An Englishman's home.... is unaffordable for many

There's been a housing theme to many of the tweets and other social media in the last week or so.

I've just finished reading 'Homesick' by Catrina Davies. 

In the book, Catrina describes her move down to Cornwall to live in a shed owned by her father, and make it a home, fighting various battles along the way with finances, rats, the cold and planning authorities.

Danny Dorling is mentioned in the book, and listed several times in the Appendix of sources. His book from 2014: "All that is solid" is about the housing crisis.

"The perceived 'national' housing shortage is in fact a regional shortage, part of the growing north/south divide. Everywhere there is vacant housing that needs to be used better. But in certain areas there is a growth of empty housing stock that is partially disguised by very high rates of underoccupancy, rates made possible by how cheap housing away from jobs has become. Or, to put it better, cheap as far as people with 'good' jobs are concerned."

At the same time, tonight we had a George Clarke documentary, which he trailed on his Instagram page. He is looking back at the era when social housing was built.
It's 100 years ago today that the Addison Act was passed which kick-started council housing. Dr. Christopher Addison was Health Minister when he brought in the Act after WWI. They were also known as 'Homes for Heroes'. Many soldiers arriving on the front line were unfit to fight because of the slum housing they had come from.

Check out his petition - and watch the short video to introduce the context, and his plans to build a new estate next year.
Catch the repeat of the programme on 4OD. 

My grandparents lived in Council houses. My parents decided to push themselves to be owner occupiers. I have written about that previously.

I know that I am fortunate to be a houseowner. We bought our house back in the last century when a three bedroomed house was less than £100 000, and my mortgage is affordable. I would not be able to get a mortgage if I was buying a house now.

The availability of council houses goes back to 1919's Act
The loss of social housing, through decisions made by successive Tory governments (and the way that it led to 'unintended consequences') has robbed many of their chance to ever own propery and escape the rental market, which is open to abuse and excess.
Lynsey Hanley's 'Estates' is one of my favourite books - the story of the Cutteslowe Walls is still important today.
Almost 50% of the population used to live in a council house.

George was brought up in Washington New Town: providing space and security for families. I loved how he talked to Graham Bell, who helped plan the whole town. With the GA President for 1937 being Patrick Abercrombie, there is a geographical connection there too.

Permitted development rights are being used to split old buildings into much smaller accommodation. The Addison Act said minimum space was 75 square metres (some places are now less than 20 square metres).

We have millions living in poverty, or temporary accommodation which is of poor quality, although the Government has failed to spend some EU money to tackle that. We need to build 100 000 homes a year (at one stage we were building 150 000 a year).

Image of sold sign: Alan Parkinson, shared under CC license

Planet Dirt

This is a cracking little map made with Mapbox.

It shows the real etymology of the names of countries apparently.
Thanks, as with many of my map-related posts, to Keir Clarke for the original tipoff.

The map also has a layer showing the original name as well for comparison.

Got an idea for a Storm name?


You know what to do... 
Get in touch with the Met Office. I think Storm Alan sounds scary...

Cities and Music

"To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world – and at the same time that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are.” 
Marshall Berman

More on cities to follow up on the discussions around choice of cities.

I've been preparing some new updates for the 2nd edition of the new OCR A and B Geography books for Hodder, and deciding which city to use as the main case study. I've made my decision, and finished the resource.

Cultural Landscapes are one aspect of cities which I've explored a lot, thanks to the influence of Simon Oakes, Jo Norcup, Alex Schafran and a whole range of other culturally-inclined geographers.
I'm also excited to get properly stuck into one of my summer reads: 'Hit Factories'....

I need to explore this a little more and work it up into a unit of work on music and cities.
More musical urbanism also comes from this story from last month:
Jarvis Cocker got a mention on the recent AQA 'A' level Geography exam.

It's all part of my planned curriculum for Living Geography which is in the making at the moment as a longer term project. I'll be sharing it in the New Year.

Stacey Hill, head of curriculum for geography at AQA, said of the Jarvis Cocker piece:

“The question was on how external factors such as art can influence a person’s perception of a place, as opposed to how a local person – in this case someone from Sheffield – might feel about their surroundings. The reason we chose the Pulp lyrics was because they fit the purpose for this type of this question very well.”

Thanks to Jo Norcup for the following link as well, related to the links to music
A Black Sabbath exhibition is currently open.
Also Carl Lee mentioned quite a few extra things in his book 'Home' on Sheffield.
At the GA Conference in Sheffield, I made a Cultural Geography diagram using Mentimeter of Sheffield, and this was the outcome.

Just finished the book.

Geography Hacks

Victoria Fowell is the new Geography Subject Advisor at Pearson, replacing Jon Wolton.

She has recorded several short videos where she shares some Geography Hacks.

Take a look here.

GeoCapabilities in print

One of the many projects I've been involved with over the years was GeoCapabilities.

It was also one of the most fulfilling, and with the greatest legacy value.

It involved some excellent trips and meetings to Helsinki, Brussels and other locations, and working with some fine folks including David Lambert, Sirpa Tani, Michael Solem of the AAG and Richard Bustin.

The full project website offers a full course for teachers, with resources and video materials.
Richard used the GeoCapabilities project as the basis for his PhD.

I was delighted to hear that Richard has now written a book on the potential of this type of approach, which will be available later in the year from Palgrave Macmillan. I'm hoping to get hold of a review copy so that I can explore how Richard has developed the original ideas that we had, and which I helped to shape and then communicate.

Another reminder as well of the vital importance of the ERASMUS+ projects.

Deforestation Visualisation

The Amazon Rainforest is under greater threat than ever with the current political situation in Brazil reducing protections, and threatening the land of indigenous peoples.
This visualisation is excellent and sobering. Select your home area and see how quickly it disappears.

Love Lock resource

Not related to this legend, who is now 100 years old...

But instead to this practice - which is affecting bridges in cities around Europe.

There's a whole host of resources linked to from this story, and I've made a start on linking them together into a single resource with themes of changing places, sustainable tourism, and all based around a DME.
Will be freely available when it's completed as always.

Image copyright: Alan Parkinson - shared under CC license

Living Wales - Earth Online

An attempt to capture the changing landscape of Wales

Read more about the project here. (PDF download)

It is using a range of images and data sets to capture the landscape.

Fame at last... again :)

Pleased to see that I was featured as the lead story on the Independent Education Today website, which mentioned by accreditation as a UN Climate Change Teacher.
I am pleased to see that it also mentions the work I'm currently doing with the South Georgia Heritage Trust, of which more to come later... and my forthcoming role with the Geographical Association.

Humanities 20:20 Podcast

I've blogged previously about the Humanities 20:20 project.

This podcast features an interview with Simon Catling talking about the background to the project, which aims to promote the importance of the humanities in Primary geography.


Earlier in the week, I met up with Anthony Bennett from InternetGeography.
He has created an excellent subscription website, which costs £20 for access to a whole host of resources, which Anthony is adding to all the time. He has also created stand alone resources, such as a DME which I use, and is just a few pounds to purchase.

The reason we met up in a beer garden in Holme-next-the-Sea was that Anthony was down in Norfolk to collect imagery and fly his drone to develop some new materials.

We talked all things geography and discovered, amazingly, that Anthony would have been a pupil at the time when I was doing my PGCE teaching practice at Bransholme School in Hull, back in 1986/7.

Which makes me surprisingly old, and him surprisingly young.

Anthony headed round the coast and has started to share some of the images he took... Watch out for the results over on his website in the weeks to come.

Other geographers are very welcome to meet up for a beer on the Norfolk coast this summer.

Anthony has been quick off the mark on his return, and has added a Happisburgh Case Study to the website.

Winners... and losers...

These shirts were made to celebrate the championship win of Manchester City.
They cost over £100, but the people who make them are paid just a fraction of that.
Who are the winners and losers in this situation?

An interesting point was made here by one of the readers who commented below - one to discuss.

This seems to be a perfectly valid point.

Going hungry for summer

Earlier this week, the last schools in England which have been holding out for the summer holidays will finally come to the end of the summer term, my wife's among them.

This will not be welcome news for some parents, not just because they now have to look after their children instead of dropping them off at school, but because their children will not have their school meals.

Many families are in receipt of free school meals for their children, and for some children, the breakfast or lunch their children get may be their only cooked meal of the day.

This summer, a record number of families will find themselves struggling to feed themselves.

Food banks are being used in record numbers, driven up by austerity which has led to freezes in pay at the same time as rising costs, growing number of zero-hours contracts which reduce the unemployment rate but don't guarantee high levels of pay, and changes to the benefit system leading to delays.

Some schools are staying open partially in order to continue to provide some sort of meal. This is fairly shameful that millions of children are living in poverty.

Find your nearest Food Bank to support here.

If you have a chance, drop a few tins and other items into the food bank collection point which is likely to be in your local supermarket if you can...

Image: Alan Parkinson, shared under CC license.

Saffron O' Neill's Climate Change Research

You'll have noticed a Climate Change trend appearing in recent posts on the blog perhaps, following my starting work as a UN Accredited Climate Change teacher which has meant a lot of behind the scenes work to develop some new support options which will be made available to all schools in time.
This is a critical time for influencing public behaviours, and ensuring that students are aware of the realities of Climate Change, which is going to change the world they live in, and require certain changes in their lifestyle, purchasing, transport options and potentially far greater changes.

I've been following up various leads to new Climate Change resources, which are different to the norm.

Saffron O' Neill replied to one of my requests for help with some research she is doing on how  people view Climate Change, and how it is represented in the media.
She developed some work about how people respond to climate change. The tweet I saw was this one...
Check out Saffron's blog as well.

She has produced a set of materials and images which are very useful using a Visual Q method which she has used in her research. Thanks for sharing the materials.
I am going to use and adapt these for a forthcoming resource which I am working on for the new term. A spot of research led practice but for me the best kind: one based on research around the specific geographical context of the work, rather than generic neuroscience...

Climate visuals

Climate Visuals is a website which has, er, visuals of climate...
There are images for presentations and other times when you need something to show the potential impacts of climate change. This is well worth exploring for those who need to communicate the important aspects of this vital subject, and one which you'll have noticed taking centre stage on the blog currently as part of my support of the UN Climate Change Resources and courses that are available to allow teachers to be accredited for learning more about the subject.


I loved this scene from the final episode of Game of Thrones, where the leaders of the houses try to decide who to put in charge, and there's a suggestion from Samwell Tarly about how they might decide who rules... which is met with due derision, because asking the general public their opinion is never going to produce a sensible result...


What if you were lost in a wood and needed help, or injured in an area you didn't know well?
The What3Words app can guide the emergency services to you.
Also suggested that my daughter put it onto her phone, as she headed for music festivals this summer, to help her find things like car / tent.

Clouds and Climate Change

Clouds and Climate Change feature on the Reuters news website. A useful animation.

Also interesting to see a coalition of American media outlets and newspapers are promising to cover the Climate Change properly.

Back to the sauce

HP Sauce has changed its label for a while.

The temporary design features the Houses of Parliament of course, but the current bottle has Big Ben covered in scaffolding, as it has been for months now as the clock tower is restored and the clock face repainted and gilded.
Changing Places.. and representation of Place.
Image result for hp sauce label
For a lot of visitors to London this summer, who may only visit the city once, this is their image of Queen Elizabeth Tower now as they will never see it without scaffolding.

Image via this Londonist article. Check out other Londonist articles too.

Ben Hennig

Subscribers to 'Geography' can read this excellent article by Ben Hennig on the cartograms that he produces for Worldmapper.

Favourite Foods

Pie Fidelity is one of the current books that I'm reading on my summer list. It has sections on major British Foods and how they came about, and their cultural significance. It's nicely written and has useful cultural and geographical detail.
Recently, a YouGov survey asked people for their favourite British foods: savoury and sweet and these are the results. Where does your favourite food come?


The New York Times has an excellent interactive on the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.

Time to listen to Public Service Broadcasting - check out the 'Race for Space' album

The art of noticing

I'm always intrigued as to the difference between the way we see familiar places and those that are new to us.
I've been familiar with a range of other guides for exploring the city differently, including the Misguides.
Over the Easter break, I had the great good fortune to visit New York for 6 days.
Although we had some places to get to we also had time for a bit of wandering, and I enjoyed one morning when I struck out alone to go on a pilgrimage to the Explorers' Club, and enjoyed a little wander.

Rob Walker has written an excellent piece on the idea of wandering in a strange city.
I have always taken the chance to do this, and have had the good fortune to be involved in a number of ERASMUS projects over the years, where I have had a day or so to myself ahead of, or after the meetings to explore the city.

This piece, and the associated practice links to other urban (and rural) explorers.
- Rebecca Solnit
- Keri Smith
- the Crabman
- the Misguides to Exeter and other places
- Mission:Explore (naturally)

William Cronon has written a nice piece on How to read a Landscape.

Image: Alan Parkinson - CC licensed - Godwick Church, Norfolk

Teachmeet RGS - November 2019

David Rogers has shared the next Teachmeet at the RGS in November 2019.
Tickets are available on Eventbrite - free of charge.

