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Back in May last year, I posted an item on the proposed Encyclopedia of Life.  I was interested to hear that the first 30,000 species were to be launched yesterday.  Unfortuately, the servers hosting the site couldn’t cope and it was down on the first day.  The entries are all written by scientists but it will eventually take contributions from the public – like wikipedia.  So despite my efforts I still haven’t managed to see the site as it is still down though most reports say this is a temporary problem – see if you are more successful than I have been www.eol.org.

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I mentioned last week that I was lucky enough to attend a meeting at the University of Cumbria, Ambleside Campus and that the trees were quite magnificent. On checking my phone, I have only a couple of photos but thought I would post them anyway. They are of a spectacular maple/oak tree on the way into the main building.

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This was the view from underneath its canopy.

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Fantastic colour and quite stunning.

I’ve mentioned before about my bus journey from Dar es Saalam to Tanga. As we went further north I noticed an increase in plantations of large spiky plants. I actually thought they were pineapples but it seems they weren’t. They are sisal plantations. The sisal market had collapsed a few years ago but apparently is now on the up again (I’ve no idea why!) It is used to make mats, flooring, handbags and of course cat scratching posts.  You can see why I thought it was pineapple.

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Finally Abid Mehboob made a comment on the Battle of Tanga post and he has a site all about Tanga.  In particular I think I’ll find out more about the ‘Lost Hero of Tanga’ the writer Shaaban Robert.  There are loads of photos of Tanga and a large section on the history of the town.

Steve and Pia’s house was surrounded by trees and in the evening they were alive with small Blue Monkeys.  We saw loads of them but unfortunately my camera was not up to getting close enough to them.  One tree at the bottom of the garden looked as if it had a life of its own as its branches thrashed and fleyed around so much as dozens of the monkeys jumped and squabbled and chased each other all over it.  monkeytrree.jpg

As usual I’ve raided Google images for a photo.

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What a handsome chap – more information on blue monkeys is here.

I was delighted to read last week of the formation by many of the world’s leading scientific institutions of the Encyclopedia of Life. This is an unprecedented global attempt to document all 1.8 million species of animals, plants and other life forms. For the first time in the history of the planet, scientists, students, and citizens would have multi-media access to all known living species. The aim of it is to provide valuable biodiversity and conservation information to anyone, anywhere at anytime. So over the next 10 years the project will produce internet pages for each species so far discovered and those yet to be discovered. There are a few sample internet pages already produced and it looks like it will be a fantastic resource. Check out the Death Cap Mushroom. Full report here.

Further up the mountain from Emau Hill there is a tea plantation. There is also a small factory there that processes the tea – I’m saying processes, because I don’t really know what they do to it – dry it I suppose. teafactory.jpg

This is the factory and the buildings on the right are a small school. The tea is picked by hand and yes the pickers do have those huge baskets on their backs, like the lady on the PG Tips box.

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The baskets are very very heavy – this isn’t an easy job and it was  unbelievably hot.teapickers2.jpg

If you wondered what tea actually looks like – well here you go.

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I was very fortunate that my visit coincided with an annual event that was truly astonishing.  Mid to late February sees the emergence of hundreds and thousands (literally) of small white butterflies.  They were everywhere and it was almost like being in one of those toys that you shake to make the snow whirl around, but these were real.  I did try to take some photos of them but – they were very small butterflies.  As Pia and I walked up the hill one day as they were fluttering around us, I burst into song,  of course,  Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah (yes I did look up the spelling) from the 1946 movie Song of the South.  So lesson learned – get a better camera! This is the best of the attempts, you can see a sort of white blur and a few white dots – these are butterflies – honestly.
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Now I’ve reduced the size to fit into this it’s even less clear – you’ll have to take my word for it.

I’m fortunate that I work in the lovely North West city of Lancaster. Although I do mostly drive into the city centre most days to do some shopping – what a shock, I do now and again venture towards the coast and Morecambe. Once a vibrant and thriving georgian seaside resort it had fallen on very hard times in the late 90’s. However, over the last few years the place has been given a spruce up and although there are some pretty run down areas, they are trying. I love Morecambe bay with its forever and dangerous shifting sands and tides. It is said that the tide can come in with the speed of a galloping horse.  You can take guided walks across the top part of the bay at low tide.  Two years ago 21 cockle pickers died after being caught in the rising tide. I went down there last week and parked opposite one of my favourite shops.

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As you can see from the outside it’s pretty chaotic and the inside is no different, but if you like old bookshops it’s a real treasure trove. Of course despite having a pile of books waiting to be read at home, I bought a couple more, Brighton Rock by Graeme Green, and In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin.

There are a number of brilliant sculptures dotted around the town and the promenade and of course the comedian Eric Morecambe is immortalised in his famous ‘Bring me Sunshine’ pose. eric21.jpg

Morecambe also produced another ‘national treasure’ in the late Thora Hird.  It is worth re-visiting and I’ll take more time next time.   But of course I  took the time to take a picture of some plants.  I didn’t actually realise I had this plant thing – I am turning into my mother!

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The rainy season has started in East Africa and my oh my does it rain. The weather forecast for Tanga which is the nearest main town is here. It was just sort of thinking about starting when I was there and we had a couple of evening downpours. When it rains there it rains with a vengeance. I took these one evening while I was there.

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This was the view from the front steps of the house – yes I do seem to have spent a lot of time there. But this shows the rain more clearly, looking through one of the vehandah windows.

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Steve let me have some of his photos and this was taken last year of a bridge on the way up to Emau Hill, the water is usually about 4 metres below – yes 4 metres! There is a real danger sometimes of the road being swept away.flooded-bridgesmall.jpg

I did spend a lot of time back at the house, just relaxing/sleeping. It’s amazing how the body sort of realises that this is a holiday and goes into recovery mode. I would sit down to read and the next thing I knew I’d be asleep – and this is 2 hours after getting up from at least 8 hours sleep! Oh well, I just reckoned it was because I needed it and just enjoyed it. As I’ve mentioned before, I was awake most mornings by sunrise and just used to potter out to the front steps to sort of come to terms with the day.

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Here is a fine example of why you should look properly at what you are photographing – otherwise you end up with a picture showing loo cleaner on the table!  I had put it there to remind us to get some when we went shopping and hadn’t removed it before I took the shot.  So above is a picture of the table on the verandah where we ate and an empty bottle of harpic or something.

Before me everyday however, Anton would be out in the garden either cutting grass or gardening. Cutting grass consists of swinging a massive long and very sharp blade which is pretty lethal if in the wrong hands. Anton is the house boy and he looks after the house and dogs when Pia and Steve are back in Europe. He is a great gardener and was planting loads of vegetables and flowers when I was there.

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He would have already been up, boiled the kettle and filled a flask with hot water. This was then left on the sideboard so we could help ourselves to tea or coffee.

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Sitting here in a wet and dreary Yorkshire writing about my time there makes me determined to go back.

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