Saturday, 19 April 2014

Follow the White Rabbit.

- Morpheus. The Matrix film.

Early this morning we dropped Diggy and Budge off at their college. It was easy to know where they were meant to go, all we had to do was follow the white rabbit sign posts. All unique, all different, all very cute. It was like an Alice in Wonderland trail.

Both Diggy and Budge were volunteering for their AMC Zoo's Easter Bunny and Chick Weekend. Many of their friends will be working their today and over the Easter holiday weekend. Much like the Gaston Farm event we attended a few weeks back, this is one where children and families alike get to handle new chicks and the centre's bunnies. There is also an Easter Egg Hunt and other craft activities. Neither of the girls knew what they would be doing until they arrived there at the centre and signed in, then their duties would be assigned to them.

We decided not to stay as it was early and the centre's day didn't start for the public until 10am, so we headed on back and stopped off at Asda's hypermarket on the way home to pick up several packs of  d.f bunny eared Easter crumpets! How could one not resist!! Look how cute they are!!

Lady Luna.
When we arrived home Luna was in her usual place on my 'Ringing Singing Tree' quilt, fast asleep. She is the only animal of the house I allow to sleep on my white quilt ......... because, well, she is white.

The afternoon has been spent sorting out the garage - a mammoth of a task that only Mud Boy could do with the aid of his helper Pickle; while I walked the dog. So much stuff and several dump runs later it was cleared and full of only those essential items we need. We have a big pile for the bonfire later this week.

Then it was time to go and pick Diggy and Budge up from college, via another and last garage dump run, making us a tinsey bit late - which they didn't mind at all as they were chatting. It has been a busy day for them both, over a thousand people passed by their way today and several hundred questions answered later their voices were worn out.

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Diggy had been put in charge of the Red Pandas and had several interesting questions fired at her from the general public - "Do you have any real pandas; you know the big black and white ones?", "Can we cuddle them?", "Are they raccoons?", "Do they bite?", "Look at the Koala's; are they Kolas?", "Do you keep lions here?", "Why are they called red pandas when they're brown?", "Is there actually anything in the enclosure?" (the red pandas were sleeping, they're not the most active of creatures in captivity and especially at their age). Each of which she reckons she must have been asked at least twenty five times.

Today Diggy prepared for them six balls of panda cake (a special mix that you add water to and roll into balls), chopped pear and apple, leaf eater pellets and 2 slices of bread. They really like bread!

Budge on the other hand was inside with Herptiles and had to mist, feed and make sure no one stole the expensive creatures. She too had many questions fired at her including  "Are those plastic frogs?", "How do you handle blue arrow poison dart frogs?" The questions are valid and sometimes interesting, but usually they are the same ones asked over and over again. This is something the girls are going to have to get very used to if they want a career in any Zoo, so it's best to get in the practice now. x

For dinner this evening we made Easter egg d.f pizzas. Yummy. x

Friday, 18 April 2014

Hot Cross Buns.

Today was Good Friday and as a small child I couldn't understand what was so good about it, apart from eating hot cross buns and having the day off school? Now-a-days we seem to celebrate the day more and more by eating hot cross buns, which this year was a bit more of a task than usual - as everything has to be checked and double checked for dairy. There are however, very good ranges of dairy free hot cross buns you can buy and luckily I have great dairy free friends to point me in the right direction. I did though, just make them myself this year. Ironically the only one in the house who doesn't really like hot cross buns, is I made her's with d.f chocolate buttons .

There is an ancient belief that hot cross buns baked on Good Friday will not go mouldy for a whole year until the next batch are baked, so one should be kept to be given to someone who falls ill as it would recover their strength. There are many fanciful plague beliefs and cures from these times and this is just one of them!

We always sing this rhyme as the Hot Cross buns are toasted, more as a joke between us all really, but it keeps the history alive as well I suppose :

Hot Cross Buns!
Hot Cross Buns!
One Ha'penny, Two Ha'penny
Hot Cross Buns!
If you have no daughters
Give them to your sons
One Ha'penny, Two Ha'penny
Hot Cross Buns!

