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Sunday, 7 October 2012

Charles Dickens cartoon

A few days ago an old friend of mine, Gale Leach in the USA, put this cartoon on her Facebook page. It amused me, so thought I'd share it here.  I've no idea where it comes from, so tell me if it is copyright and I need to remove it.

Gale is an author and she has written some lovely books for children. Take a look at her website at

Another one of my friends here in the UK is reading all the Charles Dickens books this year. He is thoroughly enjoying them. I have to confess that I read few novels, preferring non-fiction books, and have yet to read a Charles Dickens book.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

MS charity jazz concert: Oxford Oct 7th 1pm

Final reminder: Tim Lapthorn Trio (jazz) at the Jacqueline du Pre Music Building, St Hilda's College, Oxford this Sunday at 1pm. Concert is raising funds for multiple sclerosis research.  Tickets from
or on the door. Good music, good cause. Please come if you can to support it.
Tim in one of his many appearances at Ronnie Scott's in London
My son Tim is a world class professional jazz pianist - see - and he is launching his new CD called "Transport" available later this month. Proceeds from the concert will got to the MS Society. 
If you cannot attend and want to make a donation to MS, please email me. Samples of his music available on his website.

On Dover Beach

A friend of mine just posted a photo from Dover beach the night before he rows a gig, with others, across to France. I wish him luck!  It put me in mind of Matthew Arnold's poem "On Dover Beach" in which he reflects on life, faith and a world of broken dreams. I had forgotten that the phrase "sea of faith" came from this poem.
The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago

Heard it on the Agaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith

Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true

To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

April Jones (missing 5 year old)

Almost everyone in the UK with a heart is wishing/praying that the little Welsh school girl who was abducted earlier this week will be found safe and well, although as every hour passes the hopes are fading.

What I find hard to understand is why the police and press have published both the name and photograph of the main suspect. It it quite possible that this person is totally innocent, yet all his details have been plastered in the press and on TV.  If there is forensic evidence to link him to the crime then surely the police should charge the man. Otherwise, no good can be served by publishing his name and photo.

My heart bleeds for the family of the little girl, who must be going through a living hell at the moment.

UPDATE: Oct 6th 2012
I see that this person has now been charged over the little girl's murder. After the case is heard and assuming he is proved guilty, I wonder what sort of time he will have in prison? 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Late swallows

Barn swallows (source )
By now, most of the adult swallows (now called barn swallows) have headed south on their way to southern Africa for the winter months, returning to our shores in April. At this time there are still a few young swallows around. Only yesterday I spotted several overhead. The latest swallows I have ever seen was a small flock at Bolt Head , Devon on November 7th. I think these were unusually late leaving. Just perhaps they stayed for the winter as in that part of the UK the weather is just about mild enough to provide enough insects.

The long north-south migration of birds beggars belief, especially when young birds make this journey for the first time not having ever done it before. How they travel over 6000 miles there, and then back again, often to the very same nest, is just incredible. A lot must go on inside that pea sized brain.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Red Kites over urban Leeds

Red Kite (photo by Thomas Kraft (ThKraft))
For the last month we seem to have been away from home half the time. The last few days we have been in Yorkshire for a sibling reunion with my wife's brothers.  On the way back home we had a REAL surprise driving along the Leeds ring road. I could not believe my eyes when I saw a red kite flying quite low overhead. These fine forked tailed daylight flying raptors were once confined to a small part of south central Wales but following selective reintroduction they are making a comeback all over the place. We see them near Newmarket quite often, but I was totally surprised to see one driving through urban Leeds!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Childhood innocence

Our elder grandson started school last week. He is just under five and has spent very many happy days with us, on his own away from mum and dad, since he was born. We have seen him grow and develop as the years have passed.

Now he is off to his first proper school along with children from many different backgrounds and cultures. Part of me wishes he could be like Peter Pan and stay little for ever and ever. But life is about growing up and developing into a mature adult full of hope and confidence. Yes, the total innocence of young childhood will go, but in its place comes the excitement of learning more about the world and who we are.  I wish him well in the days ahead.