Thursday 27 May 2010

Bedsheets and maggots

Get up in the morning, all the sheets have gone sir
They are all on your side
Ohhhhhh my ears are alight

This morning I awoke to find I was sleeping, not on a crisp white sheet but upon a bare mattress. Somehow Jon had managed to steal the sheets from my side of the bed, as well as the duvet, whilst in the land of nod. I did actually feel some of the sheet thievery happen at one point. I was half-awake when Jon turned over and I felt the material slip unceremoniously from beneath me. Oh charming I thought to myself; that’s nice of him. He of course denied all knowledge of the event in the morning, although the evidence was there for all to see. Today I shall seek out the staple gun and fix the sheets on my side firmly down in case a repetition of such diabolical pilfering occurs.

On a completely different subject, it was Olivia that introduced me to the music of Slipknot quite a few years ago now – the rather loud, screeching, often unmelodic compositions oozing from the firmly closed door of her teenage sanctum, filling the house with the angst of youth. Well rather that than a lovesick teenager mooning over Take That or Boyzone to my mind, but that’s just me. I think I would most likely have screamed “Turn that nauseous racket down!” if it had been. So, as Olivia became a ‘maggot’ (the ‘affectionate’ name given to their followers) I became accustomed to their shouting, and actually rather liked a lot of it.

They are renowned for some odd and grotesque antics on stage and never appear without their trademark masks in public, hence fans know them by which instrument they play or which number they are. (Er.... for those of you who don’t know each one of the band has a number from 1-9). No.2 Paul Gray – bassist and one of the original members of the band – was found dead a couple of days ago and although, looking at the Youtube comments, it seems that seeing the band members sans masks at the press conference has thrown some confusion about whom exactly is whom, it is nevertheless, touching that they left them behind to pay tribute to their former band mate.

The guys are not hard, foul-mouthed creatures but are just normal human beings deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of their friend. My sympathies to his family and friends, and especially his wife who is apparently expecting their first child.

Sunday 23 May 2010

Double, double, toil and trouble

As you may or may not know, I have been absent from the world of emails, blogs et al for a week whilst visiting Shosh and Gav in Staffordshire and I had a lovely time and it was a great break.

Courtesy of National Express I was transported from Bideford to Hanley bus station in relative comfort, apart from the second leg of the journey home on Saturday when the coach did not appear to have air conditioning fitted. Thankfully, though, the coach was not packed to the gills.

On the outward journey Barnstaple station provided an amusing and somewhat intriguing sight – one shoe dangling from a street lamp seemingly tied by its laces and dangling in the slight breeze. I am presuming someone had either a very lucky lob or a very good eye.

Then there was the lady in the seat behind me who was having great fun ringing up her friends on her mobile. “Hello?! Hello?! You up?! I boiled four eggs this morning, ate two of them for breakfast and was going to bring the other two for you but left them behind. “

“Hello?! Helloooooo?! You up?! I will probably ring you again as I get bored on the coach”. Oh lucky me I thought.

One of the prime objectives of my trip was to go out with Shosh on her mission to find a wedding dress - so many fluffy, slinky, puffy concoctions to choose from and so many price labels that burnt your fingers when checking them out. We were both completely amazed and chuffed with the final result on Tuesday though – the fourth dress tried on was ‘the one’. All those horror stories of trying on hundreds and hundreds and tramping from emporium to emporium were allayed on the second establishment visited. And even the shoes were sorted out on Friday! To say that we were pleased with our extreme cleverness is an understatement.

We went t’pictures on Wednesday and saw the new Robin Hood film. After seeing it I can understand the comparisons with Gladiator/Saving Private Ryan but it was a pretty good romp nevertheless. Going back to the subject of having a very good eye – our hero’s shot at the bad guy in the closing stages of the film was pretty efficient I must say and excellently carried out. Letting arrows fly skywards is great fun – I just wish my aim was that good at such a distance. However, with a clever bit of filming, editing and cinemagraphic licence perhaps there is hope yet....

We went to see my mum on Thursday which was lovely - I have not been able to get up to Rutland for ages to see her. Three generations of us females together could conjure a daunting picture but we didn’t sit around our cauldron – it was too hot for one thing and Tesco were fresh out of eye of newt anyway.

And so it is back home, with Biggles complaining that as soon as I had left everyone was rotten to him and took away his boydoggyhood. Hmm perhaps somewhere a different cauldron’s recipe was bubbling?

Sunday 16 May 2010

Nuts, whole hazlenuts....

Whilst waiting for filming to get underway on Saturday, I roamed through the shrubbery with my camera. As any good shrubber knows, there are delightful things to be found lurking just out of sight. However, I am not a very good shrubber and only managed to find a couple of interesting things.

There was the little snail nestling in the moss on a tree trunk:

There was what was once a gateway into either a long destroyed building or pen of some sort (with the hinges still on one of vertical stone slabs), complete with stone path:

And then there was the stone complete with a sprinkling of broken hazelnut shells:

So, had this stone been used as an anvil in much the same way as a thrush does with a snail? Considering how difficult it is to crack a nut even with nut-crackers, I assume not. Was it the remains of a squirrel's lunch? Or even a dormouse's breakfast? Or was it even the remains of a passing back-packer's pack-up who had stopped for a protein-rich snack using up the leftovers of their Christmas nut basket?

Any ideas anyone?

Saturday 15 May 2010

And never a bleat was heard

Jon had been approached a while back to do an interview for an American film company regarding the ‘Beast of Dartmoor’. It was supposed to have taken place a couple of weeks back, but the 'Iceland Incident' had quashed those plans, and after many alterations in arrangements it had finally been decided - during this week - that the filming would take place on Dartmoor. If nothing else, it presented a nice excuse for sandwiches, cake and a giant flask of tea, and a day out with - hopefully - nice weather to accompany us on our jaunt over the stunning scenery of the moor.

