Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Ah Glasshopper

Field Grasshopper (I think)

The Curious Fish and me were just enjoying a cuppa (30/8/11) when I heard a sequence of chirps (no it wasn't wind) which caused me to peer at my greenhouse side. Lo and behold perched happily on the glass was a grasshopper.
So what!! I can hear you all yelling.
Well we've lived hear since 1997 and its the first grasshopper I've been aware of in our garden. I can only presume it was disturbed from its vegetarian nibblings by the activity on the building site to the rear of our property. It also appears to be in its mating finery so that may have something to do with it.

Its visit was only fleeting and I only had time for a hasty photograph before it disappeared.  I find identification of Grasshoppers difficult as they look alike in many ways and many of them like the one above can turn up in brown, green, grey or reddish colours.

The title of this post is a homage to the 1970s TV series Kung Fu in which David Carradine starred as the warrior monk Kwai Chang Caine. His blind Mentor/Abbot usually greeted him with the words Ah Glasshopper. 
To our everlasting amusement.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Howdy Pardners!!

Its a bit like waiting for buses to come along. Nothing happens for ages and then several come at once.
At last my blog is starting to work and I have now had 4 comments.
 RG thankyou for your advice it seems to be working OK. (fingers crossed it stays that way).
Sis this years first batch of chutney is in the jars and one of them has your name on it.
CF I feel a crumble coming on.
Added to the above excitement it was our annual visit to the Western Motorhome Show yesterday, one of our favourite events.
We had coffee, a chin wag and lots of laughs with our pals Terry and Jan.  We look forward to seeing them again in October when our travels cross paths once more.
To my great joy the Curious Fish bought me an Indiana Jones type hat. I may never been seen hatless again. I've had to hide it in my wardrobe as there is a limit as to how may times a person can try on a hat and admire himself in the mirror. Mirror, mirror on the wall.

The show is vast with many delights including hundreds of Motorhomes both new and secondhand and so many avenues of stalls that I became quite disorientated (I'm geographically challenged at the best of times). Had it not been for the Curious Fishe's highly developed sense of direction I fear I would still be wandering around now.
Highlights of the show include the re-enactments and Wild West historical encampments. We spent a considerable amount of time chatting with Red Indians,(see brave outside Tepee) Cowboys (see the Gabby Hayes lookalike at the top of this post) and Cow girls and admiring their homes. Their encampments are historically accurate and amazing. Attention to detail seems to be the norm.
Yes I know it is highly unlikely anybody younger than 60 will remember Gabby Hayes. He was the old geezer who always drove the Chuck Wagon when he wasn't spitting out tabaccy chewings.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Blog On is a red letter day 'blogging wise'.  After receiving some very good advise I have adjusted the template of my blog so that visitors can now access 'my profile', 'followers' and 'archive' without having to scroll down to the end of the postings for this information.
I have also spent a considerable amount of time adjusting my settings to hopefully facilitate the receiving of comments. (Not easy, not intuitive in fact very hit and miss.)
 I have now managed to post a comment on the Curious Fish blog and equally exciting after also setting my comments box to 'Pop Up' (thanks to some advise Curious Fish found in a help forum) I have received my first comment.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Novels,Blogs,Apples and Motorhomes

Been to the Writers Circle meeting (see previous post) and have come away awash with ambition. I heard members discussing the size of novels (circa 80,000 words) and have decided that if I bring all my current ideas together into a coherent whole I can achieve this. Previously I had been splitting my ideas into at least two books. Reality check ..WORK ON ONE.
I enjoy writing this blog but I do need to develop a wider audience. WWC to the rescue once more with ideas on how to link to other bloggers.
In amongst all these thoughts I am busy peeling fallen apples on a daily basis and turning them into bags of stewed fruit to go in the freezer. I can't stand nature's harvest rotting away. I can feel another blackberry foray coming on.
Western Motorhome Show on Saturday, a chance to meet up with a couple of pals we made when in France. I suspect my next posting may have a Motorhome flavour.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Writing for Pleasure

