Thursday, October 25, 2007


You will be pleased to know, I’m sure, that the condition of the baked beans at my hotel has improved and they can now be described as ‘comfortable’; they are once more satisfyingly gloopy. Also someone has obviously been out gathering hash browns as they were present this morning in abundance. My early morning equilibrium has been restored.

You may have observed, if you are at all interested, that my days must be pretty uneventful if all I can find to comment on is my breakfast. Well, sad though it is to say, it is the highlight; from then on it’s a steady roll downhill before gently nudging up against the buffers of ‘reading in bed’.

Nevertheless my day is not all gloom and doom, although watching people play poker for hours on end is a fairly stringent punishment and unworthy of someone as well behaved as myself. As past readers may be aware, I’m usually lucky enough to be incarcerated with some jolly companions. On this occasion it’s Tracy and Sarah, and what I don’t know now about moisturiser, eyeliner and mascara is just not worth knowing. At some time soon I expect we’ll all traipse off into town to get our nails done.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Misty Morning

Yesterday morning, before starting work, I was finally able to succumb to the call of the autumn light. I headed up into the low hills near the hotel, found a farm gate, parked up, removed the camera from its comfy billet in my backpack and pointed it into the sun. I didn’t have long; just enough time to track a few sheep strolling back and fore in front of some misty trees. It was very satisfying.

As for the rest of the day, nothing happened.

This morning I bounded from my bed (and if you believe that you are sadly delusional), opened the curtains and it was dull. Result. I could breakfast in peace, without the nagging little voice in my head saying ‘Go on, get out there, you know you want to’. And so I did, the only disappointment being a shortage of hash browns, and baked beans with a higher than desirable sauce-to-solid ratio .

Then, because I had nothing better to do, I went to work, early.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Sonnet & A Bit More

For a few years I’ve been playing around with poems where the theme is ‘light’. The following piece is one that’s been on the back burner for some time. Last night, while much of England watched a game of rugby on television, is suddenly worked itself up into a sonnet. And then added a bit of something on the end.

I’ve got the feeling there’s a touch of Shelley about it but since I’ve not really read any of his works, I can’t be sure. Perhaps he was also cheesed off by the country’s obsession with sport and paid me a visit.

But then, now I’ve re-read my opus below, perhaps not.

The Palace of Dim Light

Within this crumbling palace of dim light,
No sun-cast shadows break the plangent gloom,
No bright-lit dust motes dance in random flight,
Unseen as draughts sweep through the mighty room.
Grim, rough-hewn columns of enormous girth,
Spring up towards the bleak, bat-ridden vault,
Scarce seen above the floor of beaten earth,
Thrust beams of stone, that light so rarely sought.
But what would turn this edifice so dire,
Once more into a monument of fame?
The fizzing embers of a glowing fire?
A single candle, with a trembling flame?
Would these drive out the all-pervasive dark,
Bequeath the stones the longed-for vital spark?

It is too late
The ground awakes
And with indecent haste
Throws down the walls
Decants the beams
Into the ruptured space
No more a place of dancing dust
No more in need of candle flame
A centre of God-given right
No more the palace of dim light

Saturday, October 20, 2007


A gnat’s whisker. An interesting measurement. First catch your gnat. Then find a really good micrometer and some very delicate tweezers.

Unpleasant things, they are; gnat’s, that is, not tweezers although they can give you a nasty nip. And midges, the scourge of the Scottish Highlands, vicious, microscopic bearers of misery. They pale into insignificance, though, when compared to the New Zealand sand fly. The reason I mention them is that there’s an advert running on UK television at the moment that shows a couple strolling hand-in-hand along an NZ beach. As if. They’d be running for their lives if my experience in anything to go by. Glorious sandy strands to look at but don’t get out of the car, or wind down the windows.

In fairness this only seemed to be a problem on the east coast of South Island when Pixie and I were there one December – we walked for miles on the west side without any aggravation. But that advert is still misrepresentation, whichever way you cut it.

Now if you’re expecting a picture of a beach or, for that matter, a gnat, you will be disappointed. Instead here’s a ladybird.

Alan Coren

One of England’s great humorous writers, Alan Coren, died on Thursday. He was a master of taking something trivial, like the discovery of Neolithic hut circles in Hampshire, and transforming it into a magnificent flight of the imagination, in that case involving dodgy builders and a god in the form of the Isle of Wight. He loved language and the use of words. Along with the late Douglas Adams, he was a formative influence on my writing style. I am in his debt.

Friday, October 19, 2007


I wanted to use the word ‘obesogenic’ today but I’ve decided not to. Please pretend you’ve not seen it.

I left the hotel this morning to be greeted by a glorious autumn day. I’d about an hour to kill before being needed in my substitute womb so I nipped off across the car park and knocked out a few arboreal images. This is the time of the ‘leaf peeper’.

Pictures of leaves are pretty but curiously unsatisfying – you just know that they’re not even remotely original; all over the Northern Hemisphere, at this time of year, photographers are drooling over these riotously coloured icons of decay.

