Old And New In Dubai


Here is the dhow harbour on Dubai Creek as seen from a water taxi. The photo itself is old, so I expect this vista may well have even higher high rises these days. The whole place was a building-site in the late ‘90s.

Dubai is of course the trading-tourist-business hub of the Middle East, if not the planet.  Given its position on the Persian Gulf, it is likely that its  trading past goes way back to prehistoric times. (Much still remains to be discovered beneath the desert sands that invaded the peninsula from the second millennium BCE).

There is little of great antiquity in the city now, although the dhows are of course successors of the fleets that traded down the African coast and across the Indian Ocean for the last two thousand years. The oldest surviving building is the Al Fahidi Fort  built in 1787. It now houses a fabulous small museum; or rather, the museum was created by excavating underneath the fort courtyard and was easy to miss when we were there. And if ever you are in Dubai – it should not be missed.


Throughout the 19th century it seems the Creek-side settlement was little more than a village with fishermen, pearl divers, passing Bedouin and Indian and Persian traders. But by the end of the century the ruler of Dubai, was having a grand house built for him: the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House is also a museum, its fabric, including the fine (air conditioning) wind towers immaculately restored.


And then of course there are the covered souks (gold, spices, perfume), although these are now probably quite out-done by the plethora of shop-till-you-drop designer shopping malls.




And then there is the Jumeirah Beach hotel (modest version) and the arish , a traditional summer house, complete with hessian wind tower as seen inside the Al Fahidi Fort:




And now an old-new, yet almost timeless scene:



Lens-Artists: Old & New Please visit Amy who set us this week’s challenge. As always she has some striking photographs to show us.

Zebra ~ One On Top Of Another?

park 11v

It’s rainy, grey and cold here in Wenlock this morning. But the weather people tell us this is only a temporary set-back and spring should resume tomorrow. In the meantime it seems a good excuse to return to the old Africa album for some equatorial warmth, although it has to be said East Africa can be extremely chilly too. (Not a lot of people know this).  Anyway here’s a snap taken on an unchilly day in Nairobi’s National Park,  city construction work and wildebeest in the background.

So: not so much a zebra crossing as a zebra pile-up.

Happy weekend one and all, however it comes.


Six Word Saturday

Square Tops #18

Beautiful Damascus streets, filmed over the days of Eid

Some heartening scenes from today’s Syria. Eva Bartlett is one of the few Western journalists who has made repeated visits to Syria over the past few years. Her reports are based on her first-hand experiences and her conversations and interviews with Syrian people.

In Gaza

As charming as these scenes are, I’ve had many tell me over the years, including recently, that holidays are tainted with massive sadness for those martyred and maimed by terrorists and in the fight against terrorism and to restore peace to Syria.

I always feel the need to note that these street scenes of tranquility would be impossible without the sacrifices of the Syrian army and allies, and that until the liberation last year of eastern Ghouta, and Yarmouk and surrounding areas, these streets were being constantly targeted by terrorist mortars and missiles, amounting to *at least* 10,000 civilians murdered in Damascus area alone, although I’ve heard higher estimates.

Related articles:

US-Backed Terrorism in Syria: A First-Hand Account of the Use of Mortars Against Civilians (September 2014)

University Hospital, Damascus: Meeting Victims of Western-backed Mortar and Rocket Terrorism (February 2015)

Terrorists’ Attack on Damascus Restaurant and Homes:…

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Columbine Clouds ~ The Wednesday Garden


As may have been gathered by those who come here often, a lot of cloud watching goes on at Number 31. Hours can drift by as we monitor movements above Wenlock Edge, the visual effects further enhanced by the false horizon created by the rising slope of Townsend Meadow. But then, with the full-on blooming of the columbines over the fence, I had the notion of cloud watching from a new perspective, one that involved some activity on my part.

It turned out to be a tad challenging on the knees, but I was pleased to have this bugs’-eye view of the flowers, and also to spot a tiny spider sheltering under the columbine canopy.

So many ways to avoid writing the magnum opus.


April’s Changing Seasons: Leaves, Lambs And A New MacMoo



We’ve had three seasons this April – spring, summer and winter, some frost, lots of cold wind, a week of barbeque weather, more wind (thank you Storm Hannah), but no April showers, or at least only a couple of days’ worth. And now spring is back and we have leaves – lots and lots in their best, shiniest, juiciest green. In the last ten days the Linden Walk has turned from this:


…to this:


Also this week we have a new Highland bull calf in the Cutlins meadow. This morning as we were lingering on the path watching him, an elderly Wenlockian passing with her West Highland terrier informed us that the proud mother is a Welsh champion. We agreed she certainly has a fine set of horns, but she doesn’t strike us as the sort of cow who would be much impressed by awards. While we were there she was anyway much engaged with a tree stump trying to relieve a very tenacious itch. Meanwhile young MacMoo was attempting to muscle in on the scene.








The magpie in the last shot looks to have found a handy source of nesting material.

And now a general Wenlock April round up.


The Changing Seasons

Pop over to Su’s for more changing seasons.

Topi In Oat Grass


After yesterday’s view of Mrs MacMoo’s lackadaisical look on the Cutlins, I’ve shifted continents for a different kind of ‘herbivore in hay’ shot. The topi is a large African antelope, much like a Coke’s Hartebeest, but with a darker chestnut coat and fetching plum coloured flushes on its haunches. It is also much given to posing on ant hills, a habit which endears it to wildlife snappers.

Males form temporary territories and in the rutting season they joust with rivals by dropping to their knees and locking horns. Groups of females then move in to mate with the males who hold the most central (and thus safest) territories within the herd’s grazing ground. It seems likely, then, that the male topi’s ‘king of the castle’ act is as much about ‘don’t I look big on this hillock’ as keeping an eye out for predatory lions, hyenas and wild dogs.

The photos were taken on the plains of a Maasai group-owned ranch outside the Maasai Mara National Park.


Spiky Squares Join Becky here for this year’s March Squares challenge.

Pursuing The Light In Wenlock Priory


On Saturday the weather gods handed down sunshine and stillness, and so after lunch I spent an hour wandering round our local ruins, trying to catch the best of the light. We take them for granted, of course, these ruins. They are practically on our doorstep, a few minutes walk past the Linden Field and down the Cutlins where the sheep are presently grazing. Even before you get there you can glimpse the ragged elevations of the 13th century priory church through the Corsican pines, the old sandstone with its strange quality of luminosity, no matter the weather.

The ornate Norman arches you can see in the header photo date from c1145 (I’m standing in what was once the cloister to take the photo) and this is the entrance to the Chapter House, the monks’ meeting room. The building to the immediate right, is now a private house, long known as The Abbey, but once containing the monks’ infirmary and dormitory. You can also glimpse the rooftops of the later and very grand Prior’s Lodgings beyond it (late 1400s). (You can see more about them at Going behind the scenes at Wenlock Abbey.)

The less imposing doorway to the left of the archways leads to the library. This is not the original entrance but was added after the Dissolution when the priory remains were used as farm buildings. Above it soars the remains of the south transept, once part of one of the most imposing monastic edifices in all Europe. It’s hard to imagine the full scale of it now. Not only did Henry VIII’s dissolving crew do a good job in 1540, but the good citizens of Wenlock were quick to repurpose all that well cut stone. Most of the oldest houses in the town doubtless have some monastic stonework in them somewhere.



This view from St. Michael’s Chapel (the Prior’s private place of worship) shows the southern edge of the church nave. The church originally extended to the far wall just in front of the trees (107 metres/350 feet). The stone stumps are the remains of gigantic columns, a matching arcade to the north side (out of shot). The remains to the right of the columns belong to the south transept. See next photo.


St. Michael’s Chapel right, south transept centre, north transept left. And still it is hard to grasp the original scale of the place. The roof of the nave would have risen way above the south transept, the church forty years in the building.

But now I’ve lingered too long. The shadows are gathering. My presence here feels like intrusion. Time to head home.


copyright 2018 Tish Farrell


More about the priory’s history in an earlier post HERE. And for an account of Henry James’ visit to The Abbey see When Henry James Came to Wenlock.


Lens-Artists: Doorways  This week Tina gives us doors and doorways as the Lens-Artists’ theme. Please pop over to see her ever impressive work, and don’t forget to visit the other Lens-Artists.

