Monday, 31 December 2007

A Seriously Cool Phone


Barley is using the iPhone to watch Sydney's New Year's fireworks on the internet.....

The iPhone is truly astonishing! It's probably the most sophisticated piece of electronic kit ever made. Not only is it slim, sleek and gorgeous to look at, but it handles perfectly and has the most amazing bright and clear touch-screen. Innovative touches abound, such as all one's SMS conversations with any individual being shown colour-coded on a single screen, with a similar scrolling screen for voice-mail messages. It makes my now defunct N95 seem like a stone-age tool, apart from the slightly slower-speed 2G internet, acquired as the result of lower US internet technology standards.

It was a cinch to set up and was working within 15 minutes of getting it out of the box (which was itself delivered the morning after being ordered from the Apple website). It syncs seamlessly with Outlook and one's contacts are shown in full, not in a cut-down version as in the N95. It's a revelation - and I'm sure I have only discovered half of what it can do!

Favourite Arias












Inessa Galante singing the Caccini Ave Maria.

Click on the heading to hear a recording taken with my camera from the new Phillips Home Theatre system

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Christmas in Seville


























Those from northern climes take great joy from seeing the sun in winter: Sevilla is beautiful, with skies as bright as Australia and laden orange trees lining every street. The hotel is a wonderful old relic, once the finest in Spain and now a 'Westin'. Superbly ornate public areas and spacious bedrooms and bathrooms but the poor waiters now bring you 'American coffee' when you ask for 'cafĂ© con leche' and there's a Starbucks right outside the gates (and two more within 200 yards of the cathedral…..).

The cathedral's a magnificent Gothic creation which started life as a mosque like Agia Sofia; the largest cathedral in Christendom (note that St Peter's is a 'basilica'), so huge that 'Notre Dame could walk the nave with her head bowed'. The reredos is the largest of any in the world. Nevertheless, midnight mass on Christmas Eve was a disappointment - too many priests and too few carols.

We spent many hours walking the city and gardens and loved the Alcazar Palace (thanks, Ian) of King Pedro the Cruel and his mistress Maria de Padilla who built it in the 1360's.


We didn't spot a single Don Juan aspirant despite expecting to defend Kei's honour… and couldn't stomach a bullfight and had Japanese food on Christmas Day to avoid a nine-course spread in the hotel. There is a separately owned Japanese restaurant - Kaede - in the hotel garden beside the swimming pool - a nice touch. Another welcome idea was a Martini-themed pavilion on the terrace outside the bar in which smoking was allowed and where 'le tout Sevilla' gatherered for tea and drinks in the afternoons. There we had the best Manhattans we had ever tasted and proper 'pan con tomate' - toasted bread rubbed with tomato.

Click on the heading to see what the girls descended to on Christmas Day...

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The London Eye



The London Eye, the old GLC Building, Westminster Bridge and St Thomas' - near to sunset on a clear winter's evening

Seeing this reminded me of trips on the Eye.



London Eye

Click the heading to see more photos of the Eye

Saturday, 8 December 2007

The Highway Code in 100 Words

Drive on the left. Make sure you can see and be seen. Keep a constant look out all around. Be aware of signs and regulations and why they are there. Be predictable. Recognise and anticipate danger and keep clear space from it. Always ensure that you can stop within the distance that you know is clear. Develop your skills. Give courtesy, co-operation and space to others. Don’t obstruct them. Never take risks, drive unfit or compete with others. Safety is paramount and far more important than priority. Take personal responsibility for your safety and the safety of those nearby.

This is so sensible that everyone should have a copy. Paul Smith is also a sane voice on the subject of speed and speed cameras. To see his website, click the heading

Christmas Scenes in London




Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Favourite Places in Winter and Summer


Stocks and Harvestgate in winter sunshine



Harvestgate Farm at harvest time. This is one of my first digital photos taken in 1998; the 100 acre field above Harvestgate.

