Monday, May 9, 2016

We are Curious Purple

Do You like decorating?  George and I do, possibly because it`s extremely rare for us.

One such attempt followed the recent departure of beloved SpartaCat - we commemorated this agonising event by chucking out the settees he`d ravaged for years, buying ones with all their own filling, and starting to paint the whole neglected house.  

So far we`ve done the living room walls and half a bookcase - the undercoat half.

It turned out to be ridiculously fiddly:
the SuperFab roller we`d bought for drip-free painting didn`t fit between the shelves, and our Bumper Pack of Budget Brushes!! needed constantly extracting from glutinous paint, bristle by bristle.

The original colour of bookcase - determinedly Brown - required multi-coating, much of which then had to be sanded off to force the shelves back in.

When we reached the never-used cupboard, its contents burst forth in a cloud of potent mildew:  CD`s, box sets, several years` Christmas cards, photos, a shoe-stretch spray (that I really could have done with the other day), agents` details of every house we`ve ever viewed and a startled family of hamsters...

We persevered, remembering previous results had sometimes been gratifying.  But we`d forgotten all the collateral devastation - the sticky, mangled brushes and paint splattered surfaces and piles of tester pots that we hate now...

And the recriminations - Look – you`ve painted over the handles again and that`s obviously your drip on the carpet - it won`t come out, you know!  And Whose idea was 
Echo of Tree - it`ll never match walls that have been Deeply Truffled...

Suddenly you`re addicted - no time to stop for lunch, just put a few more sugars in your tea.  Of course the house is a Mess - it`s not worth tidying and we certainly can`t invite people over the threshold till we Finish, but this isn`t quite the look we wanted (what was the look...?).  

Maybe if we tried that other shade…  maybe if we just painted one wall and then we could try-

Oh Sob - it`s Just No Uuuuuuse!!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Grow your own Microbes

IS there Life on Mars?

Well Nasa`s rovers, orbiters and various pokey things have found underground ice and water, plus soil and rocks that can only have formed in lakes or rivers. (So creatures with watery leanings might be OK up there). 

And Mars once had a magnetic field to protect it from the sun`s radiation… rather like the Earth today. (Encouraging for combustible specimens).

So space scientists Who Know reckon that around the time Mars formed, it was highly suitable for life. 

That was (of course!) 4.6  billion years ago, and these days there doesn`t seem to be anything alive up there - at least, not on the surface... but what if it`s all happening underground?

To answer this Very question, the European Space Agency has just launched a probe headed for Mars, to be followed in two years by a robotic rover able to drill 7ft into the surface. 

For, Something up there is continuing to produce methane - what could it be? 

Actually, they think it`s Microbes… 

How do Martian microbes behave when visited - will scientists find them wrapped round the end of the drill, waving? (Or Snarling).

Some experts are concerned about Bringing Back such finds (I know I am) – unknown organisms could wreak Absolute Havoc with Earthly flora and specially fauna - we`ve all seen the films…

Nevertheless ESA boldly sent some of their own microbes out into space last August 2015 (disguised as health food) to help in the search.

Kombucha is a fizzy and Very Healthy Fermented Tea bursting with bacteria and yeasts, and some of it is now clinging to the outside of the International Space Station

How will it survive unprotected in space, an exceeding-cold vacuum of cosmic radiation and unfiltered sunlight? 

Can it even survive? Finding out will help assess the survival abilities of microorganisms on Mars - highly relevant in the Search for Life.

(Those more interested in how Kombucha battles against nasty oxidants and infections of the Bacterial kind should know that Starter Kits are available).

In Conclusion, surely there must be Life of some ilk on other planets - how could we possibly be the only one Chosen

(Though I don`t-want-them-to-visit-yet thank you)!

Not since...

The Warminster Thing!!

(Don`t Have Nightmares)!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Consider the Worm...


This worm is a resident of the UK and yet just Look at the Size of it!  That person`s hand can hardly contain its folded-up Enormity - at 15in (40cm), it is three times the size of a common-or-garden specimen.

How can this be?  Global Warming… Aliens… No! – this worm lives on the beauteous Inner-Hebridean Isle of Rum where, abundant in wildlife though it be, the island has no moles, frogs, badgers… in fact hardly any evil-worm-eaters at all.

