Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Another Day, Another Sunset.....

Mr. DBM is not very interested in this blog. He claims he doesn't know the URL and that he never reads it. So why do I bother with it, if even my own husband is not interested? I could claim that I do it because I enjoy writing the posts and that I do it just for my own satisfaction. But that wouldn't be the whole truth, would it? I would be lying if I didn't admit to the fact that I love logging onto my blog and seeing the comments that I get. Every time I check my blog, there is the anticipation and the excitement of seeing if anyone has read it, if anyone has left a comment. And if someone has, a little part of me jumps for joy. If there are no comments, I always feel just a wee bit disappointed.

The eagerness to share some of my thoughts, experiences and photos has led me to appreciate the finer things in life just a little bit more. When I saw this sunset last night, I actually stopped and watched the sky and the changing patterns of cloud and colours of light. Instead of just glancing at it and moving on, I actually stopped to admire the beauty of the evening. Whenever I see anything beautiful or different or interesting, I now stop and look. I will take the time to enjoy the moment and even capture it on film. That, dear reader, is why I enjoy writing this blog. It has made me look, it has made me think and it has made me appreciate life and its small moments. Thank you for reading and don't forget to comment!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

"Waiter, waiter, there's a fly in my soup!"

So here's the story. A man finds a fly in his bottle of water. This apparently has significant psychological effects on him which include:

  • mental anguish
  • changed personality
  • nightmares about flies
  • loss of sense of humour,
  • becoming argumentative and edgy.
  • trouble drinking coffee because it contained water
  • anxious about getting in the shower
  • sexual dysfunction
Now, before I go on with this post, I do have to point out that the fly never made it passed his lips - he did not even open the bottle, since he noticed the fly while the bottle was still sealed. Despite this, he went on to sue the water company for a sum of $341,775. The first court he went to, the Ontario Superior Court, ruled in his favour.
  • Waiter, there's a fly in my soup!
  • Keep it down sir, or they'll all be wanting one.
This was appealed and the second court, the Ontario Superior Court, overturned the ruling. Of course, this ruling was then appealed and it went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada - the highest court in the land. And what do you think the ruling was?

Well, we have all heard of the ridiculous cases in the U.S, such as the hot coffee in the lap and the dog in the microwave - well, how on earth was she supposed to know that you weren't supposed to put your dog in there to dry it? We all read the stupid warning labels on packages, such as

  • On a bottle of shampoo for dogs: Caution: The contents of this bottle should not be fed to fish.
  • Warning on fireplace log: Caution -- Risk of Fire.
  • Warning on an electric router made for carpenters: This product not intended for use as a dental drill.
  • Warning on a cartridge for a laser printer: Do not eat toner.
  • Baby stroller warning: Remove child before folding.
  • In the manual of a chainsaw: Do not attempt to stop the blade with your hand.
  • A TV remote controller warns: Not dishwasher safe.

This is just a quick sampling - I could amuse myself for a long time with all the stupid labels out there. But what this tells us is that some dimwitted numbnut has probably tried all of these things out at some point and so now the company has to protect itself from frivolous law suits by people with an IQ in the single digits. The whole of society ends up having to pay and that is what bugs me. Even if the court dismisses the case, it costs society a bucket load of money. There are nine judges sitting on the Supreme Court of Canada, and I am betting that they all make a decent wage. Not to mention all the subordinates that do all the running around, paperwork, research etc. etc. etc. Why on earth can't cases like this just be reviewed and thrown out at a much earlier stage? Why does it need to go all the way to the top?

Now, in this particular case, I will agree that the guy did have a legitimate complaint - there should not be a fly in your bottle of supposedly pure water. But then, who hasn't found food that has been contaminated. I once had a bag of walnuts that grew larvae and eventually moths. These flour moths proceeded to invade my entire kitchen and any food that was not in sealed containers, which, at the time was most of my food, since I only started putting food in sealed containers after this incidence. Did I run off to some lawyer claiming mental anguish and near starvation, since I could no longer eat any of my food? No, I just chucked the whole lot out, bought some containers and got on with my life. In fact, the only time I ever complained about a food product was when I bought some Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts and there was not one, I repeat not even one, of the blue or pink bobbly ones. Well, even I have my limits, and I could not let this one go. So, I wrote and complained to Bertie Bassett and he sent me a replacement bag.

