Sunday, 28 July 2013

Quietly Waiting in the Wings

A job well-done to Caroline Criado-Perez who led the campaign on the principle that if the Bank of England wanted to take prison reformer Elizabeth Fry off the fiver note, it had to be replaced with another woman. We couldn’t live in a society that was only prepared to celebrate the achievements of men. Campaigners threatened to take the Bank to court for discrimination under the 2010 Equality Act and launched a petition on the campaign site which secured 35K signatures and 220K tweeted about the Facebook campaign. The £13K raised to challenge the decision in court were distributed among women’s charities, including Rape Crisis. Simply amazing.Shots from our Home and Garden

Criado-Perez, co-founder of feminist blog the Women’s Room, was called in to discuss the issues with Chris Salmon, the chief cashier whose signature appears on bank notes. Then Sir Mervyn King, the Bank’s former governor, had let slip to MP’s that the author of Pride and Prejudice was “waiting in the wings”. Finally, after a three-month storm of protest, his successor, Mark Carney confirmed that Jane Austen would feature on a £10 banknote in 2017, the bicentenary of her death.

As well as a portrait of Austen, the new note among other things will feature a quote from Caroline Bingley, in Pride and Prejudice : “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” Why celebrate the pleasures of a good book when Pride and Prejudice was, conveniently, about money in the first place?. Also, an odd choice since it was spoken by one of the most deceitful characters, a woman who has no interest in books at all. She was sidling up to Mr. Darcey whom she would like to hook as a husband, and pretending she shared his interests. He was reading a book, so she sat beside him, pretending to read a book too.  Time for a campaign to use a different quotation????Shots from our Home and Garden

There were plenty to choose from since the theme of money ran through Austen’s novels, from Mr. Darcy reported £10K a year fortune in Pride and Prejudice, to the Dashwood sisters’ lack of cash in Sense and Sensibility. I particularly like this line from “The Novel and Letters of Jane Austen” where Lady Susan wrote to Mrs. Johnson: “When a man has once got his name in a banking-house he rolls in money.” A little too close I think, especially the recent debate surrounding the £874K annual pay and perks package handed to Carney. Imagine him holding up the enlarged mock-up note with that line. It would be hilarious :-)

Criado-Perez concede that Austen wasn’t top of her wish-list and I wished she would say who she wanted. As for me, I would definitely picked Lady Godiva.  An 11th-century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who, according to a legend dating back to the 13th century, rode naked through the streets of Coventry in order to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation imposed by her husband on his tenants.  Coventry D3100  22-02-2013 15-01-43

According to the monk Roger of Wendover, Godiva begged Leofric to reduce the heavy taxes on the townspeople.  He became so exasperated that he declared that he would only reduce the taxes if she rode naked through the streets. In "Flores Historiarum", Roger quoted Leofric:  “Mount your horse, and ride naked, before all the people, through the market of the town, from one end to the other, and on your return you shall have your request.” She agreed, with her hair covering her body except her legs.  The cunning and boldness to get what she wanted was not typical of a woman at that time. Whether the tale of Lady Godiva’s ride was true or not, she was an example of persistent courage and dedication to helping others that demanded admiration. She was willing to sacrifice herself, to face shame, ridicule, and infamy that, in her time, could have ruined her for the sake of the people who looked to her for their well-being. Leaders of such calibre were rare in any age. 

Also quietly waiting in the wings is Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge born at 4.24 pm weighing 8 pounds and 6 ounces, third in line to the British throne. The Royal heir was born on Monday, after we woke up to the news that the Duchess had gone into labour with the couple’s first child. A shame it wasn’t a princess. She would have changed history by being next in line to the throne after Charles and Williams. It was lovely to see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leave the hospital with their precious little bundle.Shots from our Home and Garden

This Baby is Your Blessing,
I wish Happiness in every way,
Good Luck God Bless, I say
And Many Blessings and Wishes,
To Welcome Baby Into Your Life Today.

~Author Unknown~

This week we came to work with a hole in the wall. The contractors were busy during the weekend and drilled a tunnel connecting Room 021 to our office. Finally, we were now one big family. We were promised that the whole wall will be demolished and the manager’s office will be moved to the back and then we will have one big open office. That was the plan anyway.  It took us years to get this far and it was only possible when Room 021’s door to the corridor was sealed off because of Health and Safety regulations. The contractors were supposed to cover everything before they started work. But when we came in, all surfaces were covered with dust. So we started our day by wiping our work surfaces clean and vacuuming the floor.

