Giraffes’ tongues

I’ve seen a few giraffes before at zoos and safari parks, but never as close up as we did when we visited Dublin zoo. There was a tower of giraffes in an enclosure… tower, yes, that’s the collective name for a group of giraffes. They are truly magnificent animals, and their colour and markings are beautiful.They look a creamy white, almost yellowy sometimes colour with brown or red patterns all over the animal apart from the legs. Each giraffe’s skin colour is unique to him or her, and there is also a difference between the different species, different sized patches of colour, and the shade of colour and the amount of pale fur around the blobs.

This big giraffe that we saw was splendid, a dark chocolatey brown, gorgeous! However, what amazed us was his tongue. At first I though he had a long strip of foliage, or maybe a very long dangly piece of fruit (I don’t know if giraffes eat fruit) but more than anything it looked like a long thin fish. However… it was his tongue! It was so long and dangly and rather repulsive I wondered if he’d had an accident or there was something wrong with him, but no, that was his natural tongue, and he did tuck it away after a while.

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His tongue did look very long, but they can be as long as 20 inches – this one looked longer! They are prehensile tongue and they use it to grab foliage to eat. Their favourite food is a type of prickly acacia and they have to be really careful eating it and apparently their saliva is specially thick and gluey to protect the giraffe’s mouth (yuk) THe tongue is an extraordinary colour, black, blue or purple which maybe stops them getting sunburned while they’re eating!

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I can’t show you, but it was delcious

I had a really yummy dinner tonight, salmon just fried in a little butter and teriyaki sauce, then when it was nearly done I added just a little white wine and then some cream, and that was the fish cooked. In a steamer I put a thin layer of finely sliced leek in rings and some finely sliced celery, I steamed them while I was cooking the fish then when I added the wine to the pan I added some cavolo nero and some ordinary savoy cabbage, finely sliced, to the veg in the steamer. I added a small sprinkle of Cornish sea salt, but I guess any old salt would do, some mustard seeds, some fennel seeds, some cummin seeds and a little fenugreek… by the time the veg were done so was the fish.

It was really delicious but I can’t show you a photo as I have eaten it all!

A shot down angel

I first read this poem when I was at school, and although enigmatic, it still remains a favourite of mine, by a favourite poet, Charles Causley.

Charles was born in 1917, to Laura Bartlett and Charles Causley who tragically died in 1925 of wounds he’d sustained during the First World War.Interestingly, Charles senior was born in Canada, although none of his brothers and sisters as far as I can tell, not his parents were born there. Why did they go? Was it a visit, were they seeking work? Who knows?

Charles the poet never married and when he died he was buried next to his mother. Here is Charles’s poem:

I saw a shot down angel

I saw a shot down angel in the park
His marble blood sluicing the dyke of death,
A sailing tree fired its brown sea-mark
Where he now wintered for his wounded breath.

I heard the bird-noise of his splintered wings
Sawing the steep sierra of the sky,
On his fixed brow the jewel of the Kings
Reeked the red morning with a staring eye.

I stretched my hand to hold him from the heat,
I fetched a cloth to bind him where he bled,
I brought a bowl to wash his golden feet,
I shone my shield to save him from the dead.

My angel spat my solace in my face
And fired my fingers with his burning shawl,
Crawling in blood and silver to a place
Where he could turn his torture to the wall.

Alone I wandered in the sneaking snow
The signature of murder on my day,
And from the gallows-tree, a careful crow
Hitched its appalling wings and flew away.


The Port of Amsterdam

I went over to visit my very talented friend Ros Cuthbert for a coffee and a catch-up; Ros is a renowned painter and artist, and has begun a second career as a singer and song-writer. I was asking her about her latest gig, and about the songs she is writing in collaboration with an amazing Dutch pianist. She told me that a song she has been working on is the Jacques Brel composition Dans le Port d’Amsterdam. her translation has all the rough vigour of the sailors in the song, and I imagine she sings it very well… I look forward to hearing her!

I don’t know many songs by Brel, but one I do know is Dans le Port d’Amsterdam because one of my favourite groups, The Glade, sing it! Their version is very different from Ros’s! There have been many artists who’ve also recorded this song, but here is the great Bowie…

NaNo is approaching!

On November 1st, all across the world, literally tens of thousands of people will be accepting the challenge to try and write 50,000 words of a new novel in the next thirty days. Yes, it’s time for the National Novel Writing Month where people of all sorts of writing experiences and none set themselves a target of trying to complete a good chunk of a new piece of work.

I did it last year and found it inspiring, exciting, and rewarding, and from it I produced my novel, Radwinter. Between Novembers there are also writing ‘camps’ and I ‘attended’ the April camp which again I found useful, but with the actual NaNo experience I seemed to ‘meet’ up with more people who were on the same wavelength… and I think this is one of the things that I found most  useful in the experience – apart from the discipline of having to meet my target, that there were so many interesting other people to compare notes with.

So this year… the day after tomorrow in fact… I’m not quite sure what I am doing… maybe writing my first ever romantic novel, maybe do a complete rewrite of a novel I wrote over twenty years ago – I don’t mean copying it, I mean taking the storyline and writing a new novel – or maybe, just maybe writing part III of my Radwinter story!.

My most popular novel, thanks to NaNo:

… and if you are inspired to join me…

Kabacha 2

Well here is the kabacha squash, cut in half and ready to go into the oven. I’m going to roast it and roast the seeds separately as a snack. Having looked through lots of recipes and considered what my family like to eat, I’m going to make a soup, and as so many recipes say that this squash is good in a Thai curry, I’m going to use Thai spices and coconut milk to make a nice spicy warming autumn lunch dish!

I’ll be interested to see what this new to me squash tastes like; it certainly smelt very different when I cut it open, a sort of chestnutty smell. The skin was exceptionally tough and after trying different knives I eventually managed to cut it with a serrated bread knife. I wondered what different types of squash there are, and there are literally hundreds of different varieties!

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Just a ‘short’ list – I’m sure some of the different names here are the same squash:

  • acorn squash
  • ambercup squash
  • australian blue squash
  • autumn cup squash
  • baby boo pumpkin
  • banana squash
  • buttercup squash
  • butternut squash
  • calabash squash
  • calabaza
  • carnival squash
  •  cucuzza squash
  • delicata squash
  • eight-ball squash
  • fairytale pumpkin
  • gold ball squash
  • gold nugget squash
  • gooseneck squash
  • green-striped cushaw squash
  • hubbard squash (blue, golden, green, or gray)
  • lumina squash
  • mo qua squash
  • musquee de provence.
  • orange hokkaido squash
  • pattypan squash
  • pebbled or warty squash
  • queensland blue winter squash
  • red kuri squash
  • silk melon squash
  • spaghetti squash
  • sunburst squash
  • sweet dumpling squash
  • turban squash
  • uchiki kuri squash