Friday, 15 December 2017

A day in Barrow...

I'm lucky to be in Barrow-in-Furness. There seems to be a bit of ‘play’ in the Romahome steering, and I want to get it sorted before I put too many more miles on the clock. I’ve left it at the Citroen Garage in town, where I’ve had work done before. So I have a day in Barrow, with my camera, laptop and radio (England are still ‘holding their own’ in the Perth test match)…

If anyone searches the Alamy database, with the words 'dogshit' + 'windfarm', I'll expect a sale...

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Third test...

When days look a bit grim, and winter stretches out so very far ahead, I remind myself that I don’t have to wear a Christmas jumper or negotiate the festive pitfalls of an office party. Full of cold, so an early night beckons. The test match starts in a few hours, so I hope to be listening to Alistair Cook and Joe Root taking the Aussie bowlers to the cleaners. I can dream…

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Ulverston...

As a rule of thumb I assume that the interior of the Romahome stays about 5℃ warmer than outside. Woke up this morning to find that, according to my thermometer, the cabin was a chilly -1℃, and the temperature outside was, as anticipated, an arctic -6℃. Thankfully I have a good sleeping bag and duvet. I drove to Ulverston this morning, keeping to the main roads; this is not a good moment to follow the satnav lady’s whimsical choice of ungritted by-ways. Having breakfast in the café at Booths. The cabin is now 20℃, and I plan to get some writing done.

My nomadic existence has at least one unanticipated consequence: I’ve come to realise that mild asceticism helps to keep the mind active. If I was living in a warm, comfortable house I’d just sink into a sofa and never get up…

Monday, 11 December 2017

Hull, Helen & Halifax...

Spent the weekend with Helen in Halifax. Good to be in the warm while the temperatures are plummeting. The weather, though cold, doesn't look too bad, so I'm heading for Cumbria...

Friday, 8 December 2017

Bramhope Tunnel...

Licensed this pic today: the memorial to the 24 men who died while constructing the Bramhope Tunnel, on the Harrogate railway line. The monument, a faithful replica of the tunnel’s northern entrance, with crenellated towers, is in Otley churchyard…




Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Fine dining...

Stopped for a snack at another lay-by diner; made out of a shipping container, it has an air of permanence. Instead of racist banter they had a baffling menu. I didn’t ask what a ‘Spam Tower’ was, and settled instead for a crispy bacon sandwich and a mug of tea. I’m a big fan of these roadside cafés. They’re cheap, cheerful and serve generous portions; best of all there’s no dress code…

A great little pub, at the scruffy end of town: the Whalebone, Hull...


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Kate Rusby...

Had a couple of days in Sunny Halifax, seeing Helen, other chums and Kate Rusby, who was appearing at the Victoria Theatre. None of us were aware that it was a Christmas show… until we saw the life-sized Rudolph the Reindeer on the stage. No problem; Christmas carols represent the acceptable face of the festive season, and Kate - and her band - rattled through a repertoire of (mostly) lesser-known carols and Christmas songs (though three different versions of While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night was probably two versions too many). Some of the songs were augmented by a brass section, which helped to provide a Christmassy ambience. The band came back for an encore, all dressed up for a nativity scene; Kate, with wings and a halo, was the archangel Gabriel.

It was a very enjoyable evening, though I wish she’d just sing the songs and forget about the between-song banter, which isn’t very funny or interesting. She’s long been a purveyor of unamusing anecdotes, which just kill the moods which the songs evoke; it’s a shame that no one told her, years ago, to concentrate on what she does best…

Choir in the Piece Hall, Halifax... raising money for Overgate Hospice...


Sunday, 3 December 2017

Breakfast...

Stopped for breakfast at my favourite provider of tea, bacon sandwiches and mildly racist banter, who operates from a van parked in a lay-by between Skipton and Keighley. The flag of St George hanging limply above the van is a code to inform the traveling public that salty language is acceptable - even encouraged - and that no conversational topic, no matter how misogynistic, is off-limits…

Saturday, 2 December 2017

The Maritime Experience...

I wasn’t sure if sales in 2017 would match 2016, but November ended well and December started even better. The 16 pix licensed yesterday represents my best haul for one day, and gives me hope for buoyant sales in 2018…

Another shot from Hartlepool...


