Isle of Wight Coastal Path – photographs online

Last May, M and I walked the Isle of Wight Coastal Path. This 70-mile circular path can be started anywhere along its length (and indeed, done in any number of stages).

We decided to start and end in Cowes (12 o’clock on the embedded map below), and we gave ourselves 4-5 days to work our way round the island going clockwise. This was based partly on what we felt we could manage in a day, and partly on where it was possible to stay on our way. Just like the island’s geography, its distribution of accommodation is a little bit lop-sided.

Anyway, the full story of our walk is best saved for another day (it involved broken footwear, mixed weather, backpack sores, and snakes both venomous and non), but I’ve only just got round to putting the photographs online. So here they are. Below is a map showing the route, and below that is a Flickr slideshow, or you can click here to see the full set on Flickr.

Isle of Wight Coastal Path - Day 1

Radio Australia shortwave shutdown

Radio Australia now no longer broadcasts via shortwave.

Others have covered the news in more detail – in particular, highlighting the shortsightedness of shutting down an affordable service used by remote communities in northern Australia and on Pacific islands.

For me it’s just another inevitable step down the path shortwave seems to be going. There’s still plenty to be heard on shortwave – and a decent array of international sources to intrigue and fascinate. But as each service – usually a country – shuts down their shortwave transmitters, the service becomes of narrower and shallower interest. You need only tune around the wavebands these days to see how prominent China Radio International has become. (Receiving broadcasts direct from as far away as China is still exciting, but it gets less so when they’re repeated via transmitters closer to home.)

The Radio Australia shutdown reminds me of the fact that Radio Canada International shut down its own shortwave services in 2012. This was a long time after I started playing with my first shortwave radio, but RCI became a favourite of mine for its science show, its news and culture magazines, and most of all its correspondence show where they’d read out letters(!) and emails from listeners around the world. I signed up to receive the RCI’s programme schedule by post, and was delighted to also receive other merchandise including little plastic pennants with the station’s branding.

As of today, Radio Australia has gone the way of Radio Canada International, and many others. I didn’t listen to Radio Australia much – had never really been able to, to be honest. But on the rare occasions that it came through clear enough to make out, it was nothing less than a thrill. That the signal had made its way however far from Shepparton, and via however many bounces off the surface and atmosphere of the earth to make it into my little plastic receiver… Amazing.

I’ve had mixed successes tuning the shortwave bands since moving house last September. A new building festooned with insulation, cabling and new sources of radio noise is a bit less conducive to shortwave listening than a third floor flat near the top of a hill, as was my previous accommodation.

But I’m glad I was able to take a short recording last May, of reception of Radio Australia during a DXpedition just a little further up the hill to the top of Hampstead Heath. My own little souvenir of something becoming ever rarer.


Beggars Arkive

In a former life, I attended a one day seminar at the British Library on the subject of the archival of sound recordings. It ran the gamut from wax cylinders to re-releasing seminal records from recent decades to the automatic digital archival of a national broadcaster.

One of the guests was a representative of Beggars Group, who talked excitedly about the value of their own archive, and their blossoming attempts to sort it all out, preserve it, and, ultimately, better monetise it.

So it was nice to recently stumble across the Beggars online store and have a look at some of the releases they’ve made available. It’s mostly back catalogue stuff, but there are a few hidden gems and some releases I didn’t realise would still be available on vinyl. (Hello Biffy b-sides collections and 1-disc version of mcluskyism. Will I ever find you, Effloresce?)

There doesn’t seem to be the option to buy downloads, but perhaps they’re focussing on physical releases that collectors will want, while making the digital stuff available via streaming services. I’m not sure how many people still really collect CDs – although a nicely packaged collection of previously unavailable stuff accompanied with well-done liner notes and artwork  remains a worthwhile object in my view.

Overall though, it’s the approach that I like. The Beggars Arkive Instagram account has regular juicy updates, like shots of master tapes of important sessions, as well as highlights from the store.

It all strikes the right balance between the commercial potential and the cultural importance of the label’s output over the years via various indie labels. As Beggars’ Lesley Bleakley said at the British Library seminar: “It’s music… It’s culture… It’s not ‘ours’… We do need to look after our copyright though!”

Some Gary Numan tapes from the Archive. Per request by @andy_preston #garynuman #beggarsbanquet

A post shared by Beggars Arkive (@beggars_arkive) on

A similar project is Flying Out, the online store of New Zealand indie labels including Flying Nun and Arch Hill. They sell a mix of digital and physical music, as well as books, t-shirts and other merchandise. They also have a focus on re-issuing classic albums on various formats. There are probably a number of other similar projects from indie labels around the world. I’d hope so, anyway.

Anyway. It’s all heartening stuff. And it reminded me of that day spent at the British Library, scribbling pages of notes like I was at university again. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for similar opportunities because they’re great fun and very stimulating. I want another one.

Lunch ON!

Ever since buying myself a Freesat box a few years ago, one of my favourite free-to-air channels has been NHK World, the international output of the Japanese state broadcaster.

The variety of programmes on NHK World ranges from news and sport to travel documentaries, pop culture magazines and cooking shows. The general theme is colourful, lighthearted (mostly), and always interesting. What’s more, NHK World is one of the handful of free-to-air Freesat channels to broadcast in HD – which makes it all look fantastic. (NHK World is on Freesat channel 209, buried in the news channels).

I’ve had a bit of a Japanophile streak for a number of years now, but I’ve never visited. I quickly set-to filling the box’s hard drive with NHK World shows, finding some that didn’t grab me, some that I like to dip into now and then, and some that I just can’t miss. The latter category tends to cover the holy trinity of food, travel and culture.

There are shows on cycling in Japan, shows on Japan’s railway infrastructure past and present, and even this one show that just hangs out at a particular place (bus terminal, outdoor bar, ferry, etc.) for a period of time, asking random individuals what they’re doing there. This last, Document 72 Hours, can be surprisingly candid and enlightening.

One of the shows I just can’t miss is Lunch ON!, a weekly look at what Japanese people are having for lunch. It follows a formula, has a chirpy narrator, and feels very sweet and comforting to watch. It really is  as simple as: 2-3 segments interviewing average Japanese people and seeing what they’ve got for lunch, or where they go.


The scope varies from stopping people in the street, to spending a day with the workers in question to see what they do. The fact that people on the show apparently seem to ask to be featured, or that randoms in the street tend to know the show, or even watch, came as a surprise to me. I’d assumed this was just a weird niche show for non-Japanese audiences, not something watched within the country.

The most recent episode followed a pair of road painters and spent a day at an envelope factory. Another featured a team of young men who adjust a city’s bus timetables. In another, we met the employee of a railway company who spends his lunchtimes visiting new eateries and writing about them for his company’s website – with the proviso that all the featured establishments are accessible by train from the city within a lunch hour.

Other times, and more than once, the show has featured a matriarchal figure voluntarily cooking up lunch alone at home for the whole organisation, who always greet her with big smiles and gratitude.

For me, it’s the insight into ‘normal Japanese people’ just as much as the food element. It’s a very unpretentious show. Just ordinary people and their ordinary lunches. Occasionally a segment will feature a much-loved dead Japanese celebrity and talk about what their favourite dish was. It’s all done with humility, enthusiasm and authenticity.

By osmosis, over the past few years, I’ve been soaking up the various approaches to Japanese workday dining. And so it was somehow inevitable that over Christmas I treated M and I to matching bento boxes and some accessories, and we’ve been experimenting with them ever since.

People seem to have got a kick out of the photos I’ve shared of our first faltering steps at making bento, so I will do a few posts in the near future about what we’ve been up to, and anything we’ve learned.

Other NHK World shows that loiter on my TV box’s hard drive include:

  • Document 72 Hours
  • Imagine-Nation
  • Japan Railway Journal
  • Journeys in Japan
  • Seasoning the Seasons
  • Dining with the Chef
  • Trails to Tsukiji
  • Japanology Plus
  • Your Japanese Kitchen Mini
  • Cycle Around Japan
  • and so on…


Happy new year.

I am now back at work (and ‘at work’ in a psychological sense) and catching up with the world after taking the last half of December off. Feels like 2017 got a head start on me but I think that’s okay. It’s only the 4th

I opened up Feedly just now for the first time since 16 December, and although I knew the number of unread posts would be high, I didn’t expect that number to be abbreviated with a ‘k’.

Rather than mark them all as read, I used the opportunity (such as it was) to further prune my feeds into a couple of categories: high volume, mainly news-based feeds; and personal, low volume feeds I don’t want to miss. The latter are mostly by people I know. Or at least by people. Rather than organisations or newsrooms.

This process also reminded me that I, too, have a blog – and that it was probably about time I updated it. My personal writing has taken a bit of a back seat over the last few months. Inspired by the ‘what I did in MONTH’ posts from a livejournal of someone I’ve never met, I have attempted twice now to summarise a previous month of my own events or movements or experiences. It is startling how helpful Google’s Timeline feature is for this (part of Maps on Android, if the relevant permissions are granted).

I’m not sure how useful this process is for anyone but the writer, but for that one person it can be, I believe, very valuable indeed. I’d like to keep up this practise – particularly if my day-to-day diary writing has faded away a little. I’ve always been a bit more of a who, what, where, when kind of writer (photographer, too).

Related: I keep thinking that I’d like this to be an email newsletter, as the format appeals to me. But then I look at my inbox, see the backlog I occasionally save up to wade through, and find myself wishing that those posts were somehow presented instead in a browser with a hyperlinked interface, or available as some sort of feed I can work through in a reader and… Oh.

Looking over 2016 is too much for me to really consider attempting fully, but I’m mindful of the fact that I researched, wrote and released a little book, and I gave my first walking tour.

Both small milestones, but milestones nonetheless. And knowing what effort they took – even down to the minutiae of booking a trip to Gloucester to do some research – it reminds me that if I want to achieve something similar this year then I’d better start putting things in motion. Not everything just falls in your lap.

I’ve also had a bit of a backlog of photographs to deal with. I’ve been lucky to go on some fabulous trips to stoke that particular enthusiasm – the Isle of Wight, Toulouse; Switzerland; mine and M’s continued progress around the Capital Ring circular walk – but I’ve been a bit sluggish about editing them and doing something with them. Increasingly it feels like it’s not worth sticking them on Flickr or similar, I’ve never enjoyed the photo experience on Facebook, and Instagram is for one-offs, so my thoughts turn to why I take them in the first place and what I should do with them. Perhaps a return to scrapbooking? No doubt these thoughts will linger throughout 2017.

Along those lines, I’ll close with a shot of a spooky ringing payphone we spotted last weekend between Stoke Newington and Walthamstow Marshes on Section 13 of the Capital Ring*. I’m sad that I didn’t take an audio clip of its plaintive, unusual ring (no doubt an error tone), but if you look closely the phone’s display even says RINGING as if silently crying out for help, unheard.

img_20170102_130051* Section 13 of the Capital Ring, incidentally, was too short, and not fabulously entertaining. It could perhaps be lumped onto the end of Section 12, from Highgate to Stoke Newington. It would make a total section of 9 miles or so – fairly long as the ‘Ring goes, but perfectly manageable given that the first part is a disused railway line and the second along a canal.