Annual Blogger’s Bash Awards

Just a reminder… Sacha Black is organising the first Annual Blogger’s Bash in London on August 1st. Lots of favourite bloggers will be there. you can find out more on Sacha’s site by clicking the highlighted link…

… and  why not nominate some of your favourite bloggers for one of the Annual Blogger’s Bash Awards?


Nominations cover six awards… Best Overall Blog, Funniest Blog, Most Inspiring Blog, Best Dressed Blog, Most Informative Blog and the Services to Bloggers Award.

Nominations are open for blogs worldwide until the deadline on 8th July 6pm BST.

Voting for the nominees will then be open for two weeks.

Visit Sacha to find out more… and join the party!

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… a thousand words?

"NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise" by NASA / Bill Anders - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Earthrise : NASA: Bill Anders

I was reading an article that tells how much a picture can attract our attention. The inclusion of a single image can increase the likelihood of someone stopping to read an article, sharing it or, indeed, making it go viral. It isn’t difficult to understand why… an image needs no words to convey a message. It has no language barrier…. And, in this day when we all read onscreen, skimming most of the content, according to all the research rather than carefully reading each word, images appeal to our need for speed. Interesting, of course, but as usual, it got me thinking. In itself the words called up images in my own mind that sparked of a whole other train of thought.

In one of those random moments, I realised that if I were but an image of myself, I would hate to live in a photo frame, no more than a two dimensional representation, bounded by straight edges and right angles of rigidity. I’d rather be a movie. Even that lacks the extraordinary depth of life. Yet it is through images that we learn about our world… visual representations registered by our own eyes, non-visual ‘images’ formed by our other senses, or even those scenes painted by imagination on the screen of the mind..

I take a lot of pictures… you may have noticed. I am not alone in that. We take them for a variety of reasons… perhaps to capture a magical memory, document a trip, or to share the wonder I feel in this beautiful world. Sometimes I film videos… sweeping panoramas, or the antics of a small dog, maybe… yet neither photograph nor film can ever truly catch the essence of a moment. They lack the depth, the dimensions brought to an instant by emotion. They do not catch the scent of a rose or the subliminal buzzing of life in a meadow. They cannot capture the taste of salt spray on your lips or the wind in your hair… or the warmth of a baby’s fingers clutching yours.

Professionals, and those gifted amateurs who have a real feel for photography, can capture something that conveys the idea of those feelings, often so sublimely that they evoke a deep response. A smile for the cute kitten whose fur looks so soft… a yearning for a much loved place… the tenderness known only by the heart. They evoke, beautifully, poignantly, but they can only be an impression of experience.

Yet some of those images change the world. Few who recall the BBC images from Biafra in the 60s will ever forget them. They brought home to us, quite literally as we sat down to dinner with the TV in the corner, the plight of children starved to little more than skin and bone. It changed the way we thought. It changed the way we chose to believe in the world.

Adverts… Shots of movie stars that change fashions. The Earthrise picture taken from the moon… Mother Theresa, Churchill, Picasso… iconic figures and defining moments, both good and tragic, that delight, shock or move the world to action. Images of beauty and destruction have altered our view and our stance on ecology, far faster than a mere governmental report or two could do.

Images can unite us. Princess Diana, Kennedy, 9/11… when the world stood still and watched… People and governments have been galvanised to respond to tragedy worldwide. Images change things.

In the same way, our governments have always used imagery to change public opinion, a legal technique of mass manipulation…propaganda or censorship, often imposed ‘for our own protection’. I think of the images of the bombing of Hiroshima My mother had an old film projector and footage of the Enola Gay and the mushroom cloud. I remember watching it when I was young and being told of the destruction. Yet, for a quarter of a century the full picture was hidden and we were only permitted to see the material devastation, not the human horror of atomic warfare. Why? Because it was too horrific… and besides, they were still making atomic weapons… Such footage could change our minds. Yet the Allied governments felt able to show newsreel footage of the atrocities perpetrated by our enemies in that same war. The history we were shown was the truth, perhaps… but not the whole truth. But images ensured we felt the way we ‘should’.

At the other end of the scale there are the less warlike pursuits. Meditation techniques, like those we use in the Silent Eye, that draw images in the mind, bringing an understanding that is experiential, even though it is lived only in the mind.. The symbolism of our varied faiths sustains us on a personal level.. from the dove to the star; the statue of Buddha, the pentagram or an icon of the Madonna… Not in themselves objects of worship, but images of something too great to constrain in physical form, but which we can understand when imagination speaks to the heart. Such things use imagery to bring peace to the individual…and yet can be misappropriated to inflame a nation to war.

