Email to Adam Forman … which became a blog post!

This started as an Email but my Emailer was making a complete mess of the images so I moved it to a blog post. For all the images except this next, which is of Adam’s invite to his show, you can click on the images to see them full size if you have time and the interest!

But here is Adam’s invite, PDF file here if you want it. Rember the copyright is his here, not mine. My images are distributed under the licence I use for everything of mine here: the Creative Commons: CC BY-SA licence. I really recommend his work, I don’t know Will Brook but if he’s working with Adam I’m sure the work will be good.

So I recommend for anyone who can: see it! However, this blog post is an evolution from my attempt to send Adam some images from up here in my Alpine eyrie that I thought would appeal to him. I’ll leave it as a letter as that feels right. I started with this steal from his invite.

Loved the images Adam.  Couldn’t resist grabbing that as a sort of appreciation.  Sadly, barring some crisis, I’m  99% sure that I’ll be up here in the Alps.

I think you might like the juxtapositions we get to see up here.

That’s a sunset view from one side of the shared terrace outside our apartment. [For the blog version, click to see full size.]

This is the 2022 transhumance looking down yesterday from the other side of the terrace (Mont Blanc was in cloud in the far distance).  The cows will move around our building for the next week or two being moved from one area of pretty verdant meadow to another and eating pretty much everything down to an inch high (and covering the place with their poo: almost as thickly as you can see there, those milking/watering points get much more densely covered than before the milking shed is moved to its next location.

When I took that, with a longish lens, I hadn’t seen the man with the backpack and the cow looking at each other either side of the electric fence.  I think that’s your sort of moment.  The juxtaposition with the end of a small beginners’ “button” also amuses me.  [You have to click on this one to understand!]

And the machinery: this modern transhumance is a fascinating mix of centuries old and really quite modern!

They’ll eat most but not quite all the Rosebay Willowherb leaving just the odd stalk.  (That’s back the other side of the terrace looking to left rather than right where where the sun sets over the top of a modern fast ski lift.)  Top of a snow blower is  poking into that scene in case you wondered what that was.

The summer season finished eight days ago now and immediately it does the tourists are replaced with a smaller number of technicians fixing and improving things.

That’s the first of four extension platforms being added to the last pylon support for the telecabine that joins our apartment building with Plagne Centre (whence I will leg it in a minute to get this week’s food shopping done in the little Spar shop there … the only shop unless you want to drop more the height of Snowdon into the valley).

On a rather sad final note: our local glacier (long lens and cropped to get in closer).

What’s sad about that is that it’s visibly shrinking yearly (though sadly I don’t have summer ‘photos of it from the past to show this). You can see massive rock slips onto the top of the glacier that give it a dark surface up there now that will absorbing the roasting sun up here rather than reflecting it. I’m not sure if the even more massive rock slips to the left of the glacier are new or not, we mostly know it to ski on in winter when everything up there will be snow covered, temporarily. The whole of the glacier is clearly sprinkled lightly with exposed rock and the foot of it, particularly to the left, is turning into terminal morraine. (There’s rather a nice great pillow of that: rock left by the trailing edge of the glacier, at the bottom. Who’d have thought that 1972 “O”-level geography would come back to me like this?!)

When will we face that our politicians and corporates, and though individually almost powerless, ourselves, are destroying the current state of our planet? Ouch. Go and see Adam’s work if you can: he balances concern with joy better than I do!

Being an artisan researcher

I think this belongs here, not on my personal research site. It comes out of a longstanding wrestle with “what am I?” and particularly “am I doing enough?” Though I’ve been ambivalent about labels like “doctor”, “psychiatrist” and pretty much rejected “scientist” for all its rhetorical overload, mostly I’ve accepted “researcher” as a part of my identity since about 1983. If I dig back even into my adolescence, that aspiration was there. Thinking even further back, probably from age about seven or eight, wandering across the fields across the cattle grid from where we lived in Kenilworth, I think the fascination and curiosity about how things are was there.

