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A murmuration…

If you have ever been lucky enough to see a murmuration of starlings – where the birds swoop and swirl in amazing aerial ballet creating patterns in the sky – it’s not something you are likely to forget. But have you ever wondered why it is called a ‘murmuration’?

You were probably too enchanted by the magical sight to notice the ongoing background murmur – or murmuration – as caused by the beating of 10,000 pairs of wings at once. And that’s where the term comes from. Most of the collective nouns we use date back to the mid-15th century. But the origins of most collective bird and animal nouns are not always as straightforward as they first appear.

Some are named after specific habits, such as ‘a descent of woodpeckers’, possibly due to their penchant for dropping down from great heights onto ants or ‘a leap of leopards’ or ‘a busyness of ferrets’ while others focus on a personality trait that we believe them to possess.

For instance, the number of sinister sounding nouns for crows, such as murder, mob and horde, probably come from medieval peasants’ fears that the mean-looking birds had been sent by the Devil or were witches in disguise.

Similarly, ‘an unkindness of ravens’ could stem from an old misguided belief that the birds were not caring parents, sometimes expelling their young from their nests before they were ready.

Many bird species have more than one collective noun. As with crows, there are many terms to describe finches (charm, trembling and trimming) and geese, depending on whether they’re flying (skein, wedge, nide) or gathered on water (plump) or land (gaggle).

A book by Chloe Rhodes An Unkindness of Ravens: A Book of Collective Nouns is fascinating. In it she explains that, unlike proverbs, rhymes or homilies, many of these delightful names endure because they were recorded and published in ‘Books of Courtesy’ – handbooks designed to educate the nobility. So an early sort of ‘one upmanship’ to ensure you made it plain you belonged to the ‘right’ set, something like the Sloane Ranger speak of the 1980s perhaps!

Here are some of my favourite bird terms:

  • A wake of buzzards
  • A commotion of coots
  • A murder of crows
  • An asylum of cuckoos
  • A swatting of flycatchers
  • A prayer of godwits
  • A conspiracy of ravens
  • A parliament of rooks
  • An exultation of skylarks
  • A murmuration of starlings
  • A chime of wrens
  • A booby of nuthatches
  • A quilt of eiders
  • A mischief of magpies
  • A wisdom of owls
  • A committee of terns
  • A descent of woodpeckers
  • A scold of jays
  • A charm of goldfinches
  • A fall of woodcock
  • A deceit of lapwings
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More seaside memories

As the last blog featured lost ice creams, I thought we should continue the theme of seaside memories but instead of cards, here are a couple of 3D projects that you can make using the Signature dies.

There are lots of inexpensive frames you can buy that are deep 3D designs. This beach scene would look lovely in a child’s bedroom or perhaps just the thing for a bathroom. Just like making a card, you build up the picture and I use Pinflair glue gel for attaching the die cuts as you can add height with larger blobs of glue. We have quite a few beach related designs in our section ‘On the Beach’, so you could chop and change the ingredients to suit you. Perhaps a set of three pictures featuring different beachy scenes would look nice?

Likewise, this wooden plaque makes a pretty ornament. How about hanging it from the door knob or drawer front? It’s an MDF base with the string stapled to the back. You can then add whatever ingredients you fancy. I love the ice cream image, so many happy memories!

Before I redecorated, I had a completely beach-inspired theme for one of my bathrooms. Red and white life belts as towel rings (ok they were bought not made!), a lighthouse lamp in one corner and baskets of beautiful shells! I have collected pretty shells for years and have oodles of them. My towels were striped red and white and blue and white, and the bath mat was cork so looked vaguely beachy! Now I have a much more traditional lavender and roses theme – rather predictable, but I love the big arrangement I created using dried roses and bunches of lavender for the windowsill and pretty towels embroidered with lavender.

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A dropped ice cream!

‘A dropped ice cream is a seagull’s dream’ – these words made me smile. Nearby in Teignmouth, there’s a lovely promenade where you can walk along next to the sea and relax – we love walking there and often take friends and visitors. The only drawback really is the number of seagulls. I love all the parts of the British seaside… but gulls hmm not so much really.

If you live near the sea then seagulls can be quite difficult. My parents’ bungalow had a persistent seagull that nested in their chimney several years running and when the eggs hatched she became quite over protective and territorial. Fine, I’m a mother, I understand your feelings, but aghhh! This meant we were dive bombed arriving at the house, the postie was more scared of the seagull than any dogs and my poor father trying to trim the climbing plants up the side of the house, resorted to trying to trim with one hand and hold up an open umbrella over his head with the other! They are also VERY noisy.

Whilst walking down the prom at Teignmouth, we have often been beset by scavenging seagulls. Tina Dorr, our newsletter editor and I were quietly looking forward to a couple of gorgeous clotted cream ice creams we had just purchased. Ok, I admit we were probably talking and not looking at the ice cream – but 30 seconds later – whoosh… speed of light! Two thieving seagulls and the balls of ice cream on top of the cones … gone. We had to laugh as we gazed down at our empty cones! However, they are part and parcel of our British coastal areas and so I will have to put up with them!

This card could be for a birthday – or perhaps I should just send it to Tina as a laugh at a shared memory! The seagulls are a signature die and, to save you colouring, the beach huts have been die cut in striped card. The backing paper is just carefully slit and the ice cream posted into the layers. The card measures 170mm square, just under 7 inches.

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Congratulations!

This, I thought, would make a great congratulations card for a clever youngster that has managed to get some GCSEs, or A levels, a place at university or an apprenticeship, just a happy card with a wise old owl saying well done!

All levels of achievement with exams are fantastic and I think it helps a child’s self-esteem a lot, if random aunts and family members send some congratulations when the results are announced.

The ingredients in this card are as follows:

Signature dies, Beautiful Owl

Signature Dies, Rose Leaves

Then a Lisa Audit pad 1 or 2 – if you haven’t had a look through her images, do have a wander through… She is such a talented lady and the cards you make will be just a little bit different which is always fun!

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Keys to the Beach Hut!

Sadly, we don’t all have a fabulous little beach hut, but we do all need to keep keys somewhere! One of the best things about being a crafter is that our stash can be used for so many different things. Cardmaking, home decorations, scrapbooking, gift making and just plain old playtime for us!

This is a lovely example of two of those categories, you could make something like this as a gift or just to decorate your home. We all need somewhere to put those dratted keys (the ones I lose all the time), and hanging them on a pretty little set of hooks like this is very pleasing! I have a lovely big wooden key with hooks along it in my home, that was made for me by my baby brother when he was at school… um, quite upsetting to remember he has long since had his 50th birthday and runs a very successful pub in Crickhowell in Wales (The Kestrel Inn – I highly recommend the food!) but the key holder is still in place, hand made gifts mean a lot.

You can use MDF as a base or thin plywood or even a piece of thicker wood if you have easier access to that. Get drilling first and make some holes for the string – some chunky rough string looks good. Then start your choice of paint effect. This has been crackled with Weathered Wood – but you could do nice straight stripes or just paint it plain white, or blue or whatever you like.

Once the paint is dry, screw in the cup hooks at the bottom and die cut and colour your beach huts. If you want to make them more serviceable, you could add a layer of matt or glossy varnish or laminate them to make them stronger. Now add them to the plaque together with the seagulls using trusty Pinflair. Use a fair sized blob to make sure you have some height.

Thread the string through and knot – and away you go. This same idea could be utilised with so many different dies and designs.

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