Archive | March 2016

Old bricks of York – a Green Man and a Roman Emperor too

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Four days off for Easter was an opportunity to go see that part of England said to exist outside the London Orbital, aka the M25, aka Europe’s Greatest Car Park.

We picked Yorkshire and drove to Leeds and York. This post is just a few pics taken in York of a tiny portion of the extremely historical piles of bricks there, which give the city its image and draw so many tourists there; like us.

The top photo is of a statue of Emperor Constantine, located outside York Minister. His pose recalls Commodus from the film, Gladiator; haughty, decadent-looking and even a bit camp. Maybe this is what fabulous wealth and opulent living does, even to a warrior of the ancient world. But you just know ‘haughtiness with a strong sense of entitlement,’ was in the ‘Essential’ category of the Person Spec, for the job of Emperor of Rome.

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St Mary’s Abbey in York © author

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‘Nothing else remains:’ St Mary’s Abbey at York © author

These crumbling walls used to be attached to the rest of St Mary’s Abbey, of which little remains. It was smashed up by religious hooligans during the Reformation; a rampage so big it makes similar efforts by the crazy punks of ISIS in the Middle East today, look half-arsed redecoration work by comparison. Ruins like St Mary’s are also a lesson for the Church; that when a King who’s used to getting his way wants to wed his latest big crush, the sensible thing is probably just to agree and let the salvation of his soul take care of itself.

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York Minster sure does have high windows © author

This image is of a stained glass window inside York Minster. Half the entire amount of stained glass in England is in this building, apparently. Smashing!

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A Green Man at York Minster © author

This photo is of a boss of the Green Man, also located inside York Minster. You can tell it’s him by the decoration of leaves. For some reason, this Green Man has two birds sticking their beaks up his nose. Maybe it’s punishment for being a pagan.

An (in)famous son of York is Guy Fawkes, which I found out from a blue plaque declaring this point in the window of a pub, named after him. The plaque also states he was hung, drawn and quartered for the Gunpowder Plot (this I did know). Well, that’s what you get for trying to blow up the entire Parliament with the King of England in it; people don’t like it. The sign for the eponymous pub pinches the design of the Guido Fawkes mask made famous by the film ‘V for Vendetta.’ I wonder if the film studio gets a fee, like it allegedly does from sales of that mask to anti-corporate protesters and the spotty teenagers of hacking group, Anonymous.

I’m reminded of a conversation overheard in a pub, back down in London; a wealthy-looking young European snorted incredulously at the concept of Bonfire Fire; of Guy Fawkes being celebrated. I could have high-fived his mate for pointing out to him it is Fawkes’ capture and his plot’s failure which is marked on November 5.

Who knows what Guy Fawkes night signifies today; maybe that we’re creatures of habit who enjoy loud explosions. That’s me, at least. It’s all history now and the city of York is a very fine living museum.


A most English scene

A rainy late afternoon in London; drizzle falls softly upon the concrete ground from an overcast sky and slowly drenches everything.

Here, in Greenwich, in front of the old (refurbished) Cutty Sark ship, a merry-go-round plays wurlitzer music and flashes its bright light display to an audience of nobody, except one soggy bloke with a camera phone (moi).

The tourists have abandoned this area to take refuge from England’s weather in nearby pubs, where the cheery landlord pours them pints of London ale at more than £5 a glass. Outside, naked in the elements, this antique attraction refuses to accept its time has passed and carries on with its show, for leisure lovers who never show up.

The merry-go-round’s name is ‘The Pride of London.’

In the background are the masts of the ship ‘Cutty Sark’, a memento of this nation’s great seafaring past; now stuck fast in the concrete and going nowhere. Little patriotic flags hang from the fairground amusement in front. Nobody finds it very amusing. Except me; Mr Arch.

Dismaland by Banksy has nothing on this!



















When an iPhone / iPad note gets deleted: What to do

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This is a post for writers like me who use Notes app in the Apple iPhone and iPad for creating content. I want to share my experience of what do when disaster strikes while you are using this app; when your podgy fingers delete the note by accident. This nightmare happened to me only today and I am so thankful I was able to prevent major disaster; of my precious Note being destroyed once and for all.

When this sort of thing happens, it’s reassuring to remember that losing a master-copy of a manuscript is a blunder which has befallen even the greats. I read J.G. Ballard (High Rise, Crash, Empire of the Sun and more) dropped an entire novel in a canal; a work by the Sage of Shepperton gone to a watery grave. And then there’s that scene in classic British T.V comedy Blackadder, when Baldrick throws upon the fire the one and only copy possessed by England’s most distinguished man of letters, Dr Samuel Johnson, of his ground-breaking new dictionary.

As far I am aware, there is no way to recover an Apple Note when it has been deleted. Please correct me if I’m wrong. So the stakes are high. Also, if your Apple devices are synced, then what is deleted on one device shall be deleted on the others. This really has the potential to become a car crash which keeps getting worse; as your mistake on one device multiplies on all the others and your Note is wiped.

When this happens, there are only seconds to act to save your Note in jeopardy, as the syncing process is mercilessly quick. Rapid action is required to prevent your work from being permanently erased forever and ever, Amen. What happened in my case was that I deleted by mistake a Note while working on it in the iPhone. I spent a second staring open mouthed at the screen at what I’d just done. Then my survival instinct kicked in: ‘I must save this work not just for my own sake, but for the sake of millions of readers and for literary posterity!’ Yes, indeedy.

So, what you must do at once to save your work is: CUT THE INTERNET CONNECTION to your device. Like, straight away, without any delay. In my case this meant switching off the Wifi by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. I guess in the case of devices using cellular networks, it’s necessary to go to Settings > Mobile Data, to cut the connection. Whatever the route, just do so pronto.

What cutting the internet connection does is to prevent your horrible error from spreading to the Notes app on your other Apple devices. In my case it meant my mistake remained confined to just the iPhone and the contagion was unable to spread. My relief was truly unbound when I checked my other device and found my Note still present. I still felt relieved hours later.

Of course, this fix is only a fix if you possess more than one Apple device. I understand it may be possible to recover deleted notes using the iCloud, but not everyone (ie: moi) is savvy enough to have synced to the cloud, or even to know the cloud is a thing. I guess the best tip of all is: DO NOT USE THE NOTES APP FOR WORK YOU CARE ABOUT. That’s the lesson I’m choosing to take from this drama.

P.S: The Note I deleted by mistake was a 6,500 word thing which comprises my ongoing effort at writing some kinda story. I do have hopes for my half-formed baby: 1) that it will trigger a million pound bidding war between prestigious publishing houses for the rights, 2) make me so rich I can retire, 3) capture the essence of being human in an inhumane world which contains all the conditions for becoming even less human-friendly than ever before, (4, and most importantly) that I may say of it: ‘that’s a piece of me.’

What I’ve written here is only my experience and there are almost certainly other, better ways to deal with the crisis of deleting a precious Note.

Riding mikrolets in Timor Leste (East Timor)


Taking a trip by mikrolet in Timor Leste, aka East Timor, may be the best 20 pence I ever spent on public transport.

This small bus-van is everywhere in the capital city of Dili and the chances are you will hear one long before you see it. That’s because local pop music music is normally blaring from the speakers.

Meanwhile, the exterior bodywork of these vans is covered in stickers and garish paint jobs. My favourite design of all was a triptych on a rear window of Christiano Ronaldo between two images of Christ the Redeemer. (Guess who looked most God-like. That’s right: CR7).

This combo of loud design and pumping music mean there’s no chance of missing your mikrolet when it hoves in to view.

Sticking out a hand is how to hail the driver to the road side and then the passenger clambers aboard through a sliding side door, (in my case, ducking so low that my chin nearly touched my knees). The seating is two wooden benches with passengers facing each other, which encourages familiarity and means foreigners are in no doubt that they’re the subject of conversation among the locals sharing this ride. Up to 10 people squeeze in to the small space and it is cramped. It’s knee to knee and shoulder to shoulder, with no seat belts. The convexly arched roof of a mikrolet means that lofty passengers must lean in, so many oversized foreigners will end up practically cheek to cheek with whoever’s sat opposite.

Chucking out time at the schools causes chaotic scenes, as mikrolets park up kerbside and are swamped by crowds of uniformed kids in colourful scarves, all packing out the vehicles and hanging from doors. The mikrolets then join the traffic and you can almost hear the things groaning under the weight of their excitable cargo.

Tall passengers (that’s me) may want to pay double (40p) to sit in the front next to the driver. This is an experience in itself. In the mikrolets I took, the dashboards were often a mess of sticky-out wires and hollow spaces in panelling where instruments presumably used to be. I found this pretty charming, though you might wonder whether some important functions are no longer available which are useful for, y’know, things like safe driving to preserve the health of all aboard. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise that a mikrolet rarely gets much above 35mph. Fewer instruments than the vehicle strictly should have may not be such a big deal, so long as the driver has a good clear view of the road ahead, right? Don’t bet on that. In a couple of the mikrolets I rode in, the field of vision was nothing but a thin strip across the front windscreen; the rest of it being smothered by a decorative array of colourful stickers, hanging baubles and other bits and bobs. It seems like the mikrolet drivers of Timor Leste all mysteriously share a passion for a single style of interior design. Maybe it comes with a sixth sense for anticipating what’s happening on the larger portion of the road ahead, which is hidden from view behind a FC Barcelona scarf hanging right in front of the driver’s eyeballs. Certainly, nobody came a cropper during my several journeys by mikrolet.

Mikrolets certainly won’t be winning awards for safety any time soon. But this economical, highly personal and personalised little van is my most favourite public transport. Hitching a ride in one is essential to do when in East Timor and it’s a great way to get close up (literally) with the local culture.

The photo above is of a modestly decorated  mikrolet, which I took in Dili on the way to catch a lift with a travel buddy to the city of Laquica, which is a couple of hours away along the north coast of Timor Leste.

Check out a mikrolet ride I took in Dili. I loooove the music, but have no clue what the song is called.