Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bass Rock

One more picture. Still editing, most of the shots are heading for the bin, as you need to shoot hundreds in that environment to get a few decent ones -but this is not too bad.

The beat goes on

This is just a mental meander, so be warned!

Yesterday I was at a conference for the charity I work with, it mentors young black, ethnic minority people to help them access training, education and work. It was our AGM, but it was combined with a celebration of the organisation managing to secure further funding. We had reps from major political parties and local authorities and the Scottish Parliament, it's funny how willing they all are to show up when there's an election on!
And we had dancing from Nepal, the Ivory Coast and and piece of musical dedicated to Nelson Mandela and some bhangra. The most touching moment came from a young African who is studying at Edinburgh University, he said he wished he'd found us sooner, because he'd spent Christmas Day all on his own and had never known such loneliness and he had known about us he knows would not have been alone. It was a really good day, and all the better when my wee piece to conference was over.

This morning I worked in the garden, and at one point I was sowing some seeds, and stuffed my hand in a bag of compost, only to think, "that's a squishy piece!" then I looked I realised I had a big fat toad on my hand - I don't know who got the bigger fright!

Brunch followed and I read the piece in the Herald about poet John Giorno. The article features some of his text poems and I really enjoyed them. I think I'm veering towards shorter and shorter poems, that may be a sad reflection on me, but I don't feel like I have the time or patience for longwinded things any more.

Anyway here are three Giorno inspired poems:




Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Thanks to Savannah for this:


Apparently Wikipedia are still grappling with people sabotaging their entries - the obvious ones are of course the political entries, Bush et al, but the entry for stingray has also been amended to show that "they hate Australians". Bad taste I know, but in a world with little left to chuckle at I can see why people enjoy being anarchic!

Nieves gave me the gift of a facial massage, bless her. So I'm going to book some time to be pampered.

Son's off to Glasgow today to do the tour round a couple of universities there. He's had to sort out his train timetables etc, and it's been a treat watching him do it, rather than have him paging the resident taxi service! And he cooked me a lovely meal, although progress was painfully slow, and I had to stop myself from stepping in - a bad trait of mine!

This is forsythia shouting Spring - I'd like to write something about being jaundiced with this particular shade of yellow, but it's certainly hard to ignore.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Happy birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me

Well my pressie to self, a new to me second hand lens off e-bay, has yet to arrive, but so far I've got a CD from a friend in the States, and earrings from my husband and a CD and the promise to cook dinner from my son, plus the odd cheque from my in-laws, which will go towards the lens.

Here's a bit of Snoopy dancing to celebrate!


Monday, March 26, 2007

My birthday tomorrow

Not a significant one, other than it will be almost 5 years since my cancer was first diagnosed.

In the scheme of things 5 years doesn't seem a very long time, but to cancer patients it has a special significance as "survival" is defined as living for five years after the original diagnosis!

So I'm about to become an offical survivor, although breast cancer knows no such boundary and recurrence can occur years afterwards - the latest one I know of is seventeen years. I will remain on medication until at least the end of next year, and possibly beyond that depending on what drug options evolve in the interim.

So I'm very, very happy to chalk up another year, although it is still hard to look forward with any great confidence, but Nieves (who lives with Stage 4 incurable cancer) has taught me to keep sticking things in the diary and then when they appear on the horizon to just get on and do them.

I'm also proud that I've finally taken some risks in my life, whatever happens now I will never have cause to say, "If only......."

I may not be as well off as I once was, but I am richer than I've ever been.

And most importantly of all I've got my son from thirteen to eighteen, and I can't put into words what that means. He is infuriating, but that's good too, because it means he feels confident enough to rebel.

I'm also sad for the women I've known who haven't been so lucky. It is a long list, and they all tried very hard not to leave. So I feel I must try for them too, as to do otherwise would mean nothing has been be gained from this experience.

Anyway must dash, housework to be done and Nieves' garden to tidy.

Here's another gannet shot from yesterday


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Springing forward

I hate losing an hour's sleep, I get little enough of it anyway, but I suppose it's a price worth paying for knowing that another winter has been left at the backdoor.

Yesterday I did the Bass Rock trip, so I was up really early having hardly slept in case I slept-in and literally missed the boat.

We took a boat out of Dunbar, and we were a motley crew, two prize winning photographers, plus our two pro judges, a bunch of volunteers going out to cut back the dreaded "tree mallow" (a huge thug of a plant that was introduced to the Bass Rock around the 17th century, when there were people living on Rock, some voluntarily and others not, and the plant was probably used to make medicinal poultices. Now it forms a mini forest that the puffins can't handle)and some Seabird Centre staff who were going out to fix one of the remote cameras and do a broadcast to media on the mainland in aid of the protest against more oil transportation up the Firth of Forth.

The sea was rough, due to the influences of current lunar activity the Forth is experiencing big tidal surges, but it was hoped that by approaching from the south we could run with them.

In the event we got out there, and even though the tide was falling the power in the water was causing 30 ft waves to smash round the corner of the Rock onto the landing station and it simply wasn't safe to land. So we turned to Plan B, which entailed feeding the gannets three boxes of fish, and photographing the feeding frenzy that ensued. This wasn't easy for me, as handholding a big camera, even with a stabilising lens is very tiring, especially due to my surgery, and you also had to allow for the huge rise and fall of the boat. Plus my camera is not the sort of sports job that has a high buffering action to write files across to the memory card while taking x shots per sec. Paparazzi I'm not! But it was still a huge thrill to see these amazing birds dive bomb into the sea 20/30 ft from the boat.

I'm a bit battered and bruised from wedging myself against the side of the boat, and I doubt I got anything remotely good as it's a type of photography I've little or no experience of, but it was certainly an adrenalin rush! As was landing back on the mainland as the tide was out and we had to land outside the harbour, on the harbour wall, and the boat was rising and falling 20ft! I was glad to get off as the fishermen had started cooking their breakfast in the cabin, and sliced sausage mixed with raw fish is not a smell that a stomach takes to when it's been on something akin to a big dipper ride.

I really enjoyed talking to Laurie Campbell, his knowledge of Scottish wildlife, and his gentle stories about the hours he spends capturing his shots - his latest being in a hide overnight for nights on end to catch snipe rising at dawn - were just spell-binding.

I've loads to edit, but this is a gannet about to slice the water.Click on it to see a bigger view. The highlights on the birds are not great,but the metering was really challenging due to the strong sunlight, reflections, contrasts etc, etc. I'm no wildlife photographer, that's for sure, but seeing how it's done was really interesting.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Royalty free photos

This is a book cover design a graphic designer has sent me to get approval for the use of my photograph. They've used a shot of a crow in flight that I posted on - the royalty free site that I put some of my early digital stuff on. It was a snatched shot against a grey sky, but when edited it looked like an isolation shot on a white background and it's been used for lots of things.

This is a lovely interweaving of lots of bird shots. I wonder what the book is about?

This is a copyrighted design, so I'll maybe wipe it in a day or two.

Oh and BTW the book is now listed on Amazon UK, just do a search for Peeling Onions or Anna K Dickie. I'd post a link but it seems to give all my stuff on the tabs when I do, and I'm not sure if it would do that for you!?


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Dream Academy

Life in a Northern Town. I absolutely love this song and it's available again on i-tunes


On the way to the beach yesterday I dropped in to see my friend Debs and she let me try out her Garageband software. I'm going to do a podcast/CD of Peeling Onions.
Anyway it was really good fun, the software allows the import of the equivalent of royalty free stock music, and you can add this as a backing track to your narration.

I laid down the 'first layer" of the poem with this lovely piano nocturne playing, set to "ducking", so when your voice level goes up it fades down.

I played it back to Debs and she had tears streaming down her face, so it must have worked! We scrubbed it, but we're making plans to do a proper version with a couple of my other friends, each taking a layer to vary the voices.

Debs was surprised at my "radio voice". I'm always being told I speak too softly at public reading, although I did all the interweaving bits at the First Aid Kit show that I put together for Cancer Research, and no-one complained at my pitch during that performance.
But I used to do radio years ago as an information officer for a Government department. I did local radio and some national stuff on BBC Radio Scotland and Radio 4. I even did live phone ins with punters, which was truly terrifying as I had to answer their assorted questions on welfare benefits. So I must have retained something from that experience. Anyway I'm looking forward to the project.

I've also made contact with Judi Benson, an American who has just done two years as writer in residence with the Health Board in SW Scotland. They've produced a book based on the work she did with patients and staff there, and I'm ordering a copy from the Health Board. And I think the Scotsman are doing a piece on one of the books she helped a patient write, the woman has sadly since died of ovarian cancer, having already lost both her teenage daughters to a rare genetic condition. I can't imagine dealing with that level of loss.

I'm really interested in writing as a means of helping people deal with illness, so Judy's book should be a huge fund of information. I'll post the name and how to get it etc once I have it.

Judy says I should explore the "one word sonnet", it's a poem with one word on fourteen lines, so I'm looking forward to seeing examples of that. She's buying my book, having read it online, and she's recommending it to Dumfries and Galloway for the young women's breast cancer support group. So once again the web has brought me wonderful links and information.

I'm trying to write some more haiku for Spring. These are the ones I like best so far:

three blooming cherries
all in a row

the park's regiment of
daffodils trumpet March

willow wands
work their magic

gale-force winds
colour wash
the open sky

a blackbird drilling
ochre into mossy grass


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Feeling crabbit!!

Do you ever feel you just won't get out the bit???

I'm feeling like that, trying hard to feel the glass is half full, but since January I've dealt with my son's eye injury, which needed surgery, my dog having a benign tumour, my roof being damaged by a storm, a friend dying and now my MIL is in hospital with mental health problems that could have organic causes - not dementia but maybe a mini stroke or some such thing.
The crisis with her has been coming for a while, but I must admit I'm struggling with it as she has always been a difficult person, particularly to me, who had the temerity to marry her son.

Not sure how it's all going to pan out, but I'm trying hard just to take it a bit at a time, and to support my husband through it.

Only good thing on the horizon is that,weather permitting, I'll be going out to the Bass Rock on Saturday morning to take photographs, as part of my prize grom the landscape competition.

So I'm cleaning my kit and charging batteries etc. I just hope this mood lifts as I want to be in the right frame of mind for going out there.

crabbit: Scots for grumpy, ill-tempered


Sunday, March 18, 2007

yes, yes, yes

Hibees Hibernian

5-1 ya beauties!!!!!

photographs and poems

Playing around with a few ideas to match poems to photographs. This is an early attempt.

Mothering Sunday

My big lanky son bought me flowers, however they are slightly worse for wear as he took the dog to the supermarket to buy them. He then walked home in the teeth of a gale only to realise half way home that he'd left the dog back at the shops, so he retraced his steps, which meant the chrysanthemums got battered twice over.

Then this morning I got woken up with a lukewarm pain au chocolat and stewed tea.

But it's the thought that counts!!

He and his Dad are now off to the cup final in Glasgow. All together now.....

Come on Hibs!!!!!

I'm happy to be at home enjoying the peace and quiet - I may even go to see a friend and her choir sing some Elgar this evening


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Twinkle Twinkle poems

I caught these on the website of performance poet Jude Simpson, anyway just to lower the tone I decided to write my own topical one. Here in the UK premium TV telephone quiz lines have been exposed as a big con, often the chance of winning has gone long before the lines are actually closed - so here's my little twinkle ditty. Feel free to add your own.

Twinkle, twinkle telly quiz
We all know now you’re a swizz
Silly questions drew us in
To compete and maybe win
Twinkle, twinkle, telly stars
Stick your quiz up your arse!


