In Pictures: York Floods Monday 28th December 2015

So I went out a little earlier today and found some even better pictures of the floods.

York floods inventive boat made of oil drums 2015 paddled with shovels spades shopping.
These two lads made this boat out of oil drums lashed together, and they are paddling with garden shovels and are on their way to the supermarket.
York floods inventive boat made of oil drums 2015 paddled with shovels spades shopping.
Another good picture of the boat made of oil drums.
York floods 2015 rescue team in action checking safety flooded underwater disaster pictures
Across the road, a rescue team is going door to door. Phone lines are down across the city, so elderly people are particularly vulnerable.
York floods 2015 rescue team in action checking safety flooded underwater disaster pictures
A much better, more in focus picture of the heroic rescuers, although this one makes it look like they’re on dry land rather than wading through 2 feet of water. They are dragging a boat around with them but I was struggling to get a good shot as I was about 100 feet away and my zoom lens was extended as far as it would go.
York 2015 floods people affected trolley baby possessions.
These people found an abandoned shopping trolley on the street and put their baby and possessions in it before walking past this trolley park of distinctly different trolleys. Still the family looks pretty happy. I guess you would if you spent ages walking around holding stuff then found a trolley.
York historic building damage rowntree wharf floods 2015
Rowntree Wharf, a historic 19th Century building, is underwater and the road has become a river.
York historic building damage York walls floods 2015
The water has travelled higher than the eathen mounds, which are remains of the Roman walls, and has reached York’s Medieval City Walls in places.
York historic building Red Tower damage York historic building floods 2015
This old building, called ‘Red Tower’ was built in 1490, and marks the end of the walls on this side of the city.

After yesterday’s trip around town, I was left worried about the rabbits in pets at home on Foss Islands Road because, while the water hadn’t reached them, it had cut off the whole shopping area from being accessed.
Today, I am pleased to report that the rabbits are all safe and snuggled, some brave members of staff went to Pets at Home today and opened up the shop, and I have photos showing they’re all warm and dry and well-fed:

pets at home safe buns york floods
The bunnies at Pets at Home are being looked after by staff members who braved the floods to ensure the pets all got fed.
york floods 2015 rabbits pets affected
The bunnies at Pets at Home look happy and relaxed in their warm, dry housing, thanks to the amazing effort staff made to travel to and open the store today.
York floods 2015 expensive looking car underwater
In other news, a very expensive looking car with the back window left open for some reason. I hope the council don’t enforce parking tickets until the waters recede.

In Pictures: The York Floods 2015, Sunday 27th December

I went around the town on Sunday 27th December (yeah it took me FOREVER to upload these to WP) and just took some photos of the damage and of the things I saw. We even saw some looters trying to get into some abandoned vehicles, but they ran away when they saw me taking photos of nearby things with a professional looking camera (pro-tip – don’t photograph the looters if they’ve noticed you; they’ll probably take your professional looking camera then resume looting).  Click all of these to enlarge if you want to see them up close.

