Saturday, 16 May 2015

Great GrandMama

So I was walking around on my own exploring and of course overheating, so this modern cool looking 'coffee shop' seemed like a good idea. It wasn't air-conditioned but the ceiling fans were welcomingly cooling. I sat down in one of the comfortable leather chairs and ordered a coffee. Around me it was very quiet with just a few scattered people deep into their laptops and books and a solitary very elderly lady sitting in the window, watching the world go past. Turns out the coffee shop was not a coffee shop at all but a Buddhist library... I did wonder why I was told to remove my shoes upon entering.

I asked one of the attendants (they weren't waitresses it turns out despite them promptly responding to my snapping fingers) if they knew the old lady in the window. Yes, they do it seems, and I'm told she's the mother of another woman, sitting not far to me. I strike up a conversation and discover the old lady has lived her whole life here in Penang and is ninety-seven. I gently ask if I can take the elderly ladies picture and, assuring her it was nothing commercial, she readily agreed to ask her mother permission The old lady was perhaps a little bemused but happily agreed to allow me take a couple of snaps, the results of which are above. The portrait I've removed as blogger has decided to adjust the contrast to how it feels it should be! Here is a link to where it's displayed properly.

Her daughter turned out to be a polite but rather fierce Chinese matron who worked as a volunteer in my supposed coffee shop. She proceeded to inform me of her strong political views as to China and the world as well as her mother's life story and it was with no little difficulty that some time later that I, a stumbling stupid tourist, eventually escaped back into the heat of the day more knowledgable than he was. 

Friday, 15 May 2015

Dim Sum

"Why this stoopid tourist ask me to do this? He wan dim sum or not? Sillyrirriot."

He was actually much friendlier than he looks. And his Dim Sum was even more delicious than they looked, and you have to say they look pretty damned good. Much better breakfast than a full English I'd say.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Old Town, Old man.

While walking in the old quarter of George Town, Penang, I spotted this elderly gentleman taking a stroll. Who needs a pavement when you can just follow the lines on the road...

Monday, 11 May 2015

Art and the Tourist

The Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic has created a demand to visit Penang, a small Malaysian Island, far outstripping expectations by his quirky wall art.

Proof that stoopid tourists flock here....

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The Election...

In Hanoi, I found this man struggling in his own way to understand the various  political agenda's of the upcoming British elections...

Monday, 6 April 2015

The Ghost Town of Imber

In the remote and desolate part of England that is Salisbury plain, not far from the ancient monument of Stonehenge and nestling within a countryside dotted by mysterious burial chambers or 'barrows', lies the deserted and forgotten town of Imber.
Cue fog and maniacal laughter and the distant sounds of wolves howling for blood. CUT! England may have fog at times and there are a fair few mad people that laugh rather too much, but there aren't any wolves.

A pity really as Imber would be much more exciting if it had some resident wolves. Here is a map in case you'd like to visit. And a picture of my sat-nav en-route. The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice both are blank. Weird. Spooky. Why do I suddenly have an uncontrollable desire to laugh...
The Church of St Giles, dating from the 13th Century, is the first building you see as you approach, its high bell tower marking the town from afar. This is the only building not owned by the MoD, (the British Military). The Army evicted the inhabitants with just 47 days notice and forcibly took over the town in 1943, paying them a pittance and promising that after the war, they could return. A promise that was never honoured. A town that had probably been in existence since before the Romans and was first mentioned in 967, disappeared from public view.

Used as a training area for urban warfare, most of the buildings have crumbled or were demolished. Just a few pock-marked and crumbling originals remain. A new town of ugly block-built and empty-eyed 'houses' now form the town proper, and it's from these that soldiers still practise their art of staying alive while administering death.

The town lies in the middle of the army's gun and tank ranges and as such is out of bounds to the public, only rarely do the military allow public access. Usually that's once a year on a day closest to St Giles day when the Church is available to visit. But for a few days this Easter, Imber and the Church was open, hence my visit. Stark warnings on the dangers of treading off the main road due to unexploded munitions are everywhere.

It's a strange place, a place where you feel you shouldn't be. There's very little to see. But the ancient Church standing above buildings used wholly to train for war is a sad visual irony. The 'town' sits amidst one of the last wild places in England. You will see no power lines here. The landscape is as it has always been, except that is for the odd rusting remains of one or two derelict and shot-up tank hulks. A cold wind chills my skin as I walk through the ruins. There's no fog, maniacal laughter or howling wolves to make me shiver. It's just the ghosts of war that linger here.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Kensington to King's Cross by Bus

The King is dead, long live the King!

London has a new red double decker and it's one of the few things that Mad Boris (our Mayor) got right. And I've just had my first trip in one. 
I flagged down the Number 10 on Kensington High Street, a reasonably posh up-market area of London. (Even the skate-board riding yoof wear a suit and tie around there). It's a place where achingly fashionable young things saunter along in their designer threads, wearing that strange pained expression beloved of top models. These people don't 'do' buses. More fool them.
The new bus is a gem. Individually styled to become a new classic. I liked it a lot. Swiping my Oyster (pre-paid travel pass) card swiftly past the terminal with a quick nod to the driver, I climbed the stairs and found my seat top front,with a splendid view of the sites through the panoramic glass. (I always love the slightly surprised expression of a driver at being acknowledged).
Those Masters of the Universe, Google, tell me it's a 30 minute journey to King's Cross. Hmmm.
The bus lurches it's way through traffic and suicidal pedestrians and cyclists with the usual sporting aplomb, narrowly missing everything by the smallest of margins. I wave at the windows of Kensington Palace as we pass in case Kate might be watching. (You never know). Then the great expanse of Hyde Park fills the left side as we pass by the splendid Albert Memorial outside the even more splendid Albert Hall. The next street along on the right is Exhibition Road, with the Imperial Collage, The Science & Natural History Museum, The V&A and The Royal Collage of Music. 
Soon we arrive at Knightsbridge, another Mecca for consumer excess. On the left is One Hyde Park, a very exclusive address with even more exclusive McClaren sport cars suitably on display. I watch as a cream Rolls Royce is received by sycophantic top-hatted doormen of the Mandarin Oriental hotel. (Room for night Sir? That'll be £950). 
Then we are at Hyde Park Corner, once a place for only the quick and the dead.  Many an American tourist was found a gibbering wreck at the wheel of his abandoned car right in the centre. That sport is now denied by traffic lights.
Down along Park Lane we go, Hyde Park still on my left, as we pass the London Hilton, adjacent to which used to be the Playboy Bunny Club. Ah, such fond mammaries. Into Marble Arch and the great green bronze horse's head. (Still Water) Marble Arch itself is rather less imposing, looking dwarfed by the modern buildings around it.
And into Oxford Street,  once a major Roman road into London, now it's supposedly Europe's busiest shopping street with over three hundred shops. Here the delicate toffs of Knightsbridge and Kensington would never tread their dainty toes. Well, maybe into Selfridges if they had to get a gift for the help. We bump over Oxford Circus killing the odd Lion and Elephant and wave at the edifice that is the BBC HQ. Finally, at the Eastern end we turn into Tottenham Court Road and move even further down market. To the right, walk down a little way and the British Museum can be found not far from the University of London.
At the top we turn right onto the Euston Road and pass by Euston Train Station, a great sixties architectural carbuncle. Moving swiftly past, we arrive at the British library, a modern carbuncle that is much nicer viewed from the inside. A wonderful place to visit as it has one or two decent books, some of which are quite old.

Then we are at our destination, King's Cross. And I am a bit, cross that is, because it's taken one hour not thirty minutes, to get here. But what a transformation has occurred! Once, KC was the most dangerous place to be, drugs and prostitution rife. They're still around (so I'm told) but the broom has been out and the place polished up. The station has been restored to its Victorian splendour as has the adjacent gothic masterpiece that is the St Pancras hotel. This very nearly had itself demolished... Now it's resplendent. As resplendent as the new London bus. I'm a happy bunny. Or I would be if I now didn't have to face another hour return journey.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Mobile blogging

So this, at least forms, is new. On the bus into London and it has wi-fi! And for once it works. So here is a pointless boring post because I'm bored sitting on top of a bumpy double decker.  That's my excuse for the typos. Hoping to see the original documents of the American Declaration of Independence on show at the British library along with the Magna Carta display. Looking forward to it.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Polishing a Turd

