The X-games is a high energy annual sporting event that brings together some of the fittest and most daring athletes from the across the world to compete for medals and prize money by flying horizontally into the air on a wooden plank or hurtling down an icy tube known as the superpipe. The superpipe looked like an enormous trench covered in thick smooth ice that started way up high in the sky and as you look up to the top, a small figure stands alone getting ready for the ride of their life. A horn blows and the small figure tips over the edge and begins their descent, faster and faster they loom towards you and the anticipation builds. The figure swoops across the pipe from side to side, soaring into the air and flicking their body into loops and turns as the crowds cheer them on. They glide into a jump and it feels as though they are hovering over your head almost pausing for effect before landing effortlessly back on to the ice ready for the next jump.
There were many events taking place during the contest including BMX riding, skateboarding and snowmobiling, all featuring challenges or obstacles designed to test the athletes’ agility and get the adrenaline pumping. The skiers and snowboarders are judged on who can perform the best trick or get the most height off a jump. John held on to me to keep me warm while we admired the performance put on by the athletes at this amazing Alpine snow park, 20 minutes from central Oslo. It is 1700 feet above sea level (that’s 530 metres for the metric amongst you) and offers snow-slopes and chair-lifts for winter sports enthusiasts and a cosy café for fussy felines who need to warm their cockles.
Although we were only there for the weekend we managed a brief visit to the city opera house, an unusual white building formed of glassed facades and horizontal and sloping surfaces. The productions of opera, ballet, theatre and music held within reflect the cultured nature of this artistic place. The tramway system carries 130,000 people a day to their various destinations while peace reigns over the dramatic peaks and rustic forest trails surrounding the fjord close by . While I was on the plane going home I imagined myself hiking through those rugged mountains like a black panther, roaring at the lynx that tries to chase me, climbing up rocky ledges behind a bleating mountain goat and discovering the long lost city of the Incas. Oh no wait, that’s a different mountain range, the Andes in South America. Still Indiana Jones doesn’t have a patch on me!
With all the beautiful sunshine we’ve had recently, I thought I would remind you of the wintry season we have just left behind, lest you forget to enjoy the nice weather while you can. Do you remember the crunchy cold snow under your boots, the dark damp evenings and that morning feeling when the alarm clock screeches at you and your paw peeks bravely out from under your thick duvet as you resolve to get up? I remember putting on my Christmas scarf and heading out into the bracing winter air with John to Bushy Park, the second largest of London’s eight Royal Parks and one of John’s favourite places to go. It’s a picturesque mix of woods, gardens and grassland that provides a haven for some of Britain’s wonderful wildlife.
The big attractions are the herds of roaming Red and Fallow Deer that live and breed in the grounds. Red deer are Britain’s largest land mammal although their size varies according to their habitat and the resources they have available to them. The big fellas at Bushy Park are obviously well provided for and their buff coloured rumps stood proud some 50 or 60 inches off the ground. I remember one particular trip on an autumn’s day when John and I crept stealthily towards a stag with our cameras poised ready, getting closer to a magnificent male and capturing some great shots. He had the biggest antlers I’d ever seen, may be 28 inches high with several branches coming off the main stem like a glorious crown. We were careful not to get too close but those gosh darn incredible ears of theirs are so efficient that he picked up the sound of a twig falling to the ground near us and lifted his head, making direct eye contact with me. I froze in wonder at this beautiful beast and he simply huffed warm air out of his moist snout and walked casually away. Respect!
There are lots more temptations to lure you to Bushy Park like the herons, ducks and swans that inhabit the ponds. My favourite duck is the mandarin pictured here with its red beak, handsome black and white stripes and rusty brown mane. It’s like an aquatic version of a tiger, only smaller with fewer teeth and feet. Alright it’s not much like a tiger, except perhaps the golden colours and debonair demeanour. But I did see a lion at the Park which some clever person fashioned with snow and a few sticks and leaves!
If you’re a water baby and enjoy the sploshing and swishing noises made by rivers and fountains, you would have liked the flowing stream and stony waterfalls that roll through Bush Park’s grounds. I only like water when its warm and I can splash through it because I don’t mind getting my paws wet. But ever since I fell in the fish pond at home I’m not keen on too much of the wet stuff so I kept well away from the edge. I recall positioning myself perfectly for a shot of the chilly water cascading under the bridge and across the rocks when a grey squirrel darted past me and put me off my stride. My camera tilted sideways so the shot was at the wrong angle and my paw slipped on a patch of damp moss resulting in a rather undignified sidelong lurch. As I made my recovery I caught a puffed-up green parakeet sniggering at me from the branch over my head. With a cold belly from hitting the ground during my embarrassing incident in front of the parakeet, John picked me up gently and took me back to the car so I could curl up on the backseat with my special heated cushion and dream of chasing that cheeky squirrel!
The sky is a clear blue, the candyfloss clouds wispy, the silvery sea ripples gently away from the flat shingle beach. This is Stokes Bay, a slightly sloping shelf of pebbles in the Solent just south of Gosport (Hampshire) that offers a great view of the Isle of Wight and supports a wide range of community recreational activities on the large expanse of grass adjacent to its beach. The area is often used by large warships such as American supercarriers to anchor as Portsmouth Harbour is not deep enough to berth them, and this was the reason for our visit, to check-out the 1,092 feet long aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
The ship loomed across the horizon and John took some photos while I stared in awe at the enormity and grandeur of this battleship. It is designed to support and operate aircraft that engage in attacks on targets which threaten the free use of the seas and it’s a Nimitz class warship named after the 26th President of the United States, Mr Theodore Roosevelt. It also provides a credible presence for the military and a conventional deterrent in peacetime. Along the flight deck were the turrets for air traffic control and the radar housing placements for navigating the ship as well as 80 or so combat aircraft ready to be launched forward into the wind. The aircraft are recovered using three two-inch diameter arresting cables on deck which can bring an airplane going 150 miles per hour to a stop in less than 400 feet. That must be the strongest two-inch wire in the world!
I shut my eyes and wondered how a cat would feel on a ship like that. It would be quite an adventure, patrolling the corridors and scenting all those pieces of equipment, meowing at the galley staff for titbits and sneaking in to the captain’s quarters for a nap. If I was ship’s cat, I’d sit in the bridge at the front with the officers reigning over the seas, and I imagine there’d be loads of scraps left over from the 18,150 meals served each day to the 6,000 navy personnel available to tickle my chin. This $4.5 billion ship towers 20 stories above the waterline and boasts a 4.5 acre flight deck. Its engines power 4 bronze propellers each 21 feet across and steering is accomplished by 2 enormous rudders. Much as I enjoyed imagining myself in a garrison’s cap and gold sleeve stripes commanding a naval war ship, the reality is that I prefer my simple life at home. So I’ll forgo the prestige and responsibility that goes with being a fleet admiral and settle happily for my snake toy, extra plump cushion bed, chicken treats and John for company.
Now I’m not normally given to romantic notions and the mushy stuff, but a beautiful sunset will have me mesmerised by its radiance and charm. Is it the warmth of those last rays of sunshine? Could it be the brilliance of the red and orange hues or the patterns thrown across the sky by the beams of light? May be it’s the promise of a new dawn approaching? I think a glorious sunset means something different to every individual each time they look at one.
John and I have spent several early evenings on the seafront in our home town of Bognor Regis scouring the promenade for a perfect shot. I love how the dusk light reflects off the water and the clouds, revealing the expanse of the ocean and the scope of the horizon. It’s strange to think that while this British cat watched the sun disappear below the skyline, an Aussie cat somewhere in the Tropic of Capricorn was watching the sun rise up in the distance.
Some of these pictures were taken the other evening looking out to sea just as the sun was beginning to set in one of our favourite locations, Sandown Bay on the Isle of Wight. I found the gentle swell of the water washing back and forth very relaxing and gazed happily at the sea-sprays, as the waves broke and the crest of each one spilled effortlessly down its front face. See how the light dances on the surface of the water, glimmering its goodbye as the day comes to an end. But for some creatures that live in the sea, their day is just beginning once the sun has gone to bed. Many animals such as lobsters, octopuses and cuttlefish come out only at night to feed and hunt. Of course I can’t vouch for that personally, I have no intention of getting my paws wet to check! As it is, I got damp sand between my toes and it took me half an hour to lick it off! It didn’t taste good either! But a good photographer makes sacrifices for his art!