"Lionman's Homepage" Lionman's Profile
A few years ago I retired to the old English seaport of Dartmouth, living in a listed building that dates back to Elizabethan times. My local pub "The Cherub" is the oldest building in town and dates back to 1380. Frances Drake and Walter Raleigh used to unload booty from captured Spanish galleons here and their crews probably drunk Grog and Porter in Dartmouth waterfront bars. Home of the Britania Royal Naval College for officers, including male Royal Family members, the annual Royal Regatta and haunt of yachtsmen, mariners, ex-navy men, artists and photographers. Dartmouth seems an ideal anchorage for an ex-deep sea diver who needs a billet ashore to hang up his helmet, or "hat" as professional commercial divers always call them. Devon has some of the most beautiful landscape and coastline I have seen anywhere on earth and Dartmouth is a gorgeous town with a plethora of good dining and elegant shops. I am exceedingly happy here.
I lived primarily in London from January 1969 until May 2007, apart from a year spent living in Narrogin Western Australia around 1991, some time in New Mexico in 2003 and constant overseas travel in my former profession.
London remains the most cosmopolitan, sophisticated, cultured, historically complex & endlessly fascinating City I have seen anywhere but Dartmouth is certainly the most romantic and beautiful and similar visually to many small Norwegian coastal ports that I knew through diving although far prettier and sunnier, with palm trees on the quay. All the pictures on this home site except those of Dartmouth are mine, except for self-portraits where I set up my camera, handed it to somebody else to press the shutter or used a timer.
I lived for 15 years about 300 yards from Regent's Park in the centre of Camden Town, the UK equivalent of Greenwich Village in New York, with amazing street markets, youth-culture, creative people and multi-ethnic street life. plus elegant Georgian terraces, in one of which I lived for a decade. A tourist magnet, the youth of Europe, the Commonwealth, Asia and Japan pass through Camden every weekend, seeking the bars, clubs, markets and great night-life. Camden "Rocks" and is such a Mecca for Fetish uber-goths, punks and style-junkies, that it is known as the "People's Republic of Camden" and busier at 4 am Saturday night than many towns at noon!
In complete contrast Dartmouth in Devon where I now live, has a timeless beauty of a different kind. I can see the harbour where "square riggers"still often moor, from my bedroom window and start every day with the sound of gulls, lung fulls of sea air, the waterfront of my beloved and ancient ocean in sight 100 paces from my front door. Add sunshine and it is close to perfection.
Although I started life as and remain predominantly an Artist, in the mid seventies I decided for a variety of reasons to become a deep sea diver and go to work in the North Sea. (Don't ask!) I qualifed in basic air diving with a Yorkshire company called Northern Divers in 1974 and after "breaking out" as a coastal "standard diver" using the old "Siebe Gorman" standard brass helmet and lead boots rig to help build Brighton Marina on the south coast of England, worked my way up to being a "saturation diver"offshore, in the North Sea oilfields within 2 years. I finally retired from the profession in 1993 as a Lead Inspector Diver & Gas & Equipment Technician or "Gas Man".
I missed the ocean greatly as it became my alternate universe and during my diving years I worked through England, Scotland, Ireland, the Shetland Islands, Holland, Germany, India and Norway. I miss the camaraderie, but most of all I missed the glorious, fascinating and endlessly changing ocean scape with its sharp, clear, unpolluted air and amazing skies, sunsets and sunrises. Weirdly I still miss the firm grip of the deep ocean, because it became my alternate personal physical environment.
In this picture, I photographed myself with a timer, sitting inside my diving bell, 172 meters underwater in the total darkness of the North Sea. The helmet is a Kirby Morgan "Superlight Mk 18" with gas recirculation and I am breathing a helium/oxygen mix of gas. If you look closely you can see the hot water that keeps my body temperature in survivable range, running from my raised glove. A few moments after I took this picture, I exited the diving bell through the massive door in its base, assisted by my bell partner, as saturation divers always work in pairs, who stayed as "bellman" in the bell to tend my massive umbilical as thick as a man's arm, that supplied the gas, hot water, communications and safety line to keep me alive. These "extravehicular excursions" as they would be called by astronauts, last a maximum of 4 hours work, and aquanauts call them "Lock Outs". Then I returned and changed places with the "bellman" my colleague. Approaching 8 hours down, the diver would be told to return to the bell, we would shut the door & be winched back up to the ship, where we would transfer through a pressure lock, into the pressurized living system, in which we lived 24/7. The whole dive, living under pressure 24/7, took 16 days from "seal to seal" (surface back to surface) the last 6-7 of those days being gradual decompression from that depth. It is exactly like a space shot or a moon landing, as we were always "7 days from earth" for a 16 day mission and just like astronauts, would die horribly if our pressure seal was broken at any point during that time.
