Wednesday, 23 May 2007


Never judge a book by its cover? Never judge a bottle of wine by its label?

Not me.

If the bottle comes in the hand of a good friend, in this case, Karen, visiting from California; if it is a bottle of red Zinfandel and if it is the same as we enjoyed some years ago, it will be good.

The label? Sin Zin ... clever!

The wine went down a treat aboard Seol na Mara after a pleasant day sail 'doon the watter'.

Karen also has a good eye for a photograph. This is her picture of a swan. For years it has sat propped against the wall of my desk.

Seol na Mara is berthed in Bowling Basin which is the west end of the Forth and Clyde Canal (Scotland). She is a Fastnet 34 sloop with a yellow hull. This is her 28th season.

This sea lock opens out to the Clyde Estuary which means that the boat is near home and, that - subject to the tide - it gives access to the open sea. The photo (taken February 2007) shows her tied up in Bowling Harbour.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007


The man who gave the world a system for classifying all living things was Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus. His birth 300 years ago (May 23, 1707; died 1778) is being celebrated in his home country here and across the world.

His classification system is still in use today. He named and catalogued (in Latin) all living things - plants and animals which includes human beings. He first divided everything into two large groups called Kingdoms then (using the sexual characteristics of the plant or animal) he sub-divided each group into secondary sub-groups (using other similar features) then sub-divided again...and again..and again.

While botanists and zoologists use all the sub-group labels as tools of the trade it is the last 2 categories, namely, genus and species, that are more familiar.

This system of 'binary nomenclature' i.e. '2 names', occurs in many languages and goes back a long time but as The Linnean Society of London (England) here states "His Systema Naturae 10th edition, volume 1(1758), was accepted by international agreement as the official starting point for zoological nomenclature. Scientific names published before then had no validity unless adopted by Linnaeus or by later authors. This conferred a high scientific importance on the specimens used by Linnaeus for their preparation, many of which are in his personal collections now treasured by the Linnean Society."

The common purple rhododendron or 'rhoddy' Rhododendron ponticum is an example where a one-word name, Rhododendron is assigned to the genus and a second descriptive name ponticum is assigned to the species (not capitalized).

Mankind can be classified, biologically, to include an early form of man: Homo (for human) and erectus (upright) and our species today is classified as Homo sapiens (wise or rational). Then there is Claude Levi-Strauss putting forth the idea of Homo faber (man the fabricator or tool maker). Someone else coined the category Homo ludens (man the player) of which there is that well-known sub-species Homo ludens electronicus.

Micro-biological organisms can be classified, for example:

(a) A staph infection is caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (yellow or golden) or Staphylococcus albus (white) bacteria found in boils, pimples, styes (an eye infection), or septicemia.

It seems the old wive's tale of rubbing a gold ring on the stye is still around. Is this something to do with gold on gold?

(b) MRSA is simply Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (shown right). Methicillin is a type of antiboiotic.

(c) Strep throat takes its name from the bacteria Streptococcus.

(d) E. coli [pronounced ee-coal-eye] is the bacteria that causes diarrhea, often found in contaminated water. It is short for Escherichia coli.

Image credits: Linnaeus portrait - The Swedish Linnaeus Society here
Staph aureus - CDC/Janice Carr/Jeff Hageman, M.H.S

Thursday, 17 May 2007


Smell and memory are intimately linked.

With the help of my Lady Gardener Friends (from now on known as LGFs) I have successfully identified a flower whose scent I recall from my early youth. The bulbs that I purchased in the autumn are now in flower and they are, indeed, the flower (and scent) that I strongly recall.

They are Narcissus "Pheasant's Eye" which has the botanical name of Narcissus poeticus.

My thanks goes to Patrick here who tells me that "Many classical poets and artists apparently described Narcissus poeticus flowers as having a pale skin and a burning heart and this may be why Linnaeus named it "the poet's narcissus". I think a better explanation is that Linnaeus was referring to the poet Ovid who wrote of Narcissus in his Metamorphoses: nusquam corpus erat; croceum pro corpore florem/ inveniunt foliis medium congentibus albis (III, 509-10) - his body was nowhere;
instead (the naiads and dryads) find a flower, its yellow centre surrounded by white petals."

This is the cover of a very beautiful, old copy of sheet music, Narcissus, from the piano cycle Water Scenes Op. 13 no. 4 by Ethelbert Nevin (1862-1901), an American gentleman who wrote this piece in 1891. It could be described as a rather sentimental parlour piece. I love it!

Sunday, 13 May 2007


Today our neighbour, Margaret, handed in a gift for Wee Ishbel. It is a woolen cardigan which she has knitted.

Wee Ish, as opposed to Big Ish - our Auntie Iseabail - arrived into our lives on Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) 2006. Her arrival has been the driving force for getting this blog up and running! In order not to clog up people's INBOX I hope this method will give access ... pleasure?... to our extended family and friends.

When sending out the announcement of her arrival I found (in Chambers Dictionary) that the derivation of the word is "probably from North Fr[ance] dialect. hoginane - 16th century aguillan-neuf (-l'an neuf) a gift at the New Year."

Quite so.

Thursday, 10 May 2007


A name has be found ... the last props are now taken away .... the champagne bottle is successfully swung ... deep breath and ho-o-o-ld ..... wait, wait .... watch the grease on the blocks.... "There she goes! "... mountainous piles of chains start to drag down the slipway ... ... dust everywhere ... darkness as the hull blocks all the daylight, then ....

KER-SPLASH!!!!!!................ and light.

Liza Dalby in her new book "East Wind Melts the Ice: a Memoir Through the Seasons", Chatto & Windus, talks about the Japanese literary genre of saijki which means "a year's journal" and is written in the prose style of zuihitsu meaning "following the [line of the] brush": follow where your line of thought takes you.

So ... after the Big Splash let's see where the ripples go ....