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Showing posts from 2005

Portuguese Botanic Minutiae

A picture taken of a view between two rather leafy plants in Portugal 2004. During the scanning process I accidentally fiddled with some of the colour enhancement features. This strange explosion of pink and white was the result - the original plant was green, for the record.

Welsh Highland Railway, Portmadog

This is a webcam shot (it refreshes every 30 seconds) of a place I loved as a child. It is a view of the Welsh Highland Railway (WHR), just outside of Portmadog, Wales, looking northwards toward Cnicht. The WHR is a small narrow guage railway that will one day run from Portmadog to Caernarfon via Snowdonia. The line was closed down in the middle of the last century and is being restored and operated by volunteers.
Check it out at http://www.whr.co.uk/

Tintern Abbey

This is photograph taken on a mirky Easter morning at Tintern Abbey, an area possibly best imortalised by the poem of William Wordsworth Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey... This photo was one of two good pictures taken in black and white that day. It was exceptionally hard to get a decent angle on the Abbey itself. Note also my love of lens flare!

Daniel Rachel et al @ Moo, Leamington Spa

Okay then, so the official billing was Budapest, Daniel Rachel, and then Slybob. My feelings would have seen the order of this gig re-arranged to something like this; Slybob, Budapest and then Daniel Rachel. Heres why.
Whereas the apparent headliners had the flashy website to try and promote themselves shamelessly, Rachel sold himself by standing alone on stage, with his guitar, and playing songs that where no-where near as pretentious as Slybob. Simply speaking walls of sound disguising overt self-belief were demolished by the short and skinny sound of acoustic honesty.
Rachel comes across as an intellectual observer of events that surround everyday life, as well as events that may have happened in the past (his own or the more distant). In many ways his last number of the night, 'Bucket and Broom', exemplified this perfectly with its Dylanesque musical and lyrical delivery spliced with a distinct Brummie lilt.
I will not take anything away from Budapest, the opening act, who…

Fairbourne and Barmouth Railway

A picture of a steam locomotive on the Fairbourne Railway called 'Beddgelert'. In the background is the famous (and incredibly long) Barmouth Harbour bridge. The picture was taken in September 2005 at what has affectionately become known as 'Taffstock'.

The Teatime Islands by Ben Fogle

I actually finished reading this book in May, but have taken my time updating this blog.
This book is by the now-renowned posh bloke who first appeared on BBC's Castaway 2000 reality TV experiment on the remote Island of Taransay in Scotland. I am unsure what originally attracted my attention to this book as I didn't really hold anyone from that particular TV series in very high esteem.
When I actually sat and read a small piece of the book in Heffers bookstore in Cambridge I was captivated not only by how well Fogle conveyed his story of journeying to these locations, but also the way in which he relayed his innermost thoughts about Islophilia - his addiction to islands. It came as a bit of a shock as the writer was known only really for getting upset on national TV when his dog got ill.
Ultimately the main thrust of the book is Fogle's attempts (mostly successful) in discovering for himself some of the remaining outposts of the British Empire. Included are Tristan da C…

Proportional Representation or FPTP?

Following reading the article in The Independents on the fact that our electoral system is out of date, I fear I may have been swayed somewhat. Originally, despite my distinct Hiberno-Scottish blood and way of thinking, I had loved the way in which the British elections were conducted via their 'First Past the Post' system involving constituencies and the like. Now, after seeing the graphic on the front of the paper I am converted. 
Recently zero Green Party MP's were elected, but using Proportional Representation six would have been elected!!
I think a shift to PR, although I do not understand exactly how it would be implemented, would be a move in the right direction for the country in which we live. If we want to lead by example in terms of democracy then I suggest we begin to practice what we preach before we bomb Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea with the Americans. We need a government that functions with more emphasis on compromise between parties…

A Parrot in the Pepper Tree by Chris Stewart

After reading the first book about Chris Stewart's life on his Andalucían farm, Driving Over Lemons, I couldn't resist going and buying the 'sort of' sequel. The first book had been about the establishment of Chris and his wife Ana in there new farm El Valero and the trials of becoming self-sufficient.
This book pretty much carries on where the last left off. The subtle differences being that they are older and wiser (in terms of their Andalucian adventure), their young daughter is older and wiser and a parrot turns up in the pepper tree - although we later learn that the parrot is in fact a parakeet and the pepper tree isn't even a pepper tree.

This aside, the book has all the same charm as the first installment and just like the first installment leaves you wanting more. Damn you Chris Stewart write another book!
The book tells of Chris' time in Sweden sheep shearing, of being in the original line-up of Genesis, of the 'trials' of becoming a writer, …

St. Michael's Mount

This picture was taken on the same holiday as the picture called 'St. Ives Doorway'. It is a picture taken using black and white film and is of the eastern tip of St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall. The mount is a strange outcrop of rock in the sea opposite Marazion. Unlike all the other pictures I took here, this isn't of the entire rock, with its castle et cetera, but of the seaweed and the sea visible on the walk to the island at low tide. This picture was that bit more interesting than the others so i had it enlarged and framed for my mother's Christmas present.

Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart

Yes! I have just completed some of the most intense reading that I have ever done. Having completed reading William Dalrymple's In Xanadu, I immediately set about reading another piece of contemporary travel writing, Chris Stewart's Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucía. This book is also a constituent part of my dissertation and will help me to draw my comparisons between 18th Century travel writing and late 20th/early 21st Century travel writing.
The book is focused on Chris and his wife, Ana, as they uproot themselves from their British home and move to a remote farm in Andalucía, a area of southern Spain near Gibraltar.

Their encounters with the locals, friends they make, animals on the farm and indeed the arrival of a baby daughter, all make for heart-warming reading and an interesting traveller's tale.

Interestingly, unlike a lot of travel writing Chris, Ana and baby Chloë have no intentions of leaving their valley farm and so as we read it is almost as if w…

Rude Mechanicals @ APU Student Union

Well what can I say? Well, imagine if the Doors crossed there sound with that of Velvet Underground and then replaced Jim Morrison's poetic prowess (some say lunacy) with that of a theatrical female, going by the name Miss Roberts, wearing a large blonde wig, with a painted face and also wearing an elegant white dress... If you think you can do this then you may have some semblance of what the Rude Mechanicals look and sound like.
They are undoubtedly the best band I have seen in Cambridge for a good while. They were a completely original sound and had a unique approach to performance. What unfolded in the APU Student Union wasn't just another band doing a gig, it was a band that was theatrically performing their music. The lead singer, Miss Roberts, stole the show with her strange antics which included getting the crowd to shout 'hurrah' after each song and getting the crowd to suck marshmallows during one particular song.
On the Live Experimental Arts Performance Socie…

St. Ives Doorway

This is a picture taken on a very dull, rainy day in St Ives. I was on holiday here after finishing my first year at university. The doorway struck my attention due to the fact it seemed so full of character in that it was surrounded with plant life and yet the door itself was most likely rotting. It made me think of something one would expect to find in a quiet little French village. Not the best picture in technical terms but an interesting and curious little scene nonetheless.

The Mill Garden

This picture is of the Mill Gardens at the bottom of Mill Road, Warwick. This is an old picture and was taken whilst doing a history project in 2000 for GCSE History. If my memory serves me well then Richard Charlton was there too, thankfully out of the camera's lens! This scene struck me as I walked into the garden as it consisted almost entirely of green; even the water seems a little green due to the reflection of the trees. The ruined bridge is that of the old river crossing on the Avon by the Castle. The Garden is free to get into and they ask only for a voluntary contribution.

In Xanadu: A Quest by William Dalrymple

Well I had been staring at this book for the best part of six months before finally deciding that I must, at last, start to read it. The hour is getting late and the time when I should be handing in my dissertation ever nearer.

In Xanadu: A Quest was written in the late 1980s by a William Dalrymple, a student of Trinity College, Cambridge. It is also one of five books that I have chosen to base my dissertation on.

The title as it stands is: How far has the travel writing of the 18th Century influenced the travel writing of William Dalrymple and Chris Stewart?
If you're thinking 'what the hell', then fear not. It is me who needs to know and understand what I'm writing about - not you! For some reason, out of all the subjects I have studied in English Literature, the stuff that struck a chord with me most is 'the old stuff' and in particular 18th Century traveller's tales (mainly thanks to the great John Gilroy).
Anyway, the book. It is a piece of classic tra…

Damn You Prendergast!!!

Mark Prendergast is possibly the most annoying person imaginable when it comes to playing golf. Why is it that someone with so little belief in his own sporting ability somehow manages to pull off the most dramatic golfing upset so far. The last time we played at the Cambridge Lakes he had pushed both myself and Jonesy for the first half of the course before trailing off when coming into contact with lakes and their inhabitants.

My luck was out this time though. After the pair of us drawing the first hole with 'double-bogies' he set about scoring some good holes when I only could manage putting my ball into the hedges. Luckily for me I managed to stabilise my scoring when once more Prendy's game wobbled a little around the lakes. Luckily the ducks and coots weren't anywhere nearby when he pumped two drives into the water. On the ninth my moment of triumph came when I finally scored a 'bogey' when Prendy could only manage a 'triple-bogey'.

In the end he …

Dyffryn Sunset

This is a picture I took whilst in Dyffryn Ardudwy, North Wales, during the summer holidays when camping with friends. It captures a rare moment when the sun was setting over the Irish Sea beneath the level of the clouds. The clouds had been a solid stoney grey all day long and had been covering the tops of all mountains visible from our beachside campsite. This was the first sun we'd seen all day long.