Saturday 31 December 2011

To lose one computer may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness

I am undone.  I am without.  At the beginning of the week my laptop died on me which was bad enough, but the following day my desktop pc was found not to be working either.  What fun.  I am now having to try and get things done on the slow computer in the corner of the office, without access to my files at the moment.  So I beg forgiveness and more than a little patience from those who may have emailed me for something.  I am behind in most of my work, and methinks it will take a while for me to catch up.

But I guess I shall get there in the end.

But......the real reason for this posting is to wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year.  I hope 2012 is good to you.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Wishing you all a very
Merry Christmas dear readers,

I hope you have a fun day.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Saturday 26 November 2011

Enigmas by Pablo Neruda

Poetry corner:  just seemed appropriate for the day. 


You've asked me what the lobster is weaving there with
his golden feet?
I reply, the ocean knows this.
You say, what is the ascidia waiting for in its transparent
bell? What is it waiting for?
I tell you it is waiting for time, like you.
You ask me whom the Macrocystis alga hugs in its arms?
Study, study it, at a certain hour, in a certain sea I know.
You question me about the wicked tusk of the narwhal,
and I reply by describing
how the sea unicorn with the harpoon in it dies.
You enquire about the kingfisher's feathers,
which tremble in the pure springs of the southern tides?
Or you've found in the cards a new question touching on
the crystal architecture
of the sea anemone, and you'll deal that to me now?
You want to understand the electric nature of the ocean
The armored stalactite that breaks as it walks?
The hook of the angler fish, the music stretched out
in the deep places like a thread in the water?

I want to tell you the ocean knows this, that life in its
jewel boxes
is endless as the sand, impossible to count, pure,
and among the blood-colored grapes time has made the
hard and shiny, made the jellyfish full of light
and untied its knot, letting its musical threads fall
from a horn of plenty made of infinite mother-of-pearl.

I am nothing but the empty net which has gone on ahead
of human eyes, dead in those darknesses,
of fingers accustomed to the triangle, longitudes
on the timid globe of an orange.

I walked around as you do, investigating
the endless star,
and in my net, during the night, I woke up naked,
the only thing caught, a fish trapped inside the wind.

Monday 31 October 2011

The Old Man of the Greenwood

Deep within the forest he stood, his limbs stretching out around him, protecting that which he regarded as his own under the span of his long, strong boughs.  As an acorn, he had fallen to the forest floor in the autumn of 1011, and he had rolled down the slight incline before coming to rest and being  covered by the subsequent fall of his parent’s golden and orange leaves  as protection as against the marauding antics of the creatures of the forest.  Many siblings that had fallen  with him that autumn had been snatched up by the jays and mice that had busily scrabbled away  on the forest floor to search out the fruits of the oak, before running of with them and industriously secreting them away as stocks for their future winter consumption.   Some would be forgotten, or simply lost, and would survive to grow into a sapling, but  many would suffer the fate of becoming sustenance for the creature that had found it. 

But not this oak.  He had survived to send roots into the earth and over the years had grown tall and strong.  He had battled for his space in the wood and had won against others who had tried to grow in his shadow.  After two centuries his trunk was thick and his branches strong.  They spread out far and wide and nothing could compete against his strength. 

The centuries drifted slowly past.  Battles were fought and lost; battles were fought and won; there were even those where no-one came out as real victors, but still the oak stood firm, his roots descending ever deeper and spreading ever wider in the ground beneath him forming a grip that was unshakable.  He would live to witness many an event unfold beneath his branches, some dramatic some less so, but allow me to recount some below.

It was only ninety-nine years later, in 1100, that the patch of ground that was fast becoming the oak’s domain when fully grown, became sodden with the blood of an English monarch.   Had the blood of this ruthless king surged through the oak’s roots, making it strong and tenacious in living in the centuries to follow?  The body of William II had lain where it had fallen for a few hours after the fatal arrow had struck, which could, of course, explain the patch of red that oozes from the soil every 2nd August, and the sudden slight growth spurt from the oak on that day every year since the fateful hunting trip, its branches shuddering and leaves rustling as it does so.  William had been the Conqueror’s favourite son, his ruddy complexion earning him the nickname ‘Rufus’.  But favourite or not, there he lay in August 1100, the arrow protruding from his chest, his different coloured eyes staring lifelessly at the earth, his hunting companions having fled, this way and that, leaving him out of sheer panic for their life and property now that the king was dead. 
But times moves on.  Tempus fugit.  And apart from the occasional appearance of men hunting - whether legally or illegally - peace once more descended upon the wood and its occupants.  For the next two hundred odd years the oak widened its reach around itself and had become truly and irrevocably established.

It was one October that the oak became the scene of quite a different scenario than had ever occurred before.  There were still leaves upon the branches, but the majority had already succumbed to gravity and had floated to the ground where the rotting process  had  begun.  Soon they would be mere skeletons of their former selves; a delicate lacework of veins.  It was upon the piles of discarded leaves beneath the oak’s canopy that the footsteps came crunching,  kicking up the leaves as they went.  They were not the steps of someone who came in secret, but of one who came with purpose; they were decisive steps that flattened and destroyed the delicate frames of the fallen beneath the heavy weight of their stride. 
The figure stopped and leant against the oak’s thick, gnarled trunk, his left foot raised up behind him so that the sole of his foot rested against the bark.  He fiddled with the belt bag that hung from his waist and pulled forth a pouch; a pouch clearly containing something heavy.  Tossing it upwards he caught it deftly in his right palm and the coins inside jingled dully as they knocked against each other.  He idly scratched at his arm and bounced the bulging pouch up and down in his hand.  After a short while, impatience seemed to get the better of him and he pushed off the trunk with his left foot and paced up and down.  Then, hearing something, he dashed into the shadowy undergrowth.  From the opposite direction came the sound of footfalls in the crisp autumn carpet and soon another figure game into view.  Satisfied that it were he that he had been expecting, the waiting man revealed his existence from the cover of the wood’s shadows. 

