Monday 28 July 2014

Week 8: Natural History Museum

A second trip to London but this time in the heat of the Summer and with school holidays and hordes of tourists but at least an uneventful train journey and a more success plan to visiting the Natural History Museum.

It's very different from when I was last there, which I have to admit was probably a couple of decades ago.  It seems smaller but then it's been laid out very differently into Zones with suspended floors in what were once huge galleries.

Heading straight towards the Green Zone - the Birds and Ecology galleries. Two of my favourite topics, passing the fossil marine reptiles on the way.  I learned something new - plesiosaurs are actually smaller than I was expecting.

In to the Red Zone and earth science displays up .  Ah, that takes me back to my OU days - sedimentary, igneous and volcanics.

A good way to spend a couple of hours, followed by a walk through Kensington Gardens for my meeting in Notting Hill, which was the main purpose of my visit to London.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Week 7: BBQs, Nightjars and Tawny Owls

Common Nighthawk, Chordeiles minor, Offset rep...
Once a year the RSPB staff at Pulborough organise a BBQ for their volunteers.  A chance to relax, meet people I never see at any other time of the year and usually get an update on what's happening round and about at the reserve.

It's also a great opportunity to take a walk at dusk out on to the heathland and listen out and maybe even see a nightjar.  This usually involves standing around, quietly for several mintues waiting for the churring to start.

Sometimes you're lucky and they come quite close, occasionally you get a fleeting glimpse as one flies close by or overhead and even better is whenyou see one silhouetted on a branch.

We did hear one or two but they were way off in the distance and didn't get any closer before it got too dark and we left.

There was a tawny owl close by though and a variety of different bats to keep us interested.

Nightjars are elusive, rarely seen and migratory.  To stand the best chance of hearing one - check your local RSPB reserve and see if they are running any events.

Common Nighthawk, Chordeiles minor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thursday 17 July 2014

Week 6: Rottingdean AmDram

The Rottingdean Drama Society puts on three plays and one pantomime every year in Rottingdean Village Hall just off the High Street.

Their Summer production was 'Nasty Neighbours' a slightly surreal, tragi-comedy by Debbie Isitt and made in to a film with Ricky Tomlinson and Phil Daniels.

I've been to one or two of their plays before, this was a well put together production and great creativity given the limited cast and space they have to work with.

There's drinks available before hand and you can order drinks - alcohol or tea and coffee for the interval.

Check out your local Amateur Dramatic Society - they work hard, they'll appreciate your support and it's a good night out, except a few unintended giggles and slip ups.

Sunday 13 July 2014

Week 5: Flora, Fauna and Football

A workshop run by the Sussex Wildlife Trust for the South Downs volunteers on identification of chalk grassland plants and many other things besides from the hugely knowledgeable Graeme Lyons.

First a talk on the ecology of the South Downs and the different communities of plants that we're likely to find, then out into the fresh air and slowly developing sunshine for hands-on, practical plant identification.

Plenty to see just outside the barn in the ungrazed area with a wide variety of wildflowers, butterflies and insects buzzing around.

Venturing further afield we quickly came across some of the communities on grazed land, different heights, different species, different grazing livestock.

A lunch break on the side of the hill - in what shade there was

35 species identified - although that wasn't everything we saw, just those I'd made a note of.  Not to mention the butterflies and a pair of grey partridge who flew up from an area of arable land.

We also got to see an impressive display of pyramid orchids in the fields near to the woodland area, which is slowly being coppiced, rides created and additional planting in what was once a forestry plantation to create a greater diversity of plants and insects.

... and the football?

Well it also happened to be the World Cup Final that evening.  Not something I'd usually elect to watch but I'd been invited over to watch the game with friends and for food and nibbles.

Not having watched any of the other games, I had no particular affiliation with either team.  Good game though - even to a non-footballing observer.

Check out your local Wildlife Trust and see what courses they're running.  They offer a wide variety on diverse topics from arts and crafts to wildlife gardening.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Week 4: Race For Life Brighton

Six months ago, I couldn't run for 30 seconds never mind 30 minutes!  Today I ran my first Race For Life, jogging round the 5k course in 38 minutes.

I will admit I did have to slow down and walk up most of the hill, which makes up the first 1k of the course up through the trees and along the edge of the path.  The overnight rain, made it muddy and slippery, along with the hazards of tree roots and uneven paths.

In the last six months I've also managed to lose 11lbs.  I have to admit to putting on quite a bit while going through treatment - that tends to happen when you don't exercise, spend too much time resting on the sofa, sleeping, watching TV and eating cake - or anything I felt like eating - especially when going through chemo!

It's not too late to donate on my justgiving page and help me raise even more money for research into cancer.

Don't forget if you're a UK taxpayer you can add Gift Aid and increase your donation by 25%.

Saturday 5 July 2014

Week 4: Can't sing, don't sing?

Or perhaps I will!

An opportunity arose this week to be part of a singing group.  It was one of the options at the Brighton Summit 'Dare Hour'.  I never sing and I believe, like many others that I 'can't sing'.  So I had a chance to try something I would never normally do, along with a group of others who felt the same.

The thoroughly delightful Julie Nye guided us through a number of songs, teaching us our various, thankfully short, parts which we then sang as a round.  I have to say we actually sounded pretty tuneful and being part of a group it certainly sounds better than singing alone or wailing along to a karaoke track.

So, if you can't sing or think you can't - find out if there's a local community group in your area and you might surprise yourself!  I did!