Sunday, 30 March 2014

Inspirational, Spring, Mother's Day

Jamie Andrew's book Life and Limb, how he lost his best friend, Jamie Fisher and all four limbs in a freak snow storm in the Alps, the on that caused the devastating avalanche near Chamonix in 1999. He takes you through the fatal expedition, near despair and finally almost-too-late rescue. His girlfriend and the other Jamie's father hear that only one of the lads has survived. He then goes through his amputations and rehabilitation, including prosthetic arms with built in ice-axes, I suspect his prosthetists regarded him as a wonderful challenge. Not in the least self-pitying, he’s an inspiration to anyone with difficulties.
Spring is definitely here, gardening in a T-shirt, leaves beginning to explode and a picnic in l's garden today
Finally Mother's Day, I hope everyone was  cherished. We had a joint Mother's Day, late L's birthday picnic. Instead of flowers I had two pots of begonias for the porch, they were brilliant there a couple of years ago, a jar of giant olives and a bottle of raspberry balsamic vinegar for ice-cream, really! I'll report back on it.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Patagonia: Fur & Feathers.

Very hard to choose from the excess of photos, here are some.

Guanacos, with a less fortunate cousin.

Mrs Tittlemouse?

Blacknecked swans, behaving in the away you imagine they should, the first on the ones in Puerto Natales.

Cormorant, with wonderful swimming feet.

Black Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax.

Southern Lapwing.

Moving on to more hilly areas, White crested Elaenia, with old nest.


Upland Goose, I think.

Grey Hooded Sierra Finch, Phrygilus gayi

Patagonian Sierra Finch Phrygilus patagonica.

Lesser Rhea

The lagoon in El Calafate is a brilliant, and beautiful, birding area. A very lucky shot, possible Cinereous harriers, appropriately Circus cinereous

I think this is a red shoveller, but happy to be corrected.

Flamingos, no wellies or croquet hoops!

Rufus collared Sparrow,Zonotrichia capensis

Spectacled Tyrant, Hymenops perspicillatus

Back in the woods, I think, a female Magellanic Woodpecker, the male has a totally red head, but on source called this a Giant Patagonian Woodpecker.

Southern Crested Caracara, learnt to scavenge from trekkers.

House (tent) Wren, Troglodytes aedon.

Austral Parakeet.

Chilean Flicker, we watched him cavorting in the freezing water for some time.

White-Throated Tree Runner, Pygarrhicas albogularis.

Friday, 21 March 2014


I mentioned  FutureLearn MOOCs a while back, so carried away by enthusiasm that I forgot to put on-line learning as another New Thing! I've done "Introduction to Ecosystems" brilliant, not too scary in terms of brainwork, "Deep Oceans", I got a bit drowned in the physics, but the biological side was wonderful, you'd never believe the variety of life down there among the plastic bottles and Coke tins. I've just started on "Moons" A huge amount of information in the first week, but fascinating. I'd recommend anyone with a few hours a week to try one, keeps the braincells active, and has to be better than TV.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

54: Last 5 Books, and more.

    At last, I've finished my 60 books, and a few more, but as I have lots of time I'll keep on mentioning ones I have enjoyed.

    Howell: Daughter of The Desert is the biography of Gertrude Bell, the exceptionally bright daughter of a wealthy family, born in 1868, who became a Middle East explorer, making contact with many nomadic groups, then coming back to work in the first world war tracing missing soldiers. Initially only officers were tracked, there were no records of ordinary soldiers. She then went back to Baghdad working for the government and apart from mapping the whole unexplored area, was instrumental in setting up King Faisal and the first independent Arab governments. She was also friendly with Lawrence. Quite a character for a time when nice girls stayed at home to look after the family. I think my enjoyment was a bit hampered by lack of background knowledge of the politics of the area, but a must for historians.

           Wilson:Art&Science Now Is another book on the crossover between art & science. Lots of interesting  and beautiful images, but in my traditional old fashioned way I wouldn’t call very much of it Art!

Solomon Northup 12 Years a Slave is another bookclub one, I haven’t seen the film but will sometime.  The book is brilliant, a fascinating insight into slavery and the total loss of all freedom, control and self-respect. The slightly old-fashioned language isn’t a problem, just fits with the times. The characters are all real with the quirks you might expect. Even with some knowledge of the subject I was horrified by the wanton cruelty and sadism. How can anyone remotely sane regard humans in such a way?

Jodie Picault: The Storyteller is a brilliant intertwining of strange fiction with the tale of the Upior, a sort of vampire, with the heroine, Sage’s family and rather chaotic life. Her grandmother survived the Holocaust, so there are fairly harrowing descriptions of this. She befriends Joseph who turns out to be an ex-Nazi wanting to be forgiven by a Jew, apparently any Jew, then to die. There are many twists which I shouldn't reveal, but I’ll definitely read more of her books.

Birkhead: Birdsense Someone lent me this as ho thought I might be interested, quite right! It goes through the usual senses from a bird’s point of view, and adds the curious magnetic sense by which they navigate on their massive migrations. It’s easy to read, but not dumbed down, a rare combination and full of fascinating stuff including past misinformation. The South American Oilbird navigates by a series of clicks and echoes, kiwis have a phenomenal sense of smell, and ducks feel for food with the insides of their beaks so can tell what to swallow. Several birds in new Guinea have distasteful or poisonous feathers, the fascination goes on. Read it!

RHS:Botany for Gardeners sounds like my ideal book, it’s good but not brilliant. It’s too disjointed with little bits on botany, horticulture & people, not quite making the grade on any of these. The illustrations are from their huge archives, so mostly old and sadly some are unclear as the reproduction isn’t of top quality. I think it suffers from not have a single author to give a coherent style. There’s an accompanying volume “Latin for Gardeners” which I’ve just started and looks better.

Marsh:Do No Harm has to be compulsory reading for all aspiring doctors as well as those anywhere on the career ladder. He’s the Senior neurosurgeon at St George’s whom I know and referred patients to. He is not much loved by “The Authorities”! The book is a remarkably honest insight into our fallibility. My only criticism is that it could easily have been twice as long and still gripping. Each chapter looked at an individual patient or condition but could have been more detailed. The personal disasters reinforced the idea that doctors really aren’t gods, just people trying to make the best of the cards dealt.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Patagonia: Glaciers

Perito Moreno Glacier, real colours.

again, from the walkways on the hill opposite.

Unidentified glacier from the top of the Loma del Diablo, not really a "Devil's Hill"

On the way to the Viedma Glacier

Water-scoured iron-stained rock on the margin of the glacier.

Craggy shapes on a vast scale

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Patagonia: Fitzroy

Sunrise, the weather Gods' apology for the previous day or two!

Stunning views from the top of the Passo del Viento, the glacier is 25Km long, and for a price you can trek along it.

Fitzroy in sombre mood,

and smiling benignly over "great Playground of the World 83,207"!

The Laguna Torro and Rio Tunel glacier

Patagonia: Torres del Paine area

The beginning of spectacular mountain scenery, Alps meet Lake District.

The backside of the Torres del Paine massif, with the elusive Torres below at the back.

Our first climb, up beside Lago Gray

Icebergs from the glacier at the top end, true colour in the sun, definitely not photo-shopped!

Our spectacular close-to-the-Torres picnic spot. You can almost see the bottoms of two of them through the freezing rain.

After walking down in gale-force gusts they were out again, with flying saucer clouds.