Monday, January 19, 2009

In lieu of the story 

I was hoping to say a bit more about my recent camping/hiking trip up into the hills of the English Lake District, but pressures being what they are, I can't see that happening for a while yet. So here instead is a slideshow of collected images from the trip. Some published here previously, plus more that weren't.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Did I mention I have a new toy (which took all those photos below)? A Panasonic G1...


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Middle aged 

It’s hard to muster the energy to write any more, hard even to find the will to think. The building-with-words machine may never have run freely, but at least the wheels used to turn, with a bit of coaxing. But now the cogs have become rusted together; put my weight against the lever and all I feel is the implacable resistance of a thousand seized wheels locked in immobility.

What’s changed?

A couple of things. One, which ought to have no bearing on this, but feels as though it might, is that I’ve become more conscious of age. I used to be puzzled by my own age – the calendar may have said I was fifty something years old, but I didn’t relate to that number; I could feel a direct line stretching back to my boyhood, and in many ways still felt I was that youngster yet to find his place in the world. Yet now I find that in whatever group I find myself, I’m often the oldest. I can’t quite make sense of it, perhaps because I haven’t found the position of some authority which so often goes with age. I’m the oldest in the office at work, yet one of the most junior; the oldest in the group of musicians with whom I play, yet the least experienced. A case of cognitive dissonance?

Anyway, how is the age thing significant in terms of motivation to write?

I look in the mirror, and I’m not sure I recognise myself. The face looking back at me has aged; sometimes I see my father’s face, as he was when I was growing up, when he was the age I am now. I always thought of him as old – am I really that same age now? I’ve left behind the person I used to be, the person who used to think and write and engage in some kind of meaningful dialogue, the person who wanted to make a difference; he was part of the self that grew – or was growing - out of that youngster. The very self that inspired the original name of this blog – ‘Older and growing’. This middle-aged person I’ve become; he doesn’t seem to have the same drive, for him it’s enough to survive one day to the next.

It’s odd, being between two people and ‘being’ neither. Do you remember the scene in 2001 where the astronaut, Dave Bowman, has gone through the stargate and finds himself apparently in a hotel room? Still dressed in his spacesuit, he sees an old man lying in a bed – and realises that the old man is himself, and in that moment of realisation we move along with his consciousness into the body of that old man.

It feels a bit like that. Not such a dramatic contrast in terms of years and incapacity, perhaps, but I suppose you could call it an identity crisis, except that crisis implies something sudden, an impending catastrophe that must be resolved one way or another. This isn’t quite like that; identity has become uncertain, for sure – youth is far behind and old age is still a long way off (although there are occasional flashbacks of the one and premonitions of the other), and here I sit in a no-man’s-land between them.

Perhaps that’s why the thinking and writing have become so hard – I don’t have a place from which to do it. No perspective, no place to stand and observe and show you the world from my viewpoint. Adrift between youth and age and out of sight of both.

“Thou hast neither youth nor age
But as it were an after dinner sleep
Dreaming of both.”

~ Shakespeare, in Measure for Measure, quoted by T S Eliot at the opening of his poem Gerontion


Eclipsed by Saturn, courtesy of the Astronomical Picture of the Day.

"Far in the distance, visible on the image left just above the bright main rings, is the almost ignorable pale blue dot of Earth."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

African travels 

"I considered asking the driver what time he thought we might arrive in Nairobi. But, as others have noted, time in Africa is not the same as time in the Western world; questions concerning when something might or might not happen are generally meaningless, at least if you want or expect a precise - meaningful - answer. As far as would concern most Africans, we would arrive in Nairobi when we got there, that was as much as they would ever need to know. The most accurate and honest answer I could expect was ‘later’ and this wouldn’t quite meet my exacting Western standards of a given hour, or even a given day."

Nice piece by my son about his travels in Africa - read the full post here.

Monday, January 05, 2009

View from the top 

The top of Bowfell, that is - the peak in the distance, one-third of the way in from the right hand side of this shot. Our way led leftwards from where we sat here for a quick break, then up over the succession of summits - Crinkle Crags - running left to right:

Bowfell is also visible as the appropriately-pointy right-most peak of this panorama:

Looking south-east from the summit:

South-west, down Eskdale...

...an almost fairy-tale landscape of meandering stream, interlocking spurs, and misty mountains:

West, towards Scafell and Scafell Pike, with the step of Broad Stand on the direct route between the two clearly visible. These days, although not quite a true rock climb, it's rarely climbed without a rope, as a slip will most likely lead to serious injury. Amazingly though, the first recorded passage was by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and was made in descent. Clearly he was no softy, no drawing-room poet, but a poet with balls!


And another take on that sunset I posted a couple of days back:

This shot is just a little way down from the summit; it was dark by the time we were two-thirds of the way down, but my son with his army training wouldn't let us use headtorches - he said once you've turned them on it destroys your night vision. There was no moon, yet it's surprising just how much you can see in the dark when your eyes become accustomed to it. The descent - the path known as "The Band" - is quite steep at the bottom, often more a succession of rock steps rather than a path, yet somehow eye and brain manage to make sense of the shadows. Eventually though we had to succumb to the need for artificial illumination when the way became icy and we couldn't tell the difference between rock and ice. That however was about half an hour after I'd first been inclined to dig the headtorches out of our packs - so a useful lesson was learned about just how effective night vision can be. If it hadn't been for the ice we'd have got all the way down by the faintest of glows in a hazy sky lingering well after the sun had set.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Frosty morn 

Still no time for words, so here's another picture:

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A Taste 

The laundry is done, the tent hangs in the garage drying, the photos are downloaded. Now I just need some time and space to string a few words around the pictures. In the meantime, here's a sample: