31 July 2009

Harrah! More Please!

There's a wonderful article over on the BBC News site. Well the article isn't actually wonderful, it's pretty hack, formulaic BBC journalism about a TV show. It is the idea, intelligence, thoughtfulness and guts behind the programme which is wonderful.

The programme was on BBC3 last evening and follows a couple of teenage girls and their mums as they visit various people in UK and Netherlands so the girls can discover for themselves about whether they're ready to lose their virginity. Clearly this had to involve a lot of very open discussion between the girls and the people they met (including a group of teenage boys who were asked some pointed questions by the girls) and between the girls and their mums. From reading the item (sadly I missed the programme) clearly the mums were struggling to cope – but cope they did and I get the impression everyone came out of it much stronger and better balanced.

But why does it need a TV programme to get people to do this? OK so not everyone will take on for themselves a 2000 mile journey. But everyone has a surprising number of local resources to draw on: parents, teachers, doctors, health workers, not to mention their friends, peers and relations. Why can't people talk about these things? Openly? I just don't get it. Everyone (almost) has sex in some form or another at some time. Sex is an important part of life so why not admit it and be open about it? Reading and writing are important in life and we get taught those at a very tender age, and hone our skills over many years – some more than others, but everyone improves and learns. So why not sexuality?

Hopefully this programme will be repeated, and repeated, and repeated. And used by schools. And parents everywhere. Maybe, just maybe, it will start the revolution in (most people's) thinking about sexuality and their bodies that our society so desperately needs.

Incidentally one interesting fact which is often overlooked: Holland has the lowest teenage pregnancy rate and the lowest rates of sexually transmitted infections in western Europe. Britain has almost the highest. Despite a very open attitude to sex, teenagers in Holland start having sex on average one year later than in the UK. Why? Because the Dutch are pragmatic and willing to discussing sexuality etc. openly; they don't treat it as dirty and hide it in the coal-shed like we do. I lived through the sexual revolution in order to do away with coal-sheds!

Parents and teenagers (even sub-teens) everywhere please note!

Thru' the Years Meme (2)


Thru' the Years Meme (2), originally uploaded by kcm76.

This week's Flickr meme is to pick things or events you remember from each year of your life - #1 through 12? it could be anything: who your best friend was when you were 6; your pet when you were 10; a teacher when you were 12; your favourite toy at age 3 -- you get to come up with the item for each of the numbers ... or just use random years here and there with the big highlights of your life! Here's a second selection covering some key times in my life to date.

1. -2 weeks; I arrive 2 weeks early; I've been early ever since.
2. 11; I go to grammar school and get an excellent all-round basic education; we were stretched all the time; and it must have been one of the few co-ed grammar schools in the country.
3. 17; started going out with Jill, my first proper girlfriend; we broke up at the start of our second year as undergraduates.
4. 18; off to university in York to study Chemistry; glorious campus but not the formative years they are for many (they came later as a post-grad).
5. 23; I lose my virginity to Faith; she's 9 years older than me, and taught me a lot!; yes I was a slow starter.
6. 25; somehow I'm awarded my PhD from University of East Anglia; and yes I've got one of these super velvet Tudor bonnets too!
7. 25; and I immediately start working for IBM.
8. 28; Noreen and I marry; we met in Norwich and have known each other for about 4 years, but have been going out less than a year -- oh and we're still happily married almost 30 years later (and long may it be so)!
9. 30; we buy our house just as mortgage rates go through the roof!
10. 32; I have an affair and glandular fever at the same time; Noreen knows about both! Duh!
11. 49; I'm one of the founders of the Anthony Powell Society.
12. 58; just waiting for retirement; so much I want to do outside work.

As always the photographs are not mine (except #9 which is) please click on individual links below to see each artist/photostream. This mosaic is for a group called My Meme, where each week there is a different theme and normally 12 questions to send you out on a hunt to discover photos to fit your meme. It gives you a chance to see and admire other great photographers' work out there on Flickr.