There was a slight bow of the head from each of the men in a silent civil greeting as the pouch changed hands with the promise of a further delivery once the task had been completed to the satisfaction of he who supplied the coin.  A flock of raucous rooks disturbed the quietness of the secretive tryst as they took flight into the autumnal air in a mass of black feather and beak.  This raised the silent question by each man to himself of whether they had been followed to their assignation.  Had their accord been discovered?  Had the birds been disturbed by the arrival of the noble’s men, men in the pay of the man whose demise was being paid for in the quietness of the wood?

Both men looked around nervously and eyed each other suspiciously.  Either one could have welched on the delicate accord.  Had one laid an elaborate trap on the other?  There was no sound of approaching feet, nor clank of chain mail, nor snort of horse.   It was, of course, more than likely that  it was just a result of their over-active imaginations,  or maybe even their feelings of guilt, that had caused their fear of the sudden ascending swirl of the birds.
But there was more than the pouch that moved from one person to another under the oak tree that day.  And if either man had known this, then their fear would have definitely been very real.   The flea that had caused the man to scratch his arm had momentarily landed on  the money pouch just as it had been received into the other man’s hand, whilst several others had already jumped from their old host to their new victim.  They worked their way up his arms, and down his legs and  bit him to suck out the warm blood that raced with the adrenalin caused by the secret assignation.  And whilst one man returned to take the road back to the coast, the other made his way to Winchester.  The year was 1398 and the people of Winchester would soon fall  under the unrelenting power of the deathly Great Pestilence.  Burial pits would fill with the rotting carcasses of its victims, young and old,  as the harbingers of destruction that travelled to Winchester on that last day of October spread their doom.

Time and again the oak had to endure being a silent witness of death.  His size meant he was well-known throughout the nearby towns and villages, as well as the city of Winchester.  His branches became the site of many a  hanging of poor unfortunates such as poachers and witches throughout the ages, and in the Civil War witnessed the deaths of seven cavaliers and three of Cromwell’s men after the former had sought safety in the wood and the latter had sought them out. 

And now 1,000 years later it still stands, old and haggard, its lower branches bowed and almost touching the ground as it struggles with their weight.  This is the Old Man of the Greenwood with the blood of a fallen king rushing through its heart and the screams of many a victim echoing throughout its frame.  And once a year a bold traveller may see the faces of those whose death it witnessed etched in the bark of its bole.  Or the long parade of plague victims that gather once a year under its branches as they join hands and form circles around the two men whose criminal assignation were the cause of their deaths. That is, of course, if that traveller is brave enough to venture into the wood, in the dead of night on the 31st day of October. 

Friday 16 September 2011


I am at present chopping and changing this blog design so please excuse the various oddities that may arise in the spacing, colouration etc.  I got tired of the plain black background which I have been using since the start.  I found a nifty website that does backgrounds etc for blogger so am having a try out with them. 

I think I am supposed to add here that normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.  I am sure it will, although I am not too clear as to what 'normal' actually is. 

Sunday 11 September 2011

Have an eggsellent day, dear boy

Happy 21st Birthday, Max

With lots of love from 'Auntie'


She was a day......tripper

I fell up the stairs during Friday night. Well, to elaborate,  I fell up them once , and an hour or so later I tripped up them.  So, in truth,  I had two altercations with the stairs in one evening.  The latter occasion was a mere trifle (no, I do not mean that an example of one of those extraordinarily flamboyant desserts was sitting idly on the stair by the way….and no my lack of spatial awareness was not from over-indulging on  a sherry-fuelled pudding either).  However, even if I do say so myself, the first time was really quite impressive – one of those dramatic moments that can never be repeated in quite the same way.  An off the cuff theatrical masterpiece if you like. A BAFTA moment even.  But one that was not witnessed and/or investigated by those others residing in the house, apart from “You alright love?” from Jon who was on the ‘phone to Nick Redfern at the time of the event.

As I scuffed and bruised both elbows, both knees and my chin and lay sprawled on my stomach I had expected that my noisy ’ kerthump’ ,  and the loud exclamation of annoyance that burst forth from my lips would have caused the occupants of the rooms upstairs to open their doors to allow them to  investigate the commotion.  Mais non.  The doors remained firmly closed…well it was middle to late evening …so I must remember not to fall the more conventional  way (ie down) next time, especially during the evenings.  And particularly if Jon has already retired for the night; my poor broken and bruised body would probably not be found until the morning or when one of the other doors creaked open to disgorge its occupant on a midnight wander to find food in the kitchen.
The whole affair did not do much for my back either, which – although much improved – has still not recovered from whatever it was that I did to it after the Weird Weekend.  I suppose one could say that I am currently going through a phase of experiencing poor judgement of my surroundings. Or perhaps someone is drugging my tea…..hmmm.

Saturday 27 August 2011

Gorblimey hello Mrs. Jones, how's your Bert's lumbago?

After days of nagging warnings, it finally gave out on Thursday.  I am not sure what started it all off or even the exact nature of that which played the part of the last straw, but something  has obviously gone awry in my poor old back.  So, I am now hobbling around like some ancient and wizened old crone from a well-told fairy story.  Apart, that is, from the fact that I do not have a long crooked nose, a wart, or dishevelled, dry, wispy grey hair and do not possess a gnarled and bent walking stick, and I still have most of my teeth.  In fact, upon reflection, not really much like a crone from a well-told fairy story after all, so that little cameo is ruined. 

But hobbling I am, and bent over I am.  It took me around ten minutes this morning to go from lying in bed to sitting up,  and then  to get my legs to take me in some weird half-standing/half-crouching crab-like walk into the bathroom to attend to those oh- so-necessary morning ablutions.  I rue the day all those years ago when, being younger and without such cares in the world,  I washed my hair over the bath, much as I had done since I was but a slip of a thing but clearly, on that occasion, with misplaced enthusiasm.   To find that I couldn’t stand up straight again for hours afterwards came as a surprise, albeit - I suppose - merely one of those early warnings that youth was being left behind as I climbed towards the summit of that hill that would all too quickly reveal its somewhat slippery descent on t’other side.   Suddenly, something I had done for years was not possible any more without discomfort, and has now most definitely progressed to an absolute no-no. 
Whatever I did to cause this episode has well and truly scuppered my plans to film 'Watcher of the Skies' for the next edition of On the Track whilst tap dancing and juggling three coconuts at the same time.  Hmmm, I think we are back to long noses and well-told fairy tales again.

However, I am chuffed to note that I am providing Jon with some small entertainment as I shuffle around, followed by Pru the hop-a-long dog.  We must look a right pair. 

Monday 22 August 2011

Happy birthday Jonathan!

One thing about the Weird Weekend: everything else seems to get put on the back-burner to a certain degree, and having a birthday the day after the event finishes is perhaps not the best day either.  So....YES .... I am late in posting birthday felicitations to my husband.  But better late than never though, and he did get birthday cake so I am sure he will not mind the tardiness in the publishing of this blog.

Happy Birthday, dearest Jonathan


Sunday 21 August 2011

Modern shameless CFZ advertising

Thanks to the superb photography of Olivia:

A fine display of mugs to commemorate the forthcoming expedition to search for the orang pendek:

She captured yours truly demonstrating the perfect use for said merchandise:

From two useful angles

but then it was realised:

that it is better to take more water with it:

Ah well

Saturday at Weird Weekend 2011

Saturday afternoon saw the renowned Weird Weekend cake eating competition in all its gory, stomach-churning, chocolatey glory:

Jon found a very sweet, stray chicken called Bo:

The children's activities, courtesy of the wonderful Dave, Joanne and Rosie Curtis, were in full swing:

And the creepy crawlies were creepy crawling courtesy of Nick, Kara, Lilly and Harriet Wadham:

All in all a pretty busy and fun-packed day for all concerned.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Friday night at the Weird Weekend 2011

Dr. Darren Naish in deep concentration.

After months of preparation the doors opened at 6 pm. Oll Lewis, Professor Bryan Sykes and Dr Darren Naish were on the opening bill, and it was at last time to relax and go with the flow.

And then there was dinner time...... I always look forward to the food at the Weird Weekend, there is always something tasty to be eaten and tonight it was delicious chilli and jacket potato. Thanks ladies!

Friday 19 August 2011

Weird Weekend Thursday 18th August 2011

A few photos of the setting-up process for the cocktail party on Thursday night.

Thursday 21 July 2011

If a face could launch a thousand ships .......

upon laying eyes on these two, in which direction would they sail?

To the ends of the world or back to dry dock?

Happy Anniversary

from one tugboat to another

Saturday 16 July 2011

Lazy Sunday afternoon

MSN had a 'cars that are nearly extinct' photo gallery this morning which I was perusing idly whilst waiting for the kettle to boil.  I am not sure why this gallery, in particular, drew my attention, but it did introduce me to a little stunner that would be so ideal for poodling around the Devonshire lanes. 

And with a name like the Daffodil - made by Daf during the albeit brief period of 1961 and 63 - it would have been a must for the dotty Mrs Jonathan Downes of the CFZ.  She is so cute (the car not the peculiar lady mentioned - now that would be a trumpet blow too far).   She also looks more 50s to me than 60s (again the car), but  a beauty nevertheless (erm...yes the car).  Awww, and the first ones off the production line only had 22bhp!  Sweet.  I could have become one of those Sunday afternoon drivers, every day.

However, I really don't think all that stuff is really going to fit in that boot......I reckon the children are sitting on some of it on the back seat, hence their slightly elevated appearance.  And look - no seatbelts!  Aah those were the days when you didn't get garotted by a badly fitting seatbelt as a child, and could make rude faces and gesticulate crudely at the occupants of the car behind you.  Did children do that in the 60s?  Did they know crude gesticulations back then?  I don't think I did - but then I was a good girl.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Happy Birthday Thea!

Happy Birthday to my youngest niece with the ever-present smile and happy glint in her eye.

I hope you have a lovely birthday, Thea.

Friday 17 June 2011

CFZ Publishing

Keep an eye on the new addition to our bloggo network - CFZ Publishing - which is being launched today. I have been given free rein with it, with the basic requirement of keeping it updated with our new titles as soon as they become available. I may also provide the reader with an occasional teaser regarding books that are on the cusp of imminent publication. You never know, if I am feeling really chipper I may even throw in the odd 'bogof' offer or even a competition here and there to win one of the titles. Jon has already volunteered to pull out the winning entry from a sack if his services are needed, but I have banned him from being filmed so doing if he insists on wearing the shorts that he was sporting when he generously offered his help (believe me, you would need a whole bottle of smelling salts to bring you around from that viewing).

As for the 'featured author' section, I hope to be able to present you with the occasional warts 'n all interview, when yours truly will probe as many Verruca vulgaris as she can, armed only with her trusty and ever-sharpened pencil and well-thumbed notebook.

See you there.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

The woman in the wet dress and the throw in the washing machine

Last night (Tuesday) Jon and I watched a couple of episodes of Bones, which has become quite a habit for the last six weeks or so since Helen lent us some to watch, recommending that we would like the show. We have just about finished working our way through five series and once we have finished watching the disc that is left, we will have to wait until the end of the year before being able to see any more. I am not sure how we will cope, but I am sure that the withdrawal symptoms will not be nearly as bad as when I gave up smoking or gave up chocolate. Actually, on reflection, the withdrawal symptoms for the former were not overly bad because having the flu helped me out quite a lot due to my not being able or wanting to smoke anyway. However, I do miss it – by choice I would not have given up quite yet, but it seemed the most sensible thing to do at the time.

But giving up smoking or chocolate is absolutely nothing to do with Bones or the events that occurred on Wednesday afternoon.

What is pertinent to the point, however, is that one of the episodes we watched on Tuesday evening involved a murderer disposing of his victim's body by shoving him down the laundry chute of a hotel, which culminated in said body being given a good old service wash. This meant that he ended up being spread all over the inside of the drum, something discovered once the machine had been stopped and further investigation had ensued. One big machine though; big enough to walk into – now that is impressive (as would be the water and soap powder bills I am sure).

So coming back to Wednesday afternoon …. and I have to say that I had a similar occurrence in my washing machine, the similarity not being that there was a body in it I must add, but merely a burgundy throw. Pru was sick on it the night before (after we had finished watching Bones that is) which I noticed on my way in to see Jon, who had asked me to go and look at something on the computer. Although she ate her deposit (with apparent relish), almost as soon as she had chucked it (dogs are so disgusting) it did mean that I had to wash the throw. I have washed this article many times in its life, but on this occasion something weird happened and the washing machine decided to mangle it slightly and the drum became awash with bits of soggy burgundy-coloured material. This meant the machine could not drain properly as the holes in it had become blocked up with the wet fluff. I had to enlist the help of Oll to assist me in emptying out the machine manually and we, the ‘utility area’, and the kitchen were soon awash with water. Luckily, on this first evacuation the water was warm, so having to wear rather soggy clothing and footwear for the following hour was not as bad as it could have been. However, by the third attempt at getting out the fluff and getting the drum to drain rather than swish around murky particles of thread, the warm water had been replaced with cold that was certainly not so pleasant.

Anyway, back to Bones. Upon opening the door to let the water gush out into the bucket I was holding underneath, I noticed that the inside of the drum looked remarkably like the one in the Bones episode described briefly above, only the body parts had been replaced by the material. So there was a method to my apparent madness in mentioning the episode earlier. And you all thought I had completely lost it didn't you? I may take a roundabout way of getting there, but I do get there in the end, wherever there is.

Oll went off to find a syphoning tube in order to get rid of the water that still sat in the drum below the level of the door. He came back armed with one, saying that there was a bigger one somewhere, but it seemed to have disappeared. I unintentionally voiced my suggestion aloud that maybe somebody had decided to try a bit of home-style colonic irrigation and had failed to return the tube afterwards, at which Oll assured me that it was not him. Well not me either so that leaves Graham and Jon, but we will not go any further down that road.

Since the dramatic events of Wednesday have been laid to rest until the morrow, we have at least worked out the chain of events that led to the waterlogged scenes of earlier, and have all reached the same conclusion…it is all Jon’s fault. It was he who wished to have liver and bacon casserole for dinner, meaning that Pru had a small onion-less version made for her, which involved her eating it quickly as it was such a treat, causing her to throw it up later and so on and so forth.

So BOO to Jon for causing me to get soaked, first in warm water and later twice in cold as Oll and I tried to sort it out. And BOO to Jon for causing Oll to look for a syphon tube and only find the thin one, leading to my dismaying thoughts of DIY colonic irrigation (thoughts that will no doubt take a long time to vacate my grey matter ….urgh).

But joking aside, it will be a real pain and shame if the machine is irreparable. It has given me pretty good and faithful service since October 2000, and considering we live in such a throw away society and things are not made to last these days like they used to be, it has had an amazing innings.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Last of the great surrealists

Tony Shiels introduced me to the art and writing of Leonora Carrington a couple of years ago. I had to admit not having heard of her before, mainly due to the fact that I am not really a lover of surrealism. However, I had heard of Max Ernst – mainly due to Loplop, his alter-ego on canvas in the shape of a bird. The CFZ has a model of this creation, which has featured in more than one Weird Weekend and – at present – keeps guard over Bigfoot and the giant snapping turtle, Quasimodo, up in the CFZ Museum.

