Thursday, 30 June 2016

A Post-Midsummer Night's Dream.

It rained quite heavily for most of the time when I was in Ashbourne yesterday, so I did something I don’t normally do: I wore a cap while walking around the town. It occurred to me that headwear can greatly alter a person’s appearance, and so I thought:

If some young woman should approach me – being fair of face, lissom of form, quiet and well modulated of speech, graceful of demeanour, and possessed of eyes that are at once giving and compassionate, yet imbued with strength and feminine assertiveness (roughly speaking, of course; I do know one who fits the description perfectly but she doesn’t talk to me any more) – and say: ‘Oh, my good sir, I have been regarding you with much admiration from afar. My little form shivers at the sight of your upright bearing. My little heart – for we ladies have such little hearts – beats with the rapidity of a humming bird’s wing when I regard your handsome and manly visage. My little breast – oh what a cross it is to bear, being graced or cursed (as you will) with a little woman’s breast – heaves uncontrollably when I see your eyes, so full of sensitivity and intelligence, observing the human condition as you pass by its relentless flow. My little legs quiver like…like… that brown stuff you get at the bottom of a bowl of beef dripping, you know… when I hear the dulcet tone of your voice as you grace some fortunate bystander with an erudite and heartening remark, their life forever enriched by your kindness. I have to tell you, gracious sir, that I am at the end of my tether. My unworthy life has become devoid of meaning and purpose without the beauty of your esteemed presence to give it value. Would you grant me that presence? Will you be mine tonight?’

And I would have to say: ‘You do realise I’ll look different when I take my hat off?’

This is somebody else
wearing my hat... 

... and this was my stalker

Analysing the Mystery Boy.

Having just made a post about black and white cameras, I thought I’d offer a typical picture of the sort that was made in such devices. Colour film had definitely been invented by then, but the cameras were expensive.

You might care to note that one young man is the only member of the group whose hairline is not parallel with his eyebrows. This would indicate that he is out of step with received notions of conventional grooming, and maybe with convention per se. To his credit, however, he’s the only male with a complete sense of balance, having a pretty girl in one hand and a glass in the other. But it has to be said that his choice of sweater is dubious, so maybe style wasn’t his strong suit. Could any of these attributes be the reason for the intense stare being directed towards him by the girl at top right of the picture? I wonder who he was.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Diehard Notions.

There were two men at the photographic section in Boots today. One of them was buying a roll of black and white film.

‘Why are you buying black and white film?’ asked his companion.

‘I’ve only got a black and white camera.’

‘A black and white camera?’

‘Yeah. I’ve had it since I was a kid and I’m used to it, so I stick with it.’

‘There’s no such thing as a black and white camera.’

‘Course there is. I’ve got one’

‘Don’t be stupid. You can put colour film in any camera.’

‘I know that, you imbecile, but the pictures would still be in black and white, wouldn’t they, if it’s a black and white camera.’


‘Why not?’

‘Because a camera is just a device for transmitting light through a lens and onto the film. It’s the film that determines whether the pictures are black and white or colour.’

‘You’re having me on.’

‘No, I’m not.’

‘So are you an expert on photography or something?’

‘You don’t need to be an expert to know that.’

‘Come off it, mate. Pull the other one.’

‘It’s true.’

‘Look, that camera’s never taken a colour picture in its life and it isn’t going to become all modern technology now, just because you’re spouting crap.’

‘I give up.’

‘Good. You follow your road and I’ll follow mine, and we’ll see who gets the better pictures.’

Needless to say, I made all that up. I was sitting having my cup of Americano in Costa Coffee on a wet Wednesday afternoon and I was in that kind of mood. But it could be a bit of an allegory, couldn’t it?

And the rain had stopped when I left, so it must have amused the gods.

The Other N Word.

I gather there’s been an upsurge in racist abuse since the Brexit vote. Polish people, for example, have been finding anonymous pieces of paper pushed through their doors saying Go home Polish scum. It reminds me of the notices which boarding house landlords and ladies used to display in their windows saying No dogs. No Blacks. No Irish.

This is partly why I’m struggling with the concept of being British at the moment; I simply don’t want to share my sense of tribal identity with people of that ilk. And maybe it’s why I pay far more heed to a person’s qualities than the country from which they hail.

So would it be perverse of me to admit liking a placard being held by a woman at a protest meeting? It said:

No Borders
No Boris

Seems I’m not perfect yet (but I still very much like the placard.)

Navy Pics and Unaccountable Crawlies.

I’m fed up with reading and writing about Brexit, so I thought I’d post a couple of pictures by way of evidence that I really was a naval officer cadet once. (There must be somebody out there who thinks I make all this stuff up.)