Friday, 1 December 2017

Session...

In Knaresborough last night. It was good to be in a cosy little pub, while the snow was whipping around outside, and some local musicians were having a session...


Thursday, 30 November 2017

Snow...

Woke up this morning, in Scarborough, to find the first snowfall of winter. It was quite a surprise. I should have stayed where I was a while longer, because the road out of town was full of lorries and cars going nowhere. I managed to find a pull-in; better to get some writing done than just stare blankly at the traffic gridlock...

Sailing in the docks at Hartlepool...




Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Spital Inn...

Stayed last night at the Spital Inn campsite, near Scarborough (there aren't many campsites open in the last week of November). I processed a lot of pix, including images of the Rochdale Canal in Hebden Bridge, looking rather autumnal. Strange how the eye is drawn to a figure in the landscape, no matter how small...


Monday, 27 November 2017

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Hartlepool...

Hartlepool is as far north as I'll head on this trip. Had a morning taking pix around the town's marina, and I'll be going south, down the coast, maybe to Staithes, before winding up with friends in Scarborough on Tuesday night...

Friday, 24 November 2017

Pix...

Another night of Ashes cricket commentary and fitful sleep; after two days the game is still too close to call. Good news about pic sales on Alamy, in that the search criteria appear to have changed. It means my pix will appear nearer the top of relevant searches… and that will lead to more sales. Hooray… 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Redcar...

Exploring old haunts along the coast I wound up in Redcar, where the steelworks no longer lights up the night sky. Had a quick look around the town’s charity shops (one emporium boasts an entire DVD section devoted to films about serial killers).

I got some pix of the offshore wind turbines, with dramatic clouds behind them, and saw herring gulls dropping shells onto the stone-flagged esplanade from a height, hoping to smash them open. Even though it doesn’t always work, it’s still a clever trick. I saw turnstones too: small wading birds which have more traditional ways of finding food (the clue’s in the name)…

First test...

I was tucked up in bed when the first ball was bowled at the Gabba. Having won the toss, Joe Root decided to bat. My main hope was that England would finish day one of the first test by still being in the game, rather than being blown away by the Aussie bowlers. At 196 for 4, at stumps, the game seems evenly poised. It wasn’t the most exciting day’s cricket, but intriguing enough. And England’s middle order batsmen all got enough runs to leave me hoping that we can get to a first innings total of 400…

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The Ashes...

I listened to commentary from the women’s T20 game against the Aussies: a good win even if they couldn’t reclaim the Ashes (and I wish they could inaugurate a new trophy; the Ashes it ain’t!). It put me in the mood for the men’s Ashes, which begins tomorrow night. I’ll be wide awake in some lay-by or market square, listening to the first ball from the Gabba… hopefully drifting in and out of consciousness as England take wickets or pile on the runs...

Monday, 20 November 2017

The Whalebone...

Felt dog rough these past few days. If there was any resale value in mucus, I could go into production. Wound up in Hull, parked next to the marina, and got a lot of writing done. There’s a special satisfaction in getting the words down even when my head is spinning. And I got pix of Hull, as I walked out of the city, keeping as close as possible to the tidal mudbanks of the River Hull. In the middle of this post-industrial wasteland - all graffiti, razor wire and alsatians - I found a wonderfully welcoming pub, the Whalebone. I sat next to a woodburning stove, nursing a pint, feeling that life wasn't so bad after all…

Friday, 17 November 2017

Hebden Bridge...

Back in Hebden Bridge: always a bittersweet experience. When I moved here, years ago, I thought I’d found my place. The good times were very good indeed, but the bad times were horrible… and it’s the bad times that I recall most strongly as I take a stroll. I still have no idea why some people in town accused me of being a paedophile (I’m writing now about the dangers of believing things without good evidence, and this episode was a classic example).

I remember sitting on the bottom step of the stairs, surrounded by broken glass, realising that having a mouth that tasted of ashes was more than a metaphor. I knew the craziness was unlikely to end. It might have died down, after a few months, or years, but there would never be any genuine resolution. I locked myself away, then, a few weeks later, left…

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Knaresborough...

The snug, Blind Jack's...


Mother Shipton, gazing into the future, with Blind Jack's in the background...


Sunday, 12 November 2017

Fairburn Ings...

I spent a few hours wandering around Fairburn Ings, an RSPB reserve created from old colliary tips, wedged between motorways, bordered on one side by the River Aire and overlooked by Ferrybridge power station. It’s an unlikely spot for a bird reserve, but birds don’t share our sense of the aesthetic. If they can find a territory, sources of food and nesting sites, they’re happy to ignore the grot.

I saw plenty of ducks: tufted duck, pochard, wigeon, shoveler and shelduck, also gooseander and some great crested grebes (including one still in breeding plumage). A pair of little grebes, so tiny they’d fit in the palm of your hand, were ducking and diving. Best of all was a pair of goldeneye, a handsome little diving duck...

A visitor to one of the hides at Fairburn Ings...



Cyclists at Fairburn Ings...

Friday, 10 November 2017

Blacktoft Sands...

Called in at Blacktoft Sands, an RSPB reserve just south of the Humber. No great numbers of waders, but still one or two surprises: redshank, spotted redshank, dunlin, snipe, ruff and black tailed godwit. Ducks: shoveler, shelduck, wigeon and teal. A couple of marsh harriers quartered over the reedbeds; I watched a little egret catching fish and a bird-watcher eating his sandwiches…

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Twilight...

I enjoy doing twilight shots. There's a brief window of opportunity - only a few minutes - to get the shots. Licensed these two pix this week...




























Wednesday, 8 November 2017

A fenland surprise...

Stayed in a fenland campsite last night, near Littleport. Reception took just a few seconds. No formalities; the guy just wanted to see the colour of my money. Having edited and uploaded a backlog of pix, I walked along the riverbank of the Great Ouse to a nearby pub and ordered a drink and a meal. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spied two familiar faces: Jean and John, who used to run the Hourglass Gallery in Hebden Bridge. They’re living in fenland now, and don’t look a day older than when I saw them last… maybe 15 years ago…


Sunday, 5 November 2017

Great egret...

Had a couple of hours watching birds at Fen Drayon Lakes, one of a number of nature reserves in and around the Ouse fens. It was good to feel the sun on my back, though the birdlife wasn’t too exciting: grebes, wigeons, tufted ducks, etc. I saw a great egret standing close to a heron, and noticed how similar in size they were. In a couple of years these egrets may be as common as little egrets have become, and won’t even be mentioned in dispatches by those twitchers who are only interested in rarities.

Photogenic light this afternoon, so I’m shooting pix by the quayside in St Ives…

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Heading north...

Visited sister Kari, to coincide with her last day of chemotherapy. Then Kevin, in a little rural idyll near Hitchin. Now heading north through heavy rain…

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Saint Agnes...

At the halfway point of my walk around Pagham Harbour was the diminutive church at Church Norton. Inside I saw a rather crude memorial to John and Agatha Lewis, Lord and Lady of the Manor, and, next to it, in an alcove, an equally crude relief sculpture which stopped me in my tracks. A woman, nearly naked, was flanked by two men, armed with tools that looked like Mole grips, which seemed to be fastened onto the woman’s bare breasts. I went back to the van, for my camera and tripod, and took a pic.

The woman, as I subsequently learned, was another Agatha, who lived in Sicily during the 6th century AD. In a time of persecution, she vowed to remain chaste and dedicate her life to God. One man, a local judge, wouldn’t take no for an answer, and had Agatha arrested. Though she was tortured, she refused to renounce either her Christian faith or her chastity. One of the tortures that she is thought to have suffered was to have her breasts cut off, and she is often depicted carrying her breasts on a plate. She died while being tortured, and was subsequently raised to sainthood…


Monday, 30 October 2017

Pagham Harbour...

There was a pool table in the pub last night, and I was playing ‘killer’ with the locals, which meant I woke up this morning with a sore head. So I went for a walk this morning around Pagham Harbour, an RSPB reserve. I saw a kingfisher dive into a river and, moments later, a stoat swam across it. I watched a big, noisy flock of brent geese on the saltmarsh, interspersed with redshanks, oystercatchers, curlews and whistling wigeons. I spotted a pair of pintails, a small flock of grey plovers and, best of all, a great white egret in flight.   

Bird watchers are friendly folk, on the whole, happy to chat, share their finds and point out some rarity to the uninitiated. But this morning I found the exception. “Have you seen the grey plovers?”, I said to a guy looking through binoculars. He looked at me with utter contempt. “They’re everywhere”, he said. “That’s like saying you’ve seen a sparrow”. I hope Santa brings him something nice for Christmas, like a sunny disposition...

Sunday, 29 October 2017

A silence shared...

Went to Quaker meeting this morning in Littlehampton. It’s easy to find a meeting: just go onto the ‘Quakers in Britain’ website and type in your location. Armed with the postcode, the satnav lady does the rest. The meeting was typical; with my advanced years and mud-coloured clothing, I fitted right in. Chatted afterwards to a few friends, including an ex-nun from Leeds (and that’s a sentence I might never type again).

I always leave a meeting feeling ‘settled’. That’s ‘settled’ like the contents of a box of cornflakes, which, according to a panel on the box, may ‘settle’ during transit. It may seem strange for an atheist to enjoy an hour of silence with - mostly - believers, but Quakers don’t pry about your beliefs or lack of them. I also like their lack of evangelical zeal; they won’t come knocking at your door and try to convert you to their way of thinking. This also means, however, that friends are dying off quicker than new friends are recruited… with predictable consequences...

Lombard Street in Petworth...


Dogs...

The bar of the Blue Ship. The guy on the right brought in his two dogs (or maybe they're shaggy ponies?). One dog is eyeing up a little dog on the settle as a between-meals snack...


Friday, 27 October 2017

Pulborough Brooks...

The nomadic life offers opportunities for last-minute changes of plan. I saw, by chance, a sign for Pulborough Brooks, an RSPB reserve, and had a few restful hours bird-spotting and taking pix. The wetlands were quite animated, with the loudest noise being the honking of geese and the whistling of wigeons. I saw kites, buzzards, marsh harrier, shovelers, teal and black tailed godwit, but the star attraction was a pectoral sandpiper: tiny, demure and unshowy. It was my first sighting (and I wouldn’t have been able to identify it without help from a couple of expert guys)…

According to an entry on the RSPB website, “Pectoral sandpipers breed in the Arctic areas of North America and Siberia and are very long distance migrants wintering mainly in South America, with some birds in the Siberian population wintering in Australia or New Zealand.  Some birds winter in Africa. They are classed in the UK and Western Europe as scarce passage migrants as a few birds turn up each year and they have been seen at Pulborough very occasionally before”…




Thursday, 26 October 2017

Blue Ship...

Kipped last night near a splendid little pub, the Blue Ship, near Billingshurst, where beer is drawn straight from the barrel and served through a hatch. Woke up this morning and wrote about 4,000 words of my book. That’s a good start to the day, as is finding some good pic sales from Alamy…

How nomads get a haircut...


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Petworth...

Petworth is a new port of call on my travels: a tiny place which obviously thinks very highly of itself. If I came back in a couple of weeks I could enjoy a literary festival - Anne Widdicombe, yay! - or a clarinet recital. Shops are called Artful Teasing, Guilt Lingerie and Hemming’s Wine Merchants, and all the antiques are ‘fine’. There’s a cobbled street, leading up to the church, lined with bijou art galleries.

If they heard on the news that the North of England had been immolated by a gigantic fireball, leaving no survivors north of the Trent, the good people of Petworth would raise a quizzical eyebrow, turn the page of their Daily Telegraph and pour themselves another cup of Earl Grey tea…

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Langstone...

I have a recurring dream, or, rather, a recurring theme, in which my camera is stolen. I wake up and it may take me a few minutes to realise that my camera hasn’t been stolen after all, but is on the table beside me. It’s always such a relief. Last night’s dream was another variation. I left my camera bag behind a market stall, while I bagged up some fruit and veg. When I went to pay, and pick up my bag, the stallholder said he’d sold it…

High tide at the Royal Oak, Langstone...
























Langstone Mill...


Sunday, 22 October 2017

Bosham...

Had a walk around Bosham yesterday afternoon, at high tide, with the wind whipping up the waves and whistling through the tension wires of sailing boats bobbing up and down on their moorings. Had a pint in the Anchor Bleu pub (pretentious? moi?), as water seeped up between the floorboards. Had another walk this morning, at low tide - getting plenty of pix - before tea and a bacon sarnie at the Breeze Café…

High tide at Bosham...

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Beyond satire...

It’s getting harder for satirists to make a living. Trump’s in the White House, and today I hear that President Mugabe of Zimbabwe has been made a ‘goodwill ambassador’ by the World Health Organization, to promote health causes, despite everything he has done, over the years, to undermine the country’s system of healthcare…

Pray?


Friday, 20 October 2017

Toad in the Hole...

As a fan of pub games - darts, pool, dominoes, etc - I’m sad to see so many of them disappearing. So I’ve enjoyed finding some regional games which seem to be thriving, such as quoits - outdoors - in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors, and pubs with skittle alleys. I’ve just discovered another game, called Toad in the Hole, traditionally played in pubs in East Sussex. The object of the game is simple: toss small metal discs onto a small, low table with a hole in the top (from the same distance as when playing darts). The scoring is simple: one point for a disc landing - and staying - on the table top, and two points for getting the ‘toad’ down the hole.

I watched three guys playing the game, with a skill that comes from regular practice. One guy dropped all four of his discs down the hole: a feat I might replicate once in a thousand attempts. He retrieved his discs by opening up a little drawer in the table…


Thursday, 19 October 2017

Uckfield...

Stayed in Uckfield last night, the well-known anagram, and had a writing day…

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

A bit of bother...

I was in a pub yesterday, and witnessed a little scene. It was only 7pm but a young East European man was drunk and making a nuisance of himself. The barman had to eject him (making me glad I didn’t have to take on this particular task). “I wait for you”, the young guy said in broken English, pointing at the door and beyond, “and I keel you”. He left as the barman started to phone the police…

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Brightling...

The parish church in Brightling has a pyramid in the churchyard, the handiwork and final resting place of one ‘Mad Jack' Fuller (although he preferred to be called ‘Honest John’ Fuller). Mad Jack (1757-1834) was the village squire, well-known as a philanthropist, patron of the arts and a builder of follies… though he blotted his copybook with his support of slavery…


Monday, 16 October 2017

Storm Ophelia...

The weather on the south coast is mild and balmy, but I’m catching the news about all the places in the south-west of Ireland I explored a month ago, and the damage being done by the tail-end of Storm Ophelia…

The 17th Sunday after Trinity: a big date in the church calendar...

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Dungeness...

Spent the morning taking pix around Dungeness. It’s a bit like Hebden Bridge (in the way that locals seem to be competing as to who can surround their dwellings with the most junk), except the mostly wooden dwellings are spread over a few square miles of Kent shingle. I saw some bird-watchers training their spotting scopes on the garden of one shack. What was I missing? A Radde's Warbler, apparently. “It looks like a fat Chiffchaff”, one birder said. It was around yesterday, but hadn’t shown up today…

Twitchers wondering where the Radde's Warbler has gone...

























They won't find a Radde's Warbler in here...


Friday, 13 October 2017

Heading south...

Had a couple of days with sister Kari in Hampshire, before heading south to the coast. My immediate aim is to get 20,000 pix online by the end of the year, and to crack on with the book…

Monday, 9 October 2017

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Lacock...

Saturday socialising in Taunton, Sunday taking pix around some pretty villages…






Friday, 6 October 2017

Castle Combe...

Had a productive day with my camera, first at Lacock then at Castle Combe…

The Castle Inn, Castle Combe...

Selfie, Castle Combe...


Bede House...

The Bede House in Lyddington, Leicestershire...


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Postie in Boxford...

In Marlborough this evening, after a productive day taking pix…


Hallaton

I didn’t think I had anything in common with fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, until I read yesterday that she only has a bath once a week…

The buttercross in the village of Hallaton, Leicestershire...


Thursday, 28 September 2017

Rothwell...

Had an enjoyable day, exploring some of the villages in Leicestershire and Rutland. They’re built of honey-coloured stone, which makes even a row of terraced houses look special. I dusted down my camera and got plenty of shots. Parked up this evening in a big square, in the small town of Rothwell, overlooked by the floodlit parish church…

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Women drivers...

It’s hard not to give a muted cheer on learning that, from June next year, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive. It’s equally hard to account for the fact that this change is taking place in the 21st century… rather than the early years of the 20th. In terms of gender equality, Islamic countries are lagging so far behind.

As Christopher Hitchens said, "The cure for poverty has a name: it's called the empowerment of women. If you give women some control over the rate at which they reproduce, if you give them some say, take them off the animal cycle of reproduction to which nature and some religious doctrines condemn them, and then if you'll throw in a handful of seeds, perhaps some credit, the floor of everything in that village, not just poverty, but education, health, and optimism will increase. It doesn't matter; try it in Bangladesh, try it in Bolivia. It works every time. Name me one religion that stands for that, or ever has”…

Monday, 25 September 2017

Scrappage...

Saleable stock photography is ‘emblematic’: the kind of pic which can slot into an article and make (or amplify) a point in a simple visual way. This shot of an old car in a skip (“we paid £12 for it”, the guy in the showroom said; I’m sure the skip cost more) will hopefully sell when someone searches for ‘car scrappage’.

The sum of £6,000 sounds good, until you notice the qualifier. 'Up to' suggests that other, lower figures may apply to your particular car... going right down to £12 or, indeed, 'fuck all'... 


Atheism...

A few more quotes… about atheism…

“Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious” (Sam Harris).

“We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further” (Richard Dawkins).

“Jews, Chrstians and Muslims claim that their scriptures are so prescient of humanity’s needs that they could only have been written under the direction of an omniscient deity. An atheist is simply a person who has considered this claim, read the books and found the claim to be ridiculous” (Sam Harris).

“The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more” (Ayaan Hirsi Ali).

“I see Atheists are fighting and killing each other again, over who doesn't believe in any God the most. Oh, no..wait.. that never happens” (Ricky Gervais)…

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Science...

Science has long been in conflict with religion, certainly since Galileo discovered that the earth revolves around the sun (and not the other way round). A few more quotes…

“The core of science is not controlled experiment or mathematical modelling; it is intellectual honesty” (Sam Harris).

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it” (Neil deGrasse Tyson).

“There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority; and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works” (Stephen Hawking).

“It’s okay to reserve judgement until the evidence is in” (Carl Sagan).

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use” (Galileo).

“Religion is to science as superstition is to reason” (Jerry A Coyne).

“Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanising myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigour, and the great spaces have a slendour of their own” (Bertrand Russell).

“When the evidence disagrees with the scientific proposition, the proposition is discarded. When the evidence disagrees with a religious proposition, the evidence is discarded” (Victor Stenger)…

Friday, 22 September 2017

Beer with breakfast...

It's a familiar start to a nomad's day: emailing a magazine article while I enjoy a Wetherspoons breakfast. People around me are ordering pints of beer with their breakfast, while the barmaid refrains from asking "Is that wise?"

Some quotes by skeptics and atheists are played for laughs; that doesn’t necessarily make then any less perceptive…

“Heaven, as conventionally conceived, is a place so inane, so dull, so useless, so miserable, that no one has ever ventured to describe a whole day in heaven, though plenty of people have described a day at the seaside” (George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman).

“It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it” (G K Chesterton). Islam fails the test, I think.

“The proper response to religious folly is not outrage but amused contempt” (S T Joshi, in the Introduction to H L Mencken’s book, On Religion).

“Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions” (Thomas Jefferson).

“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled” (Mark Twain).

“Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure” (George Carlin).

“We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart” (H L Mencken)…

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Keeping order...

Many commentators have noticed how the powerful make use of religion to keep the riff-raff in their place. More quotes…

"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful” (Seneca).

“Since the masses of the people are inconstant, full of unruly desires, passionate, and reckless of consequences, they must be filled with fears to keep them in order. The ancients did well, therefore, to invent gods, and the belief in punishment after death” (Polybius).

“Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich” (Napoleon).

“I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ” (Mother Theresa)…

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Belief...

A few more quotes… about the way that religious faith can persuade people to be their less charitable selves…

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion” (Steven Weinberg).

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities” (Voltaire).

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction” (Blaise Pascal).

“Cruel men believe in a cruel God and use their belief to excuse their cruelty. Only kindly men believe in a kindly God, and they would be kindly in any case” (Bertrand Russell)…

All you can eat...

Had an evening out with Helen in Halifax, and tried out a local, ‘buffet style’ curry house. No need to read a menu, or catch the waiter’s eye, or make an order, or decide how many popadums to have. We just took a plate into an adjacent room and helped ourselves from a range of tureens: curries from hot to mild, rice, chips, bhajis, samosas, salad, etc. We finished off with ice cream. All very tasty and - at £11 for all you could eat - good value. I’ll be back…

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Faith...

While writing my book on belief, I’m aware that much of the ground is already well-trodden. Some writers - with Christopher Hitchens to the fore - have summed up a point so compellingly, and with such brevity, that it seems sensible just to quote their words (with attributions, of course). Here are a few favourites, on faith…

“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence” (Christopher Hitchens).

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (Carl Sagan)

“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so” (Mark Twain).

“In religion faith is a virtue; in science it’s a vice” (Jerry Coyne)

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has” (Martin Luther)…

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Paul, Hebrews 11:1).

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jesus to Doubting Thomas, John 22, 29)…

Harold Wilson in a hurry, Huddersfield...


Monday, 18 September 2017

Laundry...

When I’ve changed my clothes half a dozen times, I have to find a laundrette. Having got a service wash in Otley, I returned this morning to pick up a plastic bag full of clean, carefully folded washing, and paid less than if I’d sat in a laundrette for an hour, watching my clothes spin round and round. The Otley laundrette will be added to an informal list of amenities which are useful to a nomad. The list includes leisure centres where they spurn my offer to pay, and let me have a shower for free, and my favourite campsite in the Yorkshire Dales, where I’m staying this evening…


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Being alone...

This quote from Krishnamurti arrived in my inbox this morning...

"You see, you are not educated to be alone. Do you ever go out for a walk by yourself? It is very important to go out alone, to sit under a tree—not with a book, not with a companion, but by yourself—and observe the falling of a leaf, hear the lapping of the water, the fishermen’s song, watch the flight of a bird, and of your own thoughts as they chase each other across the space of your mind. If you are able to be alone and watch these things, then you will discover extraordinary riches which no government can tax, no human agency can corrupt, and which can never be destroyed"...

Trying not to drop Oliver, the latest addition to the Redhead clan...

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Battered Mars bar...

A staple of Scottish chip shops... now available in West Yorkshire...


Brighouse...

Kipped in Brighouse last night, where a signpost directs visitors to to the town’s most interesting attractions. There are just two: the bus station and train station, both ways of getting out of Brighouse…

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Hartley Wintney...

Spent a few days with sister Kari, as she approaches the halfway point of her chemotherapy regime. Leaving this morning, now that I've run through my repertoire of recipes, and heading north.

I enjoyed this description of Henry Blofeld, in the Guardian today: “the kind of Englishman you’d concoct in your head if all you had to work with was the collected works of PG Wodehouse”...

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Henry Blofeld...

I’ve just listened to Henry Blofeld’s last commentary stint, as England wrapped up the Lords test match within three days. To the other commentators, pundits and members of the Twitterati, he’s “the guvnor”, apparently, but I can’t say I was a big fan. With his wearisome catchphrase “my dear old thing”, his bow-ties and his pathological need to point out buses, cranes and pigeons, he was a bit too mannered for my taste. 

For me, the doyen of cricket commentators was John Arlott. He didn’t make a fuss about retiring. In 1980, at the end of his time behind the microphone, he described the last ball of an over, said “After Trevor Bailey it will be Christopher Martin-Jenkins”, and was gone… back to Alderney, and his wine cellar, and into retirement.

As for Geoffrey Boycott, I can’t listen to him any more…

Friday, 8 September 2017

Blighty...

I looked at the rain, and I looked at the weather forecast: more rain. Then I went online and booked a ferry ticket. I drove east, back to Rosslare, and got a late ferry. Not as late as last time; I was driving into Pembroke Dock just after midnight. This morning I drove through Wales, without stopping, and now I’m back in Blighty. Still raining, though…

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Kilrush...

There are very few reasons why a young woman of twenty would be talking to an old guy like me, so I was naturally suspicious when she hailed me from across the road, in a little town called Kilrush. I’ll call her Clare, because I’m in Co Clare. But she talked about me, not herself: where was I from, what was I doing, what did I think about Ireland, etc. I told her I was travelling in a campervan, so we talked about that. I eventually turned the conversation round to her, as she sat down on a doorstep. She’d been over in England; Birmingham, she said, but hadn’t liked it. Now she was back in Ireland. She had family in a nearby town, just seven miles up the road, but, for whatever reason, didn’t want to contact them. I wondered if she was staying with friends. No, she said, and mentioned the Catholic church just round the corner. I assumed she meant she was sleeping inside church property. But no, she was sleeping outside. After a few more minutes talking, I gave her ten euros and walked back to the van.

I spent the night in Kilkee, on the coast, hearing the rain drumming on the roof of the van, debating with myself whether I could have done more to help Clare. The answer seemed pretty obvious, so this morning I drove back to Kilrush to see if I could find her. I wandered the streets for three hours in the usual drizzle, before bumping into her, and a female friend, in the main square in town. We went to a little café round the corner for breakfast. Apparently they had slept behind the grotto next to the church, where a statue of the Virgin Mary gazes down from her niche in the wall. That can’t have been much fun in the rain. However, the good news was that they’d found a hostel in another town, not too far away, which could offer them a room. With a fixed address they would now be able to start claiming the jobseeker’s allowance and look for work.

“Are you Protestant or Catholic?”, Clare asked: a question that doesn’t invite a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. “Neither”, I said, but that conversation would have to wait, as the bus was about to leave. I gave them money for the bus and food, and said goodbye. I hope things work out for them both…

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Lost...

The welcome in Ireland has been consistently warm, sometimes effusive. But one thing has surprised me: the height barriers at the entrance to all municipal car parks, which seem designed specificaly to exclude me and other motorhome owners. Not so, insisted a man I talked to yesterday; according to him the barriers are to keep out the travellers.

After three years the satnav lady and I get along pretty well. Except for yesterday. I spent half the morning ‘exploring’ narrow roads, with grass growing up the middle, while the satnav lady kept suggesting even narrower alternatives. She was lost, but she wouldn’t admit it. Without villages or signs I’d entirely lost my bearings too - almost doing a full circle to arrive back where I started from…

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Clancy's Bar...

Enjoyed a musical evening in Miltown Malbay (which sounds like a character from one of my little books). I started out in a bar, sitting next to an old guy (old? I found out he was just a year older than me!) who was up for a chat. After a few minutes he reached for his penny whistle, which was artfully concealed inside the Guinness dispenser on the bar, and played a couple of tunes for an appreciative audience of one.

I moved a couple of doors down the street, to Clancy’s bar, where there was a bit of a session: three fiddlers, a woman on a squeezebox, a guy playing the penny whistle and a young lad trying to find his way round the fretboard of a banjo. They’re really only playing one tune, but what a tune! The circle of life… in musical notation…


Sunday, 3 September 2017

Walter Becker...

So sad to hear that Walter Becker has died. I loved Steely Dan from their first album, Can’t Buy a Thrill. Their music had a cynical edge - no songs about puppy love - and obscure literary references (they picked up the band’s name from a dildo mentioned in William Borroughs’ Naked Lunch). Joy once bought me an album, and so nearly got it right; unfortunately it was Steeleye Span.

I stayed on board as Steely Dan’s music got jazzier, more complex and enigmatic. After peaking with Aja and Gaucho, the band split. Everyone thought that Donald Fagen was the band’s creative force, but Becker put out some fine solo albums too. Book of Liars would be one of my desert island discs…

In a village of small, unpretentious cottages, this stood out like the proverbial sore thumb...

Shannon...

The swifts are gone, the martins too, and the swallows - always the last - are gathering on the telephone wires. The weather is more like November than September. I haven’t seen many birds in Ireland, but, then I haven’t been looking very hard.

Spent last night parked up in a little town called Glin, on the Shannon Estuary, ready to take the ferry…

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Local delicacies...

After two days in a campsite I feel a bit 'stir crazy'. But I've managed to edit, upload and keyword a big backlog of pix. They can't make any £££ if they're not on sale. And the moment I finish, the rain starts again.

Even if some of the Irish brand names are familiar, they’re not always what they seem. Harpic, for example, is an intimate deodorant, while Mr Kipling makes (exceedingly good) cough linctus. Let the buyer beware. I eat local produce whenever I can, so gave these crisps a try. Shamrock tastes good. Who knew?…