Friday, March 16, 2007

Lofty treasures

During the storms in January our roof sustained a bit of damage, which included one of the skylights being lifted up and all the putty round it breaking away. We've had to have it fixed, and that's entailed a whole lot of debris falling down onto the stained glass internal hall skylight.

At the weekend my husband finally went up there to clear away the mess.

Anyway, he also brought down some old stuff which he thought could maybe be thrown out. In the event all we did was look through it and decide we couldn't bear to part with most of it. One of the things was an old leather school satchel of his from the 1960s. Inside it was the slim volume pictured here on the subject of ventriloquism.
He vaguely remembers being interested in how it was done when he was about ten years old.

Here's a wee extract:

"You may have difficulty in pronouncing some words with closed lips, but this is easily overcome by substituting other letters that may sound the same; for instance, V is substituted for B, W is pronounced duggle-you , M is pronounced like eng. For P use fee . Avoid as much as possible using words that are likely to give you any trouble. It is always possible to substitute sounds resembling the original. "A big piano," could be used ad a "A vig fiano," etc..."

Vye Vye for now..........


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Stanza on 14 March

My friend G and I really enjoyed our day at Stanza. We saw:

2.15pm Translated Poets: Italy: Vivian Lamarque, Marco Fazzini
3.30 Alan Spence, Dick Lee
5.00 Jen Hadfield, Polly Clark

For sample poems from all the performers see here

The two Italian poets were wonderful.Fazzini's work was on the theme of the seashore and scent, and included a fantastic poem on Namibia. He read in Italian first and while I don't speak the language the flow, tone and timbre of his voice were all spellbinding. A Stanza member read the English translations. A couple of phrases caught me, "pages of fog" and "it's a difficult friendship, melancholy".

He did one short poem on an hour glass/sandtimer and his ability to look at something that small and create a whole universe from it was fantastic. It is his sample poem per the link above.

Only sour note was the woman translator losing parts of the translation of his last three poems.

Vivian Lamarque was a real contrast, she had the English versions of her work read first, and then she read the Italian, and you could then hear her wonderful rhymes and rhythms to the full. She has a suite of what could only be described as love poems she's written to her psychoanalyst, but something gets lost in translation because English lacks a formal version of "you", therefore the tension between the loving content of the poems and the formality of the address isn't captured. In one of these poems I loved the line, "seven,eight, no a thousand kisses!" and in another she spoke of saying goodbye, not realising it would be for the last time, so while the goodbye was kind, "it wasn't enough for eternity".

Alan Spence and Dick Lee were brilliant. Colin Will introduced Alan Spence to me before the performance, and that was a real thrill as I love his work, it helped me all through chemo and it gave me a way to speak about my treatment in what felt like an honest and direct way. My friend Grace hadn't heard haiku before and she was bowled over by Spence's use of language and his pared down observational skills. I was pleased to hear him say that a couple of the haiku in his published collections dated back to 1968. For some reason I had the notion that he must have sat down and written each collection as one complete project, it therefore pleasing to know that he had gathered them together over many years. And Dick Lee's musical interpretation of the seasons was nothing short of miraculous.

Jen Hadfield didn't disappoint. Her use of language and her ideas are really audacious. Sometimes it comes off, other times it doesn't quite but she's never dull. I will definitely buy her new collection when it comes out, if only for the title poem, which is an amazing list of peculiar place names from the Northern England, set to a long string of "Met me at....

Polly Clark felt more everyday,accessible, but she too was worth hearing, though towards the end of her performance the length of my day started to catch up with me.
Her poem about the octopus Elvis, her sample poem on the StAnza site, is based on a piece she read about a former circus performing octopus killing itself after becoming depressed when the circus folded!

All Premier League stuff though! Go if you get the chance, you won't be disappointed.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tell me you favourite line/s in a Leonard Cohen song

The lovely Sam mentioned below that she likes this one:

"There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in."

Mine are:

"You treated my woman to a little flake of your life
And when she came back she was nobody's wife."


"Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good so I never tried."

They're from the song Famous Blue Raincoat. The song itself is like a tiny, perfect novel.