The University was buzzing with the Teach First Summer Institute. We welcomed 1.5K delegates, with numbers increasing to over 2.5K for the 2nd. week of the event, when some of last year’s participants returned. Teach First is an education charity, working in partnership with schools and other organisations to ensure that all children have an excellent education, regardless of their background. The Summer Institute was a six-week intensive course designed to prepare participants to begin teaching in September and for the rest of their training which will continue whilst in school. The first four weeks are spent in the area in which participants will teach and the final two are held at the University of Warwick. So it was queue galore everywhere. My colleagues had to timed their breaks so as not to coincide with the delegates.

By learning you will teach;
by teaching you will understand.
~Latin Proverb~

I took leave on Wednesday to accompany Babe to the city of peace and reconciliation. It was raining when we’d completed the chores. After more than two weeks of glorious sunshine and searing temperatures, we would be forgiven for thinking that we were in the Tropics. But we were back in familiar territory with the arrival of thunderstorms and heavy rain. Heavy storms struck across the country, bringing the longest heat-wave in 7 years to an abrupt end. These thunderstorms were triggered by intense heat and humidity rising into the upper atmosphere. I’m thankfully that it rained because it washed away the mugginess in the air and I’m sure I could hear the vegetation slurping in the water. It was magical after it rained, as everything turned green again. Shots from our Home and Garden 

Since I was on leave, we decided to check out a few shops. I was on the look out for cotton tops to keep cool in these humid conditions. There were plenty of floaty floral maxis about but not as work wear. We went straight to good old M&S and I tried 4 different tops and brought 2 home. I would love to add another top but the total was beyond my budget. Anyway, I was very pleased with my purchase and guess what. It was still hanging in the wardrobe because the weather had turned a bit cooler and I could wear my normal clothes again. Sods law eh…

I ended the working week with another meeting with the Library Working Group For International Students. EM from the International Office finally made it to the meeting and gave us an overview of what to expect during the next student intake. She’d taken our views into consideration which was very promising. After she left, we proceeded with our meeting where we were introduced to 2 new members from Customer Service and Student Support. We hoped that they will bring fresh, new ideas to a really dynamic group. KH as usual had some brilliant ideas and we were looking forward to implement them.

This week was the National Dragonfly Week which coincided with the British Dragonfly Society 30th Anniversary. The aim was to raise awareness of these fantastic jewels of the air and introduced them to a new audience. I loved these flying aces of the insect world. They were not only among the fastest of flying insects, they also performed a number of amazing aerial manoeuvres, such as flying upside down, straight up or straight down, or hovering like a helicopter as they mate or catch their insect meals on the wing. And trying to photograph one in the air was the biggest challenge of all.Brandon Marsh - Very hot and hazy

Many species of Hawker and Darter Dragonfly can be found in BMNR. The Common darter and Azure hawker were among the  two species most likely to be spotted flying around. The best places to see them were along the reed-beds, by the lakes, the ponds as well as along the length of the river. Dragonflies feed on other insects, especially flies, which they normally catch in mid-air, swooping about to scoop them up in their spiky legs, which were held like a net under the head. The Hawkers remained airborne for long periods, often hawking to and fro along a particular beat such as a pond or a hedgerow. The Darter, on the other hand, spent much of their time on a perch and dart out from it when prey approaches. Brandon Marsh - Hot

Unfortunately there were no dragonflies in our garden. But, we were inundated with beautiful animated confetti, patrolling, basking, greeting, mating, feeding among the plants. They were the most welcome sights in the garden. It was our little heaven on earth. Everywhere I turned there was something beautiful, quietly settling on a flower or a leaf, some bright and fresh, others faded and worn. I crept up very slowly on them as they hold their wings shut at first, then slowly opened, catching the sun’s rays. I watched them as they fed, completely mesmerised by their beauty. Simply beautiful. Shots from our Home and Garden

After a glorious July providing perfect breeding conditions, they hatched out in the thousands after the heavy rain and were frantically doing what butterflies do. Some of the Whites fancied our greenhouse and were always getting lost in it. I tend to leave the flap open in the morning to let some fresh air in. I didn’t expect the Whites to flutter in too. We’d to free about a dozen during the weekend and found at least half a dozen dead ones, caught in between the flaps.

Brandon Marsh - Warm, humid and dark

To A Butterfly

I've watched you now a full half-hour,

Self-poised upon that yellow flower;

And, little Butterfly! indeed

I know not if you sleep or feed.

Shots from our Home and Garden

How motionless! - not frozen seas

More motionless! and then

What joy awaits you, when the breeze

Hath found you out among the trees,

And calls you forth again!

Shots from our Home and Garden

This plot of orchard-ground is ours;

My trees they are, my Sister's flowers;

Here rest your wing when they are weary;

Here lodge as in a sanctuary!

Come often to us, fear no wrong;

Sit near us on the bough!

Shots from our Home and Garden

We'll talk of sunshine and of song,

And summer days, when we were young;

Sweet childish days, that were as long

As twenty days are now.

Shots from our Home and Garden

Stay near me--do not take thy flight!

A little longer stay in sight!

Much converse do I find in thee,

Historian of my infancy!

Shots from our Home and Garden

Float near me; do not yet depart!

Dead times revive in thee:

Thou bring'st, gay creature as thou art!

A solemn image to my heart,

My father's family!

Shots from our Home and Garden

Oh! pleasant, pleasant were the days,

The time, when, in our childish plays,

My sister Emmeline and I

Together chased the butterfly!

Shots from our Home and Garden

A very hunter did I rush

Upon the prey:--with leaps and springs

I followed on from brake to bush;

But she, God love her, feared to brush

The dust from off its wings.

~William Wordsworth ~

Brandon Marsh - Warm, humid and dark

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Rhyme of St. Swithin’s Day

There was a weather-rhyme well known throughout the British Isles since Elizabethan times.

'St. Swithin's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.'

St. Swithin's Day was the day where people watched the weather for tradition says that whatever the weather was like on the day, it will continue so for the next forty days. And if the recent weather was anything to go on, we will finally enjoy a prolonged spell of warm weather. The day’s outlook was sunny and warm and fingers –crossed, 40 more days of basking in this warm weather will come true. So that will take us up to August 26, making the school holidays sizzling and barbecues sales soaring. Bring it on…Roadtrip - Slimbridge WWT

A heat wave was defined by the Met Office as a continuous period where somewhere in the UK had a daytime temperature of 28C or above. So far, we now had 9 days of unbroken hot weather- the longest period of consecutive sunshine since July 2006, when the UK bathed in 16 days of glorious heat. Mercury levels rose liked Jack’s beanstalk during the Christmas panto. Gritters even took to the roads in Hampshire to spray a fine stone dust to prevent the tarmac from melting in the 32C heat. As the hot weather continued, the Met Office had ramped up their heat wave level from level 2 to level 3, one step below the maximum.

The University’s summer degree ceremonies took place during the hottest week of the year. What a time to celebrate our student’s successes and achievements with almost 4K graduating. Congratulations to all our graduates and graduands who received their degrees. I’m sure they had a wonderful sunny day. I wished them every success in their future careers and hoped they enjoyed their ceremonies. I also had the opportunity to meet RAB’s family who were there to celebrate her dad’s receiving his doctorate. We’d a very long chat in the lovely sunshine with promises to keep in touch.Graduation day - Warwick UniversityAmidst the celebrations, we received an e-mail about a security risk. The PG Hub was closed, again, owing to the risk of student groups seeking to occupy areas of the University buildings and disrupt activities and events, particularly during the degree congregation. The authorities didn’t want another bad publicity like they encountered during the Open days. Although the main library was a public building and was at less risk, and since there was heightened security throughout campus, it might be regarded as a fallback option for protestors.  

We’d a bit of a scare when one of our colleagues was taken to hospital. At first, he was complaining of dizziness and nausea. The brilliant First Aiders took him under their care and brought him to the sick room to have a lie down. But they began to get worried when he began to shiver and feeling cold even though outside was glorious sunshine and searing temperatures. The authority was informed and they decided to call the ambulance. He was diagnosed with heat exhaustion which occurred when the body’s internal cooling mechanism wasn’t functioning properly. Thankfully, it was treated quickly and he was back at work the next day. We were furious when he came to work because it was another extremely humid day but he survived :-).

I took Friday off for another road trip to Slimbridge WWT. According to the weatherman, the whole of the UK benefitted of an area of high pressure moving up from the south-west. The sun was like a warm rich and glowing Japanese lantern providing long afternoons filled with golden light. There were quite a lot of traffic on the road which was a surprise. After about 1.5 hours, we arrived in a very full parking lot but we still managed to find a space under a shady tree. As we walked along the gangway, we were serenaded by colourful Goldfinches twittering about the glorious weather. Slimbridge WWT - Very hot

Inside, along the walkway, we spotted frantic activities under the eaves.  Swallow were flying in and out of mud-nests  to feed their chicks. We stood under the sweltering sun rattling hundreds of shots. As we continued on, adorable Shelducks ducklings ran flapping their wings towards us, hoping to be fed. They gave us the evil eye when they saw us empty-handed. We checked out the Wader Shore to say hello to the Redshanks, Avocets, Ruffs and Black-winged stilts. The Ruffs were spectacular in their breeding colours. Outside, Rook chicks were harassing their parents for food. A joyful to watch. Slimbridge WWT - Very hot

From troubles of the world I turn to ducks,
Beautiful comical things
Sleeping or curled
Their heads beneath white wings

By water cool,

Slimbridge WWT - Very hotOr finding curious things
To eat in various mucks
Beneath the pool,
Tails uppermost, or waddling
Sailor-like on the shores
Of ponds, or paddling
- Left!  Right! - with fanlike feet
Which are for steady oars

 Slimbridge WWT - Very hot
When they (white galleys) float
Each bird a boat
Rippling at will the sweet
Wide waterway…
When night is fallen you creep
Upstairs, but drakes and dillies
Nest with pale water-stars.
Moonbeams and shadow bars,
And water-lilies:

Slimbridge WWT - Very hot 
Fearful too much to sleep
Since they've no locks
To click against the teeth
Of weasel and fox.
And warm beneath
Are eggs of cloudy green
Whence hungry rats and lean
Would stealthily suck
New life, but for the mien
The hold ferocious mien
Of the mother-duck

Slimbridge WWT - Very hot

~Frank W Harvey~

We checked out the new Discovery Hide at South lake. The hide had been kitted out with modern decor, soft furnishings and birdwatching equipments especially tailored for children and beginners. We scanned the lakes for the Spoonbill which was the main reason why we were here. Unfortunately, after 3 days it decided to fly to another part of the reserve. Typical… A big flock of Black Tailed Godwits were fast asleep in the middle of the lake. Oyster catchers were busy feeding along the mud-banks. We were entertained by these very noisy Black-headed gull chicks begging for food. They were everywhere, screaming.Slimbridge WWT - Very hot

There was a flurry of excitement in the reserve as the sun-baking heat wave had provoked breeding behaviour among the Chilean Flamingos that resided in the South American pen. Usually, they laid their eggs much later in the season but the warmer weather had spurred them on raising hopes that this could be a bumper year of chicks. We were lingering by the pen when one of the warden who was walking past informed us that she was going  to gather an egg that had just being laid and we could photograph their excited behaviours.  Aviculturists at the Centre incubated the eggs by substituting the eggs from the nest for a wooden one. The hand-reared chicks then will be returned back to the flock. Slimbridge WWT - Very hot

The warden approached the breeding island from one dedicated path so as not to stress them out during feeding and observation. As soon as the Flamingos spotted her, they started flapping their wings and honking away, walking towards us. We were ready with our cameras rattling away. We watched her taking photographs of the nest before storing the egg in a biscuit tin. I ran after her to catch a glimpse of the egg. The eggs were incubated for 28 days so this one was due to hatch next month. Chilean Flamingos were classified as ‘Near Threatened’ by IUCN (the International Union for Nature Conservation) due to human activities damaging their breeding, feeding and resting sites. Slimbridge WWT - Very hot

We walked past the restaurant when we saw Caribbean flamingo chicks on the nest island. They had laid the eggs much earlier in the season. More chicks were hatching and could be seen in the nest mounds right against the back fence. The chicks that were slightly older were becoming more adventurous and were starting to explore their wider surroundings. And this lovely warm weather was perfect for them to be out and about testing the strength of their legs and feet. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any activities at the pink lagoon which housed the Greater flamingos. It would be amazing to see them because their mud nests mounds were very close to the sitting area.Slimbridge WWT - Very hot

We decided to venture to the Kingfisher hide. We seldom checked this hide because it was the furthest hide in the reserve. It was wonderful walking under the trees but the hide was like a sun-trap. It was so warm and humid even with all the windows wide open. The Kingfishers had already left but we could see the nesting holes on the river banks from the hide. We were engrossed by these powerful machines which were busy making hay into bales when the sun shines.  We also saw a few Hawkers and Darters but they were too fast to be photographed.Slimbridge WWT - Very hot

We scurried for cover as we walked to Martin Smith Hide. We didn’t planned to stay long as the sun scorched the hide. At first, we counted one Little Egret walking along the reed beds hunting for food. And then another one, and another one and another one … started popping out from the reed beds. Then at least a dozen more started falling down from the sky. We think they might be roosting here. We were soo excited because we’d never seen that many before. But when we checked the sighting book, 19 were seen earlier in the week. Amazing. What a sight to see before we headed home. We wanted to leave before the Friday getaway converged onto the roads. Slimbridge WWT - Very hot

“Hermit-like, he stands and muses

Until he seems to be

Moveless in dream-like silence lone,

Some spectre bird, or sculptured stone,

Or stump of scathed tree”

~Bernard Barton~

Slimbridge WWT - Very hot

On Saturday, we attended Mouz and Jide’s wedding St. Joseph the Worker. Mouz was my colleague and I’d known her for nearly 4 years. She’d also received her doctorate earlier during the week. She’d a traditional wedding ceremony in Nigeria and then having it blessed in church in Coventry. I was very excited to see her again as this will be last time she’ll be in the UK. I attended the ceremony dressed in my traditional Malaysian costume. But I can’t compete with the Nigerian contingent dressed in very colourful costumes. The ceremony was very poignant and went very smoothly.A Friends Wedding

The we headed to the Ramada Hotel, Kenilworth for the reception. We weren’t staying for the reception because Babe was already exhausted and it was the fasting month. I wanted to hand her the wedding presents and if possible, a few photographs together. I managed the later and an x-colleague, J, volunteered to give the gift on our behalf. Gracias J and congratulations to the beautiful young couple.A Friends Wedding

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved

~Shakespeare ‘Sonnet 116’~

I was chuffed when out of 6 strawberry plants, one had survived from the slugs onslaught. I made a covering out of a plastic bottle over the plant when it began to bear fruit. And watched it everyday as the fruits got bigger and bigger and then turning redder and redder. Finally, I harvested 12 very juicy strawberries. The most expensive strawberries in town but worth it. It was delicious. This was my mid-night feast with my home-grown strawberries. I’m looking forward to planting more next year as this sole plant had started producing suckers which I’ve planted into little pots.Shots from our Home and Garden

There was an explosion of moths in our casa and garden. I guess the prolonged warm spell meant a bumper year for moths. Moths were often overlooked in favour of butterflies because people think they were only flying at night and were a pest.We were always excited when we saw one and then a quick dash for the cameras. I think they were attracted to the lights as I only close the patio doors when I’m off to bed.Shots from our Home and Garden

Moths and their caterpillars provided vital food for many other types of wildlife including birds and bats, so an increase in their numbers during the summer were beneficial for many other species too. They played a vital role in telling us about the health of our environment. Since they were so widespread and found in so many different habitats, and were so sensitive to changes, moths were particularly useful as indicator species. We do our bit to help them survive. At the bottom of our garden was like a mini Malaysian jungle. We’d never trimmed the Leylandii, hedges were overgrown with brambles and there was a meadow for wildflowers, grasses and nettles. Numerous birds made their home here along with the hedgehog and where the foxes felt safe. We only do the minimal trimmings and we use a hand mower for the lawn.Shots from our Home and Garden

I loved this tropical weather with wall to wall bright, hot sunshine. It reminded me of home and especially when I’m out in the garden. It was like a tropical paradise with Roses, Sweet peas, Buddleias, Dahlias, Poppies, Clematis, Marigolds, Sunflowers, Thistles, Ferns, St, John’s Wort, Red Hot Pokers, French and Common Lavenders, Lilies, Lobelias, Geraniums, Periwinkles, Chrysanthemums, Croscosmia, Hostas, Astilbe, Fennel, Sea Holly, Coneflowers, Arum Lilies, Poached Eggs… phew…  all exploding in a riot of colours and enchanting aromas. Everything was abundant and fit to burst. I’m one of those loco people who loved that feeling that you got when you walked outside in the blazing humid heat and felt like you can’t breathe because the air was so thick and heavy. And this is from someone who suffers from hay-fever :-). Shots from our Home and Garden

As summer rolled in and we were basking in the gloriously long, warm, bright evenings, I always counted my blessings especially in this holy month of Ramadan. When I’m at home, I spent almost every minute outside in the garden, either gardening, reading, having our dinner, or just relaxing. We were always accompanied by our feathered friends who came out to make sure we’re ok. It was lovely listening to the laughters and shrieks from our neighbour’s children playing in their garden and above us, the sight of the swifts screaming across the cloudless skies really lifted our moods.Shots from our Home and Garden

Jane Austen wrote

What dreadful hot weather we have. It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance”.

True when you see the fashion disasters abound. Men in socks and sandals, women with acres of skin on show some with painful sunburns. Ouch !!!

But I’m a believer of Thoreau who wrote

“Live in each season as it passes: breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit”.

And this Panama straw hat has become permanently stuck to my head this summer.

Seri's new hat.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

I Know I am but Summer to your Heart

“I know I am but summer to your heart,
And not the full four seasons of the year;
And you must welcome from another part
Such noble moods as are not mine, my dear.
No gracious weight of golden fruits to sell
Have I, nor any wise and wintry thing;
And I have loved you all too long and well
To carry still the high sweet breast of spring.
Wherefore I say: O love, as summer goes,
I must be gone, steal forth with silent drums,
That you may hail anew the bird and rose
When I come back to you, as summer comes.
Else will you seek, at some not distant time,
Even your summer in another clime.”

~Edna St. Vincent Millay (1922)~

Brandon Marsh - Very hot and hazy

Ramadan came knocking on the hottest month of the year. What a test of faith for all the Muslims in the UK. The 9th month of the Islamic calendar, it was regarded as one of the most holy months as it was during Ramadan that the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) by the angel Gabriel. Ramadan was the month for an unparalleled, month-long opportunity for personal and spiritual growth and the fasting was a deeply private act of worship. Of the five pillars of Islam, it was the most personal expression of self-surrender to Allah. A Muslim could be observed performing the other 4 pillars (saying the Shahadah, paying the zakat, praying 5 times a day, performing the Hajj) but, in addition to himself, only Allah knows if he was fasting.

"(It was) the month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’aan, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Sawm (fasts) that month…"
~ [al-Baqarah 2:185]

Shots from our Home and Garden

As usual, I won’t be taking any breaks and have a short lunch break so that I could leave at 5 pm. I joined the rest of the university’s Muslim community to perform the Zuhur prayers. At my desk, I put on my ear-phones and listened to the readings of the Koran on-line. I’m hoping to finish the 142 juz by the end of Ramadan. I started with my first faux pas for Ramadan. I thought that it started on Tuesday and was fasting. But when I went to the mosque, they informed me that it was on Wednesday. Oops… the next thing was CC and I went to the library’s cafe and bought lamb burgers with salad and chips. We then had a picnic under the trees. What a start huh :-)

But that wasn’t all. My manager was very persistent about the whole department going for a Mexican meal at the Humanities Cafe. Since I told everyone that Ramadan was around the corner, Monday was also the only day that all my colleagues were in. The cafe was promoting a  Mexican menu and we agreed to check it out. The list was mind-blowing and I ended with a spicy mixed bean chilli in a tortilla bowl topped with salad, nachos and gooey sour cream. All washed down with orange juice. Sorry … no tequilas as we’d to be back at work. While we were busy tucking in and dodging the begging Moorhen chicks, my manager dropped a bomb-shell. He was leaving us at the end of September to be a Departmental head in a very prestigious university. …Silence…tumble weeds rolling !!! He wanted to tell us first before he told everyone else. Man… we weren’t expected that. I knew he was going to move on but to hear it was hard. We wished him the very best and he left us in a good place. Fingers and toes double-crossed.  Shots from Warwick University

My colleagues and I also welcomed another work experience student into the department. She was RAB and off all places was from Malaysia. She’d lived in the UK for about 10 years now and her father was working in WMG. I was supposed to give her a taste of what we do in Data Services but unfortunately we ran out of time. Anyway, we’d a lovely long chat and we made arrangements to meet her parents next week because her father will be graduating. That would be wonderful.

I had another library tour with the pre-sessional students after lunch. I took a group of about 10 students and showed them the different study areas in the library. I couldn’t take them to the 3rd floor because we a major renovation work going on. In fact, the floor was sealed off and if you want to go to Research Exchange and the 3rd floor extension study areas, you have to go to the 2nd floor extension and then take the lift. As usual, the mobile shelving was a hit and the self-service machine had a bit of a snag when it didn’t recognise some of the students cards. A good opportunity to take them to the I.T Unit and problem solved. I’d a wonderful time with the very eager students and I hoped they enjoyed their time in Warwick University.Shots from Warwick UniversityThe working week ended with the Summer Staff Open Day. My colleagues dragged their feet to the Teaching Grid and I was the last one up as I won’t be joining them for refreshments. The morning began with an update by the librarian and division heads. It was followed by another update on the Library’s Competency Framework Project which will take over the Annual Review next year. The awaited presentation on the 2013 Pulse Survey outcomes were well-received and debated. During tea break, I gathered a few mini blueberry muffins and kept them in a container for breaking fast. I went back to my office and didn’t turn up for the ‘Work/Life balance’ workshop. And I wasn’t alone. I went up again during lunch to collect my brown bag which contained tuna sandwiches, vegetarian wraps, a cream cake and 2 pears. This was kept in the refrigerator for my dinner. No cooking tonight :-).