It's the rhyme street criers cried when they sold their trays of Hot Cross Buns on the streets at Easter time to the milling crowds. The custom of eating Hot Cross Buns also has pagan origins. The Saxons ate buns that were marked with a cross in honour of EostreThe Ancient Greeks consumed these types of buns in their celebrations of Artemis, Goddess of the hunt, and the Egyptians ate a similar cake in their worship of the Goddess Isis. There are conflicting ideas as to what the cross symbol represents. One suggestion is that it is a Christianisation of horn symbols that were stamped on cakes to represent an ox, which used to be sacrificed at the time of the Spring Equinox.

Another theory relates to Moon worship; the bun representing the full Moon, and the cross, its four quarters. Christianity gave new meanings to the symbolism of the buns, saying the cross represented the Crucifixion Cross. Thus, superstitions arose crediting these buns as being charms against evil, so after Good Friday, people would save one or two of them to hang up in their homes as amulets. During the festival season and indeed, for a long time afterwards, fishermen would carry these Easter buns in their boats, for protection.

My family were not of the Christian faith, so instead I was told the Easter tale of The Witch Hare, but I now know that for Christians Good Friday is not named (at the risk of sounding much like Bilbo Baggins) because it is a good day, rather that it is the day we commemorate the death of Christ upon the cross of crucifixion.

Every year we look at the history of the Easter traditions around the globe - why we celebrate Easter with  rabbits, hares, hot cross buns and yes - chocolate eggs!! We look at different faiths and religions so we learn about their beliefs, tales and celebrations. We decorate eggs every year and we make egg trees to display them on. We collect fresh budding twigs from the garden and the whole house seems to be filled with the scent and sunshine warmth of Spring.

There are many symbols of mixed faith in the traditional Easter celebrations we all enjoy. The Easter Bunny is one such symbol which has obvious links to fertility, rebirth, and the abundance of life which is evident in Spring.

In the Witch Hare tale I was told as a child :  One myth says that the Hare was once a bird but was changed by Ostara.  The Hare was allowed to keep it's swiftness so it could still escape those who hunted him.  Once a year the Hare is allowed to lay eggs in remembrance of it's earlier form - and so today the Easter bunny still brings eggs to the ancient festival. The story goes something like this................

The story of the Goddess Ostara and the Origin of the Easter Bunny / Hare :

Ostara, the Goddess of Dawn (Saxon), who was responsible for bringing spring each year, was feeling guilty about arriving so late. To make matters worse, she arrived to find a pitiful little bird who lay dying, his wings frozen by the snow. Lovingly, Ostara cradled the shivering creature and saved his life.

Legend has it that she then made him her pet companion. Filled with compassion for him since he could no longer fly because of his frost-damaged wings, the goddess Ostara turned him into a rabbit, a snow hare, and gave hime the name Lepus.

She also gave him the gift of being able to run with astonishing speed so he could easily evade all the hunters.  To honor his earlier form as a bird, she also gave him the ability to lay eggs (in all the colors of the rainbow, no less), but he was only allowed to lay eggs on one day out of each year. Eventually Ostara lost her temper with Lepus and she flung him into the skies where he would remain for eternity as the constellation Lepus (The Hare), forever positioned under the feet of the constellation Orion, the Hunter. But later, remembering all the good times they had once enjoyed, Ostara softened and allowed the Hare to return to the Earth once a year, but only to give away his eggs to the children attending the Ostara festivals that were held each Spring.

According to myth, Ostara (Eostre) was a playful Goddess whose reign over the earth began in Spring when the Sun King journeyed across the sky in his chariot, bringing the end of Winter. Ostara came down to Earth then, appearing as a beautiful maiden with a basket of bright colourful eggs. Ostara's magical companion was a hare (rabbit) who accompanied her as she brought new life to dying plants and flowers by hiding the eggs in the fields.

The Easter Bunny is a symbol which has obvious links to fertility, rebirth, and the abundance of life which is evident in Spring as told in the tale above. As is also the Lamb. We eat lamb at Easter because of old Jewish / Egyptian traditions of smearing fresh lambs blood on their thresholds to keep away the plague. The lamb would then be prepared and eaten in thanks. Only God could pass into these homes then and not the devil with his pestilent death. When they were later converted to Christianity the tradition of eating lamb came with them and so we still have it today. It is a seasonal meat that ties in well with the celebrations.