Time For The Big Leaf Harvest ~ The Gardener’s Gold


For the last week I’ve been out and about on woodland paths scooping up fallen leaves into big blue IKEA shopping sacks. This pursuit invites worried stares from passing dog walkers and the ingress of nosy dog noses into my bags of gatherings – presumably in hopes that I’ve also raked up decomposing animal parts, or at the very least, an interesting stick.

Two days ago, by such devices, I was nearly able to kidnap a very nice cockapoo, and after my exchange with its human companion, I rather wished I had. ‘They are lovely dogs,’ I say to the man as he closes in on me. ‘I wouldn’t know,’ he says dismissively. ‘All I know is it needs a lot of exercise.’ Well, I thought, such disgruntlement in the face of this good-hearted, intelligent canine whose cappuccino coloured face I am presently clutching (come home with me little woolly dog). I decided he must have been dragooned into enforced dog walking by a wife at work, or an aged mother-in-law – how else could one explain such sour reactions.

But back to the leaves. When I’ve filled two bags I haul them down the footpath to the allotment where I tip them into wire silos. After that it’s a question of waiting for them to rot down into leaf mould. Usually this takes about two years if you want dark crumbly loam. The process can be speeded up by shredding the leaves first, hence my collecting them on paths where people walk and mash them up. Oak, beech and hornbeam leaves are said to make the best leaf mould since they break down well. It also helps to turn the pile now and then and give it a watering if it looks like drying out.

There’s not much nutrient content in the finished product, but it helps retain moisture and is brilliant as a general soil conditioner, to pile round the roots of cane fruit and for mixing into potting compost. Last year I was also glad to use the half-rotted stuff as a mulch to stop the vegetables from baking in the heat wave. In this state, too, it can be used to cover bare earth over the winter. Always a good move if you want to encourage worm activity as every gardener does.

But obviously the best part about the leaves just now is their magnificent glow. At half past four yesterday as I left the allotment it was already heading into dusk, but the bird cherry was lighting up the place like a torch. And further along on the field path a beech hedge was floodlighting its garden. What a show. I took its photo, while making a note to return when all the leaves had fallen off. So much treasure for the taking.


copyright 2018 Tish Farrell


By the Grace of God Nursery

Welcome to gardening Kenyan-style – a plant and tree nursery in Embu on the foothills of Mount Kenya – and a visit there by blogging chum, Dr Ian Cross who is currently volunteering his expertise in that town after a gruelling stint at a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh:

Have Stethoscope, Will Travel

Albert and his son, Samwell, run a plant nursery about a kilometre away from my home in Spring Valley Road. One of my colleagues had bought a plant here last month and another colleague wanted to know if she could buy a basil plant. “It is good for making tea to treat respiratory infections,” she said. They asked me if I wanted to accompany them on a visit to the nursery and I gladly accepted.

The dirt roads around Embu have been a quagmire for the past month but we have not had any heavy rain for two days and the mud has dried out. We found Albert using a scalpel to whittle away at a shoot of a macadamia plant. He slotted it into a “V” shaped notch in the top of a sapling which was also a macadamia, but a different variety. Then he bandaged the two together…

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Forgotten heroes of the First World War

I am reblogging this post from Historic England’s Heritage Calling blog. A matter of necessity I believe. The service of thousands of non-white personnel, who provided essential labour and more during World War 1, more often than not went unregarded and unrewarded. In East Africa alone 50,000 conscripted African porters of the Carrier Corps lost their lives. Many families who had waved goodbye to their sons never heard of them again, or received their pay, or compensation, or even a thank you from the British Army. That is one story. Here are many others – of the Chinese Labour Corps in particular:

Heritage Calling

The Labour Corps of the First World War comprised mostly of a now largely forgotten multi-ethnic army of tens of thousands of workers (along with British servicemen unfit to fight), without whose manpower the war would have ground to a halt.

These unarmed non-combatants, working under military control, carried out crucial tasks behind the lines on the Western Front and in other theatres of war – building and repairing docks, roads, railways and airfields, manning ports, stores and ammunition depots, unloading ships and trains, digging trenches and constructing camps.

SANLC men round a brazier at their camp SANLC men round a brazier at their camp, Dannes, France, March 1917. © IWM Q4880.

After the Armistice, the Corps undertook the dangerous and difficult work on former battlefields clearing live ordnance and exhuming bodies – reburying them in the great military cemeteries of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

Despite their vital contribution (including the Chinese, Indians and South Africans, many of whom…

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