Sunday, December 31, 2006

Farewell 2006

A year of depressingly familiar international conflicts and problems but also a wide slice of life with friends and family.

A welcome:

A sentimental journey:

A reunion:

A lovely wedding:

A delightful trip to Gascony:


some medical attention; with many thanks to all who rallied round:

and a sad farewell:

Saturday, December 23, 2006

"O little town of Bethlehem........."

If Joseph and Mary, and indeed the three wise men of Matthew's Gospel, were to arrive at Bethlehem today they would be confronted by the Israeli constructed West Bank Barrier and would almost certainly be turned away.

The West Bank Barrier at Bethlehem

Monday, December 11, 2006

Vampire Rabbit aglow in Newcastle....or is it a hare?

photograph courtesy of Susan Chaplin

Newcastle upon Tyne is currently hosting Glow, a collection of lighting installations and illuminations scattered around its quayside district.

the photo above is of a doorway in Amen Corner near the city's St Nicholas Cathedral. Above the door is the 'Vampire Rabbit' a gargoyle with red fangs and long red nails.

photo by S Ellwood

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A recent sojourn in Gascony

two weeks at the end of August spent with delightful company in a quiet corner of France.

the sign for the local village, Castelnau Magnoac.

the morning view

religious tat in a Lourdes shop window

sunflowers near Tillac

This part of Gascony has many roadside memorials to local Resistance fighters, and Castlenau Magnoac is home to a national memorial which pays homage to the irregular fighting force, made up of members of the Resistance and known as the Pommies who were organized by, and named after, General Andre Pommies who was also a member of the Maquis. 511 members of the Pommies died in the fight against Nazi Germany between D-Day and the Armistice.

There is also a small Pommies museum in the village next to the bar/cafe Le Memory (see photo below; click to enlarge)..

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Geordie dialect under threat in.........Newcastle.

"Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs and aa'll tell yer aall and aaful story" (*) and this is it:

The City fathers, aka the local Council, have seen fit to bar their employees from using two delightful Geordie words of endearment, "hinny" and "pet" , when dealing with members of the public.

Now it would take a dyed in the wool hard-line feminist to be offended by these colloquialisms but in our modern world of political correctness the Council is clearly running scared of potential law suits from the hyper-sensitive.

* from the Lambton Worm

Monday, August 14, 2006

To a Wedding in the North

a delightful and memorable day uniting the North-West and the North-East

click photo to enlarge

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sunday at Tate Modern

click to enlarge

younger daughter and I visited the superb Wassily Kandinsky exhibition.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Recent sightings on the New River

a lone young Herring Gull faces an uncertain future

whilst what appear to be sleek grey Koi carp make a debut

click photos to enlarge

or are they possibly Barbel as suggested by my brother-in-law?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Typhoon Bilis hinders homecoming

With his flight out of Hong Kong due to leave within 27 hours the son of the family is somewhere in typhoon hit Jiangxi Province, on a bus journey scheduled to take around 12 hours at the best of times to Shenzen in Guandong Province near Hong Kong.

Torrential rain following the storm has hit Southern China hard bringing severe flooding and landslides which have forced millions to flee their homes.

A scene in Fuzhou, Fujian. Photos from the BBC.

Shaoguan, Guandong

Now missing the flight would be of little consequence compared to the misery of so many flood victims, but here's wishing that bus a safe road home.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Swan song on the Tyne

Once one of the greatest shipbuilding rivers in the world, the Tyne is currently witnessing the death throes of the last major ship yard on its legendary waters.

Shipbuilders Swan Hunter have probably built their last ship following a government decision to remove two naval vessels for completion elsewhere because of massive cost overruns and time delays. The yard's future is now likely to lie in ship-breaking rather than ship-building.

Famous ships such as the Mauretania, once the largest ship in the world and which held the coveted Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing, the Carpathia which rescued the survivors from the Titanic and HMS Ark Royal the current flagship of the Royal Navy were all built at their Wallsend yard.

In the early 1970s they produced several 'supertankers' which, during construction, towered over the adjacent terraced houses. (See pictures below by Norman Dunn. click to enlarge)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Grandad & the march from Kabul to Kandahar

6 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province in the last 4 weeks bringing into question why our troops are there and whether they can they succeed in their mission when it is by no means certain what their mission is.

History shows that foreign powers rarely prosper in remote Afghanistan and certainly not in the long-term as the once mighty Soviet Union learned to their cost.

One earlier British military success there occurred in September 1880 when Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Roberts led a force of 2,562 British and 7,151 Indian troops to relieve surviving troops from a defeat on 27 July by the Afghan ruler Ayub Khan at Maiwand; who were besieged in Kandahar 40 miles to the west .
The relief force from Kabul reached Kandahar on 31st August 1880 and rescued the beleaguered defenders. Roberts had force marched his troops 300 miles, through hot and harsh terrain, in three weeks, a feat which entered the annals of army history.

Much later, in 1914, when Grandfather Charles Gordon was training with the Northumberland Fusiliers in Buckinghamshire he was billeted with a Mr Arnold and family in Chesham. One evening Grandad arrived back at the Arnold's complaining bitterly about a 20 mile route march he had completed that day. Mr Arnold, who was a veteran of that long march from Kabul, chided him; "Charlie" he said " that's nothing, you should have been on the march from Kabul to Kandahar."

The British and Indian regiments were to finally withdraw from Afghanistan in 1881 following the Treaty of Gandamak whereby a large part of Afghan territory became part of India, including much mountainous tribal territory. 65 years of conflict between tribes there and the British and Indian armies followed. Roll forward to Helmund province, July 2006 where a small and underesourced British force is on a hiding to nothing.

"Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it"

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Somme. July 1, 1916

90 years ago today, at 07.30 hours, the Battle of the Somme began and by the end of the day 20,000 British and Empire soldiers had been killed and 40,000 wounded; amongst them coal miners from Northumberland, men from the slums of the East End of London, and the Prime Minister's son, Raymond Asquith of the Grenadier Guards.

When the battle ended in November the British casualties numbered 420,000 dead, wounded and missing , the French more than 200,000 and the Germans around 650,000. Most of these men were from the industrial working classes whose pre-war lives would have had more in common with each other than with the politicians who led them into war and with the Generals who directed them into a maelstrom of futile and senseless slaughter in a landscape of unimaginable privation.

My grandfather Charles Crow Gordon was at the Somme that day, serving as a signaller with the 14th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. Charles had volunteered in Newcastle upon Tyne in September 1914, finally returning home in 1918.

The photograph below shows my Grandfather Charles standing next to his comrade and friend Ernie. The photo was sent to Charles by Ernie on 24 August 1931 with the following words:

"Dear Charlie, ...... Hoping you are all well......thought this would bring memories of Arras, August 1916 after July 1 on the Somme, Yr old friend Ernie."

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cygnets, Ducklings and a Predator on the New River

Sighted on the New River at lunchtime today a mum with seven ducklings:

chased by a mum and three cygnets

whilst beneath the calm waters a Pike lies in wait

click on photos to enlarge

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day at Tate Modern

A day which began with a good breakfast and felicitations from senior offspring in the Netherlands and the PRC continued with a trip toTate Modern with younger daughter where we saw a film of Jackson Pollock at work:

click on photos to enlarge

and some wooden stuff in juxtaposition:

and a visitor in the Turbine Hall:

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Nigerian Centenarian Looks Back

An earlier post celebrated the 100th Birthday of Alhaja Nimota Ashabi Lediju. I was fortunate enough to meet Alhaja Lijedu, a dear friend's grandmother, in Lagos in the early 80s. She has recently been interviewed by This Day newspaper.

The full interview can be found at the link below but here is an extract:

"Growing up in Lagos Island was interesting. .... I remember as a kid a train called 'Victoria Train' used to pass in front of our house in Ebute-Ero on the Island ....... there was discipline in the neighbourhood. The environment was friendly and cordial. As a matter of fact, it wasn't only your parents that could discipline you. You could be disciplined by another parents from six houses away without your parents raising an eye brow. ......the boy friend and girl friend stuff that are now in vogue was a taboo during our days......"

full interview :

Saturday, June 03, 2006

New River's Most Wanted?

Spotted on the river bank on Friday; are these the likely suspects behind the dearth of river bank hatchlings?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Monday, May 15, 2006

History of the New River

There are several New Rivers around the world but none perhaps as unique as that upon which the coots described here struggle for survival.

Our local New River is neither new nor a river as it is actually a man made water course on which work began way back in 1609 and was completed in 1613.

It was built by Sir Hugh Myddelton, a Welsh engineer, who set out to provide a source of fresh water to the citizens of London. This artificial channel starts near Ware in Hertfordshire, about 20 miles to the North of London, but it meanders around the contours over an actual distance of some 40 miles. The river was an engineering wonder of its time as it carried water down a gradient of between two and four inches in the mile. It used to end near Sadler's Wells theatre in Islington but now does so near a reservoir in Stoke Newington, North London. Its waters are pumped from there via a pipe to a water purification works in Walthamstow a few miles to the east.

It was opened on 29 September 1613 by the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Myddelton, who was Hugh's brother. Most of it is still in use today under the ownership of Thames Water, and it still supplies the capital with drinking water 393 years later. Its current capacity is around 40 million gallons per day, some of which is pumped from the nearby River Lea.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Giant Elephant charms London

The Sultan's Elephant, a forty feet high mechanical Pachyderm weighing 42 tonnes, captivated all who viewed it in central London this weekend. Created by the French company, Royal de Luxe, it was commissioned to mark the centenary of Jules Verne.

Here are some photos I took today ( click them to enlarge):

the Elephant gets ready to leave Horse Guards Parade:

Heading towards The Mall:

A rear view:

A larger than life girl accompanied the Elephant:

The Lifeguards kept an eye on the proceedings:

And the flower beds in nearby St. James Park were in full bloom:

Read more about the event at: