Friday, 27 December 2013

Fishy logic.

It's the day after Boxing Day, so why on earth are you still hungover?
Oh... still drunk you say? Fair enough.


For the last time this week, we return to that wet and windy garden centre...

Finally managing to rouse ourselves from a soupy stupor, we had a wander round the garden centre, beating a very hasty retreat from the outside section. There may have been a roof over the walkways, but the rain was being blown in horizontally, and with some force.

One mad dash to the car later, I got the heater and the wipers going, and we waited for the windows to demist. Of course, it was after we had put our seatbelts on that Julie suddenly realised something...

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Excuse me, but I believe there may be sand in your logic.

It's Christmas, don't you know? Well, felicitations of the season to every single one of you, and please accept our wishes for a wonderful new year.

OK. That's out of the way. Let's get back to the Gems...*


So, there we were in the garden centre cafe, thoroughly enjoying some hot soup. Seriously, it was use-the-bread-to-mop-up-the-dregs good. If you're interested in visiting this place, it's on a small road, just south of Hailsham in East Sussex (Click here for more info).  Having saved the cafe some washing-up, we regretfully pushed the sparkling clean dishes away and sat back to sip tea.

Cue Julie.

She had me there.
By the way, when I said it was blowing a gale, I wasn't joking; for the last few days, we have had tree-felling winds and field-drowning rainfall. Sod white, I'm dreaming of a DRY Christmas...

*I know. Just call me Grinch-lite.

Monday, 23 December 2013

A time for family get-togethers.

Last Saturday, we wanted to get out of the house, despite the poor weather. Going into town during the lead-up to Christmas was out, and the weather was bad enough that we didn't fancy going for a walk. In the end, we opted to visit a local garden centre, one we knew had a half decent cafe.

When we got there, we found that their soup of the day was a creamy tomato and red pepper. Yes please!

There was a large queue for the cafe, so I was sent to grab a table while Julie waited in line. On the next table along, there was a group of people in their fifties or sixties. One had obviously been waiting for the mobile technological revolution, as his ear was permanently glued to an iPhone. I wasn't paying much attention to him, but you couldn't help but hear the occasional phrase drift over. By and large, it was the usual "I'm alive and so are you, isn't the weather awful?", with a random mention of the festive season here and there.

And then one very worrying snippet made itself very clear.

This arrived in my ears just as Julie arrived with our food & tea. Judging by her reaction to my face though, I don't think she had managed to catch it herself. Ye gods...


As you may or may not know, our format of Monday/Wednesday/Friday means that there is a slight clash in scheduling for the next Gem. However, you never know...

Friday, 20 December 2013

In a septic fish tank.

There are times when curiosity may not kill the cat, but it will certainly turn its stomach. Anyone who may have wondered what all the fuss was about with 'two girls, one cup' and googled it will know exactly what I mean. No, I'm not linking to it. If you are dumb enough to ignore the less-than-subtle warning signs I'm putting out here, then you can do it on your own.

And don't blame me.

My own, latest 'curiosity vs cat' moment came today as I was searching for an image to include with this post. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back in time, quite some months now, to a point when Julie and myself were in a local cafe and looking at all the different food they had to offer. Julie was having a quick look at the 'specials' board* while I perused the main menu.

As I had my head down, and was trying to make up my mind between two very good options, I wasn't listening to Julie as closely as I could have. That said, it seems my subconscious is excellent when it comes to picking up on Julie's Gems...

Joking aside, I realised I have never seen this dish, let alone tasted it... You can see where this is going, can't you?

These, ladies, gentlemen and others, are quails' eggs. Either that, or an eagle has made its nest in the hand of a giant. You will note a distinct lack of aspic. This is for two reasons. First, I wanted to show the relative size of the eggs, as I'm well aware that a lot of people will not have even heard of them.

Second, I googled 'quails eggs aspic'.

I had flashbacks to the time I inadvisably tried jellied eels.
To put this into context, some of you will be aware of my views on sushi. I would willingly chow down a plate of sushi before even glancing at anything that has been 'jellied'.

Excuse me, I think I need to go and rinse my mouth out. With Marmite.

* No, the classic 2-Tone band has not gone into catering.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Time to pause and reflect

I'll be honest - I haven't got anything set up in advance, and I'm away from home right now.
However, it seems like a good time to look back on the year and see how things have gone.

Bugger that.

Anyhow we hope you are all in good health and have enjoyed our posts, irregular as they have been. What have been your favourite Gems of the year? Drop us a line by either commenting directly on this post, or email us at You can even visit our Facebook page (THIS ONE) or, as of this year, our twitter page (

I might have something for you on Wednesday, but in the meantime, we look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, 9 December 2013

A very feathery fish

On one of our many forays into the eateries of town, me and Julie popped into Roots.

The food and drink is good and there is a fair choice, too. Not only that, but there are things that you won't often find in your average cafe, such as quails' eggs. The thing is, if you don't have more than a basic knowledge of flora and fauna, then even the word 'quail' will mean nothing more than a sensation of fear or trepidation. Julie is one such person. However, I will say right now that my wife is not unintelligent - far from it. A lack of knowledge is nothing to do with your mental processing power.

That said, Julie does ask some interesting questions...

I know quail eggs are small (and very delicious!), but they're not that small.!

Here's a quail.

Friday, 6 December 2013

The Tea-Room Trilogy, part 3: Puppies!

There is a bit of a NSFW element to today's post, so be warned...

At the tea-rooms, we had both finished our drinks and cakes. And, as we saw last time, Julie had made use of the facilities. This time around, it was my turn to need the loo. Julie asked for the car keys and said she would wait in the car for me. Fair enough.

When I came out of the toilet, there were a couple of ladies at the table where we had been sat moments before. Each had a small, cute dog on a lead, both of which were very interested in everything going on around them - especially if there was food involved. In the absence of any food, though, I made a passable alternative. After a brief moment of mutual fussing, the ladies' food arrived, and the pups' attention span departed. I said my goodbyes, bid the staff a good break over the winter period, and went to the car.

I got in, and as I buckled myself in, Julie knew immediately why there had been a delay in me leaving the loo. She has said many times before,
"If I can't find my husband, all I have to do is look for the nearest dog, because he'll probably be making a fuss of it."
Guilty as charged, m'lud.
Still, the question needed to be asked, something that really should have been phrased better, knowing me as  well as she does.

As I post this, I'm really hoping that my international audience knows of the slang word 'puppies' meaning 'boobies'. And I'm not talking about the blue-footed avian...

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Tea Room Trilogy part 2: Dogged by innuendo.

So there we were in Duddleswell Tea Rooms, on their last day of opening for the year. Looking at the menu, I was reminded and again gratified to see a wide variety of teas - including my favourite, Lapsang Suchong. Unfortunately, they didn't have any soy milk, so I had to opt for either a green tea or a herbal infusion... Hm... gunpowder green tea, methinks...

Julie is a lot less fussy when it comes to tea; tea, milk & sugar, and that's it. Just tea. No fancy stuff. Especially no smelly ones.

Another thing the tea rooms are good for are their cakes. There was some massive meringue concoction in the chiller cabinet, which looked very inviting, but we decided to be sensible and go for a scone.
OK, Julie was sensible.
I had a slice of cherry, apricot & almond tart with a small jug of pouring cream. Very nice.

Unfortunately, tea has a side-effect; it's a diuretic - it makes you pee more. No sooner had the last sip been taken than Julie was off to the loo, leaving me to eye up the cakes - and the waitresses, of whom more on Friday.

When Julie returned, she sat down with a happy sigh and a little smile. I laughed, and asked her:

Yes, we were heading on to Last Chance Animal Rescue afterwards, but the schoolboy in me just went straight for the 'dogging' joke.

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Tea Room Trilogy, part 1: The short arm of the wotnot

I love it when a single day out results in a plethora of Gems. Even better - and rarer - is when I can cull a week's worth of Gems from about an hour's time in a tea room.

Visit for more information.

Duddleswell Tea Rooms are in Ashdown Forest, Kent (UK). You need to be concentrating on your surroundings though, as it is the epitome of 'blink and you'll miss it'. We were lucky; today was their last day of opening before closing for the winter period. It's a very friendly place, and the food is home cooked and locally sourced. They don't do soy milk, though, so you will need to take your own. The tea rooms are very pet-friendly, and will bring out a saucer with a couple of doggy treats should you decide to stop for a cuppa while out on 'walkies'.

We decided to stop for a drink on our way to Last Chance Animal Rescue to discuss fostering a dog. It was relatively quiet; the staff nearly outnumbered the customers. After sitting at a table by the window, we ordered our drinks - gunpowder green tea for me, as I forgot the 'no-soy' thing.

Chatting away, I became aware that Julie was having a problem with the table. She was trying to lean her elbows on the top so she could have her cup held by her mouth. Unfortunately, every time Julie moved slightly, one elbow or the other would slip off the edge of the circular table.

