Winter Warbler

For the last few days we’ve had a blackcap visiting our garden. Here it is sharing the feeder with a couple from our troupe of long-tailed tits.

Animal of the week – Zebra

The Zebra is a wild member of the horse family that can be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. There are three species of Zebra – the Common or Plains Zebra that is found all over Eastern and Southern Africa. The Mountain Zebra that is separated into two races, the Cape Mountain Zebra and the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra. Finally the Grevy’s Zebra is the largest and rarest of Zebras and is found in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia. Zebras are large animals and often overcome attacks from Lions. When being chased by Lions the stallion goes to the back of the herd and violently kicks out behind him. This method often deters Lions, as they cannot risk injury or even death. It is also believed that the Zebras stripes make it harder for Lions to see them, as Lions are partially colour-blind.

Common or Plains Zebra
The most common of the Zebra family that has the widest range of the three species. It is split into three different races that are shown below.
Grant’s Zebra: southern Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and northern Zimbabwe.
Chapman’s Zebra: Namibia, Angola and western South Africa.
Burchell’s Zebra: South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

The Common Zebra is very common throughout southern and eastern Africa and often forms mixed herds with Wildebeest. It lives in herds of up to 100, although normally these herds would number 15-20. It is a grazing animal and prefers open plains but can be found in bush thickets, woodland, wetland and semi-desert.

Mountain Zebra
The Mountain Zebra has a smaller range than the Common Zebra and is harder to find in its upland habitat. Although they are named Mountain Zebras they are not really found on mountains, their preferred habitat is high-altitude plains and hills. There are two sub-species of Mountain Zebra, the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra and the Cape Mountain Zebra.
Cape Mountain Zebra: western South Africa, Cape Province, northern Namibia.
Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra: southern Angola, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Northern South Africa, Swaziland and southern Mozambique.
Both sub-species are endangered although we were lucky enough to see them both on our holiday to South Africa in October 2004.

Grevy’s Zebra
Grevy’s Zebra are the largest and rarest of the three Zebra species. They have been over-hunted and persecuted for many years in east Africa. There are now as little as 3,000 remaining in the wild. They are a desert animal and are found in the scrub and aridlands of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia. They used to be common in Somalia but became extinct there in 1973.

The Great Egg Hunt

I have also found The Great Egg Hunt entry so here is the link. I’m afraid these were all I could find though.

Web Reports are Back!

I have found the Compton site again but some of the reports have been deleted. I will put the ones I can back on our site.

Web Reports-Link Error

Lots of people have been complaining about links not working on my entries about web reports. Unfortunately the site for Compton Primary School seems to have been deleted (or maybe moved, please tell us if you find it) soon after we left, along with all the reports. I will delete the entries soon.

Beautiful Days – like festivals used to be’

Beautiful Days photosThis year our summer tour took in Beautiful Days for the first time. This festival has been widely described as “like festivals used to be”. I think that phrase is meant to distinguish Beautiful Days from the sort of festival that’s sponsored by makers of lager and mobile ‘phone networks, but it must have been created by a twenty-something marketing director. I remember how festivals used to be, and they weren’t like this.

If you’ve ever seen the film of Woodstock, the archetype for later festivals, you’ll remember no food, no toilets, no information, a sea of mud, bands turning up a day late or not at all, playing on a single stage with terrible PA, interminable waits between acts, and some nasty thuggery. Contrast this with Beautiful Days:

  • delicious food

    In the festivals of my youth, you could either stand in an endless queue to be fleeced by the chicken ‘n’ chips vendor or the same for the hot dog vendor. At Beautiful Days there was a choice of tasty wholesome meals from some of the best festival caterers.

  • ample clean toilets

    The Beatiful Days toilet fairies were constantly doing the rounds, keeping the facilities clean, fresh and well-stocked with paper.

  • child-friendly

    At the festivals of old there were no children. Beautiful Days had a happy and mostly-free area dedicated to making sure the children had a good time too.

  • more music

    As a paid-up old fogey, I couldn’t allow that the music now is better. But there is just so much more of it. Beautiful Days offered two main stages and a dance tent, all of which ran more or less to time, and the turnarounds between the acts were effectively managed. And we did see some great performances, my highlights being Bellowhead, the Eliza Carthy Band, Billy Bragg with the acoustic Blokes (thanks for Levi Stubbs’ Tears), and my first experience of Jill Sobule.The nightly showing of Freeborn John, which allowed members of The Levellers to dress up as cavaliers, and involved the English Civil War Society in the gratuitous firing of muskets, was a “concept”, and thus unquestionably ’70s. And what a glorious show it was, too. Apparently a recording is promised. More throwbacks like this, please.

Beautiful Days photosBut yes, there were some reminders of how festivals used to be:

  • traffic jams

    Although Glastonbury now knows how to get 120,000 people onto the site in the manner of a military landing, a mere 10,000 of us spent two hours stationary in a traffic queue waiting to reach the Beautiful Days gate. Very nostalgic.

  • security thugs

    We’d already half-erected our tent when a short bald muscly man in uniform with walkie-talkie zoomed up self-importantly on a quad-bike and told us in the choicest language to move on, because our chosen spot was reserved for the security team. Not a very nice man, but I suspect he might have been worse if I hadn’t managed to suppress the urge to giggle at his pompousness.

The rest of our Beautiful Days photos are here.

Festival Food Awards 2005

It’s not only the music that takes us out on the festival circuit every summer; we also go for the food. Here are some of our favourites:

  • Leon Lewis
    Leon LewisLeon is peerless as a festival caterer, and has been top of our list since we first encoutered him at WOMAD in 1991. Every time I sit down to eat a meal from Leon’s, someone will come up and ask for directions to the stall where I bought it. A former Maths teacher, Leon is nearly always on the stall in person, earnestly explaining each of the dishes. At Leon’s you get a substantial meal of gourmet veggie food, made from high-quality ingredients and prepared with skill and attention to detail. His signature dish is the Leonese Plateful, a meze platter of tasty Lebanese delicacies.

    The only concessions to outside catering on this stall are the disposable plates and cutlery, but never the food. Actually Leon has been known to go one step further towards the environmental goal and serve the food on edible (potato) plates.

    Leon has tried a few sites at Glastonbury, but seems to have settled on the north side of the Jazz-World field, echoing his position to the side of the open-air stage at WOMAD Rivermead. Apparently he also has a devout following at Cropredy.

  • Queen Delilah
    Queen Delilah serves excellent and good-value salads. They have tasty black-eye bean burgers too, but the salads are so good they make a nice lunch on their own. Queen Delilah is a regular at Glastonbury on the east side of main route which divides the Avalon and Greenpeace fields, next door to the Manic Organic. I don’t know anything about them, but they have nice friendly women serving up the food.

    Manic Organic (photo by Martin Lucas-Smith)


  • Manic Organic
    The Manics are a festival institution. A scarily large-scale organisation, a cast of what seems to be hundreds of well-drilled Antipodeans work in and behind their bedouin-style tent, and can process a queue like a military operation. The food is consistently good, a hearty plateful of Vegetable Daal or Chana and Potato Curry being just the thing on a cool evening.

    Manic Organic have an established site on the main path through the green fields, as it passes between the Avalon and Greenpeace fields. Also to be found at WOMAD, Beautiful Days, Big Green Gathering, …

  • Pizza Tabun
    Pizza TabunJust as you thought festival pizza was always going to be unpleasant greasy stuff best ignored, along comes the Pizza Tabun. Not a stall to visit in a hurry, because each pizza is rolled from fresh dough, topped to your specification and cooked to order in their special pizza oven. But the tent is a charming place to wait, with its comfy cushions and low tables. Unlike the previous entries, this one is also loved by the junior festival-goers, both for the pizza and the chocolate brownies. And the proprietor is a lovely man, whose manners belie his Steven Berkoff lookalike appearance.

    We first tried Pizza Tabun at the Larmer Tree festival. We’ve also found them at Glastonbury (in the Avalon field just round the corner from the Tiny Tea Tent), Beautiful Days, and the Big Green Gathering.

  • Yeo Valley
    The Yeo Valley stall sells the same stuff you can buy in your local supermarket; delicious organic yoghurts from a Somerset dairy farm. But while most producers hike up the price for the captive audience, Yeo Valley sell big pots of yoghurt at a discount price of £1, which makes them one of Glastonbury’s best bargains. They do frozen yoghurt too. The stall is down in Babylon in the F market area; you’ll pass it as you walk between the Pyramid and the Other Stage.