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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Hacking intent?

Yesterday numbers of visitors were up on a couple of my blogs. Now, I welcome anyone from any part of the planet, but it is strange how numbers seem to double and most of these are from Russia.  This is a pattern I have seen before and I know others have seen similar.

It looks very suspicious to me like they are probing for vulnerable sites to hack with malicious intent. Sorry but I think my content is pretty innocuous! 

Should my blogs suddenly go you will know the reason. If you suddenly get links to porn sites or sites offering you lots of money you'll know I have been "got at". I try to screen and delete dodgy comments that are clearly outright ads or with links to dodgy sites, but please let me know if you find any that I have missed.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Gardening

In the last few weeks with some decent sunshine the garden has "come alive". There is new growth everywhere.

Here I am in the garden earlier. Lis (my wife) has done most of the work.

Today has been good too. I cut the grass.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Cattle Egrets

Before the late 1980s, seeing a little egret in the UK would have been rare. Now they are everywhere. I have even seen these in our village.

Now it is the turn of the cattle egrets, which are becoming increasingly common in Devon. These are slightly smaller than little egrets with a different bill colour. They tend to be near cattle.

See https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/c/cattleegret/

North Norfolk

Yesterday we drove up to North Norfolk. We ate at "The Old Reading Room" in Kelling. This is a simple place run by real locals and serving simple, no nonsense food.

Later we went to the coast for a short walk where we saw these hardy fishermen.

Lady Day

Today, March 25th, is Lady Day. Years ago, this marked the start of the year. The UK tax year starts April 6th, which was Lady Day before calendars changed. This day had great non-liturgical importance too. I remember my parents moving house on Lady Day 1959.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Day

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Cowslips

The first cowslips have appeared here and, by any measure, we are now officially in spring. The clocks go forward this coming weekend.

100 sand martins (birds) have been seen in Devon. These are migrants often seen returning about now. I remember my dad telling me when he first saw these over the golf course. He died in 1987 sadly. I miss him.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

365project - a photo a day

For several years now my wife and I have (separately) taken a photo every day and submitted them to 365project. For $19.99 a year you can make the images private so only the people you choose can see them. You can then also have more albums if you want.

Some of the photos sent in are "arty", but many are just a record of ordinary life. Looking back over the years, you can see what you were doing.

Often the most mundane subject matter is popular. Some years ago I remember a photo of mine of a mole hole being widely viewed, whereas something I thought would interest many turned out not to be.

We mainly do this for a record of what we did rather than to be particularly popular. It is great fun. The secret is not to take things too seriously.

Heathers in UK gardens

Heathers are usually associated with moorland.

At this time of the year, heathers are in flower in UK gardens. This show was in a nearby garden on our small Close. 

Sadly, they do not look so good all year around. They look very good at the moment and make good ground cover.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Martin McGuinness Dead

Martin McGuinness has died of a rare heart condition at the age of 66. In his younger days he was a key member of the IRA and wedded to violence.

In later years he was deputy first minister in Northern Ireland working with Ian Paisley and was one of the "chuckle brothers", showing that mutual respect between two very different people is possible.

I am sure to the end he was very much in favour of a united Ireland, but he came to realise votes not bullets would bring this about.  He changed, as did Ian Paisley.

My hope and prayer is that those that follow will walk in the path of peace. Jaw, jaw is always better than war, war. This applies whatever your political beliefs.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-39185899 .

Rare sunny day

We live in the last bungalow on the left overlooking the restored windmill. The windmill is nearly 200 years old. Today we have had a rare sunny day, although the rest of the week looks rainy. We are lucky to have a nice spot.

The museum, of which the windmill is a just a small part, goes on and on. It must be one of the very best local museums in the whole country. It is open from Easter to late October on Thursdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. If you visit, you may be surprised by what is there.

See http://www.burwellmuseum.org.uk/ .

Monday, 20 March 2017

Visitors to Cambridge

As a famous university town, Cambridge gets a fair number of visitors. With BREXIT, I guess the money now goes even further.

This was a group of visitors from the Far East outside St Johns College. Of course, you have to take a few photos! This café, Le Pattesier, just opposite St Johns, serves decent meals at decent prices, with a smile.

Backs (Cambridge), UK

Recently, we visited the Backs (of the colleges) in nearby Cambridge, UK. With all the flowers out, this really is a sight. This is in the grounds of St Johns College.