This is the ship in which I crossed the wide Atlantic, doing all sorts of interesting things like eating next to a man vomiting in a bucket, and being given a day’s stoppage of leave for forgetting to lower the ensign at sunset. It was really exciting.

And this is a picture of me dolled up in my very smart naval officer cadet’s uniform, taken at home shortly before joining ship and doing exciting things.

Do excuse the poor quality of the pictures. My mother took them. And in fairness to the senior service, I should point out that taking up with one Miss Jeannie Brown in St John’s, Newfoundland for three days really was exciting. She had a car to drive me around in, and when I commented on the beauty of her eyes she said ‘I wear contact lenses.’

*  *  *

I thought of recounting the mystery of the black spider which climbed down into my empty white bathtub and unaccountably disappeared, and then unaccountably climbed back out again. But the whole story is too complicated.

One interesting thought I did have tonight, however, was ‘wouldn’t A Crane Fly in the Kitchen make a splendid title for an avant garde drama?’ If only I could write.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Farage: I Told You So.

What was I saying the other day about Farage and Johnson gloating because they’ve taken revenge on those of us who have – with complete justification – been laughing at them for years? In the European Parliament today, Farage’s bleat was ‘You’re not laughing now.’

It seems to me that Farage is no statesman. It could be argued that he isn’t even a proper politician, since the party he leads is depressingly one-dimensional in terms of policy: Britain is superior and should stand aloof, unpolluted by foreigners. It seems to me that Farage is a small minded bigot whose only real personal agenda is the inflation of the Farage ego. If I’m right, it would suggest that he might be a tad emotionally insecure, since that would explain his need for vengeance. It also raises the question of whether he really cares about Britain, or whether his underlying aim is simply to achieve some semblance of power and appear important.

I can’t know this, of course, since I don’t know the man personally, but the evidence would appear to err on the side of my suspicions. And maybe the same could be said of most, if not all, ambitious politicians. So should I care? I’m trying not to.

I don’t know what the Johnson has been saying today. If I find out I might have a rant about it later.

A Disconcerting Day.

I sat down to eat my carton of chips today on the brick-built thing that used to have something on it but hasn’t any more (but you can still sit on it.) It wasn’t long before the man sitting on the other side began vomiting over his trousers, and he continued to do so for quite some time. I found it a little disconcerting. I got used to having people vomiting in buckets next to me while I was having breakfast during my short time before the mast, but we were, after all, in the middle of the Atlantic and there was a force 11 storm raging. That was a long time ago and now I’m out of practice, which is why it was a little disconcerting.

(Goes to Asda and reads headlines in tabloids extolling the virtues of Boris Johnson. Goes to favourite charity shop and learns that it will be closing on Friday. Both were a little disconcerting.)

So then I returned to my car, only to discover a small pool of something oily beneath the rear passenger door on the driver’s side. I found it a little disconcerting because it was underneath one of the brake pipes.

(Check brake fluid reservoir and find it full. Move car to different parking bay to see whether – given time – it produces another oily pool.)

I decided to check my phone because I’d heard it beep a couple of times indicating messages or missed calls. No phone. Checked all pockets of my backpack but found nothing remotely resembling a mobile phone in any of them. That was more than a little disconcerting; that engendered a rising sense of panic, since losing a phone can be a matter of some consequence.

(Retraced steps through town in search of evidently dropped phone. Discovered it had been picked up in another charity shop and was awaiting my collection. Much relief. Returned to car and found no repeat of oily substance pool. More relief. Returned home and found a squirrel finishing up the food on the bird table. He regarded me defiantly before running away.)

I could mention the two young and highly attractive women with whom contact was made during the course of all this, but that wasn’t in the least disconcerting so I won’t bother.

Monday, 27 June 2016

A Suitable Alternative to Brexit.

Having just read something else disturbing on the subject of the Fallout Following Brexit, I was all set to make another impassioned post on... guess what? I decided that enough was enough for one day, and instead discovered an old file of pictures-I-used-to-think-were-dead-good-but-don’t-any-longer.

This is one of me as a young ’un, back in the days when it wasn’t unusual for me to eat two full portions of fish and chips after I’d done a good night’s work as the roadie for my wife’s rock band. That’s why I have rather more flesh on my face (I was around two stone – 28lbs – heavier than I am now), and – although you can’t see it – rather more muscle on my arms. The similarity with Hagrid is a bit uncanny, isn’t it?

There now, isn’t that gruesome? But it beats making another post on Brainless Brits and why I think it would be quite nice to go and live in Tonga.

Donkeys Led by Vipers.

The two most vociferous peddlers of hate and intolerance during the Brexit campaign were Boris Johnson, ex Mayor of London, and Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP. Both men have been the clowns of British politics for many years, held up to public ridicule by satirists seemingly since the world was young, and sometimes left to wallow in their embarrassment when hidden truths revealing their idiocy were brought to light.

We laughed at them because we didn’t take them seriously; we didn’t think they were in a position to do much harm. But now they’re smirking, presumably because they’ve got their revenge against those who saw them for what they are and showed them to the rest of us.

Farage has admitted that the claims regarding the NHS were wrong. Are we to believe he didn’t know that at the time? And he says that Britain is now likely to enter recession, but it isn’t the fault of Brexit… Meanwhile, Johnson has said that we must start building bridges, the bridges he was so instrumental in destroying. Having strutted his overfed frame like some latter-day Hitler, he now wants to be seen as the nice guy who preaches reconciliation.

Between them they form the very model of the deceitful, dishonest and disingenuous face of politics. They need knocking off their perches and burying without trace, but what did I see on the news stands in the supermarket today? I saw the same tabloid editors who formed the shock troops of the hate campaign now supporting the prospect of Johnson becoming the next Prime Minister. This is why Brexit continues to depress the hell out of me, and why I haven’t yet stopped writing posts about it. Sorry if it’s becoming tedious, but I find it a bit hard to be British at the moment.

I’ve said several times recently that Johnson is Britain’s very own Donald Trump. I meant it light-heartedly, but not any more. It seems that Britain might be facing the same leadership crisis that America is going through. Let’s hope we both make the right choice.

Pretty Old Things.

During the photography years I visited and photographed quite a few monastic ruins. This was my favourite:

Wenlock Priory
Much Wenlock, Shropshire 

The Wiki article is hopelessly vague with regard to when it was actually built, referring to it as a ‘12th century priory’, but then claiming that it was occupied ‘before and after the Norman Conquest.’ What is apparent is that it’s the new building, the original having been erected by a minor Anglian king during the 7th century. What’s also irrefutable is that it’s a pretty old new building.

Most photographs of it are of open aspect, emphasising its grandeur. Being a hopeless Romantic, I preferred a more intimate view. And a well known film and TV actress from the 60s and 70s lives in the house on the right (which is also pretty old – as is she now, I suppose.) She didn’t invite me to tea.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Choosing a Future from the Past.

I’ve had another thought about the Brexit thing.

(This has probably been said already, but I’ve been largely ignoring the news over the past couple of days because it’s been so bloody depressing. There was me hoping that Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, was going to offer a choice at the next election between the continuation of rampant consumption mania and a saner alternative, and now he’s being hounded out of office because he didn’t back the Remain campaign energetically enough. This clearly isn’t my week.)

But anyway, my point:

I gather that analysts are saying that the Leave option was largely favoured by older people, mostly men, while younger people were strongly in favour of staying with the EU. Given various obvious factors, that would make sense. So, given that the past belongs to the old and the future to the young, doesn’t it seem something of a tragedy that a load of reactionary old men have denied young people the future they wanted? I think it does.

(And here’s one little aside that might or might not be amusing, depending on how you see it. Mel was telling me that she met an old lady on the day of the poll who said: ‘I really don’t know which way to vote. My husband used to tell me what to vote for, but he’s gone.’ Is that funny or sad? Like I said…)


These are two pictures of me with my mother and brother at around 6 or 7 months. One striking similarity between the shots must be immediately apparent: the questioning look at the sky.

All these years I’ve been wondering what I was pondering at that moment, and I think I’ve finally remembered. I seem to recall that I was looking at the part of the sky where I last saw the spaceship diminishing into the distance, and wondering why it had left me behind and whether the captain would suddenly say ‘whoops’ and come back for me. He never did, and I haven’t got over it yet.


I just watched a philosophical piece on YouTube about the Paradox of the Ravens. It occurred to me that there are probably lots of intriguing and confusing paradoxes which crop up when you apply the advanced logic which is the cornerstone of philosophy, and that irritated me. But then I remembered that there are two central threads which run through ancient wisdoms:

1. Reality is not that which is perceived through the five physical senses.

2. The brain is incapable of understanding existence merely by thinking about it.

I’m not there yet, so I suppose I’d better have another life after this one. Can I be bothered?

Another Anxiety Phase.

The priestess is off on her travels again and I’m worried. I always worry when she goes on her travels because she goes to places that other people don’t (which is just what you’d expect of a priestess, I suppose.)

I’m going to Argentina to muse.

Couldn’t she just take a taxi to Sydney Opera House and sit on the steps?

Portrait of the Writer...

I bought this postcard in the theatre gift shop once because it so reminded me of me.

I never get a hangover, but I'm always about 90% dysfunctional for at least an hour after I get up. I swear all my problems in life stem from agonised memories of having to get up to go to school.

Saturday, 25 June 2016


I found some of those commercial postcards I thought I’d lost, and scanned a selection. The problem I’m finding is that, whatever scanner setting I use, most of them are producing poor results, having various types of optical aberrations spoiling the image. This is a typical example:

What are all those pink bars going diagonally across it? Maybe some knowledgeable person might enlighten me. I assume it has something to do with the method by which different publishers have them printed, but I have little knowledge of commercial printing methods and how they might cause conflicts with scanner technology. Some are worse than others and have been discarded, but these are a few that aren’t too bad.

Warkworth Castle, Northumberland.
It was used in the first season of Blackadder, 
and I believe some scenes in the Harry Potter
movies were filmed there. And there's that water
prominent in the foreground again, as noted in
an earlier post.

Tynemouth Castle, Tyne & Wear. There's a
ruined abbey behind it which is probably even
more impressive.

Hadrian's Wall in the snow. Shortly after taking
this picture I sank up to my thighs in deep snow.
I think I found it funny at the time, but it was
still a struggle to get out.

One of the classic views of Ullswater in the 
Lake District. The Lake District has a compelling
sense of something in the air which I've never felt
anywhere else. Oddly, I always felt that sunshine
tended to dissipate it.

Not a postcard at all, but one of
those greetings cards you get with 
gift vouchers. I'm including it
because I think it's the only time I
ever took a picture at sunrise. I've
always been a night owl, and I 
wasn't about to break the habit of 
a lifetime merely for the sake of
taking pictures. My loss I suppose.

Friday, 24 June 2016

A Dumb Animal.

While I'm in the mood for posting snapshots, I thought I'd post this one of a Shropshire sheep. She never did say what she wanted.

Viva Scotland.

Since I’m feeling a little indignant on behalf of our Scottish friends in the wake of the Brexit vote, I thought I’d post a picture of one of their best known landmarks: Eilean Donan Castle in Wester Ross.

This was the location for Mary Queen of Scots’ romantic Highland home in the film Elizabeth: The Golden Years. I seem to recall that the film even hinted that it was the place of her execution, which it certainly wasn’t. As far as I know, Mary spent most of her life in and around Edinburgh, before being taken to England and shunted around various places of confinement in the English Midlands. She met her end at Fotheringhay Castle, built on a low mound in the middle of a village in Northamptonshire (which is even further away from the Highlands than Edinburgh is.)

I wish I could think of something pithy, poignant or topical to say, but I can’t. You’ll have to make do with a nice snapshot I took while on holiday up there.

A Sad Day for Sense and Sensibilities.

So, the votes are cast and the battle is over. The rabid right led by Johnson, Farage, and a few gutter press editors who have been anything but balanced or humane in their presentation of the facts and implications, have bellowed loudly enough to fan the flames of shallow self-interest and xenophobia. Britain is leaving the European Union.

I started writing a long and impassioned post about it, but decided there was no point. What’s done is done and I would only have been largely repeating myself anyway. Suffice it to say that I’m disappointed, angry, and a little ashamed to be British.

Only it wasn’t the British who voted us out, was it? It was the English and Welsh. Every single council in Scotland voted Remain, and the popular vote up there was overwhelmingly in favour of that option. So let’s spare a thought for the Scots. Over the past seven hundred years or so, Scotland has mostly been ruled, or at least dominated, by England, and now they’re being taken kicking and screaming out of a union they didn’t want to leave. And who swung the vote? The bigoted and xenophobic element down south, popularly known as Little Englanders. I find it hard to believe that this result won’t be leapt on by the Nationalist movement in Scotland to force another referendum on Scottish independence. And one little irony attaching to that eventuality is that the Union flag so beloved of the loony right will become redundant because the blue panels will have to go.

And so I’ll leave it at that, apart from adding a little aside: I was at Uttoxeter station this morning, and somebody had hung Union flag bunting across the waiting areas on both platforms. The flags on the eastbound platform were the right way up, but those on the other platform were upside down. It led me to wonder who put it there, and whether their error was due to ignorance or whether it was meant to carry a subtle statement of some kind. I don’t suppose I’ll ever know.

At some point when the dust has settled, I’ll probably have something to say on another question that concerns me: who will replace Cameron as Prime Minister? I’ve been a critic of his ever since he took office for reasons which I’ve given often enough, but he showed hints every now and again that he does have a little heart of sorts. When I look at the two most likely candidates to succeed him, I see no sign of even that. But we’ll see.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

On Brexit and Good Deeds.

