Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Of Moths and Manses

Mostly for my own amusement I make occasional mention of my house as being called "Trowelsworthy Hall".  It is of course a very real place, and as it is past the century mark expensive repairs and upkeep are always lurking. 

On a recent Saturday morning as I sat on the front porch swing I was dismayed to see what looked like a bit of peeling paint on one of the pillars.  

Zooming in nice and close we see that it really is this:

The wee chap is doing his or her best to blend in.

I got a sense of deja vu because I have seen very similar photos in old science textbooks when I was young.  It seems that one of the early studies lending experimental evidence to Darwin's theory of Natural Selection came out of the British Midlands in the 19th Century.  It was noted that as industrial soot poured out of Manchester and its environs, all the trees out in the countryside got dark and sooty, the light colored lichens (which really do look like moths..or paint chips) having died off.  Soon dark colored moths, previously quite rare, became the norm as hungry birds gobbled up all the poorly camoflaged lighter variants.

A few observations.

1. Manchester has been cleaned up a great deal.  We spent a short time there in May and I saw no soot at all.  Also no moths but I was not looking specially for them and they are good at hiding.

2. British scientific studies generate an enormous amount of amusing commentary.  In looking at this question I found not only the sensible issues of how many moths you need to extrapolate for all of Insectkind, but some highly entertaining accusations of moths glued to tree trunks to fudge data, and one author comparing his disappointment in having to reconsider his position as being similar to finding out at age six that his father, not Santa Claus, was the bringer of Christmas presents.

3. I don't need to paint the porch this year.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Family, including the Ketchup Cousins

I was out for a walk on a recent Saturday.  It was getting hot and I had no particular enthusiasm for my objective; our community garden plot which was in need of weeding.  So it was with considerable delight that I began to detect the faint odor of cooking bratwurst, and the happy buzz of a gathering crowd.  I had forgotten you see that it was time for another sort of community: our local brewery's annual Family Reunion.

In this context Family is a rather inclusive concept.  You show up and prove you are over 21 (my grizzled beard was sufficient ID) and you will be given an armband that gets you food and beer.

Bratwurst being cooked on an industrial scale.

Add some chips (sorry, crisps to my UK pals) and a cookie.  It was a very hot day and I am afraid the cookie turned into chocolate lava before I got around to eating it.

Ketchup, mustard, onions and sauerkraut.

The authorities of course were on hand but for this kind of gathering they sent The Cool Police.

There were even a few happy dogs.  They got bowls of water.

But for their masters....why, everyone got to take home a free 12 pack of beer!  I picked up mine early in the day but I don't think I really needed to have done so.  The fork lift just kept bringing out more pallets full.

A marvelous day.  Although we are fated to live in oft troubled times this day the sun shown down on the Saintly and the Struggling with equal radiance.  Contrary to what we have always been taught, there really was not only a Free Lunch but Free Beer to boot.  And everyone was Family, even those extremely peculiar cousins who think it is OK to put ketchup on a bratwurst.

Friday, June 24, 2016

England 2016 - Some Last Silly Looks

Weeks, sometimes months after my annual spring trips to England I reach a point at which the stories have been told, the pictures shown.  The last few are random odds and ends, things I just pointed a camera at and hit the button for no particular reason.

Carlisle Castle front door.  Hobbit accessible.

 Hey, mean spirited, smelly, omnivorous critters need somebody looking out for them...

I'm not sure how many patents and copyrights are being flaunted by this made in Somewhere prize. You'd think the combined legal departments of Lego, Lucas and The Great Mouse would be all over this.

Pretty good advice bolted to a pretty high wall.  I should send this to my new parent Son and Daughter in Law.

We were out for a pastoral stroll when we saw these menacing figures appear on a ridge line.  We assumed that woolly hoardes on the other side were just waiting for the order to attack.

Ah, what can I say.  I take a lot of sheep pix because they are so darned photogenic.  This was the special pen for abandoned sheep.  Sometimes a ewe just ditches one of the little darlin's and the farmer collects them in a batch for bottle feeding.  When we walked up to the pen there really was a mass rush of woolly critters.  They figured we had their bottle.  Don't put a finger near them, they are not very smart.  This one is using steel fence as a teething ring!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Guiting Power - Real and Imagined

I have made mention of my impression that the Cotwolds are just a little "too cute".  It was an area of considerable natural beauty with rolling hills and nice little towns built in lovely locally quarried stone.  When it was "discovered" by artistic types circa 1900 they did some excellent work in preserving the marvelous things they had found.  But did they perhaps also improve upon things a bit?

