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Friday, 21 August 2009
Garden Spider

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She appears to be hanging on to what web she has left, but unfortunately it is blocking the path to my compost-maker.  I decided to leave the grass clippings in the bag of the mower for a few days.

Posted by bigblue on 21/08/2009 at 04:08 PM
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Thursday, 20 August 2009
Slow / Araf

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I’m in Wales. I hope there’s someone here who can understand English. If not I will have to SPEAK LOUDLY!

Posted by bigblue on 20/08/2009 at 08:35 PM
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Sunday, 16 August 2009
Hunting for mushrooms

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In the forest at night.

Posted by bigblue on 16/08/2009 at 09:00 PM
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Saturday, 15 August 2009
Mother Nature makes their beds

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A section for children in the graveyard of St Nicolas Church in Godstone.

Posted by bigblue on 15/08/2009 at 11:54 PM
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Friday, 14 August 2009
Sarsen Stone in Godstone

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Also known as Greywethers these are a form of sandstone. They have a small amount of impurities in the stone and the iron can cause a reddish tinge (e.g. when wet).  They have been widely used in the past as building materials, including at Stonehenge which is now regarded by some to have been a memorial to the dead.

This is the only sarsen I know hereabouts but they are associated with the chalk downs - some believe that they were carried here by glaciers during the last ice age.  The sarsen was placed here by members of the Rambling Club as a memorial to Walker Miles, who was a founder of the Ramblers and who championed the countryside rights of way. He also published popular “sixpenny” walking guides. The plaque at the foot of his grave reads:

This is the bourne to which the footpath led
This is the spot uncharted in his works
Twas come upon so suddenly
But ever will remembered be
As where he takes his peaceful rest

Another plaque on the side of the sarsen stone itself reads:

Sacred
To the memory of
Edmund Seyfang Taylor
(“Walker Miles”)
Born August 27th 1853. Died April 19th 1908.
This sarsen stone
was erected by members of the
rambling clubs of London
who knew the man and admired his works

Why did I seek out this grave? Well at the top of Leith Hill Tower there is a pointer towards the distant tower of St Nicolas Church, Godstone, that highlights that this graveyard is the final resting place of Walker Miles.

Posted by bigblue on 14/08/2009 at 08:32 AM
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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Doting on Ants

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On the evening of 4 August, last week, Oxted experienced a sudden mass of flying ants.  I haven’t seen such a thing before on this continent, but am always amazed at how mother nature manages to synchronise these things on such a large scale. I assume that all Oxted/Limpsfield ants aren’t part of the same mega-colony. In 2002 we heard about the mega ant-colony that stretched 6000 miles from Portugal to Italy.  Earlier this year we read about a mega ant colony that occupies 3 continents.  Or perhaps the ants are playing Risk?

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The photographs I took don’t correctly reflect the frenetic and energetic behaviour of the ants.  I seem to show them pausing for thought. There is no sense of the swarming and flying, the crawling up my leg and into my pants, the rush of energy, followed by the strange calm when it was all over.

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I assume that the ants perform this spectacular feat in unison because of the “safety in numbers” principle, and that the timing is achieved by following cues of weather: e.g. moisture, temperature and time of day.  Another factor could be the growing period of ants eggs, and the time since the ants started laying eggs after the winter..

Posted by bigblue on 13/08/2009 at 04:39 PM
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Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Cloudy Water

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At the Bay Pond in Godstone the notice advises the public to desist from feeding the ducks, geese and fish due to the adverse environmental consequences of this.

The feeding of the wildlife in this pond had been done by adults and children in Godstone for generations but the Nature body that is responsible for managing the reserve had to take matters in hand. Apparently a few local noses were put out of joint by this, hence the protracted explanation on the sign. A “pea soup” effect on the water, caused by overfeeding and bread, is mentioned. On this day there were only clouds in the water.

Posted by bigblue on 12/08/2009 at 05:14 PM
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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
André Brink

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[South African Author, André] Brink grew up in a small dorp, in the shadow of the local Dutch Reformed Church. His father was a magistrate, a convinced believer in the truth of Afrikaner racial superiority. So indeed was the young André, and it would have been surprising if that were not so. Afrikaans children were raised that way, and where else was the righteous believing boy to go but ever deeper into the holy heartland of the tribe? Apartheid was not just a political policy, it was preached to, and accepted by, the faithful as a holy war. The young Brink considered becoming a minister, and there is still about him a clerical flourish.

It was against this theocracy that Brink rebelled. Paris, and the excitement of the 1968 student upheavals, blew holes in his parochialism and he broke with his past, his parents, his party and most of his compatriots. He was part of a group of young novelists known as the Sestigers - “the Sixtiers” - who became the first Afrikaans writers to attack the system from within. And given the brutal self-righteousness with which Afrikaans loyalists punished those they saw as traitors to their race and tribe, this took a lot of courage.

Over and above what might be regarded as a common human taste for violence, Brink notes in South Africa “a fortuitous surplus” of brutality. His novels are marked by the fascinated horror with which he records this capacity for cruelty. When he was very young, he saw friends of his family beating a black man senseless, and remembers going to bed that night unable to stop hearing the blows, knowing he would go on hearing them all his life. Under the old white Afrikaans nationalist regime, and under British and Dutch rule before that, killing others was seen as wholly unexceptional, provided the victims were black and the motive for the murder was an honest attempt at improving their manners or morals.

From: Traitor to the tribe a review of his autobiography, the Guardian (January 2009).

See also: Out of the Lager, a profile by Nicholas Wroe in the Guardian (August 2004) and Brink’s bio in Wikipedia (not very useful as of the time I posted this).

Posted by bigblue on 11/08/2009 at 09:25 AM
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