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Aerial images of landscapes and scenes around Britain. The photographs feature in a Royal Geographical Society outdoor exhibition, which will be in Bath city centre from 28 September until early 2011.

Shetland Salmon Farm

Buckinghamshire Linseed Crop

Perranporth Beach, Cornwall

(Source: Grauniad)

The second day of my holiday here, I borrowed the anthology Scottish Poems (ed. John Rice) from the Shetland Library in Lerwick.

A Cormorant in Oils by Gordon Meade

Imagine a month
Without washing. Lank hair
Matted on your brow. Skin, grey
And pocked, an ox’s jowl.

Imagine eating
When every mouthful tastes
Of gall, and swallowing clogs up
Your throat with oil.

Imagine a bird,
Once a pirate in blacks,
Now, a beggar in a clotted sack.
And don’t imagine, see it,

Approach it,
Get within six feet of it.
Then, see it try to open plastered
Wings and fly. See it fail,

Hobble into
The sea and dive. Watch it
Surface over twenty feet away, and
Know, its only future is to die.

Meal Beach, Burra Isle

A late night discussing this with Professor Bain, who is inclined to try and disprove the existence of God after a few drinks. As far as I remember, this is the kind of ground we covered:

As Richard Dawkins has said:

“We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in – Zeus, Thor, Baal, Apollo, Ceres, etc., etc. Some of us just go one god further …”

I think that’s a nice way of putting it. Understanding that God does not exist is simply a matter of maturity. We all believe and want to believe in god(s) and other made up fairytale creatures when we are young. That’s just the way it is, the way we are constructed mentally. Then when (if) we get older and mature, we start seeing it’s not that simple.

The reality we find ourselves in is infinitely more complex. God is nothing but a human subconscious invention that makes it easier for us to grasp the complexity of the world we are dropped into. Such mythical creatures and stories do have immense value as they help us focus emotionally and psychologically, but they are nothing but simplifications, and if they are mistaken for realities, things can get very nasty, and they invariably do.

It is also obvious that gods don’t exist in the way a lot of people picture them because they are so much like us. At an earlier stage in human cultural evolution, that seemed to make sense, but we now know that our world is so much bigger than we are.

So cultural evolution and personal maturing are actually very related phenomena. We all go through the same stages in our personal evolution as our species in general did over the ages, only much faster, in about 20 years or so. A lot of people get stuck along the way and stay simple, immature minds, and they still need that kind of childish spirituality, usually for the rest of their lives.

It is very easy to prove that all the gods that people have enshrined culturally are nothing but human inventions and definitions.

Beyond that, it is impossible to absolutely disprove the existence of God but also absolutely irrelevant. Beyond that, we aren’t talking about the subject any more because it is impossible to define what that word or concept is supposed to mean. You can think of it as a placeholder for the power of nature, for the spirit of the cosmos, whatever, those are all just human definitions and cannot approach what they try to express.

That stage of consciousness is actually already there in most more complex religions, when they tell us that we are not supposed to picture God in any way. But people still do, if not in actual pictures, then in their definitions what God is and wants and all that. In doing that, they act completely against the expressive commands of their religion. But they still do, because they simply can’t grasp what is meant by it, and there are still a lot of people who are stuck at that stage.

Scalloway Castle

On the wettest and mistiest day of my trip so far, I travelled to Sumburgh Head, at the southernmost tip of mainland Shetland, there to hang over a wall at the top of a cliff and get this pic of some puffins who are looking pretty pissed off.

Professor W.C. “Shithouse” Bain

This pic was taken around 6 p.m. The Professor was in a fairly advanced state of refreshment.

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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