In this blissful otherworldly place, worms simply live long and prosper, becoming not only the biggest earthworms in the UK, but also the longest-living - up to ten years instead of two! 

Worms are modest creatures and yet Charles Darwin wrote, "Of all animals, few have contributed so much to the development of the world as we know it, as these lowly creatures." (Surely food for deep thought).

It doesn`t seem much of a life though… incessant chomping on any old soil and casting it out as Something Beautiful  (healthy and fertile); It has been estimated that nearly every particle of healthy top soil on earth has passed through earthworms at one stage or another. ( 
So tread delicately out there.

One (perhaps the?) benefit of being an earthworm is that they don`t catch any diseases, teeming as they are with good and Mighty bacteria. Sadly, they`re also protein-packed and toothless, hence their countless predators.

Agonised by such thoughts, I always reinter worms unearthed in my gardening efforts, but it only takes the patter of rain to bring them hurtling back out to Breathe. 

Or of a Fiendish Cunning seagull pretending...

(I thought he was just Happy when we first spotted him). 

One Day, Seagull, all worms will be Anaconda-Sized.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Up and AwAAAaaaaay!

Well it`s all gone – the cards, the tree, the Chocolate called Tonka (not made of dump-truck, but of exotic South American Tonka Bean). And delectable. I`m hoping it`ll soon be found to be a Super-Food.

Anyway, this is that grim, grey, grotty period (I like it), when we splodge around thinking oh hell – we really have to get the roof mended now.  

And then of course, we must Make a Resolution.  As urged by magazines, TV programmes and you-can-do-better books.

So I`m taking up Wingwalking.

People often ask, "Where can I WingWalk?", say the professionals of Wingwalk Displays.

I think we can all relate to that…  and next time I can tell them!

For not long ago there was talk of this very thing on the radio – recently graduated Nikita Salmon answered a Wingwalkers Wanted ad in the local paper and was soon whizzing round the heavens in Formation Display! 

She described her job as the most exciting in the world; as quite an Adventurer myself, I could not forget her words and Now is the Time! 

Though not quite as youngfitandbeautiful as Nikita, I certainly meet the criteria for the Individual No-Dancing version (over 16, under 12 stone) and I`m well under the age of doctor`s certificate required (65). 
Might need a leg-up to the top wing, perhaps…

But once wedged into the rig, you`ll be taken on a palpitating series of aerobatic manoeuvres - could be low-level flypasts, zoom climbs, 500ft dives…


Tempted?  And for this unforgettable experience, you can even have a video camera on the end of the wing!

Come on down! 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

HI-FIVE, Hardy...

How do You Greet a Stranger - With a sturdy handshake, a wafting peck on the cheek... 

Or are you tormented by an agony of indecision? 

If so, you`re not alone.  For aeons, meeting someone for the first time has caused untold anguish; hiding in the kitchen at parties and refusing to join evening classes are but seven of the silly things some will do to avoid New People.

Help is at hand.  The biggest study ever into this behavioural quandary has now been conducted – we need suffer no more.

The study suggests that most people harbour an underlying reluctance at being touched by a stranger anywhere but on their hands.

(Must make a note).  But Yes, I probably harbour that reluctance... 

Apart from the odd pedicure.   And the cheek to cheek greeting we got accustomed to when living in France. 

There, you had the additional problem of How Many cheek to cheeks – should it be the four kisses of our own village, or the three-ser, two-ser or one-ser of everywhere else?

Although we who exchanged cheeks weren`t Strangers – cheeks were for friends or at least,  friendly gatherings. 

So the Hands still have it, the Hands have it…  Except one of our French neighbours warned us severely that she didn`t like handshakes because hands are where all one`s horrid microbes live.

Boldly, our French GP always shook hands when we turned up with our ills and microbes, as did workmen coming to repair problems electrical, boiler or plumbing-y.  What a  potent melange we must all have concocted...

George and I unthinkingly continued these greetings when we came back to EnglandOurOldCountry

Our new handshaken GP was somewhat taken aback but kept her composure and as for friends here, well, they do their best to just take it on the chin...

Anyway, The Study found that kissing at first meeting was now acceptable, but people would often "put their hand on the arm of the person as a braking mechanism and to let the other person know that they are not about to chomp them."

(Oh hell - that`s a braking mechanism)?

The general conclusion was that Strangers should stick to Handshakes, which must be a huge relief to us all.  Specially if
we`re a freemason, perhaps. 

And if a Handshake doesn`t seem quite right...

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Brimstone Protocol

Your Mission, Brimstone (should you choose to accept it), is to leap into the void suspended only by silken strand, aiming for that scrotty Poinsettia on the table down there (obviously decided to make this one last two Christmases…). 

Now – you`ve fulfilled the first part of your caterpillar duties admirably – your eating-and-eating has been unsurpassable and now it`s time to glue your enormous self to a branch and pupate for a while. You`ll be fine – just pretend to be a leaf. 

I have to tell you though, Brimstone, that when you emerge you might see some changes... perhaps most noticeably, Wings – this is perfectly normal. And you must use these to Take Off and find yourself a mate, because binge Eating, Brimstone, is no longer your duty; as a butterfly your duty is to Multiply.

Well, my work is done now, and I will self-destruct in thirty seconds. Turn away, lad – it won`t be pretty.

I Accept my mission, Captain, and I`m ready to do my best. Oh Yuck! He wasn`t joking… Oh well:

Wheeeeee! Out of the way - Here I co-! Oh sod it…

And so it was that a couple of weeks ago a green and wiggly thing abseiled past my ear, missed the poinsettia and stopped half way past. 

A moment`s ponder, then it started gently swinging till it manoeuvred itself onto one of the leaves. Then looped its way over the edge and disappeared.

Next day after in-depth Googling, I recognised a Strange New Leaf stuck to the stem.  `Twas surely a Brimstone Butterfly Pupa! (Don`t like to think he`s a Moth – we have curtains we care about…)

The thing is, How did he get to the ceiling, and right above our poinsettia, thereby avoiding myriad deathly kitchen landings: the white-hot-plates of the cooker, the bottomless evil waters of the sink and oh lord! the disgusting piles of fester in the cat bowl…

One could postulate that, nibbling contentedly on nearby clematis, he was carried away by a moonlight shadow and whisked through the window to the ceiling on a fierce updraught.

He`d made it by whatever magic, and I monitored his progress (of staying stuck to stem) for Two Weeks. Between two and four weeks I knew he`d Burst Forth, so with careful surveillance I would see him briefly in full flutter then urge him outside to fulfil his destiny.

Nooooooh! He`s Gone. This morning he wasn`t stuck to his stem; nor was he in the pot, on the table or in the cat fester. ( And SpartaCat no longer has the oomph to catch a Brimstone with or without wings).

I never imagined I`d be So Devastated by his disappearance.  Is he coping; how are his wings; will we ever see him again…?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Cut and Thrust of the Garden

"What`s that blasted noise Angela? I`m trying to read the paper!"

"I think someone`s mowing again, Denis."

"And one of those petrol-driven jobbies, I`ll wager – completely thoughtless, some people!"

Sound familiar? If You suffer from Noisy Gardeners, you`re not alone. Earlier this month residents of a north London suburb found themselves driven to the End of their Tethers by this – the constant, pitiless Tumult of their neighbours` gardening...

 Sadly, as with so much anti-social behaviour, it seems to be a growing problem. Particularly at weekends, when everyone else is trying so hard to Relax.

Reduced to desperate measures, these residents have been forced to Form a Committee. Because it`s not only lawnmowers, but also hedge-trimmers, chain saws... and those appalling leaf-blowers - surely the worst! 

(Actually, what do they do, apart from blow all your leaves next door)?

These machines are often gigantic and ridiculously Noisy not to say Dangerous in the wrong hands! 

Why can`t everyone, is the cry, go back to using those lovely old-fashioned manual gardening tools - So much more satisfying; so much more Considerate.

The longer this menace goes on, of course, the more likely is the possibility of retaliation.  There has already been talk of Red and Yellow Cards for serial culprits - what if that`s Just Not Enough? 

There Will be Squabbles...

YET are we not all guilty in our own way?  Is it possible my own whistling-a-happy-tune out there could irritate...?!  My muttering, swearing, snarling, startling yelps when pottering `twixt our shrubs - might someone hear all that?

So let`s all make an effort; let`s keep jolly quiet in our gardens...

And then we can begin to think about Noisy Neighbours Indoors...  Did I mention George has bought me a bongo drum?