Pre-Birthday Conflagration

With some garden waste I'd retrieved from a house up the road (with permission), Luke and I had a little conflagration as a bit of winter warmth. There was an old chair that was to be scrapped which we burnt (difficult to tell which would create the worst pollution - burning or landfill). Strangely we managed to crated a second flame phoenix in the fire (the first phoenix is visible here).

Flames licking up the seat

The second phoenix (perhaps more of a pigeon)

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Britol to Bath Walk

Here are some photos taken on the walk from Bristol to Bath with my Brother and his girlfriend a couple of weekends back. 16 miles in total - a good long walk.

Most of the autumn leaves had fallen

Some swans that came for a little attention and bread

Chris and Chu on the riverside path

A fantastic 60's esq factory on the outskirts of Bath

Bath Cathedral maked the end of our journey

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New Forest Autumn with Mum

Mum came down to visit me yesterday which was simply lovely. Apart from spoiling me with lots of little gifts, we went for a walk and meal in the New Forest. We drove along Boldrewood Ornamental Drive which was simply stunning and went for a walk around one of the parking spots doing a little bit of arty photography.

Some beautiful colours, though not all turned yet

Lovely woody openings with leaf litter carpeting the ground

Mum walking through the leaf litter

Sunset came along and enhanced all the colours

As we climbed a bank the setting sun streaked through the trees

We both enjoyed capturing the pink sunset sky

And after all that we went to the Green Dragon pub for dinner.

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Nick's Pumpkin Parade

For the first time this year I've experimented with growing squashes. From the various squashes I ate last year I collected the seeds and germinated them. Only about 10% seemed viable and after and head start on my windowsill I transplanted them out into the vegetable patch. I wasn't quite prepared for the extent to which they would spread - the longest vine was about 5 meters and meant that the pumpkins ended up growing on my new lawn.

It's been exciting watching these things grow and I've still got a few left on the various vines. I've also recently found some baby butternut squashes have begun to develop. More to come...

My pumpkin fleet

The largest is quite a size and weight

Green pumpkins are turning orange

A gaggle of squashes

Barney our free range garden rabbit

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Picasa on my Mac

Die iPhoto, die!

Today I finally deleted iPhoto from my Macbook Pro. My Mac is now free, set free from the horrid photo hell that was iPhoto.

What brought this on?

Because I now have Picasa on my mac.

You who the what now?

YES I can successfully run Google's gloriously free and super fantastic Picasa on my mac. I'll post a photo as proof shortly as well as details on how I achieved this feat.


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F***ing Big Spider

Big! I mean really big. I don't think I've seen such a massive spider. Hopefully from this iCam photo you can grasp just how big this sucker is. Released to the wild safely I and confirm.

One big spider

One big spider in a pint glass

Landed in the Capital

Sitting in my 8th floor State Plaza Hotel room in downtown Washington DC things are pretty good. I flew in this afternoon from London Heathrow with United Airlines flight 919 on a Boeing 777. A very acceptable flight - my first time in a triple 7, I was staggered by the sense of space. Spiderman 3 was on the playlist which I'd not seen (and missed the middle as I nodded off) and my vegetarian meal was superb: a truly good curry.

ToP Advice: when booking a flight with meal options go for 'Indian Vegetarian'. For a start the veggie meals are better, having been specially prepared, but this was the best I've tasted. There was rice with two dishes - one aloo dahl and the other a vegetable curry. There was also a little naan bread, but not the highlight.

Our flight landed an hour early, so we made it to the hotel in good time. After a little rest and a great shower (which has a blissful 'massage' setting) John and I headed out to a diner for a burger + chips dinner. A good meal with nice veggie burger, but I was staggered by the salt content - they weren't even trying to hide the saltiness.

A little wonder round the streets and chatting to a few passers by and we were back at the hotel. Tomorrow I'm going to head to Mount Vernon Methodist Church to say hello to some of the friends I made when I was here back in March. But perhaps I might squeeze in another shower before bed...

