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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    the life of Christ as we know it e g his birth the visit of the Wise Men from the East the retreat into Egypt the Slaughter of the Innocents and the death of Herod For those who believe the Star of Bethlehem led the Wise Men to the stable at the inn where the infant Christ could be visited it is known that there was a remarkable conjunction of two planets in May October and November of the year AUC 747 This led local astrologers to conclude something very important was about to happen and this places the Birth somewhere between the middle of AUC 747 and the end of AUC 749 These dates correspond to our 7BC and 5BC There are other calculations too many to expound in this diary but if the actual year of Christ s birth is open to interpretation then so are the day and month There is wide belief that it was the 25th day of a month but which month is open to question Five dates in three different Egyptian months have been suggested and oddly one of them corresponds to December 25 In the third century however it was long thought Christ was born today December 21 and many nations agreed with this However it was pointed out that in the accounts of his birth there is mention of shepherds with their flocks in the fields It is argued that this places His Birth between the end of July and the end of October Not surprisingly the early Church did not celebrate Christmas as we know it preferring to expend their energies on marking the resurrection at Easter Exactly when the date of Christmas Day was determined at December 25 is also open to question It is known that it followed

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-122007.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    and grand in a city then recovering from economic problems At the front it houses the council chamber committee rooms offices for civic heads a ballroom and a dining room whilst at the rear there are offices and a shopping mall all under cover Now of course the people of Nottingham are rightly proud of their Council House and I like the fact the chiming clock nearby has been called Little John Nottingham is a curious mixture of the old and new Since its struggle from poverty following the first world war it has become a focus of industry and trade Today there are splendid shopping centres theatres a university and sports grounds From an industrial point of view it is known for its lace cycles leather tobacco engineering and textiles It was in Nottingham that Richard Arkwright 1732 1792 established his spinning machinery in 1771 and by 1790 he was using steam to power his mill He had actually set up a spinning frame at Preston Lancashire in 1768 but the fury of the workers who thought they would lose their jobs convinced him he should move elsewhere And so he went to Nottingham For centuries however the life of Nottingham focussed on the castle which has had a long and turbulent history Originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068 it was twice destroyed during the reign of King Stephen and twice rebuilt It was under siege during the Civil War and knocked down by the Parliamentarians A new castle was built by the aptly named Duke of Newcastle in 1674 79 and used as the family home but it was burnt down in 1831 It remained a ruin until 1871 when the City Corporation restored it It was then developed to become the City s Castle Museum

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-112007.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    the nest shortly before departure to France I was surprised to be aroused on our very first morning by the coo ing of a collared dove I thought our own nesting doves must have followed us to France to join us Another very common bird in the grounds was a green woodpecker and the nearby woods seemed full of them We could hear their calls throughout each day and there were several birds one would expect to see in England for example great tits robins swifts swallows house martins house sparrows and starlings Perhaps the most unusual were the buzzards A trio of them soared above our house during most of our stay their cat like calls identifying them long before they came into view Rabbits and a small red squirrel with a bushy black tail appeared in the grounds and the children were fascinated to see a pair of these squirrels fighting There were lizards galore and the boys also spotted a long yellow and black snake that slithered away at their approach According to their account it was about four feet long 120cm but I was unable to identify it Similarly I could not identify a flock of small chattering birds which arrived most evenings to settle on the poplar trees They remained for a few minutes before moving away Other evening visitors were bats which flitted among the roof beams much to the delight of the children Armed with our school French we ventured out into the countryside visiting busy little towns with their historic buildings wonderful churches local markets and of course who could resist the mouth watering delights of the patisserie I must say that the French roads in this area whether rural urban or motorways are splendid with surprisingly little traffic I wanted to visit St Emilion famous for its wine so a trip there was a high priority My brochure delightfully described the medieval town as middle aged It is the focus of so many French wines indeed St Emilion built on a hilltop among countless acres of vineyards is said to overlook 1 000 crus With its commanding tower its ancient limestone buildings narrow cobbled streets wonderful courtyards and exquisite shops the town is a delight There are wine shops on every corner many associated with nearby chateaux One can buy all manner of objects associated with wine even a potted vine for the keen gardener Strictly speaking a chateau is a French castle to qualify as such it should have either a tower or several corner turrets of the kind seen on fairy tale castles This is not the case with those chateaux that produce wine From a wine producing aspect a chateau is simply a small estate or even a farm with vineyards Chateau bottled wines are made bottled and sold on the premises and not sold to a shipper We visited Chateau St Pierre and after sampling their splendid red wine I couldn t resist buying a case to

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-102007.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    parts of the river and the benefits are obvious when cruising between banks of wild flowers and lush vegetation Fishermen were out in force too a sure sign of a healthy river Another sign of a healthy river is the number of wild birds that frequent its waters and banks We saw a family of mute swans with four cygnets and a few coot scurrying for shelter beneath the overhanging vegetation Mallard ducks and moorhens were plentiful too sometimes in pairs and on one occasion in a group of around thirty We might have seen a heron or two kingfishers little grebes otherwise known as dabchicks and even a goosander but perhaps we were too busy enjoying the good food and companionship to notice them I think the sound of the approaching boat would have alerted the foxes and roe deer which inhabit the riverside and I am sure that the dense vegetation supports mice voles and shrews weasels and stoats as well as riverside creatures such as water voles otherwise called water rats When swimming these charming small creatures look like rats hence their alternative name but they are truly voles Grey squirrels can also be seen and they are probably the most likely to be noticed being more bold and cheeky than most other species Among the varied vegetation along the banks surely the patches of giant hogweed are the most spectacular This plant introduced to this country in the 1880s has colonised several areas of the riverbank and it stands high above the surrounding vegetation a true giant among plants It is related to the parsley family of plants that adorn our roadsides This includes fool s parsley wild angelica pepper saxifrage wild parsnip and hogweed Most of us are familiar with hogweed as a roadside plant

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-092007.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    coo ing So thinking they were roosting there at night we fluttered a towel out of the window to discourage them but they were insistent that dish with its metal bracket seemed to hypnotise them And now we know why They had built a nest on the bracket How on earth they managed to balance their nest or even build it on such a narrow base is beyond me although it must be said that the nest comprising nothing more than an untidy heap of twigs looks somewhat precarious But as I write Doris the dove is sitting confidently and proudly on her handiwork with some of the sticks protruding through the mesh of the dish At first she flew from her nest each time we opened the bedroom window or even the curtains and the noise and steam from the bathroom extractor fan that is almost directly above her nest must have been unsettling Nonetheless she wasn t put off and appears to have become thoroughly accustomed to our early morning domestic routine I have to admire her stamina as she has been sitting resolutely on her clutch of two eggs all through the recent unremitting rain storms Her mate we call him Maurice appears at regular intervals to perch on the satellite dish and coo encouragement to her I ve even seen him take over incubation duties while Doris flies off to perform her ablutions in the birdbath and snatch a bite to eat Actually to be honest I m never sure which of them is sitting on the nest as the birds appear identical and I wouldn t know how to tell them apart We look forward somewhat anxiously to seeing how the young chicks cope with their unusual nesting site On a serious note collared doves

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-072007.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    Andromeda was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to sea monster before being rescued by Perseus It s all good thrilling stuff but do these tales contain any truths The story of the Loch Ness Monster is probably one of the most enduring because it has been told for more than 1 400 years often with convincing sightings Loch Ness itself is a mysterious lake twenty four miles long and surrounded by hills rising to more than 2 000 feet it has a depth of 1 000 feet deeper than the North Sea To make a thorough search of that massive inland water is impossible as successive experts and expeditions have discovered even when equipped with the latest technology No one can be sure when the first sighting occurred but the first on record is believed to be that of St Columba in AD 565 He described it as a dragon in a boiling lake he saw it at the northern end of Loch Ness when he is reputed to have saved a man from being devoured by the creature he called a water horse Critics of Columba s account suggest he was in fact describing an earthquake that had caused the water to bubble vigorously Experts believe that all sightings of the monster were in fact underwater earthquakes that produced a terrifying effect along with disturbances of the water surface that might have been misinterpreted as large aquatic animals on the move Earthquakes have reportedly coincided with many monster sightings Among the more convincing of reports is that of Mr and Mrs George Spicer who were driving along the side of the loch on July 22 1933 Two hundred yards ahead they noticed a huge creature with an undulating body It was crossing the road and completely blocked

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-062007.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    especially as some of its favourite haunts are around old castles abbeys churches and other ruined buildings It can also produce a blood curdling shriek in flight that adds to its spectral reputation Conservationists of every kind don t want this bird to vanish from our landscape but its decline has been serious and continuous During the last seventy five years its numbers in the British Isles have dwindled by about two thirds there now being only some 4000 pairs In spite of its usefulness to farmers it is the changes in farming methods which have been largely responsible for this decline As much of our rough grassland has disappeared with intensive grazing so the barn owl s food supply has diminished Another factor is the loss of another part of its habitat barn owls as their names suggests like to live roost and rear their young in barns in old ruins Today many of those ruins are being sold for conversion into dwellings In short a number of factors are contributing to the gradual loss of this beautiful bird However a group of enthusiastic volunteers are doing their utmost to help preserve the species Following his studies at York

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-052007.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    problem is that they are slow moving creatures without a great deal of road sense and in the darkness against the background of a tarmac road surface they are very difficult to see Not surprisingly therefore lots are killed by moving vehicles and in fact this is the major cause of death within the badger population In wondering how to dispose of the remains I contacted a friend who voluntarily collects the bodies of dead badgers for disposal Unfortunately on this occasion he couldn t help because his freezer cabinet was full of dead badgers all killed by passing traffic and when he contacted a local university which carries out research on such dead creatures and to whom he sends his trophies he was told they could not cope either Their freezer cabinets were also full As this was within a very small locality it makes me wonder just how many badgers are killed by traffic in Britain One area of research into badgers is the vexed question of bovine tuberculosis Live badgers are often blamed for spreading the disease to cattle For example it can be spread through grazing grass being contaminated by the urine or faeces of infected badgers by eating cattle feed or drinking water that has been contaminated or by direct contact with dead or dying badgers with advanced tuberculosis However the Badger Trust formerly the National Federation of Badger Groups says that the spread of bovine tuberculosis is due to the 14 million annual movements of cattle not badgers It points out that even in hotspots of the disease eight out of nine badgers are not affected by TB To suggest wholesale gassing of badgers would therefore result in the destruction of thousands of healthy animals Research has shown that when infected cattle are moved

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-022007.html (2016-02-17)
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