Vox Clamantis in Deserto
The recession, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and afghanistan, including a report by George Grant of the Henry Jackson Society: Succeeding in Afghanistan

  Links to chapters:


 
A Right Old Mess. Vox Clamantis in Deserto. This chapter covers the global recession, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP, Tony Hayward and Barack Obama. It touches on the infamous blow out preventer or BOP. It discusses British Troops in Afghanistan, David Cameron and our special relationship with the USA.


Courtney's Journal - Man's Flight Through Life is Sustained by the Power of his Learning. Vox Clamantis in Deserto. This chapter covers the global recession, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP, Tony Hayward and Barack Obama. It touches on the infamous blow out preventer or BOP. It discusses British Troops in Afghanistan, David Cameron and our special relationship with the USA.


On this page: Expedition Ocean Vision 3,      Global economic Recession,     Haddon-Cave Report,
                     Family Stuff,                           Rutland Ospreys,                  Charlie the Unicorn.

Expedition Ocean Vision 3

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In 2009 Project Ocean Vision was coming along well and our next expedition after Thailand (March & April 2009) was to Egypt during the first half of October 2009 to continue work on our Coral video - click the button below to watch our video diary from Expedition Ocean Vision 3 (EOV3).


EOV3 VIDEO DIARY


The Northern Red Sea is a great place to film for a number of reasons: it's cheap and easy to get to, the dive sites are easily accessible, the coral is still in good condition (despite the best efforts of the Egyptian construction industry) and the water and the sky are so clear, making the light excellent for filming. Of course the political situation is not what it once was and continues to change.

So, EOV3 took us back to one of our favourite dive locations; while the main purpose was to shoot video footage for our new, high definition documentary on coral, we also wanted to film Sharm el Sheikh and the wreck of the Thistlegorm - not complete videos at this stage, but further work to on-going projects. The trip was a great success although we learned a thing or two about trying to cram too much into an exped. I won't go into it too much here as the exped diary and video diary both cover it all in plenty of detail. You can read The Expedition Ocean Vision 3 Diary here and there are some pictures below, taken from the Expedition Ocean Vision 3 Video Diary.

   

Project Ocean Vision Coral, from our video diary - Project Ocean Vision


Carol Courtnage Carol Courtnage Carol Courtnage on board the Sehss


   

Project Ocean Vision - Paul Courtnage Captain Courtney - Project Ocean Vision


Paul Courtnage Courtney filming


   

Carol Courtnage on board the Sehss - EOV3 Carol Courtnage Carol Courtnage on board the Sehss, Expedition Ocean Vision 3, 2009 - even serious film-makers have to relax for 10 minutes between dives.




I haven't talked much about current affairs for a while and there were two big stories around 2010 that deserve mention. The global recession is easy to cover. I'll give you two versions of the story, the short version and the detailed version.


   

The Global Recession - Short Version

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American mortgage companies lent lots of money to people that really couldn't afford to pay it back. These so called 'sub-prime' mortgages were high risk, but were very lucrative for the lenders because they could charge a higher rate of interest. Meanwhile, senior people in banks all over the world were making massive, and I mean massive, amounts of money by gambling other people's cash on these loans. Eventually too many sub-prime borrowers defaulted on their loans costing the lenders and everyone that had recklessly invested in them billions of dollars and the banks involved started going bust. Governments, believing that life couldn't go on without the big banks, simply used massive, and again I do mean massive, amounts of tax payers' cash to bail them out. Economies collapsed, businesses went bust, people lost their jobs and their homes and the bankers became even more unpopular than before.

Governments employed all sorts of strategies to get their debts under control, most involved screwing the voters even more in taxes and giving them less in return by cutting services. It was not a happy time. Of course, the heads of the banks still paid themselves huge bonuses even though they had personally ruined so many lives even though everyone else in the world kept telling them this was wrong!

Of course, governments with big debts blamed them on the cost of the recession, but if you look more closely at their finances you will find, in many cases, that their deficits were already there, albeit slightly smaller, before any of this happened. So that excuse doesn't wash.

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Malay Rinngit. Vox Clamantis in Deserto. This chapter covers the global recession, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP, Tony Hayward and Barack Obama. It touches on the infamous blow out preventer or BOP. It discusses British Troops in Afghanistan, David Cameron and our special relationship with the USA.


















Money. Vox Clamantis in Deserto. This chapter covers the global recession, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP, Tony Hayward and Barack Obama. It touches on the infamous blow out preventer or BOP. It discusses British Troops in Afghanistan, David Cameron and our special relationship with the USA.




bad bankers



Sub-prime share. Vox Clamantis in Deserto. This chapter covers the global recession, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP, Tony Hayward and Barack Obama. It touches on the infamous blow out preventer or BOP. It discusses British Troops in Afghanistan, David Cameron and our special relationship with the USA. How much of the market is sub-prime





































People queue to withdraw their money from Northern Rock People queue to withdraw their money from Northern Rock
 


The Global Recession - Detailed Version

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We need to go back to 1997 when the tiger economies of Asia suffered a catastrophic crash that was the result of large-scale investment in highly speculative ventures, government corruption, poor banking practices and ineffective regulation. Naive foreign investors had eagerly poured money into distant countries about which they knew nothing except that they were thriving. This extravagant and reckless investment created an economic boom that made the balance sheets of the Asian banks and their clients look much healthier than they actually were; an illusion that wouldn't last for ever. When the true value of Asian assets became known, investors began to get edgy and to withdraw their money. The Asian economies did not have the capital to back up their lending so asset prices plummeted. Foreign investors stampeded for the exits, forcing currency devaluations, which worsened the crisis still more as banks and companies found themselves with assets in massively devalued baht or rupiah, but with liabilities in unfortunately strong dollars. The economies collapsed.

As a result of this crisis, most major economies of Asia adopted a policy of maintaining very high forex reserves as insurance against any similar event in the future. This policy created an interesting and unexpected situation. In order to maintain their huge forex reserves, Asian countries started buying US securities, resulting in a huge inflow of dollars into the US economy.

For a while, this created the illusion of great wealth in the US, promoting rapid growth in their housing market. This, combined with low interest rates, created the conditions where it was easy for people to obtain home loans. As the number of Americans taking these loans increased the demand for properties boomed and house prices went up. There was plenty of money in the economy to lend and long-term loans like mortgages make good profits for the loan companies, so they started to increase the amount of capital available, whilst relaxing the conditions for borrowers to qualify. The lenders were encouraged to find more and more borrowers by offers of huge bonuses and other incentives - this made them increasingly likely to overlook any reasons not to loan to a customer.

Consequently, many people with low incomes, poor credit histories or those classified as NINJAs (No Income, No Job or Assets) were recklessly given housing loans. These were known, rather charitably, as 'sub-prime loans'. Since the demands for homes were at an all-time high, many existing homeowners used the increased value of their property to refinance their homes with lower interest rates and to take out second mortgages to raise capital for other spending. Loans were big business. The loan companies also lured borrowers with attractive initial interest rates, although this rate would rise sharply after a set period, but many sub-prime borrowers still opted for these terms in the hope that rising housing prices would mean that they would be able to refinance at more favourable terms when the introductory rate expired.

For the loan companies these sub-prime loans were expected to yield high returns because of the soaring house prices. Due to the risk of default, the interest rates applied to sub-prime loans was about 2% higher than those on prime loans. Lenders appeared to be winners whatever happened: where sub-prime borrowers continued to make the payments on their loan the lender would reap the extra interest; where borrowers defaulted, the lender would simply sell the house to recover the loss.

But, the massive demand for houses led to overbuilding causing a surplus of properties. Consequently, in the summer of 2006, house prices in the USA started to fall making refinancing more difficult so that the borrowers that were anticipating more attractive rates began to default as their interest rates went up. In the USA an estimated 8.8 million borrowers (nearly 11% of homeowners) found themselves in negative equity. Many simply walked away from the house and the mortgage leaving lenders to repossess. During 2007, nearly 1.3 million US properties were repossessed, which rapidly increased the housing surplus. The sales of new homes dropped by over 25% and some four million existing homes could not find buyers. All of this put further downward pressure on prices. The banks and other mortgage lenders found themselves the default owners of houses that they couldn't sell and that were worth less than the money owed on the loans.

But surely this was just an American problem confined to the housing market and greedy lenders who had effectively destroyed their own market? Well, had it remained a matter between the lenders and unreliable, sub-prime borrowers then it probably would have stayed an American issue, but this was not the case. You see, the stock markets were also booming and many big investors saw sub-prime loan portfolios as attractive investment opportunities and so many of the big American and European investment banks bought up these portfolios (known as Mortgage Backed Securities or MBSs), mostly as parts of CDOs (Collateralized Debt Obligations). This heavy buying of MBSs based on sub-prime loans by American and European Banks, effectively shifted the liability from a number of mortgage lenders in the USA to major banks all over the world. In truth, the MBSs would have been very attractive options had house prices in the USA continued to rise.

As the loan companies found themselves in negative equity with a growing number of unwanted, unsalable assets, they eventually had no option but to write off these losses and this caused the MSBs to fall in value. The complexity of the CDOs and their wide infiltration of major, international banks created a situation where no one could tell either how big the losses were or which banks were hardest hit. What they could tell was that the effects of these losses were huge.

Global banks and brokers had to write off an estimated $512 billion in sub-prime losses with the largest hits taken by Merrill Lynch ($52.2 billion) and Citigroup ($55.1 billion). Around $260 billion of this affected US-based companies, $227 billion European companies and $24 billion Asian companies. Despite efforts by the US Federal Reserve to offer financial assistance to the beleaguered financial sector, these losses led to the collapse of Bear Sterns, one of the world’s largest investment banks. Then Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, which rocked the financial world and started a real panic. Merrill Lynch was bought out by Bank of America. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, two giant US mortgage companies, were effectively nationalized to prevent them from going under.

Now the crisis spilled over into the real world. You see, the banks provide industries and businesses with investment capital and working loans. The reduction in the banks' capital meant less money to lend to businesses to sustain their activities. This caused a serious 'credit crunch' as it became extremely difficult for them to raise money from banks. Banks in the United Kingdom that had links to the US sub-prime market also began to suffer. Sensing panic, investors and savers started trying to withdraw their money before the banks went under. This happened famously to the Northern Rock and RBS. The British government had to sink billions into the banks to keep them trading, partially or totally nationalizing many of them.

Banks usually never hold enough cash to offer as credit or to meet all their short-term needs. The Money Market is the inter-bank market where banks borrow money from each other to cover this shortfall, utilizing one bank's temporary cash-surplus to cover another's temporary cash-deficit. It smooths out fluctuations in each bank's cash holdings and spending requirements. But the banks grew increasingly suspicious of each other’s ability to honour debts and, so, became less willing to lend to each other. The Money Market shrank and this began further to impede the flow of funds to the real economy - that outside the banking sector. Even top companies could no longer get the loans they needed to meet their operating costs.

Companies could no longer pay their suppliers. Suppliers started refusing their customers credit, meaning that businesses could not always afford to buy goods and raw materials or pay wages, service debts or other overheads. Productivity fell and demand for manufactured goods, especially cars, collapsed. Profits dropped for all the companies involved, which led to austerity measures such as laying off staff. People lost their jobs and it wasn't long before they too could no longer afford to meet mortgage and loan payments, which bought the problem back to the banks and other lenders - a vicious cycle.

