Friday 27 May 2011

Saving the World...

We're currently down in Cornwall for a few days. In the interests of economy the tent is out, and good old Tesco clubcard reward vouchers are providing some days out while we are here! Today they took us to the Eden Project which we enjoyed so much when we were down here last year.

One of the things that Eden makes you think about is the whole "Reduce, Re-use, Recycle" thing - we're so quick to just dispose of things we've finished with or are broken - going back to the war, and the post-war years, nobody would have dreamed of just throwing away anything that could possibly be pressed into service to save you having to part with your pennies to purchase.

My favourite pair of black combats recently developed a couple of holes, purely where the fabric had given up through wear and tear. A friend, hearing me mention having repaired them, was surprised - "why didn't you just replace them?" came the question. Several reasons - not least the cost - the chances of me finding a pair I like as much from a charity shop are tiny! Also, clothes I no longer wear usually get taken to our excellent local hospice shop, but obviously not if they are damaged. Suitable garments past the stage of giving to charity get turned into dusters, but these would not suit that, and the idea of just throwing them away and into landfill is horrendous!

All in all, much as I do indeed hope that Eden saves the world, I think we'd better make sure we have a go at it ourselves, too.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday 25 May 2011

It's not all rabbit food, you know!

As some of you know I have started trying to eat more healthily. It's absolutely not a diet, I don't "do" diets, although I have the utmost respect for somebody like the lovely Frugal Queen who manages to stick successfully to a fairly strict diet plan, it's not the right course for me. This is about changing my mentality regarding food as much as anything else - eating more mindfully and evaluating the issues I have around food, if I can deal with those then the rest is a breeze!

So - there are a few provisos to all this - the food needs to be appetising as well, I'm happy to eat salads as often as anyone, but a bowl of limp lettuce just doesn't make the cut! It also needs to combine well with a regular mealplan as I'm having to feed Ben as well. I've not got a limitless budget so if I'm spending more on additional fruit and veg, something else has to be cut back on to maintain the financial balance. BOGOF offers are excellent, and at this time if year of course seasonal produce is starting to fall in price.

Above is yesterday's lunch - salad of mixed leaves with tomato and radishes for sweetness and peppery crunch respectively. The dressing is low fat yogurt with mint & parsley. Three Hebridean oatcakes add the bulk element and also taste delicious! It was delicious - if healthy eating can always be like that, count me in!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday 21 May 2011

A little Kingfisher action....and a lurking Heron

With the lovely weather continuing again today I felt that a trip to RSPB Rye Meads was in order, so, camera bag packed (and remembering the 1.4x teleconverter this time too!) off I trundled. On arriving there are the usual pleasantries to be exchanged, have I been before, yes I have, and yes, I have already left my membership card on display in the car to entitle me to free parking. Non members get charged a £2 fee, but entry to the reserve is still free. Then its onwards and out onto the reserve to start my wander around. First stop is always the first of the hides - which tends to get a lot of waders and ducks visible from it. Highlights today were masses of Pochard and also a Little grebe with her chicks - like teeny weeny powderpuffs! Then on I go to follow the "Kingfisher trail" - at this time of year vast numbers of people make the trip to the reserve as you can be almost certain of seeing these glorious little birds. How lucky am I to have it 15 minutes away?!

My walk round the trail was interrupted today by these Goslings making their way across the path - Mum and Dad were trying to scoot them along but they weren't being hurried.....until they saw the scary human beings approaching that is!

Once they'd cleared the path and splashed merrily into the stream I continued, stopping once again when I got distracted by these glorious yellow irises - aren't they fantastic? These are out all over the place in the reeds at the moment and really make the place look so bright and cheerful!

Plenty of photographers in the Kingfisher hide when I arrived - there was some feeling that the chicks might choose today to fledge - the parents had been going to and from the nest repeatedly earlier on apparently, as though trying to encourage the babies to leave, poor little things!

All thoughts of fledging went out of the window when the Heron turned up - there was simply no chance of it then although he obviously felt it was worth him hanging about a while as he tried hiding for a didn't work too well though - we could still see you Mr Heron!

Thankfully after a while he decided he was bored and flew off, and, almost immediately, Mr & Mrs Kingfisher appeared again and began fishing in earnest! Clearly having decided that their babies were staying safely in the next for another day they thought they ought to feed them!Great for us as they repeatedly dipped from one of the branches not so far from the hide, and we got an excellent view whether we wanted photographs or not!

