These stunning pictures all won awards at a recent wildlife photography competition. They show, from the top, American bald eagles, an African elephant, wildflower-covered hills in the USA's Saint Luis Obispo National Park, a green-crowned brilliant hummingbird confronting a green pit viper in Costa Rica, and an osprey in Norway.

In this blogposting…
*1,001 Buildings To See Before You Die
*Stranger Than Fiction
Go for it…

Time once again for the next ten ‘buildings you should see before you die’, as recommended in the lovely book I got for Christmas.

The buildings in the book are in chronological order. This list brings us up to 1429.

If you’ve seen any of them, or plan to, please get in touch. I’m delighted to say that, with numbers 81 and 86, my tally has gone up to fifteen!
81 - Royal Alcazar, Seville, Spain (above - the figure in the picture is my friend Kathy)
82 - Qutub Minar, Delhi, India
83 - Swayambunath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal
84 - Temple of the Floating Stone, Yeongpung-gun, South Korea
85 - Jong-myo Shrine, Seoul, South Korea
86 - Golden Temple Pavilion, Kyoto, Japan
87 - Trullo Stone Houses, Apulia, Italy
88 - Gur-i Emir, Samarkand, Uzbekistan
89 - Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, Beijing, China
90 - Hospital of the Innocents, Florence, Italy

National totals so far are:
Italy 18, France 7, Egypt 5, England 5, China 5, India 4, Spain 4, Ireland 3, South Korea 3, Syria 2, Croatia 2, Iraq 2, Japan 2, Uzbekistan 2, then 1 each for Afghanistan, Armenia, Cambodia, Denmark, Ethiopia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Indonesia, Iran, Isreal, Libya, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, USA, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

I was pleased indeed to see that the author of 1,001 Buildings To See Before You Die has included the Golden Temple Pavilion in Kyoto. Simply typing out its name has brought back some very special, and particularly vivid, memories for me.

The only long-haul journey I’ve ever made - the only time in my life, in fact, that I have ventured outside Europe - was in 1998,when I spent a momentous and unforgettable two weeks in Kyoto.

As you can probably imagine very well, it was an experience entirely outside anything I had known before. Even at the time, long-haul holiday destinations were not uncommon, except for me. ‘Ordinary’ people were already used to spending time in exotic places like Bali, India, Thailand and many others. But, until my adventure in Japan, the most exotic and far-flung place I had visited was Istanbul - which was, I thought, about as exotic as I was ever going to get.

Japan, though, was in a different league altogether. I had to lay to one side almost all of my preconceptions and prejudices - and especially my ‘cultural inheritance’ - and take on board a whole new raft of behavioural standards and social attitudes. It was all extremely ‘invigorating for the soul’, not to mention the taste-buds, and I’ve just spent a blissfully happy hour reading the travel journal I wrote about it at the time.

(You’ll have gathered that I like writing travel journals! Committing my memories and thoughts to paper is, for me, as important as taking photographs.)

I was surprised to discover, within a very short time of my arrival, that the concept which the Japanese seem to have perfected - and which ‘the West’ seems not to have even a basic grasp of - is ‘harmony’. In that stiflingly crowded country, you are never, ever very far from an oasis of meticulously planned calm and tranquillity - engendered and enhanced by what the Japanese consider to be ‘harmonious’.
And the most perfect example of this concept that I came across was the Golden Temple Pavilion.

I can do no better than quote the words I wrote in my travel journal at the time. I make no excuse or apology for the melodramatic nature of the language. What I wrote is exactly what I felt at the time…

‘Everyone loves, and can be deeply moved by, their first sight of a sensationally beautiful work of art. In my limited experience, I have felt awestruck on a number of very special occasions. Wells Cathedral, especially inside. Hunt’s The Scapegoat. Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. Carreg Cennen Castle in South Wales. The Lady of Shalott. Durham Cathedral, of course.

To this charmed list - and up very near the top - I must now add Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Temple of Kyoto.

We walked along a short, curving path through the trees - and there it was. Three storeys high; only about 50 feet. About the same in width and depth, too. And with a ‘typical’ temple roof.

The top two storeys - and this is what first threatens to stop your heart beating - are covered with gold leaf. It shimmers. It seems to illuminate the day. It seems to make onlookers bronzed in their stupefaction. It is seriously unbelievable.

It stands on a platform which juts out into a small lake. The lake in turn is part of an incredibly well-manicured and elaborately-landscaped temple garden. The trees, the well-placed boulders and small, ornamental stone pagodas, the temple and its reflection in the still waters of the lake - none of it could conceivably be improved upon.

It impressed not with its grandeur or overwhelming splendour - part of the shock to the system made by a first view of Durham Cathedral - but by its deceptive simplicity and by the care and love with which it was born and nurtured daily by both man and nature.

It made me feel that I may never have confronted perfection before and may never do so again. It really did. I was enthralled. I was rooted to the spot. I couldn’t think of a single thing to say to Brian or Fukumoto-sensei. There were dozens of other visitors looking at it and they were as silent in stupefaction as I was.

As you may have gathered, I still find it inordinately difficult to describe how I was feeling then. I remember, though, feeling utterly helpless.

And I remember finding myself crying, probably with the awful thought that I would - sooner or later - have to turn away from it.

After a few moments, I realised that the Swedish lady standing near me was crying as unselfconsciously as I was. We looked at each other, smiled and hugged. What else can you do? We neither of us said a word.

I’m crying now.

Very, very slowly - after what seemed like several hours - I recovered and noticed that Brian, Fukumoto-sensei and her daughter Hiromi-san (who’d come with us for the day) had gone. Fukumoto-sensei had apparently suggested that they walk on and leave Ian-sensei in the peace and harmony of his thoughts.

I followed them along the lakeside path and then away into the trees. They were all talking, but I wasn’t really listening. In fact, I wasn’t listening at all…’

Kev has sent me these priceless gems which someone has gleaned from the newspapers…

Commenting on a complaint from a Mr Arthur Purdey about a large gas bill, a spokesman for North West Gas said, 'We agree it was rather high for the time of year. It's possible Mr Purdey has been charged for the gas used up during the explosion that destroyed his house.' 
(The Daily Telegraph)

Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van because they cannot issue a description. It's a Special Branch vehicle and they don't want the public to know what it looks like. 
(The Guardian) 

A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coast guard spokesman commented, 'This sort of thing is all too common'. 

At the height of the gale, the harbourmaster radioed a coastguard and asked him to estimate the wind speed. The coastguard replied that he was sorry, but he didn't have a gauge. However, if it was any help, the wind had just blown his Land Rover off the cliff. 
( Aberdeen Evening Express) 

Mrs. Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue , Boscombe, delighted the audience with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she recalled. 'He'd always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the crocuses came up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they spelt out 'Heil Hitler.’'' 
( Bournemouth Evening Echo) 

Post comments on this blog or email me: truckshunters@googlemail.com

1 comment:

Ellie said...

"Oh, I need to read Ian before bed" I said to myself - so glad I did. One thing I am sure of - I don't ever need to visit faraway places. Just read Ian and its as if I am there.
Then I get to smile at the postscripts!
Thank you kind sir x