Friday, May 26, 2006

Spring is definitely upon us if the number of young Starlings being fed in the garden is anything to go by, but you'd scarcely know it by looking at the weather. The last few weeks have been very dank and miserable, and although there has been plenty of rain, which is a blessing for the flower beds, it has a long way to go to do anything about the drought being suffered by Southern England.

But a televisual treat to come will be Spring Watch with Bill Oddie which is due to kick off next Monday (29th). Last year's was absolutely magical.

Ealier this week we had Sir David Attenborough come out with a two-part TV programme, finally saying that we need to get dealing with global warming, because he is now completely convinced that the problem is anthropogenic in origin.

Well, that's cause for celebration as far as I am concerned, because hopefully this will now start to get seriously political. If the voters care, the politicians are going to start listening and actually doing something with a bit of urgency.

But it also occurs to me that Britatin has a special place in all this and we should collectively be leading the way on the basis of moral imperative. For the industrial revolution, which started us all down the high-energy consumption route, started in Britain. It was on the basis of this revolution that the British Empire was able to expand so successfully, in the process exporting the attitudes and aspirations attendant with the industrial mentality, to the rest of the world.

So Britain set up the framework for the consumerism that powers the global economy, of which global warming is a prime consequence. Having pointed the world in the direction of catastrophe, it behooves Britain to lead in turning said world away from the edge of the abyss and towards a more sustainable future.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Back from holiday, in just a week it seems an awfully long time ago already, although the cheese in the fridge belies this.

I realise now that although I have been to Italy several times in the past, onbusiness, I had never actually been to Italy in any real sense. But I have now. We were lucky enouhg to be staying with friends who run the garden of the summer house of this rich industrialist dude, and I fancy that he has the best view across Lago Maggiore of any.


I am now tempted to nip up to the top of the field next door, put up a large hoarding and paint the alps on it. Having woken up to such a view for the thick end of a fortnight, the oak trees seem rather tame.

The geology was, of course, just wonderful, and I struggled to be retrained in returning with samples. But I was reasonably successful, and the plane home did manage to get airborne.

So now, after great food and wine, fantastic days out in the mountains and show gardens, its back to finding a job. As a fully trained science teacher now, this shouldn't be proving as difficult as it is. However, I am told that there is something of a downturn in teaching vacancies at present - oh good! So in the absence of anything else, I continue to improve things in the garden and search high and low for anything that will pay a wage. I've signed up to more initiatives than I can shake a stick at, butto no avail. I wonder what it is the universe wants me to do? I wish it would get on with it before I run out of money - which is becoming imminent.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Spring is upon us finally. And even better news is that rain is due. It's been dryer than a dead Dingo's donger for weeks now, infact the whole autumn and winter has bordered on the positively arid. So, rain this evening is very welcome indeed.

The Redwings left us on the 20th of this month, which is usually a sign that Spring is there or therabouts, and the following day the frogs started spawning in the pond. This morning I awoke to a blue sky - a real novelty after a fortnight of steel grey - and a bright sun, and suddenly there was a crocus opened in the garden and the daffodils seem to have created flower buds over night. Whoosh!

And I have finished my school placement, with a brilliant report, so I'm like a dog with two tails today. To which end I am going to have a very long walk with the dog and experience Spring first hand out on Weaver's Down. Then, of course, I shall have to come back down to earth and satrt to write the two essays necessary to complete the course, and then I can get out and start looking for work properly.

Spring is upon us finally. And even better news is that rain is due. It's been dryer than a dead Dingo's donger for weeks now, infact the whole autumn and winter has bordered on the positively arid. So, rain this evening is very welcome indeed.

The Redwings left us on the 20th of this month, which is usually a sign that Spring is there or therabouts, and the following day the frogs started spawning in the pond. This morning I awoke to a blue sky - a real novelty after a fortnight of steel grey - and a bright sun, and suddenly there was a crocus opened in the garden and the daffodils seem to have created flower buds over night. Whoosh!

And I have finished my school placement, with a brilliant report, so I'm like a dog with two tails today. To which end I am going to have a very long walk with the dog and experience Spring first hand out on Weaver's Down. Then, of course, I shall have to come back down to earth and satrt to write the two essays necessary to complete the course, and then I can get out and start looking for work properly.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Unable to reach my cousin by e-mail, courtesy of yet another paranoid US corporation, here is what I tried to send you Eric - well most of it anyway:

So have spent my first week at the school, and it has gone well. They seem to have confidence in me since I was given a Year 11 (15 yrs old, final exam year) class to teach yesterday - viruses and bacteria - and I obviously entertained them because they were brilliantly behaved and contrived to ask sensible questions. The amount of organisational and procedural stuff there is to learn is, however, rather daunting - not nearly as much fun as the actual teaching. The kids at the school - Bohunt (where Will goes)- are really pussycats by comparison to the ones I taught in London all those years ago, for the most part anyway. So next week I begin teaching in earnest, with full classes of Year 7, Year 9, and Year 11 - bang goes the weekend since I have to start lesson preparation, effectively from ground zero (but this pays off in the future as you can reuse them each year - until they change the syllabus that is, and then you can start again!)

