The Schwinn Also Rises



Recently in Pamplona, Spain, it was that crazy time of the year when they run with the bulls, in the world famous nine-day San Fermin festival, where the sufficiently or perhaps absurdly macho are chased by bulls through the streets of the beautiful Old Town.


It was Ernest Hemingway who made the most outrageous, dangerous and spectacular of festivals famous in his writings, particularly in his classic novel from 1926, The Sun Also Rises.  And he’s duly honoured with having a street in the city named after him, Avenida de Hemingway. But some American writers, trying to cash in on what ‘Big Papa’ made famous, are not so lucky. In a wonderful twist of irony, on the first day of the running of the bulls last week, Bill Hillmann – yes, the same Bill Hillmann who co-wrote Fiesta: How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplonagot gored by a bull at Pamplona.


Thankfully, though, there’s a somewhat safer, more sedate version of the running with the bulls that can be found here in Seattle. Each year, to coincide with the San Fermin festival, Seattle cyclists meet dressed in the same costume of white shirts and pants, a red sash and red neck scarf, as they simulate the running of the bulls from Westlake Park with horns attached to their bikes.


Nikon FM2 & Nikkor 50mm 1.8 ais
Ilford FP4+ (@64)
HC-110 (Dil.H – 1:63 @ 10:00 minutes)
Plustek 7600i & Vuescan




Seattle has to be one of the most dog-friendliest city in the US – actually, in a recent poll, Seattle was rated No.5 for popularity for our canine friends. Well-behaved leashed dogs of all sizes are allowed on the buses and trains throughout the city as well as the Washington State Ferries; couple that with numerous eateries that welcome dogs and it’s easy to see why. And then there’s all those dog-friendly parks throughout the city, not to mention many off-leash beach areas.


Nikon FM2 & Nikkor f2/85mm Ai-s

B+W Circular Polarizer

Ilford HP5+ (@250)

HC-110 (Dil.H – 1:63 @ 8:30 minutes)

Plustek 7600i & Vuescan





Many people suffer from the misconception that Christmas is a Christian holiday. The earliest history of Christmas is composed of “pagan” (non-Christian) fertility rites and practices which predate Jesus by centuries. The truth is, that many of the traditions which we hold dear, such as decorating Christmas trees, singing Christmas carols, and giving Christmas gifts, are rooted in the traditions of non-Christian religions. 


While Christmas marks the supposed birth of Christ; this holiday has, in fact, closer ties to an older pagan festival known as the Unconquered Sun.  The impact this Pagan tradition had on how Christmas was celebrated is one of the ways in which The Christian tradition changed as it developed through the ages. 


The winter solstice is the time when the days are shortest and the nights are longest. But December 25th was the date of the winter solstice in the calendar Julius Caesar devised for Rome in 46BC. Today the winter solstice usually occurs on December 21st. Although Caesar used a 365 1/4 day year, a year is actually a little shorter, and this made the solstice occur a little earlier over the years. There was a discrepancy of 1 day in 128 years. 


The Pagans celebrated the winter solstice as the Unconquered Sun. After this day, the Sun would begin to stay in the sky longer each day, and there would be less cold, and less night; the Sun would win the battle of night and day. There would be feasts, communal singing, evergreens would be brought into the house to be decorated and lighted with candles to pay tribute to the Sun.


Look closely at the Christian Bible and you’ll see there’s nothing to specify the day of Christmas – indeed, many of the references to the birth would actually dictate it was in late summer rather than in winter. And prior to the fourth century, Christ’s birth had been associated with Three King’s Day on January 6. But the pagans and the newly converted were proving a major problem to the church because they were still celebrating the Unconquered Sun. Nothing the church did or said made a difference; the winter solstice was just too important a festival. 


But if you can’t defeat them, and refuse to join them, at least make it appear that you defeated them. So, in a sneaky move, it was changed into a “Christian holy day” by the Roman Catholic Church in Rome. Sometime between AD 354 and 360 a few decades after Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, the celebration of Christmas was shifted to the day of the Unconquered Sun. 


Yet people have still carried over these traditions, though their earlier pagan roots have mostly long been forgotten. “Christmas” trees are still brought into the house. Coloured lights and candles light the darkness. The Yule Log is lit.


Nikon FM2 & Nikkor 85mm Ai-s

B+W Yellow Filter

Arista EDU Ultra (@250)

HC-110 (Dil.H – 1:63 @ 8:30 minutes)

Vuescan & Plustek 7600i




Richard Beyer’s sculpture Waiting for the Interurban – located in Fremont, the Centre of the Universe – pays tribute to the old Seattle-Everett Interurban railway. Sections of the track can are still visible around town, a subtle reminder of a time before the rise of the automobile. I have always felt there is a sense of irony to this piece as the City of Seattle has spent much of the last two decades dragging their feet on how best to build a public rail system when in fact one was already in place some 100 years ago.


The cool thing about Richard Beyer’s art installation is that anyone is invited to decorate it as they see fit. Which is why most times it can be seen  all dressed up for a birthday – or this time of the year, a Christmas – party; or, in this photo, with a collection of books for a book drive. The only rules are to leave decorations be if they look new or fresh and no advertising slogans or corporate slogans.


Nikon FM2 & Nikon 50mm 1.4 Ai-s
B+W Circular Polarizer
Ilford HP5+ (@400)
HC-110 (Dil. H – 10min)
Plustek 7600i & Vuescan


Writing, as the late, great Scottish journalist Cliff Hanley remarked, is better than working.  What other job can you justify with the excuse that while you may not look as if you’re doing anything productive you are engaged in “research”?


But for almost 20 years now, the day job has been writing – or, as I like to put it: “filling white space every day for The Scotsman newspaper.”  So with that in mind, and with an always-loaded camera to hand, I’ve opted to move away from social media sites to take things a bit further by creating this blog that will see a fusion of words and film – analogue, of course.  The film, that is, not the wordy-parts…been too many years now since I used to bash out words (not to mention going through Tippex by the gallon) on a trusty old typewriter like the one photographed here.


Nikon FM2 & Nikon 50mm1.4 Ai-S

B+W Circular Polariser

Ilford HP5+ (400)

HC-110 (Dil. H – 1:63@10 minutes)

Plustek 7600i & Vuescan