So there you go - a snippet in the life of our lovely local Reserve - makes being an RSPB member well and truly worth it as when the weather is good I can quite happily while away hours at a time down there, either walking round (there is a 2.5 mile circuit right round) or simply sitting in the hides.


Monday 16 May 2011

NOT Big Ben..

....really, it's not! In fact it's St Stephens Tower at the Palace of Westminster - inside which you will find the bell commonly known as, yes, Big Ben!

I found myself in London for an afternoon recently - camera in hand and with time to kill. I'd asked for - and been set - some photo-challenges by some online pals, so some of these results of those may well make it on here sometime soon, but while around Westminster (Having taken "A photo with exactly five people in it" - thanks for that one Jenni!) I decided to try to get some shots showing the sheer level of detail in the fantastic buildings, not least the tower above. It's not easy to see in the picture above because of the size but around the top of the tower, above the clock face are the emblems of England, Scotland and Wales. I presume there is one for Ireland too but I didn't recognise any of them as being so.

I associate wandering around in Central London very strongly with my Nan who died in 1993. From when I was very small she often used to take me out in and around London - we went all over, the Zoo was a favourite, especially in winter, as well as all the parks, the museums of course, and even Heathrow Airport where I remember seeing Concorde coming in to land! (Ungainly beast she was on the ground too, but in the air, oh wow!). In her later years Nan suffered from Altzheimers Disease - but not that long before she died we had one last trip out into London as I took her to the zoo for the day! We had a fantastic day - sometimes something like that, which taps into the part of the brain which holds the long term memories, can be ideal for someone suffering from Dementia as it's the short-term memory that is more severely affected by the disease so something that is almost like going back in time doesn't cause the distress and frustration that comes with not being able to remember the day to day routine stuff. We went to see all our old favourites - the elephants, big cats of course - the tigers were always Nan's favourites - and the penguins, still at that stage in the fantastic 1934 pool. We travelled there and back by our old route - tube to Camden Town and then (Nan reminded me as we came out of the tube!) bus 74 to Regents Park, then a walk across the canal bridge and up the road to the Zoo entrance. It was a very special day - one which Nan cleary enjoyed greatly, and I am extremely proud to have given her that day in return for all the fantastic days and memories she gave me.


Saturday 14 May 2011

An Eye For Detail...

Today we decided to drive up to Cambridgeshire to The Raptor Foundation - we've been a number of times before and always had an excellent day out! The weather today wasn't particularly favourable - when it is rainy or windy the birds are less keen on displaying and especially in blustery winds they can't fly the smaller faster birds as they normally would. Today was blustery, windy, and with rain showers! They ran two of the flying displays - essentially doing them as what the Red Arrows would call the "Flat Display" but cancelled the final one as by that time it was windy enough that it wouldn't have been safe for the birds. It's a superb value day out - at £5.50 admission it must be one of the cheapest places you could go in the region, and there are usually three flying displays to see in the day - ech at least 45 minutes long! No wonder we keep going back! Todays visit was even more budget-conscious as we used Tesco ClubCard Days Out vouchers for our entry - bargain!

Kestrels are possibly my favourite of all the Raptors. Oh, sure, the Golden and White Tailed Eagles are incredible - huge, majestic, and their rarity gives them something truly special, but the quick, agile, and truly beautiful Kestrel is seen in such a variety of habitats that almost anyone will recognise one when they see it hovering over a motorway verge or piece of urban wasteland. What might surprise a lot of people though is just how small these little falcons are when you see one close to - they look so much bigger when you see them hovering, tail fanned, wings beating away and head staying precisely still....

I'll leave you with a bit of wisdom from one of the centre's bird handlers - do you know what the fastest bird in the world is? Peregrine Falcon you think? Nah - it's a Pigeon being chased by a Peregrine!


Thursday 12 May 2011

Everything in the Garden's lovely...

Some of you know that we are trying to stick with a fairly frugal way of life at the moment. This doesn't mean nothing fun, or nothing nice though - we were determined of that at the start, but it does mean that if we want the fun and the nice things, then there has to be savings made elsewhere, or alternative thinking applied, to get them. Example: we want to head down to Cornwall again for a few days camping - last year we drove part way on the Thursday evening, booking a Travelodge for that night, then continuing the journey the next day. This time we worked out that we could get Ben a train ticket to Honiton for £5.50 cash, and £5 in Clubcard vouchers via the Megabus site. So, I will drive as far as Honiton, collect him, and we'll then continue to our campsite thus reducing a £29 travelodge room to a £10 Campsite, AND gaining us half a day in the process. Hurrah! While we're there we are going to the Eden Project again, and possibly Falmouth's Naval Museum - both of these are being done with ClubCard vouchers too! The campsite will be £10 per night, and we'll need to find the money for the extra diesel, but other than that the trip can be managed on very little, and will be a lovely fun few days too!

One of the ways of hopefully cutting our food expenditure a bit has been to look at growing some of our own food. We've dabbled with this before but since we've been here it's been difficult with barely any garden space to play with. This year we've decided to turn as much space as possible over to the veggies - so the balcony wall is covered in tubs and pots, and some of the area outside the flat has been planted up too. We've even.....shhhhhh!....."borrowed" a bit of public ground across the way - that nice lush greenery growing there? Potatoes! Above is Spinach - growing happily away in an old mushroom punnet. There are also salad leaves growing in another of those same containers - and we have already had our first harvest from those! Below is the strawberry planter originally given to us with herbs planted in it by my parents, but now returned to a more traditional use and looking lovely as it sits enjoying the warmth reflected back from the brick balcony wall. Also growing about the place are a number of tomato plants. We didn't actually intend growing tomatoes, but they seem to have come up anyway.....I think it's fair to say that tomato seeds might take a little longer to compost than we were expecting....!

Definitely a cause for celebration is the fact that our Clematis is flowering for the first time! We've been nurturing this little beauty for a couple of years - previous ones have never survived and we were concerned about this one after it was forced to spend most of its early days in semi-darkness while the scaffold was up, but it seems to have overcome adversity!


Monday 9 May 2011

4000 years old!

Amazing isn't it - this is a close up of one of the stones in the Calanais Stone Circle on Lewis - well in excess of 4000 years old and yet still with this amount of texture and vibrancy. Many archaeologists believe that Calanais ("Callanish" when translated from the Gaelic) is older than Stonehenge. For my money it's certainly more impressive. It's also far more accessible - here you can walk right up to the stones, in between them, around them. You can touch and feel the texture and look closely to see the rich colours in the Lewisian Gneiss that they are made of. Admission is also free - as is the case with pretty much all of the incredible archaeology in the Hebrides. Contrast that with the £7.50 admission fee to see Stonehenge at extreme distance - no chance of getting close enough to touch those stones! Add to that the near certainty of the A303 crawling to a halt in that particular part of Wiltshire (I overshot the turn-off for Calanais when we visited this time, but no matter, I just popped a quick three point turn on the main road and went back.....I wouldn't recommend trying THAT on the A303) and all in all I know which mystical spot I'd rather visit!


Sunday 8 May 2011

Testing, testing....!

Ok - this is experimental stuff! I decided at the start of the year that I wanted to keep my blog more up to date - often something grabs me but I either don't have my SLR camera with me, or by the time I have got back to the laptop or PC the moment has passed. In a bid to try to solve this problem I've bought a blog app for my iPhone. If it works it should mean that I can upload pics when I'm out and about. Note I say "if" it works. I have little faith in these things!

So, here goes - this is like one of those "can you hear me at the back" moments..... Have another picture of our lovely tree - and some of it's friends!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Sunny Day Tree

This tree can be found on the grassy area in front of where we live, and each year it surprises us. You look at it one day and it's just starting to show the slightest touch of green, but still looks very "winter-ish" then the next day, suddenly it is in full leaf, crying "Spring's here!" with glee! In the Autumn it describes the opposite behaviour, with the leaves turning from green to brown almost overnight, and then, at the first blustery storm of winter it shrugs off its overcoat and drops it on the floor for all the world like a truculent teenager just in from school. We missed the leaf-break this year - when we headed off to the Hebrides it was still completely bare and brown - as usual we worried slightly that it might have succumbed to some disease over the winter - but by the time we came back it was as you see above. It's the most beautiful shape too - perhaps at some point I might put up a picture of the whole thing. For now though, with the beautiful blue sky and wispy clouds also looking to get in on the act, this is all you're getting!