We really are quite lucky living so close. As residents, we get free entry into the colleges.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Soul shards

This was first posted here in November 2011:

Michael Rainey, a ham radio friend from New Hampshire posted this on Facebook today.   I thought I'd share it here too. It is the chapter called, "Soul-Shards" from Douglas Hofstadter's book, "I Am A Strange Loop", a book I have not read (yet).
"One gloomy day in early 1991, a couple of months after my father died, I was standing in the kitchen of my parents house and my mother, looking at a sweet and touching photograph of my father taken perhaps fifteen years earlier, said to me, with a note of despair, “What meaning does that photograph have? None at all. It’s just a flat piece of paper with dark spots on it here and there. It’s useless.” The bleakness of my mother’s grief-drenched remark set my head spinning because I knew instinctively that I disagreed with her, but I did not quite know how to express to her the way I felt the photograph should be considered.

After a few minutes of emotional pondering - soul-searching, quite literally - I hit upon an analogy that I felt could convey to my mother my point of view, and which I hoped might lend her at least a tiny degree of consolation. What I said to her was along the following lines.

“In the living room we have a book of the Chopin etudes for piano. All of its pages are just pieces of paper with dark marks on them, just as two-dimensional and flat and foldable as the photograph of Dad - and yet, think of the powerful effect that they have had on people all over the world for 150 years now. Thanks to those black marks on those flat sheets of paper, untold thousands of people have collectively spent millions of hours moving their fingers over the keyboards of pianos in complicated patterns, producing sounds that give them indescribable pleasure and a sense of great meaning. Those pianists in turn have conveyed to many millions of listeners, including you and me, the profound emotions that churned in Frederic Chopin’s heart, thus affording all of us some partial access to Chopin’s interiority - to the experience of living in the head, or rather the soul, of Frederic Chopin. The marks on those sheets of paper are no less than soul-shards - scattered remnants of the shattered soul of Frederic Chopin. Each of those strange geometries of notes has a unique power to bring back to life, inside our brains, some tiny fragment of the internal experiences of another human being - his sufferings, his joys, his deepest passions and tensions - and we thereby know, at least in part, what it was like to be that human being, and many people feel intense love for him. In just as potent a fashion, looking at that photograph of Dad brings back, to us who knew him intimately, the clearest memory of his smile and his gentleness, activates inside our living brains some of the most central representations of him that survive in us, makes little fragments of his soul dance again, but in the medium of brains other than his own. Like the score to a Chopin etude, that photograph is a soul-shard of someone departed, and it is something we should cherish as long as we live.”

Although the above is a bit more flowery than what I said to my mother, it gives the essence of my message. I don’t know what effect it had on her feelings about the picture, but that photo is still there, on a counter in her kitchen, and every time I look at it, I remember that exchange."

Northern Ireland

One of the thorny Brexit issues will be Northern Ireland (Ulster). This has a land border with Eire which will remain in the EU. Currently, there is free movement north and south across this border. What happens when the UK leaves the EU?

Most unionists do not want a united island of Ireland. Most in Sin Fein would like to see the island reunited. I, for one, do not see how this will be resolved. Maybe a political "fudge" with the north somehow independent? No, I think Theresa May, the UK PM, has a really tricky issue here.

Ancestors

My ancestors come from South Devon. Many still live near here. I have a continuous genealogy back to the mid-1500s and one of my ancestors owned a piece of land near here in 1428. It is good to think of them enjoying this all those years ago. The cycle of life goes on.

Mr Trump

A lot of people in the USA voted him into office. As yet, he has still to demonstrate true statesman-like behaviour on the world stage. He will be judged by this. We have not yet had him in office 100 days, so it would be wrong to judge him too soon, although personally I have not been impressed.

Signs of life in the garden

There are stirrings in the garden.

After what seemed like a long, dull winter, the daffodils are in flower, snowdrops are past their best, and there are buds on the trees and bushes. Only a few weeks hopefully and we'll see the first swallows back from Africa. I have seen them April 1st in Devon, but they are usually later here in East Anglia.

So, the cycle of life goes on.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Violets everywhere

This spring we seem to have violets everywhere! Usually we see some, but this year they appear to be all over the place! Now, we had a mild, damp winter, so I am wondering if these conditions particularly favour violets?  Also daffodils were late this year but suddenly they are all out in a wonderful sea of yellow.

This year we have had a wetter winter than I can ever remember. Perhaps this is a result of global warming?

Monday, 13 March 2017

Newmarket

We live about 4 miles from Newmarket, which is the horse racing capital of the world. The area is surrounded by studs, many of which are owned by rich Arab sheiks.

We do most of our food shopping in Newmarket. In this town, the horse is king and cars often give way to passing strings of horses being exercised. 

A trip up to Newmarket Heath is often accompanied by horses galloping.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Anglesey Abbey Daffodils

A few weeks ago it was seas of snowdrops. These are now past their best and it seems there are daffodils in flower all over the place. There are always great shows of these at nearby Anglesey Abbey. Another 2 weeks and they will all look superb.

Cambridge Bikes

Cambridge is famous as a university town filled with bikes! This shot, just across the road from Trinity College, is typical. There are a lot of bikes in Cambridge. In the summer months it is filled with foreign students on bikes, most who are lost and not used to being on the left of the road.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Dalham

This is a "chocolate box" village, not far from Newmarket, with lots of well tended thatched cottages and gardens. We went there for a walk yesterday. The daffodils are coming out but many of the snowdrops are now past their best.

Northern Ireland Elections

One thing is certain - I am no politician. Also, I have not been closely following what led to the breakdown of the power sharing alliance in Northern Ireland.

As an "outsider" looking in I think far more things unite its people than divide. It is a staggeringly beautiful place - better than Eire in my view - and I just hope that after the elections today, the parties can find a way to work together for the common good. Sectarianism is so yesterday. Break down the old barriers and work hard for all the people. If you fall back to sectarianism, you have only yourselves to blame.

Catholic? Protestant? Who cares? What matters is the best for Northern Ireland and all its people.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Spitsbergen

Every 2nd Tuesday, I go to the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge for a U3AC talk on the Arctic and Antarctic. Today, the talk was about Spitsbergen high up in the Arctic. Very interesting too.

We are very lucky in Cambridge having such good speakers/lecturers and a wide choice of subjects. Last term I studied the Anglo-Saxons!  This was very far removed from electronics. It was enjoyable nonetheless.

It is so good to learn with no exams, no notes (unless you want to) - in fact learning about things that interests you for pure pleasure.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spitsbergen

Friday, 24 February 2017

Landwade walk

Each February we do a walk at Landwade, UK. It is rare to see anyone. There were plenty of snowdrops and aconites out, but very few daffodils yet. As you can see, there is an old church there, which is usually locked sadly. This is a lovely short walk.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Exchange rates

It is my view that the Euro will lose value this year so the UK Pound will buy more Euros. Of course, I could be entirely wrong! The reasons for thinking this are:
  • Greek debt is still a big issue and there will be fewer nations able to bail them out.
  • Several nations are disillusioned with the Euro project and are worried by totally free movement within the EU.
  • Several nations are in favour of tariff-free borders to trade but are nervous of ever closer integration.
  • I think the UK will show the world it can succeed outside of the EU.
No, several things point to an improved exchange rate. As for the US Dollar and the Japanese Yen I am less clear.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

False News?

This clip was first seen many years ago. I have grave doubts about its authenticity. Funny, but probably mocked up. Caveat emptor.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Rugby on TV

I am not a great rugby fan, but my son is. His son plays for his school and he likes to watch.

The picture shows him this weekend watching rugby on the bedroom TV, complete with beer and crisps. When his family comes to stay, he certainly makes himself at home.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Spaghetti Tree Spoof

See http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/1/newsid_2819000/2819261.stm .

Way back in 1957 the BBC ran a spoof Panorama programme about the spaghetti harvest. The programme was narrated by Richard Dimbleby. It was the first time, I think, that TV had been used to pull an April 1st stunt.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Charity Bags?

RANT - I hate charity bags emblazoned with this or that registered charity name and numbers, but buried in the small print you see that the collection is by a private company who will donate so much a year to that charity. Basically this is a CON. No doubt they make huge profits and are able to claim back their "gift" against tax. How can this CON be allowed? - RANT ended.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Burwell Museum

See http://www.burwellmuseum.org.uk/ .

As some of you may already know, the excellent local museum and windmill is having a new entrance and shop. Today it is being erected.
If you have not been along, please visit after Easter on a Thursday, Sunday or Bank Holiday. You are likely to be surprised by how extensive it is and by the wide variety of it contents. It truly exceeds expectations and must be one of the best local museums in the whole UK.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Cambridge

Cambridge is famous for its Backs and Colleges. This is a view along Trinity Street. Lots of bikes!  Kings is about 400m further along on the right.
At this time of the year there are fewer visitors around. In the summer it can be heaving.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Burwell Cottage

Although our village (Burwell, Cambs, UK) has grown a lot in recent years, it still has some lovely cottages like this one.  Some parts of our church are around 1000 years old and the oldest house dates from around 1200AD. I suspect this cottage dates from the 1700s, so is quite new!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Village Walk

This morning, we did a walk around the village. We saw a little egret (the first I've seen in the village) and a buzzard. Until the 1980s little egrets were rare in the UK. The churchyard trees looked very bare and wintery.

