Monthly Archives: May 2011

Dawyck Botanic Garden

The garden at Dawyck, between Peebles and Biggar, is looking wonderful. The early rhododendrons have faded, but azaleas and later rhododenrons have taken over and provide plenty of colour. Swathes of bluebells replace daffodils, and in the meadow near the old chapel, where the last of the cowslips hang on to their blooms, wild orchids can be found in the grass – for now, only the new shoots and leaves, but there is plenty of colour up there in the form of male pheasants, strutting their stuff.

More Dawyck here

Ah… I almost forgot the beds of meconopsis – Himalayan blue poppies – that make gardeners in the south green with envy (and there isn’t much that grows well up here that won’t grow well down there).

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That ash cloud….

One of the daftest questions asked by reporters and journalists over the last few days is ‘are we going to get more of this ash in the future?’ It’s a bit like asking if there are going to be any more earthquakes in those parts of the world known to have had recent earthquakes (well, I’m sure you know what I mean). The short answer to their question is yes. The long answer is that Iceland is on the geologically active mid-Atlantic Ridge, where volcanic eruptions have been commonplace since everything on this side of the Atlantic split from everything on that side of the Atlantic at least 200 million years ago. So, it’s time we got used to it.
<<<If you don’t know what an ash cloud looks like, here’s one they made earlier (2010)

What has changed so much recently is the weather, and the way the ash clouds move and disperse. The likelihood is that many – if not all – of these climate changes are our own fault anyway. And, because aircraft contribute to the pollution of our skies, we shouldn’t grumble too much when they are grounded.

As for the timing of eruptions, it’s rather like predicting earthquakes: the further we are from the last, the closer we are to the next.

More here.

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Spotted in Homebase

I’m sure they don’t mean the cactus plants, I can’t believe anyone would want to munch on those.

However, the Deifenbachia, on the other side of the display stand, is extremely poisonous.

Update…
Dieffenbachia, even.

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Royal Visit

Had I known HM Queen was to visit Ireland, I might well have written this post after the event, rather than before. You would not believe how many visits my blog had around that time. Somewhere there is a big computer that looks for keywords. Explosives? Garda? Ireland?

Anyway, I hope the guys who look for these things had a laugh. I’m no threat, honest.

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Elvis: Fame at Last

‘I know him,’ the *FYO said when he noticed a picture of Elvis in a shop window. ‘He was in Star Wars.’

(*for FYO see here)

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Superglue

The discoverer of ‘Superglue’, Dr Harry Coover, has died in Tennessee aged 94. I say discovered rather than invented, because like so many other things (such as stainless steel and penicillin) it was stumbled upon while he was looking for something else, in this case plastic to make gun sights for the US military, in 1942. I wonder if he ever stuck all of his fingers together like I did once when a tube of the stuff burst in my hand? Probably. If you get it on your skin it sets hard before you can say the words methyl-2cyanoacrilate monomer.

Would you want to shake hands with the man who discovered superglue?

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Henning Mankell

I recently read a 176-word sentence. On one of my bookshelves I found an old paperback copy of Brideshead Revisited, and I read it for the first time. What always strikes me about early authors (I’m thinking of the likes of Waugh and Greene rather than Chaucer and Dante) is that their books are such an easy read. Because Waugh’s long sentence was correctly punctuated it read well, and I didn’t have to go back to the beginning of it to remind myself how it started.

I couldn’t help but compare the writing to that of Henning Mankell, whose novel ‘The Man from Beijing‘ I am reading now. I have read a few of his Wallander novels and I find his use of short sentences irritating, it’s like I am being presented with a list of short facts punctuated by full stops. He (or his translator) use very few conjuctions, reminding me of the first books I read when I was small (okay, I’ve never been small, exactly). You know the kind of thing, ‘Tom had a bicycle. The bicycle was big. It was red. Sometimes it went very fast’. Mankell’s books are not for the young of course, nor for the squeamish. I’m not complaining, I find them refreshingly different. And how could I possibly complain? I can’t even get my novels published.

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Stafford Shows


Unfortunately I missed this year’s classic bike show at the Stafford showground. Last year I made two round trips to Stafford, one to the bike show and another to the Amerton Railway, just up the road from the showground (well, it seemed to me like just up the road, because I’d just done a 230 mile drive). The railway holds a Summer Gala Weekend in June, so if you are into steam and/or narrow guage railways, it’s well worth a visit*. If narrow guage railways don’t do it for you, there are other attractions nearby.

*Last year’s blog post here.

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Ethanol in Fuel

Ethanol is added to our diesel and petrol. Ethanol damages engines. There is even an independent report commisioned by government (here) that confirms this (don’t be put off by the title, it’s the conclusions 6.1.1 and 6.3 on page 41 that are so worrying).
‘E10’ in the report refers to the 10% ethanol that the EU says must be added to our fuel by 2013. Currently we add up to 5%, an amount that is already causing damage by rusting fuel tanks, corroding other metal parts and rotting rubber seals.
The topic isn’t sexy enough for the media, and yet the addition of 10% ethanol will be on us before we know it (the year after next!)

As I’ve mentioned before, the addition of ethanol to fuel doesn’t just affect cars. There are tens of thousands of mowers, cultivators, boats, tractors, excavators, emergency generators and other kinds of machinery out there that stand to be (and are already being) damaged by ethanol addition.

The EU directive is a good example of politicians shooting from the hip and failing to commission proper research before making world-altering decisions. Not only is ethanol damaging engines, it is destroying the environment in so many ways. The article here is more than four years old. Since it was written, more and more arable land is being turned over to growing crops for fuel, and the destruction of rainforest for ethanol production is well under way.

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Kevin McCloud: HOME

I am writing this in my favourite bookshop, or to be more precise, in the cafĂ© beneath it, enjoying a latte. I don’t intend to buy any books because I was in here a few days ago and spent more than I meant to. I stumbled upon, and bought (amongst several others), a large volume by Kevin McCloud, of ‘Grand Designs’ fame. The book’s full title is Kevin McCloud’s 43 Principles of Home, though to me it is more of a brain dump of everything Kevin can think of related to eco- and better living in the 21st Century. Amazingly I read it from cover to cover in two days, though it is probably best tackled by dipping into it at random. Kevin appears to practise what he preaches (awful clichĂ©), both in his work and his home. Perhaps there is another reason I am drawn to the man and his ideas – he lives on the Mendips, a place I know (or used to know) well. Both above and below ground.

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