Dec 31st

1 more second!

By LJ E

New Year delayed by one second

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  • From the section UK
Big Ben during New Year's celebrations in 2016Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

A "leap second" will be added to this year's New Year's countdown to compensate for a slowdown in the Earth's rotation.

The extra second will occur as clocks strike midnight and a time of 23:59:60 will be recorded, delaying 2017 momentarily.

A leap second last occurred in June 2015 and this will be the 27th time it has occurred.

The change is required because standard time lags behind atomic clocks. 

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) - responsible for the UK's national time scale - uses the atomic clock to provide a stable and continuous timescale.

Along with other clocks across the globe, it provides the world with its coordinated universal time. 

NPL senior research scientist Peter Whibberley said: "Atomic clocks are more than a million times better at keeping time than the rotation of the Earth, which fluctuates unpredictably.

"Leap seconds are needed to prevent civil time drifting away from Earth time.

"Although the drift is small - taking around 1,000 years to accumulate a one-hour difference - if not corrected it would eventually result in clocks showing midday before sunrise."

Atomic clocks use ultraviolet signals emitted in the change of electron energy levels to tell the time. 

The time created by the clocks is used in GPS location devices and is used to control the wave frequency of television broadcasts.

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service in France tracks the Earth's rotation and announces the need for a leap second.

Dec 26th

BC : AD by U.A. Fanthorpe

By Mary B

BC : AD by U.A. Fanthorpe

 

This was the moment when Before

Turned into After, and the future's

Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

 

This was the moment when nothing

Happened. Only dull peace

Sprawled boringly over the earth.

 

This was the moment when even energetic Romans

Could find nothing better to do

Than counting heads in remote provinces.

 

And this was the moment

When a few farm workers and three

Members of an obscure Persian sect.

Walked haphazard by starlight straight

Into the kingdom of heaven.

  

Dec 25th

LITTLE PICCOLA

By Mary B

LITTLE PICCOLA

 

Piccola lived in Italy, where the oranges grow, and where all the year the sun shines warm and bright. I suppose you think Piccola a very strange name for a little girl; but in her country it was not strange at all, and her mother thought it the sweetest name a little girl ever had.

Piccola had no kind father, no big brother or sister, and no sweet baby to play with and love. She and her mother lived all alone in an old stone house that looked on a dark, narrow street. They were very poor, and the mother was away from home almost every day, washing clothes and scrubbing floors, and working hard to earn money for her little girl and herself. So you see Piccola was alone a great deal of the time; and if she had not been a very happy, contented little child, I hardly know what she would have done. She had no playthings except a heap of stones in the back yard that she used for building houses and a very old, very ragged doll that her mother had found in the street one day.

But there was a small round hole in the stone wall at the back of her yard, and her greatest pleasure was to look through that into her neighbor's garden. When she stood on a stone, and put her eyes close to the hole, she could see the green grass in the garden, and smell the sweet flowers, and even hear the water splashing into the fountain. She had never seen anyone walking in the garden, for it belonged to an old gentleman who did not care about grass and flowers.

One day in the autumn her mother told her that the old gentleman had gone away, and had rented his house to a family of little American children, who had come with their sick mother to spend the winter in Italy. After this, Piccola was never lonely, for all day long the children ran and played and danced and sang in the garden. It was several weeks before they saw her at all, and I am not sure they ever would have done so but one day the kitten ran away, and in chasing her they came close to the wall and saw Piccola's black eyes looking through the hole in the stones.

They were a little frightened at first, and did not speak to her; but the next day she was there again, and Rose, the oldest girl, went up to the wall and talked to her a little while. When the children found that she had no one to play with and was very lonely, they talked to her every day, and often brought her fruits and candies, and passed them through the hole in the wall.

One day they even pushed the kitten through; but the hole was hardly large enough for her, and she mewed and scratched and was very much frightened. After that the little boy said he would ask his father if the hole might not be made larger, and then Piccola could come in and play with them. The father had found out that Piccola's mother was a good woman, and that the little girl herself was sweet and kind, so that he was very glad to have some of the stones broken away and an opening made for Piccola to come in.

How excited she was, and how glad the children were when she first stepped into the garden! She wore her best dress, a long, bright-colored woolen skirt and a white waist. Round her neck was a string of beads, and on her feet were little wooden shoes. It would seem very strange to us—would it not?—to wear wooden shoes; but Piccola and her mother had never worn anything else, and never had any money to buy stockings. Piccola almost always ran about barefooted, like the kittens and the chickens and the little ducks. What a good time they had that day, and how glad Piccola's mother was that her little girl could have such a pleasant, safe place to play in, while she was away at work!

By and by December came, and the little Americans began to talk about Christmas. One day, when Piccola's curly head and bright eyes came peeping through the hole in the wall, and they ran to her and helped her in; and as they did so, they all asked her at once what she thought she would have for a Christmas present. "A Christmas present!" said Piccola. "Why, what is that?"

All the children looked surprised at this, and Rose said, rather gravely, "Dear Piccola, don't you know what Christmas is?"

Oh, yes, Piccola knew it was the happy day when the baby Christ was born, and she had been to church on that day and heard the beautiful singing, and had seen the picture of the Babe lying in the manger, with cattle and sheep sleeping round about. Oh, yes, she knew all that very well, but what was a Christmas present?

Then the children began to laugh and to answer her all together. There was such a clatter of tongues that she could hear only a few of the words now and then, such as "chimney," "Santa Claus," "stockings," "reindeer," "Christmas Eve," "candies and toys." Piccola put her hands over her ears and said, "Oh, I can't understand one word. You tell me, Rose." Then Rose told her all about jolly Santa Claus, with his red cheeks and white beard and fur coat, and about his reindeer and sleigh full of toys. "Every Christmas Eve," said Rose, "he comes down the chimney, and fills the stockings of all the good children; so, Piccola, you hang up your stocking, and who knows what a beautiful Christmas present you will find when morning comes!" Of course Piccola thought this was a delightful plan, and was very pleased to hear about it. Then all the children told her of every Christmas Eve they could remember, and of the presents they had had; so that she went home thinking of nothing but dolls and hoops and balls and ribbons and marbles and wagons and kites.

She told her mother about Santa Claus, and her mother seemed to think that perhaps he did not know there was any little girl in that house, and very likely he would not come at all. But Piccola felt very sure Santa Claus would remember her, for her little friends had promised to send a letter up the chimney to remind him.

Christmas Eve came at last. Piccola's mother hurried home from her work; they had their little supper of soup and bread, and soon it was bedtime,—time to get ready for Santa Claus. But oh! Piccola remembered then for the first time that the children had told her she must hang up her stocking, and she hadn't any, and neither had her mother.

How sad, how sad it was! Now Santa Claus would come, and perhaps be angry because he couldn't find any place to put the present.

The poor little girl stood by the fireplace, and the big tears began to run down her cheeks. Just then her mother called to her, "Hurry, Piccola; come to bed." What should she do? But she stopped crying, and tried to think; and in a moment she remembered her wooden shoes, and ran off to get one of them. She put it close to the chimney, and said to herself, "Surely Santa Claus will know what it's there for. He will know I haven't any stockings, so I gave him the shoe instead."

Then she went off happily to her bed, and was asleep almost as soon as she had nestled close to her mother's side.

The sun had only just begun to shine, next morning, when Piccola awoke. With one jump she was out on the floor and running toward the chimney. The wooden shoe was lying where she had left it, but you could never, never guess what was in it.

Piccola had not meant to wake her mother, but this surprise was more than any little girl could bear and yet be quiet; so she danced to the bed with the shoe in her hand, calling, "Mother, mother! look, look! see the present Santa Claus brought me!"

Her mother raised her head and looked into the shoe. "Why, Piccola," she said, "a little chimney swallow nestling in your shoe? What a good Santa Claus to bring you a bird!"

"Good Santa Claus, dear Santa Claus!" cried Piccola; and she kissed her mother and kissed the bird and kissed the shoe, and even threw kisses up the chimney, she was so happy.

When the birdling was taken out of the shoe, they found that he did not try to fly, only to hop about the room; and as they looked closer, they could see that one of his wings was hurt a little.

But the mother bound it up carefully, so that it did not seem to pain him, and he was so gentle that he took a drink of water from a cup, and even ate crumbs and seeds out of Piccola's hands.

She was a proud little girl when she took her Christmas present to show the children in the garden. They had had a great many gifts,—dolls that could say "mamma," bright picture books, trains of cars, toy pianos; but not one of their playthings was alive, like Piccola's birdling. They were as pleased as she, and Rose hunted about the house until she found a large wicker cage that belonged to a blackbird she once had. She gave the cage to Piccola, and the swallow seemed to make himself quite at home in it at once, and sat on the perch winking his bright eyes at the children. Rose had saved a bag of candies for Piccola, and when she went home at last, with the cage and her dear swallow safely inside it, I am sure there was not a happier little girl in the whole country of Italy.

 

* From "The Story Hour," by Wiggins and Smith. Published by consent of the authors and also the publishers—Houghton, Mifflin and Company.

 

Dec 25th

A Visit from St. Nicholas

By Mary B

A Visit from St. Nicholas 

BY CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE

 

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house 

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; 

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, 

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds; 

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; 

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, 

Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap, 

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, 

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. 

Away to the window I flew like a flash, 

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. 

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow, 

Gave a lustre of midday to objects below, 

When what to my wondering eyes did appear, 

But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer, 

With a little old driver so lively and quick, 

I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick. 

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, 

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name: 

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen! 

On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen! 

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! 

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!" 

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, 

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky; 

So up to the housetop the coursers they flew 

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too— 

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof 

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. 

