Friday, 28 June 2013

Rare Breed Week: Happy as a pig in wotnot

For our final post in our week-long special celebrating our trip to the South of England Rare Breeds Centre (SERBC), we're going to continue our stroll through the centre's extensive grounds, through wild woodlands, open fields and well-maintained orchards.
As I mentioned before, here and there along the route, there were notices, giving information about various plants and animals, both domesticated and wild, that could be found in that area. Furthermore, there was a series of fun questions for younger children, based on pigs.

In Wednesday's post, Julie seemed to be under the impression that pigs were mute until someone had popped them into the oven and begun to roast them. Yes, we were being silly (no change there, eh?).

A little further into the woods, we found another sign, one which was concerned with how pigs protect themselves from the elements...

Damn... now I'm hungry...

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Rare Breed Week: Oh, those delicious noises...

Welcome back to the South of England Rare Breeds Centre (SERBC). Today, we are going to be going for a little stroll. The farm is really rather extensive, and stretches out for a fair distance beyond the immediate environs of the buildings.

There are a number of ways you can go exploring, and one of the most fun methods is via a tractor and trailer ride

The driver is a joker, but very conscientious and kept up an enjoyable, but not patronising patter. Oh, and you don't pay anything extra for this. The same goes for the bird of prey displays.

Alternatively, you could take a leisurely stroll around the property. Or, like us, you could have a ride and THEN go walkabout. There is a choice of three routes, varying in length, although even the longest will get you round in no more than an hour, unless you stop along the way for some reason or other.

While you walk, there are information points here and there. And, for the younger ones, there are some fun quiz signs to keep an eye out for, all based on pigs, of which SERBC has a few breeds.

Piglets: much cuter than their adult counterparts.

As we can be childish now and then, me and Julie decided to look for these quiz posts and answer them as 'well' as we could. This consisted of me reading the question out in a mock-posh BBC accent, and Julie replying as only she knows how...

Nice one, love!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Rare Breed Week: Spot the birds

Wotcha and welcome; we've got another themed week for you, one that is all to do with The South of England Rare Breeds Centre.

Unusually for a 'visiting farm' (one that is for tourism/education as opposed to a true working farm), the SERBC is also a charity, one that helps children and adults with learning difficulties and special needs. Quite admirably, this policy isn't limited to the visitors; when we went, there were a few employees/volunteers that fit this category.
Good for them.

Over the last few months, Julie and myself have been to a number of animal, plant and wildlife places. I hesitate to call them 'attractions, because that makes them sound like some theme park. The wildest ride we have been on with these places was a tractor-and-trailer ride at the SERBC.

It's easily one of the best places we have been to. The entry fee is not too bad, and there is plenty to do and see when you get there. Plenty of animals, usually varieties of domestic breeds in paddocks and fields, a children's petting area. There is also an aviary, but the best birds were the ones that were allowed to roam as they pleased.

Generally, the ducks, coots and other waterfowl were content to stay close to the water (I know, what a surprise, eh?) The Guinea fowl, on the other hand, were somewhat restive and were rarely in the same place for more than a minute. Between curiosity and their almost constant bickering, they were all over the place and we kept seeing one Guinea fowl or another in various locations.

Julie was fascinated by the birds' exotic markings, and no wonder - if you stare at their torsos for too long, it becomes a pretty trippy experience. comment.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The bawdiest banisters

Well, it's a handrail, really.

My mother has trouble getting around now, and got a handyman in to fit a handrail on the wall side of her stairs to go with the banister and rail on the other side. Since I live half the country away, it's not that often that I get to visit, so my sister tends to do what she can - considering she has her own life to run too.

On one of the times both my sister and myself were visiting, I needed to go upstairs for something or other. On one step, I stumbled slightly and snatched at the new handrail for support.

Which moved.

Wait, what?

I took hold of the rail again and pushed lightly against it. I hadn't imagined it, the rail did move. I looked closely and realised that the bastard cowboy who had fitted it had only done the minimum possible. Certainly not enough for someone who relies on sturdy supports.

I went to my sister and showed her the problem. If you were shocked at my use of the term 'bastard cowboy' above, you definitely don't want to know what my sister spat out. Put it this way, it was more venomous than the nastiest of Australian creatures, and more virulent than the bubonic plague.

My little sister has such a genteel soul.

We discussed what needed to be done. Getting a proper professional in, for a start. I'd have done it, but I'm no use when it comes to DIY. I can put up a shelf, but you'd be unwise to load it up too much. For the moment, though, we couldn't do much, as it was the weekend, and I had to get home.

This was my suggestion:

Yeah. Sure, I gave her possibly the best feed line ever, but you know that comment of mine about my little sister being a delicate soul?
Forget it.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Breaking up with broccoli

Disclaimer: this has nothing to do with the director of the James Bond films.

If there is a major difference between me and Julie, it's with food. While I'm not a vegetarian (I enjoy meaty foods too much), I do like vegetables - mostly. There are a number of exceptions - parsnips, Brussel sprouts, celery... the list is lengthy.
Julie, on the other hand, knows a few fruit and veg and sticks to them. Sometimes it's because she hasn't tried them and doesn't want to - maybe it's the way they look... quite.

However, there is one vegetable that definitely shows a split in opinions. It's my favourite and one Julie knows she doesn't like. It's also something that was on the menu when I visited my mum recently, as I told my wife when I called her.

Wow. Way to put me off my food, love...

Monday, 17 June 2013

Man, that's one bitchin' dog!

As mentioned before on numerous occasions, we are fond of dogs and other animals. Unable to own a pet ourselves (house rental rules, lack of funds and unwillingness to leave social animals on their own if we work all day), we will often visit wildlife and rescue centres. Recent trips have taken in The British Wildlife Centre, Raystede Animal Welfare Centre and the Last Chance Animal Rescue centre.

All three are very worthy places; however, LCAR is a very small operation, and very much a shoestring operation. As the name implies, it is very much a place of final hopes for the animals involved. The last time we went, there was a Staffie cross-breed by the name of Roxie. She had been there for a while and was very subdued. I eventually managed to coax her into coming to the fence and I squatted down to get closer and have a little chat with her. She sniffed at me and then allowed me to poke my fingers through the links of the fence (WARNING! NOT TO BE DONE WITH EVERY ANIMAL!).

Picture taken from LCAR site.

We bonded quickly, which was stupid of me really, because it had got Roxy's hopes up and when we had to go, she began to whimper and wail. It broke my heart.

When we visited LCAR the next time, I noticed Roxy's cage still had her details on it, but there was no sight of her. She may not be a puppy any more, but I would seriously adopt her and I can't understand why nobody has yet done so.

Other dogs, however, were not so sweet and friendly. The various Jack Russells were especially vocal. And then there was Tim.

Picture from LCAR site.

'Lively' is right. As soon as anyone hoved into view, Tim went berserk, jumping all round his cage and barking his head off. Also walking around was a family (Mum, Dad and two teenage daughters). Unlike us, they definitely were in the market for a pet, and were treating each animal with a little more scrutiny than we gave. When they reached Tim, he began his maniac bark-and-bounce routine, only calming down after he was sure the family were no real threat.

And then we arrived.

After Tim had calmed down once more, I approached the cage carefully. This was no meek Roxy, after all. I did try to be friendly, chatting to him in a calm, happy tone, but all he did was bark himself hoarse.
I moved away, and Julie took my place. For some reason Tim didn't try to assault her eardrums, but quieted down. He still wasn't happy, but he wasn't noisily hyper any more.

I commented dryly that Tim didn't appeared to have come from Thailand...
The family, who had remained nearby, laughed heartily.

Obviously, Julie had meant to imply that Tim was more of a ladies' man... er, dog.



