Easter Photo Fun 2015 – Week 2 – Symbol

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I thought the kids picked two great themes over the Easter holidays, firstly with Point and then with the theme of Symbol for the second week, a theme that was so open and of course you did not disappoint by sending in all sorts of interpretations.  When you think about it symbols are everywhere around us, guiding us on everything from finding our way around maps to the washing instructions in our smalls, there are totemic symbols of power and powerful symbols of peace or revolution.  As I’m writing this each letter is of course a symbol that combined provides us with our written word which is perhaps the most powerful symbol of all as it contains within it the passport to the combined weight of human knowledge.  Not bad for a collection of marks.

Huge thanks to everyone who contributed across the week and for taking part and playing along with our social photography themes, it really is appreciated.  Do click on the gallery so that you can flick through the photos as they were sent in and let us know which ones you liked.  Can you spot all the symbols?  We’ll be back for halftermphofofun in June before the big one over the summer if people still want to play along.

 

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Social media, a bit like the news or politicians gets a bad press – usually I think because we seem for some strange reason to be drawn to the negative in many things.  So social media when it hits the headlines is usually because of people using it to do bad things, rarely do you hear it as a force for good but that in my experience is very much what it is.  It enables you to spread ideas, entertain, inform, bring people together and coalesce them around an interest or idea.  That bringing together can be done virtually but it can also be a physical thing.  On the weekend Si Bradley (@_Si-Bradley) used that very concept and a simple hashtag to bring mountain bikers from around the country together, not to race or be competitive but to share, to meet, to socialise, to eat, to drink and to enjoy the simple pleasure that riding a bike off road can bring, irrespective of your skill or experience.

Myself, Rob (@chasinsheepMTB) and Brian (@oldstuntmonkey) left Leeds very early and got down to Llandegla for 9am to find scores of mountain bikers of every hue milling about and chatting doing that awkward thing of trying to introduce yourself to someone who may only know you via a twitter name …. i.e. hello I’m yetiridingdragon or whatever.  Amazingly the sun was out (I know it’s always sunny in Wales isn’t it) and with charity raffle tickets bought and a brew drunk with the mornings riding began.

Si had organised a great range of options for people to do if they wanted to or they could just do their own thing and people had kindly given up their time to pass on skills or lead rides.  Groups of riders headed out to ride the Blue, Red or Black runs, Craig (@P9ADV) ran a kids ride, Trail Takeover led a women’s ride, Chris (@CMJDavies) led an adventure photography workshop and I went on a skills session delivered by Steve from (@chasingtrails).  All of these people kindly gave up their time and skills for free.  Talking of free after the morning session the fab guys from Kirby Lonsdale brewery were handing out their specially produced Berm Basher beer.  Happy days indeed.

In the afternoon I headed out with Rob and Bri to have a crack at the red run and see if I could put my new found skills into action.  I was a tad nervous as I always am but I got round in a reasonably ok fashion I think.  Slowly my projectsnail confidence and skills are improving.  The beautiful day was finished with tea and cake provided by (@puremountains) and of course a bit more beer.

Could a day get any better ?  What I really liked about it was that there was none of the macho radness that can sometimes infect the MTB world, an attitude I detest.  The atmosphere was really chilled people rode, passed on skills, shared the trails and the tales and a good time was had by all.  Huge thanks must go to Si and all the helpers and sponsors for making it such a great day.  Si had even organised us a great campsite (Llyn Rhys Campsite) so we stayed over and rode the trails again on the Sunday before heading wearily and happily home.

So anyone who knocks twitter again – ignore the naysayers there are good people out there using social media to bring people together to share good times.

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Easter Photo Fun 2015 – Week 1 – Point

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Point has been the first theme for the two weeks of EasterPhotoFun set by the kids and as always you have sent in some lovely interpretations, some very obvious points others indicating low points for example.  I loved the railway point, knitting needles, ballet shoes, pens/pencils and must give a biased shout out to one of my kids for her photo of the picture frames that I thought was a really good interpretation.

However my fav was I think the photo of Verity, the mammoth 20m sculpture by Damien Hirst that looks over Ilfracombe harbour.  A pregnant woman, holding the scales of justice, standing on a pile of books and wielding a large sword.  This was the largest sculpture in Britain when it was put up in 2012.  I’ve never seen it in the flesh but standing higher than the Angel of the North this must be some sight.  Whenever I see things like this it always makes me angry that Leeds turned down the option to have our own massive brick man sculpture (before the Angel of the North) that was proposed by Anthony Gormley.  However Verity is surely the most perfect interpretation of point, not least of course from the sword in her hand but from the viewpoint that many people will have of this and other modern art when they ask what’s the point.

As always many thanks for all who have chipped in with your interpretations it’s been a really fun week.  Do click on the gallery and you can scroll through the pictures in the size they came in.  Do let us know which ones you liked.

The Mates Race

Saturday was the first mates race I’ve ever organised. Bloody fantastic fun :)

Roll back a couple of months, Kat and I are in our usual window seat at Laynes Expresso drinking coffee and talking about bikes.  We pondered the possibility of organising a mates race, getting some lasses together for a laugh on bikes…

We found a decent bit of trail to race on, kept the location quiet as it’s a public trail and we would be sharing it with other riders whilst we raced. 12 lasses turned up and rode/raced, we had a cracking quiet trail, sunshine and copious amounts of tea and cake.

Plan was simple, ride the route as many times as you wanted to practice then do two ‘official’ race runs, winners were announced from predetermined strava segments.

Prizes included 1st prize for fastest lap and most creative line choice… We made 1st place trophy then everyone who raced brought a £5 gift that was used as a spot prize.
To make things interesting the shop built up a kids bike from spares and that was used to race the track in the ‘most inappropriate bike’ category. Swooping down berms on a kids bike certainly caused alot of amusement.

After the unofficial prize-giving we retired to local pub for drinks and giggles.

Proper top day out riding bikes with mates.

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Lunchtime Ride (aka The Snail goes looking for wiggly hips)

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Plenty of people manage to pack in a bit of exercise during their lunchtime, fitness classes, gym session, run, swim or just get out and have a stroll about but it’s tricky to fit in a bit of mountain biking.  My working environment has changed to one of hot desking and home working at times and the other day I’d been out at meetings in the morning and found myself back home at lunchtime, so I grabbed the bike and headed to the woods for a blast about and a bit of practice.

I feel my riding is a bit weirdy inbetweeny at the moment, I know that I have improved and am not completely useless but at the same time my mind is full of demons, no confidence and still got a lot to work on skills wise.  Still that’s all part of the fun and I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of testing myself in my own small way and the search for my own personal flowy holy grail.

Recently out riding with Rob he said that I was unrecognisable from where I was a year ago (I hope he meant my riding :-)) but having the good fortune to ride with him and others it gives me lots of things to watch and think about working on.  One of the biggest I’ve been thinking about recently is that I’m a scaredy cat unconfident rider which translates to stiffness on the bike, knowing that you are stiff on the bike though and trying to get yourself to relax are two very different things but I’ve been thinking about hips recently.  I’m more robot than Elvis so I’ve been riding with Jack Black from school of rock in my head – “Loosey Goosey Baby, Loosey Goosey” and to try and point my belly button where I want to go as when relaxed my hips will turn.  There is a danger that I’m overthinking this of course but it was useful to spend an hour really trying to think and practice this approach.  A couple of times I definitely got it right and then of course as things got a bit quicker I saw the tree I was heading towards, stiffened up and grabbed the brakes.

Still it was a highly pleasurable way to spend an hours lunchtime and a great way to practice and enjoy my local woods (see photo at top) which are now starting to dry out so it means working from home will get a lot more fun over the summer.  Of course I don’t then have to think about changing when I get back to the house, just prop the bike up grab a brew and log back in, refreshed in mind and body.

The Wonders of Pygmalion

Recently I’ve figured that it’s beneficial to read books as double features (that’s what I call them in my pseudo-English) meaning two books of the same topic or topos but from different authors. My double features so far:

Michael Frayn, Copenhagen – Friedrich Dürrenmatt, The Physicists

George Orwell, 1984 – Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther – Ulrich Plenzdorf, Die neuen Leiden des jungen W.

Then I realised I had another potential DF on my shelves: George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and Educating Rita by Willy Russell. Shaw’s Pygmalion became famous as My Fair Lady and so a question sprang to my mind:

Why Pygmalion?

I googled it and came across one of the most fascinating little stories I’ve ever heard about. Ovid’s Metamorphoses tells us about a sculptor, Pygmalion, who despises women for their wickedness. He makes the sculpture of a woman so beautiful he falls in love with her. On Venus’ festival he asks of the goddess to give him a woman like the statue but Venus knows what Pygmalion really wants. Coming back home he kisses his sculpture and she turns into a real woman. (Pygmalion keeps testing her realness by repeatedly groping her breasts.) They get married and have a son.

Now isn’t that gender studies gold?! A man creates his own perfect woman and she is exactly what he wants her to be. It reminds me of this wonderful gothic novella, The Sandman (1816), by ETA Hoffmann. In it the male protagonist finds his nagging and self-determined wife to be a real pain in his behind. One day he catches sight of the most beautiful woman and falls for her. She never says a word, she’s patient, she’s gracious, and from time to time the sweetest sigh escapes her mouth. Turns out she’s a robot.

The whole thing works the other way around too, of course. In German there’s a saying according to which you can bake the man of your dreams (or Mr Right is yet to be baked in which case there’re baking sets available to bake oneself a man in a most literal sense).

Back to our Pygmalion. Shaw does what is a very plausible thing to do: in his play from 1913 he asks the question of what happens after the statue turns real. I mean, imagine this. Technically there’s a woman now with the knowledge and experience of a newborn. Shaw calls her Eliza (well, strictly speaking it was Johann Jakob Bodmer who did this in 1749), makes her a London flower girl and lets her ask Professor Higgins (Pygmalion) to teach her how to speak properly so she can work in a flower shop. The playwright makes it a story about gender and class and uses education as a vehicle for her emancipation – an emancipation he grants her in the play, but not in his epilogue. A love story between Higgins and Eliza would be utterly absurd, concludes Shaw: “Galatea [the name later given to Pygmalion’s sculpture] never does quite like Pygmalion: his relation to her is too godlike to be altogether agreeable.”

Willy Russell’s Educating Rita (1980) is familiar to many as a modern version of Pygmalion/My Fair Lady. Once again a male playwright tells us a story about a woman who wants more and once again it is about education and her relationship with her tutor. Frank educates Rita – and loses her.

This is not the place to analyse the plays in depth. You guys are smart enough to do it yourselves and I guarantee you there’s enough food for your thoughts to keep your minds busy in a fun and rewarding way for awhile.

I would, however, like to draw your attention to the fact that Pygmalion has inspired painters and sculptors alike to produce some great artwork. Edward Burne-Jones, a Pre-Raphaelite, painted a series of four pictures (click on the link for more information on them):

The Heart Desires

The Heart Desires

The Hand Refrains

The Hand Refrains

The Godhead Fires

The Godhead Fires

The Soul Attains

The Soul Attains

Last but not least I would like to tell you about the Pygmalion effect: an experiment showed that students performed better after their teachers had been told that their (actually average) students were particularly gifted.

Pygmalion, Pygmalion, you curious little thing you…

Psst! If you ever felt physically attracted to sculptures, you have Pygmalionism (aka Agalmatophilia).

The Dying Graves In Spring

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My jumping-jack cat has shown up. He used to be a part of my childhood and now he’s back again. Wearing 17th century Thirty Years’ War gear (or so I think), he looks rather special. The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) was so utterly horrific and dying so much more common than it always has been anyway that it was as fashionable to reflect on one’s own death as it is fashionable to dream of 15 minutes of fame nowadays (even though vanity was also a huge thing in the Baroque period). That memento mori has its place in Lent as Christians prepare for remembering the death of Christ. Curiously my walk took me to a cemetery today. It was sunny and I wanted to see the early flowers of spring. In other words: life. What do we love about these early spring flowers? They are the heralds of spring, of a beginning of a new life. They defy the final frosty days of winter, fight their way through frozen soil and layers of old leaves from last year’s autumn. In a world still dipped in shades of brown and grey they are a colourful delight to our eyes. Oh, how wonderful they looked today, in white, blue, purple and yellow! They were pure poetry. But their lives will be short – just like those of the people who lived during the Thirty Years’ War.

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The old parts of the cemetery date back to the 19th century. I’m a lover of 19th century art so this place has a lot to offer. Unfortunately, decay has been massive. Here it’s the graves which are dying and being buried by Mother Nature herself. What once was splendour is now reduced to rubble. These graves survived a war but not indifference. The spring flowers here are Nature’s oxymoron to Mankind’s crafts.

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I enter the hospital where I was treated for pneumonia a few days ago. I want to visit an old woman who I shared a room with. I find she is back to her home and nobody is able to tell me which one. A few days back, when I was caressing her cheeks and holding her hands she looked at me and smiled: “You are a good person. Hopefully we will meet in Heaven.”

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