Tuesday 25 February 2014

Birds and Trees

Even though I grew up in the countryside, well a village surrounded by countryside, I took the natural world for granted. It wasn't until I moved to more urban locations that I truly appreciated every time my path crossed with nature. 

 Living in London you wouldn't think I'd have much interaction with nature, you'd be surprised. I'm lucky to live at the end of a terrace, this means we get a bigger garden than most as it is the bit of land that falls in between everything else. We have a large sycamore tree and (decreasing) numbers of our neighbours also have trees. This means that as well as a fox dynasty and a family of squirrels we have a diverse avian population. Every year I spend an hour observing them for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.This year was a bit of a failure due to high winds and rain... but 2012 and 2013 did quite well.

This weekend the arboreal population suffered a bit of a set back. Neighbours down the street called in a tree murderer (yes, a tree surgeon). Happily the 'twittering tree' where the tits and robins hang-out could only be cut back over the fence line, not that it didn't lose a few limbs before I noticed what was going on! This adds to the tree nearest the house which Husband voluntarily cut back last year before it could be butchered. My immediate neighbours have no love of nature, my distant neighbours wanted some of their gardens back from under leafy canopies. Far be it for me to point out the importance of the trees for providing homes for wildlife, or their place in the ecological cycle converting CO2 back to oxygen... as long as sunshine gets through and leaves don't clog gutters.



Bird deterrent
Still sulking about the tree issues from the weekend I was therefore not in the mood for the landlord of my office and the pigeon offensive. 

There is a fire escape at the back of the building. One of those bolt on steel ones with columns and beams supporting the rises of stairs. 
Annoyed pigeon
The pigeons like to roost on the beams, and failing that the window sills. It is oddly peaceful hearing them cooing away. No longer. Yesterday a cage of netting surrounded the stairs and evil spikes were placed on the window sills. There are gaps where there are opening lights, so maybe eventually the bird-brains will sit there, but having watched their learning process with food in the garden I have my doubts.

I know that pigeons are considered vermin. They are unwelcome almost everywhere. They are just trying to scratch out their existence the best they can. One reason that you see so many in London with deformed feet is the conditions that they are reduced to; slum dwellings almost. 

I have happy memories of feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square as a child, an activity carried out with almost all visitors for other countries. Outlawed now.

There are still open spaces all over London, the Royal Parks and smaller squares and gardens, so there are still places for the birds (even the pigeons). The picture on the right shows a flock in St James's Park. It shows a variety of rock, stock and feral pigeons.

They are all welcome in our garden any time (although Casper possibly doesn't agree with that, he has opinions about pigeon invasions!).

Wood pigeon muffled against the cold
Collard dove enjoying the sun
A very bold pigeon waiting to be fed
The pigeon invasion

This pigeon was spotted near St Paul's Cathedral and put me on the look out of the 'Little Old Bird Lady'. That lullaby Mary Poppins sings to Jane and Michael in the Disney film?

I'm sure the moral is intended to remind children of charity towards fellow man via the birds - but lets not forget the birds.

Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul's 
The little old bird woman comes.
In her own special way to the people she calls, 
"Come, buy my bags full of crumbs. 

Come feed the little birds, show them you care 
And you'll be glad if you do. 
Their young ones are hungry, 
Their nests are so bare; 
All it takes is tuppence from you." 

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag, 
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag. 
"Feed the birds," that's what she cries, 
While overhead, her birds fill the skies. 

All around the cathedral the saints and apostles 
Look down as she sells her wares. 
Although you can't see it, you know they are smiling 
Each time someone shows that he cares. 

Though her words are simple and few, 
Listen, listen, she's calling to you: 
"Feed the birds, tuppence a bag, 
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag."

Sunday 23 February 2014

Sunday Social (90)

 Linking up with Ashley and Neely

1. What is your favorite breakfast food?
Breakfast food depends on my mood and the time of year. It ranges from porridge to scrambled eggs. If I'm feeling really enthusiastic I might even go for an omelette or French toast. Generally though I'm far too lazy and I settle for some sort of breakfast bar. The constant is though, breakfast must have tea!

2. What is the best way to spend a free day?
Ideally I like to go out and see some bit of London. In reality I'm usually too exhausted and end up sitting around in bed playing the Xbox or pottering with the laptop. Yes, I'm a geek!

3. If you had an airline ticket to anywhere in the world....where would you go and why?
I'm absolutely not a traveller. Crutches make it difficult and tiring, and the sheer vigour of it makes it exhausting. I'm much more of stay at home. Also, I hate to admit this, I'm scared of flying. If I did have airline tickets Husband and I would go to the US East Coast; from Boston to New York and a stop down at Washington. Mostly to see baseball (Red Sox v. Yankees in our house) but a pinch of history too.

4. You can only leave the house with one thing...what is it?
My phone. It runs my life. Reminders to email, calender to camera, and pretty much anything else. Also the Starbucks app means you can buy coffee!!

5. How do you take your coffee?
How I take my coffee depends on the coffee. I don't drink coffee at home as Husband doesn't like the smell, and my brother bought me a box to keep tea bags in sachets so I have a huge selection of gorgeous Twinings tea. Back to coffee, instant coffee I drink white; coffee made in a French press, filter or from a coffee shop I drink black. Every so often I have a yearning for a latte or a cappuccino - I love Starbucks' pumpkin latte around Halloween. When given the opportunity I also like a Turkish coffee. When I'm really tired there is nothing like an espresso to get the day going!

Monday 17 February 2014

New Tech

time, a long, long time ago (well over a decade, anyway) when Husband and I first knew each other there was a computer. Oyster coloured, with a big behemoth of a CRT monitor, it had only one friend; a dot-matrix printer. Not long after this internet entered our lives (sometime around 2001/2 I guess). This took the form of dial-up internet provided by the ever present AOL - as it had a free-phone number it rendered our landline essentially useless and began the long lasting relationship with cellphones in this house.

As online activities became more and more involved in daily life one PC (remember, this was before smartphones) became less and less viable between two people. In 2007 I made the leap into the world of mobile computing. I bought my first laptop. The timing couldn't have been better. I went to Kiev on business; the foolishly didn't come with me. Then my MS had a massive relapse and the laptop came into its own keeping me company the eight weeks I was stuck in bed.

By now we had an inkjet printer and a wireless router; AOL had been replaced by our cable TV provider. Laptops came and went with alarming regularity.

The original Dell laptop (know for expedience as LT) eventually had a motherboard meltdown and refused to charge... eventually fading into twilight obscurity.

The next laptop (Potter) led a long and productive life, retiring when something between the screen and the keyboard went awry and the screen would only light up when open about an inch.

There then followed a slight disaster with Q8. We didn't get on from the moment we met; not helped by the sudden introduction of Windows 8 (just when my work had upgraded to Windows 7 and briefly home and work were seamless). Q8, it has to be said, was a lemon. That isn't entirely fair... for anyone who just uses laptops for internet surfing and a little light document control it would probably do a fair job. I use laptops to have dozens of internet pages open, do heavy graphics work and mess around with websites and digital photos.

So now we have Peri. This is the laptop that will meet my needs. Touchscreen to properly interact with Windows 8 (which I'm slowly getting used to); huge RAM (8GB) for all my progamme needs; 1.6GHz clock speed but with turbo boost up to 2.6GHz. Minor little things like the return of a numerical keypad and generally better spaced keys. The only thing I don't get on with is the touchpad; but the last one I did is all the way back with Potter.

We've had a week of getting to know you; I'm slowly but surely customising the settings and installing the programmes I need; but throughout it all, I've yet to hear the fan labouring away. Q8 is still around whilst I transfer files and he sits doing nothing and wheezing with the fan!

Give us time and Peri and I are going to be quite the team...

Sunday 16 February 2014

Sunday Social (89)

Linking up with Ashley and Neely

1. What are your favorite things to do on a lazy day?
I like to chill out somewhere comfortable, whether in bed, on the sofa of sloth or even on the patio (in the summer). In bed Casper is usually my constant companion; on the sofa of sloth it will be with Husband or in the garden just me, myself and I. Wherever I am I will be accompanied by my phone, my iPad, my Kindle or my laptop (or possibly all of the above) for amusement. Staying in bed also runs the risk of log periods of Xbox gaming!!!

Marvel Lego game... see what I mean about the Xbox
2. What is your tv guilty pleasure?
I really don't think that I have one. I don't watch soaps, and I don't watch reality TV shows. All the shows I watch are quite well know dramas and comedies.

3. What is your favorite road trip music?
Neither Husband nor I drive, so road trips aren't something that feature much in our lives.

I do like Robert Miles (especially 'Children') and similar when in a car. Anything that lets the imagination roam free will do in fact.


Last year when I flew to Scotland I found Allegri's 'Miserere' very uplifting (pun intended) at 30,000ft.

4. What are your favorite magazines of books to read by the pool or laying around?
I am not much of a magazine fan. Given my notorious short attention span you'd think I would be. It doesn't help that i'm too old for Cosmopolitan, too poor for Vogue and not quite ready to read the same magazine as Mutti and MiL - Good Housekeeping. When it comes to books I will happily pick up an old friend (Gone with the Wind, one of my favourite Stephen Baxter or Douglas Adams) but anything that is well written and a good read will do me.

