The Monastery Of Saint Catherine - Out Of Reach & Removed From Time

A few years ago at the Royal Academy there was a show of Byzantine Icons, many of which had been sourced from the Monastery named after Saint Catherine 5000 feet up near the spot where Moses received the commandments from God. The Monastery itself is now a small fortress and the treasures within have survived their own existential threats including those posed by the iconoclasts where much art work of substantial beauty was destroyed throughout Byzantium. The monastery being so hard to reach was left alone.

Monastery of Saint Catherine

Image Source: Darnley Fine Art (Orientalist Paintings Specialist)

The British Artist, David Roberts RA spent a great deal of time traveling through the Holy Land circa. 1839. He produced a number of spectacularly beautiful works that bring to life the whole region. His journey started in the Egyptian capital and he traveled to the Sinai Peninsula and on to Petra in Jordan and on to what is now Israel. 

Roberts does perhaps epitomise the “orientalist” period and his pictures are as much a travelogue as they are great art. They bring the viewer in, offering a taste of the landscape, the period, even a chat with the local people of the day; a rounded insight that is cerebral in impact. 

Saint Catherine's Monastery
The Chapel of The Monastery of Saint Catherine (Source: Darnley Fine Art)

A few years ago I spoke to the artist Maggi Hambling about repeating David Roberts journey in a contemporary context. Maggi said, “Great idea but I am not a topographical artist!” She did however, suggest one of her students whom she described as “brilliant”. We contrived a documentary series in the footsteps of Roberts where Maggi would be the mentor and advisor, offering her own brand of sincere and charismatic advice. I still think it would have been a wonderful journey to take but sadly the Arab Spring was break out just at that time and the whole region became unstable. Trying to consider any documentary commissioner to fund such a project would have been a waste of time. 

Maggi Hambling - Oscar Wilde
Maggi hambling sitting on her Oscar Wilde Scuplture near Charing X, London (Source: Nick Breeze)

Provided the treasured icons survive this current period of tumult that is still lingering in the Middle East, we can but hope that one day we’ll be able to travel in the footsteps of David Roberts and taste the landscape and experience that he felt nearly two centuries ago. In these ancient landscapes nothing much seems to change, even conflict is nothing new!

Nick Breeze


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'Autumn' by Siegfried Sassoon - Spoken Word Poetry

Siegfried Sassoon - Poetry - AutumnA series of tributes to the war poet who took a stand against the “jingoism” of war rhetoric. A soldier, poet and writer, Sassoon stands out with Wilfred Owen as one of the 1st World War’s major poets.

This poem, Autumn, is a touching and graphically emotive, depicting the “fruitless harvest” that war delivers and comparing the scattered lives of men to the falling Autumnal leaves.

Narrated by Nick Breeze

Twitter: @InDulwich

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#Clifi - IDP: 2043 - New Climate Fiction Graphic Novel

Depiction of our not-so-distant future are looking pretty beak... should we take them seriously?

Contributors to IDP:2043: Enfant terrible of Scottish letters and author of Trainspotting Irvine Welsh and graphic artist Dan McDaid, celebrated French graphic novelist and illustrator Barroux, Costa Award winner Mary Talbot and artist Kate Charlesworth, ‘godfather of British comics’ and creator of 2000AD Pat Mills and graphic novelist Hannah Berry, graphic novelists Adam Murphy and Will Morris. Story editor: crime writer and graphic novelist, Denise Mina.



Fiction is, by its' own definition, dredged from the recesses of the imagination, but our identification with it usually implies some kind of connecting cord to or from the real world. In the “Cli-FI” genre (shortened from “Climate-Fiction”), authors are increasingly depicting the world as it might be towards the end of the century, or perhaps even a decade or two away. Needless to say, the depictions are seldom desirable, but are these storytellers reflecting an unnecessary internal pessimism, or are they derived from visible seeds of decay, visible now in our current existence?

Having spoken to many scientists about their findings on climate change I am intrigued by the often appended line to the dialogue that goes something like, “…but I am an optimist and I am confident humanity will make the necessary changes before it is too late.” Of course, the trouble is, instead of slowly turning the carbon effluent monster of human civilisation around towards a sustainable future, the rate of consumption, and thus pollution, is actually going up.

Corporations have taken over our democracies, assuming the status of living entities (extremely wealthy entities), and proceeded in buying up vast quantities of the natural world, before converting it into carbon pollution and wasteland. Conflict among humans and the number of failed states is rising. The amount of food being produced is required to go up to feed our burgeoning populations but it can only go down due to pressure from climate change and poor use of land. Corporations are manipulating seeds, patenting them and desecrating the future potential for organic agriculture. Water is running to all time lows as fossil acquirers that supply much of China, India and other regions are drying up. Huge food baskets like California is collapsing to drought. The Ukraine is being destroyed by war. The list goes on and with it the hopes for a stable, secure and plentiful future  diminish.

It is hard to comprehend the reality of all this when one lives in a wealthy western culture like the UK (where I am), and the supermarket shelves are stacked with plentiful supplies of everything and anything. Stalls on the street are bursting with colourful fruit and veg, whilst restaurants and coffee shops are everywhere. The UK imports around 40% of its produce, a figure likely to rise as the government offers up more agricultural land to housing developments. The impacts on food prices from a range of impacts, largely all with a root cause of climate pressure, will be a steady rise with some shocks along the way. Conflict around the world will continue to rise and be exacerbated by these issues. We in the west may feel safe from harm now but the seeds of dystopia are most definitely being sown around us.

In this graphic Cli-Fi novel, titled IDP-2043 (IDP standing for Internally Displaced Person/’s), a number of distinguished writers and graphic artists have contributed to one flowing storyline. Perhaps the most recognisable name in the list is Irvine Welsh but this is very much a collaborative effort and each contributor makes a mark. The story extrapolates out all the trends of our current course, starting with massive sea level rise that leaves the UK about half its current size in area. The government is largely a corporate dictatorship ruling with fear and hardship, with dark plans to save it self.


The lead character in the story is a woman from the ghetto who’s growing celebrity and outspokenness is causing problems for her superiors. Even the hit men sent to execute her have some logic to their own psychotic disposition as they lament the burden of human population. The unfolding story is fast paced and makes for good entertainment. It would be great to see many more of these stories being published with strong links to the challenges that we can see in our own societies. For instance, the restriction of education and fairness, and the subjugation of democracy for corporate power, in order than money can continue to flow into the hands of those who least deserve it.

The narrative points to one conclusion, which humanity should try to grasp sooner rather than later. True value does not reside in the blind acquisition of inanimate objects. True value will always be in the balance of human life with nature, the ability to feed to satiety, to sup water when thirsty, to remain warm when outside it is cold (and vice versa), to be stimulated intellectually and to live our lives with respect for the social dynamics of our society, as much as for the individual private worlds which we inhabit.

Cli-Fi is a growing genre and this graphic novel is a worthy contribution, beautifully packaged with its own troupe of talented storytellers to lose oneself in. It is available to order online from Freight Books:

by Nick Breeze

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War Poets: Wilfred Owen, 'Dulce Et Decorum Est'

wilfred-owenWilfred Owen is the most celebrated of the "war poets" and his work captures the tragedy of war, stripped from glamour and propaganda. One hundred years on, humanity still has much to listen to in the torturous words of these young men, breaking down in mental and physical agony to defend the values of their society.

Dulce Et Decorum Est is the first line of a popular phrase used at the beginning of World War I that translates as "It is sweet and right". The second part of the phrase, "Pro patria mori." means, "to die for your country."

Narrated by Nick Breeze


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