I don’t clap for the NHS on a Thursday evening. 

For a few weeks now it has been the done thing to stand outside your house here in the UK and clap or bang pots and pans, and generally make a noise, in support of the NHS, our National Health Service. There have been clips of members of the cabinet doing the same. Smiling clapping and enjoying the photo-opportunity.

I don’t clap for the NHS on a Thursday evening.

It’s not because I don’t support our NHS,  – and I very specifically mean OUR NHS – I do. My wife works for the NHS in an administrative role. Though she is not as vulnerable to infection as those brave souls on the front line, the local hospital where she works seems wish-washy about defining some areas of separation, and it doesn’t help that some bastards keep stealing the wall mounted dispensers of hand cleanser beside the 7 doors she has to pass through to get into work – but I digress.

No, I don’t clap because I REALLY do support the people in the NHS. How?


Blackmail / extortion attempt.

I had a blackmailing e-mail a few minutes ago.

It was supposedly sent from my own e-mail address to myself.
It said I had been watching porn sites (I haven’t) and that my camera had been watching me whilst watching those sites.
It demanded I pay 100 dollars to a bitcoin account within 48 hours otherwise it was going to send that video of me watching porn to all my friends and relatives.

1. Well as I say, I have not been watching porn, so the extortion attempt is shown to be false and therefore a scam from the start. I have no need to argue that point.

2. The camera on my computer is covered by a farthing ( an old British coin) stuck on with Bluetack, and it has been since I had this computer and all computers before this one too. The reason – simply to stop anybody getting pictures of me or my room from an unguarded camera. (Even if it’s turned off, I understand it’s possible to remotely turn it on – that may be me just being paranoid). This further shows the extortion attempt to be false and therefore a scam.

3. If their hacking can get through a 3mm piece of the finest 70-year-old British coinage and see something which did not happen they deserve to be working for MI6.

4. In this case, the application of an analogue solution (costing just one, nine hundred and sixtieth, of a pound) trumps this piece of digital chicanery.

I suggest you do the same to any camera you have on your machines. Then you can tell chancers like this to go forth and multiply, or maybe something pithier.

The email had all sorts of technical guff in it to make you think it’s real, some of which I’ve heard of, so it talks the talk.

It’s all technically possible I suppose but innocence and the simple addition of a farthing and Blue tack mean it’s bollocks.

I am not smug about this. I am still going to get my machine disinfected, you know, just in case. The winner here is going to be the anti-virus company. Not some blackmailing dweeb.

A couple of caveats here…
The internet is a mad world. All sorts of stuff can make its way into mailboxes,  into  Facebook accounts etc. etc. and, if you are male you are targetted.

  • Open nothing.
  • If offers look too good to be true they are.
  • Clickbait is exactly that. It’s an electronic bait with some sort of trap behind it.

Given all of this, it’s sort of inevitable the increase in sophistication employed by these hackers will get you at some point. It is the way of the digital world.

Anti Virus software is an answer.
p.s. I’ve just scanned my entire machine and all clear. As I say, only one winner and that is the virus scanning companies.

Genealogical research: Edna Packwood nee Harris of Birmingham B1920.

Edna Packwood nee Harris  Timber Corps 1943
Edna Packwood nee Harris Timber Corps 1943

My late mother, Edna Barton (seen here on left in her Women’s Timber Corps Uniform). Her maiden name was  Harris (but was widowed previously so also known as Edna Packwood).

From her service record, I discovered:-

1. She joined the Women’s Land Army (WLA) in 1942.

2. She was transferred to the Women’s Timber Corps (WTC) 28.1.1943

3. She left shortly after her basic Timber Corps training 23.4.1943. Her training took place at the training camp in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.

It has always been a mystery why she left and what she did afterward, that is before she met and married my father in late 1945.

Is there anybody out there who can throw any light on this matter in any way at all?

Any information on the Women’s Timber Corps in Bury St Edmunds would be great?

Religion observed.

First off I need to make it clear where I stand. I am an atheist. I have no recollection of being anything else. Yes, we were force fed Christianity in “Religious Education” RE at school and yes every morning we had “assembly” where we sang Christian hymns. None of this held any attraction for me. In fact, one of my RE teachers knew I liked professional and amateur cycling so he told me to put up my desk lid and read my Cycling Magazine,Just don’t bother me with questions during the lesson”. Either he was a wise man or a defeatist, I’m not sure. Either way, it made no difference, I am what I am.

Inside the Wonderful dome of Cadiz Cathedral.

We recently traveled to Spain. Whilst there we visited the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Cadiz. I was transfixed both by the ability of man to be marvelously manually dextrous in constructing the spectacular architecture and religious trapping and at the same time to be so naive and controlled by a self-serving organisation excising that control using myth, fear of the unknown and by piling on the guilt.

alterpieceEverywhere you looked was the iconography of Christ on the cross replete with signs of torture and with the overt and implicit message of “This is your fault. Christ died for you”. All wrought in precious metal and jewels of course. Add to this the magnificent work of silversmiths and jewelers who fashioned vast silver chests and golden Monstrances. Paintings of Christ, his apostles,and saints, not forgetting images of the Virgin Mary filled the walls. All of them looking miserable.

Yes,the overall impression was of utter misery and depression all caused by those who were required, as a result, to be penitent. This is not a Religion of Joy. This is not a religion for the people. This is a religion of control by an elite hierarchy who profess only they have the ear of an omnipotent, powerful imaginary friend.

You only have to look at the seat in which the head of the local church sits in Cadiz Cathedral to understand this is about power over people. It is grand, to wildly understate it, and it rises high above his acolytes and even higher above the congregation – who by the way paid for it all, and there is a grand irony in that.

I was angry in that church. Angry at the way the populace is fleeced by an elite who use fear and suggestions of retribution to control. It is forever an anachronism to me.

Karl Marx said “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”.  Perhaps that is so, however it still grates.

You only have to walk into Cadiz Cathedral to understand that.

For the first time in over 60 years.

The last time I went to mainland Spain I was ten years old. I’ve been to a Spanish island since, Lanzarote, where Sue’s dad had a timeshare. But never on the mainland until last week.

We travel quite a bit, mainly long distance which has its attractions, but we haven’t spent much time on holiday in Europe. In a previous life, we worked all over the place in Europe but that’s not the same as traveling.

So it was, we decided to travel in Spain. Not the Spain of the Costa Brava’s or Benidorm, as those don’t seem particularly Spanish, besides it isn’t the beaches we are after when we travel. We chose the cities of Seville, Cadiz and Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia in the south of the country. Cadiz the only city we were to visit which is on the sea.

The largest wooden structure in the world and well worth a visit. Seville.

Typically Sue did the pre-booking and made the travel arrangements. We flew into and out of Seville and the rest was done by train.

That was a revelation. If our journey was typical of Spanish trains then they have the UK beaten hands down. Clean, comfortable – though not luxurious – and inexpensive. Easy booking, reasonably quick, though not TGV  or Bullet train standard, and to repeat… INEXPENSIVE. The stations we used were excellent. It really was a good experience which we would repeat.

Our hotel in Seville was formerly a very large house built around what was previously an open light well, now topped with a canopy. Excellent, clean, functional with very comfortable bed and great pillows, I’m a bit fussy about pillows. Breakfast was a good continental breakfast. There are plenty of cafes around if you want more. Churros and chocolate seemed a local favourite.

The hotel in Jerez was similar and similarly excellent.

The hotel in Cadiz was quite another matter. Yes, it was clean and our room enjoyed the benefit of facing the Cathedral just across a small square, which may go some way to explain the high cost of staying in what was little more than a slightly upmarket guest house.

My point here is hotels are variable like anywhere I suppose. However, all were scrupulously clean and well serviced by the domestic staff.

Spain is a Catholic country. Religion seems to dominate. Admittedly we visited in the run-up to Easter so the cities were getting ready for the Easter processions. In each city we visited tribune seating was under construction along the procession routes. These processions seem to be massive affairs reflecting perhaps tradition and the deep Christian faith of the population, particularly Catholicism.

Effigies of the penitents,people who dress like this, are sold in the many religious shops in Seville.

Processing images of Christ on the Cross, the Virgin Mary, and the Monstrance together with the Ku Klux Clan like figures of the penitents all seems excessive to this atheist from colder climes.

My advice would be to not travel to Spain at Easter unless you are either a devout Catholic, eager to photograph the event, or happy to pay for the additional costs of the hotels during this busy time.

Would we go again? Yes. Sue is already talking about flying into Barcelona and leaving by another city, as yet undecided. Spain is definitely more than Sun, Sea, and Sangria.
March 2018

“…fool’s errand.”

Source: “…fool’s errand.”

There is so much in this piece which resonates with me. I hadn’t reached the -to me at least – lofty heights of the author before deciding it was not entirely for me.
I don’t really publish anywhere except in social media so my decisions aren’t going to make any significant ripples in the pool. It’s just self-editing. So be it.

I too am sick of the whole Street photo walk, Gear talk scene and I shudder when I hear people describe themselves as “togs”. And I cringe when people show their images with a whole list of technical data as if knowing that would make me like the image more or less. I even eschew captioning.Surely if you have to do that you have lost? Apart from occasionally having a place name and date my pictures travel naked.

I think it was Groucho Marx who said he “wouldn’t want to join a club which would accept him as a member”. So it has become with me. And if that means I die an unknown ( as is more than likely)… It’s been worth it. I traveled, met people and made the images. That’s enough. I didn’t and don’t do it to make friends. If that were the case I’d join a photographic club. Another shudder.

So that’s at least 2 who have quit. And in my case; I’m not expecting anyone to care.