Friday, 21 September 2012

Up, up and Away!

I am writing this with a flutter of butterflies in my stomach and a dry mouth. Am I going to the dentist, I hear you think?? No, I am about to head to Cape Town, to the airport, ready to board an Emirates flight to Dubai. I make no bones about it, I am NOT a good flyer, I have a fear of heights and I get claustrophobic, not a good combination when I am hurtling in a small time capsule above the clouds! Add to that the desperation I feel every time we hit a bump, and you may have an inkling of how I am feeling right now! I keep thinking, 'this time tomorrow...' but I still have to get through today!!

Fortunately I am not flying alone. This leg! My daughter is with me, she has been here on holiday with her husband who flew back last week. I was so lucky, my sister was here too, and that really was fantastic. I cannot remember the last time that we were all together, and sadly, my son and family were not here this time. Maybe one day............................

At the other end, well, I have so much to look forward to. Two weeks in Dubai, then off to Madrid to meet my gorgeous grandaughter, and to renew aquaintance with my handsome grandson. My case is packed with goodies for them, books, toys and clothes. In between I have shoved a few bits for me to wear, a pair of jeans and two shirts!!

I know that my time with them will speed past, it always does, but I aim to fill every day with as many memories as I can. My camera is packed and ready! I shall miss Rob and Alfie while I am away, I always do, and I know that they will be at the airport to meet me when I return in four weeks.

And the butterflies will have a couple of weeks rest between flights!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Watch the Birdie!

I have just received some beautiful photographs of my gorgeous grandchildren, emailed to me from Spain. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a photograph is 'a picture formed by means of the chemical reaction on sensitive film', but it goes much deeper than that. Without the shadowy images of years gone by captured on little bits of card, I would never have known what my maternal grandfather looked like, as he died when my mother was small. In fact, my mother wouldn't have known either. When I was about seven, or eight, (I think), my dad went through a phase of developing his own photos, and we would be snapped in our dressing gowns, a budgerigar on a shoulder, with mum reading to us, or my sister and I playing in the garden. He then spent ages in the bathroom with towels jamming the door so that no light could show through while he developed and printed them under a special light and strung them up on a makeshift line held in place by mum’s clothes pegs. I still have some of those old memories!

I can spend hours looking though my old photo albums. Remember the ones that had the peel-off plastic sheet that 'stuck' your photos onto the page? They worked for a few years, but eventually the plastic lost its ‘stick’ and peeled off, and all the photos fell out! The little sticky corners that held the photos in place seemed to be a lot better, remaining even after the photo was removed and leaving you wondering what on earth had been in that square! Especially if there was an odd caption handwritten underneath. Something like, ‘Gosh Horace, what a brave thing to do at your age!’

Mine looked exactly like this! (Thanks to Google!)

My first camera was a 'Brownie Box' that had to be held in front of me while I peered down through the lens and hoped that it didn’t move while I pressed the button! The film had to be wound on by hand but there was no ‘safety catch’ in case I forgot to do that in my excitement to capture something, and multiple pictures could be taken on the same bit of film! Somewhere I have ghostly photos of snow on roofs (I just love those old chimney pots that are so characteristic of old London), with my granny floating in the middle of them, sitting in her chair in her lounge! Odd but interesting! The last Brownie I saw was in a museum, how technology has changed.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

A Spring Riddle!

Here's a riddle for you:

What do Spring Day and Vultures have in common?
Well, here's the answer. The first Saturday in September is International Vulture Awareness Day, which, this year, happens to coincide with Spring Day! Or Autumn Day for those of you reading this in the Northern Hemisphere!

Thanks to EWT.

The purpose of the day is to highlight the plight of vultures and the work done by conservationists to implement affective measures to conserve the birds and their habitat. South Africa first celebrated the day in 2005, and since then global interest and support has increased. By 2011,  159 organisations representing 44 countries were involved. Hopefully this year will have even more support.

This is what the EWT newsletter contained:

South Africa is home to no less than nine vulture species. Seven of these species are listed in the Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (Barnes, 2000) as facing a certain degree of threat of extinction. The Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus, whose range in southern Africa is restricted to the Maluti-Drakensberg mountains in South Africa and Lesotho is classified as “Endangered” and continues to decline in numbers due to a range of factors. The Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres only occurs within southern Africa and the conservation of this species remains one of the main focal areas of the EWT-BoPP. Both the Hooded Necrosyrtes monachus and African White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus were up-listed to “Endangered” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species during the last 12 months. Other species, such as the Lappet-faced Torgos tracheliotus and White-headed Trigonoceps occipitalis mostly occur in large conservation areas in South Africa and are listed as “Vulnerable”.

Vultures are faced with a range of threats such as poisoning, persecution, electrocution and collision with power-lines, drowning in farm reservoirs in drier parts of the country, shortage of safe food supplies and loss of suitable habitat. The potential impact of indiscriminately placed wind-energy installations is today recognised as a major emerging threat to large soaring birds such as vultures. A considerable number of installations of this nature are planned for South Africa and it is imperative that the placement of such sites should consider and attempt to avoid the potentially devastating impact that they may have on the populations of these already threatened birds.'                          Thanks to EWT and Andre Botha.

Sobering words.

Vultures are also very mobile and can cover hundreds of kilometres per day in search of food. This makes effective conservation difficult as they happily cross borders in their search, and conservation priorities differ greatly from country to country. Cumbersome and comical on the ground, they scrabble and clamber over a carcass, tearing and pulling and poking into corners and holes. When they perch in trees they look just like mourners at a funeral, but once they take off and catch the thermals, they become almost poetic.

Let's hope that they do not become just another memory in years to come, like so many other birds, animals, plants and marine species.

Oh, by the way, Happy Spring Day!