I will also point out that the Supreme Court may well have taken this case as an example case to make it clear what will and will not make it through a court of law. Fair enough, if we are looking at this from a lawyer's perspective. But, it still costs money and we shouldn't have to spend our money on cases where common sense provides the answer for far less. Let's face it, the guy must have had problems before this - how can a fly in a bottle of water possibly prevent a guy getting it up for his wife - come on! Perhaps she just wasn't prepared to share her bed with a man that was no longer washing due to his water phobia!?!

My advice - drink tap water - it's free, it's easy to obtain, and there is no need for manufacturing or recycling large volumes of plastic, using up valuable resources and energy. Bottled water, by its very nature, comes in bottles, and the plastic leaches chemicals into your water - well, that can't be healthy! I suspect that many bottled water companies just use tap water anyway, so you may as well miss out the middleman. When all is said and done, bottled water bugs me and it really should be banned. I am now off my soap box and I am going to check that I have enough bottled water in my garage to keep my toads happy and to see Mr. DBM and myself through a large scale break down of all infrastructure and services when the Big One hits. OK, so maybe bottled water is OK for amphibious pet keepers and in cases of emergencies.

The verdict - 9 : 0, in favour of the water company!

Friday, 23 May 2008

Not all pets are furry........

So this post is for Coastal Aussie, who appears to be something of a frog woman. I made a comment on her blog about having toads as pets and so she asked if I had any photos of them. Well, I didn't, but it made me think that I should. So off I trot with my trusty Nikon and here, ladies and gentlemen, are the results. Now, you are all going to have to admit that they really are very cute, warts and all.

Just in case you are wondering, they are oriental fire-bellied toads (Bombina orientalis) and they do make great pets. They are very easy to keep and require very little attention. All they really need is a smattering of crickets every few days and that is about it. I will clean out their aquarium about once a year - this generally happens when the pump starts to cough and splutter and then finally refuses to do anything but make sucky, grating and very irritating noises. I would have to say that the only real downside to them is that they do require live food - they will not eat anything that is not moving. A cricket can be sitting right on top of their heads and the toads will just sit there. As long as the cricket stays still, it is quite safe. So, I guess I have to admit that they are not the brightest of animals, but then neither are my cats! They also have limitations in terms of sitting on laps and being all warm and furry and they don't do well in the park or on long walks in the country - but then neither do my cats! They can do the warm and furry bit, but that is about it. In fact, I am beginning to realise that my pets really aren't much good at anything at all, except, of course, being very, very cute!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

A Brief Moment of Contentment.

For those of you that are friends with me on Facebook, you will have seen that I have been suffering from sunburnt hands and that, despite unusual punishment to my thighs, I am still walking. All of this is a result of a rather ambitious bike ride on the weekend. OK, so it was not the Tour de France - it did not even include a small hillock, let alone the Alps, and it was only 30km long. It turns out that was about 15km too long! Mr. DBM and I are not exactly couch potatoes, but we don't get out on our bikes very often - let's just say that I had to dust mine and clear off the cobwebs - so we were using muscles that don't get used too often. I ended up with very sore thighs, he knackered his knees and both our bums are still recovering from 30kms worth of juddering and jarring. The lesson learnt from all of this is that cycling is probably not the sport for us and that we should probably stick to hiking!

Having said all of that, I did enjoy a brief moment of contentment. It was on the trip home and my screaming thighs were demanding a rest. So, we found an isolated bench just off the trail. This bench faced out, with a panoramic view of the bay - just sand and sea as far as the eye could see. Soft, wispy-white clouds floated past against a backdrop of azure blue. A swallowtail butterfly fluttered by and a bald eagle glided lazily overhead. I lay my head on Mr. DBM's shoulder and closed my eyes. I could hear a bird chirping in a nearby bush and the wind rustling through the long grass growing along the trail. A faint breeze trailed its soft, warm fingers across my face. In the distance there was the faint hum of a small plane, but otherwise all was quiet, all was still, all was well with the world. Of course, it didn't last - it couldn't minute all is perfect, the next I have a crick in my neck, the distant hum of the plane has become an annoying, angry buzz and some small child is screaming at a flustered parent. So the bubble burst and everything returned to normal. Still, it was a little bit of peace in a world full of hustle and bustle, noise and distractions.