Chilling in my hotel room

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Greenbelt 2007

Just a couple of shots from Greenbelt this year. I took my camera but wasn't feeling massively inspired on Monday to be taking shots, which was a shame as I wanted to practice shooting people. Here is some of the cool graffiti that people were drawing on some purpose built walls around the racecourse.

Graffiti appeared around the site

Cooler people than I were doing the graffiti

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Southampton Odeon Urinals

I was amused by this poster that I came across in the Odeon's toilet down in Ocean Village, Southampton. Having a camera phone came in handy. I'm sure it's completely innocent, but it struck me as just a little creepy.

Take a closer look...

No, above the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang logo...

Alvin the Childcatcher - Really? Is that legal?

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Southampton Common

As my migrane eased this evening I decided to take a wonder round the common as the weather was actually warm and sunny! It was glorious. I wondered through some of the wooded bits letting my feet enjoy the grass and mud. I made friends with a family of dogs and then helped a little girl who fell off her bike find her parents. It was really most pleasant and gave me a much needed uplifting feeling. The sort that make you feel alright with the world. This photo (taken with my phone) I now have as my phone wall paper.

The Ornamental Pond

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On Air: Australia

Word does seem to get round the internet and just now I'm being interviewed live on air by ABC WA for their breakfast show. Perhaps you tuned in or happened to be listening and heard me speaking. Well, thanks for listening and I hope what I said was interesting. If you want to ask any more questions then feel free.

This photo was taken during the interview:

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The One Show - Wednesday 25th July

You might want to watch the One Show on Wednesday evening @ 7 on BBC1 - I think they might have taken notice of my email. Will they quote me? Here's the preemptive blurb:

Lucy Siegle watches our waste - and tries to put a stop to the nation's unhealthy and overindulgent use of packaging.

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Learning Dutch

Thanks to Kink FM, which I've been listening to on iTunes, I now know that the Dutch for 'www' is vayvayvay which is much quicker to say. I might adopt this.

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New Waitrose Coffee

Finally after years of waiting I have finally come across the ultimate in coffee - Fair Trade decaffeinated coffee beans!!

I'm fairly unsurprised that it was Waitrose that has made the first bold step here, being the most ethical of the super markets, but I'm a little sad that it's not from the Cafe Direct range.

I've not tried it yet (I'll get to that tomorrow) but it's advertised as being "fruity, smooth and slightly nutty" strength guide 3. The source country is Peru so the carbon footprint is still significant, but it's organic and soil association certificated.

Waitrose Decaff Fair Trade Coffee

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My Email to the One Show

I was quite concerned by your report on rat infestations. The report was hardly balanced and left the (less competent) viewer with the suggestion that leaving food out for birds and composting should be avoided. Surly this is not responsible reporting.

The report gave no evidence for how 'bad' rats really are to back up the premise of the report. Could this be because they arn't actually that dangerous?

The final point about rubbish made me think of a suggestion for your show to investigate. The report mentioned that leaving rubbish in bags on the floor rather than in a wheelie bin is generally not a good move (no shit sherlock). The point was made that with fortnightly collection this action with excess rubbish is almost expected if not required - but quite why this is I think highlights a deeper issue.

I live in a student house of four people. Living separate consumer lives you might expect our rubbish to reflect that with four individual meals cooked etc. But no. Instead we produce less than one bin-liner of rubbish a week (I've been keeping notes).

So what's the real problem here? Easy. The amount of rubbish being purchased by consumers - buy more fresh products (i.e. prepare cook your own food) and lo and behold you don't generate much waste. What you guys need to investigate is the sheer amount of rubbish that companies get away with packaging their products in and then somehow make attractive to the less discerning consumer. I'd like to see the myth that pre-prepared food (like ready meals) are a) tasty, b) cheap and c) 'proper food', dispelled.

On a related note I think it would be worth investigating the rules being put in place (possibly my shops) regarding how shops display products. In the case of the sandwich industry I believe the problem is that produces are under pressure to actually over-package their products for the reason of making it easy for super market operators to stock shelves.

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The One Show: Rats

I was quite concerned by the One Show report on rat infestations. The reporting style was overly dramatic and one sided, not giving a balanced report but instead appealing to the popular public misconception that rats are somehow evil. Frankly I felt that the report was dumbing down at it's worst. The people who seemed to be being targeted are just those to respond to such dramatic statements without a second thought to the reality of the situation. The report essentially made the suggestion that hanging out food for birds and making compost was a bad idea and bound to invite rats into your garden.

The final point being made was about the dangers of leaving rubbish out. In Southampton we do have weekly rubbish collection but I'd love to see this reduced. I live in a student house with four people living essentially separate consumer lives yet we produce less than one bin-liner of rubbish each week. Wheelie bins can contain at least three bin-liners so what could be the problem?

Of course the problem is the lack of consideration given by consumers to the amount of rubbish they purchase. I fear this is a problem of education - the less educated the less likely you are to be thinking about the rubbish you purchase. And the rubbish is of course everywhere. Companies have been allowed to be unregulated in their packaging for far too long (a problem not helped by the popular lie that individual wrapping is best).

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Google Earth Update

There is a new Google Earth version available for download. It seems to solve a number of problems for my Mac including some serious crash issues with 4.0.

One of the best updates that I've noticed is the fact that the focus for UK users now starts in the UK. Non of that pointless scrabble to stop the auto zooming into the US when it launches. The UK is now officially in some patch of open moorland just north of Skipton.

Here is the exact location for your information

Good to know where you are
53°59'60.00"N 1°59'60.00"W

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Behind the Screens

I enjoyed reading this while Stumbling Upon on Firefox. It's all about .

I particularly like point 14, not the bit about spelling abilities - some of us are dyslexic geeks (or rather 'greeks') - but about being "able to tell the difference between the toilet and the floor." Exactly. Enough said.

BBC Three: Sex... with Mum and Dad

I just watched the second episo of this series - brilliant. I've seen the program before, but this was particulary touching. Two families that had both lost their Mum leaving the Dad struggling to communicate with their sexually active child.

The dad and daughter family did some generally good work and progressed from a family at war to a family in love. It was pleasing to see the progress made in just a week. But the other family was something special.

Phil Francis is gay and his dad couldn't accept it meaning that they had lived separate lives in the same house. Over the course of the program we saw the dad learning to accept his sons sexuality, and most importantly, breaking down his previous understanding that it was somehow his fault. Their special task was to take a trip to the Lake District (a special place to me), and while up the mountain* (looked like Castle Crag) hey talked about their lack of physical contact and then about the loss of mum. It was emotional for both of them, and quite special, but it left me wanting to scream at the TV telling them to HUG! They didn't! Crazy, but I pray by now they will have done. But the change was remarkable. Love had and acceptance reigned.

*Yes, it did seem a little staged, but then again it's a TV program so it's bound to be in some respects.

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Comedy Change

While in Portswood Hardware this afternoon I purchased a bow saw and lopper to aid my tree felling activities over the weekend (weather permitting). As I was leaving I thought I'd ask about rat measures and they suggested some bait to use outside and gave directions on the beast measures. After a little deliberation as to whether it is right to kill the rat (a subject for a later post) I went for it.

The price was £7.49

Noting I had nine pence in coins and thinking I'd be helpful I gave the kid on the desk eight pounds and my nine pence change (a five, a tuppence and two pennies).

The slightly confused expression on the kids face said it all as he handed me back the correct change - sixty pence, only not as a 50p and 10p as I was expecting, but rather a 50p, a penny and the nine pence change I'd just given him.

So close. Gave me something to smile about on my way home.

Chaplaincy Post Exam BBQ

What an evening! And what a success. I was a little worried that nobody would turn up or that I'd not have enough food, or perhaps far too much food. But as it turned out the whole thing turned out beautifully.

