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Friday, 31 March 2017

I Love this Wonderful Artwork

Some pictures are alluring. I can't say why but I like this image. It has just the right colouring and the tree full of blossom looks wonderful. I'm not sure if it is Japanese, Korean or Chinese, but it also has a European Gothic feel to me. 

I know it is not European Gothic in topic matter, but it does appeal to that part of me that enjoys Gothic art.

I like the porcelain look of the lady's skin colour and the hair with all of the various clasps and decoration within. The fan with the skull on the front is what helps to give it a Gothic quality for me.

I enjoy everything about the image. It has a dreamlike quality to it. There is an aura of light around the lady's head giving the whole work of art a dream quality.

I think this particular piece of artwork is fantastic.




    


I Love the Birds of Prey Over the Fenland.


I was on the computer doing the multimedia thing when my wife came in from the garden and said there was a raptor over the fields to the front of the house. A raven was trying to harass the raptor. I was not sure if it was a Common Buzzard or a Marsh Harrier. It's beak looked like that of a Marsh Harrier.

The duel in the sky was short and the raven eventually flew off. The raptor tried to confront the more manoeuvrable carrion bird and I think that did the trick. Usually, the ravens and crows harass in numbers and the raptor retreats away from the air space. This one turned and twisted and tried to face the raven.

If a raven was struck by the talons it would be ripped from the sky. Ravens and crows are more manoeuvrable and can get into positions above or to the side, but they can only intimidate. They can't strike. The raptor can and that is the one advantage it does have. One blow of the talons and it is game over. This raptor tried and the raven decided that he who turns and runs away lives to fight another day.











Thursday, 30 March 2017

A Cup of Tea and Watching the Houseboats in Benwick of the Fenland.


Most of my job involves me driving to and from various locations in Chatteris, Fenland, Cambridgeshire. It is a very pleasant job in a wonderful little rural English hamlet. There are two other smaller villages that I must go to, outside of Chatteris. They are a few miles away and across the Fenland and its waterways.

One of them is Manea, where the bird hides are. I often go birdwatching here. The other is Benwick, a small village nestled amid fields and a small river that runs through it. Because it was a rather nice day, I decided to have my tea break by the river bank near the graveyard.

I was looking down at the old dilapidated mooring platform while munching on a sandwich. I then heard a houseboat chugging along the waterway and went to the bridge to get a photo.

A man and a lady were steering the rudder as the houseboat chugged along. I got a friendly wave from the man when he saw me photographing his boat. As he went under the bridge, I was standing on, I got a back shot too. 

Then moments later another houseboat chugged along from the other direction. Again, I got a shot of this boat too.

My wife and I often talk about buying such a boat. One can travel the length and breadth of Britain via the canals and waterways. The Fenlands, where we live and work is crisscrossed with these wonderful waterways.





Flowered Up - A London Band from the 1990's Decade.



They were the nearly lads who acquired a grand reputation for their live gigs. Some of their songs were marvellous and they certainly went against the grain. 

For me, their songs and lyrics remind me of things I miss about London and also what I have been trying all my life to escape from, concerning London. I know that sounds like a contradiction and it is. But I'm one of those Londoners who moved away from the city and out into the rural Fenland. I never want to go back and if I never see the place again, it will be too soon.

However, the band called Flowered Up remind me of everything concerning the humdrum London in a kindly and more nostalgic way. There is something morose and compelling about them. I think they were a great band that never realised their full potential.

Of course the two brothers Liam and Joe Maher are dead. Liam was the singer and Joe played the guitar. The song Weekender was done with a splendid video and you can check it out on YouTube. Please do.

The Growing Interest of Fantasy and Science Fiction Books Developed Over Multiple Decades.




What makes a book what it is?

Modern day Science fiction has a lot of things that the writers of the past had to quite literally make up. Computers, communication devices and space travel are all real. Somehow, though the creativity of the writers of science fiction today still pushes the boundaries of imagination that few other genres manage to do. However, it is not just science fiction, or more likely science fact, writing that has pushed the envelope when it comes to good storytelling.

Fantasy stories such as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson have much of what Tolkien wrote about in the Lord of the Rings and that C S Lewis wrote about in the impressive and still hugely popular Narnia novels. Readers now as they did then needed escapism, something to take them out of the humdrum or stressed out world we live in. Readers need to somehow believe that there is perhaps an alternative existence and hope they can close their eyes and wake up in a dream.

Jules Verne took readers on amazing adventures, under the sea and to the centre of the earth as well as to the moon. His stories were born out of a love for adventure and travel. The only one of his adventures that has not become a reality is to the centre of the earth. But still, we have not sent a man to the core as yet. The best writers tell stories of adventures in places in faraway places with the impossible being just part of the story in the fact that it is just or maybe somehow could happen. Modern day Clive Cussler stories have much of the adventure contained in a Jules Verne story. True they are aimed at a more mature audience but for the reader his books are believable escapism with a perfect blend of possible, impossible and who knows if it could be possible. Raise the Titanic? It has been done with other ships so why not?

But what is it that makes a writer write book than enthrals a generation of readers?

The popularity of Narnia and Middle Earth are still as popular today as they were in the mid 1900s when they were conceived and written. There was something in them that made each page come alive and something that is as real today as it was then.

The reason why the books were and are so popular is adversity. When Tolkien’s and Lewis’ books were written, the world was in a state of turmoil. The depression was ending when Tolkien published the Hobbit in 1937 and World War II had just ended five years prior to the publication of the Lion, the witch and the wardrobe. People needed cheering up, times for most people times were hard, there was no TV, cinema was a treat and money was scarce for many forms of entertainment.

Books and reading became an affordable and enjoyable pastime that has remained today. Modern books in paperback or hardback outstrip sales of ebooks despite the convenience of a kindle but nonetheless books are still popular. It could be said that many modern authors are heavily influenced by other writers and this is not surprising and despite this great stories still emerge even if there is a hint that we may have heard the story before.

 Yes, we live in a tough world but it is nowhere near as dark and worrisome as it was in times past. The world is not at war, countries are not being invaded and while the economy could be better, it is nowhere near as bad as it was in the 1930s. Writers of science fiction, fantasy and adventure have to dig a little deeper to find their inspiration and make a book a best seller, they need to find some adversity that the world can understand.

People want to read, they want good stories, and there are many great and lesser-known authors today who enthral readers.  Harry Potter did a good job of getting kids to read and for many struggling writers the story behind J K Rowling gave them the courage to write. The reason for the success of Harry Potter was that it was a story like nothing before. Witches, Wizards and Muggles took the world by storm and the success is a story all on its own. It worked because of originality, some crazy almost believable storyline and it stretched the imagination of the reader to the perfect sweet spot.

Other authors can inspire writers and always will but it takes some form of adversity to create an original best seller. J K Rowling had long train journeys and nothing to do and Harry, Ron and Hermione popped into her mind. Rowling’s characters and theme was unique, other writers try to “write a book like” another author, Rowling didn’t.  While a story may well be enjoyable, it is perhaps a little predictable, the sense of trying to be a Mark Twain, Edgar Rice Burrows or C S Lewis and the fact someone is aspiring to this level is just too difficult to ignore. Those who imitate a style or rewrite the same or similar plot will sell, the escapism will always work but for success originality is the key, taking readers to new places in between the pages of their minds.

Writers over the generations have taken readers to places they could never imagine and places they would be too scared to imagine. Edgar Rice Burroughs took readers into the Jungle Tarzan and to Mars with John Carter, two extremes that were and still are in many cases impossible to live in reality. His stories are still popular and fresh today.

Not many people will know that Robert E. Howard a writer of what is commonly called Pulp Fiction died at the age of 30 in 1936.  Howard was a prolific author of many books and stories that inspire thousands of authors every day.  Howard took people out of this world in some of the most well read and well known stories and themes specialising in Sword and Sorcery stories and ending his final years before his suicide writing westerns. Howard’s influence today in much of the fantasy and adventure stories is close to impossible to deny, he was a master who died too soon.

The combination of influence of other writers and some form of adversity makes for good reading. If a reader can relate and the imagination is pushed into a sweet spot of almost real readers will turn the page. It is hard to think where we would be today without the writers of the past who have blazed a trail for the writers of tomorrow who dare to dream and then put it down in words.





