Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The good, the mad and the ugly

I've just got back from two nights on the boat. When I arrived on Monday the internal temperature was a chilly 3 degrees but everything in the waterpipe department was still flowing freely. Overnight the outside temperature went down to minus 6 or so but inside Skylark it was in the high teens. That solid fuel stove really does push out some heat.
On Monday, it was good weather for walking so I took a hike into Stretham along the river and over the fields. The ground was still very waterlogged and the paths a bit muddy. The wind was from thre north and these pictures don't give any indication about how cold it was. Believe me, it was cold...

On Tuesday, the weather was still good so I drove into Cambridge and looked for the Sedgwick Museum, recommended by Rose. As you're not allowed to photograph anything inside, I took this memorable shot outside. As you can probably guess the museum is mainly about fossils and rocks. Everything is set in very attractive hardwood Victorian cabinets - no expense seems to have been spared in the presentation. My conclusion, while I have a general interest in things rocky and fossily, I found the exhibits about Darwin the most interesting. It's something about learning what made them go off in a smallboat to the wildest parts of the world for years on end without any knowledge of what they would find. They experienced challenges, deprivations, and, for some of them, even death but they also experienced great opportunities, discovered fantastic natural wonders and built for themselves reputations that would live long after their own deaths. Their sense of adventure stands as an inspiration to us all - much more inspiring (I think) than a pile of rocks or old bones!
As I left I was approached by a young Spanish researcher who wanted to know what I had thought about the museum. I said it was all good but I would have preferred to see more about the people who had found the relics, like Darwin and his chums. She noted it down as best she could and asked if I would be interested in being contacted again to help Cambridge City Council make the museum even better. I agreed and await their call.
It was still very cold, even in the city, so I had a brief wander around the market and the nearby streets, then headed back to the Landy. As I returned along the Cam, I took a few shots of Jesus Lock. While it is in tip-top condition, I guess this is not used much now as there are only a few live-aboards upstream and they don't seem to ever move, and visitor numbers to the city are probably low due to the new 10% charge. For me that would have amounted to an extra £80, really not worth it. However, it looks nice...albeit on foot.
Back on board, I busied myself running the engine, cleaning and polishing, preparing my slap up evening meal and generally chilling out. Before I battened down the hatches, I went outside to check the tension on the ropes and as I stood at the end of the jetty, I heard a couple of birds madly chattering to each other. You know the sort of thing - they might have had a disagreement over a fish or one of them may have pinched the others playmate. Anyway, it went on for a few seconds and got louder so I looked towards the stern of the boat and there were two Kingfishers flapping about and squawking at each other with wide open beaks. They settled on the gunwales of Skylark for a moment, then took off, in my direction. Like miniture models of prototype jet planes, they darted under under my feet and along the underside of the pontoon to the jetty. Like a couple of blue and orange flashes, they zoomed out of the other end and took off into the wide blue yonder. What on earth was that all about? For me it was a wonderful surprise. I have never seen Kingfishers so close before - a fantastic piece of luck!
A brief look at the internet suggests this was probably a spat between two males; one of them trespassing on the others territory:

Kingfisher Behaviour:
The Kingfisher is highly territorial. Since it must eat around 60% of its body weight each day, it is essential to have control over a suitable stretch of river. It is solitary for most of the year, roosting alone in heavy cover. If another kingfisher enters its territory, both birds 'display' from perches and fights may occur. One bird will grab the others beak and try to hold it under water. Pairs form in the autumn but each bird retains a separate territory, generally at least 1 kilometre long.

Now for the ugly stuff. Driving home this morning in brilliant sunshine, the Cambridgeshire and Suffolk countryside looked lovely - then I got to Newmarket and the appalling sight of rubbish on the A14 verges. It's mainly the bit to the east of the A11 junction.

I've now emailed the local District Council and asked if they have noticed the problem and can do something to sort it out...see if you can pick out the litter in these photos.
By the way, it's not like this elsewhere along the A14 because most of the local Councils are keeping their bits clean and tidy. And as if to prove this point, as I drove on past Bury St Edmunds, I saw the roadside litter team of Mid Suffolk District Council in their hiviz jackets litter picking their patch. It looked great, not a fag paper to be seen. Well done guys, keep it up.

Later note: A nice man from ECDC has emailed me saying he's instructed his contractors to sort it out. We'll see what happens.

Now, not wanting to end on a negative, let's have a look at some of my neighbours at Lazy Otter in the late evening sunshine...


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