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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Odds and Sods February 2023

It's time for the monthly round up of missed photos that didn't make it into other blog pieces either because they were not part of a story or because the blog piece is still to come, in which case they serve as an amuse-bouche or should that be an amuse-oeil in this case.

The local snowdrops have been a spectacle this year. It seems to be the way of flower bulbs that they vary from year to year in their profusion and this year they are profusing to their heart's content. The lane has been a veritable snow drift of snow drops.

Another peculiarity I noticed was that as I went up the lane and they got thicker and thicker, they peaked just at the bend in the lane, after which there was not a single one visible. It was an all or nothing walk. Something about the conditions that enable their flourishing disappeared around the corner, as if some invisible gardener had drawn a line across the road, a gardener who couldn't face the rest of a steep climb.

This is a different lane, below, without snowdrops, but it serves as an example of what I have dubbed a G Road. This is a concept I have only created since moving to the South Hams in Devon. Everyone in Britain is familiar with M Roads, or Motorways and then A Roads and B Roads as you decrease in the road hierarchy, but I now introduce to you the G Road, notable by its addition of grass down the middle. I was here at the beginning of February to fill in yet another gap in my River Avon Series. Last time I attempted this road I met an Amazon delivery and never got to my destination. I thought better of taking on such a massive corporation in such a confined space. I never really got there this time either, due to a greater force of nature, but I was well armed with a long lens this time so that I was at least able to tick that box. The ticked box won't feature for a while yet though as my driving is way ahead of my blogging and there are a few other parts in the series to come first.

Sticking with the Amazon theme I did untick their Prime box this week as it was about to run out and they had put the price up to £95. So come Friday I will no longer be in my Prime, it's official.

Here are the reasons I cancelled. They put the price up last September and I have been cogitating ever since about Amazon and my relationship with them. There had always been a tick box on the account that you could tick, that's what tick boxes are for. This one could be ticked if you did not want to auto renew Prime. It had always been ticked so that when the time came I could decide if I wanted to renew. In December on the off chance, I just checked my account and imagine my surprise, my tick and the box it was in had disappeared.

At some point Amazon had taken away my ticked box and replaced it with an unticked box which said tick if you want an email first before we auto renew you, or words to that effect. So had I not randomly looked, my Prime subscription would have auto renewed, completely against my wishes.

That is the single biggest reason I cancelled my Prime subscription today. The second reason which just confirmed the first reason was that when I cancelled it and confirmed the cancellation, a message warned me I had unticked my auto renew tick box. Hilariously and hugely irritatingly, that is the tick box that they had already removed, in the full knowledge that it would cause an auto renewal.

I had subscribed to Prime since it was introduced in 2007, which with my mental arithmetic is sixteen years. What do I get for subscribing to Prime for sixteen years? Nothing. Just the same Prime anyone else gets who subscribes for the first time today. What that really means is that there is no reason to auto renew, because as I get nothing special for 16 years custom, I lose nothing. If I decide I want Prime in a month or six months or a year, I will have saved £95 and I can still re-subscribe just like anyone else. It will also encourage me to shop around more.

But I digress.

A friend who travels with a caravan drew my attention to the concept of G Roads, although I came up with the name. He uses Google Street View to plan his caravan sojourns, and if Google Street View indicates grass in the middle of the road he completely rules it out as a route option.

Eventually I came to an old barn which looked like someone had tried to gain entry with a can opener through the roof.

No doubt after this attempted break in the owner had installed security. Beware the dog.

If you come to play on this blog regularly you will already know about our trip to Looe in Cornwall. I have always loved maps, even this stylised, unrealistic and symbolic type below, where everywhere in the world is laid out in a straight line and equally spaced.

As a child my Dad always had a good large scale map, usually in book form, which lived in the big pocket behind his driving seat, which I delighted in following on our travels, marvelling at the possibilities of predicting exactly what was ahead and approaching fast, like the Scottish Highlands for example. If I had become a monk I would have joined the Mappist sect, taking a vow to pore over a map whenever travelling, either before, during, or after the trip.

Years later and our driving holidays in France always involved the yellow Michelin maps in the largest scale possible, the ones which even had the potholes and the road kill. The symbol for road kill was a pheasant skull and crossed wings, the symbol for a pothole was a flat tyre. Ok, so I am exaggerating, but not much. These were the open out and flap around variety that usually incurred the wrath of the driver when they flapped a bit too far and obscured the wing mirror on the passenger side just as we were going around an island the French way. I also couldn't get too engrossed in my map, as I was involved in the overtaking, being the one who could see ahead when we were on the French side of the road, and stuck behind a 2CV driven by a ninety year old Madame with 48 eggs on her passenger seat. All 2CV drivers were compelled by an ancient law to carry trays of eggs everywhere they went.

But I digress yet again.

We still owe so much to Harry Beck who designed the first London Underground Map who had that lightbulb moment, when he realised that if your map is showing transport stops, particularly underground, then that is all it has to show. When you remove the rest of the world from the train stops, this is what you are left with. Today every human on the planet near any form of public transport takes this concept for granted, but I wonder how many of them have heard of Harry Beck.

Here is a question I have asked before about some other invention, it might have been photography. If Harry Beck had not come up with this revolutionary idea when he did, would someone else have eventually seen the light, and how much later? Or would we all still be trying to follow the underground with an open out, flapping in the breeze, everything to scale,Tube System in miniature, with a confusion of tiny names bunched up in Central London, and easy to read suburbs around the edges?

Having now looked more closely at this map I am very keen to go to Bugle, and when I do I will expect the train to sound a bugle as it arrives or I will be very disappointed.

Having got to Looe I was surprised to find out that seaside resorts had snow globes. I think it is probably a very rare sight to see snow in Looe. Maybe, as it has a beach a sandstorm would be more appropriate than a snowstorm. In any event, because it was February, none of these gewgaws were available to buy as this shop had an opening sign which used months not hours and it is next open in June.

On the other hand, Cornwall being Cornwall, it was no surprise to find that the choices of snow globe were seahorse, sea gull, lighthouse, tin mine or VW camper van. They are missing a trick not having a pasty in a snowstorm though, or even a sandstorm.

Cornish Fairings are an example of a particular genre of food. Traditional foods from a particular part of the country that have a long shelf life and which can be bought as holiday souvenirs when you go back home, so that grandma can put them on the sideboard because they are special, and therefore they are never opened and never consumed. There is no known record of anyone eating a Cornish Fairing for at least two hundred years, when Cornish housewives probably made them for their children who probably wolfed them down while they were still warm.

Cornish Fairings today are something that becomes part of the family estate and they are handed down the generations as older family members die, like Grandfather Clocks and Clarice Cliff honey pots, clocks which were never wound, and honey pots that never saw honey. Other foods in the genre are Kendall Mint Cake, Blackpool Rock, Devon Fudge, and Grasmere Gingerbread. I draw the line at including Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding in the genre because there is no way grandma is getting her sideboard under that.

This was a Looe shot that didn't make it into the Looe story. It's the Guildhall, looking very Granitey and Cornish.

Up beyond the snowdrops where feeble gardeners do not venture is Loo Cross, not to be confused with the other Looe. Don't ask me why, but there is something about this spot of Devon which really fascinates, so I tried to capture it in a panorama of four shots. It is technically a cross roads hence Loo Cross, but it has a unique three dimensional quality that fascinates, being contorted as it is, on a steep slope, on a bend, and in being an ancient place that somehow got a name and kept it, a name we don't know anything about, which might be just as old as the place, even though there is nothing here but fallen leaves and a road sign.

Looking behind me after I photographed Loo Cross is this view, through the bared winter twigs of the hedgerow.

This month I eventually got to do my Old Paignton photo walk, which I have started to recount on the blog, although only one part so far. Here is a small selection of four shots of posts still to come. This was the closest I got to the seafront on the walk and the first sign that we are in a traditional seaside resort. Previous walks and posts from previous years will take over from here and guide you all of the way to the pier and harbour.

Back in Old Paignton, and it doesn't come much older than the church which will feature it's own post with a thousand years of history or more.

This was a lucky find and will add to my collection of doorway thresholds. This beautiful example at a bank that is remarkably still a bank.

This is old although not as old as the church. It has its own industrial geometric quality that puts it in an increasingly lonely place and time of its own. It is a once common twentieth century sight that is fast becoming rarer than thousand year old churches.

There is a pair of swans back on the creek, and swans all looking like other swans, nobody is really sure if either of these is one of the swans from last year or a new pair. We're fairly sure that one of last year's didn't make it. These two are equally amorous so we may have more ugly ducklings this year.

The month ended on a sunny high after a dreary grey winter and here are a hundred little sunrises to prove it. Where am I?

Now where am I? If you haven't already got it.

Now you really should get it, because I have spelled it out for you.

Again this is just a taster of what is to come. Apart from wandering aimlessly around the old town of Lisbon which is our favourite holiday pastime we also took an open top bus tour and visited a small museum.

The open top bus tour enabled me to do a drive by shooting series which will form a seperate post or maybe two, of snatched photos of the city as it went past, hopefully in focus on a high shutter speed, helped by the bright sunshine, but probably slightly skewiff due to the river-rafting like bus trip on Lisbon's undulating roads. People prone to seasickness be warned.

Lisbon is situated at the mouth of the Tagus River and is the westernmost capital of a mainland European country. Sounds like a quiz question. But what is the westernmost capital of a non mainland European country. Reykjavik of course.

Lisbon also has a major problem with graffiti, more of that later.

If you ever go to Lisbon I can recommend a small and unique museum, the Museu de São Roque. The museum displays one of the world’s most important Roman Catholic sacred art collections. It includes sculptures, paintings, and relics that are unique in the world, plus jewelry and Flemish tapestry.

The joy of the museum was that despite tens of thousands of tourists queuing in the streets to ride ancient funiculars and crowding the bars and restaurants, this little known almost unnoticed museum had two other visitors apart from us. In addition you could get really close to the objects many of which were not shielded by glass or rope barriers.

Adjoining the museum you walk through to the church itself. The side chapels are decorated with polychrome marble and remarkable works of gilded woodcarving, most notably the gold-covered Chapel of Our Lady of Doctrine.

I have never seen anything like this anywhere before. The church is free to enter and the museum only a few Euros. The museum also has all the information in English. I am going to do a seperate post about the museum contents, the first time I have successfully photographed a museum exhibit.

The real treat for me in the older parts of town were all the architectural details which I will show more of later. As you can see here there is also little escape from the graffitti.

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tom thompson
tom thompson
Feb 28, 2023

Another Fantastic Odds and Sods Nice captures, love the story about amazon and prime, I have often thought about canceling as well, but in my view is best to stay to keep boycotting the evil ones (Walmart) I purchase from Amazon instead of going to the evil one :-) Wonderful set though thanks for sharing

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Feb 28, 2023
Replying to

Thanks Tom. Glad you enjoy the blog.🙂


Unknown member
Feb 28, 2023

Where to start? So much to say but....

.....looks like I won't be recommending stuff on AMZ anymore seeing you ticked off.

..... your reference to the Looe gave me the opportunity to go back and clean out my typos ( that's one way to force me to fix my typing) but I wish I had done it before "publishing'

....... Lisbon tour threw me. I knew there was a familiarity with the first photo on the blog, but never clicked it being Lisbon. Of course your overhead photo of the train posted on FOB now makes more sense.

........ and finally as much as I love your odds and sods I hate the fact that it points to the…

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Feb 28, 2023
Replying to

We common people only go away for a few days not half the year, like some. 🤣 You'll be forgetting where you live soon. Only ticked off AMZ Prime not AMZ. I'm assuming the app will still work just nothing free on offer. It is an experiment, like giving up Gin for Lent.🤣


John Durham
John Durham
Feb 28, 2023

From Devon to Lisbon - now that's a true Odds and Sods! Loved the Guild Hall shot -really beautiful. Have you never really eaten a Cornish Fairing? Seems like a dare, almost.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Feb 28, 2023
Replying to

🤣 I did actually sample a long saved and stale one once and even then it nearly broke a tooth, hence the monologue. Email me your address and you might get some for Christmas 🤣

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