    


Saturday, 25 March 2017

Huge Silent Majority of Europeans Don't Like EU Policies.



I think there is a realisation among many pro-EU supporters that something must change within the EU government concerning policies that are implemented upon people that have no say in how they get such fundamental rights imposed upon them.

The EU should have political parties of all structures trying to go out and win the support from the combined EU over who rules them. The EU must be elected by the citizens of Europe and not a boardroom committee.

This will be the next step if the EU is to survive. I think it will come about. Once it does, then the EU will become better integrated. Many people see the logic in the EU, but they are becoming disillusioned with the type of EU on offer.  People of Europe want a better circumstance concerning the selection of government officials they have.

I voted Brexit and can see no place in the EU that exists. I sincerely hope it gets by, but not the way it is.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Ely Cathedral and the Chinoock Helicopter.


Nothing much was happening over the bird hides. It was a clear blue day and rather warm. A taste of spring in the air. Our little dog, Dotty just wanted to run along the bridal path and was not too patient with our bird watching. There were a few buzzards and kestrels and a lot of various waterfowl.

I was looking across the Fen towards Ely Cathedral. Suddenly I heard the whirring of helicopter blades and spied a military Chinoock helicopter flying across the front of the old Cathedral.  It seemed like a good idea at the time so I took a couple of photo shots as it passed the grand old cathedral. 














My Ducks get Spooked by the Birds of Prey?

Taken on the 70 - 300mm Nikon zoom lens at 300mm 


We humans have to learn about dangers. Sometimes we are warned of certain animals that a dangerous. Many of us may never have seen a tiger or a wolf, but we would know that these animals can cause harm.

I have ducks in my garden. They wander around and seem generally content. We get eggs from them as we do the chickens. We live out in the Fenlands of eastern England and there are a variety of raptors. It has always amazed me how the ducks instinctively know that raptors or birds of prey can be harmful to them. Yet not one of my ducks has ever experienced an attack from a raptor. They seem to know automatically when they are in the sky too. Sometimes the bird of prey is so high up, it can hardly be made out. It baffles me how the ducks know.

Today, my wife Carole was digging up worms and the ducks were excitedly quaking the way ducks do. For a time the ducks were incredibly noisy as the foraged about the dug up garden patch. Carole came back and sat with me on the garden decking. Then suddenly she said, “The ducks have gone quite.”

I looked to the ducks and they were silent and standing still. Their heads seemingly to the side but only slightly. Then Carole said, “There must be a buzzard or something.”

She peered up into the clear blue sky with her hand over her brow to block out the sun’s glare. I did the same but could only see blue sky. I thought it may have been an old wives tale, but then Carole pointed up. I peered along her line of pointing. To my surprise, there was this minute dot circling very high up.

“Blimey,” I exclaimed. “How can the ducks see that?”

“They have some sort of instinct,” replied Carole.

I reached for my camera and homed in with the telescopic sight. As the raptor circled over the lens sensor, I was able to get off a few good photo shots. It was a grand sight. After a time the bird of prey caught the wind and flew off at speed over the houses of March town.


The ducks resumed their noisy banter and we sat down and discussed how ducks must pass on some sort of gene or memory from an ancestor that allows them to know about high-flying raptors. 











Thursday, 23 March 2017

Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was Killed as a British Soldier. (A True Story)

Louis Napoleon Faced the Enemy Fighting for Britain

Prince Imperial
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte
 Another disaster to fall upon Britain during the Zulu War was the death of France's Louis Napoleon Bonaparte - Prince Imperial - Head of the House of Bonaparte. He was a dashing young man of 23 years and was rumoured to be a possible match for Princess Beatrice - Queen Victoria's youngest daughter.

Prince Louis had been living in Britain with his mother and father (Napoleon III) after the Franco-Prussian war. He had joined the British army and been commissioned as an officer. His mother had been able to pull some strings for him.

Once commissioned and after his father's death, Prince Louis wanted to see active service. He believed it would be a good political move and enhance his career, for he hoped that one day; France would elect him to rule, as other Bonapartes had done. Had he lived; it is almost certain he would have led his nation one day.

However, this was not to be, and much to the embarrassment of Great Britain - a nation that many French people thought was anti-Bonaparte because of the Napoleonic wars. There was even talk among some of the Bonaparte fanatics that Queen Victoria might have engineered the situation. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Young Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was favoured by the Queen and she took a keen interest in the young man and his widowed mother.

When the Zulu War broke out Prince Louis saw this as a grand opportunity to gain experience. The nation of the Zulus was far away and he could not offend any European nations by fighting in such a war. Much against the British Prime Minister's advice, the young Bonaparte was assigned to go out to South Africa and blood himself with war experience.

He took with him his great relative's sword - the very sword worn by Napoleon Bonaparte during the Battle of Austerlitz. When he arrived in South Africa he made his way to Natal and from here he eventually went out to Lord Chelmsford's camp. The Zulu War had been going on for some 5 months by May.

Jahleel Brenton Carey
He was pleased to meet some men from his officer training school and another officer by the name of Jahleel Brenton Carey. Jahleel Carey was a man that Prince Louis quickly developed a friendship with because he spoke very good French having been educated at Lycee Imperial - a famous French university. The man had also been in a British First Aid unit during the Franco-Prussian War and had seen service during the siege of Paris.

During patrols from the base, there had been a couple of incidents when the young Prince had unsheathed his sword and wanted to pursue distant sightings of Zulu warriors. On two occasions he was sternly ordered to stand down and remain with the troop.

He became involved in mapping the surrounding areas and was a little restless with the chore because he wanted to gain some fighting experience. Then on 1st of June, he was allowed to take a small party of horsemen out to reconnoitre the land - a task to do with mapping.

The patrol had his friend and fellow officer Jahleel Brenton Carey and a few other troopers - plus a renegade Zulu who was a scout. They were about their duties for a number of hours when they came upon a small deserted Zulu camp consisting of some abandoned beehive shaped huts.

They dismounted and let the horses graze for a while. The troops made tea and it was a lazy affair allowing the men to lounge around and take a break. One of the men returning with water reported a distant sighting of a Zulu watching them and it was then decided to gather the horses. As the men were about to mount, waiting for the young Prince Imperial to give the order; shots rang out and a large group of Zulus charged out of some scrub screaming their war cry. One of the troopers was slain, while others mounted and panicked - riding away from the attacking Zulus.
Sudden Zulu attack catches Prince Louis Napoleon by surprise.
Prince Louis had acquired a temperamental grey horse, which bolted. He was caught out trying to mount while the horse began to gallop off. A young Guernsey man was among the troop and he was having difficulty amid the panic too. He called to the Prince in French but could offer no further assistance as he desperately struggled to get upon his own mount which was also galloping away.


Prince Louis slipped from his horse and was left on foot as chasing Zulus came after him. He ran for a short distance then turned to face his attackers. He managed to fire two shots, but it is reported that none of the Zulus was hit. 

The young Prince met his death bravely as the group of about six Zulus fell upon him. The rest of his troop looked on in the distance and when they returned to the camp and reported what happened Lieutenant Jahleel Brenton Carey was charged with cowardice in the face of the enemy. His fellow officers were furious with him. He was court marshalled and found guilty, but this was later overturned because the people on the court marshal had not been sworn in.

The next day, British soldiers went out and found the naked and mutilated corpse of Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte - Prince Imperial and head of the House of Bonaparte. He had been ritually disembowelled as was the Zulu custom to stop his ghost from haunting his slayers.

When the Zulus learnt of who they had killed, they said he would not have been slain if they had known him to be a prince. One of his assailants was called Zabanga and he was killed at the Battle of Ulundi.

Even though the charge of cowardice did not carry; Lieutenant Jahleel Brenton Carey would have the harsh stigma of inappropriate conduct in the face of the enemy, for it was generally believed, by his fellow officers, he should have tried to rally his fleeing men and save the young Prince Imperial. Jahleel Carey died in Karachi India during 1883, just four years later. In his obituary, this incident earned him his unwanted celebrity and place in history - perhaps unfairly.