29 November 2019

Requiem 2019 Starring Rutger Hauer

Requiem 2019 from Sil van der Woerd on Vimeo.

I had to watch this short film more than once before I could lift my jaw from the floor.  Directed by Sil van der Woerd and Rutger Hauer (who also stars), Requiem 2019 takes the last remaining blue whale and takes it eye to eye with its nemesis – us.  What can a single individual say to the last surviving member of a species which has been around for millions of years? Requiem 2019 is a melancholy demand that we take individual responsibility for preserving the largest animal to have ever lived.

Despite restrictions in hunting it still continues. In the Antarctic it is estimated that the population of blue whales is at one percent of its pre-hunting levels. What would become of human kind as a species if 99% of us were wiped of the face of the earth is, of course, conjecture: I sometimes wonder if we should even be classified as a species – virus seems a more appropriate term!

27 November 2019

Being British - A Film by the People of Great Britain

“Wandering Film Director” Simon Mulvaney recently asked a stack of independent filmmakers a question: what does it mean to be British?  I expect he was rather overwhelmed by the response if the resulting film is anything to go by.    The short answer, many, many different things which makes the UK a special kind of place really.  I think perhaps I will mull on the message of hope this video brings when I am next feeling bleak and baffled and about Blighty’s future (and that has been regularly over the last few years since a certain referendum!).  Maybe we’re not so broken, after all.

As an aside, I think this video would slot in nicely to any number of “British Values” classes in UK schools.  It could be used as a discussion starter, a prompt for essays – any number of classroom activities could be created around it.  So, thanks Mr Mulvaney and contributors!

If you’re interested in finding out more, there are multiple versions and a directors commentary here - www.beingbritish.uk

Tubi’s Titles: Not on Netflix

Are you suffering from subscription fatigue? If so (or even if you are wrinkling your brow wondering what that is) then you might want to take a look at the videos below. Tubi is the world’s largest free streaming service and have a huge amount of titles that are “Not on Netflix”.

Each of the videos stars a famous face, admitting in the middle of a therapy session that they have met ‘someone’ new, someone who will help them cure their streaming issues. Marvellously tongue in cheek, you may find one or two of your favorites here.

If you are a fan of Shakespeare (Hamlet particularly) then you might guess what is coming at the end of this short video starring Chris Noth. The pun comes after an earnest therapy session with Noth feeling guilty and anxious about… well, why not watch the video and find out!

Nicole Scherzinger, on the other hand, is ‘drowning in drama’. She is out to get what she wants without compromising... Free the stream, baby, free the stream!

Carmen Elektra has started something new that’s ‘different’.

Colton Underwood takes a break from jumping over large objects to let his therapist know how his life has changed since he started ‘chilling without Netflix.”

Although these humorous ads gently mock contemporary streaming culture they certainly make a point – that there are more ways to combat subscription fatigue than meet the eye.

16 November 2019

Top 10 Things to Do In Iceland 2020

Iceland is full of natural wonders, and even just one visit there can feel like you’re ticking your life bucket list off.

Rent a car
So you can get to all of these other places extremely easily, renting a car is highly recommended in Iceland. Public transport is costly, and will prevent you from going far in the evenings. Reykjavik is the starting point of most Iceland trips, with its great city and large airport. Reykjavik Cars can be easily picked up from the airport and will provide you the freedom of


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Askja is situated in the mid-east highlands of Iceland. The Dyngjufjöll mountains are everywhere you look, of which some stand at over 1,500m tall. There is the Öskjuvatn lake which is left over from the huge 1875 eruption that put Askja on the map, as it wasn’t really known about before this. To this day, there are potential eruptions that could take place, so be aware of these risks before visiting even if there probability is low.

Akureyri isn’t far from Askja, as it sits centrally (but further north) in Iceland. Akureyri is the fifth largest municipality in Iceland, and the town dates back to the 9th century. The climate can be much warmer here than surrounding areas, and can be a great place to visit for an old town experience. This is your chance to see the Laufas turf homes too, which were built in 1865 - these are preserved homes built underground and are fascinating to see how Icelandics used to live.

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Landmannalaugar is a geothermal oasis situated in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the Southern Highlands. Colourful mountains make up the backdrop to some incredibly vibrant lava fields. You can dip into the hot natural water and bathe any time of the year - winter to summer. It’s perhaps one of the most remarkable nature settings in the world, and has gained a lot of popularity among nature lovers. At around 112 miles away from Reykjavik, the oasis is only a few hours drive away from the airport.

The word Geyser is the Egnlish word for spouting hot spring, but actually derives from the Icelandic word Geysir, which means to gush (geysa). In the southwest of Iceland, you will find the The Great Geysir, which is a geothermal area with a plethora of spouting hot springs. It’s on the Golden Circle track, meaning it’s easy to access, and is incredibly popular among children too, making it a great family day out.

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Skaftafell Nature Reserve is the ultimate choice for those who love to hike. It has it all: it’s close to glaciers, it has incredible landscapes, you can visit any time of the year, it has a bunch of things to do and organised activities, and it is just off the ring road. It is still somewhat a hidden secret, as it hasn’t gained as much popularity as many other destinations in Iceland, despite it being easily accessible by car.

Skogafoss is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland, standing at 60 meters high and 25 meters wide. Its beauty is something to behold, and you can get some incredible pictures of yourself with the waterfall as the backdrop. It also has a little village nearby (Skogar) where you can find a lovely restaurant and hotel, as well as a cafe and a museum.

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Westfjords is a beautiful, remote part of Iceland. This is where to go for the truly undisturbed experience of Iceland, free from tourists and commercialisation. The space is large, the mountains are high and the scenery is something you’ve likely never seen before. Ísafjörður is the capital, which is very mountain-dense. This is actually the place to come if you want to ski, whilst Hornstrandir is where you want to head to for some hiking.

Myvatn is a lake in the north of Iceland, situated next to the Krafla volcano. The place has a lot of biological activity, as well as being created by basaltic lava 2300 years ago. It’s Iceland’s 4th largest lake - this isn’t a place to come for glaciers and trees, but instead, volcanic exploration. Nearby there are some fishing opportunities and camping facilities too, as well as some of the largest natural ice sculptures and caves.

Northern Lights
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The Northern Lights are perhaps the most famous natural wonders of Iceland, and need no introduction. It’s best to head to more rural parts of Iceland, away from artificial lights (this shouldn’t be hard to find), and are visible between September and April (but February and March are the best months to see them). With the aid of a travel blog, you can find more information about both the Northern Lights and what Iceland has to offer.

Iceland is one of the few remaining countries that prioritise its natural environment over its synthetic, urbanised one. The country has many great undisturbed places, as well as some family-friendly tourist opportunities.

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26 October 2019

PomPom Mirror: Seeing is Believing

PomPom Mirror by Daniel Rozin is very clever art but despite that it does exactly what it says on the metaphorical tin. It features a synchronized array of 928 spherical faux fur puffs. Organized into a three-dimensional grid of beige and black, the sculpture is controlled by hundreds of motors that build silhouettes of viewers using computer-vision.   Just watch it – huge fun to experience in a gallery I would imagine.  I would venture to guess that it was a massive pain to construct – I wonder how many times Rozin thought why did I think of this? to himself.

The Last One

Forty years in the future and humanity has succeeded in creating robots that look exactly as we do.  So similar yet so vastly different, conflict was inevitable.  A war began which had to, through sheer necessity, end in the extinction of one or the other.   Created by students at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, this is short, concise storytelling which immediately involves the audience in the plight of the last survivor of his race, the titular last one.

Kumbhalgarh – The Great Wall of India

Long overshadowed by its lengthier neighbor to the east, this is the second largest continuous wall on the planet. Some call it by the name of the fort it surrounds – Kumbhalgarh. Others simply refer to it as The Great Wall of India. Yet bewilderingly, it is still little known outside its own region.

Flowers Opening Timelapse

This three minute video took fourteen months and about 40,000 photographs to create and it’s worth every second.  Its creator, David de los Santos Gi, must be sick of the sight of any earthly flora by now. Or perhaps not, as this is his second foray in to the world of flower time-lapses.

It’s exquisite and that isn’t hyperbole for its own sake.  Go ahead – be entranced – and take a look at more of David’s work at his wonderful website.

6 October 2019

Externsteine: The Star Stones of Lippe

A few kilometers from the north-western German city of Dermold in the Lippe region of the country, there is a highly unusual rock formation. In an area otherwise devoid of large rocks, the soaring, slender columns of Externsteine stand out as they rise sharply and with no little majesty from the surrounding landscape. Little wonder that the site has been attracting curious visitors for thousands of years.

The five standing sandstone pillars have been ornamented over the millennia by human hand.  Although the name usually translates as stones of the ridge, many see these huge columns more romantically as star stones, a place resonant with ancient mysticism and ritual.  Yet the true origins of the star stones can be discovered through geology.

21 September 2019

10 Tips to Survive a Campervan Trip in Iceland 2020

Your first time going camping in Iceland? - This is how you survive!

Iceland is a fantastic country with much to offer any traveller, be it you go for the incredible nature or the magnetic capital of Reykjavik. However, there is one way of making this the ultimate experience, camping. Camping in Iceland is one of the most incredible adventures you can ever embark on and it will be like nothing you have ever experienced before.

Camper rental Iceland is one of the most popular ways of making the island your own and rental companies such as Campervan Reykjavik have made it their business to make sure you are fully equipped before heading out on your journey. Before you go though it might be good to have some basic survival tips. 

A few good survival tips for the Icelandic road

1. When should you go? - deciding when to travel to Iceland might be difficult because there is always something to see. However, if you have your heart set on seeing the Northern Lights or the experiencing the Midnight Sun then you will need to do some research. Winter in Iceland means you will get to see the former and Summer in Iceland is the equivalence of the later.

2. The right campervan will make all the difference - finding the right vehicle for your camping trip is essential. By consulting rental companies such as Campervan Reykjavik you will be provided with an ample selection of different types of campervans. All of the options are fully equipped to handle the sometime unpredictable Icelandic weather as well as the roads on the island. It's up to you to choose the one you find most suitable and then add whichever comforts you like. Many opt for Wi-Fi rather than GPS but some go for both.

It is also important to be aware of the fact that car insurance is mandatory on Iceland and this is something you definitely should consult your caper rental company about. Campervan Reykjavik for instance offer free scdw insurance.

3. Be mindful of where you stop - due to the delicate natural ecosystem in Iceland as well as the influx of tourist that visit the island, you have to be mindful of where you park your vehicle when for instance stopping for the night. You will need to find one of the designated campsites, where it is mandatory to obtain a permission before being able to park your campervan alongside having to pay a fee. Each campsite usually provides facilities such as showers, toilets and sometimes even Wi-Fi though.

4. Fuelling up - in Iceland gas is expensive and as such it is best to opt for a fuel efficient vehicle. Ask the camper rental to give you some information on gas prices in Iceland as well as the many DIY gas stations around the island.

5. Decide on your destinations - Iceland is full of experiences and no matter which road you choose to take you won't regret it. If this is the first time you are visiting the island as well as the first time you have rented a campervan, then perhaps it's best to stick to the Ring Road. It's easy to manoeuvre and filled to the brim with incredible sights such as the famous Blue Lagoon, Geysir and Skógafoss waterfall.

6. Have a sip of water - when you travel one of the most common questions you always have is, is it safe to drink the water? Well in Iceland it is not only safe, it is encouraged and not only for environmental reasons. Iceland has some of the best drinking water in the world and it is famous for its health aspects.

7. Pack smart and remember your credit card - when preparing for you camping trip in Iceland it's best to pack as smart as possible, i.e. only pack what is necessary and don't forget your credit card as it is the preferred currency across the island. Even if you are renting a campervan it's best to only bring what you will need.

8. It might get crowded - since Iceland have become a popular tourist destination there is a good chance some of the campsites might be a bit crowded, don't let this discourage you though, simply try and find a spot among the masses.

9. Learn to cook out in the open - in similarity with the gas tip, one way to perhaps save some money when travelling around Iceland is to learn how to cook on the road. A few simple meals will go a long way.

10. Snap a shot - the final tip is to remember to bring your camera as you will encounter some of the most magnificent sites in the world. 

A few good tips along the way

This list of helpful tips before going camping in Iceland is by no means an exhaustive list, it's a good start though and it covers some of the absolute basics. Once you have been camping yourself, you will most likely be able to add even more ones.

25 August 2019

The Rolling Bridge That Curls

Something strange goes on every Friday in Paddington Basin, London.

At first sight it looks just like any other normal bridge.  Spanning the Grand Union Canal in Paddington Basin, London – the minimal design could be looked upon as somewhat plain and boring.  But once a week the Rolling Bridge as it is known does something that makes jaws drop.  Slowly at first, something remarkable happens.

Each and every Friday at midday the bridge rolls – literally.  It consists of eight sections – triangular in shape – that are hinged at ground level.  Concealed in vertical posts in the parapets of the bridge are pistons.  These pistons collapse the two part links that connect the section and the bridge can roll up.  It is the only bridge of this kind in the world and although it is known as a rolling bridge this is something of a misnomer.  By rights it should be called a curling bridge (and is by many).

10 Essential Tools for Architecture Students (2019)

Are you studying architecture? This is a really interesting, creative and fulfilling career choice. Once you’ve chosen the university you’ll use your potential in, you need to obtain the knowledge that will turn you into an accomplished architect.

This isn’t all about the books or the classes. If you want to become a good architect, you need to take some action. To put all that studying into action, you need to practice the trait. For that, you will need some essential architecture tools.

1. Messenger Bag

Call it whatever you want: a satchel, a murse, a man purse, etc. This bag has plenty of names and one big purpose. As an architect, you’ll have to carry your projects around a lot, even while you’re studying. This will continue to be the case when you become an actual architect. You’ll drag them around to construction sites and meetings.

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Therefore, the first and most essential of the architect tools is the bag you carry your work in. It will not only make it more convenient, but also keep your drawings and projects safe.

2. Trace Paper
Architecture students should always have trace paper on them. Also known as scratch paper or trash paper, this old tool is something you’ll need on a daily basis. It is clean, simple, and can be used for your sketches and presentations.

3. iPad
An iPad is a really popular device today. It isn’t one of the obligatory architecture student supplies, but you definitely need to have one. As an architect and a student, you’ll go to many places where you’ll have to document things and take notes. You definitely want to keep all of this organized in order to do your job properly. Losing or misplacing a single piece of paper with notes can destroy a project or make you disappoint a client. You don’t want this to happen, do you?

4. Pens
When you hear an architect, you imagine a person with a pencil drawing on a blank canvas. The reality is different. Most architects actually use pens and really specific kinds of them. Here are the four pens you definitely need if you’re planning on becoming an architect:
  • Pentel sign pen that allows you to make thin or broad lines
  • Pilot razor point pen that helps make loose sketches or precise drawings (it is good for notes, too)
  • Regular pen for your academic assignments (unless you order them from Edubirdie in Australia in which case, you don’t really need to bother with this)
  • Red pen you’ll use to redline your drawing or accentuate something

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5. Architect’s Scale
With their tapered edges, large profiles, and hollow core, scales are definitely an amazing tool for architects. You want to get a high-quality aluminum scale that will last longer – you’ll be using this one quite a lot.

6. Storage Tube
In most cases, you won’t need both the bag and the tube, but many architects use both. If you have big posters you need to carry around, the only thing allowing you to do this without worries that the sketches will be lost is a drawing storage tube.

7. Laser Distance Meter
Very often, you’ll need to measure distance with high-precision. This is why you’ll need a simple, reliable, and light wear handheld laser distance meter.

8. Cutting Mat
You’ll often have to cut something when you’re an architect. Unless you protect the surface, you’ll destroy a lot of things when working or practicing. That’s why you need a cutting mat.
Nowadays, there are self-healing cutting mats that basically reseal themselves after you cut them. You should definitely invest in one to avoid having to buy a new one all the time.

9. Easy Cutter
To be actually able to cut, you’ll need a tool. Gloves are essential, but you also want to invest in a safe, easy cutter that makes this faster and much more accurate. There are plenty of options for easy cutters on the market and the one you choose will depend on what you plan to cut.

10. Engineer’s Scale
This might sound a bit strange to you, but you actually need an engineer’s scale, too. An engineer’s scale is different from that for architects, but it will definitely come handy.

If you’re new in the world of architecture, you have plenty to learn. But, to make this possible, you need not only to put effort into it, but also prepare yourself with the right set of tools. There are many tools that you’ll need in this profession, but the ten listed above are an essential start.

Author’s Bio:
Connie Elser is an architect who works freelance for various companies in the US. She has eleven years of experienced and is a world-renowned architecture expert. As such, she has published many books and articles that are available to architecture students around the world.

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18 August 2019

Kite Aerial Photography: Seeing the World from New Heights

Sometimes, pointing and clicking just isn’t enough.  Even the most amateur of snappers has experimented with camera angles and height – though most of the time the camera is only as high from the ground as the photographer's eye.  Not so the Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) enthusiast: they enable their cameras to reach for the sky with often spectacular results.

Although it is not quite as simple as attaching your camera to a kite and hoisting it skywards, Kite Aerial Photography (we will call it KAP from here) has quite a history.  The first KAP pictures were taken in France in 1888 and the idea took off.  They may only have dreamed of this amazing picture of Mont St Michel (appropriately again in France), above, but their pioneering work paved the way for the amazing set of images you can see here. George Lawrence, one of the early pioneers, was able to take a picture of San Francisco after the earthquake which destroyed a large part of it in 1906. 

If You Have Never Wanted to Visit Shanghai, You Will After You Watch This

Shanghai is the most populous city (proper) in the world and has seen remarkable growth over the last few decades.  This superlative time-lapse by Brian Hawkins was filmed in the Huangpu and Pudong areas of the city.  Thanks to a knowledgeable fixer he managed to get access to some roof-tops enabling him to produce this timelapse showing Shanghai from some rare angles.  Remarkable.

17 August 2019

Eratosthenes and the Circumference of the Earth

About two and a half thousand years ago, Eratosthenes (try saying that with half a mince pie in your mouth) managed to estimate the circumference of the Earth with only a 2% margin of error.  That’s pretty good and although he didn’t do it sat at home with a pipe (or whatever they might have smoked then) it didn’t take an epic voyage to do it. In fact it was done with maths.  Rogue Robot tells the tale.

16 August 2019

The Statues of Dublin and their Notorious Nicknames

Dublin is littered with statues.  It seems close to a national obsession in Ireland to erect them.  Perhaps not far behind is the predilection of the inhabitants of this fair city to give them nicknames.  A stroll near the Ha’penny Bridge will bring you to these two charming ladies, having a rest after shopping for their families.   They were placed there as part of a project to celebrate the millennium of the city in 1988 and represent the ordinary women of the city.

Charmingly (or not) one of the bags was snatched a little while after the statue was placed there.  What statement the unknown thief was making is unknown but the bag was made of bronze and it was very, very heavy.  Fortunately it was returned, but what of the local nickname for this amiable salute to the womenfolk of Dublin.  Why, the ‘Hags with the Bags’ of course.

14 August 2019

How To Master the Science of Perfect Latté Art

The average American spends $14 a week on coffee shops. That comes out to over $700 over the course of the year. But what can you do, right? You just can’t get delicious cappuccinos or lattes at home.

Or can you? Lattes are no longer just available at Starbucks. Homebrewing isn’t just a viable option; it’s actually a fairly easy process that anyone can do with a few simple tools and a basic level of insight. In this guide, we go over all the ways you can save money by brewing delicious lattes at home.

First: The Supplies You Need

Before we get to any brewing, it’s critical that you come prepared. Here are a few basic things you need to make a good latte at home:
  • Milk
  • Your favorite espresso beans
  • An espresso machine (the Breville BES980XL for example)
  • Coffee syrups (optional but recommended)
  • A milk steamer

The good news is that you probably already have these things at your disposal. The only tool that you might not have on the home front is a milk steamer, which can be purchased for a relatively low cost.
Now that you have all the stuff, let’s make some lattes!

Step 1: Brew the Espresso

Technically, espresso is supposed to be made in an espresso maker. However, you can cheat a little if you don’t want to front the cost and just brew it with your regular coffee pot. It won’t come out with quite the same consistency or flavor profile, but it will get the job done.

A word of warning: the first time you try this, be sure to monitor the situation closely. Some older coffee pots can’t handle the finer grind of an espresso bean, which may lead to a big mess on your hands.

Once the espresso has been brewed, move it to your latte cup immediately. If you would like to use a flavored syrup, now is the time to break it out.

Step 2: Steam the Milk

Now comes the time to steam the milk. The amount of milk used in a latte is mostly a matter of personal taste, though standard practices suggest that you use at least two shots worth of it. If you decide you want more than that, go for it. More power to you.

Step 3: Integrate the Milk Into Your Latte Cup

Now that the milk and the coffee have both been prepared, it’s time to combine them. Begin by adding two thirds of your steamed milk to your latte cup. When you are done, stir vigorously.

When the milk has been properly integrated, you can top the concoction off by spooning in the rest of the milk directly on top of your latte.

Iced Lattes

Lattes are also very enjoyable when served over ice. The brewing process is the same, with the only difference being that you put ice into your concoction before adding the final layer of foam.

Latte Art
If you have Instagram, you are probably also abundantly aware of the fact that many people use latte milk as an opportunity to show off their creative side.

Creating latte art is all in the pour. After you pour or scoop in your final layer of milk, gently scrape the unincorporated froth into the design of your choosing. Many people start small with hearts, flowers, or other basic design elements.

It’s not extremely easy, but with patience and practice, you should eventually be able to create designs that are worthy of your social media feed.


The latte is deceptively simple. Though it requires only a few basic ingredients, the eventual quality of the drink is almost entirely contingent on your technique. This means that you may not get barista-quality results after your first try.

Don’t get frustrated. Practice really does make perfect, and before you know it you will be making better (or at least less expensive) lattes than your favorite café.

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31 July 2019

The Denge Sound Mirrors: Radar’s Predecessor

Before the application of radar became a reality a number of experimental early warning systems were developed by the British military.  One which showed the most promise – as it actually worked – were the acoustic mirrors built at Denge on the south coast of England.  Quickly superseded by radar they were abandoned but still remain at their post, obsolete concrete leviathans on an island in the middle of a nature reserve, reminders of a dangerous time in European history.

The mirror would pick up the sound of any aircraft approaching the coast of the UK.  If they were not scheduled (and flights in and out of the country were closely monitored) then they could be judged as possibly being enemy aircraft. Sound waves were caught in the focal point of the mirror and relayed though microphones to an operator, who could then alert the appropriate authorities. The mirrors were able to give a fifteen minute warning of an approaching assault on the England.

30 July 2019

The Hardy Tree: An Early Work of a Great Novelist

In the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church in London, hundreds of old gravestones circle an ash tree. Of course, these were not how they were originally laid out. So, how did they get to this, their final resting place, as it were? And who was responsible?

Long before he became famous for novels like Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy (like any other aspiring writer) had to find employment with which to pay his way through the world. His chosen field was to be architecture.
However, it is unlikely that the would-be author could guess what one of his firm’s projects would demand of him. He probably didn't sign up for architecture to then be sent to excavate a graveyard. Yet, like many a young man finding his path, sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

28 July 2019

The Underwater Billiard Room of Witley Park

Whitaker Wright was a very rich man. He had made his fortune in the mining industry and so when it came to the creation of a billiard room on his new estate perhaps it was only fitting to build it underground. Not only that, this eccentric millionaire decided to build it underwater too. With windows.

