Sunday, 24 June 2007

Two become one.....

It was the tiny twins 1st birthday on Saturday ( see them hatch and grow at ) and we were all invited to a party.....
We've had rain for days and days, but Maxine ordered some sunshine and it arrived an hour early!

There were plenty of helium balloons, but not quite enough to achieve 'zero gravity' for a small child...shame!

The twins received loads of presents. Shiny paper, twinkly ribbons, brightly coloured bows....all their favourite things! Some of them had stuff inside.

All children had to be 'spun' regularly, it was the rule. Or so they told me. Safety was paramount, all hands were applied with sticky chocolate cake to avoid slipping.
I was glad when Jon and my brother Russell arrived to take over the fairground duties as my war wounds were beginning to play up.

The paparazzi were out in force. The twins lapped up the attention, playing to the cameras.

Although I set the shutter speed to 'Max', she proved difficult to capture on film. Trays of yummy food magically appeared, spillages were wiped and all by the blur known as Maxine!!

I had an informative crawl around the garden with the twins. The stone steps were a bit hard on the knees, but we found some bad plants we shouldn't eat and some good plants we could. The Rosemary smelt odd, but we rubbed it on our noses anyway.

Sometimes when it all gets too much, Daddy makes it alright again. "I'll hit him with this brick, then he'll know that I care."

The peaceful game of garden Jenga inevitably descended into civil war. Wooden blocks were violently exchanged as tiredness and 'e' numbers distorted young minds perception of fair play. A peacekeeping force was brought in and an uneasy ceasefire was maintained.

Chris loved playing the 'slam the door shut' game, honing his skills for his teenage years.

A great tiny tots teatime toy time time was had by all!

Monday, 18 June 2007

Not a dove, but a coot with a twig...

The flood waters have begun to recede. This is at Hemlingford Bridge over the River Tame near the village of Kingsbury. The view shown was previously under more than 6 ft of water as far as the houses in the distance. Not far from here is Kingsbury water park, a wildlife sanctuary and leisure destination. Originally a gravel quarry, the workings have been allowed to fill with water and naturalise. Most of the paths were still flooded, and there were huge puddles everywhere. The ground was littered with the pale slimy corpses of thousands of drowned earthworms and you had to pick your way carefully through so as to not slip on them!
The puddles seemed to be rippling and on closer inspection I realised that they were teaming with leeches! There were also fish, mainly Perch. I rescued as many as I could, throwing them into a stream that headed for the Tame, but there were too many to save every one.

What is it with the coconuts???! Whenever I'm kayaking and come across a bank with debris, there is always at least one coconut! It's not as if this is the Caribbean. They obviously come from upstream, but where?!

As I ventured further into the flood zone I began to notice a really bad smell.....Then I realised. There were dead animals everywhere! Mainly mice and rabbits, but birds and squirrels too.

It was mostly young rabbits that had drowned. The crows had had a go at many of them and now the sun was out the stench was awful.
On some of the more isolated trees you could see a tide line, and above that the bark was stripped clean. I can only presume that this is where squirrels have become trapped and have been forced to eat anything that they could find.

Many of the pools are used for sailing, jet skiing and power boating. This is where the sailing boats are stored on the bank mounted on trailers....Empty, not one left. I spoke to a guy from the club house and he told me that the waters had been so high that they had floated off, trailers and all. Some had ended up in other pools, some in the river or left high and dry in fields and several had made it as far as the M42 motorway 2 miles away!

The owner of this powerboat had been lucky. I spotted it far off, half on and half off one of the little islands of one of the many pools. Not sure whether it is attached to the trailer still!

Tired and despondent I plodded back to the car along what little was left of the road. All the death and destruction can get you down...

....but then this little chap cheered me up. He/she wasn't giving up, there was a new nest to be built and a new life to be made. Good for him/!

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Micra car meets Macro hole!......

As you may have heard, England is suffering from extensive flooding at the moment. So you may ask, why did I take a route to the village of Hints by a way that I know full well has a ford?....Cos it's FUN! This is the same tranquil pool at the former mill site as pictured previously in "Just a walk in the woods". A little more turbulent than usual!

For most of the year this ford is dry. It used to be the old course of the stream (Blackbrook), but the main flow of water was diverted under the lane further ahead via a brick lined tunnel. It is only when the tunnel is overwhelmed that this becomes flooded. Once this was just a dirt track, but now it is tarmacked and you can normally predict the depth as the gradient is gradual.

A small Hawthorn tree had blown down in the storms, but there was room to get around it and the waters seemed calm enough. Tentatively I moved forward, window down and peering at the water level at my wheels, all appeared fine. The water was lapping about halfway up the wheels, no problem I thought. WOAhh!!..The front end of the car dropped like a stone...water and debris surged over the bonnet....the horn blared spontaneously. I raced the engine praying it wouldn't stall. Whipped it into reverse, and with a roar, a whine of gears and a gush of muddy water the car thankfully lurched violently backwards and out.

The edge of the road must have washed away. I was so relieved to have got away with it. How the engine had managed to cope and keep running was beyond belief!

I reversed up the lane and pulled in. This is when I saw the additions to my bonnet and feared the worse.....

There was all sorts of twig and leaves hooked up on the bonnet edge and spotlights.

I half expected the bumper or lights to be damaged. Apart from an alarming grating noise, which was soon rectified by scraping handfuls of mud from the brakes, it seem I had got off lightly!

The 4x4 that had been playing in the shallows at the far end of the ford, on seeing the results of proceeding any further, made a hasty retreat!