1. The Holiday Guests Arrive Early Singing Carols, 2. Leeds Grammar School, 3. Jill, 4. Heslington Hall, 5. IMG 088, 6. Congrats! You made it!, 7. IBM Hursley, 8. The House Opposite, 10. Eve - glandular fever test, 11. ANTHONY POWELL, NOVELIST, AT HOME IN SOMERSET, 28 DECEMBER 1983., 12. Two at the Shoreline

Created with fd's Flickr Toys

30 July 2009

Ye Olde Tea Drinker


Ye Olde Tea Drinker, originally uploaded by kcm76.

July self-portrait for Flickr 12 Months group.

29 July 2009

Thru' the Years Meme


Thru' the Years Meme, originally uploaded by kcm76.

This week's Flickr meme is to pick things or events you remember from each year of your life - #1 through 12? it could be anything: who your best friend was when you were 6; your pet when you were 10; a teacher when you were 12; your favourite toy at age 3 -- you get to come up with the item for each of the numbers ... or just use random years here and there with the big highlights of your life! Here's my selection up to the age of 12 (but not one per year, I don't remember that much that well, and not in order).

1. Being stung on the big toe by a bee when I was about 6. I trod on it in the garden; it hurt; and my mother told me off for walking about in bare feet -- didn't do any good 'cos I still do!
2. Summer holidays camping at nudist club when I would have been about 9-10.
3. Staying in my grandmother's flat in Canterbury for summer holiday; guess I was about 6.
4. Finding abandoned duckling (aged 6) ...
5. ... and releasing it a year later as a handsome Mallard drake. We didn't have a single slug in the garden that year! My grandmother (she of the flat in Canterbury) hated the duck 'cos it nibbled at your ankles when you walked down the garden -- which I thought was really funny. But then I thought my grandmother was a sour old bag: she was but at least I now understand why.
6. Derek Part who was my best friend when I was 10 or 11. His brother (who was 16) was drowned swimming in one of the local gravel pits. His mother kept a boarding kennels for dogs down next to the piggery. They moved to Liverpool soon after this.
7. Seeing Cliff Richard's film Summer Holiday as soon as it was released in 1963 (I was 12). Cliff was a local boy (real name Harry Webb); The Shadows used to practice in the boy's club which backed onto my primary school playing field.
8. Going to my primary school's football trials at 10 or 11 ... and failing miserably.
9. Fresh bread delivered by the bakers roundsman when I was about 4. I always wanted the crust -- buttered! At first I think he had an electric hand-cart but later one of these Morris vans, only red. Oh and the bakers was Hill's.
10. Getting concentrated orange juice & cod liver oil from the welfare clinic when I would have been 1 or 2; I guess this was just before rationing finished.
11. Going to Cub camp at Whitsun half-term when I was 11, and my parents coming out to tell me I'd got into Grammar School.
12. Smelly. dirty suburban steam trains to London; they finished when I was about 8 or 9 and were replaced by first by boring diesel and then even more boring electric trains.

As always the photographs are not mine (except #2 which is from my photostream) so please click on individual links below to see each artist/photostream. This mosaic is for a group called My Meme, where each week there is a different theme and normally 12 questions to send you out on a hunt to discover photos to fit your meme. It gives you a chance to see and admire other great photographers' work out there on Flickr.

1. Bee Sting!, 2. Mother & Son, 3. Canterbury, Weavers, 4. The duckling, 5. Mallard Drake on Ice, 6. Derek Jarman's Prospect Cottage, Dungerness, Kent, 7. Cliff Richard, 8. How to penetrate the defense?, 9. HCVS London to Brighton 2009 - 1955 Morris J Type Van, 10. Wartime Rationing, 11. mega080024, 12. PADDINGTON STATION 1940

Created with fd's Flickr Toys

25 July 2009

Pick One Meme


Pick One Meme, originally uploaded by kcm76.

This week's Flickr meme is to pick one of a pair; we were given a long list of pairs and allowed to choose our own 12. Here's my selection; you probably don't have to know me very well to predict most of these:

1. Pink or Green. Green; much more subtle and interesting than pink as well as being restful on the eyes.
2. Clothed or Nude. Nude; clothing is nothing but a conventional fetish; nudity is natural.
3. Boys or Girls. Girls; well now there's a surprise.
4. Cat or Dog. Cat; lean, keen killing machines that they are.
5. Beer or Wine. Beer; such endless variety; and thirst-quenching.
6. Theist or Atheist. Atheist; God is another of our unnecessary (and divisive) fetishes.
7. Heaven or Hell. Hell; see above; much more interesting.
8. Bat or Ball. Ball; he who has the ball is in control!
9. Hairy or Shaved. Hairy; unless we're talking about faces when I prefer them shaved.
10. Gold or Silver. Both; let's be greedy!
11. Pen or Pencil. Pencil; old habits die hard; as a one time programmer I was brought up to work in pencil; I still do much of the time, using an automatic pencil with soft 2B leads.
12. Sun or Moon. Moon; endlessly fascinating to look at.

As always the photographs are not mine so please click on individual links below to see each artist/photostream. This mosaic is for a group called My Meme, where each week there is a different theme and normally 12 questions to send you out on a hunt to discover photos to fit your meme. It gives you a chance to see and admire other great photographers' work out there on Flickr.

1. green/purple, 2. Underwater Nudes, 3. Rainbow Girls, 4. Cat's eye, 5. Beer Bottles, 6. Atheists, 7. Wanna go to Hell?, 8. plazma ball green and blue, 9. Hairy backside, 10. Silver & Gold Oak Ring, 11. Pencils, 12. Harvest Moon

Created with fd's Flickr Toys

20 July 2009

Family Grave


David Masey Grave, originally uploaded by kcm76.

This is the grave in churchyard of St Nicholas, New Romney, Kent of David Masey (b 1807, d 1882) who was my great-great-grandfather and his wife. Also commemorated are a number of his family members (none in my direct line). I've been told that David Masey was variously a fisherman, greengrocer, fishmonger, boatman and a lifeboatman at Littlestone.

I was there, rather fortuitously on Saturday afternoon but had only a few minutes to find and photograph the headstone. Had I had more time I was hoping to be able to scour the churchyard for other Masey graves - although sadly very many of the headstones are so weathered as to be unreadable; hardly surprising just a mile or so from the sea. I must check if New Romney have yet catalogued all the graves in their churchyard. More research for one of these fine days when I no longer have to worry about working for a crust!

18 July 2009

Modern Day Prayer

I saw this today posted on the wall of the gents in the Royal Oak at Brookland, Kent. It has to be preserved for posterity ...

Modern Day Prayer
Gordon Brown is my shepherd, I shall not work.
He leadeth me beside the still factories.
He restoreth my faith in the Conservative Party.
He guideth me in the path of unemployment.
Yea, though I wait for my dole,
I own the bank that refuses me.
Brown has anointed my income with taxes,
My expenses runneth over my income,
Surely, poverty and hard living will follow me all the days of his term.
From hence forth we will live all the days of our lives in a rented home with an overseas landlord.
I am glad I am British,
I am glad I am free.
But I wish I were a dog
And Brown was a tree.

17 July 2009

Figleaves or Not?

There's another sensible item on nudity, especially as relating to one's children, over on The Political Naturist. Here's a taster ...

For many parents, allowing a child to run around naked at home is perfectly natural, an expression of physical freedom that represents the essence of childhood, especially in the summer. But for others, unclad bodies are an affront to civility, a source of discomfort and a potentially dangerous attraction for pedophiles. [...]

There is no rational reason for ordering a toddler to put on clothes. People will always tell you that it's "indecent", or "inappropriate", but they cannot tell you why. It's transference of adult shame, built up over years of cultural mores and religious teachings. [...]

Around the age of 3 or 4, children begin to differentiate between what’s private and what’s public, experts say, and they usually begin to feel modesty soon after. But parents’ attitudes play the largest role in determining whether children are comfortable being naked at home ... If someone has what appears to be an overly strong reaction to seeing young children running around naked, it tells us about their own hang-ups, their own inner conflicts [...]

What is it about the sight of naked children which causes people to bristle and turn away? I would think most people would smile, or laugh, at the sight of children at play, clothed or unclothed. Bottling up the natural instincts of children to shed their clothes only teaches them body shame, that there is something wrong and repulsive about their flesh. Adults should not be transferring their own guilt, false modesty and irrational fears to their children. We are all born with nude bodies, we all see ourselves when we change clothes or bathe, so why is it so shocking when we see someone else's nude body? [...]

Thanks heaven for another dose of common sense. More please!

16 July 2009

Travel Suitcase Meme


Travel Suitcase Meme, originally uploaded by kcm76.

This week's Flickr meme is to list 12 things that you would put in your travel suitcase; 12 things you'd never travel without! Having excluded the obvious (like clean underwear) here's my list:

1. I never leave home without a camera (if only my tiny Fuji)
2. Mobile Phone (or two if I'm travelling for work or on call)
3. Laptop
4. Breathing Apparatus (otherwise known as my CPAP machine)
5. Moleskine Notebook & Pen
6. Dirty Water (aka Diet Coke)
7. My pretty coloured pills (at least 5 varieties currently required)
8. Passport (unless I know I'm staying in the UK and won't be getting on a plane anywhere)
9. Waterproof (if only a light nylon one)
10. Swiss Army Knife (you never know when you'll have to remove boy scouts from lions' paws)
11. Window Cleaner (for my glasses)
12. Reading matter (if only a couple of magazines)

As always the photographs are not mine so please click on individual links below to see each artist/photostream. This mosaic is for a group called My Meme, where each week there is a different theme and normally 12 questions to send you out on a hunt to discover photos to fit your meme. It gives you a chance to see and admire other great photographers' work out there on Flickr.

1. In-Camera HDR (Guam), 2. MobiGates with unique mobile phone, 3. laptop_lunchbox 2007.04.04, 4. Breathing Apparatus, 5. Manet Inspired in my Moleskine, 6. Coca Cola Roberto Cavalli, 7. Horse Pills, 8. British Passport 1857 Boucher-inside, 9. Aaah look at this coat now, it's all ruined and they said it was waterproof!!, 10. 2009 0616 Army Museum 15, 11. Squeegee Girl Mona, 12. Reading

Created with fd's Flickr Toys.

13 July 2009

Nudity Does Us All Good

Picture: BBC

I've written before about my attitudes to nudity and our bodies (see for instance here, here and here) and I return to the subject quite unashamedly especially as Channel 4 TV's "Life Class" (which I admit I have not been watching) has created a bit of a backlash in certain circles. So it was good to see a couple of articles last week coming out in favour of nudity and trying, quietly and sanely, to redress the balance.

The first was written for BBC News's online magazine by life model Sarah Snee (who is herself also an artist). The piece went under a banner Starkers for Art; here are some snippets of what she has to say:

As a student strapped for cash the allure of making money modelling for art was too much to resist. But there was another motivation - self exploration.

"I was intrigued by the idea of being naked in front of strangers," says Sarah. "Especially at the age of 20 when you're still getting to know your own body and developing your own sexuality. It was a very romantic idea, a bohemian idea [...] My first time was daunting. I was wondering what people thought of my body. Was I attractive enough? Did my bum look big? The things most people would be concerned with."

Despite being under the intense scrutiny of a room full of pupils, male and female, Sarah found she quickly became used to being under the artist's gaze. "It made me feel more confident about my body. I felt liberated. I feel more self-conscious wearing a bikini on holiday with friends than I did when I was naked in front of strangers."

