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OK.  A quick flurry of posts that have been muddling around in my head that I’ll get down now while I seem to have the technology working (and as the tent dries).

In my childhood we used to go for some of most school holidays to my maternal grandparents’ house in Llantwit Major in South Wales, where my parents live now.  There’s a huge tidal rise and fall there, part of why the nearby Swansea is being touted for a UK tidal power station.  That meant that walking along the high tide mark was fascinating and at some point I learned the difference between flotsam and jetsam.  Jetsam is something that has gotten into the sea by human means (originally, from things that were jettisoned from boats I think and perhaps restricted just to them) and flotsam is anything else that gets to the high tide mark by natural processes: dead birds and animals, bits of trees, seeweed, dogfish egg pouches.  I know I occasionally fail to avoid a slow beetle but I think my roadkill is pretty small.

I confess that I watch the roadkill as I travel with my usual insatiable curiosity.  I must have seen hundreds of hedgehogs by now, the occasional lizard, robin, one snake and somethink I’ll come back to later when I’ve done more sleuthing.  In my twenties, cycling north from Toulouse with a previous partner, I remember being almost pathologically excited and also saddened to see a dead Hoopoe (look it up if you don’t know them: sensationally beautiful birds) on a small country road. For years it was the only Hoopoe I’d seen but J reminded me last week that we saw one on holiday just south of the Loire about 20 years ago and, just when I really needed a lift three days back, a live one lifted off from near me as I cycled a particularly challenging farm track in a field.  At first I just thought “black & white wing flash, too small and wrong shape for a magpie = jay” with the sort of daft autothink that even long lapsed birdwatchers have, then, alone with “wow, missed that nasty rut” there was “no, habitat wrong and colour wrong”. Taking my life, OK, some potential bruises, in my hands, I stopped looking at the track and looked at the bird: a hoopoe flying ahead of me for about ten metres before disappearing behind bushes: sensational and thank goodness a live bird and not roadkill.

In a rather diifferent autothink rambling process, ‘ve had some speculations about what a census of roadkill might say about the prevalence of local species and the many sampling issues that would make it a pretty poor estimator of between species variance but perhaps quite a good estimator of between area, within species variance.  Ah, there’s one for a first year science exam question hey?  The things I think about on the road.

OK.  Back to words.  I love that flotsam versus jetsam idea and I have come up with a similar categorisation .  There’s “roadkill” and we all know that noun but I’ve added “roadcrud” (I contemplated less nice terms but this is a family blog): the jetsam of the road, what people throw out.  Hundreds of cans, sometimes of alcoholic original content but mosty not, plastic bottles, used disposable nappies etc. etc.

But then there’s “roadsplat”.  On the week’s divertissement with J our car was covered with splattered insects, so much so that she wanted to put it through a car wash.  It was impressive how many had red blood, I tend to think of roadsplat as black or brown and thought that most insects didn’t have red blood.  Oh dear, there’s another thing I’d sleuth up now if I had time.  Anyway, now a horrible admission: even cyclists do produce roadsplat but I plead that it’s not much: a few poor small (black) insects too small to get away when I’m sweaty.  One of the joys of the shower at the end of the day is giving them a hydroburial.

Oh dear. Unpleasant but true.  On the bright side: 99% of flying insect life seems to me to be able to escape collisions with me though I worry that the tiny minority of butterflies and moths who seem to make actual physical contact will loose too many wing scales to live long.  However, the umpteen glorious dragon flies all seem to avoid contact with complete ease.  Do hope these ramblings amuse some of you, maybe “roadcrud” and “roadsplat” could take off, or maybe someone out there can do better, they do lack something alongside flotsam and jetsam.

    2 Comments

  1. Hello Chris, I have been looking back at you travels and thoughts on the way. Thanks for that, and pictures too. I did enjoy road crud and road splat…Jon complains of road splat in the eyes when cycling.

  2. Really glad you’ve posted and enjoyed things. I’m sorry Jon gets eyesplatted, I almost never do. I think that’s the price he pays for his good looks: my eyes are deeply buried with my large nose splitting the incoming insect stream and my “Cro-Magnon” ridge above my eyes further protecting me. I was always amused as a teenager to find my family saw me as quite such a throwback: no mere Neanderthal me! Med School taught me it’s techically my “supraorbital ridge”. Medicine does a lot of claiming kudos, and reassuring people, by having esoteric names. If in doubt, take the English “ridge above the eyes”, and translate into Latin or Greek and bingo, we do sound as if we know what we’re doing!

    Hm, going off at a tangent, but one I think you and some others reading this would be interested in, there’s that line of argument in our psychoanalytic circles that when Strachey was translating Freud into English, but opted to do it into respectable sounding English, we lost a lot. “Besetzen” (spelling?) became “Cathected”. I remember a German fellow trainee at the IGA telling me that toilets in Germany often say “Besetzen” when they’re occuppied. He thought Strachey lost a very straightforward, almost earthy, side of Freud.

    Oops, that’s a long way from poor Jon: cycling shades of various densities for different light levels for Christmas and Birthday?!

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