The Return of the Naive

Yes, I was naive, thinking my return to the business battle field would be relatively relaxed. I reverted to my old 12 hour (minimum) day on the first day. It stayed like that throughout. Two long haul flights in five days have left my mind and body a little discombobulated. I watched several films on the ‘planes, most of which disappointed. I enjoyed The Book Thief but I yawned my way through The Invisible Woman, which relates the story of Charles Dickens’ love affair with a young unmarried woman. I had hoped it might be entertaining but alas, my great expectations were dashed.  I can’t quite make my mind up about The Best Offer. I quite enjoyed the story but the ending was not exactly difficult to guess. I looked in vain to see if there might be a screen adaptation of And Then Like My Dreams…………… not yet.

I was pleasantly surprised by Cathay Pacific – much improved since I was a frequent victim. London was distinctly chilly and overcast, although not as overcast it seems as Hong Kong which greeted me back with a storm. Après moi, le déluge?

I took some photographs on my sole free afternoon. It was Sunday so the streets were relatively deserted. No bookshops open, no restaurants beckoning me in. Just the odd coffee shop. To be honest there was an extensive range of haute cuisine available at the railway station, where even on The Lord’s Day people squint up at the departure boards, hoping the 11.53 to Colchester will be on time, or perhaps the 14.02 to Much Binding in the Marsh. Travellers are by their nature optimists, destined to have their good nature tested to the breaking point by the vicissitudes that are the very essence of the British rail system and weather. I was happy to wander around and take a few snaps with the X100s I had tucked into my luggage. Before we get to the Kodak-copia of fine art I would like to warn you that exiting Britain through T3 at LHR is not now for the faint hearted. For the first time in my life I was tested for explosives. Very politely and with a soupçon of humour and to the relief of us both I am sure, I was officially semtex negative. I shall add it to the piece of paper that records my blood group.

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street bears this splendid lion’s head.


It is unusual to see Leadenhall Market so empty.

Leadenhall Market

The somewhat grimy roof of Liverpool Street Station

Liverpool SS roof

Ants on the move. I had several goes at this as I needed a longish exposure to get some movement but I forgot that the illuminated boards were changing. This was the only one where they seem not to have done so.

Liverpool Street

Just look above eye-level in London and you will find things to catch your eye everywhere.Metropolitan University2

And a touch of nostalgia. I worked in this building for many years. Indeed my desk was one of many that was covered in shards of glass and debris after an IRA bomb went off. I forget now which one. Maybe the Baltic Exchange. And I sat in here when the IRA bombed The Stock Exchange, 2 minutes walk away. Now called, with stunning originality, Tower 42 (it has 42 floors), it was then the iconic NatWest Tower.



Look Back in Angkor

I am behind with my blogging. Mea culpa. Too much going on in my head and not enough anywhere else. I have read 2 books in the last few days. I embarked on Martin Chuzzlewit. A marathon by any measure. Nevertheless I found it an impressive work. The diversion to the U-nited States was a bit bizarre and unnecessary in my view. What was Dickens thinking of?  I understand the satire but it seems out of place in what is otherwise a compelling novel. At least I know now what Pecksniffian means. [Hypocritically benevolent; sanctimonious.]  I am sure Charlie D. would be worried stiff if he knew I thought so but luckily for us both he misses out on my my literary criticism. I do like Dickens and the plan is to tackle A Tale of Two Cities next. I am downloading all of the books for free from the Gutenberg project. I have a hard copy too so I can switch between e reader and real paper as I choose. The second book was The Photographer’s Vision by Michael Freeman. He invariably produces thought provoking books so I devoured this inside a day. My challenge now is a growing backlog of reading material. Kind-hearted folk recommend something, I go to Amazon or the good Gut’ and another one joins the queue. This has to stop. Maybe. If I need something lighter I have a book on Pete & Dud next. That should be fun. One Leg Too Few it is called.

So with nothing avian moving me at the moment I offer a few snaps of that old chestnut, Angkor Wat. Guildford it is not but its the best I can do for today.

Angkor Wat BW harsh Three Little Maids Upward temple view Wall art Angkor Wat Angkor Wat monkcoloour


BAD 3 and other things

Already the wheels are coming off. No birding today means I have to reach back to the 1st and 2nd of January for my bird. What on earth am I going to do tomorrow? Indulge me though, a little, as I digress.  It has been a day of discards.

We have rented an air-conditioned godown for as long as we have been in this house. The idea was to store all the things we wanted to keep but for which we no longer had room. In my memory it was stuffed to the gunwales with valuable artefacts and heirlooms. I was slightly bemused this morning to find it contained only the following:

1 washing machine

1 gas dryer

1 set of golf clubs, post-hickory era but not by much. The driver was still a real wood.

Miscellaneous artwork and framed photos

1 coffee table

2 bedside cabinets.

And we have been paying an arm and half a short leg for storing this, year in, year out.  Yikes. So already I have given away one painting. The rest of the artwork has been stored around the house in nook and crannies. The golf clubs and white goods will go if we can’t find a taker. The coffee table and bedside cabinets we will either give away or find a way of rehousing. Et voilà! A decent amount of money saved in one fell swoop. However in the course of investigating what we could throw from the storeroom at home to make way for the incoming, I discovered a few little gems I thought might have gone astray. Enough volumes of Charles Dickens to keep me going through 2014. My copy of 1066 and all that! and importantly, all 12 issues of Birding World, 2003, containing in the September issue that much sought-after paper on Identification of Mongolian and Lesser Sand Plovers. Hooray. All of this of course did not play well with the memsahib, who wanted to get on with the throwing out. Never mind. We shall both live to fight another day. Probably tomorrow.

So to the third bird. Today’s successful applicant is Brown-headed Thrush, Turdus chrysolaus. Now TC has been putting on a fine show at Long Valley and I was fortunate enough to take some shots when the fast food bar was closed and the serving staff had not yet roused themselves from their slumbers.

Brown-headed Thrush Brown-headed Thrush 7These are very early morning shots, around 7.15am. TC isn’t really doing much but I guess that’s what birds do when they have just woken up. They wander around aimlessly looking for cereal and toast. Later in the day the McGrub café opened and the light improved.Brown-headed Thrush Brown-headed Thrush LRver Brown-headed Thrush 4Its a very pretty bird. Far more attractive than say, Chiffchaff. And I suspect it hoards a lot less  junk valuable antiques than Mrs. Ha and I do. So all in all I thought it was worth bird of the day.

I shall now have a sleepless night worrying about bird number 4. In the worst case I could always go and look for the Chiffchaff but frankly, life’s too short. And I have not yet finished Little Dorrit. It could be a Chinese Bulbul day tomorrow. Or perhaps Stejneger’s Stonechat. I shall leave you in suspense.