When you wish you could just disappear

Under lowering skies, a mass of starlings wheel and perform before roosting for the night in a...
Under lowering skies, a mass of starlings wheel and perform before roosting for the night in a plantation on Highcliff Rd. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Can you remember your most embarrassing moments?

I can - and with too much clarity. I began turning them over in my head when I couldn't sleep on Wednesday night after seriously putting my foot in my mouth with one of my ODT colleagues. It was my wife who once, very observantly, accused me of "opening my mouth to change feet".

Anyway, the "saying the wrong thing" occasions fall into the same category as those mortifyingly embarrassing moments. In both cases, you wish you could just turn the clock back maybe two or three seconds, and say or do something completely differently.

A jet contrail viewed from Broad Bay and emblazoned by the setting sun against an azure sky over...
A jet contrail viewed from Broad Bay and emblazoned by the setting sun against an azure sky over Mt Cargill on July 12. PHOTO: NEVILLE PEAT
So, while I was lying in bed the other night yearning I'd taken an alternative conversational gambit with my workmate, I was also half-chuckling and half-cringing at three seriously abasing incidents when I really just wanted to curl up and die.

The first was in the Octagon in about 1991 or 1992. There was a decent solar eclipse under way - not a total one but it was more than just a wee sliver off the sun - and as an ODT reporter I was there with a photographer to find an older resident who remembered a similar event about 50 years or so earlier.

I wondered why the photographer kept tapping me on the shoulder and nudging me in the ribs as I asked an elderly gentlemen if this eclipse was as good as that one. "Does it look as dark as that?" I said.

Then, finally, I noticed the man's white cane.

The second was in a restaurant called The Little Skillet in Kinsale in Ireland about 20 years ago (wow, and I see it's still there). I had just eaten a wonderful steak. I opened my mouth to say something and, at that precise moment the restaurant went quiet and I involuntarily let out the loudest belch of my life. The stares were something else.

The last great toe-curler occurred when I was at a school open evening in Christchurch. I have noticed that, when I sit on a sofa, I often put my hand down between the cushions. My wife wondered why a mother I was sitting next to kept looking at me in a rather surprised manner. Then I discovered I actually had my hand between the top of the next cushion and the underside of her thigh.

And now, having laid all that embarrassment bare, I'm hoping some of you will share nicely and make me feel I'm not the only idiot in the world.

Presumably the same trail. Tui Bevin took this photo from her Opoho home at 5.36 that afternoon....
Presumably the same trail. Tui Bevin took this photo from her Opoho home at 5.36 that afternoon. PHOTO: TUI BEVIN
Cloud photos

Thanks for all the wonderful cloudscapes you have sent in this week. I have been rather overwhelmed by the photos and will try my best to run most of them over the next week or so.

Feathered friends

Some interesting results have come from Landcare Research's New Zealand garden-bird survey, in terms of the changing bird numbers around Otago between 2007 and last year.

During that period, out of 4316 garden surveys across Otago, there was a moderate increase in greenfinches (+77%), a shallow increase in house sparrows (+42%), tui (+39%) and dunnocks (+13%), and little or no change in the number of fantails (+9%) and bellbirds (0%).

In shallow decline over the decade were kereru (-10%), blackbirds (-11%), chaffinches (-13%), starlings (-24%) and goldfinches (-24%).

The song thrush was in moderate decline (-41%) while silvereyes/wax eyes, call them what you will, were in "rapid" decline, with a 54% drop in numbers.

That last figure seems incredible, given wherever I look this winter I see trees and bird feeders swarming with wax eyes.

Other flying objects

And yes that was an English Electric Lightning, well of sorts, on the cover of that 1960 school book pictured in yesterday's column.

Peter Anderson, and colleague Gary Newton, let me know it was actually an English Electric P1A (WG760).

Peter said it was one of the three initial prototypes that preceded the English Electric Lighting supersonic fighters that served with the RAF from 1959 to 1988, and also with the Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti air forces.

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