2016 to 1016

Today is the millennial anniversary of the Battle of Assandun when the armies of Edmund and Cnut rocked up in an Essex backwater to fight for kingship of England.

To celebrate this occasion I walked from my home to the alleged battle site at Ashingdon and this is my account of the journey.

My walk started in Prittlewell, crossing Priory Park and passing through the ruins of Prittlewell Priory. Leaving the park I made a quick diversion to salute the Prittlewell Prince’s burial site then I headed off towards Rochford.

It was a mild but clear day with a little light drizzle. The wind gently buffeted me, carrying voices that had travelled far. As I approached Rochford the land began to rise, hinting at the journey ahead. Scores of wagons and people passed me by, all unaware of the gathering spirits.

As I reached Rochford I stopped in the market square for provisions and noticed that the rain has stopped and the skies were beginning to clear.

Every step felt like I walking a little bit further back in time, moving from 2016 towards 1016. I walked past my first home as a married man and I found myself retracing my own timeline with St Andrew’s Minster marking my wedding and Canewdon claiming my birthplace. But this journey wasn’t about me, it was about going back 1000 years and imagining the stories of countless others who came before me.

As I got closer to Ashingdon I found it hillier and noticed that the clouds were closing in. It seemed a calmer place than Rochford and I really felt as if I was at the threshold of the ‘old country’. I became unnerved when I noticed that there were no birds to be seen or heard. Maybe a storm was coming.

My legs were getting sluggish as I reached the summit of Ashingdon hill but I knew the walk up to the church would require further effort. Skirting the church I looked over the hill to Canewdon church and then looked down to the woodland that concealed Cnut’s army. I walked through the churchyard and at last heard birdsong from the trees beside the path.

I left the bounds of the church and hobbled across the field towards the woodland. The wind whipped around me and almost knocked me over. As I walked through the wood I was struck with the enormity of what the armies must have faced. I was sobered and humbled to think of their commitment and the fears that must have raced through their minds.

I left them in peace and turned back towards Ashingdon.

Article: Can a Pill Fix Your Hearing?

Can a Pill Fix Your Hearing?


This is a fascinating article and certainly an area to watch but completely biased. There was no critical analysis of the ethics of gene therapy, possible side effects and, probably most critical, the need for more accurate diagnosis of the patient’s cause of hearing loss. How can you possibly treat hearing loss with medication unless you have definitely established the underlying cause of their condition?

What do you think?

Article: Japan confronts disability stigma after silence over murder victims’ names

Japan confronts disability stigma after silence over murder victims’ names


A disturbing view of disability in Japan and how it is shrouded in silence. However, because of this silence it is unclear why these murders were committed. There is a danger that the media will sensationalise this before the facts emerge. Nevertheless it’s certainly a case that will generate much debate.

Possessed by Words

Naming this blog “Possessed By Words” was not a throwaway gesture. Words are intimately connected with the human condition and are a massive part of my life. I love words, genuinely love them. I love the way that we can trace their origins yet our language is constantly evolving with old words falling from our vocabulary as new, more relevant, words take their place.

Words aren’t just objects, they are living, breathing things in their own right. They have their own stories and their own power. Through them we connect with each other, to the world, to the past and the future.

We think we possess words but actually they possess us. They describe us, our names, occupations, places, feelings. We paint pictures with them yet really we are placing them on a canvas and they take on their own lives, inhabit our minds and change our experiences in wildly different ways for each and every one of us.

Words have power and the greatest minds have tried to understand and quantify this power. From the Kabbala, Confucius, Lewis Carroll, Karl Marx and innumerable others humanity has been changed by words. We are all possessed by words and like all things they have their unique vibrations.
You don’t need to be an avid reader or writer to love words, we can all let them into our lives and embrace them.

What words do you love and why?

Deafness and Amazon Instant Video

Whilst ordering a gift from Amazon and through my own ineptitude (or was it Amazon’s sneaky button placement)  I accidentally signed up to a month’s trial of Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime membership includes free access to Amazon Instant Video and as I was lumbered with Prime for a month I thought I’d see how Amazon Instant Video performed for sound quality and subtitling.

I decided to access it on my TV via the app on Xbox Live which was a fairly painless process. Once the app was installed on my Xbox and I entered my Amazon credentials I was straight in to the selection screen. The first film I watched without subtitles until my more observant teenage son pointed out that the ‘CC’ logo in the selection screen identified which items had subtitles or, as Amazon calls them, Closed Captions. Amazon provide a useful guide to turning on Subtitles.

Despite this false start I found the sound quality far better than the On Demand films I have experienced on the Sky service. It has given me a little more hope and faith in Video On Demand and decent subtitling, I’m optimistic that with a little pressure on the Government we can get all the VOD providers to follow suit.



On Demand Subtitles

I suffer from 70% deafness in both ears and when I’m not writing I do enjoy vegging in front of the TV. My hearing aids are great but often aren’t up to the job for TV programmes so I rely on subtitles.

Have you tried watching a News programme with subtitles? They are so bad it can be hilarious but of course I’m not laughing if I’m trying to follow the news. But that’s nothing compared to On Demand subtitling.

I’m a Sky subscriber and get access to a wide range of On Demand programmes but a shocking fraction of these are actually subtitled. Also, where they’re not subtitled a huge amount of them have appalling sound quality which means to enjoy the programme I have paid for I am forced to turn the volume to the max. The result? Distorted sound. Watchability and enjoyment? Zero.

The charity Action On Hearing Loss have inititiated a campaign called Subtitle It! to petition Government to address this problem at an early stage.

Please sign this petition and help people like me to have a better quality of life and enjoy the same pleasures that you take for granted.

Shortly after I signed up to the petition I received a letter in response from my local MP David Amess. To say that I was disappointed with his response is putting it mildly. This is what he had to say:

The UK is a world leader in the TV access services… UK broadcasters and content providers are committed to meeting the needs of disabled people. The Government remains committed to seeing an improvement in the provision of accessible services for video-on-demand and will continue to monitor progress being made.

If this is the case then why is an incredible 96% of Sky’s content inaccessible to people like me who rely on subtitles? Why is the Government not taking positive action now rather than monitoring progress with a vague commitment to consider legislation in 2016?

I’m a mug for paying for this service but what’s the alternative?

Teenager Jamie Danjoux has created his own petition for Sky On Demand subtitles which is gathering a lot of support. Please also support Jamie’s petition and send a clear message to the UK Government and On Demand providers.