Monthly Archives: July 2011

What came first, the cockatiel or the egg?

Our birdie soap opera has kicked into egg mode again. Frankie, the lead actress in this saga, has just laid the second of her latest clutch of eggs. It’s probably about the fourth or fifth round of eggs we have had from her. Earlier in her would-be mothering career she would be the picture of dutiful momma bird.

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Momma Frankie

This would involve her incubating her increasing-by-one-every-two-days clutch in a surprisingly well poised manner. Cockatiels don’t poo in their ‘nest’, so she would gratefully emerge from the cage of a morning to unleash what can only be described as a power dump, having a wing-stretch and returning to duty. At this time we would pop her in a different cage from the other two.

Whilst Frankie was distracted by toilet matters and getting a fly her fascinated room mates would steal into her new cage and attempt to juggle the eggs under them. Cockatiels are apparently likely to sit on each other’s eggs – quite sweet really. That said, both Lloyd and Phoebe are incredibly clumsy at this act, so it’s a good job they are unfertilised!

Egg production is an energy intensive business, naturally we researched and there were two schools of thought on how to deal with the situation. One was what we’d been doing – leaving her with the clutch until she realises they won’t hatch and abandon them. Quite sad. The other was to whip the eggs out as quick as possible after they arrive, which we’ve now adopted.

It seems to have had an interesting effect – the first time I was gutted to take them away, I’d wait for the ‘poop flight’ before sneaking the eggs away, only to find her return and look confused. Quite heartbreaking really. Over time though she’s increasingly lost interest in her eggs – this latest round of laying has seen her prepare her spot a few days before, then when the time comes pop down to the floor of the cage and squeeze the egg out.

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Aunty Phoebe

The only reason I have noticed this recent two was because ‘aunty Phoebe’ was scrabbling around trying to look after the egg. Meanwhile, Frankie is sitting chilled out on one of the top perches with little or no interest in the younger monster giving her prospective chicks brain damage. So I can easily enough nick the egg out the cage and then await potential sequels usually almost bang on 48 hours later.

Lloyd, meanwhile, just ignores the whole situation in his own (okay, her own!) self-centred little world!

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Sleepy ‘Uncle’ Lloyd

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I can move, move, move any mountain..

It wasn’t until I picked up an email from the organiser that I fully realised quite how soon the Three Peaks Challenge is. A week tomorrow in fact will see our intrepid group head off to Welsh Wales to start our challenge with Snowdon, then on to Scalfel Pike and ever onward to Ben Nevis.

Ideally this should all be completed within 24 hours before we get to get back into the mini bus and go back to Wales to be reunited with our transport home!

The email in question was a reminder of kit we needed – so I’ve acquired a head torch which means I can pretend I’m a member of Orbital or the Chemical Brothers! Also acquired were liner socks for my walking boots, a waterproof liner for my rucksack and a water carrier complete with straw for hassle free hydration.

All that remains is to pick up some compeed or other blister related remedies and I’m pretty much sorted I think. I might chuck the iPod in the change of clothes bag to utilise as a cunning distract-from-noise mechanism for sleeping on the mini-bus. Not that I generally have much issue with sleeping whilst travelling!

So, why do this crazy challenge? Partly to say I have done – as people will know me will know, I quite like getting up to shenanigans, and also to raise money for The Parrot Zoo. I’m a big fan of the place, and since Rich is doing the challenge in his parrot suit, I’m happy enough to back his cause.

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Those of you who feel compelled to be generous enough to sponsor us can find the details they need here: Three Beaks Challenge. We’ve paid our own costs so all donations go straight to helping our feathered friends.

On another note, after a few minutes of using an iPad, then flicking to your iPhone for a minute if a text arrives, looking at the smaller screen makes you feel like a giant!

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A cake my friends will make amends, for your disappointment or a loss of friends..

A drawing of Phoebe I rattled off on SketchBook Pro on my iPad

I’d got into a bit of a roll on the blogging front, so I’m going to try to not let it slide too much.

Last week was Grandad’s funeral – aside from the suspiciously inebriated priest with a real penchant for the story of Lazarus (and how the Jews were a bit worried about how much influence Jesus was amassing so decided to have him killed) – it was a nice affair.  Tiring for Granny, but despite the circumstance it was great to catch up with not as oft seen family and friends.

The day before Grandad’s funeral was the day that the iPad entered my life.  Not for any particular purpose beyond “WANT!” – but it’s a fun new toy, one I’ve only really scratched the surface of it – so to speak.  Currently I’m writing this whilst enjoying a mix of famous music intros thanks to the App that Radio Soulwax have put together.  It’s really rather good.

What else? In further Geekery I’ve been getting to grips (a bit) with Google+ – if it’s something you’ve been playing with too then you can find my profile here.  It certainly shows some promise, people talking of ditching the omnipresent Facebook through I think are perhaps a bit premature – whether people are ready to switch yet from something that has become so ubiquitous remains to be seen.

I do like the clean interface and the flexibility of ‘circles’ – you can have people in your circles that might not be in yours – and vice versa, rather than the tied “You are my friend” relationship in Facebook; I’ve lost count of how many people in my ‘friend’ list who I’ve never met and – in truth – I’m not sure exactly who they are.  Of course using other Google offerings such as Gmail and Calendars means there’s a degree of integration there.

Second visit to see the excellent Derren Brown’s Svengali tour – as ever, no spoilers – it was interesting for me as it was my second visit to this particular show, and to note the slight differences – some due to presumable tweaks he decided along the course of the show’s run, and others because of the not entirely predictable nature of individuals picked from the crowd.

Needless to say, he remains a bamboozlement – and that’s all I can really say without posting spoilers which I’m not about to do.  I would most certainly recommend a visit to see the show though – I think it might be about to finish for 2011 but will resume next year.

Finally Saturday saw a trip to Warsop to see Ferocious Dog who were supporting Miles Hunt (of The Wonder Stuff fame) and Erica Nockalls – current violinist for the band, and acoustic partner for Miles.  Accompanying me was Chris who’s a huge fan of Miles, it was touching to get him the chance to meet him and get a photo at the end of the show – which had far fewer people than it should have done, because it was excellent.

After a combination of holiday and bereavement time it’s back to work full time – and the 3 Peaks Challenge is looming ever larger on the horizon.  Eep!

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Checkin’ out the birds at the seaside…

Nice Shag! Or is it a Cormorant?

I’m not sure whether all primary schools have a prolonged fixation with sea birds or whether it was just ours – or whether perhaps it as a subject as a young’un that I engaged with more than others, but certainly it came in handy during a break we’ve just been on in Northumberland.

Of course, people such as myself from landlocked Nottinghamshire have an extra level of fixation with all things seaside given it is such an alient concept to the shire of our birth!

It was quite evoking of that time at ickle school – a lot of our learning of such things was ostensibly to prepare us for a field trip to Whitby in Yorkshire a little further down the Eastern coast of England to where we’d be eventually.  Indeed, we were so northern near Seahouses that we were above Hadrian’s wall, and quite a sizeable chunk of Scotland.

A boat trip was duly booked to take us on a tour of the Farne Islands including a landing at Inner Farne were the promise of Puffins and being divebombed by protective Terns was our reward.  A ‘sea legs’ pill or two downed and certainly the choppy waters didn’t cause me any issues, although they did seem to knock me out for a good day and a half after!

So thanks to the efforts of Mapperley Plains Primary School I was quickly spotting Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Puffins, Gannets, assorted Gulls including black masked, herring and black backed variants as well a couple of elusive Razorbills.  I still struggle to tell the difference between a Cormorant and a Shag though, although oddly have been half-remembering a story we read during the same kind of time involving a cormorant and some kind of treasure linked to the Spanish Armada.

I like to think of this as photographic eavesdropping on a conversation between the leftmost two Puffins – probably telling a joke about the righthand bird…

As seems to be normal for my random school-based recollections Google has been as good as useless as finding a reference to it.  I can only assume that my school had a raft of very obscure material that no other bugger used!  If anyone remembers some kind of tale involving The Spanish Armada, a Cormorant and some kind of treasure (and possibly called, or featuring a landmark called, ‘Armada Rock’ then let me know!

A twinged ankle has curtailed my plan to do a walk in Avebury tomorrow, nothing too serious but I didn’t want to risk a long walk on it as the three peaks challenge looms large at the end of the month – plus an unplanned diversion on Sunday would’ve also been a nuisance if I had ended up immobile.

