100 new things… well, 18 actually

In the BBC magazine section, there is a list of a hundred things we didn’t know last year… apparently; they range across every area of human and animal activity and make interesting (and amusing) reading.

I’ve reduced the list to eighteen unusual facts discovered in 2014:

  1. Gladiators were mostly vegetarian
  2. It’s actually fairly easy to weigh an ant.
  3. The most effective office regime is to work for 52 consecutive minutes and then have a 17-minute break.
  4. Ukraine’s navy is equipped with combat sea lions.
  5. In China, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are known as Curly Fu and Peanut.
  6. The most expensive pies of any English league football club are to be found at Brighton & Hove Albion – Rochdale’s are the cheapest.
  7. It is illegal to race rubber ducks in some US states.
  8. When making a decision, former England and Derbyshire fast bowler Devon Malcolm asks himself: “What would Margaret Beckett do?”
  9. Yorkshire and Humberside are as red-headed as Ireland.
  10. The largest hunting dinosaur probably ate whole sharks.
  11. It would cost £12.6 billion to issue every man, woman and child in the UK with an owl (and £69.3 billion if each was to get its own aviary).
  12. Putting broken pottery in plant pots doesn’t aid drainage.
  13. When given a date far in the future, William Hague can tell you off the top of his head which day of the week it will be.
  14. When crows drop stones into water to make food more accessible, they display the reasoning skills of children aged 5-7.
  15. People called Eleanor are disproportionately likely to get into Oxford University.
  16. It’s possible for a bat in the UK to fly across the sea to continental Europe.
  17. The Black Death improved public health in subsequent centuries, although no-one knows the exact reason.
  18. Congo-Brazzaville has a peat bog the size of England

I love the idea of issuing owls to ever single person in the UK – let’s do it! damn the expense! And broken pottery doesn’t aid drainage? What? I always put broken pots under plants!! And William Hague knowing things off the top of his head… hi totally bald pate… Obviously crows are clever, whoever could doubt it?! And as for that England-sized bog in Congo… Gosh!



The Darkling Thrush

For New Year’s Eve…

The Darkling Thrush

Thomas Hardy, 18401928
I leant upon a coppice gate 
    When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
    The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
    Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
    Had sought their household fires. 

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
    The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
    The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
    Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
    Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
    The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
    Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
    In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
    Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
    Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
    Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
    His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
    And I was unaware.

Zhengyalov Hats

I was doing some research about Armenian cooking… when I was living in Manchester in my 20’s, our favourite restaurant was the Armenian restaurant, founded by Arto der Haroutounian and opened in 1969. I adored the food, when we first went in the 1970’s it was like nothing we had ever tasted before, wonderful, just wonderful, and I have loved that type of cuisine ever since. Arto published several cookery books, all of which I have, and apparently he was a very talented artist too. sadly he died very young, at the age of forty-seven.

In my Radwinter novels, one of Thomas Radwinter’s friends is Armenian and he has a café/restaurant in my imaginary town of Strand. So, I was doing some research about Armenian food, and Armenia in general and came across an intriguing recipe for Zhengyalov Hats…yes  hats… They aren’t actually hats or even shaped like hats, that is just the name in Armenian; they are flat breads, typical of the region, and filled with what sounds like a delicious combination of fresh green herbs, some of which are spring onions, garlic, a sort of spinach, vine leaves, coriander, beet tops, nettles, chickweed, sorrel,flax leaves, grapes leaves, dill, coriander, mint and one recipe I saw said leeks… well, I think ti sounds wonderful, but definitely a summer thing if you need nettles and chickweed, both of which we have in our vegetable beds!

To find out more about Arto:


2014… the middle passage

DSCF6791May… visiting our very dear friends in the beautiful Netherlands, and…

Tyne Cot (3)…paying our tribute to the dead of WW1 on the battlefields of the Somme.

Photo0886In June we were in Northern Ireland…

WP_20140715_034… and July we were in Salford…

10500359_10152303936334094_7960709576512990046_nfor an important event…

DSCF7342In August we went to visit the Polish soldiers memorial in Portsmouth…

DSCF7360…and joined dear friends for a happy, happy day