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Travel Theme: Round

Travel Theme: Round


Round and round she goes
Chasing the light and hiding
In the Earth’s shadow

Tugging on my soul
Rising and falling tides of
Absurd emotions

Her luminous gaze
Highlighting our own paltry

This pockmarked visage
Bearing witness in silent
Certain vigilance

For in her absence
Life is an insubstantial
Myth or faerie tale

Wordless Wednesday: Love Is.........

Bobby and Alana: pre-wedding photo shoot

Wordless Wednesday: Love Is………

Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top

Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top

This is my sister and brother-in-law on top of Combestone Tor on Dartmoor in Devon. Helen and Kevin are both keen photographers with their own brand, Eros Imageworks. We spent this Easter weekend with them and on a crisp, sunny Saturday we ventured onto the moors to enjoy the stunning landscapes and get some photography in :-)

View of the Dart Valley

Combestone is the most accessible of all the Tors, with a car park right next to the Tor itself and no hills to climb. Perfect for anyone like myself with disabilities! We almost had the Tor completely to ourselves, just a few dog walkers and occasional tourist. There was a brisk wind that had the light clouds scuttling overhead, bringing with them some dramatic light and shadow to this majestic landscape.

Dartmoor is a wild landscape filled with historic tales, myth and mystery. The Tors seem to encapsulate all of that magic within their monolithic presence. With the wind whipping through your hair and unspoilt vistas, stretching out to the horizon in all directions, it feels as if the entire history of Planet Earth is laid bare before you.

Blue Monday: Tea For Two?

Blue Monday: Tea For Two?

Happy Blue Easter Monday everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good weekend?

Simon and I went down to Devon to stay with my sister and brother-in-law, Helen and Kevin, for Easter. We went for a drive over the moors on Saturday which brought back some happy, childhood memories! After visiting the one easily accessible Tor, Combestone, stopping off at Widecombe, where my Silent Sunday photo is from and seeking out some of the Dartmoor ponies, we decided a cream tea was in order!

There’s one place on the moors that absolutely HAS to be visited for the ultimate cream tea – Badgers Holt at Dartmeet. Situated at the meeting place of the East and West tributaries of the River Dart, stands a wonderful tea shop with just about the best scones, cream and jam I’ve ever had! Not only do you have the beautiful countryside and fabulous food, there are also a number of peacocks on the grounds. They’re such colourful and enigmatic birds! They’re also partial to a spot of cream tea themselves ;-)

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Travel Theme: Clean


Travel Theme: Clean

Ailsa’s theme this week was inspired by news of Beijing’s pollution crisis. There are many deplorable environmental issues affecting the health of the world and its inhabitants. They are incredibly saddening!

I’ve decided to write about a natural epidemic that is affecting people across the world because of contaminated water. There is much that could be done to reduce outbreaks of disease by providing clean sources of water for drinking and washing to the millions, who risk their lives on a daily basis, without the essentials that so many of us take for granted!

I firmly believe that access to clean, safe water is one of the basic rights of every single human being! Some of the difficulties are geological and political which makes it hard for us to make a difference, individually. There are, however, many charities who work internationally to achieve these goals and we can help by helping them! Some charities also offer opportunities for people to join a project that is bringing clean water to a particular community, perhaps by building wells or sanitation blocks.

If you want to help here are two good places to start – WaterAid and The Career Break Site

Anyway, I expect you’re still wondering what on earth my image is all about? In 2008 I teamed up with my friend Zahida, a parasitologist, to create a visual representation of a snail’s immune cells attacking the parasite Schistosoma mansoni. Using Zahida’s scientific images of the parasite, snail cells and DNA profiles I created the above image, a multi-layered photomotage, in Photoshop. The disease Schistosomiasis kills thousands every year! Science could provide the ultimate solution.

Schistosomiasis Life Cycle

Our image was displayed in the Darwin Centre at The Natural History Museum as part of the 2008 art competition and exhibition. We called it rEvolution: the unnatural selection, “Scientists can create or eliminate elements of the natural world by interfering with natural selection and thus altering evolution; greatly aided by new technologies. Artists push the boundaries of design through different technologies; art and science are often seen as polar opposites here the two disciplines collide.”

Essay for New Science: The Super Snail!

Zahida Zahoor, Faculty of Science, School of Life Sciences, Kingston University and Wolfson Wellcome Biomedical Laboratories, The Natural History Museum, London.

We’ve all heard of genetically modified plants, but what about creating a genetically modified snail? Why would you want to do a thing like that, I hear you ask. Well a range of snails can harbour specific parasites. Parasites are organisms that need to be in close relationship with another organism in order to survive. Certain parasites can develop and reproduce in certain snails and some parasites are released into water where they can potentially infect humans and mammals that drink or paddle in the water. For example the parasite Schistosoma mansoni uses the fresh water snail Biomphalaria glabrata to complete its life cycle. It estimated that annually 20,000 people in Africa, Asia and South America will die from the disease Schistosomiasis, by coming into contact with infected waters. Infected humans usually have range of unpleasant symptoms including; diarrhoea, fever and malnutrition. This has huge implications on the countries economical growth because millions of people are unable to work due to ill health.

How would you start dealing with such an epic problem? Provide patients with anti-parasitic medication, yes, but what about when drug resistant parasites develop? Then use molluscides, but how would you differentiate between parasite infected and non-infected snails and the number of other snail species that don’t carry the parasite? The short answer is you can’t. That’s why we are looking into novel ways of controlling the disease.

Coming back to our idea of a genetically modified snail, what if we could strengthen the defence response of a B. glabrata snail therefore allowing it to fight off parasitic infection, the parasite can’t then complete its life cycle! Before we open the bottle of champagne and pat ourselves on the back, you’ve might have already guessed that it’s not as simple as it sounds. At the moment we are still struggling to find out how the parasite is able to suppress the snails’ defence system, allowing its own survival and development to take place.

There is some good news; we are in a position to investigate what snails genes the parasite might be switching on or off once the snail has been infected. This means the presence of a parasite might be indirectly affecting the physiology of the snail causing its defence system not to work as efficiently. At the moment our information is limited as the snail genome project is still ongoing. Where does this leave us? We may have some interesting genes that may hold the key in producing that parasite resistant snail but what consequences this may have on other aspects of the snails’ life such as mortality and reproductively is a question that will also need to be addressed in time. Not to mention the public’s reaction to a genetically modified organism that might be sitting in their ponds!

  • Lockyer A.E., et al., Biomphalaria glabrata transcriptome: Identification of cell-signalling, transcriptional control and immune-related genes from open reading frame expressed sequence tag (ORESTES). Developmental and Comparative Immunology, 2007. 31(8):p. 763-782.
  • Lockyer A.E et al., Schistosoma mansoni: resistant specific infection-induced gene expression in Biomphalaria glabrata identified by fluorescent-based differential display. Experimental Parasitology, 2004. 107:p 97-104

I’ve always had a keen interest in the sciences as well as art. I often considered myself to be a Naturalist. Some of the worlds greatest scientific minds were naturalists, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace among them. A large part of what they did was art, observation and drawing of their subjects. We wouldn’t have wonderful places like The Natural History Museum without these great explorers and collectors.

Dr Zahida Zahoor PhD and myself with our finished piece

Today, our piece, rEvolution hangs in Kingston University and we hope it will bring inspiration to future generations of scientists, studying and working toward a better future for us all.

Wordless Wednesday: Matthew

Wordless Wednesday: Matthew

Blue Monday: Big Blue Cock

Blue Monday: Big Blue Cock

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument

As requested by my brother, this is Hahn/Cock by Katharina Fritsch, the current artwork standing upon the famous Fourth Plinth of Trafalgar Square in London.

There has been much humorous speculation about the intentions of the German artist in producing a sculpture that many associate with the Gallic Rooster, one of the most famous symbols of France.

The artist says that the sculpture is simply a rendition of a domestic farmyard cockerel! How ironic though to have this Gaulois giant looming over the most famous monument to a British victory over the French. Whatever the case, it makes me smile :-)

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument

I spent a lovely, sunny afternoon sitting in Trafalgar Square this week! I’d met my brother at Oxford Circus, for lunch near his offices, and had a few hours spare before Simon and I went to an intriguing meeting at the British Computer Society’s London offices.

The square itself is a monument to the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Nelson’s Column stands in the centre of the square looking south toward The Palace of Westminster and Big Ben. To the north is one of my favourite buildings in London, The National Gallery.

The stairs to the Upper Terrace and the Gallery are flanked by two of the squares famous plinths. To the left, in the northeast, on The Fourth Plinth, stands Hahn/Cock by Katharina Fritsch and to the right is King George IV on the northeast plinth.

The National Gallery

For all of you who have a love of art, no visit to the city of London is complete without visiting both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. This is a very relaxed part of the city, with great access to other areas either by foot or by Tube from Charring Cross. It’s a great place to start your day-out from!

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