A visit to the Spelga dam, County Down, Northern Ireland

April 8th, 2019

Visiting St Patrick in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland: 17th March 2019

March 30th, 2019

On Sunday 17th March 2019, there was only once place to go. Downpatrick in County Down where history says he is buried by where the cathedral now stands. They had a parade and festivities.

Visiting Annalong harbour, County Down, Northern Ireland

March 27th, 2019

The rather beautiful harbour at Annalong boasts a beautiful stone quay and also an old cornmill. And the town has several well-regarded restaurants.

Looking across the border to the Republic of Ireland

March 18th, 2019

To many, if not most, British politicians, indeed to most people who live in the United Kingdom, the border that crosses the of Ireland is just an idea. To some it’s irrelevant and just doesn’t matter. It’s basically just a complex political problem.

But is also real. And I’m spending some time in Northern Ireland this year, and I can see it from my digs. It’s out there, somewhere in Carlingford Lough.


An example of why Amazon is winning against eBay

March 6th, 2019

We were looking at small desks online and identical items are available for sale on both eBay and Amazon. These identical desks, for reference, are the first of this specific products offered under the search ‘small desk’.

Here are the two offerings to compare and contrast:

And on Amazon:

A few things leap out. Firstly, the price. The Amazon desk is nearly half the price. But eBay offers free postage! Amazon postage is £6.95 and delivers to the whole of the UK (including Northern Ireland, which is important in this case.) The Amazon item also has reviews, if not universally positive and also an experienced seller and the confidence that they are stiffer on seller standards than eBay. (On eBay this seller has only 6 reviews in the past month or so.)

Which one would you buy?

Another vintage Postcard of El Puerto de Mazarron, Murcia, Spain

March 5th, 2019

I’d say that this new postcard is very much a companion to the previous one I published here.

It shows PDM before the major redevelopment of the harbour area so I estimate the date as late 1970s/early 1980s. The loggia in the image is now gone. Thankfully the Puerto de Mazarron skyline hasn’t (really) risen too much either in that time.

#37shadesofshakespeare Macbeth from Filter Theatre at the Vaults, London

March 5th, 2019

My Facebook review of Macbeth at the Vaults in London from Filter theatre in 2015.

#37shadesofshakespeare It’s a long way from the rarefied reverence of Stratford to the squalid, graffitied tunnel underneath Waterloo station where Filter theatre staged Macbeth at the Vaults last Friday.

#37shadesofshakespeare Time and Space coordinates

February 26th, 2019

In 2014 and 2015 I set out on an odyssey to see the traditional Shakespeare canon in a year. This is an aide memoire, mostly for me, of where I saw the plays. Did you see any of them too?

1) 27/11/14: Julius Ceasar, Lewes Town Hall

2) 23/12/14: The Winter’s Tale, Lion & Unicorn Theatre, London

3) 5/1/15: The Merchant of Venice, Almeida Theatre, London

4) 15/1/15: Othello, Lyric theatre, Hammesmith, London

5) 17/1/15: King Henry IV part 1, Barbican, London

6) 17/1/15, King Henry IV part 2, Barbican, London

7) 21/1/15: King Lear, Guildford Shakespeare Society, Guildford

8) 23/1/15: Hamlet, New Venture Theatre, Brighton

9) 5/2/15: Love’s Labours Lost, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford on Avon

10) 5/2/15: Much Ado About Nothing, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford on Avon

11) 7/2/15: Henry V, Arts Theatre, Cambridge

12) 13/2/15: Macbeth, The Vaults, Waterloo, London

13) 5/3/15: Henry VI part 1, Bronks Theatre, Brussels, Belgium

14) 5/3/15: Henry VI part 2, Bronks Theatre, Brussels, Belgium

15) 6/3/15: Henry VI part, Bronks Theatre, Brussels, Belgium

16) 28/3/15: Cymbeline, Waterloo East Theatre, London

17) 24/4/15: Antony and Cleopatra, Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

18) 2/5/15: Titus Andronicus, Greenwich Theatre, London

19) 3/5/15: Two Gentlemen of Verona, Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Theatre, London

20) 13/5/15: Coriolanus, Pavilion Gardens, Brighton

21) 13/5/15: Romeo and Juliet, Brighton Open Air Theatre, Hove

22) 15/5/15: The Taming of the Shrew, Friargate Theatre, York

23) 16/5/15: Timon of Athens, The De Grey Rooms, York

24) 29/5/15: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, St Ann’s Wells Gardens, Brighton

25) 11/6/15: King John, Shakespeare’s Globe, London

26) 2/7/15: Twelfth Night, Lewes Castle, Lewes

27) 17/7/15: Troilus and Cressida, Highdown Gardens, Worthing

28) 31/7/15: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Cambridge Shakespeare Festival. Cambridge

29) 5/8/15: Richard III, Curve Theatre, Leicester

30) 7/8/15: The Tempest, Brownsea Open Air Theatre, Poole. Dorset.

31) 21/8/15:  All’s Well that Ends Well, the Space @ Niddry Street, Edinburgh

32) 1/9/15: As You Like It, Shakespeare’s Globe, London

33) 27/9/15: The Comedy of Errors, Globe Theatre di Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy

34) 8/10/15: Richard II, Shakespeare’s Globe, London

35) 17/10/15: Measure for Measure, Shakespeare’s Globe, London

36) 18/10/15: Henry VIII: Grand Central, Brighton

37) 21/10/15 Pericles: Thomas Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, USA

Vintage Postcard: El Puerto de Mazarron, Murcia, Spain

February 25th, 2019

Here is an old postcard showing El Puerto de Mazarron (which I tend to call PDM or the port) in the Murcia region of Spain. I’ve spent a fair whack of time here in the past year and more.

More knowledgeable people than me will know the rough date. I estimate the 1980s. It is taken from the promontory which is the site of the lighthouse (and the bar restaurant El Faro – lighthouse) not so far from the figure of Christ that looks down on the town. (Although this maybe B.C. in terms the statue.)

To get your bearings, if you know the place, you can pick out the St Isabel tower in the middle distance behind the white block. Obviously the harbour developments have yet to be made and that bit of the marina promenade where you find Viggos has yet to be laid. Indeed, although PDM has escaped the worst of hellish high rises, this image shows quite how small and sleepy the place was not so very long ago.

The Bahia area of town looks largely undeveloped and is maybe still salt pans/mining at this point. I don’t think development there started until the middle to late 1980s. The indoor market (near the health centre and library) isn’t visible.

One building that tantalises me is the arched loggia right on the waterfront which was probably for the fisherman and is now lost. Please do share any information or thoughts and memories you have.

Thoughts on the NHS on the occasion of its 70th Birthday

February 21st, 2019

Last summer I was in hospital for 23 nights, some of it on the critical care ward. I was discharged on the eve of the NHS’s 70th birthday in July. I recorded my thoughts a few days after a few days at home:

23 days later. And I’m out of hospital and recuperating away from the joy of the ward, noisy night rounds, upset patients and airless rooms on hot, hot days.

I wish the NHS a happy 70th. It remains a noble idea and the treatment I received, at no expense to me at the point of delivery, was excellent. The NHS is a noble principle. The best of the staff are world class professionals delivering way beyond expectations. The NHS is held together by the sheer force of their will and our belief in an ideal.

But as a nation we are being dishonest with ourselves about the future of the NHS. It cannot persist in its current form and the funding mechanisms cannot sustain it. We need, as a nation like in response to the Beveridge report, reassess what we want from an NHS.

Labour and Tory narratives are both deceitful and misleading. The Tories are wrong to seek almost universal privatisation and yet Labour are also wrong to oppose it wholesale. Different providers can cheerfully coexist and serve patients. And that can include private companies, coops, third sector and community interest companies etc. Labour must also stop being so proprietorial over the NHS. Yes. A Labour achievement. The party’s greatest. But it doesn’t own the NHS. For the majority of 70 years we’ve had Conservative govts and the NHS is still here.

And funding. Yup, we pay in. You may pay in a lot. You may feel you pay too much. But you likely don’t pay in anywhere near enough. See also state pensions and adult social care.

So I thank the NHS for my life, its love and the care her staff have given me and the 70 years so far as our British civic religion and national touchstone. But big brains, and big hearts, and shrewd people need to work out how we can say the same in 70 years time.

A visit to Seaford Museum

February 13th, 2019

Eclectic is an overused word but when describing the collection at the Seaford Museum is is scarcely adequate. Eccentric, haphazard, curious and nostalgic, even bizarre, all apply too.

You can find Seaford Museum in a disused Martello Tower on the beachfront there. Inside you will discover stone age tools found locally, curiosities such as a mummified frogs, old computers, household appliances of yesteryear and an array (of sometimes rather comical) of historic tableaux.

It only costs a few quid to get in and is well worth some of your time. One of the hidden gems of Sussex.

Sussex Churches: St Peter’s Firle, East Sussex

February 12th, 2019

It was a beautiful sunny spring day with a wedding due to happen at the chunky, fascinating church in Firle (or West Firle as it is formally known). In the churchyard you’ll see the graves of Vanessa and Clive Bell.

St Bartholomews and the Open Market site, Brighton in 2012

February 9th, 2019

I unearthed some old images from 2012 when cleaning up my computer and they show St Bartholomew’s church in Brighton during the demolition of the old open market. It shows the big church a different view that has since disappeared again.

I also dimly recall that there was a pink marble bollard at the Level entrance of the old Open Market. It isn’t there any more. Whatever happened to it?

Sussex Churches: All Saints, Laughton, East Sussex

February 8th, 2019

The sturdy church at Laughton in East Sussex isn’t particularly ancient, but it enjoys a peaceful setting and 13th century architectural origins. Of particular interest are the many memorials to the Pelham family.

And that connection is why it has the surprising distinction of being the burial site of two British Prime Ministers: two Pelhams who served in office in the middle of the 18th century. Although, neither could be considered particularly ‘memorable’ First Lords of the Treasury.

The first was Henry Pelham, MP for Sussex, PM from 1743 to 1754. He was succeeded by his brother Thomas Pelham-Holles, the 1st Duke of Newcastle who served a total of six years in two separate terms. Both were Whigs.