Posted on January 31, 2013 in Hounds, Life, the Universe and Everything, Wildlife by Jay9 Comments »


There were quite a few things that made me happy this week, so it was a little bit hard to choose which one to show you. I mean, I know my posts ramble on a bit, and I don’t want to bore you all.

But yesterday’s walk at Ferry Meadows pleased me and made me very happy, despite gusts of wind up to 80-odd miles an hour which nearly had both us and the dogs off their feet once or twice.


The sun was strong and the wind was strong, but it wasn’t too cold, which was nice, and the conditions made for some dramatic photo opportunities. I was particularly happy with that picture at the top – a happy accident indeed!

A rook was poking about in the grass quite close to us, so I went to take a picture of him, but he hopped up to the top of the little bank next to the path where he was silhouetted against the low winter sun. I didn’t expect the colours – but aren’t they fun?

A little further on, I glanced over to the lake side of the path, and what did I see?


A pair of ducks all cosied up in the reeds, sheltering from the wind. Aren’t they cute? This isn’t a breeding pair, but lots of the birds had paired up ready for the breeding season. We saw geese and ducks two-by-two all over the place.

This little fellow was on his own though -


And it made me very happy to see him – or her – I have no idea. Both male and female Great Crested Grebes look pretty much the same. He or she is in breeding plumage though!

They’re not seen particularly often around here, at least not by me (which is why it made me happy), but aren’t they pretty? Elegant little birds.

You’ll have to forgive the quality of the shot, but it was moving fast, partly because it was shy of me, and partly because it was being blown along the surface of the water. And then, every so often, it would dive, and come back up somewhere else!

So there you have it. A fairly ordinary dog walk turned into an occasion for happiness – which is everywhere if you look for it!

‘How to be HAPPY!’ is a brand new meme. It’s about finding the little things in life which bring a smile or a glow of warmth to our hearts and souls during our daily lives. Why? Because it’s the way all these little things add up which truly determines if we are happy people, not the big stuff like a lottery win.

To enter, write a post about one thing which has made you happy in some small way recently – it could be birdsong, a favourite smell, a particularly good loaf of bread, a blue sky, anything! Then scroll to the bottom, click the Mr Linky graphic and add your blog post details to the Linky which will appear in a new window, and you’re in.

If you’d like, copy the badge (up at the top of this post) and paste it into your own.

Oh, and it would be nice if you popped round to visit and comment on a few of the others, too!


Well, alright, ‘Hello, damn great BIG fellow’!

I had just gone upstairs for my morning shower when OH called me.

‘There’s a big beetle here!’ He said. ‘I think you ought to come and take a look!’

Naturally, I abandoned my shower, grabbed my camera in passing, and went to see what he had found. I have him trained fairly well, you see, so now I know that if he says it’s a big beetle, it’ll be a big beetle.

He’d found it when he went to open up the Z3. The poor thing (the car, not the beetle) hasn’t been used lately, what with all this horrible weather, and he wanted to put the battery on charge to make sure it wasn’t going to die. The beetle, which unfortunately had already died, was clinging to the door sill, just underneath the edge of the driver’s door.

And as you can see, it was a big beetle. Very, very big.


At first, I couldn’t think what it was. I’d certainly never seen one before… or so I thought*.

I got one of my insect books and started looking it up. Most big beetles in this country belong to the scarabaeidae, but unless it was a deformed dung beetle – unlikely – it wasn’t one of those.


Could it possibly be a weird kind of cockroach? It certainly had long, fine antennae, but it’s head wasn’t right, it had wingcases, and looking at it sideways, it wasn’t particularly flat – in fact it almost had a kind of keel shape on the underside. Certainly, it wasn’t about to sit very square on the table.


Nope, definitely not a cockroach – they have spiny legs, not feathery legs!

And it turned out that the ‘keel’ shape was a kind of a clue. I began thumbing through the pages and finally found him. Or rather, her. For this appears to be a female Great Diving Beetle.

Now the big question is this: What the dickens was a Great Diving Beetle doing hibernating in a BMW Z3 sports car, when she should have dug herself into the mud at the bottom of the fish pond …. oh, OK. Don’t answer that. I think I’ve got it.

This was a Great Diving Beetle with delusions of grandeur. And upwardly mobile Great Diving Beetle.

Well, at least she tried.  But she’d never have been able to reach the pedals.

* I had seen one. Several, in fact. But usually, they’re clinging to something just under the surface of a pond, swimming through the shallows, or – as the name implies – diving.

Posted on January 29, 2013 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities, Wildlife by Jay13 Comments »


The theme this week for Illustration Friday is ‘Wings’.

Naturally, being me, I had to come up with something a little different, and naturally, being me, an insect came to mind.

This is my interpretation of a crane fly, or Daddy-Long-Legs. Now, as I’m sure all English people know*, crane flies appear every autumn and drift about aimlessly, often getting trapped indoors, where they get tangled up in spider webs. Sometimes they break away, being large insects, and drag bits of web with them. Sometimes they lose a leg or two – or more – because, despite being large insects, they’re quite fragile. They sometimes lose bits of their wings for the same reason.

I drew the basis for this piece of work in a program called Scribbler, then I imported it into iDraw where I cleaned up the edges and the shape of the head and body, added some insect features, and made some adjustments to the legs. Then I added some patches of colour, which I textured using the line tool, and lastly I added a few strands of cobweb.

What I can’t seem to do – being quite new to iDraw – is export the damn thing so I can post it full size, so for now I’ve taken a screenshot and enlarged it, which means it’s not as sharp as I’d like. I’ve got a support ticket in, but who knows when they’ll answer that.

Let me know what you think. Remember this is a learning curve for me and most project will incorporate techniques I’m unfamiliar with, so any constructive criticism is helpful!

* I think I’m right in saying that the insect known as a ‘Daddy-Long-Legs’ is different in the USA.

Posted on January 28, 2013 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay11 Comments »


Pretty funny, huh?

Except that this is a genuine example of what OH and I now call the ‘Fuck You’ culture. This was seen at a local green space provided for recreation, dog walking and as a haven for wildlife, and the only surprise is that they bothered to drop a bag on top of it.

So what possessed them? What can they possibly have been thinking? I certainly have no idea.

It’s all of a piece with the attitude that seems to say ‘if it snows, I don’t need to pick up my dog’s mess’.

Um, excuse me .. Why don’t you? Snow, contrary to popular belief, does not make excrement disappear*.

There is also the attitude that says ‘if I need to change my baby in the car park, I have every right to just drop the dirty nappy next to my car for someone else to deal with’.


As you can see, it’s not even a proper car parking space, and I refuse to believe a taxi driver did this, or allowed a passenger to do this.

Here’s the important thing: when our boys were very young, and they had something to eat while riding along in their buggies, they would always hold out the wrapper to us (it seems to be a natural instinct in toddlers, they love to give things to their parents), and we always took it and tucked it into a bag or pocket to take home, or found a bin for disposal.

But I have actually seen more than one mother take a wrapper from a child in a buggy, and without even acknowledging the ‘gift’, toss it onto the ground. You can actually see the child watch it go, and learn. You can almost hear them thinking: ‘so that’s what you do with it – I can do that myself, next time’. And it’s a small step from a sweet wrapper to a crisp packet to a used nappy. Apparently.

So tell me. What do we have to do to drum some kind of sense of social responsibility into these people?


* OH and I have both proved, to our great displeasure, that dog poop still sticks to your boot even if it was buried under snow. And, of course, when the snow thaws, it will be a more-than-usually hideous wet mess.