Posted on August 31, 2012 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Wildlife by Jay12 Comments »

Each autumn, we seem to have a mini explosion of flying things coming into our house.

Most of the time we try to catch the insects* and put them outside. Sometimes that is quite difficult and the little creatures evade capture for days, and when this happens, they often end up dead, poor things, like this little guy.

No, he’s not a bee, he’s a hoverfly – Myothropa Florea.  You can tell the difference in several ways, if you care to get close enough; for instance, the abdomens of hoverflies tend to be very flat compared to bees or wasps, and they only have one pair of wings instead of two.  They also fly differently, and most of them are silent, whereas bees and wasps buzz or drone.  Hoverflies do mimic bees and wasps because it’s a very useful trick, in terms of survival, to look like something which will hurt you if you try to eat it.

This one evaded capture simply because I hadn’t seen him until he ended up dead on the windowsill, and then I found him (or her – I’m not that good at identification!)  rather intriguing, because while I was pretty sure he wasn’t a bee, I didn’t know which hoverfly he was.  Well, today I tracked him down, using my photos and an online key with some great pictures.  It’s always worth checking across several reference sources, but so far I haven’t seen anything to suggest he’s anything but Myothropa Florea … unless you know different?

Soon afterwards, we had another visitor.  We were sitting in the lounge watching television one evening when we became aware of something rather large fluttering about.  We paused the TV to catch it, but this proved impossible.  No sooner did I get up than it flew into the kitchen and disappeared.  I looked everwhere, walking back through the hall and the dining room, but no luck.  I sat down again, and the insect reappeared, flitting back and forth across the TV screen.  I got up again.  It disappeared again.  In the end I gave up because I couldn’t find it, but the next day, there it was, sitting on a wall in the lounge.  Creeping up to it vewy, vewy, qwietly, with a tumbler in one hand and my trusty postcard in the other, I finally managed to trap it and take it outside.

And there he was in all his spendour: a magnificent Peacock butterfly.

The reason he was able to disappear so effectively in the semi-dark is that the underside of those glorious wings is such a dark brown as to be almost black.  All he had to do was alight in some corner and fold his wings.

Lastly, let me show you my most exciting visitor.

This is one of the hawk moths – a Poplar Hawk Moth to be precise.  He’s a big, handsome fellow, isn’t he?  Sadly, by the time I caught him, he’d beaten himself up a tad and was missing a few scales, but though reluctant to leave, he did fly safely away in the end.

I love those big moths, and always try to get a picture.  Often it’s impossible, because we like to sit with the conservatory door open in the evenings, and while they do come in quite frequently, they usually fly out again without any help.

Some of the notable examples we’ve recently had are a Yellow Underwing, a Pale-Shouldered Brocade, a Swallow-Tailed Moth, and a Lime Hawk Moth.  That’s two hawk moths within a couple of weeks!  The hawk moths are relatively rare and I’m always excited to see them.




* Yes, it’s usually insects – birds tend to fly into houses in the spring!

A short while ago, my dear OH watched an episode of ‘Horizon’. Nothing unusual in itself – he’s always doing it – but this time it proved to be catastrophic life-changing.

You see, it was the episode called ‘Eat, Fast and Live Longer’.  If you’ve never heard of it (I dunno, maybe you’ve been hibernating or somehing), it’s the one where Michael Mosley decides he is very unhealthy and looks into doing something about it.  Apparently, he’d had a check-up and was told that there were things going Very Wrong in his body, according to his bloodwork.

So he set about discovering how he can change his lifestyle to correct all the things that are going wrong, instead of going the orthodox route and taking drugs or sitting on his hands waiting for things to get worse.

If you plan to watch the video I linked to up there, do so now, or be prepared for spoilers!

The result of his investigations is this:  In order to stay healthy and live longer, man needs to fast.  Fasting can have a dramatic effect on our physiology and metabolism and do wonderful things like reduce our blood pressure and cholesterol and heart attack risk, etc etc.  The list seems to go on and on, but weight loss is in there somewhere, too.

OH was very impressed.  He was impressed by the research, and by the persuasive powers of Mr Mosley, and by the possibility that he could, at last, lose weight and keep it off.  Weight is something he’s struggled with for as long as he can remember, and in fact, I’ve seen the childhood photos. There was one particular photo I remember well;  a cute little six-year-old boy, all roly-poly with chubby cheeks and a sparkle in his eyes.  When his mother showed it to me, I incautiously said ‘Gosh, so he’s always been overweight then’.  She stiffened and glared at me.

‘It was winter!‘ she said frostily.  ‘He was wearing a big cardigan’.

And that probably explains quite a lot.

Anyway.  Various kinds of fasting or extremely-low-calorie-intake regimes were discussed on the programme.  The first was not in the least attractive, involving as it did reducing your calorie intake to an absolute minimum every single day for the rest of your life.  We watched as a lean and fit-looking man prepared breakfast; a huge bowl of fruit.  This was off-putting for a start, because my gastric reflux would have me writhing on the floor after two mouthfuls of all that acidity on an empty stomach.

Michael Mosley and I both dismissed that one as unworkable.

Next he tried the ‘four-day fast, once a month’, and the ‘alternate day fast’.  Neither fired either of us with enthusiasm.