27 July 2019

Cruise Ship Towel Animals take to the High Seas

No one knows for absolute certain where the concept of the towel animal came from. The idea seems to have arisen, like so many internet memes, spontaneously. There is no single individual who claims to be the originator of the towel animal. One thing is for sure – the creation and depiction of small animals by folding towels originated on the (not terribly) high seas. This phenomenon seems to be almost completely isolated to cruise ships.

Many maintain that it was started by cabin staff aboard the Carnival Cruise Line ships. The line, which specializes in short and less expensive cruises, is home to many of the ingenious creations you see here. Yet a number of other lines now give their passengers a nightly surprise too.

18 July 2019

Shatili – Medieval Fortress Village in Georgia

The village of Shatili squats on the northern slope of the Greater Caucasus mountains in Georgia. Even today the area is considered isolated and remote but in centuries past the villagers could not rely on distant authorities to afford them protection. In early medieval times the villagers hit on a solution which was to shield them from their enemies for hundreds of years. They made their village in to a fortress.

The village is very near the border with Chechnya and its inhabitants were constantly at risk from incursions in to their territory from their neighbors. In the twenty first century the village is usually only accessible between the months of June and the end of September so in more feudal times something had to be done to avert death and disaster. As the village persevered, the architecture evolved. What would normally be small stone dwellings grew taller and developed in to watchtowers.

30 June 2019

Hierve el Agua - Mexico’s Freeze Frame Falls

As you approach Hierve el Agua you would be forgiven for thinking that you are about to witness close up one of nature’s magnificent sites – that of a large, full flowing waterfall. However, closer inspection would reveal to you that what you thought was water cascading down the side of a hill is something else entirely.

Very much of the beaten track and little visited the waterfall is in fact a natural formation of rock. In Spanish the name means the water boils but it looks more as if it has been frozen – perhaps there was some irony on the lips of the person who gave the place its name. Later, however, we will discover the reason for the name.

29 June 2019

The Lucky Old Mill of Vernon and its Less Fortunate Bridges

The old town of Vernon nestles at the side of the river Seine about 75 kilometers away from Paris.  It has, as you can imagine, a long history and has been through periods of momentous change both in France and Europe as a whple.

When change happens there are always winners and losers. In Vernon, architecturally speaking, perhaps it is the old bridge which could be considered most unfortunate – it no longer exists.

In fact it has been rebuilt and destroyed often enough for us to consider it perhaps the unluckiest bridge in the world.

The lucky survivor, in that case, is the old mill house (le vieux moulin) which straddles the first two piers of the ancient bridge. Vernon itself is first mentioned in the archives of the Frankish King Pepin the Short (or the Great, depending on which history books you read) around the 750AD mark.  Vernon as a city was founded in 950 and the first wooden bridge was built at some point in the early twelfth century (though there is argument there among historians too).

15 June 2019

Reading for Structure Quiz (for GCSE English Language)

This quiz was designed to help students doing their GCSE English Language exam (in the UK except Scotland) a qualification in a specific subject typically taken by school and college students aged 16 upwards. However, feel free to do the quiz, wherever you are!

Please read the short story below and then answer the questions.  You may need to sign in with a google account.

 I had lost.  I was lost.

I lay on the ground: prostrate, humiliated, defeated.  Around me the cries of the mob filled the amphitheatre like a thunderous admonishment from the gods.  The merciless jeers of those who once jubilantly sang my praises cut as deeply in to my spirit as the wound in my side.  I gasped for breath and my hands clutched the hot sun-baked sand of the arena floor.  I felt blood trickle from the wound on to my fingers, congealing in the blistering heat of the Roman summer.

Above me, gladius* poised in mid-air, the upstart, undefeated Thracian looked towards the Emperor.  The muscles on his arm quivered as he held his frozen position, looking to this god on earth, this lunatic child, to indicate with a thumb up or down whether I would live or die.