I subscribe to Ugly Hedgehog, a forum about all things photographic.
It is a mine of information, people share incredible photographs, and much more.
On February 17th this year Photolady2014 published a set of photographs of wolves that were just gorgeous.
This is how she introduced the pictures:
So I am still on cloud 9 seeing wolfs rather close. They were about 150 feet away. Not the quality that the pros were getting who were there. I have seen their photos and well I still have a lot to learn. But, for someone who just started wildlife a couple of years ago, I will take these! If you do the download you will see they are not all bad. I have had to do some sharpening and noise reduction. The pros were all using the 600mm F4 with 2x extenders.
Me: Canon R5, 100-500 & 1.4 extender. All are at 700mm.
I asked if I could share them on Learning from Dogs and said Photolady2014 of South West Colorado said ‘Yes’.
Here they are:
Photolady went on to report:
This is the Wapiti pack in Yellowstone.
We sat in below 0 weather for about 4 hours watching them and the coyotes who were patiently waiting their turn to eat!
Fabulous pictures and one can’t help thinking that some 23,000 years ago there started the long journey of domestication, and the bonding between humans and wolves brought about the dog.
Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Aston University
At 3pm UK time on Christmas day, the Queen’s Christmas message is broadcast across the Commonwealth. Each year the format is largely the same, with the Queen giving her own account of the main personal, national and international events of the year and reflecting on the meaning of Christmas. As such, it has become an important part of the festivities for many families in the UK and beyond.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, fresh restrictions imposed and Brexit rapidly approaching, this year’s broadcast has taken on new significance as a source of stability and comfort, a constant in these difficult and uncertain times. Therefore, it is worth examining how the language used in the broadcast creates this sense of reassurance.
Since 1952, the Queen’s Christmas message has performed three ideological functions through rhetorical appeals based on faith and family.
The Queen shares personal anecdotes, which she often links to ordinary people’s experiences through the pronouns “we” and “us”.
On Christmas Day 1964, for instance, she told viewers that: “All of us who have been blessed with young families know from long experience that when one’s house is at its noisiest, there is often less cause for anxiety”. As most new parents would recognise this truism, it conveys the message that – in this respect at least – the royals are like any other family.
The Queen is also aware that some families will be separated during the festive season and regularly expresses empathy for them. As she said in 1956: “I would like to send a special message of hope and encouragement to all who […] cannot be with those they love today: to the sick who cannot be at home”.
This message is made more poignant because of COVID-19, as the Queen recognised in her special address on April 5 2020. Indeed, it is almost inevitable that this year’s Christmas broadcast will include similar words of consolation for those who have been separated from their loved ones during the pandemic.
Uncertainty is another recurring theme in the Queen’s Christmas broadcast, as she tries to make sense of the year’s events for the benefit of her audience. She gives her personal responses to national and global problems, which frequently involve the enactment of supposedly timeless (but predominantly Christian) values. On Christmas Day 1980, amid issues such as the Soviet-Afghanistan war and UK unemployment, she said:
We know that the world can never be free from conflict and pain, but Christmas also draws our attention to all that is hopeful and good in this changing world; it speaks of values and qualities that are true and permanent and it reminds us that the world we would like to see can only come from the goodness of the heart.
Among these values are faith, charity and compassion and, by praising them as a source of stability and the means for creating a better world, the Queen is perhaps seeking to strengthen adherence to them. Not only that, her appeals to Christian values and her emphasis on the family provide a sense of security for those who are disoriented by the rapid pace of social change. In turn, this sustains the monarchy by establishing the Queen as “a permanent anchor, bracing against the storms and grounding us in certainty”, as former British prime minister David Cameron said in 2012, marking her Diamond Jubilee.
The Queen’s rhetoric of unity is based primarily on the metaphor of the Commonwealth as a family, which recurs throughout the Christmas broadcasts. In 1956, for instance, she observed that:
We talk of ourselves as a “family of nations”, and perhaps our relations with one another are not so very different from those which exist between members of any family. We all know that these are not always easy, for there is no law within a family which binds its members to think, or act, or be alike.
