Monthly Archives: May 2009

The Small Ermine Moth

My 5 day break was immediately followed by a domestic duty so I didn’t do a Salisbury run for nearly a week. On my first day back Paul D, another driver on the Salisbury rota, asked if I’d seen any of the strange ‘cobwebs’ which had appeared in hedgerows along the route. I told him I was yet to do the route again but would come prepared with my camera to try and record what’s suddenly happened. As soon as I’d left Winchester I began to spot what he was talking about. Here’s what they look like.

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Taking a close up look it’s apparent that some sort of caterpillar is spinning the webs.

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In my photos the webs appear covering healthy green foliage but many of the webs seem to cover what I at first assumed was dead hedgrow which hadn’t recovered from the massive mauling it got from the hedge cutting machines back in the winter. Now I think that assumption was wrong and that the ‘dead’ hedgerow is simply hedegrow from which every last bit of leaf has been stripped by these caterpillars. To confirm this I’ll need to inspect a bit of ‘dead’ hedgerow but it’s difficult when you’re driving a bus which is is in service. Passengars begin to wonder why you pull up in a country lane, hop out, and then peer intently into a hedge! Those passengars who are regulars have got used to some of my ways, they know why we’re slowing down at one point – this is the area where you may spot a black pheasant, or the water buffalo are near the road this time etc.

A bit of research indicates that the caterpillars are from the Small Ermine Moth.

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The purpose of the webs is to protect the caterpillars from being eaten by birds and it seems to be very effective.

UPDATE. I’ve just been sent this link. Thanks, Jeff.

Cathy Buckle’s letter

Saturday 30th May 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

The unity government is being torn apart over the retention of the Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono. While they argue, threaten and grandstand, we look at our tattered lives.

In a box, abandoned and covered in dust and fluff, lies the evidence of my lost life savings, seizure of my home and property and destruction of my pension. I am not alone but am one of ten million Zimbabweans who find themselves in the same position, one that has unfolded in just 9 ugly years.

At the bottom of the box are the last accounts from our farm that was seized by the Zimbabwe government in 2000. The accounts show no income and there is a note attached with a rusting paper clip which says: “No compensation paid for house, fixtures, fittings, infrastructure, fencing etc.” That statement remains true 9 years later.

Next in the box is a tattered orange cardboard file. Most of it’s contents are still too painful to revisit. One section deals with lost life savings which had been invested in a bank that was closed down by Zimbabwe’s banking authorities.

In dog eared, dirty bundles held together with melting, perishing elastic bands there are piles and piles of money. Purple 500 hundred dollar notes, olive 1,000 dollar notes and then strange things called ‘bearers cheques. They are blue, red, brown, purple and green bits of paper with expiry dates and values ranging from 5 to 100 thousand dollars. They bear the signature of Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono.

Then other bundles with even higher denomination ‘bearer cheques’ ranging in value from 1 to 500 million dollars. These too have expiry dates and are signed by Gideon Gono.

There in the box are the records of new attempts to save money – futile efforts because Mr Gono slashed three zeroes from the currency and thousands became single dollars overnight.

More bundles of money, this time they are in billion dollar denominations and are called Special Agro Cheques. they too have expiry dates and are signed by Mr Gono: purple, green, brown, blue, valued from 5 to 100 billion dollars.

Then more records of how everything was lost again when Mr Gono imposed daily withdrawal limits from the banks. We could only draw out enough of our own money to buy half a loaf of bread a day; the queues were in the thousands and our money lost all its value before we could get it out of the banks.

Again Mr Gono removed zeroes from the currency; in a single swipe billionaires became paupers. New bank notes which started at one dollar soon got bigger as mismanagement continued and again we had bank notes for 500 thousand, 1 million, 1 billion. We went dizzy as notes were issued by Mr Gono for 1 trillion, 10 trillion. When Mr Gono’s presses physically couldn’t print the money fast enough, all out trillions, quadrillions and septillions were lost when trading in Zim dollars was suspended and we moved into US dollars.

At the top of the box is a small newspaper cutting. It quotes Mr Gono admitting that he removed money from private bank accounts to fund government expenses.

And after all this there is cause for argument?
Until next week with a view of scarlet poinsettias, love cathy

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The new Winchester P+R site

Building work has started but they don’t know how it will connect with the City! Full story in the Hampshire Chronicle here.

Ever since the site was confirmed I’d been wondering ‘Why there?’. For starters it’s on the same side of Winchester as the existing St Catherine’s P+R site and is only one motorway junction away from St Catherine’s (less than 5 minutes driving time between the two P+R parks). St Catherine’s is rarely, if ever, full so it certainly didn’t need an overflow car park. I predict that it will become a white elephant for the following reasons:

1. If the Badger Farm Road, Romsey Rd route is taken into the City it will take, at peak times, around 23 minutes to reach the Broadway (probably the busiest Winchester P+R stop) versus the 8 minutes from St Catherine’s P+R. The Railway Station is slightly quicker from St Catherine’s and the route suffers far less congestion than the Romsey Rd route. I know which I’d choose everytime to get to the Railway Station. The only users who’d benefit from the new P+R park and Romsey Rd route would be those destined for the University or Hospital. I exclude Police HQ because it didn’t even warrant having its own bus stop until around 2 years ago and now that it exists it’s rarely used. In summary there aren’t enough people who want get off on the Romsey Rd route to make it viable.

