Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Ides of March

All history buffs and literature lovers were aware that March 15th was known as The Ides of March. For ancient Romans, an ides was merely one of several common calendar terms used to mark monthly lunar events. Until 44 B.C., the Ides of March was another way of saying March 15th. But the Ides of March assumed a whole new identity after the events of 44 B.C. The phrase came to represent a specific day of abrupt change that set off a ripple of repercussions throughout Roman society and beyond.

For historians, it was the bloody assassination of Caesar in 44 B.C. He was stabbed 23 times to death in the Roman Senate by a group of conspirators. According to Plutarch, a soothsayer had foreseen that Caesar would be harmed not later than the Ides of March and on his way to the Theatre of Pompey (where he would be assassinated), Caesar met the soothsayer and joked, "The ides of March have come", meaning to say that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the soothsayer replied "Ay, Caesar; but not gone."

For literature lovers, this meeting was famously dramatized in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, when Caesar was warned by the soothsayer to "beware the Ides of March."

Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry "Caesar!" Speak, Caesar is turn'd to hear.

Beware the ides of March.

What man is that?

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 2, 15-19

Fast forward to the Ides of March 2012 and it was my birthday. I turned XX. I needed a bigger cake to fit the candles :-). Babe let me loose in TK Maxx and I picked a lovely grey lamb leather Gharani Strok handbag and a box of posh Turkish Delight as my birthday presents. Thanks a million darling.

God was just showing off when he created me


From the movie “Keeping the Faith”

The starlings have been coming to my garden party in huge numbers now. We could hear them even when we’re in the casa because they were such a noisy bunch.with their harsh shrieking calls and chattering notes. It was amusing to see their greed and bossiness at the bird-feeder. They could finish the mealworms at just one visit. Hmm…selfish too. Coventry D7000 X14  14-03-2012 12-00-062From afar, they don’t look interesting at all. But when you see them this close and in the right light, all sort of spots and shiny speckles were reflected from their glossy green violet sheen iridescent plumage. Totally stunning. One morning, when we left the house, we saw them lining the roof, waiting (im)patiently for their breakfast.Coventry D7000 X14  14-03-2012 11-11-041

Starlings On The Roof

"No smoke spreads out of this chimney-pot,
The people who lived here have left the spot,
And others are coming who knew them not.

If you listen anon, with an ear intent,
The voices, you'll find, will be different
From the well-known ones of those who went."

"Why did they go? Their tones so bland
Were quite familiar to our band;
The comers we shall not understand."

"They look for a new life, rich and strange;
They do not know that, let them range
Wherever they may, they will get no change.

"They will drag their house-gear ever so far
In their search for a home no miseries mar;
They will find that as they were they are,

"That every hearth has a ghost, alack,
And can be but the scene of a bivouac
Till they move perforce--no time to pack!"

~Thomas Hardy ‘Starlings On The Roof’~

My heart and prayers goes to the Belgian families whose children left, full of excitement and never completed the journey home. I cannot comprehend what they were going through. The anticipation of a joyful homecoming turning into anguish as they waited for news. The distress of parents seeing their injured babies, the relief of those who realise their babies are among those alive and the grief for those who died. Sudden bereavement for the loss of 28 lives.

May Allah comfort and strengthen the families in their sadness. Warwick University D3100  16-03-2012 13-42-33On Friday, I attended the first International Students Group meeting of this year. We welcomed another new member, SA, to the group. We discussed about creating a FAQ’s for the web-page, staff training and familiarisation to standardised library terms. A lot of ideas were thrown about the future plans and strategies of the group. We were very excited about updating the international student strategy, revising the web-page and conducting another survey in the autumn term. These should keep us on our toes.

Then a brisk walk by the lakes during my lunch-break. I checked the old lake to see if there was any activity going on. Very much to my delight, the frogs had been busy and I missed their mating sessions, again. I heard a drumming above my head. I looked up and saw this gorgeous Great Spotted Woodpecker. He was soo busy that he didn’t see me and I took the opportunity to take a few photographs. A pity that it was very dark under the trees. Warwick University D3100  16-03-2012 13-30-02It was raining on Saturday. A soft rain as the Irish would say. Everyone’s a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, so why not try a favourite Irish recipe and raising a glass of Guinness to all things green. I made Irish stew with chicken instead of lamb and there was a pack of potato bread for dinner. Babe was half-Irish and I guess I can say that I’ll gladly wear a green shamrock, if I can find one. Apart from an Irish themed dinner sans the Guinness, the highlight of the day was replanting a thistle in the garden and wearing a long green jumper to Brandon Marsh. I blended in nicely with the surroundings :-)

If you're enough lucky to be Irish...
You’re lucky enough!

We were greeted by a wagtail busy feeding on the roof. Bachelor males were still serenading along the path. From Baldwin Hide, Shovelers, Oystercatchers, Shelducks, Golden Eyes, Pochards, Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Great Crested Grebes and Widgeons kept us occupied. As usual, the Lapwings and the Gulls were competing to see who was the loudest. A pair of Mediterranean gulls was reported to be among the gulls but we couldn’t see them. This handsome Great Crested Grebe delighted us by swimming so close to the hide.Brandon Marsh D7000 X2  17-03-2012 14-34-017East Marsh Hide was dead as a Dodo. In Carlton Hide, we managed to get the last 2 seats. I wonder what were they waiting for? When we were there, a Buzzard was surveying his kingdom from the dead tree, a Kestrel did a quick fly-by and a pair of Bull-finches were feeding on the last berries. I thought the Osprey pole was hoisted around here but we couldn’t see any. Fat Jasper said that it might be by the Newlands reed-beds. We will check them out later. Brandon Marsh D7000 X2  17-03-2012 15-17-016I got up early on Mothering Sunday. It was a lovely morning and I might call up my mother-in-law later. I dug up another raised bed and made a wildflower patch. I think I’ll make another patch next week. My feathered friends kept we company with their singing and twitterings. But they seemed to be spooked lately. I have seen our neighbours cats eyeing the bird-feeder from time to time. This was one of them, Boots aka Puss-in-Boots. Coventry D300s X14  13-03-2012 12-28-037In the evening, I made myself comfortable on the sofa watching Liverpool winning over Stoke City, 2-1, in the 6th round tie of the FA football cup. It was wonderful to see the the players and football fans giving their support for Fabrice Muamba, the midfielder with Bolton Wanderers. He is still in intensive care after suffering a cardiac arrest in the 41 minute while playing against Tottenham Hotspur. Hang tight Muamba.

Finally, this post is dedicated to all the wonderful mums, without whose unselfish love and devotion, lives would be forever changed. Happy Mother’s Day to both my mother and mother-in-law. These gorgeous and highly perfumed hyacinths from our garden are for both of you.Coventry D3100  17-03-2012 11-47-25

“Who ran to help me when I fell, And would some pretty story tell, Or Kiss the place to make it well ?

My mother."

~Anne Taylor~

Friday, 16 March 2012

March days

It was one of those March days,

When the sun shines hot and the winter blows cold,

When it is summer in the light

And winter in the shade

~Charles Dickens~

I started the week by attending a distinguished lecture by Marina Warner, historian and mythographer, on “The Tales Things Tell”, a scholarly dissection of the Arabian Nights and its impact in the West. I was quite confused when, with no introductions, she went straight  into "a polyvocal anthology of world myths, fables and fairytales". This is where oral and written traditions, poetry and prose, demotic folk tales and courtly high culture mutate and interpenetrate. I persevered and finally managed to capture the tales she told which was interspersed with beautiful illustrations.

She started on the jinn (or genies) who behaved badly, capriciously, illogically and explored the figure of the dark magician, from Solomon a master of the jinn in his Islamic version, to the wicked uncle in Aladdin.  There was the Arab and European habit of attributing foreignness to evil magicians. These dark enchanters come from dark places (Africa and India) and profess dark (pre-Islamic) faiths.

She touched on the derivations and meanings of the word “talisman”. There was a fascinating discussion of the talismanic properties of paper money and how magic helped to create the modern world, and how it was still inscribed in the way we think today. It was an interesting lecture and unfortunately, we were too tired to stay for drinks and nibbles.

I’m sure you too was disgusted when President Karzai, who was backed and funded by the West, endorsed a non-binding edict saying that women were worth less than men. This was issued by Afghanistan’s highest religious authority.  His government was selling out on Afghan women's rights as it tries to woo the Taliban into peace talks The move was part of his attempts to reach out to the Taliban in the lead up to the planned withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014. And as the West was so desperate to leave as soon as possible, they seemed to be allowing it!!!

Then 6 soldiers were killed in the deadliest single attack on British forces when their Warrior armoured vehicle was blown up by a massive improvised explosive device (IED). The loss of life was the greatest suffered by our forces in a ground attack since the Afghan conflict began 11 years ago. It took the number of those who have died to 404. Every death was a terrible blow. None is worse than another — but six young men at once was devastating. I don’t want our soldiers to die fighting to prop up a government trampling on human rights, in this case women’s rights. Coventry D7000  09-03-2012 13-29-54

On International Women’s Day, I tweeted, what should we be fighting for? I’m fighting against the inhuman treatment towards Muslim women.

 The Quran says: "O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward God in Whom ye claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bear you)"

(Quran 4:1).

This verse clearly demonstrates that men and women in Islam are equal to each other both intrinsically – within the very act of creation – and extrinsically, with respect to both their relationship with one another and their duties before Allah. In fact, the singling out of women at the end of this verse for special reverence as de facto mothers is the only indication of relative inequality, albeit in favour of women.

“None but a noble man treats women in an honourable manner. And none but an ignoble treats women disgracefully”


Taking a very deep breath, in…out…very, very s-l-o-w-l-y

I needed a break. I started the weekend by taking Friday afternoon off. Actually, I was accompanying Babe for his medical assessment. This assessment was designed to find out about how a claimant illness or disability affects them in their everyday life.  I can’t elaborate on the procedures except that it went smoothly. I find it interesting that the lovely doctor kept on reminding us that she does not make the final decisions. Hmm…but what she wrote do count. Now the waiting game begins…

Since we were in town early, I wanted to check out and give our full support to Stuart Kettell, a charity fundraiser, in the West Orchards Shopping Centre. We saw him sitting in a harness floating about 14m up in the air being held by helium balloons. He was spending 12 hours a day for a week to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. This was the second time I’d met him. The first time was  when he was suspended outside the Cathedral Lanes in a box. We made a contribution and gave him our thumbs-up. Well-done  http://www.willthemadfoolmakeit.co.uk/ Coventry D7000  09-03-2012 13-11-22 Then we amble towards the Coventry Cathedral as the clock strikes 2 pm. We haven’t been here for ages and it was lovely to be back in the magnificent ruins. We surveyed the crumbling walls where an appeal was made for donations. Nearby, a tour guide was making rounds with a group of very enthusiastic school children. We took the opportunity to listen. Coventry D7000  09-03-2012 13-30-51 We’d prawn sandwiches and bottled drinks for lunch in the sunny Bullyard watching the pigeons edging closer and closer, begging for food. As usual, I couldn’t resist them and shared my food. After a quick stop at Body Shop for my favourite shampoo and hair-conditioner, it was time to head home. We’d a shock when we’d to pay £6 for 4 hours parking!!! No wonder the city-centre was empty.

At home, we had our 22nd visitor to our garden. It was a Mistle Thrush, singing his heart out. I don’t think he will be a bachelor for too long.

Coventry D300s X14  06-03-2012 15-29-015

“At once a voice arose among 

The bleak twigs overhead

In a full-hearted evensong

Of joy illimited

~Thomas Hardy ‘The Darkling Thrush’~

Saturday was spent at our usual playground. The reserve was bursting with a symphony of songs. As we walked towards the hide, we were serenaded by robins, dunnocks, chaffinches, great and blue tits. Everyone was desperate for a mate. But not Mr and Mrs Golden eyes. They were busy making sweet love. It was intriguing to see the mating behaviour. The male was performing spectacular and complex displays which included the head fast thrown towards back, The female lies low in the waters, invitingly and waiting.  Brandon Marsh D7000 X14  10-03-2012 15-31-28

Apart from those 2 lovers, we spotted the Great Crested Grebes, Tufted Ducks, Pochards, Mallards, Shelducks and Shovelers enjoying the afternoon sun. The Gulls were making the most noise while Coots and Moorhens were being territorial. As I continued scanning the edges of the island, I spotted a familiar quiff. Oh hello, it was a pair of Goosander. A pity they were quite a distant away  We checked out the rest of the hides but there was not much going on. Brandon Marsh D7000 X14  10-03-2012 15-51-38

I spent a lovely Sunday morning doing the household chores. I changed all the heavy curtains, cushion covers, throws and carpet for a lighter and fresher colours. It really made a difference to the room. Babe said that it looked cold but I think it was still early spring and winter hasn’t left us yet. In the garden, I replanted the dahlias and hollyhock in the front garden while the clematis and hydrangea was at the back. I couldn’t wait for summer when everything will be in full bloom. The daffodils in the front garden were flowering beautifully, making everything feels all right.

Sunday afternoon was spent in IKEA. SA had just moved into her new pad and CC, RC and moi were helping her pick a few bits and bobs. We’d lunch in the restaurant and this was the first time I’d a meal here. I’d fish and chips with peas and drowned glasses of lingonberry juice. Then we dawdled slowly around the floors, checking and testing every piece that caught our eyes. It was quite funny because each of us had different taste and we never seemed to agree on anything. Luckily, SA had a mind of her own. There were a few things that caught my attention and I’m trying to persuade Babe to come to IKEA for a visit.   

We’d a lovely time but I’d to leave early. I’ve got a bus to catch. I walked past a duo playing some very up-beat Peruvian music with the panpipes. And, I still managed to pop into Primark to get a pair of very Cath Kidston-like cushion covers and a pair of socks which were on sale. Thankfully, the queue on the home section floor wasn’t too long. A  pair of polka-dot palazzo pants which caught my eyes but I need to queue for the changing rooms. Hmm…I’ll check them out later.  

This week was also the birthdays to two very dear women in my life, my Emak and my sister. It was also my sister’s big birthday and I hoped she enjoyed the parcel that I’d sent her.

I hope each and every day, hour and minute of this year in your life is filled with fun, happiness and good health.

I love you.

Happy a Wonderful Birthday and May Allah bless our family, always. I like to share this Iced Chocolate Tray-bake that I baked last week with them. Coventry D3100  04-03-2012 12-14-35

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Thank you for saving the seals!

Donna Nook D300s X2  11-11-2011 10-42-09

This image is of a Grey Seal Pup – Photographed by us at Donna Nook Rookery – November 2011

To Whom It May Concern,

I'm writing to commend the historic decision by the Russian Federation, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to ban your trade in harp seal fur. This crucial legislation is already helping to save hundreds of thousands of defenceless seals around the world from a horrible fate.

Canada's commercial seal slaughter is the world's largest, and involves a level of cruelty that no thinking, compassionate person could ever accept. Not surprisingly, most compassionate people oppose the slaughter and support foreign nations prohibiting their trade in seal products.

The 27-nation European Union, Mexico, Croatia, and the United States have all prohibited seal product trade for animal welfare and conservation reasons. Now, your actions have inspired Canadian parliamentarians to consider ending the seal slaughter for good.

I cannot thank you enough for the compassion and leadership you have shown on this issue.



Seri and Kevin

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Marching in March

First of March was St. David’s Day, the patron saint of Wales. Dewi Sant, as he was known in Welsh, was a Celtic monk, Coventry D7000  03-03-2012 13-04-42abbot and bishop, who lived in the sixth century. He was one of the many early saints who helped to spread Christianity among the pagan Celtic tribes of western Britain.  His last words to his followers were  transcribed as 'Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.' 'Gwnewch y pethau bychain' or 'Do the little things'  is a very well-known phrase in Welsh.

The sun was shining on a beautiful Spring morning. Coventry D3100  29-02-2012 16-30-37I took the day off to recover and just chilled out, not feeling sick. My feathered friends were chirping so cheerfully and singing so melodiously in affirmation of this glorious day. Green shoots were popping out of the ground. It was amazing to welcome the new season of renewal and rejuvenation as new life stirs beneath the earth, eager to emerge. I had planted hundreds of daffodils, the national flower of Wales, along the borders and this was the first daffodil to bloom on such an auspicious day. So far March had flew in like a lamb.

world book dayIt was also World Book Day. I only realised it when I notice a very small poster at the public library. I’d been out of action last week and had several overdue books with me. I have always loved and enjoyed reading and always will. A good book opens up new worlds and took me to places I can only dreamed of and inspire feelings in me that I could never imagine. Inspiring. uplifting, enlightening, mind expanding, entertaining, educating… all these are the hallmarks of a good book.


Books are the quietest and most constant friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of councillors, and the most patient of teachers.

~ Charles W. Eliot~

Lets raise a glass to our favourite books … and all the pleasures they gave to us. And to my father and grandfather who set the example and instilled in me my love of reading and books.

On Friday, I was back at work. I was still not 100% fit but sometimes, you just need to make an effort. Anyway, I took things slowly and not try to finish the pile-high stuff on my table. Babe came over during my lunch break and we went for a lovely walk by the lakes. We checked out to see if the frogs were out and about but no one was at home at the usual spot. We continued to the end of the third lake and as we approached the reeds, we could hear several croaking. But as we walked on the boardwalk, it stopped. We saw balls of frog spawn gently bobbing in the lake. We’d missed the mating sessions. Warwick University D7000 X  02-03-2012 13-18-21As usual, Saturday was spent at a very busy and packed Brandon Marsh. This reserve seemed to be gaining in popularity. I don’t mind sharing with the crowd as long as they stick to the rules and especially, respect the natives. We stopped at Baldwin Hide and spotted the usual Great Crested Grebes, Pintails, Golden Eyes, Pochards and Tufted Ducks. From East Marsh Hide, a Cetti Warbler was playing hide-and-seek with us. From here, we could see Shelducks, female pheasants, Snipes and Oyster-Catchers. We couldn’t get in at all in Carlton Hide. Every seat was taken because 2 Bitterns were sighted in the area. We decided to head home. Brandon Marsh D300s X2  02-03-2012 14-53-48When we were on the main road, Babe spotted a Buzzard flying very low over the hedges. We managed to find a parking space besides a field. As Babe rushed to get his camera, a flock of sheep came tottering close to the fence. Buzzard forgotten when this gorgeous beauty caught our attention. I wish I could pet him but there was this fence between us. Check out those horns…Brandon Lane Warwickshire D300s X14  03-03-2012 16-05-036The heavens opened on Sundays and we decided to just chill out at home. It was freezing. Even my feathered friends refused to come out and play in the rain. When the rain had a brief stall, we cleaned the bird-feeder and the bird-bath. We checked the bushes and found dozens of green shield bugs and ladybirds. I’m very pleased that they survived the winter and are coming out of hibernation. Coventry D7000  03-03-2012 12-51-19

I spent the evening baking an iced chocolate tray-bake, a signature cake from the acclaimed baker, Mary Berry. It was very easy, very rich and I think I was successful in my first try. Mind you, I’d never attempt icing before and it turned out ok.   

Mary Berry Iced Chocolate Tray-bake

4 tbsp cocoa powder

225g butter, softened

225g caster sugar

275g self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

4 large eggs

4 tbsp milk

For the icing and decoration

4 tbsp apricot jam

200g plain chocolate, with 150g broken into pieces

350g icing sugar, sifted

1 tsp sunflower oil

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 30x25cm tray-bake and line the base with baking paper.

Mix cocoa powder with 4 tbsp. of hot water, until smooth; cool. In a large bowl beat cocoa with remaining cake ingredients, until well-blended. Turn into cake tin and level the top.

Bake 30 mins. Cool.

Warm jam and brush all over cold cake.

In a pan, gently melt 150g chocolate pieces with 6 tbsp. water until smooth. Cool and beat with icing sugar and oil.Spread over cake with palette knife. Grate remaining chocolate over cake, Cut into pieces after 30 mins.

