I’ve not been doing much photography in the last few weeks; probably just fedup with all the restrictions we seem to have had placed upon us.
Although one bonus is that I have been reading a lot and listening to music on my headphones.

Here is a book that was sent to me by my daughter, a completely unknown authour. ‘Amor Towles‘ who published a novel in 2016 with the title A Gentleman in Moscow .

Click cover for Amazon link.

The story of Count Alexander Rostov who is brought before a Bolshevik tribunal in Moscow: condemned for being an unrepentant aristocrat. Saved from the firing squad by a poem whose sentiments seem to coincide with the revolutionary desire for change. Instead of being shot, he is sentenced to house arrest in his current place of residence: the Metropol Hotel. He returns to the hotel after his trial, determined to make the most of his reduced circumstances. As the reader, we follow the Count in his day to day life within the confines of the hotel.

Two quotes from the book:-

“The principle here is that a new generation owes a measure of thanks to every member of the previous generation. Our elders planted fields and fought in wars; they advanced the arts and sciences, and generally made sacrifices on our behalf. So by their efforts, however humble, they have earned a measure of our gratitude and respect.”
“For as it turns out, one can revisit the past quite pleasantly, as long as one does so expecting nearly every aspect of it to have changed.”

A book that I thoroughly recommend,


The music was Max Richter:

A Distant Mirror by Barbara Wertheim Tuchman.

In the introduction to her 1978 book A Distant Mirror, Barbara Wertheim Tuchman playfully identified a historical phenomenon which she termed:
“Tuchman’s Law”

Disaster is rarely as pervasive as it seems from recorded accounts. The fact of being on the record makes it appear continuous and ubiquitous whereas it is more likely to have been sporadic both in time and place. Besides, persistence of the normal is usually greater than the effect of the disturbance, as we know from our own times. After absorbing the news of today, one expects to face a world consisting entirely of strikes, crimes, power failures, broken water mains, stalled trains, school shutdowns, muggers, drug addicts, neo-Nazis, and rapists. The fact is that one can come home in the evening—on a lucky day—without having encountered more than one or two of these phenomena. This has led me to formulate Tuchman’s Law, as follows: “The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five to tenfold” (or any figure the reader would care to supply).

Click book cover for Amazon link.

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century: from the bubonic plague and the Papal Schism to the Hundred Years’ War.

I wonder who will write a similar book about our present troubles?


Continue reading “A Distant Mirror by Barbara Wertheim Tuchman.”

I digress.

Reading Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England: and in book 1 “The rights of persons” I came across a quote that I thought rather pertinent for what’s going on here in UK at the moment:-

England can never be ruined except by a Parliament.

It was said by the lord treasurer William Cecil, 1ˢᵗ Baron Burghley (1520 – 1598), the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign, twice Secretary of State and Lord High Treasurer from 1572. (From The Encyclopædia Britannica).

For those wondering why I would read such a book, curiosity got the better of me after noticing it being refereed to rather a lot just recently.

Printing No2.

This one from 2010 – Nikon F4 on T-Max 400 and probably developed in D76 if my memory serves me well.

I have a darkroom log book somewhere in all my stuff, just haven’t come across it yet, I know I packed it because it has a lot of information about film, paper, developers etc; so rather useful and should have this image info in it.

Another for the printer, although I will probably make a conventional darkroom print as well and then make a decision which gets on the wall.

I am still working my way through computer files, but have about 3500 negatives/E6 slides which need cataloguing and either scanning or printing in the darkroom – or both.

Also reading this book, it was one I should have got when it was available from the bookshops in 2010, a copy from Amazon would now cost me £118. new and £80. used: that will teach me !
Our library in Driffield (yes we still have one) has found a copy through the Bibliographic department, so have got it on extended loan for a small administrative fee. They are so helpful and nothing seems too much trouble for them.

An Arabian Utopia: The Western Discovery of Oman: by Alastair Hamilton. (Click book for Amazon link)

From Amazon:
Even though Oman had always been familiar to travellers sailing between Europe and India or Persia, it was its coast alone that was known. Greeks and Romans had charted it, medieval merchants traded on it, and in the early sixteenth century the Portuguese conquered its main towns, yet the interior of Oman was all but entirely unknown and would remain so until the early nineteenth century. Only after the ejection of the Portuguese in 1650 and an independent Oman had built an empire of its own, stretching round the Indian Ocean from India to Zanzibar, did Muscat, the capital, start to be visited by western powers eager to obtain commercial concessions and political influence. In the nineteenth century, for the first time, a very few, mainly English, explorers ventured inland and embarked on the true discovery of Oman. But even that was sporadic. As long as there was a powerful ruler, the travellers were protected, but by the late nineteenth century the rulers in Muscat had lost control over the interior and it was not until well into the twentieth century that explorers such as Wilfred Thesiger could investigate the south and that the oil companies could begin to chart the centre and the west. Oman was the last Arab country to be fully explored by western travellers and this book examines and discusses the ways in which the emergent knowledge of Oman was propagated in the West, from the earliest times to 1970, by explorers, missionaries, diplomats, artists, geologists and naturalists, and by those scholars who gradually uncovered the manuscripts and antiquities that allowed them to piece together the history of the area.

A tree on the move.

An Onodrim or ‘Tree-Host’ ?

Things have changed. Some of us are still true Ents, and lively enough in our fashion, but many are growing sleepy, going tree-ish, as you might say. Most of the trees are just trees, of course; but many are half awake. Some are quite wide awake, and a few are, well, ah, well getting Entish. That is going on all the time. (Treebeard)

I think I was about 17 when I first read this book and have enjoyed reading it on many occasions since: liked the film series, not so much the several wireless versions that have been produced over the years. But the books remain the best way of enjoying the adventures of ‘Middle-earth’ and Hobbits.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien.

Click book cover for link:
More information on books.

But You Did Not Come Back: A Memoir – Marceline Loridan-Ivens.

A very moving  memoir of a young Holocaust survivor:

But You Did Not Come Back: A Memoir by Marceline Loridan-Ivens.A relatively short book of 112 pages, but very moving & what hit me the most was the comment:

    “……….Surviving makes other people’s tears unbearable. You might drown in them “

P.s. I might add that this was one of those books I read from beginning to end over one day – after the first few pages, I just could not put it down.

Nikon F4 with the AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G.


My Nikon F4 with the AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G.
Made with the D800 and 55mm f2.8 micro Ai-s Nikkor, so opposite ends of the same reasoning.

Out of curiosity I wanted to see how well (if at all) my F4 worked with the 35mm Af-s f1.4G: I can confirm that the F4 lives up to its reputation of being able to take any lens Nikon has ever made.
The lens performs very well with one caveat; no f stop ring meant the only modes I can use are: Program high, program & shutter priority. So the down side was hyper-focal focusing was not an option (overcome by focusing about a 1/3 of the way in to the image) happy days. In shutter priority I could select for aperture by turning the speed control knob and as I quite often use the camera in manual it was not a problem.
The AF focusing was decisive and fast so no worries there, in actual fact it probably means that batteries will last a lot longer. Although in all the years I have had the camera, I have never needed to replace the AA or rechargeable type in the field.
This means that I might just talk myself into buying the  AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G. The 50mm f1.8 AF that I am using at the moment, has become very imprecise when focusing (age and a lot of use!) also I have the 55mm Micro Ai-s for the manual cameras.
As a matter of interest; why the f1.8 & not the f1.4 – the answer is exactly the same as with the previous 50mm AF lens; price and diminishing returns….. Looking at both lenses, the f1.8 is sharper over most of the range I use and at less cost, so at the price I could afford to do exactly what I am now considering; if I wear it out – get a new one.

If anyone is interested in the two books the camera is sitting on; they are from the Folio Society, see below from their site.

The Icelandic Sagas book image from Folio Society.The Icelandic Sagas
Magnus Magnusson (ed.)
Illustrated by Simon Noyes
Punctuated by a series of eerie illustrations by Simon Noyes, these great Nordic stories of mythology & exploration are chosen and prefaced by Magnus Magnusson.

Remembrance of William Robertson Davies – 28, August 1913 – 2, December 1995.

The Deptford Trilogy.The Deptford Trilogy – Robertson Davies

Fifth Business.
The Manticore.
World of Wonders.

From the first page of the first book in the trilogy:

My lifelong involvement with Mrs. Dempster began at 8 o’clock p.m. on the 27th of December, 1908, at which time I was ten years and seven months old.
…………I had a boy’s sense of when a snowball was coming, and I knew Percy. I was sure that he would try to land one last, insulting snowball between my shoulders before I ducked into our house. I stepped briskly – not running, but not dawdling – in front of the Dempsters just as Percy threw, and the snowball hit Mrs. Dempster on the back of the head. She gave a cry and, clinging to her husband, slipped to the ground; he might have caught her if he had not turned at once to see who had thrown the snowball.

The consequences of this simple act of throwing a snowball, had a profound effect on the lives of several of the books characters. Culminating in the disclosure of a secret which has twisted its way through all three books; especially as the snowball had enclosed a hidden stone.

William Robertson Davies:
A playwright, critic, journalist, and professor who died on this day in 1995 aged 82;  having received during his lifetime honorary degrees from 26 American, Canadian, and British universities.

“Be sure you choose what you believe and know why you believe it, because if you don’t choose your beliefs, you may be certain that some belief, and probably not a very credible one, will choose you.” ~ Robertson Davies.

“Money, it is often said, does not bring happiness; it must be added, however, that it makes it possible to support unhappiness with exemplary fortitude.” ~ Robertson Davies.


Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden.

Joseph BoydenAmazon link.

The moving story of two Cree Indians from Moose Factory Canada: who became snipers in the Great War.
An intense description of trench war interspersed with an account of what it was like being Indians, forcibly taken as children, from their families. Then ‘educated’ as Canadians with knowledge of their own ways and language forcefully eradicated.

“Taking the Three Day Road”, a traditional Cree reference to dying, is given a new meaning by the narrative of Niska, an aunt to one of the men. She escaped from the education system and carried on her life as an Oji-Cree medicine woman, but is now trying to bring one of the two home on his return from the front. He is physically and mentally wounded by his experiences; she is determined to save him.

In Remembrance of the Great War:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae, May 1915

Considerations on Representative Government.

Considerations on Representative Government. by John Stuart Mill .

P.S. this book can be got quite legally for free (the wonders of the internet ) see link below:  if  by chance you are interested.

Maybe this should be compulsory reading for certain members of society !!

On page 200 he says………

“Until mankind in general are of opinion with Plato that the proper person to be entrusted with power is the person most unwilling to accept it.”

Referring to this paragraph from Plato, Republic:

The good are not willing to rule either for the sake of money or of honour. They do not wish to collect pay openly for their service of rule and be styled hirelings nor to take it by stealth from their office and be called thieves, nor yet for the sake of honour, for they are not covetous of honour. So there must be imposed some compulsion and penalty to constrain them to rule if they are to consent to hold office. That is perhaps why to seek office oneself and not await compulsion is thought disgraceful. But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. It is from fear of this, as it appears to me, that the better sort hold office when they do, and then they go to it not in the expectation of enjoyment nor as to a good thing, but as to a necessary evil and because they are unable to turn it over to better men than themselves or to their like. For we may venture to say that, if there should be a city of good men only, immunity from office-holding would be as eagerly contended for as office is now.

No country has a monopoly on truth no matter how big they are.

Deserts in Oman.

One of the reasons I find the deserts here in Oman so fascinating is the amount of archaeological sites that can be found, usually helped by word of mouth from the Bedouin. Standing next to a bed of flint that has been left by its workers a few thousand years ago. Rock art that has only recently come to the attention of those interested in such things. Stone artefacts that defy any description of their purpose.

The Rub al khali (the largest sand desert in the world) along with the Ramlat al-Wahiba are so vast that no one has been able to fully explore even a small area. One of the nice things about Google Maps is the ability to sit in comfort and slowly search for unusual surface indications or as in Saudi Arabia; major stone structures.

Load-up the Landrover, usually find someone as crazy and go look!

So being able to get a copy of this book, has kept me out of mischief for days…………..


From the Back Cover:

The contemporary deserts of Arabia form some of the most dramatic arid landscapes in the world; yet, during many times in the past, the region was well-watered, containing evidence for rivers and lakes. Climatic fluctuations through time must have had a profound effect on human population that lived and passed through the region. In this book, paleoenvironmental specialists, archaeologists and geneticists are brought together to provide a comprehensive account of the evolution of human populations in Arabia. A wide range of topics are explored in this book, including environmental change and its impact on human populations, the movement and dispersal of populations through the region, and the origin and spread of food producing economies. New theories and interpretations are presented which provide new insights into the evolution of human populations in a key region of the world.

Philip Glass & Naguib Mahfouz.

Listening to some Philip Glass while reading Naguib Mahfouz’s  trilogy of colonial Egypt – The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street. The books take you through the history of Cairo at the start of the 20th century, using the trials and tribulations experienced by three generations of the same family.


One can see why he was given the 1988 Nobel Prize for literature.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.”  Douglas Adams.

I have just been re-reading – Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a “trilogy” of five books published between 1979 and 1992,

I first heard about this series in 1978 when the BBC announced the start of a new science fiction comedy on the wireless (radio for those of less advanced years 🙂 ) and was instantly hooked on the rather madcap humour tinged with some quite cutting edge science.

The story revolves around the adventures of our heroes after the earth has been destroyed by Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz, during the construction of an intergalactic highway. Along with the ‘Guide’ an electronic guidebook of the Milky Way galaxy that is being edited and updated by Ford Prefect.

Do not watch the film…..! Dreadful & the TV series was not much better: read the books and/or listen to the radio series. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Michael Kenna.

This is dedication – a very interesting interview with one of the great landscape photographers Michael Kenna.

Michael Kenna video

(link for his site)

I have been lucky enough to obtain a couple of his books – Japan being one of them.

A selection of his images  that are beautifully bound and presented in a slipcase –  I  say I am lucky as his books are in great demand because of their quality; so prices can very quickly reflect that.

The 20,000 Year History of American Indians.

In the Hands of the Great Spirit: The 20,000 Year History of American Indians.

By Jake Page.

(Link to Amazon)

A fascinating incite into the history of the Indian tribes of the Americas.

For a people who have had all of life’s follies and injustices thrown at them; it is incredible that they are still here.

I do find it a little disturbing, that very little is said about the decimation of these people since their first contact with Europeans.

Jake Page has managed to write a book that  includes historical documents, archaeological artefacts and the Indians’ own oral legends, without making it heavy going for the average reader. This is not to say that he has over simplified what is a very complex subject, but that his narrative makes one feel the need to read the next page.

Books on Rock Art in Oman.

Two new books I am reading at the moment – both on Rock Art.

The Rock Art of Arabia Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, the Emirates and Yemen

By Muhammed Abdul Nayeem.

This one came from India at R2000.00 (Good price thanks Page, he got a friend to bring it back for me)

Introduction to Rock Art Research, Second Edition.

By David S. Whitley. – thank you for the link Freyja.

I knew that if I kept looking,  eventually I would find some.

Oman’s Geological Heritage.

Oman’s Geological Heritage – Ken Glennie (Editor).

Amazon link.This is a book that is well worth reading; for anyone who has wondered how some of the magnificent rock formations found in Oman have been formed.

It has a wealth of pictures, diagrams and descriptions of Oman’s geology, from remnants of the ice age, fossils on the top of Jebel Shams to signs of a far wetter period in Oman’s history, which can be seen from rock erosion.

Meteorites from Mars, the Geodes of Dhofar, one of the largest caves in the world not to mention the abundant mineral wealth found in the country.

Update: I notice this is getting rather hard to find – for those here in Muscat, book shops still have copies.

Oman’s Geological Heritage.The Musandam.

See this link and this one as well.

The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life.

The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life.
By Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow.
ISBN-13: 978-0593058299.

It turns out that the answer to ‘Life the Universe and Everything” is not 42 after all…. See The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts by Douglas Adams.
Ho… there I am thinking I had cracked it when along comes M – Theory. Which it is hoped could unite the two currently incompatible theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity.

If M – Theory allows for 10500 possible universes, why couldn’t I have found myself in one where Guinness is free……!

This is not ‘A brief history of Time’ one needed to probably read that a couple of times (well I did anyway) to understand it(?). It is quite light reading for a subject that presents recent discoveries that help explain the expansion in the universe, with the reintroduction of the cosmic constant and the unknown repulsive force (dark matter).
It also introduces the universe in the context of 11 dimensions and suggests the quantum possibility of many universes, each with their own fundamental rules of nature.

Arabia and the Arabs: by R G Hoyland.

Arabia and the Arabs: From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam.

Robert G. Hoyland  ISBN: 0415195357.

An interesting insight into the Arabian Peninsula, from prehistory to the coming of Islam. Even with the limitations imposed by the lack of direct archaeological evidence (not because there is none – rather the reluctance until very recently of some areas allowing archaeological research to be carried out) The book is very readable and is enhanced by numerous maps, figures and plates.  

Way Beyond Monochrome.

“Way Beyond Monochrome Edition 2”   ISBN: 9780240816258  by Ralph Lambrecht and Chris Woodhouse –  Advanced Techniques for Traditional Black & White photography. This book has 560 pages and over 1000 illustrations, it provides all the important requirements of the craft of photography (it even has a bit on digital!).

This is not a beginner’s book: but for those requiring in depth information about the use of traditional materials used in the production of film based images, it is probably one of the best available.

Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu By Bernard B. Fall.

Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu.

By Bernard B. Fall. ISBN: 978-0306811579

The battle at Dien Bien Phu marked a historic turning point in France’s occupation of Indochina and offers a premonition of the United States future military defeat in the same area. By the end of the 56-day siege, a Viet Minh army had destroyed a large French force which eventually led to France withdrawing from Southeast Asia.

This book is a very detailed but easily read account of the lead in, siege and eventual defeat of the French army. It has some very moving accounts of the heroism not to mention horror that the defenders went through, along with an analysis of the political strategy adopted by France and the reluctance of both the United States and Britain to help militarily.

Travels in Oman (Arabia Past & Present) by Philip J Ward.

I have been re-reading:

Travels in Oman (Arabia Past & Present) by Philip J Ward.

Travels in Oman : On the Track of the Early Explorers: Philip Ward
Oleander Press (3 Nov 1986).

This is a very good book for anyone with a passing interest in the history of Oman, as it has many references to papers written by past explorers ( mainly the 19th early 20th century)

Colonel S B Miles on his Wadi Dayqah expedition in 1884 is fascinating because he entered the wadi from the ‘Devils Gap’ approach in Wadi Tayeen and paints a very vivid picture of the topography around him.

I first managed to retrace his steps in the early 90’s using an old ordinance survey map produced some time in 1966. They were not very detailed and it took me three expeditions until I found the correct approach as described. I have since been back a number of times and it is still the most dramatic approach into the wadi – far better than the Quriyat entrance.

The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn

A very interesting book on ‘The Autochrome Lumière’ which was a very early colour process patented in 1903.

It is an additive colour ‘screen-plate’ process: the medium contains a glass plate, with a random mosaic of microscopic grains of potato starch and lampblack filling the space between grains. This was covered by a form of shellac on which was spread an impermeable black-and-white, panchromatic silver halide emulsion. The grains are a mixture dyed orange, green and violet, which act as colour filters.

The plate is processed in a similar manner to slide film.


A philanthropist ‘Albert Kahn’ embarked on an ambitious project to create a colour photographic record from some 50 countries. His collection of around 72,000 Autochromes had been largely forgotten, this book helps to redress that.

The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn: Colour Photographs from a Lost Age.

ISBN-10: 978-1846074585.

The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn.