Random Ramblings

Random Ramblings: Personal observations on a wide variety of subjects. Photographs of creatures and things that are taken on seeing the unusual as well as everyday things.

The last day of 2011, Hogmanay, New Year’s Eve

This has been a strange year. Ordinary people have had their lives filled with terror, dreams have been stifled and snuffed out. Many have lost their livelihoods or their homes or both. The price of essential items has been rising week after week. Natural disasters have swirled around the world and millions have endured the pain in their wake. I do hope that 2012 will be a kinder, safer and happier year for us all.

In the meantime, here is a little to help celebrate the end of the year and the start of what is to come . . .

    • Happy New Year Everyone!
For those who have someone serving abroad.

A little bit of fun.

Unusual firework display .. to start 2012!

Christmas 2011

My favourite cartoon of this Christmas was sent to me in an email ..



Google’s Christmas Surprise this year: type ‘LET IT SNOW’ in the Google search bar and enjoy!

Wicked weapons

A few weeks ago my cat was attacked. I didn’t see it. The first I knew that something was wrong is when her little face swelled up like a balloon. I held her close and carefully ran my fingers softly through her cheek, for it was a one-sided balloon. I could find nothing. At first I thought that she must have inadvertently caught her cheek with her back paw whilst having a little scratch. The swelling didn’t appear to hurt her. So I waited fully expecting her cheek to return back to normal. The swelling remained and so off we went to the Vet’s surgery. The poor little puss had developed an abscess through a fine scratch that had ripped through the cheek. The abscess was both inside the mouth as well as outside on the cheek.

How wonderful are antibiotics? How marvellous are analgesics? What a difference they make when you are ill …. whether you are a human being or an animal these two things often transform the outcome of infection and illness. How grateful am I that they were both available to my little furry friend!

Cat tales

Here are two lovely videos of cats. One shows a mother gently hugging her kitten who appears to be having a very active dream. The other is a wonderful cat who tells his owner most definitely ‘No!’ Enjoy!!!!

There’s nothing quite like a mother’s love!
A cat that knows its own mind … with a definite ‘no!’

Fairy joke

The weather has been so unusual that when I looked out onto the front lawn I wasn’t phased one little bit by a clump of daisies brightly bobbing in the grass. Upon closer inspection the pretty little daisies were in fact frilly toadstools! What a joke that lovely flowers were, in fact, a fairy ring!






    • Rain, the juice of all life …. click down below and – listen to it, celebrate it, enjoy it:





It is Spring .. in November!

The garden always holds many surprises but this year is surpasses itself in fairy tale beauty. I feel like I have stepped into a dreamy, story book as flowers are blooming all over again and with a vigour and urgency of youthful intent, not a half-hearted end-of-season show. They are out to produce moor seeds, moor shoots, moor trailers and vines and are twisting the world into a picturesque jungle of colour.

Honeysuckle - woodbine - November 2011

Honeysuckle - woodbine - November 2011 pic 2

Honeysuckle - woodbine - November 2011 pic 3

Honeysuckle – old English name of Woodbine – pictured end of November

This variety is one of two very special types that I have in the garden supporting twin flowers. This is the more yellow variety with a deep woody perfume. The other one has red-veined leaves and pink dipped flowers with a sweet sensual perfume.

Eve of invention

It has recently been discovered that ‘Eve,’  Homo neanderthalensis (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) known simply to most as Neanderthals extensively integrated, lived with and bred with Homo sapiens. All Homo sapiens are from Africa but when some of them began to move out of Africa they moved into the same areas where Neanderthals lived which was very extensive and included most of Eurasia. DNA tests suggest that most people who are not living in Africa and of African decent have a percentage of Neanderthal in them making those of us who are not in Africa, hybrids. The Neanderthal gene helps to strengthen us against disease and may possibly have given us the love and key to science and technology. I for one shall celebrate my inner Neanderthal ..



Female Neanderthal, picture courtesy of National Geographic

The tail end of an ice-age

We are currently towards the end of one of the colder parts of our history. Living in the last remaining years of an ice-age should be a welcome experience as the world temperatures begin to naturally climb back up to their more normal ambient levels.

Unfortunately, in this instance the world has to cope with human activities on top of natural means. Vast swathes of the world are under the influences of industrial change producing large pockets of carbon dioxide and methane. At the same time forests are being torn up, plundered, raped and left barren. Trees are the lungs of the world and we have fewer now than in the history of man. Our planet has the equivalent of emphysema, it is hardly able to breath and replenish the atmosphere with fresh oxygenated air. It doesn’t need an educated person to work out what is likely to happen unless we make more of an effort to contribute to improving our atmosphere – billions of people, animals, birds, fish and plant life will die because the planet will be unable to sustain life.

The most amazing and curious thing about this problem is that there appears to be very little evidence that much is being done to stave off the inevitable. Ask yourself the following: who is monitoring the amount of de-forestation that is occurring throughout the temperate regions of the world? What is being done to off-set the amount of pine trees that have been planted in recent years that have shamefully replaced the slow growing timbers where animals, birds and insects live? How many water courses including rivers are cleaned out, dredged, and fully maintained so that they make perfect homes for native species to reside and thrive? How many farmers are changing the type of crops that they grow and why? How many new boreholes have been recently drilled, whereabouts (what countries) have they been drilled, how many will be required to be drilled to maintain the current populations? The list of things we should know and do something about is frighteningly large and there is little if any evidence that anyone is doing much about it at all. We should all be involved, taking interest and writing about it. Urging schemes to improve lives in thirty to fifty years time because the way that this ice-age is warming up it will not take long at all for everyone to be affected by the events of the near future.

Remember what happened to the mammoth .. this was before man had begun to cut down forests, build sprawling towns, create large industrial deserts .. I don’t want man to go the same way as the mammoth, do you?

Presently surprised!

Went out shopping the other day to try and gauge what sort of things were in the shops with a view to compiling a small list, if not purchasing a few items towards Christmas. The shops were not too full, so we were able to meander through the various departments and explore the numerous offerings that were enticingly placed, often in precarious positions – so that the eye couldn’t miss every temptation.

It seems that this year, one of the cheapest and most plentiful of presents especially for females are ear-muffs. These are in every type of fabric from hand-knitted woollen animal heads, pompoms, faux fluffy sheepskin to trendy embroidered pretend designer ranges (may be some were in fact true designer ranges .. I didn’t take the time to check them all out). They do, however, offer the possibility for younger members of the family to make their own either for themselves or to hand out as presents. Next to the ear-muffs were displays of hats of all kinds many having similar effects as either a deer-stalker (Sherlock Holmes varieties) or woollen Norwegian types that had dangling plaited tassels. Then there were the half-head knitted semi-bonnets similar to ladies’ Cromwell caps embroidered with beads and looking very pretty. Rows and rows of mittens and gloves dangled and touched as we walked by. (DOES SOMEONE THINK THAT WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A FRIGHTENINGLY COLD WINTER THIS YEAR!) Scarves trailed down from pillars and thick flannelette pyjamas toppled over from enormous piles on shelves. The walls were decorated with thick ‘all-in-one granddad tunics’ for young ladies – they were extremely baggy and looked as though they had been cut from the design of a baby grow that intentionally or not was meant to cater for a NAPPY!!



I received this in an email and it made me smile so I thought I’d share it with you:


Schooldays and MATHS

Easter egg

    • On Google’s Chrome or Firefox type in the search box the following statement: Do a barrel roll

Google search bar

Now isn’t that good fun?

Haunting scenes in Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon

No matter where you venture in Shakespeare’s Warwickshire, there is beauty. Wild, wonderful, haunting sights and scenes that stay with a person forever.

Stratford scene 1

Creepy cobwebs, spooky scene

Stratford water


Stratford-upon-Avon 2


There are many wonderful, magical facts that are learnt about animals and birds over a lifetime – here is one that I recently found out about: powder down. Like moths and butterflies which have fine like powder on their wings in the form of overlapping scales, birds produce a dusting of waxy like powder over their feathers which is called powder down. In the case of birds the powder is designed to help waterproof their bodies from the rain. Occasionally, we are able to see this when a bird flies into a pane of glass usually twixt the end of one day and before the dawn of the next. A friend forwarded a picture of a bird imprint in powder down on to me when they found one on their office window.

Powder down impression

Powder down bird impression

Powder down imprint of a bird on a pane

Bird impression in powder down on a window pane

Country Quips:

    • Our life on Earth enables us to glimpse the beauty of Heaven.


Wonder why they say that perennials are best planted in October? I have been trying to fill up some of the bare patches that developed in the garden borders due to last years extended cold and snow bound Winter. So many plants withered and died. I don’t think that we have ever lost so many at once before. So there has been a need to purchase more and hopefully find some that will weather a little better than before. This not only means they need to be able to withstand the cold but also the ever changing weather patterns – whether we are experiencing lack of rainfall, blustery winds, torrential downpours or any other unusual combination of weather conditions.

It has been very dry this year in England and trying to plant out deep rooted perennials has proved to be very difficult. Some of the roots have required not only depth but half an arms length in several directions. The easiest of the gap fillers has been some of the more common of the Spring bulbs.

