Bed sheets and broomsticks

January 10, 2012 / Writing / 2 Comments /

I put my foot through my bed sheet the other night. I only own two – one for the bed, one for the wash. Mine is a small house and storage is limited.

So, I ordered a new sheet in the John Lewis sale. Free delivery, within five days. Lovely. Very kindly, John Lewis even tell you that they’ll send you an email on the day of delivery so you can arrange to be at home between 9am and 6pm.

On Wednesday I received my email. My bed sheet had been despatched. As previously instructed, I duly waited in from 9am until 3pm. I’m not good at sitting at a computer all day. A lack of fresh air, daylight or exercise makes me a little antsy. I figured a quick call to JL would confirm whether or not I was waiting in so with good reason. Continue Reading →

Urban foxes and love lost through familiarity

January 4, 2012 / Showcase, Writing / 6 Comments /

I was greeted by a sad sight on Monday morning. Sometime during the night, a fox had been hit by a car and crawled as far as my front garden to die. It was, despite severe impact damage to its jaw, a beautiful animal which had been in the peak of health.

What saddened me most was the reaction of the neighbours gathered for their morning gossip. One, chihuahua in arms, looked at the fox and said; “Oh, that’s a shame, but I can’t say I’m sorry. There are far too many of them. They snatch chihuahuas – they’ve taken them in this area before – I have to be careful with Lily.”

At my incredulous look, she continued; “It’s in surprisingly good condition, but most foxes have mange and pass it on to dogs.” I resisted the temptation to say that if a fox got close enough to snatch her dog, it wouldn’t have a chance to contract mange. It’s a nice dog. I wouldn’t want to upset it. Continue Reading →

Hearing London afresh

August 16, 2010 / London, Showcase, Writing / 5 Comments /

Selective hearing is a great thing, especially living in London where so many noises assault our ears and compete for our attention throughout the day. But selective hearing can block out the good with the bad.

Which is why it’s so refreshing to discover someone who helps us to hear the sounds of the city afresh. Ian Rawes’ London Sound Survey has re-opened my ears to the audio world of the capital.

Ian’s recordings are, to me, like photographs that capture a moment in time and forever allow a viewer or listener to focus on something that would otherwise have passed them by. Continue Reading →

Have a little faith

August 11, 2010 / Science, Showcase, Writing / 12 Comments /

Do you believe in climate change?

Every newspaper, website, blog site, etc. has an opinion on the subject. We are flooded by inch upon column inch of reportage, opinion and hyperbole. With such a quantity of information being force-fed to us, surely we are all equipped to offer a judgement on the truth of the matter.

No, we’re not.

A high number of column inches does not equate to high quality information. Neither does an ability to read (or to write) equate to understanding the subject matter in hand. A large quantity of information does, however, contribute to a common belief that we all know it all. Continue Reading →

Bat walks with Pete

June 17, 2010 / Showcase, Writing / 2 Comments /

Stag Headed OakThe first time I met Pete, he held captive an audience of 200 people from the lofty heights of a park bench.

Like the Bearded Piper of Dulwich Park, he lead fascinated bat enthusiasts on a walk through the twilight of south London. He instilled a spectral calm amongst the crowd as they pricked their ears, listening for the tell tale rattle on the bat detectors that told them to look to the sky and see pipistrelles dart across the inky blue.

He held us in thrall with tales of how clouds of bats used to be seen at dusk along the Thames estuary, how numbers had declined so far in a short time that they had become an Continue Reading →

Plan Bee

April 4, 2010 / London, Showcase, Writing / 0 Comments /

It’s surprising where life can lead you when you’re not looking. Taking a Canadian houseguest on her first walk through suburban London, I sought out local experiences that would give her a feel of the real life of London far away from the ubiquitous Tower and the Changing of the Guard.

So it was that I took my visitor for a wander to my local allotments summer open day. Amongst the vegetables, cake sales and barbecue we discovered Mike and Sue, local gardening and bee-keeping professionals. While Sue was busy painting children’s faces with butterflies and bees, Mike was selling jars of their own honey and handing out leaflets about their new bee-keeping course.

Continue Reading →

The trouble with biodiversity

July 3, 2009 / Science, Writing / 0 Comments /

Beware the Kitchener recruitment message

When every other headline tells us the economy and planet are crumbling, when all concerns pale next to the demise of Mammon, how do we keep biodiversity, if not at the forefront of, at least somewhere in people’s minds?

Biodiversity is the poor relation of environmental concerns – a fringe concern isolated at the edge of the anthropocentric interests of the majority; the biodiversity sector a small band of altruists, whose passion marks us out as oddities amongst a nation of consumers.

“Why does biodiversity matter?”

“It just does!”

We sustain this fantasy at the cost of our cause. Altruism is dead. It’s time to admit our preference for one species above another, to recount with joy those minor and mind-altering stories of personal encounters with wildlife, to acknowledge the economic value of the natural world and join the rest of the world in unashamedly embracing our selfish gene.

Continue Reading →

Changing climates in South London

October 16, 2008 / Science, Showcase, Writing / 0 Comments /

So, the government has committed the UK to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by the middle of the century. And we thought we were having a tough time reaching 60%. I’ll try to withhold judgment until I see how they propose to achieve this laudable target, but it does appear contradictory to the plans announced last week for expansion at Stanstead Airport.

I fear they may be putting all their eggs in a nuclear-powered egg basket. My childhood years spent marching through the street of London with CND and trudging the perimeter fence of Greenham Common with a “Hamsters Against the Bomb” banner have ingrained a mistrust of nuclear power deep in my psyche. I cannot countenance the idea of an ever-more nuclear Britain.

Continue Reading →

At Rainbow’s End

May 28, 2008 / Travel, Writing / 0 Comments /

Waiheke Island Ferns, New Zealand

I come from a family of nomads; the daughter of immigrants from a country of immigrants. As a London child, when asked about my family’s origins, I knew the answer. My family was my parents. My parents came from New Zealand. It was a source of pride. My mother was from Waiheke, my father from Wellington.

Waiheke? Where’s that?

It’s an island.

But where?

No one asked, so neither did I.

Had I been there?

I had.

I flew through two nights to arrive at an airport of glass and steel and walked out into the humid green scent of a New Zealand summer.

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Who turned out the lights?

March 23, 2008 / Travel, Writing / 0 Comments /

When I booked my flight to New Zealand, almost a year ago, it was with several purposes in mind. I wanted to explore the country and family history further, to set time aside to do some work of my own, and to catch up with family and friends. My timing for the trip was driven by a very English motive – the weather.

The thought of another British winter made me twitch. It’s not the cold. I can take the mild extremes of London temperature quite happily. It’s not even the day length – at least not that alone. It’s the quality of light in British winters that drives me nuts.

I know this sounds ridiculously obvious, but I simply cannot see in the dark.

Continue Reading →