Since moving to sunny Bournemouth, this has now turned from a nature record into a kind of blog, where being lazy I can refer my friends to this, rather than explaining it all in individual emails. But in fairness, not many entries due to a life of tedium; a boring, insignificant, monotonous, bland, humdrum, banal, insipid, pointless, dull life, and even my closest friends usually refer to me as 'that git'. Let's face it, a blog is a self-inflated,vainglorious, narcissistic, exercise, although it's fine if you lead life to the full and accomplish things. I certainly have nothing whatever to be proud of nor anything to be egoistical about, so this is mainly concerning writing and my photographic work here in Dorset, without doubt the best county for its varied habitats, scenic wonders, Jurassic Coast, heathlands, cliffs, beaches, chalk downs, ancient history. Wildlife, science and the natural world continue to dominate my interests, this being the best place in the UK for butterflies (together with Hampshire Downs), Portland the best birding site at peak migration times, Purbeck the most scenic location. Wonderful.

I continue to write articles for magazines and newspapers, continue with my photography, field guide leader mainly on natural history, am the Ornithologist at the BNSS, arrange lecturers to give talks, but mainly loaf around, principal exercise reaching for the remote.

Am a keen amateur reader on astronomy, travel, politics, golf, wildlife, geology, quantum physics, fossils, and subscribe to: The Sky At Night, Dorset Life, The Daily Mail, Bournemouth Echo, The Spectator, The Writers Magazine, Time, Digital Photo, The Wedding Society, Birdwatching Monthly, BBC Wildlife Magazine, CSMA Magazine, and presently a member of: Hampshire Wildlife Trust, Dorset Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, Portsmouth RSPB, the Wetland Centres, Hampshire Ornithological Society, The Dorset Bird Club, Hampshire and IOW Butterfly Conservation, Dorset Butterfly Conservation, the Bournemouth Natural Science Society, Bournemouth Naturally, Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group, U3A, Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society, National Trust, English Heritage, Havant Hayling & Emsworth Wildlife Study Group, Hampshire, Dorset, IOW Birdguides, Southampton Natural History Society, Compassion In World Farming, Society of Wedding Photographers, Society of Travel Photographers, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard,The Brook Animal Charity, and a few others! (I didn't realise until I wrote this. Help! No wonder I needed the IMF. In a worse state than Greece.)

UPDATE

15.5.17

2 Trips to Stonehenge, Wiltshire on 5.5.17

SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THIS AND LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY


Professional, Joana Kruse organised a special trip to the famous stones for a few landscape photographers. Most of these are fantastic photographers in their own right. Landscape remains my weakness. Consider myself a people/wedding/wildlife photographer. With landscapes, equipment is needed, tripods, ND filters, remote. Landscapes have their own technicalities that have to be known, rules have to be obeyed before they can be disobeyed. There are the simple rules, rules of thirds, lines leading in, foreground interest, but there are more obscure technical additions. Another attribute is patience, those dedicated and professional are willing to spend hours on getting the right picture.
My pictures on the other hand are always fast and of the moment. I do not have patience, and even taking portraitures, tend to be fast. This a result of starting off as a wildlife photographer, where you have to be fast, get a picture, and only then try and get a good, better picture. Anyway, am willing to finally learn a little more, but will never be a great landscape photographer, and have no desire to. Why bother, when others are doing it for me, and for the really telling impression, then 'impressionist' painters and other fine artists have the answer in my opinion. They capture what we see better than an all in-focus photo. They capture our ‘impressions’.

I consider myself a good wildlife photographer, with several lenses and cameras, but it is largely a question of having the contacts, the forums, and knowing where and when to go. However, there are better photographers than me, Ian Ballam who is out daily and produces fantastic pictures with a bridge camera! Has a Canon GX50 same as me, but I can never get the results that he does when using this camera. I rate myself as a god professional portraiture photographer, and as good as the best at weddings, and certainly the best if those charging £7,000 are taken out of consideration. As for landscapes, I think I am naff.

We happen to have some of the very best photographers here in Dorset, Joana Kruse, Colin Varndell, Mike Bauer at the top, plus others, and it is in my opinion the best county for such an art. Steam trains, Corfe Castle, The Jurassic Coast, villages, beaches, cliffs, all we are missing are mountains and St. Andrews Golf Course.

Stonehenge is in Wiltshire of course, and on this trip, we actually took 2 of the bus trips from the vast new centre to the Stones, at about 5 and 8 pm. The first trip was with the usual trippers, the second with Joanna’s party of photographers, together with a few tourists who paid a hefty fee, and on this special excursion, we were allowed inside the actual circle of Stones, although not to touch.
A few observations:

My goodness, how it has changed. As a schoolboy, we were allowed to climb upon the Stones, sit on them do whatever we liked. Now, it is English Heritage's main site, its Blue Riband attraction (or is that Blue Ribbon - look it up) and it is monstrous. Shuttle buses, 2 gigantic car-parks, cafes, inevitable gift shops, a new brick building being constructed, shuttle buses running every few minutes, the visiting centre a mile from the Stones - wow. It is about the size of London.

Of late, there has been discussions that English Heritage, RSPB, and especially the National Trust (with 4 million members, one of the largest and richest charities in the world) have increasingly become corporate money-making machines, with expensive coffee shops, gift shops, high entrance fees especially for family’s. Complaints are being voiced in the London museums that more exhibits are being removed, whilst increasing numbers of canteens and larger gift shops proliferate.

I recently visited Thomas Hardy's birthplace in sunny Dorset, and here again, the visiting centre was huge, exactly the sort of place he would have hated.

But - I admit I am as guilty as anyone as welcoming these as meet-up points, a place to relax, have a read about the history of the place, obtain information, and I am not adverse to getting a handset to tell me more as I go around. The coffee is invariably good, as is the food, although expensive. Yes, the visiting centre at Stonehenge is vast, it is corporate, it is 'touristy' but on the other hand it works in that it is set-up to deal with a vast amount of people who wish to see the Stones and learn about them.

Another personal point. A few years back I visited and like many, I was in awe that our ancestors had managed to move these stones, some weighing 40 tons, some from Wales, and erect them in the manner we have come to know. But then I visited Egypt, the temples, and the Pyramids of Gaza. Karnak Temple, the largest temple in the world, is a mile long, the colours in places are still vibrant after 4,000 years, it is vast. It blew my mind. The Great Pyramids has 2.2 million stones, each chiselled mathematically perfect. So, after being totally overawed by the scale and the beauty of Egyptian art (my flat is full of it), then Stonehenge I'm afraid to say, has lost much of its majesty, its allure to me. The magic is no longer there for me. Pity.

Now then, on the second and main visit to the Stones on the Fifth of May, joining us ‘expert’ photographers, and we also has a few pesky members of the enemy - the public. Couples mainly, with selfie sticks, more interested in getting pictures of themselves against the stones than actually looking at them. As often happens, there was slight antipathy between us and them, as we obviously were after picture of the stone circle - showing the majesty, awe, mystery, age, spiritualism of the edifice, none of which is helped by grinning posers with selfie sticks.

Friction is often present with landscape photographers where the public walk in front of the camera, and is often the case with wildlife, photographing a very special bird or animal, and with little consideration or thought, people ignore the fact we are all looking at something, and merrily flush our subject with no thought given. Uncontrolled dogs are one of our major problems whilst out in the field, and here heated words are often exchanged.

And yet - and yet. There is the other point of view. Why should they not feel free to go where they wanted in the stone circle? Why should our pictures be more important than theirs? (Let's face it, we are hardly likely to get anything original of Stonehenge are we? Any suggestions how we could?) They paid a large sum to be there, they were enjoying it as much as us, perhaps more so. If I was forced to pick a side between the public and photographers, I would have to come down on the former.

I rarely, if ever, tell anyone to get out of shot when I am photographing, except on the rare occasion I am doing a professional shoot. I also know of photographers who do not look at wildlife, or cathedrals, they just want to get the picture. I sometimes wonder why I photograph nature when a similar picture has been done before, what is the point of shooting Stonehenge? A couple of pictures to show my friends that I was there, but is anyone interested in being shown 30 of my efforts? Why on earth should they be? So, do we take photographs merely to show off, to show a different aspect, for our own benefit or what?

If I possess any ability it is that of relaxing people, making them laugh if need be, knowing instinctively what makes a good picture, deciding the backgrounds, but as for wildlife, most of it has been done now, incredible pictures are posted daily with clarity, with new insights of the beauty and brutality of the nature. Pictures are captured by or traipsing for hundreds of miles, but also just by luck, being there at the right moment, maybe armed with a Smartphone camera.

I became a photographer because I could not draw or paint. At all. Maybe it is time to stop taking so many pictures unless on a professional shoot and just take things in, but always, I am thinking of whether or not something I see would make a good picture.
Certainly, professional photographers now have to produce the goods like never before, have to produce that ‘magic’. I see many professional wedding photographers who do not have this ability, are just merely proficient in the correct lighting and manipulation of the professional cameras.

That therefore are a few of my thoughts and observations of photography. It is one art that we can all do, I enjoy seeing my friend’s pictures on social media, I enjoy seeing the special captures of Twitter from organisations, and those at Stonehenge, carry on. In such circumstances, it may all be resolved if someone with a strong personality talks to those interfering with our landscape shots, and perhaps come to an agreement. Give us 10 minutes and then do whatever you want. After all, we were there for over an hour on our second trip. Then we could all enjoy the experience.

OTTERS OF BLANDFORD

Out with Dominic Couzens to try and see the Otters and once again we were successful, and once again, a spectacular show.
Then I took 17 out on a special trip. After 50 minutes, I decided t give up, and a call went out, and there it was. Even better show this time as we followed it to the old 7-span bridge. We crossed the road and peered the other side, and there it was looking up at us just a few feet away. Some said it was the best wildlife experience ever, others said it was simply one of the best experiences in their lifes. That makes it 3 successful trips in a row.

After this I'd arranged Sue Newman to give us am historical/architectural tour of the the town of Blandford which was another success, so for the group, the bestest day ever, and will probably never be bettered.

HEALTH

On a load of pills now, for prostate, heart fibrillation, which are not too serious, but annoying. Just means that I still do not wish to travel abroad at the moment, and I continue to get out of breath quite easily. Now cannot walk too far, 3 or 4 miles is the limit and easily get out of breath if walking uphill. A heart operation would probably involve 3 surgical procedures, so don’t fancy that, so long-term not too sure at the moment. Also having problems with my right heel, for which it’s time I saw a specialist.

CLEAR OUT

I have had little needed to spend any money on the upkeep of my appartment, it is all in good nick, and still delighted to be living here, but the carpets did require renewal. Quite a task when the rooms are furnished, as everything has to be moved out and about, so decided to have a mass clear-out at the same time, and nowadays have to think of death! That is, I had to clear out my mother’s and then sister’s belongings and it is not a pleasant task, so I have to start considering who would do my clearances.
So, out went all sorts of things really, but mainly books and more books. Gave them to friends and 2 charity shops. These book clear-outs occur about once every 5 years, always hard to do, and always followed by “Now, where’s that book?” But, I read less nowadays, social media taking up some of the reading time.

BNSS

Continue to spend less and less time here, have arranged clear-out of ornithology books from the 2 libraries. Reference books are bought and read less nowadays because of the internet, Google and Apps.

CHRIS PACKHAM & BIRDTRAIL

For the first time in 10 years, will not be taking the photos and leading Chris P around Birdtrail. Hampshire Wildlife Trust have told me that they have to be in sole charge of this now. Really cheesed off with this, have given away hundreds of free prints over the years, and we always had a terrific day, and terrific feedback, with not a single complaint. Rules and regulations! So, have booked up a holiday in Andalucía.

15.1.17

RIVER STOUR AND THE OTTERS - & WHY MR. BOB DYLAN’S LIFESTYLE ADVICE NEEDS REVISION

Sorry about this. Have not updated for months, as usual, but then do not lead a very exciting life!


Off we go abroad to Costa Rica, the Galapagos, or travel to the Farne Islands. Scotland has the iconic eagles, and there we try to catch a distant glimpse of an otter along a stony shoreline. But we live in the most scenic county with the most varied species, Wareham is the richest place in the kingdom for wild flora and varied habitats, so let's make do with that. And yet - and yet -

For about 5 years now, I have endeavoured, always unsuccessfully, to capture the Blandford Forum Otters. Springwatch and many other programmers have filmed them, for these particular ones exhibit 2 unusual traits, of benefit to any wildlife photographer, naturalist, or in fact anyone, for everyone loves these animals. They are quite tame to the public, having got used to people walking along the banks of the Stour, right in the middle of the town by Morrisons Car Park, and secondly they can often be seen during anytime of the day, instead of solely going along with their more usual nocturnal trait.

To see them is just pot luck, and as the last time I had some luck in my life must have been about thirty-seven years ago, I have unsurprisingly always been unfortunate. Once a woman told me that I had missed them by 3 minutes, as a man had just thrown a stick in the water for his dog, despite people enjoying the sight of the Otters. This 'woman' was actually smiling as she told me this! Not many humans are found dead with a grin on their faces.

Years passed and today, the 4th of January 2017 I again clocked up a blank. Zilch, zero, a great big fat nothing, bug**r-all, nowt. I left by the blue bridge, head bowed, defeated again, shoulders slumped nearly to the ground, and I glanced a final time back - and just caught a nanosecond glimpse of a tail going under the water by the weir! I walked back, saw nothing more for 5 minutes - - - - then saw the Otter on the other side of the River. Another few minutes passed with nothing, then I glimpsed the mammal on the other side of the 'rapids'.

I walked along the banks, taking the odd record picture, at least I had finally seen them, was happy enough. Mission accomplished, as someone once said. Was content.

And then - and then - it kicked-off. The show began - one of my best ever wildlife encounters, anywhere. Actually, that is not true. On calm reflection, the bestest. 2 Otters at Blandford Forum, River Stour for over 40 minutes, talked to them (or rather, uttered weird guttural sounds), they came within 3 feet! Often too close for pictures. At one stage one even considered joining me on the banks of the Stour. Took 5 years of trying and then maybe the best-ever pictures. Frolicking, playing, gambolling, interacting, and the Otters likewise. They were hunting, synchronised diving, catching fish, & only the second worldwide record of otters breaching! (Got picture of this which is not great but okay. They were very fast.) Articles submitted to magazines, Wildlife Trusts etc. Just me, cameras, the occasional local. Only time one cowered away in the reeds was to eat a Perch. Will now hang up my camera straps, regale the story, retire - at least until next week.

As far as I know, only one photo has ever been taken of a breaching otter, anywhere in the world, and like mine, is not perfect, they are just too fast, but it's okay. But best of all, they seemed to be just as interested in me as the time went on, continually passing right in front. At one stage an Otter came to the bank, 3 feet away, and I thought he was going to come onto the bank to join me. This may have been curiosity, may have been my camera or my tasteless bright blue hat, may have been the weird noise I was emitting.

There were no other naturalists or photographers, apart from the odd local taking phone pictures from the 2 bridges or standing beside me, and I must confess that after ensuring no one was near, I did talk to the Otters, or rather, uttered weird guttural sounds. If anyone had witnessed this, sadly it would merely have confirmed their prejudices about my mental deterioration.

For photographic purposes the main problem was their speed, but secondly they were often just too close! Being a photographer, the first noises I uttered at birth was complaining about my lot, but being too close is one such complaint even I seldom make. As a photographer and naturalist, forever moaning about my luck, this sort of made up for years of misery, misfortune, born under the wrong sign, hard-luck stories and woe, more woe, a thousand times woe.

The only occasion that an Otter hid and went away to cower in the reeds was when it caught a Perch, it requested solitude, otherwise they continued to check me out, look at the camera, or just ignore me. Finally, after the show of a lifetime, they glided away under the 6-arch graceful Blandford Stone Bridge, and swam beyond. This had probably been my natural history experience that surpassed all others.

I will not complain if I never exceed this as a wildlife encounter, it will remain in my being. I am grateful, it makes up for those myriad missed sightings of yore ('It was here for 8 weeks, and left this morning,’ 'Oh, it's just dropped down,’ 'It was here for most of the year but was taken by a Sparrowhawk an hour ago'). This was so, so lucky as I was leaving when the tail was glimpsed. It confirms Dorset as being the epicentre of the natural world and there is a lifetime lesson to be learned – always, always have that final glance back.

Mr. Bob Dylan once advised - "Don't look back it's alright." On this particular bit of personal lifestyle self-help advice, may I humbly beg to differ. Although a great fan of the singing poet throughout my life (well, to be honest, the early stuff), I don't for a minute doubt his wisdom and sincerity, and respect the fact that I am here querying the judgement of a Nobel prize winner for literature, but may I most humbly plea to differ on this one specific aspect, for I am strongly of the belief that he should think hard and deep and maybe reconsider, and a U-turn would be acceptable, even advisable.

In Defence of Mr Dylan, when he recorded his ditty, I can only assume that he was not anticipating an occurrence at Blandford Forum 50 years hence, and the possible glimpse of the tail of an otter, descending into the depths of the River Dorset as it winds itself through Dorset. Had Mr Dylan known this, he would, I am convinced, have rearranged his lyrics to be less dogmatic in style, perhaps - "Don't look back, unless there is a chance you may miss something really good, in which case a little glance would be acceptable and not go amiss, it's alright." Some might argue it does not have the required ring to it, but it would serve its purpose, and clear the matter up.

In conclusion, there is a lifetime lesson to be learned – and whatever Mr Bob Dylan advises, and notwithstanding how many times he preaches the message, I advise, nay I scream from the rooftops, always, always do have that final look back.


ANOTHER CLOSE ENCOUNTER


After the magical day with the Otters, I visited a common haunt of mine, Poole Park and was again rewarded with another close encounter. This time it was a Cormorant, swimming, catching fish, then drying its wings for an hour, a mere six feet away. Once again I’m ashamed to say I talked to it, reassuring it would come to no harm, as I clicked away in the sun. Once again, these will be welcomed additions to the website. By the way, Dominic Couzens has observed that Cormorants may only fish for 20 minutes in a day, and the rest of the time, they are chilling out, just resting, drying their wings, bonding. If ever I come back as one of God's creatures, a Cormorant would suit me perfectly.

BNSS


I am giving up nearly all of my volunteering jobs, including helping to write for the BNSS, being the photographer and ornithologist. I will help anyone who takes over to get some of the best speakers in Britain, many of whom I know personally as friends, but after January, will no longer be committed to introducing the speakers, and therefore being committed to being here. In other words, I can just go away, whenever I want.
The BNSS do a wonderful job in organising 100 talks a year on any subject, but I am beginning to wonder if they are becoming out of date. Social media is actually fantastic for the sciences, the arts, and the natural world, photographs and videos from throughout the world are easily enjoyed minutes after being taken.
I also follow politics, humour, golf, friends and family and the problem as I see it is not the trash, but how good it is. If there is a boring lecture, we are trapped, but we can exit a boring tweet or Facebook entry. Just saying.
So, will be sending less time at the BNSS, and other volunteering jobs, but still go on walks, and lead walks with other groups.

LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY
I consider myself a good nature photographer, would not do weddings if I thought there was someone who could do them better, and believe I know instinctively, what makes a good portrait. If I have a strength it is making people or animals relax, trust me, laugh and give the right pose. Although I have virtually given up photographing weddings, due to time, I thank those who continue to ask but have to turn them down. They are still the ultimate, the most creative, most enjoyable, and satisfying when everyone s pleased with the results. Never had a complaint, everything has worked out, although had a few close-shaves with disaster.

I do not claim to being proficient at landscape, or even good, and here instinct is not enough, technical knowledge is required. This is especially so at night, sunset or dawn etc. So for the first time ever, I have joined an expert, one of my favourite professionals at landscapes, Joana Kruse on several trips around Dorset and Hampshire and maybe beyond. She actually turns down commissions from the world’s top magazine for pictures, National Geographic, and is forever touring the globe taking and selling her pictures. I have also joined a couple of other professional landscape portraitures.

Of course it is so much harder now to make a living at landscape photography, as there are billions of free or cheap pictures out there, but work is coming back now to the elite. Magazines are again willing to pay for quality.

Anyway, she has not given me any lessons, but I just observe and then see the final product. Admittedly Photoshop plays a big part, but her pictures bring scenes alive and interesting. I will never be as good as her, or Colin Varndell who I also vaguely know, as I do not have their dedication and knowledge. I still have much to learn. Obviously, I have always known the basics, rule of thirds, level horizons, paths leading into the picture, foreground interest for depth etc., but there is more to it.

Having said all that, to really capture a landscape, a good painting will always better a good photograph, in my personal opinion, because it will show you what you see in the mind. An 'impression of what you see, 'impressionism'. But of course, photography is quicker, easier and you can take multiple pictures from viewpoints, and with photoshop, filters etc.you can always give an artistic impression.


FALLING TO PIECES

I think I will need to employ someone to walk behind me, picking up pieces of my body as they fall off.

My heart fibrillation has just returned after 2 years. Back on the pills now, having ultra-sounds etc. and will await treatment. Have a nagging pain on my right heel, which has got worse, have just had an x ray, and again will require treatment and a specialist, and having pills for the common men’s complaint of the prostate. Again may require an operation.

After going 30 years and seeing a doctor exactly twice – I am not complaining, nothing too serious and no pain. Don’t do pain. But I know of those who have really suffered, including the young. All of this means is just inconvenience, get out of breath too easily and cannot go abroad at the moment. That’s it.

Despite this, I consider myself lucky, and for my age, in good health, yet I take a load of pills, am seeing my doctor, specialists, having tests, will probably have an operation or two, so the purpose of writing this is to simply give an example of the demands of a typical person, nowadays, on the NHS. We request scans, operations, experts, and although I am extremely opinionated on most things, the solution to the problems of the NHS is not something, even I as an opinionated Julian, can solve. Pass.

 

REUNION


This summer I made an historic decision, and attended the annual reunion for the old boys at Lord Wandsworth College.

It is now a huge school, 570 boys and er, girls(!) and wow, has it changed. The headmaster is extraordinary, having met him twice now, and even more changes on the way. Fees are now £30,000 a year. A change, that would have altered my life, is that they now have weekly boarders, where you can go home at weekends. This would have been profound for me and my lifetime relationship with my parents, indeed my life would have been different.

I did not enjoy the school, but now, having written about my experience, and having met some old boys and recall of my times there, it was not as bad as I had believed. The brain tends to make thing black and white.

Another strange aspect of the brain is that after 48 years, I returned to the village of Long Sutton for the first time, and the school, and some memories of the sights were instant, vibrant and vivid, others were opaque, and some, well there was just nothing there. I would recall a building exactly, the school playing fields came straight back, even though I had not pictured them since the day I left, then I would turn a corner and nothing even vaguely registered in my memory neurons.

Same with the boys. Boys I had not contacted in 48 years, and had even not thought about once, yet it all came back, whilst others, who probably sat with me, eat with me, shared a dormitory, played sports together, we actually lived together as close friends - yet zilch - sometimes even the name meant nothing!!

I was the photographer for the reunion and they asked me to write for them for their quarterly magazine, so here is the article. I have given permission for them to edit, and the final edited article should therefore be interesting, but here is what I submitted: -

"To Those who have never attended a Reunion

Invitations arrive through the post to attend a reunion of LWC Sternians, a gathering of the old boys. Cursory glance, cast it aside. Another year passes.
Then one year, 2008, this time one of those emails we occasionally get, totally out of the blue. Finger hovers over for a moment and then sure enough ‘Delete’. Reminders are later sent to me, until finally I react. The emails are an invitation to meet up in London, for the first-ever class reunion of ‘68. A considered reply. Many thanks for the invitation but I have to be honest. My 5 years at the school were not a bundle of joy, things were not great for me because I was not built for, had no interest in, and was not good at rugby. During my 5 years there as full-time boarder, that was all that really mattered, and determined whether you were ‘in’ or not. Rugby was what the school was all about. It was rugby obsessed.
I pressed ‘Send’ and that would be the end of it; or so I thought.

I was there during the most successful rugby period, culminating in the year of Dyson’s wonders who won every match in every competition. I seem to recall them being up about 63-nil at half-time against Eton, and told to ‘go easy’ in the second half. I was also there when we once, just once, tried to play soccer in our free time and the ball was cut in half! Strange.

Strange to me then, strange to me now because you play sport to get fit, to bond as a team, to try your best, and to enjoy it. The only other sport, apart from cricket in summer, was cross-country running, again something I did not enjoy, hated, again compulsory. That’s it. Apart from leisurely golf, it put me off playing all sport, for life.

