I spent most of last week feeling ill with manflu flu.  So I spent a lot of time being bored but not feeling well enough to read or even watch much TV.  Luckily I began to feel better and was eventually able to pick up books again.  One of them was a brilliant read given to me by my sister; ‘City of Thieves‘ is a very enjoyable story set in 1941 Leningrad.  It is a funny, strange and yet believable tale with characters who are very powerfully written.  It is a little vulgar in places but it is definitely worth picking up and loosing yourself into.

city of thieves

Once I turned the last page and put it down I needed something non-fiction to balance out the fiction.  I had just received a book I ordered about the natural history of Ireland.  It’s part of a series called the new naturalist series.  Most of them were printed some time ago and can usually only be found in second-hand book shops.  The only other one I have is one on Mammals.  It was this mammals book that I read such bizarre facts like the fact that we have a venomous mammal!  Apparently shrews secrete a venom through hollows in their teeth.  Bizarre.

The books are supposed to be packed with information and yet quite readable to the layman.  So far, ‘Ireland: A Natural History‘ by David Cabot is not an exception.  I am sorry to be geeky, but I find it fascinating.

ireland

One example of a random fascinating fact in the book is regarding a beautiful wild flower the bog asphodel.  Here is a picture of by flickr user steve chilton

As part of my preparation for my ML assessment I had to familiarise myself with mountain flora and fauna.  For me, the best way to remember the plants when identifying them was to have some obscure use or story behind them.  The bog asphodel seemed to be the exception to this.  For such a strikingly beautiful flower it seemed that there were not very many interesting facts attached to it.  The one fact that I could dredge up was actually often described as a non-fact!  It was the belief by farmers that sheep eating this plant would develop soft bones. Part of its Latin name ‘Ossifragum’ means broken bones.  I call this a non-story because most of the information I read said that this was untrue and is more than likely a farmer’s myth.  However, the David Cabot book puts a twist in this.  It suggests that research has been carried out and may point to the fact that this flower contains a chemical that seems to inhibit the normal function of vitamin D and could therefore lead to rickets.

Anyway, the lovely Sharon saw that I liked my new natural history book and asked if there was any other book in the series that she might mention to santa.  I read through the list for a few minutes and replied that there was one; ‘Hedges’.  Upon hearing this she could contain herself no longer and simply laughed at me for several humiliating minutes.  I don’t see what’s so funny, hedges can be very interesting.