Posts Tagged ‘newspaper’

The end of a white-throated needletail

Today it’s time for guest blogger Rambler5319 to take over again. Enjoy!

 

What, I hear you say, is a white-throated needletail? Never heard of it? Well if you hadn’t up till last week and you live in the UK you certainly will know about it now. It’s a bird. The paper I bought had an article about one; curious I thought – how come? Well because it died. However it’s the manner of its death which caught the nation’s interest. Surprisingly, here in the UK, the papers took on an almost “Chat” type of presentation. It was possible to read the story in The Guardian, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, The Independent, The Spectator, The BBC News Channel & innumerable blogs and various bird appreciation forums & websites (NPR, The Scottish Sun, The Scotsman, Rare Bird Alert UK, International Business Times) to name but a few. Amazing. What had happened to merit such blanket coverage? Well, this particular bird had flown into a wind turbine blade and killed itself. What you might not know is that the bird in question is quite rare in the UK as it generally lives in the Far Eastern/Australasian area. The Australians apparently call it the Stormbird because it is often seen during stormy weather and bushfires.

Now it’s the rarity value that got certain people interested: since 1950 only 5 recorded sightings of this particular type of bird and only 8 or 9 in the last 170 years! In fact there hadn’t been a sighting over here since 1991. About 200 birdwatchers (some sources say 20, some 40, some 80 etc – I’m not kidding) from all over the UK had travelled north to the Island of Harris off the NW coast of Scotland. (Apparently if you’re a native of the island, though it’s not actually an island in its own right, you’re called a Hearach; as of 2001 Census there were less than 2,000 residents. You may of course recognise the Harris bit of the name being that of a world famous cloth produced there: Harris Tweed.) However, back to our bird; somehow it seems to have either got lost or been blown off track because it shouldn’t have been anywhere near the UK.

I thought a few pertinent facts here might dispel some of the near hysteria about the event. Let’s be quite clear, it was one bird! The Australian Government is quoted as saying that although worldwide numbers of the species are not known it is not considered to be threatened.

It can reach speeds of up to 106mph in flight and, so my paper told me, “copulation takes place in mid-air at high speed!” Report headlines varied from an “accident” to “killed by a wind turbine” to the somewhat OTT Men’s Daily News which led with “rare bird slaughtered by a turbine”. Nothing like a bit of hyperbole to get the readers flocking, eh?

Some called it “the bird of the century”. One group of four friends had driven for 17 hours to get to the spot. Obviously this was a big event in the bird watching world. So up they went; set up their cameras & video recorders; got their binoculars out and waited. And then all of a sudden there it was – the white-throated needletail. In it came, flying across the sea heading for the island. Cameras clicked, videos recorded, twitchers watched with great anticipation hoping to see it for a while flying around. However for some reason the bird didn’t see the 120ft (36.6 metre) high wind turbine and flew straight into it – BOOM, down it went. Bird watchers raced across to the turbine hoping to help it up after it knocked itself out. But NO, there it was, lying on the ground, just dead. And that was it. Don’t ask me how it didn’t see a wind turbine when, in its natural habitat, it allegedly flies around in bad weather and around bushfires. I can’t explain why, but it didn’t. The death was pounced on by the anti wind farm lobby and there was even talk of a serious threat to the species. Remember it was one bird and from a species which the Australians do not believe is threatened at all but hey who wants the facts?

Maybe it was what is called a “slow news day” here in the UK. (This is when not much reportable news is available on the recent main topics so the various papers and agencies grab whatever miscellaneous bits of things happening that they can.)

The time we defrosted a freezer

I was 18. I was living in Africa. I wasn’t that good at being a grown up but I was good at convincing myself I was.

One time my friend Lucy and I had noticed that we couldn’t fit stuff in our freezer anymore because it was full of ice. We thought we should defrost it but just made a vague guess about how exactly you did this. We had a fridge freezer thing so left the door open for a while but in the stifling heat of the coast town where we lived, all our milk and butter was having a bad reaction. We sat and puzzled for a bit about how to go about defrosting in a shorter time.

Then Lucy had an idea. Lovely Lucy, one of those people in life who you want to be like, who’s so easy to love. Lovely Lucy. She picked up a hammer and approached the fridge freezer. I stood by, a little uncertain about what she was going to do with it…..

Then Lovely Lucy used the hammer to smash all the ice to bits and get it out off the freezer. Mid-smashing session, me hovering nervously around, there was a noise. A hissing sound. Ssssssssssssssssss….

On. And on. And on. Went the hissing noise. Until, eventually, it stopped.

We didn’t know what it was but I had the distinct impression that my being-an-adult attempt had failed miserably.

There was a funny gas smell and we giggled nervously as I ran off to email my Dad about what we should do. That’s right. I was in Africa, holding my own as a teacher in a classroom, running the local town newspaper, making my living as an editor/journalist, and at the first hint of something electronic that I couldn’t figure out, I was running off to email my Dad.

The return email essentially said, “GET THAT THING OUT OF YOUR HOUSE NOW!”

Obediently, we unplugged it and got it into the garden and consumed everything which had been in the fridge, to save it going off, not because we’re greedy. Honest.

And there it sat for a few days while we pondered what to do. In those few days, the maggots found it. That’s right. The maggots. We opener the door one day to see if it still smelled gassy, and there they were! Whoops! We quickly shut the door, pretended we hadn’t seen anything and called a friend to ask him if we could put the fridge freezer in his car to take it to the repair shop. He said he’d come the next day.

That evening, something happened. Something which only happened three times the entire year we lived there. Something that pretty much never happens in a desert so you wouldn’t even think about it happening (we were basically living on the edge of a desert). Something that when it did happen, was so much worse for only happening a few times a year.

It rained.

The most torrential rain we’d seen since arriving. The wind and rain whipped the fridge door about furiously. It banged and crashed all evening. The rainwater got into every nook and cranny on that fridge. Inside, in the back, into the plug. Everywhere.

The plus side of this rainstorm was that the gassy smell and maggots had disappeared. Yehhhhh!

The down side, however, was that the fridge was SMASHED TO PEICES. Noooooooo…..

Our friend, George, arrived the next day and looked at it in shock. We pretended all was fine and piled it into the car and off we went to the repair shop. He also looked at it in shock and we just smiled a bit and convinced him to try and fix it.

A week or so later, Lovely hammer-wielding Lucy was passing by the repair shop with another teacher from the school and mentioned that they’d had our fridge for a week and we hadn’t heard anything from them.

“O yeh,” said the other teacher, knowingly. “They’ve had my dishwasher for about four years now.”

We spent the rest of the year without a fridge or freezer.

Searching for Agatha

Yesterday I thought I’d go for another walk. My day in Highgate was so lovely, I thought I’d try another one. I decided to go to Newlands Corner, near Guildford and potter about in the countryside for a while.

The area is linked to Agatha Christie’s ‘death’ because this is where thousands of people met up to scour the area looking for her body. Her husband had apparently told her one day that he was off to spend the weekend with their nanny! (There’s bound to be a lot more to it than that, but anyway, that’s what we know.) She flipped, obviously. In the middle of the night she got in the car, leaving the dog and baby at home, and sped away into the night. Her car was found at Chalk Pit, a little further down from where I started my walk but Agatha was nowhere to be seen. Stories covered every newspaper. The husband came under scrutiny and became the murder suspect. People searched the countryside and woods for her body. Ten days later she was found, chilling in a little B&B in Harrogate. As you do.

Anyway, yesterday I thought I’d go on a little Agatha search of my own through the woods. It started near a beautiful organic vineyard…

….and my path followed it along it’s edge until I passed another spot with some mysterious history.

The Silent Pool is strangely silent, as the name suggests. The water is totally still and clear. You’d expect, if water was that still, that it would be stagnant, or growing a bit of algae. But this water is clear.

You can see where the water line is, from the reflection of the stick, but the grass and ground underneath are still really visible.

Anyway, the story goes like this. A girl and her brother were bathing in the Silent Pool when King John rode past on his horse. He decided to take the girl with him, but she was not so easily captured. Her and the brother fought against him, waded too far and drowned together. Since then, a ghostly white figure is seen at night bathing in the moonlight. *cue scary X-Files music*

As it was the daytime, I saw no bathing ghosts and kept on my walk, which became a huge steep hill within minutes. I pretended not to be panting like mad and powered on up, every minute wondering when it would stop rising. It finally levelled out and I was deep in a thick forest.

It started raining very lightly but I just ignored it. The forest walk went on for a good hour or so, lovely dense trees and one little windy path through them that I followed unquestioningly. I wish I had questioned it more, actually, because not knowing where I was became a bit of a theme for the day…! But in going slightly off route, I stumbled across some amazing little things. Like this statue of a man with a hook for an arm and his dog…

… some chickens, some grand houses that were all but hidden in the foliage until you passed directly in front of the gate and a quiet little pub, where it became impossible to ignore the rain, which had by now made me a little damp and cold all over. I also realised that I was in Gomshall, which is not Shere, where I was supposed to be. It was Gomshall. The wrong place. Gomshall wasn’t even on my Newland’s Corner map. And I hadn’t gone under the A25 like I was supposed to have. I pretended all was fine and I sat in the warmth of the country pub, munching away on a freshly baked baguette which may be the best bread I’ve ever eaten. It was still warm and so soft.

As I gazed forlornly out of the window, watching the rain get heavier, the man behind the bar warned me, “You’re no good waiting for it to get better, it won’t. This is it for the day now.”

“Really?”

“Yup. Where are you trying to get to?”

“Shere.”

“It’s the second on your left, about a half an hour walk away.”

I finally admitted it was raining and took my waterproof jacket out of my bag. Like a wearied soldier heading back to the battlefield, I donned my jacket, shouldered my rucksack and headed into the rain to Shere. I was thankful for the waterproof but maybe the jeans weren’t helping matters. It wasn’t a long way to Shere but I figured I should stop for another cup of tea when I got there or I might drown! So I looked…

…and looked….

Well, at least the museum will have something, I guessed. That’s what I’d come into Shere for anyway. I had done my research, I knew the museum was open on a Thursday. Making my way there under the shelter of overhanging trees, I arrived at the door to see this …

… It was 4.30pm…

So I figured it was time to head back to my starting point to finish the walk and head home to dry off. On my way, there was loads of bunting around. Some looked to be leftover Jubilee stuff and some said London 2012 on it. It turns out that next week, the Olympic torch is coming through the area. I’ll just say this, they’d better be bloody open then! I won’t say ‘I hope it doesn’t rain’ because I don’t want to jinx it.

Anyway, the walk back to the beginning/end point was quite pretty, even though the rain fell harder and harder….!

And not once did I see Agatha Christie…. O wait, she was in Harrogate, wasn’t she…?

When not to fall asleep (and a little bit of Joan Rivers)

Back to my gap year today for some handy hints on how not to behave when in a position of importance.

We ran a newspaper, Lucy and I, which was the only town newspaper. It was important that we reported all the local events as people in the town were quite proud of their little local paper. I can’t tell you how many HIV/AIDs workshops we went to. Everything that was happening, we were at.

So the biggest and best event of the year had arrived. Independence Day! Everyone had been looking forward to it for months. Plans were under way, the kids from the local schools had fantastic little routines organised, the mayor would be there, the country’s national football team would be there. It would be AMAZING.

The day before we had been at the local Crayfish Derby, which was massive fun. But it was quite a way out of town and we had had to leave midway through to walk back into town for a meeting about youth empowerment and small businesses. After the meeting we had then walked back out of town, quite a trek, to the Crayfish Derby to finish reporting on that. Walking under the sun is quite tiring.

The next day, we woke up early to go to the Independence Day celebrations, which were just at the bottom of the hill we lived on. Easy. We arrived, found some seats in the stadium and waited. It’s quite normal to wait a while for most stuff but it takes a little bit of getting used to when you first go there. They played a bit of Celine Dion, they loved her there. Some kids did some dancing. We waited. The sun beat down on our faces. We feebly made notes in our notebooks. And kept waiting.

And then we made that fateful decision. We needed some water, we were far too hot, we were going to faint, it was urgent! We left our seats and saw a good friend arriving. He looked puzzled about why we were walking out, not in. We explained that we’d be back in a mo. We just needed some water. We were far too hot. See you soon!

We staggered up the hill, gasping. When we got home we gulped tons of water and sat down for a second to stay out of the heat until we had recovered…. And then we woke up, disorientated, and ran out of the house, and looked down the hill. And the celebration was over! Oops! We’d been asleep for the whole day!

We had to write about it for the newspaper though. Everyone would be expecting it. And it had to be front page, it was the biggest event of the year. Damn.

We had about three photos of the kids dancing before the celebrations had started. We blew them up really big so they took up loads of space, meaning we didn’t need to write as much. We worked in a few of the local schools so we knew they had been organising a special dance routine, so we mentioned that. We had a fairly good idea of what the mayor had probably said, given that we had sat in on a lot of speeches she had made. We talked about people who had been there, like the football team and a few others we had seen before we left. And summed it up by saying it was a great day and loads of fun! Then put it on the front page and hoped no-one would notice. Loads of stuff must have happened that we didn’t mention. Thankfully they didn’t notice but I still wonder how we got away with it!

The moral from today is = Don’t fall asleep when there’s something of national importance happening and you write the most popular newspaper in town.

Feedback from yesterday’s Getting Excited mission, which was to celebrate all things Filipino by wearing red and blue (two of the colours on the flag) and saying Hola to greet people (NOT how they say hello but there’s a Spanish connection and I figured people would at least know what I was talking about) and by having fish for dinner (I remember eating a lot of fish in the Philippines). So in my not-very-spectacular way, I did all of these things and, while it didn’t cause any great variation in my day, it did make me think of my friend who’s birthday it is every time I did something. And that was nice. Because she’s a nice friend. It was nice to be more conscious of reasons why the day was different to the others, instead of being all same-old-same-old.

Today I have two things to get excited about. One is that I’m going swimming when I’ve finished writing this… twice in a week after years of not even owning a swimming costume! I’m doing well. The other is that it’s Joan Rivers’ birthday today. (And the world’s smallest man, but I can’t do very much in terms of getting excited about that. I’m already quite short.) So Joan Rivers it is. On my way back from the swimming pool, I’m going to stop in the library and see if they have any of her books and I’ll spend some time this afternoon being excited about Joan Rivers’ birthday by reading a book she wrote. Maybe I’ll get plastic surgery in honour of her as well….