Tuesday, May 31, 2005

So that was May

Well, we've finally come to the end of a month that threw virtually every type of weather at us. Frosts, torrential rain, cold and the hottest day (last Friday) for several years. I understand that there was even snow in Scotland. And the weather forecasters got their prognostications wrong more often than they got it right. In April it was so warm at nights that I separated the two layers that makes the duvet and put the warmer part in storage, expecting not to get it out again until the Autumn. Instead I dug it out in the early parts of this month becuase I was so cold at night.

We had rain early on in the month. This must have either run off the soil or else all evaporated very quickly because on Friday the Husband and I went out to a nursery and bought several plants for the garden and then found that our soil (clay) was so hard it would not have been a good idea to try to plant them. And in the evening I found myself having to give a good drink to many of the plants already in the garden. Fortunately we have no hosepipe ban as yet, though I understand that the reservoirs are not nearly full enough to last the summer - I heard talk that over the winter we had only half the usual rainfall and that there is a real danger of drought in the summer (with they are predicting will be very, very hot).

Then, of course, was yesterday. Bank Holiday Monday and it poured. Personally I wasn't heartbroken at this as I've grown up enough not to feel the need to join the merry throngs who travel to the seaside or other Bank Holiday "events" on such days. Tne roads get so congested at every Bank Holiday and I certainly didn't want to spend the day in a traffic jam. No trains either, the town has been cut off from the rest of the country, as far as public transport is concerned, every weekend and Bank Holiday for some considerable time - the sooner they finish all this engineering work on the railway the better. I sincerely hope that all that rain yesterday has made the soil easier to work, though I suspect that the Husband will do most of the work because the weather has done really nasty things to my asthma and I am having real difficulty in breathing properly.

What plants did we buy for the garden on Friday?

3 scabius - pink flowers
3 scabius - blue flowers ( they say - the flowers look mauve to me)
3 poppies - the nice big red blowsey ones
2 floxgloves, to go with the one already in the garden
3 geraniums - hardy ones with blue flowers
4 lupins - four rather than three because they were on special offer in the market at 4 for £5
Hopefully this little lot should make a good show.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Wistful Feelings about Art

I wish I could daw or paint. I love looking at paintings and sculptures and try to get to new exhibitions in London when I can. I still feel fired up by that wonderful exhibition about Matisse and Textiles which is about to finish at the Royal Academy. Such an exciting exhibition, totally inspirational.

The problem? I have no artistic talent at all. I cannot draw or paint for toffee. I can remember being told that at school and it is still the case now. I even feel worried trying to match different coloured tops and skirts to wear in case they don't match. No confidence or skill in this area at all. Normally this fact doesn't worry me, I just take it as a fact of life but this evening the Husband and I have just watched three episodes of that brilliant series by Robert Hughes on Modern Art "The Shock of the New" that we videoed off the tv when it was shown on BBC4 sometime last year. One of the episodes was that excellent one about impressionism and it really makes me wish that I could paint or draw and have a go myself.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

This is very, very true

My future starts when I wake up every morning... Every day I find something creative to do with my life.

-- Miles Davis

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Thought of the day

You can't do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.

-- Evan Esar

Apple & Walnut Salad

Half a Cos or Webb Lettuce
3 eating apples
juice of 1 medium
6 sticks of celery, chopped
75g (3 oz) walnut pieces,
150g (5 oz) mayonnaise
75 ml (5 tbsp) fresh double cream or soured
15 ml (1 tbsp) white wine or cider vinegar

1. Wash lettuce leaves and shake dry. Tear into bite size pieces and place at base of serving dish.
2. Core 2 apples and chop. Dip in lemon juice. Add apples to celery and walnuts and mix well.
3. Combine mayonnaise, cream and vinegar. Pour over apple/celery/nut mixture and stir until it is thickly coated. Arrange on lettuce.
4. Cut third apple into slices, dip in lemon juice to prevent browning. Arrange on top of salad.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A Crocheted Stole for my Mother

I have just finished crocheting a stole for my mother. Mum asked for something to keep her arms warm but not a bedjacket or something without a back the stole pattern seemed to me to be the best bet.