This is what somebody has to do, to ensure that the oil that runs your car & gas you cook with get recovered sub-sea. They are doing it right at this moment, as you read these words, down there in the icy black darkness, an invisible role in an invisible realm.
The realm we originally came from so they say . . . I can tell you this, when you do finally get back to the fresh air, you certainly value the open sky and the sound of those gulls! It's certainly no life for claustrophobics . . . . but that wears off after the first two years!
Originally a painter who studied photography and photo-kodalith silk screen printing as ancillary subjects at Hornsey College of art from 1969-1971, I exhibited pictures, installations and photography in London at the Hayward, Lisson and Photographer's Galleries in the early 1970's.
For many years I have been sporadically working on an autobiography about the North Sea and other adventures in several countries. As every word is true one of the issues is whether to use people's real names as some may be insulted if I don't and I want to honour others for things they have done. On the other hand those about whom I am less than complimentary might feel libeled and "kiss & tell" regarding former partners could upset too many contemporary domestic applecart's and cause offence. Tricky. A pity that I can't wait till everyone's dead but then that would include me, right? DOH But the point is that I am also a writer who writes all the time and you are reading a sample of that.
Photography, especially of landscape and candid portrait grab shots of people are also a major focus that has arisen naturally from my background in painting, as one sees so many things in life that there is no time to draw or paint. That was especially true offshore.
Music of all kinds has also always had a major role in my life and I play blues harmonica as well as having in the past composed and recorded my own electronics pieces on various combinations of synthesizers and other instruments as many people do. I love classical music, opera, "modern" and contemporary jazz (but not "trad"), blues, classic 60's rock, modern rock (current top 10) and "World Music". I also enjoy singing blues but my whole family are musical too and all better qualified than I in that regard. In Devon I now once more live within a few miles of many family members - the mother of my grown up daughters, with whom I remain on excellent terms although we parted in 1979, an excellent jazz pianist and singer with a degree in music composition, my youngest daughter who also sings and has a degree from Dartington Hall too, my son-in-law who composes and plays synthesizer and my step-son, a singer-songwriter who plays keyboards and records his own stuff. I have always dreamed of a "family band" as even though we are all so much older now, we are compulsively creative and all love music so.
The deep ocean in all its myriad moods has fascinated and moved me all my life and I have made several thousand photographs during my professional career offshore. The storm shot here was of waves in the North Sea that were around 60' high from trough to peak in force 10 seas. I have witnessed waves of as much as 90' high, exactly like that scary shot in The Perfect Storm but in reality, not as a special effect or CGI. The ocean has a power quite unimaginable to landsmen who have not seen its angrier moods as a pitiless and deadly adversary. I have chronicled the life and times of the deep sea divers of the offshore oilfields in over 3000 photographs and also have a carefully digitally re-edited and enhanced collection of family pictures going back to 1914. I hope to begin painting again now that I am at last living by the sea once more and, as soon as I can obtain a suitable new high resolution digital camera, to return to landscape, seascape, portrait and candid photography. Above all however, the plan is to finish my autobiography. Creativity is an endless delight and I have never been bored for a single day in my life. Were there an immortality pill I would take it immediately, so that learning and experience might continue indefinitely. Incarnation as a human being, especially as a native English speaker in one of the freest democracies on earth, is an almost unimaginable privilege and not to be squandered.
I explored Australia on three different visits, first in 1980 to New South Wales when I lived for a while with some hippy nudist friends in the bush near Bega. Walking through the wild bush and those stone age rocky landscapes, stark naked, was a really extraordinary sensation but no different from that of our most ancient ancestors 40,000 years ago, as the landscape hasn't changed at all. The eons since then fell away in seconds and in half an hour I felt like ancient stone-age man and saw that we have changed far far less than we think "modern Life" having only been a few minutes, compared with the millions of years our species has walked this earth.
My second and third visits were in 89 & 90-91 when I first visited & then lived for almost a year in Western Australia "the dark side" or as the Aussies also call it "beyond the black stump."
There are many parallels in landscape, climate and scale, between where I lived in Western Australia and NM USA, except that in the outback in OZ there is that all-pervasive aroma of Eucalyptus that I came to recognise as the unmistakable fresh and haunting "smell of Australia".
"Oz" is a truly glorious & vast continent, truly a "land of wonder" as large as North America, with the finest beaches that I have ever seen, 90% of them deserted so you just drive until you find an empty one. Aussies are the world's most extreme party animals, whose religions are beer & cricket. They are also exceedingly hard workers ("hard yakka") & tough as leather.
The population remains minute compared with the land area and much of the "empty centre" remains unexplored - even to this day, small groups of aboriginals have been discovered who have never seen a white man, continuing a lifestyle that has remained essential unchanged for 40,000 years. A hard but beautiful & extraordinary land. I love and miss it.
