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Doodlecat's Homepage

Picture of Doodle - a 
black cat

Welcome to Doodlecat, where we enjoy the pleasures of life (with a slight bias towards the outdoors). This page is regularly updated with news and views plus information about any additions or changes to the various parts of the site. It acts as Doodlecat’s Blog too, so the odd rant considered opinion may pop up from time to time.

I would love to be able to say that Doodlecat is all my own work, but it isn’t. Much of the outdoors content is courtesy of the splendid people who participate in the annual TGO Challenge (there is a section entirely devoted to this unique event) and many others.

To help in tracking down that elusive morsel on Doodlecat, the search facility under the title bar above is tailored to help you find it, either on this home page (Doodlecat's Blog) all the rest of the site (Main Site) or – if all else fails - the internet!

So have a rummage around the old cat basket and enjoy your time with us!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blogrolling returns

It's been a while since blogrolling.com got badly hit by some hackers but the guys there have recoded from scratch and expect to have the service back on March 2nd. (touch wood, fingers crossed etc.).

That means that the blogroll up there in the top right hand corner will finally start to roll again. I'll have a load of sites on there, but only the top ten most recently updated will be displayed, so each time you visit, it will be fresh. I know many of us use Google Reader, but I think this service is quite neat (and it keeps my page nice and tidy!).

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Crackberry

Picture of Blackberry deviceInteresting little piece in the paper today. The Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres, said that those made redundant in the city may find that they come to welcome the release from being slaves to their Blackberry, feeling compelled to be available and answer emails at all times of day & night. “One of the great implications of this turbulence is to reboot our sense of what a truly flourishing human life consists of. The ‘Crackberry’ culture is dangerously addictive, and switching off from it is notoriously difficult”.

Blackberry devices have been dubbed ‘Crackberries’ because users find themselves addicted to answering calls and checking messages, even late at night or at weekends, no matter where they are or the occasion. I don’t have a Blackberry, although I have been thinking that my computer and I are spending too much time together. The stuff that I see and read is getting weirder!

Don’t get me wrong. I think that the internet is one of the greatest things to come out of the twentieth century, but technological change brings social change, and the medium through which we see the world is a strangely distorting mirror. The more so if you’re a Crackhead…or even a Blackhead… :-)

Does anyone remember reading Marshall McLuhan back in the sixties? I was a great fan as I finished my schooling, and I was fascinated by the concepts behind the well known slogans of “The Global Village” and “The medium is the message”. The latter was modified in a slim Penguin paperback, crammed with images and words, to “The Medium is the Massage” (allegedly a misprint which McLuhan decided to keep as a perfect encapsulation of his view of the effect of the medium - print, radio, TV etc - on us, and our society).

Picture of book cover 'The Medium is the Massage'The concept of a “Global Village” created by new technology shrinking the world by the speed of communication became seen as a bit of a hippy dippy idea, and gradually fell out of favour. After all, most people in the world did not have access to this technology, and it was argued that the new technology was more divisive than uniting, with power in the hands of the technically literate. Globalisation was for big corporations, not the ordinary joe, and corporate and state owned television and radio seemed to justify that view. Poor old McLuhan got shoved into the sidings.

The coming of the internet, along with Blackberries, raspberries and whatever, has changed all that, and suddenly McLuhan has become fashionable again. As the cost of internet access falls, and accessibility spreads, are we truly entering the idealised world of the ‘Global Village’? McLuhan asserts that speed and immediacy of modern communication will compel us to become more involved with one another, and be more aware of our global responsibilities. Has this happened?

Sadly, I think the answer is still a resounding “No”. I would argue that the world is in fact increasingly divided, and that the divisions are likely to become deeper.

There are two reasons for my pessimism.

Firstly, most of the world is not connected to the internet. Most people cannot read and write, and their priorities are rather more pressing than looking for the nearest wi-fi point. But what of the ever growing numbers who ARE online. Surely they are becoming part of one giant, enlightened global community? Well, no they’re not. Far from creating a virtual global village, the world is filled with thousands of tiny virtual mediaeval villages, each with its own inbred insularity, superstition, fear and occasional witch hunt.