Raystede currently have a donation drive to help them treat the hedgehogs that they have been treating. If want to donate, then visit the appropriate web page HERE.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Hayling Island Week; 1-2-3-4, drift along a little more

On our little walk along the beach, Julie and myself enjoyed watching the boats as they maneuvered around the channel between Hayling Island and the Portsmouth promontory.

One boat caught my eye, though. Well, I say 'boat'. Technically, it was a catamaran.

What caught my eye was not its double-hulled nature. Instead, I was a little concerned about the path it seemed to be taking through the water. Having said that, it wasn't so much the route as the direction it was facing at the time...

Nice one, love!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Hayling Island Week; Pulling power

Hello and welcome back to a week full of Gems born on the south coast resort of Hayling Island.

After a cup of tea and a stroll through the empty fairground, Julie and myself popped into the tourist information office. The woman there was charmingly candid about the island's size and facilities (ie, there aren't many), but was cheerfully chatty and helpful about what there was around there.

Ten minutes later and armed with a map of the island, we headed west.

As you can see from the map, there is a nature reserve on the north side of the western branch of the island. However, since time was pressing on, we elected to pass that by for now and get a bite to eat at the pub next to the ferry, where I had the oddest lasagne I have ever eaten. For some reason, they were using a sort of gravy as the main sauce... Whatever. I'm just glad I didn't have the burger.

After eating, we went for a walk. However, we had forgotten about the nature reserve, having been distracted by a wonderful shingle beach and a lovely blue sea. That and all the dogs that people were walking.*

On a recent visit to my mother, we had gone for a drive around Derbyshire (absolutely beautiful countryside), and had each picked up a book about British wildlife, plants and animals both. I was now carrying around my copy, trying to identify various plants that I deemed to be interesting. This led to an accusation from Julie that I was turning into my father; I couldn't make up my mind whether to deny this or accept it.

One of the plants we looked at looked, from a distance, similar to gorse, which is a shrub I find to be very beautiful (although a bit of a bugger if the path you're walking on happens to be lined with plentiful and encroaching gorse bushes - complete with thorns. Ahh, nostalgia...). Closer up, I was very surprised to realise that the bushes were in fact lupins. Up to that point, I had always been under the impression that lupins formed single stems. Was I ever wrong...

Julie gets a close-up...

It's a glorious sight in bloom, isn't it? I love to have wild flowers in our garden (poppies, foxgloves and a few self-seeded others), and I really, really wanted to have some of this new find growing in one corner or another. However, I'm also fully aware that the law tends to frown on people ripping up parts of the landscape for their own selfish desires. I'm not saying I haven't gently eased a plant or two, or some seeds from their original setting. However, it's actually quite hard to be surreptitious about such an activity when the plant in question is rather larger than yourself and sited on a busy, public stretch of beach in the middle of the day.

Julie knew what I wanted and had a rather less subtle approach.

You know what? I had absolutely nothing to say to that...


Monday, 10 June 2013

Hayling Island week: A question of questionable logic

Last week, Julie and me decided to get in the car and just head west. Having looked at the map, Julie asked if it would be OK if we went to a place called Hayling Island, near Portsmouth. I had been thinking of possibly going to Portsmouth itself, but as I'm all for exploring the lesser known places, I readily agreed.

As you can tell, Hayling Island isn't a large place, being just over three miles wide at its widest point. Nor, as shown by the lack of main roads, is it a busy one. Sitting on Britain's south coast, slap bang next to the major port of, well, Portsmouth, it is largely left to its own devices. As a result, the relative lack of tourists makes it a more pleasant place to be.

There is a funfair right in the middle of the lengthy sea front, but off to the sides, you have quieter places to enjoy yourself.
When we got there, the fair was closed and staff were carrying out routine maintenance chores to the various rides, and the car park was near as damn empty. It was free, too, which is always nice. We drove straight in and up to the wall, which gave us a cracking view of the sea and the Isle of Wight to the south-west.

