Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"GOOD MORNING - HOW ARE YOU?...."






.......this Robin seemed to be asking and bowed its head as we passed it on our walk from Beaulieu to Bucklers Hard.....

Monday, December 28, 2015

A CLEVER SOLUTION...

It`s a bright sunny day for a change and my mind wanders to those bright sunny days on the Cornish coast.   One of the most memorable was the walk westwards towards Gwennap Head from the hamlet of Porrthgwarra.   I remember it was very windy, but I guess it always is where the Atlantic hits the coast, and I was fascinated to come across these strange looking cones, which I managed to photograph whilst standing close to the cliff edge and hoping for the best.

These two navigation markers were erected by the Corporation of Trinity House and they provide day marks to warn vessels of the very real hazards of the submerged Runnel Stone and a series of other submerged rocks nearer the shore.   Mariners at sea should always keep the black and white cone in sight - if it becomes completely obscured by the red cone, then the vessel would be directly on top of the Runnel Stone.   These daymarks provide a clever solution to a serious problem which, between 1880 and 1923, accounted for the loss of over thirty identified steamships either wrecked, stranded or sunk in the area.   There have been none since..........




Friday, December 25, 2015

AND SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS...

Just a quick note to wish you, dear reader, a very happy Christmas and all good wishes for 2016. Here in my Kentish enclave, the day began with a brisk walk with our Retriever under cloudy skies and with every prospect of the day becoming wetter and windier as the unseasonal mild weather continues.   There was a time, in the mists of my younger days, when Christmas used to produce snow, which seemed right and proper then, but there`s little prospect of snow, ice and freezing cold weather in today`s forecast, thank goodness - I could do without all that.   But anyway, here`s a photo I took in our local woods the last time we had some proper snow........Jingle Bells!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

SEA AND SKY...

I think I must have a thing about skies.  I`ve noticed whilst looking back over my photo folders that a lot of my pictures are of the sky;  in its different moods, different colours, textures and `architecture,`  And perhaps more so when the photos I have taken have been by the sea - maybe just standing on a cliff watching the elemental and ever changing sea and sky is a reminder of the forces and the beauty of the natural world when unencumbered by the hand of mankind.  So, before I get carried away in a wistful reverie, here`s a photo I took standing on the cliff at Hope Cove in South Devon when the sea and the sky seemed to come together rather well.........


Monday, December 21, 2015

AN EVENING HALO....

Some times when you`re out and about, you just get lucky.  And on this, the shortest day of the year, it`s good to look forward, as well as back, to the long evenings of mid-summer.   Here`s a photo I too whilst taking an evening stroll on the top of the dunes on the south west coast path between Daymer Bay and Rock on Cornwall`s north coast.   I got lucky when spotting this halo as the sun went down over the opposite bank of the Camel Estuary.

Interesting things, halos.   They are a sign that high cirrus clouds are drifting 20,000 feet or more above our heads.   These clouds contain millions of ice crystals and the halos are caused by both refraction, or splitting of light, and reflection, or glints of light, from these ice crystals.  But, like rainbows, halos are personal.  Everyone sees their own particular halo, made by particular ice crystals and which are different from the ice crystals making the halo seen by someone standing next to you.   Anyway, this is my very own personal halo on that wonderful mid-summer evening.........



Saturday, December 19, 2015

MIND HOW YOU GO...

Here and there across the country there are loads of misplaced or simply daft signs.  One that always intrigues me can be seen on the M20 motorway as you approach Ashford in Kent. There`s a huge sign which says `Sign Not In Use.`   Here`s one that caught my eye on a visit to my boyhood home at Hythe on the shores of Southampton Water.   Well, the surface looks pretty even to me but I guess it can get rough so, if you`re ever tempted to walk across Southampton Water to the Weston shore or Netley, just mind how you go.......


Thursday, December 17, 2015

A MATTER OF CONVENIENCE...

I`m not sure why but over the years I have cultivated a genuine interest in the cleanliness, standard and `acceptability` of public conveniences.  Maybe it`s an age related thing but these facilities seem to grow in importance in direct relationship to one`s advancing dotage. And I have come across some truly dreadful ones as well as some which are quite outstanding.    One of the worst was at Sennen Cove in Cornwall, whilst that same county produced at least two of the very best - at Camelford and especially Portholland.   Anyway, this one in Hampshire proved to be extremely convenient, as can perhaps be judged by the quality of its informative notice..........


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A REDEEMING FEATURE....

