Just before Christmas last year, I found out that I was going to have a month’s leave prior to this Easter. With Christmas over, I began to consider what to do with myself during this time off. My children would still be studying and my wife was unlikely to leave them alone for the whole time; perhaps this would be a chance for me to do ‘something significant’ – something that only I would want to do – but what? On a trip to Perth, Australia, between Christmas and New Year, the answer came to me. I’d hired a bicycle for the day and cycled from the city:
to the beach at Fremantle and back again.
It was ‘only’ 40 miles, or so, it took me most of the day and I ached afterwards. However, I’d enjoyed myself so much that I determined on the ride that my ‘something significant’ for my month’s leave would be to cycle from one end of Great Britain to the other – commonly known as ‘Lands End to John O’Groats’, ‘LEJOG’, or ‘The End to End’ . My ‘End to End’ would only require me to cycle approximately double my Perth day’s cycling distance and maintain that for 16 days continuously. OK, it would be during the months of ‘Windy March’ and ‘Showery April’ in UK (not the glorious sunshine of this Western Australian day) but, with 3 months to train and prepare for it, how difficult could that possibly be?……………………..…what a great idea……………………………………………!!!!
If you are ever stuck for something to do on a winter’s wednesday evening in Hong Kong, I can highly recommend a visit to the Happy Valley race track. For a very nominal entrance fee to the track-side public enclosure, you get an evening of fabulous atmosphere, great horse racing and the excitement of perhaps winning on a small wager.
Continuing my series of disparaging blogs about the youth of today, here we have another photo illustrating the interminable, wasted hours spent by this section of society in front of computer screens, playing worthless, war-and-sexually-centric games. I mean, look at this girl; she’s dressed up in a rubber suit, wearing tight belts, straps and all manner of other weird appendages and she’s even inside a World War II US Army Transport Ship, sunk by a Japanese torpedo attack in 1942 – talk about taking it to extremes and getting totally immersed in the fantasy!
The USAT Liberty was carrying railway and rubber supplies from Australia to the Philippines when she was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-166 near the Lombok Strait on 11th January 1942. Taken in tow by the US destroyer Paul Jones and the Dutch destroyer Van Ghent, she was making her way to the Balinese port of Singaraja when her damage overwhelmed her and she was beached near Tulamben in order to salvage her stores. She remained on the beach there until 1963 when the nearby volcano, Mt Agung, erupted. The tremors associated with the eruption caused this 13000 ton, 125 metre-long wreck to slip off the pebbled, sloping shore and back into the water, finally coming to rest on a sand bottom some 150 meters away.
I’d read a lot about the fantastic diving at this site so forced the rest of the family up at 0445 to make the 1 hour drive there and get in the water before the projected ‘hordes’ arrived. Although we were in the water before 0700, we still shared the site with almost a dozen other divers and all the resident large shoals of fish had already left for the day. The ship lies in about 6-30m of water and we managed to explore most of it in our 40+ minute dive, despite a stiff current picking up about halfway around the wreck. The dive was good, don’t get me wrong, but having read such glowing reports on the site, I have to say I exited the water a little underwhelmed on this occasion – but therein lies the beauty of scuba diving; the ocean is not a zoo and you never know what you are going to see from one dive to the next.
I was also initially a little underwhelmed on this dive by the performance of my newly acquired (but second-hand) GoPro Hero 2 camera. Of the 50+ photos that I took on the dive, this is by far and away the best one, but at the same time it is only just about acceptable for me to post as a photo. Again, perhaps I’m being a little harsh; I bought this small, easily handled unit for about £100 and it has provided me with an image to remember the day by – and it recorded that image under the most extreme conditions – we’re about 25m underwater here; there’s a huge amount of external pressure and very little light. Even the light that there is has had its colour composition markedly altered by water attenuation. In the water at the same time as us was a guy carrying an incredibly unwieldy camera and strobe-light combination, costing many thousands of pounds. He struggled to get in and out of the water through the breaking surf on the beach and was comparatively unmaneuverable underwater. He certainly didn’t follow us through some of the smaller ‘passages’ in the wreck that we swam through. Although I never got to see how good his photos were, I wonder whether they provided him a better memory of his day!
Having been a little remiss in my blogging recently, I thought I’d start catching up with a mini series on ‘the youth of today’. With a daughter passing into adulthood over the last couple of weeks, this series of photos will try to showcase, in a far more positive light than is what popularly portrayed in the press, just what some of the youngsters of today are getting up to.
The first photo is a composite image of a try being scored in a ladies under-20 rugby match. Click on the image to view it in a larger size and pick out the detail. On display here is athleticism, determination, bravery, teamwork and skill. There’s not a single computer screen, alco-pop, or drug to be seen! All these young women played this game in a fantastic spirit, with a very good standard of technique and, when they left the field at the end of the game, smiles and laughter were mixed, quite literally, with blood, sweat and tears. Hats off to them all !!
Continuing with my new-found ability to produce this type of composite image, here’s one of a high jump into the River Li in the Yangshuo region of China’s Guangxi Province. The jump was the ‘reward’ for completing the rock climb up the small cliff on the left side of the photo. We spent a morning of this ‘deep water solo-ing’ along the cliffs bordering this stretch of river and came away with deep cuts in our fingers, sore muscles in our forearms, much water up our nostrils and broad smiles on our faces!
Although now retired, Sergei Bubka remains undoubtedly the greatest pole vaulter of all time. In the 10 years between 1984 and 1994 he broke the World Record an incredible 35 times – almost always by as little as 1cm at a time and, just as reliably, only at athletics meetings when there was prize money on offer for doing so. His indoor and outdoor highest jumps, set in 1993 and 1994, still remain World Records today – nobody has yet even come within 14 cms of these marks. Off hand I can’t think of a more dominant athlete in any individual sporting event, or any other individual able to perform at a level so far ahead of his peers for so long.
So, in answer to the question posed in my title, I don’t think he’d be the slightest bit worried about his records falling to the individual in the photo!
The photos were taken just over a month ago on a holiday to China – the river is the ‘Yulong’ in the area of Yangshuo in Guangxi Province. It has taken me weeks of research, hours spent practising and trying to figure out how to make it work and then more than a dozen attempts to create this single image from multiple ones taken during this afternoon of ‘mucking about on the river’. Not quite Bubka dedication levels of dedication then!!
Whilst this has all helped me learn more about Photoshop and the incredible abilities of that program, it has also re-enforced the notion of how fast technology progresses – the ability to produce an image like this in a single button press now exists on a mobile phone – amazing!
This is one of 8 tries scored by the British and Irish Lions in their 59-8 win over the Barbarians at the Hong Kong Stadium on Saturday evening. In the most awful conditions of heat and humidity; playing a top class, highly physical sport at this level of commitment was impressive to behold. Fingers crossed that this first game of their tour to Australia augers well for success in the crucial 3 test matches.