Blog posts

Albertinelli's The Creation and Fall of Man

November 26, 2021
The Creation and Fall of Man by Mariotto Albertinelli

There is much to delight the eye in the newly re-opened Courtauld Art Gallery in London. Although the paintings remain the same within their newly-pristine environment, one sees them more clearly thanks...

Truth sidelined by tribal epistemology

August 17, 2021
Truth sidelined by tribal epistemology

If you’ve noticed an unusual mix of content on this website, it’s because of the hybrid nature of my professional career, half English teacher, half software developer. Both ploughed their own furrow, and you may have noticed that occasionally elements...

Mapping in Backdrop CMS

June 18, 2021
Mapping in Backdrop CMS

At the end of April Backdrop CMS was graced with the addition of the Leaflet module which enables us Backdrop fans to do much of the mapping that we used to do in Drupal. Thanks for this go to the module’s maintainers,...

Ten steps to greening your website

April 6, 2021
Greening your website

As we re-evaluate our lifestyles in the face of global climate change, it’s not just how we heat our homes, how we travel, work, rest, play and consume that needs a major re-think. Our websites also consume carbon, and we need to deal with this. As Tom...

Can a web page have too much white space?

October 8, 2020
Can a web page have too much white space?

Can a web page have too much white space? It’s an innocent question and may even appear to be impertinent given how much white space is embraced, even revered, by web designers — myself included. White space is at the heart of the ...

Adding a scroll indicator

June 20, 2020
Adding a scroll indicator

Scroll bars have been with us since the first GUI. They help us navigate content that is taller — or wider — than the window in which it is displayed. They come in various flavours, suitably modified as operating systems evolved, but...

Nature therapy and VE Day

May 8, 2020
Newtimber Hill and VE Day

The vault of heaven was almost discernible from under the skies above Newtimber Hill in Sussex yesterday. It is six weeks into a ‘lockdown’ trying to stem the advance of the coronavirus pandemic and it was our first venture by car anywhere in that time. Grief lies...

Pixel squeezing with JPEGmini

January 27, 2020
Pixel squeezing with JPEGmini

The smaller an image file size is, the better. Get that wrong and your page will load more slowly, your users will leave more quickly, your site SEO will suffer and the site’s carbon footprint will tread more heavily. Anyone posting images to the web engages...

Backdrop CMS: content, config, site launch and back-up

January 2, 2020
Site migration with Backdrop CMS

With Backdrop CMS being a fork of Drupal, you could be forgiven for thinking that everything in Backdrop will be similar to...

Book reviews


by Samuel Beckett
January 25, 2022
Murphy by Samuel Beckett

Beckett finished writing Murphy in June 1936. After 40 rejections by publishers, it was finally accepted in December 1937. At the time, the editor accepting Murphy said, “it is far too good to be a big popular or commercial success … [but] will...

Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse

by Dave Goulson
September 28, 2021
Silent Earth by Dave Goulson

Dave Goulson’s Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse is something of a roller-coaster ride in that the first 250 pages of the book detail the evidence for insect and biodiversity collapse that is happening right now all around us, before...

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

by Muriel Barbery
June 23, 2021
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

That Muriel Barbery’s 2006 novelThe Elegance of the Hedgehog has sold like proverbial hot cakes is no surprise. It is woven with references to philosophers as one would expect from a teacher of philosophy (reminding me of Robert M. Pirzig’s 1974...

We are Bellingcat

by Eliot Higgins
March 14, 2021
We are Bellingcat by Eliot Higgins

If you’ve been following the work of Eliot Higgins, you’ll not need to read the accounts of his exposés of Syrian, Libyan and Russian atrocities in this seminal book We are Bellingcat: An Intelligence Agency for the People. If you aren’t...

Entangled Life

by Merlin Sheldrake
January 16, 2021
Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrak

When Hamlet admonished Horatio by saying “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”, fungi could well have been one of them, as Merlin Sheldrake’s scintillating book Entangled Life: How Fungi Make our Worlds...

The Eye of the Storm

by Patrick White
December 17, 2020

As the near-blind matriarch Elizabeth Hunter, the central character of Patrick White’s 1973 The Eye of the Storm, lies dying for five hundred and fifty pages of this long and complex novel, we are also reading about the writer’s own mother, Ruth...

The Captain and the Glory

by Dave Eggers
November 1, 2020
The Captain and the Glory by Dave Eggers

Anyone familiar with George Orwell’s Animal Farm will appreciate how satire shifts the reader one remove away from a subject to gain a better appreciate of that subject. The farm’s animals, bitingly depicted by Orwell, illuminated the political...

The Vivisector

by Patrick White
July 29, 2020
The Vivisector by Patrick White

Patrick White’s The Vivisector, the writer’s longest novel, explores the nature of artistic creativity and the link between a painter’s character and the work that it gives rise to. As with all White’s novels, scenes from the author...

The Solid Mandala

by Patrick White
June 2, 2020
The Solid Mandala by Patrick White

In a letter to the writer Ingmar Björkstén in early 1973, the Australian novelist Patrick White wrote that he felt very close to The Solid Mandala “because it conveys a certain nightmarish quality of life which I have experienced, though the incidents in...

Riders in the Chariot

by Patrick White
May 2, 2020
Riders in the Chariot by Patrick White

Compassion. Compassion towards the outsider, the foreigner, the misfit, the ugly, the plodder: this is the central theme of Patrick White’s 1961 novel Riders in the Chariot. Read it for his view of Australian culture emerging from the Second World War...

Places visited

The Collector Earl’s Garden

January 15, 2022
The Collector Earl’s Garden

Arundel’s castle looms over the town and the River Arun. Its massive bulk — a mix of round and square towers with a curtain wall — dominates the skyline. Parts of it have stood since the 11th century. Others have been added or...

The Spanish Chestnut Avenue

January 9, 2022
The Spanish Chestnut Avenue at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

Croft Castle in Herefordshire in the Welsh Marches, occupies a site of rising and falling fortunes that has been home to the Croft family since the Norman Conquest (save for an interval of just under 200 years). It was first castle, then Elizabethan house, then...

Old Soar Manor

January 8, 2022
Old Soar Manor

Old Soar Manor in Kent is a miniscule portion of a small 13th century manor house. Save for a couple of glazed windows, the buildings are open to both weather and birds. Short of a ruin by dint of good roofing, the place is empty. There is no office, entry or...

Carlyle's House

January 7, 2022
Carlyle's House

A painting by Robert Tait in the front parlour of 24 Cheyne Row dated 1857 shows Thomas and Jane Carlyle in their front parlour — at 24 Cheyne Row. Looking at it is like looking through a window into the room in which one is already standing. But the...

Penshurst Place

January 1, 2022
Penshurst Place

The Baron’s Hall is the older and smaller of two great halls at Penshurst Place in Kent. Completed in 1341, it uses chestnut for the roof because it is lighter but stronger than oak. The main timbers are still aloft there, some six hundred and sixty years...

Claydon House

December 31, 2021
Claydon House

Externally Claydon House in Buckinghamshire is a rather sober place. Its symmetrical west front of seven bays in cut stone suggests conformity to an austere Georgian style of architecture — and no bad thing. Inside, however, if there is such a thing as...

The Queen's House Greenwich

December 31, 2021
The Queen's House Greenwich

The Queen’s House at Greenwich was built for Anne of Denmark, the queen of King James I. Work started in 1616, but Anne died in 1619 and never lived there. The building was completed in 1635 and briefly occupied by King Charles I’s queen consort...

The Old Royal Naval College's Painted Hall

December 30, 2021
The Old Royal Naval College's Painted Hall

Downriver from central London’s more eye-catching historic buildings, the Greenwich ensemble known collectively as Maritime Britain is one of Britain’s 33 cultural UNESCO World Heritage sites. It includes the...

Oxburgh Hall

December 30, 2021
Oxburgh Hall

Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk is a magnificent brick-built, moated house of great charm. It has been home to the Bedingfield family since the 15th century. The family’s Catholic and Royalist status left them relatively impecunious — a fate which may...

Chastleton House

December 30, 2021
Chastleton House

Chastleton House in Oxfordshire is a compact Jacobean gem of faded surfaces, bumps and blemishes. Since the early 1600s, its occupants aspired to a status above county gentry but habitually fell short. As Royalists or Jacobites, whose fortunes waxed but mostly waned...