Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A great day for a ride!

I needed to go into Cambridge to pick up a spare part for the sander I use when carving wood, so went on the BMW.  As I rode into Cambridge, it struck me what a beautiful day it was, and what a shame it would be to waste it, so having collected the bits I needed, I headed east out of the city, instead of the normal south-west.

Crossing the bypass to the north of Cambridge, I took the Newmarket road, which is lightly-trafficked and has some lovely, swinging bends to blast the bike around.  At the end, I just felt like doing it again, so turned illegally right, which took me onto the bypass, drove back to the previous exit, and rode that delicious, curvy section of road again!

I knew there was a roundabout somewhere towards Newmarket where it would be sensible to turn right and head south back towards home, but instead I just went straight on, heading into the unknown.  I followed my nose for a bit, riding through Stetchworth and Ditton Green, turning right in Saxon Street down to Kirtling, Kirtling Green and then Cowlinge.

Eventually the tiny roads spat me out onto the A143 down to Haverhill, from where I took the Steeple Bumpstead road, which gradually turned south-west and took me through Hempstead.  (Don't you just love all these village names?)  In Hempstead I followed a sign for Saffron Waldon, soon ending up on familiar territory.

The seat on the BMW is not the most comfortable, or maybe I'm just losing my natural padding as I get older, but anyhow, by now my bum was pretty sore, and I still hadn't had any lunch.  I'd originally planned to go down to Stansted, then across to the A10, or to just follow my nose along roughly that route, but the hunger and pain were enough to make me point the bike homewards.

Of course, my hidden agenda for this ride was also to face up to the demons that have grown in my head ever since my crash in May.    I was quite traumatised by the crash, and have not ridden much since, so taking the opportunity to get some saddle miles was a good thing to do and by the time I was on the twisty bit between Saffron Waldon and Barley, I really was enjoying myself, pressing on much more confidently than when I set out this morning, laying into the bends where I was confident I could see the line and really exploring some of the extremes of accelleration the bike is capable of.  By 'eck, it don't 'alf go!

It's about 15 miles from home to Cambridge, but by the time I parked the bike back in the garage, a couple of hours after getting it out, I'd done 82 miles, which is not bad for a shopping trip.

Will it still be sunny on Friday?

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

What life is really about!

I'd forgotten this, until my friend Dave sent it to me.  Just because I've seen it before, doesn't mean I don't like it!

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - chocolate in the other - body totally worn out, screaming "WOO-HOO, what a ride!!"  

Hols in Spain

Having been left this flat on the Costa del Sol in my step-mother's will, and having finally got around to putting it in the hands of a letting agency, we felt obliged to go out there last week to assess any damage our guests had done while staying there over the summer.  It's a hard life, having to spend time in Andalucia, but you know, you have to take your responsibilities seriously!

Apart from Friday, when it was overcast, the weather was fabulous, with temperatures ranging from 25 - 30° C, and wall to wall blue sky.  There was a bit of charging about to do, but really not much.  We bought a cheap DVD player to put in the flat, and a few other bits and pieces, but for the most part we were able to just laze about reading.  This is not something we would normally do, when on holiday, but this time we just felt we wanted to do pretty much nothing, so that's what we did.

The sea was nice and warm, too, so it only took a few seconds to actually immerse yourself completely, and I could stay in snorkelling for half an hour before starting to feel properly chilled.  It was very murky the first time we got in, but twice I got up at 8 for a dip, and we also swam in the late afternoon, when the water was the clearest we've ever seen it.

Last Christmas, I gave Jenny a snorkelling mask with a built in camera, ready for exactly this occasion.  I seem to recall she was somewhat underwhelmed, but actually, she was pleased with it when she finally got the chance to use it!  It turns out to be much harder to get decent photographs and movie footage than you imagine at first, because you're being sloshed around in the water, but I reckon with a bit of practice, it'll come good.

This was one of several shoals of different sorts of fish, swiming amongst some rocks within about 10 metres of the shore.  Jenny saw them on the first day she used the mask, but completely failed to make the video mode work.  I then saw them the next morning, and succeeded where she'd failed.  It's not exactly stunning footage, but you get the idea.

The thing that struck us most forcibly was that although we've been snorkelling here for years, we've never seen so many fish before. The reason, however, is now pretty clear.  Generally speaking, we've steered clear of the really rocky areas, simply because the rocks themselves are pretty sharp, and you can easily cut yourself (I did on Sunday morning!) if a wave sweeps you onto them.  Also, in some areas there are rather a lot of sea urchins, and yes, we have in the past, spent time with needles and tweezers, extracting echinoderm spines from flesh!  However, the fish have no such qualms, but tend to avoid the sandy areas, as there's not much to eat there.

Been away

I've not been deliberately neglecting my duties, but we've been away for the past couple of weeks, so there's been no opportunity to post anything.  This is the first of (probably) a couple of posts to fill in the gaps.

The week before last, we went to a fossils conference in Lyme Regis, on the south coast of the UK.  The Symposium of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy (SVPCA) has met each September for a few days, ever since the early 1950's, generally at a UK university, though there have been occasional forays onto the continent.

This year, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mary Anning's brother finding the first ichthyosaur skull near Lyme Regis, the show took place there instead, despite the lack of a nearby university.  And very good it was, too.

Jenny and I drove down on the Tuesday, realising as we hit the M3 that we knew a pub near Winchester that does rather splendid food, so we diverted to the Plough at Sparsholt for lunch.  It's a few years since we sang in Winchester Cathedral, but on that occasion we stayed in Sparshold Agricultural College, and the Plough was the nearest pub. That was when we discovered how good the food was, and this time we were not disappointed.  Well worth diverting for, and we did the same on the way home, too!

I attended the first day's conference, listening to several early tetrapod talks, including Jenny's but after that spent time looking for fossils, which I find much more interesting.  Found none I wanted to collect, but I did turn over a rock to discover this wonderful armoured marine worm.
It's probably a Harmothoe species and I think it's rather fine.  I did take some movie footage of it, but I think you have to be a bit of a marine polychaete geek to want to watch something like that, so I'll spare you!

Although I didn't make a palaeontological breakthrough, I did manage to get sunburned, as the weather was just lovely pretty much the whole time we were there.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

I promise not to keep posting Jesus and Mo cartoons, honest!

This delighful chap is an African honeyguide chick, along with the carcases of his nestmates. 

Honeyguides lay their eggs in the nests of bee-eaters, which are in holes in trees or abandoned aardvark holes in the ground. Scientists thought that, like European cuckoo chicks, the baby honeyguides were killing the other nestlings, but they didn't know much about how it was being done.

Now a group of Cambridge scientists has placed night-vision cameras in parasitised nests and filmed the honeyguide chick physically attacking and killing the host chicks. 

There's a decent report here at the BBC, but I warn you, the video is gruesome.