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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Illusions shattered

On Tuesday night I was watching a documentary on 70's Children's TV on BBC 4. Ah its Bagpusss ooh look the Tomorrow People. The Clangers!!

Anyway I was playing with wikipedia to look up info on programs I remembered. Did you know there were only 14 episodes of Mr Benn ever made? And the fourteenth wasn't broadcast until 2005.

I was looking up Tales of the River Bank to discover it was..... Canadian!!!!! Oh the shock. The UK version differed only in having the voice over done by the legendary Johnny Morris.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Happy 50th TMS

When I was a kid I would happily spend many a happy hour watching cricket on TV. The phrase though is watching on TV because the sound would be off and I would be tuned to the Radio listening to Test Match Special.

I can't help but feel that TMS is a very British institution. Its been going for 50 years now. The commentators were/are real characters. Many people listen have no interest in cricket, they tuned into listen to the voices and because it was such fun. The commentators would regularly receive chocolate cakes and the like from listeners.

In my time the commentary box was dominated by two giants, John Arlott and Brian Johnston. Arlott was a word smith and came out with lines like "The stroke of a man knocking a thistle-top off with a walking stick".

Johnston, an old Etonian and Guardsman, was the boxes comic(and my favourite). He described the programme as "a bunch of friends going to a match and talking about it." The friend in the next imaginary deckchair is the listener. He once waited for the visiting Australian commentator Alan McGilvray to put a large slice of cake in his mouth before asking a crucial question, crumbs went everywhere.

Perhaps the most famous Johnston incident happened after the close of play. Johnston was going over the days play with Jonathan Agnew when "leg-over" incident happened.

Normally when a famous person dies the BBC ended the main news with the story. When Johnston died they just played THE clip. Johnners would have loved it and it made me smile listening to it just now!

Oh flip

well it is Cancer. 2 more weeks of Radiotherapy and Chemo tablets I believe.

Excuse me whilst I kick something.

Waiting Again

Well Mum goes to the specialist for the results today. So I'll be waiting for the phone and praying the cancer hasn't spread and that her neck problems are arthritis or something else. That said I'm not hopeful. No reason why but fear the worst.

Spoke to her last night and she sounds very nervous (well you can hardly blame her) after all she has been through this will be a real downer.

She hears about 12ish I think. I'm popping in tonight.

I popped out to feeding sultana feeders to see the Starlings sat on the aerial "waiting". No sooner had I moved 10 feet one of the greedy so and so's was down scoffing.

All this rain may put the kibosh on my activities but it is always fun to watch the Blackbirds stalk across the garden listening for worms. I just love the way they turn there heads and then do battle with the worm!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

New Desk

We've moved offices today. I've moved from one side of the corridor to another side. The advantages of this are? well I get a better view and more space. I think that's about it!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Quick bit of birding amongst the Rain

I awoke at 5:40 (well actually i had forgotten to turn off the alarm). I went to the loo (you wanted to know didn't you ;) ) and then looked out the window. Rain. So I just went back to bed. Woke up at 8:15, rain. Surfed the net for an hour or so and then got up at 9:30.

The rain had abated so I popped down Amwell Gravel pits. Common Terns wer back and then were swifts, House and Sand Martin oh also Common Whitethroat and a couple of Plovers.

I then sat in the hide. Had to do a fair bit of lightening these. Light was awful.


One very scruffy Great Tit.



Jay trying to hide.



Sleepy Tufty Duck.



Blue Tit






Robin


Great Spotted Woodpecker




Robin again


Mrs Tufty awake.


Ah Mr T has woke up.


Well well Grey Suirrel


all innocent




Chaffinch


Look how smart this Great Tit is to the first one!


Another Chaffinch.


Blackbird








Distant view of a Whitethroat


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Books

well I flew out of bed, grabbed my bins and went to do some birding. Yeah right, it was chucking it down so I lent over and picked up Simon Scarrow's "The Eagle in the Sand" the latest in the Macro and Cato series about a pair of Roman Soldiers. As ever reliable entertaining stuff.

I read quite a bit of crime fiction on holiday.

John Harvey's "Darkness & Light" is the third novel to feature retired DI Frank Elder. Harvey is one of the top crime writers and this was at his normal high standards. Peter Robinson is continuing his series about DCI Alan Banks. Like Harvey Robinson is an entertaining writer. "Piece of my Heart" is a good read if not one of the stronger entries in the series.

Not quite in the same class as Robinson and Harvey is Stephen Booth. That said Dancing with the Virgins the second in his Peak District series featuring DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry clips along at fair old rate. I enjoyed it enough to pick up 3 and 4.

Val McDermid is undoubtedly one of the top Crime Writers in the country. The Grave Tattoo was different from her normal stuff and felt more like a Robert Goddard novel.
Unfortunately as much as I enjoyed it I couldn't help but think it could be better. There seemed to be two many characters vying for attention and some of the side characters were more interesting than the leads.

Lyndsy Davis' Falco series, set in Ancient Rome, has been onging for years. Its like an old pair of slippers, reliable and comfortable but I don't feel as compelled to buy the latest novel as i used. See Delphi and Die was in paperback last year.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Local

Who turned the sun off?

I went out to top the sultana's out and found that some Blue Tits had fledged. Fingers crossed for them.

I went over Hatfield Forest first. All very lush with lots of Buttercups!



The usual Forest suspects were about, Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, various Tits and Finches including Bullfinch, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat and Chiffchaff. There was a cuckoo somewhere about.

Early on there was a big commotion with the birds unhappy about something and I just spied a Little owl fly off.

There was a lone Common Tern over the lake, by the shell house these two were obliging.







Plenty of these.




On the lake there were Tufties, Gadwall and Swans but I couldn't find a Great Crested Grebe.

As I walked through the woods I came across this chap.






An enjoyable stroll.

So to Rye Meads. And to be told that they had Kingfisher pair. WOO HOO!!!

From Draper there was a pair of Little Grebes with young.



The water level is very high so plenty of ducks. Including a dapper little Ruddy, lots of Pochards (including one brood). Highlight a fly through Peregrine.

On the trails there were Chiffchaff, Common whitethroat and Blackcap. Lots of Tits and Finches. There were Sedge and Reed Warbler's in the Reed beds.



Lots of Coots and the Terns are returning.







And so to the Kingfisher hide. Not that good but....







Lovely to watch, also saw a Kestrel. very enjoyable stuff.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Social Networking?

just over a year ago I had never heard of blogging and I thought I was all cutting edge having a blog but I've subsequently learnt this is all old hat and that I really really ought to be using a much more up to date tool.

The media has "introduced" me to MySpace, Facebook, Bebo and Twitter. Apparently these are "social networking tools". Apparently lots of people use them to keep in contact.

Twitter can send you texts when a friend updates their page.

They all look like they are aimed at the "yoof" market and I seem to be able to do anything I want to do here.

And thats all I know! Do I want a "social network" saying I have 0 friends? Do any of you use these?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Buying Stuff

When I got drowned on the Sunday whilst on Holiday I got water into my mobile.

Monday I realised the thing had decided to pack up so I thought I know I'll buy a cheapo vodafone handset and swap the sim cards. I stopped in Brecon and there were two mobile shops but both Orange. Woolies had nothing. I stopped in Builth Wells and they had an Orange shop!

Mutter mutter.

At the hotel I discovered in Hay you could get, and wait for it .... Orange. Argh!

So on the Tuesday I thought I know where there is, an I apologise for this Dorethea, a Tesco on the outskirts of Hereford. And guess what they had a choice!!! I bought a nice but cheap phone and it came with a voucher for £20 of calls. I swapped over sims and bob was your uncle. Of course the old phoneddecided to work again by the Friday so I stuck the new sim in, registered it, gave it £5 of credit and gave it to my parents (they have one each now!!).

One of the good things (and there aren't that many) of living in the South East is that if I want something I can get my hands on it pretty quickly. Supermarkets like Tesco may restrict choice in terms of the number of shops that are about but if, like in mid Wales, the shops offer you sod all choice what is the point?

Perhaps it's my expectations. I am so used to being able to lay my hands on something as within 35 miles of house there are rather a lot of large towns. And I am ignoring London.

If you ask my friend Jan in Cornwall EVERYTHING seems to entail a trip to Truro. Mid Wales struck me as very Cornwallesque.

I'm pretty certain that a small town like Saffron Walden or Epping would offer a much greater choice than I saw in mid wales.

Its easy to knock Tesco (and the like) but they offer you alot of choice (even if the choice is Tesco). Telling me that Market Risborough (I think there is no such place) has 25 small shops is great assuming that I can get what I want.

Of course a small shop cannot compete on price with a large super market but it at least has to be able to compete on something. Bookshops can specialise on diversity of range (please note that when book 4 of a series comes out some peope may be tempted to buy book 1 thank you). Hifi dealers can concentrate on service. The specialist hifi manufacturers protect there brand and refuse to heavily discount cutting the supermarkets out.

There are of course areas where the Tescoisation of the world is a problem. Yes Tesco will sell you a book cheaply but here their range is lamentably poor. Concentrating as it does or best sellers. As a rule I try to buy through specialist retailers. But here the likes of Amazon are causing problems for bookshops, but there is no thrill in buying from the internet like going into a shop and discovering the latest book by a favourite author.

Sadly many small booksellers are going to the wall. It will be cheaper for my local bookshop to walk 50 yards to Tesco buy 20 copies of Harry Potter and then sell it themselves than buy from the wholesaler.

Of course we all have to decide what price we put on variety. I will lament the lack of choice that Tesco's (sainsbury's, Morrison's etc) offer on books but will still shoot into Horsham at 6am when I am on holiday in July to pick up the final Harry Potter. I suspect in that respect I'm no different.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Men Read Maps, Women Gossip

There is a progamme on Radio 4 disccusing whether the cliches about the strengths and weaknesses of men and women stand up to scientific scrutiny.

You can listen to the program here.

An article on the programme can be found here

Conclusions? It's better to do things sequentially. Men read maps better than women. Men gossip as much (mea culpa) and women aren't all that better at Empathy.

Dreaming again

I've booked another two holidays!! One is a birdwatching one at the end of October in, wait for it, you'll never guess, Norfolk!! The other is in mid June for a few days and caused a few more problems.

I had considered going back to the broads side of Norfolk looking for Dragonflies and Butterfiles. The problem with that was I went there last year and I thought it would be a bit dull on the blog (how sad is that!?). So I thought, I know, I haven't been to Shropshire for YEARS I'll go to the Much Wenlock area. And there in lay the problem. Places to stay were either too expensive, full Saturday night or didn't serve food Sunday night!

ARGH!!

I'm not going to Shropshire! I'm in fact staying a few miles South of Stratford Upon Avon. Please don't expect lots of pictures of Shakespearean cottages as I will be avoiding Stratford itself. There are a few churches to try and visit and some nice historic buildings. Indeed I am able to take photos in Warwick Castle so you may get a treat!

So at the moment I have 4 more holidays to look forward to !

I am running out of places to go. I ought to travel overseas but I don't like travelling on my own (languages etc) and I don't want to inflict my anti-social self on others! People seem to want to share rooms to cut costs but frankly I'd rather pay the extra.

On other things. One of the things I discovered on holidays is why reviewers rave about wide angle lenses. With the little Powershot I often find I can't get the shot I want because the minimum end of the "focal range" is 35. On the small lens for by d80 its 18mm (or 28mm equivalent I guess) and I cna get shots I couldn't get with the Canon (there is only so far back you can walk).

I'm pretty pleased with the 18-55, true I reckon the 18-200VR would be the ideal lens for my holidays but one cost £80 the other £480. For £80 the 18-55 takes decent snaps. I reckon I'll switch from the 18-55 to the Sigma when I want more poke rather than spend the best part of £500 :) And no Nic I haven't bought the 70-300VR.

I have miles to go on this photography lark, birds in flight are so hard and my Kite photos are not all that, but I am getting some halfway decent images. I did notice that uping the ISO speed got me better shots.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A history of Modern Britain

Right what do I blog about today?

Andrew Marr has a new TV series "Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain" which starts tonight at 9pm on BBC2. The show deals with British History since the war.

As part of this the BBC website has a poll where you can vote which of the decades you would prefer to live in 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's or 90's.

So far 30,000 people have voted. Unsurprisingly the 60's leads with 31% of the vote the 70's 80's and 90's all have 19.xx% of the vote and the 50's trails with just over 10%.

Now I understand the fascination with the 60's. The Beatles, the Stones and of course the sex and the drugs, but its not an era I respect. For all the excitement I think much of what is wrong with Britain can be traced back to the 60's. I really don't get the 70's and the 80's was just one long yearning for money.

Now it will come as no surprise to regular readers that if pushed I'd plump for the 50's. I appreciate that it was a grey time, a little boring perhaps but I yearn for simpler more ordered times. More respect for authority, more job security. I'd want to avoid National Service though! and my Dad tells me having money would help! (but then it was ever thus).

From a hobbies point of view the 50's wouldn't have been so bad. 1952 saw the publication of the first proper field guide for Birds by Richardson and Fitter and 1954 saw the publication of Roger Tory Peterson's classic guide. There was lots of classic Science Fiction being published with new and old works by Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein appearing in book form.

Ok there was little TV but I could live with that. Me a pair of bins a field guide and a good book. Sounds like now really!

What would I miss? To be honest I'd miss the internet, not being able to keep in touch would be a pain but all in all I could cope with slower times.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Horribly Entertaining

I was vaguely aware of a series of series of books aimed at children called the Horrible Histories. I knew nothing about them accept they look good fun.

Anyway the Telegraph on 12th May had an audio book called Horribly Famous: Henry VIII and his Chopping Block in it. I slipped it into the CD player and wow, what good entertainment. Lots of facts presented in a light hearted manner not some stuffy here is a list of dates. Sunday's Telegraph also had one on Queen Victoria. There was a free one every day during the week but only from WH Smiths so I unfortunately missed Monday - Wednesday but managed to pick them up on Thursday (Newton) Friday (Cromwell) and got Saturdays with Mary Queen of Scots.

As one reviewer wrote. Why weren’t history books like this when I was a child?

It's not hard to see why schoolchildren prefer Horrible Histories to the National Curriculum. Terry Deary's mischievous mix of humour, sadistic statistics and corny jokes, padded out by Martin Brown's wry comic cartoons, has proved irresistible bedtime reading for millions since the first, Terrible Tudors, was published 12 years ago.

Katie Law, The Evening Standard

Seriously if the books are as good as these CDs then kids are being Horribly Spoilt!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

and some others

didn't know where to stick these (OI be polite!!)

I am not up on insects so please feel free to correct me....

I think this is a Green Veined White....



well its an immature Damsel. White legged anyone?



I think this is a female Banded Demoselle. I did see males.







haven't got a clue!




and two more bees






Another Damsel... Immature Azure? When you blow the photo up segment 9 is not totally blue but as its immature........





and a Peacock