Sunday 31 January 2010

Big Garden Bird Watch

This weekend was the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch so I spent some time in the garden on Saturday afternoon (when it wasn't too chilly) and a lot of time looking out of the window on Sunday afternoon (when it was too chilly). It wasn't my best birdwatching experience - I think the birds are roosting somewhere with their beaks under their wings - but I did see quite a bit of the big fat pigeons and the squirrells.

The big fat pigeons are moving into the ivy tree - a lot of desperate fluttering as birds far too large for the tiny twigs they land on strive to keep their balance - I think love might be in the air for the big fat pigeons!

The blackbird is sitting in the 'twittering tree' (usually full of the blue tits and great tits) keeping an eye on proceedings. Meanwhile Cleo (one of the 'regular' pigeons keeps an eye on things from the safety of the roof.

The squirrels seem to have taken over the far end of the garden. Not only the peanut feeder now, but the food tray as well - and the fat balls if all else fails!

The big fat pigeon hasn't figured out how to work these feeders yet - he sat there for half an hour thinking about it. A couple of his friends have worked out the ones in the shrubbery... on lands on the branches and bounces around and then they pick up the seeds that fall to the ground!

One of the squirrel gang (there are four or five of them) got fed up with fighting with his friends and came up the other end of the garden. How cute, I said looking out of the window - who me, asked the squirrel putting his paw to his chest!

These are my garden watching posts - I can enjoy the wildlife from the (relative) warmth of my kitchen... with the help of my zoom lens!

I can't wait for Spring to arrive and to be able to spend more time in the garden... and of course for all my amphibian friends to re-appear!

Saturday 30 January 2010

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Little Bits of London (4)

A pedestrian crossing on London Wall

All change please

Regular travellers who rely on the Jubilee Line from North Greenwich suffer a lot. Not just the fact that it is practically never working at weekends; but assorted delays and disruptions when it is running. Well the journey to and from work just got a little bit worse with the closure of the bus station for resurfacing workings for a hellish eight weeks.

This means that beautifully spaced and organised bus stops; where buses commence their journey based largely on route and ultimate destination is swept away to be replace by unmitigated chaos and the us of stops F & G. These are down on the main road in a lay-by. A lay-by frequently used by vehicular traffic prohibited from the bus station (that would be everything except for buses and black cabs) for drop off and pick up. The buses do have assigned stops - but when more than two arrive at the same time that doesn't mean much. And arrivals - well they've taken to abandoning passengers on the opposite site of the road!

Maybe they will finish ahead of schedule?!

Sunday 24 January 2010

Greedy little pests

Yes, they are cute and furry. They also have insatiable appetites; having claimed the nut feeder for their own they have now made a start on the seed tray too! One reason that the squirrels are a nuisance - the other being that they persist in digging up the lawn, the shrubbery, plant pots... anything which isn't paved really!

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Raining Again

I think somebody lost their umbrella... but how?!

Great Thrift!

Opening the post earlier this week I noticed an amazing example of 'waste not want not'. As the half-penny ceased to be legal tender in this country in 1984 (twenty-five years ago!) these stamps had to pre-date that time. In fact they were part of the Christmas set (the first class stamp). I'm amazed that somebody managed to hold on to these for twenty-five years and then use two of them together to form current first class postage tariff!

Sunday 17 January 2010

Nature is amazing

Despite inches of snow and weeks of sub-zero temperatures and thick ice over just about everything the garden has bounced back.

The fish in the pond are venturing out (cautiously)  - I have just managed to fish the net ing out of the water now that all the ice has melted!

My herbs are miraculously still thriving along with most of the other plant life in the garden!

When the sun is out everything seems fresher, newer and more positive. Everything is full of possibilities and I seem to have more energy, and this isn't even Spring yet!

The sun shining through my back door and catching a mobile hanging in my kitchen window - I've had it since I was a baby and it has lived everywhere with me.

Week without weather

Well - that isn't actually true... there is always weather. The weather this week has, at last, been slightly less full of snow, although rather more full of rain. The pouring rain over several days has raised temperatures and washed away what was left of the snow. Even our garden pond is un-frozen now.

I decided, on Monday, to go through six months (yes, six months) worth of magazine subscriptions. This led to the decision to cancel two of the subscriptions. Somehow, even though I'm not a big magazine reader, I had managed to amass the most amazing pile of back-dated reading material. Some of them, as I mentioned, we buy (Windows Magazine, Empire and SFX); some of them come from various memberships (MS Matters, three different RICS publications); a few of them come from the supermarkets (both ASDA and Sainsbury have their own in-house magazines) and some I buy on a whim (Xbox 360 and Good Housekeeping). I used to buy a lot of different titles, until I discovered that I wasn't reading most of them. I am alarmed to discover that my womens' magazine of choice is now Good Housekeeping... I hadn't realised I was that old!

The most exciting thing to happen this week was the statement from my on-line savings account. This had a surprising amount of money in it - which led to the realisation of a long held dream that Rich and I have cherished. To replace our TV set. When we first lived together we rented a TV from Radio Rentals (remember them!?!) - after a while I decided that, even though we didn't have money to buy one outright (TVs were expensive back then) we could get one on the 'never-never' (hire purchase) and at least one day it would be ours. That was around 8 or 9 years ago. The TV we got, at the time, was state of the art. Although it was a traditional type TV it had a flattened screen (very rare back then) and surround sound speakers which were positioned around the room. It cost well into four figures... and because of this my mantra was always that it wouldn't be replaced until it broke down.

However, as flat screen LCD TV's become more common place and more affordable, and the connections in the back of our old TV increasingly obsolete I decided that it was time for us to join the 21st Century and get a new TV. So we did. Watching TV last night we had to keep turning to each other to exclaim on the superior picture quality of the new TV. Given that it has no additional speakers the sound quality isn't even that bad!

Whilst Rich was assembling the TV stand and hooking up all the peripherals (a process which I have found through years of experience it is best to leave him to) I was catching up on a week's worth of blog reading, emails and other assorted on-line activities.

Somehow I stumbled across this game from Armor Games - GemCraft. I would seriously not recommend getting started with this one unless you have a few hours to spare. It is a simple 'tower defence' game... at first glance. It requires a lot of strategy and there is a pretty steep learning curve in some levels. You get to the stage where you are determined to beat that level you are stuck on before giving up for the day. You have been warned.

Saturday 9 January 2010

Snow again

It started snowing again this afternoon. I had reconciled myself to the fact that it wasn't going to melt any time soon - but I had hoped it might refrain from snowing further!

You can just about see the snow falling in this photo - they weren't huge flakes, neither was it particularly heavy... just persistent!

It is doing no good to the shrub life at all... the pond is covered in think ice (small animals are continue to use it as a skating rink) and the birds and squirrels appear to be reliant on us to feed them.

Well done to Greenwich Council who have cleared and gritted the road and pavement in our street (which is not a 'priority route' by any means). That is a development today... just in time for the next fall of snow!

I walked home from The Village on Thursday night and found the pavement conditions were variable at that point. The Village itself had been cleared and gritted and snow was barely evident... some high traffics route just outside of The Village had taken on the consistency of a 'slushie' went ice, passable with care. Further along the snow had partially melted and re-frozen to form a sort of perma-frost, barely passable and only with the utmost of concentration... more ice-rink that footpath. In some quieter areas the footpaths remained covered in compacted snow... that gorgeous crunching sound still to be heard underfoot... passable, again, with care.

I chose to accrue a day of library fines today as I really didn't want to walk up to The Village (and there is no way on earth I'm taking the car out until the snow melts) and as I've an appointment at the hospital on Monday and have to go out I figured that the books can wait.

Friday 8 January 2010

More snow and ice

All you can see in our snow covered garden right now are various animal tracks. Top left - foxes and cats have been crossing the lawn. Top right - a bird walked around in a circle! Bottom left - a popular patch for birds; bottom right - our front drive is a short-cut for the local foxes!

The ice is pretty thick on the pond now - hopefully the pond life is all hibernating in the deepest part now. Some very brave (or foolish) animals have been taking short-cuts across the ice!

Yes, it is entirely as cold out as it looks. I can at last enjoy the beauty of the snow, as today I don't have to go to work.

First thing in the morning the sun hits the front of the house. Some of the snow on the roof has been melting and dripping; from the roof... to the window cills... and down... and down... leaving us with a lot of icicles.
Wow! They are quite something, aren't they?!

Thursday 7 January 2010

Snow and Ice

Looking out of my office window it is hard to believe that most of the country is still shivering under a blanket of snow. Central London has (touch wood) escaped the worst. It did snow yesterday afternoon - quite heavily on occasion... but happily it was too warm (relatively) for it to settle.

The same wasn't true, unfortunately, in South East London. Heavy snowfall throughout the day and a few degrees cooler temperature meant that a healthy covering of snow remained on the pavements; and although main roads had been kept (mostly) clear the side roads were a lethal mix of snow turning to ice.

The buses from North Greenwich weren't even trying to navigate Charlton Church Lane on the way home last night and were diverted via Woolwich. Not the same story this morning. We took a very ginger trip through the snow and ice down Charlton Church Lane and missed out the Millennium Village altogether!

Still a relatively simple journey to work compared to some. I wasn't too happy to arrive at my office (still freezing cold) to find the fire alarm going off. This was the first of four false alarms through the morning - the outcome of which is that the boiler switches off (so that the gas supply doesn't blow up in the fire). Disturbed by bells - and freezing cold!

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Climate Change and the Weather

Today most of the UK is shivering under various degrees of snow. As I look out of my office window it is falling thick and fast (although... long may it continue... not settling). The Daily Express uses this as another excuse (in a long line of excuses) to continue their quest as climate change deniers. This is a short article - which doesn't really go into the arguments one way or the other - but, nevertheless, made the front page of the print edition.

Regular readers know that I am an ardent campaigner for action against climate change... so I'm not exactly unbiased but a far better article was published by the Guardian .

I'm not a scientist... I gave up physics and biology aged 14 and failed by Chemistry GCSE (well I got a D so technically it was a pass... but a pretty poor one). I gave up geography along with the sciences... but even I can understand the basic science. Number 1 - winter will always be colder than summer.... the rotation of the earth moves that hemisphere further away from the sun. Number 2 - precipitation (and by extension snow) is caused by convection and condensation... as I learnt (aged around six) "hot air rises, cools, condenses and down comes the rain". My understanding is that warming oceans mean more rising hot air and more extreme weather (storms, rain, snow, etc.).

I think the problem is that we started by calling it Global Warming... although technically correct what people imagine is long hot summers (warming) - forgetting (as the Guardian points out) the 'global'. Read both articles... make up your own mind - but I shall continue my efforts in fighting climate change; I don't think a snow storm outside makes any difference to the mess the planet is in!

Swans in the park

The first swan looks a little perplexed that the lake in St James' Park has turned to ice. His friend has tucked his legs up to keep warm and is indulging in some personal grooming!

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Monday 4 January 2010

The big comedown

January is probably one of the bleakest months of the year. It is (nearly always) extremely cold... although (happily, at least for the moment) without snow. Add to this the big Christmas comedown. The excesses of food and drink... of rubbish TV, the happy hours spent indoors, with family and friends... all finished and it is time to get back to the real world... back to work.

I'm back to my three-day week... so I don't start back until tomorrow - but today still has the January blues attached, especially since I slept so badly last night; what with severe itching and vivid dreams (that irritatingly woke me up every few hours) I could go for another few hours nap... however the back to work regime means no more naps!

My fledgling cold still refuses to develop into a proper cold and I'm still suffering with a dull headache and scratchy throat... go away already!

Oh yes, and to top it all - bus and tube fares have gone up too. Back to pay as you go travel for me and an extra 50p per day (use TfL's handy fare finder)... which is £1.50 per week... which is £6 per month. Thanks TfL and Boris.

Sunday 3 January 2010

Garden friends

A daily activity for us is checking that our garden friends are surviving the winter. Making sure the birds (and the squirrels) have enough to eat, making sure that there are holes in the ice in all the ponds, and other general maintenance issues.

Rich had already topped up the nut feeders to ensure that our fat little squirrels didn't go hungry (as if!) but I noticed that the pigeons and the blackbird were hopping around looking hopeful so I gave them some of last week's stale bread (trust me, this is a delicacy amongst the birds of SE7).

It is a lovely winter afternoon outside. Very cold but crisp and clear with late afternoon sunshine just about filtering through the trees.

Blackbird eating the crumbs left by the squirrel... and then enjoying the breadcrumb feast... yesterday he went as far as hanging from the fat-ball feeder, most ungainly!

Fat little squirrel in "where did I leave those nuts" shocker! Then he realises the feeder is full and goes back to stuffing his face.

The blue-tits and great-tits always feel the need to 'scope' the feeders before eating - presumably to check they aren't full? By the way... these feeding poles are not 'squirrel proof'... he just takes a long run up to climb the pole! Note in the photo on the right the squirrel is still eating.

Even my little round red tennis balls with wings, the robins, were out today. They are pretty much the sole users of the feeding tray (the blackbird is far too lazy) - apart from when the squirrels exhaust all other avenues!

For me nothing epitomises a winter afternoon in the garden more than the cool clear sunlight low in the sky filtering through the trees.

This is our very own 'Nickle Nackle Tree'. For those not lucky enough to grow up with it; this was a childrens' counting book by Lynley Dodd. I still own a copy - it is a beautifully illustrated and I can still recite the rhyme by heart thirty years later! It is now back in print and if you have a child in your life this one is a must. This is the Nickle Nackle Tree because the birds love it - to quote Lynley Dodd "on every twisty branch there was a jumbly jam of birds".

Some of our feathered friends seems to have decided to get a head start for the spring. This rather thrown together nest is perched precariously in one of the shrubs.