This is no time to neglect the blog, with covid cases rising steeply in the UK, the first visible impacts of Johnson’s hard Brexit, Trump rallying his thugs to storm the Capitol on the sixth, and the prospect of worse in the next nine days. America is playing out all of my fears of four years and two months ago, and like much of the world I’m holding my breath.
But a new lockdown in Scotland has meant that the kids didn’t return to school on the sixth and probably won’t for another month and a half at least, and four of us are trying to make this a workplace and a school and a studio and a cinema and a home and a refuge and an escape under the same modest roof again. January is always a busy month, with new courses coinciding with marking last semester’s, and this year I have additional management duties and less time in the day to manage them, so I don’t have much hope of doing much here. But I’m posting this anyway, to put in place this month’s sidebar of this morning’s frosty window and leave the door ajar in case I feel compelled to vent about the state of the world.
12 January 2021 · 1 Comment
As part of tidying up some loose ends before midnight, here’s a new gallery of panoramas taken this year, which will eventually be supplemented with whatever I take locally next year. Most of them are from a day-trip to Fife with the kids in the October school break, which is as far from Edinburgh as we’ve been since February.
31 December 2020
It’s the end of the year, and I doubt I’ll have a chance to do the best-of music, movie and TV lists that I’d wanted to—maybe in January, but given what that’s looking like, probably not—but there’s still time to squeeze in one last gallery at Detail.
30 December 2020
My old photos of the Pacific don’t end with Fiji. At the end of June 1993 my father and I flew Air Pacific from Nadi to the island of Tongatapu: I was continuing my PhD fieldwork on tradition and politics in Fiji and Tonga, while Dad came along to see a country he’d never visited. We arrived just before the King of Tonga’s 75th birthday celebrations, which also commemorated his silver jubilee. I immediately made contact with a senior member of the Prime Minister’s office, and through them scored tickets to some of the key events of the week: a day of performances by school children, and a royal feast held on the grounds next to the Royal Palace. Surrounded by Tongans wearing their finest mats, Dad and I feasted on roast suckling pig and watermelon, and then watched a succession of dances from a perfect vantage point, sitting on the ground at the front of the audience a few metres away from the King himself.
4 December 2020
A few weeks ago our students on An Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning were looking at Tom Flint‘s excellent project replicating Jupiter Artland in Minecraft, which prompted me to share with some of them the two galleries I made in 2014 of my first visits to the real-life Jupiter Artland.
Looking at them again made me realise that I’ve taken a lot of photos there since, and have posted hardly any of them here. So I’ve made a new gallery, covering the art and the nature of the first two. Many of the artworks featured aren’t in the first gallery, because they weren’t there yet, but there’s some overlap.
On Saturday we made another trip out to Jupiter Artland before it shuts for the winter. As with everywhere in these pandemic times, we had to book a time-slot for our visit rather than just turn up, and it was a time we wouldn’t normally have gone: arriving at 3 p.m., 46 minutes before sunset. But it turned out to offer a whole new perspective on the place we know; as well as the obligatory sunset-over-Jupiter photos, I took several of the rising full moon behind Cells of Life, Love Bomb, and other Artland fixtures. We also got to see Joana Vasconcelos’s Gateway pool, which had been closed for most of the pandemic. A dozen of these photos of Artland at dusk round out Artland Seasons.
30 November 2020
Four years after my third visit to Fiji, I was back for a fourth, as part of my Ph.D. fieldwork at the Australian National University. I spent several weeks there from May to the start of July, and another on my way back to Canberra at the end of August, interviewing more than thirty political figures on questions of tradition and politics in their country. Six years after the country’s first coup, I was apprehensive about how the trip would go, but it went well. Although I didn’t get to interview prime minister and 1987 coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka, I interviewed many other people I’d been reading about for years, including former and future prime ministers.
15 November 2020
I’m gradually sorting through more of the photos that I scanned from negatives last year, and lately have turned to my first photos of Sydney, a city I had been visiting since childhood (my grandparents lived near Hornsby) but first photographed on a visit in 1988. In 1991 I was back again to start a Ph.D. at the University of Sydney, before accepting a late offer from A.N.U. in Canberra and moving there. This gallery contains a couple of dozen photos from visits to Sydney in 1988, 1991 and 1993.
In Canberra I lived first in a hall on campus and later in the since-demolished Graduate House on Northbourne Avenue, with views of Black Mountain Tower. I took some initial snaps in April 1991 and more two years later, after returning from my year in the U.K. to continue my doctorate. 1993 was one of the best years of that time, when I met J., went to Fiji and Tonga for fieldwork, and hosted a visit from a great new friend from England. Most of the later photos in this gallery were taken in their company.
More N.S.W. and A.C.T. photos to come at some point as I progress through the 1990s. Next, though, will be Tonga and (more) Fiji.
31 October 2020
The kids were on their term break last week, which usually would mean some sort of trip away for a few days… but in covidtimes, not so much. Instead we did a few day trips, including one to a place I’d long been curious about: the Scottish Owl Centre at Polkemmet Country Park near Bathgate, halfway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. It’s operating at reduced hours but still open, so we went along for a couple of hours of owl observation.
It was great. There’s something about a place devoted to one specific kind of animal (or bird) that’s even more satisfying than a full-blown zoo: you get to see dozens of variations on a theme, and realise how diverse they are. It’s a terrific place to take photos and turn them into a gallery:
31 October 2020
America in 2020 is a grim sight, and last night’s presidential debate didn’t instill much hope for its future, but half a lifetime ago, when I visited it at the end of my 1992 travels with my parents, it all seemed so sunny, confident, and democratic—even though its first Democratic president in over a decade was a few months away from winning.
30 September 2020 · 1 Comment