Sunday, 27 September 2009

Capital idea?

Generally, I try to avoid going to London - nasty, dirty place - but a niece's birthday dinner dragged me there recently.

Nice meal, good company, horrible journey home on a packed tube (everyone in my village is in bed by 11.30pm, not travelling home on a very crowded underground - though that would be difficult as we don't have the underground, or come to that a bus, at that time of night).

We had dinner at Strada, in the shadow St Paul's Cathedral. It was the first time I've been close to St Paul's and though I thought it was a fantatstic sight (well, what I could see of it in the dark), I always imagined the dome being bigger - what a philistine I am.

Anyway, it gave me the chance to take some pictures!

St Paul's taxi

St Paul's street scene

St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul's at night

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Hidden gem

We've visited Saffrion Walden a number of times over the years and like its streets of lovely higgeldy piggeldy cottages, but it seems we've always missed its hidden gem - Bridge End Gardens.

What a delightful corner of the town.
One of the seven gardens

It's a series of interlinked gardens laid out in Victorian times and now gradually being restored.
Mrs DW is not a great gardener and the youngest boy is no gardener at all, but we all enjoyed out visit. The highlight for them was the maze - not large but quite tricky for directional dimwits like us. I particularly like the walled garden - very much a work in progress, but my sort of garden. It has a wonderful 'Plant Theatre', where the best blooms and plants are displayed.

The plant theatre

The seating in the garden is very simple, but is really effective.

Very near to the gardens is a memorial to US airmen killed while stationed nearby - quite a simple affair, but quite touching when you start reading all the lists of names. Also nearby is an excllent playground which Master DW enjoyed very much.

Combined with a very nice coffee at Costa and a little explore, picking out the houses we'd like (including the very grand and ancient looking YHA), it was a very pleasant way to kill and afternoon.

A rather constipated-looking 'beast' guards
the entrance to one of the gardens

Saffron Walden's rather grand youth hostel

Saturday, 11 July 2009


What an utterly crap world we live in - four members of the DW family were victims of crime this week, all in the space of 24 hours.

The two DW girls are on holiday in Thailand and on the same evening, the elder had her bag slashed and cash and cards stolen from it and the younger one - on her first proper holiday without us there - had her drink spiked. The friend they're travelling with also had her drink spiked.

Luckily, whatever the lowlife scum put in their drinks just made them throw up and it doesn't seem to have had any major effect. But who'd do such a thing? Words can't describe what I think about someone so twisted,

And despite losing her cash, cards and driving licence, the older DW also had some luck in that her passport was in the hotel safe.

We now just want them to get home safely.

Mrs DW's pensioner parents returned home after a two-hour shopping trip to find they'd been burgled (for the third time). Presumbably it was someone just looking for easy drug money - apart from creating a horrible mess, they took just jewellery and cash.

And, of course, it's no surprise that they're still waiting for the local plods to turn up - despite the DW oldies being nearly 80, feeling a bit fearful and not sure whether they can start tidying up and repairing the damage.

Finally, one of the DW boys has been on a school camp this week and he had money stolen from his tent - a pretty minor crime in the scheme of things, but probably most worrying because it's rather horrible that 12-year-old boys think it's okay to steal from someone they know. In this case, however, someone had a consience and dobbed in the little gits. I suppose when they're old enough they can set out for a new life in Thailand.

What sort of world have we created for our kids?

Saturday, 4 July 2009

A welcome visitor


Hopefully this little chap is eating lots of slugs, though I still find lots (to the delight of the chickens!)

He has lovely eyes . . .

Toad's eye

On closer inspection

I never really think my garden looks that great. It's made up by too many plants that flower or look their best at different times of the year - there's never a spectacular moment when everything peaks.

But having said that, there's lots of plants and flowers that are beautiful in their own right, so it's nice going round the garden and taking pictures of the individuals - never mind that the overall effect is (to me) disappointing.

A dead end . . .

I love councils - the elected members are, by and large, individuals who want to do the best they can for the people who elect them, the officers are (probably) intelligent and highly qualified, but the result of their combined efforts are often just plain stupid.

I came upon the sign above on one of my slightly longer Sunday walks with the hound. On the face of it, it's quite sensible - warning motorists of possible delays while council staff or contractors spend eight days working on a stretch of road.