"People say to me isn't life modelling really weird? Isn't it a bit sexual? Of course there are men who have this idea they're all going to draw these naked women and it's going to be thrilling [...] But the artists don't view you sexually. They see the body as a series of lines and shadows, a piece of art."

The second piece, titled Nudity does us all good, was by Jemima Lewis in last Saturday's Daily Telegraph. Again Jemima Lewis has a refreshingly down to earth view of nudity, and echos my view that nudity is not only normal but we would all be better adjusted if we grew up with nudity and understanding our bodies. This is (part of) what she has to say:

[...] who are these children who have never seen a naked body before? And more importantly, why not?

Going naked in front of your offspring is one of the duties of parenthood. Studies show – and common sense suggests – that children from households where nudity is commonplace grow up to feel more comfortable in their own skin. We need the background scenery of other people's bodies – dumpy, scrawny, dimpled or lean – in order to be reassured that our own peculiarities are normal.

Especially now, when most public images of the human form are airbrushed into a preposterous lie, children ought to know what actual people look like under their clothes.

Some of my favourite memories of school feature middle-aged men and women disporting themselves in the buff. Our A-level teacher, like many artists, preferred her life models on the well-fed side, their rolls of fat allowing for plentiful chiaroscuro.

Although it is a long time since I picked up a sketchpad, those life classes, combined with the tireless domestic nudity of my parents, are proving more useful to me now than ever.

As my wife's uncle used to say: "If you see anything God didn't make, heave a brick at it."

10 July 2009

Rites of Passage Meme


Rites of Passage Meme, originally uploaded by kcm76.

This week's Flickr meme is about rites of passage. As some might be near the bone for some people we were allowed to choose from 20 questions; of course I've had to do them all (well I did write them!). So here is my somewhat off-the-wall interpretation.

1. How old were you when you were born? (No it isn’t a stupid question as some people seem to be born aged 900 and get younger as the years go by) 9224 frightens in Vogon. 1 Vogon frighten = eπi√3 Earth days
2. Who was your first teacher? Me
3. Whose was the first wedding you attended? My handkerchief (see #10)
4. Whose was the first christening you attended? (Not your own!) Mine – and yes it does count as I was 22
5. Whose was the first funeral you attended? A student drinking buddy who fell over dead in the shower one morning
6. Who was your first boyfriend / girlfriend? Sandra, when I was 8; at 11 I was stalking her.
7. Who is/was your role model? Lewis Carroll; we have 3 shared interests: photography, logic and young girls (although I like them to be of legal age!)
8. When and how were you first aware of your puberty? "Razor, meet Face. Face, meet Razor."
9. Who or what is your guiding spirit, or inner shaman? Zen Mischief
10. Who took your virginity? Mr Dexter Hand
11. At what age did you lose your virginity? I don’t lose things; I put them away somewhere safe!
12. What was your first permanent job? (I don't count holiday/student jobs!) Being a frightened depressed child
13. How old were you when you married (or entered an equivalent relationship)? Old enough to know better; young enough to still do it
14. Who was (or would you like to be) your Best Man or Chief Bridesmaid? Why don’t men have bridesmaids?
15. What was/would you like to be your honeymoon destination? Garden of Edam
16. When did or do you hope to retire? About 11PM tonight
17. Have you had a “road to Damascus” event? If so, what was it? Nah, that Damascus place it’s foreign innit!
18. How old will you be when you die? (Comment as for age at birth!) Senile
19. Heaven or Hell? Hell – full of much more interesting people
20. Ashes or reincarnation? Both: ashes for the body; reincarnation for the mind/soul

As always the photographs are not mine so please click on individual links below to see each artist/photostream. This mosaic is for a group called My Meme, where each week there is a different theme and normally 12 questions to send you out on a hunt to discover photos to fit your meme. It gives you a chance to see and admire other great photographers' work out there on Flickr.

1. Baby Vogon, 2. 185/365: I've learned not to look too closely, she said, 3. 150. Forget Me Not by Barbara A. Malek, 4. Font, Happisburgh Church, Norfolk, 5. A full moon on the Cam, 6. I can keep a secret if you can keep me guessing, 7. SWAPBOT - QUOTE POSTCARD 21 - #1, 8. Day 226/365 My first shaving brush, 9. Zen Kitty, 10. in the palm of my hand, 11. What? No Way!!, 12. Frightened Child Turning into Angry Teen mask, 13. Keepin' Bee Z :-), 14. Procession, 15. Edam - a lot of cheese 3, 16. I'm so glad I never feel important, it does complicate life!, 17. Damascus, 18. Tiny life of the White Sea, 19. Stoking the fires of Hell, 20. digital reincarnation

Created with fd's Flickr Toys.

05 July 2009

12 Favourite Books Meme


12 Favourite Books Meme, originally uploaded by kcm76.

This week's Flickr meme is to share 12 of your favourite books. This is hard; I love books and to have to choose just 12 is a real challenge. Anyway here's a selection that would at least get in the frame.

1. Anthony Powell; The Military Philosophers. I figured I wouldn't choose the 12 volumes of Dance as a single item for once!
2. Lewis Carroll; Alice in Wonderland
3. Anthony Powell; The Valley of Bones
4. Riehl & Baensch; Aquarium Atlas
5. Lewis Carroll; The Hunting of the Snark
6. Oxford English Dictionary
7. Florence Greenberg; Jewish Cookery. As good a cookery book as you'll find.
8. John Guillim; A Display of Heraldry (4th edition; 1652)
9. Simon Barnes; How to be a Bad Birdwatcher
10. Latham & Matthews; Diaries of Samuel Pepys (yes all 11 volumes, please!)
11. Evelyn Waugh; Black Mischief or alternatively Waugh in Abyssinia
12. Gabriel Chevallier; Clochemerle

"Blimey mate, 's all a bit eye-brow, innit like!"

As always the photographs are not mine so please click on individual links below to see each artist/photostream. This mosaic is for a group called My Meme, where each week there is a different theme and normally 12 questions to send you out on a hunt to discover photos to fit your meme. It gives you a chance to see and admire other great photographers' work out there on Flickr.

1. 100_7347c, 2. alice in wonderland cake, 3. Petrified Mangrove Trees in Whale Bone Valley, 4. 100 Litre Freshwater Aquarium, 5. indian princesses, 6. Lustre, 7. Jewish Cookery, 8. Jeffrey Hedgecock's Coat of Arms - Lions Rampant, 9. Birdwatching, 10. The Olde Cock Tavern, 11. Afar girl Danakil, 12. Pissoir

Created with fd's Flickr Toys.

03 July 2009

Death on the Ranch

Well not really on the ranch, more in the fish pond. This very hot, humid and airless weather has taken a toll on my pond fish. Over the last 3 days I've lost 8 fish, most of them koi carp. None of then were of any great monetary value, but of course as with any "pet" they are of sentimental value. And we are not talking small fish here; we're talking koi the size of a damn good salmon!


These were my fish last year; the three big ones in the centre of the picture are amongst those I've lost in the last few days. The golden orange one was almost 25 years old and one of my very first pond fish.

Coldwater fish do not like this weather. It is well known that water gets starved of oxygen in warm, sticky, stormy weather. This last few days has been especially bad; I don't remember anything so hot and humid for many years. and of course it hits the largest fish hardest. They have a larger body mass to support, and their body mass to gill are ratio must be higher than in smaller fish. So the big fish get hit first. But then I do also partly blame myself as my pond maintenance has probably not been up to scratch recently.

It's a timely reminder not just of the fragility of life but of the old adage about fishkeeping: We are not fishkeepers, we are water keepers.

Fortunately it has been noticeably cooler today, and the forecast is for it to get cooler through the weekend and for rain from Sunday; both of which will help.