Dry docks, concrete conference halls and Dutch jets: a whirlwind few months

When I made my last post, I noticed I’m sitting on one hundred and ninety-something posts. As such, I’m going to make it my goal to get to two hundred posts before the year is out. To make this task a little more challenging, I’m going to try to accomplish this with words as well as pictures – in other words, no posts filled with photos alone. To get things rolling, though, I’d like to get the last few images from recent times off my chest.

About ten years ago, F1 Racing magazine ran a feature where they asked a range of personalities to explain what was always in their briefcase/kit bag/hand luggage and why. The one that jumped right out at me was Dave Richards – at the time the head honcho of the British American Racing, latterly Honda, team – who said he always carried a small digital camera with him. His reasoning was that while wandering about the paddock, ‘you never know what you might see’ (or words to that effect).

This philosophy stuck with me while I was working as a rally reporter, and I did indeed see some interesting things. With advances in technology, however, this need to constantly carry a camera round has faded – because with the advent of smart phones, we are all now essentially carrying a semi-decent camera round with us all the time. Now I don’t have a smart phone, but I do have an iPod Touch that does travel with me nearly all the time. As such, here are a few of the more coincidental, ambient or offbeat things that sum up the last few months…


I spent a day in the Scottish fishing town of Peterhead learning about stakeholders’ views on climate change technology. While there, I made a point of having a wander around and trying to get a flavour for the place and it’s history. This is a dry dock, where in times past fishing vessels would have been built and/or repaired. When the boat was ready, the gates at the end would be opened, the water would flow in, and the boat would sail out into the harbour.


What you can’t tell from this photo is that this bridge appears to be utterly pointless. It’s an all-singing, all-dancing, all-metal construction, featuring internal stairways, lifts at both sides, and a lit walkway, all for the purpose of connecting…two pavements adjacent to pieces of wasteland, separated by a narrow and virtually deserted road. Because just looking both ways and crossing the road (which has no kerbs) would be too difficult. In fairness to the bridge, it does seem to have been built in anticipation of better days – it’s in the Minato Mirai area of Yokohama, not far from the Yokohama Marinos training ground. There are blocks of luxury apartments not far away, and a giant white wedding venue just up the road. Perhaps as a result of economic slowdown, though, the whole development seems to have run out of steam before there was any real need for this bridge. Or maybe some students just built it as a training exercise. Who knows.


This fancy-ass Starbucks is located at Dazaifu on the southeasternmost extreme of Fukuoka. It is the brainchild of celebrity architech Kengo Kuma and his company, and is built from entirely ‘natural’ materials or something like that. Whatever, the end result is pleasing to the eye, and the coffee ain’t bad either.



Sticking with the theme of celebrity architects is the Kyoto International Conference Centre. Penned by Sachio Otani, it was the venue for the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, so fittingly I found myself there for a conference on greenhouse gas technologies earlier this year. The huge slabs of concrete are a bit sixties in their appearance, but the gardens and surroundings are nothing short of stunning. Note the yellow, orange and red leaves on the hill in the background.


…and for someone ostensibly working in climate change mitigation, I have spent an awful lot of time this year flying. Here I’m on a Fokker 70 going from Edinburgh to Amsterdam, sitting right at the back of the tiny wee puddle-jumper with one of the engines for company. These really aren’t the best jets to travel on if you’re a nervous flyer, given that (a) if you sit in the wrong place, one is separated from the engine by only a few sheets of metal (yes, I know it’s perfectly safe, I’m just saying…), and (b) they can take off with no flaps at all, which is impressive if a little startling. Still, it was something other that a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 to rack up the miles on.



Back to Edinburgh at last! Although with this food and drink combo, you’d be forgiven for thinking I was taking some time out in Germany. It’s the annual German Christmas Market in the centre of Edinburgh, where Glühwein, pretzels and chocolate can all be had at vastly over-inflated prices. Still, the sensation of hot alcohol and warm, salty snacks against the crisp winter air nearly takes away the sense of injustice at having been fleeced to the tune of nine pounds per person.

So that’s it for the gratuitous posting of photos. Between now and New Year, I’ll be attempting to post things with a little more substance where possible. Heck, I might even be tempted to write something about cars.




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