Friday, 28 January 2011

Big Garden Birdwatch

It's that time of year again and I'm very much looking forward to this weekend's Big Garden Birdwatch. The kids are now at an age where they can resist running around shouting (although sometimes even at 15 this proves a challenge sometimes). However the biggest challenge for me is to keep the cats inside so they don't scare off the birds.I've printed off the scoresheet so am all ready to go ...

We usually get our fair share of Robins, Long Tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Blackbirds, the occasional Woodpecker and loads of pigeons (the cats can chase off the latter as far as I'm concerned). As well as making sure my feeder was full and cleaned out of all the old mouldy bits, I've also splashed out on some new treats ... let's see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Finally the birds came

After my initial disappointment at, having cleaned and re-fitted the feeds, I can now happily report that the birds have come. Below are a Blue Tit on the fat balls and young Great Tit on the seed cake. I've also spotted a couple of Robins and 4 Long Tailed Tits.

Admittedly not quite Springwatch quality, but I was indoors with a fairly basic camera.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Getting back to the garden

During a recent weekend visit to Wimpole House, we stopped off at the National Trust shop and picked up a couple of books. One is a coffee table bird identification book, the other is Chris Packahm's "Nature Handbook". The kids have yet to pick up either of these books and despite my best intentions to guide them away from their electronic toys I'm losing the battle (having said that they are all at least out doing sport this morning). I've thumbed through both books and the first thing that caught my eye was the commentary about cleanliness and location of bird feeders. After taking a quick look at my feeder I decided it was time for a pre-Spring clean. I scooped away all the remnants of the Christmas stuffing which the birds had not eaten, completely replaced the mould-ridden nuts, and topped up the seeds. What birds could not be attracted by these tempting treats ...

... all of them it would seem at the moment! Hopefully I'll be able to report back with better news later.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Lunchtime spaces

As mentioned previously, 'In Search of Space' is not a blog about intergalactic exploration, but more about my quest for the new, whether it be new music, new books or new places ... or just the space to do things. This week has been a bit of a blur again as work is manic, but I did manage two lunchtime strolls around London. The first was to one of my favourite areas, Marylebone High Street, which makes a great place to window shop in the independent retailers. I usually pop into the Oxfam book shop there which is always stocked high with great second hand books. The day was fairly gery as I made my way there but on the return trip, the clouds parted briefly and I managed to take the picture below of St. Mary's Church in Bryanston Square. What's always struck me about this church is that it looks impressive enough to be a well know London landmark yet it lurks, almost unknown to the east of the bustling Edware Road and south of the A40.
St. Mary's Church, Bryanston Square, London
The second walk I did was in to Hyde Park and along to the Hyde Park Lido café for an excellent lunch of a salmon foccacia and a pot of tea, overlooking the Serpentine. The weather was very grey so I didn't take any pictures but will do next time if it's bright enough. Just getting out of the office for an hour at lunchtime really does seem to breath new life into me - I must make an effort to do it on a more regular basis, and avoid just grabbing a quick sandwich and eat it whilst working.

As well as lunch time excursions, I also managed an evening trip to Berwick Street, to search through the various record shops to feed my new passion for folk music. I was delighted to pick up a further 3 albums by The Incredible String Band, a couple by Pentangle, a couple by Fairport Convention, and the one I'm looking forward to listening to the most, 'The Garden of Jane Delawney' by Trees.

Trees - The Garden of Jane Delawney, c.1970

What I've heard by this band on lastfm has all been excellent so am hoping the album lives up to expectations.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Overcoming the post-Christmas cheese mountain

Having been away on business Wednesday to Friday this week, it was great to get home last night. Having eaten rather too well whilst away, I was planning on more careful cuisine but there was still the Christmas cheese mountain to finish. Good news is that some of it is now too mouldy to scrape the edges off, so we're now just left with the cheese that was supposed to be blue in the first place. I tried to offset my fromage footprint by going for a bike ride today. I didn't go as far as normal, only about 12 miles, but it was exceptionally windy so I'm sure I burnt more calories than usual. Wildlife was quite scarce although I did see a few Kites gliding on the winds. I only have a fairly basic camera but was quite pleased with this shot.

I also managed to snap a couple of pictures of a chimney place sitting in the middle of nowhere, presumably part of an old farmhouse. I'll have to return on a clear and brighter day as the colours are a bit dark here.

Tasks for this afternoon include trying to make some sense of the batch of 200 vintage postcards I still have to sort through, and listening to my recent CD purchases ... currently listening to 'In Absentia' by Porcupine Tree.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Exercise, reading and music

I know it's a horrible cliché but if there was one thing anyone could give me it would be more time. I have finally managed to upload a couple of pictures from the weekend's visit to the Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire, but seem to have had precious little time for much else, particularly exercise.

As you can see from the blue slies in the pictures above, the weather was perfect for a winter walk. Unfortunately it's been considerably more dreary following the weekend and I now have a wet and windy drive to the airport ahead of me as I'm off to Germany for 3 days.

My travel profile has reduced dramatically over the past 12 months, but one of the perks of travel is that I do get time on the plane to read and listen to my iPod. I've just started 'News From Nowhere' by William Morris so can hopefully make some good progress through that, and have also transferred my recent CD purchases to my iPod. I've actually managed to listen to a couple of them and 'Hot Rats' by Frank Zappa is particularly good.

My New Year's exercise plans have already fallen by the wayside. Hopefully though I'll be able to get out on the mountain bike again this weekend.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Where did the weekend go - I demand another one

Well over the past few days I have managed to indulge at least 3 of my passions ...
  1. I finally found time to get over to the second hand record shops in Notting Hill Gate, where I picked up a few of the items on my latest wants list - a couple of CDs by Bert Jansch, 'Birthday Blues' and 'Rosemary Lane', a couple of live CDs by Fairport Convention, 'Wee Tam' by The Incredible String Band CD, and one of the few Richard and Linda Thompson CDs I don't have, 'Pour Down Like Silver' ... plus a fair amount of other stuff.
  2. Some 200 vintage postcards arrived for me to sort through. Some I'll keep whilst others will appear on ebay or my vintage postcard web site.
  3. Whilst at a family wedding over in Cambridgeshire, I went to several places I'd never been before. The weather on Sunday was fantasic and we were treated to clear blue skies as we took a stroll through the grounds of Wimpole Estate, near Royston. I took some photo's of the grounds but need to recover the disc reader from one of the kid's bedrooms before I can upload them ... unfortunately that will take longer than I have this evening, as despite having a great weekend, it was much too short and alas it's work again tomorrow.
So, instead of sharing a photograph from the Wimpole Estate, here's a vintage postcard near the top of the pile of 200.

The Barbican, Sandwich, Kent, published by Raphael Tuck

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

2 days back at work and I need another holiday already

I've only been back at work 2 days and I feel like I need another break already. I've included this photograph to cheer me up. It was taken on the way back from Nantucket to Hyannis on our last real holiday back in summer 2008 when we spent 3 weeks in the USA ... oh how I'd deeply love to be there again, but probably a tad cold this time of year.

 This week has been completely mad. As yet I've not made it into London and therefore not managed to go record shopping, which is particularly frustrating as I read more into Electric Eden and am curious to hear more of what's described there. I am making do with listening to the 3 Fairport Convention albums I have, plus topping up my needs through lastfm, but nothing beats owning a record or CD. I am definitely going to London tomorrow and am determined to see if I can get at least to Notting Hill Gate record shops after work.

Also since being back at work the exercise regime has slowed down. After managing a bike ride for the first 3 days of 2011, I've only managed a couple of lunchtime strolls since. We still have a huge amount of cheese left over from Christmas which I'm trying to avoid but did succumb yesterday. And, of course, when you start on the cheese, you need a glass of red, and then you need more cheese, and then ... suddenly it's all gone horribly wrong.

Finally for today, having just got on top of a recent batch of vintage postcards, I am now awaiting delivery of more which should keep me busy of an evening for a few weeks.

Monday, 3 January 2011

A Night in Front of the TV

It's very rare that I do this, as there's generally nothing but dreadful celebrity/reality drivel to watch, but last night I sat in front of the log burner and watched TV all evening. Starting with the final episode of Oz and Hugh Raise the Bar, I then watched James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause from 1955, which I'm pretty sure I've never seen before, despite it being a classic. Following this came the excellent Fahrenheit 451 from 1966 based on Ray Bradbury's novel, set in a world where books are banned, and any found are burned. I read the book many years ago when hitch hiking through Europe but until last night had never seen the film. I finished the evening by watching the last few remaining overs before lunch, of the first day of the final test match against Australia in Sydney. England managed to get a wicket just before lunch, but for me the highlight was David Lloyd eulogising about none other than John Peel favourites, Half Man Half Biscuit. It was reassuring to wake up this morning to see that we'd taken another 3 wickets during the afternoon session. I'd love to stay up again tonight to watch it but alas have to get the early train into London tomorrow so may have to settle for an early night instead.

I managed yet another mountain bike ride today, one every day this year so far, which was a pleasant 15.5 miler up on to the Wayfarer's Walk. The weather looked gloomy when I left but as I climbed higher the sleet turned to snow, and apart from the bitter coldness in my toes, it was a great ride.

