A – Z Blogging Challenge = Z is for Zentangle®

Doodling for adults is how I think of Zentangle®. I enjoy crafts of all sorts, and this is the sort of thing that I can do anytime, anywhere. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen. The idea is that you create abstract patterns of black ink on white paper, traditionally in a small square, 3.5 inches or 89mm in size. 

 Increasingly people are tangling in different shapes, and creating Zentangle Inspired Art (see pic below), building up a piece of art that often confuses the eye in its complexity.

http://tanglepatterns.com/tag/zentangle is a great resource on different patterns and how to draw them. Zentangle® is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc.


Zentangle Pictures, Drawing, Black And White, Art

And maybe because I like Zentangle®, I like the following artist, who produces large, complex pen and ink pictures with patterns http://www.elihelman.com/

A – Z Blogging Challenge = Y is for Ypres

2015-03-06 14.03.30 

 This March we were fortunate enough to go away for a few days to Holland and Belgium. Ypres, in Belgium was a place that I’d always wanted to visit. It was the site of several terrible battles between 1915 and 1918 including the Third Battle of Ypres, known as the Battle of Passchendaele. The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, above, at one end of the town,  is a particularly poignant place to visit, with the names of over 54,000 British and Commonwealth officers and men who died in World War 1 but whose graves cannot be found, carved into stone.  It’s so much bigger than I expected; the section you can see in the photo is only a small part, it extends left and right for some way. 

A register held under the arch lists names in alphabetical order, so you can find exactly where a family member’s name is carved and displayed, on the monument. At 8pm every night, traffic stops flowing through the arch, and The Last Post is played. If you visit then, you are told this is a solemn moment, and applause is not appropriate. Tyne Cot Cemetery (below), a few miles away, displays thousands more names of men who were lost.


2015-03-06 10.46.08 

Uncomfortable to think of so many deaths, every one a son, maybe a brother, a father.  *Breathes deep*. Anyway. We enjoyed fabulous frites and mayonnaise, as you’d expect in Belgium, and the Cloth Hall, included in the pic below, houses the In Flanders Fields Museum which is well worth a visit. This version of the Cloth Hall is an exact copy of the original 13th century building which was destroyed during World War 1, as was most of the rest of the town, now restored to its former glory. A thought provoking place to visit, if you have an interest in, or family members who were lost, in World War 1. Oh, and the town has more delicious Belgian chocolate shops than you can shake a stick at. Yumm.


Photo by Paul James Cowie


A – Z Blogging Challenge = X is for XOXO

There were only three, yes THREE, words starting with X in the Concise Oxford Thesaurus which was on my desk. And I didn’t fancy using any of them. So I decided to go with something which wasn’t really a word at all.

XOXO meaning Hugs and Kisses. Beloved by SMS users (that includes me now, have finally given in and bought a new fangled smartphone. Where have I been for the last goodness knows how many years?)

And I discovered there’s an entire text and internet language out there. http://www.internetslang.com 

 Am now feeling very middle aged.


A – Z Blogging Challenge = W is for Wastwater

The deepest lake in the UK at 79m deep, Wastwater (or Wast Water, both are used) is in the Lake District, in the county of Cumbria in north west England. It’s nearly1/2 a mile wide and almost 3 miles long.

You have to really want to get there; Wastwater is pretty inaccessible but so worth the effort; surrounded by 2000m hills, and with a narrow twisting road which doesn’t go all the way round the lake. It’s a stunning place, quiet, remote, slightly eerie in feel. The slopes of the hills leading down to the lakeshore are loose scree, it’s difficult, though possible, to walk and climb them. 

Several years ago police were asked to remove an ‘underwater garden’ of garden gnomes which was on on the lake bed – sadly, several divers had died while looking for the gnomes. Rumour has it that the garden may have been recently reinstated at a depth deeper than the police are allowed to dive to ….


“Wastwater, Yewbarrow and Great Gable – geograph.org.uk – 1546772” by Andy Stephenson. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wastwater,_Yewbarrow_and_Great_Gable_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1546772.jpg#/media/File:Wastwater,_Yewbarrow_and_Great_Gable_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1546772.jpg

A – Z Blogging Challenge = V is for Vicarious

The definition of Vicarious according to thefreedictionary.com is Experienced or felt by empathy with or imaginary participation in the life of another person. It isn’t a word I’ve ever used before, but here’s a very short piece using it.
Now the stage is bare, quiet. I gaze over empty seats, now bereft of people shifting, muttering, rustling. And now that I manage this ballet company rather than dance myself? The vicarious thrill of performing secondhand is better than nothing. But it isn’t the same. Could never be. I feel for the light switch, and flick it off. It makes no difference to me. In my blindness I see nothing that isn’t already in my memory.

A – Z Blogging Challenge = U is for Un

Un. Such a small word but it has such power. The power to negate, to destroy.

To make faithfulness into unfaithfulnness. To turn healthy into unhealthy.

The most prolific of prefixes in the English language, un turns up all over the place. Although in terms of changing the meaning of a word to ‘not’, it shares the limelight with im (eg improbable), and a (eg aseptic).

How many un words can you think of? I bet it’s quite a few. Strong little word, eh?

A – Z Blogging Challenge = T is for Twinkling

Physics again. Twinkling, otherwise  known as ‘How do you tell the difference in the night sky, between a star and a planet?’

Probably everyone remembers ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star’. Well, there’s your answer. If what you’re looking at twinkles, it’s a star. If it gazes back at you steadily, it’s a planet.

It’s because of the distance that the star is from your eye – it’s so far away that the light reaches you as a tiny pinprick and has had to travel through our atmosphere, through cold pockets of air and warmer ones, all of which will deflect the light away from its steady path. So that tiny pinprick of light wavers, and it looks like the star is twinkling.

Light reflected off a planet is much closer to us, so the effect of the atmosphere on the light is generally not as noticeable, and therefore you’ll see less, or no twinkling.


Dog, Wolf, Yelp, Moon, Tree, Night, Starry Sky

A – Z Blogging Challenge = S is for Similes

Similes, for those like me who had to look it up, are those ‘As xxx as a xxx’ examples that we learnt in school and then forgot for the next 40 years. So some S similes might be:

As Strong as an ox

As Snug as a bug in a rug

As Shiny as a new pin

As Sweet as sugar

As Stiff as a board.

SSSimple, eh?

More astronomy/physics tomorrow for those who have asked …

A – Z Blogging Challenge = R is for Random Walk

More physics. Ever wondered just WHY the sun shines?

You may know that our Sun is composed almost entirely of hydrogen, the lightest element in the universe. And because its very hot in our Sun (and atoms move faster the hotter it is), there are an unimaginable number of hydrogen atoms smashing together every second of every day, for billions of years so far. And what is created from that smashing together is a helium atom (the next heaviest element after hydrogen), and as a by product, a photon of light is produced. A spark, if you like. 

 That photon of light needs to get from wherever in the Sun’s depths it was produced out into space, so that eventually it arrives on Earth; light that we can see. So how does it get to us?

It takes a ‘Random Walk’. And because it’s random (a bit 2 steps forward, 1 step back, depending on what the photon crashes into, which diverts it in a different direction), a photon may take up to 1 million years to get from where it was produced, out to the surface. And from there, it takes a mere 8 minutes to get to us.

So enjoy the sunshine when you can, it’s worked very hard to get to you!



A – Z Blogging Challenge = Q is for Quarks

Physics is one of the things that I love, cos I’m nosy and like to know how things work. So, quarks.

Quarks are elementary particles that make up matter in the universe. If you thought atoms were small, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. Think quarks making up hadrons making up atoms. That’s how small they are.

What I love about quarks is how they’re described – there are different sorts, called flavors (up, down, strange, charm, top and bottom). For some reason it makes me think of an ice cream ‘I’ll have two scoops of strange please with some charm sprinkles’. Oh, and there are also antimatter versions of quarks, called antiquarks. 

If you’d like to find out more about quarks, this is a good place to start http://physics.about.com/od/atomsparticles/a/particles.htm

 And just in case you can’t get enough of the word, quark is also a soft cheese. Yumm. Yet another example of the weird and wonderful thing that is the English language making words do more than one job.