Hold your hand out in front of you, at arm's length, fingers pointing upwards. Gradually move it towards you. At a certain point, it will become fuzzy and out of focus, thus proving that you really cannot see what is right in front of you. The same is true of the hinterland, the area beyond what is visible, or known. A description, which for most people, describes a semicircle, of 500 yards or so, around their front gate. The area that we pass through every day and seldom give a second glance. So, this is the project for the week and it's the perfect time to do it. You don't have to use the car and nobody is going to look over your shoulder and ask what you are doing. They may think you a little eccentric but, at the moment, eccentricity is the new normal. Think of it as a public service: you're something to watch on a dull day, while staring out of the window, at nothing in particular.

I am lucky with my hinterland, as it contains olive groves and a small, seasonal str…

Back Yard Safari

Feeling bored yet? If you're missing the big wide world outside of your front door, go out of the back door instead. There's another, even more wonderful world, in the back garden. Whether it's a beautifully manicured lawn with regimented borders, or looks a bit like a bombsite, there's a host of interesting creatures out there waiting to be investigated. Birds, bats, butterflies; molluscs, mice and moths; the list is almost endless. As I proved, from a hospital balcony a few years back, you can be a naturalist anywhere. See How To Be A Naturalist, Anywhere

Small mammals, amphibians and reptiles are great favourites and there are a number of ways in which you can observe these. A small garden pond will often attract frogs and toads, as well as providing a source of water for other creatures. A bird feeder will attract a host of garden birds, but if you can't get out to buy wild bird seed at the moment, a simple platform with household scraps (fruit is a favourite) w…

It's A Small World

Some of you may have noticed that there is a bit of a bug going around at the moment. It's OK, I'm not going to bang on about coronovirus, which you're all fed up to the back teeth reading about, but to have a more general look at the world of bacteria and viruses and try to answer the question, “what have they ever done for us?” The figure on the left (taken from my book The Quick Guide to Creepy-Crawlies) shows how life on Earth is classified into three sections (called Domains). All of the animals and plants that you can see with the naked eye (and many too small to see) fit into the bottom section, the Eukaryotes. The microscopic bacteria and the archaea between them, form a group called the Prokaryotes.

Let's look at bacteria first. You're probably familiar with many of them: Escherichia coli (E. coli in common parlance), discovered by Theodore Escher in 1884 and the bane of butchers ever since; Staphylococcus aureus, the SA in MRSA that bedevils hospitals (th…

Reminiscences II

Due to the current crisis, facebook are not allowing links

to be posted to sites talking about microscopic things

beginning with v. As my next blog is about bacteria, 

archaea and microscopic things beginning with v they 

have blocked links to it. Try 


The topographer came yesterday to measure the house and grounds in case they had mysteriusly changed since the original contract of sale (they had; another storey had been added which the builder and architect had assured us that they would legalize but apparently... and a couple of metres of land behind the house had sort of atttaced itself to the new government Land Registry – nuffink to do wiv me guvn'r, me 'and must of slipped when I was mappin' it on Google Earf). So, with a bit of toing and froing with lawyers next week the house should be legal enough to sell. The topographer swarmed up and down walls and olive trees with his GPS on a stick, the real estate agent bumbled about trying to l…