Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Derby Dash

On  a foggy Saturday morning, we were on the M69/M1 again. This time to Derby in the East Midlands. I thought it was going to be a very long drive and asked Babe to make a quick stop at the Leicester Forest East Service Area. I bought 3 bars of chocolate and had finished eating one when we turned off the M1 into Derby. was that quick. And then we hit the ring road and went round and round, crossing the River Derwent, trying to get to our destination, the Bold Lane car-park, reputed to be one of the ten most secure places in the world. Hmm, I wonder why?Derby D50  26-03-2011 12-05-51

Alas, we didn’t arrived there but managed to get a parking space near the Derby Cathedral. The tower dominated the city skyline and we could see it as we were cruising on the ring road. We were here in Derby to check-out an early birthday present for Babe, a Sigma 300mm F2.8 DG HSM EX lens, from the London Camera Exchange. This shop was located at the Cathedral Quarter, in the older section of the city.   Derby D50  26-03-2011 11-56-52 Babe tried and tested the lenses and we came out nearly £2k poorer!!! I know, I know but we don’t have any children to shower and pamper. We only have each other. We worked hard and we don’t smoke, drink or have expensive holidays. We always pay our purchases in cash and if we want to get something, we save. We have never used a credit card and never will. And you only turn 50 once.

Then it was time to checkout the area. I really, really love this historical street. It was dotted with arcades, hidden entrances with an ancient pebbled trackway. There was a myriad of specialist stores, independent retailers and coffee shops, which made it a truly unique and exciting place to shop. I was soo busy clicking away, oblivious to my surroundings. Everywhere I looked and turned, there was something that caught my attention. I’m definitely coming here again as I haven’t had time to browse in any of the shops. Derby D50  26-03-2011 11-50-19

As we continued walking back to the car, I continued taking more photographs. Then Cathedral bells were tolling, and I heard a loud wailing cry. What on earth??? Babe called me and when I looked up, there it was, perched on the stone tower, a peregrine falcon. I was grinning from ear-to ear to have seen this beautiful bird. I had read that the tower had been home to a pair of breeding peregrines since 2006. It was amazing and from time-to-time, she will let out another wail. We will definitely come here again especially when they started having chicks. I will be monitoring their progress at

Derby D50  F  26-03-2011 12-07-59

Derby Cathedral was the smallest Anglican cathedral in England.The current cathedral dates from the fourteenth century while the tower dates from 1510 to 1530. It was built in the popular perpendicular gothic style of the time.The cathedral contained the oldest ring of ten bells in the United Kingdom. Most of them have been here since 1678 when the number of bells was increased from 6 to 10. The tower was 68.6 metre tall to the tip of the pinnacles. Advance booking were required if anyone fancy to see the breathtaking views of Derby from the towers. Derby D50  26-03-2011 12-01-06

We will check out this Cathedral on our next visit because it contained a wealth of treasures including Bess of Hardwick's ornate tomb, an 18th. century nave with a wrought iron Rood screen by Robert Bakewell and the Cavendish brasses. The Cathedral was also connected to a medieval chapel, St. Mary's on the Bridge.  This bridge dates from the 14th Century, and was one of the very few surviving bridge chapels in England.

On Sunday, it was the start of British summer time where the clocks spring forward an hour. Did we loose any sleep? I don’t think so. I’m soo looking forward to longer, brighter and fingers-crossed warmer evenings. We planned another drive to Bradgate Park to play with Babe’s latest new toy. As usual, a pit stop at Groby Pool to checkout the natives. These hybrid ducks weren’t that excited to see us cos they already had many visitors feeding them. Groby Pool D50  27-03-2011 11-20-47

We decided to walk towards the water sluice when suddenly we heard a CRASH. We looked at each other with our hearts in our mouth cos nearly £3k worth of camera laid on Babe’s feet. I better not print what came out of his mouth. I didn’t say anything cos he’d said enough. Just our luck. It didn’t snapped when we were walking on the grass. While Babe checked the camera, I continued snapping a Goldfinch and Dunnock checking us out. So far, only the lens cap was dented and the SD card couldn’t be used. Phew… Groby Pool D50  27-03-2011 11-12-57

We continued our trip to Bradgate Park and it was chaotic. Cars were parked haphazardly and we decided to park on the overflow car-park. Inside the country park, it was heaving. I think nearly half of Leicestershire was there taking advantage of the warm weekend. Suddenly we heard the familiar whistle, “whee-hoo”. I rushed to the river bank and there he was, my favourite widgeon. He was safe and noisy as usual. It was lovely to see him. Bradgate Park D300s  27-03-2011 12-17-40

We continued walking and spotted herds of fallow deer feeding by the hillside. Red deer was seen higher up the hills. Due to the large number of people, dogs and bicycles, we know that we won’t be getting near them. We heard the cries of the peacock and the drumming of a wood-pecker from the closed grounds of Lady Jane Grey house. We walked towards the field and photographed these young fallows enjoying their lunch.

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The sun came out as we were leaving the park. We couldn’t wait to get home so that Babe can check his camera properly again. I spent the evening just chilling out and pottering in the garden. I’ve sowed 12 pencil pod black wax dwarf French beans in my tiny plastic greenhouse. CC had an extra packet and gave it to me. I’ve no idea what they looked like so I’m looking forward to what will emerged. I must get more composts because I’m planning to grow the usual tomatoes, courgettes, pak choi, chard, chives, pumpkin, leeks and cucumbers. My compost heap were rotting nicely but it was not enough. I’m also planning to grow my usual 11 pots of sunflowers, sweet peas and marigolds. Bring on summer.

I’ve also seen the white cherry trees in full bloom around campus. I was quite surprised to see this sign of spring so early in the year. But the pink blossom tree outside my office window was still bare. I hoped it would wait a little bit longer because cherry blossoms are usually associated with Easter and normally flowers in late April or Early May. I guess the run of warm weather had coaxed these delicate flowers out of its buds.

"Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough."
~ A. E. Houseman, Shropshire Lad~

Warwick University D300s  25-03-2011 17-03-22

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Hard At Work

On Monday, I completed my annual review for last year. My manager booked the meeting room for 2 hours and I was thinking what on earth are we going to talk about. Guess what? We came out nearly 2 hours later. It was a very productive discussion where I got to tell him what I’d accomplished so far and if not, why. All the reasons were beyond my capacity such as the special collections weren’t available due to the refurbishment, RDA wasn’t up and running etc. I’m pleased that one of my ideas about e-books management will be brought to the attention of the Management Group. I’m really looking forward to that.

We also had the library system, Millennium, upgraded during the weekend. It was quite worrying to come to work and find out that the system had crashed because everyone logged in at the same time. It was slow to begin with but as the day progressed, it got better and faster. There were a few minor hitches like certain tags had disappeared but the DILTS team managed to ironed them out quickly.

I was late for work on Tuesday because of a major accident at the main cross-roads to the University. We were stuck for nearly 20 minutes before we saw the flashing blue lights on Hearsall Lane. Oh dear…By this time, all the roads by Chapelfields was clogged up as everyone was scrambling to find an alternative route. As we weren’t familiar with these roads, we decided to drive back to the ring-road. And off course, a lot of the drivers were thinking of the same thing.

There was a very long queue onto the ring-road because there were road-works being carried out. Half of the roads were cordoned off. We drove down to Foleshill Road and then back to to the ring-road before entering the Kenilworth Road. It had been a very loong morning. I hoped that no one was badly hurt in the accident.

After all that, I tried my luck on the tombola for Red Nose Day. I seldom win anything but on that day, lady luck was on my side. Both my tickets won me something. One was an Einstein mind game and the other was a white woollen shawl and glove set. Since I have no need for the later, I put the ticket back and kept the game which was still in its box. I will definitely try it out soon. A big pat on the shoulder for all staff cos we managed to collect £175 for the charity. Well done. 

Traffic into the university was heavy on Wednesday and Thursday because a major housing conference was being held here. It turned into a one-way system where the road was divided into delegates and others. So I guess you know which one we took. My colleagues were not pleased as they had to find an alternative parking space because one of the multi-storey car-park  was designated for the conference delegates. And they had paid for their parking permits. Some came very early just to secure a parking space. A few had been driving round and round. It was chaotic for the staff.Coventry D300s  22-03-2011 09-56-11

When I arrived home, babe showed me this. WTF!!! A used-syringe was stuck onto my neighbour’s fence. Some idiot had used the alley as a drug den. Ghee…I don’t care if they want to inject themselves but can’t they do it in their own homes??? I used this alley way when I did my clearing up of the garden. I’ll drag the wheelie bin and put the rubbish in it. Furthermore, children can sometimes be seen running up and down this alley. Someone could get hurt. What were they thinking!!!

On Wednesday, too, we found out that the University Council had approved the proposal to set the tuition fees at £9K for home and EU undergraduate students for the 2012 entry. They currently charge £3290. That is nearly a massive 300% increase.  It needed the rise to cope with dramatic cuts in government teaching grants and to fund bursaries for students from lower income families. But I think the University was trying to be on par with the top universities like Oxford, Cambridge and LSC which had set the fees at the same amount. My only concession on this was at least there will not be any more job cuts after the serious culling they did last year, fingers-crossed.

I had to take the bus to work on Thursday cos Babe was feeling unwell. As soon as I got down the bus in the city-centre, I saw the No12 minibus whizzing past me. I ran as fast as my heels could carry me up the road and guess what??? As soon as I reached the door, it closed and the driver drove off. %*$£ I’m sure he saw me and still he went off. If I was a %*£$, I would have kicked the bus but thankfully, I was still sane. Some of the bystanders who were waiting for another bus told me that these drivers never stopped. No point running after them. Don’t these drivers know that without passengers, they wouldn’t have a job!!

AM told me that since the students have gone for their Easter break, the evening bus service was very irregular. Another bee in my bonnet. But thankfully, the bus arrived right on time. As we were reaching town, we saw a few police cars patrolling around the city centre. One was even parked right in the middle of New Union Street. What was going on? When we got off the bus and walked to our respective busses, a few policemen was on beat. It was very strange but it made me feel safe. When I reached my stop, the No20 bus arrived on cue. Hmm…I think someone was listening to my rant:-)

There was another strike on Thursday. It was part of a national dispute over plans by university employers to reduce their contributions into staff pension funds. It was a very subdued one especially as most of the students have already gone home. Weren’t strikes supposed to create an impact??? All I could see were people holding posters and standing by the roadside, handling out leaflets. A few drivers did honked to show support. Anyway, good luck to all of them.

One of the great reasons for the popularity of strikes is that they give the suppressed self a sense of power. For once the human tool knows itself a man, able to stand up and speak a word or strike a blow.
Charles Horton Cooley

We’d another update on our library system. The anti-virus checker license had been renewed and a new Kaplinsky 6.0 had been installed. We were told to upload it, followed the instructions and restart again. As usual, with everyone logging in at the same time, the system s-l-o-w-e-d down. It was a relief when everything when back to normal.

It had been a very, very busy week for me and my colleagues. There were 8 of us in the department. On Monday, we started with 6 and by Friday, there were only 3 of us keeping the wheels running. We’d urgent and super-urgent requests for books to be processed like yesterday. Why? Students and lecturers will be away for their mid-term/Easter break and they wanted to take these books with them. If I am not mistaken, the students will be sitting for their examinations when they return. I was literally drowned with books.

Thankfully, we ended the week with a party, yaay. The 23 Things project had been completed and we just had to celebrate our hard work. There was also an award ceremony for best blog, best blog name, best…etc. 40 of us registered and 24 completed. Well done to all of us. The best thing was that all 24 of us had an award each, and I got the best photograph on Flickr award. Another yaay for me.

After work, Babe and I went to the lake to check the frog spawn. The frogs have disappeared and still no tadpoles about. The weather was not very stable at the moment. It was very warm during the day but freezing at night. So I guess it was still not vey conducive for them to be hatching yet.

Apart from me slogging at work, I would like to wish my beautiful niece, Siobhan, a very Happy birthday. For William, congratulations on becoming a daddy to TWINS. So far, we don’t know the sex yet and I hoped mummy, babies plus daddy are fine. And last but not least, well-done to Jess. Finally, she got a new (and better) job at LDC. I’m so pleased for her and very sad to see her go. But at least, she doesn’t have to go far. 

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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Ouse Washes Nature Reserve

On a beautiful Saturday morning, we dressed up warm and drove through the beautiful Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Cambridgeshire countryside. Our destination was the Ouse Washes Nature Reserve. I was very keen to check out this place when I read on its website that thousands of widgeons spent the winter here. I couldn’t imagine how noisy it would be if you have that many noise-boxes about. It would be a blast.

It was a very pleasant drive and Babe had the roof of the car down. We sang our hearts out to the American Rock anthems CD. After about 2 hours we arrived in Cambridgeshire and I noticed how flat this county was. It was this huge space because the clouds and the landscape seemed to blend in together. A pity that this wonderful space was dotted with wind-farms. I have seen wind-farms before but they were high up in the mountains, not by the roadsides. Roadtrip D200  19-03-2011 12-18-09

This must be a farming county. We drove through fields of leeks and other green stuff (?) and noticed lots of scarecrows in various disguises. As we continued our journey, I spotted my very first hare. I have been living in the UK for nearly 15 years and this was my first sighting of a hare. There was no place to stop and take photographs. I kept my eyes peeled towards the fields as Babe whizzed through just in case if I spot one. Sadly, nada, zilch, zero. But, I’m still very happy that I’ve seen one.

