Some years ago, I used to work in London and, as I lived on the South Coast, I spent a lot of time on trains. Which was very annoying. On the plus side, it did mean that I had a lot of time for reading.

One morning, having got my bottom on to ‘my seat’ (and yes, the price I paid for that season ticket every year meant that it was my seat, my carriage and my train, in fact), I opened up the newspaper and came across something which changed my perspective on life.

The article in question was a review of South, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s account of his 1914-1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition. Written right at the end of what is often termed the Golden Age of Polar Exploration, the book details an amazing story of victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, as expedition objectives are abandoned and the fight for survival begins.

The book is concerned with the events which befell the Weddell Sea party who suffered the loss of the expedition ship and a long stay on the inhospitable Elephant Island, whilst Shackleton led a small team on an epic journey to South Georgia, to get help.

Fortunately, many of the expedition photographs survived the events described in the book and, whilst the bulk of Frank Hurley’s pictures are intended to be a record of ship and shore life, there are many beautiful images of the Endurance taken at night as she lies, loaded with ice, in the grip of the pack.

Best read in one sitting, South provides an interesting perspective on leadership, psychology and the impact of isolation, as well as a rollocking good tale.

Want to find out more?
Scott Polar Research Institute

Antarctic Heritage Trust

Posted in Literature | 2 Comments


Well, having looked at my blog, I see I haven’t written a sausage, a bean or even a word since 2015. This is not good, but boy, a lot of water has flown under the bridge since then.

It looks like it’s time to blow the dust of the typewriter, put a cat on my lap and get the brain cells to start stringing words together again.

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Horse Ownership

The red lady gets a treat.

Will the “Red Lady” be joining Team DG?

Horse ownership. This topic pops up like unwanted dandelions in a pristine lawn – frequently, persistently and, like the dandelions, resists all strategies to eradicate it. Brutal put downs on the grounds of cost viability have no effect. Zero purchasing of horsey related mags, just forces continued equine hunting activities further on to the internet and every argument is counted by the Offspring’s wailing “Nearly everyone we know has a horse, why can’t we get one?”. Hmm.

The poor Offspring’s position is made much worse, of course, by the fact that she routinely rides someone else’s pony. She loves him and he’s not for sale.

Oddly, the potential solution to all this, may be strikingly simple – loan a school horse, keep it on working livery and boost our hours in the saddle at a more cost effective rate.

This needs a lot more thought, a very clear loan agreement (first stop would be the BHS’s suggested model contract) and acceptance from the Offspring that this would have to be a share.

The target for this arrangement would probably be my dear old Tosca. Bombproof, on the generous side (overweight) and willing to pop a few small fences, she might just fit the bill.

So, next week, I get to ride the Offspring’s speedy show pony and she takes the portly red lady out for a spin. Then we’ll see. The school could say “No”, the Offspring might not like her, who knows?

In the mean time, I’ll just keep buying the lottery tickets.

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Wild Parenting

imageAs any parent knows, the worst thing you can say to a child is “If you do X, I will buy Y”, because at some point you have to make good on your promises.

Having indulged in this mad behaviour, my comeuppance came when the Offspring received an offer of a place at her preferred school.

The trade off? Buy a python.

OK. Right. A python. This takes some thinking about. We already have geckos, I reasoned, what’s the prob. with a snake?

Well for one thing, it’s a snake.

Geckos are cute, sweet and have amazing feet. A snake, well it’s scary and how about the food? Dead mice. Yuck!

So, in spite of many, many objections we now own a Royal Python.

Official name: Ra’s Al Ghul
Pet name: Razzy

He’s only 7 months old but he’s handsome, amazing, sweet tempered, curious…

…And we all love him.

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Horse Riding and Dystonia. Progress Report 28

There’s been a lot of change at our riding school recently. Our “shouty” riding instructor has left and the replacement is proving to be …an improvement.

Our new instructor is a middle aged lady who knows a lot, has a good sense of humour and very importantly, has a good teaching style with children. The Offspring has come on leaps and bounds, since the shouting stopped and the coaching started.

Having said that, there is one thing that never changes.

Last week our new lady was ill and the replacement (another good egg) had to teach a combined group of me, the Offspring and her two, usual clients. Bearing in mind the age and skill mix of this group she decided to do a flatwork lesson.

Now the Offspring hates anything that smacks of control, in spite of being repeatedly sold the benefits of being able to leg yield, for example (in all areas of riding) by yours truly. Her face, at being asked to do 10m circles, was a picture.

Personally, I found this lesson really interesting because the instructor also has some big physical challenges to overcome (due to injuries), but she translated her experiences into useful ways for me to cope with doing things when Dystonia has me in its grip. And they worked!

Obviously, it’s better not to be hurt and I want her to get better quickly, but the insight was useful.

Time to get the competition calendar out and see if I can make any headway on last year’s dismal performance.

Posted in Dressage, Dystonia, Horse Riding | 2 Comments

Back To School

Dystoniagirl If anyone ever tells you that it’s easy to get your child into a good school, look at the calendar, check that it’s not April 1st and that you don’t have a sign saying “Kick Me” on your back, then move away. ¬†Quickly.

Getting in to a good school is not easy, even if you have a brain the size of a planet. Schools look for clever, well adjusted, “interesting” individuals. So, you have to work at playing the ukelele whilst abseiling down Everest and reading Euripedes in the original Greek. And you have to be able to interview like Paxman too.

The poor Offspring and I have spent the last four months in school entry hell. Most nights have found us either practising interview questions, exam questions or exams period.

Fortunately, all of this effort has come good and the child has got a place at her (and our) chosen school.

All of this has left me with more knowledge of triangles than I could possibly want and a desire never to hear about adverbs again. Interestingly though, it made me want to do Classics. ¬†Perhaps, this was something to do with the geometry/logic overload, but it sent me off to find a copy of Peter Jones’s An Intelligent Person’s Guide To Classics.

I’ve just got going on this, but it’s proving to be an excellent spin through the ancient world, putting previous readings of classical works into context. I’ve just learnt that Troy was not in Greece, which helps explain a few things about the Trojan War!

So, here’s to the Greeks, Cassius Dio and the wonderful world of geometery.

Back to school for me.

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Treasure Island

imageThis week, with the TV schedules groaning with yuletide quiz shows, repeats and the like, a little gem appeared unexpectedly.

I’m not much of a fan of books ‘adapted for TV’ due to the fact that: (a) they are generally classic books that I know and love, and (b) they get wrecked.

So when Treasure Island came up the satellite planner, a decision had to be made. Watch or pass?

The Offspring and I had just started reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s great classic, so I thought, let’s give it a go.

What a surprise.

Yes, some bits of the story had been mucked about with (poor Dr. Livesey) but on the whole, really good.

Suitably bloodthirsty, suitably swashbuckling.

Best bits? Knowing that Flint’s old shipmates are hidden in the crew of the Hispaniola, the ship, the atmosphere, the locations, the ‘X’. Oh, and having lovely (!) discussions with the Offspring about how the Royal Navy used to maintain discipline on board it’s ships.

Spot of keel-hauling before dinner, anyone?

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