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A Winter’s Day on Westbay Beach

It was another beautiful winter’s day, which made my late afternoon walk all the more enjoyable. Until this lockdown I’ve not spent much time on Westgate’s beaches. It has been my loss as Westbay beach is simply stunning when the tide is out. I love the fact that lockdown gives you both the time and the patience to observe the intricacies of what is around you. Today I enjoyed the perfect ridges on the beach caused by the tide, the abandoned shells that the sea left behind when it went back out again, and the thousands of sand castings (aka worm poop!)

The 20th century American author William Faulkner once said of his writing: “I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.” I’m beginning to think the same, visually, about my adopted area of soil, sand and sea.

Each day the combination of sun and clouds will be different, creating different light patterns and reflections on the sea. The wind will affect the surface of the sea, which will be at different points of being in or out. The position of the sun will be different, even if I were to head to the same spot at the same time. Sometimes you see both the sun and the moon at the same time.

There will be different shells and driftwood on the beach, and different formations of seaweed. Different people will be walking the beach, wearing different clothes. Different types of dogs will be running along the sands or swimming in the sea, chasing different coloured balls. I’ll see different varieties of seagulls, sometimes a cormorant, other times turnstones or sand pipers, occasionally an egret or a heron.

I can go on, but you’ll get the picture. And so will I, every time I step outside my door with my camera. Because, as sure as the tide comes in and goes out, there’s always something to worth photographing, rain or shine.

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A Winter’s Day in Margate

Snow was forecast for today but sadly we didn’t get more than a few flakes. In fact it was a beautiful day that started with a stunning sunrise and developed into a pastel blue sky. So I headed out with my camera in spite of the lack of snow picture potential and am glad I did. There’s something about walking on the beach, amongst the sea birds, that just lifts your spirits. It kept me going when the skies darkened and the rain came, followed by a pretty bleak sunset. Well you can’t have everything in one day!

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Violet Sunset

Violet Sunset

Wow! What a stunning day it has been today. I knew it was something special the moment I awoke – to the sound of birdsong, for the first time in months. And then there was that tantalising bright light peeking through the curtains, teasingly reminding me what spring feels like. I clambered out of bed and, instead of enjoying the sea view, poked my head out of my tiny office window to enjoy the urban show – birds tweeting and hopping, smoke coming from chimneys and the distant banging of construction works, which I actually quite liked because it reminded me of spring mornings in London and Paris. There was even a windmill in the distance, which I could kid myself was the Moulin Rouge.

In spite of the lovely weather, I wasn’t able to get out until just before sunset. But it was worth the wait. As soon as I stepped out of the door I felt the crispness and clarity in the air. After stopping to photograph some rather perturbed seagulls, I reached the main sands just in time for sunset. But as usual I found myself facing in the opposite direction to everyone else. There was just something about those violet colours dancing around the Turner Contemporary that caught my attention. And I just the simplicity of the building, that also has the ability to keep surprising you. How some people can not appreciate the beauty of it defeats me. Maybe they haven’t stopped to really examine it. I guess that’s one gift of Lockdown – the time to just pause and admire a piece of modern architecture.

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The New Dawn

Obviously this isn’t a photo I’ve taken recently, but I couldn’t let today pass without marking it somehow. So I’m posting this picture taken in Massachusetts back in 2017. I was visiting my friend Chris there who I recall was embarrassed, angry and concerned about having Trump as President. Her hope was that he was just too lazy and self-obsessed to actually implement much during his term, and that the Americans would boot him out at the end of it.

But Chris didn’t just sit back and hope that Trump wasn’t re-elected. She sent over 800 postcards in the lead up to the election, to constituents in closely contested states. These were targeted at folks who hadn’t voted in the last election but had voted for the Democrats in the past, and were begging them to go out and vote this time. So, I know that she will be very happy today to see a new chapter in the White House, one that already has hallmarks of kindness, integrity, dignity, racial tolerance and an understanding of the issues that America, and indeed the world, is facing.

So Chris, I’m drinking a toast to you as well as to Biden and Harris, for wanting change so fervently that you did your bit to help it happen. As Biden said in his inauguration speech, we have to believe that change can come about.

It’s hard to see a glimmer of hope this side of the Atlantic. All I can wish for right now is that, with the Right Wing bully gone from a position of power in the States, such politics will be less fashionable at home. Maybe our government will need to change their tone a bit, and also not be so quick to label anyone disagreeing with them as ‘woke’.

What else gives me hope? We will have an election in the UK again at some point, and maybe a change can come about here too. As America’s Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, told us all so powerfully today:

The new dawn blooms as we free it.

For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it,

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

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A Winter’s day at the Beach

The weather has been remarkably spring-like these past few days in Kent. On Sunday the sunshine brought so many people out to enjoy the beach. We had been encouraged by the government to stay at home this weekend, as the virus numbers are currently so high. But I think that, for the sake of everyone’s moral, a few hours in the sunshine is allowed. Especially as there is evidence that vitamin D, which you get from sunshine, not only protects you from catching Coronavirus, but also makes the symptoms less severe if you do get it.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Vitamin D helps your body to fight against the virus, as it generally helps to boost the immune system. It also helps to support healthy heart, bones and skin. Plus, as a bonus, it can boost your mood – it’s no wonder we’re so happy when the sun is shining!

Previously I talked about the mood-boosting qualities of the sea – so when you can combine those properties with sunshine, it’s no wonder that British folks just love spending time at the seaside. And, even in a time of Covid, I think a bit of this is allowed – especially as a I lot of the people I saw were wearing face masks and practising social distancing.

So this may have to be the new normal – enjoying a bit of time in the fresh air when we can while taking precautions – and some may feel that even that is off limits. But a sedentary life is not good for our minds or our bodies; so it’s a balancing act and we all have to do what we think is right both for ourselves and our fellow citizens.

If you are having to limit your time outdoors you can also get vitamin D both in table form and through certain foods such as oily fish, red meat and egg yolks. Light boxes can also help your moods and help to combat SAD (seasonal affected disorder) syndrome that many suffer from in winter. In fact I have one sitting beside me now while I type.

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Blue Monday

Today is ‘Blue Monday’ – purportedly the gloomiest day of the year, in the UK at least. I was going to try to cheer everyone up with an uplifting picture. But then I read that the UK had suffered the highest rate of Covid 19 deaths in the world in the past week. And so it just didn’t feel right.

Yes folks, for once the government isn’t lying – we ARE world-beating at one thing – at killing people. Now you may have been told that actually we are all to blame – because we haven’t been careful enough; we haven’t kept our distance enough; we haven’t worn our masks enough; we haven’t stayed in enough. But please don’t fall for it.

We have largely done what we were told, because we all want this ‘non-life’ to end – so that we can see our grandchildren again, meet up with our mates, hug those we care about, plan holidays, or just head out the door without feeling guilty about it. And we are doing our utmost to make it happen, even if that means doing very little at all.

But we don’t get to decide when to shut down the airports, or to at least insist on a negative test result and quarantine for arrivals (the government is finally implementing that, a year after the virus was first made known to us). We don’t get to stop probably the most important facet of virus control, the Track and Trace app, from going to cronies of our so-called leaders, with track records of incompetence. (Dido Harding, don’t insult our intelligence by telling us that you’re overseeing the app through some kind of call of duty – you are doing it for the billions of pounds that your Tory mates wafted in front of you).

We didn’t get to decide that Christmas was cancelled, even though most of us would rather not have hugged our loved ones on Christmas Day and potentially buried them in January. We didn’t get to decide that students were better off not travelling across the country to attend university in person, packing their virus with them, so that universities could charge them for the accommodation that they would then imprison them in. We didn’t get to decide that children were better off at home as the virus spread through schools like wildfire (a couple of Boroughs tried but the government threatened them with fines if they didn’t stay open). And we didn’t think it a good idea to release elderly people from hospitals back into care homes without checking first if they had Coronavirus, so that they could kill their fellow residents, but we didn’t have a say in that matter either.

I can go on and on. But instead I’ll say this: for those looking in on this country in horror, and wondering how it could have gone so terribly wrong, then please don’t point your finger at the people. Point it instead at those responsible for keeping us safe, those who have failed us. A century ago our leaders sent men over the top like lambs to the slaughter, knowing that they would die. It seems that nothing thing has changed.

Nothing has changed.

It’s the third Monday of January and we should all be feeling blue this year. That’s not because of a marketing meme, or a silly media story. It’s a fact. Over 100,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the past 10 months in the UK. Meanwhile, New Zealand has suffered 25 deaths. Let that sink in – and don’t tell me it’s a population thing. Because that way you’re letting the government off the hook again.

In America, Trump has been showing his true colours, through the ugly, angry mob that he incited. Here it’s being exposed by our death tally. We have the advantages of an island; we have managed to keep rabies out of the country for decades. And yet our government has allowed Covid-19 to run ravage through our population. And all we can do is wear our mask, wash our hands, practise social distance, and pray that the vaccine will save us.

But will we finally see where the culpability lies? Or will we just blame someone else – the Chinese, those kids fined for organising a party, that neighbour who was spotted without a mask – and then reward the government for their negligence by voting them in again next time?

So this is no time for heart-warming pictures. It’s a time for truth, self-examination and questioning. Then maybe the government won’t keep on getting away with it. It’s a time for all of us to feel blue – bcause maybe then change will start to come about. Sometimes it takes a wildfire for new shoots to appear. If we had to have the fire, let’s now at least let the new life be different.

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All fluffed up!

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday we had snow; today it felt like spring. I’m glad I got out to appreciate it because I hear that rain is on its way next week. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. By the look things, this fluffed up Collared Dove was enjoying the brief respite from winter as much as I was.

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Making Tracks

So, with Margate being in the news for rather unfortunate reasons (apparently the Kent mutation started here), I thought I’d focus a cheerier thing that happened in the town today – it snowed! Just for an hour or so early this morning, swiftly followed by rain. I suspect it had gone by the time many had risen, so here’s the evidence that snow did indeed come to town.

Given that putting the bins out each week is about as exciting as it gets these days, a sprinkling of snow on the ground in the ground was something to celebrate. I’m sad it was over so quickly but, given that I can still feel the chill in my bones several hours later, it’s probably for the best that it was merely a fleeting diversion from the norm.

Now, back to reading books and editing photos for a few more weeks…..

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Home Safety

Lockdown 2021 feels so different to the one last spring. Obviously I haven’t been out much, so I could be wrong, but there is a general sense this time that people are just resigned to it and getting on with it. I’m not seeing the rainbows or the teddies in the windows; and clap for carers is a bit of a damp squib (which I find totally understandable, as it became politicised and tired. Even the person who initiated it won’t participate this time around).

On social media there is a distinct lack of quirky lockdown memes trying to keep our spirits up, and even the advertising seems to have changed – no more romanticising how we’re all in this together and trying to outcompete each other on the Coronavirus caring stakes. Instead we’re seeing lots of adverts for nurses and teachers (hmm, can’t think why……), and some quite amusing ones too, as if humour is allowed again. Oh and a lot for property sites, which I guess is a reflection of the stamp duty holiday, and for home delivery. Who doesn’t love the ‘Just Eat’ advert with Snoop Dog doing the catchiest jingle since ‘Do the shake and vac and put the freshness back’? I think that, and the ComparetheMeerkat adverts, are just about getting me through lockdown.

Well, I’m digressing, but I do think that this has been a fascinating period for social history, and it is interesting to see how fashions quickly change, even in terms of the perceived acceptable public response to a pandemic. I guess, one year on from when we first started hearing about that ‘Novel Coronavirus’ in Wuhan and wondering what it has to do with us, living with the virus is now the new norm.

So, maybe today’s picture, which was taken in Ramsgate incidentally, looks suitably nostalgic. It harks back to that time, way back in 2020, when war was declared on a virus and we all pulled together to help defeat it, with that misguided belief that it could all be over by Christmas….

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Rainbow Umbrellas

It’s been a miserable couple of weather days in the UK, so I thought I’d cheer folks up with a picture of some colourful umbrellas. It was taken in Paris, back in the days when I could jump on a Eurostar train there on a whim. Oh how I miss Paris! On fine days I can see France tantalisingly on the horizon from Kent – it’s so near and yet so far!

Oh well, these rainy, lockdown days are incentive to stay in and catalogue my photographs- so you may be seeing more Paris pictures soon. If they look a bit blurred don’t blame it on the focus – it’s just my tears as I yearn for my favourite European city!

This image forms part of my Daily Print series, and is available to buy here