Friday, March 22, 2013

Runt of litter is now very old cat

Wadsworth the cat lives in Bedford. He is 27 years old, which is very old for a cat. But when he was a kitten he was a sickly little fellow who was continuously back and forth to the vet. "He was full of infection but with the help of the vets we nursed him back to health", reports Mrs Ann Munday, his owner. She reports that since then "he has gone from strength to strength", though he is now much slower than he used to be. He apparently spends most of his time sleeping and is less interested in playing than when he was younger.

Wadsworth is still fairly healthy though he does suffer from some medical conditions. His vet Gill Monsell reports that "he gets stressed out having his blood pressure done, but he is very stable and doing very well."

Although Wadsworth may be the oldest cat ever recorded in Britain, he is some ten years younger than the oldest ever recorded. That honour was held by Creme Puff, a cat from Texas, who was 38 when she died in 2005.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Well Revisited

Some time ago I mentioned a report on the BBC website about the bodies of 17 people found in a well in Norwich. The 17 had been murdered in the 12th or 13th century and were almost certainly members of the city's Jewish community who had fell victim to their Christian neighbours. 11 of them were children aged between two and 15. The remainder were adult men and women.

The BBC reports now that the 17 have been reburied in a Jewish cemetery in accordance with Jewish religious practices.


My original post

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Capybara adopts dachshund puppies

In Arkansas in the United States, some gobshite dumped a load of dachshund puppies in a plastic bag behind a church. Fortunately the short-legged dogs were rescued and brought to the Rocky Ridge Refuge. They might have proved something of a handful there - had Cheesecake the Capybara not been on hand to look after them. The giant rodent hopes to inculcate the prime Capybara virtue of sensibleness into the young dachshunds.

The little dachshund puppies are adoptable (as are many other animals at the Rocky Ridge Refuge), but Cheesecake is not; she is needed in the refuge in case any further abandoned puppies need to be looked after.


The Rocky Ridge Refuge

I learned about this important story from the Rev. Richard Coles.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Little ladders for little voles

Voles live beside of rivers and canals. One of them was immortalised as Ratty in popular book The Wind in the Willows. Since the 1970s, however, voles in the UK have seen a 90% collapse in their numbers, caused by habitat loss and predation by mink. Surviving vole populations are often isolated from each other, leading to fears of their becoming inbred and suffering from a lack of genetic diversity.

A novel solution to this problem is being attempted with a vole colony in Hanwell, to the west of London. The voles live by a pond near to the Grand Union Canal, but they are unable to access the canal itself because of the high walls that form its boundary. The simple solution is to build ladders for the voles that will allow them to cross the canal bank and make their way to a special vole island that has been built for them. The further hope is that the furry rodents will then further explore along the canal.

If the trial is successful, the likelihood is that further vole ladders will be put in place across the UK, creating wooden superhighways to link up isolated populations.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sparks "Exotic Creatures of the Deep" [2008]

This is an album by Sparks. I bought this at their recent live appearance in Dublin, partly at random and partly because it has the track 'Lighten Up, Morrissey' on it. A friend who likes Sparks recommended it, but then he recommends almost all Sparks albums.

I think of Sparks has having two periods - Classic Sparks (the time when they used to appear on Top of the Pops when I was small) and Recent Sparks (anything from the last ten years or so). The stretch of time between these two periods is disturbing and interstitial. Exotic Creatures of the Deep is from the second period. It is the album that comes after Hello Young Lovers, a record that gave them a new lease of life to people like me, establishing them as a band still making interesting music and not one trading pathetically on former glories.

The sound is a lot less rock than classic 1970s Sparks, being more based on keyboards and the mannered vocals of Russell Mael. It has three tracks that particularly stick in my memory. 'Good Morning' feels like the opening track, though it actually comes second after a short intro. The lyrics, sung largely in falsetto, are from the point of view of someone who is astonished to wake up in the morning next to someone very sexually attractive, realising that they must have engaged in unremembered drunken copulation the night before. Blimey. Then there is 'Strange Animal', which is less jaunty, featuring the very high falsetto refrain of "what strange animals we a-a-are". The overall lyrics make less impression on me, but the song drills into my subconscious.

The last of the Three Notable Tracks is the afore-mentioned 'Lighten Up Morrissey'. Lyrically it is about this guy whose girlfriend will not shag him because she is so into Morrissey, so the guy reckons that if only Morrissey would lighten up he would be able to convince the girlfriend to put out. Irene has pointed out that a problem with the song is the idea that Morrissey needs to lighten up - as the great man is well known to discerning listeners for his wry sense of humour.

Also, why would Morrissey lightening-up persuade his lady admirer to put out? Surely she would still be saving all her love for Mozz? But to me these questions are irrelevant. It is the song's jaunty sing-a-long quality ("Lighten up, Morrissee-eey! Lighten up Morrissey!") that carries it along and makes it one of my new favourite songs.

The rest of the album is arguably less memorable.

Hello, Young Lovers

image source

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Good dog saves small child

A three year old child in Poland wandered off from her backyard and got lost in nearby marshy woods. The girl was missing overnight as temperatures dropped to -5C. However, when she was found, she was still alive, because a little black dog she had been playing with had snuggled up to keep her warm through the night.

The little girl is being treated for frostbite. News sources are frustratingly vague about the fate of the little dog, but my impression is that he is continuing to live as a popular stray in the village of Pierzwin.


