Flying Weasels – Part 2

The weasels were very smart and didn’t steal eggs from the nests of the birds who had given them lifts, in the hope the bird would provide a ride to another tree in the future. The birds eventually realised this and gradually the distances the birds took the weasels began to increase. Some birds even waited for the weasel to finish his investigation of a tree before taking the animal somewhere else.

This taxi service provided by the birds to the weasels is unique in the world of nature and is an amazing sight. Although the weasels balance on the backs of the birds, they can in no way steer the bird in a particular direction; the weasel has to go wherever the bird is flying to. A bird ferrying a weasel also gives off a particular call, indicating to other birds that the bird is not being attacked and is not in any danger. These sounds and the spectacle of an animal being ferried around by a bird, adds considerably to the experience of visiting the forests of Sierra Leone.

Pants made of tape and troll rehab: after-hours Glastonbury – in pictures

Award-winning photographer Barry Lewis has been picturing the weird and wonderful late-night Glastonbury experience for more than a decade

The Flying Weasels of Sierra Leone – 1

Weasels are stealthy and cunning creatures. They know the best way they can achieve what they want. In Sierra Leone, weasels in the forest live almost exclusively in the trees and rarely venture down to the forest floor where their lives might be in danger. Weasels quickly worked out that to move from tree to tree could be problematical. Jumping from branch to branch might work sometimes, but not always, especially if distances were more than a few feet.

The weasels of Sierra Leone worked out a way of moving around the forest. They hitched rides on the backs of the larger birds such as woodpeckers, parrots, and crows. The birds didn’t enjoy having a passenger on board and tended to fly the shortest distance possible, but this suited the weasel as it invariably meant the weasel was in a tree he hadn’t visited before.

Tomcat Tompkins – Chapter 3

Tomcat opened the car door, leapt out, and did 50 press-ups on the pavement, just to get the stiffness out of his back and neck. Having completed these, he jumped over the garden gate and slammed his large hand against the black-painted front door of the house a few times. The birds stopped singing and next door’s cat, sleeping in their lounge window, opened an eye just to see who was shaking the house.  

The door opened and a man of about 40 stood there. He was about six feet tall and was smoking a cigarette. His green jumper and corduroy trousers didn’t really match, but he was of the opinion that he didn’t care a damn what other people thought.

“Tomcat,” he shouted, “how the devil are you, old boy, I knew it was you, everyone else either uses the front-door bell or the knocker, but only dear old Tomcat tries to knock the door down with his bare hands.”

“Just one hand, actually, Tiffkins old boy, who’s in with you today, old man?”

“Well, let me see, pretty much everyone you asked to be here, squiffy jones, berty bertram, teddy smethurst-pugh, father brown, father black, father white, reverend green, captain mustard, noddy houghton-smythe, cuthy cuthbert, you know, those sort of splendid bally chaps, all of your acquaintance of course.”

“Splendid chaps indeed, let’s get in there and see what we can do; i have to be quick, because I should be down near Chichester in a couple of hours, you see, old bean.”   

“New car, Tomcat?” enquired Tiffkins.

“Well, yes and no, had a bit of a spill yesterday, so had to replace that motor with another auto, which was undamaged,” replied Tompkins, “and I need to drive it around a tad, just to get the mileage somewhat believable, just in case anyone asks, you know.”

“Well, I am sure you’ll manage that Tomcat, old boy, you could get a few Bulgarians in there by the looks of it. Anyway, in we should bally well go.”

Tomcat stepped through the door, to be greeted by a chorus of “For he’s a jolly good fellow” from the assembled white men.

“Hello Tomcat,” said Father Brown, “how is my splendid friend, today?”

“Very well, thank you, old bean,” replied Tomcat.

“Hello Tomcat,” said Father Black, “how is my splendid friend, today?”

“Very well, thank you, old man,” replied Tomcat.

“Hello Tomcat,” said Father White, “how is my splendid friend, today?”

“Very well, thank you, old boy,” replied Tomcat, thankful that the triplets hadn’t brought their half-brothers along.

“Ay, Ay,” said Berty, “is that a Tomcat I see?”

“It is, woof woof,” replied Tomcat, “how’s the old loft, Berty, you’re shortly going to get a visitor, what, a winged messenger with some instructions for the lads here in jolly old Bristol. The 28th is the day and Harwich is the place where our esteemed enemy will be arriving to pay his henchmen and cronies a visit. Organising their trouble for old blighty, but we will be there to stop them, and to divert their plans elsewhere.”

Places not on Google Maps – Islands 3

February 24th Island

This island, a hundred miles from Guam, was named in honour of the birthday of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V who sponsored Ferdinand Magellan on his epic journey around the world between 1519 and 1522. Of course, Magellan didn’t make it all the way around the world as he was killed in The Philippines in 1521. In what most people describe as a deep foreboding of his demise, Magellan thought he should honour his sponsor in some way. When Magellan came across the island on February 22nd, 1521 he asked his lookouts if they could see another island close by. None of his lookouts could, so Magellan decided to wait two days before stepping ashore and officially giving the island its new name. As his biographers have written, this shows how deeply honest Magellan was as a man. Others have pointed out, Magellan could have given the island the same name two days earlier and it wouldn’t have made a scrap of difference.   


The Sporades are a group of Greek islands in the northwest Aegean Sea. Five of them – Alonnisos, Skiathos, Skopelos, Skyros, and Megalosbos – are inhabited. The islands are known for their beaches, wooded terrain, and coastal diving and snorkeling. Surrounded by uninhabited isles, Megalosbos is the largest island by far and is at the centre of a marine park that’s home to Mediterranean monk seals. On land, the only inhabitation is a monastery, home to some Mediterranean monks, who welcome visitors for a minimum period of three nights. There is no ferry, so visitors have to catch the trade boat from either Skiathos or Skyros, depending on which way they’re coming from. Visitors have to bring their own food, but the hiking is wonderful and there are over 60 miles of trails.


The North Aegean Islands are not a chain of islands like most of the other Greek islands. They stretch at irregular intervals from Thasos in the north to Samos in the south. One of the most interesting islands in this area is Tos. Most of the winners of the throwing events at the original Olympic Games came from this island. The island is very flat and there has never been much to do here, so it’s thought that the athletes fashioned javelins from the branches of olive trees and learned to throw them vast distances. The islanders also tied hemp ropes around large stones and practised throwing them.   

Black Hill Hotel – Excerpt 3

“Can you shine your torch over there?” said Knowles after Adelaide Hills had finished her bandaging.

Adelaide shone her torch in the direction he was pointing in – the hotel was about three hundred yards away.

“I was inspecting a hut in the trees over there when I was hit,” said Knowles, “and that’s about 400 yards away. Was I dragged all that way?”

Adelaide played the torch down his back – “You haven’t been dragged for that distance because you’d be far dirtier and more unkempt than you appear, I would say you were carried here and then dumped, so that you wouldn’t be visible from the path. That’s terrible, you were left in an exposed place, in the woods you’d have been warmer. We have to get you inside – can you stand?”

Knowles rose gradually and had to lean on Mrs Hills for a minute before the muscles in his legs registered the body weight and held him upright.

“Here’s my stick, Inspector.” Knowles took the proffered stick and leant on it gratefully.  

“You need blood sugar, Inspector, so I suggest you suck a couple of these sweets, they will give you boundless energy, which is the effect they have on Bingo, isn’t it boy?”

Bingo barked with glee and Mrs Hills gave them two sweets each.

“Can we head to the hotel?” asked Knowles, “will that be alright, Adelaide?”

“Yes, I will be fine, we can walk for miles can’t we Bingo?”

Bingo barked in agreement and ran off towards the stile. Knowles looked down at Clarke’s farm – the bulls were no longer sheltering by their barn, but seemed to be more spread out. The wind must have died down and the temperature had risen as a result.

“These sweets are quite tasty, what brand are they? asked Knowles as he reached the stile.

“I buy them in bulk, I forget their name, I can let you know, the bag will be with the rest of Bingo’s food supplies.”

Knowles stopped sucking the sweets – “you mean…”.

“Oh yes…didn’t I mention that, they are dog treats…I did mention that, I am sure I did.”

Knowles shook his head slowly, but kept the sweets in his mouth, as he concentrated on climbing the stile, which seemed like Mt Everest all of a sudden.

Black Hill Hotel – Excerpt 2

“Actually,” said Knowles from the ground, “that nice Inspector Knowles is already here, in fact that nice Inspector Knowles is the body on this occasion. Thank you, Bingo, what a lovely dog you are. Now, Adelaide, tell me where are we?”

“We are on the Black Hill near Frisby Magna,” replied Adelaide.

“And you have walked all the way from Goat Parva in this weather?”

“Oh no, I drove over here by the river road to see my friend Betty, but Bingo needed a walk didn’t you Bingo, yes you did…” Bingo barked and jumped around enthusiastically and even though his head hurt, Knowles smiled.

“Adelaide can you look at the back of my head using your torch and see what the damage is?”

Adelaide Hill did as she was asked – “You’ve been hit on the back of the head with a blunt instrument by the looks of it.”

“Yes, I thought as much,” said Knowles with a large hint of irony.

“Just stay still, Inspector, I will clean the wound with some snow, it would appear you have been dragged along the ground for a few yards. I will use my scarf as a bandage.”