Trend setting

There was a great fuss when the ‘Shaun the Sheep movie’ was done in 2015. Not only was it to star Shaun the Sheep, originally a bit part character in Wallace and Gromit, but it was attempting the impossible: it was to be a feature-length silent film for children. Not just any children, but the children of ‘now’ who expect every moment to be action packed. For this the animators studied ‘The artist’, a silent film from 2011 and earlier films from the original silent era.

Oddly, when discussing Shaun’s Movie there wasn’t much mention of ‘Wall-E’, released in 2008 and also aimed at children. The household found this film particularly useful – it happens to be silent for the first half and so could be enjoyed by a visitor who struggled with English. ‘Wall-E’ and Shaun aren’t entirely silent, there are yells, but there also aren’t any words for the audience to read or interpret.

Well, now we can add ‘The Red Turtle’ to the list, a collaboration by Studio Ghibli from 2016. It appears simple, yet is complex enough to be gripping. A man stranded on a desert island, prevented from leaving, then gains a companion. There are shouts and the noise of water, but the only language used is gestures.

Both snakes have shed again. Must be doing something right.

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For one time only…

Last week, the household visited an exhibition. This is a reasonably rare event, so it has to be something unusual. I described it to a colleague who initially thought of it as ‘same old’, then pondered and said, “It’s a once in a lifetime isn’t it…?”

The exhibition is the artworks of Charles I at the Royal Academy. He wasn’t just a prolific collector of past and current pieces, but living at the time of masters such as Van Dyke he was able to summon and commission them to do fresh works to his liking as visitors or artists in residence. After his death the whole collection was broke up and sold. Many pieces are now the founding works of national galleries around the world, each priceless and irreplaceable in their own right. Catalogues of sale still exist so it’s possible to know what was in the original collection and to trace each work. For the first time many have been gathered and are being shown together.

I was resolutely going to see this as I missed Hockney last year (sold out and open ridiculous hours anyway) and other exhibitions such as the Terracotta Warriors.

Due to work patterns we only decided on the day, which presented its own challenges. Travelling to central London means going by train. We live near enough that this should be straightforward but even offpeak that would be £89. So the greatest planning time of the day was spent finding a station with parking that we could get to easily, from which we could travel in. That reduced it to £25 and petrol. I was told afterwards there are better deals to get, but you have to already know about them – they’re not exactly advertised. And they wonder why people drive…

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Settling in

Our new additions are settling in: they’ve both shed so they must be doing OK. We now have a 4ft long snakeskin on top of the vivarium with which to scare visitors. It’s useful because we can check if there’s any scales still sticking by seeing what’s missing.

While we were cleaning out the vivarium, we sat the smaller snake in a large, lidless container as usual. He sat unusually stayed still, looking miserable with indigestion. Shortly afterwards we discovered a large mound of snake poo and an absence of snake. We found him behind the TV, wrapping himself round the warm cables.

The other snake is twice as long and weighs over three times as much. She’s confident and curious, with a good turn of speed. We’ve realised a little too late that she matches the curtains that she likes making a dive for – not a quality we needed to be aware of when choosing them.

Male and female… can’t see any future problems there… although they have lived together for years and apparently there haven’t been any issues… yet.

In other news, the constituent parts of the household met over ten years ago now. Time flies – it’s now been five Christmases together.

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Great snakes!

And the same weekend, we acquired some new arrivals.

Other households acquire children. We’ve heard that that is an expensive hobby, leading to stress and lack of sleep. So instead we went for something a little quieter.

Someone round here has a pet fur allergy. We also still have the rats so don’t want something that would attract them or be scared of them, e.g. a hamster and its food.

To an extent that limits the choices…

So after 16 months of discussion and waiting to have somewhere reasonable to put them, we have acquired a pair of corn snakes from a reputable home. Their previous owner needed them to go but wanted a home that would take their care seriously, so kindly waited. We have got ‘small’ ones which will grow up to… six foot… who are so brightly coloured that should they escape we’ll see them. They live up to 23 years. They are in a purpose built container. If they get out they’ll be found on a radiator or in the garden and will return within two weeks when they want feeding.

Feeding used to be the sticking point with reptiles, but the advice on this has changed. Gone are the days of ‘live food’. Now they have defrosted food, bought from petshops, bred specially. It’s no weirder than mincing a cow for cat. Live food is no longer done as both the snake and the food are raised in an entirely artificial environment so have no idea what the other is when they meet it, causing terror and injury to both. And caught food is never done for those reasons and the diseases carried by the prey.

Corn snakes come with the four magic words, “Non-venomous, non-constrictor.” Actually, that’s not strictly true, but I’m not a mouse so it’s not a problem.

In the meantime, they’re sociable and inquisitive souls, who don’t mind being handled and like supervised free-range exploring the environs of their new home.

If that doesn’t scare the rats off, nothing will…

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Flown away

Last Saturday, Dragon flew away.

A professional mechanic with an interest in restoring Dragon’s more ancient family members came to collect it. He was amazed at how well kept the engine was and that I had all the original paperwork from decades ago, from the letter congratulating my Aunt on her new purchase to the two manuals that refer to Dragon as the maker’s ‘Baby’.

He’s younger than Dragon.

So, it’s sad to see it go, but it’s to the best possible home I could get for it. It had reached the point that if Dragon did not go now, it would have been beyond repair. Now it may have a third lifetime. The idea is that it shall have its chassis frame replaced and become a ‘runabout’ for the mechanic’s girlfriend who has taken a fancy to his current even older car and would like a Dragon.

He’s signed to say I’m to have regular updates on Dragon’s progress.

And totting up, Dragon is his 42nd car. I’d like to think it was meant to be.

One day, I shall see Dragon drive past me…

(V5 and all other legal bits were done too and I have copies).

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Snow days

It’s warm in the south they say…

Right now, where I’m sat is colder than Glasgow, Toronto and Oslo. It’s official.

I’d noticed something was up when I drove home on Sunday.  Serious men in 4x4s were turning back at the hills due to the snow and ice, kindly coming to warn me to do the same. Cars were getting stuck and frantic phone calls were happening. But I learned to drive on gravel quarries, taking Dragon across surfaces that skid out under each wheel with no warning, any or all four at once, each in three dimensions. The only difference this time was that the new car is 0.5 tonne heavier and the dashboard lights up beautifully when it panics, realising that neither it or I are anywhere near the road.

Hadn’t had this much fun driving in ages. Did help that there was no one else about…

When I got home I built a snowman in the kitchen.

Just lost some credentials in another direction though. Apparently aloe vera can be kept outdoors. Not in these temperatures. Just brought them in for the winter having chipped some ice off. The outer leaves are drooping, what with the water having frozen within, but the centres are still alive so at least they’ll be able to hop around hunting rats.

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It’s 3:37 am.

Courtesy of night shifts I’m up on my night off doing my dissertation. Given how dark the house is, I can assure the eco-minded that there’s no saving in light by doing it in the day.

Just been down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and a snack, where I discovered that a member of the household has opened the German chocolate biscuits and wolfed half of them without telling me. And given the lack of noise overhead, it’s not a rat.

How I came to be looking at the German biscuits isn’t the point.

There shall be words in the morning.

And not just because we’ve just finished the stroopwafels so are feeling deprived.

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