I am hoping for a wonderful garden of Eden next year … I hope that these new plants all take and do not disappoint!

One plant that I have always wanted to introduce into the garden is the perennial or everlasting sweet pea. As it is known for its length of flowering time and the quantity of flowers produced it was a popular flower during Victorian times. I have bought five small plants which have been placed by two of the apple trees to hopefully eventually form a pretty backdrop to the far border … all they have to do is Winter well this first year and then they should be sturdy enough to bring years of beautiful colour … I do hope that they survive.

Everlasting Sweet Pea

Perennial Everlasting Sweet Peas

Perennial or Everlasting Sweet Peas

‘What a big belly you have!’

As I have said before, October is a very strange month. The other day I was greeted with a large, round, female spider nearly ready to lay her eggs. This particular spider is more at home in a bush but somehow had gained access to my kitchen. Perhaps she senses that there is a very, very cold spell on the way as they are not noted for venturing indoors very often. Time will tell … I hope that it isn’t a portend to extreme weather …

Araneus quadratus - female full of eggs - October 2011

Araneus quadratus - female full of eggs

Sober October

It is important to be optimistic especially in the month of October. This month takes more than it gives; hates more than it loves; curses more than it nurses: it is a month that is often feared. Whether it’s the damp, the dark nights, the wet, the wind or something that is indefinable the chances are if you catch a cold or a cough in October it will last nearly up until Christmas!



This is the most wonderful Indian Summer with temperatures soaring not only in the tail of September but the mouth of October. October 1st it is claimed has been the hottest on record and in the Midlands has nearly tipped 30º Centigrade which is around 86º Fahrenheit. Phew! It is magnificent. I am so glad that there is no air conditioning – just plain old-fashioned windows – so that I can embrace every last second of Summertime even as we are well into Autumn!

Country Quips:

    • The longest journey is often caused through the shortest argument.

Jersey, the ‘Tardis’ of the Channel Islands

We spent some time in Jersey this Summer. It is the one place that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. It is a tiny island of some nine miles long by five miles wide and homes more than 90,000 people. It is full of country lanes and fields and so you would never guess that there are so many inhabitants. It is a true lesson on how to make the most out of space and retain wonderful raw natural beauty, eye-catching scenes, peaceful fields of cattle chewing the cud, a marvellous nature reserve, beaches and coastlines that are either free of tourism or so little that you could almost be on your own private beach. So many things to see and do that it there can only be one word to describe it all and that is ‘paradise.’

Jersey, Channel Islands -- simple map

The map

Jersey's rocky coast

The coast

Misty view

The hill top views

Country Quips:

    • You should rest your bones when you’re coughing or you could well end up in your coffin.

Forty winks on a day of rest

If memory serves me well, according to the Bible, Sunday should be a day of rest: doing absolutely nothing and recharging our batteries so that we are fit and well to tackle the forthcoming week with its many demands. When I was a child this also meant that shops and businesses remained closed; everywhere was quiet; it was even considered bad manners for washing to be displayed on clothes lines.

It appears that the only followers of this now are the animals. My cat, in particular who loves and enjoys a forty wink rest on a very lazy day!


Forty winks on a lazy Sunday

Country Quips:

    • You should never waste time as you can’t purchase more!

The British Isles

To the people of the world, we are at times very confusing. Many Internet sites now list us as the UK, which doesn’t include many parts of our shores and leaves many users not being able to identify there whereabouts accurately.

Here are a list of the Isles (or islands) that form ‘The British Isles (all of those I have listed are inhabited):’

Great Britain (the main land mass built up of England, Wales and Scotland)


The Isle of Wight (island off the middle of the South coast of England)

The Isles of Scilly (five main inhabited islands including St Mary’s and a further group of small rocky islands off the tip of Land’s End in Cornwall – near to the South-West coast of England) note: the ‘c’ is silent in Scilly

The Isle of Man

The Isle of Lundy

The Isle of Sheppey

The Hebrides: Lewis, Harris, Skye, Mull, Islay, North and South Uist, Jura, Tiree, Coll, Colonsay, Great Bernera, Rasaay, Benbecula, Barra, Scalpay, Ulva, Lismore – all inhabited

The Orkneys: Hoy, South Ronaldsay, Sanday, Westray, Rousay, Stronsay, Shapinsay, Eday

The Shetland Isles: Whalsay, Muckle Roe, Bressay, Yell, Fetlar

Fair Isle

The Small Isles

Walney Island

Aran Islands: Inis Mór

Anglesey, including Holy Island

Bardsey Island


The Isles of Firth of Clyde (Arran, The Cumbraes and Bute)

Mersey Island

Canvey Island

Looe Island

Thorney Island

Small Isles: Rùm, Eigg

Hayling Island

Foulness Island

The Channel Isles (Five larger islands consisting of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm with a scattering of some small rocky islands)

There are other small islands that help to make up the British Isles besides those listed above, some have bird or seal colonies on them …

In weed

I can’t remember whether August is the same every year but this year there is an explosion of weeds. Many are tiny but some have managed to achieve quite a height and are beginning to suffocate even the most sturdy of perennials. To try and combat the problem I decided that I would begin pulling out a few at a time. I remembered that I had a ‘wild cowslip’ plant that had made its home in my little herb patch .. but where was it now? The sage has bushed out and begun to encroach on the chives. The mint decided to gambol all over the place with a few sprouts here and yet more sprouts there. The parsley looked very pleased with itself as its leaves curled in every direction. Some Montbretia leaves had curled gracefully pointing at the sage. I decided to tug at a few of these leaves to give the sage and chives a little more light which then led me to see a rather sad looking cowslip in need of a very long sip of water. What I also discovered under the leaves was a beautiful yellow spotted frog – it gave me such a shock and it must have been in shock itself for it stood there whilst I raced back for the camera.

Yellow spotted frog

Yellow Spotted Frog – Rana temporaria … 6–9 cm

Country Quips:

    • It is only when we appreciate how good life is, that we really see beauty in unexpected places.

Hovering about

Hover-flies always remind me of my childhood. From as early as aged three, I would wander (with permission) around my next-door neighbour’s garden; where I was first introduced to Tulips, Red-hot pokers and Michaelmas daisies as well as the Tit family … from the pretty little Blue-tit, the constant calling Coal-tit to the wonderful strength of the Great-tit. The Michaelmas daisies formed a hedge around the neighbour’s garden and it was always alive with little pretty darting flies of various sizes and colours which were called Hover-flies. Despite their bright colouring and almost wasp-like or bee-like appearance they are harmless and very useful pollinators.

Hover-fly - Episyrphus balteatus

Hover-fly - Episyrphus balteatus ... in flight around the fuchsias

Hover-fly - Episyrphus balteatus ... in flight

Hover-fly - Episyrphus balteatus grows between 10 - 15 mm

Hover-fly - Episyrphus balteatus pollinating Genii fuchsia

Hover-fly - Episyrphus balteatus

Country Quips:

    • True beauty is often hidden from closed minds.

Buzz hub

Before the break in the weather, I was checking out the back border bank looking for spaces for a few new plants when I heard a distant noise. A fairly high-pitched hum, a cross between a dentist’s drill and a small helicopter droned in the distance. There appeared to be nothing in the sky so I took little notice and continued looking for a good space for some Penstamen flowers that had just been purchased. Suddenly, something large shot past my face and with it the sound of the drill. It headed downwards and landed in a half coconut that I had partly filled with raisins for the blackbirds. At first, I thought it must be some foreign insect because of its size .. some 30 mm. It was yellow with brown stripes and at it’s neck the brown turned into more of a brown claret. It’s mouth was placed on one of the raisins and it appeared to be sucking at the fruit which had expanded with an over-night shower. Then in a second it had buzzed up and away over the fence. Within a moment or two it arrived back with one of its comrades. Unlike other striped insects that seem to be attracted to people and fly around them, these acted as though I was completely invisible. They sucked at the raisins and I rushed into the house for the camera. I managed to take a couple of pictures of them and then set about trying to identify them in an insect book. They were listed as hornets, the largest member of the wasp family and the only one with brown stripes.

Hornet - approx 30 mm - yellow and brown sriped

Hornet, Vespa crabro – 30 mm

Country Quips:

    • It is the fear of pain that often saves us from falling off the edge of cliffs.

Miracle powder–bicarbonate of soda

Every year man discovers amazing things, invents complex answers to problems and yet forgets things that have been discovered by his forebears within the blink of an eye. This is probably the greatest mistake that we make as a species. We are the only species on the planet that regularly sweeps aside wondrous knowledge and throws it deep into a dusty abyss. Much of what has been learnt over time, may not have even been recorded in a book but told by word-of-mouth then lost completely forever.

The oldest form of any antiseptic known to man is in the form of various salts. Bicarbonate of soda, also called by a variety of other names from simple bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate and baking soda being the main variations is one of these salt based antiseptics, which is also an active fungicide. It should be part of everyone’s basic hygiene to include bicarbonate of soda into their daily routines.

Purchase good quality, food grade, bicarbonate and then it may be used wherever and whenever it is needed.

The first time I was really introduced to bicarbonate of soda as an antiseptic was with an eye infection. This was most probably caused by transference of germs from a keyboard, a shopping trolley, or simply a door handle to an eyelid which then became both sore and itchy and spread around the lids and the lashes of both eyes. For the next month, morning, noon and night I had to bathe my eyelids and eyelashes with one teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda stirred into boiled water then allowed to cool. After this, I began looking into medical and household uses for this forgotten ‘miracle powder.’

Here are just a few of the uses of bicarbonate of soda:

It may be used as a mouthwash to get rid of bad breath either caused through bacteria build-up in the mouth or spicy, aromatic foods. It can be made into a paste and used to clean stains off teeth. The powder may be dissolved into a little warm water and gargled to cure a sore throat. It is a quick first aid item that can be gently applied to mouths to ease symptoms of thrush whilst waiting to see a medical practitioner. It may be used as a simple exfoliator, a skin softener, a gentle hair conditioner. Items of personal use such as toothbrushes and hair combs may be soaked in a solution of it to clean them. A pinch of it may be stirred into a half-tumbler of water just before bedtime to help give a soothing night’s sleep. It reduces acid attack and is often preferable to alleviate heartburn and indigestion than traditional tablets and medicines. A tiny spot placed into the centre of the tongue will often calm down coughing attacks. It is sometimes a useful alternative medication for alleviating rashes. Over the centuries bicarbonate has been applied to both insect stings and bites for almost immediate relief. It kills off parasites and destroys their eggs. The powder may be sprinkled and used as a dry insecticide or a small amount added to water and lightly sprayed over plants. This list is almost endless and it is therefore always worth bearing in mind that it could be worth trying when all else fails.

Please do remember that it is a salt so always follow guidelines on the packet to make sure that too much isn’t consumed over a twenty-four hour period.

Bicarbonate of soda, sodium bicarbonate, baking soda, bicarbonate .. powder 2011

Sodium bicarbonate powder


Country Quips:

    • We are all much wiser than we are led to believe, sadly we rarely know when to use our wisdom.

Sayings, proverbs, quotes, quips

Years ago when I began my very first job, computers took up the whole of a very large room. People wore special dust-proof clothing when entering it. Communications were made either using a telephone or a typewriter for both internal and external messages. Desks would often contain a ‘rip-off’ calendar (one page per day). The calendar would usually have a small quote or saying underneath that brought smiles or frowns to faces …

I have always enjoyed the little quotations that came on the bottom of the daily calendar. My father was also a font of knowledge of such sayings and would share them with me every day. This month I thought I would begin sharing some of the sayings with you. I have been placing them at the bottom of my posts entitled ‘Country Quips’ and I thought I would put July’s offerings all together to share once more. Such sayings make life and events more colourful and therefore are best repeated …

Country Quips:

    • If you only have your looks to trade on, your trade will be very short lived!

    • Even the smallest of jobs will extend to fill up the longest of days.

    • An evil adversary is conquered far more swiftly with a sharp mind than a steel blade.

    • Commitment to a job is nine parts of completion.

    • To hold a belief may sometimes be more dangerous than holding a weapon.

    • Never leave Sunday best clothes festering away at the back of the wardrobe. Air them often for they will go out of style and life is brief!

    • The sweetest smell on Earth is the down on the forehead of a new born baby. It is like no other; it is the greatest gift bestowed on man.

    • The most effective and useful weapon man can ever have is knowledge – always remember that you can never have enough!



Cat kit

According to naturalists there is a danger that soon hedgehogs will die out in Britain as they have plunged in numbers year-on-year. It is a big ask of people but for those who love to see wildlife it is time to take action to protect this wonderful little mammal. It is strange to think that an animal that will eat just about anything is now under threat of extinction in this country. For those who want to help then place the following items out each evening: a small bowl of fresh water – they drink quite a lot (hedgehogs do not drink milk it makes them extremely ill and in some instances can kill them); kibble (cat kibble is ideal); tinned cat/dog/kitten/puppy food; cooked meat chopped into little portions as hedgehogs have very tiny teeth and are unable to chew large pieces; fresh peanuts that do not contain salt (salt is extremely bad for them); raisins-sultanas-currents; mild to medium cheddar cheese chopped up small; digestive biscuit, etc …… Place meat out when it is almost dark so that it will not become contaminated and dangerous.

