My Worst Photos #2: Naples, Italy 2004

MY second “gorgeous” photo, like my first one, was taken on a trip with my wife. In 2004, in honour of our 20th wedding anniversary, we entered the exciting world of cruise holidays and sailed round the Med from Barcelona. We weren’t sure we’d enjoy cruising; after all, you’re just stuck on a boring boat and everyone’s really old, right? Well, no, as it turns out. At least, we didn’t find it boring, and, yes, there are some old folks but so what? Suffice to say we were hooked and have since repeated the exercise, sometimes at prices no higher than staying in a decent hotel.

But enough of the marketing. Bring on the photo!

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Once again I think you’ll agree this is top-class photography. The colour, contrast and composition are simply compelling. I’m particularly proud of how the eye is drawn to the floodlight at top right. OK, maybe not. But it does prove we were on a ship, in a port.

The port in question is Naples, Italy. The large, old building at centre left is called Castel Nuovo, a.k.a. The New Castle (not to be confused with Newcastle, which, delightful though I’m sure it is, isn’t renowned as a cruise destination as far as I know). We actually didn’t see much of the town, having chosen an excursion to see the ruins of Pompeii. The ruins were fascinating – and hot. Very hot. Not because nearby Mt Vesuvius was erupting (which would have been extremely inconvenient and possibly made us late getting back to the ship) but simply ‘cos this was August in Italy. Those baking hot Mediterranean excursions always made us glad to get back to an air-conditioned ship.

Naples was the final port of call on the 7-day holiday. Earlier we’d had stops in Marseille and Villefranche (Nice) in France, as well as Pisa and Rome in Italy. These are places we’d never have ventured to otherwise, and we were blown away by the whole experience. Drifting gently out of port as the waiter brought us dinner was magical.

While we were busy being amazed by our floating hotel, we were surprised to discover that more seasoned cruisers were easily displeased. As we ate lunch just outside Rome, we overheard other passengers berating various aspects of the holiday that would just never have occurred to us. We concluded that experiencing luxury can lead to taking things for granted and make you intolerant of imperfection. On returning home, we decided we’d have to go on further cruises to see if we too would succumb to this cynicism.

I’m pleased to report that so far we’ve largely resisted, although things can go wrong and wind you up a bit. Becoming ill on your holiday, for example, kinda spoils things, and ships can be a nightmare for spreading bugs. Then again, I once got sick in a hotel which was distinctly land-locked and never moved once. And as my wife has been frustrated to discover more than once, ships are prone to closing the swimming pool for no obvious reason. I know; it’s intolerable.

Back in 2004, while we baked in the Med, our kids attended a youth church conference. It was a camping event, always a risky proposition in the UK even in high summer. That particular year the heavens opened both spiritually and meteorologically, the campsite being seriously flooded. It was all a bit traumatic, but it was their trauma – without those pesky parents – and they didn’t seem too phased by it all. There were tales of heroic tent rescues, puddles deeper than your wellies and angels being seen in the trees. All in all, much as I love to hear of God at work, I was glad to have had our week rather than theirs. They did, however, demand that we take them on a cruise. After saving up for a few years we did just that – and they, too, were hooked.

So that first sea adventure has a lot to answer for in our family. I did take some decent pictures but this one of a ship’s floodlight with a bit of Naples in the background serves just as well to bring it all back.



My Worst Photos #1: Whitby 1984

A word of explanation…

BACK WHEN all photos were printed, I had a 4-tier system that determined each print’s fate:

  • The best shots went in a “display-type” album – the sort designed to showcase one or two pics per page.
  • The “OK but not brilliant” shots went in a “flip-type” album – the sort designed to store as many pics as possible.
  • The “worth keeping just in case” or “spare copies” went into “The Photo Box” (in reality a box that originally had computer speakers in). The box was then shoved back in a cupboard.
  • The failures went in the bin.

Nowadays it’s all digital and only the best make it into an album. Occasionally I’ll be given a print that still finds its way to The Photo Box (let’s call it TPB for short), but largely it covers the period from the 1970’s to the 1990’s.

Recently I up-ended TPB and browsed through the whole lot, reminiscing, occasionally smiling – but mostly remembering why those photos were relegated to TPB in the first place. I quite like sharing some of my photos online, but they’re usually pretty good (IMHO) to warrant that. Nevertheless, I realised, even these dodgy efforts had a story behind them. Hence today’s post, with a few more to follow.

And so it begins…

…with this beauty from 1984:

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Isn’t it great?!

It was taken in August 1984 in Whitby, North Yorkshire, probably on a Kodak Instamatic 33 or similar. To be fair to the Instamatic, I’m pretty sure the colours were originally better and have faded, even in the confines of TPB, over the subsequent 33 years. Colours apart, however, I’ll admit the composition is less than pleasing.

You can tell it’s the sea, and you can just about tell there’s a person in there (that would be my new wife, since this was our honeymoon). I think there are a couple of boats too. Pleasing to the eye it is not.

So what’s the story then?

Having got married in Cleethorpes we honeymooned in Robin Hood’s Bay, spending a week in a cottage attached to a farmhouse for the princely sum of £60. The cottage had a sink and loo but no bath or shower, so we had to go to the farmhouse for that. The first time my bride used the bath she left her wedding ring behind and the farmer’s wife brought it back for us. (A year or two later, my wife lost that ring, we knew not where, so we replaced it – only for the original to turn up when we defrosted the freezer…)

Our wedding reception hadn’t finished until gone 6 p.m. and we didn’t arrive at Robin Hood’s Bay until about 11 p.m. The cottage was up a farm track so there was my new wife in her going-away outfit, opening a gate on a muddy track by the light of the headlamps. Oops. The farmer’s wife came out to meet us, saying she was beginning to think we weren’t coming. We’d got lost in Hull (in those pre-satnav days), and we began to think we’d not be coming either.

We had a good week, taking a trip on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and, obviously, visiting Whitby – where my wife indulged her love of swimming, or more specifically, swimming in the sea. 33-and-a-bit years later, she still loves sea swimming, most recently in Looe in Cornwall. She would love me to join her but it’s a rare day indeed that sees me in the briny.

We’ve never returned to Robin Hood’s Bay or Whitby but this faded, badly-composed shot will always remind me of where our life together began and make me grateful for having a fully-equipped bathroom.

Update, 3 April 2018: A friend of mine showed me that by digitally colour-correcting the scan of the original print, I could again see some of its former glory:

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Thanks, Jerry 🙂

The Dad Diaries Chapter 5: In which a bowl is broken and bonding is too expensive

Wednesday, 9th February, 2005

The Bill Bailey DVD we ordered arrived, and I had to agree with Jack’s assessment that it’s “well funny”. I feel an affinity with Bill, since we’re both humourists. The only difference between us is that he’s extremely successful, has great stage presence and happens to be a talented musician to boot. There, I must admit, he’s got the advantage over me, since there’s probably not a huge amount of comedic value in a bloke staring at his guitar trying to remember the chords for Home on the Range.

Friday, 11th February, 2005

A man’s work is never done. In anticipation of guests landing on us (not literally) tomorrow, I took the afternoon off to get the house ship-shape (or, more realistically, house-shape). With F. being out and Sarah not being well, poor old Jack was press-ganged into “volunteering” to help. So, while I spent about 5 hours cleaning two bathrooms, the hall, landing and stairs, our bedroom, the lounge, the dining room and the study, Jack bravely changed his bed and hoovered his bedroom.

Jack asked if he’d be getting extra pocket money for all his efforts. I launched into an uplifting speech about fulfilling our responsibilities, all pulling together, the reward of a job well done and the like. It took me a good three minutes to notice he was no longer there.

Saturday, 12th February, 2005

A most pleasant day with our visitors. We watched rugby, went to town, got soaked walking back from town, then dried off while watching a Tom Hanks film, The Terminal. It’s a peculiar yet heartwarming tale (not unlike these diaries, really) marred only by the fact that in my hurry to restock the popcorn I broke one of our treasured blue Pyrex bowls.

Before the devastation

Much like a hamster, said bowl wasn’t exactly irreplaceable but had nonetheless been in the family for some time and will be missed.

Monday, 14th February, 2005

This being Valentine’s Day I have of course carried out various essential domestic chores, to whit: New battery in dining room alarm sensor (previous one having lasted a paltry six weeks); New fluorescent tube in kitchen worktop light fitting (a snip at £6.50); New 10 Watt halogen bulb in bathroom downlighter (again). My sense of achievement knew no bounds.

Thought I’d better tackle the assignment from last week’s session of the Finding Your Place in the Kingdom of Our Righteous God and Playing Your Part in the Spreading of His Glorious Gospel course. My thoughtful and decisive answers apparently indicated that I was mildly interested in eight different areas of ministry and may possibly have one or more of at least eleven different spiritual gifts. So that’s much clearer then.

This being Valentine’s Day, F., Jack and Sarah watched Forrest Gump.

Tuesday, 15th February, 2005

The extractor fan in the downstairs loo ceiling has been screaming like a strangled banshee for a while. Being on a DIY roll (see yesterday’s entry), I whipped it out and sprayed WD40 into every available orifice. A quick check of the instructions (carefully filed, naturally, along with leaflets for a fridge-freezer, a kettle we threw away in 1998 and 37 other miscellaneous household appliances) revealed a fairly short section on maintenance, consisting mainly of the phrase Do not lubricate under any circumstances.

While washing my hands after this highly successful task, I also had to rinse several drops of WD40 out of my left ear.

Wednesday 16th February, 2005

F. was not pleased by the small, oily pool on the floor in the downstairs loo. I said I’d have a word with the kids as it was probably some weird hair product.

Thursday, 17th February, 2005

I explained to Sarah and Jack that since our tickets for Les Miserables were pretty pricey, there’d be no father-child bonding trip this year. They put on a good show of concealing their disappointment.

Cycled to B & Q to look for a new extractor fan.


The Dad Diaries are fictional. Probably.

The rehabilitation of butter and why I’ll think twice about sunflower oil

A few years back I was told my cholesterol was a little high and that I ought to try to reduce it to protect myself from heart disease. The two specific diet changes I made were switching from full-fat milk to semi-skimmed and from butter to margarine (usually Flora Buttery).

Funny how things change.

Last year I discovered that the fat in full-fat milk may not be as harmful as we've been told.

Now, it seems, vegetable oils aren't as great as we've been led to believe. And butter isn't necessarily the health villain we thought, either.

How do I know? From my not-at-all-exhaustive research, which produced three articles saying very similar things. That either means they're all right or that they've all copied each other and got it wrong, but I'm inclined to think it's the former. If you know differently, feel free to do that commenty thing at the end of the post.

The articles all say:

  • We didn't start eating vegetable oils in any quantity until the the early 20th century, when heart disease and cancer were less prevalent.
  • The “evil” oils are manufactured in a multi-step process involving lots of heat, noxious chemicals and magical incantations. OK I added the last bit, but they're far from “natural” and much more towards “processed”.
  • Said evil oils can do various nasty things to our insides.
  • The stats on butter consumption, oil consumption and the prevalence of heart disease and cancer show that our tactic of switching away from butter has failed.
  • There are a few “good” oils to use in cooking, and the baddies get used in all kinds of products we buy so we have to read food labels to try to reduce or avoid them.

Here are the pages for your own perusal:

So there you go. I'm kinda getting convinced by this stuff. Should I ditch the Flora? By the way, last time I was checked my cholesterol was OK. Hmmmm.


The Dad Diaries Chapter 3: In which an MP3 player fails to arrive and the gospel is preached

Monday, 17th January, 2005

Jack said he had a boring day at school. I said I’d had a boring day at work. Other family members didn’t comment on how boring (or otherwise) their day had been.

On the other hand, F. did report that a colleague at work had had their house vandalised. We were suitably appalled and prayed for fire to rain down from heaven and consume the culprits. (Although we also requested that the fire would be at a safe distance from the house, in order to prevent further damage.)

Tuesday, 18th January, 2005

Jack was crestfallen when the postman again failed to deliver his eagerly-awaited MP3 player from eBay. F. is also waiting for an MP3 player from eBay, but being an adult her degree of crestfallen-ness was naturally much lower.

We attended a church house group where the “ice-breaker” consisted of sharing your opinions of President George W. Bush. The main opinion we came away with was that as an exercise in sharing something about yourself and learning something about others it was an unmitigated failure.

Wednesday, 19th January, 2005

I announced to the family that since it’s now post-Christmas we are officially allowed to discuss where we want to go on holiday this year. We need to get our skates on, given that we only have 7 months to decide.

Saturday, 22nd January, 2005

It’s cold. I have a headache. And I worked until lunchtime. On. A. Saturday.

On the other hand, we had F.’s parents round for chippy takeaway and games of Uno and Pass The Pigs. Both exceedingly fine games of skill, judgement and strategy. (When I win. If I lose, it’s just down to luck.)

opplanet-encross-wave-x-wv-430c-512mb-digital-audio-mp3-player-wv430cF.’s MP3 player arrived, much to the dismay of a by now extra-crestfallen Jack, who remains MP3 player-less and must console himself with old-fashioned CDs or humming to himself.

Monday, 24th January, 2005

Sarah had her TB jab. It hurt. She was consoled by our visit to the Town Hall to see Jesus Christ Superstar, featuring, it seems, one of her teachers.

For some sound educational reason Jack has to find pictures of a rhino’s back on the Internet. He’s drawn a picture of a boy crying uncontrollably. I think it’s the MP3 player thing.

Tuesday, 25th January, 2005

Met Dave Morrison near Morrison’s (co-incidence or what?). He didn’t remember me so I had to remind him we met at the German evening class two years ago. He then told me about various health and financial troubles he had. Moved by the Spirit, I told him Jesus cared about all that stuff and wants him to get right with God. Dave said he really needed to pop in for some salt and a tin of peaches.


The Dad Diaries are fictional. Probably.