29.1.10

DON'T EVER TELL
ANYBODY
ANYTHING

"If you do, you start missing
everybody".

Those are the last words in my favourite
book ever, Catcher In The Rye.

American novelist JD Salinger, author of
the classic 20th Century tale,
has died aged 91.

The story of teenage angst, first published in
1951, has become one of the most influential
novels of the modern era but
Salinger
shunned the fame it brought and
became a recluse for
the rest of his life.


My well thumbed copy is from 1988 and
weirdly enough I'd just been thinking
about re-reading it...


26.1.10

R.I.P AUNE
21.4.1919 - 26.1.2010

Sad news from Finland
this morning.

My beloved gran Aune passed away after a short
illness. She was the last of my grandparents.
She would've been 91 this April.


She was a no nonsense, funny old girl, hard
working but always up for a giggle. I've lost
count how many times we laughed so
hard my stomach was aching!

She looked after me as a child every summer
while my parents were at work all the way up
to my teenage years and I have nothing
but good memories of those days.


Rest in peace,
Mumski.


This is one of my favourite photos of us
together, taken in the mid 90's at her
summer cottage.


23.1.10

DRAGONFLIES

It was a grotty old morning here in SW19 but
I felt like getting a bit of fresh air so I
hopped on the tube and went down
to Morden Hall Park.

The 125 acre National Trust property, which
the River Wandle meanders through, is
actually in Surrey but a short walk
from the tube station in Morden.

I'd seen a lovely dragonfly mobile in the garden
center shop there during the week so it was a
good excuse to make the trip! I don't usually
like stuff like this, wind chimes and the
like, but for some reason I fell
in love with this one!

I took some photos in the park
as well, they're
in here.

21.1.10

IDENTITY
THEFT

FROZEN

The temperatures in Finland have been between
-10 and -30 C since Xmas so the local paper
Iltasanomat has been running a competition
to find the best "frozen" picture.

Here are some of the best shots so far
(in my opinion). Please click on the
images to view a larger version.

MUSEUM

My friend Pirjo popped over from Finland for a few
days and apart from shopping (well, she shopped,
I stayed at home with my aching knees!) we decided
to get cultured so a visit to a museum was in order.

I particularly like the history of our capital so
what better than the Museum Of London.

Unfortunately it's a sort of "half a museum" at
the moment as my favourite bit, The Great Fire
and Plague section is closed for refurbishment
as is the rest of the collection from 1666 to the
present day. All of that is going to be unveiled
to the public at the end of May. But it was an
enjoyable day out none the less.

On the way there we had a look at
St Paul's Cathedral as well.

Here's a few pics from the trip. Please click
on the images to view a larger version.

13.1.10

A SLICE OF
HEAVEN

I've had a bit of movie marathon of late as
the weather's been decidedly indoorsy.

First Year One. Actually I can't really say
I watched this film because I had to turn it
off after half an hour. I've seen some bad
films in my time but this goes straight
to the top of the list!

It's so dire they are no adjectives to describe it.
Disappointing as Jack Black is normally quite
funny. Another piece of rubbish starring Mr Black,

The Holiday, was just as awful. It just doesn't work.
It's not funny, sad or...anything. It's just lame
and blah. And him in a romantic
lead? No no no and no.


Three animated films I watched Bolt, Robots and
Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs were all super.
Rhino the Hamster voiced by Mark Walton
steals the show in Bolt. I can't remember when
I've laughed so much! He is just a maniac!

Simon Pegg is equally good as the
lost-his-marbles Buck the
Weasel in Iceage.

My favourite, the nut obsessed squirrel Scrat,
is on form as usual as are the two mischievous
possums
Eddie and Crash. Adventures
and laughs galore.

Robots is a nice tale of Rodney, a young idealistic
inventor who travels to the big city to join his
inspiration's company, only to find himself
opposing its sinister new management.
Not the best I've ever seen but
entertaining none the less.

And last but not least and oldie but a goodie, a slice
of heaven,
Mystic Pizza. I've seen it dozens of
times but it always makes me smile and
sniffle in equal measures.

In this 80's classic two sisters and their best friend
come of age while working at a pizza parlor in
a fishing village of Mystic, Connecticut.
Look out for young
Matt Damon (at the
"meeting of parents" dinner) in his
first feature film role.


MORE WHITE
STUFF

I spoke too soon. The Great Thaw of 2010
has come to temporary halt after
it snowed overnight.

