While waiting for my kids to finish their karate lesson, I decided to play around with Night Mode on my iPhone. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring a tripod with me, so I did the next best thing; I put my iPhone one a metal pole with a flat top, allowing me to adjust the Night Mode setting without having to hold the phone.

The picture I got was OK (I guess), but it looked better after some quick adjustments in the Photos app. What I would really like to do is get a picture of the Milky Way core, but I’ll have to do a bit more planning for that.

Nevertheless, seeing the stars above reminded me of the lyrics to this song by Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens):

How great the wonders of the heavens
And the timeless beauty of the night
How great – then how great the Creator?
And its stars like priceless jewels
Far beyond the reach of kings
Bow down for the shepherd guiding him home

Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace was built as a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough following his victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession. It is also the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945.

I first read about Blenheim Palace in one of Bill Bryson’s books; I think it was “Notes From A Small Island”. What fascinated me the most was not the Palace itself, but its grounds, the work of one Lancelot “Capability” Brown.

Thankfully, Blenheim Palace is just 20 minutes down the road from where I live, so in June this year I brought my family along for a visit. One good thing about the venue is that they let you upgrade your day ticket into an Annual Pass for free, an offer that we gratefully accepted. I even managed to squeeze in another visit in July, having convinced a few friends to accompany me for a walk around the grounds.

Below are some pictures from my two trips to Blenheim Palace:

View of the East Gate with its tapering walls, an optical illusion of sorts designed to give the impression of greater height.
The Palace Entrance.
The Great Hall ceiling showing the Duke of Marlborough presenting the plan for the Battle of Blenheim to Britannia.
The Blenheim Despatch a hastily scribbled note by the Duke of Marlborough on the back of an old tavern bill, telling his wife Sarah “I have not time to say more but to beg you will give my duty to the Queen and let her know that her Army has had a glorious victory.”
Statue of Queen Anne in the Long Library. The Duchess actually had a public spat with the Queen, but sought to rewrite history by erecting this statue in the library.
The Gilded Cage, a sculpture by Ai Weiwei in the garden. The duck in the picture kept on following me everywhere for some reason.
The Duke & Duchess of <insert imaginary place name here>.
Winton Churchill’s favourite fruit cake.
Into the Marlborough Maze.
Roses in the Rose Garden.
Grand Cascade & Pump House.
Standing in front of the south portico which is topped by a bust of Louis XIV that was looted by the Duke of Marlborough from Tournai in 1709.
View of Blenheim Palace from the South Lawn.

And finally, a gallery of miscellaneous pictures taken during those visits:

All Souls College

The most exclusive of Oxford colleges, All Souls College is unique by virtue of having no undergraduates. Instead, entry is only granted to past winners of the Triwizard Tournament the select few people known as Examination Fellows (or Prize Fellows).

In order to become an Examination Fellow, one has to sit for a written examination, consisting of four papers lasting three hours each. Unfortunately for clinician-scientists like me, these papers normally cover specialist subjects like Classical Studies, Law, History, English Literature, Economics, Politics, or Philosophy i.e. subjects which I now very little about!

In the past, there also used to be a fifth paper consisting of only a single word. Candidates then had to write an essay in response to the chosen word. Crazy, huh?

Dandelion Seed Head

I am in the process of writing a post on Blenheim Palace but it is not quite ready yet, so in the meantime, enjoy this picture of a dandelion seed head I took while jogging in Cutteslowe Park yesterday.