Being Vegan we obviously don't eat lamb at Easter, instead we have seasonal roasted vegetables on the table. What ever you celebrate, however you celebrate, don't forget to have a hot cross bun! x

Thursday, 17 April 2014

"Did I, Did I, Did I diddledooo!"

-Singing Goat- 2005 film 'Hoodwinked.

A day of semi-rest was waiting for us today. The usual catch ups that need to be done before the weekend happens. A couple of appointments suddenly arrived upon us today, making it that plans to see dear friends elsewhere had to be changed and re-arranged. You can never plan life absolute.

The girls have all been reading today. Both for pleasure and work studies. All in all it's been a blissful quiet one. x

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

"Beautiful Briny Sea"

- Bednobs and Broomsticks, Beautiful Briny song. Disney.

This morning was filled with more appointments and house tidying before meeting friends and walking down to our local beach for a picnic and the park for run around. Luckily for us the large woodland park is just down the road and just across a road is the beach. It couldn't be better suited. We don't get the Grokel noise, mess or parking and yet we still get the pleasant salty seaweed smell and seagulls.

The beach is a lovely place for a picnic and I adore the sound of the oceans waves as it brushes up against the shore. The swoosh of the pebbles as they wash back out to sea. Spending time on the beach today reminded me how little we visit the beach, even though we live so close. It's something that we seem to save as a treat. When the girls were small we lived right on the beach front, out back garden gate opened right out onto the beach. It was a lot of fun when the girls were tiny and where we spent most of our days. As they've grown though we have spent less and less time at the shore side. Even today Diggy and Budge opted to be elsewhere rather than on the beach.

After a long laze on the shore, many pebble throwing competitions and a much appreciated lunch we headed on over across the road to the large park lands where the kids played on the zip wire, kicked around the football and climbed trees. Ah, those Summer fun filled days. It really has been gorgeous weather today; more like Summer than Easter Spring.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

"Luck is believing you're lucky"

- American playwright, Tennessee Williams.

Last night hubby got a lift home with a work colleague and long time family friend. As they were driving along a winding country road he noticed the car was slowing down inappropriately, so he turned to his friend who was driving but received no response from him when he called his name. He was having a petite mal ( otherwise known as Absence seizures) at the steering wheel. Luckily hubby is a quick thinker and first aider, so he lent over and took control of the wheel and steered them on to a grass verge, using the handbrake to slow the car until it stalled and he then removed the keys, watching and waiting until his friend came round and could take his medication ; as he has suffered from epilepsy in the past. He hasn't had a seizure for a very long time and it just goes to show that you never know when things things can re-surface. Hubby drove the rest of the way home and made sure his friend was dropped off at his parents house so he could be supervised and cared for before walking the rest of the way home. We are so grateful that events didn't turn out with a tragic end to them, as it was a scary enough experience for them both. Thank the Angels both lived to tell the tale and are here safe and sound, although hubby was quite shaken for the rest of the evening.

A home day today. Lots of inter spaced appointments though and enough to keep us all busy, but essentially time spent at home together. Diggy and Budge have had a couple of assignments to get in and revision for Anatomy and Physiology exams when they return to college next week. It never seems to stop and higher education seems to be far more intense these days, either that or my memory is getting foggy.

Pickle has been playing the piano and getting to grips with some new pieces. As well as watching the Spark notes on the Odyssey from youtube. To watch the Odyssey through SPARK NOTES - which are always handy and useful - here are the links for The Odyssey  -  part one, part two, and part three.

Wreck-it Ralph was the film view of the day for Pickle and I after her studies. Haven't seen it for a while and I was surprised how much of it I had forgotten.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Boxgrove Priory.

Pickle at Boxgrove Priory ruins.
Boxgrove Priory is in the small and charming village of Boxgrove, founded I believe in 1066 after the Norman Invasion. A date that crops up all too often in our English history. The village is not too far from where we live there stands a wonderfully romantic ruin called Boxgrove Priory looked after by English Heritage. Built around about 1117 it has stood on this site and watched the world revolve around it for centuries. It was part of one of the first of King Henry V111's Tudor throne decisions in the dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536.  Boxgrove was ransacked and left to decay in the musts of time, now the ruins of the Priory are grade 1 listed and stand silent, brooding and distant. An angry decayed tooth on the landscape of Henry's once religiously turmoiled England.

We decided to visit today as the weather was more than fine and it's a very good place for a sunny but shaded picnic. All very pre-Raphaelite in it's surroundings and exuding Romanticism in it's Gothic setting.

Just across the green from the Priory ruins is the magnificent church of st. Mary and st. Blaise, which inside holds a rather surprising secret. It is a wonderfully cared for church and parish and unlike many of today's churches was open for viewing with plenty of helpers making her shine in all of God's glory.

A church it seems has stood here since before the Norman conquest, but the church that we see today is Anglo-Saxon and has been here since the twelfth century. Inside the church on the floor is a beautiful inlaid labyrinth or maze designed by Sian Van Driel. Labyrinths and mazes pre-date the Christian church as a pagan symbol, but as with many other things have been incorporated into their faith. The word Labyrinth means - from one path to another. Which as you can imagine but used to denote many aspects of faith and belief.

The church has an extremely French feel to it inside and has the most divine stained glass windows. I am often drawn to the colourful stained glass windows in such places. I love the light and especially colourful light. As a someone who trained in stained glass art and design, I spotted several well executed repairs in the glass panes, that is necessary from time to time.

A window dedicated to an American serviceman who was shot down at Boxgrove during
the Second World War.

In the grounds of the church are some mighty fine magnolia trees and an area left especially for wildlife conservation, which was lovely to see as many graveyards are havens for our natural creatures.

It was nice to sit for a while and watch the world go by whilst having a picnic with friends. We decided to return to the Priory ruins and sit in the sunny shade listening to the newborn lambs bleat in the afternoon haze of sun. It was gorgeous.

The village of Boxgrove though is perhaps better known for it's Palaeolithic period of history and the discovery of the oldest human remains on our island. Homo Heidelbergensis was one of our early ancestors and the archaeological site has been invaluable in learning how they lived in our landscape back then. The bones were discovered in Boxgrove quarry, known locally as Eartham pit. Not only were Homo Heidelbergensis bones discovered but interestingly to me the wing bones of a Great Auk were also uncovered within the site.

A taxidermied Great Auk.
Great Auk's were, for they are entirely extinct now, a flightless bird. They became extinct in the late 1880's and could be found foraging in the waters of Great Britain among other places including the North Atlantic. If I was to give you their Latin name Pinguinius impennis you would perhaps understand my fascination for them. Though they are not a member of the Penguin family as you would first expect. DNA has shown that they are more closely related to today's razorbill, but to me they are very penguin like not only in appearance but habit also. They lived off fish, were agile in the water but clumsy on land, mated for life, lived in social colonies and cared for their egg bound off spring; much like their modern day penguin counterparts. They were only named Pinguinius because at first it was noticed that they looked and acted similar, presuming a genus link ; Mother Nature doesn't always work like that though, nothing is ever that simple - after all she is a woman.

All we know of Great Auk's behaviour is from sailors and amateur naturalists accounts, as sadly science never got around to studying this beautiful bird before it disappeared. Again man was the cause, we hunted it down to it's death for the downy feathers it possessed for our heads to sleep on soft comfy pillows. Hope reared it's pretty head for the birds in 1794 when in recognition that a species was rapidly fading the hunting of Great Auk's was banned and also the stealing and consuming of their eggs; punishment was a public flogging.

There is a rather horrible written account written by Aaron Thomas a sailor aboard the HMS Boston from 1794 that describes it thus :

"If you come for their Feathers you do not give yourself the trouble of killing them, but lay hold of one and pluck the best of the Feathers. You then turn the poor Penguin adrift, with his skin half naked and torn off, to perish at his leasure. This is not a very humane method but it is the common practize. While you abide on this island you are in the constant practize of horrid cruelties for you not only skin them Alive, but you burn them Alive also to cook their Bodies with. You take a kettle with you into which you put a Penguin or two, you kindle a fire under it, and this fire is absolutely made of the unfortunate Penguins themselves. Their bodys being oily soon produce a Flame; there is no wood on the island."

As the bird became rarer, so the increase grew in selfish collectors for it's prized eggs; and the species was further harried into extinction. In 1844 the last recorded Great Auk was killed on the Scottish Isles by three men, possibly sailors or fishermen, who caught the defenceless little bird during a storm and believed it to be a witch causing the blight for their travels. They tied it up for three days and then beat it to death with a stick!

What kind of monsters are we as a species????

The Gairfowl otherwise known as the Great Auk recounting it's demise in Charles
Kingsley's book 'The Water Babies'. Illustration by artist A.E.Jackson.
The Great Auk is the only bird to have been made extinct in the British Isles during our recorded history and I personally think it a great tragedy and injustice to the poor little fellow.  You can read of the birds tale of it's own demise in one of my favourite childhood books - 'The Water Babies' by Charles Kingsley. In the pages the Great Auk (often called the Gairfowl) recounts forlornly it's extinction, whilst wearing it's great white spectacles (the bird's own feathered facial markings), to drowned and reborn young chimney sweep Tom within the company of his rich un-drowned friend Ellie.

"Why, we have quite gone down in the world, my dear, and have nothing left but our honour. And I am the last of my family. A friend of mine and I came and settled on this rock when we were young, to be out of the way of low people. Once we were a great nation, and spread over all the Northern Isles. But men shot at us so, and knocked us on the head, and took our eggs - why, if you will believe it, they say that on the coast of Labrador the sailors used to lay a plank from the rock on board the thing called their ship, and drive us along the plank by hundreds until we tumbled down into the ship's waist in heaps; and then, I suppose they ate us, the nasty fellows!"

As it stands lamenting on the Allalonestone, I reminded Pickle of it's last words "And soon I shall be gone, my little dear, and nobody shall miss me; and then the poor stone will be left all alone".

So today Pickle and I remembered the Geat Auk's sad tale and chatted about the Great Auk's story which I read whilst we were sat there at Boxgrove. I'd saved a picture on my phone especially for today, along with Homo Heidlebergensis as we all need a visual reference to help us see the past sometimes.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Zowie Zebras!

Oryx club this month was all about Zebras. Of which Marwell has several different breeds. For many years I naively thought there was just one kind of Zebra, but having girls deeply involved in animals has taught me a thing or two. Grevy's Zebra are highly endangered and are one of Marwell's conservation projects outside of the Zoo grounds.

It has been glorious weather today, blue skies and warm sunshine. We dropped the girls off at the Zoo gate again so they walked to club while we parked the car. Now that Diggy is eighteen she can sign her sisters in making us unnecessary for the beginning.

A sign at the start of the Zoo did make Pickle groan, as it means she will no longer be able to ride her scooter there due to a new policy being enforced. Diggy did tell us about it after her meeting last time, but the heights had yet to be absolute.

The Zoo wasn't as busy as we expected, but it was busy enough. It was lovely to be able to watch the penguins swimming in their cool pool and basking in the bright sunlight. The giraffes were out in their large African enclosure today and so we spent our time with the Amur Tigers. We spent virtually all out time watching as they interacted with each other, the keepers during feeding time and us their captive audience.

Whilst near the tiger enclosure the Okapi were out quietly eating the new fresh leaves off the budding trees. We looked in quickly on the Otters as they swam in their pool and the lemurs as they basked on the warm terracotta tiles. By the time we had done all of that, it was time to collect the girls from Oryx club.

They have been busy designing things for the Family Trail day at the Zoo, which is coming up soon and learning about Zebras within the Zoo, while Diggy has been helping teach the younger members about Zebras and their stripes. Pickle will be working on masks and has the task of designing a snake one, while Budge has tasks to do with designing activities on the Big Cats of the Zoo. Shall be interesting to see what they come up with.

Inside the Science learning centre there were some new cardboard sculptures that had been donated by the Bluebird House Hospital's patients. They are awesome! Amazing! I LOVE them!

One a personal note for me I missed out on this years Brighton Vintage fair, as the dates clashed with today's Oryx club at Marwell. Don't misunderstand me, I LOVE the Zoo, especially Marwell, but sometimes things clash. If they clash on a day of the girls educational events, well, they always win, and we wouldn't want it any other way. On reflection it would have been a shame to have been stuck inside all day, when we have been outside in the sunshine close to Mother Nature. x

Luna has been quietly investigating the Easter egg tree, but has thought better of attacking it....... for now. x