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I'm sorry I haven't been around much lately. I have tried to keep up with what everyone's doing though, so I haven't been completely absent. There are a number of reasons, the biggest being that I really haven't had much to say. The weather, on the whole, hasn't been that great and I haven't been out and about. Not being out and about tends to suggest not much opportunity to take interesting photos.

But, last weekend was a holiday here and I felt I had to use it well in some way. My aunt was staying so on the Monday I took her and my mother out for the afternoon. Last September, on what turned out to be just about the last day of summer, I went to the Bishop's Palace in Wells, with its beautiful gardens. And that's where we went on what could well have been the first day of this summer.

I set out with a bit of a plan, to look at the detail of the place. So these photos are all taken with my big lens, the small things in the bigger picture. I hope you like them, and the gorgeous spring sunshine.

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An early 'Happy Birthday'

I'm sorry for doing this today, three days early, but I'm going away for a few days, well out of reach of the interweb, and I couldn't let the occasion slip by without me posting about it.

Friday 15 March is the birthday of my dearest friend, ilmera. As a gentleman, I won't say how old she is but she is the perfect friend at any age.

We have known each other for about ten years now and, to paraphrase what she said about me on my birthday recently, she has a refined sense of humour, which has always seen us "on the same wavelength" even when we didn't know each other very well. Now that I know her much better, I can confirm that she has a million wonderful qualities - in no particular order - warmth, thoughtfulness, intelligence, wisdom, beauty, generosity, strength, understanding, curiosity, to name but a wee bunch.

It makes me incredibly proud to know her and to be her friend. I was like a dog with at least two tails when she came to visit earlier in the year. I was also honoured, while she was here, to be able to take some photos of her, photos I've posted before, but a couple of which are posted again as a special tribute.

Happy Birthday, dear, from the bottom of my heart. You mean the world to me.

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Tyntesfield House, Bristol

A couple of weeks ago, while my Dutch friends were visiting, we went to Tyntesfield house, near Bristol. I went there a few years ago, in September 2009 in fact - I've just checked. It's a National Trust property and is still in the process of being done up. It's actually been a bit of a public project for the National Trust. Normally they would get a building ready before opening it to the public, but with this one they opened it straight away and then allowed the public to see the work of restoring it being done as they went along.

Of course, being cynical, I can't help thinking that was probably because they wanted some income more than offering it as a great idea for the public to see how they do the work, but that's the way of the world these days.

As I've often said before, I'm not particularly interested in the insides of places like this. I love to see how they fit into the landscape, and I love walking through the gardens, and above all, I love to take photographs. So, the others went in and I, sort of, wandered off. Being there at this time of year was the slight disappointment I had expected, with not much going on in the gardens, the kitchen garden almost bare and not a lot of colour around. But it's still a lovely place to be. Spring was beginning to make its presence felt, with snowdrops bursting out.

See what you think.

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A simple question, I think

I don't know about you, but when I'm going through a bit of a 'catch-up' phase with my music collection (which already runs into literally thousands of CDs) I sometimes buy compilation albums. And very often I'm disappointed by them.

So often a compilation CD will have a load of great music on it but it's been put together without much thought for the feel of the whole thing, and seems disjointed and clunky when you listen to it. To use a bit of a tired and worn-out phrase, the whole never quite matches up to the sum of the parts.

I think I have a bit of a talent for putting compilations together and making them work. Sometimes I like to make them tell a story, or have a theme beyond the music itself. Then, getting them to work well is a real labour of love for me, and when it comes off, it's great. I like to even go to the level of keys, instrumentation and rhythms to make sure that one track follows another fairly seamlessly, yet subtly changing and progressing them so that it all still sounds interesting.

I have a friend (who knows who she is) who I've been putting some CDs together for. I've covered various topics, told stories, travelled the land and done musical styles. But it has become obvious to me that there's also a bit of a case for taking a simpler approach. So, I've decided to take, for example, a musical decade and create a 'Paul's best of...' from it. I think I know, however diverse the music, or dissimilar it might be, I'll still be able to make it work.

I suppose an obvious place to start is the 1960s. I know it's a long time ago now, but so much of the popular music that has followed still owes its existence to, and is influenced by, the music of that incredibly creative and innovative decade. And much of the music of the '60s still stands up, even if you're a long way from having been around at the time and, therefore, have little or no nostalgia for it.

Now, it became apparent to me very quickly that one compilation CD would never do the '60s justice, and that thought opened up other ideas and possibilities, and we'll see how they develop. But, dear friends and readers, just for fun I have a question for you. It's a simple question and I'd love to know your answers and what you think. I have my own ideas, and quite a lot of choice, but I could be missing something really obvious, so...

If you were putting together one or more compilation CDs of music from the 1960s, what songs would you have to include? (As many or as few as you like.)

'Unexpected item in the bagging area'

There's something that's been getting my goat for a long time now. It's something that seems to have stealthily crept into daily life around here, and I'm sure many other places as well, that I really disapprove of. And, I must say, this is purely a personal disapproval, but I feel I'm not completely alone. I'm sure there are those of you who find this phenomenon perfectly acceptable, useful even, and wouldn't do without it, but I find it sinister, unnecessary, obstructive and annoying.

What the hell is he talking about?

If you'll bear with me, I'll tell you.

We all have to grind out a daily life. We all have things to do that may not be as exciting or interesting as we'd like them to be. In English they tend to be colloquially termed 'chores', and that's for a reason. Cleaning, tidying, cooking sometimes, washing, and, for me at least, especially shopping.

My disquiet is with the self-service tills that seem to be popping up more and more wherever you look.

When I do my shopping I like to go to a proper checkout. I like those few moments of interaction and communication with the person manning (or womanning, or girling, or boying) the till. I like the short, probably meaningless conversation, the questions, the platitudes, the smile, the hello, the goodbye. I like making a connection with someone, even if it's for only a moment or two. I don't expect to discuss my shopping choices in detail, to analyse what I've bought and why, but, let's face it, it's nice to chat.

I've been told that serving yourself saves you time. Well, my philosophy, my attitude, is to get up two minutes earlier, or better still, just to not be bothered. Has life really become so pressed, stressed and rushed that people can't spend a couple of moments waiting to be served? Has each slice of time become so precious that we feel the need to be duped into serving ourselves in shops? And no one is really fooled I'm sure, time saving is not the real reason those tills are there anyway.

I flatly refuse to use self-service tills in supermarkets and other shops that have installed them. There are many reasons. I see them as a purely commercial expedient, a way of cutting back on staff and costs without appearing to discourage customers, while continuing to fill the already overburdened pockets of shareholders and conglomerates. One member of staff can watch over six or eight of these tills and respond to a flashing light like a trained pigeon when their help is needed. And in the meantime the customer is doing the work of the other five or seven members of staff who would have been needed to man (or woman, or girl, or boy) the tills if they were still the conventional sort. I won't be party to those people being put out of jobs for the sake of an apparent saving of a personal minute or two.

In fairness, these places still usually give you the choice of being served in the traditional way if you want, even though you are actively encouraged to go it alone, but that isn't really my complete gripe either. The thing that really, really annoys me is the perpetual running commentary of someone else's shopping you get if you're queued up near any of these tills.

'Unexpected item in the bagging area' indeed!

It must be hell for the men, women, girls or boys who sit there patiently doing a proper job, serving customers, for a whole working day with that monotonous racket going on constantly, 'Have you swiped your Nectar card?', 'Please take your change', 'How would you like to pay?', and again and again, 'Unexpected item in the bagging area'. If it annoys me just passing through, it must make them gibber.

The other thing that makes me wonder about all this is, what next? Where will it all end? Will they expect me to get there a few minutes early so that I can do a spot of shelf-stacking for them before I start my shopping? If I get there really early, will they want me to open up for them? Will they want me to round up a few wayward trolleys and shepherd them back to the areas set aside for them in the car park? I already serve myself petrol, but will I soon be asked to give the tanks a scrub every now and then?

In short, the prices never seem to drop, but the level of service is constantly plummetting through the floor. I don't see that as either progress, or desirable.

If it carries on, one day they might just find an unexpected item in their bagging area. And that won't be pleasant for anyone.

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From today's Christchurch Press

Drunk Coaster's horse impounded

The wild West's reputation is alive and kicking after police arrested a Greymouth woman for being drunk and disorderly on a horse.

The 48-year-old was warned by police to go home as she rode to Revingtons Hotel on Saturday night for a night out, according to an onlooker.

However, she refused, claiming there were no laws preventing people riding horses in the West Coast township so continued on her way.

Her steed tethered outside the pub attracted attention from patrons, prompting her to offer them rides around the town's centre for about half an hour or more.

"She was leading the horse, just walking on the footpath and had a high vis jacket on. The young ones were enjoying it. People thought it was cool," said the onlooker, who asked to remain anonymous.

"She was a little intoxicated but she was in control."

However, police were unimpressed and arrested her.

"She tried to bring the horse into the hotel's reception to avoid them," the witness said.

It was possible the woman also tried to get her horse to kick the police and run them down, the witness said.

Officers pulled her off her horse, shocking patrons, who took cellphone videos of her arrest. A police spokeswoman said the woman was locked up for the night but only received a pre-charge warning.

Greymouth District Council's animal control officer impounded her horse but had since released it to its owner.

© Fairfax NZ News

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Happy Birthday Alice

Today is Alice's sixth birthday. Six! Where does the time go? It really doesn't seem very long ago that I was with her in a taxi heading into the city from Saint Petersburg's airport. And she was only 18 months old then.

Happily, I've had a lot more time with her mother in the past year, and that has been a real highlight for me.

When she was here in January Julia gave me a small book of photos of herself and Alice, many of them from photoshoots they had done together, and some of Alice on her own. She really is, like her mother, incredibly beautiful and I think these photos (which I hope I'm not treading on anyone's toes by using) show that in spades. They are from a more recent shoot.

Happy Birthday Alice. I hope I'll be able to see you again soon in your wonderful city, and it would be a privilege to be able to spend some time with you here in England too.

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I am a very proud honorary uncle.

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Tintern Abbey with Julia

I can't believe that two weeks have already gone by since I took these pictures. Julia and I made a brief foray into Wales. It wasn't deepest, darkest Wales, that's much further away. This was more a close, cuddly Wales, just over the bridge, turn right and up the Wye Valley for a few miles. Taking Julia to Tintern Abbey is something I'd had in mind for a very long time. I hoped that she would like it as much as me; understanding the mystery, the serenity, the setting, the age and feel; the sense of loss and gain. As well as the little White Monk Tea Shop, selling divine toasted teacakes and a potent brew or two. I believe she did, and that pleases me beyond measure. 

I've been to Tintern Abbey lots of times before, and taken loads of photos there, so on this occasion I set out to do something a little different - detail. All those little nooks and crannies, the stones and craftsmanship. They are all part of the bigger picture, but when you see the bigger picture you don't always see the detail.

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Stones and the bones of a ruinCollapse )

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A long-awaited honour

Well, I had a fantastic time with Julia, ilmera,  while she was here for her holiday in the UK. For me, it was the opportunity to put right the fact that we didn't get to spend enough time together during her previous visit last summer.

On 10 January I drove up to Heathrow terminal five to pick her up and get her back to Somerset. Her flight was early, so that gave us a great start for the homeward journey. In fact, we did so well that I was able to delay our meal stop until much closer to home. I made a little detour and we found ourselves walking into La Terre on Glastonbury High Street at about 8.30.

After our dinner we headed home, with predictable promises to return to Glastonbury before long.

I didn't take that many photos while she was here, for various reasons, but I think it's essential to post these first. I think I know how to take photos of landscapes and buildings, nature and gardens, but I have a huge hangup when it comes to taking photos of people. I'm not sure what it is; insecurity, not really knowing what's expected, not knowing how to make it work, and above all, a big lacking in confidence. Whatever it is, it has shied me away from portraits.

But, having a stunning model come to stay meant that I had a stunning model come to stay; someone who knew what they were doing and who could gently guide me through what works and what doesn't. So, last Tuesday morning, in glorious winter sunshine, we went to Burrow Mump for the interesting backgrounds and ruins and had a bit of a session. She was fantastic and these photos are the result. And, after years of anticipation, it was a true honour to be able to take them.

More of what my wonderful friend and I did later.

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Read more...Many more and a few landscapes thrown inCollapse )

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The best of times...

I know that I'm not around here as much as I would like, though I do try to keep up with my friends page even though I don't post as often as I should. That begs the question as to why I'm posting now to say that I probably won't be around much over the next week or so.

Well, it's because my wonderful friend Julia is coming to visit. I'm fetching her from Heathrow tomorrow. Her plane gets in from Saint Petersburg at about 5.45 tomorrow afternoon/evening. Then we'll have the fairly dull drive back to Somerset - with a meal stop on the way.

Once we're back I'll be able to relax and enjoy her company and the planning of what we're going to do and what we're going to see while she's here. There will, of course, be some of the visits I always seem to make when I have friends to stay. But, because hers is a winter visit, we will be guided largely by what the weather's going to do, and we can only really do that from day to day. Whatever happens, it will be great. Great to have some time off at this time of the year; great to have such wonderful company; and great to finally be able to show her my part of the world.

There will be a few hang-ups though. We still have lots of floods and things around. The road I use to get to and from work opened, after more than a month of closure because of flooding, just before Christmas. I used it for a couple of days. Then the rains came again, and it flooded again, and was closed again. It's still closed now. So, when I take Julia to Taunton on Friday, which I must, I will have to make the huge detour I have to make every day for work. That's a pain, but not a problem.

She will probably see Somerset without its glossy spring and summer coat of sunshine. I don't know how many sunny days we'll have. I love my area, but for about eight months of the year. From November to March it loses its green cosy appearance and instead takes on a greyness that is hard to describe. But at least we still have Glastonbury, Wells and other places with a mystical feel and appearance. And there are some places that are interesting at any time of the year, in any weather. So there will certainly be enough to do. And add in a day out in Salisbury and another in South Wales and I'm sure we will end next week wondering where the time had gone. On top of that, of course, I will have the best of company to chase the winter blues away.

I'm so looking forward to this holiday, being with Julia and showing her around, so, whatever the weather, I can't wait. And I'm sure I will have photos to show for it.

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In a nutshell

I thought it was about time I did a little round-up of 2012.

On the whole I don't think I've had a bad year. There has been the constant, underlying concern as to whether or not I'll still have a job from month to month, but I think that is becoming a bit clearer now, and it looks like I will. So, fingers crossed. And, from the day-to-day point of view, work has been quite good. I've been very busy with lots to do, lots more to do and trying to fit it all in, but for the most part it's interesting stuff, stuff I enjoy doing and stuff that goes towards helping the people of Somerset. So I'm happy with that. 

I haven't been out and about as much as I would have liked in the past year, which is a shame, and I hope to put that right in 2013. A big thing that comes to mind for me is that 2012 was the first year for a very long time that I didn't actually leave the UK at some point. I didn't get on a plane in 2012, and as someone who sees themselves as a traveller, that's sad. Having said that, I have no travel plans yet for this year, but we'll see.

Rather than going out and finding the world, to a very large extent, the world came to me. Julia came to the UK for the first time in August and that meant I could meet up with her a few times, though not enough, and share some special moments with her. And, great news, she's coming back to stay for a little over a week in just a few days' time, so 2013 gets off to a flying start. I'm so looking forward to her visit and the pleasure we will have as I get to show her my part of the world.

And the other person who added a wonderful highlight to my year was Rebekka, who came to stay for ten days at the end of August. You may remember all the photos I posted of the places we visited together.

I've also discovered, and rediscovered, lots of new and old music. There are a few highlights. Rebekka brought me a CD by a Norwegian band called Katzenjammer. They Are Fantastic! A Kiwi outfit called 'The Adults' came to my attention as well. They are a supergroup of lots of well-established Kiwi musicians working together and producing cracking music. In the lead-up to Christmas, the UK department store, John Lewis, brought out a television advert which was, coincidentally, shot in New Zealand. It featured a backing track of a version of the old Frankie Goes to Hollywood song, 'The Power of Love', sung by a young Wiltshire lady called Gabrielle Aplin. It is astonishing. I'm really looking forward to a new album from her in about April. She has a magical voice, a beautiful delivery and is, I'm sure, destined to be huge. If you feel inclined, look her up on the interweb and marvel at just how accomplished she is. 

Beth Orton brought out a new album last year, the first for a long time, and she has lost none of the all-round wonderfulness. And I filled a few gaps in my embarrassingly large CD collection by picking up 'Best of ...' packages by people like (in no particular order) The Human League, Hawkwind, Sinead O'Connor, The Hollies, Fairport Convention, The Stranglers, The Clash, The Who and many more besides. It's not that I didn't have some stuff by them before, but rather that these collections 'rounded things off' a bit. And there was another live Blur album rounding off the wonderful celebratory British summer. 

So, what do I want for 2013? Well, in a lot of ways I'd like more of the same. I want to get out and take photos. I want to share the gorgeousness of the area I live in with all of you. I want stories to tell and the talent to tell them well. I want to go back to Ireland and Scotland. I want to go further afield but understand that I will probably not be able to afford it. I want to know what's around the corner. Surely, that's not too much to ask.

May 2013 bring for you all the good things you wish yourselves.

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The merchants of doom

Well, according to the doom-mongers and the people who delight in putting the proverbial up everyone else, the world is going to end in just over a week. Which, of course, it isn't. Apparently, and I know this has been lurking around trying to scare people for a while, the Mayans have run out of dates in their long calendar and some strange people believe that because of that the world will end. They seem to forget that the concept of a calendar, or indeed any way of measuring the passage of time, or indeed of predicting future events, is a human invention. It's not a concept that exists in anything other than the human mind.

Cats don't measure time, they're only really interested in food, warmth and sleep. Cows don't measure time, they just want to chew and emit methane. Pukekos don't measure time, they just wonder about where those outrageously unfashionable legs came from.

And the Mayans don't measure time because their ticking calendar has outlived their civilisation, and that same calendar didn't predict that.

Of course it's not going to happen, it never does. Predictions of doom and gloom come along as regularly as political scandals, and go away just as regularly too. Every cult and religion has a built-in doomsday (the difference between a cult and a religion is purely down to the number of people who sign-up to it) and every now and then someone comes along and says that judgement, doomsday, the end of the world, the rapture or whatever other invention they feel they need to control other people, is about to happen. And it never does. I can only assume that their followers are a really forgiving bunch because they never seem to drift away in droves to find someone else who will scare the crap out of them. They just carry on to the next predicted doomsday, subdued, obedient and exploited. Like sheep, who don't measure time because they're only really interested in pretty much the same things as cows.

If, by some astonishing chance, I'm wrong, and I'm open to that in the way that no member of a cult of any size seems to be, I hope you all enjoy the next few days - make the most of them, live each one to the fullest. Actually, that's not a bad philosophy at any time, doom or no doom.

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Floody Hell! three

As I said in my last entry, last Friday afternoon I went out and about, prepared to only get to the places I could get to, to take some photos of the flooding and the consequences of it for myself. I think the photos I've posted so far have shown what things have been like very well, but I prefer to post my own photos rather than rely on someone else. So, here are my photos. Of course, I tend to look for the beauty in a situation rather than the drama, but I believe they still manage to tell the story even so.

My first destination was Burrow Mump. It's a high spot in a largely low-lying landscape and a good vantage point. It also happens to sit at the place where Somerset's two biggest rivers (the Tone and the Parrett) meet. And that's where a lot of the trouble has stemmed from. Those rivers drain most of Somerset and when they are as full as they can be something has to give when they come together and what you see in these pictures is the result.

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Floody Hell! two

Well, not too much has changed since I last posted. It's stopped raining, more or less, but freeing up the local landscape from its lakiness is a very slow process. The thing is, ..... well, actually, the things are ..... that the whole area of The Somerset Levels is reclaimed land, land that has been designed to keep water out, so when it gets in it has nowhere to go. The defensive banks, walls and ditches start working in reverse and the only way to get rid of the inundation of water is to pump it. With an area this size it's a huge operation and takes a long time. Just one milliimetre of water spread over many hundreds of square kms is an awful lot of water. One metre of water over many hundreds of square kms is a thousand times more. They, the Environment Agency, don't clean the rivers out like they used to and that means that they are more prone to flooding when it comes because they have a reduced capacity to take the water away.

They are pumping. Apparently, they are pumping as fast as they can, the equivalent of an Olympic sized swimming pool every second, or so they say, but that's (if you'll pardon the pun) just a drop in the ocean.

The threat of flooding to homes has receded, receded in the sense that more homes are not likely to be affected, but the homes that have been still are. And, from a personally selfish point of view, the one major road in the area that is still impassable because of flooding is the very one I would normally use to get to and from work. So, I'm still having to make a long detour in each direction, adding about an hour to, particularly, my homeward journey. Never mind, it could be worse.

Read more...Here are a few more photos that I've 'borrowed' from the BBC website.Collapse )

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Floody Hell!

Well, it's been an 'interesting' time lately. The past week has been all go. When I drove to work last Wednesday morning it was raining. I didn't think much about that, after all, it rains a lot here. When I got to the village of Burrowbridge I noticed that the river seemed uncommonly high. This happens from time to time because Burrowbridge (where Burrow Mump is) is quite a long way downstream on the River Parrett and any rain that's fallen in the south of Somerset can take a couple of days to get there. But the river really was very high, probably as high as I've ever seen it. That isn't so remarkable because if it had been any higher it would have been spilling over, so it would be really unusual to see it higher than it could possibly be. If you see what I mean.

Anyway, I continued on my way to work. When I got in there weren't many people around but there was still a bit of a bluster going on with people busy creating special webpages for all the flooding news. I had to get to grips with it all fairly quickly and help out, mostly by taking work off people so they could concentrate on getting the flooding news pages up. At the end of my working day I went home as normal. On Thursday it was still all going on, and more importantly, still raining. This time there were people around with tales of their struggles getting into work and the problems they'd had at home.

I should point out at this point that the photos I've used here are not mine. Mostly I've snagged them from the local BBC website.



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Somerset Rural Life Museum

At the end of last week I had a meeting with a couple of colleagues at the Somerset Rural Life Museum in Glastonbury to talk about improving their web information. To start with, it's always a pleasure to go to Glastonbury, and I love visiting the museum. It's great that Somerset's heritage is managed by part of the organisation I work for. Better still, I was asked by another colleague to take some photos of the museum while I was there - photos that might be used to help promote the museum and add a splash of colour to the aforementioned web information. I don't get working days like that very often, so I was determined to make the most of it.

The meeting went very well, with lots of enthusiasm shown and the understanding that something had to be done, and between us we could get it sorted and improved. One big topic was the fact that the museum is going through a bidding process for funding to get the place refurbished. And it sorely needs it. It opened in the 1970s and hasn't really had much attention since then. It's very worthy and does a fantastic job, telling the story of country life in Somerset - mostly from a Victorian point of view - and preserving dying arts, ways of farming and living off the land, and showing just what life was like for real country people in times gone by.


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The orchard has long-lost varieties of apple trees and even a few sheep, rare breed Portlands. The red thing that looks a bit like an old gypsy caravan is a mobile shepherding hut. (If you're familiar with Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching and Wee Free Men stories, this is exactly the kind of hut that Granny Aching had.)

Somerset Rural Life Museum in all its, slightly run-down, gloryCollapse )

I hope to be able to report on the progress of the bid and the refurbishment project from time to time as things happen. I want to be involved in this, in a small way helping however I can, and with luck I will be because they'll need lots of help to tell people what's going on and all the wonderful things they'll be doing. I'll keep you posted.

There's autumn in them there hills

I realise that not everyone likes autumn as a season, but I think most people like the way it looks. In the past couple of weeks I have seen some lovely northern hemisphere autumn photos on my friends page, and thought it was about time I made a contribution.

So last weekend, with Saturday being actually sunny, I drove up onto the nearby Quantock Hills to see whether 'the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' had kicked in. And, the answer was mixed. Yes, some things were showing real signs of autumn, some trees had turned to beautiful colours, while others were being a bit awkward and hanging on to their summer clothes beyond their sell-by date.

I started by dropping in on Hawkridge Reservoir, which is usually a lovely spot. It was still fairly 'green' there. So on I went through and above the village of Over Stowey. This was more like it. I stopped in a few places to take photos, including a lovely bit of open ground with a gorgeous view across to the Bristol Channel and the Welsh coast beyond. Then I headed down the other side of the hills, stopping when I found a couple of rows of perfect-looking beech trees, to the village of Crowcombe, before heading home.

I hope you like what I managed to see.

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More autumn colours and colourful autumn hereCollapse )

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Thirty day meme - last part

I'm keeping my fingers crossed. The weather this weekend is supposed to be quite nice, so I'm hoping to get out and take some photos showing just how beautiful the place I live can be in autumn. Here's hoping. The leaves are now on the turn, and they always look great with a bit of sun on them. With a bit of luck, and the hope that I don't go into my shell and just not bother, I should be able to post some photos again next week.

In the meantime, here's the final installment of my answers to the thirty day meme. 

26. Your perfect night out
My perfect night out is one where, first and foremost, I'm not driving. It would be a dinner party with lots of the people who are most important to me, the best company I can imagine. There would be lots of veggie food, lots of great New Zealand wine, some background music and lots of laughter and sparkling conversation. Followed by really good coffee. Having said that, I suppose what I've just described is also my perfect night in. Interesting.


27. Whether you like to plan ahead or be spontaneous
I've answered a lot of these statements in a very woolly, non-committal sort of way, and this is yet another example. I think I like both. There are times when it's great to just let things happen, not to make definite plans as circumstances change. To make the right decision in the right circumstances without any committment to what turns out to be the wrong decision. Yet it's also good to have things to look forward to, to plan ahead a bit. Both have their place and I'm open to the right one at the right time. There, that didn't really answer that at all, did it?


28. What you look for in a friend
I think you can usually describe the people who are my friends with more than a few of these attributes. They are: warm, tolerant, gentle, kind, funny, sparky, interesting and interested, creative, thoughtful, knowledgeable, imaginative, humanitarian, open, curious, musical, literary, honest. 


29. Whether you're a night owl or a morning lark
For most of my life I've had to get up early for work. Most jobs I've had have meant that an early start is helpful or required. And that's never been a problem because I think I'm that morning lark. This always makes me laugh, but I can remember as a child looking forward to every opportunity to stay up even a few minutes later than normal. 'Great, I can stay up a bit later.' Now, and this is what I find funny, if there's no one around and nothing special to accommodate, I like to think, 'Great, I can go to bed earlier!' So, not a night owl, then!


30. How you would like people to remember you
I think, if people remember me at all, then that's an achievement. And to be remembered fondly, that's better still - I would have touched other lives in some way. I would like to be thought of as kind, honest, creative, caring and funny. I was asked, at a course I attended recently, to describe myself in five words, and I chose - writer, friend, photographer, traveller, fool. And they would be great things for others to remember me by, I think. That's not bad.

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Thirty day meme - part five

And here's the fifth chunk of the thirty day meme. There's some heavier stuff in this lot, and something I rarely do - voicing my own opinions about subjects that convention says we shouldn't discuss in polite society. I don't expect people to necessarily agree with my views, and they are just that - my views. But I hope everyone will understand and accept that I should answer as fully as I can. If you do agree, then I'm happier than ever; if you don't agree, it doesn't change anything.

21. Who you have a crush on
That changes with the weather. Most of the time, no crush at all, but there are a couple of recurring themes. I have a permanent crush on Julia, ilmera , simply because I crave her company and am, for the most part, denied it because of geography. For many years I've had a sort of crush on Jennifer Connelly, but as I don't understand the cult of celebrity, I find that a bit baffling too. There are a couple of people I see in the corridors at work who I think of as people I would like to get to know better sometime, but that's about it. 

22. A friendship you lost
Bit painful, this. I had a very close friend who, a few years ago, did something I disagreed with and disapproved of. That in itself was fine. She then wanted me to support her in those choices in a civil court case she brought against her former partner, which I wasn't prepared to do, because it would be against my better judgement and conscience. When it became obvious that I wasn't going to be untrue to myself to support her in, what I saw as a bogus claim on someone else, I was dropped, like a stone. A shame, but at least my conscience is clear.

23. Three achievements you're proud of
I really don't know. I'm proud of being friends with a lot of the people I'm friends with. Is that an achievement? I think so. I'm proud of the award to do with my work, that I won a couple of years ago - recognition of a job well done in difficult circumstances is always encouraging. I'm proud of my LiveJournal, because it is a true and honest reflection of me and the way I am and the things I do. I think that counts. Just in case one of those doesn't count, and I need a kind of stand-by achievement to be proud of, I'm proud that I have a creativeness within me that sometimes surfaces and does good stuff.

24. Your political views
I'm not a particularly political person, but I do have views. Those views are mostly to do with what I don't like, don't want to see and don't want to happen, rather than what might be good. I sometimes seeth inside when I see things, hear things or read things, and don't very often express my own opinions. But I'll voice them here just this once. My political views are very 'left of centre'. Right wing politicians and political ideas genuinely frighten me because they generally don't take into account real people and the effect they have on them and their lives. Those complete nutters in, or represented by - in this country and their like in other countries - the Conservative party (and their supporters - I really do see them as the embodiment of Slytherin) seem to me to be responsible for most of the bad things in the world. When there is a mass shooting, or outrageous act (like last year's appalling events in Norway, for instance) it's always someone with extreme right wing views that's at the centre of it. Us lefties seem to be a lot more tolerant. Although it's nothing to do with me, not being my country and everything, I see the election stuff in America at the moment and completely dispair. I have an idea, perhaps they should save all the ridiculous amounts of money they spend on campaigning and just decide who gets in by working out which candidate has fewest books in their house! That seems to be pretty much the level they work at.

I'm a people person, more aligned to the helping hand than the iron fist. I can't help thinking that, if countries like mine spent a lot less on trying to impose their views on others, killing people from other cultures, and planning to do those things, and spent more on education, health care and support for the disabled, the whole world might be a better place. Spend a lot less on pointless weapons and the people who seem to delight in wielding them and a lot more on schools and the people who go to learn in them - that's what I believe. Stop trading in death and support life, understanding and knowledge.

25. Your religious beliefs
The honest answer to this is, 'I don't have any.' I can't accept organised religion as anything other than a human invention designed to keep other people in their place. I can't accept spiritual stuff as anything other than wishful thinking and hope. The absolute truth is that no one knows. They may hope, they might wish, they might expect, but they can't know. I can't believe in things I can't touch or understand, and I can't accept anyone else's made up stories as anything other than that.

But, I can fully respect other people's views, and if they choose to believe, hope or expect, I will not say they are wrong. As I see it there is no evidence at all for them being right, but the choice is entirely theirs. If they get something fulfilling and rewarding out of it, that's wonderful. But even so, don't expect me to think the same.

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Thirty day meme - fourth chunk

So, on to the fourth chunk of the thirty day meme. Sorry I didn't update over the weekend. And then I had yesterday off work, though I didn't do much with it because of the wet and windy weather. I really want to get out and take some autumn photos, even if they're just of the village I live in and the fields around it. Fingers crossed for next weekend, providing the weather plays its part. In the meantime...

16. Your worst illness
Touching wood, I haven't really had a serious illness. I had an operation to sort out a hernia when I was two years old, but I don't really remember anything about that. My only memory of that at all is of a photograph taken of me (I remember seeing the photo, not the event) being handed a rose by Princess Alexandra in my hospital bed when she was, apparently, visiting Bridgwater to open the lido. I was in the hospital bed, you understand, not Princess Alexandra, and my hospital bed was not in the lido. Happily, I was much too young and untainted for royalty to rub off on me, and have remained that way ever since.


17. What you do at work
Where do I start? I produce and maintain information for the public about the Adult Social Care services provided by, or on behalf of, the local authority where I live. I also maintain and approve content for a large chunk of the website and sometimes train other people to use the system. I help people with the content of other websites as well and have even been known to come up with the odd brilliant idea to save someone else's bacon. I turn council jargon into real words and make sure it can be understood by as many people as possible. I advise other people to use plain English and run training sessions sometimes. I make that funny when I can because it would be dry old stuff otherwise. I put together a couple of staff newsletters and edit content for others. I also, sometimes, write articles for a free newspaper produced by the council, that goes to every home in the area. I advise people about the accessibility of information to make sure it reaches the right audience, and as big an audience as possible. Sometimes I have to take photos as part of my job, so that's fun! It's a varied and mostly interesting job and I really like it, though I wish, as everyone else does I'm sure, that it would pay a bit more.


18. A question or comment people should never make to you
I'm a pretty open and relaxed person, so there isn't much that's out of bounds for me. If someone wants to try to wind me up a bit, they can mention how much they believe about religion in general, or right wing politics in particular, but I'm fairly forgiving and take people for what and who they are rather than what they necessarily believe in. There are people who are very important to me who I disagree with on fairly fundamental things, but that doesn't stop us being close because the contentious issue just never has to come up. 


19. The style of clothing you feel most comfortable in
I'm not one for dressing up. I still see wearing a proper shirt for work, with a collar and everything as 'fancy dress'. I'm most comfortable in a t-shirt or rugby shirt, baggy chinos and odd socks. I do like wearing my kilt, but that doesn't happen very often.


20. Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert
I suppose I'm a bit of both. I don't like to push my head up over the parapet very much but I do like to be noticed for doing interesting and creative things. I'm not socially inept, but I like my own company quite a lot. I feel that I don't have to make a statement to be with the people who matter most to me. Oscar Wilde once said that there is only one thing worse than 'being noticed', and that's 'not being noticed'. A small part of me agrees with that, but a much bigger part of me thinks the opposite. There, pick the bones out of that one!

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Thirty day meme - third chunk

Again, I'm continuing with the thirty day meme in just a few days. So, here's the next slice. As I said before, I'm really enjoying doing this and I hope you're finding it a bit enlightening too. I see it as a bit of a chance to say a little more about myself, that I probably wouldn't feel was appropriate to include in a 'normal' entry. That and the fact that a lot of this stuff just wouldn't crop up.

11. Your kids, or your feelings about having kids
I've never wanted children. There are some who see that as selfish (I've heard it all), and others who see life as meaningless unless you invest in the future in some way. I think that's all bollocks. I think the world of some of my friends' children, and I couldn't envisage a world without those wonderful people in it, but you can give those back, can't you. So, not wanting children doesn't mean I don't like children, and that's something some people can't seem to see.


12. Your pets, past and present
There have been a lot of pets, one way and another. I grew up having pet lambs on the farm. There have always, until recently, been cats and even the occassional dog. I'm not really a dog person, and much prefer cats, but a few have got through to me in the past. I do miss having a cat around, since Buster died a couple of years ago, but it probably wouldn't be fair - with all the awkward comings and goings and not being around - to have one just now.


13. Foods you love and foods you hate
Well, being vegetarian, the 'foods I hate' bit is quite easy. To the hate, or at least strongly dislike, list I can add, eggs, milk, coriander leaves, and aubergine. I love curries and veggie chillies, and a lot of vegetarian Italian dishes. I love cooking, and experimenting with what goes with what, and have come up with some cracking things over the years. (My green vegetables with pumpkin and pine nut ravioli, with a balsamic onion sauce, walnuts, fresh leaves and blue cheese, is a triumph! Even though I say so myself.) Sadly, I don't always have time for that. 


14. What your life was like ten years ago
It was very different. Ten years ago I was working as the manager of a nationwide distribution unit in an agricultural service industry. (Not as grand as it sounds, and it doesn't really sound very grand!) I had hardly picked up a camera, and certainly not a digital one. I had not met, or even known of the existance of, a lot of the people who are now my closest friends. I was content, to the point that I probably didn't have a clue about a lot of the things I really wanted and certainly had no knowledge of things that I now consider vitally important. So, perhaps, instead of  'content', you could say, 'clueless'.


15. How much alcohol you drink
Not much, really. Honest! I quite like a cider, beer or pear cider with my evening meal, and love a good glass or so of Central Otago Pinot Noir (as well as appreciating a good Marlborough Pinot Gris) whenever the chance arises. But I'm always conscious of the fact that I have to drive in the morning and won't drink because of that. There are, admittedly, rare times when something like a dinner party allows me to savour a bit more wine, but generally it really isn't very often.

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Continuing the thirty day meme thingy, in just a few entries. I'm enjoying doing it. It's a bit searching and a bit different, and it's also a chance to talk about me and what makes me tick, rather than just the stuff I do. Though I really don't know how interesting it is for anybody else. So here goes...

06. Your favourite and least favourite subjects at school
I loved Geography at school, but couldn't pass exams in it. Though I'm a firm believer that exams and qualifications are extremely over-rated anyway. I loved finding out about places, people and how the whole thing was put together. My least favourite subject was Mathematics. Maths was completely pointless to me. I learnt nothing useful after about the age of six, yet had to suffer it for another ten meaningless years. I have become a words person, and am not in any way a numbers person, and I think that might be as much a reaction to the pointlessness of learning Maths as any aptitudes I may have.


07. Your first boyfriend or girlfriend
When I was fourteen I fell hopelessly in love with a girl from the year above me at school. Our relationship lasted about six months and afterwards I felt very guilty, even though in all honesty, we both contributed to it breaking up. It's a weird thing, but that first relationship seems to leave deeper scars than often more meaningful ones from later. I realise that's a bit of a cliché, but in my case I think it's true.


08. Your oldest hobby
I don't know. It's probably travelling. I was lucky enough to have had parents who believed that travelling and experiencing new and different cultures was as much a part of a good education as sitting in a classroom. I spent summers living with a family in France from the age of eleven, and have always had it in me to travel, explore and discover. I may not be the most adventurous person in the world, but I still like being somewhere new.


09. Your sexuality
Heterosexual. I once had someone ask me on a plane (the first thing she said to me, in fact) whether I was gay. When I told her that I wasn't, she said, 'Well, you look gay.' I don't know quite what that means, and I don't think I do, but I'm not. Having said all that, homophobia really gets my back up and angers me more than almost anything else. Leben und leben lassen - probably. And the sooner our political masters in this country recognise the right of gay people to marry if they wish to, rather than the sham and more than slightly ridiculous 'Civil Partnership', the better.

10. What you look for in a partner
I'm not looking for a partner, but if I were they would probably be (in no particular order), human, funny, knowledgeable, wise, politically well left of centre, compassionate, thoughtful, open-minded, undramatic and tolerant. I don't think that's asking too much! Most of all, of course, they would have to be someone I really enjoy being with and sharing things with
.

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It's meme time again, and it's all about me

My wonderful friend june_birdhas just started this thirty day meme thingy in her journal. When she proposed the idea I had a look at the thirty statements and questions and thought it seemed very interesting. And now I'd like to do it too. So, assuming june_birddoesn't have any objections, please consider it nicked!



Here are the thirty questions in full.Collapse )


01. Your name
First name - Paul. It's gone in and out of favour with me over the years. Sometimes I've really hated it, and others - it's not so bad. The biggest thing I dislike about it is that it can't be shortened. I don't believe in things like names having meanings which describe the person who has that name. That's impossible. A couple of people making a choice based on their own opinion cannot determine how someone's going to turn out.
Middle name - Jonathan. It's something I'm completely indifferent to, because I never use it or answer to it. It's just there.
Surname - Crosier. This is one I like. It's an old Scottish borders name - probably with a French origin. There are still Crosiers in the borders now, but we, my particular lot, somehow escaped and wound up in the south-west of England. That's a long story and I don't know all of it. But still, it has a colourful heritage. Crosiers feature in some of the gruesome border ballads from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and were a reiving family on the wrong side of someone or other's law quite often.

02. All the places you've lived
I haven't moved around much. I spent my childhood in the house I live in now. I moved out when I started work and went to a village called Brockenhurst in the New Forest in Hampshire. I was only there a few months before I got a job back in Somerset, on the edge of a town called Ilminster. I luckily had a cottage with my new job and lived there for 15 years before changing jobs to one without a cottage, and I then had to move back home because I couldn't really afford to do anything else. I couldn't really say that I 'lived' in New Zealand (though I would love to be able to), especially as I moved around, but I was there longer than I was in Brockenhurst!

03. Your first best friend
My first best friend is still one of my best friends now. I met Si on my first day at Grammar School. We don't see each other that often, perhaps a handful of times a year, but we've known each other for ever it seems, shared some great experiences, both in growing up and later, and know where the other is if we need them.  

04. Your childhood fears
I think I had a pretty happy childhood. I don't remember being fearful or afraid. I wasn't old enough to fear growing up, though I now wish I had (or hadn't, if you see what I mean!) I wasn't aware enough to fear the realities of the wider world. I feared punishment if I did, or felt I had done, something wrong. And I often got that punishment if I hadn't done anything. But that's not so unusual, I think.

05. What you were like in high school
I was probably an obnoxious little turd. I didn't really fit in with the sporty crowd (I'm pleased to say) and I didn't fit in with the really bright kids, who just didn't really fit in anyway. The thing that garnered me friends was a love of music, like-minded boys (and sometimes girls) who loved the wild, self-indulgent music of the day. I think I was brighter than my achievements suggested, and wise enough not to show off.

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Wells and the Bishop's Palace

The Saturday before last was, quite possibly, the last warm, sunny day of the summer. The year is marching on, autumn is definitely in the air and summer feelings are disappearing rapidly with the sunshine. It was a beautiful day and, for all the reasons I've just given, I didn't want to miss out on it.

I made a decision and set off. Wells is a lovely place. It's England's smallest city, with one of its biggest impressive cathedrals. Wells is only a drive of about half an hour away from my home, so I go there a few times each year; I never tire of the beauty and peaceful feel of the place. Of course, the cathedral is a big attraction for anyone who visits Wells, as is the Vicars' Close - a gorgeous street with really old houses either side.

Another attraction is the Bishop's Palace and its gardens. Amazingly, until that sunny Saturday, I had only ever been to the Bishop's Palace once before. Twenty years ago I went to an event there as part of the Wells Literary Festival - twenty years, I've just checked and it really was that long ago. It was a lecture by Terry Pratchett, who is still my favourite author.

So, on that sunny Saturday I put things right. I had often wondered how people could take photos of the cathedral from an angle I wasn't familiar with, and reflect it precisely into a pond. Now I know, they visit the Bishop's Palace, and walk through the gardens until they reach the feature that gives the city its name. In medieval times these wells, naturally occurring springs, supplied Wells with all the water it needed to function as a commercial centre. While most of that is gone, there are still gullies in the High Street with water flowing through them.

I hope you enjoy this little gem of a garden as much as I did. It's typically English, perfectly delightful and well worth a special visit. And, if you've seen the film Hot Fuzz, Wells is where it's set.


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Wells, the Bishop's Palace and, yer be dragons!Collapse )

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