Excellent news for the chocohollics amongst us for new research has shown that..." dark chocolate improves endothelial function and decreases arterial stiffness in healthy young adults". I have to admit I'm a new reconvert to Dark Chocolate... as a kid it was my favourite but as I grew older I began to prefer milk or even white varieties. Obviously for all three I choose Green & Blacks Organic even if they are now owned by Cadburys. By a strange quirk of fate today I received a token from Sainsburys for a free 500ml tub of Green & Blacks Choc Ice Cream in celebration of my birthday. Which is four months away. I suppose I'll have to let them know the real date of my birthday............. after I've claimed the free ice cream, obviously.
..and so back to the Flutterbyes and the first Skipper of the year. A Small Skipper this one, and even for a small skipper very petite indeed at only just over a centimetre long. They're rather moth-like in appearance and the black stripe (a scent gland) on the wing identifies this as a male. Why he's licking the end of a blade of grass I don't know.......but it takes all sorts I suppose.
I've always been something of an anxious kind of guy. For a while in my late teens and early twenties I believed every car journey would be my last.....this was before I was the often driver. Taking control of the wheel myself dissipated the worst of these fears but obviously I found other things to worry about. Trains scared me for a bit but until fairly recently I've been utterly convinced that every single plane I board is going to crash and burn. For someone who likes to travel this was a bit of a problem......and they wouldn't let me take over at the controls so I couldn't get out of it that way. Strangely a couple of TV programmes about air crashes and the excellent Michael Crichton book Airframe (about planes crashing) cured me of this phobia. I now enjoy a good take-off nearly as much as young Kay who practically screams with excitement as we accelerate down the runway. Recent years saw a lot of my worrying time being spent on the ludicrous situations at my former place of work. Once again taking control of the situation and handing in my notice solved that little one. Strangely when it actually came to it giving up a pretty good salary for a vague hope of being able to earn something a lot less doing something I really enjoy had never given me even the slightest worry. This lack of worry worries me obviously, although not enough to lose sleep over. I have found other things to lose sleep over but apart from the fears all parents have for their children's futures, they seem pretty trivial things. The problem is, as I've always assumed, genetic. I'm that oft' talked of creature the born worrier. I get it from my mother. Last week's Observer had a piece confirming this long held suspicion but also suggesting a dietary element. Caffeine increases anxiety and nuts can reduce it.
Particularly Brazil nuts.
The thing is, Brazil nuts make me retch and sometimes even vomit.... at least they did the last time I tried one in 1973...... I've not tried one again as I'm worried about choking to death.
So, Brazil nuts.....kill or cure?
....I know it's a Phil Collins track and therefore doesn't deserve even the vaguest reference here at planarchy but it fits the post better than anything else I could think of. Yesterday I visited an exhibition of Joe Cornish's photographs. Fair enough but the interesting bit is still to come. Before actually going to t'exhibition I though I'd go and sit in a pub for a couple of hours which is most unlike me, I have to say. Luckily, soon after I arrived who should walk through the door but much missed ex-blogger, round the world explorer and photographer extra-ordinaire Gavin Gough. If that wasn't a spooky enough coincidence for you we also recognised one another despite never having met before! There followed two very pleasant hours of conversation (and not all of it about lenses) before a brief trip round the aforementioned Joe Cornish Exhibition... not at all bad (though no Dragonflies). An excellent way to spend a hot Thursday afternoon I have to say.
Back to the Damselflies who are now well and truly into their mating season.... the weekend saw the local pond I visit covered in coupling Azure Damselflies. As you can see the female Azure isn't actually azure so much as green. This probably explains why I so seldom see the female of this species unless she is mating... they're actually pretty well camouflaged unlike the males which glint like Christmas decorations on the brambles and nettles around the pond.
Incidentally, did you know that male Damselflies (and Dragonflies) have two sets of sexual organs? Well, neither did I until t'other week. Very strange.
Well, while we're in Dragonfly world we can't not have a picture of an Emperor can we? I've only ever managed to spy these majestic (emperorial?) creatures patrolling their stretch of a pond or lake before as they seldom seem to take a rest. But the heat was apparently too much even for the Emperor and he let me get within about ten feet before resuming his patrol. They're the largest of the UK Dragonflies, at about 3 inches long and absolutely amazing to watch.... I stood entranced for about fifteen minutes while he repelled invaders from his territory (flying high above the tree tops to see them off) and occasionally took a darting detour to catch a fly for a quick snack.
