Friday, 27 May 2011

Amber Alert

The UK was on Amber alert as strong winds up to 129km/h battered the country. A deepening low pressure system to the north brought very blustery winds with gales battering the area. Damaging gusts swept exposed spots of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England. High winds have brought down trees and power lines causing travel disruption in parts of Scotland.

We were warned to batten down the hatches amid fears of falling roof tiles, cracking branches and damaged power lines. I woke up to a freezing casa that I’d to put the heating on and it was the end of May!!! Then the dilemma of dressing for work. So I stick to my safest attire, cardigan and boots. It was quite calm on the way to work.

But during my lunch walk, I’d to hold on to my hat. WhoOOSH!!! I had to cut it short because I don’t want to be out and about under the trees in full leaf as winds of this strength can easily topple them. There were lots of flying twigs and debris aboutWarwick University D50   24-05-2011 12-47-23. So back to the safety of the warm office. These wind speeds would be noteworthy in midwinter, but for them to occur in late spring is most unusual. So far the Midlands escaped the full brunt. I spotted these cute cygnets huddling together to keep warm. 

Apart from strong winds, UK airspace was again braced for ash clouds released from the eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano. Different volcano. Different ash cloud. Same problems. It came just over a year after the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted and the resulting ash cloud grounded flights not only across the UK but through most of northern Europe. The Grimsvotn volcano started erupting on Saturday sending a plume of ash up into the atmosphere bringing the closure of Icelandic air space.

Thousands of airline passengers face travel disruption as dozens of flights were cancelled as the cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland headed towards Scotland and northern England. I think it was for the best that carriers were cautious than to have aeroplanes falling from the sky. My cousin, Jajan and family, was in the UK for a fortnight’s holiday and he was watching closely the chain of events. They will be flying back to Malaysia from Glasgow and didn’t want to be stranded in a foreign land.

We planned to meet when they were in Oxford but we got our lines crossed. I thought we were meeting on Wednesday but he planned it on Thursday. I was working on that day and he has to be in London the same night. He was on a very tight schedule and I hoped he and family had a wonderful time in the UK. Since we couldn’t meet here, we made plans to meet when I’m in Malaysia. Have a safe trip home.

In Malaysia, landslides caused by heavy rains, have hit the Hidayah Madrasah al-Taqwa orphanage in the district of Hulu Langat. 16 people, all but one of them young boys, were buried under mud and rubble. An absolute tragedy to those who have very little in life to start with. It was even more tragic that the orphanage was built on a hillside, in a country prone to heavy rainfall. Where were the planning and health and safety authorities??? Al-Fatehah to those who died.

In the city of Joplin, Missouri, 142 people were killed by a massive tornado. America's deadliest single tornado, with winds of 322km/h, was one of the most destructive in US history carved a swathe of destruction through the city. It left a trail of devastation six miles long and half a mile wide, including flattened houses, ruined churches and grocery stores, mangled cars and splintered trees. The Joplin tornado was one of 68 reported across seven Midwest states over the weekend, from Oklahoma to Wisconsin.

The weather patterns were definitely changing. My heart and prayers go out to all the people who had been adversely affected.

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine

~Anthony J. D’Angelo~

At work, my colleagues and I cracked our heads to decide where to place a decimal point or dot in the classification system. I had only realised that some of us didn’t think that it was important where the dot is after the main subject related group. The dot is not a decimal point in the mathematical sense, but a psychological pause to break the monotony of numerical digits and to ease the transcription and copying of the class number. It also helps the shelving assistants when they shelve the books.

I have also joined a Zumba class at the nearby primary school. The classes run on Tuesday and Thursday but I could only managed the Thursday class. There were classes held in the university but their hours doesn’t fit with mine. This class started at 6.30pm which meant that I have time to change at home and then Babe gave me a lift to the school. I walked home after the class is over. Another 30 minutes of brisk walking. Not an easy feat after the class as my legs turned to jelly :-).

Zumba is a dance-fitness class performed to a thumping Latin American beat, with a party atmosphere. The word "Zumba" comes from a Colombian word that means to move fast and have fun, which was how people described the routine. Using upbeat Latin music together with cardiovascular exercise, Zumba is aerobic dancing that mixes effective body sculpting movements with easy-to-follow, fun dance steps.

The session lasted about an hour and incorporated several dance styles, including cumbia, merengue, salsa, mambo, rumba, flamenco, calypso, belly dancing and Bhangra. To give it a local flair, Bhangra and Arabic music was also mixed in. The music includes both fast and slow rhythms, allowing for a great cardio workout as well as body sculpting exercises. You tend to forget that you’re working out and everyone was smiling and having fun. There were about 30-40 of us, all women of different ages, sizes and colours having a very good time.

During one of my walks, I heard a harsh screeching call above me. When I looked up, I spotted this handsome Jay flirting from tree to tree. I stood there admiring the pinkish plumage, intense blue patch on the wings and the quirky black moustache. This was the first time I’d seen a Jay in the university’s grounds and what a pleasure it was.Warwick University D50   25-05-2011 12-21-19

“From bush to bush slow sweeps the screaming jay

With one harsh note of pleasure all the day”

~John Clare~.


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Day Tripping at Cley Marshes Nature Reserve

Cley Marshes D200  20-05-2011 15-13-34 Babe had been ill and in so much pain the whole week. But being a wonderful hubby, he still managed to drive me to work and as soon as he arrived back to the casa, he’ll be straight in bed with a hot water bottle strapped to his head. In the evening, despite his pain, he’ll drive back to the university and get me home safely. Thanks a million darling.

But on Friday morning, I was already dressed for work and having my breakfast of toast and honey,  Babe came down with a big smile. After 4 days, he was finally pain-free and was just itching to get a bit of sunshine on his very pallid face. I checked my little black book to see if I’ve got anything pencilled in and the page was blank. Yesss…I called the office and informed them that I’m starting my weekend early :-).

I quickly changed into my camouflaged gear and made a thermos of coffee and plenty of fruit juices. We nipped to Morissons to fill up the car and purchased a pack of cheese and onion pasties, bananas and Kit-Kats. We packed our gear and were on the M6 in no time. It was a lovely 3+ hour drive through Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and finally Norfolk under sunny intervals, blustery breeze, patchy clouds and sudden cloud- bursts.

Thankfully, there wasn’t much traffic on the road. Norfolk was very flat, interspersed with lovely chapels, churches, fields of wheat and flowering rapeseed, dairy farms and fruit orchards. Winding along the A149 we passed through tiny hamlets and villages. And then we saw the most beautiful piece of architecture, the famous landmark in this part of the world, the picturesque 18th century Cley Windmill, glistening in the sunlight against the hazy blue skies. I’m planning to spend the night here in the near future. I can’t wait.

We drove through the very kooky village of Cley. Most of the buildings here were built using the local Norfolk red brick and flint and nearly all had Flemish gables. I couldn’t imagine the amount of traffic that passed through this town. I would like to check this town when we come here again. Immediately after the town, we were greeted with 400 acres of marshland to the left and the stunning eco-friendly visitor centre perched on the hill to the right. We quickly parked the car and made use of the facilities. After getting our tickets and several flyers, we checked out the stunning views from here. I could see the golden reed beds framed by the A149 and the North Sea. Ooh, how I missed the sea. We also bumped into acquaintances from Brandon who were here for a holiday. Small world huh… 

After a quick lunch we were ready to wander and wonder. NWT Cley Marshes is Norfolk oldest and best known nature reserve. Founded in 1926, it was the first Wildlife Trust nature reserve in the UK and provided the blueprint for nature conservation and started a national movement of 47 Wildlife Trusts now with 2,200 nature reserves. As soon as we stepped on the boardwalk to start our adventure, we were serenaded by a Sedge Warbler with its cheerful chattering song. The bachelor boy was singing his heart out to attract a mate. I’m sure he won’t be single long.

Meandering along the boardwalks, glimpsing the birdlife through the reeds, scanning over the reed beds for anything and being accompanied by a symphony of birdsongs  was pure pleasure. The nature reserve contained both saltwater and freshwater marsh, with large areas of reed-bed, grazing marsh, lagoons and scrape pool. A magnet that attracts birds in their thousands.

We headed to the main hide complex overlooking the scrapes and pools. We checked out the first hide, appropriately named the Avocet. There were hundreds of this symbol of the RSPB, with its striking black and white feathers, upturned bill and bluish legs, feeding and nesting all over the place. The melodious liquid calls were echoing all around us. We were so excited to see Avocets chicks probing the rich tidal mudflats.

Suddenly from the reed-beds, 3 very adorable Redshank chicks emerged. They were flanked by their very protective parents. We were entertained by their very cute antics, running along the mudbanks, feeding and enjoying a bath. They were very inquisitive bundle of fluff. From time to time, one of the parents would fly from post to post with their shrieking calls, looking out for any signs of danger.

We also saw hundreds of Shelducks, Swallows, Greylags, Wagtails and a Little-Ringed Plover, as well as Little Egrets and House Martins.  The pools and scrapes were all within easy view of the hides. I loved the spacious hides with its thatched roof, blending easily with the environment. The brilliant whiteness of Little Egrets were blinding as they flew in front of the hide. Sometimes they flew so close that we could see their surprisingly yellow feet and hunched neck.

We checked the next hide which was just next door but facing a different pool. From Dawkes Hide, apart from the above birds, other common waders such as Gadwall, Lapwings, Mallards, Shovellers, Teals, Wigeons, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Greylags, Moorhens, Coots, Black-headed and Common Gulls. Nothing that we’d not seen before.

At the third hide, known as Teal Hide, we saw hundreds of swallows skimming over Pat’s Pool. Their musical twitterings and warblings accompanied the swift, swooping flight on long curved wings and forked tails. I was stunned when this handsome Swallow was taking a brief rest and having a wash just opposite my window. I was trembling with excitement getting so close to this beauty. I could even see the metallic blue upperparts and chestnut face patch. Simply stunning.

Sister, my sister, O fleet, sweet swallow

Thy way is long to the sun and south”

~Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)~

Then we walked back towards the starting point to reach the Bishop’s Hide. We spotted a Whimbrel which was very well camouflaged but he was too far to photograph. The Sedge Warbler was still singing from his post. Red-faced Goldfinches were twittering on the branches and Marsh harriers were foraying over the reed-beds. From the hide, we saw the the usual waders. It was very calm when suddenly a Grey Heron flew into the reed-beds and emerged with a duckling in its beak. I guess you know what happened next. That’s Mother nature for you.

While we were contemplating whether to continue on the East Bank towards Arnold Marsh and Swarovski Hide, we spotted at least 3 Marsh Harriers gliding low over the reed-beds. You just don’t know where to point the camera. One flew right above us, checking us out. An amazing experience. Since don’t know how far the hide was, we decided to go there on our next visit. We were already quite tired by this time.

We walked back to the visitor centre, used the facilities and drove towards The Eye, formerly an island in the marsh. In 1949, a series of banks were built to protect Cley from sea flooding and to increase the area of land available for animal grazing. We parked on the shingle beach and walked towards the sea. I had fun chasing the waves of the North Sea. How I wish I was brave enough to have a dip. It was freezing…

Along the beach, we saw hundreds of Swallows catching their dinner and spotted a few having a brief rest in the beach shack. A Wagtail with its beak full of flies came over to check us out. There were a number of Avocets nesting very close to the beach. These nesting sites were fenced off to stop people from getting too close.

We spent nearly 4 hours on the site and then it was time to head home. We will be back as I haven’t seen the Spoonbills, Bearded Tits, Ruffs, Curlews, Dunlins etc. As we drove past Cley, we parked at a lay-by  to get a closer view of the beautiful windmill. All you could hear was our cameras rattling away. A Greenfinch and Whitethroat came over to see what was the fuss all about.

We had a fantastic day. The North Norfolk coast was teeming with nature reserves and we will be spoilt with choices.

Over the roof of the hide the seed plumes dance.
The hinged flap is up and he focuses
On the pool under the reed expanse.

Waders duck and scurry leaving prints
On the shining mud. His mind turns to the time
When leaning here he pointed out the red shank

Or the speck of the warbler, and felt fortunate.
Even the cold touch of her ring coming back
From the storm beach under the swooping terns

Could not break that. Now the sea has reshaped
The beach - taken the stones lower
And the hide, empty of her scent, echoes

With the perfect logic of her situation.
"I understand, believe me, I understand."
He shifts the binoculars to his other hand.

~Ornithologist by Cameron Self, a poem inspired by the marshes at Cley~

There are 95 wonderful images from our wonderful adventure on Babe’s blog. Do check them out. You’ll be amazed and hopefully pay a visit. I know I will :-) you can also access the images by clicking the photograph at the head of this posting.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Windmills of My Mind

I have always loved windmills. I loved the shape, the nostalgia and the clean, green energy that it harnessed and produced. I would love to live in one but since I don’t have the £££, I did the next best thing. Visiting and photographing them :-). So you can imagine to my uttermost delight that last week was the National Mills Weekend. I was hyper-ventilating with excitement.

