I saw a hero of mine on the Tube last night…

…but I was “trapped” at the other end of the carriage and rather as expected he got off the train at the next stop (Westminster). Still it was nice to see him and to see someone of his stature using the Tube rather than insisting on a car and driver. So without further ado, Lord Ashdown, on the Jubillee Line:

Lord Ashdown on the Tube

Now, “Back to the accounts!”, so to speak…

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More Shadow Walkers – Finally a Chap!

Hello there dear reader… Your thoughts are as ever appreciated…

Ben - Dark Nudes

Ben - Dark Nudes
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My favourite pictures of this year, by month…

In a similar vein to a post on Livejournal by a friend of mine, here are my favourite pictures that I posted to Flickr of 2009 (so far) by month – i.e. my favourite from each month that I posted to Flickr…

January
Low Key Art Nudes - Sam

February
Posted no pictures – Gosh!

March
Red Devil

April
Just Ask Albert - Coat Redux

May
Ashleigh - Morning Light

June
Kat - Low Key Light Painting

July
Kristin - Dark Nudes

August
Miss Pixie - Window Portrait

September
Posted no pictures – Gosh!

October
Kyle and Trillian

November
Posted no pictures – Gosh!

December
Ulorin Vex - Dark Nudes


New Shadow Walkers Pictures – Shoot today with Ulorin Vex

Your thoughts, dear reader would be appreciated, as ever…

Ulorin Vex - Dark Nudes

Ulorin Vex - Dark Nudes

Was a great shoot; genuinely can’t wait to work with Ulorin again, and hopefully I will next year 🙂

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Exciting News!

Well hello there, dear reader…

I have some pretty exciting news (apologies to LJ readers who are getting this syndicated as well as the LJ post, but hey-ho) – I’ve been invited to contribute some work to an exhibition being curated by and “starring” the work of Scott Church, over in Pennsylavania…

Here is the flyer – if you are in any way able to attend I know you’d be welcome:

You can see the images that I am contributing to the show here:

My Submission

I warn you now, none of the images are really Safe For Work, but neither are any of them involving anything more than ‘tasteful nudity’, at least in my opinion…

Please feel free to pass the word, and thanks for dropping by 🙂


Thanksgiving, Musquash Style

Despite having to get up in the middle of the night to visit the outhouse, in the rain no less, I cannot remember a more satisfying or peaceful night of sleep than the one I enjoyed that first night on Musquash at Jim and Liz’s camp, Maple Cove. I awoke feeling as though I had slept for a week, and it is true that I have rarely enjoyed a night that has added up to roughly ten hours sleep in the last few years, but it was more than that. It is so quiet there, the air is so clean. I know it sounds hokey, but at the same time almost everyone reading this will have to concede that they have had similar experiences of that type of isolation leading to feeling relaxed. The very best part of it was after my quick trip to the outhouse in the middle of the night I was left to go back to sleep with the sound of rain hitting the roof, a sound that is always guaranteed to make me relax.

It was about eight when I wandered out of the room I was sleeping in, to find Liz taking the coffee pot off the stove; I have no shame in admitting that it was the smell and sound of the pot perc’ing that had finally persuaded me to quit the soft warmth of my bunk. We said our good mornings and I greeted Libby as she came barrelling into the camp, clearly the harbinger of Jim’s imminent return.

Breakfast was going to happen, but Jim offered to take me on a quick walk around the island and through the woods first and this seemed like a great idea to me, so we set off, clothed in waterproofs to protect from the rainwater left hugging the leaves and branches, and with a stout walking stick in hand in an attempt to compensate for the wet ground and my arm deficit. The woods were quiet, but not in that eerie way that the woods are quiet in slasher movies. There was a fresh, wholesome feeling in the air, as if the rain had cleansed the place, and now the occasional bursts of sunlight through the autumn leaves leant a real beauty to the place. I’ve mentioned the Autumn and / or Fall Colours(tm) a lot in the last few posts, and I could see why any reader might potentially raise the criticism that I am repeating myself somewhat. I know. The thing is that even though we have an autumn display in the UK, it really is nothing to what I saw in Canada. Part of the difference is the sheer scale of the view. In England, even if you go to one of the remaining wild places, like the less touristy parts of the Lake District, or bits of the Peak District, Dartmoor, The North Yorkshire Dales etc., it is fairly difficult to see beautiful, varied and vibrant displays of deciduous autumnal colour for as far as the eye can see. Add to that the greater diversity of deciduous trees that are left in Canada (that grow side by side) than at home, and the greater variance in temperatures during Fall which is one of the factors that creates the greater range and vividness of colours and you might be able to understand why I keep going on about it. Anyway, our walk took in a lot of this beauty, and I did actually take my first photos of the trip on that very walk:

Fall Colours(tm)

It had been roughly two weeks since my accident at this point, and one of the very noticeable things about this walk was that after only two weeks away from my daily bike rides I was already back to the kind of “out of condition” that I had been experiencing before I started my walking campaign. Now I’m not trying to claim that I was some kind of super-fit athlete before I came off my bike, but it was quite a shock to realise just how quickly the bloom could come off the rose, so to speak. Certainly I remember thinking to myself, perhaps for the first time in my life; “I can’t wait to be able to get back on that bike”.

Jim and Libby in the woods

We returned to the camp, and I for one was very much in need of breakfast. As luck would have it, Liz had just finished her morning ritual and a fresh pot of coffee had just finished bubbling and hissing away on the stove and both Liz and Jim were also keen to eat. North Americans in general really know how to eat breakfast; I accept that this is a gross generalisation and a cliché, but then a cliché is a cliché because it’s also true. What followed was an excellent breakfast of eggs, bacon, left-over steak, toast, juice, coffee and just a little bit of left over potato, chopped up and tossed in the pan with the steak. I realise that eating like this every day is neither practical nor healthy, and I feel that it’s unlikely that the Rogers do indeed eat this way every day, but damn if it isn’t exactly what one wants, and perhaps needs, out in the woods!

Breakfast was cleared away and it was about eleven o’clock. We were expecting the others to start to trickle into camp at around one, or so I had been told, and so Jim fired up the smoker on the deck:

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and got his bird going early while Liz took me out to see the “lookout” at the bottom of their boundary. A rock some eight or ten feet off the lake with a beautiful view across the water to another endless stand of trees, the lookout is a lovely spot. We took the view in, talked of this and that and Liz threw sticks for Libby, all the while admonishing her to go down to the water’s edge below before diving in. Apparently she has been off the top of the rock in the past, but these days she clearly knows that that is not on the menu. Then Liz took me down to the edge of the Cove and showed me the view across and where they had always picked cranberries; I’ll try to stop waxing lyrical about it, but goodness, what a beautiful place it is:

Liz by Maple Cove

We headed back up to the camp, Liz put her turkey into the iron range:

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and we started to decant bottles of beer into the old washtub in the corner of the veranda. It was while these final touches were being made that Anne, Peter and Britney were detected entering the camp domain by Libby and suddenly the day was begun…
Before too long there were a host of others and the camp was alive with greetings and laughter and the clinking of bottles and glasses as the party came alive all by itself. Noel arrived with John, the friend he had headed off to catch up with on the previous evening when Jim and I had headed down to the camp, along with John’s delightfully insane chocolate lab, Charlie who was dressed to the nines in a hunting safety vest. There was (in no order other than that of memory) Alan and Janice, and their son James as well as their chocolate lab, Brody, Doug and Ellen Floyd, Ryan, Doug Shippey and Susan, Dana, Robin and Dominic, Caroline and Jack and Judy and Steve all crammed into the cabin and the veranda. It was marvelous! The tradition is that the Rogers provide the bird and then the guests bring the vegetables (pre-washed and cut these days) and the pie, and so it all works out. After an initial round of drinks and chat the vegetables were make ready for cooking and the birds were consulted to see how much more time they would need, so that decisions could be made about when to start boiling the potatoes, turnip and squash. Of course once these conundrums had been sorted out it was back to the beer and conversation… The iron range inside the camp is an old-time wood burner and the camp yields a supply of fallen wood, specifically maple, that is seasoned on-site in the Rogers woodshed. As the afternoon lengthened towards evening and dinner came closer and closer, Liz could be heard to say between woodshed and stove that “once the Maple’s done the turkey will have to come out”; it seemed like a perfectly logical way to time the oven.

I am told that we ate later than is usual at a Rogers’ thanksgiving, and it is my guess that we were delayed by the smoked turkey being slower to cook through than even Jim had anticipated, but once we had all eaten our fill I can assure that not a single guest would have begrudged giving it the extra time. When dinner was announced, all attention turned to the table in the kitchen, where John was nominated to carve the two birds:

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and once the turkey was “off the rack” a veritable queue formed to load up plates and being the happy task of making all this food disappear. A few points of order before we continue. What one would call “stuffing” at home in England is called “dressing”, despite being cooked stuffed inside the bird. Also, you have not eaten cranberry sauce until it has been made on the stove-top at the end of the cooking process from fresh cranberries – mamma mia! What can I say, it was a meal of epic proportions, and before anyone wonders, particularly in light of the praise that I heaped upon the smoked turkey, the turkey cooked in the range was sublime! It was said many times while we were at the camp, “food just tastes better when it’s cooked in the woods”, and I still maintain that it is as true a thing as was ever said.

