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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My Photo of the Day

The Roman Bath in the city of Bath, just 8 miles away from Bristol. There is a new spa centre just outside this building, the Thermae Bath Spa which has cost millions of pounds to complete and is proving very popular. The natural spring that provides the water emerges at a hot 47 degrees Centigrade - [see link above] but I would not reccomend drinking too much of it!

Monday, April 23, 2007

St George's Day

Patron of many but little is known! Today April 23rd, is St Georges Day, the Patron Saint of England, but widely ignored by most of my fellow English. I suppose the majority have heard of him, “he killed the dragon, didn’t he,” but few know more than that and it is to some, a shame that a public holiday on this day is not celebrated.
In researching this little article I have found the excellent website of Woodlands Junior School of Tonbridge in Kent and I commend it to you dear reader! The Wikipedia article lists all the patronages of our Saint, but to raise an eyebrow or two here are a few of his many!
Scouts; butchers; farmers; Bulgaria, Greece, Germany; Genoa and Moscow; saddle makers and syphilis sufferers; archers and shepherds; horses, sheep and lepers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Flightless Steamer Duck

My blog is now over one year old and in celebration of this here is my photo of a Flightless Steamer Duck (Tachyeres brachypterus) and her little family who were sitting in this pebble beach outside Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands enjoying the spring sunshine - Late November 2005

Monday, April 16, 2007

My Photo of the Day

Another remarkably warm day yesterday and so I took myself off for a walk not far from home. The Dower House in the background, originally a private house, then a hospital, is now converted to luxury flats. Between it and the camera the M32 Motorway runs in a cutting, left towards Bristol city centre.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Britain is in Bloom!

Magnolia and Daffodils
Britain is in Bloom! Mid April has to be the very best time of year to appreciate our countryside and colour. Any later than this and the trees, bushes and other plants have come into full matronly leaf, but now daffodils and primroses are still in flower, bright yellow forsythia bushes and many trees are in full blossom, most notably the large white or pink flowers on the magnolias in many gardens. In the fields, new spring lambs are playing, testing their young legs and their mothers’ patience and the dawn chorus from many small birds courting and defending their territories makes a welcome return to my ears.
Yesterday afternoon I drove from Bristol to Banbury which is a town a few miles north of Oxford. The route took me through some of southern England’s best small towns and villages with picturesque names like Adlestrop, Bourton on the Water, Stow on the Wold, the Rollrights, Upper and Lower Slaughter, Hook Norton, famous for its brewery and Slad, famous for having been the haunt of Laurie Lee who wrote Cider With Rosie.
The landscape away from the built-up areas is mixed farmland and scattered woodland, with rolling hills and small river valleys. Almost fully in flower are many fields of Oil-seed Rape – Canola, making whole hillsides of brilliant yellow. I am not usually allergic to flower pollen but Canola seems to make me sneeze and so for the next few weeks I will try to avoid it.
Any variation in my route would not have mattered with great views nearly all the way, and today I did just that for my return this morning. The only sad sight to report at this time of year is to see all the young badgers lying dead at the side of roads, I must have seen six at least. I understand that the young males are ejected by their parents and begin to roam farther afield and so, inevitably some get caught in the glare of vehicle headlights and are run over.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Good News for Easter!

At least today, Easter Monday there has been at least one good piece of environmental news. The Kazakhstan government has secured a multi-million dollar loan from the World Bank to help save the Aral Sea; a formerly huge inland sea that because of mismanagement in the days of Russian domination shrank to only a quarter of its former size during the last third of the 20th Century.

Many years ago, as a child I was encouraged by my mother in a general knowledge and memory game we called "categories". We would choose a subject, say animals, and make an alphabetical list, scoring a point for every entry not duplicated by another player. Thus Animals might start with Antelope and finish with Zebra; while Seas would start with Aral and finish with Zuider Zee, which ironically is another sea that has virtually disappeared, though that was deliberate, providing the Dutch with more land for agricultural expansion at the expense of a former fishing resource. [Jan de Hartog's 1951 story The Lost Sea, tells a wonderful tale of his own experiences as a ship's boy during the last days of this fishery before the creation of the polders.]

With the Aral Sea, the Zazakhs plan to build a new dam to hold back water in part of the nothern area and there are reports of improvements already.

Please see also the 2003 report with its dramatic images of the sea from space and the photo of a former fishing village now 150km from the sea, with nothing but a salty desert between.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

BBC Antiques Road Show at Bristol

On Sunday I went to the Great Hall of the University of Bristol to join hundreds of other people with boxes and packages wanting to have valuations for their antique treasures from the experts of the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. For many years, one of the early evening highlights of Sunday's TV has been this excellent programme. It is recorded months in advance of transmission and so whether or not I will be seen in one of the crowd scenes, I do not know.
Anyway! – I arrived early to join the queue of people in the road before the building opened at 9:30 am and shuffled slowly forward until, much later I took
one of my treasured books to be seen by Clive Farahar the book expert. He was a bit scathing about the way it had been professionally rebound but generally liked it and valued it at £100, which was around what I thought. I then went to join another queue for the “Miscellaneous” experts to show them my 1860’s binocular brass microscope which I bought while I was still at school for what was to me then quite a lot of money - £18. It is housed in a fine mahogany case and is a good example of its type and made by W. Ladd of London. John Foster, the expert who saw me, liked it immediately and said that he wanted to get it filmed for the show and asked if I could wait until a suitable time could be found with the producers. To cut a long story short, it was not filmed as there were too many excellent antiques presented on the day for all to be included. He valued it at £1,200 - £1,800 which is a little more than I had expected. My other piece did not fare so well. An almost identical late 18th Century compass type microscope [see the bottom of the photograph], I had seen valued elsewhere in the thousands, he gave me a value of only £500 or so. Considering that the compass microscope had come to me in the box with the binocular microscope, I cannot complain at the total value being over one hundred times what I had paid, albeit over 40 years ago!
It was great listening to the experts, mostly familiar TV personalities in their own right, talking so knowledgeably to some of the other people there, sometimes with pleasing valuations, some not quite what the owners had hoped for. Also interesting were some of the quaint and curious items that were being brought into the hall. In front of me at one stage had been a 17th Century oak chair, well made to have lasted this long, but nevertheless very damaged and worm eaten. I wouldn’t have thought it could have been worth more than £50, but what do I know?! Another was a fine sword with an intricate handle made of Bristol Blue glass; that, they did film.