Little Micra was taken home. He was fully checked out. Thoroughly cleaned with a pressure washer and his delicate parts re-lubed. Micra was very happy that he hadn't drowned, and was ready for more adventures....

Friday, 15 June 2007

Plantsbrooks revenge.....

This is Plantsbrook, a quiet babbling brook. It rises from springs in the acres of Sutton Park. Sparkling waters twist and turn via lakes and trickles giving joy to paddlers and wildlife alike. Once revered for its purity and worth, it has in recent times been abused and neglected. Storm drains wash pollution into its once crystal waters. It has been diverted, culverted and thrust underground like an unneeded nuisance. Its banks have been stripped of vegetation and its flood plains built on.
A dark stormy night, rain so heavy it strips branches off the trees... Swollen and troubled, the angry waters seek their revenge....

First in line, the leisure centre. Retribution for diverting Plantsbrook and spoiling it in a nasty culvert!

The last remaining pool grows rapidly transforming the surrounding woodland into something resembling mangroves.

"I will not be diverted". The stream reclaims its original course. Too bad if the developers built that house in the way! "I'm coming through!"

Plantsbrook forces its way through. The open garage door marks the passage of the current, and opposite a metal door buckles under the pressure. "I will not be stopped".

The series of lakes and water meadows on which the flats were built, live once again.

I'm sure he wished he'd paid heed to the sign!

Steal my picturesque banks and you'll pay the price!

An innocent bystander watches on and sympathises.
Heed the warning, the smallest trickle can become a torrent. Respect Plantsbrook and it will cool your feet on a hot day, lull you with its babbling while you daydream and rest your eyes with its calm beauty. Mistreat it and it will flood you out, wash you away and make you pay!!!

Monday, 11 June 2007

Cosford airshow...

The Cosford airshow is a yearly event. People travel countrywide to spectate. The resulting chaos locks up the roads for miles around. I long since gave up queueing, and instead, have found a convoluted route through the maze of country lanes to get to within 5 mins walking distance. This way I miss all the traffic, park for free, and no, I'm not saying how you get there! Once there, we don't go inside, but instead head to a grassy mound known to die hards and locals alike. The air force give us the wink and allow us to watch for free....

Where we watch is at the far end of the airfield. The view is partly obscured by an embankment and the occasional tree, but it means that often on their approach aircraft fly right over your heads (it is outlawed to fly over the crowd in Europe, too many people got mashed!). Also this is where the Chinook sits to warm up.....grab everything, it's taking off!

Military aircraft were pretty thin on the ground, (not sure that expression works with aircraft) probably due to all the war and stuff. Still, ladies glued to bi-planes will have to do.

Could they get any closer?!

The glue comes unstuck and she clings on for dear life!

The Red Arrows are always popular. Fly with precision and crash with style.

One year, down south, they managed to clip a 20ft mast on one of the yachts in the harbour! He lost his no claims bonus and everything.

The Red Arrows display was cut short because some one in a microlight chugged their way into the military airspace! Did he not notice it was busier than normal? He was lucky he didn't get knocked out the air by jet wash. Ushered away with a specially adapted large rolled newspaper, the show continued.

Flying in tight formation was their forte, but when I went to press my shutter button...Whoosh! A spectacular split, peeling off in every direction. It's a conspiracy. That can be the only explanation. They know when I've just switched the camera off, and they know when I'm just about to press the button!

The gorgeous looking Spitfire. During the second World War these were manufactured at a site about 4 miles from where I live. The test pilots were apparently quite reckless and often flew through the hangers!

The 'Eurofighter', or it's preferred name, the 'Typhoon' shot past with an exhaust note that jibbled your innards about.

What were they thinking calling it a 'eurofighter'? It sounds like something you would put down to kill cockroaches! 'Typhoon', now, that's a proper name, you could do some damage with one of those....

Upside down, at low level, with the afterburners on, now that's fun. "I'll just see if I can get it through that hanger!"

This plane spent most of the time being blurred or getting small quickly. It was very fast and agile. A lot of the time I didn't know even where it was until it had past!

Air show cont'd.....

I never used to like the RAF parachute team display when I was a kid, but now I've got my own parachute, it suddenly seems more interesting. Still, that label that was attached to it troubles me...."Certified scrap, All liabilities denied, all explosives removed safely". It's nice to know it's not going to blow up, but I won't be jumping out of any planes with it!

The well choreographed display, declined into an out and out race. I don't know whether they had a bet or whether they could just see the beer tent!

Helicopters, I like these. They stay put so you can photograph them.

Tornados are great. They are swing wings so are constantly changing shape.

The nose is pointing at the ground, and you've got the afterburners on?! Are you sure that's right?

Are you sure you shouldn't be pulling up now? Are you sure you're sure?!

Maybe the ectoplasm is obscuring the ground. Yes, it is called ectoplasm! Yes, I know they had it in 'Ghostbusters'! You'll have to go and look it up then....

A quick tug of the handbrake and he levels out. You can tell it was a humid day, as the wing tip pressure leaves condensation trails.

A Wasca plane flies high overhead, probably keeping an eye out for more microlights.

There were three Tornados flying simultaneously. They make a great noise when there is so many.

I love some of the WW2 fighters, they have such a dynamic look. For a 60 year plus plane he's still throwing it about a bit!

A Dakota (I think) comes into land (no, maybe not a Dakota, it's got English markings; I don't know) and so ends the show. Back to my secret parking place and bypass the traffic home...