Goals for 2012

I’m a little bit late with this post as I really should have written it at the turn of the year rather than a month later. My goals for 2012, however, are as follows:

Write more

First up I want to write more this year. I’ve really enjoyed writing blogs over the last three years but they got quite intermittent last year which was a shame. I’d like to use this blog to continue to document my hobbies as well as various trips and projects that I do.

I’d also like to have a go at writing a blog post every day, for January at least, and after that see how I go. Rather than an account of the whole day I think if I just keep each post to one idea or thing that has happened it should be quite manageable. I’ll also keep this blog separate so as not to confuse things.

Read more

I like reading and I like books and for a number of months I’ve actually made a point of noting down in a list the books that I want to read. I can get a bit carried away with lists and over the last few months I have accumulated over 80 books on it. Over the last few years I’ve read between 20-25 books a year so even if I don’t add any more there is already 3-4 years worth. I really enjoy reading history books and I’ve tried to get into more classics recently but I should allow myself a few more trashy page turners in between too. Ultimately though, my aim this year is to read over 25 books. Should be doable.


To give myself more time to do the first two goals I am vowing to only watch ‘quality’ television this year. Far too often I’ve found myself watching rubbish on TV and to be honest, there are other things I’d enjoy a lot more, including writing and reading. No more ‘Don’t tell the bride’ for me. On this note, I’ve got a lot of TV series box sets that are excellent and I’d like to watch but are not always popular with the Missus who, to be fair, is not a fan of violent stuff. It would be great to get through some of these if I can though and there is some crossover for us.

Ideally of an evening I’d like to watch an hour of ‘quality’ TV such as an episode of The Wire or Madmen followed by reading or writing a blog post. Then Bed.

Become a Pie Master

Over the last few years I’ve really enjoyed my bread-making but to a certain extent I’ve reached my limits at it. There are still some speciality breads that I’ve not made that I’ll have a go at from time to time but I was really after a new culinary challenge. After making a small pre-christmas request I got given a Pie book and a few pie making accouterments.  It is therefore my goal to become a bit of a ‘Pie-master’ by the end of the year. We should have a great time trying in any case.


This one has been carried over from last year when I failed to achieve it. I love magic and sleight of hand and would love to be able to do a few tricks. My aim is therefore to be able to deliver three separate magic tricks on demand by the end of the year.

Grow Wheat

I’ve been keen on bread making for some time, even regularly making my own sourdough but there is one more obsessional step to take. Growing my own wheat.

I’m not sure quite why I’m so keen to do this, as good flour is relatively easy to get hold of? Maybe it is because it is a challenge and a bit pointless that I find it an attractive idea. I’m keen to show my kids where food comes from and when I’ve mentioned it they do seem pretty keen so maybe it’s just educational?

The first challenge amongst many is getting hold of some wheat which, due to strict distribution laws, is harder to obtain than you might think. Hard to get a small amount in any case. Getting half a ton delivered would be no problem apparently. If I can get over this stumbling block we are in business.

Touch Typing

This final one may be the biggest challenge of them all. I’m sure having to look at the keyboard as I type has professionally held me back a bit. As another goal is to write more it now seems the right time to learn to touch type. There seem to be many free online courses and demo’s so I also have the few excuses.

Setting aside the time for this task will be tricky but I’m determined to crack this one if I can.

Project 365 – 2011 – Finished

In 2008 I completed my first ‘One photo a day’ for a year project. I found it quite a struggle and it almost drove me a little crazy at times. When I was finished I felt very burnt out for photography and it took me quite a while to get my mojo back. I tried fairly hard to get good, arty shots each day and possibly got a bit frustrated and upset if I didn’t get what I was after. When I finished, dazed as I was, I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment.

For this years project I went into it with a whole different attitude. This time I told myself that it would be more of a photo journal rather than an art project and I gave myself full licence to take ‘cop-out’ shots where necessary. With work and kids there are enough stresses in my life so I also said that if it got a bit much that I would just give it up. The fact that I’d already notched up one before helped here.

How did it go?

With all those pre-conditions I actually found it fairly easy this time, I certainly can’t remember a time that I felt pressured or in a tizzy about it. I more or less took my Canon 5D around with me everywhere, despite it’s bulk. It was therefore fairly straightforward to get a shot somewhere in the day. Equipment-wise this year, I had a better camera in the 5D rather than my old 20D but no macro lens as I’d sold it to get my iPhone. I remember relying on the macro quite a bit in 2008 to get those shots indoors at night. In a way I’m glad it wasn’t an option this time as I took more pictures of scenes rather than objects which suited the photo journal approach better.

The big issue this year was not so much taking the pictures, it was uploading them to Flickr. It’s interesting to note that since i’ve had a smartphone where I can take a picture, edit it if necessary and upload it within seconds or minutes it now seems an imposition if it takes longer. The knock-on effect of this has been that I now resent having to take out my memory card, plug it into the card reader and input the photos into Lightroom before editing and uploading. At first I would upload my photo each day but by the end I was doing it every 5-6 days.

Projects within the project

I had two main mini-projects to help me along during the year. The first was to document my cycle route to work which for a while was giving me 1 or 2 pictures a week. The other was an (overly) ambitious project called ’52 Portraits’. The idea was for me to take one portrait a week for the whole year. I loved the idea of this but I think i should have planned it a whole lot better as I kind of ran out of people willing to have their picture taken after about 20 weeks. Still as long as it lasted it gave me another day each week that I could include in the overall 365 project. Despite neither of these mini-projects quite coming off I’m glad I had a go as they gave me a bit of focus early on. They are also topics that i can easily pick up later if I want to.

Am I a better photographer?

My own self assessment is that I’m a much more rounded photographer this time around than I was in 2008 and the equipment that I’m using is a lot better. On the other hand I think I’ve also become a lot more accepting of snapshots and less worried about ‘arty’ shots than i was. In a sense my photography has come full circle. I’ve gone through being irritated by people being in my pictures and the desire to get the perfect framing and exposure. I’m a lot more interested these days in just recording what I’m seeing. I certainly take a lot more pictures of the family than I used to. I therefore wouldn’t say that I’ve got much better technically but I have got a lot more comfortable in my picture taking.


I completed my first 365 (actually 366) in 2008 and this one in 2011 which makes me due another one in 2014? As I rely on taking so many of these pictures on my way to work I don’t think i could face doing it again till I work (or live) somewhere else. I have no immediate plans to move by then but you never know what will be happening?


A less stressful and angst ridden project this time but also slightly less fulfilling one somehow. That said, I’m glad I did it and would consider doing it again one day. Not in 2012 though.

Annual Report 2011

Well, it’s been an exciting year. Here is the news and facts about my cultural life that are fit to print.


The big achievement in 2011 was to complete the ‘One photo a day’ project without missing a day. I did my first one in 2008 and I’m wondering if I should keep doing this every 3rd year? Praps I’ll see how I feel in 2013?

In total I took 4216 pictures with my ‘good’ camera (Canon 5D) and uploaded 891 of them to Flickr. I’ve not really kept tabs on how many iPhone photos I’ve taken.


I attempted to read 20 books in 2011, though one was War and Peace that I had started the previous June (!!!) and David Copperfield that was not finished until 2012. I didn’t finish the Mitfords book as I felt i’d gleaned enough by half way or ‘Suttree’ which I just wasn’t enjoying.

It was quite a mix of books including trashy thrillers, classics, biographies and quite a few history books. All of the books, listed in the order I read them, including my favourites:

  • War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy (finished)
  • The Mitfords – Letters between six sisters – Edited by Charlotte mosley
  • The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
  • Firewall – Andy McNab
  • Rifles – Mark Urban
  • The Last Kingdom – Bernard Cornwell
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Stanley Kubrick biography – John Baxter
  • Nelson – A personal history – Christopher Hibbert
  • A Call for the Dead – John Le Carre
  • Absolution Gap – Alistair Reynolds – GOLD
  • The Lost World – Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Suttree – Cormac McCarthy (Did not finish)
  • How Not to Grow Up – Richard Herring
  • Conquest: English Kingdom in France – Juliet Barker
  • War without Garlands – Robert Kershaw – Bronze
  • David Copperfield (Started) – Charles Dickens
  • The Blackest Streets – Sarah Wise
  • The Greatest Show on Earth – Richard Dawkins – Silver


I saw 22 films at the cinema this year. Overall not quite such a stellar year as 2010 but there were a couple of corkers.

Black Swan – Gold
127 Hours
True Grit
Never Let Me Go
Animal Kingdom
Pina 3D – Silver
Fight Club
Attack the Block
Tree of Life
Super 8
Captain America
The Guard
The Inbetweeners
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – Bronze
Ides of March
Adventures of Tintin – Secret of the Unicorn
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

TV Films

This year I kept a record of the films that I saw on my television either via a DVD or recorded from a station:

  1. Local hero
  2. Italian job
  3. Jungle book
  4. Mean streets
  5. Evil dead
  6. Hot fuzz
  7. 12 Angry Men
  8. Midnight run
  9. Romanzo criminale
  10. Day of the Dead
  11. Pirates of the carribean: dead mans chest
  12. Skeletons
  13. Heat
  14. Transporter 3
  15. The money pit
  16. Top gun
  17. In Bruges
  18. Grosse pointe blank
  19. The Prestige
  20. Rollerball
  21. Watchmen
  22. Coming to America
  23. Good will hunting
  24. Open range
  25. Mad Max 2
  26. Ghost town
  27. District 9
  28. Four Lions
  29. About Schmidt
  30. The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford
  31. 3:10 to Yuma
  32. Kick-Ass
  33. The Town
  34. The Magnificent Ambersons (part of)
  35. Dog day afternoon
  36. Back to the future
  37. Trading places
  38. Star Trek

TV Series

I have a long list of TV series’ that I want to watch but I don’t get the opportunities that I would like which has meant that I’ve only racked up a few. All three were good but the finale season of The Wire has to be the winner.

  • Battlestar Galactica – Series 2
  • The Wire
  • Arrested Development – Series 1

Museum Exhibitions

I saw a few Museum exhibitions, my favourite being the Don McCullen, War Photographer which I thought was very powerful.

High Arctic – National Maritime Museum
Warhorse – National Army Museum
Degas – Royal Academy
Afghanistan – British Museum
Ministry of Food – Imperial War Museum
Don McCullen: War Photographer – Imperial War Museum

I visited the galleries of many other places and I think i’ll try to record all of my cultural visits next year.

Walking across Greater London – Part 2

The Project

Very simply, this was attempt to walk across the whole of Greater London, east to west, at it’s widest points. I reckoned that this would take 3 days with each leg being approximately 13-15 miles. In Part 1 I walked from the farmlands of the eastern edge of the London Borough of Havering to Barking. In this leg I was hoping to get from Barking to somewhere west of Hyde Park.



Despite having lived in Barking for about 2 years I’d almost never been anywhere apart from the train station, the supermarket and my house. It was therefore a bit of a revelation to finally go down Barking High Street and find a few pleasant looking buildings and a church. I didn’t linger though and made my way to the London Road and was soon over Barking Creek and the A406 (North Circular) and into East Ham.


For this bit of my walk I decided to keep off of the main road and walk through the suburban streets. This meant that I got to see street after street of slightly down at heel terrace housing, broken by the odd newsagent, internet/mobile shop and (in)convenience store. In this way I passed East Ham, Upton park and Plaistow, the latter having quite a nice station building.


I then headed south-west getting nearly as far as canning town, where I wasn’t paying attention and actually walked well out of my way. I headed past Star Park and on into an industrial estate with some scary looking ‘Private Property’, ‘No entry’ signs. I’m normally someone who takes notice of these kind of signs but I also knew that the alternative way round would be miles so I decided to just go for it. As this was a Sunday, no-one was there and I didn’t get stopped. I’d picked this route as I wanted to see what the view was like over the River Lea/Limehouse Cut. As it turned out a bit dingy. I then found myself at the A12 which I hoped to find a pedestrian crossing at Bromley-by-Bow. I did find a crossing but it meant going up to the flyover and down again to use a tunnel and then up the flyover on the other side and down again. Phew. I was now in Tower Hamlets.


East End

My route through the old East End was quite meandering and on the whole I was quite surprised by the mix of housing. There are clearly quite poor areas but these are next to a number of new builds and trendy looking houses. This was most marked when I was in Stepney Green and On one side of the road was a series of grand georgian town houses and on the other is a dog eared looking council block. Very odd.

Stepney Green

The Mile End Road again had a mix of amazing old buildings and skuzzy looking mobile phone shops. I decided to get off the main road at Whitechapel and go by the back-streets until I got to Brick Lane. Here, of course, I came into the trendy, vintage clothe wearing set. I was very hungry by now as I’d been holding out to have a salt beef bagel at one of the brick lane bagel shops. It was delicious.


From the top of Brick lane I made my way over to the Boundary Road Estate which was built at the end of the 19th century and is one of the first pieces of social housing. It was built on the site of the notorious slum ‘The Old Nichol’. I have to say that it still looks very nice!

Old Nichol Street

City of London

I walked past St Leonard’s church and across Shoreditch High Street and I was in the city. Again I decided to explore the back streets rather than the main thoroughfares, this time along Rivington Street. Crossing Great Eastern street I made my second navigation error of the day and went south on Paul Street and it was quite a while before I realised that I was not travelling east. I discovered my mistake and turned the right way into Finsbury Square. From there I skirted the Barbican and then up Whitecross Street (no market today) and on to Old Street. From here is was going to be a straight line for a while.

Whitecross Street

Old Street turned into Clerkenwell Road, then Theobald’s Street in a long stream of shops, pubs, café’s and houses. I was getting a bit tired by now but had a goal in my head to get a certain distance in the bag.


I turned into Oxford Street, a place that I’ve been down many times. This time, for the first time I looked up at the buildings (like a tourist) rather than the shops and was surprised about how many cool old buildings there were.

Oxford Street

I turned off Oxford Street about half way along and walked on Wigmore Street that runs parallel. This eventually led to the eastern end of Hyde Park where I had a nice walk in the afternoon sunshine.

Hyde Park

I finished my day at Queensway tube station at the north western corner of Hyde Park having walked 14 miles. A pretty tiring day!

View all the photos from the day.