I’m becoming a little nervous about tomorrow’s vote on whether Britain should leave the EU. It bothers me that the whole impetus of the Leave campaign has revolved around the notion that free movement within the EU is causing Britain to become a ‘mish-mash’ of different ethnic groups. In other words, people are frightened that Britain risks becoming more cosmopolitan and that this will result in some sort of degeneration in our perceived national characteristics.

Frankly, I welcome Britain becoming more cosmopolitan. I got used to living in a cosmopolitan city for nearly ten years before I moved to Ashbourne, and when I arrived here and found that everybody was white and spoke with a Derbyshire accent, I felt uncomfortable. It all seemed so one-dimensional, so weak and pale and pasty. It was then that I realised how much more colourful and vibrant cosmopolitan cultures are. And the fact isn’t lost upon me that, for all its faults, America became the most powerful country on earth on the back of a cosmopolitan culture. And it’s still recognisably American.

One of the local farmers has a sign by his gate saying Vote Leave. He’s a nice man and I like him, but he’s an elderly white man who I’m sure remembers the days when Britain had an empire, and is still convinced that Britain is a major force in the world. This is another leading component of the Leave mentality: Britain used to be great, and can be again if only we throw off the yoke of European bureaucracy.

Let’s face it, Britain stopped being a major force after WWII. We are still a significant player in world affairs, but no more than that. And the world has changed immeasurably in that time, becoming ever more internationalised. Much of Britain’s economy is based on foreign investment, but it isn’t Britain foreigners want to invest in because Britain isn’t big enough; it’s the European market they want.

And so tomorrow, we – a little island off the north-west coast of Europe – might be set adrift and forced to go it alone in a world run by the big power players of America, Europe and China, and all because of small minded xenophobia and hopelessly outdated delusions of greatness. And by the way, Noam Chomsky – one of the foremost minds on the planet and an American to boot – says that if Britain leaves the EU, it will come more under the influence of America. He went on to say that this is probably not a good thing.

OK, so let’s add something to the farmer’s notice:

Vote Leave
Become America’s Poodle


But maybe I shouldn’t care. I’m an internationalist at heart and I expect I always shall be, so maybe I won’t.

And do you know what? I had a reply to one of my comments on YouTube last night. It said: You make me ashamed to be English. Oh well, that’s my good deed for the week.

*  *  *

And on yet another unrelated note (see last post), I came to the aid of a damsel in distress today. As I walked across the car park I saw her trying unsuccessfully and with mounting frustration to get a bike out of the back of her car.

‘Would you like a second pair of hands?’ I asked her.

‘Yes please.’

And so I got the bike out of the car. It was actually quite easy, and I do so like helping damsels in distress when it’s actually quite easy.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

On the Goddess's Favour and Other Notes.

Yesterday was quite an extraordinary day. Mix the magic of the Midsummer Night moths with some marvellously convivial missives from the priestess, add in several other seemingly significant coincidences around the theme of positive feminine connection, and voila: it truly began to feel that the Divine Feminine – blessings be upon Her and Her many cultural representations – was finally back on my side after a long leave of absence.

And then today, I was walking past Sainsbury’s when I heard a woman’s voice call out: ‘Hi, Jeff.’ I turned to see a woman staring at me quite intensely. ‘Oh, hello,’ I replied. ‘Sorry. I was miles away.’ She walked away like somebody in a dream, and I haven’t a clue who she was.

A little while later another woman, who lives in the Shire, offered me a lift home when she mistakenly thought I was waiting for a taxi. I was, in fact, having a quick smoke before going back to the car, but it was still an offer I’ve never had before.

*  *  *

On a completely unrelated note (apart from the fact that it happened while I was having the quick smoke), there was a tiny female Chihuahua secured to the dog bar outside Sainsbury’s front doors. It was shivering, as Chihuahuas are wont to do. A couple of teenage boys were walking past wearing school uniforms, and one of them said ‘Ahhh…’ when he saw the dog. I thought that was rather nice because, let’s face it, teenage boys don’t have much of a reputation, do they, mostly owing to their generally being spotty, gauche, and given to tittering at unfunny things. He bent down to pet the dog, which leapt up and bit his finger. That was today’s funny occurrence, and clearly suggestive of a wink from the Goddess. (So maybe it wasn’t so unrelated after all.)

*  *  *

But on a definitely unrelated note, I thought I’d mention again that I have a ‘thing’ about tree roots, especially ones with moss on them. I ponder the issue of mortality a lot, and I find it oddly comforting that mature trees were here long before I was and, assuming those-who-know-not-what-they-do leave them alone, will still be here long after I’ve gone. It goes some way to assuring me that this planet isn’t such a damn stupid place after all. It’s mostly humans who give that impression. Here are some tree roots I saw in Scotland once. I do hope they’re still there.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

A Little Magic to Mark the Day.

