Thursday 26 November 2015


Still in England... still on a training course... still walking to and fro between hotel and venue.

Yesterday morning, I ventured out a little earlier than the previous day. There were fewer people and more birds. Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Herring Gull, Magpie, Jackdaw, Goldcrest and...

A Kestrel. The lone sentinel at the gates of dawn.

Today was a later start, so many more people and consequently fewer birds to be seen. But there was a Grey Squirrel and, as there was more daylight, I noticed this bug hotel or wildlife stack outside one set of offices.

Ee, it proper gives you hope, so it does.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

The call of the wild

In a change to the advertised programme, this blogpost comes to you from an industrial estate in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England. Following my departure, earlier this month, from the waste reduction charity Orkney Zerowaste, I have ventured sooth for a spot of technical training.

This morning the weather was fairly benign, if a little chilly, so I walked the mile or so from my hotel to the training venue, through the industrial estate and alongside the channelised River Team. That description doesn't make it sound too hopeful for the chances of some wildlife, and indeed, the view was often like this...

However, as the saying goes, faint heart never won a fair maiden (at least, that is an approximate and publishable rendition of what was said), so off I jolly well went.

At various points of my stroll through the industrial sprawl, thoughtful planting of trees and shrubs had softened the harsher effects of acre after acre of factories, workshops, offices and car parks. The most obvious tenants of this landscape were Blackbirds, Robins, Wrens and a few Black-headed Gulls.

As I was about to cross over a road, a high-pitched, but grating, call gave me pause for thought. It was familiar, but also somehow mysterious. I concentrated upon crossing the road safely, pondering whether I had simply heard one of the many vocalisations of a Magpie. Once back on the pavement, a further call solved the conundrum. A single "chip" being the clue to the identity of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. No wonder I was confused - very familiar from our Milton Keynes days, but now not heard so much in Orkney.

The return journey, later in the afternoon, was uneventful save for the rising Moon, a waxing gibbous globe creeping slowly above the horizon from behind the houses on a low hill to the east. So, despite the street lights, the traffic, the noise and the impersonal and intrusive industry, it was still possible to feel an elemental connection with the sky and the natural cycles that have shaped our lives for generations.

My hotel room is on the third floor, quite a change from our single storey abode in Orkney. I've been here a whole twenty four hours and haven't used the lift so far. Which pretty much assuages any guilt I might feel about having a fried breakfast.

Friday 13 November 2015

Three lovely reasons why I frequent so many tea shops...

This is a guest photo-blog by Second Born (the muckle peedie sister, seeing as she's our younger daughter, but taller than First Born).

The montage uses photos taken by Our Lass and the girls, during a trip south earlier this, or possibly last, year. I had quite forgotten about it, until I noticed a 'Draft' blog sat in the Posts list.


Thursday 12 November 2015


And so, dear reader, if Storm Abigail doesn't knock out the electrics, tomorrow I shall be revving up the vacuum cleaner. I suppose you could say that it's the old 'suck or blow' conundrum...

Monday 9 November 2015

Where's Baxter?

It's a question that is asked occasionally at Tense Towers, though not so much in a 'red and white striped bobble hat' sort of way.

In fact, when it was posited this morning, by Our Lass, the phrasing was along the lines of, "Don't be too keen to vacuum the floor, I've lost Baxter."

Now I'm guessing that there isn't a household in the land that doesn't have at least one phrase which is understood perfectly by the occupants, but which is complete gobbledegook to the rest of the population.

One of ours is Baxter. He's not a hamster, or any sort of pet, or even a tin of soup. To be honest, he's not a 'he', they're a 'they'.

It all began years ago, when Our Lass announced that she'd lost the backs to her earrings.

"Why are your earrings called Baxter?" I had, not unreasonably, asked. And it stuck.

Another Tensified phrase is Norma Wright, which is usually heard following questions like "Do you want another hot drink?" or "Can I give you a hand with that?"

But our all time favourite is the, possibly apochryphal, story told by the late Kenneth Williams, of a book signing where the author asks a lady who should the dedication be made out to. The reply is Emma Chizzit, so a dedication to Emma is duly written in a book and handed over. The indignant lady asks, "What's this?! I only wanted to know how much is it?"