Autumnal hues……………………….

On a little drive around the outskirts of Huddersfield today I took out the camera and caught the changing season, the wonderful autumnal colours and an appreciation of the fact that I live in a rather beautiful part of the country here in West Yorkshire.

All photographs © Kindadukish and taken with  Nikon D5100 and Sigma 18 – 200 lens.

View over Slaithwaite

View over Slaithwaite

View over Golcar

View over Golcar

Autumnal sun over the Pennines

Autumnal sun over the Pennines

View of the M62 Motorway at Outlane

View of the M62 Motorway at Outlane

Posted in brooding clouds, lens test, Nature / Flowers, Pennines, Photography, UK Regions, West Yorkshire, Wildlife, Yorkshire | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

I have heard of early learning but this is ridiculous…………….

As anyone who has visited my blog on anything like a regular basis you will be aware that I have a grandson who is currently 13 months old. He is a lively and very amenable child, happy (most of the time!) and engages with people in a very positive way (doesn’t suffer from shyness).

For the last few months he has been attending a day nursery for a number of days a week and a little while ago my daughter said he had received his first “school report.” Given that he was only about 8 months old at the time I was a little taken aback that such a young child was being subjected to any form of assessment.

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Well, he has now received his second report (above) which was completed at the mature age of 11 months and I have to confess to being equally “gobsmacked” that such a report is being completed on a child so young.

Looking at the subjects how the hell do they assess “managing feelings and behaviour?” and equally “health and self care” My incredulity as to the validity of this document is stretched to the limit by the assessment of his “reading”  which has been marked as “exceeding” required level of attainment. My daughter has said she is starting him on Tolstoy’s War and Peace in the next few weeks, after all he will be 15 months old by then.

I know that my daughter is very happy with the nursey school and my grandson likes going to mix with the other kids……………perhaps it is my problem with old fashioned ideas about child development.

But all of this “assessment” nonsense is down to Government laying down Key Stages of Learning, but for gods sake why with children so young. Surely they should just be allowed to play at such a young age, kids learn through playing. They make friends, fall out with friends, sulk, get angry, get happy but this is all part of the rich process of child development.

What they don’t need is “structured learning” and assessment criteria…………let them be children for as long as possible and have the freedom of a child!

 

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Womens Land Army – forgotten heroes recognised

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Hundreds of former Land Girls attended the unveiling of a life-size statue in honour of their work during the two World Wars. The 8ft high bronze sculpture, created by Denise Dutton, was unveiled by Sophie, Countess of Wessex, at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

The tribute honours members of the Women’s Land Army (WLA) who worked on farms during the wars when conscription and military casualties led to a shortage of labourers.

Land Girls worked on farms to feed the nation when men went to war. The official minimum age was 17, but some lied and became Land Girls at 16 or even younger. Many had been barmaids, waitresses, maids, hairdressers or mill workers, and some enrolled straight from school.

With their uniform of green ties and jumpers and brown felt slouch hats, they toiled from dawn to dusk each day. They planted and harvested crops, tended animals and poultry, and delivered milk – all for £1.40 a week, with 70p deducted for board and lodging.

Often referred to as the ‘Forgotten Army ‘, 20,000 surviving Land Girls were finally honoured in 2007 when the Government announced their efforts would be recognised with a commemorative badge.

 

 

 

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Please god, not another bloody “ism”…………!

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While society has shunned those who are sexist and racist, many of us are committing the sin of “face-ism”, say experts.

Research has shown that people often make sweeping judgments of others based on their facial features. For instance, individuals with feminine-looking or naturally happy faces are consistently thought of as more trustworthy.

Competence, dominance and friendliness are also associated with specific facial traits.

Writing in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, US researchers warned that “face-ism” can lead people to make rash decisions, from voting for a particular politician to convicting someone of a crime.

Dr Christopher Olivola, from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, Pennsylvania, said: “Although we would like to think our judgments and choices are rational, impartial, consistent, and solely based on relevant information, the truth is that they are often biased by superficial and irrelevant factors.

“This is a troubling human tendency that needs to be corrected, or at least mitigated, because faces are not valid predictors of a person’s traits.”

Dr Olivola and co-authors Friederike Funk and Alexander Todorove, from Princeton University, said numerous studies had shown that people form “face-ist” impressions of aspiring leaders.

Political candidates with naturally competent-looking faces were more likely to win elections than those who looked less competent.

“Babyface” features characterised by a round face, large eyes and a small nose and chin are generally seen as a sign of incompetence. The reverse is true for strong, mature faces.

Company chief executives who looked competent had a better chance of being hired by large successful companies, even when they performed no better than less competent-looking rivals, said the researchers.

In the military, having a dominant, masculine face appeared to be a ticket to higher rank attainment.

Shifty-looking individuals were also more likely to be convicted of crimes. Research has shown that they tend to have sunken cheeks, furrowed brows and eyes set close together.

In contrast, a smiling face with prominent cheekbones and high eyebrows suggests trustworthiness and honesty. People with these features have been shown to be more adept at securing financial investments and loans.

Research suggests that “face-ism” can be combated by providing more relevant information, such as the past behaviour of a political candidate, said the experts.

“We need to guard against letting our choices be biased by superficial cues,” said Dr Olivola. “In some contexts, educating people might be sufficient to reduce facial stereotyping. In other contexts, however, more research will be needed to identify the best way to mitigate the biasing influence of facial appearance.”

 

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Lietuva……..then and now!

On my last visit to Vilnius in September 2014 I took the opportunity to visit the little shop inside Vilnius University which sells old prints, paintings, T – shirts, CDs and a few odds and sods of books.

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I was looking through a rather battered old book case and came across a book entitled Lietuva – Is Paukscio Skrydzio by A. Sutkus and after consulting one of my Lithuanian friends I am told that the title loosely translates as “A Birds Eye View of Lithuania.”

The introduction is written by Professor Česlovas Kudaba who was the head of Department of Geography and Cartography in Vilnius University and reflects the “idealised” view the Soviet Union had about its satellite states. Interestingly the introduction is produced in Lithuanian, Russian and English although I can’t imagine that there would have been many English visitors to the country in 1983.

The "idealised" view of the Soviet Regime

The “idealised” view of the Soviet Regime

One has only to visit the Genocide Museum in Vilnius to understand how much the Lithuanians resented the Soviet “occupation” and the dreadful consequences for those who opposed the Soviet regime including imprisonment, torture, execution and for many exile to the wastes of Siberia.

Many of the photographs feature groups of “happy people” in their surroundings or participating in social activities e.g. folk dancing, singing but with a hint of a forced smile for the camera. There are also excellent photographs of the open countryside; woodlands and the wonderful coastline featuring the obligatory “bikini clad” sun bathers.

It looks like a church, it sounds like a church, but no, it is something from the "remote past"

It looks like a church, it sounds like a church, but no, it is something from the “remote past”

Throughout the book there are many photographs of various churches in both Vilnius and Kaunas but what is interesting is NONE of them are referred to by name or indeed that they are churches. One photograph of Šv. Onos bažnyčia is headed “The old town of Vilnius with traces of remote past.”

Having been a regular visitor to Lithuania for nearly 8 years and made many good friends it is pleasing to see how the country has developed since proclaiming independence in 1990. It has had its economic struggles but perhaps becoming a full member of the EU and adopting the Euro as from 1.1.2015 will provide some stimulus for economic growth.

Long may Lietuvas independence continue.

 

 

 

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Northeners…………….

Look at the portraits in Rory Lewis’s exhibition and a wizard, a space captain, a general, a stripping steelworker and an Olympian stare back at you.They seem like a disparate group, but what they have in common is that they all come from the North of England.

Rory Lewis’s Northerners features a plethora of famous and less well-known faces, including – as you may have guessed – actors Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart and Paul Barber, gymnast Beth Tweddle and the Army’s Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton.

It is a formidable list and one which most studio photographers can only dream of shooting for one show.

_78303320_stewart_lewis Lewis – who spends most days photographing actors for headshots and models for portfolios – admits that, in the beginning, he would have counted himself in that dreaming group.

However, when he hit upon the idea for a show celebrating the North’s finest, he decided he was not going to settle for second best.”Right from the outset I felt I should aim for the top – rather than just photographing the local WAGs and mayors, I wanted to aim higher.

“I wanted Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Dame Judi Dench and John Hurt.”To that end, he began writing “hundreds of letters, letters upon letters” asking people to take part in the show and telling them it would be held in aid of children’s charity Unicef, in the hope of giving them “an extra incentive to spare some time”.

_78303324_tweddle_sissons His breakthrough came when “one of the UK’s most celebrated actors”, David Warner, agreed to take part after “three emails, four letters and a great deal of perseverance”.

“I had done my research and discovered that David was attending a convention in London, [so] I arranged for my letter to be placed directly in David’s hand. “After a week of waiting, David emailed me accepting my invitation. I was over the moon.”

He says the shoot ended up being “hugely memorable” and “opened a lot of doors for me”, though it was a nerve-wracking experience. “David revealed that he had an aversion to having his picture taken and that he hadn’t sat for a professional studio photo shoot since 1966. “The last photographer he had worked with was Cecil Beaton, and prior to that Lord Snowdon and David Bailey. “I took a big gulp and felt the pressure flow down my throat: those were big names to follow.”

He said after offering “a little direction, David took over with some remarkable expressions” and he ended up with a portrait he was “really pleased with”. He had a right to be – the portrait has since been accepted by the National Portrait Gallery for their permanent collection, giving what Lewis says is “a historic dimension” to the work.

Following that shoot, more positive responses arrived, which meant Lewis travelling away from his Liverpool and Manchester studios to get his shots. “Many of these big names started in the North but now live across the globe. “When I wrote to Sir Patrick and Sir Ian, they were at the Cort Theatre in New York performing Waiting for Godot.

“They initially replied saying they had little time to spare. “I sent a reply mentioning it wouldn’t take long and that it would mean a great deal – after a few letters, they finally came round and said yes and I flew to New York to take the shots.”

Not every face in the exhibition is a famous one – included are the likes of Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson and the city’s Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Vasily Patrenko – but Lewis says it was important to get a mix. “I wanted to show all those people who make up the fabric of the North – that includes those involved in the day-to-day running of government and those who represent the North of England.”

Putting Gandalf the Grey alongside the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and Captain Jean-Luc Picard next to a Manchester councillor, he has certainly shown just how rich and varied that fabric is.

 Northerners is on show at Calumet Photography in Manchester from 21 October to 21 November and at Calumet Photographic in London from 24 November to 2 January.

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Autumn has arrived…………

After what has been a very good summer here in the UK (well, by UK standards that is) autumn has arrived and the flora and fauna has changed radically from a month or so ago.

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Trees have taken on a “coat of many colours” and as I walked along the Huddersfield Canal in Slaithwaite last week on a greyish, dank October morning I was struck by the wonderful colours of the plants bordering the canal.

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The water was perfectly still, not a breeze, and the reflections of the plants and tress in the water was both clear and beautiful. I spend many mornings walking this pathway on my way to the bakery (and the obligatory cappuccino and almond croissant) but I think this is my favourite time of the year.

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It is not just the colours but the smell of damp leaves, plants and even the trees which often conjures up memories of my childhood and wandering through the “woods” near my home (those were the days when kids were allowed outside for hours at a time to play and enjoy themselves).

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Yesterday I was in Chorlton (suburb of Manchester) visiting my daughter and opposite the house was a magnificent Horse Chestnut tree in full autumn bloom. I think more people should stand back from time to time and take the opportunity to appreciate the world we live in and the beautiful sites on our own doorsteps.

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