Friday, 26 June 2009
Sunday, 21 June 2009
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Thursday, 11 June 2009
My wife and I (shades of royalty again!) spent a delightful three days in our motorhome recently not far, in a straight line from the Minsmere RSPB Nature Reserve in Suffolk. The surroundings were magical, around half a mile from the road, the only noise the constant sound of birds singing. (Where I live in Derby the birds don't sing, they just make coughing noises!) I recorded some of the birdsong, partly to amuse my friend, partly to test his undoubted identification skills.
In the pub at home a week later I tested his knowledge. Imagine my surprise when the first song I had recorded turned out to be a nightingale. Now in my ignorance I thought nightingales only sang at night. A strange noise, someone described it as akin to a person using a hubble bubble pipe but definitely a first for me. Twitchers eat your heart out! (I reckon I've now seen or heard at least fifty different birds in my longish life. My twitcher friend has seen almost five hundred!)
We visited mother in law this week. She lives in the picturesque village of Ashover twenty or so miles north of Derby. Gardens there attract a better class of bird life than dour old Derby.
We watched the various birds using the feeders thoughtfully provided by mother in law Francoise.The usual type of feeder containing nuts loved by bluetits and the like. We marvelled at their ingenuity as they extracted food from the containers via the wire mesh. Until on closer examination my wife realised one bird was upside down INSIDE the container,well and truly stuck. Evidently the bluetits have mastered the art of entering the container from the top, head downwards, seizing a whole nut, turning one hundred and eighty degrees and exiting the container again from the top, complete with prize. Easy peasy for a tiny agile bluetit, definitely not easy for a growing young starling. With some difficulty we dismantled the feeder and extracted the starling and off he (surely it must have been a male) flew squawking as he went (was that thanks or showing indignation?) The only thing hurt seemed to be his pride.
Now you amateur bird experts 'cum' psychologists out there. How did the starling learn his 'trick'. Did he copy the bluetit. Is it natural behaviour to enter a feeder upside down. Are some birds brighter than others and are starlings particularly stupid. Are they stupid enough to try it again. Finally, is all this the reason that sometimes we say people are 'bird brained'?
Saturday, 6 June 2009
Do you remember the saying' There and back to see how far it is.' I wonder where it came from.
I was on holiday in Southwold recently. There I met a delightful man and his family. We chatted, as holiday makers do and he turned out to be, like myself, a football fan. Now I reckon I'm keen, but he far surpassed my dedication to Derby County. I noticed he had tattooed on his fingers letters that together spelt out the words TRUE BLUE, his love of Chelsea Football Club self evident. Even more remarkable was the large tattoo on his back. He was proud of his tattoo and showed it willingly, there presumably for all eternity. The name Chelsea and their post code for all to see. He was indeed a character, a very affable one and he lived on the Isle of Sheppey.
Many years ago, when lessons came to an end early (lesson plans, what's a lesson plan?) I had a pupil who rescued me many a time. He gave a touching rendering of 'Old Shep' that was far more moving than anything I had offered in the previous fifty minutes. The ending was guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes of even the most street-wise.
'Old Shep he has gone
Where the good doggies go
and no more with old Shep will I roam
But if dogs have a heaven
There's one thing I know
Old Shep has a wonderful home.'
All this was in the seventies when Elvis Presley, who recorded Old Shep was particularly popular. (Walter Brennan's version is far more moving and probably influenced Elvis.) The day Elvis died is one of those dates in history that almost everyone can remember where they were when the news broke. (August 16th, 1977. I was at Chapel St Leonards at the time camping with my family.) Who could fail to remember such important moments in history.
Yet they also reckon most people remember where they were when both J F Kennedy and John Lennon were shot. I remember the Kennedy assassination yet have no recollection as to my whereabouts when John Lennon's demise unfolded.
A strange thing, memory. Many amongst us can remember what we were doing at the age of five, in some cases being over sixty years ago. Yet we have difficulty in remembering more than three items 'the wife' sent us to buy at the supermarket less than an hour ago. I once attended a funeral on the wrong day, went to the wrong church to attend a wedding, visited town on my bike and came home on the bus. (Not all on the same day!) Not that a sat nav or a computerised memory aid would have made much difference.
Sat navs, who needs them! I reckon we are on auto pilot in life, particularly when driving, for much of the time. (A year or so travelling north from Bath on a filthy black night, my wife and I had sat nav trouble; the darn thing refused to let us find the motorway. After what seemed for ever, the wind blowing a gale we arrived in a dark gloomy town. I wound my window down and shouted to one of the few people daft enough to be on the street. 'Gloucester?' I enquired quizzically. 'Cheltenham' he replied dismissively.)
I know little regarding Cheltenham. It has if I remember rightly an establishment for the education of young ladies, Cheltenham College that is highly regarded. I served as a teacher in a large comprehensive for many years. But it was certainly no Cheltenham. A public school yes, in that anyone could come, but an establishment of refinement, not really.
I have taught both in the secondary age sector and in adult education. In the latter I taught a young man, previously one of my school pupils. He had led a somewhat undisciplined life since leaving school, and had served a spell in prison. He was sentenced, amongst other things for hiding a policeman's helmet in a lively street altercation. I wonder what the charge was.
He once told me that 'he had run over a car.' 'What were you driving, a bulldozer' I asked with typical teaching ignorance. 'No,' he replied, exasperated at his former teachers stupidity. 'You know, ran over a car. Ran over, up onto the bonnet, over the roof and down the boot.' He was in my 'night school' class because he now realised the value of education and wished to 'better himself.'.
He too had a tattoo; plus it was on his back ; a tattoo and picture in large letters. Only he wasn't a Chelsea supporter. He had had this tattoo done when he was barely out of school. Now, some fifteen or twenty years later, with a wife and children, he was less than enamored with his tattoo.
He no longer went in the local swimming baths and certainly not with his children. At seventeen or so it had seemed a fun thing to do. His tattoo too will be there for ever and a day. And why is he less keen nowadays. I don't suppose too many people would like a large coloured butterfly and the words 'Butterflies Eat Shit' across their nether regions. Ah, the foolishness of youth. I wonder if my Chelsea friend will ever rue the day he had inscribed his support of Chelsea.
Monday, 1 June 2009
I too was, I reckon, a well brought up child. Influenced as a member of the Moravian Church, the one thing impressed on me was the difference between right and wrong. My religious convictions were never set in stone, so to speak, but I have never willingly lied, whatever the consequences. I find it difficult to comprehend how some lie so easily and so often. I was always taught as a child that Moravians are God fearing to the extent that they are exempt from having to swear on a Bible in a British court, though I have never seen this premise actually tested in a court of law. I do many bad things but lying is not one of them.
I passed down a road in the Peak District this weekend, at a place called Owler Bar. A road I vaguely recognised; then my connection to the place slowly dawned on me. Around forty years ago I travelled down this road in a minivan with three other people. A Sprite sports car passed us somewhat erratically, enough to ensure comment, not all favourable. Five minutes later and the sight that met our eyes was desperately unwelcome. The Sprite lay upside down on the road, wheels forlornly spinning, the soft top shredded, steam everywhere, the smell of petrol sinisterly threatening, the driver half in and half out of his pride and joy. Tragedy on a summer's afternoon.
We lifted the car to an upright position, for my companions, though young were fit and strong.
The driver, a young man in his twenties, though conscious, was seriously injured; obviously terminally so even to my inexperienced eyes. I could do little to help as we awaited professional help and Owler Bar is a lonely spot. I held his hand, feeling inadequate in the extreme. His words I had forgotten until this weekend. "I'm dying," he said, looking to me for reassurance.
I've never forgotten that young man or the experience of that afternoon, all those years ago.
Three weeks later I was subpoenaed to attend his inquest. I also bought another vehicle, a Mini Cooper, not my first choice, a sports car with a soft top. And I've never forgotten that young man's simple question. Would your answer have been my answer, I wonder.
Posted by Grumpy Old Ken at 29.6.08
Labels: Bible, George Washington, Moravian Church, Peak District