On Tony’s suggestion I read one of Leonora’s novels last year , and I used to read it aloud at night so both Jon and I could enjoy it at the same time. The Hearing Trumpet is a very strange novel, but one that you cannot put down once starting. The heroine is a 92 year old woman who is given a hearing trumpet by her well-meaning friend. This then means that she can hear everything that her family is saying and finds out that she is to be taken to an institution. The adventures that follow are weird, funny and poignant and Leonora’s writing had both me and Jon laughing out loud at times, so much so that on occasion I would have to re-read a paragraph over and over before being able to finish it with a straight face.

Leonora died in Mexico City on 25th May of complications following pneumonia at the grand age of 94, and is survived by her two sons, Gabriel and Pablo.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Bottoms up

A visit to the podiatrist at Bideford hospital should have been a reasonably uneventful affair, apart from the fact that, in the end, Jon had to endure a minor medical procedure during which he had something drastic done to his big toe with a scalpel, and a strange looking gleaming instrument. He came out sporting that little child look of feeling slightly sorry for himself, but ever so pleased to have a bandage triumphantly wrapped around his left hallux.

That is all by the by, however. Perhaps the shock of the free show to which he and I had been treated before he had entered into the realms of the podiatrist (who sat waiting for him, grinning from ear to ear and armed with the instruments of wounding) had given him a rush of adrenaline; a weird sort of fight or flight instinct rushing through his veins. This combination had, therefore, enabled the podiatrist to cut his flesh without him flinching and to emerge from the consulting room glorious in his success.

You see, we had arrived at the hospital around ten minutes early, and had also not found it necessary to search for a parking space, so we were able to sit in the car park for a short while before Jon had to launch himself into action and attend his appointment. Jon used to reside at this hospital once upon a time, when nursing was his game, and his window overlooked the area in which we sat idly watching the world go by as we waited for the clock to tick those remaining minutes. In the flush of youth his reactions would most likely have been entirely different to the events that were to unfold as we were parked there yesterday.

The scenery was quite pleasant; the trees were all in full leaf in various, glorious shades of green, and the horse chestnut was in the last throes of blossom, teasingly offering a view of what is to come when its annual fruits ripen and fall to the ground. This will either be under their own steam or from marauding conker challengers armed with sticks or anything else that they can throw in their attempts to ensure the prize falls to the earth. However, being as it is a hospital car park, I am assuming that, in the main, it will be the former that will occur, apart from a few opportunists during visiting hours. In the corner of the eye, a male blackbird could be seen to be busily hunting for food in the shade of a beech, and the wind ruffled the leaves gently in the chilly breeze.

Then the occupants of the car next to us returned to their vehicle and in a second diabolically marred the serenity of the surroundings. Their car was on our passenger side so I could see them whilst talking to Jon. I have no idea what the slang is these days, but in my day it was builder’s bum or bum cleavage. But this was no builder. It was a young woman strapping her children into the back of the car who was revealing a little more than she probably thought. She was clearly wearing a pair of the so-called fashionable – and to my mind uncomfortable – hipster jeans. I have a pair that ease their way down to my nether regions at the merest mention of gravity and are constantly being firmly yanked back up to waist level , and secured with an ever –tightening belt in order to restrict their movement south. Why did I purchase such things? At the time, I found it nigh on impossible to find a pair of ‘normal’ jeans and had to make do with what was available.

This woman, however, seemed oblivious to the migration of her own pair and was exposing at least six inches of her lower cheeks to the air and the local wildlife, and also, to our horror and rather sarcastic amusement, us. I must remind you here that we are two ageing hippies that are growing more belligerent and unforgiving the older we get. And we were – by now – trying not to look at the free peep show whilst muffling our giggling and groans of repugnance at such an unfortunate display of bare flesh.

The car and its occupant with the offending buttocks eventually moved off, leaving us both staring out of the windscreen with looks of dismay and jaws dropped as if catching flies. The spectacle had clearly affected us. But then, it was time for Jon to make his unsuspecting way to the gleaming instruments and for me to doze off slightly, trying desperately to shake the vision that had so recently invaded my personal space.

Sorry to disappoint those who may have been hoping for a picture of the offending buttocks, but this is the hero's toe in all its bandaged glory.

Monday 2 May 2011

Happy birthday wishes to my brother

Happy Birthday, Ant!

Have a nice day 

Lots of love

Me xxxxxx

Wednesday 27 April 2011

A typewriter is tougher to shift than a condiment

….. writes Diksha Sahni for the Wall Street Journal, which is a great start to a sentence, although I am not too sure I get the connection between them both!

However, I was saddened to read here ....

But relieved to then read here ....

I learned to touch type many years ago on an old battered black manual typewriter at my local technical college. I took evening classes after I left school – such classes were not known at grammar school, only academic lessons with a bit of PE thrown in for exercise. I cannot remember exactly how the nitty gritty stuff was taught at the tech, but I do remember bashing the keys with fingers that were hidden beneath a wooden affair that covered the keys from cheating eyes. And of course it was necessary to bash the keys with enthusiasm to ensure they descended with enough strength to get the letter to reach the ribbon, let alone print anything on to paper. And then there were those occasions when you caught two keys at once and ended up with a duel of inky metal at the ribbon, not to mention those times when you missed a key altogether and you finger plummeted painfully between two keys.

No doubt, that is why these days I tend to hit the keys from a height and with great gusto rather than glance my fingertips over them, which is – let’s be honest – all you really need to do these days on computer keyboards. It may also explain why I cannot take to laptop keyboards - they are too low down and squishy for comfort. They are only playing at being keyboards.

