Archive for June, 2013

Making a beeswax candle

There’s not a lot to it but I thought I’d show you as we ended the second day of the beekeeping course by doing it and it was lots of fun.

It’s not complicated at all. When you have a manmade hive, you get frames to fit into the boxes and these will each have a sheet of wax made from melted down beeswax and moulded into sheets that the bees will build cells onto.

When you get some of these wax sheets, instead of putting them into the frames, you can make candles out of them! It’s much quicker than dipping wicks into hot wax over and over again and it’s less faff. Check it out.

You start with a sheet of wax and a wick.

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You stick the wick down and curl the end of the sheet over it, like so…

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You keeping curling the end over and over till at last it picks up momentum and you can just roll the whole thing up.

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You can then warm the edge a little and smooth it down…

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….giving you a fully working candle with just a few minutes of work…

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Ta dah!

10 words (part 3)

It’s Wednesday and time for my guest blogger to take over today 🙂

 

10 WORDS – 3

Well it’s roughly 3 months since I did my last 10 words post (and about 3 months before that the first one) so here goes with a third lot. But just before I get into the new words I thought it might be good to just list the previous ones. How many meanings you can remember?

(19.12.12) 10 Words – 1: Scrofulous, Saponifying, Manticora, Nutation, Costive, Smörgåsbord, Panemone, Leitmotif, Rhabdomancy, Scrimshaw.

(20.03.13) 10 Words – 2: Chthonian, Sisyphean, Anaglyptography, Dendrochronology, Agitprop, Fomites, Voroni Diagram, Uxorious, Prolegomena, Armigerous.

Here we go:

1. TAPHEPHOBIA – (From p.26 in March 2013 edition of magazine called Wonderpedia)

It means: the fear of being buried alive.

The sentence in the magazine is simply explaining its meaning so no need to quote it here.

2. GARDEROBE – (This is from p.483 of The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien)

It means: a wardrobe or its contents, an armoury, a private room, a privy.

Now that’s quite a spread of meanings so I think you have to gauge the right one by the context. Clearly the word is of French origin and at first glance would appear to suggest a place to keep (garde) a robe or clothing. Whilst this is definitely one of its meanings, in the use quoted below it probably refers to something which was a forerunner of our modern day toilet (so the privy definition). Some medieval castles had a simple hole which went through the wall into either a cesspit or the moat. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t a good idea to try and escape by swimming across the moat; it could easily have contained untold amounts of human faeces

Here’s a picture of one built in a castle in England.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Garderobe,_Peveril_Castle,_Derbyshire.jpg

Certain types of Middle Eastern dhows, even today, still have a small box built onto the stern which crew members can crouch down in so that the waste (number 2s!) goes out into the water. You can see them along the Creek in Dubai and other ports around the Arabian Gulf. (Colloquially, they were called “thunder boxes” when I was there.)

And here’s how it’s used in the book:

“I groaned with the pain, retching into the garderobe until my belly was raw and then I was driven to my chamber with curtains pulled to douse me in darkness until I could withstand the light once more.”

3. TERGIVERSATION– (This is from p.64 of the BBC History Magazine, Apr 2013)

It means: the turning of one’s back, desertion, changing of sides, shuffling, shifting

And here’s how it’s used (in the review of a book by J. Patrick Corby):

“Corby describes his target audience as college students, and the opening survey of European History, and the introductory tone of much of his prose appears to confirm this. Yet such students might stumble over words like ‘tergiversation’ or baulk at a number of unsubstantiated statements…..”

4. SORTILÈGES – (This is from p.23 of the BBC History Magazine, Apr 2013)

It means: divination by drawing lots.

And here’s how it’s used in an article about Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn:

“Another story, reported third-hand by Chapuys, quotes Henry as telling an unidentified courtier that he had married Anne ‘seduced and constrained by sortilèges’”.

5. HENDIADYS – (This is from p.36 of The Acts of the Apostles by J. A. Alexander)

It means: An expression in which an adjective & noun are replaced by two nouns joined by ‘and’: e.g. saying someone was ‘clad in cloth & green’ instead of ‘clad in green cloth’.

And here’s how it’s used:

“Ministry & apostleship is not a mere hendiadys meaning apostolic ministry but a generic and specific term combined, the one denoting service in general, the other a particular office.”

A further well-known example can be found in a line in The Lord’s Prayer: “For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory”, which is another way of saying, “For Thine is the glorious, powerful Kingdom”. In this case, two adjectives & a noun are replaced by three nouns with the conjunction ‘and’ linking them to give an additional emphasis.

 

6. HAMADRYAD – (This is from p.160 of The Elizabethans by A. N. Wilson)

It means: A wood-nymph which dies when the tree in which she lives dies or a large Ethiopian baboon.

And here’s how it’s used:

“Even the hunting parties were punctuated with pageantry. As she came riding home one evening, she was met by Gascoigne dressed as the Savage Man. On another evening he was Sylvanus, god of the woods, who told her that all the forest dwellers, the fauns, dryads, hamadryads and wood-nymphs were in tears at the rumour that she might be about to leave.”

Here’s a pic of one type of Hamadryad

Try getting that one into your conversation this week!

7. DEMI-MONDAINE – (This is from p.58 of a book called The Love & Wars of Lina Prokofiev)

It means: A kept mistress of society men; shady section of a profession or group; a class of women in an unrespectable social position.

And here’s how it’s used:

“In her first letters from Paris to Serge (Prokofiev), Lina mentions fraternizing with the nineteen year old demimondaine Alice Prin, nicknamed ‘Kiki de Montparnasse.’”

The book gives a very interesting insight into something of the politics & manoeuvrings in the world of classical music composers and the Russian government. Despite Lina’s parents being a Russian-born soprano and a Spanish tenor she does not seemed to have inherited their vocal gift to quite the same degree. She was certainly a singer of merit but never quite reached the pinnacle of her profession and seemed to miss out on crucial roles. Even Prokoviev himself could not emulate the slightly older Stravinsky and although his rivalry with Rachmaninoff, some said, proved he was a better composer he remained less popular than him. Perhaps his most widely known piece is Peter and the Wolf in which Peter is represented by the strings and the wolf by the horns; other instruments represent other animals: the flute a bird, the oboe a duck, the clarinet a cat, the bassoon a grandfather and the woodwind section the hunters.

8. CHIAROSCURO – (This is from Loc 4003 of 5004 in Kindle book – Samuel F. B. Morse (His Letters and Journals))

It means: A painting in black & white; Effects of light & shade or variety & contrast

And here’s how it’s used:

“The story is not told; the figures are not grouped but huddled together; they are not well-drawn individually; the character is vulgar and tame; there is not taste in the disposal of the drapery and ornaments, no effect of chiaroscuro.”

In case you’re wondering about the name, it really is the Morse who invented the Morse code. However Samuel Findley Breese Morse started life as a portrait painter and spent many years doing just that. Born in 1791, he was admitted to the Royal Academy in 1811 but did not develop the Morse Code until into his forties.

9. INELUCTABLY(This is from p.269 of The Love & Wars of Lina Prokofiev)

It means: Not able to be escaped from or avoided

And here’s how it’s used:

“The accounts of women who knew Lina in the camps are ineluctably confused with dates and events overlapping.”

The reference to ‘camps’ here is because Lina Prokofiev was sent to prison (the Gulags), on fabricated charges, for what turned out to be 8 years (after having been sentenced to 20 years). She was incarcerated in various “camps” (for example, Inta, Abez, Yava, Potma) and it is believed only her Christian Science beliefs helped her endure the terrible physical and mental conditions she experienced there. She was released in June 1956 having been helped in her appeal by one of her husband’s rivals – the composer Shostakovich. (Prokofiev himself had died in 1953.) She was finally able to emigrate from Russia in 1974 and settled in England. She died in London, in 1989, aged 91.

10. STERTOROUSLY – (This is from p.193 of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell)

It means: With a snoring sound

And here’s how it’s used:

“She sat up very late, sewing, and when at length she did go upstairs she found him lying on his back, partly undressed on the outside of the bedclothes, with his mouth wide open, breathing stertorously.”

This is a weighty tome at just short of 600 pages set in about 1906. Although obviously allegorical it pointedly uses quite ordinary names for the workers: Owen, Philpot, Barrington, Easton, Sawkins etc. However the bosses, companies and other important officials of town council of Mugsborough get such names as: Rushton, Crass, Slyme, Dauber & Botchit, Makehaste & Sloggit, Bluffem & Doemdown, Snatcher & Graball, Smeariton & Leavit; even some of the ladies are given disparaging ‘names’ like Mrs M. T. Head, Mrs Knobrane & Mrs Starvem. You get the idea.