Click the photos as they are better full size. Also click the heading for more photos of the downs at Stocks and Harvestgate

Friday, 23 November 2007

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Autumn



Trying hard to find the perfect image of a perfect autumn - but haven't found it yet!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Leave It Alone!

"In everything the wise man does not seek greater precision than the subject allows." - Aristotle

"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone" - Thoreau

Old Age

"I advise you to go on living solely to enrage those who are paying your annuities. It is the only pleasure I have left."

Voltaire

‘God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway; the good fortune to run into the ones I do - and the eyesight to tell the difference’

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Kei's Painting


Kei's painting of James - 'Recreation and Dream'.
Glad that her talent hasn't succumbed to her legal studies...

Thursday, 25 October 2007

China



This is the French-designed National Theatre in Beijing juxtaposed against the Great Hall of the People. Locals call it 'The Omlette'...






This is a new open-sided mall in Beijing called The Place. The 'roof' is made from the largest LCD screens in the world and is 250 yards long by 30 yards wide. Above you float blue wales and red planets to an awe-inspiring score. Take a seat in one of the cafes lining the mall and be astonished!

Try clicking the image to see it at a more lifelike size...

Favourite Places - Whitefield, Bangalore

Whitefield, Bangalore

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Lexus


Sorry, guys. It's not cool to talk about cars, but my 12 year old Lexus is a classic and just goes on getting better. Here, it's just had the Supagard treatment and looks like new. Maybe one day its value will go up, and not down....

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Sayings of Francois de La Rochefoucauld


Francois de la Rochefoucauld

Good advice is something a man gives when he is too old to set a bad example.

Before we set our hearts too much upon anything, let us examine how happy those are who already possess it.


A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire.

See also Lord Chesterfield's Letters to his Son on Becoming a Gentleman


Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman - Philip Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield

Philip Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield

“Choose your pleasures for yourself, and do not let them be imposed upon you. Follow nature and not fashion: weigh the present enjoyment of your pleasures against the necessary consequences of them, and then let your own common sense determine your choice.” 

“Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.” 


“There is time enough for everything, in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once; but there is not time enough in they year, if you will do two things at a time.” 


“Listen to everything that is said, and see everything that is done. Observe the looks and countenances of those who speak, which is often a surer way of discovering the truth than from what they say. But then keep all those observations to yourself, for your own private use, and rarely communicate them to others. Observe, without being thought an observer, for otherwise people will be upon their guard before you.” 

“The world is a country which nobody ever yet knew by description; one must travel through it one’s self to be acquainted with it.” 



Philip, Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield 
Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman'

Thursday, 27 September 2007

The Prius - An Amazing Car


Not everyone likes the Prius's looks, but it's actually an amazing car. It's well very built, comfortable and full of interesting touches - like the tiny gear lever on the dash and a single button to stop and park. It glides silently through the traffic and when it stops at the lights, you have to look at the dashboard to know that it's on at all. It's quick and responsive, with a tiny turning circle and a high driving position making it perfect for city driving. Altogether a most satisfying and relaxing car. And if you add its economic advantages - very low fuel consumption, no congestion charge, reduced cost parking permits, very low road tax and a high resale value, it's unbeatable. One of my friends bought one over a month ago - and he is still running it on its first tank of petrol!

Monday, 17 September 2007

La Rondine











One of my favourite operatic arias - Kiri Te Kanawa in the famous aria from Puccini's La Rondine - Chi il bel sogno di Doretta. Click the heading to hear a rough recording made after lunch from Philip Wetton's DVD.

For comparison - and for a more professional video of the singer, see Angela Gheorghiu's version here

Love



















Love, that is the first and last of all things made
The light that has the living world for shade
...
Love, that sounds loud or light in all men's ears,
Whence all men's eyes take fire from sparks of tears,
That binds on all men's feet or chains or wings;
Love, that is root and fruit of terrene things;
Love, that the whole world's waters shall not drown,
The whole world's fiery forces not burn down;
Love, that what time his own hands guard his head
The whole world's wrath and strength shall not strike dead;
Love, that if once his own hands make his grave
The whole world's pity and sorrow shall not save;
Love, that for very life shall not be sold,
Nor bought nor bound with iron nor with gold;
So strong that heaven, could love bid heaven farewell,
Would turn to fruitless and unflowering hell;
So sweet that hell, to hell could love be given,
Would turn to splendid and sonorous heaven;
Love that is fire within thee and light above,
And lives by grace of nothing but of love;
Through many and lovely thoughts and much desire
Led these twain to the life of tears and fire;
Through many and lovely days and much delight
Led these twain to the lifeless life of night.

Swinburne - Tristram and Iseult

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Favourite Places




A new one - St Emilion. No wonder it's a World Heritage Site




And every lovely spot needs a lovely hotel - and this has one of the best - the Hostellerie de Plaisance, at the base of the tower on top of St Emilion

Monday, 6 August 2007

Luxmoore's Garden


Luxmoore's Garden

My half-brother, Fuff, has some interesting ancestors including the Eton housemaster HE Luxmoore who created a lovely garden on Tangier island in the Thames just beside the Chapel. It's accessible only to masters and senior boys and retains its mystery and seclusion

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Favourite Places - Old Winchester Hill




Kei running up Old Winchester Hill with Stocks cottages behind her - harvest time 1993. Click here for another photo taken of the cottages (in 1998) from a similar viewpoint

Friday, 13 July 2007

Memorials

Litchfield Churchyard

And while we are about memorials, this inscription by Thomas Carew
on Lady Mary Wentworth's tomb has always seemed to me to be an
admirable way to be remembered

Good to the poor, to kindred dear
To servants kind, to friendship clear
To nothing but herself severe


But click the heading for a short biography of Mary Wentworth and
wonder if she quite merited this epitaph

War Memorials

The War Cloister at Winchester College


A beautiful war poem, inscribed on the War Cloisters at Winchester College:

Polliciti Meliora
As one who, gazing on a vista
Of beauty, sees the clouds close in,
And turns his back in sorrow, hearing
The thunderclouds begin,

So we, whose life was all before us,
Our hearts with sunlight filled,
Left in the hills our books and flowers,
Descended, and were killed.

Write on the stone no words of sadness -
Only the gladness due,
That we, who asked the most of living,
Knew how to give it too.

Frank Thompson (Coll, 1933-1938)*
Click the heading for more photos from the War Cloisters

On a war memorial in a British cemetery on the island of Vis in the Adriatic

Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is, and we were young.


AE Houseman

Then Abraham bound the lad with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son -
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.


Wilfred Owen

Only a man harrowing clods
In a slow silent walk
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk.

Only thin smoke without flame
From the heaps of couch-grass;
Yet this will go onward the same
Though dynasties pass.

Yonder a maid and her wight
Come whispering by:
War's annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.


Thomas Hardy - At Time of 'The Breaking of Nations'

*Thompson volunteered although under age and was commissioned in the Royal Artillery in 1940, subsequently serving in the GHQ Liaison Regiment in Libya, Persia, Iran and Sicily. Parachuted into Yugoslavia, he was ambushed in May 1944 with a group of Bulgarian partisans near Sofia. Although he was wearing uniform when captured, he was treated as a spy. 'Tried' at Litakovo, he defended himself in fluent Bulgarian condemning Fascism. He was shot on 10 June 1944. Thompson had a working knowledge of nine European languages. This poem compares with the best of the First World War. The title is Latin, and means 'having promised better things'.

History of the Peloponnesian War

Pericles


For of the Gods we believe, and of men we know, that by a law of their nature, wherever they can rule they will. This law was not made by us, and we are not the first to have acted upon it; we did but inherit it and shall bequeath it to all time, and we know that you and all mankind, if you were as strong as we, would do as we do.

Thucydides - History of the Peloponnesian War - The Athenians to the Melians