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Weasel and the Swan


Today I played the banjo to a swan for an hour. There were three of them in the big field behind the house, but two of them flew away while I was fetching my ‘jo. Have you ever heard a swan fly? It’s like heavy machinery. Whuff-whuff-whuff-whuff.

I intended to write a song especially for him. I was going to call it There’s a Swan in the Big Field Behind the House. But I suck at composing so, really, I just played some of my favorite odd chords at him before settling down to a standard bluegrass repertoire.

First he stood on one leg for a while. Then he stood on the other leg for a while. Then he tucked his head under his wing and had a little kip. Then his friends came back and they all flew off together.

A most enjoyable afternoon.

Have a good Easter, everyone!

April 14, 2017 — 7:56 pm
Comments: 14



Not my birds. Somebody else’s birds. I didn’t have a picture of mine running. I’ll definitely have to get some this Summer, as there’s nothing quite as funny as a flock of chickens running at you full tilt.

The quarantine was lifted today, at last. It was lifted for most of the country weeks ago, but we are in what is regarded as a high risk area, so we had to keep our birds bottled up a little longer.

On a serious note, the quarantine may have played a role in the death of Violence and Vita. Chickens are susceptible to bacterial infections caught off their own poop, and being locked up exposed them to it for longer periods.

That’s something I learned from my chicken course: for all people go on about the cruelty of cage-reared birds, they are generally healthier than barn-reared or free range birds because their poop falls through the bottom of the cage and away.

So. Today is the start of a four-day weekend for me. Brits take more official time off at Easter than Christmas! I’ll be back here tomorrow with something pointless and inane to say, though. That’s my promise to you!

April 13, 2017 — 9:35 pm
Comments: 10

There are two kinds of websites in this world


There are sites that will describe this as “Aurora Caught by Hubble Space Telescope” and there are sites that will say “Something Weird is Spotted Coming Out of Uranus.”

This blog, for example, would never be caught making cheap double entendres about Uranus. This blog is alllllll about the dick jokes.

It is an aurora, like the ones we get (Jupiter and Saturn, too) and the brightest we’ve ever seen on Uranus, apparently. Uranus is hard to study because it’s a completely featureless frozen blue gas ball.

They used an ultraviolet doohickey built into Hubble to find this aurora — and interestingly proved that it moves with the rotation of the planet. They also managed to rediscovered the magnetic poles which have been missing pretty much ever since Voyager found them because, again, featureless blue gas ball.

Also, note rings.

Oh, hey, did you see the moon last night? Holy cow, was it huge! The news said it was going to be pink, but it was gold here. On the horizon, anyhow.

April 12, 2017 — 8:16 pm
Comments: 19

Chicken drama


They came together and they left together. Vita fell ill last night and, before we could get her to the vet, died this morning. Similar symptoms to Violence, but much faster. They were both six years old.

As it turns out, the vet called and told us not to bring her in just before she died. I didn’t realize the prohibition on moving live chickens meant you can’t take a sick one to the doctor, but it does. Quarantine officially over here this Thursday, but there was some discussion whether DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) would want to get involved and might want a necropsy. Their symptoms were not consistent with bird flu, though, so I don’t think we’ll hear back on that score. They can’t take an interest in every dead backyard chicken.

So, symptoms not really consistent with bird-to-bird transmission — Violence died three weeks before Vita got sick — but it’s hard not to think there’s a connection. I’m guessing bacterial infection. A nasty wild bird poop in the run or something.

Vita was the most beautiful chicken in my flock — a big, blowsy bird with gorgeous markings — but she had a sad life. From the beginning, she was the pariah hen. The other chickens pecked at her something awful and she stood took it patiently. Probably what made her bottom hen. Normal chickens squawk and run away from the beak.

Sometimes I’d find her all by herself in the flower border, blissing out in her own private dust bath.

As a precaution, I’ve closed the old run and put old Mapp in with the young chickens. Last I checked on them, they were on the perch as far as possible from her. Ewwww…nobody wants to sleep next to grandma – she smells!

April 11, 2017 — 7:08 pm
Comments: 15



That’s the Silk Road Train leaving the station today on its maiden voyage from Britain straight to China pulling thirty containers of British goods. Bit of a misnomer, as this is actually the return trip, but w/e.

That’s 7,500 miles in 18 days. I make that 416 miles a day, for an average of 17 miles an hour. It does stop several places and switch engines, but I don’t think it takes on additional cargo. China already has similar rail services with a dozen other countries along the way.

It’s China’s idea. This is cheaper than moving goods by air and faster than container ships. I’m not sure it will work out — something about the logistics of trains never seems to be economical — but I think it’s neat that they’re trying.

One of the things going to China is whisky. We know someone whose son is a whisky dealer in Hong Kong. They can’t get enough of the stuff. The good stuff, too.

Age of wonders, y’all.

April 10, 2017 — 8:18 pm
Comments: 8



They made a Guinness Record attempt today: most balloons across the Channel, from Dover to France. I had heard they were going to try for 100, but the article says 82 definitely made it. The previous record was 49, so this should be no problem.

Except – they forgot to notify Guinness.

Eh. I’m sure they’ll let them make the application retroactively. They have plenty of photographic evidence.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

April 7, 2017 — 8:11 pm
Comments: 10



That, my friends, is a batter-dipped and deep-fried Cadbury creme egg. Available from a fish and chip shop (know colloquially as a “chippy”) in Deal, next door in Kent. As the news site put it “Walmer Fish & Chips, in The Strand, near Deal, have begun battering Creme Eggs for the very first time to celebrate the rebirth of Jesus.”

A deeply spiritual people.

And don’t miss the sister article: the day the Cadbury Creme Egg Bus visited Kent.

Oh, and I’m sure you’ve heard — Don Rickles is dead. And, in a final insult to you all, nobody had him in the Dead Pool.

April 6, 2017 — 8:20 pm
Comments: 21



A long-time activist against Trump’s golf course in Scotland (courses, actually. He apparently has several), walked across the green, dropped trou and took a whiz. She says she got caught short and hid discreetly in the dunes, but was filmed doing it by three men including the groundskeeper. The latter, having every right to think some kind of crime was happening before him, called the cops. Money quote:

She added she was “shocked” to be told by police she had been filmed, leaving her “slightly paranoid” about urinating outside.

Dear Scottish woman: I would like you to be very paranoid about peeing outside. In fact, I’d rather you didn’t pee outside at all. Thanks.

She sued him because the course was not registered with the Information Officer. Yes, that’s a thing. You have to do it if your business takes pictures of the public. I had to register our little historical society because we have CCTV.

Trump could have found the £3,000 she sought in the folds of his cardigan — I’m sure he does laps in his money pool like Scrooge McDuck — but then the next publicity-hungry activist would probably have taken a poo in the clubhouse. Oh, and she lost.

I’m not sure why the opposition is not getting it. If they keep REEEEing at every little thing Trump does, but the time he makes a serious error (and, let’s face it, the chances of that are non-zero), nobody will be listening. Age of wonders, folks.

April 5, 2017 — 8:58 pm
Comments: 5

Let me just make a note of that


I promise you, I do not read, follow or subscribe to The Daily Undertaker. It’s just, I cannot find a more respectable website for this story: artist Nadine Jarvis, who makes stuff out of dead people. Bird houses, stuff like that.

Not unusual. Lots of people are making stuff with cremains. Vinyl records, cubic zirconia. We live in an age of wonders.

But Nadine’s special trick is, she makes pencils out of dead people. The graphite part in the middle, anyway. Each inscribed with your name and dates in gold, with an attractive wooden box.

My favorite thing, while I was banging around looking for a good website for this — several bloggers remarked on how many pencils you get. Something like 250. And how that made it easier to use them and not be precious about them. I’d imagine that would go something like this:

Person: “Oh my god! You had your mother’s remains made into pencils???”
Other person: “But there are so many of them!”

I don’t know if it’s a real production thing she’s actually doing, or just an arty one-off. She’s clearly lost control of nadinejarvis.com, which goes to a general directory of funeral goods. Plenty of people buzzing about it, though, so…art accomplished, I guess.


April 4, 2017 — 9:11 pm
Comments: 15

I can’t quite talk him into it


That’s the Stoer Head Lighthouse in Scotland, and it’s for sale. They’re asking £367,000 (about $450K), which sounds a lot, but isn’t really for here. Well, it is for Scotland, but not for a 19th Century lighthouse built by Robert Louis Stevenson’s dad (who was bitterly disappointed his boy didn’t go into engineering).

It’s on the mainland, so no tiresome ferries, but it’s a fairly long hop to a pack of cigarettes. Two complete apartments and a bothy (sort of a liveable shed). The article says it gets 10,000 visitors a year (almost certainly birdwatchers). I reckon you could spin a tidy little business out of it.

Whatever. Sometimes, stuff comes on the market here that makes me write whole novels in my head.

April 3, 2017 — 8:32 pm
Comments: 16