I remember a moment, many years ago as a baby diver, when my buddy grabbed me, signalling frantically at something on a rock. I was clutching a borrowed Nikonos camera with the smallest macro frame attached – this would photograph things that were a couple of inches across, nothing bigger. I peered at the rock but couldn’t see anything special. There were a few frilly things that might have been hydroids. There was a stripy bit which could have been a worm but didn’t quite fit. There was something black and round. I gave my buddy a puzzled glance and looked again. Then suddenly my mental search area shifted from the camera frame dimensions to the whole rock ledge and I gasped. I was looking at Continue reading
Tara’s prompt this week is T. Just that, T. So I thought I’d show you some trees.
The twisted pines are behind the dunes at Yellowcraig in East Lothian. All these years that I’ve lived here and I’d never seen them before – we always go straight down to the beach at Yellowcraig and never wander around the back of the dunes. But last week I was helping GP2 with his project on sanddunes for Advanced Higher Geography. Not only did we measure across the dunes from the sea to the trees, we did zillions of quadrats so I had to learn to identify some plants that weren’t seaweeds. GP2 had to learn to identify some plants. We sat in the sunshine and counted and named plants together and afterwards we both agreed we’d enjoyed ourselves. This is not an activity I would ever have believed that I’d be doing with one of my offspring, let alone a willing, happy offspring.
We saw some spectacular strangler figs on our Big Holiday. We have dozens of photos of trees – that’s what you get when you go on holiday to the Australian rain forest – but I thought I should show you these. It’s difficult to get the scale – suffice to say Enormous! We also saw lots of palm trees but this one from Fiji was my favourite.
It seems a lifetime but it was only two years ago. We went on a big family holiday, right round the world. Cancer had been banished and our eldest was on the brink of leaving school; it felt the right time to spend a month together, the right time to stop putting things off. We took a collective deep breath, phoned Trailfinders and bought the tickets. Singapore (to break the journey) – Queensland (Barrier Reef of course) – Sydney (well, you just have to, don’t you) – Fiji (came recommended) – San Diego (to visit Kris) – home. We had wonderful experiences from cities to wide sand beaches and rainforest. The boys learnt to dive on the Great Barrier Reef and then tackled the Rainbow Reef as though born to it. We ate all sorts of food, made new friends and met old ones. We stayed in hotels, on boats, in tents. And amongst all that, one particular day, our last on Fiji, really stood out for me; that was the day of these happy faces.
We’d spent a week at Dolphin Bay, a most wonderful, tiny dive centre accessible only by boat. We needed 24 hours without diving before flying back to Nadi in an unpressurised tin can so chose to stay on the neighbouring island, Taveuni, and have a look about. We’d stood on the date line and messed about on a natural water slide (Wild Wadi eat your heart out). It was time for A Walk. The taxi driver agreed to call for us early on Sunday morning to take us along the island – there were a few paved roads – to Lavena in the Bouma National Heritage Park where there was a trail to a waterfall. Just time before our plane, everyone reckoned. You would think we’d suggested a spell in a torture chamber. A walk, for goodness sake! Why would two teenagers want to go on a walk!
So we set out and it was raining, on a path along the coast, past a village, through dense vegetation, over streams, Continue reading
I’m sure we are all inspired by different people at different stages in our life. As a geeky teenager, I thought Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus were where it was at as I trotted off to study French at university. I read everything I could get my hands on, in French of course. Can I speak French now? Of course not. As a young marine biologist I thought Sylvia Earle was just wonderful, and parts of me still do. But her image became tarnished when I heard her speak at a conference. She was “Me, me me!”, ran over her time by half an hour or more and then handed over to her photographer for another hour. Bad chairmanship of course, but I don’t think inspirational figures should really let on that they think they’re wonderful as well. It should be a one-sided affair.
Somewhere between Sartre and Earle, I met Monsieur Edwards, or maybe Edwardes – I don’t know the spelling and can’t remember his first name. We were staying in Sombra, a cottage near Port Antonio, on the north coast of Jamaica. It was an idyllic spot with its own little beach, Continue reading
This week’s Photo Gallery is Colour. Just one colour, any colour. I thought you might like this view of Lindisfarne Castle from Gertrude Jekyll’s garden. I loved the blaze of colour hidden behind stone walls on a fairly bleak landscape. A few weeks ago we all spent a happy Sunday afternoon wandering around Lindisfarne before meeting friends in Beadnell for dinner. I’ve been over the causeway to Holy Island several times over the years, often for work, but for some reason none of the rest of the family had ever been across. It was very busy – lots of tourists on a sunny day – but that didn’t seem to matter. The little garden was a gem.
I keep having failed attempts to reboot my blog. Unfortunately, it may have found new impetus from an entirely unwanted direction. So just to cheer myself up, I thought I’d dig out something for this week’s Gallery – Vintage.
My father took this photograph of me (I’m the little one at the front) and my older sister and brother, just about to set off for school. It must have been roundabout 1960, when we lived in Kuala Lumpur. Don’t you just love those school baskets? We had cute little straw hats for going to church on Sundays. And the sandals! I think the shoe shop was Batu Shoes.The car – a Zephyr, I think but I might well be wrong – is classic rather than vintage but let’s not quibble.
I’m not sure why I’m looking so cheerful in this picture. My earliest memories of school Continue reading
It’s the week before Christmas and Tara’s Gallery theme is Sparkle. I don’t have time to write a new post and in any case these are my sparkle pictures of the moment – phosphorescent waves lapping on the shore in the Maldives. I don’t feel too guilty rejigging this post from a few weeks ago as the phosphorescence was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in a long time and not many people spotted this post. So here’s my offering for Sparkle: Dancing on Stars.
It was our last night on holiday. Our bags were packed. GP2 was already in bed. We wandered out onto the beach for the last time. The full moon we’d had all week was now waning, and was still hidden behind the palm trees. We could see the Milky Way above us on this dark night with no city glow to disturb us. But down at our feet, the waves lapping on the beach were shimmering bright blue, tracing chains on the sand like strings of Christmas lights or necklaces of sparkling stones.
I’ve been wandering along beaches most of my life but have never seen phosphorescence so bright or so blue. We paddled in the waves and as we lifted our feet the tiny algae attached to the soles cast an eery glow over the sand. We dragged a reluctant son out of bed and he was soon jumping in the wavelets with us.
We tried to take photographs in the darkness but, without a tripod to hand, we were taking pictures of blackness. It was a magical moment, dancing on stars.
Tara’s theme this week is White. I wasn’t going to post anything, and I know everyone’s bored of snow but… it is all so beautiful.
We’re not really snowed in but we can’t really get out. At least, not in the car; we’re saving a lot of money on petrol. There was a brief thaw at the weekend and the icicles regressed but the cold has come back with a vengeance this week. The icicles are now 2m long and there’s an inaccessible glacier teetering off the gutter immediately above our phone line. -13° C this morning. I know that’s not really cold, in the global scheme of things, but Continue reading
Tara’s Gallery theme this week is Black and white which seemed too good an opportunity to miss. This photo of a sea anemone is one of my favourites and my Facebook comrades will recognise it from my profile picture. I took it years ago in the late 1980s on an expedition to St Kilda. There is an underwater cave about 25m down, right below the peak of the island of Dùn in Village Bay; the roof of the cave is covered with sheets of these white cluster anemones (and I’m sorry, we have to do Latin here) Parazoanthus anguicomus. This photo might not win prizes or be technically the best but I like it. It evokes for me a wonderful dive site and some great trips to the very edge of Scotland. Happy times!
This little anemone (each one is about 1cm across) is always found in good places. It lives along much of the west coast of Scotland, although it doesn’t make it further south than the north coast of Ireland, but the brightest, whitest ones live in the clear offshore waters, and particularly on the specatacular underwater cliffs of St Kilda. It has a yellow sibling species, which, preferring warmer waters, only makes it as far north as south west Scotland; rather like Will and Ed the Grundy brothers, the two are only rarely seen in each others company.
Anyone who has dived in British waters will know that they frequently have to justify their strange proclivities to the unbelievers of this world.
“Oh, it must be so cold!” Well yes, it can be, but so’s skiing. You just have to wear the right gear. “And surely there’s nothing to see. Isn’t it all dirty brown?” So, just to show you that it’s not all black and white and dirty brown in underwater Britain, I’ve put in a few other sea anemone-type photos.
And in case this counts as cheating, here’s a post I wrote early last year which has some proper black and white photos. I was contemplating writing something using these pictures when I remembered that I’d already done it.
There was a real glut of fruit in the garden this year. The plum tree, which seems to live a charmed life and has survived the trunk splitting under the weight of fruit, produced more fruit than ever. Plums found their way into various concoctions but I’ve no idea why I thought it would be a good idea to make a double quantity of chutney. The industrial volume nearly defeated me. Even so most of the plums rotted on the ground as it was a good plum season all round. I knew there was no hope of off-loading much when GPD came home with a bag of plums he’d been given by someone else.
And then it was the turn of the apples. Continue reading
Tara, at Sticky Fingers, sets a photograph challenge each week. I’ve been meaning to take part for months but, well, you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged for months. So, to celebrate putting metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper, I’ve hunted through Windows Explorer to find something for this week’s theme: Show me the funny.
May I present two or maybe three photos which encapsulate for me Living with Teenagers.
I spotted this sculpture at Tate Modern earlier this year. It sums up for me exactly how I feel when I come home from a week’s fieldwork. Laundry basket overflowing, bedroom floors invisible beneath the mound of wet towels, on duty as Domestic Goddess (if only) the moment I step through the door…
And then there is the challenge of making teenage boys Go Out For A Walk… You can feel the happiness and excitement in this picture.
And finally, do teenage boys read? Or only when they have to?