There was bullying, and nothing was done or even said about it. Ever. I went on to detail one or two other things that I disliked about the culture of the school.
The reaction to my email reply, in effect thanks but no thanks, was not what I had anticipated. I received a totally unexpected large batch of emails and at least half of the boys, felt exactly the same as did I. A surprise, because none of us had expressed our unhappiness to one another during our time there. They were different times.

So it was, that apprehensively I drove to the Pitcher & Piano, Richmond. Somewhat nervous, I drove past a couple of times and even then contemplated giving it a miss. But it was a pleasing summer’s evening, we would be in the gardens, and perhaps the calming influence of Thames flowing alongside would relax me. The evening would turn out better than that.

I had not been looking forward to it, but it turned out to be a wonderful evening for all concerned, certainly cathartic, with laughter, nostalgia, and memories good, bad, funny, tragic. Not all our classmates are still with us. Meeting old school chums, some close friends, some not, and reminiscing about the bad old days. But I have to admit, also the good old days. We left, swearing to meet again one day, and my feelings of my most formative years had changed. My school days were not as bad as I had said. So thank you to Stewart Edwards for organising the get-together.

Our memories consolidate our thoughts, things become black and white. A disproportionate number of our artists, notably authors, seem to have had a torrid time at boarding schools, but now I wonder if their years were really all bad, maybe there were times when a meal was edible, where occasionally hot water was available. It happens in politics, where we become fixated with a left or right agenda, on everything, instead of considering each topic on its own merits. This trait is known as ‘confirmation bias’ and we all adopt it. So I had pictured my whole time at the school as being bleak, others would think the exact opposite, whereas in truth, it was a bit of both.

My second experience was this year, I met up at a regional Sternians gathering. Being Bournemouth, it was convenient, but again I unexpectedly enjoyed it, including a long chat with the new headmaster. He was good enough to take timeout from school to travel and meet us old codgers. My goodness how times have changed.
Now they produce glossy magazines, with pupils actually smiling. There are trips abroad. There are weekly boarders. There is music, singing, arts, choices of sports (so rugby is optional!), and there are even, heaven forbid, females of our species actually attending as pupils.

This gathering of old boys, together with Gill and Kate, finally persuaded me to attend my first-ever annual reunion at LWC. In June, armed with my camera, I returned to the school, and to Long Sutton for the first time in 48 years! My first image when parking my car was – tennis courts!

Again, memory proved to be a strange creature, why does it work as it does? The school playing fields, School House (my house), memories came flooding back, they were totally unchanged, yet I had not thought about them for half-a-century. But turn a corner, and it may as well be another part of the Galaxy.

Memories, vivid, blurry, unreliable, emphatic. Old boys, old school masters, events, anecdotes. Retention was as if from last week, even the voices of some boys came back in an instant. Astonishing that the brain, somehow, has such storage. But for no discernible reason, other events, places, people, perhaps a boy who had been a good friend of mine for 5 years, elicited not the slightest recollection, and sometimes, even a name of someone who shared my school and class, signified nothing whatever. Not a single memory neuron was interested in firing up.

There seemed to be no pattern in what was recalled in the memory banks and what had been permanently sent to the trash file.
But it brought back the building of the Gavin Hall whilst I was a pupil in the sixties; still looks quite modern. The state-of-the-art orangey plastic (or polypropylene to be exact) packing chairs – never having required any maintenance, and since became one of those rare, timeless, perfect, functional/aesthetic designs.

A marquee on the front lawn, short speeches, goodbyes and gratitude to Graham Barnes and Kate, food, drink, and then most of us walked the grounds and buildings. For the third time, my apprehension had given way not to relief, but to an experience, and an enjoyable day out.

Gill Kelly and Kate have always been at hand, ever helpful, professional, encouraging and reassuring. Chris Huffam and Graham Barnes who have devoted so much time and devotion, all voluntary, to make things happen. I shall attend more (if invited) and the class of ’68 intend to have a bash to celebrate our 50th! (A not-so-subtle hint there to Stew and wife.)

So I do urge any old boys who are reading this to think about it, consider, next time you are about to delete an email from an old boy, or throw away that written invitation for a reunion. My advice to you to is to at least give it a try. If nothing else, satisfy your curiousity. Whatever your views of the school and your experiences, it was formative in who and what you became, there are memories to be coaxed out of your brain, to reminisce, to share, ponder, see how things have changed, there are old friends who will be delighted to see and welcome you.

 

POLITICS, FAMILY

What a year was 2016. Brexit and Trump. Both anti-establishment, both unexpected, both, whether or not you agree with them, foreshadow an exciting 2017. I normally just bet on the British Open and the US Masters, and go purely by the odds, and have had a winning streak now for 4 years, but also on the Election of 2015, Brexit and Trump. Just the odds that appealed to me in 2-horse races.

I have now heard from my Uncle Neville and his wife Heather, from Perth, for only the second time in 60 years, and will meet them this year for the first time for this amount of time. Heather still has her Dorset accent, despite living in Australia for over 50 years.

I am in close contact with Jackie, my cousin in Boston USA, and met up with her for the first time in 2016, in Weymouth, continue to have contact with Uncle Derek, Trish, Anne, all in Weymouth, Kerry and Sandra in Australia, Janet in Goole, Sarah in York. I would like many of us to have reunion in 2017. These are all the Julian clan. My cameras might be busy this year.

One thing is clear; a love of politics runs deeply in our genes. We all follow politics, and most of us are involved in one way or another. We are all opinionated, ex-socialists, compassionate but no longer believers in idealistic socialism. My father was likewise. Most of us have been asked to be councillors, I have been asked to stand as an MP, and in some ways regret not taking this path. I am still a news freak, however hard I try to cut down, still buy my daily and Sunday newspaper, still enjoy The Spectator.

Anyway, it would be good to meet up before it is all too late, a coming together, putting old differences aside, accepting some of them had a hard upbringing in Weymouth. but it is all looking hopeful. On my mother's side, I have some contact with St Andrews, and Norman and Roderick from Renfrew, my cousins, whom I will visit this year.

I look forward to 2017.

10.8.16 POLITICS, BREXIT, STUFF

 

Blimey. This was meant to be a ‘regular’ blog on my boring tedious life, and now I see I have not written for 5 months. Oh, well.

HEALTH

The hernia left me in pain for 5 weeks. Supposed to be keyhole surgery but in fact left me with a large scar, which no one has explained. I am not, I’m afraid, one of those who say they have a good pain threshold. I do not, and am thankful for a jammy good health life thus far, because I would have been a feel-really-really-sorry-for-myself patient. It’s why I so admire those who are not like me, and my greatest hero was my sister, Hilary.

Anyway, after 5 weeks the pain suddenly went away. It has made me appreciate being healthy and being able to get in the car and go anywhere, things we take for granted.

POLITICS

I write, or rather complete this, on 10th of August. I have followed politics and world events since I was 6. I did consider standing for Parliament in my younger days, and was even distantly approached by both major parties at different times. I come from a political family, our house was the Labour Party constituency HQ during some elections, but have gone from the better-world-hope of Harold Wilson (exactly duplicated later by Blair) to the realities of economics, and human nature, but also now believe, passionately, in protecting our wildlife, our habitats, all of our fellow creatures who do not have the vote, and those of our species at the bottom through no fault of their own.

I believe in helping the less fortunate, the down-and-outs in society. I worked for 27 years (15 years as Fraud Investigator) in the DSS (I still call it that, ‘Department of Social Security’, as everyone knows what I am talking about, although they keep hitting on the latest buzz words and giving it new names). The DSS was mainly ‘Income Support’, so I was dealing with the poorest of the poor, those on the official poverty line. Here people just about get by, but they must struggle like hell, and miss out on what most of us now enjoy, the good life. On the other hand, it can be quite cushy, an easy lifestyle. Everything is paid for, there is no work stress, no commuting. This is the dilemma.

As a huge generalisation, I think those at the bottom of the heap, are nicer than those at the top! They do not have the necessary ruthless streak, like Sir Phillip Green as one of many examples, to tread on people as they acquire vast wealth that they do not need. But - like I say, a generalisation with many exceptions both ways.

Having met a first cousin in the last few weeks from Boston USA, Jackie Julian-Martin, and my uncles and aunts, I know this following of politics, nerdish in its extent, is deeply embedded in our genes. I am not proud of it, much of politics is sordid game playing, factions, wars, the worst of human nature, but we hope and think we could do better – especially after a few drinks.

The last few weeks have been the most dramatic, exciting, tragic, fabulous weeks of my life, with my love of politics as I watched fascinated as the EU Referendum debates kicked off.

These were acrimonious; very much so. The big beasts, Grove, Boris, Cameron, lashed out, and it was generally agreed that the Brexiters won the debates, and were the passionate ones. Even Radio 4 admitted this after the event. Just a week to go, and the popular MP Jo Cox was assassinated, then for the next few weeks, it was the most politically enthralling of my lifetime.

I stayed up all night as Brexit won, and once again, won a bunch of money. I thought and said for months it was evens, but was given 16/5, and even during the night, when Brexit became favourite, the bookies were still giving good odds on the internet; so I piled more money on.

The country woke up to a shock. The economic collapse did not occur, although I have no doubt we will take a hit. Then the politics kicked in, which was Shakespearian in its magnitude. Gove knifed his friend of 30 years, Boris Johnson. Andrea Leadsom took on Theresa May, until knifed by the press, although it was soon apparent she was unsuitable for the highest post.

Cameron resigned and went as if he had never existed, and then an even worse battle broke out with the Labour Party. Angela Eagle showed she was not up to the job, and so Owen Smith will contend Jeremy Corbyn. He too is appalling. What a choice! The Labour Party may be finished.

In the USA we have a choice between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump! Enough said, and enough has been, and will be said. Again, what a choice!

In Europe, mainland Europe, terrorist attacks were occurring almost weekly, the most dramatic and worrying being the massacre in Nice. We have seen how normal kitchen knives become weapons, now a lorry. So many things can be used as a killing machine.

It is all happening!! As I write this today, the successful UKIP party seem to be going the way of Labour and indulging in civil war, self-destructing. Cameron has besmirched the honours list for ever, Corbyn likewise.

The Olympics kicked off last night, an event I will as usual totally ignore, for its corruption, greed, self-aggrandisement, drugs, and hype. The only 2 sporting events I continue to follow are the US Masters and the British Open, which this year, was amongst the greatest ever, with my sporting hero Mickelson, just failing yet again, but remains the most exciting golfer in the world.

There has been an unsuccessful coup attempt in Turkey, and the country uses this as an excuse to become even less tolerant of dissidents.
Lost amongst all of this was the publication, finally, of the Chilcot Report, and a damning indictment of Tony Blair. Normally, this would have dominated the news for a week, but so much was happening that after a day, we moved on.

Cameron’s final honour’s list will forever damage his legacy. It’s chumocracy, sleaze if you like, leaves a foul taste in the mouth, especially when I consider the honour that was twice not bestowed on my mother. What a fascinating few weeks for us news nerds.

THE WEDDING

So let us onto more pleasant matters, the wedding of Amita Sood and Daniel Bentley. I received a message earlier on in the year from Shaun Bentley. (Haven’t heard from him in years. Few years ago, he invited me out on his beautiful motor boat to judge whether there was a market for a birdwatching boat in Hampshire, I accepted the invitation provided I could invite 11 of my naturalist friends along, and we had a wonderful full day out around Hampshire, the IOW and the Needles. Some said it was one of the best birdwatching days ever!)

Shaun wanted to know if I would do a wedding, for his son, Daniel. I have retired from doing them, do not have to do them financially, being more into just writing and photographing what I want, when I want.

But - - - as luck would have it, I had been feeling the wedding creative juices building up, and thought I might enjoy having another go. The further fortunate factor was that I had not too much on in early spring, and furthermore, and the deciding factor, was that a hernia operation was going to prevent me doing much for quite a while, so could devote some time to the editing etc. In other words, I was available, so after giving it a few days thought, for the first time in years, I agreed to do a wedding. I then approached Southampton University, who never replied, then Arts University Bournemouth and enquired if anyone might be interested in assisting me, and also sought a volunteer as a videographer.

I was hoping to get one or two volunteers, but 11 came forward! I had to make an instant decision, so after an immediate meet-up, chose Rebeka as videographer and Teodora as my assistant photographer. Teodora was to be a talented photographer.

We drove and met Amita and Dan, did 2 recces, looking over possible venues, and taking pictures. Then the wedding day itself, but as the wedding started late in the day, was freezing cold and even snowed for a while, I was unhappy with the lack of location shots, so we did another day’s shooting outside. Finally, we did a day at Arts University Bournemouth’s studio, where Amita again changed into her wedding dress.

I presented the bride with 2,458 pictures on a hard drive for her future use. Also, 3 video shows of 4 minutes, 40 minutes and 2 hours, all to music and effects on DVDs. A 45-minute slide show to music and effects and featuring about 400 pictures. About 1400 prints of various sizes plus about a dozen framed pictures. I am sure no one else does this in the UK.

I also produced 2 digital photobooks, the second one by a company called CEWE. I may be the first wedding photographer in the world to do it in this manner for the simple reason that no one knows about it, and for some reason CEWE itself do not promote it, but they can do a digital photobook where the pictures turn into videos! A bit of fun, maybe gimmicky, but I am sure it will catch on. (Even if you go into their site, they do not say they can do this, it was by chance a friend of mine saw it on TV.)

I have always been fortunate with my brides, and if I have one strength, it is to relax people, and to get natural smiles. They seem to trust me. If only they knew! Right from the first wedding, which was special as we were on HMS Victory (hence my eventual agreement to do it), with the men in naval uniform, a wonderful bride, Miss Portsmouth. Every wedding since has been big, and every one bigger than before. I have always gone overboard on the editing of pictures, and a few techniques remain a secret.

I am pleased with the results, I did enjoy it all, and I must say that the bridesmaids were fabulous, as was everyone else, and Daniel was a real steadfast trooper as he does not like having his photograph taken!! The real star though was Amita, who had all the poses, never complained, smiled throughout, somehow seemed to stay glamorous and seemed to love it all. I only had to delete one picture of her. How do they do it? She totally dominates the pictures, including full facial close-ups, time and time again. 5 days shooting in all, the most photographed bride since Lady Di!

Things went wrong as they always have done and always will. We were given the wrong date for the wedding, and what was short notice was even shorter by a week, a camera stopped working, the light for the video malfunctioned, the first dance was way too dark, there was not enough light for good outdoor shots on the wedding day and it was too cold, Dan was not at home when we called on the day itself, my windscreen wipers froze up solid when we left for home that night, there were 3 delays getting the studio, major problems with the video presentations, but the final outcome, and all that really matters, was I believe, as good as any photographer in the UK could obtain. I intend to do weddings like this again on a regular basis, say every 27 years or so.

BITS AND PIECES
I continue to be the ornithologist at the BNSS, but after 3 years, I will give it up in February 2017, so giving plenty of notice. I did say I would do it for a year, until they found someone suitable, and that was 3 years ago. I want a year of just travelling anywhere and anytime, around Britain and the rest of the world, but this and other voluntary tasks always precludes me just going off, as and when.

I have managed to get some fantastic speakers, nearly all of whom I am fortunate to know on a personal basis and have yet to have a dud. I happen to think, that unless some magic is produced at these lectures, or unless they are concerning localities close to Bournemouth, say Dorset and Hampshire, then maybe the days of these lectures are numbered, and the BNSS give 100 every year, which may be unique. I find Facebook and Twitter faster, more relevant, shorter, you can chose and pick, and it means we all, including me, have shorter attention spans. I will write about this in greater detail at a later date.

This year the BNSS became accredited as a museum, and Jane Goodall, who lives here in Bournemouth, became the second patron, alongside Chris Packham. Not a bad duo.

I continue to enjoy Dorset, although so far it has been a wet grey summer. I have used sun cream on one occasion this year!
By chance I met my first cousin, Jackie Julian Martin, when visiting Derek, my uncle and her father, last week. I took some pictures and she is a beautiful lady, obviously gets this from our genes!? It was a lovely meeting, but we communicate by phone, Facebook and email, she living in Boston USA. Now yesterday, heard from another relative, Kerry, from Perth, Australia. I intend now to see if the Julian clan can communicate with one another!

I visit Weymouth and Portland on a regular basis, and still think I reside in the best county, the best place on earth. I have enjoyed the usual nature walks throughout the year thus far, being to the usual places, discovered a secret garden, 'Bennetts Water Gardens' just outside of Weymouth, with the most species of lily in Europe. A visit to Exbury confirmed it as being my favourite gardens, and despite going at the peak time this year, on a hot weekend, there was hardly anyone there. A mystery that.

2 days ago, I received a message to say there was a White Stork, together with a Great-white Egret, at Cowards Marsh, Christchurch. I am not a twitcher - but - I hastened out with usual camera, and managed to get some lucky shots as it flew. Still quite distant, but a couple of pictures were okay. Turned out these were the only ones taken, because next day it was seen flying over Weymouth towards Portland, and there fore back to the continent. So, I was somewhat fortunate and the pictures are in demand.

Sorry this has taken so long to update, that’s why I have written so much, and about so many topics, but on the other hand, I do not think many read it anyway. Why should they? I hardly lead an exciting life. No, it is more for the writer himself/herself to put down some cathartic thoughts, much like a diary. If you have read it, thanks, and perhaps you would care to communicate some day. Would like to hear from you.



3.3.16 HARRY THE HERNIA

I am 65 years of age, and I have been lucky. I do not lead a healthy lifestyle, love junk food, do not exercise, but lucky. I have hardly ever been ill. I did suffer from backache for many years, had a sneezing allergy which was quite severe, but these ailments have gone away. I had a minor heart complaint, fibrillation, which was cured by the NHS following an effective 5 minute procedure, and that has been it for my entire life. I have never broken a bone, never suffered lasting pain, never had a scare. Lucky.

I have seen a doctor about 15 times in my entire life. But, a few months ago, I felt a niggling discomfiture, which went away for a couple of days, to be replaced by a small lump in my groin. I went to the doctor’s surgery, and laughed when I was given an appointment 3 weeks ahead. I believe when I was a boy, you used to go the surgery and wait to be seen, there and then. You would be seen that very day.

So this time, the receptionist asked if I was in pain, and being the honest chap that I am, replied that there was no pain. Later, speaking to colleagues, including a friend who was a nurse for over 51 years, I was told that someone should at least examine me, quite urgently. The receptionist had asked me if it was urgent, but this is difficult to answer. It was not desperate, but was quite urgent. But then I guess, this is the same for about 90% of those going to see a doctor, is it not?

I then got a phone call to say the Doctor could not make it after all, and would have to put off the appointment for another 2 weeks. So all in all, it was just over 5 weeks just to be seen by a GP. I was thinking of writing about this for the local paper, not blaming anyone, not offering a solution, but just pointing out, something seems to be going wrong.

I went to BUPA. Have been a member with them for some time, but never used them. I asked for an appointment and was told no problem, just get a letter of referral from your Doctor. So, back to the medical practice, and asked for a letter of referral. Er, I would have to get that from the Doctor after I had seen him. This totally defeated the object of course. If I saw the Doctor he might as well examine me. So should I now give up BUPA?

I saw the Doctor, got an appointment at Poole Hospital, and was told, as expected, that I should have an operation. This would be in about 3 months time, but I would also be on stand-by.

I was out birdwatching in Poole when my phone went, and a place came up last Tuesday for my hernia op. I accepted it immediately. I had a greed to do a wedding, that was to be on 11th of March so that was okay, good timing.

Now, I am still in a bit of pain, can hardly walk, and have been informed that the wedding is on the 4th, next Friday. They had given me the wrong date! Yesterday was quite bad so just overdosed on painkillers, although I do sleep okay. So, I just hope I can hobble about on the wedding day. It is all day long, and involves much driving. It’s a big do, with 100 guests, and I’ll have an assistant and a videographer. Luckily, I have done a couple of recces.

On Tuesday we all arrived at 7am and then a doctor, in the presence of another doctor, told me that I did not really need an operation. Although hernias can go wrong, it is only one case in 20, whereas after an operation, for reasons unknown, patients can have a permanent pain for the rest of their life, and this is one case in 10.

What a strange time to tell me that. Why not before? Was he trying to put me off? I said I had prepared myself for the operation so let us do that.

I changed and then waited – and waited. Everyone went through before me, I was the last - by 2 hours and at 1 pm, I had had enough waiting. All I had been allowed was a pair of glasses, so had nothing to do but watch daytime TV. I finally asked a nurse to get some magazines from my locked-away bag. As soon as I got it, I was called. Had waited 6 hours. What made it worse was that there was a great view from the waiting room of Poole Harbour, my favourite place, and naturally, it was all blue skies.

The operation went okay, and at 6.30pm my friend arrived from Poole. He used to be my best friend, someone I have known for over 40 years, but grew tired of, as he has always been an alcoholic. He is a beer alcoholic, so is still alive, and always looks healthy, but is always pissed, and sure enough he was pissed when he arrived and caused a scene in the ward. When we finally left for my taxi, he insisted that the taxi driver goes to the Blue Boar first, on Poole Quay, to drop him off. This despite me being in pain. He will now be regretting his actions. Ten minutes later we had to come back from Poole Quay and passed the Hospital again on my way home.

I think I thought I would be fine, like when I had my heart thing, when I was perfectly okay. Did not realise I would be in discomfort 9 days later, but it is getting a little easier each day.

DUCT TAPE & CHIPBOARD &

WATCH THE RUDDER 16.2.16

My phone went at 10 pm! Would I like to have a free plane ride the following day? The weather forecast seemed okay, the plane cannot fly if the wind speed is more than 14 knots. What? 14 knots? Obviously was not going to be a Jumbo, nor even a Lear Jet.

I travelled to Old Sarum Airfield the following day, and luckily it was a nice day, conducive to photographs.

The plane weighed less than the average American, a squeeze to get in. “Careful where you put your feet,” said Jolyon, “That is the rudder line there.” The plane had a broken wing, and Jolyon told me he had some chipboard and duct tape to repair it. Alarmingly, this was not a joke and he did indeed repair it with duct tape. Read this by all means, but do not pass it on to my insurance company.

We then pushed the plane out, did the checks, and got to the muddy grass, accelerated up and immediately took off, in a matter of feet. Not quite Heathrow.
For the next 1 ½ hours we flew across Wiltshire, Old Sarum, Britain’s (oldest hill fort), across the New Forest and Lyndhurst, onto Lymington with views of Pennington, Normandy Marsh, Keyhaven on the right, and across The Solent, over the Isle of Wight and onto Shanklin, Sandown, and Ventnor.
From there, westwards along the stunning coastline, to St Catherine’s Point, the southernmost tip, along the cliffs of the Dinosaur Jurassic Coast, Freshwater, and then the giant Whitecliff.

We passed close to and around the glorious Needles, Alum Bay with its famous coloured sands, back across the sea to the largest salt pans in Britain at Keyhaven and then back over the Forest again, finishing close to Salisbury. Great day, and photographs galore which can be seen under ‘Events’.

16.12.15 THE RETURN OF WAGTAIL THE WAGTAIL BUT THIS YEAR, I DO NOT WELCOME HIM BACK

He’s back. For the third year running, my Grey Wagtail has returned to my tarmac drive. The bird has been here a few days now and I expect him to stay the winter. So it’s good to welcome him back, there to greet me whenever I go to or return from the car. Well actually, it is not good. This year I do not want him here.
Once again, he is always on the tarmac, never on the grass and must be eating microscopic insects which cannot be seen with the naked eye. We are located over half a mile from the nearest stream, the Bourne (Bournemouth!), and a mile from its nearest practical river home. Grey Wagtails, which are actually attractive yellowish birds (but have grey backs), are, and should always, be found by rivers, where they live on insects.

So why do I not greet him with delight? Well, unlike the previous 2 years, there are now 2 cats around, and they are probably both killers. They are lovely purring creatures who often welcome me. But, you know the sort. Stalking, poised and ready, fixed stare, motionless, salivating.

So we shall see. Why does he come here each year? This time, I do not even have a theory. I have now given him a name – after 2 years of deep thought – Wagtail the Wagtail.

16.11.15 PLANT THE PLANT

For about 25 years now, I have had the same houseplant. Year after year it sits there in the corner of the living room, not doing a lot. I have never hugged it or talked to it, it is in truth neglected, gets watered about once every 3 weeks, and that is about it. It has never had a ‘holiday’, that is, it has never been outside in the fresh air even for a day, so has never experienced the wind in its twigs, a sun ray on its stem, an insect paying homage.

