Sunday, 31 July 2011

Catching up

Tomorrow we will collect the keys to our new casa and our stuff will be moved on Thursday. We have packed about 75% and the rest should be finished by the end of the week. Everything but the bed and the tv have been dismantled. The garden haven’t been touched at all. Most probably we will be moving them ourselves as we have the present casa until the end of August. We haven’t done any food shopping and I have been cooking whatever is in the freezer. Some very strange combinations…:-0

Besides packing, I have been playing catch with my work. I am literally drowning and how I managed to stay afloat was a miracle in itself. A new Metadata Librarian, SLA, reported for work and I had 3 sessions with her. Although her main work will be with the Publications Database, she will be required to help out from time to time. I had to make sure that she was up to it and I think I was a little bit hard on her. I do expect cataloguers to know the basic procedures. Anyway, welcome to Data Services, SLA.

My colleagues and I too were busy setting up our display board for the Staff Open Day. It was supposed to be a team building exercises but it failed miserably. We’d so many ideas and everyone wanted theirs to be accepted. Lots of arguments and tempers were flying about. It was good to see my colleagues very passionate about their work. After deliberating for about a week, the final display was up and it received a very good response. A big pat on the back for everyone. The display board was still standing beside my table because I wanted to photograph them and upload it on the Intranet. We’d spent so much time on it and I want it up a little bit longer.

I was also busy doing a write-up for my Merit Pay Scheme which moi is eligible to participate.. This Scheme is for staff who have reached the top of their grade or are paid more than the maximum salary of their grade. Awards will be made in the form of one off lump sum or ‘bonus’ payments. which will be neither pensionable nor consolidated into base pay. I’d to list my key (agreed) objectives and summarised my achievements towards these objectives in the past academic year. I had to express them using the SMART rule: Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Timebound. Wish me luck.

There was also another library induction programme for a group of Japanese and Chinese pre-session students. A very enthusiastic group which bombarded me with loads of questions. I was glad that the very erratic mobile shelving behaved itself and worked. The students wanted a tour of the top floors which I wasn’t able to do because the 3rd. –5th floors were silent study areas. But they were allowed to check out these floors themselves and familiarise  with the surroundings. 

My colleagues and I ended the academic year of 2010/2011 by having a fish and chips picnic in the lovely summer sun. Even our manager joined us on the lawn outside the MRC building and he said that we should do it often. Everyone relaxed over tall glasses of iced-cold lemonade and work was the furthest thing on our minds. Then it was the Summer Degree ceremonies that took place from Monday 18th to Friday 22nd. A week to celebrate our students’ successes and achievements and there were 4k of them. A pity that it rained the whole week.

Babe and I checked out the Scott May’s Daredevil stunt-show at the Coventry Stadium, home of Coventry Speedway. We need a break from packing and a change of scenery. It was a fast moving, action packed show with Monster Truck destruction, Europe’s only monster ride-truck, car-crushing action from “Thundertrax” (a tank/monster truck hybrid), motorcycle, quad and all-terrain buggy jumps, car crashes and amazing fire stunts. We were also entertained with incredible two wheel driving displays using a quad, buggy, car, van and 7.5 ton truck. Coventry Stadium D300s  10-07-2011 14-51-60

The show started with a  Freestyle Motocross ramp system, where we saw some of the UK’s top FMX athletes flying between ramps at heights approaching 40 feet, pulling off insane tricks and manoeuvres. It was an adrenaline fuelled high flying performance which was a big hit with the younger audience and was undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the show. Coventry Stadium D300s  10-07-2011 15-39-34

Scott May has been touring with his stunt show throughout the UK for almost 20 years and brings an unrivalled reputation and level of skill to his daredevil show. The stunt team demonstrated incredible skill and precision throughout the show that was a thrill to the senses. We felt the stadium rumble under our feet with the extreme power and roar of the “The Bandit” and “ThunderTrax”. As with all Monster Trucks, the thrill begins when the engine roars into life and we could feel the power right through our bones.  Watching this massive beast take flight as it leaps over a heap of scrap cars was nothing less than awesome.You could even hear the twisting metal of the car crashes and smell the burning rubber of the full throttle motorcycle stunts. Coventry Stadium D300s  10-07-2011 15-44-35 I wasn’t keen on the  crazy fire stunts such as the Motorcycle Fire Wall, Exploding Coffin, Motorcycle Fire Jump, Fire Run, Fire Drag, Human Battering Ram and the Human Torch. Anything could go wrong but thankfully everything went according to plan. And every show has the infamous Stunt clown, who bounced into things and causing trouble wherever he decides to get involved. He was everywhere taking the mickey out of the stuntmen.We’d a wonderful afternoon and took hundreds of shots. It was a change from the usual stuff that we do and a challenge that we thoroughly enjoyed. Coventry Stadium D200 X14  10-07-2011 14-20-15

DC and I were invited for dinner at CC’s chateaux. CC wanted to christened  her new rice cooker. She cooked the rice and we ordered food from her local Chinese takeaway. It was king prawns galore. I ordered Satay prawns, CC had prawns in black bean sauce and DC, the scrambled fu-yong with prawns!!!. We also requested a portion of mixed Chinese vegetables and battered squids for starters. CC must have been a very good customer because the takeaway added a portion of egg fried rice, prawn crackers and a large bottle of Coke for free!!! The table was groaning with the banquet and we’d a lovely time polishing up the meal, It was also CC’s birthday. She’s off for a week’s camping holiday in Scotland the next day. Have a safe trip.

My colleagues and I also attended an African-style lunch to raise money for the Horn of Africa DEC appeal at the University’s Chaplaincy. Large areas of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan were affected by the drought  with people - most of them children - finding their way to the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya, near the border of Somalia. The camp is already home to 350,000 people - the equivalent size of Leicester. The DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal will use donations to buy food, water, care for starving children and medical treatment.

The humanitarian crisis was caused by a combination of factors including severe drought, rising food and fuel prices, chronic poverty and conflict.  The worst drought in 60 years has also been compounded by the violence in Somalia. Unless sufficient levels of aid are raised there is a real risk of the famine spreading to all eight regions of southern Somalia and afflicted nearly 3 million people. It was devastating to see once again the images of famine haunting our world in 2011. They need our help.

My thoughts too are with the people of Norway.  They have turned out in their thousands carrying flowers, united in defiance of someone who wanted to divide the Norwegian society. Norway's openness and lack of security was a result of it having such a small, homogenous population. It seems paradoxical that an extremist who have fanatically wanted to protect Norway from outsiders and the "dangers of multiculturalism” would himself do such damage to its own people. Norway has a very tiny population that a large proportion of people will be directly or indirectly touched by the events.Warwick University D300s  12-07-2011 12-11-17 In the words of the Norwegian poet Nordahl Grieg, who was writing during World War II:

"We are so few in our country. Each fallen a brother and friend."

Muslims in the UK will begin fasting tomorrow. To all Muslims, a Happy Ramadan and please pray for those affected in conflicts and famine around the world.

"(It was) the month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Sawm (fasts) that month…"
~ [al-Baqarah 2:185]~

Brandon Marsh D300s X2  09-07-2011 15-38-43

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Stop the badger cull

I have just signed the League Against Cruel Sports' petition against the badger cull.

The League opposes the proposed badger cull on two main grounds. Firstly, a cull would fly in the face of scientific evidence about how to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis, and could even exacerbate the problem. And secondly, authorising a cull would create a new bloodsport by licencing the shooting of badgers for gun-toting volunteers. We are calling for a badger vaccination programme instead of a cull.

It is vital that they reach 100,000 signatures to ensure the subject is debated in parliament but to show the government just how opposed the public is to the cull, their target is ONE MILLION SIGNATURES.

Please help them reach this target. It only takes a minute but could save the lives of thousands of badgers.

Just follow this link

Thank you


Monday, 18 July 2011

Mi Casa Su Casa*

It was back to back house-hunting this week. We had seen 5 houses and each was an experience we will never forget. Our main criteria was affordable, 3 bedrooms with a driveway or off-road parking or 2 bedrooms with a garage, a garden and one bus-ride to the university. No pressure then…

Our first was DA which belonged to our landlord. It has 3 bedrooms with a huge, huge garden, a very tiny kitchen, one bus-ride and street parking.  High rent but our landlord was willing to negotiate. We asked him to open up the side fence so that we could park the car in the garden. But according to him, it was impossible because there was no right of access. We’d to say no to the house. Our car was vandalised a few times before and we never want it to happen again.

Next was HC which I was hoping to get. It has 3 bedrooms with a garage and one bus-ride. When we arrived, we weren’t alone. A group of students and another couple was already waiting to see the same house. Just imagine 9 of us, including the estate agent and tenant, trampling about in the house. There was no privacy to discuss things. I didn’t like the way things were run especially if you’re interested in the house, you have to hand a deposit of £250 in the car-park. How unprofessional was that. Business carried out in the car-park. We watched the students paying the deposit.

The estate agent told us that it wasn’t a first-come, first serve basis. Deposit was collected to ensure that we were in the running for the house. We have to go to the office to fill in the forms which included lots of personal details. Then the landlord will choose the “best tenant”!!! We didn’t have confidence in this system at all and decided to forego the house.

Then another viewing of KC. This was our second trip. It was a 2 bedroom bungalow with a garage and walking distance to the university. Eureka but… It was the most expensive house to rent. We think we could manage because of the ideal location but it was just too small. We’d to store a lot of stuff in the garage which defeat the purpose. Since it was a bungalow, it was very dark inside as it was surrounded by double-storey houses. I guess another no-no.

The 4th house was at BA, close to our favourite playground. 2 bus-ride, 3 bedrooms and a garage. We were asked to meet the agent at 5.30pm. We’d a leisure drive and reached the house at 5.15pm. We checked out the house and an electric sub-station was just beside it with a sign “THIEVES BEWARE”. Hmm…don’t like that. We waited and waited and waited….until 5.45pm. We could see the neighbourhood curtains twitching. I’m sure they were wondering what we’re doing outside the house since there was no “To Let” sign. I guess it was time to go home.

On Saturday, we viewed a house at PD. Our chatty tree frog aka GPS wasn’t talking because the road wasn’t listed in the database. We drove around three times, even called the estate agent before asking 2 people for directions. One was scratching his head because he’d never heard it but thankfully the 2nd knew the exact location. We’d driven past and it was partially hidden behind lush trees. My oh my…it was an oasis and there were only 4 houses in a gated compound.

As soon as we parked, we were met by the estate agent. There was no garage but it has its own driveway, 3 bedrooms, a huge kitchen and dining area and a garden that could house our present casa. Wow…wow. We liked it a lot, much further but there was a direct bus service, which meant I’d to get up early. I guess I could manage that. We told the agent that we were going to think about it and will confirm on Monday. Fingers-crossed, it will be ours.  

Apart from casa hunting, life goes on as usual. On Monday, I was late for work because traffic was much heavier than usual. We were crawling down Fletchemsted Highway. What was going on because the students had already gone for their break. We carried on and came across a breakdown bus blocking the road. Hmm…and then a sign welcoming the NEBOSH graduation event. Why wasn’t the staff informed about this??? There was nothing on the Intranet.

I also had a session with a group of students from the Hong Kong City University. To break the ice, I greeted them in Mandarin, asking how they were and introduced myself. I could see the surprise and appreciative look they gave me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do the rest of the induction in Mandarin. I might gave them the wrong information :-). They were very enthusiastic and eager and it was a joy to answer all their queries. I hoped they’d had a memorable stay.

On Thursday was the much anticipated teachers’ strike. It was the biggest walk-out by teachers in a generation. Planned changes meant that they will have to work longer, pay more and get less when they retire. That doesn’t sound right at all. I fully support a teacher’s right to strike as I would any other professions.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

~German Protestant theologian and pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)~

We’d a wonderful surprise when we went for a late evening stroll in Brandon Marsh. We were about to head home when we decided to check out the Teal Pool. The goslings have grown to be replicas of their parents. Common Sandpipers, Redshanks and Black-headed gulls were busy feeding along the mud-banks. Suddenly, there was a big commotion and the birds just disappeared. We looked around and up in the sky when we spotted this handsome fella skulking low in the background. We were expecting a battle when the Canada Geese strutted towards the fox, checking him out. I bet he was surprised to see these  big birds coming towards him and made a quick dash into the bushes with his tail between his legs.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  01-07-2011 19-02-54 This post was long overdue. At the moment, we’re drowning in storage boxes. The casa was like a tip and weekends was spent at the tip too.  We deposited a lot of stuff at the recycling centre, donated tools to the Brandon Marsh Conservation Group and sent bags of bits and pieces to the charity shops. There was still a lot to do. The kitchen was still untouched and the garden…still growing. Although exhausted, we are looking forward to the move.

*”My house your house in Spanish”

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Summer Afternoon

Summer afternoon- summer afternoon; to me those have been the most beautiful words in the English language

~Henry James~

Today in the car at about 1pm was 34C. It was hot, hot, hot. We nipped into Asda for shopping and as usual a quick browse at the clothes and came out with a red/white stripe long dress. Just nice for summer but I’ll wear it with either a red or white shrug. I hated bare arms. After filling our basket with bread, bananas, mushrooms, Chinese snacks, butter and coleslaw, we headed home. As usual when the sun is out, drivers tend to get crazy on the road. It’s just ridiculous.

Babe took of the top of the car to take advantage of the lovely day. We went to our favourite playground to get some fresh air and top up our tans :-). At the dipping pond, we stood in silence and observed the Great Crested Newt floating lazily. We’d a wonderful surprise when a newt tadpole appeared near to the surface. This was the first time we saw a tadpole in the pond.

Brandon Marsh D300s  26-06-2011 14-31-52 We walked past wild raspberry bushes dotted with ripened berries. The hot weather had resulted in the berries ripening earlier and I couldn’t help picking here and there. They were so delish and very sweet. Hmm…I must remember to leave some for the natives. As we continued walking, Babe showed me a wasp nest near the path. We could see the paper-thin nest and the wasps busy at work. We hurried off quickly when a few wasps started flying out. Better not be standing in their path.

Brandon Marsh D200  Fsb  23-06-2011 15-15-28 We checked out Baldwin Hide and saw the terns shielding their chicks underneath them. An Oyster Catcher flew briefly on the island beside the hide. We also spotted Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwings, Cormorants, Greylags and Canada Geese.  We continued towards East Marsh Hide and checked out the islands in front of us. Most of the natives were having a siesta in the humid, hot afternoon. I felt like joining them. I ‘m very uncomfortable in this heat. We were about to head home when this handsome Muntjac appeared from the bushes on the opposite bank. My oh my, my first sighting this year. All you could hear was our cameras rattling away. After we got our fix, it was time to head home.       Brandon Marsh D2h  26-06-2011 15-54-38

Yesterday, we spent the whole day at Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. I think this might be our last trip this year as we planned to check out the other reserves in Martin Mere and Welney. We hoped to see if there were any chicks from the exotic birds. As we walked along the Swan Lake, we saw hundreds of Swallows flying low along eaves and roofs of the visitor centre. When we looked up, we saw this gorgeous pair of eyes looking down at us.

Slimbridge D300s X  25-06-2011 14-01-12 We walked towards the hides because I wanted to check out the summer walkaway leading towards the River Severn estuary. Off course we just had to stop and check out the hides. We were so delighted to see a pristine Little Egret feeding along the mudbanks near the Robbie Garnett hide.

Slimbridge D50  25-06-2011 14-38-29 Then we continued towards our destination. We’d to hurry because we have to be back before 5pm. It was a long 15 minutes walk in the heat  to reach Middlepoint. Along the route, birdsongs accompanied us. When we arrived, this was the view that greeted us. As far as the eye can see, the River Severn estuary. We spotted Shelducks and Curlews feeding on the mudflats in the horizon. It was hard to imagine that the famous bore rushes inwards from here.Slimbridge D50  25-06-2011 14-55-27 I wished we could have our lunch in this camper van which was used as a bird hide. It was quite funny to see a rusting camper van in the middle of nowhere. When we checked it out, it was very comfortable inside,. Unfortunately, we had to rush back before the entrance shut. We spotted a buzzard riding the waves as we got closer towards the main area.

Slimbridge D50  25-06-2011 14-57-17 We were amazed to see some very strange looking birds. They looked familiar but … As we got closer, we realised that they were experiencing the eclipse plumage.  After breeding, ducks moult  which was a process where the old, worn-out feathers were replaced with new ones. For about a month, they can't fly and were very vulnerable to predators.  This was also why they tend to stay close together.Slimbridge D300s X  25-06-2011 14-16-35 To provide protection, particularly for the brightly-coloured males, the moult starts with their bright body feathers. These were then replaced by dowdy brown ones, making them look much like females. Once the flight feathers have re-grown, they moult again, and by October the full colours were back and the various species of ducks were easily recognisable once more. We’d a wonderful time trying to identify some really very tatty looking ducks. Who would believe that this was a Smew!!!

Slimbridge D300s X  25-06-2011 15-29-64 We had a lovely surprise when we spotted the Greater Flamingos with their gangly chicks. Some were still sitting on their mud nests, keeping their eggs warm. It was heart-warming to see how protective the parents were with their chicks. The adults form a protective ring around them. We would have stayed longer but the pong was just unbearable. How on earth such a graceful, pink bird live here was beyond us.Slimbridge D300s X  25-06-2011 15-46-47 We continued walking and saw other ducks, some with chicks and lots of juvenile Nenes. It was wonderful to see these rare Nenes doing very well. We thought we’d seen everything in the reserve when Babe came across something that he’d never seen before. I went to see what had spooked Him. OMG, what was this??? It was a Toulouse goose and from the name, originated from Toulouse in France. This was the breed most used for the production of foie gras. Something which I will never eat.

Slimbridge D50  25-06-2011 15-52-42 After about 4 hours, it was time to call end the day. On the way home, we’d a quick stop at a lay-by to check out the Slimbridge canal. We always wanted to check this place but there was no place to park. We dribbled over the narrow-boats and motorboats moored along the canals :-). We did think of living the simple life in a narrow-boat but where on earth am I going to store my shoes, Babe’s numerous cameras and our books…

Slimbridge D50  25-06-2011 17-01-01 When we arrived back to Coventry, we decided to buy fish and chips for dinner. We then drove to a casa that we were hoping to rent. Yes, we were back to casa-hunting again. We’d received a letter from our landlord and he wanted his casa back. Although we have 6 months left, we want to leave before we were pushed. It was in an ok area, only a bus-ride to the university and about an hour walk. It has a garden for me and a garage for Babe. We were supposed to see it earlier in the day but the appointment was cancelled because the tenant wasn’t informed.

During the week, I’d to take the bus home on the evening of the summer solstice.

“As the sun spirals its longest dance, Cleanse us. As nature shows bounty and fertility. Bless us. Let all things live with loving intent. And to fulfill their truest destiny."

~From a Wiccan blessing~

Summer solstice was sometimes referred to as Midsummer Day. It was the longest day of the year and the amount of daylight only goes down from here. It was also the meteorological start of summer. A time to enjoy holidays, beaches, festivals, bbqs and fingers-crossed more sun. So lets get our hair down, get some fresh air and top up the tan. Summer can disappear in a flash.

Summer is a promissory note signed in June, its long days spent and gone before you know it, and due to be repaid next January.

~Hal Borland~

I was browsing the BBC website reading the news about the gatherings on Monday night/Tuesday morning at Stonehenge. Did you see the photos? What saddened me was the disrespect shown towards these ancient sites. Religious or not, people should not climb these stones or drop litter. There were rare lichen on these stone and as well as shielding the stone from the ravages of weathering, it had been protecting some prehistoric carvings. No one have total proof of what they were used for but it must have been a place to meet and celebrate. The Solstice and the time of year means many things to many people and should be allowed to remain so.

On Friday, we popped into Brandon Marsh after work. It was raining and we quickly dashed towards Carlton Hide. As usual, the whitethroats were active in the rain, busy hunting for food. A pair of Green Sandpipers flew in and were busy also feeding on the mudbanks. Nothing appeared from the Barn Owl box. They can’t hunt in the rain because their plumage was not waterproof. A Kingfisher made a brief appearance. But the highlight was this juvenile Moorhen’s behaviour. We think it had a neurological problem because it tends to walk backwards from time to time. This will make it very vulnerable to predators.

Brandon Marsh D300s X14   24-06-2011 17-47-15We left when the rain had a brief stop. We dashed back to the car before the heavens opened again. Hmm…This felt familiar. Rain and summer…Fingers-crossed we are going to have more warm summer afternoons. But at least, I don’t have to water the garden :-).

Below are the gorgeous Shelduck chicks vowing the visitors at Slimbridge. There were hundreds of them.

Slimbridge D300s X  25-06-2011 14-27-51

Friday, 24 June 2011

Beeing Busy

It has been a very busy week. I feel like the thousands of worker bees flying about, flower hopping and dancing in the sun, in search of nectar. There were just too many things to do, not enough hours in the day and not enough days in a week.

“We're all busy little bees, full of stings, making honey day and night, aren't we honey?”

Bette Davis (American actress, 1908-1989)

Brandon Marsh D200   09-06-2011 14-17-42 

The escapee was still out and about, minding his own business. I was so pleased to see him again and Babe took a video of the adorable parakeet feeding on the ground. We thought that the magpies might have attacked him but they seemed to leave him alone. Babe sent e-mail and a photograph to the Parrot Society’s lost and found page. It is an Amazon parrot. We hoped that his owner will be found ASAP.Warwick University D300s X2  13-06-2011 16-44-18 My department had  a meeting  to brainstorm ideas for the next Staff Open Day gathering. We had to give a presentation about what we do, AGAIN!!! I was thinking of doing a demonstration of what happened if we don’t do anything. That will really shock everybody as no one will be able to find anything. Hmm… that sounds fun, but I guess I have to tone things down a bit :-)

All my colleagues contributed, throwing fantastic ideas and it was a hard to pick one. Finally, we agreed upon the title “Finding Tom Jones”!!! What, why, who??? Well, Tom Jones can be the Welsh singer, a title of a film, an author by that name or perhaps the book written by Henry Fielding. We provide a class number for the books so that users can find it on the shelf or in the catalogue. Do users want the latest edition or a translation? Is the book available or on loan?

We do the magic stuff behind the scene so that users can get their hands on the right book as quickly as possible. Just imagine if we switch off the catalogue. How on earth can anyone locate anything? Yes, you can browse the shelves but we have 5 floors with 1million books. Good luck with that. We continued our discussions by using the hi-tech facilities of the Teaching Grid. The only problem was we’d to pin our presentations on a board!!!

It had been quite stressful at work that Babe and I decided to release some steam at our favourite playground. And we weren’t alone. The car-park was nearly full. There must be a function or an evening talk going on. Why aren’t we invited??? The natives were beginning to settle down for the night. It was quite quiet and we headed straight to Carlton Hide where Babe had a lovely view of the Barn Owl outside its box and also of it quartering over the golf course. I was so jealous and hoping to see him again. As usual it was a no-show. This was the elusive owl that failed to appear.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  09-06-2011 18-45-43

At least, the Cuckoo made an appearance. We could hear the call echoing through the reserve and was very excited as it got closer. It settled on its favourite perch and continued calling. They will be flying back to Africa in July and August. Their youngsters would be leaving a month or so later and the reserve will be silent again.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  09-06-2011 17-50-25

Apart from the Cuckoo, a Redshank and a Common Sandpiper flew in for a late supper. They were continuously chasing each other as they were feeding on the mudbanks. The whitethroats with their jerky display flights and urgent chatter were also out and about, hunting something juicy for supper. We left when it was too dark to take any photographs. Bonn nuit and sweet dreams.

Brandon Marsh D300s X2  14-06-2011 18-36-01  HR and I planned to have lunch at Fusion Bar to celebrate her birthday. I’d to cancel it and we planned to have a belated lunch in July, after she returned from her holiday. I’d to take the afternoon off to check out a house that our landlord wants us to move in. He owns 10 houses in the cul-de-sac and he was selling all of them, one at a time. Two have been sold, one has a for sale sign and our casa will be next. He wanted us, as we were brilliant tenants, to move to another house, in another estate that he owned.