But the most memorable thing of all? The heavy, satisfying ‘ker-ching’ of the carriage return after the little bell had warned you of nearing the set margin. ‘Ker-ching’, ‘ker’ching’, ‘ker-ching’ - to sit there just pressing the carriage return to hear that satisfying sound was bliss in itself.

However, there is something to be said for the modern ‘delete’ button. My mum used to work in a solicitors’ office and would type out contracts etc on such a machine. There was no allowance for mistakes – make one and she had to start all over again. Eeeks! At least in my job we could use correction fluid or correction tabs. And now I have remembered good old stencils, and the wonderful red correction fluid you could paint on mistakes. I can still recall the smell and sound of the stencil machine, and I am aware now that I am once again flying down memory lane at a tangent … so I shall merely raise my cup of afternoon tea and accompanying biscuit to the good old manual typewriters of old.

Sunday 24 April 2011

Friday 15 April 2011

An arrogant bustard

Whilst sitting over a cup of coffee and a toasted cheese sandwich on the way back from Berkshire yesterday evening, Jon asked whether I would be able to do a ‘Jon is an idiot’ kind of blog recounting anything silly that he had done whilst we had been away. Placing the half of sandwich that I had been tucking into back onto the plate, I placed myself in typical thinker pose and, whilst scratching my head, replied that I was sure I could think of something.

Sadly, if I am to tell the truth, I did reply along the lines of ‘Well, der!’ and - with hindsight - probably rather too quickly. I had tried so hard to leave as long a pause in between his question and my answer so as not to appear too eager, but I failed miserably. In my defence, I was hungry and wished to resume the demolition of my toasted cheese sandwich. I must also add here, that this all took place only a few seconds before Jon took a drink from his glass of Diet Coke and managed to stab himself in the eye with the straw. And as all of you will know, Jon wears glasses so to do this was not as easy a task as it might at first seem.

To be honest, I don’t think he actually did do anything too Jonathanesque on this trip, apart from nearly exposing certain parts of his body - which would mostly likely not be a good idea to reveal in public - on a couple of occasions when his braces came undone at the back, with a resounding ping. The following scramble to avert the ‘trousers around the ankles’ scenario may well have provided a highly entertaining video to put on CFZtv, but unfortunately the situation called for immediate attention, not allowing me to obtain the camera from the camera bag that sat tantalisingly on the back seat of the car.

The sat nav, however, surpassed itself in its mis-directional stupidity. So much so that both Jon and I screamed at it to shut up, before it was unceremoniously unplugged and then dropped further along in our journey (albeit by mistake) when Jon opened the car door, not realising that when he pulled the plug from the cigarette lighter socket with sour-tempered gusto, the wire had flown back and become twisted around one of his legs. You never know, the event may have knocked some sense into it. The cause of our testiness with it? I can explain if you would care to know. Usually, when approaching roundabouts, the lady inside the tiny box tells me which exit to take (in fact she makes sure I don’t forget by repeating the information several times on the approach to them). But at least three times last night, she took us back to the same roundabout and told me – with no emotion in her voice whatsoever - to turn right, then right again.

She seemed determined that she wished me to park the car on top of the grassy, daffodil encrusted mound in the centre of the roundabout for some peculiar reason only known to herself. No matter how hard we tried to navigate ourselves out of town by – we thought- making acceptable sense out of her instructions, she managed to take us back to the damn roundabout. So, in the end, we decided to go with the flow and interpret her ramblings in a sat-nav kind of way, and did as we thought we were being told by pretending we were tiny boxes also rather than using our jaded sense of direction or the stars. We thought we were onto a winner – she did not re-compute the journey and seemed perfectly satisfied with our interpretations of her instructions at last. Lo and behold she took us where she clearly wished us to go. Her sinister aim was revealed. The Vodafone headquarters was her desired destination. It was then that we lost our tempers with the small speaking box and the tiny female entity inside. We searched frantically as we drooled psychotically inside the untidy mess that is the back of the car, and eventually found the old-fashioned way of finding our way back to the correct route. Road atlas in Jon’s hand, we eventually managed to vacate the vortex and made our way serenely into Hampshire in a manner more befitting our age, rather than like two enraged escapees from Bedlam.

This is Madeleine the secretary bird by the way. She resides at the Hawk Conservancy near Andover, Hampshire where we visited on the way to Berkshire on Wednesday. Isn’t she gorgeous?

And this great bustard definitely fancies himself something chronic.

Saturday 9 April 2011

Games doggies play

Pru has discovered two jolly clever new games whilst taking advantage of the spring weather outside. The rules for one seem to be: Wait until everyone is inside, creep up on bin bag, empty it as quickly as possible, disappear from view leaving a trail of rubbish, pretend you had nothing to do with it, see how many times you can do this before tempers rise among humans. And the rules for the second: shatter the peace by doing a pretty good impression of the Baskerville hound just because you can, to make all and sundry jump from their seats at the sudden loud, 'Hammer House of Horror' interruption.

It must be pretty good fun being a dog at the CFZ you know. Four people to exasperate with silly games on a sunny Saturday afternoon. And then just roll over, display your tummy and wait for the attention that you so desire. What joy, what rapture.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Would you mess with this mother?

OK let us be honest here - to us this female of the species may not exactly be one of the most attractive of the fairer sex, but - who knows - she may the underwater version of Angelina Jolie to others of her kind.

However, she is doing what mothers do best and guarding her young well. Mind you, the more you look at her, the more appealing to the eye she seems to become in an odd sort of way. Those dark eyes, those completely natural full lips that have not had a collagen needle anywhere near them. Awww she is rather sweet really.

