28 December 2007

photographic personality test

I took a personality test which involved measuring accurately (with on-screen pointers) a dozen dimensions from a neutral photo of my face. After a series of questions the programme told me all about my personality. It makes very accurate reading I have to say.

Stability results were low which suggests you are very worrying, insecure, emotional, and anxious.

Orderliness results were very high which suggests you are overly organized, reliable, neat, and hard working at the expense too often of flexibility, efficiency, spontaneity, and fun.

Extraversion results were low which suggests you are very reclusive, quiet, unassertive, and secretive.

Trait snapshot:
depressed, introverted, neat, needs things to be extremely clean, observer, perfectionist, not self revealing, does not make friends easily, suspicious, irritable, hates large parties, follows the rules, worrying, does not like to stand out, fragile, phobic, submissive, dislikes leadership, cautious, takes precautions, focuses on hidden motives, good at saving money, solitary, familiar with the dark side of life, hard working, emotionally sensitive, prudent, altruistic, heart over mind, unadventurous.

Oh dear, that really is me.
PS: I have a thirteen-part short story ready to post so you may like to check back on Jan 1st.

10 December 2007

twelve months have raced by

This is the scene as I walk near our apartment. Inhospitable Arctic tundra I hear you remark... and you'd be right about the landscape. Amazingly, amid all this ice and snow, beat warm and friendly hearts. The Canadians I have met make me very welcome indeed and show me a great deal of interest.

The landscape on Prince Edward Island is like no other. The earth is brick red, the fields a deep green and the sky a rich blue. The light is piercingly clear and the air crisp and clean. Entertainment is simple and life is slower and more leisurely than in the bustling cosmopolitan cities I grew used to. Potatoes and grain are grown at breakneck speed during the brief summer months before winter's white cloak descends.

This small island has far more than its fair share of poets, writers and musicians. Something about the remoteness and the isolation makes your thoughts turn inwards to seek creativity there. You are never more than a few minutes from the sea and the wind is a constant reminder of that. In summer the blue waves crash in white foam on the pink sand. In winter the slabs of ocean ice buckle and slide, locking the land in an icy embrace. Summer is hot but too short and winter is long but too cold.

The regular forecast in January is from minus fifteen to minus twenty and the windchill factor lowers the temperature to minus thirty. Previously an ardent disbeliever in hats, I have at last started wearing my tuque and even donning my warm padded coat without complaint. Recently I invested in a pair of gloves. I am becoming a Canadian.

All I need now is my residency permit.

05 December 2007

weather or not

There are some more here.

02 December 2007

a grave matter

The two hundred and seventy five or so small rural cemeteries on Prince Edward Island allow a fascinating and free new approach to my genealogy pursuits. The trouble is I now have some nerve damage where my shutter finger froze to my camera in the sub zero wind.

26 November 2007

seven random facts I've learned in sobriety

I was tagged by Fathorse.

1. Your bladder shrinks to the size of a pea in sobriety, perversely resulting in even more night time needs to piss.

2. At night my bed no longer flips slowly end over end, causing me to lean out and lay a hand on the carpet to stabilise the room.

3. Pruning a Juniper tree releases the powerful scent of pure gin.

4. It is not necessary to fall into a deep sleep at 7pm each evening.

5. Hospitals could save money by using Carlsberg Special Brew as a general anaesthetic.

6. I have saved £55,000 in 22 years, since quitting booze on 10 Sep 1993.*

7. You don't need to smoke when you stop drinking. So I saved a further £30,000 since 7 June 1997.*

* as at Oct 2015

06 November 2007


In the mid 1980s I began checking where I had come from. On the male line I made swift progress back through the Victorian era but hit a brick wall at 1800. Since then I have amused myself instead by looking into the ancestry of the dozens of female lines that married into my family. Even though their families are not related to me by blood they are just as much fun to trace! This is such a good hobby for putting down and picking back up a few months or years later. After all, these people are patient, they aren't going anywhere! The photo is a wedding in 1928.

I recently revisited my genealogy files where there are eight hundred and sixty two names, some living but mostly dead, in my database. More than ever, I would love to time travel back two hundred years and talk to some of them. Their lives were so different from our own. No cars, no electricity, no street lights, no microwaves, no refrigerators, no reality TV and no space stations. Yet I am sure they had the same hopes and dreams and fears as us.

