Following the trail from Ipswich to Rifle Trench near Arras

By the end of this story, a proper expert in the field had effortlessly summarised that which took me a while to dig out. I enjoyed the chase anyway, and set it down here more for my own recollection than because it will matter to anyone else.

Someone learns that I am going to Arras. A distant relative called Arthur Stanley Peck is commemorated there, she says, and asks if I will find his name on the Arras Memorial and send a picture or two of it. She know nothing more of him than the sparse details recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s excellent website. There is also a mention of Peck’s tag, which has apparently been found in a field and returned to Suffolk.

A few days later, after a bit of poking around on Google, I am gazing across what I am reasonably sure is the field in which he died, along with 95 others from his battalion.

Click here for a larger copy of this picture. It is large, made up of 23 separate photographs, and may take a while to load; drag its frame to the right to see it at full size.

I did not find Peck’s name on the Arras Memorial – it was dark and cold when we got there, and although the picture below appears to show legible panels, that is thanks to a long exposure of a near-dark wall:

One advantage of going to memorials after dark in the winter is that no-one else is there, just you and the ghosts of the thousands remembered in these magnificent places.

Amidst those hundreds of thousands of dead, one needs a link, however tenuous, to bring flesh and blood to the story, to give a purpose to the research, and to turn that ordinary field into a bloody scene from history. Continue reading

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Writing up the 2017 New York trip as we set off for 2018’s

I use long flights to clear out unused drafts, duplicates and the other detritus which gathers in Evernote’s copious corners. Flying to Legaltech New York 2018, I found the article I wrote after last year’s show. It might serve as the warm-up to this year’s event.

For the last eleven years, I have spent the week which pushes January into February in New York. The occasion is what is probably classified as a “trade show”, where people with interests in a particular industry, profession or business gather. It always used to be called “LegalTech”. Recently, for reasons which escaped me, it became “Legaltech” (that small “t” mattered to someone); in 2017 its organisers called it “Legaltech part of Legalweek THE EXPERIENCE”.  Or “LegalTech” as we all stubbornly call it.

Legaltech was originally for the display of all kinds of technology which might be be used by lawyers. I wasn’t there back then, but I picture booths showing the latest developments in typewriter ribbons, carbon paper and shorthand books. “Mobile” meant a calculator with a battery and a paper roll. On the comms front lawyers argued about the ethical implications of sending correspondence by telex. There were rumours of a new kind of typewriter with a memory. International Business Machines shortened its name to IBM and asserted that no-one would ever want a computer in the home. The “document lifecycle” then involved selling you reams of paper one year, boxes and shelving the next, then document storage in old warehouses, and finally a can of petrol and a box of matches. By the time I first went the electronic discovery cuckoo had driven out nearly everything else. Continue reading

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One picture a month from 2017

I have 2,984 pictures from 2017 after culling probably as many again. Picking one from each calendar month is difficult – some months yield nothing of note while others result in several which would be in my top twelve for the year. I could do twelve food pictures, twelve of London, twelve of each of the beautiful places I have been to this year – Suffolk, the Isles of Scilly, the west of Ireland, Chicago, and the battlefields east of Arras among them. The “best” picture from each month is not necessarily one of the top twelve for the year. Here goes, anyway.

January

My mother lives in Orford on the Suffolk coast, and we stayed there for a week in January. I went for a longer walk than I intended along the sea wall and back across the marshes. The blisters were worth it.

This is Orford Ness, where once-secret radar and armaments testing was done. Many of the buildings remain, including the odd “pagodas”:

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Tracing the identity of Hawker Hurricane LE-D

The picture below was taken by me at RAF Chivenor Air Day in August 1969. It shows a Hawker Hurricane painted as LE-D, and it has sat unremembered (along with several thousand other pictures) until a recent scanning exercise.

The picture set me off on research to find out more about it. Was it then flying? Is it still? This is not a subject with which I am familiar but Google is your friend on these occasions. Continue reading

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The red telephone box in St Giles’

On the east side of St Giles’ in Oxford stands a red telephone box next to a street lamp. Though now neglected by BT – unpainted, unlit and rather sad – it stands out against the grey and brown of its surroundings.

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Oxford Illuminated – old buildings in a new light

On 29 September, the Society of Light and Lighting brought the Night of Heritage Light 2017 to Oxford. If that was a slightly pretentious name for some lighting effects on old buildings, it was nevertheless a good excuse to go out and take some photographs.

The ones I liked most, as it turned out, were ones I could take most nights if I bothered to go down into the city centre, but the installations were imaginative and worth the short trip. One advantage was that the streets were thronged with people with cameras on tripods, making me feel less conspicuous than I usually do, and less of an obvious target for muggers.

For the technically-minded, the camera was a Nikon D750 triggered by a CamRanger wifi controller via an iPhone. There are more pictures on Flickr.

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First stop was the Museum of the History of Science, the Old Ashmolean building, here viewed across some of the so-called Emperors Heads, the third generation of thirteen curious herms which line the front of the Sheldonian.

__________ Continue reading

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Las Vegas: plenty of room at the Hotel Nevada – any time of year you can find it here

It sounds exotic, doesn’t it? People politely ask where you are going. “Las Vegas” you say, and they give knowing looks. The name calls up images of cigar smoke curling over green tables attended by lightly-clad beauties, of days of gluttony and nights of debauchery, and of some serious shopping in the moments not spent lounging by the pool with uninhibited wantons.

The image persists because that is exactly what you could do in Las Vegas if you chose to, and if you had the money to burn. I’ve been there once or twice a year for the past decade but my vices are on the modest side. The amount I eat there would be counted gluttonous by some (there are some very good restaurants); I did once buy a jacket there but that had nothing much to do with being in Las Vegas – it was made in Slovenia by those Germans who used to make Hitler’s uniforms, and I only went shopping because it was one of those rare occasions when I, my wife, and some decent shops were all in the same place. The gambling, the lovelies, the debauchery and the pools are not for me.

That is partly because these things don’t much appeal anyway, and partly because I am always there to attend a conference which means hard work. It is partly also because the glitz rubs off pretty quickly when you look closely.

That difficult second album – Hotel Nevada

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