Towards the end of the 1980s, it became obvious that the digital age was looming. The more forward looking were quick to grasp the immense opportunities that this would present, and so they began a careful campaign to position themselves, in order to maximise these opportunities to their own advantage.
A far-sighted group at Palo Alto, realising that an era of increased leisure was in the offing, decided that entertainment would be key. This, in turn, led to the concept of ‘playfulness’. Initially, it was thought that tapping or patting would be the way technology could be expected to develop. Further investigation, however, raised doubts as to whether the general populace would be ready to accept such advanced concepts without extensive re-education. This initial setback was not allowed to halt the progress towards the new world order, and in one of those serendipitous, out of the box, breakthroughs that are only later recognised as significant, the concept of ‘playfulness’ suggested a possible alternative. This, first stage plan, led to the development of the computer mouse.
While this has become a staple, it must be remembered that it was only ever envisaged as an educational stop-gap. It is heartening to see progress in the original master plan. The mouse is, at last, giving way to the tapping and patting that was that first, central vision.
Fluffy cats, of course, invented the Internet to show off how cute and playful they were. This guy, spotted, dozing in the sun under the hedge, is obviously on his day off. You can’t be brilliantly visionary 24/7, now can you?
You need to be thinking the right kind of thoughts, that’s what I think.
Life is full of hedges. Mostly, they are very nice hedges, neat and green – and we are quite happy to have them around. Now and then, we get to feel a little hemmed in, but generally they give us a sense of security – they keep the cold, hard world away.
There are times when we want security badly and we surround ourselves with extra hedges. After a while, we find that the things that go bump in the night manage to get comfortable, and stop bumping around. However, we do have these nice hedges that took us ages to build, and who knows? The things might start bumping again one day. We come to love our hedges, and we depend on knowing that they are there. We forget why we made them. Our horizons are sufficient, and bounded by the comforting green of our hedges.
Then one day you find a hole in the hedge.
You could be thinking really irritated thoughts – about how hard you worked to make that hedge solid and secure. How lucky it is that you found the hole, and can get it blocked up before, well, before – something, you know.
Or, you might be thinking quite different thoughts, you might stick your head through the hole, and breathe the air from outside.
“Ooo! Ow! Stop pushing!”
“Stop complaining, you’ve lived here all your life, you ought to know that the leaves are prickly by now.”
“Yes, but it’s been so hot lately, they seem to be more and more prickly every day. Have you noticed things are, sort of, loosening up?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, now and again, these last few days, I seem to suddenly need to grab hold of something, I’m sort of – loose.”
“Actually, yes, I have noticed. I just thought it was because the sun was so hot.”
“Do you think it’s true, then?”
“What’s true? Oh you mean about the West Wind coming? We’ve had wind from the west before, you know. I can’t really see how it could make any difference to us.”
“Yes, but, well, it’s that whispering, it’s a bit eerie. I know everyone’s doing it – but I just don’t know if we ought to join in.”
“Well don’t join in next time, party pooper. You must admit it gives you a real buzz. The West Wind is coming. The West Wind is coming.”
“Come on. Pack it in! You’ll have the whole bunch at it again. Oh. Crumbs. Now look what you’ve done. You’ve started them off again.”
“The wind is picking up a bit isn’t it? Come on. Sway, sway!”
“What do you mean, oops?”
“I’ve come unstuck.”
“Hang on to me, then. Oops. Wait, careful, now I’ve come unstuck.”
“Aaaah! We floating away. We’ll never get back now.”
“Who cares. Hold tight. We’re off. We’re off!”
Here we have Coccinella septempunctata (I hope). You know how you send Google off with a carefully written shopping list? And he comes back with a bag full of stuff that he found on the half price shelf? And you think to yourself, was he even listening when I explained what I really wanted? Well, I wondered what the connection was between the Coccinella part and red. I mean, you know, which came first, are they Coccinella because they are red or is the red association due the Coccinella? You’ll be pleased to know, that like any good etymological research we wandered round from scarlet, though software, restaurants, grains of corn, and back, without reaching any sort of definitive definition.
However, amongst all the meaningless mumbo-jumbo with which Google fills up the empty spaces in his life, I came upon this little nugget of information. You will all remember Alice’s encounter with the Cheshire Cat, no doubt. Although it isn’t so popular these days ‘grinning like a Cheshire Cat’ still has its advocates. Did you ever wonder just what the fuzzy feline found so funny? The story goes, that the Earl of Chester’s coat of arms contains the snarling head of a wolf. When the coat of arms was rendered as a woodcut, the poor creature ended up looking far more like – you guessed it – a grinning cat.
As I was saying, today’s picture is a Seven Spot Ladybird, all right then, it’s a Seven Spot Ladybug, and before someone, somewhere, gets fractious, I better say it’s a Seven Spot Ladybeetle too. Are male Ladybirds, Laddybirds do you think?
Do you remember, a few weeks ago, we were talking about Sweet Chestnuts and how Dr Edward Bach thought that the flowers were a handy thing, for someone who felt seriously – and I mean seriously depressed, to have around? Well, if you look at the picture, you can see the new nut and the remains of the flower, so everything in our tree seems to be working properly. The Romans planted the trees all over southern Britain, but they don’t do so well father north (except for the one growing in a hedge, along the margin of a field, just up the road from me). This made it difficult to have a decent battle round here. You see, you need a good bowlful of sweet chestnut porridge before you feel up to taking on a screaming horde.
We had quite a few Roman Legions around here – when they were the in thing – so the Roman quartermaster was constantly filling out long, involved requisitions (in Latin, naturally) explaining why he needed yet another delivery of sweet chestnuts.
The trouble was, those Brittunculi (or ‘wretched little Britons’) tended to go more for mead – made from honey collected by bees from the heather – as a pre-battle pick-me-up. The bees seemed to be totally unimpressed by the might of the Roman Empire and brazenly collected their loads of pollen with a complete lack of discrimination.
You can imagine how frustrating this must have been for the Roman generals – knowing that every bee that flew past was bringing comfort to the enemy. It’s no wonder they built Hadrian’s Wall, is it? I’m sure the bees soon learned to use the gates.
Seen from a distance, or perhaps glimpsed for a moment, her beauty is striking. If, in her youth, she had been a trifle more demure, or a little coy, she night have been called a rose. But she had never been either. She did not so much flaunt her beauty – more, she was fully aware of her charm and totally confident in herself. She did not try to impress she expected to impress, no, she didn’t expect to impress – she knew she would impress – her confidence never failed her. She strutted, convinced of her own uniqueness, through her life. So they called her Peacock.
Time, bolstered by the inviolability of her worth, has not taken away the foundation of her beauty. The line, the curve, all still survive. But now, what had been hidden and only hinted at, is in more open evidence. In another, this nakedness would have been an embarrassment both personally and to the world around her, but Peacock wears her age as she wore her youth, with supreme confidence. If it were possible, it might be said that the wisdom of age has brought her more of all she has always had in abundance.
As in her youth so in old age – she has no time for Time.
Have you ever arranged to transport someone to somewhere? You work backwards from the optimum time of arrival at their destination, say for instance the airport, taking into account the last boarding time. You factor in the number of seats available on the aircraft and calculate from this the likely length of the baggage queue. Next up for consideration is the distance from the car parking area to the airport concourse and the likelihood of there being a luggage trolley either, in close proximity to the only parking space left, or in a much more inconvenient position.
The distance to be driven is, of course, easy to calculate, but the traffic density varies depending on the time of day. If the journey is of considerable duration you may start out in light driving conditions but the latter part of the drive may consume the major portion of the allotted time. These are issues best resolved in a group discussion, not only for the application of multiple intellects to the problem, but also as a confidence builder, allowing our travellers to feel a part of the planning process. Having agreed this carefully calculated start time, when you arrive, on the appointed day, five minutes early, you find that they have been up since five o’ clock and have been sitting, ready to go, for the last four hours.
I was looking for a hazelnut to show you today, I found these instead. Hazel catkins aren’t due until Spring next year. Why are they sitting – with their bags packed, ready – here, by the front door, now?