(james benedict brown) on the road

Snapshot: Bananas

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 16 October, 2010

Seen in Dublin, 15 October 2010.

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The Liberties

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 13 October, 2010

I was in Dublin last week for the first events of the annual Open House weekend. I met a friend in town to see the opening debate (a snooze fest from which we escaped early) before he kindly gave me a lift part of the way back to Belfast. I asked him, based on his knowledge of Dublin and of me, which neighbourhood in the city he could see me living in. I don’t know whether this reflects more on me or more on Dublin, but he suggested the Liberties.

I generally wait ages for a trip to Dublin, and then two come along at once. So I’m back again this week, doing some research in Dublin (today and Friday) and Waterford (Thursday). With an hour or two spare, I took a tram towards Heuston and the Museum of Modern Art. Heading back to town, I diverted through the inner city Liberties to have a look around.

It’s only looking back at this photograph an hour or two later that I realise just how green the grass would seem to be on this side of the border.

However, just to re-assure everyone who might be surprised at the thought (including my family, my girlfriend, my supervisor) – I’m not moving to Dublin. It’s just a handy way to ask someone who knows you and a city that’s unfamiliar to you where your characters might overlap. It was on that visit last week I realised that I’ve been to Paris more times than Dublin. Being so close to this city, that’s something of an embarrassment. So I’ve made some allowances in my schedule to rediscover my flâneur-ish behaviour in a city that’s shamefully quite unknown to me. I’ll be uploading some more photographs from my trip in the coming days on Flickr.

Edit: More pics from my walk around the Liberties here.

My flight memory

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 23 June, 2010

About a month ago I rediscovered my FlightMemory account. It had lain dormant for a couple of years, and on a quiet evening I was able to bring up to date relatively easily. FlightMemory is a free-for-basic / paid-for-premium online service that allows you to log aeroplane flights in an online database. You can specify the date, time, route, airline, aircraft; even the seat number. It can then calculate the flown distance to build a comprehensive database of how far you’ve flown, and which airlines and aircraft you’ve used the most

Even if it were possible to do it – which I don’t think it realistically is – the site doesn’t offer you an indication of the carbon emissions or environmental impact of one’s travels. Different planes, different engines, different climatic conditions, different passenger and cargo loadings, etc. all conspire to make each flight unique. By its very nature, the website seems to err on the side of celebrating rather than lamenting flying. There’s a machismo table of users so that you compare the size of your emissions to the size of everyone elses.

Although I appreciate that the very act of blogging about my (publicly accessible) statistics makes me guilty of participating in the macho competition. But to put it in layman’s terms, I’m prepared to admit that I have flown too much in my lifetime.

I’ve now flown in excess of 125,000 miles, equivalent to five circumnavigations of the planet, or half the distance between the Earth and the Moon. I’ve been able to take into account almost every commercial flight I’ve ever taken, starting with a short cross-channel hop in a Dornier 228 in 1994 (although the exact date still eludes me) up until the Ryanair flight I took this morning. All my recent flights have been booked online, so the receipts were somewhere in my inbox. My diaries filled in the gaps, and only a few school and university trips to Europe are missing precise journey data.

FlightMemory will generate a global, continental and domestic map for each user, personalised around their home country. The European visualisation of my travels is a record of many different holidays and study trips, but doesn’t represent the many journeys I’ve taken to France, Belgium and the Netherlands by train. At a push I’d guess roughly half my trips to the continent have been by train, so don’t throw the book at me yet.

My UK map is, however, a dense hive of lines, primarily because of my personal and professional connections between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. By my reckoning, I’ve only ever flown domestically within Great Britain three times, the train having always been cheaper and more attractive. But the real damage to the environment (and the real damage to my personal life) has been my commute between Glasgow and Belfast. While the longest route I’ve flown was more than 4,200 miles in length (from Edmonton to London) the shortest is between Belfast and Prestwick, at just 80 miles – the shortest route operated anywhere in Europe by Ryanair, and one that is quite surreal in a Boeing 737-800 series, lasting as little as twenty minutes tarmac to tarmac.

According to FlightMemory, I’ve now flown between Belfast and Glasgow fifty times. Strangely I’ve flown to Belfast more times than I’ve flown to Glasgow, and yet as I look around me, I’m still in Glasgow. Similarly, until earlier this year, Glasgow International Airport was one that I had departed from several times, but never arrived into. Having now done both, however, I can confirm it’s a ****hole whichever way you pass through it, and more expensive to use than comparable airports.

This unpleasant existence of commuting across the Irish Sea will continue for the next year or so. As long as I remember, I’ll keep updating the FlightMemory too, although I look forward to the day when I doubt have any trips planned by plane.

Yahoo gives St. Patrick’s Day to the British…

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 9 February, 2009

st_patricks_day1

Sorry Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is now a British holiday, according to the Yahoo calendar that I’ve never used (see here at the bottom of my online mail inbox). Add that to the Irish complaint of being lumped in with the British on the map.

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