23 Mar 2024

Orkney and Northern Scotland


1 - Across the North Sea from Wick
2 - Whitemill Bay
3 - Towards Hoy
4 - Whitemill Bay and its Clouds
5 - Bay of Lopness 2
6 - Bay of Lopness
7 - The Route to Start Point
8 - Doun Helzie
9 - Doun Helzie Towards Stronsay
10 - Mull Head
11 - Deerness
12 - Deerness Towards Copinsay
13 - Between Lamb Holm and Glimps Holm
14 - Beauly Firth from North Kessock


Bay of Lopness

Sanday's Bay of Lopness reveals a bizarre and potent anomaly; the wreckage of a German, B-98 Destroyer. This doesn't detract from the beauty and desolation of the bay, its pristine, white beaches and the exotic, azure and turquoise sea. 

It adds an historical dimension, another layer of displacement to an already surreal panorama. In fact the bay points directly to Norway, as the crow flies that brings about another tier of immersive and intriguing history to the Orkney Isle's.


Doun Helzie

Witnessing beaches that look like the Caribbean certainly defies expectation; a surreal panorama in the "cold", Northerly  outer-reaches of the UK. 

Doun Helzie has numerous caves, small inlets that are mesmerisingly beautiful and occupied by numerous species of sea birds. 


Start Point

The land runs out at the Northern-most point of Sanday, a slippage into the Northern Sea and then resolution in a tiny island hosting a funky, black and white lighthouse. It's aptly named, Start Point.

At times the Orkney's have a suburban feel, an absence of trees, a flat sprawl of fields and hedgerows and splays of dwellings punctuating the expanse of green. However, when suburbia resolves in the sea, the sense of displacement is emphasized and the oddity of farmland or hamlets juxtaposed with the North Sea is both intriguing and evocative.


Beauly Firth

I stumbled upon North Kessock by accident, stopping just north of Inverness for a short rest after hours of relentless driving and an awareness that Beauly Firth, where River Ness empties into the sea, was a sight worth shooting. 

From the main road there are steep steps descending to a small village that breaks onto the shore and resolves in the glass-like water of the Firth. 

I altered the camera settings while I was there, slowing the shutter speed slightly and increasing exposure. The colours of Beauly Firth, on a sunny day, are bright, varied and attractive. I exploited this during the editing process, ending up with an aquarelle-type effect.

To the left of the photo is the famous, Kessock Bridge, impressive in both its design and length.


Mull Head at Deerness

Mull Head at Deerness, is a dramatic and compelling coastline situated on the north west of the Main Island of Orkney.  Coastal sandstone plummets into the sea, scattered and broken by erosion. 

At one point along the coastal route you can see a 360 degree view that takes in the North Sea towards Norway, the Northern Orkney Isles and the Linksness coast on the Main Island. It really is a breath-taking experience to perceive such a vast panorama at once evoking tranquility and inspiring awe. 

The experience is not dissimilar to a cyclorama in a theatre giving an impression of a 360 degree landscape. Victorian art has also communicated similar ideas exhibiting paintings of a  landscape in a circular room or hides that have been developed in rural areas that allow for 360 degree views.

The "Brough of Deerness" has a fascinating natural architecture where the sea has eroded the coastline to the point where a small outcrop of rock stands apart from the coast. There are also deep inlets carved out by the sea, such as "The Gloup", with steep walls and inhabited by a myriad of bird species. 


26 Feb 2023

Kevin Volans "Concerto for Double Orchestra"

I stumbled upon Kevin Volans's Double Concerto for Orchestra by accident. I was familiar with "Cicada" and one or two of his African inspired pieces sometimes utilising recorded sounds. They're strangely compelling if rather mechanistic, minimalistic curiosities that, for me promise much but never fully develop.

Volans's Concerto is different because it uses a much richer colour palette, exploiting the timbres of orchestral instruments and eruditely exploiting their textures and nuances. You can hear the influence of electronic music, serialism, minimalism, pop and Western classical music throughout the piece. The call and response between orchestras is Stockhausenesque but rarely dissonant, if at all. The timbral and textural interplay and exchange manage to be both cogent and intensely subtle, redolent of pathos, half-recalled fragments of memories, expressed in an abstract and oblique manner.
The purposeful simplicity (simultaneously complex) works to the advantage of the composer, in this piece. The limited harmonic change and absence of melody don't detract from the plangent and mysterious gestures via timbral and tonal subtlety. This is very much the Volans I wanted to hear, by-passing the busy post-minimalism of Adams, Nyman, etc or the absorption in pop music or traditional orchestral approaches, that other composers have exploited.
Like electro-acoustic music or the ambient music of Eno or similar composers, Volans has created an atmospheric soundscape for orchestras that is both gently contemplative and, at times intensely evocative.

Simon 22/02/23

14 Jan 2023

Reflections on 2022

It's astounding to observe how life has changed, post-pandemic. Although quickly forgotten, the progress of vaccinations and anti-viral treatments have been both expeditious and profoundly liberating. Social distancing, lockdowns and other social interventions seem like a distant memory, a trace of a distant life, inhibited, limited and, at times restricted to communications via new technologies and the incessant use of facemasks.

Like some kind of dystopian drama, this was familiar, day-in, day-out territory for people across la monde, a raison d'etre, for, what seemed like endless, protracted months.

Image from the BBC website "Covid: UK daily cases pass 50,000 for first time since January".

Without question, we have much to be grateful for but we have short memories and time's velocity seems to shift as our perceptions alter and memories are negated to the back of our minds where others are prioritised and start to take precedence. Despite our collective successes we still suffer a malaise, a new uncertainty that reflects both our continuing fears of Covid and our successful adaptation to the pandemic. 