Biggles decided to show his appreciation for the trip by throwing up his breakfast over the back seat of the car – nice one Biggles! Ah the joys of clearing up vomit from the back of the car whilst parked in the entrance of a field, with rear end dangerously crossing the thin line between off and on road. All the while being watched by the benefactor of such delight, pathos etched upon his face. Chunks of ….. well I won’t go any further. It was like taking the children out on a sunny day’s trip to the country all over again!

The scenery changed somewhat when we came upon the journey through Princetown, famous - of course -for its foreboding structure, Dartmoor Prison, which sat staring at us with austerity. Then it was out again over the cattle grid and on to the moorland where the ‘pedestrians’ have no respect for the Highway Code whatsoever, and why should they? Several stops later, in order to accommodate various sheep, cattle and the odd foal crossing the road, we eventually met up with the film crew in a lay-by. And there were a lot of them – and all were being transported around in black vehicles that dwarfed our little Daihatsu. Passers-by may well have got the impression that it was a Saturday afternoon meeting of the local ‘Men in Black Club’.

Biggles, however, was unimpressed and was more interested in sniffing here, there and everywhere and leaving his scent wherever possible on the landscape. And then I was back in the car, and the sinister looking entourage moved off slowly, with us nestled in second place, to a beautiful little spot they had found that was ideal for the filming they needed - just down the road from Burrator Reservoir.

A few hours later it was the trip in reverse, this time encountering the ‘teasing’ sheep. These are the ones who threaten to cross the road but loiter at the verge instead. They taunt you into playing a game of ‘kangaroo’ down the road whilst they put one foot out, then back again, and then look disdainfully at you, all the while chewing as if pounding a stick of gum between maxilla and mandible. Perhaps they were just poking a proverbial tongue out at the sheepdog that was asleep on the back seat of the car - blissfully unaware of their audacity.

And to round off a very nice Saturday sojourn, Jon and I heard our first cuckoo in years. This may seem a pretty unremarkable event to some, but it was only the other day that I mentioned to Jon that I had not heard a cuckoo in ages, to which he replied that he hadn’t either.

Noel Thomas Carrington (1777-1830)

Dartmoor! thou wert to me, in childhood's hour,
A wild and wondrous region. Day by day
Arose upon my youthful eye they belt
Of hills mysterious, shadowy, clasping all
The green and cheerful landscape sweetly spread
Around my home; and with a stern delight
I gazed upon thee. How often on the speech
Of the half-savage peasant have I hung,
To hear of rock-crowned heights on which the cloud
For ever rests; and wilds stupendous swept
By mightiest storms; of glen, and gorge, and cliff,
Terrific, beetling o'er the stone-strewed vale;
And giant masses, by the midnight flash
Struck from the mountain's hissing brow, and hurled
Into the foaming torrent; and of forms
That rose amid the desert, rudely shaped
By Superstition's hands when time was young;
And of the dead, the warrior dead, who sleep
Beneath the hollowed cairn! My native fields,
Though peerless, ceased to please. The flowery vale,
The breezy hill, the river and the wood,
Island, reef, headland, and the circling sea,
Associated by the sportful hand
Of Nature, in a thousand views diverse,
Or grand, or lovely, - to my roving eye
Displayed in vain their infinite of charms;
I thought on thy wild world, - to me a world, -
Mysterious Dartmoor, dimly seen, and prized
For being distant and untrod; and still
Where'er I wander'd, - still my wayward eye
Rested on thee!

Friday 14 May 2010

You must have been a beautiful baby

During the torrential rain and flooding experienced in Nashville over the first weekend of the month, Nashville Zoo welcomed the arrival of two 'storm' babies. One was a Eurasian lynx cub, born on the Saturday, and on the other was a Baird's tapir which was born on the Sunday.  

These tapirs are the national animal of Belize and commonly referred to as 'mountain cows' in Central and South America.When he grows into adulthood Noah (as he has been christened) will lose his reddish-brown coat brightly marked with white streaks and spots and acquire the distinctive cream-coloured marking on his face and throat, and a dark spot on each cheek, behind and below the eye. The rest of his hair will be dark brown or greyish-brown and like other tapirs he will have a small stubby tail of around 3 - 5 inches and a long, flexible prehensile nose. He should reach around 2 metres (6.6 ft) in length and 1.2 metres (3.9 ft) in height, and weigh in the region of 240–400 kilograms (530–880 lb) - Baird's tapirs are the largest and heaviest of the New World tapir species.

In its natural habitat the Baird's tapir is found in the dense jungles of Central America including southeastern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador.and can be found at altitudes as high as 3,350 metres (10,990 ft). They can be either diurnal or nocturnal, eat plant matter and communicate with shrill whistles.

This tapir has been classed as endangered by the ICUN and in 1996 it was classed as vulnerable; hunting and loss of habitat being two of the main reasons for this status.

And talking of beautiful babies, how about little Einstein the griffon vulture born at Hamburg Zoo recently? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I am sure his parents must love him:

Sunday 2 May 2010

Happy Birthday wishes

Happy Birthday Ant!

And  a little birthday song for you - a complete non-sequitur but pretty jolly

2 May 1933 : Loch Ness monster is sighted

Although accounts of an aquatic beast living in Scotland's Loch Ness date back 1,500 years, the modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster is born when a sighting makes local news on 2 May 1933. The newspaper Inverness Courier related an account of a local couple who claimed to have seen "an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.