Monday, June 28, 2010

In the pink

My girls did the Pink Ribbon run yesterday - it was an amazing day weather wise.On the way back after seeing 1,000 people dressed in pink I saw a swallowtail butterfly on the heath - first time I've ever seen one. It was too quick for me to photograph, but I found this one from the RSPB so you can see what it looks like.

Photo credit: Swallowtail Butterfly at one of the few sites in England that they breed. © Copyright Janet Richardson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Friday, June 25, 2010

An Odd evening

Well, not that odd really, but I like playing with words. We had an event last night at the Middle Temple in London. This amazing place is the haunt of the London legal profession (part of it, anyway). I was given a potted history by one of the nice gents serving us wine:

The land was given to the lawyers by King James I on condition that they kept teaching law there. When Queen Elizabeth I came to visit she wanted a table that she and all her entourage could sit at, so the hugest oak was found and floated up the Thames (which originally came right up to the buildings) and a table was made that is 26 feet long - all from a single tree.

There is so much oak in these old buildings - you can't really see it that well on the photo above, but the ceiling was amazing - huge swathes of black oak.

Unfortunately I didn't get to learn much more (but if you want to know more, just check good old Wiki: but then I was there to work! It was a garden party, with two wonderful speakers. The first talked about his discovery of a unique species of butterfly, the second was the excellent Mike Dilger who not only entertained our guests, but also drew in passers by (who I made sure got some of our leaflets). He described himself at one point as 'Bill Oddie's researcher' only he used a word to replace researcher: the word is usually applied to a female of the canine species.

It was all very good natured, and in fact Mike's ex-boss was present. Hence the cheesy photo of me and Bill. The important focus of the evening was conservation and all those present that I talked to were interested and engaged. Even three guests who had actually come to the wrong event went away with membership forms... it's the killer instinct in me!

There was a most wonderful guitarist playing for us too, the gentle sounds of his gorgeous Taylor guitar adding the perfect backdrop to an English Summer evening.

The train home was packed - I sat next to a man with a cricket hat in his lap. Once I'd had a brief look through my photos, he talked to me. He had been to the cricket, watched MCC beat Kent. Now he was on his way back to Cambridge, to his daughter and his four year old grandson who has cancer. Doesn't life like to give you a 'perspective nudge' at just the right times?

I've lots more to blog - an evening with Stephen Fry (my friend Heather says I am too posh to talk to these days, but honestly she knows me better!) and lots more on my trip to Arizona. I must start to write again - I miss the simple act of playing with language to tell a story. Even if no one is listening.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Arizona Travels - episode 1

Here I am back in Arizona again - it's been two years since I was last here. This time I came in a warmer time of year - I say warmer, it's 98 Deg F as I write! Well, outside, I'm in the shade inside of course, with AC and cold drinks on tap.

Actually the heat has not bothered me at all, I've covered up in sun cream and worn a hat and cool clothes, always had plenty of water and my asthma has been absent! This climate suits me (mind you, not sure how I'd cope in the summer as the temperatures soar above 100...)

Nadine's house is in San Tan Valley, to the south west of Phoenix. It's an hour to downtown along the freeways, and round here it's pretty much scrubby desert with houses and towns plonked in the middle of it all. Nadine's yard (garden to you and me) backs on to a golf course and there is a metal rail fence so you can see the golfers as they play. You hear 'shucks' (or words to that effect) as they thwack the ball off to the next tee, you hear '*&*&*' when you hear a whack as the ball has hit some house, and lots of happy chatter as women, men and children send their balls off on the appropriate trajectory down the course.

Golf courses here are green - but only green in patches. In between it's coarse desert - yellow brown dirt with the odd seguaro cactus, mesquite tree and some other little bushes. Dashing about between the sparse vegetation are the ground squirrels - dust coloured rodents who live in little holes in the non-green golf course. They are driven to dive for their holes not only when speedy golf carts shoot past, but when the shadow of the Harris hawk flies overhead or a rather ardent grackle (like an all-black magpie) gets a little too close.
So, sitting in the garden alone I see lots of things - including the little brown lizards who scoot along the walls and, when they reach a sunny spot, stop to do little push ups to keep their bellies from burning. There are quail who wander past, verdin (little greenish birds) and finches, mourning doves and white winged doves too. I could sit all day in the yard just watching.
The multi-coloured golfer is, of course, the most amusing of these creatures, but I do prefer the wildlife.