Monday, June 26, 2006

Scottish Creepy crawlies

I took a few photos of insects and other mini beasts when i was in Scotland. Luckily, Scottish insects don't seem to mind the rain.

I'm pretty sure this hoverfly is Syrphus vitripennis
Its a Batesian mimic of a wasp - ie it shares the warning colours and general apprearance but can't actually defend itself with a sting.

This is a small hoverfly perched on a dandelion flower, but I have no idea which speciesA green bottle fly Phaenicia sericata -they are carrion eaters and lay their eggs in rotting meat or wounds. The maggots can actually be used to clean wounds as they do not eat healthy flesh -though they are rarely used in medicine now.

Their brilliant emerald metallic colours are really pretty.

I found quite a few of these bugs- they looked really delicate and graceful. It turns out that they are female scorpion flies Panorpa communis.

I didn't see any male scorpion flies around- they are more immediately recognisable because they have a curled up 'scorpion sting' which is not in fact venomous -its the male fly's genital area.

This is another female sitting on some ivy leaves.

A little black and green bug that I didn't manage to identify. It seemed to be pushing a white thing [an egg?] in the first photo.
It looks quite like a shield bug but I'm not sure .

A sealed up snail shell - i think its probably Cepaea hortensis
This is probably the millipede Schizophyllum sabulosum -it has two distinctive pale lines running down its back. They don't actually have thousand legs - just several hundred, with two pairs to each body segement.

Some cuckoospit on cleavers plant. Cleavers is an interesting plant- we used to call it 'sticky willie'
Tiny hairs on the plant leaves and stem will hook on to clothes and animal fur -and can even just about manage to hook on to skin though not very securely.
We used to pick clumps of it and throw it on each other when we were kids as its stickiness always amused us . We'd also use it to play 'tig' [tag] dn the person who had been tagged with the stckywillie had to peel it off and try and stick it on another victim.

The small ball-like seeds were sticky as well- a useful way of diffusing the plant -and they were harder to remove from clothes than the stems and leaves.

Cuckoo spit [which my kids though was completely gross] is the bubble home of an immature froghopper bug.

The frogghopper produces the froth [cuckoo spit] to hide in and also to prevent its body from drying out. Apparently the 'spit' tastes foul as an additional deterrant for predators [though i've never tried it]

I didn't have the heart to poke through the bubbles and disturb the beastie.

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Photo Friday- health

I couldn't think of anything else to use for teh photo friday topic , so I resorted to taking a photo of an x-ray i had done last year when I damaged my shoulder.

Thankfully, after all the physiotherapy it has healed well- though since these things are often recur , i have to be careful with it. It twinges if I overdo things- and I try to avoid lifting things awkwardly.

After i had these x-rays taken I was in agony from being poked and prodded and forced to adjuist my shoulder into werid positions, but i was still still impressed by how amazing the bones look in x-rays.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Photo Friday -Automotive

I'm not really a car lover- I don't drive and don't have any urge to learn.
I can recognise VW Beetles old and new, and 2 CVs and Smart cars but my car identification skills for other vehicles are on the lines of red car, blue car or big car, boxy car, little car.

So it was a sheer fluke that i had anything suitable for the topic. Both the photos were taken in rainy Scotland the other week.

I suppose it shows the extremes of hire cars that are popular at the moment in Scotland for celebrations such as weddings and Prom nights.

This stretch Humvee was parked outside the Police station. What a monster of a car - I'd never seen anything like it before.

This is a vintage [1930s?] Beauford convertible that my cousin hired for her wedding day - a lovely deep blue colour. A pity the top had to stay up becuase of the heavy rain and biting cold.
I cropped in on the headlamps - i think i am the person on the right reflected in the chrome. I think this is the only time I appear in any of the photos from the wedding.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Bluebell wood

Common Bluebells also known as Wild Hyacinths or English Bluebells [Hyacinthoides nonscripta ] are a protected species in Britain and wild bulbs cannot be dug up or sold -it seems that for a while the wild plants were being dug up and sold [for use in gardens] and this meant that the spring time sight of the bluebell wood was becoming rare.

