Medina of Marrakesh


Medina of Marrakesh, Morocco a UNESCO world heritage site

This is one of my favourite photographs from the Team Leader’s, aka Graham’s long ago Africa overland trip. Even the clouds are conspiring to draw the viewer’s eye to the gateway. Click the link underneath the photo to find out more about this fascinating place.

DP Photo Challenge: converge

“Photos are visual spaces where shapes and lines, objects, and people come together.”

 Ailsa’s Travel Challenge: above

Thursday’s Special ~ Take Two Elephants


This week at Paula’s Thursday’s Special/Photo 101 the theme is ‘double’. I could have chosen several more striking close-ups of elephants and lions, but this shot is a double-take on double. I like that silhouette in the still pool. Also it is perhaps a more realistic view of how one most often sees wildlife on an East African safari: i.e. it’s usually too far away for a good photo, or else there’s a bush in the way. You can also drive round game parks for many hours and spot absolutely nothing – not even a bird.

This shot was taken from the terrace at the safari lodge in Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park, and such places can offer the best sightings, especially at dawn and sundown. Here you also get a good eyeful of Tsavo’s famously red earth. You can see, too, the web of game trails leading to the pool, and at the very top of the photo, part of the Yatta Plateau. This is a 180 mile long, single finger of lava that runs south east across Kenya from Thika near Nairobi.

Tsavo East  is a vast game reserve (4,500 square miles), mostly thorn scrub and much of it closed to visitors due to incursions by Somali bandits and poachers. Its elephant herds, however, are famous, though frequently under threat. For some truly fantastic images of them, accompanied by expert commentary please fly over to wildlife filmmaker, Mark Deeble’s blog. You will not be disappointed.

Dhow Dreaming ~ Lamu Angles


One Christmas, long ago, we went to Lamu, one of Kenya’s Indian Ocean islands. Our trip there was as peaceful as this image suggests, although the nearby mainland has long been preyed on by gangs of Somali Shifta. This then is an idyll with hidden angles, some of them tragic. But for now, please enjoy these Lamu dhows with their triangular lateen sails in this gentle display of synchronised sailing along the Manda Strait.

You could say that Swahili culture was born of the monsoon winds, from the human drive to trade and of prevailing weather. For two thousand years Arab merchants plied East Africa’s Indian Ocean shores, from Mogadishu (Somalia) to the mouth of the Limpopo River (Mozambique), arriving with the north easterly Kaskazi, departing on the south easterly Kusi. They came in great wooden cargo dhows, bringing dates, frankincense, wheat, dried fish, Persian chests, rugs, silks and jewels which they traded with Bantu farmers in exchange for the treasures of Africa: ivory, leopard skins, rhinoceros horn, ambergris, tortoise shell, mangrove poles and gold.

 copyright 2014 Tish Farrell Culture: The Swahili

See also: Christmas on Lamu: Views of a Swahili Community

Daily Post Photo Challenge: Angular

Origins of the Skyscraper: Historic Angles

100_3706 - Copy

This detail comes from a building, which believe it or not, was THE proto-type for all our high-rise buildings. It is Bage’s Flax Mill, the world’s first iron-framed building, constructed in Shrewsbury, in the English Midlands in 1797. As with much invention, it was driven by a series of disasters, specifically the conflagration of several timber-framed textile factories. Cotton and flax dust is highly combustible, and these early factories were candle lit. The losses to the owners were considerable  (never mind the damage to the workers).  Fire resistant buildings were what they wanted. The techniques of this iron-framed brick clad mill were further adapted in the rebuilding of Chicago after the great fire of 1871.

Shropshire Archives

For more on this and the grim story of the young flax mill workers who were employed here see my earlier post: Pattern for the Sky Scraper

 copyright 2014 Tish Farrell


Let’s Hear It For The Bees ~ Three Big Cheers


There are different kinds of achievement in this shot. The first is that I managed to capture it at all, teetering in a flower bed with my Kodak Easyshare. The sun was full on too so I could not see the camera screen. But by far the biggest achievement is the presence of three bumble bees all at once.

All over the world bee numbers have been declining. Swarms in the US have been especially hit. Over the last few decades many factors have played a part, including habitat erosion, lack of quality forage and disease. But in 2006 honey bee keepers began to report dramatic losses. It involved the deaths of whole hives and has been dubbed colony collapse disorder.

