Pictures, thoughts,words and opinions

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  • Joan of Arc

    The burning of Joan of Arc – 30 May 1431

    “Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it.” – Mark Twain Five-hundred and eighty years ago today the English tied a 19-year-old French peasant girl to a pillar in the square in Rouen and burned her alive. Her executioners were so afraid of relic-hunters they reduced her body to ashes

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  • Rush live at the NEC

    I first saw Canadian rock band Rush live back in October 2007. We were fortunate to see them again last night at the NEC in Birmingham, this time from the third row from the front.  This allowed my husband to indulge his passion for photographing the bands he loves. The  three gentlemen that make up Rush, Alex Lifeson – guitars,

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  • The beheading of Anne Boleyn – 19 May 1536

    Four-hundred and seventy-five years ago today, Anne Boleyn knelt upright on a scaffold in the Tower of London on the orders of her husband, King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547). Looming over her was expert swordsman Jean Rombaud who had been especially brought over from France for the occasion. A single stroke from Rombaud’s weapon sliced her head from her

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  • Swimming with dolphins

    Swimming with dolphins in Cuba

    Two years ago I had a beautiful encounter swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura, New Zealand.  A pod of perhaps 500 dusky dolphins swam wild and free around me. Their choice. When they’d had enough or didn’t find we snorkellers amusing enough any more, they buggered off. In Cuba last month we got the chance to swim with dolphins. The kids

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  • Bahama mockingbird

    The birds of Cuba

    Although our recent holiday in Cuba wasn’t the typical exploratory journey through the planet’s natural wonders that Moth and me normally take, we couldn’t but help notice the beautiful species of  common birds flying about all around us. We arrived in Cuba at night and I woke before dawn but couldn’t stay in bed for fear of missing something. I

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  • Meena Keshwar Kamal

    Remembering Meena Keshwar Kamal

    In 1989, as a 26-year-old, I first truly understood what it was like to be disrespected because I am a woman. Although I was modestly dressed, I had dared to walk down the street on my own in a village in the mountains near the Khyber Pass. I was spat at and had stones thrown at me. I felt powerless,

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  • audubon_carolina-parakeet-

    Audubon’s Birds of America

    “With the exception of the mockingbird, I know no species so gay and frolicksome” Audubon wrote of the red-headed woodpecker (Picus erythrocephalus). Yesterday a copy of John James Audubon’s  (1785-1851) epic Birds of America sold at auction for more than £7.3million.  It’s the most expensive book in the world. And arguably the most beautiful. Only 119 complete copies of the

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  • Listen to the music of the Doobie Brothers

    The Doobie Brothers have been making music with various line-ups since 1969. They combine elements of hard rock, rhythm and blues and boogie with elements of country to create a very distinctive guitar-based sound all their own. You’ve probably heard of the Doobies, but if you can’t remember exactly let me remind you: “whoa, whoa whoaaah, listen to the music…”

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  • Machu Picchu

    Machu Picchu magic

    A lifetime’s ambition is finally achieved with a visit to the ‘lost city of the Incas’, Machu Picchu, Peru.

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  • Scarlet macaws

    The birds of Peru – jungle

    After watching the birds of the coast and mountains of Peru we flew east to Puerto Maldonado, a frontier town in the jungle on the Tambopata river. The Tambopata is a tributary of the Amazon, and is absolutely vast. We were to stay a jungle eco-lodge on its banks, about an hour and half away by bus and boat. The

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  • Andean condor

    The birds of Peru – coasts and mountains

    Peru is home to nearly 2,000 species of birds; a fifth of all the world’s bird species. To someone like me who is fascinated by birds, but by no means an expert, that’s a hell of a lot of birds to swot up on. And OK, I can tell a tern from a cormorant from kingfisher, but what about the

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  • In praise of Peruvian mammals

    Our trip to Peru earlier this month was punctuated with sightings of all kinds of wildlife: birds, insects, lizards; and although we saw no big predatory land mammals, such as jaguars, we glimpsed many other fascinating mammals. I suppose when most people think of South American mammals they think of the iconic domesticated camelids: the alpaca (Vicugna pacos) and the

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  • Nazca lines

    Nazca lines, grand designs

    On a high desert plateau in the west of Peru are a spectacular series of massive geoglyphs known as the Nazca lines. The dry and windless climate has preserved the geoglyphs in superb condition. They were made sometime between 400 and 650 AD by the long-gone Nazca people, possibly as part of a water cult. No one really knows what

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  • We and Jimmy Page spellbound by Roy Harper

    It’s three years ago since I first saw Roy Harper, the singer-songwriter folk rock guitarist. The man’s a genius. As well as being very witty. We upgraded our tickets at London’s Jazz Cafe so we had seats in the balcony restaurant. Moth and I found ourselves sitting at the table next to Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin’s guitarist, who is both

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  • Zebra running detail 3

    Zebra running

    We were at Crater Lake game reserve near Naivasha, Kenya,in March 2010, a place where, with a guide, you can walk in the bush. We got up quite close to giraffe, eland, kongoni and lots of zebras. Moth took a sequence of photos of a zebra cantering past us. Moth’s very good at panning – swinging the camera round to

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  • wildebeest scratching

    In praise of wildebeest

    Some people think they’re ugly and stupid, but I think blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) are marvellous creatures. What stripes! Such lovely beards! And crazy tails! One of the reasons we went to East Africa last month was to see the wildebeest at the time when they were giving birth. A calf can be literally up and running alongside its mum

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