Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Emoticons, Book Packaging, ebooks .. what was the future, is now the past?

Seth Godin announces he’s moving on .. he’s not going to publish another book in the traditional way – can that be right? Did you know he was a book packager in the mid 80s? When someone who has been at the forefront of spreading ideas – punching holes in the proverbial boundaries .. making those safe havens seem like leaking sieves .. people will no doubt sit up and take some notice .. will they change, will they be hanging onto his shirt-tails .. or will we, as humans tend to, wait and see .. and then react?

Seth’s blog post sets out his thoughts and recently on various blogs I visit there have been some thought provoking posts about the industry – how it works, the process that an author is trying, which is the best method for publishing be it an an ebook, or book .. etc etc

Theatrical release poster – Julie & Julia .. one persistent blogger (Julie Powell), now respected author, food journalist .. with a film under her belt ...

To tie this in with my last post on the ‘Qwerty’ keyboard and the changes we are making in our written words today – the introduction of texting and the globalisation of the typeface infrastructure – all of which are evolving in front of our eyes .. where will it go?

Audio is now coming to the fore – podcasts, audio books .. etc – whereas millennia ago, humans depicted their world in caves .. so we know today what their animals looked like, before evolution took hold, or before cross-breeding became a serious agricultural business from Medieval times onwards.

Example of an audio studio for professional readers

The written word has already changed enormously – originally being written as the oxen worked the field .. so you would read right to left, then the next line would be left to right; there would be no punctuation and each word just flowed into the next as scriptura continua. Think how it has all evolved ... clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, skins .. until Gutenberg invented the printing press 500 years ago.

Then the books varied in size .. huge tomes, or tiny delicate folios with brilliantly illuminated manuscripts for the royal ladies, or the Church and noble ranks ... until some form of standardisation set in. Thank goodness for books and written records ... those men and women of far off times certainly remind us of our history.

How would life be .. if our brains could not envision drawing? Or the brain wasn’t clever enough to remember and write things down .. those erudite men of ancient times did not wait for tomorrow they recorded every day – true diarists, journal writers ...

Woman holding a book (or wax tablets) in the form of the codex. Wall painting from Pompeii, before 79 AD.

We know about Ps and Qs, diacritical marks (though my description would be those ‘funny’ marks .. some I might know individually .. grave, accent, umlaut – but as a collective noun ‘diacritical’ is a new word for me), now as Chase March, a primary school teacher in Canada, mentions we have ‘emoticons’.

Off I went to look – because this is an area I ‘know about’ so vaguely .. that I do not use them or know how to and don’t know what they mean – so I had to look up “:)" smile sweetly!

Chase also mentioned something I hadn’t realised (it’s been a long time .. since I typed ‘the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” .. which is a pangram, if you didn’t know – again I didn’t .. it is a phrase that contains all the letters of the alphabet), which is, and elaborated a little more on the post:

Of course, I heard it (the keyboard) was laid out this way at first so that the word "typewriter" could be spelled out quickly using only the top row of letters. This way, salesman could demonstrate the product, impress buyers, and drum up business.

I don't think we need emoticon keys either.

What does this really say? :)

I'm happy. I'm smiling. It seems pointless most of the time.

Appropriately summed up, I think. However going back to early times .. hieroglyphics were the first writing signs used – so what is so different with today’s emoticons? We seem to be going backwards?

MentalFloss.com - Google image by Alex Williams

Emoticon, that portmanteau of a word ... emotion (or emote) and icon, can be traced back to the nineteenth century being commonly used in casual and/or humorous writing; while the recent digital forms on the internet were suggested for more regular use in a message in 1982, quickly taken up by ARPANET users.

Surprisingly in 1857, the National Telegraphic Review and Operators Guide documented the use of the number 73 in Morse Code to express “love and kisses” .... sadly later reduced to the more formal “best regards” – someone wasn’t LOLling in those days?!

