Category Archives: winter

244. A day in November – Occupy London 2011

(… with apologies to Sebastian Faulks).

One day in November 2011. Two views of the City of London.

1) St Paul’s Cathedral, from the top floor of a major European bank;

st pauls cathedral london england november morning city bank view by roadsofstone

2) The Occupy London protest. Down to Earth, in St Paul’s Churchyard.

grow the real economy occupy london protest st pauls cathedral england roadsofstone

Truly, we live in interesting, fascinating times. When distance and detail each yields its own perspective.
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237. Travels in Asia Minor – Cappadocia, Turkey

balloon flight above the mosque cappadocia turkey by roadsofstoneThe golden autumn grasslands looked benign enough in sunshine from our balloon flight at dawn today, but 600 kilometres into Asia Minor, and 1,600 years ago, life was hard here. So hard, in fact, that an entire civilisation went underground. Literally.

underground church cappadocia turkey by roadsofstoneCut up to 85 m deep in soft volcanic layers within Miocene to Holocene tuffs and ignimbrites, the underground cities of Cappadocia serve testament to how difficult life was for early Christians on these high and open plains.

Dangerous enough for whole communities of fifty thousand souls to seek refuge beneath the earth — at several places scattered around this part of northern central Turkey.

afternoon at the cafe in avanos cappadocia turkey by roadsofstoneLife here is easier now than it was back then, but maybe not that much.

Avanos is a one horse town if ever I’ve seen one, and it’s clear the horse left quite some time ago.
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233. Isle of Wight 1: On Tennyson Down

freshwater-bay-isle-of-wight-england-by-roadsofstone
No rock so hard but that a little wave
May beat admission in a thousand years

Alfred, Lord Tennyson — The Princess (1847)

* * * * *

freshwater-footpath-dusk-isle-of-wight-england-by-roadsofstoneThe fog is hanging low across the Chalk Downs as ahead of me the village of Freshwater huddles deep between the trees. The first streetlights of a November evening flicker weakly above the street.

As inspiring landscapes go, perhaps this drizzly valley wouldn’t rate that high. But five miles run before the autumn daylight fades is precious, shrunken time, expanded on the trail.

The village street is empty. A fine mist of rain would keep most folk inside, but in truth it’s almost perfect running weather.

the-abyss-cliffs-tennyson-down-isle-of-wight-england-foggy-dusk-roadsofstoneI loop around to find the path, cut into steps above the road through dense gorse and bramble. It climbs relentlessly between the trees, emerging breathlessly onto a chalky, flinty track under a darkening canopy of woods — branches of yew holding up grey clouds just a metre or so above.

At last the path emerges from the underworld and in just a second my feet burst out into a longer stride across wide and grey-lit grassland, rising evenly towards a lurking hill unseen beyond.

The evening silence is different here — wider, more expansive and with a distant, threatening edge. I skulk onwards more cautiously now — for all the firm, smooth ground beneath my feet, there’s a clifftop not all that far away.

Open, yawning space fills the sky, as the empty horizon closes out direction and up or down. It’s unsettling, nauseating — yet an elemental elation fills my throat.

This is fear.

tennyson-memorial-in-fog-isle-of-wight-england-by-roadsofstoneA minute further through the void, I’m a mile or more from anyone who would hear me scream when a dark grey mass rears itself tall and high from unlikely, empty fog.

Atop this wild, forsaken hill there stands a cross.
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224. Leviathans of the deep – oil rigs in the Cromarty Firth, Scotland

winter dusk on the bridge inverness scotland by roadsofstoneAs evening falls beneath the deepest black of a December northern sky, a thin veil of dark blue hangs streaked with vivid orange just above the pine trees.

The homeward rush hour in Inverness is a muted, half-hearted affair, and in minutes we’re sailing past the bright lights of the bridge towards the darkness of the Black Isle.

Half an hour ahead, the lights of Cromarty barely touch the depths of nightfall. The white houses of the Royal Burgh are hiding low against the shoreline.

There’s a menace to the silence now, faintly interrupted as it is by the bleak moanful sounds of grinding metal and hammering. Across the water, just half a mile offshore, the leviathans of the deep are waiting.

winter dusk snowy mountains oil rig cromarty firth scotland by roadsofstoneHere in the Cromarty Firth, oil rigs from around the world are waiting for the calmer seas of spring, wintering inshore through maintenance and upgrade programmes to equip them for ever deeper, more challenging drilling as our quest for oil expands.
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221. Back to the white and black – Oslo, Norway

winter night train arriving at Oslo station Norway by   roadsofstoneThe March sun was warming the first Spring evening in London just a few hours ago, but it’s a winter’s tail that tells of Scandinavia now. Thirty centimetres of snow drape the train tracks in the station.

I fumble my way outside, and pull my coat around me. A mile of dark, uncertain streets leads past the midnight girls and drug dealers (who thought this city knew such things?) to my hastily-booked hotel.

No alarm call needed, as morning brings the sounds of a building site next door. The day is lightening outside my window, and pretty soon I’m running beneath a chill grey sky as deserted shopping streets lead me towards the Cathedral.

ss norge winter oslo harbour oslofjord norway by roadsofstoneI take a short diversion to reconnoitre the address for my meeting, and then my mental map of Oslo runs out.  Five circular minutes later I’m slithering across white snowy gardens around the Akershus Fortress, and then on to reach the waterfront.

The Oslofjord lies black and still before me, the quaysides completely empty. Five minutes of quiet is the time I need to clear my mind and think.
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206. The price of oil: 2 – a tragedy in the North Sea

bond-superpuma-helicopter-north-sea-c-ap-thesunco-ukI was going to write another article about the oil price today, but I’ll postpone that for now. Sixteen people died in a North Sea helicopter crash on Wednesday.

Their Super Puma helicopter had flown 150 miles from the BP Miller Platform towards Aberdeen, but came down just 13 miles from the coast at Peterhead.

Eight bodies were recovered from the scene. Another eight may never be found.
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204. Sand, storm and shingle – from Rye to the sea

the-levels-at-dawn-rye-east-sussex-england-by-roadsofstone“All this area was once under the sea, you know” — old famous greeting, familiar to any geologist.

Dawn on the levels. Running across a grey, cool morning, stepping slow behind the heels of winter. And today, for once, that quote is really true.

A plan formed deep in the forests of night. To run from Rye to meet the sea.

merchants-houses-in-church-square-rye-east-sussex-england-by-roadsofstone

I trot out from the hotel and head up the cobbled street. Beside the half-timbered merchants’ houses on Church Square, past The Flushing Inn and the old sweet shop, through Landgate’s arch and down to The Strand.

And that’s where the uncertainty begins. A channel lies in front of me, and the flat far horizon ahead. But which way should I run? Does the river flow east or west to the coast?
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