There were people from Cathsoc, SCM, CU and Jsoc, possibly the Postgrad Fellowship, but sadly none from CCF or KCF. I should think there were 40 people over the evening and nearly all the food was eaten (I got the roll to meat ratio pretty damn fine) and loads of people hun around for ages after the cooking finished.

The BBQ itself was exciting and I'm enjoying the sweet smell of wood smoke on my hands as I type. It was a half oil drum BBQ and I took a fire-from-scratch approach (ie no fire sticks or fluids) much to the bemusement/confusion of others as there were the auto-light fire bags available. By the time my fire work was done the heat was quite awesome and the cooking splendid. I love making a good fire. I'm damn good at fire.

So the evening was jolly good fun and it was lovely to have such an ecumenical gathering and the Chaplaincy so populated. As people began to dissipate we turned up the music and got some dancing underway.

Eventually it was just a hard core SCM nugget left and we danced to music till half 1 this morning. And I'm not just talking the slightly embarrassing dad-at-your-sisters-wedding type of dance. Oh no, we went from modern interpretative dance right round to traditional ballet, all set to a rather eclectic mix of modern pop.

Thoroughly enjoyable :o)

Tree Felling for Dummies

I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK, I sleep all night and work all day... so the Pythons go. Well yesterday the boys of the Kitchener Community decided that they'd give it a go - how hard could felling a tree really be?

The girls were all out celebrating having finished the last exams of their Medical degrees, and were most probably a little drunk by then - what could possibly go wrong?

Well as it turned out, nothing went wrong. After having an impromptu chat with out neighbour at the end of the garden (who was concerned we were going to chop down the holly tree she uses as Christmas decorations) we set to work with our axe chopping down one of the dead trees. Actually that's not quite right - I sent to work and actually begun chopping into a living tree that happened to be intertwined with the dead target meaning we took out two trunks rather than one.

After clearing the way to the trunk and having a little go with the axe, I decided to shimmy up one of the other holly trees to take a look. Turns out there are 7 trees all growing together just behind our decking area (where Bertha stands). At the top I jumped from treetop to treetop, and after a quick photocall from a slighly concerned Ben, I set to work sawing the top of one of the trees.

Down it went pretty quickly, so I decided to go for the bigger trunk of another tree. That required quite some careful sawing with my Leatherman to get through and to fall in the right direction (it was too heavy to hold once cut). I finished off by taking of a few more branches to round off the overall shape of the tree before shimming down one of the remaining trees in the dark.

What fun, and only a little saw wound to speak of the evening. Well, that and the massive pile of holly branches that now scatter the garden.

These are the holly trees at the back of the garden

And this is me up the holly trees - awesome view up there

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Shoebox Bakery

Luke mentioned over the weekend how he likes to get bread from the Shoebox Bakery on Portswood high street. While in Portswood this afternoon posting a card and picking up some fruit I decided to stop in the Shoebox and take a look. I'm not always one for pastries, nor really bread that much.

The Three Cooks next to Woolworths has shut down and I'm fairly certain the culprit is the new Greggs that opened on the other side of Woolworths. Greggs is funky, looks all clean and modern so easily attracts trade. Being a recognised chain also must help in soaking up sporadic trade. So it's no wonder that the Three Cooks recently shut up shop. This is a sad thing. Another example of the small and mostly inconsequential, but none the less sharp and pointy, end of capitalism where uniqueness, identity and independence is left wanting in the tide of commerce and 'value'.

So it was partly in the spirit of supporting the little guy that I stepped into the Shoebox. How glad I was to do so. And there were lots of others doing the same thing as me, but they were different than the typical shopping drones that hover round supermarkets for their monthly all-in-one municipal shop. These people were chatty, happy and excited to be in a little independent personal bakery with lots of exciting looking treats on display to choose from. What's more is the willingness of the owner to help. I wanted three jam doughnuts, but only two were left so she went to squert jam into a ring doughnut for me :). I was also tempted by the iced buns, but I prefer them with fresh cream down the middle, and again she went off and made that for me. I felt special and valued. It was great.

