on reading

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.
― Oscar Wilde

One of the advantages of being a frequent flyer is that it gives you precious time to concentrate on reading. And yes, I like to ignore the fact that many flights now offer the ‘benefit’ of in flight wifi. I prefer (vastly) the benefit of in flight disconnection from the world of work. It is (or was) one of the last few bastions of serenity and a place to hide from all those ‘whatsapp’ groups people seem to think aid communication at work. Don’t even get me started on that last one, it could become a post in itself and lead to unintended consequences.

Reading is one of the most precious gifts that we can give our children.

I remember when I was around about six years old that one of my favourite places of refuge was the ‘box room’ in my grandmother’s house in Rawtenstall. Actually, I think the box room had in fact been a place that my father was stored in as opposed to boxes but, no matter, it was a special place for me. It contained what at that age I felt to be an impressive library of books that opened up a whole world outside the (then) grim confines of Rawtenstall. The town’s buildings in those days were blackened with soot and the river that flowed behind my school stank of goodness knows what, concerns about pollution seemed a world away, and in many ways they were. The town at that stage was suffering from post industrial decline and its place in the world – defined by the dark satanic mills that once produced shoes and cotton for the Empire – was doubtful. And that is why those books were so important to me.

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On Travail

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.

St. Augustine


The clue to this post is in the title, which is a clumsy attempt to wrap multiple concepts into a single pithy phrase.

Among my resolutions this year were to write and shoot more. Rather dismally I have failed to respond well to my own resolutions. This does of course make choosing next year’s resolutions so much easier, as I plan to have another go.

However, I am happy to report that I have read a lot this year. And I will write about that also. In due course, the fullness of time, and so on.

I have also travelled a great deal. A very great deal. And, that is also something I intend to write about on the same terms as above.

I am not comfortable with my personal carbon footprint this year. So, trees will need to be planted. Probably enough to stock a decent sized hillside.

What prompted this post was my need to share (other than on my FB page) my journey home.

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castronuño

Farewells can be shattering, but returns are surely worse
– Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

It’s been a while since I posted here, more than four months to be (almost) precise.

A lot has happened in that time.

It’s time to return, to re-engage.

So, rather than write pages and pages explaining my absence, I thought I would share some photos from a walk by the river, yesterday, in Castronuño.

A few small slices of life, under the Spanish sun.

Presented, more or less in the order that they were shot.

Be seeing you.

As you sow, so shall you reap

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out in the midday sun | 5

This is the latest in what was intended to be a weekly collection of essays themed as ‘out in the midday sun‘, which instead, has become a place for me (in or out of the sun, midday or otherwise) to write at random, and increasingly infrequent, intervals, on whichever subject seems worthy of note at the time.

I have not posted as much here, or  perhaps more perplexing, not shot or published as many photographs as usual, for the better part of the last year. The principal reason (excuse) for that has been (hold the front page) the intervention of the real world. I have travelled (too) much on business, between Europe and Western Africa, although I have found time to write up some of my adventures on nigeriastreets. I’ve recently switched working countries from Nigeria to Ghana. I’m not done with Nigeria yet, and the seductive siren song of other adventures already calls. More (perhaps) about that in due course.

I’ve also been busy learning new stuff. 

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out in the midday sun | 4

To the complaint, ‘There are no people in these photographs,’ I respond, There are always two people: the photographer and the viewer
― Ansel Adams

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This post is about my passion for photography.

It is also about the process of learning. In a recent post in this (rather sporadic) series, I featured a photo which I believe was the first that I ever shot.  It was of a hovercraft, a futuristic vehicle that like others, including the Concorde, has disappeared into the history books.

That camera was a Kodak Instamatic 25. It was (almost) idiot proof (if not Andy proof). A cassette was inserted in the rear of the camera, a single click captured (most of) what could be seen through the offset viewfinder, the cassette was wound on by a large black plastic wheel and that was it. The cassette was then dropped off at the developers and then the waiting began.
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out in the midday sun | 3

You’re an expatriate. You’ve lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed with sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see? You hang around cafes.
― Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

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Funny how Hemingway summed up the dreams and aspirations of a group of young teenage boys who set forth on a European adventure. Perfectly.

We didn’t get that drunk, mostly sticking to orange, exotic, Fanta in deliciously heavy brown glass bottles. Oh, and ok, the occasional beer. We were young, I was only thirteen. And being thirteen in the Summer of 1975 was a world away from being so in 2016.

Sex? Well we dreamed of it a lot, fantasised about every girl we had met, and were yet to meet. But sex, as in real, messy, sex. No.
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out in the midday sun | 2

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The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.

How could a weekly blog post about the life of an Englishman living in Spain not include a reference to those words spoken by Audrey Hepburn paying the part of Eliza Doolittle in the movie My Fair Lady which in turn was based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion?

Often misquoted as ‘the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain’, or is it just me that constantly misquotes it? Probably. So much for that expensive private education and my success in English Literature examinations which included, as it happens, studying Pygmalion. But, as I said in my opening essay, I like to think my education taught me to think, not to remember things. So there you are.

Anyway, I think it is a reasonably well established fact that English people, at home and abroad, like to talk about the weather. A lot.

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out in the midday sun | 1

 

For the last 52 weeks, each Thursday, I’ve been publishing a chapter in a serial story which I called dark | side | thursday. Each chapter comprised exactly 500 words (and yes, I’ve checked), usually accompanied by a photograph. Well, that story reached its climax today, although actually there was little climactic about it. At various times my story was referred to as Dickensian in scale and even, to my utter delight, a brief comparison was made to the frankly incomparable, in my view at least, Stephen King. I was also variously accused of going round in endless circles and irritating my readers with too much ambiguity, and a scantily clad plot.

The reality is that when I kicked off the project I doubted that it would last a month, never mind be completed and on time to boot. And yes, it was, both. Despite, well, despite a lot.

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