However, for his next trick, he pulled something out of the hat which he, I, and OH all thought could work for us.  He advocated fasting for two consecutive days each week, and eating what the hell you like for the other five.  He said that the two day fast allowed our bodies to change gear from ‘full ahead’ to ‘slow down, switch off, and repair’ mode.  He said that all the bad numbers would come down and weight would come off slowly (and paradoxically).  And what was even better, he said that fasting wasn’t really the correct word, because we were allowed to eat a minimal amount of calories during the fast days; 500 for a woman, 600 for a man.  I think that’s grossly unfair, myself, but that’s what we get for being women!

Anyway.  Last week, we began to give it a go. We’ll see where we are after a month, during which time I am conveniently scheduled for a medical review with my doctor.  It will be most interesting to see how my blood pressure fares!  They may even do a thyroid test this time, too, since it’s ages since I had one.

The reason for the title of this post is that we’ve decided to fast on Mondays and Tuesdays.  At the top, you will see a picture of today’s lunch: a bowl of lettuce, three carrots and a few sticks of celery (which OH and I believe contains negative calories, since it contains so few and it’s such hard work to eat it) and nothing else whatsoever.  There is a mug of green tea next to it, which has the benefit of being best served without milk.  Tonight, I shall eat a piece of chicken breast baked in foil with a few cooked green vegetables and save a mug of milk for later in the evening. And that, my friends, will be that … unless I am so ravenous that I succumb to an almond or two (7 calories each) or maybe push the boat out for a single Carr’s Table Water biscuit (14 calories).

I thought at first that I wouldn’t be able to do this, not because of a lack of will-power, but because I thought it would result in large amounts of pain from acid over-production.  I thought my gastric reflux would hate it.  Not so!  So long as I make sure to eat something when my stomach complains too much, it seems to be no problem.  And hopefully, if I can get rid of a little bit of the stomach fat I seem to have acquired in the last year or so, it will be positively helpful.

I’m fairly hopeful, but it would be asking too much for me to actually look forward to the fast days.  I love food… sadly, a little too much.

Posted on August 11, 2012 in Hounds, Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay15 Comments »

… and then events overtook me and it never went live. Story of my life, these days!

I wrote that Sid was feeling much, much better – just like his old self, in fact, but if possible even more affectionate, bless him – but that Jeffie had managed to hurt his leg.

He did it at Brambleberry’s Fun Run last weekend, and it was my fault. I made a couple of stupid mistakes; the first was buying into Jeffie’s own belief that he’s three years old, not ten, and therefore quite able to run with the young things, and the second was letting him do it on the very first run when they were fresh.

Jeffie loved it. He pretty nearly kept up with the two greyhound girlies all the way up the gallop, turned nicely and was doing well and keeping up with them on the way back when they crowded him just a little and he put his foot down wrong … and screamed the GSOD*. However, he kept running, albeit rather more slowly, before coming to a halt and limping back, and the screaming did not continue. I suppose you could call it my third mistake: I believed the old fart when he said ‘I’m OK – really I am, just pulled something’.

It’s the same kennel and rehab centre where Sid goes for hydrotherapy, so bearing in mind that sporting injuries and rehabe are their business, I asked their top guy to take a look. He did all the usual injuries checks and ranges of motion with both his back legs and concluded that he’d pulled a muscle in his thigh, gave me some advice on how to manage him, and I took him home to rest.

And then his toe swelled and he didn’t like to put any weight on it, and because of the hard time Sid had just had at the vet (and really not thinking this was too serious) I took him back to R at the greyhound place and he took another look. This time he could feel a slightly swollen tendon in the thigh, and took a look at his toe and said he’d probably either ‘knocked it up’, which is greyhound-trainer speak for dislocated, or just bruised it, because if it had been broken he’d have screamed when he examined it. In this instance, it probably popped straight back in if it was disclocated – which they can do – so we never saw the displacement. And there was Jeffie’s toe, swollen for sure, but straight as a die … well, as straight as Jeffie’s toe ever had been, which isn’t very. R gave me some embrocation to use and said it should take the swelling down in three days.

It didn’t.

So we found ourselves at the vet after all yesterday, and I found myself coming home without Jeffie because that toe was not merely broken, it was shattered into a gazillion pieces.

And so now I feel as guilty as hell because poor Jeffie had to endure so long with a badly broken toe – not that the daft dog complained much; he still trotted out to the garden ON the foot most of the time, even if he came back holding it up. He still slept like the dead, ate his dinner (as well as Jeffies ever do eat their dinner) and even spun excited circles in the hall in the usual crazy Jeffie way when he thought he would. Heck, he even let me examine the toe at frequent intervals, though he clearly wasn’t overly keen on it being touched.

The upshot of all this is that the vet, having x-rayed him on the spot while I waited, kept him in and his toe was amputated yesterday. This isn’t as shocking as you might think, because it’s an outside toe on his back foot and really wasn’t likely to heal well. Many greyhounds race with a toe missing, and others have them removed simply because of intractable corns. It’s because they’re so bony, apart from anything else; bony, small-footed, and lacking in the usual subcutaneous padding and protection that other breeds tend to have. He won’t miss it.

I have a Meet & Greet to do today – though at the moment I feel like the last person on earth who should be advising potential greyhound owners – and must be there on the spot with my table set up and collecting tins at the ready by 10.30am. Before that, I have to go to the vet and pick up my poor Jeffers and bring him home – where, luckily, OH will be here to look after him until I get home. So really, I ought to get off my lazy backside and get moving, don’t you think?

The drip bag hanging on our back door is to use as a boot to keep Jeffie’s dressing dry when he goes out onto wet grass. At least we got our money’s worth from the £30 cost of the ‘i/v Fluids with Op (incl 1 bag)’, huh?

* Greyhound Scream of Death