Thursday, 11 December 2008

GEMINIDS - Meteor Shower

Every year, from the 12th-14th December (the peak on the 13th) it is possible, and very likely, that you will see meteors or shooting stars in the night sky. These meteors appear to come from the area of the constellation of Gemini but can actually be seen almost anywhere in the sky and are fairly easy to spot - especially in the absence of light pollution (street lights etc) or a bright moon. Unfortunately, there is a full moon on the 12th this year so this could make viewing more difficult. The peak viewing rate can be as much as 120 per hour at a dark site.
This meteor shower is caused by what is thought to be an extinct comet and were first observed only 150 years ago. Meteors are small fragments (not much bigger than a grain of sand) of cosmic debris which vapourise due to friction with the air when entering the earth's atmosphere. Fragments which do land on the earth's surface are called meteorites.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Compost happens!

I love composting - it has to be the ultimate in recycling. Everything that comes from the earth or is nurtured by it goes back, in the form of brown, crumbly, earthy-smelling compost. From the house - everything from vegetable and fruit peelings to teabags, toilet roll tubes, coffee grounds, cereal boxes and eggshells, hair and animal fur and the contents of your vacuum cleaner bag can go in the compost bin. However, these household leftovers need to be balanced by adding garden waste in the form of prunings and clippings, grass mowings, leaves and some weeds - preferably not the roots of perennials such as dandelion, ground elder, buttercup, bindweed etc. as these need a high temperature to destroy them which may not be reached in a domestic composter. Not too much in the way of twigs and brown prunings as these thake a long time to break down although this is a lot quicker if they are shredded first. Too many grass clippings will cause a slimy mixture due to a lack of air in the heap. A good balanced mixture is best that is stirred up from time to time (not compulsory but helps).
I find wood is a good material with which to make a composter or buy one ready to assemble. Wood breathes and insulates and looks good although will need replacing after a number of years. Cover the compost mixture with a layer of insulation - old potting compost bags with a few layers of bubble wrap inside are ideal.The compost bin should also be situated in the sun if possible to aid heating up.
Things to avoid in your compost bin are meat, fish, dairy and cooked foods - these are not a good idea as they can attract vermin. Other do nots are cat and dog faeces and disposable nappies.
When the compost is cooked, it can be used as a mulch throughout the garden, helping to keep down weeds, keep in moisture, enrich the soil and it looks good too. The whole process can take as little as 6 - 8 weeks or as much as a year. If all this seems like hard work then a pile of material in the corner of your garden will eventually rot down without you having to do anything to it - just leave it to nature.
Above picture shows my composting set-up.

Monday, 20 October 2008

LEVI STUBBS 1936 - 2008

I was very sad when I heard of the passing into spirit of Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops - one of my favourite groups. He had one of those amazing voices that could express any emotion. Do you remember "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch), "It's the Same Old Song", "Bernadette", "I'm In a Different World" ?
The Four Tops first got together in 1953 (then called the Four Aims) and were signed to Chess records in 1956. Berry Gordy saw one of their performances in 1963 and signed them up, arranging for Holland, Dozier, Holland to write songs for them. This happened a year later with "Baby, I need your loving", followed by "I can't help myself" and then "Reach out". They successfully toured the United States and the world but left Motown in 1971. The Four Tops continued to record and tour in the 1970s and '80s. By 1995, Levi Stubbs’s health had begun to fail, forcing him to curtail his performances. Lawrence Payton died in 1997, and Renaldo "Obie"Benson in 2005.
Levi died on 17th October at the age of 72 years in his Detroit home. He had been suffering from cancer and had to stop performing in 2000 after having a stroke. Abdul "Duke" Fakir is the only surviving member of The Four Tops.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Eco-friendly candles

I am very fond of burning candles and have recently started investigating candles which are more eco-friendly.
Most candles are made from paraffin wax which is a derivative of the petroleum industry. This is obviously non-renewable, unless you want to wait for several million years, and the global environmental impact on the world is well documented.
The Oil Palm is grown as a commercial crop in Malaysia and used to produce (for example) cooking oil, confectionery, margarines and creamers. It is therefore a renewable resource and a non-genetically modified crop.
Palm wax is much cleaner burning than paraffin wax and produces much less soot and potentially harmful emissions.The cancles also burn for longer with a whiter flame.

About 80% of palm oil is used for food applications - the rest being for non-food products such as candles, lotions, body oils, shampoos, skin care products, rubber and cleaning products.
I believe it is possible to make palm oil based bio-diesel.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008


Lammas marks the beginning of the early harvest - cereals, barley, wheat and oats. It was often celebrated with bonfires, once lit on hills and beacons all over Europe. This is also the festival of the Celtic God of the Sun Lugh, whose sacrifice in the harvest at Lughnasadh is made so that people may live.
Excavations at Silbury Hill, the largest manmade earthwork in England suggest that its contruction began in August, carbon dated to approx. 2660 BCE. Perhaps it was built to celebrate Lammas. The name Silbury Hill is derived from the ancient water Goddess Sul, whose spirit is said to dwell in the hill's surrounding moat. The shape of the hill is like a pregnant belly, suggesting strong associations with the Goddess, fertility and fruitfulness.
The Corn King gives his life for the land,
We toast his sacrifice with ale in our hand,
And eat the bread, from the harvest made,
As sheaves of corn to the eath are laid,
May our well-earned bounty reward our toil,
As we harvest the seed and the grain from the soil.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Local History

Very local to me are the remains of Waverley Abbey. The construction was started in 1128 by the first Cistercian monks to establish an order in Britain . The small colony that had emigrated from France consisted of only an abbot and 12 monks. By 1187 the community supported 70 monks and 120 laybrothers. By the time the abbey was fully dedicated in 1278 the buildings centred on an imposing church that was 300 feet (91 metres) long and 150 feet (45 metres) wide at its transepts. Such were the capabilities of the community that over 7,000 guests were reportedly invited to the dedication including abbots, knights and lords and ladies.

The Cistercians were at the forefront of agricultural development in the 12th century, and by 1300 Waverley had 14 farms (‘granges’) which included valuable stocks of sheep enabling the monks to undertake a lucrative trade in wool with merchants as far away as Flanders and Florence. The wool was shorn from sheep bred from the original flock brought over from France when the abbey was first established. Wool produced in England was considered to be the best quality in Europe at the time. Although much of the abbey’s income was earned from farming, much benefit was gleaned from the various properties gifted to them by the Bishop of Winchester.

The abbey fell to the wholesale destruction wreaked by Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries from 1536, and despite the abbot’s protestations to the outside world the buildings were systematically stripped of their finery, and eventually even the fabric of the buildings were dismantled to be used as building materials elsewhere. It is thought that many of the great houses between the 16th and 18th centuries in Surrey took advantage of building materials from the ruined abbey including Loseley House near Guildford.
Today little remains of the splendour of the place, but the ruins are nevertheless still impressive and give a good idea as to exactly what this industrious community of brothers had achieved. Now in the care of English Heritage the site has been well preserved and is open to visitors for no charge all year round.

Monday, 23 June 2008


I spent an amazing night at Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice despite the damp weather. It was very overcast so there was no sign of the sun rising at all but the atmosphere created by the people (30,000 apparently) and surroundings made it worth going.

