge from dusty corners, the language will probably degenerate and there will be much shuffling around in underwear all day. How do I come to this conclusion you may ask? Well the fact that, during the weekly shopping trip, Jon purchased a catering size box of crisps, two cases of beer and a gallon jar of pickled eggs can only lead me to this one conclusion – it is somewhat of a worrying thought is it not?
Thank goodness I persuaded him not to buy the giant catering tub of mayonnaise!