What’s in a picture : Number 9

Orange ball in sky

I only chose this picture because I like the silhouettes of the trees and wires set against the setting sun.

It was late evening and we were up on a hill overlooking Mysore in Southern India. We had arrived much later than intended so much of what we went to see was already shrouded in the gloom but I have a particular fondness for that time of day when the heat of the sun is dying but it’s still warm and sultry and you might be lucky enough to catch a sunset with your camera.

What’s in a picture: Number 8

Highly strung?

This is one of my pride and joys.

Don’t get me wrong, I can’t play..I can strum a few chords and that’s about it, knock out the main riff to ‘Smoke on the Water’ or the fingery bit at the start of ‘Thunderstruck’ but can’t play ‘seriously’ to save my life.

It’s just another example of something I wanted to be good at but either dud t have the patience for or wasn’t very good at…probably a combination of both. I’ve always been pretty useless at anything creative and guitar requires coordination…of which I have none.

But I won’t part with her. Still at 54 I get these moments when I see myself strutting my stuff on stage and if you don’t have dreams then why bother living eh?.

What’s in a picture : Number 7

That looks quite narrow?


I like rivers. I quite like the sea but lakes really don’t do things for me. This is strange as I can’t swim and so any body of water is actually quite intimidating but rivers, or the right river in the right place, are amazing.

This is the Nile. My favourite river in my favourite (kind of) country. It’s a river I’ve cruised upon and spent many a happy hour beside. It’s a ‘nice’ river.

I’ve cruised the Irrawaddy in Myanmar (Burma) and that was a glorious day spent drifting along to our destination, watching life upon the river banks in a time when Myanmar wasn’t a tourist destination as such and so you rarely met another tourist.

I’ve cruised the Kerala backwaters where you are surrounded by incredible beauty and the night I spent there remains the single most magical experience of my life.

Growing up I recall a number of summer days silent having picnics by the side of meandering streams and rivers where you could paddle in the shallow parts and watch sunlight dapple the grass through a curtain of leaves. Those days seem a lifetime ago and I wish I could recall them a little more clearly or had appreciated them a little more at the time because they were truly innocent days and now everything seems to be so different.

So, rivers. Amazing, beautiful, scenic, mysterious. Pretty damn cool (usually quite literally!)

What’s in a picture : Number 6

Notre Dame

Yes, I’ve not gone mad, this is Notre Dame Cathedral but no, not in Paris but in Saigon, Vietnam.

I’m not a religious person. Nothing against religion and I have a great deal of admiration for those who have true faith but no, not for me.

At college I sat next to a fervently religious guy who asked every girl he saw about bible classes and tried to convert me to the cause. After years of Sunday school and religious education classes, the matter of which I enjoyed, I’d come to enjoy the stories as just that, stories, rather than factual events. Being converted was not for me.

But that’s not to knock religion. On my travels I’m often found in temples and churches not only for their historical significance but also because of the atmosphere I find within them.

Even the busiest Hindu temple can be a balm to the soul as you get caught up in the intoxicating rhythms of the priests mantras.

I find great beauty in many such places. Carved icons and statues, relics and stained glass. There’s a great deal of architectural skill to be admired and it’s all too easy to dismiss these places because they’re ‘religious’ when you have an aversion to faith.

So be open minded. If someone wants to pray for you then let them, whether you believe is immaterial because they’re doing it based on their beliefs and it’s not going to hurt you.

We live in troubled times and right now we need to care for each other and if people find that faith in their god brings them solace then why are we to criticise them?.

Stay safe folks ……and keep the faith!

What’s in a picture : Number 5

Hidden Treasure

Many of us have this romantic dream.

We’re intrepid archaeologists in the manner of Indiana Jones, and one day we hack our way through the steamy jungle and discover a lost city like El Dorado.

It’s Boys own stuff (and Girls own) and whilst I’m sure that such discoveries are made, these days they tend to be hidden behind other headlines about disasters and viruses, corrupt politicians and celebrity affairs.

Would the discovery of Tutankhamun mean as much today as it did in the 1920s or would it play second fiddle to the winner of ‘Love Island’ or ‘Im a Celebrity’?. Would we still feel the magic and excitement or have we lost our ability to connect with such things?.

In an era of iPhones, iPads, YouTube etc, is the discovery of something ancient still relevant?.

I hope so. I hope so because the world needs to appreciate the past and see how advanced they were for their time. To see how they built and constructed and fashioned amazing jewellery and items of such delicacy without modern tools and processes.

The past means more to me than now. I still harbour that fantasy of finding the hidden city in the jungle or the tomb of gold. I hope I never lose it.

What’s in a picture : Number 4

Through the looking glass

This is Malaysia.

Merely the stepping stone to Thailand on our jaunt through that country, Cambodia and Vietnam.

It’s not the greatest picture but it illustrates the experience and excitement of travel. That’s my plane there, the one I’m going to get in to fly into Bangkok. And it’s tantalisingly close.

I don’t enjoy flying. It’s boring and people recline their heads into your soup!. They carry on astronomically large hand luggage (ha!) which is twice as large as my suitcase and yet still meets ‘regulation size’ and th3 fact I adhere to the rules about size and weight and others get away with it bothers me!. A lot!.

But take off is thrilling. That gradual increase in speed, the droning engines, the shaking and rattling along the runway and then whoosh, off we go, up into the blue yonder..or grey…or wet..but up anyway.

And landing is fun. Seeing the city beneath you as you descend and then, if you’re abroad, stepping out into a new airport or into the balmy tropical heat. So flying has its high points…quite literally!.

There’s aircraft food…of variable quality…and fellow passengers…of variable quality…and pilots ….of variable…..well you get the picture. It’s a necessary pain if you want to travel ..

And I hope that one day this won’t just be a memory but something real again.

What’s in a picture : Number 3

I wonder where this is?

A familiar image to many and one that, as I write this, will be devoid of Tourists!.

This was my third visit to the Taj Mahal and compared with the somewhat docile days of yore, it was certainly a far different experience than last time.

This is part of the trouble when you visit somewhere famous. You’ve seen the image in a book or on tv or perhaps a celebrity has been there and they’ve pushed the crowd aside so it’s all a bit of a shock when you arrive and find that you’re one of thousands and no, the ‘Princess Diana’ seat is not exclusively yours!.

You jostle for position and fight the rampaging horde as they all want your spot for their photo and you end up arm wrestling the guy with the ten foot telephoto lens as he threatens to take your head off with it!. You get cursed in a dozen languages (some invented) and narrowly avoid the spit and other bodily secretions hurled in your direction, the bloke in front insists on waving his arms about and you run the risk of being bowled over, at any moment, by a horde of ravenous children!. It’s an exercise in patience!.

But we all do it.

We all want that perfect picture.

I never get it because I’m just not a very good photographer. I’d love to be but my arms shake and then I find I’m lopsided and the resulting image usually has a body part in…and it’s one of my body parts…an elbow, a finger, a foot..so I just take a deep breath and hope for the best. It’s all you can do really…

But if everyone could just stand aside, that would be a start!

What’s in a picture : Number 2

What is this I see before me?

This is a curious picture.

At first glance it’s not much of one. In fact it’s not much of one at second or third glance either but it’s also an image which illustrates one of my favourite times whenever I’m abroad.

It’s that time after dinner. That time when the temperature is still balmy and I’m in that ‘not quite ready for bed’ mode. That time when, as in this picture, I step out into the dark and look around to see what I can see.

This was taken in Egypt. My cruise boat was just passing under this bridge and it was warm and magical. The gentle throb of the boats engines, the lap of water against the bow, the distant sounds of chatter coming from the dining room below deck; all things that I recall from the exact moment this picture was taken.

So it’s not a spectacular picture, it’s not some ancient ruin or masterpiece, it’s not something ancient and wonderful yet it’s wonderful just the same because it brings back special memories of a place that’s very dear to me and a place I miss so much.

What’s in a picture? How about hope that the world will work itself out?, and that what looks mundane might once again be truly magical to someone? .

What’s in a picture : number 1

Truly scrumptious!

I’m not a very adventurous eater.

Part of that is because I’m Autistic and there are lots of problematic sensory issues around the smell, taste and texture of food.

Given the choice of food to eat I tend to stick to well worn favourites such as chips, fish fingers, chicken, lamb, peas, broccoli and the like. The roast dinner, the good old pie! British staples…though not of the metallic kind!.

So when I travel I usually get by on eggs, omelettes, chips (everywhere does chips) and Chinese food (everywhere does Chinese food) plus some sort of chocolate desert or ice cream (everywhere does a chocolate desert and ice cream).

So it may surprise you to know that the image above shows the single most impressive meal I have ever eaten.

And it’s not a pie. Or chips. It’s not even a burger.

Eating at The Bangala took on an almost religious obsession for me when I booked our South Indian jaunt. I knew nothing about the place other than it’s reputation as one of the finest hotel/eateries in South India and the fact that my meal would be served on a banana leaf! ..saves on washing up I suppose?!.

My mouth still waters as I reminisce about that meal. Sweet mango chutney, fiery chicken, cool onion heavy coleslaw, a potato dish with an ingredient that gave it a salty crunch (probably salt!), fragrant rice, cool yoghurt and some fish that was so fresh I half expected it to leap off the leaf and swim away.

And I don’t like rice. I eat potato sparingly. I don’t like coleslaw. I’m really not into yoghurt and unless fish has a name that rhymes with ‘sod’ or ‘paddock’, I’m usually going to avoid it. Yet here was I tucking in like it was my last meal.

And there was seconds!. Seconds. And thirds. I wanted to swim in the chutney and rub myself all over with the coleslaw before sleeping amidst the rice!. It was so so good.

And I still don’t know why.

I don’t enjoy Indian food. I don’t like spice and heat and how long it takes my brain to work out which flavours I like or not when they’re all fighting in my mouth!. I don’t like curry and anything hot makes my mouth go ouch and then it cries…and I dribble! ..

But this…this was glorious. A carefully crafted meal of balanced flavours, hard, soft, sweet, a little sour, a little crunchy and so so fresh.

And perhaps that was partly the case. This wasn’t a pre-packaged meal but something lovingly prepared by a skilled chef for us. It hadn’t come out of a tin or a box or plastic wrap but had been grown and picked and caught and diced with love and care to represent a regional dish and to live up to a highly prized reputation.

If anybody asks me I’ll still say I don’t like Indian food but that meal…that meal…is the finest meal I’ve ever had and four years after eating it nothing’s come close to it since.