Since my last posting we have joined the local writers circle. It is very well attended with untypically (in my limited experience) a higher male population than female.
The meetings are fortnightly and last circa 2.5 hours.It is a round table environment with members reading out their latest efforts either against a pre ordained subject or anything that is of particular interest to them.
It is fascinating to listen to others stories, poems and articles and equally fascinating to hear the comments of fellow writers. To date we have both read out two of our stories and found the experience very beneficial.
The members interests are diverse. Some have been published, some are self publishing and many are working towards publication. Some are just writing for pleasure.
I have decided this is the impetus (thrust, push, kick up the backside) I need to reinvigorate my writing.
My writing efforts to date have been random (NB my blog title), sporadic and generally without any focus.
I am now making efforts to control my 'Grasshopper' tendencies and to focus, focus, focus.
I have a lifetime of fascinating experience and memories to draw on. I am now attempting to put this 'treasure trove' together into a meaningful whole. JUST DO IT.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Pigeon Post

Good now established with owner of the pigeon discussed in the previous post. I managed to entice it sufficiently with bird food to capture it once more and contain it in my old Merlot Box. It has now departed with its very pleased owner back to Wednesbury for a period of refamiliarisation in its pigeon loft before it will be allowed to 'fly' again. This hopefully will help it to fix on its proper home and not on the curious fish/grasshopper guest house. If it turns up again I'll let you know.

Friday, 15 July 2011

A Pigeon has landed

Shortly after my last posting the Curious Fish found a pigeon pecking around our garden path. Unlike the skittish things that haunt our local trees and chimney pots this one showed no interest in flapping off in a panic when we approached, it just moved out of the way and carried on pecking (Were Syd James and Barbara Windsor in that film?). On closer examination of the bird we realised it's markings were different and that it had a ring around one leg. It is indeed a beautiful (and calm) racing pigeon. Clearly exhausted or lost it had obviously decided to call in on the Curious Fish/Grasshopper residence for a break.
We found a few grains of corn in an old wild bird food bag and it tucked in happily, we prayed that it didn't become an evening meal for a local cat or one of the Peregrine Falcons which regularly patrol our skies and went off to bed fully expecting it to have continued its journey by the next morning.
Wrong!! the next morning it was still in residence and after a bit of flapping about (mainly by me) we caught it and were able to read its leg number. We then tried 118500 for pigeon help lines and after some false starts ended up with the number for the Royal Racing Pigeon Association. They informed us it was a Wednesbury bird
(Oh! thats the place next to IKEA on the M5/M6 interchange says I to myself as nobody listens to my drivel (the curious fish would undoubtedly disagree)... and nobody can call me geographically challenged!).
The Royal Racing Pigeon Association told us to feed it for a couple of days and then withdraw the feeding and shoo it away. So that is what we did.
Have you ever tried to shoo a pigeon which does not want to be shooed?.
We decided to 'harden our hearts' and continue not feeding it.
After five days with us (including it standing pathetically next to our patio table whist we were eating) it disappeared. Thirty six hours later it was back looking depressed (I really have no idea if pigeons suffer from depression?) and definitely in need of a feed. So we found a few bits of corn, peanuts and bread and it noshed away happily.
By this time I was convinced that this was either a very confused young bird or a bird more geographically challenged than myself  (or both). So the Curious Fish and I decided more positive action was needed. We needed to find out it's owner's telephone number if we could.
The Curious Fish trawled the internet for information and even had a couple of telephone conversations with the long suffering wife of a pigeon fancier in Derbyshire. This very helpful lady who seems to know quite a bit about pigeons by default informed the Curious Fish that many owners wrote their telephone numbers on the underside of the birds flight feathers?. Its up on the roof with its wings folded.!!
In the meantime I rang the Royal Pigeon association once again and after a bit of research they came up with the owners name and number. I was advised not to ring the owner until the bird was 'contained'. Oh heck!!
I found a box (six bottle French Merlot...empty of course) and hatched plans as to how I was going to catch a bird which was now happily ensconced on our garage roof. After much more flapping from me and the liberal use of food bribes, the bird was contained within the box and I duly rang the owners number. (Wednesday 13 July). I was told the owner was on holiday until Sunday 17th and that he would have to be rung on his holiday and that he would then ring me to discuss what to do. After several hours (and no call) we let the poor bird out of the Merlot Box, fed it and it once more took up residence on our Garage Roof.
Yesterday (14th) we needed more seed so we legged it to Sainsbury's. By the time we got back around teatime (and me £2.10p poorer and with a pain in my sporran) the blooming bird had flown. Hooray we said its finally flown home to Wednesbury (about thirty miles as the crow/pigeon flies). We hope its happily reunited with its siblings.