York flood 2015 cars underwater
Your typical flood photo of some decent cars submerged in water.
York flood 2015 recycling bins underwater
Nobody will be recycling their glass bottles for a while – unless they can throw them really far.
York flood 2015 Melrosegate road underwater sewer bubbling up water.
This was around the corner from my house – the water here has flooded even worse than it would have done from the stream, because the sewers are overwhelmed and it’s bubbling up (front centre).
York 2015 floods lols stupid flood people salt bags ASDA.
This is hilarious – apparently nobody told the manager of this ASDA store (Wal-Mart) that salt will dissolve when it is mixed with an excess of water. He would have been better off using bags of gravel.
York floods 2015 james st gypsy site caravans trailers washed away by floodwaters
But it’s hard to see the funny side when your home has literally been washed away. This is the gypsy site (trailer park for gypsies) which is usually crammed end to end with mobile homes (trailers).
York Floods 2015 December police line
A somewhat redundant sign urging people not to venture beyond this arbitrary line. I did hear that North Yorkshire Police ran out of “Road Closed” signs.
York floods 2015 car stranded water level rising december
Another stranded vehicle outside a car showroom. They moved the rest of their cars over the road. Guess this one was from the bargain bucket and deemed not worth saving. The silent tragedy of being an older, reliable motorcar is that you will be sacrificed at the first sign of trouble.
York floods 2015 drama ambulance lost roads closed
An ambulance races to hospital with a patient on-board. Trouble is, it’s heading straight for flooded roads, delaying lifesaving treatment.
York floods 2015 ambulance lost stranded danger death
The same ambulance, several minutes later, has turned around and is racing to find another route to the hospital – this is the REALLY long way round. It puts the siren on, but that’s not going to part the unrelenting water.
Nobody is going out for ice-cream today, as the island of safety surrounding Frankie and Benny's diminishes.
Nobody is going out for ice-cream today, as the island of safety surrounding Frankie and Benny’s diminishes.
York floods december 2015 foss islands road
This is Foss Islands Road, one of the main roads in York, usually gridlocked at this time of day, I don’t even think pedestrians could safely get across.
York flood december 2015 boat river rescue water mooring bridge foss islands road
To the left of the bridge, the River Rescue boat is listing because it’s been moored too tightly and cannot rise with the water levels. The bridge itself being pretty superfluous given that it currently crosses from one river to another. Given the amount of people who have been evacuated, you’d think they’d retrieve all the boats they could get so they could rescue people instead of leaving them to get damaged like this.
York flood december 2015 stupid driving road
There are a lot of vans and campervans on the road, and many people driving round and round looking for a way out of the city. I think some people have used the flood as an excuse to bug out rather than because they really need to risk life and limb making journeys on flooded roads. They’ve missed the fact that the rest of the county is underwater too. There is a lot of reckless driving going on today – like this converted campervan who is doing a U turn but doesn’t slow down enough, ending up in a car park then having to back it up.
York flood december 2015 stupid driving road campervan
Suitably stuck, now they have to back that “campervan” up like a Tonka Truck.

So some laughs, some drama, but most of all, I’m just very glad that my house isn’t flooded at the moment, and I hope to goodness it stays that way.  I think this has justified the expenditure on my 40mm prime (non-zoom) lens for my camera – it’s performance in low light is absolutely stunning – these pictures are actually a little brighter than my eyes were able to see these scenes, because it was going dark as we left the house. If I go out photographing again tomorrow, I need to try and overcome my fear of photographing people because I saw some fantastic human-interest scenes today such as a family pushing their salvaged possessions in a shopping trolley, and some others standing outside a supermarket in their pyjamas waiting for friends to meet them and take them to somewhere dry, and the aforementioned looters although I wasn’t going to snap them in a million years, they were paying too much attention to my camera (although I couldn’t have photographed people very well as I didn’t have my zoom lens with me because I didn’t want it to get wet since it’s bloody expensive – I took my standard kit lens but it was just shockingly crap in the light levels so it captured NOTHING).  I always worry that I’m imposing on others’ private emotional dramas by photographing them; I guess that’s why I’m not a “proper” journalist/photojournalist yet.

Keep Your Rabbit Cool In A Heatwave

Keeping rabbits cool in summer can be daunting.  This has been the hottest week of the year in the UK, and with temperatures pretty much soaring worldwide in the Northern Hemisphere (sorry, Oz), it’s important to keep bunnies safe from sun and heatstroke too!

rabbits die in hot hutches keep bunny cool

We all know that dogs die in hot cars, but rabbits regularly die in hot hutches as well, especially young rabbits (less than a year old). Lack of ventilation, hutches placed in direct sunlight, and the ammonia from a hutch that hasn’t been cleaned in a while all take their toll on rabbits. I’m not being OTT here, these are all things I’ve learned from having tons of buns for years. Here’s how to keep bunnies cool and safe and happy and snuggled in all this hot weather we’ve been having:

Don’t:
Leave rabbits in a hutch on hot days. They need to be able to move around and find shade (or a cool breeze) and additionally, they panic if they feel trapped, which will only make them hotter.

Assume their water bottles are sufficient. Rabbits have been not drowning in puddles for thousands of years, and a bowl of water that they can put their face in to cool down will really help them out. Be aware that they might knock it over, and refill as needed.

Put sunblock or other human sun protection products on rabbits:  It sounds good in theory, but please never do this.  Rabbits will lick it off and ingest it, and sunscreen’s not good for them, and it won’t reach their skin in any case.

Leave hutches in direct sunlight. Even when the rabbits aren’t in them, they will get hot and cause the ammonia from their urine to degrade. This can cause a potentially toxic vapour that can suffocate rabbits when you put them to bed.

Forget to clean the hutches out at least once a week in summer. The temperature and the amount of insects around means that it’s easy for a hutch to acquire maggots, which will lead to bunny fly strike, a deadly disease.

Ignore warning signs: If your bunny is visibly too hot, not really moving much, breathing heavily, and clearly uncomfortable, you need to take action (see how below).

Never, ever, ever touch a nest with newborns (younger than 8 weeks) baby rabbit kittens in it:  Even to move them somewhere cooler.  If the mother smells the babies have been interfered with by anyone who isn’t herself, she will reject them and they will die (yes, you can try to hand rear them, no, it often doesn’t work).  The mother will move them if she thinks they’ll have a better chance of survival, and she comes from a long line of rabbits who didn’t fail to care for their young (or she wouldn’t be alive herself), trust her to know what’s best for her babies, unless she’s got brain damage.  Rabbits have very good mothering instincts that are better than those of most human mothers.  Additionally, if you go near the nest while she’s around, she will attack you very viciously.  Put an ice block or a frozen bottle of water next to the nest, but not in it, and let the mother move it herself.  The only exception to this is if one of the babies needs a vet.

Do:
Get them a good sized enclosed rabbit run and put them out all day in hot weather (check they can’t dig out, or make sure your garden fence/wall will stop escapes if they do, if you’re at work all day). Leave the run in the shade and remember the shade changes direction as the sun changes position in the sky. An old doormat or cardboard box over one corner of the run will provide shade.  Don’t forget to give them water in the rabbit run!

Freeze some ice blocks for them and put these in the rabbit run so they have something cold to lie next to if they need it.

You could also put bricks in the freezer (if you remember from my article on keeping bunnies warm I mentioned putting a brick in the oven then put it in the rabbit hutch at night) and put these out in the hutch to cool the air in the hutch.

Get them a water bowl as well as their bottle (or a second water bowl) so that they always have some water, and check it every few hours if it’s a really hot day. Water is the most important thing for keeping bunnies alive in hot weather. If you do nothing else from my article, do this.

Keep topping their water up.  Water water water water water.  That’s what rabbits need in hot weather.

If bunny gets too hot: Emergency bunny first aid for heatstroke:
If your bunny is visibly uncomfortable from the heat, get a jug or bucket of water and get the bunny wet. Avoid the face and ears, you just want to get their body wet to increase heat loss. If the bunny doesn’t jump up and try to run away (they really don’t like getting wet), check the temperature of their ears.

If the bunny’s ears are hot and the bunny is not moving much, breathing heavily (or not breathing), and generally unresponsive, they probably have heat stroke. It is preceded by heat exhaustion, which stops them raising the alarm about their state (this is true of humans too, although in people, the face tends to go red and they can even stop sweating).  This is more deadly to small animals than it is to humans (and it’s pretty dangerous to humans). At this point, you need to make an emergency appointment with the vet and get your bunny the care he needs to survive.

Personally, I wouldn’t waste any time, and I’d get a sick bunny to the vet (any vet) as soon as possible because they are stuck with a fur coat and feel the temperature a lot more than we do, they don’t have a very good cooling system and they’re not designed to be above ground trapped in a hot environment in summer weather, usually they’d be in their underground burrow at this time of day in the summer, chilling out with their friends.  We have, over centuries, forced them to live in our environment for our own entertainment, the least we can do is try to make it comfortable for them.

21 tips for writing a bestselling travel article

This article will give you 21 tips and tricks to help you to write a bestselling travel article: In the style of a well known travel website which also sells guidebooks.

I look to magazines to show me the best examples of how to write. Sometimes I have to wonder why these people get paid in money rather than in bananas. That’s right, I’m implying a relationship between monkeys and typewriters. Bearing that in mind, here are some tips on how to write the perfect bestselling travel article, including photo editing tips:

1. Pick a place that’s easy to get to, but far enough away that normal people can’t actually afford to go there.

2. Take one or two photos that are probably unrepresentative of the place as a whole, particularly if it involves the sea, rugged landscapes, or any view you can only get from a helicopter.

This is exactly what you will see if you go to Egypt.
This is exactly what you will see if you go to Egypt.

3. Touch up the picture with Photoshop to enhance the colours, to make it even more unrepresentative of the place, and edit out the unsightly evidence of real life taking place, such as litter, insects or children.  Your aim is for travellers to be disappointed when they get there, so they go somewhere else (and buy a new guidebook) next year.

Those peaches have been colour enhanced to make you disappointed if you really see them.
Those peaches have been colour enhanced to make you disappointed if you really see them. Source: Wikipedia.