5. What is your favorite snack?
Wasabi coated peanuts. A snack with bite! Mutti got me some as a gift on my hen night which came with little hand-tongs to keep your fingers dust free!

Friday 14 February 2014


Another interactive Google Doodle - make your own gift!!!

Sunday 9 February 2014

Sunday Social (88)

Linking up with Ashley and Neelly - today is all about TV and movies.

1. What is your favorite thing to watch on a girls night? 
I don't think I've ever had a girls night with movies; but if I had to choose from my own movies then I'd probably pick Legally Blonde - good girls movie!
2. What is your favorite thing to watch on your day off? 
I'm not sure what to pick first; there are so many box sets that I could sit and happily watch. Take your pick for some of these!

3. What is your favorite thing to watch when you're sick? 
The Simpsons. Every time the next box set comes out Husband buys it for me for birthday or Christmas. I can happily have them running and running.
4. What is the last movie you saw in the theater? 
On our honeymoon : Now You See Me. Totally a brilliant movie to see in the theatre, and certainly one to own on Blu-Ray.


5. What are your top three favorite movies or tv shows? 
The amount of TV and movies that get watched in this house that is a really (really) tough question. I'm going to stick with TV (it is too tough to pick out the movies); top three TV - Burn Notice, The West Wing  and Psych (I own the first two box sets, the last belongs to Husband). This is current - ask me five years ago or in five years time I'm sure you'll get a different list.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Kitten-cat dreams

From a young age Casper insisted his name was Casper K Cat. Nobody knew what the 'K' was for.
As he got older he didn't get any wiser or any less fun. We found out that 'K' was in fact for kitten.
Casper had his routines and rituals, just the same as the rest of the house. MiL does the litter mostly and some meals, Husband does most other meals, I do occasional meals and lots of brushing and playing. I get the best deal.
When I get in from work Casper comes to get me (unless he is in a really warm spot). We might have a little game or brush. Husband and I settle down for the evening. The cat comes and goes and scratches the sofa and plays cute to get his treats.
He then may (if we're lucky) settle down. More often he herds me towards bed. Not straight to bed though.
First we have some time in the bathroom while I brush my teeth (because we keep cats in the  bathroom).
Next a brief stop in the landing bed, to keep an eye on the house.
Next a race for the bed, to the victor the comfy spot. Knead the blanket, find a spot. Have a wash, look for bugs. Find a new spot, get some petting and be professionally cute.
We're not done. Another wash and then race off for important feline affairs. Rinse and repeat. Several times. When people are asleep (our even better nearly asleep) jump he'll jump up with a 'miaow' (just in case you didn't know he was there).
Time to bed-share. It may be a king size bed, but a lot of out goes to the cat! Time to dream kitten dreams.

Sunday 2 February 2014

Sunday Social (87)

Linking up with Ashley and Neely for the Sunday Social
This week is all about four.

1. 4 favourite bands you loved in high school
I didn't have any really. I barely discovered popular music whilst at school; I studied music through GCSE and A-level (and a year at University) so I was much more focused on 'classical' music. Beethoven, Chopin and Mozart were my three favourite composers.

I have a bust of Beethoven. We had one at school in the music room (identical to this but bigger) and we used to keep the headphones on it. I guess you had to be there...

2. 4 go to meals you'd love to learn to cook or can cook really well
I do things with mince... I can make a passable spag-bol and a pretty good chilli con carne. I love making stir fries - whatever happens to be around but plenty of garlic, ginger and chilli. My husband's favourite is my vegetable soup. Easy to make and pretty healthy too!

3. 4 necessities to your daily life
My husband (I love saying that since we got married and do so at every opportunity!) - he is my rock, my confidante and my daily helper (without him buttons can't be done and shoe laces can't be tied!). Casper (my cat) who provides constant companionship, fun and amusement and sometimes irritation (only when he is naughty) - I grew up with dogs so I can say that cats can be just as companionable and loyal. My phone (it hardly leaves my side to which Husband will attest) - it runs my life. My crutches - without them I just fall down... I'm used to it, I mostly bounce, but it alarms other people.

4. 4 make up necessities you must have if you could only have 4 on
I hardly ever wear make up. I'm going out later and the four things I'm currently wearing is some Yves St Laurent Touche Eclat, eyeliner and mascara and lipstick... so that is obviously the four!

5. 4 favourite apps on your phone or iPad
Only four!!! See Answer 3 above... well the most used... Plume (an excellent Twitter client on Android) - you can colour friends different colours so you can pick their Tweets out from the crowd. Instagram - I adore sharing my photos (look me TheMrsNatG). Also Weather+ (the most reliable weather app) and Shazam (for those, what is this tune moments).