Stop press...About an hour ago it was back on the garage roof!!. I've fed it and now its gone again.
 I need a glass of red.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Excitement in our garden

After all the excitement of France we are now home in our garden and enjoying the warm weather and sunshine we should have had in France.
Where am I? I was quite happy in the nest
Yesterday (3/7/11) there was much excitement in the little world of the black ant. There are several colonies of these industrious little critters in our garden walls and under some of our patio slabs. They are completely harmless apart from removing mortar from between our brickwork and grouting from our slabbing. What caused yesterdays excitement and frenetic activity was the release and launching of their flying queens, (The British know all about colonisation). I noticed that a lot of these new queens were confused and reluctant to fly and were chivvied by the worker ants until they took flight and were rapidly carried away in air currents to land goodness knows where. Photo by Curious Fish.
I spent quite a lot of time peering at the crevice in the brickwork which is the entrance to the nest (sad I know) and noticed that some of the 'less keen to leave' queens were towed out of the nest by their noses (do ants have noses?). To my amusement several of these laggards shook off their towing worker ant and shot back inside the nest never to be seen again (by me). They were probably back at the ant drinks machine having a sip of ambrosia.
In amongst all this ant activity the Curious Fish and I were indulging in a spot of pruning, trimming and letting light in (to such an extent that we now have two huge monster bags of greenery to take to the tip for recycling.
I also donned the 'Marigolds' and hauled a whole load of weed out of our overgrown garden pond as the three geriatric fish we now possess, thanks to the thinning out of the original 14 by various cats over the last decade, were lost in a dense forest of Water Soldiers, March Marigolds and Water Mint and sending me 'can we have some daylight' messages. This pond disturbance revealed a good crop of little froglets (hooray) from this years swarms of tadpoles (the tadpoles being one of the main reasons for the portly state of our geriatric fish no doubt).
Pond pals
The water had cleared by this morning and to my delight a full grown Frog was flaunting itself next to our Golden Orfe.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Painted Lady, the Admirals, Some firsts and a Prima Donna

Little Egret near Lann Hoedic

Well here I am back from Brittany,reviewing my thoughts and my photographs and in desperate need of updating my blog. The Curious Fish and I had visualised endless opportunities to get on line (in Brittany) via Wi Fi and to keep our blogs up to date. This proved impossible because of the scarcity and limitations of hotspots and also the prohibitive costs on some sites which offered a WiFi (pronounced WeeFee) service (typically 6 to 9 euros for a couple of  hours). One of my personal objectives now I'm back in the UK is to find out about and cost more effective internet coverage for when we're travelling in the UK and Europe. I suspect cost will be a major factor in Europe. Any advise gratefully received.
Brittany is a beautiful place with wonderful, warm, welcoming and friendly people. It can be windy and for the last two weeks of our visit was very wet. The countryside is lush, verdant (not surprising considering the rainfall) and very unspoilt. The roads are quiet by West Midlands standards and population density per square mile significantly less than the UK. Drivers seem very courteous and everybody seems to obey speed limits.
The wildlife (which as you may have guessed from reading this blog is a particular interest of mine) threw me a lot of exciting moments and some thrilling 'firsts' with Avocets and a Black Winged Stilt (spotted by the Curious Fish) on the Salt Marches at Suscinio being top of the list. The Black Winged Stilt whilst close to the Avocets was actually mingling with the considerable numbers of Egrets which were feeding in the shallow waters.
Avocet at Suscinio
Black Winged Stilt in the murky distance
Did you just see an Avocet?