Despite these differences, in 2011 the Queen described the Commonwealth as “a family of 53 nations, all with a common bond, shared beliefs, mutual values and goals”. As the head of the Commonwealth, it is perhaps no exaggeration to say that the Queen is the matriarch of this family of nations, whose primary role is to keep the unit together and uphold its values. Indeed, the Christmas broadcast has been an important source of soft power since the end of Empire. As Sonny Ramphal, a former Commonwealth secretary general, put it: “without her presence, the Commonwealth will feel it is missing the captain from the bridge”.
With the UK government having tightened Christmas COVID-19 restrictions, as well as the introduction of bans on UK travel in numerous countries, this festive season will be very different. Perhaps more than ever, as families face separation or the disruption of their traditional plans, people will seek solace in the ritual of the Queen’s Christmas broadcast.
I can’t find a copyright-free photograph of the Queen’s Corgis but this one will do. It is from Pexels.
So her Majesty The Queen is 94! Wow!
That makes her the oldest monarch to have reigned in Britain. Ever!
Queen Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death, in 1901. That makes Queen Victoria the second longest monarch to have reigned.
Some videos of Alex, my son, and others taking a bike tour.
Now I would be the first to admit that the following videos will not be to everyone’s taste.
But there is a strong link to my son and his bike riding, and to my own bike riding. For over 5 years ago Alex persuaded me to get a better cycle than I already had. I chose the Specialized Sirrus and have been delighted with it ever since. I purchased it from the local Don’s Bike Center. There is a photograph of the bike below.
To be honest, riding the bike more or less every other day has been crucial in me staying as fit and healthy as I am.
On to the videos.
I was speaking to Alex recently and he was talking about the tour of the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England that he and friends took. That was Alex and Darren and Claire and their 14-year-old son Tom.
He mentioned the YouTube videos that had been taken and I asked Alex to forward them to me.
I reckoned that a few of you would be interested!
They are a total of 26 minutes spread across the 4 videos
Finally, Alex and I still stay connected with our riding courtesy of Strava.
This uses a small GPS, in my case a Garmin EDGE 20, to upload and show the route to the Strava dashboard. We each give each other what is known as Kudos for our respective rides.
The following is my afternoon ride of a little under 13 miles around the local roads, grabbed when the rain ceased for a while. It shows me taking our driveway, a quarter-mile long, to Hugo Rd; about 10 o’clock in the diagram below. I then turned left and two miles later turned right into Three Pines Rd. then a further right into Russell Rd. and down to Pleasant Valley Rd. and back home with a small diversion along Robertson Bridge Rd. and Azalea Dr. and to the bottom of Hugo Rd. Precisely 3 miles up Hugo Rd. and back to our driveway.
That will be shared automatically with Alex when he wakes in the morning.
And this below was Alex’s recent ride; all 83.78 miles!
I probably wanted to say “This is very beautiful in a profound and spiritual way.“
One of the many things that make this funny world of blogging so delightful is the connections that are made.
Recently Learning from Dogs got a follow from a person who herself was a blogger. This is what she wrote on her About page.
Endurance athlete, artist, and fourth generation Oregonian. I grew up on the central Oregon coast and lived in the Willamette Valley most of my adult life. My endurance work is an intersection of spiritual, personal and creative practices. I fall in love with places, like people, and dream of them often. I am not a travel writer, bucket lister, photographer, peak bagger or a competitive athlete. I seek only passage.
I was intrigued. No, more than that, I was curious about her. I wanted to know more.
When I left a message of thanks over on her blog this is what I said:
Oh my goodness. I came here ostensibly to leave a fairly standard thank you for your decision to follow Learning from Dogs. But then I saw what you had written and, also, the beautiful photographs you have taken. I was just bowled over!
Do you have a dog or two? Because if you do I would love you to write a guest post over at my place. Or give me permission to republish one of your posts? But I would prefer the former.
My dear wife, Jean, and me are both British. We met in Mexico in 2007 and I moved out permanently in late 2008 with my GSD Pharaoh. We came up to the USA in 2010 and were married and then came to Southern Oregon in 2012. We live close to Merlin, Josephine County and just love it to pieces. Originally we had 16 dogs but are now down to 6!
Regrettably she is allergic to dogs but she quickly gave me permission to republish a post of hers.
This is it. It is remarkable!
Into the fold: Basin and Range
May 26th, 2020
I guess I should have expected the snow, above 6000’ in the springtime. Flurries swirled around my car as I removed my leggings in the backseat and began cleaning my wounds. I was bleeding in four places, the largest of which was a grapefruit sized ooze of blood on my knee. What was supposed to be a quick, 3 mile warm up hike turned into an assorted practice of skills I’ve acquired over the last ten years in the woods.
How to navigate trailless canyons full of thorny brush.
How to step when gaining upon steep fields of melting snow.
How to traverses loose, snow covered boulder fields.
How to field dress a wound.
How to know when to turn around.
How to navigate by sight and evaluate terrain.
How to avoid getting your ankle crushed by a dislodged boulder.
How to stay calm when things get intense.
How to get your head back in the game.
How to self evacuate.
How to accept failure.
How to relish in it.
Later, with my knee buzzing slightly from the pain, I make my way into a canyon on the western flank of the mountain. I know this canyon well. There is a safe place to hide from the rain, to collect drinking water, and I don’t have to worry about the roads turning to mud if the storms linger through the night. While my water filter drips, I follow the creek upstream. Wind swirls, aspens chatter, clouds are ripping across the sky. House sized, red violet boulders protrude from the hillside, they look like ships caught in the crest of a giant wave.
The sun is setting, the pain in my leg forgotten. I take my full water jugs and find a place to camp along the rocky beach of an alkaline lake. These lakes are the remnants of massive, Pleistocene era inland seas. Their waves are black. In the coldest parts of winter they freeze into a slurry of ice and the motion of the waves seems to slow. Like watching an inky black slurpee ocean crash against the rocky shore.
I eat instant noodles, drink tea, and think about the “real” ocean, where I was born.
To me, the desert and the ocean are like two sides of the same coin. I can watch the light change over the hills for hours, just like I can watch the waves break along the coast. Both are fascinating. The ocean always seems impassable, uncrossable, infinite, unforgiving. The desert is too, if you know the dangers well enough. I think about my close call on the mountain earlier. It’s like an old timer told me once, “…but only a fool tries to cross the desert”.
“Okay”, I said.
When the sun rises, I am already awake, shoving things around, getting ready to ride out to the canyons on the furthest side of the mountain. The dawn strikes a distant rim and is bright pink across the craggy face. I haven’t climbed that peak yet, either. I smile to myself as I toss my pack into the passenger seat, turn up the radio, and turn the ignition. I’m thankful for the warmth in my car this morning. Thankful for a shelter from the wind before my work in the canyon begins.
I found the place, but it took me a while.
After nearly 50 miles on gravel and dirt, weaving around the backsides of sprawling, ethereal lakes, several wrong turns, and a quite sporting, rugged road granting passage across the valley floor, I had finally reached the gates of this remote, unsociable place. Rimrock lined the canyon walls, massive boulders littered the valley floor, scattered throughout the mostly dry river channel. Each possessed its own creepy, brackish pond at its base, resplendent with robust algae colonies.
Some terrain cannot be run, and this was one of those places. I settled in to a comfortable, brisk hiking pace and made my way up the canyon; sometimes following the riverbed channel, other times taking the game trails through winding thickets of sagebrush and thorns. I never saw the animals, but I could feel myself being watched a few times. I do not mind; I always remember that I am their guest.
The otherworldly feeling of the canyon persisted, even as the landscape changed, flattened, rounded itself out. I took the old farm road out of the depths and up onto the flats again. The road leveled out as it wound it’s way around the mouth of the canyon, now obscured by the sagebrush sea spread out before me. You can see everything that is far away and nothing up close. The terrain is flat and easy here. I break into a run.
I love running downhill.
It’s all gravy until the weather blows in. I watch it coming across the valley. The first raindrops are warm and fat. A rainbow spreads across the horizon, snow clouds form on the rim of the mountain, and the wind really starts to rip. I resist the urge to increase my pace. My body is already sore; I’ve been out here nearly a week now. As the rain turns to sleet and then hail, it’s time to practice the things you’ve learned once more.
How to layer for various types of rain.
How to guard your face from the wind.
How to bundle your hands in your sleeves so they don’t go numb.
How to take your backpack off, open it and retrieve a snack without stopping.
How to run.
How to run when your feet hurt and you want to quit.
How to run when the rain turns to hail and catches you out on the flats with not even a rock to hide behind.
How to run when you are crying and you don’t know why.
Where do you go inside yourself when fatigue and boredom set it?
How do you stay present in all of it?
Everything is practice.
When I finally return to my car, the storm has passed, for now. The mountains beyond the valley are fully obscured by clouds. If I stay here, the road maybe be impassable by morning. I want to stay, but I decide the best course of action is to return the way I came. Also, the hot springs are over there, and my tired legs say, YES PLEASE. I hang my wet clothes up to dry along the windows of my car, crank the heat to 85, and hope my puffy dries out by morning. I rally back across the bumpy valley, behind the lakes, across the basin, up the face of the mountain all over again.
The hot springs are mercifully empty. I take off my clothes and stand naked in the cold air for a while, staring at the mountain. When I slip into the water, I feel like home. I feel like I belong. I am right where I want to be. Everything is just right.
But I don’t stay long.
I subsequently asked where she had gone:
These photos are all from the SE corner of Oregon, reaching down into Northern Nevada. Hart Mountain, the Northern Warner Mountains, Abert Rim, Rabbit Hills, Summer Lake, and the formidable Catlow Valley.
Now you know!
But that doesn’t change my opinion that this is one unusual person who has the spirit of adventure truly in her bones!
There was a remark left on my post on Tuesday by Pendantry. This is what he said, “Still waiting to hear the story of that dangerous trip you took (once?) that you dropped a teaser about years ago….”
Well not only am I including the excerpt from the book Letter to a Grandson, as yet unpublished, but I am extending it to two posts, simply because I think it’s too long for one.
So this is part one.
Songbird Of Kent
I decided to sell Dataview and worry about the taxation later. Now it is easy to write that all these years later knowing how it turned out; I never paid the tax!
For that same year, 1986, I went to Cyprus on holiday. Or rather I should say I went to the Greek half of Cyprus, to Larnaca, for a well-deserved holiday.
In wandering around the marina one day I saw a boat for sale. It was a Tradewind 33, a heavy-displacement cutter, called Songbird of Kent. The owners, Michael and Betty Hughes, were selling after many years of living on board and they returning to their native Wales. It had been extensively cruised in the Mediterranean with the base being Larnaca Marina.
It was a lovely boat and I could afford it. Plus, it offered an answer to my prayers. If I bought Songbird of Kent and left the UK before April 15th 1987 and stayed away for four tax years there would be no tax to pay. Nothing; Nada!
So that’s exactly what I did!
I bought Songbird, flew back to Devon and made preparations for leaving the United Kingdom for good. It was a busy period. One that had me saying cheerio to my son and daughter, but insisting that, so long as they came out to see me, it would not be four or five years before I saw them again. Plus loads of packing up, disposing of my house and eventually boarding that aircraft with a one-way ticket: London Stansted to Larnaca, Cyprus.
I settled in to living on board Songbird of Kent. I bought myself a small motorbike and in time, believe it or not, discovered there was a gliding club on the Island, at Kingsfield just to the East of Larnaca. The airfield was built for the Army Air Corps, possibly around 1960, but I can’t remember whether or not it was still in military hands. I don’t think it was!
But, I am able to look up my flying log and see that I flew a T21 from Kingsfield on the 28th October, 1990. It became a regular habit; quite quickly, as on the 17th November, 1990, I completed my instructor flight test and was signed off to instruct.
I also took an Advanced Open Water Diver course run by instructor Ian Murray. Ian was a PADI diving instructor. PADI stood for Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
My life was pretty good.
Each summer I would sail solo to Turkey, usually West along the South coast, the Greek side of Cyprus, then turn North and make it to Alanya or Antalya. There I would wait for guests to come from England including, most importantly, for Maija and Alex to visit.
Then we would gently cruise from harbour to harbour westwards, sometimes entering Greece much further West.
One day in Larnaca Marina a boat came quietly in and moored in the vacant berth next to me. I hopped off Songbird and went to help the sailor on board. It looked as though he was sailing solo.
After he had been securely moored, I asked him where he had come from. He was English; his name was Les Powells. He unassumingly said he was on his way home after a solo circumnavigation. Indeed, I later learned that it was his third solo circumnavigation!
The mind absolutely boggles! I mean I have just an idea, from reading books written by Francis Chichester and others, what a single solo circumnavigation would be like. But three!!
Over the coming days, we chatted about a whole range of stuff. When the subject of glider flying came up, Les said that was something he had always wanted to do.
I immediately offered to teach him to fly gliders. For a few weeks thereafter, we drove across to Kingsfield, when the Club was operating, and I taught Les up to the point where he went solo.
In the time we spent together, Les inspired me to undertake more longer sailing trips than just going across at the start of the season from Cyprus to Turkey and, of course, returning at the end of the season. Maybe, even try a transatlantic.
The idea of crossing the Atlantic kept nudging away at me. Especially since Dave Lisson, a Canadian friend from Larnaca Marina, was very much in favour of coming with me. Dave and I chatted about it and we agreed; we would give it a go! It was 1992 and a little late in the year to be starting off but we reckoned on it being alright. We left Larnaca Marina on the 10th September, 1992.
The idea was to head for Malta bypassing Crete. The weather soon became less than idyllic and by late on 13th September I made an entry in the sailing log: Conditions deteriorating. Then a further entry in the log at 11:00 on the 14th: Giant seas 3-4 metres.
Eventually on the 20th September we entered Valletta Harbour. We set off again on the 24th September. Our next port of call was Sidi Bou Said marina in Tunisia, which we entered on the 26th September.
The plan was to sail directly from Sidi Bou Said to Gibraltar but, once again, the weather got in the way. Thus on the 3rd October we entered Algiers harbour to take on fuel and to have a rest from the inclement conditions. We left Algiers on the 7th October heading for Gibraltar.
I must say that sailing in a smallish yacht had an almost unreal quality to it. The routine of sailing soon enveloped us. We slept frequently but lightly. At night, every twenty minutes or so, the one on watch would come on deck to take a look round. There was a simplicity in sailing, using a self-steering gear to helm the boat, and I remember one night coming on deck, there wasn’t a moon, and all around me, literally 360 degrees of vision, the stars came right down to the horizon. I was transfixed. We were far enough from land not to have any light pollution. It was magical. Indeed, it was a memory that has never left me.
However, getting to Gibraltar was not without its challenge for we suffered a knockdown and this scared us both to the core.
Way back in 1978 I started a company called Dataview. It was based in Colchester, Essex and I sold Commodore Computers; the ‘PET”, standing for Personal Electronic Transactor.
Now I was a word-processing salesman for IBM previously and didn’t know a thing about computers. I operated out of a small shop at first in Church Street and people came into the shop and played around with my demonstration models. Unbelievably I sold some!
Later I got involved with a software program known as Wordcraft. The first comprehensive word processing program for the PET. Indeed, I had the exclusive world distribution rights to Wordcraft. One thing lead to another and soon I was operating from much larger premises down at Portreeves House at East Bay, still in Colchester.
I appointed a Head of Marketing, Amit Roy, and the company grew and grew. I focused on appointing distributors across the world, and that included Dan Gomez in southern California, and he became a close friend being my best man when Jeannie and I were married in 2010.
Anyway, back to the story of Dataview. Eventually I sold out and escaped the country (and taxes) by moving to a yacht in the Greek side of Cyprus before April 15th. I went to Larnaca Marina. That was in 1986.
On Sunday, through a link from a mutual friend, I called Amit, the first time we had spoken since 1986. We had the most delightful of telephone conversations.
Amit was born in Burma, he is now 79, and lost his wife some 13 years ago. The counsellor who saw Amit after the death of his very dear wife said that he had to be strong and to take up something he could become passionate about. Amit joined the Colchester Photographic Society and took up studying again, in photography, and became a very good photographer.
With Amit’s permission I share some of his photographs with you.
These are just a few but they are superb; absolutely marvellous.
That is the most welcome of connections – thanks to Roger Davis for suggesting it!