Saturday, 4 June 2011

A visit to Mary's art exhibition

Last Thursday saw a friend and I visit an exhibition of Mary Martin's paintings at St Dominic Parish Hall.  I don't have a particular eye for art, certainly far less than my companion, but this is a little different.  We had an invitation via Virginia, one of Mary's sisters, to come and as many of Mary's oils were of her beloved Tamar Valley and of Cornwall's coast we were keen to have a look at them.  There were also some paintings she had done in France.

It is always a pleasure to see her latest work: whilst I personally don't relate too well to oil paintings, particularly on the walls of a small Cornish cottage such as mine, I can still get enjoyment from seeing Mary's art.  There is a lot of feeling and life in her Cornish scenes particularly.  We were both struck by her paintings of the coast near Boscastle, partly I suppose because of our particular affection for that area.

Mary's work is highly regarded, more information can be found here

The fine and sunny weather continuing gave us the incentive to drive on down to Halton Quay, one of those really peaceful spots on the Tamar where the gentle hills and placid river are very much in harmony.  From there a favourite circular walk of about a mile takes one through very quiet countryside of old orchards and deep lanes and it is one of the latter that we know as a place to spot the unfortunately named "bastard balm" flower.  The Tamar Valley is one of their strongholds but we were almost too late to see it.  However one example was still in flower I'm glad to say.

It's warm again today but with a threat of a thundery breakdown and cooler weather from tomorrow onwards.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Victoria Beckham - what did you look like

Understandably attendees at a wedding, if it's of the posh type at least, will very much dress up for the occasion.  There has been general approval I believe of Kate's wedding dress at last Friday's event - I'm no expert of course but she looked pretty stunning to me.

However it was particularly fascinating looking at the photos of some of the guests that went to Westminster Abbey.  It's the womenfolk that catch the eye, many of them looking very smart but one or two quite frankly appearing ridiculous.  Of the latter Victoria Beckham was a good example.  First of all was a strange little pill box type of hat on her forehead.  How on earth do such things stay there?  Is it some sort of glue?  It looked absolutely stupid to me!  And then there were her shoes - they were ridiculously high heeled and ugly too in my opinion.

I appreciate that women feel they have to wear high heels at that sort of wedding and there's no doubt that both the nature of the woman and the nature of the event should drive the decision about what hat (if any), clothes and shoes might be worn.  When it comes to shoes I go against the normally perceived wisdom and say for me that the higher a woman's stilettos the more turned off I will be!  I love to see a female in low heeled shoes and there is absolutely no shortage of suitable designs so far as I can see.

Here she is with her husband:  It might have helped if Victoria knew how to smile as well!  Perhaps like an earlier Victoria she was not amused.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Royal Wedding goes like clockwork

Well, that was the Royal wedding then!  I didn't watch it, partly because I don't have a TV these days, but I did look at some of the recorded highlights on the internet.  The general verdict, from monarchists at least, is that it all went very well.  That is my impression from what little I saw and primarily I am pleased for William and Kate as I would be for any other couple getting married.

Although I can hardly say that I got caught up in all the hype one of the real positives from the day is just how people get drawn together on such an occasion, how they can temporarily at least get away from their day to day problems for a day or two and feel really good about life in perhaps a different way.

Watching the main cast coming out onto the balcony at Buckingham Palace I was particularly struck by how much older Prince Charles was looking and also reminding myself of just how short the Queen is!   

The whole day must have seemed almost surreal for the Middleton family - as "commoners" they could never have expected anything like this to happen!

This blog would like to wish the newlyweds every happiness for the future.

Friday, 8 April 2011

A brief break in Dorset

Last week saw me join other members of my family for a short holiday in south east Dorset, the home of a brother and his wife.  This really was a postponement from the Christmas get together - because of the icy conditions leading up to the day last December we didn't risk the travel at that time although if I remember correctly it was more amenable from about Boxing Day onwards.  At the risk of sounding a miserable old so and so I just don't find it the most important thing in my life to go off somewhere to celebrate Christmas anyway.  As for the "New Year" forget it!

However I'm sensitive enough to understand how difficult it is for many people to get through the Christmas period alone if they have been recently widowed or divorced for example.  In my case although living alone I don't feel lonely.  I'm going a bit off topic here, suffice to say that I was very pleased to meet up with other family members the other day.

Although I might have driven to Dorset I decided to let "the train take the strain".  I don't habitually use the train on longer journeys because it is rare for me to leave my two beloved counties.  It's a very civilised way to travel in my opinion bearing in mind that it isn't door to door, in this instance one of my hosts met me and another train carrying brother at Salisbury to transport us for the final leg to our destination.

With  two whole days together I would always have just settled for one of these being dry and so it happened.  This enabled us to enjoy a nine mile or so walk in incredibly quiet countryside.  When away from the coastal conurbations Dorset is very rural indeed and, as evidenced by our walk, the county has its fair share of hills.

The journey home was a variation of the theme in that I went from Salisbury to Westbury and then got the train that runs from Paddington to Plymouth.  The portion of the line from Salisbury to Westbury goes through pleasant but very undistinguished scenery and reminded me just why my passion is for Devon and Cornwall rather than "Middle England"!  But that is Wiltshire whereas what I've seen so far of Dorset has been very pleasing.

Would I like to live in Dorset out of choice?  Well it's nice to visit that's for sure but no I wouldn't choose to live there.  Fortunately it's just right for this brother and wife but for me the Tamar Valley will do just fine!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power station

There is no doubt that the biggest international story of the past eight days has been the earthquake in Japan and its aftermath.  Originally described as a 'quake of 8.9 on the Richter Scale it was later revised up to 9.0 one.  Incidentally the scale started to be used as a measure of the seismic energy arising from an earthquake or tremor in 1935, all down to the work of the United States geophysicist Charles Richter.  I think I'm right in saying that last week's earthquake was the worst experienced in Japan - maybe that statement should be qualified by stating it was the largest that country had seen since accurate assessments of severity have been made.

As we now know the earthquake was really bad but it was the tsunami that followed that caused the major destruction.  I find watching videos of the tsunami (plenty of them on 'youtube') both awesome and awful.  I'm certainly not looking at them every five minutes but as with many people I guess I've found that they were almost compulsive viewing at first.  Perhaps because of the distance between camera and action the cars and boats tossed about by the wave look like toys, difficult to realise that many of them were occupied by people.  It's also almost impossible to take in that for many of the tsunami survivors all they have left is the clothes that they are wearing and my heart goes out to those who have lost family members.

Whilst the effect of the tsunami is by far the biggest part of the tragedy being endured by the Japanese at the moment, as news it has been somewhat overtaken by the problems experienced at the Fukushima nuclear power station.  The individual difficulties at the various reactors there have been well documented and I won't repeat them here.  Tonight there seems to be some cautious optimism although it's early days yet to suggest that everything is under control.  As I understand it a power line has been established to the pumps that keep the reactors cool - good news of course but whether the pumps are still in working order is something likely to be found out tomorrow. 

We have been told that there are about 50 volunteers at any one time risking exposure to radiation in trying to get things under control at the plant.  Actually I think that it is about 180 or so brave men because they are working in shifts.  The next day or two it would seem are going to be crucial in recovering control of the power station.  Let us hope that all the hard work leads to a happy outcome.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Nature becoming more active

Here in the Tamar Valley today is one of the better days of the winter, a day when ones motivation for getting things done is a bit better than usual.  Dry with a bit of sunshine and not particularly cold it was a good time a little earlier in the day to pop down to the river and see how nature is fairing.

At a favoured spot on the river bank the violets are now up to 20 flowers out, well not all out to be honest but 20 showing purple even if a number of these are still in bud.  The snowdrops are making a great show at the moment and crocuses and a few primroses are making their presence known in people's gardens.  A few forsythia blooms are evident but the big surge of yellow is yet to come.

Across in the woods on the Devon side a woodpecker was hammering away.  I've heard it occasionally during the past couple of weeks, fairly quiet and tentative at first but now more strident.

It was good too to meet a couple I know out walking and stop for a chat, nice that the weather allowed a bit of time for such activity without oneself being frozen or drowned!

Although just a short walk it was beneficial to get at least some fresh air into ones lungs I think.  Perhaps this is one reason so many people own dogs hereabouts, to have a good excuse to get that regular exercise.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The winter so far in East Cornwall

After the mayhem of the frost, ice and even some snow in December the weather here seems to have reverted to "Cornish standard".  This can be interpreted as reasonably mild, fair dollops of rain and the occasional day or half day of sunshine.

As someone enthralled by all types of weather, except the absolute extremes that lead to death and destruction, it was good to see some snow.  The best of it was on the Friday night that led up to Saturday the 18th December.  It was on that sparkling sunny morning that Cotehele celebrated its wassail up in its Orchard.  As usual this event was led by our local worthy musicians "The Rubber Band" and it was a massively pleasurable walk of three or four miles to get there.  I had forgotten though just how much extra effort it takes to walk through snow!  Virgin snow under a blue sky is something special but it's the follow up when it is part melted and starts to look grotty that inevitably disappoints.

A big plus of the cold weather was the expected influx of redwings.  My friend's apple orchard lies behind the cottage and she had left some windfalls on the ground.  The redwings were delighted as were one or two fieldfares and some male blackbirds.  There were plenty of pickings for everyone but this didn't stop the blackbirds from bullying the much smaller redwings.  Maybe that's why redwings appear in greater numbers than the fieldfares and blackbirds - they can't all be chased away from the rich pickings on the ground at the same time!

Down near the weir there is an area either side of the river path where violets grow.  I seem to recall being told that violets were cultivated commercially in a nearby garden and that this patch could have come from there.  I check them in the winter to see if any are in bloom and was rewarded earlier today with the sight of one of them in bud.  Another part of the river bank not far away is good for snowdrops and it looks as if by the end of this month some of these might be in flower.  Great to see a heron just downstream of the weir as well waiting patiently.

Of course there is still plenty of time for more cold snaps but the length of daylight is increasing, always for me a great psychological boost.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Happy New Year

I thought I ought to say this before the end of January - so 'Happy New Year' to anyone who is passing by.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Apologies for lack of blogging

Just a brief blogpost to apologise to anyone who could be looking at this blog now and again but think I might have abandoned it.  Well no I haven't exactly but as explained in my last post  I have now started a new blog looking at the unusual and to me highly suspicious death of Dr David Kelly.  This new project has acquired a life all of its own.  In the case of David Kelly it is not just writing my own blog but looking at lots of different forums and other blogs not to mention poring through both the Hutton Inquiry transcripts and his Lordship's report.  I really could do with a thirty hour day!

There is absolutely no shortage of matters unrelated to Dr Kelly that I would like to write about but time is a finite quantity.

Anyway a quick recap - my new blog is here.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

A new blog about the death of Dr David Kelly

I've been thinking about this for a while: I've decided to write a new blog! It's not that I'm closing this one down but I have so many thoughts I want to record about the death of Dr David Kelly and the mysteries surrounding it that I've decided to devote a blog to this one subject.

There have been a few entries about Dr Kelly on this site but I feel the need to get everything in one place. Although the death occurred seven years ago I am concerned to keep the events of that time in the public eye and hopefully the new blog will be a small contribution toward that aim. The new blog is here.

The new project means that my musings on this blog might become even fewer! We'll have to see how things pan out.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Dangerous driving law shold be altered

"The law is an ass". How many times have those words been either written or said? Thousands, maybe millions, I would think. Well here is a classic example of why I think "the law is an ass".

It concerns a motoring case that came to court in which 23 year old Christopher Marr was sentenced for dangerous driving and seriously injuring three young people. Evidently he stole his girlfriend's Volkswagen Golf, he was drunk, he drove on the wrong side of the road at it is said 90 mph and he ploughed into the teenagers who were on the pavement. Miraculously, although seriously injured, none of the three died. Not too long ago the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving had been raised to 14 years BUT if someone is injured by dangerous driving then the top limit is 2 years in custody!

This incident happened up north in Bolton by the way so not on my patch. I'm noting it here because the Judge is seething so much about his sentencing limitations that he is sending the relevant papers to David Cameron, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke and the Lord Chief Justice to try to get the law altered. Marr got 26 months, presumably the extra 2 months were in consideration of the other offences. He got a 10 year driving ban as well - should have been a lifetime one.

