Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wet, Windy and Mild - New Year's Eve

About the last of the Elvaston day that I intend to use and this is completely 'as is' not even cropped.

It demonstrates how much the ducks were enjoying the weather and I quite like the effect the rain drops make when falling on water. It is nearly as good as when the rain is so heavy the drops bounce off the pavement. My Dad used to say it was 'raining florins'. For our younger readers - a florin was 2 shillings and roughly the same size as a 50p piece but circular.

Picture 2 is our Henry, bless him. We had to operate him this morning because Karen is still on her holidays and the place was beginning to look a bit untidy. Y did most of it; tree down, cards down; holly off pictures; dusting etc., while I nipped round with Henry. I love his cheerful face and apart from that he is so efficient. Not that we have a dog, but he is excellent with dog-hairs and often, when we have been in hotels, he seems to be the vacuum-cleaner of choice. There are several in the family and everyone speaks highly.

It was nice to have a 'comment' from Madeline again and she, Jill, David and Bungus seem in broad agreement over the distastefulness of the news coverage of Saddam's execution. Apparently it got worse today because one of the 'executioners' had a mobile phone and you can hear them taunting their victim. As soon as the broadcasts began I simply switched off. Madeline says it was just as bad on the radio! And, as has been previously pointed out, the pictures one sees when listening to the radio can be even more vivid than the TV. Bungus says they issued a warning, as they do when bad language is forthcoming. But I don't think they did on BBC News 24. David says they often switch the TV News off to shield the children from a diet, of rape, murder and violence which seems much more likely to disturb a child than to accidentally hear the "f'" word. As he says, one wouldn't dream of reading a child a fictional story with such content just before bedtime. Or at any other time come to that. And, as Jill says, when during the day are children not watching television?

On Madeline's other point - I have been a Riverbend reader for almost a year now. She is a legend in the Blog world. This is the address please click if anyone needs it. Unfortunately her last update was 29th December when the execution was still pending. So what her views about the actual act are, we don't yet know. But there will be 'hundreds of thousands' keen to learn.

By the way. I have worked it out with David's video. In the small window I was getting there was a tiny box to tick to "always open with Windows Media etc" I ticked it and tried again and now it opens immediately.

........ Derek and Betty's tonight to see the New Year in. Don't know if we shall still be 'partying' at midnight though.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Another Wet Day - Saddam Hussein Executed

A panorama of our damp day at Elvaston Castle. At least this one isn't too bright and colourful. I seem to have mastered my PanoramaPlus 2 programme now and can churn them out at will. Mostly I hope they will be more interesting than the above. But as I said, everyone who went had a fun time. People are so nice. Necessarily I lagged behind and told everyone to go ahead and I would meet them later. I made steady progress, and after about 10 minutes, Reg came back to see if I was OK. And then he walked with me because it was slippy underfoot.

Picture 2 is some fungi, the identity of which I have no doubt will be forthcoming. There also seems to be some lichen too. We pronouce it "litchen" but Joan says it should be "liken" and she has been on a WEA course "Mosses, lichens, and liverworts" so she should know.

If I seem a little preoccupied today it is because I was deeply disturbed by the BBC News coverage of the execution of Saddam Hussein. They showed him being led into this small cell equipped with a scaffold, everyone except him in masks. I had to leave the room but Y watched it while they actually put the noose round his neck. The only one who came out of it with any dignity was Saddam himself. I was amazed that the BBC showed it during the day when children could well be watching. In fact I was amazed at their appalling lack of taste in showing it at all. Maybe they would secretly like us to return to public hangings so they could bid for the rights to show them. And there was me thinking we were a civilised country.

Please click here for David's video. I think I've worked out how to do it. And I didn't have to ask an expert.

..... Catch you tomorrow.....................

Friday, December 29, 2006

Refreshed - Elvaston Castle - Mild and Wet

After a really good night's sleep I woke at 6.40am and turned over till the 7am News. I have the gift of listening to "Farming Today" and promptly forgetting everything I've just heard. It's the same with weather forecasts. I decide to listen to the weather and next thing, it's finished and I've been 'miles away'.

Yesterday was quite tiring with needing to be in one place, and then another, and to enjoy a day's grandchildren activity - too much food and then driving home in the dark. Mind you I'm not complaining because the kids were great; hardly any tears. Isn't the sense-of-humour of 4/5/6/7yr olds unchanging. We had great fun with an atificial pool of 'sick', 'dog-poo' and a 'bottle of tipped over red nail varnish' However I also managed lots of chats with grown ups. Discussed Art with Andy (he showed me a digital picture on his camera of a portrait of Debra in charcoal and oils - it has a definite Klimt look), then Computers with Steven, Holistic Health with Debra - I still know how to dog-paddle furiously when out of my depth and it was a relief to discuss family matters and things like cooking and multiple sclerosis and driving with Lisa. We also discussed Attenborough Nature Reserve which David spoke so highly of yesterday and which Lisa knows well. She is very good on birds. Apparently, at Attenborough there is a newly opened Visitor Centre with Restaurant which David says looks good even though they haven't tried it yet. Maybe one day next week? Y is keen.

The weather is mild, 11C, but very wet and the omens were not good for our Camera Club trip to Elvaston Castle. But, as always, pictures can be found, and you don't need a bright sunny day! Artists have known that for yonks. There is a beautiful Pissaro of an avenue of trees in the rain, but I can't remember the name of it.

Picture 1 is a dis-used boat-house opening onto the lake. The built-in flash on the Nikon carries quite a punch; the trees needed a touch of fill-in flash and the camera got it just right, illuminating the trees from a good 20feet away.

Picture 2 is "two large ducks with sleeping offspring" and although I used fill-in flash again I under-exposed by one stop because otherwise you always loose all detail from the swan's plumage. It's because it's so white.

I am concerned that the decision to execute Saddam Hussein is the wrong one. As Churchill said so presciently in 1916 after the IRA 'Easter Uprising' - "Grass will quickly grow over a battlefield; it will never grow over a scaffold." And, as Andy astutely said yesterday "and Churchill no doubt wrote that himself; different from today's lot".

The question has been asked "Is it possible for me to 'blog' a video"? The answer is "Probably - but I tried it and only succeeded in deleting half of this 'post'. The method I used was to obtain a URL for the video in question and then try to post a link to it. I guess someone will know the answer but until I'm talked through it by an expert I shall leave it alone. After the festivities have well and truly finished I'll go on WebUserforums with the query. It is right up the street of OurStanley, RichieP, Fusion or Greysts or TheFatController.

.. Batten down the hatches it's going to be a stormy night. Gusts of 70mph forecast.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sorry - No Blog content today - Done For!

So tired - could not possibly 'blog' - serious kip called for. Will deal with e-mails, comments etc. tomorrow

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Quiet Day - Shopping - Mild at 6C

We are having a competition at EPS to see what folks can do with 3 images provided for them. This corner-of-a-building is one of them. I don't know who took the original. maybe Reg. It's got a 'Reg-look' about it. With experience one acquires a sixth sense with photographs and identifying not only the authors but the equipment used.

In the old days I could recognise work produced on a Leica, at 20 paces. Maybe in these digital days I would lose more £1 notes than I would win.

I felt the image needed a bold approach and my first run-through has produced Picture 2. And I thought I would start the new year by being suitably patriotic in colour terms. Could I recommend that Bungus fetch a cool wet handkerchief before looking.

Yesterday's 'book chair' was popular. I e-mailed Santa and he replied that should anyone decide they would like one, one of his elves obtained it from Lakeland. But be prepared to be persistent because the staff are fairly rigidly programmed. When asked if they still had their egg-timers? "No" was the reply accompanied by a blank look. Providing the additional info. that the desired object went in the saucepan with the eggs and changed colour elicited the shocked response "Oh. You mean the egg-perfect !" So you are advised to say "book-chair" in a clear slow voice. "Book-rest" will get you nowhere.

Shopping at Lidl and Morrisons this morning and bought some lovely crusty brown Pain de Campagne which we had for lunch with smoked salmon and gravadlax sauce thereon. We both decided on a minimum food day today after the excesses of Xmas. Bungus's festive fare was impressive to say the least. There is no way I could have kept up. It all sounded delicious though and it was good to hear that Sandra is up and about.

Debra comes up tomorrow. But to Tracy's and then to Burton Joyce. Our reponsibilities just entail going to places and being entertained and fed.

"A host is like a general; it takes a mishap to reveal his genius."


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day - Brief Blog

A shortish Blog today because we have been busy. Happy busy, but nevertheless time consumingly busy. To begin the day at around 8.30am we were nearly out of milk and all the local supermarkets were closed. Eventually I was lucky and found the Total Garage open, around 2 miles away. They had plenty of milk and the chap in front of me was also buying milk. When we saw John's Yvonne later in the day she said they too were low on milk, so it seems that in matters of milk-mismanagement we were'nt alone.

The sausage, egg and chips was a success and then after lunch John and Yvonne arrived with my big grand-daughters Laura and Alannah. They grow more beautiful and striking each month and it was good to hear all their news. As I think I've mentioned John can retire in 2 years and they plan a 6 month tour in their campervan prior to a decision as to where to settle down. France still seems to be favourite ! Good luck to them !

Later on we watched the last in the 3 part series about Christmas art. The subject today was Gauguin's "Gods Son" and it was really good to know more about this unusual and striking approach to the Nativity. It shocked most people at the time and it was interesting to see that it still has the power to shock modern audiences.

The Picture (only 1 today) is of one of my colourful Xmas presents. I had asked Santa for a book-rest which was smaller and lighter than the solid metal one I use in the kitchen. And this is what he brought me. What a captivating design concept; and aren't people clever? The book (one of Bungus's on loan) is included solely to give scale. I'm certainly not going to use my little book-chair as it is called, in the kitchen because it would get messed up.

We are certainly not back to normal tomorrow. Shopping is needed. Thursday Debra comes up and we are going over to Tracy's. Friday I am going on a photo-jaunt with EPS to Elvaston Castle and loads of other things coming up.

..... Better to be busy rather than have nothing to do though...........

Monday, December 25, 2006

Leisurely Present Opening - Quiet Day

Just two more pictures from my 'Slow sync, rear curtain' file. The quality of the results seems to owe much to chance. The method needs pratice though, because, with the necessarily long shutter opening, it is a matter of some precision to judge where in the frame you want the sharp bit to be - when the flash fires.

Thank goodness no film is wasted in the process and I can practice away for ages until I manage a decent picture. A good striking picture in the genre should do well in competitions because they seem few and far between. Perhaps other photographers lack the patience - or simply have more sense!

Picture 1 was at Moor Bridge and Picture 2 was outside the front gate. It was interesting that while I was there with my camera set up on a tripod, with the flash firing occasionally, the traffic slowed down to 30mph ! Maybe they thought I was a policeman. Ha Ha !

We have had a leisurely day, opening presents with Tracy, after which she went over to Burton Joyce leaving us to enjoy The Queen at 3pm, followed by a nap, and then messing about.

I had some lovely presents - all of which I need or can see a role for. It would be boring if I listed them all, but everyone has been so thoughtful. For lunch we had the remainder of yesterday's braising steak, reheated and followed by Xmas pudding and custard. You can't have a more understated Christmas Day meal than that and tomorrow, Boxing Day, at Tracy's request we are having our customary Sausage, Egg and Chips. Everybody's favourite and TJ says her 'street cred' rockets when she replies truthfully to enquiries as to what she had for Xmas food. To us it doesn't seem right that one or other person spends worried hours imprisoned in a kitchen while everybody else is having fun. So we abandoned it in favour of our present arrangements. Each to their own anyway - if people want to do a more traditional Xmas, good luck to them. The above isn't intended as a criticism of the practices in other households.

We watched a lovely art programme about Van Eyck's "Annunciation". A thoughtful piece of programming for Xmas afternoon for people who aren't that keen on films. There had also been a lovely programme about the nation's favourite gardens presented by Jenny Agutter. Kew won and Chatsworth was well placed as was Hampton Court Palace. All deserved their places. Jenny has aged very gracefully - I remember having a crush on her all those years ago. Who can forget her in The Railway Children which was a favourite book of mine before they made a film of it.

Another Xmas art programme about Breughel (the elder) and his "Census at Bethlehem". Not a picture that I have ever seen or know anything about. So, I learnt a lot. Had a quick sandwich and then we shall be ready for the Strictly Come Dancing Xmas special. I hope it isn't a disappointment. Tracy back early tomorrow morning - and I'm hoping we can buy milk somewhere. We've totally misjudged it.

Just a p.s. few new blog readers. If you click on a picture a screen filling enlargement appears. And don't forget that your 'comments' will be welcomed. Just click on the 'comments' words right at the bottom (usually orange) and a window will open on the left. Follow the instructions to leave a comment.

Catch you tomorrow..................

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Xmas - Braising Steak

Please accept delivery of our in-house Xmas card. Genuine hoar-frost on our own holly, and text (with drop-shadow) achieved in PhotoShop.

Picture 2 is the judges in Strictly Come Dancing giving Mark & Karen straight tens. They went on to win quite convincingly but Matt & Lilia did very well and Matt came across as a real English sportsman, dignified in defeat and speaking words of genuine praise for Mark and Karen. It has been a terrific show. Bruce and Tess have been excellent in the way they have dealt with the demands of a 'live' show. The band and singers also deserve a special mention. It must be very difficult to produce a Beatles classic such as 'Eleanor Rigby' live with a convincing sound and, of course, live and to a strict tempo for the benefit of the dancers.

Steve and Lisa and the children came for lunch and I did one of my 'signature dishes' - braising steak and onions. On this occasion though, the onions were replaced by the french-shallots which are perfect for the job. Needless to say I produced 'roast potatoes' (Desirée), brussells, brocolli, carrots and yorkshire puddings. And lashings of gravy. Followed by an assortment of pudding choices and finishing with a cheese board and Italian coffee. All went well. Afterwards we opened some presents, explaining that Santa's Brinsley Representative had called. This was greeted with some suspicion but fortunately, my blurry photo of the back of the sleigh put people's minds at rest.

With Tracy not 'doing' New Years Eve this year David and Helen decided to step into the breach. Unfortunately, in between their decision and now, Derek & Betty have invited us and we have accepted, and Tracy is already committed. Such a shame because we would much rather go to David's - but we aren't the sort of people who accept an invite and then renege on the commitment because we get a better offer. We've known several of those over the years. It is so rude.

Last night I didn't sleep very well and at a time I would normally be sound asleep (11pm-12md) I caught the Garrison Keiller show on BBC7 radio. He read one of his own stories about a Norwegian Spruce Xmas tree. Great stuff - he still writes like an angel. Later I had one of my damned 'lucid dreams'. A worry dream that I've had before. I am a young PC on the beat and I can't find my way back to the Police Station. In last night's version almost each time I turned a corner I was faced with a view of the sea. And I never worked in a coastal-town. I seemed to remember that the Police Station was up a hill somewhere but as soon as I reached a summit I was faced with yet another sea-view. I woke up around 4.50am and decided to get up, because I didn't want to get back into the dream. Yorkshire puddings were being mixed by 5.15am and by 6am the vegetables were prepared.

When I rang David I wished Sky 'happy birthday' and she told me all about her presents. When they came over I forgot to give them their 'posters' about trees and things, and their copy of 'Our Island Story' which has had to be republished. We shall see them soon though.

Hope you all have a super day. Tomorrow's issue - or not - will depend on commitments. Should be OK though............

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Early Start - Much Warmer

Made an early start, to beat the crowds, and everybody had the same idea. Picture 1 is of Morrisons Car Park at 8.10am. I only had my old Casio and no tripod but my PanoramaPlus 2 programme seems to have made quite a respectable job. One of the chaps who collects the shopping-trolleys told me that at the 7.30am opening time there was a 50 yard queue. It was busy inside but plenty of staff and, as I only needed a handbasket of things we forgot yesterday, I was through the system like lightning.

We thoroughly enjoyed 'Rick Stein cooks for the Japanese Ambassador'. He had previously visited Tokyo to get a feel for the subject and sampled loads of excellent fish dishes. It pleased me to learn that the green-paste, a small match-head sized bit of once nearly blew my head off with Sushi is called Wasabi and manufactured from wild green horseradish root. And it's supposed to be that hot, so if you are ever served a bright green paste with a Japanese fish dish beware!! To cut slender slivers of raw fish with a single smooth slice there is a specially designed knife. At the Japanese Embassy Rick's menu looked superb and he had, wisely, enlisted the services of two expert Japanese chefs. He freely acknowledged their contribution and, at the end, when he was accepting praise he duly introduced them. The meal was obviously a triumph and the Ambassador and his guests were trenchermen of the first rank. Rick Stein is popular with us because he knows his stuff and is a real gent. And no bosom-waving or pouting at all !

Before leaving yesterday's hoar frost pictures this team-effort by the spiders demanded publication.

Their must be an logical explanation as to why spiders construct their webs in such unpromising places in 'catching fly' terms. I fully accept Sky's 'because they are beautiful' concept but perhaps some passing zoological-correspondent could add to it?

I exchanged very pleasant e-mails and cards with Rob and feel sure that, when he has the time (he is still working poor soul) he will fill the slot of photographic-correspondent more ably than I can. It is very nice to be back in touch.

Bungus and I will just have to disagree abolut Nigella's charms - at least it means that we shan't come to blows over the distribution of her favours. It is grande finale night for the Strictly Come Dancing contestants tonight - starting I believe at 5.45pm so we must have all jobs done and out of the way by then.

...."I'm sure I have forgotten something"

Friday, December 22, 2006

Hoar Frost - another Misty Morning

Just another misty morning. But I could nearly discern the trees over the footie-field. And I was real lucky with this exposure which kept the disc of the sun quite sharp. They usually go all wass-its-name? Also, until I saw the picture on the computer screen, I didn't realise I had that cute twig traversing the sun. Serendipity. It reminds me of the "cycling across the face of the moon" scene in ET.

And what a Hoar frost? I haven't seen its like for many years. In the rear garden, which gets less sun, nothing thawed all day. Poor Jill, driving back from the 'yee-hah' concert in that dangerous patchy fog. Good job they decided not to fly off somewhere though. Spending Xmas in a tent at Heathrow isn't a fun idea, in this weather. Bungus enjoyed his morning walk though and sent me some pictures. It was nice to see Ralph leading the way so firmly. And on the subject of Nigella and her turkey - I couldn't give a hoot what she does with it. I agree with Jill - if you want a water-filled bird, they are available quite cheaply in the downmarket supermarkets. Can't stand the woman myself (that's Nigella -not Jill). I don't believe she is a real cook and, to me, she isn't at all sexy - as reputed. I've known several people who can do bosom-waving and pouting much better anyway. And on the subject of diaries - even I draw the line at a handbag!

We went supermarket shopping this morning. Wow - so busy! But it had to be done. We had decided on fish, chips and peas for lunch but returned home sans frozen oven-chips. Not being able to face the mob again I decided to actually cut some real potatoes into chips and deep-fry them. I had almost forgotten that this was possible. Need I say it - they were delicious and much praised by Y.

It's the "It takes two" bit of Strictly Come.... tonight. And a whole hour! Tomorrow night the 3 remaining couples each have to do 5 dances. Very difficult for amateurs. It is so difficult to decide who one wants to win. I guess Y will vote for Mark, but I intend to take the honourable aproach and vote for the couple who, in my opinion, have done best on the night.

Catch you tomorrow.......................

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Still Frosty & Misty - Burton Joyce

Almost identical day to yesterday with the temperature as low as -3C. Loads of spider's webs again.

Picture 1 shows them on the little plastic greenhouse that I used to use for seedlings and cuttings. But, in the anticipation of moving, I didn't grow anything at all last year.

Visibility here is about 100/150 yards but in the south-east the weather is much worse. A third of flights from Heathrow are cancelled. Poor people. At a Bank Holiday again, but you can't blame striking baggage-handlers for the weather. You would think that, in 2006, technology would enable take-offs in fog. There was an explanation on the radio this morning as to why foggy-in-the-day is different from pitch-black-at-night, but I was still half asleep.

Picture 2 is some cobwebs on the front gate yesterday and when Sky and I went to look at them I said "Spiders must be a bit stupid building webs there, hoping that flies are going to fly through the gate in this weather" She said "Perhaps they build them because they are beautiful". She is quite right of course. Why didn't curmudgeonly Grandad think such a lovely thought?

Still on the subject of grandchildren, I wonder if one of the little ones, excellent writers that they are, would do me a job. Hannah for instance might be willing to earn £2, for copying all the addresses, telephone numbers, birthdays, holidays et al from my 2006 diary into my 2007. Those things where you just put in a new 'body' each year are basically a sound idea but far too bulky. I like pocket-sized diaries.

A normal Burton Joyce day today for Y and I shall collect her from the tram afer tea and then go to the camera club. Nothing special on tonight, just a get-together for a chin wag. I must leave her a note to remind her to put a tape in for Rick Stein on Japanese fish-cookery. They have raised cooking fish to an art-form and Rick isn't bad either! Sounded promising.

Bungus posited the notion some time ago that 'shadows don't fall on water'. I had to agree that, if they did, I had never seen any. We also wondered whether or not the same went for ice.

His picture, which I'm sure he won't mind me using, seems to lay the ice-issue to rest conclusively. We still don't know whether or not they fall on still water though. Obviously reflections do but Bungus's picture is quite clearly a shadow because it carries on over the ice and up the bank on the other side.

Anyone willing to undertake the necessary research will receive the grateful thanks of this station. We haven't actually got a science-correspondent yet.

It was smashing to have David's comment yesterday. I must ask him if the absence of the word-verification system made leaving a comment easier, or made no difference.

.... It's in the balance...............

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Frosty & Misty - David's Visit

As you will see from Picture 1 it was so misty this morning that you couldn't see any trees at all across the football field. And the tree opposite the front gate stood in splendid isolation. There was also a heavy frost. There is just one leaf still attached to the tree. Extreme right just under halfway up.

I decided against waiting to see if it dropped off so I could catch it falling. It was far too cold.

Y was still over at Tracy's having stayed there after their annual visit to the Carol Concert in the Concert Hall which is part of Tracy's responsibilites. Their great wish, to be "five golden rings" was not realised yet again!. They were "four calling birds" so they weren't far away. They had a super time though and the quality of the singing and playing was quite remarkable.

David and Helen and Sky and Brooke came over to see us and were sorry to miss Y, but she can't be in two places at once. I gave them each a 'cut-out and baubles etc.' bag, so they had something to be playing with in the lead-up to Xmas. Everybody, parents and grandad included had a smashing morning. Each kit contained a pair of scissors. Quite safe, no sharp points or anything and you could cut crinkly shapes with them. Brooke loved them and Helen said she guessed they would be 'favourite present' this year.

I gave them one of my pictures, a sunrise, and they arranged some completed figures in front of it.

As you can see, Santa and The Angel managed to hold hands. The girls positioned Santa so that my bit of lens-flare in the sunrise came out of his ear. The Angel looks as if she had a good night last night. The dogs and people were good, and there was also a girl with a dog, but her head wouldn't stay on so she missed out on the photo-opportunity.

Both Helen and David are so brilliant with the kids, they are very lucky to have such lovely parents. I showed them how to do a Xmas tree shape by starting off with a little triangle and then superimposing larger triangles under the top one until you have a tree of the required size. All you need to do then is put a trunk underneath and presto. So Brooke did me an extra personalised Xmas card with a star on top and baubles on the branches. And she wrote it herself.

I went on the Amateur Photography forum and posted a query re my difficulties in moving stuff between Capture NX and Photoshop Elements. Within the hour an expert had solved it. It lies in the difference between 8 bits and 16 bits (please dont even think of asking) and when I clicked 'save as' I also clicked 8 bits instead of the 16 bit default. I subsequently did a picture and it worked like a dream. There is always someone who knows.

Y is back now, so I'm off............................. Y made a lovely ham sandwich and we watched Strictly Come. Good interview with Brucie - he really is a trouper and WE like him.

.. It's 8pm - glass of milk time.........

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Misty Start - Sunny - John Came

Picture 1 is looking towards Moorgreen Reservoir from Felley access to the M1. You can only just see the reservoir but I was attracted by the misty morning and the subtle tonal recessions from foreground, through middle-distance to faraway skyline.

It seemed romantic and both DHL and Byron would have appreciated it. Not too sure about Sillitoe because he is abit of a townie isn't he?

I thought "You can't fake that in PhotoShop" but you probably can if you know how.

Picture 2 was when I finally arrived at Annesley Old Church and the full sun was creating those great shadows on one of the remaining walls. Why the walls are such an even height, except for the tower, has often mystified me. I 'googled' the problem and discovered that the local council had levelled and capped the walls to make them safer. Rather a vandalistic thing to do in my opinion.

Each time I visit I expect to be joined by the ghost of a cowled monk. If I was I would ask if it was OK to take a photograph. Bungus suggests that the only way I'm likely to succeed with my 'enjambed' grave stone, is to go in the middle of the night with a powerful torch to give a raking light to pick out the words.

I guess my monk would be more likely to turn up too.

Anyway - to return to more mundane matters. For Jill - 'Charlotte' is just the name of a variety of salad potato, not some exotic way of cooking them. They have much to commend them. Evenly shaped, and a wash will do for preparation prior to cooking. Waxy textured, they don't collapse, and have a good flavour. And, if you cook too many, they are excellent the following day, cold.

Y watched 'Born Equal' and enjoyed it even though it was rather dour. But that is what Robert Carlyle does best, and usually the same as he did last time. She thought she had taped the Julie Walters 'Driving Lessons' which Bob spoke so highly of. But we can't find it.

John came today which was nice and he is trying to organise people for a visit on Boxing Day afternoon when they are taking Laura back to Sheffield anyway. His Xmas cheque had gone astray so we gave him another and 'stopped' the existing one. We had wondered - because it hadn't been paid in. We decided it was worth 'stopping'. I know it is supposed to be impossible to do anything with a cheque if it isn't drawn in your favour. But these 'shops' offering 'instant cash for cheques' seem to be springing up everywhere.

Still struggling with Capture NX in conjunction with PhotoShop. It doesn't seem possible to move a picture from Capture to PS without reducing it to a JPEG, which rather defeats the whole object. Not to worry - eventually it will yield.

.....Catch you tomorrow.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Busy Day - Cold Night - Sunny Day

Picture 1 is when I finally reached the gate and I realised that Santa's ' Brinsley representative' hadn't left me anything "on this occasion" as lawyers say. But he will be back; I have every confidence.

Obviously normal traffic had resumed as Rudolph turned the Sleigh into Moor Road and I appreciated the red tail lights going one way and the headlights approaching from the other. What I am trying to master is 'slow sync - rear curtain' in which the flash fires as the shutter is closing. In theory, you should get a still picture of the vehicle with the lights trailing out behind it. It obviously needs further work! I'm OK with the trailing lights bit; all I'm short of is the car. Watch this space. I'm keen to capture a tram after dark.

Still on photography matters, I've been toying with the idea of acquiring Nikon Capture NX which is a RAW converter, but it is expensive. Bit of research on the Nikon website revealed a 30 day free trial. So I downloaded it. Looks good , and there is plenty in the Help menu to get me started.

Picture 2 has no artistic merit. I wanted to record Joan's 'thongs' for posterity. I use them all the time and it is so good not to keep dropping my stick and then struggling to retrieve it.

I can't remember if it was idea 6,322 or not. But simple and effective. Perhaps not quite a design-classic though.

Blood-test this morning and, as I was down there, I went to Lidl and Morrisons for bread. Their Pain de Campagne which they claim to bake fresh every morning. But when we used it to make a sandwich this evening, was stale. Ho Hum! If I could be bothered to get the car out I'd take it back.

For lunch I cooked a roast chicken, made a little stuffing, accompanied by charlotte potatoes, french shallots, celery and brussells. Plus of course, gravy. All turned out well and for pudding we had jelly and ice-cream (again!).

We've achieved a lot today. Sorted out a Hospital appointment which we knew I didn't need to go to because it had been cancelled. An NHS computer glitch I was told. My notes said I didn't need to attend but nobody had told the computer, which generated the letter. Sorted out the TV and digi-box. Y had been unable to receive several channels which we pay for and it looked as if we needed a visit from NTL (and they won't give you a time). I wondered if the 'close-down, wait ten minutes, then switch on and reboot' principle would work as well with a telly as it does with a computer. So that's what I did - plus unplugging all the scart leads and then plugging them back in again. Eventually switched it all on again and left it to settle down for a few minutes and presto ! It now works perfectly.

Stopping there because I want to print several pages from the Help menu of Nikon Capture NX and then an early night.

.....'cos I'm tired already

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cold but Pleasant - Another Rest Day

n.b. As the 'word verification' system for people's 'comments' continues to be a problem, I have abandoned it for a trial period.

A cold but pleasant rest-day but not without interest.

The NARPO secretary circulated an e-mail warning of a method used by people who hi-jack your car. I duly circulated it to family and friends only to learn from Caroline who is a Moderator on WebUser forums that it is a hoax e-mail that has been d0ing the rounds for a couple of years.

Red-face at Radiogandy Mansions and I have re-circulated everyone explaining the position.

For lunch I cooked the remaining half of our Saulmon au Provence with Jamie Oliver type crispy potatoes, baked-courgettes and peas. And Y had had the presence of mind to take out of the freezer some delicious fruit fancies for pudding which needed several hours at room temperature. Super meal. After my afternoon nap we watched Waldemar Januszczak's 2 hr programme about Toulouse-Lautrec which we had recorded. Good stuff, and it was nice being able to zoom through the adverts. Waldemar is an excellent reporter but he has the irritating habit of being filmed while walking with his back to the camera, and talking to the viewer over his shoulder. He must think it makes good television. It doesn't ! We learnt alot though, and that is what matters.

Picture 1 is Santa's 'Brinsley representative' on a sleigh he had borrowed from Santa's headquarters.

Unfortunately I couldn't dash to the gate quickly enough to get a good photograph. But I quite like the psychedelic lights and the overall effect, so I decided to publish it.

While I was out of the front door I thought a quickie of the Pyracantha taken with flash would save the photo-opportunity from being wasted. As you will previously have noticed, I love the way that, at night, the limited reach of the flash, blacks out the background for you. And now that I've discovered how to switch on the focus-assist light, my task is so much easier. At the moment it is necessary for me to carry the Nikon D80 instruction manual ar0und with me. But I shall master its intricacies eventually.

It's been good following the cookery-slot and David said this morning that he had been tempted to pop in his ten pennorth but then decided against it. Shame. They had had a great time at Carsington where the boat is moored. A kids' Christmas Party had been organised and another of Santa's local representatives had arrived, laden with bags and bags of presents, by boat!! You can't fault Santa for lack of ingenuity can you?

.... Going to read a magazine now. And I dont read that fast. That's 'thumbing through'. Catch you tomorrow............

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Rest Day - Lovely Light - Getting Colder

This morning the light was so good I nipped out to take a few photographs of Annesley Church for an Amateur Photography forum. People suggest photo-genic locations for each other's benefit and I guess the ruined Church would be of interest. Particularly the gravestone with the words carrying on regardless of the line-endings. 'Enjambment' I am reliably informed is the descriptive word. Unfortunately, although good, the light was not coming from the right direction to emphasise the words. And fill-in flash wasn't much help. I'm afraid it calls for a really early-morning trip.

While going round the traffic-island a couple of hundred yards away, my eye was taken by the brilliant colour of this dogwood. I think it's proper name is cornus. If not, someone will put me right. The reds are 100% unenhanced. This morning I used the Nikon's facility to shoot RAW files and JPEGs at the same time. And sure enough when I downloaded them, there they were side by side. I do't know what to do with the RAW stuff yet but I've got some there to practice on when I do.

The ruined Church and it's little graveyard were as attractive as ever and Picture 2 is looking towards one of the halls. Such a shame and a waste that it is derelict. If they renovated and converted it into luxury apartments, I wouldn't mind living there at all. Beautiful spot, Byron connection et al. Pity they don't do the work and then transport it to Woodthorpe and sell 2 bedroom ground floor flats with a tiny garden for £150,ooo.

Before I leave the subject of 'Police Conference Points' I must tell you about Telephone Kiosks and extremely cold nights. Ordinarily one was supposed to stand in a prominent position, outside the box. The idea was that if it rang you would hear it but mainly so that people could approach you to chat or let you know their worries. (Those were the days 'eh?) However, at 2.30am and a temperature with wind-chill of -5C the tendency was to stand inside. But, with the soporific effects of the customary 3 pints of beer at friendly local hostelries, it was difficult not to go to sleep, even if standing up. The trick was to hold a handful of loose change in your hand. When it fell onto the concrete floor the noise woke you up. If you found an unlocked car (car alarms were unheard of in those days) you felt you were in paradise. Another job we used to do at that time was to check on the security of 'unoccupied-houses' when for some reason the owners were away. I remember once, having checked that the house was OK, finding an unlocked outside loo with a parafin storm-lantern to prevent the pipes freezing. Double-paradiso! But I couldn't stay there long because I had my next 'conference point' in ten minutes and it was quarter of a mile away.

.......Catch you tomorrow.....................

Friday, December 15, 2006

Rest Day - Police Conference Points

First things first. Neither of my pictures was successful in the EPS competition. But they should have been!

The general opinion was that the judge was pretty hopeless. He had never judged before and his views about photography were strange. And it wasn't just my pictures that he was wrong about. In my 'December Sunrise' for instance, he suggested that the photograph would be improved by cropping everything beneath the skyline; thereby losing the diagonal flare which was the whole point of the picture. He didn't like anything 'dark' and a subway picture of Mike's got nowhere because he suggested cropping a important 'passage' on the left. But without it, the picture would have lacked balance and the composition would have been haywire. In one he said he would have liked the tree in a different position in relation to the Church. Ho Hum ! But I won the raffle again - a respectable bottle of Mouton Cadet 2004. Pity neither of us drinks alcohol !

I enjoyed the evening as a whole though - seeing all the pictures, and lots of chats. Spoke to Jason about the courses he is going to run. He rates Nikon Capture NX as a RAW converter and pronounces 'excellent results but slow and difficult'. Sounds as if it will be yet another programme to drive me mad.

The picture is of a Bic pen with multi-colours. I was surprised to spot it in W. H. Smiths because I had no idea they were still available. We used to use them in the Police in the days when we had official 'Pocket Books' in which, at the start of each day, one had to enter day and date and 'tour of duty' in red and the rest of one's notes in black -
Friday:............Tour of duty
15.12.06:........2pm - 10pm
4pm.................Began writing 'Blog'

And the possession of a Bic pen obviated the need for carrying two pens around.

I said I would explain about 'Police Conference Points' so here goes. Basically they were a system by means of which the Police Station kept in touch with patrolling officers 'on the beat'. At the beginning of each shift you would be given a list of 'conference points' i.e. well established places where you had to be on your beat at a certain time. Usually one each hour and generally 'conference points' were at telephone kiosks, so they could ring you and give you jobs and things. One officer's 'points' would be on the hour, the next officer's at quarter-past the hour, and so on. And, as you had to wait at each 'point' for ten minutes, the result was that there was always someone who could be contacted. And a supervisory officer could walk round and visit everyone. Missing a 'point' was a serious misdemeanour. The 'conference points' each had distinctive names, like Tudor Square, Bolham Shuttle, The Skin Factory, Wigwam, Table-Top-Tree to name a few that spring to mind.

