Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Midsummer Tales

I started the week by taking the 7.10 am train to London. CC and I were on our way to attend the seminar “I think, therefore I classify” organised by the International Society of Knowledge Organization and The British Computer Society. I’d to buy an expensive cup of coffee and a banana muffin to keep me awake. As we passed through the countryside, we saw fields still underwater. From Euston, we joined the throng of thousands and took the tube to Charing Cross where we walked for 20 minutes to the venue.

As usual we arrived early and the organisers were still setting things up. We met a few familiar faces and enjoyed the spread on offer. It was a very packed session. We discussed the needs for classification and skills and from the representative of a recruitment agency, we were told that classifiers were still in demand. We debated about the perspectives of classification and had a very passionate talk from a biologist on how she classifies order out of chaos. After a very lovely buffet lunch, a video conference about back to basics was on.

There was a breakout session where the delegates had to choose a topic on their interest. I chose the ‘Formal versus informal classification’ which happened to be the largest group. We discussed the uses, merits and de-merits of library classification schemes, statistical schemes, and tagging facilities provided by social networking sites. Then everyone gathered again and a spokesperson from each session gave a synopsis of their sessions. A lot of discussions and conclusions were made. But I think it still doesn’t answer how important or relevant are the traditional structure of knowledge organization scheme in a 21st century environment? A topic for the next meeting…

It ended at 6pm with wine and nibbles. Unfortunately most delegates have trains to catch, moi included. We joined the throngs again on the Tube into Euston, standing in a very crowded carriage. When we arrived at Euston, we found out that the trains had been delayed due to a serious accident and decided to have something to eat. One of our colleagues had been to London earlier and was raving about an Indian vegetarian restaurant, Diwana Bhelpoori, he’d sampled and we decided to check it out. It specialised in Southern Indian food and we chose a thali which comprised of several small dishes with chapatti for me and poori for CC. It also came with a sweet dish which was a bit too sweet for me. My verdict? It was ok, nothing special.

Then a very slow dawdle back to the railway station. It was still chaotic, crowds running towards the platform when their train’s departure was announced. We did the same at 8.15pm. We managed to get a seat and was quiet through out the journey. Too tired and too full :-). We arrived in one piece.

The next day, I informed the office that I’m taking the day off. I was too exhausted to come to work. After catching up with much-needed sleep, I was ready to face the world. Uninterrupted sunshine was promised and one thing that we learnt was to grab the good weather when we get it as we’ll never know how long the sun will be with us.  Babe and I decided to check out a new playground, Draycote Meadows. We have heard many good things about this place  and it was a good excuse to see what the fuss was all about. As usual, the postcode lead us to a padlocked entrance twice. I remembered AH mentioning Blooms garden centre and Babe directed the GPS to it and voila, we found it.Draycote Meadows D3100  17-07-2012 10-47-00Draycote meadows was a picturesque, traditional hay meadow, the ‘creme de la creme’ of the remaining undisturbed grasslands found in Warwickshire. As we passed through the kissing gates, we could see miles and miles of grasslands with waves of buttercups, cowslips, meadow vetchling, adder’s tongue ferns, meadowsweets and yellow rattles. Different species of grass completed the mass to form seas of tawny green with thousands of flower spikes, in an array of wonderful colours. A little paradise on earth. Above us a buzzard with its faint mewing was gliding high on a thermal against a powder blue sky.Draycote Meadows D3100  17-07-2012 10-53-19

“The green grass and happy skies court the fluttering butterflies”

~Terri Guillemets~

Draycote Meadows D3100  17-07-2012 10-43-20

Then there were the hundreds of butterflies and they were everywhere, dancing from one flower to another. We couldn’t point our camera properly because as soon as we spot one, another gorgeous butterfly will suddenly appear, enticing us to point our camera at it.  And they were very lively, flittering from flower to flower, making it a challenge to get close enough for a photo. It was amazing to see these extraordinary beautiful creatures. We were mesmerised with the beauty and delicacy of their wings, the variety of their colours and their amazing metamorphosis. They really lived up to their name as ‘flying jewels’ or nature’s gems’.Draycote Meadows D3100  17-07-2012 10-57-08

Among the butterflies we spotted were the Six-Spot Burnet, Ringlets, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Skipper and Marbled White.