We got couple of inches of the white stuff here
in SW19. The little Xmas tree (bwlow bottom
right) I bought over from Finland in
2003 seems to be enjoying it!

Few pics from our local park:

Our neighbours cat Obi has the right
idea, chill out on a sofa and
admire it from afar!


11.1.10

TOLD YOU SO

THAW

The winds have finally turned the Great
Thaw of 2010 has started.

Well, here in SW19 anyway. The weekend promises +6 C
which is handy as my friend Pirjo arrives from Finland
on Saturday for a few days and I really didn't feel
like traipsing on the slippery pavements in
the biting wind with her. As much as I
love snow I like to look
at it from indoors!

Here's some snow scenes from Finland to remind
us that it could be a lot worse! The temperature in
all of these photos is between -20 and -35 C.

Please click on the images to
view a larger version.

OSCAR'S WORLD
WOOF TOUR

A dog called Oscar is has laid claim to the title
of the animal kingdom's most intrepid
explorer after visiting famous
landmarks around the world.

His travels include five continents, 29 countries
and stopping off everywhere from Hollywood
to the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal.

Seven year old Oscar was rescued from a South African
kennel by owner Joanne Lefson five years ago.
In May last year the pair began the epic
journey hoping to inspire millions to
help save his fellow canines living
as strays on the streets.

Ms Lefson, who is half British and half South
African, called the six month
£250,000
trip 'The World Woof Tour'.

She said it was a miracle Oscar was alive let
alone a globe trotter. "If I hadn't gone to the
kennel that fateful day Oscar had one more
day left and would have been put down.
When I discovered what a wonderful dog
he was it broke my heart to think how
many 'Oscar's' are still out there
and simply just don't get
that second chance."

"I sold my house to fund the trip, but this project
has never been about the money, it's about the
message. I wanted to come up with a project
that would use Oscar's perfect package to show
the entire world that great dogs, dogs just
like Oscar, are available at shelters
all over the world.


EYE EYE

The heavy eye make-up favoured by ancient Egyptians
such as Cleopatra may have had medical as well
as aesthetic benefits, French research suggests.

The study, published in the journal Analytical
Chemistry, suggests it helped to protect
against eye disease.

The key appears to be lead salts contained in the
make-up. At very low levels, salts produce nitric
oxide, which boosts the immune system to fight
off bacteria which can cause eye infection.

The make-up used by the ancient Egyptians to
darken and enhance the eyes sometimes took
up to a month to concoct. In theory, because
it contained lead it might actually
have posed a risk to health.


But an analysis by scientists from the Louvre
Museum and the CNRS research institute found
that in very low doses lead could actually have
a positive effect. Lead researcher Philippe
Walter said: "We knew ancients Greeks and
Romans too had noted the make-up had
medicinal properties, but wanted
to determine exactly how."


The researchers used a tiny electrode, 1/10th the
thickness of a human hair, to look at the effect
of lead chloride salt synthesised by the
Egyptians -laurionite -
on a single cell.


Writing in the journal, they said: "In stimulating
nonspecific immunological defences, one may
argue that these lead compounds were deliberately
manufactured and used in ancient Egyptian
formulations to prevent and treat eye illnesses
by promoting the action of immune cells."


PANTS

If you spotted a number of people travelling around
London without their trousers yesterday, they
hadn't been particularly forgetful that
morning - it was part of the worldwide
No Pants On The Subway Day.

In cities across the globe, often in freezing conditions,
thousands of people boldly went trouserless
as part of the annual event.


The prank was started in 2002 in New York by art
jokers Improv Everywhere, and has since spread
around the world. This year was the first time
that a London No Pants On The Subway Day
was organised - although it was renamed No
Trousers On The Underground
to avoid any
misunderstanding over the American
meaning of the word 'pants'.

Over 30 Londoners braved temperatures of around
-2ºC to go trouserless on the Picadilly Line,
travelling between Leicester Square, King's Cross
and Earl's Court before returning to Leicester
Square. One of the attendees reported that
"a couple near me just couldn’t keep a straight
face, but being British of course tried
their best to do so."

Meanwhile, in New York, around 3,000 pantsless
people joined in the revelry, travelling from six
different locations across the city, reading
magazines or chatting to friends as though
it was the most natural thing in the world.

Other cities that saw some No Pants action
included Stockholm, Barcelona, Mexico
City and Buenos Airies.


8.1.10


ROLL

This amazing picture shows a rare phenomenon
called a roll cloud which tend to form ahead of a
cold front and can stretch for miles.

They are most common when an advancing storm
front causes moist air to rise, then cool to
the point where it becomes a cloud
known as the dew point.


When this happens along a front, a roll cloud can
form, often with air actually circulating along
the horizontal axis of the cloud. Although it
looks like a sideways tornado, these
clouds cannot become one.


Photographer Daniela Eberl took
this snap at Las Olas Beach in
Maldonado, Uruguay.


NICE COLOURS
OF THE DAY

The Parliament House was lit up as a
part of the Season Of Light
event in Helsinki.

SUNSET OF
THE WEEK

FROZEN BRITAIN
FROM THE AIR

Now here's an image you don't see too
often: the whole country frozen!


NASA's Terra satellite took this
shot on 7 January 2010
.

TORT OF
NUISANCE

Tort of what? When it stopped snowing I thought
I'll clear our own path and bit of pavement
in front of the house. But oh no, tut tut,
slap wrist! You're not suppose
to touch it! Why?

It's the local authority's responsibility to clear snow
and ice from the public highway. By sweeping snow
from one part of the pavement to another, if done in
a manner that caused injury to someone, there is a
chance legal action could be taken against you
under the part of the law known
as "tort of nuisance".

Of course! How silly of me! Honestly, this country!
For once people could do a simple thing that
would benefit everyone (if everyone did it)
but as usual it's too much to ask.

In parts of the world the public is expected to help keep
the streets clear of snow. In Minneapolis it's your
legal duty. The rules are strict: snow must be
removed from pavements outside homes
within 24 hours of snowfall ending.
However, they are given free
"sidewalk sand" to do the job.

If the public works department gets a complaint or
discovers that a pavement is not properly cleared,
it gives the property owner a chance to do it.
If the pavement has still not been cleared upon
re-inspection, city crews will do the job and the
home owner will be sent the bill.

The city of Boston is equally tough. The mayor's
website states people have a personal responsibility
to remove snow from "the full paved width of the
sidewalk or a minimum of 42 inches wide". Fines
can reach as much as $250 (£154) for
each day the snow is left.

There are also strict regulations in Germany,
Austria and Switzerland. Most German towns
have a "street cleaning statute". Snow-shovelling
requirements are spelled out in detail, even
down to the minimum width of the cleared
area and the time during which you
must keep the snow cleared.

EDIT 11.1.2010: And there they were, the council
men with their snow shovels, clearing the
pavements outside our house at 8 am.
Except now it's about +2 and the
snow is melting! Why oh why?!

Having listened to the scraping for 45 minutes
I'd just about had enough and if they hadn't left
right then I swear I would've gone out
there and hit them!

Plus why only on our road? None of the rest of the
neighbourhood was done. They never get it right
do they? Just create extra work for themselves
for no reason whatsoever. Also, the sand they
put down before it snowed is now lying
on the pavements in big lumps.

Here's a few tips for next time it happens: wait till it
stops snowing. Clear pavements with snow showel.
It will be easy as the snow is not packed tight
from being under everyone's feet for
days and freezing overnight.
Then grit. Simples.


6.1.10

WHERE'S THE
WHITE STUFF?

While the rest of the country has grind to a standstill
(time to buy some studded tyres folks - it's going to
happen every year and get worse and worse!)
and looks like this, this and this, I went to
bed last night expecting a proper snowfall
overnight as predicted but instead
woke up to this

There's barely an inch of snow! And what little there is
is already melting. The forecast for the rest of the week
promises more (below) so there's hope yet!

Sometimes I think I'm the only person in the country
apart from kids who don't have to go to school
who wishes for more snow!


EDIT 17.30 PM: We got some more snow
during the afternoon so I build a
lantern in the garden.


5.1.10

TRUE GRIT

We all know that raisins can't be put into war veterans
hot cross buns in case they choke on them or flower
baskets can not possibly be hung outside pubs in
case they fall onto someones head and egg boxes
can not be used in school art lessons in case
pupils get salmonella...but where is the
health and safety brigade when
they are actually needed?

In the recent weather the pavements round
here have been frozen on several
occasions but no grit in sight.

Wonder of wonders they managed to get some down
today near Colliers Wood tube on the shortest street
(outside a school) (above) around there but
none on the main High street!

And of course now when it snows it's just
going to get covered up. When are
they going to get it right?!

I happened to be watching BBC News 24 last night and
they had a personal injury lawyer in the studio explaining
what to do in case you fall and break your arm/leg
on a pavement that hasn't been gritted.

Apparently the claims have risen in the recession
"because people are short of money and decide that's
the way to get some". Oh well, that's all right then!
I could do with a few grand, let me
just go and slip over!

Of course they try to weed out the false claims but
I bet Merton Council is going to be forking
out a few quid this winter.

So, which is better? To spend the money on gritting
the pavements or paying out thousands of pounds
worth of combo when people start to topple?
I'd say the first option but then the powers
that be seem to know best!


SWEETER THAN HEAVEN AND
HOTTER THAN HELL

I'm not a big fan of new music and rarely get excited
about up and coming bands especially if they
are hyped to death as sadly so many
news artists nowadays are.

However Santa kindly brought me one of last
year's new stars Florence And The Machine's
debut album Lungs and after a few listens
it has really started to open up.

It includes the singles Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)
and Dog Days Are Over but for me the stand out
tracks are Howl, Drumming Song and Hurricane
Drunk. Cosmic Love and Blinding
also deserve a mention.

Can't wait for the second instalment.
Recommended!


CROCUSES

Demented by
Jacky Fleming


4.1.10

FEET

ROSIE'S GOING
FOR A RECORD

Oh, bless!

Ladies of a certain vintage often prefer to keep
their age to themselves. But Rosie the donkey
has no chance of doing that.

At the grand old age of 54 she is thought to be the
oldest of her species in the world. According to
Guinness World Records, the current oldest
donkey, named Suzy, was from New Mexico
and died in 2002 at 54.

Her owner, Lesley Manger (above with Rosie),
believes she is definitely in her fifties although
is unsure of her exact age. The usual
donkey lifespan is 25-35 years.


"We don't have an exact date of birth for her, but
talking to people who have owned her over the years,
she should be about 54," she said. "Her teeth have
ground right down and a dentist who looked
at her said she'd be about that old."


Other contenders for the crown include a Blackpool
donkey called Lively Laddie, who was said to
have reached 62, although his age was never
formally verified. He died in 2005.

Mrs Manger took Rosie in at Kenstud Pony Rescue,
in Belper, Derbyshire, in 2006, along with another
donkey Toby.
The two had been companions
for 40 years but their elderly owner
could no longer care for them.


They lived happily at the rescue center until last
year when Toby died.
"Donkeys are like swans
- they pal up with a friend for life and when
one dies, the kindest thing in some
cases is to put the surviving one
to sleep," Mrs Manger said.


But Rosie has since bonded with a new
companion, an Arabian pony named Gemma,
and is enjoying a daily trot in her field.


THE APPLE DOESN'T FALL
FAR FROM THE TREE

Not in the Google logo today anyway.

To celebrate the birthday of Sir Isaac Newton the
clever clogs at Google have made the search page
logo interactive: when you move the mouse
over it the apple on the left falls down!

BRRRRRRR!

The current cold snap is set to continue and the Met office
has confirmed that the Christmas period has been the
coldest for 25 years with temperatures as low
as -17C being recorded in Scotland.

Icy pics from Finland

Mind you that's nothing compared to the recent temps
in Finland: the area where my family lives has dipped
down to -35.5ºC (-31.9ºF)! The coldest I've ever
experienced over there is -42ºC when I
was about ten, late 1970's.

Well, like the Finns say there is not wrong type of weather,
just wrong type of gear. With triple glazing in the
houses and their car batteries hooked to electric
heaters not to mention studded tyres everything
operates normally. People go to work, kids go
to school, the airports are open,
trains run on time.

Here's a few frost pics from
the park today.


2.1.10

SUBLIME

Our friend Heavy is visiting from Finland for a few
days and as per tradition on New Year's Eve we
headed to our favourite Indian restaurant in the
world, Spice Of Raj next to Colliers Wood tube.

The food was sublime as always and service fantastic,
you can not go wrong with them whether it's just for
a mid-week meal or a special occasion. The girls, KB
and Heavy, carried on to the pub and I headed
back home to watch the fireworks on the telly
although I could hardly keep my eyes open
till midnight. Old age, eh?!