Spring’s arrival

My measure of Spring’s arrival turns out to be a couple of fantastic Magnolia trees around the corner from where I live. These are so impressive that I find myself compelled to take pictures each year when they are in bloom. Last year I happened to be looking back at 2013 and noticed a large discrepancy in the timing of the appearance of the Magnolia flowers. This year I’ve updated the set. The flowers started arriving on 15th March in 2014, two weeks earlier than this year but over a month earlier than in 2013 which was a famously late Spring.  Not very scientific, but I find it interesting, at least!

22nd April 2013
22nd April 2013
15th March 2014
15th March 2014
28th March 2015
28th March 2015


Wasted youth


Georgia Gould spoke at the RSA today about the wasted opportunity inherent in not tapping into the aspirations of the young to solve the social problems of the day.

Voting can seem passive to a generation used to direct action (self-publishing etc), she says. Only 15.8% identify with a political party – their politics is expressed through their engagement in individual issues and as a consequence they are being let down by traditional institutions. “It’s like a parallel universe.” 

Another pressing issue is increasing inequality which, she says, is disproportionately affecting the youth. There are undoubtedly opportunities thrown up by new technologies and a changing society but just how youngsters grasp those opportunity greatly depends on their parents’ backgrounds and circumstances, she argues.

What is needed is a new community spirit. But what does the spirit of 2015 look like, she asks? “It’s no good harking back to the community spirit of the 40s; we need a spirit relevant to today.”

Youth movements that are successful hand over power, are transparent, trust young people, she says. And they are deeply optimistic. “Every time I’ve seen an organisation trust young people the outcome has exceeded expectations .”

Disengagement from politics is not a youth problem it’s a society problem. The difference is that the young have ideas about how to change things.  But, she says, they need listening to.

Apple a day for the mind 


Slightly disappointing talk by Andy Gibson on why the positive benefits of mental health should be centre stage in school and business. Basically the message seems to boil down to reducing stress, not working too hard, good work/life balance and respect for the way the mind (your’s and others’) works. But it was very short on specifics even when he was directly asked about things clients had done differently as a result of his intervention. Maybe book sales were the goal…

The new Mona Lisa

IMG_1093“Mona Lisa” as recreated by photographer Drew Gardner at this year’s Photography Show in the NEC in Birmingham. Drew’s 10-year project involves finding the living descendants of great historical figures (Oliver Cromwell and Napoleon Bonaparte have featured) and then recreating famous pictures using the descendants as models in a photographic shoot in which every detail is meticulously recreated.

For the record, this was a demonstration and this isn’t actually a descendant of the actual Mona Lisa, though he did find two living Italian princesses who are the real thing and it is them who feature in the actual photo.