That's fine, but this particular road (a farm track really) is a dead end. It serves one property. In the five years that I've walked this route (admittedly, usually on Sunday mornings), I've seen three cars and two bicycles using it - one of those was someone who'd turfed their dog out at one end and drove along with the animal trotting behind.

Who decided it was a good idea to spend eight days working on this road? A good use of resources?

I don't mind paying my Council Tax. I figure it's part of living in a civilised society that we all contribute. But I do sometimes wonder if councillors and officers on local authorities realise they are spending other people's hard-earned money and that we deserve at least a little common sense applied to their decisions.

Eight days of work on a dead end road serving one property, common sense, I think not!

By the way, in case you can't read the sign, the prats in this particular case are Cambridgeshire County Council.

Rant over. The reason I took the picture was that I thought it was funny that they should warn of delays on a road used by the inhabitants of one small bungalow.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Birds of a feather . . .

The mother-in-law's parrot - a vicious old bird . . . and the parrot's not much better!

Friday, 12 June 2009


I know it's not universally liked, but I think the Debenham's store on the arc in Bury St Edmunds is a great building - its curves juxtaposed against the angularity of the other buildings is fantastic.

I'm not sure about the development as a whole, though - it all seems a bit crammed on.

arc allium 1

arc mono

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Jolly boating weather . . .

Last weekend, when the weather was warm and sunny, we went to Flatford Mill and Dedham - Constable country.

We weren't sure what to expect - Mrs DW used to go there a lot as a child, but not recently, and I'd been there once abour 25 years ago. We rather expected it to be awash with American and Japanese tourists. However, we arrived quite early and it was surprisingly quiet and peaceful.

Since there was no queue, we decided to go for a boat ride on the River Stour. A little electric boat took us up the river from Flatford towards Dedham for 15 minutes, turned around and brought us back.

It was a bit 'twee', but the boys enjoyed it and the two 'crew' were quite amusing (inadvertantly). Mrs DW was slightly miffed to be asked to change seats for 'weight distribution' but said this was due to the large couple who followed us on, rather than her.

Electric boat

Boat trip on the Stour

Pirate boy

Pirates ahoy

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian goose (apparently)

Canada geese

Canada geese and goslings

After the boat ride, we sat by the river and consumed the coffee ad cake we'd brought with us. DW was a bit greedy, but no point carrying a few odd cakes with us for the rest of the day!

Then, along the riverbank to Dedham, which was very pleasant and enlivend by a herd of young catte which came bounding (do cows bound?) towards us. This wouldn't have been a problem, but the people on the boat trip had said that the weekend before, there had been a huge stampede when a woman let her Rottweiller dog off the lead.

Dedham's a beautiful, picture postcard village, only spoiled by the traffic and the rather large number of chavs gathered along the riverbank there (mostly from Essex, I'd guess) - one family every 10 metres.

Swan 1

Swan at Flatford Mill

Having said that, we were then a bit chavvy ourselves - stopping at the very nice Little Chef near Stowmarket for a 'chippy' tea. That's once we'd found it! We felt a bit sorry for the place - it used to be right on the A14 but now the new section of road has been built it's a bit off the beaten track.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Catching up

The collared doves have successfully hatched and raised two chicks. This picture was taken a couple of days ago, but the chicks left the nest today. Theyr'e currently sat looking a bit miserable on next door's pergola.

The nice weather has meant plenty of walks with the hound and pottering in the garden - I've also recently taken on an allotment, but more of that at a later date.
Highlight of a recent early morning walk was coming face to face with a fox family - a vixen and two cubs. Of course, it was sod's law that I had just put the macro (close-up) lens on my camera, so the shots I got of the two cubs - mum saw me first and did a runner - are a bit crappy.
The cub in the the foreground was obviously a bit confused when mum disappeared and, for a moment, I think it thought J was its mother and came bounding towards us. It then realised its mum was not black and white and would probably not be straining at the end of a lead (just a reminder that J is half foxhound!).

On the same walk, we came across this man-made rainbow. The colours and patterns changed as the crop sprayer swivelled around. I was quite mesmerised and stopped to watch for quite a while.

Not too far away is a turf farm, which has this run of power cables crossing it. I pass it quite regularly and I've noticed that the poles have started to lean more and more - I don't think I'd want to have to rely on these for my electricity supply. A decent gale in the winter and they'll be over.

Couple more pictures from recent walks - I love the straight lines created by farming and some of the smallest, most insignificant flowers can be beautiful when studied closely.

Finally, for now, a rose in my garden, backlit by the sun.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Sky's the limit

After many attempts, a pair of collared doves have successfully built a nest behind our Sky dish.

They don't strike me as being the most intelligent of birds, but they're certainly indefatigable - there was a bigger pile of twigs and stems on the ground underneath than on the nest, but they kept going.

The hen (presumably) has been glued to the next for the last couple of weeks, so we don't know if there are eggs yet.

I don't think our cat can get at them (possibly out of the window, along the guttering and down a rope into the nest, but probably not - especially since he isn't too bright ,either). But if a chick did fall to the ground, it wouldn't last long!

Birthday boy

Dog Walker celebrated his birthday at the weekened - still a fortysomething, but only just!

Mrs DW insisted on a special treat (no, not that sort), so we went to Kew Gardens for the day. It was the first time we'd been and had a great time - what a wonderful place.

The weather was good, so there were a lot of people about, but the gardens are surprisingly big so it didn't seem crowded. There are lots of little nooks and crannies where you can sit in peace and not be bothered too much.

I took lots of pictures, some of which were even in focus . . .








Friday, 10 April 2009

A load of bull(rushes)

On a couple of walks recently, I've noticed some of last year's bullrushes 'bursting' with their stuffing coming out.

Still images don't really do them justice - as the wind blows, little clumps of gossamer seeds become detached and float off.


Our chickens - Sybil, Pam and Fanny - continue to astound and amuse us.

We've recently started letter them loose in the garden. I'd put up a low wire fence to keep the dogs (and children) off the flower beds, so we thought the chickens might as well enjoy the extra space.

First, of course, we had to clip their wings. I know chickens can't really fly, but they can flutter quite well, so we needed to trim the end feathers of one wing. Apparently this screws-up their aerodynamics and they can't take off.

Sybil was very easy to do. The poor thing is so obviously 'challenged' in the intelligence department. She now quite likes being picked up and made a fuss of, so while one scrawny bird (Mrs DW) held the other (Sybil), I trimmed the feathers.

Pam was also fairly easy. She's more reluctant to be picked up but is a real coward, so as soon as anyone goes near her she tries to look inconspicuous by flattening herself on the ground - let's hope a fox never gets in the garden.

When it was Fanny's turn, things got a bit more complicated. She's the least friendly, the biggest and the quickest of the three, so when she slipped past me out of the run into the garden she took quite a bit of catching. Being novice chicken keepers, we were a bit worried about hurting her (the chap I bought them off just lunged at them and grabbed their legs!). However, persistence paid off and, in the end, when cornered by three of us for the tenth time, she gave up.

The dogs have been very interested in sharing the garden with the hens. O, the terrier, just wants to bite their heads off and has to be watched very closely. On the other hand, J is half border collie and she spends her days herding the chickens around the garden . . . come by!

J rounds up Pam and Fanny

We were worried about the hens finding their way back to bed in the evenings, but there was no need to - they just pop back when it starts getting dark. Having said that, it did take Sybil a couple of days to master it - initially she stood on the outside of the wire looking in and wondering how the other two got there.

Since the incident of the eggbound hen, we have had a couple more 'giant' eggs but, more interestingly, we've also had a couple of jelly eggs, with very thin, pliable, barely formed shells. These obviously popped out unexpectedly - one in the garden and one in the run. We're not sure what caused it, because their diet had not changed but we wondered if they might have had a bit of a fright - we've all been there!

Squidgy egg (eggscuse the grubby thumb - and pun)

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Birthday portrait

It was the youngest DW daughter's 18th birthday recently and to mark the occasion I was commissioned (by Mrs DW) to take a picture of the said daughter's mutt - to be enlarged, framed etc and handed over as a gift.

A new collar and 'handbag' were meant to enhance the look but the words sow's ear and silk purse came to mind - I did my best!

These are a couple of the rejected efforts.

This was the one selected . . .

And here's the birthday girl . . .