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Recent Posts:
September 2005


Battle of Britain

Fertility Treatment

The Plumber's Tale of Woe

Learning to Read and Write

Bureaucracy Gone Mad

What is Really Happening in New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina

The Tooth Fairy Forgot to Come!!!

August 2005

More Surgery!"

How I Met Michael Rennie (1909-1971)

"The Sixth Lamentation" - An Excellent Book

French Onions

Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959)

I'm Recovering Well

Well, I'm Glad That's Over!

Just Me Prattling

The Russian Mini-Submarine

Amazing Animals: The Sturgeon

The Tower Subway

Surgical Pre-Assessment

July 2005

The Coal Delivery

Spyware and Anti-spyware"

Getting Enough Sleep?

An Insidious Cancer

Americans First on the Moon

"The Lion King"

Update on my Biopsy

Have I had my Head Buried in the Sand?


Animal Intelligence

Fl./Lt. Dennis G. Hornsey, D.F.C.

The English Language

London Bombs

Marriage Advice?

My Biopsy

A Message for the World's Leaders

June 2005


A 'Perfect' Day

Amazing Animals: The Emperor Penguin

Crowned on this Day in 1509

A Sweet for a Special Occasion

King Solomon's Mines

Father's Day

Tiger, Tiger....


Cockroaches and Human Fertility

World's Best Character Actor

Computer Decisions

Food for Thought


World Ocean Day

Daft as a Brush (or Two)

Douglas Jennings, RAF Evader During WW II

Lord of the Rings

Driving Me Mad

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Saturday, 28 May 2005
Leopold III, King of the Belgians - Belgian Bid to Restore His Honour
Topic: In the News
At the start of World War II, Belgium was neutral. However, the Germans, who had guaranteed Belgian neutrality in 1937, broke their word and, without warning, invaded Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg on 10th May 1940. The Belgian Army fought very bravely for eighteen days but, all the time, they were being pushed further and further back. By the 25th May, the Allies could see that the crumbling Belgian defence was becoming hopeless and on the 26th the French army drew up plans to withdraw to the coast. By 1 p.m. on the 27th, the War Office had issued orders "to evacuate the maximum force possible". In the early hours of 28th May 1940, Leopold III, commander-in-chief of the Belgian Army, took the final decision to surrender to the German Army, despite the opposition of his cabinet. The King wished to spare his people further bloodshed and suffering - but his action provoked accusations of treason.

Retired Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Roger Keyes (1972-1945), who had been recalled to serve as liaison officer to the Belgian King Leopold in 1939, was appointed Director of Combined Operations from 1940-41. He closely observed the King's conduct at the time of the capitulation and expressed his thoughts in his diaries. Later his son, Lord Keyes, 2nd Baron, naval officer and author (14th March 1919-4th March 2005) [see TimesOnLine Obituaries] believed, as did his father, that historians had treated King Leopold III most unfairly and that he had been made a scapegoat for the defeat of France and the British Army in 1940. He wrote a book, Outrageous Fortune, published in 1984, in which he set out to exonerate Leopold, whom he regarded as having been traduced by France and Britain for having ordered the Belgian Army to lay down its arms on May 28, 1940, after it had courageously fought the Wehrmacht for 18 days.

Recently, [18th March 2005], Belgian Monarchists, urged Tony Blair to "restore the honour" of King Leopold III; see Belgian bid to restore honour of their king. Lt. Col. Louis Van Leemputhe, the president of the Royal League of Veterans of Leopold III, is asking the Prime Minister to repudiate harsh comments directed at King Leopold by Sir Winston Churchill and other British officials, both during the war and afterwards.
"We are not asking for an apology but a letter from Mr Blair, simply stating that the British Government regrets the position taken by Sir Winston Churchill, which caused internal problems in Belgium that led to the abdication of the King," he said.
The league has also written to Belgium's prime minister to ask him to rehabilitate Leopold, who died in 1983, and "lift the veil of lies which covers this black page in our history".

I am not an historian but, as an outsider, my sympathies are with the late King (who died on 25th September 1983). Leopold III continued his defiance of the Germans right through the occupation. He rejected cooperation with the Nazis and refused to administer Belgium in accordance with their dictates. The King did meet with Hitler and successfully negotiated the release of thousands of Belgian prisoners-of-war - an event which resulted in some regarding him as a 'collaborator'. Although he was exonerated after the war, he was never forgiven by the Belgium people as a whole and, eventually, was forced to abdicate in 1951. The reasons for this are diverse due in part to old divisions between the Dutch-speaking Flemish people in the north and the French-speaking Walloons in the south. The reasons probably also extend to Leopold's private life - his behaviour during the war, particularly his re-marriage, incurring the violent disapproval of the Belgian people.

It is time he was forgiven.

For a brief history of Leopold from my main website, click here to view a Pop Up.
If you do not have JavaScript enabled, look here for the full-size page.

Posted by Noviomagus at 15:27 BST Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Petals Around The Rose
Topic: Miscellanea
'Petals Around The Rose' is a game which is traditionally played with five six-sided dice. I was introduced to it via a link on Joanna's Blog - AAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH! It is a simple game but a really difficult puzzle! I tried it, my husband tried it — we were stumped. Then this evening, my husband tried again and, he got it! It took me a bit longer but eventually an idea dawned as I did some ironing before supper and I got it too. We can sleep soundly tonight.

Have a go here or here if you want a running total of your attempts. I can tell you that the name of the game is significant. That the answer will always be zero or an even number. Once you get it, you can tell someone the answer but not how to do it - they have to find that out for themselves. If at first you don't succeed, don't worry, it took Bill Gates a while too.

Posted by Noviomagus at 00:20 BST Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Friday, 27 May 2005
Thank You
Mood:  lyrical
Topic: Fund-Raising
Thank you to the person or persons who contributed to my fund-raising today. Grand total is now #15 towards an unwrapped camel!

Posted by Noviomagus at 23:52 BST Post Comment | Permalink

Thursday, 26 May 2005
Buy Me A Camel - Update
Topic: Fund-Raising
In my recent post, Buy Me A Camel!, I reported on Oxfam's Unwrapped Gift Catalogue. This scheme caught my imagination because it allows you to buy a present for someone, a present which is in aid of Oxfam's humanitarian work and which will actually be allocated to a community in need.  I was particularly interested in the camel gift as I had just posted an entry on Amazing Animals: The Camel.

'Well, why not try to fund-raise for this purpose?', I asked myself.  So, I contacted Oxfam, who pointed me in the direction of  Here, I was able to set up a special web page - "Unwrapped Gifts - A Camel for a needy village".  From this page, you can access a secure site for donations by credit/debit card and, if you are resident in the United Kingdom and pay tax, you can increase your donation by ticking the box for gift aid.  Oxfam tell me that donations through this service help charities to save time and money in administration - so every donation goes further.

If you could afford to donate anything from #1 upwards, I would be most grateful.  Wherever you see a 'camel' button, click on it to go to my fund-raising web page,

Please ask your family and friends to support this appeal, together we might raise enough for a herd of camels, or a camel and a cow for #75, who knows!

camel button - links to a secure site for donations

by Rothwell Bishop (1910-1998)

Though desert life is rigorous
The camel's life is vigorous
In killing heat his master wilts
But he plods on, on padded stilts
At night sometimes his master freezes
But with the cold he never wheezes.
In truth he's learnt a better trick.
His gift
Is to lift
His temperature when it is hot
And lower it when it is not.

Plod on, plod on, you surly brute
I wish I had your thermostute
(I know the word is thermostat,
But couldn't find a rhyme for that.)


Many grateful thanks to Barbara Dixon for permission to reproduce her late father's poem. Visit John and Barbara Dixon's Website

Posted by Noviomagus at 00:01 BST Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Monday, 23 May 2005
National Walk to School Week
Topic: In the News
Today is the start of National Walk to School Week. In October, there will be another event, International Walk to School Week. If your children's schools are not taking part in the National initiative then, hopefully, they will promote the International event in the autumn. Why is this important? Well, health for one thing. Children today don't get enough exercise and walking or cycling to school will help to combat child obesity and will keep them fit.

My grandchildren walk the mile or so to their school each day but, nationally, it seems that this is becoming a dying practise. Part of the reason is that parents worry about road safety or 'stranger danger'. They are 'rushed off their feet' so they take the easy way out and use the car. Did you know that the school run contributes to 1 in 5 of all cars during the morning rush hour? This increase in road traffic causes congestion and is directly related to the number of car accidents involving school children, which rise during term time. It seems that this accident rate could be dramatically lowered by the implementation of staggered school hours. This is something which is already happening in the Chichester area with at least one secondary school starting extra early — although I think the real reason was the availability of school buses!

If walking is out of the question, what other action can you take? Well, car sharing is one answer - organise a rota to take your child and your child's friends to school. This simple solution will have an impact on the problem of school gate congestion. Many local schools have already registered with the West Sussex Young TransNet to formulate School Travel Plans and make school journeys safer. Make sure you support your school by doing your bit as a parent.

Posted by Noviomagus at 13:06 BST Post Comment | View Comments (4) | Permalink

Sunday, 22 May 2005
Sir Laurence Olivier (1907-1989)
Topic: Memories
Laurence Olivier - born on this dayMy late sister, Pauline, collected many autographs of famous actors, including at least ten signed photographs of the British actor, Sir Laurence Olivier, all of which she obtained personally. This photograph is of him in the part of Hotspur from Henry IV part I, probably taken in 1945, when he starred in this role on the London stage.  Laurence Olivier seemed to slip naturally into every Shakespearean role he played and he brought the characters to life with an intensity which was, and still is, the envy of many other actors. As a young teenager, Pauline went to see virtually every Shakespeare play he appeared in at The Old Vic in London's West End. I don't think my father was very keen for her to go to the theatre so, a friend's mother aided and abetted her in a deception by 'inviting her for tea' so that her daughter and Pauline could attend matinee performances together without my father's knowledge. They would wait outside the stage door, whenever possible to collect autographs.

When she left school, and started working, (I remember her telling me that #5 per week was an excellent salary for a secretary in London, immediately after the war), Pauline had more freedom to indulge in theatre going. I think she had a bit of a 'crush' on Laurence Olivier at the time and she waited for him so often, he began to recognise her. I can remember her telling me that she had felt quite faint when he once placed his hand under her trembling hand to steady the page he was signing!  He was aware of her reaction and had a huge grin on his face! I suppose you could say my sister was an original 'groupie'.  At the time, I was much too young to join her on her trips to the theatre but I heard all about them. She told me of the occasion when 'Larry', great actor that he was, sat on a chair which suddenly collapsed. It wasn't meant to, she definitely knew it wasn't meant to, because it was the third time she had seen the play.  But, to the rest of the audience, it passed virtually unnoticed as he took it all in his stride.

Often described as the 'greatest actor of the twentieth century', Laurence Olivier was born on the 22nd May 1907 at Dorking, in Surrey. He made some 14 films in the 1930s, including "Fire Over England", his first film with Vivien Leigh, whom he later married. However, I think that one of the best films from this era was, "Wuthering Heights", in which he starred as Heathcliff. Made in 1939, in black and white, of course, his burning portrayal of Heathcliff has made it into an ageless classic. I saw it much later on television and it remains one of my favourite films. He went on to star and direct in many more films right up to 1989. Those I definitely saw include "Henry V", which was originally released in 1944 as a 'propaganda' film, Richard III (1955), "The Prince and the Showgirl" (with Marilyn Monroe in 1957), Spartacus (with Kirk Douglas in 1960), Sleuth (with Michael Caine in 1972), Marathon Man (in 1976 - I think of Dustin Hoffman every time my dentist uses a drill!) and "A Bridge Too Far" (1977).

I finally got to see Laurence Olivier on the stage when I was fifteen or sixteen. He was starring in "The Entertainer" in Brighton. I remember I went straight from school dressed in my stuffy grey uniform and complete with satchel! I had a seat on the aisle. I was totally unprepared for the scene in which a nude model appeared on the stage. I remember feeling extremely embarrassed and I'm sure I went bright red. Certainly, I didn't dare look at the gentleman sitting on my left!

Laurence Olivier was knighted in 1947. In 1970, he was made "Baron Olivier of Brighton" for his services to the theatre, an honour which entitled him to a seat in the House of Lords. In 1981, Lord Olivier received the Order of Merit. He died on the 11th July 1989 in Steyning, West Sussex, where he lived with his third wife, Joan Plowright. He is buried in 'Poets' Corner' in Westminster Abbey, the second actor to receive this honour, along with the 18th century Shakespearean actor, David Garrick.

Posted by Noviomagus at 15:51 BST Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 20 May 2005
Energy for Life
Topic: Nature and Our World
Did you watch last night's "Question Time" from Edinburgh on BBC1? One of the questions was, "Would the panellists prefer either a wind turbine or a nuclear power station in their back yard"? I wonder what people in this country said when the first windmills were being built in the 12th century for milling grain? Were they a 'blot on the landscape' in the middle ages? Now we think that windmills are a picturesque addition to the landscape, like our own local mill up on Halnaker Hill, near Chichester. Some windmills have been lovingly restored to full working order such as High Salvington Mill near Worthing. I remember visiting that windmill with my sister in my late teens. It was being used as a tea room and we 'partook of the refreshments'. We were the only customers late that afternoon and the gentleman in charge was friendly and chatty. We admired the, at the time, somewhat derelict mill and asked how old it was. He invited us behind the scenes on a little tour of the building and showed us the old mill stone. I remember being invited to pull on a rope - he then told me that I had just lifted one ton! I was very impressed.

To get back to the question of wind turbines versus nuclear power stations; where practicable, I would choose the wind turbine generator every time. They are not as picturesque as windmills but, who cares! Initially, they are much cheaper to install and maintain then building a large nuclear power station and the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases they produce is negligible. Okay, so nuclear power can be very cheap to produce and creates no air pollution, until there is an accidental release of radioactivity, such as the Chernobyl disaster in 1986! Then there is the problem of the disposal of dangerous radioactive by-products, which can remain hazardous for thousands of years. Until, and if, we learn to properly harness nuclear fusion (combining atoms) instead of nuclear fission (splitting atoms), this will be the main drawback to nuclear power.

This debate raises a deeper concern. From the time of the Industrial Revolution, people in Europe have relied on fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum to produce energy. In many third world countries, they still rely on wood to cook and to keep warm. This unrelenting demand for natural and fossil fuels is stretching the planet's resources and alternative sources of energy must be found, and soon. One solution, is the harnessing of wind power, together with solar power and wave power. As long as our solar system exists, we shall have waves and winds and solar power, free energy to use without adding to the greenhouse effect we hear so much about. Since the advent of the car, the worldwide demand for petroleum has been steadily increasing and this rate of demand cannot be sustained for many more years. Today's oil fields will, eventually, run dry and humanity will be forced to find an alternative solution; perhaps electric or hybrid cars with petrol motors kicking in on motorways to start with. Research is also being undertaken into producing a car with hydrogen-powered fuel cells. This would be clean and sustainable, when they find a way of reducing the cost. Perhaps, one day, they will discover how to harness gravity or magnetism, who knows!

As a small child, I can remember asking my sister, Pauline, where petroleum and petrol came from. I knew it came from oil wells, but how had it got in the ground in the first place? At the time, her answer sounded quite plausible to me - dinosaur wee! Well, they were huge creatures and must have had huge bladders! Actually, the natural process which forms petroleum still continues today, as it was formed from plants and animals living in the warm seas that covered the earth millions of years ago. As they died, they piled up on the sea bottom, sunk under their own weight into the sea floor, eventually to be covered by tons of sand and mud. Under pressure, and over millions of years, this dead sludge gradually turned into dark liquid trapped in the pores of the earth. Some found its way into 'pockets', forming today's oil fields and, occasionally, oil rose to the surface creating sticky tar 'lakes', death traps for many prehistoric creatures. Early man made use of it to make torches, waterproof baskets or the seams of ancient ships. The Ancient Egyptians used bitumen to preserve their mummies; the Chinese used petroleum for heating and Red Indians used it as paint, fuel and medicine. Today, petroleum is refined or distilled to make petrol, paraffin, lubricants, waxes and asphalt. But the rate we use it up is much faster than the time it takes the earth to produce it and the truth is that it will probably run out in a hundred more years.

Unfortunately, the refinement and burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, releases sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide into the air, impurities which are a major cause of acid rain, together with large amounts of greenhouse gases, such as carbon monoxide. This is affecting our climate, our forests, our seas and our lakes. Society is irresponsible, too; we waste an enormous amount of energy - just look at all those neon advertisements signs you see in London or New York! Our street lights are wasteful, directing light in all directions instead of straight to the ground where it is needed.

All new houses should be better insulated and should incorporate solar roof panels. Why not have them on cars, too - they could boost the battery and perhaps even power a car for short urban shopping trips. More research should also go into developing a viable solar-powered oven for those third world communities currently relying on wood or camel dung for essential cooking purposes. We should be doing all this now - not leaving the problem for our great-grand children. If we don't do something about the pollution to the environment, about deforestation and over-fishing, the harm we are doing to our beautiful planet, to its bio-diversity and, ultimately, to humanity itself, could be permanent and lethal.

