Blog Site by Appointment to His Regal Majesty the Maalie King

He who would be a Leader, let him be a Bridge

Crown Copyright: The Royal Maalie Court

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Thursday, November 23, 2006


The inscription on my bed's headboard reads:

Orion, light your lights; come guard the open spaces
From the dark horizon to the pillow where I lie.
Your faithful dog shines brighter than its lord and master;
Your jewelled sword twinkles as the world rolls by.

Words by Jethro Tull

The "faithful dog" is, of course, Sirius the Dog Star.

Orion - a picture for Ju's Little Sister

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Last week I received a text message which said: "Can you spare a couple of days for me to come to Askam for one of your lasagnes?".

Yes, they come far and wide for my lasagne. I do make a good one, with fresh mince, onions, chopped mushrooms and red peppers and sizzling grated cheese on top. Errrrm, I do use the Dolmio ready-made lasagne sauce and white sauce, but who cares? No-one has ever refused a second helping of my lasagne.

This time my visitor was former student, friend, colleague and fellow biologist Carolyn, who sped up the M6 from Leicester in her flashy little sports car to spend the weekend. The lasagne was in the oven as she arrived, and I could see her nostrils dilating as she entered the door.
Carolyn! White wine with lasagne - whatever next!

I refer to Carolyn affectionately as my Décor Advisor. I have no sense of décor whatsoever and am only too ready to accept advice. Since moving into Maalie Court in October 2001, Carolyn has advised me on numerous occcasions. "What colour carpet do I need in my bedroom?"; "Where should I put this picture?"; "Would this bookcase be better over there?" are just some of the things she has advised me on.

Carolyn is also very tidy. On this visit she attacked the drawers and linen cupboard in my bedroom, long overdue. We filled two black dustbin liners with pants with perished elastic, socks riddled with holes and towells so threadbare you could see through them. I never realised how much extra space could be generated by folding the pants and boxers. And a whole shelf was generated in the linen cupboard, ample to keep my camping bedding.

Sometimes, however, Carolyn can be a little too consciencious. Anything that is visible tends to be put away, and I have to be quite firm. "No, Carolyn, there simply isn't room to squash the ironing board in the cupboard with my fishing rods, it lives in the bathroom!". After she leaves, I spend a wistful day or two discovering where exactly she "tidied up" my antique corkscrew; my chopping board; my steam iron....

Carolyn, if you're reading this, please text me and tell me where you put my albatross skull!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Last weekend (November 11-12th) I visited my younger son Carwyn and his wife Kathryn in Cardiff. Kathryn is a lecturer in languages in Swansea University and Carwyn is a political correspondant for the Welsh magazine Golwg. His office is in the National Assembly for Wales and a visit to this building was high on my list. Cardiff Bay has altered beyond recognition since I was a student in the University during the 60s - from its past as the world's largest coal exporting port, to a modern sport and leisure complex; it is also Europe's largest waterfront development and it has a wealth of leisure activities available both on and off the water. In fact the only building that I recognised from my student days (when the infamous Bute Street led to the even more infamous dockland area of Tiger Bay) was the brick-red Customs House.

The old customs house, Cardiff Bay
On this fine Sunday morning Cardiff Bay was thronging with visitors. Among the new developments there are the Millennium Theatre and of course the National Assembly of Wales, looking rather austere in its Welsh slate contruction and Carwyn was keen to show me around.
The National Assembly of Wales
As we mounted the steps to the entrance, I had a funny feeling of déja vu. Then it occurred to me and I said: "This reminds me of the Reichstag". I was immediately jumped on by Kathryn and Carwyn who pointed out that they were both designed by the same architect, Richard Rogers!
Inside, it is indeed an imposing building and we were able to peep down into the Assembly Chamber through the glass partitions, though of course it was deserted on a Sunday with the circles of seats and lifeless computers.
Carwyn and Kathryn pose at the seat of democracy in Wales

However, the café bar was open for an excellent cream tea and we were able to sit guzzling on plush leather seats where Carwyn had recently interviewed such people as Arthur Scargill, David Cameron and Sir Menzies Campbell.

Also during the weekend we visited the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust National Centre of Wales near Llanelli. Although it was rather bleak and windy we were able to see examples of many of the world's waterfowl species in breeding pens, and a number of wild British species form the hides overlooking the marshes.

Carwyn and Kathryn examine a Pochard duck for symptoms of bird flue at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre, Llanelli

Friday, November 03, 2006


Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which participants use a handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver in combination with the internet to hide and locate containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world. A GPS is a portable version of the "sat-nav" system popular in motor cars which makes use of geo-stationary sattelites to locate a position anywhere on Earth.

Popular are the handheld devices supplied by Garmin . The device can "lock on" to up to 12 satellites, and the accuracy depends on how clear a view can be obtained of the sky. Trees or buildings may restrict the accuracy. Typically, accuracy can be down to about 20 feet (6 metres) so a little searching for a hidden cache is usually required.

Popular hand- held GPS device supplied by Garmin

Caches are registered on an internet site which describes the location and general landmarks, fine-tuned by geographical coordinates, either in degrees latitude and longitude or the national Ordnance Survey grid reference. The coordinates are programmed into the GPS device which is used to locate the cache in the field.

A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and "treasure", usually toys or trinkets of little monetary value. When a cache is found, the visitor records the visit by writing in the logbook and it is customary to exchange an item in the cache. On returning home, the discovery is recorded on the Geocaching website. An example of one of my own caches is described here . Today I located a cache here near my home in Askam.

Although geocaching may have overtones of nerdishness, trainspotting and anoraks, it does have positive aspects. It is harmless. It gets you out of doors, and exercising. It may lead you to locations you may never have envisaged visiting. And there is undoubtedly the satisfation of locating a cache (especially if a little effort is required) or to get an email message informing you that someone has located one of yours. Surely better to use the internet in combination with exercise, rather than using the internet alone?