The garden of delights.

Standing in my garden, camera in hand, I become aware of the diversity in just a few square yards. Leaving the plants to one side, as they remain a mystery to me, I feel relieved that my small patch is home to so many creatures.

After the hazels were coppiced and the branches chipped from the over-tall poplar we topped off we allowed the chippings to pile up or just cover the ground. The leaves from the red oak add to the carpet. Each step is a scrunch. I would never make a tracker. I become aware of the flies in all their varieties. I am looking for hoverflies and one cooperates. The others flee my lens. The breeze makes every shot tricky. Rarely a lull. Hence my position. Static. Alert. Hopeful. Frustrated. Then a surge of adrenaline. A damselfly. Red! Not what I normally see here. This is Large Red Damselfly, Pyrrhosoma nymphula. I become acutely aware of my shadow. I must let it sit and bask. Shade will cause it to move. Two or three times it shifts. I take a couple of distant record shots. I kneel. The under-carpet scrunches. I hold my breath. I raise my camera. I quietly press the shutter. I pivot as silently as I can. I edge closer. I press again. Gone.

Pyrrhosoma nymphula2Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Bees are everywhere. Never pausing. Nose in, body wriggle, reverse out. Next please. Large queens and tiny early bees. And nomad bees too. The ones I thought were small wasps. Oh no. Cleptoparasites. But today not one will let me take a single frame. They quarter the leaf litter and rotting wood like miniature harriers. They drop out of sight, emerge and dive under the foliage. Constantly moving. Gone.

From my position I can hear birds all around me. The blackcaps, the chiffchaffs, the rattle of a mistle thrush and if I walk a few paces to my left, the incessant demands of the nuthatch chicks. I watched the parents a day or so ago. They are returning to the nest every minute or so. Land, pause, in, feed, peek out. Clear. Away. Repeat.

The strong breezes have stopped the moths in their tracks. Nothing wants to fly in such conditions. The temperatures have risen but the moths need a calmer night to kick off the summer season. Will tonight be the night? Standing here I don’t really care. I am surrounded by bluebells and the garden is alive. Pyrrhosoma nymphula has made my day.


Put on a happy face


It is Spring. On Monday our old friend Vernon Equinox made it official. Good old Vernon. For further confirmation, if such be needed, look out of the window and observe the rain. It is wet. Very wet. Wetter than Mrs. Thatcher’s cabinet. And the garden is yellow. Forsythia. Primroses. Daffodils. Lesser Celandines. Throw in a few violets, the wood anemones, cherry blossom, magnolia, camellias and hordes of hungry lagomorphs and you can be sure that Spring is here. The woodpeckers and nuthatches are tidying up last years cavities. The pheasants are strutting around and rising up to drum their wings. This is my patch. Keep off. The diminutive wren launches stealth raids on the contents of my moth trap. The Chiffchaff has arrived to its own personal fanfare. I even thought I heard a passing Sedge Warbler in the muddy part of the wood yesterday.

All of which is balm to the soul, confronted as it is by contemporary politics.

A chum of mine described Trump45 as an embarrassment. I almost prefer Colt 45.

Che gelida manina,
se la lasci riscaldar.
Cercar che giova?
Al buio non si trova.

A tragic opera in a series of dumb acts.

I watched Comey and Rogers and felt a vague sense of relief that perhaps there might be a happy ending after all. And how I cheered the wonderful Kristina Dunz, the reporter who finally shouted the emperor has no clothes. Still, the story has some mileage left in it yet.

And in the meantime we have a family wedding to look forward to. Cost Centre 2 will tie the knot in December. We are now mulling over maybe leaving the carnage of post rational Britain and returning to the People’s Republic of Hong Kong. We have spent five of the last eight weeks there and realize that whatever the benefits of Brexitstan, life in the colony may be better.


Originally this post was different, rather more macabre. Fate however intervened and I didn’t finish it. That was fortunate in the light of the events at Westminster this week. I was working in the City when both the Stock Exchange and The Baltic Exchange were bombed by the IRA. The Bulldog Spirit prevailed then and it will prevail now. For all of the dangerous egomaniacs around today – Kim, May, Trump, Erdogan, Mugabe and a good few others – the world still grinds forward and evolves faster than politicians, bringing us improvements we could never dream of. We have to learn how to adapt to some of them but the basics of hunger relief, child mortality and absolute poverty are diminishing. There has to be optimism alongside the mourning for common decency and the blinding rage of populism.

In contrast to the day I started this, the sun is shining and there is warmth in the air. The long shadows are of lengthening days and trees in bud. And there is life in the old dog yet.

ZEN Lulu



A phosphorous blue sneer.

As the year draws to a close what more can a man do than stick his head in a pile of leaf litter and search for hoverfly larvae. That is what I did this morning and very enjoyable it was too. 2016 has not been the best of years. Last year I said to myself, cheer up. Things could be worse. So I cheered up and sure enough things got worse.

Next year looks to be tricky too. I shall embark on my 7th and probably last decade. Of course the world may end as well in which case I shan’t miss much. In the meantime leaf litter is my new raison d’être. I am finding all sorts of goodies in it. Today was my introduction to the gall of Neuroterus anthracinus . It is about the size of a pinhead, whitish with (pardon the technical lingo) red splodges on it. Yesterday I was knee deep in the eggs of a shield bug and photographing not one but two Melangyna cincta larvae. Of course you also find the odd slug, a few earthworms, some fly-type things and a host of other creatures that scuttle, wriggle and flee.

Christmas was tolerable this year. Borderline good in fact. We decided to eat out and booked ourselves into Brasserie Blanc. They did us proud. The hallmark of a decent Christmas lunch is the quality of the crackers. Not the cheese ones but the ones that go bang. Ours went very bang very loud. So loud in fact that the gift within flew like a North Korean test missile and landed on the neighbouring table. A set of gingerbread men cookie cutters. Just what Mrs. Ha wanted. And as I hadn’t bought her anything else that was just as well. She did in fact get an eternity ring but that was for our wedding anniversary. It’s called an eternity ring because it will take me an eternity to pay for it. When she said she wanted a carat I was all ready to hoof it over to Sainsbury but I misunderstood.

Our next outing of note is back to Honkers for the lunar New Year. We are away almost 3 weeks which means poor old Princess Lulu has to spend the time at Butlins and she won’t like that. She doesn’t take well to the Morning campers, Hi-di-hi routine. And they don’t have under floor heating. Come to think of it neither does our apartment in HK.

2017 starts in a few hours and it had better be good. I want my money back on 2016. From Brexit to Exit Bowie and ending with the demise of she who sang Tammy, it has been a disaster. I predict the implosion of the EU next year. That should cheer us all up. I looked out of the window at 4pm today and the mist was lying just above the ‘lawn’ (moss) in a thin stratum. It gradually thickened and expanded, not unlike my waistline. Too many gingerbread men. With age comes the wisdom that I really don’t know much. It also comes with a bad shoulder, a wobbly knee and greying hair. Sometimes I look in the mirror first thing and wonder who on earth it is. Only Lulu seems perennially content with life, as long as you don’t count the fact that she only uses 3 of her 4 legs these days. It doesn’t seem to bother her as long as she has ham, toast and jam and some health-giving biscuits for breakfast. This is a winning combination for canine flatulence I am sad to say. At least, that’s my story and I am sticking to it.

On that cheery (?) note I wish my reader a very happy new year. Unless you voted for Brexit or Trump. As my old boss John Pugh used to say: I’m not a vindictive man but, and this is a big but, I’ll ‘ave ‘im.

Goodnight all.