Monday, 25 February 2008

Spider in Sunspecs

Is this the coolest spider in Britain? You would swear he was wearing sunglasses. Actually, they are two enlarged eyes which give him, apparently, the best vision in an invertebrate, after cephalopods. Sadly, he is also endangered. Buglife, the invertebrate conservation group, is in court this week to try to save one of only two habitats where the Distinguished Jumping Spider is found in Britain. Unfortunately, tonight it looks as though that court action has failed and this precious piece of wetland will become the site of a huge Royal Mail depot. This fab photo was taken by Peter Harvey of
The Essex Field Club

Saturday, 23 February 2008

More Hilarious Overheard Lines

From that fabulous blog Overheard Lines - have a giggle at the wonders of human interaction...

Clearly the novelty of being pregnant is wearing off...
Woman: "Ohhh, what are you having?"
Pregnant Woman: "A baby."
Woman: "Awww, what kind of baby?"
Pregnant Woman: "Human."
Woman: "Okay, well, good luck!"

Undeniable logic...sort of
Girl: "Is that guy the pilot?"
Guy: "He's either the pilot or the co-pilot."
Girl: "God is my co-pilot."
Guy: "Then he must be the pilot."

Overheard in a Social Security Office...
Woman 1: "Nice blue color. Probably supposed to be for a calming effect, huh?"
Woman 2: "And if that doesn't work, we have the security guard."

...and finally...

Girl 1: "Man, these shoes are killing my feet."
Girl 2: "Oooh, they sound cute. Let me see."

Happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

President Blair - Gordon's Worst Nightmare

I am grateful to Kel over on The Osterley Times for reminding me where I had seen this hilarious moment - the House of Commons (no really!)

For those of you not au fait with British politics, there is a widely-held belief that our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, waited for years (and years) for Tony Blair to honour a gentleman's agreement between them made when the leadership of the Labour Party was up for grabs after the death of John Smith - the Granita deal, that Blair would effectively share power with him if Brown didn't stand for the leadership, and the image of him for those long ten years that Blair was Prime Minister, was of a large, grumpy bear sulking in 11 Downing Street, impatient for his turn. Eventually his wish was granted, he got to be Prime Minister, and Tony Blair disappeared from our shores, never to return (he hoped.)

Imagine his horror then, if Tony was indeed to return, not only in a position of authority, but possibly in one of greater authority than his. Cue Youtube...

William Hague, a former leader of the Conservative Party, having tremendous fun and demonstrating that there is some wit and intelligence in Parliament.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

That Old Dodgy Dossier Again

Saw this interesting post over on
The Osterley Times. Most people instinctively knew that the Blair government had fashioned the dossier on Iraq to say what they wanted it to say. Now, gradually, slowly, drip by inexorable drip, the facts are coming out. I am too scared of the libel laws to say what I really think of this affair but I am grateful to Kel over on The Osterley Times for his incisive account of the latest instalment.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Tetris to a Marching Beat

I found this on
The Woolamaloo Gazette It's so jolly I had to share it.

How many video games can you spot? I got five definites, which isn't bad for an aged crinkly, I reckon. Blame a misspent middle-age!

Yeats hits the mark

I am pretty keen on poetry and like to choose a Poem of the Month every month to put in my journal. I've been doing it for years and have got to know some great poems through it. I try new poets but I also go back to my favourites - Auden, Ted Hughes and Yeats - and always find something new.

So today I was looking through my well-thumbed copy of Yeats' Selected Poetry and I found a poem that struck a chord. I must have seen it before on one of the many occasions I've looked through the book but today it caught my eye. The poem is called In Memory of Major Robert Gregory. It's quite a long poem but two verses in particular touched me and they became my Poem of the Month:

Now that we're almost settled in our house
I'll name the friends that cannot sup with us
Beside a fire of turf in th'ancient tower,
And having talked to some late hour
Climb up the narrow winding stair to bed:
Discoverers of forgotten truth
Or mere companions of my youth,
All, all are in my thoughts to-night being dead.


They were my close companions many a year,
A portion of my mind and life, as it were,
And now their breathless faces seem to look
Out of some old picture-book;
I am accustomed to their lack of breath,
But not that my dear friend's dear son,
Our Sidney and our perfect man,
Could share in that discourtesy of death

These lines are so wise and so experienced and expressed very well something I've written about (though not so beautifully) in my journals.

When someone you love dies, they remain sometimes alarmingly real to you for quite some time. As Yeats puts it, they are - "a portion of my mind and life." They were when they were alive and they continue to be when they die. I certainly felt for many, many months that sense of incredulity that the Golfer could no longer exist. How can all that life, the sum of that person just cease to be? It is a puzzle that the brain tries to solve. People talk often about imagining that the loved one might walk in the door at any time and, despite being an absolute atheist, I often puzzled that if he was there when I picked up the phone one Tuesday, why couldn't he be there the next? In my head he still felt like a real person, even though I'd seen him die. It's a very bizarre feeling for someone who has absolutely no belief in an afterlife.

But gradually, whether you want it to happen or not, your dead loved one fades. Slowly but inexorably, they cease to be a living voice in your head. This is what I recognized in Yeats' line - "and now their breathless faces seem to look, out of some old picture-book". In my version, my parents, in-laws and lovely little brother are all pictures on a wall now. But allowing my husband to fade and diminish to a painted picture seemed outrageous and disloyal and, in any case, unimaginable - all that strength, all that vitality - how could it fade from living, breathing three dimensions to flat two? That's the same indignation that Yeats feels for this cherished boy - "but not my dear friend's dear son...could share in that discourtesy of death." What a perfect phrase - the discourtesy of death. It so perfectly describes the cruelty and yet the inevitability of that diminishing.

And two years on, he is fading. And I guess this is the way it is supposed to happen. I'll never be without him but he has become part of who I am now, rather than a separate individual. I see a counsellor occasionally and last time I was there I expressed my feeling like this - it is as if his death and my grief was like a gaping, bloody wound on my arm. I kept it well-covered up for many months; it was too painful to expose and I couldn't even bear to look at it. But recently, I pulled back the dressing and the wound was gone; my arm had healed but had (and this sounds a bit weird but I hope it makes sense) healed into a tattoo of my husband. That's how I feel now. I feel whole again but I have somehow integrated the Golfer into me - he has become part of me. I was so pleased with this revelation that I wanted to dash out and actually have a tattoo done - I'm resisting so far...

To anyone out there suffering I send hugs and hope and a recommendation to read those poets - they knew what they were writing about.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

And what's more...

After months of having a blog worth a big fat nothing according to the famous widget, I have at last achieved financial solidity! I exist!

My blog is worth $6,209.94.
How much is your blog worth?

You may all bow down in awe...

My New Super Smiley

Thanks to toomanytribbles for this gorgeous little image of a crater on Mars - proof that Martians have a sense of humour!

Puddock is a genius - official

This has cheered me up no end this morning - thanks to Daddy Papersurfer for the find.

blog readability test

I may be a complete dunce at plumbing. I may have become socially inept. I may be completely unemployable. But you need to be a genius to read my blog. You can't get better than that!

Quotes for the Depressed

Continuing in my somewhat depressed vein, I've got some quotes to post, which I find curiously comforting:
Life is one long process of getting tired. Samuel Butler

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life - It goes on. Robert Frost

Life is an end in itself and the only question as to whether it is worth living is whether you have had enough of it. Oliver Wendell Holmes

and I find this satisfyingly dark, from the fabulous Albert Camus:

Well, the tragedy is over. The failure is complete. I turn my head and go away. I took my share in this fight for the impossible

I don't know where the Camus quote comes from but it sounds like the summing up of many a long life to me - it would make a great last line from someone - maybe I'll aspire to use it on my deathbed.

Happy Monday everyone! Keep smiling!

Monday, 4 February 2008

What the hell...

This is going to be a winge, be warned. Feel free not to read on but I need to vent, as they say. If my ramblings help anyone else not feel so alone in their aloneness then some good will have come of them.

I have been trying hard, I really have, to get on with this new life of mine but it is bloody hard. I've never been one for self-pity, always been a coper, but this widowhood thing really has got the better of me.

At the heart of it is fear, I guess. When the Golfer died, everything else stayed the same, it was just that he was no longer here. I still had the house, the same neighbours, friends, the same daily life - the temptation is to keep on doing the same stuff. Fear keeps me in my place. But I also know that the healthy thing would be to find new things to fill my life with. But I am too scared to take any big steps. Such quality of life as I have, I am terrified of losing altogether if I move house, or open my own business. Catch 22. Fear has me paralyzed and I am very angry about it - angry with myself for being so weak and angry with everyone else for letting me stand alone. There are one or two neighbours in particular I am making voodoo dolls of...

Left to myself, I would move away like a shot - away from this unhappy house, away from this mad part of the world - but my son wants me to stay. I am all he has and this is home and any time I mention moving he makes his feelings clear. I am standing still for other people when I want to be flying.

I am going round to cry on my best friend's shoulder tonight - boy, am I glad I have her - so I'm hoping I'll feel a bit better tomorrow. But I know it's just a sticking plaster. I'm not fixing any of the fundamentals and that's what I need to do.

Anyone got any ideas or advice?

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Hints for Lazy Dog Owners...

...that is, the owners of lazy dogs, not dog owners who are...

My Jack Russell is getting to be an old lady. Never the best lavatorially speaking, in the last few weeks catching her and putting her outside before she has left me a little puddle (or worse) has become a matter of chance. Add to that the fact that she has become a bit confused in her old age and sometimes, even if she asks to go out, by the time she gets there she seems to forget why she went out and sits there, shivering, on the doormat until I let her in again. You've guessed it - ten minutes later, I then have a little puddle (or worse) on my best carpet.

So I've been tearing my hair out. But, completely by chance, I've found a way of getting her into the garden, voluntarily and happily, for half an hour at a time, with the consequent dry carpets! We've had a particularly cold spell this week and I was running low on my usual seed mix that I put out for the birds. So I took a couple of slices of bread and scattered it about the garden for them instead. Initially I was irritated when the dog immediately started hoovering the damn stuff up. But as the mintes passed, I realised that she was snuffling happily about the garden, ranging far from the back door, tail up, nose down. And I realised that I had found a solution to our problems. I believe animal keepers in zoos and wildlife parks do this kind of environment enrichment but it hadn't occurred to me that it would work so well with my mad little dog.

I can highly recommend it. At the worst, she eats a little more - though the birds still get a good proportion of it, and I can always reduce her proper food to make up for it. But what I'm hoping is that she will get into the habit of exploring the garden and that I will be able to put out less bread each time. It's great! She gets a bit more excitement and interest in her life, I get dry floors. Nice to get a result on a gloomy day.