Author: John Royle

The Hive at Kew Gardens

The Hive: Bee at Kew Gardens

The Hive at Kew Gardens is a magical transformation of a set of giant metal rods and bolts into an amazing, delicate and vibrant structure set down in a bucolic corner of southwest London.  It has to be experienced in person to be fully appreciated. We visited ‘The Hive’ at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew  as part of the ‘Kew Lates’ programme of events.  We arrived just before dusk so were able to see this incredible sculpture as the light was changing.  Very helpful guides were on hand to explain the work and the role of bees in pollination and the work they do at Kew Gardens.  There were also activities and events in the Orangery including silk screen printing and jewellery making. It was a great evening and the weather was marvellous so we enjoyed a glass of wine on the terrace watching the fire jugglers afterwards. The Hive structure  at Kew Gardens is designed to highlight the importance of bees as pollinators. It’s been well documented that in recent years, the world’s bee population …

I Ain’t Got Nothing But Love: Visit Liverpool in 24 hours

Whether you’re into the Beatles or not, there’s much more in a visit Liverpool than you might think. When we went recently, Emma and I found a vibrant city, full of great places to eat and drink alongside tons of culture and history. It’s changed beyond recognition from the down-at-heel city that we first dated in, back in the 1980s. My last visit to Liverpool was thirty odd years ago, when Emma was at university there (around the time of the Toxteth Riots and huge unemployment on Merseyside). My memory of the place then is a lively but desperately poor city that had certainly seen better times. So I was really interested to spot the differences when we went there recently. What a transformation! And what a great opportunity to practice my photography skills… Albert Dock and the Waterfront Dating back to 1841 the dock was in use until 1972. It fell in to dereliction until it was renovated and reopened in 1988. It’s now a major tourist draw with bars, cafes and restaurants occupying the colonnades on …

film review

Film review: Eye in the Sky

More like Cry in the Sky. Emma and I went to see this film, based on some pretty positive reviews. Very good cast including Alan Rickman’s last appearance before his sad departure earlier this year. It is about the moral questions of drone attacks and collateral damage and the chain of command. As a drama it works OK even though it was clearly shot over a couple of weeks on three sets and one location. The interaction between the protagonists is done via an implausible mash-up of military grade Skype, army Snapchat and the MoD’s low spec version of WhatsApp. What doesn’t ring true (sadly) is the degree of moral analysis and high level scrutiny and challenge given to this one operation. From what I have read, operations like this have been happening on an almost daily basis for a decade or more. I doubt whether those involved would give more than a few seconds thought about collateral damage, especially if the strike was on a confirmed target as portrayed here. The reviews have been …

Wildlife photographers

Shooting British Wildlife: Improving my photography skills

Take more photos! I’ve been trying to get to grips with photography over the past few years and I’m getting there bit by bit. I’ve learned there’s a lot more to it than ‘pointing and shooting’  and there are lots of resources out there on the web that will help you get to grips with the basics and the terminology and equipment.  There’s no substitute for actually getting out there and taking pictures though, so I was very lucky to be able to visit the British Wildlife Centre on one of their Wildlife Photography Days, courtesy of Emma who bought me a voucher for the day. The British Wildlife Centre The Centre is in Lingfield in Surrey and is a privately owned organisation which works on breeding programmes, habitat conservation and education.  One of the ways it raises funds is through these wildlife photography days.  Numbers are limited to around a dozen and you have the run of the place, with one of the keepers as a guide. Ours was Tom, a really enthusiastic and …

Six Secrets of South East Sicily

Ok there’s nothing particularly secret about the biggest volcano in Europe but I liked the alliteration and if you’re planning a trip to Sicily,  I hope you’ll discover some nuggets in here that you won’t find elsewhere – to make your trip extra special. 1. Taormina It’s busy, it’s touristy and it’s the most expensive place on the island but you’ve still got to visit Taormina because it’s so damned cute! It has a fantastic main street with lots going on but go for restaurants in the side streets.  The views over the sea are beautiful. Go for dinner or a drink up to el Jabel to see one of the best. There’s a  Greek amphitheatre that has regular performances throughout the year. We saw La Boheme there, tickets were just €23. Down the hill to Mazzaro via cable car will take you to good beaches with really expensive sun loungers. 2. Etna It’s dormant right now but that doesn’t mean Mount Etna is dead. Far from it.  As recently as December 2015 there was an …

Left, Right, and Centre

US Politics today We still have a full nine months to endure and witness the insane and dysfunctional US presidential election campaign. It’s been the maddest I’ve ever witnessed and there are bound to be more crazy moments between here and November. But I just want to say a few words about it. I am a liberal, left-leaning democrat. I believe in inclusivity, opportunity, equality and fairness. We’ve seen some unspeakable behaviour from Trump on his campaign. His pronouncements really do beggar belief. My view is that he brings shame on his country and gives ammunition to those who want to harm democracies everywhere. At the same time, we see Bernie Sanders, probably the most left leaning politician to ever be a contender at this stage of the political cycle. He has massive support form the young voters and he just gave Hillary Clinton a scare in Iowa. So what’s happening? A change I think it’s a cusp moment. What we are witnessing here will be repeated in other democracies around the world. We are …

Instagram – What? Why? And How?

  What’s Instagram? It’s a free photo and short video sharing service. You can follow the posts of friends and professionals and make edits on your photos before posting them. Instagram has been owned by Facebook since 2012. Why would I use it? You might think that it’s full of teenager selfies and pictures of people’s kids, food and pets. And yes, people do post those picture but there is a lot more to explore. News agencies post breaking news there (the BBC makes good use of short videos for instance); check out travel locations with photos taken by real people; follow your favourite sports person or celebrity. If you are into photography there are some really talented people posting their work.  It’s also helpful to check out bars or restaurants before you visit to see what’s going on there. If you run a business you might use it to post pictures of your products or your customers using your goods and services. Your friends and kids are probably on there, follow them to see …