The Oldest Tree In The World?

After my recent tree post, I have been thinking about the oldest known tree. Most of my research has returned the above tree, a Bristlecone Pine that has been named Methuselah.

It is 4,852 years old, and located in California, near the border with Nevada. The exact location is kept secret by the US National Parks Service.

That means it started growing in 2,830 BC, during the Bronze Age. Long before the empires of Ancient Greece and Rome were established.

Now that’s what I call an ‘old tree’.

Think Twice About Cutting Down Trees

I found this photo online. It made me even more convinced that we need to think twice about cutting down trees that were not deliberately cultivated for timber.

This tree was felled in America, in 1891.

It started growing in 550 AD.

Before Mohammed was born.
Before The Battle of Hastings
Before America was discovered.
Before the Declaration of Independence.
Before The Battle of Waterloo.
Before the US Civil War.

Compared to that tree, we humans live our entire lives in the blink of an eye.

Ollie’s Holiday: Ice Cream For Dogs

On our recent holiday, we noticed that almost every cafe was selling a new formulation of ice cream for dogs. Ollie has enjoyed ‘human’ ice cream on a few occasions, as well as the residue of a few yoghurt pots. But we are aware that he is older, and less active now.

With that in mind, he was treated to a doggy ice cream on holiday, but just the one. It includes some crumbles of dog-biscuit, and Ollie devoured it, giving it his seal of approval on a warm afternoon.

(These are full-frame 35mm equivalent photos, reduced by 50%. But you can click on them twice to enlarge for detail.)

More to come of Ollie on his holidays!

Meeting Good Friends

Regular readers will know that I often mention my friend, Antony. He sends me interesting video clips, and as an accomplished photographer, he also took the photo on my ‘About’ page. I have known him for a long time, since we both worked as EMTs at the same ambulance station in London, then much later he came to work alongside me for the Police in that city. He still lives there, and still works in the same job.

In 2014, we attended his wedding to Natalie, on the south coast. Then in 2017, Antony and I (with Ollie) had a walking holiday in the Lake District which was later the subject of many photo posts on this blog. But given the distance, we haven’t seen each other since, despite keeping in regular contact by phone and email.

On Thursday, Antony and Natalie were returning from a trip to the north of England, and had arranged to stay the night in Wells-Next-The-Sea. As this is only a short drive from Beetley, we could meet up, enjoy a coastal walk, and then go to a restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately, Julie hurt her back badly on Monday, and was unable to come. Nonetheless, I was delighted to see Antony and Natalie, and we did go for that coastal walk, followed by a very nice meal and a long after-dinner chat.

(I’m on the right, in case you didn’t know who was who.
The photo can be greatly enlarged by clicking on it.)

As they were not leaving Norfolk until almost 2pm on Friday, they suggested meeting at Holkham Hall that morning. With Julie still unable to walk properly, I went with Ollie, and we met in the car park of that impressive house.

We then had a long walk around the extensive grounds, happy to have more time to catch up on those five years. Although Ollie had to remain on his lead, he seemed to be delighted to explore somewhere he hadn’t been for a long time.

Then it was time to say farewell just after 1:30pm, hoping it will not be another five years until we meet again.

Photo Prompt Story: Sergeant Evans

This is a short story, in 600 words.
It was prompted by this photo, sent to me by my good friend, Antony.

Even with the old air mattress, the ground felt hard and cold. Matt was used to that though. The ground in the Falklands had been hard and cold, and the weather had been horrible too.

There was a time when he had been a fit young man. Maybe not that academic, but sporty and strong. The Army had been a natural choice. No concern about qualifications, just a desire to serve in uniform, and to do his best. They gave him a place to live, good meals and medical treatment, and more importantly, a sense of belonging.

By the time of the Falkands war Matt was twenty-two years old, and a proud soldier in The Welsh Guards. Off they went to recapture the islands from the Argies. The first real war since Korea, they told him. He was a corporal by then, and proud to wear the stripes. He was also married to Glynis, and father to young Rory.

At the start, it was a bloody catastrophe. The Argies had been underestimated, especially their air force. The landing ships were both hit, and on fire. This was the first real action for Matt, and his only thought was to get ashore, and get some payback. As it was, they went in with the Marines against Sapper Hill, and that’s where his best mate Spence got it. Matt carried him back under fire. Almost a mile to the aid station, only to be told Spence was dead when he got there.

They gave him the military medal for that, the MM. And when they got back to the barracks in Windsor, his commanding officer presented him with the medal. He got promoted to Sergeant too. Looked better in the press release, he reckoned.

But Glynis was pregnant, and he knew it wasn’t his. A bingo caller, she said. Just the once, she said. He didn’t hit her. He was too angry.

Though he found the bingo caller, and he did hit him. A lot. Six months in prison, and a dishonorable discharge from the Army. That was worse than the jail time.

Glynis was gone when he got out. She took Rory, and moved in with the bingo caller. Matt got a halfway house, and rehabilitation in the community. He had lost the only job he ever wanted, and was marked as a violent criminal, living in a halfway house. When the horrors of the past loomed large in his dreams, the doctor put him on tablets that dulled his mind. Matt tried the Army. He asked for help. But he was now a ‘violent person’, with a criminal record. Nobody cared about such people.

Maybe move to London? They had work there. Security Guards, bouncers at nightclubs. He was still fit and strong then.

But he was too heavy-handed. He pushed when he should have talked. Hit hard when he should have pushed. Put someone in hospital when he went too far.

He was too angry, so they let him go.

The Military Medal had to be sold, the only thing that had ever meant something. But the money from that lasted less than a month. At least it bought him the tent, the inflatable mattress, and the sleeping bag. Matt rubbed his stubbly chin, thinking. How long ago was that now? Twenty years, at the very least.

If he got across the road to Macdonalds before it was busy, he could have a wash in the toilets.

And that friendly African guy might give him a free coffee, and some stale hash browns.

Guest Post: Vaidehi Venkatadriagharam

I am very pleased to feature a short story sent to me by Indian blogger and writer Vaidehi.

Here is her short bio.

Vaidehi writes travel stories, short stories and haiku poems on her blog “Weary feet…Happy soul” at She is based in New Delhi, India.


I am old and frayed now. Nevertheless, I am classy, one of substance and not like the new ones on the block. And yet, here I am, abandoned and lonely.

When I was young and in good company, I had many admirers and conversations in elegant circles revolved around me. Life was good.

Over the years, I was slowly relegated to the background. At first, to the back of the shelf and then to the trunk in the attic. But nobody can deny that I was and still am the best in deductive crime fiction. The characters that unfold as you turn my pages are still alive in the minds of people. I am told that they are still making films and serials with my main characters.

All this crowding and jostling in the trunk exasperate me. Even a trash can would be better than this! Soon, I was picked up with several others of my clan and shoved into, you guessed it right, the trash can. Talk to me about a self-fulfilling prophecy!

Abandoned and hurt, I had no faith in humankind. After a long and painful journey, I lay in the dump and resigned myself to being shred or burnt or just left to decay.

I woke up from my stupor when a gloved hand picked me up and crammed me into a coat pocket. “Now what?” I thought. I dimly remember that I passed through several hands over the next few days, none that is worth mentioning.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when the young woman looked at me with interest and I felt the care in her touch. She cleaned my red leather cover carefully, removing the smudges and stains of years of neglect and the rough and tumble of the last few days. My title glittered again and I shone like a new coin.

What does a book want? To be handled carefully, to be read with interest and to be valued. She did all this and much more.

I had been with her for quite some time when, one day, she picked me up, put me in her handbag and left for work. I was enjoying the snug ride when she took me out, put a paste-on note on my cover and placed me gently by her side on the metro train seat. I was quite happy to have a separate seat and looked around brimming with pride, to check if anyone had noticed. But I am sad to say that all of them were engrossed with a gadget held in their hands.

As my owner got up to alight, I looked up at her expectantly. To my dismay, she moved to the door, glanced back at me and got off. What? Abandoned again?

I sat there clueless and despondent. While several passed, an elderly man stopped in front of me, read the note and picked me up. Smiling, he flipped through the pages and put me in his bag. My stay with him was brief but wonderful as he too read and valued me. A few days later, I was left by him deliberately on one of the benches of a metro station.

So, here I am, lying abandoned on the metro for the umpteenth time and waiting for yet another eager reader to pick me up. I have learnt now that I am a part of a social project “book on the Delhi metro”. Books are left at prominent places on the metro trains and stations, to be picked by interested readers, who would leave the books again for others. Thus, the chain of readers continues.

Needless to say, I now love being abandoned!

If you would like to connect with her, or read more from her blog, here is another link.

Horsefly Attack!

Tuesday was a bright and sunny day. It felt genuinely Spring-like, despite the mud still hanging around. Setting off on my walk with Ollie, it was so nice to be out on a day like that. At the far end of Beetley Meadows, there was some real warmth in the sun, making me regret my choice of a fleece-lined jacket for the walk.

At least I had no need to cary an umbrella, so had taken my long dog-walking stick instead. Once Ollie had completed his usual round of sniffs and scent-marking, we set off for the river bend, where some other walkers had stopped to let their dogs into the shallow water there.

As Ollie scampered off to check those dogs out, I stood and chatted to one lady I know, from a reasonable distance of some eight feet away. I was holding the stick in my left hand, and as we talked, she was waving her hand around in front of her face, being annoyed by lots of small flies. Shaking her head, she said “That’s the only thing about the weather brightening up, the flies are appearing again”.

Seconds later, I felt an impact on my left hand, with a sharp pain accompanying it. It was something like being hit by a dart, or the pellet from an air-rifle, and was enough to make me drop my stick. I bent down to retrieve my stick, and noticed a tiny but obvious hole on the middle finger, right in the centre of it. The lady smiled, and said “Looks like one of those annoying flies has bitten you”. I nodded, and carried on walking.

I took Ollie over to Hoe Rough, to make a longer walk for him, though the mud there was still deep enough to make that something of a chore.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, I was roused from a deep sleep to discover that I was scratching my left hand like a man possessed. Too dozy to think more about it, I managed to get back to sleep.

When I woke up yesterday, my left middle finger was still itchy, and quite swollen. The hole was clearly visible, and so large that there could have been only one natural culprit. A Horsefly. Within an hour, the swelling and redness had spead onto the back of my left hand, and was causing that to swell too. I applied a steroid Itch Relief cream, then topped that up with liberal spread of Brulidine cream, which is antiseptic and antibacterial.

But by 6 pm last night, the redness and itchiness had spread across the back of my entire hand, causing it to swell tightly. Ollie didn’t like the look of it at all, and licked it every chance he got. His way of trying to cure me.

As a result, Julie is going to arrange for me to have a telephone appointment with one of our doctors today, in the hope of being prescribed some antibiotics to help with my now badly infected hand.

And all because of a fly the size of my smallest fingernail

A Nostalgic Image

For my birthday on the 16th, my lovely cousin Sue sent me an e-card that contained an old photo of us together.

She suspects it was taken in a very early type of ‘Photo Booth’. I look to be around six years of age, making her almost eight at the time.

That dates it to sometime in 1958. But looking at it now, it looks more like it was taken in 1928. I can only vaguely remember having white-blond, curly hair. Sue and I lived in the same house, her mum was my mum’s older sister, Auntie Edie. We remained very close throughout our lives, and still are today.

I am sometimes criticised for excessive nostalgia, but I freely admit that I adore this old photo.

Photo Prompt Story: Black Widow

This is a short story of 1,110 words. It was prompted by the above photo, seen on Sue Judd’s blog.

“More tea, Scott?”
She leaned forward with the teapot, ignoring the shake of my head that indicated I didn’t want any more. Joe had told me to contact her, said it would be a human interest story, and lapped up by our readers. I hadn’t expected her to agree to see me, especially as the news of the body being found had only been on last night’s telly news. But when she answered the phone, her voice went all silly and girly.

“The Herald you say? Oh yes, I would be happy to give you an interview, everybody around here reads our local newspaper. Shall we say two in the afternoon tomorrow? That will give me time to make myself presentable”.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her I wouldn’t be bringing a photographer, though I did ask if she could find a recent picture of her husband we could use.