As I drew in my head, and was turning around, 

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. 

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, 

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; 

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, 

And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack. 

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry! 

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! 

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, 

And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow; 

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, 

And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath; 

He had a broad face and a little round belly 

That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly. 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, 

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself; 

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head 

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread; 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, 

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, 

And laying his finger aside of his nose, 

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose; 

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, 

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. 

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight— 

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Dec 24th

Bird tables and feeders-Hygiene

By LJ E

 

Hygiene - vital precautions

Ceramic hanging birdbath available from RSPB online shop

Taking care of your feeders, bird table and birdbath will reduce the chances of spreading diseases

Image: RSPB online shop

When a large number of birds are attracted into an area to feed, the danger of disease increases. Prevention is always better than a cure, and is the best thing you can do to help the birds.

Most diseases are transmitted by droppings. If contaminated droppings mix with food, the birds run a risk of picking up the infection. Since the contamination can originate either from other birds or from animals (such as rats), it's important to guard against infection from both sources in your garden.

Top tips for keeping your garden birds healthy

Good hygiene is particularly important during the summer months. The warmer weather can make food go off quicker, and can provide ideal conditions for harmful bacteria.

  • Monitor your food supply carefully. If the food takes days to clear, reduce the amount of food you're offering.
  • Use a birdtable or hanging feeders. A ground feeding tray is preferable to putting food directly on the ground because it 's easier to keep clean. Food on the ground should all be eaten before nightfall. Rats are attracted to leftover food and often carry diseases, which can affect birds or humans.
  • Keep your bird tables and surrounding areas clean and free from droppings or mouldy food, which can provide breeding grounds for parasites and bacteria. If large amounts of droppings have accumulated, they should be cleared and burnt and the ground cleansed with a disinfectant.
  • Clean and wash your bird table and hanging feeders regularly (ideally, using a 5% disinfectant solution), and move feeding stations to a new area every month to prevent droppings accumulating underneath.
  • Water containers should be rinsed out daily, especially during the warmer months, and allowed to dry out before fresh water is added. Droppings can accumulate in bird baths.
  • Personal hygiene is also important. Don't bring your feeders into your house to clean them - do it outside, using separate utensils. Wear gloves when cleaning feeders and bird tables, and particularly if you need to handle a sick or a dead bird in your garden. Always wash your hands when you've finished.
Dec 23rd

Hallo All...

By phillip J W

...May I wish everyone here a very happy Christmas from up here on the bank of the River Tyne.

XXX

Dec 21st

Merry 'Gertie' Christmas

By LJ E

 

                                  Merry Christmas

 

Hello to you at DropBy

Greetings one and all

Some may know me from the past

Others not at all

Perhaps you thought I’d gone away

To pastures green and new

And left you to enjoy your pics

For everyone to view

But I thought I’d just DropBy

And take a little peek

At all the lovely photographs

Displayed for all, this week

I really like Phyl’s pictures

‘All creatures great and small’

I like them oh so very much

I stole them one and all

Bill has also published some

From days gone by it seems

Of babies shaving, healthy fags

And miracle face creams

Mary will be calling in

Her ‘Tech Team’ at the double

But they know I’ve ‘previous’

For causing them such trouble

However ‘tis the season

Of ‘Goodwill to All Men’

I’ll let you keep your pics…for now

But will return again!

                                Love Gertie xx

Dec 19th

Cheese

By Bill W

I'll make it clear right now, I'm no connoisseur of cheese. There are lots that I like, some more than others, and there are some I detest. Tonight, at the pub, I was given a packet of cheese as a gift. Instead of waiting till tomorrow to try it, I have just opened it, and it is the most deliscious cheese I have ever tasted. It is a creamy Mature Cheddar, and made in Garstang, Lancashire. I've had other types of cheese from this cheese-maker and they are all top quality, but this one is outstanding.

Do you have a favourite cheese?

Dec 10th

Heartwarming story.....

By LJ E

Just read this on BBC news page. Could be of interest to you Mary......

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-38234853

 

 

 

Dec 9th

The Train Of Life....

By Jackie H

The Train Of Life....

Life is like a journey on a train, with its stations, with changes of routes, and their accidents!

At birth we boarded the train and met our parents, and we believe they will always travel on our side. However, at some station our parents will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone.

As time goes by, other people will board the train; and they will be significant i.e. our siblings, friends, children, and even the love of your life. Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum. Others will go so unnoticed that we don’t realize they vacated their seats.

This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells.Success consists of having a good relationship with all passengers requiring that we give the best of ourselves.

The mystery to everyone is: We do not know at which station we ourselves will step down.

So, we must live in the best way, love, forgive, and offer the best of who we are. It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty, we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.

I wish you a joyful journey on the train of life. Reap success and give lots of love. More importantly, thank God for the journey.

Lastly, I thank you for being one of the passengers on my train.


~ Author Unknown...

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