It was dusk and I’d just said ‘hello’ to a bat which had flown past me a few inches from my ear. And then my eye was drawn to two little white creatures fluttering frantically nearby. Close examination revealed them to be a pair of white moths with gossamer wings, feeding on the purple flowers which grow on the stand of sage I have near the fruit trees. They seemed to glow slightly in the gloom, and I remembered that it was Midsummer’s Night, when it used to be thought that Titania and her fairy host walked abroad. It seemed appropriate because I’d had a fire earlier in commemoration of Aine’s feast day. Suddenly the still, warm air seemed suffused with a little magic, and perception shifted into an unconventional space.

Such moments pass quickly, but they’re no less precious for that. And I haven’t made a post like this for a very long time.

Natural Partners.

Since I’m still in thrall to the novel existence of a scanner in my very own office, I thought I’d post my two favourite pictures of castles – Bamburgh and Warkworth in Northumberland.

What I find interesting about these two is the pictorial weight given to the presence of water. It’s something I’ve always felt – that castles need water in order to look right – and I’ve often wondered why. It’s nothing to do with moats, however attractive they might be. I finally decided that it’s to do with the balance of energies. Castles are icons of control and conflict, both of which belong in the yang realm, whereas water is the ultimate expression of yin. Ergo: balance.

And maybe this is why I also associate the castle and water theme with the Romantic tradition, which is largely about the balance between good and evil, dark and light, chivalry and aggression. I assume this is why the Romantic tradition is so important to me – because it offers a more balanced view and is therefore closer to perfection than mundane reality. And maybe it’s all a matter of perception. And maybe I’m falling prey to pretention. What a lot of Ps.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Refuting the Accusation.

You might remember me once pouring a little heartfelt scorn on that old movie cliché: Love is never having to say you’re sorry.


I’m also not the greatest fan of those oft-quoted sound bites of so-called wisdom generally, since they’re usually flawed, overly simplistic, turgid, trivial, or a combination of some or all of the above. Nevertheless, not to be outdone, I thought I’d coin one of my own:

Wisdom is never having to say ‘I know.’

(… even though I sometimes do, which just goes to prove that the person who accused me of being wise was wrong.)

On Donkeys Led by Donkeys.

Only two days to go until the EU referendum in Britain and the tabloids are really cranking up the immigration/refugee issue. The Remain side has today accused the Leave stalwarts of ‘spreading hatred’ but I don’t think that’s quite right. I think the Leave people have, throughout the campaign, followed the classic tabloid method: tap into the populist bigotry, prejudice and xenophobic paranoia which already exists among the lowest common denominator, and inflame it with paltry, irrational, sometimes dishonest, and always hate-filled headlines. People do so love to have their prejudices vindicated.

Personally, I feel it would be an awful shame if, in a world constantly shrinking and becoming more internationalised, Britain was voted out of Europe and left to go it alone by the sort of people who spawned Tommy Mair’s extreme solution. He was the man who murdered Jo Cox, and who gave his name in court as Death to Traitors, Freedom for Britain.

Is that the kind of attitude we want determining Britain’s future position in the world? Thursday’s vote will tell us.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Agreeing the Price of a Child's Life.

I just read a long article about the little boy who was killed by an alligator at a Disney resort in Florida. The article sought to examine – in quite some depth – Disney’s legal liability in the matter, citing aspects of state law and questioning which could apply and which couldn’t. The lawyer acting for the boy’s parents was quoted as saying that Disney will certainly settle out of court because ‘Disney caters to (sic) children and will want to avoid a public relations bombshell.’

This sort of thing shocks me almost as much as the incident did. If I were the the parent of a child killed by an alligator, would I want compensation? The question is utterly redundant because no amount of money could even begin to compensate me for the death of my child. A child’s death is arguably the worst thing that could happen to any normal parent. I faced that prospect once when my own daughter went missing, and I can honestly say that it was the only time in my life when I felt true panic to the extent that I could hardly function. I don’t usually panic in stressful situations, but that was easily the worst I have known. (She was fine, by the way – she’d just wandered into a neighbour’s house and overstayed her time.)

But of course, the article was really about modern times when PR carries such weight with large corporations that mere factors like grief take second place. It effectively makes a child’s life a commodity to be haggled over. And maybe it’s also about the lawyer wanting to get the biggest settlement he can manage so that he will get a big fat fee. I can’t know that, of course, and I apologise if I’m wrong. But it’s not an unreasonable suspicion, is it?

Random Events.

It having been depressingly dull and wet in the Shire for the past several hours, and I having been dull and depressed in consequence, I thought I'd search through all the photo albums to see whether I could find something to delight the eye, inflame the senses, and make those privy to the experience really wish they were coming to tea with me.

This is the first. It's the inside of my kneecap taken during an arthroscopy procedure.

Exciting, isn't it? Full of intrigue, and possessed of a charm that can only be described as sensual.

These two show a comparison between my parents' wedding and mine. (My parents' comes first, in case you're not sure.) The similarities between the two are really quite alarming.


And this was taken at the theatre where I used to work. It was the last night of a production called By Jeeves, and the staff were required to get kitted out in fancy '30s clobber. I arranged the group while somebody else took the picture, and I did it in such a way as to be as close as possible to the lovely Sarah O without being indiscreet and betraying my inappropriate feelings. And might I add that on-camera flash is not the most flattering form of illumination?

I expect there'll be more.

Another Holiday Pic.

An abandoned Scottish croft. Mum, dad and seventeen children at one end, animals at the other. No bedroom. No separate bathroom. It’s an icon of the Romance of the Highlands.

I seem to be in cynical mood.

The Archaeologists' Dilemma.

This is a picture of me leaning on a Pictish (or Scottish) broch (or borg) in Wester Ross, Scotland. (And you can also see Mel and Penny if you look carefully, but they’re much smaller than me as befits their gender.)

I like brochs because they’re mysterious. Nobody knows what they were used for, not even archaeologists. (Especially archaeologists, who’ve spent the last two hundred years arguing over whether they were an early form of castle, a status symbol, somewhere to keep the pigs, or something else entirely.)

What is known about brochs is that they’re very old – most are reckoned to date from 1BC - 1AD. But even this can cause confusion because some archaeologists find it difficult to remember which came first, BC or AD.

‘Tell me if I’ve got this right,’ says the pupil to the master. ‘AD came before BC because A comes before B in the alphabet.’

‘Er… no.’


‘No. The easiest way to remember it is to remember that the B in BC stands for Before.’

‘Oh right, so the A in AD stands for After?’



No. It stands for Anno.’



‘What the hell does Anno mean?’

‘In the year of.’

‘Oh, great! So make it easy, why don’t you?’

‘We have made it easier actually. Now we call them CE and BCE. BCE comes first.’

‘Because B comes before C in the alphabet?’

‘You’ve cracked it.’

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Glitches and Pics.

The past few days have been glitch-ridden: Blogger, the new printer, the scanner on the new printer, YouTube, life…

Blogger kept me up until 4 am two nights ago, trying unsuccessfully to make a simple text post. By then I was ready to believe that some guardian angel was telling me something:

Don’t make that fuckin’ post, ya dummy.

I don’t know what was so controversial about it, but I assumed that guardian angels know better than mere aliens so the post got scrapped.

Tonight it was the printer and scanner. The printer still has an issue despite much fractious correspondence with Epson Support, but at least the scanner found its own salvation with a little perseverance from me. I also learned a few interesting things about how different scan settings respond to different source media, so I suppose I should be glad of the glitch.

So guess what: more pics on the way. I wanted to post a good selection of the postcards which some of my pictures ended up as, but I could only find a few. I’ve no idea what happened to the rest; I expect they disappeared into another dimension like that grey sock that went missing once. (It amuses me to think that the ‘me’ in another dimension is still scratching his head, wondering how he managed to acquire three grey socks when there was once a conventional pair.)

Anyway, here’s a few of the few, and do tell me if my pictures are becoming tedious. It won’t make any difference since it’s my blog and I can post whatever I like. I’ll be mildly offended, but that needn’t concern you.

 View west from Catbells, Lake District.
Sorry about the poor quality. It's been on my
pinboard for ten years and has faded badly.
The interesting thing about this, though, is
that it became a collector's item. I found  one
for sale on eBay once. Don't ask me why.

 Ullswater, Lake District.
This has also been on my pinboard for ten years,
hence all the fade and horrible marks. But 
you get the gist...

 High in the Cheviots, Scottish Borders.
This was wild country back in the day, a range
of hills straddling the England/Scotland
border, where the Border Reivers recognised 
no allegiance to any country or anybody's law. 
They believed in nothing but having fun
robbing and fighting each other.

 Derwentwater, Lake District.

 The Coquet Valley in the foothills of
the Cheviots on the Northumberland side.
More Border Reiver country, and the  setting 
for my story The Rain Maiden.

 Druridge Bay, Northumberland.
Not the best of pictures, but it's where I
used to live. My house was behind the
humpity bit at the far end of the dunes.

 St Mary's Rock lighthouse, Tyne & Wear,
I had the camera on a tripod and took a shot 
every ten minutes as the sun sank behind me
and the eastern sky darkened over the North Sea.
This was the last exposure before the sun set.

Friday, 17 June 2016

One for Jo.

We in Britain will soon be voting on whether to remain in the European Union, or leave it behind and go it alone. Politicians on both sides of the argument have been saying some laughably silly things throughout, and now they’re engaged in vilifying one another for saying laughably silly things. The whole campaign has been creepily redolent of an American Presidential Election, with Boris Johnson for the Leave campaign even doing a passable (though infinitely posher) imitation of Donald Trump.

One of the favourite hobby horses on the Leave side has been the question of immigration and refugees, and I remember reading an article in the local paper a couple of weeks ago. Ashbourne wants to accept a quota of refugees, but voices have been raised strongly against the move, saying we should use our money to help our own people first.

‘Own people?’ I thought. ‘Who are our own people? People are people, surely, and decent people help other people when they’re in serious difficulty.’ I remembered what Jacob Marley said to Ebenezer Scrooge on that fateful Christmas Eve:

‘Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how people rejoice in Scrooge’s rehabilitation, but when the real situation occurs, the mind shrinks and the pocket deepens?

And today matters took a nasty turn. A Labour MP called Jo Cox was murdered in a street in a little Yorkshire town, repeatedly shot and stabbed by a crazed man crying ‘Britain first!’ She was on the Remain side, you see, and by all accounts was a very beautiful person who campaigned to stay in the EU not so much because it favoured Britain’s interests, but because she wanted to ensure that Britain would still offer a safe haven for refugees trying to escape the hell in which they have lived for heaven knows how long. It seems she was a rare example of an honest and genuine politician who fought for the poor and oppressed, and for this – for being a good person – she was taken out, to use the Trump’s butler’s phrase.

Maybe the crazed murderer was inspired by recent events in Florida, but who can tell? Who can really get to the bottom of the madness that infects the human condition?

Jo Cox, bless her.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

The Missing Link.

When I made the transition from amateur to pro photographer I had to re-learn my approach to the medium. The old way of seeing, based on the notion that the picture stood isolated as a personal statement, had to give way to developing the instinct to see photographs as the commercial world saw them. In short, I had to lay aside any pretensions to arty-ness and become a low level illustrator. Or, to put it even shorter still, I had to become a commercial whore. I did, after all, have to pay the rent, and couldn’t shake the habit of eating something every day. And let’s face it, driving around the country taking nice pictures of nice places was better than sitting in a stuffy office concerning myself with the question of whether some plumber’s financial returns looked credible or not. And does it really matter anyway?

Nevertheless, just occasionally I would see some combination of colours or forms or textures which encouraged the old habit of taking pictures for myself and not the paymasters (notwithstanding my blessings on them for giving me commissions and buying the rights to use my pictures – seriously.) And so occasionally I would take a different kind of picture. They made no pretence to being art, but they had maybe a little more about them than you would normally find in a travel guide.

The four below are examples of this missing link, and they did appear in the International Photography Yearbooks for 1990 and 1991 so somebody must have thought them unsuitable for chocolate boxes.

This one was never offered to the Photography Yearbook, but I like it anyway. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Arty Pics.

As an antidote to yelling at Sainsbury's managers, I thought I'd post a few pics from my Arty Farty Foto period, and then everybody can have a laugh and say: 'Call that art?' And I can say 'Nope, but it kept me amused at the time.'

Kitchen 1

Inert Meets Organic?

A friend of mine who liked
cats. The cat's official name was
Florence, but she was 
affectionately known as
Fatty Flobo
Kitchen 2

Rotting Together

St Bees Beach, Cumbria

One of these days I'll post a few of my commercial landscape pics, from the days when I made a living from that sort of thing.

All's Well that (sort of) Ends Well.

I was incensed by a continuing problem in Sainsbury’s today, so I asked to see the manager and had a bloody good shout at him. He told me to calm down so he could explain the reason for it. I declined to calm down because I’d heard the same old excuse several times and it didn’t wash. I said a few other things, too, and told him to bloody well do something about it. He walked away.

So did I feel better? No, not really. I continued to pour scorn internally on the way things are done these days, especially when it comes to managers abdicating responsibility for things which go wrong in their store. Besides, I don’t particularly enjoy getting angry. Anger is a negative emotion and I get enough of those as it is.

But my mother and brother were the same. They were (and I remain) the sort of people who try hard to be reasonable and rational, even through gritted teeth, until we’re pushed an inch too far. And then we explode and feel inclined to rip heads from shoulders. ‘Aren’t you fierce?’ said somebody in an office where I worked once. No, I’m not fierce at all. I just have a congenital fuse, and when the fizzing reaches the end the powder blows. Being congenital, I suppose I’ll just have to live with it.

Meanwhile, a staff member who was privy to the outburst looked me in the eye and said quietly: ‘I like you.’