National Mills Weekend was a celebration of the UK's milling heritage held on the second weekend Chesterton Windmill D200  14-05-2011 13-23-21_stitchcof May each year. How did I missed it before? It was a great opportunity to visit and look around mills, many of which were not usually open to the public. It was a day to appreciate the heritage of mills and raise public awareness of the need to save, conserve and protect the country's dwindling number of wind and watermills by generating interest. 

A pity that there were not many windmills and watermills around Warwickshire and the West Midlands. I chose 2 windmills that were quite close to Coventry. One was Chesterton Windmill near Leamington Spa and the other was Berkswell Windmill near Kenilworth. On the way there, we had a very nice surprise when  the song The Windmills of Your Mind sung by Noel Harrison from the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair came on air. How appropriate was that. Harrison took the song to number eight in the British charts and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1968.

We drove through the green countryside to reach Chesterton Windmill. We could see it Chesterton Windmill D200  14-05-2011 13-22-01_stitchstanding proud on the hill as we drove up the winding road.  The Windmill was just off the Fosse Way (an old Roman Road also known as the B4455), about five miles to the south of Leamington Spa, near the village of Harbury. We parked on the lay-by before walking 500 metres uphill  through a field of growing wheat.

I was snapping merrily as we walked towards this magnificent Grade 1 listed structure. It was a unique stone windmill, built on a circular arcade with six columns and supported two raised floors. It was erected in 1632-3 for Sir Edward Peyto, a local landowner, from a design attributed to Inigo Jones. The mill worked until 1910 when its machinery broke down. It contained wooden machinery including a lantern pinion and two pairs of millstones.

The views of the surrounding countryside from the windmill was just breath-taking. I walked throughChesterton Windmill D200  14-05-2011 13-17-33 the path between very parched wheat fields to get a better view. A pity that some dog owners were not that considerate . We spent nearly an hour snapping and just enjoying the fantastic views. I was hoping that the Warwickshire County Council as guardians would open the building for visitors, have a guide present to explain things, or hang posters on the entrance to publicise the event. Perhaps it might happened on Sunday, since it was a 2 day event.

We programmed our chatty tree frog aka GPS to take us to the next windmill. As usual, it took us to a different route through Leamington Spa on a busy Saturday afternoon with road-works popping everywhere!!! Then it directed us through Kenilworth when I remembered that the Festival was on. Oh no…thankfully, we didn’t drive through the main town centre.

Our destination was the Berkswell Windmill and we think we found it. But the sign said that it was closed :-(. We got out and saw the structure was covered with a huge blue tarpaulin!!! What was going on? This tower mill was previously restored. When I returned home, I checked several websites and found out that it had deteriorated and now undergoing further restorations. Why wasn’t that mentioned on the National Mills Weekend website??? Anyway, I’m still pleased that I managed to see at least one. Next year, I’m planning to check out the windmills in Lincolnshire and Norfolk. They were teeming with mills.

On the drive back to the casa, Delilah sung by Tom Jones was on air again. This whole week the song had been on the playlist of the various radio stations in the West Midlands and Warwickshire.  It was Stoke City football club’s anthem and today it was facing Manchester City for the finals of the FA Cup. The historic cup meant everything to these two sides. For Manchester City, it would represent their first trophy for 35 years, while for Stoke it would be their first ever FA Cup. It would be a good final. I rushed in and managed to see the 2nd half of the game. 

Mancini's side dominated throughout against a disappointing Stoke, which never came near to reproducing the form that swept Bolton Wanderers aside to reach their first FA Cup final. The Blues fielded a strong side against the Potters eleven that looked as though they were the only eleven that was fit. Jones, Pennant and Huth were missing and the resilience associated with this remarkable team did not appear at all. Toure's late strike finally saw the Blue Moon rising over Wembley. Well done.

Potter supporters were just as loud in defeat as they had been in anticipation of victory. Forget Blue Moon, it was Delilah that filled the air as Manchester City lift the trophy. I guess none of these fans wanted to leave because they wouldn’t know when they would be back, but hopefully it won't take another 148 years for them to return. And I bet despite this defeat, it still felt like the dawn of a new era as they made their way back to their coaches belting out We're All Going On A European Tour :-)

After a very simple dinner, I made myself comfortable in front of the big screen, again. It was the 56th Eurovision Song Contest live from Düsseldorf. There were 25 participants taking part and for the first time, I couldn’t pick a winner.There were actually some very good songs and performers. Fuelled by the massive interest in X Factor act Jedward and  boy band Blue, the show peaked at an astonishing 12.7million on BBC1. It was thought to be the contest’s biggest UK audience in more than a decade.

The spikey-haired duo finished eighth, ahead of Blue who came 11th. It was a big improvement on last year’s entry who came last.The power of the Eastern European voting bloc had seen the Azerbaijan duo Ell/Nikki winning the competition. Hmm… my colleagues and I were thinking of making a trip to Baku next year. But we want to know who’s going to present the UK first. That should be fun.

On Sunday morning, I went for my usual walk around the block. As I walked past the Craftsman Public House, rows and rows of shiny vintage and not-so-vintage scooters were lining the car-park. How I wished I had my camera with me. Brandon Marsh D300s X2  15-05-2011 15-36-49The All or Nothing Scooter Club was having a breakfast meeting. They were taking part in the Meriden Mega Ride, a big motorcycle charity event ride out from Leamington to Meriden. As I continued walking, I came across more scooters heading towards the pub. I hoped they’d a wonderful time and stay safe on the road.

Later in the evening, we nipped over to our favourite playground.   It was quite late when we arrived and only a few cars were about. A swallow, Jay and Goldfinch greeted us as we got out of the car. Before chilling down for the night, the natives were out and about hunting for a late supper. From the Baldwin Hide, we saw a Gull with a moorhen chick in its beak. And then it disappeared with one big gulp. Ugh!!!

There was not much activity from East Marsh Hide. All the waders were getting ready for the night. Brandon Marsh D300s X2  15-05-2011 16-45-44 The reed beds were buzzing with a cacophony of bird-songs  but we can’t see anything. These birds were very well camouflaged. We decided to make a pit stop at Carlton Hide and it was here we stayed the longest. We knew that when the visiting hours were over, the natives came out to party.

We spotted Reed Buntings, Sedge Warblers, Whitethroats, Long tailed and Great tits hunting very close to the hide. It was amazing and all you could hear was our cameras rattling away. I also managed to photograph a  Red Spotted Woodpecker peering from the tree and Babe saw a Swift and a Warbler resting on another tree. The Cuckoos was heard calling but not seen. I could have stayed longer but it was time to go home.

As we walked out of the reserve, Wrens and Cetti Warblers were heard along the way. Brandon Marsh D300s X2  15-05-2011 16-50-18 The Lapwings, Terns and Black-headed gulls were still arguing among themselves. Sand-martins and Swifts were flying above us, chasing insects for supper. When we reached the car, we saw a Cuckoo circling the reserve while calling. Bonn nuit to my lovely feathered friends.

This week HR and I had lunch at the Fusion Bar. We wanted to check out the new revamped eatery and try their new  menu. Finally, we managed to find time from our busy schedules to meet and have a meal together. HR had sweet sour chicken balls with rice and I’d the vegetarian udon in Japanese curry with loads of tofu. This was the first time I had Japanese curry and it tasted just like Chinese curry. We enjoyed our lunch and exchanged news and gossips. HR had just returned from Ethiopia and showed me hundreds of photographs.

Earlier that morning, I had a doctor’s appointment. My right hand had been tingling from timeWarwick University S5700 F  13-05-2011 11-49-23 to time for about a month now. The lovely doctor diagnosed it as Carpal tunnel syndrome. This was a result of pressure on the median nerve -- the nerve in the wrist that supplies feeling and movement to parts of the hand. It can lead to numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle damage in the hand and fingers. Carpal tunnel syndrome is common in people who perform repetitive motions of the hand and wrist. Typing on a computer keyboard is probably the most common cause of carpal tunnel. So I guess that fit me to a tee,

There was no cure. All I can do was keep and eye on it. I was advised to take frequent breaks when typing and always stop if there was any tingling. I am going to check with my HR officer to see if ergonomic aids, such as split keyboards, keyboard trays, typing pads, and wrist braces, are available. These aids may improve wrist posture during typing.

SH had started work this week after being off for nearly a fortnight due to pneumonia. He was easing slowly starting with working half-days only. It was good to have him back.  It was also WFP’s birthday. He brought a lovely lemon sponge cake which we quickly demolished. Happy birthday WFP.

I love this photograph Babe took of a dragonfly mating wheel.

Brandon Marsh D200  03-05-2011 12-54-62

The red dragonfly -
In some way or another
He likes the evening too.

Issa (1763-1828)

Save Oaken Wood

Dear Mr. Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government

I would like to draw your attention to the recent decision by Kent County Council to grant planning permission for the above application. This application should now have been referred to you as a departure application.

As well as being contrary to the Kent Minerals Local Plan it conflicts with national planning guidance and carries an outstanding objection from Natural England; as such I urge you to call it in for your expert consideration.

If permitted, the proposed development would result in the loss of 33 hectares of Oaken Wood.

Oaken Wood is ancient woodland and also designated as a local wildlife site due to its ecological value. As Ancient Woodland it has been wooded since at least 1600 and its unique ecology has taken centuries, even millennia to evolve. It is one of the UKs richest habitats for wildlife and should be a treasured part of our heritage.

This application is in contravention of the following national planning polices:

Planning Policy Statement 9: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation states 'Ancient woodland is a valuable biodiversity resource both for its diversity of species and for its longevity as woodland. Once lost it cannot be recreated. Local planning authorities should identify any areas of ancient woodland in their areas that do not have statutory protection (e.g. as an SSSI). They should not grant planning permission for any developments that would result in its loss or deterioration.'

Minerals Planning Policy Statement 1 states 'do not permit mineral proposals that would result in the loss or deterioration of ancient woodland, not otherwise statutorily protected, unless the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location outweigh the loss of the woodland habitat'.

In addition to this I do not believe that the need for this quarry has been demonstrated. Expert, independent analysis has indicated that Kent County can meet their aggregates production target from extant planning permissions. There is no necessity for the application to be approved prior to consideration of the Kent County Council Minerals and Waste Core Strategy; indeed permission would prejudice the range of options open to the County Council in the consideration of future policy.

This application is contrary to the development plan and has raised nationally important issues that should be considered by yourself rather than at a local level. For these reasons I feel it of vital importance that you call in this application for detailed consideration.

Yours sincerely,


Friday, 13 May 2011

Whatever the weather

I woke up to a very wet Saturday morning. The rain had finally arrived and the garden needs a good soaking. I was hoping for a spectacular thunderstorm with flash lightning and rumblings of thunder. I really missed the monsoon season that we’d in Malaysia. But, at the moment, any amount of rain was greatly appreciated. I opened the front door and the first thing that hit me was that gorgeous earthy organic smell you get after the downpour. All the pails scattered in the garden were overflowing with rain water. I’m so tempted to get a water-butt.

I didn’t fancy going for my usual morning walk not because of the rain but of the wind. It was blowing a gale outside. I always loved walking in the rain, skipping over the puddles and sometimes stepping into one. But not today. I spent the morning listening to the local radio station and finished reading China Dolls by Michelle Yu and Blossom Kan.

China Dolls is a funny and amusing Chinese American chick lit. I bet the authors probably grew up in this culture and so were able to portray it extremely well. Yu is a sports reporter and Kan is a lawyer. I guess they understood how being a Chinese and a woman in the predominantly white, male world meant having to go the extra mile just to keep pace. It was also a very intimate glimpse into the New York City's Chinese culture.

The 3 women were M.J., a sports journalist, Alex, a successful lawyer and Lin, a Wall Street executive. They were not only pressured in their jobs but by their families who expected them to excel in all areas of their lives, married and producing pure blooded Chinese babies. That means no relationships with bok gwai (white men). From red envelopes to pink slips, Mah-jong to speed dating, these women bridged and weathered the two worlds as they journey through ups and downs of life and romance. It was pure chick lit east meets west. And somehow along the way, I could relate to them :-).

We went to Brandon Marsh after the Turkish GP qualifiers. The weather was alternating between sunny spells, dark low clouds and sudden cloud bursts. Despite this, the car park was full. We found out that there was a wildflower plants sale. I didn’t buy any because they were quite expensive. Warwickshire Wildlife Trust also revealed plans for a new sensory garden at the reserve which will be especially tailored to children and visitors with disabilities. The exhibition of the plans was opened by the designer herself, Lucy Hartley.

