Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Ollie...

Saw nephew Ben, Hem and baby Ollie, who has changed so much in the few weeks since I last saw him: able to roll over on his own, and no doubt keen to become even more mobile. I was impressed by the little gadget that allowed Ben and Hem to watch and listen to Ollie, in his cot, and even to play the soothing sounds of waves against a shingle beach, to help him fall asleep. They could change the ambient sounds, remotely (which presumably don’t include thunder, or heavy metal music or the 1812 Overture). With snow settling, I stayed the night…

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Blue Monday...

Yesterday was ‘Blue Monday’, supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. Christmas and new year are over, but the credit card bills still need paying… and the weather is crap. The concept was first publicised as part of a 2005 press release from holiday company Sky Travel, which claimed to have calculated the date using “an equation”. The idea has caught on, and seems to have found its place in the calendar…

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Leighton Moss...

I spent the morning at Leighton Moss. Plenty of wildfowl, particularly ducks: maybe a thousand teal, plus wigeon, mallard, tufted duck, shoveler, pintail, gadwall and goldeneye. Other sightings included little egret, great egret, redshank, lapwing, curlew, snipe, a solitary marsh harrier quartering over the reedbeds and an otter swimming across one of the lakes…

Then watched the football in a pub. Sunday roast, pint of beer, football on the telly and Liverpool clinging on - the last few minutes were rather tense - to beat Manchester City 4-3. Hooray!…

Licensed this shot today, of a pub in Petersfield, Hampshire...

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Crosby...

I parked up by the sea in Crosby, to get some writing done. It was intriguing that Anthony Gormley’s figures emerged from the waves as the tide receded… 

Friday, 12 January 2018

Longton Brickcroft ...

Had another productive writing day, interrupted by a stroll round Longton Brickcroft nature reserve. Apart from the usual coots and moorhens, in the flooded pits of the old brickworks, there were shoveler, gadwall and a pair of goldeneye. A robin sat on a thorny twig, feathers puffed out against the cold, and, from no more than three feet away, sang a little song just for me…

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Aisha...

I’ve read the hadith, which collects together many of the sayings of Mohammed and his companions. While they complement the Koran, they are not deemed by Muslims to be the word of God. It was a long read, made longer by the fact that most of the narrations are repeated, often word-for-word, and not just once but many times. I must have read at least a dozen accounts of how Mohammed’s young wife, Aisha, lost a favourite necklace, only to find, after everyone had helped her search, that her camel had been sitting on it all along. D'oh! Nevertheless, this little story is still more interesting than most of the hadith, 95% of which are resolutely banal and inconsequential (in fact, it’s their very banality which gives them the ring of truth; would anyone have bothered to make this stuff up?).

Mohammed declares that “Allah likes sneezing and dislikes yawning.” There’s advice about removing semen stains from garments (dab it with a damp cloth), and which way to spit while praying (to the left). Who will go to hell, Christians or Muslims (this question is entirely rhetorical, of course)? It’s in the hadith, not the Koran, when Mohammed decides that women must be veiled. When he wants to have sex with one of his many wifes rather than ‘taking turns’, he retreats to his cave and receives a convenient and well-timed ‘revelation’ from Allah to the effect that he can pick whichever wife he wants.

I’m now reading The Heirs of the Prophet Mohammed, by Barnaby Rogerson, which helps to bring some of these characters to life. One chapter is about the Prophet’s wives. Some he married in an attempt to unite local clans, others were taken in battle as part of the ‘war booty’. Sex slaves would be shared around his men, though Mohammed would take first pick. Two of his wives he had widowed in battle. His favourite wife (apart from Khadija, who died before he left Mecca for Medina) was Aisha. He became betrothed to her when she was six years old; she later recalled that she was playing on her see-saw when the Prophet called. Mr Rogerson is entirely uncritical in his description of the wedding night, just three years later, when “the Prophet led Aisha into the bridal hut and she became a woman”. Mohammed, considered by Muslims to be the perfect example of manhood, was 53; Aisha was just nine years old.

Sold this shot - of Glasson Dock, near Lancaster - a day after I was there...

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Writing...

A few people have said that I should write a book about my travels. However, unless I put my imagination into overdrive, it would make dull reading. Today I breakfasted, as so often when I’m in the northern counties, at the cafĂ© in Booths supermarket (I have a Booths card, so the tea is free). Then I parked up and wrote maybe 1,500 words. I staggered out of the van, feeling a bit light-headed and disorientated. That’s a good sign; it means I’d had a productive session, engrossed in the writing.

Then the satnav lady directed me to the swimming pool in Garstang, to get a shower (she seems to know when I need one. I didn’t ask her). The lady at the reception desk squinted at her computer and said “that’ll be £5”. She heard my anguished cry - “I’ve bought cars for less than that!” - and had another look at the computer screen. Even though we both knew that my youthful good looks were deceptive, she put me down for a junior swim. £2.50. Like I say, I don’t think there’s a book in this…