Determined to cast aside this lack-lustre subject, I leapt into the car and drove off in search of something more challenging. And didn’t find it. Beautiful light, stunning countryside, but nothing took my fancy. So I went to work early. Such is life.

There isn’t a muse traditionally associated with image making or, for that matter, prose writing so I can’t really blame the absence of any inspiration on their being away on a jolly somewhere. Of the ones that are recognised, Terpsichore; dance – not thanks. Not just now. Euterpe; music? Well I did whistle a bit of Mendelssohn earlier so perhaps she’s still about. Melpomene; tragic poetry – well there was a burst a couple of days ago so maybe she’s also on the scene (and wishing she wasn’t!)

Now if I could get Thalia back from the mall, we could all have a laugh.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Some years ago I took a creative writing course. The person who ran it implied that we should be able to write something worthwhile at any time, night or day, come rain or shine. I never had the chance to enquire as to which planet she came from but I assume it wasn’t Earth. I can no more write on demand than I can fly.

I’ve been sitting in front of a blank screen for about 30 minutes. My colleague, Tracy, has just asked me if I’m waiting for inspiration. I am. I usually try to hang these posts on an image and at the moment I haven’t got one. Time will have to pass…

…And it has and it’s a new day. I’ve rifled through the images on my laptop yet again and come up with one from a trip to Australia in 2005. Not that it is of much help, as it doesn’t really say a lot. Can a giant air-conditioning fan give me the impetus to pen a witty little piece about the environment, perspiration or fuel consumption in Honda diesel-engined cars? No, it can’t.

The muse is absent again. Perhaps she’s on holiday, sunning herself on a beach in the Maldives or checked in to a health resort in the New Forest. Whichever it is she’s not on hand at the moment.

Not that there’s anything wrong with muses being on holiday – everyone deserves a break now and again. Pixie and I seem to be in a continual state of returning from one, on one, or planning one; I think we’ve got four in the air at the moment and that’s just before the end of the year. You can never have too much travel unless it’s to and from work; most of my work is over 150 miles from home and not commutable. The holidays make up for the long days in the studio and the weeks spent in hotel rooms. It doesn’t matter how comfortable they are, hotels are not home.

The breakfasts are much better though.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Not Lived

I'm a fairly cheery bloke by nature, not given to great seriousness, except in my taste in music, so when a sombre moment creeps up on me, it catches me by surprise. That's how it was with the bit of free verse below. I don't know where it came from. I was sitting at the lighting control desk in Maidstone Studio 1, at peace with the world, everything looking as it should, lunch approaching and then this serious nonsense just appeared in my head. Before I could say 'whoa', it was on the page and lurking with intent.

Not Lived

Outside the open door,
The world awaits,
Its warm light beckons,
Bask in my glory,
It says,
Revel in my scents,
Let me surround you
With sound
I will enchant.

You do not go.
The glow does not extend
Beyond the threshold
Quite far enough,
To touch your heart,
You cower,
In a corner,
Safe, unharmed,
Life limited,
Not lived.

As an antidote I searched out this image from my 'Door Furniture Shadows' collection. Incidentally if you've seen it, or its mate above, before, I apologise. I'm not in a position to shoot much fresh stuff at the moment as I'm working 12 hours a day or more. Also I've a poor memory of previous usage. These were on a disk I found in my laptop bag. Unfortunately there was no chocolate to accompany it, just some oozing Remagel indigestion chews.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Day Out

Beautiful day in central England, warm, windless, the perfect weather for a walk in the Cotswold Hills or getting the bikes out. So Pixie and I got in the car and drove to Witney in Oxfordshire to do some shopping; after all, where's the fun in the healthy option?

Pixie and I have well-developed shopping routines. If it's for food, I leave her at home; I just can't trust her to search out the bargains and the new lines. Since I do the cooking it makes sense for me to deal with the acquisition as well, although the aisles at Waitrose are pretty restricting when it comes to bringing down a wild boar.

General shopping, such as today's outing, is also structured. We tend to go our separate ways, meeting up only when there's an opportunity to consume food or drink or we want to show each other something we've found. Today, for example, Pixie took me to a shop to show me a handbag and I took her to a church to show her a 16th century tomb - quite similar, really.

Pixie's main activity will be searching out goods for her business. Mine will be buying the paper, visiting second-hand book shops and, of course, photography. I quite often end up in a coffee shop, reading the paper and sneaking in an illicit muffin or toasted teacake which I may, or may not,take a picture of. I can wait for Pixie for hours as long as I'm occupied and near food.

Other than clothes, shoes, second-hand books and the temptations of the kitchen department at John Lewis's, there's very little I buy on the high street nowadays; I've been an Internet shopper for many years and, almost without exception, it's been a positive experience.

So today's purchases in six hours of exposure to commercial pressure?

