Thursday, 30 August 2007

I promise..

I give you my word that this won't become just another photo blog. I am going back to work soon. Perhaps you'll forgive me then for posting some more photos, this time from today's countryside sojourn. I had to balance the bleakness of St Mary's somehow.

I'll tire of photography soon, I promise...

Note to self

Be aware of your colon's routine. There will be commuters who could have sworn they saw Charlie Chaplain on amphetamines running down the main road this morning.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Smile around the face

Today is the hump day in my second week off from 9-5. However, the time has come to get cracking on a sideline. I shall be enjoying the peace of an empty house whilst I'm coding the latest web project.

You see, my best mate Stuart & I have a small sideline in web design and database application development. From it we reap a modest income with which we buy our tech toys. The camera was my last present.

As usual, I shall be injecting Four Tet into my ears to help me concentrate.

You may enjoy this track too. I love this video for many reasons; for its English reserve and for its ambivalence and juxtaposition of conflicting emotions. Though Mark Heap is perhaps the main reason I like it. He's an actor who gets little of the credit he deserves.

Monday, 27 August 2007

My old demon

I've not been back to St Mary's hospital since the day it closed in 1994. I hate the place. Like any Victorian asylum its walls exude memories of abuse of the vulnerable. Spend long enough working in one of them and it'll get the better of you. Not places to hang around in.

Today I had some time to myself having dropped off the family at a kids party, so I decided to exorcise some old demons and revisit it. Of course I brought along my camera to record how the old asylum has gone to seed;

The back door to Ashley House, an Acute Admission ward and my first placement as an 18yr old student. I wrote about these experiences way back in March this year.

The Day Room in Ashley. I remember standing next to this very sink talking to Maureen (now deceased) who was suffering from tactile hallucinations of wires in her face. She seemed to be in a lot of pain as they held her mouth shut. Mind, I'll admit to being a little amused as she had to talk through tightly pursed lips. It made her look like a frog.

A spider's web across the window of Ashley House dining room.

Nature taking back what is rightfully hers.

Throughout the grounds of St Mary's you'll find these blue gazebos. They were the financial hubs of patients' lives. In the hospital real money was scarce and tobacco was the currency. I remember on at least three occasions catching female patients prostituting themselves in these huts for meagre payments of two or three fags. It was truly distressing to witness.

A rotting gazebo pillar.

The dormitory of ward two in the main hospital building. Notice the curtain runners delineating the bed spaces. This room slept thirty when I worked there. Before that, old staff told stories of putting patients to bed one at a time, then pushing their beds together so there was perhaps no more than three inches between them. That way each ward could sleep more than sixty patients. With three staff to care for them during the day. Ahh, the good old days eh?

The light dripping through Wd 2 day room windows. I wonder how many hours patients spent staring at these shadows.

Not a sign you'd see these days. Smoking was one of the few pleasures for staff as well as patients. Back when I smoked habitually I used them as a therapeutic tool. "Come on Dave, don't get angry, why don't we share a fag eh?". It frequently worked wonders.

The observation window of Wd 16 behind which staff would hide and peer at the mad people. Occasionally they would write something down to keep the management quiet.

A peer through a cracked door into a single 'bedroom'. Each ward had four or so of them. This is where patients were often 'constant obbed' if they were at risk or violent. So I use 'bedroom' in the loosest sense of the word. Perhaps a 'seclusion room' would be more fitting.

Never was I more demoralised when I was hauled into the manager's office one day for talking to a patient whilst constanting him.

It's kind of fitting really. The hospital was designed to keep people in. Now wood and nails are used to keep them out.

The cricket pavilion clock, now timeless without hands. During my years there I never saw this building, or its pitch used.

It's forever Christmas now on the roof of an old 'Back Ward'. A place where patients with no hope, or having become too ugly and demented, were secreted from the rest of the hospital populace, sometimes never to be seen again.

Room 1a in the School of Nursing where I did the best part of my training. I usually sat in the far right corner. Many a fertile mind was deadened in St Mary's so it's nice to see that the school is now verdant.

So to the chapel, the spiritual centre of the hospital. I've never been inside I'll admit, but I chuckled at the graffiti - "May the force be with you."

The door to the student accommodation. I've never been so depressed than when I lived there. In fact, I told you about it when writing my top ten tracks. Number six I remember.

Above the door to the digs.

The outward facing dormitory of Maple End - another Acute Admission ward where I did my final three month management placement. I remember this room well, in fact it features in my first ever short story which I posted back in may this year.

This photo chills me to the core. The ECT suite was the only place in St Mary's that smelt like a real hospital. It was cleansed each day and reeked of detergent. I remember its bright fluorescent lights and spotless floors. ECT was still in regular use even back then. Whilst muscle relaxants dulled the patients' fits it was still an inexact science. Or perhaps our anesthetist was just incompetent. Anyway, I was witness to some horrific fits. Now, I'm ambivalent about ECT as I've seen it work wonders on desperately depressed patients. However, it's a barbaric treatment and it efficacy is still not fully understood.

To add to my disturbance, this used to be the psycho-surgery department where countless people were lobotomised. It is truly a house of horrors.

An oddly beautiful coat hanger sculpture in Wear Villa's toilet. This was a 'Rehabilitation' ward where patients were taught how to take their tablets like good people and shop for pot noodles.

A power switch in the Estates Department. Not a place I often frequented, save to drop of a faulty radio or lamp.

So finally to the morgue where many had died long before they'd even got there. I remember clearly these scuffed crosses in the paint on the inside of the window panes. I always felt that they cheapened the lives of the patients; graffiti symbols, made carelessly, reflecting the worthlessness of the bodies that lay within it.

So, I've done it and finally gone back. I doubt I'll return.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

200th Post

Well I'll never, here we are at my 200th post. I'm not all together sure whether to celebrate this achievement or lament the countless hours Sans God has taken from my life.

It's certainly been enjoyable though. I've also learnt a lot, not just through my own blogging, but from reading the cornucopia of other blogs available right here at my fingertips.

It astounds me when contemplating the sheer volume of information our bloggosphere generates. If only we could harness this collective energy as we each hunch over our keyboards simultaneously around the globe. I swear, we could change the world.

Perhaps we already are.

So, in keeping with tradition, I'll use this opportunity to tinker a bit with my blogroll;

The Atheist Blogroll

Whilst Mojoey's fine blog Deep Thoughts already has its place on my blogroll, I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to him for maintaining the Atheist Blogroll. Many an idle moment has been filled surfing the many and varied blogs on it. It is truly a wonderful resource.

This is your captain speaking

Captain Smack, the owner of this blog says that "people often tell me that I look a lot like Jesus, so I always wear a Captain's hat so they can tell us apart. I also enjoy wearing robes and rockin' the tables."

From a recent post - "This is a story about me going to a party and ending up in someone's bush. There are nipples in this story. And beer. But mostly it's just me acting like a jackass."

He makes me laugh, so earns a place on my roll.


I love the premise of this blog which is an exploration of the ideas we had about our future from our past. It's very well written and is a gold mine of entertainment. Be careful though, it sucks on your time like a hairy time sucking monster type thing.

Wanderin' Weeta

Weeta is Canadian, over 60 (but not too much), as weird as necessary for her sanity, as sane as her kids and grandkids permit, a lover of birds, green stuff, tiny beasties and oddities generally. Her man is a nature photographer, as well as an all-round good guy. Her blog is about where they've been lately...

A beautiful thing full of stunning images of small and big things.

Google Sightseeing

From the blog - "Google Sightseeing takes you on tour of the world as seen from satellite, using the freely downloadable Google Earth, or Google Maps directly in your web browser. Each weekday your guides James and Alex introduce new weird and wonderful sights as suggested by the reader community."

Couldn't have put it better myself. Well written, informative and fascinating. Required reading.

Queen Mediocretia* of Suburbia

The Queen is funny, acerbic and relentless in her mocking of her husband. She also writes like an angel. I look forward to each post.

I could go on much longer, but I think I'll save it till my 300th.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Snap snap snap.

It's been nearly a week since I've had my new toy. I've taken 434 photos, most of them crap. Many more are unsuitable for this blog. No, we've not been having photographic bedroom fun, just I have a blog policy of not posting full facial images of my kids. Predictably they've been the subject of most of my better snaps.

So here is a selection of my remaining efforts so far;

Eager to play, I got up early the next day before the dew had time to evaporate. Mcleod thought it was his birthday when I took him for a walk by the lake before seven AM. I'm delighted with my camera's macro focus which let me get really close to this blade of grass. I think the morning sun is reflected perfectly in the dew drops.

In contrast to the natural beauty of grass and water here's a fly tipping spot near to the woods behind the lake. It's a stinking messy place full of old tyres and mattresses. I like this shot for its perspective. For me it just goes to show that beauty can be found in the most unlikeliest of places.

Miche adores birds of prey. She was delighted to discover on our family trip to a Wildlife Trust open day that there were Owls and Hawks to hold. I'm really pleased with this image of a Little Owl. Its predatory glare right into my lens was chilling. I've arranged a falconry course for her birthday later in the year. For Miche, not the bird by the way.

This is Dom with his arm down a Badger set. Well, in all honesty it's a rabbit hole, he just thought it was a Badger bed. You see, we often go Badger hunting in the woods. I'll walk behind him and growl deeply, which for our kids is the mating call of a Badger. "Shhh" he'll say "Daddy, there's a Badger here!" We then set off into uncharted territory to find it's home.

Barter Books in Alnwick is quite probably the best second hand bookshop in the universe. It's in the town's old railway station and I swear, the place is cavernous. There are thousands upon thousands of books arranged on antique pine shelves on the original stone floors of the station. Scattered around the shop are classic overstuffed sofas and chaise lounges upon which you can laze about whilst drinking the coffee you've poured for yourself. Unlike any other bookshop I know of, dogs are welcome. There's a sign on the door telling you so. If you bring in bag fulls of your old books the staff will spend a while going through them for you. When you come back from browsing they'll tell you what they're worth. This then gets marked on your card in pencil as your 'balance'. They've got rows upon rows of customers' cards arranged by surname. At the moment our balance is £25.44. This shop is quite possibly my favourite place in the world. The composition of the photo I'm delighted with, I'm just disappointed that it's a little blurry.

More Barter Books. Start 'em young that's what I say. Again, composition good but a little blurry. Probably due to the low light and longer exposure due to my reluctance to use a flash. Must study aperture more?

Another early morning shot from today's walk. I couldn't believe my luck when I caught this dragon fly unawares as it was warming itself up for its day's antics. I've no idea what kind of fly it is however. Perhaps Wanderin' Weeta can help?

Some interesting fungi on a tree in our garden. I'm pleased with the exposure as I'd been playing with the settings to get the background black and the foreground still lit well.

Dominic with his head in a skip trying to work out how it works. Again a little blurry but I like the composition. More importantly, it sums this little boy's character up a treat!

The infinite recursive post

So I'm walking along with the dog this morning, enjoying the beautiful weather. As is my way, I walk with my head down attending to small stuff on the ground. I like to take photos of wee plants, bugs and such like.

Perhaps you're like me and write blog posts with your inner voice. So I begin to formulate a post about attentiveness to the natural world and all its detail. It was quite diverting.

So much so that I got my foot stuck in a rabbit hole and fell over.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

The wild wild west

We're off to the wilds where the internet is slow and the sheep are scared. See you in a few days.

To quote the Will Smith, boom chica wah wah...

Monday, 20 August 2007

95% of you are going to hell

Oxford University has earned its place amongst the top educational establishments. Some of our greatest thinkers and scientists have studied there. Like all good universities, it expects high standards of critical thinking and creative application of learning.

Yet it hides a dirty little secret, a department dedicated to preserving medieval lies, moral absolutes and the damnation of 95% of us heathens.

This sweaty little embarrassment is Wycliffe Hall, a permanent private hall of the University. Established in 1877 along with its counterpart Ridley Hall at Cambridge University they're Anglican theological colleges with an expressly evangelical ethos. They train our vicars and priests to go out and "take the life-giving good news of Jesus to the world".

Now, I appreciate the academic value of theology. Our scriptures have rich seams of insights into the human condition, flawed as it is. However, if this research strays beyond anthropological study and into the realm of absolute truth then I'm afraid this is no longer academia. It has no place in a university.

The Guardian got its knickers in a twist about Wycliffe's new principal Rev Richard Turnbull (pictured above).

From the article;

"One of the Church of England's most distinguished theological training colleges has been placed on notice that it must improve its academic standards and not succumb to narrow conservative evangelicalism if it is to remain part of Oxford University."

"Complaints of homophobia and misogyny have been levelled at Wycliffe's leadership."

"An internal report, drawn up by senior Oxford academics and accepted by the university's governing council, will warn the 130-year-old college of concern about the narrowness of its theological teaching and doubts about whether it is offering students full intellectual development."

"Dr Turnbull is heard suggesting that 95% per cent of the population were going to hell unless they converted to conservative evangelicalism."

In the spirit of balance the Guardian published Mr Richardson's retort. In it he dealt with the 'outrageous' claim that he condemned 95% of people to hell. So I'll quote him directly. Now hold on to your chair, because I laughed out loud when I read this idiocy;

"For Giles to say that I believe 95% of people will 'burn in hell' is a misrepresentation when the rest of my sentence, 'unless the message of the gospel is brought to them', is excluded."

Jesus, this man is insane. Not only does he believe in a fiery damnation, he thinks that if we don't subscribe to his version of truth, we'll all burn in his invention. Does he not know that even the Catholics can give up on this shite sometimes, like when they gave up limbo.

Mind, this gimp doesn't much like the Catholics either. So's I don't misrepresent him, perhaps you'd like to see his speech in full where he condemns 95% of us whilst having go at the Catholics?

Here you are then. The juicy stuff is about 4 minutes in;

So, this is what he had to say about the Catholic church;

"...we must be very wary about embracing a Catholic understanding of the Church. There is enormous temptation for evangelicals to embace an Anglo-Catholic understanding of the Church, its nature and its ministry. And I think we need to be very careful indeed that we do not betray - you have been debating the historical nature of Anglicanism, my book on the subject comes out in March, by the way [audience laughter]; and we need to be very careful indeed that we do not betray our evangelical identity by embracing an understanding of the Church that is not historic Anglicanism."

He does know that Anglicanism was borne of a King desperate for a divorce, doesn't he?

I guess all this stems from that John 14:6 quote "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' "

So, not only does Turnbull believe 95% of us are going to hell unless we embrace the lord, but we must also subscribe to his own particular flavour of bolloxs, created for a misogynistic monarch some 460 years ago.

Perhaps the Oxford Physics department had discovered time travel and inadvertently transported this goon back from 1540.

No wonder they're keeping schtum about it.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

My new toy

I've finally got round to treating myself to a decent camera. Well, it is my birthday on the 24th. Who could blame me?

Now don't worry, I don't expect presents from you all. I will be thirty five after all. Presents at this age are invariably prosaic anyway. And I promise not to cry if I don't get a card, honestly.

My new dadtoy is a Fuji S5600fd. Not a top of the range, cream your pants pin hole I'll grant you, but it has more than enough bells and whistles for me to pull on and blow to my heart's content.

So expect the quality of Sans God images to remain the same from now on, just to be in a slightly higher resolution.

Update on the post below: We will know much more by Thursday this week. Hope is our prayer...

Friday, 17 August 2007

A waiting game

The silence of Sans God has took on a sombre tone. Whilst our children draw their merry dues on our time, we find ourselves dealing with a rather nasty turn of affairs.

I need to be careful, for disclosing details could be contrary to the wishes of those more important than you. Yet I'm left with the need to share, write and publish an account of our experiences to date.

In this respect I'm being selfish, as my place in this debacle nothing more than to help from the sidelines. Yet I'm not just a bystander - I'm closer to the action to that; I'm stood behind the main players and am readied to take the flack from the audience.

These players are rather like my second child.

Before he came I wondered how on earth I'd love him as much as my first. I worried that a love like mine couldn't be halved or shared between the two. Yet upon Dominic's arrival I discovered that my love was divisible yet infinite.

So the player in question, whom I love like my own father, is now the focus of my fret and worry.

My priorities then, are this;

A) Make myself available in whatever capacity I can, to provide support, help or solace to whomever may need it,

B) Facilitate my dearest to have the time and space to do what she needs,

C) And this is the BIG one.

So bear with us please, as we discover what C will become.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Three little words

I've just received this email.

"WTTW have been offered the opportunity of support with the next PQQ and/or the ITT documents, both as a consortium and as individual members. This help is to be provided by the QIA and would help develop or strengthen systems in order to meet LSC criteria, and also to advise about the completion of the above documents. As the next PQQ is likely to be in 09/07 we need to know the level of interest from WTTW members ASAP to enable completion of the application form to start the process."

Could anyone translate this for me? The world has gone TLA mad. Grr

Edit: And another one - "The consultation seeks views on consultation fatigue and raising awareness of consultations".

What do you think of that then? FFS.

Monday, 6 August 2007

My inferiority complex

I was born with an adult sized nose. Honestly, it was huge when I was young. I'd go to sleep face down in my pillow to squash my septum, figuring that if I did it for long enough I'd wake up with my conk permanently flattened. No such luck.

It's took thirty years for the rest of my face to catch up and get into some kind of proportion.

The feline anus has similar properties. Surely you've noticed it?

A kitten is born with a fully grown sphincter. If you come across one have a quick look. It won't be hard as they tend to scamp around with their tails in the air. You'll discover that a domesticated cat is born with a fully sized anus. It'll spend its youth growing in to it.

Anyway, my nose was quite the burden when I was young. Not just for the aerodynamic hindrance - wind could be a problem, but for the grief I received from my so called 'school mates'.

I remember once standing at morning assembly. I was at the end of a row of twenty or so kids mumbling along to Morning Has Broken. Stephen, an apparent mate of mine, tapped me on the shoulder. I turned my head to look at him and discovered that the little fucker had been in cahoots with the rest of the lads. As my nose spun over his head the whole row ducked in unison. The bastards.

These are experiences that stick with you into adulthood. I've now a residual habit of touching my nose in business meetings. It's rather like an ulcer on your tongue that feels massive in your head but looks tiny in the mirror.

My nose is this - huge subjectively yet normal to everyone else. I subconsciously try to hide it. In doing so I point at my nasal passages repeatedly. That way everybody notices my nose.

The thing is, everyone else is in the same boat. Paul for example, who's bald before his time, leans back in our meetings feigning relaxation. He rubs the top of his head with his elbows in the air like he's preparing for a big yawn. Perhaps he thinks no one notices.

Fiona, who has the most magnificent breasts, spends her time with her arms crossed across her chest like a stern school mistress. More's the pity.

So I wonder, why does Harry spend his time with his hands under the table?

Sunday, 5 August 2007

An act of God?

The genius that is Bill Bailey.