Friday, June 29, 2018

Fowl, er, foul goings-on for three vanished local chicks

My poor little Salisbury-related coot chicks, admired on this site last night as they blossomed in a local stream, have vanished.
How, why, where? Unfortunately, there are seldom answers only speculation when creatures of the wild disappear.
Tonight when I looked over the bridge to where the chicks seemed happy yesterday, even if the parents sloped off when they saw my interest, the nest was bare.

Cold and weak?

Might it be that they wanted to be like Mum and Dad and simply followed their parents' route out of the nest and into the lazy Hogsmill River to try out some swimming strokes?
The river and surroundings offer no clues. I looked online instead, choosing Wild Pro to tell me about these sweet little birdlets. The site told me that if the young chicks had become cold and weak, they might have benefitted from half an hour in a dark cardboard box, warmed to 30 to 35 degrees.
The heat around the bridge tonight rather dismissed that notion. However, the advice is strong on the matter of heat. 'Young chicks have a poor ability to maintain body temperature and are prone to hypothermia, hyperthermia, and burns.'
Four-legged critters, British and foreign, living around the river are the more likely causes of the vanishing, I fear, and there's no shortage of likely avian enemies, too.

Salisbury connection perhaps?

Wild Pro warns of other dangers of their birth-place. 'Watch carefully to avoid chilling and drowning when first given full access to water.' Had the parents been advised? Did they ensure their babes were water-wise before they were allowed to slide the inch or two into the river?
To vanish so suddenly makes one very suspicious. Coots are especially plentiful in my birth-place of Salisbury. Given the attraction that gorgeous historic place has for, well, Soviet intrigue, who can be sure that they didn't fall victim to further assignation attempts that the government's main Brexiteers have been warning us about?
Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, at

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Living in the wilds of a metropolis

One of the big surprises and delights of living in London is the wildlife - the animal wildlife, that is - close up, almost approachable, and acting very much as the critters do in their own part of the wilds.
Of course, they see the metropolis as their own world. On the way to the gym in the early mornings,
blackbirds guarding their future families carouse with the most beautiful songs.
In the communal garden where I live, I feed each day a small family of foxes resident here for many generations.
Hedgehogs make irregular appearances, posing questions about how they can possibly cross busy roads and survive.

A new river family

The trees are alive with a wonderful array of birds, particularly now in early Summer, while overhead house martins from Cape Town chase winged insects almost constantly.
Another surprise and a new one in this near-perpetual nature rambling life came on the regular cycle home from the discount supermarket, Aldi.
I paused on a bridge over the Hogsmill River - yes, the scene of a painful cycling accident recently - to admire a large carp or two as they feed on low-flying suppers.
Right beside the bridge, a sudden movement below gave away the location of a nest of a pair of coots.
I grabbed my phone to photograph them, but modesty got in the way … Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, at

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


 As if you need me to ration half an hour of your time, but you could be doing yourself and your awareness of recent history – late-British Empire days in particular - a real boost by tuning into the most recent thoughts of that extraordinary writer, Jan Morris.
Her latest thoughts are offered as an iPlayer chat on Radio 4, a recording of the talk she gave this morning about her view of the Brit Empire.
Like her books, the views are balanced, but it’s certainly not the right-wing opinion most often to be heard of matters British from bigoted bores.
She tells of an incident while travelling long ago in British governed Palestine. She was walking through a train with an English colonel. A carriage was blocked by an Arab in conversation.
The officer kicked the fellow out of his way. Jan Morris imagines the colonel considered the fellow merely ‘a bloody wog.’
I remember a not dissimilar happening, although I was just eight at the time. Our emigrating family docked at Port Said and the ship was all but mobbed by struggling Egyptians who used several wizardry tricks to relieve visitors of the tiny sums of money Brit families carried.
An uncle, an officer in the British army based there at the time, was never troubled by the semi-beggars for he simply shoved them out of the way. For the product of a school for young gentlemen, it was a very unpleasant eye-opener.
A British gentleman striking a beggar – and many beggars at that! I wouldn’t have been more shocked had he pulled out his pistol and shot them, one after another, which he often seemed about to do.
Jan Morris, now 90, has an astonishing collection of anecdotes to relate, 27 minutes of them, just a moment away on the BBC iPlayer. It's an excellent production, and congratulations to Ms Morris, with full marks, too, to producer Gareth Jones of BBC Wales.
Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, at

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Isn't it greed that's closing the High Street?

The news of high street shops closing seems to be broadcast as a sort of lament. Our tough new internet world is simply too rough for these nice shops and the gentle and caring way they are looking
after you and me. That’s the inference.
Then we learn that these long-established firms have suffered a shocking fall in profit, down from X trillion to scarcely only a few multi-millions.
The announcements seem to emphasise the heartlessness of the web and the penny-pinching customers of the newish approach to shopping.
That’s a frowning tut-tut to you and me.

Sales in the billions

I mean, what about this report that the Next group’s sales slipped by 0.5% to £4.5bn - yes, billion, not million - while profits were down by 8.1% to £726.1m over the year.
Look at the names of some of the companies suffering - Toys R Us, Maplin, Prezzo and Carpetright, Mothercare. Presumably the first and major reason why web shopping beats High Street is price. Surely - it seems to me, anyway - it can’t be that the big store proprietors are too mean or too staid to lower their prices.
Or could it be that they have made such a killing from the public – you and me – that they aren’t prepared to endure less of the, well, what some may feel belongs to the area of rip-off of you and me. Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, at