Her blueprint included a shelter belt for small mammals and nesting birds, a mini forest with sculptures that can only be seen in winter when the leaves have fallen, and a series of art installations creating a visual illusion. Structures in the garden will have tactile features, including a “Braille rail”, explaining what plants and animals can be found nearby. And bees will be able to fly around the garden from a hole in the wall, leading to a see-through beehive in the classroom next door. Very futuristic but from what I can see it didn’t blend in at all with the surroundings . I guess we will just have to wait and see. I must make sure that they don’t destroy the lovely wisteria tree. Brandon Marsh D200 F  11-05-2011 13-20-18 As usual, the reserve was a echoing with a cacophony of birdsongs. A pity we couldn’t see any because of the thick undergrowth and trees swamped with leaves. Cetti Warblers teased us along the route. There were at least 5 of them. We checked the Baldwin Hide first and was entertained with the Terns, Black-headed gulls, a Redshank, Little Ringed Plovers, Shovelers, Gadwalls, Teals, Cormorants, Mute Swans, Lapwings and an unusually large number of Tufted Ducks. It was to my upmost delight when I spotted the Oyster Catcher with chicks at the end of Tern Island. 4 had hatched.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  11-05-2011 15-09-06 Along the route to East Marsh Hide, there were lots of dandelion faeries. I couldn’t help flicking them as I walked past, helping them spread their wings. Babe asked me to pick one and blow. You are never too old to have some fun.Brandon Marsh D50  07-05-2011 15-09-23

From the Hide, we saw the most gorgeous lapwing chick feeding on the mudbank. One of its parents was on guard duty nearby. When the chick felt threatened, it ran over to the parent and seek shelter under the wings. It was quite amusing to see a lapwing with 2 pairs of feet. On the main island we saw Canada Geese and Lapwings still sitting on their eggs.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  11-05-2011 14-57-14 We spotted a hobby flying low across the reserve heading towards Carlton Hide. We decided to head there. As we walked towards the hide, we could hear  a cuckoo calling from the same direction. I was skipping with delight. The hide was packed but we managed to squeeze in. And there it was, a pair of Cuckoo and a Hobby on the dead trees to the right of the hide. We met at last my cuckoo. For years, I can hear you but we have never met. It was amazing to see the silhouette and the wonderful cooing. From time to time, the pair will disappear into the reeds and flew back to their respective perching trees. The Hobby was asleep I think. It was in the same position the whole time we were there.Brandon Marsh D300s  07-05-2011 16-06-04 An old rhyme describes the Cuckoo's time in Britain:

In April I open my bill
In May I sing night and day
In June I change my tune
In July far far I fly
In August away I must

On Sunday, I went for my usual walk around the block but only halfway. I’d to turn back because it began to rain and I’d the laundry out. By the time I reached the casa, the sun came out. Hey ho…I spent the morning pottering about in the garden and did plenty of weeding and dead-heading. The daffodils bulbs were drying out nicely and needed to be stored away. Then a leisurely breakfast of mushroom omelette with toast, listening to Sunday love songs, reading the papers and watching the flurries of activities on the bird-feeder.

We nipped to The Range and purchased 3 large bags of composts, a tray of French marigolds and an aubergine seedling. I also purchased more plain cards and craft embellishments that was on sale. We’d a cheese and serunding butty for lunch while planning where we were going next. I wanted to check Kingsbury Country Park but according to Babe thunderstorms were predicted again. We don’t want to be stranded in a place we weren’t familiar with. So back to Brandon Marsh to see if we can get a better photograph of the Cuckoo.

The reserve was busy as usual. We guessed most of them will be based at Carlton Hide for the Cuckoo and Hobby.  We checked out Baldwin Hide first. After the heavy downpour last night, the water level had risen tremendously. The Terns, Black Headed Gulls and Lapwings were competing on who could make the most noise. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a Common Sandpiper flew close to the island on the left of the hide. All you could hear was our cameras rattling away. The handsome wader was bobbing up and down the shingle banks, searching for food.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  08-05-2011 14-50-62 Then off to East Marsh Pool. The adorable lapwing chick was fast asleep, well camouflaged among the reeds. We only knew its presence because one of its parents was on duty nearby. On the main island, the Lapwings were chasing the Common Sandpiper  and anything that came close to their nests. A fellow twitcher came into the hide and inform us that a Hobby was perched on a tree near the Teal Pool Hide. Thanks a million. We dashed to the hide and there it was perching silently with its upright posture waiting and watching. We knew that it can stay in the same position for quite sometime.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  08-05-2011 16-34-33 Apart from this handsome beauty, we were entertained by a psychotic Shelduck. It was chasing everything in sight. It was quite comical to see the neck elongating, beak protruding zooming towards a pair of redshanks, mallards, teals and moorhens. We were ready with our camera when we saw him waddling towards a family of Canada Geese with 3 adorable goslings. One of the parents turned and hissed back at him. We were hoping for a battle but the Shelduck made a very hasty retreat. Hmm…not that brave after all.Brandon Marsh D300s X2  08-05-2011 16-30-07 When we left the hide, we could hear the cuckoo calling. We decided not to check it out because we knew that the hide was going to be packed. Furthermore, Babe wasn’t feeling too good and the weather was turning for the worse. We left as the rain began to fall.

This week’s weather was as unpredictable as what was happening around the world. Americans were celebrating with the news that Osama Bin Laden was shot dead. Reading the news and watching the scenes of jubilant, I have a growing sense of unease and disquiet. Yes, Osama was dead but not Al Qaeda. Are we equipped to deal with the retaliation from his supporters?

Should the brutal death of a human being ever be cause for celebration?  We have the International Criminal Court for trying international criminals. To kill without trial is contrary to the rule of law, and natural justice was the supposed cornerstone of civilised nations. I considered these celebrations frankly disgusting. And since when do we legalised assassination. Pakistan should be furious that the country’s sovereign had been violated with impunity. The United States had no right to violate and invade the sovereign borders of Pakistan or any other country.

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.”

supposedly quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Thursday, a wind of change was supposed to sweep the country. We cast our votes for the referendum on the voting system for the UK parliamentary system  and to elect the local city councillors. At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system to elect MP’s to the House of Commons which I am not in favour of. 19.1m people voted in the second UK-wide referendum in history. The final result put the Yes vote at 32.1% and the No vote at 67.9%. The people had crossed their ballot papers and voted overwhelmingly to reject changing the way MPs were elected :-( . It was a triumphant night In Coventry for Labour when the party romped to a thumping majority at the local Council. It was also very encouraging to see the Green Party gaining support.

I was amazed to find out that the medieval Spon Street has made it onto the shortlist of this year’s Google Street View Awards. It is in the running to be named Britain's hippest street and up against 19 other strong contenders – including fashionable streets in London, Newcastle, Glasgow and Birmingham. The cobbled high street was nominated by experts from the worlds of travel, lifestyle and popular culture who were struck by the street’s ambiance and vibrant atmosphere. They were also impressed by the range of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants that were housed in the renovated medieval buildings.  Hmm, are we looking at the same street? I have been here twice, I think, to photograph the buildings and that was it. But I still voted because I lived here. Hey…some one got to do it :-o).

On Sunday, it was Mother’s day in Malaysia.

A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said : Your mother. The man said, “Then who?”. The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man then further asked, “Then who?”. The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet said: Then your father .

(Bukhari, Muslim).

I wish my Emak and all mothers out there, thank you. This posy of pansies from the garden are from me.

Coventry D2h F  08-05-2011 13-22-58

This posting was for last week ( 03-08/05). I couldn’t upload it due to server having a meltdown.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Twycross Zoo

It was very well signposted on the A444 about 4.8km off the A42/M42. We were anticipating cars queuing to get in but I guess by the time we arrived, most people were already in. We’d to park quite a distant away on a very dusty carpark. Twycross Zoo D200  01-05-2011 15-34-15 Twycross Zoo is an 80-acre zoo near the village of Twycross in Leicestershire. The zoo was founded in 1963 by Molly Badham and Nathalie Evans and claimed to have the largest collections of monkeys and apes in the world. Because of this, the zoo re-launched itself in 2006 as  "Twycross Zoo - The World Primate Centre." And yes there were lots of them :-). Twycross Zoo D50  01-05-2011 12-46-06With over 1000 animals from over 200 species, it was hard to decide where to start. At first, we followed the gorilla trail where we were supposed to start with the smallest, the gibbons, and moving up past the orang utans, chimpanzees, bonobos and ending with the largest primates, the gorillas. But we never did managed to follow the trail because there was always something else that caught our attention.Twycross Zoo D200  01-05-2011 12-38-58I kicked myself for not taking any photographs of UK's only group of breeding bonobos, the rare pygmy chimpanzees. We must have seen them but in some instances it was very difficult to take photographs through thick Perspex walls. There was a large collection of chimpanzees, some of whom were featured in the television commercials for PG Tips tea. But at the moment they looked so bored watching the visitors watching them. I think the heat was also getting to them.Twycross Zoo D50  01-05-2011 13-12-50

The silverback male gorillas, orang utans  and siamangs have their own closed compounds. Signs were all over the place informing visitors not to bang on the Perspex walls. We lost count the number of times people doing exactly that. Sometimes I do wonder which ones were the animals. Twycross Zoo D50  01-05-2011 12-41-41I think we had seen Pygmy Marmosets – the smallest monkeys in the world – as well as a variety of lemurs, the timid Marmoset, tamarind, noisy howler monkey, tree-leaping spider monkey, Humboldt's Woolly monkey, the Pale-headed Saki monkey, chattering Capuchins, Allen’s Swamp monkey, guenons, roloway, Diana monkey, L’Hoests monkey, colobus, leaf monkeys, langurs and agile gibbons. Natural-born performers, they often put on a show for their human cousins (!), parading about their cages, swinging on the hoops and ropes, skittering about the foliage and our favourite pose as seen below.Twycross Zoo D200  01-05-2011 14-39-30

As I mentioned before, we never managed to follow the trail especially when we came across this enclosure full of Black-tailed Prairie Marmots. In the Western part of the USA they were considered a pest!!! In the past, prairie dogs were subjected to extermination campaigns, due to their burrowing activities and their feeding habitats. This was because they dig and destroy fields and compete for food with livestock. How could something this cute be a pest???Twycross Zoo D50  01-05-2011 12-48-30 Twycross Zoo also holds a diverse collection of other animals, many of them threatened  species. They include the Amur leopard, the rarest big cat in the world with only 30–40 animals left in the wild. There was also Dholes, Bactrian camels and the ugliest looking bird that I had ever seen, the endangered Abyssinian ground hornbill.Twycross Zoo D300s X  01-05-2011 13-20-56We came across a large crowd being entertained by a group of very playful Small-Clawed Otters. They were having fun in the pond, chasing each other, swimming and sun-bathing. The water looked so inviting that I wouldn’t mind joining them. Again, there were signs asking people not to throw dummies in the pond. And guess what? We saw one with a dummy dangling in its mouth. Off course, it looked funny but it was very dangerous for the otter.Twycross Zoo D300s X  01-05-2011 13-03-31 As we continued on, we came across one of the latest exhibit which was opened in 2010. It was the Uda Walawe elephant walkway, a Sri Lankan themed trail and bridge over UK's largest elephant bathing pool. We enjoyed unobscured views of the elephants having a sand-bath among standing dead trees. There was a shrine nearby dedicated to Ganesh, the Hindu Elephant God. Along the trail, we came across a wooden hut with melodious Indian tunes emanating from it.Twycross Zoo D50  01-05-2011 13-35-28 From here, we strolled along covered timber walkways, wooden walls and thatched roofs. This was the Mary Brancker Waterways and Bornean Longhouse opened in July 2007. It featured a walk-through exhibit with waterfowl, Bornean birds and turtles. There were panel displays explaining how Borneo’s aboriginal peoples live in traditional longhouses. Traditional tunes serenades the visitors as they walked through the longhouse.Twycross Zoo D50  01-05-2011 13-53-31 The pathway took us through a sequence of exotic bird and animal exhibits immersed in reed beds and landscaped aquatic gardens, supposed to mimic the Bornean rainforests. We came face to face with brightly coloured egrets, ibis, storks and cranes. But we also encountered a Common Pochard, Moorhens and Chilean flamingos. What I enjoyed most was putting my hands out to feel the rain falling from the thatched roof. Sigh…how I missed my grandma’s house. Twycross Zoo D200  01-05-2011 13-53-27