Before we went away Grandad passed away in Hayward House at the City Hospital – finally at peace after a tough struggle with cancer.  His funeral’s next week, and whilst of course the occasion is always sad it’ll be nice to catch up with the family, and of course it’s much better that he’s no longer suffering in a hospital bed.

On a lighter note – the rest of the photos are here on Facebook.  I’ll warn you now they comprise pretty much of lots of birds and a few seals!

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A thing you take for granted..

That softening around someone’s eyes during that fraction of a second they first see you and recognise you – fondness, or perhaps just an involuntary relaxing of some obscure eyeball muscle upon the sight of a familiar face.  Who knows?  I can’t even work out whether it’s something about the eyes themselves or the face immediately surrounding them.

The reason I had realised I took it somewhat for granted was when it wasn’t there the day before yesterday.  I had gone with my Dad and my Granny to see Grandad in hospital, who is in an increasingly bleak terminal condition thanks to the ravages of bowel cancer.  Whilst his frailty and obvious illness is upsetting, his sharpness of mind had been pretty intact.

It was a bit different this time, his eyes glazed and no flicker of recognition for some time, and the words he managed to utter didn’t seem to make much sense – although I get the unquantifiable impression that the thoughts behind the utterances were fairly robust, and sensed the frustration he must have felt at not being able to communicate them.

Certainly it is a difficult experience – particularly for Granny who, after over three score years of marriage isn’t able to offer any comfort to him.  So very sad.  Particularly since with her dementia issues she might not necessarily recall exactly how poorly he is before she sees him.  As we left Grandad managed to utter that he was sorry and call me by name, and there was that softening of the eyes that betrays recognition and fondness.

Whether he was exhausted, needed time for his faculties to warm up or whether the ravages of his cruel illness is spreading to affect the reliability of how he can think we can only casually and macabrely speculate.  This process does make one think more philosophically though, that’s for sure.  It’s good timing in many ways to be heading away for a few days next week, I do feel quite drained.

I can only imagine how the rest of the family who have taken on much more of the burden of dealing with Grandad’s illness and the care of Granny now he’s no longer able to provide her with care.  In the meantime I selfishly reflect on an ethereal facial flicker, and how it made me feel… sheesh!

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We are the Forest people, the Forest is our store…

School-based music seems to be something popping into my head with alarming regularity of late.  Blogging about it is a useful way of brain-dumping and hoping that these songs of yore stop echoing around my head.  Apologies if they are now echoing around yours.  I’ve graduated from Primary School in this latest reminisce, and now find myself firmly ensconced in Secondary School circa 1989 or 1990 ish.

We do a subject called ‘Integrated Studies’ which is a mish-mash of Geography, History and Social Sciences – and for much of this period we are absolutely fixated on the Rainforest.  We even create a Rainforest-like environment in the school area devoted to the subject, complete with buttressed trees and extensive foliage everywhere.

In quite well joined-up learning, as well as more factual based learning about the Rainforest area a musical interlude is also incorporated.  A well-meaning but ultimately quite patronising expose on the treatment of the Amazonian tribes people as us Westerners do what we do best and strip the assets from a place with little care nor thought for the longevity of the area.

I’ve actually found reference to it too – although details are scarce – the musical was called ‘Yanomamo’  – ostensibly one of the tribe names (it is actually a tribal word meaning ‘human’ or ‘man’ and not a name as such at all).  The bit that sticks in my head isn’t listed much on the internet at all, and since it involves the supposed names of different Amazon tribes – I’m almost certainly going to spell them incorrectly… but this is how it sits in my head phonetically at least…

We are the Forest people,
The Forest is our store
blah blah blah blah blah blah
blah blah blah
hidden lore

Yano-mamo, Mayo-luno, Too-cana, Moo-raaah,
Yano-mama, Yano-mami, Ticanus, Ai-ee-caaa’

Of course, as young Forest fans (as in the football team), it was with much gusto we were able to join in with a lusty rendition of ‘we are the Forest people!’.  I can also recall some kind of video accompaniment, with particular recollection of a solo song sung by a girl about a lonely Jaguar.  That went “Jaguar-uar-uar-uar”… which led to much “Oooh Aaar” farmer based humour.  Sophisticated people that we were.

Details, such as I could find, are here.  I must admit I’m not curious enough about it to go to the lengths of buying a songbook – I can’t believe I can’t find much by the way of definitive lyrics to all the songs though!  I’m not really sure why I feel compelled to do so either…!

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