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.

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