Basecamp68: Blog en-us (C) Basecamp68 (Basecamp68) Mon, 02 Feb 2015 10:36:00 GMT Mon, 02 Feb 2015 10:36:00 GMT Basecamp68: Blog 120 76 ban all "isms" - except mine!  



I feel a little sorry sometimes for dedicated supporters of "isms"- such as communism, fascism, liberalism etc as it seems to me that you can't be "for" an ism without being "anti" someone else's. 

Romeo & Juliet had family troubles but imagine their problems if they had been Romeo Stalin and Juliet Mussolini. Even today, I don't think many conservatives are happy bed-fellows with staunch labourites, or even Liberals.

No, I am happy with my solitary "ism" which is patriotism. I am a patriot (and a bit of a monarchist too). I believe that those things that the UK does well, it does better than most other countries in the world. Picture a village with yellow sandstone cottages that glistens in the rain; there is a green near the centre, complete with duck-pond & cricket pitch, and the village pub and church are both nearby. The sound of leather on willow and the chimes of an ice-cream van permeate the air .... it could only be the UK.

The UK punches well above its weight at the Olympics, has excelled in music over the last 50+ years and in literature since Shakespeare was a lad. We're second in the overall list of nobel Prize winners and the Industrial revolution was driven by the UK. Something in the order of 30% of world trade came from the UK.

I am happy to agree that the Russian classics are marvelous, and that France produces great cheese, wine & style. Also, the world would be a much poorer place without having been graced by Beethoven, Wagner, Chopin et al, and who could deny the greatness of New Zealand on the rugby pitch?

No, my patriotism lets me accept that other countries achieve greatness too and produce their own patriots. It's just that I am happy with mine as their achievements can never detract from those of my country - they all rank with each other to give us the wonderful world in which we live.

]]> (Basecamp68) Britain UK monarchy patriotism Mon, 02 Feb 2015 10:35:34 GMT
Like the Lyrics? When Katharina & I met, we began exploring our common musical-tastes, and came up with Mark Knopfer as one (amongst others) who was jointly acceptable. We splashed out on a few of his post-Dire Straits CDs, one of which contained a track called "Donnegan's Gone". After several playings of this track, I realised that MK was paying a "tribute" to a dead Lonnie Donnegan. Had he died? How had I missed hearing of it? A quick Google confirmed that the "Godfather of Skiffle" had indeed died of a heart attack in 2002, an event that I had totally missed. 

This has no relevance to the rest of the post, except that I bought a boxed-set of Lonnie Donnegan's music so MK's lyrics had moved me to benefit LD's estate, marginally. It also set me thinking about really memorable song lyrics. I seem to have the words to thousands of songs buried in my memory, so the words are remembered ... but memorable?

I didn't come up with many if I exclude most of Meatloaf/Jim Steinman. I was going to exclude Leonard Cohen too, on the grounds of pretentiousness, but then I realised I don't actually know much about him, but I do actually like Hallelujah. No, my irritation comes from the "beard & berets brigade" (their men-folk are just as bad) who assume that you are not quite as far up the food-chain as they are if you can't read something deep & mystical into his every word. So LC is in with Hallelujah - choose your own bit of it.

A couple of others that sprang to mind were the two poetic lines by Chris Christopherson in his Bobby McGee, these being:

"freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose ...." and "I'd trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday ...". If the song is new to you, it has been covered by a huge number of singers but the best version is by Janis Joplin.

I also introduced Kath, and re-introduced myself, to the music of Billy Bragg - musician, poet, protester and song-writer. He's still out there, protesting about something or other, but the track that really demonstrated (to me) his immense talents was an old one - "Mother of The Bride". The song tells the story of a young man who is invited to a wedding. The recent "love of his life" is getting married to another man, so the young man has a very unhappy day. Later, he sees the "happy couple" together down-town and exorcises his ghosts by caustically commenting to himself that they have become just ".. two-up, two-down, two point five and a dish on the roof for the soaps...". Beat that for a put-down

I'd love to be able to highlight a line or two from another favourite, "Common People" by Pulp, but I can't - they're all too good. The song tells the story - (and that's the truth of great lyrics isn't it? be it in songs, poems, or books - they're telling a story) - of working class boy meets rich posing girl. 6 or 7 minutes without deviation, hesitation, or repetition except for the chorus.

I haven't come up with too many really memorable song lyrics so I'll have a stab at some other genres.

I used to spend my time (in India's Sunny Clime .. if anyone knows the poem) working in bankruptcy & company liquidations for the Official Receiver, and had to come up with something useful to say about the "cause of failure" in each case. One of my better, but wholly unappreciated efforts, was "the lights are on but no-one's home" until one glorious day I convinced a bankrupt that it was OK for him to attribute his failure to "I spent most of it (money) on alcohol, women and enjoyment and squandered the rest". But my attempts at humour to brighten my bosses day paled into insignificance alongside The Barnsley Poet.

I had listened to TBP many times on Radio 4 but had no idea what he looked like until recently, when he was in the re-run of a UK TV show on a satellite channel here in Sweden. I recognised his meliforous tones immediately and, I have to say, he looks a lot shorter than his voice.

I remembered hearing him read a short poem that summarise, far more succinctly than I could, the cause of most bankrupts that I dealt with having failed:

"Unemployed, divorced, usually pissed;

Aimed low in life, and missed".

Of course, all poetry is meant to be memorable and literature should be memorable, too. I discovered, recently, the glorious novels by Ford Maddox Ford - I can't understand how I have not read him before. So, having found him I read everything of his, starting with "The Good Soldier",  and often found myself looking round, mentally, to find a phrase or sentence chuckling behind my back as I'd missed their importance the first time round. I was reminded of Ford's commensurate skills when I saw the TV adaptation of Parade's End. The serially wayward wife was confronting her husband and blaming him for the failure of their marriage. She complained that, although she had given him plenty of ammunition, he never once blamed her or criticsised her, never showed any emotion. Instead, she complained "You forgave me, unmercifully"

So, I've not come up with too much that I find really, truly memorable. Any suggestions?




]]> (Basecamp68) Billy Bragg Chris Christopherson Dire Straits Ford Maddox Ford Janis Joplin Lonnie Donnegan Mark Knopfer Parade's End Pulp The Barnsley Poet Fri, 03 Oct 2014 09:58:32 GMT
If you love salmon ... Capture8Capture8


Our little wooden cottage is right by the big river and just now some 15,000 fish (mainly salmon) are working their way upstream to the spawning grounds ....

The authorities have kindly put a webcam in the water and you can watch the fish .... it's better than television!

The  link is:

Most of Sweden takes six weeks off in the summer, so I've done the same which is why I've not done too much with the blog recently!!

Hope you've all had a good summer






]]> (Basecamp68) Sweden fishing leisure nature outdoors salmon Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:55:52 GMT
A Supernatural postscript to Man of Mystery I saw my father in either 2001 or 2002,  a number of years after his death. I was in that gentle place between asleep and awake, so you can call it a dream or over-active imagination if you wish, but it was real. I am not given to supernatural experiences - this was the first one that I had ever experienced and I don't have much imagination, nor do I remember dreams too well, as a rule.

My father was with another man who I did not recognise at the time as Pete Sanderson, "Sandy", a colleague of mine from the 1960s who was friends with my father too. Sandy had died in 1978 and a newspaper reported on his death, printing a photograph with the article. The robust, sandy-haired, clean-shaven man that I had worked with had morphed into a balding, bearded imposter. In my dream or imagining, he appeared as per the photograph, and it was several days later that the memory of that newspaper photograph, from 20+ years before, floated to the surface of my mind. Given their bonhomie and friendship, it is logical that Sandy & my father might have "teamed up" on the other side, assuming that there is an "other side" and that logic applies there.

My father and Sandy were waving me towards them, friendly and welcoming. As I got closer to them, the welcoming wave changed into a clear signal to go back, to go away. It was confusing and I puzzled about it over the course of the next few days.

A few years later, I was diagnosed with cancer. Such a diagnosis does tend to make one reflect, and I recalled having seen my father, and Sandy, in the dream or whatever you wish to call it. I like to think that my father had got the year of my cancer (and the eventual outcome) wrong and had been there to help me over, but realised his mistake at the last moment. 

I'm not convinced that there is an afterlife, but sometimes, just sometimes, you do wonder if there is someone watching over you ....


]]> (Basecamp68) Thu, 26 Jun 2014 13:41:08 GMT
Man of Mystery part 3 Man of Mystery - part 3

(if you are new to this topic, then you should really read parts 1 & 2 first – they might be helpful…)

The family home was lost, not to the bankruptcy Court but to a cousin of whom I was wholly unaware until then. Knowing that the property was at risk due to his impending bankruptcy my father sought to safeguard it by transferring his interest to – not his wife or adult daughter – but to this cousin “in lieu of unpaid wages”. I suspect that the cousin promptly took a loan out secured on the house, then failed to make any repayments. Or maybe it was a joint effort …? Either way, my parents & I moved to a rented flat for a few years, then to a modern “town house”, also rented, where they saw out the remainder of their days together.

When I was young, I had a cat. Given the domestic disharmony, I felt at times that this cat was the only constant in my life. It was a friend with whom I found solace and to whom I confided, my sisters having married and escaped as soon as possible. When we moved to the rented flat the cat was not with us. My parents had had it put down without saying anything to me.

They obviously didn’t like their children to be forewarned. My eldest sister left school at 17. She didn’t know she was leaving. The school had broken up for the summer holidays to the usual cries of “see you next term!” etc but, near to the end of the holidays my parents had told her that she wasn’t going back to school – it was time for her to get a job and contribute to the household.

For a number of my teenage years, my father & I drove to see his parents in their tiny bungalow near to the river Wyre. Our visits were usually on a Sunday afternoon and were a way of leaving the domestic battlefield. I used to “steer” the car and change the gears when instructed. Latterly I did the driving on “L” plates. We sat in their tiny sitting room, with a tiny black & white television blaring away throughout the visit. I say “sat” but it was sometimes difficult to be sure if everyone was sat, as my grandfather was an incessant smoker of pipes, cigars & cigarettes, and the low-ceilinged room was hung with a thick pall of blue tobacco smoke. His consumption of tobacco was only matched by his consumption of sweet tea, biscuits, cakes, bread, butter and thick cheese. This grossly unhealthy lifestyle eventually caught up with him, and he died aged 94, a few years after his wife. I wasn't in the UK at the time of his death  so I don't know what my father did then to while away his time on Sunday afternoons.

Sunday lunch-time was always bad, as my parents seemed to reserve the worst of their rows for then, when they had their three children as an audience. Anything could set them off, anything. It was best to just eat in silence and hope you could finish before they started. Their “Sunday” row was usually accompanied by a popular radio program of the day – “Two-way Family-Favourites” playing in the background. This was in the ‘50s when the UK still had many servicemen based overseas, defending various bits of the planet from something or other. Their loved-ones in the UK could send a message over the airwaves, along with a request for a shared favourite record to be played for their husband or whoever, who would be listening to the show in, say, Germany. It seemed strange to be in a room with two people who had the utmost contempt for each other, whilst in the background, you could hear of a wife aching to be re-united with her husband who was serving overseas.

My parents were not bad people by any means – I don’t think either ever so much as raised their voice to any of their children. But their differences in temperament, expectations and needs led to a disharmonious marriage. It was not always so – I have seen photographs and heard stories of them going on holiday to North Wales, by motorbike & sidecar. I don’t know what changed them but from the time that I was of an age to really be “aware”, well they had arguments of heroic proportions & intensity. 

That's it for the MoM for now but, having corresponded with a number of "readers" I may soon write a little more on personal matters - watch out for "Room 3.07" and "My Life & Other Disasters"!


The photograph on the e-mail was unusual because I took it at around 1130 pm and no photoshopping afterwards! We do not get any real night these days (if that makes sense) and you could garden or read outside until 10.00 or 11.00pm easily. It is more or less full daylight by 3.00am and a near-by cuckoo starts calling well before then! Plants, birds, and wild-life can and do feed round the clock, almost, as it is only a short breathing space for them until winter returns.


I'm setting off tomorrow for a couple of weeks in mid-Sweden so I may not post anything for a little while ....

enjoy summer



]]> (Basecamp68) family growing-up relationships Thu, 12 Jun 2014 16:14:16 GMT
Man of Mystery Part 2  





The Whooper Swans are back on the river; bull-finches, chaffinches and greenfinches have joined the tits and squirrels at the feeder; small groups of deer come most evenings for the pellets that we put out for them ... there is still some snow on the ground and the temperature is hovering around freezing-point, but spring is in the air!

ps - I wrote this post a week or so ago so now the snow has finally gone, as have the deer, and the squirrel is only an occasional visitor. The sound of snow-scooters has been replaced by that of chainsaws; the woods & fields are full of birdsong and the sent of freshly-cut pine ... spring really is here!


and now:

Man of Mystery – part 2

(if you are new to this topic, then you should really read part 1 first – it might be helpful…)


I think that the art of “knowing people” came in handy during the war. When WW2 broke out, the family ranged in age from Uncle Bill, 41, to Aunt Margaret, 19. None of them, not one of the eight healthy, robust, individuals, saw any war-time service. Not one of them ever showed a photograph of themselves in uniform. The nearest they came to that was a photograph of Jack, the husband of one of the sisters. He was in the tank corp, I think, and a photograph of him in uniform was shown sometimes – passed round like a holy relic as their collective contribution to the war effort.

My father was in “reserved occupation” and couldn’t be called up but heaven only knows what his brothers were doing. At some point during the war they decided that Manchester was a little too close to the action, and relocated to the Fylde Coast, Lancashire. It would have been a seriously-lost German pilot who found himself dropping bombs anywhere near them in this quiet backwater that was an ideal spot in which to while away the war years. Somehow, they acquired premises in King’s Road, St Annes and set up an engineering firm. (By a strange coincidence, I later served an apprenticeship at the garage that then occupied “their” premises – I did not know of the family connection at the time). What they engineered I do not know – very little according to my father as they lacked any engineering skills whatsoever. Eventually, they “sent for him” to help them out and my father, a healthy young man in his late 20s, left his reserved occupation and also relocated to the coast.

I have two sisters, both older than me, and I discussed this anomaly with Gwen, the eldest. She remembers as a young child walking with my mother and a pram containing the other sister Valerie. A neighbour saw them and called out “What’s in the pram then, a bundle of fivers!” This comment might explain a lot.

If there was one thing that my father loved, other than himself, it was cars – they gave him his independence, the ability to get away at any time of the day or night.

In the street where I grew up there were only three or four families with cars. We were one of them. When I was young, ours were good cars – a Sunbeam Talbot, a Vauxhall with acres of chrome, a Ford Consul Classic. Later, the cars were a barometer of my father’s declining fortunes and the last car that he drove was a battered, yellow, Ford Escort. His last days of driving were the cause of the only “row” that I can recall he and I ever having.

I moved to London in 1991 when my father was in his late 70s. His eyesight was deteriorating. He had some degenerative and progressive sight defect, I forget the name of the disease, that destroyed the central area of vision. He was still driving, mainly on instinct, and those brave enough to sit in the passenger seat of his car did so with bated breath as parked cars, probably unseen by my father, were missed by the narrowest of margins.

He phoned me in London one evening, which was an unusual occurrence in itself, to ask if I knew of a good solicitor in St Annes who would help him with “a little problem he had with the police”.

He had been driving into Blackpool a few evenings before. It was the time of Blackpool’s Illuminations and the two lanes leading into Blackpool from St Annes were separated by cones, so that the traffic for the Illuminations was in the left hand lane and all other traffic was routed away from the Promenade, and over Squires Gate Bridge. The cones were large, over a metre tall. My father drove into them, bowling them over like skittles, and one became wedged underneath his car. A policeman who was supervising the traffic took exception to his cone arrangement being disrupted and, after freeing the car, ordered my father to park on a near-by public-house forecourt. There, he found several faults with the car (not difficult) and, after looking at my father staring vacantly around through rheumy eyes, instructed him to read the number plate of a coach that was parked nearby. In truth, I suspect that my father couldn’t see the coach too well, and its registration numbers and letters would have been a complete mystery when viewed at a distance of more than a foot or so. He was forbidden to drive any further and would, certainly, face prosecution. Hence the phone call. He wanted me to help him get off.

I knew that the combination of his driving and his eyesight were bothering most people so I suggested that, in good daylight, he should stand 25 yards from a car that he didn’t know the number of, and read the number plate. If he could do so then I would help as best I could. If he couldn’t then he should reflect on the fact that the cone could have been one of his grand-children. He was furious and slammed the phone down. He telephoned me again the following evening and, sheepishly, both apologised and admitted that it was impossible for him to read a car number plate in good daylight. I suggested that he write a letter of explanation & apology to the Court and return his driving licence with the letter. He did so and thus ended his 60+ years of driving.

It seems that my father and his brothers prospered during and, for a while after, the war. They incorporated a company to manufacture briar pipes, and operated from premises in Blackpool. I was born in 1947 and it all seemed to go downhill from then. The comfortable, middle-class house that I do not remember was sold and we moved to a cheaper, in all senses of the word, address. My maternal grandmother, who had been sending money to my mother for her grandchildren, took ill and died. The flow of money from her shop in Manchester to my mother’s purse stopped; my father then found that he was supposed to provide for three growing children and that this was a not inconsiderable expense. There was, too, a falling out between him and his brothers and he left the business. The family story is that he was cheated out of his shares in the company, and received nothing. He being “cheated” or having his trust in someone betrayed or sheer bad luck was a recurrent theme over many subsequent years.

He set up in business by himself, selling domestic electrical goods on hire-purchase. He was regularly “cheated” by those whom he employed. He was a town-councillor for a while but, when he was due to become mayor for a term, they “rigged the votes” and “cheated him” out of his opportunity. Eventually, the government of the day imposed restrictions on the purchase of goods by hire-purchase. The new regulations meant that the customer had to put down a hefty deposit which rather shot my father’s business out from under him. Sheer bad luck or what?

Eventually, the vultures of bankruptcy came pecking over the remains of his business endeavours and he was declared insolvent. I was ten at the time but, by another strange coincidence, I joined the insolvency service some 30 years later and was able to “find” with some considerable effort, my father’s bankruptcy file. His narrative statement was illuminating, to someone who knew the truth, as it contained more disinformation than facts. Slight misspellings of names and addresses, car numbers and dates being one digit out, little things that hindered any investigation. The officials who had interviewed him thought that he “had a very high opinion of himself” (oh and how high it was!) and that through carelessness or calumny my father had blended his personal & business finances so thoroughly that it was unlikely that they could be separated.



]]> (Basecamp68) bankruptcy birds deer driving elderly nature spring squirrels war-time Mon, 28 Apr 2014 08:54:44 GMT
Man of Mystery part 1  

Having no connection to the rest of the post whatsoever - "How many artists does it take to change a light bulb?"

"Just one - they reach upwards, striking a pose, and firmly clutch the light-bulb. Then they wait for the world to revolve round them!" but I liked it!


The "Man of Mystery" is circled in the photograph of him, his brothers and their father.



I wrote most of the following some time ago, when I was still an “angry old man” and it shows – I perhaps haven’t been too friendly towards my father. There weren’t too many terms of endearment in our household. No manly hugs or displays of emotion, no use for the “L” word. So I’ll use it now – I love you dad (and you too, Mum, of course!). But they were difficult!



Man of Mystery - part 1


I had always fondly imagined that they would play the Shadow’s ”Man of Mystery“ at my father’s funeral but they didn’t. The title would have summed him up far more neatly & quickly than the words written by my mother and spoken by a minister who had never met him. I had of course met him, and worried at times that I had wandered into the wrong funeral as I didn’t recognise the paragon of virtue and devoted father being described. Just my mother getting the last laugh I suppose. No, on reflection, her real last laugh was when she decided that she couldn’t live without him after 50+ years of a stormy marriage, and promptly died herself just six months later. He would not have been too pleased to see her, so soon.


During my childhood, he spent much of the time out of the house. If anyone, such as my mother, was foolish enough to ask “where he was off to?” or, on his return, “where had he been?” then his two stock replies were “There & back to see how far it is” and “Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies”. It did not lead to a harmonious marriage nor were his hours away from home reflected in the money brought in, which was little. I’m sure that the neighbours found their rows, conducted at some volume, were far more entertaining than the limited television that was available then.


My father was born into a poor family, the last of six surviving brothers and two younger sisters. Although the family hailed from the London area, and all of his siblings were born in and around London, my father somehow contrived to be born in Yorkshire on 8th December 1914. I do not know how or why they removed to Leeds, but they were all back in London by May 1917 for the next birth. My grandfather was a pipe-maker, making hand-made briar smoking pipes. His thumbs were both bent backwards at the joint from continually polishing & finishing the bowls. He was a competent boxer, and earned a little extra money I am told, boxing all-comers in the fairground booths, as did a few of his sons. At some point in the 30s, I know not when, they returned to the north of England and “settled” near to Greenfields in the Manchester area. My father once made a list of all the schools that he had attended. There were many and, as a result, he received little formal education.

I did not meet his parents until I was 7 or 8. I do not know where they had been hidden away until then, and I did not like to ask. They were not the most jolly couple and would have probably told me “Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies”.

He and my mother met and were married in the late 30s. It was not a “love match” as my father had intended to marry another, but she went off with another man who, as the family story has it, later killed her. A photograph of her was found in my father’s wallet after his death. He carried another photo too, a blurred & hastily-taken snapshot of a teenage boy or young man. It wasn’t me.


My mother’s mother owned a corner shop in Manchester and did quite well. My maternal grandfather was a brewery drayman, a handy position for a man with a thirst, and had a black patch over the empty socket of an eye sacrificed in the killing fields of The Great War where he was gassed, too. He was a broken man, and my oldest sister remembers him coming home some nights after slaking his thirst and they all had to hide behind the sofa and pretend they were “going over the top” as he relived his battlefield experiences.


The second world-war duly arrived, and my father became an aircraft designer at Avros in Manchester, working on the Lancaster bombers and the “bouncing bomb” modifications. This was some progress for a man of little education but, despite all the fabricated family stories, I actually believe this one as there is no doubt that he was a good engineer. He had an uncanny knack for spotting when you had fixed a shelf one degree off level, or pointing out that a wall-light was ½” higher than its companion in the next alcove, some 9 feet away.


He once had a Mini Clubman car that was provided by the company that employed him. He left their employment and they wanted the vehicle back. My father refused, claiming to have paid for it from his salary. The company kept all the registration papers for the Mini and my father kept the car. Impasse. He couldn’t put it on the road and they couldn’t get it back. It sat in a succession of lock-up garages for some 20 years. When I returned to my home town, my father had run out of luck & money again, and could not afford to repair whatever car it was that he driving at the time. He had, therefore, decided to “restore” the Mini. The company that had employed him had long since ceased trading, so he was able to get new documents and was happily driving it around. He gave me a lift one day and, once inside the car, I light a cigarette.

“I wouldn’t do that” he said. On enquiring why, I was calmly informed that, just behind my seat was a gallon petrol can with a plastic tube running therefrom, under the floor of the car to the carburettor. The car’s petrol tank had defeated him. It was blocked solid so he had “improvised” and was thus driving what amounted to a motorised bomb. If you are wondering, then I too have no idea as to how he arranged the MoT for this death-trap – or perhaps I have. My father knew a lot of people.






]]> (Basecamp68) Avros Love bouncing bomb engineering family relationships war Tue, 11 Mar 2014 00:21:23 GMT
Of Reindeer-Racing & Dog-Sleighs ... Of Reindeer-Racing & dog-sleigh rides …..


_MG_8318_MG_8318no fixed abode tour

Well, I hope we’ve all enjoyed a good start to 2014! It’s been a mild winter here – a good bit of snow which is still on the ground, now thawing, but it’s only been a few degrees below freezing on average.

We went to the Sami Wintermarket at Jokkmokk in February and even there, in the Arctic circle (just) it was only around – 10c at the coldest – a couple of years ago they had to cancel the market when the temperature fell to -40c so I don’t think the mild winter this year is a sign of anything much, other than that nature does what it wants.

The Market has been held by the Sami Folk for over 400 years and it is a wonderful, vibrant & colourful event. The Sami are friendly, courteous and happy to demonstrate their skills in handicrafts and with animals. There is no high-pressure selling and no sense of "dressing up for the tourists" - they're just happy to see people from all over the world enjoying their event. If you ever plan on going there, then book your accommodation early! The Market is only on in February for a long weekend and we had to register for accommodation in the previous September. The population of Jokkmokk increases 10-fold for the Market, so it is best to book tables in restaurants as soon as you arrive too.

The full gallery of photographs from Jokkmokk is here:

Apart from the excitement of Jokkmokk, I’m also the “Guest Blogger” on the Royal Photographic Society web-site this week and you can read it here:

RPS Blog

and there is a little clip from a radio programme taken at the opening of my exhibition in Lycksele recently:

radio clip

The exhibition is around 60 prints in three sections (The Berlin Wall, The Holocaust, and Local & Street photos). I've no frames with me and couldn't justify €2,000+ to buy new frames, so it was quite a challenge to get everything hung! 

Although I've been really busy, I haven't forgotten about "The Man of Mystery" and hope to get the first installment on-line this week ...

just watch this space and please keep the comments coming in - it's a real boost to get them and don't be shy to say if you think something is rubblish - constructice criticism is very welcome!



]]> (Basecamp68) 2014 Arctic Circle Jokkmokk Sami Folk Winter Market dog-sleigh rides handicrafts reindeer Tue, 25 Feb 2014 08:59:36 GMT
new book!  
In May 2011 I received my Associate distinction from The Royal Photographic Society. My successful submission was an A3 hand-printed photo-book about the deportations to the concentration camps that took place in Germany during WWII.
The book looked good, but it had been expensive & time consuming to make so, although I always planned on making further copies, in a smaller size, I could never really justify the time & cost expenditure. Then along came Blurb.
So that's it! My first Blurb book. I haven't seen it in print as yet, but the on-screen version looks OK, and your comments & criticisms would be appreciated.
Please note that you can buy a copy of the book at cost price until 1st June 2014, then a small mark-up will be added. I will always be delighted to sign your copy!
]]> (Basecamp68) Belsen Buchenwald Germany WWII concentration camps deportations holocaust photo-book photography Wed, 08 Jan 2014 10:53:02 GMT
Base Camp 68 plus a seasonal joke! _MG_7862web_MG_7862web


Did you hear about the dyslexic devil-worshipper? – Sold his soul to Santa!!


Base Camp 68

I seem to have developed a tradition of referring to houses where I once lived by just their street number. Thus, I have lived at “73”, “260” & “68” in recent years.

“68” was my address, south of the river, when I worked in London. For 9 years, 68 echoed to the laughter & tears that are part of everyday life.

Fast-forward to the present. Our winter quarters in Lapland are in the Vormsele Community Centre. It is a big, wooden, former school-house that has a proper catering kitchen & restaurant (mainly closed until summer) a function room, sauna and a wood-fired bakery in an adjacent building. The bakery is in regular use as the ladies of the village bake their “tunbrot” in big batches. There is also a weaving-room next to our flat and, just across the landing, is the former school gymnasium, still with ropes, wall-bars etc in place. We use the gym as an office, exercise room, and storage facility. The computer is in there too and, as I type this, I can see the big river – now almost totally frozen over – about 50 yards away.


The flat and the gym are on the first floor, and the east facing windows of the flat overlook a little wooden cottage. The cottage has a car-port, a small garden and two robust sheds. By its front door is the number “68”. It did have a “For Sale” sign too, but we bought the cottage on 11th November.


We paid very little for its sitting room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen plus the car-port and two robust sheds. In January, a firm are going to install a wood-burning stove in the sitting-room and in the spring we will have a “garden room” (posh shed, really) built as an office/guest room.


Now, the more astute amongst you will be thinking “No fixed Abode? – bought a house? – incompatible!.” Well we’re justifying it by calling it our base-camp. It will be somewhere to store furniture, books, seasonal clothing, camping gear etc and, in the long run, it will be cheaper than renting somewhere. Plus, it is in a beautiful spot ….


Unlike the Lawson-Saatchi-Grillos who are in a rather ugly spot these days. I’ve only read about the trial on the BBC & Guardian websites and it’s interesting to see that, after the verdict, “team Nigella” are out in force with a snow-job (or is that a bad choice of words?) portraying the domestic goddess as a victim. I can go along with her victim status up to a point. She certainly had a rough deal with John Diamond’s appalling death, which he chronicled in a Sunday Times diary, and her marriage to Charles Saatchi doesn’t seem to have been great. But with 50 million income from book-sales she did have the wherewithal to walk away, surely?

Where the hagiographies really trouble me though is that they ignore the logic leading to the verdict.

The Grillo sisters were found “not guilty”. The main plank of their defence (the only plank, from my limited reading of the case) was that they were allowed to use the credit-cards as they wished because they didn’t shop Nigella Lawson for taking drugs. The jury believed them.

But (leaving aside any whiff of blackmail) she, Nigella, stood in Court and swore that the Grillo sisters were lying. According to the jury, they were not lying. So who was?




There are only so many times that one can describe the beauty & tranquillity of a snowy Lapland. So, to avoid boring both you and me I shall intersperse those “twee but true” posts with a series of 3 or 4 articles under the banner “Man of Mystery”. They are about my father and his curious relationship with the world.

Writing the posts has been a bit of a cathartic exercise, and I would really appreciate feedback – positive or negative.


have a super Christmas and a peaceful New Year.


]]> (Basecamp68) Base Camp 68 Grillo sisters Lapland London Saatchi & Lawson trial Sun, 22 Dec 2013 13:21:58 GMT
... people per square kilometer  



We’re in our winter quarters now, a comfortable flat in a tiny village – Vormsele – by a big, big river in southern Lapland.


Lapland is vast. With very few people. It holds about 1.2% of the 9,000,000 or so Swedes, in 26% of Sweden’s land area. This works out to roughly 2 people per square kilometre – they are heavily outnumbered by reindeer in most areas. We are 15 kms from the nearest shop and 45 kms from the nearest town, Lycksele. The roads are wide, smooth and untroubled by traffic although they do have a speed limit of around 60 mph. You wonder at this until you see an elk, a great grey monolith at the side of the road.


An elderly aunt of my treated traffic with utter contempt, and would start her journey across a busy road by fixing the driver of the nearest oncoming car with a formidable stare, and waving her stick around vigorously. She continued across the road thus, oblivious to the sound of expletives and screeching brakes in her wake. An elk crosses your path in a similar way, albeit without the stick. If the elk is really curious then it might stop half-way across and watch you fish-tailing towards it on smoking wheels.


Unfortunately, and unlike my aunt, an elk can weigh 700 kg. You really, really don’t want to hit one, so perhaps the speed limits are a good idea …



I’ve never seen a reindeer near to a main road. This is good as they outnumber elks by a long way and are still big enough to total your car. The reindeer are not really “wild” animals as they are owned & herded by the indigenous Sami people. They spend the spring & summer in the mountains then are brought down, in lorries, for the winter. In the early spring, whilst the river is still frozen, the Sami herd the reindeer along the river and back to the hills. Thousands of them will pass through the village.


The locals use the frozen river for ice-fishing, to which we’ve already been invited. They bore a large hole through the ice and dangle a line through, pretty much like the eskimos do. They also use it as a highway for snow-scooters, skiing etc.


The winters here are long & severe. We’ve had a couple of little dustings already and the real snow will come in a week or so and will remain until April/May of next year. They have recorded temperatures of -40oC but -20 is common and the locals treat the winter with respect. Snow-tyres are being fitted, logs stacked, snow-scooters readied and snow-poles are in place. These, snow-poles, are 3 meter tall red poles, at 50 meter intervals to mark the safe edge of the road.


We saw the Northern Lights last night ….


]]> (Basecamp68) Sami Sweden elk ice fishing reindeer roads snow speed limit traffic Thu, 31 Oct 2013 14:40:22 GMT
"I'm not a number ..." freemanwebfreemanweb


Some of you might remember the 1960s TV series The Prisoner, in which Patrick McGoohan, having retired from being the secret agent Danger Man, woke up as a prisoner in lala land (Wales actually) where he was known only as Number 6.


The series was written at a time when a lot of people were taking a lot of illegal substances and the show perhaps made sense to them, but little to anyone else. It had a cult following and is probably still showing somewhere on Sky. The rebellious McGoohan had one memorable line, this being something akin to “I am not a number, I am a free man”.


Please note, this does not apply to Sweden!


In Sweden, the Personal Number is King, Queen, Jack and all the rest of the deck – without a Personal Number you cannot, at least officially:


open a bank account;

collect a parcel addressed to you from the post office;

get married, divorced, give birth, die – (I’m making some of this up but you get the point)

apply for a supermarket loyalty card (really, this is true)

register, tax & insure a car


This last one is really quite important as a car is a necessity of life, given the enormous distances you have to travel to do anything that you are permitted to do without a personal number.


I visited a charming village recently, full of courteous, smiling and helpful people. The nearest shop was 30km away. This was not “the nearest shopping centre”, just one single shop selling basic provisions, meaning a 60 km round-trip if you’d run out of food.

True, it was 60 km through glorious scenery and very little traffic but still, you really appreciate having a car.


So, let’s get a personal number!


The process is glacially slow, mainly due to the weather. Sweden isn’t known for having long, hot, summers so everyone (including all the civil servants) take the bulk of their annual leave in July/August with the result that offices are understaffed and you wait, and wait, and wait, to get official matters sorted ….. those left manning the civil service in the summer are courteous, smiling and helpful too, so it is impossible to be annoyed. You just wait ….


To try and speed up the process of registering my car it was suggested that I apply for a temporary registration. For which you need a personal number ….. but – if another government department asks the department that issues this elusive number then you can get a Temporary Personal Number! - which helps you get a Temporary Registration for your car! … is any of this making sense to you, or is it just saying that the system is not quite working as it should?


Still, Sweden is a very pleasant place to wait (and wait …).



]]> (Basecamp68) Patrick McGoohan Sweden The Prisoner personal number Fri, 13 Sep 2013 12:40:40 GMT
Three days in a cupboard _MG_4390bweb Well, the NFA tour is underway and our first "mission" was to spend 3 days in a large wooden box, aka a Bear Hide. It's about 3 meters long by 1.5m wide and a similar height. There's no running water, electricity or "mod cons" so you have to share it with someone who you know really, really well!

You can't stand up (unless you're really short) and shouldn't venture outside, so the three nights confinement were spent sitting at the observation slits or lying down. We did venture outside once or twice to stretch and I came out resembling an elderly Quasimodo. Oh, and it reached 30c inside.

That's the downside. The upside is that that it is beautiful. No sounds other than nature. No traffic, voices, or electronics. Unfortunately there were no bears either, so we'll try again later on! There were Jays, Ravens, Seagulls, and Cranes - a pair of which brought their chick up to feed. There were mosses, lichens, blueberries. Nature in all its glory with just us looking at it.


_MG_9453web _MG_9445web


]]> (Basecamp68) Cranes European Jays Ravens Seagulls Sweden bear-hide leisure nature Wed, 17 Jul 2013 10:48:00 GMT
... and two more books  

Two More Books

A number of years ago I bought two books at roughly the same time. They were both of a similar genre, telling tales of oppression & bravery. One was “The Washing of The Spears” which told the story of the uprising of the Zulu nation against the Europeans, and the film Zulu was drawn from one chapter of the story. Ignoring the rights & (more probably) wrongs of Europeans being involved in South Africa at all, I have always thought the film to be a rattling good impression of courage against impossible odds although I’m sure that the real-life events were nothing like those depicted in the film.

I do have a certain affinity to the film as I projected it in the “Ad Astra” cinema, RAF St Athan. Long before the days of “Beamers”, we used a pair of huge, synchronised, carbon-arc 35mm projectors, belching out heat, fumes and noise into a tiny projection room. Films in those days were spread over two or more reels and, if you watch closely the old films shown on TV, you will see a white “splodge” appear in the top right corner of the screen after about an hour, followed a few seconds later by another one. The first “splodge” was the cue for the projectionist to start the second projector running and the second “splodge” was his cue to stop the first projector. The result was supposed to be a seamless and invisible transition from the first to the second reel. It never quite came off though, unless you had years of experience.

I still have “The Washing of The Spears”, but its contemporary vanished a long time ago. That book was “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” and recorded the suffering of the Native Americans at the hands of settlers in their country. As a child I was brought up on a TV diet of “Cowboys & Indians” and on first reading the book, as a very young man, would probably had some sympathy with the settlers, Custer, Buffalo Bill et al, but one matures eventually …..

I’ve moved house many times in the intervening years, downsizing latterly, but there was still a pang of regret – a feeling of loss – to realise that the book was gone for good. A bit like losing touch with an old friend.

A day or so later I was walking along Unter den Linden with Katharina and she spied a second-hand book-stall at the side of the footpath. One table had a few English books and there, in the middle, was a copy of “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”. It came home with me and was promptly re-read.

I would like to think that the book is a one-sided hagiography favouring the Indian Nations but in my heart of hearts I know that it isn’t – it is a carefully researched record of the immense suffering visited upon the Indians, and the stoicism and dignity with which they met it. Time after time, tribe after tribe, with a resonance of nails being pounded into wood, the story is told of how the Indians were harried, moved, killed, cheated and lied to. The term “braves” is appropriate. Many braves chose a quick and certain death in battle than a lingering suffocation on a reservation.


I believe that nothing in life happens without a purpose and that everything that happens to you, or comes to you, does so at exactly the right moment in time – never too soon nor too late.

The book returned to me for a purpose, and at just the right time. It has strengthened my resolve to meet and deal with some difficult challenges in my own life.



]]> (Basecamp68) Ad Astra Americans Native Zulu books braves cinema film projection reading reservations settlers struggle Thu, 18 Apr 2013 15:20:00 GMT
The No Fixed Abode Tour 2013 - update invitebackweb invitefrontwe


It’s strange that, as you get older, time seems to pass more quickly.

I suppose the simple answer is that, in your 60s, 12 months is a greater proportion of your remaining time than it was when you were thirty and were still “immortal”. You get slower as you age, too, so that everything just takes a little bit longer, a little bit more effort. Throw a few health problems into the mix and you start wondering if you’ll ever get everything done in time …


The last time I wrote about the “No Fixed Abode Tour” it was a concept, a glimmer of an idea, to help carry us through the dark & gloomy winter that has been Berlin 2012/13. But now it’s real and there is a lot to do!


We will book the ferry this weekend (23/24 Feb) to sail away on 27th June and will give notice on the flat in March so that we can hand the keys back on 27th, hoping for a quick hand over so we can make the dash to the ferry in time.


Between now and then, we have the possessions that we are keeping to pack & store with everything else either sold or given away. Insurances and services to cancel, car insurance to sort out, health insurance to arrange, a thousand different people and firms to notify, etc etc etc. In between times, Kath has her work, I have regular hospital appointments, and there are many things we want to see & do before we leave Berlin.

The main pressure is that there is no plan B, no fall-back position. It all has to work, seamlessly, or we’re stuck. Wish us luck and, if you’re near the Union Jack Club on Friday 5th April, pop in and say hello & bon voyage!



]]> (Basecamp68) Club Faroes Iceland Jack Spitsbergen Sweden Union adventure arctic circle planning trip Fri, 22 Feb 2013 09:17:32 GMT
Cat catwebsize



I once lived with a very fine black cat – a British Short-Hair with a glossy black coat and big green eyes. He wasn’t a full pedigree but was nonetheless a very fine cat.


He had a posh name, but I just called him Cat. We lived in a third floor flat and he had never been free to go outside. He still had soft, pink feet like a kitten. After a while we moved to a ground floor place with its own garden and he had his first taste of the wilderness beyond the window. It was a real laugh to see him hopping around on the grass which he had never felt before, and which pricked his soft feet. But he soon toughened up and became a great fighter. The apartment was in a courtyard in a city in Germany, surrounded by old buildings and new restaurants. There were rats, of course.


Now I am sure that there are many cats that will take on a grown rat, but Cat was the only one known to me personally. I remember going outside one winter morning and finding four, no five, no SIX dead, stiff rats scattered around the courtyard, like casualties from a rodent battle. They probably weren’t fully grown, but big enough! Cat was wholly unmarked.


I had, too, a very fine leather chair – low and wide, covered in soft leather and very reminiscent of the Victorian Library or Club chairs. If I was sat in it of an evening and Cat wanted to make an “entrance” then he would leap unannounced onto the arm or back of the chair, causing me to start, before he dropped into my lap for an hour or so of contented purring.


Of course, his claws marked the leather, which bothered my (then) wife a little. I reminded her that, one day, Cat would be no more, but the marks in the leather would always remind me of him.


Cat is not with me now. My wife and I separated and Cat, being “her” cat really, stayed and I left, taking the leather chair with me. I sit in some evenings, feeling the marks in the leather under my thumb and remembering different times.

]]> (Basecamp68) british cat fighting leather-chair rats separation short-hair Tue, 19 Feb 2013 07:56:20 GMT
Sam Knew Sam Knew

"In 1999 my late wife, Glynis, and I were lucky enough to be able to take very early retirement. We moved from the city to a tiny cottage in rural North Wales and settled into a gentler rhythm of life.


As part of our downsizing, we acquired a chocolate Labrador puppy, Sam, which quickly grew into a Goliath – some 38 kgs in his prime. Boisterous, clumsy, full of fun, he loved all God’s creatures. People, cats, birds, dogs – he loved them all and was especially fond of a neighbour’s black & white tomcat which tolerated his attentions, occasionally.


Sam filled the cottage, and our hearts. Given half a chance he would commandeer the bed just before we retired, then look reproachfully as he was forcibly ejected. In the warmer weather he would lie across the front door to the cottage where there was a slight draught, the door being a touch loose in its frame. He would snore, loudly, and the loose door would rattle in harmony with the snores. In the winter he would lie on a rug, a little way back from the door and if anyone walked past the cottage in the night then he would let out just one basso-profundo  bark that seemed to rise from the bowels of the earth. But he would always try to sneak into the bedroom, and possible find a corner of the bed, at some point during the night!


In the same week of October 2003, my wife and I were both diagnosed with cancer. Well why not? We’d done most things together for many years.  She came home from hospital for the last time in early December 2004, to be cared for by the District & Palliative care nurses, and me. Glynis spent most of the time in bed. We both loved Christmas and, although we never mentioned it, she was determined to hear the cottage filled with carols for one last time.


Strangely, Sam withdrew from the bedroom almost totally. He would pay a quick visit when the nurses came to see if there was any food on the go, but nothing would get him upstairs at bed time. I went through the same routine in God’s waiting-room every evening. Locking up & turning off then “inviting” Sam to join us upstairs but he just stared and found somewhere downstairs to spend his solitary vigil. Glynis was awake on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day but, having achieved her last objective, settled  into a coma on Boxing Day, where she remained.


On 27th December 2004 I went through my usual nightly routine and said goodnight to Sam but, to my surprise he beat me to the stairs and went up to the bedroom. He sat beside the bed for a couple of minutes, staring intently at the comatose form of his beloved mistress, and then curled up on a mat at the foot of the bed. The first time for many weeks. Sam knew that the wait was almost over. I stayed awake and, sure enough, after an hour or so, her breathing changed and I sat with her waiting for that last breath to come. . .


The cottage had a tiny kitchen with a little dog-leg staircase leading off upstairs. Glynis used to sit on the third or fourth stair watching the pots bubbling away on the cooker, usually with a glass of wine in one hand and a ciggie in the other. A few weeks after her death I was feeding Sam – his bowl was near the foot of the little staircase. He broke off from eating, a most unusual event, and put his front paws on the bottom stair and began staring into space at a spot where someone’s head might have been, were they sitting on the third or fourth stair. He was wagging his tail and, I swear it, smiling. He stayed like that for a little while, finished his food, and then settled into his first deep & contented sleep for ages."


Merry Christmas everyone!

]]> (Basecamp68) Christmas Wales bereavement cancer chocolate cottage. dog labrador rural Tue, 25 Dec 2012 14:29:50 GMT
so perhaps I'll start with a book? I took it down from the shelf the other day. It is a battered old school book - the only one that I've kept - entitled "Everyman's Encyclopaedia Edinburgh World Atlas". The plate inside states that it was presented to me in 1959 "for outstanding work in English".  My primary-school teachers thought that I would be a writer, but having written nothing of note in the intervening 50+ years, perhaps it is time to reward their belief in me.

I chose the book myself from Sweetens Book shop in Blackpool, long defunct I suspect. Perhaps the choice of an atlas told even then of a child with curiosity about the world and a desire to see more of it. Certainly, I have always been restless - driven to see more and do more, wanting the sea, landscapes, big horizons and challenges.

The book has travelled many miles with me, and its pages have taken me on even longer journeys. It was first published at a time when much of the world bore the red traces of Empire, but changes were in the wind and the wind blew hard. It re-arranged the world order, blew new countries into Europe and reshaped borders. The question left in the wake of the wind is "is all change good? - are say, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Kenya et al inherently better, or just different following their progress to independence? If the old order was so bad, then why are almost one-third of the world's population members of the Commonwealth of Nations - and all but two of the member countries being former parts of the British Empire?

I have no idea. I have never lived in those countries nor known the joy and excitement that independence must have brought to them, at the time. 

I am curious, perhaps about my own ignorance, as to why there are so many new countries, fragments from some of the nations in my old atlas, that I could not point my finger to now on an unlabelled map and I wonder how and why, say Malta and Israel, became part of the great European song-fest. 

The old definition of a diplomat was "a gentleman sent abroad to lie for his country" and I think that statement, amended to "a politician is someone who stays at home to lie for his party"  can explain a lot of what goes wrong in the world, for it is certain that all politicians, of all parties and in all countries make their decisions based on their politics, not on any altruistic desire for a better world. Look at the Eurozone crisis. Are the politicians  of "old" Europe doing what is best for Greece, Spain, Portugal etc, or are they appeasing their own electorates?


Perhaps a new wind will blow? I can feel my own personal breeze whispering to me and, Insha'Ahlla, the old atlas will come with me on another adventure next year.


]]> (Basecamp68) British Empire Commonwealth of Nations Empire Europe atlas book debt crisis history independence politics reading school travel Tue, 04 Dec 2012 12:29:30 GMT
The NFA Tour 2013 What's "NFA"? - No Fixed Abode!

Watch this space! We have, Katharina & I, a touch of the wanderlust. If I can get a reasonable all-clear with some health problems then next year could - will - see a serious change of direction. Giving up the flat, lots of unnecessary possessions and loading up the car with camping, camera and computer gear then heading north.

Summer through to autumn it is planned - although that's perhaps too strong a word - to be in mid Sweden then head North for the winter. Spitsbergen, Iceland, then the UK in the spring then who knows where????

I should get some medical results soon, before Christmas, so I will start this blog in earnest in the New Year 2013.

In the meantime I may amuse myself with a few words here from time to time - a certain cat of my acquaintance will be appearing in print soon... maybe some dogs, various wives, books and memories .....

]]> (Basecamp68) Iceland Spitsbergen Sweden health travel wandelust wilderness winter Mon, 03 Dec 2012 18:55:48 GMT