Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Botanic magic

By popular request (i.e. R.), some recent photies.


The routine is to meet by the Silver Gate (pic#1) to start our tours of the Gardens. Next, a downstream view of the trees and bogplants against a mackerel sky (#2), then my favourite old juniper at the base of the rockery (#3). It's quite laden with berries to squash between a thumb and forefinger and sniff deep. Same way a sprig of rosemary picked from an urban garden can sweeten your walk to the shops, if you look out for it on the way. Many junipers are dioecious (with male and female forms in separate individuals), so maybe this big mamma has a paramour somewhere else on the grounds. Photie #4 shows some of the lichen growth on her trunk- a super-organism with a symbiotic relationship between an alga and a fungus and a photosynthetic/saprophytic lifestyle. Using Tudge's 'Secret Life of Trees' and Vedel & Lang's 'Trees and Bushes' (1958), I achieve an approximate 50% hit rate at cold ID of the trees of interest at the Botanics.


These are profuse catkins on the hazel (?) pictured, another clade that's known for dioecious habits. Such tree/shrub catkins you can notice all around if you look, and they're wind-pollinators. It's still too cold in Feb or March for exothermic insect pollination, so dioecious plant reproduction is mostly facilitated by March winds, This strategy has many merits but is dependent upon a sufficient density of plants for successful fertilisation. ome junipers are suffering.

Snowdrops coming on strong. H. says that there's a fragrant abundance in the fields-over-by, and these were those in the Braidburn last week.


Sunday, February 18, 2007


I may not be the perfect parent, but those kiddos raised with their dad are not turning out half-badly so far as anyone can see. For 6 yrs they've spent half-time with their dad's rules at his house and half at mine with my rules, with no obvious ill-effects and only slight differences in house policy. We both want them to explore their potential and encourage their natural academic aptitudes. That's agreed, and neither kiddos are letting us down on this.

In addition, I want to let them become rounded social human beings, learn from adjustive social relations and develop human qualities and skills in an appropriate time-window. If they're caged until 16 (as sometimes seems the ex's model) it's just asking for trouble, misunderstanding and rebellion.

To our credit, their dad and I usually put up a united front to the kids on our agreed goals; loving the kids, doing our best for them as best we know how, helping them develop their talents. That's good, but when there's a unilateral declaration of a policy change without consultation, told to you by your kiddos, rapprochement can fall down.

Dear R. has heard this already at length during our daunder in the Botanics. I arrived like a hissing, spitting cat after the domestics, but once we got into nerd mode, talking about plant reproduction and catkins, admiring the new growth, snapping pickies of the trees, my muscles had softened. She and the Botanics have that effect on me.


Thursday, February 15, 2007


The Big Wan has enjoyed three safe and interesting days in the Great Wen, without (AFAIK) being cottaged, mugged, offered opium, gin or crack or otherwise debauched. He's seen a lot of Lubavitch on the other hand, and maybe learned a little about being a minority. But it's a miracle! He sounds fine on the phone, visited Stoke Newington and Camden Market for tourism, helped Auntie Neez with a poorly Babby Aaron and will back on the 15.30 tonight intact.

Big Wan's London visit is one thread of the possible reasons why their dad summoned a disciplinary parental meeting with me for today. These are called at his request at approximately 18 month intervals, usually deteriorating into defensive/critical and high-emotion arguments on parenting policy. Their Dad maybe should explain more clearly why he is uncomfortable with allowing gradual, incremental social experience for our kiddos, and why (since they're good kiddos) they should be more restricted.

This was the subject for a planned disciplinary face-to-face meeting tonight, but instead we had a civilised phone conversation, to be revisited later. I gather that he has forbidden our wee wan (10 yrs) to visit the local playground (2 blocks away) 'unsupervised' with her three classmates during daylight hours (as I permitted during half-term holiday) and is reticent and suspicious of Big Wan (14 yrs) attending nighttime parties with schoolchums at the weekend. After a year of such, BW's never come to harm so far. Since both kiddos seem disturbingly well adjusted and out of trouble, it's hard to see where the problem lies. But there's the rub.

The Tories requested access to the stair yesterday to deliver leaflets and I put the entryphone down on them. As a believer in free speech this may not have been right-acting, but they caught me at the wrong time (in the middle of a jobbie app) and in the wrong place (my home). Their leaflets are not required since roach for roll-ups is sufficiently supplied from take-away menus. David Cameron can tell it to the Marines.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bad books

Oh dear. I am in several bad books at the moment. Firefox prevented me attaching docs to emails and has now seized up entirely since I updated McAfee. This message comes to you from IE and Bill Gates, unfortunately, but I will seek expert advice in due time to correct this.

Also in the bad books with my conscience, since the glass bottles are piling up in the recycling box indoors. H-who-is-very-good-to-me used to drive my clanking glass to the skip bank at a local supermarket for recycling on her way home, but she's returned to the chalkface now and I'm on my own. Neither jars nor other packaging are an issue, as I save the former for chutney/jam adventures and the latter go in nearby recycling points provided by the Cooncil. But those glass bottles... I can't bear to put them in the bin.

Like smoking in a pub, this now feels pure ASBO. It very quickly seemed bizarre and sightly repellent to see Coronation St actors smoking in the Rovers' Return on telly following the Scottish ban last year. Same for putting glass in a regular rubbish bin.

If your browser is operational, it is possible to access interactive info on local recycling points via the Cooncil website. The posh houses down the street have door-to-door collection, but for local tenement scum bottle banks are thin on the ground. The website helpfully informs me that:
'There are no facilities in your area'
I feel an email coming on, and meanwhile the glass mountain will increase.

At the Cooncil recycling website they supply 'tips of the day' when you log on. Today's suggestions were to drink draught beer instead of buying bottled, and (astoundingly) to order pints instead of halfs to save on washing up. It seemed a little 'Viz'.

Lastly, for today at least, there's bad books from the kiddos' Dad. The Big Wan's Xmas present was to have a 3-day trip to London to visit his Auntie Neez and 'cousin' Babby Aaron, who will be picking him up from Kings X this afternoon. He will not be taking on London Transport single-handed as a teuchter and has been specifically warned against cottaging dangers at Kings X toilets. Their Dad was emanating non-verbal signals last night, though he'd agreed to the trip in December. To his credit he said nothing, but after a 20 year relationship body language and facial expression are transparent. Although there's no doubt I will be blamed if anything goes amiss on this visit, my suspicion is that once Big Wan is home in Hackney, safe and well, his Dad may be able to rein in his free-floating anxiety and pull his horns in. Big Wan was looking forward to the trip and will very likely have a great time, gain a sketchy grounding in skills for navigating and some valuable life experience too.

Tube map courtesy


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Dream diary

Last night were utopian renovations of the flat. I don't know how the builders added on the Kibble Palace conservatory with a sunken hottub and a landscaped koi pond, tiled in blue mosaic and populated with water lilies, but there they were! I don't make this up. Later there was an unpleasantness regarding cars, wardens and parking tickets, but you can't have everything.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

End of an era

H.-who-is-very-good-to-me returned to work this week, marking an end to our Tuesday dog-walking and motivational therapy. H. can drive me to distraction with unsolicited advice, but I'm missing it badly already. It's so much easier to have an external than an internal locus of control. I think the Education Dept. should allow her a secondment to be my personal tutor- to hell with those needy, greedy schoolchildren. This timing is particularly poor because only this month I invested in a Thinsulate hat and padded gloves for dogwalking purposes- only £1 each at the pound shop! Jakeforth, the dog of my folks, will be pressed into service as replacement stooge to justify my strolls in the Braidburn. Unlike Reekster, however, he baulks when the weather is bad. Pussy.

Luckily the dogwalking regalia is coming in handy indoors for the new House Rules on energy consumption. The kiddos are beginning to catch onto 'the layered look' so fashionable in this household. After discussion with Scottish Power, the monthly direct debit has been reduced to only £85 pm (just 34% of Income Support!) pending further meter readings. With a little fortitude, we shall soon be in credit and able to negotiate a reasonable direct debit.

When there are such important matters to deal with as catkins, plant reproduction and three jobbie apps to complete, why oh why does Big Wan's High School bother me with nitpicking letters on my son's dress and timekeeping? I am well aware that he sometimes leaves the house a little late, but tardiness is a dominantly inherited family trait from his father's side. I can no more 'fix' this than the habit of fidgetting, following the same Mendelian pattern. It would be a better use of administrative time to keep me better informed on his test performance, in truth.

Last week was 'Focus on Dress Code Week', when pupils were subjected to compulsory uniform inspections in registration and other classes. You sent home a patronising leaflet explaining that 'pupils, teachers and parents agree' that Dress Code is a good thing, though I do not recall being canvassed. I have no objection to a uniform per se, but the infliction of a collar and tie seems unnecessary and cruel punishment. It is no surprise to hear that Big Wan has been losing his ties and being sent to the Office for replacements, since he habitually wears such as a headband outside of school hours. What other action could a self-respecting young adult take? If you promise to cease harassing me with petty foibles, I will undertake to buy a regular supply of neck-stranglers for him and you.


Monday, February 05, 2007

The Sin of Pride

Progress on the energy consumption problem and almost full compliance with the action points below! Also, because I now use Firefox as a browser, I can see the bullet points in this post that are invisible to IE users.

My victories:
  • RTFM* and repressurised the central heating circuit
  • Moved Cat Services out of the kitchen
  • Called and chaired a household meeting on door-shutting and radiator controls
  • Sourced and purchased a brush draught-excluder for the front door
Her Catness is less than impressed by a transfer of Her food+water bowl and litter tray to the little-used bedroom of the big wan. For a start, She is unsure where to perform her daily fake-supplication rite which (in her smooth forebrain) delivers Her breakfast. Every morning for the last 4 years, She has hassled me into the kitchen so I can witness Her insincere submission when She rolls onto Her back and temporarily makes nice, as long as you don't actually touch any white ventral fluff, when you can expect a smart claw swipe. The human's job is then to freshen Her water and shake the Cat Fud container over the bowl. There should be lots of noise, and later She will wander back with Pavlovian reinforcement of the human role, by licking Her lips and gracing the human with Her presence in the same room.

*Read the Fucking Manual


Saturday, February 03, 2007


In interests of global warming, have been investigating various energy-using appliances in the house. The fridge freezer has a newly-discovered button, but no matter how hard I press it, I'm still not on holiday yet.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Mea culpa

The utility bill from ScottishPower was not a mistake, but reflected genuine overuse through a combination of my technical error, a broken double-glazed window and a cat who hates closed doors. For the last three months I have accidentally had the boiler pumping out central heating 24 hrs per day, through a lack of understanding of the symbols on my boiler's LED menu. That's a serious and stupid mistake. In addition, I lack repairs, insulation and sensible door-closing habits. If you haven't fiddled them, the meters don't lie. On my conscience is ~£300 of excess consumption of fuel and its disgraceful carbon footprint.
  • Action points
      • RTFM* on the boiler after 5 years and understand timer and settings
      • Call engineer about suboptimal boiler pressure
      • Instruct kiddos in radiator settings so their rooms will be heated only when needed (50% of week)
      • Keep internal doors shut
      • Move Her litterbox and food bowls so kitchen door can be closed
      • Insulate the 2" gap under front door
      • Get the fucking kitchen window repaired, no matter what
I thank you, and please learn from my mistakes.

* Read The Fucking Manual


Dream diary

What a night for dreams! Such stormers that I had to change nightclothes twice with the perimenopausal sweats. Those nightsweats are always preceded by dreams, but whether the flushes cause the dreams or vice versa is not clear. H.-who-is-very-good-to-me tells me that nightsweats are exacerbated by alcohol, but I get them worst when sober.

The first one last night had us in a carpark. Carparks feature frequently as allegorical labyrinths, despite the fact I haven't driven for the last year. They nearly always bear a passing resemblance to the old bus station on New Street that subsequently became the Bongo-Club-before last. Last night I'm trying to lead our milling, ant-like party up and out when the kiddos decide to start down through a trapdoor to some Hadean floor below. Cue wakening in cold shivering sweat.

Later, I'm back in a basement flat in Brighton from 25 years ago when hordes of young hippies arrive looking for a flatmate who no longer lives there. I do not know any of them, but there's to be a Velvet Underground gig in a couple of hours so I let them stay and start endlessly washing up after them. There are at least three kitchens filled with dirty dishes, and now the flat has taken on corridors and angles like the basements under the Sick Children's Hospital. I'm developing an attitude problem when I find magical foods in the fridge. The best was a fruit that resembled a pomegranate, filled with tiny granular seeds surrounded in a starch matrix. When plunged in water, the half-fruit expands ten times its original size and fills a stockpot with a bubbling, sweet-smelling cous-cous-like fluff, which I season with jasmine flowers from the fridge. Cue another wakening bathed in sweat as salty as the Dead Sea and cold as the Bering Straights.