The actual crochet pattern I used was as follows:-
Make a chain the width of the stole (multiple of 3 sts).
ROW 1 - 1 treble onto 4th chain from hook, 1 dc into next ch, * skip 1 ch,
2 tr into next ch, dc into next ch, repeat from * to end;
ROW 2 - 1 tr into first dc, skip next tr, dc into next tr, * 2 tr into next
dc, skip next tr, dc into next tr, repeat from * to end
Repeat Row 2 until work in the desired length.
(N.B. English crocheting terms used)

To make the stole I used a 4 ply yarn in a blue/green colour and a 5 mm hook. I made it 17 ins wide and a total of 70 ins long by crocheting 35 ins long, fastening off and then attaching the yarn to the chain at the beginning of the work and crocheting 35 ins in the other direction.

I have made several stoles for myself and friends in the past, all in coloured 4 ply yarn, and they always look very pretty.

Thought of the Day

While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.

Angela Schwindt

from http://www.deeshan.com/

Monday, May 23, 2005

Chasing Mice

I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time this wekend chasing mice around the house and then evicting them. Two mice on Saturday and three on Sunday (mind you - that might have been the same mouse three times).

I am "owned" by two cat who both come from the same litter. That is the only similarity between them. The female Pickle is a tortoishell with a small round head and a large body who sleeps most of the time. The best way to describe her is portly. Her brother, however, is black and sleek, with a wedge shaped head. The head, and the way he "chats" to me makes me think there must be siamese or burmese blood in him (both he and his sister are moggies who came from the Cats Protection as kittens). Originally we called him Pepper but we soon realised that a better name for him was "Nimrod, the Mighty Hunter". Well, hunting might be in his blood but what he lacks is brains. Once he has caught the creatures (birds, rodents like mice, etc) he does not kill them like most cats. Instead he tries to make them his toys. He carries them, in a soft mouth so that they are not injured at all, into the house, lets them go and plays with them. He does not physically hurt them at all, he just likes a supply of "toys" in the house. Of course, it does not work like that. Birds are terrified and every so often I end up chasing one of them around the house - last week it was a blackbird which seemed unable to understand that the windows are covered with glass and do not give it any egress from the house. It took me ages to catch it and finally expel it from the house. He frequently brings in mice as well. I will never forget being woken up at 2.30 in the morning when a mouse ambled over my prone body while I was asleep in bed.

Anyway, to get to the weekend. Saturday evening, about 10.30 there was a kerfuffle in the dining room. When I went to investigate I found Nimrod playing with a mouse (he was using soft paws and no teeth but it didn't stop the poor thing being terrified), Pickle was looking on with surprising animation. I chased around after the poor creature (who was even more afraid of me) under the sideboard and under the computer table and eventually caught him. I let him go outside and settled back to continue reading. Hawever, before I had finished another paragraph there was more fuss behind me in the dining room. Another mouse. I again chased this one around and eventually caught it under the dining table. It was clearly a different mouse from the first as it was smaller, had a longer tail and had some white on him (from fear?). This one I again let go outside.

Sunday evening, again after it was dark at about 11.00 and another kerfuffle, this time in the hall. A large and plump mouse whch I caught with some difficulty and carried out of the front door and took to one side of the house to let go. However, I failed to make sure that the front door was closed behind me and Nim followed. It was too dark to see what happened but I suspect that the cat caught the mouse again because within a minute of my going back into the house Nimrod walked in through the catflap with a mouse in his mouth. I suspect the same one. So again I chased cat and mouse around the house, captured the terrified rodent and took it somewhere else in the garden to release it. I had left Nimrod indoors while this was going on but as soon as I was back indoors and he could get into the kitchen he was out the catflap in a shot. Three minutes later guess what? In he came again with a mouse which looked suspiciously like the one had already released twice. So, for the third time that evening I chased it, caught it and let it go in another part of the garden. This time Nimrod never found it again, thank goodness.

Where was the Husband while all this was going on? Hiding. He doesn't like mice and lets me deal with them. But he is a dab hand at disposing of spiders.

The one thing that worries me about Nimrod's propensity for bringing mice and other creatures into the house is that on two separate occasions I have woken up to find the bodies of large rats on the carpet in the hall. Now, a live one of those I just would not like in the house. What on earth I do about that I just do not know.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Tess Gerritsen

Before I retired I had the better part of four hours a day commuting when I could read and so my consumption of books then was substantial. Since I retired I’ve found that I have been doing much less reading than before. However, the past week I’ve been unable to leave the house as my asthma has been so bad, and the Ventolin has been no use to me at all. So, I’ve been reading three books by what was a new author to me, Tess Gerritson.

The three books of hers that I have read so far are linked and follow on from each other but I’m afraid that I read them out of order. I discovered her as an author when looking at the best selling books on sale in Tesco and deciding to buy The Sinner. This was so good and I enjoyed it so much that I quickly got the first in the series The Surgeon and the second The Apprentice. I can hardly wait for Body Double to come out in paperback.

Tess Gerritson used to be a doctor and her books are full of graphic descriptions of exactly what happens during autopsies and what dreadful things serial killers can do to their victims (mainly female victims in the three books of hers that I have read). You really do need a strong stomach to read some of her descriptions, though her detailed exposition of police investigations and procedure is fascinating.

Once you start reading one of her books it is very difficult to put it down before you finish it and more than one night I was reading until the small hours. However, I found spending long periods reading one of her books made me a bit depressed, possibly because I was a bit down anyway because of my health, and so at times I deliberately put the book down an dread excerpts from an old Edmund Crispin whodunit, to cheer myself up. I soon found myself going back to her book and continuing to read it. I just couldn’t stop. I do recommend Tess Gerritsen’s books to everyone as they are absolutely gripping.

Oh dear, this really is true

A friend sent me this today. It rather hit home a bit.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


I can't remember where or how I found this but I found it incredibly funny. Especially given my lifelong interest in knitting, crochet and dressmaking. (Umm, adults only, I think.)

Sportsmen forever

Isn't it nice to know that people never change. 1,900 years ago sports fans were buying throwaway souvenirs and eating fast food as they watched sports for the masses.

Excavations at a Roman amphitheater in Chester have discovered evidence of flimsy wooden stalls outside the amphitheatre where people could buy buy beef ribs and pieces of chicken from wooden stalls on their way to their seats (lots of beef and chicken bones have been discovered). They were also buying mass-produced samian pottery bowls decorated with gladitorial scenes, possibly with pictures of their favourite sportsmen. Details of the find can be found

The only main difference between then and now seems to be what the fans were watching: gladitorial contests, flogging and public executions. Come to think about it given some of the sports now I'm not sure there is such a difference!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Cadbury swallows Green & Black's

As a confirmed chocoholic I was more than a bit concerned to hear that Cadburys have just bought Green & Black's, the company which makes the best chocolate in the world. Cadbury's chocolate is also a favourite of mine, but I have to admit that it is a downmarket chocolate when compared to Green & Blacks delicious organic product.

Interesting enough both firms have lifelong connections to ethical practices. The Cadbury family were Quakers and championed strong social ideals especially as concerned employers. They set up the town of Bournville to house its staff and lots of good facilities for those who work for them. Green & Black's, of course, is sells organic chocolate from ethically managed consortia. So I can understnad why Cadburys are trumpeting the similarities between the two companies and the way that they fit together. However, I fear that the differences between the two companies far exceed the similarities.

All the coffee beans used by Green & Black's are organically sourced, most of which come from Madesgascar, Belize and the Dominican Republic. It already purchases about a third of the worlds organic cocoa. While Cadbury's trumpets the ideal of corporate social responsibility it admits that it is a near impossible task to ensure such practice down every level of the supply chain (in other words it doesn't achieve this).

