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...

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...

Quicklink and Website Carbon

November 17, 2020
Quicklink and Website Carbon

In the never-ending pursuit of speed, us site builders trundle our hamster wheels round an array of different technologies. Image compression, JavaScript and CSS minification, CDNs, conformance with web standards, server cacheing and response times, redirect...

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...

Book reviews

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...

Voss

by Patrick White
March 17, 2020
Voss by Patrick White

Towards the end of Patrick White’s novel Voss, White observes for one of his characters that only “the supreme torturer would have tweaked the curtain of illusion” (and thus caused her to imagine her childhood garden to be reflected in the face of her...

Places visited

The Isle of Coll

October 21, 2021

Just a hundred miles north-west of Glasgow, where the COP26 conference is being held in November, lies the Inner Hebridean Isle of Coll. With its adjacent sibling Isle of Tiree, it feels less an off-cut of mainland Scotland than a vagrant from the Outer Hebrides,...

Petworth House

June 24, 2021
Petworth House

Petworth House in West Sussex is a place of superlatives. It is a Grade I house (meaning a property of exceptional interest). It contains one of the National Trust’s largest collections of paintings and sculptures. It is surrounded by a park...

Ightham Mote

February 3, 2020
Ightham Mote

The name Ightham Mote — whose four-consonant apparent tongue-twister contributes to the surprisingly easy Item Mote — may be derived from the Anglo-Saxon words eyot and ham, meaning island home. True or...

The i360, Brighton

November 25, 2019
The i360, Brighton

It has been difficult not to glimpse the Brighton i360’s pencil-thin outline from the South Downs, showing it black against the sea below it or flashing sunlight off its aluminium and glass surfaces as the coast curves round from Worthing’s staid and matronly...

Lincoln Cathedral

November 9, 2019
Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln’s majestic cathedral dominates the surrounding plain from its spectacular perch atop Lincoln Cliff. Its bulk — already planted 50 metres above the surrounding plain — soars skywards a further 83 metres. Seen in almost any...

Stokesay Castle

November 8, 2019
Stokesay Castle

Climb to the top of Stokesay Castle’s south tower and you are rewarded with a 360 degree prospect that could be one of the loveliest in all England, the gently rolling hills of Shropshire, Houseman’s “blue remembered hills” with his spires and farms....

Sezincote

November 3, 2019
Sezincote

Sezincote near Bourton-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire, was an early 19th century attempt to replicate the architecture of the Mughal Emperor Akbar who ruled from 1556 to 1605 and was known for his conscious mingling of Islamic and Hindu architectural styles. His...

St Botolph's Church, Hardham

October 20, 2019
St Botolph's Church, Hardham

The white-washed St Botolph’s Church in Hardham, West Sussex, was almost certainly built before the Conquest. It is dedicated to a Saxon saint (the 7th century fenland St Botolph) and has a traditional square east end, rather than a more Romanesque rounded end...

Haddon Hall

October 10, 2019
Haddon Hall

When the rain of Derbyshire falls on the Peak District, the stones of Haddon Hall are scoured by it and progressively rounded. The castle’s ancient sluice-ways run silver alongside the timeless footsteps of its occupants. Though each weigh...

St. Celynin's Church at Llangelynnin

September 8, 2019
St. Celynin‘s Church at Llangelynnin

Sloping down to the seashore and pointing towards distant Bardsey Island, which appears as a smudge of shadow shaped like a jockey’s cap on the far horizon, is the medieval St. Celynin’s Church at Llangelynnin, north of Towyn. The slope of the land...