Sunrise at Lann Hoedic taken from Motorhome Wanda
The photographs (poor) of the above mentioned firsts are the best I could obtain in the wet and murky weather conditions. I even leapt out of bed at 6.00am one morning to try to improve on the photographs but the weather remained consistently grey and grim so my 15 min early morning drive to Suscinio was to little avail. The photograph shows the sunrise at Lann Hoedic near Sarzeau (that morning). This caused me much optimism (6.00am French time 5.00 am UK Time - Aarghhh!) but within 10 minutes it was pouring down again!!

I know the Curious Fish will be posting some photographs of Suscinio Castle etc on her blog shortly. Catch up with her as she catches up on http://www.

Order restored for moment, she's about to run!

Despite all the rain I had some huge belly laughs (suppressed for fear of frightening the birds) at the antics of a pair of Shelducks. The Drake was dignified and calm and trying desperately to be in control of his female, he kept calling her back to his side. She was having none of it and dashed off hither and thither to feed in various muddy dabbles seemingly at random. He was clearly nearing the end of his feather (sorry) as she dashed about...she was definitely the 'road runner' of the duck world. Duck 1 Drake 0.

Oh no she's off again!!
We did have quite a few sunny days which were great for Butterfly spotting. We were relocating from Trinity Sur Mer to Carnac when we stopped off to view the Tumulus of St Michael and parked in a sloping sandy gravelly parking area nearby (more about the parking in a minute). We visited the Pre historic tumulus which has been 'christianised' by the building of a church on top of it and on the way back came upon a Laurel at the foot of some lucky person's garden. The Laurel was in full sun, in full flower and awash with Painted Lady butterflys and Red Admirals I was overcome first with excitement and then with frustration for the laurel was probably 4 or 5 metres high with the flowers and the butterflies near the top. I did manage a few photographs when the odd beauty dropped down the bush nearer to my camera level.
Painted Lady Carnac
Red Admiral Carnac 
Now you know I mentioned the 'parking space' sloped downhill from the entrance which conversely means you have to drive uphill to leave. Our rig with motorhome, trailer and car is over forty feet long and weighs in at six tonnes. The mistake I'd made was to reverse into the parking area with my bonnet facing up hill, not the brightest thing I've ever done with a front wheel drive vehicle on a dusty slippery surface. I suspect the dust cloud we created when we spun our way out of the car park was probably visible from the moon. Oh well!! lesson learned (until the next time?).

When we left Carnac we moved to Lann Hoedic near Sarzeau where the above murky Suscinio bird photographs were taken. Whilst on site (during a sunny spell) I managed to sneak up on a White Admiral Butterfly sunning itself on a patch of dry grass. This was another first (apparently we get them in Southern England but I've never seen one).
White Admiral Pitch 92 Lann Hoedic
Oh Happy Day

Monday, 6 June 2011

A Butterfly, A Moth, and A Woolly Bear

As I wander around Brittany, camera in hand, I'm always looking for things which are unusual to me. To find a Garden Tiger Moth in a busy street in Quimper next to a very noisy and very dusty pavement re-slabbing operation qualifies as unusual. As I attempted to photograph it, praying it wouldn't be trampled underfoot it took the life saving hint and fluttered onto a nearby windowsill.

Now this type of moth has 'Woolly Bear' caterpillars, quite poisonous and liable to irritate if you handle them, I hadn't seen one in a long time and what do you think rambled across Wanda's doormat yesterday (In Carnac 5/6/2011). See attached photograph.
This one was beautiful with a double row of red spots running down its back.

Whilst I'm in mid ramble Carnac has also delighted me by having a flutter of Marbled White butterflies. Interestingly very abundant on the Tumulus of Moustoir within half a mile of our pitch. I suspect the foliage growing on the tumulus has remained unchanged for 6 to 7 thousand years and perhaps this availability of traditional food and habitat appeals to them.Now these beautiful but flibbertigibbet butterflies have an infuriating habit of flying fast and not settling for more than nano seconds. The attached photograph is the result of patience and determination.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Ici mon bus pass