Today, not everyone wants to engage with life as freely and sociably as they did. New technologies have enhanced communications and the impact on people's mental health is underestimated. We inhabit a postmodern, halfway house, a purgatory, if you a will where the risks versus our adaptations, where liberty versus the safety of societal withdrawal are all salient, life-altering and imbue contemporary life.

Even those who wish to embrace life in its entirety, proto-pandemic find themselves disorientated and puzzled by business, politics, social events, the arts, education and sporting events. Opportunities continue to be limited and the detritus of a far-reaching, once-in-a-lifetime pandemic limit our wellbeing and invite an anxious melancholia that flies in the face of the experiences of the gregarious and the adventurous.

Those of a more introspective and reserved nature may find their natural inclinations to self-doubt and reflection, become more intense and the oddity of a surreal, hyperreal life via new technologies too unreal and disconnective.

What is certain, is that every single one of us has been profoundly affected by the pandemic.

The negotiations, social interactions and the dynamism of the workplace have become compromised as duties by proxy have become a standard mechanism of everyday working life. Bureaucracy seems to have an infinite life, a simulated end in its self, hampering efficiency and impacting on services throughout society. If you've tried to see a GP recently you may well regard my points as salient, even cathartic when you recall your frustrations? This is just one example of long waits and compromised services throughout industries in all sectors.

Furthermore, the impact of home-working, largely initiated by the pandemic and then continued for reasons of cost-effectiveness, impacts heavily on communications. Like a technological game of Chinese whispers, the journey from an initial statement to the final  instruction may alter course on several occasions or a statement may become lost in its entirety. The political consequences compounded by Brexit, the Ukrainian conflict, post-pandemic, economic fragility and interconnected worldwide markets, can result in extremely poor industrial relations.

The current industrial action in the UK, affecting many sectors has resulted in a typical stalemate, unmoving opposing sides crying out for consolidation. If we cast our minds back to the height of the pandemic, the compassion of the general public, the respect and celebration of frontline workers and the promises of politicians to award pay rises and greater respect for front-line workers and others that kept the country running, one can only feel perplexed and disheartened at such a quick turnaround of sentiment.

"Clap for carers" was a spontaneous, publically-initated show of appreciation for NHS staff, care home workers, teachers,  unpaid carers and other front-line workers during the height of the Covid pandemic. Image from the Telegraph.

Misanthropy appears to be intrinsic to postmodernity. Of course, compassion is manifest in contemporary societies and many of us are lucky enough to witness it on a regular basis. My point is the increase of misanthropy, a distancing from ourselves and others, from nature and natural processes that invites both ignorance and a devaluing the reality of being human.

We have become so immersed in a post-pandemic reality of complex computerised systems, interactions via obligatory technologies and disproportionate, bureaucratic processes that we have become desensitised to the impact of these occurrences.

My descriptions are nothing new; computerised processes and overtly bureaucratic processes or, indeed a life of symbolism and representation that assumes greater significance than that, that it signifies, are all regularly occurring philosophical and artistic tropes. My observations are the rapid development of new technologies and their increasing use within societies and the distance that this puts between ourselves and others and ourselves and the environment.

Our reliance on machines, a la The Matrix, is troubling as the consequence of this dependency upon our own creations are not understood. There are ideas circulating about "fixing" aspects of our condition through computerized interventions. The problem with this is that it devalues our experience and places us secondary to our inventions - the non-human.

Healing, health and well-being often arise from inclusivity, actions that allow for interactions and activities with other human beings. Physical health is aided by fresh air and physical exercise not prolonged immersion in virtual environments. Mental health can circulate around purpose, an expression of individuality within the context of society. Accelerated change and  the workplace becoming increasing technologically focused makes it more difficult to express our personalities within more limited roles. As aforementioned, the detachment from reality that overt use of new technologies can cause, can lead to anxiety and depression. 

In addition to the above, distancing from the environment doesn't aid a comprehensive understanding of current concerns regarding global warming, the dumping of industrial waste, concerns about animal populations, etc. If we wish to address these concerns and encourage a mature attitude towards nature then the more time we spend within natural environments the better we will understand its value, importance and how to manage the natural world in a balanced and harmonised way. It's important to acknowledge that, rather than a bifurcation, the distinction between the artificial and natural will always be opaque.

In 2014, AMPB’s Candido Mezua and Norway's then–Minister of Climate and Environment, Tine Sundtoft, called for the inclusion of Indigenous rights in climate negotiations during the UN COP20 conference in Lima, Peru. Image and text from the Ford Foundation's website.

Mistreating the natural environment may seem like an over-extension of the concept of misanthropy, as our dislike is aimed towards nature rather than ourselves. However, as we put ourselves at risk when we damage nature the word misanthropy becomes more salient.

In balance my arguments may have been more negative than positive, a critical analysis always has a danger of painting an unnecessarily bleak picture, that may reflect the processes of writing and thought more than reality, the subject matter. Therefore, in the last part of this essay I wanted to, briefly reflect on the positive aspects of recent times.

Sporting and arts events have once again paved the way for societal healing, a celebration of diversity and a collective catharsis that celebrates cohesion, healthy competition, collaboration, human experience and invention. 

Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne performing at the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, Birmingham, 2022. Taken from Blabbermouth.net

Culture, from the perspective of new technologies and science, from the bureaucratic and legislative frameworks that govern our contemporary lives, may seem a little quaint and oddly human. However, the arts and sport, conversation and the vital interactions that demonstrated compassion and positivity throughout the pandemic, helped us through Covid and out the other side.

Far from the idea that la condition humaine is problematic and needs fixing via artificial mechanisms, events such as the Commonwealth Games in 2022, both the men's and women's Football World Cups, arts festivals, open air performances and others all helped distract us from the difficulties we were facing and helped emphasise a path towards the post-pandemic. 

The intelligence of the arts encouraged discussion and reflection, creative works often evoked the experiences of the pandemic through inventive ways. The feeling of a shared human experience through sport and the artistic performances that accompanied sporting events was palpable. By attending public events people may have taken their fist steps back into public places after the restrictions and lockdowns due to the pandemic. 

It is precisely our ingenuity, our skills and ability to learn that can cause ourselves and our environment such crippling problems and, conversely help solve our problems. The Covid vaccinations and anti-viral treatments that were developed so quickly are testament to our ability to find inventive, powerful and compassionate solutions to devastating and far-reaching difficulties.

It's only through our most human of abilities, creativity, collaboration, learning and skills that such profound and beneficial solutions can be found. The notion of the human condition as an anomaly to be fixed opposes our intrinsic worth, our instinctive capacity for creativity and our innate empathy for other human beings. To "fix" our condition would starve ourselves of the positive aspects of our nature and would make us slaves to the manifestations of our own creativity.

Simon 2023.

1 Oct 2021

Scotland and the Isle of Skye


Photos as follows;

1. Skye; Aird

2. Mallaig

3. Loch Sheil

4. Glenco

5.Loch Arkaig

6. Loch Lochy

7. Skye; Point of Sleat

Incredulous as it sounds, I'd never visited Scotland despite its close proximity to where I live. The lure of distant places tended to win out, over more familiar destinations. That being pre-Covid. Apres-Covid and its societal and worldly fissures, the nearer and familiar have accrued new meaning; nature has become of prime importance and an opportunity to interact with others, a new raison d'etre

Pleasantly surprised, you could say... I was naive about the extent of Scotland's wilderness and its Scandinavian-type beauty! When you wake in the morning to the Sun breaking through dark skies full of Cumulonimbus clouds atop high, rugged peaks punctuated by sprawling lochs I realised that Scotland was something special.

Then again, the Isle of Skye is something else. Part Celtic and part Scandinavian Skye's landscape ranges from Icelandic oddity to Irish-like, rugged coastlines and gently undulating land a la Yorkshire or Cumbria. Despite the hot, almost Mediterranean weather there remained a Northerly cold, suspended in the background, coming in off the sea. 

It was a relief to experience the slow pace of life at Skye. In many ways it probably hasn't changed much in a century, crofting, fishing, hospitality and the tourist industry are pretty much all I witnessed. Skye's remoteness and, contemporaneously its closeness and familiarity are cogent reminders of the UK's separation from continental Europe and its splay Northwards into the North sea, upwards towards Iceland and the Artic. 

Quiescence abounds throughout Skye. Sleat Point and its beautiful sandy cove, with views over the sea to Western Scotland and Mull, really encourage relaxation, a slow-paced mantra to a different way of life, much healthier both physically and mentally than the frenetic lifestyles of city dwellers. The air hits you with a strange purity, a tinge of Northern coldness infiltrated the Sun-warmed air and both the freshness of the countryside and the ocean were delightful! 

You can see why Paganism was the principle religion across the UK for centuries. When life is governed by the weather, nature and the seasons, when Aurora paints the night sky with light gods and goddesses of the Sun, Moon, sea, fauna and flora seem to make more sense. Surely these preoccupations are healthier than our current condition preoccupied with representations, artificiality, aloofness via new technologies and the worshipping of money? 

Whatever the philosophical, moral or scientific ramifications of multifarious lifestyles, exploring a land as evocative and unspoilt as Skye's is both fascinating and liberating. Indeed, Scotland, largely seen as an irrelevant wilderness and a distant drain on the economy by the ignorant and powerful at Westminster, offers an antidote to many of the problems we experience in our, hectic day-to-day lives. I feel the Orkney's calling! 

Simon Sept. 2021.

Simon Harris (the crescent) | Flickr

9 May 2021

New Photography 2021

It doesn't seem unreasonable to state that our attention is focused on nature today. I mean, a pandemic and its huge impact on our lives, fiscal anxiety post- 2009 and our ever-increasing immersion in new technologies, all lead to a perhaps, reticent acknowledgement that the intrinsic, healing powers of nature and our mistreatment of the natural world need urgent attention. Paradoxically, coerced into ever-decreasing circles where one of our few pleasures is to exercise in the countryside or in our gardens, healing and contemplation commence. I was never one to concentrate on ecological problems, conceding defeat to an exploitative Capitalist system in my youth. However, when a pandemic is running rampant over our globe even the most experienced or hard-hearted individuals are beginning to develop a new consciousness of our natural environment.It's no longer idealistic, naive or clunky to claim that environmental issues require our attention; it's no longer about a willingness to unquestionably swallow or dispute scientific hypotheticals or vague facts, it's about pragmatism and the evidence that's unfurled before our eyes. I'm not suggesting that people should disengage their capacity for critical thinking or withdraw from practical, commercial realities and the deep-rooted politics that colour our social interactions. 
But, it is time to address nature and acknowledge its necessity to both our existence and to our health.


26 Mar 2021

Usually Always by Fred Simon

Fred Simon's interesting approach to writing instrumentals, full of quirkiness and gentle ambiguities. Infused with Jazz, Pop and Classical influences, syncopated and engaging melodies meander over modulation, key changes effervesce with introspective drama resolving in joyful, structured conclusions. "Usually/Always" from 1988 certainly reflects the ambiguity of its title and for all its gentle and innocuous nature, it gives the intellect and emotions plenty of stimulation.

N.B. Please click on the "watch on Youtube" link on the video to listen. Thanks.


16 Jan 2021

Interesting Facebook Post


What is the realm of art?
And what is the realm of science?
Some feel these two realms are distinct from one another.
Others see overlap and interaction between the two.
Still others feel both are different expressions of the same deeper intention — human understanding.
My name is Patrick Olson. I’m the one behind the scenes.
I am embarking on a multiyear artistic journey, exploring the relationship between art and science through music, music videos and performance art.
I will give everything in an effort to create a memorable journey for you.
And now I want to ask you...
Will you be one of the first to join me?
Click the link below to find out if we’re aligned:

I found this unusual post on Facebook (you never know what you'll find these days) and couldn't resist responding as the artistic concerns are right at the heart of philosophy. It seems that the Facebook algorithm can actually get it right occasionally and post something on your feed that does reflect your interests! My response below...

The difference between the arts, religion and science is, intrinsically one of emphasis. Where it's interesting to debate differences between the principle methods of enquiry and their variable status, from a Western perspective it was the rediscovery of Greek texts during the Renaissance period that formed the basis of scientific emphasis rather than the arts. Mimesis, largely via Plato's musings but not invariably, lead to an idea that the arts were a method of comprehension via copying observations and gaining understanding/insight through this method. Philosophy that paved the way towards science was considered a better way of truly understanding the nature of things. The emphasis was on definition and palpable/measureable notions.
So, of course all areas of enquiry coalesce at some point(s) and shifts in emphasis are invariably arbitrary, at least up to a point which leads us to politics/ Politics which is something very different although some think of Politics as pragmatic enquiry.... And dogmatic definitions begin to fall away again....

20 Nov 2020



Nature is not a panacea. Covid-19 is a microscopic, parasitic plant and we are very much part of nature, with a tendency to segregate ourselves from the rest of nature perceptually and actually.

Nature is both curative and causative in context of pathology. Destroying our environment and treating it as a dumping ground results in destroying a vast array of potential treatments for illnesses. Furthermore, the destruction of the natural environment may well prove causative when we consider the severity and frequency of pandemics. 

When money is primary and commonsense, apparently arbitrary, where a mature, balanced approach to the natural environment is secondary, we may end up not just destroying fauna and flora, we may, ultimately destroy ourselves. 

Let's hope that commonsense prevails and we can learn to balance our creativity and invention with a respectful and wise comprehension of our natural world.

The above photographs "Devonian", "With Memories Intact", "Whispers" and "A Momentary Distraction" were all taken just after the first UK national lockdown, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic

Simon 2020.

Also on Flickr

25 Sept 2020

On "Tenet"

After lockdown and into a restricted near, but not as we are used to, normality the ambitious, cerebral, eclectic and sophisticated film Tenet was not what I expected. Sure, there are the familiar tropes of social-distancing and self-isolation that colour the film, particularly at the beginning but, these invariable necessities of our times, are soon lifted with the ensuing action, effects and multilayered plot that twists and turns and involves some intriguing concepts that are certainly fodder for culture-starved brains. 

Christopher Nolan's approach to film making is intrinsically Surrealistic and, as in Inception or Interstellar involves a Sci-Fi element or deals with scientific/technological themes in engaging and thought-provoking ways. What is engaging, from a Sci-Fi perspective is not the oddity of time reversal; run the film backwards and you've got an instant time-alteration/time-travel effect that is pretty much a standard technique in cinema; it's the kinetic reversal of objects within forward-traveling time and the multi-layering of forward traveling time with reverse time and their interaction that impresses so much. 

The film is labyrinthine, but this is its appeal rather than off-putting obfuscation. The film is very clever rather than a substandard film that constantly tries to inform the audience how clever its creators are. At times you get the impression that "Tenet" employs 3 or 4 "realities" all altered through time-alteration, juxtaposed and interacting with each other for, at times endearing or baffling moments. Despite at times, mind bending results, this complexity works, aided by action, mystery, character-development and intriguing effects. 

Whereas John David Washington's character, the Protagonist, seems rather aloof and his side-kick Robert Pattison's Neil is vaguely engaging but not bet much better, the 2 performances that really stand out are Kenneth Brannagh's Andrei Sator and Elizabeth Debicki's Kat. Brannagh's character is menacing and thoroughly despicable as a powerful, sadistic arms-dealer who is recieving arms from the future, he even manages to deliver convincing, moral ambiguity when he informs the Protagonist about his tortured past. Debicki's Kat is essentially a love interest for the Protagonist. However she plays a beautiful, intelligent and sophisticated art dealer, intrinsically emotionally tortured and controlled by Sator, with both sensitivity and intelligence. Her moments of vulnerability are evocative and at odds with her tall elegant presence, where she walks around like a femme-fatale for intellectuals. She too, despite her vulnerabilities proves to be morally ambiguous.

 Dimple Kapadia also impresses as Priya, an arms dealer who poses as the wife of an arms dealer! She is a little like the Oracle from the Matrix Trilogy, her conversations with the Protagonist give insights into the causation of the time-altering phenomena that they experience and the way ahead for Washington's character. Their reflections on Washington's direction to finding out what is causing this time-traveling phenomena and it's salience to the present, are symbolically reflections on the actor's role and the connection of theatre/cinema to real-life. This metaphoric duality and its interplay is explored throughout the film as an artistic aside to the ensuing sci-fi/spy drama and the character development of the protagonists!

If I've made Tenet sound very impressive then that was my intention and it certainly is. If you haven't seen it, watch out for a car chase in reverse-time and a gradually unfolding, labrythine visual narrative that takes you back to the beginnings of the film before you enter the absurd and audacious finale! 

However, Tenet isn't brilliant it's just really good. Excellent even, but not a classic Sci-Fi that will live in the public's imaginations for decades to come. It's difficult to pinpoint why that is when there's so much wonderful, awe-inspiring artistry unraveling before your eyes. However, I can think of a one or two reasons.

Firstly, Tenet is compromised by a lack of scale; thoroughly understandable in our restrictive times, but films such as the Matrix Trilogy and 2001 A Space Odyssey deliver the scale as well as the effects and thought-provoking cinema. Whereas beautiful locations were shot they were merely intriguing backdrops to action, a complex plot and stunning effects. A greater exploration of location and the scale of the films ambitions, to take in several continents could have been explored visually, in more impressive ways. Cultural ambiguities, contradictions and differences could have been explored in more detail and given more time for the camera to allow our senses to take in the marvelous and culturally distinct, locations that the film, only partially exploited. Some may argue that the film is already densely packed and convoluted enough without bringing disparate cultures and visual explorations of locations into play. They would have a decent point.

Secondly, and more intrinsic to the film, is the inability of the film to clearly communicate the relevance of the algorithm to the temporal distortions that are, apparently caused by its operation. Quite how does a computer program alter time? It's an interesting concept, but how a computer program achieves such an ambitious and fundamental alteration to reality/nature isn't explained. That would be fine if the film left such explanations to the imagination of the viewer, however because Nolan employs such scientific exactitude to his work I was left wondering why the link between AI and reality hadn't been established. 

Furthermore, explanations to other quasi scientific phenomena were silent. Just how did Sator's death not cause the end of the world. The filmic explanation by Kat after she killed Sator was that The Protagonist and Neil "found a way"! Maybe I missed something, after all the complexity of the film is at times, mind boggling, however the explanation did seem facetious to say the least. Lastly, I hungered for an explanation to the resolution of the climactic finale when a subterranean nuclear weapon was diffused by the breaking up of an algorithm. This resulted in a small explosion. Once again I may have missed some salient occurrence, however wouldn't an explosion set off the nuclear device? And how does diffusing a bomb by breaking up an algorithm cause an explosion? 

The very fact that I loved the film and I am left asking questions may, for some, be a clear indication of the film's artistic and intellectual potency. However, I think I may have found some important weaknesses to an otherwise wonderful film. The plot twist at the end where The Protagonist finds out that he developed the time-altering algorithm in the future to attempt to prevent World War 3 and employed the other characters to help him achieve this because of their individual skills, was a fun twist and made any flaws almost forgivable. 

After the trials and hardship of lockdown, the difficulties of self-isolation and the oddity of a pandemic, Tenet gives hope that the arts can survive and even flourish despite the invasive limitations that we all have to endure. Flying in the face of economic collapse and persistant anxiety about Covid and its potential spread, Nolan and Co. pursue an aesthetic dignity that appears to turn difficult phenomena into creative opportunity, delighting in a difficult yet accessible artistic work. I can't wait to see what Nolan and his team of collaborators dream up next. It may well turn out to be the classic, memorable, thought-provoking and accessible film that he so desires to create and, in my opinion, without doubt, can  achieve.


August/September 2020

25 Aug 2020


Sacrosanct, your space I mean the choices
we made 
an emblem of notoriety [post-post-post] Expressionism

the space between us became the screen [misanthropy]
before us that separates,
defines identity
inhibits integration [sensation]

further connects us.
Fleshed out like tropes, a facile [contagion]
reve, people threaten
the prospect of relationships

without mitigation, protection
words or images inflections, [suspension]
a symbiosis vicariously met
via the technology of breaking words. 

Images trash images [perceived]
trash images trash, propaganda rewrites
history, inflections misconceived as

politicize reality; a circumstance [compliant]
as a planned occurrence,
spaces contrived as measurable. [ritual]

A pandemic as a panacea?

Brief Notes on "Accoutrement".

I thought I would give some explanation to my intent when writing the above poem. It's informed by years of writing and reading experimental poetry and experimental poetry's links to other art-forms, such as photography, video, visual art, animation, other literary forms and performance, music and dance. The abstruse and imaginative nature of experimental writing can make for a difficult read, where comprehension is always challenged by sparse, conceptual connections and unfamiliar and, seemingly incongruous styles spliced together. 

Essentially and succinctly, "Accoutrement" is about lockdown and the continuing restrictions to our lives from the current pandemic. We were already immersed in communications via new technologies and I wondered, essentially, what the impact of greater immersion, together with social isolation and social distancing would be? My primary concern was the impact upon our perception of ourselves and reality. 

On a more societal perspective as opposed to an individual perspective and, indeed a global one, I had already noted the appetite for protest and pragmatism from the general public that was fed by communications via new technology. Peaceful protests can be destabilizing and anxiety-provoking, particularly when numerous, however the occurrence of violent protests and other violent events has seemed to increase ever since the new Millennium. Whereas this is a matter of intellectual and ideological concern it can also become a far more serious and immediate concern when protests and events become violent. 

The destabilizing and anxiety-provoking nature of the information age and the politicization of information are occurrences that concern me.

The Author.

25 Jul 2020

The Winter Wren's Song, Slowed Down, Reveals Breathtaking Details

Birdsong recorded and slowed down by Andrew Gallagher. 


29 Jun 2020

Dance for Diwali 2

More photos from Diwali celebrations 2019, featuring Aruna Kailey and her dance company performing a "dance-fusion" routine incorporating Belly Dance and Bollywood styles.



26 Apr 2020

Notes on 2019/2020

Essentially a reflective polemic this essay explores Brexit, accelerated change, new technologies and the Coronavirus pandemic. A meditation that is written in a diary-style format, common to Blogs, it is reactive to contemporaneous phenomena. It was both cathartic and salient to present occurrences in our current reality of unprecedented change. Towards the end of the essay a global, spiritual resolution is suggested.

It feels almost inconsequential, the ratio between change and time and its dramatic alteration. Arrette! Commence! Arrette! Commence!  We've probably reinvented the wheel several times in the last few years and all of it quite unnecessary, except from within the context of the reinvented wheel. If Solipsism was ever considered critical of the human condition, it would now be seen as a sign of (fake) progress, desirable, profitable, yet morally ambiguous and intellectually defunct.

My job, by which I mean my day job, my principle way of earning money, is a shallow representation of what it should be and what it once was. Now I have reached middle age this isn't particularly perturbing and it is congruous with the oddity of paid employment that many experience these days. A task as a simulacrum of a task maintains an odd validity when a secondary purpose of that task is to receive an income for doing it, however spurious that tasks usefulness may be.

What I am struggling with is the notion of "cloud computing". A while back all our hard drives disappeared and all our (great swathes) of (largely unnecessary) information are now stored on the Internet. Companies who own large mainframe computers sell space to other companies, so they can store information, often of a sensitive nature, on their computers, all linked via the Internet.

 I used to work with computers in the distant past, so I immediately brought up the risks of using this method of storage. Spyware, clever hackers, attacks by computer viruses, etc. Is our information really safe when its stored online?  I guess it depends what you mean by safe. In essence the idea is that if a criminal breaks into an office he can't actually make off with the hard drives of computers and access sensitive data. There is a more hyperreal and ambiguous concept, that is supposedly advantageous to data protection, that being that paper copies are not stored in the office. I'm intrigued. For how many decades, centuries have paper copies of documentation, sensitive or not, been stored in offices, even if only for a short period of time; perhaps as part of a task and on the completion of that task, the documents are destroyed.  Do we really think that staff wouldn't be able to tell if someone was an intruder and notice that they are sifting through paperwork or trying to make off with a filing cabinet or the hard drive of a PC? What is the likelihood of this scenario actually being acted out? Pretty damn low!  Does it justify the migration of data onto cloud computing environments and the risks that this entails?

Apart from the viruses, hackers, spyware and a myriad of ingenious ways that those with the skills and intent, can compromise the safety of data online, should we be trusting sensitive information with large corporate companies who hire our space on their computers? When things go wrong on the Internet, it can be on an industrial scale. With all that we hear about Russian collusion in US and UK elections, fake news, sophisticated scams, uninhibited developments in new technologies and the disorientating pace of change, shouldn't we be approaching new forms of data storage with caution rather than rushing at it, in a knee-jerk reaction to try to escape the threats of new legislation or to make ourselves more competitive?

Hypothetically, companies who hold our data could access it and sell it on for profit. We all know the case of Facebook, using Cambridge Analytica as an intermediate, selling sensitive, personal information about its users on to companies for statistical and advertising purposes. The mind boggles at the potential misuse of information.  The case against Facebook helped shape the new Information Governance laws, that threaten companies with six figure fines if they are caught with data breaches. Putting so much sensitive data into the hands of wealthy, powerful computing companies could prove very tempting to the unscrupulous to misuse that data in a variety of ways, to make huge profits at others expense.

These companies will mention secure storage, encryption and data protection laws to back their case to continue their lucrative services. I don't doubt that security measures are in place, but this is no guarantee that data isn't vulnerable to external hackers, nor does it protect the public, or even the companies from the vast temptations for profit-making for the unscrupulous. In increasingly Capitalist times when corruption is rife in Politics, the power of large corporations and their financial backing of political parties hasn't gone unnoticed by observers and a bewildered general public. Increasingly ring-fenced and in dealings with each other, political parties and big business make for uncomfortable bed-fellows.

The UK has been through its toughest time since the height of the last recession. The joke of Brexit has caused ideological splits, a panic stricken Parliament and much anxiety and uncertainty for the public. The ramifications can be felt well beyond the UK; Eire and Northern Ireland, Mainland Europe, the US and further afield have all weathered the contagious angst of crippling indecision and division. This bizarre Political and cultural stasis has resulted in a new Prime Minister with dubious morals, who is a serial liar, behaves like a dictator and is prone to extraordinary gaffs and irresponsible behaviour, being overwhelmingly trusted to deliver Brexit!  I've never experienced such absurdity in UK politics and, I guess this exhibits the depth of the problems that we have been facing ever since the Brexit vote was put to the electorate. Perhaps, most troubling of all is the absurd desire of our current Prime Minister for the UK to crash out of the European Union without a deal, despite the shortages of essential supplies and the imminent recession that this will incur?  And all this potential suffering will be justified by his insatiable, lust for power. Ultimately, the UK left with a deal in January 2000.

Stasis and change, altering perceptions of time and an interconnected, multicultural world all make for anxiety and uncertainty. It is no wonder that mental health problems have seen an increase, nor is it any wonder that immune-deficiency type disorders are also increasing in prevalence when we increasingly live in artificial environments. Quite where all this accelerated change will lead us is sometimes difficult to foresee. Maybe the humanoid robot Sophia can give us some insight into the ambitions of computer designers, IT engineers and the like?

Sophia is certainly unnerving, however her inventor Dr. David Hanson is really frightening with his visions of the future where Artificially Intelligent, humanoid robots may not wish to take over the world and destroy humanity, they may decide to help us solve our problems! How auspicious!

Whereas technology can be used to solve the problems it creates, it doesn't usually help us solve our existing problems. Dr. Hanson proposed that robots could help us solve the complex problems of the human race on ITV's This Morning program. Naivety can be endearing, other times it can be offensive and even dangerous.

The complexity of accelerated and multi-faceted change is made more difficult to cope with because of the accompanying emotions that we experience, in reaction to this phenomenon. The Covid-19 outbreak, essentially a new strain of Coronavirus, commonly associated with respiratory infections, exemplifies the enduring potency of human emotion and the how a lack of reason, knowledge, idea-generation or emotional maturity can result in panic. Emotions can be subtle, complex, ambiguous and kaleidoscopic, at times revealing the subtleties of human experience and perception and revealing the knowledge and intelligence of individuals. The arts are a great example of how emotional states can be multi-hued, ambiguous and complex, leading to reflection, thought-provocation, mental subtlety and insight. However, when there is no forethought, no reason, consideration or reflection potent, basic emotions, such as fear can lead to damaging and crippling panic.

The absurdity of panic buying, is both ridiculous and disturbing; an animalistic response an overriding emotion of fear, unchecked by reflection. Fueled by continuous news reports that sift out nearly everything else but Coronavirus, endless obsessing on Facebook and other "Social Media" websites and fake news scams that attempt to evoke even more destabilizing fear, the current vogue for epidemics of fear and suspicion, becomes comprehensible. The problem is, of course, new media; information overload. Particularly disturbing to me, is the fact that pseudo-medical terms such as "global pandemic" (literally "global, global epidemic") are treated as absolute yardsticks or indisputable facts and the immature lack of perspective or context that news providers promote. Obsessing on reports about Covid-19, viewing the phenomenon from numerous angles, without mentioning the existing viruses that are equally, if not more prevalent and infect similar, if not more people is irresponsible, to say the least.

Boris Johnson's daily Coronavirus public updates, where he laboriously waxes on "social isolation", "social distancing" and other, intrinsically unhealthy, practices push and pull us in various ways, towards a panicky conformity and then towards a more relaxed, we shall all be OK if you comply to my demands, eye-in-the-storm. Rumours of martial law are not necessarily fake news or scaremongering. Spain has seen their police force returning individuals to the perceived safety of staying indoors, when they dare to break the curfew and venture outside. Globally, the ease with which governments, in democratic cultures, can enforce their will upon the public, through force if deemed fit, is both illuminating and concerning.

Of course, as we have seen from Italy and China, Covid-19 is a strain of Coronavirus that can kill and has infected thousands of people worldwide. It is not unreasonable to take measures to protect the public, particularly the vulnerable, to attempt to reduce the spread of this virus. However, we need to retain a sense of perspective and reduce an overload of speculation, irrelevant information and even accurate information, that induces panic in the populace. The average, yearly Influenza death-rate in England is 17,000 and the current Coronavirus death-rate in the UK is 177 (at 21/03/2020). Perhaps this figure illustrates my point.

"Social Isolation" and "Social distancing" are, potentially damaging behaviours that should only be encouraged or enforced, when the risk of an epidemic justifies these behaviours. People with mental health problems, Dementia, disabilities and physical illnesses that already inhibit social interaction or physical mobility, could find these prescribed limitations particularly frustrating and, for some a deterioration in their existing condition may occur. Furthermore, the disruption that we are experiencing to society as a whole, economically, socially and recreationally are profound and don't come without a cost. Of course, medical practitioners will be aware of this, however they shouldn't let panic or a fear of potential legal action drive the course of their advice in to propositions that could cause more damage than the virus its self.

Nonetheless, there are positives to be taken from the current situation. The pandemic of Covid-19 has also resulted in a new found optimism, a willingness to co-operate with and help others and an awareness that humanity must alter its priorities or we may end up destroying ourselves or the Earth. It's fascinating that, in the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) is currently seen as an essential service that we must support and fund adequately. Usually the NHS is seen as a drain on resources, a political football where points can be scored with a weary electorate. Homelessness has been a serious problem in the UK for as long as I can remember. It is treated with fear and, by some with contempt, an inevitable consequence of High Capitalism or an unfortunate situation brought about by those who have no desire to take responsibility for their lives. Yet, because of the risk of increased rates of infection homeless individuals are currently being found accommodation in large numbers. It seems that money is being found to find solutions to problems that have been neglected for decades and even longer.

A vital lesson seems to be being learnt rapidly. If we want a better quality of life for all of us, then we need to look after the most vulnerable in our societies. The elite of our societies helping themselves to multi-million pound bonuses and huge wages while the most vulnerable in our society are forced to endure cutbacks to essential services and a reduction to benefits and a continually draconian, mean state, is a situation that is no longer a viable option.

Personally, I am sceptical about the phenomenon of, so called, global warming. It has become a symbol for overt moralizing and a variety of environmental or green issues that are not really understood, ill-thought out and communicated without giving any cohesive thought to practical solutions. The dynamic here is one of communication and panic, raising awareness rather than doing anything about a multitude of environmental problems. Nonetheless, we can't continue to treat the Earth as a dumping ground, ruin land through the use of fertilizers and other chemicals, incessantly destroy natural environments and push animal species to the brink of extinction and not face any consequences. The idea of putting huge profits for the few before the health of the planet we inhabit and rely upon for our existence, is obnoxious. Particularly unpalatable to me is the development of genetically modified (GM) crops. Why? I can almost hear people say. Put simply, the driver is huge wealth and power for those who own the rights to GM science. There is no need for any experimental, human intervention into the growing of crops, they grow well with existing methods so why take the risk of potential human illness and/or natural disaster? The answer is profiteering on an industrial scale. Some may argue that GM crops may help to feed an ever growing global, human population. This doesn't wash with me. The solution to having less children doesn't need spelling out.

Whatever the endless moral implications of potential cause and effect, whatever the tropes and rituals of governance and whatever the vicissitudes of comprehension, our global encounter with Covid-19 cries out for societal and global co-operation, emotional maturity and constructive reflection. Certainly, established religions, from whatever religious perspective, can nurture a more mature, disciplined and co-operative approach to crises and to everyday life. Whether Christian, Judaist, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindi, etc., established religions and practical philosophies emphasize self consciousness, where reflection on behaviour and thought can lead to greater moderation and maturity. This encourages integration, communication and a less fretful and frenetic response to difficulties.

Of course, religions are certainly not free from their problems and more secular routes to maturity, reflection and moderation are all around us. For example, meditation, relaxation, mindfulness, practical psychology, physical exercise, reason, problem solving, conversation and creativity. Very underrated and pivotal to comprehension in any useful, practical form is commonsense. The artificial nature of interaction via new technologies distances us from others and from our natural environment. Our perceptions become less accurate and more prone to be laced with shock and fear when information, sometimes deliberately misleading, is thrown at us incessantly. Commonsense is more difficult to apply when turbulence and flux are a continuing reality.

Pope calls for solidarity in Easter message amid virus lockdown
Pope Francis has called for solidarity across the world to confront the "epochal challenge" posed by the coronavirus pandemic, in his traditional Easter address on Sunday. Image and words www.aljazeera.com

It would not be unreasonable to state that the Coronavirus pandemic is, in part a result of the continuing greed and growth of High or Late Capitalism, since the global recession that started in 2009. To claim this was an absolute cause would be ridiculous, but it could realistically be seen as a contributing factor. From a UK perspective, it seems that we need to relearn the lessons of the Late-Victorian period, through to the early 20th Century, where reforms such as the sewage system in London and, consequentially other major cities through to the commencement of the NHS, improved the health of the populace, beyond measure. The wealthy benefited from these reforms because infectious diseases were less prevalent and therefore less likely to spread to them. Today we need to combat the systemic greed and crippling fear of financial collapse, since the 2009 recession, by funding essential services properly and, therefore we can all benefit, whichever power or wealth stratum you may consider yourself belonging to.

I am not a religious person, but the cohesive nature of religion and spiritual practice combined with the commonsensical and compassionate statements made by religious leaders, has a maturity and relevance that seems to be the antithesis of greed, swinging austerity measures, selfishness and societal dislocation. Furthermore, the compassion, at times selfless, in reaction to this crisis, by the general public, whether religious or secular, is inspiring and very hopeful. Beyond the tropes of power of the objective comprehensions of medical science, both as limiting as they can can be useful, humanity appears to instinctively exhibit both a rigorous understanding of vital leadership and natural comprehension of the potential causation and appropriate response to severe epidemics.

As if a pandemic wasn't enough to be coping with, the near-certainty of a global recession is looming on the horizon. The crippling austerity measures that would have to be implemented (on top of current austerity measures, often denied by Governments) could compound the severity of virus and it's contagious nature. If health and social care providers cannot contain the outbreak or provide support for those with other illnesses/disabilities and if people cannot afford proper nutrition or other rudiments of basic healthy lifestyles, then the pandemic could take hold again. If the virus cannot be contained then its spread will grow and develop.

Ultimately, the only reasonable and pragmatic solution to a global recession that risks a protracted pandemic and greater likelihood of recurrence, would be a global cancellation of debt accrued throughout the duration of Covid-19 within all countries. Anathema for Capitalists and Corporations who's priority is wealth creation and voracious competition with competitors, global debt cancellation actually aids all societies and helps them to regain economic activities without compromising the measures taken to contain the outbreak. Niaive? Perhaps. Unrealistic? Actually no. The question is; do we have the courage to show commonsense and compassion within our decision-making? By "we", of course I refer mainly to governments but also to business leaders and others in positions of power. In this instance pressure from the public may tip the scales, and result in debt cancellation. We should be reminded of the 2005 G8 summit where $40 billion of debt was written off for 18 impoverished countries. Public pressure certainly had a potent impact in influencing the outcome. As times have changed and the emerging economies have become major economic players on a global scale, and while power gradually transitions towards the East from the West, a global cancellation of debt for all countries affected by Covid-19 should be pursued. All countries whether they are considered developed, developing or undeveloped experience poverty, austerity-measures and a transition of wealth from the many towards an ever-shrinking elite. There's no doubt that there are nations who experience poverty to a far greater degree than the majority and there are countries that are already experiencing humanitarian crises or natural disasters. For countries such as these, financial aid and practical help should be offered in addition to debt cancellation, until they experience low incidence of Covid-19, low death rates and palpable economic recurrence. The measuring tool for debt cancellation for all countries should be the first date that Covid-19 was discovered and the end of the debt cancellation should coincide with either zero deaths by Covid-19 or a low and manageable incidence rate. At all times medical organisations, such as the WHO should advise due to their expertise and governments should not act without thorough consultation with these medical/health organisations.

In this way we can all, globally look forward to a brighter future where we can reduce the negative impacts of human behaviour on the Earth and on ourselves. If we do this then we have a greater chance of recovering from this pandemic much sooner and with less risk of recurrence and escalating incidence and death rates.

Flux is not the panacea it seems. From one perspective flux appears to be stasis and, from another stasis appears to be flux. When you are a passenger on a high speed train the passing land may appear to slow to near stillness. The problem here would be to disembark the train and to find that, what appeared to be stasis was rapidly changing. Alteration and fixity are not absolute and their conception is, to a degree illusory. Furthermore, sudden adaptation to low levels of stimulation from the experience of accelerated change can be as difficult to cope with as incessant change. The idea that speed of reaction to external stimuli equals safety is not dissimilar to being in a state of high alert, constantly. This is the raison-d'etre of High or Late Capitalism, the ever-increasing speed of change in reaction to your competitors and a world subsumed by information-overload. The apparent safety or reduction of risk is short lived and the impetus, societally is towards chaos.

As night shifts to day and the stars map out our futures and, vicariously our emotions, life ebbs and flows in familiar, reassuring ways. Here change appears to be stasis, alteration as peace. To conceive change as bad is cliched and arbitrary; change is invariable, it is the rate of change, our perception of it and our ability to have control over change, or accept we have no control that matters. If we can slow change that is potentially dangerous to us or our environment and provide change that is more positive for ourselves and the Earth then we can influence change in more mature and useful ways. The wisdom of maturity hampers quick-fix profiteering; the long-term ideas (think Horus surveying the land for the Pharaohs) will shelve greed for more sustainable and equal outcomes. If ever we needed a good reason to adopt more mature, wise and fairer approaches, then we certainly have one now. Sans Doute!

April 2020