Sometimes it looks poorly, sometimes the leaves lighten and fall to the ground, but always it recovers. It hates being over-watered and does not seem to like plant food, even just a few drops will cause it to show its disgust by shedding a bunch of leaves. First they yellow, then fall onto the carpet in contempt. It has never seen the sun, in fact, where it is in the corner, it gets hardly any light. I’m sure it hates central heating, all houseplants hate it, but it sits there right next to the radiator.
It hardly ever gets new soil, perhaps if I am feeling considerate and generous, I might offer it some soil every 5 years or so, but the poor old thing stays in the same old plastic pot, year after year after year. I have taken cuttings and grown and given away its offspring or grown them myself.

But generally it prospers. I am not trying to evoke a moral here for anything other than plants, but Plant seems to thrive on neglect. Every so often, it explodes into colour, an eruption of blood-red flowers so profuse they overwhelm the green leaves. Like a beautiful Cinderella neglected and shut away for months on hand, it puts on its finest finery for a show that puts any other plants to oblivion. ‘Here I am, Look at me and be blown away, before I go back to my life of neglect’ and sure enough, everyone is blown away and admires the spectacle.

I can’t remember where I first got it, was it a present, did I take a cutting, I can’t recall, but I know that for at least 25 years it has been there. Some have dogs, some are cat people, I have a plant, always there and will probably see me out. If you are reading this and I am no more, give it a good home and neglect it. It will pay you back for your lack of time, caring and nurture.

OSPREYS AND A CHOPPER - SUNDAY 6.9.15

The day started at Hengistbury Head. It was CHOG’s annual day, and it must have exceeded their expectations. They had 32 visitors and the goal was to see an Osprey. As it was, they managed to see 2, albeit distant, hunting in the Harbour, both of which caught fish. But also Whinchats, Spotted Flycatchers, Wheatears, Yellow Wagtails, Siskin, Ravens, Stonechats etc. There was also a moth trap and bird ringing, and sunshine.

That suited me as I went from Hengistbury to Hurn Airport and my helicopter ride. Front seat, camera at the ready, and off we went to Muddeford, Christchurch, Bournemouth, Poole and its Harbour, Brownsea, Wytch Farm (Britain’s largest oilfield), and back along the coast. Fantastic. I missed THE picture as we missed 3 Buzzards by 10 feet, and I was probably the only one to see it.

AN OVERDUE, RAMBLING UPDATE - 27TH JULY 2015

red squirrel brownsea


To Cerne Abbas and climbing the Giant’s Hill on a Devon/Dorset Butterfly walk. Would have been easier had I been born a goat, and we did climb to the top, and around and back the other side!

The commonest butterfly was the rare Duke of Burgundy, but also Marsh Fritillaries, a Green Hairstreak, Orange Tips and a host of others. The flora this year is exceptionally good.

A walk in late spring with Heather Dixon on Purbeck was to see a Bluebell Wood, but the plants were totally overshadowed by a sea of wild Garlic, covering the undergrowth with a sea of white.

A walk on Martin Down on 23rd of May produced more Marsh Fritillaries, Green Hairstreaks, a Hobby, and a lengthy walk around Sturminster Newton produced nothing apart from 4 Kingfishers, but was a nice scenic walk to an area of which I knew nothing.

I have been making the most of the summer thus far, with many trips to Martin Down, enjoying seeing and hearing the Turtle Doves, Dark-Green Fritillaries, Ravens. A trip to Hurst Castle was a first for me, but again enjoyed the scenery, the ferry to get there, the butterflies, birds and flora.

Various trips to Titchfield Haven, which are always a delight no matter what season. Few sites are good in winter and summer, but Titchfield Haven and Brownsea Lagoon spring to mind.

One of my favourite summer haunts, and favourite places anywhere, is the Jurassic Coast, trips to Durlston are always a delight, affording views of Guillemots, Peregrines, Ravens, Razorbills, Fulmars and I enjoyed 2 or 3 expeditions to the Winspit Valley which are never disappointing, apart from the thought of the long and ever-increasing steep hill that has to be endured on the return.

I have only walked the path through the water meadows from the A338 near Stockbridge, on 2 occasions. It goes through to the New Forest, but it is superb and so I will do so much more frequently. Full of insects, raptors, we were granted prolonged views of a superb Red Kite, certainly more enjoyable and appreciated than normal, because it was unexpected here.

I managed to fit in the annual BNSS Coach Trip, which this year travelled to Wiltshire. Beginning at Great Wishford, where we were guided through the church, which held the oldest fire-engine, built in 1728!! Later we were to visit Devizes Canal Centre, and the day was rounded off by the Women's Institute at West Lavington, and a most civilised cream tea. Once again, it was a great day out. Not enough time at the locations, which is always a good sign, and better than being bored.

But the main focus was on the village of Lacock, often used in historical filming, and it was easy to see why. We were here for a few hours, but not long enough, and somewhere I must visit again. The ancient Abbey was wonderful, as was the botanical garden and weather. A great day.

A visit to Chase Wood with Wiltshire and Dorset Butterfly Conservation did not disappoint with a mass of butterflies including about 15 of my favourite, the White Admiral, which has sentimental value to me since I was 9. Unfortunately, the hot weather meant they were not co-operating for photographs. We tried and tried for the Purple Emperor without success.

A coach trip to London and the lovely gardens of the V&A proved to be a super meeting place and a productive meet-up with Sophie Stafford and my first-ever meeting with Ian Langford of Langford Press. We got on so well, we continued to chat for over an hour after the meeting. We are of the same mind, he is a super professional at what he does - printing nature and art books - and how he does it all, more or less by himself is a wonder.

Ian is I believe a Publisher because he loves art, he loves nature and he loves publishing. A name cropped up at this meeting - Rob Hume. I have been in touch with him, and look forward to our first meeting.

Now met Rob Hume, at the way-out pub in the New Forest, the High Corner Inn. My sat-nav went wonky, and I finished on a 2 mile track, but this pub really is off a main road. Very strange these days, but a good pub.

I am presently reading Rob Hume’s auto-biography, although he does not call it that. It is basically his history of birds and birdwatching and 20 years as editor of the RSPB magazine. What a team I have – Rob Hume, Sophie Stafford, Ian Langford and Chris Packham has confirmed his interest. I hope more than anything, that after a year, we will shortly begin.

I have asked Chris Packham to become Patron of the BNSS and he immediately agreed. What a splendid generous chap he is, and this could put us on the map. This was finally announced to members on 23rd of July and was released to the media.

One of my favourite places is Boscombe & Southbourne Cliffs, East Bournemouth. Not only visually stunning, but great for wildlife, Stonechats - tame and accommodating as they are so used to people, Dartford Warblers, happy in their small territories despite being besieged by people and dogs, then there are the butterflies, the Wall Lizards, flora and the wonderful beach. The end of the beach is Hengistbury Head, with its Sand Martin colony, which I thoroughly appreciated this year, and its wonderful geology. It comes onto Muddeford Quay, and the most expensive beach huts anywhere. Looking west, we see the wonderful Purbecks and Swanage, Old Harry Rocks. There are worse views in Britain.

In early July the centre at Hengistbury, had the most colourful display of wildflowers in its small meadow actually enclosed in the Visiting Centre, and my photos as usual, were free for DWT to use. Then on 25th of July I went to the annual wildlife event for all of the various societies this year it was held at Hengistbury.

All of this has allowed me to enjoy my camera. As I try to take less and less pictures so that I can actually look and appreciate more, I finish up taking ever more photos. Sad really. I have also been doing photo shoots of my relatives and friends in Weymouth, Fareham and Southsea. When my mother died in 2001, I visited my parent’s friends and relatives, in England and Scotland and now this year, 2015, I am doing this again to those remaining.

A visit to Kingcombe Meadows, on the other side of Dorset, realised a trip way overdue. I have always wanted to visit this site, the HQ more or less, of Dorset Wildlife Trust, where they run their courses. The flower meadows did not disappoint, and despite this being the start of the school holidays, it really is a quiet, rural part of the world here. Butterflies galore as we expected.

My first trip to Fontmell Down, showed another side to Dorset. In the far north, there were immediate views of 2 Red Kites, still rare throughout this county, and then we observed the butterflies and moths of this nature reserve, and very hilly chalk downs. We went across the road when leaving to the Compton Abbas Airfield. This, being a hot Sunday, was heaving with day trippers, and a fabulous cafe just yards from the runway is a site to be re-visited. I saw some of the tiniest planes imaginable here.
Many trips to Brownsea, and an extraordinary day on 15th of July, resulted in 10 Red Squirrel sightings, and some super-duper photo opportunities. Never do I tire of photographing this mammal, with its colour, its ear tufts, and its sheer beauty. Maybe my favourite British animal.

One stage during this walk, we were looking at a White Admiral, whilst a Nightjar was churring away in the middle of the day. It was a great day – a so-called Geology Walk – and it finished up as a birding experience in the hide, where just a few feet away the Common and Sandwich Terns were nesting and squabbling. How I love Brownsea on days like this.

Nicky Hoar gave me as lovely talk on the Dorset Wildlife Trust with its impressive 26,000 members, as did Paul Morton on the ‘Birds of Poole Harbour’, how he was asked to do the barbeque for David Cameron during the election, and the science of bird sound.

I am not a gambler as such, but I do have 2 bets every year. But these are big bets. Several hundred pounds. They are wagered on The Masters and the British Open, and these wagers have served me well, very well, over the years. The way I work is that I place money on some of the favoured players, but never the favourite, the odds are too short, and some money on the outsiders. All E/W, so I can make a lot of money or can get my money back. Some bookies will give you up to 8th place, so as I know a little about golf, and love these 2 tournaments, the only sport I really watch, then I have done well.

This year, I managed to get Zac Johnson at 100 to one. A fortune in winnings, and funnily enough did not get any of the next 12 players, so a bit of luck as well.
But on top of that, I won a small fortune on the General Election, with the Tories getting an overall majority. So, it was boom time for my income, and I actually spent a couple of weeks looking for a new car.

Then I decided to stick to my good ‘ol reliable Kia. Doing nature walks, it has a huge boot for telescopes, wellingtons etc. but more importantly, being worth just £500, I need not worry unduly about mud, or keeping it spotless, and it still goes. So, I will persist.

This year was meant to be the year of travel, but trying to get the book off the ground has put paid to that. But, there is nowhere, in summer, where I would rather be than Dorset, but come the autumn, then really I must be awa - -

 

IT COULD ONLY HAPPEN TO A BORIS JOHNSON OR - - ME - -

I was on my way to a HOS walk at Itchen Stoke Mill. I saw 3 Cranes, and obviously told the HOS members, who agreed I should report it ASAP so that others might find them on this Sunday. I saw these birds, as they flew overhead, for about 3 seconds as I was driving along the M27. Luckily, the Records Committee had further proof of this sighting, as an hour later they were seen in Salisbury, an hour after that, seen landing in Oxfordshire. Was this the shortest confirmed sighting ever of a rare bird in a county?

Roger Harrison, owner of the Mill and a significant part of the Itchen, was on his way back from Scotland and would arrive back at any time, but in the meantime Victoria Harrison would lead the walk. Not knowing how to report the birds on a phone, Victoria kindly let me use her computer from the beautiful Mill House, one of the most scenic sites in Hampshire. She switched the computer on for me, and said that I could leave and catch up with the walk when I had finished.

After struggling with remembering passwords etc., finally I was able to get a message to 'hoslist', but could not get to goingbirding, and sent the message to the county recorder, Keith Betton. Finally, I was ready to leave. This was when the horrible moment arrived. The front door would not open. It was locked. I was locked in!

I tried the back door. Padlocked. I saw our group on the lawn being talked to about the Mill, the introductory talk finished and they set off! I banged on the double-glazed and locked windows, knowing no one would hear me. Picture if you will 'The Scream' by Edvard Munch, accentuate it by an awful lot, and even then, you just approach my feeling of horror. My only chance was that Victoria would remember and someone would come back and rescue me, but after 20 minutes, I felt utter desolation and defeat. (Later, I was somewhat narked, that no one had noticed that I was absent. Shows my charisma. However, the reason, it turned out, was that they were stretched 1/4 mile along the river bank, an excuse I accepted.) I would be stuck here for 2, maybe 3 hours, whilst others enjoyed the spectacular vistas of this private stretch of the River Itchen and the Water Meadows. Far, far worse than this would be the gleeful ridicule I would receive, probably for eternity from so-called HOS friends.

I would try a long-shot, and tried my phone. Yes, I had Ted Barnes's number, but there would not be good reception here, way out in the sticks, and Ted is not a mobile phone type person; but glorious surprise, I got an answer. I hesitantly told my predicament, fully expecting Ted to explode into laughter at my predicament. Yes, this is exactly what happened. Never have I heard such laughter, and sheer happiness, as I could hear the message being spread about.

I then Spoke to Victoria, who after apologising for simply forgetting about me, directed me through passageways to a door, which she told me to open; but it would not budge. I was told to pull the string, and to kick the door and it would open, and it did! Then through 2 more doors and I was out, and free to the outside world again. I could envisage the sigh of disappointment from my friends. Had Ted not just happen to have his phone, have it on, the reception work, then I would have been stuck for 3 hours.

It was a strange experience being stuck in a house, with a constant rumble, as the River Itchen flows through the middle.

THIS A PIECE I WROTE ON FACEBOOK. NICK ROBINSON WAS DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER AS THE ELCTION CAMPAIGN TOOK OF. A CRUEL TIME, AND HE WAS SHOWN KINDNESS BY ALL POLITICOS - WELL, NOT QUITE ALL 30.5.15

 

Leading up to the election, I was told and emailed by friends, and even by some who I had admired for their conservation work, that Russell Brand should not be ignored, he had the voice of the young, and some of his thoughts were worth merit. Well, he is 39, so compared to most of my friends he is indeed youthful. I am sorry to say this but they should have known better, they are trying to be 'with it' (shows my age) and I wonder what they have to say now? Can they now name one thing he has ever said that is profound? He has had to admit to reading dictionaries just before he talks to learn big words so as to impress, but they were just thrown in piecemeal with no meaning. This is a man who does not understand a graph, yet Ed Miliband sought him out for his thoughts. Here is Nick Robinson's take on the great Russell. Incidentally, have you ever heard anyone actually laugh at Brand's humour. Yes, they may titter, they may think he is sharp and clever - but laugh?

At the time, Nick Robinson was suffering from cancer, and this is taken from his new book on his illness, but he concentrates mainly on the election campaign, and is the only time he shows real anger and actually swears.

''THE 'BRAND SHOW' LEAVES ME CURSING. After a recording of Question Time, as Russell Brand poses for photos with his fans, I wait patiently to ask him for an interview. We’ve had a bid in with his agent for weeks, and again and again he’s told us that ‘Russell may not have time’. He has plenty of time now but no, he brushes past me to pose with yet more fans.

I return to the departing devotees and as they sing his praises I find myself angrily defending the politicians he so loves to attack. While Russell is being driven by his chauffeur, with his PR and his personal make-up artist, to his multi-million-pound apartment, I point out that the Labour guest on the panel, Mary Creagh, will take the train, collect her bike and cycle home before heading to her Wakefield constituency to hold a surgery the next day. Who, I ask, is more in touch?

I find myself cursing Brand as ‘that f***ing sanctimonious t***’. I’m not sure this complies with BBC editorial standards but it feels better out than in.

My beef is straightforward. I do not resent the fact that a stand-up comic has energised, excited and enthused people about some of the great issues of our time where politicians and, yes, commentators like me, have utterly failed. It is just that I am not impartial when it comes to democracy''.

 

DAILY MAIL 25.5.15

felt strongly about the ‘Uncaring Tories’ and the shy Tories, so submitted a shortened version of this to the Daily Mail, who phoned me to say they wished to make it ‘Letter of the Day’. This involved them arranging them to send around their photographer (he was with David Cameron last week), from Waterlooville, where I happened to live in the past (and from where I developed my love of nature). So together with a shared interest in photography, we got on well together, although he still would not permit me to wear my mancini. Never have I had so many photographs taken.

A week later I was surprised to receive a cup through the post. This it turned out was a prize from the Daily Mail as I had been awarded the ‘Letter of the Week’. Not bad considering it was the election time. Below is the full article although of course the letter was edited down, and certainly the heading was nothing to do with me guv.

Now, it is up to the Conservatives to be humane, both in animal welfare and in welfare cuts. Yes, the welfare state has gone wrong, but we should always protect the weak. Having spent 27 years dealing with the poorest of the poor, most are not wicked scroungers, it is the system that went awry, I would prefer the average claimant (or whatever is the PC word these days) to the average tycoon. The average claimant does not wish to tread on people, cheat on their taxes, cheat the public - but this is a great generalisation.

THE VIRTUOUS LEFT AND THE UNCARING TORIES
OR
SHY TORIES 11.5.15

It is not statistically conceivable that every opinion poll was incorrect. So was there a last minute swing? Did the fact that Ed was finally given a rough time by the BBC just before the election, something he and the Labour Party was not used to, have an affect? Did voters get into the booth and then decide they preferred Cameron to Miliband? Maybe. The Ed Stone was ridiculed for saying nothing, the Russell Brand interview a farce, so did these influence matters? Was the feeling that the left SNP would team up with the Milibands too much? These were all possible contributing factors, as was the fact that there was so little mention given to the wealth creators, it was just spending money again.

Is the ‘shy Tory’ a real creature? In my opinion, most definitely. Was this a factor in getting every single poll wrong? Yes.

I am on social media, Facebook and Twitter, plus emails. Not a great deal, I limit my friends based largely on my main loves and interest, being the natural world, and the sciences, plus comedy and art. I follow about 77 people, and during the election campaign, have received many a tweet and a Facebook message. These to a great extent, have been along the lines of ‘I SUPPORT THE NHS. ENSURE THE TORIES ARE OUT. VOTE LABOUR!’ I tired of receiving these messages, simplistic slogans.
Like every other group, amongst naturalist there are kind, considerate individuals, but there are also the rogues, those who will always let you down, those that profess to be conservationists but will only agree to a project for money and recognition, otherwise not interested. In other words, I have discovered, they are just a smidgeon better than the average Joe, in my opinion.

So I found it strange that I have never received a single tweet or a single Facebook message, nor even an email, from someone proclaiming themselves to be a Tory or UKIP supporter. I do know plenty of such people, some are friends, some from conversations from various gatherings, but never, ever from social media.
This morning, one of Britain’s top birdwatchers, an author, mentioned the same thing on his Facebook page, to which I have responded, saying I am exactly the same. Unlike me, he is involved in social Facebook and Twitter on a bigger scale, yet no one votes anything but Labour. Apparently, out there, there is no such thing as a Tory. I could understand that if Labour had come out green, animal-welfare minded conservationists. But like the other major parties, our countryside was given not a mention. After all, Animals do not have a vote.

It is all to do with perceived virtue. ‘I am left-wing’ which some people thinks translates as – ‘therefore I am - - - - - - - virtuous. We lefties have a monopoly of conscience. If you are Tory, you are uncaring and selfish’. How many times do we read about luvvies professing their left-wing views, from the ultra-left and tax-dodging multi-millionaire Martin Freeman (his partner also a tax-cheat), to just about every actor/actress.

Perhaps a tweet such as ‘I prefer to produce wealth and balance books and then we can spend’ does not have the same ring and a less self-congratulatory tone to the usual ‘I am anti-austerity’ and ‘Our party believes in a progressive policy’. ( What on earth does that mean?) Have you ever heard anyone profess to being ‘pro-austerity’ or proudly saying ‘we believe in anti-progressive policies’. They are simple slogans, maybe aimed at simple people, and one day, people might ask themselves what they mean.
But the great god is of course no longer socialism or communism – tried that, didn’t work. No, it is the NHS. If you spend more, we will spend more, plus 1. I tired of hearing that only the Labour Party supported the NHS. Go back and you will hear them saying for 40 years that the Tories, who are evil by the way, want to destroy it. Yet still the spending goes on, still it increases, it is the 8th largest employer in the world, one on 16 of the British workforce works for it, yet they are unable to cope. So we all agree that we have to think about what we do about it, but as soon as any change is proposed, there is uproar. Whoever is in power will face difficulties, but it does not mean they ar uncaring.

And of course, only the Labour Party cares about it. I was treated by the NHS last year. My mother died of cancer being looked after by the NHS, likewise my father with a brain tumour, my sister died of alcoholism despite the best efforts of the NHS, and my other sister died of cancer aged 18 with loving care from the NHS. Yet, day after day I was told to vote Labour because only they care. There is a perceived impression that if you are not a Labour supporter, you are an uncaring, banker-loving, out-for-yourself, cut the NHS, lout.

Those who believe in free speech cared little when Nigel Farage was hounded out of a pub, when he was simply attempting to have a quiet lunch with his family. Why should anyone care, as he is a right-winger? I am sure anyone on social media who professes to be a UKIP supporter would be at least taunted on social media, maybe abused, maybe threatened.

So, best to keep a low profile. I do not believe that all of my naturalist friends are Labour supporters. Either some of them are lying, or they simply keep quiet about it, if they are Conservative. But those that message, are saying out loud – ‘look at me. I left-wing. I am virtuous’. Not all, some are genuine.

Quite a few of my friends profess to vote Green. All ecologists and naturalists disagree about most things environmental, there are good healthy debates, but there is just one theme that all agree upon. There are too many human beings in the world, and most of them want to eat meat, fish, have a better standard of living, and Britain is the most overcrowded country in Europe. Yet the Greens want an ‘Open Door to all’ policy, and not just to Europeans but the world. Maybe after a hundred million or so have entered, they might reconsider; but it is all nonsense I’m afraid.

If there was a party that offered real, genuine social justice, more equality, protected the weak against the strong, be they strong unions as well as corporate companies, was wealth producing, protected the environment, developed green spaces for all, protected those without the power of a vote including farm animals, helped our wildlife, helped our young who do not enjoy the advantages of my generation, then they would get my vote.

I have been involved in politics, either directly or indirectly for 40 years now, our house has served as the HQ for the constituency Labour Party. I still have pictures of my father with Harold Wilson. Nowadays I am simply a political anorak, but I have yet to meet anyone of any political persuasion who is against the NHS, so please stop sending me pointless slogans. I do not mind arguing economics, ethics, or any other subject with a rational and dedicated opponent, but please, no more moral crusading.
I do not believe that nearly everyone wants to spend more, sorry ‘invest more’ on every government department, which appears the case judging by ‘Question Time’. I did not believe what I was reading, on social media, so I actually did do something about it. Normally, I just have 2 bets a year; the US Masters and the British Open Golf, which I know a little about, but I thought I would have a go at the Conservative Party winning an overall majority. I do not claim that I knew anything, but had a hunch and loved the odds, so put down the biggest bet that I have ever placed. It turned out very nice too.

Liz Jones has written similar lines this weekend, and we can see what the left think of Tories at the anti-austerity demonstration just held in Westminster. I believe, that when someone is phoned these days, by a pollster, and they ask if you are willing to answer a few questions, you can say yes or no. I now believe, that just a few more of those who reply – ‘I would rather not, thank you’ are going to be Conservative. This phenomenon may be here to stay, which presents a problem to pollsters.
Yes, shy Conservatives are out there.

THE ELECTION AND WHAT I THINK - 29.4.15

What a dreadful election this is turning out to be. As someone who is a political anorak, and has been since the age of six, no election compares to this for sheer banality.
There is no vision from anyone, apart perhaps from the SNP, the real stars of this show, and they are going for nationalism, breaking up what is already a small island, ‘this is our oil’, suddenly become left-wing (when did that start?), ‘anything to keep the Tories out’ (funny, they were in coalition with the Conservatives not long ago, but that is never mentioned), but they are the stars, and will probably decide who rules. How odd? They will be influential in Westminster, somewhere they are against! May be interesting.

As someone who loves Scotland, am 50% Scottish, have most of my relatives still living there, I have to say I do not like the intolerance to the English, the petty nationalism, and most certainly, do not like the bagpipes.

All parties promising spend, spend, spend, even more day by day, as more and more promises are being made – on the hoof. They cannot possibly be kept. In the old days, a promise or two might be broken, but now the entire economic arguments are based on falsehoods. They cannot spend 8 billion more on the NHS without raising tax, or without a major economic boom. And what will happen if there is another economic crisis? The parties cannot say it was unexpected, even we all know how economics work, there are ups and there are downs, sometimes beyond our control. What is to happen to Greece? (Not mentioned of course.)

