Thursday, February 25, 2010

Holy trinity!

This definitely earns the epithet "cute". It's from the Daily Mail, and my thanks to John S for drawing my attention to it.
For more information about this Norfolk spectacular, click HERE.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Peregrine PS

There's more about the Finnish Peregrine on the BTO's blog.


On Monday, I went with my colleagues, Peter Wilkinson and David Garner, to the Raptor Foundation to see a very special bird that had been brought in injured. On examination, it was found that the broken bones in the wing were the result of a shotgun wound. Fortunately, the bird is on the mend, although it is still not certain whether it will be able to return to the wild. You see, it is no ordinary bird. It is a Peregrine Falcon, so it must be in perfect condition if it is to survive in the wild. The people at the Raptor Foundation will fly it, falcon-style on a creance, to assess its ability to fly and to stoop at prey.
If it can't make an independent living, there is the consolation that, as a captive bird, it can be bred from.
But the most amazing thing about this bird is that it was ringed last year as a nestling - in the very north of Finland, not far from Murmansk in Russia. If it is released, it will take its time returning whence it came, and should be breeding next year.
As to who or why shot the falcon, we don't know. Under my breath I have been damning the miscreant, using some fine Italian curses that I learned from an angry Neapolitan who was upset at the behaviour of another driver: Che ti bruci la casa! Che ti crepino i figli! Che la moglie ti metta le corne!
Personally, I hope the shooter's dick falls off.

Fethullah Gulen - sinister prophet

The secular democratic republic founded by Kemal Ataturk is being dismantled. It bodes ill for stability in the Middle East (and beyond) if or when Turkey becomes a theocracy like Iran. This article from Middle East Quarterly makes chilling reading. Ne mutlu Turkum diyene - for how much longer will that be true?
If you don't like horror stories, switch off now. Try the Simpsons, always good for a giggle.

Sorry, arkadeslerim, this couldn't wait till Friday.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cute or sexy?

English is rich in near synomyms, mainly as a result of the multiple derivations from Anglo-Saxon (Germanic), Viking, Norman French and, later, deliberate coinages from Classical Latin. This richness can be a source of difficulty for foreign learners. They have to distinguish, for instance, between
shy (German scheu) and timid (Lat timidus)
frail (Norman French import) and fragile (later Latin import)
They also have to cope with a myriad noun-adjective combinations such as
moon - lunar
sheep - mutton
When we, as native speakers of English, are asked the difference between shy v timid, to close v to shut, pale v pallid, etc, we embark on explanations at our peril.
So, to avoid tying yourself in knots, as I did once in front of a class of learners when they asked me to explain the difference between presume and assume, take refuge in a Venn Diagram like the one above. The shaded area is where the area of meaning overlaps, so that either word could be used in a given situation, and the unshaded area is where only one of the words can be used.
And, for the cognoscenti, try Osgood's Semantic Differential, a fun device to while away a cold winter's evening.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Un jour au tribunal

Another of Angit's little gems:-

Dans un procès se déroulant dans une ville de province, un avocat appelle son 1er témoin à la barre : une grand-mère très âgée.
Il s' approche d' elle et lui demande :
- Mme Jeanne, me connaissez-vous ?
- Oh ! Oui je vous connais depuis votre enfance Maître Langlois, et sincèrement vous me décevez beaucoup ! Vous êtes un grand menteur, vous trompez votre femme, vous manipulez les gens et vous êtes un médisant et un calomniateur. Au lit, vous pensez être un bon coup alors que tout le monde sait que vous êtes un éjaculateur précoce. Vous n' êtes qu 'une mauviette et vous ne voyez pas plus loin que le bout de votre nez. Oh! Oui je vous connais !
l' avocat surpris, ne sachant que faire, pointe l' autre avocat du doigt.Mme Jeanne, connaissez-vous l' avocat de la défense?
- Bien sûr que je le connais ! Je connais Maître Richard depuis qu' il est tout jeune. Il est paresseux, obèse et il est alcoolique. Il ne peut pas avoir de relation sexuelle normale et il est l' un des pires avocats de tout le département. Non seulement il a trompé sa femme avec trois femmes différentes, mais l' une d' entre elles est votre épouse. Oh! Oui je le connais !
l' avocat de la défense est au bord de l'apoplexie.
Le juge demande alors aux deux avocats d' approcher et, d' une voix très calme, leur dit:
- Si l' un de vous demande à cette dame si elle me connaît, je vous envoie tous les deux en prison pour outrage à la Cour !

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Are squirrels cute too?

Our native Red Squirrel, which is very cute (see pic), has all but been replaced by the alien Grey Squirrel, which is not. But, if you have never seen a Red Squirrel, the Grey is better than nothing.
The problem is that the Grey is bigger and more aggressive than the Red, and outcompetes it for food. There have been attempts to reintroduce the Red Squirrel into woodland using an ingenious feeder, which has a hinged platform in front of the feeding hopper that will take the weight of the Red but not the Grey.
Unfortunately, there is strong evidence that the Grey carries a lethal virus to which it is immune, but which is a killer for the more delicate Red.
It's a bugger, isn't it, when Might is Right?

Muntjac young

Thanks to a fellow blogger, Mary, I now know what a baby muntjac looks like:- incredibly cute.
As indeed we all were when we were very young.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mrs T strikes back

My North Wales correspondent is never slow to take up the cudgels.
Dear Mrs Sarkozy, she writes, is that where your people got the idea from:- watching Herons gobbling frogs? And why do you eat only the legs? What happens to the rest of the frog? Why do you do it at all? In fact, why are you French in the first place? You're a funny lot and no mistake.
As to that smelly Camelot cheese you eat, the only explanation is my late husband's, namely, that you developed it to repel the Germans. Didn't work, though, did it?
You should have used leeks.
Yours etc
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs (widow, retd)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Strange things going on

There are STRANGE THINGS GOING ON in my garden pond. Well, I call it a pond, but after my cleanup blitz on it in the summer, it has a leak, is only two-thirds full and is completely devoid of vegetation, it is really just a muddy hole in the ground at the moment. Dem sei wie ihm wolle, something is going on, as there are constant "ploppings" causing lots of pretty ripples. Intriguing. Well, I thought, it can't be frogs because...... and then my knowledgeable friend, Barbara, pointed out that frogs will hibernate in any mud left at the bottom of the pond.
So, it seems, despite the unprepossessing state of the pond, I might have breeding frogs. Not that it will go anywhere - between the messy pair of Mallards and the marauding Heron, the wee froggies don't stand a chance. Maybe the newts will fare better, providing they can stay sober long enough to procreate.
Have a nice weekend.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


A Roman Catholic priest and a rabbi find themselves alone in a railway compartment. After a while, the priest speaks, and the following dialogue takes place:
Priest: Tell me, rabbi, as we are alone, I am curious to know something. Have you ever eaten pork?
Rabbi: Nu, to be honest, yes, I did once.
[There is a short silence. Then...]
Rabbi: Tell me, father, as we are alone, I am curious to know something. Have you ever been with a woman?
Priest: Well, to be honest, yes, I did once.
[Another short silence. Then...]
Rabbi: It's better than pork.


Another magnificent winter visitor to the fens, a Rough-legged Buzzard. This is not my photograph, and I was not the one to find the bird, but it's so magnificent that I want to share it with you. It is a proper buteo buzzard, but has some very individual habits, including hovering like a Kestrel. It will be gone in a week or so, but I console myself with the thought that we will then be a week or so closer to Spring.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mrs Trellis turns tricky

My North Wales correspondent just sent me the following message:
Dear Sandra Palin, she writes, I am sorry you didn't win the election, you have such a nice smile. And I love your glasses. Can you in fact see through them, or are they just designed to make you look more intelligent than you really are? It's all right, dear, we all use little tricks. For example, I often wear a headscarf so people might mistake me for the Queen. My late husband loved me to "do a royal" on him.. During lovemaking (infrequent though it was), he liked me to be on top, only waving my hand like She does. Men!
Yours in sisterly soldierality
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs (widow)

Friday, February 12, 2010

SPF is on the case

From a recent advisory leaflet issued by the SPF (Society for the Protection of Flowers):

All persons coming into contact with flowers, whether wild or cultivated, must be thoroughly fumigated.
When cutting stems, care must be taken to apply a sealant to the cut to protect that flower from possible contamination by human viruses.
Anyone found guilty of abusing a flower, eg, pushing their nose into it to inhale its perfume, will be beaten up and hospitalised.
NB: It is illegal to send flowers to any person hospitalised in this way. Or in any other f-----g way.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bohemian Waxwing

This occasional winter visitor from the Continent needs no comment. Two visited a neighbouring village this week. I wish you could have seen them.
PS I think the epithet refers to its locality rather than its lifestyle.

Grumpy? But it's Thursday!

OK, guys, I know I said I only did grumpiness on Fridays, so that I can give myself (and anyone within earshot) six serene days in each week. But today (Thursday) is proving bizarre.
Let me lay this one on you: I called the local surgery to make an appointment with my doctor, for Monday preferably. I got the reply: "We can only make the first three appointments on Monday, you will need to come to the surgery at 0830 on Monday to make an appointment." Weird or what?
Try this one: I needed to send flowers to someone in hospital, so I called the hospital switchboard just to confirm the address and the name of the ward. I got the response "We don't allow flowers any more." What's THAT about?
I once tried to organise a visit for some of my students to a refinery in Southampton. "Sorry," says the spokespsn, "We are fully booked for the next two years". "No matter," says I, "Book us in for the first date after the two years." "Sorry," says the spokespsn, "We can't make bookings more than two years ahead."
My brain hurts.
Years ago, I and a friend came up with an amazing (to us) hypothesis to account for all the mismatches and crossed wires that blight our lives: we are all the victims of a cosmic cockup - WE ARE ON THE WRONG PLANET. If we are right, it's hard luck on whoever should be on this planet, because they are probably having just as rotten a time as we are exiled here.
And now, let us return to serenity.
Oh merde, it's snowing again.......

Friday, February 05, 2010

What's that bird?

Every birder likes to add a "lifer" to their list, but there are rules about this kind of thing, the most important of which, in my view, is that you should see/hear the bird sufficiently well that you would know it if you saw one again. Among my lifers-that-never-were is the bird illustrated above, a Semipalmated Sandpiper, one of a series of difficult little waders (shorebirds) known as "peeps". difficult because they all look alike until you get a really good view of them.
So, when I was told by my friends Mike and Martin, who were in a hide (blind) at Minsmere RSPB reserve, that there was a Semipalmated Sandpiper out on the mudflats, I became very moist with excitement. They directed me to it, but I couldn't find it among the mass of little waders feeding on the mud. The light was awful too.
"Which one is it?" I bleat (I couldn't keep the note of panic out of my voice. Pathetic,isn't it?)
"It's the one that's limping," reply my friends Mike and Martin.
For those of you interested in the contents of my Life List, I can tell you that I have yet to see a Semipalmated Sandpiper, even though I did get my bins on the Minsmere cripple. Get my drift?

By the way, if you are eagle-eyed and have nothing better to do, you can just about make out the palmation between the bird's toes. Imagine trying to see that from a long way off on a dull day.

Oh deer!

Another first for the garden. And this time, not a bird, but a mammal - a muntjac. There it was on the lawn, nibbling at the bits that had fallen from the bird feeders. I noticed that the poor thing was limping. Something wrong with its right hind leg. Thoughts of catching it and getting it to an animal hospital raced through my mind. But how do you catch a muntjac?
I took advice from my all-wise rehabber, D, who gave me a few tips on how to approach the timid creature without making it believe I was contemplating a venison supper.
"Avoid eye contact, which is threatening", "Keep nodding your head, as this is something that predators never do", and "Lick your lips" - not sure about this last suggestion, might suggest esurience.
Anyway, I decided to leave the creature alone, but, acting on D's advice, I went to the village shop to buy a bag of carrots, apparently one of the muntjac's favourite snacks. The wee beastie was laid up in shrubbery in a corner of the garden, but, alas, was scared away when the hedge cutters arrived with their noisy machines.
And, sad to say, it has not come back.
So, if you know of anyone in need of a bag of carrots, give me a call.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mrs Trellis welcomes the Pope

The dear lady from North Wales keeps her finger on the pulse.
Dear Mrs Pope, she writes, I understand your husband, Benny Dick (or should that be Dick Benny? Just my little joke), is coming to these shores a bit later on to have a rant about same-sex relationships. Well, you tell him he doesn't need to worry about Wales. Here in the Principality, where Primitive Methodism rules, we strictly observe the laws of Leviticus: no poofters, no shellfish, etc. It's a pity, though, that they didn't say something about sheep-shagging while they were about it.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Fancy that? Not in this weather!

You've got to admire the male Collared Dove. At the moment the weather is glacial, it's cold enough out there to freeze the balls off a buffalo, and yet, on the back lawn yesterday morning, I watched a male Collared Dove getting amorous with an uncooperative female. There he was, racing after her, testosterone-charged, puffing out his chest and attempting to do the business, Stringfellow-style, and to hell with the foreplay.
For goodness' sake, even in my prime, I needed warm sunshine and a gentle zephyr to caress my bum before I'd even think of tripping the light fantastic with a lady. But this dove is made of sterner stuff. He's totally oats-oriented, frost or no frost.
At least Mrs Collared Dove has the sense to make him keep it in his pants till the weather improves.