words pixels code

a continuing journey of diverging interests

This website has a foot in two camps. The first is software and website design, which the site has been steeped in since I started it in 1999 as my freelancer's shop window. Following behind is a broadening range of interests that time gifts me the ability to pursue. These latter include books, art, buildings and our precious and precarious natural world. Photographs lend support where appropriate. This second batch of writing is becoming the site's principal preoccupation.

The site has broadened and gained bulk as this journey has runs its course and I am surprised by and grateful to those who have encountered my various posts and made contact. Those who know me as a coder know also that I have done time as an English teacher, a passion that predated all the hurly-burly of arrays and variables. I make no excuse for the circularity of things in now investing more time in natural than in machine languages. I recommend this progression to anyone who, like me, has designed and developed software systems.

The menus dotted about this ad-free site should light your path. A site map experimentally blurts everything out on a single page. An internal search engine is available to help you dig for detail. If you get lost, I hope that it will be in thought not in orientation.

(Any factual errors or typos are mine; all photographs are copyrighted to me, unless otherwise stated.)

Posts posted

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 everything in Drupal 7. It mostly...

November 24, 2019
BBC Sounds

Rants don't usually contain reasoned explanations. Although this may sound like one, it therefore isn't - as you will see. The BBC Sounds app (for Android) is so unfit fit for purpose that...

November 15, 2019
Bridget Riley at the Hayward Gallery

London's Tate Modern is home to some gorgeous Bridget Riley canvases, huge rectangles of rhombic mosaics, in shifting colour that one can stand in front of and lose oneself in. A fifteen minute stroll west along the embankment, the Hayward Gallery seems to have all...

September 13, 2019
Farewell Drupal 8. Hello Backdrop CMS

I have written before of my love affair with Drupal 7 and, separately, of my anxiety about Drupal 8. Drupal 7's abandon-ship, event-horizon end-of-life looms on...

August 30, 2018
Field can contain HTML

For those for whom web standards matter, the devil is always in the detail. The content-management system Drupal throws this at us by the bucket load. No doubt other CMSs do the same. Fortunately, Drupal (both versions 7 and 8) comes up with its own solution to the...

February 5, 2018
The long-form web page

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's dictum that "Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away" can be re-deployed most helpfully when discussing Reader View, a topic that touches on web page design and...

January 20, 2018
Website accessibility

The perpetual churn of new technologies and techniques can sometimes blind-side us to some fundamental issues in web design that we need to keep in focus all the time. One of these is accessibility which - for me - has been sharpened up by the brief but high-value book on the...

April 22, 2017
Website building resources

The business of building a website is sufficiently detailed. Anyone engaged in this detail comes to depend upon a wide range of resources. Amongst these, there are some on whose giant shoulders we alight almost routinely. They deserve mention.

This list is...

November 20, 2011
The chestnut leaf breakout

My workstation here in the Gers overlooks a magnificant horse-chestnut tree, aesculus hippocastanum (the conker variety, not the sweet chestnut one). It provides shade from the blasting sun and in April it transforms itself with countless bunches of pink-...

books reviewed

November 8, 2019
The Lives of the Surrealists

Desmond Morris is better known for his book The Naked Ape, which he wrote in 1967 (and which ranks amongst the top 100 bestsellers of all time), than he is for his surrealist paintings. Both of these amply qualify him for writing about some of the major...

November 1, 2019
Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett's ‘Trilogy’ is preceded by its reputation for being bleak, difficult and perhaps nihilistic. My advice is to set that aside and, to use T.S. Eliot's phrase, "suspend your disbelief". The cover of Vivian Mercier's Beckett / Beckett volume (OUP...

August 25, 2019
Samuel Beckett Watt

Having completed Joyce's Ulysses last week, an experience that began with a lengthy uphill incline, I have followed on with a re-read of Samuel Beckett's Watt which has been a gentle downhill glide of immense fun. Gratitude goes to my English tutor...

February 1, 2019
Wilding: The return of nature to a British farm

You might think that a book about a farm in West Sussex could not be capable of exploring ideas of truly global importance. Equally, you might think that a book that does advance such lofty ideas could not be sufficiently anchored in hard-won experience. On both...

January 27, 2019
LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media

"Once every village had an idiot. It took the internet to bring them all together", are the memorable words of U.S. Army colonel turned historian Robert Bateman, quoted by the authors of LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media to illustrate the unreality...

November 10, 2018
Reader, Come Home by Maryanne Wolf

Maryanne Wolf's recently-published Reader, Come Home would have had less authority for me had I not read her Proust and the Squid: the Story and...

October 23, 2018
Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf

It is over twenty-two years since I had the privilege of sitting amongst youngsters to help them combat their dyslexia and more than that since I have fully read a densely-referenced book on the subject, but I wanted to prepare for reading Maryanne Wolf's recently-...

May 25, 2018
The Seabird's Cry

Adam Nicolson's The Seabird's Cry is a work of such intelligence, such passion and such craft that you may never think of seabirds in the same way again. It is a volume dense with experience, sifted research, anecdote and dogged explanations whose...

August 22, 2016
The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane

Some of my worst reading habits include adding marginalia and/or scribbling page-numbered notes in a book's end leaves. As a student, I did this in ink, sometimes slavishly underlining entire passages. Now, not just because there's an excellent second-hand bookshop...

and places visited.

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 weather, the cathedral exerts an...

November 9, 2019
Hardwick Hall

Hardwick Hall exudes the ego of Bess of Hardwick - its builder - as much as it is today buffeted by the constant drone of traffic from the nearby M1 motorway, both equally transient and fleeting yet strangely permanent. You can block out the noise pollution that...

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. From atop that...

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...

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 that...

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 little by...

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 shows...

May 24, 2019
Parham House

Some of this country's finest houses are perched on a hilltop, others tucked away in woodland, some dominate a landscape with imposing intent, others block uninvited entry with obvious fortification. Aside from a stone ha-ha to keep out curious deer, Parham House...

October 2, 2018
Uig Sands Chessmen, Isle of Lewis and the British Museum

The oldest rocks in Britain are found in the Outer Hebrides. These are twisted Lewisian gneisses which were formed up to 3,000 million years ago, two-thirds of the known age of our planet. Essentially, they are igneous rocks made from magma deep within the...

August 30, 2018
House for an Art Lover

On the inside this might be just another sugar-coated wedding venue - for which purpose it can indeed be hired - but the grey flanked House for an Art Lover in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park is another key to unlocking the visionary output of the architect and...