It was the Night Sergeant's job to prepare the 'points' for each beat for the following day. And it was a brilliant way of ensuring that idle officers got round their beats properly, as 'points' which were wide apart could be specified. And the system pre-dated the telephone. A retired rural officer told me that his Superintendent would send him a letter saying he would "meet him at Oldcotes Crossroads at 3pm on Thursday the..........." and would then arrive in a horse & carriage.

All that of course, was in the days before Community Support Workers who walk around in twos, deep in conversation to the exclusion of the world around them, or, as I recently observed, listening to an MP3 player through headphones !!!

Quite enough for today. I'm off....

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Shopping - Xmas Boxes - Messing About

This apparent 'wide-angle' shot of the winter-flowering jasmine was achieved by the Bob brain-wave of collaging 2 pictures (which in Picasa produces a collage of 4 and then cropping the bottom 2 away. It seems like a most useful notion, the only problem being that the end result has a very low pixel count. I couldn't get the sparrows to pose and I guess they are all in there glaring out.

Picture 2 simply demanded admission. Sometimes Matt gets a little too close for comfort I think. This is a good example.

This morning I nipped out to do some shopping and got some pretty boxes of continental choccie-biccies from Lidl. Then delivered them to the ladies in the Pharmacy, and the chaps at the Garage. I will deliver to the Surgery on Monday. The postman was 'sorted' two days ago, but his wasn't choccies; it folded. And we know it's appreciated because he will bring our bin down from the gate (unasked) if it's still there, and one day came back in his own car to deliver my blood-book.

It does sound is if Bob has got his Blog going and I actually read a post and looked at a picture this morning. But he claims he doesn't have a 'dashboard'. The dashboard is more important than a steering wheel and only slightly less important than the brakes in my opinion. But I'm sure he will get there.

Forty winks calls because I want to be in top gear, if not overdrive, for this evenings competition at EPS. My pictures look good to me. And as I used to be an official photographic judge on the East Midlands circuit, my opinion is worthy. Or used to be 10+ years ago. Perhaps they won't be modern enough.

Catch you later................

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

NT Social - Sherwood Energy Village

The Xmas Social last night was a success. The projector worked and Gordon had done a first rate job with his programme. There were some school-pupil howlers which purported to be genuine. Some were poetic , most were imaginative, all were good fun. Then he had done a Belvoir Castle slide show which went down well.

Y mastermind the raffle in her inimitable way and Gary organised a 'beetle' drive. Great laughs all round. A bit difficult for those with mobility problems but everyone was sympathetic and it did get people talking to people they don't usually. A good idea.

This morning I dropped Y at the tram because she has two granny-duty days this week and tonight is having a sleep-over at Burton Joyce. She does do extremely well for someone who has just celebrated their 70th, bt she loves doing it and that is all that matters. I then nipped round to Brian's to collect two prints I am entering in an EPS competition tomorrow evening. It was necessary for him to print them because the maximum size my Epson printer will cope with is A4 and I wanted A3. He's done a super job. I shall know tomorrow night how they fare.

Then over to Boughton so that Bungus and I could go for lunch at the new 'Bistro' in the Sherwood Energy Village HQ. The architecture is very interesting. Picture 1 is the main entrance to the HQ - the Bistro is on the left of the picture. The Bungus figure is there to give some idea of scale. You can probably see at the edges some terracotta colour, which I didn't like. When viewed from the other side, the building has, in my opinion, the look of a 1950s Odeon. Not a good day light-wise but record-shots were all I sought anyway.

They wouldn't let us go in to look at the reception area. So we had a coffee in the Bistro and decided to try The Snooty Fox down in the village. Picture 2 therefore, is through a double-glazed glass panel at the HQ. The reflections were unavoidable I'm afraid. It was necessary to focus manually because the auto-focus system naturally thought I wanted a picture of the glass 4 inches away. At least with the Nikon, manual-focus is straightforward.

The Snooty Fox had a table for two and I had Xmas turkey from the carvery. It outstripped the Duchess of Rutland's offering at Belvoir by a factor of at least 10. Bob had the beef which he pronounced to be v.good.

After lunch we went to Bob's to have a go at the 'create a Blog' problem. It took us some time to get onto the internet via Bob's Wi-Fi but eventually we succeeded. Then we created a new blog entitled Bungus. Unfortunately, it appeared in my own google account and as a second blog on my dashboard. I had to leave before 'sorting' it because of my uneasiness about driving in the dark. Just before I left poor Sandra was brought home from the Workshop having fallen off a chair and hurting herself pretty badly. I hope she hasn't damaged the base of her spine or anything. Like me she is a long-term back sufferer anyway.

I reached home in the gathering-gloom and after a pot of tea and a sandwich I tackled the double-blog syndrome and successfully deleted it. Bob e-mailed to say that he has succeeded in creating a new blog but couldn't access it. Ho Hum - as Ray would say.