Happy birthday, Millie!

Eight years old today.

My goodness, I remember when you were only eight months old.

Hell, I remember you when you were barely eight minutes old!

Happy birthday, my beautiful girl. 🙂

Millie, aged one.
Millie, aged (nearly) eight


Visions of the Universe…in Greenwich

Visions of the Universe at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is a marvel.


Lying somewhere on the border between science exhibit and art show, it brings together hundreds of pictures of the universe, gives a brief explanation of what you’re looking at, and then steps smartly back to watch your jaw hit the floor.

I’ve been to see amazing things at the National Maritime Museum before: most notably, a talk by an actual space pilot – Brent Buffington from NASA who “pilots” the Cassini probe around Saturn (seriously – that’s his job!)

So Visions of the Universe was up against stiff competition, but didn’t disappoint.

You’re probably already familiar with many of the pictures on display: from the internet or books, and they’re all spell-bindingly beautiful.  They’re more amazing for being real, and for all being remarkable achievements in themselves; almost none are the result of lucky amateurs pointing a camera and pressing a button; they’re at the limits of the technologically possible.

Are we amazed though?  No, we become accustomed to breaking the limits of the possible; these astonishing images become the everyday wallpaper of our life.  But if you were to show the least impressive of these to an astronomer from just 50 years ago they would be astonished.

Gas tower eagle nebula

In particular, the huge HD panorama of the Martian surface would amaze them – 50 years ago the surface of Mars was a mystery.  Hell, the even basic geography of Mars was barely known!

Today, there are robots on Mars giving us HD colour 3D images of the landscape; we can practically smell and taste Mars, it seems that near.

Where Visions of the Universe excelled for me was in restoring some much needed wonder to all these images.  Displaying them in a dark, almost church-like space changes the mood – it demands reverence, it demands awe; but best of all, it pushes your eyes open wide and makes you smile like a child at the beauty of the universe – and the cleverness of humanity in capturing just a little of it.

Visions of the Universe is on from 7th June till 15th September and costs £8 for adults, £2.50 for children.

London (wild)life

This morning:

Shouty robin

Eating breakfast watching a pair of magpies squabbling over cold pasta under the beady eyes of the chickens who are being watched in turn by two squirrels on the shed under surveillance from the fence by a fat wood pigeon that carefully ignores a furious robin who strafes him every few seconds.

Never let it be said there is no wildlife in London.

Amber’s chicken management problems

Amber’s currently having problems dealing with the chickens – in both senses of “dealing with”.

First, they’re now pretty tame, so no longer respect our authority.  And that goes double if you’re less than four feet tall, i.e., if you’re Amber.

She’ll stand outside for ages waving at them, shouting at them, poking them, nudging them with her feet, and they never do what she wants.  This isn’t usually a problem because they still respond to the rest of the family – those of us with louder voices, pokier fingers and bigger feet; not to mention, a willingness to pick ’em up and throw the buggers back in if all else fails.

No, a bigger problem are Amber’s panic attacks if the chickens might be in danger, e.g. by ever being out of the coop.

I’m not kidding: she’ll be in floods of tears if she thinks there’s the slightest chance of a fox attack, wandering the garden in the rain and refusing point-blank to come back indoors.

It’s quite sweet, but after our previous chickens were killed by a fox this lot don’t get any unsupervised time out of the coop.  There’s always someone keeping an eye out if the coop is open.

But Queen Cool the chicken is often seized by the need to jump over the fence and explore the wider garden, at which point Amber rushes out to get her back over the fence.

Which, as I’ve explained, she can’t do.

She will not accept that the chickens are safe.  We’ve had tantrums and hitting and all kinds from her, trying to get back into the garden to put the chickens away.

It’s a sorry little sight, watching her traipse round the garden in the rain, sobbing, desperately trying to herd the chickens.

Revenge killing in Bexley?!

There were sensational scenes in Bexley today, following the discovery of a body in the woods!

The body, thought to be a “Mr Foxy” of no fixed abode, was found by a mother and her children on their way to school.

Mr Foxy

The woman, Mrs “Lovely” Melanie Carter and her two children, said the grisly find came as no surprise, since Mr Foxy was wanted for questioning by local police in connection with the triple murders earlier this year of local chickens, Dave, Licken and Lily.

“We were walking through the woods,” said Mrs Carter, whose husband, Stuart, is an extremely well-respected writer and blogger, “when we saw the body laid out in front of us.  He didn’t seem hurt, but he was very definitely dead.”

Police are currently questioning two Bexley chickens, Sergeant Rock and Queen Cool, but say there’s no suggestion of fowl play.

Millie’s eighth birthday party

Thanks to everybody who made it to Millie’s alien-themed 8th birthday party yesterday – and commiserations to those who couldn’t, because it was a smashing afternoon!

Millie in onesy and roller bootsTechnically it isn’t the girl’s birthday until next Sunday, but the logistics of fitting in a family and a friends’ party meant doing one a whole week early was inevitable.

There are many photos of Millie roller-skating alongside an entourage of grandparents, sisters, cousins, aunties, prams, grandparents and people in wigs, but an – ahem – unfortunate conjunction of Millie, the computer keyboard and a full cup of tea has temporarily delayed publication of those.

Me in my alien costumeTo keep you happy, here’s a lovely picture of Millie in a onesy and her new roller boots, and a rather less lovely one of me in my alien costume – including scary contact lenses and silver glitter!

Amber was completely unphased by my new look, stopping only to ask “Where did you get them?” whereas Millie (and my Mum) were both quite spooked!