Thursday, 31 March 2011

Interesting research or a waste of time?

For any of lovers of the weird and wonderful world we live in, have a peep at this video. It's from a show called 'Ants: Nature's Secret Power' and illuminates us as to what exactly does go on under our feet in the in a ant colony.

Relative to their size, these ants have created miles and miles of twists and turns, tunnels and chambers. To exposed this intricate city, the scientists had to pour ten tonnes of concrete down into the earth for four days, and then wait over a month before they could start digging the soil away around it. It completely blows my mind how something we would consider so insignificant as an ant, could form an army to create such a thing.

Now, as well as being interesting in itself, the comments that went along with this video on the website I found it discuss the bigger picture to this project. It seems this has triggered debates concerning the existence of God vs. mother nature, evolution and creationism, unnecessary cruelty or research in the name of science.

A few of the comments did in fact point out the ant hill was abandoned before it was pumped full of concrete. I'm sure they wouldn't mercilessly flood them out!

And what do you think? A waste of time? An incredible discovery? Proof of a designer or just a statement of evolution?

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A Good Cause

Those of you with generous hearts should be aware that my darling brother and another close friend of mine are running the London Marathon in aid of Baby Lifeline on April 17th.

The charity is more or less self-explanatory in it's name - a much needed life line for babies and mothers.

To donate, go to either (or preferably both...) of these pages below:

Next time you travelling a long distance with a SatNav, sit there and see how long it takes you to drive 26.2 miles. Then, think of these poor fellows running it all.

After that, imagine the physical and emotional pain relieved by the work that Baby Lifeline does; pain much more than myself, James, or Mikey could ever comprehend.

On that note, give 'em some dosh! Call it your good deed for the day.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Mapping out the future

For all those fellow travellers out there stuck at home, if you don't have maps in your life already, get some. I find them the most therapeutic way to look forward to all those places I have yet to discover.

If you're looking for a beautiful map to be proud of for you home, I fully recommend The Future Mapping Company. Sleek, shiny, clear and huge, the map below adorns my wall. It has taken me a number of years to pluck up the courage to mark out the places I had been, for fear of piercing it's stunning exterior. However, with the help of some skinny map pins I came across, it has now been littered (show off) with my visited locations. I stare up at it before I go to bed, so I'm fully focused. Whilst I'm proud of all the places I've been, looking up at this reminds me of all the places I am yet to go.

I also have a little map pinned up on my desk at work, just for those moments where I think my work will never end.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

I'm not gunna lie to you, Wales is crackin'

A few weekends ago on a Friday afternoon, I made the long journey to a little town called Porthcawl, just outside Cardiff. I've been to Wales a handful of times in my life, including an sixth form outdoor weekend that I loathed to attend at the time, and now wish I had been more enthusiastic about it all; oh how I've changed.

Wales has since become my happy place; visiting my friends there has always brought me peace, no matter what's going back home. This weekend was no exception. Not the kind of people to party away their bank accounts, having just married last year and looking to build a life independently, Katie and Rhod (guess who's Welsh...) had created a  perfect getaway space for me to escape to from time to time.

I have known Katie since I was seven, terrifyingly enough. So myself and Judy, another friend from school, tootled down the M5 for some good wholesome fun. On our first day, we took a breathtaking walk along the Southerndown for a long awaited chat. We were incredibly lucky with the weather; it felt like a beautiful spring day. This clearly meant the next stop was to dip our feet in the close by sea. (I think it's some kind of law that you need to get your toes wet if you're from the Midlands and find yourself near the sea.)

Next, a spot of high tea at Ogmore Tea Rooms, which is essentially someone's house with a converted front room. It was particularly busy when we arrived, so we were instructed to sit at the kitchen table. A little strange, but very accomodating and fantastic value. I had a sneaky view into the kitchen to watch a busy chef prepare some delicious home-cooked food; everything you could want from a tea room was present. Two crumpets, a piece of lemon drizzle cake and a whole pot of earl grey tea later, I was in a contented haze.

To top off our day, Katie had no choice but to take us to Barry Island and I found myself on an unofficial guided tour of the set of Gavin & Stacey. For those of you not familiar with it, it is British culture through and through; a must watch. For those of you who are,  I purchased a tea towel from Nessa's arcade emblazoned with 'I'm not gunna lie to you, Barry Island's crackin'', and was obliged to proclaim 'Oh!' in the very spot Ruth Jones did. Needless to say, Katie was fairly ashamed of me.

On the Sunday, Katie and Rhod attend their church in Porthcawl, Grace Commuinity. As many of my friends know, my religious beliefs are ambiguous. However, I thought if I'm happy to attend a temple on top of a hill in India, I should have no qualms with going to church in Wales. I wanted to experience something so close to the hearts of Katie and Rhod, a good enough reason to go I think. And, it was a much more enjoyable than the hangover I usually feel on a Sunday morning.

I used to attend church back home, so I knew what to expect, and I have to say it was a nice experience. It is a relatively new church without a building of their own; they use a sixth form centre at the local school. Even though I have no personal ties with Christinity, it was interesting to see how this small community of people are full of hope to build and expand, and I even felt a shiver of excitement for them as it clearly bought so much joy to their lives.

On a side note, I found this interesting article this morning about incense in churches (of course not used in the Church of England, more of a Catholic ritual). Maybe I'll start attanding more for incense's psychadelic influences...

Breathing in the fresh air of Wales, regardless of attending church, invigorates me. The connection I have with this part of Britain will always keep it as a place of refuge and to discover the great outdoors. I will always thank my friend Katie for moving there.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Like like like.

What more can I say? I StumbledUpon today and I think I've found my safe haven.

They probably have all I could possibly want from a website; dabbling in everything from architecture to graffiti, handmade art to a whole section dedicated to funky packaging.

The first page I came across showed a photography portfolio of incredibly dapper looking bearded men taken by a photographer named Dave Mead. Businessmen, fisherman, yodelers, shepherds, country folk and matadors. All with fine faces of hair styled to perfection.

If Stumble had an "I friggin' love it" button, it would surely be pressed.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

And another thing...

Just a little additional post to my Are we all copycats? one a few days ago. Found this picture/quote whilst I was trawling the internet yesterday and it demonstrates my point much more clearly than I could...

Apologies for the size but I'd like to see you try and read it otherwise.

I think it effectively explains how being original doesn't have to mean conjuring up something entirely new. Especially speaking in terms of blogs, having a collection of things that inspire/provoke thought/delight/interest you that are pulled from various outside sources surely just creates a picture of the person you are, and that in itself is original?

I especially enjoy Jean-Luc Godard's quote. It's quite comforting to know that such creative types as these two directors (Godard and Jarmusch himself) have this realisation about originality and authenticity.

I'd like to think I might be taking all my inpiration to a new direction. Perhaps one that may have been explored before but what's the harm in adding to that subject.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Hotspots in the Spa

The thing about travel writing is that when you're back at home, saving the pennies to go off again, material can run a bit thin. So, I've decided to post an insight into what exactly home is to me, as for my international readers, it is considered travelling. It also coincides with a special visit we had last weekend from Her Majesty the Queen, who popped over to open up our Justice Centre (not quite as awesome as it sounds - another phrase for new posh police station).

I live in Leamington Spa, a town where the residents are experts at practising the art of leisure. There are so many bars, restaurants, pubs and cafes that we find ourselves endlessly torn as to our location of choice. If there's one thing to be said about Leamingtonians, it's that we know how to relax.

If eating's your game and you need a break from shopping on a busy Saturday, head down Regent to find Corleone's. This tiny, and therfore perpetually busy, French cafe serves some incredibly well priced lunch grub, from paninis to crepes, victorian lemonade and coffee from their huge roaster. If they're full (quite likely at the weekends) stroll round the corner down Regent's Court and find Bar Angeli to find an almost identical menu.

If you're a local and haven't discovered it yet (it took me a good ten years to do so), make sure you divulge in Country Bumpkins, a delicatessen on Warwick Street. From the outside, it's easy to miss the fact that they have a sandwich bar at the back of the store, and yes I also missed all the signage displaying this for a long time. Create your own bread rolls or baguettes from en endless list, with some killer specials regularly changed. My favourite is a roasted red pepper houmous baguette will all the trimmings and a sticky toffee slice for pud.

If you're more of a night owl and looking to shake things up on a Saturday night, you have a few options. Designed by Lawrence Llwellyn-Bowen (clearly a reason to go...) the multi-million pound refurb of a bingo hall on Spencer Street has become what we know and love as The Assembly. Hosting acts such as BRMC, KT Tunstall, Newton Faulkner and dozens more, it has become an indie venue in a town no one's heard of that seems to attract some pretty glam characters. They put on Cortina Nights on weekends when no acts are playing; a delightful mix of music from all eras to boogie on down to, attended by people of all ages. You'll also find Dolly Parton's charming caravan in the backstage area, surrounded by a picket fence. If you've had a few too many, avoid it. It can make you lose your grip on reality.

If you're in a more uptown crowd, MooBar is always good for Saturday night swingers looking to get their groove on with some funk and soul. With a late license until 2am and no entry fee, it's where all the cheap non-clubbers go to keep their party flowing. (Yes, I am one of them.) Drinks can be expensive; don't ask for a double anything as you'll seriously be out of pocket. I always used to say that Moo seems to be where all the beautiful people go; so if you're looking for a date, try your luck there.

Leamington Spa's well-known resident...

I'm torn between two top quality places to eat in the evenings, both of which I can't afford at the best of times. But if you feel like loosening those purse strings, find Wilde's Wine Bar on the Parade, located at the top of town below street level, and Rhubarb on Warwick Street. Both are, once again, small and always crammed. But, I think that only bodes well as to their quality. They provide intimate and romantic settings for consuming delicious food. Rhubarb is also a quaint spot in the day to sit with a glass of wine and the paper.

Leamington Spa has also been, for the past few years, the home of comedian Russell Howard. A good night out with a Russell sighting included always provides good bant. I myself haven't had too much contact with him, other than storming round a corner in Tesco and nearly knocking him out. Several friends have had more interesting experiences, including watching him shamelessly steal a joke on Mock the Week without citation, and allegedly pushing my friend Ali down the stairs in The Assembly. Russell, she's still waiting for your apology.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

What would you write?

I've always been a fan of turning wasted space into something creative. Public installation artist Candy Chang  has done just that in New Orleans on the corner of  Marigny and Burgundy.

(Picture taken from

Check out more pictures on her website. Little bowls of chalk can be found attached to the mammoth board on the side of a warehouse in her local neighbourhood, and strangers have been filling in the blanks. 

The big question is, what would you write?

Not sure about myself. Get published? Travel the world? Find true contentment? All of the above?

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Sly Snow Fox

This reminds me how much I love the weirdness of nature. Crafty fella!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Are we all copycats?

Today on the old beebs website I came across an article about some recent plagiarism scandals that have come to light. What has the world come to when people writing doctoral theses give into the temptation of using the old copy and paste function?

Well, with a never-ending database of information at our fingertips you can forgive them, just a little. Perhaps not the people writing theses, but undergraduates we can sympathise with. I'm sure my older crowd of readers (if I have any...?!) will tell all students out there that they don't know how lucky they are not to have to trawl through libraries when you can sit at home, in bed, with a cuppa, and write an essay. It is just too tempting to use the wonders of Google, be struck by someone elses words and decide that you must have them as your own.

On a side note, I did quite like being surround by big textbooks, but I'd still do it in bed.

It can be said that there is a thin line between inpiration and plagiarism. That big difference being that plagiarism does not give credit to its inspiration. A young artist might have a beauty acting as his muse, but he must proclaim to the world that she is her inspiration; she should be given her just deserts.

I agree with something this article points out, in that it's okay to quote someone. In fact, the best essays are littered (to an extent...let's be reasonable, some of the words have to be your own) with sections from outside sources, points drawn in from various people to enhance the quality of your arguement or research. This was not stressed enough to me, or many others I knew, in my first year of university.

This has also sparked off a debate about the end of originality; has the internet destroyed it? Has it made everything too easy? You can literally type anything into a search engine and it will come up with dozens, thousands, millions of pages for you to extract from and comprise as your very own.

Once I read this article (and you see I've linked to it in fear of not mentioning my original source...) a wave of guilt washed over me. Has my blog recently just been one big torrent of regurgitated drivel I've come across on the world wide web? Well, I'd have to say, probably yes.

Then again, I think there can be something different said for blogging. A lot of the blogs I have read, blogs that are not directly about one subject like travel or someone's poetry etc. are much more about a place for someone to expose their opinions on whatever is going on in the world around them; a commentry on the things they find interesting. If you wish to share your own thoughts on it, then why not? Blogging is a free space for you to make it your own.

Is there anything out there that hasn't been written about before? Does that make me unoriginal? And, is looking something up to provoke some thought in my head as to my own opinion really so bad?

(And, does that get me off the hook?)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Paying homage to Jane Russell

As I Stumbled though the web this afternoon, looking for a little inspiration for a blog post, I came across a news article revealing that Jane Russell died today, aged 89. Those of you not fans of old movies might not have a clue who she is, but I vividly remember her in one of my favourite Marilyn Monroe silver screen moments; Gentleman Prefer Blondes.

To enlighten you, here is a little clip from YouTube of the two gals shimmying on stage together in some fabulous get-up. Jane Russell is the one who is not blonde (for those of you who have been living in solitude and don't know what Marilyn Monroe looks like...) Today, I think men all over the world should proclaim that Gentlemen Prefer Brunettes, in honour of Jane.