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Well, here we are with ABC Wednesday once more!  This one’s easy, is it not?  I think ‘S‘ is the most-used consonant in the English language!

The first thing I thought of, when I began my weekly stroll through the house with my camera, was food.  I don’t know why.  It’s not as though I’m hungry, having just eaten a spaghetti dinner, but there you go.   Anyway, here’s something interesting for you.

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Interesting, and just a little startling.  This is ‘Safe to Eatsoup, and if you look carefully, you may be able to see that there is a list of things which it does not contain.  In case you can’t read it, here’s the list: Celery, Fish, Lupin, Molluscs, MSG, Mustard, Peanuts, Sesame Seeds, Shellfish, Soya, Sulphites, Wheat and Yeast.  The startling thing is that anyone would imagine that half this stuff might be in minestrone soup in the first place!  I am, however, very glad indeed to know that it doesn’t contain them, particularly the fishy ones, because I am seriously allergic to most fish.

Here’s a fish I can eat, however -

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Luckily for me, I really like sardines, and I try to eat them often.  They’re very good for you!

Talking of food that I like, here’s something sweet.

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Sambirano chocolate, the best chocolate you can buy.  Unless it’s Mora Mora, but that’s made by the same people anyway.  The good thing about Sambirano chocolate – apart from the stupendous taste – is that it is not sourced from the Ivory Coast, like most chocolate.  I’m told there is a lot of child slavery involved in chocolate production there.

OH loves chocolate too, but this is his chocolate of choice -

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Cadbury’s Shots.  They are rather nice, being just solid balls of chocolate with a candy shell, but they’re rather too sweet for me.

Food can be too sweet, you see, but dogs cannot.  This strikingly beautiful greyhound was called Susan.

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Susan was the sweetest thing .. as long as you were a person or a greyhound-shaped dog.  Everything else, no matter what, seemed to be fair game to her.  She was learning to restrain herself, and learning very well, but sadly we only had her five and a half months before she succumbed to kidney cancer.

The portrait of her you see here was done for me by Son No. 1.  He’s very talented and has painted or drawn each of my dogs for me in various different styles.  He’s a little put out that we’ve had this painting for over a year and haven’t framed it yet, but when he gave it to us he said not to do it right away because it needed to dry out a little.  Since then, we’ve been putting it off until we get everything that we want framed all together to be done at once.  We’ll do it soon.  In the meantime, let me tell you, I’m extremely fond of this work of art.

Since losing The Princess and The Pirate earlier this year, a lot of the dog stuff has been in storage.

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If you look carefully, there are one or two ‘S‘s in there, too.  ‘Stay at Home‘ pee pads, a silver brocade collar, shampoo, and some little rubber socks for injured paws.  The DAP products are for stress relief – and the CD of firework and thunder noises is for de-sensitising a fearful dog.

It won’t be long before we can unpack a lot of that stuff.  Know why?

For Sid, of course!

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We took the svelte and beautiful Sid out for a walk at the weekend.   He moves surprisingly fast despite his missing leg, and seemed to enjoy being out with us in the sunshine.  Sid will be coming to live with us very soon, if all goes well with his cat-testing!

Someone else who’s svelte and rather beautiful, but won’t be coming to live with us in the foreseeable future is this man -

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Mr September – otherwise known as Johnny Depp.  He’s a superstar of the silver screen, you know!

He’s made a lot of ‘S‘ movies.

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Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘but not all of those movies begin with ‘S‘!’  Well, no,they don’t.  But he was Agent Sands in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Spencer Armacost in The Astronaut’s Wife, Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, and Sam in Benny and Joon.   See?

Now, to finish, here’s something some of you asked to see.

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This is my magnolia ‘Susan‘ in flower.  Spectacular, isn’t it?  Of course, ‘Susan’ is quite young as yet, and she’ll get bigger and more spectacular with time.  This little tree is my living memorial for the Susan in the picture up above.

Oh .. one more thing, especially for Carolina.  It’s her beloved Data … seated!

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In his Starfleet uniform, of course.  Lt-Commander Data is a character in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He has a cat called Spot, and is played by the actor Brent Spiner.

And he sings!

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One of our largest and most impressive beetles, too!

It’s a cockchafer, sometimes called a May bug because that’s when the adult beetles emerge.  Isn’t it magnificent?

He – or she, I’m not good on beetle gender – bumbled into our conservatory at dusk.  I was alerted to his presence by the familiar cry to ‘come and see the strange-looking beetle’, only this time OH added ‘It’s as big as a mouse!’