Stonehenge is probably the most important prehistoric monument in the whole of Britain and has attracted visitors from earliest times. It stands as a timeless monument to the people who built it. The stonehenge that we see today is the final stage that was completed about 3500 years ago, but first let us look back 5000 years.
The first Stonehenge was a large earthwork or Henge, comprising a ditch, bank, and the Aubrey holes, all probably built around 3100 BC. The Aubrey holes are round pits in the chalk, about one metre wide and deep, with steep sides and flat bottoms. They form a circle about 284 feet in diameter. Excavations have revealed cremated human bones in some of the chalk filling, but the holes themselves were probably made, not for the purpose of graves, but as part of the religious ceremony. Shortly after this stage Stonehenge was abandoned, left untouched for over 1000 years.
The second and most dramatic stage of Stonehenge started around 2150 BC. Some 82 bluestones from the Preseli mountains, in south-west Wales were transported to the site. It is thought these stones, some weighing 4 tonnes each were dragged on rollers and sledges to the headwaters on Milford Haven and then loaded onto rafts. They were carried by water along the south coast of Wales and up the rivers Avon and Frome, before being dragged overland again to near Warminster in Wiltshire. The final stage of the journey was mainly by water, down the river Wylye to Salisbury, then the Salisbury Avon to west Amesbury.
This astonishing journey covers nearly 240 miles. Once at the site, these stones were set up in the centre to form an incomplete double circle. ( During the same period the original entrance of the circular earthwork was widened and a pair of Heel Stones were erected. Also the nearer part of the Avenue was built, aligned with the midsummer sunrise.)
The third stage of Stonehenge, about 2000 BC, saw the arrival of the Sarsen stones, which were almost certainly brought from the Marlborough Downs near Avebury, in north Wiltshire, about 25 miles north of Stonehenge. The largest of the Sarsen stones transported to Stonehenge weigh 50 tonnes and transportation by water would have been impossible, the stones could only have been moved using sledges and ropes. Modern calculations show that it would have taken 500 men using leather ropes to pull one stone, with an extra 100 men needed to lay the huge rollers in front of the sledge.
These were arranged in an outer circle with a continuous run of lintels. Inside the circle, five trilithons were placed in a horseshoe arrangement, whose remains we can still see today.
The final stage took place soon after 1500 BC when the bluestones were rearranged in the horseshoe and circle that we see today. The original number of stones in the bluestone circle was probably around 60, these have long since been removed or broken up. Some remain only as stumps below ground level

Friday, 13 June 2008

The last time in your lifetime!

On June 13, Pluto re-enters the sign of Sagittarius. Why this transit is so significant and what does it mean to you?
Pluto is a tiny, distant body, invisible to the naked eye. Yet, Pluto is incredibly powerful, a force for total transformation, regeneration and rebirth. Pluto asks us to go beyond what we know, redeem ourselves in the process and come out stronger as a result. Pluto represents how we direct our lives.
It takes Pluto a whopping 248 years to complete its orbit around the zodiac and, it takes between 12 and 31 years to pass through a zodiac sign. For the past 12 years Pluto had been stationed in the sign of Sagittarius. Then on January 25, for the very first time since 1778, Pluto moved into the sign of Capricorn!
Now that Pluto is retrograde, it returns to the sign of Sagittarius for about six months until it turns direct again on September 9, moving back into Capricorn in November -- where it settles down for the next 16 years! This six-month period is the last time in your lifetime that you will experience the energy of Pluto in Sagittarius!
Sagittarius is associated with foreign travel, foreign countries and cultures, religion, the law, higher education and all things that expand one's experience and freedom. The sojourn of Pluto in Sagittarius has seen significant events on a global level. On a personal level, the issues you may have had to deal with for the past few years would be very dependent on where Pluto is placed in your individual birth chart as well as where it has been transiting.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

New arrival - latest grandchild!

Well, here she is. Arrived exactly on her due date 24th May.

She came into the world at 8.40 am, weighing in at 8lb 13oz - not bad at all. So far she has managed to keep her mother up most of every night but hopefully that will soon change for the better. It's amazing how such a little scrap of humanity can be so disruptive!

Oh well, it's worth it!

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Spring has sprung!

What a difference a few weeks make - from the blanket of snow to the cherry tree in blossom. The daffodils have mostly finished now apart from a few late varieties.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Snow at last!

Several times this winter the weather forecasters have threatened us with snow but it never managed to reach us here in the south - until now! Very picturesque and lovely to look at. The children have had great fun but it is melting fast now in the sun and I expect it will be nothing but a memory by evening.

Friday, 7 March 2008


This is s 4D scan picture of my latest grandaughter due to be born in May. Isn't technology amazing? When I first started having children, the best they could do was listen to the heartbeat and we were incredulous at that!