These historical delvings are rather fascinating .. and are we creating a new ‘written’ language for the future based on glyphs? Going back to today .. and the signs of the times (or the needs of the times may be more appropriate) is the book publishing world changing dramatically for ever .. will we lose books? How will be we publish in the future?

Patented drop down menu for composing phone mail text message with emoticons. US patent 6987991

Jannie was surprised to hear that Seth Godin was ‘moving on’ .. per his blog post about the book distributorship and the ramifications of our times, and here we can see how he has always jumped through the hoops.

Barbara, Blogging without a Blog, recently asked her readers whether we would “Turn our Blog into a Book”, and if so would it be an ebook and how ... for those of us on the edge of this world – it was an interesting read, with Barbara’s commenters coming up with lots of useful information and ideas.

I love it when bloggers are so generous with their knowledge .. because we can learn so much from them and let our own thoughts sift through ... Talli Roland, an author now residing here in London, has written and has published travel guides, she also gave us a beginners’ guide as to how her own publishing experience worked, and why her guides were unavailable in her home country of Canada.

Eslite Bookstore in Taiwan

Stephen Tremp of Breakthrough Blogs – sums up his blog .. “Take one blog, add murder, mayhem and a wormhole, and you’ve got BREAKTHROUGH. Welcome to chaos” .. brilliant elevator pitch - however, more importantly, his methodical approach to the publishing world, letting us follow the process with him has been hugely informative – and perhaps helping us avoid those dreaded pitfalls along the way, when our time comes.

BREAKTHROUGH: The Adventures of Chase Manhatten

He’s written a number of posts on publishing .. and is still investigating – his most recent post is a Marketing Survey on Readers, which as he says will help him when he begins promoting his books ...

This post (put out 4 July 2010) about self-publishing in 2009, starts us off on his new quest to iron out the limitations he’d come up against, from then on Stephen introduces us to different routes .. giving us guidelines on possible Dos and Don’ts – a really interesting series, which he’s still following, as am I.

JD Meier of Sources of Insight, when he wrote his first Blue Book for Microsoft .. saw it as "where there's a will there's a way" and has many practical examples for us to follow - an excellent resource for us 'To Do Something Great' - day 27 of his 30 days to get results series.

Tony Eldridge of Marketing Tips for Authors also has some excellent ideas, giving us a weekly round- up, summarising a few of the marketing ideas he thought were useful and which we might find interesting.

Then there are plenty of you who have written books .. and know the process ... or knew it then? I daren’t start listing ... self-development, spiritual, cookery, fiction, romance .. we all have a dream inside us ... one with words, with pictures, with video ... will our books be on walls (instead of caves) in the future? An untapped blank canvas? Banksy might have something to say about that ...

The cover of Banksy's 2005 compilation: Wall and Piece. (Banksy is the pseudonym of a prolific British graffiti artist, political campaigner and painter (on walls).

Bloggers seem to have a way with words .. we are also writing a story, or the story is writing the blog .. the picture tells the story ... the video gives the added visual punch .. we’re all treading those boundary lines .. guiding our creative passion to run free – wait no more .. decide your route and let us watch as you fulfil your dream – publish and be damned .. whatever way .. be a part of history, leave a legacy .. there are no blank canvases amongst us bloggers and story tellers ....

Enjoy the process ... happy days! Please don’t tell anyone .. I said go and paint walls with pretty pictures, emoticons, or a book .... actually - perhaps a good idea for The Turbine Room at the Tate Modern?! - shown right

Dear Mr Postman .. my mother mostly sleeps on .. but frustratingly cannot hear - & I suspect that probably is going to be the future .. which is very sad and difficult, as she cannot read either. Still I’m a little more settled now and I must give her more time ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Glyphs, Ps and Qs, Murder ...

In her post .. I’m not Blogging You Are .. Davina from Shades of Crimson threw out a challenge to write a story in a 100 words using the nine words she gave us: Fly, Magnitude, Timothy, Typography, Death, Closet, Swell, Rena and Jerome ..... a fine mix! Daunted me .. after a little thought I did write the story as a ‘Who Dunn It’ in the comments – others rose to the Challenge and, as asked, sent theirs in.

