Saturday, 30 December 2017

Last sale of the year...

Licensed this pic today of The Bear in Crickhowell. I failed to match the sales in 2016 (5 pix short), but, looking on the bright side, sales have been good since the autumn...


Friday, 29 December 2017

Portpatrick...

The sun made a rare appearance, so I spent a few hours photographing the little town of Portpatrick, on the Atlantic coast. I saw half a dozen black guillemots in the harbour. It’s hard to imagine any birds better adapted to marine life, and they were so animated: not mating, but dancing - pirouetting - around each other.

On a whim I took the ferry to Bute - it took just half an hour - adding to the list of Scottish Islands I’ve visited. The weather may be grim, but it’s still fun to explore…

Global warming...

The year almost past, 2017, is the first in which the most powerful person on the planet has been an internet troll with a Twitter account. As snow comes to the east coast of the USA, Donald Trump writes that the country “could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against”…

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Sensitivity

Wise words in my email inbox this morning, from Krishnamurti...

"The so-called saints and sannyasis have contributed to the dullness of mind and to the destruction of sensitivity. Every habit, repetition, rituals strengthened by belief and dogma, sensory responses, can be and are refined, but the alert awareness, sensitivity, is quite another matter. Sensitivity is absolutely essential to look deeply within; this movement of going within is not a reaction to the outer; the outer and the inner are the same movement, they are not separate. The division of this movement as the outer and as the inner breeds insensitivity. Going within is the natural flow of the outer; the movement of the inner has its own action, expressed outwardly but it is not a reaction of the outer. Awareness of this whole movement is sensitivity"...

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Stranraer...

Considering the dire weather, I enjoyed my brief exploration of the Rhins of Galloway peninsular, from Stranraer down to the lighthouse at the tip: the Mull of Galloway. I wound up in in a little one-horse town called Drummore, and ventured into the pub. My cricket sweater is proving to be a good starter of conversations, as people wonder why some old geezer appears to be impersonating a cricketer. I tell them that, since England are doing so badly in the Ashes, I’m waiting for that phone-call from the chairman of selectors, asking if I could fly out to Australia and play in the next test. I got into an animated conversation with the locals at the bar, which made for a convivial evening.

This morning I drove to Portpatrick, another little town on the Atlantic coastline, with an attractive harbour, and I’m now back in Stranraer, parked up with a sea view. If the rain relents, I might go back to Portpatrick tomorrow and take some pix. If not, I’ll carry on writing the book… like I did today…

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Fairytale of New York...

Christmas has finally arrived, and it feels pointless to wheel out my objections. They’ve all been said before, and sound as drearily predictable as Roy Wood’s probably certifiable request in wishing “it could be Christmas every day”. Most people seem to hold two contradictory ideas in their heads at once. They resent the stress and expense of the festivities, while demanding that Christmas this year is exactly the same as it was last year and the year before that. No wonder Christmas can inflict so much psychic damage.

I feel sorry for those who have been subjected to non-stop Christmas music for the last six weeks. There’s only one Christmas song I enjoy hearing, and I’m happy to hear it at any time of year: "Fairytale Of New York" by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. I can’t hear this bittersweet lament without wiping away a tear.

It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me,
Won't see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

They've got cars
Big as bars
They've got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It's no place for the old

When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on the corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing 'Galway Bay'
And the bells are ringing
Out for Christmas day

You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead
On a drip in that bed

You scumbag
You maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God
It's our last

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing 'Galway Bay'
And the bells are ringing
Out for Christmas day

I could have been someone
Well, so could anyone
You took my dreams
From me when I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can't make it all alone
I've built my dreams around you

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing 'Galway Bay'
And the bells are ringing
Out for Christmas day…

Here's the story of how the song was written, and here's the song itself (and original video)…

Thursday, 21 December 2017

St Bees...

Drove from Barrow up the Cumbria coast. Tourists don’t come here (why cross the Lake District to visit Workington?), but I rather enjoy the ‘back of beyond’. Stopped last night in St Bees and had a pint in the Oddfellows Arms. They were having a sort of kareoke evening, but without any backing tracks: just pissed blokes ‘singing’ into a microphone. It was as bad as it sounds (yet still not as bad as hearing Noddy Holder yell “It’s Christmaaaaaas” for the millionth time)...

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Waterhead...

I dusted down the camera for a few hours of mist and sunlight at Waterhead...



























Monday, 18 December 2017

Ready...

“Are you ready for Christmas?”, she asked. The correct response is to clap your hands over your face and wail that, no, you’re nowhere near ready, and you’re heading for a festive breakdown. You’re not supposed to say “yes” - too smug - or suggest that you don’t do Christmas at all…

Saturday, 16 December 2017

The religious mind...

Today's insight from Jiddhu Krishnamurti...

"The religious mind is something entirely different from the mind that believes in religion. You cannot be religious and yet be a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist. A religious mind does not seek at all, it cannot experiment with truth. Truth is not something dictated by your pleasure or pain, or by your conditioning as a Hindu or whatever religion you belong to. The religious mind is a state of mind in which there is no fear and therefore no belief whatsoever but only what is... what actually is"...

Friday, 15 December 2017

A day in Barrow...

I'm lucky to be in Barrow-in-Furness. There seems to be a bit of ‘play’ in the Romahome steering, and I want to get it sorted before I put too many more miles on the clock. I’ve left it at the Citroen Garage in town, where I’ve had work done before. So I have a day in Barrow, with my camera, laptop and radio (England are still ‘holding their own’ in the Perth test match)…

If anyone searches the Alamy database, with the words 'dogshit' + 'windfarm', I'll expect a sale...

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Third test...

When days look a bit grim, and winter stretches out so very far ahead, I remind myself that I don’t have to wear a Christmas jumper or negotiate the festive pitfalls of an office party. Full of cold, so an early night beckons. The test match starts in a few hours, so I hope to be listening to Alistair Cook and Joe Root taking the Aussie bowlers to the cleaners. I can dream…

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Ulverston...

As a rule of thumb I assume that the interior of the Romahome stays about 5℃ warmer than outside. Woke up this morning to find that, according to my thermometer, the cabin was a chilly -1℃, and the temperature outside was, as anticipated, an arctic -6℃. Thankfully I have a good sleeping bag and duvet. I drove to Ulverston this morning, keeping to the main roads; this is not a good moment to follow the satnav lady’s whimsical choice of ungritted by-ways. Having breakfast in the café at Booths. The cabin is now 20℃, and I plan to get some writing done.

My nomadic existence has at least one unanticipated consequence: I’ve come to realise that mild asceticism helps to keep the mind active. If I was living in a warm, comfortable house I’d just sink into a sofa and never get up…

Monday, 11 December 2017

Hull, Helen & Halifax...

Spent the weekend with Helen in Halifax. Good to be in the warm while the temperatures are plummeting. The weather, though cold, doesn't look too bad, so I'm heading for Cumbria...

Friday, 8 December 2017

Bramhope Tunnel...

Licensed this pic today: the memorial to the 24 men who died while constructing the Bramhope Tunnel, on the Harrogate railway line. The monument, a faithful replica of the tunnel’s northern entrance, with crenellated towers, is in Otley churchyard…




Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Fine dining...

Stopped for a snack at another lay-by diner; made out of a shipping container, it has an air of permanence. Instead of racist banter they had a baffling menu. I didn’t ask what a ‘Spam Tower’ was, and settled instead for a crispy bacon sandwich and a mug of tea. I’m a big fan of these roadside cafés. They’re cheap, cheerful and serve generous portions; best of all there’s no dress code…

A great little pub, at the scruffy end of town: the Whalebone, Hull...


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Kate Rusby...

Had a couple of days in Sunny Halifax, seeing Helen, other chums and Kate Rusby, who was appearing at the Victoria Theatre. None of us were aware that it was a Christmas show… until we saw the life-sized Rudolph the Reindeer on the stage. No problem; Christmas carols represent the acceptable face of the festive season, and Kate - and her band - rattled through a repertoire of (mostly) lesser-known carols and Christmas songs (though three different versions of While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night was probably two versions too many). Some of the songs were augmented by a brass section, which helped to provide a Christmassy ambience. The band came back for an encore, all dressed up for a nativity scene; Kate, with wings and a halo, was the archangel Gabriel.

It was a very enjoyable evening, though I wish she’d just sing the songs and forget about the between-song banter, which isn’t very funny or interesting. She’s long been a purveyor of unamusing anecdotes, which just kill the moods which the songs evoke; it’s a shame that no one told her, years ago, to concentrate on what she does best…

Choir in the Piece Hall, Halifax... raising money for Overgate Hospice...


Sunday, 3 December 2017

Breakfast...

Stopped for breakfast at my favourite provider of tea, bacon sandwiches and mildly racist banter, who operates from a van parked in a lay-by between Skipton and Keighley. The flag of St George hanging limply above the van is a code to inform the traveling public that salty language is acceptable - even encouraged - and that no conversational topic, no matter how misogynistic, is off-limits…

Saturday, 2 December 2017

The Maritime Experience...

I wasn’t sure if sales in 2017 would match 2016, but November ended well and December started even better. The 16 pix licensed yesterday represents my best haul for one day, and gives me hope for buoyant sales in 2018…

Another shot from Hartlepool...


Friday, 1 December 2017

Session...

In Knaresborough last night. It was good to be in a cosy little pub, while the snow was whipping around outside, and some local musicians were having a session...


Thursday, 30 November 2017

Snow...

Woke up this morning, in Scarborough, to find the first snowfall of winter. It was quite a surprise. I should have stayed where I was a while longer, because the road out of town was full of lorries and cars going nowhere. I managed to find a pull-in; better to get some writing done than just stare blankly at the traffic gridlock...

Sailing in the docks at Hartlepool...




Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Spital Inn...

Stayed last night at the Spital Inn campsite, near Scarborough (there aren't many campsites open in the last week of November). I processed a lot of pix, including images of the Rochdale Canal in Hebden Bridge, looking rather autumnal. Strange how the eye is drawn to a figure in the landscape, no matter how small...


Monday, 27 November 2017

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Hartlepool...

Hartlepool is as far north as I'll head on this trip. Had a morning taking pix around the town's marina, and I'll be going south, down the coast, maybe to Staithes, before winding up with friends in Scarborough on Tuesday night...

Friday, 24 November 2017

Pix...

Another night of Ashes cricket commentary and fitful sleep; after two days the game is still too close to call. Good news about pic sales on Alamy, in that the search criteria appear to have changed. It means my pix will appear nearer the top of relevant searches… and that will lead to more sales. Hooray… 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Redcar...

Exploring old haunts along the coast I wound up in Redcar, where the steelworks no longer lights up the night sky. Had a quick look around the town’s charity shops (one emporium boasts an entire DVD section devoted to films about serial killers).

I got some pix of the offshore wind turbines, with dramatic clouds behind them, and saw herring gulls dropping shells onto the stone-flagged esplanade from a height, hoping to smash them open. Even though it doesn’t always work, it’s still a clever trick. I saw turnstones too: small wading birds which have more traditional ways of finding food (the clue’s in the name)…

First test...

I was tucked up in bed when the first ball was bowled at the Gabba. Having won the toss, Joe Root decided to bat. My main hope was that England would finish day one of the first test by still being in the game, rather than being blown away by the Aussie bowlers. At 196 for 4, at stumps, the game seems evenly poised. It wasn’t the most exciting day’s cricket, but intriguing enough. And England’s middle order batsmen all got enough runs to leave me hoping that we can get to a first innings total of 400…

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The Ashes...

I listened to commentary from the women’s T20 game against the Aussies: a good win even if they couldn’t reclaim the Ashes (and I wish they could inaugurate a new trophy; the Ashes it ain’t!). It put me in the mood for the men’s Ashes, which begins tomorrow night. I’ll be wide awake in some lay-by or market square, listening to the first ball from the Gabba… hopefully drifting in and out of consciousness as England take wickets or pile on the runs...

Monday, 20 November 2017

The Whalebone...

Felt dog rough these past few days. If there was any resale value in mucus, I could go into production. Wound up in Hull, parked next to the marina, and got a lot of writing done. There’s a special satisfaction in getting the words down even when my head is spinning. And I got pix of Hull, as I walked out of the city, keeping as close as possible to the tidal mudbanks of the River Hull. In the middle of this post-industrial wasteland - all graffiti, razor wire and alsatians - I found a wonderfully welcoming pub, the Whalebone. I sat next to a woodburning stove, nursing a pint, feeling that life wasn't so bad after all…

Friday, 17 November 2017

Hebden Bridge...

Back in Hebden Bridge: always a bittersweet experience. When I moved here, years ago, I thought I’d found my place. The good times were very good indeed, but the bad times were horrible… and it’s the bad times that I recall most strongly as I take a stroll. I still have no idea why some people in town accused me of being a paedophile (I’m writing now about the dangers of believing things without good evidence, and this episode was a classic example).

I remember sitting on the bottom step of the stairs, surrounded by broken glass, realising that having a mouth that tasted of ashes was more than a metaphor. I knew the craziness was unlikely to end. It might have died down, after a few months, or years, but there would never be any genuine resolution. I locked myself away, then, a few weeks later, left…

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Knaresborough...

The snug, Blind Jack's...


Mother Shipton, gazing into the future, with Blind Jack's in the background...


Sunday, 12 November 2017

Fairburn Ings...

I spent a few hours wandering around Fairburn Ings, an RSPB reserve created from old colliary tips, wedged between motorways, bordered on one side by the River Aire and overlooked by Ferrybridge power station. It’s an unlikely spot for a bird reserve, but birds don’t share our sense of the aesthetic. If they can find a territory, sources of food and nesting sites, they’re happy to ignore the grot.

I saw plenty of ducks: tufted duck, pochard, wigeon, shoveler and shelduck, also gooseander and some great crested grebes (including one still in breeding plumage). A pair of little grebes, so tiny they’d fit in the palm of your hand, were ducking and diving. Best of all was a pair of goldeneye, a handsome little diving duck...

A visitor to one of the hides at Fairburn Ings...



Cyclists at Fairburn Ings...

Friday, 10 November 2017

Blacktoft Sands...

Called in at Blacktoft Sands, an RSPB reserve just south of the Humber. No great numbers of waders, but still one or two surprises: redshank, spotted redshank, dunlin, snipe, ruff and black tailed godwit. Ducks: shoveler, shelduck, wigeon and teal. A couple of marsh harriers quartered over the reedbeds; I watched a little egret catching fish and a bird-watcher eating his sandwiches…

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Twilight...

I enjoy doing twilight shots. There's a brief window of opportunity - only a few minutes - to get the shots. Licensed these two pix this week...




























Wednesday, 8 November 2017

A fenland surprise...

Stayed in a fenland campsite last night, near Littleport. Reception took just a few seconds. No formalities; the guy just wanted to see the colour of my money. Having edited and uploaded a backlog of pix, I walked along the riverbank of the Great Ouse to a nearby pub and ordered a drink and a meal. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spied two familiar faces: Jean and John, who used to run the Hourglass Gallery in Hebden Bridge. They’re living in fenland now, and don’t look a day older than when I saw them last… maybe 15 years ago…


Sunday, 5 November 2017

Great egret...

Had a couple of hours watching birds at Fen Drayon Lakes, one of a number of nature reserves in and around the Ouse fens. It was good to feel the sun on my back, though the birdlife wasn’t too exciting: grebes, wigeons, tufted ducks, etc. I saw a great egret standing close to a heron, and noticed how similar in size they were. In a couple of years these egrets may be as common as little egrets have become, and won’t even be mentioned in dispatches by those twitchers who are only interested in rarities.

Photogenic light this afternoon, so I’m shooting pix by the quayside in St Ives…

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Heading north...

Visited sister Kari, to coincide with her last day of chemotherapy. Then Kevin, in a little rural idyll near Hitchin. Now heading north through heavy rain…

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Saint Agnes...

At the halfway point of my walk around Pagham Harbour was the diminutive church at Church Norton. Inside I saw a rather crude memorial to John and Agatha Lewis, Lord and Lady of the Manor, and, next to it, in an alcove, an equally crude relief sculpture which stopped me in my tracks. A woman, nearly naked, was flanked by two men, armed with tools that looked like Mole grips, which seemed to be fastened onto the woman’s bare breasts. I went back to the van, for my camera and tripod, and took a pic.

The woman, as I subsequently learned, was another Agatha, who lived in Sicily during the 6th century AD. In a time of persecution, she vowed to remain chaste and dedicate her life to God. One man, a local judge, wouldn’t take no for an answer, and had Agatha arrested. Though she was tortured, she refused to renounce either her Christian faith or her chastity. One of the tortures that she is thought to have suffered was to have her breasts cut off, and she is often depicted carrying her breasts on a plate. She died while being tortured, and was subsequently raised to sainthood…


Monday, 30 October 2017

Pagham Harbour...

There was a pool table in the pub last night, and I was playing ‘killer’ with the locals, which meant I woke up this morning with a sore head. So I went for a walk this morning around Pagham Harbour, an RSPB reserve. I saw a kingfisher dive into a river and, moments later, a stoat swam across it. I watched a big, noisy flock of brent geese on the saltmarsh, interspersed with redshanks, oystercatchers, curlews and whistling wigeons. I spotted a pair of pintails, a small flock of grey plovers and, best of all, a great white egret in flight.   

Bird watchers are friendly folk, on the whole, happy to chat, share their finds and point out some rarity to the uninitiated. But this morning I found the exception. “Have you seen the grey plovers?”, I said to a guy looking through binoculars. He looked at me with utter contempt. “They’re everywhere”, he said. “That’s like saying you’ve seen a sparrow”. I hope Santa brings him something nice for Christmas, like a sunny disposition...

Sunday, 29 October 2017

A silence shared...

Went to Quaker meeting this morning in Littlehampton. It’s easy to find a meeting: just go onto the ‘Quakers in Britain’ website and type in your location. Armed with the postcode, the satnav lady does the rest. The meeting was typical; with my advanced years and mud-coloured clothing, I fitted right in. Chatted afterwards to a few friends, including an ex-nun from Leeds (and that’s a sentence I might never type again).

I always leave a meeting feeling ‘settled’. That’s ‘settled’ like the contents of a box of cornflakes, which, according to a panel on the box, may ‘settle’ during transit. It may seem strange for an atheist to enjoy an hour of silence with - mostly - believers, but Quakers don’t pry about your beliefs or lack of them. I also like their lack of evangelical zeal; they won’t come knocking at your door and try to convert you to their way of thinking. This also means, however, that friends are dying off quicker than new friends are recruited… with predictable consequences...

Lombard Street in Petworth...


Dogs...

The bar of the Blue Ship. The guy on the right brought in his two dogs (or maybe they're shaggy ponies?). One dog is eyeing up a little dog on the settle as a between-meals snack...


Friday, 27 October 2017

Pulborough Brooks...

The nomadic life offers opportunities for last-minute changes of plan. I saw, by chance, a sign for Pulborough Brooks, an RSPB reserve, and had a few restful hours bird-spotting and taking pix. The wetlands were quite animated, with the loudest noise being the honking of geese and the whistling of wigeons. I saw kites, buzzards, marsh harrier, shovelers, teal and black tailed godwit, but the star attraction was a pectoral sandpiper: tiny, demure and unshowy. It was my first sighting (and I wouldn’t have been able to identify it without help from a couple of expert guys)…

According to an entry on the RSPB website, “Pectoral sandpipers breed in the Arctic areas of North America and Siberia and are very long distance migrants wintering mainly in South America, with some birds in the Siberian population wintering in Australia or New Zealand.  Some birds winter in Africa. They are classed in the UK and Western Europe as scarce passage migrants as a few birds turn up each year and they have been seen at Pulborough very occasionally before”…




Thursday, 26 October 2017

Blue Ship...

Kipped last night near a splendid little pub, the Blue Ship, near Billingshurst, where beer is drawn straight from the barrel and served through a hatch. Woke up this morning and wrote about 4,000 words of my book. That’s a good start to the day, as is finding some good pic sales from Alamy…

How nomads get a haircut...


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Petworth...

Petworth is a new port of call on my travels: a tiny place which obviously thinks very highly of itself. If I came back in a couple of weeks I could enjoy a literary festival - Anne Widdicombe, yay! - or a clarinet recital. Shops are called Artful Teasing, Guilt Lingerie and Hemming’s Wine Merchants, and all the antiques are ‘fine’. There’s a cobbled street, leading up to the church, lined with bijou art galleries.

If they heard on the news that the North of England had been immolated by a gigantic fireball, leaving no survivors north of the Trent, the good people of Petworth would raise a quizzical eyebrow, turn the page of their Daily Telegraph and pour themselves another cup of Earl Grey tea…

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Langstone...

I have a recurring dream, or, rather, a recurring theme, in which my camera is stolen. I wake up and it may take me a few minutes to realise that my camera hasn’t been stolen after all, but is on the table beside me. It’s always such a relief. Last night’s dream was another variation. I left my camera bag behind a market stall, while I bagged up some fruit and veg. When I went to pay, and pick up my bag, the stallholder said he’d sold it…

High tide at the Royal Oak, Langstone...
























Langstone Mill...


Sunday, 22 October 2017

Bosham...

Had a walk around Bosham yesterday afternoon, at high tide, with the wind whipping up the waves and whistling through the tension wires of sailing boats bobbing up and down on their moorings. Had a pint in the Anchor Bleu pub (pretentious? moi?), as water seeped up between the floorboards. Had another walk this morning, at low tide - getting plenty of pix - before tea and a bacon sarnie at the Breeze Café…

High tide at Bosham...

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Beyond satire...

It’s getting harder for satirists to make a living. Trump’s in the White House, and today I hear that President Mugabe of Zimbabwe has been made a ‘goodwill ambassador’ by the World Health Organization, to promote health causes, despite everything he has done, over the years, to undermine the country’s system of healthcare…

Pray?


Friday, 20 October 2017

Toad in the Hole...

As a fan of pub games - darts, pool, dominoes, etc - I’m sad to see so many of them disappearing. So I’ve enjoyed finding some regional games which seem to be thriving, such as quoits - outdoors - in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors, and pubs with skittle alleys. I’ve just discovered another game, called Toad in the Hole, traditionally played in pubs in East Sussex. The object of the game is simple: toss small metal discs onto a small, low table with a hole in the top (from the same distance as when playing darts). The scoring is simple: one point for a disc landing - and staying - on the table top, and two points for getting the ‘toad’ down the hole.

I watched three guys playing the game, with a skill that comes from regular practice. One guy dropped all four of his discs down the hole: a feat I might replicate once in a thousand attempts. He retrieved his discs by opening up a little drawer in the table…


Thursday, 19 October 2017

Uckfield...

Stayed in Uckfield last night, the well-known anagram, and had a writing day…

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

A bit of bother...

I was in a pub yesterday, and witnessed a little scene. It was only 7pm but a young East European man was drunk and making a nuisance of himself. The barman had to eject him (making me glad I didn’t have to take on this particular task). “I wait for you”, the young guy said in broken English, pointing at the door and beyond, “and I keel you”. He left as the barman started to phone the police…

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Brightling...

The parish church in Brightling has a pyramid in the churchyard, the handiwork and final resting place of one ‘Mad Jack' Fuller (although he preferred to be called ‘Honest John’ Fuller). Mad Jack (1757-1834) was the village squire, well-known as a philanthropist, patron of the arts and a builder of follies… though he blotted his copybook with his support of slavery…


Monday, 16 October 2017

Storm Ophelia...

The weather on the south coast is mild and balmy, but I’m catching the news about all the places in the south-west of Ireland I explored a month ago, and the damage being done by the tail-end of Storm Ophelia…

The 17th Sunday after Trinity: a big date in the church calendar...

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Dungeness...

Spent the morning taking pix around Dungeness. It’s a bit like Hebden Bridge (in the way that locals seem to be competing as to who can surround their dwellings with the most junk), except the mostly wooden dwellings are spread over a few square miles of Kent shingle. I saw some bird-watchers training their spotting scopes on the garden of one shack. What was I missing? A Radde's Warbler, apparently. “It looks like a fat Chiffchaff”, one birder said. It was around yesterday, but hadn’t shown up today…

Twitchers wondering where the Radde's Warbler has gone...

























They won't find a Radde's Warbler in here...


Friday, 13 October 2017

Heading south...

Had a couple of days with sister Kari in Hampshire, before heading south to the coast. My immediate aim is to get 20,000 pix online by the end of the year, and to crack on with the book…

Monday, 9 October 2017

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Lacock...

Saturday socialising in Taunton, Sunday taking pix around some pretty villages…






Friday, 6 October 2017

Castle Combe...

Had a productive day with my camera, first at Lacock then at Castle Combe…

The Castle Inn, Castle Combe...

Selfie, Castle Combe...


Bede House...

The Bede House in Lyddington, Leicestershire...


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Postie in Boxford...

In Marlborough this evening, after a productive day taking pix…


Hallaton

I didn’t think I had anything in common with fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, until I read yesterday that she only has a bath once a week…

The buttercross in the village of Hallaton, Leicestershire...


Thursday, 28 September 2017

Rothwell...

Had an enjoyable day, exploring some of the villages in Leicestershire and Rutland. They’re built of honey-coloured stone, which makes even a row of terraced houses look special. I dusted down my camera and got plenty of shots. Parked up this evening in a big square, in the small town of Rothwell, overlooked by the floodlit parish church…

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Women drivers...

It’s hard not to give a muted cheer on learning that, from June next year, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive. It’s equally hard to account for the fact that this change is taking place in the 21st century… rather than the early years of the 20th. In terms of gender equality, Islamic countries are lagging so far behind.

As Christopher Hitchens said, "The cure for poverty has a name: it's called the empowerment of women. If you give women some control over the rate at which they reproduce, if you give them some say, take them off the animal cycle of reproduction to which nature and some religious doctrines condemn them, and then if you'll throw in a handful of seeds, perhaps some credit, the floor of everything in that village, not just poverty, but education, health, and optimism will increase. It doesn't matter; try it in Bangladesh, try it in Bolivia. It works every time. Name me one religion that stands for that, or ever has”…

Monday, 25 September 2017

Scrappage...

Saleable stock photography is ‘emblematic’: the kind of pic which can slot into an article and make (or amplify) a point in a simple visual way. This shot of an old car in a skip (“we paid £12 for it”, the guy in the showroom said; I’m sure the skip cost more) will hopefully sell when someone searches for ‘car scrappage’.

The sum of £6,000 sounds good, until you notice the qualifier. 'Up to' suggests that other, lower figures may apply to your particular car... going right down to £12 or, indeed, 'fuck all'... 


Atheism...

A few more quotes… about atheism…

“Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious” (Sam Harris).

“We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further” (Richard Dawkins).

“Jews, Chrstians and Muslims claim that their scriptures are so prescient of humanity’s needs that they could only have been written under the direction of an omniscient deity. An atheist is simply a person who has considered this claim, read the books and found the claim to be ridiculous” (Sam Harris).

“The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more” (Ayaan Hirsi Ali).

“I see Atheists are fighting and killing each other again, over who doesn't believe in any God the most. Oh, no..wait.. that never happens” (Ricky Gervais)…

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Science...

Science has long been in conflict with religion, certainly since Galileo discovered that the earth revolves around the sun (and not the other way round). A few more quotes…

“The core of science is not controlled experiment or mathematical modelling; it is intellectual honesty” (Sam Harris).

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it” (Neil deGrasse Tyson).

“There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority; and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works” (Stephen Hawking).

“It’s okay to reserve judgement until the evidence is in” (Carl Sagan).

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use” (Galileo).

“Religion is to science as superstition is to reason” (Jerry A Coyne).

“Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanising myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigour, and the great spaces have a slendour of their own” (Bertrand Russell).

