“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)~
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]
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.
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.The 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are lions and roaring tigers,
and enormous camels and things,
There are biffalo-buffalo-bisons,
and a great big bear with wings.
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!
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,
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!
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.
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!
~A. A. Milne ‘At the Zoo’~
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.
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.
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~