After we exited the rainforest, we could feel the excitement vibrating in the air. Huge crowds were surrounding a huge enclosure. It was feeding time for the Patagonian sea lions. Somehow I managed to squeeze through and got the front seat. Yaay… There were 2 sea lions and they were huge. The keeper would throw the fish one at a time at different parts of the pool and they would be chasing it. When you looked at them, you would not believe how agile they were.Twycross Zoo D50  01-05-2011 14-06-16 They were well trained and kept the crowd entertained. The children enjoyed it very much especially when they slide across a slab of stone in the middle of the pond to get to the fish. It was fascinating to see him waiting patiently for the fish to be thrown to him and he just opened his mouth to catch them. A thunderous applause to a wonderful performer.Twycross Zoo D50  01-05-2011 14-06-04 Suddenly everyone rushed towards the nearby penguin enclosure. It was their turn to be fed. We didn’t join them and had a picnic on one of the benches. While having our lunch, we plotted our next animal to target. Since the feeding time was over and the crowd had dispersed, we went to see the Humboldt Penguin. These comical penguins were waddling around with abandon and delighting us as they dive and swim in their pool.Twycross Zoo D300s X  01-05-2011 14-57-06 We looked at more primates in the World of Small Monkeys. A keeper showed us a few babies that were born earlier during the day. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to photograph these collection of monkeys. It was quite dark in the house and we don’t want to frighten these sensitive animals with our flashguns. Outside, we came across one of my favourite animal, the inquisitive and comical Meerkats. At first, we saw all of them playing and weaving about in their enclosure. Suddenly, one of them ran up the the platform and did the famous watchdog pose. It was just beautiful.Twycross Zoo D300s X  01-05-2011 15-03-64 We followed the rabbit trail which should lead us to the Pets at Twycross, Little Explorers, Children's Adventure Playground and the Train Station. Before that we came across the largest guinea pig in the world, the Capybara, having a meal. We saw them earlier but they were having a siesta. Twycross Zoo D50  01-05-2011 15-13-44 Before reaching the Pets Corner, we met a pack of very woolly alpacas and shaggy donkeys. The alpacas trotted closer when they saw us nearing their pens. We didn’t want them to get too close because it would be difficult to get a good photograph. And we don’t want to be spat at :-0Twycross Zoo D200  01-05-2011 15-26-27 There was an aviary nearby but you can only see them if you take a ride on the miniature train. Since there was a very long queue for the train, we decided to forego it. And what was the point of whizzing through an aviary??? It would be a nightmare for us as photographers. But we did manage to see this beautiful Zebra finch, a common weaver finch from Central Australia.Twycross Zoo D300s X  01-05-2011 15-24-08

Then it was time to head home. We had spent about 4 hours here. As we were leaving we saw the latest addition to the zoo, a pair of snow leopards. We had to go into the Himalaya which had good views of these spectacular animals in their Himalayan mountain enclosure.Twycross Zoo D300s X  01-05-2011 15-37-26

We browsed around the new £11 million visitor centre opened in May 2010. This was an eco-friendly building containing a gift shop, cafeteria and information about the zoo's conservation work. We didn’t have time to check the later because we were already very tired. I purchased a souvenir before we joined the long queues exiting this wonderful place.Twycross Zoo D50  01-05-2011 15-42-27 Would we come again? Most probably no. It was quite expensive. We were quite surprised that we weren’t ask at the ticket counter whether we want to make a gift donation. They just assumed that everyone wanted to do so. Below was a guinea pig which reminded me of our lovely Puyi, sadly departed  but never forgotten.

Twycross Zoo D300s X  01-05-2011 15-21-16

Friday, 6 May 2011

Royal Weekend

So what did you think of the Royal Wedding? Were you glued to the screen for the whole morning? I planned to give the whole thing a miss. I woke up quite late and then went for a walk around the block. I did bring my camera with me because I was hoping that the pubs  dotted along the route will be garlanded with the Union Jacks, balloons and buntings. Nada. zilch, zero…I was soo disappointed. No street parties in my area too. How I wish someone had organised one. Coventry S5700  29-04-2011 12-33-57

After transferring the dwarf French beans seedlings, I had my breakfast in front of the screen and from then on I was hooked :-). Just in time to see Catherine getting into the car wearing the best kept secret in the world. What do I think of the wedding dress? It was too simple for my taste. Everything about her was too demeanour and very safe. She looked like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. But don’t be fooled by this. I bet she has plenty up that white lacy sleeves of hers. 

What struck me most about the wedding was that, despite the pomp and razzmatazz, the marriage ceremony was intimate and touching.  A joyful union between a young couple deep in love. The weather even cooperated. It was very cloudy at first and looked like it might rain but the sun did make an appearance. I really like the festive atmosphere at Hyde Park especially when the confetti was scattered over the crowd after the Prince and his bride uttered the words, “I will”. I wished I was there just to soak in the atmosphere. Coventry S5700  29-04-2011 12-47-57

To the Duke and Duchess, I raise my glass and pray for a very long and a very happy reunion.

Among His proofs as that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquility and contentment with each other, and He played in your hearts love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are sufficient proofs for people who think.

~Koran 30:21~

After the obligatory kisses on the balcony, we went out for a drive to bask in the glorious spring sunshine. We planned to check Bradgate Park and perhaps pay a visit to Lady Jane’s Grey ruins. It is believed that the unfortified great houses was the birthplace of Lady Jane Grey (1536/1537 – 12 February 1554). She was known as The Nine Days' Queen,  who occupied the English throne from 10 July until 19 July 1553 and was executed for high treason by Mary 1. Hmm…I’m sure the new Duchess of Cambridge won’t be facing the same fate :-).

As usual we nipped into Groby Pool first. A lot of people were feeding the natives. The Canada Geese were a bit aggressive while the hybrid ducks were enjoying the free food. We saw a coot nesting nearby and Babe spotted a Great Crested Grebe swimming on the lake. We heard cries of cormorant and herons chicks from the island situated in the middle of the lake. We decided to follow the footpath hoping to get closer look. 

Groby Pool D300s X14  29-04-2011 13-55-22

We walked through thick undergrowth when I saw my first dragonfly and it was feeding on an insect!!! Not a pleasant sight but that was how nature worked. We passed through woods carpeted with bluebells and came across a fantastic picnic area, sadly strewn with rubbish. It was such a thoughtless act. We continued walking and found out that we were walking further away from the pool. So we decided to walk back. We changed our minds about going to Bradgate Park because it was nearly closing time.Groby Pool D50  29-04-2011 14-12-14Since the sun was still shining brightly, it was a shame to be indoors. We continued to our favourite haunt to take advantage of the glorious weather. The reserve was already closed but as members we have the code to enter the side gate. We walked straight to East Marsh Hide to see what was about. The wildfowl number had continued to decline as we approached summer. Babe spotted this handsome reed bunting checking out the scenery. Brandon Marsh D300s X14  29-04-2011 16-47-50On the island in front of the hide, we noticed the Greylag shifting and saw about 2 chicks underneath her. Ooh…I couldn’t wait for these fluffy chicks to be out and about. On the main island, 3 very aggressive lapwings were bombing a heron. The heron was doing its best to dodge them but he was being attacked from 3 different sections. It went on for about 5 minutes before it gave a mighty squeak and flew away. We looked closer and saw at least 2 lapwings nesting on the island. Brandon Marsh D300s X14  29-04-2011 16-49-61We checked the Teal Pool hide and saw a Mallard with chicks feeding on the mudbanks. I was quite apprehensive because 2 herons were eyeing them with great interest. 2 male pheasants was also checking out a female at the end of the pool. A lone Redshank was feeding on the left-hand side of the pool. We also checked Baldwin Hide because we could hear the Terns making themselves heard. We saw a few checking the nesting sites on the pontoon. I’m sure they will be squabbling for this site soon. Brandon Marsh D300s X14  29-04-2011 17-49-6 It had been a long day for us. The rest of the evening was spent pretty much vegetated in front of the screen alternating between the World Snooker Championship and the highlights from the Royal Wedding. Seeing the new Duke and Duchess driving to Clarence House in the open-top Austin Martin and waving to the crowds added a very nice touch to the day. Watching the latest snooker sensation, Judd Trump coming back from behind to defeat Ding in the semi-finals was simply the best. 

On a very blustery Saturday morning, we went for a drive to Rutland Waters to check the piece de resistance, the ospreys. On the way up we managed to bypass Leicester and Loughborough. It was a very pleasant drive through huge expanses of dandelion-yellow fields rolling in the distance. The deep blue sky  were such a perfect contrast with these yellow flowers. Roadtrip Twycross Zoo D50  01-05-2011 11-53-18

There were times when I felt like asking Babe to stop so that I can run into the deeply musky, sickly scent of the flowers :-). Unfortunately there wasn’t any safe place to stop. Not a good idea though because it was that time of year when these fields laden with that glow of dandelion-yellow flowers and fragrance become an irritant to hay fever sufferers, moi included. Rutland Water Lyndon D50   30-04-2011 15-05-08

We had to drive cautiously to the Lyndon Nature Reserve, dodging the hundreds of cyclists and walkers. It was very warm and we took turns to use the facilities. The last time we were here, 3 kestrel chicks greeted us from their nesting boxes. According to one of the volunteers, the female had been seen but not the male. I guess we were a bit early. As we left the visitor centre to follow the self-guided trails towards the hide, we were hit by a very strong garlicky smell. The path were covered with wild garlic. I was so tempted to pick some but had to refrain myself. 

Rutland Water Lyndon D50   30-04-2011 12-46-25We walked through thick clouds of midgets. They were everywhere and getting into everywhere. Eek…We checked the first hide and there was nobody home. The main problem with large bodies of water was that water fowls tend not to feed closer to the hides and thus limiting us taking photographs. We didn’t spend too long at any of the hides because there were long walks between hides and lagoons. Luckily, the hay meadows were full of wild flowers and teeming with speckled woods, tortoiseshells, blues (below) and orange tips keeping our cameras busy. Rutland Water Lyndon D200   30-04-2011 12-51-07We finally reached the Waderscrape hide with views of the osprey nest. It also overlooked a small reed-bed which was surprisingly quiet. We spotted the male osprey perching on a branch near the ground. I think the very strong winds and the choppy waters were making  it difficult for them to fly and to fish . From March to September the hide was manned by a team of Osprey volunteers. They helped visitors get the best possible views of the Ospreys through their project telescopes and answering any queries. Rutland Water Lyndon D300s X2  30-04-2011 14-11-25We continued our journey towards the Shallow Water hide, a little further west, which looked out across the shallowest part of Manton Bay to the Osprey nest. We thought it had a better view of the nest. The male osprey was seen flying about and chasing away the lapwings that managed to get close to the nest. Babe managed to get this wonderful photograph of the osprey bringing a twig to be added to the nest. Rutland Water Lyndon D300s X2  30-04-2011 14-18-10We also saw this Egyptian goose feeding very close to the hide. They seemed to be everywhere and a pair was seen at the opposite mudbank with chicks. How I wished they were closer to the hide. But I guess they feel safer on the island. There were plenty of very nosy lapwings, shelducks and terns. 2 juvenile seagulls were feeding on a fish. Not many species that we haven’t seen before. Rutland Water Lyndon D300s X2  30-04-2011 14-08-54As usual. Babe’s camera attracted a lot of interest and he’d to face with a few Q&A. We’d to leave as it was getting a bit too much. As we walked back towards the visitor centre, we took a different route and saw stunning views across the very choppy water. A few young male cattle were feeding on a nearby field. Tree sparrows, tits and goldfinches flirted among the hedges. Babe spotted a blackbird with its beak full of caterpillars and I managed to photograph a pair of chaffinches making sweet music. Absolutely amazing. Rutland Water Lyndon D50   30-04-2011 14-44-53 After finishing our ice-cream, we made our long drive home. Unfortunately, our chatty tree frog aka GPS didn’t take us the route that we came in. We followed it through Leicester which we were trying hard to avoid. Thankfully, it was the holiday season and there wasn’t that much traffic on the road. We arrived home safe but tired. After a very simple dinner, I settled in front of the screen watching snooker while Babe wrestled with the hundreds of photographs that we had taken.  

On Sunday, I wanted to attend the British Falconry and Raptor fair at Raglan Hall but Babe wanted to check out Twycross Zoo. Hmm…choices, choices. After a lot of persuasion, I reluctantly agreed to Babe’s plan. So off we go for another adventure on another lovely day.  Since it was a new destination, I think it deserved its own posting.Twycross Zoo D200 01-05-2011 12-26-15_stitchBank holiday Monday was a day of rest. Babe needed time to recover from a very busy weekend. I spent the day cleaning the bathroom, trimming the grass, reading and baking chocolate chip muffins. I also made a quick trip to Tesco and came out with a few groceries and a checked shirt which was on sale. We’d roast lamb with all the trimmings for lunch and I settled down to watch the finals of the World Snooker. Well done to the Wizard of Wishaw for winning an emotional fourth World Championship title with an 18-15 win over Judd Trump. He’d worked hard to silence his critics.

Phew…Babe and I had enjoyed a wonderful packed weekend. I started the party earlier with a leaving do for Jess. After years of sending her CV’s all over the country, she finally got a high-powered job in another department in the university. Congratulations, you deserved it.  We promised to keep in touch.Warwick University S5700  28-04-2011 13-47-03

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rain fall soft upon your field
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand

( A Celtic blessing )

The bluebells in Tocil Wood were in full bloom. The delicate scent suffused the air drawing me deeper into the woods. Above, the sun dipped long fingers of warm light into a stunning sea of gorgeous blue flora. Momentarily, I stood in awe of the natural beauty surrounding me. My own little heaven on earth.

Warwick University D50  27-04-2011 12-25-22