Growing up in rural, southern England, I got used to narrow, winding roads. My first exposure to long, dead straight roads was in Libya, but I would usually fly deep into the desert so it was during my time in South Africa that I really started to become conscious of them.

The long, straight road was at first liberating. Free from the twists and turns I could see just where I was going. But they soon became tedious, because I couldn’t get where I wanted to go fast enough. I could literally see where I was going to be in 15 or 20 minutes (when towing a trailer or driving the speed limit).

I soon grew to hate them, longing again for the narrow twists and turns of the single-lane roads around my home where each curve in the road brought excitement tinged with the danger of encountering an approaching vehicle.

To drive the narrow, single-lane roads of Wiltshire I needed to be alive, tuned in to the vehicle I was driving and the world around me. I soon found when driving the long straight roads in South Africa I tuned out and I constantly had to find things to do with my mind to protect myself from the crushing boredom and monotony.

Roads, be they straight or winding, enable us to get from A to B, but at the same time, they constrain us to a vision set by someone else, to travel a path blazed by others.

When people ask me where I most enjoyed working my immediate response is, “Libya”. Most are stunned at this response but for the vast majority of my time in Libya, I worked in the desert where there were no roads. There were no fences hemming me in. I was free to travel in any direction I wanted to.

January is usually the time when people set out on a new path with the best of intentions. But by the end of January, most resolutions lie in tatters. Perhaps that’s because our goals are really someone else’s. The roads we have embarked upon are long, straight, and boring, laid out before us by some forgotten surveyor whose motivation was completely different to our own.

So if you find your resolutions unfulfilling, take a moment to stop and look around you. You’ll likely find a different destination or a more interesting route is close at hand.

The Open Road BW

The open road stretches straight into the distance, yet the road tempts us to follow someone else’s path rather than our own.

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Well, 2016 is behind us at last, now on to 2017!

2016 was not my personal favorite year, with my mother passing away, my incurring a significant reduction in income, my finding out I need both knees replaced because of arthritis and then, the final kick in the teeth, my refrigerator failing about an hour after the appliance spares shops closed for the holiday. Come back on Tuesday. Yeah, right.

But there were highs as well. The most uplifting being my becoming a Great Uncle on December 30th. No longer just an uncle, and not a grand uncle, but a Great Uncle. My Dad, of course, goes from being a mere grandfather to a Great Grandfather. And the best bit of this feat is it took no effort on our part at all! In fact, I was fast asleep at the time. That my niece included my mother’s name in the name of her first daughter makes the event all the more special.

January 1st is often a time of reflection, a hope for renewal, a time to draft a list of resolutions that rarely survive into February. It’s a time of contemplation.

When I used to live in England, I’d often find myself driving over to the Uffington White Horse where I’d sit on the hillside, gaze across the Vales of the White Horse and wonder (O.K. veg out).

The Uffington White Horse is a curious, stylized, figure. You can’t even see it all from the ground. Only the birds get to see the full shape. It’s been dated to the Bronze Age, perhaps as old as 1000 BC. I wonder what the original carvers of the figure would make of it now, and would make of the world today. Perhaps they’d want to change the design since they can’t have actually seen the whole of the finished work. I do know they wouldn’t have been frustrated that their refrigerator had just quit working.

Perhaps more remarkable is that the figure needs to be scraped roughly every seven years as the grass grows over the chalk. That means it’s been scraped about 430 times over its history. So, long after the original carvers had moved on, other people took it upon themselves to keep the figure visible to the skies. I guess they were anticipating the invention of the airplane, the helicopter, and now the drone, so future people would be able to see what it really looked like.

The white horse featured on the cover of the album ‘English Settlement’ by the Swindon band XTC. The third track on that album was titled, ‘Senses Working Overtime’. Just the other day I heard that very track playing in my local Whole Foods Market, here in good old Katy, Texas. The carvers of the white horse wouldn’t comprehend just how small our world is today. That’s something to contemplate!

View north across the Vale of the White Horse from Uffington

View north across the Vale of the White Horse from Uffington

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2017 Sunset Calendars

2017 Sunset Calendars

Better late than never but I now have some 2017 calendars available for purchase in my Zazzle store.

Currently, I have a US and a UK version of my 2017 ‘Sunsets’ calendar listed and I’m adding more.

What’s even better is that these calendars are 50% off through Friday with the coupon code on the site.

So please head on over and check them out – it’s a pretty reasonable way to get a collection of some of my images without buying prints from my print shop.

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