4. Write a story, embellish the details and make up interactions with semi-stereotypical characters who are always unusually aware of their global context for a farmer/mechanic/factory worker, to really show people an unrepresentative slice of life in the place where they’ll never go (because if they did, they’d find out you made it all up).

5. The opening paragraph – use at least four adjectives per sentence, the whole paragraph must be exactly three sentences long. The first sentence should have no more than 8 words in it. The second sentence can be a little longer.

6. The body of the article: Basically the first paragraph serves to describe the place in its entirety, from here on you will be talking about the history, climate, etc, and never, ever tell people anything useful such as what they could find there, how to get there, what petrol is called, what side of the road to drive on. Instead, you should find the most obscure language in the area and throw around one or two words that don’t mean anything, because it makes people feel like they now know enough lingo to go there. You never know, they might just find that one person who speaks that actual language and talk to them for long enough to use the two words they can now understand. More likely, it’s an insular community who are sick to death of white people, since their only contact with white people is when they turn up, gawk, take pictures of them as if they’re objects, then talk loudly at them and leave.

7. It is probably a place of conflict. Briefly mention the conflict, and don’t hasten to embellish on exactly how this conflict has changed all the people who live here, even if it only happened a few years ago or only happened for two days, or only affected one village that was eight hundred miles away from where you stayed. The only exception to this is if the conflict is ongoing. If the conflict is ongoing, you must mention it in less than one sentence, or even better, don’t mention it at all. They can find out for themselves when they get shot.

8. Don’t mention cultures or customs (with the exception of high days such as Carnevale or Divali, people need to know what they could have done, had they picked better travel days), after all, wouldn’t it be really funny if all the unescorted white women got arrested for immodesty, driving or being out unaccompanied. Better still, don’t tell them about the kidnap/rape problem, because that’s no biggie if it happens. The absolute best practice, though, is to tell your audience all about the cool exciting awesome things you can do in this country, which women aren’t actually allowed to do, and adding a tiny sentence at the end saying “women are not allowed in/on/at the …”

9. Do mention pickpockets or begging children, people will then think your article is honest and reflective of the “real” place.

10. Do mention that drugs are illegal. After all, the fact that they’re illegal EVERYWHERE is such a good deterrent that telling people what happens when they get caught abroad will REALLY stop them doing it. Seriously, this is like secret code for “everyone does drugs in this country.” Those are the only countries they ever point out the legality for.

11. Don’t mention any of the potential diseases you can get in the country you’re writing about. Or any of the necessary vaccinations. Who cares if some tourists die of malaria, AIDS, dengue fever or cholera as long as they bought your guidebook before they departed on their trip?

12. Don’t mention the state of the hospitals or other emergency services. People won’t take out travel insurance if they find out it’s utterly useless due to the fact that there aren’t any hospitals within 800 miles. And then you won’t get money from advertisers.

13. Don’t mention whether the destination has decent food for coeliacs, vegans, Muslims or Jews. They don’t need to eat. As a travel writer, you don’t know any of “those people” personally, so clearly they don’t exist.

14. Do talk in great detail about the “traditional dish” or “national dish” (which nobody really eats who lives there) which is usually meat stuffed with meat in meat sauce with meat and/or possibly cheese.

15. Leave out information about electricity. No-one charges their phone when they’re on holiday.

16. Keep pushing those sponsored hire car articles, but don’t tell readers ANYTHING about the various highway laws. Getting tickets abroad and putting the wrong fuel in your car is fun! Hey they could even get their car impounded!

17. Keep talking about budget options, but don’t actually make an effort to include anything that’s truly cheap. Whatever the hell you get paid to write those shoddy articles is too much if you think £80 a night is a budget hotel/hostel.

18. Never mention anything to do with accessibility. People who are disabled, people who have a guide dog to accompany them (or other support animal) and people with kids in pushchairs don’t travel. Only rich able bodied people do that. That’s why there are ramps and lifts and things all round the world.

19. Don’t discuss travel money options. At all. That’s not worth a single word of an article.

20. Don’t mention which religious groups reside in the area or where the local churches are, or what denominations can worship here. People stop believing in religion when they’re on holiday.

21. DO mention architecturally famous places of worship. Particularly if nobody can worship in them any more. Because travellers want to see the stunning results of religious buildings but don’t want to actually thank the people that made it all possible.

If you follow this guide, you too can produce financially lucrative, but boring and uninformative travel articles with exaggerated details, that editors will pay to publish. That’s a highly popular way that you can make a living off travel writing – because selling out and selling lies to the Man is everyone’s dream come true right?