As businesses failed, the stock market declined, tax revenues fell and national welfare bills rose. Every part of the economy was being deflated and governments' finances suffered. The world was in recession. Interestingly, on top of multi-million dollar/pound/euro salaries, the top bankers receive annual bonuses to reward them for good performance. Having broken the world's economies it would be easy to imagine that the bankers probably hadn't performed too well. Not a bit of it. Their bonuses in 2008 were as huge as ever. As an example, that year, Bob Diamond, the president of investment banking at Barclays whose base salary was £250,000, was paid £18m after bonuses. And a lot of that money had come from government bailouts - tax payers' money, not money the banks had made. Astonishing!

Anyway, as at June 2010, the recession officially ended, but governments were left with massive, sometimes unaffordable, debts and were forced to put all manner of measures in place to reduce their national spending and stimulate their economies. The recovery was set to be slow, painful and littered with mistakes. So if you wondered why so many large, seemingly profitable countries have such huge debts, one of the places to look is the financial crash of 2008 and greedy irresponsible money lenders in the USA.

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Hushaby Mountain

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OK, so thank you for paying attention to that - pretty hard going, but we need to know this stuff! As a reward, I have here a short piece of video featuring the world's greatest guitarist, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, playing Hushabye Mountain. Please enjoy, just don't watch this if you're feeling emotional!

A gentle breeze from Hushabye Mountain
Softly blows o'er Lullaby Bay
It fills the sails of boats that are waiting
Waiting to sail your worries away

It isn't far from Hushabye Mountain
And your boat waits down by the quay
The winds of night so softly are sighing
Soon they will sail your worries to sea

So close your eyes on Hushabye Mountain
Wave goodbye to cares of the day
Watch your boat from Hushabye Mountain
Sail far away from Lullaby Bay.

"Good night"


Hushabye Mountain is a ballad by Robert and Richard Sherman for the 1968 Albert R Broccoli movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

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Nimrod MR2RAF Nimrod MR2


Charles-Haddon-Cave-QCCharles Haddon-Cave QC









Ministry-of-DefenceMinistry of Defence
























BAE Systems























QinetiQ

 


Haddon-Cave Report

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The economy wasn't the only thing in a mess. The Ministry of Defence was coming under attack for a number of reasons: terrible inefficiency, disjointed functioning, wasteful procurement, lack of management and poor leadership. worse still was its record on Airworthiness - that vital function that ensures that its aircraft are safe to fly and fit for purpose.

On 2 September 2006 a Nimrod MR2 (XV230) flying on operations over Afghanistan in support of NATO and Afghani ground forces suffered a catastrophic mid-air fire, leading to the total loss of the aircraft and the death of all those on board after air-to-air refuelling; the subsequent Board of Inquiry (BoI) concluded that the fire was caused by leaking fuel coming into contact with a hot air pipe. The BOI also found that the Nimrod Safety Case (NSC) prepared in respect of the Nimrod MR1 and MR2 aircraft between 2002 and 2005 contained a number of significant errors. It was not within the BOI's remit to consider or attribute responsibility for the accident and so Charles Haddon-Cave QC was appointed by the House of Commons to carry out a review of the culture, priorities and leadership in the Nimrod project; Hutton-Cave published his report in 2009. I don't intend to comment on it, far better that you have a skim through it - it's large, so the executive summary is a good place to look. I've added a link at the bottom of this section.

The Haddon-Cave Report said the Nimrod crash was caused by a catalogue of 'negligence' by the Ministry of Defence, BAE Systems and Qinetiq. It said the crash occurred because of a 'systemic breach' of the military covenant and it went on to name and shame the people he found to have failed in their duty. Here's the list:

THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

General Sir Sam Cowan was appointed the first Chief of Defence Logistics in April 1999 responsible for executing the Government's plan to unite the separate logistics support agencies for the Royal Navy, Army and RAF into a single Defence Logistics Organisation. In 2000 he announced a target of reducing costs by 20% by 2005. Haddon-Cave QC was scathing about this money-saving edict, "The strong impression one gets from the witnesses and the evidence is that the 'strategic goal' of 20% and other required financial savings were implemented across the board with a ruthless, if not 'Stalinistic', efficiency." Haddon-Cave criticised Gen Cowan for not giving enough thought to the impact of imposing his cost-cutting target. Gen Cowan left the post in August 2002 and retired.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Malcolm Pledger succeeded Gen Cowan as Chief of Defence Logistics in September 2002 despite later admitting to Haddon-Cave that he did not believe he was properly qualified for the job. The report noted he was to some extent "handed a poisoned chalice" but it went on to criticise him, suggesting he was torn between delivering the target of 20% cost savings and supporting the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq that were then under way. Haddon-Cave said he should have questioned whether it was "feasible, realistic and sensible" to press on with the 20% goal at the same pace and within the same timescale. "There should, at least, have been pause for thought." Air Chief Marshal Pledger stood down in December 2004 and is now retired.

Group Captain (later Air Commodore) George Baber was the leader of the Ministry of Defence Integrated Project Team (IPT) responsible for a safety review of the RAF's Nimrods that took place between 2001 and 2005. Haddon-Cave accused Group Capt Baber of a "fundamental failure of leadership" in drawing up the "safety case" into potential dangers in the fleet, stating that he allowed himself to be distracted by other matters, failed to follow processes he himself introduced and did not take reasonable care in signing off the project. Haddon-Cave noted he appeared to have been more interested in "trumpeting" the fact that it was the first safety review of an old aircraft than ensuring its contents were correct. "He failed to give the Nimrod Safety Case the priority it deserved. In doing so, he failed, in truth, to make safety his first priority." Group Capt Baber was since promoted.

Wing Commander Michael Eagles was head of air vehicle for the Nimrod, supposed to be in charge of managing production of the safety review, but the report found that he delegated the project "wholesale" to a Ministry of Defence civilian worker called Frank Walsh, who was too inexperienced and not competent enough to manage it. Haddon-Cave wrote: "Michael Eagles failed to give adequate priority, care and personal attention to the NSC task. He failed properly to utilise the resources available to him within the Nimrod IPT to ensure the airworthiness of the Nimrod fleet."

None of the military personnel named above was ever brought to justice.

Frank Walsh was safety manager for the Nimrod review and primary point of contact with the BAE Systems team carrying out the work. The report noted that he should not never have been placed in the position of having to manage the project with little or no supervision or guidance, but it said he assessed hazards himself in a "slapdash" manner and failed to alert his superiors when he realised he had overlooked important issues. Mr Haddon-Cave wrote: "Frank Walsh's failure to put his hand up and admit to his superiors that he had overlooked matters, and then effectively to cover over his mistakes, is his most serious failing. In doing so, he failed to act honourably. In matters of safety, there can be no compromise on openness and honesty." Mr Walsh since left the Ministry of Defence.

BAE SYSTEMS

Chris Lowe was chief airworthiness engineer for BAE Systems, he was heavily involved in preparing the main documents in the Nimrod safety review. The report said he bore the heaviest responsibility for the "poor planning, poor management and poor execution" of the project. Mr Haddon-Cave rejected his claim that he was only keeping a "top level" eye on the review and said he was "clearly very much hands-on". Mr Lowe was ambitious for himself and his company, and hoped the Nimrod project would enhance his standing and open up new commercial avenues for BAE Systems, the report said. He "underestimated the nature of the task and overestimated his own abilities", ignoring the fact that the review was flawed and not finished. "What really mattered was producing an impressive-looking set of reports on time which could be trumpeted by his department as a success. He was ultimately prepared to draw a veil over the incomplete nature of the work. The actual content, quality and completeness of the work was not paramount important (sic) because he, like most others, assumed the Nimrod to be 'safe anyway' because of its service history."

Richard Oldfield was the leader of the Nimrod review for BAE Systems. The report found he did not come clean about large gaps in the analysis of possible risks and failed to manage the project properly.

Eric Prince was the company's flight systems and avionics manager who played a key role in the Nimrod safety project. Mr Haddon-Cave said: "He too was prepared to see the customer be given a deliberately misleading impression as to the completeness of the work."

