Oliver Francis

Thoughts from the spaces in between

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Reindeer Games (for Litro Magazine)

IMG_7927csmallThis piece originally appeared in Litro Magazine

The herd of reindeer appeared over the rise of the hill. A great mass of animals painted a patchwork of brown and white on the green and grey of the high scrub. A low chorus of grunts and lowing carried over the ground, accompanied by a rumbling percussion of hooves. Coming up behind them were a line of quad bikes and a pair of collie dogs. The herd packed closer together, and became a single shifting mass flowing across the ground. One of the quad bikes broke off and turned towards us, bouncing its way over the tussocks. We started to back off, not wanting to disturb this monumental round-up. But as one bike got a little closer, its rider started beckoning us towards him. We were about to become reindeer herders. Continue reading

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The cars of Cuba

Cuba, especially Havana, wouldn’t be the same without its old American cars. When I visited in June this year I had expected just a few of these Yank Tanks to be knocking about, but in fact they’re everywhere. By my very crude reckoning, as many as one in four of Cuban cars on the road could date from before the revolution.

I’m not normally someone to get excited about a metal box on wheels, but there is something beguiling about these old beasts. Of all the ages of motoring to be frozen in time by geopolitics, this is surely the one you would pick, with its aggressive grilles, fat wheel arches and sleek tailfins. Continue reading

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Cloud Gate Code

Watched Source Code on DVD yesterday – so in reference to that, a few pictures of the (admittedly much-photographed) Cloud Gate, together with some other bits of Chicago.

As for Source Code itself, it was good knockabout sci-fi fun. But as Obi Wan might have said, that’s no Moon. It was nice to see (or rather hear) Scott Bakula’s cameo –  “Oh boy!” – leaving me very nostalgic for Quantum Leap.

More photos over on Flikr.

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Oniyo Fire Festival

As it’s just been bonfire night, in honour of setting light to things for spurious reasons, here are some pictures of a rather different fire festival.

The Oniyo Fire Festival of Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture in southern Japan happens every year on 7 January – and has done so apparently for the past 1900 years or so. Its purpose is to banish evil spirits from the town and grant luck, fertility and prosperity.

The temperature is close to freezing, and the men are dressed only in loincloths – so these campfires that they gather around are practical as much as ritual (generous quantities of Sake also help with proceedings.)

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