“Then you should say what you mean the March Hare went on. I do. Alice hastily replied; at least—at least I mean what I say—that’s the same thing you know”

~Lewis Carroll~

After a very, very bumpy drive, we arrived in one piece at our destination. As we got our gear out, a flock of very vocal Oyster Catchers flew above us. Babe said that it was a promising start. Ouse Washes D300s  19-03-2011 12-56-12

In the heart of The Fens , the Ouse Washes formed the largest area of washland (grazing pasture that floods in the winter) in the UK. They cover the area between two diversion channels of the River Great Ouse: the Old Bedford River and the New Bedford River (also known as the Hundred Foot Drain). The parallel rivers, ditches and banks formed the very distinctive feature in this otherwise very flat landscape. You could say that the washland was a very large, 17th century flood control structure designed to retain winter flood waters from the Ouse and prevent it from flooding the valuable surrounding farmland, and this function was still performed even today.

As we walked through from the car park, there were two set of feeding areas. We just had to stop and spotted tree sparrows, chaffinches, blue tits, great tits, reed buntings, robins, dunnocks, blackbirds and pigeons having a feast. It was a wonderful place for photography. Then there was the decision where do we start our adventure. There were 10 bird-watching hides that stretch across about 31km and all were facing the wash. But first we have to cross this very tranquil Old Bedford River. Ouse Washes D200  19-03-2011 13-05-23I had to stop by these bushes because it was alive with tree sparrows. I guess they must have been very used to people pointing their lenses towards them. They just ignored us and continued eating, gossiping, and twittering happily. I read in the brochure that this site was responsible for the tree sparrow support programme. They have done very well.Ouse Washes D50  19-03-2011 15-30-12We walked on the boardwalk that meandered through the reeds. In summer, this place will be teeming with hunting dragonflies and damselflies. Above us, we watched a kestrel hunting. Then we arrived at out first hide, aptly named Welches Dam. And the first thing that strike me was how huge the washland was and all the waders seemed to be congregating on the opposite end of the hide:-(  Too far away for effective photography!!!Ouse Washes D200  19-03-2011 13-15-36I could hear their distinctive whistling ‘whee-oo’ before I could see them. There were hundreds of widgeons but they were scattered all over the washes. There were also redshanks, lapwings, snipes, shovellers, galdwalls, mallards, teals, tufted ducks, pochards, mute swans, coots and whooper swans. We have seen all of these before but not in these huge numbers. I am sure there are other waders out there but these were the ones that I could see through my binoculars.Ouse Washes D300s  19-03-2011 13-26-15We decided to check the hides towards the counter drain so that we don’t have to walk facing the sun. By this time, it was getting very warm. We heard the drumming of the Green woodpeckers and spotted nearly a dozen of them flying about with their cries echoing behind them. As we we walking towards the Kingfisher Hide, Babe startled a kingfisher!!! Don’t know who was more surprised:-). Here we spotted more widgeons feeding among the reeds. But what caught our attention was the mating displays from a pair of Great Crested Grebe. It was so romantic :-)Ouse Washes D300s  19-03-2011 14-18-44After a quick lunch of cheese and onion pasties and washed down with hot coffee from a thermos, we checked out the next hide, Grose. The distance between the hides were getting further apart, too. Here, as usual more widgeons, Little Grebes and fighting coots. But the main centre of attraction was 5 sleeping Avocets, the emblem of the RSPB. How I wished they were closer to the hides.Ouse Washes D300s  19-03-2011 14-50-41I would have loved to continue on but by this time Babe was feeling exhausted. Better not tire him out because we still had a long way to drive home. So we decided to call it a day and call in another time. All in all, we’d a wonderful time at this beautiful reserve. We might come in summer when there were about 2k cattle (and sheep) grazing, wading birds breeding, ducks nesting. migrant birds returning, dragonflies and damselflies hunting. I couldn’t wait.

The only wader that I would have liked to have seen was the Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits. I had never seen this particular bird before. According to the website, they usually peaked at over 2000 in March and were a spectacular sight once they attained their rich 'tomato soup' colour breeding plumage. Later, when the wildfowl numbers declined rapidly, the Garganeys will appear. They might be there somewhere in the huge washlands. It was just that we hadn’t seen any. I will definitely take a rain cheque for that.

On Sunday, it was the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It wasn’t as gorgeous as Saturday but the Earth’s position relative to the sun meant that it was officially time for the birds to start chirping. But I think they have started practicing their chirps a long time ago. So officially we have left Winter behind although we have been having these spring-like weather for weeks.

“The first day of spring is one thing

and the first spring day is another.

The difference between them

is sometimes as great as a month”

~Henry Van Dyke~

The Vernal or Spring Equinox heralded in re-growth and rebirth. Mother earth had awakened as seen in my garden. New leaves were unfurling, green shoots from the bulbs pushing through the warming soil and best of all, ladybirds out and about. They were crawling everywhere. Coventry D200 F  15-03-2011 11-51-03

Spring is when life’s alive in everything”

~Christina Rossetti~

We decided to check out the natives at our favourite playground. The reserve was alive with bird songs, all trying to undo each other. We met Kay, sans Andy, and had a natter as we walked into the Baldwin Hide. Kay then went off searching for Andy. The usual culprits were about. And we noticed that the resident pair of Great Crested Grebe were checking out their previous nesting pad. Oh dear, I hoped they were not thinking of it cos last year, they lost all their chicks to the big, bad heron.

We walked through the woods and it was quite empty. Either the birds were having a siesta or they were busy elsewhere. We decided to call it a day and went home. I think I took more photographs of my feathered friends in our garden earlier that day. We now have a family of house sparrows coming regularly. I always know they were at the feeder because they were a noisy bunch. Apart from them, a pair of dunnocks, a robin, blackbird, blue tits, wood pigeons, a flock of starlings, our resident wren, a pretty collared dove and Mr. Bushy Tail take turns at the feeder. I’ve also hang a few fat-balls on the bushes for them, too. All were very common birds and mammal but they were always a delight to watch and always welcome to our humble garden.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Ides of March

The Ides of March was the first day of the Roman New Year. It also marked the first day of spring and the day of the full moon in the Roman calendar. Now used as a metaphor for impending doom, the “Ides of March” was originally simply a name for March 15th. In the ancient Roman calendar, the term “ides” referred to the 15th day of the months of March, May, July, and October and the 13th of all other months. It was a festive day dedicated to Mars, the Roman god of Wars, and marked with a military parade. However, when Caesar was assassinated on that day in 44 BCE, the phrase took on an entirely new meaning. In Shakespeare's play,Julius Caesar,  the death was foretold by a soothsayer with the quote 'Beware the Ides of March.'

