Unintelligent Design

July 21, 2009

It takes a lot of effort, if you’re a very small rabbit on a wide(ish) and open road, to get run over by a bicycle, but the one I met the other day almost succeeded. Only my managing to second-guess its wild jinking straight into my path meant it didn’t end up squashed alongside its three or four more determined friends on the road.

You’d think that a century of carnage on our roads, combined with the legendary breeding turnover of a pair of rabbits, would have led to the evolution of a brighter bunny. You would be wrong. Explain that one, Mr. Darwin…

Plinth of Darkness

July 20, 2009

There are times when I do miss London, and this is one of them – not just because of the weather, but because I would like to be down in Trafalgar Square watching this. I’ve been dipping in on the web feed rather too often as it is (although I always seem to catch the point where one plinther finishes and another one starts so it’s a lot of people rummaging around in bags and announcing to the waiting world that they’ve forgotten some vital prop). Some of it’s boring, some of it’s fascinating, some of it is plain bizarre (man dressed as godzilla playing swingball, anyone?) and if Antony Gormley wanted to reinforce the stereotype of the British as a nation of eccentrics he has done so in spades. (There’s a woman in a pinny cleaning it now). For me, the best turns have been the ones where people have something to say, and have thought of an interesting way to say it; the least involving ones have been the ones who just text their friends (‘I’m on the plinth! It’s rubbish!) and the chap who was writing a book. Believe me, I already know how tedious that one can be…

Last night I watched almost the entire hour of this chap, who was blowing up balloons to illustrate greenhouse emissions per head as the sun rose over the square. What made it fascinating was not so much the ideaor the execution but the random passer-by – back from a night out with his takeaway in his hand – who stopped to ask what was going on. After a quick briefing from the (very knowledgeable) plinther – the whole subject seemed to have escaped him up to then – he was up to speed with tipping points, positive feedback loops, carbon budgets and the like, and he stayed until the end, his takeaway forgotten in his hand. At one point, I caught the following exchange:

Random Passer By: So what can I do about it?

Chap on Plinth: There’s not much you can do as an individual. You need to lobby your politicians to act

RPB: It’s up to the politicians to save us?

COP: Yes

RPB: I’m drunk, and it’s four in the morning, but even I can see that’s not going to end well…

You can catch up with this, and all the others here. Be warned, though – it can be strangely addictive.

How do they KNOW?

July 19, 2009

7:15 Wake up. Brilliant sunshine

7:15 – 8:30 Coffee, breakfast, shower. Still brilliant sunshine.

8:45 Sky a pure, cerulean blue. Rashly put on shorts

8:46 First hazy cloud appears.

9:00 Load washing machine with bedlinen

Sun goes in

9:59 Washing machine finishes. Venture out onto front step with coffee and Review section of paper to enjoy return of sunshine and work on farmer’s tan while sheets spin

10:00 First rain falls.

It’s the precision of it that gets me…

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

July 17, 2009


Something’s been busy in my garden (and it’s not me)

I think it may be this chap. And his many friends…

This is the downside of butterflies, I suppose. But it would be nice to know what butterfly it’s going to grow up into before I take any drastic action. After all, it’s all biodiversity, and I didn’t like those plants very much anyway. I’ve tried looking here, but to no avail. Any ideas?*

*Some people might call this lazy blogging. I prefer to think of it as crowdsourcing.

I shall Call it Winston

July 16, 2009

There are days when cycling suddenly becomes effortless: flying up hills that you could only previously crawl up, speeding along in the biggest gear. You think, in your vanity, that it is you – your new exercise regime, your newly trim figure, your increasing fitness. Or perhaps it is your shiny new bike, or even this piece of freshly laid shiny new road before you. Whatever it might be, you wing along with a song in your heart, faster and further than you have ever gone before.

And then you turn around to go home, and discover that it was, in fact, a tail wind.

And now with Pictures

July 14, 2009

I’ve been cycling round the country looking at the dykes with a fresh eye these last two weeks. I knew there was an art to walling, but what I hadn’t realised was that there’s a fairly complex internal structure to a drystone dyke – it’s not just a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle in which each stone has to be placed just so. This makes it easier, in a way; the real skill is the speed with which the experts can do it, and their ability to see just the right stone for the gap in hand. (I did ask the guy teaching us if he played much Tetris but he just looked blank. I’m guessing he doesn’t get much fun out of doing jigsaws either).

Anyway, I promised you an explanation, so here’s what we did:
First demolish your wall. Note that on my side of the wall, the stones are neatly piled up by type as instructed. Whereas on the other side of the wall, there’s a great big pile of rocks

The first full course of doubles done.
The through stones in, half way up the wall.
Almost ready to put the covers on. This shows the structure of the wall really nicely
The copings on, and filling in all the little gaps to make sure it’s solid. Strange how there’s always some stone left over …
Et voila. Six volunteers and one expert have done as much wall in one day as the expert alone could probably have done unaided in about an hour. But a thing of beauty and a joy forever* nonetheless.

You can find out more here.

*or for somewhere between five and 150 years, depending on how well we did, anyway

This Time it’s Personal

July 13, 2009

bird_poo‘You know, those birds aren’t sitting on the wire and crapping on the car,’ the other half said.

‘No?’ I asked, a little sceptical.

‘No,’ he said. ‘They’re flying about three feet over the car, slowing right down to just above stalling speed, taking careful aim…

‘And then they’re crapping on the car.’