QINETIQ

Martyn Mahy was Nimrod review task manager for defence technology firm QinetiQ, which was the independent adviser for the project. Mr Haddon-Cave criticised him for failing to do his job properly in certain key areas and failing to give any real independent assurance and noted that he either signed off or approved the signing off of BAE Systems reports without reading them.

Colin Blagrove was technical assurance manager for the Nimrod safety review, it was his ultimate responsibility to ensure QinetiQ did not sign off anything unless it was appropriate to do so. The report found that he failed in this "critical" task.

Read the Haddon-Cave Report.




 

Sophie Courtnage and Matt Geraghty

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Then we had some wonderful news: my daughter, Sophie Courtnage, and her fine Aussie bloke, Matt Geraghty, announced their engagement in early 2010, planning their wedding for 4th December 2010 in Australia (naturally, they live there!). What fantastic news! Of course, that meant Carol and I had to cancel our plans to go to Egypt and Thailand in 2010 and start planning a new, mega-trip to Australia. This would be Expedition Ocean Vision 4, which will give you something to look forward to in the next chapter.


Sophie Courtnage and Matt Geraghty
Sophie Courtnage and Matt Geraghty- engaged to be married.










Laurence Grant at Sandhurst RMA Officer Cadet Laurence Grant at Sandhurst

Chris Courtnage
Chris Courtnage in the USA.

 

Some Family Stuff

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Carol's younger son, Laurence Grant, started officer training at The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in April 2010. The first two terms were seriously tough, but he rose magnificently to the challenge and immediately put himself right at the top of his intake in every respect - fantastic! He was being sponsored by the Queen's Royal Lancers, by whom he was later accepted, to join after graduation in 2011. So that's two weddings and a passing out parade to look forward to next year.

Meanwhile, my son, Chris, had headed back to the States for a few months to run a summer camp up in New York State. He'd done this for the past four years and thoroughly enjoyed it. Good for him! Returning to the UK, he set about job hunting and moved into a really nice Georgian house in Liverpool. He did well, too, and managed to get himself picked up as a teaching assistant, in a school in Liverpool - the start of a new career and something he is really passionate about.

My mum had been having a few health problems for over a year, which was making life in Berkhamsted increasingly difficult for her. In order to get better care and support she moved into a fantastic care home in Poundbury near Dorchester. I say 'care home', but in reality it's more like a very smart hotel. The move almost immediately caused Mum's health to start to improve, so a real relief all round.

Having Mum in Dorset also meant regular trips down there to see her and this gave us the opportunity to catch up with old friends during our trips to visit her. We ran down to Dorset at the beginning of October to see Mum and she was looking so much better, the best we had seen her for a long time. A new lease of life, no less. Whilst visiting Mum, we went on to stay with Terence and Brian in East Mordern, which made a great little break for us. And here's what we got up to...


   

Dorset 2010 "If you let me out to run, I'll be your friend forever!" Sky in Air Force 1
Paul and Carol Courtnage in Dorset

Brian Ash Feeding the Pheasants - Brian Ash and Sky


   

Carol Courtnage, Dorset 2010
Carol Courtnage and Ben


Terence Arden, Brian Ash, David Parra, Paul Courtnage, Richard Le Fleming A wonderful Sunday lunch:
Terence Arden, Brian Ash, David Parra,
Paul Courtnage and Richard Le Fleming


  Visiting the south coast brought to mind
  a poem I heard once, years ago. So long
  ago I had completely forgotten about it
  until now. All Along the South Coast by
  Jeremy Taylor.
 

All along the south coast the sea is sort of there.
The sun is sort of shining through a sort of salt-sea air.
There's a sort of 'shall we' or 'shan't we', a sort of 'yes' or 'no',
A sort of rolling up of trouser legs and a dipping of the toe.

All along the south coast the day is sort of bright.
At least it's sort of brighter than it sort of is at night,
A sort of 'should we' or 'could we', a sort of 'yes' or 'no'.
It could be sort of fun. We ought to sort of have a go.