2. Using St Cross road would give similar, or slightly better, Railway station times than from St Catherine’s and could be the better choice for the Railway Station. Again the busiest stop at the Broadway would take longer. There isn’t anywhere before the Railway Station where anyone would wish to get off and a service for the Railway Station alone wouldn’t be viable.

The fact is that the majority of P+R users want to get to the shops, the Cathedral, the Railway Station or HCC HQ and the shortest P+R journey for all of these destinations is from St Catherine’s. County Council HQ staff wouldn’t be interested in a longer journey and paying for parking because the County Council provide parking space for employees at Bar End and provide them with passes to be used on the P+R buses.

Any new P+R facility should have been located on the Stockbridge side of the City so that intending P+R users from that side of the City wouldn’t have a long drive around Winchester to get to one of the two neighbouring P+R’s or, drive though the City to a P+R car park thereby adding to the congestion P+R tries to diminsh!

�7.1m to build it down the drain! Plus, ongoing operating losses because parking charge income will go nowhere near to covering operating costs. The only winners will be the bus company paid to run the bus services and the contractors building this white elephant.

Cracked it!

Last month I wrote about using my mobile, with a built in GPS, to transmit my current location so that my movements could be tracked on a map. I couldn’t ever get it to work with my mobile reporting a ‘Network Error’ each time it tried to transmit location data. In the end I gave up having reached dead-ends with whatever I tried.

And then I bought a Bluetooth stereo headset to use with my Blackberry because I’m fed up with headset cords! Then I discovered that my Blackberry whilst having Bluetooth 2.0 didn’t have A2DP support for Bluetooth stereo headphones. A bit of digging and I found that the latest firmware for the Blackberry did have A2DP support so I found a download and upgraded the firmware. Not quite as simple as that last sentence makes it sound – I think the technical term is that I ‘bricked’ the Blackberry. However, I finally found a way of turning a brick back into a working mobile.

Then for some unknown reason I thought today I’d go back and have a play with tracking again – it worked immediately! I guess this unexpected success can only be put down to the firmware upgrade. I’m not going to leave tracking active on my mobile all the time but here’s a taste of how it looks. If you’re seeing this shortly after I post you’ll see that I’ve been to the local Tesco and back as my most recent tracked journey. Since the map updates everytime I switch tracking on you may see something different.

Letter from Zimbabwe

Dear Family and Friends,

As Zimbabwe struggles out of the darkness of a decade of dictatorship and political mayhem we are beginning to see how hard the return journey is going to be. And how long. Little snapshots tell the story:

Two policemen, in uniform and on foot, did a walkabout tour of some local businesses this week. They want to improve relations, they say, but need assistance with the basics. They desperately need tyres for their vehicle and are looking for donations from the public. If you can’t run to tyres then how about typewriters, or paper they ask, saying they have no stationery.

Typewriters! Can you imagine modern policing being done, not on computers but typewriters! For a couple of years members of the public have had to provide their own fingerprint forms, vehicle clearance forms and even their own affidavit forms when visiting a police station and then wait endlessly as records are handwritten. With such problems as pens and paper, it doesn’t bear thinking how long it might take to restore law and order at higher levels, in regard to things like property rights, human rights and farm invasions.

Two well known shops with branches all over the country went into darkness this week as their electricity supply was disconnected. Having no tills, computers, lights or other equipment took them back into the dark ages in a hurry. They had been disconnected for non payment because the amounts being demanded by ZESA (the electricity supplier) are in the thousands of US dollars – more than a company’s entire monthly turnover. Similar exorbitant amounts are being charged by the state controlled fixed line telephone company and everyone is reeling and then despairing as they are disconnected. It appears that the electricity and telephone suppliers are trying to recoup 10 years worth of collapse in just a few months but their greed and speed is putting business and the rebuilding of the country into a new cycle of shutdown.

Cause for much excitement this week has been the availability, suddenly, of telephone lines for mobile phones. For more than eight years these lines have been non-existent, available only on the black market. In January this year a line on the black market cost 135 US dollars.This week phone lines are available legally for 35 US dollars – still ten times more expensive than in our neighbouring countries but they are selling like hot cakes. Oppressive Zanu PF legislation concerning access to information and the free press has not been repealed but the sudden boom in phone lines is a dramatic step forward for Zimbabweans who can now send and receive their own information without the political shackles.

Until next time from the land of golden grass, thanks for reading, love cathy