Granny B

I am writing this late on Easter Monday’s afternoon – struggling to make sense of my emotions. The weekend got off to a hell of a bad start; on Good Friday my mum phoned to tell me that Granny had passed away peacefully, loosing her battle with Dementia.

The end months were not graceful for Granny B – she was such a proud woman and it was sad to see her laid so low with an illness. She had been battling dementia for a number of years; what a sad, cruel illness.

If it had not been for Granny, I do not think I would have pursued an academic bent towards Zoology & Botany. I studied Wildlife Conservation at Plymouth Uni with the hope of working with the Big 5 in Africa – however, my health intervened on that one. We used to walk miles, despite her age, to see the Canadian Geese that used to stop off on the farm in Norfolk. She was over the moon when I told her I had managed to get a job at Newby Hall as a gardener – she confided in me that she had often thought about dropping out of Nursing and becoming a gardener herself.

However, she was a very good Nurse – a Gold Standard nurse and a Sister, I believe.

I will always remember the time when Granny, the beaming matriarch, took me and my brother and sister down to London to the Natural History Museum – this is what spurred my enthusiasm for wildlife – even if the reason for going down there was to see the Dinosaurs. I managed to sneak through an open door and see some of the private collection – I was so thrilled. I believe she takes her recipe for Seville Casserole (beef and orange hotpot) with her but she leaves a legacy that the greater Leamington area can be grateful for; she worked tirelessly for the regions health cause’s and was eventually awarded an MBE for her services to Health & The Elderly.

When I was told of her passing I did not have mixed emotions – I burst in to floods of tears. But, now the raw grief and shock has gone, I can see that it was her time to go. She is no longer suffering – but there is a granny shaped hole in my psyche.

Below is a photograph of my Grandparents – only Granny Dornoch (on the left) is surviving. Grandpa passed away 1st July 2016 and now Granny B joins him – she will be making sure everything is in order wherever she is.

Dementia really is a cruel illness – Granny was such a proud lady in life, before the illness crept over her. She was the beaming matriarch who would deal out the Chocolate Fudge Pudding to the Children’s table first. She ruled the family with a rod of iron but, ultimately, she was very fair. She had a massive influence on all three of us (me, my brother and my sister) and I do not think we would have got where we are without her encouragement.

In life she was a lion of a woman – age reduced her stature and I have to admit it was not pleasant to see. However, I now need to be there for the rest of the family – God knows what Dad and his three brothers are going through (having lost both their parents in less than a year). All I can do is offer a shoulder of support and bear witness to the great life that Granny Backhouse led.

Dornoch Adventure Blog 2016 – Pt. III

Well, I have made it home – we (Kathryn & myself) returned to Yorkshire on Monday evening. Knackered. I managed to sleep most of the journey but Kathryn was coming down with a heavy cold – plenty of Lemsip Capsules were purchased at Edinburgh Waverley Station and then it was down to York to catch the train to Harrogate.

Granny really enjoyed her birthday – she is a lady who does not like a fuss so was a bit apprehensive about the day. However, by the time she showed up to the restaurant she was enjoying herself. She looked a vision in a red skirt-suit.

For me, most of the day was a blur – I managed to get to my medication and have a shower in the morning but I did not get any sleep. I spent the day running on vapors and double espressos. I hope I did not make an exhibition of myself.

It really was great to catch up with the Scottish side of my family. I wrote in our card “Many Happy Returns On Your Birthday, Granny” – to which she replied “I doubt there will be many of those”.

There were a fair few people taking photos of the occasion so I asked if I could have a copy of their photos so I can have a go at putting them in a book for Granny. Out of respect for privacy, I will not put any photos up here on the blog.

I managed to edit the field recordings that I took on Saturday morning – I have to say it is one of my better works. The album sees the light of day on Focused Silence (link here). Field recording was compared to Bus Spotting at the family meal – I had to put my cousin firmly in his place by saying that Field Recording is far more of a nerd’s pastime. My personal highlight of the album is the track below. I managed to attach my clip on microphones to the stems of Marram Grass that grow on the dunes of Dornoch beach. The result is that you can hear the grass sway as well as hear the sounds of the beach – check it out below.

I will be spending the day editing some of my photos for the book and trying to catch up on sleep. Kathryn’s cold seems to be abating but I am on hand to pop to the supermarket for more chicken soup.

Dornoch Adventures 2016 – Pt II

Not all fun and games at the moment. As people may know I have malaria type symptoms coupled with complex post traumatic stress disorder. I am currently locked out of our b&b and with no way of gaining access to my medication. Tonight is going to be tricky.

However, today was a grand day other than the above. I spent the morning field recording and catching up with relatives and the the afternoon chilling with Kathryn and eating cake. Popped out for a bottle of punk ipa (£4!) and ate fish and chips for tea.

We then popped into Dornoch centre and caught these cheeky chaps.

I have been offered a sofa to sleep on tonight but without my medication I will not get any sleep – too many flashbacks to Vietnam.

I hope Kathryn gets some sleep.

Dornoch Adventure Blog 2016 – Pt. I

So me and my good wife stayed over at Home Farm last night. The reasoning behind this became apparent when we woke at 0445 to catch a train from York at 0730.

What was the insane logic behind this idea and more importantly what was the destination?

Well the mode of transport was train to Inverness and then by car to a small sea side village in the highlands called Dornoch. We have a Gran who lives there who we affectionately call granny Dornoch (obvs) and she has reached a milestone birthday.

The whole family are decending on Dornoch for a weekend of cake and a sensible amount of tea. My immediate family are planning on a hike on Saturday but I aim for a day of field recordings. It is quarter to 11 and I am in the town I visited every year since I was born. It is probably one the of the few geographical constants I have in my life. Bliss. What makes it better is that it is still reasonably light outside.


Prague: Been There

Well, we arrived back in the drizzly UK around 4 hours ago – and I already miss Prague. Why – well, because it is an inspirational city. It draws on such a rich seam of history that it is impossible to pop out for a coffee without needing to reference a great scholar / movement / Saint. An example of this is that on our last day we were getting thirsty so we called in to the nearest cafe – the nearest cafe at that time was the Grand Cafe Orient which symbolizes the unique Czech contribution to the cubist movement not only in architecture but in furniture, pottery and glass.

We managed to scale the top of a tower and sipped champagne – holding hands and taking in the Prague skyline.

I want to wax on about every minute detail – but I will try and keep it Blog-friendly and write the highlights. I have been told I am in danger of turning in to ‘one of those people’ who print out pamphlets about their holiday to inform their relations – bollocks, maybe this is the digital equivalent?

Saw This!
Saw This!

Well, here goes – My personal highlight was spending time with Kathryn. My biggest down-light was walking everywhere (which is also my second favourite part of Prague – an ongoing Urban Derive through Europe’s tumultuous past). The cultural highlight was seeing original Alfons Muca paintings – he pretty much started the Art Nouveau movement* and there was a wealth of early C20th Czech glassware. There were Architectural Murals, Paintings, Buildings, Statues, Cutlery (you name it) in the art nouveau style – Kathryn was in her element, she loves that period.


I got to finally see the Astronomical Clock! The Astronomical Clock (Orloj) was started in 1410 and is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself is composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; “The Walk of the Apostles”, a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures—notably a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. According to local legend, the city will suffer if the clock is neglected and its good operation is placed in jeopardy and a ghost, mounted on the clock, was supposed to nod his head in confirmation. Based on the legend, the only hope was represented by a boy born in the New Year’s night.

* I may be wrong here – please feel free to correct me in the comments section

Well – here are some of the, many, photos that I took:

Hello! … From Prague!

Well, this is a bit exciting isn’t it – I am sat in a hotel room on the last night of my break and there exists technology that enables me to blog on my phone.

Expect an action update tomorrow, upon my return. Meanwhile allow to say that Prague is a fantastic place with fantastic people. The people really make the place. Almost a genii locus. Curious vistas = curious natives. Yes, I came a bit awestruck – not quite knowing what to do and where to do it.

But, with the wife by my side I have a lot to look forward to on our next trip. Yes, I have and will hold Kathryn to a return leg. The areas we left unexplored are the castle area and the Little Quarter – we aced the New Town, an area heavy with art noveau wonders (a theme that continued throughout the holiday) and we nearly got to see the highlights of the old town and Jewish quarter.

Enough for the three days but it left us wanting more.

I promise to do a grown up blog when I get the chance. With pictures.

First Stop In Prague

In 1576, Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II chose Prague to be his home. More than any other person, Rudolf made Prague a hotbed of alchemical interest. Rudolf lived in the Prague Castle, where he welcomed not only astrologers and magicians but also scientists, musicians, and artists. In addition to noted alchemists Edward Kelley and John Dee, Prague was also home to the astronomers Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, the painter Arcimboldo, the poet Elizabeth Jane Weston, among others. Rudolf arguably spawned the most intense period of occult activity in history. Continue reading “First Stop In Prague”

Zdenek Vlach

Zdenek Vlach’s large body of work is very distinctive and his use of strong primary colours and sharp lines dominate his often stunning interpretations of what are, in many cases, fairly ordinary films.

Born 21st March 1942 in Prague, Zdenek died on 13th July 1999, unfortunately just a couple of weeks prior to the opening of the Edgar Allan Poe International Festival that he contributed so much to with 6 brilliant pieces, especially commissioned for the 3 month long event. Continue reading “Zdenek Vlach”

Me & Liam Neeson – How I Owe Him One

Back in, I think, January of this year (2015) I wrote a blog article about where I would like to holiday in 2015, here – Where I Would Like To Holiday In 2015 #1. Well, things did not go ahead with that plan as the whole of my immediate clan descended on Granny Dornoch in the Highlands for a week (well, not all of us – Dad was busy planting potatoes).

So, inevitably, these holiday plans took a back burner as I took on more work – as did the Mrs take on more work. However, we were very fortunate to have a bit of money gifted to us and so I thought about how to break it to the Mrs. about my plans for carrying out The Great Work in Bohemia. Continue reading “Me & Liam Neeson – How I Owe Him One”