About Me

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Keys, bliss and the royal wedding

I woke up and thought, 'Yo! The holidays!' and then discovered about an hour later that I'd left my keys at work. So I had to go and get them. Oh well, at least it gave me an opportunity to buy some nasturtiums on the market. One of the best things about the move to the new college is that I get to walk to work through the market and get early pickings at the plant stalls.

It really is a beautiful day. Unseasonably hot for April, spring is literally bursting all around: a frog, a baby blackbird and small, unidentifiable butterflies in the garden (they never stay still long enough to be identified) and spiderwebs shining in the sun. Idyllic. A tiny moment of heaven. And no need to think...well not about classes and course work or any of that stuff. Bliss.

Tomorrow me and him head off to see my dad in Kent. My father will be eighty on Easter Sunday and so it should be a grand celebration. We are staying in a flat overlooking Viking Bay and I just can't wait to feel the sand between my toes and the salty suds on my, hopefully, not too swollen feet.

Returning home by rail via London on the day of the Royal Wedding could be hard work but, hopefully, the crowds will have no reason to flood out the Euston Road as we walk from Saint Pancras to Euston station. I've always been pretty ambivalent about the Royals. Not a fan but not particularly anti either; I've always quite admired the way the Queen conducts herself and holds on to her quaint but not entirely useless standards. I wonder what it feels like to believe you're God's special representative for the nation? Somehow it seems perfectly in keeping if you're Elizabeth the First, Queen of the Golden Age but not so perfect in 2011. Standing in the fast track queue in Marks and Spencer's this morning, I noticed one of the more up market tabloids (The Mail or the Express) whining on about Kate Middleton's weight ('Let her Eat Cake'.) Is this the start of the backlash?

Monday, 4 April 2011

The sexual habits of the dunnock

Idly looking out of the French window this morning as I buttoned my grey overcoat before heading off for work, I noticed a pair of dunnocks in the garden. They're often to be found scuttling under the laurel but this time their behaviour was distinctive. The female, rear end raised and tail up high, was fair shaking her booty, while the male bird pecked in and out.

Apparently it's not uncommon. To quote from the RSBP:

'Dunnocks are fairly quiet, unassuming birds. You'll often see them lurking underneath bushes or shuffling around flowerbeds, looking quite boring. But did you know they have riotous sex lives that might make Russell Brand blush?

We often think about birds living perfect lives as if in a Disney movie. They snuggle up together in their nest, have lots of fluffy babies and stay faithful for life, right? Not true, unfortunately.

Dunnocks have adapted to make use of different breeding strategies. Both males and females want make sure their genes are passed on to the next generation. Where food is plentiful, territories need not be so big, and so there's less opportunity for overlap with those of other birds. Where life is tougher, the territories need to be bigger and that means more interaction with other dunnocks.

For females, that may mean mating with more than one male, in the hope that they'll both help rear her chicks.

Clearly, that doesn't suit the males. So before mating, they may try to remove a rival's sperm by pecking the female's rear end (the cloaca - through which both poo and eggs exit) and encourage her to eject it!

However, what works for one pair of dunnocks might not work for another. There are several different strategies they might use:

* A male paired with a female (monogamy)
* More than one male paired with the same female (polyandry)
* A male paired with more than one female (polygyny)
* 'Pairs' with two males and two females (polygynandry)

And it's all going on in your shrubbery...' (RSBP, 2009)

Indeed. So engrossed was I watching a bit of raw nature in my own back yard that I missed a bus and was almost late for work.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The beautiful boy gets wasted

The march was a glorious success. People came from all over the United Kingdom to say no to the cuts and yes to an alternative. Apart from a small group of young anarchists, the march was peaceful. I am glad that I went and that friends were happy to accompany me.

Meanwhile the days got longer and the sun shone more and I took a musical detour back to my youth, rediscovering The Only Ones. Listening to Peter Perrett's fabulously bored, sexy drawl and that magical wall of decadent sound transported me back over thirty years. The tunes sound better than ever, although the doomed romantic lyricism now carries an extra layer of poignancy, given the long lasting impact hard drugs were to have upon him. The band reformed in 2007, following the success of Another Girl Another Planet after it was used on an advert. Checking them out on youtube, I'd forgotten how striking the young Perrett was and how naffed off I was when a gig we travelled into Manchester for was cancelled, a handwritten note about 'unavoidable circumstances' pinned to the door.

Here's what I missed: