Thursday, 29 August 2013

Book-ended by beauty and... bored?

Technically, this should have been an Odonata Tensica post, but I've published one of those today already. And anyway, I've previously covered this particular topic. And... there's another reason too.

To task!

This morning I had a bit of a start on discovering a dragon hunting in the garden, well before the temperature had reached odo optimum.

This evening, I was summoned from the study/library/junk room, as another dragon had managed to locate the conservatory entrance, but not the exit.

She was another Southern Hawker, but wasn't the least bit interested in coming to hand.

Aeshna cyanea (female)
If you're reading this, Jeff from New Zealand, yes that it is the tablecloth you brought back from Belize several decades ago!

Persuading her to take flight from the leisurely linen by gently placing my hand under her thorax, she flew out of the open door and back to softer skies.

So my day was neatly book-ended by beautiful dragons. Huge sigh.

Huge sigh, Tense?

Oh yeah, other news!

This happened today, too.

We'll be moving some time in the near future, but don't know where yet.

Will our new abode still be called Tense Towers? Will the blog title have to change? Is it possible to transport a pond?

I don't have the answers to these questions yet, but I didn't want you to discover the news second-hand. Thought I'd better tell you myself.

Odonata Tensica 5

A dragonfly has just spent a minute or so foraging along the hedge at the bottom of the garden. 

Not that remarkable, I suppose, except it's 06.30 in the morning. The outside temperature might be has high as 13 deg C, the sun rose 20 minutes ago, but is nowhere near shining on the rear of our property. 

I wasn't even that awake, belatedly grabbing my specs to try to ID the species before it flew off. Brown Hawker was my best guess. 

But it does set you up for the day.

Good morning!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Odonata Tensica 4

Summer's into the home straight now and about to fall across the line into Autumn. So this may be the last chance to report on the dragons and damsels that frequent the environs of Tense Towers. Luckily, as it was a Bank Holiday weekend, I could afford to lose Saturday to rain and still have two days of odonata-encouraging sunshine.

Even better, we had family staying over (my brother and his wife) and it was first blood to the girls as they spotted a Common Darter taking its maiden flight. Then we found another, still perched on top of its exuvia, waiting for its wings to harden. This is the third episode of emergence of Sympetrum striolatum from our pond this Summer - 27/28 July, 11 August and now 25 August. Previous years' emergences have been more synchronised than that.

Over lunch, I noticed a damsel fluttering around the conservatory. She was a Common Blue and was reasonably easy to repatriate to the Big Outdoors.

Towards evening, we noticed that there had been a third Common Darter at the pond, but it was caught in a spider's web and too badly 'silked' to rescue without causing more damage. But that's Nature, I guess.

Today, we had a Common Darter ovipositing in the pond and a Southern Hawker egg-laying in the plant pots near the water (not sure if that'll be successful!). Then, in the early evening, I was sat in the lounge replying to the raft of comments left on the blog by JD, when I heard a strange noise. At first I thought it was the sound of water falling from a great height onto a hard surface, but as I listened more carefully, I realised it was much more serious than that. Dragon wings on glass! Dashing to the conservatory, I discovered a female Southern Hawker bouncing off the underside of the roof and then lodging herself into the joint between the windows and the roof.

Several times I managed to persuade her to perch on my finger, but as soon as started to move away from the glass, she would take flight again, attracted by the light and warmth of the windows. A few more attempted rescues saw her wing-whirring, whilst sat on my hand, to create heat in her wing muscles before the inevitable dash to crash once more.

Fortunately, her next flight was nearer to the door, so that when I extracted her from the roof joint, she was able to launch from my hand and back into the wide blue yonder.

It had been a frantic few minutes, but Our Lass managed to capture the denouement with classic good timing...

The retrieval
The release

Thursday, 22 August 2013


Over the past few weeks, our veg box (delivered by the local organic growers) has contained, amongst other things, Broad Beans.

Now, Our Lass is not a fan of these. Neither, come to think of it, is SB. So the onus of eating large legumes falls upon Yours Truly.

Due to a number of factors, I hadn't kept up with my weekly ration, so on Tuesday evening I cooked a rather large amount, skinned them (as some were 3 weeks old!) and put the tender bean bits in the fridge.

Fast forward 24 hours and SB arrives home from work, in a hurry to have her evening meal before her beau turns up to take her out.

When she asked for my thoughts as to what she could eat, I couldn't help but respond with

"Cool beans, man!"

When Our Lass returned home, she cooked some fresh veg for herself to accompany a steak pie that we had intended to split three ways. With SB's departure, that meant half a pie each. Eek. Undaunted, I decided to create Mushy Beans, as this seemed a great accompaniment to a meat pie.

Let's just say that the meal meant I wasn't thinking about dessert... or supper, for that matter.

When I finally went to bed, later that evening, I must have had a 'windy' look on my face as Our Lass asked if I was ok.

"Me?... Yeah... I'm full of beans!"

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

A pun to eclipse all others

Yesterday, a headline caught my eye on the BBC News - Entertainment webpage...

"Aardman animates Pink Floyd trailer"

What's this?

Clicking on the link, I soon discovered that this year sees the 40th anniversary of the release of the Dark Side of the Moon album. That makes me feel old. And as I still listen to it a fair bit, it also makes me feel young too. After all, the sentiments it evokes are as fresh as the first time I heard those haunting chords and soaring vocals. Yeah, this a piece of music that can still speak to me.

I was unaware that Sir Tom Stoppard had written a play influenced by the music from the album, but if the spoken words on the video trailer are anything to go by, it should be worth tuning in to Radio 2 on Bank Holiday Monday. I hope you can make the time to listen. It will probably be available on the BBC Radio iPlayer as well, so you can catch it on a mobile device whilst you're on the run.

It seems quintessentially Pink Floyd quirky that there's a video trailer for a radio play based on an LP. 

Any guesses which is my favourite line from the trailer? It's such a great pun that it made me gasp. C'mon, Tense, breathe.

Sunday, 11 August 2013


Found on the underside of the lid of our 'green waste' recycling bin this afternoon, on the day after Our Lass had filled the bin with trimmings from the garden.

Enoplognatha ovato, apparently. And the bluish-green egg sac is definitely hers, according to my ID guide.

Despite my lack of spider empathy, I have to be a bit impressed with the red stripes!

Odonata Tensica 3

Another sunny day, another dragonfly photo opportunity.

At some time mid-morning, SB wandered out into the garden (still in her dressing gown, so I'm fairly certain it was at least mid-morning!). I was soon summoned by a yelp of "Dad!"

Scurrying out, back in because I wasn't wearing my specs and back out again, I was directed to gaze at the upper foliage of a Pyracantha bush. There, nestled in some strong sunshine, was a brand new Common Darter, its hardening wings still reflecting the light, it was so fresh.

SB confirmed that it had just flown up from the pond (likely its maiden flight) and another emergence to add to the records.

By lunchtime, Our Lass had also discovered a Common Darter in the garden. This one was a mature male, who proceeded to hold territory on the 'beach' at the shallow end of the pond.

Sympetrum striolatum
Look! No hands!
'Happy' darter!
Obelisking into the sun to prevent overheating
If I am ever in a position to build another pond, I shall endeavour to make sure that it is possible to take photographs of it with the sun behind me!

Friday, 9 August 2013



Gone from the gentle Summer skies,
Gone from sight of gladdened eyes,
No more the joyful, hurtling cries.


Mid-August evening quietly passing,
Without the passionate frenzied dashing,
Of ebon blades of sharp wings flashing.


Gables, chimneys, rooftops all,
Becalmed, bereft, no more in thrall,
Of fierce and furious screeching call.


Return they will, we hope, we pray,
To bring anew the late Spring day,
But now the loss, the price we pay.


Sunday, 4 August 2013

Fraudian slip

As seems to be the case these days, there you are in the middle of a particularly absorbing conversation or carrying out a finicky task that needs all your concentration, when the phone rings. Between 5 and 7pm seems to be Unhappy Hour for the spam calls about insurance mis-selling, so as this was nearly 8pm, I reckoned it wasn't going to be that type of call.

As it turned out, I was correct. In a way.

A serious-sounding and earnest chap introduced himself as being from the Visa department that monitors fraudulent activity on bank accounts and he told me that my debit card had just been used to buy several electrical goods in an Argos store in London.

He asked if I could confirm whether I had made these purchases?

I thought two things at once. When's the catch coming? And, a Samsung camera and a kettle? Interesting!

Playing along, I said that I hadn't bought those items, and then I waited for some obvious attempt to obtain my card details.

This didn't happen. Instead Mr Urgent but Helpful asked me to confirm if the card was in my possession. Which it was. And then he told me to contact my bank straight away.

Now this was a little odd. Admittedly, this is what I intended to do as soon as I hung up, but if he hadn't tried to solicit any details from me, what was the point of the attempted fraud.

OK, perhaps it wasn't fraud and I should take it a bit more seriously.

We ended the call, and as I needed info from another part of the house, I picked up my mobile and wandered off to ring the bank.

As it turned out, this was fortuitous.

Whilst in the holding queue for my unique and premier banking experience, my mood flipped back and forth between annoyed and concerned. I was also vaguely aware that the land line had rung again and been answered by Our Lass. She wandered over with the phone and mouthed that it was important and to do with the call I'd just had.

Still unsure as to whether there was a catch in any of this, I motioned her away, as I was already dealing with the problem in the only appropriate way. Her caller, who was presumably Mr U but H, then became even more insistent that he needed to talk to me. Rather more angrily than I should've done, I conveyed to Our Lass that I didn't want to talk to him!

When I finally got through to the bank, there wasn't any fraudulent activity on my debit account. Just in case I hadn't understood the original message correctly, I went through the whole palaver again and checked my credit account. Again, no fraudulent activity.

Mystified as to who and what to believe, I had to admit that it all seemed rather bizarre. Why would a fraudster ring you up to tell you about fraud, but then not attempt to solicit the information that would allow the fraud?

Our Lass solved the mystery with some judicious searching of the 'net.

When you hang up from the original call, the fraudster doesn't. Somehow, they stay on the line to harvest your details when you ring the bank. Cunning.

So it was flippin' lucky I had picked up my mobile instead of using the land line!

Also note that Visa would not ring the card holder direct, they would go through the issuing bank.

So the only question remaining unanswered was which model of kettle?