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I’m still wandering across the States on our holiday, so this is another pre-prepared post.  Our internet access has been pretty patchy so far, but hopefully will improve so that I can get around to your blogs this time!  Fingers crossed on that one.

This week’s ABC Wednesday is on to the middle part of the alphabet – we’re at the letter ‘M‘.  I had a little trouble finding ‘M‘s for you, but then I came across a lot of pictures I’d taken of starlings on our bird-table earlier this year. Did you know that the collective noun for a group of starlings is ‘murmuration’?

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If you’ve ever played host to a group of these highly social but incredibly noisy birds, you’ll know why that is.

When we began to feed the birds in the spring this year, the starlings were one of the first to arrive.  And because they are highly social birds, they have a method.

One bird will turn up to scout for food – and by the way, they love mealworms – and if he finds some, another will arrive within minutes.

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The murmuration begins with a few squawks and twitters, and this is the signal for a few more birds to come and see what the fuss is about.

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In a very short time, you have a whole bunch of starlings squabbling among themselves over the available resources.

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By this time, the murmuration is loud enough to remind you of a bunch of teenagers outside the local youth club trying to impress the girls, and it looks as if World War Three has broken out among the starling population, but in fact, if you watch them carefully, it’s just pushing and shoving.   And they never attack other species of birds, just each other.

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So there you have it.  ‘M‘ for murmuration.  And as you may have guessed, I’m really rather fond of starlings!

Posted on October 14, 2009 in Hounds, Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay17 Comments »

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Dewey Beach, that is.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, every year on Columbus weekend, thousands of greyhounds descend on Dewey Beach, Delaware, for a get-together. This year was a little quieter, because – as I understand it – the organisers couldn’t find anywhere big enough to hold everyone that registered for the official brunch, so there was no registration, and no brunch.

There was, however, a ‘Greytalk’ breakfast, which completely took over the Retro Grill and spilled out onto the pavement. Everyone had fun, though the air conditioning was clearly not up to the task and it was like a sauna.

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You can’t see any dogs in that picture, but they did allow them in, and the front room was full of sprawling hounds waiting patiently while their owners ate, and graciously allowing themselves to be petted by latecomers.

There were a lot of vendors in Dewey, even though there was nowhere to set up the marquees that we’ve had in previous years, because the site was being redeveloped. But greyhound folk are adaptable. People sold merchandise from their motel rooms just as they have in previous years. They hang banners over the balconies so you can see where they are.

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Check out that cool sign the motel put up, too! In case it’s too small, it says ‘Welcome greyhounds and friends’.

People sold from their condos, too

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And there were vendors in the Fire Hall at Rehoboth as usual – that hasn’t changed, anyway! There were stalls selling all kinds of stuff from collars to coats and boots

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I bought some of those boots for Sid. Well, if they can stay on those stick legs, they should stay on Sid, doncha think?   You have to love those cute greyhound mannequins – but when it comes down to it, you can’t beat the real thing, and here’s Phoenix the fawn greyhound trying a blue coat on for size.

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He doesn’t look too impressed, does he? It was very warm that day. But trust me, Phene, when you get home to Canada, you’re going to be very glad of something warm to wear!

One group had some adoptable hounds in the Fire Hall, who were looking adorable and pathetic at the same time. Greyhounds are very good at that, and this one was no exception.

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The good news is that at least one hound was adopted, subject to the paperwork going through unhindered. One has to be careful to match the dogs to the right owners, for both their sakes, so there’s a little bit of work to do, but it seems very likely that one little girlie will be finding her own couch pretty soon. Good, huh?

And that’s what it’s all about. Sure, it’s fun to meet up with a lot of greyhounds and their owners, and spend lots of cash on greyhound goodies, but what we’re all hoping is that the general public will see these graceful and good-natured dogs behaving themselves beautifully out and about in all kinds of situations, and think to themselves; ‘Maybe our next dog could be an ex-racer?’

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There are more pictures to come, some funny, some sweet, and some plain odd. But this connection is just so slow, it’s taken me all afternoon to do this post, so I’m going to stop there, and maybe get a few minutes to visit some of you too.

We’re in Denver at the moment, but we’ll be moving on tomorrow to Aspen. If the road is open!

Blazing sunshine in Dewey, chilly blue skies here, snow tomorrow. If there’s one thing the US of A delivers, it’s variety!

Posted on October 8, 2009 in Uncategorized by Jay13 Comments »

Well, as you all know, I’m away on holiday right now, but I’ve brought a few pictures with me from the archives just so I can do an ABC Wednesday for you.  It won’t be like my usual posts, but hopefully you’ll all forgive me and just enjoy the pretty pictures.

This week is the letter ‘L’, and searching through the files, I found you some lovely ‘L‘s from the city of Lincoln, which we visited earlier this year.   The sky was blue, the sun was bright, and it was a great day to take pictures of the buildings … and this decorative lamp-post, framed against that cerulean blue.

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Or another, standing tall against an old stone building

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Of course, there are other sorts of light – like these leaded lights, an old fashioned type of window, where the glass is made up of tiny panes joined together with lead strips.

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There are more lamp-posts in there, too!

And these window frames are leaning rather prettily, aren’t they?   Especially pretty with the ledges full with boxes full of daffodils.  That should give you a clue about what time of year it was.

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Looking up at the rooftops, I noticed something rather strange.

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I took that picture for that lovely lamp, bracketed on the side of the building, but then I noticed the ladder, leading up to the chimney pots!

Lastly, here’s something unusual.  I bet not many of you have seen a level crossing which cuts across a town’s main street! In Lincoln, the shoppers have to regularly stop for trains.  No-one seems to think it odd, but it took me by surprise.

When the lights flash, the barriers come down and everyone has to wait.

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Once the lights have stopped flashing, everyone can go about their business.

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Thank you for reading this week’s contribution.  I hope I will get a decent connection sometime in the next few days, but I fear it’s unlikely.  So my apologies in advance for neglecting you this week. I will get around to you all again once we’re home, if not before!

Posted on October 8, 2009 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay12 Comments »

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Well, here I am in the good old US of A!  It’s been a tough few days in some ways, and wonderful in others.  The trip over was fine, and we didn’t get blown up or strip searched or anything, though OH is convinced that he’s being followed by the CIA for reasons unspecified.  Paranoid?  Now, why would you think that?

So, we arrived in relative good humour, having got through all those miles and all those security checkpoints just fine – and the flight was easy, the only glitch so far being that the movie we both wanted to watch on the way over (Star Trek) was damaged and unwatchable. The view was pretty, though, if a little boring after an hour or two.

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I don’t know why it is, but whenever we fly, I can almost guarantee we’ll get a seat by the wing.

But then we disembarked, and got through the airport, and we picked up the hire car and drove to the hotel we’d booked into.

It looked so nice on the website. All big and beautiful and pretty.  It had all kinds of good things to say about itself and the pictures of the interior looked great.  When we got there, however, it was a different story.  An indifferent guy on the front desk pointed at the baggage trolleys when I asked for help in getting our stuff in, and when we got to our room, it was … well.  Dirty.  There’s no other word for it .. except maybe ‘decrepit’.  Thick dust along the skirtings and behind the radiator, ventilation grille hanging off the wall, and the windows ‘weatherproofed’ with duct tape.  We complained, got a key to another room, and guess what?  Exactly the same, right down to the duct-taped windows.

So, to cut a long story short, we cancelled our reservation and embarked on a search for a new hotel, in a city where political entourages and business conferences regularly buy out all available hotel rooms.  But with the help of another hotel (sadly full) we found the most wonderful place with great staff, although it was kind of scary to have the lady on the front desk take OH’s credit card, and give his keys to the guys out front, while shooing us into the bar for a sit-down and a free drink. Well, the free drink wasn’t scary, but, you know… where was our car and our luggage?  And that important little bit of plasic?

But it was all alright, and before we knew it, we were ushered up to our extremely comfortable and spotlessly clean room, where a beautiful plate of ice cream ‘birthday cake’ awaited OH, on account of they’d found out it was indeed his birthday.  So, OK, it costs considerably more than the one we booked into, but wow.  Worth every penny.  So if anyone fancies taking out a second mortgage for their next holiday, I can thoroughly recommend the St Regis hotel on K and 16th in Washington DC.

HtlStRgs-800cjsThat’s our room just behind those three flags.  They don’t half flap in the wind, I can tell you.

Oh, yeah.  And the bathroom has an Electric Mirror.  But more of that later.