LOOK YOU
A postcard from my square mile ~ Llandeilo

WELCOME to my new postcard corner - regular one-off images that have captured my attention along my daily walks through Llandeilo, Dinefwr and the Towy Valley (one of the corners of Wales to visit before you die, according to a recent book). Llandeilo, a medieval royal capital of Wales, has to be one of the most beautifully set towns in Wales. High above the banks of the Towy, the town is an elegant warren of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian streets in which you'll find all manner of antique shops, art galleries, pubs and restaurants. Here be postcards to make the area more than just a dot on the map - together with some background information to help make sense of what's on view. Alongside, how my square mile would have looked to my ancestors ... a map of the British Isles, as drawn in 1482/1486.

11th August 2013
Stuck in a rut

EARLY-MORNING on the Dinefwr Park & Castle estate ... it's mid-August, and the bucks have already separated from the deer herd, as they always do in the weeks leading up to the rut. On a misty morning, a few years back, I captured this rather atmospheric image of the males getting restless, and keen to get on with the job at hand...

The boys are back in town


Often they will attempt to mount fellow bucks in their frustration, or perhaps they are simply refreshing those parts that may have rusted up a bit during the lay off (after all, everything must be in perfect working order when the going gets tough and the tough get going).
 

Hart to hart


On the far right you can see a frustrated buck attempt to mount his mate in front of him - who is clearly not best pleased with the attention. Of course, the funny thing is, once the rut starts they will all try to kill each other in an attempt to mate with the hinds.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
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26th May 2013
A perfect sunrise and a perfect moonset on a perfect morning

AN EARLY-MORNING walk through the Towy Valley throws up all sorts of delightful sights and sounds to stand and stare and wonder at...
 

All misty eyed: a picture-perfect sunrise


And a full moon prepares to set over Dinefwr Castle


And a little later, from a slightly different angle...

                   
                                                                                                                                     Home


1st March 2012
Saint David, another beautiful tit - and a host of golden daffodils

HOW COULD I not acknowledge St David's Day without a proper photograph of a golden host of daffodils (with a friendly little bluetit in tow), spotted on a glorious spring morning, in my square mile.
     The picture postcard l have chosen was actually taken on March 13 last year, at 08:47 to be precise. Today, March 1 2012, the daffs are only just starting to come into their own, hence my having to dip into the archive...
 


                                                      I wandered lonely as a cloud
                                                      That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
                                                      When all at once I saw a crowd,
                                                      A host, of golden daffodils:
                                                      Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
                                                      Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

                                                                                                                                               William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Goodness. With a name like Wordsworth, I guess he was destined to write stuff like that. Magic.
                                                                                                                                                                          
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14th February 2012
My smiley Valentine...


EVEN THOUGH this postcard image was taken on the 14th of July last, it is relevant on the 14th of February AnyYear, as thoughts on the local oxbow lakes already turn to love and marriage and kids. And of course it's never too young to start learning the ropes...

Not a dry eye in the house

Your looks are laughable ... Unphotographable;
Yet you're my favourite work of art


By definition I have no idea what is actually going on up there. But when I got home and looked at the image I thought, yes, it's mum showing her daughter what happens further down the line: "So bring your head a wee bit closer and we'll do this heart-shaped signature thingy of love, which humans - like that fellow over there observing us - love watching us perform..."
                                                                                                                                                                                                              
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26th January 2012
On gossamer wings...


AS MENTIONED hereabouts just recently, I take loads and loads of pictures, especially of the little songbirds I’ve befriended down in the valley over the past three years. As a rule of thumb, of every 100 pictures I take, 90 are rubbish and are deleted, 10 are sort of okay and are transferred to the computer – and of those, one will hopefully be what I regard as good. In the meantime, the search goes on for that magic moment.

