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Sunday, 19 March 2017

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

Thursday, 19 January 2017

PC and Camera Memory

It is fascinating to see the price of PC and camera memory getting lower and lower and the capacity increasing. Only a few years ago we thought a 1GB SD card was amazing. Now you can get 128GB (at least) on a mini SD card at quite respectable prices.

Ten years from now I expect we will be used to 1-2TB mini SD cards and think how did we manage back in 2017? I recall the hard drive on my first PC was 0.5GB and we thought that was massive.

UPDATE 2035z: You can already buy a 512GB SD card on Amazon. I'd be nervous of an SD card that large. Mind you they probably said that about 0.5GB SD cards just a few years ago.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Blackbirds

Every other Tuesday I have been going in to Cambridge on the service bus to my U3A course on Polar Studies at the Scott Polar Institute. As the speaker today was commanded to go to the Economic Forum in Davos, we had a different speaker at short notice: he was very good.

On the way in, I just relax and count the bird species I see. Usually it is between 8 and 12 different species, although in total I have seen many more.

What struck me today was the vast number of blackbirds. They were everywhere. I am not sure why there seem to be so many: are the marking territory or seeking mates?

See https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/b/blackbird/. The image on the LHS is on the RSPB site.

There are some waxwings in Cambridge. These birds come from Scandinavia and are quite rare most winters. I have yet to see one. They are often seen eating berries in supermarket car parks.

EU and the UK pound

Since the Prime Minister clarified our position on leaving the EU following the BREXIT vote, I see that the UK pound is up against every currency. I guess people had already factored in that we are leaving the EU and are happy to have some certainty now.

Although I have said this before, it would not surprise me if the Euro lost a lot of value this year. The EU is in grave danger of falling apart.

I voted to "remain" in the EU, but many nations want free trade but NOT a United States of Europe. France is France. Germany is Germany, etc..  National identity IS important.  Originally the EU was about maintaining peace in Europe, but it has grown a lot in recent years and has rather lost its way.  Basically I think the EU is "a good thing" but it must not be a "gravy train": it should serve the people of Europe.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business/market_data/currency/default.stm .

Monday, 16 January 2017

Aortic Aneurism

AAA (abdominal aortic aneurysm) screening - this available free to all males in the UK in their 65th year or older. I did not know and was not screened until today. All clear. If you are male and in this category get checked. Ring your nearest AAA clinic (in Cambridge this is 01223 256909). If you do have an issue it CAN be fixed with a stent.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Wars


Most wars seem pointless.

In the Vietnam War (looking back) we were fed what those in power wanted us to hear. The trouble is getting factual data is often hard.

The UK, Saudis and Yemen

British bombs are falling on Yemen as 1.5 million children face starvation. This must stop. There's a line that must never be crossed - and it’s called the Arms Trade Treaty. By refusing to stop British bombs falling on Yemen, the UK government has crossed that line. Please write to your local MP: po.st/RedLineYemen and urge them to draw a #RedLineForYemen.

We happily trade with corrupt regimes like Saudi Arabia selling them arms so they can fight our wars by proxy. It seems we are just interested in their money. Does the UK government think this is right?

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Snow?

Usually when the Met Office predicts snow here we get rain. We may get snow here tonight or tomorrow, but I'll believe it when I see it!

New Zealand Blog

My wife was cleaning a shelf and came across a photo album of our 2009 trip to New Zealand. It is amazing what you forget. Luckily, we did a blog and can look back and recall the visit.

If you get a chance, do go. At every turn it is beautiful and the people are warm and welcoming. It is NOT like the UK. Yes, the people speak English and lots of the birds in towns are English ones, but the wild places are not the same, with wild tree ferns and many trees quite different. 4 million people instead of more than 60 million helps!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Spring around the corner?

At least both morning and evenings are getting lighter now. Although evenings started to get lighter from mid-December, mornings only started to get lighter this week.

Things growing are later than last season when some daffodils were out in late November. This winter it has been colder and there are only a few snowdrops out so far.

Spring is coming, but it will be some weeks yet.

Different roads

As I get older, I must think about things more. Often I wonder what life would have been like had I taken a different fork in the road: gone to a different university, done that PhD, taken a different job, not had children, married someone else, taken the job offer in California and so on. I expect everyone wonders this sort of thing. In a multiverse, maybe we do follow all possibilities but we are not aware of them. I often wonder.

See http://www.bartleby.com/119/1.html .

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Plymouth Argyle

Well, my old local football team Plymouth Argyle (League 2) held Liverpool to a 0:0 draw in the FA cup match today. This earns them a replay (and money) in Plymouth.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Dreary January

January is an odd month. Kids have gone back to school, the post is quiet, nights are still long and everywhere feels "dead".
By the end of the month things have already started to change with first signs of new life in the garden, days getting longer and the hope of spring not too far away. January always seems a long, dark, dreary month.

By contrast, February flies!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Panto

It is a UK tradition to go to a pantomime with children at Christmastime. Pantos are usually daft with the lead woman played by a man, with lots of ad libs and jokes. We went to Aladdin in Ely Maltings as we did last Christmas (different panto theme). We went a few days after Christmas and everyone enjoyed it.

Had we gone in Cambridge, it would have been much more expensive. The panto runs until next week. Great family fun.

See https://thelittleboxoffice.com/kdtheatre .