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California announced in late March that aquarists there had been helping around 250 baby wolf eels to hatch from a mass of eggs, with another couple of hundred due to hatch over the following couple of weeks. Found in the northern Pacific Ocean, wolf eels (Anarrhichthys ocellatus) are not actually eels at all but fish (scientists refer to them as 'wolf-fish') and despite their rather aggressive look, they are quite friendly unless, of course, you happen to be a sea urchin at dinner time. They are rarely aggressive, but it may be wise to note that they are capable of giving a painful bite if they so desire.

Thursday 31 March 2011

Worse things happen at sea?

So representatives of the human race have done it again. They have caused harm and death to yet more of Mother Earth’s inhabitants with which we share the planet. This time the victims include nearly half the world’s population of the northern rockhopper penguin, which also happens to be one of the world’s most threatened species of penguin. Not for the first time, and I am sure not for the last time, the incident occurred at sea. On this occasion, a cargo vessel has been wrecked on Nightingale Island, which is part of the Tristan da Cunha UK overseas territory in the South Atlantic. Not only has this incident threatened the life of the penguins, it also threatens to create another environmental disaster for the wildlife of the island; Nightingale Island is one of two large islands in the Tristan da Cunha group that is rodent-free. If the vessel carries rats and they gain a foothold on the island, their impact would be devastating, placing the island’s internationally important seabird colonies in jeopardy. However, the Tristan da Cunha Conservation Department have placed baited rodent traps on the shore in the vicinity of Spinner’s Point, which is the headland on the northwest of the island where the wreck is grounded, in the hope that they can intercept any rats that did get ashore.

Northern Rockhopper Penguins on Inaccessible Island, drawn by the naturalist aboard HMS Challenger

Nightingale Island is surrounded by oil which extends to a slick up to 8 miles offshore from the wreck of the MS Oliva, which was carrying 1,500 tonnes of fuel oil. Inevitably hundreds of oiled penguins have already been coming ashore. Not only are they affected, but also the economical important rock lobster fishery. And as the vessel was also fully laden with 60,000 tonnes of whole raw soya beans there is also the concern of how the impact of this spilt cargo will have on the fragile local marine environment.

RSPB research biologist Richard Cuthbert said: "How a modern and fully laden cargo vessel can sail straight into an island beggars belief. The consequences of this wreck could be potentially disastrous for wildlife and the fishery-based economy of these remote islands. The Tristan da Cunha islands, especially Nightingale and adjacent Middle Island, hold millions of nesting seabirds as well as 40% of the world population of the globally endangered Northern Rockhopper Penguin. Over 200,000 penguins are currently on the islands and these birds will be heavily impacted by leaking oil."

Yes, how did such a vessel manage to do that?

Tristan da Cunha is not the easiest place to get to and from. There is no airport and all 3 scheduled ships depart from Cape Town. They are scheduled to make 9 return trips each year and it would seem that two of them (which only carry 12 passengers apiece) are fully booked for 2011 sailings. The third is operated by the South African Government as part of a contract to lease Gough Island as a Meteorological Station. It has space for 30 passengers but only calls in September as the Gough Island relief service. So, it is not sure as to how long the Greek Captain and the 21 Filipino crew will be in the Tristan da Cunha settlement (Edinburgh of the Seven Seas), but they are all receiving the warm hospitality of the islanders.

Meanwhile the remarkable rescue is continuing. Oiled penguins are being collected from the islands of Nightingale, Inaccessible and Middle with the aim of transporting them all to the main Tristan island. But there are not enough supplies of specialist cleaning fluids and a vessel with all necessary supplies is scheduled to leave Cape Town in the next few days. Unfortunately, it will be too late for at least two sub-Antarctic fur seals that were found dead on Middle Island, and two Inaccessible rails that were found dead in the tussock grass near the shore of the island they are named after. The Inaccessible rail is the smallest flightless bird in the world and is endemic to that island.

Tristan da Cunha one of the remotest places in the world and more can be read about it, this incident and the efforts of the islanders to help the stricken penguins at:

And just to emphasise exactly how remote, here are some distances - as the crow flies - posted on the Tristan da Cunha website:

To St Helena - 2429 km - 1509 miles (nearest community)
To Cape Town - 2805 km - 1743 miles (nearest mainland city)
To Rio de Janeiro - 3353 km - 2083 miles
To Stanley, Falkland Islands - 3902 km - 2424 miles
To London UK - 9881 km - 6140 miles

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Overhead the albatross hangs motionless upon the air

An aged Laysan albatross called Wisdom - one of the survivors of the March 11 tsunami, which killed at least 2,000 of its kind along with around 110,000 chicks after the earthquake off Japan - has made it back to a remote atoll north west of the Hawaiian islands. Apart from surviving the awful decimation caused by the tsunami, it is more than remarkable that this iconic bird of the ocean is at least 60 years old. She is, in fact, the oldest known wild bird in the US. She was first banded in 1956, the year I was born, as she incubated an egg, and it was thought she was at least 5 years old then. It is awe-inspiring that Wisdom is still successfully producing chicks at such a grand old age, and has survived the rigours of Mother Nature - and the 'progress' of man - for at least six decades.

During the early 1900s, the Laysan albatross was hunted mercilessly by feather hunters who killed hundreds of thousands of them, succeeding in wiping them out from Wake Island and Johnston Atoll in the north Pacific. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are now protected, but the birds are still vulnerable to longline fisheries and the ingestion of floating plastics. On the newer colonised islands, they are also vulnerable to feral cats.

