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Archive for the ‘Trivia’ Category

I’m still mulling over how best to tackle the volume of moth traffic left over from last night: having reviewed the photographs I took I count at least 20 species including a couple of new micro moths and a couple of mystery macros, plus a balance of what are this year’s regulars. The simplest thing might well be a simple photo gallery of the whole damned lot and if I can work out how to do that it might well be the way I dispose of last night’s crop ahead of what ever today brings.

The day was hot and after taking care of the home fires I went out for a walk, hat on head and sunblock on exposed parts.

Large Skipper (ochlodes sylvanus) F

Large Skipper (ochlodes sylvanus) F

 In these parts we see plenty of Essex Skippers; this is not one. As a species of butterfly it is significantly larger than the Essex Skipper, it has the same tones but is quite differently marked. This is the female of the species as it lacks the tell-tale diagonal across those wings.  That diagonal line is formed of scent scales that are scattered during the courtship flight to entice the ladies.

There were quite a few of them about chasing one another up and down the lane, skirting the tall grasses at the foot of the hedgerow. This is the only one to rest long enough for me to photograph it.

There were plenty of white butterflies about, most of them seemed to be the Large White, and I guess there are still Painted Ladies about though I thought I saw a Red Admiral, though it is slightly early in the year.

Apart from the Large Skipper the other new butterfly I spotted on my walk was a male Meadow Brown which is a much larger butterfly; this one is marked as male by the eye on each upper wing.

Meadow Brown (maniola jurtina)

Meadow Brown (maniola jurtina)

People watching me on one of my ambles must think I’m bonkers. Particularly if I have my eye on something such as one of these butterflies I might walk back and forth along a stretch of path no longer than 5 metres several times before moving on – and then there’s the crouching, pulling and kicking.

The crouching is unavoidable and the pulling isn’t unreasonable. The kicking is gentle stirring of the grasses and low foliage to get a rise out of anything asleep down there. It is new learned behaviour and still slightly goes against the grain after growing up in Australia where no-one under any circumstances sticks a foot let alone a hand into random bits of the unkempt and potentially leathal outdoors.

Sadly today there were very few moths – the two I did spot were gone before I could bring the camera to them. There were consolations; self sown sweet pea is in full bloom at the moment and added fabulous colour to the walk:

Self sown sweet pea

Self sown sweet pea

as did this abandoned cultivated rose which is throwing out gorgous and heady scented blooms for random appreciation.

Cultivated rose

Cultivated rose

The creature of the day today was the grasshopper. Stirring the grasses invariably resulted in a scattered flicker as nearly wholly disguised insects bounded to somewhere else, given away only by the stirring of the grasses they passed through and landed on.

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

The other though dubious highlight of the afternoon’s walk was my first damselfly of the year, though as damselflies go it was a quite jaw-droppingly drab creature.

The same could not be said of this creature. These pictures have already been uploaded to my flickr photostream and are the first to have attracted comment. I’m not wholly surprised.

100_2665

Unidentified fabulous bug of some kind

Unidentified fabulous bug of some kind

[PS. I put this up on my flickr photostream and now a kind individual has come along to give me an ID - it is a male Fat Legged Beetle (Oedemera nobilis. Makes sense.]

And since this is a generally colour saturated post I’m going to end it with another gratuitous flower pic.

A colourful full stop.

A colourful full stop.

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I’ll start by apologising to fellow residents in this part of Essex, and even more particularly to the organisers of and contributors to the region’s recent out burst of Culcha.

I hadn’t known until after the events that RiverFest had gone hi-tech with its own website and a Twitter account. I don’t believe that the ArtTrail has been tweeting but it certainly had its own website. I realise that I could have done much more to flog all this before my limited readership. Oh well.

The art’s still out and about for another four days according to the programme so if you’re in the vicinity and the weather’s fine there are worse things you could do. If all else fails there’s a place selling ice creams down by the river and the walk along the river itself isn’t awful. Just remember to stop before you get to the North Sea.

Back at the homestead the olive trees are still defiantly not in bloom. I’m on tenterhooks. The grapes are still minuscule. I’m determined not to invade their privacy until the buds on the olive trees begin to open and then I shall run a floral post.

I had really thought that the beautifully sunny warm weather of the past couple of days might do the trick but they are determined to drag their roots however auspicious the weather.

On the other hand this weather which holds out so much promise of excellent bug activity has not delivered. The moth counts are way down and that includes the kamikaze character who last night repeatedly head-butted the closed bathroom window. I fully expected to find a corpse on the ground outside below the window this morning but some how this thing survived. I guess it keeps what brains it has somewhere else.

There have been lots of smaller moths, though the White-shouldered and Brown House Moths are not among them. How odd that this year they’ve virtually disappeared when other moths are so prevalent.

The only big moth to make an entrance last night was a regular Bright-line Brown-eye, which is a pest of tomato plants and so not particularly welcome. New species over the past couple of days have been micro moths and harder to ID.

The first of them is a female of the Bee Moth (aphomia socialla).

Bee Moth (aphomia sociella) F.

Bee Moth (aphomia sociella) F.

Bee Moth (aphomia sociella) F.

Bee Moth (aphomia sociella) F.

The male and female of this moth are very different in appearance. It is on the wing from now until the end of summer. The larva feed on comb in the nests of wasps and bees (hence the name). Given our need for pollinators I’m unclear whether this moth is a monster or not. The books don’t say exterminate on sight. This one flew off in the night. I rather hope it lays any eggs it has to lay in a wasp nest.

This rather small macro moth seems pretty clearly to be a member of the sterrhinae sub-family of geometers and there are plenty of members of that family I’m prepared to say it isn’t.

Geometer

Geometer

It had gone by morning. Looking through last night’s photos to pick out the above shot I’ve been reminded that there was also a Garden Carpet. Just for the record.

The final moth is one that was in the bathroom a couple of  nights ago. Photographing moths against window is an exercise in futility of course, so I made my first attempt at capturing, chilling and then photographing. Sounds horrid but this character was none the worse for it, I promise. Anyway the point is after taking the photos against the window, trapping & etc I’ve realised that the least bad photograph of the twenty four hour period in terms of ID is the first one I took. Grrr. Thanks to it, I concluded I’d got myself either a Toadflax Pug or Foxglove Pug.

I didn’t have any confidence to make a call because the flight times didn’t seem to quite fit until checking in at Ben Sale’s blog where I noticed he’d posted a Foxglove (eupithecia pulchellata). So that’s what I’m going with. And I suppose it is almost appropriate to apologise at the end of the post, as I did at the start, though this time for the not great photograph.

Foxglove Pug (eupithecia puchellata)

Foxglove Pug (eupithecia puchellata)

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Today dutifully I presented myself at the clinic to be subjected to a lung function (spirometry) test as directed by the doctor who isn’t my GP. Way back in early February a persistent chest infection seemingly of the sort I have always thrown off casually descended over the course of a few scary short hours into something far more serious.

I went to bed feeling common-and-garden rough and woke up feeling like I’d been pole-axed and that just getting one foot in front of the other would be an heroic achievement. Feeling weepy, and I never feel weepy, at being beaten by this thing I took myself off to see my doctor. I should have known something was up when I had no difficulty getting in to see her.

Since my GP has seen me perhaps half a dozen times over the past 12 years her instant diagnosis as I shuffled through the door (which I was rather relived by) was along the lines of “Ooh, you’re not well, are you!” I’m never really unwell and also keen not to be seen to be a bit of a time so I usually wait and then whatever’s wrong clears up of its own accord.

I took the antibiotics she prescribed gratefully and went home to bed. I stayed there for three and a half days getting no worse, no better; quite content to lie there and let whatever happened happened. Then I went back and saw not her, my regular GP but an alternate as she was on holiday.

Perversely this was now someone able to look at me properly objectively. This time I was being looked at by someone unencumbered by the mindset I had: I’m never sick. This time I had a more thorough check over and at the end the word pneumonia and the phrase ‘off to hospital, with you’ were uttered.

I wriggled out of being admitted by making detailed arrangements for home care. Even so I was being brought in daily by the clinic for close monitoring. And I rattled thanks to a course of this to be taken three times a day and that taken twice a day and so on. The drugs did the trick though. Within a couple of days I was free of pain when breathing. So far so good.

The awful thing though has been the long slow struggle back to fitness. Pneumonia is a wonderful thing in a way. Once past the pain the lassitude is rather attractive. But the legacy has been wasted weeks that have stretched into months of under achievement. Low sowing rates and late plantings have been the consequences that I’ll feel till the end of this growing season.

There’s been this nagging fear at the back of my mind that the pneumonia had left a permanent mark and that I’ll never be properly fit and well again. So I wasn’t surprised to be ordered by the alternate GP after he’d seen me one day struggling a bit while out walking, to undergo the lung function test.

Well my lungs are fine. I have the lungs of a younger woman in fact. It isn’t much of a selling point for internet dating sites I suppose but on the other hand it is true. And I feel quite relieved and also quite pleased about this as well as chuffed with the results of the impromptu ECG which looked fine too.

The problem I still have is that as a result of the prolonged infection I have lost the habit of proper breathing. When my chest was in a spiked vice I took to shallow breathing and I need to re-learn how to breath properly. I came away from today’s visit to the clinic with good news and a handy how-to-breath instructional, and I’m feeling rather cheerful.

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I kept a straight face, but only just. The person next to me kept a grip too. If one of us had succumbed the other one would have followed suit. Last evening’s events have me puzzled and troubled in almost equal measure, but this morning I’ve recognised that I spent an hour and a half yesterday in Royston Vasey, or at least in the company of that fictional location’s macabre and grisly cast.

It would be easy enough to mock the exuberant baptist minister MC: during the Q&A session when he was quizzed by a couple of young people from one of the town’s two primary schools he admitted that he became a baptist minister (rather than any other brand of minister) because it was convenient. I’m paraphrasing, obviously. What he did say was that at the time he was deciding to train the nearest church happened to be a baptist one, rather than anything else. It was an outstanding moment of clarity and honesty if not of deep religious conviction.

The other three ‘panelists’ were a charisma-free mayor, a irish gymnast-turned-music-teacher who leads the High School’s gospel* choir and a caricature bluff warrant officer who did a stand up comedy routine with his wing commander.

This ‘do’ was supposedly a civic function and a celebration of community, but the police, the fire brigade, the ambulance and air ambulance, the coast guard and lifeboats went unrepresented. The scouts and girl guides were missing and no-one stood for the charitable work that goes on in the community. The new headteacher of the improving-but-from-a-low-base secondary school wasn’t there, and if the head teacher of the smaller of the two primary schools attended I didn’t spot her.

Credit then to the head of the other primary school who bothered to show up, and with her husband in tow. He and I afterwards had a brief word, a kind of verbal eye-rolling at the lamentable mayoral performance.

If I found what was notable by its absence rather puzzling then I found that which was present deeply troubling when I didn’t find it all simply risible. I accept as a starting point in the civic life of this country that it is not a fully fledged and properly functioning democracy and that there is no separation of church and state but only last night was I required to confront the woefully low quality of what elected representation we have, and how insidious and unbalanced is the entwining of religiosity with political life.

The front two rows were occupied by town councillors and their other halves and our unfortunate local member of parliament. This is a commuter town and so while those with land are busy working it the rest of the talent based here is too busy grappling with the commute into London to take an active role in local life. I know whereof I speak, when I commuted I knew next to nothing of the town and very few of the people I lived among. And so it is left to a few talentless busybodies to take up the reins of local government. They are a powerful walking talking breathing argument against devolution of powers from Westminster.

It is always and understandably easy to assume that the opposition of MPs to any relinquishing of responsibility in any form  in any area of administration or policy is a matter of power-craziness; but after last night and bearing in mind MPs must endure this sort of thing night in, night out, I’m almost inclined  to believe that they are taking good care of the nation’s best interests. Even if they’re doing so inadvertently.

The entire thing should have been funnier than it actually was. In fact I found it mostly horrifying. I mentioned earlier that the MC was the baptist minister. This is no hotbed of non-conformism, though there was once a temperance hotel. That building has since been a wine bar before becoming a kebab and hamburger joint. Before it was a wine bar it was a tanning salon, operating a brothel out of the back rooms. Since this is Essex that building though it didn’t know it was always destined to be a fast food outlet or a hairdresser-cum-tanning salon, with or without additional services provided on the quiet.

There’s nothing funny about the glittery waistcoat sporting spouse of an indolent and very stupid former colleague of mine. He and his father and other family members are embeded in town and local government as members and representatives of the centre-right postured Conservative Party. But the dark unspoken truth is in this part of the world and at his level of political activity it isn’t always necessary to set up a BNP branch as those of that political disposition are already well served. I didn’t see a single black face at the gathering and only one person who was obviously not entirely white.

And then there’s the god-bothering. The absence of any separation of church and state on parade and in all its provincial pomp. This celebration of civic life was held in the baptish church on the High Street, but since the baptist minister would also be in the gospel** choir he’d co-opted the services of the minster of the United Reformed (ex-methodist, I believe) from further up the High Street and, to provide what I suppose was to be considered some semblance of balance drafted in the Church of England minister from the lot at the top of the hill to ‘lead us in prayer’.

At this point it might be helpful to know that I’m the child of an agnostic and anglican. The agnostic was the son of a pair of anglicans while the anglican was the daughter of presbyterian and a methodist. He attended a presbyterian boarding school, while she attended a methodist run boarding school. Naturally the school they sent me to was run the group by then calling themselves the Anglican Church of Australia. I may have been amused by the baptist minister’s story about how he came to be a baptist, but not in an unsympathetic way.

The picture is clouded though by the fact that my surname, stoutly Irish Catholic in its connotations reflects the fact that my paternal grandfather was the product of a catholic father and a redoubtable anglican mother who had her way in the matter of their children’s religious upbringing. They grew up on adjoining properties, were married more than fifty years and lie for eternity in separate sections of the same cemetary for the sake of their differing religious affiliations.

The presybyterian grandfather and anglican grandmother (and she the decendant of west country quakers) worshipped at different churches throughout their life together but now lie in the same grave.

All of that is a bit of a distraction from the central troubling point, which isn’t that the jehovah’s witness lot who have a temple next to the industrial estate, the catholics who have a functional little church down one of the side streets, the jews and the muslims who must both travel out of town to a formal place of whorship, the buddhists, sikhs, hindus & etc etc, were not part of this religious dimension to last night’s procedings. So that semblance of balance was a rather frail thing if actually extant.

The allegedly very familiar hymns were musical drivel and the prayers were fatuous but again that’s not quite the point.

In a disfunctional democracy we get the representatives we deserve and when there’s no separation of church and state we have to put up with our vaguely camp on the night and therefore possibly seditious MP delivering a reading from the book of revelation (as rendered in some uber-modern translation) to cast a light on civic life.

You might notice the stylised letter A in the sidebar : I’m an athiest not an agnostic. I’m baffled by the belief of anyone in any concept of god I’ve ever had explained to me but ordinarily people who do don’t trouble me greatly. There are worse things they could do than believe in fairly benign omnipotence, as most do. The line that was crossed last night is the line that precludes atheists from participating in public life or demands hypocrisy or obfuscation. By the end of the night I was having no trouble keeping a straight face.

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The accepted term for this sort of intrusive photo-journalism is ‘insect porn’. Who am I to swim against the tide. This is a couple of crane flies at it (for ages, thankfully as the light was terrible and getting the photographs took quite a while) in the morning sunshine:

Craneflies

Craneflies

And then nearby this solitary figure lurking where he thought he would not be found. My stalking skills are coming on in leaps and bounds. Soon, there will be no escape.

Unidentified

Unidentified

That aside it was all work and very little displacement activity. I still have not thought of of a line of conversation should I have to make small talk with our Mayor at tomorrow evening’s civic gig.

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Something was on the wing tonight after the greater part of the light had gone out of the day; something that ‘wasn’t quite right’. Too cold to be a bee, too big and too quiet. with a distinctly different flight pattern and in-flight posture.

Stupidly not wearing specs though I can’t see well in the gloom; what was it? I’ve not seen a live hawk moth so that’s an entire family of moths I’ve yet to tick off – was it a Bee Hawk? Quite possibly, but I wouldn’t trap it and couldn’t photograph it, it didn’t come to rest so I cannot be sure.

On the phone after I came in I’ve had it suggested there’s a little hot spot at the top end of town toward the nature reserve and I should look there.

In the mean time I can only rue a missed opportunity and not tick anything off.

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Going past the supermarket this evening I noticed that the very interesting planter installed by the parish functionaries recently has, well…

Anyone taking the trouble to scroll back will learn that recently the parish council installed a wooden planter in the open space outside the local supermarket, filled it with dirt and – nothing. In the time since it appeared the box of dirt (an installation on loan from the Tate Modern?) has brought forth some weeds and a couple of pint glasses.

I’ve been waiting and wondering what, if anything, would happen. It is a bit late in the year, after all – weather notwithstanding, to be planting up the herbaceous displays. Well having poked and prodded at the grape vine and brought it back to life I understand that what has happened today is the handiwork of our DUI town clerk and a sidekick.

No! Don’t be silly. They haven’t been at it with the trowels and the seedling trays. But they have…

Yes - it IS two more boxes of dirt.

Yes - it IS two more boxes of dirt.

installed matching flanking boxes of dirt. No sign of actual attractive ornamental flora, however I’m willing to wager a small sum these two galvanised steel tubs will be throwing out weeds within a week.
Apologies for the quality of the photograph. It was late, growing dark, I was a bit over excited and I was standing in a No Standing zone to take the photo. If I can do better, and that’s debatable, I’ll replace.

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