Lockdown Diaries: Day 52 (Francis Drake Captures the Cacafuego)

Locked Down in London, Day 52: We’ve Got an Exit Strategy!

Well… sort of.

We’re going to live the rest of our lives like this:


Virtual Escape: Francis Drake Captures the Cacafuego

As told in his own words – excuse him his 16th century spelling! 🙂

…and the first of March wee fell with the cape Francisco, where, about mid-day, we descried a sayle a head of vs, with whom after we had spoken with her, we lay still in the same place about sixe days to recouer our breath againe, which we had almost spent with hasty following, and to recall to mind what aduentures had passed vs since our late comming from Lima; but especially to do Iohn de Anton a kindnesse, in freeing him of the care of those things with which his ship was loaden.

This ship we found to bee the same of which we had heard, not onely in the Calao of Lima, but also by diuers occasions afterward, which now we are at leasure to relate, viz., by a ship which we tooke betweene Lima and Paita: by another, which we took loaden with wine in the port of Paita: by a third, loaden with tackling and implements for ships (besides eightie pound waight in gold) from Guiaquill. And lastly by Gabriel Aluarez, with whom we talked somewhat neerer the line).

We found her to be indeed the Cacafuego, though before we left her, she were new named by a boy of her owne the Cacaplata¹. We found in her some fruite, conserues, sugars, meale, and other victuals, and (that which was the especiallest cause of her heauy and slow sayling) a certaine quantitie of iewels and precious stones, 13 chests of ryals of plate, 80 pound waight in gold, 26 tunne of uncoyned siluer, two very faire gilt siluer drinking boules, and the like trifles, valued in all at about 360,000 pezoes. We gaue the master a little linnen and the like for these commodities, and at the end of sixe dayes we bad farewell and parted. Hee hastening somewhat lighter then before to Panama, we plying off to sea, that we might with more leasure consider what course henceforward were fittest to be taken.

The Voyage About the World by Sir Francis Drake)

¹ Cacafuego means 'fire-shitter'; Cacaplata means 'silver-shitter'. The real name of the ship was actually Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, that is, Our Lady of the Conception; Cacafuego was a nickname.

Link:Sir Francis Drake engaging the Cacafuego, a rich Spanish Ship (National Maritime Museum)
Keep safe, keep sane – keep sharing! 🙂

Lockdown Diaries: Day 33 (Sailing on the Spice Fleet)

Locked Down in London, Day 33: The March of the Penguins

Yesterday was the Queen’s birthday; in London normally there would have been a parade. Not this time but at least some subjects of Her Majesty got to celebrate:

Virtual Escape: Sailing on the Spice Fleet

Today’s we’re not only escaping whichever room we’re locked into; we’re going back in time!

In particular, we’re arriving home on the Spice Fleet of Venice on a cold winter night from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land at the end of the 15th century:

Landfall brought all the vicissitudes of life. People returned with gold, spices, plague and grief. Failed admirals came clanking in chains, triumphant ones with trumpets and cannon fire, trailing captured banners in the sea, the gonfalon of St Mark streaming in the wind. Ordelafo Falier stepped down the gangplank with the bones of St Stephen. Pisani’s body came packed in salt. Antonio Grimani survived the disgrace of Zonchio and became a doge; so did Gritti, the spy. Marco Polo, wild-eyed and anonymous, burst through the door of his house like Ulysses returned – and no one recognised him.

Felix Fabri came on the spice fleet of 1480 with the weather so cold that the oars had to break the ice in the canals. He arrived in the dark, just after Christmas. The night was clear and bright; from the deck the snowy tops of the Dolomites glimmered under a large moon. No one could sleep. As dawn rose, the passengers could see the golden roof of the campanile glinting in the sun, topped by the angel Gabriel welcoming them home. All the bells of Venice were ringing for the fleet’s return…

(Roger Crowley: City of Fortune)

The snowy tops of the Dolomites glimmered under a large moon… [Photo by kv15031969 via Pixabay]
Those of you who have been with me long enough know that the irrepressible 15th century German monk, Felix Fabri, is one of my favourite historical characters.