On the journey, we had been enjoying listening to the radio (Ken Bruce on BBC Radio 2, since you ask. Such a nice chap), and doing our usual banter/singing/arguing with the programme. Among other things, this does tend to prime julie for a day full of Gems, so I made absolutely sure I had my notepad and a pen with me.

I wasn't disappointed.

In short order, as we ambled through the fairground, Julie was baffling me with a lengthy ramble, twisting sentence structure and logic to such a degree there was no way I could keep up. Julie finally noticed my brains were about to dribble out of my ears and stopped chattering, laughing.
All I could say was, "...what was...?"


Ouch... my I think I sprained my brain...

Friday, 7 June 2013

Sing something scary

Pretty much everyone likes to sing to themselves at some point. It may be in the privacy of the shower or car, or in the street, furtively looking to make sure nobody else can hear you. On the other hand, you might be bold enough to belt it out loud - possibly following a few alcoholic drinks...

Alternatively, you may be singing without quite realising it. A tune has got into your head and won't leave until you've sung the same few lines over and over. Much to the annoyance, most likely, of those around you.

I tend to fall into this category, I have to admit. Often, I'll start a tune and then tail off, having been distracted by something else - otherwise, I'd have gone through the whole song, knowing the full lyrics. 
Julie is also a subconscious singer, and it's usually highly entertaining, because knowledge of actual lyrics isn't necessarily essential; especially since it's all rather stream of consciousness stuff.

Normally, this isn't too distressing, as Julie will have just thought of something that reminded her of the words from a particular song, and she will simply riff off that. However, once in a while, Julie just begins singing. No external input, nothing on her mind - and no restraint...

Wait, so that's two possible songs, two bands, a traditional location for sing-songs and a WTF. 
Now that's a nasty mash-up.

Let's have ourselves an alternative mash-up of the odd persuasion...

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Boiling up a batch of bafflement.

Fancy a cuppa? Me too. Let's put the kettle on.

(pinched from here

Yes, very funny. I'm sure everyone has done that at some point to show how side-splittingly funny they are. Then they get bored and wander off to play with their crayons.

One day, I had to go into town for some reason or another. It was something of a miserable day; grey, drizzly and everyone seemed to have been created solely for the purpose of getting in my way and pissing me off. It's no surprise, then to hear that I was really rather glad to be getting home. 

It's at time's like this that Julie shows a truly remarkable talent for precognition. Granted, our front room has a bay window and looks out onto the street, but Julie always seems to know of my imminent arrival even before I could be seen trudging up the road. A short while before I get home, Julie will have made herself a drink, leaving enough water in the kettle for another generously filled mug.

Obviously, since Julie's drink will have been made some time before key meets lock, the water in the kettle will not be as warm as it could be. Or, as Julie put it,

Monday, 3 June 2013

Ready for the rubber zoom-room

Here in Britain, we tend to have a certain image of slow, elderly drivers. This image comes from the only thing we are usually able to see of them - their hats. In fact, in our family, this has become an actual term.
"Why are we going so slowly?"
"I think there's a Hat up front."
I know it's an unfair generalisation, but there are enough participants in the Granny Grand Prix each Sunday that there is more than a kernel of truth to it.

My father wasn't a complete Hat, but he was definitely working on it. With a touch of OCD and self-doubt in his psychological make-up, his approach to speed was very much 'I'll get there when I get there'. Fortunately, Dad was also quite mild and had a nice line in self-mockery. When he turned a corner and shifted up to third gear, he would purse his lips and suck air and say, "cor - burn rubber!"

Dad was full of bon mots such as this, and repeated them often enough for them to become catchphrases, sayings that the rest of us would repeat, often to the bemusement of our own passengers.
  • "It's uphill, this bit."
  • "Straight on a bit." (this on a dead straight road with no turnings for miles)
  • "Tide's out."
You may have noticed there's a fair bit of stating the obvious going on. Like I said, though, all these and more have become catchphrases within our family. Certainly me and Julie tend to repeat them when we're out and about.