Wednesday 31 October 2007

Date and Walnut Cake

Today’s recipe is an easy to make Date and Walnut Cake that is full of goodness. It can be served for tea or supper and is equally appropriate for a picnic or packed lunch.

4 oz (110g) soft margarine
6oz (175g) soft brown sugar
2 eggs - lightly beaten
4oz (110g) wholemeal flour
4oz (110g) plain flour
pinch of salt
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
4oz (110g) walnuts - roughly chopped
3oz (75g) pitted dates - roughly chopped
1 small baking apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
3 or 4 tablespoons milk

Pre-heat the oven to Gas mark 4 (180 C; 350 F)
Butter a loaf tin 31/2 x 71/2 inch base (8.5 x 19cm)

Sift flour into large mixing bowl and add sugar, eggs, margarine, salt and baking powder. Whisk together with electric hand whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the apple, walnuts and dates. Finally add the milk and mix well. Transfer to the loaf tin and spread evenly. Bake for 1 hour or until the loaf feels springy in the centre and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let it cool for a minute or two in the tin then take out and put onto a wire tray. When cold put in airtight tin.

Date and Walnut Cake

Today’s recipe is an easy to make Date and Walnut Cake that is full of goodness. It can be served for tea or supper and is equally appropriate for a picnic or packed lunch.

4 oz (110g) soft margarine
6oz (175g) soft brown sugar
2 eggs - lightly beaten
4oz (110g) wholemeal flour
4oz (110g) plain flour
pinch of salt
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
4oz (110g) walnuts - roughly chopped
3oz (75g) pitted dates - roughly chopped
1 small baking apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
3 or 4 tablespoons milk

Pre-heat the oven to Gas mark 4 (180 C; 350 F)
Butter a loaf tin 31/2 x 71/2 inch base (8.5 x 19cm)

Sift flour into large mixing bowl and add sugar, eggs, margarine, salt and baking powder. Whisk together with electric hand whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the apple, walnuts and dates. Finally add the milk and mix well. Transfer to the loaf tin and spread evenly. Bake for 1 hour or until the loaf feels springy in the centre and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let it cool for a minute or two in the tin then take out and put onto a wire tray. When cold put in airtight tin.

Birthday Cards

One of the difficult things about birthdays is knowing what to do with the cards one receives when the time comes for them to be taken off the sideboard. This year, as usual, I had some lovely cards. A lot of thought had obviously been put into choosing them. This one, from GB, catered for my love of photography and nature and is of that intelligent mollusc, the Nautilus.

The last couple of years I have scanned my favourite cards into the computer and put them into my computer diary. But that still leaves the card itself for which to find a use. Some are too good simply to be put in the recycling bag. I have used old ones as bookmarks and this year I decided to ‘formalise’ that by cutting some of them to bookmark size and laminating them.

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Money for old rope

I’ve added a Google ad to my blog. Clicking on it probably makes me one two thousandth of a penny or something like that... Not that I can click on the advert – it’s against the rules. Probably unlikely that anyone else will but it seems like as good a way as any of getting money for old rope... I shall also be fascinated to see what adverts end up being put on as ‘appropriate’ to such a wide-ranging subject matter.

The phrase money for old rope has two possible origins. 1) Rope made from hemp had a limited lifetime. When it wore out it was picked apart and recycled. It was used for caulking. Rope fibres (known as oakum) were hammered into the seams between planks of a ship and hot pitch was poured over it. This was done to waterproof the ship. Of course you got money for the old rope. The phrase came to mean money for anything (seemingly) worthless. 2) After a public hanging the hangman cut the rope into small sections and sold them as keepsakes. At one time, this, together with a payment from the ‘hangee’ for doing a quick job and reducing the suffering, was the main source of the hangman’s income.

My Best Friend...

My best friend is off to New Zealand. In fact he may already have arrived because he gets there before he sets out – or is it the other way round? He, i.e. my brother, GB, will be there for the next six months and that means I have to get used to him being in tomorrow as well as upside down.
For those who have friends and relatives abroad a really useful site is
which enables you to set a number of clocks to different places around the world. I have used it for ages and when GB was in New Zealand and Helen in the USA some time age I got so confused I got up at 7 in the morning UK time. As a rule I am just going back to bed then after another sleepless night; as you may gather from the times at which my blogs normally get posted.
You can follow GB’s exploits on

Monday 29 October 2007


Monday is here :( - I don't mind work, but that eight hour wait to go home is a bitch.

Zen Unwisdom

Words to live by...

1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me the hell alone.
2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tire.
3. It's always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbour's milk, that's the time to do it.
4. Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else.
5. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
6. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
7. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
8. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
9. Duct tape is like 'The Force'. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.
10. There are two theories about how to win when arguing with women. Neither one works.
11. Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.
12. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.


Homer: Oh, so they have Internet on computers now!


I really enjoy blogs that ramble all over the place and
is one such blog. poetry, art, philosophy and plenty of odds and ends to keep one interested.

Sunday 28 October 2007

Thought for the Day

Lounge lizards
This is a super site that shows the good and bad sides of owning lizards and Iguanas.

The lounge lizards visit Hollywood...

Paper cutting

I am always looking for new ways of creating artistic impressions and have tried a fair number over the years from watercolour painting to embroidery. I have just come across a new one that I am dying to try out. It is on Bert Christensen’s site and involves the use of a single sheet of paper –

Saturday 27 October 2007

Internet connection speed

Do you want to check your Internet connection speed? Try

Useless Facts - yet more of

The Biblical account Noah's ark doesn't say that two of every animal were taken aboard. Rather, there were two of each "unclean" animal, and seven of each "clean" animal (clean animals were those suited for sacrifice and eating).

The average American bank teller loses about $250 every year (Can some of it come my way please?)

Nowhere in the Biblical account of the Garden of Eden is an apple mentioned.

A 75-watt light bulb produces more light than three 25-watt light bulbs. (Is this really true??)

In the 18th century, opium, cocaine, and marijuana could be purchased from druggists over-the-counter, much as aspirin is today.

In the 1890s, a fad of body-piercing was taking several countries, especially Victorian England, by storm. Yes, people were putting rings and studs in all of the same places as they are doing now.

There are over 500,000 metric tons of tea in China.

In a country's name, "stan" means "land."

Christopher Columbus never used that name in his lifetime. He called himself Colom, Colon, Colombo, or Colonus, depending on where he was living.

Sigmund Freud was afraid of ferns. (Is that Freudian?)

Albert Einstein slept ten hours every night.

Henry Ford was the first billionaire in the U.S.

Friday 26 October 2007


Four blogs in one day! Well, I'm doing my little piggy act and going off to market tomorrow and may not get the chance to blog...

One of the great things about blogging is finding other enjoyable blogs and I like to keep up to date with that of Magdalene - A Little Blog of Courage For those days when your favourite marble really does go down the drain. (Perhaps she, in turn, read my blog for 28th September!)
A Little Blog of Courage:

My Favourite Smells

Moved from the left hand column to make space -

New mown hay
Sandalwood incense
Frying bacon
Cigar smoke

Rock on rock

Next time you are bored while out walking try doing a few of these... If you do any I'd love to see the results.

Dru Blair

What is special about this photograph by Dru Blair? I should like you to spend at least 20 seconds studying it before finding out the answer on

Thursday 25 October 2007

On the Origin of Species

I’m not sure if I should admit it publicly but until today I had never read Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’. I have owned a few copies over the years (and there is probably still one hiding in the loft) but it is only through reading it on-line at that I have gradually worked my way through it. I cannot say it held any great surprises and my understanding of his theories from my more general readings over the years was pretty accurate. What did come as something of a surprise was how readable it is and how lacking in pomposity his style was. (Why I should have expected him to be pompous I do not know, but I did.)
There are a few quotes I could easily pick out as my favourites but the one I have chosen below will appeal to all whose botanical studies have extended to include the ongoing arguments about the simple Blackberry or Bramble.
When the views entertained in this volume on the origin of species, or when analogous views are generally admitted, we can dimly foresee that there will be a considerable revolution in natural history. Systematists will be able to pursue their labours as at present; but they will not be incessantly haunted by the shadowy doubt whether this or that form be in essence a species. This I feel sure, and I speak after experience, will be no slight relief. The endless disputes whether or not some fifty species of British brambles are true species will cease. Systematists will have only to decide (not that this will be easy) whether any form be sufficiently constant and distinct from other forms, to be capable of definition; and if definable, whether the differences be sufficiently important to deserve a specific name.
In short, we shall have to treat species in the same manner as those naturalists treat genera, who admit that genera are merely artificial combinations made for convenience. This may not be a cheering prospect; but we shall at least be freed from the vain search for the undiscovered and undiscoverable essence of the term species.

One and a half centuries later we are little nearer sorting out our Brambles. Poor Darwin had reckoned without the ability of systematists to argue with each other until the cows come home......

Zen Wisdom

Some days you're the bug, some days you're the windscreen.

(artwork by Susan Gardner)

Bronze Rat

A guy is visiting San Francisco, and walks into a small store in Chinatown.
He notices a small bronze statue of a rat.
He asks the owner "how much", and the owner replies "$50 for the bronze rat, and $1000 for the story behind it".
The guy says, "forget the story", and buys the rat.
As he's walking down the street he notices two live rats following him. As he continues to walk, more rats start following him. He starts to get a little concerned, and heads for the waterfront. By the time he gets there, thousands and thousands of rats are following him. He walks up to the end of the pier and throws the bronze rat into the bay, and the rats all follow and leap off of the pier and drown.
The guy rushes back to the store and walks in. The owner says, "Ah!, so your back for the story".
The guys says, "No, I was wondering if you have any bronze lawyers?"

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Bumper Stickers

I have added a Bumper Sticker / Car Window Sticker to the left-hand column of my Blog. If I remember I shall change it each day. All of them are allegedly genuine ones that have been seen on the road – mostly in the US. One of my favourites is in the window of a nurse’s car that parks in the doctor’s surgery next door..

Solar-powered Bike

At last – a solar powered electric bicycle. If you get tired and need a little help, just switch on and let this green electric wonder take over. Who needs cars? The E-V Sunny Bicycle has solar panels incorporated in the wheels charging a battery at the back of the bicycle. Designed by Canadian, Peter Sandler of Therapy Products, this is apparently the first all-solar electric bicycle.
The bike is propelled by a 500 watt front hub motor. The variable speed electronic controller drives the bike to speeds of up to 30 kilometers per hour. Overall weight of the bicycle is 75 lbs. Cost of the E-V Sunny Bicycle is $1295.00 and comes with a 90-day warrantee (sic) - is that the same as a warranty?.


I’ve just had a birthday and this was one of my presents – his name is Ribbit and he comes from Taiwan. When you rub the stick along his back he croaks. A most playful diversion.

Tuesday 23 October 2007

My stickers

Bite the wax tadpole

Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: "Nothing Sucks like an Electrolux."
When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." The company thought that the word "embarazar" (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read: "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant."
Pepsi's "Come Alive With the Pepsi Generation" translated into "Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave" in Chinese.

When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with the smiling baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the labels of what's inside, since many people can't read.
Frank Perdue's chicken slogan, "It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken," was translated into Spanish as "it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate."
An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of "I saw the Pope" (el Papa), the shirts read "I Saw the Potato" (la papa).
The Dairy Association's huge success with the campaign "Got Milk?" prompted them to expand advertising to Mexico. It was soon brought to their attention the Spanish translation read "Are You Lactating?"

General Motors had a very famous fiasco in trying to market the Vauxhall Nova in Central and South America. "No va" in Spanish means, "It Doesn't Go".
The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as "Kekoukela", meaning "Bite the Wax Tadpole" or "Female Horse Stuffed with Wax", depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent "kokoukole", translating into "Happiness in the Mouth

You can play at making an identikit on this site. This was a self-portrait (today I look about fifty years older than this but I couldn’t seem to find wrinkles!!).

Sunday 21 October 2007

Error messages

I love playing around with other people’s stuff. There is a collection of spoof error messages and the like at

I had a play with them and came up with this one –

However, Mark went one better and sent me the address of this site which has real error messages like -

(P.S. irony of ironies - could not upload images and got an error message instead. Teach me not to Blog about Error Messages - the computer was bound to fight back! Will have to come back and fill in pictures later...)

Strictly Come Dancing

I mentioned ‘Eggheads’, the television programme yesterday. There are only a few other programmes i watch on a regular basis – MotoGP and Formula One (whose seasons are ending), ‘Country Calendar’ (which only has four short series a year), ‘Top Gear’, and ‘Strictly Come Dancing‘ together with its sister program ‘It Takes Two’.
I know nothing about cars but 'Top Gear' is unmissable because of the repartee. Its a bit like MotoGP – one would watch and listen to it for the introducer and commentators even if one knew nothing about motorbike racing. As for Formula One the majority of the races nowadays are boring as hell but one has to keep watching in case one misses the one or two races a year that are enthralling.
I presume ’Strictly Come Dancing’ qualifies as a reality TV show but despite having sworn I would never watch one I enjoyed the last two series of Strictly very much. The laughs, the glamorous costumes, the beautiful women, the music, the way in which we get to know the characters over the weeks, and the quality of the dancing make it great fun. The competitive edge and trying to guess how the judges will react also add to the delight. Not being a celebrity follower I know very few of the celebrities at the beginning of each series but some of them seem very pleasant personalities. The only downside is that after the first couple of weeks one feels sorry that anyone has to go out. Even the people one doesn’t think can dance (and doesn’t particularly like) have usually put so much effort in that seeing them depart is sad.

My tip for the winner of this series is Gabby Logan with Alesha Dixon as runner-up followed by Kelly Brook; with Dominic Littlewood doing the best of the male dancers. That’s just scuppered their chances!! As I write this in advance, on Friday, I think John Barnes will go out this week-end. Brilliant footballer, lovely man (and my closest celebrity neighbour) but too lumpy and casual on the dance floor. Sorry John.

(N.B. - P.S. Now pasting this into Blog on sunday a.m. after watching last night ( take it back. John will stay and tonight's departure will be either the GMTV girl or the Eastenders one.)

Saturday 20 October 2007


One of the few television programs that I watch on a regular basis is ‘Eggheads’ – a quiz show on BBC2 at 6pm each week-day evening. Some of the questions are easy (or is it the answers that are easy?) but many are not – to me at any rate. So, as long as one can recall them afterwards, the process is quite educational. I learned yesterday that Bhutan only allowed television into the country in 1999 and that it is a no smoking country – the only one in the world. Not going there then!
Mind you, those who want to kick the habit could find it a better solution than this one from Ubergizmo - the site which gave us the alarm grenade -

Favourite Desserts

I’ve taking my favourite desserts off the side column of the Blog which probably means they have disappeared into cyberspace for ever so I thought I’d write them here today:-
• Christmas Pudding with Custard
• Rum and Raisin Ice Cream
• Trifle
• Blackcurrants with brown sugar and thick cream
• Syrup sponge with custard
• Strawberry meringue nests
• Rhubarb crumble
• Lemon sorbet
• Creme caramel
• Pancakes with lemon and sugar
• Home-made apple pie and cream
• Mint choc chip ice cream
• Lemon meringue pie
• Pancakes with maple syrup

Friday 19 October 2007

Alarm Clocks

I try to do no more than two blog entries a day on the basis that otherwise my reader(s) will lose interest! Today, however, I could not resist a third when i came across this -

Do you ever have diffiulty waking one of the family? Well here is the answer. The Sonic Alarm will wake pretty well anything up. Simply pull the pin, yell an emphatic “fire in the hole” and lob the grenade into the sleeper’s room. After ten seconds a very annoying and piercingly loud noise (there are three volume settings) will blast out from the alarm. That’s not all however, what makes this especially great is that to stop the alarm the sleeper has to find you so you can put the pin back in. Price around £10. Buy it here.
For more annoying alarm clocks see

Word Imp

I love is currently my favourite “favourite” and it is the only blog outside those of my family that I visit it every day.

Every day Word Imp chooses an obscure word from the dictionary and asks her readers to invent a wacky meaning. There is then a poll to see who came up with the best meaning – or the most popular (mine is obviously always the best but has yet to win!) No prizes, just lots of fun.

Word Imp is a children’s author from New Zealand and among her current interests is anything about the Erebus disaster. Not having a clue what the Erebus disaster was I looked it up and discovered it was an aircraft accident that occurred on Mount Erebus New Zealand's biggest single tragedy, with one more death than in the 1931 Napier Earthquake. A total of 257 were killed (237 passengers and 20 crew) on 28th November when Flight 901 from Auckland Airport crashed on a round trip to Antarctica. More about the Erebus disaster can be seen on

Mike Hawthorn

On this day in 1958 Mike Hawthorn became Britain’s first World Champion motor Racing Driver. I hope it’s a good omen for Sunday’s race. Not only do I want another British World Champion but I have a bet on Lewis Hamilton which I put on before the season started at odds which now, I’m pleased to say, look ridiculously good. I even get a reasonable sum if he is in the top three in the Championship – which he will be come what may - so I will get paid out one way or the other.

Note the recent innovation in this shot – the safety visor; still considered a bit soppy by a lot of the drivers of the era! With only one win in 1958, against four wins of Stirling Moss, he benefited greatly from the gentlemanly behaviour of Moss as shown at the Portuguese GP. Hawthorn was disqualified for pushing his car, against the rules, on the way to a second place finish. Moss interceded on Hawthorn's behalf and the decision was ultimately reversed. Those second place points at Porto contributed to Hawthorn winning the championship with a season total just one point more than that of Moss. After winning the title, Hawthorn immediately announced his retirement from Formula One but sadly died in a car accident the following January.

Thursday 18 October 2007


My Brother asked me how I managed to do all the blogging I do – what with this Google Blog, my StumbleUpon and my Pensby Natural History Blog .
I replied that it is my way of keeping sane in an insane world. Or if the world is sane it is my way of keeping insane. Whichever, it keeps me content with life when there is little else to do so.
On a more practical level I do it by keeping a notepad of the odd things I come across during my computing or reading and then, when I go on to check my emails and things, I turn some of the notepad ideas into little snippets for the blogs. You can probably tell how well I’m feeling (I suffer from various long-term illnesses I won’t bore you with) by whether I miss a day or simply insert a few bits of useless information.
I have had my notepad for years and called it “Factoids” thinking I had invented quite a good word. However, I heard the word used on television the other day and realised that I hadn’t invented it – or, if I had, it was co-incidentally created by someone else as well. I decided to look it up on Google and it has two meanings -
- a brief (usually one sentence and usually trivial) news item
- something resembling a fact; unverified (often invented) information that is given credibility because it appeared in print
I meant to use it as the first definition. If my notepad ever runs out I’ll have to start thinking in earnest – and then my Blogs will really suffer.

Nauseating Foodstuffs

“Do not think of elephants. “
OK so – you did, obviously. Well, what if I said “Do not go to this site.”
You might – so I won’t give you the address until the end and then you can decide.
Or, if you do, please visit it on an empty stomach, without any food around, and preferably with a bag into which you can vomit. The problem is, having been there I think I’ve just become a vulcan – or do I mean vegan. The site advertises itself as the six most terrifying foodstuffs – actually it should say the six most nauseating.
Ant’s eggs I can cope with. And, in my scale of yuck, sheep’s heads are only fairly unpleasant compared to gutting your own mackerel. Lye fish – a Scandinavian speciality of fish in corrosive chemicals – is probably no worse than half the instant meals you can buy in Tesco.
But they get worse, Casu Marzu, a Sardinian delicacy, is a sheep' milk cheese that has been deliberately infested by the "cheese fly. “The result is a maggot-ridden, weeping stink bomb in an advanced state of decomposition. Its translucent larvae are able to jump about 6 inches into the air, making this the only cheese that requires eye protection while eating. The taste is strong enough to burn the tongue, and the larvae themselves pass through the stomach undigested, sometimes surviving long enough to breed in the intestine, where they attempt to bore through the walls, causing vomiting and bloody diarrhea.”
But the horror of horror is Balut, enjoyed in Cambodia, the Philippines, "and the fifth and seventh levels of hell. They are typically sold by street vendors at night, out of buckets of warm sand. You can spot the vendors because of their glowing red eyes, and the faint, otherworldly sound of children screaming."
What are Balut – simply boiled eggs. Well, not quite ‘simply’ – they are duck eggs that have been incubated and then boiled alive just before hatching. Each little description of the food is followed up by a note on the chances of it selling in the USA – Here is what the author had to say about Balut – Danger of this turning up in America:
Actually, marketed properly, these eggs could be a damn good motivator. When you've looked death in the face at breakfast time, what the hell else can the day throw at you?
Just in case you want to go there the site address is
(By the way, the site contains strong language – but that is nothing to the strong stomach you are going to need.... Enjoy your breakfast. I’d stick to the home-made organic muesli if I were you.)

Wednesday 17 October 2007


With apologies to my favourite matehmatician...

An engineer, physicist, and mathematician are all challenged with a problem: to fry an egg when there is a fire in the house. The engineer just grabs a huge bucket of water, runs over to the fire, and puts it out. The physicist thinks for a long while, and then measures a precise amount of water into a container. He takes it over to the fire, pours it on, and with the last drop the fire goes out. The mathematician pores over pencil and paper. After a few minutes he goes "Aha! A solution exists!" and goes back to frying the egg.

Sequel: This time they are asked simply to fry an egg (no fire). The engineer just does it, kludging along; the physicist calculates carefully and produces a carefully cooked egg; and the mathematician lights a fire in the corner, and says,"I have reduced it to the previous problem."


I don’t know how I came across it but I found out the other day that the German for hangover is katzenjammer. As I have neither hangover nor any German vocabulary it must have been a piece of real serendipity. However, I liked the word and decided to check it’s origins. Apparently it means cat’s misery! So I thought I’d illustrate a hangover!

Tuesday 16 October 2007

Bridge illusion

This comes from

More Useless Information

The “save” icon in Microsoft Office programs shows a floppy disk with the shutter on backwards.

Most lipstick contains fish scales.

The Three Wise Monkeys have names: Mizaru (See no evil), Mikazaru (Hear no evil), and Mazaru (Speak no evil).

About 200,000,000 M&Ms are sold each day in the United States.
There are 318,979,564,000 possible combinations of the first four moves in Chess.