Draycote Meadows D7000  17-07-2012 10-31-27

[Butterflies] That flash like meteors through the shady bowers,

And rests like broken rainbows on the flowers

Themselves more rich and beautiful of hue

Than any flowers that nourish’d by the dew


Draycote Meadows D7000  17-07-2012 11-06-16

Since Draycote waters was just round the corner, it was rude not to say hello. We walked up the hill towards Hensborough Hill and a few Goldfinches accompanied us. We scanned the banks and not a bird in sight. The midsummer birding doldrums were still here. We didn’t walked any further because it was really hot. We were basking in balmy temperatures and uninterrupted sunshine lifted by sizzling sun. We took shade under a tree and point our cameras towards these guys practising their sailing skills. They were pretty impressive.Draycote Waters D50  17-07-2012 12-40-41 It was the summer graduation. The university grounds have been manicured to welcome the proud parents to see the final result of their children’s hard work. And the weather had been fabulous. Congratulations to all the graduates. A temporary video screen had been installed in the Piazza, streaming the ceremonies. It was lovely to pop over and watched the ceremonies while having my lunch. It was also the first time I witnessed the very slow academic procession before the ceremony started. They literally stopped traffic. Security guards stopped traffic and everybody else to let them through for about 20 minutes.Warwick University S40  18-07-2012 15-08-23This week the first day of Ramadan had arrived on a blessed Friday. My prayers and thoughts were for all those who were suffering around the world. As usual, I had my ear-phones on and listened to the Quran a few surah a day. Fingers-crossed, I aimed to complete the 114 surah in 30 days. I joined my fellow Muslims for the zuhr prayers in the mosque during my lunch hour. Since I’m not taking any tea and lunch break, I left work at 5pm. Plenty of time to think of what to cook for breaking our fast. Nothing spectacular but plenty to drink and lots of fresh fruits. Watermelons were in season now and we bought a huge one. It was lovely to break your fast with a slice of refreshing, juicy water-melon. Nom, nom.

“When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heavens are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the Devils chained.”


The weekend started with a trip to Slimbridge WWT. As usual, the car-park was full and we’d to park in the very soggy over-flow car-park. By the entrance, we spotted Black caps, Goldfinches and House sparrows. After showing our membership card, we walked along the walkway to see what was about. We spotted the swallows were busy flying in and out of their nests under the eaves of the roof. But this fluffed up house sparrow who had just enjoyed a sand-bath caught my eye.Slimbridge WWT D50  21-07-2012 13-00-035 As usual, a stop-over at the Wader Shore exhibit was a must. The adorable Advocets  and Black-Winged Stilt was having a siesta near the sitting area. We treaded carefully so that we don’t disturb them. They looked up and when back to sleep. The Redshank was out and about, feeding among the mudbanks.  Slimbridge WWT D50  21-07-2012 13-09-044The very playful North American river otters, Mother Flo, and twins Minnie and Ha Ha  were vowing the crowds with their antics. It must have been a tough life for this family of three to earn their living, spending their days frolicking around in the water, sunbathing and sleeping in their den. We missed their feeding time but it was still lovely to see their playfulness. Slimbridge WWT D300s X14  21-07-2012 13-37-057We checked out the newest exhibit, the Flamingo Lagoon. At first we thought all 6 species will be housed here. But, it was the Greater Flamingo who were the stars. The flock of birds, more than 200, were a spectacular sight in the new African themed wetland. They shared their new palatial quarters with a range of African duck species such as the Cape teal (pink beaks), Cape shelduck (larger orange birds), yellow-billed ducks and white-faced whistling ducks.  Slimbridge WWT D50  21-07-2012 13-49-20The enclosure with its sunken viewing area provided visitors with an excellent opportunity to observe flamingo behaviour at close-quarters and appreciate the ecology of their habitat in the wild. We sat down and checked out a group of argumentative flock right in front of the viewing gallery. It would be amazing to come here during the breeding season.Slimbridge WWT D50  21-07-2012 14-18-45

The Lesser flamingos had moved into the revamped old greater flamingo pen (to the left of Flamingo Lagoon). The Chilean, Andean, James and Caribbean flamingos were still at their old enclosures. We were very surprised to see the brightly-coloured Caribbean flamingos with their short grey straight beaked chicks. Something spooked them and all the little bundles of fluff ran into the middle of the flock with the lofty adults towering over them. This behaviour, known as creching, made them feel safer. In the wild, chicks were less visible individual targets for predators if they group together, and by having them in one place, only a few adults were needed to watch over them, leaving others free to feed, bathe or preen.Slimbridge WWT D300s X14  21-07-2012 14-38-040

We walked past Nenes with their soft, doe expressions. These Hawaiian geese were the first to have hatched their young and they now all looked identical. We’d another nice surprise when we saw these fluffy Eider duck chicks. Aren’t they gorgeous? We didn’t stay long because it had been a sweltering hot day and it was the fasting month. Babe was feeling a bit under the weather and we didn’t want to aggravate it. Slimbridge WWT D50  21-07-2012 13-19-30

On Sunday, Babe and I attended “Coventry Welcomes the World” ceremony at the newly refurbished Broadgate Square under the watchful eyes of Lady Godiva’s statute. The City of Coventry will be welcoming the crowds of international visitors that were expected to arrive for the Olympics. We were entertained by singers, dancers and drummers, organised by the various faith groups in the city. Representatives from different faiths recite a prayer/scripture and we joined in reciting the Al-Fatehah alongside the Muslim representative. The event reflected the London 2012 ideals of excellence, respect and friendship and was hosted by the Lord Mayor. I also got my hands on the Olympic torch which was made in Coventry. Woo-hooCoventry D200  22-07-2012 12-19-023

We joined the crowd and enjoyed several performances. The RITMO (CRMC) Drummers were refugees from Iran, Zambia, Cameroon and Peru and they all met at The Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre. We swayed to different rhythms from around the world. These adorable young dancers from the Coventry Tamil Welfare Association danced their way into everyone’s heart. The Troubador Christians spread their beliefs through their heart-warming songs.Coventry D3100  22-07-2012 12-57-41

But for us, the piece de resistance that rocked the city were the Masterclass Dhol Drummers.  It was amazing to hear and see a group of drummers making such a wonderful noise. It lifted everyone’s spirits and really gave a fantastic party atmosphere. I couldn’t help moving my body to the beat. And, I wasn’t alone. You can’t help it. It was so addictive.Coventry D3100  22-07-2012 13-13-31

We left as soon as more people started pouring in. It was getting too crowded as more people started jostling in trying to get a better view. It was also getting warmer. As we walked back to car, we saw a fluttering of green, red and white. Mama mia, the Italian market was  in town. We stopped at one stall and bought one dried tomato and one rosemary focaccia for dinner. Delizioso.Coventry D200  22-07-2012 12-30-07_stitch

When we arrived home, we found out that Bradley Wiggins had become the first British rider to win the Tour de France. Wiggins finished in the chasing peloton of the final stage around the streets of Paris with a winning margin of three minutes and 21 seconds. Fellow Brit and Team Sky team-mate Chris Froome consolidated second place with Italy's Vincenzo Nibali third. And another Brit, Mark Cavendish claimed a fourth consecutive final-stage victory. Cavendish also won the traditional sprint down the Champs Elysees with some ease and claimed his 23rd stage victory. Well-done and what a morale booster this would be for the Olympics cycling team.

“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions…could have, might have and should have”


My aunt who was seriously ill in Malaysia died peacefully in her sleep, surrounded by her loved ones. My heart and prayers go out to the clan. Inna lilla wa inna lilla hirra jiun. *

*From Allah we come, to Allah we return. Coventry D3100  21-07-2012 09-31-22

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Hedgehog

The hedgehog hides beneath the rotten hedge

And makes a great round nest of grass and sedge,

Or in a bush or hollow of a tree;

And many often stoop and say they see

Him roll and fill his prickles full of crabs

And creep away; and where the magpie dabs

His wing at muddy dyke, in aged root

He makes a nest and fills it full of fruit,

On the hedge-bottom hunts for crabs and sloes

And whistles like a cricket as he goes.

It rolls up like a ball or shapeless hogs

When gipsies hunt it with their noisy dogs

I’ve seen it in their camps – they call it sweet,

Though black and bitter and unsavoury meat.

~The Hedgehog, John Clare (1793-1864)~

Ever since we found out that we have hedgehogs in the garden, we have been welcoming them with open arms. Every night, we scattered chopped cat food and peanuts for them to feast on. And they never failed us. Sometimes, they turned up quite early even before I close the patio doors for the night. If they do, I popped over and said hello. I couldn’t help myself. I’m the luckiest person in the world to have 2 adorable hogs of my own. :-)Coventry D300s F  05-07-2012 21-35-35

Apart from the hedgehogs, we also have a family of foxes visiting us and enjoying the banquet that we have spread out. Through the Bushnell webcam, we were able to observe them from the bedroom via the television. If they turned up when we were asleep, it would be recorded and it was very exciting to see what turned up. Any leftovers will quickly be eaten by the magpies, wood pigeons, squirrels and starlings which turned up as soon as dawn appeared. Our own personal alarm.Garden cam  08-07-2012 07-07-33

This week AM and I started a walking regime in the evening. We felt that we need to do something about our health and walking seemed to be the best option. We spent nearly 8 hours a day, 5 days a week sitting on our a---s. It was hard to find the perfect time but we decided 8.30pm was the best. We already had our dinner and there was ample time before we go to bed. We walked a bit further and a bit faster each day. Fingers-crossed, we won’t give up and kept on walking.

When I took the bus to work, which seemed to be quite often due to Babe’s ill-health, we got off at Westwood and walked. It would took us about 15 minutes. Even when Babe drove me to work, he would dropped me at Cannon Park and I walked in to the library. I walked around the lakes during my lunch break and if I can’t, I walked up to the 5th floor and walked down again. With all these walking, my weight still hadn’t budged at all. Boo hoo… 

I had completed my first pre-sessional library tour for a group of engineering students from China. As usual, I practiced the few Mandarin that I know like Welcome, How are you and introduced myself. That helped to break the ice. My first stop was the mobile shelving which was always a hit. Then the different study areas which confused them a bit. I demonstrated how to borrow and return books using the self-service machine. At the Short Loan collection, there were gasps when they found out that the penalty for a late return was £1 an hour. It’s better for them to know these now.

After office, HI and I went out for a post-birthday dinner celebration at the Noodle Bar. HI celebrated her XX birthday a fortnight ago and finally we managed to get together for noodles. We took the bus to work and managed to get the last table in the restaurant and it was only 6pm!!! As usual I ordered my favourite fried udon with seafood special and Chinese vegetables. I must be brave and choose something else next time. A pot of steaming cha completed the meal.

We’d a lovely time catching up and checking out what the tables around us were having. I also ordered a takeaway of egg fried rice with Chinese vegetables as a treat for Babe. When we left, there were queues outside the door, waiting for an empty table. As we were walking towards Pool Meadow bus station, the heavens opened and we went our separate ways. Although I was standing under the bus shelter, I was drenched. It was truly raining cats and dogs.Brandon Marsh D300s  13-07-2012 15-47-37

The sky was dark and gloomy, the air was damp and raw, the streets were damp and sloppy, the smoke hung sluggishly above the chimney-tops as if it lacked the courage to rise, and the rain came slowly and doggedly down, as if it had not even the spirit to pour.

~Charles Dickens~

On Saturday, we managed to nip to our favourite playground in between the showers. We met AH and KH whom we haven’t seen for ages. KH stopped for her usual coffee break at the restaurant while we continued walking to the hides. Outside the visitor centre, this adorable Pied wagtail kept me entertained.Brandon Marsh D50  14-07-2012 14-13-31

Babe’s sharp eye spotted this very, very tiny froglet hopping across our path. Thank goodness, I might have trampled on him. I took the opportunity to show this adorable creature to two young boys who were with their parents. Even the elders, ‘Oohed’ and ‘Aahed’. After posing beautifully for us, I let him down gently down the bank.  Brandon Marsh D300s X14  14-07-2012 14-24-046

The path towards Baldwin Hide was flooded but we managed to wade through it. A blue flash of the Kingfisher whizzed past us when we opened the shutters. The main island was nearly flooded too. A pair of Oyster-Catchers was enjoying a bath and a Heron was busy hunting for food along the mudbanks.Brandon Marsh D50  14-07-2012 14-50-50

We’d to turn back when we came across another flooded path towards East Marsh Hide. This path was about 400m long and we don’t want to be wading through them without proper footwear. We checked out Steetly Hide and we were glad we did. We thought it was a Coot and when it got closer, it was a Little Grebe chick. Aaawww…Our cameras came out blazing. He was utterly adorable.We could have stayed longer but we could hear raindrops pelting on the roof. Better make a quick exit.Brandon Marsh D300s X14  14-07-2012 15-24-061

My plans on Sunday to check out the newly-renovated Astley Castle was cancelled because Babe wasn’t feeling well. But there were plenty of things to keep me busy. I clipped the grasses around the shrubs in the front garden. The anemones, begonias and geraniums were flowering profusely. The poppies, battered and tattered, were left standing because I wanted the poppy pods to dry properly. I had harvested more kale, broccoli and peas. The 2nd. batch of pak choi and salads were coming up beautifully. A pity the cucumbers had to be dug up. They’d succumbed to the bad weather.Coventry D7000 M F  15-07-2012 10-29-51

Summer set lip to earth’s bosom bare,

And left the flushed print in a poppy there’

~Francis Thompson~

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Don't Shoot : Take Action for Badgers Facing a Cull

Dear Secretary of State,

I was disappointed to learn that despite scientific studies showing that culling badgers will do little to control the spread of bovineTB and could even make things worse in some areas, the government have announced a pilot cull of badgers in England.

The Welsh Government announced a five year vaccination programme of badgers in Wales. Not only is vaccination the more sustainable and humane solution, but vaccination has already been shown to significantly reduce the prevalence and severity of disease in the badger population and could reduce the potential for transmission of TB from badgers to cattle.

I remain concerned about the impact of the culling on badger populations and am unconvinced by government reassurances. The cull could see badger populations decline by over 70% and in some areas none may survive. As culling cannot be selective, many healthy badgers will be slaughtered as ‘collateral damage’.

All this when Defra’s own calculations indicate only a very modest drop in cattle TB levels averaging just 16% after nine and half years.

I urge you to rethink the cull and follow in the Wales' footsteps, implementing a vaccination programme with increased levels of testing and improved biosecurity - more effective ways of eradicating bovineTB in cattle for good.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin and Seri

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Day We Came So Close

When Murray overpowered Le Muscle from Le Mans, he became the first British man to reach the Wimbledon finals since Bunny Austin in 1938. The country was buzzing. The possibility of him becoming Britain’s first men’s singles champion since Fred Perry in 1936, and the first Briton to win a Wimbledon singles since Virginia Wade in 1977. This was a fight against 76 years of history and a monumental burden of expectation. No pressure then :-)

The dramatic match see-sawed towards Murray first and then Federer. As the afternoon unfolded, watching Murray play was the usual sweet torture. 17 million of us who tuned in watched with excitement and trepidation. And the ‘Fed Express’  roared back to take the last 2 sets. Murray’s dream of lifting the trophy ended in tears after he was soundly beaten by the Swiss maestro. Federer simply outclassed Murray to win an astonishing 17th Grand Slam and matched Sampras record of 7 Wimbledon single titles. Fred Perry still remained atop his pedestal.

Although Murray lost the finals, he’d won the hearts of the nation. Often regarded as moody, he let his guard down and showed a touching vulnerability as he showed his disappointment. I’m sure he’d won legions of new supporters with his amazing tribute to Federer, to his team and to the supporters who had been rooting for him all the way. At last, we had seen a public glimpse of the real man. You could practically hear the hearts melting..

Murray, you did great. I was never a tennis fan but for you, I watched all your games.  It will be your turn one day, Insyallah.

Andy Murray wasn’t the only one to make history during the Wimbledon finals. His compatriot, Jonny Murray became the first Briton to win a men’s double title since 1936. He and his playing partner needed a wild card to get into the tournament. They were victorious over the defending champions, the American Bryan brothers, in the semis. They then defeated 5th seeded Swedish Lindsted and Tecau. It was a very remarkable victory for Murray and the Danish Nielsen. Well-done. It was a good year for tennis.

Earlier during the day, we popped over to our favourite playground to check what the natives were up to. The sun even made an appearance between the downpours. We walked through the very muddy forest and what a mistake that was as we were literally eaten alive by midges. We rushed across trying to dodge them. At Steetly Hide, only a Common Tern kept  us occupied. Trying to photograph it whizzing past and diving into the lake was a challenge. Brandon Marsh D300s  07-07-2012 16-50-058Then we dashed out through the forest again, towards the pit. We wanted to see if the Bee Orchids were still around. Nada, zilch, non. But at least, patches of sunshine appeared now and then, brightening the afternoon. It was lovely walking among the yellow heathers full of buzzing bees with the warm breeze brushing our faces. It felt like summer was here.Brandon Marsh D3100  07-07-2012 17-08-56On Saturday, we went to Bradgate Park again. We wanted to make the most of the brief spells of sunshine. As usual, a pit stop at Groby Pool. The usual culprits were there. They looked a bit defensive because most of them were moulting. We left them alone as we were distracted by a couple of Ringlets. It was lovely to see them because the wet summer had disrupted the butterflies’ breeding season by preventing them from flying, mating and laying eggs.Groby Pools D300s  08-07-2012 11-51-004The Butterfly Conservation wants the public to help with its annual Big Butterfly Count (KEEP) to see how species have fared following several exceptionally wet months. It runs until the end of August. To take part, please visit the website http://www.bigbutterflycount.org/

When we arrived at Bradgate Park, the heavens opened but that didn’t stop us. We had our raincoats on and water-proofed our cameras. We didn’t dare to approach the grounds by the River Lin because they were already so saturated. We couldn’t see our favourite Widgeon anywhere. In fact, there wasn’t any ducks in the fast-flowing water when it was supposed to be a great day for them. Looked at these dramatic waterfalls. That showed how heavy the rain had fallen.Bradgate Park D300s  08-07-2012 12-40-15Even the deer avoided the soggy grounds. They were busy feeding on the grass banks along the footpath. But still keeping an eye on the visitors checking them out. We glanced along the walls and it was void of any Yellowhammers. Another flock of deer were feeding at their usual place, by the bracken bushes.Bradgate Park D300s  08-07-2012 12-56-055We walked through Lady Jane Grey’s ruins and went straight to the pond. The Egyptian geese family had gone. We only saw them last week. We hoped the chicks had fledged safely. As we walked slowly towards a herd of deer with young, we startled a bird that flew away and it landed on a mound a distance away. It was a Little Owl, our first sighting at Bradgate Park. My oh my…my wish came true. We stood there watching this gorgeous bird.Bradgate Park D300s  08-07-2012 13-16-002And then another cloud bursts and it flew further back and landed on the wall at the end of the compound. As we walked back to the car, we spotted a Green Woodpecker on a fence. We stalked it slowly and startled a flock of thrushes. Babe think it might be Mistle thrush. We were impressed by the different birds that we’d seen in this compound but it was time to head back to the car.Bradgate Park D300s  08-07-2012 13-30-31 The rain was getting heavier and as usual, the faster we tried to walk, it was chucking down loads. We were in for a soaking. Since we’d difficulties walking upright, Babe took shelter under the chestnut tree while moi, videotaped a herd of deer in the rain. Dedication or what!!!Bradgate Park D300s  08-07-2012 13-44-046

