Thursday, December 19, 2019

Looking into the past in black and white

Keen on your family history, then what a marvel ancient photography can turn out to be. After a few years, memory from the happenings of youth can be
distorted by time, and seemingly become rather unreliable.
But photography! Family snaps could be Photoshopped, of course, and change reality more than somewhat, but what pleasure - and surprise - when you dig out original Box Brownie-type records of family history!
There’s no escaping reality then.
Some of the really historical shots of my family went up in smoke in Second World War bombing in Southampton.
However, ancient photos of family members who lived in the countryside had a much greater chance of surviving.

Sepia-toned shots

Which is where a portrait – a family snap, really – that turned up this week had lived its early years.
You can keep family trees and enjoy the ready history they reveal. But to see, to hold, sepia-toned shots of family ancients taken when they were alive can be astonishing.
This week I found on the computer a photograph and immediately assumed it was a snap of paternal grandparents with their son, my father, and one of my brothers at the toddler stage.
It really felt amazing to go back in the years so spontaneously. Here I was entranced by a pic that must be, well, about eighty years old.
It felt astonishing, close to unbelievable, that some magical invention recorded their appearance from all that time ago and here it was on my screen.
Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventuring book, Sailing to Purgatory, at

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

A sudden brightening of winter

I’m a natural optimist – you have to be to go to sea, of course – but this morning as I stepped into the garden I admitted that I was confronted with a boring, utterly dismal scene on a dark, rain-splattered, sopping utterly miserable day.
I thought, ‘Just the day to give suicide a positive feel.’
Then my heart gave a leap of pleasure as I was surrounded suddenly by flocks, actual crowds and crowds of minute birds.
And not just the garden birds I feed daily, but an astonishing collection of foreigners who obviously don’t care about the new government’s feelings over non-Brits.
The hedge that moments before had been prompting me for a belated trim now became the feeding ground for a bright variety of winter arrivals, tucking into aphid-like bugs, and enjoying the fruit from a branch that I purposely let grow as if it might be a tree.
So straight to Uncle Google to learn more about the very welcome visitors.

The hungry arrivals

I was directed to authority Doug Shapley, a conservation adviser for the Woodland Trust.
His article identifies very clearly the hungry arrivals, robins, chaffinches, bramblings and finches, plus a few more which were rather too quick on the wing for identification.
It seemed a miracle that they would turn up on such a miserable winter’s morning, particularly after the astonishing distance that these tiny critters travelled.
No Ryanair, EasyJet, or Flybe for them with movies and music and attractive hostesses bringing refreshments. If they want to travel – or are driven to – and from faraway places like Scandinavia, Russia and continental Europe, they must do it themselves, and astonishingly by instinct.
Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventuring book, Sailing to Purgatory, at

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The perfect antidote for election day blues

After all that diligence of getting out to a polling station on this wettest, coldest and most miserable day of the new winter, a gift, a present, for readers
and one that comes bathed in sunshine and pleasant seas and the chance to imagine life Out There, far from politicians, and daily drudgery.
The present of a sort that Santa is bound to approve, even if it comes snowless, is your own free copy of the Caribbean sailing magazine, Compass.
Ideal for sailors, of course, and amazing because this packed magazine is absolutely gratis, and it works for us all.
It’s all about sea and sun and fun and pleasure, with some great articles about what it’s like to get away, and be our own boss, and get up when we want to.

Local cooking

Cooking seems to enjoy an extraordinary following around the globe.
There’s excellent guidance here of the West Indies approach, using Caribbean seafood, fruits, and vegetables, in a review of Wendy Hartland’s More Great Grenada Recipes. For your dream cruise, there’s lots about how to do it, and how sailors do do it, and also an engaging been-there-done-that story by David Carey full of good advice about how not to.
Each month, Compass carries an excellent article about the sky at night, and although the latitude and time is a little different, it still works well for London. Well, when the clouds go away occasionally, that is.
Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventuring book, Sailing to Purgatory, at