But for now at least, officials at the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex are greatly thrilled at the return of Wisdom and that she survived the March 11 tsunami. Let us hope that she continues to ride the thermals for many more years to come.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Happy Birthday, Shoshannah

On 23rd March 1985, the horoscope that my mother cut out of her paper foretold that I - as a Cancerian - would be working very hard that day, but that it would all be worth it. Considering that I went into labour at around 1 am - the exact duration of which lasted until 7.26 pm - I reckon the first part of the prediction could be classed as correct. And as, at the end of it all, a certain little girl popped into the world, the second part was pretty accurate too.

Happy Birthday Shoshannah

With lots of love from Mum xxx

Thursday 10 March 2011

As sure as eggs is eggs

Thought for the day.

Imagine how many egg sandwiches a hard-boiled ostrich egg would make. A picnic extravaganza no less, but for a hearty breakfast, also imagine the size of the egg cup required to hold such a monstrous item. And bearing in mind it would be equivalent to around 24 hen eggs in content would there be a table big enough to seat 24 people around it, each with a spoon in one hand and a bread and butter ‘soldier’ in the other?

However – and here is the rub - you would not be able to arise one sunny morning and decide, on the spur of the moment, that the family would all pile into the car for a trip to the seaside or some such outing. Oh no - well not if you were going to take advantage of the only egg in the house and the enormous amount of sandwiches as mentioned above that is. Why? Because it apparently takes 2 hours to hard boil such an egg, although it does only take a mere 50 minutes to soft boil one. But soft boiled eggs in sandwiches are not a good idea at the best of times, especially when mixed with mayonnaise. Apart from not looking very attractive, or palatable, they are little devils to handle. And that inevitable gust of wind whilst on the beach (maybe, if you are lucky, even with the odd oil-covered seagull feather being carried on it) would result in their more moist composition than that of the hard-boiled variety being coated in more sand than the latter, causing them to take on the appearance of a more insipid golden breadcrumbed look.

Hey ho what a thought.

Do I have such odd thoughts of the day on a regular basis? Well…yes actually, but on this occasion it was, in fact, brought about by looking in a magazine for a banana loaf recipe and coming across an advert for a certain supermarket who sells ostrich eggs, lain in Lincolnshire, for £18.99 each.

Wednesday 16 February 2011


Jon bought himself the complete DVD set of Rumpole of the Bailey a few weeks back and most evenings has watched one or two episodes, with me listening to them, rather than watching, from the other room. I can remember watching some of them on TV with my parents, and being amused that Uxbridge Magistrates Court was mentioned occasionally, as we were actually sitting in our living room in that very town at the time. Some of you will have heard of the series before, some of you will not. A character created by John Mortimer, QC, Horace Rumpole is a somewhat grumpy London barrister who, much to his formidable wife’s chagrin, refuses to better himself and become a QC like her beloved ‘daddy’. He is always talking to himself in court, and quoting from poetry and Shakespeare and privately likes to refer to his wife, Hilda, in a rather derogative manner. Hence I have become somewhat disturbed, and am not sure whether it is a compliment or an insult, as Jon has started to openly refer to me, just as Rumpole privately does of Hilda, as: ‘She who must be obeyed’. The phrase is on a par with Basil Fawlty’s various addresses to Sybil e.g. ‘My little nest of vipers’ or ‘My little piranha fish’ and although these phrases - at a stretch - could be termed as affectionately impertinent terms used between spouses, I am still in the throes of attempting to work out whether to be flattered or to take serious offence and hit Jon over the head with the rolling pin.

However, I am not really that affronted at the phrase being used towards me - I am a Cancerian and therefore have quite a hard shell to crack - but I do just have to ask one question. If this statement is true, then WHY AM I NOT OBEYED!? Now, that is the crux of the matter as far as I am concerned, and it is this point that needs to be urgently addressed. I think Jon may rue the day he quoted from one of his favourite TV series.

There may be something in the woods, but don't forget to check the cave systems too....

Whilst pottering around in Middle Earth last night – in the hills near Brockenborings in the Shire to be precise – I came across a wooden effigy that I must have walked past many times and had previously not noticed. However, considering the subject matter, it could well be that it had gone unnoticed on previous occasions merely because it was not there before (cue suitably eerie music from the orchestra just outside camera shot). I know all roads, where some members of the CFZ are concerned at least, tend to lead to Mawnan Church and the home of the infamous Owlman, but I had not expected, in my leisure time, to see him in a cave in the hills outside the village mentioned above.

He really does get everywhere, red eyes included, and as can be seen, my courageous little hobbit stood in awe for a few second just to allow the snapshot to be taken, before she moved hastily on. And the inhabitants of the cave system in question? Why, goblins of course. So it is not really surprising to see that he is batting for the darker side I suppose.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Happy Birthday

Many Happy Birthday wishes to Mrs Shuker who is 90-years-old today. 

I hope you have a lovely day

Thursday 27 January 2011

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

If you have an hour to spare this coming weekend how about wrapping up warmly and sitting out in your garden, or even taking a 60-minute break in your local park, and joining in on the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch event? Apart from enjoying some refreshing fresh air, you could be helping the RSPB by recording how many of each bird species you see wherever you have chosen to spend that relaxing hour.

Click on the following link to see how you can join in on this event on either Saturday 29th or Sunday 30th January: