Friday, October 30, 2015


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


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


......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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.

Saturday, October 03, 2015


Been away for a week in the South Hams of South Devon, staying at Bigbury on Sea.  It`s another of our favourite parts of the country and we enjoy the coast path walks, the beaches, the Devon villages and the weather, which blessed us with a week of unbroken sunshine with a bit of a breeze which made the walking even more enjoyable.

And this is a prime location for sunsets, like the one I captured in the photo above last Thursday evening.   The ship which was caught in the light of a spectacular sunset is the Belgian Navy Patrol ship, Pollux, which was commissioned just a few months ago to join her sister ship, Castor (of course.)

I knew that Belgium produced excellent chocolate and good footballers but I didn`t know Belgium had a navy. But it seems they have and Pollux is reported to spend her time patrolling the waters off the Belgian coast and has recently `escorted` a Russian submarine off the Belgian patch.   So what was it doing in Bigbury Bay last Thursday evening, I wonder?   Well, I can but guess that it had heard about the South Devon sunsets and decided to check it out.   Can`t blame them really, can you?