The 2 horse chestnut trees were planted to commemorate the 1815 Battle of Waterloo. I have no idea when they were planted, but they are very old. Both our children and grandchildren have enjoyed collecting conkers from these. No doubt village children have been doing this for generations. There is something humbling about this. Dust to dust....

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

In all, 10 unique bird species seen, but some very commonly seen birds were not seen in the hour from 3pm to 4pm. I twice tried to submit my results to the RSPB, but on both occasions it told me there was an error.  On another page it said I had submitted the results! CRAP.

Aconites

This winter seems much colder than last. We have yet to see a daffodil out and the snowdrops are later. Yesterday I saw the first aconites out, in a garden not far from us (see picture).

We are seeing more birds from Scandinavia like fieldfares, redwings, starlings and waxwings. The latter I have still not seen.

Each winter we see some of these birds, but usually they come as it is very cold in Scandinavia. Seeing lots here often suggests a cold winter here.

As yet, no snow here.


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Growing amaryllis house plant

Our amaryllis, grown from a bulb, is really growing. It might be in flower next week?

Our lounge (where it is) is pretty warm - usually 22-26 deg C most evenings.

The longest stem is 44cms, so it has grown 5cm since yesterday! You can almost watch it growing!

Friday, 27 January 2017

Famous Five (for adults)

In several places recently I have come across "Famous Five" books designed for adults. Depending where you buy these, the prices are from about £2.99 to £8.99. They are cheapest on Amazon. As a child, I enjoyed the Enid Blyton "Famous Five" books. The adult books have really made me laugh. I might buy some.

So called "facts"

Recently I have seen adverts on Facebook about famous people who are reported to have died. All these turn out to be untrue. Apparently it is called "clickbait" designed to make you click the link, no doubt to then try to download something nasty to your computer. I have "shared" news items in all good faith only to find out later that they are not factually correct. In this age of "post-truth" news, one has to be very careful. Do not take things at face value!

See http://www.snopes.com/category/facts/

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Growing fast

Our amaryllis plant is growing at a rate of about 1cm a day.

Although not in flower yet, it soon will be. We planted this a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Winter Sun

This is a photo of "our" windmill yesterday in the cold, frosty winter sun. Today by contrast is dull and cold.

Football

Although not a great football fan, it is good to see Plymouth Argyle (my old local team) second and Cambridge United and Exeter close to the playoff positions in League Division 2. This could be a good end of season.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Trident


Sorry, but irrespective of whether or not this missile went off course and PM Mrs May not answering Andrew Marr's questions, I think renewing Trident is a HUGE waste of money. At the time of the Commons debate this was put at £40 billion. Yes, forty billion pounds!

Years ago, for work, I visited Faslane - a very creepy place.


Wicken Fen in January

As I said yesterday, we went for a walk at Wicken Fen in beautiful January weather. It is dull and cloudy here today! The photo shows the windmill used to pump water and the frozen lode. Yes, it was cold.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Have a laugh

This Twitter post made me laugh. I gather the BBC soon changed the caption.

Fen Skies

This morning we went for a walk at Wicken Fen (National Trust). It was cold and very frosty with a bright blue sky. In fact it was a perfect January morning. The picture shows the excellent skies we get in East Anglia.

Wicken Fen is famous for the bittern and its dragonflies. Some years ago I saw a bittern coming in to roost. It is a kind of heron.

The boardwalk was quite icy, so we avoided this where possible

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Right shift

In recent times, there seems to have been a swing to the right in the UK and the rest of the world and a sense that our politicians are "out of touch".  The victory of Mr Trump and his "make America great again" speeches are indicative of this. There is a danger that several European nations could move to the right this year.

Here in the UK, we have no effective opposition. The Labour Party opposition is in disarray and faces two difficult by-elections.

This swing to the right may be temporary, but all parties in all nations need to wake up and be aware.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-38704082 .

Weather forecasts - hopeless!

At 0830z the Met Office weather forecast for our village said full sun all morning from 0900z. Very very briefly we saw the sun at 1140z. Really, the weather forecasts are useless.

Amaryllis

Every winter we grow an amaryllis in the lounge. It has really shot up in the last week, with what looks like 2 flowers coming from side shoots, barring any disasters.

Last year we supported it with a cane and elastic band.

At the moment, it is 19cm tall.

Friday, 20 January 2017