strait edge


This awe-striking effect of cloud and sunlight seems to be a feature of Menai Strait, the narrow stretch of tidal water between the island of Anglesey (Ynys Môn) and the North Wales mainland. This photo (looking towards the mainland) was taken around midday in December last year. The cloud had banked so thickly it seemed we were heading into night. Over the previous days there had been horrendous winds that had torn across the island, ripping up trees and closing roads. And then quite suddenly the sun broke through – a moment of luminous tranquillity after all the storms.

Anglesey has a long and dramatic history extending back to at least the Neolithic. At the start of the Common Era it was also the stronghold of the Celtic peoples’ priestly caste, the Druids. These warrior mystics were slaughtered in a terrible battle by the army of the Roman Governor of Britain, Suetonius, which in 61/62 AD bore down on them across this Strait. You can read more about it in Island of Old Ghosts.

copyright 2014 Tish Farrell

Ailsa’s Travel Challenge: Edge for more edgy photo stories

Have i Got Moos for you




To my eye these Highland Cattle definitely have a frayed look. Their shaggy coats are of course designed to fend off the bitter rain-filled gales of their West of Scotland homeland. They are also one of Britain’s oldest breeds, and all-round tough guys. They are long-lived; they thrive on the poorest grazing, and cows produce  up to 15 calves in their lifetime. This sturdy durability also explains why the breed has been exported world-wide – even to the barren uplands of the Andes. This bunch, however, is having a very cushy life in Much Wenlock, both weather- and food-wise. It’s nice to come upon them on our walks around the town’s surrounding fields. You never know where they will be next, which is a cause of much a-moos-ement on the part of the Team Leader aka Graham, who has formed a deep affection for the great, hairy beasties. (We simple souls are easily pleased out here in the shires.)



For more info: The Highland Cattle Society


DP Photo Challenge: fray

Where’s my backpack challenge: orange

Yellow Peril? Some Cut and Thrust Tactics on Kenya’s Matatus

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Going down the Great Rift


Meet the matatu, one of Kenya’s 24,000 privately owned and operated mini-buses. They are the country’s main form of public transport, taking 12 million Kenyan commuters to and from work each day. It can often be a grit-your-teeth-and-hope-to-live-to-tell-the-tale form of transport. The decrepit state of some of the vehicles, reckless driving and overloading are  frequent causes of the country’s large numbers of road deaths.

Government attempts to regulate the industry regularly stall. But whatever their shortcomings, there is always a matatu to be had, and their fares are relatively affordable. They provide the only means for many traders to transport their goods to market.

In fact you could say that matatus are an example of free market enterprise at its most vibrant/rampant – depending on your stance. This is especially true in the country’s capital Nairobi, now home to 3 million souls and counting. The competition to secure key commuter routes across the unregulated urban sprawl can be cut throat. Matatu owners hire young men as drivers and touts, and since they earn a cut of the takings, the inclination to make the maximum return from every journey, and to beat competitors  to the queue of waiting passengers, can lead to hair-raising practices. ‘Undertaking’ or cutting up on inside lanes and pavements is a particular Kenyan driving style. When we lived in Nairobi there were also anguished  letters to the local press from matatu users, saying how they had been physically ‘kidnapped’ by touts, forcing them to ride a particular bus when the did not want to.

And not only that, when it rains, the fares go up.


Matatu stop in Westlands, Nairobi


These two photos of yellow matatus were taken in the late ‘90s and are bit old hat when it comes  to the exterior paintwork. But even back then many buses were mobile art galleries. In recent times a vehicle’s ‘look’  has become part and parcel of the competition war. Owners commission the hottest young graffiti artists to paint their matatus’ livery.  The expectation is that a well ‘pimped’ vehicle will up the takings. And this is the vibrant side of the matatu business. It is creating employment opportunities for educated and creative young Kenyans who finish school but cannot find work. They have a lot to say for themselves and considerable flair. Their style is increasingly sophisticated and western influenced. Go matatu spotting and you will soon grasp what is trending in popular culture and political opinion.



Then there is the loud music, especially hip hop. This is another ‘on board’ feature designed to attract and secure clientele. The touts say it brings in the beautiful girls and stylish guys, and is all about creating a cool atmosphere.  Needless to say, the Kenyan Government has also attempted to ban the music, but enforcement is another matter.

The intense competition for business has been taking the matatu in other directions. Over 1,000  Nairobi matatus have recently gone high-tech. Commuter journeys from the city suburbs can take up to 2 hours, so providing free wi-fi has been proving a significant draw. Vuma Online was launched last April by Kenya’s biggest telecom company, Safaricom. Now passengers can pass the time stuck in the capital’s notorious traffic jams on their smart phones – checking emails and watching the news. People with particular views of what goes on in African countries may be surprised at the particular sophistication of this commuter facility. They shouldn’t be. Kenya is the East African hub of telecoms interconnectivity. This is the country that has pioneered the M-Pesa mobile phone money transfer and micro-financing system that is now facilitating so many small businesses.

But enough from me. If you want a flavour of what city life is like for ordinary Kenyans, take a look at these two short films.

Ailsa’s Travel Theme for more yellow entries besides these that caught my eye:

Melissa Shaw-Smith

Travel Words

Figments of DuTchess


The Changing Palette

Photos by Emilio

The birds: who, where, when?


Evelyn Mary Ashford 1923-2013


Some time-travelling is definitely called for  to unravel the context of this photo. It was scanned from a tiny loose snap found inside in my Aunt Evelyn’s photo album. Frustratingly, there were no accompanying details. I am sure, though, that it is Evelyn. Also the girlish pose would suggest late teenage years. Since she lived in Cranleigh, Surrey, and nowhere near the sea, and as I’m assuming that working people did not go on holiday during war-time, my guess is that this photo was taken sometime before the summer of 1939.  There is no clue either as to location, or who the photographer might have been. There is only this frozen moment in time as Evelyn throws bread to the gulls, the paper it was wrapped  in pressed by the breeze across her knee.

Evelyn died this autumn at almost 90 and a half. She lived a good and creative life despite many set-backs. Somehow this striking shot of her amongst the wheeling birds captures much of her spirit.

For  more of Evelyn’s story see earlier posts:

Grand girl, great prospects…?

The Many Faces of Evelyn Mary Ashford

Eve trig 1

© 2013 Tish Farrell

For more birds:

Ailsa’s Travel Theme Birds


Zebra Designs and Destinations

Figments of a DuTchess

Postcards from home and away…

Edge of the Forest

Marvellous Multicoloured Maine


I read somewhere that most Americans, when asked, said they would like to live in Maine. I’m not surprised. This time last year we were setting off there with high hopes. We were not disappointed.  Our American cousins had given us the use of their magical beach house in Ocean Park, Old Orchard Beach. Later we would go to their farm in Richmond where they keep alpacas. So here’s a tribute to colourful Maine, and big thank you to Jan and Craig Wanggaard.

Travel theme: Multicoloured










Portland 10






Portland Headlight 3




The Farm 16

The Farm 6



And finally, a sea-faring ‘garden gnome’. When I posted this photo on my Face Book page, FB wanted to me to tag and say (quote) “who this person” was. Any guesses?