When Mr. Bowie asked after the whereabouts of the spiders he presumably hadn't looked round our way. It's that time of year again, isn't it? And fear not those with arachnophobia, clickety-clicking doesn't enlarge the eyes and mouth shown above.
Hello again.... it's been more than a week again, hasn't it? Well, we have been away, although only for the weekend so that doesn't really count. But there you go.
The text below is just to hold the pictures together, feel free to just click on the green to see them if you're short of time.
Saturday found us hurtling down the M4 towards Welsh Wales to visit old school friend Em (he who arranged our Reading Rock Reunion last month). The journey was slightly slower than anticipated due to large numbers of bin bag filled cars which were, I suspect, taking new students to their Universities for the first time. Pah!
Even so, we arrived at the wonderfully batcave-ish entrance to Em's drive a mere-ish four hours after departing Planarchy Towers. Em's smallholding is strangely only a few minutes drive from the Sarn Park Gwasanaethau (Service station) that we regularly stopped at on our journey's to see Zee's mother when she still lived in Welsh Wales. So, without knowing, we'd been almost driving past his front door.
As well as welcoming barks from their dogs we also had several hissing Toulouse Geese (not being force fed) and the most velociraptorish chickens I have ever met. But a most warm welcome from Em his wife Jay and youngest daughter Kay2. After a sumptuous bread and cheese based lunch (are there any better?) Em, our Kay and I went off for some kite flying whilst TeenDee and Kay2 went off for a horse ride and Zee and Jay stayed at home on the settee (it's a hard life).
Initial kite flying attempts left both Kay and I with several bruises as the winds and kite combined to drag us across the moors. After moving from the top of the moor to a slightly less windy spot I discovered the safest way of flying the kite was supine ("Pull me over now, damn kite!"). Kay, men awhile, seemed rather disappointed if the kite didn't pull her off her feet at least once every five minutes.
Keen to show me as much of his beautiful local area as he could Em next took me to Nash Point just in time for the sunset. The limestone coast here completely unlike the cliffs I was used to from further west in Wales. Fascinating and definitely needing further investigation at some point.
Sunday morning was slightly greyer but TeenKay fancied some more kiting so horse backed TeenDee, Em and I headed up through the mysterious stunted oak forest that stands behind his house whilst t'others took the car. By the time we'd arrived they'd manage to completely tangle the kite and its twine into Gordian knot like proportions. Even so, within twenty minutes TeenKay was once again reaching the highest heights.
Then just time for a late lunch and it was time for us to head back home. A truly wonderful weekend.... when can we move out of London?
Just over a year ago Witchy gave us a baby from one of her Brugmansia... as you can see, it seems to be happy at Planarchy Towers... blooming even. To those who haven't experienced Brugmansia, apart from their delightful appearance they also exude a heavenly scent at dusk (and during eclipses!). Sadly, for this post anyway, this blog is not yet wired for scent.
Bored of the dragons are we? Well not many more to come. In the meantime the weekend found Zee, baby nephew and I wander down to the Waterworks Nature Reserve again. We've not been down there since the spring when the swans were still building their nest so it was lovely to see one proud parent with six young'uns (check that apostrophe use!) in tow.
...and this tells me we're nearing the end of the Dragonfly season. The Migrant Hawker, supposedly a rare migrant until recently, only appears towards the end of the summer. Like several other of the Hawkers it has the charming habit of investigating human observers rather than just flying away. As one approaches it will initially retreat but then dart back and hover a few feet away, sometimes even buzzing the humanoid invader. Where exactly his mate is going to lay her eggs at this time of year I have no idea, but I do hope to see their offspring next year.
So, Zee started back at work today and the girls finally back to school full time. In theory their school year started a week ago but due to the "innovative" way in which their school chose to begin this term they only actually had to attend half a day each last week. Teen Dee, as a Peer Mentor, was asked and agreed to add an extra day to help the new year sevens into their secondary school life.
It's very quiet here.
And hot. Still too hot (soon it will be too cold).
So, what did I do to celebrate our anniversary? Go on, have a guess..... you'll never get it.
I went and dropped my camera.
Macro lens and macro flash now need to go on a little holiday to Welwyn Garden City. Sshh, yes I know it's really a camera hospital but they don't know that yet. I'm pretending they're going on holiday OK?
In the meantime the thought of no macro photography was clearly too much to bear so I went and bought another macro lens. Shorter focal length and a lot lighter (and cheaper) than the sick one, it was something I had been pondering anyway. You have to look for the silver linings, don't you?
So here's a couple of quick test shots from yesterday afternoon up at my favourite local (dried up) pond. The desiccated nature of the pond is actually probably the reason that this Wasp Spider is there at all. It builds its egg sac amongst tall grass which therefore needs to be left uncut until the following spring for the young to hatch. Even on the common land near the pond the grass is cut a couple of times a year so the sacs would probably be lost. But the spider has placed this sac in the "marsh grass" which grows in the damp soil that was once pond but hasn't been more than damp soil for several years. Hence the egg sacs will survive until the spring and we'll have another generation of these very exotic looking spiders. Incidentally this species is slowly working its way North as the weather hots up... as far as Cambridge so far.
Why is it called a Wasp Spider? No idea.
Only in a blog do you get to do this sort of thing (unless you're still young enough to wear one of those "It's my birfday" badges. For today is our fifteenth wedding anniversary. That's crystal apparently. Though here it says that the modern version would have us celebrating with watches. I never wear a watch, what with time being an illusion and all that. So here's some sugar crystals.
So, anyway, a happy anniversary to us.... and here's to the next fifteen years (by which time I'll be 60!!!)
So, where were we then?
Well, last Saturday found us in Reading. At the festival, oh yes. An old school friend had suggested a school reunion to be held there. Sadly (or maybe not in the case of 95% of the prats I was at school with), only he and I actually turned up (as far as I'm aware). Still, an excellent time was had, good to see him again and for him to meet Zee and the girls and for us all to meet his youngest daughter (19), though I first met her a few months ago when Em and I first caught up on twenty years or so of not seeing one another while waiting for her to finish the London Marathon. Got all that?
Never being satisfied with anything like all good teens, Dee and Kay both protested that Saturday was the worst day of the festival due to band x or y not playing. Still, they seemed to enjoy their first festival (as did Zee, hers!) with Dee's highlight I think being a band called Hawthorne Heights who lots of her friends were going to see the following week, indeed she spent much of her timer texting them live updates as to who she'd just seen on which stage. I have to admit I was a bit un-adventurous and stayed at the main stage for the whole time. We entered the arena to the merry Irish Punk of Flogging Molly.... well, it's not a real festival without some Pogues is it? Maybe that's unkind but that's who they will always be compared to. And that's not a bad thing at all. Good set guys, in my most humble opinion.
The American Punks were followed by Wolfmother who I'd been (somewhat ashamedly) looking forward to seeing. Sadly, whether through poor sound or just over expectation on my part I came away disappointed. Despite knowing most of the material it left me a little cold.... the complete opposite to Flogging Molly who I'd not previously heard of. Shame.
The Cribs were OK and followed by the Futureheads who entertained just as much as I'd hoped. Nice to have the backing vocals to their biggest hit, their reworking of Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love", turned into a singalong contest between different halves of the audience too.
Next, The Dirty Pretty Things, the first band I'd really been looking forward to. And they didn't disappoint. Songs were rushed through at lightning speed, whether this was the reason they under ran their alloted time I don't know but every bit as good as I hoped they'd be live. Zee reckons their sound was dodgy but I think that's just what they sound like... a bit rough at the edges. Nice one.
Followed neatly by Feeder who, in sharp contrast to the Dirty Pretty Things, seemed to me, to be playing some of their songs slower than originally recorded. They were I guess first band of the day to have enough material to choose a Greatest Hits set and this is just what they did. Coincidentally their Singles collection is out in all good supermarkets right now! Bonus, eh? Zee enjoyed these the best I think, a good set, professionally yet still passionately delivered. Dedicated their best known hit (?) to his leetle son (aaah) making his festival debut at 15 months old.... well under thirteen year olds do get in free!
Next came the Streets and not only a pretty amazing songwriter, a thorough showman to boot is young Mr.Skinner. Excellent. Zee's second favourite... and I don't expect she thought it would be. Another very good set.
Then the massively hyped Arctic Monkeys quietly take to the stage. I admit I was very slow to come round to their charms. On first, second and third hearing I thought it all sounded a bit only half way there. Then I fell in love with "Mardy Bum" and the rest of the album began to grow. Their performance here further confirmed my appreciation. A wonderful self depreciating and shy front man when chatting between the songs but energetic during the songs. My favourite of the day I think.
The headliners for the day were Muse but we missed them. 'twas pitch black by this time and having finally gathered the girls before the Arctic Monkeys and with the thought of a long trudge (or boat ride) back to the car park which I suspected might turn a bit muddy I decided to leave before the end of a concert. I don't think I've ever done that before. I remember as a teenager being told by my parents to leave before the end to catch the last train home and scoffing. But last Saturday I did it. Age and parenthood, eh?
Old friend Em, who'd gone down the front for some moshing for Muse tells me he was disappointed to find them playing mainly new stuff anyway.
No pictures? No, I decided not to take the camera. Worrying enough to keep track of two teens (thank technology for texting!). Strange but liberating in a way, I don't remember the last time I had a whole day without it.
But fear not, there's lots of other pictures from other things still to come.....