Going out to Port Meadow and back in the evening

It was still quite light when we went out to Port Meadow at 5:25 on 13 March:

By 6.25 it was nearly dark:


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My photographs of North Devon railways and stations in the 1960s

I inherited from my father his interest in abandoned railway lines and in maps. I learnt to use Ordnance Survey maps from trips we did together to trace closed routes in North Devon, looking for remnants of stations, bridges, and embankments.

When we started, there weren’t very many derelict railways lines. Apart from the long-closed Lynton and Barnstable Railway, most Devon lines still existed, though traffic gradually disappeared from many of them.

We walked on the Filleigh Viaduct as the track was being pulled up in 1967 – my father was at school in North Devon during the war and Filleigh was the station for the school. This is the view from the east end of the viaduct looking westward:

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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.


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

Posted in Films, Flying, History, Photographs, WW2 | Leave a comment

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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Posted in Oxford, Photographs, Uncategorized | Leave a comment