We went into the city centre to get the keys. Babe waited in the car while I rushed in to the estate agent’s office. There was a communication breakdown somewhere where the estate agent had to call my landlord to confirm that I was to collect the keys. We went to collect the keys from another staff and he wasn’t there!!! He has the key to the keys. WTF…I told them that I couldn’t wait as it was my lunch break and Babe’s parked on double yellow lines. We will be in touch.

What a waste of our time. I was thinking of getting back to work but Babe persuaded me to chill out and enjoy the day. We’d a serunding sandwich and changed into our camouflaged gear. We were going to check out another playground, Ufton Fields, a nature reserve near Leamington Spa. We don’t know why our chatty tree frog aka sat. nav. took us through Kenilworth instead of using the the M40. Then we drove through Leamington Spa road-works during the lunch hour. It was really challenging but we finally made it.Ufton Fields D200  15-06-2011 14-56-51

The reserve car-park was full of mums pushing push-chairs. It must be a mum-and-toddler day. We were greeted with the mewing cry of a buzzard but we were sheltered by the lush vegetation. It was a lovely oasis, created from an old limestone quarry with a glorious diversity of grassland, scrub, woodland and wetland with large and small pools. We followed the mostly, flat circular, way-marked surfaced footpath, accompanied by a symphony of bird-songs, heard but not seen.

We walked through woodlands that contained hybrid poplar, grey alder and conifers, with small numbers of native species such as oak and elm. It was very dark as we passed under the canopy of trees. Ufton Fields was noted for its calcareous, species-rich grassland that produces colourful displays of meadow flowers. We didn’t walk through the meadows because the weather was turning and we didn’t want to get our camera wet. But I managed to get photographs of the Common Spotted Orchids. There were hundreds of them. Ufton Fields D50  15-06-2011 15-08-33

We left as the rain got heavier. Will we come again? I don’t think so. It was a very small reserve, and it took us less than 2 hours to walk around it. There were several bird-hides overlooking tiny pools but nobody was at home. But it was a tick on our list of nature reserves in Warwickshire. We made a pit stop at Leamington Spa because babe wanted to get a water-proof cover for our camera. I waited in the car and was entertained by this juvenile Song Thrush fighting with its meal. Leamington Spa D50  15-06-2011 16-02-38

On Thursday, Babe gave me a lift to my Zumba classes. I’d missed 2 classes and I knew I’m going to play follow the leader. It was raining and not many were present. Apart from the usual routines, the instructor introduced us to a new routine. We’d a good laugh because we looked like dancing chickens. After an hour of good fun, it was a long painful  dawdle back to the casa. My legs were like jelly

We ended the week with another evening trip to Brandon Marsh. The car-park was blissfully empty. We checked out the bird-feeder beside the visitor centre and was greeted by a  juvenile woodpecker. We spotted another one flying nearby. It was lovely to see them enjoying a late supper.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  14-06-2011 17-22-43

We continued our walk and stopped at Baldwin Hide. As usual, the natives were getting ready for the evening. A Moorhen was still sitting on her nest and all the terns were making use of the nesting pontoons. On the main island, the Oystercatcher,  Little-Ringed Plover and Lapwing chicks were out and about, still feeding on the mudbanks. It was lovely to see them reaching adulthood. Along the path towards East Marsh Hide, we saw this Peacock caterpillars feeding on the nettle bushes.Brandon Marsh D300s  17-06-2011 16-41-42

We dashed quickly to Carlton Hide as it began to drizzle. We’d a good time observing a juvenile heron practising hunting for food. Then the piece de resistance, a kingfisher, flew in and perched on the stick right in front of the hide. All you could hear was our cameras rattling away. I was ventilating with excitement as this was my first sighting in Brandon this year. The handsome bird didn’t disappoint us as he gave a few poses. Thank you.    Brandon Marsh D200 X2  17-06-2011 16-53-44

On Saturday, I attended a day-school at the university. I know, I know…I should be chilling out but it was too good to miss. I attended a module on “Butterflies and Moths of Open Grassland” and the tutor was David Brown, the Warwickshire County Moth Recorder. I had it for free because as university staff, we were given learning vouchers which we could use for courses conducted by the Centre of Lifelong Studies. I’d taken attended quite a few day-schools so far.

I attended the class to learn to identify the species reliant on grassland habitat and gain knowledge of their specific food-plants, life histories and habitat requirements. As a nature lover, I took a lot of photographs of Lepidoptera and a better understanding of them will be a bonus. The field visit to a calcareous grassland site won me over, too:-). We were supposed to visit the site after lunch, but the tutor decided to do it early in the day as the weatherman predicted a rainy afternoon.

We drove through the lovely countryside under sunny blue skies and sudden cloud bursts. Our destination was Yellow Land Nature Reserve at Bishops Ichington and like the name, the sun came out and everything was yellow. This was because the site of a former limestone quarry supports the Kidney vetch which was the sole food for the rare and declining Small Blue (Cupido minimus) butterfly.Warwick University FZ28  18-06-2011 10-20-01

This butterfly is Britain’s smallest resident butterfly. It was often overlooked due to its diminutive size and its choice of habitat. The Kidney Vetch was its only sole food plant and were only found on calcareous grasslands and well-drained chalky soils.  The larvae live only in the flower heads whey they fed on developing anthers and seed. This nature reserve therefore carries a high conservation status.Warwick University FZ28  18-06-2011 11-05-39

Here we learnt about the habitat and as we treaded carefully among the meadow, our tutor went fishing. It was amazing to see him swish and swash his net and he always managed to catch something. He put his catch into a container and explained to us how to identify the butterflies. We were introduced to the Meadow Brown, Meadow White, Small Heath, Common Blue, Small Blue, Large Skipper, Ringlet, Cinnabar, Yellow Shell, Narrow-Bordered 5-Spot Burnett and Pyransta Aurata (micro). We were amazed to see such a huge haul in such a small place. After about 2 hours, it was time to get back to the classroom.

When we arrived, a picnic await us. After a wonderful lunch of sandwiches, fruits, crisps and cupcakes, we continued our lessons. We watched slides of key grasslands in Warwickshire for Lepidoptera and learnt to identify significant species and gain knowledge of their specific food-plants, life histories and habitat requirements. After being exposed to all these, I couldn’t wait to be out and about and test my new-found skills. I would also like to thank Jo for giving me a lift home.

Sunday was spent chilling out at home. But I did nipped into Next to see if my black shoes was in stock. Guess what??? I was hunting for the perfect black court shoes for a long time, and today there was 3 different type available. The worst thing was that I like all of them. I sashayed on the carpet trying them on. I managed to narrow down to 2. and finally chose the 5 cm ‘safe and boring’ leather shoe, perfect for work for £28. But I think, I’ll be returning soon to get the very sexy 7cm heels which costs £26. I guess better start saving for that :-)

It was also Fathers Day. I called my father to wish him a wonderful Father’s Day. I count my blessings that my parents are still with me. I wished that we lived closer so that I could do more for them. I had always thought I would be able to look after them in their twilight years, but alas…I do the best that I can from 3k away. These Paul’s Scarlet Roses, now blooming gloriously from the garden, are for you Abah.

Coventry FZ28  11-06-2011 11-05-23

"I'm so lucky as can be, the world's greatest Dad belongs to me."


It had been a busy week for me and I hoped that life is as sweet as honey for you.

Brandon Marsh D300s X2  20-06-2011 13-30-56

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Chakka, Chakka, Chakka Week

Have you watched Popstar to Operastar? I’m no fan of reality tv but I tuned in to watch Joe McElderry, the winner of 2009 X-Factor taking part. I really like Joe and it was very unfortunate that his career failed to get off the ground. I would love to see and hear more from him. I guess this was the next opportunity for him to put his talents back on track and didn’t he do well on the show. He sang the Toreador’s song from Carmen by Bizet. I couldn’t wait to see him again in a fortnight’s time.

My colleagues were incredulous that I was watching the show. They were not opera singers or opera fans but they think that it belittled a lifetime of training and studying into something that diminishes efforts and hardships. But I think they were taking it a bit too seriously. Everyone knows that it take years to train a voice to be able to sing in an opera house. It was just an “entertainment” programme and follows the format of X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, Dancing on Ice, Britain Got talent, Apprentice etc, etc.

The programme was to show the public what goes in teaching someone to sing “properly”. And I think it was an ideal of bringing opera to the masses and breaking down the barriers. Did it succeeded? Well, I for one watched it but only because McElderry was in it. Listening to the songs sung by the contestants, I realised that most of them have been used in all kinds of advertisements. So not that “upper-class stuff” at all. Fingers-crossed that my favourite contestant will be chakka, chakka, chakka (the Mexican music maestro Rolando Villazon’s meaning of tiptop, spot on) and win the contest.

Congratulations and well-done to Babe. I think 4 of his photographs of a kingfisher, deer at Bradgate Park, Four-Spotted Chaser and Redshank chicks had appeared on the BBC Springwatch red button montage. Viewers had sent about 126k photographs (the last time I checked) and to have 4 was pretty amazing. We enjoyed taking photographs of everything and anything and to share it with everyone was the icing on the cake. Bradgate Park D300s X2  04-06-2011 13-38-12On Thursday, CC and I went to see Les Barker performing at The Maudslay.  Barker is a Wrexham-based folk hero and poet best known for his comedic poetry, monologues and parodies of popular songs. He has remained firmly rooted in the circuit of folk clubs and festivals where he has a devoted following. Barker was also known as Mrs Ackroyd, named after his mongrel dog. In 2008 he was awarded the NIACE Inspire Award as Welsh Learner of the Year, and recited his poem "Have you Got Any News of the Iceberg?" in Welsh at the presentation in Swansea. That itself was a great achievement.

CC and I had dinner at McDonalds, my first trip in about 10 years and I guess it was a treat :-). I tucked into Filet-o-Fish, a small portion of chips and a milk shake. It was ok and I might visit again in 10 years time. We later met GLW and PW at the venue. CC bought me a Coke, thanks, before we adjourned to the function room. We got a table near the stage as other spectators began to trickle in. We were first entertained by a folk group who were giving us a taste of their performance for the coming Warwick Folk Festival. They were good.

Then it was time for the main act to perform. Barker strolled slowly on stage and managed to keep us in fits of laughter before he even started. He read the well-known poems from his books and his dedicated followers would join in with the last verses. It was hilarious and a bit weird for us. His fans knew these poems very well. We left much earlier because  it had been a long day for both of us. CC bought one of his books and we nearly split our tummy laughing at this haiku.

O the island of

Haiku is seventeen syl

lables long; doo dah.

!!!!! :-)

At work, the International Student Group met to discuss the results of a survey that we conducted to find out the views of foreign students on the library. We wanted to know what were the problems they had encountered when using the library and finding out ways on how we can help them. I was given the task to evaluate and analyse the answers about the library’s best bits. There was a variety of answers given and I group them into ambience, books, electronic resources, opening hours, staff, self-service machine, refurbishment, IT help-desk, the catalogue etc. I was so pleased that the catalogue was listed :-). Babe promised to help me to construct a spectacular graph to illustrate my findings which will be added in the final copy.

On Friday, this escapee caused a stir in the University. My colleagues couldn’t wait to inform me about this beauty they found feeding merrily in the grounds between the Humanities, Modern Records Centre and Coventry House. At first, I thought they were pulling my leg until GLW showed me a shot he took with his mobile. I was out in a flash. Warwick University FZ28  10-06-2011 08-05-36 A few staff were still there checking the bird out. This adorable parakeet was still feeding, oblivious to the excitement it had caused. Some wanted to call the RSPCA but the bird was healthy, feeding and flying. Anyway, I spent sometime with this exotic bird before reluctantly getting back into the office to earn some £££.Warwick University FZ28  10-06-2011 12-09-51I couldn’t wait for my lunch break to see if it was still around. And it was still there, still feeding merrily on the grounds. For such a colourful bird, it was very well-camouflaged. There was a lot of people walking past who wasn’t even aware of it. I spent my break sitting on the ground and even shared my lunch. It came very close. It was so tempting just to grab him. A rumbling tractor drove by and spooked it, disappearing onto a nearby tree. When Babe came in the evening, we went to look for the bird. But he was AWOL. I hoped he was ok and safe.

Much talking is the cause of danger. Silence is the means of avoiding misfortune. The talkative parrot is shut up in a cage. Other birds, without speech, fly freely about.

~Saskya Pandita~

Saturday was spent chilling out at home because Babe was having one of his bad days. I spent the morning pottering in the garden. Everything was growing by leaps and bounds. There was plenty of weeding, dead-heading and grass-cutting. The lavender was in bloom, filling the air with its heady scent and the violas, pansies, geraniums and marigolds were a riot of colour. The cucumbers, tomatoes, chards, courgettes, leeks, aubergine and pumpkins were growing happily. The rain interspersed with lovely sunny days were a blessing.Coventry FZ28  05-06-2011 11-35-32

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.


My salad trough have been supplying me with fresh salad for nearly a month now. With the food scare in the news, it was a blessing. There was 4 troughs of rocket, mizuno, lollo, spinach and cos growing happily. My pak-choi  failed to grow this year. I don’t know what when wrong. The fig tree was covered with little baby figs and there were blueberries on the bush. I pulled out an oak sapling which would be too big for our very tiny garden and hoping to plant some raspberry canes. But I think it was too late in the season. A project for next year, perhaps ???Coventry FZ28  05-06-2011 11-37-41I nipped into Tesco in the afternoon to get the papers and a bit of shopping. I didn’t know that there was a half-price sale in the women’s department and just had to join in. First, I hunted a purple cardigan that I’d seen before but it wasn’t there. There were other colours but not purple :-(. Then a peep at the shoe section which looked like a tornado had gone through. I picked the latest colour, a pair of nude court shoes. The last size 5 left and when I tried it on, it wasn’t comfortable. What a double let-down.

After collecting my prescription from Boots, I went into Next to purchase a pair of black leather court shoes. I have been eyeing these for months, but there was always something else that I needed to purchase first. I tried them on and sashayed on the carpet. It was perfect and was very comfortable. Unfortunately, there was no size 5. Grrr…I will come again next week and fingers-crossed it will be in stock.

After spending Saturday in bed, Babe couldn’t wait to get a bit of fresh air. So on a drenched Sunday afternoon, we were in Brandon Marsh in our waterproof gear. At Baldwin hide, the terns were sitting in their nests on the floating pontoons. As we walked along the path, the swifts were out and about enjoying the rain. From East Marsh hide, we saw the Oyster Catcher chicks have grown to be exact replicas of their parents. We have been keeping an eye on their progress. It would be very sad to see them go.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  09-06-2011 15-31-31We dashed towards Carlton Hide in the rain. There was nobody there and when we looked out it was very quiet but thankfully not for long. A very soaked Mistle Thrush sang his heart out in the rain from the tree top. Babe spotted this very drenched  Sparrowhawk perched on the tree stump to the right of the hide. What ever the weather, they still need to be out and about hunting for food.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  12-06-2011 12-26-6It was the same for this Blackcap. There was a pair nesting in the bramble bush just beside the hide and they must have very hungry chicks. They took turns flying out and landing on the shrubs just in front of us. We held our breath and all you could hear were our cameras rattling away. We saw them moving from stem to stem, picking caterpillars with their beaks. It was pretty amazing to see them with their beaks full of wriggling caterpillars. Then they fly back to their nest and we could hear the cries of the hungry chicks wanting to be fed.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  12-06-2011 12-47-44We also spotted this Whitethroat doing the same thing. Whitethroats were doing well in the reserve. I really love these adorable birds with their striking white beards, busy hunting for insects and their larvae. I would have love to stay longer but it was freezing in the hide. The rain was still pouring and all I could think was my warm casa and a hot cup of coffee. It was time to call it a day to a very chakka, chakka, chakka week. :-)

Brandon Marsh D300s X2  12-06-2011 12-43-4

It is good to realize that if love and peace can prevail on earth, and if we can teach our children to honour nature’s gift, the joys and beauties of the outdoors will be here forever.

~Jimmy Carter~

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Sex on Fire ???

What on earth am I talking about? Well, that was the song that I’d been humming the whole week. Bank holiday Monday started with the Ricoh rocking to the American Indie band, Kings of Leon. 40K revellers, mostly sporting the bands trademark red flower necklaces, arrived as early as 12pm. The roads around our casa were littered with traffic cones to stop them from parking their cars. The whole day all we could hear was the constant humming of the traffic.

Brandon Marsh D50  05-06-2011 16-25-07Lets imagine the 4 herons above as Caleb, Nathan, Jared and Matthew from Kings of Leon strutting on a watery stage :-). Usually I would leave the door opened so that I could join in the fun. But not that day. It had been raining the whole day, very windy and it was freezing. But I’m sure everyone had a good time because I could hear them singing along when I was doing ironing upstairs. I had the window opened. The concert ended with some spectacular firework displays. And late into the night we could hear the traffic still trying to leave the Ricoh.

Babe wasn’t feeling well and so we decided to chill out at home. The weather was rubbish anyway and I’ve got plenty of things to keep me busy. I have to finish reading The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark for the book discussion on Wednesday. I have now joined a new book-club organised by the staff of University House. I was on the lookout for a new group that suit my hours ever since the Borders book-club disbanded.

I also packed a box for Malaysia containing bits and pieces for the family. My cousin, Lyana and hubby, are returning back for good in July and I’m taking the opportunity to sneak in a box in their container. Lyana have been here for nearly 6 years, first studying at York and then in Coventry University. I am going to miss them very much.

At first I planned to have pizza at their place for dinner. I had to cancel since Babe was still under the weather. We made arrangements for them to have dinner at our casa before they leave. We went to their casa to hand in the box and we’d a little chinwag in the midst of their packing chaos. They had to send their stuff to York the next day because they are sharing a container with another friend.