Monday, March 11, 2013

By train to Greece

I am planning to go to Greece in the autumn. It is somewhere I have long been interested in and, as I get older, I feel the need to get round to visiting those places I have always wanted to visit before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

Because I like trains, my current intention is to travel to Greece by train and ferry (and then fly back, because I am not made of time). I intend being in London in early September (to see all three parts of Shakespeare's Henry VI in the Globe) and will from there be able to depart. The wonderful the Man In Seat 61 website suggests a great route from London - Eurostar to Paris, TGV to Milan, Frecciabianca to Bari, overnight ferry to Patras (with a view of Ithaka in the morning) and bus to Athens. I will probably break the journey in Milan and spend a day looking around there.

Why am I telling you this? Well, partly to communicate how glamorous and exciting my life is. But also I think to bring Man In Seat 61 website to the attention of my friends (apart from the friends who told me about it). The site has loads of great stuff about how to get from London (where, presumably, Mr Man In Seat 61 is based) to other places in Europe, but also on train travel generally around the world. The thing I find really amazing is that you can board a train in London in the morning and arrive in Milan that night. If I lived in London I would be doing this all the time (or I would aspire to be doing this all the time).


The Man In Seat 61

From London to Greece by train

Henry VI

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Little Cat's Big Journey

A recurring type of news story concerns a cat or other animal who stows away somewhere and makes an unexpectedly long journey. The latest concerns the cat Bisou. Her owner, Ms Mervat Ciuiti, was travelling from Egypt to visit her sister in Nottinghamshire. When she was in a taxi to Radcliffe-on-Trent she discovered that her cat had come to England with her. Bisou, a Persian, had climbed into Ms Cuiti's bag in Cairo and then travelled 2,200 miles from Egypt in the airplane's freezing hold.

Bisou is now going through quarantine in Chesterfield and apparently does not understand what all the fuss is about.


hat tip

Friday, March 08, 2013

Fierce Rabbit Terrorises Burglar

Rabbits are not known for their fierceness, but when a burglar broke into the home of Ms Kimberley May and her fiancé, their 4.5kg monster rabbit Toby sprang into action. The two foot long bunny started stamping on the floor of his cage with such aggression that Ms May was awakened - and the burglar frightened into fleeing for his very life.

"Toby has done the job of a guard dog," commented Ms May. "We're so proud of him we've rewarded him with a new tunnel to play with."


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

[unknown artists] "Music of Nubia - Folklore of Nubia"

This is a bit of a mystery. I bought it in a record shop in Luxor in Egypt, a land untouched by modern intellectual property laws, so the copy I got was a CD-R with a scanned copy of the cover. So I have no idea when it was recorded or by whom or whatever. The sleeve mentions Hamza al-Din, a singer and oudist I have heard before on the record Escalay: the Water Wheel. There is nothing on this that sounds like his music and I suspect he is just on the cover because he is somewhat famous to people who are interested in Nubian music.

But wait! Before I go on to talk about the record, who are these Nubian fellows? You probably are aware that there is no country on the map called Nubia, so what are they all about? Well, the Nubians live in the south of Egypt and the north of Sudan. They are very focussed on the Nile River. Their culture is different from those of their northern Egyptian compatriots. They may even have their own language, though I reckon they must also all speak Arabic. And they feel a bit hard done by, because the Aswan High Dam (built by Nasser in the 1950s) flooded many of the places where they used to live.

The music on this record is mainly vocal and percussive. The vocals are often call and response, while the percussion has an incessant and hypnotic quality. This really is a very appealing record, particularly the 40 minute long opening track. Frankly, something bought on a whim in a market as a holiday souvenir has no right to be so musically enjoyable.

Record cover image source (worth clicking on if you found my sketchy review intriguing)

An inuit panda production

Monday, March 04, 2013

Áine O'Dwyer "Music for Church Cleaners" [2012]

I think Áine O'Dwyer must be one of those multi-instrumentalists you hear about. I first became aware of her at the Hunters Moon festival in 2011, where she played a solo set on the harp and then later played the same instrument as part of United Bible Studies. That festival also featured a great profile of her in the programme, which read like it had been written by some deranged stalker fan. But this Music for Church Cleaners record features Ms O'Dwyer playing a church organ. The title of the record comes from the fact that she was playing a church organ not as part of a formal concert but during church downtime. So there would have been church cleaners in while she was playing away. There are certainly bits and pieces of noise from the kind of randomers who show up in churches when there are no services on. You know the type.

I bought this at the Hunters Moon festival in 2012 and have never listened to it. Yes, readers, that is right - I have never listened to the record I bought at the festival, because it is a cassette and I am too lazy to turn on the cassette players on my stereo. But I have listened to the free download that a code with the cassette entitled me to, but only on my iPod. I am so cassette-phobic that I have contemplated burning the tracks to a CD-R so that I could listen to them on my stereo, but that would be a bit mental.

What does the record sound like? Well, it is improvised organ pieces played in a church while people wander in and out. That's what it sounds like. Like all organ music, it reminds me a bit of the recording I have of Paul Ayres playing organ arrangements of happy hardcore tunes - for all the improvised nature of this, it all sounded like it could easily be a reworked version of a track by Scooby, DJ Baz or The Mister Men. That said, the tracks are generally on the slower side, so if they were arrangements of something you might hear a happy hardcore DJ play they would have to be from the bits were it all slows down and everyone has a Moment.

I think the best improvised music sounds like its creator was not actually making it up as they went along. This is like that.


A review of Paul Ayres playing organ arrangements of happy hardcore tunes

image source (and information on how you too can acquire a copy of this record).

Fort Evil Fruit (the cassette label who released the record)

An inuit panda production