The comoon bluebell is a native plant in Scotland but its quite different from the plant known as the Scottish Bluebell -which is actually a harebell [Campanula rotundifolia] Somewhat confusing - but they don't flower at the same time of year and they grow in different places and they look quite distinct.

Harebells grow in grassy heathland areas and flower in the height of summer, and have the sort of flowers that loook like something a Victorian fairy would wear as a hat.

I remember as a child, putting the harebell flowers on my fingers and making mini puppets- however they were very thin and papery so they required careful handling or they would tear.

Common bluebells/wild hyacinths grow from bulbs underground and flower again and again each year. They are sometimes called crawflowers [crow flowers] or craw-taes [crows toes] in Scots

The very narrow flower bells seem to grow about 10 to a stalk which droops considerably. They have quite strong scent, similar to a cultivated hyacinth but a bit more subtle.

We used to go for walks in April and May to various the bluebell woods to pick some of the flowers and there used to be thousand upon thousand of violet-blue flowers nodding in the breeze. From a distance the flowers looked like thick blue carpet under the trees.

The bluebells in the wood at Chatelherault Country Park weren't growing as densely as I've seen them in some places but it was still nice to walk in the rain and look at the bluebells under the trees.
The treecover here changes from broadleaved trees to conifers and although bluebells can grow under most conditions, they don't grow in the acidic soils and really low light conditions found under conifers- its quite a marked change from green and blue to a barren looking brown earth in the background.

No bluebells here but I liked how the tree was shadowed by a similar shaped cloud. This was taken on a brief pause between showers. It looks like a brilliant summer day -but the camera lies sometimes- or at least is economical with the truth.
I also took quite a few photos of a variety of creepy crawlies and plants that I'll post another time.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Up above the world so high

I always like to take photos if i get a chance when flying. On the flight from Nice to Luton the weather was pretty clear and we had a good view of the mountains and valleys -which look quite different when mostly snow free.

The window wasn't as clean as it could have been but the photos turned out ok.

It would be nice to be able to find out what hills and valleys are in the pictures but unfortunately i don't have a clue [apart from it being scenery north of Nice].

I was impressed with this very long valley stretching off to the blue-grey mountains.

A shallower vally in the higher country. The mountains are closer now and some snowy caps are just visible.
The scenery here was quite dramatic and so different with the light dusting of snow and the dark rocks and cliffs.

Jack Frost at work on the plane windows.

I wasn't sure if I'd manage to get any decent photos as I knew from experience that the frost doesn't last long on these short flights. However on this flight, the frost developed really well

A macro shot of the frost which was on the point of disappearing again .
The intense cobalt blue sky colour always amazes me. The frost had almost disappeared by the time we reached the northern coast of France.

I think this is the close to the delta of the Somme river , made famous by the World War 1 battle

This is a photo of the same river delta showing the huge amounts of sediment and mud flats

After passing the French coast the clouds thickened and the fasten seat belt sign came on so no more sky photos. The sky was too rainy and cloudy and dark on the other three flights for taking photos.
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Photo Friday - poverty

I took this photo in Scotland the other week. Buckfast Tonic Wine is a an alcoholic drink made by monks and sold in most places as a pick me up for fairly elderly people.

In the West of Scotland its drunk by the young, poor and hopeless who drink 'buckie' to get absolutely 'blootered' -ie mind numbingly drunk.

'Buckie' is the fuel of fights and stabbings by neds and the odd feature of buckie drinkers is that so many of them still want to drink it when they are of legal age to drink - which is why its often sold by the glass in pubs in poor areas.

Some areas of Scotland have tried to prevent its sale in off-licences but I suppose other cheap alcohol is abused if the 'buckie' supply is cut off.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Illustration Friday- Portrait- Frida Kahlo

This weeks topic is 'Portrait'. It was easy enough to decide what [or rather who] to paint but not so easy to decide 'how' to paint .

