14 November 2010

Good morning to you all on a pleasantly pleasant morning in beautiful downtown Byfield, bright and sunny albeit on the chilly, autumnal aide.

After the excitement of our outing to witness some fall foliage last Saturday we had the additional pleasure of more lovely colours on Sunday evening when it was Byfield’s annual fireworks show to commemorate the unsuccessful attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament by Guy Fawkes. (The more one pays attention to the nonsense that the present occupants get up to, the more one perhaps regrets that he was unsuccessful).

Still, the weather was kind and, after the success of last year’s exhibition, we (or really I should say Penny) entertained Nick and Lucy and their friends Hugh, Boz and Vita as well as Penny’s folks. As usual, the performance was stunning and the African stew and Black Bean soup which Penelope had prepared to provide a hearty and warming snack after the show was equally magnificent. My photos were on the modest side this year so most of the following are, in fact, from Nick.



 

Leaf Cutter AntsThe only other excitement this week was our outing to London on Thursday to meet up with our favourite UN diplomat who was in town for a couple of days. Both Pen and I had commitments on Thursday morning so we caught a train soon after noon and got up to London for about half past one. We had decided that we would spend the time until Jordy was free by visiting the Natural History Museum and viewing the winning entries in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Unfortunately, the online gallery does not begin to do justice to the amazing quality of these photographs but you can catch a glimpse of them here. The overall winner was a wonderful photograph of leaf-cutter ants in action, taken from underneath the leaf. Most of the ants are therefore in silhouette and it’s just those munching away at the edge of a hole in the leaf which are visible.

All of the photos were fantastic; one of my “favourites” was Turtle in Trouble taken by a Spaniard, Jordi Chias Pujol.

Turtle in Trouble“It’s an image that communicates in one emotive hit the damage being done to the world’s oceans. Jordi came across this desperate scene when sailing between Barcelona and the Balearic Islands, hoping to photograph dolphins. ‘I spotted the abandoned net drifting along the surface,’ says Jordi. As he dived down to investigate, he could see the loggerhead turtle tangled up in the netting. ‘The poor creature must have been trapped for some days, it was so badly knotted up.’ Though it could just reach the surface to breathe by extending its neck, it was still sentenced to a long, cruel death. ‘I felt as though it were looking at me for help as it tried to bite through the netting.’ Jordi released it, allowing one individual a second chance. Given that all species of sea turtles are endangered, they need all the help they can get.” 

After a good three hours in the museum, we made our way to Victoria Station and a short walk to Jordy’s hotel where he was just finishing up his days’ work. The purpose of the London leg of his trip was to report to some of the largest donors to the work he does with the UN in crisis prevention and recovery. He had been in Yemen the previous couple of days and was hoping to be on his way home, just in time to see Juliet in a play at school. However, he had received instructions that day that he was to fly to Pakistan on Friday morning which, I have to say, did not elicit many thrills.

It turns out that Jordy is dabbling with a Vegan diet after encouragement from Miles. It seems that Miles had heard of a surgeon in Cleveland (I think) who was advocating a Vegan diet as a way to reverse the effects of an unhealthy western diet, particularly in the unblocking of clogged arteries. It seems that Bill Clinton is one of his disciples and, as Miles said, “He’s my kind of guy!” So, Miles had been in discussion with Jordy about this and he (Jordy) decided he too might find this beneficial. He can’t do it completely, of course (even if he wanted to) because of his commitments all over the world and the sort of entertainments and socialising in which he is compelled to participate. Still, wanting to be supportive, we had searched the web beforehand to find Vegan and Vegetarian restaurants in London and found, not surprisingly, dozens. Another list of the top ten Vegan/Vegetarian restaurants in London whittled the choice down to a couple within easy distance of his hotel and so we ended up eating at Tibits, just off Regents Street between Oxford Circus and Picadilly Circus. And very tasty it was too (although there were some things that should never have been on a menu anywhere). This is a “fast food” restaurant where you serve yourself from a “food boat”, an oval-shaped buffet. In spite of the image which has just popped into your head, this is not normal “fast food” but exceedingly delicious vegetarian/vegan fare. Once you’ve filled your plate with what you fancy, you take it to the bar where it is weighed – you pay by the weight! Obviously, one would have imagined that Jordan or I had the heaviest plate but we were both outdone by Ms Playchute who clearly has perfected the art of loading her dinner plate in a most efficient manner.

When I read about Tibits I was reminded of the planet in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy where visitors are weighed when they arrive and again when they leave. If I remember correctly, one was required to retain receipts for every visit to the public conveniences and, upon leaving the planet, anyone who weighed more than they did when they arrived had an arm or leg removed so that the planet stayed in equilibrium. I rather liked the idea of being weighed before and after dinner but weighing the food itself was presumably much more efficient.

Having said that it was a wonderful and very tasty meal, don’t get too excited, Susie – I don’t think either Penelope or I will be going vegetarian or vegan any time soon. Still it was a fun day out, a great evening and it’s always a pleasure to spend a bit of time with Jordan.

There probably won’t be anything next week, you’ll be relieved to hear – we are off to Sue and Stuart’s on the south coast for the weekend (and, apparently, eating in another great vegetarian restaurant in Brighton on Saturday evening). Hmm, this looks like it is becoming a trend.

Finally, a very, very happy birthday to Lucy this morning and I also realise that I failed to wish “Virtual” David Keeler a similarly happy birthday earlier this month.

Love to you all,

Greg