Welcome to a strange and forgotten alien world: Socotra

Welcome to a strange and forgotten alien world: Socotra

Looking like a cross between a surreal computer game and an alien planet, Socotra is a relatively unexplored and remote island off the coast of Arabian Peninsula. It's a sparkling diamond of natural diversity and rugged wildness, with over 700 endemic species of flora and fauna. Only a small number of countries have more endemic…

Welcome to Biba: A Legendary Department Store in London's Swinging 60's

Welcome to Big Biba: A Legendary Department Store in London’s Swinging 60’s

Big Biba was an outrageous cornucopia of weird fashion on the London high street in the 60's. Before H&M, Topshop or Harvey Nichols there was Biba. Invented by IT girl of the time, Polish-born Barbara Hulanicki, Biba started out as a mail order store that sold one dress available in one size. Very rapidly it…

Travel: A winter afternoon of contemplation in Queenstown

Ancient Word of the Day: Chrysalism

Chrysalism The strange and cosy combination of tranquillity and protectedness experienced when safely indoors as a thunderstorm breaks overhead. The sensation of warmth and well-being induced by listening to waves of rain pattering onto the roof. Originally coined by the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.   

What do the longest living people in the world have in common?

Ancient Word of the Day: Rema

Rema (Shetland Scots) The mirror-calm surface of the sea on a calm day. A body of water with a surface as smooth as cream. Comes from the Scots word "reyme", meaning "cream"). Rjómalogn (Icelandic) Cream-calm, used to denote  profoundly tranquil weather or sea. Arafin (Welsh) Calm or slow weather in Welsh. blikkstille./ blekkstille (Norwegian) A…

A placid and beautiful Highland Cow, found roaming on the Isle of Skye. Copyright Content Catnip 2010.

Travel: A History of the Beautiful Highland Cow

Highland Cows or as they are commonly known in Scotland Highland Coos are an ancient breed known to have grazed the rugged Scottish landscape since the sixth century. Their genetic origins are still up for debate. They may be native to Scotland or introduced by the Vikings to Great Britain. One scientific train of thought…

Kea - Birds, Mana and Maori Culture

Birds, Mana and Maori Culture

Maori tribes have long held beliefs and customs about the native birds of Aotearoa New Zealand. Birds or Nga Manu had a vital place in Maori tribal life as they provided food, beautiful feathers for adornment and their strengths and personalities were a rich source of metaphor and poetry. Their behaviour was use to predict…

On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings–oh, happy chance!– I went forth without being observed, My house being now at rest. In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised–oh, happy chance!– In darkness and in concealment, My house being now at rest. In the happy night, In secret, when none saw me,…

"How long does it take to make the woods? As long as it takes to make the world. It is always finished, it is always being made, the act of its making forever greater than the act of its destruction." (Wendell Berry, from A Timbered Choir, 1999)

Roadtrip on the Isle of Skye. Gloaming sky

Travel: The ruins of Duntulm Castle on Trotternish

I visited Duntulm on the northerly most point of the Trotternish peninsula on the Isle of Skye back in 2010. Many many moons ago, perhaps several thousand years ago, the now mostly ravaged and ruined castle was originally a Pictish fortress, forming one of a chain of duns or forts stretching along the north coast…

Exquisite Marine Invertebrates of the 19th Century http://wp.me/p41CQf-rWG

Exquisite Marine Invertebrates of the 19th Century

In this blog in previous years, I've talked about how humans and cephalopods are oddly similar, explored the underwater realm of Sydney Harbour in great detail, and the invisible realm of microscopic creatures rendered by Ernest Haeckel. But in terms of delicate creatures, the Blaschkas were the 19th Century heavy-weights. I originally posted this post…

Travel: Exploring Ancient Kidwelly Castle in Wales

Travel: Exploring Ancient Kidwelly Castle in Wales

About ten years ago I visited Carmarthenshire, Wales and discovered the ruins of Kidwelly Castle with a friend and fellow couch-surfer. It was a delightful and fascinating day, full of overcast grey weather, souvenirs, bara brith, Welsh rarebit and early medieval history. Perched close to the wind-swept seaside and encircled by beautiful lapwings, ducks and…

Every Picture Tells A Story: William Stanley Moore (1925)

William Stanley Moore according to his official police record was an "opium dealer/ Operates with large quantities of faked opium and cocaine./ A wharf labourer; associates with water front thieves and drug traders.''   Mugshot by New South Wales Police Department (1925) Source: Historic Houses Trust 

Travel: Meandering around the Mynydd Carningli neolithic hillfort

Travel: Poking around the Mynydd Carningli neolithic hillfort

In 2010 I stayed for a while by the Welsh seaside in Newport, Pembrokeshire, Wales. I loved the wild waves and sea air, dramatic black cliffs and bright green hillside dotted with sleepy sheep. But most of all I loved the hill walks there, particularly Myndd Carningli, a splendid 347 meter tall mountain that holds…

Beautiful maps & beautiful Welsh tales: The Mabinogion

Beautiful maps & beautiful Welsh tales: The Mabinogion

The Mabinogion is a magical and mythical Celtic classic from the  thirteenth century or earlier. It's thoroughly Welsh and is considered a masterpiece of medieval literature. Although written down during the middle ages, experts think these stories may date from the dawn of Celtic civilisation in Britain. The Mabinogion has given rise to all of…

The Strandbeest and it's glittering seaside evolution

The Strandbeest and its glittering seaside evolution

Theo Jansen’s strandbeests are composed of spindly plastic organs that take elephantine strides. They have guts that store energy and are powered by wind. They are sensitive mechanical beasts that can even detect water. Each of Jansen's ingenious strandbeests are miracles in motion. They may very well be the next stages of natural selection.  Jansen…

Mana Wahine: The Female Moko in Māori Culture

Mana Wahine: The Female Moko in Māori Culture

Tā moko represents a person's mana (status or power) in society. This is best highlighted by the time when the chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi with their mokos in 1840. The Moko Kauae is a chin tattoo traditional reserved for Māori women with mana (high status and power). Traditionally, female healers (tohunga) had a close relationship…

Seven Tips for Writing Top Notch Travel Articles http://wp.me/p41CQf-5h

Ancient Word of the Day: Grimmelings

Although similar to the gloaming, grimmelings is a slightly different natural phenomenon at both ends of the rotating sun's traverse across the sky. Grimmelings - The first or last gleams of the day (Scots, esp. Orkney). From the Norwegian "grimla", to glimmer before the eyes, to twinkle or blink. Also "grimlins". Or “the harlot’s hour”:…

Eerie and Glorious Fake Cities Left Empty in China

Eerie and Glorious Fake Cities Left Empty in China

“Entire townships and villages appear to have been airlifted from their historical and geographical foundations in England, France, Greece, the United States, and Canada and spot-welded to the margins of Chinese cities,” according to Bianca Bosker, author of Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China. Tianducheng:  A Fake Parisian Wonder Originally conceived as an homage…

11 Archaic Words That Deserve Full Revival

Here are eleven words that I have collected in much the same way as other people collect smooth stones from a riverbed or iridescent shells from a beach. With so many words and shells floating around, how can you be sure that you have the prettiest ones? Here are eleven of my favourite ancient words,…

Tiny building sites: It's a small world after all

Tiny building sites: It’s a small world after all

Readers of this blog will understand and share my obsession with small-scale buildings, tiny books, paper towns and jewelry boxes and boudoir ornaments for mermaids. These quirky art forms are uncannily beautiful in their falseness. They also make Mini Materials now offers lovers of miniature the unprecedented opportunity to build their own life-like models of…