Monday, October 23, 2006

Cold Light/Warm Light

Since I've been essentially absent for a couple of months I have no remorse about featuring a group of three in today's picture. Neither do I have any feelings of contrition regarding another window with leaves outside. So there.

This image comes from Trinity Church in Newport, Rhode Island. In one of the pews George Washington once sat. I imagine this is the equivalent in the US of the countless beds in which Queen Elizabeth slept or oak trees that King Charles II hid in. It's a beautiful church, as pleasing to visit as any in the UK and as full of history.

Pixie's just told me I have my blog face on. Apparently she can see the cogs whirring even though I'm trying to look interested in what she's telling me. Just more evidence that men can't multi-task.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


There are few things things stranger than drifting across the water in thick fog. If ever you've craved a 'sense of detachment' this is one method I would recommend. Outside the ship - nothing. Not the misty shape of a tree or a shadowy building. 100% nothing.

Well, that's not strictly true.

Visually, sure. You're surrounded by a feast of cotton wool.

Aurally, however, the world has come into its own. Every time the foghorn sounds, the surroundings are revealed in a multitude of echoes - short term returns from the invisible cliffs alongside, long term from the mountains up ahead. In between the booming broadcasts, the plaintive tones of bells, rocking inside the buoys marking the channel, activated by the swell and the wake of the passing ship.

Boom. Ding. Dong. Boom.

900 feet of ship and 3000 souls inch their way towards an unseen anchorage.

You just have to hope nobody pulls the plug on the radar.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Library Staircase

The following is a wide-sweeping generalisation.

Modern public buildings are listless, limp, insipid shadows of their counterparts built in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There are exceptions (try hard, you’ll think of somewhere) but they probably won’t overwhelm you with their majesty and richness.

Today’s picture was taken inside a building that we stumbled upon while looking for a flashy department store in Boston (part of the eternal quest for the perfect handbag – not for me, you understand, I’d be forever leaving it somewhere). We never found the store but we did find a library and some dramatic lighting.

Staircases come very high on my list of photogenic images. As a lighting designer I can never resist the temptation to shine a lamp down one, picking out the treads and leaving shadowy risers and a rim-lit villain, wreathed in smoke, collar up, photons glinting off the metallic blue barrel of his (or her) gun. Maybe add a child in a pram, bumping out of control down to oblivion – no, sorry, that would be going too far.

We only spent a little time here, just enough to admire some murals by John Singer Sargent (who incidentally spent some time painting in my home village of Fladbury in the late 1800s), the statues and the marbled walls. Now just imagine what it would look like in cost-cutting oak veneer, plastic and concrete.

With a glass-fibre lion.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

First Kiss of the Sun

Cadillac Mountain in Maine is not the most easterly point of the USA but, because of its height, it's the first place to feel the kiss of the sun's rays in the morning. Apparently people hike up there before sunrise just so as to experience this momentous happening; it is frequently shrouded in mist so disappointment must be rife.

A road leads to the top and the inevitable gift shop and restaurant. Even on the late autumn day that we visited it was crowded with cars, motorbikes and buses. Having not been there for the break of dawn I can't say if it's any better then. Nevertheless the 'let's destroy the atmosphere of a place by making it too accessible' approach to life is a worldwide phenomenon and Cadillac Mountain was no better nor worse than any other.

The presence of two cruise ships in the harbour would not have helped. At some places during our trip there were four ships at a time moored in these out-of-the-way places. Quite an influx for the locals to take their cut from.

Incidentally we booked what few tours we took with the locals rather than giving the cruise line their extortionate cut. They never miss an opportunity to try and extract money from you and it would be fair to say that life on-board is akin to living in an extremely comfortable and spacious begging bowl.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Quickie

I'm not one of life's early risers but, on board ship, the pattern changes. I'm fired by an overwhelming urge to see the dawn each day, something that would be unheard of at home.

No doubt the crew swabbing the decks each morning got used to seeing an unshaven loonie lurking fore and aft, camera at the ready, searching for any quirky effect of the rising sun.

Incidentally I'm still all at sea, metaphorically speaking. Normal blogging in abeyance.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Cruising, on ships, not in cars, is an interesting pastime. You fall asleep in one part of the world and, hopefully with only a gentle rocking motion in between, you awake the next morning in another. On the way you are fed and watered in a fairly grand style and sleep in a real bed, not a bunk or a reclining chair.

Pixie and I have recently completed our second outing on the briny; the first, some years ago, was from Vancouver to Alaska and back. This time, so that the eastern seaboard of North America did not feel neglected, we travelled from Quebec to New York.

Thankfully this sort of itinerary does not attract the young trendsetters or the multi-child family. It would be fair to say that Pixie and I were firmly entrenched in the lowest five per cent of the age range aboard (crew excepted). The ship was festooned with those for whom the concept of ‘spending the kids’ inheritance’ is a way of life. The folks on board had been everywhere, often very slowly. At times this could be a little trying; some of the corridors below deck were a bit narrow and being at the back of a ‘Procession of the Oldies’ could be frustrating. Still it come to us all if we live out our allotted span; my knees are already developing their own protest movement, egged on by support, or lack of it, from my left ankle.

I’m not going to wear you down with a blow-by-blow account of the voyage. The colours in Quebec were on the change and looked magnificent, even in the full dull that was a common fixture of the earlier part of the trip. Sydney, Nova Scotia, was a gem, Halifax, interesting but it’s a city, Saint John, New Brunswick, wet but captivating - leaning over the side of the ship listening to a lone piper bid us farewell in a steady downpour will be a lasting memory for us both.

We thrust our way south into the USA, landing at Bar Harbor, Maine (sunny and a good walk), Boston (another city, enough said) and Newport, Rhode Island – also sunny and an excellent exposition of what can be achieved by obscene wealth.

New York, past the Statue of Liberty lit up against the night sky, or what passes for it in these parts was followed by an impressive view of Manhattan and an unimpressive view of city traffic. We walked a few of NY’s famous streets, looked at a lot of handbags and headed for the airport. Another city crossed off the list – now show me some more villages.

(I apologise for not replying to comments at the moment but I’m using a very expensive internet connection so I need to keep it short)