Posted in Opinion

Uncommon Common Science in Annapolis County

Inspired by Uncommon Common Art in Kings County, I thought it might be useful to propose a list of locations for Uncommon Common Science in Annapolis County. The two would be complementary. Uncommon Common Art has about seventeen stops, plus a few “eye candy” locations. There are related events that extend from June to the end of October.

unCommonCommonScienceACHere is a suggested list of Uncommon Common Science stops in Annapolis County.

  1. Geomatics (Centre of Geographic Sciences: Lawrencetown)
  2. Geomatics (Applied Geomatics Research Group: Middleton)
  3. Dark Sky Preserve (Kejimkujik National Park: Maitland Bridge)
  4. Blandings Turtle (Kejimkujik National Park: Maitland Bridge)
  5. Coastal Plain Species (Kejimkujik National Park: Maitland Bridge)
  6. Coastal Geology (Bay of Fundy )
  7. Space Agency (Annapolis Royal)
  8. Mi’kmaq Science (Bear River)
  9. Historical and Graveyard Science (Annapolis Royal)
  10. Bay of Fundy Tides
  11. Bloody Creek meteor crater
  12. CARP, Clean Annapolis River Project (Annapolis Royal)

Can you offer an uncommon common science stop in Annapolis County or Annapolis Valley — some local science worth exploring?

Posted in New thinking

Smart Rural ?

There is considerable discussion about ‘smart cities’, but what is the impact of these technologies on a rural lifestyle?

Could one apply this smart city social map to rural areas?

What needs should be addressed? One need is transportation, another is health care. At what point does technology-access, designed for an urban lifestyle, detract or destroy rural values? In Annapolis Royal, at the Library, we see the reality of an Innovation Lab, as part of a Community Hub. It gives everyone access to a range of modern communication technologies.

2bucklerBooksThis week, courtesy of the Internet, I received George Monbiot article on ‘dark money”. In return, this had me thinking about the money behind the Gordonstoun project. Is the Annapolis Valley ready for this type of colonization?

After our meeting at Burnbrae Farm (Morse Estate), I challenged myself to re-read Buckler’s The Cruelest Month. I think it answered my question. The setting is not likely the Morse Estate in Paradise, but rather Milford House on Highway #8 towards Kejimkujik National Park. What I had forgotten, was the quality of Buckler’s language and style. Now, I am charged to pull Ox Bells and Fireflies off the bookshelf.

banner_flyingApronThe other recent challenge was the French cooking at the Flying  Apron (not really a challenge).

For the record, the menu included Salmon Rillette, Gougers, Coq Au Vin, and Creme Brûlée. All prepared by Chef Chris Velden. Each couple received a handout with the list of ingredients (and measures) and the method for preparation of each dish. Excellent!

Returning home, courtesy of the Internet,  I received a review of Julia Blackburn Time Song: searching for Doggerland. This has prompted a new interlibrary loan request.

bookCover_ruralTraditionIn attempting to understand ‘rural’. I pulled off the bookshelf, The Rural Tradition, written by W J Keith, Professor of English at the University of Toronto.

It is a study of non-fiction prose writers of the English countryside and includes chapters on such notables as Isaac Walton, Gilbert White and William Cobbett.

Keith, in his conclusion, asks the following question:

“Is country writing a thing of the past? In an age that can envisage hermetically sealed monster cities artificially protected from natural phenomena and a polluted atmosphere, that can seriously entertain the possibility that three quarters of the world’s animal species may be extinct by the end of the century, is it feasible to expect the survival of a literature centred upon the countryside and the rural way of life ?” p.258

Keith was writing in 1974.


Thanks to Rosemary Barron for the link to George Monbiot. To Frank Fox for the link to the review of Julia Blackburn’s book, and also for giving me a copy of Keith’s The Rural Tradition. To Heather Stewart for sharing the cooking experience at the Flying Apron. Edward for his graphics skills.


Ernest Buckler. 1963. The Cruelest Month. McClelland and Stewart

Ernest Buckler. 1968.Ox Bells and Fireflies. McClelland and Stewart.

W.J. Keith. 1974. The Rural Tradition. University of Toronto Press.

The Flying Apron website

Burnbrae Farm and Paradise Inn see link



Posted in Opinion

Rediscovering Rural

On Friday, battling icy roads, we held a meeting of the Ernest Buckler Literary Event Society (EBLES) at Burnbrae Farm in Paradise. Simone and Erik provided us with hot coffee and biscuits.map_Hunter_1000w

The meeting was to learn about their plans for the Morse Estate and Camp Hillis and to see the potential for future literary events. We were operating in a two-fold context. Ernest Buckler had written The Cruelest Month. Image result for Ernest Buckler had written The Cruelest MonthIt describes a group of writers who go to Endlaw (an anagram for Walden), a country estate twenty miles from Granfort (aka Annapolis Royal). Buckler in his teenage years had spent time working at a similar resort in New England. Was the Morse Estate, part of Bucklers’  mental model?

The second context was that the Morse family published several books in the 1920s describing the local geography of this part of the Annapolis Valley. We also knew something about the history of Camp Hillis, a government-run facility for children with various challenges.  When the property came up for sale next door, Simone and Erik decided to purchase.  They are starting renovations this Summer.

After a couple of hours of discussion and a tour, we settled on a plan of action. First, we need to research more fully Buckler’s book as well as the Morse books. Sandra Barry who has been a long time member of the Elizabeth Bishop Society, described the ‘power of reading Bishop’s work, in situ, in the houses and rooms in Great Village’. We can envisage something similar at the Morse Estate. The new owners have already been in contact with the Morse family and have a number of historic photographs and letters.

The potential of Camp Hillis remains uncharted. Many children spent time at the camp. They would have stories. They would be familiar with the grounds, the house, dormitories etc. It could offer a similar outdoor experience today.

From the EBLES perspective, these buildings and their stories offer a unique writers retreat. Different, but not dissimilar, to what the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia has achieved at Great Village.

To my mind, these places exemplify ‘experiential rural tourism’, where the visitor can be immersed in both, the local landscape and also the stories related to that landscape and its history.


To the EBLES Board: Jane Borecky, Anne Crossman supplemented by Sandra Barry, Bill Crossman and Heather Stewart. Your insights and ideas are always a joy. To Simone and Erik, we appreciate your enthusiasm and investment in this part of rural Nova Scotia. Edward for his graphics contribution.



Burnbrae Farm and Paradise Inn. see website

Ernest Buckler. 1963. The Cruelest Month.  McClelland and Stewart.

For books by  William Morse see my earlier blog (November 28, 2018).

PS. This weekend, Heather and I head to the Flying Apron. It is an annual pilgrimage in celebration of my birthday (see last year blog). Another fine example of experiential rural tourism.

Posted in New thinking

The Curious Mind

bookcover_mannersFrom my previous blog, you will know that David Manners wrote Convenient Season, published by EP Dutton in 1941.

As described on the web site (,

Convenient Season recalls his youth in the community of Centrelea where David’s aunt and uncle, the Chadwicks, had a beautiful Summer home. Convenient Season echoes David’s love of nature and depicts the home and community through the eyes of a young man who has returned to Nova Scotia from the United States hoping for fulfilment.”

I was interested in the origin of the title. So I went online, and typed it in:

Acts 24:25

“And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgement to come, Felix trembled and answered ‘Go your way for this time, when I have a convenient season, I will call thee’ “


“This hour is your convenient season for that which is best worth your attention and doing”

Having read the book, I started online with Wikipedia ‘David Manners’

Banner image from website

“He was born Rauff de Ryther Duan Acklom (April 30,1900 – December 23,1998).

Born in Halifax, moved to New York where his father was a literary advisor at EP Dutton.

Manners studied Forestry at the University of Toronto, where he got into acting and drama. In the late 1930’s he was best remembered for his role in Dracula with Boris Karloff (movie to be shown, by the way, on February 23rd  7 pm at Centrelea Movie night).

In 1940 he officially changed his name to David Joseph Manners (his mother’s maiden name). He later purchased a ranch in the desert at Victorville, California, where he lived with his partner, Bill Mercer.

bookCover_underRunningLaughterHe wrote a second novel, Under Running Laughter in 1943. In his later life, he published several non-fiction works, The Soundless Voice, The Wonder within you, and Look through: an evidence of self-discovery.

This week, I contacted Jaki at the Lawrencetown library and have requested these books through inter-library loan.

The curiosity for myself is to imagine Manners (and Towne see below)  describing the local landscape and lifestyle eighty, or a hundred years ago. How would we try to describe our landscape and lifestyle today? Fortunately, we are surrounded by talented, creative artists and writers. And we have access to the wonderful resources in our libraries, and online.


As part of the Winter 2019 Speaker Series at the new Annapolis Royal Library on February 10th 2-3:30 pm. It began in a Library talk by Joan Francuz author of Press Enter to Continue. Scribes from Babylon to Silicon.  A History of Technical Writing.


To Anne Crossman who first send me down this path. Edward Wedler for his continued technical support.


Check out the web site for more detail on his movies, books and a full life.

David J. Manners 1941 Convenient Season. EP Dutton

David J. Manners. 1943. Under Running Laughter. EP Dutton.

Charles Hanson Towne. 1923. Ambling through Acadia. Crowell Publishing Company


Posted in Opinion

Where are they now?

worldglobe_cogsThe photograph from David Hildebrand of the GIS class of 1986 set me off on a research path. According to my records, the graduates were, as follows:

Student Name                     First Job on Graduation (Company, Location)
xxxxxxxx                              xxxxxxxxx

I have removed their names and first jobs for reasons of privacy.


Faculty who were teaching in the GIS program.
Pat Castel
Bob Maher
David Colville

This was not the first time we prepared graduates for the GIS industry. Indeed, as part of the Scientific Computer Programming program, since 1980, we had been using GIS software as the application environment.

Just imagine, we graduated twelve+ students per year, for thirty-two years. That amounts to 384 employees for that industry. It begs David Hildebrand’s question: where are they now? Some likely remained in the industry, others likely changed careers several times. Many may no longer need to work, or are no longer with us.

In the world of social media (Facebook and LinkedIn) it should be possible to create a network of these graduates. Indeed GIS is only one technology, one program within the Geomatics cluster. In the 1980s COGS boasted three departments: Survey Engineering, Cartography and Planning, and Computer Programming.

Could a Freedom of Information (FOI) request be made to the NSCC to populate a database of these alumni? Or if the NSCC maintained the database, individuals could self identify with the College, and perhaps add their own biography and story.

In recent years, we have seen the creation of the business, GoGeomatics, by COGS graduate Jonathan Murphy. GoGeomatics hosts socials at many of the urban centres across the country. This allows interaction between Geomatics professionals within different regions. Recently, GoGeomatics has announced a new national conference, GeoIgnite in Ottawa on June 18-19th 2019.

geoignite_2These socials and the national conference are but one mechanism for sharing ideas, experiences and business opportunities. If NSCC supported a COGS alumni database, we can envisage the engagement of this resource, shared stories and examples of the application of Geomatics technology to many of the concerns of both rural and urban Canadians. Indeed the reach is global. Many of our graduates moved to the United States and elsewhere; others found jobs working on global environmental issues.

Blog Update:

This week, I have been reading David Manners book Convenient Season. It is set in the pre-Second World War era. It describes life in the Annapolis Valley from the viewpoint of a young American man, who rediscovers his country roots. There are detailed descriptions of the weather, small town living in Bridgetown, Centrelea, Round Hill.

This takes me back. When Heather and I arrived here in Summer 1980 with two young boys, we rented the old Ernest Buckler house from Bill O’Neill up in West Dalhousie. That Winter, I commuted down the mountain to teach at the NSLSI in Lawrencetown. What has changed from David Manners description of Valley life? Well, there has been a change in the climate. But the trees, the birds are very much the same. There are still many families trying to live close to the land and sea. Convenient Season? Why that title? Think about what has, and has not, changed. Every year, a new group of students arrive at COGS. They find themselves immersed in a rural lifestyle, combined with modern learning technology. Life. School. House. (


Thanks to Edward for his advice on Internet privacy, and also the graphics


David J. Manners. 1941. Convenient Season. EP Dutton, New York.



Posted in Event Review

A Blast from the Past

This was a tumultuous week. First, I persuaded COGS to allow me to attend their two-day conference on Sensors in return for writing a review on the GoGeomatics web site (see link under GoGeomatics). My thoughts on the COGS conference are available on the online GoGeomatics blog. Second, I attended a one-day MashUp in Annapolis Royal looking at the potential for new businesses in the region. Between these two events, I received the photograph below from David Hildebrand of the first GIS class at NSLSI (now COGS) (1985-86).scan-130919-0016_600w90dpi

As a backdrop, I finished reading George Orwell Illustrated, before moving on to David Manners Convenient Season and Kate Raworth Doughnut Economics. At the end of the week, I picked up David Adams Richards novel Principles to Live By at the new Annapolis Royal library.

Here, I will focus on the MashUp event and its relationship to reading. In 2014, Heather, Edward and I walked the Road to Georgetown. At that conference on rural economic development in Atlantic Canada, we met Andrew Button, who lives on the South Shore. Today Andrew organizes and hosts MashUp events. The one, yesterday, in Annapolis Royal was his fourteenth. The concept is to bring together members of the community with ideas for new businesses in the region and to help them articulate their business plan, through coaching, criticism and feedback. At 8 am there were twenty-five citizens at the Annapolis Royal library.

My interest was not necessarily to create a business, but rather to understand how to create a climate where businesses can thrive. Here, I am not going to delve into the details or describe the results. Indeed, once we get into the business economics, my eyes glaze over, and I have little to offer.

This was the process. Everyone selects two words that resonate with their interests. From each table, one person takes three words from the word pool that will be used to drive their thinking. This translates into a collection of potential business ideas. We then go through the usual dot voting process that leads to one business idea per table (seven tables).

Here was my path. My two words were ‘gardening’ and ‘place’. Gardening because I believe that our relationship towards the landscape should be more akin to gardening. Place because, as a Geographer, I think that ‘place’ drives many decisions and ideas.

My issue (or concern) was ‘how can we better connect the creativity which exists in the community with our post-secondary education environment ?’ Not exactly a revenue-generating idea in the short term.

Subsequently, I joined a group of individuals who were interested in the role of writers in rural Nova Scotia (no surprise there). It included Brenda Thompson who had recently published ‘Wholesome Horror: Poor Houses of Nova Scotia’ (see her web site

By 2 pm, I was drained. It was hard for me to focus on the economics of a regional publishing house for rural stories. I will have to check with Andrew to find out the result of the different business plans.

bookcover_georgeorwellillustratedBack home, in my own comfort zone,  I can heartily recommend George Orwell Illustrated. It is very accessible, with cartoons by Mike Mosher. It has two parts: Orwell for Beginners and Planet Orwell. In the second part, there is a human rights manifesto, co-authored by Orwell,  with Bertrand Russell and Arthur Koestler. This returned me to my sixties reading on ‘Beyond Reductionism’, including contributions from Koestler, van Bertalanffy and CH Waddington. Other familiar Koestler titles were The Act of Creation and The Ghost in the Machine.

bookcover_mannersDavid Manners book:

He writes about Centrelea and Bridgetown. Published in 1941. Manners was a Hollywood actor who had an Aunt living in the Annapolis Valley. This was his first novel.  (BTW, I am only on page 68).

Kate Raworth book

Celes Davar sent me a link to her YouTube video. I subsequently received the book through interlibrary loan. I found the video much more accessible than the book.

bookcover_principleslivebyDavid Adams Richards book

Through Sandra Barry, I heard that DAR thought highly of the writing of Ernest Buckler. Since I was at the Annapolis Royal library for the MashUp event, perhaps I could find one of his novels.


Manners describes life in the Annapolis Valley, before the Second World War. Hildebrand is illustrating life at NSLSI in the 1980s. Today, we are holding MashUps which may impact life in the 2020s. Three very different snapshots of rural life. And yet, they could be covered in a single lifetime today (80-100 years).

We can envisage the economics of Kate Raworth and we can reflect on the economics underpinning Brenda Thompson’s book (and the poor houses). This can be placed in the context of the newly discovered human rights manifesto co-authored by Orwell.


Anne Crossman tells me that the movie, Dracula 1931, starring Bela Lugosi and David Manners, is showing at the Centrelea Community Centre on February 23rd at 7 pm.


Thanks to David Hildebrand for the photograph. To Tim Webster and Michael Purcell for the conference opportunity. To Andrew Button for the MashUp event. Technical help from Edward Wedler, Ted McKinnon and Jon Murphy. Anne Crossman, Sandra Barry and Celes Davar for local intelligence.


David Smith. 2018. George Orwell Illustrated. Haymarket Books.

David J. Manners. 1941. Convenient Season. EP Dutton.

Kate Raworth. 2017. Doughnut Economics. Chelsea Green Publishing.

David Adams Richards. 2016. Principles to Live By. Doubleday Canada.

Brenda Thompson. 2018. A Wholesome Horror: Poor Houses of Nova Scotia.  SSP Publications.




Posted in Event Review


This week, we held a Board meeting of the Ernest Buckler Literary Event Society (EBLES). We invited Sandra Barry to attend because of her experience with the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia. There were two main agenda items:
a) how to support local writers
b) keynote speaker for the Summer event

3bookcoversEvidence suggests that there has been a long tradition of self-publication in the Annapolis Valley. Anne Crossman arrived with a canvas bag full of books by local authors. Two notable historic treasures were Andrew Merkel’s narrative poems, The Order of Good Cheer and Tallahassee. Both published by Abanaki Press, Lower Granville, Annapolis County 1946. Second, Charles Hanson Towne’s Ambling through Acadia, 1923. It describes a trip from Yarmouth along the Annapolis Valley – Digby, Bear River, Annapolis Royal, Bridgetown, Wolfville to Halifax, with a side trip to Parrsboro.

Describing Bridgetown,

“No town is too small to have its Nickelodeon and the ‘Pathe News’ reaches the most forlorn regions. Soon the radio will penetrate the dullest hamlets, and the whole world will be linked as it never has been. But alas! all this has its drawbacks too; for it sounds the death-knell of privacy; and in a few years there will be no such things as an obscure farmer.” p.130.

This prescient passage was written almost a hundred years ago.

We discussed several options for a keynote speaker. Sandra advised us on the intricacies of the Writers Union of Canada. We will see what happens next.

brexitbritexAs we were discussing the relationship between ‘place’ and ‘writing’, I remember an earlier blog by Dick Groot on Highway #201 and the BRITEX plant in Centrelea. Centrelea was the home base for Ernest Buckler.

BRITEX is the abbreviation for Bridgetown Textiles. With changes in the manufacturing sector and global competition, BRITEX closed down a number of years ago. Whether the building can be repurposed, is another question.

What intrigued me, playing with words, was that BRITEX could be transformed into BREXIT. We live in a time when the trade relationships between Great Britain and the European Union are at risk. Whatever the final outcome it seems that this six-letter abbreviation has outlived its shelf life.

Finally, it should be noted that the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia Annual General Meeting will be Saturday, June 22nd at Great Village. The keynote speaker will be Harry Thurston, writer and naturalist.

This blog was written by an ex-Brit, now a resident in Canada


Thank you to Anne Crossman, Jane Borecky and Sandra Barry for their input at the EBLES board meeting. To Edward Wedler for his graphics contribution


Andrew Merkel. 1946. The Order of Good Cheer. A Narrative Poem. Abanaki Press.Andrew Merkel. Tallahassee. A Ballad of Nova Scotia in the Sixties. Abanaki PressCharles Hanson Towne. 1923. Ambling through Acadia. Crowell Publishing Co.
Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia


Posted in New thinking

My blog is my Memory

This title is a quotation from Wendy Mitchell. She has been diagnosed with Early Onset Dementia. This came to my attention through the CBC Radio program Out in the Open presented by Piya Chattopadhyay. The January 4th edition is called If Memory Serves.cbcradiopodcast

If you check out the podcast, you will also find Wendy’s blog describing her interview with Piya. It is very inspirational.

Indeed my blog is fed by both my day to day experiences, as well as a lifetime studying the geographic sciences.


After listening to the podcast, my first reaction was to go to the bookshelf and pull out Matthew Crawford, The World beyond your head. On becoming an individual in an age of distraction.

Last week, I had a meeting with Ed Symons, instructor in Community Planning at COGS. We discussed the need for asset mapping as a pre-requisite for evidence-based decisions at the municipal and provincial level. The context was a concept we have called PENCIL.

It has two elements: PEN and CIL. PEN refers to Place-based Educational Networks and CIL refers to Collaborative Ideation Laboratory. Together, they stress the need for learning networks that focus on ‘a sense of place’ and the necessity for a laboratory where groups can share ideas, technology and different approaches to problem-solving.

This concept fits well with community planning and the engagement of citizens in the day to day management of our natural and human resources.

Later this week, there will be a meeting of the Ernest Buckler Literary Event Society (EBLES). We will discuss the possibility of a new event in 2019. Stay tuned.


This afternoon, we went for a cross country ski down to the Annapolis River, through the old provincial forest nursery. We ended up at Lunn’s Mill. Every second Sunday, they have an Irish Jam session from 1-4 pm. Afterwards, we skied home. Imagine, in rural Nova Scotia, in January.


I want to acknowledge my conversations with Ed Symons, Edward Wedler and Heather Stewart.


CBC Radio. January 4th, 2019. Out in the Open. Hosted by Piya Chattopadhyay.

Recording an Interview for Canadian Radio. November 8,2018 Wendy’s blog

Matthew Crawford. 2016.The World beyond your Head. On becoming an individual in an age of distraction. Penguin Books.

Matthew Crawford. 2009. Shop Class as Soulcraft. An Inquiry into the Value of Work. Penguin Books.

Posted in Event Review

Preview of Sensors conference

banner_cogsconference_2019On Wednesday and Thursday (January 23 and 24th), COGS in Lawrencetown is hosting a two-day conference, entitled: Sensors High and Low: Measuring the reality of our world. A draft copy of the agenda is available online. My plan is to write a review after the event for GoGeomatics.

Here, at this time, I want to explore the main components of the conference and make a few personal observations. The conference title suggests that it will cover a variety of sensor systems for different environments; terrestrial as well as marine. High and low presumably refers to both spatial and spectral resolution.

Looking at the list of speakers, we can identify three different perspectives: industry, academia and the community. AGRG has had a lengthy involvement with sensor technology. From my time at AGRG, this ranged from LIDAR technology to weather station networks. In parallel, COGS has maintained strong relationships with a number of technology leaders.

From industry, there are speakers from Leica Geosystems, Esri, IBM, Hoskins Scientific, Stantec Consulting, Global Spatial Technology Solutions and Hanatech IoT Inc.

From the academic community, speakers are from the NSCC (AGRG, Applied Oceans Research Group, COGS), St Marys University (Beacon Labs), Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE), Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) and CIDCO.

While there are a number of businesses and colleges with regional interest, there does not appear to be specific presentations by community groups. The one exception is Nathan Crowell’s presentation on the Garrison graveyard in Annapolis Royal, combining UAV and ground penetrating radar. Partners are Boreas Heritage and MapAnnapolis.  This leads me to the following suggestion.

As an instructor at COGS in the 1980s, I recall the yeoman efforts by Phil Milo, Survey Department in reaching out to the high schools in Annapolis County and well beyond. In this same spirit of community outreach,  it would be unorthodox, yet progressive, if COGS/CANMAP could provide a select number of gratis seats for high school students across Annapolis County to allow them to attend the conference. This would encourage future community engagement. Sensor technology is only as useful as our ability to ground truth the results. Ongoing monitoring of change in both the terrestrial and marine environment requires collaboration with the user communities, whether in the context of fisheries, forestry, agriculture or other types of land use. Or whether to address questions of alternative energy, climate change or physical infrastructure.

Note on Terminology

If we think about imaging the earth’s surface we can use satellites, aircraft or drones. As the platform is placed closer to the surface you can expect a higher resolution. If you think in terms of trail cameras for wildlife, the camera can be triggered by movement or sound. Another approach is to put in place a network of sensors, for example, weather stations across the Annapolis Valley or a set of sensors for temperature and moisture in a vineyard. AGRG has used LiDAR onboard aircraft and boats to measure the topography of the land as well as the sea bed. Many of these applications will be presented at the conference.


I appreciate my recent conversations with both Rachel Brighton and  Edward Wedler on community engagement.


The web site for the conference is at It includes the draft agenda. It also details the industry expo, the GANS  and GoGeomatics social event at Lunn’s Mill Beer Company.

ADDENDUM by Edward Wedler
Considering Annapolis Royal high school students have launched their own “Annapolis Royal Space Agency” balloons, with sensors, I’d like to think that COGS/CANMAP could promote these UK-Kettering-type students at events such as these and maybe even have them tell their stories.
11jan19 4-43-40 pm


Posted in Book Review

Orwell’s Nose

orwellsnoseThe idea for the Ernest Blair Experiment blog came from a combination of Ernest Buckler, writing about the Annapolis Valley and Eric Blair (aka George Orwell) known for his writing about England. When I came across John Sutherland’s book Orwell’s Nose – a pathological biography, it was hard to resist.

Sutherland, Emeritus Professor of English at the University College London describes Orwell’s life (b. 1903 and d. 1950) in terms of his literary career, but within the context of smells.

David Lodge, in his review of the book, states. ‘Orwell’s obsession with smells, agreeable and (more often) offensive, has been noted before, but never explored to such effect, not excluding the smells of shag tobacco and BO he emitted himself’.

Orwell was born before the First World War and died after the Second. He went to school at Eton, served in the Burma police service. He was inspired by social anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski. He spent time ‘down and out in Paris and London’, as well as visiting the North of England (The Road to Wigan Pier).
orwell_roadtowiganpier orwell_1984
His final book was Nineteen Eighty-Four, completed on the remote Scottish island of Jura.

Robert MacFarlane, in The Wild Places, writes:

” It is clear that Orwell needed to be in that wild landscape to create his novel; that there was reciprocality between the self-willed land in which he was living and the autonomy of spirit about which he was writing. The price of this vision, though, was his life’.  p.140.

A visual biography, taken from artist’s website www.

It is interesting to reflect on the next generation in England, born around the start of the Second World War and subsequently emigrating to either Canada or Australasia. I am part of that generation, as well as my older brother. This year my artist-brother has put together a series of postcard paintings for his grandchildren, with notes for every five years of his life. This has now been supplemented with a YouTube video matching each postcard painting.

All of this reflection has set me thinking. How does the landscape enter into the writing task?


Thanks to Edward  Wedler for his graphics contribution. Peter Maher for sharing his autobiographical work in progress. Shared memories indeed.


John Sutherland. 2016. Orwell’s Nose. Reaktion Books.

Robert MacFarlane. 2008. The Wild Places. Penguin Books.

George Orwell’s books include Burmese Days, Down and Out in Paris and London, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, The Road to Wigan Pier, Homage to Catalonia, Coming up for Air, Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four.