Monday, August 27, 2012

Mystery object

A lady friend of mine worked for a Cambridge company that specialised in the design and manufacture of bespoke artefacts. One day she brought a prototype, the one you see in the picture, for my enlightenment, or rather puzzlement. I finally blundered my way to a partially-correct identification of its nature, but its exact purpose escaped me. I will give you one clue (the one she gave me): it has a connection with the Antarctic.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Birds of Conservation Concern, and I've got two of them!

The most serious category is the Red List, for which the criteria are one or more of the following:
  • Globally threatened
  • Historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995
  • Severe (at least 50%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years, or longer-term period (the entire period used for assessments since the first BoCC review, starting in 1969).
It is with great pride, therefore, that I can announce that two Red List species are currently making great use of the food and water that I put out for birds in my garden.
My pride is somewhat tempered by the fact that the two species in question are House Sparrow and Starling. I would have preferred, say, Spotted Flycatcher or Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, two species that have in their time visited my garden and, let's face it, are a lot prettier.

What a liberty!

I went to see my rehabber friend, Deborah, yesterday, lured by the prospect of seeing a brood of three Corn Bunting nestlings that had been rescued from the plough. 

No sooner had I sat down than this cheeky fellow came and perched on my head. He's in fine condition and should be ready for release very soon.

But before I left, I decided to give him a good talking-to: landing on an old scrote's head causes a serious loss of dignity. I don't think he was really listening, or, if he was, he showed no sign of giving a damn::

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fancy a nibble?

My young farmer friend, David H, asked me if I would like some mushrooms. Apparently they have a couple of grass fields on the farm that have yielded a bumper crop this year. He gave me a bagful. The photo shows just some of the mushrooms I managed to squeeze into the top of the refrigerator. I have already eaten several, and given four big ones to the family next door, so you will agree that this is one serious shitload of mushrooms. They are delicious, quite unlke the anaemic cellophane-wrapped apologies you buy in the supermarket. I would appreciate it very much if you would turn green with envy.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A dog's dinner it is, then

There are many odd expressions in English that we use unthinkingly, and if you have a mind like mine, you are constantly fretting about their origin. "He's a dab hand at....", for instance. Why "dab"?  I don't know. "Not by a long chalk" - what's chalk got to do with it? And so on.
Some explanations of origins are too bizarre for words. A well-known English expression arose, they say, when Napoleon was at Calais waiting for the weather to improve in readiness for the invasion of England. When the wind dropped and the sea became calm, he turned to his admiral and said "A l'eau, c'est l'heure!"  No way.
But I am taken with the explanation of the origin of one phrase which arose when an orthopaedic surgeon found himself in Soho with a thirst. He went into the nearest tavern, which turned out to be very seedy indeed. As he supped his beer, a painted lady came up and started to proposition him. He ignored her at first, then suddenly took her arm, examined her elbow carefully and said: "What's a nice joint like you doing in a girl like this?"
Take a deep breath, mes potes, I haven't finished yet - not by a long chalk.

Look at what I didn't just see!

My list of birds that I almost saw but didn't is growing nicely.
It's a most impressive list, one a chap can be proud of. There are some cracking birds on my not-yet-seen list, and here is one of them. It's a bird that everyone and his Auntie Mary has seen at some time, but not I, not yet.
Baird's Sandpiper is another; I can't wait not to see one of those too!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Watch out, mozzie!

Once you admit to yourself that you are a "heavy drinker", it's time to review your relationship with alcohol, and in particular, to ask who's really wearing the pants. For this and a couple of other reasons, I gave up the booze totally three years ago. Apart from a sip of champagne at my friend's seventieth birthday party last Saturday, I haven't had a drop since. Nor have I had any craving for alcohol.
So what I would like to know  is why this evening I wish I was drunk. I had a good day today, I had the company of a good friend for a couple of hours, I had a nice cuppa tea and a long sit down in the garden on this balmy Friday evening, and I have the prospect of seeing more good friends tomorrow. Something is missing, but I don't know what it is. Unfortunately I ate my last bar of chocolate last night, so not sure what to do now to comfort myself.
Maybe I should get the can of Raid and go round the house killing mosquitoes.
That's it, that'll cheer me up!

Thursday, August 16, 2012


The book of which this is a sample page is known as Voynich-6 after the man who last owned it. It's hundreds of years old, authentic, and nobody has yet been able to read it. The book is full of illustrations of flowers and other plants and of astronomical data, none of which relates to anything known to our science. I just thought you ought to know.

Monday, August 13, 2012

You did good, Harry!

Events like the Olympic Games are not to my taste. It's not the events themselves, it's the hullaballoo - all the commentaries, interviews, predictions, postmortems, statistical comparisons, ageing pop stars, etc - that give me the Friday grump. By the way, I am not sure about that word "hullaballoo". According to Graham Garden, it means "how to greet a bear".
Anyway, I just checked to see how GB got on and we seem to have done very well indeed. See here
I missed most of the opening ceremony, and all of the closing ceremony, but I understand that both were well received by most people and most critics. Oh, ok then, I promise to be more participative in 2016 for the Rio Olympics. Judging by the way they do Carnival, it should be a really erotic affair. Sorry, exotic affair. Oh, I don't know, though, maybe I was right first time.


On Saturday afternoon, Angit and friends took the Bee-eater to a suitable spot with scattered trees and a nearby olive-grove. Angit put the bird on a branch. It shook its feathers, looked around and then flew a short distance to a higher branch. It then, did some more feather-shaking, cleaned its beak on the branch, and then, according to Angit (why should I doubt the word of such a dedicated rehabber?!), looked back at her before taking off again. It flew strongly in the direction of the olive-grove. It landed again, but this time out of sight.
Anyone who has nursed a bird back to health and then seen it successfully released knows the emotion it causes. As Chief Dan George said in Little Big Man "My heart soars like a hawk!". We hope, of course, that there are no hawks in the vicinity where Ari was released.
Well done, Angit, you are a star!

Thursday, August 09, 2012


Sevin, a Turkish friend of mine, had a real scare the other day, when a bomb went off no more than 100m from where she lives.
It reminded me of the only time in my life when I was close to a bomb explosion. I was on an assignment in Angola and had returned to the capital, Luanda. Walking along the Avenue Lenin, I passed the TAP (Portuguese Airlines) shop - closed, of course, like all the other shops in the city at that time.
I then crossed the road to the hotel where I was staying, moreorless opposite the TAP offices. I was in the foyer when there was an explosion outside. I had heard a bomb explosion before, so immediately ran to the back of the foyer, ie, away from the source of the blast, and took refuge behind a large marble pillar against the possibility of further explosions.
To my amazement, almost everyone else in the hotel foyer ran outside TOWARDS the blast, either out of curiosity, or because they didn't realise it was a bomb going off. It turned out that the bomb had been planted in the doorway of the TAP offices.
But for a few lucky minutes, I could have been passing at the exact moment of the explosion, in which case I wouldn't be here now to write this.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Lost and found - a reply

A short but useful note from Mrs Trellis.
Dear Mrs Scrote, she writes, I mentioned the boson thing to my neighbour, Pegi Prytherch, and she seemed to know all about it. She says they found it in a Large Hardon Collider. Not something of which I ever had much experience to be honest.
Hope this helps.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

We're just wild about Ari...

Ari, the rescued Bee-eater, is doing well. hamd olsun. He has been moved to more spacious accommodation, and is adjusting to a more varied diet (Apparently, his dedicated rehabber, Angit, catches bees by hitting them with a shovel, thus stunning but not killing them). She took Ari to the local grocer's shop to get him weighed. He is at 48gm, which is minimum weight for a Bee-eater, so he has a way to go yet.
The best news, though, is that he has started to take short flights, horizontal or even with slight lift. As to what's wrong with him, the consensus is that he has a punctured air sac, which should repair itself in due course.
So, all in all, it's good news about Ari. I have heard nothing further about the opera singer, but it looks as though we won't be needing an Ari aria now anyway. Inshallah.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Lost and found

I quote The Economist, July 7ty 2012, page 14:"On July 4th, physicists working in Geneva at CERN....announced that they had found the Higgs Boson." At school, I was no more than average at Physics. I think I understood refraction, the moment of a couple, the effect of a magnet on iron filings and a few other things, and I can remember being thrilled to realise that, because light travels faster than sound, it was possible to work out how far away a thunderstorm was by counting the gap between the lightning flash and the clap of thunder. After that, it all got rather hazy. A lot has happened since then. In physics, I mean. So, when I read that they'd found the Higgs Boson, a number of questions formed in my mind. If any of you have the answers, please write them down on a piece of paper before you forget them, or lose interest, whichever is sooner.
1 Who lost the Higgs Boson in the first place?
2 Did YOU know it was missing?
3 Who is/was Higgs?
4 What's his first name? (this question is optional, but credit will be given for a plausible answer).
5 Does anyone else have a Boson, or is it only Higgs who has/had one?
And the clincher for first prize:
6 What is it?

It is said that in the first post-war Parliament, among the many new MPs making their maiden speech was a young Labour MP called "Bossom". Churchill is reported to have muttered: "Bossom? Funny name: neither one thing nor the other." That's a little bit how I feel about old Higgsy's "boson".

Admin Notice

Comments to this blog are moderated to avoid spam, of which there is a disturbing amount, most of it gobbledygook. Until now, I have been more tolerant of anonymous comments, ie, taking the time to read them and deciding whether to publish them. But most of those are gibberish too, so I hereby give notice that in future all anon comments will automatically be sent to the spam bin for deletion without being read.
Anyone feeling aggrieved should start his/her own blog, but please don't tell me about it.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Goldie Sayers

As you know, I am as interested in the Olympics as much as I am interested in the Eurovision Song Contest, East Enders and the sex life of brussel sprouts. But I would like to make an exception and ask your prayers for Goldie Sayers, the daughter of a friend of mine. Goldie has torn a ligament in her elbow, but intends to compete in the javelin anyway, fighting her way, so to speak, through the pain. That takes guts, but she's a gutsy lady, so let's wish her well.

Mrs T is concerned

Ever tender-hearted , my North Wales correspondent offers her sage advice.

Dear Mrs Scrote, she writes, you DO seem to get involuted with a lot of different aminals and no mistake! I know they are God's creatures and all, but I have kept clear of beasts ever since my husband, the late Mr Trellis, was dramatised by a jerbil - it almost took his ear off.
If I were you, I'd take up a different hobby before you get ravished too.
Yours etc
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd

Thursday, August 02, 2012

And on the same day.....

....that the Bee-eater was picked up, a neighbour found this little fellow abandoned. Much easier to rehab, eating voraciously, and should be releasable any day now. At least you don't have to launch it into the air, just point it at the shrubbery.

And you thought Swifts were difficult

My dearest Angit finds herself trying to nurse a bee-eater back to health. We're not sure what's wrong with it, except that it was underweight when it was picked up by a passing opera singer. Based on meagre advice (who knows what to give a hungry bee-eater, and please don't say bees?), Angit is getting food into it, though it isn't easy to get past that loooong beak. The bird is becoming more active now and maybe, just maybe, it will eventually be strong enough to fly.
By the way, the fact that the finder was an opera singer is irrelevant, but you know what they say "It isn't over till the fat lady sings". If dogfood and scrambled egg and ants don't do the trick, maybe a quick burst of La Donna e Mobile might get the bird back into the air.