Uh. If you insist, love.

If you are in the area and fancy dropping in for a drink and a bit of cake (after they reopen), you can search for it on Google maps. Here's a little bit of map for you to get started...

Friday, 29 November 2013

Love over Scrabble.

As a family, we have always liked word games, Scrabble in particular. Of course, there have always been personal foibles, and I don't expect that will change. Dad, in particular, used to make random guesses at word spellings; in case you couldn't tell, he was more of a numbers man. Many times, he would play a word and there would be a chorus of  "what the hell's that?", only for us to find out he was going for some semi-phonetic version of a common word. In fact, it got to the point when "Bagsy* coming last!" became his opening gambit.

He wasn't that bad a player though. As he always liked to put it, he was often runner-up. Pity there was usually only two of them playing.

On one occasion, a family game, it was my sister who was failing and trailing. In fact, by the end of the game, she had only managed 98 points. To put that into perspective, anything below 150 in a four-player game is, for us, a bad result. Ever the dutiful father, Dad decided to console his stricken daughter.

*'Dibs' for those more used to USA English

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A lickle trouble

Viewers of programmes like Eastenders, and those who have seen films with Jason Statham in them will know of a certain vocal characteristic of those who live in the London area. Essentially, letters and wholes syllables are swallowed up in a glottal space, resulting in an almost total absence of the letter 't'. In fact, the very word 'letter' ends up being pronounced as "le'ah."

Dad had a similar, yet different, approach to pronouncing whole words. It was - and still is - a family in-joke that Dad could never really pronounce the 't' in the middle of a word. Instead, the hard sound of the consonant was transformed into a 'k' sound. Since my father was fond of Derbyshire, and a lot of his and Mum's spare time revolved around trips there, this invariable meant going through Matlock. Or, as Dad would call it, 'Macklock'.*

You can see how this is going, can't you?

Now, since Dad was rather fond of a tipple, especially single malt whiskies, the family joke has always been about 'lickle bockles'. My father always took it with good grace, and even enjoyed joining in with the banter. Brilliantly, this Gem has someone else falling foul of the whole scenario...

Hmm. If this was Twitter, this would probably be given "#guessyouhadtobethere".

Interestingly enough, when I was having an idle google, I found a site that would seem to have been named by my father...

I'm not making this up - ickle bockles is a site that provides you with all those horribly small toiletry containers that airports demand these days. Visit THEIR SITE to find out more.

*either way, Matlock is a lovely place to visit, but it is a right bugger to drive through as it's at the bottom of a long, narrow valley.

Monday, 25 November 2013

New old news

Even before we suspected anything was wrong, Dad was one of those people with an offbeat sense of humour and liked to look at things from skewed directions. He was also well known for being easily distracted and for getting his sentences tangled up.

When we finally noticed he was becoming even more vague than usual, we suspected Alzheimer's disease. The real cause, a massively aggressive brain tumour, floored us all.

As a tribute to my late father, I want to dedicate this week to him with three Gems (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Silly and yet sharp, he's still missed, and always will be.


My dad is the reason I'm a big fan of surreal humour. The Goons, Monty Python - even The Young Ones - all came to me via my father. It may have surprised some people, knowing him as a sober-looking besuited man with a very well-maintained beard, that he would have such a liking for these things. However, 'silly and surreal' was a very good way for him to let his hair down. One of our favourite things was to hold a conversation about nothing at all, with each sentence being replied with something that took the chat in another new direction.
"So, what do you think?"
"Orange. Definitely orange."
"Not square, then?"
"It's a close call, but square is very Marmite."
"True, true. The brakes make too much noise as it is."
See what I mean? Absolutely bizarre. This is why he and Julie would get on so well. In fact, they would take this conversational art and take it to new, utterly baffling (yet logical) extremes.

A few years ago, a new newspaper was launched in the UK.

Nice and cheap, the i is a news digest, meaning that all the stories are pared down to the minimum. In other words, no rambling articles where the same thing is repeated ad nauseum. As an added - or removed, possibly - bonus, there is very little in the way of celebrity crap. Even better, being a sister publication to The Independent, it is resolutely liberal and fairly open-minded. Unlike the 'newspaper' below...

Yes, it's a fake. Yes, that's me.
Originally, this newspaper was only published Monday-Friday. It was less than a year, though, that a Saturday edition was introduced for the stratospheric cost of 30p. Before that point, though, my dad and I had a conversation...

It took me far long than it should have done to work that out.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Pre-emptive Alzheimer's?

There comes a time when you have to give up. You have tried your very best, tried approaching the problem from different directions, and it finally becomes apparent that you should really have been approaching the problem from a different dimension.

We have tried to explain it before, but it strikes me that all we have done over various posts is provide various possible mechanisms for Gems to occur. The actual cause? It's my belief that Julie trusts me enough and is comfortable enough around me that she can leave her highly-ordered office worker mentality behind and let herself go with a huge sigh of relief and a steady flow of WTF.

Today's Gem is a prime example of my inability to 'get' what Julie meant. Trust me; context makes no difference. Worse, the longer I look at it, the more I become convinced it makes sense, if only I could stare at it long enough for my eyeballs to start bleeding and tartan spiders to emerge from my fingernails...
Sorry. I must have missed some medication...

In the meantime, I'll leave you with the Gem. If you understand it, then good for you. Just stay well away from me and pay attention to those nice people in the white uniforms...

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Oral, not aural.

Let's be honest, we've all done it. We have all said something and then immediately wondered why you did. Sometimes, it slipped out and you aren't even aware you spoke until you realise people are staring at you. Sometimes, you are caught up in the moment and an incautious phrase escapes before the mental filters can stop it.

And then there is Julie. Shameless to the end, all manner of things are said at the drop of a hat, with not a regret. Brilliantly, many Gems arise as a direct result of my wife attempting to justify herself or defend something she has just said.

For example...


Monday, 18 November 2013


I'm a bit late today, so I'll get right to it.

Today, Julie gives us an insight into a possible career change. One which would make Franz Kafka proud.

And before you say anything, no, I did NOT make a mistake in writing that down. It's just Julie thumbing her nose at Physics once more.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Cartography or Anatomy?

I love place names, and how you can almost read a history of the place within that name, if you know a little about words and older languages. Of course, many places in Britain have certain endings, such as '-ham', '-ton', or '-bourne'. The first of these two indicate a township, and the last the location of the settlement, a small river. Other place names refer to specific landmarks (such as windmills), events (Battle, for example), or even people (Birmingham originates from 'Beorma's hamlet'. Which still doesn't explain why the residents are known as 'Brummies').

I'm at a loss, though, to explain the name of the Oxfordshire town of Kingston Bagpuize. Oh, I've no doubt it's easily found out, but I think I would rather not, unless guaranteed it was not to be mundane (and yes, I am aware 'Kingston' is easily divined).

With that in mind, let us return to our little day out last Saturday for this week's final Gem.

Driving home, I am pleased to say that the weather was not nearly as bad as it had been. Wet and dark is not a good combination.* This meant that we were better able to enjoy our surroundings and take in details - such as this road sign.

Obviously, to me and Julie, this was easy entertainment, what with our propensity for wordplay - or mangling, as the case may be.

For the record, and I did say this to Julie after I managed to stop laughing, my first thought had been to change the second word to 'Borstal'.

As a little extra, here's a picture of a pub in Painters Forstal.

The Alma in Painters Forstal
I came across this while I was researching the place and found this picture quite amusing. I don't know if it's just me, but it looks like the builders of the pub got carried away and suddenly found they had crossed the kerb and were on the road... It's just me, isn't it... Oh well. See you next week!

* Stop giggling.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

What a sausage!

It's been long known that much of the British sense of humour is based around the use of double-entendres. Many an innocent comment has been countered with, " the actress said to the bishop." My own take on this is the modern version, "...that's what she said."

It's truly amazing just how even the most banal and incontrovertible comment can be retroactively altered by one of those two phrases. Best of all, to my mind, is that you can utter the punchline with no real aim, but to prove to the world that you are still breathing. However, the magic then takes place in the mind of the first speaker. Suddenly, their mind is now working overtime, trying to work out what on earth was smutty about what they said. Often, that person somehow manages to take it even further than was intended by the joker. I have often been surprised at the turn of mind that people take - even when I'm barely aware that I actually replied to their original sentence...

Funny how peoples' minds work, ain't it?

Of course, I have now managed to reach some sort of plateau of meta-smuttiness, where I now no longer have to say anything. I may assume a certain expression, but normally, people who know me will find themselves either cringing at what they just said (expecting my input - even if I'm not there!), or slowly, haltingly picking their words with exaggerated care.