Posted by Noviomagus at 17:13 BST Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Tuesday, 17 May 2005
Humph! Said the Camel
Topic: Poetry and Poets
In his Just So Stories, originally written for his daughter and published in 1902, Rudyard Kipling describes 'How the Camel Got His Hump'. The story goes that, when the world was new, there was a Camel who did not want to work for Man and who was most 'scruciating idle; and when anybody spoke to him he said 'Humph!' Just 'Humph!' and no more. The Horse, the Dog and the Ox got very angry and so, when the Djinn in charge of All Deserts stopped by to chat, they told him all about the Camel's laziness.

The Djinn went to see the Camel, who said, 'Humph!' He asked the Camel to work. 'Humph!'   And then, the Camel's back puffed up into a great big lolloping humph. The Djinn told the Camel that, as he had missed three days of work, he would now be able to work for three days without eating because he could live off his humph.

And from that day to this, the Camel always wears a humph, (which we now call a hump). But he never caught up with the three days he missed and he never learned how to behave.
THE Camel's hump is an ugly lump
    Which well you may see at the Zoo;
But uglier yet is the hump we get
    From having too little to do.

Kiddies and grown-ups too-oo-oo,
If we haven't enough to do-oo-oo,
        We get the hump --
        Cameelious hump --
The hump that is black and blue!

We climb out of bed with a frouzly head,
    And a snarly-yarly voice.
We shiver and scowl and we grunt and we growl
    At our bath and our boots and our toys;

And there ought to be a corner for me
(And I know' there is one for you)
        When we get the hump --
        Cameelious hump --
The hump that is black and blue!

The cure for this ill is not to sit still,
    Or frowst with a book by the fire;
But to take a large hoe and a shovel also,
    And dig till you gently perspire;

And then you will find that the sun and the wind,
And the Djinn of the Garden too,
        Have lifted the hump --
        The horrible hump --
The hump that is black and blue!

I get it as well as you-oo-oo-
    If I haven't enough to do-oo-oo!
    We all get hump --
    Cameelious hump --
Kiddies and grown-ups too!

Posted by Noviomagus at 17:40 BST Post Comment | Permalink

Monday, 16 May 2005
Buy Me A Camel!
Topic: In the News
Buy me a camel!No, I'm not joking. You can really buy me a camel for just #95! Oxfam Great Britain has just launched their summer, 'Unwrapped Gift Catalogue', with a range of gifts which will be available until the end of September. Of course, I wouldn't actually get the camel, just a card! No, these are gifts in support of Oxfam's humanitarian work and they will benefit a community in one of over 70 countries, thereby helping Oxfam to tackle worldwide poverty and suffering. What a brilliant idea for that awkward person who seems to have everything - now you can give them a marvellous present and benefit a charity at the same time. If you are that 'awkward person', then get a gift catalogue from Oxfam for your friends and family to browse through.

The gift choices range from camels, cows and goats to a whole farmyard of livestock for #1,200. If you don't want to buy an animal, you can purchase school dinners for 100 children for just #6, fill a satchel with school equipment for just #16, buy medicines for a whole village for #100 or provide safe water for 1000 people for #720.

If you are getting married, Oxfam now offer an Unwrapped 'Wedding List' Service as well. Personalised wedding lists can easily be created after you have registered here. If you already own that microwave oven, coffee maker, food mixer, or whatever and you are stuck for wedding gift ideas - why not give this a try?

In the meantime, if you are feeling generous, I would really, really, like a camel!

N.B. My grateful thanks to Oxfam GB (tel: 0870 333 2700) for permission to use their small camel picture
Updated 16 May 2005 17:17 BST

Posted by Noviomagus at 16:36 BST Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Amazing Animals: The Camel
(No. 2 in my series)

Topic: Nature and Our World
The Bactrian CamelI was quite young when I had my first encounter with a camel. My sister, Janine, had taken me to London Zoo and we spotted the 'Camel Ride' - I eagerly joined the long queue. Oh, yes, please... I want to wait, I told my sister. It was a huge creature, a Bactrian Camel with two humps, thick, long shaggy ruddy-brown hair and enormous feet. The 'seat' was one of those contraptions with two benches suspended laterally and seating several children on each side of the camel's humps. It was a very long wait but finally I got to the front of the queue, standing eagerly by the steps ready to climb up onto the bench seat. At last the camel returned and its passengers climbed down. I can still feel my trembling excitement when I was suddenly whisked up into the air by the Keeper and, because I was so small, placed not on the bench seat, but on the camel's neck! I could see where we were going; I could touch its hair. I was riding a camel!

