Liebster Award (part 2)

Last week’s post featured my replies to eleven questions posed by New Zealander Liz Cowburn of the Exploring Colour blog, who had nominated me for a Liebster Award. This week I complete the Liebster process by revealing 11 things about me which readers may – or may not – find vaguely interesting or amusing, before moving on to ask 11 questions of my own and nominating a few bloggers to answer them.

11 things about me

1. I was born and raised in west London, under the Heathrow Airport flightpath. I left London at the age of 18 to go to Cambridge University, and never lived there again. I don’t miss it at all, but when I go back and mix with the locals my London accent returns within minutes!

2. In my childhood our garden backed on to a small river – well, more of a stream really – and my happiest days were spent on the riverbank, chasing butterflies, searching for slow-worms and wielding my fishing net in pursuit of sticklebacks. My love of nature and wildlife was born right there. More than any other place on Earth, that riverbank and what I found there made me what I am today.

Red Admiral – one of my favourite childhood butterflies

3. At the age of 11 I won a scholarship to one of London’s top schools, an hour’s journey by bus and tube train from my suburban home. It was a Direct Grant Grammar School. These don’t exist any more, but back in the day they were a noble attempt to promote social mobility and greater equality. Most parents had to pay to send their children to these A-list academic establishments, but a few places were reserved, free-of-charge, for children of the “deserving poor.” I was fortunate to win one of those free places, and the quality of education I received as a result was brilliant. It was life changing.

The experience of being a child from a family with a modest income surrounded by youngsters from much wealthier backgrounds helped shape my political outlook. At the time several contemporaries suggested that a career in politics beckoned, but luckily I grew up!

4. Early on I had ambitions to be a veterinary surgeon, but at secondary school it became clear that I wasn’t good enough at science to achieve this. However I also discovered an interest in, and talent for, the study of history. I carried that interest through to my university studies, where I also got into archaeology. History remains one of my passions.

5. During my mid and late teens I became a fervent supporter of Brentford F.C., a local soccer club playing in the (then) Fourth Division of the English Football League. My new best pal Pete introduced me to dubious pleasures of league soccer, and having quickly caught the bug I probably didn’t miss more than half a dozen home matches over a period of six or seven years. To be honest, as well as being the least fashionable team in London, Brentford were rubbish most of the time. Supporting them therefore taught me important life lessons, particularly with regard to managing my expectations and coping with disappointment!

white and blue soccer ball on ground inside goal

IMAGE CREDIT: Brandi Ibrao via Unsplash

6 On leaving university I spent 6 months in Bristol training to be an accountant. However the experience of spending day after day in the company of a bunch of people who knew the cost of everything and the value of nothing was profoundly depressing, so I gave it up and opted instead for a career in public service.

7. I have lived in the county of Derbyshire, in the East Midlands of England, for over 40 years. Derbyshire has several claims to fame, including the UK’s first National Park (the Peak District), the world’s first industrial cotton mills established along the Derwent Valley in the late 18th century, several notable stately homes including Chatsworth, Kedleston, Haddon and Sudbury Halls, and the production of world-class ceramics at the Royal Crown Derby factory.

Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire, built between 1660 and 1680

8. In Prague a few years ago I found myself falsely accused of smuggling Albanians into the Czech Republic! We were wandering in some sort of wooded parkland on a hill overlooking the city centre and, it seems, innocently blundered into an area frequented by ne’er-do-wells. Suddenly two plain-clothed officers leapt out from behind a bush and confronted me, saying that since I was in this place I must be smuggling Albanians, or failing that drugs or foreign currency, into their Mother Country.

When I protested my innocence the goons said only “Is OK, is control, is control, is OK.” I did not find this reassuring. However, having subjected me to a thorough body search and found no illicit drugs, illegal currency or unwelcome Albanians secreted about my person they let me go with a cheery wave. Bizarre, but true.

9. Mrs P and I have visited all 50 states of the USA. The “project” took around 18 years, but could have been completed a lot sooner had we not returned time and again to the wonderful Yellowstone National Park.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

10. Over the last few years I have rediscovered my love of folk music, particularly English and Celtic traditional folk. The best folk music is earthy and authentic, echoing a simpler world with fewer frivolous distractions (you know what I mean, stuff like Facebook, the X-Factor and endless selfies,) and more connected with nature, the land and the seasons.

When I was studying history I came across The World We Have Lost, a book by Peter Laslett about English social history before the Industrial Revolution. For me, much of English folk music is a reminder of the lost world that Laslett writes about. This song, sung by Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith about the rhythm of the seasons in an agrarian landscape, is a case in point:

I have no musical talent whatsoever, but wish more than ever that I could sing in tune or maybe knock out a few notes on a fiddle, guitar or mandolin, so that I could be more than just a passive consumer of the folk music genre.

11. My favourite bird is the humble oystercatcher. Although I’ve watched birds on 6 continents and seen many rare and beautiful species, the oystercatcher gets my vote because it’s a bit of a Jack-the-Lad: loud, feisty and unapologetically full of itself, always strutting around to show off its good looks and screaming abuse at anyone or anything encroaching on its turf. In human form these characteristics would be a nightmare, but in a bird they’re strangely endearing … to me, anyway.

Eurasian Oystercatcher, an avian Jack-the-Lad

11 Questions for my nominees

  1. Why do you write your blog?
  2. Which of your achievements are you most proud of?
  3. What do you usually eat for breakfast? And what would be your dream breakfast, prepared free-of-charge by a top chef?
  4. Dogs or cats?
  5. Which four historical figures (2m, 2f) would you invite to a fantasy dinner party?
  6. Where is your favourite place to visit?
  7. How important is Nature in your life, and how do you get close to it?
  8. If you were reincarnated, what animal or bird would you like to be?
  9. Do you have a favourite book, one that you return to time and again? Why is so special to you?
  10. Your house is burning down. All the other people and their pets have got out safely but you only have time to save one personal possession. What will you save?
  11. We all know about the terrible impact of Covid-19 on individuals and communities, but is there an upside? Has the crisis had any positive impact on you and your life?
Newfoundland, Dark Tickle, 2017 (7)

Dogs or cats?

My nominations for a Liebster Award

This has been difficult. Some of the blogs I would have nominated have declared themselves award-free, while others have recently been so-honoured (Liz, Ann, Mike, this means you!) So my list comprises a few blogs that have kept me entertained, diverted or informed during the Covid-19 lockdown. If you’re not listed here but fancy having a go, please do so with my best wishes.

If, however, you appear on the list but don’t want to take part that’s OK too. There’s no obligation whatsoever, and I won’t be offended. I’ve enjoyed the challenge and had fun doing it, but I know it won’t suit everyone. The choice is yours.

My nominations, in no particular order, are

  1. National Parks with T
  2. Living in Nature
  3. Still Normal
  4. Butterflies to Dragsters
  5. Back Yard Biology
  6. Anyone else who wants a go!

A reminder of the rules for nominees

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and give a link to the blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions given to you
  3. Share 11 facts about yourself
  4. Nominate between 5-11 other bloggers
  5. Ask your nominees 11 questions
  6. Notify your nominees once you’ve uploaded your post

Variable Oystercatcher, a Jack-the-Lad seen in New Zealand, November 2019


  1. Ms. Liz · May 27, 2020

    Such a lovely post Mr Platypus! All the photos are really great and I especially enjoyed your oystercatcher photos that include one from NZ! It was wonderful to hear how much you valued the opportunity to get a better education and I’m so glad you were given the chance. The story from Prague was really funny although it must’ve been scary at the time! I also listened to the song and really enjoyed it. Thank you for these two posts which together are a wonderful response to my nomination and you’ve gone way above and beyond what I could’ve imagined. I’ll give you 5 Stars for your achievement Mr Platypus ***** ’cause five is as high as I go! Thank you for doing such an awesome job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · May 27, 2020

      Thank you giving me the opportunity. Your questions were good fun, and I’m glad my responses struck a chord. It’s good sometimes to have permission to reflect on how we’ve ended up where we are (nothing is or was pre-ordained,) and to tell a few anecdotes. Life’s what you make of it. Working as a librarian was a good career choice, but smuggling Albanians would not have been ! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. nationalparkswitht · May 27, 2020

    Well, thank you! And you’ve been to more states than I have. I just finished writing an award post that will publish Monday…I’ll see if I can incorporate some liebster into that so as not to bore my readers with two posts about me.
    I normally have eggs or yogurt with fruit for breakfast, but I like French Toast for special occasions (which my friend from Lyon tells me isn’t French at all.) I have 2 dogs now, but another lifetime ago I had 4 cats….love both. The upside of Covid quarantine has been getting in touch with people I haven’t talked to in a while. We’re normally so busy I don’t have time for phone conversation. I love nature, but I also love running water and flush toilets, so you won’t find me camping in it😂
    Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · May 27, 2020

      Yours was the first blog I ever followed, so you were always going to make it on to my list of nominations! Your views on the inconveniences of camping echo precisely those of Mrs P … we don’t do camping, ever.

      Interesting observation on “French toast.” Similarly, Americans seem to love “English” muffins, but until I started going to the States I just thought of them as “muffins”. I’m not sure there’s anything quintessentially English about them.

      Now, biscuits and gravy, that’s an American breakfast, isn’t it? Fine dining it’s not, but it’s always a treat when we’re out your way … but only when we’re not having pancakes for breakfast. Oh, the joys of a short stack of fluffy American buttermilk pancakes, drowning in maple syrup with a few crispy rashers of bacon on the side … that truly is my idea of heaven on Earth 🙂🙂🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · May 27, 2020

      After I’d posted my reply Mrs P reminded me about “Texas Pecan Toast,” a French Toast recipe we picked up in Kansas some years ago. We have it as a special treat on Christmas day every year. I’ll write a post about it in a few weeks, and include the recipe. Enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ann Mackay · May 27, 2020

    I enjoyed reading this – and I’m listening to the song as I type. We’re very much into Scottish and Irish folk in this house. Hubby is from a very musical family – pipers, whistle-players (especially Hubby), an accordion-player and a fiddle player, so the bigger family reunions tend to turn into ceilidhs. 🙂 I find that the returning accent happens to me too when I go far enough North – enough for people to be able to tell exactly where I come from. Nice not to have lost it entirely!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · May 27, 2020

      Your family reunions sound like wild and joyful occasions 🙂.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ann Mackay · May 27, 2020

        Maybe not so wild as we get older…hehe!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. T Ibara Photo · May 27, 2020

    Hello Mr. P,
    It really is a pleasure to learn a little more about you (and Mrs P) through this series. Thank you so much for sharing. I agree, the Oystercatcher is quite a character!
    Best wishes always,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · May 27, 2020

      Hi Takami
      It’s been a pleasure. I’m thrilled to discover you’re a member of the Oystercatcher fan club! 🙂


  5. Yeah, Another Blogger · May 27, 2020

    Hi. Visiting all 50 USA states is really something. Very few Americans have done that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · May 28, 2020

      The USA is so big that “seeing it all” is a huge challenge, both for residents and for tourists like us. By comparison the UK is tiny. I just checked in with professor Google: the land area of California alone is almost twice that of the whole of the UK (423,970 km² v 242,495 km²). I’m not at all surprised that few Americans travel to all 50 States … you’d have to be crazy to attempt that! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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