Guiting Power is a good case in point.

It sure is pretty when you walk into it from the south.

Very quaint.  Here's a nice little village green.

It has a post office, a village store, a bakery, an old church and not one but two pubs.  Pretty impressive for a place with a population under 300.  But when you settle in to stay the night there it becomes apparent that this Time Warp Quaint is sustained by artificial means.

There is some serious money here.  We stopped in for a drink at one of the pubs and found out that it was the place that the local "Horsey Set" frequented.  Posh, lots of pictures of race horses on the walls.  The barkeep was a guy from Italy.

The entire village was in derelict condition circa 1900.  In the 1930s there was the first stirrings of an effort to buy up the whole place, putting it into the hands of the Guiting Manor Annuity Trust.  This preserved the structures intact, allowed local residents to remain in them...and banned most structural and cosmetic changes.  Continuing perhaps the theme of things not being exactly as they appear, the driving force behind the establishment of the Trust was a certain Raymond Cochrane. Cochrane was born a hermaphrodite, one of those rare individuals whose anatomy is ambiguous.  Raised as an upper class woman, Cochrane later rebelled, alienated his/her family and had a very early gender reassignment surgery. Cochrane arrived in Guiting in the 1950s and made preservation of the village a personal passion.

We stayed in a nice B & B across the way from The Farmer's Arms, which is the other and more authentic pub in the village.  Over a tasty rabbit pie - that gave me grim satisfaction as I thought of the pests eating our garden back home - various tales of the village came forth.

The policy of locals being the preferred tenants is still in place, but swank Londoners can find a way nowadays.  The entire community is shortly going to be upgraded to the fastest internet connections in the UK courtesy of a music producer who lives and works remotely there.  We also heard that the Trust still has charge of every aspect of the village.  You can't put a new gate on your fence, you have to wait for the appropriate workmen to come and do it for you.  

On the way into town we had noticed that next to the church there was an open field where sheep were grazing around some old foundations and all about some curious earth works.  We were assured that the former was the remains of an ancient Anglo Saxon church and the latter a genuine Bronze Age barrow where intact human remains had been found.  

I had begun to have doubts about the authenticity of many things in Guiting Power.  Those Trust approved workmen sounded just a little too zealous....

Here is the top of the monument in the village green.  It looks centuries old but has a WWI Tommy leaning on his Enfield rifle.  This may not be a conscious effort to deceive as the local stone does weather quickly and gracefully, but certainly serves as a reminder to keep one's eyes open.

Guiting Power supposedly dates back to at least 780 AD.  A church of course would be one of the first things that the Anglo Saxons would build.  I have no doubt that the Trust's archaeologists found the remains of an early church here.  I have equal confidence that what they found was a sad and random little collection of stones that were later reassembled and enhanced with plenty of extra parts.  Those Trust workmen are such industrious chaps.

Oh, and that ancient barrow.  Here's what it looks like today:

Such an astonishing degree of preservation!  Such clear definition of the mounds and the surrounding enclosure ditch!  Such.....such nonsense.

It took a bit of looking around the internet to sort this out.  The Trust's official site does describe it as a reconstruction but other references say a barrow has been there long enough to show up on Ordnance Survey maps.  The truth of it seems to be that a rather unimpressive barrow did exist here from ancient times.  I found a comment on a message board devoted to the study of barrows that really sums it up well:

What was previously a 38m diameter 1.5m high Bronze Age Round Barrow (which a 1992 excavation proved was a 'well preserved Barrow') has had what many people would call 'The Mars Bar treatment' (now very much smaller and a lot more costly) - the propaganda states that the reconstructed barrow (a flat topped mound 20m in diameter) 'reflected the original barrow' - well anything is possible these days, especially with considerable imagination, in the Cotswolds - perhaps it should be named 'Designer Barrow' -

Is this Preservation Gone Too Far?  It is a fair question.  One could debate it over a pint at The Farmer's Arms and have an enjoyable evening of it.  The pub looks authentic and the local residents are in fact members of a functioning small community.  If the whole enterprise has perhaps a little more help that the casual observer might notice, well, its better than many other possible ways that Guiting Power could have ended up.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Monkey Mayor of Hartlepool

My friends in the UK were understandably curious about American politics.  In fact they are at least as puzzled as we are over the considerable disdain for establishment candidates.  They have some similar trends going on of course, some are already speaking of Boris Johnson as the British Donald Trump.

Interestingly two different conversations ended up discussing The Monkey Mayor of Hartlepool.

Hartlepool is a rather drab town on the East Coast of England.  One of its few claims to fame is that it was actually shelled by the German Navy in World War One.  The rest of Britain may not have been all that bothered by this, it seems Hartlepudlians are looked down on as being rather dim witted and narrow minded folk.  Sometimes they were even called the derogatory term "Monkey Hangers". More on that in a bit.

In 2002 a referendum had passed creating a new post of Mayor, replacing an earlier Council based system.  This was a solid Labour party district so the outcome was not considered doubtful. But an odd thing happened.

A certain Stuart Drummond was at that time the mascot for the Hartlepool United Football Club.  In his role as H'Angus the Monkey, he decided to run for Mayor as a publicity stunt. Other than to "put the piss up" a bit, as my UK friends describe it, his sole campaign promise was to provide free bananas to all school children.

Well, he rather looks the part of a successful politician...

Hey, you could do worse.  And in a startling rebuke to the complacent Labour Party Drummond/H'Angus won the election.

By all accounts he was a good Mayor.  He knew how to compromise on the banana issue, settling for increased fresh fruit in the school lunches.  He did nothing to embarrass himself or his constituents and won re-election twice.  In fact he is the best Mayor Hartlepool will ever have, being of course the first, and as it turns out the last.  Perhaps having learned a humbling lesson the powers that be found a way to eliminate the office and return to the old system. Personally I like sports mascots and find them several notches up in respectability as compared to most politicians.

Hartlepool is enjoying a bit of prosperity these days.  Probably H'Angus doesn't deserve credit for much beyond lightening the general mood. Oh yes, the "Origin Story" of H'Angus.

As they tell it* during the Napoleonic Wars a French ship ran onto the rocks off of Hartlepool. It broke up in the waves and there were no survivors. None that is except a monkey that had been dressed up in a French uniform, presumably for the amusement of the crew.  The good people of Hartlepool having never seen a Frenchman before convened a drum head trial on the beach.  The ship wrecked survivor being unable to deny accusations that he was a spy was hung on the spot!

*the story is probably nonsense having been in circulation earlier in the form of a popular song!
Later this week.  A village where things are not what they seem.  Also menacing shapes on the horizon.....

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day. Minus One, Plus One.

This is my first Father's Day since my own father died.  And my first one as a Grandfather.

I am on my own this weekend, the kids up and out, the wife off on a trip.  She worries that it is unseemly to leave me alone on Father's Day.


Guys don't make a big deal out of it.  I don't want or need any silly gifts that traditionally get handed out today.  I don't wear ties for work any longer.  I already have a barbecue grill.

My sons are all turning out just fine, and in my book no better gift on this or any other day could be had.  My own father would not have been one to put it into words but pretty much felt the same way.

So I guess that means I am bereft of soft, sappy feelings on the day - designated by the makers of cards, ties and barbecue grills - for soft sappiness.

Well.  We were cleaning the garage the other day and found a trove of old sports equipment.  Some just had to be tossed out but there were a few keepers.  One thing we found was this very small baseball glove.  It probably belonged to our oldest son.  We spent a lot of time playing catch out in the yard but this glove is so small that he likely outgrew it very quickly.

They really do grow fast.  So I decided that my son, a Father himself now, should have it.  He can get back to playing catch in his own yard shortly.

Friday, June 17, 2016

On Parade in Carlisle Castle

A day off from digging, what to do?  After a debate over pints the night before we settled on a visit to Carlisle.  Plenty of history, a nice drive, and a fabulous bookstore to visit.  Seriously, Bookcase is one of the best bookstores I have ever been in.  A quarter of a million volumes, thirty rooms on three stories, reasonable prices and that impossible to either define or to mistake faint odor of old, delightful books.

While we were enjoying a snack in the affiliated tea room there came from the street the brassy martial sounds of a marching band.  I ducked out in time to see an odd procession.  A band in formal uniform, a contingent of older chaps in bowler hats and bemedalled blue suits, and finally a loosely organized column of very young looking soldiers.  I was slow with the camera and they were off down the street in brisk - if somewhat unmilitary - order.

Our own little band of ragamuffins then dispersed to follow individual interests.  Carlisle has a nice cathedral, a really good museum, and so forth. Some of us lingered in the bookstore for quite a while.

But I was off to Carlisle castle.  I had visited once before on a dismal rainy day.  For whatever reason - probably I just was feeling contrary - I did not go in on that visit, just circled the perimeter looking up at walls.  Now it was time to drop in.

The location has been a fortress for as long as history has been recorded.  The Romans built an early stronghold here in 72 AD.  The few glimpses we have of dark age Carlisle courtesy of Saint Cuthbert speak of high walls and a still functioning aqueduct system in the 7th Century.  When the Normans turned up in the 11th Century the first thing they did was fortify the old Roman site, upgrading a century later to stonework that still survives in spots. Today it flies the Dread and Puissant banner of English Heritage.

As I was admiring the place I was surprised to see the mismatched parade come in through the front gates.

They lined up for review in front of barracks buildings named for scenes of great British valor.  Gallipoli, Arnhem, Ypers.

The picture just above captures the mood pretty well.  The Older Gents on the right are clearly veterans.  They wear assorted head gear and are comfortably chatting with each other.  The band stays in the back.  They appear to be Professionals, I assume Regular Army.  The younger soldiers are Cadets, here displaying much improved military bearing now that the Regimental Sergeant Major, the Colonel and the Colonel's Wife are on hand to inspect them.

From chatting with the office staff at the Castle and doing a bit of post travel research I now understand this picture better.

Carlisle Castle is a base, mostly ceremonial these days, for The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment of the British Army.  The family tree of British Regiments is fairly complicated, with massive wartime expansions and increasing peacetime amalgamations.  But it is fair to say that the Lancasters can be considered to be in the lineage of the troops who fought so hard in the battles commemorated by the barrack's names.  In fact their antecedents defended these very walls against assorted Scottish marauders.  Probably, although this is lost to history, their far distant ancestors stood on both sides of the Roman walls long ago.

The Old Gentlemen are indeed veterans.  I think the varied hat colors relate to the several regiments that were combined to form this one in 2004.

The "kids" are not actually in the Army.  They are members of The Army Cadet Force.  Here in the US we don't have an exact equivalent to the ACF. Think of a mixture of Boy (and Girl) Scouts with more than a dash of Military School.  Most never go on to serve in the military.  From what I saw they appear to be enjoying the experience.

As did I.  The British Army has such a long and storied history.  I think its great that the youngsters and the Old Soldiers appear together on parade.  It is an interesting mix to my historian's eye.  You have the pomp and ceremony of a brass band, which practically invites you to march along.  On the march through downtown Carlisle people in fact did just that.  But they are not trying to hide the tragic side of things either.  It is eyes straight ahead when the Colonel is inspecting the ranks.  But behind them the signs still stare out with the doleful names.  Ypers, Gallipoli, Arnhem..... So many lads not much older than these marched there.  So many did not march home.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Saturday Stroll - The False Wells

My annual archaeology pilgrimages to Vindolanda have typically been two week stints.  Oh, one year I could only manage a single week, and I have given brief whimsical consideration to doing a doubled up four week session next year if my then 60 year old carcass could stand the wear and tear.

But usually it is a week of excavating, two days to relax, then another week and home.

Naturally in the weekend of designated rest I don't sit still.

Being an "old timer" now it has come to pass that I have met quite a few folks, and usually my excavator pals and I concoct some kind of history themed activities for our non digging weekend. Today and next time you are invited to come along.

On a Saturday with extremely variable weather we set out to do a walk.

Our starting point was the parking lot at the Hadrian's Wall fort of Brocolita.  This is one of my favorite ancient place names.  It appears on the few ancient sources we have, and delightfully seems to preserve a Pre-Roman name.  "Brock" meaning badger is a very old Celtic word.  Brocolita has plausibly been interpreted as "the place with badger holes".  Now, since my nick name with my digging pals is "Badger" (based on being from Wisconsin and somewhat black and white in color scheme), what would be more historically apt than Badger at the place of Badgers?

In the photo above I am standing not at the fort site but in a shrine just outside same.  This is a very nicely preserved Mithraeum.  The altars are reproductions, the originals now safely in a museum in Newcastle.

This was one of three shrines in a complex to the west of the fort.  In some ways the coolest one was actually Coventina's Well.  Coventina was (is?) a Romano-British water deity whose existence is basically only known from this site.  Near where I am standing there was another enclosure in the middle of which was a spring.  When excavated in 1876 it was a fabulous treasure trove.  Altars, incense burners, votive offerings....and 13,487 Roman coins!

So, where is the well today?

Tempting, tempting, but this ain't it.  Sure, its a well and just outside of the fort.  And, yes, almost certainly that is Roman stonework.  Why it even looks as if it were excavated a century or so ago, and I have seen pipes left in sites for various reasons.  But, wrong place.  This is a remnant of some farmer's miserable little stead.  Rock and scruffy grass did not make for prosperity even if you could save money by simply pinching nearby bits of stone work for construction.

The actual site of Coventina's Well is unmarked.  It stands to reason that if there were 13,000 Roman coins excavated then there could be a few still in the ground.  So the Management has not made the site blatant and I will abide by that wise policy.

Up and down the hills we went north of the Wall and into Disputed Territories.  We stopped in a little hamlet called Simonburn.  It has a very pleasant Tea Room.  While there I browsed through their local history book and noticed that there was a 13th Century church, St. Mungo's, that was on the site of even earlier sanctuaries.  In fact, it was said that Mungo himself had visited and had baptized Dark Age Pagans at "St. Mungo's Well" near the church.

Ah, sacred wells, pagans, a guy named Mungo....had to visit.

The hunt for the wells started at the church, then went down a ravine to the south and over a small creek.  High up on the other side we found several possible suspects...

All were suitably moss encrusted and had water in them and/or running out of them.  The water did not seem to have any particular influence on the less devout among our little band but perhaps the absence of St. Mungo was part of the problem.  The obviously later brickwork was not actually a deal breaker as it is common place for ancient springs to have some modern work on them either to protect the water source or to keep people and animals from falling in and coming to grief.

Ah, alas for mystery and history.  It seems that these water sources are newer and less holy.  Known as far back as the 18th century as "Mugger's Well" a vicar of Victorian times decided - for no particular reason - that this must be a typo of sorts and just renamed them.

A Mugger in this context means a travelling peddler who sold crockery.  I can imagine such folks using this as a nice campsite.  The alternate and more common use of Mugger is to describe a violent robber, someone who might hit you in "the mug".  It gets a little help along the way from a Hindu word that is used to designate a large and rather mean spirited crocodile which would be equally happy to grab hold of either end of you.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Vindolanda Update

So much, so very much cool stuff coming up since my departure.  The Vindolanda twitter and blog updates are better this year so I will at least for the digging season link to the latter over on the right side of this page.  I was really impressed for instance with the extremely pornographic pottery item that I imagine as being the tip jar for a brothel!

As to the nice anaerobic excavation that I left - slight tear in eye and catch in throat - at the end of my first week of digging.  Well here it was after we gave it a quick clean up on a muddy Friday:

We had to leave it be after that.  It was just such a complicated mess that the supervising archaeologists needed to get their cameras out and their thinking caps on to try and make sense of it. We were speculating that there might be a water tank underneath as various drains were present and the whole mess of stone slabs and oak planks appeared to be subsiding.

Well.  Here is a photo courtesy of my roving photographer mate Peter Savin.  You will have to rotate your orientation ninety degrees but the same structures can be seen.  Some of the mud and random wood has been cleared away.

It is now looking much more like a proper floor surface, albeit one that has not held up well over time. The flat bare surface on the near side of the trench is, well its something else.

Just for fun here's a close up from the later photo.  Pete's camera is a big fellow with plenty o' megapixels.

The round object near the top has striations on it.  This is a quern stone used for grinding grain. Usually you find them in a broken state, tossed into a pit as filler or onto a wall as a repair measure. But this close to a baking oven site, who knows.

I would like to imagine that the frondy looking stuff in the lower center of the photo might be bracken, the loose heather stuff that the Romans used as a floor covering.  That's where you find the really interesting little items.  Human beings drop things.  Maybe the Romans dropped more stuff as they had not invented pockets for clothing.  Imagine dropping something into very deep and slightly smelly shag carpeting.  You'd probably just leave it there.

Photos from the site are hit and miss for me now.  If I can get a later and deeper view I will pass it along.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Cirencester. Roman Britain's "Second City"

Cirencester is a nice little city in the west of England, down at the lower end of the Cotswolds.  It has a current population of 19,000...about the same as in Roman times.  That made it the second largest city in Roman Britain.  But visiting it today you would hardly know it.

Some cities with a Roman heritage highlight it.  Plaques on the side of modern buildings, preserved archaeology that you can glimpse through skylights, even entire conserved ancient structures.  In Cirencester you get this:

To be fair I will say that there has been quite a lot of archaeological investigation done.  But to find traces of "Corinium Dobunnorum" above ground you have to do some serious looking.

The most obvious remaining structure is the amphitheater.  It stood just outside the city walls and looked from my map to be a nice little stroll from the city center.  So I meandered in a generally southwest direction until I hit a Waitrose store.  This lay along the lines of the Roman wall and they had perched one sad little wall stone in their parking lot to act as a reminder.

From here it got a little tricky.  It seems some locations keep their purpose across many centuries. The spirit of the place - or Genius Locus as the Romans would put it - is a constant. Across the street from the Forum Car Park for instance is a modern day government center.  So also with the defenses of Corinium.  I could see the amphitheater site from the parking lot but there was no visible route to get there.  I had to go to the back  past the rubbish bins and hop over a hedge.  Then dodge traffic crossing the busy Bristol Road that runs the just outside the circuit of the old fortifications.  Thank goodness I have been to the UK so often in years recent that I now instinctively look in the correct direction to spy oncoming mechanical doom.  You see too many US visitors doing "The Colonial Swivel" and looking around in all directions.

I made it across.  Next came some dead reckoning navigation across the grounds of the local hospital. Back by the ambulance garage I found an unobtrusive trail and sign that said "NHS Woods".  A ramble through same brought me to:

What the heck?  You don't need too much of an archaeological "eye" to tell that this landscape has been heavily altered over time.  As it happens the amphitheater was built on the site of a Roman quarry.  So all those long vanished Roman buildings were made of stone that came from this spot. On to the amphitheater.

A pretty spot.  You would never guess that it was once all stone and that the whole range of ancient amusements were carried out here.  The only wild beasts present on this day were a dog and his owner, both of whom seemed entertained by the back and forth throw and fetch of a tennis ball.

The gap at the top of the photo is the north gate of the structure, presumably the main one as a road from there went straight to town.  So, could a stroll about there show us any Roman remains? Oh, if you look at dirt kicked up by rabbits you just might find some very old and corroded brick remnants..

For visible Roman remains that's about it.  Fortunately those needing a more intense Roman fix there is a very nice museum you can visit.  The folks at the Corinium Museum  were quite interested to learn that I was heading up North to excavate a Roman site and gave me a mini guided tour of some of the nicer bits in their collection.

The "Septimus Stone".  This dedicatory marker is the strongest evidence that Corinium was a Provincial Capital in late Roman times.  The earlier entity that united everything south of the Wall in one province had proved either administratively unwieldy or too prone to giving powerful men enough ambition to consider an attempt at usurpation...

A delightful little bronze and enameled bird.  This unusual item appears to be purely decorative. It was found in the grave of a little girl just outside the city walls.  Basically under that Waitrose parking lot as it happens.

Cirencester was a center for mosaic production.  Many swell examples in the museum but I find that they never photograph well from a distance.

And here is an oddity.  This is an example of the Rotas-Sator cryptogram.  They pop up in odd places around the Empire; Egypt, Pompeii, Dura-Europa, Budapest.  And this, the sole example from Roman Britain.  Scholars have expended many gallons of ink trying to puzzle out whether this is a sneaky way of putting some early Christian message up in the era when going public would lead to martyrdom....or was it just an inside joke now lost to history?

For those who enjoy all things Roman Cirencester is a nice little visit.  Of course I would have liked to see more on display but it comforts me to know that there is a lot - an awful lot - still in the ground. Good for Cirencester then.  Without the "help" of the Luftwaffe and the still more destructive forces of developers the past is still asleep underfoot.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Baby Bird Update

In light of yesterday's post I should mention that these baby birds are also without question, dumb.

But they are past the pastel egg stage and almost through the naked-stubble stage.

Good luck little guys, your mom seems a bit scatter brained and really should have picked a better camping site.  So I suggest you work on that whole flying and finding your own worms business with dispatch.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Dumb Birds of England

Our feathered friends are in general not exactly the Einsteins of the natural world but perhaps life in a gentle land where predators are scarce has made them a little less smart.  For instance:

A sign on a small country church north of Hadrian's Wall:

When walking the the Cotswolds we spent a long stretch of time going around the edge of a private forest preserve.  We kept seeing these odd little stile-gate combinations.  Eventually we figured out that the gate was to let a hunting dog through and the stile was for its master to step over.  The small yellow tag on the post has a number and the legend: Support the Code of Good Shooting Practice.

We stood at this spot for a few minutes and, lo and behold, a pheasant strolled by ready to be shot...or perhaps dispatched by chucking a rock at it!