The only things that seem to matter are the NHS and spending more money. No vision on the environment, the poor, transport, farming, fishing, education, immigration, the law, the Police, the armed services, nothing on foreign policy, should we help the poor of the world, should we campaign against animal cruelty? Nothing.

I am hearing and reading of Conservatives who are going to vote Labour as a protest for David Cameron’s 2 greatest failures, and surely if he had at least tried on these, he would have walked the election. (The economy has been saved, our savings have been saved, unemployment is right down.) Those 2 failures are immigration and the seemingly uncontrollable rise of the wealthy, who just get richer and richer. Even if the government can do little about it, and even if, arguably, it brings wealth to the country, they could at least express some displeasure on the unfairness of it all.

The ever-increasing population growth, we are the most over-populated place in Europe, affects not those living in Hampstead, Islington, the judges, the politicians, the lawyers, it affects the working man, those who tried to better themselves by getting an apprenticeship in plumbing or electric, only to be under-cut by immigrants. UKIP will affect the Tory votes, and it seems the major political parties have simply given up on trying to control the rise. Commuters will find their trains busier, the M25 may one day just come to a standstill, our wild habitats will become fewer, and yet nothing can be done.

So, I care little about who wins. It might be good election to lose, because even if we spent another 20 billion on the great God, the NHS, it would still require more, staff will still be overworked. It needs a change, we all know that, but any talk of change and uproar ensues.

So Labour chat to Russell Brand, whilst the Tories say they will never raise taxes, ‘whatever happens’. The SNP are up and up with their dislike of the English, UKIP are Nigel Farage and that is about it, the Lib Dems stand for, er, just like the others, trying t get votes, trying to get power, for the sake of power.

Where are the big rallying speeches? Where are the ‘meet the public’ set-tos, the old soapbox? For those of us who know a little about politics, this campaign is huge turn-off, we can see through ALL of them. The only discussion is how much more to spend on most things, no talk on how to produce the wealth, no talk on how to help the small businessman who can produce wealth for us all, it is all appalling.

 

THEY HAVE ACTUALLY DONE IT 28.4.15

Bournemouth is a new town, just 200 years old. Even in 1841, there were just a few hundred living here. The pine trees, for which the town is always associated with, were all planted – Scots, Maritime, Corsican Pines. Bournemouth was flat heathland. So not that much history. It is a fabulous town, wonderful green spaces, the pier and seafront, great hotels, all reasonable thanks to competition, great micro-climate, super gardens, and located perfectly in the best county of all, Dorset. But it has little history, just smuggling – and er, that’s about it.

So yesterday evening was one of the greatest nights ever.

I follow football, but not passionately, and am an absentee supporter. I like Arsenal, and Portsmouth is my main side, being my home town. Southampton, used to watch them quite a bit and admire them for staying up for so long, about 50 years now. Oxford Utd because I lived there and Oxford City – well, I had big dealings with that club, which I will not go into, but it was one of the original clubs.

This though I have to admit, is a fair-weather article. I would not be writing it if Bournemouth had not achieved this most unlikely success. S not only am I an absentee supporter, but reflecting a bit of the glory. The supporters I admire, are not those of Man Utd or Liverpool, but of small unfashionable clubs, mid-table, and travelling to away games on a freezing January night. They tend not to be violent or even chant those mindless chants.

Now I support Bournemouth because I live here. This is definitely not a footballing town, which makes it all more impressive. What they have achieved is remarkable, truly remarkable, but you would not have thought so, at least not until the last few days. Very little publicity, and the club hardly got a mention, at least amongst my friends. Just 6 years ago they were second to bottom of the lowest division. They were deducted 17 points and totally bankrupt. They were about to go right out of the league and possibly cease to exist. At one stage they were minutes form liquidation. A manager, Eddie Howe, and a chairman Jeff Mostyn, saved it, and apart from a short break where Howe moved away before returning, this small club has climbed and climbed, and climbed. A Russian oligarch from Sandbanks, who keeps an ever low profile and no interviews, Maxim Demin, has put some money into it, but with such small gates, they are going to find it a struggle to survive with the big boys.

Even if they struggle and get relegated, enjoy the moment, it is still somewhat unbelievable, for this the smallest club ever to play in the Premiership. Just a few years ago they were literally collecting money from tins. Now, promotion is worth something between 100 and 200 million pounds. The money is ridiculous and in my view obscene, but if anyone deserves it, it is Bournemouth.

More than anything, this is a friendly, happy, generous club. I went along this morning after the night before. Just 5 supporters there, the manager arrived and I had a chat and photographs with him, similarly the chairman hugged me. I made sure the REAL supporters got a picture with Howe, their hero. This man is just 37, the most sought-after manager in Britain now, but says for the time-being he will not go to Newcastle, Liverpool or anywhere else, and why should he? He has been with the club since he was 10, and is a Bournemouth lad. Now he is being touted as a future England Manager.

Everyone says what a nice quiet man he is, he even keeps a diary, and it has just been revealed that at one stage he put in £10,000 of his own money to help keep the club afloat. His career as a player was cut short as a player due to an injury, but someone once said, every cloud has a silver lining, and perhaps he would never have become a manager had this not happened.

Anyway, well done The Cherries, a breath of fresh air to the overpaid, moaning, whining, cheating managers we are used to. Just await the open top bus now, and bring on Arsenal, Liverpool, Man Utd. I shall still be absent though.

STUFF - THE CHERRIES, WALKS, THE ELECTION, CANFORD SCHOOL, LONGHAM LAKES, BNSS, PORTLAND, WEYMOUTH - 21.4.15

The latest on The Cherries. It's all to play for with 2 games left. Yiiikkkeeeesss. This is going to be close. They are currently second. I was actually listening to their comeback on Saturday, then seconds from the end, a controversial penalty awarded against them and it was 2-2. Oh deary me.

Lovely day at Weymouth and Portland Bill, in the glorious Dorset sunshine, yesterday. Ravens, Peregrines, Whinchats, and hundreds of auks, mainly Guillemots, loads of Gannets. At Weymouth, the Caspian Gull was pointed out to me, it would have to be pointed out! The obliging Hooded Merganser was in full mating plumage, but of course, nothing to mate with. He has been here many years now, and not the most difficult bird to photograph. A Red-rumped Swallow was quite unmistakable at Radipole. Good day. I do love Weymouth and Portland Bill.

This week also saw a trip around Canford School, where they have the most fantastic trees. The tallest tree in Dorset, a Wellingtonia, stands at 110 feet, but we were told giant Redwoods can grow to 400 feet in California. What????? A giant Sweet Chestnut was mentioned in the Doomsday Book, so far older than Bruce Forsyth, and is still going strong (well the tree is anyway). Another highlight was a Wollemi Pine. These are prehistoric trees, thought to be extinct and just seen as fossils, but quite recently a group of them were discovered.

The BNSS Open Day was another success, with over 600 attending! Children and parents are full of smiles, and this year we had a garden full of other exhibitors. It was weather dependant and the weather was kind, so I took a multitude of photos for the BNSS and other organisations. The only pity is that everyone says what a great time they had and then – leave. Few are the number who join.

2 lengthy walks around Longham Lakes to try to see the Garganey or the Scaup, and drew a blank. Did manage to photograph a Reed Warbler, never easy, not as obliging as the H Merganser. Longham is very quiet, few know about it, and Dominic Couzens based his book ‘A Patch Made in Heaven’ upon it. Not exactly a hotspot for birds, but a local patch nonetheless, and that is the whole point.

A further walk was around Alderholt, in north east Dorset, somewhere I have never been before. Again, a lovely walk, didn’t see much apart from the first Swallows of the year, and a Grass Snake. This snake was sun basking, half out of his burrow, just passing the time of day, minding its own business. Then, about 8 admirers bent down about 10 feet away from hi. He did not react, did not seem to see us. Then slowly, his tongue started to flicker – and flicker some more. His head turned round and you could see him thinking ‘what the lf**K?’ Not one, but the scent of 8 aliens. Gradually, in slow motion, he reversed back into his hole.

I have been photographing Goldcrests and Firecrests from my balcony, and pictures from all of these walks, on the website.

Please, please can we have an election every year. Why not twice a year. It’s all forgotten that we were all within 2 hours of losing all of our savings in 2008. Don’t wish to know about that. Despite talk of cutting the deficit, it is now all hands to the pump, to pump out more and more money. Okay, our children and grandchildren will be lumbered but let’s spend, spend, spend. We’re going to spend an extra 2 billion on the NHS. Well, we’re going to spend an extra 8 billion. Well, we’re going to cure cancer.

The NHS is the 8th largest employer in the world, and that includes armies. One in 16 in Britain works in the NHS, but they need more – and more. Yes, the staff are overworked, takes 2 or 3 weeks to see a Doctor, A&E are probably in crisis, so the hole thing needs at least – looking at. But no, we know it needs change, but as soon as change is suggested, there is uproar. Certainly, the managers are overpaid, as are so many others concerned with the NHS. We no longer have religion, we no longer have Communism, but by god, we have the NHS - inevitable round of applause.


MALTA’S REFERENDUM
DEMOCRACY HAS SPOKEN SO LET US BE DOMOCRATIC - 12.4.15

Today Malta voted 51% to 49% to continue with spring hunting of migrant birds.

Very depressing, made more so, by the narrowness of the defeat. A 1% swing brings the ‘what ifs’ into it, reflections of benefit of hindsight, maybe the campaign should have been more threatening and so on. If it had required a 5% swing, then funnily enough, it would not be so depressing.

So, what is to be done, democracy has been employed, the people have spoken.

( H,mm, democracy. Not the great solution to everything as America believed, as evidenced in Iraq, where you voted on sectarian reasons, hence the Sunnis felt marginalised, hence it was easily invaded in 2014 by Isis and a third of it lost in weeks. Get rid of the elected President quickly, and start again was the solution. Similarly, the USA were not exactly delighted when Hamas became the elected rulers of Gaza, not what was envisaged. Earlier, the death of Tito, brought in democracy and the Serbian wars. If people are going to vote purely along religious or tribal lines, and then often abuse power, abuse which is going to be permanent, then it can be worse than a benevolent dictatorship. I digress in a big way, yes democracy is usually the best method, and Malta has spoken; although it did not help that the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition was for hunting.)

Malta is an important staging post for migrating birds, and yet every spring, 10,000 (!) hunters from this tiny island, derive some kind of pleasure from blasting them with shotguns. Okay, why not try binoculars, why not try photographing them, why not try just enjoying this free spectacle. They are not even Malta’s birds, they are passing through.

Now I consider a ‘hunter’ as someone with a Bowie knife fighting a Grizzly. That person can rightly call himself a ‘hunter’. Someone who kits themselves up in camouflaged clothing to appear like the real thing, and arms themselves with an expensive shotgun, versus a Turtle Dove, is not a hunter, and somehow the odds seem a bit stacked. Words like butcher, assassin seems more apt.

The Island of Malta earned the George Cross in 1942, for holding out during WW2. Yes, I and we are grateful, it was a strategic hub – but it was a long time ago, over 70 years ago, and a different generation, and has nothing to do with this current argument. It is probably a reason as to why Britain has made it such a holiday destination, giving much required employment and income to the Island.

They argue that hunting is traditional. Well, time moves on, even traditions. 3 things were different in the past. There were far more birds; the firearms were not as easy and accurate and now the birds are shot for sport, not required meat. These are huge, fundamental differences.

As for tradition: We should now consider bringing back bull-baiting. It’s a sport, and less one-sided than the spring shooting of birds. Perhaps public hangings, a great traditional attraction, very popular with the masses and part of our heritage.

We should all be grateful to Birdlife Malta. Some of these people not only risk abuse, but even physical attacks and irreparable divisions in families. Far easier to keep mum. Also to Chris Packham, a name who brought attention to this annual massacre, again far easier in his position, to avoid major controversies and not get involved.
So, what is to be done?

I suggest that the policy of the RSPB, which is that it is better to keep talking, now ends. It has been trying for over 20 years. The actual name ‘Protection of Birds’ means something, it is the body for action. They cannot be seen as being left or right wing, so understandably, they avoid political issues, but these are our birds and Europe’s and Africa’s birds, so surely no one could grumble, if they simply advise their million members to avoid Malta as a holiday destination. This must be Malta’s main source of livelihood. If the RSPB have a million members, then with acquaintances, we are talking 5 million, which means power, which could mean national news event, which could mean snowball effect.

Birdwatching and Bird Watch magazine should follow suite, and why not all of the journals, and whilst they are at it, why not drag Cyprus into this mire. 3 million songbirds a years are estimated to be slaughtered in traps for mere morsels of food. (But of course, it is traditional.)

Bird numbers are being reduced by loss of habitat and insecticides, killing off the basic essential food chain, so the traditional supply is no longer there. As for allowing Quail and Turtle Dove to be legally shot, who thought of this? Both of these species are suffering huge decreases in numbers already, the joys of seeing them in Britain are now rare indeed.

Are we doing this for the birds benefit or ourselves? The answer is both. We want to enjoy the birdsong and the beauty but we also want our children to inherit the spectacle of seeing these joys of nature.

So come on, left-wingers, right-wingers, UKIPers, all of you. This election should not be JUST about money and the NHS, who promises the most, there are other issues out there, wars, destructions of our earliest historical sites which also occurred this week, and now this, a difficult to comprehend democratic result; the right to wear camouflaged clothing, call yourself a hunter and blast little birds as they voyage on their magical ride of migration. Shame on the human race.

Today is heartbreaking, so let us just imagine what Chris Packham and Birdlife Malta are feeling. They are, let us admit it, now in a weaker position as they confront the hunters. But let us use the adage – ‘use the difficulty’. Sometimes, with hindsight, a setback, however severe, can be used as an unforeseen spur for change, and in the long-run, may work out better than ever expected.

Chris Packham has done his very best, for which we should be so grateful, but he has his BBC employer, who as we know, prefers to keep a neutral stand on contentious, issues. So I would like to see Bill Oddie, with back-up, starting a new campaign now. He is emotional about this subject, which is essential, he too devotes his own time to it, he too can be influential, and he has contacts. I think him ideal.

I can understand the RSPB avoiding controversial actions, where possible. But surely, this is not controversial, it is just plain wrong. So let us democratically, boycott Malta and Cyprus, but more importantly, let us pass on the message to friends, colleagues, radio stations, journals, to avoid these holiday destinations until they change. Who knows, it could start a trend. The war may yet be won.

THE BIG EVENT AND AN EXCLUSIVE 29.3.15

(Taken from an article I wrote for HOS website and Kingfisher Magazine)


You are probably aware that Twitter has been aflame this week on the big event, so congratulations to all involved on another successful AGM/Open Day on putting together our big event. We are awaiting the returning Officer results but an exit poll reveals that there was a new world record in attendance numbers.

3 disappointments: First, problems reported on the overflow car parking; being looked into. Secondly, no chocolate cakes this year; an official enquiry is under way. Thirdly, no Chris Packham. But did we miss him? Er, yes actually. It is only the second time he has been unable to attend, he has been good for the Society, and part of the reason for our huge attendance figures. He was unanimously selected for a further 5 years as President.

He had a sickie from the BBC to say he was filming a Easter Special at Bempton Cliffs and then Panama. Bempton is one of my favourite places, easier to spot the birds than attempting Firecrests and Hawfinches deep in the canopy of the New Forest, so he was excused, but it calls into question the BBC Charter. Final straw, it will now have to go. (HOS Exclusive - On TV last night, he signed off by having a dig at some of us by saying he was off for some chocolate cake. We can now officially confirm – there was none available. It was bluff.)

Also unanimously, Glynne Evans was elected as an honourable Life Member, well deserved for the time he has given to the Society, so many projects for so many years.

John Eyre gave an update on the Hampshire Bird Atlas, and the considerable amount of work involved. As a co-author of Birds of Hampshire * and 20 years as Chairman of HOS, if he says it is a lot of work, then it is, and far more than expected. Incidentally, his co-author *, John Clark, has produced another excellent Bird Report, a beautiful production and another mammoth undertaking by all involved, recorders, the Records Panel, editors - everyone, to produce this annual scientific/artistic report.

Next up, Marcus Ward who is undertaking the largest surveys ever on Hawfinches and Firecrests (he clocked up 505 Firecrest nests last year) in the New Forest. If anyone ever wishes to help him, just get up at 4am, that is before heading off to work, then coming home in the evening, recording the work, enjoying a full family life, then early to bed, setting alarm clock to 4 am, 6 days a week throughout the summer. Simples. If you prefer, simply join him on one of his HOS walks.

Both of these species are amongst the most difficult to survey for so many reasons, not least their size and unwillingness to cooperate, which is why I will stick to peacocks. Well done Marcus, rather you than me.

This talk was followed by Mark Cocker, prolific author, but most famously, ‘Birds and People’. There was not a negative review. It took 10 years to write. This rightfully is considered one of the greatest nature books ever written, it won the Daily Mail Book of the Year amongst a multitude of other honours, and is full of wonderful picture . Oh, and 400,000 words.

In my mind, we are going through a golden age in nature writing, and Mark is generally regarded as being our finest exponent. He talked about his magnus opus, and it was gratifying to know that he was as accomplished a speaker as he is an author, which is not always the case. Birds of Paradise, Hummingbirds, these were shown in their magnificence, but it was also satisfying for him to devote time to what he emphasised is the most important bird in the world - the chicken - and how we should respect it a bit more. I am also of this mind. I sometimes remind friends of mine who campaign for the hen Harrier, that they enjoy their chicken nuggets, and in sheer numbers of exploitation, there is no comparison. The chicken gets a raw deal throughout the world, its tragedy is its taste. Cock fighting at least is now banned here, but used to be a huge commercial sport, and the names given to those organising the events were Cockers.

Mark came a long way from his beloved Claxton, and it was not a hindrance that Jonathan Mycock, in overall charge of our Open Day, is an old pal of his, enjoying foreign birding holidays from way back.

Dr. Dick Potts gave the John Taverner Lecture, and having spent 47 studying the Grey Partridge, so is beginning to know a thing or two about them, too detailed to go into here. The Grey Partridge is perhaps the greatest illustration of the decline of farmland birds. Even where fields have set aside strips, insecticides are still sometimes used on them (!), which makes it all somewhat pointless. I remember when as a boy I happened upon a family of Grey Partridges, displaying the broken wing mimicry by a parent to lure me away. This enchanted me and has stuck forever, cementing my admiration of these birds.

So thanks to the speakers, thanks to each and every stallholder, to Jonathan and the committees for organising it all again (not bad value for free), but next year do try to do something about the chocolate cake crisis.


THIS IS NOW A BLOG 20.3.15

I intend to write more regularly on this site, maybe once a week or so, as a sort of blog. I hope I never report that I am going out to lunch or off to the pub. But it saves me keeping a diary, I can refer it to my friends so saves me writing emails, I can refer it to my enemies so saves me writing emails, it saves me repeating myself, it saves me repeating myself, and when I am about to snuff it, I hope to look back and reflect what a pointless life it has all been. (In reality, I will continue to write emails to my friends.) Next, within a few years, hope to crack texting, then Facebook and Twitter, maybe even with photos, with my trusty 5 year-old Training Officer offering guidance.

As for today's eclipse. Would you believe it? Bournemouth experiences one, sometimes two, cloudy overcast days each year, and today was one of those. But why did it not at least go dark, with 97% eclipse? Pity, I met with Lucie Green, a few weeks back, so will now have to email and enquire. Next week, will be meeting with friends, including Chris Packham and Marcus Ward (who knows more about Hawfinches and Firecrests than anyone, anywhere) and Mark Cocker, regarded as our finest wildlife writer (which is really saying something!). Good times ahead.

 

KINGFISHERS & RFLECTIONS ON MY BIRTHDAY 19.3.15

Today is my birthday. For a reason unexplained, this year I received a plethora of good wishes, in contrast to previous years. Maybe I am about to snuff it and you know something that I do not. Maybe it is because today was a milestone birthday, one of those defining ages in life. Just 20 years from now and I will be fast approaching my official middle-age. Yes, that was it.

I do hope I will always be immature, and never, ever, ever moan about the 'youngsters today'. The 'good old days' were never that good, it is all a myth. There were paedophiles, it's just whereas these days little is done about them, in those days nothing was done. The youngsters today are if anything, better behaved than my generation. We could not find a phone box that was not smashed up, students revolted demanding 'freedom' although had no idea freedom of what, protests against Vietnam were fair enough, until the morons started chanting for Ho Chi Minh or Mao. No, the youngsters are fine, unlike in our days, jobs are harder to find for them, and now many students are lumbered with debt. They do however, have a severe lack of musical tastes, whereas we had the Beatles, Stones, Who, Cream, Fleetwood Mac, Kinks, Small Faces etc. etc. etc. etc. Also of course, the biggie, they are fixated, obsessed by social media, faces waiting anxiously for the next text, not looking at the trees, or hearing the birds, they are missing out on life itself.

The only problem is, that if I were younger, I would probably have been the same! But apart from this, leave them alone, they are fine, they are supposed to rebel, every generation does, but they rebel less than we did, and they are going to have a tougher time - less secure employment, mass immigration, possible permanent terrorism, possible climate change, over-population.

Anyway, thank you for all the emails and messages, sincerely appreciated,but perhaps next year, do consider enclosing some money.

For the last 2 days I have been photographing a pair of kingfishers on the Stour, and today discovered where the nest is. Obviously this is not to be revealed, but it is close to a footpath, a well walked doggy-walk footpath, and soon, it will be discovered by the public. As it is, it is, these Kingfishers are already enjoyed by local walkers, and perhaps no other species are so popular with the general public.

I always maintain there are 4 'WOW' birds, those that virtually everyone wants to see (I do not count the 2 eagle species, you have to be in Scotland to see them). If ever we show these birds to the public, they also say - "Wow. Always wanted to see one of those." These are the Kingfisher, Osprey, Peregrine and Puffin.

I have seen countless KFs over the years, but this time I used my trustee old prime lens - 300mm 2.8 - to get the birds in flight, much more unusual. When no one was looking, I gave my lens a kiss. Some of the pictures now on the website, and will later be placed into Special Birds category.

 

BOURNEMOUTH - ACCORDING TO JEREMY CLARKSON - 17.3.15

.Jeremy Clarkson dominates our home news this week. A big beast. Here he is excruciatingly rude about my beloved town, but coming from him, it is flattery indeed. He is probably about to be sacked by the BBC, or will probably walk, so as everyone else has had their say on him, here are mine.

I like Jeremy Clarkson. Too many of my friends, especially the naturalists, are Guardianistas, either living in Hampstead (where I lived for 9 years), or Islington, where the chattering BBC/Guardian readers pontificate to all and sundry. I enjoy his wit and his politically incorrect outbursts. What I cannot forgive, was his eating an Ortolan Bunting in 2002. This bird is rare and declining, what he did was illegal, they are trapped in a brutal manner, they are then force fed in a brutal manner, and killed in a brutal manner. All this for a morsel. Still, he got his laugh.

I am indebted to the Echo, for these quotes from Jeremy Clarkson, following Top Gear's trip to this glorious town in 2009. Or did they really visit? Anyone who visits here, is struck by how young everyone is, all jabbering away on their mobiles, more foreign language students than the rest of Britain put together. I, seemingly am the only old git over 50 years of age, whereas Christchurch - - -.

As for the traffic problems - there are virtually none in Bournemouth, thanks to the Wessex Way, the dual-carriageway that winds through the centre. On the other hand - just outside - coming form Poole (or christchurch), well here, you do get long queues. So I rather suspect he is considering Poole as being part of Bournemouth, and there they do sometimes have major traffic problems. Mind you, Top Gear blowing up a car on a major thoroughfare would hardly help matters. So this is taken form the Echo - -

1. The show saw the car fanatics transform a Fiat Multipla into a car fit for elderly people, painting it the same colour as a hearing aid, installing comfy armchairs in the back, with a cat cage on the roof.

2. During their filming for the same show, Clarkson explained the mysterious absence of colleague James May by telling our reporter “He’ dead”.
“No, I’m joking. We sent him out for lunch hours ago. I don’t know where he is”, he added.
The two also joked that May was unhappy about coming to the south coast for filming.
“His exact words were that he hates the south coast, and he hates everyone who lives there,” said Clarkson.
Richard Hammond added: “It’s a personal thing. He hates all of these people individually.”
Thankfully, the two said they disagreed with May’s alleged views.

3. Following the show being aired, Christchurch council leader Ray Nottage hit out at the show, questioning why Christchurch was portrayed as “some sort of extension to a massive old people’s home.” He invited Clarkson and co-presenter Richard Hammond to put a councillor in a reasonably priced car.
He said: “If you experienced as I did the BBC presentation of Christchurch on Top Gear on Sunday evening, you as I am sure, would wonder why this dynamic, vibrant community is constantly described as some sort of extension to a massive old people's home.”

4. In 2010, Clarkson lavished praise on former Bournemouth airline Palmair and Bournemouth Airport for their service. In his column in The Sun, the presenter said he was initially disappointed his two-week holiday would be starting with a Palmair flight from Bournemouth.
He said: “The plane – probably a Sopwith Camel – would be marooned in Tenerife and would not be able to pick me up until it had deposited a party of Swedes in Yugoslavia.
“I’d therefore be spending my entire fortnight at Bournemouth Airport. A place where Coca-Cola has not yet been invented and all you can have is mead.
“Wrong. Bournemouth Airport is brilliant and Palmair was even better. We took off on time, landed on time, the food was nice and we didn’t crash once.”

5. And in 2009, he stepped into the row over the Bournemouth Spur Road, accusing highway chiefs of “closing a lane of the A338 for seven miles so some worms could be rehoused.
“Closing a road should be a last resort. Getting it open as soon as possible should be the number one priority. And worms do not matter.” (Oddly, the piece was accompanied by a picture of an earthworm.)

6. He also added Bournemouth’s traffic to the never-ending list of things he hates.
He said: “Some people say Tokyo is the world’s largest city but they are wrong, because it’s Bournemouth. The last time I was in Tokyo I got from one side to the other in less than an hour.
“To get from one side of Bournemouth to the other on Monday night took me more than twice that.
“The south coast metropolis is often billed as a safe place for people to retire – rubbish. It’s full of old people who went there when they were young but simply couldn’t get out again.
“All the sign posts point to places you have never heard of and the traffic has to be seen to be believed.”

 

8.3.15 - CAN BOURNEMOUTH DO IT??


Well they are still at or near the top. Now, the realisation that Bournemouth Football Club, or the Cherries, might become the most improbable Premier League side since its inception.

In all honesty, this does not strike me as being a football-crazed town, it is a laid-back tourist resort, with a vast, transient student population. Even now, I hear little talk of football – by – anyone really, or is that just the company I keep?

Be that as it may, Dean Court is tiny, the capacity of 12,000 is tiny, it does not exude a magisterial presence like so many Premier stadiums, no untold wealth, no huge passionate crowds. It was not long ago that the Club were facing bankruptcy, and recently it was revealed that the manager, Eddie Howe, helped out by throwing in £10,000 of his own money.

He of the film-star looks, and in view of his limited budget, small gates, indeed, small catchment area, it makes his achievement all the more remarkable. But, they could actually do it!

It would generate vast publicity for the town (surely it would, at least for the last few games), and even if they were subsequently relegated after a season or two, something to remember for ever.

I do follow the Cherries, because of what they stand for, because of Eddie Howe, but mainly because I live here. I am an absentee follower, often walking around the stadium on nature walks, never going to a match, but I wish them well. I am an absentee follower of a few clubs.

Arsenal: I like Arsene Wenger, the fact that he is always willing to be interviewed even after another crushing morale-busting defeat. I like his style of playing, do not like his myopia.

Portsmouth: my home town, I used to watch them – many, many, many years ago, and have always followed them. I like the town, I like the people, they did not deserve the near demise of the club, when for years, they faced bankruptcy, and only just survived by the skin of their teeth. They have always had good gates, supporters through thick and thin, usually the latter. Play up Pompey.

Southampton: I am supposed to hate this club. Not every supporter of Portsmouth or the Saints dislike each other, some hate one another – genuinely. Local derbies show our tribal instincts to be deeply ingrained in our psyches. But I like Southampton, I used to watch them, way back in the First Division, and they have been over-achievers, long-term over-achievers, and they too tend towards attractive football.

Oxford Utd: again, I lived hereabouts for many years, and recall when they arrived in the old First Division, with the money from the old fraudster, Robert Maxwell. The over-achieving did not last, it was another town where football was not pre-eminent in people’s lifes or discussions, but they are safely plodding along in the lowest league.


Oxford City: This is a small club, one of the first established, and I had big, profound dealings with the club, about 20 years ago. That is all I can say.

I follow football, and golf, but think they are all paid too much (why do we never hear a peep from the left about footballer’s wages?) and it is all over-hyped. I dislike the chanting - mindless. Maybe football is a substitute for war. If so, then fair enough.

This will be my only blog on football, although may mention Bournemouth FC again, if ‘it’ happens.

TO FRANCE - 2.3.15 - THE LAKES OF CHAMPAGNE

This may have been the first organised Hampshire Ornithological Society birdwatching holiday, and so it was that we travelled from Southampton Airport on 27th of March, to Orly. I always book at the last moment to the understandable annoyance of friends and travel companies, and I was finally persuaded to go by Caroline French, and Keith Betton, two long-standing friends. (Luckily Caroline does indeed speak fluent French, so was to be our translator, and our driver.) Thence, a 3-hour pretty non-descript drive south-east, to the Lakes around the Champagne area, and a visit to the Crane Farm. We were to spend 4 days, mainly around the vast reservoirs, man-made, part of the 5,700 hectare nature reserve. We also frequented the woods, largely plantations, seeing Nuthatches, Short-toed Treecreepers, but no Black Woodpeckers.

The principal attraction of this area are the thousands of Common Cranes, continually flying overhead, but even at the farm, where they are fed, they are still distant. We were to meet up with the leader of the tourist board and also Matthew Merritt, editor of Bird Watching Magazine (also a poet and a lovely man), and my own view is that this area is suitable for holidays for zealous birders, but requires much planning, telescopes, as the birds are distant, and requires expertise. It may not be suitable for the average birder.

Fortunately, we had Keith Betton leading us, whom I have known for many years, being the Hampshire Recorder. (He is also an author, lecturer, head of the African Bird Club, Deputy President of the BTO, has appeared over 1,000 times on television as ABTA spokesman, and one of the world’s most travelled birders, 98 countries (many several times over), 7,600 species, and has amassed over 2 million miles.)

We were here for 4 days, did not see the White-tailed Eagles, but did see Willow Tits, Middle-spotted Woodpeckers, Firecrests, Kingfishers, a White Stork (that has been permanently here, on its vast nest, according to the locals either for 7 years or 15, and does not migrate), Great-white Egrets everywhere – but not a single Little Egret, and the usual suspects, totalling about 79 species. Good, but not great; why so few little birds?

We also witnessed Mad March Hares (on 1st of March) boxing and chasing, not a single rabbit, close-ups of Coypus, Roe Deer, and best of all, 2 lots of Wild Boar, groups of 3 and 7. These were not fleeting glimpses, but prolonged views as they rooted by the edge of the lakes. With the holiday in general, no great photos as everything was distant.

The area was scenic but deserted. To see a person was rare, no one working the fields, no livestock anywhere, everywhere closed, difficult to even find a pit-stop for coffee. The picturesque villages seemingly devoid of life. I must read up the history of this place. This is called the Ardennes - Champagne area.

The locals were all friendly, the hotels were good (mine, was superb and highly recommended - La Maison Des Officiers - from our base at Montier-en-Der). The company was excellent, the food was good, the weather was good (despite the dire forecast), and nothing went wrong, rare on a holiday. I would rate this holiday 9 out of 10, but as stated, needed considerable planning or you would just be staring at empty water, with dots in the distance, you do need an expert at hand, and much driving is required.

 

27.2.15 - MY YELLOW WAG - PART 3

Here is an update I have submitted to the Bournemouth Echo - 27.2.15

Early this year, I wrote about the Grey Wagtail that was frequenting the driveway of my appartment block in Dean Park Road, central Bournemouth, and subsequently, I received welcome communication about this from the readers of the Echo. Surprisingly - - over 7 weeks later and - - it is still here! For the second winter running, it is seen by neighbours and myself, always on the tarmac, never the grass, often accompanied by a Wren and a Dunnock.

It should not be here, it should be catching insects on a river or stream, and I am hoping that soon, a conscious (or is it unconscious?) trigger of the brain will nudge him, time to be off, time to find a mate.

Today for the first time, he allowed me to approach without scampering away, allowing me close-ups of this lovely bird that belies its name. I do not wish it become too accommodating - there are a couple of cats that will probably salivate at the mere mention of 'Wagtail'. I hope to be saddened to lose such a colourful addition to our home, but I wish it to find its true habitat - for the time being.

7.2.15 - POOLE HARBOUR TRIP

Sunday, went on a Poole Harbour Trip, the third such trip of January, but this time, landed for a couple of hours on Brownsea. Did see a Red Squirrel, 2 Kingfishers, and the usual Mergansers, Goldeneye, Spoonbills, Avocets etc. This time, I went as a member of HOS, and a colleague totalled 58 species of birds. Yet another super, 4 hours in all, around this great harbour.

 

1.2.15 - THE REFORM CLUB - PALL MALL WESTMINSTER

Monday, by train to London for a working lunch with Sophie Stafford, editor of WFF Magazine, and previously 10 years editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine, together with Mark Avery, Britain’s best known nature blogger, conservationalist, author, campaigner for the Hen Harrier, 25 years and ex-Chief Director of Conservation at the RSPB.

Our meeting place was none other than the Reform Club of Pall Mall. No photographs allowed unfortunately, but whatever you envisage such a club looking like, then rest assured, you are correct. Stunning interior, pillars, armchairs and sofa, loads of staff rushing around for you, every room full of books (77,000) and character and history. It was set up as a result of the Great Reform Act, Churchill and MPs of the liberal persuasion have been or are members, and just an overwhelming experience. It was designed by Charles Barry, who rebuilt the Palace of Westminster.

We were there for the day, all went well on a project we shall be working on, and a jolly good day was had by all three of us, with trains running on time, good company, good start to the project. Things certainly better – so far – than 2013.

 

24.1.15 BIRDS, SPRING AND THE RETURN OF AN OLD BUDDY

Yesterday spring kicked off here in Dorset, if not in most other unfortunate snow covered parts of Britain. I rarely troll my northern grockle friends, as it is surely a matter of pity. To Hatch Pond, where upwards of 50 Snipe were sunbathing in the open, and we saw Mallards not only courting but mating, as were a pair of foxes (although of course this is the usual time of year for them).

On to Sandbanks where the Purple Sandpipers were so confiding that I had to politely ask them at one stage, to stop walking towards us, as they were too close for our cameras to focus.

Then today, on to the Stour, where I had been told there is a confiding Kingfisher, who comes to within 10 feet of people, not afraid of cameras or dogs, and even settles on fishing rods. Multiple views of the bird were enjoyed, but not that close. I was discussing with some locals as to why the Otters are being seen more and more, and during the day around here, the Granby Road area, when a large dog Otter popped up 6 feet away, took one look at us, and he was gone, and I can’t say I blame him.
Back home to be greeted as usual, by the Grey Wagtail - see below.

 

23.1.15 - TRIP WITH THE BOURNEMOUTH 'YOUNG EXPLORERS, AROUND

POOLE HARBOUR

Last week, I took out over 20 kids and parents, from the BNSS Young Exploders. Amazing reaction as it was all organised in 7 days, and just arranged by giving a talk at their monthly meeting. An email drop would have probably amassed 100! We embarked on a boat for a 2-hour trip around Poole Harbour, organised by Paul Morton and Phyl of Birds of Poole Harbour Charity, so for us it was all free. It was a lovely day, crisp but not as cold as forecast and little wind, so the children were all were behaved and loved the experience, and the parents were not too bad either for their ages.

We were given an extra bonus by a continuous commentary of the birds and the history of the Harbour by Mark Constantine, who was accompanied by Mo. What a fantastic day, with Spoonbills, Avocets, and the highlight, the closest view ever in Dorset of a Black Guillemot in its winter plumage of - - - white. It was oblivious of the boat, and came within a few feet. Mark and Mo not only run 900 Lush shops worldwide, but he is a multiple author on ornithology, Owls, Poole Harbour and the science of bird song in particular, and I am trying to agree a date for him to give us a talk at the BNSS.

This trip was so successful that we hope to make it an annual event and next year, I hope to take a lot more people, if again invited.

 

Here is a piece published 10 days ago in the Bournemouth Echo:

14.1.15 - MY VERY OWN GREY WAGTAIL

"On February 16 last year, as I got out of my car, I was surprised and thrilled to see a Grey Wagtail on the driveway at my block of flats.
Surprised, because I live in Dean Park Road, in the centre of Bournemouth, and Grey Wagtails are birds of streams and rivers.

It flew away and that was it, or so I thought. A couple of hours later, I went and had another look, just in case, this time with a 300mm lens, more in hope than expectation – and there it was.

It was to remain for another six days, always on the tarmac driveway, never on the grass. The nearest other Grey Wagtail I have seen was on the Bourne Stream, at Coy Pond, two miles or so in distance, and there is no other stream nearby.

I pointed it out to the locals and it became an attraction with the neighbours. I explained that it would have been blown away by the great storms of 2014, and that this sometimes happens during windy, stormy weather. When it disappeared, that was it – or so I thought - part 2.

Last Tuesday, a year later, I got out of my car, and there it was, back in its favourite spot on the driveway! I have never discovered what it finds so attractive on tarmac, but there must be some tiny insects which I cannot detect. Once again it flew away and again it has returned.

A week later and still it is here. It is often accompanied by a Dunnock and a Wren. It may surprise some that so much simple pleasure can be derived from the return of such a tiny colourful friend – or maybe we naturalists are just simple".

 

3.1.15 (Will try and write just a tiny bit more regularly)

FANTABULISTIC – CHRISTMAS 2014 BATH AND BRISTOL
NEW YEAR’S DAY BIRD BOAT AROUND POOLE HARBOUR

I have only made fleeting trips to Bath and Bristol before, but decided Christmas was the time to rectify all of this. I had visited the SS Great Britain about 20 years ago – and boy, has it changed.


Yes, at brilliant Christmas at Mercure Hotel in the heart of Bristol, where I was to do the tourist trips to Bath, and then Bristol Centre, the SS Great Britain and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It was all fabulous, and if it was not for the fact that I love where I live as Dorset is, unarguably the greatest county, then I would consider moving to Bristol.


I have always loved the west, but this exceeded expectations. I managed to visit the tourist hotspots, but out of season, so few crowds.
Harbourside was impressive. This the area renovated from the old docks and warehouses. You can walk along the quayside, and pass the SS Great Britain, or even catch a ferry across to it. Carry on walking, just a short distance, and you enter Clifton and can see impressive houses built upon the side of the gorge, and then the famous Suspension Bridge itself. This spans across the main road and the gorge, and just looks ‘perfect’ in this setting.


I was so impressed with the bridge, that my initial stay of 4 days, with an escorted holiday company, was extended by 2 days. One can walk underneath it or park in or near the pleasant ‘village’ of Clifton and walk, free across both sides. Then there is the parkland and walk to the Observatory (which was a little disappointing) and this affords even more photo opportunities, looking down on the bridge. This may involve looking into and photographing into, the sun, but this allows a different and atmospheric perspective.


It is in truth, little to do with Brunel’s design, and there has never been a great economic justification for its construction, but is a wonderful tribute to our great engineer and is in my opinion, one of the most beautiful monuments anywhere. It just ‘goes’ with the gorge. I photographed it over 3 days, in different light and different viewpoints. Superb and beautiful.


The SS Great Britain also exceeded my expectations. This is modern renovation and presentation at its best. The boat is wonderful, as is the museum, with 2 hours being insufficient to take it all in. (Admittedly, it is expensive for a single visit with a family, about the same as a year’s season ticket.) The dining room was inviting even by today standards, but this was for the wealthy. They do not shy away from the ‘steerage’ class, where somehow, 700 would be crammed in. It brings the Monty Python‘s 4 Yorkshiremen sketch to life.


Tiny trunks of luggage would not only have to suffice for a trip to Australia, from icebergs to tropical heat, but would have to contain all their possessions for their new life. Somehow, don’t think that a modern day diva would manage this.


The old town centre of Bristol reminded us of the square mile of the City of London. Merchants in Bristol enjoyed vast wealth, spent on ornate buildings, many of which survived the heavy bombing of WW2. No less than 17 churches, most of which are huge, means that every corner turned, will reveal views of gigantic steeples.
A short trip from Bristol will bring you into the city of Bath, well known for its unique architecture, the place to be seen at, in bygone times. I think it’s still the place to be seen at now. Some places are timeless in their beauty, and it is hard to imagine anyone not being impressed. I was with a group, and we did the tourist thing of just being there for about 5 hours, which means I will have to call again and again – and probably again.


The Roman baths are sensational, the work done on restoration superb. It is all original, even the lead piping, and the lead which covered the pools to hold in the water, is 2,000 years old (and the health reason why it cannot be used nowadays). The hot water still rises from deep in the earth, hence the steam, hence the Roman God Minerva was worshiped here. Hard to conceive that the entire edifice was only discovered in the late 19th century, when it was accidentally discovered under a street. Bath was already a city of beauty, the in-place to be, the Carnaby Street of the Regency, so we can only imagine the impact this would have added to this unique city.
I would love to ramble on – the Pulteney Bridge, the Royal Crescent – but get a guide book and go there. Loads of pictures to be added to the website. Bath and Bristol – don’t know what it’s like to reside there, but as a pesky tourist - superb.


New Year’s Day was not too shocking either. Out on a bird boat, birding in Poole Harbour for several hours, a special selection of cheeses, homemade warming soup, great birds, scenery, good company all paid for by a the generous Mark and Mo Constantine.


What a start to the New Year. Now, just arranged for a special meeting at the Reform Club in Whitehall later in the month. This will be a new experience for me, visiting a posh Gentleman’s club, having to wear a suit, and very much looking forward to it.


All going too swimmingly at the moment, so expect to suddenly drop down dead any time now.

1.9.2014

Had the flu last week, just 24 hour flu, but do I moan and suffer. Felt like death. My heart rate increased from 60 to 100 and I thought my fibrillation had returned, but after 6 days it returned to 60. Seems your heart rate increases when ill to help your body recover. Lesson learned, and for the first time ever, will book up an anti-flu jab.

Went over the IOW to see the Bee-eaters on 20th of August. Nice hot summer’s day, well organised by the NT, and got good views of these eye-catching birds. Also visited Brading Marshes RSPB Reserve, but will need to return for a more expensive visit. Brading Station is something different, with a London tube train running between Ryde and Shanklin, but strangely only runs between 10 and 4. You would have thought this avoids the commuters, the most customers! Very odd. The station is unlike anything I have ever seen before with a mannequin sitting reading a newspaper.

Anyway, the Bee-eaters bred for only the second time in 62 years in the UK, and they were extremely successful enjoying perfect weather conditions.
100 years ago today, Martha the last Passenger Pigeon died in the USA. On 13th of September, Mark Avery will be presenting his talk on his book at the BNSS. As far as we know, we are the only organisation to be presenting such a lecture, so it will indeed be a keynote event.

To the Bournemouth Air Festival yesterday, and once again, record numbers in attendance.

28.4.14

HEARTBEAT – TRIP TO LONDON – CHRIS PACKHAM & MALTA

Still taking the pills! However, my latest set of tests for my heart shows all going okay now, heartbeat still about 60 (until I see Gordon Brown on the TV).
Had a few days in central London in late April. Stayed at South Kensington, so naturally spent a deal of time in the world’s great museums, The Natural History, V&A and Science, which are all grouped together. It would take months to see most of the objects. At times long queues for the Natural History Museum, Easter Saturday for example was 1 hour twenty minutes, but normally, no queues. Very busy though. Scott, Attenborough and Packham have much to answer for.

A brief visit to the British Museum. Again there was a short queue, and it was packed solid, the heavy rain outside adding to the attraction. Just arrived, when over the tannoy came the announcement, ‘This is an emergency. Please leave the museum immediately.’ Wonderful. Some selfish beast**d ruined the day for children, visitors from Australia etc. Chaos ensued as the roads clogged up with people, umbrellas and traffic.

Still, apart from that episode, it was a wonderful break. London is a great place to visit, before the summer hordes arrive, but not a place where I would ever wish to live in again. The concrete, rushing around, sirens, is all so unnatural and artificial; but there is so much to see.

Also did the ‘Big Bus Tour’, 3 ½ hours without getting off, and visiting sights in the west, most of which I knew, and then the east, most of which I did not know. When I lived in London for 12 years, I never ventured much into the east of the city, residents had little recourse to do so in those days, but there is so much history there. I believe it is always a good way to initially acquaint oneself with a city, the get-on get off bus tour. We also had a coach guide, and every street would have history ingrained upon it. Fascinating stuff, although not all accurate information by the guide, some facts were not facts at all.

I ‘popped’ into Hyde Park, and remained there until dusk. Photographed a tame, but still wild Heron from a distance of 6 feet!! Similarly, Egyptian Geese, ancient escapes from zoos and private collections, and Great-crested Grebes catching fish.

I wonder how many Londoners ever see the tourist sights? I would think not many, just as not many Parisians have ever been up the Eiffel Tower.

It was a welcome break, and I shall visit at least once or twice a year. I was a member of the London Zoo when aged about 9, and have not been back there since!! Then there is Greenwich, the Tower, Docklands - - - - -

Asked Chris Packham to visit the BNSS on 12th of April. About to set off for Malta, so I got Jane to make him a cake. I gave him strict instructions that this was to be shared with the volunteers on the Malta campaign. However, I got an email form him as soon as he arrived home to say he had 'Scoffed the lot'. I will be guiding him around as usual at the Bird Trail in the New Forest on 11th of May.
He was quite magnificent in attendance all day long at the HOS Open Day, of which I have written a couple of articles. Friends of mine who were reluctant to come along, and were going to sneak out but stayed till 5 pm, were amazed at his oratory, something I and we have come to take for granted over the years. His depth of knowledge and way with words must be unsurpassed now on matters concerning British wildlife, and we are indeed fortunate to have him.
He has just spent a week in Malta trying to put a stop to the hunting of spring migrant birds. There are 10,700 hunters on this island, and what they do every spring is illegal and indefensible. Unlike global warming (or rather ‘climate change’) or organic versus pesticides, GM foods, windfarms etc. this is not a controversial subject. It is just wrong.

Now the Maltese hunters might say that Europe owes the island a debt, for holding out in the Second World War, for being so brave, and being smashed to pieces by the German Bombers. My response to this is ‘All very true, but it was a long time ago, and has nothing to do with the present debate.’

Another response is that it is part of their culture. Well, perhaps we should bring back bear-baiting.

Perhaps the most indefensible aspect is that they are not even their birds – they are migrating from Africa to Europe.

Most Maltese themselves would vote for a ban. It is about time. There are though, complicit or even corrupt police and politicians. ‘Talking’ has been going on for years and years, it is against the EU edicts, yet nothing is done. It would actually be quite easy to stop. The RSPB could ask its members, of which there are 1,300,000 to boycott the Island. This would then make the BBC news, everyone would eventually hear what is going on, and if the tourist trade suffered as a result, it would have to stop.
Chris probably feels more passionate about this than any other subject, so good luck to him and well done indeed.

I now intend to travel more both in the UK and the world. Have been asked by the BNSS to become their 'Ornithologist', but do not want to commit myself. In some respects I love the uniqueness of the BNSS and its scope, but in others I disagree with certain aspects. Guess this is the same with every society. I will however continue to assist Heather Dixon in her Bournemouth Naturally project, getting the residents of Bournemouth more involved in their green spaces, and will get my contacts, the best birders in Britain, to come and give talks at the BNSS, and will continue to lead field trips.

As for my flat, Bournemouth and Dorset, I still think I have struck gold, it is all so perfect. So, life is good.

Now, I MUST write that book.

15.1.2014 ___3.15pm

UPDATE ON MINOR HEART TREATMENT - 2 CHEERS

Thank you for your words, cards and messages wishing me luck for my heart treatment. Gratefully received, but next time to ensure that I will feel better and boost my morale, please send me lots of money instead. I will accept cheques, cash, bankers orders, dollars, credit cards, IOUs and even Euros.

Yesterday, had the Cardioversion operation/procedure at Bournemouth Hospital. This is where they stop your heart and then restart it with a large electrical impulse.
These are about 80% successful and sure enough, it did not work for everyone but I was successful. I was awoken with shakes by the nurses just a few minutes after the procedure with cries of “Ian wake up. It has been successful.” They could not wait to tell me, which was nice. This was followed by the all-important tea and biscuits, the first liquid I was allowed that day. So, I was jubilant, good news for now, although it took 2 attempts for it to work.

They had done the usual load of tests, questions etc. form filling, then wheeled me into the operating room, and a general anesthetic.

The bad news is that there is a 50% (some say 70%) chance of the heart treatment reverting to its fibrillation (my heartbeat was both fast and very irregular) any time in the next few days/months, so unfortunately, cannot really celebrate, but better than the alternative. Heart rate now about 60 instead of 100 - 140 or so.Will continue, perhaps for ever, with the drugs, now reduced to 5 different pills daily, including Warfarin, and weekly blood tests.

Unfortunately (2) there were no vacant beds in the cardiac wards, which have been good stays in the past few months, so had to spend the night in the old men’s ward. I felt like a teenager, they really are old, none capable of walking or conversing. One patient especially very abusive and shouting all night long at the nurses. Has he always been like this or is it just the dementia? Even the staff do not know when I asked them. He was just the same last time I was at Bournemouth Hospital. Staff as usual were great. I managed to put an escape plan into operation the following day, and now seeking refugee status at home. I can now confidently expect to live another 70 years or so.

28.12.2013 - 4.30 pm

WORST F***ING CHRISTMAS SINCE ABOUT THE YEAR 1087

This year, decided not to go away, not even anywhere for a meal. Stayed in England, stayed in sunny Bournemouth, declined gratefully friends' invites, friends' ideas, and stayed home. According to historians, this might well have been the biggest mistake since Napoleon invaded Russia.

No F***ing power for 3 days. I awoke to the power cut on Christmas Eve and it was restored on the afternoon of Boxing Day. Occasionally it would come on, sometimes for 3 seconds, just enough to work as a 'teaser' and cause a power surge through my f***ing washing machine/dryer and destroy it. Now every light flashes, it's like the flight deck on the f***ing Starship Enterprise (and have you seen the prices for new washer/dryers?). This ties in nicely with the continuing saga of my f***ing Fridge/Freezers packing up time and again in 2013, destroying my food time and again, sending my morale to rock bottom time and again. Once again, the f***ing food has gone rotten.

Power finally returned on the afternoon of Boxing Day, just as was set to book into a f***ing hotel.

Today, 28th of December, have just returned from an excellent store in Poole, GoOutdoors, which I never knew existed (it's huge, there's even someone on the door to welcome you!), where I have purchased emergency gas heaters, gas, lights etc. Now ready for the coming storms predicted this week. Come on weather, throw your f***ing worst at me you f***ing s*ds.

If ever we have power shortages on a regular basis, for whatever reason, be it terrorism, solar flares, energy shortages, society will come to a halt pretty quickly. It is miserable. We take it so much for granted. This just about sums up my year, loads of niggly things. There was no helpline here, only 2 of us in the block of flats had no power due to the grid system and out of a population of 400,000 in the greater Bournemouth/Poole/Christchurch conurbation, only 800 of us were affected. I must try praying to a different God, maybe a Christian God, a Muslim God, Catholic, Church of England, Church of Outer Mongolia, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Hindu Gods, Buddha, Creationists, Gnosticism, Mysticism, Occult, Pagan Gods, Hare Krishna, Scientology, David Icke and his Giant Lizards, Jehovah's Witnesses, Shintos, Vodooism, Sikhism, Jesuits, Spiritualists, Plymouth Brethren, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Greek Unorthodox, Moonies, Lunies, Loonies, Mormons, Morons, Unbending Traditionalist Vicars, Happy Clappy Crappy Trendy Leather-Wearing Motorbike-Riding Vicars, Evangelists, the Earth God, the Sun God Ra, Druids, Apollo, I will try sacrificing animals, people, anyone, primeval screams, Devil Worship, Satanism, etc. etc. Will try all of these and much much more as a spread bet (there are at least 30,000 religions to try, and they all swear that their faith reflects the only true God, so I can't go wrong). I have obviously upset someone/something.

----------------------------------------

24.12.2013 - - UPDATE & COPY OF AN EMAIL

WELL I WOKE UP THIS MORNING

Woke up this morning
And the power was off
I say I woke up this morning
And the power was off
No kettle, no Wi-Fi, no telly,
Feeling pissed-off

Walked down the stairs in the morning time
But their power was on
I say I walked down at breakfast time
And my neighbours were fine
It was only me and one other
Just one other neighbour and mine

This means bad news for us at Christmas time
Cos just 2 of us aint got the power
I say this is bad news for us at Christmas time
Cos just 2 of us aint got the power
So we get low priority
We couldn't sink much lower

So I'm a sitting-here with no heating
And the light doesn't work
I say a sitting-here with no heating
And the light doesn't work
I can't even send this
So feel a bit like a burke

The Wi-Fi isn't happening
The telly's not on
I say the Wi-Fi isn't happening
The telly's not on
No coffee no tea no Horlicks
Cos the power it's gone

At least my neighbours are good 'uns
And have all rallied around
I say at least my neighbours are good 'uns
And have all rallied around
They have rung and are looking after me
This is the best home I've found

I will catch up on writing and emails
And sit here in the dark
I say I will catch up on writing and emails
And sit here in the dark
In the cold mid-winter tempest
- - Bugger this for a lark

Please enjoy your Christmas
But spare a thought for me
I say please enjoy your Christmas
But spare a thought for me
I'm sure everyone else will be joyful
As merry as can be

Enjoy your Christmas dinner
I hope you'll be well fed
I say enjoy your Christmas dinner
I hope you'll be well fed
I'll just have a sulk in the dark
Then slink off to bed

Do not feel bad as you eat and drink
Life is meant to be bad and cruel
I say do not feel bad as you eat and drink
Life is meant to be bad and cruel
Whilst you're tucking in with lights so bright
I'll be in the dark eatin' weevils and gruel

Just back from sunny Tenerife
And the biggest storm in 30 years
I say just back from sunny Tenerife
And the biggest storm in 30 years
Back to sunny Bournemouth
I was a-hoping for good cheers

It's known as sunny Bournemouth
A name you gotta believe
I say it's known as sunny Bournemouth
A name you gotta believe
Aint too sure about it now
Here on Christmas Eve

The wind it blows and the rain cascades
It couldn't get much worse
I say the wind it blows and the rain cascades
It couldn't get much worse
I'm a gonna change my religion
I must have a curse

Let them discover my body
I'll have nothing more to lose
I say if they discover my body
I'll have nothing more to lose
From when I woke up this morning
And the lonesome power-cut blues


Written 12.53pm - no light, no kettle, no heating - 24.12.13 - no idea when, if ever, power will be restored - must feel positive, but that is not my nature - very grey, windy, pouring with rain here in sunny Bournemouth, looking forward to a Christmas dinner of darkness, bread, maybe a sip of water, wrapped up against the mid-winter - but don't feel bad - you just go ahead and enjoy yourselves. Back from Tenerife, and there we experienced the biggest storm in 30 years. I am doing something wrong.

Only 2 of us without power here, which is the bad news. The positive news is that - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - I'll come to you on that one. I would be so happy, happy happy happy, if all of my neighbours were without power. Not only would it then be more urgent, but more people would suffer.

I'll send this if I make it and power is one day restored. How did man ever survive without Wi-Fi, power, heating, telly? Beats me. I am told things could be worse, stay positive, always, always think of Shackleton and the greatest example of leadership, but also Henry V and Shakespeare, Scott and his dignity in death, Apollo 13 and a 'problem', James Cook and the Barrier Reef, Alfred Douglas Wallace dying in the east, England 1941, the hungry, the oppressed of the world, orphans, this is nothing in comparison. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and think of those worse off, think of others for once.

Nope. That doesn't work, now, where's that noose?

Ian
www.natureandpictures.com Sunny Bournemouth

(This was a copy of email I sent on Christmas Eve at 19.01. I had typed it out, sent it when power came back on - but it was to be a very brief respite).

__________________________________

19.12.2013

SUNNY TENERIFE – OH DEAR

Having experienced my greatest holiday this year, the Nile Cruise and Egypt, temples, wildlife, culture and all that, I felt like a winter sunshine break, England with the blue skies, wearing shorts in December (never a pretty sight) and getting away from driving bans, heart problems and what-not.

So, off to a large hotel near the Playa de las Americas. Never stayed at a huge hotel before (Iberostar), but the advantage is there is always an enormous selection for the buffet. There are disadvantages of course – noise, impersonal, some good rooms some grotty rooms.

But it was all about the weather. There is one reason to go to Tenerife, and only one reason. Blue skies and constant sunshine - and - for the first 3 1/2 days - - - - - - it hammered down. Then there was the wind and prolonged thunder and lightning. The buildings were not designed to withstand such rainfall, so roofs were collapsing everywhere, taxi drivers went on strike due to the danger, roads cut off (and still are), power cuts, people were homeless. We had floods in our hotels, and water seeped through the lifts and light fittings. Health and safety? Que?

It was the biggest storm in 30 years! A few years ago, I visited Verona, the only day I have done so, and it was the coldest day in 40 years; heavy snow, minus 7 degrees, plus wind-chill – in Verona? I am obviously doing something wrong. 10 of my last 12 holidays have been marred by atrocious weather.

Did not get to see Eduardo the naturalist, due to the weather, although did manage to get out in a boat and prolonged views of a pod of 7 Short-finned Pilot Whales (which are actually Dolphins, now on my website) including a mother and calf. They were very tame and accommodating.

Back to blood tests, and still not sufficient INR, so Warfarin now increased yet again.

Will have a relaxing Christmas and I hope you all have a good one, and a great 2014.

8.12.13

Off to Tenerife at 4am tomorrow. I have told my neighbours that I will ensure that they are awake, in order that they can wish me Bon Voyage.
This is to be a non-cultural, little wildlife, relaxing holiday, mainly going for the sun, and it is cheap. Breaks up the winter, and getting away from hospitals, car smashes, Police etc. May do Mount Teide, and maybe not, but I certainly shall not be walking it to the top. Those days are over – in fact they were never here.

The good news is that I am to write a regular column, in 2014, for the Bournemouth Echo, Dorset's main newspaper. Will meet up with the Editor, but it wil be about the natural world, nature and science, featuring Bournemouth, Dorset, a bit of Hampshire, the BNSS, BN, birds, animals, reptiles, insects, astronomy, scenery, geology, books, photography and so on, and will be aimed at all age groups. I will be giving talks and leading field trips next year, so must remember to keep taking the pills – all 8 of them.

 

23.11.2013

An update for those interested in my heart treatment. From the population of western Europe, about 3 of you at a guess. Was due to have an 'Elective DC Cardioversion' on 3rd of December. However, my INR (whatever that is) has suddenly dropped, and has stayed at 1.8 (whatever that means) so it is put off until at least January. I have to have 4 blood tests in 4 weeks with the proper INR before they risk it and the minimum is 2.5 - whatever that means.

For the many ignorant of you, this is where I am given a general anaesthetic, then my heart is stopped and restarted. I have asked the surgeons to please make sure they remember Part 2. Thinking about it, there are probably 200 of my 'friends ' who would volunteer to action Part 1, but can think of not a single soul who would come forward to do Part 2.

For the one and only time, I have checked on the internet. The bad news is that the success rate is only 30%. The goodish news is that it does not mean a 70% chance that I will snuff it, merely that the procedure will be unsuccessful.

Off to Tenerife on 9th of December, for a bit of winter sun - and that's it. Has as much culture as Luton really. The Canaries are really England with the sun, but the most reliable European destination for the sun, probably because they are actually off the African coast and nothing to do with Europe.

Need to get away for a week. It's all been about my car, driving ban then smashed into again, then diagnosed with a heart problem - but still feel fine. Continue on 5 1/2 Warfarin per day plus 5 other drugs, including 'water' pills. these make me rush to the toilet to powder my nose. Quite amusing really, woe betide anyone who gets in my way when I have to go.

But will it still be amusing as it continues ad-infinitum? What do I do on holiday? Off to see a doctor to ask him such questions.

21.10.2013

BE STILL MY BEATING HEART
- although on second thoughts, please ignore that!

BUPA, NHS, ATRIAL FIBRILLATION, CARDIAC ANGIOGRAM & ELECTRICAL CARDIOVERSION
(What a snappy headline grabber - not. So I will make this short as feasible)

Just had another couple of days in Bourneouth Hospital, this time for a 'cardiac angiogram'. This involves a local anaesthetic, then a tube is inserted into your wrists or groin, according to the surgeon's preference. Groin sounds more unpleasant and sure enough, I had it in the groin. Just stung a little and uncomfortable for the first 5 minutes, and then fascinating; watching my own arteries and heart as the tube is inserted (no, you don't feel it travelling up your body). Next a dye is released. I had to be told repeatedly to put my head back, as I was so taken in by watching the monitors, the beating heart and the arteries.

Immediately, whilst still lying down in the theatre I was given the results. My arteries and valves are fine. But the surgeon told me there and then that I will require an 'electrical cardioversion' in a few weeks time. Here they will stop and then restart my heart. As I have mentioned before, let's hope there is not a power-cut in the middle. That too should be an interesting experience, but will be asleep for that one. Hope I wake up again. Maybe I will see the other side for a few seconds, so may get rather hot. (I was told to take things easy following the treatment, no driving or walking, but no mention of parties, so sneaked out for a short while to a 60th birthday party at the BNSS on Saturday. Didn't stay long as felt a little giddy, but more importantly no orgies or hard drugs available.)

For the first time I have checked the internet about all of this, and shall not do so again! Apparently, arterial fibrillation, which I have and is an irregular heartbeat, increases chances of a stroke by 500%. The chances of resetting the heart curing this are just 20 - 30%. So it is good news and bad news and the drugs should help - they have reduced my fast heartbeat. Shall not bother with the internet again!

Once again, I am curious about whether to continue with BUPA. Have been with them for 10 years, have never used them, and now for the first time I have an ailment, I am thinking of quitting membership and save myself the subscriptions.

Basically, the treatment I am getting is good, I cannot see how it could be improved upon apart from all procedures being quicker and perhaps more luxurious surroundings. But, I do not consider any of this urgent, and I am in no pain. I had a single room again, actually en-suite, the food and room service was excellent. Asking friends for their experiences they said you could be lonely in a BUPA environment as you are cut-off from the other patients and staff, and secondly, you cannot switch between the NHS and BUPA. Once you elect to go with them for a treatment you have to stick with them. So, I will probably unsubscribe from BUPA.

Still no mention of my junk food diet, fortunately, and no pressure on me to do exercise. That is good news, but the bad news is that I still cannot plan a holiday abroad yet, as these tests continue - I keep having blood pressure, ECGs, ultra-sounds, weekly blood tests, but still feel really good and never slept better.

5.10.2013

THE SS WAVERLEY FROM BOURNEMOUTH TO LULWORTH COVE
Kay West, a friend of 35 years standing visited sunny Bournemouth in September (we both shared a most traumatic experience 1982) and I had arranged a trip on the SS Waverley, the last ocean going paddle steamer in the world, along the Jurassic Coast. With such a boat and such views, nothing could go wrong.

A trip from Bournemouth Pier, across to Swanage and thence along the magical Jurassic Coast (and Britain’s first World Heritage Site), to Lulworth Cove. Fabulous. Only problem was we could not see anything due to the fog. This began just after Swanage, when visibility was down to less than 100 yards for much of the time.

We saw both the Swanage and the Weymouth lifeboats who were searching for survivors from a boat that had sunk due to the fog. Would have been beneficial if we had sunk as we would then have probably received refunds on the trip. We were told by tannoy that we had turned around and were heading back, having been and gone at Lulworth. For all we knew, this could have been a Donald Crowhurst trick and we had simply left Swanage and just treaded water.

Still the boat is lovely, very photogenic, no queuing for food and drinks as there were 2 kiosks. Surprisingly busy despite the peak season having passed, and they do not exactly promote themselves efficiently. Next year must do Weymouth, round the IOW, Portsmouth Harbour, and have another bash at Lulworth Cove.

ME, ME, ME, ME CONTINUED - -

Still attending hospitals and having weekly blood tests and now booked up for Cardiac Catheter Angioplasty – this where a tube is inserted into a vein on the leg or somewhere, from there up to the heart where dye is inserted. This will occur on the 18th of October, when I will again become an in-patient. Should be an interesting experience – not – as I will be conscious for the 45 minutes. Can’t wait – not. Still not complaining though – not much. Have been informed of 4 possible outcomes. No further action just continue with the drugs, an operation to insert stent(s), a successful heart operation from Southampton Hospital and a heart operation resulting in death! I'm so happy!

Today 3.10.13, visited Dr Scott, who did some tests. Apart from the odd Piriton, Aspirin, or Gaviscon, have never taken drugs, let alone prescription drugs, but now on 7, and was today informed these would definitely be for life. I would also need to see doctors, visit the hospital on a regular basis, but have never felt better, slept better and realise that one day something was bound to go wrong. But – no pain (unlike most people who brag about having a high pain threshold – I do not) not even discomfiture. However, I DO have heart damage and the forthcoming test will reveal the state of my arteries.

Being a member of BUPA, I spoke at length to a representative this week. I have been subscribing for 10 years and cannot really think how BUPA can offer much that is not supplied by the NHS. In fact I have heard from friends that by having your own room away from others can be lonelier than being in the mainstream of things. True, things might work quicker, such as tests and operations, but as I can see no urgency in my situation, and no pain is involved, there is no issue here.

The girl was a good representative and said it would be a bit ironic that I paid in for 10 years and then when I might need it, I withdrew from the service, so will wait and see the results of my test on 15th of October.

NANO CENTRE SOUTHAMPTON UNIVERSITY 27TH SEPT

Six of us from the BNSS visited Southampton University Nanofabrication Centre. This is housed in The ‘Mountbatten Building’. Following a fire, this was rebuilt at a cost exceeding £100,000,000 The equipment alone was over fifty million, each electron microscope costing four, and the ‘cleanrooms’ must be the cleanest anywhere. When you are dealing with single atoms a speck of dust is like a continent.

Maybe the foremost centre for research in the world, and certainly in Britain, we were privileged and given a wonderful talk, demonstration and guided walk around the cleanrooms by Dr Harold Chong, Angela Bamberg and Dr. Simone de Lubevato; mind-boggling stuff on atomic and quantum physics, my favourite of all subjects in the natural world. Here scientists can move around and manipulate individual atoms, even build atomic motors, but this is early days, literally cutting edge technology. It is already revolutionising optical cabling (which we saw being made by lasers), and the future will be in computing silicone chips operating at the atomic level, medicine, cell structures, and who knows what else. I do wonder at what stage the military will show an interest.

UPDATE ON WILDLIFE

Due to the hot weather during the summer, flora has been excellent this year. All of the rain for the previous 16 months meant lush flowers, trees and shrubs but unlike last year, the sun was able to ripen the fruits, berries, nuts and seeds. So, butterfly numbers up 400% on last year (which was the worst ever), and walks at Durlston and Martin Down revealed unprecedented numbers of butterflies. These are the most obvious of insects to see, so it must have been a boom year and this of course will benefit all creatures in the food chain.

CAR
Having got my driving license back, driving at 20 mph, lost all enjoyment of driving thanks to our Police, someone then banged into the side of my car. Several hundred pounds later, a new door from Ireland etc. I got my car back. Two weeks later, I found a note on my windscreen at the hospital car park. Someone left their details, and an apology, and they had pranged my car in exactly the same location again. I DO NOT BELIEVE IT. ANYONE RECOMMEND A GOOD RELIGION, I NEED TO TRY SOMETHING NEW. Now rushing around getting quotes yet again. The other party will pay through insurance and to complicate matters, he had a hire car. WHATEVER NEXT!! HELP ME SOMEBODY! I HATE USING EXCLAMATION MARKS BUT WHAT IS A MAN TO DO! I have using adjectives but this is dreadful, appalling, cataclysmic. WE'RE ALL DOOMED. DOOMED I TELL YOU. Now a neighbour has left a note on my car, he has hit the opposite side! Drugs for life, heart failure, the Waverley a waste of time thanks to fog, driving ban, followed by car repairs followed by car repairs, this is worse than PMT.

17.9.13

FIRST EVER STAY IN A HOSPITAL

Finally my decrepit old age has caught up with me. Once again attended hospital and this time they more or less insisted I stay, which I did for 5 days, and would still be there had I not requested going home. Never seen as many doctors as yesterday, going around in teams of five or so.

This Bournemouth hospital seems massive to me, like a small city, although of course it is actually small compared to a big city complex. Obviously, the most crucial thing is how attractive the nurses ar,e and there are no complaints from that angle, and they are still a caring hard-working bunch.

I will be on pills for life now, will have to have regular blood tests and the most important medication will be warfarin, an anticoagulant. Basically, I have a pretty poor functioning heart, with an irregular but fast heartbeat – highest at rest about 140. I noticed getting out of breath during our recent heatwave, but wonder if I have always had a slight breathing problem, or whether it came on this year? I guess because I never went to a doctor, and have never been in hospital, I will never know.

I have never been ill, apart from the obvious flu and suchlike, and even if I developed something serious now, would not complain. Hilary set me the example, dying of cancer at 18 and not complaining. In fact as the nurses say and I can testify to, here at the cardiac unit, there is a cheerful atmosphere. Patients are admitted and discharged after short stays, nothing too serious, mainly older gits like myself, no suffering. How different it must be on a childs or a cancer ward!

After having what appeared to be circa 200 injections, 80 blood pressure tests, the good news is that I have been told not to change my diet. So junk food here I come. I kind of discharged myself last night after 5 nights, but will be carefully monitored from hereon in, and that will require many hospital visits, blood tests etc. From going from no drugs ever beforehand, now I have 7 different ones daily. Be an experience when next I attempt to go through customs. Treatment coming up will probably include a stopping and then ‘zapping’ my heart – which should be interesting (knowing my luck, there will be a powercut in the middle of this), and a scan to detect the state of my arteries.

My impression of the hospital stay and the NHS? Mainly good, efficient, hard-working staff, everything clean, professional and well-run, food good on the whole, and the general impression is favourable. I would have liked more communication as to what was happening with me etc. I had my own room, like a top-class hotel with everything considered and at hand, so 8 1/2 out of 10.

By the way, the Air Show was considered the best ever, and I have pictures on this site under 'Events'.

29.8.13

Me, me, me, me, me - - - - -

Driving again after a 6-month ban, but now ever-cautious. Becoming neurotic about traffic lights, never go 1 mph past the speed limit, no longer enjoy driving. Then someone slammed into the side of me!! Woe! Frizzells had been my insurance for over 40 years, and despite never making a claim or having an accident, and them wishing to take me on again when I explained the circumstances of the ban, they could not do so by their rules. So, have just had to register with a new company, and then - bang! The other driver and myself decided it was the fault of the car parked on a yellow line right on a corner, and a stranger, joined us and said he too had nearly had an accident that day because of it. Such is life.

Had a fantastic geological walk along the Jurassic Coast at Lulworth, and due to the blue skies, took many pictures, now on the BNSS category of the website. The wonderful second half of this summer continues. Another butterfly walk at Martin Down totalled 29 species, which may be a British record, but no one knows for sure. It must be close as it included virtually every possibility. Anyway, this is now about me, me, me - - - -

A few weeks ago, went to see my doctor in Bournemouth for the first time. I had had a cough for several months at night, which often kept me awake. I was shocked that I had to wait 2 weeks for an appointment. When last time I saw a doctor in Oxfordshire, 18 years ago, it was a case of seeing him/her that same day, if my memory serves me right. So, initially, my negative views of the NHS were being realised.

Anyway, by the time I saw Doctor Scott, the complaint had gone away, but as I was actually going out of the door, I was asked if there were any other problems, I replied casually, that I had noticed that I might have a breathing problem. Oh dear. This set off a blood test, ECG and then a quick urgent referral to hospital. I had an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and fast heartbeat, liquid in my ankles. Then a load of tests at the hospital, pharmacy, ECG, blood, X Ray, saw a doctor then another, who examined me. All of this was achieved in just over the hour, incredible really. Bournemouth Hospital is like a city, but it all seemed so professional and hardly any waiting anywhere.

Then the shock - I have a heart complaint - my heart is failing. The X Rays shown to me revealed that my lungs and body have liquid inside them due to a weak heartbeat. They wanted me to become an in-patient there and then for a week of tests and treatment! We discussed this, as I was unprepared; so wondered if this could be put off for 2 weeks, as I have much to do, and also wish to put my house in order. So, this was agreed, but was warned repeatedly, to dial 999, if any problem arises. Additionally, they may decide that when I call next week for a scan, I may be again asked to stay if it is considered too urgent to wait another week.

So, as matters stand, I know things are going to change, I will probably be asked to relinquish my beloved junk food, and may have to do some ghastly exercise. But - as one who has never been an in-patient, never been ill before today, or had prescription drugs, who distrusts the medical profession, especially after the death of Hilary my 18 year-old sister, I can only praise what happened today; the concern and expertise shown by everyone I encountered. I know these are professionals, who knew exactly my condition and possible cures, and most importantly, are dedicated and specialists. Am most impressed.

I am certainly not complaining, as I have only seen a doctor about 5 times in 40 years (and they were largely a waste of time), and despite a pretty unhealthy lifestyle, I have been blessed, fortunate and simply lucky with my health until now. So, there is certainly no' feeling sorry for myself', quite the reverse actually, as I am in professional hands, and still I have great friends and live in a great place. Hope to enjoy the Air Festival tomorrow. I fully intend to live for at least another 89 1/2 years, and will easily see in the next full Solar Eclipse of 2090. Now, off for a curry - - -

7.8.2013

LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE COMMON BIRDS

Pity the poor Dunlin and Knot for they glamourise not. We see them arrive in late summer and they are largely ignored; unless being hunted by a fabulous Peregrine. Then we watch fascinated as the flocks of a hundred or 5 thousand or more, use tactics to confuse the predator, weaving, backtracking, diving, swooping, separating, merging, entwining across estuaries. But as subjects (and nothing personal), a wintering Dunlin is a grey, non-descript and extremely timid individual.

As a photographer, it is difficult to go too far wrong with Kingfishers, Herons, Egrets, Red Kites, Peregrines, Eagles, Ospreys, Puffins, all of which I have captured in the wild in the last year, their colour and character shines forth not just to photographers and ornithologists, but just about everyone. From the other extreme, A Dunlin or Knot has no discernible character, as it is just one of a large group, and perhaps evolution has dictated that an ‘individual character’ would more likely be picked off. So, what has been my most exciting photographic birds of the last couple of years? Why, it was 2 Dunlins seen on the BNSS flora walk on Stanpit Marsh, on 1st of August.

These were on the southern extreme of the reserve, and never before have I managed to get so close, down to about 10 feet before they became fidgety, but they never did not flush, and continued happily feeding, so affording close-up views. Normally, about 80 yards is the closest you can get. Why so? Well, these were by themselves, arriving back earlier than normal, so I can only assume that if in the normal flock of a thousand or so, it just needs one to take off, and they all follow. A second possibility is that they had literally just arrived back, so were exhausted and starving, behaviour we have witnessed before with other species.

But even better, they were not the drab birds we know and take for granted, but were still in their summer plumage from their arctic breeding grounds. So, we were all able to appreciate the stunning and different hues, a subtle combination of camouflage for their nesting sites and beauty for attracting mates. This is something I thought I would never say, but these 2 ‘glamorous individualistic accommodating Dunlin’ gave me greater satisfaction than any birds I have seen for a long time.

29.7.2013

A LITTLE ABOUT EGYPT

Having read and watched a great deal about Egypt, I planned to revisit but the country is in turmoil. The Muslim Brotherhood were taking the country along the lines of a fundamentalist religious country, and whenever and wherever this happens, there is economic chaos, persecution, stifling of debate, censorship, a lack of joy and overall, misery for the people.

The problem and paradox is – they were democratically elected. They might be unpopular now, but at the time, they secured just over the required 50%. As I wrote previously, the Egyptians are poor but were the most pleasant nation I have ever encountered, although I did exempt Cairo from this observation, as I spent but about 10 hour here, and did not meet the locals.

Now the country is divided down the middle and there seems no solution to this enigma. The tourist industry was down 80 % when I visited in February, now it must be down 100%. Everywhere at the moment, Arabs are fighting Arabs – Syria, Iraq again on the boil, Libya again on the boil, Afghanistan.

On a more local level, managed to release an injured Peregrine together with the RSPCA and the Hawk Conservatory Trust. The last 3 weeks have finally seen hot weather for the first time in about 8 years (global warming having stopped), butterflies are again showing themselves.

Went to the doctor for the first time in 17 years and the fourth time in 38 years. I get out of breath very easy these days; just getting old I think, but having tests. Enough about me. Wonderful win by Phil Mickelson at The Open. Thrilling finish by a great bloke. Most of my sporting heroes no longer play, but my number one of those who do is PM. Always the gentleman, always 'goes for it', gracious and 'Phil theThrill' is the most exciting golfer and most popular in the world. Last but certainly not least, he won me a good deal of money, in one of the 2 bets I wager each year.

24.5.13

Weather & Wildlife

Britain has now experienced 13 months of rain, cold, grey skies and a lack of sun to ripen fruits, nuts, seeds and berries. Last year was considered to be the worst ever since records began, on insects and birds, and this year is worse. Not only Britain, but the rest of Europe has experienced this dreadful climate.

This year, the early arriving Sand Martins were found dead in March and it is believed that none of them survived. Swifts, House Martins, Swallows are right down. Reports are that the New Forest is virtually devoid of small birds, at the time of writing, and there seems little doubt that warblers, chats, heathland birds, in fact most species apart from those partial to worms (who should od well, as the soil is so soft) will be taking a big hit. There is a chronic shortage of insects in 2013.

Is it all dom and gloom? Pity much so. Would like to say a big "but", but it is difficult to find too man positives. It is not good for us humans either, we all of us seem of a merrier disposition when the sun shines.

As for myself, still angry with the Police over the driving ban. I now discover that the speed limit for the road is actually 40 mph, so the amber light should have been on for at least 4 seconds, preferably 41/2 seconds or more. I have videoed it at 3 seconds precisely, so this will explain why 1876 prosecutions resulted at this one junction in 5 months!! This is surely just entrapment and targeting. When writing to the Police Commissionaire he replied abruptly, 'nothing to do with me, ask the Police'! So this begs the question, what does he do? EVeryone I have told just laugh at this and say they will apply for this £70,000 a year post.

Of course, I had already asked the Police why 1876 convictions were enacted at this one junction. Answers came there none. A simple question, and they replied telling me stopping distances. I could have asked this on Google, but it was not my question. I too worked as a 'public servant' for 27 years, and if asked a question, would attempt to answer it. Still, never mind. The Bournemouth Echo ran the story on its front page.

On a cheerier note, have now relinquished my final editorship and am free to have a go at the book I have thought about for several years (my final position, editor of Kingfisher magazine and photo editor, has just finished after 5 years. I continue to try and assist Heather Dixon and her 'Bournemouth Naturally' project, helping on walks, photography etc. I continue to enjoy the BNSS. Twice in the last couple of months, have had dealings with Chris Packham, at our HOS Open Day and with children and adults at Blashford Lakes on the edge of the New Forest. We are lucky to have such a devoted naturalist, in my view Britain's finest all-rounded, a true expert in so many fields of the natural world, a wonderful writer, whether it be for me as editor of HOS with 1600 members, the SNHS with 250 members, or the National Trust with 3 million members, he devotes the same amount of time to the article.

The children love him, the adults admire him, and we are fortunate indeed to have the likes of him and of course, the great Sir David. Pity though, habitats continue to disappear, insecticides and herbicides continue with their destruction and the world's population just increases evermore.

http://www.bnss.org.uk/

http://www.bnss.org.uk/bournemouth-naturally

http://www.hos.org.uk/

http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/10313461.1_876_drivers_jump_Castle_Lane_red_lights_in_just_five_months/

 

27.2.13

A Report on Egypt

Returned from Egypt, and the best-ever holiday. 10 days sailing the Nile, but including a few days in Luxor, Aswan, and a one-day touristy trip to Cairo. By chance, this was on the second anniversary of Mubarak’s resignation, stopping near Tahrir Square to visit Cairo Museum, then onto the Pyramids, and Sphinx and the inevitable camel ride. To this day no one knows how these pyramids could have been built. We had a guide who has studied the subject for 27 years and remains as keen as ever.

The Nile cruise was superb, probably my favourite part of the holiday, and exceeded best expectations. Temples included Karnak (the world's largest historic monument), Luxor Temple, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Philae (the Island Temple), Al-Deir Al-Bahari, Colossi of Memnon, Medinet Habu, there was the Valley of the Kings with paintings thousands of years old but still vibrant, and much history was digested. It does rather put Stonehenge into perspective and I will never look upon our greatest ancient monument in quite the same way (although to be fair, we built our great cathedrals 1,000 years ago, we were the Industrial Revolution, and there is so much else besides, so we too have as much to be proud of).

Our guide Tamer was superb. I never heard before that Egyptians were such a friendly bunch of people, but in my experience the friendliest peoples that I have ever encountered (although Cairo, like other capitals, may be somewhat different). Most however are living in abject poverty, many it seems, earning virtually nothing. A population of 90 million souls and unlike their wealthy neighbours, they have no oil. Diesel is subsidised by the government, but due to the Arab Spring and the present revolution, the Government cannot afford this, so throughout the country they queue for 7 hours for their diesel. Tourists, and those involved in this depleted industry, go to the front of the queues, and this is accepted.

The question must be asked, where are their neighbours, why are they not assisting? In 10 days, in Luxor, Aswan, Cairo, the Nile, not one single tourist was seen from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, The Emirates, or any Arab country outside of Egypt. Have they no interest whatever in their Arab brother's heritage? Yet they come to London every summer to show off their wealth, their flashy cars, their jewellery, their bling. Most of these flashy rich sheiks have done nothing meritorious to justify their wealth, they simply have oil underneath them! Something is amiss here. Could they not help out with some diesel and tourism?

Tourism is 80% down, which is affecting the country greatly. Only 30 of the 280 Nile boats are running. But tourists are perfectly safe, as no side would dare harm this industry, so I can only urge my friends to enjoy the holiday of a lifetime. Neither side has any interest in harming tourists, the country is perfectly safe for Europeans. The temples are magnificent, and like the tombs, many still show colour after thousands of years. The scenes and hieroglyphics are so beautiful and artistic, the originators of art-deco which I love, so for the first time ever, I went overboard and bought the touristy stuff- papyrus, vases, sketches, paintings, books, and took 3,500 photos (reduced to about 1800), by far the most ever. A few of these have been added to the website under 'Egypt and the Nile'.

2 or 3 things I do not like. Some treat their animals badly - dogs, donkeys, horses. Secondly everything gets thrown into the Nile. The Nile has traditionally been the place for refuse, but this has got to change. In the past it would not have mattered, but plastic has changed all of that. The streams are clogged up with plastic bottles and bags, masses of flotsam (wrong word but looks good) sweeps down the Nile into the ocean, where it will last for hundreds of years, swallowed by whales and dolphins and leading to deaths of many marine creatures. Unacceptable. I have pictures of a wheelie-bin full of plastic being tipped into the Nile. Another minus point, upon returning, I have read on the internet that over 90 % of the Egyptian women are circumcised, and although now illegal, it is continuing to be practiced. Again, I am surprised and shocked at this. I had thought this only occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.

The famous Egyptian 'hagglers' are a sight to behold, and bothered some but never bothered me. Due to the downturn on tourism there is probably desperation creeping in, but the rule is no eye contact, do not get into any discussion, head down, avert gaze and 'No thank you' is all that is required. The vendors accept this, were never threatening, never rude, and even wished you well. Having said that, many of the wares were beautiful. We travelled by horse and carriage though the markets and the poorest areas of Luxor and everyone, children and adults, greeted us with wonderful smiles and waves. It is so easy and quick to get off the tourist routes, we saw the poorest of the poor, who all welcomed us. There was never a single show of anything but friendliness in Luxor or Aswan.

Not noted for birding, the only guide in Aswan with an interest in ornithology, took some of us out for a wonderful few hours on the Nile and the hills, and I was rewarded and delighted with the photographic opportunities, as these birds rarely if ever, are shown any interest. Diaa and his father are the only 2 individuals with any interest in Aswan's birds, out of a population of a million, so I ventured out twice on nature trips. Pied Kingfishers were seen everywhere on the Nile, Glossy Ibis flew over several times, as did Marsh Harriers. But the best pictures had to be Hoopoes, always photogenic and commonplace here, Night Heron, Straited Heron, Purple Heron, Falcons, Purple Swamphens and an Osprey being attacked by 2 Egyptian Hooded Crows.

There was not a single delay in flights, baggage or excursions and everything went superbly. I am now redecorating my appartment with papyrus etc. and will join the Wessex Ancient Egyptian Society. I am fortunate in that we have our own mummy, Princess Tahemaa at the BNSS. I am a convert to this country, Egyptology, its peoples, history, I love its ancient art and symbols more than any other art form, and will probably do the same trip, and hope to learn more, very shortly. One of the main excursions was the wonderful balloon rides over the Valley of the Kings, as dawn fired its welcome, so was saddened by the accident 13 days later and the death of 19. It will also be another blow to the tourist trade.

Sorrento is one of the most reliable touristy spots, with Herculaneum, Pompeii, Isle of Capri, Amalfi Coast and Naples all within an hour, but a trip on the Nile with the hospitality, the birds, the temples, the warmest smiles by the poorest people, the weather and the history exceeds everywhere I have been to and was the holiday of a lifetime. February is the peak month for tourists, and probably the best month. Temperatures every day in the mid-seventies, totally blue skies (a bit like sunny Bournemouth at this time of year), whilst the rest of the UK is freezing. The holiday was educational, magnificent for photography, relaxing with plenty of sunbathing, fascinating, and the holiday I would most recommend (although not so much for young children perhaps).

Not only is my flat being covered in Egyptian art, papyri and hieroglyphics, but books are being bought. If you check out the books, there are very few good ones on this huge subject, of an empire that lasted 3,000 years. (The reason for this was convincingly explained to me whilst in Egypt, and if true was to do with corruption under the Mubarak regime, and someone who always insisted on being on every programme on ancient Egypt - you will instantly recognise this chap, he of the wide brimmed hat, who would insist on writing every foreword to every book on ancient Egypt, and being very well paid, and appearing in every TV production, where he would always overdo the self-promotion - http://suite101.com/article/ancient-history-egypts-firing-of-zahi-hawass-is-long-overdue-a380260 .)

Unfortunately, despite having too little time, I am now hooked both on Egyptology (the only historical ology that exists) and the art of ancient Egypt. Having always loved Art Deco( & Bournemouth and my flat has many examples), I am now totally hooked on the art of ancient Egypt, as it is even better than deco being the 'real thing'. It is full of colour, symbolism and life, and the most beautiful art in my mind. It is not so much the art dedicated to the Pharaohs, great though it is, it is in essence vain-glorious, making these kings of Egypt into Gods; no the art that I love, is that depicting symbolism and the lifes of the people, farmers, fishermen, dancing girls, craftsmen. My appartment is now beginning to resemble a tomb from the Valley of the Kings. Might as well go the full hog and become a mummy, although as well to wait until I am dead first.

Now is the time to visit. Whilst tourism is down, places such as Luxor Temple and the Valley of the Kings are far less busy than in the past.

Before you die, do a Nile Cruise.

15.1.13

Last Wednesday, I noticed my Kia was slipping the clutch. The following day put it in for its annual service and MOT. £700! On Saturday, I dropped my Nikon SLR camera and it is broken. Yesterday, was in Bournemouth Magistrates Court, and I have been banned from driving for 6 months. 2 lots of speeding - 36 and 37 MPH, and 3 lots of jumping the red light at the same junction! Strange I have never been done for this before in 40 years anywhere else. No accident in 40 years, and I have never been without a car since I was 17. This will also cost me a lot of money - solicitors fees, increased insurance, court fees etc. On the same day, yesterday, a notable article appears in the Daily Mail about a similar junction in London that is raking in £2.7m a year for the same offence - that is one junction! (Update - my article on Police entrapment took up the entire front page of the Bournemouth Echo and there are now repercussions. There were 1876 convictions in the last 5 months, and others are now writing to the newspapers.)

This is all about targets for the Police and nothing to do with safety. Since 1998 there has been just one serious accident here, no fatalities, yet in 2011 there were 1367 convictions from this one site! I am writing a full article about all of this. I also have to attend an 'Awareness' day, and pay for the privilege. Not a good start to the year, but have decided that I will see the world this year. Still have health, a lovely flat, good friends, live in the centre of town so will not starve, live in a great place with superb public transport, so must not feel too sorry for myself - just murderous. Time to go abroad now.

UPDATE - 10.11.12

Today, celebrating my first anniversary of moving to Bournemouth. New articles on Bournemouth, Dorset, the BNSS and Bournemouth Naturally, and new picture galleries on these subjects, plus Events.

This is definitely the best place and it has been a good year. There is constant activity in the town, and the county, and the scenery and wildlife is the best in the Britain, in my opinion. I cannot believe my fortune, the apartment exceeds all of my expectations and things at the moment are going well. This is usually a prelude for a looming disaster.

UPDATE - 8.10.12

Bournemouth just gets better. I enjoyed my first ever Air Festival. What a great atmosphere, the grockles are so well behaved. I guess this kind of resort appeals to this type of person.
My intention was to explore the whole of Dorset this year, but that is on hold. Apart from trips to Weymouth and Portland Bill, there is too much to explore here in the east of the county.

Still nothing against this place, it is all positive apart from a truly dreadful private car parking company (I received a ticket 6 weeks ago, and they are now asking £400 plus court action. Fat chance. PLEASE let them take me court). Plus, an hostility shown by the Police to car owners. This place is full of cameras, they are everywhere, and some of it appears to me as entrapment.

But, that aside, I love the place more and more. It would have been a good enough reason moving here just to join the BNSS, and I kid not. I intend to get more involved, and unfortunately, will have to start severing my links to Hampshire.

Am now in the process of updating the website. Times have changed since it all began, and it is time to delete 23 'Articles'. If these can be read better elsewhere, why have them here? Also, Hampshire was good, but Dorset is great, so just a few additions. The photos meanwhile, continues to expand.

No time for travel at the moment, too much to enjoy here.

UPDATE - AUGUST 2012

Scotland

 

I have returned from 2 weeks touring Britain and a week in the far north of the Highlands. This was my first holiday for 16 months and here is a summary.

I was with Sir John Lister-Kaye, who began the first Field Centre in Scotland - Aigas (I have been to the Galapagos and the Amazon with him), and the top Scottish naturalist, Roy Dennis. Roy has been a professional for 51 years, is known as Mr Osprey throughout the world as he is the authority. He was instrumental in the re-establishment of the Osprey to Britain many years ago at Loch Garten, and since then it has bred and spread throughout Scotland. He is now trying to encourage it to stop and breed at more English and Welsh locations.

Later, he re-introduced the White-tailed Sea Eagle to Scotland, which again has been a success. Now, after hundreds of years, he has just re-introduced the Red Squirrel to Western Scotland, starting from the estate of Tim Rice where we visited, and this too is going well.

Sophie Stafford was present for a week,, the editor of the BBC wildlife magazine, so quite a group. Also present was Laurie Campbell, probably the best wildlife photographer, certainly the most pure and dedicated. The week before, he hauled 85 pound of equipment on a 2 1/2 mile-trek up a mountain, then stayed 35 hours without moving in an 8 foot by 4 foot hide/sleeping bag, photographing a Golden Eagle’s nest from 12 feet distance, and this was the third time this year. This is ‘pure’ photography, but most editors are of course happy with a good picture of a captive bird!

For once, I was lucky with the weather for the first time in about 10 holidays. Whilst England was being hammered by rain, it was comparatively dry up the far north, the best weather in Britain, although freezing cold on a couple of occasions.

Several Golden Eagles were seen, always at a distance soaring over mountain tops. On one occasion we observed at length a skirmish between 2 Eagles and 2 Peregrines who kept attacking them and then a Buzzard decided to join in the melee. I watched this with Roy Dennis, an experience never to be forgotten.

We were fortunate in seeing all 3 species of Diver in their summer plumage, as were the rare Slavonian Grebes, a pair of Short-eared Owls hunting, Great Skuas, Dolphins, Red Grouse, and not forgetting the early morning sightings of the wild Beavers on the loch, and the first view for everyone of this year’s Kit.

I was also able to view and photograph the iconic Wild Cat of Scotland, a mythical creature I have read about since I was 9, and never thought I would ever get to see. Unlike all other viewings, and all other photos on my website, this was obviously a captive. Indeed, it has hardly ever been photographed in the wild, does not come to feeders, and remains untameable.

Aigas has 2 pairs with the intention of breeding and release, and sure enough there has been a kitten born this year, although just the one. The cats are totally undisturbed by humans and we were only allowed to see them from a distance, but fortunately, the male was sitting out prominently in the daylight, and photographs were obtained. To actually see one of these cats meant more to me than any animal on the Serengeti, as this i the rarest British mammal and one of the rarest in the world.


In addition to several hundred miles in the Highlands, and 1,500 miles touring, I was visiting friends and relatives in Scotland and England. My intention was to visit friends of my late mother, but alas, I left it a year too long and 7 have died this year. Pity I did not do this in 2011, but my move put paid to that.

 

UPDATE - 23.2.12

This is my 'regular blog', ie now about once a year. As I lead one of the most boring life's imaginable, that is about it. Even I am bored reading this. I have recently joined Facebook (Ian Julian), but although activated, have not yet researched its capabilities.

I moved from Hayling Island on 10th November 2011. After an episode with what I consider to be a rude neighbour (they are bored) I decided in the space of 60 seconds that I did not have to live here, and it was time for a move. I had not considered it before, but since the incident on 14th May 2011, I have never regretted the decision for a second. A chance remark by a friend, got me looking at the Poole/Bournemouth area and here I am.

I can only say it is fabulous. I shall be writing on Bournemouth, on Poole and on Dorset and will be busy with ny cameras. Today I appreciated it the more, 70 fahrenheit, sunny blue skies, actually used the balcony for the first time, this, early spring always my favourite time of the year and am now just about ready to explore Dorset.

Am presently seeing a chiropractor for an hour a week, have my own personal trainer for £9 (it is the European Centre), and on Monday will begin 8 one-to-one swimming lessons for £40 - thanks to Groupon. Last chance to try and learn to swim properly.

I will be touring Britain this spring and summer, and will travel to Scotland in June. A week at Aigas Field Centre near Inverness with Britain's top naturalists. I will also be visiting my late mother's friends and relatives, and in a few cases, probably be saying goodbyes.

Here are a couple of messages. The second an email I sent to friends on my imminent move, the first my Christmas Message, sent with my cards to my friends.

Dear All,

After 4 months of bother, I’ll be moving next Thursday, 10th of November. Yeay!

(I have become very friendly with the estate agents, the solicitors, the buyers, everyone apart from my solicitors, who were useless. The moral is – if moving, go to a local solicitor, not a big company where you are not in direct communication. In the end, an estate agent had to take over. It would have gone on for ever otherwise.)

I am on the second floor, and live down a quiet wooded wide road, a cul-de-sac so no traffic and look onto Horseshoe Common, a wooded park. 5 minute walk through this and I am right in the town centre and the 2 mile-long flower garden. Another 5 minutes I am on the pier and the 7-mile long sandy beach. The town centre is the best I have ever seen, always things going on there, there must be 6 theatres (including the BIC), art galleries, the station the bus station – fabulous. I will never again be short of restaurants, cafes, take-aways, junk food, good food. There are pages and pages of ‘What’s On’, and even the large hotels have continuous events. Am going to be busy. Probably just watch the telly.

Then, a 15 minute drive to the New Forest, 2 minutes to the huge Meyrick Park, the cliffs of Boscombe, a few minutes to Poole and the heathlands, the Harbour, Swanage, Purbeck, Studland, Christchurch, the Jurassic coastline – must be the best place in the UK for photography, wildlife, scenery and photographing people, what a county, must be the best, and I can’t wait. It’ll probably be a disaster.

Will also have a photographic studio. Anyway, it’s easy to find, and unlike other blocks there is plenty of visitors parking, so hope to see you all in due course.

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Dear All, 16.12.12.

Excuse this message. It is a one-off due to what will probably be my final change of address. Can’t see myself ever moving unless it was to be abroad. So, these sort of messages are usually called ego messages, most of us are not really interested, but maybe I can give advise if any of you ever move. Also, to sing the praises of Dorset and if you want to visit, then I should be sorted out come February.