'twas hot down our way yesterday. Very hot.... definitely above 30ºC. The dragonflies found it hot too as we can see from the behaviour of this Black Tailed Skimmer. You see here it is perching on a low bulrush stalk. This is the sort of thing it does only when the temperature is above 26ºC.... on cooler days it will sit in trees or on open ground and rocks etcetera. Or so it says in my Dragonfly book (and I admit I've not seen them perching on low vegetation before yesterday but then again I've not seen this particular species before at all!).
Yes I know it's turning into Dragonfly World...... but I like them.
Since I first showed you the picture of a female Broad Bodied Chaser I've seen her (or a sister) several times at the local pond where I take most of my Dragonfly pictures. Then, at the weekend I saw one laying eggs up at our allotment. But until now I hadn't seen the male of the species. This has, as you can see, now been rectified. Notice that though it is of a similar shape it is very differently coloured to the female.
Congratulations to not-so-young-anymore Kay who, this afternoon, won her first really competitive race...... an 80m hurdles affair in which she represented her school against the others in the borough. It was her first race with a starting pistol and the loud retort nearly floored her with shock, then she took her first hurdle down....but after that, spurred on she says when she heard everyone shouting for her, she streamed ahead to win by nearly 10 metres. I never won a race at school, let alone for the school.... good to see that tradition broken.
Nice one Kay!
Well, allotment-grown really of course. But absolutely delicious..... I will tell you if anything we grow doesn't taste good... but it doesn't seem likely so far (except for the flowers, possibly). As for Jamie Oliver's claim that you can tell that they're fresh cos the skins just rub off..... bollocks. These were dug at lunch time and eaten for supper and still the skins needed a good scrape.
But they did taste really good (did I already say that?).
Remember the mating Large Red Damselflies (which, incidentally aren't that large being only an inch and a half long) that had their mating ritual interrupted when the female was eaten by a frog? Well, they're not just hunted but also hunters as this picture shows.... or, in truth, scavengers in this case as the mayfly that our Large Red is eating is being stolen from a spider's web. You have to admire his style.
On the general dragonfly news, yesterday we were most impressed to witness a Broad Bodied Chaser ovipositing (egg laying even!) in the pond we've just dug up at t'allotment. No pictures I'm afraid but it was a joy to watch. Lots of littluns on the way we hope!
...and how exactly was my age confirmed by the cashier? She must have cast me a crafty look as I certainly wasn't asked to provide any documentation. How did she know I wasn't just a 15 year old with a premature ageing illness that made me look (a very young) 44?
I assume, incidentally, that the age thing is for the Ibuprofen and not for the Flora Proactiv... the only thing that needs to be questioned when paying £3.85 for a tub of margarine (even cholesterol destroying marg) is the sanity of the shopper I would think.....
Bizarrely I think the only time I have been asked to prove my age was on my eighteenth birthday at a local Off Licence (that I'd been visiting for quite some time before without being challenged)..... I was furious!
"How many beans make five?" my father and his brother would ask. The answer is not "Five" but, as I'm sure you're aware, "A bean, a bean, a half-a-bean, a bean, a half and a bean."
Broad beans in Parsley sauce, all freshly picked from t'allotment.
Is there a better meal?
I think not. The girls think otherwise and whilst they are quite happy to help shell the beans are less keen to actually eat them. But they do like the parsley sauce.
I seem to remember disliking broad beans as a child too.... I wonder when the switch over occurs? Not too soon I hope as the current situation means more for Zee and me.
The original plan for the four Planarchists was a pizza out followed by a viewing of "Millions" at a local cinema. However, neither Zee nor I felt particularly zingy and so decided instead for a pizza delivery and a night in with the barrel laughs of "Vera Drake" on DVD. I like Mike Leigh's work, there is no doubting his skill as a writer and director, even if his work is usually pretty depressing. No change here overall, although there were a lot of wonderfully handled uplifting scenes which I wasn't expecting. As for Imelda Staunton in the title role there are simply not enough superlatives.
The gravitas of the whole film slightly spoilt by a stray thought I had about three quarters in when I suddenly thought of Julie Walters as Mrs. Overall....
You'll have been wondering how our canned/bottled lettuce are getting on, I expect. Well, the cans and bottles have now been removed and, as you can see, we have a rather good first crop of lettuces. And they taste even better. So far, the most successful crop we've tried (though radishes, broad beans and onions are also doing very well).