April 23rd was the feast day of St. George, England’s patron saint. His name was invoked to his soldiers by King Henry V in his speech on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. According to legend, St. George was a soldier in the Roman army who killed a dragon and saved a princess. The anniversary of his death, was seen as England's national day. Compared to national day festivities in other countries worldwide, it was not widely celebrated and recognised as a public holiday in this country. But, in March 2011, the Tourism minister, John Penrose, announced that the government was proposing to move The May Day bank holiday to St George’s Day. Lets join the campaign to request that ‘Our Day’ be made a public holiday in England so that it can be recognised and celebrated as it should be.
On St. George’s day
Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first place in the lottery of life
~Cecil Rhodes, 1853-1902~
April 23 was also the UNESCO’s International Day of the Book, chosen in honour of Shakespeare and Cervantes, who both died on April 23 1616. On World Book Night, from Treasure Island to Casino Royale, and Judge Dredd to Girl with a Pearl Earring, 400,000 books were given away by 20,000 volunteers in an attempt to spread the love of reading around the UK. Each volunteer had been given 20 copies of their chosen title, and gave them away to potential readers around the country. A further 100,000 books – bringing the total number to half a million – was distributed in venues including hospitals, shelters, care homes, community centres and prisons.
The idea of giving books began in Barcelona to celebrate San Jordi Day, when men gave their women a rose and women returned the compliment with a gift of a book. On World Book Night; a lovely poem by Edgar Guest identifies his sheer joy and appreciation for books.
Good books are friendly things to own,
If you are busy they will wait,
They will not call you on the phone
Or wake you if the hour is late.
They stand together row by row,
Upon the low shelf or the high
but if you’re lonesome this you know;
You have a friend or two nearby.
This week, my colleagues and I were busy with another mini project that needed to be completed by the end of May. We were given 200 bibliographic records each that had no 050 fields i.e classification numbers supplied by the Library of Congress. This was needed by the Collection Management team when they were working on the re-labelling of books in the H ( Social Sciences) and J (Political Sciences) section, all shelved on the 5th floor. We found out that these records were very basic and needed upgrading to bring it up to standard. It was quite a laborious process because we were overlaying records without seeing the books.
AM and I finally resumed our walking exercises. The sun was still shining when we started walking at about 7.30 pm. I arrived home from work at about 6 pm and was straight in the kitchen preparing dinner. On Monday, it was usually Sunday’s leftovers. I dish up a plate for Babe and I will have mine after my walk. AM and I also re-join the exercise classes at the community centre. It was fun to be with these ‘mature’ ladies and some of them were more flexible than both of us :-0.
I also joined a newly-formed rounders team at work. I’d never played before and it would be fun to start learning a new game. I’ve stopped playing badminton after I tore a muscle about a year ago. It was painful to play again especially when you need to hold the racquet above your shoulders. The practice was held after office hours on Wednesdays and it was a wonderful way to wind down after a hectic day at work.
The game of rounders had been played in England since Tudor times. It was a bat-and-ball game played between two teams. It was a striking and fielding team game that involved hitting a small, hard, leather-cased ball with a round wooden, plastic or metal bat. Players scored by running around the four bases on the field. Gameplay centred around a number of innings, in which teams alternated at batting and fielding. A maximum of nine players were allowed to field at any time. Points (known as 'rounders') were scored by the batting team when one of their players completed a circuit past four bases without being put 'out'.
