So once again the clear out process starts. Another move may be in the offing.

Slowly history is cleansed. Old photographs. Slides of 20+ years of birding travel.

Books to charity shops. LPs sold. Clothes to recycling. Camera gear offloaded. We are learning the ropes at the local recycling plant. A broken printer. A hair dryer that will never blow again. Boxes of birding and wildlife magazines going back to the early 90s – nobody wants them. Everything is online now. What is physically available is redundant.

What surprised me most was going through box after box of slides. I had over 40 of Galapagos alone. 36 to a roll. No chimping. No histograms. And 95% properly exposed. I was a better and slower photographer then. I really must try to scan them. What was also surprising was my ability to recall almost every image taken. I struggle to remember what I ate for breakfast but I remember shots taken in Australia in 1998. I suspect that is not a good sign.

Some things fall into the ‘what to do with it’ category. Old ornaments my parents hung on the wall. Tasteful in 1960 but now suitable only for a glimpse back in social history. Akin to Hilda’s muriels. Dad’s pewter retirement tankards: To Jim from the Lads. In 50 years time someone on Flog It (probably the same presenters) will cradle the finest tankard in his or her hands and speculate on Jim. Who was he? Who were the Lads? Engineering students. Where was he working? A wonderful artifact, they will opine. And you found it in a car boot sale! Except we won’t have cars then. Well I’d like to put it in to auction with an estimate of £4-5,000 and a reserve of £80. Just in case. To protect it. But very collectable. It will fail to make reserve just like everything else we have auctioned.

I sold two framed prints for £35. Less lot fee and commission. I was convinced I had paid £90 for them. Ah well. Then I found the receipt. I paid £245 for the pair. But they are gone and I wish the new owner well.

The purpose of all this clearing out is twofold. If we return to Hong Kong it will inevitably be to a smaller apartment. At some point if I don’t do it now it will fall to the memsahib to do the work. Simplify, declutter now. Much better. And cathartic. Don’t wait for the probate inventory. If it seems a little like throwing away your past I take comfort from the fact that what had lain untouched for over 15 years triggered instant recall in my memory. Maybe the software of the mind is all I need and the hardware can crash and go.

And with that cheery thought, I shall return to reading about the Thucydides trap.

The garden of delights.

Standing in my garden, camera in hand, I become aware of the diversity in just a few square yards. Leaving the plants to one side, as they remain a mystery to me, I feel relieved that my small patch is home to so many creatures.

After the hazels were coppiced and the branches chipped from the over-tall poplar we topped off we allowed the chippings to pile up or just cover the ground. The leaves from the red oak add to the carpet. Each step is a scrunch. I would never make a tracker. I become aware of the flies in all their varieties. I am looking for hoverflies and one cooperates. The others flee my lens. The breeze makes every shot tricky. Rarely a lull. Hence my position. Static. Alert. Hopeful. Frustrated. Then a surge of adrenaline. A damselfly. Red! Not what I normally see here. This is Large Red Damselfly, Pyrrhosoma nymphula. I become acutely aware of my shadow. I must let it sit and bask. Shade will cause it to move. Two or three times it shifts. I take a couple of distant record shots. I kneel. The under-carpet scrunches. I hold my breath. I raise my camera. I quietly press the shutter. I pivot as silently as I can. I edge closer. I press again. Gone.

Pyrrhosoma nymphula2Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Bees are everywhere. Never pausing. Nose in, body wriggle, reverse out. Next please. Large queens and tiny early bees. And nomad bees too. The ones I thought were small wasps. Oh no. Cleptoparasites. But today not one will let me take a single frame. They quarter the leaf litter and rotting wood like miniature harriers. They drop out of sight, emerge and dive under the foliage. Constantly moving. Gone.

From my position I can hear birds all around me. The blackcaps, the chiffchaffs, the rattle of a mistle thrush and if I walk a few paces to my left, the incessant demands of the nuthatch chicks. I watched the parents a day or so ago. They are returning to the nest every minute or so. Land, pause, in, feed, peek out. Clear. Away. Repeat.

The strong breezes have stopped the moths in their tracks. Nothing wants to fly in such conditions. The temperatures have risen but the moths need a calmer night to kick off the summer season. Will tonight be the night? Standing here I don’t really care. I am surrounded by bluebells and the garden is alive. Pyrrhosoma nymphula has made my day.


Put on a happy face


It is Spring. On Monday our old friend Vernon Equinox made it official. Good old Vernon. For further confirmation, if such be needed, look out of the window and observe the rain. It is wet. Very wet. Wetter than Mrs. Thatcher’s cabinet. And the garden is yellow. Forsythia. Primroses. Daffodils. Lesser Celandines. Throw in a few violets, the wood anemones, cherry blossom, magnolia, camellias and hordes of hungry lagomorphs and you can be sure that Spring is here. The woodpeckers and nuthatches are tidying up last years cavities. The pheasants are strutting around and rising up to drum their wings. This is my patch. Keep off. The diminutive wren launches stealth raids on the contents of my moth trap. The Chiffchaff has arrived to its own personal fanfare. I even thought I heard a passing Sedge Warbler in the muddy part of the wood yesterday.

All of which is balm to the soul, confronted as it is by contemporary politics.

A chum of mine described Trump45 as an embarrassment. I almost prefer Colt 45.

Che gelida manina,
se la lasci riscaldar.
Cercar che giova?
Al buio non si trova.

A tragic opera in a series of dumb acts.

I watched Comey and Rogers and felt a vague sense of relief that perhaps there might be a happy ending after all. And how I cheered the wonderful Kristina Dunz, the reporter who finally shouted the emperor has no clothes. Still, the story has some mileage left in it yet.

And in the meantime we have a family wedding to look forward to. Cost Centre 2 will tie the knot in December. We are now mulling over maybe leaving the carnage of post rational Britain and returning to the People’s Republic of Hong Kong. We have spent five of the last eight weeks there and realize that whatever the benefits of Brexitstan, life in the colony may be better.


Originally this post was different, rather more macabre. Fate however intervened and I didn’t finish it. That was fortunate in the light of the events at Westminster this week. I was working in the City when both the Stock Exchange and The Baltic Exchange were bombed by the IRA. The Bulldog Spirit prevailed then and it will prevail now. For all of the dangerous egomaniacs around today – Kim, May, Trump, Erdogan, Mugabe and a good few others – the world still grinds forward and evolves faster than politicians, bringing us improvements we could never dream of. We have to learn how to adapt to some of them but the basics of hunger relief, child mortality and absolute poverty are diminishing. There has to be optimism alongside the mourning for common decency and the blinding rage of populism.

In contrast to the day I started this, the sun is shining and there is warmth in the air. The long shadows are of lengthening days and trees in bud. And there is life in the old dog yet.

ZEN Lulu