Had a good morning in the garden this morning helping Julia out. The group put up a shade shelter yesterday using the existing posts and a bit of camo netting. They will now be able to eat their lunch without the fear of sunburn or aerial reconnaissance.

A few final touches were required, and that’s where I came in. It’s good to feel useful, even if it was my height rather than my design skills that were needed – as you can see from the photos, it’s a bit of a stretch for one of us.

Julia did some painting and other bits while I took photos and swept the tearoom floor. That’s my place in this marriage.

One of the ongoing jobs is to make the entrance to the garden a bit more colourful and inviting. There was a decrepit barbecue in one of the sheds, with lots of rust and a selection of holes in the bottom. With a bit of vision (think “drainage” holes) and some surplus paint it is now a bright and cheerful herb planter.

The morning was, apart from the company, a bit dull. This was an impression that was further reinforced when I drove past Trent Bridge at 12.15 – they had the lights on for the Test Match. I’d hate to think of the bill for that lot.

Confusion, Rugby and Russia

Took Julia to work this morning, tried to get the mowers started, was unsuccessful. That wasn’t the best start. Sadly, with this being a project run on a shoestring they rely on gifts, and nobody gives a good mower away.

Went to supermarket for cash, walked the length of the car park (that’s my “exercise” for the day) and, as I got to the machine, remembered my wallet was still at home. So I went home, scraped all my change together and rang a taxi.

As I walked into the hospital it suddenly struck me I didn’t have my phone with me.  (This was solved when the lady at reception very kindly rang for a taxi at the end of my blood test).

Short wait, blood rest and good news at last. Well, mixed news, to be accurate. They have interfered with the natural functioning of my body to the extent that my blood now clots so slowly that I can no longer play rugby as the bruising could be fatal, and, like the Romanovs, I am likely to make a bad ruler of Russia. They achieve this by making you eat rat poison.

As I haven’t played rugby for years, and don’t like the idea of Russian winters this isn’t too bad.

The good news is that I can now go to the GP surgery for testing instead of the hospital, will eventually move to four tests a year instead of three a week, and I’m officially less likely to have a stroke.

 

On balance I’m prepared to give up rugby and Russia to lead a healthier life.

What’s in a Name?

I have often thought that it would be fun to change my name by deed poll.  The change I would make would be to alter my middle name to Danger, then I could honestly say “Danger is my middle name,”.

It’s not the strongest joke in the world but it would amuse me, even though the most dangerous thing about me is my full fat diet.

The first site I looked at rather put me off, as they revealed that they have at least one application a week to add Danger as a middle name. I was hoping to be a trail blazer rather than join a movement.

Then I read this article and started to think of the downside of a novelty name.

The original draft used the expression “final nail in the coffin”. I cut it in the final version, but it reminded me of an unusual name I once saw.

Pine-Coffin is the name. There are three Pine-Coffins listed by the Commonwealth Graves Commission, which is where I first saw the name. One was killed in the Second World, a second is commemorated on the Archangel Memorial to those killed in the North Russia campaign who have no known grave. The third died at home in 1919 aged 52 – his son had an interesting career in WW2.

A Tale of Two Cyclists

Second post of the day!

I’ve already written about the Ospreys, in an effort to catch up from last week, and now I’m going to write about bad weather and bicycles because that was the story of the morning.

On the way into town we came to the junction where a bus lane and two lanes of traffic squeeze into two lanes. It’s where I lost my mirror to a badly driven bus a few months ago. It’s also near where the town gallows used to stand and conveniently close to a cemetery. A couple of years ago I was caught on camera there and fined £30 for transferring to a bus lane five car lengths too early. All in all it’s a junction of ill-omen.

On the approach to the junction we had to stop when a cyclist pressed the button to stop traffic at a pedestrian crossing before riding across.

Highway Code Rule 79:  Do not ride across a pelican, puffin or zebra crossing.

Once across the road he proceeded to ride on the pavement, forcing several pedestrians out of his way.

Highway Code Rule 64: You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement.  (Their bold capitals, not mine).

Fortunately, just when this was in danger of becoming a discussion about the lawless ways of two-wheeled reprobates, we spotted a second cyclist.

He was struggling in the rain and traffic and just missed being clipped by a bus mirror as he pulled out of the bus lane in front of me. After stopping he failed to get his shoe clipped back on the pedal and lurched in front of a second bus. As an encore he then repeated the manoeuvre and lurched the other way. Fortunately I was far enough back for it not to be an issue.

I have seldom seen such fortitude displayed in the face of  adversity. In the old days he would have been leading a bayonet charge or discovering the source of an exotic river. Modern life is short on bayonets and undiscovered rivers, so it’s nice to see an area of everyday life where fortitude can still be displayed.

 

After the Bee-eaters

 

Guess what we did after we saw the Bee-eaters last week?

Yes, as you may be able to guess from the pictures, we went to see the Ospreys at Rutland Water. It was an expedition with several difficulties, one being distance and another being the settings on Julia’s camera. That’s why the pictures have the look of video footage taken on a phone camera.

