A Day at Whipsnade Zoo

If you’re a long-time reader of this blog you’ll know that I like, once in a while, to try my hand at photography. Now, I am by no means a professional. Barely even an amateur. But I do manage to get the odd picture or two that I can look at years on and feel quite pleased with.

One of my favourite things in the world to photograph is animals, and while I’d much rather photograph them in the wild, being a city a boy I rarely get the opportunity. So it is a delightful treat when I convince a friend to accompany me to the local Zoo.

Knowing of my love for the furry, slimy, scary and cuddly, a very dear friend decided to take me to Whipsnade Zoo, located in Bedfordshire. And I must say, if you haven’t been, you really should try to get out there. It is just breathtakingly gorgeous and seeing so many of the animals roaming in their large enclosures really warmed my heart. Many of the smaller herbivores were even roaming free about the whole compound, which was an especial treat! It may not be the great plains and jungles many of them are accustomed to, but it’s nice to see them being treated well. Or as well as can be hoped.

I hope some of these pictures inspire you to patronise this establishment for yourself. And take it from me, if you’re a real animal buff, get the ZSL Membership – 3 trips to either Whipsnade or the London Zoo and it’ll have paid for itself.

An Afternoon at the Museum(s)

Despite spending a wonderful year in Oxford I had not, much to my chagrin, visited the two linked museums in oxford – the Natural History Museum and the Pitt Rivers. So a few days past, thanks to the prodding of a very dear friend, I finally made the excursion to see the muss and fuss (and of course the Shrunken Heads!)

What followed was a realisation that these two museums are severely lacking in space. Oh don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to imply that they were by any means shoddy or architecturally minuscule… Rather I make such a comment simply to make more dramatic the point (as is my habit ; p) that the institutions are absolutely bursting with an amazingly diverse collection of artefacts, fossils and various bits and bobs. While I have had the pleasure of visiting many museums, none made so vigorous an effort to catalogue the minutia of human existence as did the Pitt Rivers. And the Museum of Natural History can boast many wonders of its own… From masks to games to arms to cosmetics – the various displays house thousands of little pieces of the human story.

But it’s not all tiny puzzle pieces of the grander human experiment (apologies for the mixed metaphor). There is also much for the less anthropologically inclined, such as dinosaur fossils, various extinct species of animals and a fairly decent collection of stuffed animals. Admittedly I did not spend much time in Natural History Museum, owing most to the fact that I found it difficult to stare at the stuffed remains of so many beautiful creatures, which I would have given much to see in the wild. Sadly for many of us, and especially generations to come, stuffed and mounted is probably the only way many of them will ever be seen.

My personal thoughts on conservation and preservation aside, the Pitt Rivers is a wonderful family friendly afternoon that I encourage all of you in or about Oxford to drop in on. Admission is free and you can even enjoy a nice picnic in the garden out front.

For more details about visiting and what’s on go to Pitt Rivers Museum or Natural History Museum sites.

Once More

Once more they rode
Through gaping maw
Strapped but with their wits and everlasting souls

Knowing they would returned changed
Some chipped, some halved
None whole

Each man stood
In his fate alone
As they strode on together

Some stiffening recalcitrant lips
Some quiet
Some hoping for better weather

The church bells rang
Staffs were gripped
As nerves and strengths were beckoned

This is your chance
Each soldier thought
You’ll receive no second

March on forward to your fate
First the left foot
Then the right

Now there is no retreat
Now we march
Now we fight

Once more once more
The general cried
Soon promised lands we’ll reach

Once more young warrior poet
Once more
Unto the breach

The First Frost

Why do we struggle so much
To find something wrong
In a world so beautiful
These were the words that rang through his head

The wind whipped past his ears
The cold snapped upon his knuckles
The frost fell upon his lips
“Beautiful!” he said

His steps upon the white pathways
Hidden soon as he stepped away
Like he had never even been there
Like he had never even tread

Dancing in the lightfall
It sang to him once more
You may not have what you thought you want
But you have this instead

Another reason to smile
To try
To stay
To wed

To a new world
A new life
A new love
Waiting ahead

And in that moment it all melted away
Their words
Her smile
That stare
As he fell upon his bed

Feliz Navidad

A friendly festive season
From bitter cold to balmy warm
From trimming trees with chilly breeze
To where mass and masses are the norm

I feel the love of so many
Family and friends, old and new
If I bet, I’ve some regrets
But only very few

In the quad and by the piano
There are carols all round
Warm wishes, festive dishes
And such happiness found

There are presents and lights
And the Christmas spirit is flowing
Warm hugs, heart tugs
And a nose that is glowing

A beautiful Christmas Tree
With merry tinsel tied
Plush and green, oh so keen
Making me happy inside

Tis the time of giving
Giving warmth and gifts and joy
Tis the season, to find a reason
To spread love to every girl and boy

So from a boy with so many places
Which home he could now call
What more to say, happy holidays
And Merry Christmas to you all

Once Bitten

Once bitten, twice shy
Twice bitten
Should I ask why?

Too much, yet not enough
But close enough
To feel, to touch

Almost there, but not quite
Not quite all
But always right?

Everything, yet no thing at all
Some kind of thing
Known not what to call

Uncertain, confused
But refused

Once bitten, twice shy
Twice bitten
Wish I knew why

A Fork in the Road

I travel a path well laid
With promises and expectations known
With costs few, and dues paid
With futures seen and plans made
I travel, this path I was shown

But in traveling I have heard of another way
Approaching in a fork ahead
This road has many tolls to pay
And where it ends I could not say
But it begins, to call my tread

For this new path has temptations of love
Of happiness and new glories
It shows opportunity to see new stars above
Of a new world to be part of
Of amazing, and thrilling stories

Now I know not which path I’ll take
Though I’m afraid in the end
With uncertainty in my wake
And a life not lived at stake
I might break, if I don’t bend

I have frosty words ringing in my ear
And yet many miles to go
I have sorrow and I have fear
But also happiness and cheer
And where I’ll end up, who knows

The Voice

Do you know what the definition of insanity is Joseph?” the voice said, in an almost soothing tone, “It’s trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results.”

It is in fact one of the most remarkable traits of the human race. We just don’t know when to give up.” The voice said, moving to the far left corner of the room; away from the near limp body secured to a wooden chair, under a single flickering bulb. And as the dark figure from which it exuded stood there, silent for a moment, Joe felt like the room was empty. And for one brief moment he was alone. But sadly only for a moment. “Surely by now you see that you can end this pain Joseph. Just tell me what I want to hear.”

“I can’t you miserable bastard… I don’t have the answer you’re looking for.” Joe blurted out, along with a mouthful of blood and a piece of his back second molar.

Oh come now Joseph. I know that’s not true. And while you yet may not. You will…” the voice said, moving menacingly closer. “The pain that I have inflicted on you so far is not nearly the end of what is before you. You may crave desperately for me to finish this endless cycle. For me to at last let those deep wounds heal and scab. But I will not. Every time you think it is over I will tear at the scars and bleed you. And you know why Joseph? Because you will let me..“, the voice gently whispered into his ear. “No I won’t” Joe screamed. “Yes you will. You will because you are too weak to admit to me the only thing that will make me stop,” the voice retorted, its timber for the first betraying its frustration. “Because you so desperately cling to your precious “hope” that what you know deep down in your gut to be true, isn’t. And it’s pathetic!” The voice bellowed, then stopped, pausing to regain its composite. “And so we shall continue this dance, you and I…” it said, in the cold calm tone with which it was accustomed.

A moment later Joe heard the sound of finger nails tapping against plastic. And with a sharp jab into his arm, the voice was gone.

Joe rose from his bed. His eyes blood-shot, cheeks stained with dried tears. His arm throbbing where the needle had pierced his skin. The floor scattered with ripped photographs and the shattered remnants of a mirror. For now the voice was gone.

For now.

Chapter 4 – The Campfire

Tell me Charles,” the Battlemage said as he stoked the amber flames of the campfire, as they danced before his eyes, “Have you ever been bested my another… Been so beaten that you were unsure you were going to get back up?” His friend turned from the tree he had anointing with the ale of the hours past, happily unaware of the dozens of endangered pixie ants he had just sent to a, lets say watery, grave. “Ha! There is no man who can best me by sword or arm Battlemage! If he were to break my arm, it would mend, and it would return unto him his favour two-fold” “But what if it is not your bones that are broken?” Barekvar added, his face looking much older now than it had in the days past. “Ah…” Charles Manor sighed, finally catching his friend’s drift, “So you speak of the fairer sex. Of wounds much harder to heal.” “I do…” replied Barekvar.

The silence in the small campsite seemed almost deafening. The two childhood friends sat alone around the amber circle, amidst the many Goblin corpses of a raiding party that made the fatal error of thinking they looked easy prey. Their other two compatriots had travelled North, to chase rumours of their quarry, while these two travelled East, to chase others.

It had been months since he had spoken of Kayla. Since the game with the Lizard King. His wounds had healed, but some scars from that evening remained. “She still lingers on your mind?” Charles prodded as he chucked another log on the hungry fire. “As she does always” Barekvar replied, “Yet…” he added, pausing, as if to search his own self to judge the veracity of his words, “Not as she used to.” And as the words passed his lips, he knew them to be true. “It is just… much harder than I expected, to do this Charles.” “Do what?” “Live…”

When you found me in that hole in the ground I was another man. My heart had been closed for so long I no longer even felt it. My mind was so perpetually numbed by ale that I no longer remembered. My eyes so clouded by the dark I no longer saw what was ahead, nor what was behind me…” He paused to swig from a flagon that still had the atrophied hand of a Goblin stuck to its handle, “And yet, somehow that was easier. For now that the shroud has lifted and I feel again… How do you do it?” The truth was, even though he told himself that he sometimes pitied Manor, and his ‘womanizing ways’, bouncing from bed to bed, he truly envied him. Not for his prowess, but for his heart. A heart that was so big and so true that it was never full, no matter how many were held within it. A heart that would never shrink, no man how many pieces of it he gave away.

There are many things I have never understood about you Battlemage” Manor said, putting his arm around Barekvar, “But of all these things, what I understand least is how you still hold onto the Healer.” Barekvar chuckled. Even though there was no love lost between them, Manor still refused to speak her name. Not because he feared the Battlemage’s ire, but because he saw in his eyes how much it pained him to hear it, even now. “Well my friend,” Barekvar replied, “that is a thing I understand no better than you.

Well, I know this” said Manor “You will heal. Perhaps not today. Nor tomorrow. But you will… For you are right Battlemage. When we found you in that drinking hall you were another man. Not the man that sits beside me now… But neither the man that I was raised with, shoulder to shoulder. Your pain and your loss have tempered you. Like a good blade. You are heavy, and thus the arm that wields you is yet unsure. But it will strengthen. And it swing stronger and surer than ever before.

A tear fell from Barekvar’s eye. For a man whose vocabulary normally consisted primarily of words reserved exclusively for bedding bevies, and telling sordid tales of said bedding, Manor had in him a warrior poet whose words could soften the hearts of men as well as women. “I hope you are right, good friend” the Battlemage said, wiping the tear from his cheek. “I know I am you old fool” Manor chuckled.

Now pass the damn Ale!

Thodi Shayarin

Teri mohabbat ka ye
Saroor hai
Ki mera pyaar,
Tere hoton se dur hai

Main jitna chahun
Na badal sakun,
Tera dil, mere dil
Se masroof hai

Maine chaha tha bohat
Tujhne apna banana

Par is duniya ne banaya
Mujhe be-mansoor hai

Teri mohabbat ka ye
Saroor hai
Ki mera pyaar tere hoton
Se dur hai

Chahun bhi to
Na jit paun
Mera inaam mere haton
Se bada dur hai

Teri mohabbat ka ye
Saroor hai
Ki meta pyaar tere hoton
Se dur hai