The luxury of height

28 04 2015

As an average sized guy I relish the opportunity to look over people. Feeling dwarfed pretty much whatever European country I travel to, including feeling like an ant in The Netherlands! Actually people are freakishly tall in Holland. Like they were fed a steady diet of Human Growth Hormone and stretched on a Medieval torture rack tall. My 5’8″/175cm is challenged by their insane height.

Yet when visiting the sprawling and deprived metropolis of Manila in the Philippines, height takes on a different meaning. Height abstracts you from the heat and dirt, unpleasant smells and removes you from those sights such as people sleeping under cardboard.

Height gives a feeling of luxury. Cast almost Godlike, these hotels of glass and steel tower above the middern. Five star luxury in a land of zero star poverty. Sipping my beer in the open air bar, listening to the cacophony of noise…it’s worlds apart,

My last visit to Manila gave me a clear view of the ‘Have’s’ and ‘Have Not’s’. Roughly one year later I would like to annouce that change is rapid and prevalent. Sadly that is not the case. Accosted by pimps and prostitutes, eyed up by thieves and with deperate looking children.begging for money – I dare not venture out of my luxury prison at night alone, although I would love to see the underbelly of this city.

Words jumped into my head during breakfast. A poetic moment of clarity.

Gazing out from the 21st floor, I thought :-  From great heights the poverty of mankind appears invisible

Never a truer word spoken.


Dystopian Distress

31 10 2014

Why are dystopian stories just so appealing to us? Why does the end of the world and society as we know it make for such appealing material?

From a tender age my reading thirst has been quenched by such classics as ‘1984’, ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and ‘Brave New World’. Marvelling in the post-apocalyptic depression and administered happiness that is painted by these stories, my world was shaped into one of suspicion and paranoia. For example what is the real motivation behind a government’s action? Take for example the recent Hungarian governments move to tax the Internet. A blatant attempt to supress the freedom of speech via a worldwide medium. It did not end well and hopefully will result in changes to the neo tyrannical leadership there.

Perhaps all of this is an effect of growing up in cold war Britian? Having leaflets pushed through the post box talking about ‘Protect and Survive‘ will affect an eight year old somewhat. Incidentally Protect and Survive was a UK civil defence leaflet that gave information on how to survive after a nuclear strike. Even now in the (recently) not so rosy post cold war glow. There is something very disturbing about an eight year old understanding how a house should be prepared and defended against an impending nuclear strike. Those memories tend to stick with you.

So back to my opening paragraph. Why is dystopia so appealing? Perhaps it’s reassurance that we have a good situation. I guess that depends upon your current location though. Perhaps dystopia reminds us about the fragility of society? Remember that we are ‘nine meals away from anarchy‘. That’s three days. Imagine you or your family not eating for three days? What would you do to secure food – beg, steal even kill?

Dystopia may be depressing but do we love it. Hell, watch ‘The Road’ but keeping any sharp objects away from your person. However I think that a dystopian awareness is extremely necessary in our society. When an author has envisioned (for example) monitoring of a populace gone too far by a right wing government…we need the memories of ‘1984’ to remind us of our freedom and rights.

“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.”
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”
George Orwell, 1984

Creed and Colour

12 09 2013

Why is it that I gravitate towards the proverbial den of iniquity? Finding myself with an evening to spare in a less than salubrious area of Oslo always invites opportunity.  In this particular instance I am sat outside a pub in quite a multicultural part of Oslo (Brugata). It is really interesting just to watch the different nationalities walk by here. There is a large Somalie group here, a very large group of Romany Gypsies around the corner and various other ragtag peoples.  What strikes me most is the world’s problems from yesterday are here. Somalia, Ethiopia, Romania, Iraq – the displaced need to go somewhere. What is more interesting is the amount of time that it takes for these poor folk to end up somewhere safe. We see the Syrian conflict on TV right now. Yet in one year we will see the human face of that tragedy.

So back to Two Dogs on Brugata. I think this place is a semi gay bar, catering for the female gender. Still it’s a welcoming place. Sitting outside watching the world go by, nursing a pint of Ringenes it allows you to contemplate upon things. 

How lucky are we? You, me, our friends and family. To live in place free of war, poverty and natural disasters. To be able to vote for a (relatively) honest politician.  To have support and assistance when we need it.

Yet still we moan and pule about how bad our life is. We still feel that others who look a little different to us don’t deserve the security that we are accustomed to. Turn the tables and imagine their lives. What horrors have they seen and experienced.

The right to live is a basic human need.

Walk a day in someone else’s shoes. You might learn something about yourself.

Documenting Syria

20 04 2013

Russell Chapman

I have spent a month in Syria looking at the war in order to understand why this war is happening. At the moment I am in the process of writing about my experience. I had the opportunity to talk to many people from political, military and humanitarian wings of the new Syrian opposition. My intention is to give as clear a description of what I found as possible. With that, I also took many photos of what I saw and they form a chronological record of my time in this fascinating country. After two years of war I find the people very resilient and resourceful. What really amazed me was the children, how they deal with the war really encapsulates the spirit and determination of this people.

I will be making exhibitions of my pictures from Syria that form a narrative to the human side of what is a very…

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340 Frames / 60 Seconds. A short fast London taxi ride

20 04 2013

17 02 2013

Surreal and wonderful

A New Life In Norway

firelplaceOn Friday night the Norwegian public television station NRK, broadcast a burning fireplace for 12 hours with firewood experts providing commentary, wood burning advice and poetry throughout the program.

The idea for the show came as a result of a firewood book called “Hel Ved” which means Strong Character in English.  This book has sold close to 130,000 copies in Norway (which is pretty high given the population is only 5M) with the publisher claiming that only “Fifty Shades of Grey” sold more copies.

“People in Norway have a spiritual relationship with fire” Rune Moeklebust, a producer for NRK said. “Fire is the reason we’re here, if there was no firewood, we couldn’t live in Norway, we’d freeze.”

It’s true, the Norwegians do seem to have passion for fire.  Most houses have open fires and during the winter months Norwegians go mad for candles.  They’re everywhere!  Outside coffee shops, inside homes and even in…

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Beauty in every step

25 10 2012

Have you ever taken a drive or walked a path and observed something that just made you feel alive ?

I often feel as I walk/drive/amble around these various parts of this watery rock we call Earth that beauty is all around us. It’s there, in every step, in every particle of light, in every step we take…there is a reason that makes you glad to be alive.

My case in point is this, a few days ago whilst walking into a Thai restaurant in Palm Bay, Florida my colleague walked across a patch of grass. As his foot lifted from the grass I saw the individual blades of grass lifting from the compression. I saw the differing shades of green from his impression. It screamed green at me whilst singing a symphony of colour to my eyes. It was profound and I likened it to what a drug induced experience would be like.

Let’s take an example – dirt. Dirt AKA soil, is a bad thing. If we or something is/are dirty it’s bad. Yet what does dirt give us; it gives us life, it gives us food, it’s products give us oxygen to breath. Therefore out of dirt (ugliness) we get life (beauty). Are the concepts of beauty and ugliness too abstract for us to cope with ?

Another example, have you ever looked at the clouds ? Looked at them and thought ‘That is amazing’. Looking at the stars, looking at the Autumn/Fall colours of leaves…the list is endless. Bringing a more human aspect into the equation, a kiss on the lips, a delicate hint of perfume, a guttural uncontrollable laugh from a child, a sparkle in the eyes of your lover. You get the picture.

Beauty is indeed an abstract term. A termed coined by advertisers and used to their own financial end. The fruitless search of the imperfection of perfection. Or is it a real term, that invades our lives every single day ? Beauty lurks in the most unlikely of places, it can be found everywhere.

I swear, what I saw outside that Thai restaurant was beauty. It was beauty whopping me upside the head, screaming at me like a full moon crazy. It’s all around us, we just have to open our eyes and look for it.

Dear Reader, promise me one thing ? Try to observe a solitary thing each day that makes your jaw drop. Something that makes your heart skip a beat.

Something that makes tears fill your eyes, simply because you are alive and have experienced it’s beauty.



noun, plural beau·ties.

1.the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).
2.a beautiful  person, especially a woman.
3.a beautiful  thing, as a work of art or a building.
4.Often, beauties. something that is beautiful  in nature or in some natural or artificial environment.
5. an individually pleasing or beautiful  quality; grace; charm: a vivid blue area that is the one real beauty of the painting.



adjective, ug·li·er, ug·li·est.

1.very unattractive or unpleasant to look at; offensive to the sense of beauty; displeasing in appearance.
2.disagreeable; unpleasant; objectionable: ugly tricks; ugly discords.
3.morally revolting: ugly crime.
4.threatening trouble or danger: ugly symptoms.
5.mean; hostile; quarrelsome: an ugly mood; an ugly frame of mind.

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