Environmentalists believe the cause to be the neonicotinoids in the new generation of pesticides. They want them banned until unbiased research proves otherwise. It is a sobering thought that without bees to pollinate fruit and vegetables, the US would be left with only three staples that do not require insect pollination: wheat, rice and corn.

To find out more, please visit Dear Kitty. Some Blog.  She has posted a good video that covers this topic. In the meantime, everyone needs to think about what they can do to encourage bees, including growing some bee-friendly plants. We also need to be prepared to pay a little more for organic produce, or to do what we can to grow our own food, WITHOUT chemicals.

This would be a real achievement – not only good for bees, but for us, the soil, and other wildlife besides.

copyright 2014 Tish Farrell





Thursday’s Special: Feeding the Birds on Dubai Creek


Following Paula’s lead in her Thursday’s Special slot, I’ve also found a bird photo to illustrate photo 101’s theme of ‘swarm’.  The mood here is  obviously very different from Paula’s dramatic shot; not so much suspenseful, more twilight tristesse.

copyright 2014 Tish Farrell

Treats and Treasures at Entertaining Elephants


There’s a story that the Duchess of Windsor once had a cushion with words that read: If you are bored with shopping, you are in the wrong shop. With this thought in mind, please step inside my own favourite shop – Entertaining Elephants 0f Church Stretton in the Shropshire Hills.

For the past two years this lovely little emporium of quality foodstuffs, grocery essentials and ethically made gifts and clothing has been run by Jo Bickerton. And before I go much further, I should declare an interest: Jo is my sister. Here she is in her domain. You can  be sure of a warm welcome if ever you visit. I also doubt you will leave the shop without buying something wonderful.




Just now there is an array of Christmas speciality foods, but you can also buy your basic groceries too: free range eggs, Wenlock Edge bacon, Pimhill organic porridge oats. As far as possible, all produce is organic, ethically sourced and fairly traded. Customers with food sensitivities are also catered for. Artisan foods, such as bread, soups and cheeses, are produced locally. The same goes for many of the craft items and artwork. Jo’s guiding principles are that whatever she sells must be well made and life-enhancing.





Upstairs there are more Christmas treats, and also Jo’s latest addition – a range of organic cotton and bamboo clothing.



The classically simple tunics, tops, and leggings can be dressed up with stunning recycled sari wraps and scarves, Turtle Doves lovely wrist warmers made from repurposed cashmere knitwear, and necklaces strung from Kazuri beads made in Kenya.



And in case you are wondering where the name Entertaining Elephants comes from, it was chosen by the shop’s previous owners, from Maurice Sendak’s lovely picture book Alligators All Around An Alphabet.




E is for Entertaining Elephants – every day, not just for Christmas. It’s worth coming to Shropshire just to visit.


Contact: The Old Barn . 43 High Street . Church Stretton . SY6 6BX


copyright 2014 Tish Farrell

Thursday’s Special: November Roses On My Kitchen Table


In response to Paula’s Thursday’s Special challenge, here are my late roses opening in the warmth of my kitchen. One petal has already fallen, the rest are soon to follow. But how blissful they smell (sorry I can’t provide a sniff link), and what a joy to pick roses in November even if they do last so briefly – indoors or out.

The greenery is Lemon Balm, a soothing herb for all occasions, and the apples are Coxes Pippins from the allotment. To my mind Coxes are the best apples ever, and totally wonderful in Tarte Tatin, which is a Sheinton Street speciality when He Who Leads is not having a fit of waistline watching.

And if you’ve not had Tarte Tatin, then you have a delight in store. It comprises whole or  halved, peeled and cored apples caramelized with vanilla, lemon juice, unsalted butter and sugar (enough apples to fill a pan in one layer). Then the pastry is laid on the top and tucked all round the fruit, and the lot baked in the oven. To serve, place a plate over the pan (carefully and using oven gloves) and turn out the Tarte. TA-RAAAH!  Have a warm evening everyone.

Seeking silence in the making of BBC Radio’s Soul Music: Remembrance


Out in the Shropshire fields below Wenlock Edge with Maggie Ayre, BBC Radio 4 Producer of Soul Music, and the Armistice Day 2014 edition A Shropshire Lad


So what is this all about? What has this writer to do with the making of a Radio 4 programme, broadcast today at 11.30 am? You  may well ask. It is one of those situations where one thing leads to another, and this in itself is apt, given the topic of the blog post that prompted my connection with the programme.

Last November I wrote a piece called  Songs from an Inland Sea: “On Wenlock Edge”.  It looked at the way the work of one artist can inspire the works of other artists. It was also about the place where I live, Wenlock Edge, the twenty miles of upflung fossil sea that features in the poems of A E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad.

This cycle of 63 ballad type poems, first published in 1896, has indeed inspired other works, in particular the music of composers Vaughan Williams  and George Butterworth. (You can hear excerpts of their works, and download a Guttenberg Press copy of A Shropshire Lad  on the link above.)


Tis time, I think by Wenlock town/The golden broom should blow…”  ASL XXXIX


Last spring Maggie Ayre contacted me, saying she had read my post and was struck by the connections I had made with the Shropshire landscape. She said she was researching a programme that would possibly feature George Butterworth’s  Rhapsody, an orchestral work that expands his song version of the Housman poem Loveliest of Trees. She wondered if I would like to take part in the programme should it go ahead. Struck by a fit of ‘writer’s recluse’, I replied rather doubtfully that I might.

Soul Music is a long-standing Radio 4 series. Each programme usually features one piece of music, its performance intercut with the stories of several people for whom the work has special resonance. Today’s broadcast has further meaning, one that touches all of us: it commemorates Armistice Day.

I have written elsewhere about A E Housman and George Butterworth – Quoting Creatively: the “Out of Africa” Connection – but today, on 11th November, the connections are war-specific. Many of the Housman poems relate to the loss of young men going to war, of promising youth cut short. Indeed, sales of the work took off because of this, first during the Boer War, which in 1901 claimed the life of Housman’s younger brother, Herbert, and again during World War 1 when copies went to the front with many a recruit. Butterworth was one of those recruits. In 1911-1912 he had set eleven of the poems to music, and in 1913 seen the premier of the Rhapsody at the Leeds Festival. But by August 1916 the composer was dead, just another of the millions of casualties of World War 1. He was killed at Pozières, on the Somme, aged 31, his creative promise cut off in its prime.


But back to Soul Music. I did not hear again from Maggie Ayre until the summer. Then in June, on a hot summer’s day, she came to my house in Much Wenlock and, since the rumble of traffic on Sheinton Street is ever intrusive, she suggested we drive up on to Wenlock Edge, and find a quiet spot to talk about Butterworth’s Rhapsody while looking out across the Shropshire landscape. It seemed a lovely idea.

And so began our pursuit of silence across the countryside – silence, that is, from traffic, aircraft, chain saws and farm machinery. Who would have thought it would be so hard? It was not even harvest time. We drove over and behind the Edge and into the valley you can see in the next photo. We walked along farm tracks, and up and down fields of wheat. It was very hot. Always there was the grind of something mechanical resounding off the hillsides. Of course there would have been plenty of rural noise in Housman’s day – the rattle of carts, shouts of many farm labourers, the blasting of limestone at Wenlock Edge’s great quarries, but by now our pursuit of quietness was beginning to emulate A Shropshire Lad’s most poignant theme: the longing for the unobtainable, “the land of lost content.”


Finally there was silence, apart that is from a buzzard’s call and the humming of bees, and so we sat down on the sun-baked ruts of a wheat field path, and Maggie put that big microphone near my nose and we began. By which time of course, my mind was in a whirl, and everything I’d thought to say dispersed to the four quarters. But in the end, enough was apparently said for Maggie’s purposes. (I should add that I was only one of several participants who include students from Bromsgrove School, where Housman was a pupil; they had recently been performing the Butterworth-Housman songs for a school concert.)

As we tramped back along the farm lane to the car, the quietness was broken by a bird singing in an ash tree. I think is was a robin. It stopped us in our tracks. We listened as it sang and sang. It was a moment of true remembrance: the notion of peace when the bombardment ceases. It is something we need to hang on to, and hang on to for dear life. It is the best and only reason why all European countries, or all humanity for that matter, should stand together, and stop pursuing pointless, ruinous, life-wasting conflicts.

copyright 2014 Tish Farrell


Not a Flanders poppy, but a wild poppy nonetheless, and quite extraordinarily it is flowering today, 11th November, in the field behind our house.

Remembering my own Great Uncle, Private Giles (Victor)  Rowles, who died at Gallipoli, aged 19 years and was buried at sea off Mudros Harbour in August 1915.  


Soul Music BBC Radio 4  A Shropshire Lad

The Housman Society