Davina then in the comments kept asking Who Dunn It? ... and thereby hangs the tale! She’s publishing all the stories .. they’re all brilliant .. different takes on those nine words – who’d heard of Timothy grass .. not me!

Murder: 19th century John Wilkes Booth wanted the poster printed with both wood and metal types - it shows doesn 't it?

I did satisfy her question with a much longer answer .. the type just tapped, the words came out, the method oozed from one of my leaden posts, the typographical mentions too came from posts and comments .. and I weaved a murder that was solved: 'A certain "Type" of Mystery'.

I hope you’ll pop over and read the stories .. Davina has a way with words, and her proof reading skills came to the fore in her Post title and in the Heading she gave my reply ..

To tie this in .. recently there’ve been articles about Qwerty .. for us typists .. it’s fine .. for the younger generation ... would ‘abcdef’ be better ... in fact if technology had changed to this format 10 years ago .. would it be better now? It’s rather like changing from driving on the right-hand side of the road to the left-hand side .. possible ... but I still struggle with decimalisation , many years later – nearly two generations .. and the 12 system is way more useful! Another day ...

So typographical challenges abound for the young .. Sholes, the American layout designer of the keyboard, in 1873 on the Sholes and Gidden typewriter, sold to Remington shortly after, became the industry standard until today.

If two neighbouring type bars are hit at the same time, a jam may result; avoiding this was the basis of the QWERTY layout.

The keys don’t jam together any more .. they certainly did on the old thumpy keys, (strong fingers were required) and you need a sense of rhythm .. something I don’t possess .. still I can type! Text – another matter .. especially as you need a bishop’s moving slant as you hit each key –then you probably get the right one .. well I find that with my iphone! The knack I’m told ...

Smart phones are changing their keyboards bringing in symbols, putting the keyboard into three layers .. ABCs, 123s, and #+=s ... while on the web connection the .com appeared, I thought – but I can’t seem to make it happen – shows my technology levels!

There is so much going on .. Seth Godin – I see is getting out of publishing actual books, the debate on eReaders ..which are best? ... and will we have keyboards in 20 + years? I’d say yes – because it’ll take at least two generations for the filtering to occur – won’t it?

Just as a”by-the-by”.. for us keyboard users .. if we don’t know how to put in accents into our French words, or diaeresis into our German words .. Wikipedia sets it out clearly .. it also introduced me to a new word ‘diacritical marks’ ...which now I look it up .. is an ancillary glyph added to a letter, or basic glyph. I suspect (not as in murder) that another post is here somewhere ...

Movable type sorted in a letter case and loaded in a composing stick on top

So please "mind your Ps and Qs" ... this stems from children playing with their letters and learning to distinguish the P and Q letters, or to printers’ apprentices in handling and sorting type.

Perhaps more fancifully .. it is suggested that in the pubs .. the customers’ accounts were kept in Ps and Qs .. for Pints and Quarts .. and that a customer needed to mind his Ps and Qs when the reckoning came.

Or another diacritical move .. was that in the France of Louis XlV, when huge wigs were fashionable, the dancing masters would warn their pupils to mind their Ps and Qs .. their ‘pieds’ (feet) and ‘queues’ (wigs) .. lest the latter fall off when bending low to make a formal bow.

So how in ten thousand years will this time be recorded .. we can see the ancients’ geoglyphs the drawings on the ground .. the Nazca Lines in Peru .. hill figures .. but will our typography be here, will the folio method of putting together books still be here .. will they remember or find us and our Ps and Qs, our ABCs, 123s and #+=s .. will our voices, even, be heard?
The geoglyph of Cuzco, map E G Squier c. 1860. The fortification Sacsahuman (north of the town) represents the head of an animal (El Puma Yacente, puma lying down), the back, legs and tail of the animal are recognizable in the patterns of the town, the backshape follows a mountainriver, the feet are standing on the shore of the river Sapi

Will Murder still be happening ....? Enjoy the stories .. and thanks so much for visiting here and there, if you have a few minutes to enjoy a light read ...