On our first practice, we’d 6 players, the minimum number needed to form a team. It was a good social mix of staff from different departments, grades, sizes and ages. :-). We played on a very hard field near University House. The funniest thing was that nobody had read the rules and we were just batting and running. It was hopeless but we’d lots and loads of fun. The weather was on our side. Babe was there and unofficially became Hit Squad’s photographer. Thanks darling…
I ended the working week with a trip to Kings Hill Nursery with CC during our lunch break. This nursery provided placements, training, work experience and jobs for people with a broad spectrum of Learning Disabilities within Horticulture. A wonderful idea that I thoroughly supported. There were a few changes when we were there. Finally, they were given permission to put up a signage at the entrance because if you blink, you’ll miss it. They now sell hot drinks and you can have them surrounded by the gorgeous blooming flowers. It was too early to purchase vegetables plugs. But I still came home with 2 pots of Bidens and Sempervivum
On Saturday, Babe and I spent the day chilling out at home. I did the laundry and hung them on the clothes line but had to bring them in about an hour later. The heavens opened and suddenly hailstones tumbled down. And that kept on repeating sunny spells interspersed with freezing hailstones. I was even pelted while I was walking home from the library. Ouch…
"In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours."
- Mark Twain
On Sunday, we checked out the Spring Alpaca Festival at Stoneleigh Park. It was run by the Heart of England Alpaca Group on behalf of the British Alpaca Society and one of the largest shows in the Alpaca calendar. With the event traditionally aimed at both hobby and large herd alpaca breeders, I was very thankful that they opened their doors to the public as show organisers responded to the growing popularity of one of Peru’s most beautiful animals.
It gave the public the opportunity to learn more and get closer to the 300 different alpacas of 6 different colours and two different breeds including the popular fluffy ‘Huayaca’ with fluffy fibre sort of like sheep and the rarer ‘Suri’. The later have long silky dreadlocks and looked like the Bob Marleys of the camelid world.
The Llama is a wooly sort of fleecy, hairy goat, with an indolent expression and an undulating throat; like an unsuccessful literary man.
Alpacas were smaller and less stroppy than their cousins, the Llamas. Originally from the Andes region of Peru, Bolivia and Chile, they were domesticated thousands of years ago by the indigenous South American people for their fibre. They were truly charming and adorable. On top of the very lovely, silky fibre that makes great yarn, they have the most soulful, big, dark eyes with long lashes, sinuous necks and soft noses.
“A wrinkled face like an old woman’s, came shuffling slowly along in list slippers, a shiny alpaca overcoat hanging on his stooping shoulders, no ribbon at his buttonhole, the sleeves of an under-vest…”
~Honore de Balzac, Cousin Betty~
I tried my very best to take a photograph of Babe standing beside them. Why? Cos they were known to spit. Sorry darling :-). But they were having none of it. All the animals were on their very best behaviour. They were very inquisitive and friendly especially when they knew you’re harmless. All of them would surge forward to check you out which was just adorable. And they hum an almost continuous, low, musical noise that, like a cat’s purring, was soothing and sweet. But when we asked one of the owners, it meant that they were stressed. Oops… we always leave when we heard the humming, no matter how soothing they sounded to us.
Since it was still early, we drove down to BMNR. Unsurprisingly, the car-park was full. Everyone was out and about taking advantage of the wonderful weather. Compared to yesterday’s confusing weather, the sun had decided to come out and play. We went straight to Baldwin Hide where Babe had spotted the Great Crested Grebe performing some amazing courting displays earlier during the week. We think their eggs had been destroyed and decided to try again. Unfortunately, they weren’t seen anywhere today. I guess they must be chilling out somewhere among the undergrowth.
But there were plenty of other things to keep us occupied. The Common Sandpiper were flying to and fro from the island beside the hide. Little Ring Plovers were busy feeding along the mudbanks on the main island. The pair of Oyster Catchers were playing tag around the reserve with their crackling calls trailing after them. But my highlight was when I had my first sighting of a Common Tern, having a bath at the far end of the main island. Soon, they will be occupying the pontoon and raising a family. I couldn’t wait.
Everywhere, daffodils had finally bloomed brightening a spring landscape in pots, yards, fields, gardens and roundabouts. What a pretty sight seeing these bright yellow faces confirming the long winter season had finally ended. Lets pause in wonder, and murmur rapturously with William Wordsworth:
"I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils."