Monday 31 August 2020

Purple Loosetrife Rampant

After two cricket matches over the weekend, I was feeling rather stiff and sore, and so my run early this evening was only a very gentle one - just as well as my calf began to feel a bit of a strain as I trundled along to Cottage Lane nature reserve.

Things are no more or less the same as before the pandemic, apart from the masks you see in the shops. The rowing club were out training on the mirrored Trent, people are even flying hot air balloons which reminds me of when very early during lockdown I came across a couple assembling a powered parachute in Riverside Park.

Lots of people are living normally now, but I'm not.

Out at Cottage Lane, the vivid blue of the tufted vetch is gone, but a new colour is now dominating by the ponds. Lovely purple loosestrife, as id'd again by Flora Incognita, growing on the margins of the water. Joining it are marsh mallow, which probably isn't as tasty to eat as it sounds, and also yellow loosetrife which is totally different in form from its purple relative.

Hopefully this app will continue to help me get better at knowing my wildflowers.

Came back in along the river, past the local swan family, past small family flocks of wagtails and past the windmill. It was good to be out, but my running was rather laboured.

Which reminds me, I need a lot of new kit.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 31.08.20

Sunday 30 August 2020

Yeah, About that Last Game Thing...

I had a late call up into our Sunday side today to play Oxton, which meant I had to be a bit brave and get a lift with the family of our opening bowler.

Masked up, and with the windows open, we looked like Dillinger and his chums off to raid a bank in 1930s Chicago, although he went around with violin cases with machine guns in, rather than cricket bags full of mouldering kit - I had to rescue mine from the laundry basket.

Oxton is one of the prettier grounds we play at; it's surrounded by fields full of sheep, has keening buzzards circling overhead and was periodically raided by low level high speed swallows. However, the wicket is like a strip of rolled plasticine and barely bounces more than ankle high.

They are a very good Sunday side to boot, and an unusual one in being much better than their Saturday outfit, with guest players from Gedling Colliery firsts and seconds up in divisions A and C.

I.E rather better than our motley little band, which had been made worse by me being substituted in for a decent all rounder. Not a fair swap.

We batted first, and after a very bright start we totally failed to come to terms with the slow, tacky pitch, lobbing up catch after catch to leave us 30 for 5.

However, thanks to a couple of our senior players who put on a partnership of about 60 against accurate bowling with a very high standard wicket keeper, we clawed our way back into the game. I got to bat, at 11 of course, and somehow managed to score 7 runs off this Division A bowler. No wonder he seemed pretty quick to me even on that moribund wicket.

We closed on 129 for 9 off 40 overs, so we were at least in the game.

I opened the bowling again, and frankly I reverted to being terrible, kicking off with three howlingly huge wides. I just don't know where they came from, I wasn't doing anything any different from yesterday. But my first legal delivery took the edge of the opener's bat, and he was caught behind.

Apparently that was the result of a cunning plan. I apologised to the batsman as he walked off.

I did get better after that, but not by much. I realised the only way to straighten up was to really put maximum effort into every delivery to make sure I was completing my action. This sort of worked, but it meant I banged the odd one in short.

One such delivery pitched halfway down, and travelled towards the batsman about 4 inches off the ground, at which point it went under his bat and hit the stumps.

Now, double bouncing deliveries are no-balls. However, there now followed a long argument about whether the rule means bouncing twice before the batsman, or twice before the stumps.

It was ruled, correctly, the former, but not until a lot of arguing between the square leg umpire who hadn't been looking, the main umpire who had, and the batsman who was, to say the least, very put out, shouting repeatedly that the ball had bounced twice. Eventually the umpire more or less sent him off, and off her stomped, mumbling loudly all the way.

"Here mate, don't forget your dummy!" called our slip fielder, possibly unhelpfully.

I did what I do best, stood there and looked bemused and incompetent.

Anyway, I was raken off when I dropped a couple short in my 5th over that got spanked by the Division C batsman, who was now joined by the Division A bat, at which point I should add that I've been asked to point out by the powers that be that sending in top division players to play against much lower division ones is not in the bally spirit of the game, what ho.

Spirit or not, they proceeded to thrash the ball everywhere in such a way as to make my bowling look like James Anderson. When I went off, they were 30 for 1 off 10 overs. They then proceeded to hit the 100 more they needed off about the next 12.

I dropped a fairly straightforward catch of the third team captain, who probably wished he hadn't asked me to play. That said, I had to umpire at square leg in the cold while he slept under a blanket. So my sympathy is tempered.

It occurs to me I've been going on about what a terrible and worthless bowler I am, but looking at the stats, I'm the club's second leading wicket taker with 9 at 18.89. So I must have done some good bowling somewhere along the line.

Maybe I forgot it.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 30.08.20

Saturday 29 August 2020

A Better Way to End the Season

I must confess, as the rain pelted down yesterday, that for the first time ever, I was hoping today's game would be called off.

It's not been a great season for me, I started off carrying injuries from running and so wasn't able to attend practice sessions much. Hence my match bowling suffered, and the exaggerated fall away in my action kicked in and I was bowling everything yards wide, and with no pace.

This all meant I dropped way down the bowling pecking order, felt I had lost my various captains' trust, and with my dyspraxic idiot fielding, and the fact I always have to bat at 11 because reasons, meant I wasn't getting into the action much.

Yep, crises of confidence affect us rubbish players too, not just Jofra Archer.

Anyway, after I got home and rescued my saturated cricket trousers from the rainy washing line and dried them in front of a halogen heater, causing steam to rise up as if from a tropical swamp, I began to feel more optimistic. That's the thing with cricket and cricketers, there's always the hope you will have that day where you will do something really special. I watch it happen every season to other players, so why not me?

"Because you're crap!" I can hear the voices at the back say.

So, today, a horrible grey mizzly one, but the game against Farndon went ahead. Although without me for the first couple of overs, because of bike and brain problems. Luckily we were batting first.

And we were batting well, our opener and number 3 were going really well and took us towards the hundred. In between rain breaks, as the mizzle got thicker and turned into a persistent rain that never left for the rest of the day really.

And sheesh, how cold it was. I don't think I've played in colder conditions. It was like playing in bloody Greenland. I envied our former captain who brought his converted camper with him.

Our problems started when I went out to umpire. I rather like umpiring, it can be good fun when you aren't being called a cheat. Unfortunately it seemed to trigger a collapse, with our opener stumbling and getting run out - my first run out given - for 38, and the number 3 lobbing up a catch off a bowler who spent most of his time bowling double head height beamers or double bouncers, and making me feel like Stuart Broad.

I got to signal "Free hit" a few times, also a new thing. It involves you waving one arm in circles above your head and so is rather fun.

There was another run out shortly afterwards, and I was then replaced, the skipper obviously decided I was a bad luck charm. Well, I wouldn't disagree.

I didn't have to bat as our 7 and 8 spanked a partnership of about 40 - including a huge 6 into farmer's field - to take us to 144 for 7 off our 30 overs.

So, we went out to field, with me not expecting to anything other than field. I nearly died when the captain asked me to take the new, or more accurately, wet ball with our fastest bowler.

It was he who did the initial damage as he took two wickets with some pretty hostile stuff. But I helped keep the run rate down. My first ball had gone for a rather harshly given wide, and in my first over I dropped a couple short and got spanked, but after that, it was ok, especially as I had been choked with nerves.

I've tinkered with my action a little bit to not jump and fall away, and to keep my front arm high. It seemed to work, and I was able to put the ball more or less where I wanted it. No great pace, but a little more momentum and a bit of swing and seam movement. The same batsman rather annoyed me by edging 4 times to the same fielder at gully, two of which were dropped catches - one an utter dolly - while one went just over him and another dropped short.

"Well bowled Mr Miyagi" was called out a few times, my new nickname in reference to the white headband I now wear in my uncut covid hair. Well it was ok out there. Felt a bit more like a cricketer again.

No wickets though.

Finally, with the last ball of my last over - we only had 6 each today - I swung a ball behind the legs of their number 4 to bowl him, my first wicket in god knows how long. What a bloody relief to not feel useless, and be told I had deserved it.

With them needing 90 from their last ten overs, the match should have been dead and buried. However, the mysterious "Oz" who apparently used to play for us and was built like a tank. He found the farmer's field a few times too, and with of our front line bowlers injured, we were running a bit short of options.

However, we were just about keeping them behind the 8 ball, and with them needing 39 of the last three overs, one of our lesser heralded bowlers castled him for 50. This led to much jubilation, which lasted one ball when their even tankier captain strode in and smashed his first ball into a faraway tree.

Luckily, he was castled next ball to leave us winning a pretty exciting game by 22 runs, my first second team win of the season, and one that gets us in the play-offs.

That is probably the season over for me though, as I think any play off games we have will be away fixtures. But at least it ended well.

No longer thinking of quitting.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 29.08.20

Thursday 27 August 2020

Flora Incognita

I've installed the "Flora Incgnita" plant ID app on my phone, and have tested out a little bit in the last two days in between rain showers when I've had a break at work.

Although our campus is now starting to look very autumnal, there are still a few flowers about for me to test the app on or try and ID, and when it works Flora Incognita seems to be a pretty good way of getting a reasonable ID.

It is a very simple app to use, and unlike others seems to be 100% free with a database of several thousand species to ID against. You simply activate the app, take a photo of the top of the flower and if this isn't enough to get a positive result, it asks you to take a picture of the top of the leaf, then a sideview of the whole plant.

It was very quick to confirm pennyroyal, st john's wort, bristly ox-tongue (a new flower to me, and wow you can see how its leaves give it its name) and gave an ID on autumn hawkbit after three photos.

The one it seems confused about is clustertop vervain, AKA verbena. The wild garden seems to have two distinct varieties of vervain growing, one with just long stems leading to the flower head, which I think is your actual cluster top vervain, and another shorter variety with spiny leaves, and a sort of feathery body beneath the flower cluster.

It thinks this is clustertop vervain as well, but I'm not so sure.

It may be that the photo quality wasn't good enough, my Moto G 7 plus struggles with focus on flowers when there is a cluttered background.

I will keep trying it, and report back further.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 27.08.20

Tuesday 25 August 2020

Not a Very Good Bumble Rescue

Tried to to my bit for nature today in the midst of the howling gales and scudding rain that were and still are characterising the day here.

Didn't go really go to plan.

I came across a rather sodden looking buff tailed bumblebee sat in a puddle on the pathway at work. It would have got trod on if I left it, so I extended a finger and lo and behold with very little prompting the bee crawled onto my finger and then on to my palm.

I resolved to take it to the wild garden area to see of I could drop it off on some verbena or buddleia. However, just as I arrived and was looking for a suitable bloom, the poor thing was blown right off my hand by yet another blast of wind and I never saw where it went.

At least it was safe from being squished, and had warmed up a bit, but I was hoping for a rather better outcome for the poor creature.

Tonight's bike ride home in the storm was terrifying. Never want to have to ride in that kind of wind again.


All text and i,ages copyright 25.08.20

Monday 24 August 2020

Back to the Park

I hadn't realised that I hadn't been to Sconce and Devon Park for a month at least after my return to work, and wanted to go down today to see if I could photograph any dragonflies, this being peak season for common darters.

Well I didn't find any, although there were a few migrant hawkers zipping about at a distance. But, I found some nice bees and flowers, and it was good to be nature hunting away from work. The season may be winding down but I have no intention of becoming less active.

It does seem that for a lot of folk in this town, normal life has been restored. There is a bar in town that is usually jammed with folk doing their "Eat Out to Help Out" thing, another bar that has non-socially distanced fights outside every Friday, and a pub that is putting on indoor gigs again.

Me, I am far more cautious, and I'm one of those folk who have been left a little bit damaged by this whole pandemic experience, luckily only psychologically rather than physically by the virus itself. But I will go on as long as it takes, if I have to spend Christmas alone then that is what I will do.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 24.08.20