And here it is:

Anyway tell me yours, it would be lovely to see just how many lives he has touched.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Splash of colour

Municipal crocus, cheap and cheerful, on the outskirts of my home town.


Vaseline Ad

I must admit I love watching this ad, the photography is stunning, though it doesn't move me to buy the product.

See it again here:

Clearly there's a problem with this link, so here it is to cut and paste into your address bar:

Link to a lovely poem

About rain and missing someone

Read it here

Click on Drowning Man and then Rain at Night.


Sunday, March 11, 2007


There was a debate on the radio this morning following on from Patrick Mercer's sacking from the Tory frontbench for these comments:

"What Patrick Mercer said in the interview

Patrick Mercer, Conservative homeland security spokesman and a former colonel, was asked about racism in the armed forces. This is his reply

Friday March 9, 2007
The Guardian

"I had the good fortune to command a battalion that was racially very mixed. Towards the end, I had five company sergeant majors who were all black. They were without exception UK-born, Nottingham-born men who were English - as English as you and me. They prospered inside my regiment, but if you'd said to them: 'Have you ever been called a nigger?' they would have said: 'Yes.' But equally, a chap with red hair, for example, would also get a hard time - a far harder time than a black man, in fact."

But that's the way it is in the army. If someone is slow on the assault course, you'd get people shouting: 'Come on you fat bastard, come on you ginger bastard, come on you black bastard.'
"I came across a lot of ethnic minority soldiers who were idle and useless, but who used racism as cover for their misdemeanours. I remember one guy from St Anne's (Nottingham) who was constantly absent and who had a lot of girlfriends. When he came back one day I asked him why, and he would say: 'I was racially abused.' And we'd say: 'No you weren't, you were off with your girlfriends again.'

"In my experience, when you put on the uniform then all differences disappear. If you are a good soldier, you will do well. If you are a bad soldier, you will leave prematurely. There is a degree of colour-blindness among the vast majority of soldiers.

"I never came across a piece of nastiness inside the battalion that was based exclusively on racism."

This morning they interviewed a 10 year old who was being bullied and ostracised at school because he had red hair. The most heartbreaking thing was when he was asked, "And what do you friends say about this?" (the bullying) he replied he had no friends.

A man in the studio then said that the bullying the boy was experiencing wasn't as bad a racist abuse as it didn't relate to a history of slavery and exclusion.

That is may be true, but what ten year old, black or white, dark haired or ginger needs to know the backstory to the fact that he's being bullied? I suspect the end result, the hurt and distress is just the same.

My younger brother was bullied at school for being effeminate, and I spent most of my childhood fighting boys who were giving him a hard time. It has left me with a lifetime's distaste for the pack mentality, wherever it occurs.

Until we adults can teach our children to celebrate difference rather than single it out for special attention innocents will continue to suffer.

Nor am I a believer in the theory of breaking someone down to put them back together in a way that fits an organisation's short term need. Break something and the bits rarely go back together again properly, cracks and fissures are usually left.

And as a society we only seem to value an object if it is whole and undamaged. A cracked plate is worth less in this world than a perfect one.

Maybe that's why so many men discharged from the services can't function when they return to Civvy Street. Isn't it time we looked at military training and what we need from it? We seem to be train people for conflict and then we expect them to function well as peace-keepers.

OK rant over.


Saturday, March 10, 2007


A friend told me that her 18 year old son had a few friends round last Saturday night. As she was getting into the car on Sunday morning she looked up and saw a line of beer cans all along his bedroom window. She ran back into the house and called up to him to sort it out. He called back in the usual teenage grunting tones that he would.

She left the house again and looked up at the window only to see him pulling down the blind!

That's teenagers.

Mine informs me that the teachers locked the sixth year out of their common room yesterday because it was in such a mess. So the kids held a protest, which included taking off their prefect badges. My sympathy is with the teachers, I just throw clean bedding and clothes into my son's room, and periodically demand the return of teaspoons, cups and plates.

