Saturday, July 07, 2018


As the World Cup in Russia rolls on to England`s semi-final I`ve been on the lookout for images that have defined the competition so far.   We`ve seen spectacular goals, intriguing games, high drama, crushing disappointment, outrageous antics and, inevitably, Kipling`s twin impostors in various guises.  We`ve seen images of fans over the moon and as sick as parrots; we`ve seen Engerland progress to the semi-final stage for the first time since 1990 (what a mercy it has been that `Big` Sam Allardyce`s short reign as manager ended so fortunately.)

But for me at least, the images I have taken so far as being the most satisfying were those following Japan`s heroic exit losing 3-2 to Belgium.   I don`t know, but I would imagine that, after any defeat, most football teams would simply trudge back to the dressing room, have a shower, get dressed and go. Not so Japan whose culture and innate sense of courtesy meant that they left the dressing room in the same pristine state they found it in when they arrived.  They also left a note, in Russian, to thank their hosts:-

And this seemingly natural way of behaving towards their hosts as visitors was mirrored by the Japanese fans who stayed behind in the stadium to clean up the seating areas where they had watched the game.

Japan may have left the World Cup stage but the respectful attitude of their players and supporters confirmed their reputation as probably the best ambassadors seen at the World Cup.   We could all learn a lot from them.  Maybe there will be some more memorable images before the tournament ends next weekend but for now, well done to Saints very own Maya Yoshida and his band of brothers.

Thursday, July 05, 2018


It is indeed most unusual for me to have any sympathy for politicians but today I must make an exception in the case of Ben Wallace, MP, who happens to be the Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime.   And it was he who was put up in front of the television cameras this morning in response to the news coming out of Salisbury that, yet again, two people have been taken critically ill as a result of supposed contact with the nerve agent Novichok.

He appeared on the BBC Breakfast programme around 7.30 this morning and was `interviewed` by Middlesbrough`s answer to Gracie Fields, one Steph McGovern, whilst being looked on by the insufferably smug Naga Munchetty.   The `interview` didn`t go well - the questions were all the usual BBC aggressive assumptions and Ben Wallace was hardly given time to answer before being interrupted but to be fair he managed to keep his composure and deliver what appeared to be a measured, considered response to the event in Wiltshire.

Then on to Sky News, coming from outside the police cordon around the house of the couple who had been the victims of this dreadful happening.   Sky`s Sarah Jane Mee conducted yet another assumptive, almost accusative rant along the lines of "How could the Government allow this to happen again?"  Once again, Mr. Wallace responded with the quiet dignity that his position demands and put the Government`s position as clearly as he was allowed.

Now it`s not often I feel sympathy for politicians but I did on this occasion when once again the broadcast media take to hectoring rather than attempting to extract whatever truth may be there to be extracted, never mind any pretence of balance, all of which would have left viewers with perhaps a clear understanding of what is a deeply disturbing situation.

Monday, July 02, 2018


One of our New Forest visits reminded me - and I`m not quite sure why because the contrast could not have been greater - of one of the lyrics from the wonderful but sorely missed Kirsty McColl.   "From an uptown apartment to a knife on the A-train, it`s not that far.......from the sharks in the penthouse to the rats in the basement it`s not that far"....and so on.

And our visit to Boldrewood on a mid summer weekend afternoon was perhaps not the best time to go - car park full, all those people determined to get away from it all only to find themselves surrounded by all those people.   And on our way back to our probably illegally parked car, I spotted some rising smoke from the inevitable barbecue.  This photo I took gives a flavour of what a summer barbie in the New Forest might look like.......

But if you take the trouble to walk away from all that you can find an area set aside for deer watching. It`s not that far. The silence is deafening, the mayhem left behind and if you`re patient and lucky, as I was, you might just catch a glimpse of what the Forest is really all about.  Here`s a photo I took of that quiet moment.......

Oh yes - and on the subject of Kirsty McColl`s lyrical song writing, one of her most sad but hopefully predictive lyrics included the line, "Now it`s England 2 Colombia 0 and I know just how those Colombians feel......"    Another reminder of her remarkable genius?  We might find out tomorrow evening.

Saturday, June 30, 2018


Been absent from these pages for a couple of weeks, partly to avoid any flack stemming from my suggestion that we might be going overboard with our collective national mourning - interesting that the flack never arrived.   

