Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Isles of Scilly

Bishop Rock Lighthouse

A little less than thirty miles off the tip of Cornwall lie the Isles of Scilly.  The Isles comprise approximately 140 islands, only five of which are inhabited.  Many of the others are little more than small rock formations which have been the cause of many shipwrecks over the centuries, giving rise to the building of the Bishop Rock Lighthouse.

The total population is just over two thousand, more than three quarters of whom live on St Mary’s.  The smallest populated islands are St Agnes (population 73) and Bryher (population 78).  The other two islands are St Martin’s and Tresco.

Each of the smaller islands (the ‘Off Islands’) has a single track road stretching from one side to the other or, occasionally, looping  round to rejoin the main track.  None of them has any semblance of a pavement with curb.  The only motorised vehicles are those essential to the livelihood of the residents  –  tractors, buggies, the odd ancient van or landrover.

In many ways these islands belong to a world that time forgot.  Income Tax was not introduced until 1954 followed by Vehicle Tax in 1971.  Vehicles are exempt from MOT regulations.  Law and order is maintained by a police sergeant and two PC’s, a Community Support Officer and a Special Constable.  The Isles have the lowest crime rate in England and most residents routinely leave their doors unlocked.

The Scilly Isles are reached either by boat (the Scillonian III) from Penzance, by small fixed wing Skybus planes, or by helicopter. Travel between the islands is provided by local boat services.

These islands are the southern most part of the UK and the climate is tempered by the Gulf Stream.  Frost is rare  –  a factor contributing in the past to the growth of the early Spring flower trade with the mainland.  Each of the Islands has its own distinctive character.  All have white sandy beaches  – especially Tresco.

Unsurprisingly, the Isles of Scilly are officially designated  an Area of Outstanding Beauty.

St Martin’s Flats

This channel separates the islands of St Martin’s and Tresco.  At the time of the extreme Spring tides intrepid walkers wade through the shallow waters from one island to the other, and similarly from Tresco to Bryher.  The sheltered turquoise waters and near-white sands are breath-takingly beautiful and evoke a mood of calm and tranquility.

See also, Scilly Rocks 1, Scilly Rocks 2, Scilly Rocks 3, Scilly Rocks 4, Scilly Rocks 5, Pebble Tower

For a novel set on St Agnes read Narwhal by Margaret Gill


Filed under Colour, Nature, Pattern, Sand, Sea, Shore, Sunlight, Texture, Uncategorized, Water

Palm reading

Palm reading

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Garden in July

Garden in July

See also Pebble Pond Corner, Garden in June, Lupins after rain, Clematis, Blue Iris, The Gracious Lady of Spring, Poppy Days

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The Tempest


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Pebble Pond Corner

Pebble Pond

See also Garden in June, Poppy Days, The Gracious Lady of Spring, Blue Iris, Lupins after rain, Clematis

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Hacking, Hypocrisy and the Politicians

The issues arising from the News of the World affair have angered us all in the past few weeks, but I am particularly irritated by the hypocrisy of politicians of different political persuasions who have, in the past, courted vigorously the support of the Murdoch media in the hope of gaining political advantage at the election box.

Like timid children in the playground they offered sweets to the bully to get him on their side.  But now that his achilles heel has been exposed they gang up like self-righteous seventeenth century witch hunters.

Yes, the magnitude and power of the Murdoch empire  –  its 200 plus newspapers worldwide, its control of television and internet interests  –  make a mockery of the notion of a free press, and the methods employed by some of his journalists extend beyond the indecent to the obscene.

But Murdoch came to this country in 1969.  The politicians have had more than forty years in which to curb his power and practices. What have they done?

I am reminded of the Russian proverb: ‘Hypocrites kick with their hind feet while licking with their tongues’.

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Water Abstract 3

Water Abstract 3

See also The Water Abstracts, Water Abstract, Water Abstract 2, Patterns under the water, Patterns under the water 1, Mountain Stream, Reflections on the Broads, More Reflections on the Broads

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Mountain Stream


See also The Water Abstracts, Water Abstract, Water Abstract 2, Creating a Splash


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Seven Beckham?

The question mark symbolises the collective raising of eyebrows that greeted the announcement of the names chosen by the Beckhams for their newborn daughter.

What is it about celebrities  that drives them to seek out increasingly bizarre names for their offspring? Is it a status thing  –  the mark of having made it?  Is it a wish to be the topic of conversation at society parties?  Are they bribed by magazine editors to be more outrageous than their peers?  Imagine calling the morning register in a Hollywood school!

Where do these parents look for inspiration?  It seems that some have turned to other languages or cultures, such as Hebrew, Arabic or Scandinavian.  Others have delved into mythology or ancient history.  The Beckhams famously named their first child after the place where he was conceived  –  Brooklyn.  This is not generally a recommended method for choosing a name!

For their most recent choice they chose an uncomplicated source  –  numerals.  They began at One.  But this was not unique.  It was already in use by Prince William’s gran.  Slowly they progressed to Seven.  This was a number David recognised well from his glory days with Manchester United.  So Seven was the choice.

Now, choosing a name might be an interesting diversion, a bit of fun, for the parents, but the child has to live with the name day in and day out and must cope with whatever reaction the name evokes.  The youngest Beckham, when in her teens, will not enjoy introducing herself by announcing ‘Hello, I’m Seven’.  She will constantly attract curiosity.  Mummy and daddy are not being
kind to this little girl.

I write with a degree of passion on this matter.  At birth, as the firstborn of the newlyweds, I was given the names of both my mother and my father  –  Louis (my mother was Louie) and Albert.  Albert was a popular name in the early decades of the twentieth century, as was its diminutive, Bert.  It was fine for my father’s generation but not for mine.  Nevertheless, from birth, like my father, I was known as Bert.

From the late 50’s-60’s the name took on a rather different connotation.  ‘Bert’ was now a ‘plumber’s mate’ or one of its various equivalents.  I went up to university and during the whole of my time there I never met another Bert.  Meeting others and introducing myself was embarrassing   –  as was the experience of watching them trying to avoid having to actually say my name.
Girls were not easily attracted to a guy called Bert!

I found life easier on the fringe of whatever was happening and, although for some years now I have increasingly used my first name, the habit of ‘semi-detachment’ has persisted.  The damage was done at the naming of the child!

The Beckhams are seen as fashion setters by many.  It will be interesting to see whether or not the name Seven appeals to other parents or, indeed, whether the ‘numerical’ approach becomes popular.  I could have wished that they would break the celebrity mould and make a selection that their child might find helpful rather than challenging.

See also David Mitchell’s Soapbox


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Grasses in the Breeze 3

Beige seedheads dance in the breeze against a soft, deep olive background.

Grasses in the Breeze 3

See also Grasses in the Breeze (1), Grasses in the Breeze (2), Flowering Grasses in Sunlight, Grass silhouette, Flowering Grass

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Dune Grass 4

Dune Grass 4

See also Introducing the Dune Grass photosune, Dune Grass 1, Dune Grass 2, Dune Grass 3, Dune Grass 5, Dune Grass 6Dune Grass 7, Dune GrassesIntricate pattern of Dune Grasses

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Van Gogh’s other chair!

Blue Chair

See also Blue Iris

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Fake or Fortune?

‘Selling at 95 million dollars’.  The auctioneer’s hammer falls and a painting is sold.

It is a clip from the opening sequence of Fake or Fortune? a four part series on BBC 1 which investigates the mysteries behind  paintings.  The investigation is led by Fiona Bruce (the newsreader and journalist) and Philip Mould (the art expert, borrowed from the Antiques Road Show).  They have been styled by one critic ‘the Emma Peel and John Steed of the art world’.

Bruce sets the scene:  ‘The art world  –  glamour, wealth, intrigue. Beneath the surface there’s a darker place  –  a world of high stakes and gambles’.

We are certainly in territory where unbelievably large sums, ten of millions of pounds, are paid for art works.  Inevitably the art market provides a magnet for fraud, theft and corruption.  The Art of the Heist series on Sky Arts demonstrated the risks thieves are prepared to take.

In 2000 two Renoirs and a Rembrandt worth 80 million dollars were stolen in an armed daylight raid on the national Museum in Stockholm.  And in 1990 up to 500 million dollars of art was ripped from the walls of the Isabella Stewart Garner Museum in Boston in a single night.  The haul included works by Vermeer and Rembrandt.

Big names mean big money, and much of the present series focuses on authenticity  –  on establishing that the painting in question is actually by the artist whose name is on the canvas.

Forgery, and also misattribution, has been a constant thorn in the side of scholars and art dealers.  For centuries it has been an essential feature of art training for the student to analyse, copy and imitate the style of acknowledged masters.  Some become particularly proficient in the skill and become outstanding copyists without necessarily demonstrating a corresponding level of originality in their own work. A few channel their abilities to meet the demands of the illegal art market. 

 At its best such forgery is difficult to detect.To establish authenticity art experts have traditionally relied upon a mixture of connoirseurship, gut-feeling and provenance.  But in recent years advances in forensic science have provided far superior techniques for analysing materials and researching beyond the surface image.  The detailed examination of a fake Vermeer, created by the master Dutch forger Van Meegeren, illustrate this development perfectly.

The introduction of such scientific analysis has influenced the choice of targets for copying.  The forger of the twenty-first century tends to copy contemporary or modern works  –  they are less likely to attract close scrutiny and the materials are more easily matched.

The scale of forgery activity is staggering.  According to the Head of the Arts and Antiquities Squad at Scotland Yard, some law enforcement agencies suggest that between 40-50% of the art market could be fake  –  though no evidence was offered to explain how this estimate was reached.

Fake or Fortune? is an interesting and informative series.  My disappointment is that it concentrates almost exclusively on the symptoms of the chaos and pays little attention to the causes.  For example, I would like to ask:

  • Why is anyone prepared to pay so much money for a work of art?  Is it genuine love of art?  Greed?  Investment?
  • Why is the artist’s name so important?  If the experts have difficulty in determining authenticity there is presumably little discernible difference in quality.  Why should the name have such a dramatic affect on the valuation?
  • Who are the forgers?  Should skills of high quality be more publicly respected and recognised?  Vermeer was master painter:  Van Meegeren was a master forger.  Would such recognition attract these ‘artists’ away from illegal activities?

See also What’s in a name?  What is it about Neighbours? Show me the Monet!


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Hot Sand

Hot Sand

See also Making an Impression, Abstract 101,


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Dune Grass 3

Dune Grass 3

See also Introducing the Dune Grass photosDune Grasses, Dune Grass 1, Dune Grass 2, Dune Grass 4, Dune Grass 5, Dune Grass 6, Dune Grass 7, Intricate pattern of Dune Grasses

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Introducing the Dune Grass photos

Dune grasses have provided the subject for a number of my photographs.  I enjoy their spiky character and fine lines which contrast with the flexible flowering grasses found in a meadow.

Dune grasses frequently form distinctive, natural patterns that can be lost to the casual viewer.  To draw attention to the patterns, in most cases I have removed the background or used a neutral or contrasting colour (as in Dune Grasses).

Removing the background provides an opportunity to create abstract minimalist compositions of fine lines within a defined space.

I hope you enjoy them.

See Dune Grasses, Dune Grass 1, Dune Grass 2, Dune Grass 3, Dune Grass 4, Dune Grass 5, Dune Grass 6:Close Encounter, Dune Grass 7, Intricate pattern of Dune Grasses, Why amd I doing this?

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Dune Grass 2

Dune Grasses 2

See also Introducing the Dune Grass photosDune Grass 1Dune Grass 3Dune Grass 4Dune Grass 5, Dune Grass 6, Dune Grass 7,  Dune Grasses, Intricate pattern of Dune Grasses

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Stop acting your age!

 ‘How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?’  (Satchel Paige)

It is a deceptively simple question that spotlights the conflict we have between the inner and outer perceptions of age.

When we are young we cringe when we are being patronised and talked down to.  We hate being dismissed as children.  We are more grown up than that!

When we are old we resent being spoken about as if we were not in the room –  not competent to understand and make decisions.  The faculties may have slowed down but the reservoir of experience and wisdom is unlikely to have diminished.

On the continuum from childhood to old age there is a point, the tipping point, we can refer to as middle age.  It is characterized by the accumulation of learning, experience and life-skills combined with the desire to capitalise on these attributes.  But, as the balance tilts, the energy to fulfil the wish is less readily available.

It is also the case that the speed of progress along the lifeline continuum varies considerably from one person to another, and the middle age fulcrum is seldom in the middle. Some take many years to develop their life-skills and may be heavily dependent on their job and the support of others.  Without the stimulus, on retirement their energy level crashes, often to the detriment of their health.

Conversely, there are those who display the middle age characteristics while comparatively young and work hard to maintain their fitness and energy levels.  They remain young despite the passing years.

George Burns, the American comedian once said, ‘You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.’

There is little correlation between ageing and chronological age, and yet we persist in using age markers as if they were sacrosanct and meaningful.  At 17 a teenager can legally apply for a driving licence without any supporting evidence of competence.  At 18 he or she can buy tobacco, alcohol, can marry and can vote.  Yet I, and no doubt you too, have met 18 year olds who could scarcely cross the road without someone holding their hand.

Chronological age is an anathema  –  an ass!

The fairer sex have the good sense to hide, or even lie about, their age because they know that it affects how people behave towards them.  I’m with the ladies!  In future, when asked my age, I shall give the age I feel I am, regardless of what it says on my birth certificate!

See also It’s About Time!


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Lupins after rain

Lupins after rain

See also Clematis, Garden in June, Blue Iris, The Gracious Lady of Spring, Poppy Days, Patterns in the rain, Patterns in the rain 2

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