Alas the day has now taken a turn for the worse as my wife's laptop has decided to play up. Following a series of delldock.exe, GfxUI and .net framework errors it has now frozen :-(

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Mountain Biking and Grease Cycling

Well, the Goodies were every bit as great as I remembered them. Of the 2 episodes we managed to record, the one featuring Grease Cycling was easily the best - random and chaotic but brilliant at the same time. Today finds me in a more chilled and reflective mood, probably brought on by the fact that I have to go back to work on Tuesday, so only one full day's leave left. I managed a short mountain bike ride today with one of the kids, along with a walk later in the day with just the wife. I know it's scarcely 2 weeks since the shortest day but I could swear it feels like the evenings are getting longer already - maybe it was the blue sky that helped.

Whilst moaning a bit about having to return to work, one of the benefits is that I'll be up in London at least once this week, and will therefore be able to indulge in several of my past times. In particular I shall be taking a trip to the handful of secondhand record shops still surviving (and thriving?). On my shopping list this week will be some of the artists featured in Rob Young's excellent Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music. I've already been inspired enough by the book to track down some of the literary references, in particular Looking Back by Edward Bellamy, and News From Nowhere by William Morris (the latter also being the name of one of Alan Burnett's excellent blogs, which can be found here), but now it's time to start trying to find some of the records mentioned. I did start making copious notes whilst reading the book, only to discover later that there was a listing of records by year in the appendix. Having always had a bit of a soft spot for lists, I shall be spending some time ticking off those I already have and searching long and hard for those I don't. Part of me thinks that I should track these down in their original vinyl format, but something else tells me that will be very time consuming, not to mention expensive, so I'll have to make do with CD format, which these days typically has the added bonus of additional tracks even if not as aesthetically pleasing.

So what's on this list I hear you ask? Well, there's a fair bit of Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Nick Drake, Shirley Collins, Davy Graham, Bert Jensch, John Renbourn, along with 100's of others. I have pretty much everything Nick Drake ever recorded, and recently picked up 3 of the early Fairport Convention releases so will probably try and find some Incredible String Band or Pentangle this time. I've heard a few tracks by each artist on lastfm and have been impressed with what I've heard so far so hopefully will not be disappointed.

As for participating in my other past times, exploring parts of London, I think that will have to wait until the weather is a bit warmer and the evenings are a bit lighter. Greenwich, Hampstead and Highgate are on the list, as always, but also some new places like Wimbledon are out there waiting for my first visit. And, although I've been to Highgate several times I've never been to Highgate cemetery so, after seeing a BBC video clip about it on the bbc web page, that also gets added to the list.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

In Search of Space - a new blog by dakotaboo

I have been wrestling with the idea of creating a new blog for some months now. I already have 3 reasonably active blogs which cover my interests in music, vintage postcards and vintage books and magazines, but none of these really seem to serve the purpose of my more random/spontaneous/mundane/ordinary (delete as appropriate) musings. So, what you can expect to see in this blog are thoughts and observations based on the other aspects of my life such as mountain biking, travelling, exploring, walking, and general day-to-day life. I've decided to start the blog in a fairly 'raw' state, and add the bells and whistles in later, otherwise I wouldn't be able to lauch it on the first day of the New Year.

I've called it 'In Search of Space' as it fits nicely into my current state of mind. That's not to say I want to get away from everything, I'm treating 'space' here as anywhere new, whether it be a genuine space out in the countryside, or a new part of London that I've only just discovered. Also, it's the name of a pretty darned fine record by Hawkwind.

The New Year has started well with friends over last night to see in the New Year with us. I did catch a few people drinking tea prior to midnight but am finding myself inclining towards that as well these days ... in fact I think that with the various bottles people brought with them we possibly ended up with more alcohol than we started the evening with. We had Jools Holland on the TV to make sure we didn't miss the countdown and I was really pleased to have caught Toot singing 'Monkey Man'. I'd only ever heard the version that the Specials did in the late 1970's so this was a real treat and has now made it on to my ever lengthening wants list.

I managed my first mountain bike ride of the New Year today with an 18 miler over to Kingsclere and back, mainly on the roads as opposed to deeply muddy tracks, but I did manage to cover some new territory, which fits in with my unofficial New Year's resolution - to do something different every day, whether that be as exciting as visiting a new place, or something more sedate like hearing a new song or reading. Also it was really good to see plenty of people out and about ... quite often when I'm out on my bike I'm amazed at how few people I see. I also managed to spot some wildlife ... Red Kites, Buzzards, a lone Kestrel, and various smaller birds too far away to identify.

So that's it for my first blog entry, in this blog anyway. I'm off to watch a couple of episodes of the Goodies that we recorded over the last week or so. I have very fond memories of it as a kid so am hoping it still hits the spot. I wonder what the kids will make of it though, they only know Bill Oddie from Springwatch and the Jeremy Clarkson's Bill Odie speed camera mask on Top Gear.
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