Upper and lower case letters are named “upper” and “lower” because in the time when all original print had to be set in individual letters, the upper case letters were stored in the case on top of the case that stored the lower case letters.

Monday 15 October 2007


It concerns me a little that by the time comments are added to my posts some of the regular readers may have already passed that Blog and therefore may miss the comments. So I just had to share this comment from Thesaurus Rex on the subject of Anagrams - "Best one for me was Virginia Bottomley, former Conservative MP now Baroness. 'I'm an evil tory bigot.'
You couldn't make it up!"


26¾ Laws of Rambling (and Sitting) in the Countryside

Today is Blog Action Day and the subject is the Environment. So, instead of sitting in my chair and rambling I thought I’d take you out into the countryside with my 26¾ Laws of Rambling (and Sitting) in the Countryside -
1. Take your litter home
2. Punctuate sitting with walking and vice versa.
3. Plan ahead and don’t take risks
4. Listen to nature
5. Keep dogs under control and close by you – unless they are someone else’s!
6. Protect plants and animals
7. Obey instinct and take a breather as necessary
8. Admit it if you get lost (ask or if there is no one to ask stop, sit and all will become clear)
9. Hug a tree
10. When sitting take the weight off both legs (i.e. do not cross them)
11. Help to keep all water clean
12. Pack light but eat well and ensure you pack a drink

13. Leave livestock, machinery and crops alone and don’t hamper people at work – you may have a day off but some people have a job to do
14. Let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to return
15. Salute lone Magpies with ‘Good Afternoon Mr. Magpie’ – (irrespective of the time of day or the Magpie’s sex – if known!)
16. Use gates and stiles – clambering over walls and fences may damage them
17. Remember the weather can change rapidly and dress accordingly; carry spare clothes to ensure you can keep warm.
18. Really look at your surroundings and appreciate the most distant landscape and the tiniest insects
19. Do not drop matches, cigarettes, etc. or start fires. Fires can devastate large areas and destroy some wildlife for ever..
20. Leave gates and property as you find them
21. Respect other people’s rights and needs.
22. Paddle in some water or have a foot massage (N.B. Unless you’ve got something weird about your feet this should not contradict no 11 !).
23. Make no unnecessary noise and for God’s sake – and mine – do not play radios or music aloud.
24. Obey signs
25. Remember to breathe
26. Take your litter home – Yes, I know it’s in twice; that’s in case you forget!
27. Enjoy !

Sunday 14 October 2007

The Pinta

(I meant to post this a couple of days ago as an 'On this day')

On October 12th, 1492 Rodrigo de Triana, a crewman on the Pinta sighted "land" - a few weeks early;
That must have been an amazing couple of decades - similar in some ways to those of modern times in which advances are made at a rate which must startle previous generations.
I was surprised to discover the size of the Pinta - see
and other Google images. It is much smaller than I thought it would have been.

Freeze your raspberries

Raspberries are comparatively cheap at the moment. I was once told you couldn’t freeze them but you can. There is, however, a right way and a wrong way to freeze them. The correct way is to lay them out on a baking sheet (or half a cereal box) and freeze them individually. Once you have done this you can put them into a smaller container and use a handful at a time over the winter. Of course, the wrong way to freeze raspberries is to just chuck them in some tinfoil one minute before you rush out the door. That way is not so versatile – you end up with a squishy mess.


This is Emma Gertrude Goose (egg for short)– a great pet she requires no feeding and makes no mess ...

Friday 12 October 2007


Thought I’d offer you a T-shirt for the older generation:-

Reference Books

What is a reference book? The answer, according to a couple of them, is:-.
A book containing facts, statistics, biographical information, or other such information so as to make it a valuable tool for answering reference ... A book designed to be consulted for specific information rather than to be read from cover to cover.
Unfortunately my local bookshop is unaware of this. It includes in its reference book section a load of books designed to be read from cover to cover and whose authors would probably be quite upset if their work was only used for occasional reference or just dipped into and put down again. Biographies of scientist and explorers, for example, seem to find their way here instead of the biography section.
Perhaps the person who dictates where the books go was brought up as a librarian in the days when “reference” was simply the opposite of ”lending” - i.e. a book which the library wished to keep within its own doors and which frequently included ‘cover to cover’ books which were rare or expensive or irreplaceable.
By contrast I have the occasional habit of reading true reference books all the way through. In 1967/8 I read the Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Literature from Abana to Zwingli - some 567 pages of small print. Whilst I forgot a lot of the information as quickly as I read it the rest formed a tremendously useful backdrop to my future education and the ability to answer silly quiz questions. Others that have attracted me enough to work my way through them included dictionaries of English Folklore, Superstitions, and Pub Names, together with some of the Penguin dictionaries like Biology, Art and Music.
The latest one I am hooked upon (and up to the letter D) is the Oxford Dictionary of Catchphrases. You may not want to wade through the whole thing as I am doing but if you can get hold of a copy it is well worth dipping into it.


An Anagram, as you know, is a word or phrase made by transposing or rearranging the letters of another word or phrase. No letters can be used twice or left out. The following ones are exceptionally clever (someone out there either has *way* too much time on their hands or is deadly at Scrabble):
Dormitory - Dirty Room

Evangelist - Evil's Agent

Desperation - A Rope Ends It

The Morse Code - Here Come Dots

Slot Machines - Cash Lost in 'em

Animosity - Is No Amity

Mother-in-law - Woman Hitler :)

Snooze Alarms - Alas! No More Zs

Alec Guinness - Genuine Class

Semolina - Is No Meal

The Public Art Galleries - Large Picture Halls, I Bet

A Decimal Point - I'm a Dot in Place

The Earthquakes - That Queer Shake

Eleven plus two - Twelve plus one

Contradiction - Accord not in it

Thursday 11 October 2007

Weird Converter

The other day I mentioned a useful conversion site. Here is a totally useless one but it is fun. After all, I bet you never knew Jennifer Aniston weighed around one tenth of the weight of a Right Whale's testicle!
(Managed to avoid temptation to illustrate blog with picture of either!)


I just love making lists. Indeed, I am a compulsive lidt-maker (so that’s where Helen got it from, says Ian). I have a lifetime lists of birds seen; a list of butterflies seen in the garden; my favourite desserts; and so on. But lists of jobs always defeat me.

It does not seem to matter how many jobs one does the list, instead of diminishing, grows. The current (as opposed to long-term) list has about 45 items on it. Last night I had a spare fifteen minutes before “Eggheads” began so I thought I would fill a pretty bottle with little coloured stones; a job too trivial to be on the list. I misjudged the sizes and one of the stones got stuck in the neck of the bottle. I went to get the long-nosed pliers from my little emergency tool-box but they were not there. At the same time I noticed the tape measure was missing. While in the downstairs loo looking in the toolbox the light bulb blew. That reminded me I have been trying to get screw-in energy-saving daylight bulbs for Jo’s counselling room. In the end I used a Victorian bootlace hook to extract the stone and wondered what one would sell for on E-bay. I then zoomed upstairs to catch the second half of Eggheads while I played on the computer.....

In half an hour I had managed to do one job (not even on the list) and added the following:-
Find pliers;
Find tape measure;
Replace loo bulb;
Check E-bay re value Bootlace hook;
Hunt internet re Jo’s bulbs...

Soon the list will reach the stage where I abandon it totally. Then, in a few weeks I’ll write in my notebook “List the jobs I have to do....”

Save water

From the wonderful book 'Change the World for a fiver'.

P.S. Don't any of my family buy it - you'll be getting it for Christmas!

Wednesday 10 October 2007

Sir Ralph Richardson

On this day, 10th October, in 1983 that most British of actors, Sir Ralph Richardson, died. He was born on 10th October 1902. One of my favourite actors I also felt he would probably have been a pleasant personality to know. Even in his seventies he was still riding around on his motorbike.
Sir Ralph Richardson was part of a trio of great English stage actors, the other two being his friends Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud. They appeared together in Olivier's Richard III (1955) and in several scenes of the mini series Wagner (1983), which was released shortly after Richardson's death. Sadly he is the least remembered of the trio, as people often quote 'Olivier and Gielgud', but forget Richardson. This may be due to the fact he did less film work, than Oliver and Gielgud, despite being the same calibre of actor as they were. He is quoted as having said “I have put on so many make-ups that sometimes I have feared that when I go to wipe it off there will be nobody left underneath."
He and Olivier also appeared in the film Battle of Britain in 1969 with Richardson as the English Ambassador to Switzerland. One of my favourite lines in any film came after Sir David Kelly, the Ambassador, was given an ultimatum by Baron von Richter. The line usually quoted is "We're not easily frightened. Also, we know how hard it is for an army to cross the channel. The last little corporal who tried came a cropper. So don't threaten or dictate to us until you're marching up Whitehall! And even then we won't listen." But my favourite line came shortly after when von Richter had left and Sir David Kelly turned to his wife and expressed his horror - not at the German ultimatum but at the fact that he had allowed himself to lose his temper – it had been so terribly un-British!
Sir Ralph was once found by police walking very slowly along the gutter of an Oxford street, he explained he was taking his pet mouse for a stroll.