Of every ten photographs I retain on the computer (just in case one of them will be just perfect to illustrate something further down the line), they include a few ‘action’ shots, where the camera has caught the birds in the act of either approaching my outstretched hand, landing or taking off.
     Because I use a rather basic camera, which I can hold and operate with just the one hand – it’s something between a simple compact and a basic SLR – often the pictures are not of good quality unless the conditions are favourable.
     One benefit of this is that the camera will capture a partly blurred photo, the aforementioned ‘action’ shot. So I had a trawl through my pictures to come up with a couple that really delighted my eye – more by luck than judgment though, which is just fine by me...
 

"I shall mount on wings of gossamer,
And wing my way through God's great Heaven,
And then, and only then, will I be free..."

 

"When we first touched, my heart flew high,
On gossamer wings through a cloudless sky..."

                                                                                                                                                                                        Home

15th August 2011
Black and white and walked all over

TONIGHT, Swansea City, affectionately known as The Swans, played their first game in the Premier League, away against mighty Manchester City (one of their players, Argentinean Sergio Aguero, has cost the club £38m, probably more than Swansea’s entire budget). No surprise then that they lost 4-0 after a promising first-half display.
     But I do have a smiley tale to tell.

A local character, Mike Rees, announced towards the end of last season that if Swansea gained promotion, he would paint his house in the club’s colours, and hopefully raise some money for charity in the process. Now I first remember Mike as simply Mike H2O, because he worked for the water board.
     When the board shut their local depot, Mike called it a day and took up painting and decorating full time. He then became Mike Wet Paint Don’t Touch. So that’s the background to Mike painting his house in the club colours.
     Actually, as he began to apply the distinctive colour scheme, passers-by would stop and stare with a puzzled look. Mike would step back and say: “Can you see what it is yet?”
     Perhaps in future I will have to refer to him as the Rolf Harris of the painting and decorating world. So here’s his marvellously eye-catching work of art...
 


And how about those matching accessories? Even the zebra crossing supports The Swans. Magic. The black stripes presumably represent the Swans’ feet paddling furiously under the water while above, the white body, the club’s base colour, retains its elegant shape.

Until a couple of years ago I lived just up the road from this house, my then home situated near a couple of pubs. On a Saturday or Sunday morning I would often find my car covered in footprints.
     Then, as now, I owned a 1990 Saab 900 (as I’ve mentioned before, my Saab has no
ABS, parking sensors, traction control, satellite navigation, CD player, xenon headlights, air-conditioning, central-locking, electric windows and mirrors – so none of these things can go wrong).
     But it does
have those big bumpers which, to someone who has had a few too many drinks, look like the first rung on a huge ladder – so they would simply walk up and over the car and down the other side.
     I never allowed this to upset me, mostly because those particular Saabs are built like tanks (they used to say that if you must collide with another car make sure it isn’t a Volvo or a Saab because you will come off worse).

My worry now is that Mike, whose house, as you will have observed, is directly in line with that zebra crossing – will one night return home after a famous victory and with a few too many sherbets under his belt, will navigate the zebra crossing, approach the front door, think he’s still on the crossing, walk up the front of the house, over the roof, and down the other side - and into the house via the back door.

Well Mike, and to quote the memorable Sergeant Phil Esterhaus who began every episode of Hill Street Blues thus:
     “Hey, let’s be careful out there...”
                                                                                     
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12th June 2011
Say aaaah!


BIRDS are currently fledging left, right and centre. Outside the kitchen window I watch some chaffinch and sparrows feeding their young. I observe a junior chaffinch open wide its mouth while furiously wiggling its wings in front of its father - the marvellous thing about these birds is that the male and female adult are obviously different - the female is the colour of the youngster, below. It is a delight to watch them...
 

"Please, Sir, I want some more!"
 


And of course, papa is happy to oblige. Marvellously entertaining and a wonderful way to stand and stare.
                                                                                                                                                                                       
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1st June 2011
You've been framed


I WAS 25 minutes into my early-morning walk, about to exit Dinefwr Park, which I navigate every day on my way into town to pick up a morning paper, when suddenly my attention was drawn to something rather odd near the entrance into the estate and Newton House. It was a large, empty picture frame, just standing there like a spare thingummy at a wedding.
     I went to investigate ... the support had been firmly pushed into the ground, with the frame itself free to spin full circle. I looked about me ... you don't expect to see many people about just after 5:30 in the morning - and there weren't any.
     At first I thought it was there as a frame to hold a notice i.e. forthcoming attractions at Newton House. But no, that didn't make sense. Then I had a brainwave - or as near as is possible for yours truly. I concluded that it had been put there either by a camera club or a painting class - to show students of the genre how to properly frame an image.
     So why not join in all the fun - Dinefwr Castle was over there, just about visible above the trees as you enter the park...
 

Dinefwr Castle: partly visible from the entrance to Dinefwr Park & Castle


I was quite chuffed with my little spontaneous effort. As I've said before, I am not a photographer, indeed I only use a smallish camera, slightly larger than a compact, and I had to zoom quite a bit to get the castle to look at home in the frame.

     As I walked away, it suddenly struck me that perhaps it actually was a proper 'You've been framed' stunt, where the whole thing had been set up to see how people would react. Who knows. At least the effort made me smile.
                                                                                                                                                                                         
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24th April 2011
Excuse me...


YOU DROPPED THIS ... One of the great positives of walking the Towy Valley fields regularly is that the animals get used to my presence, and crucially do not hurry away as I approach. On the contrary, they tend to stand or sit there and watch me pass on by. And so it was here, a mother and her lambs ponder my next move...
 


Just a simple, but delightfully smiley image ... and below, the same two lambs captured just a short while before...
 

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31st March 2011
Lots of Blossom Dearie


AS MARCH drew gradually to a close bathed in beautiful spring sunshine under cloudless blue skies, the two blossom trees in the grounds where I am fortunate enough to have walked a wee bit through time, bloomed as they haven't for years, apparently. It was a treat for sore eyes, especially with so many bees in attendance as well...
 


The tree is a weeping cherry blossom - above, taken from beneath the tree, at ground level - and below, a general view of this most attractive of trees.

                                                                                                    Home


20th March 2011
The supermoon
’s a big balloon

OVER the weekend we’ve had a “Supermoon” (with a capital S). This phenomenon occurs when the moon passes closest to Earth on the two bodies’ orbit, and the moon is full. The Supermoon occurred on Saturday, March 19, when the moon came closer to Earth than at any point in almost 20 years, making it look much bigger (sic), although it was still 221,567 miles away.
     Ordinary supermoons occur about five times a year, but events such as last Saturday’s are known as “maximal perigee” – when the two heavenly bodies are particularly close – and only happen about every two decades.
     The internet is awash with Supermoon images – but a Supermoon is a supermoon is a moon is a balloon. It is impossible to tell that you are actually looking at a Supermoon. So how about something different? Hm.
     Outside the cottage are loads of daffodils, so...
 


This was taken while still daylight, on Friday, the day before the actual full moon – it had promised overcast conditions on the Saturday, indeed the moon was visible, but rather hazy. If you look at eight-o’clock-ish, you can see that the circle isn’t quite complete, as it would have been on the Saturday. Still, I really liked the image.
     Below, with the daffodil in focus.
 
                                                                    
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1st March 2011
Saint David, a beautiful tit - and some daffs

A CURIOUS letter spotted in the Telegraph...
Too flighty for me: SIR – Why are garden birds so frightened of human beings? I provide food and water for them, show them nothing but kindness, and yet they fly off as soon as they see me coming.
     Robins seem to be the most fearless – why? Blackbirds show a certain insouciance; pigeons, sparrows and tits are hopelessly jittery. I may not be St Francis, but why can’t they trust me a bit more?
Jeremy Nicholas, Great Bardfield, Essex

There were a couple of responses that caught my eye...
Spikey: I think if I was a bird I wouldn't go near someone called Jeremy either. 
Nice one. Think Jeremy, as in Clarkson, Paxman, Kyle, Vine, Irons, Hunt, Beadle, Bamber... Garden birds are truly wise. I mean, would you ever have wanted any of those Jeremies within a million miles of your fondly imagined South Sea Island Paradise?

Vladimir Ilyich Pugachev: Birds that fly away from humans the moment they appear have had bad experiences with humans. Probably, there are some humans in Great Bardfield, Essex who are supplying that bad experience ... catapults and air guns spring to mind, as do dogs and cats being let out...
 

Here's lookin' at you, Candy Man


I feel quite guilty having a hopelessly jittery little tit help me celebrate St David’s Day...

PS: This letter has since appeared in the Telegraph...
Gulliver’s bird table: SIR – Jeremy Nicholas (Letters, February 26) asks why garden birds are frightened of him. If I were approached by a being 25 times taller than I, even if it offered me a plate of my favourite food, I, too, would grab it and run.
P. J. Reardon, Tonbridge, Kent

Well, the above picture makes a nonsense of a little bird being frightened of something 25 times taller...
                                                                                                                                                                                   
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9th February 2011 ~ slipstream ... see below
6th February 2011
Cleared to land

AS I have noted elsewhere in this web site, if you want to understand people, study nature. We all behave precisely the same. After all, we are all animals. Even observing the routines birds follow as they takeoff and land is precisely the same as the routines I was taught to fly a plane.
     For example, below, a couple of swans descending as they head for the oxbow lake, a staging post along my daily early morning walk ... they always remind me of the majestic Hercules military transport aircraft regularly doing low-flying exercises in these parts. I always stop to watch the swans and the Hercules passing overhead...
 

Final approach: throttle back ... flaps down ... prepare to lower undercarriage...


SLIPSTREAM
: Yesterday was a picture perfect day in the Towy Valley, so I decided to capture a few shots of the snowdrops now in full bloom, specially as there were lots of bees buzzing about - see the Flower Power Gallery on the home page. As I was clicking away, I could here the unmistakable sound cruising up the valley towards me: the aircraft equivalent of a swan in flight, as referred to above...
     Yes, a Lockheed Hercules military transporter, flying low over the countryside. Honestly, it looks so graceful in flight, and those four turboprop engines really do purr like a pussycat. Click
! And here it is, to complement the swans, above...
 
                                                            Home

19th December 2010
The morning after the snow before

FOLLOWING the heavy overnight snow of last Thursday/Friday, below is the first sight that greeted me as I set off on my regular early-morning walk. I was surprised at how much snow there was on the trees. It hadn't long stopped snowing, the light was very poor, but these four trees were just standing there, inviting me to point my camera...
 


Beautiful. Over on Look You I mentioned loosing half-a-stone or so back at the beginning of this year, all through walking a lot in the snow, which is physically demanding, and someone said: “That’s why you never see an obese Inuit, obviously.”
     Well, I call the second tree from the left, above, the Eskimo tree ... see the entrance to the igloo...!
                                                                                                                                                                                  
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8th November 2010
The morning after the storm before

EARLY THIS morning, just before four, I answered the call of nature. My bedroom is located at ground level in the corner of a courtyard, which means I am totally divorced from the sound and fury of stormy weather. As soon as I entered the bathroom I could hear the howling wind and driving rain - just as the forecast had promised, fair play.
     So I toddled back to bed, reasonably confident that my morning walk would be delayed, although the forecast did say the storm would clear west Wales by daybreak. I got up at half-five - and everything was deathly quiet outside. Amazing.
     I set off on my walk as usual. By the time I arrived in the Towy Valley, it was quite surreal. After an intense storm has passed through there is invariably a few brief hours of still, picture-perfect conditions. And that's what it was like this morning: blue sky, perfect stillness, a light mist floating above the ground, autumn colours in their prime - or at least those leaves that were still clinging on for dear life, mostly on the oaks.
     And here is the view as I walked past one of the oxbow lakes along my walk...
 


A magical sight, the perfect stillness reflected in the perfectly still surface of the lake...
                                                                                                                                                             
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26th October 2010
Hello handsome

YESTERDAY was one of those days when my little camera was spoilt for choice. Picture perfect conditions, in the true sense of the expression. Along my walk I regularly encounter a couple of horses, a filly and a colt (or perhaps a gelding). The colt is friendly and will come right up and allow me to stroke it - but the filly is more nervous. She will venture within an arm's length, indeed sometimes she will allow me to touch her nose - but then she backs away, uncertain.
     I've said it before: if you want to understand people, study animals. I've had the same trouble with human fillies...
 

 On a frosty, autumnal morning, a filly approaches at a gallop to say a nervous hello
                                                                                                                         
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26th September 2010
Cleared to land

WITH the weather suddenly turning rather autumnal, the birds are now awaiting my early-morning arrival with added enthusiasm. As happened last year, it's the tits that are the most fearless in their approach. Below, a great tit grabs a morsel, while behind a bluetit circles awaiting clearance to land...
 

 Autumn arrives and the birds start looking for a hand out
                                                                                                                         
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16th September 2010
The Candy Man comes calling

NEWS from the British Trust for Ornithology has revealed a 42% decline in the numbers of the bluetit over the past 40 years. I blinked. Since I began hand-feeding songbirds last year down in the valley, the gorgeous little bluetit has been the star turn. Not only in numbers, but in its cheeky, fearless behaviour.
     Thankfully it turns out that the decline refers to a recent Garden Bird Feeding Survey of this species in gardens - something to do with the changing ways of garden feeders. The bigger birds, the bullies - the politicians, bankers and CEOs of our world - are shoving the smaller birds aside in order to satisfy their own personal greed.
     However, out on the wild side, in my little world, it seems the bluetits are holding their own - and they do seem to have recovered since the harsh winter. I shall keep a sharp eye open for any drop in numbers.
     So here's one I photographed earlier, about a month ago, alongside some equally handsome Himalayan Balsam...
 


I include the Himalayan Balsam for a reason ... I am in the process of preparing a bulletin on this naughty but nice invasive plant, which hopefully will appear shortly, probably over on 400 Smiles A Day ...
                                                                                                                                                                                   
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28th August 2010 ~ addeggdum ... see below
25th August 2010
Chick, chick, chick, chick, chicken - lay a little egg for me...

WONDERING about outside the cottage are a clutch of free-range chickens. I talk to them - and they talk back. Well, they cluck like mad, and really, if someone was watching, they'd start to worry. But they're smashing little things and they make me smile a lot. So when I stumbled upon this runner-up one-liner from last year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I just had to grab my camera to capture a shot of one of the girls. So...
     I say, I say, I say ... Paddy Lennox, the floor is yours: "I was watching the London Marathon and saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another dressed as an egg. I thought, 'This could be interesting'."
 

 Henrietta ponders which really did come first...  
 

ADDEGGDUM: Last Tuesday, the 24th, there was a glorious full moon. By this morning, the 28th, the moon was slowly waning - so with Henrietta and her conundrum still scrambling my thoughts, I felt the answer was staring me in the top of my head...

Clearly, it's the egg that came first...                                                                                                                        Home


22nd July 2010
Naomi Balwen, queen of the Towy Valley catwalk

I SUBMITTED the photograph featured here, of a Balwen sheep [the name of the breed, which, incidentally, comes from the Welsh elements bal (forehead spot) and wen (white)], to the Western Mail’s A Postcard from Wales, for no other reason that it's a smiley image. The Balwen is eye-catching anyway, what with its distinctive markings: as well as the white blaze on the face it has white socks and a white tail end. Also, I had a vague idea that it was a characteristic Welsh breed – but no more than that until the Western Mail published this picture...
 

Unlike the other Naomi, this babe has had a clip around the ear, just as a warning  


A few days following publication, this letter appeared in the paper...
Celebrate Balwens: SIR – Your Postcard from Wales was particularly apt as there are more than 100 Balwens entered at the Royal Welsh Show this week. It will also be a celebration of the first 25 years of the Balwen Welsh Mountain Sheep Society. The Balwen, although still on the rare breeds survival list, remains one of the iconic Welsh mountain sheep. Thank you for printing the photograph.
MRS ELIZABETH EAGLES, Hermon, Pembrokeshire.

Now that was very pleasing. Watching the Royal Welsh Show broadcast live on S4C, they did a brief feature on the Balwens, and a lady was interviewed (whose name I didn't catch, but I know she wasn't Mrs Elizabeth Eagles, the letter writer). What grabbed my attention was that the Balwens nearly died out, indeed for one brief period in their history just the one ram was alive.
     That is quite astonishing, so it's no surprise that it set the newly furbished Googlie-Wooglie section of my brain clicking.
     Wel-i-jiw-jiw, every day a day at school, and all that: here's a summary of the info gleaned off various Balwen sites. It is no wonder that I was particularly attracted to these sheep, if you get my drift, because they are associated with my very own square mile, more or less.
     Balwen originate from one small area of Wales, the extremely remote area of the Upper Tywi/Towy Valley, an area of some 50 square miles along the border of Carmarthenshire and Breconshire – an area that was particularly badly hit by the severe British winter of 1946-1947. The breed was nearly wiped out – only the one ram survived the extreme cold and wild blizzards. All modern Balwen sheep are therefore presumably descended from this one ram, although it is possible that some of the ewes may have been in lamb to rams that did not survive the winter. Crossbreeding with other types of Welsh mountain sheep may also have occurred, and this would have increased the genetic diversity of the breed and thus help avoid the pitfalls of interbreeding.
     Throughout the 1950s and 1960s a steady increase in their numbers took place, and in the 1970s people outside the valley began to take an interest in the breed. The Balwen Welsh Mountain Breed Society was formed in 1985, and numbers are gradually increasing further. These handsome sheep have now spread far and wide.
     It’s astonishing what you find out simply by taking a picture of something and putting it out in the public domain. I shall look upon the Balwen with added affection in future.                                                                                        
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3rd July 2010
A new coalition pops up

OVER ON Look You I include in my 30th of June scrapbook bulletin a picture of David Cameron and Nick Clegg holding their first joint coalition press conference in the garden of 10 Downing Street. I don't know why, but the image coming up of two lambs peeping guiltily at me, as if they've been caught doing something they shouldn't, reminds me of Cameron and Clegg doing their thing...

New farm politics: Nick and Dave peering out of their Downing Street bunker

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31st May 2010
Turning over a new leaf

IN THE Spring a young bird's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love...
 

A hawthorn tree comes into leaf ~ the stunning blossom can't be far behind

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5th May 2010
The con in the never-ending tale/tail of the con trails

A POSTCARD should not just show the pretty-pretty or agreeable things on view. It should occasionally highlight the darker side of life as well. Coming up is one of those postcards which, superficially, is most agreeable on the eye - but behind the image is something so foreboding that we should all be greatly concerned about it.

 


Over on Look You I tell the story of the flight of the jumbo jets following the all clear after their initial grounding due to the volcanic ash cloud. The postcard here is quite an eye-catching image, especially with one of the little songbirds I've befriended zooming across the bottom. But, as the main picture over on Look You shows, all those contrails up there - must be around a dozen or so - are all drifting north, soon to be replaced by a dozen more - and a dozen more - and a dozen more ... you get the picture. To the north they all merge into a solid cloud base, blocking out the sun. It is quite alarming what we are doing to our precious environment.
     May the Lord have mercy on our souls.                                                                                                                            
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22nd April 2010
William and Benjamin and Wee Weöd
*

DAFFY DAFFODIL time at last ... better late than never, though never late is better...

 

Bill and Ben and Babs
(formerly Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men - and Little Weed, who has morphed accordingly in line with sex discrimination legislation)
 

*Weöd: Origin of the word 'weed', which comes from Old English.                                                          Home

18th April 2010
The Innocence of the Lambs
 

"Oh Mum! Why can't I go and play with the gang?"

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6th April 2010
Family portrait

THIS POSTCARD made Derek Brockway's picture feature on the BBC Wales Today weather forecast the other evening...
 


