Friday, 18 September 2009


Simple...I hate it!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Danger above your head...

I'm taking a break from my hectic housework schedule in order to post seeing as I've been neglecting my blogging duties for the past few days. A few years accumulation of junk has demanded my attention and still is. N's nursery have benefited this morning from an influx of toys whilst I am almost on first name terms with the staff at the local tip.

The thought of going to the tip reminded me of a post I came across on a forum I visit (Above Top Secret) which concerned low energy light bulbs like the one below:

Now, we've all been told how these light bulbs are so much better for the environment, right? Well, that might not be so true. You see these things contain something that normal light bulbs don't contain:

Yup, mercury, a lovely toxic substance hanging there right over your head. If you were to break one Defra advise you to "Vacate the room and ventilate for at least 15 minutes. Do not use a vacuum cleaner but clean up using rubber gloves and aim to avoid creating and inhaling airborne dust. Sweep up all particles and glass fragments and place in a plastic bag. Wipe the area with a damp cloth, then add that to the bag and seal it. Mercury is hazardous waste and the bag should not be disposed of in the bin. All local councils have an obligation to make arrangements for the disposal of hazardous household waste" (Source)

Each light bulb contains about 6-8mg of mercury which, to be honest, isn't that much and wouldn't put you in so much danger. In a recent BBC report (see here) Dr David Ray, a toxicologist from the University of Nottingham was reported as saying "Mercury accumulates in the body - especially the brain. The biggest danger is repeated exposure - a one off exposure is not as potentially dangerous compared to working in a light bulb factory. If you smash one bulb then that is not too much of a hazard. However, if you broke five bulbs in a small unventilated room then you might be in short term danger."

So, the official line seems to be that as long as you know about the possibility of a mercury spillage then there's not much danger. There's one slight flaw in this otherwise flawless plan and that is the fact that the presence of mercury in these bulbs isn't made clear on the packaging so not many people are aware of the fact that it's in them.

As the OP on Above Top Secret pointed out - say you have 5 Low Energy Bulbs in your house, as did everyone in your street where there are 20 houses. Then there are maybe 500 streets in your town, that makes 50,000 light bulbs with 6-8mg of mercury in each one - potentially 300kg of mercury being sent to landfill rather than being disposed of properly...and that's just in one small town! (See here for the original thread on ATS).

Whilst doing a bit of research into this I also came across reports of these things causing sun burn like symptoms (see here) which is also quite worrying.

So, next time you see one of these, just think about the potential dangers. Oh, and while I'm on the subject of mercury have a think about any fillings you may have in your mouth containing mercury almagam fillings...have a read of this or this!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

A case of mistaken identity..

When I downloaded the holiday images and videos from my camera to my pomputer I was in "glad-to-be-home" mode. Now, as I look at them, I revisit their moments of capture and find the feelings of those times evoked within me. I don't long to be back there but there is that feeling of a distinct difference in attitude that you have when you're on holiday, kind of like you're not in the real world. I suppose it's just nice to reflect on those times once you're back to reality!
One of the things that gave us the most excitement while we were in Skiathos was when F and N spotted what seemed to be a Hummingbird darting from flower to flower, seemingly using a long proboscis to gather nectar. It was quite easy to get a look at the creature and to all intents and purposes it was a indeed a Hummingbird. I grabbed my trusty cameraphone and took this video (it's not up to BBC Natural History Unit quality but it gives you an idea...) -

A few days later I spotted another one of these creatures and managed to get a really good look at it after it had flown underneath a parasol. It looked like it had six legs to me and therefore shifted it from being a bird to an insect. I had a look on t'interweb when I got back to Blighty and found that what we were looking at was actually a Hummingbird Hawkmoth (which you can read about here) an insect commonly mistaken for a hummingbird and thought to have come about by convergent evolution where unrelated species develop similar characteristics.

Regardless of whether it was a true Hummingbird or a Hummingbird Hawkmoth it was certainly a beautiful little creature, and a delight to watch - one of those little moments of magic that you find on holiday!

I have a few more videos to load up, and I'm in the process of categorising and editing them now.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Quincy, me?

I'm just doing a little bit of random surfing and keep ending up at foodie sites (possibly thanks to the mouth-wateringly delicious sounding recipes on which got me thinking about a couple of ideas (and more) we brought back from Skiathos.
I mentioned in my last post that there was a quince tree/bush (is it a tree or a bush? It's like an apple type of affair so I'm going with the tree option - I can't see many botanists, or even arborists for that matter, taking their time to read my little corner of the information supermotorway...but enough and onward!). F and I racked our somewhat addled brains and couldn't recall ever having tasted quince (a play of F's surname would not be appropriate right now) and resolved to pick some before our journey home in order to "cook something wonderful". The chilblains beat us two it and came chasing down the lane each carrying a quince. Not being sure if the tree (I remembered) belonged to anyone we hid them in our bag and swaggered off innocently. Anyhoo, the fruits are almost five days off the tree (again) now so I think I may have to attempt something with quince crumble coming up with pics and a review to follow!
The other thing that we are going to try came to us one night in a harbour side cafe, which wasn't a particularly upmarket place but looked like one of those where you get the best food. We had placed our order a while ago (sausage and chips for the boys - as that's all they'd eat - spag bol for F and a steak for me) and were impatiently waiting for our food when a bowl of bread and a small dish of what can only be described as black mebb was placed unceremoniously in front of us. We examined the black stuff and came to the conclusion that they'd dipped a ramekin into the harbour and been lucky enough to catch some raw crude oil. Now some people think my attitude stinks but you should have smelt this stuff...! It was pungent to say the least. We thought maybe it was to ward off evil spirits or at the very least the prevalent stingy-winged beasties. Still, when in Rome and all that, so I piped up and asked the waiter what it was. "Crushed olives," was his somewhat dour reply, "it's very tasty, very good."
Hmmm...I wasn't convinced, but with the amount of lager that had gone down my throat over the past two weeks I figured that anything harmful in there would be immediately sanitised by over exposure to alcohol. I placed a small teaspoon of the potion onto a slice of slightly stale bread, prayed briefly and took a bite. It was delicious! Really, really nice. Aha, thinks I, let's pile some on the bread now and have a proper taste...slightly overpowering when you have too much (a bit like marmite) but still nice. F was intrigued, as were the chilblains and everyone had a taste. The kids attempted a faithful recreation of Tom Hanks' caviar eating scene in "Big" but F was also hooked - the problem was that we ran out of bread, and didn't think it'd go well on slightly damp beer mats.
It was simply black olives which had been crushed to make a paste. Anyways, discussion turned to how best to serve it when at home and we decided on bruscetta. F was of the opinion that it would be nice with anchovies on but I reckoned that would be too salty and much preferred the idea of sundried tomatoes and feta on top. Experimentations will be made soon. Oh, one word of warning if you fancy the sound of the magical repeats!
Btw, did you spot what I did with the blog title...?! I've been dying to use that one!

Monday, 24 August 2009


Despite the traumas there were still many good times to be had during our two week stay on the lovely Greek island of Skiathos. We stayed at Filokalia Apartments in Achladies Beach and the accommodation, though basic as always, was given that little touch of magic that is sometimes needed by the efforts of the manager, Shellina and her able evening/night time assistant, Maria. Both were excellent with the kids and couldn't do enough to help us. I'll post up some pictures of the kids with Shellina later on.

If you're thinking of holidaying in Skiathos give this place the once over on Trip Advisor - you really won't go far wrong. Access from the main road is via a lane lined with all manner of fruit trees including vines, fig trees, clementine trees, lime trees, brambles and even quince. It was nice to have a wander up there every day just to see if we'd spot something new!

We were quite shocked at the general cost of living in Skiathos. Knowing the strength of the Euro against the Pound we certainly didn't expect to get everything dirt cheap but a couple of days there taught us to buy wisely and whilst not quite securing bargains we were able to live quite happily. There are many places serving excellent food and in sizeable portions and the "street food" is delicious.

Unfortunately for us we had booked to go at entirely the wrong time with August being insect season. F was almost eaten alive by the mozzies (warranting a trip to the pharmacy - well, three tripshaving been told that they shut at 2pm!) - and the wasps being an almost constant pain in the a**e, especially when eating. Shellina, as always, had a solution with the burning of a small amount of Greek coffee on your table which not only kept all but the most persistent of bewinged terrors away but also gave all food a kind of barbecue like taste and aroma!

I'm sure I'll recount more tails as they come to mind but for now please be contented with the above pictures of our adventures...

Sunday, 23 August 2009

That Course...

Reveiwing the posts of many moons ago I noticed that I had last updated shortly after I'd applied for the law degree I was interested in.

I was successful in getting a place at the interview although a bit of gentle persuasion was needed in securing my place. The tutor that interviewed me (hereafter referred to as GS) was unsure at first as I have been out of education for 13 years and he suggested I would be well advised to complete an access course first. I suggested to him that I was more than up to the course and that he was essentially running a business - I was determined to find a degree course and if he didn't want my custom then I was pretty sure someone else would. GS relented saying that he trust his instincts and he reckoned I'd do ok.

Obviously being a mature student has its advantages and disadvantages. It's easier to see what you're working towards and that makes it easier to put your head down and do what's required. On the other hand, juggling hardcore studying with a family isn't always the easist thing to do.

I scored pretty well in the assignments for each subject but had a feeling I'd struggle in the exams so I prepared as thoroughly as I could. Still, my confidence was low and I was thankful to F for vacating the house with Nate for a few days while I stressed and simmered - I wouldn't have been the best company anyway! Exams over, I thought I'd done enough to gain a 40% pass and was happy with that.

I waited patiently for results day and went in to collect my resuls on 16th July. The system is that you log on to a campus PC to get your results for the first time, in order that the tutors are present and can give you advice if you need it. Iwent in and was greeted by the GS - strangely he quickly left the room. I logged on and was shocked by what I saw...4 A's! I had scored 70% in Contract, 74% in Legal Method, 76% in Constitutional and Administrative Law and 80% in EU Law. I was so shocked I thought that I'd logged into the results for another student! I was congratulated by my tutors and told GS that I was the best performing student on campus so that a pretty nice feeling.

A few days later I received a letter from the Head of Law at the main campus to say I was to receive the award for Best Performing First Year Student at a ceremony in Huddersfield. F rose from her deathbed (poor girl was proper poorly too...thanks F x) to accompany my parents ( and me to the ceremony where I was presented with a certificate:

I'm awaiting the cheque that was supposed to come with it but I'm not holding my breath!

A long absence...

Well, as I posted some time ago I had found the wonders of Facebook. I'm bored with that now and have decided to return to (intermittent) blogging. I'm not sure if F will be making any posts on account of her working all the hours that God sends.
We've just returned from two weeks in Skiathos. The island itself was lovely, as were most of the people we encountered but the holiday was somewhat blighted by the loss of two of our four dogs in kennels. So, to Gracie and Sasha, I hope that wherever you are now you're getting all the walks and treats you could have ever wished for....x