22nd January picture of the day…

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Thank God it’s Friday! The week’s been a frustrating one. Nothing seems to have gone right and many of the things I’d hoped to have achieved never came to fruition or are still works in progress. I’m hoping for a much better weekend and a more fruitful week next week. On the bright side, I’m still making progress with scanning old slides although that process has slowed down as a consequence of everything else. This brings me neatly on to the picture of the day, which I took on the 20th February 1999…

This is the magnificent Franz Josef glacier on the West Coast of the South island. The picture was taken from the helicopter that was taking Lynn and myself and a group of other people for a trip onto the middle slopes of the glacier as part of a heli-hiking experience – which was an amazing experience. Seeing a glacier’s magical enough, but having the chance to explore the surface of one is doubly so.

I returned with Dawn in 2019 and I was shocked by what I found (here’s a link to my blog written at the time) Due to global warming the Glacier had shrunk significantly, retreating further up the valley and down off some of the steep mountain sides. It’s a very visible testament to the damage human activity is doing to the planet. I sincerely hope we get our acts together in time to prevent the glacier disappearing completely.

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20th January picture of the day…

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Sorry there was no picture or blog yesterday. I’ve been struggling to keep on top of a long list of things I’ve set myself to do. Despite lockdown, there never seems to be enough hours in the day. I can’t think how I used to manage before when so much of my time was taken up with travel. Ah, travel – I remember it well (I think)…

To add to the fun and games the weather over the past couple of days has been utter crap. We’ve had so much rain in the past couple of months that the ground is completely saturated, leading to worries about flooding. Fortunately, despite the storm warning, the rain hasn’t come down hard, it’s just never stopped! Even so, I’ve still ventured out for my daily splash in the mud, slipping and sliding down paths akin to small waterfalls or plodding along paths that resemble WW1 battlefields – anything that gets me some exercise and away from staring at a computer screen for a while.

I’d planned to catch up on some blogging today, instead I became bogged down in editing a backlog of slide scans whilst watching the Brexitshambles lurch from one revelation to another as UK businesses come to grips with the reality of the shit-show we’ve got ourselves in. I’m reserving the rest of my feelings about this for a spleen-venting blog tomorrow, as well as another blog catching up with news about High-Speed 2 (and there’s plenty).

The one bright spot in the day was watching that orange tw*t leave the White House for the last time and seeing the new President sworn in. Biden’s speech was everything you never got from Trump. It was statesmanlike, conciliatory, coherent and meaningful, truly a breath of fresh air after listening to the rambles of the previous incumbent.

Anyway, enough of politics for now until tomorrow. The pictures I’ve been editing have taken me back half-way around the world to Australia and New Zealand (and back 22 years in time). Today’s picture is a classic tourist view, taken on the 5th February 1999 in Wellington, the city on the Southern tip of New Zealand’s North Island. Wellington posses a funicular railway which takes you from the town centre up the hill to Kelburn where you get a stunning view across the city.

Opened in 1902 and rebuilt several times since, the cable worked funicular railway is a popular tourist attraction.

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18th January picture of the day…

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Another week begins and it’s indistinguishable from every other lockdown week as the routine doesn’t really vary – unless you count doing the same things in a different order, just to try and add some variety and a frisson of excitement as this is about as good as it gets right now!

Therefore I won’t bore you with the mundanities of life, I’ll cut straight to the chase and take you to the picture of the day. This one comes from the latest batch of old slide scans which will be added to my website tomorrow. I took it near Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia in the last week of January 1998.

With the Sydney Tower in the background, the monorail passes over the heads of tourists walking to the harbour. Monorails have never really taken off as a means of mass transit, mainly due to their low-speed, limited capacity and inflexibility.

Sydney’s monorail was an eight station, 2.2 mile loop that opened in July 1988. It connected Darling Harbour, Chinatown and the central business and shopping districts in an anti-clockwise loop. Six trains of seven cars worked services on the loop, working from a depot in Pyrmont. The never met its passenger projects and the last franchise that operated it was bought out by the New South Wales Government in 2012. On June 30th 2013 the monorail was closed to make way for the new Sydney Convention and Exhibition centre. The monorail tracks were dismantled shortly afterwards.

2 cars from one of the trains and a short section of track are preserved at the Powerhouse museum in Sydney.

Whilst monorails haven’t had much success, one operates in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia (opened in 2003) and another in Melaka. Another (larger) system in Bangkok, Thailand is due to open later this year. There are other systems dotted around the world, mostly in China and Japan, but most as short systems serving amusement parks or airports, like this suspended system in Dusseldorf, Germany. Of course, Germany also has the father of them all, in Wuppertal!

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17th January picture of the day…

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There’s no ramble (or weather report) from me today! The pair of us have had a quite Sunday at home – hardly an unusual occurrence in these locked-down days. After all, it’s not as if we’ve got a flight to catch, is it? And a rolling blog about a walk along the canal would be a less than riveting read! So, I’m going to cut straight to the chase. Or in this case – the picture of the day.

I took this shot of pro Megawati students in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia in the last week of November 1998. Indonesia was in the throes of rediscovering democracy after years of dictatorship under President Suharto. Suharto had been forced to resign in the May of 1998 because of the Asian economic crisis, corruption and growing civil unrest – much of which was led by students like these.

Megawati Sukarnoputri was the daughter of Indonesia’s first President, Sukarno, who was deposed by Suharto in 1966. Born in Yogyakarta, she became the leader of the PDI party in the 1990s and won the Vice-Presidency in 1999, eventually becoming President in 2001 until she was decisively defeated in 2004.

Having travelled across Indonesia during the Suharto years in 1992 it was fascinating for me to return in 1998 and see the country regaining its democratic freedoms and learning how to express them. Demonstrations like this were commonplace but in Yogya especially as it had a large student population. Now, many years on, Indonesia is doing well, even if it has been a rocky road as corruption’s still a problem. Even so, within the next couple of decades they will overtake the UK’s economy – a job made easier by us declaring sanctions on ourselves with Brexit.

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16th January picture of the day…

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Rain staged a comeback today. It’s persistent nature made short work of the snow we’d enjoyed over the past few days which was a shame in some ways but a relief in others. Snow’s lovely when it’s pristine. When it hangs around in sub-zero conditions, turning roads and pavements into ice-rinks it’s a pain in the arse – so the rain’s done us all a favour in that respect – although I’ll miss the chance to get some more snow pictures.

We benefitted for another reason too. Today we had to drive over to Huddersfield to drop off shopping for Dawn’s parents. The clear surfaces meant there was no danger of pranging the car on steep hills or icy country lanes which was a relief as Dawn only changed it for a more modern model yesterday! We also stopped off at Huddersfield railway station so that Dee could pop into work for a few minutes. Whilst she was rummaging through paperwork I did a quick circuit of the town centre – which was deserted. OK, the fact there’s sod all open makes a difference, but even so – it was good to see that most people (including the young) were heeding the ‘stay at home’ advice. I wonder when normality might return and the town centre will be buzzing with people the way it used to on a Saturday? Personally, I can’t see that happening this side of Easter at the earliest. It’s been so long I’ve forgotten what it’s like to walk into a busy pub or restaurant. That might take some getting used to again. Odd to think that this was my first trip of the year outside the Calder Valley. We’re half way through the month and the furthest I’ve travelled is 8 miles!

Back at Bigland Towers we’ve settled in for the night which is why you’re getting today’s picture earlier than normal. I’ve been a busy bee finishing off yet another old album of travel slides which will be added to my website tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s a taster. I took this shot on the 19th November 1998 on the island of Java, Indonesia.

It looks beautiful, doesn’t it? Lush paddy fields full of rice, banana plants and coconut palms. And peaceful too, with an ancient volcano as backdrop. Only, that volcano is Mount Merapi -and it’s anything but peaceful…

Indonesia is famous for its volcanos and Merapi is the most active of them all. It’s erupted in spectacular fashion several times in the past few years. In 1994 it killed 27 when a pyroclastic flow caused havoc around the nearby town of Muntilan. In fact, since I took this picture, it’s lost 38 metres in height due to a major eruption in October-November 2010. Since then it’s erupted in 2013, 2020 and as recently as last Thursday!

And to think I’ve complained about a bit of snow…

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15th January picture of the day…

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The wonderful snow scenes we saw yesterday have hung around for an encore – only today there was the added bonus of blue skies as a backdrop. OK, that meant it was cold too but that was a small price to pay for such glorious vistas! I managed to juggle work with a long walk with the camera in order to get my daily exercise and capture some of the views. Fortunately, we hadn’t had much wind since the snow, so tree branches were laden with the stuff although it had started to melt in the sun, meaning wandering through the woods was a bit like running the gauntlet as you never knew when you’d feel a show-bomb down the back of your neck as a tree scored a direct hit!

Tomorrow’s forecast is for rain, so today’s probably been my final chance to get decent snow pictures. That means the picture of the day will be returned to vintage shots of somewhere warmer and more exotic than the Pennines and West Yorkshire – as you’ll find out tomorrow…

In the meantime, here’s one of my shots from today, taken on the promenade up above where we live. This is a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the views across the valley, or even a sunset (and a surreptitious beer!).

You’ll be able to find the full selection of snow shots taken over this past week in this gallery on my Zenfolio website from tomorrow.

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14th January picture of the day…

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Apologies for no picture of the day yesterday. It’s not that I didn’t have one – but that (despite the weather being bloody awful) I ended being really busy and by the time I got around to blogging I’d run out of steam and fancied a quiet night just watching a movie with Dawn.

Today was rather different. The weather forecast had predicted a mix of snow showers and rain, but neither of us were prepared for the sight that greeted us when I opened the bedroom blinds. We had wall to wall snow, it had stuck and it was still falling. Someone forgot to order the rain! In fact, it snowed steadily until mid-afternoon, by which time I managed to venture out with the camera as part of my daily constitutional. I love fresh snow, especially on still days when it coats the trees to a depth, transforming their trunks and branches into sculptures. The road we live on passes through some woods so I didn’t have to venture far to get pictures, although in the end I decided to make a round trip through the woods and down to the railway to get my first train shots of the year (unbelievable!) before walking along the canal into Sowerby Bridge to grab a few more shots at the station just before the light went completely. Trudging back uphill along slippery pavements to reach home wasn’t the most enjoyable part of the trip as the rain finally arrived but it was worth it as I don’t know how long the snow’s going to hang around, and we don’t get that many days when the conditions are so good. The only thing missing was blue skies, but hey – you can’t have everything! I’ll be adding the full selection to this gallery on my website tomorrow, as well as yet more old slide scans to this gallery.

In the meantime, here’s the picture of the day, which I took shortly after leaving home this afternoon. It seems many parts of the country were blessed with rain, not snow, so I hope I don’t make too many people jealous!

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12th January picture(s) of the day…

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I’m feeling generous, so there’s more than one picture today as the weather’s been glorious! The temperatures rose so much under the clear skies and bright sunlight that it almost (almost) felt like a Spring day. But unlike Spring, it’s here for one day only, which I was I was determined to make the most of it by scrapping what I’d intended to do and tore myself away from the office and computer screens to enjoy the outdoors. So much of our time is spent cooped-up due to Covid lockdowns that I would’ve been a fool not to. The day started with great promise – although not so much if you lived in central Sowerby Bridge as the clouds were determined to hang on to the valley floor for as long as possible. This was the view from our bedroom window. OK, it’s not the *exact* view as it was shot on a telephoto lens!

Central Sowerby Bridge looking like it’s been tear-gassed!

Although it would have been tempting to venture further I was a good little boy and stayed local. It wasn’t that much of a hardship as we’ve extensive woodland literally on our doorstep. Today it was a pleasure to wander the woods unhindered by drizzle, which makes a change – although some of the paths are still a quagmire. With the amount of rain we’ve been having the ground’s saturated. It’ll take quite some time before firm ground returns. Even so, sights like this do lift the heart.

This is Scarr Woods, literally just down the road from us. It’s a gorgeous patch of woodland that’s looked after by local volunteers. Right now they’re removing some non-native species to open out the wood ready to replant with a variety of items as this explains…

Psst – don’t tell the anti High Speed 2 ‘Tree protectors’ that someone’s killing trees!

My stroll was pretty strenuous as these woods aren’t exactly flat, which is part of the attraction as it’s a much more interesting landscape. On leaving the woods my perambulations took me up to the promenade on the edge of Halifax which permits some stunning views across the Calder Valley. Wandering on I dropped down one of our local cobbled hills which has been made famous in one of the opening scenes of the TV drama ‘Gentlemen Jack’. Half way down there’s a great place to stop as you get two very different views. This one across the valley…

Looking down on Sowerby Bridge, plus a rare sight in the sky nowadays – a plane’s vapour trail!

Just a few metres down the hill, looking in the opposite direction (and looking up) is this magnificent sight – the Wainhouse Tower!.

See why I couldn’t countenance being stuck in the office all day today? Sadly, normal service will be resumed tomorrow as the weather forecast is crap!

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11th January picture of the day…

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Well, the weather forecast was spot-on today. It’ll rain it said – and rain it did – all day. Only not in any entertaining way. None of that heavy showers or hailstones sort of stuff, just drizzle. And then more drizzle, broken up by differing levels of drizzle, just to break up the monotony! Even so, I managed to sally forth and get my daily exercise. I even called in at our local supermarket to get some shopping and a get-well card for a friend. Fortunately, I didn’t need much – which is just as well as there were large gaps on the shelves, especially when it came to fresh fruit and veg. I can’t think why…

I’ll resist (for now) getting into a polemic about Brexit. I’ll save that for later in the month. Instead, I’ll leave this here..

‘Welcome to the Brexit, sir’: Drivers have sandwiches confiscated at Dutch border | The Independent

When I wasn’t out walking and getting wet I was immersed in something other than rain. Slide-scanning. I’ve been keen to get a tranche finished and this latest collection has provided the picture of the day. This shot is one of a series I took at a cremation ceremony and procession in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia on the 2nd November 1998.

Balinese cremations ceremonies are colourful and exhuberant affairs, especially if the deceased or their family was wealthy as this man’s was. These five different towers were built on the side of one of the main roads in the very centre of Ubud. On the day of the cremation they’re carried by dozens of men each. But not in any sombre procession. They’re twirled and jigged around in order to ensure evil spirits are confused. Hundreds (if not thousands) of people line the streets to see the funeral procession go by. Even the local fire-brigade joined in to spray water over the guys carrying these towers in an effort to keep them cool. The atmosphere is more like a party than a funeral. It’s completely different to the Western traditions. Once the procession reaches the funeral grounds the corpse of the deceased is loaded into one of the effigies and the whole lot is burned.

Over this next week I’ll add the pictures to my Zenfolio website just as soon as I’ve edited them, so you’ll get to see what I mean.

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10th January picture of the day…

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After the glorious winter’s day we had on Saturday, today was very much an anti-climax and back to the usual routine of low cloud and mists accompanied by drizzle that slowly eroded the remaining snow, leaving the ground sodden and muddy. Hardly great for walking but I forced myself to go out and complete my full seven days of exercise even if I did come back somewhat bedraggled! At least it gave me a sense of achievement – as did having added another huge tranche of old travel slides to my ’round the world’ gallery. Rather than give you a link to the gallery, here’s a link to the first of the new pictures. You can find your way from there.

I’ve plodded on throughout the day scanning more. It’s a time-consuming, mechanical process yet I’m slowly but surely coming to the end. The bright spot is that I get to see pictures of times and places I’d forgotten about, so it can brighten up a dull day, despite the repetitive nature of the task. Even so, I’ll be glad when it’s finished and I can concentrate on the future and new pictures rather than the old.

I’m looking forward to a bit more variety this week and the opportunity to escape the confines of the Calder Valley as part of a commission, even though I won’t be going far. Let’s see what happens. I’d like to have a day out with the camera but the weather forecast isn’t looking promising so I expect to be housebound for most of the week – but taking a break from scanning slides. I let my eBay account run out of goodies to sell at Christmas, so it’s time to resurrect that to start disposing of more surplus slides and assorted railway memorabilia which has the bonus of freeing up cupboard space as well as making some money. Watch this space…

OK, on to the picture of the day. I took this in Lovina, Bali, Indonesia at the end of October 1998. Bali is famous for its dancers and their exotic and colourful costumes. Visiting a temple of an evening to watch some of these performances is always a fascinating experience. The routines are highly stylized and the dancers are accompanied by Gamelan music from a live band, so they’re real theatrical performances Here’s a young man performing the Baris (warrior) dance.

I’ll be adding this and many other pictures from Bali to my Zenfolio website tomorrow until the end of the week when I should have the album finished.

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