This is one where the 10% Inspiration/90% Luck rule applies. I'd noticed both mother and lamb following my progress as I passed quite close by - the stock become familiar with my regular presence so tend not to rush away. I also noticed the heads together, brought about by the mother lying down and the lamb standing up. Sadly you can't instruct nature to "move a bit to the left, turn to face the sun, look just above my head...", so it's pot luck as you fire away, fingers crossed that there's at least one good shot hiding away inside the camera.
     What did turn out to be perfect - something I hadn't noticed at the time - was that their eyes are level. And of course mum's eyes - what my little camera has captured - are magically alive. Visually spot on. Indeed, Derek Brockway e-mailed me a brief note of appreciation, which was itself appreciated.

     Mind you, I call it a Family portrait ... truth to tell I have no idea where dad was. Oh yes, quite why mum is eating wool as a bit of roughage, I have no idea. Perhaps it helps keep warm from the inside.                                                                                                        
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25th March 2010
Spring in the air

Tits and Tails
 

or more correctly, a great tit, a bluetit and some lamb's tails along my morning trail


JUST a brief update apropos my love affair with the birds. They are suddenly more elusive; spring really is in the air - or more to the point, sex is in the air - and as happens with all of God's creatures, when sex suddenly appears on the menu, food gets pushed way down the list.

A real sign of approaching spring are the hazel catkins. As April heaves into view the catkins are fast losing their hardness and brown colouring, and beginning to turn yellow and soft as they swing loose on the twigs, hence their name "lamb's tails". Their increasingly yellow colour comes from the pollen that will form in them, so the female flowers are also getting in the mood and coming out now to receive the pollen, which is blown on the wind. These female flowers are like tiny crimson stars on top of a small bud, and one needs to examine the twigs carefully to see them, unlike the conspicuous catkins flashing their wares.

For a peep into the musical world of these gorgeous little birds, check out a new diptych over on 400 Smiles A Day - 25/03/2010...
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13th March 2010
Forecast for the day...


HERE'S A POSTCARD I popped into my out-tray back at the beginning of February - but typically forgot to post it. I particularly like it because it sums up perfectly the weather for Monday the 1st of February 2010.
     Every day I make a brief note of the day's weather in my diary - it harks back to my days in general insurance: clients would make a claim for storm or weather-related damage to their property, and sometimes the insurance company would come back and say there was no wet or stormy weather on that day (the first thing an insurance company does when it receives a storm claim is check the weather for that day, a simple trick to catch dodgy or fraudulent claims). But often totally innocent policyholders would get caught because, if the damage was not severe they would repair and then claim later, and of course folk would get their dates wrong. So I kept a daily record of the weather to ensure that the claim was dated the day of the dodgy weather. Simples!
     For the day in question here, 1st of February, my diary says this: A cloudy, fairly cold start, some light rain/sleety/snowy showers early - then a bright-ish, cold-ish day - but noticeably milder by day's end, and brighter still...
     The picture was taken along my early-morning walk, looking north from Dinefwr Park...
 

Forecast: Sunshine and showers, turning to snow on higher ground; milder and brighter later
                                                                                                                                                
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24th February 2010
It was a dark and stormy night...

JUST A WEEK AGO, over on the home page, I did a brief piece on Dinefwr Castle, featuring a lady standing there admiring the striking view and taking some pictures of the castle in moody mode. Since then I've been counting my blessings: I see that view every day, and I sort of take it for granted. Well, I do and I don't.
     I really do treasure the genetic hand dealt me which ensured my never being driven by position, power or possessions, all things that would have taken me away from my square mile. So here I am, a country boy who grew up to be content with his modest lot in life.
     Anyway, I thought I'd hunt down the moodiest picture I've captured of Dinefwr Castle, especially one taken from the same perspective as the pictures featured on the home page. As it happens, the one featured here was captured in February - but 2008...
 

The morning after the dark and stormy night before -
and is that the ghost of Owain Glyndŵr taking a curtain call?


Yes, yet another picture, like so many of mine, where it's all about being in the right place at the right time. There again, when me and my little camera are forever walking past these glorious monuments to our troubled history, I'm bound to strike lucky now and again.    
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Saint Valentine’s Day 2010
My Funny-Peculiar Valentine

FURTHER to the Valentine Day bulletin on the home page, here's an additional image captured that very morning, compliments of the Towy Valley birds...

Don't you come the old cowboy with me you great tit - go sweet-talk your own kind


What I love about the above is the way the little bluetit holds its ground against the bigger and more aggressive great tit. Indeed, and as I mentioned in a recent bulletin over on
400 Smiles A Day, it probably explains why the bluetits, God bless 'em, appear to breed so successfully - at least in this corner of the world. They are born survivors.                                                                             Home   

12th February 2010
A safe pair of molars


THE TWENTY-TEN Six Nations rugby tournament is under way. Last week Wales lost to England - boo, hiss!
     Tomorrow, February 13th, Wales take on Scotland at the Millennium Stadium - with the sliding roof left unzipped at the behest of the Scotland coach, Andy Robinson, who thinks it will gain his side an advantage. It doesn't look like that at arm's length as the weather is forecast to be cold but dry and sunny. One benefit however of the open roof is that William Webb Ellis will be able to watch proceedings from up there on high. Who he, I hear someone ask...
 
William Webb Ellis (1806 – 1872) was an English Anglican clergyman who is famous for being the alleged inventor of rugby while a pupil at Rugby School. He is acknowledged thus: This stone commemorates the exploit of William Webb Ellis who, with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it thus originating the distinctive feature of the rugby game.
   
 This may, or may not, be true, but his
name is firmly established in the folklore of the rugby union code of rugby, where he is immortalised by the William Webb Ellis Cup, presented to the winners of the Rugby Union World Cup. No recognition is given by the rugby league code.
     However, evidence has now come to hand that it was Webb Ellis's dog that actually invented the game. The famous moment is re-created here by one of my favourite things, Pussycat the dog ... oh, and a word of appreciation as it is not the easiest thing for a dog, however clever, to pick up a regular size football...
 


Here she is, Wilma Webb Ellis who, with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in her time, first took the ball in her mouth and ran with it thus originating the distinctive feature of the rugby game - or "Fetch!" as it is better known.
     Incidentally, this is a perfect Smile of the Day prompt, namely the tale of Sidestep Sid down at the Crazy Horsepower Saloon, who reported in the bar that his wife had threatened to leave because she accused him of being more interested in the silly game of rugby than he was in her. To which he apologised profusely and begged her to give him one more try - ho, ho, ho!                                  
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4th February 2010
What goes up...

THIS WAS taken in Dinefwr Park during the January snows, on a field where youngsters and their toboggans are drawn like Eddie the Eagle to a ski jump because its contours are just about perfect for a thrilling interlude of sledging.
     The image of the three unknown young girls caught perfectly against the skyline was eye-catching enough anyway - but the more I looked the more it sort of reminded me of that memorable 'Class' sketch featuring John Cleese and the Two Ronnies: "I look up to him - but down on him..." Anyway, see what you make of it...

 


I'm probably being totally unfair to the trio - but the girl at the front with that "head-up, shoulders back lovely girl" pose looks a born leader to me; the one in the middle is having her work cut out just to keep up, and is a personal assistant in the making; and the poor thing at the back is the born slave, there to do all the dirty work.
     Well, it made me smile.  Incidentally, last year I did a smiley little feature on the famous "Class" sketch - which starred three crows.
     Click class if you fancy a quick look...                                                                                                                      
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24th January 2010
The ghostly face hiding in the trees

MY FIRST
postcard is one of my more startling images. It features Pat Bullen-Whatling’s striking willow stag creation, a temporary feature at Newton House to highlight and promote her eye-catching craft. But not even I expected to capture something quite so extraordinary quietly lurking in the background...


I'd taken a few shots from different angles, so when I looked through them later that day I was about to delete this particular one as the least effective when I noticed something rather weird and wonderful lurking in the snowy undergrowth. Now I always presumed that the oft- repeated tales of ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties spotted wandering about Newton House were just that – tales from around the camp fire. But here is one of them, all present and correct.
     The following morning I returned to have another look - but couldn't see anything. The next I returned with a print of the photograph to position myself in the precise same spot ... nothing!
      These days I tiptoe past Newton House while quietly whistling a pointless tune and minding my own business.                        
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