A break in the heat
away from the front
no thunder, no lightning,
just rain, warm rain
falling near dusk
falling on eager ground
steaming blacktop
hungry plants
turning toward the clouds
cooling, soothing rain
splashing in sudden puddles
catching in open screens
that certain smell
of summer rain

~Raymond A. Foss, ‘Summer Rain’~

Roadtrip Bradgate Park D300s  08-07-2012 14-25-039

This week, my colleagues and I attended a webinar on RDA and rare materials. It was JG’s turn to co-ordinate the session. She brought 2 packets of very posh Waitrose cookies to keep us from falling asleep and it worked. :-). We have been attending RDA sessions for quite some time and, fingers and toes double-crossed, should be experts. Unfortunately, RDA will only be released worldwide next year. And I bet, we would have forgotten them again. So I guess, it was good that we keep refreshing ourselves with courses, webinars and workshops.

We kept on putting cat-food and peanuts for our nocturnal friends. The Bushnel webcam was always switched on at 9 pm. Babe did his magic and we were able to see them when they came to feed via our tv. Mr. Foxy was still very nervous but not the cubs. They came prancing in like naughty kids. Mr and Mrs Prickly scuttled in slowly and they were a noisy lot. From our bedroom window, we could hear them grunting away. That was why they were called hogs. We promised ourselves not to disturb them but sometimes you just can’t help it. I promised this will be the last time…yeah right!!!Garden cam IR F  07-07-2012 22-17-04Despite the rubbish weather, we still managed to have a brilliant week and we hoped you, too, managed to get your own little sunshine.

Weather is a great metaphor for life---sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and there’s nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella.

~Terri Guillemets~

Prayers for my aunt who is seriously ill. Only Allah know what’s best. For my cousins, be strong.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Invasion of the Spanish Plumes

Do you remember the lyric "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain" from the musical My Fair Lady? Last week the rain refused to stay in the plain. The torrential rain and fierce storms that caused flash floods and brought everything to a standstill in the UK was blamed on the weather phenomenon called the Spanish plume. As the name suggested, it was a plume of very warm air that pushed north from the Spanish plateau and arrived here on a southerly airflow. There was a cold front coming in from the west which helped to lift the warm mass of air. With lots of energy in the atmosphere, spectacular thunderstorms was inevitable.

Loud roared the dreadful thunder

The rain deluge showers

~Andrew Cherry (1762-1812)~

The Spanish plume was behind three rare ‘super cell’ thunderstorms that swept across the Midlands bringing hailstones the size of golf balls in some areas. Babe had to check the car to make sure that there weren’t any holes on the roof because it had a soft top. Intense downpours and flash floods were also reported. Unfortunately, I missed all these excitements and didn’t get to see anything at all.Coventry D200  28-06-2012 11-57-039

My colleagues and I were ‘trapped’ indoors for the bi-annual staff Open Day. We spent the morning listening to presentations about the Spanish Civil War from the Modern Record Centre, results of the Library and Leamington Spa survey, the risky Patron Driven Acquisitions, Information security, Research Match, Article Reach and what to expect from the new Get Started sessions. Then it was a lovely lunch at the newly opened learning space at Coventry House. While having lunch, we also took the opportunity to check out the information boards on ENCORE, QR code and 24-hours opening. I didn’t attend the sessions after lunch because I’d a pile of books that needed doing ASAP.

I was soo looking forward to the picnic and the game of rounders after office hours. But it had to be cancelled because of the atrocious weather aka health and safety malarky. Boo-hoo. We still had a picnic in the Teaching Grid, on the 3rd floor with the bright sun shining through the open windows. I did suggested switching on the huge plasma tv when the Wimbledon tennis was on but nobody took up the offer :-(. I brought spring rolls and a quiche. RC bought 2 huge, delicious salad that her hubby made, SLA and CC bought desserts. A very strange place for a picnic but it was fun.Warwick University D3100  28-06-2012 17-30-43

This week was also the Warwick Students Art Festival, a celebration of the artistic diversity of the university’s students. It was for a good cause because the partner charity was Arty Folks, a Coventry-based charity that ran an art group for people recovering from mental ill health and stress. My colleagues and I went to check out the Folk Ceilidh at the Piazza after work. It was a very nice surprise to see the Piazza packed and buzzing. A pity not many people, including moi, joined in the Ceilidh. It was a bit too energetic for me but CC and JD had a great time on the dance floor. SLA and moi just soaked up the party atmosphere.   Warwick University u850sw  27-06-2012 17-54-02

I ended the week with another meet-up with International Students Working Group. We welcomed 2 Erasmus librarians from Italy and Germany who were observing our meeting and we had a very interesting exchange of information. We discussed how international students were supported by the Bonn University Library, comparing to ours. Then, a short meeting to confirm the schedule for the phase 1 pre-sessional library tours in a fortnight’s time.

We started the weekend by taking a trip to Bradgate Park to check if any of the birds had fledged. As usual, we made a pit stop at Groby Pool but nobody’s home. Bradgate Park was like a mud-bath especially the grounds along the River Lin that flowed through the middle of the park. But nothing could stop us when we heard the very familiar whistle, “whee-hoo” of our favourite Widgeon. We carefully waded through the mud to meet an old friend. He looked a bit battered  because he was moulting but it was still lovely to see him again.Bradgate Park D50  30-06-2012 12-18-029

We checked out the nests where we spotted the tree-creepers and Blue tits but it was empty. We hoped they’d fledged safely. A herd of deer was well-camouflaged among the bracken at the usual place. A tree juvenile was seen scuttering up a tree and below it was this huge mushroom. It was much bigger than my palm.Bradgate Park D300s X14  30-06-2012 12-12-040

From the Lady Jane’s compound, the shrieking cries from the peacocks were enticing the visitors to come in. The 2 males were being territorial, guarding from opposite ends. We walked towards a herd of pregnant deer feeding at the back of the compound. But we were distracted by this  family of Egyptian geese and their adorable 9 ducklings. Bradgate Park D300s X14  30-06-2012 13-19-059 

We left as soon as we felt the first drop from the sky. As usual, the faster we walked, the heavier it fell. We took shelter under a tree beside a wall. And we were glad that we did because we spotted a pair of Yellowhammer hanging about on the wall. From time to time, they would burst into a very melodious, rattling song.      Bradgate Park D300s X14  30-06-2012 13-41-46

Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.
John Updike

On Sunday, we  went for an early drive to our favourite playground. More Common Spotted Orchids had sprouted near the entrance. We managed to spot a very battered Bee Orchid beside the dipping pond. One of the regulars told us that several Bee Orchids could be seen near the pit area. We might check them out later.Brandon Marsh D50  01-07-2012 12-49-01

As we walked towards the hides, huge brackets of fungi were growing on the old tree stumps. They were really enjoying this very humid, warm and wet weather. From Baldwin Hide, Little Ringed Plovers were scampering about on the mudbanks. The Sand-martins were busy whizzing in and out of their sandcastles, bringing food for their chicks.Brandon Marsh D50  01-07-2012 13-22-18

We only made a pit stop at East Marsh Hide and Carlton Hide. Nobody was home and we made a quick exit home. I wanted to complete my household chores before the big match. It was the EURO football finals between Spain and Italy. I was thinking of either pizza or paella for dinner but we ended having leftovers. OOOps :-) Babe joined in the fun and helped to calm me down. He cheered for Italy and moi, Spain.

And ole!!! Spain reigned in Ukraine. Two goals in the first half set the tone early on and late goals from Torres and Mata with just minutes to spare confirmed the victory. Having won the World Cup in South Africa two years ago and the previous European championships, the win created history. They were clearly the world’s best side. I thoroughly enjoyed the electrifying EURO 2012 final. They out-passed and outclassed their opponents. Well-done.

After all the excitement, I set the alarm clock for 5.45 am. We planned to get up early and do our patriotic bit by cheering  the Olympic torch leaving Coventry for Leicester. A few giant banners had been strewn over a few tall buildings in the city centre, London 2012 flags were already fluttering along selected routes, and the Ricoh signage on top of the stadium had been covered and will be known as the City of Coventry stadium. The weirdest, this Blue Ribbon sculpture on the Blue Ribbon roundabout was painted purple. Why??? Coventry D3100  29-06-2012 07-30-29

A reminder

If the first of July be rainy weather

Twill rain more or less for four weeks together

~English Proverb~

You have been warned!!!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Easy Like a Sunday Morning

West Midlands was basking in sporadic sunny spells and spontaneous cloud bursts as the rest of the UK splashes and squelches its way through what was turning into the wettest June on record. My thoughts goes to those who were affected by the floods. We didn’t do anything this weekend because Babe wasn’t feeling too good.

As usual I pottered about in the garden and did more weeding. I clipped the grass around the shrubs which the mower can’t reach. Quite a back breaking process. The roses and poppies were blooming beautifully although a bit battered by the strong winds and heavy rains. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and peas were starting to flower. I sowed more chard, pak choi and rocket seeds. I’d harvested the kale and they tasted divine, simply stir-fry with garlic and lashings of fresh pepper. Yum…yum. Coventry D7000 M F  21-06-2012 08-26-48 We were quite worried because we’d not seen Mr. Prickly for a few days. I was glad that he turned up and started grazing. Another surprise was when Mr. Foxy was seen in the same frame. I guess there was plenty of food that they ignored each other and started feeding. It was amazing to see 2 great enemies together.Garden cam IR  23-06-2012 23-25-44

On a lovely Sunday morning, I did a brisk walk around the housing estate. Everytime I walked, I tried to walk a little bit further. Then it was a leisure breakfast of cheesy mushroom omelette with toast, reading the Sunday papers, listening to the local radio station with the patio doors open. From where I was sitting, I could see what was going on outside.

The starlings were making a ruckus. I went out  to see what was going on. A juvenile starling was screaming its head off, begging for food. It was standing beside the suet rack but still needed the parent to pick the food and put it in its mouth.Coventry D3100  24-06-2012 11-32-05

Then a House sparrow and a juvenile flew onto the feeding station. The younger waited patiently for its parent to feed first, watching very intently. Then it started feeding the baby. It was such an intimate moment to see how a bird looked after its young chick. I spent hours watching and photographing this beautiful behaviour. Coventry D3100  24-06-2012 11-44-59

“A little bird, with plumage brown,
Beside my window flutters down,
A moment chirps its little strain,
Ten taps upon my window-pane,
And chirps again, and hops along,
To call my notice to its song”
~Paul Laurence Dunbar, ‘The Sparrow’~

In the afternoon, I had a brisk walk to Sainsbury to get some bits and bobs. Crates of beer and bottles of wine were stacked by the entrance in anticipation for the football match later. I bought 2 packs of seedless grapes, a tub of glazed cherries because I was planning to bake a cake, 2 packets of Fairtrade instant chocolate, a tarte aux pommes which was on offer and a container of fresh cream for the tart. I also nipped into The Range and came out with a container of green leaf red Begonias which was BOGOF offer. I was halfway to the casa when the heavens opened and it poured. Thankfully, I’d my raincoat on. I walked past dozens of people who looked like drowned cats.

The rain stopped as soon as I entered our driveway. After putting the shopping away, I started planting the Begonias in the front lawn. Then it was back into the kitchen to start baking. I’m baking an upside down pineapple cake. I’d made one a week ago and this time I’m adding cherries. While the cake was baking enveloping the casa with delicious smell, I got myself ready for the England-Italy encounter.

What did you think of the game? There was despair in pubs, clubs and living rooms as England’s penalty curse struck again.  I thought the Three Lions played well during the first half. They had a lot of chances. It was just that they couldn’t kick the ball into the goal. I’m no fan of Terry but the number of times he used his body as a defending board against the Italian attack was incredible. In the end, Hodgson’s barmy army crashed out of the Euro quarter-finals in a dreaded shoot-out, in scenes reminiscent of the disappointment of Italia 90, EURO 96, EURO 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. Why are we so useless at penalties???

I took leave on Friday to accompany Babe to the hospital. We left the casa at 10.40 am for the 11.10am appointment. It was raining and there was already a queue outside the entrance barrier. A sign saying that the car-park was full was on. This meant that the barrier won’t be lifted until there was an empty space. We can’t reverse because there was a line of cars behind us. we can’t make a u-turn because we were in the lane. We waited for about 10 minutes before we got through and then to drive around to find that empty space. Whose bright idea was this? Babe said that if we couldn’t find anywhere to park, we are going straight home. Thankfully, after about 10 minutes, we managed to find a parking space.

We rushed into outpatient clinic, confirmed Babe’s presence and took a breather. About 10 minutes later, Babe was called in and we walked through doors and corridors into another waiting room. The nurse told Babe that he was going to do a hearing test. What??? We asked why and she explained that it was what she was asked to do. Babe did the tests in a very noisy room which we felt was wrong. After the tests, we waited for the consultant who told us that he’d no idea why Babe was given another appointment!!! He couldn’t find anything wrong before. What a waste of time, money, my holiday plus the anxiety that we;d to face. And it costs us £2.80 for parking. But at least, we know that there was nothing wrong with Babe’s hearing :-).

After all that excitement, we went to Asda for a bit of retail therapy. I got another lovely stripy cardigan for my collection. I must have nearly 50 cardigans of assorted colours and patterns. We also bought a few bits and bobs. After a simple lunch and coffee, we went to our favourite playground for a bit of fresh air. As soon as we entered the reserve, a pair of kestrels were riding the waves above the reed-beds.

As we walked along the path, I was amazed to find the place literally awashed with Common Spotted Orchids. Babe told me that he knew there were also Bee Orchids in the reserve but we didn’t spot any. We checked out Baldwin Hide and the Terns were no longer sitting on eggs. The lake had risen quite high and the island in the middle was partially covered. Fingers-crossed, most of the eggs would had already hatched. Brandon Marsh D300s X14  01-07-2012 14-53-051 From East Marsh Hide, we spotted a pair of white ducks, escapee we think. A pair of Oyster-Catchers were chasing each other. with their shrieking calls echoing around us. A few Swallows were out and about, flying low above the waters. We continued wading through the very muddy path towards the very empty Carlton Hide. Nothing was about and we waded to the screen and still nobody home. As we walked back to the car, we saw a kestrel hunting above us. A lovely sight before we headed home.    Brandon Marsh D50  22-06-2012 17-49-06 This week was also the summer solstice but looking out of the window , we were still dreaming of summer. As the wheel turned,

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

~F. Scott Fitzgerald~