Tuesday, 23 December 2014


This is Bryce.  Most days he sits outside of The Body Shop in Camberwell, selling The Big Issue.

I don't know why Bryce is homeless, but I do know that last year his wife fell and broke her hip.  Badly.  I know this because he told me when I asked him 'how are you going?' as I bought my regular copy the magazine from him.  It was like he just wanted somebody to tell, and I happened to be that somebody.

I don't know why Bryce is homeless, but I do know he is well spoken, unfailingly polite and always keen for a conversation, or even just a brief hello.

I don't know why Bryce is homeless, and neither do I know why our current government seems to think that people who have fallen on hard times, or who have suffered at the hand of bad luck, are the ones responsible for whatever fiscal issues (they imagine) our country has.

I don't know why Bryce is homeless, and I don't really know if my regular purchases of The Big Issue help to keep him afloat.  But I hope they do.

I do not share the religious beliefs that many of our politicians claim to hold, but at this time of year if we cannot hold out a hand to help those who have fallen, then when can we do it?

In the midst of the excess and wealth of the season, we need to find a space for those who are not so lucky.

Hope you all have a happy, restful and above all else, peaceful Christmas.   Cheers SM

Thursday, 18 December 2014

A sky from carols

Earlier this week we had our schools carol evening - music from the kids and 'community singing' during which most people sat silently.

The evening was about as wintry as it gets in December here - if you had a jacket you were wearing it, and if you had a spare one you were very popular.

The wind - more or less straight from the Antarctic - calmed down later on, and there were a few nice clouds.

These may not look like classic Christmas cards, but they are what we get here instead of snow!

You can find more (possibly pre-christmas) skies at Sky Watch Friday.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Wild Bird Wednesday 127 - Royal Spoonbills (and one other!)

Like many people I think I will be putting the blogs on the back burner over the next week or so - but be assured the WBW will pop up on time and in the expected place!  In the chaos of Christmas WBW can be the rock on to which you cling!

Todays birds are Spoonbills - these large water bird seen to be rather nervous and I have struggled to get images of them by 'stalking'.  I think a hide may be needed for these birds - which seems like a good plan for the new year!  (If anybody has any experience of using small portable hides I'd be interested to hear what you have to say).

We have two species of Spoonbill in Australia - The Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia) and The Yellow-Billed Spoonbill.

The Royal is the slightly smaller of the two species at about 80cm tall, while the Yellow Bill can be over 90 cm.  But this difference is hard to see in the field - the key field marks are the colour of the bill and legs.  The Royal has a black bill and legs, while the Yellow-Billed is (wait for it!) yellowish! However, in my experience the the bill of the Yellow-Billed often looks almost white, or even flesh coloured.  Maybe its my eyes!

Another difference seems to be that the Royal is a little more proud of its plumage (befitting its station!) and tends to be spotlessly clean, while the Yellow-Billed can look a bit grubby at times!

Royal Spoonbill
Royal Spoonbill
Yellow Billed Spoonbill
Now it's over to you - click the blue button below and off you go into the wide world of WBW.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Old Man

The Old Man of Coniston is hill (or small mountain, depending on its mood and the weather) in the southern Lake District.  It was once the highest point in Lancashire, before the boundaries were changed and it became part of Cumbria.  I have only even known it as a Cumbrian.

It was probably the first hill in the Lakes I ever climbed - many years ago, long before I headed south.

But this was not the reason I choose it to climb when we were back in the UK - I choose it because it's a great walk, well within the ability of my kids - and it pretty much shows you all of what the Lake Distinct is like.

Long views.  Steep crags of climbable rocks.  Small tarns hidden in the folds of the Earth, that surprise by their presence.  But also the hand of farming and industry - sheep cropped grass lands and old mines and quarries.  Well worn footpaths and at the end of the day, tea, ice-cream or beer depending the time of day or your age.

About 20 of us went up the hill, and due to the quality of the company 20 of us came down.  Such arithmetic is always pleasing!

We took morning tea at Goats Water and watched people climb the dark buttresses of Dow Crag; memories of climbing the same rocks came flooding back. We took lunch on the top - eccles cakes and sandwiches and talked about old time, and smiled at the number of kids we had with us now.

The best part of 20 years had passed since I had seen some of my companions:  it was a good day.

H at Goats Water with Dow Crag in the background 
P at Goats Water
Looking back at Goats water with Dow Crag on the RHS.
Low Water and Coniston Water from the summit
Low Water, Coniston Water and Windermere from the summit.
All in all a splendid day.

You can find more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.  SM