On Saturday, we made our 2nd. trip to Cotswold Animal Park. The first time we went, there were still pockets of snow along the road and on the hill-sides. But not today. It was 30C in the car and again we were dressed in white with lashes of sun-cream and a hat. We have to as the Met Office had issued a level 3 heat-wave warning which is where there was a 90% chance of the mercury hitting 30C-plus which could be dangerous for the very old and young. Babe didn’t put the roof down through out the journey and we’d all the windows down.Roadtrip  Cotswolds Wildlife Park

We arrived at about 1 o’clock and wasn’t surprised at all to see the car-park full. Everyone was out and about taking advantage of the hot summer days and lazy afternoons with a bit of sight-seeing thrown in. It was just too precious to stay cooped up in the house. And we were delighted to see at the entrance a pack of llamas, a reindeer and a herd of herd of Scimitar Horned Oryx, a species now extinct in the wild. We couldn’t wait to get out of the car to check them. Unfortunately it was too hot for the Oryx to be wandering about and they just chilled out under the shade.Cotswolds Wildlife Park

The first thing on our list was to take the train ride, which we didn’t managed last time. We walked along a path and spotted the Aldabra giant tortoise, resting under the shrubs. What a lovely surprise to spot the second largest species of tortoise after the Galapagos Tortoise. When we reached the station, we joined the hundreds who were waiting for the next ride. The Narrow-gauge Railway which cost £1 per person took the visitors for a 10 minute ride around the Park which was a bit too short, we thought.Cotswolds Wildlife Park When we got off the train, we came across the Wolverine enclosure which again we’d missed on the first visit. We walked on a raised footpath through a very dense dark forest and screwed our eyes, trying to adjust in the darkness. We looked up and down the trees, bur we couldn’t see anything at all. They must be having a siesta in their den somewhere. We continued on and came across some amazing birds. But, I was distracted by the Goldcrests pinging around the conifers. Unfortunately, too high up and too dark to photograph. This is an adorable Red-Crusted Turaco. Cotswolds Wildlife Park

Then we checked out the spectacular interactive Madagascar Lemur exhibit. Visitors were asked to leave their bottled drinks outside the entrance because the animals were prone to snatch them away. This walkthrough exhibit allowed visitors to get a real insight into the lives of these fascinating creatures.We found out that  two Red-bellied Lemurs, one Collared Lemur, and two Ring-tailed Lemurs, all primates endemic to the Island of Madagascar, were recently born here. The babies were on show to visitors and we saw them roaming freely in the the home they shared with eighteen other Lemurs, including the striking Sifaka (also known as the ‘Ghost Lemur’), several native Madagascan birds and a turtle.This exhibit had been instrumental in raising funds for the Lemur conservation projects since its opening in 2008.Cotswolds Wildlife Park

We also braved ourselves in the very hot and humid Tropical House. It reminded me of the deep tropical forests in Malaysia with the sounds of shrieking colourful birds, running waters and tropical plants, palms and entwining vines. I was hoping to see the sloths but they were AWOL today. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I spotted a huge fruit bat hanging upside down from one of the branches. Now, that I’d never seen before even in my home country. But that doesn’t made us dash outside. I think to regulate the temperatures, the water sprinkler came on automatically. We quickly ran outside before we got soaked and our cameras destroyed. Boy … that was fun.Cotswolds Wildlife Park

We’d a quick walkabout around the walled garden area . We’d seen all these animals before but it was still lovely to see them again.  The mewing cries of th extremely manually dextrous Oriental small-clawed otter caught our attention. The smallest of the world’s 18 otter species, they were enjoying a swim in the pool. We joined the visitors crowding around the Mongoose enclosure being captivated by the antics of the adorable baby.  We were entertained by the Slender-Tailed Meerkats who were busy digging and foraging while one was on duty. Check out the the dark circles around the eyes. These protect them from the bright sun, a bit like sunglasses! More Humbolt Penguins were ‘flying’ underwater, trying to cool down.Cotswolds Wildlife Park

