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Roadrunner?

I spent a while this morning trying to photograph some tiny Turnstones as they were busying themselves hunting for food on the beach. It’s quite hard to get a decent shot as they are so fast. They remind me of the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland “late for a very important date” and “with no time to say hello, goodbye”. This little one, that went off-piste onto the road (something I’m noticing during the lockdown as they become more brazen with the reduced traffic) reminded me of the Looney Tunes cartoon character Roadrunner. The white line next to it shows you just how tiny these birds are, though actually the ones I saw today were actually on the large size.

It could be time to invest in a bigger zoom lens to do them justice – if they keep still long enough for me. The one time they were obliging was when it snowed a couple of years back. I was able to go right up to them then. Either they were too busy concentrating on staying warm to move, or their little feet were frozen to the ground. Hopefully not the latter.

The birds generally have a mottled appearance, apart from their lovely white undercarriage and bright orange legs. But when they fly they look like different birds, with black and white wings. It took me a while to realise that they were the same species. I do think that they were one of the most adorable bird breeds, especially as they look like they’re wearing orange stockings. And they way the flit about just adds to their charm. I generally only see them in winter, though according to the RSPB they are in Britain all year round. Anyhow, I always consider them one of things that makes winter a bit more tolerable.

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Breeze

Fishing boats are lovely splashes of colour on a winter’s day. I love the way the boat colours match not only the buoys but the amusement arcades in the distance, and how the rope leads your eye towards them.

It’s a magical time when the tide goes out and you get a lovely squelchy playground to explore, including these colourful little fishing boats that you can walk right up to. Flash forward a few hours and they will be totally inaccessible. When you see them bobbing up and down on the water, reclaimed as perches by smug seagulls, you’ll think it was all just a surreal dream that you had walked amongst them the very same day.

I have learned that when the tide does come back in it does so very quickly. It is easy to be cut off if you focus too much on taking photos and forget to watch the tide. Fortunately it hasn’t happened to me as yet, though I have had a couple of close calls.

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

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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.

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

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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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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

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Parakeet

This morning I spotted some cheeky parakeets from my back window. They were happily chattering away and preening themselves, seemingly without a care in the world. It was a lovely sight, which makes me all the more sad to hear that the government is considering culling these birds.

It appears that in the last decade parakeets have spread out from London and are becoming an ever-growing threat to native wildlife – the grey squirrel of the skies, so to speak.

The good news is that Jimi Hendrix has finally been cleared of blame for introducing them to London in the first place, when he released a pair in Carnaby Street back in the sixties. It turns out that they have been spotted in London skies as far back as the 1800s. It’s nice idea though, that his presence lives on through more ways than his music – and somewhat apt, as they have a flamboyant appearance and like to make a lot of noise.

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

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A Moment

One thing that surprises me when I am out and about with my camera is that, in spite of the cold and the lack of places offering respite from it, I don’t see many miserable people, not even the kids. Maybe when they’re at home it’s a different story, but I haven’t seen any tantrums on the beach, even when it has been bitterly cold or blowing a gale.

I remember when the pandemic first happened I would say “I can handle this; it’s the second wave in winter that I’m dreading”. But so far it isn’t as bad as I had feared. And maybe I’m not the only person feeling that way. Whether it’s parents spending quality time with their kids, or solitary people just being still and embracing nature, there’s a sense that we’re all pressing pause again for a while, and that that isn’t such a bad thing.

I love this image of a mother and child just quietly watching the breaking waves together. It’s a tender moment of peace, comfort and togetherness. I like to think that both will look back on times like these with fondness.

Perhaps not everyone is having such a good lockdown. Apparently the sea reduces anxiety and brings a sense of calm, so people who live by the sea are generally happier, even if their standard of living may be lower. I do feel blessed to live close to the ‘blue pill’ that is helping me not just to get through this, but to embrace parts of it even. Us coastal folks may generally live in areas of deprivation but it seems that, during a time of lockdown, we are rich.

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

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Morning seagull

I spotted this seagull outside of my window this morning. It was to the side of me so I couldn’t quite get all of him in the frame. But there’s something about the colours, with his eye seemingly reflecting the colour of the moss, and also his lovely webbed foot, that I loved. So I’ve featured him anyhow. Besides, sometimes less is more.

This is one of those pictures when the grey sky works, creating a gentle, harmonious backdrop to the vivid moss, and to the soft colours of the gull. Winter photography can be great.

People often confuse my photos with paintings. I’ve a feeling this is going to be one of those images.

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