She had crossed and recrossed her legs so many times, I was now presented with a ridden-up skirt and an unwanted view of far too much leg, given her age. When I had asked her age for the piece, she had adopted a strangely coquettish expression.

“My, you journalists have to always add someone’s age, don’t you? Well I am happy for you to put down that I am sixty-two, as long as you don’t want to see my birth certificate”.

She smiled so wide when she said that, the wrinkles each side of her mouth formed visible cracks in the powdery make-up covering her face. It reminded me of ice inside the windscreen of my car in the winter. I pushed on with the interview, asking her why she had waited so long to report her husband missing.

“I wasn’t expecting him home at any given time, Scott. He had planned his trip meticulously, Justin was a very meticulous man. He had said that he would walk the whole of the first day, then stop at a bed and breakfast before completing the rest of the forest walk the next day. He might even stay a second night, if it got too late to get a bus home. He didn’t drive you see, he had never learned how to. He said he didn’t have a lot of time for cars, though he seemed happy enough for me to use one to get our shopping from Sainsbury’s. So I went to see my friend Rosemary, and stayed over after we had too much wine. When he didn’t come home the second night, I wasn’t concerned. I didn’t call the police until he didn’t show up for dinner the next evening”.

I asked how long they had been married, ignoring the fact that she had slipped off one of her shoes, and was casually adjusting the nylon covering her toes as she looked across at me as if she would like to eat me for breakfast. Could this woman really be flirting with me so blatantly? She was much older than my own mother.

“Seven years, Scott. It would have been eight in June. We married late, you see. I had been married before, but Justin had never married. I think he wanted company after his mother died. He never showed any interest in me in THAT way, if you get my meaning”.

I got her meaning, and she continued.

“He was my third husband, Scott. My marriages seem to have been blighted by tragedy. Andrew was my first. The brakes failed on his MG sports car one afternoon. I used to tell him he should never have done his own car maintenace. Then Stephen, oh poor Stephen. He insisted on using that old ladder to fix up a new television aerial. I warned him it wasn’t safe, and said we should get someone in to do the job. But he wouldn’t be told”. And now Justin. How was I to know he would fall over a tree root, and fracture his skull? Lying there for almost four days until he died of exposure. So awful”.

She adopted a stylised expression of grief, looking much like a bad actress in an amateur dramatic group performing in a village hall.

“Things were fine until he retired. Then he became obsessed with keeping fit, as if he wanted to live forever. Hiking, power-walking, woodland walks, he was hardly ever here. And he became extravagant too, which was most unlike him. Four hundred pounds for a pair of binoculars that hung around his neck. I don’t think he ever even looked through them. Then two hundred dollars for a small red backpack that came all the way from America. One hundred and seventy for special hiking shoes, then almost three hundred for hiking boots needed for bad weather, or so he said. His last big purchase was his high-visibility walking outfit, bought to replace his old camouflage gear. That cost over five hundred pounds. Can you believe that, Scott?”

I checked my notes, and asked her why he wasn’t wearing the high visibility clothing when they found his body. It occured to me that the search and rescue helicopter might have spotted him earlier, if he hadn’t been wearing camouflage clothing and lying on top of his red backpack.

“Well he had tried it out the day before in Beulah Woods, you know, just up the road from here. But when he got home I noticed mud splashes on the trousers, so of course I threw the whole outfit into the washing machine. He was none too pleased when it wasn’t dry the next morning. So ungrateful”.

She leaned forward and placed a hand on my thigh. This woman had no concept of invading personal space.

“Now how about a slice of cake? I made it myself, a delicious Victoria sponge”.

I declined her offer of cake, but she left her hand on my leg, I could feel the heat coming from it through my trousers. I asked for the recent photo, and she gave me one taken at their wedding. I guessed that seven year old picture would have to do, and stood up, telling her I had everything I needed. I was never so pleased to get out of a house, I can tell you, and by the time I got to my car, I had started to wonder if she had put anything in the tea.

On the drive back to the paper, I wondered what Joe would think if I asked for a front page feature, and a big headline.

I thought ‘The Black Widow’ sounded about right.