All along the south coast they're turning out the lights.
It's sort of past 11 o'clock; we've sort of seen the sights.
There's a sort of 'shall we', 'dare we', a sort of groping of the thighs,
A sort of gasp of sort of pleasure, a sort of burst of sort of sighs.

All along the south coast the waves beat on the shore.
They sound, well, sort of different now than they sort of did before.
There's a sort of 'did we' or 'didn't we', a sort of smoothing down of clothes,
A sort of "better take you home now, do you think it sort of shows?"

All along the south coast we sort of settle down.
It's just as sort of good as any other sort of town.
Only now we're sort of older, we sort of stop at home.
We paint the walls and mow the lawn and leave the world alone.

All along the south coast the sea is sort of there.
The sun is sort of shining through a sort of salt-sea air.
And all along the south coast can still be sort of seen,
A corner of sort of England that's forever sort of green.

Jeremy Taylor                                    






























Rutland Ospreys


Osprey on Rutland Water The female Osprey on her nest, from our video of the Rutland Ospreys.

 

Rutland Ospreys

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Project Ocean Vision and Rutland Ospreys
Project Ocean Vision and the Rutland Ospreys

We made a number of visits to one our favourite spots in England, Rutland Water. These trips are great opportunities to take some stunning photographs and video and to watch the lake's increasingly famous Rutland Ospreys.

Ospreys are large birds with wingspans exceeding 1.5 metres and weighing about 1.5 kg (the females slightly heavier than males). Ospreys feed almost exclusively on fish, which they hunt in fresh or salt water. Ospreys hatched at Rutland Water will generally not return here until they are three to five years old, about when they are ready to breed for the first time. They return from West Africa (sometimes Iberia now that the Earth is warming up a bit) in the Spring to lay their eggs in April. Their eggs are about the size of a hen's egg and the chicks hatch around 40 days after laying. Ospreys raise two to four chicks each year.

The chicks remain in the nest and are fed by the parents for the next seven weeks or so when they are ready to fledge. In this short time they will have reached adult size and weight - that's a lot of protein in just a few, short weeks! The juveniles stay at or near the nest site until it is time for their first migration south in late August or early September. The family migrate separately and the juveniles have to learn, not only the route, but also how to catch food on the way; the mortality rate on this first migration may be as high as 50 or 75%.

Normally, the male is the last to leave the nest site and start his long migration. We'll return to this wonderful place as often as we can. I found a useful article on the heritage of Rutland Water by the Rutland Local History & Record Society at Rutland County Museum. Click here to read.




























Oh Dear
 

Charlie the Unicorn

Right, I'm really sorry about this, but this gives me great pleasure. I have here three animated videos for you to watch. You may find them a little weird - maybe a useful demo of what happens if you come off your medication too quickly! Just don't be silly by trying to watch all three at once, OK? This is called Charlie the Unicorn. Charlie the Unicorn is created, written, directed, produced and animated by Jason Steele of independent film company FilmCow. I love it. I'm so sorry.


CHARLIE THE UNICORN EPISODE 1
Charlie the Unicorn
Click the button for Charlie the Unicorn
Episode 1 - Candy Mountain.
(MP4)



CHARLIE THE UNICORN EPISODE 2
Charlie the Unicorn
Click the button for Charlie the Unicorn
Episode 2 - Temple of the Banana King.
(MP4)



CHARLIE THE UNICORN EPISODE 3
Charlie the Unicorn
Click the button for Charlie the Unicorn
Episode 3 - Return to the Leopluredon.
(MP4)



BTW, in the second episode the Spanish that the two unicorns are speaking means: 'The man with the hat sent us! He told us many amazing stories! Tonight we dine on turtles! So good, they will be! I am happy!' I just thought you should know. Only 3 episodes were ever made so if you see any others on YouTube, they have been made by fans. Charlie the Unicorn is cool. So are Leopluredons.

Charlie the Unicorn


 


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