The 30 foot high girl

Last weekend there was a 30 foot high girl wandering the streets of Liverpool.

She was part of an outdoor performance event known as “Sea Odyssey”, in the city for the Titanic Centenary commemorations. I managed to see her on the Saturday morning, as she went from the Albert Dock around the streets and past the Town Hall, and was fortunate enough to get a really good spot. She paused to kneel in front of the statue of Queen Victoria, right in front of where I was standing. She stayed for about 20 minutes, allowing children to climb onto her forearms.

She was accompanied by her dog and later in the day met up with her uncle, who was, according to the story, trying to find her to deliver a letter from a relative lost on the Titanic. Each “puppet” – the word seems inadequate somehow – was operated by a couple of dozen “Lilliputians” and the whole thing was just brilliant.

Liverpool really do know how to do this kind of thing so well. They have no problem closing the streets of the city centre for hours at a time and anything up to a million people attend.

Great for the city and the visitors.

New light through old windows

The weather has been so dull over the weekend, that I have been going through old photographs on the computer. I was actually looking for some Lake District photos to put into this year’s calendar (April? Don’t ask…) and came across a few old files that I had dismissed before.

It is surprising what you pass over as being “not worth it” when you look back after a couple of years.

The first one was taken on a walk up St Sunday Crag about four years ago. We’d been up there one weekend in February 2008 and sat on top of Catseye Cam overlooking Helvellyn and Red Tarn. The weather was glorious, especially for February and when it got to Tuesday of the following week and it hadn’t broken, on a whim I took the Wednesday off and for the only time ever, went up a mountain on my own.

I walked from Glenridding car park, over St Sunday Crag and back – a decent walk – but must have seen no more than a dozen people all day. If I’d fallen and broken an ankle, I’d have been in big trouble, but I didn’t, so I wasn’t. The weather was fantastic, as you can see from this panorama of Patterdale and Ullswater, taken on the way up.

This shot was printed to a canvas soon after I took it and is currently hanging on the wall.

However, it was the following shot that I’d passed over at the time and it’s taken me over 4 years to spot some potential. I really like the way that the distant mountains recede in the mist and the lone figure, walking towards me. I have no idea why I didn’t see this one before.

Still, I am glad I did. Now I will need to print that one too…
The second shot that passed me by, but more recently, is this one. 
Again, not sure why I didn’t bother with it before, but I like it in a simple, pastoral sort of way. I tried this one in black and white too, but much preferred the colour version – I think it almost has a slide-like quality to the colours, I can’t quite put my finger on it.
This one will make it to the calendar.

A great place to live

We were walking the dog this morning along The Parade, a street which used to be a quayside  of a small fishing port, but is now just a road alongside a huge expanse of marshland. The village is Parkgate, on The Wirral, in Cheshire

In the 1700s, it was the main embarkation point for people wanting to travel from England to Dublin. Trans-Irish Sea ships would moor in the main cut of the river, and small lighters would be rowed to the quayside that you can see here. Handel did his final tweaks to “The Messiah” here, prior to its debut in Dublin and Emma Hamilton, Lord Nelson’s mistress, used to take the waters here.

In the 1730s, part of the river was canalised, which diverted the main flow to the other side of the estuary, leading to a gradual silting up on the English side. This, together with the opening up of Liverpool as a commercial dock and the pushing through of the turnpike road to Holyhead, meant that the village’s trade with Ireland came to an end.

Just before the Second World War, grass was planted further upstream to stabilise a firing range – within 30 odd years it had taken over the whole of the estuary. Today, for the most part, the estuary is an odd mixture of marsh grass and inlets – “the remains” as my young daughter called them – trapped ponds being “the remains” of the River Dee. The marsh is now a nature reserve, administered by the RSPB and the local authority.

A couple of times a year, with the spring tides, the water is high enough to reach the quayside once again. I have known this place 20 years, and I have seen it breach the wall when the tide is exceptionally high. Today’s is only 10m, but there was an 11m tide a few years ago. If the wind blows up the estuary, that can add another 1m to the level.

The real beauty of living here is that from our house, in 5 minutes, we can be watching any number of wading birds on the marsh. Anything from various gulls, oystercatchers, herons, egrets, a couple of spoonbills are now resident too. We get short-eared owls patrolling the marsh of an evening and a hen harrier is a regular visitor.

What a privilege.

Guest Blogger at Leica Camera

Leica’s continuing support for the Leica Forum Charity Book means that I was invited to contribute a Guest Posting on their corporate blog. There were several entries there a couple of years ago, and this one is a more personal follow-up to those, based around this year’s book.

You can read the blog entry here

Announcing the Leica User Forum Book 2012

There is also a very interesting one a few further down about Harris Tweed, which I will make a note to read more thoroughly before our trip there in June.

New York, Treatment 10 and Charitable Works

In one respect, no news is good news when it comes to this treatment regime. It will be three years since I was diagnosed, next month and it’s over two years since I started my treatment.

It’s all very much a matter of routine, now, of course, but it still takes about 3 1/2 hours start to finish to deliver one 250ml bag of saline and Rituximab. There is a limit to how fast they can let it run into the vein and even though I am well used to it, I still need to have the paracetamol, Piriton and steroid pre-treatment too.

Each time I get the treatment, the haematologist examines the lymph nodes for any signs of recurrence and, fortunately, hasn’t found any to date. Only two more sessions to go now, then they will leave me alone until I get symptomatic again, which, if I’m lucky, will be around 3 or maybe 4 years away. He wants to see me every three months, going forward. Let’s just hope that he can get some assistance with his surgeries, as the last time I had to see him outside of a treatment session, he was an hour and a half behind with his patients. More and more people are benefiting from the haematology services, and Rituximab is being used for conditions other than lymphoma, too, so poor old Ward 60 is very busy indeed.

My specialist nurse, the one who got married on the day that we flew to NY, seems to have had a fantastic wedding and honeymoon if her photographs are anything to go by. If she told me once, she told me six times that she can’t believe that she is married. That’ll wear off!

So, we have been back from NY for about three weeks now. We had a terrific, if tiring time there, having seen most of the sights and walked most of Manhattan over the five days we were there. It was great to meet “the cousins” for the first time. As I posted below, what a really nice bunch of people, with whom we had a great day on Ellis Island.

What an interesting place that is – echoes of the flip-side of Auschwitz, in a way. Places where the intended purposes are polar opposites, of course, but both needing highly efficient systems for processing thousands of people per day. I am glad we went and learned more about what people had to endure on their way to the United States. Our little delay in Immigration was quickly put into perspective.

Highlights of NY apart from meeting the family? Meeting folks from the Leica forum for the first time and joining them up the Empire State Building as the sun went down and the lights of Manhattan came on. The whole city seems to come into focus as dusk settles. Whereas during the day, you are overwhelmed by the scale of all the buildings below you, stretching over the whole island, at dusk and as it gets dark, the lights in windows and cars seem to make the city get closer andy more defined. It was a terrific experience.

The museums are wonderful, of course, and we had a fantastic evening at Warhorse, just off Broadway. Incredible puppetry. The horses really were “alive”, even if the Devonian accents left a lot to be desired! Didn’t spoil the amazing theatre, though. Pity about the $50 for two glasses of wine…

So, now, it’s back into the normal routine, and keeping an eye on the sales of the Leica User Forum Charity Book 2012. So far, we have sold 83 copies, raising £830 for AICR, on top of the £3,850 we have already raised this year. Great stuff.

Following on from this success, I fear that Ward 60 might need some help over the next couple of years to pay for another extension, so I will volunteer my services to the team there, should they need me. It’s always good to pay something back if you can.

So, now it’s Easter and my Mum’s 75th birthday to look forward to, followed by two weeks doing nothing in Scotland in June. Brilliant!