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Our driver was a very cheerful, friendly chap but didn't speak any English. He took us up onto the roof terraces of two houses, one near the Great Mosque with superb views across the square towards it and the other at the far side of town looking across the rooftops to the river and marshes that surround the town. She was now developing a long shopping list of necessities she was going to buy, starting with food, through pots and pans to a bit more furniture!

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It had been an excellent, interesting and hassle-free tour and we told Amadou he was the best guide in Mali! For the third night running we showered away the dust and heat and went to the same restaurant for the same beer and ragout of mutton. As we were halfway through our meal, Richard and Fearon who we last saw at the Relax in Bamako, walked in out of the blue! Well, out of the starry African night. They had been for a 4-day trek in the Dogon area of Mali and had arrived in Mopti that day.

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We had a pleasant chat but unfortunately Sheila started to feel unwell and we had to leave. Thurs 19 th. Sheila had some sort of hour bug. She was quite ill yesterday evening, then slept deeply till 10am while I had a leisurely breakfast and a read. Once she got up and got going she started to feel better and we met up with Richard and Fearon who had moved into the Mankan Te, our hotel, because theirs was terrible. Today's task was to change some money and this took most of the morning.

We walked down the road with Richard and Fearon, flagging down any vehicle that came past in the hope that it was a taxi. Almost straight away a chap driving a smart, clean 4WD vehicle with air conditioning stopped and offered us a lift. He appeared to work for one of the aid agencies and he really didn't want to take any money, which was nice of him. He dropped us at the bank in Mopti and we went in to start the labourious process of converting FF cash into CFA cash.

Because the rates are fixed we didn't have to pay commission but there was still endless form-filling and so on. We met Richard and Fearon for another beer as arranged and walking back to the bus station stopped at the Air Mali office to enquire about flights out of Timbuktu. There we got the alarming news that Air Mali doesn't take credit cards at all, so we've got to change a pile more money at the bank if we don't want to spend the rest of our lives in Timbuktu. Exhausted, we had a beer and a meal at the Mankan Te.

Soon after we had finished our main courses, out came four plates of blazing bananas! They burned very prettily and there was still plenty of rum or whatever it was left when the flames had gone out. Fri 20 th. Richard and Fearon had presumably left early as planned to fly back to Ghana. Over breakfast we chatted to a Spanish couple who appeared to be the only other people left in the hotel. They were part of a tour group, the rest of which was staying elsewhere, and when we realised that they were going into Mopti in two 4WD's to pick up the others we cadged a lift.

We went to the BIM bank to change all our travellers' cheques into cash. This was more straightforward and quicker than I expected, only taking half an hour or so. I think my expectations are beginning to adjust to the local reality. Being at the north end of town we walked up the riverside road to the Kanaga, Mopti's only 'luxury' hotel about a km out of town. As we were adopting a totally short-term view of money at this stage scrape together enough cash to get out of here and worry about the bills when we get home we decided on the spot to move there for tonight. It is also comparatively close to where the riverboat is moored so if we ever do get word that the boat is leaving we will be better placed to move on board.

We rushed back to the Mankan Te, packed, said goodbye to Jutta, Bobo her assistant and the other staff, and moved into the Kanaga. The Kanaga could be really nice but it is undergoing some renovation. There is a swimming pool with no water and a rough dusty area round it that might one day be a pleasant garden. The place has a strange smell, a sort of combination of new building and old dust. It was midday and Sheila crashed out for a nap while I read a book in the hotel lobby.

Later we went out in search of a supermarket to stock up with provisions for the boat trip, but despite getting precise directions several times to several different places we never quite found it. Even though we're really only hanging around waiting for the boat we end up hot and exhausted each day and we went to bed early while there was still power to drive the air conditioning. Some time in the middle of the night it went off but the room was reasonably cool by then.

Sat 21 st. The hotel breakfast was very poor value and not included in the room price so we skipped it and walked down the riverside road to the Navigation office where they issued our tickets for the riverboat. Amazingly these were computer-produced and personalised with our names printed on. A row of about 8 tickets was printed onto an A4 sheet of light cardboard, which the manager cut up with a pair of scissors.

We went to the Sigui restaurant for breakfast and had a nice Spanish omelette and bread and jam while we watched the lizards and little red birds come to drink from a nearby dripping tap. Then we had another attempt to find the supermarket. We asked the waiter who without hesitation deserted his post to come and show us the way, accompanied by a hanger-on who kept trying to muscle in and take us to his shop. They hadn't quite got the idea, though, because we ended up going round the craft and souvenir market, so with lots of help from the phrase book we explained what we wanted and they took us to the shop of the man who had changed our money the day we booked the boat tickets.

I had been trying without success to find his shop again because he had all the things we needed - bug spray, a bit of food in case the food on the boat was inedible, tea bags, bottles of water, etc. We came away fully equipped for our expedition and returned to the hotel. We read and dozed until about then walked down the riverbank road to the boat and took occupancy of our cabin.

First we made it habitable - this involved asking one of the crew to wipe all the sticky surfaces with a cloth and another one to sweep all the bits and pieces off the floor, then we used most of a can of bug spray, closed it up and went to the quayside to watch the hustle and bustle of preparations.

We discovered that, although all meals are included in the price of the ticket, that starts with breakfast tomorrow and not tonight's dinner, so we went across the road to the Sigui and Sheila had a superb beef curry while I had a similarly excellent brochette of Capitaine. The advertised departure time of 8pm was now approaching so we returned to the boat, saying goodbye to Hamadou, the man from the boat office who had originally made our reservation. At about we were standing on the top deck when we noticed that the boat was ever so slowly starting to drift away from the quayside at one end.

Very gradually it swung out into the river, lazily turned around and we were off! We settled in feeling quite at home as the boat chugged its way down the Niger river. At 7 o'clock someone rang the bell to announce breakfast - a good, old-fashioned, shake-it-about, clangy sort of bell. As our first meal on board it wasn't particularly exciting - a cup of coffee, half a French loaf and a lump of camel butter.

We returned to the cabin to watch the ever-changing yet unchanging view and anticipate lunch. There was no quayside, the boat just grounded gently on a sandbank by the village centre and several canoes came alongside with ladies selling dried fish to the lower deck 3 rd class passengers who had to make their own catering arrangements. There was a man slowly and methodically dismembering a couple of goats on the shore but he didn't try to sell any meat to anyone on board.

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No-one seemed to get on or off so it must have been just a provisions stop. Looks like it's dried fish for lunch! Mon 23 rd. Everyone had been very vague about how long it would take to get to Timbuktu, but hazarded either two or three days. With our Western literalness we took that to mean at least 48 hours, so Monday evening at best, more likely Tuesday. So we were all set for another lazy day drifting down the river when about am we pulled in for another stop. We were standing at the railing idly watching the hustle and bustle below when people started telling us that this was the stop for Timbuktu!

We weren't sure what to believe until the Commissar of the boat came along and confirmed it, so we frantically packed and decamped onto the quayside, feeling simultaneously excited at arriving and cheated out of a day of drifting along. The river has moved over the centuries and the port is now some 10km from Timbuktu itself. The bus dropped us at the police station in the centre of town because they know all strangers have to register there.

The police were very friendly and we got the all-important 'Tombouctou' stamp in our passports. A tout from the Bouctou hotel attached himself to us which was useful because we wanted to stay there anyway, so we made him take us first to the Air Mali office to try and get on Wednesday's flight out. There are only three flights a week and having got here, the top priority is to get away again! However, the flight was full and we had to go on the waiting list; this could be a disaster, we could be stuck here for days and there isn't exactly a lot to do. All we have to do now is wait; we'll go sightseeing when we know we've got a flight out.

We tried to wait under the trees in the dusty garden behind the hotel but there were a lot of flies and a lot of touts mostly Tuareg selling cheap jewellery and rides on their camels so we retreated into the restaurant for some refreshing watermelon. We whiled away the afternoon writing postcards and playing cards.

It was too hot to do anything else but the locals laughed and said how cold it is compared to the summer - they are all wearing thick coats! Before dinner we celebrated the achievement of our arrival in Timbuktu by drinking the small bottle of airline champagne that we had carried all the way from the Dakar flight with us for this very purpose, accompanied by the last of the peanuts we bought from the street stall in Dakar. We had dinner at the Bouctou but it wasn't a great success - the only choices were steak or omelette so we had one of each.

The steak was the chewiest imaginable but we persevered and between us we finished it. Tues 24 th. After the standard continental breakfast at the Bouctou we arrived on the doorstep of the Air Mali office at 8 o'clock sharp ready to beg, plead and grovel for places on tomorrow's flight. At the caretaker arrived and opened up the office and at the Director arrived, by which time we were sitting in chairs in front of his desk.

After some pleasantries he asked if we would like tickets for tomorrow's flight. Resisting the urge to throw ourselves on the floor and hug his ankles we said yes, please and he wrote out the tickets. Flushed with success we walked down to the Post Office and bought stamps for all our postcards. The man behind the counter was very helpful, telling us it didn't matter if we stuck the stamps on sideways because, as usual, we hadn't left enough room for them above the address. He then stamped every one very carefully so the 'Timbuktu' postmark was visible and we put them in the box. Most of them arrived the week after we got home.

Having completed the admin more easily than we dared hope we went on a walk round Timbuktu, looking at the old mosques, decorated doorways and mud-brick houses. In the middle ages Timbuktu was a rich and powerful city and had one of the biggest universities in the Arab world. It is now sadly run down and is a very smelly, fly-blown place.

Every child you pass wants a 'cadeau', all except for one little toddler who attached himself to Sheila and came along with us for some way until his big sister forced him to go home, whereupon he screamed irreconcilably until we were out of sight. By 11 o'clock we had finished the tour and, for a change of scenery, went to the Azalai, the only other hotel in town, for a cold drink and a read.

We whiled away the afternoon heat back at our hotel then about 4 o'clock went for a walk to see if the Post Office was open to send another card. It wasn't, but by zigzagging more or less at random through the old town we found a couple of the 'sights' that we had missed this morning - the houses where two of the early explorers one Scottish, one French lived when they 'discovered' Timbuktu in the early s. We also found two of the bread ovens in operation - these are weird-looking conical constructions about 6 feet high with a smoke-blackened square opening in one side, often plonked in the middle of the street.

Back at the hotel there didn't seem to be anything at all for dinner so we played cards, had a packet of biscuits and the last of the Fantas we bought before we got on the boat in Mopti and didn't bother. Wed 25 th. We were up at 5am and ready for the taxi to the airport at 6, but of course there wasn't one. In fact the hotel was all locked up and nobody was about. Gradually it came to life and when a vehicle pulled up outside and the driver wandered in and sat down we asked if he was a taxi.

He said yes but really he meant that he was there to collect someone else but was prepared to make a few bob while he was waiting. Gradually the airport came to life and when the check-in man arrived the same man who gave us our tickets yesterday we were at the front of the crush. We needn't have worried because the 'plane was not full but we had heard so many horror stories of people with tickets not getting on the plane and being stuck in Timbuktu for a week that we wanted to make sure.

The aeroplane had about 44 seats, looked very old and most of the writing was in Russian. There is nothing but desert between Timbuktu and Mopti yet amazingly we made one stop. We landed on a gravel airstrip in the middle of nowhere, all trooped off the plane clutching our 'transit' cards and stood about for ten minutes before we got back on. It was so remote that there weren't even any Tuareg trying to sell us things.


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As we flew over the Niger river area there was no obvious channel, the water seemed to have spread out over the desert in lakes and puddles as far as we could see in every direction, yet there was little sign of agriculture, it was just lying there evaporating in the sun.

Mopti again. He had a uniform on and I wondered if he worked in the airport but she thought not. He asked if we could wait till the plane had taken off for its next destination, which we did. It was only when we were driving into town with another man in the same uniform that we realised that they were the airport firemen! Now the plane had gone for the day their job was finished. He took us down to the Ouagadougou bus office, which we had found during our previous stay, where the old chaps who always sit there now greeted us as long-lost friends.

The fireman then took us to the Sigui restaurant where we had been looking forward to the greatest treat of all - real food!


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We had two of their excellent beef curries, our first real meal for days. We spent the time waiting for the bus at Bar Bozo, watching the boats loading and unloading all around us in the busy port. The overnight bus to Ouagadougou takes 21 hours so we were expecting it to be rough going. It was sheer hell. The hour and a half after 'departure' time was taken in constructing a mountain of luggage on the roof which was half as high as the bus itself. Inside, there were four rows of seats which almost take 4 people per row, including the fold-down seat in the aisle.

Of course nobody counts children so several of them had to fold themselves in around the adults who were all squashed together overlapping each other along the row. There was clearly some discussion about why there were only two of us on the back seat but the driver explained that we had bought four places so nobody tried to occupy our space.

Despite the extra width there was hardly any legroom so it was pretty uncomfortable, some of our luggage was crammed in with us and unfortunately some of our fellow travellers smelled extremely pungent before we even started. It was never clear how long we were going to be stopped at each halt so we didn't know whether to get down and stretch our legs or not, because it took about half an hour to find a comfortable position when we started again. Then, in the middle of the night we stopped because the driver was tired and wanted a sleep. He took his sleeping mat, which Sheila had been using as a blanket, and he and all the other passengers disappeared into the pitch-black African night to sleep somewhere.

We stretched out on a deserted seat each. The stars were beautiful but it was still uncomfortable and I didn't sleep at all. Thurs 26 th. Burkina Faso. Soon after dawn we got going again and crossed the border from Mali into Burkina Faso. We clearly had a couple of 'illegals' with us because before and after each of the border posts and checkpoints we stopped, these two got off and headed into the bush, then when we were a reasonable distance the other side we would stop and wait for them to catch up again, which they did amazingly quickly.

We arrived in Bobo-Dioulasso, the second biggest city in Burkina Faso, about midday. We could have done it in literally half the time if we had just kept going. To our surprise at this point they told us to get off and get on another bus - it seemed that we were the only passengers going on to Ouagadougou so they bought us tickets on the local bus service.

We started to protest because they only bought 2 seats on this bus and we had paid for 4 all the way through, but when we saw it we gave in because it was a proper bus with comfortable seats, leg room and luggage racks - real luxury! Sheila elbowed her way to the front and got the best seats, the bus started off soon after we got on and only stopped a few times along the way, so we almost started to enjoy the journey. Halfway there all the passengers suddenly started pointing at something out of the window and there in the bush, about yards from the road, was a herd of elephants!

The bus driver slowed down but didn't stop. This must be a rare sight because even the locals were excited about it. Enjoy a mulled wine or hot chocolate and be part of a truly enchanting experience. Depart Henley: A memorable day out with brass bands and carol singers.

See Victorian characters as they prepare seasonal decorations and traditional gifts. Visit them in their cottages and shops, perhaps pay a visit to the Pharmacy and learn about their curious remedies. You can even exchange your money at the bank into pounds, shillings and pence and use it in the grocers, bakery or the traditional sweetshop.

Includes: Admission to the Victorian Village. The glimmer of candles, the fragrance of decorated trees and the sound of music playing, combine to make a unique experience. Refreshments are available along with a gift shop offering Christmas goods and produce. Before arriving at the house we make a stop at the nearby farm shop.

Both November dates will feature the Christmas market offering a wide range of stalls along with seasonal musical entertainment from brass bands to string quartets. Includes: Entrance to the House and Grounds. Now, in the 21st century, it has become one of the most visited historic buildings in Britain. You can then step back outside and visit the Christmas Market, held on the Cedar Lawn overlooking the castle to discover an array of seasonal gifts, decorations, toys, food and drink.

The festival of light is held every year, and features giant Chinese Lanterns hand made out of steel frames which are covered in beautiful silks. Spread across acres of gardens, they create a spectacular sight. The house will be dressed for Christmas, each room in its own style. As we arrive, we tour the safari park before free time to explore the house and other park attractions.

The market offers a wide range of beautiful jewellery, toys, hand-made Christmas decorations, paintings, cards and original art.

There's festive food on offer and plenty of hot drinks to keep you warm while you shop. With over exhibitors inside the Cathedral, there will be lots of choice for that unusual special gift or unique decoration. Seasonal floristry and cooking demonstrations will take place during the day and the Cathedral Choristers along with other local performers will offer musical entertainment. Live music will ring out at the Quays from brass bands to Christmas carollers, while the stars of the show are expected to be the larger-than-life wandering characters — including street urchins, ruffians, pickpockets, chimney sweeps and Victorian policemen — all guaranteed to surprise.

As the oldest member of the Stonor family, the house has a thousand stories to tell. As well as being architecturally fascinating, each room contains a lifetime of experience and anecdotes. Discover art and treasures collected from across the globe and view historic maps and documents that reveal generations of service to the country. A stroll through this house is a vivid walk through history. Highlights include the grand Gothic revival hall, atmospheric 17th century library and the dramatic long gallery opening on to beautiful Italianate gardens.

The house will be beautifully decorated for Christmas, just as it is for the family each year. It will reveal all its grand and sparkling glory at this festive time of year — prepare to be enchanted by the magic of Christmas! There are plenty of cafes and restaurants to have lunch before our afternoon visit to Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. It has been the family home of British Kings and Queens for over years. Our visit includes the semi-state rooms created by George IV and the magnificent state apartments which will be transformed with festive decorations.

Includes: Admission to the Castle. You will be able to wander around the lake and through the winter wonderland of evergreens and berries in these beautiful gardens. To warm up, you can then sit and enjoy a festive Afternoon Tea including mulled wine, mince pies and Christmas cake.

Includes: Admission to the Gardens and Afternoon Tea. Stallholders dress in traditional costumes as 19th century ladies, gents, urchins and chimney sweeps. There will be a lively entertainment programme with magical dance displays, choirs, instrumental performances and even stilt walking jugglers!

Experience the fun of the fair on the Victorian carousel complete with barrel organ music! The Castle Courtyard, decorated with illuminated trees, offers an insight into how preparations for Christmas would have been made in Enjoy a festive lunch on arrival before joining the costumed guide and hear their tales as they escort you through the decorated castle. See how the housekeeper, butler and governess have all been working hard — the fires are lit, the food prepared and the Great Hall table is set for Christmas lunch.

Watch them putting the final touches to their work and hear the story of a Victorian Christmas Eve. A selection of cakes and a pot of tea will be served in the interval. Kick off the festive season and enjoy 30 different costume changes as well as stunning vocalists from Les Mis, Oklahoma, Miss Saigon, Carousel and more! Experience a festive meal with all the trimmings as the beautiful winter Lancashire countryside passes you by. Arriving at Bury, there is time to visit the Bury Transport Museum there is time to visit Bury Transport Museum before boarding the train to Rawtenstall.

Your meal is served during the journey and includes Soup, Turkey lunch, Christmas pudding and mince pies. There is a short stop in Rawtenstall to stretch your legs if you wish before returning. The day starts with a meet and greet with Santa and his elves over a complimentary mulled wine on arrival. Today, the home of the code breakers is a heritage site. Visitors can explore and experience the top secret world of iconic WWII code breaking huts and blocks set within an atmospheric Victorian estate, where 12, people worked in complete secrecy.

Join a guided tour tour tickets can be collected on the day or collect a multimedia guide and listen to an audio account about the history of the site, the buildings and the people that worked there. WW2 did not stop for Christmas — neither did the Code-breakers! But you can on this humbling and fascinating journey back in time.

Includes: Admission and 2 Course Festive Lunch. Travel back in time to Tudor England and witness jesters in the courtyards, music, dancing and cooking in the kitchens, as courtiers and artists jostle for royal favour. For centuries, Hampton Court Palace has boldly played host to a vast array of gala celebrations and festive banquets. The UK's year-round centre of Remembrance is a spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen, recognises service and sacrifice, and fosters pride in our country. It is a living and lasting memorial honouring those who have served, and continue to serve, our nation in many different ways.

Covering acres, the Arboretum has something for everyone. Includes: 3 Course Lunch and Musical Accompaniment. The world-famous landscape garden has at its centre-piece a magnificent lake reflecting classical temples, mystical grottoes, and rare and exotic trees, and offers a day of fresh air and discovery. Explore the Stourhead estate where chalk downs, ancient woods and farmland are managed for wildlife.

Enjoy a festive 3 course lunch in the surroundings of the estate, beautifully dressed for Christmas. Includes: Admission and a 3 Course Lunch. Depart Henley: 7. With the help of our guide, there will be plenty of tales to discover at this magical time. We break our return journey with a quick stop in the delightful market town of Ashbourne. Enjoy the beautifully and elegantly decorated rooms of the East Wing of the house which resound with music, carols and festive atmosphere.

We include Christmas Lunch served in the Manor Restaurant with a glass of wine. There will be plenty of time in the afternoon to visit the Christmas Fair, which is held in the formal gardens of the Manor, against the floodlit backdrop of the house. Over fifty hand selected stall holders will be housed in wooden chalets offering gifts, decorations and festive foods. The tour will end at Somerset House, a spectacular neo-classical building in the heart of London where there will be time for refreshments not included before we head for home.

A visit to the Dockyard takes you on a journey through time, allowing you to step onboard historic ships and understand the Royal Navy, past, present and future. Discover why the ships built and harboured at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard led the way in terms of technology and innovation and how they changed the world. Follow in the footsteps of a dockyard apprentice as you learn about boatbuilding techniques and heritage crafts inside Boathouse 7.

Tour the National Museum and the Submarine Museum and discover why the ships built and harboured at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard led the way in terms of technology and innovation and how they changed the world. Walk the labyrinth of rooms and corridors that stretch below Westminster that sheltered Winston and his war cabinet from the German bombing raids, and explore the Churchill museum to learn the story of his life and legacy.

Hay is quite small so it's possible to walk around the circumference of the town in about 20 minutes. In Chapter 5 I briefly mentioned another, related dead end for practitioners: excessive pigmentation in the white patient. For Dr Franz Thedering, too deep a suntan could inhibit further curative effect.

In this book I have put medical practitioners in the driver's seat. This is not to say, however, that it was a smooth or easy journey for them, or an unaccompanied one. Artists, patients, members of the public, and manufacturers came along for the ride. In Chapter 4 , montages of lamps and their invisible emanating energies confounded us further, and in Chapter 5 we were dazzled by colour pamphlets of models less bronzed than fluorescent.

All of these images might be said to have failed to disseminate the therapy's efficacies and methods clearly and legibly. Yet, as the book has argued throughout, the intersection of art and medicine need not be fluid or seamless. The images and objects are fascinating and significant precisely because they are problematic: con-founding, ambiguous, and perplexing. Such values are embedded within these images, material objects shot, snipped, and printed to become complex and complicated things.

As Alan Mayne put it:. It is because material culture is not simple and transparent in its meanings that the effort required to comprehend its full complexity and to compare it usefully with other sources translates into open-ended research questions which [sic] can extend our understanding of past societies and habitats. What of the present? Can looking at the past, especially through images and objects, prove useful to thinking about our ambivalent relationship with natural and artificial sunlight today?

Conversely, can contemporary images help us to rethink the past? As of April , UK legislation has prohibited sunbed usage to people under eighteen, in an effort to protect British youth from ultraviolet radiation exposure. It was a bold attempt to wrest apart the long-standing association between tanned skin, beauty, and youthfulness that continues to fuel a flourishing tourism industry to sunny locales abroad and the tanning industry in the UK.

With such conflicting messages rife within the medical community and disseminated to the public, can we definitively answer the question: is sunlight good or bad for our health and that of our children? Crucially, as I have argued in this book, the contemporaneous and contradictory array of attitudes — of fear versus desire — towards the therapeutic value of natural and artificial light is not a new phenomenon. Little wonder light therapy's history is marked by ambiguities, tensions, and contradictions, it is a treatment premised upon harnessing an ephemeral, invisible, if not outright uncontrollable, natural source.

To conclude, I want to discuss two very different contemporary images about light exposure, both of which inform and are informed by light therapy's history Figs. Indeed, he did not simply make photographs of them, but with them, strapping the focusing lenses to his camera and aiming it at the sun. Nicolai Howalt, Light Break 1, Inkjet print. These are as much portraits as Finsen's before and after photographs of his patients Figs.

The broken, shattered, refracted light made visible with Finsen's equipment signals Howalt's open engagement with chance and uncertainty. It is playful and uncontrolled in contrast to Finsen's rigorous experimentation with actinic light. The hypnotising, swirling vortex of Light Break 1 doubles as a transfixed pupil Fig. It is an unplanned but fitting likeness, since Howalt's project aestheticises therapeutic light's blind-ing action.

Figure 6. It enables us to reconceptualise Finsen's healed lupus vulgaris patients as the same, their beautifully cicatrised skin produced by destructive light.