Tuesday 29 April 2008

Have wheels, have sat nav, will travel - and will still get lost

Jon and I made our way, on Saturday 19th April, to the Midlands so that we could attend the Entomological Society show on Sunday being held at Kettering. As I wrote before, we were mixing the trip with a visit to my mother, who lives in Rutland – not many miles from the venue – and were taking her along for a day out.

After an exasperating episode with our satellite navigation system, we eventually found the Leisure Centre in Kettering where the show was being held. However, this was not really the sat nav’s fault. Unfortunately, it would seem that from up in the distant sky the route was seen to be a road, but in reality, it didn’t actually exist anymore, having been cut off with a couple of strategically placed bollards. After a couple of ‘round the houses’ tours, with the sat nav constantly insisting that it take us across this ‘no access’ route, we decided to head on back to the main road and see if it adjusted itself.

We were, by now, already quite late (well not late really, but Jon was hoping to be able to speak to some people before the doors opened for the public). Then came the unfortunate mis-timing of a very loud yell from the venerable Mother Nature and we had to divert again to find the station so that Jon could answer, what was becoming, a rather urgent call of the diabetic variety.

We got there eventually, however, and, most importantly before the doors opened. We did not take long to sort out our stall and soon we had all our Exotic Pet magazines on display. We were pleased that several people took out subscriptions and it was nice to come back with considerably less issues that we had left Woolsery with the day before. It was great to meet some of our subscribers too, along with some of those who have submitted articles for the magazine.

The venue was held in a huge sports hall, which facilitated ease of movement around the many stalls inside. We were sharing our stall with Graham and Janice Smith – Metamorphosis – and it would seem that there was a good ‘turn out’ of the public. Sometimes you can feel quite claustrophobic at these events, but this one being held in such a large area meant that there were no large bunch ups of people around the stalls, or through the walkways between.

Jon bought some more stick insects and some silkmoth caterpillars (which are currently chomping their way through the greenery in the garden and getting bigger and fatter by the day it seems), but I was very good and did not purchase anything. I had been sorely tempted by a couple of things, but was very strict with myself. Readers of my blog will remember that I was going to leave my money behind this time and resist all temptation, and I am proud of myself for doing just that.

My mother seemed to enjoy her day out and was fascinated by some of the creatures on sale, but would not entertain buying any – no matter how much Jon tried to persuade her!

It was interesting, and somewhat amusing, to learn, also, that someone else had endured the same frustrations as us with their own sat nav – but from what I understand, their machine did not fare so well in the survival stakes from its frustrating actions!

Wednesday 16 April 2008

It's only words

Once upon a time I was always reading – every night before I lay me down to sleep, sometimes drifting into the arms of that bloke Morpheus with the book open in my hands, to be sometimes woken up – in the middle of the night - from the wonderful realms of dreamland with the thud of it falling to floor (anyone who has read the likes of the hefty Lord of the Rings or Les Miserables will know what I mean). However, these days I do not partake in much reading at bedtime. I have tried, and what I have managed to digest has been enjoyable. I have mused over why I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to, however, and yesterday the penny dropped. Over the past year since being at CFZHQ, and in the last couple of months in particular, I have spent most of my day at my computer proofreading: CFZ Yearbooks, Exotic Pet magazine articles, Animals & Men articles and assorted books. After doing that for 8 hours or so each day, the last thing I want to do is read any more! And, besides, I now find myself looking for mistakes in everything I do read, which kind of spoils the so-called relaxation properties of such a pastime.

I am a self-confessed book sniffer and can spend hours in book shops flicking through the pages with the odd surreptitious fan of them close to my nostrils. Am I weird? Probably. And if I get to a secondhand bookshop, well I am lost amongst the shelving for ages, happily caressing the old bound copies of someone's writings of days gone by.

I am the same with material - but that is another story!

Spring seems to have definitely sprung down here in Devon at the moment (famous last words). The sky is blue and the air seems to have that certain scent about it that means warmer weather may be on the way. Woollies, thermals and socks may soon be relegated to the bottom drawer perhaps? Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?

Jon and I are off to the Kettering bug show at the weekend. I am leaving my money behind this time – I am not going to purchase anything! “Oh yeah. Pull the other one”, I hear you cry in unison. Anyhow, I have to behave myself as we are taking my mum along with us for a day out! An odd place to take your mother for a day out? Well, I suppose it is, yes. But she expressed an interest in coming along – so there. I will, no doubt, let you know how it all went upon our return.

For now, it is back to apostrophes, commas and hyphens. Hmm I had better check this blog now, to make sure I have not made any such errors myself. Now that would be embarrassing.

Tuesday 1 April 2008

At the third stroke it will be...

During last week we spent four days out and about in the Midlands and Hertfordshire. Off we, and Olivia and her boyfriend Robert (following on behind in her car) went up the jolly old M5 on Easter Monday afternoon, via Tropiquaria, to stay in Birmingham for one night - near Shirley so that Jon could look around the aquatic shop there. We were basically on the hunt for creatures to add to the zoo’s collection.

Olivia and Robert went off back to Stamford on Tuesday morning while Jon and I visited the shop, and then it was off across to Rutland to visit my mum in Oakham. We took her out to dinner at Barnsdale Lodge and all of us made a mental note to return there during the summer months so that we can take advantage of the view from the restaurant window. Barnsdale is a complex just outside Oakham that sits on a hill overlooking Rutland Water. It is made up of time-share chalets and boasts an indoor swimming pool and gym amongst other modern-day luxuries if you are inclined to be up to that kind of thing! Originally called Empingham Reservoir, Rutland Water was constructed in the 1970s and was originally intended to supply water to the East Midlands. It now offers many activities – sport, leisure and wildlife conservation (Rutland Water Nature Reserve). It has become a well-known bird watchers’ paradise and since around 1999 it has become a successful breeding site of the osprey. I was lucky enough to espy one through my binoculars on a visit there a few year’s back. http://www.rutlandwater.org.uk/

The necessary flooding of the lower land to create Rutland Water in 1976 caused Nether Hambleton (known as the ‘lost village’) to be deserted and left under the water. It has been shown by excavation to have once been a sizeable medieval settlement. The construction of the reservoir left Upper Hambleton and part of Middle Hambleton – now known together just as Hambleton (meaning ‘the settlement’ (tun) ‘on the crooked hill’ (Hamble)), which is situated on the Hambleton Peninsula surrounded on three sides by Rutland Water. Hambleton has a history pre-dating the Domesday Book and is thought to have once been the capital of the Anglo Saxon Kings of Rutland. According to the 1086 entry in the Domesday Book, it boasted a population of 750 – with 3 priests, 3 churches, a mill and 45 ploughs at work!

But enough of the history lesson, which although it may intrigue me, may well not be everyone’s cup of tea.

So ….we took my mum back to her flat and had intended to move on to our digs in the local Travelodge, but after chatting until gone 3.00 am we thought we may as well stay put and slept on her sofa bed instead.

Wednesday it was off down the A1 to Hatfield to visit Shosh with eggs and presents (it had been her birthday on Easter Sunday) and to look around some more fish and reptile establishments. Ameyzoo is an intriguing little place in the small town of Bovingdon, about half an hour away from Hatfield, run by Mark and Siouxsie Amey. They have some wonderful reptiles and amphibians in there and we reserved a pair of Madagascan painted lizards and a white throated monitor that we would pick up on Thursday on our way back home.

On Thursday we went off to Crews Hill to potter about the various stores there and bought some fish for the aquarium at Tropiquaria – 4 baby whale mormyrids, 2 giraffe cichlids, and 2 African pike. Jon also got himself a pair of gambusia, which he is ‘over the moon’ about, but must be a couple of the most ordinary looking fish I have ever seen. The female is about four times as big as the male (poor sod) and there is nothing very out-of-the-ordinary about them at all. But he likes them – bless.

We had a bit of a rush visit with Shosh, and dragged the poor girl around with us whilst on our shopping trip and all too soon it became time to say goodbye to her and to think about the return journey home across country, via the zoo to drop off their new residents. It was a bit disappointing to learn, on our return to Ameyzoo to collect the aforementioned creatures, that we could not take the white throated monitor after all as we, nor they, had a container suitably strong enough to transport it. Hmmm – what is this creature? A baby Godzilla? With the threat of it bursting from its confines as we sped down the motorway, and launching itself at my jugular, you could say I was glad that we didn’t have a suitable box. So we had to leave that one behind on the promise that we would return in the, not too distant, future with a suitable box (and perhaps with us wearing extremely tough protective clothing – you know …. just in case).

It was a bit nerve-wracking driving back with all those live animals under our care on the back seat of the car, but we, and they, all got back to Tropiquaria in one piece, and apart from one of the whale mormyrids (which died a couple of days later) are all still fit and healthy in their new homes.

We got back to CFZHQ at around 3.15 am, slightly exhausted to say the least! And, since then, I have been trying to catch up on work and Jon has been laid low for a few days with a bad cold. He has, since, all but recovered and has managed to finish the seventh On the Track which is now up on YouTube.

Amusingly, altering the clocks caught me out at the weekend – I had no idea it was that time of year again! I went downstairs to get a drink and came back up at 1.05 to notice that my computer said 2.05. Hmm, I thought, my computer is playing silly devils again. Then it clicked. D’oh.