Tag Archives: horses

Critters of the UK


My British pony--pony or horse seen in park on morning walk today.

So far, my impression of Norwich is that it’s way more compact compared to Cedar Rapids, and older. Cedar Rapids has no medieval walls, for instance. Houses here are smaller and closer, often arranged in connected townhouses. Here, the downtown, while more lively and retail, does not have the modern, high-rise buildings. The tallest structures are castles and cathedrals.

Still, in many ways Norwich is very familiar. The climate is milder than Iowa, but close enough that people plant pretty much the same sorts of flowers. Daffodils and hyacinth are in bloom, lilacs are opening and there are lots of swelling magnolia buds.

Trees run heavily to beeches, but also some big old nut trees. Oak are recognizable, but some of the trees are of varieties we don’t have. Still, the general appearance of the land is very Iowa like.

Creatures vary a bit more. Some observations on the living things of the UK, at least in this location:

  • The Brits love their well-behaved dogs. Many are large and rather fierce in appearance. I’ve seen a lot of rather large bulldogs who look like they could rip your throat out easily. If not bulldogs, many canines are simply very large breeds, huge hairy sheep herder things that could do some damage if the notion occurred to them. But, the dogs I’ve encountered have all been extraordinarily mild-mannered. I’ve seen many dogs who look as if they could make a lot of noise, but have not been barked at once. Many dogs were off leash on the bike trail I rode this afternoon, and yet not one gave me a second glance or made any menacing move at me. You have to watch your step in Norwich—dog owners do not seem to care about picking up their dog’s refuse—but the dogs themselves seem very nice.

Fed ducks at a park, and this goose did not approve. Actually, he was yelling at gulls, which are common and upsetting to geese.

  • Birds are abundant, but not all familiar. Some large sort of pigeon or dove makes owl like hoots all day long. There is some largish bird that is mostly white, but with black markings, that I don’t recognize at all. We saw lots of ducks and geese and even swans at parks today. They all seemed familiar. As in the states, geese are large, rowdy birds.
  • Horses seem very hairy. Or perhaps they were ponies. Anyway, there were many in the park we passed through. They were fun to see up close. Dodging the piles of pony poo on the bike trail was a challenge, though.
  • Insects overall seem less obnoxious. Amanda’s house doesn’t have screens, and does not seem to need them. Nobody has to worry about mosquitos. There are no Asian beetles, but lady bugs seem to be everywhere. One is crawling on me right now as I type.
  • Squirrels are abundant, but smaller than our Iowa variety. They are grey here, not brown. And so far, I’ve not seen any act aggressive, as I’ve heard squirrels at MMU can be. I can’t vouch for that, however—I don’t know if it’s because of my size or if they just respect faculty as a matter of practice, but the supposedly mean tree rats of the hill have always left me alone. Anyway, the smaller squirrels of the UK, which Matt says are actually an invasive American species, seem pretty retiring.

Well, there you have it. Norwich is an interesting, but not particularly toothy, place.

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Things That Go Bump in the Night …

Devil pumpkin

My Jack-o-lantern this year, a devilish pumpkin for a not-so-devilish day. I'm not worshiping Satan. I'm mocking him and turning him into a joke. The horns and ears, by the way, are tubers from the planters that Audrey's sister Paula gave us. Emptied and stored them today, and thought these were too good not to use with my pumpkin.

Tis the season of spooks and goblins. Time to list and face our primordial fears.

I’ve not always been “big” on Halloween. Sure, I enjoyed it as a kid. I was not one of those hoarders, stretch out for weeks kinds of kids—I was always a dump it out and stuff it in as fast as possible kind of guy. And chocolate and I have always been friends, so Halloween was an enjoyable evening, until the sugar crash came.

But, that was post trick or treating. Pre would often cause some anxiety. My mother was not a great planner, and we didn’t do anything to get costumes ready pre Halloween, so whatever I went out as was pretty spontaneous.

Still, I don’t mind home-made costumes, particularly in this artificial, everything comes prepackaged day and age. Like a home cooked meal, a “constructed” Halloween costume can be really good. Little Lizzie is going to be uber-cute—won’t say as what, but Amanda made it and it is sweet.

Dorothy. Were many Dorothys at Halloween on the Hill at MMU, but I think this was the cutest.

Nikayla and Tristan were part of a family plan this Halloween, a Wizard of Oz theme, which is a cute idea. Course, you can take cute too far.  There was one year that Audrey, all of the kids and I dressed up as a family of rabbits. Halloween was Saturday that year and we went to Saturday night Mass. In costume. Since we had six kids, it was a slightly racy reference, one that our oldest daughter, to her shame, could understand. She survived the trauma, however.

Anyway, I wasn’t planning to write a trip down memory lane. When I wrote the headline, my conception of this blog post was to list things that I think are scary. So there goes, Joe’s fear list for Halloween 2010:

  • Sarah Palin. Not a shock, I’m sure, but even Karl Rove says this potential President wanna be is not ready for prime time. He says she “lacks gravitas.” This from a man who masterminded the rise of one of America’s lightest presidents. A man in the junior Bush league thinks Palin lacks “gravitas?” That’s like Lady Gaga rejecting a politician for low public morals. I know, I’ve written before of my love for Sarah and shouldn’t waste more time on her—and it’s not really she who frightens me. It’s that she has millions of followers and is a potent political voice. Boo! Scary.
  • Gretchen Jones. Is it only women that I am scared of? I don’t’ think so, but another feminine name makes the list. To be fair, I’m not a Gretchen hater—I was not surprised that she made it to the finale of Project Runway. It’s not really Gretchen at all that’s scary. It’s that Mondo didn’t win. Really? The only designer whose clothes looked impossibly weird but well done at the same time? The granola designer beats Mr. Plaid and Polka Dots but somehow it still works? What is really scary is that Heidi backed down in the face of Michael Kors. Come on girl. You were right all along. (To my credit, I think, I wrote this paragraph before reading what the far hipper voices at Project Rungay had to say about the finale).
  • Horses. Sorry, Andria Pooley. Horses are big, they poop a lot, people wear hideous clothes around them and they are freaky mammals that should never come close to me. Would I be brave enough to try to ride one? Possibly. But for some reason, horses are like clowns. I know there are people who like clowns. I just don’t happen to be one. Horses are on my fear list.
  • Tristan as an adorable Toto, making friends at MMU.

    Bedbugs. They’ve been crawling all over me and biting me senseless. Fortunately, it’s all in my imagination—I have never seen an actual bed bug. But, I’m more afraid of bed bugs than terrorism. I’m not sure whether terrorists are really on the way. But, I’m close to being ready to panic and bring back DDT and kill all the eagles if the bed bugs can be kept away. (Not really, I’m speaking with more than a little hyperbole. But I am scared of bed bugs.)

  • Tans. We had HyVee Chinese tonight for supper, and the sweet young lady who rang up our purchase had a bronze glow about her. A glow that says “I visit the tanning salon so often that I set off Geiger counters.” I don’t know why or how a deep and deeply disturbing tan became the fashion among certain young ladies—particularly fair-haired young ladies who have skin that should best avoid UV rays—but they scare me. I have seen too many old people with skin that looks like bronzed alligator hide. Please, young women. A deep tan in Iowa in October says you’re working way too hard to be attractive. And, speaking for me, it’s not working. Relax a little. A pale skin never hurt anyone. But tans surely have. Scary.
  • Election day. It’s coming like a train on a greased track, and it feels like it will be a good night for Republicans. As a former Republican who occasionally has voted in the R column, that shouldn’t be so bad. But since the 1980s the GOP has moved so far to the right that it’s fallen in the hands of boobs and idiots who think Sarah Palin would make a good President. Or that George Bush would. I’ve slowly evolved into a an old curmudgeon Democrat—but I don’t think it’s all my fault. Where are the Gerald Fords or Robert Rays—moderate Republicans who act as if they can read and sometimes do? I don’t like being a straight party voter—the Democrats have some bad tendencies and we need a palatable alternative to counterbalance those bad tendencies. But, that alternative is not the modern GOP, which seems incapable of producing people who seem like they can govern. And yet, they’ll win back the House and maybe the Senate. Whatever Obama is going to accomplish, he probably already has. Yes, to me, it is frightening. Voting Republican in this era requires a deep sense of amnesia and a frightening narrow mindedness, and yet it’s the direction the political wind is blowing. Scary.
  • Taylor Swift. She doesn’t scare me personally, as far as I’ve paid any attention to her at all she doesn’t seem to be a particularly nasty young lady, certainly she is pretty sane compared to most of her contemporaries who are celebrities. It’s her singing that scares me. That love song about Romeo and Juliet? Didn’t they both commit suicide in the play? “It’s a love story,” but it doesn’t end with daddy saying go get a white dress. The characters in her songs seem trite and cliché—the band geek pines for a football star who dates a cheerleader. Sigh. I like many girl singers. I have a secret admiration for Katy Perry—no, not the “teen dream” sexy Katy Perry. But the sometimes offbeat, funny, “Waking Up in Vegas” or sings with Elmo Katy Perry. There’s a Pink picture in the MMU Times newsroom which was given to me by my daughter Theresa as a joke, but I really do like most Pink songs. One of may favorite singers of all time, however, is Sheryl Crow.  She uses her own life experience and vocal talents in songs that seems genuine and sound great.  But Taylor? Yikes. A slightly cleaner Miley Cyrus, and no, I don’t like Miley, either. Scary.
  • Blood. Especially my own, but other people’s, or animal’s, too. Don’t want to see it, don’t want to think about it, don’t want to talk about it. My most embarrassing high school moment was a 100+ student large format biology lecture when I was a sophomore. Sat in the front row (I was a straight A student in high school) and passed right out, plop onto the floor, during a lecture on coagulation. Not a dignified moment. (By the way, I am a fairly regular Red Cross blood donor. My own personal fears aren’t enough of an excuse.) I do not watch horror movies and didn’t enjoy “Sweeney Todd.” Blood=Scary.
  • People who hate Halloween. Particularly for rather lame semi-religious reasons. It’s a kids’ holiday, and it’s not that serious. It’s not a glorification of evil or the devil’s playground. Honestly, I think one reason a certain brand of conservative Christian hates Halloween is due to its Catholic roots as the evening before a very Catholic holy day. It’s called “Halloween” because it’s a corruption of “All Hallow’s Eve,” the day before what we now call “All Saints Day.” But, some Bible thumper will now point out, but it has Pagan origins. True, I agree. Yet, so does Christmas. We Christians rather conveniently co-oped something close to the Solstice festival to celebrate the birth of Christ, but really we don’t know what day Jesus was born and Dec. 25 is a date of convenience. Why does co-oping one Pagan day go without comment and the other raise so many hackles? Yes, there are aspects of Halloween that I can understand many not liking. It’s become too raunchy and too adult in our culture, and there are people of alternative belief structures who celebrate the original Pagan roots of Halloween more than the Catholic ones. So what? Don’t want to celebrate Halloween? Find by me, it’s a free country. Think that those who celebrate Halloween are promoting Satan? Bah, humbug. That’s scary.

Audrey's Jack-o-lantern. More traditional than mine, but there's something to be said for tradition. My potatoes won't shown when the candles are lit, and her's will look fine.


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