In about 1987 I suspect, I started to see my drive as a researcher as the question: How do we know, or think we know, what we think we do? I think the first time I put it “out there” would have been 1995 when I think I put it in my first web site (some bits of text from then are probably still in my research site.)

I have stuck with that drive. The biggest proportion of my research papers come within the CORE (Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation) system/project. (As with everything I’ve done, CORE was co-developed, see history on the site.) CORE has grown into a pretty large body of things, mostly good things of which I’m proud. However, I do worry about how it can feed into much that is wrong with 21st Century research, higher education, health care, the NHS and therapies so it’s not a simple glow of pleasure I get looking at it.

What else have I done? Well, a rather weird spread which I won’t dive into now but the most recent thing is that I have finally managed, with my better half Jo-anne Carlyle, has been to co-write a book (“Outcome measures and evaluation in counselling and psychotherapy“). I am really proud of that and particularly that we have tried to steer a tricky course aiming the book for practitioners not theorists while not dodging so much that is wrong with current “outcome measurement”.

So I have been reflecting on this history and on where I’m going in the work years I hope I have left and things came together a couple of weeks ago with a little epiphany (I do like the idea of an epiphany, not least ‘cos it’s interesting to separate it from the old psychiatric definitions of “autochthonous delusions”, but let’s skip that for now). The thought that seemed to come out of nowhere (oh autochthony!) was:

Christopher: you’re an artisan researcher! Hm, or maybe you’re even failing to be that, but that’s probably what you are rather than being a more “successful”, clubbable researcher.

(Yes, I rarely have epiphanic ideas that don’t have a sting in the tail!)

Since that funny moment I’ve been turning the idea over and feel a need to put it “out [t]here”: hence this post.

I think this “artisan position” reflects my mistrust of so much I see in that list above: “21st Century research, higher education, health care, the NHS and therapies”. These have been my worlds since I went to university. They’ve been the clubs I joined, but always in my Groucho Marxist way: “I wouldn’t be a member of any club that would have me!” I now feel more ambivalent about them than ever it did. I think they have willingly adopted industrialised, 21st Century toxic capitalist, dehumanising, uncaring ways within my working lifetime.

When in 1975 I went to Cambridge (ooh, very prestitigious; ooh very second generational for me as it happened) to start medical training I dived in, passionately, enthusiastically, believing that at last I was really going to be encouraged to think, helped to think well, enabled to link with many others wanting that.

Of course for me there some mistrust was already there about the elitism, the tolerance of really, really shoddy thinking (yes, even out there in the fens!); the indifference to politics, to wealth differentials, the sexism, racism and so many other ingrained hatreds. However, there was much that was joy: new fields to wander in and think. Back in the 70s there was still something anarchic both in the world of higher education and of the NHS when I joined that as a very wet behind the ears medical student. These were worlds where, provided you didn’t do something very stupid and ticked enough boxes (yes, and I started with white, male, “indigenous” Brit, straight, not completely stupid) you could survive and, if you worked hard then you had a lot of freedom particularly about what you might think, say (cautiously) and perhaps even get time to research.

The down side of that for society was that if you ticked enough of the boxes (public school?) and if you were never going to ask any difficult questions about the ways of the world, the university or the NHS then probably you didn’t even have to work very hard: you had a job for life.

Anyway, I worked, mostly very hard, and I tried to work out what niche would suit me best and, where I found good enough niches (see my CV!), I was given a lot of freedom, I think I earned it. However, come, say 2009 I started to realise that both the research world, and particularly the world of research in the NHS, had been industrialised, commercialised, commoditised and was now managed, not with respect for practitioners nor really for new ideas or for the healthcare needs of the population. I was now managed too often with rank stupidity by managers and directors above me (one of them recently asked to link with me on LinkedIn: they always were lacking awareness of self or other!) The whole club was now to be managed as a hierarchical monolith of acquiescence to the layers above until, now, in the UK, your hierarchy ends with Boris Johnson and the nasty bunch he has around him.