I can’t help feeling that was a teeny bit of an exaggeration, unless you’re used to Very Small Mice, although he was kinda furry, and he did have something akin to a little tail.  However, even a casual observer should notice that he has too many legs, and, unlike mice, he has antennae – by the way, I love the way the antennae are composed of leaves which open when he’s interested in something.

See?

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Those are centimetres on that set square, by the way, not inches, so no need to get carried away, you at the back, there.  And stop squealing – I gave you fair warning in the title, didn’t I?

I did a little research and I found that the grubs eat the roots of grasses and cereals, leaving brown patches which dry out easily in hot weather. Oh .. so it wasn’t just the dogs then?  And it might explain why our old Pirate, always on the look-out for plunder of the edible kind, was inclined to dig holes with his teeth in certain places on our lawn.  We always wondered about that.

Yes, the beetle is on my leg in that photo at the top.  Actually, I had a little difficulty in persuading him to stop clinging to me with those highly functional claws of his when it was time to leave.  I had to get him to walk back onto that set square before I could set him free among the patio plants.

I just hope the starlings didn’t find him in the morning.

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Several of you asked if I bought anything on my recent trip to the garden centre where I saw Mr Peacock contentedly admiring himself in a glass door, and the answer is yes, I did.  Not the rhododendron ‘Captain Jack’ which I’ve been looking for since I discovered its existence.  Not the cattleya orchid ‘Little Pirate’ which I would also dearly love to find on sale over here.  Not even the buddleia we wanted, to replace the one that had to be taken out of the drive because it was in the way of the cars and undermining the foundations of the house.  And I mean, I ask you – a garden centre without a single buddleia?  What is the world coming to?

What I did do, was buy was some new wild bird food.

To cut a long story short, we had to stop feeding the birds in our garden some time ago, because someone a few doors up caused a plague of rats (don’t ask) and until they were dealt with, each time we began to feed the birds, rats would turn up as well.  During this period, I actually watched one climb a gazebo post, bite through the securing metal wire and carry a whole net of peanuts bodily away.  Also during this period, a friend and I were sitting out on the patio with our dogs when an enormous and rather sick-looking rat wandered into sight – in broad daylight.  She had a little Norwich terrier – a breed developed for ratting, and my lovely Jim was a fearsome hunter, who had executed dozens of rabbits.  Both dogs saw the rat at the same time, stared transfixed for a few seconds, then slowly backed away.  Heaven knows what the thing said to them.

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Since then, we’ve only seen the odd field mouse and we’ve seen no evidence of rats for years, so we bought ourselves a pretty, wrought iron feeding station and stocked up on bird food.  It’s only been there for a week and we’ve had some very entertaining visitors.  Pretty little blue-tits, great tits, and dunnocks, shy blackbirds and the odd robin – that’s when there are no starlings, of course.  I love starlings, but they are hooligans and they remind me of gangs of teenagers, they’re so self-absorbed and noisy.

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But we can always tell when the jackdaw is on his way, because they go suddenly silent, crane their heads upwards, and melt away.  The jackdaw does nothing, except to be Very Large and even noisier than they are, but I guess small birds are programmed to be wary of large birds with very big beaks who come at them from above.  Handsome fellow, isn’t he?

How about now?

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Yep, he’s the UK’s smallest representative of the crow family.  It certainly shows, doesn’t it?

For the record, the birds at the top are starlings.  They are highly social birds and send out scouting parties of one or two birds, who report back to the next largest group and they all turn up.  Depending on how much food there is, you could have hundreds in a few minutes – in a garden, it’s usually a dozen or so, but they mass into flocks of thousands to roost in the winter.

The bird in the middle is a blue-tit.  Sweet little birds, highly acrobatic and entertaining on a hanging feeder.  Infamous for pecking through the tops of foil-lidded milk bottles in order to steal the cream.

Jackdaws are quite easily tamed and excellent mimics – I’ve heard of people teaching them to talk.  They can be very shy of people though, until they get to know you.  The reason we have one here so soon is probably because our neighbours took care of an injured youngster and he’s still around.  This could be him.

Posted on May 22, 2009 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay22 Comments »

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This handsome fellow was sitting at the end of a path near the restaurant at Baytree Garden Centre when we visited yesterday.  He was absorbed in contemplation of his own reflection in a glass door – fortunately a locked door, so no-one disturbed his happy reverie.  OH and I bought drinks, and sat at a table outside and watched him.

When we left he was still there, though he’d turned around a couple of times, as if he’d thought about moving on but couldn’t bear to leave his fascinating – though silent – companion.   It must have been like television with the sound off.

In contrast, Mrs P was out shopping -

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I suppose it was ever thus.

Tee hee.