Out With A Camera

On Saturday afternoon, I took the Panasonic LX-100 out with me on Ollie’s walk. Before anyone asks why there are no photos of Ollie, he flatly refused to stay in sight of the camera! As that camera only has a 75mm zoom, I wasn’t even able to fool him from a distance.

(The photos are linked from Flickr. They can be enlarged there by clicking on them.)

The Snowdrops are out in abundance, especially in the sheltered area by the main road.



And in clumps by the riiver.


I promised photos of the new footbridge, so here they are. This goes across the river onto Hoe Rough.



The view from the bridge, looking west.


At one of the entrances to Beetley Meadows, the Crocuses are covered in leaves, and barely visible.


The Daffodils are standing proud though.


Next time I will try to capture Ollie with a longer zoom lens. 🙂

Covent Garden Market: 1968-1974

Anyone who has visited Covent Garden Market in Central London in the last twenty-five years or more will be aware that it is now a place of street performers, trendy small shops, popular pubs and restaurants, and is normally packed full of tourists. But it was originally a market specialising in the wholesale of fruits and vegetables and fresh flowers. I found this series of photos online, all taken by a keen photographer, Clive Boursnell.

The main Market Hall.

‘Clive Boursnell’s photos of Old Covent Garden Market, captured between 1968 and 1974, are a marvel to behold, his beautifully observed reportage capturing the myriad sights, characters and details making up central London’s main market in its final years.’

All images © Clive Boursnell

A porter rushing by with a heavily laden barrow. Clive caught his speed by blurring the image.

A trader talking to his horse. The horse seems to like him.

Two female market workers.

A trendy young couple with boxes of flowers.

A dandy of a man with his Dalmatian dog.

This local nun was shopping for flowers.

A tired-looking woman sitting next to her wares.

This dapper trader reads his newspaper as he waits for the next customer.

Two women in identical cardigans tying heather into bunches. They are probably East European or Gypsies, and would sell the heather on the streets.

A smart modern woman ties up her flower boxes.

This dealer’s display was sure to catch the eye of shoppers.

Looking for some colour

It is nice to live here, and to be able to walk in the countryside every day. The trouble is, it’s all very green. Lots of shades of green, from pale mint, to emerald, to almost black. But still green. I tried hard to find some colour over on Hoe Rough yesterday, but it was in short supply. (Other than green)

(All photos can be enlarged, for detail.)

Some nice colourful Foxgloves.

Delicate yellow buttercups, surrounded by green things.

At least Ollie is a different colour, brown. But he was seeking shade in the river, and wouldn’t come out!

Significant Songs (157)


This is a strange one. In April 2000, I was 48 years old. It goes without saying that I was a long way off the target market for a pop single in the ‘UK Garage’ genre. But I heard this song on my car radio, and couldn’t get it out of my head.

The two girls performing the song were called Sweet Female Attitude, and I had never heard of them before, though I later discovered they had been around since 1996. I saw the video promoting the song on TV, and also the duo performing live, on a TV music show. I was suitably impressed by their enthusiasm, and I also liked the fact that they looked just like two ‘normal’ girls you could see on any street.

This was destined to be a one-hit wonder though, reaching number two in the charts, and receiving countless plays. Their follow-up single disappeared without trace, and so it seemed did the two girls.
Whenever I hear this song now, it always makes me feel happy. And despite the seventeen years that have passed, it feels as up to date as ever.

Some more flora in Beetley

I have had the debate before. When is a flower a weed? Why are some attractive plants and flowers disregarded, when so much effort is put into the cultivation of others? The general feeling is that a weed is just a flower or plant in the wrong place. As in a place where you don’t want it to grow.

These small blue flowers are to be found everywhere around here. They grow wild in the meadow, along pathways, and in abundance over on Hoe Rough. I asked a local person what they were, and I was told that they are weeds. Someone out there might know the name of this plant, but I have no idea. To me, these delicate blue flowers are just as attractive as most of those sold at the local garden centre.
The photo can be clicked on, and enlarged for detail.


Be my Valentine?

There have been lots of Valentine’s Day posts around the blogs today, as might be expected. Like most traditional celebrations, this day has been overblown, inflated, and hijacked by shops and big corporations, until it is has become something very different from its roots at a time more innocent.

I have always celebrated it, one way or another. As a child, I was bought a card to give to my Mum, and perhaps a small gift to present to her too. Once I was an awkward teenager, keen to impress my first real girlfriend, I saved for weeks to be able to give gifts of flowers, and chocolates in a heart-shaped box. Back then, it was not done to sign the accompanying card. It was supposed to be a mystery, despite the obvious farce of handing it over along with the gift. On rare occasions, I have received an unsigned card in the post. Sometimes, this was a prank organised by friends, and very rarely, a token of affection from someone that I had no idea even liked me.

If you are settled in a relationship, perhaps even married, such cards can ruin the day, and many days following. A jealous wife or husband will be sure that you must know who sent it, and constantly demand to know who it is. You can protest your ignorance of the sender until you are exhausted, but the seed of doubt will have been sown. Anyone thinking of sending a card to someone they know is happily involved, should seriously consider the potential for damage. Or maybe that is their intention?

As commerce began to tighten its grip on the day, it started to seem as if some flowers and a card were no longer enough. Heart-shaped jewellery became popular, then stuffed fluffy animals, personalised ‘I Love You’ gifts, soon followed by complete ‘Valentine experiences.’ Nothing was ruled out, by anyone with the funds to support the efforts of the merchandisers. The simple flowers soon became too expensive for most pockets. By the late 1970s, shops were asking ÂŁ2 each for roses, with a bunch of twelve costing half a week’s wages. That the same bunch could be had for a third of the price the following day was simply an indication of how supply and demand works in retail.

Gifts and cards were now so commonplace, we were urged to actually be doing something memorable to celebrate this day. Weekend breaks, ‘Romantic’ destinations, special meals in restaurants and hotels, with dishes given corny names for one night only. Heart-shaped desserts, even heart-shaped steaks. There seemed to be no end to the invention, when it came to cashing in. People would ask “What are you ding for Valentine’s?” This said with the same expectations as they might have for your holiday plans, or Christmas celebrations. TV advertising, in-store advertising, racks of cards, and gifts ranging from heart-shaped cookies, to heart-shaped frying pans, (for that breakfast egg, on the 14th) all appeared in the days immediately following the Christmas break. Even toys are sold with special Valentine tweaks, leading children to anticipate even more gifts, and continuing to miss the point completely.

Overwhelmed by this sea of commercialism, my instincts made me reluctant to comply. For some years, I refused to play ball. I might buy a card, or might not. I flatly refused to buy flowers at inflated prices. (And still do) I would discuss the crass nature of the exploitation, though deep down, I knew that my wife or partner secretly hoped for some acknowledgement on the day. Eventually, I settled for an acceptable balance. A card, a useful or attractive gift, but no pandering to special nights, or romantic breaks. No visits to restaurants, to advertise my love over a heart-shaped Panna cotta.

And I started to think about the unloved; the lonely singles, bombarded by this imagery for weeks on end. No cards in the post for them. No chocolates, heart-shaped or otherwise. The absence of tokens reinforcing their loneliness and concerns, their worries about a life unfulfilled.
And all because of a letter, sent by a prisoner, in the days of the Roman Empire.

Flowers and Weeds

As I have mentioned many times previously, I am neither a talented, nor an enthusiastic gardener. But as we have a gravel driveway at the front of the house, neglecting the tiresome job of clearing the weeds that protrude through the gravel tends to make the house look unkempt, and unloved. The recent heavy rains and warm days have caused a veritable explosion of weed emergence, leaving the wide driveway looking decidedly scruffy. Despite an effort to spray the area last year, most of the weed-killer was caught on the stones, so did not penetrate deeply enough to do any good.

With my car away being repaired today, I decided to tackle the area where it is normally parked. This may not sound like much of a job on a sunny morning, but take it from me, it’s a hard one. Some of the grassy clumps have root-balls the size of my head, and even the spindly, forlorn-looking individual weeds have roots that seem to go down to Australia. Scraping, digging with a fork, bending down to collect the dislodged plant, then raking the earth and stones back into a tidy covering, it is exhausting work. And it isn’t the least bit enjoyable, despite what dedicated garden-lovers might have you believe.

After two and a bit hours, I had only managed to clear half of one side, and it was getting near the time for Ollie’s afternoon walk.I came inside for a bath, and was soon ready to head off over to the Meadows, and Hoe Rough. On the wander around, something struck me. I had spent a long and tiring time getting rid of things that were really just plants, grasses, and flowers. People spend lifetimes cultivating grasses, growing plants, and admiring flowers. Some of those so-called weeds that I had been flinging into the garden bin were actually quite appealing. There were those with attractively-shaped small leaves, others topped by tiny yellow flowers. One that caught my eye had a minute purple flower, although the body of the plant underneath was spindly, and had little substance. There were the ubiquitous Dandelions too, stubbornly holding on to their place, tuberous roots requiring more effort to remove than would seem necessary, given the size of the plant.

I pondered about when it was decided that some things should be called weeds, and deemed to be undesirable, and others be applauded as plants and shrubs, and be considered essential to have in the garden. Who were the people making these decisions, and when did it all start? Why is the bright yellow flower of a Dandelion considered less of a bloom than any other yellow-headed flower? Why is one type of arrow-leafed creeping plant deemed to be a ‘creeping menace’, yet the same thing with dark red leaves is sold as ‘ground-cover’? And why do we spend good money on ornamental grasses, whilst at the same time digging up the not-unattractive large grasses that grow naturally?

Perhaps we should think again, and begin to embrace the humble weed. They require little effort to cultivate, will grow in the poorest soil, and need no fertilizers. And as as a real bonus, they also don’t need to be ‘weeded’.

Let’s start a new trend. Natural gardens, with the plants that really want to be in them.

A False Spring

Walking over Beetley Meadows this afternoon with Ollie, it was like a Spring day. The sky was bright blue, and the clouds like fluffy cotton wool. The sun was bright enough to make the wearing of sunglasses acceptable, and warm enough to notice the heat, in secluded areas. The colours have changed too. After months of brown mud, or white snow, the outlook is finally green again. The grass is standing up, reappearing through the still-sodden ground. Bulbs are thrusting out of the earth, and the snowdrop flowers look like small white pearls, scattered around the edges of the riverbank. The river water has returned to its normal level, and though still fast-flowing, is much clearer; clear enough to see the vegetation, and the stones on the river bed. Even some of the longer grasses, rushes, and bracken are beginning to get their strength back, after long weeks knocked flat by rains, or weighed down by snow.

Ollie surprised a pair of Mallard ducks, who were resting at the water’s edge, and they flew off, keeping low as they did so. He thought they were playing a game, and chased them excitedly for a few hundred yards, until they gained enough height for him to lose interest. The whole thing imbued me with a sense of well-being, and despite the constant and very cold wind, I set out with a determined stride. We met up with a few dog-walking companions, and it was obvious that all the dogs were sensing the change in the weather also. They dashed around excitedly, finishing their games by plunging as one into the river, to retrieve a stick that they fought over. They didn’t feel the cold of the water, or the sharp bite of the wind, they were instinctively happy to be out and about, on such a fine day.

I don’t know what the rest of the week holds for us, but I will settle for one out of seven. This must be a false Spring though, as it is still February, so I won’t allow myself to be deceived. It was lovely while it lasted, all the same.