At this point, I will state in my defence that I'm not like this all the time, despite popular belief - and any evidence to the contrary. Yes, I do take great enjoyment in wordplay, from puns to well-crafted sentences. However, I'm also a bit of a daydreamer, so when I'm in company and someone has carelessly let free a sentence that couldn't be more open if it had major surgery, I don't always react. In fact, the first I will know of such a situation is the silence of people all looking at me, waiting for my input. And all I'd say would be, "...what?"

As you will have no doubt noticed, I'm not entirely alone in this mindset. Julie, in fact, surprises even me with comments, and even I am not immune to setting myself up...

So, back to last Saturday, that soggy day. It was the first Saturday we had really managed to get together for a while, and we were determined to make a day of it. We had intended to go to Brighton and browse the shops in the Lanes, but the severity of the rain meant that we would have wound up soaking wet, even with ducking in and out of places. Thus it was we wound up driving around Kent - again. It's a great place for a pootle, lots of little towns and villages to stop in and have a cup of tea.

Our ultimate destination was one we have visited many times before. It's a little distant (by British terms, as opposed to other countries, perhaps), but Macknade's Fine Foods is well worth it. It's an amazing food hall, with an emphasis on local foods and delicatessen foods. There is also a great little cafe which usually has soy milk. Furthermore, despite the overly hipster feel of the place, the food is tasty, comes in decent quantities and isn't overly pricey. We've never had more than a slice of cake there (gluten free too!), but it's normally been plenty to keep us going until our evening meal.

Just part of the food hall. The cafe would be behind the photographer.

In the car park, we were sat in the car with the doors open, enjoying a brief respite from the rain, and just watching the world go by. We began picking up on small details around us; this registration plate on a car, that toddler with her panda hat, complete with ears - and a man leaving the shop with a bag in his arms, out of which was poking a number of very long, very thing and very wrinkled ... sausages?

Well played, love. Well played.

For the curious, this is what kabanos look like, although these are relatively wrinkle-free.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Scrunched-up sheep

When you're out and about, driving around, there are often quiet moments. You've got fed up with the radio and you have temporarily run out of things to talk about. You're In The Zone and looking out of the car window, barely taking in your surroundings.You're on autopilot. The body is perfectly able to take care of things, and the eyes have become the ultimate in optical technology; you are taking in everything you need and more for driving the car safely, but they still have the facility to notice random little things.

That, folks, is the basis for this week. On Saturday, me and Julie were out for the day. Unfortunately, we chose a pretty damp day for it, so anything we saw out of the car windows was at least partially obscured by a near-constant mist of road spray.

Where we live, there are a great deal of fields. A lot of them are marshland, but it's amazing what sheep will put up with. As we traveled, the rain pattering on the roof of the car, Julie's mind wandered and she idly started up a silly little conversation.

That kept us going for a little while... heh...

Friday, 8 November 2013

Steamed about physics

I've bought a new book.

I'm a long-time Terry Pratchett fan. I have several books signed by him, have met him in the process of said signing, and have even helped to interview him on BBC Radio 4, talking about the novel Mort and other things Discworld. He is as genial and sharp a chap as you would expect him to be, and I'm going to shut up now, or several friends of mine will be visiting me to give me a good kicking...

Because I enjoy reading, I am often known to have failed to go to bed at nights, simply due to the fact I didn't want to put a book down. However, I already had something else I wanted to do today, so I went into town, picked up the copy of Raising Steam I had reserved (nearly coming away with an expensive slipcased version in the process), and dropped it off at home before heading off out again.

By the time I returned home, Julie had come back from work and had her tea (evening meal, for non-English folks). We chatted a little, and after a little while, Julie asked me if I had got hold of my book yet.
"OH, yes."
She smiled, and asked the question I had been expecting.

Uhhhh... what?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow.

This one could be described, in a more print-based environment, as being 'hot off the presses'.

The weather in Britain has been unpleasant lately, although not nearly as bad as the weather experts predicted. That's only for this country, of course. Other parts of the world have far worse weather, but moaning about the weather seems to be a well-deserved cliche.

I was out, attending to a couple of chores, and happened to notice that the clouds were rather - as Julie would put it - "ominominominous". Since it was late in the afternoon, I thought it might be nice I collected Julie from work, as opposed to letting her trudge home in the grotty weather. I'm nice like that.

It was an uneventful drive to her and then home, which was nice, especially since there are roadworks that have blocked off one section of a major road on the seafront very close to us. Putting it bluntly, it's fucking chaotic. While getting home was a relative breeze, it took me twenty minutes to get further than a hundred yards from our house on the way out.

Once parked up, though, I sat still for a moment to let the controlled ire of idiots subside. Julie also remained in her seat, too, but for a different reason. Coming up the road was a learner driver.

Seeing one of these ahead of you on a narrow road.
Never cheering.

Since I had parked on the right-hand side of the road, Julie thought it best to let them by before making a move. Unfortunately, it seems like the learner had not long begun their lessons,* and was proceeding very cautiously (i.e. 'very slowly') up the road.

Obviously, it probably was less than a minute, but to Julie, with her hand on the door handle, it must have seemed like an age.

Yep. That one earned her The Look.

*Poor bugger, eh? Just started learning, and they're being dragged around near closed-off roads during rush hour.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Fast/food kills

Coming straight from the old school of comedy comes this little Gem.

Out for a drive, I'm concentrating on the road, but Julie is looking around and spots this sign.

It didn't apply to us, as it was posted at the entrance to a side road. Julie, however, decided to embellish the details a tad.

Nice one.

If you like the idea of fun with road signs, have a chuckle - and then reel in horror - at the implications of this sign. Click on the link to see a full-size version.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Pitiful Pontiff

Don't you just love it when a sentence comes out of nowhere. There you are, the two of you enjoying a little peace on a drive out in the country. Then someone says something and at least one of you is thinking where the hell did THAT come from? Here's Julie.

It's just as well I drive mostly on autopilot, because I had a severe case of braincrash when Julie said that. As it turned out, She meant the Christian God, as opposed to Allah, Buddha, or any other deity.

Damn - some preamble would have been nice.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Silly little things

For the benefit of our international readers, I shall begin this post with some background details.

In 1959, all the way up to 2001, there was a programme called Sing Something Simple. It was as easy as easy listening will ever get, but it served its audience well.

I don't recall much about the programme itself, apart from the theme tune. You can hear it in this clip on Youtube , after a then-current jingle for BBC Radio 2 and and brief time check. Sadly, I can't embed the clip, but here's the link.
Sing Something Simple intro
This soporific tune was perfect as a herald for the rest of the programme on its Sunday afternoon slot. For many other people though - normally those below the age of fifty - it was a cue to find a radio station playing more up-tempo tunes. In spite of us young folks' antipathy towards slow songs, that damn intro song has stayed with us for all our lives. Accordingly, those of us with lively minds often co-opt it into fun pastiches or even out-and-out piss-takes.

And then there's Julie's approach.

I do wish she wouldn't come out with these things when I'm driving. It really doesn't help you to concentrate on the road at all...

Monday, 21 October 2013

Hotel Humdinger

It's my mother's birthday in a few days' time, and I was looking around for a little something to buy her as a bit of fun. Since she has a sizeable garden and an interest in wildlife - especially birds - we like to visit garden centres for this kind of thing. The fact that me and Julie like browsing them ourselves is beside the point of course (coughs uncomfortably). Another reason is that I'm always on the lookout for a relatively cheap squirrel-proof bird feeder, as Mum is forever despairing of their habit of destroying or even stealing the feeders (see HERE).

Once in the wildlife section of the nursery, though, I tend to be distracted by all the feeders and wotnots. I'm of the opinion that creating somewhere to live for some of the overlooked creatures is hugely important. Bees are on the decline globally, and humans are destroying habitats daily, whether directly by building or farming on it, or indirectly, by taking the resources or vital parts of the ecological chain.

One of the main problems in urban situations is that most people don't realise how much their manicured gardens or slabbed-over patios create a desert of living spaces for the animals we are displacing. The daft thing is, many of these bugs and other creatures are beneficial and/or harmless to humans. Craneflies (daddy longlegs) look creepy with their spindly legs and bodies, but they are vegetarian and won't harm you. Hoverflies look a little like wasps, but they are important pollinators, almost as important as bees (plus, they don't sting!).

There are some amazing ideas that various people and companies have come up with to help these garden helpers; if you google 'insect hotel' in image search, then you'll see what I mean. In the meantime, at this garden centre recently, I saw this one made by Neudorff.

It's a wonderful thing, providing refuge for various beneficial bugs. I would like one for our garden and I wouldn't mind betting my mother would, too. At a distance from the house though, and Julie was even less keen on the idea...



On a related note, it's that time of year when people like to have bonfires. However, nice as they are to watch, they are deathtraps for wildlife. If they see a pile of wood with lots of gaps, they are going to crawl in and make a nest. Please read this letter from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and remember that other animals will use bonfires in the same way.

See here for a larger view