Wednesday, 30 July 2014

What's in a label?

Yes, I do need to get out more and, yes, I do need to get a life but.....is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the labels on clothing seem to be getting more and more voluminous? At one time, labelling was confined to such essentials as size and manufacturer; how many years did 'St Michael, size 12' convey all the information I needed to know about what I was buying? However, if the labels I have just cut off a jumper and scanned (sad, isn't it?) are anything to go by, those days are long gone. How did we find ourselves in this sorry state of affairs? No doubt someone has done a detailed analysis of the trend. And no doubt it is printed inside a pair of underpants somewhere.

And talking of underpants, the day can't be far off when they have to display a 'may contain nuts' label. And I hope I'm not around when my jumpers come with a fat content warning. 

Incidentally, when I sat down to write this post I had intended to say something about the current situation in Gaza. But I could not get beyond an unstructured and vitriolic polemic that threatened to send my keyboard up in flames. A little whimsy for now as a displacement activity restored my equilibrium.

Monday, 28 July 2014

One thing I learnt whilst on holiday.........

And that was not to leave our i-Pad on top of the car and then drive off with it still there. Thirty minutes later when it dawned on me what I'd done, we retraced our route and found it flattened in the middle of the road. Surprisingly, when I connected it to my PC, I could still back-up the data. Despite that glimmer of hope, I really think it's beyond economical repair. Sigh!



Sunday, 20 July 2014

Pigs 'Ere Blog Part 10: Mud, mud, glorious mud

Routine check on the pigs this sunny afternoon:
Food - tick
Bedding - tick
Water - tick
Kitchen scraps - tick
General well-being - tick
Obstructions of electric fence - tick

What a happy bunch they are and, my goodness, they are putting on some weight. It's best to avoid getting a trotter on your foot now.

Water from the automatic troughs has spilled over to form an ideal pool for wallowing. First one..................
...........and then a couple more. They love it. Note to self: keep well clear in future when they shake themselves after having a dip in the mud. The splashes get everywhere.
And we are fastidious in telling our grandchildren to wash their hands before eating.
Just in case anyone is wondering, familiarity with the pigs is not diminishing my eager anticipation of tucking into a good joint of roast pork. Speaking of which, perhaps I can recommend a short story I've just read entitled 'A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig'? It was written by Charles Lamb, an essayist of the late 18th and early 19th century, and tells how a rather gormless ancient Chinese lad, Bo-bo, discovered roast pork – by accidently burning his house down, with the pigs in it, then licking his fingers to soothe the pain when he burnt them as he touched one of the bodies! Lamb, who claims to have read about this in an old manuscript, says that until that point people ate their meat raw, clawing or biting it from the living animal.
 
The pig tasted so delicious that Bo-bo gorges himself on handfuls of scorched skin and flesh, much to the horror of his father, who considers that eating burnt pig is most unnatural. Bo-bo persuades his father to try this new food, and the older man is equally enthusiastic, but warns that their roast pork must remain a secret – otherwise, he fears, their neighbours may stone them for thinking they can improve on the meat provided by God. Eventually, of course, the story gets out because people notice that their cottage burns down more frequently than ever. There was ‘nothing but fires from this time forward’, says Lamb. There is a court case, and things look grim, but the foreman of the jury wants to take a look at the cooked pig, so he handles it, burns his fingers, licks them... and the rest, to coin a phrase, is history. Soon everyone is setting fire to their home at regular intervals – until they realise they can roast a pig without destroying their houses in the process.
 
It's a good read and I can recommend it, along with the other short stories Lamb wrote in the same collection. Luckily we'll be able to enjoy the fruits of our labours with resorting to arson.
 
 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Out and about in the sun in Kent

A hot day here in Kent and, in a lull in the domestic proceedings, I took myself off for a short walk in the nearby orchards and fields. Totally different scenery to that we have become accustomed to in Devon and Cornwall but none the less pleasurable. I took my camera along to fiddle with some of its settings and see what they did. From the top:
1. A bee on a very late blackberry flower. I think it was a white tailed bee but can't be certain about this as none of the photographs give a good view of its nether regions. I took successive shots as a burst using a fast shutter speed in the hope that one of them got what I wanted. That shown was #17 of 30.
2. A little post-editing on our i-Pad enhances some of the brown tones. An improvement?
3. A rose bud from a nearby garden, dodging the garden sprinkler in the process.
4. Rose bay willowherb. This is a so-called 'pioneering plant' as it is one of the first to colonise waste ground after fires etc. It is also known as 'fire weed' and is the county plant of London, because of its rapid appearance on bomb sites after the Blitz of WW2.
5. A field of golden corn.