What happened was that I ground to a halt after two hides, but nobly insisted that Julia carried on to the next one to see the Ospreys. She arrived at the relevant hide to find that her camera was mysteriously frozen, so phone shots of the CCTV were the best she could do. Good bit of lateral thinking.

The fledglings were looking quite lively, and likely to leave the nest quite soon.

Best sightings of the day for me were the damselflies and dragonflies. There were hundreds of Common Blue Damselflies about, though mostly too fast for my camera skills. The Common Darter was quite common too, and darted about. I don’t know who named these things, but they got it spot on. We did see a few others but without photos I’m not too good at identifying them.

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Common Blue Damselfly (male)

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Common Darter (male)

 

 

 

Man, Mirror, Monkey, Selfie

They say that if you give typewriters to a roomful of monkeys they will eventually write Hamlet.

If you give a single monkey a mirror the results will be more immediate and more amusing.

If you give a man with time on his hands a digital camera, despite the supposed gulf in evolution and technology, you are firmly back in mirror/monkey territory.

I generally try to strike a pose that marks me out as a leader of men. This is easier with a camera than a phone as the phone invariably shows me looking sideways due to the placement of the lens. That makes me look shifty. Depending on the angle of head and camera I can also look like Mr Potato Head. Or a shifty Mr Potato Head.

I also find that I look older from one side than from the other, and serve as a terrible warning about cutting your own hair.

Having said that, if you buy cheap clippers you only need to cut it twice to be in profit. Once I qualify for senior citizen offers I may let a barber do it again as the costings will change.

I’m going to gloss over the matter of nasal hair (though I won’t be shooting from that angle again) but there can be problems with the degree of zoom and with holding the camera steady.

So that leaves this one. To be honest it looks less “leader of men” and more “pining for a decent haircut” but it’s the best I can do.

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Best of a bad lot

Julia says next time I pick her up from work she’s going to leave a mirror outside and see what develops.

The Kings We Never Had (Part 3)

Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales was the better looking, more popular elder brother of Charles I. He was a staunch Protestant, something his father ensured by taking him away from his mother because of her tendency towards Catholicism. Personally, if I’d have been worried by that sort of thing I just wouldn’t have married her, but Kings do these things differently.

He was already becoming active in politics and was well thought of by the nation when he died of typhoid at the age of 18. At his funeral 1,000 people followed the coffin and many poems and songs were composed in his honour.

Cape Henry, Henricus and Henrico County are all named after him.  In those days it was still considered acceptable to steal a country off someone and rename bits of it.

Next question – do you include Cromwell? He was near enough a King when he was Lord Protector, and was actually related to the Jasper Tudor, the uncle of Henry VII. He also passed the country on to his son Richard at his death, which is pretty kinglike, but they probably shouldn’t be here. Sadly, that gives me no chance to talk about Tumbledown Dick.

When Charles II died, he left 12 children by 7 mistresses and, unfortunately, no legitimate children. His brother James was his heir, and James was a Catholic. This was a major problem, as the majority of the country did not want a return to Catholic rule.

Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, who had been the youngest brother of Charles II and James II, had, at one time, been thought of as a successor to his father, being strongly Protestant after an education at the hands of tutors appointed by Parliament. He was later allowed to join the rest of his family in France, became a noted soldier and died of smallpox in 1660. If he had been alive in 1685 he might have helped to avert the Monmouth Rebellion by providing an acceptable alternative to James II.

The popular alternative was James Scott, Duke of Monmouth. He claimed his mother had been secretly married to Charles, though the King always denied it, and no proof was ever produced. Monmouth was popular in the country, had a good reputation as a soldier, and was a Protestant.

If all this talk of Catholics and Protestants seems out of touch with modern life you may like to check the Succession to the Crown Act (2013)You can now succeed to the throne if you are married to a Catholic, but you still cannot succeed to the throne if you are, or have ever been, a Catholic.

Anyway, back to Monmouth. It didn’t end well. Not only did the rebels lose a large number of men at the Battle of Sedgemoor, but more were condemed by Judge Jeffreys at the Bloody Assizes. Alice Lisle was executed for sheltering rebels (or, as some said, because her husband had signed the death warrant of Charles I), and was the last woman to be sentenced to death by beheading in the UK.

Probably the best known participants in the rebellion were John Churchill, later Duke of Marlborough, and Daniel Defoe who fought for the rebels but escaped punishment.

There is a story that after the execution the royal family realised that they didn’t have a portrait of Monmouth so they stitched the head back on, covered the join with a cravat and had a portrait done. Unfortunately the story isn’t true, as there are several portraits of Monmouth, and the supposed post mortem portrait probably isn’t him.

Meanwhile, on a personal note, I am probably the last man to shed blood for the Duke of Monmouth. At the 1985 re-enactment I was wielding my rubber billhook in a vain attempt to reverse the injustice of 1685 when a teacher of English, having imbibed enthusiastically for lunch and put on a red uniform, clipped me on the elbow with his sword.

It wasn’t much blood, but it was definitely shed when it would have been better left inside me..

(Sorry this has gone on so long – the final installment should be shorter.)