I want to pass an electronic family history file to my descendents to hand from generation to generation. Not just names, dates, events and places but my hopes and dreams and fears. Ten years ago I finished writing the first instalment in the story of my life. I think it is time to add another few chapters.

10 October 2007


I shot some video of a moose here.

30 September 2007

Cape Breton

We have just returned from a week camping in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Cape Breton is certainly wild and there is only one road running for about one hundred and fifty miles around the perimeter of the designated National Park zone - it is called the Cabot Trail and we toured it. As it was my first time camping you can guess what fun we had… We left PEI by car ferry and drove the roughly two hundred and fifty miles through Nova Scotia to stay in the wilderness at the northern end of Cape Breton. It reminded me a lot of the foothills of the French Alps. In winter the scant local population is completely cut off. There are only a few small villages and very few shops – just the occasional general store.

The area is a protected wildlife preserve of more than four hundred square miles. There are wolves, black bear and moose as well as American bald eagles and golden eagles. We heard wolves baying one morning and saw a female moose deep in the woods one day. Another day we saw a second moose, it was close enough to sound like an elephant as it tramped through the undergrowth but everywhere was so dense that I caught only a glimpse despite it being very close. Luckily we encountered no bears!!

One morning we took a whale-watching cruise from a small fishing village in Bay St Lawrence. We were taken out to open ocean on a forty foot fishing boat by an experienced captain of Irish decent. He had a great dark sense of humour. We saw some seals but sadly however no whales. I had better luck perched high on a one thousand foot mountain with my binoculars from where we saw several pods of pilot whales. Another time I saw distant water spouts they were blowing up. I took some video footage but it is too far away to see real detail. Nonetheless it was a superb experience and not a sight likely to be seen in the English Channel!

The weather was awesome for us – in the twenties every day and not a cloud in the sky. How about that for September! I bought a decent tent (Woods EZtent) that pops up like an igloo in about ten seconds, then you just spend a few minutes installing the fly-sheet and hammering in the pegs. The new air mattress was very comfortable too. We had two lanterns and were really quite cozy.

However the sleeping bags we borrowed were useless. Although burning by day, the night time temperatures were low. After our first night shivering at just three degrees we visited a camping store and bought a very big bag for ninety dollars which is meant to be warm even at minus seven. It proved to be incredibly warm although a slight squeeze! I also bought a stove to take with us so we had eggs for breakfast and soup or beans for dinner. Lunch was usually sandwiches taken with us on our daily hikes.

We moved camp three times but spent the last three nights in a row at the same pitch which was much more convenient. We stayed at a tiny remote site right by the Atlantic Ocean - see the above photos. The crashing waves were great to go to sleep to. There were only four or five other tents there.

Every night I lit a fire in the pit provided. I managed with paper and kindling wood even in the wind! When it was alight we burned several large logs each evening. We needed the warmth by about 7pm and also it kept the dreaded mosquitoes and flies away effectively. Aren't the stars unbelievably bright that far from modern civilisation? One guy from Ontario had a big telescope with him. He set it up and we looked at Jupiter and its moons. Seeing our own moon was fascinating too. Only a part of it would fit in the screen – you had to scan around to view it all! My interest in astronomy has been well and truly rekindled. (I feel a significant purchase coming on!)

On our final night the wind rose to a fierce gale. The people next to us were away all evening and while gone their tent was wrenched off its pegs and blown over the short cliff. Another camper retrieved it from the small rocky beach and the telescope man from Ontario helped put it back up. When the people got back they took it down and slept in their car! We hardly slept that night, our own tent was regularly flattened under the high wind but having flexible poles it regained its shape. Luckily the pegs held firm.

On the night of my fiftieth birthday we stayed in a Motel which I had pre-booked. That evening we found the only restaurant for miles around and ate there. Our portions were huge and I ate quite a lot of Michelle's too! The restaurant had previously been a General Store and the owners had collected a lot of fishing and domestic memorabilia to decorate the walls and ceiling. There was of course the ubiquitous set of moose antlers!

All good things come to an end and we drove home after a week still wanting more. Next year perhaps a long ferry ride to Newfoundland...

25 September 2007

tagged by fathorse

Thanks fathorse, btw I found your own answers fascinating and illuminating. Hilarious how we "B"s tread similar paths. Luckily you caught me with a slot in my busy schedule so here goes.

