Friday 20 April 2012

Some Things

I just read this post by Emma Waffle. It is about nothing at all really (hope she does not me saying this) but is excellent nonetheless. That it contains a link to Peregrines helps perhaps - a closet birder if ever I saw one - but for a post that is essentially wittering on about stuff, well done. It probably helps if you have been reading the preceding waffle, which I have. Just as you have on here. So I am going to shamelessly copy the format, if not the style. Or the parts about lipstick, though I do have a skin tale to share. Oh yes.

Good things:

1. It is not raining, though this may change*. It has been raining almost non-stop for about the last week, and I am fed up with it. It was largely inevitable once Thames Water announced a hosepipe ban. The same Thames Water who lose a full 25% of all water they supply on a daily basis - this is used as a marketing tool, as in we only lose 25% of all our water every day. Before replacing however many miles of leaky pipes last year it was running at over 30%. Well done I say. Not that I need the hose now of course, as last time I looked a wader scrape was forming about half way down the garden. If the next time I look out I see a pair of courting Avocets I won't actually be that surprised. The rain has made birding all but impossible. Wanstead is sadly lacking in sea and south-west headlands. We have no alternative when the weather closes in. If I lived near the sea, I'd be down there like a shot. In fact, in good weather I'd probably be there too, but that's not the point. Constant rain equates to no birds. And to getting wet whilst not seeing them. All things being equal, I'd rather it were dry, though the downpours are helping the local ponds which are desperately low. And preventing the local youf from burning any more of the Flats.

2. This morning I saw a Ring Ouzel, or, I should say, another Ring Ouzel. That makes three this year so far, and is very pleasing. My Ring Ouzel cup overfloweth.  Verily. What great birds they are. This morning's was a female, and decided to plonk down in some broom only a few yards from Nick, Tim and I as we conversed about what a shit spring it had been. It then afforded us some of the best views of an Ouzel I've ever had for at least thirty seconds, before slipping into cover. Reaching for my ever-present camera, I discovered it had no battery left. Well that's excellent, what great planning. Honestly, my camera has one of the beefiest batteries I've ever seen - it's good for well over 2000 shots, even in sub-zero temperatures. I brag about it constantly, and then get caught short with a 2.5kg camera-shaped paperweight 500 yards from my house.

3. Chateau L has a cleaner again, though not a fairy, and will shortly have a gardener. This may sound somewhat decadent, but I view it as job creation, a responsible move for a more robust economy. When I lost my job a few years back, our cleaner lost hers the same day, which was very sad, both for her and for us, but particularly for her. Well, and for us equally now I come to think about it, and especially for me, as her responsibilities became mine. I did my best** but really my heart wasn't in it. Whilst the house looked superficially tidy, underneath the surface lurked terrifying amounts of grime. When I went back to work, I resisted getting help - I thought we could do it ourselves, and the novelty of actually having money coming in, rather than just going out, well, I wanted to keep as much of it as possible to spend on optics. The house began to look like Beirut on a bad day in the 1980s, and so I have now seen the error of my ways, and launched my very own economic stimulus plan. In any event, it is impossible to have a nice house when you have three children, as they are able to trash it far more quickly that you can clean it. They are of course also able to trash it far more quickly than a cleaner can clean it, but there is that fantastic period between the cleaner leaving and the children arriving home from school when it looks amazing. The one flaw in my plan is that I'm at work earning money to pay the cleaner, so I don't ever get to see it in this state.

4. I have more wine than I can possibly ever drink. I can't tell you how good a thing this is. Somehow I have managed to plan ahead, which is something I rarely do. I got one of those lovely emails the other day which said something along the lines of "Dear Mr L, the delicious, drinking-now-but-will-also-keep-for-a-couple-of-years White Burgundies that you ordered two years ago and have entirely forgotton about have arrived in the UK and are ready to be delivered to you in exchange for a moderately small amount of tax." It's lucky these wine merchants are honest folk, as I had entirely forgotton about them. Happy days.

Bad things

1. I am not well. Specifically, I have an unspecified stomach complaint. This started this morning, on Wanstead Flats, though as I was looking at a Ring Ouzel I made light of it. I did mean however that rather than dice with death - or worse - on public transport, I decided that working from home might be the safest and least disgusting option. My stomach has never really been the same since a trip to Thailand in the late nineties, when I experienced the worst case of the runs in my entire life, up to and including now. Somehow I survived a flight to Sydney, and sought help straight away. I'd encourage you to look at this link about bacillic dysentery, particularly the symptoms bit. One of the syptoms is apparently death, so I suppose I got off lightly, but every now and again, and I have no idea what causes it - inferior Burgundy perhaps? - I get a bout of dodgy tummy, and today was one of those days. I like to bare all on this blog.

2. Unconnected to the above, but equally pleasant to anyone who combines blog-reading with eating dinner, I have a large spot on the back of my neck which actually hurts when I turn my head. I cannot see it in order to be able to describe it to you, but I suspect it is bright red and throbbing. I have not been a greasy teenager for many years, and I would like to think that my hormones are so calm now as to be practically dead, so it is highly unfair that I should have a zit on my neck that a fifteen year-old would be embarrassed by. At least it is not on my nose.

3. There has been some kind of birders tiff in within the publications section of the London Natural History Society. I have no idea what has happened, a friend merely told me that some acrimony had occured. Highly strung these birder types. But why is this bad news? Well, for two years I compiled a section of the riveting read that is the London Bird Report. This tells you that on June 23rd eleven Blue Tits were seen in Hackney, and other important things of that nature. Whilst I wasn't working, I felt that I ought to put a little bit back into London birding, and volunteered to write a couple of sections. Rarely, and this includes work, have I been so bored, but I manfully struggled on and only delivered my sections a couple of months late. I had tried to make my accounts of Blue Tits in the capital a little more pithy than my predecessor, and was ruthlessly edited. I do not like being edited, and after two years, and finding myself working once again, decided I would pass on a third year. I thought nothing more of it until I heard about this spat, and very shortly afterwards received an email from someone drafted in as an emergency editor, with a neat little table showing who wrote which sections in 2008, and who was writing sections in 2009. There is a nasty little blank space in the 2009 list where you can see my name against it for 2008; the implication is clear. So I am currently agonising about whether I should volunteer again. On the one hand, my conscience tells me I probably should. On the other, birding is about enjoyment, and I know I will not enjoy it.

4. I keep on getting letters from the tax man. Whilst unemployed I did not seek a single penny from the public purse. Now that I am employed again, I am being instantly and relentlessly pursued. You already know my feelings on how my taxes will likely be spent. Anyway, I have a neat little pile of brown and very governmental envelopes sitting on my desk. None of the ones I have so far opened have contained good news. "Dear Mr Lethbridge, we are pleased to be able to tell you that you have been opted out of the tax system, and will no longer need to pay us anything. Please do not reply to this letter."**

That is all.

* Before I even finished this post, this happened. Stair rods.

** This might have been in a dream.

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