Thursday, 30 September 2010
There was no mention of how they will get back to Austria next spring.
This is not the first time birds have been trained to migrate by following a mechanical leader. Whooping cranes were led for nearly three months last year from their breeding ground in central Wisconsin on a 1250-mile journey to Florida for the winter.
The reason for leading the ibis and the crane is simple enough when you come to think of it. Birds learn migratory routes from their parents. If they are first generation birds bred in aviaries, they have no parental guidance. The microlight aircraft act in loco parentis.
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
But when, I wonder, was the last time we heard any truly inspiring words, any great rallying calls? President Obama's speeches may have sounded fine during the run up to the American presidential election, but has anything really stuck in the memory? We have to go back almost 40 years to John Kennedy's inauguration speech:
‘Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.'Martin Luther King also hit the right note with:
‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.' And so on.Who would not want to try to help bring that dream to life?
Before those two Americans, I think we have to go back about 70 years to the wartime speeches of Sir (as he was to become) Winston Churchill. The first speech he made to the House of Commons after he was made Prime Minister might, on the face of it, seem the very opposite of inspirational:
‘I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."'But it worked.
Perhaps the most memorable of Churchill's speeches is his great rallying cry after the fall of France. The most often quoted part of that speech is, in fact, only part of two sentences:
‘we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender'One might expect those last four words to have been thundered - and Churchill was more than capable of thundering - but he actually lowered his voice at that point and those words, ‘we shall never surrender', sounded almost like an afterthought.
Possibly this country's best-known rallying cry was not in a speech but consisted of a flag signal. More than 200 years ago, Nelson was a charismatic leader of men who wanted to inspire the crews of his ships before the battle of Trafalgar. He was proscribed in what he wanted to say by difficulties in using signalling flags, but there can be hardly any Englishmen who have not heard:
‘England expects that every man will do his duty'It doesn't exactly look highly inspirational seeing it written there, but by all accounts it worked like a charm - and still does after 200 years. So that's it: 200 years, four men, four speeches, and one flag signal.
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Monday, 27 September 2010
Sunday, 26 September 2010
The water meadows beside the River Thames were the venue for the sealing by King John, on 15 June 1215, of the Magna Carta, which has since become the basis of the constitution of so many countries. When Lions from our twin club visited us some four years ago we stopped off at Runnymede en route for Windsor. The pictures date from that visit.
First, one the pillars designed by Edward Lutyens to commemorate the sealing of Magna Carta.
To save you squinting, the inscription reads:
In these Meads on 15th June 1215 King John at the instance of Deputies from the whole community of the Realm granted the Great Charter the earliest of constitutional documents whereunder ancient and cherished customs were confirmed abuses redressed and the administration of justice facilitated new provisions formulated for the preservation of peace and every individual perpetually secured in the free enjoyment of his life and property.
Nearby is the memorial to Magna Carta commissioned by the American Bar Association.
There is also a monument erected to President Kennedy.
We had no time to visit the fourth monument, the Air Forces Memorial which commemorates the men and women of the Allied Air Forces who died during the Second World War and records the names of the 20,456 airmen who have no known grave. I've borrowed the picture.
There - that's put that right.
Saturday, 25 September 2010
Other high spots in the county are the Quantock Hills and the Mendip Hills, which is where we find the Cheddar Gorge and its caves. Cheddar is also the home of what is arguable England's best known cheese. Between the Quantocks and the Mendips lie the Somerset Levels, a low-lying, marshy area (although now much drained) which some say is the site of Camelot. Somerset certainly vies with Cornwall as King Arthur country.
Glastonbury is now best known for its annual pop festival but was earlier a place of pilgrimage. There are many myths and legends surrounding the Abbey and Glastonbury Tor, a 500-foot hill rising from the Levels. One of the legends tells how Joseph of Aramathea brought his great-nephew Jesus to Glastonbury.
Many people would say that the jewel in Somerset's crown is the city of Bath, beloved of Jane Austen. I agree that the abbey, the Roman baths and the Georgian terraces are terrific - although I consider that we have Georgian terraces in Brighton & Hove that are better than those in Bath. Much as I like Bath, for me the jewel is the small city of Wells. Wells cathedral was, until very recently, home to the world's oldest hand-wound clock. This was installed in the late 1380s and it was wound by hand three times a week from then until August this year, when an electric motor was installed. Winding the clock took an hour during which time the 39 stone weights were turned about 800 times.
Our picture shows one of the swans in the moat at the Bishop's Palace in Wells ringing a bell to ask for food.
Friday, 24 September 2010
- my life as a pearl fisher in the Baltic Sea,
- how a sat-nav ruined my sex life,
- exploring Baffin Bay on a donkey,
- eating celery in the bath using my navel as a salt cellar,
- how to make a burglar alarm from a candle, a cotton reel, a matchstick and two yards of knicker elastic.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
I have tried to follow the explanation in Wiki, but it went a bit over my head. All I really need to know is that autumn is here.
I really must get down the garden to harvest the pears and as many apples as are ripe. There might be a few more raspberries as well. We had a good serving of fresh raspberries and cream for dessert yesterday, a particular pleasure as the summer raspberry season is now two months or so past. Autumn raspberries just seem somehow special.
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
It was just after the second World War (even I'm not old enough to have been around for the first round) and I was, I think, five or so years old. Being a war baby, I had never even seen an orange let alone taste one. I was in a bed next to a slightly older boy and we were the only children in a ward filled with elderly men who seemed to me to be about to leave hospital on their final journeys. Anyway, one of the nurses took pity on us two youngsters and gave us each an orange. The other boy knew what this fruit was and soon showed me how to pierce the skin with my teeth so that I could suck the best tasting nectar I had ever experienced.
The nurse came back later to collect her oranges and was horrified to find all that remained was the skin. They were a special treat for her, probably the first oranges she had seen in years - and we had eaten them! Apparently she had only intended us to play with them as if they were balls.
Monday, 20 September 2010
Sunday, 19 September 2010
There have been marches demonstrating protests against his visit based on a number of factors: his (and the Catholic Church's) attitude to birth control, homosexuality, celibacy of priests, women priests, child abuse by priests. I am not a Catholic and I strongly disagree with much of the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church - but I also disagree with holding protests about his visit.
I would quote Voltaire - to both sides: "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".
Saturday, 18 September 2010
Pointing out into the Atlantic in the far south-west of England is the county of Cornwall. Separated from Devon and the rest of the country by the River Tamar, which forms almost the entire county boundary, Cornwall is almost an island. Along with Wales, it was the area into which the last of the Celts were driven by the Saxons and, as a result, many "true" Cornishmen consider themselves a race apart. With its own ancient language and place names frequently starting "Tre" or "Pol", it is certainly distinct from the rest of England. It has many similarities with Brittany in France, among them the distinction of being the only two places to have an official flag in black and white. Another similarity is that Cornwall has an island named St Michael's Mount while, although officially in Normandy, Mont St Michel could claim to be in Brittany.
Cornwall means many things to many people. It's sandy beaches make it one of the favourite holiday destinations of many English people not wanting to go abroad, while others regard it as King Arthur - he of the Round Table - country. Tintagel Castle, high on the rugged north coast, is rumoured to have been the home of the fabled king, while Dozmary Pool in Bodmin Moor is said to be the lake into which he instructed Sir Bedivere to cast his sword, Excalibur.
The county was also the scene of some of England's earliest mining operations - tin, copper, zinc, lead and iron. Tin mining was abandoned only in 1998 and abandoned engine houses are a common sight. It was the tin miners' wives who first produced Cornish pasties which provided a substantial meal for their men while underground. China clay is still quarried near St Austell. Also near St Austell, in an abandoned quarry, is the Eden Project.
Along the south coast are many picture-postcard fishing villages such as Polperro and Mousehole, while the rivers Fal and Helford provide excellent safe sailing. Beyond the Helford River is the Lizard peninsula with the Lizard itself being England's most southerly point. Westwards, we travel through Penzance to Land's End, England's most westerly point. Off shore are the Isles of Scilly (pronounced "silly", not "skilly", and never the Scilly Isles!)
The north coast has it's sandy beaches - Newquay is a surfers' Mecca - but also tiny fishing villages, such as Boscastle, located at the mouths of rivers.
And so to this week's picture, which is of the Lizard.
Friday, 17 September 2010
Thursday, 16 September 2010
Like the vast majority of people in this country, I had never heard of Eileen Nearne until Tuesday. It's not really surprising as she was a spinster living alone in Torquay. She died earlier this month and, as there were no known relatives, the local council is arranging her funeral. But her secret emerged: she was a World War II heroine, having been sent into occupied France to work as a wireless operator for the resistance. Captured and tortured, she refused to give any information and was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp and later a forced labour camp - from which she escaped. All this was reported in the national press (see the Telegraph's article here). The council has now been inundated with enquiries about the funeral and has been forced to move it to a larger church as so many people have expressed the intention of attending to pay their respects. The Royal British Legion will be there and it is reported that there will be a military presence.
I will not be at the funeral but am proud to pay my respects to a courageous woman through the means of this blog.
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Britain which raged from July to September 1940 in the skies above (mainly) south-east England, although Winston Churchill's famous words, 'Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few', were actually spoken on almost a month earlier on 20 August. Despite this, it is generally agreed that the end of the battle occurred on 15 September when two massive waves of German attacks were decisively repulsed by the RAF and the date became known as Battle of Britain Day.
Things today could have been so different. Hitler had made plans for the invasion of Britain but needed air superiority before launching Operation Sea Lion. Had the Luftwaffe succeeded in beating the RAF, goodness knows what might have happened.
shows a Spitfire off Beachy Head, Sussex.
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
Monday, 13 September 2010
OK, so I'm a dog person. I know not everybody is, but I find that very often dogs are preferable to humans so I am. But to get to the point. The French seem, in general, to treat their dogs in two distinctly different ways. In the country, especially on farms, they are often kept outside and usually chained up although they are sometimes kept in a cage-like pen or run. Just how often these creatures are allowed to run across the fields or through the woods is something I have never been able to find out, but as they seem to be kept mainly as guard dogs, I suspect that their exercise is severely limited.
Things tend to be different in the towns, where most of the dogs are small and are allowed everywhere. It is not unusual to see them in clothes shops (Who on earth would want to take a dog with them when they are shopping for clothes?) or even restaurants. Which brings me (finally) to the point. While eating at Buffalo Grill in Calais last Saturday, we spotted three people with a dog in a nearby booth. Two people were sitting on the banquette on one side of the table, the third person was on the banquette opposite - with the dog sitting up to the table beside her. What's more, she was feeding the dog some of her dessert, an ice-cream-sundae-type of confection. And nobody thought this the least bit unusual. Now that really does take the biscuit to my way of thinking.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
I don't usually bother to get a camera out while Mrs BP is driving but I did take a few pictures on the way home yesterday. Considering they were, on the whole, taken through the side window while moving at 70 mph I am quite pleased with the way they came out. This is the cathedral at Sées (I think that is pronounced Say-ez) which looks even better at night when the towers are floodlit.
Then there was this rather attractive farmhouse somewhere in Normandy.
Saturday, 11 September 2010
Devon always used to be called Devonshire but somewhere along the line the ‘shire' bit seems to have dropped off.
From Dorset we follow the Jurassic coast westwards: the greater part might be in Dorset, but there are still 30 miles of it along the south coast of Devon. Some of the beaches are pebbles, but there are glorious stretches of sand which make Sidmouth and Dawlish popular destinations for family seaside holidays. Also in the east of the county is Axminster, world famous for its carpets. The county town of Exeter is one of England's smaller cities but no less attractive for that. The west front of the cathedral, which is 850 years old, is stunning. Moving south-west we come to the towns of Torquay, Paignton (pronounced Painton)and Brixham which are collectively known as the English Riviera. Agatha Christie was born at Torquay.
The pointy, southern part of Devon is where we find the yachting fraternity at Salcombe, Kingsbridge and Dartmouth. Dartmouth is also the site of the Royal Navy's officer training establishment, Britannia Royal Naval College, the naval equivalent of Sandhurst, and was also the port into which the Pilgrom Fathers called on their journey from Southampton to the New World with their ships Mayflower and Speedwell. Some 300 miles west of Land's End, they realised that the Speedwell was unseaworthy and both ships returned to Plymouth - the Mayflower then departed alone to complete the crossing to Cape Cod. Plymouth, with its good, natural harbour, is one of England's main naval bases - although technically the dockyard is in Devonport, the adjoining town. It was on Plymouth Hoe that Sir Francis Drake was reputedly playing bowls when the Spanish armada was sighted approaching England. The drum which accompanied Drake on his journeys is kept at Buckland Abbey, Drake's old home. Legend has it that the drum will sound whenever England is in peril or has defeated a great enemy, or to honour another great hero. When it beats, the spirit of Drake will return to aid his country.
Inland lies Dartmoor, 368 square miles of moor and bog, home to Arthur Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles, wild ponies - and Dartmoor prison, originally built to hold French prisoners in the Napoleonic wars. The Widdecombe valley cuts into the moor and the village of Widdecombe-in-the-Moor is a popular tourist destination.
Devon is one of only two English counties to have both a south and a north coast. The northern coast is quite different from the southern. There are sandy beaches alongside the estuary of the River Torridge, but most of the coast is rugged with steep cliffs dropping to small coves and picturesque fishing villages. Our picture this week is of one of the better known of those villages - Clovelly, where donkeys are used to carry goods up and down the steep, cobbled streets known as Down-Along and Up-Along.
Thursday, 9 September 2010
Saturday, 4 September 2010
To me, Dorset has always seemed an out-of-the-way sort of county. I drove through it on a good many occasions when we were on our way to Devon for family holidays. There was also a period when I travelled by train to Plymouth two or three times a year and would think, as I gazed out of the window at the Blackmoor Hills, what an attractive county it is. But it was not until about six years ago that I really visited Dorset when Mrs BP and I decided to spend a few days there on our way back from a family party in Somerset.
To me, Dorset means Thomas Hardy - Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Far From the Madding Crowd etc. As well as Hardy's cottage, one can see several of the places mentioned in his books. One of the most famous streets in the country - Gold Hill - is to be found in Shaftesbury. Gold Hill became even better known when it was featured in a series of television advertisements for Hovis bread.
But many of the better-known parts of Dorset are on the coast. Close to the large resort of Bournemouth in the far south-east is Poole Harbour where Lord Baden-Powell held the experimental camp which led to him founding the Scout movement on Brownsea Island. Moving west we come to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door before we reach Weymouth, where the sailing events in the 2012 Olympics are to be held. Running south from Weymouth is the narrow isthmus with the road leading to the Isle of Portland. Portland stone has been used in many important buildings and the Cenotaph in London is made from it, as are all the headstones in British war cemeteries across the world. The we pass Chesil Beach and the Abbotsbury swannery before reaching Lyme Regis, the scene of The French Lieutenant's Woman.
Inland again, we must not forget Corfe Castle and Maiden Castle, the largest Iron Age hill fort in Britain (some say in Europe), covering an area of 45 (some say 47) acres.
I am trying, during this tour, to use pictures of places I have visited so this week's picture is of Thomas Hardy's cottage.
Friday, 3 September 2010
Even now that I am retired, I sometimes find it helpful to jot down things that have to be done just as a reminder. I wish I could say the difference is that nowadays I always cross off each one of those jobs, but I still find one left over at the end of the day more often than not. One list I never draw up but should, is the list of things to be done before we leave for France. There always seem to be 101 of them and I think I usually remember all of them, but more than once I have either forgotten something or simply run out of time. This time there are at least two extra jobs that I simply must do and another couple that I should do (but won't). It didn't help that the traffic was horrendous on both the way to and the way back from the kennels where Fern will be spending her week. That has rather put me behind, so I had better get cracking on all those other things.
Tara for now.
Thursday, 2 September 2010
Going off on a tangent, it is interesting to note that British names feature heavily in the world of communication. It was Roland Hill who invented the prepaid postage stamp in 1839. The telephone was invented by a Scotsman - Alexander Graham Bell - in 876, and the inventor of the world wide web was another Brit - Tim Berners-Lee.