  • The Times newspaper

  • The latest novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte

  • A tin of Australian shoe polish (black), found in a shop in Burford - I was thinking I'd have to take a trip to Sydney to get some and that was going to be a touch expensive.
Pixie's haul is a closely guarded secret.

Today's images are a couple of threes from Witney Parish Church.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

One That Got Away

As previously mentioned, I have a thing about lonely chairs in rooms so here's one I photographed earlier.

In the small town of Rochester, Vermont, is an outpost of the perfect world. Seasoned Books & Bakery runs one of the best bookstores I've been in, and I've been in hundreds, combined with a superb bakery/cafe/deli. It was a place in which to spend a few hours and gain a few pounds. The other plus was it had a vintage clothes shop attached to keep Pixie occupied while I browsed and indulged my passion for coffee and muffins.

That was back in June so you may be wondering why it's taken me until now to post this image; I know I am. Well it's quite simple really. It went into hiding. I must have prepared it months ago and then it slipped off into some nook or cranny on my PC, doubtless intent on a life of excess and frivolity. Today, suddenly, it popped back into view and tugged at my coat tails. 'Use me now,' it said, 'use me now'. So I have - anything to silence its plaintive cries.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Three in Steam

I think my interest in railways has surfaced in this journal from time to time. Generally, though, I keep it under wraps, a guilty secret that runs contrary to my arty pretentions. To be honest I'm not that interested in the locomotives and rolling stock although the smell of a steam locomotive on heat is pretty irresistable, the sound sends shivers down my spine and the sight of one at speed is beyond compare. Still, small beer really. It's the system engineering that fascinates me - the routes, signalling, architecture, etc.

This group of three were operating on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway at the weekend. Sorry about the lack of smell and sound.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


It's that time of year again, the time when I can be found on my hands and knees in churchyards and other locations beset by decaying plant life and shrivelled fruits. My favourite haunt is the old graveyard behind the church of St John the Baptist in Cirencester, the place where I was myself baptised - perhaps the water wasn't strong enough.

Burials ceased here in the mid 1800s due to overcrowding. Today it is a peaceful place on a warm, autumnal afternoon, populated only by the birds and the few locals who escape there to sit and eat lunch, or have a quick ciggie. Beyond, the sound of the traffic in the busy town is damped by the buildings, high, dry-stone walls and the enveloping foliage.

The fascination of this place to me is the endless opportunities to photograph leaves and other debris on ancient slabs of limestone, lit by light filtered through aged yew and birch trees. The juxtaposition of these elements with the inscriptions on the stones is the main compositional imperative. I like to shoot what's already there rather than indulge in a festival of arranging but occasionally I have to help out nature. I'm sure she appreciates it.

I’ve added a GV (general view) of the churchyard – thought it might set the scene – just add a large chap in a blue jacket with dirty knees to get the full effect.

Monday, October 01, 2007


A pair of unrepentant threes today, just because I can.

The first is a revisit to an old favourite, Rickards' hardware shop in Ludlow, Shropshire. Symbolism is a tradition in paintings from the Renaissance period, a feature picked up by the Pre-Raphaelites in the Victorian era. For example, depicting a plane tree symbolised charity, the snail, laziness and smoke indicated the shortness of life. While glass suggests the notion of purity, the main symbolic focus in my image is to do with numbers.

Three bottle-carriers strung out on three hooks in a geometric progression of two, four and six sections. Three has an obvious Christian significance in the Trinity and is also seen as a number of completeness; expressing a beginning, a middle and an end. Perhaps that's what so appealing about threes in visual terms. Then throw in its importance in fairy tales - when do you ever get four wishes? or six?

I'll brush aside two, four and six and their sum, twelve (apostles, anyone?) because it would take me all night and I'm really not that committed to this line of enquiry - sorry. But I will not ignore the faintly lurking seven at the bottom of the glass pane. It is regarded as the second most important number after, you guessed it, three. It gives us, in western civilisation, such groups as the seven ages of man, seven virtues, seven deadly sins and the seven sacraments of the Christian Church. A bit of a cracker, seven and combined with another just the same, as seventy seven, the address on Sunset Strip that will be memorable to all those who watched television in the early 1960s.

It may appear that my interest in religion runs somewhat contrary to my avowed stance with regards to belief in a god. All I can say is that it fascinates me. I was dragged to church as a child, on one occasion wearing a brown corduroy cap, a seminal moment in the destruction of one's belief system, and had formulated a view on the rationality of the whole business by the time I was thirteen. Now, having discarded it for my own purposes, religion is something I can embrace as a dispassionate observer and, to that end, I studied it as part of my degree course in European Humanities. It intrigues me and as long as people keep it to themselves and don't try to inflict their beliefs on others, nor practise their beliefs in a way that impinges on the lives of others, then I'm fine with it.

Now, which direction is Cloud Cuckoo Land?

And so to another three, a lovely faded green door, distressed and in want of TLC, and a trio of letter boxes, ripe for letters from loved ones or bills from the accursed.