Friday, 26 September 2008

Making life difficult for spiders

Quaker Cottage through the fog

This morning's foggy weather is very seasonal for the beginning of the new academic year. In years gone by, we've had fun with the relative humidity measurement exercises, asking the students "What's happening to the relative humidity when there's fog?" And, even more interesting, "What's the RH when there's freezing fog?" It gave us lots to talk about.
Anyway, as I was out walking Molly, it occurred to me that the fog makes things very difficult for spiders. I mean, no-one (no fly, that is) is going to stumble into a web that's visibly heavy with droplets. Seeing how many webs there are, I'm reinforced in my view of what a good thing spiders are; without them we'd be knee deep in flies!

Obviously, space is at a premium here - there are 3 stacked up on my mirror.

As we walked along, I was listening to Erik Satie's Gymnopedies. My friend J. who works in radio and has forgotten more about music and composers than I'll ever know, thinks Satie's eccentric. Well, that may be so, but his music is sublime, and appropriately melancholy for a foggy Autumn morning. If you haven't bee fortunate enough to hear the Gymnopedies, you will find a small sample of the first (1ere; Lent et Doloreux) on

The fog takes all the colour out of everything. Not that there's a lot left in the garden, except for a few Dahlias (Bishop of Llandaff) and the Nasturtians which really come into their own when the weather gets cooler and before the frost hits them. The leaves make a great, peppery, addition to salads as well, so long as you make sure there are no blackfly.

I see there's a move back to the correct pronunciation of Nasturtians instead of the latinate 'Nasturtiums', which are something completely different. This from "Indeed the OED records the usage of "Nasturtium" as "improp.", improper that is. So, if "Nasturtium" is wrong, what is it? The OED says it is "kinds of pungent-tasting cruciferous plants including watercress", but this little anecdotal conversation between J.R.R. Tolkien and his college gardener sets the record straight:

I consulted the college gardener to this effect:

'What do you call these things, gardener?"

"I calls them tropaeolum, sir."

"But, when you're just talking to dons?"

"I says nasturtians, sir."

"Not nasturtium?"

"No, sir; that's watercress."

And that seems to be the fact of botanical nomenclature...""

I'm not going to argue with Tolkien or the OED.

1 comment:

  1. OOOH! Very useful information, that! (Regarding nasturtians.) The only problem is that now, even though I'm smarter, I'll sound stupider (since one will have to insist one IS correct when one uses nasturtians instead of nasturtiums, even though it sounds wrong.)

    Oh well. Better right than wrong, whether or not anyone else agrees with ya!