On my last visit to the Chatsworth Horse Trials 2 years ago we had a very young Tiggy with us. A very confused dog indeed. Tiggy did not enjoy the ride from Manchester, puking up in the car just as we arrived in the Chatsworth car park. She then proceeded to bark at all the other dogs (which vastly outnumber the horses) and pull like mad on the lead. She kept that up all day. The weather that day varied from glorious sunshine to torrential rain.
We went back last Sunday this time leaving Tiggy at home. The weather was less variable but hardly ideal. Overcast, not exactly raining but spotting every now and again. Certainly no sun, but we enjoyed the day.
This is Tim Cheffings on the Appaloosa Colby II:
Everyone associates the Nile with crocodiles, but there have been none north of Aswan since the dam was built. We did see some crocodiles when we reached Aswan, but we have not got to that yet. In the interim, the cabin stewards produced some towel sculptures to amuse us.
The towel sculpture seems to be a favourite tradition on cruise ships. The stewards leave a different towel sculpture in the cabin each night to give us a bit of a laugh, show off their creative skills and maybe encourage us to tip them a bit more at the end of the holiday.
Alex and Esther had a paticularly inventive steward. The eyes of the crocodile are plastic bottle tops and the “tongue” is the remote from the TV.
Bright and early next morning to the Temple of Horus. This is a late Pharaonic temple, dating to Graeco-Roman times, and as such in an excellent state of preservation.
Even if it is a lot less ancient than some of the other sights we had already seen, it is still well over 2,000 years old. This is the front “pylon” as the front wall is called in Egyptological circles apparently.
Clearly there was not much doing on board ship because Naomi and I ended up providing the evening’s entertainment without even knowing it.
We had docked at Edfu after nightfall, at around 10pm. From the boat we could see we were right by the town. There were streets, cafes, shops. The boat had come to Edfu for the Greek-period temple we were due to visit in the morning, but there was nothing stopping us going into town right there and then for a walk and quick look around. The town did not look too rough and the crew assured us it was safe.
As ever, for tourists in Egypt, you can hardly go anywhere without quickly collecting an entourage of locals attempting to sell you anything from jellabahs to alabaster cats, trying to guess your nationality and trotting out their stock sales patter in a variety of languages. Alex and Esther would talk in back-slang etc to confuse them.
Esther started to get uncomfortable with all the attention and returned to the ship with Alex. Naomi and I stayed out and decided to buy Egyptian dress at a local shop within sight of the ship. Naomi wanted to practice her famed haggling skills. And haggle we did – purchasing an embroidered two-piece Jellabah for me and one for Esther, along with a selection of matching headgear, for well under ship’s prices. I tried my gear on at the shop. Naomi was given a lesson in how to tie my head-dress on me, and picked it up straight away. She was (jokingly) offered a job in the shop.
It was only as we returned to the ship that we realised we were being watched from the sundeck. People in the bar stopped to talk to us about it – they had watched the whole episode and wanted to know what we paid, etc. It seemed half the ship had been watching us.
The afternoon of our trip to the Valley of the Kings our cruise ship (actually glorified riverboat) set off southward in the direction of Aswan.
We had to navigate the lock at Esna. Behind us were more boats waiting their turn. Whenever a riverboat is moving more slowly, close to a stopping point, it rapidly finds itself surrounded by a flotilla of traders in rowing boats. They get very close, trying to get the attention of the passengers, even when the cruise boats are moving. It is a wonder that some of the braver rowing boats don’t get crushed under the bows.
We headed to the lock, following another riverboat in. All the riverboats are built to the same design. Apparently there are 300 of them licenced to cruise up and down the Nile.
We had traders following us too, trying to sell Jellabahs (gelebaiahs or however you want to spell it), the traditional one piece garments worn by Egyptians. The traders in the picture are wearing them. Our ship, and very likely all of them, have an Egyptian dress up night at some point along the cruise and the traders know the passengers need to get kitted up.
Into the lock …
… through the lock and looking back towards it:
Going on a Nile cruise does not involve all that much cruising. We boarded at Luxor and the ship did not go anywhere until the afternoon of the first full day when it set off towards Aswan, taking in a couple of stops on the way. The ship then remained at Aswan for a couple of days while we went on various trips then sailed back to Luxor where it remained for a couple more days while we went on a few more trips. That was it.
But when the ship actually was on the move we did at least have a chance to enjoy the riverbank theatre. It is very common to see the locals down at the river splashing about. But always the boys. The girls don’t get a look-in.
We hit the ground running on our first full day with a trip to the Valley of the Kings. With mid-day temperatures in the Luxor region reaching 45°C or thereabouts we were expected to make an extremely early start. The alarm went off at 5am, a quick breakfast on the ship then onto the coach.
It is a fairly short journey from the ship over the bridge to the west bank of the Nile and on to the Valley of the Kings. Very annoyingly you are not allowed to take photos there and we were instructed to leave our cameras on the coach. The tour guides want you to buy the official photos although I don’t think anyone on our trip bothered. No huge loss. The valley itself is just so much rock and sand with a hilly peak in the background and entrances to tombs dotted randomly around the place. The use of the area for burials of Pharaohs dates from the reign of Thutmose I who was the first bright spark to notice that all his predecessors with their showy pyramids were leaving thieves in no doubt where to go find some buried treasure. Building an impressive tomb underground in an unknown place was supposed to thwart the tomb robbers, but all Thutmose’s successors used the same area and the secret got out. From then it was back to business as usual for the thieves.
On the way to the Valley we stopped at the Colossi of Memnon, where you are allowed to take pictures. These two 60ft statues of a seated Amenhotep III originally ornamented the front facade of the latter’s mortuary temple. The statues are all that is left to look at now, although there are excavation works going on behind.
In the photo above you can just see a sheep coming out from behind the statue to the right. Here are the rest of them.
The carvings on the side of one of the statues:
The statues are literally just by the side of a road, with handy car park and cafe.
My it’s been a long time since I posted anything on this blog. That will change though because I have a trip to Egypt to document.
This is just a taster, a sunset taken from the sundeck of our cruise ship, berthed some distance from the Nile riverbank just to the South of Luxor.
The clear cut disk of the sun is, I think, the result of a sandstorm which had blown up in the Aswan area a couple of days earlier and resulted in heavily dust-laden air. Well that’s my theory.
It was one of those occasions when you see something spectacular and realise you have just a few minutes in which to go get your camera before the moment has gone.
After being very poorly on Friday night, Esther brightened up enough to go riding on Sunday. The weather was good so I went along to take some pictures. It turned out that Esther was still a bit off colour and messed up most of the jumps.
I think the feeling of being below par extended to my photography. I had terrible trouble getting anything in focus. This is probably the pick of my efforts from the afternoon.
And there has to be at least one passable shot of Woody jumping:
Philip Rose, who runs the Manchester-based Scitech childrens’ summer science camps, has friends in high places. In the past he has secured loan equipment from McLaren Mercedes so that the kids at the camp could learn about the science of Formula 1 pit-stops. This year he went one further and was able to borrow an entire Formula 1 car (minus engine of course) from the newest F1 team, Brawn GP.
So it was that for this year’s camp, held at Altrincham Grammar School, the kids had an opportunity to get their hands on (and their bottoms in) a real F1 car, albeit last year’s Honda model painted up in the current Brawn livery. The story is that Brawn had done some testing with the 2008 car but changed the front and rear wings to the new specification, then later abandoned it in favour of the redesigned car with the double diffuser which won 6 races at the start of the season.
My eldest son Jonny, who attended Scitech in his youth, later had summer jobs there and shares Philip Rose’s passion for F1, was invited to come along and sit in the car. Here’s the car from nose …
(in the picture below notice the pit-stop fuel rig hose, also provided by Brawn, in the background)
… to tail.
The last batch of photos from Point Lynas.
Esther riding JJ:
A few more random pictures taken in Anglesey.
What better way to spend a week on Anglesey than in a former lighthouse keeper’s cottage. The cottage is one of two holiday cottages in the lighthouse complex at Point Lynas, a rocky promontory in Northern Anglesey and close to Llaneilian with its cute little beach. Our cottage was pretty, spacious, clean and very well equipped. The setting was jaw-dropping. These are all the plus points.
The lighthouse is still active, having been converted years ago to run automatically. Which brings me to the one minus point. Even in summer the visibility can drop to the point where the automatic foghorn starts up. It is very loud, blares every 45 seconds and can go on all night …
The lighthouse complex has a crenellated wall and gothic arch, like a mini castle.
On 1 May, Jonny and some friends from law college made parachute jumps for Cancer Research, at the Parachute Centre, Tilstock Airfield near Whitchurch, Shropshire. Naomi went to witness the event and take some pictures.
I’m sure the cap was necessary but can’t quite see Biggles wearing it.
Not a trace of fear from Jack and Jonny.
The Parachute Centre use an Australian-built Gippsland GA8 Airvan.
There was another skydiver on the plane, unconnected with Jonny and his friends, an experienced solo skydiver who jumped out at 5,000 ft. He did some stunts including this upside-down maneouvre.
Jack and Jonny each made a tandem skydive, from 10,000 ft, with an instructor holding onto them the whole way down. Jonny was the first out.
Tandem jumps in tandem. Jack on the left, Jonny on the right.
This is a close-up of the picture above.
Followed by the plane.
The full set of pictures is available here.
Some pictures I took at the Chatsworth International Horse Trials this weekend. These are all from the cross country event. No show jumping or dressage.
The weather was very changeable – fleeting sunshine would give way to torrential rain in a matter of seconds. I did not fancy the risk of water damage to my camera and took it back to the car out of harm’s way.
These three, of Polly Jackson riding Papillon over one of the water jumps, form part of a sequence on continuous shooting.
Sarah Barker on Diamond Life. Seems to be finding it an exhilarating experience …
Another Sarah, Sarah Thorpe, riding Durlas Aris. I nearly left this picture out, because the horse’s head is partly out of shot. But on reflection, it captures the power and pace of the horse, and the impact on the water, better than any of them.
I believe (based on this) that this is Beatrice Stocks on Toy Story II.
Oli Townend on ODT Penguin Ice:
Some more pictures from the British Open Show Jumping Championships 2009. This one, of William Whitaker on Fairviews Mirabelle D’Or, is my favourite.
The horse is not 100% sharp, I couldn’t get the shutter speed fast enough in that situation. But it’s not far off and I caught the peak of the action. The foreshortening, raised front hooves and dipping head make it look more like William Whitaker is riding a dolphin than a horse.
In practice, there were only two fences I stood a chance at capturing the action at. The one above and a green and yellow one closer to where I was sitting, but where the horses were moving across my line of view, not towards me, making it even harder to freeze the action. This is another Whitaker, Ellen this time, on Equimax Ocolado. Sounds like a drink or maybe a supermarket.
This is Guy Williams.
The perennial Nick Skelton.
Unfortunately I misjudged the trajectory of the action, managing to lose the top of Pius’s head. Naomi joked that if I’d done the same with the photo above it, we’d have a picture of Nearly Headless Nick.
On 19 April, Naomi, Esther and I went to the British Open show jumping at the LG Arena, NEC Birmingham. To my surprise, photography (without flash) was allowed. Well flash would have been useless at the distances involved anyway.
Some of my pictures from the event, starting with French trainer Jean-François Pignon.
Then the preparations for the grand final showjumping event.
Robert Whitaker on Lacroix 9
Some pictures from last weekend’s afternoon tea at the West Lodge Park hotel to celebrate Lucia’s milestone birthday. We had perfect weather so took our tea out in the open. This meant we could go for occasional wanders around the arboretum, play croquet to our own invented rules, etc.
Another of my legendary random compositions.
Naomi brought some dry ice home so the kids could make some Dr Jekyll drinks. The left-over dry ice was chucked in the sink. When the tap was turned on the whole kitchen turned into Dr Jekyll’s laboratory.
Our dog was duly confused.