The Lake District…….I am beginning to like it!

Over the years I have always had an antipathy towards the Lake District in Cumbria, much preferring the grandeur and beauty of the Yorkshire Dales, which I have visited and enjoyed on many occasions.

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The view from Lakeside

However, in the last year or so, I have made several trips to the lakes, ands with each successive visit my appreciation grows for the area. Not least because of the photographic opportunities presented by the majestic landscape of the fells and numerous lakes.

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Aboard the steamer “Swan”

As the weather forecast for today was very good, we got up very early and set off for the lake district at about 7.45am and after a one and a half hour drive arrived at Lakeside at the very southern end of Lake Windermere. As luck would have it we were just in time for a trip aboard The Swan steamer, a one hour twenty minute round tip to Bowness.

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Approaching Bowness on Windermere

The scenery from the top deck of the boat was spectacular with snow capped peaks in the distant under an azure blue sky. The fact that it was extremely cold on deck did little to deter us, and particularly me in search of photographic opportunities.

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A sailors life for me………….

The water on the lake was very calm, visibility was excellent, and the panoramic views on every side were quite staggering at times. On the journey we passed large (very expensive) sailing yachts, speedboats, canoes and many other small craft making the most of a beautiful day.

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Across Esthwaite Dale

We arrived back at lakeside in need of refreshment and decamped to the Lakeside Hotel on the shore. It took them 25 minutes to come up with two coffees, and only after I had complained twice about poor service. The coffee and shortbread biscuits were excellent (when they did eventually arrive), but if you are looking for excellent service then give the place a miss.

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Reflection

A short drive north brought us to Esthwaite Water, a small lake which I had never heard of. The view from the shore was a wonder to the eye, the blue of the water, green hillsides and barren but snow topped peaks in the distance…………this is why people come to the Lake District!

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Follow your eye…………..

From here a swing left over the hills calling in at Tarn Hows, or The Tarns, which is one of the most visited spots in Lakeland, and in high season can be literally packed with people. It is a beauty spot that must not be missed, yet is not entirely typical of the local landscape, for the tarn is partly artificial, being three tarns joined together in the 19th Century, and most of the trees surrounding it are conifers. The attraction is its sheer beauty, surrounded by thick woodland, and views towards Wetherlam, the Helvellyn range and the Lansdale Pikes.

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View across Coniston Water

We continued our journey by dropping down to Coniston Water for a leisurely stroll along the northern end of the lake. We looked on in admiration at runners competing in a 14 mile run around the lake.

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Over the hill and away we go……….

So, after nearly five hours of travelling around we set off home and arrived back around 4.15pm. So my fascination with the Lake District continues to grow, each trip brings new delights, and I am sure I will be returning there in the not too distant future.

Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2017

Posted in blue sky, Flora and fauna, Landscape, Photography, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flying Scotsman……..trial run to Oxenhope

IMGP1542.jpgOn the 31 March 2017 I shall be making the trip from Oxenhope (West Yorkshire) to Carlisle via the Ribblehead Viaduct aboard the Flying Scotsman (had to remortgage the house to buy tickets)……..but as my mother used to say “there are no pockets in shrouds so get the money spent”.

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Anyway, I decided to have a trial run to Oxenhope station this morning to check out parking and departure details on the day. So in awful wet weather my wife and I set out for the station, and arrived in equally unpleasant wet weather.

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Having parked up the car we wandered on to the platform to see a small steam train with several carriages and quite a number of people milling about. One of the “officials” approached us and asked could he help as the station was closed today. He then explained that three people were having the “Footplate Experience” which involved spending a full day learning about the locomotive but actually entails working as a guard, a fireman but most importantly driving the steam engine itself.

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There were two gentlemen and a lady involved today and despite the awful weather they seemed delighted with what was happening. We hung around watching the preparation for departure, me taking lots of photographs, when the man in charge of the day invited us to travel on the train to Keighley and back. He explained that those on the “footplate experience” are allowed to bring along four guests each to travel on the train but todays group hadn’t used their full complement, so would we like to join the train as guests of the railway. As you can imagine we didn’t need to be asked twice.

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We sat in our carriage and joined by various members of the Worth Valley Railway volunteers learned about the train, the railway and the “footplate experience.” The latter is booked up for 2017 and well into 2018 despite the relatively high cost of participating in the day. We were provided with tea and biscuits and had a thoroughly enjoyable time chugging our way through the West Yorkshire countryside with very convivial conversation.

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On arrival at Keighley I was able to watch the “footplaters” shunt the engine to be filled with water and re-attach it to the carriages, stoke up the boiler before setting off for the journey back to Oxenhope.

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We arrived back in the rain, just as we had set off in the rain, but nothing could diminish the enjoyment of our journey and in particular the welcome and generosity of the staff / volunteers of the Worth Valley Railway. They deserve every success that they have and warrant the support of the public for keeping the railways alive. Despite the invitation to travel free we made a generous donation to the railway fund……….this is our industrial heritage.

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So, what set off as a day to check out a car park,ended up in a journey aboard a steam train, wonderful company and the pleasure of seeing three people fully enjoying their “footplate experience”…………long may the railway continue.

 

Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2017

Posted in British railways, Industrial Heritage, North of England, Photography, Steam age, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Its the atheist dudes who are most generous…………

 

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AN ARGUMENT often advanced for the encouragement of religion is that, to paraphrase St Matthew’s report of Jesus’s words, it leads people to love their neighbours as themselves. That would be a powerful point were it true. But is it? This was the question Jean Decety, a developmental neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, asked in a study just published in Current Biology.

Dr Decety is not the first to wonder, in a scientific way, about the connection between religion and altruism. He is, though, one of the first to do it without recourse to that standard but peculiar laboratory animal beloved of psychologists, the undergraduate student. Instead, he collaborated with researchers in Canada, China, Jordan, South Africa and Turkey, as well as with fellow Americans, to look at children aged between five and 12 and their families.

Altogether, Dr Decety and his colleagues recruited 1,170 families for their project, and focused on one child per family. Five hundred and ten of their volunteer families described themselves as Muslim, 280 as Christian, 29 as Jewish, 18 as Buddhist and 5 as Hindu. A further 323 said they were non-religious, 3 were agnostic and 2 ticked the box marked “other”.

Follow-up questions to the faithful among the sample then asked how often they engaged in religious activities, and also about spirituality in the home. That let Dr Decety calculate how religious each family was. He found that about half the children in religious households came from highly observant homes; the spiritual lives of the other half were more relaxed. He then arranged for the children to play a version of what is known to psychologists as the dictator game—an activity they use to measure altruism.
In truth, the dictator game is not much of a game, since only one of the participants actually plays it. In Dr Decety’s version, each child was presented with a collection of 30 attractive stickers and told that he or she could keep ten of them. Once a child had made his selection, the experimenter told him that there was not time to play the game with all the children at the school, but that he could, if he wished, give away some of his ten stickers to a random schoolmate who would not otherwise be able to take part. The child was then given a few minutes to decide whether he wanted to give up some of his stickers—and, if so, how many. The researchers used the number of stickers surrendered as a measure of altruism.

The upshot was that the children of non-believers were significantly more generous than those of believers. They gave away an average of 4.1 stickers. Children from a religious background gave away 3.3. And a further analysis of the two largest religious groups (Jews, Buddhists and Hindus were excluded because of their small numbers in the sample), showed no statistical difference between them. Muslim children gave away 3.2 stickers on average, while Christian children gave away 3.3. Moreover, a regression analysis on these groups of children showed that their generosity was inversely correlated with their households’ religiosity.

This effect remained regardless of a family’s wealth and status (rich children were more generous than poor ones), a child’s age (older children were more generous than younger ones) or the nationality of the participant. These findings are, however, in marked contrast to parents’ assessments of their own children’s sensitivity to injustice. When asked, religious parents reported their children to be more sensitive than non-believing parents did.

This is only one result, of course. It would need to be replicated before strong conclusions could be drawn. But it is suggestive. And what it suggests is not only that what is preached by religion is not always what is practised, which would not be a surprise, but that in some unknown way the preaching makes things worse.

Source: The Economist magazine

Posted in 21st century, compassion, Culture, Psychology, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Three Scottish Lochs and a Nuclear base in one day………………..

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Last week I went up to Glasgow for a few days to stay with some very good friends who are kind enough to provide “lodgings” for the period of my stay (thank you Colin and Fiona). My three previous visits had been virtual washouts owing to the infamous Glasgow wet weather, thus curtailing my photographic opportunities which are usually the focal point of my visits.

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View across Loch Lomond towards Ben Lomond

On the Thursday morning I awoke to lovely blue sky and just a wisp of cloud, so I quickly breakfasted and then headed out to Loch Lomond, determined to make the most of the good weather and photographic opportunities.

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Loch side view looking south

My route along the west side of the lake provided some spectacular views of Ben Lomond, which still had a snow capped peak and looked very impressive. My first stopping off point was at the village of Luss, where a stroll along the lakeside shore offered lovely views across the lake looking southwards, and further impressive views of Ben Lomond looking northwards.

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Laird of all he surveys………..

There was a tremendous amount of bird life around including chaffinches, swans, cormorants and numerous other sea birds along the lakeside, and even at this early time of year there were a fair number of people / tourists visiting. A visit to the “general store” provided a welcome cappuccino and Scottish shortbread biscuits (highly recommended and excellent service from the young lady in the shop) before heading off northwards towards Tarbet.

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View across the loch

Before you leave, please ensure you walk up the little street in Luss to view the cottages and in particular the one with the train and carriages outside which were full off plants and looked very classy and totally in keeping with the area (I have already ordered one).

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Seen in the village of Luss

There were of course, regular stops along the route to take photographs of the spectacular scenery of this area before swinging left at Tarbet to pick up the road alongside Loch Long.

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The church at Arrochar

I stopped in a little village called Arrochar because of the beautiful little church and cemetery which overlook the loch and spent some time wandering around the graveyard, and it occurred to me that I could think of no better place to be buried than in the cemetery  with such a stunning view of the hills and loch. The church was unusual in design, in that it had a turret like tower, and this seems to be a feature of churches in this region. It also had a couple of beautiful stain glass windows.

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View from the church cemetery at Arrochar

My route then took me southwards along Loch Long and then veering left to pass alongside Gare Loch, home of the famous nuclear submarine base Faslane. Opposite the base is a “Peace camp” consisting of a number of battered old caravans, these of course will be a major deterrent to any invader should we abolish the nuclear deterrent. It is perhaps fortunate we did not have a peace camp and all its idealists (some would say fantasists) in 1939! My only disappointment was that I did not get to see a nuclear submarine sailing along the loch.

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A sear with a view in Helensburgh

Onwards then to the coastal town of Helensburgh, with its long promenade and impressive views back up the loch. I stopped off for a quick bite at the Craigard Restaurant in the centre of the town and managed to get the last portion of the soup of the day “Cullen Skink” which is a thick Scottish soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions (this was at 12.40 so it must have been very popular) accompanied by lovely crusty bread (highly recommended that you visit if in town).

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Cullen skink served with crusty bread………delicious!

After lunch I spent some time walking around the promenade, just to enjoy the fresh air, and the wonderful views across the loch. I was particularly taken with a purple bench and the panoramic view from the said bench.

I then headed back to Glasgow as I was attending a concert in the city by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with local star Nicola Benedetti the star soloist in the Brahms violin concerto.

I was very disappointed with the concert and felt that the soloist didn’t seem to be involved, and I had the distinct impression that there had been a lack of rehearsal time for the Brahms concerto. The conductor did announce that Benedetti had “just flown in from a coast to coast tour of North American with the Venice Baroque Orchestra, so perhaps that explains my assessment. The Tchaikovsky 4th Symphony in the second half was much more of a success and the orchestra seemed far more energised. I did look up the review of the concert in The Herald and to my astonishment they gave it five stars!

All photographs (c) Kindadukish 2017

Posted in Birds, blue sky, Flora and fauna, Glasgow, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farewell to a comrade…….the Maori way

A little while ago I came across a video on YouTube which was a short recording of the return of a dead New Zealand soldier to his homeland and to be greeted by his comrades, the soldiers of 2/1 RNZIR Battalion performing the haka.

The haka  is a traditional war cry, dance, or challenge from the Māori people of New Zealand. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment.

War haka were originally performed by warriors before a battle, proclaiming their strength and prowess in order to intimidate the opposition, but haka are also performed for various reasons: for welcoming distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements, occasions or funerals.

I defy anyone to watch this and not be moved, particularly at the respect of all the soldiers to their fallen comrade. I think what makes it more emotional is the silence at the end of the haka.

I can think of no finer way for a fallen soldier to be shown respect and dignity than this Maori challenge.

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UK wife carrying championship……this will get up the SJW noses!!!!

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Above: Eventual winners Jack McKendrick (No. 21), carrying his wife Kirsty Jones, neck-and-neck with fellow competitors at the hay-bale hurdles at the UK Wife Carrying Race 2017 in Dorking, Surrey.

Wife carrying can be a dangerous activity, which can lead to any one or more of the following injuries: slipped disk, broken legs and arms, spinal damage, facial injury, skull fracture, hernias, and other sundry injuries and illnesses, and potentially including death.

But please don’t let this put you off!

Run over a course of 380m, with 15m of ascent and 15m of descent. VERY TOUGH!

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Wife carrying originated in the UK over twelve centuries ago, on 8 June 793AD, when Viking raiders rampaged into Lindisfarne on the northeast coast of what is now England, destroying the monastary and most likely carrying off any unwilling local wenches. Such wife carrying (-off) continued intermittently for around 300 years. Wife Carrying was re-introduced into the UK by the UK Wife Carrying Race in 2008, after an absence from these shores of nearly 900 years.

International competitors welcome: Special category (and prizes) for international competitors!

UK Wife Carrying Race Rules

  • Only the carrier has to enter the race.
  • Males or females carry a ‘wife’ (who must be at least 18 and can be male or female, and does not need to be the carrier’s wife). All those carried must wear a helmet.
  • There is a weigh-in prior to the start: All ‘wives’ must weigh at least 50kg. Anyone under-weight will be obliged to wear a rucksack filled with tins of baked beans or similar to bring them to the required weight.
  • All entrants will start off at the same time, and the first over the line is the winner. However, there will be time penalties for dropping the ‘wife.’
  • Obstacles and water hazards will be included. Spectators are encouraged to attend with their own water-pistols and buckets of water to staff the ‘Splash Zone’ (return leg only – something for the competitors to look forward to!).
  • The winner of the UK Wife Carrying Race will win a barrel of Pilgrim Ale and win £250 towards their expenses in representing Britain and competing in the World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland in July.*
  • Last placed finishers receive the ceremonial Pot Noodle and dog food.
  • The carrier who completes the course with the heaviest wife will win a pound of sausages (for strength) and a ceremonial pat on the back from the other carriers.
  • You can use any one of the many recognised holds: bridal carry, piggy-back, shoulder-ride, fireman’s carry (across the shoulders), the well-recognised and very fast Estonian Hold (wife hangs upside-down on man’s back, legs crossed in front of the man’s face) or the not-so-fast but unique Dorking Hold (the reverse Estonian).
  • *Winners of the UK race who go on to become participants in the World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland are requested to provide a write-up and photos to the UK race.

It is heartening to see such an old tradition revived, yes it is ridiculous, but also great fun, and anything that sticks two fingers up to the PC brigade gets my full backing.

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Some of my very best reads……..

I am just finishing the book KL by Nikolaus Wachsmann, which is a very detailed analysis of the concentration camp system constructed by Germany both prior to the war and during the war itself. It is a demanding read (all 629 pages of it) but is illuminating in telling the story of how a “genocide industry” was created.

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I then began to reflect on some of the books that have given me greatest pleasure and influenced me in the last fifty years or so. So here, in no particular order is my eclectic choice.

Stalingrad – Antony Beever

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The Battle of Stalingrad was not only the psychological turning point of World War II: it also changed the face of modern warfare. Historians and reviewers worldwide have hailed Antony Beevor’s magisterial Stalingrad as the definitive account of World War II’s most harrowing battle. I have read many books about ww2 but I have to say this is the finest I have yet come across, in that it paints both a broad canvass whilst at the same time describes in acute detail the barbarity, suffering and atrocity of war. The prose is wonderful and you are drawn into this story of at times, despair, cruelty and unspeakable suffering but ultimately, the victory of the Soviet army lays the bedrock for Hitlers ultimate downfall.

Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

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I came across this book when I was about 16 years old, all my friends at the Grammar School (I was an outcast at the Secondary Modern school) were doing it as a set book for English Literature. Not wanting to miss out, I decided to get it from the school library and give it a go. First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads—driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity. It is a magnificent piece of writing and if the conclusion to the story does not bring a tear to your eye, then you have no humanity.

Darkness at Noon – Arthur Koestler

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In my teens I became interested in left wing politics but wanted to know more of the history of the soviet regime and why it was venerated by left wing supporters, but despised and loathed by people from the other parts of the political spectrum. I can’t remember who it was but a friend suggested that I read Koestlers book. Darkness at Noon stands as an unequaled fictional portrayal of the nightmare politics of our time. Its hero is an aging revolutionary, imprisoned and psychologically tortured by the Party to which he has dedicated his life. As the pressure to confess preposterous crimes increases, he relives a career that embodies the terrible ironies and human betrayals of a totalitarian movement masking itself as an instrument of deliverance. Almost unbearably vivid in its depiction of one man’s solitary agony, it asks questions about ends and means that have relevance not only for the past but for the perilous present. It is —- as the Times Literary Supplement has declared —- “A remarkable book, a grimly fascinating interpretation of the logic of the Russian Revolution, indeed of all revolutionary dictatorships, and at the same time a tense and subtly intellectualized drama.” It is possibly the finest book to expose the tyranny of all kinds of dictatorship (both left and right) and perhaps someone might hand a copy to Corbyn and his cabal as a warning from the past.

Adolf Hitler, My Part in his Downfall – Spike Milligan

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I remember borrowing this from Leigh library, sitting on the steps of the new library and howling with laughter at Milligans exploits. You have only to read the very start of the book ” At Victoria station the R.T.O. gave me a travel warrant, a white feather and a picture of Hitler marked ‘This is your enemy’. I searched every compartment, but he wasn’t on the train” to get an idea of the madcap approach Milligan took to army life during WW2. Throughout this first part of his memoirs, Milligan demonstrates his surreal take on life through his humour, but at the same time reflects of the pathos, sadness and morbidity of being in an army at war. You do wonder at times how the hell the British army performed so well given the stupidity and ineptitude displayed by those in charge and beautifully (if sarcastically) described by Gunner Milligan. Possibly the best anti – war book ever written.

The Little World of Don Camillo – Giovannino Guareschi

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I cannot remember how I discovered these stories but they gave me untold hours of pleasure reading about the trials and tribulations of the two protagonists. These tragicomical stories, often politically or socially charged, mostly situated in a fictional village on the Po called Boscaccio, in the period immediately after World War II, paint a clear picture of the post-war Italy. In this period the Italian Communist Party is very strong, but the Second World War and fascism are still vividly remembered. Boscaccio has a communist mayor named Peppone. He wants to realise the communist ideals, and the Roman Catholic priest Don Camillo is desperately trying to prevent this. But despite their different views these men can count on each other in the fight against social injustice and abuses.

One – David Karp

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A dystopian novel set in a perversely benevolent future in which an attempt is made to remould the identity of a so-called heretic, Professor Burden, who had, up until then, regarded himself as a loyal citizen of the State. A worthy successor to Huxleys “Brave New World” and Orwells “1984”. One, was first published in 1953 but has never received the recognition or success of its predecessors. It must be 40 years or so since I read it, but at the time it made a tremendous impression on me which has remained with me ever since. It is a book that should be celebrated and much more widely known. I will not give details of the ending to the book, sufficient to say that it is “interesting.” A true 20th century masterpiece in my opinion.

Another Country – James Baldwin

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It was during the late 1960s when I came across the author James Baldwin (I think I had read a review of one of his books) and read “Another Country” which, many consider his finest work. Published in 1962, this is an emotionally intense novel of love, hatred, race and liberal America in the 1960s. Set in Greenwich Village, Harlem and France, ANOTHER COUNTRY tells the story of the suicide of jazz-musician Rufus Scott and the friends who search for an understanding of his life and death, discovering uncomfortable truths about themselves along the way. As a black gay man Baldwin was criticised  from within the black community, in particular Eldridge Cleaver, of the Black Panthers, stated that Baldwin’s writing displayed an “agonizing, total hatred of blacks.” As an openly gay man, he became increasingly outspoken in condemning discrimination against lesbian and gay people. Another Country is one of Americas finest novels and alongside his other book “Giovannis Room” should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in America and its social inequality.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – Dee Brown

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I think it was after watching the film Soldier Blue that I went looking for something that would give me more background knowledge about the treatment, of what are now called “Native Indians.” What I came across was “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” which is Dee Brown’s eloquent, fully documented account of the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century. Using council records, autobiographies, and firsthand descriptions, Brown allows the great chiefs and warriors of the Dakota, Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes to tell us in their own words of the battles, massacres, and broken treaties that finally left them demoralized and defeated. A unique and disturbing narrative told with force and clarity, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee changed forever our vision of how the West was really won. In many ways a sad and dispiriting story, and even today the native American indians still sit at the bottom of the socio economic scale.

This is not a definitive list of “must read” books, but simply those which have made the greatest impact upon me over the years……….and no doubt I will add to, or even change my choices in the next few years.

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