New York Bocce Volo

Last month we visited New York City and were lucky enough to have unseasonably warm weather and no snow. At lunchtime we were sitting in Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue and I watched there three older gentlemen also outside enjoying the weather with a game of bocce volo. These guys were good, clearly having played for years.



Haiku: Black Friday

~ B l a c k  F r i d a y ~


Tempers flare, shots fired

Ignored by the craving crowds

Black Friday indeed*


*Inspired, if this is the right word, by the depressing statistics on 

Somehow my abstract “The Meaning of Life” seemed an appropriate image (click image or here for more information)


52 Week Challenge: Week 31

WEEK 31: Portrait: Street Candid – Candids on the street, show us life in your town through the lens.

OK, it’s not my town, but it is my side of the country at least, and quite nearby. I took this on a recent trip to NYC. A particularly muscular looking chap was using the reflective properties of a storefront to help his extremely strenuous workout with a resistance band. How ironic that he was stood next to a parasol advertising 100% beef…



Never too old to celebrate…

We were in Manhattan at the weekend, on the same day as the Puerto Rican Day Parade. This is held on the second Sunday in June and was established in 1958. It was colorful and noisy, with lots of streets blocked off for the parade along Fifth Avenue.

People of all ages take part, and you’re never too old to celebrate, as demonstrated by this older gentleman on roller blades, who was keen to show me he could still do the splits!


I hope I am that fit when I get to his age!



Ethical tipping?

Giving small gratuities or tips to people for providing a service is part of many cultures whilst being considered offensive in others (e.g., Japan).In some cultures a tip is expected for certain activities, and indeed is factored into the expected income even by the tax authority (e.g., waitresses in the US), whereas in others a tip should be given only for exceptional service above and beyond the expected level.

I used to travel a lot on business from the UK, which does not have a particularly strong tipping culture outside of certain roles, but having lived and worked in the US for several years I now always made a point of tipping cab drivers, bell hops, maid service and waitresses. However, on my recent trip to India I was faced with another dilemma – how much to give as a tip when there is such a discrepancy between local and tourist wealth?

I don’t want to be mean, but on the other hand I don’t want to offend by appearing brash and giving the impression I think that the local currency is of low value. To be honest it’s all rather confusing

For example, I asked at the hotel reception how much would be a good tip for a taxi driver, as was told that it is 65 rupees to the dollar so about 60-100 rupees would be a good tip. So, when the driver dropped me off in town in the early morning I handed him a 100 rupee note and he then said he would wait for me to return, even though I wasn’t coming back to be collected for nearly 4 hours! I don’t know if this was what he planned anyway or whether it was because of the tip, and I admit I had mixed feelings about having him wait that length of time just for me.


A check on the web revealed that an IT business Analyst earns somewhere between $3,500-$14,000 per year, an IT Project Manager $9,500-$25,000 and a Customer Service Manager $12,000-$18,000; while a waiter may earn $1,500-$2,500.

So, to my dilemma: there seems to be no issue with the hotel in which I am staying charging Western-style prices to foreign guests for room and restaurant ($180/night and about $40 for dinner + taxes) yet clearly the staff is not paid western-style salaries.

If someone is earning under $10 per day is it appropriate for me to tip them 20-30% of their daily salary for cleaning my room? I really don’t know. So, I went with my conscience and left 100 rupees ($1.50) the first day and it was accepted. However, on the second day it was left untouched. I don’t know why. I left 50 rupees for the next few days and it was accepted, even though it seems mean to me…

I remain confused and if anyone has any suggestions or comments I would welcome them.


PS: since writing this post I brought up the issue of tipping with some Indian colleagues and they told me that tipping is not generally expected in India, thus adding to my confusion as i had read that is was expected… sometimes… !

A Story – The Swaffham Pedlar

The old historic market town of Swaffham, in Norfolk, England was brought to fame a few years back as the fictional town of Market Shipborough in the British TV series Kingdom, starring Stephen Fry.

The locality has links back to Boudica, the queen of the Iceni, famed for leading the uprising against the Romans in AD 60-61 but the town celebrates a more recent (only 300 years old or so) and humble ancestor who has been depicted on the town sign for years.

The Pedlar of Swaffham makes an interesting tale and was first recounted in the Diary of Abraham de la Pryme in November, 1699:

Constant tradition says that there lived in former times, in Soffham,” alias Sopham, in Norfolk, a certain pedlar, who dreamed that if he went to London bridge, and stood there, he should hear very joyfull newse, which he at first sleighted, but afterwards, his dream being dubled and trebled upon him, he resolv’d to try the issue of it, and accordingly went to London, and stood on the ridge there two or three days, looking about him, but heard nothing that might yield him any comfort.

At last it happen’d that a shopkeeper there, hard by, haveing noted his fruitless standing, seeing that he neither sold any wares, nor asked any almes, went to him, and most earnestly begged to know what he wanted there, or what his business was; to which the pedlar honestly answer’d, that he had dream’d that if he came to London, and stood there upon the bridg, he should hear good newse; at which the shopkeeper laught heartily, asking him if he was such a fool to take a jorney on such a silly errand, adding, “I’ll tell thee, country fellow, last night I dream’d that I was at Sopham, in Norfolk, a place utterly unknown to me, where, methought behind a pedlar’s house, in a certain orchard, and under a great oak tree, if I digged, I should find a vast treasure! Now think you,” says he, “that I am such a fool to take such a long jorney upon me upon the instigation of a silly dream ? No, no, I’m wiser. Therefore, good fellow, learn witt of me, and get you home, and mind your business.”

The pedlar observeing his words, what he sayd he had dream’d, and knowing that they concenterd in him, glad of such joyfull newse, went speedily home, and digged, and found a prodigious great treasure, with which he grew exceeding rich; and Soffham church, being for the most part fal’n down, he set on workmen, and re-edifyd it most sumptuously, at his own charges ; and to this day there is his statue therein, cut in stone, with his pack at his back, and his dogg at his heels ; and his memory is also preserved by the same form or picture in most of the old glass windows, taverns, and alehouses of that town, unto this day.



It is an interesting tale and one perhaps that we should all take heed of as we rush about our days: sometimes it isn’t always obvious where we can learn something of benefit. Everything we do or see can be an unexpected learning experience and we have to be open to it like the simple Pedlar of Swaffham, who is still commemorated for his open mind over 300 years later.


52-week Challenge: week 11

WEEK 11: Landscape: Reflection – Find a way to show your landscape/natural beauty in reflection. The mirror world revealed.

I had contemplated this assignment ahead of time and even went to the dollar store to get a mirror for inspiration. Nah, I thought that would be too cheesy. Then I considered perhaps a reflection of the countryside in a pair of sunglasses, but that would require a willing model! My next brainwave came when one of my daughters decided she needed a ride to the shopping mall – use the car window to get a reflection of an urban landscape – brilliant!

Of course, things never work out quite that way, do they? Rather than dropping off my daughter and her friend I was told I could pick them up instead. This is always the worst of the two standard unpaid “Uber” roles for a parent as there’s no definitive meeting time or place. Ho hum, thinks I, I can still do this as I’ll get there a little early and take time to position the car for its job as photographic canvas.

I hadn’t anticipated how full the parking lot would be, nor the rain.

As I was driving around searching for a place I thought to reverse park in one space at the edge of the lot. This way I would be able to use my driving mirrors to get a shot across the road and modify my original idea.

As I did so, I saw the reflection of a this guy across the street begging money from cars at the stop signal. The light was fading fast and he was there only for a few minutes, presumably after a long day. The irony of the red and blue umbrella and the stars and stripes hanging limply nearby was not lost on me – a reflection of humanity in the world’s richest nation, perhaps?



52 week Challenge: week 10

Week 10: Portrait: Environmental – Show a subject in their natural habitat. Their place of work or hobby is a great start. Tell their story with the environment.

I found this to be the toughest assignment so far. I wanted to push my comfort zone in getting out with camera; perhaps creating some street photography. The difficulty for me came with the concept of taking this as a true portrait. I sort of misread the brief a little but I still feel that this shot does meet it as it shows this young lady in the middle of her job writing down a food order for the cook in the food truck. Our only communication was through the little Plexiglas window, which seemed like an obvious frame for the shot.



Office Poetry – Truly

For some reason I am finding Mondays the best day for this type of creativity. Here’s my second office poem of the season…



Searching the room for a face.

To catch the eye

of one who understands

the true purpose of the meeting.





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