Not many white men have walked naked in that ancient land, just as some of it's indigenous inhabitants the abo's do - doing so links you back into nature in a way that is almost impossible to explain but lasts for ever. Nothing quite replaces the feeling of the breeze on one's skin "all over" and "tasting the air"with all the senses. It was immediately easy to understand how early man became such an expert tracker and hunter. With our capacity for acute & focussed attention, intelligence, cunning, memory & intuition, nature is a broadband broadcast for all our senses.
You know that sensation in the back of your neck when somebody stares at you? Try it in open landscape stark naked & you will quickly find that you can pick up on the presence of other creatures, long before they are in sight or sound range! In many ways we are not as smart, skilled or sensitive as our ancestors & too much TV has made us weak & passive! Hence I believe in the real value of online combat gaming to keep our survival skills and hunting instincts honed and alive, at least in virtuality. After all "the battlefield may be virtual but the experience is always real" to quote myself. As all old hippies discovered, if the alien's ever DO invade, never mind the religious fundamentalists and crazies in the present, we will certainly need more than flowers to counter their weapons and skills more deadly than diplomacy to defend our homes and families. Pacifism is simply suicide, as the bad guys will simply totally ignore it & kill you, perhaps after rape or torture.
So once in your life, go somewhere really remote and deserted, take off every stitch of clothing and footware, including your damned watch and try spending an hour stark naked outdoors in the wild. I am not talking about "Naturism" or any of that cranky stuff. I mean in the kind of location where you would hunt for food, like a forest or open country. Somewhere where there are NO other humans, obviously. You will never forget it and trust me, it will change your perceptions for ever and re-awaken ancient senses you may have never known you had.
In 2001, I attended the annual re-enactment in nearby Lincoln NM of the last escape of Billy the Kid from Lincoln County jail & explored Carlsbad Caverns. New Mexico contains many things that fascinated me. The Trinity site of the first atomic explosion, the glorious & unearthly White Sands, the reservation of the legendary Mescalero Apache, the mysteries of Roswell's alleged 1947 Alien landing, the amazing F117 Stealth fighters of the Ghost Squadron at Holloman USAF base, Route 66 which crosses the north of the state & the most glorious skies I have ever seen. The state motto is perfectly appropriate "The Land of Enchantment".
On my 2003 US trip I explored more of New Mexico & got to see Arizona & more former Apache lands, including the former mining town of Bizbee & the legendary Tombstone where the whole local population delight in dressing in period costume. Like entering an episode from "Back to The Future", pausing at a junction, glancing to the right & meeting the hard unsmiling eyes of a "gunfighter" in full black 1880's costume & stetson, with real pearl handled .45's! Quite a jolt! Drinking at the bar in the Olympia Saloon where Wyatt Earp & Doc Halliday used to, served by a barman with a real Derringer in a shoulder holster, discovering that now I had a distant relative (one of the Texas Terrels) buried in the original "Boot Hill" cemetery on the outskirts of town! A real delight for a "British dude from way back East".
Being a bit of a "Seer", throughout my time in all these legendary locations of the old West, I constantly had the strongest sense of former centuries & for me the landscape everywhere proved populated with ghosts & specters of Indians, cowboys, miners, Chinese railway workers, soldiers, saloon gals, pioneers, gold diggers, gamblers & wild horses. I loved the "Land of Enchantment" & have been homesick for it ever since my return.
Australia was stunning but I felt "exiled" there, while the Old West of the USA felt as familiar as a favorite well-worn buckskin shirt & filled me with adrenaline & enthusiasm, just as it did my pioneering European forebears over 200 years ago. In New Mexico & Arizona I "saw" Indians everywhere yet in the prosaic real world, the only Apaches I saw were the silent bouncers in the "Lodge of the Mountain Gods" Casino on the Apache Reservation up in the mountains behind Alamogordo on the approach to Cloudcroft. No photographs were allowed in the Casino, where the Apaches continue to scalp the white man in one of the most commercially successful operations in the USA! On the lakeside, opposite the modern casino with the Indian staff's shiny Cadillacs, were Apache teepees with blue smoke rising from their tops, just where they had been for thousands of years, surrounded by glorious forests, over which "American" eagles really do still fly.
A wild & splendid land with perfect light for painting pictures & making photographs & the largest skies I have ever seen.
I have loved computing ever since the ancient BBC B and Z80 computers back in the early 1970's, am now on my 8th PC and spend a great deal of time online. This site is called "Virtual Tourist" but all the reviews are of real places. However I actually AM a "virtual Tourist" and many of my reviews on the attached pages are of virtual realms! So sue me!