Artists of all kinds… writers, photographers, and filmmakers, poets, sculptors and musicians…you… we… create images, born of observation and imagination. That word itself says it all. We have the power to shape reality for those who find our work. There is a responsibility that goes with that. Whatever world we shape speaks to the imagination of others. We may seek only to record. Or to entertain and amuse. Perhaps we teach, question or educe. It doesn’t matter. Whatever we create carries something from the deepest levels of our own being out into the world. We cannot take responsibility for what the minds of others do with our work… once it has been set free, our creation responds only to those who look, read or listen. The responsibility we have lies in our intent and where, within ourselves, we create from… and why .

Posted in Art, Blogging, Film, History, Photography, war, writing | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Quoted words…III

P1050673Melinda included me in the three quote challenge, to post a quote every day for three days. This is the third and final day and, as Stuart and I are in the process of publishing ‘Scions of Albion’, I thought it appropriate to quote from the new book…


The other thing to emphasise here is that Brean Down is now peopled with goats.

“Shouldn’t that be animated by goats?” says Wen.
“No, not really, they are definitely people wearing goat skins.”
“Ahem,” says Wen and laughs. “Do you think that is where the story tellers of old got the notion of bird and animal skins from in their fairy stories?”
“Metempsychosis – the soul beyond time… It may well have come from such a sentiment, perhaps, or vice-versa but it is not just prevalent in fairy tales, it’s in the mythological cycles too.”
“Which later became fairy tales…and there are ravens too.”
“There are ravens too, lots of them, which all in all makes for a very special and magical place.”
“Very special and magical,” agrees Wen. “I knew it would be when we exited the church at the foot of Brent Knoll to find a deer wandering about in the lane.”
“You know I’d quite forgotten about that. So many incredible things happen these days that I am becoming quite blasé about the most extraordinary things.”



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There is only joy when the world wears a rainbow, tears fall for beauty

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Independence Day… and what it means to me

Nick today

Today is my son’s sixth birthday… he is thirty one years old.

I ought, perhaps, to clarify. It is the 4th July. What, to the US, is Independence Day, was long ago renamed in our household as Nick’s re-birthday. And in that simple prefix lies a story of hope.

Many readers are aware of my son’s story; stabbed through the brain and left for dead in a Bournemouth alley on July 4th 2009. The injuries were so severe that a murder investigation was underway before we had reached the hospital. He was not expected to survive, and needed immediate surgery to remove shards of bone from the brain, where the force of the blow had driven them. Nick had been in the deepest level of coma since the attack. It would be weeks before he woke, weeks when his vital signs were dangerous and the pressure inside his skull, from swelling and bleeding, was so high we were given no hope.

As his body healed, the risk of death from the immediate injury began to recede, though there were still many complications that could have taken him from us. The fear was, in some ways, even worse then, knowing that with luck, he would live… but how? We were warned that his memory, cognitive abilities, logic, and language would, given the site of the initial injury he sustained, all be irrevocably impaired. Everything, in fact, that made my son who he was. Then, in a cruel twist, a scan showed the damage to have been far worse that had at first been believed. And that was without the continuing secondary damage as his brain swelled.

What we were warned would be the most likely outcome was, it seemed, a fate worse than death. My biggest fear for my son was that he would retain awareness in a body that could no longer function, unable to communicate, or express the being that dwells within. Unable to be Nick.

That, we were told, was very, very likely. And there was no more they could do.

My son, however, had other ideas.

“You have a miracle on your hands,” said the internationally renowned doctor, grinning like a schoolboy and catching me in a bear hug I will never forget. Nick, even at this early stage, had shown he was still in there and fighting his way back.

I have told elsewhere of those days… today is not about how I felt, but about what my son has achieved… and what he is going to do with it.

It was a long, long journey. Victories came daily, but they were often so small…infinitesimally small… that only those constantly present would notice, or begin to appreciate their magnitude. And it wasn’t for want of trying.

I have never, ever, seen anyone work so hard. Even before he was discharged from hospital he had added a strenuous set of exercises to his daily regime to supplement the rehab he was getting. Strenuous in the extreme… and all to be able to lift a glass of water or a one kilo weight. It is unimaginable, and impossible to describe, how hard that was, with a body that had woken half paralysed and completely uncoordinated.

Eventually, after six months in various hospitals, he was able to come home. Rest? No. From the moment he woke to the time he went to sleep there were exercises, home-made speech therapy, innovative ideas to target his problems, not the generic ones catered for by manufacturers. There were the ‘reins’ made from pipe lagging and luggage straps. Footholders made from ice-cream tubs. You don’t want to know what we did to the yoga mat… Double sided tape, children’s toys, Dr Seuss books to read aloud, video games… anything at all that could target an area that refused to work. Gadgetry we could adapt or ‘misuse’ to serve Nick’s need… It was constant… up to sixteen hours a day, every day. And all the while learning about the brain, the nervous system and anything else we could think of that might possibly… no matter how farfetched… serve to help recovery.

And why? Given the prognosis… given the obvious damage…? Because we had hope. And we refused to stop believing.

That, of course, was wholly unrealistic.

The medical profession had long since made it clear there was little more they could offer to help things get better. They could only help maintain what he had gained. Since that time there has been steady progress. Slow, tiny… but every day.

Our belief was not based on logic. Our hope had no root in cold, hard facts. We recognised them, knowing that every day could be ’it’… that limit of recovery beyond which it was not possible to pass. We acknowledged the damage, the likelihood of any further recovery.

Optimism need not be blind… it can see quite clearly, but simply chooses belief in a better outcome and works towards it.

Today my son lives in his own home… a rather swish place he named Possum Palace, after the tattoo he indulged in to mark his determination… It says, ‘possum ergo facit’… ‘I can, therefore I do’.

And he does.

Nick is currently working with the Royal Bucks Hospital, close to his home, having decided he needed professional input to get him through the last steps towards his first steps… and the staff at this private facility have been incredible. The hospital has also enlisted my son to help them with a project designed to encourage hope in others with similar challenges to face. This is something Nick is passionate about. To listen to him when he speaks about it is to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the fluency comes from a mind utterly intact, even though the brain itself may still need work.

There is more to recovery than just getting body and brain back online. There does need to be an acceptance that there will be limits… but that doesn’t mean they cannot be pushed or surpassed, nor does it mean that a way cannot be found to achieve a goal in unorthodox fashion. There must also be an acceptance of what is… it is all too easy to look back on what was and what has been lost. Nick seldom looks back… he is too busy appreciating the beauty in the world, a beauty he failed to see as a successful young businessman. He doesn’t even look back at how far he has come, not unless someone or something means he has to… and then I hope, he is just as amazed as the rest of us at what he has achieved.

We talk sometimes about the way this apparent tragedy had brought unexpected gifts… and there are many. How many of us wish there was a ‘reset’ button on life to give us a second chance? July 4th 2009 was a reboot… ‘a beginning,’ he says, ‘not an ending…’ I rather think he is going to make the most of it. So far, he isn’t doing too badly ;)

Happy re-birthday, Nick!


You can read more of Nick’s story on the blog, or better still, rad his own words by clicking the links:

Possum ergo Facit

Aim for the Moon

I wouldn’t change a thing

Other than my voice

Waste no more time

May Day Magic

Posted in Life, Nick Verron, Surviving brain injury | Tagged , , , , | 43 Comments

Quoted words…II

Rivington meeting (16)

…On gaining the Ridgeway, I make Wen laugh by starting to talk about ley-lines. According to Alfred Watkins, the Ridgeway is not itself a ley, but is crossed a countless number of times by them along the whole of its length, which even today is quite some considerable distance. The ancient track certainly has a magical feel to it which may or may not be synonymous with the term High Way. We look back at where we have been and Wen takes a snap of Uffington from the track. The raised edges of the henge are still just about visible from here, if you know what you are looking for. If there were a castle built to scale inside the circumference of the henge, it would be absolutely immense and more than capable of comfortably housing a whole company of giants! There is a serious point here, because Wen thinks that Uffington and Wayland’s are part of the same ritual site. The ability to think coherently on such a scale within the landscape itself is simply staggering but completely in keeping with what we are coming to realise about these folk.

‘Verily, verily I say unto you, find the path and stay on it.’

‘Verily, verily I say unto you, find the path and stay on it.’

If anything, the feathered activity around us has now increased to yet another level and, as we walk, it is difficult not to be both aware of and amused by the number of birds, singly and in two’s and threes, which accompany us, scooting from bush to bush, trilling their encouragement and then tweeting their goodbyes as another couple or trio take up our escort. I do not know too many avian tales but I am reminded of a Jacques Tati film that I saw many years ago. He and his sidekick spent virtually the whole film wandering the wilderness, being stalked by a talking Raven which they were forever attempting to be rid of. The Raven agreed to leave them alone if they accepted their Hero Quest, which they finally agreed to and which it turned out was to discover how sparrows communicate. Our two loveable clowns succeeded! After many hours of studying the movement of the birds they eventually came to realise that the sparrows were communicating with each other not by singing or tweeting or using their vocal chords at all, but by hopping! Cue shots of Jacques and his sidekick hopping and jumping about from European city to European city, amongst the various flocks of sparrows at these locations… Comic Genius!
“I know now…”
“What to do you now know?”
“I know what the quest is?”
“How do you know what the quest is?”
“A little bird told me…”
“The quest is always the same from age to age.”
“…Find the path… and stay on it!’…”

Extract from “The Initiate” – Sue Vincent & Stuart France

Thanks again to Melinda for including me in this challenge.

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Opportunist thief, forgiven for his beauty, caught in broad daylight,

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On ducks and weather…

Bakewell Imbolc 001 (14)

There is a saying here in England, ‘nice weather for ducks’. It is generally used only when it rains, of course. We have it wrong. Summer is nice weather for ducks… they certainly have the best of it, being able to plonk themselves in a nice, cool river and let the water carry away the heat.

We don’t do weather well in England. Which is odd, because, on the whole and barring the disastrous and tragic exceptions of major weather events, we live in a very moderate climate. In winter the country can grind to halt with a few inches of snow. We complain when it rains, then preen ourselves on the beauty of our green and pleasant land… and grumble about hosepipe bans when it doesn’t rain.

north meeting 046

And then there is summer, brief though it may be. Midsummer saw temperatures here lower than the midwinter temperatures in parts of Australia. With some justification, therefore, we complain about still wearing woollies and turning the heating back on. Then we have the ludicrous situation of leaving for work wearing a jumper in the freezing dawn, only to have the sun come out and cook the country. It was borne home on Wednesday when the temperatures soared. Half the population shed clothing and bared tender flesh to the sun, many, with such unaccustomed exposure, rapidly turning a nice shade of scarlet. Others headed for the shade, closed the curtains and like vampires or trolls, fearing the kiss of the sun.

Bakewell Imbolc 001 (18)
I am of the latter bunch… and, let me make this clear once and for all, I am the only person allowed draw comparisons between my person and that of a troll… Others may do so… at least one probably will… but they do so at their peril…

I could, of course, simply complain about the humidity of summer heat in this country. That is a common favourite. I might mention the fact that fair skin burns… except mine doesn’t as a rule. I could fall back on the consequences of the exploding coffee pot, or the misbehaving extremities… which all give me a perfect excuse for staying out of the sun…

But the truth is, I don’t like it. Not when it gets that hot. I feel as if I’m frying. Melting. And, enrobed in a certain percentage of fat, I find it extremely unfair that in this heat… I don’t.
Put me high on a northern hilltop, however, and I am perfectly happy, no matter what the weather. The exhilaration of a thunderstorm or a windy day, hail, sun, rain or snow… Which is just as well, as that is where I am going for the weekend, and all of those have been forecast apart from the snow. So whatever the weather decides to throw at the hills, I’m guessing the ducks won’t mind. And besides… we have a book to publish :)

north meeting 036

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Dance of the Giants

Originally posted on Stuart France:

Dance of Giants1


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Barbecue days

sheffield book weekend 054

Moving in slow motion,
Reluctant effort spawning sleep
Before midday.
Soporific humming
Through open windows
Signals summer.
Only the flies are happy,
Making friends with flesh
Ensuring wakefulness.
Cloistered madness yawns,
Stretching fur-clad limbs
This is the time
For tennis balls
And Hot Dogs…

dawg 003

 Every year many dogs die from heatstroke. They cannot regulate their body temperature in the same way a human can. Even just a ‘warm’ day can prove fatal… a parked car with an interior temperature of 22 degrees may rise to 47 degrees within an hour. Even with ventilation, dogs suffer and die.

It isn’t just dogs at risk. Protect your pets. More info at the RSPCA website by clicking this link.

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