Tonight we will find out exactly what kind of talent Britain has. Watching the show over the last week has made me wonder how some of the acts ever made it so far.

One thing that  has become very clear is that there should be a minimum age limit for contestants. Seeing the little black girl’s disbelief and misery at failing to go through to the final was very uncomfortable, and the little girl with the astonishing voice for her age was either genuinely trembling with fear or playing a very sharp card when she fluffed her first chance and threw a major wobbly to force the show into giving her a second one. I wonder how the producers “found the extra time”, and who had to sacrifice some of theirs for her benefit?.  Poor Greg Pritchard. He must have known that the judges would have to choose the mini-diva, or risk who knows what wrath.  In any event, she is not ready for the pressure of this kind of competition.

So tonight there are two great dance groups, two talented young singers, an endearing young street dancer, a superb saxophonist, a slightly saccharine duo, the feel-good factor à la Grèque, and two loose cannons competing for the crown.

Anybody care to predict the winner? If I was a gambler I’d put my money on Shaun Smith, as long as he turns in a good performance, but my heart belongs to Julian and his saxophone.   🙂


It’s been a great year for snakes, so far. In the last two days we’ve seen in our garden one Western Whip Snake sunbathing under a lavender bush, two more of the same cuddling on a large rock, and a small grass snake having a dip in the pond.  There’s another Western Whip Snake living in an old stone wall where we walk the dogs, and we’ve seen him twice this year.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Western Whip Snakes but were afraid to ask here on Daniel Phillips’ excellent website: Reptiles and Amphibians of France

All the world’s a stage

Including the No. 44 bus from south-west London to Victoria.

On jumps a small, pretty girl in a very short skirt, with a silky grey scarf around her throat. She sits opposite us, and like a ferret digging for a rabbit, scrabbles in her bag for her iPod. With much arm-waving  she untangles her headphones, and then plugs them in.  Her little feet jiggle, she sways from side to side, a huge smile on her face. She snaps her fingers,  rolls her shoulders, nods her chin up and down in rhythm with the music. She is in a little happy world all of her own.

Then her mobile phone rings. Pulling out one earplug, she puts the phone to her ear and croaks into it pitifully in Italian. She has had a terrible night; she didn’t sleep even for one moment. Her head aches, she has a fever, her throat is sore, her eyes are watering, she doesn’t know whether she is too hot or too cold, her whole body is shaking, and her neck is very stiff. No, she hadn’t been able to eat a thing.  She is quite sure that she has swine flu. She sniffs loudly for emphasis. The doctor cannot see her until late in the afternoon. Maybe she should go to the hospital. Her voice trickles away until it isn’t much more than a whisper. She rasps out a pathetic little “Ciao”, and snaps her phone shut, shoves it into her bag, replaces the earphone and smile, and gets back to jiggling and swaying.

The bus stops for a new intake, amongst them another young girl who squeals with delight when she sees our Italian actress, who squeals back joyfully, loudly. The second girl takes out her mobile phone and shows some photographs. Both girls laugh, and girl No. 1 chatters in English in a strong, Italian-accented voice, and without a hint of a sniffle. Maybe she didn’t have swine flu after all.  😀

Did we need to know this?

A researcher at the University of Basel in Switzerland has been studying the maternal behaviour of earwigs. By mucking around with earwig infants, killing them, extracting hydrocarbon chemicals from their bodies and using these chemicals to produce scented bits of paper, and watching the mother earwigs spitting up coloured food for their infants, the researcher arrived at the conclusion that earwig mummies favour stronger infants over their weaker siblings.

Am I wrong in believing that this is well-known behaviour in most living creatures?

And while no doubt it was great fun playing with the insects, how exactly will this finding be of benefit to mankind? Can anybody enlighten me?

BBC article here

The way we were

Life is very hectic at the moment, with frequent visits to the UK, a busy social calendar, trying to finish the manuscript, grow the vegetables and keep the garden under control eating into the daylight hours and leaving very little time for reading. I started the fascinating Quincunx quite a while ago, but because it is so huge and heavy, it is difficult to read in bed and impossible to carry on the aircraft, so I have put it aside temporarily in favour of something lighter and requiring less muscle and concentration.

Our Hidden Lives” is a record of the daily lives of five people during post-war Britain, taken from the diaries they kept and submitted to the Mass Observation project.

Patching knickers, queuing for tripe, seeing rations become ever more meagre years after the war had finished, and wondering how to cook beaver meat, this book is an invitation into the lives of a group of diverse people, from a gay snob, a rabid socialist, an accountant with a passion for Esperanto, a cat-loving, single female journalist and author, to an endearing pensioner who grows garlic that nobody wants, and who writes rather dreadful poetry. It takes readers into the daily minutiae of their difficult and deprived lives after the WWII.

The only downside is that there are some outrageously anti-Semitic sentiments expressed by certain of the contributors, which would, in today’s politically-correct society, probably see them sent to prison.

Otherwise a really interesting read.