Oxfordshire Photo

I don’t these days get round to posting a weekly photograph all that often, partly because I’ve not been doing so much photography recently.

But a few weeks ago we had a day out in Oxfordshire. I had a meeting in Oxford in the morning and we then meandered our way home via Islip and Brightwell Baldwin, both of which have ancestral connections for me.

This is a wonderful, clearly very old, thatched stone cottage which backs onto Islip churchyard – indeed it is the churchyard wall!

Islip Thatch

We shall be revisiting both Islip and Brightwell Baldwin.


Time for our monthly selection of amusing, interesting and thought-provoking quotes.

Strong espresso drinks are all that stand between us and total creative defeat.
Hari Kunzru

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.
Charles Darwin; The Descent of Man (1871)

Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenceless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgement simply need not be believed – in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.
Dietrich Sonhoeffen (1906-1945) “On Stupidity” in Letters and Papers from Prison

What a society chooses to allow of female toplessness, as with art, speaks volumes. It is entirely possible to see how a society’s rules governing access to women’s bodies continue, ultimately, to be rules governing what is considered a male property right. There are constant contestations over breastfeeding in public, toplessness on beaches, bare breasted political protesting, and what constitutes obscenity and pornography. In mainstream views and in social media, for example, female toplessness is largely prohibited, while barely camouflaged sexually objectifying pornography, that prioritizes male sexual pleasure, is not.
Soraya Chemaly, from the Foreword to Bare Reality.

There comes a time in life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is part of life, getting back up is living.

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.
Martin Luther King, A Testament of Hope

No person who can read is ever successful at cleaning out an attic.
Ann Landers

One of Joyce’s most valuable bequests to writers is that none of them ever need to write a novel like Ulysses again; a benefaction unhappily sometimes disregarded, especially in the US. One feels that Joyce, even if pretty able, is not quite in the Proust, Dostoevsky, even Balzac, class; useful to be learnt from, but not to be imitated … His obsession with himself, paying a good dividend in certain respects, was a handicap in others, narrowing the sphere of vision. As regards the novel itself, one wishes the Brothel scene was done in the same manner as the Martello Tower. I feel certain Joyce simply found himself unable to bring that off, falling back faute de mieux on ‘experimental’ methods, not because those really gave a better picture. Perhaps it might be argued this stuck closer to the Ulysses myth.
Anthony Powell, Journals 1982-1986, 20 June 1986
With thanks to Peter Kislinger

You can outsource anything you like folks, but you cannot outsource the responsibility or the liabilities.

Terrorists want people to fear. Demagogues [eg. Trump] encourage fear. Great leaders like FDR say, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Lawrence M Krauss

It is hardest to talk about civil rights after an atrocity. To many people it feels beside the point, or even part of the problem. People are in no mood for “niceties”, for giving terrorists the liberties which they seem hell bent on destroying. These are the danger times. Human rights, civil liberties – whatever you want to call them – are designed for times like this. They are a moral check list. An insurance policy against our worst natures. Because at times like this, when the world is fearful and trust is in short supply, we need to remember that our judgement in the better times was sound … human rights have a lot to offer in this conversation. Not least because as lucid as we feel after a terrorist attack, the policy responses which emerge from the aftermath may simply be wrong.
Barrister Adam Wagner; Rights Information; 5 June 2017

Regulations (and the removal of regulations) are not ends in themselves.
A regulation is there to provide that outcomes will be (are are likely to be) different from what they would be, *but for* the regulation.
Certain bad outcomes can be avoided; certain public goods and public benefits can be achieved. In both cases, individuals would not be able to do this for themselves without the regulation.

David Allen Green at Jack of Kent blog

What, if anything, can be done to prevent further terrorist attacks in the UK? There is a dearth of sensible ideas but no shortage of suggestions from the nation’s politicians and columnists. UK prime minister Theresa May characterised last week’s atrocity as an attack on the UK’s liberal values, and suggested the nation could more expediently resolve this conflict by further abandoning those very same values.
May called for more to be done to make online communications less secure, echoing predecessor David Cameron’s sentiment that there should be no form of communication that the government cannot intercept.
While this strategy would effectively destroy the safe operation of the UK’s digital infrastructure, it does mean we can look forward to an end to religious strife, as gods of all denominations would be sidelined by an all-knowing state. At the pearly gates, British citizens could anticipate being met by a minister clutching their internet search history and a disapproving glare.

“Feedback”; New Scientist; 17 June 2017

Clothes largely cut off the experience of pleasurable sensations of the skin. Natural skin sensation, the play of air, sun, and wind upon the body, can be very pleasurable … The nudist movement almost certainly reflects the desire for more freedom of communication through the skin.
Ashley Montagu, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin

And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy, you may find in them a harness and a chain. Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your body and less of your raiment, for the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.
Khalil Gibran

Benefits of Nudity

In today’s society sex and nudity are used to sell products and casual nakedness is frowned upon if not actually criminalised. (Incidentally nudity, per se, is not illegal in the UK.) This is harmful in many ways, body shame being amongst the least of them. So little wonder that naturism is perceived by society as being different, and even a thin cover for rampant sexuality.

Nudism is generally considered the act of being naked, while naturism is a lifestyle which may embrace more than just nudity. Actually I would define both a being lifestyles; it depends on one’s attitude. Both can be social or practised individually, although naturism is generally more social than individual (at least in my estimation) and often encompasses other environmentally aware beliefs. In what follows I’ve been lazy and tend to use the terms “nudism” and “naturism” fairly interchangeably.

I would define myself as a nudist; I am comfortable being nude, both privately and socially, but I’m not one for the wider naturist lifestyle if only from a lack of opportunity and a dislike of the regimentation so often expected by clubs and organisations. I like the ideas of naturism, but clubs etc. don’t work for me; so my nudism tends to be private. I would like that we could live in a world where nudity was accepted anywhere and at any time and we think nothing of practising social nudity with friends and family. Until then I wear clothes to cover other people’s embarrassment.

Nudism and naturism as lifestyles are all too often frowned upon by society; this is often as a result of fear and misunderstanding of what they’re about. Contrary to what many people think, naturism and nudism are definitely not sexual lifestyles; they are holistic, bringing about many physical, mental and societal benefits.

So here are a few of the Benefits of Nudity:

  1. Naturism as Therapy. According to naturists, one of the main benefits of naturism is that it provides an incredible feeling of relaxation. Being naked is more comfortable and removes the restrictions of clothing; it is very sensual (not sexual). This creates a feeling of well-being, which helps to invigorate the body. The feeling of the breeze or sun on your naked body, or of walking barefoot, is very invigorating, and enhances enjoyment of your surroundings. The feeling of euphoria that comes with being totally naked also helps alleviate mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression.
  2. Body Acceptance. People are under pressure to live up to the mythical ideal image, and use clothes as a way of hiding their feelings of inferiority. The fear of being naked is a defence mechanism which many people develop (or have imposed on them by parents) to protect themselves from feeling inferior due to their self-perceived imperfections. Naturism helps avoid this by enabling people to better understand that their self-perceived body imperfections are nothing more than part of the glorious diversity of human bodies. This helps people to accept their bodies, and respect those of the others; in turn this has been shown to promote healthier relationships and sexuality.
  3. Self-esteem & Maturity. Clothes are also used by society as an indicator of social status and focus attention on sexuality; partial clothing is considered very sexually stimulating. Naturism on the other hand, focuses attention on the acceptance of the body whatever its perceived imperfections. Shedding clothes makes people familiar with nakedness; it ceases to be something to be scared of. Moreover once people remove their clothes, everyone is equal and very little attention is paid to the social status. All this helps people who engage in naturism be more mature sexually and have enhanced self-esteem.
  4. Tolerance. Naturism advocates self-respect and respect for others, which helps promote tolerance in the society. Clothing promotes a patriarchal society where women are expected to dress according to certain requirements. Naturism advocates the acceptance of other people as equals and helps people to respect their bodies. This helps to eliminate male oriented expectations that are repressive to women and respect for all.
  5. Money and Time. Clothes are a huge expense in terms of money, time spent shopping and environmental damage. Wearing, and needing, fewer clothes is good for your bank balance, your time balance, and for the planet.
  6. Natural Body Processes. People are taught that they are not supposed to expose their bodies. This cultivates body shame, makes people view genitals as “dirty” rather than parts of the body that have important functions. In turn this generates mystery, ignorance and fear about the natural processes of the body, such as adolescence, pregnancy and ageing.
  7. Better Health. Clothing, make-up and the like hinder the basic functions of the skin, including the correct microbial balance. Body crevices become hot, sticky and humid which encourages the growth of (for example) fungal infections. Nudity allows air and sun to the skin, preventing the sticky conditions loved by many pathogens and hence helping maintaining a healthier body. Additionally, and importantly, exposure to sunlight boosts the production of vitamin D.
  8. Healthy sexuality. Many studies show that countries which support naturism have a lower rate of teenage pregnancy and abortion, because naturism promotes the understanding of sexuality and body image. While this will not remove common teenage curiosity with sex, it does help it be more appropriate because of an enhanced awareness of what sex and bodily functions are all about.

At the end of the day, give or take the odd scar or mole, we all know what’s under my, and your, t-shirt and jeans. So really, where is the problem?

See also:
British Naturism
Is there a human “need” for being naked?

Another Daft Meme

OK, so I spotted this meme on Facebook the other day. Although I’ve answered some of these questions before there are some here which are new. So I give you the whoel sequence, which I’ve de-Americanised.

  1. Person you were named after? No-one as far as I know.
  2. Last time you cried? A couple of weeks ago when we lost our 1-year-old boy cat.
  3. Do you like your own handwriting? No; at best it is produced by an arthritic spider.
  4. What is your favourite lunch meat? Cold sausage or garlic salami.
  5. Do you still have your tonsils? Yes. My parents (probably wrongly) refused to let them be removed.
  6. Would you bungee jump? No way – ever.
  7. What is your favourite cereal? Barley growing in the field ready to make malt for beer!
  8. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? Only if I’m wearing them at the time.
  9. Do you think you’re strong? No; neither physically nor mentally.
  10. Favourite ice cream? Good strawberry or good chocolate.
  11. What is the first thing you notice about someone? Face, head, hair.
  12. Football or baseball? Neither really, but football if I must choose.
  13. What colour trousers are you wearing? The Emperor’s new ones.
  14. Last thing you ate? Banana.
  15. What are you listening to? Silence.
  16. If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? Lime green.
  17. Favourite smell? Coffee, baking bread, frying onions, spices, roses.
  18. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone? Taxi company.
  19. Tattoo or piercing? Piercing, though I’m happy with both.
  20. Hair Colour? Mostly grey, going on white, but some remaining mid-brown.
  21. Eye colour? Blue.
  22. Favourite food to eat? Curry.
  23. Scary movies or chick flick? Neither; I can’t abide films.
  24. Last movie you saw? It’s so long ago I have absolutely no clue.
  25. What colour shirt are you wearing? Again, the Emperor’s new one.
  26. Favourite holiday? Sun, sea & sand to relax and do nothing (or something if I choose) but not lying around getting grilled.
  27. Beer or wine? Both, but beer preferred.
  28. Night owl or morning person? Neither.
  29. Favourite day of the week? Probably Saturday.

OK, so now it’s your turn. Just cut’n’paste the questions, replace my answers with yours, and post to your blog, Facebook, wherever. Enjoy!

Ten Things

Summer is here. Well at least we’ve had a few glimpses of it. So Ten Things this month has a summery theme.

Ten Summer Things To Do

  1. Eat ice-cream
  2. Watch a cricket match (in person not on TV)
  3. Eat strawberries (and cream, of course)
  4. Sit in the garden (or on the beach) drinking wine
  5. Swim nude
  6. Paddle in the sea
  7. Go to a garden and enjoy the roses
  8. Sit by the river and watch nature and the world go by
  9. Spend a day in the nude – in your garden or on the beach – and enjoy the feel of sun and breeze on your skin
  10. Visit a farm to pick your own strawberries, asparagus etc.

Of course, doing these things is not necessarily restricted to summer, but they’re all better in nice weather. So now we just need the sunshine!

Five Questions, Series 9 #5

So at last, here we are at the last of this ninth series of Five Questions.


Question 5: If you had to marry your “significant other” where you met where would the wedding be?

I’m not sure I can answer this question! No, not because I don’t want to but because I really don’t know exactly where (or when) Noreen and I first met.

Certainly it would have been somewhere on the campus of University of East Anglia in Norwich. But precisely where on campus is a mystery.

There is a good chance that we first met in the lounge bar of The Pub (the student bar) in the Student’s Union building, somewhere between Spring 1974 and early 1976. If not there then in the university residences known as Waveney Terrace, in late 1975/early 1976 when Noreen would have been visiting her then boyfriend for the weekend (she was by then working in London).

That’s when and where we first met, so according to the question that’s where any wedding would have to be. At least somewhere on the UEA campus.

After meeting a handful of times, we then more or less lost touch with each other. We didn’t start going out together until we met up again in Autumn 1978, by which time I was also in London. We actually married in September 1979 in Chiswick.

What about you? Do tell where you first met your significant other. It would be really interesting to know if there are any trends. I bet there are!


OK, so that’s the end of this series of Five Questions. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, maybe learnt something (if only about the oddness of my mind) and possibly even had a think yourself.

As before, if I can find enough good questions I may do another series, perhaps later in the year. So if you have a good question, or something you want to ask, then do please get in touch. And yes you can ask literally anything you like!

Meanwhile, in the words of the great Irish comedian, Dave Allen, “May your god go with you”.

Shoes and Ships, but no Sealing Wax

The last couple of evenings I’ve been reading a small volume produced in 1965 by the Sussex Record Society. It’s by Richard F Dell and titled Rye Port Books; it documents shipping in and out of Rye in East Sussex between 1566 and 1590, ie. a large part of the reign of Elizabeth I. Rye, at this date, had a large harbour which irrevocably silted up around 1600.

While this might sound somewhat dull, they were interesting times (to say the least) when there was essentially a “cold war” between Protestant England and Catholic Europe. Understandably no-one was permitted to leave (or enter) the country without government permission, although many did and not a few were either Catholics fleeing to France or Italy or they were spies for one side or the other (or indeed both).

Rye at that time was one of the major ports for both passengers and freight between England and France and the Low Countries. Regrettably there is little detail of people movements in these records, apart from the occasional note of a boat carrying “20 passengers”. This is a shame because even at this date there were immigration officers stationed at every port such as Rye. Their job, as today, was to interrogate and determine the bona fides of all travellers and naturally to detain any they thought might be Catholic insurgents or spies. From reading elsewhere about the spy rings of Elizabethan England (masterminded by Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham) it is clear there was also a large amount of mail travelling back and forth, mostly being hand-carried by couriers. [For more on this see Stephen Alford, The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I. Review when I’ve finished reading it.]

This book is more about the trade which was happening. Although there are several vessels logged which seem to do nothing but ply back and forth between Rye and Dieppe (the preferred route to France) carrying what today would be called “stuff”, there is also a large amount of goods travelling round the coast of the country, especially between Rye and London, but also as far afield as Newcastle, Spain and Portugal. Remember these are times when the roads were poor, if they existed at all, and a journey from Rye to London by cart carrying goods would take a week or more whereas in good weather a boat could sail between Rye and London in a couple of days. None of the ships involved are of any size; the largest I saw mentioned was 70 tons and they go down to tiny boats of 10 tons; the average is probably around 25-30 tons. These really are tiny boats; the Mary Rose by contrast was rated at 500 tons.

A large section of the book is a line by line summary of every ship which enters or departs Rye over this 35 year period (give or take a few gaps), all constructed from the surviving Elizabethan records in the Sussex County Archive, the National Archives and the Rye Town Records.

Most of the cargo was quite mundane, and perhaps what one might expect: grain of various sorts, wood (ship upon ship full of wood), coal, wool, cloth of various types, wine; and there were many loads which are just recorded as “mixed” so who knows what they contained. Iron appears fairly regularly, and in significant quantities too (the Sussex Downs were an iron smelting centre at this date) and there are several shipments of ordnance including the occasional iron cannon.

But there are some surprising (at least to me) things, such as: lupins, vinegar, apples (from France), oranges and lemons (yes even so; they come in from Spain and Portugal), hops (being traded in both directions), horses (strangely mostly out-bound), cony skins, wolf skins, bricks (being imported from the Low Countries; a single 40 ton ship can carry at least 10,000). And it goes on with nuts, spices, lead, paper, hosiery, cochineal, woad (presumably for use as a dyestuff), herrings (red and white), codfish, quails and scrap brass. Another ship brings in “6 asses”. All of this is, of course, taxed.

But there were several entries which really caught my eye. One cargo is documented as “Mixed inc. tennys bawles”; another contains “French playing cards”. Then there’s a mixed shipment which includes hawks (“6 Tassell hawks, 7 Falcon hawks, 3 Martin hawks, imported by Walter Libon, alien”). Lastlly, there are several shipments of old shoes to London! One can only guess that scrap leather had a value, but for what?

We think we live in interesting times, ship strange goods around in containers, using humongous amounts of oil. But all this was being done by the power of man, horse, tide and wind.

Who said history is dull!