A Spaceflight & Aviation enthusiast, I have been member of two "virtual" combat squadrons online & since 2002 flew "Entente" & "Central Powers" WW1 biplanes online with the "Royal Air Corps" as "RAC_Lionman_EF" now we use "Rise of Flight". Since 2000 online I flew WW2 Allied & Axis fighters with the "Butcher Bird Brotherhood" as "BBB_Lionman" in "IL2 1946".
"FSX" the latest edition of Microsoft's Flight Simualtor is an ongoing favourite of mine and can download real-world weather from satellite every 15 minutes.
I also spend much of my online time in FPS (First person shooter) infantry combat simulators. My current favourites are "Red Orchestra" about the WW2 Russian Front and "Modern Warfare 2" and "ARMA 2" which employ all the real modern weapons, vehicles, choppers and aircraft in use in Afghanistan. These are not mere "vido games" but fully fledged military simualtors using the same software engines and produced by some of the same companies that supply combat simulators to the real Military NATO Allies. Check these out here.
Watch the videos on these websites and on uTube and you'll soon see how hyper-realistic these simulators are becoming. Sometimes it's like watching news footage. Modern Warfare 2 took over £350,000,000 over its the first weekend and is still a best seller, this industry is already bigger than Holywood and responsible for driving the cutting edge of IT development and innovation, so it is a far from trivial sector of human activity.
I also occasionally captain a WW2 U-Boat in the (virtual) North Sea & Atlantic in"Silent Hunter 5"or in the virtual Pacific as a US submariner in"Silent Hunter 4"against the (virtual) Japanese in WW2. These sims are now incredibly realistic in terms of ocean, moon & weather, with stars accurate enough to navigate by, real time weather 24/7 and stormy seas so realistic that it can make you nauseous!
Quite differently from the vast fantasy & science-fiction youth gaming world, realistic virtual combat & flight attract an intelligent, interesting cross-section of articulate, friendly, well-educated & often older people from all walks of life.
One day we WILL have the "Hollodeck" from Star Trek just because we want it so badly & meanwhile the drive for immersive realism is driving the whole PC industry's development & equiping our military for the 21st century. Computer gamers are paying for that R & D & the NATO military community is a major consumer of the products for training, recruitment and virtual aids to combat weapons. Forget mere interactive movies; first hand experience in 360 degree surround-sound and immersive virtual environments are the future of entertainment. People want to be IN the experience not watching it passively. As my forum signature says "the battlefield may be virtual but the experience is always real."
Check out my "Adventures in Virtual Worlds Part 1 & 2" links at the bottom of this page for more on this subject as it is my main hobby and I also write occasional reviews for simulations online.
One day I hope to make the trip to Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada with its famous Acadia graduate school, as an old & dear oilfield friend lives on the ridge above the town & oddly the twin town of "Dartmouth" is just across the bay!
In late 2009 I went on "Tozan" a True Buddhist pilgrimage to the slopes of Fuji and the Head Temple of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism at Tai Sekiji in Japan, with 11 other Buddhist members of my family.
I'll post here about my experiences amongst the "Blue Noses of Canuck land" when I return! But the trip to Japan was such an amazing experience that it needs a whole page really, so more of that once I have written it.
The small Castle tower at the end of the quay in this picture of Bayard's Cove dates from 1600 and contained a ring of cannons to defend the estuary, while the cobbled paving has the date 1660 picked out in dark stones. This was where "The Onedin Line" TV Series was made, as it has changed little in many hundreds of years. That quay is only 300 yards from my flat and a perfect place to sit with a quiet meditative pipe in the evening, watching the sea, especially in Winter when the town is empty.
The older I get, the more I see & the farther I travel in inner & outer worlds, the less I feel certain of, or feel sure that I absolutely fully understand. "The greater the clearing of knowledge one makes in the jungle of ignorance, the more of the trees one can see . . . . ."
Apparently there is a cave in France where archaeologists through carbon dating carbon stains in the rock strata, have discovered that stone-age humans kept a fire burning continuously for well over 10,000 years on one spot. Yet, after relatively uneventful times for 100,000 years, for the first time in the long history of our fascinating little species, there is absolutely no way any longer to predict how we shall all be living, socially or physically in another 50 years, let alone next century. We humans are complex creatures and our future, is, in my view, rapidly becoming unimaginably unpredictable.
"Other people" remain perhaps the most mysterious "country" of all and their continuing exploration, the most fascinating quest there is.
So, whoever you are reading this, you are certainly a fellow explorer and I wish you too Bon Voyage, on both your inner and outer journeys . . . . .
It is with regret that I inform the readers of Ian's pages here, of his untimely death on May 14, 2010. May he rest in peace.
Personal Pages (4)
Written Apr 23, 2010
Adventures in Virtual worlds - Part 1.
Written Apr 23, 2010
Adventures in Virtual Worlds - Part 2
Written Jan 6, 2009
FRAGMENTS OF MIND & MEMORIES
Written Feb 7, 2009
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