* It is thought, by many people, to be unlucky to point at the Moon.
* It is supposedly unlucky to marry when there is a waning Moon.
* If you get your hair cut on a Friday that also happens to be a new Moon is won't look anything like you expected.
* If a woman gives birth when there is a full Moon she is likely to give birth again on a full Moon.
* According to the Lunacy act of 1824 people were more likely to go mad when there was a full moon.
* Your nails will grow healthy and strong if you file them on a Friday night when there is also a full Moon.
* Two new or two full Moons in the same month means there will be bad weather.
* During the full Moon there are more visits to doctors and epileptic fits are more common.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

10 Search Engine Optimisation Ideas for your Website

1. Meta Tags
Meta tags are simple lines of code which are inserted at the top of each of your web page’s programming that tell search engines about your pages. Include the title tag, keywords tag, description tag, and robots tag on each page.
2. Ensure that all navigation is in HTML (if possible)
Quite frequently, navigational items are in the form of Javascript. Even though navigation generally still works in this format, it's not optimised or read by the search engines. Create your navigation in HTML to enhance internal links all through your website. If your web editor doesn’t allow this then create a separate HTML set of links.
3. Create and update your sitemap
Developing a site map is an easy way of allowing search engines to find the information they need to crawl your website. You should be able to find free software packages on the web that can help you generate a sitemap. Once you have created your sitemap, submit it to Google and Yahoo.
4. Check that all images include ALT text
The alt text of the images on your website, is spidered by search engines. Including your keywords in your image’s alt text, means you're taking advantage of a huge opportunity for improved search engine result placements. Make sure all of your images are labelled properly.
5. Use Flash content sparingly
Content generated through Javascript or flash might look impressive but is not a good idea. Webmasters sometimes like to use flash because of the presentation it creates. If you have to, use it sparingly, but only after your site has been properly optimised with basic search engine optimisation in mind.
6. Make sure that your website code is clean
Web page crawlers are really only looking at your source code. When programming your web pages, having W3C compliant code might make all the difference. Run your code through a W3C validator as a final check - before promoting.
7. Place keywords in your page content
One of the functions of search engines is to scan your website and individual web pages for keywords. Aim for a keyword density of between two and eight percent. Google likes pages that are at the lower end of this scale and Yahoo at the upper end.
8. Submit your website to search engine directories
They will find you eventually but a helping hand is a good idea to let large search engine directories know that you're out there. Submit your website URL to directories like Google, Yahoo, and DMOZ (although don’t expect overnight success with the latter).
9. Build links to your website
Think about building a link exchange programme or perhaps you could create one-way links to your site using forum posts or articles. It is important to all major search engines to have lots of links leading to your website.
10. Learn the basics
Learning the business of optimising websites for search engines takes time and patience. Start at the beginning by applying basic search engine optimization principles. If you're new to website optimisation, or not so new, begin by working out which pages have the most importance and go from there. Hopefully, you'll soon find yourself moving up the rankings.

Friday, 8 February 2008


Aquamarine is a beautiful crystal which can vary in colour from light blue to green. It used to be carried by sailors as a talisman against drowning.
It has calming energies which help to reduce stress, calm the mind and remove extraneous thoughts. Aquamarine helps to clear blocked communications and promote self expression. This crystal is useful for sensitive people - helping to understand underlying emotional states and interpreting how one feels.
It emits a gentle and compassionate energy, exhibiting moderation, overcoming judmentalism and invokes tolerance of others. Aquamarine can aid spiritual development by sharpening intuition, opening clairvoyance and awakening spiritual awareness.
Physically, it is useful for sore throats, swollen glands, regulating hormones and growth, aids the eyes and jaws, benefits the stomach and has a general tonic effect.
Aquamarine is linked to the signs of Gemini, Pisces and Aries.

Friday, 25 January 2008


On 26th January 2008, Pluto moves into Capricorn - which it hasn't done for 230 years so this is something out of the ordinary. Astrologers are waiting to see what is going to happen in the next 15 years particularly in the world of politics. The last time Pluto was in Capricorn and important event happened - the U.S.A. was born on 4th July 1776, Independence Day. Typical Capricorn characteristics are that of stability and conservatism but also that of patriotism and domination. These factors can produce inspired leaders or on the other hand, dictators.
On a more personal level, this can affect us in terms of how we feel about power. Capricorns and Cancerians (being opposite to each other) are likely to find the next 15 years significant. The important thing to remember about a Pluto transit is not to fight it, embrace any changes and try to understand why they are happening.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Three Square Meals?

Three square meals a day is a norm we are all taught. But what about the quality of the food. What is good and what is poison. The historians, the biologists and the marketing men have all convinced us that eating meat is both normal and good...but is it? Filled with antibiotics to keep the animal healthy, filled with the adrenaline of an animal that knows it's about to be slaughtered, filled with chemicals to keep it looking good at the point of purchase, do we really know what's in it? The 'industrialisation' of animal production is a language which in itself signifies an attitude of disdain towards conscious beings who have their own dignity and their own ways of showing us their affection. But we say that they know no pain, so it is OK to kill and consume them. Stand on your dogs foot, or accidentally put a needle in your cat, and we are reminded that they know pain as acutely as we do. In fact they often have a greater sensitivity and empathy to our moods than we have to our own. Entrusted with the caring of our planet and it's animal kingdoms what do we do... we grow them, kill them and eat them. Perhaps it is no wonder we are reaping the fruits of those actions. So what do you think, to eat or not to eat, to care or not to care, to break out of the lazy mindset that says, "But its always been that way", or perhaps to say, "maybe, just maybe, this is not the right way!"

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Moon Phases

Whether you believe it or not, the Moon exerts a powerful influence on our lives. If you follow its phases and plan your life and actions around them, it is possible to achieve great results.
If you want something positive to happen in your life then the waxing Moon is the ideal time to set it in motion. For example, if you and looking for a new job then this is a good time to arrange an interview. This is a great time for success, courage, luck, health and friendship. If you are looking for new friends then make the most of socialising when the Moon is waxing.
As the Moon grows from waxing to full, then so will the positive power that you put into anything. This is the time to start a new job or set up a new business or sign a contract, go travelling or join a club.
When the Moon is waning, it is diminishing so this is the time to banish things from your life. This could include getting rid of a partner, breaking a habit such as smoking, banishing an illness or losing weight. In other words getting rid of anything detrimental in your life.
The new Moon is invisible to us but that doesn't mean it's not there. New beginnings are indicated here, such as looking for a new relationship or a new home or even a whole new life.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Glastonbury Tor

The landscape surrounding Glastonury is a treasure trove where sacred sites abound. The most obvious is Glastonbury Tor which can be seen for many miles around, rising up out of the flat surrounding meadows. The green hill of the Tor, topped enigmatically with its tower has become a symbol of Glastonbury, dominating the surrounding landscape and town.
There are many myths and legends associated with the Tor – it is the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, the Lord of the Underworld and King of the Fairies, and a place where the fairy folk live.
In early-medieval times there was a small monks' retreat on top of the Tor, founded probably in the time of St Patrick in the mid-400s. This was followed in the early 1100s by a chapel, St Michael de Torre. This was destroyed in a powerful earthquake in 1275 and rebuilt in the early 1300s. The tower is all that remains today.
Many power lines in the earth that for centuries were known to folklore, have now been traced using dowsing methods.These are geomagnetic lines in the earth and can be likened to acupuncture meridians in the body. Ancient people found that using them made all forms of travel, messages and communications easier. Christian churches later replaced the older sacred sites that were built along these lines. The Michael line is called that because most of the churches on it are dedicated to St.Michael, who was the Christian version of the protective male deity originally associated with this line. In the same way, St.Mary churches delineate the Mary line and replaced older shrines to a nurturing and gentle earth mother. The male and female nature of the two lines was thus preserved and continued by the Christian interpretation.
The Michael and Mary lines in particular are especially powerful. They connect major sacred sites throughout the South West and beyond. But it’s only on the Tor that their energies combine. In a harmonious dance of earth patterns, the lines move ever closer as they approach the summit. At the top, they merge and unite. Perhaps this is what makes it easy for so many other kinds of opposites to harmoniously come together on the Tor.
When they flow down from the Tor again, the lines then pass through the other major Glastonbury sites – Chalice Well, the Abbey and nearby Wearyall Hill. Their energy may be an important source of the strong mystical element that’s been associated with these places for many hundreds of years.