However, the paramount problem over the purchase of Green & Black's is the sheer size of Cadburys. Its sales last year was £6.7 billion, as compared to Green & Black's £22.4 million. I can imagine that in purchasing the raw ingredients for the manufacturing process that Cadbury's primary criteria must be lowest price, whereas by the very nature of its relationship with its main supply chain and its specifiation of requirements Green & Black's primary criteria is ethical and organic sourcing. Cadburys says that it plans to treat Green & Black's as a "protected brand". I hope they keep their word on this especially when it comes to the management of their supply chain as I fear that if the materials for Green & Black's are bought by Cadbury's purchasers that there is a threat, at the very least, of a culture clash, mistakes made and possibly far worse... and the end result then could be the total discredit of everything Green & Black's stands for.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

An Asparagus Weekend

This week is, of course, the best week of the year to use British asparagus and although asparagus from other countries is nice there is nothing to compare with British produce. We decided to try two recipes from Jill Dupliex appearing daily in the Times, here.
Yesterday we tried last Thursday’s dish ASPARAGUS, PEA & FONTINA RISOTTO (set out here because I can’t find it on the Times’ website).

1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
350g risotto rice, unwashed
1.2 litres chicken stock, heated
150ml white wine
400g asparagus, finely chopped
150g peas
Ground nutmeg, sea salt & pepper
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp grated parmesan
100g fontina, sliced

Method: Heat the oil and butter in a heavy saucepan and cook the onion for 10 minutes until softened. Add the rice, stirring well. Add the wine and stir as it almost bubbles away.
Add the hot stock a ladleful at a time, stirring, over medium heat. Add more stock as the rice absorbs it, and water if you run out of stock. Cook the asparagus and peas in simmering, salted water for 4 minutes. Drain and cool under cold running water.
Heat the grill. When the rice is tender, add the asparagus, peas, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and fold through. Beat in the butter and parmesan and divide between four warm plates. Arrange the cheese on top and place briefly under the grill until it has melted.

The Husband is a dab hand at cooking risotto and so he had a go at this. He commented that once cooked the risotto mixture was absolutely delicious as it was and just did not need the nutmeg. We both agreed that the melted cheese on top was unnecessary and the finished risotto would have been fine without it. The butter parmesan and fontina have, of course, made this very calorific and something to have only very rarely.

Today I tried Tuesday’s recipe Asparagus Frittata. I was not impressed with the suggested method of cooking this which was once the eggs were cooked on the bottom to put the lid on the pan and let it cook gently for 5 minutes until the top was cooked. This meant, of course, that the frittata was cooked all the way through and solid whereas I much prefer a frittata where the centre is a little soft. The finished taste was OK but personally I prefer the additional items to the eggs to be quite robust in their own right rather than having the subtle flavour of asparagus, etc.

Having said all that I do have some favourite recipes from Jill Dupleix. I have a Scotch Broth recipe, again found in the Times, what I make frequently and is always a success.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The DTI or what?

When, the day after the General Election, it was announced that the DTI's name was to be changed to the Department of Productivity, Energy and Industry (or whatever it was called) the Husband and I looked at each other and said "Good Grief, they are dropping Trade from the Department's responsibilities!". Upon reflection we decided that this was the government's first step towards abolishing the Department, something that had been solidly on the political agenda's of the Tories and the Lib Dems (and the Department can't be said to be in the good books of Labour, especially after the Rover fiasco). However, it was announced today that the Department is to go back to its old name, following numerous complaints from companies and others complaining at the Department dropping Trade from its portfolio. I understand that Alan Johnson, the new Secretary of State for this Department, had to get the PM's approval to changing its name back because he was the one who decided on the change of name in the first place.

Nice one Tony.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Joke

An old farmer in Kansas owned a large farm with a nice pond with some fruit trees nearby. One evening the old farmer decided to go down to the pond and grabbed a bucket to bring back some fruit. As he neared the pond, he heard voices shouting and laughing with glee. As he came closer he saw it was a bunch of young women skinny-dipping in his pond. He made some noise so the women would be aware of his presence and they all went to the deep end of the pond. One of the women shouted to him, "we're not coming out until you leave!" The old man frowned, "I didn't come down here to watch you ladies swim naked or make you get out of the pond naked. I'm here to feed the alligator."

Moral: Old age and cunning will triumph over youth and enthusiasm every time.

My Husband is a Film Star!

The Cannes Film Festival is on at the moment and I’m coming to terms with the fact that the Husband starred in one of the films being shown there. Really.

How did it happen? Shortly before the Husband took Early Retirement from work he was approached by Nick Scott, a friend from work who is a keen amateur film maker, and asked whether he would be willing to take part in a short film that Nick was about to make. The Husband said Yes, despite never having acted before in his life. He then spent two of the coldest and snowiest weekends this winter in an allotment near Forest Hill station acting the part of a gardener who grows an unusual crop – IT equipment. I’ve seen a draft of the script and it was as surreal as the plot. I’ve also seen some still photos of the experience and the Husband was wearing a particularly extrordinary wig and aged 25 years during the course of the film. )

The three minute film, called “Earth to Earth”, was one of hundreds of films submitted to the organisation Straight 8 and it was one of six films chosen to be shown at Cannes this week as part of the showing of excellent short films from around the world. So, there you are, the Husband is a film star at Cannes.

We’ve had the opportunity to go to Cannes as we have tickets to get into the showing of the film. However, we’ve decided that there is no way that we will be able to find accommodation anywhere near Cannes at a price we can afford, so we will wait until the film is shown in London before we go to see it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Sudden Change of Plans

I've come to the conclusion that when life throws something at you there are two ways of dealing with it: (a) to resent it and to fight against it; or (b) to accept it and to go with it as much as possible. I try to follow (b) as much as possible though psychologically and emotionally it is not always possible.

Anyway, I tried to follow that philosophy today. The Husband and I were in a coffee shop in town, relaxing and reading the papers when my mobile phone went off. It was the Stepson. He had been at the Sony Radio Awards yesterday evening, had missed the last train back to Cambridge and so came back to Chelmsford and stayed last night at his mother's. He needed to get back to university today and his mother has a commitment she just couldn't get out of. So, as the Husband was going out to a concert (part of the Chelmsford Cathedral Festival) this evening I offered to take the Stepson back to Cambridge. So, out of the blue I had a round trip to Cambridge and back. It wasn't possible to stop at Cambridge when I dropped him off because, as usual, driving and parking in Cambridge is absolutely impossible. Usually when we are visiting him we use the Park and Ride service which has always been, when we've used it, very efficient and effective.

Driving back down the M11 I began to feel down because I hadn't had the opportunity to stop and park in Cambridge and to mooch around for a bit - a favourite pasttime of mine. So, while driving I started to observe my thoughts and and to realise that it wasn't what was right at the time. I'll do it some other occasion. I promised myself.

Meditation Tip of the Day

Once you realize that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself an ecstasy.

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
from http://www.deeshan.com/

Opus Anglicanum - The Seeds of Love

The Chelmsford Cathedral Festival is on at the moment and on Sunday night the Husband and I want to a concert at the Cathedral by Opus Anglicanum. This is a group of six unaccompanied male singers, somewhat in the style of the King's Singers, complemented by a reader who was a former announcer from the BBC World Service. The term Opus Anglicanum (English Work) originally described early medieval English needlework internationally prized for its intricacy, workmanship and brilliance. The name mirrors the type of music produced by the group, which tends to be complex, intricate and beautiful. I understand that the group tends to travel around music festivals.

The performance was called "The Seeds of Love" and is based on the activities of (what I think was called) the English Folk Music Society which from the end of the 19th Century until the 1920's was working to record many of the old traditional English folk tunes, before they disappeared forever. The concert comprised readings of exerpts from the proceedings of the Society and also information from the diaries, letters and writings of Ralf Vaughn Williams, George Butterworth, Cecil Sharp and Percy Grainger which frequently described how some songs were known by one generation but not the next. The musical element of the programme comprised some extremely well executed and beautiful versions of the folk songs. The performance was light and witty but at the same time also made me think seriously of how easy it is for some arts, crafts and pasttimes to become extinct from one generation to the next. One tends to forget how ephemeral parts of our lives can be.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Visits away from home

On Friday afternoon the Chelmsford and District Gardener's Association (I'm a member) made a visit to Westlands Nursery and so I went, and took the Husband too. There was a lovely garden surrounding their home plus a nursery which specialises in hardy plants of all kinds. (http://www.westlandsnursery.co.uk/contactus.html) The good thing, of course, was that you could see many of the plants available in the nursery in the garden, mature and in bloom. It was a warm and sunny afternoon. I restrained myself and only bought two plants: a Chocolate Mint and some Chives, both strong and healthy plans and somewhat larger than you see herbs in some nurseries.

Saturday off to Whitstable in Kent to visit the In-Laws, both the Husband's parents and his sister, her husband and niece.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Plants Dangerous to Cats

Today I learnt something new, something that should be of concern to all who are owned by cats. It appears that certain plants are really dangerous to cats and can kill. Lillies, or more particularly the pollen from lillies, can cause kidney failure in cats, and can kill if not treated in time.

There was a terrible story in today's Telegraph about it, at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/05/06/nlilly06.xml. My heart goes out to the owners of the siamese who died so horribly. Mystifyingly it appears that this information about the dangers of lillies to cats has been known and publicised in America for some considerable time but has certainly not been highlighted over here. I love lillies and have been thinking of planting some in the garden. Not now. My two, Nimrod and Pickle, love going out in the garden and I wouldn't like to do anything that could endanger them.

I suppose that I could plant some lillies in a container or something. I'd have to be very careful though of the size of the pot and the shape, to make sure that there would be no risk of my two, or any of the other cats who treat our garden like a public park, going anywhere close to them.

An Utterly Delicious English Version of Chocolate Brownies

4oz Chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
2oz unsalted butter
3oz plain flour
good pinch baking powder
good pinch salt
2 eggs
6oz sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2oz walnuts, roughly chopped

1. Set the oven at Gas Mark 4, 180 C. Grease an 8inch (20cm) square baking tin.
2. Melt the chocolate gently. When cooled a little add the butter cut into small pieces. Stir until the butter has melted and blend with the chocolate.
3. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt.
4. Beat the eggs together with the salt and vanilla until fluffy and blend in the chocolate and butter mixture.
5. Fold in the flour and then the walnuts.
6. Pour into the baking tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted just comes out clean.
7. Allow to cool, then cut into squares - they will turn fudgy as they cool.

I've lost count of the number of times I have made this for the family but it must be in the hundreds. It is incredibly easy to make and is absolutely fabulous.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

No More Politics, Please

Thank goodness all the kerfuffle from all the political parties is almost over. We've had four weeks of absolute boredom, when all the news is about the General Election and vitually nothing else (is nothing else going on across the world?). I wouldn't mind but I haven't even had the fun of arguing with a canvassing politician, we haven't even seen one in the flesh around here because I do not live in a marginal constituency. As far as I can tell people in the marginals have faced a constant barrage of politicians trying to pursuade them how to vote, and media types asking them if they have made up their minds yet how to vote. I feel deep sympathy for the poor souls. Never mind, after tomorrow they will be in peace again until the next time around.

It's an odd thing butI like reading books about vampires and have several by different authors. I also like watching films and tv programmes about them too (like, say, BtVS where I am a great fan of Spike). Why then does the mere sight or mention of Michael Howard creep me out. Never did Anne Widdicomb say anything truer than her comment that "he has something of the night about him".

Tony Balir always reminds me of a used car salesman, with that smile. How can anyone follow him after the war. 'Nuff said

Charles Kennedy looks a sweety and, of course, he has the "Ahhh" factor of the brand new baby. But some of his policies really make me wince. Also is there anyone else in the Lib Dems?

We all vote tomorrow. I've decided who shall have my vote.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Food for thought

"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words."

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Don't go to Taunton!