Many years' later, when I was twenty-three, I visited the Land of the Pharaohs and had my second encounter with a camel - an Arabian camel, this time, with one hump. Its days were taken up patiently transporting countless tourists the short distance to that crumbling wonder of the ancient world, A tourist visiting the pyramidsthe Great Pyramid of Khufu (Greek name Cheops). Never having had much to do with horses, I took to riding the camel straight away. The camels are taught to kneel down, as it much easier to climb on. However, I knew that once up there, you had to be very careful when they got up! You see, they raise their back legs first and then, when they kneel down again, they go down on their front knees first so, I made sure I was leaning right back. (I did see one tourist fall off!) I also knew, probably from seeing that epic film, "Lawrence of Arabia", that you should hook your right foot behind your left knee - it certainly felt much more secure. The camel has a strange, rather pleasant, swaying gait when walking because its left front and back legs move together followed by its right front and back legs - no wonder it was called the 'ship of the desert'!

The two-humped Bactrian Camel (Camelus bactrianus)is found throughout Asia, mainly in Mongolia and in China. A very small number of protected wild herds still roam the grassy Steppes and the Gobi Desert. Their extra long hair protects them from the extremes of temperature and they have shorter legs and thicker bodies than the one-humped Arabian camel (Camelus dromedarius), which is found in the Middle East and in Africa. There are no wild herds of Arabian camels in North Africa as, when the animal was first domesticated some 5,000 years ago, their wild cousins died out.

And, yes, they are the most amazing of creatures; both types of camels are perfectly adapted to the desert environment. They carry a reserve of fat in their humps and can go for long periods without water, particularly if leafy plants are available. Although they are not true ruminants, their stomachs are divided into three sections and they swallow food whole then regurgitate it later to chew the cud. Camels don't pant and they perspire very little as they have a large body temperature range, which can fluctuate between 93?F (34?C) in the early hours of the morning to 105?F (41?C) or more by midday, without causing them distress. They just 'cool off' overnight when the desert temperature drops. This unique 'body thermostat' allows them to conserve body fluids and avoid unnecessary water loss. In addition, their kidneys can concentrate their urine, which can become as thick as syrup and twice as salty as seawater! They also extract fluid from their faeces and their pellets are so dry they can be used immediately for fuel.

Camels can go 5-7 days with little or no food and water and can easily lose a quarter of their body weight or more without suffering any consequences. Blood plasma volume is maintained as, when necessary, water stored in body fat and other tissues can be extracted. This lost water can be rapidly replaced and a large animal can drink as much as 100 litres/21 gallons of water, even brackish water, in ten minutes. This would cause severe problems in other animals, but the camel's unique metabolism enables it to store the water in its bloodstream. Camels are the only mammals with oval (instead of circular) red blood cells. This adaptation allows the red blood cells to continue to circulate if the blood thickens and to expand and not rupture when the camel takes in large quantities of water.

Some other physical characteristics which allow camels to survive so well in arid desert conditions include a double row of beautiful long eyelashes that protect their eyes from wind-blown sand; small ears lined with fine hairs, also to keep out sand; nostrils that can be closed; thick lips and 34 sharp teeth to eat coarse, thorny desert plants; and two-toed feet which have vestigial hoofs that look like nails and a broad calloused pad to walk on hot sand. And, I promise you, desert sand can get very hot indeed around midday, never step on it barefooted as I once did when I came out of a shrine carrying my sandals!

Certainly, without the camel, the desert peoples would never have flourished. They provide transport, shade, milk, meat, wool and hides - the Bedouin call it, Ata Allah, (God's gift). Camel milk is actually highly nutritious and lower in fat and lactose than milk from a dairy cow. The much-prized riding or racing camel, the equivalent of a pedigree racing horse, is called the Dromedary.

Camels live for up to 40 years and their gestation period is 13 months, so females only breed every two years. Calves weigh about 90 pounds at birth and take about five years to mature. All the Camelidae family evolved in North America, where they eventually became extinct approximately 12,000 years ago. However, before the ice ages, some of the early ancestral camels crossed the Alaskan land bridge (Bering Strait) to Asia and others the Panama land connection to South America. Therefore the Bactrian and Arabian camels are closely related to the South American Llama and alpaca, vicuna and guanacos. All the South American camelids can be interbred and selective breeding can greatly improve the quality of their wool. Likewise, the Dromedary and Bactrian camels are very similar to each other and can be crossbred to produce faster, stronger hybreds. All hybred offspring are fertile.

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