Archive for September, 2009

This is just to say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I think William Carlos Williams would like this.


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Ms. Sidebottom
Dr. Polychronopulos
Dr. Pepper
Mr. Zygmunt Krukowski
Mr. Penistone
Mr. Wardrobe
Toby Lumber

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Spun spider silk

To produce this unique golden cloth, 70 people spent four years collecting golden orb spiders from telephone poles in Madagascar, while another dozen workers carefully extracted about 80 feet of silk filament from each of the arachnids. The resulting 11-foot by 4-foot textile is the only large piece of cloth made from natural spider silk existing in the world today.

The spiders were not harmed.

I would so like to touch this cloth!

And I find this utterly fascinating:

Part of the reason it’s so hard to generate spider silk in the lab is that it starts out as a liquid protein that’s produced by a special gland in the spider’s abdomen. Using their spinnerets, spiders apply a physical force to rearrange the protein’s molecular structure and turn it into solid silk.

What physical force, exactly?! Sounds completely magical to me.

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Happy Autumn!

It’s the autumnal equinox today, and it feels like it here in Tunbridge Wells. It’s sunny, crisp, and chilly.

Usually I like fall, but this year the onset finds me less than enthusiastic. Last winter was very difficult for me, and as the days get shorter I am reminded of how dark and dank it can get.

But, in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the sun and changing leaves, and see what the allotment still has to yield. Bring on the parsnips, says I!

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Lambs to the slaughter

There’s currently a story in southeast England that is dominating the news programmes: the fate of Marcus the sheep.

Primary school students in Kent have been raising three sheep, as well as assorted rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks and chickens all as an exercise in education about the the local economy and about the food chain. A student council, aged seven to eleven, has recently voted 13-1 to send Marcus to market. The proposed plan is that they raffle off the meat and buy pigs with the proceeds, which would eventually be made into sausage.

The head teacher of the school Andrea Charman has stuck to her guns despite the maelstrom of negative response from parents and, in my opinion, hypocritical sentimentalists. The opposition has made arguments along the lines that since the children have raised the sheep, it is cruel to have Marcus sent to slaughter. They seem to think it is too much for a child to see where meat comes from, and to have a part in that process. Bah, I say, bah! (Baaaaa!)

Yesterday I was watching South East Today, a nightly news show, and tut-tutting over the drama. Viewers were invited to email the show their opinions on the Marcus débâcle, a few of which would be read live on-air. Fully aware that they would be getting a hundreds of responses a minute, I emailed my two cents:

My husband and I are simply incredulous that an attempt to teach children about the food chain has become such a controversy!

I firmly believe that most people are far too disconnected from the origin of their food; I heartily endorse Marcus the sheep meeting his intended end.

The children themselves voted for this, and I think the opportunity for real knowledge is what is valid, not illusionary sentimentality.

At the end of the show they read three or four emails of varying opinions, one of which was mine! They omitted the third line, but it was very fun to hear my name and words on the BBC.

Guess what Francis and I are having for dinner tonight.

*** UPDATE: Marcus was slaughtered a couple days ago, on schedule. Yum yum!

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Full 209 photos.

More manageable 35 photo set.

Many thanks to Tom and Jan for taking photos, and a special thank you to Will for the same.

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