On the home front, I have completed building and preparing a raised bed in which I intend to grow onions and carrots. Last year the sodding slugs ate all the carrots before they could really get going, so this year I am going to grow them in this raised bed. However, I went down to the scrap yard and acquired some old copper strip which I am using to circle the bed like a belt. Slugs absolutely hate copper, so I anticipate that this should prevent them climbimg up the sides of the bed to get to the carrots. I have floored the whole thing out with a water-permeable membrane so they can't get in from underneath, since slugs will burrow (and eat your potatotoes etc.)

It's been bloody cold here the last few weeks so I haven't sown any seed yet, but hopefuly tomorrow I shall have time to start a few trays off indoors, with a view to planting out next month. Also on my list of things to grow both outside and in the greenhouse are: Red Onions, Garlic, Cucumber (called Crystal Apple - look it up on the web, it looks very strange so I had to have a go), Dwarf Beans (Safari - Kenyan style) , Tomato (maybe), Morning Glory, Marigold, Mignonette, Dahlia, Datura.

The last one was just a whim, but I saw some Datura Eric's mum had once, and wanted to try my own ever since, and I just stumbled over the option of the seeds when I was surfing for the other seeds. So I have decided to see if I can grow one or two. Meanwhile the birds are pairing up ready for nesting, and I have put a nest box up on the side of the house - fingers crossed. Mind you, by the sound of it someone is preparing a nest site up in the attic just above the computer room. I bet you the little sods will ignore my shiny new nest box in favour of remodelling the attic for us.

Since then, I have contrived to put some carrot seed and onion sets into the raised bed, but I don't think much will happen in the near term given how cold it remains.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

So I have a raised bed now - handy if it floods during the night, perhaps - and all I need to do is fill it with earth. However, I think it's going to need rather more earth than I had anticipated, so the next question is likely to be as to where I need a big hole in the garden! Hmm.

Mind you, with Bush admitting that the Americans are addicted to oil, but bearing in mind how long it'll take to deal with that, perhaps I should start digging for 'black gold' and cash in while I can. It's funny how many commentators were quite excited by Bush's pronouncement, given that he said nothing about the environment, climate change, or pollution. I suspect the real agenda is the realisation by the Pentagon that if the US population guzzle all the oil, they'll be left short of the high octane fuels needed to power their military machine; that would never do. Still, whatever the rationale, if they convert to bio-fuels and look to reduce consumption, there will be positive things happening for our environment, and that's all that really matters.

Now if the chap who's supposed to be coming to deal with the central heating thermostat will just turn up, I can get on and finish my jobs in the garden. The time pressure is on now, because shortly all my time will be taken up with the return to teaching course, and the beds must be prepared for planting before then or I'll end up growing nothing much.

Well, sod it, he'll just have to call out to get my attention. I can wait no longer. More later.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

What a busy month this is turning out to be. The return to teaching initiative sems to be going well so far, and I have two tutorial days completed, an agreed placement at the local school, and more files of government initiatives on education than you can shake a stick at.

I look forward, in due course, to posting what it feels like to be back in the classroom, but I have to get there yet. Quite when that will be will depend on the Head of Science at the school, but I'm hoping to be able to see him next week so that this can move along at the required pace.

In the meantime I am making as much progress as I can preparing the garden for the coming spring sowing season, to which end I am going to construct my first raised bed. I have the relevant bits of wood, so today will be devoted to putting it all together - although how far I get will depend on just how cold it is today.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hooray, finally things are moving along at a reasonable pace, and I find I am all signed up for the return to teaching course, and so with a bit of luck I shall be in a position to plausibly apply for teaching jobs by the beginning of April. Since teaching science is both in demand, and eminently portable, it makes a great deal of sense for us - given our intention to move in the next few years.

But to where, I wonder? James Lovelock appears to be re-igniting the climate change debate with his view that we are probably already past the point of no return. Bugger! I simply don't want to believe that Gaia will bite back so hard so soon, but I have to admit that signs of positive feedback entering the equation are becoming alarmingly common, and the environmental news in the past year has been unremittingly bad.

But perhaps the imminence of disaster, as indicated by one of the leading scientists and thinkers on this matter anywhere on the planet, will start to focus enough ordinary peoples' minds to start to focus the politicians.

While we wait for that to happen, I am now looking at contour maps and trying to find the limit of the 20m+ contour in our selected areas for a move. Once the Greenland ice sheet starts to melt I could make a nice little pension hiring out boats from the marina on the front garden!