Hope to see some of you there.

The obsolescence of meat

Could meat be going "out of fashion". This piece from 'The Guardian' suggests it might be.
Well worth a read.

Nice cup of coffee...

The image above was included in a Financial Times article on the economics of coffee.
Also check out this special National Geographic magazine feature which goes 'Behind the Bean'.

Ice Man: the movie...

The Ice Man is a movie based on the Ice Man that I wrote about in my book 'The Ice Man'.
The body of a man, found in the Otztal Alps was found to be over 4000 years old, and the movie has an imagining of his life, and his death.

From the description of the film:

The Ötztal Alps, more than 5,300 years ago. A Neolithic clan has settled nearby a creek. It is their leader Kelab s responsibility to be the keeper of the group's holy shrine Tineka. While Kelab is hunting, the settlement is attacked. The members of the tribe are brutally murdered, amongst them Kelab's wife and son, only one newborn survives... and Tineka is gone. Blinded by pain and fury, Kelab is out for one thing alone: vengeance. He sets out after the murderers on what turns into a grand odyssey where he must fight constantly for the infant s survival; against the immense forces of nature; against hunters he encounters; and, amongst the loneliness of the quest, against a growing sense of doubt over the morality of his mission.

Inspired by the discovery of Ötzi The Iceman , the oldest known human mummy, found in 1991 approximately 5,300 years after his death, ICEMAN is an epic, riveting, visually stunning and immersive revenge thriller that investigates a five-thousand-year-old murder mystery.

NB: the characters in ICEMAN speak an early version of the Rhaetic language. The film intentionally has no subtitles as translation is not required to comprehend the story.

I have a copy of the film on BluRay, and it's on my list of films to view this summer. I shall post a review in due course.

Riceboy Sleeps

Last Monday, I kickstarted my summer holiday with a trip to the Barbican to see the UK premiere of Riceboy Sleeps.
A week or so earlier, the performance had been given its World Premiere at the Sydney Opera House. Watch a few of the tracks here...
This was so beautiful.

London National Park City - opening soon

Tomorrow is the day!
On Monday the London National Park City will be officially confirmed and launched at a special summit that is being hosted by the Mayor of London at City Hall.
On Tuesday afternoon there is a celebratory walk from Regent's Park to Hampstead Heath. If you are free, please do join in. Sign up here.

The idea for the National Park City is the brainchild of Daniel Raven Ellison.
I have e-mails from him going back to 2013, and the launch of the main website was on April 1st 2014, but this was no joke. It was also a tremendous sustained effort that has led to Dan speaking in cities around the world, and hosting hundreds of events where he talked about his vision.

Read this thoughtful piece in today's Evening Standard.

Also in the National Geographic.

Image: Alan Parkinson, shared under CC license

Hazagora and other GeoGames

Thanks to Dr. Skinner from Hull University for the links to some really useful games links.
He has created some Top Trumps cards for Rivers.

Hazagora is a game I'm particularly interested in from the looks, but am unlikely to get to see unless I can get over to Belgium. Although the games website looks to be in English, the game itself is in Belgian with instructions.

Also interested in the rise of Geogames.
Also looking forward to seeing how the VR Inundation Street develops

Sandbag Climate Campaign

Article in the Guardian on energy mix across the EU

Ties in with the UK not using coal to generate electricity for several weeks now.
At the same time, the Australians have other ideas, planning a new coalfield the size of Europe.

Sandbag Campaign involves exploring energy pricing.

Golden Thread Conference

Earlier this week, I went over to the new Littleport and East Cambridgeshire Academy, which is a Research School funded as part of the Fenland and East Cambridgeshire Opportunity Area. The school is part of the Cambridge East Partnership with my school.
They had organised a free conference called the Golden Thread.
There were plenty of bonuses to this free event: a useful goody bag, a nice size for follow-on use, and with Education Endowment Foundation reports in it.

There were 2 main speakers and some teacher workshops / seminars to follow on from that.
Daniel Muijs is from OFSTED, and he spoke about the new inspection framework.
He reminded people that the words Intent, Implementation and Impact were supposed to be used by OFSTED to help their thinking, but had "taken on a life of their own which is not so helpful". He said he had heard of schools looking for Deputy Heads in charge of an 'I' which he said was not what was supposed to happen. Lots of 'unintended consequences' it seems of any framework, which quickly becomes a checklist and a school policy...

Alex Quigley has written the book 'Closing the Vocabulary Gap' which is popular with English colleagues.

There were some interesting workshops on the sort of things that are popular these days: no geography specific ones sadly.

For those who weren't able to attend the event, and have had their curiousity piqued, here is a link to all the presentations on the day.

Which location is being described here, and by whom?

Answers later in the week...

It has a stark beauty all its own. It’s like much of the high desert of the United States. It’s different, but it’s very pretty out here.

The Fens

There have been plenty of Fenland connections being made in the last few years of teaching in Ely.

Reading about the new Francis Pryor book on the Fens.
I'm very much looking forward to reading this, and factoring it into some writing on the Fenland landscapes.
As Francis writes:

In the 20th century the historic medieval cores of towns like Kings Lynn, Wisbech and Spalding were severely damaged by development and insensitive road-building. The well thought-out railway network in the Fens was destroyed by Dr Beeching’s ‘rationalisation’ of the 1960s. Consequently many smaller market towns today boast empty high streets, poorly-attended markets and numerous charity shops. We are also beginning to appreciate the extent of irreversible change that the wholesale drainage of the 1850s and 1970s has caused. And with sea level rise a seemingly inexorable process… Need I say more? The floor of my study is about two metres above sea level; an average high tide would wet our bed, upstairs. And yet, people are still regularly granted planning permission by local authorities to build bungalows. In many respects, the story of the Fens – an area I have grown to love and cherish – could be the story of Britain, past, present and future.

The cover of the book is a painting buy the artist Fred Ingrams, who lives in the Fens.
He has a wonderful style which captures the landscape perfectly.
Check out some paintings from a forthcoming exhibition here.

Here's another of Fred's paintings... There are plenty of Fenland roads looking just like that...

Good Friday on Long Drove
Image copyright: Fred Ingrams

Francis is doing a talk in Ely next week, which I am looking forward to attending.

In advance of that, I've listened to the book being read as BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week. There are five episodes which can all be listened to here.

Support Scott Warren

I blogged a few days ago about the organisation No More Deaths, which gives humanitarian aid to those attempting to cross the desert into the USA and leaves water for them to save lives.

Geography Professor Scott Warren was working with the association when he was arrested, and faces trial. He faces ten years in jail.

Amnesty International has set up a link where you can provide information and edit / send an e-mail to help campaign for Scott's release.

Support a fellow Geography teacher, and the work of this organisation.

Tom Sherlock's 'tales from abroad'

Tom Sherlock, a co-presenter at the very excellent recent Teachmeet GeographyIcons in Birmingham has launched his new blog, called A Teacher Abroad, which is a real passion project.
Follow the blog as it develops.

It promises to offer tales from abroad and other updates.

Also follow Tom on Twitter @MrSherlockGeog for more updates.

Always good to see another Geo Blog starting off...

Climate Change / Emergency / Breakdown

This is an issue which has been at the top of most people's priorities for some time, occasionally hijacked by the ongoing circus of Brexit.
Tom  wrote a blog over on the TeamGeography page, where he started to articulate some issues, and this film was mentioned.
Thule Tuvalu is a film which looks like it might be worth hunting down on the various streaming options where it can be found.

Dan Raven Ellison "talking walking"

Dan Raven Ellison interviewed as part of a podcast series.

It goes back to Mission:Explore and the Geography Collective and our work raising the public consciousness of geography.

The podcast can be downloaded, as well as some notes, and Dan referencing the late Duncan Fuller and Doreen Massey, who we worked with, and the MisGuides.

A good listen for the journey to work perhaps...

Cley 19

Over to Cley next the Sea last weekend, to see the latest Cley Contemporary exhibition. This is hosted in St. Margaret's Church in the village, close to the sea, and with the famous windmill in the marshes.

One of the artworks was called 'One Place to Another' by Rosy Naylor.

Rosy Naylor is an artist and curator with an interest in site specificity, ephemerality and lost space.

Her work for the public realm responds to a specific environment, context or situation, setting up a dialogue around the inhabiting of public space and walked land, using a range of media, to include audio, the written word, and photography.

Her painting work explores surface and mark making. Inspired by the transcient nature of the sea's edge, tide marks, and of what she calls 'sand mapping'.

There was plenty else of interest, so if you're in the area for the next few weeks (before the 4th of August) then pop along to Cley.

I liked Joy Pitt's work as well, made from over 3000 jumpers.