Thursday, September 17, 2015

Counting Hours

In addition to keeping a tally of how many dives a diver has made, one is supposed to keep a tally of all the hours spent under the water.

I have been very good about logging my dives and keeping a record of how many dives I have made.  I record the time, date, how much weight I have put on my weight belt, who I am diving with and where.  I then use up the rest of the page describing the dive and what fish I've seen. A record of the total hours under water, not so much.

As I work toward my master diver award, I have to count up all the hours I've spent under the waves.  I did have a record of the hours a few years ago when I was becoming a branch instructor.  I had vowed then that I would be much more conscientious at keeping a tally of the total hours under water.  Like many resolutions before it, I it slide.  

Dragging out all the diving log books I have ever used this morning, I paused.  
I love taking a good long look at the pile of dive logs and their wrinkled from damp pages with the very important things to be kept safe, stuck between the pages. . . . brochures from dive companies we have used, spare i.d. photos and even a plastic Red Sea fish identification guide that was purchased on our first trip to Egypt.

What a lot of lovely memories are logged in these books. I treasure them.  They are a record of my consuming hobby.  My first enthusiastic but short dives off the coast of Skiathos when I didn't know the names of any of the fish and went through my air so quickly.  There is a record of my decision to start diving at home in the United Kingdom.  I realised that I didn't know nearly as much about diving as I thought I did and then there was the getting to grips with diving in a dry suit.  

The dives this March near the border with Sudan were much longer as I'm so much better at air consumption.  I saw dolphins and sharks on the same dive and I knew the names of most of the fish I saw.  

I recorded when I was shown my first nudibranch in Menorca, when I managed to get over an hour on a twelve litre tank of air and when I got to watch a spotted dogfish digging in the silt in Loch Fyne.  I recorded my first frightening night dive and compared it to the last enthusiastic night dive I had.  

My diving has brought me so much joy and I'm glad I've got a record of the journey.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Hard Year

I haven't been posting on my blog this year for a number of reasons. . .. Mostly, it's been a hard year for me.   It hasn't always been horrible.. . .

On the 31st of May, Rory Atlas Denson was born.  Another grandson!  He is a delightful infant, full of smiles.  He sleeps well, eats well and thinks the ceiling fan is the greatest thing ever.

I have had a whole bunch of work related drama . . . which I will not go into.  I do however, have plenty of time to write on the blog now.

The birds have had a hard year as well.  I have noticed that the sparrow bounty we enjoyed last year has not been repeated.  There are far fewer sparrows.  No visits from jays, redpolls OR red squirrels.

We haven't seen a red squirrel since January.  Please compare and contrast these two photos.  One is from this blog in 2006 and the other was taken this morning.

There are far fewer swallows this year.  We have picked up three dead fledglings in the shed over the summer.  The summer has been rough for a lot of birds.  Too wet and cold.

When walking I looked over the blackberry patch.  The berries are still hard and green.  Some parts of the patch still have blossom instead of berries.  It looks as though nothing will ripen before the frost comes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Love of Spring

Right after the first time we cut the grass this spring, we had snow. My initial reaction was disbelief.  Then I realised that it is spring.  This happens. It's rubbish, but it happens.

Now I've cut the grass two more times.  Nothing harsher than a spring frost since.  

Yesterday and today have been a delight as I spend time in the garden.

I've started digging the vegetable plot.  If it stays dry tomorrow, I'll actually get it finished and ready for planting.

The little greenhouse is all tidy and ready for the little tomato and cucumber plants to be stuck in there.  I can't wait for homegrown tomatoes!!

I heard the cuckoo calling yesterday as I pulled marsh reeds from our garden.  Returning swallows flew past.   Our swallows aren't here yet, but I've seen others flying over.
orange tip butterfly

pied wagtail

longtailed tit

Zebra spider (a jumping spider)

Here are a few visitors to the place (everybody does gardening with a camera in their pocket, right?

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Night Dives

I was really unsure about them at first.  Afraid of the dark, but underwater.  Now I love them.  I may even prefer them to daytime dives.

Giant moray going out on a hunt
I love how the daytime fish go find a hole in which they can spend the night.  Parrotfish enrobe themselves in a bubble to protect their fishy scent from attracting the patroling moray eels and sharks.
remnants of a parrot fish's mucus bubble
On morning dives, we will sometimes come across the remnants of those mucus bubbles.

Feather stars starting the show
The feather stars come out at night as well.  They look like an underwater Las Vegas floor show!
basket star
 Basket stars are even more amazing.  I keep having to remind myself that they are animals, not plants.

The man of the place and I had one particularly great dive at dusk during our trip.  We saw dolphins and sharks almost at the same time.
bottlenose dolphins

silky shark

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Diving Again!

So, I wasn't just ignoring my blog again after promising that I would be much more faithful about writing.  I was out of town!

Google Map view of where we were

I was in Egypt doing some dives with The Man of the Place.  We were also there to visit George who has been there since December.  He has had some time to establish himself down there with a bit of credit.
Tracy, Luke and George

 We thought we'd undermine that.

Tracy in charge of two goofs
We tried to keep the safari trip as a surprise for George but he inadvertently found out.  We took him away from his dive guide and desk duties for a week and went on the boat Emperor Asmaa.

The ship's route was the southern Red Sea near the border with Sudan.  There are exquisite corals and pristine dives to be had on this route.

Someday, I'd love to dive in the Red Sea further south in Sudan but I can't the political climate won't allow it.  I'll just have to wait here until there is peace.

Yes, we saw sharks.  We saw white tipped reef sharks, oceanic white tipped sharks, grey reef sharks, and silky sharks.  We also saw some bottlenose dolphins and loads of moray eels.

Two firsts for me were smaller, less glamorous fish.  I knew what I was seeing as soon as I saw them! I certainly wrote notes in the margins of my field guide and lots of exclamation points in my dive log.

I saw the exquisite Oranghead butterflyfish - Chaetodon lavatus
Orangehead Butterflyfish - not my photo
and the Whitehead butterflyfish - Chaetodon mesoleucos

Whitehead butterflyfish - not my photo
Both were seen toward the end of the diving holiday and I was thrilled to see them.
Another treat was this little sea slug or nudibranch, the Red Sea Nembrotha.
Red Sea Nembrotha - Nembrotha megalocera
 It was right on the sand just as I was descending on the first dive of the day.  I know this isn't very exciting to non-fish nerds so here is something exciting!
The Man of the Place and I did a dive at dusk.  The daytime fish were going to bed, the anemones were curling up and the nighttime creatures were starting their day.

The first exciting thing happened when my husband was pointing out something to me and two bottlenose dolphins swam right under him.  "Never mind about the fish, DOLPHINS!"
bottlenose dolphins

Silky shark in the distance
Literally a minute later two silky sharks swam by!  That was about the extent of our shark encounters this trip.  Sharks swam by us with no interest in us whatsoever.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bird Ringing Demonstration

Because my good friend Sybil came out and helped ring our baby swallows, I have been made aware of what the British Trust for Ornithology or BTO does to track birds in the UK and Europe.

I found out there was a bird ringing demonstration at a local wildlife reserve.  It was a dry and bright Saturday morning and I went along with my camera and binoculars.

I was familiar with the basics of putting rings on birds.

Set up mist nets where you think birds will be
Mist net
Catch birds in a mist net and put the birds in a clean, cotton bag.  One bird per bag please

Coal Tit with next bird in a bag
Get blackbirds out of the mist net immediately as they can get their tongues caught in the nets and be double tangled.
Male Blackbird getting measured
2. Weigh them and measure wings. Try to determine sex and age.
Reed Warbler getting wings measured
3. Write all the information down
Male Chaffinch getting inspected
4. Put a numbered ring on the bird's leg and add that number to the information
Robin being documented
5. Let the bird go

I was there for over an hour watching them pluck birds from the nets, talking to other people and inspecting the area.  I had a good time.  The staff and volunteers at the reserve are charming.  You know what?  They know their birds too.

The club that rings birds was ringing the birds was separate from the reserve itself.  I have tried to convince them that they should come out to our place and ring the visitors to my feeders.  Turns out they are really busy and have plenty of gardens available.  My little birds are competing with the Bass Rock gannets and the puffins at Ailsa Craig.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Grandsons are perfect!

Grandmotherly pride has been restricted to social media for almost the last two years.  Highlights have seeped onto the blog when my exuberance overflows.  Today it bubbles over again.

Lennox who lives in Chicago is going to be two next month.  He will be two freaking years old on the 10th of March!  I sure wish I could be there to celebrate with him.

He has grown to be just exactly what I expected, extremely bright, gifted with just a dash of precociousness.  He is such a good-natured little guy and he charms all he meets.  He loves to sing and bend his family to his will.

Big help with cooking!
Lennox also loves to cook.  It is adorable to watch him sprinkle imaginary spices into what he is creating.

Jack, the Scottish grandchild follows with his second birthday in April.
Look at this cherub!  Those curls have wrapped right around my heart.

He is also quite advanced for his tender age.  Look, if you think I am going to be even slightly restrained when it comes to my grandchildren, guess again.

Jack has the most wonderful sense of fun and a tiny flair for drama has been poking through.  He is also showing signs of being a tidy and organised little child.

I am so very very happy that my life includes these two beautiful children.

The thing I discovered when I became a mother myself is how ferociously you love your child.  I discovered when the second child came along that love expands to fill the need.  You don't love your first child less because a second one has showed up, your ability to love grows to encompass the new child.  The genius thing is that it works over and over again.  I have yet to run out!

This is brilliant because it is going to need to grow again!
I am making this baby quilt for the grandchild that is expected to arrive in June!  Each child has had a quilt from Nana.   Lennox's mother selected the colours with me for this project.  I have finished the top and am now at the very long and involved process of hand quilting it all together.