Bon app├ętit,


March is an in between month when wintry winds are high.

But milder days remind us all

Spring is coming by and by

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Within my garden, rides a bird

I have been ill for nearly a week. One by one, my colleagues  had been coughing, spluttering and feeling incredibly sorry for themselves. And then it was my turn. Last Thursday, I woke up with a woodpecker hammering in my head, a hacking cough and non-stop sneezing. I barely had enough energy to get out of bed. After croaking to my manager that I’m ill, I swallowed some pain-killers, downed cough mixture, rubbed Vicks on my nose, head and chest and tried to sleep on Babe’s reclining chair with a hot-water bottle and a box of tissues by my side. I’d a hard time sleeping at night because of my cough and blocked nose.

A week was spent mopping at home feeling sorry for myself, sniffing, whinging and coughing. Poor Babe, he was obliged to offer some sympathy. But at least, he was able to go out and get some fresh air and stretch his legs. Look at this photograph of Scarlet Elf he took along the path towards River Hide. Don’t they look stunning in the bleak winter.Brandon Marsh D300s  23-02-2012 13-40-06 As for me, plenty of rest and fluids was the only prescribed cure for a cold and I make sure I’d loads and lots. Funny enough, the weather had been great when I was ill. Sods law!!! While resting, I opened the patio doors to let in some fresh breeze and also took the opportunity to observe the bird-feeder in between naps. There was a lot of activities going on. Dunnocks, Robins, House-sparrows, Blue and Great tits were busy courting and carving out their territories. The Black cap was still around and he was guarding his food source. Coventry D7000 X2  01-03-2012 12-18-016 From time to time, I’ll get up and check if anybody new had turned up at my garden party. As I surveyed the hedges, I spotted a flash of red among the green. Ooh…it was a Goldfinch, the 21st species to our garden. I was hyper-ventilating with excitement. My garden party was tweeted and twittered fast and quick. I couldn’t wait to see who will turn up next.Coventry D3100  23-02-2012 09-42-08On Saturday, I braved myself and went out for a walk to get some fresh air and stretch my legs. We went for a quick stroll at Brandon Marsh. In the first hide, we spotted Mr and Mrs Golden Eyes, Pintails and Great Crested Grebes enjoying the afternoon sun. At East Marsh Hide, a pair of Shelducks and a flock of widgeons were busy feeding on the opposite bank. Suddenly, we heard the familiar shrill piping, piercing call vibrating around us. The Oyster-catchers were back and there were 2 pairs of them. It was so good to see them back again with their striking long orange-red bill, glossy, black head and pink, long legs.Brandon Marsh D7000 X2  22-02-2012 14-02-14We left early because I was exhausted. We popped into the visitor centre and got a nest box. We hoped to entice one of our visitors to breed in our garden. We also looked at the prices of bird-seeds and peanuts and nearly fainted. Why on earth are they so d----d expensive? But we still bought 3 bars of insect suet as a treat. We stopped at Lidl and got a few packets of peanuts. We made a final stop at Gallagher Retail Park to find a bird-bath and also bought a big pack of fat-balls which was on sale. Feeding the party was turning to be very expensive. Coventry D7000 X2  26-02-2012 15-03-05The next day, we nailed in the nesting box and set up the bird-bath. We spent the day holding our breath, waiting and watching if any of our guests will be using the facilities. It was very exciting to see the resident blackbird having a drink. A flock of Great  and blue tits were feeding on the bird-feeder when one of the Blue tits decided to check out the nest box. Ooh… it went in and I bet had a good look. For the past few days, I’d seen several tits flying in  and out and I’m keeping my fingers and toes double-crossed that one will fly in with some furniture.Coventry D7000 X2  28-02-2012 10-50-58Watching the birds in the garden had been very therapeutic for me. I didn’t do much reading when I was ill because my head was pounding. I hated day-time tv and the radio just sounded too intrusive. Thank you to all the birds who came riding into my garden and made me feel much better. Babe had seen a Long-tail tit picking feathers. Ooh… someone is building a nest and it must be near. I’m soo excited…

 Coventry D3100  26-02-2012 11-46-14