Words about pictures, and other things, too.

Read on!

  • Signs of the times

    I love signs. Some can be tourist attractions in their own right. Here’s me and Moth at – well, you can read where. And crossing Capricorn in Namibia in the mid-day heat: Some signs warn against elephants – here’s one in Botswana – and we really did see elephants roaming free outside the boundaries of reserves. And here’s me walking

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  • More beautiful African birds

    Here are just a few more of the scores of species of birds we saw in south west Africa. The wetlands of the Okavango delta in northern Botswana are, happily, crawling with lots of feathery friends. Above are a sacred ibis, a blacksmith plover and a spoonbill, just chilling together in the grasses. Blacksmith plovers get everywhere, but that doesn’t

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  • Beautiful African birds

    It’s no secret that I’m quite keen on birds. But I have so much to learn about the birds of southern Africa! I was hoping that on our trip to southern Africa last month there might be an expert birder whose brains I could pick. But the keenest birdwatcher on the trip turned out to be me. Here are just

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  • Dancing in the streets of Outjo

    The inventiveness of people who have very little is astonishing. This young man had no money for a drum kit and virtually no chance of getting into a band that will earn him a living wage. Instead, undaunted by these obstacles, he’s built his own drum kit using old oil cans, paint tins and bits of scrap metal. And every

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  • Robben Island

    A visit to Robben Island

    Guided tours of visitor attractions can be pretty ropey. They can feel like the guide is simply reading meaningless words from a script. This is definitely not so on the tour of Robben Island, which lies baking in sunshine 12kms off the coast of Cape Town in cold, shark-infested waters. We were there just three weeks ago (March 2007). It

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  • Awesome African antelopes

    Look out! This blog is dedicated entirely to antelopes. They all too frequently get IGNORED in wildlife programmes. Why is that? They’re marvellous! They have such awesome beauty, grace, stamina and resilience. I’m pleased to report that on our trip around south west Africa last month we saw antelopes of all shapes and sizes. Here’s a Greater Kudu. We saw

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  • 10cc

    10CC out of ten

    Last year we saw 10cc play at the Cropredy festival, billed as Graham Gouldman and friends. And they were wonderful. Wonderful! So when we had the chance to see them again play last night at our local venue, Oxford’s New Theatre, we jumped at the chance. Especially as we managed to get front row tickets. I simply love 10cc. Their

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  • Cape fur seal noses

    My new favourite animal: the cape fur seal

    The cape fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) is, in fact, as kind of sea lion, not a seal. But who cares of such taxonomic detail when you can get this close to them? They inhabit the cold waters around south west Africa and appear to be doing very well, thank you very much, despite being ‘harvested’ at one of their

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  • Okavango flight

    The Okavango delta in northern Botswana seeped into my consciousness through watching wildlife programmes. It is much-loved by wildlife film-makers because of its unique habitat of reeds and waterways, scrubby riverine forests and grasslands which support a rich variety of species. It was inevitable that some day I’d visit. I blame David Attenborough. Before we went, my friend Les, who

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  • African penguins

    Don’t you think the fact that there are penguins in Africa is absolutely thrilling? I do. Think about it for a mo. Penguins = Antarctica. Cold. Icey. Brrrr. And Africa = fluffy animals with sharp teeth or hoofs and horns. Africa! Hot. Dry. Very hot, in fact. Phew! So ‘African penguins’ seems like some crazy, freakish contradiction. So the chance

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  • The Art of Jane Tomlinson
  • Remembering Rebecca

    Rebecca van der Putt, known to her friends as Bec or treaclechops, was my best mate. And now she’s gone, taken by cancer, aged only 38. I met her in 1991 when I started work at Oxford College of Further Education. We hit it off immediately. For more than 16 years I shared things with her that I have shared

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  • Quagga quest

    In 1883, the last quagga died in Amsterdam zoo. As a lover of equines, I have always been intrigued by the quagga's story, hunted to extinction until only one lonely specimen remained.

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  • Reasons to be cheerful

    Ian Dury and Blockheads had a string of memorable hits in the late 70s. Remember ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll’, ‘What a waste’, ‘Hit me with your rhythm stick’ and ‘Reasons to be cheerful’? Of course you do, I loved them. Although Ian Dury died in 2000, the The Blockheads go on, playing the distinctive and catchy songs,

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  • Velazquez at the National Gallery

    Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez (1599-1660) was one helluva painter. The exhibition of his paintings at the National Gallery that I went to yesterday tracks him from humble beginnings in Seville to his long career at court with King Philip VI and his time in Rome. Once Caravaggio (1571 -1610) had exploded like an exocet missile into the world

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  • The Green Man

    If I say 'green man' there's a damned good chance you'll think of a pub or an alien from Mars. But think again for a minute. Think of a woodland spirit and remember what was painted on that pub sign... In Europe, the leafy face of ...

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