In October I will be running 8km around the Isle of Kerrera, the run is immediately preceded by a 14km bike ride around the same island, which in turn is preceded by a 550m swim across Oban Bay.
I’m pretty happy with my current fitness levels but the Craggy Island Triathlon is something of a step up (I’ve never done an open water swim, and of the several hundred hours of cycling I’ve done in the last year about 6 have been outdoors).
I formally kicked off my training with a run this morning, I didn’t have much of a plan and ended up doing an 8.5 mile out and back run to a lovely bluebell wood I stumbled across in between startling a heron (who in turn seriously startled me) and meeting a lovely horse.
(You have to click through for the real polar bears.)
North is a travelogue of illustrations and photographs detailing Christoph Niemann’s journey to Svalbard as part of a National Geographic cruise (which looks ace but also seriously out of my price range).
Had you asked me about Svalbard a month ago I would’ve told you about the home of the Panserbjørne, about those two episodes of Fortitude I watched before I forgot it was a thing, and how its name comes from 12th Century Icelandic records of islands visited by Vikings that may not actually be Svalbard.
Now, however, fresh from reading Prisoners of Geography it’s all about fishing territory, coal mining (or not), and the scramble for the Arctic.
Most countries and international organisations recognize the islands as being under (limited) Norwegian sovereignty, but the biggest island, Svalbard, formerly know as Spitsbergen, has a growing population of Russian migrants who have assembled around the coal-mining industry there. The mines are not profitable, but the Russian community serves as a useful tool in furthering Moscow’s claims on all of the Svalbard islands. At a time of Russia’s choosing it can raise tensions and justify its actions using geological claims and the “facts on the ground” of the Russian population.
It’s a genuinely fascinating read, I had no idea the extent to which Russia and China maneuvre their population en masse into foreign or disputed territories, or the importance of warm water ports. It was written pre-Brexit/Trump but with speculation on what could happen if UK or US foreign policy changed which adds an extra layer of interest.
If you’re looking for a rabbit hole allow me to recommend digital collections of the New York Public Library. Naturally, I headed straight for their Meiji era photos of Japan:
The first daguerreotype camera was imported into Japan in 1848 (the patent dates to 1839). Wet and dry plate photographic processes were introduced into Japan by Dutch photographers stationed on the island of Dejima, in Nagasaki Bay, beginning in the 1850s.
I love how instantly recognisable Fuji is:
And how similar this is to Hokusai’s view of Fuji from the Tōkaidō, produced some 70-80 years earlier:
I wonder if the photographer had that in mind when they created the shot.
I’ve ended up doing a lot of holidaying alone this Summer which has been ok. It would’ve been nice to share some of the days out with other people but equally it meant in the evening I could tuck into some reading!
While I was away I read Half a King and Half the World by Joe Abercrombie. I didn’t realise they were supposed to be YA (not that I especially care now I realise!), the only real difference is that they are noticably less brutal than the First Law trilogy. Anyway, I really enjoyed them, the elf ruins and magic are very clever, I’m looking forward to reading the last one.
I also read Rat Queens vol 3, it’s still fantastic, if you like fantasy (and especially if you like D&D) you should be reading RQ but even if you’re not a huge fantasy fan it’s just damn good. That said it looks like there are all manner of shenanigans going on at the minute and it’s currently on hiatus.
Elsewhere on the comics front I read East of West vol 4 (still love it), Manhattan Projects vol 2 (I struggled with the first volume and did less well with this, I don’t think it’s the comic for me), finally read Black Science vol 1 (it’s soooo pretty! And I enjoyed it, though I don’t feel compelled to grab the next volume).
Right now I’m reading A Darker Shade of Magic on my Kindle, about a third of the way through, and enjoying it quite a bit.
As for my actual holidays I went camping in Pembrokeshire for 3 nights and have variously spent my days looking at old castles, old country houses, old gardens, and old burial chambers.
Pembrokeshire is stunningly beautiful and I highly recommend Dewslake Farm Campsite near Lamphey.
Some Bees I met at Canons Ashby
One of the oldest and best preserved man made structures in the UK (well, the world too I guess). 5,500 years old. It’s apparently part of a burial chamber, though oddly no bodies have ever been found.
St Govan’s Chapel
This is the view facing out from the chapel in the cliffside.
Not a bad view for grave.
The castle is beautiful but it’s more of a lovely wedding venue than a great visitor experience. This photo was pretty cool though.
Lamphey Bishop’s Palace
I had the run of this place for a good hour or so one morning. If you like a ruin it’s worth a visit.
A lunchtime companion
Beautiful (occassionally macabre) still life photography from Rosamund Purcell.
These are the sorts of curios I could pore over for hours.