We checked out the Invertebrate House and the Reptile House but it was too dark to get good photographs and the inhabitants were kept behind glass walls. We walked straight to the Red Panda enclosure. The island in the middle of the enclosure was so overgrown that we’d a hard time to find them. But we didn’t have to wait long because this adorable cutie was plodding around the ditch, just where we were standing, providing us with very good photographic opportunities.Cotswolds Wildlife Park

We continued on and walked past the Ostrich enclosure. I’d did a double take when I spotted this ostrich looking after the eggs in a single communal nest, scraped in the ground by the male. Check out the size of the eggs. They were gigantic. We watched it tenderly turning the eggs. For such a huge bird, I didn’t expect such tenderness. These eggs were incubated by the females by day and by the males at night. The colouration of the two sexes was Mother Nature’s way in escaping detection of the nest, as the drab female blends in with the sand, while the black male was nearly undetectable in the night. The incubation period was 35 to 45 days. It would be amazing to see the hatchlings.Cotswolds Wildlife Park

Then we were off to see the piece de resistance. In the early hours, a White Rhino calf was born, a first in the Park's forty-three year history. That meant it was less than 2 weeks old when we saw it. The as-yet-unnamed baby was born to first time parents, Nancy and Monty, on 1st July 2013.  The baby remained very close to its mother and both were in good health. Awwwwww…cute overload. They were in the large paddock they shared with a herd of Chapman’s Zebras overlooking the Manor House.Cotswolds Wildlife Park

By this time, it was a sweltering 30C. Babe moved the car under a tree to cool it down. We planned to stay a bit longer but it was just too hot. There was haze in the air and we decided to call it a day. We still had a long drive home.Cotswolds Wildlife Park 

There are lions and roaring tigers,
and enormous camels and things,
There are biffalo-buffalo-bisons,
and a great big bear with wings.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

There's a sort of a tiny potamus,
and a tiny nosserus too -
But I gave buns to the elephant
when I went down to the Zoo!

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

There are badgers and bidgers and bodgers,
and a Super-in-tendent's House,
There are masses of goats, and a Polar,
and different kinds of mouse,

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

And I think there's a sort of a something
which is called a wallaboo -
But I gave buns to the elephant
when I went down to the Zoo!

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

If you try to talk to the bison,
he never quite understands;
You can't shake hands with a mingo -
he doesn't like shaking hands.

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

And lions and roaring tigers
hate saying, "How do you do?" -
But I give buns to the elephant
when I go down to the Zoo!

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

~A. A. Milne ‘At the Zoo’~

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

On Sunday, we tried to cool down by walking through our favourite playground. Mon Dieu… it was a sweltering hot British summer. The Britons griped whatever happened. A month ago, they were soggily bemoaning grey skies, blaming the Gulf Stream flowing too low. Now it was sweaty time and they were still unhappy. Didn’t you know? It was still the fault of the Gulf Stream :-0. They longed for a proper summer but when it arrived, they haven’t got a clue what to do!!! “Carpe diem” was our motto. We were attired in loose cotton with lashes of sun-cream, always with sun-glasses and hats and plenty of water before we ventured out. We walked under the trees towards the Steely Hide hoping to catch a glimpse of the Kingfisher. And he turned up. This very handsome bird skimmed across the surface of the lake and perched on the overhanging branch. All you could hear was our cameras rattling away. This brilliantly azure bird didn’t disappoint us and did a few poses. Thank you. After hundreds of shots, it flew off and disappeared down the river. It was time for us to head home too. Brandon Marsh - Very hot and hazy

In the garden, the plant that I’m soo looking forward to is the artichoke. I’d never eaten one before and it was a plant very alien to me. This was the 2nd year this perennial thistle had graced our garden. During its first year, the buds were left alone to fully bloom into a lovely purple flower and became a decorative piece in the garden. This year all 4 plants grew tall and leafy again  with young plants waiting to be divided and transplanted somewhere else. Shots from our Home and Garden

After the main thistle-like head  known as the ‘king head’ had reached its full size, right before the bracts or petals began to open, I cut the stem an inch below the base of the flower bud. I checked You-tube to learn how to cook this aphrodisiac plant. I immersed it in warm salt water to get rid of any insects, Then simmer in water upside down until cooked. I plucked the leaves, dipped them in salad cream, and tugged the stem end through my teeth to suck off the tender meat. Then there was the hidden treasure, the tender heart. After all this, I think I might just leave the buds alone. Let it flower because the bees love them.

“Life is like eating artichokes, you have got to go through so much to get so little”

~Thomas Aloysius Dorgan~

Shots from our Home and Garden