And did those feet in ancient times

Glastonbury Tor

Glastonbury Tor

There can be few Englishmen who do not know the hymn “Jerusalem” written by William Blake be they devout Christians or atheists. So popular and well known has the hymn become, it is almost like a second national anthem.

Stirring as the hymn is, sometimes the origin of the words are overlooked. One might easily initially believe from the title the hymn refers to the biblical Middle East but the words are actually entwined with the myth and legend of Somerset, England and in particular with Glastonbury. For centuries Glastonbury  has been steeped in myth. It has at times been linked to the legendary Island of Avalon of Arthurian myth and is a name the area still goes by today. There can be little doubt that in the past before the surrounding marshland of the Somerset Levels was drained, Glastonbury with its mighty abbey and distinctive towering tor would have seemed like a mystical island thrusting upwards from the surrounding watery landscape.

The Bible tells about the life of Jesus as a baby and a child and is then silent on what would have been his teen years only picking up the story again of his much later life. This apparent absence of detail of his teenage years has led to many unproven theories including the possibility he may have travelled abroad during this time. One such theory is that he may have travelled to England and in particular Glastonbury in Somerset. A story that developed during the Middle Ages was Joseph of Arimathea  who may have possible been an uncle or a councillor to Jesus, also during this time had connections with Glastonbury and that Jesus possibly accompanied him on his travels there. The myth developed further after the crucifixion to say that Joseph of Arimathea  travelled once again to Glastonbury carrying the Holy Grail which he buried on Glastonbury Tor. Although the is no real evidence to support such a theory there is a well at the foot of Glastonbury Tor which has been named the “Chalice Well”. The opening line of the hymn Jerusalem, “And did those feet in ancient time. Walk upon England’s mountains green.”, alludes to this legend.

Joseph of Arimathea  is also attributed in the legend of donating his tomb to Jesus’s body following the crucifixion and returning to England where he planted his staff in the ground at Glastonbury which miraculously took root and flowered into the tree known as the Holy Thorn. Off-shoots of a tree by that name certainly exist there and a sprig of the tree is sent to Buckingham Palace every Christmas to adorn the monarch’s dinner table.

Another phrase of the hymn Jerusalem refers to the “Dark Satanic Mills” and this is thought to refer to the author William Blake’s experiences of the early Industrial Revolution with it’s newly created dreadful working and housing conditions.

Are any of these stories true? There is no known evidence to support them but by the same token, there is also no known evidence to disprove them.

Whatever the truth, the unwritten tales of Jesus’s teenage years entwined with the Arthurian legend certainly attracts those in search of the spiritual and mystical plane to Glastonbury every year.

So the next time you either hear or sing the hymn Jerusalem, perhaps you will cast a thought at the unproven myth behind the words.

March 2015

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Burton Bradstock

With the infamous Ides of March fast approaching, the past week has proved far from any ominous omens, quite the reverse. The last few days have regularly alternated between wet and welcome warm days as Winter starts to give way to Spring. The warm days are almost like the tendrils of a yet unborn Summer stretching backwards in time to act as an advance messenger of leisurely outdoor days that lie ahead.

Our daffodils have now started to appear and grass that has been lying dormant for months has begun to stir. It is almost like a slumbering giant has awoken as the emergent Spring shakes off the remnants of Winter.

We took the opportunity last week on the first really sunny day to go to Burton Bradstock in Dorset. This is part of the Jurassic Coast which provides a good vista of that huge bight of the South Coast known as Lyme Bay. From Burton Bradstock it is possible on a clear day to see all the way from Portland Bill to Exmouth and even Torquay. This view always conjures up in my mind that just a few miles beyond that distant coast likes both the mysteries and beauty of Dartmoor.

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A distant Golden Cap

Nor far beyond nearby Bridport lies Golden Cap, the flat topped hill that dominates this part of the coast. Golden Cap like much of this coast belongs to the National Trust which should help preserve the beauty of this area for future generations.

 

 

 

 

 

Lou Lou digging holes in the sand

Lou Lou digging holes in the sand

It was also the opportunity for our new puppy Lou Lou now some five months old to see the sea for the first time. One never quite knows how a dog will react to this new environment for the first time. As it turned out, Lou Lou appeared quite indifferent apart from when an incoming wave suddenly took her by surprise as it swirled around her paws. Finding she could rapidly dig holes in the wet sand appeared to be more enjoyable to her.

I also took the opportunity to drive to West Bay on the way home as I had not seen it for some time. West Bay might be better known as the location of the TV series “Harbour Lights” that was screened some years ago. It is a location I have always liked for its unspoilt  non-commercialised appearance but I found a new monolithic block of residential apartments built directly alongside the harbour does little for myself in enhancing the ambience of this small seaside town.

Shades of Grey

Dress 01Recently a global debate ensued on social media when two people were viewing a chance picture taken of a person wearing a particular dress. One viewer happened to comment on the gold and white dress while the other viewer said the dress was a blue and black colour. Both viewers new neither of them suffered from any form of colour blindness and both were emphatic at what they could see. Seeking advise from others they got mixed responses as to the colour variation which led to the social debate that went viral.

Dress 01aIn the end the original dress was located and found to be blue and black but what the debate did show is different people do not always see the same thing and we assume by default that others are seeing what we see.

Apparently it turns out that everyone has different combinations of the genes that create the sense of colour for red, green and blue and because these genes are on the X chromosome, women tend to have more variations.

This tends to give women a more dynamic range of colours they see than men normally do.

 

 

This difference in the sense of colour by the following two examples.

Illusion 2aillusion 02

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It can be seen from the two images above that to many the image on the left appears to have a white tile and a black tile. However by drawing a horizontal grey line between the two it can be seen that they are actually both the same colour.

A similar effect was produced by Edward H Adelson  in the following two images.

 

Illusion 01

Once again in the left image, to many people square A will appear grey and square B will appear white. If however two vertical grey bands are placed so the intersect both tiles, it can be see that both tiles are in fact grey. The effect of the colour illusion is so strong however that even when looking at the right image, if one tries to block out the two vertical grey lines in ones mind, square B can appear to alternate between white and grey.

This might help to explain why disputes sometimes arise when deciding on things like a colour scheme for a room in ones home. Two people may be unaware that their partner is not seeing the colour scheme that they are.

Learning to use Photo Spheres

When it comes to mobile phones, I tend to be something of a dinosaur. Although I have had a mobile phone for about 15 years now, like many people of my generation they have tended to be a rarely used tool, mainly for emergencies than anything else. To a certain degree I think that is possibly the right attitude to adopt especially when I see hordes of the mainly younger generation walking the streets with their eyes glued to tiny LCD screens held in their hands. I cannot help but sometimes wonder how much of life is being missed or passed-by unnoticed by those who find the need to incessantly chat away to some other ethereal being on the receiving end with the same recently developed insatiable need.

After many years of faithful service my old mobile phone started to develop problems forcing me to look what is currently on the market. I am not the sort of person to worry about every nuance of a mobile phones design, with my main criteria being the simple question of does it work? I found the prices of new mobile phones ranged from the astronomical for the latest models to those more modestly priced with almost the same functions except they were last years model. Irrelevant of the price, they all had the same and probably the most important function of being able to make a phone call.

One of my hobbies is photography and even my old cell phone had a camera built into it. Unfortunately is was quiet low resolution giving poor results. After a few experimental photographs I found using the camera served little purpose. Camera resolution in mobile phones has however dramatically improved over recent years, some giving better quality “standard” pictures than digital cameras that were on the market only a few years ago. One aspect of my new mobile which pleased me is I found it take a special type of photograph know as a photo sphere. This involves taking a series of overlapping photographs on a 360° axis including the sky and the ground. The end result when viewing a photo sphere is like standing in the centre of a globe and being able to completely view the world around you including the sky and the earth.

I have experimented with making a few of these special photographs and although I have a lot to learn including how to make them on my much higher resolution digital camera, I am still pleased with my beginners results.

Below is one I recently created and shows St Bartholomew’s Church and the attached military cemetery in Yeovilton Village and which is now on Google Maps. By clicking and holding the left mouse button it is possible to rotate the picture full circle including up and down. Using the mouse wheel also allows one to zoom in and out. I think it likely I will be making many more of these pictures in the future.

It’s a Dog’s Life

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8 weeks old

For many people living in the country, owning a dog is a way of life. Most are not for hunting which is a controversial subject, but as a member of the family, a companion and a wonderful motivator for getting out of doors into the surrounding countryside and meeting local people in one’s travels.

I have owned Labrador dogs most of my life and just like people, each one has a different personality, different likes and dislikes and so on but all have always been extremely faithful.

Sadly my last dog passed away last September, She was 14½ years old which in dog terms is very old. As much as I miss her I know she had a great life and gave and received much joy to all who met her. There is little more one can ask for than just that.

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12 weeks old

Now I have a new but rapidly growing Labrador puppy. Andrex type Labrador puppies are in huge demand but for the wise they are not something that can be bought off the market shelf. Puppy farms are to be avoided at all cost. Cute as an eight week old puppy may seem, one has to remember they are going to share your home and family for a long time. Puppies that are bred just to meet market demand, can also have the chance of inbred genetic defects. These can make both the dogs life and yours difficult in future not to mention costly veterinary bills. I looked for a Kennel Club approved breeder where one knows certain standards have to be met. I also saw my puppy at various stages, when she was three and six weeks of age before collecting her when she was naturally weaned from her mother at eight weeks. Again I was fortunate enough not only able to see her parents but her grandparents too. Dogs can suffer from a condition know as dysplasia, (Hip Displacement), caused by poor genetic breeding. Although it is not possible to tell whether a puppy will suffer from this condition, it is possible to use a method known as hip scoring on the parents involving hip x-rays which are then rated by a panel of experts. The lower the score of a parent, the lower the chances of their off-spring developing the condition. Fortunately both my puppies parents and her grandparents too had low hip scores.

Chipping, (a small electronic chip the size of a grain of rice), took place when my puppy was six weeks old and vaccination shots with a booster two weeks later occurred at eight weeks.Chipping is not yet compulsory but I think it should be. Apart from greatly assisting the return of a dog to its owner in the event it gets lost, as the chip identifies the owner, it should help stamp out those who buy puppies on the spur of the moment only to abandon them later because they had not fully thought out the consequences of ownership.

Since my puppy came into my home, it has been something of a rapid getting to know and understand each other phase for both puppy and the family. Rapid growth in a short time has transformed my puppy from a hold in the palm of the hand size when I first saw her to a much larger animal. It does seem as if she is literally growing before my eyes. Each day brings new experiences for her and she has already successfully completed puppy training classes. These classes are important not only for what the puppy and owners can learn, but they also provide all important association experiences for the puppy with new people and their own puppies. Puppies that learn to associate with others at an early age are less likely to be aggressively defensive each time a new person or animal appears on the horizon.

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4½ months old

I have grazing farmland surrounding my home with wide open fields. One boundary of my home adjoins a field in which sheep are rotated for grazing purposes. My puppy has already encountered the sheep and she sits at the fence watching them with curiosity. While sheep naturally tend to give dogs a wide berth,  I now feel it is unlikely she will go chasing them in later life having already experienced them.

I do so love walking in the felids with my dog. The views from the gently sloped hills give one a gratifying feeling of how this country used to be before the rise of the big cities.Its great for the dog too being able to run around unimpeded by a leash but I always ensure there is no livestock in the field first. Trips to the coast have yet to come for my puppy but if past experience with Labradors is anything to go by, the saying “Like taking a dog to water” will ring true.

Happy New Year 2015

Happy New Year

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A new year has arrived, a new year when we all have our individual hopes, aspirations and expectations for the future. A year when visionaries may have their dreams fulfilled or perhaps just furthered a little more.

This time last year I summarised quite accurately the forthcoming main issues likely to dominate the headlines This year the future is a little more difficult to foresee as .so much will depend on the outcome of the forthcoming General Election. So much is dependent on the election result as to determine which direction the UK is likely to go in the world. So many topics from the NHS to Immigration are embroiled in the consequences election result itself.

  • General Election

  • Immigration

  • European Recession

General Election

I normally find in the year leading up to a General Election, it is possibly to sense the feeling of the public mood which gives s good indication of which way the election is likely to go. This is the first time I have not been able to sense any such a feeling. It is almost like there is some form on no-man’s land on the subject. There are certainly exceptionally strong feelings over issues like Europe and Immigration, but I think there is also a general sense of great public unease with all the main parties and how they will deal with these issues, if at all,  except in their election rhetoric.

It is almost certain that increasingly over the next few months we will be faced with a barrage of fatuous and equally hollow promises from political parties mixed in with acrimonious debate. They have already started with promises like a future road improvement programme. One such promise that is likely to effect myself in the West Country where I live is the main arterial road, the A303 from London being duelled along its length. Again locals have heard this same promise so many times before only for it to be cancelled yet again for economic reasons as soon as a new government takes control. Most locals take such promises with a ‘pinch of salt’ and will only believe it when it happens. The likelihood  of the next government using the time weathered excuse of ‘the current economic situation’ for pruning back this programme once again, possibly to the point where it becomes non-existent remains very high.

The only thing that seems reasonably certain in the next election from what I can sense from public opinion, is the Lib/Dems will fare badly, so badly that are likely to gain few, if any seats at all in Parliament.

Even with the Lib/Dems facing political annihilation in the election, it is still unlikely to be a straight contest between the Conservatives and Labour. There are now two new kids on the block that have surged into prominence since the last election in the form of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)  and the Scottish Nationalists.These upcoming parties are likely to heavily drain seats from the Tories and Labour particularly in areas where they had previously enjoyed strong support. So much so, there is a strong possibility no one party will have sufficient seats to form a government. If this happens then the future governance of this country is likely to be another difficult to manage coalition government with policies based on what can be salvaged from the wreckage of grandiose promises and what the economic situation will allow.

With these four parties having  almost diametrically opposed views on a number of policies, the likelihood of a sustained period of horse trading  to form a government between the parties remains high and it is likely the electorate will be left feeling cheated once again on issues like a European Referendum. I would not be at all surprised, unthinkable as it may be, if we end up with either Lab/Scot Nats, Lab/Con or even a Con/UKIP coalition with the support of a few individuals from other parties. It is as if the more traditional mould of British politics is about to be broken for a long time to come. Personally I detest coalition governments no matter what parties they are formed from. They certainly do not lead to strong government and are at best a watered down appeasement of each parties policies.

Immigration

Once again this is an issue likely to figure at the forefront of the election. One thing people most resent is not foreign visitors per se, but a overwhelming flood of people coming from abroad to reside in the UK and in so doing, changing the UK’s own culture in the process. Questions like how things like Education, Health Services, Housing and so on are expected to cope with suddenly increased numbers are valid questions that do not appear to be satisfactorily answered. A sudden increase of people for whatever reason means a strain on the housing market be it social or private. This in turn has led to higher property prices through supply and demand shortages, which in turn has squeezed many people through economic pressures out of the property market all together. Any party that takes away the prospect of people one day ever owning their own home has made a lifelong enemy.The rented sector which began to seriously decline in the 1960/70’s is once again booming but this time with exceeding high and eye-watering rent levels.Although the politicians have claimed immigration is economically good for Great Britain, that is not how it is perceived by much of the UK electorate.

Free migration by EU citizens within member states is a cornerstone policy of the EU. EU politicians claim that any attempt to reform this policy would require a treaty change and would need to be agreed to by all 28 member states. They also indicate that any such move is likely to be fiercely resisted. Despite paying a lions share in contributions to the EU, as many of the UK’s powers have been devolved to the EU by previous governments, political promises to reform immigration do seem to be dead in the water. A point that will not please many of the electorate and could well be a deciding issue in the General Election.

European Recession

Recent months have seen a collapse in oil prices. This is mainly due the the US now being able to exploit its own shale oil resources and reducing its dependency on the world oil market. Recession in other large oil consuming countries in the Far East and South America have added to a world surplus of oil. Petro economies reliant from both the sale of oil and oil taxes have seen their revenues fall. This includes the UK but other forms of income from services like banking are helping to off-set this loss. Had Scotland vote for Independence, their economy would have faced great difficulties.

Other European economies have faced a much slower recovery than the UK and some economists have forecast this could lead to a triple-dip recession in the Euro Zone. It is not possible to turn a blind-eye to this possibility or the effects yet another possible threat from possibly a new Greek government seeking to renegotiate the terms of its bail-out commitments.

Even though the UK is likely to suffer less from a possible recession, the fall in demand for exported goods with a likely rising value of the pound against the Euro would mean a reduced income for a UK government making the likelihood imposing even more harsher spending cuts at home.

The EU heavily criticised in the UK for apparent liberal and ever increasing spending policies irrespective of its member states financial realities, is likely to put greater financial demands on its more wealthier member states if it finds itself in financial difficulties. Again this is something unlikely to please the UK electorate.

All of the above factors are making the fortune teller’s crystal ball a bit murky for the next six months.After that things should become a little clearer although I am not so certain UK citizens will necessarily like what they see. On a optimistic note however, the UK’s future will probably be better than many others.

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Merry Christmas Folks!

 

A Merry Christmas and a

Happy and Healthy New Year

to all my readers.

 

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