Dear Mr Postman .. I haven’t seen my mother for a few days – but I’ll see her tomorrow and will be back on my daily visits .. no news – so I guess all is well. Lovely sunny day again today, though we’ve had much needed rain ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Under Sea Sussex – Tompot Blenny, Piddock, Devonshire Cup Corals and Jewel Anemones ...

We do not seem to have been there and I thought a post about our undersea life in the shallow seas off Sussex with more wonderful names and different views, undersea caves or wrecks might be of interest.

Usually there is a continental shelf – that shallow gradient, before the Ocean depths open up starting with the sharper drop of the continental slope; these coastal plains were part of the continent during glacial periods – hence remains of the woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros and bison have been found in the UK, as they would readily have been able to roam across from Europe, which now during an interglacial epoch are under water.

The global continental shelf, highlighted in cyan (turquoise to you and me!)

The continental shelf is very widespread in the northern hemisphere, and also down the coasts of eastern Russia, China and southerly to include Oceania .. as you can see from the image. Back to our small portion of coastline – our murky waters off Sussex and what lives or can be seen beneath our waves.

The English Channel narrows as it reaches towards the North Sea and turns the island corner, at which point ships could go north on to the Hanseatic ports of Lubeck (the cornerstone to the Baltic regions), Hamburg, Brugge (now Bruges-Zeebrugge – a large container port for Europe) and London – in the days of the Hanseatic League (13th – 17th centuries); ...

... or to the Dutch ports, when the Netherlands ruled the waves, via Amsterdam, through the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company in the 17th Century, when the Dutch rebelled against Philip II of Spain and secured their independence. London was always involved in the fray – be it as the antagonist or champion of the various factions for that period – before British independence came to the fore.

The Sussex coastline has many wrecks, even William the Conqueror lost ships off Pevensey Bay in 1066, due to the weather, the uncharted under-waters, or the many wars that have been waged in these narrowing Channel waters over the centuries, and probably millennia.

A Bib (- a Whiting)

The wrecks and reefs, with their holes, crevices, canyons, boulders and cliffs, are all huge magnets to a prolific range of marine life – fishes, shellfish, eels, soft corals, sponges, and various anemones. Shoalling fish love the wrecks – they act like oases for these fish, such as the Bib.

We forget that life continues beyond the sea-shore .. there is a surprising amount of habitat in our murky waters off the Sussex coast. As on land, species adapt to their environment and create specific evolutionary changes so that they can live in harmony with their surrounds.

Much of our seabed is sandy attracting fish such as Plaice, Red Mullet, Dab, Crabs, Halibut and Sole amongst others. Sussex’s shoreline is very varied, ranging from mudflats and pebble beaches in the west, to chalk shore, with rock pools in the east.

The Sussex shoreline: tidal range, shallow waters before the darker depths of the Continental Shelf begin

Unfortunately a large percentage is no longer in a ‘natural’ state, having been modified by constructing sea defences, such as groynes, which we have along the Sussex coast, protecting our beaches and coastline.

Groynes in Stitges, Catalonia, Spain

Nature takes its course too – the weather batters the shore: the sun bakes down, the stormy rains drive in, the crashing waves thrash the shore, the sea spray keeping everything damp and wet, the winds whistle in .. finding any crevice, much like in a house or a shelter, whittling away ... all affect the cliff face, while the flints lodged in the chalk are secure until they are released, thus loosening the chalk around them – sometimes causing large landfalls.

Then there’s the Piddock – natures’ own excavator! They are bivalves and bore into soft rocks, such as chalk and clay; they live for eight years .. just in their hole! – but when they depart to higher horizons .. anemones, crabs and other molluscs move in.

Piddock burrows, 1 inch or less, in calcic rock, coast Boulogne - Calais (France)

The seaward edge of the chalk platform below the chalk cliffs are eroding into narrow gullies – wonderful hiding places for crabs, small fishes; while the sandstone reefs provide a firm foothold for ‘attached’ marine animals, such as sponges, sea squirts, and anemones, while more nooks and crannies provide hideaways for others.

Our organically enriched shoreline provides the ideal environment for mussels, which thrive here, and in doing so stabilise the sea bed. Many a picnic is held on a beach under the Seven Sisters .. where the primary object is to collect mussels and enjoy some wonderful food, a beer or a glass of wine in the setting sun on a low tide.

Starfish flourish, molluscs abound, Cuttlefish breed close inshore, Tompot Blennies inquisitively peer out to keep an eye on their surrounds, PipeFish, close relatives to Sea Horses (which are found further west along the coast in the seagrass beds) generally inhabit the sheltered areas in coral reefs, seagrass beds and sandy lagoons.

Tompot Blenny - to the right

There are anemones and corals – the wonderfully called Devonshire Cup Coral appears to be an anemone (known as a jewel anemone), however it is a true coral with a hard stony body .. only about 1.5cms high. It inhabits rocky pools and was thought to only be found around the Devonshire coast, but with underwater photography becoming a popular hobby and with improved technology .. this coral grows around the coast of Great Britain.

Photographed in the Small Isles of Western Scotland: below a Devonshire Cup Coral – Jewel Anemone (below) - courtesy of Clikpic.com

The area offers any number of diving sites – shallow wrecks, deep water wrecks .. some of which are still intact and are popular dive sites, underwater chalk cliffs – a unique feature of the Sussex sea bed, especially as the deeper side of the cliffs face the coast, as well as one feature (in West Sussex) called the Mixon Hole to be found on an impressive 20 m high cliff, that occurs once the seabed end is reached.

Our sea shores are a living habitat, as are the seas and oceans and we need to be aware of the threats to these precious resources, as much as we do with our lands and skies. We know about a number of activities that can damage our seas ... but so often forget others .. the sewage outfalls, agricultural run-off from land and rivers, the dumping of dredged spoil, marine aggregate extraction, bottom trawling, ships’ anchors dragging on the sea bed, litter and waste materials dropped at sea: if there is any comparison to land dumping refuse – it is an increasing problem .. which we need to address and remember.

We are collecting more and more data about shore lines – recording the sea bed types, the marine life that is found – generally mapping our shores to a greater extent than has been done in the past: and then repeating this statistical gathering on a regular basis to see the changes that are happening.

Seaweed covered rocks in the UK

If you draw a line due South from London .. it is about where Eastbourne is on the Sussex Coast and this where you will find our Sussex murky waters - you can see how the English Channel narrows as it meets the North Sea - so that Dover to Calais is only about 20 miles away. The French call it 'La Manche' - the sleeve .. and it looks it doesn't it? It is the smallest of the shallow seas around the continental shelf of Europe.

Life is constantly changing and so are our shorelines – a great deal of it naturally as has happened over the millennia and epochs, species evolve as we are finding out as our statistical gatherings and research grow annually .. this data is giving the human race an opportunity to realise the damage we are doing – or will nature occur naturally and the English Channel once again become a grassland for the Woolly Mammoth, the Cave Lion, the Giant Deer, as the next glacial age takes it turn in earth’s history?

Dear Mr Postman .. my mother cannot hear still, which makes me sad and is tricky for us both - she said to me on Sunday .. that it must be very boring for me - difficult to answer. I must spend more time with her - life has been somewhat hectic lately and though I've been visiting .. the room flooding, meant taking the posters down and then putting new ones up, and bringing all her possessions over .. then we have to do it again in a few weeks as we move back upstairs to the refurbished part of the building. We cope - but this is not really how I want it to be for my Mama .. life should be kinder now to her.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday, 13 August 2010

Seven Sisters - what would these mean to you?

Perhaps seven sisters? Or Artemis’ companions - the Pleiades; a star cluster “Pleiades”; or various locations around the world – a break in a mountain range in Baja California, Mexico; other mountain chains; an area, a road, rail and underground station in London; a group of Stalinist skyscrapers in Moscow; high altitude caves on the planet Mars ... or as here a group of chalk cliffs in England .. all named Seven Sisters.
1885 The Pleiades by symbolist painter Elihu Vedder

Our Seven Sisters featured as Wikipedia’s picture of the day on Monday, 9th August 2010, and so I thought a summer tour of places in and around my area of Eastbourne .. simple reading and beautiful pictures. This group of chalk cliffs on the Sussex coast has recently been included within a new National Park, before that the Seven Sisters Country Park covered these remnants of dry valleys in the chalk South Downs, which are gradually being eroded by the sea.

In summer 2009, a similar landscape photograph of the cliffs was chosen as an official desktop wallpaper and included with the Microsoft operating system Windows 7 as part of the "United Kingdom" localised theme; (appropriate that the Seven Sisters picture was chosen for Windows 7).

I walked down to the cottages (see below) and onto the beach recently where the sea is at the edge of the gardens with recent landslips easily seen. Between the cottages and the Seven Sisters stretching towards Beachy Head and Eastbourne beyond, in an area of flood plains lies the ancient smuggling Cuckmere River, now giving budding geographers a magnificent view of a meandering river, containing several oxbows .. artists, photographers, ornithologists and nature lovers flock here to see the wonders abounding in such a picturesque valley.
How Beachy Head lighthouse was built: the photo shows a temporary cable car transporting workers and stones to an iron ocean platform adjacent to the lighthouse, which is nearing completion in 1902. If you knew how unstable these cliffs are .. this photo brings fear to my heart!

Where else would you find names such as Short Bottom, Rough Brow, Brass Point and Limekiln Bottom – for some of the eight (not seven – I thought we could count here in England – perhaps not!) peaks and dips. A New Zealand friend (of South African heritage – where I met her) came to stay for a while .. and she loved walking – so she set off from my house in the middle of Eastbourne to walk to Cuckmere Haven ... she got the bus back – proclaiming on her arrival .. ‘that was some switchback ride!’ .. the ups and downs took their toll – she ached and hobbled for a few days thereafter! The brows and the bottoms are well trodden chalky paths full of sharp flint stones, which hold the chalky cliffs in place until they are dislodged loosening the chalk around them.
The iconic view of the fishermens' cottages across to the Seven (or eight?) Sisters and east towards Beachy Head and Eastbourne at the end of the South Downs, where the English Channel takes over!

Further west along the coast is a tide mill – something I had not heard of .. have you? .. it is now abandoned .. but in the Industrial Revolution times of the 1700s industrialists were keen to extend their skills to new technical applications .. the tide mill, erected by the Duke of Newcastle, was used to grind corn.

Looking at the derelict scrubby coastal area and weather battered coast it is not surprising that the workers’ cottages (housing about 100 workders) supporting the village and its mill were condemned as unfit for habitation in 1936, after the mill closed in 1900 – as newer technologies spread.
The Mill House 1880. Look right and see the remains of the wall highlighted above. The millway siding can be seen which followed today’s pathway. This picture clearly shows the windmill that was also part of the tide mill complex at Tide Mills (the site is derelict today)

The Sussex Archaeological Society has started a long term project ensuring that the relics and available records, including early film, video, recollections and photographs logging the decline of the area are not lost. The area accommodated vast numbers of Canadian troops during World War II – again another reason to clear the land as a clear line of attack/defence, but also for street fighting training.

We have a Long Man (right) – the first recorded drawing was done earlier than the Tide Mill in 1710 .. and over the years has evolved into the Long Man we know today. These prehistoric hill figures, of which not many exist in England, are perhaps pagan symbols or emblems dating back to the Bronze Age. The Long Man of Wilmington is 69.2 metres (227 feet) tall and designed to look in proportion when viewed from below.

The Sussex Archaeological Society now also manage this site and its surrounds, while during the war it was painted green to avoid it being used as a landmark by German aircraft.

A few miles inland up the Cuckmere River where it is still tidal – sits the very picturesque village of Alfriston – where the National Trust bought their first property in 1896 for £10. The timber framed building of the 14th century has a fine detail on the cornice ... perhaps inspring the National Trust’s emblem of an Oak Leaf (see left). Amazing workmanship though .. I love the detail carved into the fabric of the farmhouse that it once was ..

.. where else would you expect to find a rare chalk and sour milk floor?! The rammed chalk flooring was hardened and made relatively dust free by pouring soured milk over it! To keep the dust down – sounds like a good idea .. it doesn’t smell – so I guess the smell dissipates over time.

Now what would be better but a short drive over the Cuckmere River from Alfriston, along its beautiful twisting valley to rise up the Seven Sisters by road and on to Jevington a tiny parish, but with one overriding call of the hungry man – the Hungry Monk restaurant – where Bannoffee pie was invented.

Have you heard of this wonderful, probably now the ubiquitous, gooey toffee banana dessert? It was originally made on a pie crust .. but I have to say I prefer a digestive biscuit base. Crushed biscuits held together with melted butter, a toffee centre, made from ‘boiled in the tin’ condensed milk, sliced bananas and topped with cream of your choice .. deliciously gungy and absolutely calorific .. perhaps the way to a man’s heart .. after the cook has eaten a fair amount in the kitchen before serving?!

Well that was quick tour from a pre-Christian church site at Alfriston, to the 14th century farmer’s cottage, now the National Trust Clergy House ... perhaps the later farmers took their corn to the new-fangled industrial tidal mill for grinding ... to one of the first Societies to preserve our heritage .. the National Trust, while the Sussex Archaeological Society maintains the pagan Long Man site, and records the village community of the tidal mill and its surrounds, to the re-siting of the lighthouse at the base of Beachy Head before satiating ourselves at the Hungry Monk restauarant .. all within a few miles of each other in and around the Sussex coast.

There’s plenty more .. but I need to work the Banoffee pie off – perhaps by a walk through the beautiful downland of the Sussex coast and its environs ..

Dear Mr Postman – we’re back to my mother not being able to hear .. and after the flood – life is still not sorted .. the challenge with not being able to hear is frustrating because I cannot explain to her what is going on. Poor Ma – she keeps saying ‘why can’t you speak up?’ .... ‘can you hear yourself?’ .. but when you can’t explain it’s her hearing! I’ll try again today ..

we had a postcard and she can recognise the writing etc .. and I put two new temporary posters up .. which she seemed to like – copies of posters from my house .. A, B, Cs of African birds and African animals .. – so pictures, writing and things to think about - she’s chatting away to herself .. perhaps philosophising would be a better word!

PS - the recipe .. in case anyone is interested .. I use butter and digestive crumbs as the base - not the pastry .. but your choice! http://www.hungrymonk.co.uk/pages/banoffi.htm

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Painted Ladies of the World who stop trains? .. A year later!

Amazing what epicurean delights painted ladies like to eat or breed on – cudweeds, thistles, lupins, mallow, stinging nettles and everlastings .. so they are no longer ever lasting! Butterfly migration stopped the trains in 1889. Escaping from the mountains they are as determined as prisoners to find new lands, to thrive and produce new generations before their time is up.

Painted Lady, Portugal

Painted Lady butterflies have been prolific here in England this year – we were alerted to be on the lookout for the first waves in late April or early May .. a flock, a wave, a congregation – call it what you will .. travelled to this part of the south coast where William the Conqueror of 1066 fame landed at Pevensey, before he waged war on Harold and took control of England, changing the course of western history.
These wonderful stained-glass flutterers, just one of the many, many varieties of the lepidopterous order of insects, which have four scale-covered wings, are found on all the continents except Antarctica.
Our English ones come up from the Atlas mountains in Morocco, flying over the Mediterranean and English Channel, on northwards to the Scottish islands and some on to Iceland. How do they do it, why do they do it?

Carduus crispus, (Papilio cardui Linnaeus, 1758) Common Thistle

We have the first wave in Spring, which lay their eggs on the common thistle, asters, borage, forget-me-not, hollyhocks, the legume family flowers to name a few. The caterpillars feed on a variety of host plants of the daisy family, especially Carduus crispus, (Papilio cardui Linnaeus, 1758) as implied by the species name cardui – Latin for “of the thistle” ; while the adults drink nectar from a variety of wildflowers, more commonly the favoured thistle, buddleia (butterfly bush), asters, tickseed sunflowers and zinnias.

This first wave are about to hatch from their chrysalides in the pupal stage of butterflies. The term is derived from the metallic-gold-colouration found in the pupae of many butterflies referred to by the Greek term (chrysos) for gold. Interestingly, as we are most familiar with this type of pupae, most chrysalides are attached to a surface by a Velcro-like arrangement, spun by the caterpillars, of a silken pad and a set of hooks.

Australia: Winged Everlasting (Ammobium alatum) with a skipper butterfly on it

Australian Painted Ladies are mostly confined to Australia, but have been wind-swept to the islands to the east, including New Zealand. During spring adult butterflies migrate south in large numbers from Queensland and New South Wales, surprisingly in 1889 this migration was so large that trains were unable to generate sufficient traction because of the large numbers of painted ladies resting on the tracks. The perennial Ammobium Alatum (Winged Everlasting) is an important food-plant for the Australian caterpillars.

American Painted Ladies live in flowery habitats, usually in the mountains, but are also found in Madeira, the Canary Islands and occasionally in southern Europe, their larvae feeding on the daisy family, especially the cudweeds (Gnaphalium), which have several common names, including ladies' tobacco, California rabbit tobacco, California cudweed, and California everlasting.

Gnaphalium californicum - California everlasting

There’s also a West Coast Lady, which is one of three North American species of brush-footed butterflies, known colloquially as the “painted ladies”. This particular butterfly occurs throughout much of the western United States and south western Canada.

Brush-footed West Coast Lady

Painted Lady Butterflies, as you would expect, need to rest as they go on their migration route, and not wanting to miss a trick .. they breed on the march. The eggs take three to five days to hatch, while the caterpillar takes seven to eleven days to turn into a chrysalis, and then another seven to eleven days to become a butterfly, four to six days after emerging it is old enough to mate, and then the cycle starts all over again.

Life cycle of the Painted Lady – by Mohsen Arooni, Iran via Wikipedia

They live between 30 and 40 days, because after about three weeks they are tired and tattered .. a fully fulfilled life cycle, however butterflies are early barometers of habitat change occurring within a year.

Migrating such distances, 1,000 to 1,700 miles .. they’ve been found on off-shore oil rigs, which are about 100 miles from the coast of Scotland .. they don’t tend to stay in one area long, breeding as they go – thousands of caterpillars were seen hanging from hedgerows and forming ‘curtains’ on the Iberian peninsula.

However they are incapable of surviving our winter, as they do not hibernate like our English native butterflies, why do they come, where do they go, how do they get back? Do they do the reverse trip, called by their ancestral roots – does anyone know?! We’re about to get a billion short-lived baby boomers .. can we track their journey home .. will the Atlas mountains welcome them back .. perhaps our internet savvy generations can tell us the last call of the wild for these Painted Ladies?

A year on - 2010 - and I still do not know the answer! Life has been somewhat busy ..

Dear Mr Postman .. my poor Ma has been in hospital for two visits .. one lasting two weeks and only came back to the Nursing Centre yesterday, having had an operation; then last night the room flooded .. so she's been moved to another room - no posters, too much light .. and generally not allowing her to rest .. I'm sure she'll be ok - she's pretty strong .. me too .. I've also moved house - so life has been 'real fun'!?! I am standing - just! Hence no posting .. this is one I prepared last year .. and as I only had one comment .. I think I can safely presume to repost?! Enjoy your summer holidays and time out .. life is fun here ...?!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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