Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Thursday 31 May 2012

As part of the gearing up for the weekend of Jubilee bunting and frolic, we're starting to see boats arriving for Sunday's grand river pageant.

At Canary Wharf and St Katharine's Dock, the smaller boats are being parked together, and many are already getting themselves decorated. Out in the river, there were this afternoon only one or two of those listed for the Avenue of Sail (so we have to assume they're coming overnight or first thing on Friday).

Strange how, in a high wind, the flapping of plastic bunting sounds exactly like a heavy cloudburst. I do hope it isn't an omen.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

New arrivals

Two days ago, the swan nesting on Millwall Dock was diligently turning three eggs to stop them overheating. Today, there is one contented-looking ball of fluff peeping out from underneath her wing, some frantic cheeping from somewhere underneath, and a head that looked sadly inert until some maternal nibbling prompted it into rather groggy movement.

As I recall, the first year I was here, cygnets hatched on May 14th, so perhaps the cold spell earlier this month delayed this brood. The coots have been breeding all over the dock for some time; the one who won the confrontation just by the swans' nest is still there, seeing off any attempt by the new cygnets' father to use the back way to get to their nest.

The grebes who were scared off have moved upmarket, to a purpose-built set of floating mats looking like artificial marshes, handily placed by one of the main entrances to Canary Wharf. Here there are two pairs of grebes as well as several coots and moorhen, each with their own area. None of them seem bothered by the others, or by the passing traffic and people who stop to watch them.

There's been at least one grebe chick (grebeling?) for several weeks now; it's already much bigger than its parents, and quite happy to come close to people on the dock walls.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Shiny, shiny!!

Who wouldn't like the idea of an easy-to-clean, coffee- and doughnut-proof, sleek and shiny keyboard and mouse like this?

And what could be more appropriate to so many internet users than a technology called Frustrated Total Internal Reflection?

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Self-restraint or holding fire?

I can't help wondering if it's a superhuman resistance to temptation, or simply a desire to hold something in reserve, that's preventing the Guardian from using a certain headline.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

J. Alfred Prufrock's new kitchen

TS Eliot may not have been the most admirable of people, but he could certainly nail down a moment or two. This quotation was on the wall of the café where I stopped for a restorative coffee after a session in the showroom:

..And time yet* for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea....

*Eliot, of course, was not of the world of "Hurry! 50% discount ends Friday!" marketing

Sunday 13 May 2012


Strange how unsettling even minor unexpected change can be.

It wasn't so much the finding, on arrival home from Barcelona, that the dishwasher had gone into a huff for my exchange partner, since I don't use it much (perhaps that was the source of the problem). But a few days later the washing machine threw a wobbly (literally - that's what happens when you try to wash too many bath towels at once): like the rest of the kitchen it's nearly 20 years old and the repairman said five years ago that its last repair was just that.

No matter that it was hardly a matter of having to beat the washing on the stones by the riverside (there are launderettes within walking distance, and thanks to the internet, choosing, ordering and taking delivery of a new one is a virtually painless process - apart, of course, from paying for it). No matter that the new machine was delivered in a couple of days and easily connected: there was still a day or two of the oddest sense of unease. Even when it was up and running, there was a period of re-adjustment, even a faint (very faint) echo of what, perhaps, parents of a new baby ask themselves: "It's very quiet - is that too quiet? Should I check if it's all right? Now it's making a noise - what does that mean? It's not leaking, is it?"

It's a reminder that the ordinary certainties of daily life can't be taken for granted at any time, and less and less as the decades advance. More practically, it's one more sign that the whole damn kitchen is about due to be replaced. No more "just looking" and shiny-fondling in showrooms: time for decisions and upheaval. Not that it's unexpected, or a financial problem (money was put aside on the off-chance some time ago, and as it happens some suppliers have some very attractive offers available at the moment); but my toleration threshold for the slog of taking decisions and waiting out the disruption seems to get lower and lower.

Saturday 12 May 2012


We have visitors.
For the past week, the Navy's largest warship has been moored between us and Greenwich. A helicopter carrier which also carries Marines and their landing craft for a variety of amphibian duties, HMS Ocean is (along with anti-aircraft missiles on Blackheath and on various residential roofs in East London) part of the current exercise to scare us all silly reassure us that the powers-that-be have the means and plans to see off any malefactors intending to cause mayhem at the Olympics.

All week we have had helicopters buzzing self-importantly around and various inflatables and landing craft James-Bonding it up and down the river practising various manoeuvres. Whether all this is based on solid intelligence, worst-case imagination or just a show of determination, those who know aren't telling, and I'm not sure I feel any more or less secure than I did before they turned up; let's just hope we don't have to find out if it was necessary or not.

Either way, on Bank Holiday Monday the ship was open to visitors; even before opening time, hundreds of people were queueing up for the short boat ride over. The steep ladders up into the hangar area give you some idea of her size, but even so, it was a surprise to find the first thing on display was an ordinary white Transit van. Up a further very steep climb to the flight deck were yet more trucks and transporters and lifting gear, not to mention the helicopters. These were all roped off for the occasion, but the children among us were allowed to clamber happily all over the trucks and pose (under expert supervision, of course) for family photos with various types of alarming-looking guns. Down again into the hangar, some dozen or so of the ship's areas of activity each had a display set up, from Marines to radar operators to cooks to doctors, complete with a charity cycling team drumming up support. Even so, this massive space is only the top part of the ship: all the crew and what supports them are squeezed in below.

And, as required by modern PR techniques, we exited via the souvenir shop.

Monday 7 May 2012

Where the body police lead...

.. the grammar police are sure to follow.

Saturday 5 May 2012

I know some people........

...who might quite like this to be standard equipment on all bikes: