Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"We Seek Him Here, We Seek Him There . . ."

When I was a kid I loved the Scarlet Pimpernel books by Baroness Orczy. I can't remember why I started reading them as they would have been quite old fashioned at the time.
I probably found a copy at a jumble sale book stall and bought it for pennies but I don't own any of them now.

I remember watching a black and white film based on the Pimpernel books that I was sure had Stewart Granger in the title role, but after looking at the film details on IMDB it seems I'd swapped him in my mind for David Niven-its funny how the memory plays tricks like that.

For some reason , the rhyme about the Scarlet Pimpernel stuck in my mind and I could recall it without hesitation:

"We seek him here, we seek him there, Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven? - Is he in hell? That damned, elusive Pimpernel?" Baroness Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel flower is the hero's emblem but I don't recall being aware of what one looked like when I read the book - apart from the flower being reddishl.

A couple of weeks back, I saw some tiny reddish flowers growing wild and took some photos in order to work out what they were. It turned out that they were, in fact, the elusive scarlet pimpernel, Anagallis arvensis. In French its called Mouron des champs [Pimpernel of the fields].

The flowers are very small, about the size of the tip of my pinkie and were obviously quite sensitive to light and shade. At different times of day or when it was overcast, the flowers were closed. When closed the flowers almost dissapear within the greenery of leaves and stems and only tiny points of orangey-red are visible.

The plant is also called Poor man's weatherglass, Shepherd's weatherglass and Shepherd's Clock because it responds to the weather and tells the time of day.

This is a different scarlet pimpernel flower from the side - i didn't realise at the time that it had 6 petals, I was more interested in the fact that it looked like a teeny, tiny hibiscus flower.
It does look remakably like a hibiscus but it should only have 5 petals - so this plant was very unusual.

Unfortunately scarlet pimpernels are considered weeds, and since I took these photos, the Nice council gardeners have been round and removed all traces of the plants; including the odd 6 petalled one.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Mute swan

I took these photos of a Mute Swan Cygnus olor in Kew Gardens recently.

I've always liked swans and if I see any I try and take photos.

Some of my earliest memories involve swans since my parents would take my sisters and I to feed the swans at the weekend. My dad always divided the stale bread into equal portions beforehand to stop any squabbling but I'm not sure it was completely eliminated.

I loved seeing the cygnets and the half grown 'ugly duckling' swans, as well as the graceful adults.

Swans can be very territorial, especially when there are cygnets to protect.

One of my sisters was threatened by a swan when she was quite little. She had thrown some bread and it hadn't reached the water, so she had crept forward and picked it up again. However, the cob swan must have felt the cygents were endangerd so he hissed and flapped his huge wings at her. I remember my sister being frozen to the spot and my dad sweeping in like a superhero to protect her.

After that every time we went to feed the swans he warned us not to get too close and would follow it up with the comment "that a swan could break a man's arm if it wanted to."

I'm not sure if many people have suffered broken arms as a result of swan attacks but there have been instances of water skiers and and kayakers who have been attacked by territorial swans, especially during the breeding season.

Swans are in much greater danger from humans than humans are from swans though. Swans are protected in Britain [and many other places] and its an offence to injure or kill a swan or interfere with its eggs or nest

I think this swan is probably a female [aka pen] -the black knob on top of the beak is larger in the male [aka cob].
It settled down ready to sleep, with its beak tucked under its wing.

It doesn't look like the most comfortable sleeping position since the swan's long flexible neck is twisted round across its back , but I suppose its maybe the most compact position for conserving heat.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Photo Friday - Large

My daughter hidden behind a large icecream sundae in a cafe in Ventimiglia [Italy]. It didn't look so enormous on the menu and it wasn't the largest dessert suggestion -though I suspect the really huge ones were intended to be shared.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Photo Friday - Amber

I'm quite fond of amber jewellery and have owned quite a few bits and pieces over the years -but I seem to lose it almost as fast as I aquire it. So i couldn't find any to take a photo of.

I came across this photo of a honey bee , taken last summer that seemed to work for the Photo Friday topic. All the colours in the photo are possible colours of the fossilised resin [although true green amber is rare and most of the green amber used in jewellery has been heat treated. ]

When i was a kid i wanted to own a piece of amber with an insect or spider embedded in it but these pieces aren't cheap -though not as rare or expensive as the tree frogs or lizards which have been sold for huge sums [over 30,000$]

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Kew Gardens

I've been busy with some medical appointments for myself and daughter which meant travelling to see my specialist in London , so things have been pretty hectic.

Then, when we came home, my computer decided to die on me. Luckily, the problem was just the power supply, so its up and running again.

We didn't get a great deal of time in London to do much exploring , but we did manage to visit Kew Gardens and the British Museum very briefly.

Kew Gardens, also known as the Royal Botanic Gardens , Kew is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Its an immense botanic garden and I'm sure I could spend days and days wandering around but we had only a couple of hours so saw a tiny fraction of what is there.

This is part of the Palm House, an immense Victorian glasshouse built between 1844 and 1848.

Its an amazing curved glass and iron building - quite delicate looking . I'd have liked to have had to see inside and photograph the ironwork.

The Palm House was partially restored in the 1950s and fully restored again in the 1980s.
I liked this moody photo of the Palm House , pond, fountain and some Jacob's ladders reaching down. The fountain is of Heracles fighting Achelous the River God -though its difficult to see through the water spouts.

The Orangery was built in 1761 and intended to house citrus fruits [hence the name]. However the light levels were too low due to the solid roof. Later, the end walls were given large glazed doors to let in more light which allowed large plants to grow , although ironically not for orange trees .

Kew Palace is the oldest building in the park and dates back to 1631. It was the home of King George III and Queen Charlotte and where the King suffered his 'mad episodes' that are now thought to be due to the disease porphyria.

The Temple of Arethusa designed by the Scottish architect William Chambers in 1758 gleams like a little jewel among trees.

This tower is called the Campanile - although it probably doesn't qualify as a campanile since it is a chimney rather than a free standing bell tower.

It was designed by the architect and garden designer Decimus Burton

Originally the tower was the chimney for the boilerhouse that powered the heating for the huge glasshouse, the Palm House. The boilerhouse and Palm House were linked by a railway tunnel that ferried coal and ashes between the two buildings. However, the furnaces flooded and the tunnel fell into disuse.

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