4 jobs I've held:

  1. My first job was stacking shelves at Sainsburys Supermarket. I started while still at school, working Saturdays and holidays. It was there I met Debbie as we stamped prices on tins of sardines! I was sixteen and hadn’t a clue about anything. However it paid for rivers of booze. My head was in academia and selling food was the last thing that interested me.
  2. After school I passed entrance exams to Oxford University but was rejected after three days of interviewing (in French would you believe). So I drifted into Banking and spent thirty years mostly hating it.
  3. The best period in my banking career was the early 1980s. I had some superb colleagues in one particular high street branch who could have been successful at anything they chose. However we got pissed every lunchtime and every evening and despite running a tight and efficient office we took banking not at all seriously.
  4. After decades of responsible roles like financial consultant, mortgage advisor and manager’s assistant I slid down the greasy pole as the jobs were all dumbed down. Like most of my colleagues I ended up at a shitty call centre taking calls from fools with idiotic queries.
4 places I've lived:
  1. Born in Bournemouth on England’s sleepy southern coast. Old retired people live there and complain about the youngsters.
  2. My dad was moved with work to Truro in Cornwall during the 1960s. We spent just two years there. I remember watching England win the World Cup and my sister was born.
  3. We all moved back to Bournemouth and twenty years I struck out on my own with a new house and a new wife. Our boys were born and soon we moved to Dibden Purlieu in Hampshire some thirty miles away. I believe something once happened there but no one can seem to remember!
  4. We lived in two nice houses there but all good things come to an end. I jumped ship in a big and (to my family) unfathomable way. I moved to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada where I have a gorgeous new wife and a whole new life.
4 places I've holidayed:
  1. I used to drive my family to the French Alps every summer to stay in deserted skiing village. I can’t imagine being there when it snows.
  2. Florida. I didn’t fly in an aircraft until I was forty-five for reasons linked with fear. However straight after 9/11 we jumped on a 747 and proceeded to do the same every year for the next five years, fear of flying duly conquered. Orlando was of course our first destination but thereafter we spent quiet time on the Gulf Coast in a subdivision called Rotonda, holidaying in those gorgeous luxury villas of theirs with a private pool.
  3. USA road-trip. In 2005 I spent forteen days driving through Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and back to Georgia and staying in hotels. The variety was amazing and the best bit was staying off the Interstates and using the little county roads. A glimpse of real small town America.
  4. Camping with my wife in the wilds of Cape Breton last week right by the Atlantic Ocean. Bears, Moose, wolves and eagles everywhere you turn.
4 favourite foods:
  1. Baked beans on toast topped with melted grated cheese.
  2. Poached salmon with peas and boiled new potatoes.
  3. Tomato soup
  4. Pills and a liquid would suit me fine when nutrition can be delivered that way. I am not a food connoisseur.
4 places I'd rather be:
  1. Alaska
  2. Antarctica
  3. England
  4. 10,000 miles away from civilisation
I don't have four people to tag so I'll just ask Michelle to join in. http://www.md1979.blogspot.com/

07 September 2007


I need more strength. “Hand me down a strong panacea, one that’s guaranteed to make me feel like Hercules.”

Summer’s furnace roars and cranks. High blue sky towers above. The Island’s rock station crunches from the stereo. Let’s roll down the windows and cruise. Hay bales, cows, potholes and ancient Buicks slide by in a hazy panorama.

In the heat of the night nothing moves, not even the air. Sleep is further off than Pluto and the pillow sweats. Old memories return to taunt me. Synaptic connections tease and scold in the witching hour.

Soon I will pass the half-century milestone. Will I feel old? No, just the same – and still wondering how far past halfway I am. One thing is fairly sure – fewer solar orbits remain to me than have already passed.

September dawns are cool. A crispness hints at the big freeze to come. Time is running out. Soon we must batten down the hatches and hunker through the long white months. But before then we will journey to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The tent, stove and air mattress are all tested. The itinerary is planned. Un-noticed by most, a certain 50th milestone will slide by somewhere in the swirling blue waters off Bay Saint Lawrence while we are whale watching.

Soon too there is land to be bought, acres of grassy sanctuary in which to sink new roots. An investment into timber and fields. A house to refurbish and hammer into home. Lists of “to do” items stretch to the horizon – that’s far enough into the future for me.

17 August 2007

Hair today, gone tomorrow

04 July 2007

famous last words

Life caught up with me...
... the end.

24 June 2007

That month back in England

Too much to do and see, not enough time... but we still managed to take over 1200 photos. I picked just a few to post and here they are on Through the Lens.

08 June 2007

London and the Shires

More to follow on "Through the Lens."

15 May 2007

May 2007

We have flown to England for the month of May to travel on historic highways and by-ways, staying mostly in deepest rural Wiltshire. Days out in London, Bath, Bournemouth, Southampton, Salisbury and Poole have reminded me how exceptional this small birth-country of mine is. Time is rushing by and there is still so much to revisit but there will be a next time... You never really notice what is right beneath your nose until it is gone. How does eleven hundred photos so far sound? (No I won't be putting them all on "Through the Lens!")

01 May 2007

a fucking sad idiot

During my adult life I have lived with depression to varying degrees. I am frustrated at failing to fix all my anxieties by myself. For the past twelve months I have steadily opened my fears and worries to my soulmate. I had even begun to believe I might banish the dark depressive clouds and maintain a happy head. Just when I begin to feel level and calm a small worm creeps under my skin. A previously tranquil day becomes hell on earth inside my head.

If I am angry or sad or frustrated I want to try to say what is on my mind but my words appear condescending and sulky. So I retreat into my head and stay quiet all day harbouring resentment that the cause of my irritable mood ought to be obvious but isn’t.

No one loved me as a child. I was never given praise or made to feel valuable. With that background I try too hard to be honest and compassionate so I always sound reproachful and false. I am incapable of expressing my emotions.

I deserve to be the hated person that I am.

I realise I am unlovable.

I believe myself to be valueless.

I deserve ill fortune.


Starting thirty years ago my wife and I had simple sex but we never made love. Twenty years ago my lover and I had lustful sex but still we never made love.

Now I make love but I am uncomfortable as the initiator. Rejection would ruin my already pitiable self-esteem. How could anyone wish to be intimate with such an ugly old fool as me?

I can’t make decisions – why would my ideas be liked anyway? My preferences are easily over-ridden as they are ridiculous and unimportant.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what I am.

I love Michelle but believe I suffocate her. She no longer finds me attractive.

update 20 Jun 2014
Re-reading this causes me some embarrassment! It's fair to say that I had bouts of depression several years ago but there is little in my above diatribe that I recognise as me. Today I have a good deal more self-esteem than before. If I suffocated anyone it was myself. Michelle is quite capable of handling herself.

21 April 2007

Dive-bombed by herring gulls

(What shall I listen to? Old, new, borrowed or blue..?)

... must be a herring gull chick, he thought, taking in the dull brown plumage with the huge size. Wonder why its sitting in the middle of the road.

Doctor: “What seems to be the matter with you?”
PV: “Everything doc and I’ve got it bad.”
Doctor: “Want to talk about it?”
PV: “Nope. I prefer to shut my mouth and keep my thoughts to myself all day… like I always do.”
Doctor: “Well, keep taking the pills and I’ll see you when I see you.”
PV: "Rot in hell arsehole."

Is that a pterodactyl?
An ominous 4 foot six wingspan silhouetted against the scudding rain clouds made him fantasize Jurassically for a moment. With Kamikaze yells the shape plummeted toward him, veering aside at the last moment. Fuck, it’s the parent bird protecting its strayed young. Repeatedly it screamed in low and fast with raptor-like talons outstretched. Hey even the wildlife has it in for me…

It’s all downhill from here pal. You’re 49 and your best years are long over. The doc doesn’t give a damn, the world isn’t waiting for you, the gulls are suspicious of you…

He held similar conversations in his head all day. His favourites were about guilt, shame and self-recrimination. He did a good job of chastising himself. That seemed a more effective use of time than waiting for someone else to do it.

I won’t bother talking to you unless I love you, he said to no one in particular. I want to live on a desert island. He had a big heart and a head full of compassion but people barged into him in the street like he was invisible. How could he ever talk to people who were so oblivious to his sweet nature? He needed to be alone, that was the stark truth of it.

Some idiot shrink had told him, try to think of all the good things you have achieved. You have so much to be grateful for and proud of. He had never bought that. He was way off course for his usual lunchtime walk, even the gulls sensed that. The time on his wrist was well past lunch but he kept walking. Today he would make a decision.

He had a sharp plot for a novel in his head but he kept chipping away at it til all that was left was a series of fragments. Perhaps he would try piecing them together again soon.

SHUT UP! he screamed at the voices in his head. If the fools at work had only known how my depression and anxiety was crippling my physical health. Why had he never shrieked this to the banking fools, There is nothing wrong with my mental fortitude but you are hammering a square peg into a round hole and I won’t fit. I will last as long as I can but the strain you are placing on my emotional health is directly reducing my physical health. My immune system is failing – I am getting sick. It is not possible to be this miserable in my head for decades and for it to have no effect on my body.

With this admission at least now he would have a few things to say to the doc next time he went. Now, where the hell did I park my car?

28 March 2007

Tagged by Grace

Thanks Grace, I'll take any excuse to think about music! These sprang immediately to mind but an hour from now the list would be different...

1. Street Spirit - Radiohead
2. Sweet Child of Mine - Guns n' Roses
3. Green Eyes - Coldplay
4. Time for Heroes - The Libertines
5. Guiding Light - The Veils
6. Five Years - David Bowie
7. Common People - Pulp

20 March 2007

The eagle has landed

A secret consignment of boxes arrived by truck. We hauled them up two flights of stairs and began panting very hard. After suitable recovery time, a day was spent opening, examining and positioning a large number of items. Two old ebony elephants now stare at each other from their new niches.


“If something is beyond your sphere of influence you should stop trying to control it.” This maxim makes logical sense but is a nearly impossible code to live by when it is very human to try to change something in order to improve it. When some factor stubbornly resists my efforts I feel anxious and fretful, even hurt. Everyone knows which things are indisputably beyond our power to alter (like gravity and the weather) but some things appear tantalisingly close enough to change. People, perceptions, places…

I hear you say, “There are only two certainties in life, taxes and death.” Everything else is a lottery, I know that, yet frustration sets in when I fail to improve factors which shape my daily existence. I am still learning to accept the beauty of things as they are and to stop striving for perfection. But if I regard much of my life as highly important am I doomed by the following formula? ANXIETY = UNCERTAINTY x IMPORTANCE

I suffer anxiety because I get wrapped up in a web of perceptions and misperceptions. What do people think, what do I think of people? Even those who say perceptions don’t matter are fibbing. Fundamentally the common man wants to be liked or at the very least to meet with approval. Fear of rejection makes us try to mould ourselves. Only the most selfish could truly care less.

Perhaps a new way to look at this is to say only the trivial falls short of perfection. The important things are already perfect. Like Nature, we can’t improve upon nature in all its majesty and glory. Art in all its forms only mimics nature so is close to perfection. Love is unconditional and forever – the very definition of perfection. One day soon I will learn to live in these true terms, in a state where anxiety melts away.

“But it all boils down to one quotable phrase,
if you love something give it away.”
Bright Eyes – One Foot in Front of the Other

28 January 2007

Cold and White

There are some more pictures here.

19 January 2007

A variety of heads

The man was adept at injuring himself and today he decided to take it to the limit. He approached the huge engineer’s vice in his garage workshop, brushing back his hair. The vice jaws yawned open as he span the fat T-bar easily. Like bobbing for apples in a bowl he pressed his head down until his nose touched cold iron. Now he wound the bar slowly clockwise, feeling the first pressure on his temples. As he turned the bar hard, high-pitched singing screamed in his ears momentarily. A loud crack silenced the sound and his vision was suddenly blurred. He stood uncertainly and lurched onto his driveway and reached with horror to feel his shattered head. Waves of nausea flooded over him as he fumbled for thoughts, would anyone notice him now…
His bed felt cold and the pillow hard as stone. Where were the red digits of his alarm clock? “Hypothermia on the rocks please…” he mumbled to no one through stiff lips. Tomorrow morning paramedics would melt his cheek from the frozen sidewalk and lift his stiff corpse. His very good friends would laugh when they remembered Saturday. How he had drunk a whole bottle of scotch through his fucking nose. His eyes had been bleeding as he staggered onto the sidewalk. “If I get tired I’ll just lay down.” He tapped the side of his nose confidentially at the lamppost.

You would never guess this suited gent had just lost his job, his house, his family and his wealth. He was in control now that every sensitive word in the books on self-development had prepared him for his predicament. He knew he was in a good place in his head. Life would be sweet and fair to him because he had given more then he had to give. A red-nosed beggar muttered from the pavement. The suit found two coins in his pocket and pressed them wordlessly into the beggar’s brown hand. Now he turned sharply to cross the street. A bus ploughed into him and dragged him eighty yards along the road leaving a long thin red streak.