And it was also moi’s birthday. Yaay…I took the day off to celebrate. We planned for a drive through the Cotswold countryside and checking out a few towns like Chipping Camden, Broadway and Moreton-in-Marsh. I wanted to have an English tea in a tearoom with scones, jam and clotted creams and tea poured from a tea-pot, served from a china set.But alas, the weather was against us. We woke up to a very grey, gloomy and chilly morning. Low clouds and dense fog enveloped the whole of the UK. Hmm…not a good day for a drive.

But not too worry. I’d a wonderful day. Babe gave me a lovely card, a beautiful pot of orchids in full bloom and another piece of gold bling to be added to my collection. Thank you darling. Then we went to my favourite shop, TK Maxx and it was spend, spend, spend. Babe’s wallet took a very serious workout -). I got a very sexy pair of 3 cm. red Caravalle T-bar heels and loads and lots of smellies. Thank you again darling, mwah…mwah.  Coventry D200 F  15-03-2011 11-52-58

After a quick lunch, we popped over to Coombe Abbey to check out the bird-hide and heronry. Since it was a working week, we literally had the whole park to ourselves. I fed the ducks and we spotted our favourite pair, the black indies and his white partner. They were always together.Coombe Abbey D300s  15-03-2011 16-43-39

We’d walked halfway when Babe suddenly remembered the closing time. OOps…we had to turn back but the sight of a buzzard landing on a nearby tree stopped us. We just had to check it out. It flew off when it spotted us and then we continued walking back to the car. The park had already closed but at least they were considerate enough to leave a space just enough for us to drive through. We really appreciate it. Thank you so very much.

Then we stopped at Morisson for a huge double-sponge cake with fresh cream for my birthday treat. Please ignore the calories!!!. It was a lovely end to a wonderful day. When I returned to work the next day, my colleagues had left cards and pressies on my desk. Thanks a million guys.

We turn not older with years, but newer every day.
~Emily Dickinson~

On Monday, while I was having lunch beside the lake, I heard the plaintive croaking of frogs. I walked to the edge and this jelly-like mass greeted me. It was frog-spawn. The air was alive with croaking of frogs that haven't found a mate yet. But there were already lots of pairs as the water looked like a jacuzzi churning with huge balls of frogs mating. When I first went over to the lake, they swam away but if I just stood there they seemed to get used to me and came back. It was amazing.Warwick University D300s  17-03-2011 12-48-36

This was a familiar sight during Spring as frogs hook up for the first time to spawn after their long winter hibernation.The eggs sank to the bottom of the lake as a clump surrounded by a type of jelly material. This material protected the developing baby frogs as they grew. The jelly swelled up in water and then floated on top of the water to catch the sunlight to keep them warm. Some of the spawn must have been here a little while as it had started to develop. If the warm weather stays I should see them hatching pretty soon. I couldn’t wait. I must check this site daily as it would have taken just over 3 weeks from laying to proper tadpoles.

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Babe joined me during one of my lunch break when he spotted a dead frog. Female frogs found dead in the breeding season may have been clasped by too many over-amorous males. While male frogs may die due to the exhaustion of mating. They laid huge numbers of eggs, but their high mortality rate meant that usually fewer than 10 in 1,000 developed into adult frogs. A pity that tadpoles occupy the undesirable position of being at the bottom of the food chain. While we were busy checking out the frogs, these Siskins were feeding above our heads. Warwick University D300s  17-03-2011 12-47-34

Also during one of my lunch walks, I came across a large group of students crowding over something. Hmm…what was going on. As I got closer and managed to squeeze through, they were admiring this racing car, taking photographs and posing beside it. 2 burly bodyguards were standing close, watching like a hawk. It was very hard to get a good photograph cos there was always somebody walking in front of me. When I showed it to Babe, he told me that it was a Red Bull Formula One car which was worth millions!!! Oh my, I thought it was just a go-cart…Warwick University D50  16-03-2011 13-09-19

Finally, I managed to complete my 23 Things Project. It started on the 10th. January and we were given 10 weeks to finish it. It was hard work juggling my daily work commitments and this project. But it was worth it. My final thoughts was that to really make a full impact and to participate well, I either have to have a lot of time on my hands and/or be a full-time social media participant. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the awards ceremony aka a party next Friday to commemorate our accomplishments. Any excuse for a party eh :-0

On Thursday, the saying that everyone was a little Irish on St. Patrick’s Day rang true. Everywhere the colour green was sprouting and it really felt that spring was finally here. I joined the fun by wearing a green cardigan with a brown skirt that has green flowers embroidered on it and finished with a pair of green heels. We checked out the Restaurant and they were serving colcannon, soda bread, Irish stew and bram brack. Guinness optional…:-)

For each petal on the shamrock

This brings a wish your way

Good health, good luck and happiness

For today and everyday

~Irish Blessing~

On Friday, a few of my colleagues, who were members of the Warwick University and College Union (UCU), joined the lecturers  in a day of industrial action as part of a national dispute over proposals to cut their pensions. They gathered on the picket line outside the gatehouse in the freezing, wet morning, armed with banners saying “Hands off our pensions”. Another major strike will be staged next week. Good luck to all of them.

Then it was the time of the year to wear the red noses for Comic Relief. I’d totally forgotten about it until I arrived at work and found the office corridor decorated with red balloons and the table full of delicious goodies for sale. A tombola was also held to support the charity. I took this photograph of KM checking out the goodies. Congratulations to her too cos she just did a Tandem Skydive for the Aplastic Anaemia Trust. Warwick University D50  18-03-2011 09-05-46

In Coventry, 699 eager knitters gathered in the Cathedral to break a world record and raised thousands for Comic Relief. But the numbers fell short of the 937 needed to break the Guinness World Record set in the USA. But they still managed to break a world record when the Registry of World Records informed the organisers that they could set a new record for the number of people taking part if they knitted for 20 minutes instead of the planned 15.

So with needles and wool at the ready, at exactly 6.48pm a huge cheer went up as the Coventry Knitathon officially started. By the end almost £4,000 was raised through collection buckets on the night to add to money donated in advance. Everything from scarves, hats, toys and even pants were knitted by eager fundraisers. Well done to all who participated.

It was incredible that during this economic recession, Comic Relief smashed its 23-year fund-raising total by raising more than £74million at the end of the show. It was the highest figure ever to be reached on the night in Red Nose Day’s history. It will be more as thousands of fundraisers are yet to hand over their takings. I really enjoyed the Smithy hysterical spoof. It was a strange night. I sobbed my heart out watching the documentaries and laughed my head off watching some of the sketches.  

The Ides of March was also the day of the full moon and it happened last night. The March full moon was closest to the Earth and was the largest full moon for 2011. The moon was at its perigee which meant that it reaches a point in the cycle where it appeared big and very bright in the night sky.

Stargazers and moon-lovers was treated to an amazing vision when the moon approached the Earth at a distance of only 356,577km. I was outside in the freezing cold with my camera. Unfortunately, there was cloud cover. I hoped no one listened to the disaster hype from the doomsayers and grabbed their cameras, cell phones or telescopes to snap the big, bright, beautiful orbit. This shot of the moon was taken on Friday. I wanted to compare it with the Super Moon but wasn’t able to :-(Coventry D50  18-03-2011 18-18-29

I hoped I’m not alone in thinking, oh no, not again!!! When do we ever learn??? Why does the UK have to be present in these military adventures? What good was this really doing for us here, except putting more lives as risk, and setting ourselves for long term military commitments and an expensive exercise with unknown outcomes? Iraq and Afghanistan was still on-going. Why does this ONCE great, near bankrupt, off shore European island, still think it can run the world and meddles in other country's affairs ? Much as I hated Gadaffi, he was not invading another country. It was a matter to be resolved by the Libyans themselves. Bahrain called in troops from Saudi Arabia and nothing was done. Mugabe is a dictator every bit as crazy as Gadaffi, but I don't see all and sundry rushing to defend democracy in Zimbabwe. But, then Mugabe isn't sitting on a sea of oil, is he???

Was there a vote in Parliament? Where the people of this country consulted? Can we afford it? Millions of people already lost their jobs, their houses, their lifestyle and then the taxpayers had to pay for this!!!

This Coalition government (not voted in by the people) scaled back our military capability and at the same time increasing our military obligations. We are assisting with regime change in a country that poses no immediate threat to us. Is Cameron doing a Blair, wanting to be a "world leader". He insisted it was ‘right’ to join international operations to stop the ‘inhumanity’ by helping to oust a murderous despot. Please don't give me this 'humanitarian' rubbish. Does he think we are blind and stupid? It wasn't true last time and it still wasn't true now. The truth is that we only take an interest when it suits our purpose. No wonder rogue countries such as Iran and North Korea have taken the nuclear option. It seemed to be the only way to stop the West from interfering in their affairs. My heart goes to the soldiers who got no choice and the Libyan civilians caught in the middle.

We live in a dangerous world let no one doubt it. Some disasters are natural but many others are of our own makings but throughout we must live the law of love.

~Alan Smith~

It was also the week when Sky Blues manager, Boothroyd, was sacked after just 10 months in charge at the Ricoh Arena. The club were fourth in the Championship in early November but have won just one of their past 16 games and slid down the table to 19th, seven points from the relegation zone. Last Saturday's 1-0 defeat at home to Hull City – their 10th during that poor period – proved to be the final straw for the board. And yesterday’s away defeat 2:1 to Preston, meant that the club was now in the 20th position.For me the Club’s hire-and-fire approach to managers had hardly been a recipe for stability. To anyone out there willing to fill the vacancy, good luck.

Up from the sea, the wild north wind is blowing Under the sky's gray arch; Smiling I watch the shaken elm boughs, knowing It is the wind of March.

~William Wordsworth~

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I know I should have quoted Wordsworth 'Daffodils' but it had had been mentioned everywhere. I’m still waiting for my daffodils to bloom. The Tete-a-tete ones have started flowering already. I hoped that daffodils too are blooming in your garden.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Whitacre Heath Nature Reserve

We have been members of the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust since we moved to Coventry about 6 years ago. I think it was one of the best move we ever did. There were many nature reserves in Warwickshire and the one on our doorstep was Brandon Marsh. You could find us nearly every week here, in all kinds of weather. It was a great place to get away from the hustle bustle of work/life, breathe in some fresh air and a bit of exercise. It also indulges our greatest passion, nature and photography.

Apart from Brandon Marsh, there were 47 nature reserves scattered all over Warwickshire. We were also lucky that one of the reserve,Tocil Wood, was situated in the University’s grounds. You can often find me wandering under the canopy of the woods, photographing bluebells in late spring and fungi in autumn.

We also have visited Draycote, Pooley Fields, Ryton Woods, Swift Valley and Cox’s Island. Each of them with their own unique habitats. Looking through the guide issued by the Wildlife Trust, we decided to visit the rest of the 40+ reserves at least once and make a note whether it was worth coming again. And so first on the list was Whitacre Heath Nature Reserve. Whitacre Heath D200  12-03-2011 12-13-34

Why did we picked this reserve first? Via word of mouth. Acquaintances we met have been here and photographs of the natives have been posted on Flickr. So I guess it was time for us to check out the place which we did it on Saturday.

The reserve was just 40 minutes away from our casa. We nearly missed the entrance. Most of the smaller reserves were just padlocked and members gain entrance by a special code. As we were getting our cameras out, someone with a big bag of seeds walked past us. He identified himself as a volunteer and gave us some unsolicited advice about the reserve. His main gripe was that photographers with their big lens taking up space in the bird-hide and not letting others (presumably twitchers) from coming in. We told him that we were photographers…Whitacre Heath D300s  12-03-2011 12-20-42

Situated in the Thame Valley, lying on the floodplain of the adjoining River Thame, the reserve was mainly flat. It consisted a complex medley of shallow pools, wetland, woodland and grassland with informal paths to 5 bird hides. We asked a twitcher to where the hides were located and he did warned us that at the feeding station, it was standing room only. The photographers, again, had taken all the seats. Hmm, I guess people with big lens were not at all popular :-)

We walked towards the first hide, Riverpool Hide, where according to the twitcher, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was seen feeding a few minutes ago. But we didn’t see any. There was nothing at the hide, overlooking reedy shallow pools, except for a pair of teals, moorhens and coots. As we were walking out, we met my colleague, JW, owner of the Brandon Birding website. We’d a good natter and he said that a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was spotted on the path. We must have missed it, again. But we spotted a pair of tree-creepers. The forest was teeming with them and it was the first time, I heard the call of a tree-creeper.Whitacre Heath D50  12-03-2011 12-51-03

We walked along the well-trodden path towards the 2nd. hide which was very quiet. We followed the very muddy footpath towards the hide on stilts and again, empty . We were getting to be a bit disheartened. But we didn’t gave up and continued on walking through woodland dominated by alder and willow with plenty of mosses and liverworts. At last, we spotted the feeding station. We went in and there was only a father and son in residence. They told us that when they arrived, they couldn’t get in. It was a very small hide and can only fit about 6 people, the most. We were fortunate that we checked the other hides first, instead of heading straight here.

No wonder everyone came here first. There were several bird-feeders scattered all over the place and they were teeming with birds having a feast. We spotted Dunnocks, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Reed Buntings, Coal Tits and to our uttermost delight, the Lesser Redpolls. A very small finch with grey-brown, streak plumage, red forehead and black chin. This breeding male has plenty of pink on breast and rump. Isn’t he a handsome specimen?Whitacre Heath D300s  12-03-2011 13-58-42Below the feeders, a pair of female pheasants, too, joined in the fun. They were feeding on whatever had fallen onto the ground. Suddenly, all the birds went AWOL. What on earth happened? And there in a split second, a Sparrowhawk was sitting on top of the feeder and before we could do anything, it disappeared into the woods. It was just unbelievable. It took about 10 minutes before the birds started feeding again.Whitacre Heath D200  12-03-2011 13-34-14

As the father and son left the hide, he asked us to move the feeder closest to the hide, back to its original position in the middle of the compound once we’d finished. Aha…now we knew how they managed to get those beautiful photographs. We decided to put it back there and then. We couldn’t help laughing when a few of the birds came over and was looking for the feeder which was there before. You could see how confused they look. We left when 2 photographers came in. And one of them told us that they had seen the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker!!! D—ned where was that bl—dy thing??? As we walked, we heard their cries, echoing through the reserve, taunting us :-).

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We saved the last hide for the next visit. We will come again, most probably, in summer when the wetlands will be teeming with dragonflies and damselflies. Cattle, too, will be grazing in the grassland in summer. I hope they are Highland cattle. We’d to leave early before the football fans leave the Ricoh Arena. There was another home game and they lost again. This time 1:0 to Hull City. Oh dear…they are a few points above delegation. I’ve got a very bad feeling…

On the way home, we drove past a field of cabbages. Half of the field had already been harvested and I asked Babe to stop at an opposite lay-by and moi took photographs. Cars passing by must think that I’m really loco, taking photographs of cabbages.

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At home, we’d a light meal of soup and beef sandwiches. While Babe was hard at work uploading about 1k photographs, I chilled out by watching Man United winning 1:0 against Arsenal. That will bring a smile to JG. Later, I replanted pansies for the hanging basket in the garden. The hyacinths were blooming beautifully and the stunning pink bellis bringing colour into the awakening garden.

On a wet Sunday morning, I did about a 5km walk around the block. Then my usual ritual for an easy Sunday. Having a hearty breakfast of mushroom omelette, listening to Steve Wright’s Sunday love songs, reading the papers with the front door open watching the feeding frenzy on the bird-feeder. Life was just great.

At about 12pm, we did the laundry. It was a relief that all the washing could fit into the large washing machine. After completing the chores, we decided to pop over to Brandon Marsh. It was such a lovely day to be spending outdoors. At the reserve, we walked straight to the Baldwin Hide. I counted 14 swans gliding about in the lake, trying to get away from a very aggressive male. A pair of Great Crested Grebes swam past us and from the distance, I spotted a Redshank and a few Common Snipes feeding.

A brief peep at East Marsh Hide, before we continued towards Carlton Pool. It was still very quiet except for this handsome pheasant soaking the last rays of the sun. On the way back, we stopped at Teal Pool to catch a glimpse of the setting sun. As the sun was settling behind the trees, I heard my first Cetti Warbler this year.

The astonishing pictures from Japan were a dramatic illustrations of the power of nature. The Japanese were prepared like no other nation. And still it could not withstand the force unleashed by an earthquake on such a terrifying scale, followed by a massive tsunami. Nature bows to no man.

“Tread lightly, Take nothing but photographs, Leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time”

Friday, 11 March 2011

Down the Stream, the Swans all Glide*

I was supposed to be on leave but I’d to cancel it. Babe woke up with a massive headache and our plans for an outing to the Whitacre Heath Nature Reserve today had to be postponed. So I decided to go to work on the bus. This was my 2nd. bus trip for this week. I’m getting to be an expert now. I know that I’d to get the 7.50am bus from Foleshill Road and in town, wait for the No. 12 bus on Trinity Street. If I miss any of this, I’ll be late.

At work, my colleagues were surprised to see me. But not as surprise at the news that a tsunami had struck Sendai on the northeaster coast of Japan at 2.46pm local time (0546 GMT). This was followed by 12 powerful aftershocks, seven of them at least 6.3 on the Richter scale, the size of the quake which struck New Zealand on February 22.

Measured at 8.9 by the US Geological Survey, the quake was the fifth-largest in the world since 1900. The massive earthquake  sent a catastrophic 33 foot tsunami hurtling across the Pacific Ocean. Tsunami warnings were issued across the entire Pacific, as far away as South America, Canada, Alaska and the entire U.S. West Coast. I am very worried about those tiny islands that populate this area..

More than 1,000 people are feared to have died or missing in the 2min. 30sec. of tectonic vibrations.  Relief efforts were hampered by a number of aftershocks, including a 6.6 magnitude tremor which hit Tokyo and caused already damaged buildings to shake further. My thoughts and prayers are for those affected by this disaster. It just remind us how fragile life can be. The latest news was that a state of emergency was declared at a 2nd nuclear plant. Oh dear…

My colleagues and I kept our headphones glued to the BBC news live coverage. On the Intranet, help and counselling were offered to students and members of the university community. The university has students Brandon Marsh D300s  02-03-2011 13-53-19from all over the world and everytime a disaster happened, they were made aware that there were resources to assist them.

Since I didn’t bring my lunch with me, CC and I decided to have a big bowl of chips at the Library Cafe. We left early because we hoped that the Cafe won’t be busy. Big, big mistake. The queue was snaking right up to the door and since we didn’t have our coats on, we’d to join them. I’d a big plate of deep-fried thick chips drowned in mushy peas and tartar sauce. Ugh…it sounds soo unhealthy but it just taste divine. We managed to find a seat and, along with the rest of the diners, were glued to the big screen, watching the news on the Tsunami unfolding. Aftershocks and tremors were still on-going.

Since I’m taking the bus home, AM and I decided to checkout the M&S sales after work. It was nice and quiet and we’d a lovely time trying the clothes. We’d a good laugh because only the larger sizes were left. I picked a few and came out with a size 12 craftan-style tunic. Size 12!!! Woohoo :-). I also bought 2 boxed talcum powder for only £3 each. This will be birthday presents for my Mum, Sister, Emil and Su. They will be added to a box that I’m planning to send to Malaysia soon.

On Monday, JG bought home-baked marmalade cake, cookies and shortbread for us.Brandon Marsh D300s  04-03-2011 15-37-14 It was her birthday last week. Jokingly, she said that I wasn’t invited to her party because her team, Man. United lost 3:1 to Liverpool. We’d fun bantering with each other. JG’s cakes were to die for. Thank you JG and many happy returns. Good luck next Tuesday, when she’ll be watching her team playing against Marseille for the Champions League last-16 second leg clash at Old Trafford. Just to remind her that it falls on my birthday. Good omen or what???

How did you celebrate Pancake Day or Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, depending on where you are? I’d double helpings of pancakes with lashings of maple syrup for breakfast. But I cheated. It was ready-made from Sainsbury’s. Life was just too short to make pancakes and anyway, I’d a bus to catch that day :-).

It was also International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It was the 100th anniversary and I'm glad that much progress had been made to protect and promote women’s right. However, nowhere in the world can women claim to have all the same rights and opportunities as men. And here in the UK, with 11 times more millionaires than mothers in the Tory-led coalition government, their distorted priorities meant that the most poorest and most vulnerable were hardest hit, with women and children coming first when it comes to cuts and closures.

International Women's Day

There was still much work to do. We need to end the second class treatment of women, end women poverty and the under representation of women everywhere. As it says in the song :

“We will march not just for bread, but for roses too”

~Song written by Oppenheim as part of a women textile workers struggle for justice, 1910~

We also had the mother of all meetings, the Digital Services meeting.Brandon Marsh D300s  02-03-2011 14-04-18 This department was formed after the restructuring nearly 2 years ago and we never had a meeting. There were 6 different departments and we were like ships crossing in the night, Finally we got to meet over biscuits and coffee, putting the faces to the names. It was nearly a 3 hour meeting. Lots to talk about and exchange of ideas. We realised that we’d lots in common and found ways that we could help each other in our work. The presentations need to be sexed (!) up a bit, though. It was death by power-point!!!

Our department too were looking forward to attending the DDC 23 preview webinar. DDC or Dewey Decimal Classification was one of the standards we used to organize books on the shelf for easy retrieval. The 30-minute webinar provided a sneak preview of DDC 23, the new print edition that is currently in final production. It addressed the major changes with updates and a selection of new numbers. We only use DDC for education and school collections which meant the 370 classes will be of interest.

It was census time where every household in the UK was asked to provide very detailed Brandon Marsh D300s  02-03-2011 14-05-25information about their lives to the government, so that they can keep track of what’s going on. This information will be used for government planning of public services and crucial in allocating funds from central government to local authorities. It was also used to benchmark data for other surveys by the National Statistics Office, and to provide information for business and academics.

Looking through the census, what does my country of birth, the date I arrived here, passport got to do with the government? Why do they need to know my date of birth? Wasn’t it very intrusive, with 918 tick-box option over 32 pages? What about the phantom Census question left blank as it leapt from question 16 to 18? It emerged that households in Wales were asked in question 17 whether they can speak Welsh. But I can speak Welsh ( albeit struggling at the moment). Don’t I count? I’m sure there are thousands of proud Welsh-speakers scattered all over the UK.

What about question 26? It lists seven options on employment but not retirement. Anyone filling out the Census had to answer 3 more questions about their work habits before getting a chance to tick that they were retired!!!Brandon Marsh D300s  02-03-2011 14-09-18 

But all the above wasn’t what I’m most concerned about. It was that the collection and storage of all these data was contracted out to the American arms company, Lockheed Martin. This company armed a number of repressive regimes and the USA heavily in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They make land mines and nuclear weapons, and contracts out interrogation at Guantanamo Bay.

Although it was the UK branch in charge, there was the worry that the information could fall under the auspices of the US Patriot Act, which compelled personal data held by any company on systems in the USA to be made available to government intelligent services. The National Statistics Office, which engaged Lockheed Martin, maintained that measures were taken to make sure that the USA authorities cannot access the data.

We must remember that our government agencies don’t have a great track record about safeguarding information. Eg, a file containing secret terror-related documents was left on a train and recently, the NHS lost medical records of thousands of people. I wish I could boycott this census but was it worth the hassle. Do I risk prosecution because I object to participating in an activity which goes into the pocket of a company ( contract worth £240m) engaged in things which I am against? I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

Lets go to something less depressing. We are now the proud owners of the Samsung Galaxy Europa Android mobile. The shiny, black fascia and metallic frame with a snappy silver Google logo on the back offers Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth, along with 140MB of internal memory and a 2.8-inch touch-screen. The usual suspects in the apps screen, included calendar, camera, maps, browser, YouTube and Android Market, among others. I’m still learning to navigate around the menu screens. A child's play if you're already used to the Android interface, which unfortunately I’m not. Will definitely have fun playing…

I also want to wish a very, very Happy Birthday to my lovely sister. Khamarul e-mailed me photographs of the birthday girl surrounded by her sons with loads of pressies and a table groaning with food. This beautiful pansy is for you from both of us.Coventry D200 F  04-03-2011 09-28-00

On your birthday, count your candles, count your years, count your blessings.

* It had been a very bare week on the photography front for me. Babe took these beautiful photographs of the swans when he was in Brandon Marsh. They were really having fun. Wish I could join them :-)

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Thursday, 10 March 2011


I've just found out that the government are trying to sell off our national Blood Service. Don't you think that is disgusting? People give blood to save lives, not to make money for big bosses.

I have added my name to a petition to block the plans - please take a stand with me -add your name now.

Thank you

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Snowdrops Weekend

The Snowdrop

Fear no more, thou timid Flower!
Fear thou no more the winter's might,
The whelming thaw, the ponderous shower,
The silence of the freezing night!
Since Laura murmur'd o'er thy leaves
The potent sorceries of song,
To thee, meek Flowret! gentler gales
And cloudless skies belong.

Her eye with tearful meanings fraught,
She gaz'd till all the body mov'd
Interpreting the Spirit's thought--
The Spirit's eager sympathy
Now trembled with thy trembling stem,
And while thou droopedst o'er thy bed,
With sweet unconscious sympathy
Inclin'd the drooping head.

She droop'd her head, she stretch'd her arm,
She whisper'd low her witching rhymes,
Fame unreluctant heard the charm,
And bore thee to Pierian climes!
Fear thou no more the Matin Frost
That sparkled on thy bed of snow;
For there, mid laurels ever green,
Immortal thou shalt blow.

Thy petals boast a white more soft,
The spell hath so perfuméd thee,
That careless Love shall deem thee oft
A blossom from his Myrtle tree.
Then, laughing at the fair deceit,
Shall race with some Etesian wind
To seek the woven arboret
Where Laura lies reclin'd.

All them whom Love and Fancy grace,
When grosser eyes are clos'd in sleep,
The gentle spirits of the place
Waft up the insuperable steep,
On whose vast summit broad and smooth
Her nest the Phoenix Bird conceals,
And where by cypresses o'erhung
The heavenly Lethe steals.

A sea-like sound the branches breathe,
Stirr'd by the Breeze that loiters there;
And all that stretch their limbs beneath,
Forget the coil of mortal care.
Strange mists along the margins rise,
To heal the guests who thither come,
And fit the soul to re-endure
Its earthly martyrdom.

The margin dear to moonlight elves
Where Zephyr-trembling Lilies grow,
And bend to kiss their softer selves
That tremble in the stream below:--
There nightly borne does Laura lie
A magic Slumber heaves her breast:
Her arm, white wanderer of the Harp,
Beneath her cheek is prest.

The Harp uphung by golden chains
Of that low wind which whispers round,
With coy reproachfulness complains,
In snatches of reluctant sound:
The music hovers half-perceiv'd,
And only moulds the slumberer's dreams;
Remember'd LOVES relume her cheek
With Youth's returning gleams

~Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)~

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I have been hunting for snowdrops ever since I saw them colonising the Shropshire road verges and woodland edges last January. I’d seen clumps here and there but I want to see white sheets of them carpeting the landscape . As winter began to retreat, my hope of finding them diminished bit by bit, until last weekend. My adventure started when we went to Bradgate Park to check out what the natives have been up to.

As usual, a pit stop at Groby Pool.  The natives here were very excited to see us especially when they saw me with a loaf of bread. After feeding them, we noticed a couple of hybrid ducks getting frisky. The only problem was there was only one white female and she was being pinned down by 4 males. She was nearly bald on her back where the males were pecking while trying to pin her down. Poor thing. Groby Pool D300s  05-03-2011 14-04-79

Then off to Bradgate Park where we drove past the Old Vicarage and the grounds of the semi-derelict garden were literally covered with my most sought-after flower. I was grinning from ear-to-ear. I guess the saying things happened when you least expected them, do come true. As soon as Babe parked the car, I walked back and photographed to my heart’s content.Bradgate Park D50  05-03-2011 16-12-54

When I walked back to meet Babe at the car-park, I noticed clumps of snowdrops lining the banks of the River Lin which ambles through Bradgate Park. Another photographic session. Finally, I’d met these harbingers of spring and their gentle presence meant that soon the beauty of spring will be upon us. For me, nothing else can lift the spirits so surely as the vision of a bank of snowdrops.Bradgate Park D50  05-03-2011 14-35-02

We scanned the River Lin to see if our favourite noise-box was around. But only silence greeted us. Ooh, I hoped he’s ok, either asleep in the reeds or has migrated back to Scandinavia. I’m going to miss him. But this beauty, a grey wagtail suddenly appeared on the banks. He was so busy feeding that he ignored our cameras. Out of the blue, a pied wagtail flew in and chased him off. This was the first time I saw 2 different wagtails together in the Park.

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As we continued walking, we saw 14 very handsome Red Stags checking out the visitors passing by. They were quite nervous of the dogs which were running all over the place. I wish people kept their dogs on leash. From the way these stags were standing we knew they were waiting to cross the road. We parked ourselves behind a fenced tree and waited. They checked us out to make sure we’re harmless before crossing and strutted quite close to where we were standing. It was soo amazing to see these handsome creature so close to us. It was quite frightening too. Check out those antlers.Bradgate Park D300s  05-03-2011 15-31-08

The weather was beginning to fold in and it began to drizzle. It was freezing and very windy. So it was time to head home. The traffic was getting quite heavy as we got nearer to the Ricoh. There was a home-game today and the fans were heading home. Babe turned on the radio when we heard that the Sky Blues were thrashed 4:1 by Bristol City. What on earth happened??? Bristol took a 3-0 lead by the break and end up wining 4-1 with the home team down to ten men and a replacement goalkeeper who could hardly move after getting injured himself within minutes of replacing the team’s No.1. Looking at the league table, they have dropped a further two places to 19th, just six points off the bottom three in all too familiar territory. Common boys…Bradgate Park D300s  05-03-2011 15-24-06

This Saturday was the inaugural World Book Night - a nationwide event which will see one million books be given away by an army of book lovers to members of the public across the UK and Ireland. At the Warwick Arts Centre between 6pm and 8pm, you can pick up your own free copy of a World Book Night book. I wish I was there to join in the fun. I hoped the event had a good turnout.image

25 different novels have been selected by a committee of people dedicated to books, based on recommendations from publishers and booksellers. There will be 48 copies of each elected novel to give away. The idea behind giving away these books was to stimulate reading and spread the love for books to as wide an audience as possible

Each book will have a WBN number on it, which will be registered on the World Book Night site: It was hoped that book-receivers will read the book, register it online and then pass it onto another reader meaning each person has a role to play in encouraging new readers’ interest in books. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for these books so that I could be part of the action.

It was hoped you’ll also be able to follow your own book and see it take on a life of its own passing from hand to hand, city to city and hopefully even country to country. You should  be able to exchange ideas and impressions online with other readers. Like an on-line book-club. The 25 books and their authors that have been picked for giveaway can be found at

On Sunday, I spent the morning clearing up the garden, raking the fallen leaves and pruning the shrubs. Tiny shoots were already sprouting here and there. I also need to purchase a few big pots because the Buddleas and Hebe needed re-potting. I couldn’t wait to get down and dirty :-). After a late brunch of mushroom omelette, we went for a drive to Coombe Abbey and we weren’t alone. The car-park was nearly full.Coombe Abbey D300s   06-03-2011 15-13-52

We loved walking through the woods where we observed the squirrels chasing each other and playing tags. Above us Long-tailed tits were flirting from tree to tree. And along the hedges by the lakes, we spotted big drifts of snowdrops, creating the characteristic flurries of snow that makes them so endearing. Bees too were enjoying the sweetly-scented flowers, feeding and flirting from one to another. I am so pleased that I’d my fix of these beauties at two different locations. Coombe Abbey D200  06-03-2011 15-05-25 

At first we planned to walk towards the bird-hide at the end of the country-park. But we changed our minds because by this time, it was getting so busy and lots and lots of dogs running about. So Babe suggested we nipped over to Brandon Marsh. As we walked back to the car, we spotted a couple of Nuthatches feeding from tree to tree. One even landed near our car when we realised that someone had left a pile of peanuts on the ground. But why near the car-park, so close to the main road???

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At Brandon Marsh, we were greeted by robins singing their hearts out. I’m sure they won’t stay single for long. I spotted a large clusters of Fairies’ Bonnets growing on a piece of rotten wood, hidden by the undergrowth. We were in Baldwin Hide when we met Kay and Andy. I gave Kay a big hug and say my condolence on the death of her mother. We nattered a bit because I’d not seen her for ages. Thankfully, there were only 4 of us in the hide.Brandon Marsh D300s  06-03-2011 16-27-35 It was very quiet in the bird front. A pair of Great Crested Grebe swam quite close to the hide. I think I’d missed their mating dance. We decided to call it a day cos it was freezing and the cold winds blasted into the hide. On the drive home, I heard on the radio that Man United lost 3:1 to Liverpool. I’d to ask Babe whether I heard that right. I couldn’t wait to see season-ticket holder, JG, on Monday. We are going to have some serious banterings. :-)

Yesterday Emak was 72 years old. When I called, she was about to fall asleep so I asked Abah to wish her a wonderful birthday from both of us. May Allah look after all of us, always. Amin.

“He, who wishes to enter paradise at the best gate, must respect his father and mother”

~Prophet Muhammad (SAW) from Bukhari and Muslim~

Coombe Abbey D200  06-03-2011 14-54-14