Tuesday, 14 December 2010


I am starting to feel less like I am on holiday. The snowy weather and the unfamiliar positions my muscles have found themselves in as a result are telling. Teetering from muddy spot to muddy spot has awoken aches I had forgotten. Pangs and twinges remembered one by one as childhood, winter unemployment and off season holidays are triggered in response to body memories.

A new routine is not something that comes easily. Encouraged by others to adopt a regular regimen, I am struck by how external influences have been invited to form them for me over the years. Resentful of the sometime monotony and predictability of employment and joining in the universal resignation of the employed has been a game. The rules have been easy to follow. I shall now be making them up as I go. It will be interesting to see how the manual comes on. Mindful of the perils of lining up the pencils and straightening the ruler before beginning. I intend drafting and redrafting. I should be able to approach the process as I have along the way. By doodling in the margins and allowing my attention to wander.

Friday, 3 December 2010

This does, indeed. change everything! 

If this opens up as it seems likely to, and following a silly little 'second item in the news scedule behind the royal wedding' we should be looking at the world in a very different way.

Friday, 26 November 2010


Here's more snow!
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Thursday, 25 November 2010

This time last year... Floods!

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Monday, 22 November 2010

Mull trip

I find myself disadvantaged by Apple's unwillingness to play nicely with Microsoft. I can blog from my Blackberry (if Orange provided a signal here in the Hebrides) but would rather use a grownup camera like usual. Here, in a wonderful bed and breakfast, smartphone, camera and iPad at the ready and I can do nothing to integrate until I return home to a repaired desktop.... Grooh! Yark! Bugger!

So far, heron, buzzard, ringed plover, curlew, kestrel, corbie(ask) and seals.... Loads of red deer. Gloucester Old Spot. Aberdeen angus and Hereford.

Photos to follow!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Going, going


Wonderful, moving send off from lovely people. No job. No worries. Just regret at leaving loved colleagues back at the house.
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Last time..

Watching and failing to photograph a buzzard getting buzzed by a crow as I leave the house for work and a retirement lunch.
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Saturday, 13 November 2010


Delicate shapes driven by wind and defined by the smallest shells..
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Tuesday, 9 November 2010


A sparrowhawk oblivious to me. Me oblivious to the 'auto' flash setting on the phone! Grooh!
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Sunday, 7 November 2010

An impulse post...

Some lovely light/water effects on the Coquet this afternoon. My desktop is buggered so .... More later.
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Sunday, 31 October 2010

A little orange dot and a great red spot..

A great red spot

A little orange dot

I carved a pumpkin in anticipation of evening confectionery pirates... No show by 7.30 so I put it out for the owls and turned binoculars on the night sky. In the south eastern aspect a brighter than usual point with fuzzy edges.

How Gallileo managed to plot and map the position and topography of this gas giant is beyond me.. With good quality modern compact binoculars, I could make out three of the moons of Jupiter. Probably Ganymede, Io and Callisto according to the Guardian... A first!

Now to knock a hole in the roof and set up a telescope for winter....

Not sure why..

Just to say that, occasionally, great art just takes you at the flood. Perhaps we are in a constant state of waiting. Page six of today's Observer Review has small representations of pictures born of war. John Piper's interior of Coventry Cathedral awakened my responses..

Thursday, 23 September 2010

My nephew Gary's shortlisted video.. please spread it around!

He writes:

My vid is one of 125 shortlisted after about 23000 submissions so it’s wonderful just to have reached this point. A final 20-25 will be picked for the show by a panel of big names in the art world, Darren Aronofsky, Takashi Murakami, etc. I really don’t expect to get any farther but who knows.
I received an Email from the Guggenheim asking me to promote my entry as much as possible before the 20th of Oct…

Have a look and check his back catalogue too. Brilliant stuff!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Lucky finds..

No particular intentions this afternoon but a trio of fortunate 'Right place, right time' opportunities...
My neighbour's compost bin lost its door and the grass grew through.

A grasshopper stayed still long enough...

...and the Woodpecker found itself sharing the peanuts..

..but not for long..

Saturday, 24 July 2010

And the next pallet....

Becomes a gate.... I am now off to find more scrap.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Crate expec... sorry

The Blackberry people were less than helpful. I am forced to send myself pictures for processing. Anyway, the crate has been converted and is now filling up with wood for the winter.
Worth the effort for a saving of £99 or thereabouts...

