Professor Richard Dawkins at The Lowry Theatre

Last night we attended a “performance” by Professor Richard Dawkins, as part of a publicity drive for the second volume of his autobiography. I have long been an admirer of his work and while he can be a bit too forthright in his attacks on organised religion (which he freely admitted in the Q&A session last night), his basic thoughts on life and how it should be approached immediately struck a chord with me when I read his book “The God Delusion”. I am not a great reader of philosophical books it has to be said, but by the time I had read a couple of chapters I was hooked. He explained so clearly what I had been trying to put into words for most of my life.

The evening was really an interview conducted by another science writer, Roger Highfield, with Dawkins being asked questions (no doubt carefully rehearsed) and with half a dozen or so readings from the book almost randomly inserted at various times. It reminded me very much of a programme on Radio 4 called “Book Club”, where James Naughtie interviews an author and there is a subsequent discussion about the particular book in question amongst the two of them and some invited guests.

The problem last night was that I didn’t feel like an invited guest. I felt like a gate-crasher. The interviewer was dropping names of other no-doubt eminent scientists and academics, none of whom were familiar to me, as a lay-person. The two of them had known each other for years, evidently, and it was all a bit too cosy. It made me feel like I was hanging around the edge of a clique with no hope of entering the inner circle.

The evening was entertaining enough and there were some good questions from the floor, but there was definitely something lacking, for me at least. I don’t quite know what I was expecting, but what I got wasn’t it – if that makes any sense at all. Maybe with a different format, or different interviewer, I might have got more from the experience, but as it was, we walked back to the car with a “What was the point of that?” question hanging over us.

I will just continue to read and enjoy his books.

Sunshine (?), snow and a scan

Having now shared the location of next year’s One Challenge with the Leica Forum, I will also share it here. The group decided, after dinner in Vienna, that next year we should all assemble in Lisbon. There was some discussion regarding how to vote for the venue for next year and we did change things slightly this time round. It’s still not perfect though, and I want to make sure that everyone who votes has an equal vote – at present those who tick against the list last are often presented with a fait accompli. Will try to work out an even better way for next time.

I have been to Lisbon before, on a school cruise in an old troop-ship called the SS Nevassa. This would have been in 1972, when I was not yet 11 and I am looking forward to it. It will be nice to get some sunshine, with a bit of luck, and we could even extend the stay to drive up the Atlantic coast and compare with California last spring. We will see. Maybe I could take my diary that I wrote as part of the school trip as a guide. “First we did this and then we did that” – bound to be useful.

Next up, however, is the trip to see my Great Grandfather William, buried on the Somme. He was mortally wounded in the field and died on 26th November 1915. We have arranged a personal battlefield tour from an English chap who, with his wife, runs a B&B on the front line, not far from where William is buried. I am sure it will be an emotional day. We were there 10 years ago and it was freezing cold and snowing, which helped to bring home what men had to put up with out there. We have often visited during the summer on the way to or from a holiday in France, but never at the beginning of winter before. This guide has an incredible library of information in his house and while we were there last time, told me lots about what William was up to out there that I didn’t know before. I need to make sure I write it all down, so that I can pass it on to my Dad.

In March, the plan is to head north and to Norway to see, with a bit of luck, the Northern Lights. I need to get that sorted soon, as it is becoming an increasingly popular thing to do, so hotels and the like might be difficult. I will try to sort that all out this week, but it’s going to take a bit of planning. I don’t think that we can afford the cruise on one of the post ships that run up and down the coast, so maybe will hire a 4×4 instead and head to the hills ourselves. Our good friends who live in Oslo have offered to put us up for the weekend we arrive, so that will be a real treat in itself.

As the weather turns distinctly autumnal, the clocks have gone back and it’s dark on the way home, it will soon be time to have my annual CT scan. I arranged this when I saw my consultant back in June and he said that he wanted me to have it at the end of November / first week in December. That’s not long now, really, not the way that diaries fill up these days. Not having heard anything from The Christie, I called them this morning. They only book CT scans 6 weeks in advance, and the book for the week beginning 30/11 will not open until later today, so they have offered to call me back.

I’m looking forward to it. When he reads the results, I am, of course, hoping that the disease is in exactly the same state as it was last Christmas but there is only one way to find out. As far as I can tell, within myself, I am pretty sure that it’s just sitting there doing nothing at present, but it will be good to know for sure.

Doesn’t seem like more than a few weeks since I was last there, but that’s another story…

[And this is the 300th post on this blog – thanks to those of you who have been with me through thick and thin and to everyone else who reads it. Your support is absolutely invaluable and much appreciated]

Goodnight Vienna – Another Leica Challenge has come and gone

Sitting in the airport waiting for BA697 to take us home, it’s time to reflect on another Leica One Challenge. This is the twelfth, if I have worked it out correctly, and there are two of us who have attended every one. Long may that continue! It’s always good to catch up with the folk who come to these events, as we have made some good friends all over Europe through this. 

Yesterday, in the beautiful city of Vienna, the weather gods were kind to us and we had lovely sunshine just for one day.

Vienna is an interesting city with a long history. Very friendly, incredibly clean by UK standards, and a great place to wander about. I am not sure that there is anything particularly unique about it, apart from probably the Spanish Riding School, but it is a very pleasant place to spend the weekend. Not cheap though.

As always, the Challenge is more of a challenge than anticipated – I really should have learned by now – but let’s see what the SD card brings when we get home later. 38 of us made it to the dinner and there are 27 who have put their 10€ into the pot as the prize fund.  

I managed to find the doorway where Orson Welles first appears in The Third Man, but failed dismally to look very Orsonian or Wellesian when standing on the threshold. Oh well, will have to grow about 6 inches and put on about 3 stone, as well as find a long black coat and a homburg. Distinct lack of zithers too. 

So now it’s back home to driving to work and meetings and all the rest. Next year’s venue has been decided but I need to share with the Forum first. I will do that when I get home later. Going to be another interesting time, no doubt.

Onward and upwards.

A month can be a long time on a blog

Have been very, very busy.

But now it’s time for an update on progress with the new property. As I have posted before, the kitchen instantly became Priority Number 1 and, fortunately, not only have we been able to find a good kitchen at a sensible price, but also a very good man (and his son) to fit it. An expensive trip to John Lewis for the appliances and we were all set.

Within less than two weeks, this excellent joiner turned this…

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Into this…


So, tonight, for the first time in at least 6 weeks, we are going to have a roast chicken, cooked in our own kitchen. Luxury.

There has also been significant progress on the shed front, and I now have an extremely extravagant shed… I have always wanted to lay a roof and even considered building a roof in the garden once, just to do so. So, when the new shed arrived, I decided to push the boat out and cover the roof in cedar shingles. It has been an extremely satisfying couple of days this weekend, and I am quite pleased with myself. 🙂

Just need to finish the glazing of the windows and touch a bit of paint up and it’s all done.


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Next project? The fireplace, I think.

But I might need a man for that…

One who has all 10 digits intact…

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