Friday, 29 October 2010


I have been interested in photography since I was a student in the late fifties.   For the next forty years I owned and used a variety of film cameras, taking both colour and monochrome pictures and slides.  In the past few years, like thousands of others, I have gone over to using digital cameras.  I love its immediacy and the ability to modify the images in Photoshop etc.  But there is one thing missing.  I used to take a lot of monochrome prints, developing and printing them in my primitive dark room with pleasing results; but I find it very much more difficult to achieve the same results in digital.  That is why I still keep my ancient roll-film Rolleiflex.
I have been working hard on producing better black and white prints using digital capture.  Here are some of the results.

An artist in Bruges
                                                A punt on the Cam
                                                    A dome in Budapest
                                                              Canterbury Cathedral        
                                                                    Montmartre Paris 
                                                  Modern Art - Gare du Nord, Paris
                                             Don't mess with me - Audley House

Monday, 25 October 2010

NET Bible

I came across this site by accident a few days ago.  It is a must for anyone doing serious Bible study, either for personal reasons or for academic courses.  It contains a  fresh up-to-date translation together with detailed notes on the Greek or Hebrew original and the problems facing a translator.  Along with the text you can access the Authorized Version if you want to make comparisons , and it has extensive marginal references, notes in the names of biblical characters, and even hymns that are traditionally associated with a particular text, together with immediate access to Strong's concordance and Nave's notes.
It is a sort of theological library on one site.  There are literally tens of thousands of notes, references and theological articles.  It will save you a great deal of searching and bother.
The best way to access the biblical text is to go to; and then go to Net bible, and then go to down load Net bible.  

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


 The famous Guildhall in Faversham, originally built in 1574, busily surrounded by the popular Saturday market.

Last Saturday we visited the ancient market town of Faversham.  This is situated in the North of Kent, just a few miles to the east of Canterbury. Before the coming of the railways in 1844 the town lay on the main coaching route linking London with Dover.  There are  several inns that used to have stables and  busy ostlers and all the  other paraphernalia for tending the tired and hungry travellers.  But times have changed.  The railways, and later the motorways,  have meant that the once-famous town has been by-passed by the hustle and bustle of the modern age.  To the curious traveller this is a bonus.  The town still retains traces of its past; late medieval and Georgian and Victorian buildings abound.

A couple of the former coaching inns to be found in the town.

The town is surrounded by what has been termed the Garden of England.  In the market you buy local apples such as the ever-popular Cox's Orange Pippin and the slightly rarer Egremont Russet as well as locally grown strawberries and raspberries.  Perhaps the most celebrated Kentish crop is the hop, a straggling plant whose fruit, if it can be called that, is used to give a bitter taste to beer.  In fact, nearby, is the oldest brewery in England, the Shepherd Neame Brewery.

No quaint English town would be without its assortment of attractive teashops.  This is photo is of one I found down a short alley off one of the main streets.  Near by is one of those cosy little antique shops that are so common in historic towns.
I saw this strange water pump just behind the Guildhall.  I have no idea about its history

This a typical scene in an English market town.  A couple of locals enjoying some refreshnent outside a  pub - Shepherd Neame's of course.

Monday, 4 October 2010


A few years ago I was invited by my daughter and her husband to spend a week in Tuscany during the school autumn break.  The very word Tuscany seems  to sum images up romantic views of sun drenched olive groves and vineyards,  
and of towns that have changed little since the middle ages.  The towns we visited did not disappoint.  The wide piazzas and the fascinating narrow streets  and splendid architecture are probably unequalled anywhere in the world. The amount of artistic and cultural history in this part of Italy stuns the mind and the imagination. It is no wonder that English aristocrats in preceding centuries always  included Tuscany in their Grand Tours. The only problem we faced was our expectation of a sun drenched landscape.  Our visit coincided with a severe cold snap caused by a wind sweeping down from the Alps. I shivered throughout!

Below is a typical piazza in Tuscany.

I took this shot of an annual street market.  You simply pay an fee on entering and then you can saunter about and taste all the local produce that appeals to you.  Here are some vendors slicing some very tasty salamis for passers by to sample.

Of course, wherever you go you meet the most amazingly elegant Baroque churches, even in the smallest towns.

I was wandering around this interesting town when I saw this view of a typical Tuscan scene - an attractive jumble of roofs all covered with ochre- coloured tiles

This shot is of the world-famous Ponto Vecchio in Florence.  It is lined by shops - mainly jewellers today - but  it was lined by butchers shops in the middle ages. The retreating German army in 1944, when told to dynamite it, refused to destroy this world famous landmark;  instead they blew up the roads approaching the bridge.

In the middle of the main square in Florence is a memorial plaque that few seem to notice.  It marks the spot where in 1498 the Florentine authorities burned alive, with exquisite cruelty, one of their most illustrious sons, Girolamo Savonarola.  
Savonarola was a Dominican monk with a passion to reform the Roman Church of his day.  He was scandalised by the worldliness of the Papacy, where Pope Alexander Sixth lived a life of debauched luxury. He had mistresses and at least five illegitimate sons. He was more akin to a degenerate Roman emperor than to a prince of the church.  Savonarola also attacked  in fiery sermons the lives of the local priests and merchants, who seemed to be more interested in Aristotle and Plato than in the Bible and whose lives were consumed by vanities.
All this was a bit too much for the pleasure-loving Florentines.  He was tried, found guilty and summararily executed and his ashes thrown into the river Arno. 
 It would take another monk, in another country, and  nearly twenty years later,  before a serious Reformation became possible.  Luther  was in Germany, living under princes who sympathised with his message, when he published his theses at Wittenberg. in 1517.  In Italy he could have met with a like fate to Savonarola's

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Judging others

A few months ago I heard a talk given by a South African lady that has remained in my memory.It went something like this:
You have some spare moments and you decide to spend some time at a well-known shopping mall. The weather is fine and you feel pleasantly relaxed.  You meander  around, casually window shopping for the most part, but occasionally buying a few items that  you have on your list.  You gaze for a while in front of a high class jewellers and peer at those fabulously expensive brightly-lit Rolex watches  behind that thick glass.  You sigh with a certain envy and  move on.  Then you wander round Waterstones and buy a popular book that you have seen reviewed in the press: but the experience is tinged with a slight depression as you gaze at those classics that were mentioned at college that you have never got around to reading.  After an hour or so you legs begin to ache and your feet begin to burn.  It's that Starbucks moment.  A nice coffee and a pastry would be very welcome.  Sipping coffee in one of these malls has an added pleasure,  You rest your weary legs, enjoy your well-earned coffee and at the same time watch the world go by. As you relax you often experience a sort of interior critical monologue.   
That smart young man striding purposefully along - he;'s obviously into corporate business and probably takes home an enviable salary.  Then a slightly shabbily attired young woman passes.  She shuffles along and is obviously obese.  Why doesn't she get a grip of herself before she ends up grossly  overweight!  A rather harassed women with two children walks by.  Her children are noisy and obstructive.  You feel that she hasn't a clue how to discipline those two potential brats. That woman, she's obviously in her sixties; she's got all the latest teenage gear.  Talk about mutton dressed up as lamb! And so it goes on.
Probably all of us have experienced this sort of thing in some measure.
But the south African lady went on to say something that is very obvious - such critical and judgemental behaviour is profoundly unchristian. Personally I had to admit that I do it a lot.  As Christians we are  put on this earth not to criticise and to judge, but to love and to pray for those whom God puts across our path.

A little later I bought a book on Amazon on the Desert Fathers, those strange Christians who retired into the wildernesses of Egypt during the third and fourth centuries.  The book contained an anthology of their sayings.  One of them struck me.

 "A certain brother came to Abbot Poemen and said: What am I to do father?  I am in great sadness.  The elder said to him: Never despise anybody, never condemn anybody, never speak evil of anyone , and the Lord will give you peace."

I am still trying digest these words and, even more difficult, to put them into practice.

Saturday, 25 September 2010


Living in England has its definite benefits.  It has spared us from the tyranny of continental dictators such as Napoleon and Hitler yet it is near enough for us to visit France or Belgium or Holland with ease.  This has become especially so since the channel tunnel was opened in 1994.  This was an incredible feat of modern engineering.
Europe has everything - beautiful cities soaked in history and culture, mountainous regions such as the Alps or the Pyrennees, where the young and energetic can enjoy hiking and skiing, and the sandy beaches that stretch along the coast of the Mediterranean.  Also it has been the source and inspiration for all that is technically wonderful in the modern world  Think of anything, from the latest mobile phone to the latest high-speed train, and you will find that the basic knowledge behind these wonders were discovered in Europe.  Other countries have produced many wonderful things, but they have invariably built of the scientific knowledge amassed in Europe during the past four hundred years.
In the past few years my wife and I have visited a lot of these attractive cities.  These short breaks as they are called are very popular in the UK and are relatively cheap.
The pictures below are from the Belgian city of Bruges.  It has many attractive canals and is known as the Venice of the north.   It grew very rich by exploiting the wool-producing areas of Scotland and England.  This wool was made into garments that were eagerly sought throughout Europe
The first picture shows one of the fine bridges that can be seen and the second  shows one of the many street cafes where one relax and enjoy a coffee.  The third shows the novel and attractive means that are used to see the sights of the town

I have several more cities to put on my blog - such as Paris, Florence, Krakov and Budapest- which I shall do when I have a few spare moments.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Pope's visit to Britain

The Pope, Benedict XVI , made an official visit to the UK last week.  It was a visit surrounded by controversy and tight security.  The secularists and the agnostic/ atheist left were strong in their condemnation of the whole event.  True to their fears he spoke out strongly against secularism and the almost universal marginalisation of the Christian faith in Europe. 

Secularism can be summed in a couplet from the poet Swinburne, a poet who wrote in the latter half of the Nineteenth century.

Glory to Man in the highest!  
For Man is the master of things

The Pope spoke eloquently about the need for Christians to bear witness to the glorious truths of the Christian faith.  Even hardened protestants were impressed by his words.

"How much contemporary society needs this witness! How much we need, in the church and in society, witnesses of the beauty of holiness, witnesses of the splendour of truth, witnesses of the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ!
One of the greatest challenges facing us today is how to speak convincingly of the wisdom and liberating power of God's word to a world which all too often sees the gospel as a constriction of human freedom, instead of the truth which liberates our minds and enlightens our efforts to live wisely and well, both as individuals and as members of society.

Let us begin with the sacrifice of the cross. The outpouring of Christ's blood is the source of the church's life. St John, as we know, sees in the water and blood which flowed from our Lord's body the wellspring of that divine life which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit and communicated to us in the sacraments (Jn 19:34; cf Jn 1:7; 5:6-7)."
We rarely hear such sentiments from a senior ecclesiastic in Britain these days.
The visit coincided with seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain,  when the nation fought for its very existence in the face of the onslaught from Nazi Germany,  We stood alone in Europe.  Our natural ally, the United States, had not entered the war.  The Nazis had conquered Poland in less than a fortnight and had scythed through northern France in less than ten days.   Their armies were strongly encamped on the coast of France, just over twenty miles from the English coast.  All that stood between us and ignominious defeat was this stretch of water, the timeless eloquence of Churchill and the immense bravery of the pilots of the Royal Airforce.  For weeks a protracted battle raged in the skies above Kent and London.  Sometimes the September sky was filled with more than 400 enemy bombers surrounded by hundreds of spitfires and hurricanes.  In the end the Luftwaffe realised they had bitten off more than they could chew, having lost over one and a half thousand aircraft, and Hitler postponed indefinitely the invasion of these shores. The cost was great: hundreds of young pilots were killed and over 40,000 civilians had perished in and around London,   
I think God spared us.  Not many people realise that King George VI and Churchill had called the nation to prayer and humiliation in May, just before the battle began.
As I finish I would like to pay tribute to the American journalist and broadcaster, Ed. Murrow.  As the bombs were falling, and with great personal courage, Murrow would stand in a doorway or under an arch during the Blitz, and begin with his famous opening phrase This Is London,  and then go on to describe the devastation and death all around him.  His words were eagerly listened to by millions in America.  President Roosevelt honoured him later in these words,
You burned the city of London in our houses and we felt the flames. You laid the dead of London at our doors and we knew that the dead were our dead ... were mankind's dead without rhetoric, without dramatics, without more emotion than needed be. You have destroyed the superstition that what is done beyond 3000 miles of water is not really done at all.
I think he did much to influence American public opinion in Britain's favour.