I like Somerset, I really do, and Taunton is a lovely town I've visited before and would like to visit again. But not just now. It has an inhabitant at the moment I really don't want to meet.

It appears that a someone working in a kitchen picked up a dishcloth and was bitten by the creature hiding underneath it. It then bit him a second time. He almost died of the poison and was really only saved by the hospital because he had taken a photo of it with his mobile phone to show his friends this great big thing. The hospital sent the photo to Bristol zoo which identified it as a Brazilian Walking Spider, one of the most venomous arachnids in the world. It is believed to have come into the country in a box of bananas. Shorly after the man's life was saved someone saw the creature in a box in the hospital, thought it was a common S***** AND LET IT GO IN THE GARDEN. Ugghhh, shudder.

The experts are saying tha this thing will not live in our climate but it seems to be rather tough because the guy it bit first pitched it into a refrigerator and later poured boiling water over it and still it survived. Experts frequently say that many plants and living creatures that formerly would not survive our climate are now thriving due to global warming. No this, Please.

Incidentally, thank you The Times for displaying all those huge pictures of arachnids on two separate days. Fine, if you don't mind looking at the damned things but for an arachnophobe like me, who feels sick just to look at pictures of them, .... well...... just Ugghhhhh!

Riddle of the Human Hobbits

There was a television programme on Channel 4 last night called Riddle of the Human Hobbits about the finding of a new hominid on an island in Indonesia. This probably derived from Homo Australeopithecus but had, after it had arrived on the island, shrunk until it was just 3 feet high. The scientists have given this creature the name of Hobbit

The programme was a mixture of fascinating facts, wild assumptions and huge amounts of padding - obviously they did not have enough information to fill adequately an hour-long programme. I really didn't really need all the extraneous CGI amimation of one of these people wandering around the undergrowth. Having said that the archaeological examination of a skeleton of one of the hominids was fascinating, as was the fact that it had a strong resemblance to H Australopithecus, except, of course, to its height. I also liked the modelling done to the skull to give us some idea what she would really have looked like. I had (and still do) some difficulty in seeing why the Hominids had reduced in size so much since arriving on the island, but at least there was a precedent as remains of a pigmy form of an extinct elephant (megladon?, I think they said) have been found there too. The remains of several small individuals have been found and so we know that their size was not just that they had found one individual who was abnormally small.

However, there were parts of the programme which I had real difficulty in accepting as I felt that they were making wild assumptions. They spent a substantial proporton of the programme lashing together lengths of bamboo and then trying to row the raft to the island from its nearest neighbour, to try to show how the hominids actually got to the island in the first place. I found myself thinking though that they seemed to have ignored two other possible hypotheses of how the creatures could have reached the island. These are:
  1. there was an assumption in the programme that sea levels have remained constant over time. However, this is not the case. Sea levels drop substantially during periods of glaciation and as far as I can tell the hominids may have travelled to the island during the last major Glacial period. Perhaps they just walked to the island over land which was subsequently submerged; alternatively
  2. there is a volcano on the island and it appears from the excavation evidence that probably the hominids died out following a major eruption on the island which laid a substantial layer of volcanic ash over everything. Perhaps there was another volcano between the island and its nearest neighbour which blew up and was covered by the sea after people had walked to what became the island.

Both these are, of course, untried hypotheses as, of course, was the suggestion that the hominids rowed/sailed to the island, especially as I am not sure if there is any other evidence H. Australopithecus made rafts or boats at this period.

Monday, May 02, 2005

And so I begin

After musing for ages about starting a blog I finally do it one too hot night when I can't sleep. I am doing this blog for my own pleasure and not to make huge political or sociological points. All comments posted here will be my own thoughts and opinions, not necessarily those of others. It's really a diary, I think.

The title of this comes from one of my main philosophies of life, that life is lived moment by moment. I think my musings on this started over knitting when my hairdresser Jo was saying nice things of the lace shawl I had made for the baby she is expecting. I said (and meant it) that I had made the shawl one knitted stitch at a time until it was done. Isn't that just how one lives one life - every moment or experience or thought or action is now and each follows on from the last.