Starting early in the evening, I had placed out some chopped nuts and cat kibble for the hedgehogs … but – too late, it was spotted by my cat …

Cat kit

The cat found the kibble put out for the hedgehogs

One other reason why hedgehogs are in trouble is they are as their name suggests little ‘hogs’ of the hedge. They spend quite a large proportion of their time in the bushes, trees, shrubs, long grasses and plants that are in the hedgerows. Hedgerows with all of their lovely plants are gradually being dug up and often replaced by fences or nothing at all. Fewer people have green gardens full of low covering plants, trees and bushes so … hedgehogs have nowhere to hide and keep safe. If you are able, then why not plant some bushes, and low covering plants in both your front and back gardens and make them hedgehog friendly. It would be such a shame to lose this wonderful and useful little animal. Remember hedgehogs like to feast on garden snails and slugs, millipedes, caterpillars, small rodents such as young mice – so they help to keep the garden clean and tidy of many things that you would rather not be surrounding your house!

Country Quips:

    • The most effective and useful weapon man can ever have is knowledge – always remember that you can never have enough!


Heaven scent

Close my eyes and at last there is the heavy perfume, nectar of the gods, sweet and lingering fragrance that wraps itself around the garden – the ‘pinks’ have opened their petals and intoxicate the air.

I was introduced to pinks as a child. A name, easy to remember with a perfume hard to forget. My mother had large clumps of them, the old-fashioned double variety with twirls of one-coloured petals, slightly clove fragranced, long stemmed type. She would cut a few and place them in a vase and their perfume filled every corner of our home.  I have loved them ever since but lost my original plant due to bad weather several years ago. It has been impossible in my area to purchase the same variety and over the years I have bought the single petal dianthus which are a poor substitute. Last week I called into a couple of nurseries in the hope of finding a few more plants to fill up one or two spaces in the border and found a two-tone double pink with a strong, sweet, sugary smell that is just lovely.

Pinks - double two tone

Pinks - double dianthus

Dianthus: Scent First – Raspberry Sundae

Country Quips:

    • The sweetest smell on Earth is the down on the forehead of a new born baby. It is like no other; it is the greatest gift bestowed on man.

Trice thrice

I am inquisitive, I seek out knowledge and drink it all up. This, however, often leads to conflicts of things that you learn through observation and cold hard facts on the printed pages of books. There are times when the two oppose each other but we should never be afraid to question the written word.

Wood-pigeons for example, according to bird books are to be found in fields of clover, growing crops, wild mustard, peas, staying in the fields and foraging amongst the stubble later in the year. The wood-pigeons that come into my garden eat everything – from millet, barley, rolled oats, lentils, black-eyed beans, split yellow peas, sunflower seeds, coconut and mealworms to cat kibble, digestive biscuits, bread, cakes, currants, sultanas, raisins, apple, pear, etc. In fact, the only thing that I have not seen them eat as yet is raw fish and meat.

They fly into the apple trees and begin calling if they cannot see any food on the bird table. Louder and louder they persist … and then they flap about from tree to tree to fence to roof and back ‘coooo-coo, coo-coo, coo’ first deliberate and slow then slightly faster … eventually food is found and they gather impossibly balancing on the bird table, often in threes.

Trice thrice - three wood-pigeons

Three Wood-pigeons – Columba palumbus the largest pigeon in Britain measuring 16 inches

Country Quips:

    • Never leave Sunday best clothes festering away at the back of the wardrobe. Air them often for they will go out of style and life is brief!

Moment in time

No one knows for certain why there are hardly any butterflies to be seen in the British countryside. It may be due to climate change or it may be caused by something entirely unrelated but recently there has been a catastrophic drop in the number of all butterflies.

In Britain, over the month of July, a countrywide butterfly count is taking place and everyone is being encouraged to join in, so that accurate numbers may be gathered. Each person willing to take part, runs off a copy of the butterfly chart and does a count within fifteen minutes. If you are able to give those fifteen precious minutes then here is the link: British Butterfly Count.

Red Admiral Butterfly - Vanessa atlanta

Red Admiral Butterfly – Vanessa atlanta


Country Quips:

    • To hold a belief may sometimes be more dangerous than holding a weapon.


Hazel is often passed by without a glance. At times, the Hazel leaf may look very similar to Beech. Hazel, however, produces a very nutritious nut. A free, hedgerow plant worth gathering to add to your larder. It may be dried, cracked open and eaten raw; added to cakes, cereals; slow roasted at the bottom of an oven to create a richer and crunchier nut. Some areas may be more inclined to find Filberts or Cob nuts – these are similar in flavour to Hazelnuts but look more like acorns as instead of being more of a small fat round nut, Filberts are elongated. Both, are packed full of goodness and are natures offering of a natural vitamin and mineral pill …

Hazel and Filbert nuts contain quite a few minerals but have quite fair amounts of selenium, zinc and manganese as well as calcium and potassium. They contain the following vitamins: A, B5, B6, B9 which is often called folic acid, and E. The nut is also known for its fair amounts of both Linoleic acid and Oleic acid contents. Added to all of the above it is packed full of protein.

Whilst on a walk the other day I happened to notice some green, open and cast-off shells on the floor which turned out to be Hazelnuts from the hedgerow. I’m not sure whether they had been cracked open by squirrels or birds but thought I would pick some too. Usually I wait until they are brown on the plant but temptation is a torment and Hazelnuts are delicious so I began to pick those on the lower branches and was quite surprised to find that I had a pudding basin full on returning home. I will leave these to dry out and go brown before eating them.

Crack - Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts (often found in groups of three)


Country Quips:

    • Commitment to a job is nine parts of completion.

Cone zone

I am still struggling to try and fill up the spaces in the garden border that have been left by the heavy loss of plants over the last Winter period. It does though give me the chance of introducing some new varieties into the garden. I don’t necessarily mean new hybrid versions but a different type of plant to those that I’ve had in the past.

One new variety that I thought I would try (hopefully it will make itself at home in our heavy clay soil) is the dwarf Rudbeckia Toto Gold. These are commonly known as coneflowers or in Europe cone daisies. Their petals are usually yellows, oranges or gold and form a halo around a cone or dome of dark brown or brown-black centre.

Rudbeckia Toto Gold - coneflower or cone daisy

Rudbeckia Toto Gold (dwarf) – coneflower or cone daisy

Rudbeckia Toto Gold (dwarf) - coneflower or cone daisy

Country Quips:

    • An evil adversary is conquered far more swiftly with a sharp mind than a steel blade.


Today has had rolling rain clouds threatening to shed their load mixed with lighter patches where tiny daggers of sunshine have tried desperately to cut their way through the grey cloak. I tackled the bird table sorting out the mixtures of seeds, nuts and mealworms in the hope of enticing the robin to bob in a little closer. My little task of placing out the food for the birds was interrupted by the cat rubbing around my legs .. she wanted some more food too and was fervently reminding me of the fact that she had eaten her early breakfast an hour-and-a-half ago and was eager for more.

Where would we be without windows? When looking at animals or birds we often see more whilst being hidden behind glass than we can ever see from a front seat situation. I had placed extra bread on the lawn. A rather bedraggled and battered looking magpie crept up to a piece and pulled it back eating it hidden under one of the wooden chairs. I started to feel sorry for this elderly looking bird .. then a starling flew down and began to peck at the breadcrumbs .. it called out and all of a sudden half the lawn was covered with a flock of starlings. Like a bullet, the magpie shot out from its hiding place and put out its claws like those of an eagle. It pounced onto a starling and squeezed its claws tightly as though it were clinging onto a branch. Then it proceeded to hammer its beak into the body of the starling. Somehow, the starling wriggled free and floppily bounced backwards and forwards on the grass then it took flight up into the branches of a pear tree quickly followed by the magpie. The starling somehow got away .. I don’t know how badly it was injured. I never knew that magpies could be quite so vicious and dangerous – it left me speechless!


Waiting for the cat ...

Country Quips:

    • Even the smallest of jobs will extend to fill up the longest of days.

Dental floss

Dental floss is dangerous! Leading me to ask the question ‘Who needs Botox?’

A couple of days ago I accidentally nicked the corner of my mouth with a length of dental floss. I finished cleaning my teeth and went to bed. When I awoke the next morning my lips had swollen and puffed out … to say the very least it was uncomfortable and left them feeling sore … So far the ‘Botox’ look has lasted three whole days and I am quite fed-up with plastering them with Vaseline to protect them.

Dental floss

Years ago before dental floss was invented, I used a length of cotton or thread to clean between my teeth.

Country Quips:

    • If you only have your looks to trade on, your trade will be very short lived!

The hump

My mother often told me that we all occasionally have ‘off’ days. Days, when we feel something – we cannot necessarily put our finger on it – but something is making us out of step with the world. For no reason that we can think of, we especially when children, become mardy. I was a very lucky child as I was usually light in spirit, laughed at the clouds and ran with the wind. Sometimes ‘the hump’ would reach out, slap me down and suck me up. It was on occasions like this that my mother would take me up and hold me tightly in her arms and recite straight out of her head, Rudyard Kipling to me. I’m not sure when she was taught it, or quite how she remembered it, but she managed to convey every syllable to me in a lovely motherly way and I always felt so much better after she said it, as it brought back the sunshine and the giggles … It should always be remembered that a little industry in the garden brings out the angel and pushes the devil away! If you have never read any Kipling before then this little poem should make you an ardent fan for it shows he knows his fellow man better than most:

The Camel's hump is an ugly lump
Which well you may see at the Zoo;
But uglier yet is the hump we get
From having too little to do.