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Pending a temperamental Blackberry...

I was going to post a selection of pictures of my recent skip diving success.. A lovely big pine crate, soon to be a wood store and dragged manfully a mile up the hill. However, I took pictures with the Blackberry and it refuses to relinquish them to the computer. I shall have to ring Holland and ask them how I do it...

The crowded houses that are the raised beds are largely managing themselves. There is a man in America who advocates 'Square Foot Gardening' and who will sell you his plans for distributing veg in foot square sections. I have developed 'Square Yard Gardening' and would be pleased to send my plans for nothing on request...
The Courgettes have been covered in Thunder bugs. Initially anxious, I checked them out and discovered that they are mostly benign. Pollen hunting, the worst they can do is burrow through the yellow flower. Here are a host of them in a thistle.

Thunder bugs are famous for collecting on your washing as it dries and have gained a reputation for presaging storms. I suggest it may be that those of us rushing out to collect the clothes as the rumbling starts put two and two together. They had been there all along. Only the observer effect links bugs and borborygmi

This one meets a sticky end in the jaws of a very fetching emerald green spider..

Meanwhile, in another part of the garden.. the Khol Rabi and Beetroot are nearly done and Alpine strawberries promise more for next year.

Dill, Fennel and Tomatoes all doing well thanks to Blood Fish and Bone. Lovely!

.. and the Goldfinch have discovered that swivelling downwards to the thistle seed is better than sitting and stretching up...

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Baby pictures...

As with lambs, kittens and babies. Vegetables look at their best in infancy.

I ate this one soon after. Yes, I know, carrots are cheap and a bit prone to fly but they taste great when they are still small.
Raised beds mean that the fly don't know they're there and nonchalant ambivalence seems to be the secret to a good crop.

I am trying Kohl Rabi too. However, these are sparse enough to treat as unfortunate only children and I am reluctant to pull one yet.

The peas and beans are distributed amongst courgettes. They may jar initially but will add height to the bed soon and their flowers will break the greenery up.

Being picky about the visual aspect of a Grobag might seem a bit , well.. picky. It's fun to see how the whole comes together after the initial growth becomes homogenised though.
Perhaps others would benefit from applying their stated love of gardens to the development of new growth...

Off with their heads!

Monet Morning

Gottit. As the lillies and water messed around with his failing eyesight. The poppies would have flashed in front of him, bouncing waves of reds and blues from the ultra end of the spectrum.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Spring is now sprung... the longest day is summer in Northumberland

...spot the cat....

To continue the garden diary and to prop the blog door open, a few reminders of what's been going on here at Railway Cottages...
The bird life is more varied than this time last year. A seeming plague of snails has brought a thrush (just the one tho' but...) to the garden and the blackbirds are more plentiful.

Goldfinch appear from nowhere, in pairs, to monopolise the Niger seed.

This youngster was almost pick-uppable in it's early ignorance of the human menace..

By contrast, The Heron (thank you MF) checked around for frogs etc then left... reminding me that I should soak the land this weekend in preparation for a pond. I tried last week to scratch the surface but recent high temperatures have rendered the topsoil all but impenetrable... for those of us with Tennis Elbow anyhoo....

My favourite source of Fe, Chard. Grown in honour of the collider in Switzerland and, in the hope that I could find a vegetable that represents the letters 'Ri'. I looked to Japan but found nothing that would grow here.
So Courgettes dominate the raised beds. These were well worth the effort as no slugs have ventured northwards over timber and an ash barrier from the kitchen stove.

I have high hopes for a bumper crop. Actually, I shall probably harvest more than I can use and end up with a garden full of marrows... Never mind. It's the travelling, not the arriving etc...

Opportunist Poppies, thrown up by the carving of a parking space make every day's return a new garden. There's a frustratingly accurate Monet on my way to work and I know it won't be there when I have my camera...

I'll try though. It would be a companion to the Waterlillies from the London comparison earlier...

Monday, 3 May 2010

First entry in an occasional series...

As an Aide Memoir to what goes where in the garden and the progress of a new landscape... From little acorns.. pallets etc.

To planting. Carrots, chard, courgettes and beetroot to start. All optimistically framed by nasturtiums for colour, flavour and insecticide...
I am standing on a pile of topsoil soon to be made alpine. Path, pond and shrubbery to follow.

... meanwhile, in the front garden, the Jolly Green Giant makes his presence felt...

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Is it a bird? Is it a... No, it's a bird...

I am painfully aware of friends and others stranded abroad or worried about schedules and school returns but it has been a lovely few days. The awareness that, not only are there no vapour trails nor constant rumble of jet engines but that there was no chance of any has been a very real breath of fresh air.
Not since I was very small has there been an absence of air traffic. The atmospheric ambiance returned to pre flight days. The birds predominated both here at home and in radio interviews.
Now I see, there may be further disruption. And still no one for the british public to blame!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

The simplest solution.. buy a skinflint..

As an avid fan of Occam's Razor, a self confessed skinflint and a seeker after the truth about retail scams I am proud to announce the result of my recent year long research into the continued sharpness of razorblades without resorting to pyramid power to keep them usable.

In April last year, I bought a razor with a twin blade. A Wilkinson's Sword or Gillette G2 or some such.. I noted that replacement blades were upwards of £7.00. Having determined that skin is leather and therefore, technically a strop, I determined not to buy another one until it became unusable.

My razor has reached it's anniversary and I am still in full possession of my face. I shall now make use of this data to found a new line in male grooming.

The Occam 'No Gimmicks' Razor which I shall bang out at £30.00 along with my 'Emperor's New Jeans' self adhesive Eezee Peel bottom label (rrp £199.99).

Saturday, 6 March 2010

In support of Simon Singh

... And to lend weight to the argument against irrational and dangerous libel laws.... please sign and pass on to friends.. http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/334

Friday, 5 March 2010

...A spanner long enough... (Thank you CG)

In an attempt to breathe life into these pages and finding it hard to liberate enough time for local inspiration, I am recording a couple of mysteries from a little further afield... Normal service will resume in a short while...

I have been aware of these strange features of our local neighbourhood for a while and have perhaps kept them in reserve for such a hiccup in continuity.

The Geysers on Enceladus and a trick that you can do...

The surface of this beautiful moon of Saturn is composed of ice. Not exclusively water Ice but a mixture of water and hydrocarbons making it the biggest self extinguishing bomb in the locality.

Until the recent fly pasts by American probes, the pristine, uncluttered surface of this moon was a mystery to extra terrestrial 'geologists'. That Enceladus could remain so smooth and comparatively unmarked by meteorites seemed to belie it's position, nestling beside the gas giant Saturn. The planet's gravity would seem to guarantee more damage to it's face by attracting lumps of rock en passant.

Then the geysers were discovered. Colossal plumes of water reaching out into space not only recovered the surface after damage but have also contributed to the outer rings of Saturn. What drives these monstrous fountains is uncertain...

The illustration above is a stereoscopic image. If you sit approximately 10 inches away and squint until you can squint no more, the geyser will appear in 3D. Good luck.


The temperature of the solar corona.

The outer surface of the sun is not the limit of it's radiance. That 'diamond ring' that appears at eclipse is as close to a direct observation of the Corona as you would wish for. The temperature of this feature not only beggars belief but also appears to confound at least two of the laws of thermodynamics..

6000 Kelvin to well over 1×106 Kelvin. The reasons why are currently conjectural but may have to do with magnetism and that...

The 'Nut' at the top of Saturn.

Now here's a thing...

It seems that the winds of Saturn, largely Hydrogen and Helium but with traces of the aforementioned Hydrocarbons too are driven in such a way as to create this gigantic, hexagonal shape. It sits permanently at the north pole, gently rotating in relation to the prevailing gales.

I love these anomalies. It comes as a comfort to the skeptical mind that there are unsolved mysteries left to fantasise about. We have successfully debunked the 'Face on Mars' and no longer consider the moon our only satellite.

In the face of these odd phenomenae the conspiracy lot whisper.. 'Coincidence?'. In the true spirit of effective bus advertising... I say, 'Probably, yes'.

I thank you...

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Simplify and improve...

Following traditional invention processes, I dreamed about the bottle and realised that it could be made simpler...

The same inverted base but just one bottle involved. No waste!

The Marsh Tits have no preference for either and they are the most frequent visitors.

Meanwhile, on the lawn, the cold has encouraged Blackbirds, Songthrush and Starlings to return. Wrens and Yellowhammers ignore my activity and eachother. There is inevitably, evidence of a recently sighted Sparrowhawk taking understandable advantage. I shall spare you that one.

..and the Woodpecker has become more curious....

The other major predator just can't be bothered.

This one is really worth enlarging!