Sunday 11 February 2024

On Safari 2024

This is just a quick reminder to everybody that I'm off on safari again. I leave on the morning of 14th of February and won't be back on the island until the 10th of March.

We are travelling to Rwanda, but starting our actual safari across the border in Tanzania. We'll be exploring the southern shores of Lake Victoria as far as the Serengeti before turning round and coming back to finish with five days in Rwanda.

You might get me on email, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger if you need something urgent, but clearly I won't be able to do much until I get back. I will be roaming in a very expensive country, so don't expect me to answer the phone.

Monday 1 January 2024

The Communications Conundrum

The Year in Review

After more than three years at home, 2023 marked my return to travel and an epic return to Africa. The trip was the hardest we'd ever had together and it left me simultaneously drained and re-invigorated. On the one hand, I now hated the process of travelling and decried the failings of confused airline personnel. On the other, I had seen some magnificent mammals and birds and the new camera and lens combination had performed magnificently.

I had, as has become a habit, started work on the write-up for my coffee-table book about the trip whilst I was there. It gives me something to do on a very hot afternoon. I can sit on the veranda and work on my laptop for an hour or so every couple of days and be almost ready to go with the text as soon as I get back. I finished the book in record time and found myself really enjoying the writing process, almost more than the holiday itself.

Once I started, I couldn't stop. I'd always had a desire to write a novel, but also wanted to write an autobiography of sorts. I combined the two and, having satisfied myself that I could actually do it, buried the autobiographical novel in the depths of my hard drive to never see the light of an embarrassing day. But I had ideas flooding my brain and just kept on going. By August I had pretty much burned myself out for a time, having written and published 3 full novels on Amazon. I stalled in the fourth novel, however and only managed to come back to it at the end of the year, publishing it at the very end of December.

Meanwhile, I created a paperback version of my travel book and then went on to publish three small volumes of photographs, again on Amazon. Frankly, writing and publishing is addictive. As the year turns over, I have started another novel and words are flowing pretty well. So, 2023 is all about words. More than 300,000 published words if we are counting.

As for the rest of my year, I guess it has been much like any other. My blood-pressure has been brought under control by medication and my general mood seems to be improving, probably thanks in part to taking Vitamin D. I am indeed a year older and the aches and pains are probably to be expected. Nothing life-threatening though. I continue to work as usual, spreading my time out between the workshop in Maughold and my regular customers.

My friends and I have made plans to return to Africa in February once more. Again we will be in Tanzania - around the shores of Lake Victoria with a few days in Rwanda, a new country for me to add to the list.

The Conundrum

So, for all my personal success in getting words onto the page and out into the world, there remains the increasingly difficult problem of personal communications. I have written at length here in the past about my anxieties and mental health issues. It isn't something that just goes away and, indeed, it seems to come and go as time passes.

For much of the second half of 2023 I have had very severe problems with personal communications. I've always had issues with using the telephone. I'm always very happy to answer a call and get stuff sorted. I just always find it difficult to make an outgoing call. It's a problem that I've always been conscious of, but I do try my best to work around it. Sometimes, however, I just can't do it. This year has been particularly bad and this communications anxiety - for wont of a better word - has spread to other forms of communication as well.

I now find it almost as difficult to respond to an email, Whatsapp, Facebook or text message. I normally get there in the end, but at the very least it can take a couple of days for me to simply work up to formulating a reply. It's not always like that, of course. On some days I can respond quickly and simply to an incoming message as soon as I get the chance and spontaneous questions are far more likely to get a quick answer.

I'm far from convinced that it is something that I will ever get over. I can only apologise to anybody who has expected a response from me and not received one. For anybody who needs a more immediate response, then probably best to call me on my mobile. If I don't come back to you, then leave it for an hour or two and try again. If I answer, everything will be fine. If I don't then I may just be unable to return the call. Don't feel that you are bugging me, it probably is helping.

The Upgrade

If 2022 was the year of the camera, then 2024 is the year of the computer.

I last built myself a new desktop computer at the very end of 2017. I went all-out to build something that was close to state-of-the-art for the time in the hope that it would last me a while. I've had a couple of upgrades in the intervening six years, but it has worked pretty much flawlessly for that time.

Still, the art does advance and I was starting to find that some software was beginning to feel a little sluggish. I've discovered the power of Topaz Photo AI and frankly the processing power needed for it to work well is staggering. I had the graphics card, but the main processor and memory were lacking. Even some of the new features of Adobe Photoshop push the old system to its limits.

Anyway, over the last few months I've built up a set of new components and created a totally new PC tower that should hopefully keep me going for another few years. I don't think I've ever done a rundown of my hardware, so here goes.

