The car broke down, and on a trip filled with minor disasters, it was the best thing that could have happened during the holiday. I left it at a garage in Aberdeen city centre and I had three hours to kill before it would be ready to collect. Walking towards nowhere in particular, camera in hand, I found this beautiful cavalcade of roses. I was compelled to test out my new camera in what turned out to be the beginning of an afternoon of photography. The results are below.
Whilst perusing them for choosing which pictures to share with you all and which ones to discard, the following little ditty came into my thoughts, and it is somewhat appropriate (plus it’s ALWAYS Music O’Clock in my house; to say I like music is an understatement).
Do you know where I found these? Outside an unremarkable retirement complex with no interesting architecture or other heritage, in a city filled with ancient buildings. I guess it reminded me that beauty is everywhere, we just have to pay attention to it. When I put a magnifying glass to this patch of roses with my camera, it has become bigger in my memory than it was in real life, but if I saw these every day, I probably would never have noticed their beauty.
This was really the turning point in the trip to Scotland in August (it was two hours after that head injury), and everything started to pick up from the moment I decided to take photos of these flowers instead of passing them by in the search for something “interesting” to do. The next part of the afternoon’s photographic extravaganza can be found here, which begins around the corner from the roses pictured above.
I guess it really is true that everything in life can be pinned down to a series of tiny decisions.
I slept like a log last night. Do logs actually sleep? How do logs sleep? Like me?
This is Newgrange, a Neolithic site in Ireland that was on my 30 list, which I visited in June when I went to Dublin to see The Who (I recently re-read that article and I’m glad I waited to write this one because I wasn’t making a lot of sense back then).
Newgrange was constructed around 3,200BCE (it’s 5,000 years old; BCE means ‘before common era’). It’s a chambered passage tomb in Neath, Ireland, about 40 minutes drive up the road from Dublin Airport. It is ringed by kerbstones, most of which are carved. The site was previously filled to the top with soil and remains (I have no idea what they were remains of), but in an act of Archaeological Stupidity, it was cleared out in the Victorian era (Ireland did also call the time period this because they were under British occupation at the time) so we don’t have as much evidence as we would like, so archaeologists can’t really say what was going on except that it was a chambered passage tomb. Which I said already.
It’s mostly risen to significance in the last hundred years because of an interesting phenomenon: For a couple of days before and after the winter solstice (December 21, midwinter), every year, when the sun rises, it shines in through a hole above the doorway and shines on the floor of the tomb, making it a clever way to mark the passage of time because it marks an annual event. You can get entered into the lottery that they draw to get a ticket to see it in December but you’d have to make your own way there and you’d have to go alone because the lottery is per ticket. I went alone but I’m not sure I felt like repeating the trip in the middle of winter and I have to wonder how many people win a ticket then don’t show up for whatever reason, causing other people (who would have turned up) to miss out.
Why does it only do it on Solstice? Because the Earth is tilted, and it’s orbit around the sun is slightly elliptical, so the sun appears to move position in the sky to different heights (in its second dimension, it rises and sets on one plane and lifts and falls on another; see the diagram below) at different times of year. In Ireland, in winter, it’s at its lowest during the winter solstice, so the rest of the year, it’s too high in the sky to shine through the hole above the entrance to Newgrange. In summer, it’s got further to travel than in winter, so the days are longer (actually, we’re the ones travelling, but it’s easier to think of it this way if you’re stuck).
Why go to all the trouble to build something so big just to mark the passage of time? Well there’s a few reasons (if we’re assuming this was its only purpose which is doubtful due to the human remains that have been found inside), but it’s mostly to do with the fact that during the Neolithic (when Newgrange was built) most of the world had transitioned to agriculture – in fact, these days, we define “Neolithic” as happening at different times around the world depending on when the onset of agriculture was, nothing at all to do with stone tools or fire or whatever. The Neolithic fits into our current “age system” for prehistory (was the “three age system,” but sort of expanded now) like so:
Palaeolithic – Was “Upper Stone Age” (really long time ago, all of human prehistory until 10,000 years ago) Mesolithic – Wasn’t a thing, now defined as between 10,000 years ago and the onset of agriculture. The time of the “hunter-gatherers” Neolithic – Onset of agriculture. Iron Age – Discovery of and use of iron. Bronze Age – Discovery of and use of bronze (an alloyed metal) Historical – documentary evidence of events in the past.
These “ages” are debatable and the time we reached them differs around the world and particularly how they are defined differs around the world as different cultures view different events as being pivotal moments in their past development. It is fairly likely that Newgrange, then, was built without the use of iron and was built by people who were living in an agri-culture. Because this is really all we know about them, it has been put forward and agreed upon by many archaeologists that Newgrange’s function as a big calendar probably has something to do with needing to keep track of the time of year for purposes such as planting crops. This, of course, would depend on what sort of agriculture was taking place because there is always a bit of an assumption that agriculture has always looked the same since it was first brought to the West, but we don’t actually know that to be true (and are gaining evidence that this is not the case – a topic for further discussion at some point perhaps). Evidence for agricultural practices has pre-historically been difficult to find although advances in bioarchaeology might move us forward with this if people start seeing farmed land as legitimate archaeological sites instead of just looking for settlements. Anyway…
I’m not using “absolute” words because you can’t point to anything in the past and say it’s a fact or an absolute truth, because it’s all down to whether we’ve made the correct interpretations of the evidence or not, and while scientific methods can reduce the margin of error, they can never fully eliminate it so most of the time we can’t construct those elaborate “histories” or narratives of the past that people like to hear with any great amount of accuracy. Which sort of defeats the original point of archaeology if we’re to believe it was ever really about finding narratives of the people from the past in the first place (which I don’t believe, I believe that came later).
Enough Archaeology! Show Me The Photos:
It was remarkably short but still enjoyable. For the fact I’d waited so long in line and on the bus and for the tour to start, I thought there could have been a lot more made of the age, construction, and archaeological finds (by contrast, the tour at Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh is fantastic, if you want an out of the way and mysterious site to visit with a damn good tour, go there). Most of the information I gave you in “archaeology” was stuff I had researched as part of my archaeology final year dissertation (and never used, because I decided to stick with British Neolithic sites). There were also too many people visiting for the size inside the tomb, and the guide told the taller people to get to the back (which is fair on the shorter people, and usually I’m all for this, but when the taller people are then unable to see much, it’s just a bit unfair). It was stunning inside, but there was no photography. More annoying still, there were no photos of the inside of the tomb available to buy in the gift shop, all the pictures focussed on the light on the floor or this one specific rock with carvings in it. For you, dear readers, I did sketch while I was in there. Forgive my crude drawings; I got a D in GCSE Art and when I did my degree, I only did archaeological drawing for 2 days then I dropped it because it was the stupidest course I ever went on, and everything we learned there had no real use in a situation like this (y’know, an actual archaeological site).
Given the way that the sun was behaving, and the fact that I went two days after the Summer Solstice (midsummer’s day) I would like to put forward, based on the evidence of my own eyes, an additional theory about Newgrange: That it wasn’t originally just a winter calendar, but also a summer one – there’s a straight up and down arrangement of rocks (see my drawing) with a capstone which may not have been original, through which, I’m fairly sure the sun could have shone in from above if the capstone hadn’t been in the way. So perhaps, since it was full of soil and overgrown when people found it back in the Victorian days, the whole thing was repurposed and filled in at a later date (when the capstone went on)? I don’t have any hard evidence of this, just my drawings, but it seems entirely possible to me.
A major redeeming feature of the tour was that the guide was open in admitting that we don’t really know much about Newgrange – there are all sorts of theories and ideas bouncing around in the academic and “fringe” circles, but at the end of the day what they’re all lacking is any kind of evidence. Some people (not archaeologists, I hope,) make it their life’s work to concoct plausible stories for big sites, using the least amount of evidence (a grain of truth to support their lies, if you will), and the most amount of drama, fantasy and “inference” (in quotation marks because it’s not so much inference as ‘making it up to get on the History Channel’), and sadly these versions of things run around the world before we can research, get evidence, assess context and investigator biases, consider reductionism, and all the other things that need to be done to support an idea about the past. I’ve been to a few “historical sites” and found the guides to be reiterating as “facts” some complete gobbledegook that has no basis in evidence at all. I found it very refreshing that what little the guide did tell us was all clearly stated as interpretation and she did tell us what those interpretations were based on (and why we don’t know more) and I think there’s a middle ground between “we just don’t know” and “a wizard did it.”
There is no disabled access to the actual Neolithic tomb of Newgrange itself. This picture is taken at the entrance, this is as far as you can get if you’re not pedwardly mobile:
Tickets must be bought at the Visitor Centre not at the site, and there is a walk and a bus ride between the Visitor Centre and the site.
You must get there early. I got there before 9:00am and went on the first tour of the day, and this was the queue already for tickets when I arrived:
When I visited, the combined ticket was the same price as the separate tickets for Newgrange and Knowth, so you may as well go to Newgrange first (because that sells out) then decide whether that’s enough chambered passage tombs for you or not (I decided it was enough for me but then I’d been up for 2 days and that always kills my attention span). Ticket for Newgrange cost 6 Euros. Check opening times and do some Googling before you go so you don’t miss out on the significance of this site.
Today I wanted to share some pictures of clouds, all taken in York, UK, where I live. I feel Invoke Delight has been a sombre place of late and I want to make sure it stays a place to inspire delight in the world around me, which was its original remit (inspire delight was already taken when I registered the URL, so I went with invoke, instead). Click to enlarge, I haven’t watermarked the pictures so you can do what you want with them if you want to use them for things:
I hope these pictures of the sky on an English summer’s day will brighten your day. I will continue to talk about serious stuff on my second blog.
Keeping rabbits cool in summer can be daunting. This has been the hottest week of the year in the UK, and with temperatures pretty much soaring worldwide in the Northern Hemisphere (sorry, Oz), it’s important to keep bunnies safe from sun and heatstroke too!
We all know that dogs die in hot cars, but rabbits regularly die in hot hutches as well, especially young rabbits (less than a year old). Lack of ventilation, hutches placed in direct sunlight, and the ammonia from a hutch that hasn’t been cleaned in a while all take their toll on rabbits. I’m not being OTT here, these are all things I’ve learned from having tons of buns for years. Here’s how to keep bunnies cool and safe and happy and snuggled in all this hot weather we’ve been having:
Don’t: Leave rabbits in a hutch on hot days. They need to be able to move around and find shade (or a cool breeze) and additionally, they panic if they feel trapped, which will only make them hotter.
Assume their water bottles are sufficient. Rabbits have been not drowning in puddles for thousands of years, and a bowl of water that they can put their face in to cool down will really help them out. Be aware that they might knock it over, and refill as needed.
Put sunblock or other human sun protection products on rabbits: It sounds good in theory, but please never do this. Rabbits will lick it off and ingest it, and sunscreen’s not good for them, and it won’t reach their skin in any case.
Leave hutches in direct sunlight. Even when the rabbits aren’t in them, they will get hot and cause the ammonia from their urine to degrade. This can cause a potentially toxic vapour that can suffocate rabbits when you put them to bed.
Forget to clean the hutches out at least once a week in summer. The temperature and the amount of insects around means that it’s easy for a hutch to acquire maggots, which will lead to bunny fly strike, a deadly disease.
Ignore warning signs: If your bunny is visibly too hot, not really moving much, breathing heavily, and clearly uncomfortable, you need to take action (see how below).
Never, ever, ever touch a nest with newborns (younger than 8 weeks) baby rabbit kittens in it: Even to move them somewhere cooler. If the mother smells the babies have been interfered with by anyone who isn’t herself, she will reject them and they will die (yes, you can try to hand rear them, no, it often doesn’t work). The mother will move them if she thinks they’ll have a better chance of survival, and she comes from a long line of rabbits who didn’t fail to care for their young (or she wouldn’t be alive herself), trust her to know what’s best for her babies, unless she’s got brain damage. Rabbits have very good mothering instincts that are better than those of most human mothers. Additionally, if you go near the nest while she’s around, she will attack you very viciously. Put an ice block or a frozen bottle of water next to the nest, but not in it, and let the mother move it herself. The only exception to this is if one of the babies needs a vet.
Do: Get them a good sized enclosed rabbit run and put them out all day in hot weather (check they can’t dig out, or make sure your garden fence/wall will stop escapes if they do, if you’re at work all day). Leave the run in the shade and remember the shade changes direction as the sun changes position in the sky. An old doormat or cardboard box over one corner of the run will provide shade. Don’t forget to give them water in the rabbit run!
Freeze some ice blocks for them and put these in the rabbit run so they have something cold to lie next to if they need it.
You could also put bricks in the freezer (if you remember from my article on keeping bunnies warm I mentioned putting a brick in the oven then put it in the rabbit hutch at night) and put these out in the hutch to cool the air in the hutch.
Get them a water bowl as well as their bottle (or a second water bowl) so that they always have some water, and check it every few hours if it’s a really hot day. Water is the most important thing for keeping bunnies alive in hot weather. If you do nothing else from my article, do this.
Keep topping their water up. Water water water water water. That’s what rabbits need in hot weather.
If bunny gets too hot: Emergency bunny first aid for heatstroke: If your bunny is visibly uncomfortable from the heat, get a jug or bucket of water and get the bunny wet. Avoid the face and ears, you just want to get their body wet to increase heat loss. If the bunny doesn’t jump up and try to run away (they really don’t like getting wet), check the temperature of their ears.
If the bunny’s ears are hot and the bunny is not moving much, breathing heavily (or not breathing), and generally unresponsive, they probably have heat stroke. It is preceded by heat exhaustion, which stops them raising the alarm about their state (this is true of humans too, although in people, the face tends to go red and they can even stop sweating). This is more deadly to small animals than it is to humans (and it’s pretty dangerous to humans). At this point, you need to make an emergency appointment with the vet and get your bunny the care he needs to survive.
Personally, I wouldn’t waste any time, and I’d get a sick bunny to the vet (any vet) as soon as possible because they are stuck with a fur coat and feel the temperature a lot more than we do, they don’t have a very good cooling system and they’re not designed to be above ground trapped in a hot environment in summer weather, usually they’d be in their underground burrow at this time of day in the summer, chilling out with their friends. We have, over centuries, forced them to live in our environment for our own entertainment, the least we can do is try to make it comfortable for them.