And finally:

In 1946, George Orwell wrote an essay called “Politics and the English Language”. In it he highlighted something very relevant to writers and politicians. I’d like to finish with his quote:

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”

Beekeeping (day 2)

Last Sunday was day 2 of the beekeeping course in London that I started the week before. And the second day was no less amazing than the week before.

We learned primarily about swarming and that is what I shall talk about here.

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A bee colony will naturally want to swarm because that is how they reproduce. One colony will split into two and they will each go on living their lives.

When a colony gets bigger, the bees at the outer edge will have less of the ‘queen bee substance’ as they are quite far away from her. If they get too far, they will think there is no queen and they will panic and start building queen cells. The queen is under instruction from the colony so will have to go and lay eggs there.

It is at this point that she gets ready to swarm, as she sees it is her time to leave (usually around the three year mark). Off she goes, taking all the flying (foraging) bees with her and we will deal with her in a moment.

Left behind are the ‘house bees’, who are worker bees who are not yet going out foraging and the queen bee cells. They will build more than one to give themselves a good chance that at least one will produce a queen. If the first queen emerges and she sees there are other queen bees developing in their cells, to get rid of the competition, she will go outside the cell, make a noise and if there is a response from inside, she knows there is a bee growing so she stings it to kill it.

If, however, one of these queen bees emerges and there are two in the hive, they will either have a full on fight to the death or the hive will choose sides and kill the unlucky one by crowding around her so the temperature rises and cooks her to death. Or they will sting her to death. Nice.

The half of the colony that left earlier, will hang out somewhere temporarily while you, the beekeeper, catch them (hopefully) and take them to a new hive. This can be a real headache if they’re in a neighbour’s garden or if they go somewhere high up and you can’t reach them or if you catch the colony but the queen bee is left behind so they will just fly back to her at the first opportunity. There are a whole host of potential problems.

But the clever beekeeper has a way of convincing them they have already swarmed by simply moving the whole hive about 400ft away and putting a new hive in the spot where the old hive was. You then take the frame which has the queen bee on it and put it into the the new hive. When the foraging bees go out to collect nectar and pollen, they will return to the new hive as it is where their old hive was. Thus, you have the queen bee and all the foraging bees in a new hive. And ta da! The bees think they have swarmed!

The bees left behind are the house bees and the eggs, which is how it would have been if there had been a natural swarm. Everyone is happy.

And no-one’s children have swarms on their bikes! Woop woop!

We also saw an extraction machine, which basically spins around the wax frame sheets, causing the honey to fly out and run off. We also tasted tons of different honeys, my favourite being the heather honey and the manuka.

My mind is blown. Yet again. Bees are my heroes.

Tissue paper and jumper shavers

Now, readers, you know I never leave you with just one look into your favourite magazine. Yesterday’s laughing dormouse was just the beginning. It’s time today to visit everyone’s favourite section. It’s the ‘Blimey! That’s clever!’ section.

Check out some of these top tips. And boy, are they ‘top’!?

Firstly, put pegs on the greaseproof paper in your cake tin so it doesn’t rip when you pour the batter in.

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What on earth is her greaseproof paper made of?! Tissue?! Who’s greaseproof paper rips when simply pour the cake mix in? Mine certainly doesn’t. It’s quite sturdy. It’s made to take the heat from an oven and then the weight of the cake as I lift it out afterwards. It wouldn’t rip just from putting the batter in.

Next up, shave your jumper if it’s got fluff on it.

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Or just use cellotape? Quicker. And then you can throw it away.

No, wait, maybe it would be better to shave my jumper. Because it would be great next time I’m shaving my legs or Danda’s shaving his face, to have the added fun of fluff left behind on one’s leg/face. I mean, what fun! Right?

And last but not least, the fabulous too-much-time-on-your-hands, make-extra-work-for-yourself method of DVD storage.

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So, let me get this straight – instead of just going to the DVD collection and looking for the one you want, instead you go to your list and find the name of the DVD you want and what raffle ticket number it is. Then you go to your DVD collection and look for the raffle ticket number.