Sunday, 13 July 2014

Ince Castle Visit

A pleasant afternoon stroll around the gardens of Ince Castle. It is situated on the north bank of the River Lynher and is, or so the guide book says, the oldest brick-built dwelling in Cornwall. The fact that it is not made of local granite must say something about the wealth and/or ostentation of the original owner.
The castle dates from the early 1600s and is  square with a tower at
each corner. An unlikely local legend has it that one previous owner had
four wives, one in each tower, and managed to keep them secret from each
other. The green blob in the centre is a balloon that a child had just let go of.
An interesting water feature in a courtyard.
You never know what's lurking in the long grass and bushes,
in this case winged statues.
I'm sure that these two ornaments originally adorned the
corners of a church tower somewhere, upon which they
are a quite common sight to those who lift their eyes.
A shell-encrusted door leading to a shell room within a tower.
Apparently the shells were collected during the travels of a recent
owner who was a minister in the Foreign Office.
Looks like a bee or a wasp, but it is neither: it is a hoverfly. Excellent
nectarers and pollinators and there are lots of them around at
this time of year. My 'A' Level Biology tells me that Hoverflies are excellent
examples of Batesian mimicry in that they mimic something nastier,
in this case bees and wasps, for their own protection.
 
Crimson bottle brush, without the hoverfly I was trying to get in the shot.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Nothing but doors

Just back from an overnight stay in Exeter. It's a great place to walk around and it's something we vowed to do more often. After all, it only takes an hour to get there. Reviewing the photographs I took, doors seemed to feature prominently. Not a conscious decision on my part but they are attractive.
A side door to the cathedral.
The cathedral façade.
Another side door.
This one leads to the Dean's residence.
And he lives behind this one.
The carving at the top of this door, Parva Domus Magna Quies,
is translated as Small House, Great Peace.
You never know what you'll come across when
you wander off the beaten track.
St Mark's Parish church founded in the early 9th century.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Poem that spells it out............

Next time you hear someone claim that immigrants are destroying Britain, show them this clip. Spoken word poet Hollie McNish spells out, in a poem called 'Mathematics', what’s wrong with most of the arguments used against immigration. I do like this ranty form of poetry and I think the style suits the subject matter. She cuts through the lies and misinformation and reflects the anger I feel at the naiveté of many of the views about immigration promulgated by irresponsible politicians and tabloid newspapers. Their xenophobia should be challenged at all opportunities. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

An evening walk in Lydford

An circular evening walk with our regular group, based on Lydford just over the border in Devon. An interesting village whose present sleepy appearance belies its past importance as one of the four 'burghs' in the county founded by Alfred the Great. If you look closely at maps, the Saxon road layout is still discernible as are defensive earthworks at several points on the outskirts of the village. It once had its own mint and the Lydford Penny turns up in all sorts of unexpected places. Apparently, the best collections of them are to be found in museums in Scandinavia, the result of the well documented attacks on Lydford by the marauding Danes.

And the walk? About 4.5 miles in very pleasant early summer evening conditions. Our route took as along ancient byways, over a stretch of open moorland, along a disused railway and then back to the Castle Inn for a decent meal. A good way to spend a few hours.
St Petroc's church at Lydford. For all the many times we've been to the village, we've never been inside the church. We really must do something about it - maybe next time.
The Castle Inn with the 'castle' in the background. It's not actually a castle but rather a free standing tower (built in the 13th century as a courthouse and gaol) with an earth embankment pulled up around its sides.
An interesting gateway/dove cot poking up near the car park.
A muddy track but not any old muddy track. This is part of the original Saxon way linking Okehampton with Lydford.
The skies were blue all the way around.
In homage to Kenneth Williams, I call this one 'Carry on up the Digitalis'.
I'm not an orchid expert but I think this is a Lady orchid. Some say that the individual florets are manikin shaped, with the petals cleft into arms and legs. I can see that this is the case for some but not all.
A rubbish shot over the fields towards Widgery Tor with its stone cross on the top. It's a lot higher than this view might suggest.

Friday, 27 June 2014

The difference a week makes.

A week ago we had our hottest walk on Dartmoor with clear blue skies and panoramic views. Yesterday it was so, so different! Back to normal really for Cornish weather. We started off by taking a public bus from Callington to Pensilva (hooray for the free bus pass) and then walked back on lanes and footpaths. A wet and misty day for a 7 mile walk but enjoyable nonetheless.
The view at the start of the walk and it didn't really get any
better as we progressed.
Very green and very wet lanes.
More water - horizontal rather than vertical this time. Along the
River Lynher below Golberdon.
A soggy lunch on a soggy day.
Lots of cow parsley in the hedgerows.

The view at the end of the walk. Plus ca change!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

A little mining history

Just to remind us that the ground
was contaminated with arsenic
.
A trip last night across the River Tamar into Devon to take part in a guided walking tour organised by our local history group. On a lovely sunny evening, we visited the site of the Devon Great Consols (DGC) which was, in fact, a consolidation of five adjacent mines which were worked for copper and arsenic in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. At its peak, DGC employed around 1,300 people. The mines were named mostly after the shareholders or their wives – Wheal Maria, Wheal Fanny, Wheal Anna-Maria, Wheal Josiah and Wheal Emma. The site is huge and covers almost 70 hectares but we walked around a mere fraction of this area.

Our guide, Rick, waxing lyrical
about a hole in the ground. I'm sure he'll agree
that this was his natural habitat!
 
DGC was in operation from 1844 until 1900 and then again from 1915 to 1930. Copper was extracted first and in total over 750,000 tons of copper ore were recovered. In 1850, the site was regarded as the richest copper mine in Europe. Copper reserves started to run out around 1870 and, luckily for all concerned, demand for arsenic increased almost simultaneously due to its use in the dyeing, paint and glass industries as well as a pesticide in the cotton fields of the USA. Unlike copper, large amounts of arsenic were refined on site using the ‘calcination’ process and in total yielded 72,000 tons of product. In the 1870s half the world’s arsenic production was estimated to have come from half a dozen mines in the Callington and Tavistock area, including DGC.
A grinding wheel that seemed to lend itself to
B/W rather than colour.
Most mining activity on the site ceased in 1902. However, in 1915 the upper levels of Wheal Fanny were reopened for the extraction of arsenic ore. A price slump in 1925 occurred mainly due to the introduction of non-arsenic based pesticides and this led to the suspension of activity and final closure followed in 1930. The last recorded industrial activity on the site dates from the early 1970s when a milling plant was installed to recover tin from the mine waste. However, this operation proved to be short-lived due to the decline in the tin price a few years later
Part of the arsenic processing area, with baffles for the sublimation of the arsenical gases in the foreground and the chimney for the release of the sulphurous fumes in the background.
DGC is now a site for tourism and recreation through the Tamar Valley Mining Heritage Project and forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site for the mining landscape of Cornwall and Devon. The site is now crisscrossed by recreation trails that are well used by cyclists, walkers, mountain bikers and horse-riders. And did I mention the views?

Looking west-ish across the site with some Duke of Bedford's miners' cottages in the distance. Hard to imagine that 150 years ago that this would have been a hive of industrial activity with many water wheels and steam engines in operation.
South-ish for this view, looking straight down the river valley. In the woods in the background is a local view point - Chimney Rock. Well worth the hike there for the panorama over the valley.

Monday, 23 June 2014

A day in the life...............June 23rd 2014

A nice gentle day with my IWC today. A walk around the garden first thing, followed by a Pilates session, a quick bit of shopping in Tavistock and then it was off to the Elephant's Nest pub at Horndon for a lunch in the sun. And, as we were so close to the moor, we had a walk! Hooray for the joys of being retired.
Our hostas are starting to come into flower. Another week or so and they'll all be out.
Ditto our Echeveria elegans, also known as Mexican snow ball and Mexican gem. Mmm, I wonder where it originates?
Any objective person would say that we don't really get a lot of early summer colour in our garden so it's always good to take pleasure when we have some.
Black elder or Sambucus nigra. I think this variety is called Black Lace. We bought it from the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery but I doubt if Prince Charles got his hands dirty raising it.
We were planning to walk from Willsworthy, a place well into the moor. But the red firing flags were up, meaning 'Do not walk within the marked posts as army firing practice is going on'. And it was because we could hear the crackle of small arms fire in the distance. The firing range has been here since early Victorian times and the army is still one of the biggest landowners on Dartmoor.
 
We did walk as far as we could, taking the route along the side of an old mine leat built around 1800. You can just about make out a red warning flag on top of Ger Tor in the background. Incidentally, transgression means getting shouted at by a burly man with a gun. I know as it happened to me once. Needless to say, I beat a hasty retreat. Self preservation is very high on my list of attainments.
As we couldn't walk where we had planned, we took another route nearby. Great clear skies again and some wonderful panoramas. This one is vaguely due north looking towards Widgery Tor, about 10 miles away as the bullet flies.
 
Strange things seen in the hedgerows Part XXV: a sealed plastic vial containing a slightly viscous pale yellow fluid. My guess is that it's an injection ampoule of some veterinary product. And, given all of the cow-related paraphernalia in the vicinity, I think it was destined for one of them.

A slightly out-of-focus pied wagtail methinks. So what's interesting about this not-uncommon bird? Not a lot but I'm still pleased with what my new 35-105 mm lens can do. Without it, the subject was just a twitching dot on a distant rock.
Dontcha just love foxgloves? As I said in an earlier blog, it's been a very good year for them.
I call this one 'Insect on blue flower'.
This one I call 'Two insects on one blue flower'.
A babbling brook - and that's enough babbling from me for one day.