Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Heat

Some musings about the current heatwave:

It is wonderful weather, a stable anticyclone like we have not had for several years. Have you heard anyone say "anticyclone" in the past week? I doubt it. Weather forecasting (a.k.a. meteorology) has been simplified for the masses. Now the TV presenters are told to say "partly sunny" instead of "partly cloudy" so we don't get depressed.

The government is determined to tell us how to survive the heat here at home. Does anyone queuing for a flight to Malaga or Faro ever get similar warnings about the weather there? Of course not.

It is possible that this recent hot spell will continue for the rest of the summer. The jet stream is at high latitudes, the earth is warm, the ocean is reasonably warm. Of course, there will be showers in between the good spells but that is what keeps the countryside looking green.

The water companies are getting into hot water with every dry, rainless day. The regulating authority plans to "fine" Thames Water £140 million for providing poor customer service. The proceeds of the fine will go to the Treasury. In other words it's a tax! Thames Water will have less funds available for customer service. Methinks there are toasted brains within the government (they're not heeding their own warnings!)

Next February we will wish the weather was always as hot and sunny as it is today!

Introducing Fray Bentos

Several fellow Flickr-ites have had a profound effect on my photography, influencing changes in the way I see things or simply introducing me to new techniques, such as HDR. But one individual, Fray Bentos, has opened up the past. His pictures are of great historical and social value and are worth a detailed look. His descriptions and the discussions that often follow make for fascinating reading, for Flickr isn't just a photo sharing site, it's also a forum to discuss almost anything! Mr. Bentos was scrupulously detailed in his photography and dated every photo he took - to the day!. That was years before the EXIF file format was even dreamed about!

As a result, I have been scanning old photos from a similar era (I would guess we are close to being the same age) and recently found this one of my mother and I disembarking from a Douglas DC-3 at Ronaldsway, Isle of Man in 1953. It was my first flight. Notice how we dressed up to fly in those days! No shell suits for us!

Disembarking at Ronaldsway, Isle of Man, 1953

Monday, July 17, 2006

Peregrine Falcons

The East Devon coast is home to a number of pairs of peregrine falcons and it is generally agreed that there is now a sustainable number of breeding pairs along the cliffs. This is indeed good news. However, there are problems as I found out during the past week.

Peregrine Falcon

The photo above was taken with a 120mm lens on the D200, not an ideal set up but it was the lens on the camera at the time. As the description of the photo says, I needed my 300mm lens. Next time!

Except there won't be a next time. About a week ago, birdwatchers reported sighting a dead chicken chick corpse in the eerie and no falcons. Since then the breeding pair and their chick(s) have completely disappeared from Lower Dunscombe Cliff. No-one has had a sighting.

Possible explanations are, of course, the discussion point among binocular and telescope carrying folk. I have spoken to several retirees and they all confirm that in World War Two there was a systematic government campaign to remove peregrine falcons from the Wye Valley as they were destroying carrier pigeons conveying uncoded secret documents from South Wales to London. The Symonds Yat area of the Wye Valley had the largest concentration of falcons and they were systematically wiped out in a bizarre effort to help the war against Hitler.

It turns out that this piece of history may be related to the presence of the dead chicken chick. Local pigeon fanciers have been thought to be responsible for poisoning a breeding pair at Exmouth so it is quite possible that this is what has happened at Lower Dunscombe. A deplorable situation if it's true.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Portugal on penalties AET!

I don't know why I felt anything at all before, during or after the "quarter final to end all quarter finals". Perhaps it was all the hype. Perhaps it was the image of the WAGs on their shopping trips (the most significant and blatant advertisement for consumerism I have ever seen). Perhaps it was because I knew that England could only perform the way they did under a wet fish manager like Sven whats-his-name. Perhaps it was because I knew Rooney* would lose it and be sent off. Perhaps it was in the stars. Whatever.

So I managed to watch the stalemate up to the point Rooney was sent off. This would surely trigger a ploy by England to go for penalties, I thought, so I took the opportunity to go to the local supermarket. Which, of course, was empty. I returned in time to see the end of extra time and sat down to see if the "boys" could score more penalties than the men from Portugal. They were pathetic. Only the much maligned Hargreaves (England's man of the match) could put one in the net.

And so the balloon was pricked, the bubble popped, the hype shown up for what it was. The real losers? Why the fans, of course. They deserved better. Much better.

* If Rooney can ever live down his groin stamping temper tantrum and finally reach adulthood, and if his manager can use him where he should be used, he has a future. Only time will tell but for now he is one overpaid little thug.