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Sunday, 28 May 2017

A Little Garden Pond


My wife Carole, loves the garden. It looks great and when I come home from work and on most days, Carole is in the garden. Often she is doing something or other. She has areas where she has planted various types of flowers. When the summer comes this turns into a rather splendid array of colour.

There is a greenhouse where she nurtures seeds for various other plants. Also tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers. Outside but close to the greenhouse is a section where strawberries, gooseberries, and blueberries grow. We have young trees consisting of cherries, apples and plums too.

Then there is the chicken coop and the duck enclosure plus a wire box enclosure where a rabbit and two guinea pigs live. The only thing we did not have was a garden pond. On many occasions, I mentioned this but Carole did not seem very enthusiastic about it. I thought this strange because one of her brothers works on his pond and various pond plants all of the time.

Then this all changed a few days ago. I was out at work collecting a fly tip from a country lane out in the fenland close to the hamlet of Chatteris. Among the dumped things was a plastic mould of a small garden pond. I looked closely at it and found the thing was new. It had never been used. I put it in the back of the work van but was careful not to put it close to the rubbish bags.

On the way back to the dump, I drive down a small lane where I live. I stopped and took the pond moulding through to the back garden where my wife was pottering about doing her usual thing in her beloved garden. When she saw the pond mould and its new condition she was delighted. I was pleasantly surprised too because I was expecting her to be lukewarm to the idea. I left it with her and continued with my work.

About an hour later she called me on my mobile to say she had dug a hole and place the pond moulding inside and built a rockery around it with the displaced soil. When I got home it looked fine. She had even put the water in.

We left it like this for a few days but over the weekend, we went to an aquatic centre and bought a filter and a pump. There was also a small mould for a waterfall and so I decided to get this too. The filter has a pipe coming from the side and it can spill onto the waterfall mould and cascade down back into the pond where the pump works well and continues to send water to the filter again. We then had our continuous flow of water being filtered properly.

We also acquired various types of pond plant on another day including a water lily. There were other types of oxygenating plants too, but I do not know all the names. I also bought six fish. Three sherbumpkins and three goldfish.

Then on the next day, we bought some ground cover plants to go around the rockery area. This gave it that little bit of a kick-start for decoration. Obviously, it will look better when the low cover plants start to spread next year.

Today we were sitting on the decking looking at the waterfall and the fish swimming amid the various pond plants and we were jolly pleased with ourselves and our new addition to the garden.


I kind little waterfall and a grand place to sit.


     


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

All Out War by Tim Shipman (My Goodreads Review)

All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain's Political ClassAll Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain's Political Class by Tim Shipman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was engrossed in this book from the word go. We go through the whole process of how David Cameron was forced by his own Eurosceptics and UKIP pressure to do his famous Bloomberg speech. What followed next was the chain reaction and the underestimating of the Brexiteers’ ability to put together a substantial fighting force. This combined with events and powerful personalities brought about one of the most interesting political shockwaves I can remember in my 56 years of life.

This book is very detailed and looks at both Remain in the EU and Leave the EU camps and the consequences that brought it about. We also see some egotistical characters in the form of Dominic Cummings and Aron Banks with their different aggressive approaches.

We get a good look at how David Cameron watered down his demands after the Bloomberg speech and then tried to sell it to the electorate, thinking he had got a victory for the British people and his ministers.

Every chapter gives the reader an interesting angle and development as we edge close to the referendum day. It is not for the faint-hearted for it is packed with cunning ways to attract attention, good for one group and bad for the opposing. There are political guerrilla tactics employed as we move closer to the all-important day. This is a splendid and exciting read that lets you see both sides of the campaign including the in-house fighting.

It was a total war with battle fronts comprised of joint party cooperation on both sides. The organised pro-EU government-backed campaign led by the Prime Minister and the wonderful guerrilla adversaries from the Leave camp of Vote Leave, Leave EU to Grass Roots Out or GO. The whole thing is marvellous.

Cabinet ministers taking sides against their Prime Minister and joining opposing party politicians for a greater cause. Opposition MPs joining the opposing government for the pro-EU. This was a civil war at its very best where each side battled to win more than 50% of the electorate.

The amount of work that went into targeting specific categories of people. All the planning and application were mind boggling. This is one of the best political accounts I have ever read and on such an emotive and derisive subject. It certainly gives the reader a deeper insight and appreciation of the work both sides put in. Also the oversights and underestimating afterwards.

I would highly recommend this book.



Sunday, 21 May 2017

Baby Spiders.


As I walked in from my garden, I noticed a cluster of something in a spider's web. I thought it was a crumbled leaf or something. I did not have my reading glasses on so I could not make it out. I muttered to my wife about it as I tried to focus, but I could not make it out.

My wife, who did have her reading glasses exclaimed, "Ooh! They're all moving. They're baby spiders. 

I rushed in to get my glasses and came back out for a better look. Sure enough, it was so. Many tiny infant spiders. I have no idea what species they were but they were all clamouring about as though they wanted to be away from our scrutiny. My wife had also disturbed them by poking the cluster with a tiny twig.

I took out my mobile and had to get a photo. 



    

Encounter With Tiber by Buzz Aldrin (My Goodreads Review)

Encounter With TiberEncounter With Tiber by Buzz Aldrin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this when it first came out. I think it was in 1997 and I'm obviously recapping back almost 20 years.

I found it a little slow at first, but as the story moved on, I became hooked. To the degree that I was turning the pages with great interest and found the book a very enjoyable read. It started with the close future and inventions - even Richard Branson gets mentioned. But then this is written by a man who has really walked on the moon.

We see explorers from Earth going to Mars in the near future discovering remains of an ancient alien race. One that visited ancient Egypt thousands of years ago. The story then has a section that goes back in time. We are taken to ancient Egypt when it's civilisation is being visited by aliens who are searching for a new world to colonise. Then towards the end, the reader goes on a voyage to where the alien's home world is. An effort to make contact with the aliens following information they have collected from the archaeological discoveries of the earlier Mars explorations and the deciphering of the story when the aliens visited ancient Egypt.

There were many scientific and technological explanations throughout the book and much of this went over my head. I would suppose that anyone with more advanced knowledge of science etc would find it all the more gripping. Despite me not understanding some of the technology things, I still found the story most entertaining and I enjoyed it immensely.


View all my reviews

Friday, 19 May 2017

Ratcatcher (My Goodreads Review)

Ratcatcher (Matthew Hawkwood, #1)Ratcatcher by James McGee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The unusual story of a Bow Street Runner in 1810. He is a discharged Green jacket from Britain's famous rifle regiment of the Peninsular War. An ex-officer. He now works in London as one of the new types of policemen and is charged with solving a highway robbery in which a government official is murdered and robbed of valuable information concerning national security.

Our Bow Street Runner (Matthew Hawkwood) is taken into a world of espionage with French secret agents and a villainous American who is making a submarine. The story is a good page turner that is obviously a little far fetched, but hey! We all like a bit of escapism - don't we? Well, this tale had it all and I really enjoyed it. There are more stories to come about Mattew Hawkwood. I shall give them a go too.



C.A. Powell
The Last Days of Thunder Child





View all my reviews

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Shadow of a Gunman (My Goodreads Review)

The Shadow of a Gunman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I struggled with this at first and think somethings might have gone over my head. I enjoyed the hard hitting ending - if it meant heroes and fighters are not always what we expect and perhaps more modest people pick up the woeful tab at the end of the day.

One of the characters is Donal Daveron, a struggling 'want to be - poet,' moving into a slum in a poor district of Dublin. He has a roommate named Seumus. The other people of the block suspect Donal of being a Republican Volunteer fighter. Donal, who is not such a person, does little to refute such beliefs as I think it appeals to the romantic side of his nature. His roommate Seumus, however, has a friend who is of such persuasion.

When Crown forces in the form of Auxiliaries raid the place after an incident with Seumus' rebel friend all sorts of things come into play with Donal and Seumus needing help to take suspicion away from them. Donal is helped by a young woman who is infatuated with him. A lady called Minnie Powell.

I would highly recommend this story. I thought the drama that unfolded towards the end of this tale was very dramatic indeed.


C.A. Powell
The Black and Tan Summer: Ireland's Turbulent Year of 1920


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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (My Goodreads Review)

One Day in the Life of Ivan DenisovichOne Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A single day in a Soviet Gulag/prison out in the freezing Siberian wilderness. We follow political prisoner Ivan Denisovich as he tries to make his way through a normal day at the prison camp, while all around others (guards and prisoners) go through their trials and tribulations. It was a long while ago that I read this novel but it left an impression. It is a story that everyone should try to read - even just the once. It was depressing but compelling at the same time and a real turn off for the glorious worker's paradise.


C.A. Powell
The Last Days of Thunder Child



View all my reviews

Mad Flowers in the Front Garden.



The front garden is allowed to do its thing with mad cascades of flowers. I just planted them and let them get on with it. Sometimes I cut them back and the Red Hot Pokers have been split because the flowers seem to increase each year. Soon the Australian Bottle Brush will come out. Some die off and new ones spring up, but from now until about late September there will be many types of flowers. 

It's hard to image during the winter when it is all bare, but now everything is in bloom, it is difficult to imagine the bleak look during the summer.  

    



Rain All Day for Wednesday. (Now it's Thursday)


It rained all day yesterday on Wednesday, May 17th, 2017. I was in the little hamlet of Chatteris and the village of Manea, emptying all the litter bins. The rain had woken me up during the middle of the night. When I got up at 4.30 am it was still raining. When I got to Chatteris in my work van at 6 am it was still raining. It continued to rain all day and I did not finish work until 5.30 pm. I drove home in the rain. I never knew the sky could hold so much water. It never stopped until near midnight.

My wife said it would do the garden well. I believe her and when I got up this morning at about 6 am to begin my four days of leave, I was overjoyed to see the clear blue sky and the garden looking as though it is getting ready to go for the summer. All the Red Hot Pokers are in bloom and some of the other flowers too. This is just the beginning.

A good downpour of rain is what all the flowers need. I just hope we don't have any more downpours while I'm on my four-day rest cycle. The weather forecast on the news seems good. I'll sit in the garden with some ice cold Guinness to help me get through the arduous relaxation I'm about to apply myself to. With some enthusiasm, I may add.

 



    

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Lord of the Rings (My Goodreads Review)

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this back in 1979 when I was eighteen and I could not put the trilogy down. I absolutely loved this story and became totally engrossed in the wonderful and dangerous world of Middle Earth. I missed my stop on the train several times when reading, during my commute, to and from London. I found corners during my break times to read.

I can honestly say, that this was a wonderful story that made me sad when I got to the end of it all. Sad because I would leave this wonderful fantasy world. In my view, the best ever fantasy saga of all time. It was also great to have read it as an impressionable naive eighteen year old kid. Being spellbound was more rewarding at that young age. This story has a very special place in my heart as I’m sure it does for so many other people too.


C.A. Powell
The Last Days of Thunder Child




View all my reviews


    




Saturday, 13 May 2017

Serendipity Photo - The Swallow and the Water's Reflection.



Sometimes, in a quirky way you get a camera shot and capture a little moment. It's not the clearest photo of a speeding swallow, but if it were a canvas and painted with the still canal water and the reflections, well...?

It might look good with the slight blur and the imperfections. For some reason, this flicks a switch. There were lots of swallows swooping, twisting and diving. I tried to catch them in flight but they are so very fast. In the end, I aimed the camera at the underneath of the bridge and pressed rapid for a few seconds and managed to catch one flitting under. I got several shots but like this one the best. 

I like the water line and all the grassy reed bits floating by and the water line dividing reflection and post etc. Somehow it works, but it was not intentional. It just happened this way on that particular click among the much desperate and blindly clicking away on the multi-frame photo shoot. I was hoping for the best concerning a clear shot of a swallow in flight. I did not get that effect but ended up with something equally as pleasing.


    




Friday, 12 May 2017

An Unassuming Little Place with a Huge and Hidden History



An Unassuming Little Place with a Huge and Hidden History

At the top of this rise, there once stood a castle. It was called Fotheringhay castle. It fell into disrepair during the later part of the Elizabethan period and was being broken down and plundered for stone by 1627. Its destruction date is assumed to be at this time. By 1635 it was declared to be in a total ruinous state and was completely demolished soon afterwards.

By 1603, the Scottish Stewart King James VI was on the throne of England as King James I and by 1635 the second Stewart King Charles I was reigning over the land. This would be a place that neither kings of the Scottish dynasty would favour.

The last English Tudor Queen Elizabeth I had ordered the execution of Queen Mary Stewart of Scotland. The imprisoned Scottish queen spent her last month’s here and was executed on this very hill, where I am standing waving my arms in the above photo. She was the Mother and Grandmother of both Stewart Kings respectively. The place would be of little favour to such monarchs. Therefore no effort was made to preserve the old castle.

There had been a grand hall within the walls and it was in this place that Mary Stewart met her dreadful end. The famous Queen of Scotland was arguably, via Roman Catholic law, still secretly claiming to be England’s queen too and had been constantly trying to form rebellions to win her freedom.

After another plot to depose England’s Queen Elizabeth I, the final straw had come after many years of imprisonment. The Scottish queen had to be removed permanently. It was on the top of this mound that Queen Mary met her demise on a winter’s day of 8th February 1587.

Also, over one hundred and thirty-five years prior to this, King Richard III – the last Plantagenet king of England was born on this very mound (Where the castle stood) on October 2nd, 1452.

Now the mound looks like any other mound amid the English meadows and by a small picturesque English village that has a population of around one hundred people. A distant memory of regal ghosts lost in the splendour and panoramic view of the wonderful Nene valley. As unassuming as the Stewarts were to this historical place; so the historical place is unimpressed by the kings. The pleasant splendour rural English village lives on while the ghosts of past monarchs are barely noticeable unless one is informed.



    



Thursday, 11 May 2017

The Hobby - Little Raptor Over the Fenland.

I had never seen a little Hobby bird of prey before. I mean, in the wild of course. I've seen them in books and on TV nature programmes but this was my first up close and real. At first, I thought it was a Merlin, but once home and looked up via the computer, I could see the little fella was indeed, a Hobby.  





Fenland - Bird Hides - Cambridgeshire, England.

Dotty dog Dotty and my wife Carole at Manea bird hides.

My wife and I decided to take little dotty dog Dotty to the bird hides at Manea today. It was a clear blue day and rather warm. We filled our flask full of coffee and grabbed some nibbles before setting off.

Upon arrival at the River Bedford and the River Delph, which both run parallel to each other, we let Dotty out of the car so she could run her excitement off. Once she had got the pent up energy out of her system we set off across the bridge by the lock gate and walked along the dyke and bridle path that separates the two rivers.

I had my camera and was listening to the various bird song along the way. The rivers reeds were alive with Willow Warblers and Reed Buntings. I was, of course, clicking away with my camera. We walked for a long time surveying all about us.

I saw a Common Buzzard circling over the farmland and tried to get a few shots until RAF Tornados flew over. We passed the first two bird hides and went into the third one and set up our things. We looked out across the Fens once again. The last time we came here with my son Paul, the whole Fen was a giant lake as the River Delph bursts her banks in winter and floods the surrounding pastures.

Now the lake was receded and the fields were back in view. The entire Fen was a lush green where the lake had recently been. The first thing we noticed was a hunting Marsh Harrier gliding low and searching the grassland for the nests of the water birds. The raptor must have found the nest of some Lapwings as these water fowl were constantly try to swoop close and harass the bird of prey. I think it was a desperate effort to protect their nest. The contest went on for some time. The Lapwings would see the Marsh Harrier off, but the big bird would slowly circle the fen and come back low from another direction. I was clicking away with my Nikon D3100 trying to get the best shots possible but it was at some distance.

Carole and I spent an enjoyable couple of hour’s bird watching before deciding to make our way back to the car. That was still another half hour walk for Dotty to stretch her legs a little more.

On the way back we saw a kestrel in the distance and then another come close to it. This other particular bird seemed to be a kestrel too at distance but it did not hover. Instead it was twisting and turning and had a different flight signature altogether. Carol thought it might be a Merlin, but these birds of prey like wooded areas. Then as it got closer we noticed it had a black head. At first, I thought it might be a Peregrine Falcon but it looked too small. Then I realised it might be a Hobby. I managed to get a few great shots of the little raptor as it swooped and twisted in the summer sky. What a smashing little creature it was. Once back home, Carole looked up the Hobby in our British bird’s book and it had all the marks of such. Evidently, the Hobby is a spring and summer visitor each year.

Willow Warbler

Peacock Butterfly

Common Buzzard

Reed Bunting


Then a couple of RAF Tornados put in an appearance.

The once flooded fen was now fields again and the Marsh Harrier was Hunting but the Lapwings were not happy and wanted to protect their nest. They harassed the raptor swooping close in and out to put the bird of prey off.

Every time the Marsh Harrier left, it would just circle and come back low. The Lapwings were waiting.

The air contest lasted for some time.

The Lapwings would not give up the defence of their nest












Lapwings


On the way back, we saw the Hobby swooping, twisting and diving with great ability. At first, I thought it was a Merlin or Peregrine Falcon. However, it was about the size of a kestrel.

Hobby over the Fen






Wednesday, 10 May 2017

A Pony and Trap in Chatteris


I was doing my usual rounds in the village of Chatteris on Sunday morning. I like the village on Sundays. It is so quite and one can get a lot of work done because almost everyone is still in bed. As I was going about my work a couple of blokes came along the village high streets with their ponies and tarps. I've seen them on many occasions and always meant to get a photo shot. This time I did. 


    



Rummy Things on the Drive out to Bluebell Fishing Lake.


Carole on the grounds of Castle Fotheringhay on a little day out in Northamptonshire. We had a wander around and discovered some rummy things as one does when one least expects too. 

It was a place that was very unassuming yet contained many secrets of the past. Richard III was born here and Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded here.

Fotheringhay mound, where once stood Fotheringhay Castle.

Where Richard III was Born and Where Mary Queen of Scots Died - A Little Village Called Fotheringhay


My eldest son, Lloyd and his wife Claire, are planning to come up to Cambridgeshire and do some Carp fishing. They are both keen carp anglers and both regularly appear in national fishing newspapers.

I had to find a place called Bluebell lakes which are just over the county border and into Northamptonshire. Just a few miles west of Peterborough. It was a beautiful sunny day so I decided to find the lake's location before the 26th of May when Lloyd and Claire come up to fish the place.  This was a sort of trial run for my son and his wife.

Carole and I set off in the car to find the lake and we did so with comparative ease, stopping at a service station on the way for a coffee and a bite to eat. As we found the lake entrance and were about to leave, Carole noticed a church tower in the distance. It looked rather grand for a church. More like that of an abbey tower. It was just nestled in the distance among the lush green meadows and the trees against the clear blue sky.

We followed the country lane and passed over a small picturesque humpback bridge into a small typical English village called Fotheringhay. It was a tiny little village with a few thatched cottages, but the name meant something to me. There was once a castle here and that flicked a switch. It’s one of those things about England. The place is steeped in history that many of us know and take for granted. Sometimes things of historical significance are right under our noses and we don’t always appreciate the significance of such.

Behind the road where the terraced cottages stood was a rise and upon this was the church that looked like an abbey but for its small size. It looked as though it had been grand in its time but like many places in England, I assumed the Reformation during the time of Henry VIII may have brought about its demise. This is the usual thing about English county abbeys and churches. There are derelict ruins across the country. However, Fotheringhay church was still in use and had a little of the old splendour about it.

Carole and I decided to go inside and look about. I walked through the graveyard to get a good photo shot of the church and noticed that the arched windows to the front were blocked up and had been for some time, while the arched windows along the side were still there.

Once inside the realisation of where I had heard the name blew the cobwebs out of my eyes when I began to read the notices. It was Mary Queen of Scots last prison and the place where she was tried and executed by England’s Elizabeth I for her involvement in the Babington plot. This small unassuming little place with a population of around 100 people had this historical significance. It was also where King Richard III was born too.

As Carole and I wondered about the church an old man with an old dog came in. He had a staff shaped walking stick and he smiled at us knowing we had some interest in the place. He said he was the retired churchwarden of the place and began to tell us the story of how Mary Queen of Scots came to be imprisoned at Fotheringhay Castle which was a little way away from the church grounds. He said the castle was no longer there but the mound and foundation was. It was at this place where Richard III was born and later Mary Queen of Scots would be tried and executed.

He also said the church was only one-third of its original size and pointed to an architectural design of the original church. Where there had been seven arched windows to the side, it now has but three windows on each side. As suspected it was during Henry VIII’s reformation that Fotheringhay church met its demise and was rebuilt and renovated by Queen Elizabeth I in later years.

Two of the queen’s uncles who were buried inside the original chapel were outside in the graveyard after most of the church had been pulled down. The Tudor queen had the bones of both uncles dug up and reburied inside the smaller chapel that remained.

During the last months of Mary Queen of Scots' life, she was made to live in Castle Fotheringhay because Queen Elizabeth I owned the grounds and it was in a very Protestant area of the country. It was also close to Lord Cecil Burghley’s grand house near Stamford. It was two days from London by horse and coach. Close enough should the need for immediate attention be needed from Queen Elizabeth I.

After listening to the churchwarden, we walked out of the church and headed for the old castle mound just outside the village. We found the place and the only incline of Fotheringhay castle was a huge mound with rough grass steps going to the top. I went up there anyway and looked out over the wonderful meadows of English rural countryside. The small area was where Mary Queen of Scots would have been executed back in 1587. I don’t suppose the late queen looked upon the same fields with the same tranquil appreciation I had.

I was looking at a Red Kite circling the meadow below. Forgetting that such a dreadful thing happened here. Also, the baby who would grow to become King Richard III was born here in 1452. This small unassuming village had been host to such significant historical things and no one would even suspect this as my line of vision swept about the panoramic view following the Red Kite and then My gaze stopped at the church tower of Fotheringhay once again. What a remarkable and unassuming little English village this place is.


If you blinked while driving through the village you would miss it altogether.

The gate entrance to the old church

The Approach

Only one-third of the chapel remains today

Looking up at the church tower




Fotheringhay is the birthplace of Richard III

Also the place of Mary Queen of Scots Execution



Leaving the church and heading for the mound. All that remains of Castle Fotheringhay


What Castle Fotheringhay looked like in the day.

Another impression of Fotheringhay Castle.

Me going up to the top of the mound where once upon a time, King Richard III was born
and again, on another time and occasion, Queen Mary of Scotland was Executed.

The Castle mound, the bridge and the church

The old church still looks grand