Category Archives: Travel

Roosevelt at Aston University, Birmingham

Me and England’s second city have ishoos.

The traffic is one. Always getting lost in and around its environs is another.

Yet, I took it upon myself to visit last week, on business. I left early and fairly zipped round the M25 to the M1. There the traffic was light until we entered a zone of road widening or some such, which involves miles upon miles of motorway being narrowed into tight little lanes that make my teeth sweat.

After that experience, the M6 was, for once, unbounded joy. And then, 10 minutes from my destination, I went wrong and the sat nav added a vicious little half an hour extra to my ETA. There is nothing to be said about that lost time, except that there was congestion, slow-moving traffic, and air quality to rival that of Beijing.

Aston University is a pleasant city centre campus. After visiting a number of their car parks and having an unscheduled wander around their science department, notable for discovering that copper kills bacteria, I’ve nevertheless asked my girls to cross it off their future UCCA lists. I would, however, commend to anyone their rather marvellous 1950s buildings. They are like the old grammar schools on steroids – think acres of parquet and Philip Larkin windows.

This photo was taken in the modern Business School,which doubles as a hotel and conference centre. Lunch was good, but as if to offset the soaring grandeur of the older campus buildings, the ceilings in this gaff scraped my cranium.


Same boat trip, same skyline

Namely Manhattan.

Compared to yesterday’s image – what a difference a day makes.

manhattan twilight

Pictures courtesy of my sister, currently sojourning in Brooklyn in a hotel with retro cabs (and a remote control for the blinds and the skylights (in Italian)). Maybe I should show the shot of the taxi rank tomorrow, they are pretty cool and not at all yellow.

Mongolia and Cape Verde

I haven’t been to either of these countries, but I’d like to.  It’s a terrible thing to feel like a wanderer at heart with a fear of flying (even though the hypnotherapy has helped enormously on that front, it’s not gone entirely.

What these two very different places have in common is that someone, somewhere in both of these countries has visited my blog.  (I know this because WordPress helpfully provide a map of where readers come from, with flags!)  Actually, the one Mongolian reader hasn’t visited much recently which makes me a bit sad.   In my mind it was just one person, somewhere in the Mongolian Steppes, wilfing around the net in a wifi enabled ger.   Of course, I don’t know this, but it’s the image I had anyway.

Who knows why, or how, some readers get here.  Who knows if they read at all, or just surf on.  Either way, it’s quite nice to be part of the whole thing, a little drop in the ocean of world wide white water.

Here are a few shots of a yurt I spent a night in recently.  If you are interested in eco camping, this is where we went.  Needless to say, the girls loved it, especially the jungle shower.  When darkness fell, the stars were quite spectacular and, perhaps because the farmers were out late harvesting, the air was thick with moths like I have never seen in my whole life – and I grew up country style.

All yurts and gers are not equal.  They are constructed with slightly different shapes and in Mongolia they cover theirs with felt, this one was canvas.  I took the time to study how it had been put together quite hard.  One day, I want one.




The final gate

And my favourite.  Marred by the shadow I cast with my back to the sun, but we discussed that before.  I could have cropped off the shadow, made out like it had never existed, but I can’t bear to.  There is no truth really, just subjective presentation or interpretation, but cropping out that out would be an untrue record of that gate, on that day.

Don’t think I didn’t try it, cropping it out I mean.  Don’t think I didn’t flirt with the untrue.  I am as shallow it seems as the next person when it comes to presenting an image to the world.  In the end, the shadow stayed because it forms part of the shot and losing it meant I would have had to sacrifice the screw detail on the right, which is probably the best bit as far as I am concerned; although the singing rust is right up there too.

Which all goes to show that perfect is never the truth, even though there is no such thing.  Not really.

rust gate

Gate III – not straight gate

It’s testing the concept here.

Bored with gates yet?

You will be…




I wish I could go back and do this one again.  I have just managed not to chop off the ivy on the left.  The problem with a big shiny phone screen and the sun behind you is that you can’t see what the hell you are doing.  That’s probably why I shoot into the sun, a lot, which is a no-no.  It’s a straight choice between seeing what you are doing and shooting blind.

Life’s a bit like that most of the time though, even without mobile phone photography.

Gate II

It is the law that one graffito attracts another – giving us the more familiar plural term: graffiti. This is especially the case on loo doors.

This is not a loo door – it is a metal gate cum door set into a thick stone wall overlooking the Rio Lima.

Thinking about loo doors has given me an idea.  It may not be a good one however.

graffiti gate

Blah Blah Blah (and some beverages)

I have the unsupportive voices to stay in my head just at the moment. Blah blah blah are their more kindly opening gambit…

For some reason, and fitting with the blah, blah, blah of it all, I thought that today would be just the day to share drinks with you all, but remember in Portugese I can only order coffee and coke. I thought I’d spare you the agua. The red wine was bought in the supermarket and you don’t need to speak to do that, except to say obrigada and make the universal symbol for, ‘yes please I do need a carrier bag not because I want to destroy the planet, but because I am a half-wit who forgot to bring one from the plastic bag mountain back at the quinta.’


You will note that when shooting beverages I make the cardinal sins of not framing the shot properly, holding the phone wonky, and shooting into the sun. I can’t blame the beverages themselves however, as I was always driving.

delta coffee

Taken after I robustly defended south Essex’s right to dub itself the Thames Delta from a vigorous cerebral paternal assault


Taken because the can is a different shape from the ones in the Thames Delta

(and with a more interesting image)


Taken because it was nearly tea time and I had hung up the car keys for the night

More reflections

Yesterday’s shot was taken from the Atlantic coastal beach at Caminha (which I have been misspelling I now see) at the southern tip of the mouth of the River Minho. So if you walk round the bend from yesterday’s shot, you are almost unbelievably into this shot, which is the river side of the dunes. It was a different time of day, the evening rather than the morning and I took the shot from a restaurant so there is a slight reflection on the right hand side of the shot. I could have cropped it out, but perfection is as perfection does in my book.

There are many more personal reflections I could make about this view. How I feel about it ; how it made me feel; the two things, although related, are not entirely the same you see, but now is not the time for all that. Maybe some other time, or maybe, just in my head – although I want it on record that these photographs are taken in the spirit of imprinting some of the amazing world we live in and that I am antithetical to the notion of, ‘look where I went’ which is why I post here, in some sort of anonymity and not elsewhere. After all, these places are there anyway, whether we go or not. That last sentence is a philosophical sitter, but as I said, I Am Leaving It Alone.

On a more practical note, I drank a lot of coca-cola, coffee and water in Portugal… that’s because my Portugese is not up to ordering much else. Of course, I could just say the word LOUDLY in English, but it’s not the same, is it? Perhaps I’ll return to this beverage/linguistic theme tomorrow. I bet you can hardly wait…

camhina restaurant view

Life’s a beach

Pity I can never get comfortable on them.

I’ve changed the header photo to one I took in Portugal, although the hill topped with cloud is in Spain. At the top is the neolithic settlement. From the photos that were taken up there of the neoliths roundhouses I can deduce that they

a) liked the wind
b) liked living cheek by jowl
c) were quite short


Here’s the uncropped photo for reference. I like the lines. They’d just finished raking the beach with a tractor.

Still trying to get going

I am not a great fan of holidays. I like travel: seeing different cultures and people and places, but the difference between travel and holidays is that travel involves more-or-less perpetual motion (stopping to sleep, eat, pee etc. – if you are lucky…) and holidays involve one big travel (plenty of stress for me if that’s a suspended in mid-air job) and then not so much after arrival.

(Unless, you are my father, who perhaps could have equally well written this post, as even Northern Portugal could not contain his interest for two weeks – whereupon he was forced to make lengthy forays over the border into Spain (Roman walls, rocky coastlines, Catholic cathedrals, pilgrims’ paths and neolithic settlements on windy, not-quite-mountain-tops. Oh and a car ferry (one-way) thrown in for good measure.)

(Then there is sister A in whom I detected a similar twitch, for the first week at any rate. She desisted from the round Iberia travels, but did shoot out the door fairly sharpish most mornings On A Mission and we both agree that although beaches are pretty, they are places of potential danger to life and limb and not in the least comfortable to lie on -unless civilisation is within a literal arm’s reach.)

The thing is, once one is there – what does one do? This is not meant to sound churlish. I like many aspects of the holiday experience – spending time with the family is the main one I suppose – but just as our greatest strength is our greatest weakness… The other is the chance for the brain to switch off a bit. It’s a necessary evil I suppose, but it’s the part that makes me like holidays least. I don’t like my brain switched off at all, it’s unnerving. Yet when I set off, I knew it was needed – vital even. Before the break, my eyes felt like they were spinning in my head like those wheels in a one-armed bandit machine. It was pretty alarming – especially when driving. I checked with a colleague at work, but they said, ‘no,’ my eyes were doing no such thing. I put it down to too much screen-staring, so the holiday was a chance to take a break from that. However, I need something to stare at. A view, however wonderful, can only detain my attention for so long (like a minute). So, I stared at quite a lot of books whilst I was away. And I read them too. Occasionally, I closed my eyes and tried a little meditation too. I think this is the way forward. Plenty of screen and page, with the occasional good view, and a lot of moments of meditation.

This morning, as I attempted to crank the morning brain into gear with a coffee, I found this at the bottom of my pot. I think it’s quite beautiful. I might detain my attention for, oh, like a minute. However, if you are of the holiday-loving, non-slattern persuasion – look away now.


The other advantage of travel over holiday is that, due to presenting a moving target, one does not get bitten to death by bastard mosquitoes.