The Kent coastal town of Margate has very few claims to fame - the misplaced Turner Gallery, the unfathomable Tracey Emin, financially struggling Dreamland, immortalised by Chas and Dave and, of course, Hartsdown Park, home of Margate FC where, once upon a time, I was linesman in the Kent Youth Cup Final.   Small wonder then, that Margate is a prime contender for having inspired the phrase `the last resort.`   

But most places have at least one redeeming feature and in Margate`s case it`s Minnis Bay, which is actually closer to Birchington than Margate itself but Margate will no doubt claim it as its own since it`s within the Thanet District Council area.  On a good day, Minnis Bay, where we had our very first ever family holiday 50 years ago, looks like this.......





Saturday, December 12, 2015

CATCHING THE WAVE...

I was well impressed by a report yesterday that a guy from Devon had `conquered` the 50-foot wave known as Jaws.  This is a monster wave off the coast of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands and the film of this event shows Adam Amins from Sidmouth successfully surfing the wave - a feat that has been achieved by just a handful of surfers since surfing began off Maui.   So, in an effort to encourage other UK surfers to follow in Adam`s footsteps, it`s obvious you`ve got to start them young.   Here`s a family encouraging their youngsters to take their first steps into the surfers` paradise of the north Cornwall coast......


Thursday, December 10, 2015

KEEP LOOKING..

For amateur bodging snappers like me, the winter months can make it hard to find things worth photographing.  I miss the long days, the sunlit evenings, the coastline and all the sights that summer brings.  Things are different at this time of the year, when the days are short, daylight in short supply and the chance to find things worth snapping might be slim.   But if you keep looking it`s surprising what`s out there to be seen.  This was close to home yesterday........


(Give it a click for a larger pic)

Monday, December 07, 2015

A FAMILY GATHERING....

Christmas is coming and this is the time of the year when families get together.   Here`s a photo I took of a different kind of family gathering - one deep in the New Forest of my long ago boyhood. To be fair, I didn`t really have to go searching for these deer because, each day around lunchtime, the herd arrive at Bolderwood knowing that goodies will be put out for them to enjoy.   We certainly enjoyed the spectacle and I hope you do too.....


Saturday, December 05, 2015

UP WITH THE RETRIEVER...

Some mornings I grumble a bit when our Golden Retriever wakes up and it`s still pitch dark and he wants his breakfast.  But this morning, just as it was getting light, we had another in a recent series of spectacular winter dawns.   So maybe it was worth being up with the retriever this morning?.........


Friday, December 04, 2015

INCOMING FLIGHT...

In marked contrast to the bright, dazzling light at Place (see my last post) there is always a different kind of magic to be found when the weather is poor and the light dulled.  For me, there is endless fascination in being at the edge of the sea, where the waves and the skies are forever changing..........(click on the photo for a better image)


Wednesday, December 02, 2015

BRIGHTENING THE GLOOM....

So, December has arrived and with it the gloomy, short days of winter when, like today, it`s dark around 4.00pm.   For years now, I`ve `suffered` from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - it`s not so much suffering, more simply missing the long, sunny days of summer.  So, to cheer me up, even if no-one else, here`s a photo I took at a place called Place, where the St. Mawes ferry arrives on Cornwall`s Roseland Peninsula.   It was one of those magical days, when we managed a long walk along the coast path, down to the Percuil River and back along Froe Creek and among the many things that made it special was the crystal clear, almost dazzling light bouncing off the water and the white buildings on the opposite shore.   Ah well, only 19 days now to the shortest day.........




Sunday, November 29, 2015

UP AND DOWN.....

I can`t believe it`s now three months almost to the day when I stood at sea level in Lynmouth taking this photo of the majestic rise of Countisbury Hill.  At just about 1,000 feet it`s Devon`s highest cliff and people tell me it`s well worth the effort to climb up it just to see the view from the top.   I confess to have been perfectly happy to be down there looking up and this view was more than agreeable........


Friday, November 27, 2015

PASSING CLOUD...

It may be some primeval instinct but each time I visit a beach I`m on the lookout for caves.  Perhaps an urge to explore whilst at the same time perhaps seeking a refuge from the world outside.   Anyway, I took this photo in a small cave in the cliffs at Porth Joke in Cornwall.  Luckily the tide was out and I was able to poke around in the cave admiring the `architecture` of the rock formations and the contrast between the darkness inside and the light outside on the beach.   Just at that moment along came this passing cloud which seemed to mirror the shape of the cave and I couldn`t resist snapping away...........


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

SMALL WORLD.....

I like skies.   They always seem to put our tenuous grip on terra firma into some kind of context.   Here`s an example - at the bottom of my photo is Nare Head, one of the glorious headlands on the south Cornwall coast;  and in front of it stands Gull Rock - I`ve lost count of the number of rocks off Cornwall which are named Gull Rock but this one is particularly fine, when seen from one of our favoured holiday retreats at Rosevine.   But the skies ,above even signature landmarks such as these, remind us that it`s a small world.  

(Please click on photo for larger image)

Monday, November 23, 2015

DECISION TIME...

You know how it is.  You`re walking along a nice bit of coast and suddenly you arrive at a point where you have to decide whether to carry on or turn back.   Well, here`s the decision we faced at Soar Mill Cove in south Devon after a long walk along the coast path from Hope Cove.  It sure was a long scramble down to a very inviting beach but, more to the point, it was also going to be a long way back up again.   I`ll leave you to decide ......


Saturday, November 21, 2015

CONTRASTS...

Most of my photos that I have posted on here recently have shown sunny days full of light and colour.   As I look out of my window this morning, it`s snowing, the skies are leaden and winter seems to have arrived overnight.   Brrrrr....and it reminded me that not all my photos are bright and sunny.  So, by way of contrast - and which seems to capture the mood for today - here`s one I took on the Sussex coast at Camber Sands on a day when sunny and bright were very much absent.......


Thursday, November 19, 2015

WHAT LIES BENEATH...

It`s a strange thing but true.  I was walking along the coast path from Trevone to Stepper Point on Cornwall`s north coast.  A lovely day, bright sunshine, a brisk breeze and the fresh Atlantic air naturally drawing my gaze out to sea.   That`s what happens, of course, and so we run the risk of missing what lies beneath our feet.  But something caught my eye and it made me realise that sometimes even the dramatic seascape has to give way to miniature natural wonders like this. And sometimes, it pays to be careful where you tread.........



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

STORM DAMAGE...

According to the weather forecast and the amber warning issued by the Met. Office, we`re about to be hit overnight by Storm Barney, possibly bringing damaging gusts resulting in trees and power lines down.   It all reminds me of two things - the first is our Golden Retriever who goes by the name of Barney who quite likes being out in high winds. 

So do I, to be fair, and the second thing it reminds me of was when we went to Porthcurno on the south Cornwall coast in early Spring.  The tide was up, the winds were high and the beach was just about deserted - ideal conditions for taking photos.  I took this one and just afterwards I was caught by an incoming wave and fell into the sea.  I came up drenched, but Barney was OK although my camera took a few days to dry out.  It was worth it though....possibly.....

(Please click on photo for larger image)

Monday, November 16, 2015

A CONFIRMED POLICY...

My new policy of confining my posts on here to photos and reminiscences of happier times seems to have been confirmed.   My recent posts have proved much more popular than all the rants I used to put on here and the amount of traffic on this blog has increased considerably as a result.  Maybe I`m mellowing a bit in my advancing dotage and I suspect that, given the troubled times in which we live, it might be comforting to be able to turn to a page that helps us escape from all the madness of the world?  So I`ll carry on doing it then.

And, in that spirit, I bring you today a photo I took of a sunset in South Devon with the birds catching the uplifting thermals against the backdrop of an amazing sky.  Maybe it`s a reminder that we should look more at the world around us and be thankful for all it has to offer........


Saturday, November 14, 2015

TO THE ISLAND (PART TWO)...

The first time I ever saw the sea was during World War II when, as a small boy, my mother and I walked from Blackfield, where we were living with my aunt and uncle, to Lepe on Hampshire`s south coast.  It was a long walk for a boy of four.  Prior to the D-Day invasion of June, 1944, Lepe was used for the secret construction of massive caissons which were towed across the channel to form part of the Mulberry Harbours used during the Normandy invasion.   Lepe was also used as one of the many embarkation sites for troops and equipment taking part in the invasion.  I still have vivid memories of the seemingly endless stream of military vehicles roaring through Blackfield on their way to Lepe and the generosity of the American servicemen throwing packets of sweets to us urchins along the wayside.

Back in the Spring of this year we stayed in the New Forest and made a return visit to Lepe.  It always brings back memories of those boyhood experiences but also reminds me of the awe with which I first saw the sea and the infinity of the skies above the water. This is a photo I took last time we were there and shows the skies above the Solent and a lone yacht making its way across to the Isle of Wight.   It was very different in 1944........





Thursday, November 12, 2015

TO THE ISLAND....

No, this is not a critique of Meaghan Delahunt`s novel but a wistful look back to the golden days of late summer, when we happened once again to be staying at Bigbury-on-Sea in south Devon.   And naturally we start to walk the coast path in each direction - to the east lies Bantham, Thurlestone, Hope Cove and Bolt Head but the walk westwards starts off perhaps less propitiously, involving the negotiation of the Challaborough holiday park with its serried ranks of chalets, caravans and assorted `amenities.` 

But keep going and soon the climb towards Ayrmer Cove rewards you with this panoramic view back to the tidal causeway to Burgh Island.  I`ve tried to make my photo have something of a `Lowry` feel to it, with the matchstick figures coming and going before the tide cuts either the Island or the mainland off from civilization for a few hours.  I`m never quite sure which....... 


(Please click on photo for larger image)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A HELPFUL REMINDER....


I`ve lost count of the number of times we have stayed on the Roseland Peninsula on Cornwall`s south coast.  It`s a quiet area with quiet villages, quiet beaches and the kind of place where you can easily spend a fortnight in an afternoon.   And one of the quietest places on the Roseland is Portholland.   Now, I think it was AE Houseman who suggested that "Clunton, Clunbury, Clungunton and Clun.  Are the quietest places under the sun." He was talking about Shropshire, of course, but he evidently never saw Portholland.

There are, in fact, two Porthollands - East and West - with East Portholland being the larger of the two.  But then, there is nothing large about it - a cluster of cottages, an excellent public convenience maintained by local volunteers since the Council washed its hands of it.... and a Post Office.   I was fascinated to see that the Post Office has this helpful notice which gives the rather limited opening times.  Still, this being Cornwall, if you miss one Tuesday morning, at least you know another will be along dreckly.......



Sunday, November 08, 2015

CLOSE TO HOME...

Well it sure is nice to go travellin` but sometimes we don`t always appreciate what`s on our doorstep.   Here in deepest Kent we are surrounded by interesting villages, most of which still retain reminders of Kent`s agricultural heritage and remind us too that Kent has much to offer, especially in its out if the way places, away from the motorways, the high speed rail link and all the trappings and crescendos of modern day life.   Here`s a photo I took of a quiet corner in the village of Trottiscliffe, known locally as `Trosley` or sometimes even Chumley......... 


Thursday, November 05, 2015

WHERE KESTRELS DARE...

A year or so ago we walked the stretch of south west coast path from Trevone to Stepper Point on Cornwall`s north coast.   It`s yet another spectacular cliff top walk, rewarded with sweeping views across the Camel Estuary to Polzeath, Trebetherick and Pentire Point.   Stepper Point on the western head of the estuary is topped by a stone tower, built as a `day mark` to serve as a navigation beacon for seafarers during daylight.   

I can never resist the temptation to step inside the tower and peer through the lookout and feast my eyes on the ever changing seascape.  On this occasion, I was fascinated by the grace and beauty of the kestrel in its flight and I was lucky enough to capture this image as the kestrel hovered in search of lunch.......


Tuesday, November 03, 2015

A DIP INTO THE PAST..

A few weeks ago we had a holiday in North Devon and revisited some of the places we went to when our three sons were still at school - the eldest is now 52!   This is a photo I took of Watersmeet and it brought back fond memories of our sons, one of them in particular, getting too close to the water and falling in, requiring some rescue acts and changes of clothing.  We also remembered the cream teas at the National Trust Lodge, so whilst we didn`t recapture the excitement of the adventures of three small boys, we couldn`t resist recapturing the excellence of the National Trust cream teas.......


Sunday, November 01, 2015

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST..

Just got back from taking Barney for his Sunday morning walkies through the orchards of the Garden of England.   Or it was once.   We came across a man with a chain saw, busily chopping up apple trees that had been grubbed out of the ground.  I asked why.  He said that the orchard was now 15 years old and that the apples were no longer being picked as they did not come up to EEC standards.  

So, the orchard will disappear and go the same way as the cherry orchard, the pear orchard and the Victoria plum orchard, all of which have vanished in the last couple of years. Pity really - I used to enjoy a bit of scrumping.   In all, five orchards are due for the chop and will be replaced by arable crops, which will limit one`s scrumping options somewhat.

Anyway, this is a photo of the doomed apple orchard I took just a month ago - another one bites the dust and another classic Kentish scene will be no more.............




(Click on photo for a larger image)

Friday, October 30, 2015

LOST FOREVER...

A couple of years ago we walked the stretch of coast path between Porthcothan and Treyarnon on Cornwall`s north coast.   It`s a fascinating area - cliff tops, ever changing sea views, even a `sanctuary` for corn buntings and one of the sights I managed to photograph was this natural arch beyond Porthcothan.   A few weeks later, another of the great storms of recent years caused the headland and the arch to collapse into the sea, meaning that this sight is lost forever........



