In June I was in Greece on a small archaeological tour of ancient sites and medieval monasteries. We climbed a lot, walked through a gorge where Zeus was supposed to have been hidden by his mother so his father wouldn’t eat him and visited monasteries where signs warned women they were not allowed wearing trousers, shorts or tank tops. I wore trousers and got no grief from anyone.  We met fascinating people, had wonderful food and walked where Greeks from Plato and Socrates to the Homeric heroes had been.

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I spent two weeks in Iceland in April. Although I was expecting a bleak and deserted countryside, it has become a major tourist destination and the area around Rekjavik, the capital, was heaving with people. Still, we went further north and found mountains, waterfalls and snowy villages.

Iceland1 (37 of 442)continental rift (382 of 533)

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We were up on the Isle of Mull in the Hebrides right off the West coast of Scotland. You take a ferry over from Oban and drive to the main town, Tobermory which is the trading center for the island. But if you want to see puffins, and we did, you have to take another boat to the Isle of Lunga where they gather in the hundreds to claim their burrows and hatch their chicks.


On the way to the boat to Lunga you can see Ben Nevis, one of the highest points in Scotland.Mull 3 (2 of 225).jpgAnd for a little shopping, great coffee or oatcakes you can go to Tobermory.Mull 3 (183 of 225)

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Rapa Nui

The place is better known as Easter Island, but the native people call it by the Polynesian name, Rapa Nui. It is one of the most isolated, occupied places on the planet. No Starbucks or Marriot hotels, but loads of wonderful people and a fascinating society combining Spanish and Polynesian into a vibrant mix. The moai are the big attraction. It is often said that no one knows how or why they were toppled, but the people there seem quite certain that it as the result of social unrest. An elite class erected the moai to honour themselves and their spirits. The people who excavated and created the statues were a despised lower class who finally revolted and toppled the statues, removing their coral eyes thus killing the spirits within.  The people of Rapa Nui repeat these stories with pride, as they should. They are reforesting their island making it both green and productive. We can only wish them well and hope that nature and history are kind to them.

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Th3 Antarctic is one of those places we see on nature shows where we exclaim that we’re glad not to be there or sigh wishing we were. I was always in the latter so last month I tok the trip. We flew to Santiago, then on to Punto Arenas in Patgonia to meet our ship, the Midnasol from the Hutigruten line. For two days we poked around the Chilean fjords and Caope Horn, then crossed the Drake Straits and there we were. It is as forbidding as you might imagine of a place not really made for human habitation. It was our privilege to spend time with the creatures who have evolved to live there – penguins and a host of seabirds, seals and whales. They treated us with tolerance and rarely betrayed a desire to see us move on. The seas were rough, the views icy and beautiful. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

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Dartmoor and Lydford George

The moor is a magnificent expanse in a very crowded countryside. These photos cover two aspects – the moorland around Drake’s Aquaduct and Lydford Gorge, on the edge of Dartmoor.




Path at Lydford Gorge


Devil’s Cauldron

The Falls

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Do You Know About the Naylor Report?

Do you know what the Naylor Report is? Have you even heard ot it? Well, its one of those pieces of NHS business that is conducted in the background – not secret but certainly not headline news. It will radically change the character of the NHS and you won’t know a thing about it until its all over.

If you want to read up on it you can pore through the entire 65 page document at; however, a brief summary might get you up to speed. The author of the report, Robert Naylor, was asked to survey NHS “surplus” property with an eye toward increasing revenue. He recommended that anywhere from £2 billion to £5 billion worth of property might be worth disposing. This would include car parks, multi story buildings and redundant hospitals.

Note that last one.

In case the various hospital trusts are reluctant to part with their property, the report recommends a bonus for jumping on board and punishment in the form of denial of use of capital funds for building repair to organizations that refuse to go along.

Although some trusts, for example London area hospitals, may (or may not) be sitting on valuable redundant property, many in more rural areas have no assets other than cottage and community hospitals, which are often important to local communities. How do they get to be redundant? Well you close them.

And if these properties are sold, will the profits go to the local trusts? No, they would be returned to the NHS Property Services, a private corporation that manages and oversees sale of NHS property. There are suggestions that these profits might be used to fund as many as 2500 new houses, possibly for medical personnel, but then that might not happen at all.

The bottom line, and there always is one, is that this kind of sell off is only needed because Jeremy Hunt has determined that the NHS needs to save £22 billion over the next few years. This can be done with so-called efficiency savings, service cutbacks (for example, A&E closures), and of course the sale of property.

If you sell off the store, it will be so much cheaper to operate.



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