If you love order and filing, maybe I could just suggest something to cut the workload down? Put them in alphabet order. Simple. That way, you just think of what the name of the DVD is, say it’s Conair, then you just look to the beginning of the collection and what do you know?! You’ll see DVDs beginning with C and there it will be.

My goodness, I’m a genius!

Laughing dormice and sock monkeys

Chat magazine was amazing this week. It really excelled itself. I hardly know where to start.

The first page has a picture of a dormouse…

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And says ‘Perhaps someone just told him the joke about the chicken crossing the road!’ I mean, really now. That’s clutching at straws a bit, isn’t it? What would a chicken have to do with a dormouse?

I imagine this was written late at night and the editor was like, “Guys, what does this mean? Why would a dormouse laugh at a chicken joke?” And the others just went, “O, just let it go. We’re all knackered and dying to go home. Just put it in. Stop going on about it. Who cares if it makes no sense?” The editor, convinced by this persuasive argument, shrugged and let it pass, but not before adding “If you like our laughing dormouse, check out this video of a llama who also can’t stop chuckling…” and a website address. O, stop fussing. No, not of it makes sense. We know that. But it’s all animally so just, shh, just let it go.

Next up, the photos page and this…

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Yeh. A ‘sock monkey.’ Who doesn’t love a good sock monkey, I ask you. Despite, the fact that none of this makes sense (maybe I should have read the issue they’re talking about), it’s just stuffed in there, amongst the other photos. Someone made someone else a sock monkey and they love it. Here’s a photo of it. Well, thank you Chat. Thank you indeed. Where would we be with these little essential titbits of information, hey?

Next up, a dog pulling tongues….

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That’s it. It’s a dog. It’s pulling tongues. Fab.

I’m not going to dwell to much on the next story, suffice to say, it’s a couple who met on, wait for it, the Ian Beale Facebook page. For non-UK residents, Ian Beale is a character on a soap called Eastenders. Mandy knew Kieron was her soulmate, she says, because she could see he “was as obsessed by the Eastenders star as I was!”

It turns out he has gender dysphoria and is a virgin while she is a 30 year old living at home with her parents. When they decide to meet, her parents drive her to meet him.

Draw your own conclusions.

And then check out this photo.

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I’ll say no more.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this advert for a Tweety necklace.

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Let me know if you want one and I’ll send you the details. They’re only £90. Bargain.

The time I met Danda at the airport

A little while ago, Danda jetted off into the sun for some Portugal-based fun. I was supposed to be away at the same time but due to some nonsense rules in Texas prisons, I had to postpone it. So I was here and Danda went and had beach fun with family.

On the day Danda was due home, his flight was getting in at 23.15. I left the house at about 10pm and, anticipating boredom, took a Narnia book with me, Prince Caspian to be exact. Now Prince Caspian is a pretty good book, not very like the film apart from the basic story. There is no romance between Caspian and Susan and no rivalry between Caspian and Peter.

Anyway, there I was, on one train then the next, head in my book, wondering if Prince Caspian would beat Miraz and would Aslan come back and help by waking up the trees. There was a lot going on, you know?!

I got to Gatwick and took the shuttle from the South Terminal to the North, head in my book. I got to the North Terminal and looked on the arrivals screen. Danda’s plane had landed and the baggage was in the baggage hall. He’d be about fifteen minutes yet. I might as well chill for a few minutes.

There was a Costa coffee next to a doorway and a sign saying ‘UK arrivals’ above it. Well, I thought, he is arriving and we are in the UK. That must be where he’s coming out. I grabbed a bottle of water, sat within view of the doorway and got reading.

Then Danda called.

“Hi, have you landed?”

“Yeh, where are you?” Danda asked.

Now I’m a girl who loves doing surprises. I love them! I think that’s why I love Hide and Seek so much. And that’s why I said, “Just reading on the sofa.”

“Ok, I’ve just come out so I’ll be ages yet.”

O, he’s only just come off the plane so he’ll be a little while yet, I thought, whilst burying my head in my book again. Still, no-one had come out of the gate I was sitting by, which I thought was a bit wierd. I gave it another ten minutes, then thought something was up. I got up and walked to the arrivals screen and suddenly saw it… The international arrivals gate….

Ah, UK arrivals meant arrivals from other flights within the UK… Not just that we are in the UK. Of course we’re in the bloody UK. As if they would have specified where we are!? Hmm… Top dunce points to Laura.