I first met him in the book quoted above, and since read his travel diaries. Felix travelled to the Holy Land twice in pilgrimage in the 1480s; the second time he went from the Holy Land to Egypt and sailed back from there on the Venetian spice fleet. Sadly, the second part of his diaries dealing with his travels from the Holy Land to Egypt and back to Europe, full of evocative little details such as belching crocodiles in the Nile or the snowy tops of the Dolomites, has never been translated. Unless you can read Latin, you have to rely for these details on H F M Prescott’s book, Once to Sinai: The Further Pilgrimage of Friar Felix Fabri.

Further Reading:Fables of Felix FabriThe Wanderings of Felix Fabri (e-book)
Keep safe, keep sane – immerse yourselves in history!

Lockdown Diaries: Day 32 (Climbing Kanchenjunga)

Locked Down in London, Day 32: Where Is My Money?

Today we got a refund for one of the many things that was cancelled on us due to everything closing. Yippee! I celebrate the fact that we did get one refund and in fact in a couple of cases our direct debit for services that we subscribe to but can’t use at the moment was frozen – but what about the rest? There are at least half a dozen companies, museums, a school, etc. that owe us money and not a peep out of most of them…

What about you people?

Virtual Escape: Climbing Kanchenjunga

Remembering happier times… when we climbed the Kanchenjunga!

(Click on the gallery to enlarge the pictures.)


Kanchenjunga here (as I’m sure you all guessed) is not the mountain in the Himalayas; it’s a mountain in the Lake District in England, and in real life it’s known as the Old Man of Coniston. It’s called Kanchenjunga in Arthur Ransome’s children’s book about the Swallows and Amazons and we climbed it because we love the books! (See the link below for more information and pictures about our following in the footsteps of the Swallows and Amazons.)

Further Reading:In the Footsteps of the Swallows and AmazonsLake District
Keep safe, keep sane – keep sharing! 🙂

Lockdown Diaries: Day 26 (Kew Gardens)

Locked Down in London, Day 26: In a Garden Suburb

I’m one of those lucky people who are blessed with living in a leafy suburb. I usually deprecate this fact because I’m a genuine city girl from Budapest and god, is it boring living in a leafy suburb where there is nothing but streets and streets of identical suburban houses and if you want to buy a bloody pair of socks, you have to go to a boring mall an hour’s distance away or to an overcrowded Oxford Street (even farther away).

But today it was sunny and it’s spring and I’m still officially on holiday… and the gardens of these boring suburban houses, full of blooming tulips and trees in flower, looked so spectacular that I wanted to video my entire walk.

Virtual Escape: Kew Gardens

So today we’re escaping to a Kew Gardens in full spring bloom!

⇒ In case the embedded video doesn't work for you, click here: Spring at Kew Gardens
Keep safe, keep sane – keep looking at the flowers!

Lockdown Diaries: Day 25 (In Space)

Locked Down in London, Day 25: ISS

Sometimes when the weather is nice and the night is clear, I check when the ISS is  due to pass overhead at a reasonable hour and then sit in the garden waiting to spot it. And I think of the people aboard, and of space, and of science and adventure; and I nightdream of a future when mankind will, somehow, crack the secret of travelling faster than light or through wormholes, or what-do-I-care, as long as they will be able to get to the centre of our galaxy and even to far away galaxies and live on other planets.

The ISS is not passing anywhere near me for a while (you’re in luck in North America around the US-Canadian border and in Australia and New-Zealand) but the reason why I mention them is because since this whole lockdown madness started, several of the astronauts on board talked about how they cope with their isolation and being locked into a small space.

So imagine yourselves on board of the ISS, people!

Jessica Meir using a laptop on the International Space Station [Photo courtesy of NASA]

Virtual Escape: In Space

Imagine yourself on board a spaceship en route to Saturn:

The ship was still only thirty days from Earth; yet David Bowman sometimes found it hard to believe that he had ever known any other existence than the closed little world of Discovery. All his years of training, all his earlier missions to the Moon and Mars, seemed to belong to another man, in another life.

Frank Poole admitted to the same feelings, and had sometimes joking regretted that the nearest psychiatrist was the better part of a hundred million miles away. But this sense of isolation and estrangement was easy enough to understand, and certainly indicated no abnormality. In the fifty years since men had ventured into space, there had never been a mission quite like this.

It had begun, five years ago, as Project Jupiter – the first manned round trip to the greatest of the planets. The ship was nearly ready for the two-year voyage when, somewhat abruptly, the mission profile had been changed.

Discovery would still go to Jupiter; but she would not stop there. She would not even slacken speed as she raced through the far-ranging Jovian satellite system. On the contrary – she would use the gravitational field of the giant world as a sling, to cast her even further from the Sun. Like a comet, she would streak on across the outer reaches of the Solar System to her ultimate goal, the ringed glory of Saturn. And she would never return…

(2001: Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke)

Further Reading / Watching:Space Station Videos by NASAArthur C. Clarke2001: Space Odyssey: What it means and how it was made
Keep safe, keep sane – keep looking at the stars! 🙂

Lockdown Diaries: Day 24 (The Games People Play)

Locked Down in London, Day 24: Dungeons & Dragons

Last week in Lancashire we found Mr Anglo-Saxonist’s old (Advanced) Dungeons & Dragons books and set of dice in his late parents’ garage. Thank you to the lockdown, today we gave it a go.

D&D dice [Image by Diacritica via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0]
For those of you who don’t know, Dungeons & Dragons is an old role-playing game from the 1970s. I’ve never played it before, and well, what can I say? Setting up the characters alone took a couple of hours… and on our first encountering a new character in a pub, we didn’t know what to do next, until I had the happy notion to invite him for a beer! It seems an incredibly complex game, not helped by the fact that Mr Anglo-Saxonist, who is acting Dungeon Master (a sort of game master and umpire), can no longer remember the rules or even understand the abbreviations in the rule books… But we did kill 3 hours this afternoon, and although it gave him a headache, the rest of us were reasonably entertained. As this is a game that apparently just goes on and on, we’re taken care of for another few weeks of lockdown at least?

Virtual Escape: A Game of Poaching in the Scottish Highlands

Photo by Matteo Badini on Pexels.com

Our virtual escape today has been inspired by us playing D&D, and takes us to the Scottish Highlands – where three eminent gentlemen suffering from ennui and in need of excitement deliver a sporting challenge to local landlords: they propose to go poaching on their lands and dare the landlords to catch them. If they are caught, they will donate money to a good cause.

The book under advertisement is John Macnab by John Buchan, of The Thirty-Nine Steps fame, and even if you’re not into hunting, it’s solid entertainment. The titular character is the nom de guerre assumed by the three eminent gentlemen (a lawyer, a cabinet minister and a banker) for their game of poaching.

“Now, look here.” Lamancha had shaken off his glumness and was as tense and eager as a schoolboy. “Didn’t your doctor advise you to steal a horse? Well, this is a long sight easier than horse-stealing. It’s admitted that we three want a tonic. On second thoughts Archie had better stand out – he hasn’t our ailment, and a healthy man doesn’t need medicine. But we three need it, and this idea is an inspiration. Of course, we take risks, but they’re sound sporting risks. After all, I’ve a reputation of a kind, and I put as much into the pool as any one.”

His hearers regarded him with stony faces, but this in no way checked his ardour.

“It’s a perfectly first-class chance. A lonely house where you can see visitors a mile off, and an unsociable dog like Archie for a host. We write the letters and receive the answers at a London address. We arrive at Crask by stealth, and stay there unbeknown to the countryside, for Archie can count on his people and my man is a sepulchre. Also we’ve got Lithgow, who played the same game with Jim Tarras. We have a job which will want every bit of our nerve and ingenuity, with a reasonable spice of danger – for, of course, if we fail we should cut queer figures. The thing is simply ordaining by Heaven for our benefit. Of course you’ll come.”

“I’ll do nothing of the kind,” said Leithen.

“No more will I,” said Palliser-Yeates.

“Then I’ll go alone,” said Lamancha cheerfully. “I’m out for a cure, if you’re not. You’ve a month to make your mind, and meanwhile a share in the syndicate remains open to you.”

Sir Archie looked as if he wished he had never mentioned the fatal name of Jim Tarras. “I say, you know, Charles,” he began hesitantly, but he was cut short.

“Are you going back on your invitation?” asked Lamancha sternly. “Very well, then, I’ve accepted it, and what’s more I’m going to draft a specimen letter that will go to your Highland grandee, and Claybody and the American.”

He rose with a bound and fetched a pencil and a sheet of notepaper from the nearest writing-table. “Here goes – Sir, I have the honour to inform you that I propose to kill a stag – or a salmon as the case may be – on your ground between midnight on – and midnight -. We can leave the dates open for the present. The animal, of course, remains your property and will be duly delivered to you. It is a condition that it must be removed wholly outside your bounds. In the event of the undersigned failing to achieve his purpose he will pay as forfeit one hundred pounds, and if successful fifty pounds to any charity you may appoint. I have the honour to be, your obedient humble servant.

“What do you say to that?” he asked. “Formal, a little official, but perfectly civil, and the writer proposes to pay his way like a gentleman. Bound to make a good impression.”

“You’ve forgotten the signature,” Leithen observed dryly.

“It must be signed with a nom de guerre.” He thought for a moment. “I’ve got it. At once business-like and mysterious.” At the bottom of the draft he scrawled the name, ‘John MacNab.’

(John Macnab by John Buchan)

Further Reading:Beyond The Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John BuchanJohn MacNab by John Buchan (on Project Gutenberg)
Keep safe, keep sane – Happy Easter!

Lockdown Diaries: Day 23 (Christ Recrucified)

Locked Down in London, Day 23: The Police Is Losing the Plot

Earlier in the week, the Northamptonshire chief constable threatened to send his policemen to check on shoppers’ baskets and trolleys because in his opinion going out to buy chocolate Easter eggs is not essential!

What about buying the dye for the boiled eggs?! 🙂

Photo by Boris Manev on Pexels.com


Virtual Escape: Christ Recrucified

Our virtual escape today, in honour of Easter, is to the small fictional Greek village of Lycovrissi, in Anatolia, under Turkish rule, about a hundred years ago. Christ Recrucified by Nikos Kazantzakis (of Zorba, the Greek fame), tells the story of the year preceding the village Passion play. Every seven years Christ’s Passion is reenacted for Easter; on this occasion with some unexpected and tragic consequences…

The following excerpt describes the village elders discussing which villagers to choose for the various characters for the following year’s Mystery in the beginning of the book:

“We are therefore met together today,” the pope continued, “to choose—and may God enlighten us—those to whom we shall entrust this sacred mystery. Speak freely; let each put forward his opinion. Archon, you are the first notable, therefore speak first; we are listening.”

“Judas! We’ve got him,” the captain interjected. “You’ll never find a better one than Panayotaros, the plaster-eater; sturdy, spotted with the small-pox, a real gorilla, like the one I saw at Odessa; and what’s even more important, he’s got the beard and hair for the part: red as the Devil’s in person.”

“It’s not your turn to speak, captain,” said the pope severely; “don’t be in such a hurry, there are those whose turn comes before yours. Well, archon?”

“What shall I say, pope?” replied the archon. “I desire only thing: that you should choose my son Michelis to act Christ.”

“Impossible,” the pope cut in. “Your son is a young archon, big and fat, eating and drinking and enjoying life, while Christ was poor and thin. It isn’t suitable, forgive me. And besides is Michelis capable of going through with so difficult a part? He will be scourged, he will have to wear a crown of thorns, he will be hoisted up the cross: Michelis won’t have the strength, do you want him to fall ill?”

“And the most important of all,” the captain cut in, “is that Christ was fair, while Michelis’s hair and moustache are as black as boot-blacking.”

“For Mary Magdalen we’ve just the thing,” said Ladas, clucking: “widow Katerina. The bitch has everything required; she’s a fine whore with golden hair; I saw her one day in her yard, combing her hair, and it cam edown to her knees; devil take her, she’d damn an archbishop.”

The captain already had his mouth half-open to utter some jest, but the pope gave him a look which made him hold his tongue.

“The bad ones are easy to find,” said the pope; “Judas, Mary Magdalen. But the good ones? That’s where I’m waiting for your advice! Where shall we find, where shall we find—Lord forgive me!—a man resembling Christ? Let him but resemble Him more or less physically, that will be good enough. I—for days and weeks I’ve been hatching this idea in my head and many nights it’s kept me awake. But I believe God has had pity on me; I’ve found the man.”

“Who?” said the old archon, stung; “out with it.”

“With your permission, archon, someone in your service, whom your lordship also loves well—your shepherd, Manolios. He is mild as a lamb, he can read, has been in a monastery too; has blue eyes and a short beard as yellow as honey, a real Christ like an icon. And pious into the bargain. He comes down from the mountain every Sunday to hear Mass, and every time I’ve confessed him and given him Communion I’ve found not the least pecadillo to reproach him for.”

“He’s a wee bit crazy,” squeaked old Ladas, “he sees phantoms.”

“No harm in that,” the pope assured him; “it’s enough that the soul be pure.”

“He can stand the scourges, the crown of thorns and the weight of the cross. What’s more, he’s a shepherd, another advantage; Christ is also shepherd of the human flock,” said the schoolmaster sententiously.

“I approve,” concluded the archon, after having reflected for a good while. “And in that case, my son?”

“He’ll do very well for John,” said the pope enthusiastically. “He has everything required: well fleshed, black hair, almond eyes, and of good family, just as the well-beloved disciple was.”

“For James,” said the schoolmaster, watching his brother the pope timidly, “it seems to me we couldn’t do better than Kostandis who keeps the café. He’s thin; fierce-looking, crabbed, and that’s how they represent the Apostle James.”

“And he has a wife who worries the life out of him” (it was the captain again. “Was the Apostle married too? Well? What’s your opinion, most learned of all the learned?”

“Stop joking about sacred things, blasphemer!” cried the pope angrily. “You’re not on your boat here, telling dirty stories to your scum. We are considering a mystery.”

The schoolmaster plucked up courage.

“A passable Peter,” he said, “would, I think, be Yannakos the carrier: narrow forehead, grey curly hair, a short chin. He loses his temper and calms down, flares up and goes out as easily as a tinder; but he’s a good heart. I can’t see a better Peter than him in all the village.”

“A bit of a cheat,” said the archon, shaking his big head. “But what can you expect of a tradesman? It doesn’t matter.”

“They say he killed his wife,” wheezed father Ladas; “he gave her something to eat and she died of it.”

“Lies, lies!” cried the pope; “don’t come telling that story to me! One day, out of sheer greed, his late wife at a whole great bowl of raw chick-peas; it made her so thirsty she couldn’t bear it. The poor woman was thirsty, she drank a whole jugful of water. She swelled up and died. Don’t damn your soul, father Ladas!”

“Served her right!” said the captain; “that’s where drinking water leads to, she need only have drunk raki.”

“We still need a Pilate and a Caiaphas,” said the schoolmaster; “I think we shall have trouble in finding them.”

“A better Pilate than your lordship we shall never find, my dear archon,” the pope hazarded, in a honeyed voice. “Don’t frown; Pilate too was a great nobleman; proud in manner, well stuffed, double-chinned, well groomed, with just your bearing. A good man, too; did what he could to save Christ, and at the end even said: ‘I wash my hands of this.’ By that he escaped sin. Accept, archon, and you’ll enable us to give grandeur to the Mystery. Imagine what a glory it will be for our village and what a crowd it will draw when people hear that the worthy archon Patriarcheas is to act Pontius Pilate!”

The archon gave a self-satisfied smile, lit his chibouk and was silent.

“Father Ladas would make a first-rate Caiaphas!” said the captain, breaking in again; “we couldn’t find a better. In your opinion, pope, since you paint icons, tell me, what do they make Caiaphas look like?”

“Well…,” said the pope, swallowing, “rather like father Ladas: skin and bones, grimy, cheeks hollow, nose yellow and narrow…”

“And was his moustache, too, scurfy?” asked the captain, who liked giving pin-pricks. “De he, too, grudge giving a drop of water even to his guardian angel? Didn’t he, too, walk about with his boots under his arm so as not to wear out the soles?”

“I’m going!” shouted Ladas, jumping up. “And you, captain, why don’t you take a part? What are you waiting for? There’s not a smooth skin needed, by any chance, is there?”

“I? I form the reserve,” said the captain, with a laugh and the gesture of twirling moustaches. “Perhaps in the course of the year—after all we’re men, and not young!—one of you will go west: you for instance, Ladas of the moustaches, or even his lordship Pilate… If so, I shall take his place, to save the Mystery.”

“Find another Caiaphas, that’s all I’ve got to say!” bawled the old skinflint. “Anyhow, I must do some watering. I’m off!” And he made for the door.

But at one bound the pope was there and, with outstretched arms:

“Where are you going? Our people are coming, you shan’t leave. You don’t want to make us all ridiculous?”

Then, wheeling:

“You must make a sacrifice, like the others, Mr. Ladas. And think of hell-fire; many of your sins will be forgiven you if you aid us in this work, which is pleasing to God. A better Caiaphas that you we shall never find. Don’t hold out against us. God will note it on His tablets.”

“I don’t want to be Caiaphas!” shouted old Ladas in terror. “Find another! And as for those tablets—”

But he had no time to finish his speech: the villagers were already coming up the stairs and the pope unbolted the door.

“Christ is risen, notables!” About ten villagers came in, their hands on their chests, lips or foreheads. They formed a line along the wall.

“Risen indeed!” replied the notables, placing themselves more squarely on the divan. The old archon passed round his tobacco-pouch.

“My children, the decision has been taken,” the pope announced…

Links:Nikos KazantzakisPassion and Compassion: Nikos Kazantzakis's Christ Recrucified
Keep safe, keep sane – Happy Easter!

Lockdown Diaries: Day 22 (Free Programme)

Locked Down in Lancashire, Day 22:

Change-over day! We’re abandoning our Lancashire lockdown for a London lockdown, my brother-in-law does the opposite…

Mr Anglo-Saxonist is worried that the police will not consider our going home “an essential journey”; if we get arrested, I hope you people will bail us out!

Virtual Escape: Free Programme!

Our virtual holiday in La Palma is sadly coming to an end. In the past week I dragged you around hiking, stargazing, dolphin watching… today, on the last day of the holiday, you may do as you like! 🙂

  • Go shopping in Santa Cruz de la Palma?
  • Go on a last hike?
  • Laze on the beach all day?
  • Go on a tapas bar crawl?
  • Watch the sunset on the beach of Puerto Naos?
  • …?

Take your pick and have a nice day out! 🙂

Photo by kordi_vahle via Pixabay
Keep safe, keep sane – keep smiling. 🙂

Lockdown Diaries: Day 21 (Hiking La Palma II)

Locked Down in Lancashire, Day 21: The Palm Trees of Lancashire

Went out on another local hike and noticed that every second garden boasts a palm tree! I mean this is Lancashire in the Northwest of England – wet, cloudy and miserable. Supposedly…

In point of fact, it’s 22 degrees and sunny today! 🙂

On our local hike, I paddled in a freezing cold local stream and pretended that I was paddling in the stream of the Barranco de las Angustias on our hike in La Palma…

Virtual Escape: Hiking La Palma II

Time to put on your hiking boots again! The day before yesterday we hiked the Route of the Volcanoes; today we’re going to the Caldera of Taburiente:

We’re doing a 6-hour circular walk but we want to enjoy it, so we’ll stop for some rest and a well earned, leisurely picnic at the highest point – that would be somewhere with a view of the caldera.

Plus don’t forget that we’re going to stop to paddle in the stream of the Barranco de las Angustias! 🙂

I say… has anybody remembered to bring the sun cream?

Hiking the Caldera de Taburiente
Keep safe, keep sane – keep hiking!

Lockdown Diaries: Day 20 (Dolphin Watch)

Locked Down in Lancashire, Day 20:

With the police becoming increasingly arsy about people going out to take the fresh air on some remote but scenic spot, today we went nowhere (apart from the supermarket)!

Virtual Escape: Dolphin Watch

Instead we carry on with our virtual holiday – the one that got cancelled because of coronavirus:

After yesterday’s hard hike on the Route of the Volcanoes, today we’re taking it easy…  so we’re going on a 3-hour boat trip around La Palma to do a spot of dolphin and whale watching. And because this is an imaginary trip, we will be most definitely lucky enough to see lots of dolphins!

La Palma boat tours on Tripadvisor
Keep safe, keep sane – watch a David Attenborough DVD! 🙂

The Milk on the Doorstep (La leche en el umbral de la puerta)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

George Orwell (1903-1950)

And then England – southern England, probably the sleekest landscape in the world. It is difficult when you pass that way, especially when you are peacefully recovering from seasickness with the plush cushions of a boat-train carriage underneath you, to believe that anything is really happening anywhere. Earthquakes in Japan, famines in China, revolutions in Mexico? Don’t worry, the milk will be on the doorstep tomorrow morning, the New Statesman will come out on Friday.

(George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia)

Y luego Inglaterra, el sur de Inglaterra, probablemente el  paisaje más acicalado del mundo. Cuando se pasa por allí, en especial mientras uno va recuperándose del mareo anterior, cómodamente sentado sobre los blandos almohadones del tren de enlace con el barco, resulta difícil creer que realmente ocurre algo en alguna parte. ¿Terremotos en Japón, hambrunas en China, revoluciones en México? No hay por qué preocuparse, la leche estará en el umbral de la puerta mañana temprano y el New Statesman saldrá el viernes.

(George Orwell: Homenaje a Cataluña)


Return from the War

Quote of the Week:

Robert Graves (1895-1985)

“England looked strange to us returned soldiers. We could not understand the war-madness that ran wild everywhere, looking for a pseudo-military outlet. The civilians talked a foreign language. I found serious conversation with my parents all but impossible.”

(Robert Graves: Goodbye to All That)

In the Footsteps of the Swallows and Amazons

Swallows and Amazons

Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons and its sequel, Swallowdale were two of  my childhood favourites. They hark back to a time when children enjoyed rather more freedom than they do now (although even in those times surely not a lot of them was allowed to camp alone on an island). If you want your children to get outdoors to enjoy fresh air, if you want them to develop their imagination, if you want them to have interest in other things than just owning the latest iPhone… get these books for them and let them expand their horizons.

In terms of age, we’re talking about age ten and about, both boys and girls – because although these books treat adventure (adventure of the kind that’s actually believable), the girl characters are just as strongly drawn as the boys. A cut above Enid Blyton.

Continue reading “In the Footsteps of the Swallows and Amazons”

Truth Does Not Depend on Geography (La verdad no depende de la geografía)

Mikes György (better known by the English version of his name, George Mikes) was a Hungarian journalist who moved to England during the 1930s where he married an Englishwoman and lived until his death in 1987. In 1946 he published a humorous book about his experiences as a foreigner in England – a book which betrays as much about Hungarian idiosyncrasies as about English ones! The book was so successful that it was followed by two sequels. And many of his observations of English culture still holds true today.

Mikes György (mejor conocido por la versión inglesa de su nombre, George Mikes) fue un periodista húngaro, quien se mudó a Inglaterra en los años 1930, donde se casó con una inglesa y vivió hasta su muerte en 1987. En 1946 publicó un libro gracioso de sus experiencias como extranjero en Inglaterra – un libro que te revela  tanto idiosincracias húngaras como inglesas. El libro tenía tanto éxito que Mikes escribió dos secuelas. Y muchas de sus observaciones de la cultura inglesa siguen ser verdaderas.

Quote of the Week / Cita de la semana:

Some years ago I spent a lot of time with a young lady who was very proud and conscious of being English. Once she asked me – to my great surprise – whether I would marry her. ‘No,’ I replied, ‘I will not. My mother would never agree to my marrying a foreigner.’ She looked at me a little surprised and irritated, and retorted: ‘I, a foreigner? What a silly thing to say. I am English. You are the foreigner. And your mother too.’ I did not give in. ‘In Budapest, too?’ I asked her. ‘Everywhere,’ she declared with determination. “Truth does not depend on geography. What is true in England is also true in Hungary and in North Borneo and Venezuela and everywhere.’

(George Mikes: Preface to How To Be an Alien)

Hace unos años he pasado mucho tiempo en la compañía de una señorita joven, quien era muy orgullosa y consciente de ser inglesa. Una vez me había preguntado – para mi grande sorpresa – si me casaría con ella. «No», respondí, «mi madre nunca estaría de acuerdo de que me caso con una mujer extranjera». Me miró con un poco de sorpresa y irritación, y  replicó: «¡¿Yo, una extranjera? Qué tontería hablas! Yo soy inglesa. Eres tú quien es un extranjero. Y tu madre, también.» Yo no me di por vencido. «¿Incluso en Budapest?» la pregunté. «En cualquier lugar» me declaró. «La verdad no depende de la geografía. Lo que es verdad en Inglaterra es también verdad en Hungría o en el norte de Borneo y en Venezuela y en todas partes del mundo.»

(George Mikes: Prólogo a Como ser un extranjero)


Visits to Chatham Historic Dockyard, home among others to the diesel-electric submarine HMS Ocelot, and to the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth, home to HMS Alliance, a submarine built at the end of World War II, means I’ve got some photos of the outside and inside of the submarines to share. (Click on the gallery to enlarge photos.)

This being primarily a book blog, the photos are accompanied by a book list – half a dozen books set on submarines. Not a definite list, by any means; I have heard of several others well spoken off (but I haven’t got round to reading them yet). If you’d like to recommend a book on submarines that you enjoyed, please leave a comment below.

Continue reading “Submarine!”

The History of England in a Dozen Maps (La historia de Inglaterra en doce mapas)

1. Doggerland (8000 B.C. / 8000 a.C.)

“Dogger. Gale warning.
Gale warning issued 14 March 03:43 UTC¹.
Wind southeast 4 or 5, increasing 6 to gale 8. Sea state moderate, becoming rough or very rough. Weather: occasional drizzle. Visibility good, occasionally poor.”

Shipping Forecast, issued 14 March 17:25 UTC, Met Office

If you ever heard the shipping forecast on BBC Radio 4 (an oddly soothing recital except when it’s inserted into the middle of the nailbiting finish of a test match), then you know that Dogger is one of the forecast zones in the North Sea.

Si has oído, alguna vez, el shipping forecast, es decir, el pronóstico marítimo, de BBC Radio 4 (un recital extrañamente tranquilizador (excepto cuando lo leen durante el emocionantísimo final de un partido internacional de críquet), sabes que Dogger es una de las zonas pronósticas marítimas en el Mar del Norte.

How Britain became an island. Illustration by Francis Lima via Wikipedia [CC-BY-SA 4.0]
Up to 8000 B.C. Britain was connected to the Continent by a land bridge and Doggerland was above sea level. But as glacial ice melted after the last ice age, sea levels rose: Britain became an island, while Doggerland went to the bottom of the deep blue sea…

La mapa arriba ilustre como Gran Bretaña se convirtió en una isla.

Hasta 8000 a.C. Gran Bretaña estaba conectado al continente con un ‘puente’ de tierra y el territorio de Doggerland se encontró arriba del nivel del mar. Al terminar la era glacial, el nivel del mar se elevó: Gran Bretaña se convirtió en una isla, mientras que Doggerland se hundió al fondo del mar…

Recommended reading:We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome

Continue reading “The History of England in a Dozen Maps (La historia de Inglaterra en doce mapas)”

Out Of This World: The Brighton Space Elevator

After more than half a year of limiting myself to taking holiday photos, last week I suddenly remembered that I used to work my way through the 2016 Dogwood Photography Challenge. For those of you who don’t know, this is a 52-week challenge aimed at helping you to become a better photographer (it’s been extended to 2017 and now 2018 as well) and you can thank it for the only picture of me that you’re ever going to see on this blog – due to the fact that the week 1 challenge required a self-portrait…

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Life Beyond Auto-Intelligent

 A Dummy’s Lessons in Photography – 2017

2017 – the year when I took the camera off Auto-Intelligent. Which, by the way, does not mean that I attempted to go fully manual; that is still a long way off, if it ever happens. But I experimented with the Program mode, with Aperture and Shutter Priority, with Manual Focus and Macro.

Continue reading “Life Beyond Auto-Intelligent”