It's now an AMD Ryzen 7 7700 processor with 32Gb of DDR5 memory on an ASUS B650 mainboard. Storage is provided by a 1TB Crucial NVME SSD as a main drive with a pair of 4TB Samsung 870 SATA SSD drives for data and main backup. I use an external 4TB portable hard drive for secondary backup.

Display is provided by an AMD Radeon 6600 Graphics card that drives three 32-inch ViewSonic monitors at 2560x1440 pixels. I run Windows 11 Professional and it is as up-to-date as possible.

I still have my 14-inch Huawei laptop that I use for diagnostics and travel as well.

Into 2024

So, another year has passed and we are all alive and reasonably well. I've a great holiday to look forward to in February and am keen to keep on with my writing.

Sunday 31 December 2023

Quick Update


So, this might be a bit of a roundabout way of doing things, but there are some updates on my publishing website and it's nice to make sure that people are aware.

I've published (or am waiting for final printed proofs of) two new books on Amazon. The first is the next in my series of small-format photo books and is dedicated to lions. Actually, the whole series hasn't really been pushed out here or on the other site.

The second is my latest novel, a sequel of sorts to Hard-wired for Love, entitled Another Horizon. It's a sexy, technical sci-fi tale about interplanetary love and the quest for the colonisation of distant worlds.

Hop over to ThePridePride for more details.

Sunday 3 December 2023

Safari 2024 - Tanzania (Again)

Well, the last few months have been a bit of a roller-coaster from a possible travel point of view. We went from being determined to not go again to possibly doing an epic Spine of Africa road-trip to finally settling on something a little more modest. This will be my tenth safari to Africa and, as always and despite the hard work that the last trip involved, I am really looking forward to it.

Route Map
Preliminary Route and Location Map

Our usual group of four is down to three for this trip, Elizabeth deciding to stay behind for this one, leaving myself, Fred and Chris to travel out and join Emmy, our driver and guide, who is coming over from Uganda to look after us. Fred is doing a sterling job of organisation as usual, co-ordinating with local assistance to get us the best deals at the best locations.

We're going to start with a couple of firsts. It will be my first time flying out of Heathrow. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad one, but the times of all the flights mean that we won't have an overnight in either direction, having night flights for the long-hauls instead.

Secondly, as the map shows, we are flying direct to Kigali in Rwanda. Another country to tick off on my list. We're not just using it as a drop-in point, we are going to spend a few days in Akagera National Park on the way home.

Anyway, here's the provisional itinerary (and it may be subject to minor changes.

  • February 14th - Fly from The Isle of Man to London then overnight to Rwanda.

    A long flight, but we can sleep through it and be fairly fresh for a moderate drive to our first destination.

  • February 15th - Drive from Kigali to Burigi-Chato National Park in Tanzania.

    It's a fairly newly gazetted national park, but it will be well worth the visit. Sitatunga antelopes and Shoebill are high on my list of things to see here. Two nights at the Chato Beach Resort.

    We'll move on to have a three nights out on Rubondo Island. The whole island is a nature reserve famed for its primates and birds.

    Finally, back to Chato Beach Resort for one more night before moving on.

  • February 21st - Sandmark Hotel on Speke Gulf

    Plenty to see and do on the shores of Lake Victoria for a couple of nights to break up the drive.

  • February 23rd - Serengeti to Ikoma

    We drive east into the vastness of the Serengeti. I've been to Seronera briefly before, but it will be nice to go back, even if we are just passing through on the way a little further north to Ikoma. Lots of big game to be seen, but plenty of birds as well.

  • February 26th - Mwitongo Lodge, Butiama

    We drive north to Butiama through the Grumeti Game Reserve. From Butiama we can explore the mouth of the Mara river and the hopefully bird-filled papyrus beds to be found there.

  • February 29th - Speke Bay Lodge

    Hopefully time to get out on the water and explore the birdlife of the vastness of Lake Victoria. Plenty of game-viewing excursions to be had as well.

  • March 3rd - The Drive Back

    We haven't settled on an overnight location on the long drive back just yet, but we'll find something.

  • March 4th - Akagera

    Five days in the National Park at two different location should give us plenty of opportunity to see the big five and lots of other game. There are lakes to be explored as well.

  • March 9th - Kigali and Home

    Return to Kigali for our overnight flight back to Heathrow.

  • March 10th - Home

    Chris leaves us at Heathrow and we fly back to the Island.
So, three and a half weeks to explore the southern shores of Lake Victoria. No doubt hundreds of bird species, but I'm looking forward to seeing my fair share of big game and there are always some surprises to be had.