Everything has it's beauty, but not everyone sees it. - Confucius
Sometimes the picture doesn't have to be perfect; it's the captured moment that counts. - me
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Friday, 31 July 2009

The solaf......Chapter Five

solaf, continued

Chapter Five

Gemma lay on her bed, still sobbing. Her father had come home from work, and was very angry at the news that had greeted him. Especially after a bad day at work. The last thing he wanted, was to come home to bad children.
He couldn’t understand why Gemma had tore up the garden. And fighting with her brother. Well, she would stay in her room all night. A fitting punishment he thought. And this nonsense about the cat, eating her friend. One thing he would not tolerate was lies. He had tried so hard to be a good father and husband……….but sometimes.

Well, she can stay in her room tonight. Maybe that will teach her a lesson.

Gemma was still sobbing, as she slowly drifted off to sleep. It was now very late; the whole house was asleep. All except rag doll. In all the commotion and confusion, she had been left outside, in the garden. By the pond.

The moonlight was dancing off the waters surface, as she dragged herself to the edge. She peered into the deep murky water. Nothing. She couldn’t believe that the solaf was gone, yet alone eaten by a mangy cat called Crab.
Not a sound could be heard. No movement anywhere. She sat on the stone where the solaf had been earlier that day, bathed in the moonlight, looking like some princess in a fairy tale.
Except this was no fairy tale. This was a nightmare. Her head dropped into her hands. She shifted her position, to get more comfortable, and as she did……..a small stone ‘plopped’ into the pond. It weaved its way downward, from side to side, gently falling.
She gazed forward, and slowly began to sleep.

The stone continued its journey through the dark waters. Falling, gently swaying, watched by a fish, curious as to what this intrusion was in his world, until it finally came to rest. The fish blinked. He slowly turned, and slipped away into the safety of the weeds.

The stone lay in its resting place for a moment, and then slowly slid along the bottom of the pond. Careful not to disturb anything, gently picking its way forward. Finally the stone reached its destination. It stopped; gazing ahead. And there before it, lay…………a solaf.

Lying peacefully on the pond floor. Chest slowly rising, and falling. Breathing. Alive. The stone inched forward again, towards the solaf. Moving closer all the while, until it reached a tiny ear.
Closer still, now just touching. It paused for a moment, as though gaining strength. Then, slowly at first, it began to vibrate. Barely noticeable at first, but steadily gaining in strength and speed. Tiny sound waves began to filter into the solaf’s ear, growing louder with each second.

The solaf twitched. The noise grew louder. He twitched again. The noise was becoming deafening, until……..the solaf sat bolt upright, hand clasped over his tiny ear.
He gasped, and tiny bubbles streamed upwards through the water. Steadily rising to the surface, where they silently popped. He looked around, confused. Where was he? How did he get here? Where was Gemma? He went to call her name, but no words were forthcoming. Just bubbles. Floating gently upwards. He looked up, but the water was too dark and murky to see anything clearly. Just a shadow, by the edge of the pond. He strained his eyes to see more clearly. Something was there, but he couldn’t make out exactly what.

He rose to his feet, looking around him. The small stone was quiet now. Peacefully lying on the bottom of the pond. This would be his new home. He needed to rest, for tomorrow would be a busy day for such a tiny stone.

The solaf began to take a few faltering steps. He felt strange. Floaty. This was weird. He’d never felt anything like this before. He opened his mouth again, and tiny bubbles began to float upwards.
So much to see in this strange new world. But where was Gemma, he kept thinking. And rag doll. Where was she?

He gazed upwards again to the silhouette at the edge of the pond. He still couldn’t decide what it was, but whatever it was, it hadn’t moved. He tried to jump up towards it, but just slowly rose a few inches, and gently fell back down again.
‘How strange’ he thought.
He tried again, and then again, but each time just gently rose, and gently fell. He called out; but just bubbles, slowly rising upwards, and disappearing in the darkness.

A pair of eyes, and a large mouth slowly emerged from the weed.