Stopping automatic form filling

One often comes across security features designed to stop people from using machine software to fill in forms automatically. This is to avoid multiple postings of some sort, including spamming. One of the best worded ones I came across recently was on the Blog Action Day registration form. It simply said “Are you human? Please type...

Tuesday 9 October 2007

Blog Action Day

If you have blogged on Google recently you will already have 'seen' a notice to this effect but, like me, you may have just passed it by without reading so I shall repeat it to encourage participation...

October 15, a week from today, is Blog Action Day, and the theme this year is the environment. If you have a blog and want to join in, all you have to do is use that day to post something related to the environment, in whatever way, shape, or form you prefer. You can pick an environmental issue that has meaning for you and let us know why it's important. Organize a beach or neighborhood cleanup and tell us about it. If you're into fiction writing, give us a story with an environmental theme. Have a podcast, videoblog, or photoblog? Join the fun! The idea here is to have a mass effect on public awareness by sharing as many ideas in as many ways as possible.
If you're game for participating, go register your blog with the 7,000+ other blogs (with 5 million readers!) that are already signed up. Also, see the Blog Action Day blog for more on how bloggers can change the world.

Blood tests

I went for some blood tests yesterday and out of curiosity fed ‘blood tests’ into Google. One of the sites it came up with was called Fascinating, I thought, what do you do? Upon investigation it offers “education and information on blood and urine tests to help patients better understand their health care.” Shame, I had lovely visions of sending blood and urine over the phone lines...
After visiting Wikipedia and others I can summarise what Blood tests are about. They are laboratory tests done on blood to gain an appreciation of disease states and the functioning of various organs. Blood flows through the body and acts as a medium for providing oxygen and drawing waste products back to the excretory systems. As a consequence the state of the bloodstream affects, or is affected by, many medical conditions. For this reason blood tests are one of the most commonly performed medical tests.
Blood is obtained from one of the patient’s veins by venipuncture or fingerprick, except for tests such as Arterial blood gas which require arterial blood. Blood tests are a relatively non-invasive way to obtain cells and to extract extracellular fluid (plasma), from the body to check on its health. Although the term blood test is used, most routine tests (except for most haematology) are done on plasma or serum. (Only 40% of the blood’s volume is made up of blood cells – red, white and platelets – the majority is plasma which is water with proteins and chemicals such as hormones, glucose and salt.
A basic metabolic panel (BMP), also known as a Chem-7, is a set of seven blood chemical tests designed to measure sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, blood urea nitrogen, magnesium, creatinine, and glucose. Calcium is often also routinely measured though it is not strictly speaking in a Chem-7. Most people will have heard of all the above except creatinine which is a breakdown product from creatinine phosphate in muscle and is usually produced at a fairly constant rate. It is mainly filtered by the kidney and if the filtering of the kidney is deficient blood levels rise.
Although various healthcare professionals can take extract the blood the specialist in the field is the phlebotomist and our GP’s practice has one who visits on a regular basis. If venipuncture is done properly there should be no lasting impression though it is sensible not to lift anything heavy with that arm for an hour or so. Done badly it can leave you with a sore and bruised arm for days. Fortunately our phlebotomist is not only a very pleasant soul but good at her job. The only time I have been bruised was when a Sister at Walton hospital took the sample and took her revenge on me for being kept back late to take the sample to the lab.
For more information (though you've probably already had too much) - see

Monday 8 October 2007


It's that time of year when fungi are most prevalent and I shall be turning to my fungi identification guides for assistance in the next day or so. Each aspect of natural history that interests me has its own field guides and I have a fair number for every family that one commonly comes across on one's travels. I only keep the principal ones in my quick access bookcase and that has 156 books and many pamphlets covering the whole gamut of wildlife in the plant, animal and fungi kingdoms. The rest of my guides are scattered around the house and in the loft. Fungi are so complex and varied a group I have 18 books in my quick reference section - that is nearly 9% of my total. And still I struggle!

There are lots of fungi websites but few are that helpful. Nevertheles, just recently I have discovered a site that may turn out to be of some value. It is
"The site is based on Roger Phillips seminal work 'Mushrooms and other fungi of Great Britain and Europe' and the similar book published on the mushrooms and Fungi of North America. Roger's twenty-year study will make the site the most complete collection of photographs and mushroom information from both sides of the Atlantic ever assembled. We already have over 3000 images on our site to help you identify and learn more about the mushrooms of Europe and North America! "

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