New studies suggest that teenagers can't help being a surly bunch. Here's the relevant extract:

Giedd and his colleagues found that in an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, the brain appeared to be growing again just before puberty. The prefrontal cortex sits just behind the forehead. It is particularly interesting to scientists because it acts as the CEO of the brain, controlling planning, working memory, organization, and modulating mood. As the prefrontal cortex matures, teenagers can reason better, develop more control over impulses and make judgments better. In fact, this part of the brain has been dubbed "the area of sober second thought."

The fact that this area was still growing surprised the scientists. Although they knew that the brain of a baby grew by over-producing synapses, or connections, they had not known that there was a second period of over-production. In a baby, the brain over-produces brain cells (neurons) and connections between brain cells (synapses) and then starts pruning them back around the age of three. The process is much like the pruning of a tree. By cutting back weak branches, others flourish. The second wave of synapse formation described by Giedd showed a spurt of growth in the frontal cortex just before puberty (age 11 in girls, 12 in boys) and then a pruning back in adolescence.

Even though it may seem that having a lot of synapses is a particularly good thing, the brain actually consolidates learning by pruning away synapses and wrapping white matter (myelin) around other connections to stabilize and strengthen them. The period of pruning, in which the brain actually loses gray matter, is as important for brain development as is the period of growth. For instance, even though the brain of a teenager between 13 and 18 is maturing, they are losing 1 percent of their gray matter every year.
Giedd hypothesizes that the growth in gray matter followed by the pruning of connections is a particularly important stage of brain development in which what teens do or do not do can affect them for the rest of their lives. He calls this the "use it or lose it principle," and tells FRONTLINE, "If a teen is doing music or sports or academics, those are the cells and connections that will be hardwired. If they're lying on the couch or playing video games or MTV, those are the cells and connections that are going to survive."


Friday, March 09, 2007

Plastic bags in trees

They annoy me, and they inspired this poem to my long gone great aunts.

The Piece Dividend

Piece Dividend

A white flutter high up in the beech.
The plastic prayer flag of a universal brand.
Their mantra? Buy one get one free.

What would they have made of it? Those barren
rationed aunts, whose only dividend in life
was granted by the corner Co-op.

Those women who bought butter by the pat
whose lives were grease-proof wrapped.
What would they have made of the miracle of

Kenyan runner beans
Tibetan gogi berries,
Chilean Merlot, or garlic naan?

Would they agree the sacrifice was worth it?
Their future for mine today, on tick?

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Ballads of the Book out

I'm listening to bits on i-tunes

There's a wee bit of documentary here

It a project that combines Scots writers/poets and bands


Monday, March 05, 2007

Fados/Carlos Saura

This is the movie that Begonia worked on recently. She played on a number with the amazing Lila Downs, which is likely to be the hit of the movie.

It will be launched this year at Cannes

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Basque cooking

N's sister Begonia is here from Madrid. We ate with them at the weekend, and Begonia cooked traditional Basque food for N - who misses Basque cuisine. She brought squid ink with her from Spain, and they bought fresh squid at the excellent quayside fish-shop in Musselburgh. So the main course was squid cooked with tomatoes, onion, garlic, white wine and black squid ink.

I was proud of my son, he ate it all up without batting an eye. And it was very good, you could taste the sea, like breathing in a lungful of salty air.

I had this dish once before with N, in a bar in Bilbao, and I think it works better as a tapas type dish with a mix of other things, but nonetheless it was great to taste it again. In Basque it has a name, which sounds like the Abba song Chiquitita!

Black coloured food is always rather strange to eat, as the colour or rather the lack of colour doesn't make it look that appetising, think of liquorice, black pudding and black pasta, again made with squid ink. And all black coloured food stuff seem to have properties that make them almost too healthy! But they aren't as odd as blue food, apparently food dyed blue is the least appetising of all to the eye.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Postcard Secrets

Frank Warren has a new book out. All proceeds from the books and the site go to a mental health charity.

Here is he is speaking about the book.

Moon Shadow, Moon Shadow........

Last night, for once, this part of Scotland had clear skies to see something amazing in the heavens.

What caught my eye was how brightly all the stars were shining without the competition of our moon.

It felt a very ancient and primeval thing to be out in the dark looking up at Mother Earth snuffing out the light of her own cold little child.

I put the camera on the bulb setting and took some shots with a 300mm lens, but it was hard trying to make sure there was no movement with my family thundering around, so the pix are far from perfect, but here are three of a sequence. There's a slight red hue in the full eclipse, but it was a muddy sort of red.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2007

The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2007 will be awarded to a living photographer, of any nationality, who has made the most contribution to photography in Europe between 1 October 2005 ~ 30 September 2006.

The four shortlisted photographers in this exhibition are: Philippe Chancel, Anders Petersen, Fiona Tan and Walid Raad/ The Atlas Group. See them all here
Last weekend I was reading about Anders Petersen, and he said he gave up fashion photography because of one photograph by Christer Stromholm of a Paris graveyard, Montmatre, in the snow, with footsteps walking away.

It is this shot

And I was quite thrilled because it reminded me of a shot I took last year in the Jewish Cemetary in Prague. The place was very busy, but I walked away from the crush to get the long view down a quieter area, and there was one set of footprints in the snow, leading to the bins and a door in the wall. My shot doesn't have the height and perspective of the wonderful Stromholm picture, but at least it shows I'm thinking.

My shot and one other that I took that day are at the top of the this piece.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Press cutting on my win

Actually it's not a bad picture of me as I hate having my own picture taken, although I'm doing the pulling in my chin bit, which I tell people not to do, sigh!.


One year of blogging

So here's a new word cloud based on the last year. Thanks for all the friendship and support, it's been a rewarding experience and I've met some very good people through it. And Hi too to any lurkers. I hope you'll feel like posting sometime!



As part of an exercise for my writers' group I've been doing a wee bit of research on Google on the subject of odd juxtapositions when I came across this great piece:

SIPping only what is sweet, Thou dost mock at fate and care.

Browsing the other day, as is my wont, I was reminded of a rather interesting feature they served up a while back: SIPs.’s Statistically Improbable Phrases, or “SIPs”, are the most distinctive phrases in the text of books in the Search Inside!™ program. To identify SIPs, our computers scan the text of all books in the Search Inside! program. If they find a phrase that occurs a large number of times in a particular book relative to all Search Inside! books, that phrase is a SIP in that book.

SIPs are not necessarily improbable within a particular book, but they are improbable relative to all books in Search Inside!. For example, most SIPs for a book on taxes are tax related. But because we display SIPs in order of their improbability score, the first SIPs will be on tax topics that this book mentions more often than other tax books. For works of fiction, SIPs tend to be distinctive word combinations that often hint at important plot elements.

And so we find that STML favourite The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad yields such predictable SIPS as “robust anarchist”, “gentlemen lodgers”, “perfect anarchist” and “old terrorist”, while William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch has the more visceral “old gash”, “old junky”, “his cock” and “sick morning”. There’s a good literary guessing game to be had here.

Likewise, Ulysses gives us the wonderful and unmistakeable “ute ute ute”, “tooraloom tooraloom tooraloom”, “base barreltone” (and the somewhat more prosaic “quaker librarian”); and I challenge you to come up with a set of words which could better describe the writings of Iain Sinclair than “retail landfill”, “soft estates”, “payroll boys”, “motorway circuit” and “orbital walk” (from London Orbital). Strange juxtapositions occur too: Walter de la Mare would probably be unimpressed to find himself grouped together with Friction 5: Best Gay Erotic Fiction under the phrase “fat cock” (“The horny old Gardener’s fast asleep; The fat cock Thrush To his nest has gone; And the dew shines bright In the rising Moon”).

I don't know why, but I just love this. I think it's because of the Spock like logic of a computer doing exactly what it's been asked to, which results in something completely daft.

The site is here It's an occasional column devoted to literary matters. Follow the link and you can try some SIP searches of your own.

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