Hooray!! Hourra!!! We have arrived!! Nous avons arrive!!!
After months of saving, planning, researching and preparing - we're in France. This blog post starts on day three of the 'grande' tour.
We are comfortably pitched at L'Orangerie de Lanniron, Quimper (pronounced Compere allegedly), Brittany. The travel lag is wearing off and we're starting to relax into our wonderful surroundings. This idyllic spot was once the home of the Bishops of Cornwall - they certainly knew where and how to live. The site is on the side of the River Odet with the Chateau (formerly the Bishops Palace) positioned with terraced gardens stepping down to the river bank.
River Odet @ Quimper
We strolled into Quimper (2km) yesterday and found a lovely town built along one bank of the river Odet, the other side being tree covered cliffs. The Curious Fish noticed that the local Gallery of Arts was holding a Turner and Monet exhibition. We arrived their a little late in the day due to mingling in the Cathedral Square with the locals enjoying folk singing and eating crepes and were told it would be better for us to return another day (autre jour) as we would not have enough time to enjoy the exhibition before the gallery closed.

As advised we ventured back today and amidst lots of very good (but very common theme religious paintings) saw three excellent small Monets and two Turners. The larger Turner of  The Harbour of Brest (painted 1827) was very beautiful and frankly breathtaking. It is on loan from The Tate Gallery in London.

The French Language continues to be a problem in the sense that we are very poor at hearing and comprehension. In a nutshell we can ask a question but 'Oh My Lord' what did the answer mean??There have been quite a few gobsmacked moments. Fotunately (and embarassingly) the vast majority of the population of Brittany have a good command of the English Language even although they don't use it on a day to day basis.
The Curious Fish and I are determined to master this appalling lack of ability and are now considering private tuition with a fluent (preferably native) French speaker if we can locate such a person at home.
Returning to the Turner and Monet exhibition the Curious Fish was determined to find out if we could get a reduced entrance fee due to our age. After some considerable laughter we thought her initial preparation of the sentence Ici mon bus pass was a little lacking in substance.
She thought further and practiced Est-ce-que en offre speciale pour les personnes du troisième âge? This enquiry which was beautifully delivered received one reply we did understand ...."Non" from the smiling ticket seller.
As we stroll into town we pass a memorial which was recently erected (10/5/2010) in the grounds of L'Orangerie (see photo). This memorial is to the memory of the prisoners of the second World War who were interned in the grounds at Lanniron Stalag 135. My understanding of a Stalag is that it is a Prison Camp for non commissioned officers and privates.

If my translation of the plaque is correct the camp held 2000 French soldiers and 7746 soldiers from the French Colonies in Africa and Asia until liberation on 8th August 1944. At this point the fortunes of war turned and 3853 German prisoners were interned until the camp was closed in June 1946.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A reflection on the birds we saw on Lanzarote.

Collared Dove at Take Off

I've bemoaned the disappearance of Collared Doves from our garden in Worcestershire for some years so was delighted when we arrived at Club Tahiti in Costa Teguise and found a healthy population of these graceful and beautiful birds living feather by jowl with us tourists. They perched regularly on our balcony rails, drank very gracefully from the swimming pools and tidied up any crumbs dropped. 

Very Hostile Cactus

Pigeons were not as obvious but were eventually spotted nesting under road bridges. There was the occasional wandering seagull and a great many sparrows.
Very Bizarre Cactus
The Lanzarotean Sparrows seem to thrive particularly in the touristy areas, attracted I suspect by the availability of easy food. There was a healthy population nesting in the cave roof of the Jameos de Agua (see previous post) and heroic birds which seemed to enjoy living in the very thorny Jardin de Cactus.
Cooling off in the Cactus Garden Pool

What impressed us was their plumage which was more vivid and bold than on those which frequent our seed  feeders at home. We took lots and lots and lots of photographs,many of which ended in the editing bin, due to the sparrows inability to stand and pose when having its picture taken (nothing to do with the skills of the photographer!). I never dreamed one of our pastimes in Lanzarote would be photographing Sparrows.

Subtle sign. Gents Loo Jardin de Cactus
Not to be outdone by the Curious Fishes commitment to reporting on the immaculate state of Lanzarotean Loos. I guess the above is another work by Cesar Manrique. Visit the Curious Fish blog on for a view of the Ladies door sign.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Little White Crabs in Big Black Caves

Any one reading the previous post will know that the Curious Fish and me have just returned from two weeks in Lanzarote. We had a great time and met lots of lovely people (locals, ex pats and tourists).
We soon realised the extent of the islands volcanic heritage.  There is Black Ash everywhere, great rocks sticking up through the ash, Volcanic cones, Lava flows and Lava streams. The landscape is raw, awesome,  beautiful and pre pubescent. The last volcanic eruption was only 270 years ago.
It is not, in my opinion, a landscape/environment geared by nature towards survival for people and animals, that is unless you wanted to open a business for Aggregates and Rockery stones.
People however, have survived here (sometimes with difficulty and danger), and embraced the terrain. The whole island is a testimony to their ingenuity and courage. It is also the only one of the Canary Islands we will definitely visit again.
Crops are grown under layers of ash (as the locals recognised that the ash gathered moisture from the night air enabling plant survival). There are vineyards with vines planted in deep holes with semi circular windbreaks around each hole. Vineyard hillsides look as though they are covered in black stone eyebrows.
There are flocks of goats and little fishing ports all around the coast. Also now there are tourists and reassuringly,a considerable number of Volcanic monitoring stations and laboratorys.
Tourism has enabled the enterprising Lanzarote people to capitalise on many of the features created and left behind by volcanic activity.
Blind pure white Crab
One tourist attraction is called the Jameos de Agua. This has been created in the seaward end of a 5km long subterranean lava tunnel. It is a huge cave with its own landlocked lagoon. It has been developed through the enterprising foresight of the late Cezar Manrique (Artist and Architect) and is breathtakingly beautiful. The lagoon which has been cut off from the sea and natural light for thousands of years has a unique population on tiny blind albino crabs each one only about the size of a 50p piece. They are very sensitive to pressure on their environmant and notices are posted everywhere asking people not to throw coins into the lagoon as this has a negative impact on the water quality. Guess what!! there are considerable numbers of coins in the water...human beings can be idiots.

Jameos de Agua with people not throwing coins
We are taking our Motor Home to France in a few weeks so the CF and I are busily tying up loose ends, preparing and trying to learn French. Watch this space I'm sure there will be more to tell.   GH

Friday, 29 April 2011

Shuddering start to my Blogging Journey

Well here it is the 29th April 2011.
It's five weeks or so since my first posting and I'm awash with writers guilt and desperately trying to excuse my blogging behaviour.
Well!! (says he digging for excuses) we have spent two of those weeks in a sunny but breezy Lanzarote and a further week motorhoming in an even sunnier Northumberland (yes it's true) and I did try to get on line at a computer terminal in Birmingham airport to input a new posting (but failed miserably due to suspected technical incompetence and my Scrooge like resistance to putting more than one pound stirling in the slot).
Kate and Will heve just got wed and the Curious Fish and I have toasted their health with a thimble of Framboise. How this is relevant to my lax blogging behaviour is even beyond my grasshopper brain.

By the way the grasshopper photograph shown as the background to my blog title was taken on a stony path when walking through Costa Teguise in Lanzarote. I think it's the German Grasshopper which loves and blends in with stony habitats. We also had the good fortune to be walking under a palm tree in the less attractive port area of Arrecife when a large member of the grasshopper family the Migratory Locust dropped at our feet. This monster was circa 3 inches in length. The Curious Fish managed an excellent photograph and I'm sure this will be reproduced on this Blog once and if  I have worked out how to do it.

Migratory Locust circa 3" long (Arrecife 04/11)
Ah well lets hop along


Monday, 21 March 2011

The First Post

Well this is it. My first post. With considerable help from Blogging for Dummies by Susannah Gardner and Shane Birley to whom I'm attached by an invisible cord (lifeline). I am now lurching into the Blogosphere (apparently this is what is known as by those in the know).

My blog title reflects both my desire and my personality.

*Lesson number one has just been learned...always save your Windows have just crashed my first post with an update, followed by a restart. End result I'm now rewriting the First Post.

Now although I anticipate writing my blog on a daily basis to reflect the adventures yet to come, I think it unlikely that I will be posting 'posts' on a daily basis as this will be driven by the availability of WiFi hotspots as the 'Curious Fish' and I hop around Europe. (also see the Random writings of a Curious Fish).
I feel an unexpected affinity with McDonalds as they appear to be the kings of WiFi hotspots.