Kiddies and grown-ups too-oo-oo,
If we haven't enough to do-oo-oo,
We get the hump-
Cameelious hump-
The hump that is black and blue!

We climb out of bed with a frouzly head,
And a snarly-yarly voice.
We shiver and scowl and we grunt and we growl
At our bath and our boots and our toys;

And there ought to be a corner for me
(And I know' there is one for you)
When we get the hump-
Cameelious hump-
The hump that is black and blue!

The cure for this ill is not to sit still,
Or frowst with a book by the fire;
But to take a large hoe and a shovel also,
And dig till you gently perspire;

And then you will find that the sun and the wind,
And the Djinn of the Garden too,
Have lifted the hump-
The horrible hump-
The hump that is black and blue!

I get it as well as you-oo-oo-
If I haven't enough to do-oo-oo!
We all get hump-
Cameelious hump-
Kiddies and grown-ups too!


The birds have kindly scattered some of their bird food around the garden and this is one of the flowers that has grown from their stray peckings – a beautiful sunflower. If you look closely you can see that a sunflower is in fact many tiny flowers gathered together in a head and adorned with a halo of golden petals.


Centre of the sunflower or helianthus

Bring back the sleeves

Year-after-year-after-year-after year fashion designers are leading women by the noses and taking the easy way out. For goodness sake I cannot be the only female on the planet who is fed up of seeing sleeveless dresses in every shop. Added to this, these flimsy frocks are offered only in two lengths … down to the floor like widow’s weeds or up to the thigh like a brothel’s uniform.

Where have all the T-dresses gone? We are constantly being told to cover up and protect our shoulders and tops of our arms and would like to do so whilst looking a little feminine so … designers/creators of fashion – please, please, please, please design something wearable for women. There is plenty of stuff out there for young girls in their teen and twenties …

I support the campaign … BRING BACK SLEEVES IN DRESSES .. do you? If you do please Blog/Tweet/Facebook something to spur the movement on.

Bring-back-sleeves symbol

Magpie meal

It is something that most people love to see, birds … in their garden or outside their windows. I was pottering at the back of the garage and happened to glance out of the window. On the lawn, two magpies were busy poking their long beaks deep into the soil. They appeared to be imitating blackbirds, who regularly dip their beaks down into the soil of the lawn and pull out fat, juicy worms or grubs. I have never seen magpies search for meat this way before. Eventually, one of them hopped onto the seat of a wooden garden chair. The other magpie, jumped onto the plank of wood forming the cross piece of the chair below. The one on the seat poked its beak through the wooden slots, whilst the one beneath positioned itself directly under the bird above and began to take something out of its beak.

Magpies, appear to be mimicking other birds behaviour – no wonder they are growing in numbers and are probably now one of the most successful birds in the Midlands.

Next time that you see a magpie, take a long, careful look at it and you will not only see a bird of the future as it changes with the times – you will also see something of the creature of its past. As it walks with a purpose, sucking in its surroundings with its eyes – there is something of the dinosaur, alert and alive still within its core … biding its time and waiting for its chance to perform on the world stage of life.

Miagpie eating at the bird table

Magpie eating at the bird table

Plop in the pail

Over the years I have read many things regarding the attributes of water. Something that I read fairly recently has stuck in my mind and perhaps it’s time to share it.


Water droplet

Water is like medicine to the body, especially the heart … water helps to activate all of the body’s organs when drunk first thing in the morning. Water helps the heart and all the other organs to work more efficiently if consumed at regular intervals during the day. Water helps to protect the body from both heart attacks and strokes if drunk just before bedtime. Just one little extra note … water helps the brain to work more efficiently.

Now … go and get a glass of water and remember to sip it often it is probably the best medicine that you will ever take in your life.

Water droplet

There are many thoughts as to the quantity we should consume every day but many doctors advise around two litres.

Water droplet

Little extra fun notes on the wonders of water …

Water gives you a flat tummy

Water stops water retention and bloating

Lets be full

The Leaf-cutter bees have been busy. This year they appear to be using leaves from the raspberry canes and a particular fuchsia that seems to be a favourite flavour, a very hardy perennial, gold-leaf variety called Genii. What posh little apartments they are making for their off-spring! The bees are filling up both insect homes … the established old version and the new pyramid shaped one.Leaf-cutter bee homes


Leaf-cutter bee plugging

The Leaf-cutter bees are making quick progress in filling up the bamboo canes with their off-spring