I chose to paint the Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, because about a third of her artworks are self portraits so I thought it would be interesting to see what I came up with.

Frida Kahlo was born on July 6th 1907 in Mexico City. She had polio at age 6 which left one leg weakened.

Later at age 18 , she was involved in a serious bus crash which left her with devastating injuries to her pelvis, spine, legs and uterus. These injuries left her in almost constant pain, and required many operations and periods of immobility throught the rest of her life.

She poured her pain and strength into her art : the agony and will to live she used to overcome her injuries and the death of her hopes of motherhood.

Her works are sometimes described as surreal becuase she used mythological and fantastic elements to express herself though she rejected this label herself.

She married the painter Diegio Rivera in 1929 in a union described by as the marriage of an 'elephant and dove' due to their very different sizes.
Their marriage was turbulent with numerous affairs and raging arguements - and ended in a very brief divorce before they remarried in 1940.

Frida started wearing traditional Mexican dresses and jewellery which gave her a very exotic look. She did not remove her light moustache or pluck the hairs which grew between her eyebrows [the famous 'unibrow'] which added to uer unusual looks. She emphasised the unibrow and moustache in her self portraits- they are not so obvious in photographs.

Both Frida and Diego were very inolved in politics and they sheltered the Communist Leon Trotsky and his wife until his assassination. Both Frida and Diego were considered suspects at the time but were released.

Frida Kahlo died on July 13th 1954 -possibly of a pulmonary embolism or effects of cancer, though some suspect that she committed suicide [based on the entry in her diary a few days earlier which read "I hope the exit is joyful; and I hope never to return."]

Frida Kahlo's immense strength of will , lust for life and passion for her art is an enormous insiration for me.
I wanted to give her an Aztec look becuase of the Aztec influences in her work - which is why i gave her a background which could almost be a feathered headdress or alternatively jungle leaves.

Her necklace is 'engraved' with an Aztec Fertility Goddess from a codex. Her dress and shawl echo the colours of the Mexican flag.

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Photo Friday- New

I was sure I'd manage to find something suitable for the topic in the photos I took in Scotland.

This is my cousin Yvonne and her husband Munro -a newly married couple, just a week ago today.

It was a bitterly cold day with torrential rain and not helped by the church heating being broken [or at least that's what was said]. Still the bride was absolutely gorgeous and the groom very handsome in his black kilt despite the weather.

Confetti and some bubbles were still flying around when I took the photos. I liked the contrast between Munro's black jacket and Yvonne's white dress.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Photo Friday- Home

Its quite appropriate that the photo friday topic was 'home' since I've just come home to Nice from Scotland .

I felt i had to squeeze in an entry for this even though it was towards the end of the photo friday week.

I have always tried to feel at home wherever my kids and husband are based so even though we have just moved to Nice, I do feel at home there. In fact, visiting Antibes seems slightly odd now- despite living there for10 years. It seems i have pulled up my roots and transplanted them to Nice.

I still have a strong connection to Southern Scotland though- especially the Clyde Valley where I grew up. Having a huge extended family living in the area probably helps the homecoming feeling , but i also have a strong connection to the beautiful land itself.

When i was in Scotland i tried to take a photo of my favourite scenery as a child: the fields and orchards and River Clyde that i could see from my bedroom window.

However, a new wood has been planted which means that the exact view isn't easily visible so i had to walk for a couple of minutes along the road to take these photos.

I used to play in these fields- making dens, climbing trees and collecting flowers to make 'perfume'.

The weather was very poor-so lots of rain and wind -but the scenery was beautiful as always.

This is one of the roads that leads down to the River Clyde -it always seemed like the doorway to adventure when i was small.

I was lucky to have had grandparents that had a deep love and knowledge of the natural world and parents who were willing to take my sisters and our friends for walks to explore the local area and collect berries. I don't think I really appreciated it at the time.

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