So get yourself down to the Shoebox bakery and enjoy buying bread and buns the real way.

A New Potato - Start of the Good Life

A second case of new life this week: earlier today I unearthed the first potato from my vegetable patch. It's only a tiddler (that word is one of my Nana's) but should be tasty. I'll boil it for lunch with a sprig of mint (also from the garden).

My first new potato - only a tiddler

The potato flower, same family as tomatoes*

* ahh! Look how similar the word 'potato' and 'tomato' are - same family plant, same family of name. And for some reason I want to spell both with an extra 'e': potatoe/tomatoe.

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Life and Death

My rabbit, Willow, died yesterday. After being attacked by a rat on Sunday night and surviving an anesthetic operation at the vet to assess the damage (though nothing could be done) I had to make the decision to have her put to sleep as overnight fly lava had hatched under her skin. Her chances of survival would have been minimal at best and the discomfort would have been tremendous.

But it was no easy decision. I wanted to fight for her and was looking forward to having her home and giving her intensive care. I was also not prepared to have to sign a euthanasia consent form. And even after the injection she didn't give up the fight for life quickly, which made me feel worse. My friend Cheryl accompanied me to the vet and even came in the room as Willow was put down, which was a great strength.

It was a different type of death from Roo, my previous rabbit who died February last year. Hers was a sudden shocking moment, while Willow slipped away. But in both cases I was privileged to be there.

And so it hurts; the pain of death is never easy. But never does it make me not want to love again. The joyful reward of rescuing a scared timid creature and encouraging them to become loving happy pets is worth the pain of loss.

Grief is the final chapter in life, and for me one of the most important. The fact that humans (and other animals) have this sense of love and loss is a beautiful thing. I'd go so far as to say it is one of God's gifts. And strangely I celebrate the process of grief - it provides time to be sad, time to remember and be thankful for the good and ask forgiveness for the bad, time to complete the journey of that relationship. For me it is a precious thing.

As for new life - I planted out the seedlings that have been germinating on my windowsill.

Willow looking cute on my bed

Seedling new life

Seedlings on My Windowsill

I do so love germinating seeds. It's so very satisfying to pop inert objects into the ground and then watch as they unfurl and point to the sun. New life.

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Rainy Days and Mondays

It's rainy and I'm working at home. Not the greatest of combinations. So I got out my camera and took a couple of shots with my macro lens. A macro lens makes everything better.

The dying remains of some flowers my Mum gave me

The house opposite through the rain on my window

Yet more vegetables preparing to germinate on my windowsill.

Loose Rabbit

I've got two rabbits living with me at University. It's a real pleasure to be able to have pets and I especially like rabbits - cute, lovable and just a little dim. My girl (Willow) lives in a hutch with run and the little chap (Barney) in a small hutch next to it. As I don't like to keep him cooped up (and as I've not yet had her spayed) I let him roam the garden in the day when I'm home. The great thing is that, as he fancies Willow he is quite content to simply lie about next to her and not run of.

There's a rabbit loose aboot this hoose.

Mega Seaweed

Miso soup is good. Miso soup tends to come with little bits of seaweed chopped up into it. It depends on the make as to how much and what quality you get. I'm usually quite excited by a small inch-square piece. But recently a friend's Mum brought me some seaweed back from Singapore, and this stuff is big, I mean really big. After soaking it expands to a completely ludicrous size and I then add it directly to a sachet of instant miso soup for some seriously souped-up seaweed. Nice.

Now that's what I call seaweed

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My Rabbts

Here are a couple of photos of my little bunnies taken today. Cheryl helped me wash Barney in the afternoon and then gave him a full grooming. He doesn't entirely like the process but is very patient. Willow on the other hand was just being generally cute and loveable trying to win James over.

Barney having a rub down

Willow in the hands of James