There are loads of squares left over from this quilt and the two that I made before.  It was suggested that I make a Nana's quilt out of these.  That's a brilliant idea!  I think I'll be making up the blocks soon!  Here's the big question though. . . . when I do stop?  If I complete it and then "surprise" another is on the way. . . this child's quilt will not be in the Nana quilt.  I'll worry about that later.  I have sewing to do.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Record Collector

The Man of The Place is a committed vinyl junkie.  He has a large and diverse record collection that is the work of a lifetime.

It was obvious a few years ago that the shelves that he built in 1992 were no longer enough.  We had small stacks of records on the floor leaning against the shelves as there was no more room.
There used to be room, but over the years, that shelf space shrank.  To prevent records from being squished, an annex to the shelves was made.

As you can see, to the left there was a bit of space for the shelves to stretch out.

Now the shelf annex is done and the records are off the floor.  Look!  There's space!
This means that there doesn't have to be a lull in the acquisition of more records.  Not that there ever was.

Yesterday we found ourselves in Stirling dropping Polly off to have her knee fixed.  After saying goodbye to our dog we trundled to the centre of town and Europa Music.
The front of the store looks like every music store that I've been to before. In addition to CDs there are Beatles mugs, band t-shirts, bongs, etc.  The USP that draws my husband is the back room.
This back room is not the place to go if you are hunting for a specific album.  It is a place to flick through stacks and stacks of cool but unsorted records to find one that you don't have and have always wanted.

Here are a few action shots.

The 45s under one of the tables - Notice there is somebody's old 45s carrying case that was exclusively for Status Quo singles.
Over in the back is the World Music...stretch!
He has a recurring dream in which he is in a record store just like this.  A bit of a jumble and there are boxes of records that are undiscovered gems.
In this dream,  The Man of the Place gets a dusty box down and discovers a single with a picture sleeve.  It is REM doing a cover version of The Crusher by The Cramps.  At this point he is woken and the thrill of discovery swiftly changes to sadness.  It was all a dream and REM never did a cover of The Crusher. 

I asked if he liked having somebody in there with him.  This way he could have somebody with him when he finds a brilliant album "Look at this!  I used to have it, but the first wife kept it during the divorce." or if he preferred to be by himself.  

He thanked me for my sensitivity but this flipping through records activity is really best done alone.  

I took the three that had already been selected up through to the front of the shop.  I told the staff that these were for the vinyl junkie in the back room and that if or when he surfaced, I wouldn't be far away having my lunch.  It felt like record collector day care.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Good Insulation!

We had snow last night. This afternoon when coming back from work we were delighted to see so much snow still on the roof.

Having looked out the window this morning, we still have loads of snow up there.

This means - we have the right amount of insulation!

I love living here.  The few snowy days that we get remind me that we are very very fortunate! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Personal Uniform

When it comes to winter clothing, I have developed a uniform.  Long sleeved black turtle neck sweater and jeans.  I wear this almost every day.  If it is colder than normal, I will add an additional sweater.  If I'm going out, I put on some lipstick, put in earrings add a scarf and I'm good to go.

Last month, Henry asked if I wanted to go clothes shopping. Perhaps he was worried that I had been wearing the same thing for a bit.  I took pains to reassure him that I have more than one black turtle-neck sweater and wasn't wearing the same garment every day.  I'm actually okay for clothes.  I have plenty.  In fact, I have more than I need. Because I have decided on a regular winter wardrobe, there are a lot of winter clothes that may never see the light of day again.  They'll be going into the local charity shop drop box soon.

The summer wardrobe is much more colourful as I have not formulated an opinion on summer clothes yet.  Despite wearing black a lot in the winter, I adore colour. Wearing bright orange in the summer makes me happy even if it isn't flattering.

I never made a conscience decision to just wear black turtle-necks.  It just grew over time.  Now years on, I have four or five  (I think...I've never counted).  Knowing what I am going to wear every day, takes the guess work and trauma out of getting dressed.  If one gets dirty while cooking or if I slop something on my front, I just change into a clean one and keep going.

I realised last week that Steve Jobs also did this and delving deeper there are others/  It does just release you from so much of what the fashion industry throws at a person. Find what you like, get a bunch of them and just wear that.  If you like it and are convinced that it is a flattering garment then . . . . then nuts to everything else.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Birds Birds Birds

When I first started this blog many years ago, I wrote a list of the bird visitors to the place.

Here is the list for 2014

Chaffinch - most common and frequent visitor to the garden
female chaffinch

Blue tit
Coal tit
coal tit
Great Tit

green finch

male pheasant

male Siskin

House sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Tree sparrows

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Tree creeper
Wood warbler
Wood pigeon
Stock dove
Pied wagtail
Grey wagtail
Collared dove

Tawny owl
Barn owl
Barnacle goose

trio of red sqirrels
 We also had visits from red squirrels.  I love them too!

 We've had an increase in the number of birds and an increase in the wildlife. We do miss the thrushes. The Mistle thrush and Song thrush have not been here in a bit and the lapwing that used to be in the field has not come back.