Thursday, October 29, 2015


A BIT OF GOOD NEWS...

Long suffering Aston Vila fans have had a bad time of it in the last couple of seasons. They have seen their team lose their last six Premier League matches to sit bottom of the table and last night`s 2-1 defeat to Southampton saw Villa exit the Capital One Cup, aka the League Cup.   The weekend`s sacking of manager Tim Sherwood was inevitable and the fans must be left wondering who in their right mind would come in, accept the poisoned chalice and attempt to save the club from what seems like certain relegation.   

But at least there`s a bit of good news for them as Harry Redknapp is reported as `ruling himself out` of a return to management at Villa Park.   An interesting announcement from `arry, f`sure, pretty much on a par with Tony Blair ruling himself out of becoming Pope, but I`m sure the Villa fans have been encouraged by Redknapp`s refusal to be considered for the manager role by club owner Randy Lerner.

Don`t know why, but each time I hear the name Randy Lerner it conjurers up  visions of teenage adolescents making their tremulous way into the local brothel.   I`ll get me coat.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

THAT TIME OF THE YEAR...

......when the trees lose their leaves and the colours of Autumn are at their best, like this Acer in my garden, caught in the afternoon sunlight.......


Monday, October 26, 2015

BITE SIZED CHUNKS..

For some years now we have been members of the South West Coast Path Association - a registered charity which exists to safeguard and promote the national treasure that is the 630 mile-long coastal footpath around the south west of England.  Yesterday we received their regular magazine and I`m always fascinated by reports from those who have completed the whole journey.   Indeed, a very good friend of mine and his wife themselves completed it a year or so ago, for which amongst many other things they have my complete admiration.

I noticed that some of the `completion reports` are for those who have taken as many as eight years to finish the journey and it made me realise that, over the years, we ourselves have `completed` large sections of the path in bite sized chunks. We have walked most of Cornwall, a lot of Devon and bits of Somerset and Dorset and I look back on those adventures with great affection.   Small wonder when you see this picture I took as we got to Lands End, turned left and walked the quiet, spectacular stretch towards Porthgwarra (of Ross Poldark supposedly swimming in the buff fame).......


Saturday, October 24, 2015

STEP BACK IN AUTUMN..

The old fashioned way of remembering whether to put the clocks back or forward was drilled into me by my grandmother announcing, twice a year, "Step back in Autumn, leap forward in Spring."   And here we are at another turn of the year when we are supposed to gain an extra hour`s sleep tonight.   That doesn`t reckon with having a Golden Retriever for whom the change of clocks means absolutely nothing at all.  So I`ll have an early start tomorrow morning and take Barney out for his walkies.  One of our favourite places to visit at this time of the year is this one......  (Give it a click for a bigger pic.)




Friday, October 23, 2015

A TIMELY REMINDER..

With yesterday`s launch of the annual Poppy Appeal in advance of Remembrance Day I thought this picture might be appropriate.   It`s one I took of Porth Joke (Polly Joke) on the north coast of Cornwall close to Crantock.   Each year these fields, which are managed by the National Trust, produce a stunning display of poppies and corn marigolds tumbling down the hillside to Polly Joke`s irresistible beach...........


Thursday, October 22, 2015

SNOPPER`S SNAPS...

Thought it might be a nice change to get away from the daily misery of the world and instead post an (almost) daily photo from my extensive album of pictures that I have taken over the years.   Some might be of Devon or Cornwall or Hampshire, the Kent countryside but they all represent places we have been to and like very much.

Until recently there was a helpful link which allowed photos I had put on FlickR to be automatically posted on this blog.   However,that facility seems to have vanished into cyberspace and I don`t know why or how to set up something similar without going through mind-bending instructions which are quite beyond me.  So rather than rely on that kind of thing, I`ll post a photo most days direct from my album.   

Here`s the first one. It`s a photo of Start Bay in South Devon, taken from the road leading down to Start Point lighthouse.   In his recent book, "The Road to Little Dribbling," Bill Bryson  included a reference to the area like this - "The view took in the mighty sweep of Start Bay, which is surely one of the very loveliest in England.To the south an attractive white lighthouse stood on an eminence called Start Point.  To the north at Stoke Fleming there was some other tower - a church steeple I decided - and in between sprawled the most exquisite, effortlessly perfect combination of fields, clustered villages, farmhouses and wandering roads."   He wasn`t wrong.  (Click on the picture for a larger and clearer image.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


ONCE UPON A TIME...


There was a lot of fuss over the weekend as a result of 84 Bishops having sent a letter to the Prime Minister as long ago as August demanding that the UK Government increases the number of migrants/refugees from Syria to 50,000.   The Government`s current stance is that the UK is committed to taking 20,000 from the refugee camps as well as continuing as the second most generous aid donor to help with the refugee crisis in that part of the world.

What is surprising is that the Government did not respond to the Bishops` plea until yesterday and that indeed is disappointing.   But perhaps what is even more surprising is that there are 84 Bishops to sign the letter in the first place.   Seems an extraordinary number of bishops for a relatively small country.   Something like three might be enough at, say, the Church of England`s HQ at Canterbury, another in branch offices at York and maybe Exeter, which would cover most of the country.

There was a time, many many years ago, when I suppose people accepted the role of the church as part of the way things were.  It was looked upon, almost unthinkingly, as an institution that commanded respect, one which was there to bring comfort and joy to the lives of countless believers, although even then in my bewildering childhood I wasn`t at all sure what I was supposed to believe in.

As the years have gone on, however, I have had a good think about all that and I have formed my own attitude towards pretty much all things religious.  I`m fairly sure that religion is responsible for most of humankind`s wars, repression and misery over the centuries and, as aficionados of these pages will know, whilst I have no quarrel or inkling as to the existence of an omnipotent being, I have many reservations about His or Her representatives down here on Earth.   Of course if, when the time comes, I find myself at the pearly gates then I`ll be the first to apologise for harbouring any doubts.  Seems fair enough.

But I think what really gets to me is all the pomp and circumstance, the rituals, the mystique, the smoke and mirrors and the attitudes of the established church and all its teachings churned out by these purveyors of fairy tales, these pedlars of myth, these illusionists.  I may, once upon a time, have believed in fairy tales, the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and all that jazz, but once you set aside childish things you come to realise that all those hopes and dreams were themselves illusions, like so much of religious practices.   

So, whilst the Government`s delay in responding to the blatant entry into the political realm by a bunch of self-centred bishops might have been disappointing, perhaps they were right after all in not giving too much credence to the plea for another random, arbitrary refugee figure, which contributes little to the real humanitarian shambles we see today.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A BOOK AT BATH TIME..


Over the years I have accumulated what can only be described as an eclectic `library.`   It`s not really a library as such - rather just a couple of book cases stuffed pretty full.  Because of limited space, every now and then I`m encouraged to have a sort out, donate some books in the charity bag, but there are quite a number that I have grimly held on to and which I read again and again.

Mostly they are books about Britain - travel books - about places I know and love and visit; Cornwall, Devon, Hampshire, the West Country generally.  Some of them are really very old now - one in particular is a lavishly illustrated book about the Dorset and South Devon Coast published in 1910 which I bought in Modbury years ago and I also hang on to the Ward Lock Red Guides which go back to the 1930s.   I have cricket books, Southampton FC books, books on physics, mathematics, astronomy, exploration, biographies, National Service, but it is the books about England that hold a lasting fascination.

And over the years I have discovered that one of life`s real pleasures is reading in the bath - a risky business with the constant danger of the book slipping from my grasp and being consigned to the deep and with the consequence that some of my volumes became a little soggy, requiring painstaking remedial action.

But the latest book which accompanies me into my nightly soak is Bill Bryson`s `The Road to Little Dribbling` - more Notes From a Small Island - updating his impressions of Britain from those of 20 years ago.   I`ve only got about a third of the way through it but it`s already clear that, as well as his abiding affection for our country and our peculiar ways, there is an understated grumpiness which comes with the passage of time and with which I entirely identify.   An early example comes with his chapter concerning a visit to the New Forest (which isn`t new and not all of it a forest) and an area where I spent much of my boyhood over half a century ago.

Back in his hotel in Lyndhurst, he sat on the edge of his bed "waiting for it to be time for a drink and wondering how many tens of thousands of days have passed since BBC One last showed a programme that anyone not on medication would want to watch."

An excellent start - he speaks my language - and so I look forward to the next few nights wallowing in the grumpiness and cynicism to which I find myself inevitably drawn as the years continue to pile up.   I just hope my ageing wrists will be strong enough hold the book firmly in place and saving it from the same watery fate of some of my others. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A STRANGE DEFINITION..

My 87p Collins English Dictionary defines a patriot as "a person who loves his or her country and supports its interests."   Maybe I should invest in a more expensive, up to date dictionary but the one I have seems at odds with Samuel Johnson`s idea of a patriot.

Now, the other day we had the launch of the group led by former Marks and Spencer Chairman Lord Stuart Rose who will head the campaign for Britain to remain in the European Union.   No less than three former Prime Ministers - Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and John Major - have joined the group, which possibly tilts the balance of truth in Samuel Johnson`s favour.

The thrust of the campaign to remain in the EU is clearly biased towards the interests of business and the Westminster elite, which is unsurprising.   But Lord Rose`s contention that it is patriotic to remain in the EU and `lead it rather than quit,` is interesting for many reasons.   Here are just two of them.  First, of course, even if Britain votes to stay in then there is no way that it will ever `lead` the EU - that job has long since been spoken for.

But secondly, I`m genuinely intrigued as to how it can possibly be patriotic to surrender control of our borders, to give up virtually all of our sovereignty and to have nearly all of our laws, regulations and human rights decided for us by a huge, remote, largely unaccountable outfit whose accounts have not held up to audit scrutiny for any of the last 20 years and which costs us £58 million each and every day in membership fees.

I suggest that my 87p dictionary may have got it right after all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


WELL MEANT...

The sign above is perhaps the perfect example of something well meant but not really necessary.   If the edges of the sign are really sharp then it begs the question as to why it was necessary to put a sign up anyway.  No sign - no sharp edges to worry about. But whoever was responsible, I have no doubt that in a spirit of genuine concern, their intentions were entirely honourable and well meant.

Yesterday there were a couple of other examples.   Firstly, Victoria Derbyshire publishing a video of her treatment for breast cancer which I am sure was also published with the honourable intention of persuading people that it was possible to overcome the trauma of having a mastectomy.   Well meant, I`m sure.   But what I`m not so sure about is whether it was wise - whether some people might either view it as yet another example of a `celebrity patient` or whether something so very personal might be more sensitively and more privately dealt with among just family and friends.  Who knows, the `impact` might have been just as effective?

Another well meaning initiative was that of Benedict Cumberbatch, the well known Thespian, who has taken it upon himself to demand, yes demand, an audience with Home Secretary Teresa May so he can demand, yes demand, that more is done by the Government to help with the migrant/refugee crisis.   Again I`m sure Mr Cumberbatch is perfectly genuine in his concern but he may run the risk of alienating support by assuming that his fame  puts him in a position to influence events.   I`m sure his intervention is also well meaning, as indeed is this post in drawing attention to the pitfalls of assuming that celebrity intervention is always welcome, however well meant it may be.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER..

It`s really not too surprising that I suffer from S.A.D. which seems to have become more acute as the years have rolled by.   Maybe there`s a direct correlation between anno domini and one`s degree of bewilderment but I have just about settled back unto `life` after an enjoyable if fleeting summer, only to be confronted by the almost terrifying prospect of what awaits me in the coming weeks.

First up is Halloween, yet another pointless import from America when all reason seems to go out of the window.   My doorbell gets rung, Barney barks and cowers in his corner, I open the door and pretend to be scared, demands are made and threats issued as I`m given a choice between trick or treat. It`s a bit like demanding with menaces. My immediate response is to say `I`ll have the treat, please,` whereupon the puzzled expression on angelic faces softens my curmudgeonly heart and I hand out the bowl of goodies I had hoped to enjoy later on.

Then Bonfire Night.  And that`s serious, especially if, like us, you have a paranoid schizophrenic Golden Retriever with a sensitive nature and a penchant for undisturbed sleep.   It`s a silly thing, of course, `celebrating` a failed attempt to blow up Parliament hundreds of years ago.  Had the attempt been successful then perhaps it might have provided some legitimacy for the  `celebration.`  But it`s very British, of course, to organise a celebration for something so deeply flawed.

And then Christmas - the season of goodwill - when like lemmings on the cliff we all fall for the annual extravaganza of celebrating Santa`s birthday.  And the New Year won`t be much better - more fireworks, more canine cowering in the corner - and the whole silly season conducted in the darkest, coldest, most miserable time of the year.

And just when you think things couldn`t get any sillier, along comes the ultimate silliness that is the Turner Prize.  There are four nominees this year - a set of chairs draped with fur coats;  a set of TV monitors showing interviews with conspiracy theorists;  a showroom of household items;  and a bevy of six warbling opera singers.   Quite apart from the sainted JMW spinning in his grave at this prospect, it surely is no coincidence that admission to the Glasgow exhibition is free to anyone daft enough to be interested.

And people wonder why I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.......... 


Friday, October 09, 2015


WELL ALMOST..

This time last week we had just arrived home from a week in glorious Devon with much to look back on.   And after a fraught week this week I had hoped that this weekend would provide something to look forward to.   But I hadn`t bet on England`s humiliating exit from the Rugby World Cup or the fact that, following their stunning 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge last weekend, the Saints wouldn`t have a game at all this coming weekend.

(Incidentally, it should not have come as a surprise that all the press reports following Chelsea`s home defeat were all about how awful Chelsea were (even if they weren`t) and all about the ranting ego masquerading as their manager;  hardly a word about how impressive Southampton were.)

I can`t say I`m looking forward to England playing their European Qualifier against Estonia this evening despite the inclusion of Saints` Ryan Bertrand and former Saints Theo Walcott, Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana in the England starting line-up with Alex Oxtail-Chamberlain on the bench; how on earth are we going to get on without the inspirational (I think that`s the right word) presence of Wayne Rooney, I wonder?  The Rugby World Cup will be on, of course, but it won`t be the same without Lancaster`s Lions so I might have to turn Welsh in order to get interested.

Meanwhile, I content myself with following the fortunes of the other Saints players plying their international trade across the globe - the heroic Steven Davis captaining Northern Ireland to the Euro Finals last evening;  Shane Long scoring the winner for the Irish Republic against Germany;  Maya Yoshida helping Japan to a comfortable win over Syria; Virgil van Dijk playing for Holland;  Sadio Mane for Senegal; Jose Fonte and Cedric Soares for Portugal; Dusan Tadic for Serbia;  Graziano Pelle for Italy, along with a host of our Academy graduates playing for England Under 21s, Under 20s and other age groups.

So maybe the weekend is not entirely lost even if it just feels like it.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015


YET ANOTHER HAZARD..
FROM OUR GOLF CORRESPONDENT

Today saw Snopper`s return to the golf circuit with a round of heroic inadequacy at Poult Wood.   Admittedly the conditions were not the best with a recurring drizzle making the course very wet underfoot.   Golfers of even modest ability might well have avoided too many problems, since the chances of their balls arriving on the fairways are pretty good.   However, in Snopper`s case, fairways seemed today to take the form of restricted areas, ones into which he was barred from entering.   Consequently, by about the third hole, his feet had become wringing wet due to a lethal combination of wading through the seemingly endless rough and wearing 30-year old golf shoes which had lost any pretence of waterproofing years ago.

To be fair, his first tee shot was encouraging, landing on the green but, as ever, the three putts meant that the hole won the first round and from then on things got worse - he even managed to record a five over par eight at the third, by which time a certain numbness had begun to creep into his bunionised plates of meat.   There is absolutely no point in recording the paucity of the score for his round but if he is to return to the game in the near future, he really must invest in a new pair of golf shoes.

This might not be easy for an elderly person struggling to survive on a fixed income in times of austerity but maybe if he simply views the task as yet another in a long line of hazards to contend with, then he might just pull through this latest setback in his undistinguished golfing career.   Or maybe there is a registered charity somewhere out there whose purpose in life is to provide hopeless, ageing golfers with waterproof shoes - a bit like the winter fuel allowance only more useful.  People could go on charity walks, run marathons, rattle tins outside superstores, that kind of thing.  After all, every little helps.


Monday, October 05, 2015

Maybe it`s just me but I always find returning home from a holiday brings mixed feelings.  Of course, there`s no place like home  but the re-entry brings into sharp focus all the things you managed to escape from whilst being away.

Seems particularly the case if, like me, you`ve had a wonderful week of glorious weather in beautiful surroundings, all of which make it easier to immerse yourself in that environment and escape from the trials of modern day life.  You see, when you stand on a remote cliff top and feel the wind in your face, breathe in the pure air and just be at one with the elements, not much else really matters.

But I got home and back to life in the one time Garden of England and very quickly I`m brought back down to earth.   For example, we go shopping at the local superstore on Saturday morning, park the car and wander down past the disabled parking spaces, where a very large car turned up and parked, its owner leaps out resplendent in his extra large Spurs football shirt, his arms covered in tattoos and briskly makes his way to the cash machine.   Now unless being a Spurs fan is a registered disability (which it might well be, of course) I get annoyed not only at the pugnacious persona on display but also the totally inconsiderate assumption that parking in disabled spaces is OK.  You certainly know when you`re back in the south east of England.

And today, never mind the chaos in the middle east or the migrant problems of biblical proportions, the main issue concerning the media is the terrible consequences of making people pay 5p for a plastic bag. So welcome home, but I think I`m off to find a remote cliff top somewhere.