There was an amount of seconds for me, but I restrained myself from too large a second crack of the whip, let alone a third, as I was waiting for the secret prize; pumpkin pie. Having had an opportunity to sample what turned out to be “shop bought” pumpkin pie back at home and deciding to await “the real deal”, home-made, in North America on a traditional holiday I was pretty damn sure that I was going to have space to partake. It was completely worth the wait – just heavenly! Ellen’s pumpkin pie (which she later admitted was actually squash pie, but seeing as pumpkin is in fact a kind of squash I’m still counting it) was just the business! I may have also had some of Liz’s excellent rhubarb pie, but whether or not I did is for me to know; it was fab though.

As the meal ended and the apparently traditional banter about the men starting the dishes began, sleeves were rolled up and the final stages of the Thanksgiving work began. I was not really in a position to do anything but get in the way and potentially drop stuff, being all one-armed and so forth, but the gathered throng were understanding and quietly joshed me that I would just have to do all of the dishes the next time I came, which of course my English guilt gland immediately soaked up and agreed to. There were others that dodged the dishes bullet, but I feel that it is hardly my place to name names, and more to the point, aside from some good natured joking about it, no one actually cared. It had been a lovely day, a lovely meal and as the hours crept on into the night the last of the guests (other than myself) drifted away and we were left, Noel, Jim, Liz and myself to sit nursing a small Kaluah each and listen to the CBC on the wind up wireless.

It was not much later that I made a last trip to the outhouse and then said my goodnights; as I climbed into my bunk I could hear the rain starting up again on the camp roof, and as far as I remember I was asleep almost before my head touched the pillow.

Coming Next: Sunday in New Brunswick


Philadelphia…

For a brief interlude from the ongoing series re my travels in North America I am going to jump out of time and tell y’all about today, in brief.

Today I hopped on a train from Penn Station, came to Philadelphia, where I write this, played tourist for a few hours and then came over to Kyle and Trillian’s place to say “Hi!”

I have been following Kyle’s exploits (especially his photography) since very early on in my Livejournal days, and Trillian’s blog as well since I realised that she was on there too, and seeing as I was relatively close by (hey America is BIG) and how I love to actually meet people that I talk to / with on the internet I was really pleased when they said that they would be about and I could drop by.

We had awesome chilli, spoke of many things, listened to music and eventually I got over my nerves and took some pictures; here’s a good one:

Kyle and Trillian

It has been a really fun evening, and it is really cool to know them both that little bit better. I wish I was going to be in the country for a few more days so I could come back and see Trillian in the play that she has coming up, and hang out some more, but I figure that I will be back on the East Coast at some point, and hopefully there will be time enough to do all of these things and more…


Some photos…

…as I have not got the time (right now) for more writing.

Noel on the Musquash:
Noel on the Musquash

My First NHL Live Game
Oh Canada

Niagara – The Horseshoe Falls
The Horseshoe Falls

Niagara – Me on The Maid of the Mist
Blue Gimp at Niagara

More prose to follow when I have to kill time in airports 😉


For those that asked…

Sarah and I on the Waterfront in Toronto… Can you spot the relevant landmark at all..? 😉

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Maple Cove

Friday morning, and after a short sleep in Halifax it was time to catch the bus and head on out a little West into New Brunswick; destination Saint John, Canada’s oldest city.

The small queue of people politely waiting to board the Acadian Line buses to Moncton and “Points West”, or Moncton and “Points North” or Moncton and Saint John was like something one might easily see in Briatin, just on a smaller scale, and every Starbucks cup that would have been was of course a Tim Horton’s. I said my goodbyes to Janice, in French no less, and then before I knew it I was boarding the first bus on the left and settling down with my iPod to enjoy the Fall colours as Nova Scotia and then New Brunswick flew by my window.

I mentioned on this blog before that Canada is __big__. For those who have not read entries passim I will expand on this apparently obvious statement. New Brunswick is, for example, considered a fairly small Province in Canada, and yet if you were to chop Scotland off the map of the UK then you can lay England and Wales down on their side in the Province. So to cross Nova Scotia and then make it to Saint John across in New Brunswick is a seven hour bus journey if you include the hour lay-over in Moncton. Now in the UK a seven hour road journey would have me getting North of Glasgow from home, so one might expect a seven hour journey would be an irksome thing but to be quite honest with you, dear reader, the scale and grandeur of the land not to mention the new joy of the Fall Colours(tm) made the time just whip by.

On arrival in Saint John, where fourteen months before I had been met by Eric and Scott on the day before the wedding, I was met by Jim. Jim is my friend Sarah’s dad, but I have no doubt that I can say that he is my friend as well. Since I met him and Liz, Sarah’s mum, in the previous August we had not only enjoyed each other’s company back then, but we had stayed in touch through the auspices of this blog, the Internet and Facebook, and so it was that he and Liz had come to invite me to join their traditional celebration of Thanksgiving at their family camp down in the Musquash about thirty minutes from their home, on the West Side of Saint John. There he was, in the parking lot that doubles for the Saint John Bus Depot, in a balloon festival baseball cap and his welcoming smile. He ran me up to the house to spend the afternoon with Noel (Sarah’s brother) as he needed to finish his day at work, saying he would be back around five and we would then head down to the Camp.

Noel and I had definitely gotten on well at the wedding, and I was really pleased to see the guy. Filled with back and forth on his stories of the mountains (he has spent a few months out in Alberta working in the Rockies) and my recent adventures in cycling around London (specifically my collarbone issue) we passed an easy afternoon catching up on each other’s lives and refreshing our friendship. We made the time to wander up the hill to Saint John’s famous Martello Tower and take in the view of the harbour and the city; a view and a place that from talking to him I can tell is fundamental to his memories of this great old city throughout his childhood and early adulthood. Tales of learning to snowboard on the flanks of the Tower’s hill and watching the sun rise after High School parties, and I have to tell you that standing up there in the wind looking out across to Partridge Island I got some small sense of all of that personal history, not to mention a sense of becoming a part of its ongoing story in my own small way.

We retreated out of the cold and into the back sun porch of the Rogers family home to enjoy the wood burner and some excellent cold roast chicken sandwiches while we waited for Jim and then suddenly in a whirl he was back and we were off to Musquash…

We headed out of the city and down the Highway towards St Andrews; it is remarkable how quickly the urban disappears and the raw wilderness begins when you leave Saint John. We could only have been five minutes out of town before all I could see, apart from the highway, was trees and the odd lake. Pure, natural countryside all in beautiful autumnal shades, and no other sign of man. We turned off the highway, following signs for Musquash, and then turned off down a back road shortly thereafter by the Musquash hydro-electric power station. It was built in the twenties, and it is still going strong despite quite picturesque leaks on the banded wooden pipe that feeds the power station with a pressurised in-flow from the dammed Musquash River. Jim told me over the weekend that the leaks form spontaneous ice sculptures over the winter when the temperatures fall so low that the water freezes in part without actually stopping flowing. Anyway about half a mile from the power station the blacktop runs out and we were onto the gravel / dirt road up to the camp. The camp is actually on an island in the lake that was created by the damming of the river, but there is a small causeway out across the water at the end of the access road, so in deference to my injured state, Jim drove us over and parked the truck up at Judy’s camp to reduce the walk in. Judy, one of the Rogers’ neighbours on Musquash, was about and Jim introduced me the way I have come to realise I am often introduced when I’m away from home “Oli, our friend visiting from England”. We stopped for a few minutes and shot the breeze, and I met her dogs, Makita and Dakota, before we said our goodbyes and struck out into the woods in search of Maple Cove, Liz and Libby.

It was clear that Jim knows those woods so well that I have no doubt he could walk from Judy’s to the Rogers’ camp (the aforementioned Maple Cove) blindfolded and with his hands tied behind his back. This was encouraging as two minutes from Judy’s I had no idea where I was… Still in the late evening light the colours were spectacular and the calm and quiet of the woods struck me at once. The camp was only about a five minute walk into the woods, and it really creeps up on you; I don’t think that I saw it until I was right on top of it. Essentially a small, green, wooden bungalow nestling in the trees, with the lake beyond; I had made it to Maple Cove. Libby, the Rogers’ gorgeous Springer Spaniel, came out to greet us. Her tail was oscillating almost faster than the human eye can detect! Then out came Liz, all smiles and welcome too. We said our hellos, I dumped my bags and then I was given a quick tour of the camp and its facilities. Liz showed obvious relief when I offered no dismay at the ‘outhouse’ and her explanations of how to use it – I have had extensive camping experiences in my life, in fact the last ‘long-drop’ I used was in South Africa and it held no fear for me at all. Then I was introduced to the cats, Pout and Dimitri, who I was not expecting to see at the camp and had hardly met at all at the wedding, and then we were into catching up while Jim grilled the dinner – fresh steak, mmmm…

There are no words to describe how utterly perfect and beautiful this place is, so here is a picture:

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Nice, huh? The above is the view across the cove at the bottom of the camp property, and I am kinda cheating as I took this the next day, but it gives you some idea of how gorgeous it is…

I’m sure many of you will nod in agreement when I say that there is an incredible, almost ineffable, calming and tranquilising effect to be had from spending time isolated out in Nature without electric light or the TV. Once we had eaten our full of steak and salad, followed by a wonderful homemade apple crisp (read crumble) the sun had left the sky completely and there in the dark, for the first time in months, perhaps even years, I was ready to turn in before nine p.m. We said our goodnights and I headed off for the best sleep I can remember having this year.

Coming Next: “Getting There – Travelling to Canada, October 2009” & “Thanksgiving, Musquash Style”