Home Thoughts, from Abroad

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Home Thoughts from Abroad

BY ROBERT BROWNING

Oh, to be in England

Now that April’s there,

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And whoever wakes in England

Sees, some morning, unaware,

That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf

Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,

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While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough

In England—now!

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And after April, when May follows,

And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!

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Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge

Leans to the field and scatters on the clover

Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray’s edge—

That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,

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Lest you should think he never could recapture

The first fine careless rapture!

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And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,

All will be gay when noontide wakes anew

The buttercups, the little children’s dower

—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

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Last April we went back to England in the Springtime and spent a couple of days in the Cotswolds. I’ve been feeling homesick every since.

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Fish and Spices–the Wet Market in Phuket

 

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

This woman was everything, everything

Dear hearts. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I killed some pixels in the service of this blog.

I have no truly compelling excuse, but have been busy with a new freelance job researching and writing a weekly travel post for Seattle Refined  (all enticing ideas for travel which will appeal to a Pacific Northwest audience gratefully  received).

Then most of October seemed to be swallowed up by a two week trip to Thailand, and the resultant packing, unpacking and crippling jetlag. Brace yourselves now for total Thai overload. I am totally, ridiculously obsessed with the country, its people and dear god, the food.  

Just to whet your appetite, I attended the magnificent Blue Elephant cooking school in Phuket Town on the last day of my trip and part of the class involved a brisk walk round the most fabulous wet market. We only had half an hour or so here as part of our workshop, which was tragic really, as I could easily have photographed here all day, every day for the rest of my life and not got bored.

All human, and, so it seems, aquatic, life is here, chaps, and I learned much about Thailand and its people.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

I learned that smiling is Thailand’s national sport and the Thai people are Olympic-level practitioners.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Possibly because their babies are Olympic-levels of cute.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Though I wasn’t quite sure about this comedy tee-shirt ( and neither, it seems, were they).

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

I learned that Thais are also quite amazingly beautiful.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

As is their seafood.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com
Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

They enjoy hacking at things with big cleavers.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Yes, that is a frog.

They will eat all parts of an animal (as is only right and proper).

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Yes, that is blood. 

And they are somewhat fond of chillies in all their forms.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

And there is no such thing as too many coconuts.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

I would give my eye teeth (if I knew what they were) to be able to shop in a market like that every day. Wouldn’t you?

Come and visit the markets of Campo de’ Fiori, Rome and the Cote d’Azur with me. Markets make me happy.

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Looking for Orcas in the San Juans

 

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

This weekend we were dropping the Minx off for an eleven day camp at magical Canoe Island in the San Juan Islands, a couple of hours north west of Seattle (overnight camp!!!) and decided to make a weekend of it. On a bit of whim, we booked ourselves on a whalewatching trip to see the islands’ pods of resident orcas in the San Juans. Long time readers of this blog may remember that we’ve been twice before and not spotted even the fin of a single whale -  the mythical orcas were obviously a figment of the Washington Tourist Board’s imagination.

We set off on a glorious afternoon through the beds of bull kelp.

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The Husband and the Minx were excited.

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

We spotted bald eagles

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

and very charming seals

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

and other whalewatching boats (always a good sign).

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

And then, behold! A fin!

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

In fact several fins.

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Coming closer

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

and closer

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

until, peekaboo I see you!

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Wildlife photography is HARD, people! The boat is always gently rocking, the boats are not permitted to get too close, and those pesky whales would pop up and disappear when you were least expecting it. These pics are the best out of dozens and dozens I took, of several different orcas. Male orcas have straight side fins and females have curved ones, and that’s mostly all you get to to see.

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

We also had the company of a whitesided dolphin who kept racing our boat before moving over to the side to breathe. Our captain was really excited by this as apparently they’re rare in the San Juans and it was the first he had seen all year.

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

The movement blur on the below was unintentional but I like it…

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

After a while the dolphin spurned us, to go and play with one of the orcas! I would have loved to have had an underwater camera at this point.

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

 

After that we headed back to Eastsound, and into the most glorious sunset. The stunning beauty of the day and of those playful giants of the ocean will live for a long time in my mind. Sometimes magical is not a strong enough word. How lucky we were.

 

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Orcas in the San Juans - photography by www.paolathomas.com

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