I was slow to recognise the changes: stupidly so. However, ever since then I can see that I have been finding my way to the edges, finding smaller and smaller niches but managing to minimise any loss of autonomy, any erosion of my moral compass or my curiosity.

So now I realise that I’m an artisan researcher, probably always have been, and I’m proud of it. Enough (for now) already!!

Why that header image? Well it shows one niche I cut myself recently and something of the artisanal in the satisfaction I felt wielding the shovel. Now it looks like this:

It did go through this:

And it had one intermediate excavation after that snowfall. Niches don’t last for ever but neither do humans! Onwards.

Created 20.iii.22.

Icicles (again)

Created 13.ii.22.

I’ve written about icicles here before Icicles, snow and freedom. That was back in December 2019, before we knew coronavirus was about to hit us and the icicles in question were linked in with some not very well written musings about freedom. I see that, despite a global pandemic, my mind returns to similar themes. However, tonight I’ll make this mostly about the icicles and their life cycles.

I was amused when I arrived here with J, back on 31.i.22, to find this outside the windows at the end of the corridor, just outside our apartment. As ever, click on this to get the full sized image.

It’s an icicle, or ice, stalagmite and I’m not aware of ever having seen one before. It reminded us of Indian lingam and turning to my beloved Wikipedia for that link took me to the amazing Shiva lingam of the Amarnath temple which is a bit bigger than this one (about 12 cm high!) but still an ice stalagmite lingam. That one has an annual pilgrimage, and terrorists killing pilgrims so perhaps I should be happy that my own little ice lingam stalagmite is small.

It was a shock to read my post of over two years ago and find that my fascination with the physics of icicles is little changed and that the formations are very similar. Hm, perhaps it’s not very surprising that neither has changed! Anyway, one thing I have realised this time around is that I have two very distinct sets of icicles up here: the ones straight ahead out of the main window, facing (roughly) north, and the ones hanging off the balcony above on the side of the living room to the right of that window, over the terrace we share with three other apartments. Because the first ones get I think less than an hour of direct sun in the morning, and are in effect on a cold cliff of concrete, they can and do survive days and in winter they can die by becoming too big to carry their own weight, or because someone comes and knocks them off to prevent them falling and killing someone.

By contrast the ones facing the terrace get direct sun for most of the day if there is direct sun. Even more importantly for their life expectancies, they hang off over a wall of the brown wood facing of our apartment which catches the sun and gets frankly hot if there is little or no cloud. That must create a strong upward convection current of warm air sweeping up and around the icicles … and melting them rapidly. Here are three images of the corpses (and some smaller lingams/stalagmites).

I particularly liked this defiant but doomed fellow.

I think that’s an icicle that has turned a near perfect 180 degrees as it fell leaving its former lower tail sticking up from the snow around it … until it will, inexorably succumb. (I will check on it tomorrow but I’m sure it will have gone, not started to accreted falling drops to itself to become another lingam: it’s not sufficiently directly below a drippy point.)

Here though is the corpse of the largest icicle that had grown over some days outside the main window. It fell with a bang that startled both of us onto the balcony below.

Hard to tell from that ‘photo (and it was cold and hard enough leaning out to get that!) but that’s several kilos of ice half immured in the snow a good three metres below.

And here’s one last icicle corpse form, or perhaps it’s a way ice stalagmites start. I call these “ice jellyfish”. They happen when ice/water is on the tiles on the terrace edge. I suspect they start with a fallen icicle and drips following it as the tile is just getting above zero centrigrade.

So that’s it, no musings on freedoms and the sad state of the world, nor of the sad state of, and life cycles, of my musings tonight. I’ll just leave you with a gallery of icicles.

And a couple of views beyond swinging left to right, across the valley, Mont Blanc in the distance, Mont St. Jacques just across our little tributory valley and the Sommet de Bellecote.

A glorious sunset cloud … saying farewell

Created 25.x.21

There was a particularly glorious cloud formation over Mont Blanc yesterday evening (24.x.21) (usual: should open up if you click to see each of the five images full size).

The last couple of weeks I have felt very preoccupied with returning to the UK as J & I agreed I should come back a few weeks earlier than we had thought I would. So much has been going wrong back in the UK that it’s felt increasingly unfair to be up here. Somehow that cloud, and trying to capture it, felt part of the leaving process.

I never really get the colours and the intensity and richness of the evening light up here in my ‘photos (though some are much better than others … those will do!) For once I am cross-referencing this to the timelapse video of the day (https://vimeo.com/638414814). Have a look at the last 30 seconds of that to see that cloud forming and disappearing. I will really miss the beauty and the peace living up here: the stillness and quiet. At weekends particularly I can stand out on the terrace and look at the views and hear nothing but the breeze for minutes on end until a plane overhead or a car below intrude … but even they are quiet generally!

I will miss the last stages of the larches turning to brown and dropping all their needles and the first real snow arriving (though I would probably have gone back before it really starts to build for the ski season, even on our original plan).

It’s definitely moving to winter. The header image is of the first ice I’ve seen. That was late morning on my final walk down to Plagne Centre for this year. For some reason it took me back to memories of walking and birdwatching in the fields around Leamington in my adolescence. I’ve always loved the shapes that ice forms on puddles: it’s no simple process of phase change is it?

A few blog posts back, hm, the 4th of September, I wrote about my almost constant wish to be more productive: I could do with a purple patch and an ex-student teased me about outdoing catholics for guilt. Pedant that I am, I think it’s more puritan than catholic but what do I know about religion?! I’ve been amused in the last few weeks to see how the rosebay willow herb slabs of purple have turned to grey that at times catches the sun to create patches of silver. This does do it justice but it amuses me that it’s part of the patch I used in the images in that earlier post.

I have continued to want to achieve more, and to feel I can do something more about our destruction of the planet but I have managed to accept that I’m getting work done, if not all I would want, and that I am living a fairly low impact life. That’ll have to do for now.

And I’m just going to sign off from the Alps for this year with a collection of images from that last walk. This starts with my exit steps (they really are a bit like temporary steps down from a ship to a little boat pulling alongside), then more shots of this extraordinary place. Then the shift from the brutalist concrete to the trees via one shot of the meadow the cows chewed pretty much to the ground a week or two back in their brief transhumance co-habitation with me up here. There’s Mont Blanc way away in the background in the last shot.

By magic (or was it J fixing things?!) I do have this waiting for me in West Norwood when I get back…

West Norwood film club

I’ll have missed Seven Samurai, probably my favourite film of all time … but I have probably seen it seven times at least. The galleries and museums in London are open again and I get to catch up with 3D people. Onwards!

One last image. Moon in the morning over the top of the Les envers lift last week (another one to click on to get it in full).

New trees: but will they survive?

Created 3.x.21

Back on Monday I was walking down to Plagne Centre to get some food for the week. The view above is about halfway there where the track, or the piste as it is in the ski season, turns a corner and you can see Plagne Centre below. A slope rises very sharply on the right hand side of the track, out of that image and as I’d come to the corner I had noticed for the first time that that steep slope had a number of small young conifers. I noticed them because they had a range of paler greens and almost yellow needles that were catching the sun ahead. I sort of half thought of stopping to try to take ‘photos of them but decided to leg it on.

That’s a bit of a story of my life up here. I think of that corner as “bird corner” as there are some mature conifers to the left of the track and above the slope on the right there’s a thicket of shrubs and smaller conifers and there’s often quite a bit of bird noise here and I know I’ve seen a number of species without identifying them properly. I suspect there are goldcrests or firecrests which are pretty special, there are also some warblers in summer I think and at least one thrush species which I don’t otherwise see up here. However, legging it up and down to the SPAR I don’t take binoculars or the camera and I guess I always feel I should be getting back to work. However, I have registered the little area as one a target for my “new life” when I get to that! What the “new life” thing means is that I will make enough time in the week to go out with binoculars and perhaps the camera but with time, enough of it to just sit still for as long as necessary to feel that I’ve started to understand what species, mainly birds but the odd marmot perhaps and perhaps also to get to identify the trees not just call them “conifers” and to recognise more of the flora and butterflies. So this is a “good corner”! (Click to get it full size.)

There were a couple of years (I think it was a couple, I’m not actually sure, when I used to spend hours with two mates on Saturdays and Sundays walking around the countryside near Leamington Spa where we lived. We each had our binoculars and Pete and Kim were generally more savvy about nature that me, I remember Pete was very good at identifying birds by ear and Kim was good at butterflies and moths but we were all three mainly there for the bird life. We were also all three good at going ages in total silence and at sitting and standing pretty still for good enough periods for things to stop avoiding us. I know that creating that sort of still, observant, time in my weeks would be good so the “new life”, as so often, has a bit of a return to an “older life”.

Anyway, I came up by the lower track partly to avoid the worst of the smell from the liberal donation of cow pats back up the upper track nearer Aime 2000. As I walked back up I mentally kicked myself for not having at least stopped and tried to take usable ‘photos of the little trees clinging to the very loose soil on the steep slope. I wanted to share them so I doubled back (finding a little path I didn’t know was there connecting the two tracks) and here you are.

They’re not great ‘photos but I think they do convey both the light colours of needles that had caught the low sun and my attention on the way down and I think they also give a sense of that slope. I was having to pick my footing very carefully on the slope: the soil seems only a very thin and friable inch at most and liable to slip away under you feet have you sliding ignominiously back down to the track. I felt amused and impressed by the tenacity of the little proto trees and wonder how many will survive.

Which brings me to the more grim punchline here. Yesterday I finally put the keyboard aside for 40 minutes and watched Climate change: Europe’s melting glaciers | DW Documentary. It has beautiful sequences of the Alps and, though none of Savoie (it’s by a German documentary company and is mostly in Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Slovenia) they feel so familiar. However, the message is grim: that none of the glaciers are likely to be up here by the end of the century unless our politicians really do address CO2 and methane and climate change, unless we all force them to do that and change our ways of life. Perhaps it’s aridity, despite scary flash storms, and “forest” fires that will threaten these young trees more than the challenges of clinging onto, into, that slope. Do watch the video. The voice over is, to my ear, American but the young people who form the narrative theme are from many countries and it’s right they should be as, as Save the Children have just pointed out, it’s children and particularly children from poorer countries (not the ones creating the problem) who will suffer most from climate change. I was lucky to have my countryside in my young teens. What will future generations have?

An odd spin off, linking with a bit of my work at the moment: on the documentary you get to see the subtitles in what I think is Bahasa Indonesia. Climate change is a global issue.

Atmospheric perspective, a rainbow and an eagle

Created 25.ix.21

It’s worth watching through three minutes and 35 seconds of the timelapse video for today to see this through a different lens.

I get along OK without alcohol on weekdays up here but this visit we’ve evolved a pattern of “sharing” drink at at least one point over the weekend partly because a lot of tough stuff has been happening around J and tnp and S and other friends back in the UK. I celebrated the switch from work to this by filling a glass of red wine and taking the three paces back to the keyboard I raised the glass around the compass to many people I work with happily around the world and to friends (mostly in UK but some of my work colleagues further afield have become great friends as well as great colleagues.

So, cheers and thanks to all. (Ouch, it’s 23:40 for goodness sake, hm, where did the last hour go? … OK, I have been working a bit later than usual as J is having a meal with friends and will check in later.)

This morning opened with a lot of haze in the air creating what photographers call “atmospheric perspective”: where you can see what’s further away and what’s nearer by the blurring and desaturation of colours the further away things are. Of course, overlap perspective up in the mountains mean you can be very wrong about how far away things are but never about what’s in front of what! However, this “atmospheric perspective” is a part of the glory of the views up here that I love. So let’s have that header image from this morning again. (As usual, click to get the full image.)

Looking a bit to the side got this.

And in between the air seemed clearer and Mont Blanc had one of its hats on.

An hour or so later the haze had burnt away by the rising sun and I took my morning coffee out onto the terrace and was lucky enough to coincide with a Golden Eagle circling around. It seemed hardly to move its wings at all but moved fast in wide circles, lovely to follow with binoculars but too far and too fast for any attempt to film it with the camera. It reminded me that walking back up from the shops on Monday I had heard a raptor cry and for a moment, breathing heavily up the slope, I thought how that sound is such a TV and film sound track cliché (I sometimes joke about doing a PhD on the use and abuse of bird calls and cries in film and TV). I looked up and there was one Golden Eagle flapping slowly and heading off towards the valley. I looked around and there were two more, not following the first, who was the one doing all the crying. That’s the second time recently I’ve seen three together so I assume it’s a parental couple and a first year young one. All three were flapping, slowly, seemingly heavily, but moving fast. The contrast with the one this morning in flight style was marked but I imagine that warmth this morning was creating a lot of lift so the same bird (species anyway) could fly equally fast seemingly with no effort at all. These are real joys for me up here.

Then it was back to work, not writing R code very well (it comes and goes!) meanwhile the day outside darkened and the idea of sunbathing while having lunch disappeared. However, at one point I looked round the monitor to catch a rainbow, so here it is. Happy hunting for the pot of gold, I think it’s near Plagne Village!

In many ways it’s been a very tough year, not to do with living up here, nor much, luckily for me/us, to do with cv-19. Sadly a lot of that has come on or worsened since June when I did come up here so this post is counting my blessings and thanking colleagues and friends.

[Stage direction: protagonist raises glass again, same glass, little reduced, and salutes the world solemnly looking utterly mad! NO bird cries should be added, it’s mad enough as it is.]

First overnight snow of the autumn

Created 19.ix.21

I could hear dripping as I woke up and sure enough everything above was snow coated with even a thin coat on the rails of the terrace and the slopes around us. Here were the views looking to out on “my” side of the terrace. As ever, click on them to get the full image.

And this was another of my amused juxtapositions of the snow covered peaks beyond the very Aime 2000 mix of concrete slaps and wooden railing.

Mont St. Jacques above the terrace edge

Walking to the other side of the terrace was equally good:

An hour later the sun had burned the cloud cover away and the snow was melting fast. This is a sweep of images from both sides of the terrace.

And finally, with crummy stability and smoothness of panning and zoomin, you can have the sound of the cows browsing their way through the “button run” slope below me.

This, well the snow mainly, but the cows too in all their smelly, noisy indifference to things, is so much of why I’m here!

Another little post: glider with an outboard motor

Created 14.ix.21

Yesterday I was sitting at my desk working (nothing new there eh?) but I was distracted y a buzzing noise outside, peered round the monitor which fills most of the view and saw what I thought was a glider. I don’t remember ever seeing one up here before so that was fun but I was thinking “but gliders are essentially silent so what’s that noise” so I grabbed the camera and went out on the terrace when it took me a few seconds to realise that it really was a glider making a nasty noise like a small plane.

Glider with an outboard motor: 13.ix.21

It was already quite far away and so that footage is full telephoto end of the zoom and quite unsteady. The camera was also clearly finding difficulty keeping focus so it does go in and out of focus but with the magnification you can see what I could see:
it really is a glider with an outboard motor, or a motor on its back.

It flew off quite fast and was way out of range to follow with the camera but it I could just see it with naked eye, again looking like an ordinary glider as I could no longer make out that structure and propellor. It did a few turns over Les Arcs and then I lost it though I could still hear the buzzing faintly.

Anyone know about these things? I’d love to hear from you if you do. Anyway, it felt intriguing enough to merit a short post here. Very best to anyone reading this!

Just one P: parapente

Created 7.ix.21

I do go in for my three “P”s here: politics, polemics and pontificating. (See A new start?, which has my last video of someone parapenting) However, none of that for a change. Two days ago I was out on the terrace in the sun and a shadow shot across the tiles that was way too big to be a bird’s shadow. So I grabbed my camera to catch a parapenter sailing around. I thought my hand holding was going to be horribly jerky but it will do. The first is more jerky (though it was actually the second chronologically) and lasts under a minute. I forgot to compress them before uploading them to vimeo but they seem to play fine through my slow broadband up here.

And this is a bit steadier and I think it lasts 2’19”.

I wouldn’t fancy doing that, I prefer to only have a few feet maximum between my body and something solid, however, I can see it must be wonderful to spiral around above it all. The martins and swallows, even my friendly wagtails, do make it look a bit slow though!

I could do with a purple patch!

Created 4.ix.21

Quick update 6.ix.21 as I realise the title is playing on a very British/English bit of language meaning a run of luck or success.

Well, we’ve moved into the inter-season and it’s amusing to see things move from catering to summer tourisms into lots of work: repainting things, repairing things, continuing to get the huge new ski lift working. I liked this bit of machinery that has been repainted red from grey. It reminded me a bit of a dinosaur and of the way that paleontologists create impressions of whole monsters from bits. (As usual, click on these to see the full glory!)

I am trying hard to reflect on my chosen life of fairly radical seclusion and a lot of work. One thing that is hitting me is just how much reading the news depresses me. This has been getting worse over the last five years or so and I am seriously contemplating simply not reading any news now but I can’t really accept that as that would seem to move my positioning from hermitic to frankly escapist and cowardly. However, the bitter, angry despair I dive into reading so much is painful: Afghanistan, Texas (pretty much any of the USA), the UK Home Office (pretty much anything about the UK government), climate change (pretty much anything about greenwashing and the way our global economy and political systems seem determined to go on regardless). I liked two articles from the Guardian:
Republicans seethe with violence and lies. Texas is part of a bigger war they’re waging
Hilary Mantel: I am ashamed to live in nation that elected this government

Hilary Mantel’s position is exactly what originally drove me to “semigration” and to my continuing aspiration to end up with dual citizenship. Mine started with the Brexit vote and from what I see that marked a slide of the UK into the hatred, xenophobia and polarisation that seems to mark it now. I guess it’s complex with the changes particularly dramatic in England and perhaps Northern Ireland (I don’t read much about NI that fills me with hope) and something a bit less extreme in Wales and some real differences, even signs of hope in Scotland. However, all this seems to play into the current Tory party hands: they play things so that they use xenophobia towards anyone from outside the UK and between the countries of the UK so that they tighten their hold on power in a form of gerrymandering.

What can I do about any of this? Very, very little if anything and I can’t see that getting depressed about it helps anyone so what do I want? Well, that gets me to the purple patch: the thing that shores me up is the feeling that I work hard and not entirely unproductively.

I am working hard: I think my weekly hours are down a bit from the 70+ of the last few years but certainly still in the 50-70 range and I do want that to change. I am productive not just in volume of papers (CV for anyone academic reading this). Simple paper counts are pretty silly so it’s more important to me that some of the papers are making arguments that I want to put out there between now and when I stop work (six, max seven years). I’ve had a lovely boost coming out of my excellent collaboration with Dr. Clara Paz: I’ve been appointed a visiting professor in her university: Universidad de Las Américas (UDLA) in Quito, Ecuador. At the same time the book that J and I have been working on for years really is nearing publication.

Is this a purple patch? No, not yet and I do know that my scales for these things are not normal and full of self-denigration. However, I really hope it is a trajectory that is hopeful. Meanwhile, some local purples I’ve been enjoying up here: everything is fringed and striped with patches of rosebay willowherb.

I’ve also been enjoying trying to get close ups of the thorny thistles with their purple crowns.

Onwards!