Hayling Island is lovely, but 10 years is enough. It is scenic, good for wildlife. I have friends there, but it was 15 minutes just to get off the island, so tended to stay in at night. The average age must be approaching 107, there are 2 shops that sell nothing but motorbility cars, if you do not wee yourself and dribble people think you are some kind of animal, and the main pastime is moaning about the ‘youngsters today.’


Actually, that is a slight exaggeration, but Bournemouth is full of life, there is so much that goes on here. ‘What’s On’ in Hayling Island and Portsmouth would amount to ‘Not Very Much Really’, but here there is so much they have to cram it into the publications in small print. There is everything that a large city would have and it is here in this small town. Every department store, every bank even an Ann Summers!


I had a row with a neighbour one day, it was 14th of May actually, and there and then, in the space of a minute, I decided it was time for a move. It came out of the blue, having resided on Hayling for nearly 10 years, I realised I was vegetating. It really is an old place, I feel sorry for the youth for apart from the Funfair, there is nothing to do.


My original destination was somewhere just north of London. The feeling was that I could get anywhere in the UK from there, and so would travel more to Scotland and the east and west. A friend of mine said Berkhamsted was a nice place, the prices were not too bad there, it was on the Grand Union Canal, railway, there are nature parks, railway station, M1 and so on. So, that was my original destination.


Then, during a telephone call to a friend in Poole, she casually suggested that it was a great place to live, and the prices were okay. Thank goodness for the internet. A quick check and a pleasant sup rise. Prices in Poole were actually very cheap. I guess we tend to think of Sandbanks, the third most expensive land in the world.


I have a naturalist friend in Poole and he showed me around the good areas and bad areas, but it was all very cheap. The wildlife, scenery, and beauty of Dorset is superb, in my view the best in the UK. So began 4 weeks of searching for a purpose-built flat. I like the idea, you pay a maintenance charge and have few worries, can just up and go away when you feel like it, and I got used to that on Hayling Island.


My requirements were 2 double bedrooms, parking space, quiet and that was about it. I clicked in Bournemouth and Poole and my price range into ‘Rightmove’ and ‘Zoopla’. The problem is, the internet is too good, and there were about 100 nice suitable properties. Originally, Poole was my preference. Out of the front door and into the heathlands or the harbour, but Bournemouth had its attractions, noticeably the social life. Also, surprisingly, it is a very young place, has more language students than anywhere else, and is different to the image of a few years ago.


My flat at Hayling was sold immediately, as it had a seaview (a USP), and the couple who moved in have become friends of mine. I learned quite a lot about the modern ways of buying property. How on earth did people buy their homes before the internet? Even the estate agents say they could not imagine it. Now you get pictures, location, measurements, information on everything. How on earth did people view properties before the sat nav? Just punch it in, and it takes me there. How on earth did people buy before the mobile? For 4 weeks I became one of those people I resent, always on the phone, arranging viewings and meetings.


In all I must have looked at, if not actually viewed, 100 flats in Bournemouth and Poole. I definitely picked the right one, and did not know at the time just how good the location was.
I overlook trees and Horseshoe Common, the road is quiet as it is a dead end, the flat is in great nick, the neighbours have all been great, and without doubt, this is the best place I have ever lived in. I even have a neighbour who loves DIY. He has built all my furniture kits, put up shelves, built beds etc. As he loves doing it, I have told him I will charge him for doing so.


Bournemouth has theatres everywhere (including the famous BIC), even the big hotels have functions, there is the 7-mile sandy beach less than 10 minutes walk for me, the 2-mile long garden 5 minutes away. I overlook Horseshow Common, a woodland, and walk a couple of hundred yards through here and I am in the town centre.


There are no downsides at all. There are restaurants everywhere, literally hundreds in the centre and including areas like Charminster, Boscombe, Southbourne and Winton which are just roads full of restaurants from every nationality. There is Boscombe and the cliffs, and Dorset with its heathlands and harbour famous for its views and wildlife. Brownsea, a magical place the for its Red Squirrels, the home of boy scouts, and the Famous 5, Purbeck Hills, Swanage the quintessential seaside town, Weymouth, Portland, Dorchester, Poole Harbour, Christchurch, Hengistbury Head, Wimborne, Wareham, Lyme Regis, Chesil Beach, Milton Abbas, Blanford Forum, Corfe Castle, Lulworth Cove, the New Forest and so on. Had I known about the property prices, would have moved here years ago.


I am still sorting out my flat. The windows are massive and are the main feature, so will do without curtains until the January sales. The majority of my furniture will not be delivered until January so it is a bit of a mess until then. But, it is superb, and about 40% bigger than my last flat and about the same price, plus a garage, plenty of parking for visitors. In fact is nigh on perfect.


Unfortunately, trying to sort out the flat, with Christmas coming along, and a wedding with 120 guests this coming Friday I am up to my ears in it. The wedding does not start until 3.30 so will be in the dark. Interesting. Never done an entire wedding when it’s dark outside.


Bournemouth itself is useless for wildlife. It is overrun with squirrels; I also get crows, jays, pigeons and gulls, nothing else on the Common. I hope no small birds try to nest here as they would not stand a chance here. But I only have to go a mile and it is all there.


My advice is that if you ever think of moving, move to Dorset and the west. But also, go to a small local solicitor. You must tell yourself at the outset – ‘Things will go wrong’, we have all heard the nightmares of people pulling out at the last minute etc. For the first time though, I really had a bad experience with a big national company, who were buying and selling my properties. It should have taken 2 months for a simple leasehold transaction, but it took over 4. In the end, one of the estate agents took over.

Like I said, this will be my only Christmas message. I will try to use my website later for updates.


UPDATE 29.5.11

After ignoring this site for a year, time to return to it, due to the thousands of requests from the many fans and groupies (?).

October in Sicily in September 2010, produced unseasonal wet weather followed by Christmas in Malta with pretty miserable weather. Grenada in February 2010 was hot as expected, but also the unseasonal wet weather continued for the week I was there. Portugal in March, was very wet and cold, reflecting the unseasonal wet spring of 2011. 9 holidays in a row have been wetter than expected, but the worst was Costa Rica in November 2009. Supposed to be the start of the dry season, it rained relentlessly and heavily for 7 days without stop.

Hampshire was honoured by the presence of a White-tailed Sea Eagle, the second Eagle recorded in Hampshire, and on 8.1.11, it flew right over my head, giving the best views ever seen in Hampshire, of an Eagle. We were also blessed with a huge influx of Waxwings, surely amongst the most photogenic of birds. For an unexplained reason, they seem to welcome urban environments, more than rural, they are tame, colourful, in flocks, and on a sunny day, eating Ronan berries, they are a photographer's dream birds.

Now, I am about to make plans to move from sunny Hayling Island. This will either be to the Berkhamsted area, from where I can get to anywhere in Britain, relatively easily, or the Poole/Bournemouth area. Dorset has always been my favourite county, scenic, tremendous for wildlife, and easy access to ferry ports, airport, west country etc.

 

UPDATE 30.3.10

After experiencing torrential non-stop rain for a week in Costa Rica, followed by a holiday in Lake Garda over Christmas which was the coldest week for 26 years and the heaviest snow since the last ice-age, and then a holiday in February in Morocco, which turned out to be the wettest week for 30 years (Gibraltar had the wettest week ever) I am now experiencing what must be the most miserable grey winter and spring since the Great Plague.

Here is a picture of the famous Spotted Redshank from Nore Barn, Emsworth. I was with Brian Fellows, Caroline French and others, when it was first seen 5 years ago, and now it must be the most photographed of this rare species in the world (the normal Redshank is a far commoner species). This is because it returns to the same spot every year, and for some reason, is very tame, ignoring people, photographers and countless dogs, who sometimes get within a few feet of it.

Each spring, around about 20th of March it heads off to its breeding grounds somewhere in the Arctic Circle, but then will return to us in October, back as a welcome friend. See also on YouTube - Click Here.

UPDATE 10.2.10

A holiday to Morocco in early March. This was to Agadir, the main tourist resort and known as 'the city that never rains'. Dry, arid, beautiful sunshine guaranteed for 320 days a year. Needless to say, it rained and then it poured, and then it rained some more, the most for 30 years, and 3,000 were made homeless. Nearby Gibraltar had the most rain ever!

 

It was however, a wonderful holiday. the Moroccans polite, courteous, lovely smiles, and guaranteeing a 'good price'. Towns such as Taroudant were a revelation, a throwback of hundreds of years. An 8 kilometer castellated wall was home to 300 Swifts, screaming low over our heads, and a population, largely of Berber Moroccans, the original inhabitants before the Arabs, proudly holding on to their traditional costumes and customs. Just this month, the nation is starting to compulsory teach the school children the language, and also the first Berber Television channel started in March. With a population of 130,000, we saw just 2 inhabitants using a mobile phone, during the inevitable stroll through the souk.

A trip to the Massa Nature Reserve was good for the scenic beauty but bad for the birds. We did glimpse 3 Glossy Ibis at the estuary but will need to call again with a guide. Spring or autumn migration in Morocco would be stunning here. However, the souks, populace, climate, friends, beaches, food, wildlife, all jostle for second place, for the trip was worth it alone, to see the tree climbing goats of Morocco, unique to this country. See - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luoPih0qpOc

A trip to the scenic Lake Garda over Christmas was every bit as enjoyable, and unfortunately, is yet another place that I wish to visit again. I am going to be busy for the next 60 years. This too has an enviable climate, mild in winter. I need hardly say - the day we arrived was the coldest in 26 years. The majestic Verona, perhaps the most beautiful of all cities, was minus 7. Then we had the most snow for 26 years. Whereas in England, the kids would rush out to play, the dogs would be yapping in sheer joy, cameras would be commonplace, here in Italy, everyone stayed in, the roads and pathways remained stubbornly unsalted, the Italians shut their doors to this unwelcome presence. Here is another town slightly further east.

 

But, the food, people, friends, and scenery made it another memorable holiday. Photos on the website.

 

UPDATE SPRING 2010 - 26.1.10

So, another year of grey skies has passed here at Sunny Hayling Island. A cold winter in 2009 which had a grave effect on certain heathland birds, notably the Dartford Warblers, which tend not to move to warmer areas like other species of birds. January 2010 saw heavy snow in Hampshire lasting a week, and this has added to the declining numbers. This area, Hampshire, Dorset, Surrey is the most important in Europe for heathlands.

The snow brought unusual birds to Hayling Island, including hundreds, maybe thousands of Redwings and Fieldfares, 60 of which visited our communal garden for 8 days. We threw out chopped up pears, bags and bags of them. Skylarks were seen on the beach, and small birds were seen to fly out to sea, where they will simply perish. It seems birds kept going south until there was no more. The entire UK was covered in snow. Fortunately, the weather forecasts were wrong, and despite warnings of more snow, there was a major thaw in the nick of time. It is now several years since we experienced any lengthy period of sunshine.

UPDATE - AUTUMN 2009 COSTA RICA

Costa Rica is one of the world's great hotspots for wildlife. A small country, in central America, the only nation without an army, friendly, always smiling natives,
and it is also renowned for its coffee. Stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and has just 2 seasons. The 8-month wet season, and the 4-month dry season. We went during the change-over period, but unfortunately, the first week was continuous torrential rain. Not much pleasure in putting on wet clothing and going out in open boats in the rainforests. The second week, towards and at the Pacific was glorious sunshine.

Wildlife is everywhere to be seen, monkeys, raccoons, iguanas were commonplace, and pretty tame. We had a good guide and excellent hotels, but the local wildlife guide was more interested in the bars and swimming pools so I had to find my own parrots, macaws, frigate birds and pelicans, birds he cold easily have shown us. In view of the weather and the wildlife guide, the pictures could have been even better, and there is great scope here for photographers.

All in all, a good holiday, but not great for varied reasons, am pleased with the pictures but will need to call again one day.

UPDATE - SPRING 2009 - 15.2.09

A cold wet summer, was followed by a cold wet autumn, followed by a very cold winter. Normally here on the seafront at sunny Hayling Island, we do not experience ice and frost, but for 4 weeks, it was constant. 2 stunning birds visited us, a Snow Bunting in November followed by a Waxwing in December.

There was a flock of 30 Waxwings, flitting around Hampshire throughout the winter, splitting up and reforming. We had no native berries left, these were all consumed in November, so birds such as Waxwings and Fieldfares, had to make do with introduced species, such as Cotoneasters.

 

 

SUMMER 2008 - 14TH AUGUST 2008

We have had a sensational spring and summer, with exotic birds such as Black-winged Stilts, Storks, Bee-eaters, Glossy Ibis and sightings of Eagles. Once again, a very wet summer, and 2008 is turning out to be a bad year for butterflies, probably due to the wet summer last year. The Little Tern colony at the Hayling Oysterbeds, was going well, until all of the chicks were predated by a male Kestrel and Black-headed Gulls in a couple of days - yet another disastrous year for them.

 

UPDATE - SPRING 2008 - 19TH APRIL

Global warming has taken a backseat this winter, insomuch we in Hampshire had average temperatures and even a little snow. The flora and wildlife for once, is sticking to its correct timetable. All of this is reflected throughout the world. Is this change in rising temperatures, or more likely, just a pause?

 

UPDATE - WINTER 2007/8 - 19TH DECEMBER

An unusual wild bird has settled in Hampshire for 4 weeks now - a White-tailed Eagle, better known as a Sea Eagle, the species re-introduced successfully into the Isle of Mull and spreading out to other locations on the western seaboard of the northern Highlands of Scotland. They are now being re-introduced on the eastern side.

Our Eagle is a juvenile, It has no 'jesses', it is not an escape, and from its rings, is believed to be from northern Finland. It is assumed, it was blown across here, became lost, and has strangely found its way inland, to a rural part of north Hampshire, near a village Shipton Bellinger. This is a very quiet, under-reported part of the county, on the Wiltshire border. Speaking to a local birder, she told me she had never seen another birdwatcher in the area, before November this year! The Eagle may sometimes be seen feeding from a distance on a field at the Cholderton Estate - probably the largest organic farm in Hampshire at nearly 3,000 acres. I was grateful to Rory Edmunds for offering me opportunities to photograph this unexpected guest.

Strangely, this has not become a major 'twitch'. Maybe this is because it cannot be relied upon. It may be seen, it may not - but it is a spectacular sight. Continually being mobbed by Ravens and Buzzards, who look tiny in comparison, the bird can be seen by the naked eye from a distance of 3 miles. Today, it remains here, it may move elsewhere tomorrow or it may remain for years, our very own Hampshire Eagle.

 

UPDATE - AUTUMN 2007 - 25TH OCTOBER

Our wettest ever summer, was followed by a sunny autumn. Result - best year for fruits, berries and nuts. The rain fattened, the sun ripened. This should result in less garden birds this winter, there is plenty of food in the wild, and many birds may not need to migrate to us in the south.

Chris Cockburn is our Hampshire RSPB warden and has supplied us with this extensive report on the success, or in the case of this year, rather unsuccessful, of breeding gulls for 2007 in Langstone Harbour, one of the most important sites in the country. If you look out towards the harbour, and glimpse a distant figure in a small dinghy being thrown about in the sea, that will be Chris, monitoring the birds, warning off anyone approaching too close to the islands. The report makes fascinating reading, illustrating that the more we come to understand the variables of ecology, the more problems arise. What makes suitable habitat for one species, is detrimental to another. Factors such as food supply, climate, tides, storms, vegetation, disturbance, predation by other gulls and a fox, all add to a complicated equation. It also discloses the devastating effect that a single pair of Peregrines can inflict on thousands of gulls, and maybe, this year, they never recovered.

We all like to see Peregrines Falcons, the fastest living anything on the planet, and now they are so protected they are thriving, always adaptable to new environments. However, their mere presence around the islands, prevented nesting until the1st of May. Thanks to Chris writing the following Word document exclusively for this site. To see the full report - click here.

 

UPDATE - SUMMER 2007 - 1ST AUGUST 2007

This time last year, we were reporting the continuing 2-year drought. Here on Sunny Hayling Island, we have escaped all of the floods, the worst ever recorded in the UK. Hayling drains very well, especially the sandy areas, and it would seem our main problem concerns sea water defences being breached, particularly on the south-eastern shoreline. We have suffered a grievous lack of sunshine thus far this summer, whilst southern Europe continues to experience the hottest summer on record.

Jason Crooks was the warden again this year at the Hayling Oysterbeds, where, the breeding season of the Little Terns suffered another disastrous year - see http://www.natureandpictures.co.uk/littleternsandthehaylingoysterbeds.htm for full report (scroll down). There will be a full report of all the birds in the vicinity in the autumn report.

 

UPDATE - SPRING- 2007 - 9TH MAY 2007


The global warming continues here in the sunny south, with April being yet another record month. Despite the glorious weather it has not been great for observing the spring migration with nothing special being recorded (if there was, Andy Johnson would have spotted it here on Hayling Island).

Spring migration is perhaps the most exciting time of the year, and just about now is the most favourable time in which to observe the greatest number of species. However, the birds are in a hurry to get north in order to obtain the best nesting sites and mates, so the birds might recuperate and feed up, but only for maybe a day, and off they go.

A possible consequence of climate change is a decline in numbers of species, but others are increasing and doing well, including Firecrest, Little Egrets and Avocets, so the news seems to be both good and bad.

 

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UPDATE - WINTER 2006/7 2nd FEB 2007

This has been the warmest winter that we can recall, but uninviting for photography. 3 months of grey skies accompanied with constant heavy winds, meant that only the hardiest naturalists were out in the field. There has not been anything of great excitement to report, the winds drove in Leachs's Petrels, a small, scarce, largely unreported ocean-going bird, and some of these were driven inland where they invariably perished by exhaustion, or were killed by crows and gulls.

My garden herbs such as Mint, Sage and Rosemary have continued to grow and thrive throughout the ‘winter’, instead of dying back as they should. Daffodils are now out on Hayling, so just before we are burnt to a crisp, let us enjoy this global warming.

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UPDATE - AUTUMN 2006

The drought here in the south, has now lasted for 2 years, so combined with a hot summer, we need a wet, wet, winter, with luck whilst I am away.

Butterflies and moths have had a sensational season (here on the seafront there were 13 Painted Ladies on our one Buddleia). As usual, there are exceptions, Small Tortoiseshells, are again notable by their absence.

The beavers are doing well at Aigas, and Willow, the ‘kit’ is also now giving wonderful photo opportunities. Kate Humble has visited and filmed with the BBC. For first ever pictures of 'wild' beavers in Scotland - see picture gallery (at the time these had to be digiscoped, as the beavers were wary of us).

There are a few of the wedding photos on the site of Daryl and Kate. Daryl arranged first pictures of a wedding on board The Victory and the picturesque 'Commodore's Gardens'. Being a Portsmouth lad, how could I refuse? Also the couple are good friends of mine, and finally, they would not accept 'no'. My one regret is that in 14 hours of photographing her, I still seek that elusive picture - Kate not smiling. By all accounts, she is now a star.

After initial wipe out of the Little Terns' nests and chicks, due to predation and a 10-day continuous wind, the birds had a second and late, attempt at nesting. Jason Crooks was the full-time warden, ( I could do no wardening this year), and finally reported 21 fledged chicks here on Hayling Island. Not brilliant, but the best total for 4 years, so well done Little Terns, Jason and the volunteers.

Thanks for this report, exclusive to this site, giving news on our seabirds, by Chris, our south coast RSPB warden. It has been a very poor year.

A very poor season for terns:
Breeding data 2006        Langstone Harbour RSPB Reserve
South Binness Island         Nests / AON            Fledged young
Mediterranean gull                 264                               204
Black-headed gull                4810                               1489
Sandwich tern                       204                                8
Common tern                        110                               1
Little tern                                17                               1


Round Nap Island             Nests/AON               Fledged young
Black-headed gull                  111                               74
Common tern                          44                                 7
Baker’s Island                       AON                     Fledged young
Little tern                                14                                  0
The poor productivity for terns (and black-headed gulls) was, probably, mostly due to predation by fox - but predation of eggs/small chicks of terns by Mediterranean gulls is a possibility! Weather was reasonable after a ten-day stormy period at the end of May and there was an apparently plentiful supply of suitable small-fish prey for the terns and black-headed gulls.

Chris Cockburn RSPB WARDEN

 

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UPDATE - SUMMER 2006

Our most renowned birds here on sunny Hayling Island, are probably the rare Little Tern, where we have the second largest UK colony, the even rarer Mediterranean Gull where we have more than anywhere else, and finally, the well known wintering Brent Geese .

The breeding Little Terns are suffering another bad year. The previous 3 years have rewarded us with just one fledged chick, due to high tides, predation, a 24 hour gale and rats eating the eggs. This year, the nest of the colony on the islands in the harbour were decimated by 10 days of high winds in May, whilst the eggs on the lagoon island at the Oysterbeds, were, as last year, eaten by rats.

This has now been resolved, and at the time of writing, a few nests have been re-established and chicks have hatched. Fingers crossed for some moderate weather.

At Aigas Field Centre, a pair of European Beavers have been awarded the freedom of a loch, at Aigas Field Centre. (We cannot call it a ‘re-introduction’, as that was banned at the last moment, but it is hoped that this will be resolved) Beavers were part of our ecology until 450 years ago, and the majority of environmentalists, consider they do more harm than good to this, their natural habitat.

Friday 23rd of June, Ralph Hollins finally hung up his keyboard, and announced that on his 75th birthday, he was quitting his website. This site was unsurpassed for its sheer volume, depth, knowledge, opinions and sightings, by any individual. Ralph has introduced countless people to the wonders of nature, he began the local Havant, Hayling and Emsworth Wildlife Group, which continues to thrive, and his all-round expertise on our wildlife made him the ‘naturalists’ naturalist’. We will continue to see him on his travels on his trusty bike, so thanks from everyone.

Meanwhile, apart from a wet May, the drought continues here in the south.

9th JULY 2006

Update Spring 2006

The most notable feature of the winter just passed, is the continuing drought. Our reservoirs here in the south are one third full, they usually look like this at the end of a long hot summer.

During the last 17 months, 15 months have recorded less than average rainfall, but this drought is different. Throughout this entire period, we have had drizzle, the longest period without any rain, being 9 days. Consequently, everything continues to look green and healthy. Only when you dig a foot down, do you discover that the soil is bone-dry. If this continues, trees will begin to die. It is all bad news for our wildlife, as water authorities will take water from our rivers.

The Year previous, 2004/2005, was a time of plenty in our woodlands and gardens. Berries, seeds, fruit and nuts proliferated, the Rowan trees were awash with berries’ which was as well. They gave a welcome to the flocks of Waxwings who arrived here, due to paucity of berries in their homeland, Siberia. This year was a total contrast.

Dave Meade says that for us southerners, it has been the worst year he has ever known for numbers of winter birds - Bramblings, Siskins, Redstarts and Fieldfares, and he has never before known all the trees species to be so bare of nutrition. In his experience, there is a resting year every so often for one species of tree, but this year, every one is dormant. Maybe, this was due to the lack of water.

On a brighter note, our friends the Brent Geese have done well, after years of declining numbers. Jason Crook, and Brian Fellows amongst others, who monitor the geese, report a large percentage of youngsters this year. This means the Lemmings have had a good year. The Brents breed in the Arctic, and if there are few Lemmings, the predators such as the Arctic Fox and the Snowy Owl, will hunt chicks, but conversely, good year for Lemmings, good year for young Brent.

The storms of November 2005, remnants of the hurricanes across the Atlantic, brought a few stray gulls, blown across from America.

Sadly, the body of the Sabine’s Gull was discovered on the beach a few days later by George Spraggs. As so often with such vagrants, it was either too exhausted or it could not adapt.

Then Felicia the Hoopoe stole the show for a few months, but the rarest bird was a Desert Wheatear, discovered on the beach here on sunny Hayling Island on 13th of November, by Andy Johnson. This was the second record ever in Hampshire. I read about on the internet, having just arrived in South America. It was said to be sitting up well just a few feet away from the photographers, in typical Wheatear mode. It had arrived on the day I left!

So, this picture, by my friend Richard Ford.

When life hurls such a bucket of manure over you, there is a choice. (1) You can be negative, shut yourself away, take to the bottle and weep. (2) You can dust yourself down, put your chin up, brace your shoulders, say to yourself, ‘That’s life. Good days, bad days.’ Consider, if every day was good, life would pall. There will be another day. In this particular case, looking at both options, there was only one logical option and I chose (1).

There are more articles to be uploaded for summer, places to go along in Dorset and the eastern seaboard, and various locations throughout Britain.

Enjoy the spring.

 

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