Now it's possible from what I've read that the teenagers might be either mentally or physically scarred for life following this horrendous event. My argument is why the massive differential between death and serious injury particularly as in this case there are no less than three young lives affected. It can be a lottery in some instances as to whether a person survives or not: for example the time to get to the hospital, the particular level of skill of the medical team. Yet the dangerous driving is the same. Surely the degree of dangerous driving should carry more weight than it does rather than the length of imprisonment being so dependent on whether someone survives or not.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Back from holiday in Dorset

It's been some time since I last blogged and part of this is down to being away from my computer for a few days - well that's my excuse anyway! I am back in the Tamar Valley now having had a very pleasant short stay in East Dorset where one of my brothers and his wife live. This was timed to fit in with another brother visiting the couple whilst yet another brother was staying at Weymouth (no more brothers after this!) and we arranged to all meet up on one of the days. Fortunately the weather was perfectly tolerable if cloudy at times and on the occasion when we all met up it was particularly pleasant.

There was the opportunity to get out every day and we made the most of it. An afternoon visit took us up a fairly substantial hill to see the prehistoric fort on Hambledon Hill and very impressive it was too! On another occasion a circular walk of about 10 miles was undertaken in The New Forest. We also visited Swyre Head in the Purbeck Hills from which a super view is obtained. On a better visibility day one can see the Isle of Wight to the east but looking west Kimmeridge Bay was well in view with the long smudge of Portland beyond. According to Wikipedia it's also possible to see Dartmoor - I feel a little sceptical about this and it certainly wasn't visible on the day we selected. Another port of call was Corfe with its castle - well to be accurate we admired the latter from below on this occasion.

Traffic aside I was well impressed with Corfe. We snacked at the Model Village Courtyard Cafe and I would recommend that to anyone. A little cheaper than the National Trust prices at the Castle I would suggest, very nice food and friendly service as well. The Swanage Branch Line, now one of our many preserved railways has a station at Corfe and obligingly a steam powered train arrived while we were there!

One of my passions can best be described as "topographical history" - I love both local and national history and I'm especially interested in the way that the built environment has been influenced by the geography of an area. With relatively high elevations being visited it was possible to get an overview of the landscape. Not so though on The New Forest walk, from what I've seen so far there seems to be little variation in height over the Forest which at least is good if one is a cyclist! On the plus side plenty of lovely trees of course and breezy heathland to walk over. Lots of very low key car parking areas also got the thumbs up. I was also interested to see a smart fairly ornate signpost with a date of 2008 at its base - I think that this was the year when the Forest became a National Park.

Would I prefer to live in the east of Dorset than where I am now? No. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my brief break and the hospitality that went with it I am definitely a 'Peninsula' person rather than a 'Middle England' person. Any downside to the Tamar Valley? Well I wouldn't mind the lower rainfall that goes with the part of Dorset visited. But I guess nothing is perfect in this World!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Tony Blair's Journey, the Queen and Cherie

Well I for one haven't bought Tony Blair's autobiography "A Journey" so this won't be a critique of the book. However a lot of it is out there on the internet and one can get a flavour of what it is about even though it would be dangerous to comment on certain specifics without seeing the context that they are in. Unsurprisingly reviewers have been taking a lot of interest in Blair's thoughts about Gordon Brown. And of course they are curious to see what Blair says (or alternatively doesn't say) regarding Iraq.

I'm not going to get into those things right now, I'm more interested in Blair's disclosures about his private conversations with the Queen. Although I wouldn't describe myself as a fanatical monarchist I do think that the present system in this country is basically a good one with the monarch having no real power but nevertheless serving a unifying purpose. Now I may well be wrong in detail here but believe that when Parliament is sitting the Prime Minister has a weekly audience with the Queen. Furthermore I think that HM invites the PM and spouse to spend some time with the Royal Family at Balmoral.

Even if it's not spelt out wouldn't you think that conversations with the Queen would be 100% confidential. It seems not though with blabbermouth Blair. One newspaper I hear reckoned that the Queen was furious with what Blair disclosed in his book. Whether that is true I don't know but she would have every reason to be. All I can say is "how very Blair" - I'm not surprised about him. He is one of the new rich and powerful who doesn't get it when it comes to the right sort of behaviour to adopt. Harsh words perhaps but true. He and Cherie seem to be made for each other, I remember writing before - on the 12 May 2008 to be exact - about Cherie explaining that their youngest child Leo only came into this world because she didn't have any contraceptives with her when she and Tony were staying at Balmoral. Back then I stated that I was appalled that she put this information about Leo's conception into the public domain - to my mind it was grossly unfair to Leo to make this stuff known.

Cherie is at it again, once more demonstrating that she's not the "sharpest tool in the box". This is about Lord Mandelson's memoirs "The Third Man" which I think came out last July. In it one can read a note that Cherie had once written to him in support when Mandy was in trouble over the home mortgage scandal and had to resign. Included in the note was a vitriolic attack against one Gordon Brown. It may be that Mandelson didn't quote Cherie's note word for word, it could have been that he relayed just the gist of it. Anyway Cherie has now thrown a wobbly about it, stating through her lawyers that being a private note there was no way it should have been included in a book. I don't know the legal rights and wrongs here but I would have thought she was incorrect. The letter to Mandelson's publishers is demanding that the offending bit of prose be removed.

Let's step back a bit, take a deep breath and look at things logically. The book is out there in the market place, it isn't in draft form, are those books already printed supposed to be returned to Harper Collins for the offending page to be replaced? Up until now only a relatively small part of the population (those who have purchased the book) will know about the note and even then not every reader will remember that detail. But by making a fuss Cherie has ensured a much much bigger audience will have heard about it, rather silly if she doesn't want the whole world to know the contents of this note.

Of course it's just conceivable that Cherie really wanted a much bigger audience to know what she thought of Gordon Brown and this was a way to do just that. A bit like a double bluff in a sense. But is Cherie bright enough to have thought of such a thing?

Radio Cornwall new word today is restorated

Just had a quick gander at the Radio Cornwall website (mainly to have a look at the weather maps - it's pouring here at the moment). Anyway on their homepage and under "Other top stories" we have "Quaker house restorated". Clicking this link confirmed my suspicion that this was about the lovely thatched Quaker Meeting House at the equally lovely named 'Come-to-Good' near Truro.

The article is headed "Quaker meeting house in Cornwall is renovated" and this is followed by "A 300-year-old Quaker meeting house in Cornwall has been restored at a cost of £175,000." It seems perhaps that the writer had the two words "renovated" and "restored" in their brain and came out with a word that was a bit of each! Perhaps we have all had moments like that but I do wonder if people pause enough to make a quick check on whether what they are writing is correct.

I had a chuckle about this at least.

Simon Hoggart and Dr David Kelly

"Dr David Kelly's wrists were slit and he had swallowed 29 co-proxamol tablets. No wonder he died." These are the opening words of a piece written by Simon Hoggart in the Guardian last month. I understand that Mr Hoggart writes political sketches for that newspaper and it's quite possible he is good at that. Like Aaranovitch, Mangold and Rentoul he is firmly in the "Kelly committed suicide" camp. And as with them Hoggart can't even get basic facts right about the Kelly business.

In that first sentence of his Hoggart states two things as fact: the first of these is incorrect and the second not proven. I'll elaborate: he says "Dr David Kelly's wrists were slit". For your information Mr Hoggart it was one artery (the ulnar) severed in one wrist (the left). So wrist not wrists. He uses the word in the plural again further down and of course using "were" rather than "was" confirms he meant the plural.

The next "fact" from Hoggart is that "he had swallowed 29 co-proxamol tablets". Mr Hoggart nobody, but nobody, has ever proved that David Kelly swallowed 29 of these tablets. We do know that part of a tablet was found in his stomach and there was evidence of the constituents of co-proxamol in his body. That does not prove that all 29 were swallowed, willingly or unwillingly, by Dr Kelly. Maybe the powers of logic have by-passed you but I can assure you that the medical knowledge out there cannot definitively equate what was found in his body with the 29 missing tablets. Moreover it seems that Dr Kelly had a rare physical condition that made it all but impossible to swallow a tablet let alone 29 of them. But of course Mr Hoggart, in sounding off about Dr Kelly's death, I don't suppose you have bothered to look at any background evidence.

Another bit of information for you Mr Hoggart: Dr Kelly's friend and confidante Mai Pederson is on record as saying that Kelly had a weakness in his right arm that made even cutting steak difficult. So here is the scenario: Dr Kelly takes three blister packs of his wife's co-proxamol tablets with him (even though he hates pills and would most likely find it near impossible to swallow them); he also takes with him a blunt gardening knife (hard to believe that there wasn't a newer sharper knife in the kitchen drawer). Arriving at Harrowdown Hill he somehow manages to swallow all 29 tablets missing from the blister packs (well according to you anyway) and then using his weak right arm and blunt knife decides to cut the hard to get at ulnar artery, not the more accessible radial artery please note.