Anyway, we had a week in my old stamping ground of Hampshire`s New Forest, scene of my misspent boyhood and it was, as ever, a real treat to revisit those places that I hold dear and which were, I suppose, at least partly responsible for  some aspects of my persona from my formative years.

One of the real pleasures was to go back to Setthorns Inclosure, close to the village of Sway where we were staying.   It`s one of the smaller of the Forest Inclosures but it always appeals as one with genuine forest trails among spectacular trees.  Above is a photo I took just as we were coming out of the forest where it gives way to the open heathland.    Please click on the photo for a better image.

Thursday, June 14, 2018


Went to the local Tesco supermarket this morning for our weekly shop.  As we drifted aimlessly around the aisles a tannoy announcement informed the customers and staff that, at 12.00 noon there would be a two minutes silence in memory of those who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower disaster exactly one year ago today.

Now I don`t want to be misunderstood here because I have every sympathy for those who were killed on that dreadful night and for the genuine grief suffered by their relatives and friends, along with those who survived the fire and whose lives have been severely affected by what happened.

And, of course, I didn`t mind my retail progress being interrupted for a moment or two of quiet reflection.   But it did just make me wonder whether, as a nation, we have a tendency to dwell perhaps a little too much on these tragic events, almost to the point of revelling in a kind of national outpouring of collective grief. 

As ever there have been hours of TV, radio and acres of print media devoted to this most poignant anniversary and I begin to wonder whether all of that is really helping the friends and relatives of those who were lost to come to terms with it all - or whether it is perpetuating their misery yet further.

There have been times in the past - and I have lived through some of them - when as a nation  faced with calamity on an enormous scale, we used to dust ourselves off and just get on with it?

I`ll shut up and go away for a while, you`ll be pleased to learn.

Monday, June 11, 2018


This is Dudley, our new golden retriever.  He won`t take the place of Barney or Henry or any of our previous five retrievers but he will be welcomed into our home, our family, our community and our village when he joins us in a couple of weeks` time.   On Saturday we made the journey down to the New Forest where we had to choose which puppy to have from the adorable litter.  We were left with a choice between two and it was difficult to choose between them - I think we would happily have had both - but in the end we chose this one;  I`m sure you can see why.  

We then went on to revisit one or two places that are a little bit special, well to me anyway.   On the way we drove through some of the open heathland areas of the New Forest and I caught this picture of  a new foal and its mum which kind of sums up what the forest is all about:-

Then on to Lepe on Hampshire`s south coast.  I still recall that when I was about five years old in 1944 walking to Lepe beach from the house my mother and I were staying in with relatives during the war.  It was the first time I had ever seen the sea and it was at the time of the build-up to D-Day in June 1944.  I still remember the hordes of American trucks driving through the village and the troops throwing packets of sweets to us urchins as they drove through en route to Lepe where the Mulberry harbours had been constructed.   These days Lepe is a busy country park but still has the views out to the Isle of Wight.  Here`s a photo of that timeless view I took on what was truly a day to remember:-

(As ever, please click on photos for better images)

Thursday, June 07, 2018


I`ve long been an admirer of church architecture and the details you find inside even the smallest and most remote places of worship - for example, the bench ends at Holbeton in south Devon; the crossover at St. Anthony`s church on the Roseland; and the stained glass windows at St. Neot, all of which I have visited, enjoyed and been impressed with the skill and dedication that has gone into producing such treasures.

And arguably the most remarkable and attractive church I have come across is another one on Cornwall`s Roseland Peninsula.   Now being of sound mind and body (well, mind anyway) I have serious reservations about the authenticity of supreme beings - any number of religions seem to produce any number of allegedly supreme beings - and if there is one or even loads of them, then you have to ask why there is so much suffering in this world of ours.   But despite my obvious atheism or agnosticism (if I get up there and discover it was true after all, I`ll be the first to apologise) my admiration for the ambience of churches is enforced each time I return to St. Just in Roseland.

Here`s a photo I took on my last visit there - you can see what I mean, I hope - and perhaps agree that it is not always compulsory to become a member in order to enjoy what`s on offer:-

(As ever, please click on photo for better image)