At work, I baby sat 4 people who were short-listed to attend an interview as Metadata Librarian for the Publications Database. I met them at the reception point, took them for a short tour of the library, showed them the Data Service office and then brought them to the interviewing panel. It was quite strange to be on the other side of the fence and I really empathise with all of them. Good luck and the next time we meet again, one of them will be my new colleague.

I was early at my first book-club meeting. It was a 10 minute walk from my office. I was introduced as the latest member and as an outsider as all of them worked in the University House. But they were a very friendly lot and made me feel welcome. I must remember to bring my lunch along the next time as all of them were having their lunch amidst the discussions. It was good meeting and everyone contributed. We will meet again on the first Wednesday of July discussing William Faulkner’s ‘As I lay dying’. Hmm…quite a strange selection.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I took the bus to work as Babe was too ill to drive. It was an easy ride as the school children were still on their term-break. But when we were nearing Pool Meadow bus station, the road was cordoned off. I later found out that in the early morning there was a massive brawl of about 300 people outside a club. Hundred of thugs from as far away as London and Birmingham fought with police after a club night in the city centre. What a waste of police time.

This week started by rocking to the Kings of Leon and ended with an Arabian night. There was a traditional Tunisian Souk market and bazaar in the city-centre. Stalls were selling hand crafted pottery, ceramics, handmade jewellery and freshly cooked delicacies to the pulsating sounds of Arabian beat. I was interested in the traditional tagine cookery pots but they were for decorative purposes only. I was hoping to get my hands for a proper tagine pot because I love lamb tagine and would like to cook it using an authentic pot. 

My colleagues and I were in the city centre for another trip to the Noodle Bar. When we arrived it wasn’t opened yet so we took the opportunity to check out the market. At the restaurant, I ordered my usual udon with seafood special and Chinese vegetables washed with steaming pots of cha. CC ordered prawns wonton as starter and shared them with me. Thanks. From where we were sitting, we’d a good view of the passersby below, checking out what they were wearing.

On Saturday, Babe and I went to Bradgate Park to check out the natives. And we weren’t alone. Half of Leicestershire was there, having a picnic, cycling, pond-dipping, running, dog-walking and just enjoying the beautiful day. Looking at the crowd, I guess we won’t be seeing much of the natives. They tend to stay hidden in the forest when the park gets too crowded. I don’t blame them.

Bradgate Park D2h  04-06-2011 13-09-36

As usual, I scanned the River Lin for my favourite widgeon. But there was soo many people along the banks and in the shallower part of the river pond-dipping. As we continued walking, we heard the distinctive whistling ‘whee-oo’ before we could spot him. There he was grooming at the opposite side of the river. It was so lovely to see him again, looking as splendid as before.

Bradgate Park D300s X2  04-06-2011 13-20-09

Further on, we spotted solitary deer feeding here and there among the brackens on the hills. Then we came across this herd of fallow deer feeding in the open field, away from the main path. We crept slowly towards them so that they were used to our presence. It was quite funny cos as we crept closer, we were being watched by another deer, hidden among the grass. After snapping merrily, we made our way to Lady Jane Grey’s house which was now opened to the public.

Bradgate Park D50  04-06-2011 13-40-17In the grounds, we spotted this handsome peacock having a grand stroll checking out the visitors. It was so lovely to see him again.. There was also a herd of deer feeding at the far end of the estate. I also spotted a Green Woodpecker, Pied wagtails, Heron, Starlings and Goldfinches. We could hear another peacock screaming from behind the walls. I knew it was the albino but he was hidden away among the thick, tall grasses..

Bradgate Park D300s X2  04-06-2011 13-46-20

The park was getting very busy by now that we decided to call it a day. A herd of Red Deer was feeding by the hillside but it was too far for us to walk. Then we saw this pretty Mistle Thrush busy feeding among the trees. It was very strange to see the huge throngs of people walking past, oblivious of this bird. Not us a we slowly stalked her with our cameras. Then it was time to head home.Bradgate Park D300s X2  04-06-2011 14-25-32 On Sunday, we went to our favourite playground to check what was about. I think we’d missed the swallow fledglings. We saw all of them lined on their usual perch waiting to be fed. From time to time, they were seen flying after their parents. I think the parents were now thinking of having a second brood.Brandon Marsh D50  05-06-2011 13-10-23 Babe busied himself with macro photography . He was always bending over some plants trying to get the best shot of the insects, beetles and bees. I can’t do that because I was playing with a Sigma 170X500 lens attached to the D50. It took some time to get used to it, making sure that I don’t get too close to the object. We walked through the West Marsh when I managed to get this handsome Black Cap singing his heart out. I was so chuffed because this was my first sighting for this year.

Brandon Marsh D50  05-06-2011 14-34-30 At Riverside Pool, a Common Sandpiper was fast asleep. We left him alone after taking a few photographs. At East Marsh Pool, the lapwing chick had survived and had grown very quickly. We watched him feeding along the mudbanks, well camouflaged among the reeds. From time to time, one of its parent will fly over to make sure that he’s ok.

Brandon Marsh D300s X2  05-06-2011 15-06-26

On the main island, a Canada Geese was still nesting. A Little Ringed plover was being harassed by a Redshank. I think they must have chicks or eggs and were protecting them by aggressive defence of their site.  We also saw the gorgeous Oystercatcher chicks, now nearly fully grown. Sadly after starting with 4, only 3 remained.

Brandon Marsh D300s X2  05-06-2011 15-13-48

At Carlton, it was quiet on the bird front but very noisy with children running around on the wooden floor. So no birds were about until they left. We spotted another Common Sandpiper feeding on the mudbanks and the Kingfisher made a quick fly-past. I don’t think they would stop because the pool was full of weeds. We saw Whitethroats flirting from tree to tree. Babe took this lovely photograph of a parent feeding her 2 adorable chicks a few days earlier. All together now…Aaah…

Brandon Marsh D300s X2  31-05-2011 14-28-31 What a fabulous and varied week it has been. The first week of June was nearly over. Time flies fast when you’re having fun. I hoped that you too had as much fun as I did.

Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.

~Al Bernstein~