This reminds me of an advert that Lexus has run. A guy driving along an empty desert road, the sun at just the right level in the sky to make everything look gorgeous, hints of gold, red and orange on the rocks, sand and vegetation. A bunny rabbit hopping away from the vehicle - nowhere near the wheels and so in no danger of being squashed horribly. The breeze coming in through the open window is gently ruffling the guy's shirt and hair - all is perfect. The driver realizes this and starts to think that this is the perfect moment..........until..........he wonders what is for supper, the spell is broken and he thinks "Shoot!" Of course, we all know that what he actually thinks is "Shit!", but god forbid this word would actually be used in a commercial. Well, the world would go to hell in a hand basket, wouldn't it? A bit like the brilliant advertising used by French Connection U.K. Some bright spark must have thought all her holidays had come at once when she thought of this one - oooooh, let's call it FCUK - that could easily be mistaken for F#*K, and just think of all the people who are going to get their knickers in a knot over it, think of all the free advertising that we are going to get.........Brilliant, and it worked like a charm. All I have to say to those people with knotted knickers - Get Over It! I think that we have bigger issues to worry about and bigger fish to fry.........Now that has made me wonder what is for supper?!

Friday, 16 May 2008

So, what do you think she said.....?

It is Friday, I have just had two rather large G and Ts and I am feeling a little silly. So, I thought that I needed a little silly post to go along with my mood - for once, there is absolutely no edumicational content to this post! It is the end of the week, it is sunny and it is a long weekend.........

So, what do you think Willow is saying to her sister, Tess?

Mr. DBM seems to think that it might be something along the lines of "Tess, you really are a bit weird." This stems from the fact that she really is a bit weird. She seems to spend an inordinate amount of time in the basement, just staring at objects. One day, it is the washing machine, then it is a chair and today it was the wall. She just sits there, staring. Don't you think that it is wonderful how much we love our pets (insert children, other half, family etc) despite all their little faults? English Mum has a greyhound that she and her family obviously love dearly, despite the fact that he appears to have a roo loose in the paddock. My Tess is apparently a sandwich short of a picnic, but I love her none-the-less. At least we are willing to admit that our loved ones are not perfect. Nothing bugs me more than parents who claim to have perfect children! Well, perhaps there are some things.................

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Scents of the Past

As I sit here and gaze out of my front window, I can see several containers full of bluebells. They are a little late this year, due to the cold spring that we have had, but definitely better late than never. I just love bluebells. I love their colour and their simplicity. Their delicate heads, rising above a carpet of shining, emerald green. I also love bluebells because they remind me of home. The first time I left home and moved down to Exeter to do my first degree, one of the things that I missed the most were the bluebell woods back home. That carpet of bright blue, beneath the brilliant green of freshly opened beech leaves, so new, so vibrant, the sunlight shinning through the leafy canopy, dappling the rippling sea of bluebells beneath. To this day, every time I see a bluebell, I think of home and I wish I could be transported to those bluebell woods........

Recently, in her blog, English Mum asked her readers what made them happy. I immediately thought of my cats - burying my head in their warm, soft fur, listening to the most relaxing sound in the world - a cat purring. Just thinking about them makes me smile. I also thought of daffodils, their cheery yellow heads, bobbing in the wind, reminding us all that Winter is on its way out and Spring is just around the corner - really, it is, you just have to be patient. Daffodils also remind me of home. More specifically, they remind me of my Granddad, who had the most wonderful garden in the world. Last night, I couldn't sleep. This is what happens of you drink too much water before going to bed. It is all very well going on and on about staying hydrated, but if that means you have to get up five times during the night.......I guess I have to choose between being dehydrated or sleep deprived, and after last night, sleep wins out over hydration every time! Still, it did give me lots of time to let my mind wander, skipping back to the past and meandering through the scents and sounds of my childhood. I started to think of all the things that made me happy now and realised that many of them make me happy because they remind of my childhood. Let's look at a few examples:

Some of the smells that make me yearn for the past:

  • Lavender and lilac

  • Wallflowers - maybe not the prettiest of flowers, but they have the scent of heaven.

  • Roses, mainly the old, rambling rose that we had growing over our shed in our garden. Also, another reminder of my Grandad, who grew some of the biggest and showiest roses that I have ever seen.

  • Box hedges - this may seem like an odd one, since they are not much too look at and their smell is not exactly sweet. However, we used to have box hedges in our garden and every time I smell one, I am transported right back home, playing in that garden.

  • Tomatoes - I don't even particularly like tomatoes, nor did I as a child, but the smell - oh my God, straight back to my Granddad's greenhouse, picking baby tomatoes. I can almost taste them as I sit here typing.

  • Sage brush and ponderosa pine, reminding me of a summer spent in Utah.

    • You will notice how many of these are flowers that remind me of either my garden or my granddad's garden as I was growing up. There are many more, and whenever I hit the garden centre, my choice of flowers nearly always reflects the gardens of my past - dog daisies and giant red poppies, lupines and hollyhocks, buddleia and delphiniums and pansies, we mustn't forget pansies - my Dad was smitten with pansies........... Oh for a large garden that I could fill with flowers. Unfortunately, we have a garden the size of a postage stamp and Mr. DBM has his own ideas about gardens and their uses. If he had his way, it would be full of lettuces and spinach, strawberries and raspberries, onions and garlic. Hang on a minute - it is! It is quite amazing how many vegetables you can fit into one tiny garden. Not that I am against growing vegetables - I think that it is a great idea and we should all do it, but I do have to draw the line somewhere. Right now, that line is drawn at chickens living in the garage and a sheep to keep the grass short. Again, great idea, but we really do need a bit more space before I can allow the introduction of farm animals to our urban Eden.

      While most of my strongest memories are triggered by scent, there are also certain sounds that have a similar effect. I have been to Australia several times now, and I always look forward to hearing the galahs. I know, they are not the prettiest, or the smartest and definitely not the most melodious of birds, but their song is just so Australia. As is the kookaburra. How can anyone hear that bird without smiling and starting to laugh? One of the most prominent sounds of my childhood is the sound of a cricket bat hitting a ball. Mostly, this is a good memory, although having two brothers knocking in cricket bats could potential drive you nuts pretty quickly. Then there is music - ah, now that is a whole new post, but I will mention one sound bite of my past that starts the memory juices flowing - the theme tune of Grandstand. Sitting on the floor of my grandparent's living room, with a small stool across my legs, eating a boiled egg with soldiers..........I still have that stool. I finally persuaded Mum that it would be OK to give it to me and let me bring it to Canada.

      All of these memories are happy memories of a wonderful, carefree childhood. A while ago, I wrote about how luck had little to do with the life Mr. DBM and I had made for ourselves (Special Offer of the Day). However, I am very willing to admit that the halcyon days of my childhood were due to luck - the luck of having a family full of love and laughter. We didn't have a lot of money, we didn't have a lot of material things, but we did have a lot of fun and many a hectic holiday, chaotic family gathering or frenzied family outing and we are now very lucky to have a lot of fond memories of our past. These memories now shape my present and my future. Perhaps only in small ways, such as the flowers that I chose for my gardens, but they are always there, influencing how I live my life today.

      Friday, 9 May 2008


      In my last post, I asked if anyone was interested in learning a bit about tulips - I got no response. I assume this means that you, my loyal readers, are not dying to know about tulips. Do you think that is going to stop me from telling you anyway? Hell no, this is my blog and I am going to write about whatever I want to - so there!

      Warning - educational information follows.

      Would you believe me if I told you that tulips nearly ruined the economy of a certain country famed for its tulips? Would you believe that a grown man would chose to spend vast sums of money on a single flower? A flower that he might buy before he even knew what it would look like, which would then flower for a few, brief days and then wither and die, not even leaving offspring that might look the same? Absolute madness, if you ask me, but it happened all the same.

      We are talking about Holland in the 1630s and we are talking tulipomania - an apparently well studied economical event that nearly ruined Holland. People went mad over tulips. I kid you not - men really did spend vast sums of money to buy a tulip. Now, everyone can understand why someone might want to spend large sums of money on a work of art - let's say a Rembrandt or a Van Gogh, for example. This would be considered an investment - you may not even like the painting, you may lock it up in your cellar for years, but it will still be there in years to come and it will still probably be worth a lot of money. But this just doesn't apply to our tulip. Let's take the most famous of the tulips around at the height of tulipomania - the Semper Augustus (see picture). I would hope anyone can see that this is a gorgeous flower, a feast for the eyes, the rich colours, the delicate and intricately feathered petals are a marvel indeed. But do you really think that anyone could be daft enough to spend over 6,000 florins on one bulb back in 1635? Just to give you some idea how much this was - an average income back then was around 150 florins. Let's say an average income now is $50,000 - that would mean that some numbnut just paid approximately $2,000,000 for a tulip! Such ridiculous sums of money for a flower that will wither and die. Why would anyone do that? I really don't know - perhaps you have to ask someone who has bucket loads of cash lying around, may be they would think that it is worth it. Now, I can tell you that many rich Dutch men bought the tulips for status reasons - can you imagine trying to keep up with the Joneses if they ever got a Semper Augustus in their front garden? I also know that many a man made his fortune by speculating and trading in tulips. However, in 1637, some bright spark suddenly turned around and said "Eh up? Why would anyone spend this much money on a poncey flower?" Everyone had second thoughts, the market collapsed and many people were left with nothing but a few worthless tulip bulbs.

      One of the big questions for me was why certain tulips were so rare and hence so valuable. Surely if you have one tulip you could let it grow and multiply and then have lots of tulips, all of which you could then sell. Of course, if this were the case, the tulip would no longer be rare and therefore it would lose its value. Still, this doesn't answer the question of why some tulips were very rare. It turns out that this is Mother Nature's doings. The colour of a tulip depends upon the pigments present. Most tulips have two classes of pigments, an underlying base coat and a second coat of a different pigment. If you can vary the amount and coverage of the top coat, you can develop patterns on the petals. When this occurs, the tulip is said to have broken. So, you can have a pale base coat of say yellow or white and then bursts of colours over the top of this. In some cases, you can get incredibly fine streaks of colour along the length of the petals - imagine these in a deep, dark red or a brilliant, fiery orange, feathery patterns spreading out across the petal, bold colours contrasting against a pale background. If you are really lucky, you end up with a rare beauty, such as the Semper Augustus. I say lucky, since this exquisite, natural work of art was a one off and was caused by a virus. This means two things. The first - the tulip cannot, ever, be reproduced exactly, since you will not get two tulips to break in the same manner. The second - it results in the tulip being less fit, since it is infected with a virus. Once the Dutch realised what caused breaking in tulips and why these tulips were less fit, the unique beauty was doomed. The Dutch increased the fitness of their tulips by ridding them of their virus - so depriving the world of these magical beauties.

      Much of the above information was gleaned from the book "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan. Very interesting book. I also learnt, among other things, that apples do not grow true from seeds, which is why you have to graft branches on to root stocks to get a particular variety of apple. On a more bizarre note, I discovered the truth behind witches and their flying broomsticks. This is a little delicate and I shall try to put it nicely. Apparently their flying trips had more to do with psychoactive plants than with actual flying and their broomsticks were used to insert said plants into a witch's most private of places......ahem....I hope I don't have to elaborate. So much for riding the broomstick..........I think I am blushing!

      I shall finish with an amusing titbit that I found while reading about tulips - since the Dutch are a bit strapped for space, they are thinking of making an island, much like the palm tree island of Dubai, only theirs, of course, would not be the shape of a palm tree but, rather, a tulip!

      Sunday, 4 May 2008

      If you go down to the woods today.........

      After my last floral post, I had fully intended on exploring the history of tulips, since I know how much everyone likes to be educated. Whilst it is all very fascinating - the history of tulips, that is - I figured that people might actually prefer to hear about my close encounters of the bear kind. Besides, I know that it will make brother Moon very jealous. After all, he kept on whinging and whining the whole time he was up here visiting about the lack of bear sightings. So Moon, here are the bears......

      The first one we saw was just on the side of the road as we were driving to Long Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island - well known for its long beaches - duh, big waves and endless surf. We had stopped on the side of the road for safety reasons - apparently someone was missing a headrest in the back seat. Turned out to be not so safe a stop, since once we had all piled out of the vehicle, someone noticed the large tree stump just behind the vehicle move. "My God, the tree stump is moving!?!" Oooooh, the tree stump is all furry and it has eyes.....wait a minute........" The coin finally drops - it is a bear. We all leg it back to the car, for two different reasons. The sensible half of the group deems this to be the safest spot. The photographers of the group need to grab cameras and zoom lenses. Am I sure that you have guessed which group I fell into - and weren't the photos worth the risk of a bear mauling? Besides, it was only one small bear, and there were four of us, and the car was pretty close by. As I was taking photos, I could tell how close the bear was getting by the pitch of my companions voice - one of the sensible ones in the car - as she was yelling "Get in the car. Get in the car now!" Good thing too, since you can't really tell how far away a bear is when you are looking at it down a camera lens. Needless to say, it would have been a very sad ending for all concerned if the bear had got me while I was browsing through the photos that I had just taken of it - well, you have to check that your exposures are correct, don't you? I can imagine the judges verdict now - death by camera distraction.

      Anyhoo, the bear didn't get us - in fact he was quite happy chomping away on freshly sprouted herbaceous plants and grass, apparently not bothered by us in the slightest, even when I started singing "Look for the bear necessities, the simple bear necessities......." That is normally enough to enrage any hearing-capable mammal, but even this did not phase the bear. The bear just didn't care - look, he is even smiling at me....

      We bearly survived our next encounter - this time it was with a mother and a cub - the most dangerous combination when it comes to bears attacking. The mother was on one side of the path and the baby on the other. Both munching away on grass and dandelions without a care in the world. That is until we came along. They then had to put up with my renditions of the Teddy Bears Picnic, Winnie the Pooh and the Bear Necessities (well, I only have a limited repertoire when it comes to bear songs) and my friend imploring us to step away from the bears - again, we could only get so far back, since our zoom lenses are only so good. So, what to do now? I suggested that we throw a couple of stones at them to try and move them along - well, it had worked with a rattlesnake one time in California. That one got voted down - can you believe that!?! Our only other plan was to make noise (hence the singing) and wait, at a safe distance. Unfortunately, I am not good at waiting safe distances, so I tended to drift closer and closer to the bears, which were moving very slowly down the path, not leaving a dandelion uneaten. I did beat a hasty retreat at one point, when the mother bear huffed at me in a very threatening manner. Huffing may not seem very threatening, but trust me, it is when there is nothing between you and a mamma bear and her cub.

      Plan B was about to be put into action when a group of hikers wended their way down the path, blissfully unaware of the danger up ahead and their impending mauling. This could be the answer to all our problems. All we had to do was let them continue on their merry way and observe the outcome. The possibilities:

      1). The impending mauling becomes an actual mauling - good photo op and should clear the path for us, since mamma bear will have her claws full.
      2). They will scare the bears off the path, leaving the path clear for us - not as exciting as option one, but a good outcome for all concerned.
      3). As above, but the bears are actually only hiding and we get the mauling - might get a decent last shot before going down.

      Of course, we didn't get to test these options, since my good will gene got the better of me and I informed the hikers of the danger up ahead. They seemed to quite like the idea of seeing bears and so carried on down the path. Meanwhile, we took the less dangerous route and bushwhacked it through the undergrowth, onto the beach and back to the car the long way round. Turns out that our route was the more dangerous - lots of spiky and prickly bushes and some very dangerous tippy logs. By the time we made it back to the car, the other group was already ensconced in the local inn, toasting their lack of a bear mauling.

      For those of you dying to know all about tulips, and I am sure there are many - well, another day, another post...........perhaps, if you ask nicely.