Friday, August 29, 2008

sand point

I spent another early morning yesterday walking along a deserted English beach in the drizzle! This time it was Sand Bay near Kewstoke and it was really lovely – especially walking to Sand Point and being amazed by the volcanic rock formations en route. I DID actually see people on this occasion – three people walking their dogs (who clearly thought I must be mad – a man walking WITHOUT a dog!) and a man digging in the mud/rocks, presumably collecting some edible sea creature (or bait)? It definitely wasn’t lugworms because there were loads on the main beach and this guy was risking life+limb clambering over the precarious rocks and the muddy shoreline (lots of warning signs about “sinking mud”!). I’d be grateful for your suggestions please…. (razor fish? mussels? even oysters?).
Anyway, the trip was all very worthwhile and beautiful.
Photo: swirling mudflats, viewed from Sand Point (other photos on one of my facebook albums).
Note: unfortunately, my camera started playing up (damp conditions perhaps?) – I just hope it’s not terminal or expensive, as we’re rather short of funds!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Moira+I went to the Watershed yesterday with Gareth+Iona to see this latest film from Cedric Klapisch and we all thoroughly enjoyed it (unlike the Guardian critic, Peter Bradshaw, who only gave it a two-star rating and felt that this latest film about the capital was “a little too in love with itself”!). The film is often very funny and sometimes quite moving and features, amongst others, Romain Duris and Juliette Binoche (who I find completely captivating!). Essentially, I think it’s a wonderfully uplifting film that explores what it means to be happy.
You should definitely see it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

greenbelt celebrity status?

As you probably appreciate, you need to have achieved iconic status in order to get your photograph on to the front covers of such magazines as “Vanity Fair”, “Time Magazine” and “Vogue”. Well, I had a phone call from great friend Ian during the course of the Greenbelt weekend (he was there too with friends from mayBe) to indicate that I’d almost scaled similar heights!! He’d posted a photo of me (taken when we’d be walking though fields of corn in Devon and few weeks earlier) on the “Here Comes the Sun” section of the Greenbelt website and it was subsequently chosen for the front cover of “The 2008 Church Times Guide to Greenbelt” magazine. Amazingly, no one’s yet recognised me from the photo and I’ve not been asked for a single autograph.
I think it’s just a matter of time….


Really enjoyed spending four days at Greenbelt.
It was the first time Moira+I had spent more than a day at the festival and it was great to meet up with friends, listen to excellent musicians and hear impressive speakers. Given the rest of the summer, the weather was pretty good – although heavy overnight rain on Saturday ensured there was plenty of festival mud around! Foundation put together a thought-provoking act of worship on Sunday evening which seemed to go down well. Was also very impressed by Douglas Alexander MP (Secretary of State for International Development).
Photo: this is Jose Gonzales on stage at Greenbelt. Yes, I realise that it’s a pretty poor image, but take another look…. have you noticed how my camera shake almost spelt out his name (well, capital “G”, “z” and “s” anyway)?
Now, THAT does take HUGE technical skill. Spooky eh?
Note: other Greenbelt images on my facebook album.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


It happens every time. I love the Olympics!
I get thoroughly wrapped up and pretty emotional by the stories it throws up. I think I’d be one of those people on the winner’s podium (if only!) that would just bawl my eyes out! It’s been brilliant that the GB team has been so successful (in terms of medals) but I’m always amazed at the dedication, determination, sacrifices and sheer guts of the participants – and not just the winners. I’ve been mesmerised by the cycling, sailing and rowing in particular. Listening to the humility of one of the Canadian rowers who won gold this week after failing to win by just 0.08 seconds in Athens in 2004 (I remember how generous he was in defeat then); the Chinese 110m hurdling hero who had to drop out of the event through injury without even jumping a single hurdle; and, again in the rowing, imagining the emotions of people like Katherine Grainger who picked up a silver medal for the third successive Olympic Games.
As an early riser, I’ve also loved waking up to follow the latest sailing news and the like over breakfast.
As a cyclist myself(!), as you can imagine, I’m now obviously tempted to buy a lycra cycling suit and one of those pointy helmets, but have decided to stick to jeans+t-shirts – at least for the time being.
PS: I even loved the Opening Ceremony (especially the drummers) and was amused at one person’s suggestion for the London equivalent in 2012 – something about a fleet of penny-farthing bikes, a few pearly kings+queens plus a collection of cockney “chiminey” sweeps singing songs from Mary Poppins!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

music in the square

It almost felt like summer yesterday (according to the forecast, we’re back to wet stuff again today!). Moira+I enjoyed the free music concert in Queen Square, Bristol last night – featuring Jimmy Goodrich, Sweet Loredo, Mankala and Los Mercenarios. Really relaxed, enjoyable summer’s evening. Lots of people, lovely atmosphere and, crucially, it was all FREE!
Congratulations Bristol City Council!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

august beach day

Despite the appalling weather, I decided I needed to walk along a beach this morning! I’d already had breakfast before this sudden desire entered my head but, by 8am, I found myself striding across the sand at Barrow beach (near Burnham-on-Sea). I walked northwards from Berrow for about an hour - virtually to the headland beyond Brean - with the rain lashing down and then turned round and had to contend with 30mph winds and the full force of the rain into my face! Not surprisingly on such an awful day, I didn’t see anyone during my couple of hours on the beach and, despite wearing my full wet-weather gear, I still got pretty wet!
Although it was depressing to realise that this was supposed to be the English summer, I’m really glad I made the effort and felt duly invigorated by the end of it!
Photo: Berrow beach in the rain.

Monday, August 11, 2008

john o’donohue

I’ve just bought John O’Donohue’s book “Benedictus – a Book of Blessings” (lovely friends Cara, Ian and Gail knew him from his time at Greenbelt and are big fans). Tragically, John died in January this year at the ridiculously young age of 52. It’s an absolutely beautiful book – this is a blessing for belonging:
May you listen to your longing to be free.
May the frames of your belonging be generous enough for your dreams.
May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart.
May you find harmony between your soul and your life.
May the sanctuary of your soul never become haunted.
May you know the eternal longing that lives at the heart of time.
May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.
May you never place walls between the light and yourself.
May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather you, mind you and embrace you in belonging.
Note: thankfully, not only does he leave his books but also there are various CDs of his readings…. he has the most wonderful, lilting, Irish voice.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

tracking frank

As you might realise if you’ve read some of my previous blogs, I've been trying to find out a little more about my grandfather Frank Walker's First World War experiences (I've only got up to May 1916 thus far because his unit was disbanded and he was re-allocated to another section - I'm still trying to track down details)!
For what it's worth, I've put together a blog: called "Tracking Frank (through the Great War)".
The blog includes War Diaries from his unit (and give his locations etc throughout the war... well, at least up until May 1916 thus far!).... I've also produced a google map "tracking" Frank's movements for each individual war year.
The blog is far from finished (and there are various glitches in the system at the moment which prevent me from getting some of the correct fonts and font sizes) but it’s proved to be a fascinating exercise.

Friday, August 08, 2008

bristol balloon fiesta

Gerry, Gareth, Alan, Iona, Eilidh, Moira+I went to the “Balloon Glow” at Ashton Court last night Amazingly, the rain held off and we even enjoyed a wonderful picnic (and the odd glass of red) in the process. The “glow” itself was quite spectacular (it was the first time Moira+I had actually seen it) – although there seemed to be an awful lot of hype about the difficulties the “Flight Director” had in co-ordinating the music and stuff. My only other slight moan was that everyone was left sitting around waiting until 9.45pm before it got started.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

first world war diaries

In order to find out more about my grandfather Frank’s WW1 experiences, I spent some hours yesterday at The National Archives trawling through the war diaries of his unit. It was a really eerie feeling. These were the actual thin pieces of paper that one of his officers had written (in incredible, legible, handwritten pencil) which provided detailed, day-to-day accounts of their war - where they were; what they were doing; describing the weather conditions; outlining the casualties; recording names of heroes and the like.
I found the whole experience incredibly humbling. I’ve read bits and pieces about the Great War and I’ve obviously seen photographs and TV footage but, for the first time, got a real sense of its utter relentlessness and a little of what it must have felt like to have been “under fire”.
War was declared on 4 August 1914. My 17 year-old grandfather sailed from Dublin and arrived at Le Havre on 19 August as part of the initial Expeditionary Force…..
Photo: thought to be have been taken while on training in Ireland (Frank is fifth from left, middle row – looking relaxed and happy). I wonder how many of them survived?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

the national archives

Firstly, the apology… I DROVE to The National Archives at Kew today (and back!). Yes, I know this was COMPLETELY un-green but I wanted to be there at opening time (and then be able to get a quick get-away)! I went to The National Archives to try to find out a little more about my grandfather’s time in WW1 (more about that another time).
I have to say, I was REALLY impressed with the set-up.
The website is excellent and very helpful (and tells you what you need to think about before you arrange to visit). For example, in order to have access to its enormous catalogue of stuff (over 10million items apparently!), you need to get yourself a “Reader’s Ticket” (valid for three years)… easy peasy: fill in a form online and then just turn up; give them your postcode; they locate your details; then they take a photo (instantly, from the assistant’s computer camera and before you know they’ve taken it!) – apparently, it takes up to an hour for this normally - but they did it within 10 minutes for me at the start of the day.
Lots of brilliantly helpful people on hand… you get on to one of the dozens (hundreds even?) of computers… they give a desk number code (that you key in every subsequent time you want to use the computer)…. you request specific information (having checked it out in their various indexes) and then they deliver it to your mailbox (literally a big glass mailbox with your desk number on it) in the reading room – where you have your allocated desk for the entire day.
I want to go there again (in fact, it would be really good if they allowed you to camp out overnight in their car park)! There’s an excellent cafĂ©/canteen and, if you’re really keen, you can visit M+S in the neighbouring retail park!
I had a great day and it’s absolutely FREE (including the car park)
(note: getting there early was CRUCIAL!).
Photo: my reader’s card – complete with photo of startled old man!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

harbour festival

Despite a weather forecast for heavy rain showers, thousands of people crammed into the Bristol harbourside area yesterday for the 37th annual harbour festival – together with tall ships, bunting and an awful lot of other boats! I decided to cycle down just before 6pm on the basis that the crowds would have largely disappeared.
How wrong could I have been? … but there was a really good atmosphere and people were clearly enjoying themselves.
Photo: plastic chairs on the roof of your boat clearly ensures you don’t miss anything!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

ole gunnar solskjaer

As some of you will know, I don’t have a particularly high regard for many of today’s football “stars”. Some of them seem to be little more than greedy yobs. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, however, is in a different league.
Later today, Manchester United play Espanyol in a friendly game of no apparent consequence. It will attract over 60,000 fans. It is a testimonial game for Solskjaer, who retired last year due to a knee injury. It will probably raise £2million for him. I can almost hear you say: “It’s alright for some”!
But this man is different. Not only will he be giving all of the money raised to help build 10 schools in Africa with Unicef (Angola, Uganda and Mozambique), but he’s also vowed to make up any shortfall himself! “I went to Angola a few months ago and you could see clearly how much things were needed down there” he said. “It is about changing lives, helping kids get out of the poverty they are in and helping them to become doctors or teachers and able to improve their own communities”.
How amazing. How humbling.

Friday, August 01, 2008

man on wire

Went to the Watershed with Gareth this afternoon to see this amazing film (it’s only £3.50 if the film starts before 4pm!). It tells, in documentary format, the story of Philippe Petit’s tightrope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in August 1974 (as someone who is pretty petrified if he so much as looks out of a third floor window, you will no doubt appreciate this blogger’s bravery in just turning up to watch the film in the first place!).
It’s a wonderfully beautiful, joyous and poetic film which is both funny and poignant (when it showed at New York’s Tribecca festival a few weeks ago, audience members were moved to tears – which I can absolutely understand). The audience at the Watershed certainly seemed to enjoy it too!
I absolutely loved the film and would urge you to see it too.
PS: see this review from the BBC’s “Culture Show” blog.