The fish, wondering what all this commotion was about in his world, had come to investigate. He glided nearer to get a better view. The solaf, completely unaware of this new presence continued his futile jumping exercise. The fish moved closer, eyes locked on this strange morsel dangling in front of him. The solaf jumped, the fish glided nearer.
‘Just a few more inches, and suppertime.’ thought the fish.

‘I’m getting tired of this.’ thought the solaf. ‘One more, and then that’s it.’
He jumped upwards with all the strength he could muster, just as the fish darted forward for the kill.

As the solaf rose through the water, the fish propelled himself forward to where he judged this meal would be, mouth open, ready to swallow this tasty meat before him. The sudden current surge in the water threw the solaf tumbling backwards, over the back of the fish, as it shot forwards into nothing.

It thrashed its tail, making a sharp turn, to head back the way it had come. The solaf floated to the bottom of the pond, bouncing over a large stone, landing behind it. The fish was still. Staring ahead, eyes searching for the prey that had eluded him.
The solaf lay silent, too scared to move. Slowly, the fish inched closer, eyes twitching, scanning for the slightest movement.

In all the commotion the bottom of the pond had been stirred up, sending countless bubbles to the surface. One by one they popped when they reached the top.

And the fish inched ever closer.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Oldies, again

Thought I'd raid the archives again, till I can get some new stuff sorted.
These were all taken during January this year.

A little backlit Squirrel.

A Greylag Goose flying past, on his way to join his mates.

This little Dunnock was a regular visitor to the garden during a very cold spell. I don't see him so much at the moment though.

A visit to a local park found this inquisitive Great Tit,

and his cousin, the smaller Blue Tit, tempted by some nuts, left in the snow.

A freezing cold mornings visit to Whipsnade Zoo, found this Tiger.

And a posing Gull.

Walking on the water. Show off!

And a very cold tree to finish on.

And after a very long day today, I think I'll head off to bed. Early start again tomorrow; and all being well, a fixed computer :)

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Lazy Saturday

I spent most of Saturday doing very little; actually, I didn’t do much at all. I was lazy!

I phoned a bloke who advertises in the local paper, who visits and fixes computers at your home. A Doctor Watson. Seemed like a good idea, and by now I’m climbing the walls without it. Yea, I’ve got the laptop, which has meant the men in white coats haven’t been knocking on the door, but its not the same.
I expected a man in a white coat and stethoscope when he arrived; don’t know why, but anyway, he seemed quite normal; just a small metal case with his instruments of magic in. He probably thought I was the strange one.

He switched it on, watched it do its thing, plugged a little thing into it, and then said,
Yea, I know what’s wrong.
Hail the wizard!!
It’s your graphics card.
He took it out, gave it a clean, put it back, and……………

So he’s coming back in the week with a new one.

So the garden provided the rest of the entertainment, while I lazily swung on the hammock, cameras at the ready, and a bottle of red. I took lots of pictures of the flowers,


Not sure what this is called, but it’s popular with bees and butterflies.
And this Cosmos.

The bits sticking up in the middle reminded me of candles, on a Christmas table decoration. Maybe the wine was kicking in a little by then.

The sky was filled with up to 40 Swifts, circling overhead, screaming as they went. For a while they filled the sky, then flew off somewhere else, then came back. All afternoon they performed like this, and it was great to watch. On two separate occasions a Sparrowhawk or Kestrel, (too high to tell properly), flew amongst them, legs dangling, and being mobbed by the smaller Swifts.
When they had cleared the air space, it was quickly filled by Black-headed Gulls, silent for once, flying around in equally large numbers. They’d come, then return, over and over.
A flotilla of Gliders were out in force too, one after the other, silently cruising overhead. And higher still, various airlines were streaking across the sky. A lot of activity in the sky, including the clouds, scudding along. Some white, glistening in the sunlight, some dark and menacing.
Down at garden level, the Butterflies ruled. Fluttering from one flower to the next, along with the bees.

Gatekeeper. Lots of these.

Painted Lady. Quite a few about.

Holly Blue. Not many, and very active, barely staying still long enough for a picture.
And white ones. Lots.

A very tatty looking Small White?

A Green-veined White, I think.

And then this next one completely threw me.

None of my books seem to have this ones markings; the spots are in the wrong place.
Either a Small White, or Green-veined White.
I’ll call it a ‘White One’ for now.

And the birds?
Well, they were a bit shy while I was outside. A couple of Collared Doves did brave one of the feeders,
till I fired the shutter; then they left.

A couple of Sparrows briefly came down.

This one looked very indignant at me being there.

And for the Starlings, it was business as usual.

Time for a drink at the dog bowl.

And a real poser, this one. Standing like a prima donna celebrity.
Hope I got her best side.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

An update

Yesterday started bright, the sun was out to play, so I took a slow drive to the local, Caldecote Lake. Slow, because the cars exhaust is beginning to announce to everyone its arrival, (if it can hold on for a couple of weeks another car is in the pipeline), and slow, because as I left my gardening job on Thursday, I spotted a little van parked on the verge ahead. Back door open, and a camera crew in the back. I glanced at the speedo, to be informed I was doing 35;
Oops, 30 limit. Bugger!

So, the lake. I was expecting the mate in the morning to come and resurrect the computer from its slumber, so just a quick visit. I fancied taking some shots of Swans; I always find these difficult to capture. I can never seem to do them the justice such regal looking birds deserve.

The overnight rain had still clung onto the grass and plants, awaiting the sun to send it on its way, and this Orange Balsam looked quite attractive, with its tiny beads of rain droplets.

The young birds were out in force,

Lost his red head feathers now, and beginning to look more like an adult Coot.

Young Great Crested Grebe, still calling and following mum everywhere.

Two young Common Terns, with rings, happy to just watch the morning’s events unfold

And a small group of Reed Warblers, waiting for mum to bring breakfast.

And on cue, she obliged.

Mindful of the time, I decided on just a half circuit for now, and made my way to where I’d seen an injured Heron a couple of weeks ago. Apart from his left leg trailing behind when he flew, he looked ok. I wanted to see how he was faring.
And just up ahead, there he was.

Looking rather fit and handsome, despite his injury.

The leg, or foot, obviously still injured, but he was surviving.

And finally the Swans.I’d reached a shady part of the lake, with reeds and willows, and the water bathed in harsh early morning sunlight. And on cue, a regal looking swan swam over to investigate me.

Deciding I had no food to offer, he began looking for his own,

but kept one eye on me, just in case.

Another soon joined him, for a double pose,

giving me an opportunity for some quick experimental shots.

And then, time to go, just as I felt I was getting the shots I was after.

So, the computer.
After much prodding, poking, chin scratching, intense staring, and a few attempts at a re-install from a disc, the prognosis is…………….a new hardrive, and fresh install of Windows. A pain, if you’ll excuse the pun.
The spare drive with Windows on that my mate brought with him couldn’t be connected; my cables were different. Hmmmmm.
It looks to be back to the start, when said gubbings is acquired and fitted in the not too distant future. In the meantime, I’ve still got the laptop to be going on with, and a fair chance that another of our drivers at work, can do some magic on the knackered drive; and recover my ‘lost’ files.
I’m lucky I’ve got some good mates.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The solaf...........chapter four

continuing the story of the solaf...........

Chapter Four

Gemma sat up like a bolt.

Crab, (the cat), had leapt over her, and was pouncing on something by the pond. “Crab!” she yelled, annoyed that he’d spoilt the fun. “Get away!”
Then she realised; solaf. Where was he? Her eyes darted around the garden. The shrubs were lying on the grass, where they had fallen. Rag doll was stretched out, as though crawling to the pond. Solaf. Where was solaf?

Crab had nonchalantly made his way to the flower border near the pond, washing himself.

“Solaf”, she called. “Solaf!” louder now with a frantic urgency in her voice.
Tears were welling in her eyes as she crawled to the edge of the pond. Crab glanced over for a moment, then continued with his washing. The stone solaf loved to sit on was still there, but no solaf. Gemma’s heart was beginning to sink. A tear was making its way down her cheek. Her tiny fingers were searching amongst the plants and stones at the edge of the pond. He was gone.

The tear momentarily swung from her nose, before splashing into the water below.
Then another.

She looked toward Crab. She went to speak, but the lump in her throat was stopping words from escaping. The tears were now cascading from her eyes, as frantic fingers tore at the pondside in a vain bid of search. Her world was collapsing all around her. Solaf was gone. Gemma looked in the direction of Crab, still washing. She tore at the earth in front of her, and flung a large handful at Crab. He jumped, and shot into the bushes.

“Oi! What you doing?” It was Roger, slowly walking towards the sobbing Gemma.

Roger surveyed the scene in seconds. Plants uprooted from the garden, and his sister, muddy hands and crying.

“I’m telling dad.” he said. “What you do that for?” gesturing toward the carnage before him. “He’ll go mental.”

Gemma didn’t care. Nothing mattered anymore. Solaf was gone. Her brother wouldn’t understand. No one would. Nobody else knew about solaf. Only Gemma. She wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand, but they kept coming.

“Did you hear me?” said Roger. “Dad’s gonna kill you when he gets home.”

Gemma turned, looked at her brother standing there grinning. He enjoyed getting her into trouble. Sometimes she hated him. But right now, all she felt was emptiness. She swung her head back to the pond, to resume her search, probing the far edge of the pond with her eyes, looking for any movement that might be solaf. The tears slowing to a steady trickle now.

“You’re mad,” mocked Roger.
Gemma spun round, scooping a handful of earth in the process. In a single move, she aimed and released her missile toward her brother.

It caught him square in the face.
She was both shocked and surprised at her action. And the accuracy.

Roger was too. He stood, briefly, mud sliding from his cheek. A hand slowly wiped it away. It stung. He turned on his heels, running back to the house. Crying all the way.

Gemma went back to her search. But deep in her heart, she was beginning to realise how fruitless it was.
Solaf was gone. She glanced in the direction of Crab’s escape route. He had long since gone.

He had taken solaf. She slumped forward, head in her hands and cried.

Her world had just ended.

Countdown, fingers crossed and archive raid.

Just over 24hrs from now, hopefully the computer will be all better, all my pictures will be back and I’ll be happy. If not, then, hmmmm, let’s not think about that.

I’ve certainly missed not visiting peoples blogs, so I’m going to make a big effort later, and stop by some, even if it takes all night.
I’ve avoided housework like the plague, and not even felt like going out with the camera; but I did do some gardening, and a bit of reading, in between work. Even Jim has enjoyed the extra attention. I’ve also searched through some old picture files that I’d backed up on an external drive, so I’ll bore you with them.

The first one’s from January 2008, then February 2008, March had a visit, last July, and finished off with a couple from last month. Enough rabbit from me, no words to accompany them, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Oh yea, next chapter of the solaf tomorrow.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

A Problem

Oh #*$£!!!!!

My computer has decided to throw a wobbly, and a mate has tried everything for the last 2hrs; all to no avail. It just goes round in a loop, and won't boot up. Dam!!

It means I won't be online much for a few days till he gets me a disc, or another drive, to do a re-install.
He's confident that all the files on the hard drive are ok; just the windows thingy.

Can you tell I'm not computer literate. Aint got a clue what he's on about, but he's confident he can sort it by the weekend. Hope so.

So, this post comes courtesy of an old laptop, dust brushed off, and put into service. Not very good for much, except checking e-mail. I just hope this post works.

If the other computer is completley dead, then I've got most of everything backed up on an external drive, up to the end of June, so not a complete disaster. Sometimes I have a few bright moments. :)
Just the pictures I've taken this month, including yesterday. SOB!

Anyway, appologies again, and hopefully back by the weekend.

I could always do some housework, and.........................nah!

I'll be back; somehow!!

So, appologies for not replying on the blog; or catching up with others posts.

Keith :(

Off to the coast.

I’ve got a couple of days off work this week, so for yesterday I planned to go to the Norfolk coast; call it a one day holiday. I’ve not been to that part of the country in ages, or the seaside, come to think of it.
After much deliberation I decided on Titchwell Marsh, near Hunstanton. Home of waders and other delights. Hmmmm, waders. My ID skills of these are on a par with seagulls. In a word, crap.

Not to worry, I thought, as I headed off bright and early. Five in the morning is pretty early, but not so bright; but I wanted to miss any rush hour traffic through the towns. It paid off; a clear journey and I arrived in just over two hours, quicker than I thought.
And the sun was shining!

One of the star attractions here is the Avocet, and never having seen one before, I was hoping there would be some about.
I made my way past the gift shop, closed, and caught a brief glimpse of a Reed Warbler amongst the grasses.

I carried along the path that leads to the coast. One side is Saltmarsh, and famed for the Marsh Harrier that hunt here, and the other side, reed beds, Freshwater marsh, Brackish marsh and Tidal marsh. In other words, it’s wet, with lots of water; and waders.

The first hide is being renovated, so views were from the path only. Plenty of waders off in the distance, too far even for my binoculars. I turned my attention to the other side of the path, the Saltmarsh.
Plenty of Black-headed Gulls flying about, and a few Little Egret flying along, and then dropping suddenly to the little pools searching for food. The sound of Curlew off in the distance, and then an Oystercatcher, foraging amongst the Sea Lavender.

I scanned the area with the bins, but couldn’t see very much else. Then, way off in the distance, Marsh Harrier. Two, soaring and swooping in the sky. A first for me. Happy with that I carried on to the next hide, hoping that wasn’t being renovated.

In luck. I stepped into a large hide overlooking the water and islands; and waders everywhere. But what were they? My eyes were racing all over the place, and brain doing overtime trying to figure out what they were.
I fired off loads of shots; I had a cunning plan. Load them onto the computer when I get home, and check with my books. The only problem was, I was shooting into the sun, and it wasn’t easy to get a decent look at markings and plumage colour.

This, part of a large group in front, I think were Black-tailed Godwit, ID helped by one that conveniently took off, and flew by.

I suspect some of the others in the multitude of pictures I took, are Bar-tailed Godwit, since they are known to be here. The quality of the pictures though, is such that even the ‘recycle bin’ is reluctant to take them. Oh well.
Dunlin were about in large numbers too;

again, lousy pictures, but almost record shots.

At this point, two old blokes came into the hide, armed with bins and scopes.
Hmmm’, I thought, ‘I’ll pick their brains for ID’s in a minute.’
They settled down, eventually, and one enquired the famous birders phrase, ‘Anything about?
Before I could answer, he added, ‘only interested in little stuff.

Little stuff? ‘Don’t think so’. I said.

I’ll ask later, I thought, as they carried on their conversation.
‘I think I’ve got a Curlew Sandpiper.’ said one.
His mate looked through the scope, ‘No, it’s a Dunlin…….. I think.
A similar conversation ensued for a while, around various ‘I think’ birds, and ‘no, I think’ birds.
I decided not to seek their expertise, deciding my ‘cunning plan’ was the better idea.
Bill and Ted left shortly after, to continue their Excellent Adventure.
I stayed a while; racking my brains.
Eventually I made my way back to the coast path. More ‘gulls’ flying overhead; well, I was near the sea, and then I saw………
An Avocet. I recognised this one. Another first. And a youngster too.
My spirits began to lift a bit, and then went higher as a Marsh Harrier flew almost near enough for a picture.

I did say ‘almost.’ A record shot, the ‘bin’ isn’t having.

Back over on the Saltmarsh a Wren was singing for all he was worth,

but stopped when I started to take his picture. And back on the other side, the adult Avocet made a spectacular landing,

and promptly chased off a Lapwing,

who must have been too close for comfort.

Up ahead, Bill and Ted were searching for Sea Eagles.

I expect they saw some eventually.

A Painted Lady dropped down on the path ahead of me,

just long enough for a quick picture, as I made my way to the beach.

Swallows were flying overhead, and as I neared a small footbridge, one settled just in front.

He sat patiently as I inched my way nearer. A young one, being urged on by the rest of the crowd overhead; but he fancied a brief rest for now. I managed a few more shots as I got closer,

and then he decided to join his family.

I carried on to the beach, and the bracing sea air and breeze.

There were birds. Miles away. I turned back, and retraced my steps, planning my next stop along the coast.