October 2011




This is a piece of street art, but I’m not sure what it’s about.

Situated on what I think is a little power box, on a street corner that I walk by from time to time and set down low I wonder if many people actually notice it. I also wonder what it represents.


Who is this guy with a beard, assuming he really is someone.


Is it the artist himself? Is it another artist? Or a musician? A writer?


Someone religious? A political figure? A prisoner? A terrorist even?


There’s nothing on the stencil, or any graffiti nearby that would indicate what it’s about and I’ve never spotted another anywhere.


It’s a puzzle, or should that be an enigma?


Perhaps that is the whole point.

Today I saw this.

It’s rather fabulous. After dark it will be lit up and paraded around the town as part of an arts event.

Unfortunately I was not able to return to witness this. What was also remarkable was that people were streaming past and for the most part ignoring it. How you can ignore a big cloth dinosaur is a bit beyond me. A few did cast a glance towards it with expressions that said “Ugh! That’s weird”.

I stopped and asked about it and the people I talked to seemed genuinely thrilled when I asked if I could take a photograph.

As I sat on the train afterwards I could only contrast this with the beginning of the day when I passed nearby and marvelled at the huge snaking cue of people leading to the mobile phone shop, all excited at the prospect of splashing a load of cash on a new electronic god to keep in their pocket.

The two sides of the modern zombie, with a dinosaur in the middle.

Does the rule of three that is supposed to apply to bad luck etc . and features in much else in human history apply to coincidences? I‘m not sure, but if it does then I’m waiting for a third one that’s a week overdue.

Last Friday I was reading ‘Hellfire and Herring – A childhood remembered’ by Christopher Rush. It’s a warm and melancholic memoir of growing up in a Fife fishing village after the Second World War, and one section tells of all the retired men, too old to fish, who used to gather to earn a few coins repairing hooks and lines. One of them spoke to the young boy

” ‘You see this gartlin* hook?’

One of the old ones laid in my hand the four inches of iron he was about to whip on. It was bigger than my palm.

‘How big a fish do you think it can hold?’

I shook my head.

‘I once caught a halibut of sixteen stones on a hook like that….I’ve never seen anything fight like that halibut. Sixteen stone if it was an ounce. It was the last hook on the line. We were so close in to Peterhead we trailed it behind the boat, and it was sold alive on the scales, still twitching.’ “

This made me marvel. A 16 stone halibut? That’s over 200 pounds! Now giant flatfish have never figured large in my consciousness, so you’ll understand why it seemed something of a coincidence to read about an even larger halibut the very next day (not in this paper I hasten to add).

But a bigger, and to me, freakier coincidence was to come later that same day.

It was mid-evening and avoiding the X Factor, I was sitting at the PC listening to BBC4 Extra on the iPlayer through headphones. I was catching up on a five programme series that I’d started listening to earlier in the week. Called “The Wild Places” it was about a series of perambulations by nature writer Robert MacFarlane. The particular episode was one featuring a walk in the Lake District and I zoned out pretty quickly as the writing was absolutely mogadonned by whoever it was reading the stuff.

My thoughts meandered off to a series of school walking trips to the Lakes. On the first day of the first of these we set out to walk along a ridge of peaks and stopped for an early breather by a small mountain lake. As the radio blathered away in the background, I googled the small stillwater, and clicked on its Wikipedia entry. At exactly the moment that the page opened for Bleabury Tarn, the voice on the radio said “Bleabury Tarn“.

It was as if someone was reading it over my shoulder and gave me something of a start.

Not just a coincidence, but an amazing piece of synchronicity too.

So since then I have been expecting a third coincidence, but a watched pot never boils, and I should turn my attention to something worthwhile instead.

(*What’s a gartlin hook? See here)

Something is attacking the plants in the indoor allotment. I say something because I have yet to identify them.

Mostly they are on the gingers. A careful look will reveal one or two and they are easily rubbed off, and the plants show no sign of damage. But one plant has a heavier infestation and shows the tell-tale mottling of sap-suckers at work. This is one of the few plants that I have not grown from scartch and so is, I suspect the carrier they came in on.

It’s difficult to describe what they look like because they are so tiny. Barely two millimetres in length, and less than half a mil across, they are dark grey with white markings. It difficult to say more.

I brought some home hoping that the micro-camera I have would provide more detail, but they are just too small as the photo with a penny for scale indicates.

Addendum – I quickly found out from my RHS Pest & Diseases – Pippa Greenwood & Andrew Halstead, that they are Banded Palm Thrips