So I needed to be at the international arrivals gate, not the UK arrivals gate… To be fair, they’re not that far apart so it’s not like I was miles away but I was all taken up with Prince Caspian so I was oblivious to it all.

I stood outside the international arrivals gate for a minute but felt something was wrong. There was no-one coming out. I had to give up my surprise fun and just call Danda…

“Danda, where are you?”

“I’m just on the bus to the car park to pick up the taxi. Why?”

“I’m standing at the international arrivals gate….”

“No! At Gatwick? You’re there?”

“Yes, I came to surprise you but I’ve missed you.”

“O no! Let me get the taxi and come back for you. Where exactly are you stand….. beeeeeeeep.

His phone died. I called back. Nothing. Just the answerphone. Again and again. Eventually I just had to go out to the road and hang about, hoping he would be able to find me.

So for ten minutes, I stood there, in front Gatwick airport, stranded and unsure whether I’d be picked up.

That’s right, I came to meet Danda at the airport and I ended up stranded, waiting for Danda to pick me up.

Well done, Laura. Well done.

*He found me quite easily and I invented a cover story about having just been at the toilet when he came out the gate. It made me sound less stupid.

My walk to Ham House

I do this walk once or twice a week when I go to Ham House to volunteer and I love it. Once I’ve got out of town, I hit the river and this is the best part of the walk….

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Through Buccleuch Gardens….

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Out the other side and along the edge of Petersham Meadows…

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Petersham Meadows on my left and the Thames on my right…

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Cows in Petersham Meadows…

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Ducks on the path…

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The Thames, behind a ton of forage-able dock leaves….

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Horses came here recently!

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Marble Hill House on the opposite side of the river so I know Ham House is soon….

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When I see an open space in the trees ahead on the left, I know Ham House is only another minute away…

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Sure enough…

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The little bridge….

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The trees are hiding the house…

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Horses from the riding school next door….

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Almost….

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There it is!

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To the right of the front door, the windows you can see at the bottom here, those are the kitchen windows! I spend all day looking out at feet!

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I take the side gate around the building (that’s my kitchen window again, bottom left)…

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… Which brings me to the door the volunteers use to get in, the black one on the left….

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I then go down a few steps to the bathroom area….

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… Into the eerily quiet and empty downstairs, which contains the bathroom, the beer cellar, the kitchen and the mess rooms…

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Turning left, I get into the scullery, which then opens out into my favourite room in Ham House….

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The kitchen! This is where I spend all my time baking, the room I know most about and the place where I feel most comfortable, whilst working at the…

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Beautiful and huge old table, built in the kitchen in 1610 using elm wood from an elm tree on the estate. This table is my favourite thing in the house. And probably my favourite table of all the tables I have known.

Readers, if you do not yet have a favourite table, I suggest you get onto it.

And that is my journey, once or twice a week. It’s quite nice, as it happens.

I’ve got a confession to make

I should have spoken about this years ago. It’s been weighing on my mind and it’s time to finally just say it.

When I was 19, I went to university in Glasgow for a year. I was one of those excitable students who joined every club and society going and spent many evenings practising strange sports or discussing books no-one had heard of. I was a member of the Ultimate Frisbee club, the Glasgow University Skydive Club, etc etc etc.

Oddly enough, though, I wasn’t that close to the three girls I lived with. In between all the societies and fun, I was quite studious so didn’t invite interaction when I was in the flat because I was mostly in my room, writing essays and what have you. This confession hinges on that fact.

Now I don’t remember exactly how it went but I was cooking something in a saucepan one evening when no-one else was home and didn’t have a lid so I looked into the big drawer where two of the other girls kept their stuff together. Bingo! They had a lid! I whipped it off, put it on my pan and proceeded to make dinner. Afterwards, I washed up the saucepan and lid and must have forgotten it wasn’t mine and put it away in my drawer.

When the two girls who shared the big drawer next went to cook something in a saucepan, they obviously noticed the missing lid. There was a big hunt for the lid and if they ever looked in my cupboard, they will have just seen my saucepan and a lid and not realised it was their lid.

I didn’t realise any of this was going on (because I was busy being antisocial, remember?) and had long forgotten about the lid. About a week later, I heard them talking about it but it had gone too far by that point. It had turned into an apartment-block-wide search for the lid and conspiracy theories abounded. Because of my antisocialness, I also didn’t feel relaxed and friendly enough to go, “O, I’m so sorry. That was me last week. Here you go, have it back. My bad!”

So I listened to them talk about The Missing Lid and went, “Hmm, yeh. That is wierd. Where can it be?” All the while The Missing Lid burned a hole in my cupboard and I dreaded being found out.

All that week, I listened at my door until I finally found a moment when they were all out. I scurried into the kitchen, took the lid from my pan and put it back in it’s rightful place in their drawer.

A few nights later, the next time they were using a saucepan, they discovered the lid and were astounded. How had it found it’s way back in to the drawer? As no-one else apart from us four could get in the flat, and we all appeared to be as confused as anyone by the returned lid, there was only one other person with access to the flats. In each block, there was one student representative, who was there for emergencies, etc, and had keys to all the flats. His name was Anand.

It had to be Anand. It had to be. There was no other explanation. None.

By total coincidence, a few days later, the cleaner must have left the hoover in the end cupboard in our flat then come and got it a few days later. Because the girls had checked the end cupboard when looking for The Missing Lid and seen the hoover, then went to cupboard for something else a few days later and noticed it had gone, they concluded it was the same person who had stolen, then replaced, The Missing Lid.

This coincidence saved me. It looked like the work of Anand yet again – sneaking in without a trace and simply taking or replacing things to confuse us. Or, we concluded, to use for himself. He borrowed the saucepan lid to make his dinner and then hoovered up after making a bit of a mess.

This went on for the whole year. They’d joke about Anand. If someone left a book or their cutlery out in the kitchen, we’d say “Oo, you’d better put that away in case Anand comes round tonight to borrow them!”

And I played along. I laughed and joked and made up a few of my own. In fact, considering I have lots of memories of being alone in my room writing essays or studying, joking about the Anand thing is one of the few memories I have of actually coming out of my room to socialise with the other girls.

But it was all lies, readers! All lies! It was me! I took the lid! Me! It was my fault! I took the lid and put it in my cupboard by accident and then it was too late! It wasn’t Anand. Poor Anand was just a good guy doing his student rep thing.

I’ve carried that secret with me for 9 years and never told a soul.

It was time.

Palm House (Part 2)

Good morning all. It’s Wednesday and time for my regular guest blogger, Rambler5319, to follow up last week’s popular post about Liverpool’s Palm House….

 

Now hopefully you remember last week I’d intended to do the flower beds and then this week the inside of the Palm House but there just wasn’t space to fit everything in. So I’m starting with the outside again and here’s a view of the path I walked along to get to the Palm House. There is a wide tarmac roadway but I fancied the woodland walk:

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And looking back toward the bridge

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Some of the greenery and flower beds around the outside.

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These garden areas and flower beds were immaculate. You can tell a lot of time is spent on the upkeep of this whole area.

Ok here’s the entrance.

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So let’s go inside

How about these for big leaves on a plant?

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Some big plants in square wooden pots.

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This pic shows the spiral staircase leading up the roof area where there is a metal walkway running round the base of the dome on the top. (Visitors are not allowed up but there’s probably a great view from up there!)

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Next is a statue called Mother & Child in the guide leaflet

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It looks very similar to a statue (from 1857) by Benjamin Spence called The Angel’s Whisper. If you look at this pic on Flickr the only difference appears to be the wings which aren’t there (folded down?) on the Palm House one.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/37303706@N08/3608478457/in/photolist-6uSoVP-5skebV-8MKxJs-6UkzcY-4HEWhJ-FxB9B-6a7Ngo-tEmt1-6UgxdB-8jqyfx-fn3nM-ct3ZWS-6RvkfB-29bKn1-65biXj-5DF6Jx-dTqUvR-doemN9-7GpFe2-3iFpJw-7V9CG4-89scv3-ab6ke2-8MDRMK-aUgvdZ-4qGxac-924ZWG-2JW3PZ-Htnpg-KvczK-boELsG-g5HK3-dCUy9v-8rAByJ-agfvj2-dAZzdV-856jEq-7PRqBQ-a8RfAX-azQZh5-5oy1KQ-bt5WA9-5eHhXB-9Rzwyv-aWesbn-dBGHWk-caFiNA-5FYKcg-9p7XXL-4oiiWm-CMrgW

Now here’s an interesting thing –look at the statue in the pic below. Gender? Don’t know about you but I guessed female.

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Now look at this:

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The inscription on the front of the plinth/base (written by Robert Burns) reads as follows:

“The golden Hours on angel wings

Flew o’er me and my dearie

For clear to me as light and life

Was my sweet Highland Mary.”

 

Highland Mary (Mary Campbell) was betrothed to Robert Burns. While waiting for him to emigrate to Jamaica she caught typhus and died.

 

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Next look at this inscription on the side of the same base. It reads: “Robert Burns, born at Alloway 1759, died at Dumfries 1796.” Those facts may be true but that’s definitely not Robert Burns standing on the plinth. Clearly it’s Highland Mary. Therefore you know what I think – I think there’s a statue of Robert Burns somewhere with the name Highland Mary underneath it! Someone’s got them mixed up – oops!

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As I’m not that good with plants and stuff I thought I’d use the “audio post” to help me out. It’s a thing that looks like a telephone and has push buttons for the different subjects. The six buttons are:

1. Welcome 2. Our Plants 3. People’s Palm House 4. The Story of the Palm House 5. Mini Plant Trail 6. Descriptive Commentary. What to press first? Naturally I went for no.1 Welcome – result, nothing, silence. I then pressed each of the other 5 buttons with the same result – silence. Hmmm. Just as I was wondering why no sound was coming down the line I saw this:

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How about that? The thing was out of order. However it didn’t just not work, it also thanked me for my patience whilst they were waiting for it to be repaired. Well that’s good – how did they know I was being patient? I was annoyed. Instead of telling visitors to “note … that it was out of order” why didn’t they just put an apology there. Something along the lines of “We’re sorry this audio post is not working and we hope to get it repaired as soon as possible”. Their sign is just a way of NOT saying sorry. Not impressed with that bit.

However I have to say that over all I was really impressed with the Palm House. To think this structure is in a public park in Liverpool is fantastic. Definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in Liverpool. 

A lesson in Beeing efficient

As I’m still reeling from learning about the amazingness of bees at a beekeeping course on Sunday, I’m going to give you some more bee facts that could potentially blow your mind. They blew mine.

There are 250,000 varieties of bee. Only one of these is a honey-making bee.

A bee hive is an extremely clean environment. When a bee knows it is going to die, it will fly away from the hive and die elsewhere. If the bee is very ill and cannot get away in time, the other bees will remove the dead body to a safe distance from the hive, to prevent disease spreading.

Bees also do not go to the toilet in the hive. They will fly outside and go somewhere else.

There are guard bees at the entrance to the hive. Each hive has it’s own scent (a unique mixture of the pollen that has been collected by that colony). As a bee approaches the hive, the guard bees will smell them to check they have the same scent. If they are not from that colony, they will be shooed away, unless they are carrying tons of pollen, then they will be allowed in.

When the young worker bees first leave the hive, they spend some time familiarising themselves with the hive and the local area. To help them find their way back, the guard bees flap their wings and fan the scent of the hive out into the air.

When a bee visits a flower to collect pollen, they will leave a scent behind that allows the other bees, who are also out foraging, to know that flower has already been visited. This prevents lots of other bees wasting time visiting the same flower.

A workers bee’s life lasts about six weeks in the summer, at which point they’re pretty knackered from all the flying and foraging etc. In the winter, because their main job is to keep the brood warm, as opposed to all the flying, they will live to about six months.

The personality of the queen bee dictates the character if a colony. If you have an aggressive queen, the colony will be more aggressive and you will get more stings, etc. If, however, you replace that queen with a more placid one, the whole colony will become more placid and calm.

Royal Jelly is produced by a gland in the bee’s head, which develops after a few weeks of life. The worker bee eggs will be given the Royal Jelly for two days only. An egg which is destined to become a drone will recieve a bit more and an egg which is to potentially become a queen bee will be fed solely on Royal Jelly. It is not that the Jelly is scarce. There is tons of it to go around. It’s that the worker bees need to be kept ‘stupid’ and so are rationed, whereas the drones and queens need to develop more and are ‘in charge’ of stuff, so they are given more.

I’ve just realised that this still doesn’t cover all of the bee facts I learned on Sunday.

A bee colony is the picture of efficiency. It’s funny to think that they don’t talk, yet they have developed all these complex systems to keep the colony running efficiently.