The fact is (as you know) you can't turn a cow's ear into a silk purse.
Photographers, (well, at least this photographer) tend to be somewhat more prosaic. And in photographic terms, we (I) often strive to polish up turds. The irony of course is that many turds end up being praised and liked by thousands on the great interwebby thingy. Even in Galleries where you'd think they'd know better. Some people have paid kazillions for turds. Fashion, that devil, has a lot to answer for, its tentacles weaving their way into the photographic aesthetic as they do in every walk of life. No one is immune. 
I thought I once looked great in my mullet/shades/jeans/heels/whatever. And in ten years I'll look back on today and probably wince. Same goes for photographs. Your photographs. My photographs. Especially in this Instagrammy age. You see, we can't help meddling. Trying to improve things using HDR and all manner of techy tips and effects. We should know better. We actually DO know better. But we still end up being seduced into polishing hopeless turds.
I won't give examples. Oh ok, I will... But I won't show them. I'll give one example only. Think of the thousands of pictures where the child/girl/woman/dog/cat/bird/bride's eyes are in a vivid colour and the rest of the picture is a monochrome. Arty. If you are thinking of doing this, STOP - and step away from the computer.
But then again (and this is where the seduction to meddle comes in) most any picture straight from the camera is pants. It needs work. It needs your expert artistic eye. In short it needs meddling with.
And in truth, sometimes an unpromising picture can be transformed into an okayish kind of picture. A great picture, (and here's the real gem of an idea to take note of) a really good shot, doesn't need much work at all... And that's what we as photographers should strive for. That great shot. In the meantime, meddle away to your hearts content. But be aware you might be blushing in a few years time...
Original out-of-camera turd at top, polished 'masterpiece' below.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Following Yoko

Twice now I've nearly had to drive into a hedge to avoid oncoming cars taking up the whole road. Well, when I say road, I actually mean country lanes shielded by high hedges. And because I'm wary of idiots tearing around a blind bend into my path, I've being going slow enough to avoid a collision. So far...

So I've decided to invest in a car dash cam. Being tight-fisted, I wasn't about to shell out the three figure sums most shops are asking. A bit of internetty type hunting threw up an interesting little Chinese gem called a G1W-C Capacitor dash cam. Snappy name huh?

Well, the name varies as several manufacturers seem to make it. And probably several fake ones too. Buy from a reputable dealer is my advice. Anyway, the reviews were fine, the quality looked good and the price was half of what is normally available. Too cheap to be true? Well, I'd find out because I bought one for £39.00 from Amazon. Link HERE.

So how is it? It looks dinky and feels light and cheap, but works. That is, once you have also bought a Micro SD card to record everything. (£10 from local shop for a 16gig class 10). The menu is weird as it tells you what to do right enough, and when you've selected your preference, to press 'OK'. Easy! Except there is no 'ok' button anywhere. This stumped me for an annoyingly long time until I found out by trial and error that the 'Rec' button also functions as the 'ok' button. Little things like this can drive you mad.

So, all set for the first drive with Dash Cam ON. Except at this precise moment, my car refused to start. Dash it, I said. Or words to that effect. Be careful what you say as the thing records every sound in the car.

Eventually a rescue man in a van who can, turns up and turns out, can't. Fix it I mean. So I end up testing my little dash cam on the van (number plate Yoko) towing me to a garage. Viewing the video back home shows the results to be exceptionally clear. Cheap and good quality, who would have thought? Read a review of this dash cam HERE.

Or just watch this exciting video clip... Note: This is low resolution video, click on the HD part to view this in high defintion.

Following Yoko from Peter Davidson on Vimeo.

Monday, 19 January 2015

What personality are you?

The Enneagram supposedly gives a scientific analyst of your personality. I did the free sampler test and it tells me I'm a Type 7 personality. Click here for my results. Its description is pretty accurate, but then again, you can find things to agree with anything when its generalised enough. Look at horoscope definitions of personality, most people can identify with what they say. You can take the full test which takes much longer and is far more accurate apparently but I'm not sure I'm that interested. Click HERE if you want to have a go at the quick sampler test!