“When the evidence disagrees with the scientific proposition, the proposition is discarded. When the evidence disagrees with a religious proposition, the evidence is discarded” (Victor Stenger)…

Friday, 22 September 2017

Beer with breakfast...

It's a familiar start to a nomad's day: emailing a magazine article while I enjoy a Wetherspoons breakfast. People around me are ordering pints of beer with their breakfast, while the barmaid refrains from asking "Is that wise?"

Some quotes by skeptics and atheists are played for laughs; that doesn’t necessarily make then any less perceptive…

“Heaven, as conventionally conceived, is a place so inane, so dull, so useless, so miserable, that no one has ever ventured to describe a whole day in heaven, though plenty of people have described a day at the seaside” (George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman).

“It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it” (G K Chesterton). Islam fails the test, I think.

“The proper response to religious folly is not outrage but amused contempt” (S T Joshi, in the Introduction to H L Mencken’s book, On Religion).

“Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions” (Thomas Jefferson).

“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled” (Mark Twain).

“Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure” (George Carlin).

“We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart” (H L Mencken)…

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Keeping order...

Many commentators have noticed how the powerful make use of religion to keep the riff-raff in their place. More quotes…

"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful” (Seneca).

“Since the masses of the people are inconstant, full of unruly desires, passionate, and reckless of consequences, they must be filled with fears to keep them in order. The ancients did well, therefore, to invent gods, and the belief in punishment after death” (Polybius).

“Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich” (Napoleon).

“I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ” (Mother Theresa)…

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Belief...

A few more quotes… about the way that religious faith can persuade people to be their less charitable selves…

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion” (Steven Weinberg).

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities” (Voltaire).

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction” (Blaise Pascal).

“Cruel men believe in a cruel God and use their belief to excuse their cruelty. Only kindly men believe in a kindly God, and they would be kindly in any case” (Bertrand Russell)…

All you can eat...

Had an evening out with Helen in Halifax, and tried out a local, ‘buffet style’ curry house. No need to read a menu, or catch the waiter’s eye, or make an order, or decide how many popadums to have. We just took a plate into an adjacent room and helped ourselves from a range of tureens: curries from hot to mild, rice, chips, bhajis, samosas, salad, etc. We finished off with ice cream. All very tasty and - at £11 for all you could eat - good value. I’ll be back…

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Faith...

While writing my book on belief, I’m aware that much of the ground is already well-trodden. Some writers - with Christopher Hitchens to the fore - have summed up a point so compellingly, and with such brevity, that it seems sensible just to quote their words (with attributions, of course). Here are a few favourites, on faith…

“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence” (Christopher Hitchens).

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (Carl Sagan)

“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so” (Mark Twain).

“In religion faith is a virtue; in science it’s a vice” (Jerry Coyne)

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has” (Martin Luther)…

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Paul, Hebrews 11:1).

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jesus to Doubting Thomas, John 22, 29)…

Harold Wilson in a hurry, Huddersfield...


Monday, 18 September 2017

Laundry...

When I’ve changed my clothes half a dozen times, I have to find a laundrette. Having got a service wash in Otley, I returned this morning to pick up a plastic bag full of clean, carefully folded washing, and paid less than if I’d sat in a laundrette for an hour, watching my clothes spin round and round. The Otley laundrette will be added to an informal list of amenities which are useful to a nomad. The list includes leisure centres where they spurn my offer to pay, and let me have a shower for free, and my favourite campsite in the Yorkshire Dales, where I’m staying this evening…


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Being alone...

This quote from Krishnamurti arrived in my inbox this morning...

"You see, you are not educated to be alone. Do you ever go out for a walk by yourself? It is very important to go out alone, to sit under a tree—not with a book, not with a companion, but by yourself—and observe the falling of a leaf, hear the lapping of the water, the fishermen’s song, watch the flight of a bird, and of your own thoughts as they chase each other across the space of your mind. If you are able to be alone and watch these things, then you will discover extraordinary riches which no government can tax, no human agency can corrupt, and which can never be destroyed"...

Trying not to drop Oliver, the latest addition to the Redhead clan...