So this eminently intelligent man decides to commit suicide by the most tortuous way possible with no guarantee of success. There were alternatives: at Harrowdown Hill there are many trees from which he could have hung himself. If that idea didn't appeal he could have walked on north a little further to the banks of the River Thames and thrown himself face down into it. Even if there was only three feet of water it would be quite enough to drown in. And that part of the river is away from human habitation.

Another point for you Mr Hoggart, the last person that we know of who spoke to Dr Kelly was a near neighbour who he knew well. If Dr Kelly was intent on committing suicide one might expect him either to avoid speaking to her, or at most, say "hello". But according to her testimony at the Hutton Inquiry it was he who spoke first saying "hello Ruth", then they chatted for several minutes and she recalled that he wasn't any different to his usual self. Is this really the behaviour of a man intent on killing himself?

Can I make a suggestion Mr Hoggart? Please stick to political sketch writing, that's more your forte I suspect.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Cornish name for Cameron baby

I was very pleased when the Camerons decided to include a Christian name that had a direct connection to Cornwall following the birth of their daughter in the county the other day. Florence Rose are the first two names and they have added Endellion as a third, 'St Endellion' being the name of a parish close to where they were holidaying in North Cornwall. Endellion has got a nice ring to it I think, certainly my own parish 'Calstock' wouldn't quite work as a girl's name. It might be even worse if they had selected another village in this same parish (my parish is large in population terms with a lot of settlements). Take for example 'Gunnislake' or 'St Anns Chapel' or 'Harrowbarrow' - they wouldn't work either!

A quick note about St Endellion: its church has become very well known to serious music lovers because it is the location for two prestigious musical festivals each year. I've never been and would I think find the music on offer a little heavy for my taste. The website is here Having made this remark I have to say that there is plenty of wonderful classical music around, perhaps I don't devote the time and attention to it that it deserves. The other thing is that the inside of a church is a really special place to listen to good music as a rule.

I've just been looking at a press report on the internet and it seems that Gordon and Sarah Brown have sent their congratulations to Mr and Mrs Cameron on the new arrival. In his autobiography Tony Blair includes the words "Emotional intelligence, zero"in relation to Brown. That might generally be so and in many respects I find Gordon Brown pretty reprehensible. When it comes to people's children though his feelings are warm and genuine: I had commented before about the time when PMQs were cancelled following the death of Ivan Cameron. Brown was really choked (he can't do Blair style acting) - he did feel for the Camerons, partly perhaps because of the tragedy he and Sarah had in losing a very young child.

It sounds as if the new arrival in the life of the Camerons is doing well. Good luck to them.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Small tortoisehells in abundance

In recent posts I have been recording my huge pleasure in seeing so many butterflies on my buddleia this summer. Earlier on it was a very broad range of species I was observing but now the small tortoiseshells are easily outnumbering the others, in fact at any one moment there seem to be more of them than all the others put together.

Past experience has informed me that there are large numbers of bloggers with a particularly keen interest in wildlife. Moreover many of them incorporate photos in their blogs. Out of curiosity I thought I would see if other folk were seeing such numbers of small tortoiseshells this year. Happily Google is very good at helping to find what bloggers are saying. Not only is there a special section for blogs when you call up their search engine but there is a sort of sub-menu which gets you to the more recent entries.

So it was with great delight that I found Caroline Gill's blog 'Wild and Wondeful' here Not only were Caroline's observations in line with mine but, as you can see from the link, there are some really superb photos of this incredible butterfly as well. She posted this yesterday but I notice on Friday there were photos of the 'Painted Lady' butterfly. I'm pleased to say that at least one of these has turned up in the garden. It's interesting that certain years can be especially good for one particular species.

Now not such good news I'm afraid. I heard the other day that greenfinches are in serious decline right now. Some conclusion has been reached I think for the cause although I can't recall exactly what - must do some research on the reason. Although the wheezing sound that these finches produce could hardly be described as a beautiful song at least it was something I could recognise and always typified the sound of the garden in the summer. Sadly I can't remember hearing any in the garden or nearby this year. I really hope that, like the small tortoiseshells, they will come back in numbers again.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Silly article from Martin Robbins

Martin Robbins. Martin who you may ask. Until today I hadn't come across him but in my continued quest to try and understand how Dr David Kelly died I came across a piece written by Mr Robbins in today's Guardian on line (it's in the News: Science part). It transpires that he is a Berkshire-based researcher and science writer. Evidently he is quite happy with the conclusions of the investigating pathologist, Dr Nicholas Hunt, and seems to take the attitude that those querying the conclusion of suicide are loons. Well I don't think he uses that word but that is the impression I got. He ends his article thus:

"The attorney general has already asked people with genuine evidence to present it to his office, but it seems that so far nobody has met the challenge.

The conspiracy theorists should put up or shut up. I doubt they'll do either."

Now I'm rather imagining that the attorney general has made his comment as to a sort of backstop. If he doesn't receive new evidence he might turn round and say: "no new evidence, therefore no new inquest". The AG is showing he might hoodwink people here and Robbins is trying to do the same thing. Of course neither myself or, I would guess, other people wanting the truth will have any additional evidence - how could I for instance? It's not up to people doubting the suicide verdict to bombard the AG's office it is the duty of the system to properly examine the existing evidence, something that the Hutton Inquiry manifestly failed to do.

The only answer now is a new inquest. At least then we would have evidence given under oath, the coroner could subpoena witnesses to attend and a decision arrived at by a jury rather than one individual. Also of course verdicts of either "suicide" or "murder" would have to be "beyond reasonable doubt". Where doubt does exist there is the option of an open verdict and I wouldn't be surprised if that were to be the result in a new inquest.

Robbins has produced a silly article - I hope readers see it for the nonsense that it is.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Bill applauded at Dawlish Air Show

Bill Millin may not be the best known name on the planet. For the record he was the unarmed bagpiper who piped his comrades ashore on the Normandy beach in 1944. This piece of action was incorporated in the film 'The Longest Day'. He survived the D-day landings I'm happy to say and has only just died, his last years living at a Nursing Home in Dawlish. Yesterday was the day of the Dawlish Air Show, part of the annual carnival celebrations - it seems that the show just beat the awful wet and misty weather that has now swept in from the south west.

Someone had the wonderful idea that those present watching the show could demonstrate their feelings for their most famous resident by applauding for one minute. What a brilliant suggestion, there are many occasions of course when a minute's silence is the way to respect someone who has died but I'm sure this would have been the exact time for people to have clapped, and I in turn applaud that decision.

Although I had heard that this was going to happen I now read that a Sea King helicopter lowered a winchman who placed a wreath on the sea in front of the crowds - a nice tribute.

It's possible to read more about Bill's piping exploit by going here . This in fact is in Bill's own words and I can really recommend having a look at it.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Tom Mangold, Dr Kelly and duff reporting

It is looking increasingly likely that a new inquest will be opened into the death of Dr David Kelly. The pressure for this to happen from many quarters is building and I shall pleased if it materialises.

This particular entry is not so much about the suicide v murder question, it concerns just how slanted a journalist can make his story. The person in my sights is Mr Tom Mangold who, on his official website, describes himself as "one of Britain's top television reporters". Evidently modesty isn't his greatest virtue! I've been reading an article he penned which is on "The Independent" website and dated 4 July 2010. It is headed "David Kelly murdered? Yes, and I bet you believe in the tooth fairy too". The sub-heading starts "Investigative journalist Tom Mangold ..." Mangold takes The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday to task as they said that they produced "damning new evidence" of a cover-up to hide a murder plot. Mangold then writes:

The "new evidence" now includes a statement last week from Mai Pedersen, Kelly's former US Air Force interpreter in Iraq, who was a close friend. After seven years, she has suddenly recalled that Kelly could not have cut his wrist because an elbow injury had left his arm too weak. She has also said that he could not have swallowed 29 tablets because he "had difficulty swallowing pills".

Now it's quite possible that Ms Pedersen repeated the statement at the time described by Mangold but the implication he makes is that this is brand new stuff. Well, it isn't. Her statement came into the public domain in July 2009 a year earlier than Mangold's article. Two possibilities then:

  • Mangold didn't know about the Pedersen information until the week prior to his article, almost unbelievable for an investigative journalist, someone who also said "I knew David rather well".
  • Mangold was aware of the earlier statement from Mai Pedersen but tried to hoodwink his readers into thinking that this was brand new information. If that is indeed so then it is a total disgrace and furthermore an abuse of his profession.
Later on, in berating those in the "Kelly was murdered" camp, Mangold lists a sequence of events which he says must have happened if their theories are true. He includes "They then kidnapped Kelly and forced him out of the house while his wife was present". What is Mangold on for goodness sake. Kelly might have had a phone call to meet someone away from his home, he might have been shadowed by someone on the way to Harrowdown Hill. I don't know and neither does Mangold.

Mangold we know believes that David Kelly killed himself. Nothing wrong with that. And of course objectivity can get kicked out of the window when you are convinced that your version of events is the right one. Certainly on the basis of the points I've raised one shouldn't give much credence to the writings of Mr Mangold.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Butterflies in abundance

I wrote about butterflies in my last piece when recording our superb coastal walk. Still with these delightful insects I'm thrilled to see more and more of them on the large buddleia that's at the back of the patio. Back in the spring I pruned it quite vigorously and thought I might have overdone things but the result now is a really glorious example of this lovely bush. Of late I've had very disappointing years with hardly a butterfly in sight but 2010 has changed that! More and more butterflies are coming in (I could do with some 'painted ladies' though!) and it seems that by good fortune the pruning time was ideal as the mass of flowers have come at the right time.

Not just butterflies but bumble bees as well. These beautiful creatures really do work hard, as do honey bees of course. No wonder the phrase "busy as a bee" came into being (unintended pun with that last word!) Another great plus for the buddleia is its wonderful scent - I don't have a good nose for scents but I can recognise the buddleia's flowers with no problem!

In a previous entry I had commented about the frogs hopping around in the garden. There are as many as ever in the grass that passes as my lawn. Do I risk getting the mower out to give the lawn a much needed trim? Will the sound and vibration ensure they get out of the way? As far as I can see they appear to avoid getting crushed under my size nines at least. So I might give it a go.

Repeat of a favourite coastal walk

The other day, well Monday of last week to be precise, a friend and I enjoyed a superb coastal walk. I had written about this same walk a couple of years ago although this time we stretched our legs slightly to make the ramble a little longer ...

I'm sure that all lovers of the British countryside know those special places they regard as their own, you know the sort of locations which feel like going to visit a special old friend when you go back to see them. For us that part of Cornwall's south coast between Lansallos and Polruan is one such place. As an added bonus the drive there is pretty well stress free and, at just under an hours travelling each way, a practical distance from home.

Apart perhaps from a few yards at the Polruan end our walk was wholly on National Trust land and there is a total air of timelessness about it. Lansallos itself consists of a church, campsite and a scattering of cottages and houses, really not much more than a hamlet. The Trust have their usual low key car park: two years ago I noted that the honesty box asked for 50p, this has now gone up to a whopping £2! Now £2 for all day parking near the coast is still pretty reasonable in my book so I'll forgive the NT its fourfold increase (I was a member, will be again probably, but have made a temporary economy which means paying these occasional car park charges on their land).

Here, at the start of our walk, we are just inland from the coast and the path to the sea is down a wooded valley for about three quarters of a mile, the briny not coming into view until the last moment. One reason that we selected this particular day, other than it was warm and sunny, is that it was potentially a good time to observe butterflies and coastal flowers, especially toward Lantic Bay. We weren't disappointed!! Having said that I had hoped to spot some 'Clouded Yellows' - it was not to be. Later a friend, more knowledgeable about butterflies than I, said he had read reports of clouded yellows moving up through the country but fewer being spotted on the coast for some reason. But we were compensated by plenty of other butterflies and also a humming bird hawk moth, the first this year!

I won't go into further detail regarding the scenery, there are plenty of images on the 'net of Lansallos Cove and Lantic Bay illustrating how special this area is. After we got home my friend challenged me to write down how many species of wild flower we had seen - I thought I was doing quite well with about two dozen, she though had amassed a total of over 40! Well she is a better botanist than I am! Many of the flowers are butterfly friendly: for instance lots of 'birds foot trefoil' and 'Small Blue' butterflies feeding on them.

In truth there are many other special walks I know but perhaps none of them surpass this one.

Correction: the 'Small Blue' butterflies may have been both small and blue but in fact the species we saw was the 'Common Blue'. Glad to get that sorted!