Wheear ‘ast tha bin sin’ ah saw thee


According to Google Translate this means ‘where on earth have you been’. Not an unreasonable question. Well I have been in a dark place, fighting dragons and demons and indeed SAS airlines and the Norwegian airport system. The last few months have not been happy ones. Even my garden let me down or I it. Most of my beloved roses were reduced to skeletons by (probably) sawfly larvae. One died. Alas poor Winchester Cathedral. One flourishes – Rosa versicolor.

The house still is not finished. Close but not there yet. After the scheduled completion date we embarked on a trip to Svalbard or Spitsbergen. I still have not grasped the difference. We went looking for polar bears, walruses, whales, seals and of course birds. I felt a bit like Irving Berlin at the end of the trip:

We joined the Vavilov to see the world. And what did we see? We saw the sea.

We saw only one PB at close quarters. A rather undernourished looking female ambling across an island devoid of ice. Much of our trip was spent looking for ice that seemed to be constantly moving ahead of us and breaking up as it did so. Polar Bear face

Arctic Landscape

Getting to and from Longyearbyen was an assault course designed to test the mettle of any traveller. Short connections, bizarre customs rituals and Oslo airport that could double as an obstacle course in case of need. You have 55 minutes starting……. now. Oh sorry, we are running 45 minutes late. But never mind. Give it a go.

I foolishly assumed that by the time we returned summer would have started. Alas again, we appear to be bypassing it altogether. A few stubborn and resilient plants have popped their heads up. Many have succumbed to slugs. What the garden needs is a hedgehog that I can unleash at dusk. Maybe a whole family of hogs, craving for gourmet sluggish sustenance. Slug en croute perhaps. Or Slug meunière. Slow-cooked of course. Pulled Slug.

As seems to be happening increasingly frequently I started something (this post) and then forgot about it. All sorts of things intervened. One of the GPs at our local surgery saw me at short notice when I returned from Svalbard. Or was it Spitsbergen. I entered the NHS lottery and got a ticket for 2 weeks later so I did what everybody should. I went to the surgery and demanded to see someone. Rather surprisingly I was given an immediate slot. The doctor peered at me intently and largely dismissed my worries. Don’t fret pet, she said. Take a bucket of steroids for 5 days and it will go away. Probably an allergy. Oh and that looks like a skin cancer on your arm. I used to be a dermatologist you know. This meant entering another NHS lottery and drawing a ticket to the hospital in a few months time. Or I could go to a rural outpost and see someone in only 7 weeks. So I am going to the wastelands of Eastleigh soon to see if my arm has to come off. I wish I were ambidexterous but sadly I’m still officially CofE.

As I write today St. Theresa, patron saint of bodily ills, is about to be anointed as the country’s PM. I have rather robust views on what has happened in Britain recently. I was out of the country for the stitch up referendum and my plan is to spend even more time outside Little England before long. The neo-colonialists should all get a 1930s map of the world and some red crayons to colour in the bits they want back. Then I hope St. Theresa sends them off to be missionaries in Equatorial Guinea or Strasbourg. Originally I thought only the cast of Coronation Street had voted leave but it seems Costa Geriatrica did the same. We had some dreadful people from Gosport on TV this evening bleating on about how they wanted a Leave PM. I expect I will upset a few people if I carry on so enough on this matter. As they sew, so shall they reap. I hope St. T does a jolly good job but I doubt if she will bring in the necessary experience to deal with the likes of the knife-wielders. I think Ken Clarke should have stood. A seriously good man. Very strong on birds. TM appears to be the first person since LBJ to become leader by doing absolutely nothing. Cameron’s suicide was heartily welcome but to see the Leave lemmings then hurl themselves onto their swords faster than you can say Christiano Ronaldo would have been even more entertaining if there had been someone with an ounce of charisma to take over.

And that is a neat segue into the joys of Euro 2016, which was won by a moth called Autographa gamma, or Silver Y. Had Wales played in the final they would have won I am sure. Ditto Iceland. I was lucky enough to meet Chris Coleman on Saturday and buy him lunch to say diolch. The Welsh team played entertaining soccer and that of course goes against the entire ethos of the tournament. I hope Chris takes us to greater glories in the next World Cup. As Iceland managed to do so well I hear that Waitrose may enter a team too.

At this point I am wondering, as no doubt are you, whether there is a point to this post. And that is precisely why I have been silent so long. All my good ideas vanish the moment I become conscious. The good news is that we are back in HK next month and I am going on to Sydney. Then we come back only to hot foot it to Venice again. Although I do wonder whether Britain will be just as much under water as La Serenissima by then.

And with that I think it is time to hibernate again. Be careful out there.





Clay, Flint and Rain

Proof, I am still here. My head is just above water but it is a damned close run thing.

Moths etc.

I struggle to remember the last extended dry spell. The garden remains waterlogged. Scaffolding surrounds the orangery and master bedroom. Bedecked and betarped the droplets strike, now hard, now soft. Like political rhetoric it seems unending. The walk to the moth trap can only be undertaken in rain boots.

The crows strut around the mossy lawn. Celandines, Primroses and Bluebells vie with Dandelions, Lords and Ladies and small violets (species to be ascertained, for there are several) for dominance. Beyond the lawn the hard core of Bluebells goes stem to stem with the aggressively spreading Dog’s Mercury. Wood Anemones are pushing up. Solomon’s Seal is the latest to appear. Fading Daffs fringe everything whilst the tulips raise their bulbous heads and flare their pink or red lips; floral flehming? The Magnolia trees are in flower and the cherry trees are sporting their Spring finery, popinjays all. And tucked in the corner…

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A Winter’s Tale

Wildlife posts will be posted on Moths Etc in future. I hope you will follow me there.

Moths etc.

A flurry of garden activity. The squirrels are playing kiss-chase or possibly get off my patch. I also spotted a squirrel collecting leaves, presumably for his drey. I am indebted to the squirrels for not gnawing through the cables that connect my moth trap to the mains. Very considerate. Although they are considered vermin I do find them entertaining. An erstwhile colleague of mine had one inside the engine compartment of his car and they chewed his battery cables to shreds. I think I would issue an eviction order if they tried that with our cars.

A Robin was observed clearing a wall cavity. Could this be an early sign of nest building?

I have finally seen the Firecrest again. The very poor photo (usual excuses: uncooperative bird, poor light, high ISO etc. etc.) shows yellow feet. As a self-confessed Luddite I went through my books and could not see…

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