The fact is, as I was taught many years ago, “people like people like themselves”. In the past we had to rub along with our neighbours, whoever they might happen to be. Now we can go online and find people more to our liking – people like ourselves.

As each group thus formed bonds, it becomes inward looking, each member reinforcing the beliefs of the others, and any dissenter is turned on as a heretic. In looking inward, all the information and debate worldwide is ignored, except for those snippets that reinforce the beliefs of this one little village. I am sure we have all seen examples of the “wicker man” mentality manifest itself when an outsider questions the orthodoxy of the group in otherwise moderate and rational forums and websites.

The boon of mass communication does not necessarily bring enlightenment, and often the reverse. The greater the availability of information that questions or threatens our beliefs, the more likely we are to seek out those who do not question us, and exclude and attack any threat. Thus social breakdown, not unity, is the result.

1960's family watching tvSecondly, “The medium is the message”. Now we get to the nub. Forget the content (in McLuhan’s view that is secondary). It is the medium itself that affects us, both personally and socially. For example, the TV delivers gruesome pictures from Gaza directly to our homes. Sure, we are affected by these images, but it is the medium (TV) that we react to not the content – its immediacy and the fact that it primarily engages the visual sense. Image after image pour into our homes, the content being rendered ever more banal by the medium of its delivery. The same story in print demands a different, more analytical, reaction. The story delivered by an eye witness talking to us face to face is different again, and more affecting. And that is the point. The story, the content, is exactly the same. It is the medium, rather than the content, that affects us and dictates our reactions.

And so it is with the internet. And especially the crackberry. Immediacy and obsession have made robotic clones of otherwise free thinking individuals. The compulsion to respond – instantly – is producing a society devoid of reflection, self awareness and empathy.

There's more. Let’s take Facebook, Twitter etc.. social networking or an exercise in social isolation? Being able to follow Stephen Fry on Twitter and know that the dear old queen is stuck in a lift somewhere may be entertaining – but you’ve never met the chap and probably never will. He doesn’t even know that you exist. The social ‘networking’ value seems real, but it isn’t. Even closer to home its more like stalking in my view, with the stalkee unhealthily complicit with the stalker (a bit like the murderee in Martin Amis’ ‘London Fields’).

So for all the huge social benefits (we are organizing our annual pre TGO Challenge daunder via email for example) and the tremendous richness of knowledge, commerce and, yes, friendship at our fingertips, there is a darker side. Human intimacy stripped of all richness of expression, tone and touch.

Of course, that doesn’t include any of us! We’re just playing silly bloggers.

No, stop it. Britney Spears isn't really following you on Twitter ..... please believe me....

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Glens of Antrim

View towards SlievenaneeView towards Slievenanee & Trostan

The Antrim Glens have sometimes been described, by the unkind of course, as the Monadh Liath with sea views. This, slightly unfair description, was enough to scare some well known roughty toughty challenge legends from venturing into county Antrim for one of their "pre Challenge Danders".

Whilst its true that there is miles of 'mamba' country (perfect challenge territory?), which is mostly wet & soft under foot & difficult to navigate through, the plus points out number the bad. On a clear frosty winters day there are extensive views of the west coast of Scotland from the mountains on Arran to Ben More on Mull. Inland the views stretch out to the Sperrin mountains with the Donegal hills behind them and to Lough Neagh, the largest fresh water lake in the British Isles. Oh, and at Fairhead is the greatest expanse of climbable rock in the U.K, that is of course, if your thing is to go for a dangle.

The photos are all from the the west to east traverse of the Antrim Hills. Starting in Martinstown, minor roads then lane ways and hill tracks lead up onto Cairncormick, with heather slopes leading to the summit trig point at a 3 way fence junction.

First hill of the walk CarncormickFirst hill of the walk Carncormick

The views from Carncormick towards the Sperrin mountains, Lough Neagh and Slemish to the south east are as good as they are extensive, as long as you have a clear day that is.

The route continues by following the fence north east towards the Red Sea, an area you may wish to avoid (the clue is in its name!) by climbing over the fence and crossing an area of deep heather & a stream to make a straight ascent of Mid Hill. Watch out for a hidden stream concealed in a deep fissure on the final slopes Again you have the type of big views only high moorland gives. Plus an add bonus, if your lucky, is the Isle of Arran sticking up behind the Mull of Kintyre and framed by Glenariff.

Following the fence towards Mid Hill
Slemish is still in view to the south east from Mid Hill & for all those into climbing their relative hills both Slemish and Mid Hill make the Irish list
Slemish from Mid HillSlemish from Mid Hill

From Mid Hill follow the forest edge & fence towards Collin Top, with the ground improving as you gain height to the small and dry summit of Collin Top

Climbing up to Collin TopClimbing up to Collin Top with Slemish in the background
The small summit of Collin Top is a fine view point on the edge of the Garron Plateau, which is a designated SAC (Special Area of Conservation), The Plateau is the only site in Northern Ireland which contains populations of Marsh Saxifrage and the bog Orchid Hammarbya paludosa. Try this link for more info on this SAC site :-

For those who left their car in Martinstown, a descent first by the fence and then via Loughgarve to the Dungonnell track, past Dungonnell Reservoir to Ballsallagh Bridge and follow the minor roads back to Martinstown. For those who like to complete the traverse , a descent into Glernariff Forest Park to the Waterfall Restaurant for a couple of pints of Guinness, before climbing back up onto the Lurigethan escarpment. For a fine & dry walk along the cliffs, before descending to Cushendall for the finish.

Collin Top

Collin Top with Glenariff behind


Friday, February 6, 2009


We should be in Scotland.

Alan Sloman is in Scotland. His missus is in Scotland. All the invitees to Derek Emsley's 80th birthday bash are in Scotland....but we are not.

I reckon it's the crayfish that did it.

To explain. Prior to packing for the long weekend I luncheoned on the finest pub fare (hot baguette filled with sausage and onions) and a pint or two of IPA, whereas Miss W opted for a 'healthy' alternative - fresh crayfish salad and bottled water type stuff. You can guess the rest. I am in fine fettle; Miss W has endured a couple of days of gastric discomfort, fever and splitting headaches. A short foray this morning proved beyond doubt that spending ten hours in the car was ill advised, and so our bags are back in the spare room and we remain in deepest Suffolk, whilst our friends frolic in the highlands.

Ho hum... and Miss W with some new gear too!

But it hasn't been all bad. Earlier in the week we had a bracing walk along the River Deben taking in Woodbridge, Melton, Bromeswell and Sutton Hoo. Although mainly dedicated to pleasure craft these days, the river's industrial heritage is evident at every turn. And there are some interesting craft still afloat, such as this magnificent RAF rescue launch.

A welcome sight for WW2 aircrew ditched in the North Sea
Most of the old sailing barges are slowly sinking into the estuary silt, although some are serving as houseboats, and a few moored near the old tide mill are preserved in their full glory. Somehow I rather like the wrecks more, some recognisable still, some reduced to outlines in the mud.

Old trading barges in the Deben estuary

Going, going...gone.

This used to be a busy and productive area. The dead trees in the background of these pictures were once growing in fields and pastures. Now the old sea defences have been allowed to crumble and the marshes are re established, possibly much as they were when the ships were dragged from here uphill, to Sutton Hoo ... our next destination.

A specialist sawmill

En route through the village of Bromeswell we came across a little hive of industry. It was a sawmill dedicated to cricket bat willows with the blocks stacked to season under open sided sheds - and outside was this charming sign.

But on to Sutton Hoo. A site of great historical significance, but, truth be told, the tumuli, all neatly grazed by sheep, look just like part of a golf course to my untutored eye. I'm sure the nearby 'visitor centre' has a very worthwhile display, but, philistines that we are, Woodbridge and its tea shops held rather more appeal as both the sun and temperature steadily dropped.

These river estuaries are fine places to wander about, with many oddities and diversions to make a walk interesting. On a cold day the little (and not so little) houseboats with their coal stoves look really cosy, and it is easy to imagine tea and crumpets by the fire ... or sunbathing on deck in the summer, watching the world go by.

Hmmmm.... I wonder how much one of those might be....?