Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Before Sun-up - Bird Song - Packing

Thought you would like the sparrows and a goldfinch.

One seldom sees 'spadgers' as they are called round here, featuring in wildlife photography. Not considered exotic or interesting enough I 'spose. But to me they are adorable birds, friendly, not too aggressive and more than welcome in our winter-jasmine hedge. Yesterday I saw a lady-blackbird going into that hedge, with a beakful of nesting material. I hope they all get on well together.

The early morning bird song has begun to be quite noticeable. Not yet a fully blown 'dawn chorus' though. Bird populations vary a lot. Both Jill and Madeline have reported woodpeckers in their gardens and Madeline has jays - and I've not seen one for several years. I will fight back the temptation to show you my great tits, because Steven would convulse with laughter.

Yesterday's Blog wasn't missing due to 'matters photographic' as Bungus suggested, but because we had been out all day. Y for 'hair' and getting her nail fixed at the chinese place then lunch out with Joan (we went to The Travellers Rest - expensive but super food and ambience) followed by mini-shopping then I had my packing to do.

I called in to the Hospice book shop again and fortunately they hadn't sold the Film Review Annual for 1947. In fact they had two copies so I bought both for a £1. The pictures are incredible. James Mason looking very handsome and villainous and Jean Simmons described as a promising newcomer. I'm glad I acquired both copies because if any regular blog reader would like one I am willing to send it.

......Catch you all later. Take care.

Monday, February 26, 2007

7C - Sunny/windy Day - Barometer rising

Picture 1 is from a book Y has from Bromley House of unbelievable pictures from orbiting satellites. This is the Lena River delta in Russia which runs for 2,800 miles before pouring into the Arctic.

When I first saw it I thought it was a painting by Gustav Klimt that I didn't know.

My photo of it doesn't really do it justice. I can't attribute it to a photographer because unless someone is sitting up there looking out of the window and armed with a digital Hasselblad I assume it is all done automatically. Prolly with mirrors ! I know Richard Branson is going to offer space flights, bless him, but I personally have no wish to go. Every generation sees massive change don't they ? My grandma's name was Arabella, shortened by my grandad to Belle and my Dad used to tell a lovely story of grandad arriving home and saying - "They've done it Belle - 60 miles in the hour" - a Railway train I've always assumed. Perhaps one of our 'transport correspondents' could help us with more details, the year etc.?

Picture 2 is much easier to explain.

I liked this crocus with the sun shining through the petals. So I isolated it, made a 'selection' of it in PS Elements and then subjected the background to 'gaussian blur'. All it purports to be is a nice picture which was fun to do. It has so obviously been 'manipulated' and I'm not trying to fool anybody into believing that the photograph is 'as it was'. I think there is a subtle difference and I don't consider this sort of work to be against my self-imposed ethical code. Comments would be most welcome.

Quick shop this morning - some lovely fresh Pain de Campagne with which I made sandwiches for lunch. Y had ham with a garnish of nuts and grapes, while I had cheddar and lettuce with an antipasti garnish.

For evening meal Y is doing a steak and mushroom pie, with loads of veg and I suspect, a cherry scone to follow. With, of course, lashings of mugs of tea. While in Lidl I picked up a packet of Rooibos (Redbush)Tea. I understand it isn't actually 'tea' but seeds from South Africa. What I do know is Precious Ramotswe of No 1 Detective Agency drinks it all the time.

This afternoon the lady from our chosen Estate Agents came to take some photographs and she seemed very thorough. Fortunately the sun was shining brightly so the place should look attractive. Already some colour from the bulbs, and of course, from now till July the garden just improves. And from then on there's the dahlias and loads of other stuff. I'm not going to tempt providence this time by saying we don't expect to see the raspberries in full production, but lets just hope 'eh.

Dame Helen Mirren won an Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth the Second in the film. She got her 'thank you' speech just right, no faux tears, no over-gush. And she very nicely said that it was The Queen as a person who was actually being honoured, not her. Ah well !

....Off for me dinner now. Catch you tomorrow......

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Pleasant Sunday - 10C - Good Sky

Lovely restful day; caught up on yesterday's papers. We don't have Sunday papers - there's too much of them and Saturday's supplements, plus the week's magazines and assorted leaflets through the door are plenty.

I mention leaflets because there is an ongoing thrash in the village between the Labour Party and the BNP. The Labour leaflet (short on publisher info. and including a website which didn't exist) arrived, making quite serious allegations against the BNP.

Then the BNP traced it to the Labour Party Offices and issued a leaflet in reply. Can't understand what the fuss is about. There only seems to be one black family in the village and they are super. They wave as they walk past and I wave back.

Pictures 1 is bright idea 6,323. It always took me much scratching about in the cutlery/kitchen equipment drawer to find a skewer of the right length because they seemed to become lost amongst sturdier items. When I decided to sort out some spice/herb jars I noticed the shaker top and thought "Ah Ha !". So I tipped the spice out, it was only about an inch of cayenne which had completely lost its colour, washed it and presto, a skewer rack. I shan't be patenting feel free !

Thought I would share my recently acquired, early vintage, Pam Ayres anthology cover with you. I won't quote her today. But I will from my Hopkins. from his journal, and talking about the sky.
.."The whole round of skyline had level clouds naturally lead-colour but the upper parts ruddled....."

Ruddle comes from the 16C Anglo-Saxon rudu and was the red-ochre used to mark sheep. Almost worthy of Radio 4. I also said I'd have a look at Hopkins on the subject of trees. He was in Basel and Lucerne and said -
"Swiss trees are, like English, well inscaped - in quains"

'Inscaped' had me guessing. It means a things inherent quality and was a word he was keen on at the time. 'Quains' was harder. No Shorter Oxford etc., even my Etymological dictionary was stumped. Finally Goggle came up trumps. It is a dialect form of 'quoins' i.e. those wedge-shaped corner pieces which Bob explained to me only a couple of months ago.

Fancy the Chiswick OAG clipping the tops off the fingers of Jill's rubber gloves (see comment yesterday) the swine. Y has an aversion to rubber-gloves having once put her hand in one, only to find a piece of sausage wedged down one finger. When she turned it out it put her off Marigolds for ever.

Yesterday Y bit the bullet and rang the original chinese nail-salon to have her nail repaired. She thought that, due to the language difficulties, an 11.45am appointment might be difficult to arrange. But no problem at all and I guess she won't need to describe the problem, just show them.

Nice chat, as always, to David this morning. Helen continues to be on the 'up' and he confirmed that Sky's e-mails about the statues were 100% her own work and I was well impressed. Mind you I suppose we could write a reasonable letter at 8 - it just seems more of an accomplishment in computer terms.

Radiogandy will be off-air for a few days this coming week for staff-training. I'm going on a Powerpoint Course at Northern College. But, for security reasons, I not going to spell out the details.

....Enjoy yourselves.......

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Weekend Off - Again ! - Mild and generally Wet

Although it has been mainly wet, there were some sunny spells, one of which produced this lovely English sky. That's prolly racist but I had a survey to fill in about our GP service (which is excellent btw) and I could only be British or Irish......they seem to be trying to get rid of us !

Some particulars arrived from an Est. Agent for a bungalow in Arnold, quite near Joan, and it seemed a 'strong possible' but it's far too early to become interested.

The OldAge Gremlins are back. I had just put 2 pieces of rump steak under a hot grill for lunch and. while my back was turned the OAG wrapped one of the pieces in cling-film. Fortunately, after a couple of minutes I pulled out the grill tray to char-grill some chunks of peppers , and was able to rectify what the bounder had done. Not satisfied with that he did more. Y picked up the outside keys, intending to put a box in the wheelie-bin then go to the garage. The OAG sneaked the keys from her hand and chucked them in the bin so that she arrived at the garage door unable to get in, and still carrying the box.!

It might be my imagination but I always think that, at this time of year, i.e. not quite Spring, the twigs and branches on the trees become more vertical and sort of perkier. Is it that the sap is rising?

Perhaps one of our arboricultural correspondents could comment. Certainly many things have leaf-buds on them and in a week or so we shall begin to see that lovely pale green shimmer to things. I must consult my newly acquired 'Hopkins' to see if he uttered on the subject in one of his diary extracts or letters. And sorry about the 'Gerald' instead of 'Gerard' - I must have still been thinking about Chaffinches. It's rectified now !

In his comment yesterday David asks, following two very witty lines, if he qualifies as a 'poet' or a 'versifier' ?

Definitely a Poet my boy !! And I publish in support a little piece he wrote when 9yrs old. I know I'm his 'fayther' as they say in Mansfield but I remember thinking how moving it was. Still do, actually !

Somewhat of a 'Paul on the road to Damascus' feel to it.

Everybody is delighted with the way the house-valuation is going and our choice of the local agent. We expected our young people to say "Oh you should have gone with a major firm" but no.

We've both been busy. I found some gloss and put a first coat on the 'room-freshener-stripped' window sill and Y has been out on the patio with a knife getting the moss from between the slabs. Hands and knees job, plus of course, the never-ending washing.

Y said this morning that I would miss my view over the footie feld but there will be a new view to know and love. If I couldn't see the sky I wouldn't be too happy. If they put me in a cell for years I would definitely go odd ! Even more? did I hear somebody say.

..See you tomorrow.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Good Day - 2 More Agents - Statues

First things first. I came second last night at the camera club. So at least I'm moving up. My 'Spiral Staircase' was much admired. The title caused the odd wry chuckle because camera clubs are rather into witty epigramatic titles for images.

"Winding wearily westwards" could have been more acceptable whereas "Screw you" which I contemplated, would have been a joke too far.

You must excuse me leaping about but I'd better explain the pictures. I had a lovely e-mail from Sky saying she had a tricky project at School and needed some 'statue-pictures'. I trawled through the Radiogandy archives and found a few. These Cowboys - aren't they great ? are in the inner courtyard of a motorway service station, somewhere in the West Midlands. But I can't remember the name of it.

Picture 2 is the bust of Charles Dickens at The New Mechanics. I'm sure her Dad will explain that head & shoulder statues are called busts.

I also sent her the Eric Morecombe statue in Morecombe, our own Theatre Square Bronze Lady, a couple from Yorkshire Sculpture Park and a few others. Hope they are what she wants.

We have had another busy day. Another Estate Agent visited us this morning, a local firm called David Hammond and then another one this afternoon.

All three are agreed on the price which gives us confidence that it is the right one. There is no way, being rivals that they have 'had their heads together'. All the people were very nice but we liked the lady from David Hammond best. Although they only have the one office in Eastwood, they are on the nationally run RightMove website. And lets face it, if you are searching for a house in the Eastwood area you go to Eastwood to look, not Coventry. We think that being on the main road leading to the motorway three miles away, is a good thing too, for 'passing trade'. All we can do now is wait and hope we are luckier this time and it isn't all too stressful.

Had a nice chat to Jason at the camera club about right-clicking RAW files and not getting Exif data. He booted up his laptop and had exactly the same result as me. Reassuring, because I was still was tussling with this fairly mild photo problem and had sought advice on the Amateur Photography forum. Wow - there are some bad-tempered, rude people on it. Not all I hasten to add. But I think I have been spoilt on WebUser forums where everybody is so nice, patient, and helpful. The chap who finished up helping me however, was pleasant helpfulness itself.

Y wanted to visit the nail place in Eastwood because she has damaged a nail but the girl in there was so offhand and discourteous that Y left promptly and is going to book an appointment back at the chinese salon. While she was in the place I went into the Hospice book-shop next door, for a browse and came away with a Gerard Manley Hopkin's collection of prose and letters, and a Pam Ayres anthology dated 1976 (must have been about her first). Critics say she isn't really a poet, just a versifier. But anyone who can write "I am a starlin' me darlin' " is a real poet in my book. She sums starlings up, in six words. Total cost for the two books, £1.20p !

....Hope everybody has a good night.....

Thursday, February 22, 2007

'Orrible Wet Day - BJ - EPS

These are my pictures for tonight. You may have seen the 'Bromley House Spiral Staircase' before but I think this 'Full Moon in December' is a first showing.

I was going to spend some time today cutting bevel mounts just so. But I nipped into Brian's shop to discuss which he preferred out of a selection of pictures. And, bless him, he cut my boards and bevels while we stood chatting.

He liked the completely monochrome version best and I bow to his competition experience. Sorry Bungus! Who preferred a tinted version.

And Brian also chose this slightly orangey version of the staircase. Y didn't care for this one, liking a more muted print of it better. But Brian's view is that the 'high key' quality makes it stand out. We shall see !

I had to 'photoshop' the rather funereal black border onto the picture to prevent the white side of the stairs, top right corner, escaping into the mounting board.

Y was duly dropped at the tram en route to Burton Joyce and she will have a lovely day because the children are still on holiday. I'm afraid the park won't be an option though. The weather here is appalling and no doubt will be there too.

One of my today jobs has been rubbing down and neutralising an area of interior window sill on which we spilled some liquid from one of those air-fresheners that you plug into a socket. Be warned it acts like paint-stripper! And powerful paint-stripper at that. I thought at first sandpapering down the blistered bits would do it, but no such luck. It has inveigled its way underneath a more extensive area. Anyway I've done it but the 10 minute job took an hour.

No cookery today, good or bad. I've had snacks (no hardship!) and Y has some 'Pasta lax & sparris' to look forward to when she arrives home. Lidl haven't bothered to translate but the box looks fun -asparagus tips, carrot and whole lot more. They are usually fine and she does like frequent veggie meals.

I'm going to stop there and sort myself out for this evening. I've got a disc to take to Helen, copies of the AP article for people who are too mean to buy the magazine, my laptop, my prints for tonight and some prints for an upcoming exhibition. Oh - and my binoculars because from where I sit I've no chance of a good look at an A4 print on an easel 15feet away. I am beginning to resemble a packhorse, I realise that !!

...Now hear this you Judges..........

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Still Mild - Bougton - Est. Agents

Picture 1 shows Bungus striding manfully towards The Snooty Fox where we had an excellent lunch; beef and all the tracklements, well cooked tender and very good vegetables. Then puddings and altogether including a round of drinks the bill came to just over £12. First-class value.

We enjoyed a good chat and it was lovely to see Ralph, who made a real fuss of me even though he is getting to be an old dog. Can't jump about; doesn't want to go very far; makes odd noises. And is keen to have his dinner on time, if not a little early - just like the rest of us !

I was up at 4am this morning, finishing off my prints for tomorrow evening plus, of course, messing-about on the internet. Read all the news and caught up with a couple of radio broadcasts I had missed. There is no doubt that, if one is a computer user, is a very rewarding website and the annual licence fee becomes excellent value. Being such a limited TV viewer I feel that I still get value for money.

Before setting off for Boughton I called in at our farm up the road for some fresh eggs and I couldn't resist a photograph of them in their original rustic state. Before serving them to anyone, I do give them a little cosmetic make-over.

And as I have mentioned before, it is so reassuring to see them happily scratching about, overseen by a lordly and inquisitive cockerell.

It goes without saying that the flavour is A1. For tea, I used one to make pancakes. A day late I realise but yesterday it didn't work out.

When I arrived home the Estate Agent (one of them) had been and gone and Y reported that she had been impressed by the young man. He had a good poke about - loved the view, loved the size of the rooms and the garden, and the large garage. He felt he would have no trouble selling it at a price we both consider to be fine. We intend to let the 2 pre-arranged others come, if only to hear different opinions about the price. But his firm subscribe to 5 websites and, according to him, 70% of house-searching is now on the internet. Y sounded persuaded, and happy and we both feel that this time we might be luckier. Didn't she do well ?

The tea I have in my room is often Assam and I usually buy tea-bags but this time, accidentally, I bought leaf-tea. Doesn't it brew strong compared to tea-bags? The old adage was 1 spoonful per person and one for the pot ! Far too strong in my opinion, and I'm a lover of strong tea.

Camera club tomorrow night so fingers crossed.

.....Talking about tea - I'm off to make a pot......

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mild again - Ikea - Morrisons Lunch

Very mild again, and we decided to go to Ikea while Karen was here. We intended to have a 'mooch' followed by lunch.

But the restaurant is closed till March for refurbishment. So we had to settle for a coffee, in those ghastly polystyrene mugs, followed by a our tour. Inevitably we bought things, as you do. Then Y had the bright idea of lunch at Morrisons which we did. I had 'liver & onions' which was fine and Y had 'chicken tikka' which was also good. She was asked if she wanted rice with it, or chips? Only in Eastwood.......etc.........

While we were in Morrisons I bought this week's issue of Amateur Photographer and 'lo and behold' there was my article in their 'Backchat' slot. If anyone wants to read it, please click here and, even though I say it 'as shouldn't' it doesn't read at all badly. I still agree with myself which considering I wrote it several months ago, is an unusual occurence these days. And £50 is winging its way towards me. I shall have to decide what to spend it on. Don't need another bag, or any more notebooks, and certainly not any more cans of WD40.

Picture 1 just shows how lovely the daffs are this year, even cheap ones from Aldi seem to last and last, and each bloom opens evenly from the unopened stage. I always remember the Malcom de Chazal bit though :-

......"The flower in the vase still smiles, but no longer laughs"

Picture 2 is Y's little woodland piece which has been truly beautiful this year. The aconite have now more -or-less finished but the snowdrops go on and on. There is lots more in there, just showing through. I hope the new occupants appreciate it.

The carpet cleaning man arrived at 1pm to do the big-room and the hall and Y insisted on going out in the garden, cutting back and clearing up and she tired herself out and gave herself backache, not to mention spraining her thumb. But she has now had a recuperative lie-down and feels buoyant again.
Worrying news on the World Service in the midle of the night that, in 2036, an asteroid will pass within 10,000 miles of earth and there is a possibility it might actually collide with us. I shall be 101 years and would personally think it an admirable way to go. But I certainly don't think that with regard to our children and grandchildren. And everyone else's of course.

Peace be on your cooking pot.........

Monday, February 19, 2007

Quite Mild - Shopping - Salad & Mackerel

Just the one picture today because I've had a 'picture problem' which I've been trying to solve.

Before today, if I right-clicked a picture and opened 'properties' I used to get a comprehensive list such as Camera, lens, aperture, exposure etc..... All I get now is the file-type and the picture size in pixels. No doubt I've done something wrong, but trying to rectify it is proving time consuming. If all else fails I shall seek help on one of my forums, but, at the moment I just feel foolish. Downloading the Nikon firmware could have done it, especially as I had such a lot of trouble doing it.

But, as Andrew W Mathis famously said "It is bad luck to be superstitious".

Bungus's 'comment' about the beef-topside joint being tough was no suprise. In my experience 'topside' is always tough ! They only manage to sell it, so expensively, is that its lean appearance, without fat, appeals to the 'housewife' so called. The practice in my boyhood, if there was no chine (forerib) or sirloin available, was to thread ribbons of fat through the joint with what was called a marbling needle. Then, if it had been hung long enough, it was possible to get it less chewy. Not easy though!

Today we had smoked mackerel fillets, with a jacket potato and salad. Looked good. Sweet Romaine lettuce, cucumber, celery, and cherry tomatoes. On Y's I did some sliced red pepper, and some halved grapes and a few nuts; all of which she likes and I don't. Our only real sin was butter (not stinted) in the jacket potatoes. And, as we bought fresh Pain de Campagne this morning, a few sandwiches for tea. Fillings to order !

Excuse short blog. Maybe back later.....

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Weekend Off nearly over - Stew even Better

Picture 1 is an attempt to get a decent picture of a Great Tit but I fear that I am never going to make a wildlife photographer. As an avuncular Sergeant said to me long long ago about something I'd made a hash of. "Leave that to them what knows 'ow to do it mi' lad".

At least the picture records the bird's visit. But he isn't very sharp and you can't see his eyes.

The radio station OneWord continues to delight. We have at the moment for instance, in episodes, Tim Piggot Smith reading The Brothers Karamazov and there is a series called Poetry's Biggest Hits. The latest featured Kipling - "If", "The Road to Mandalay" and "The Female of The Species", I was supposed to be going to do something else but I felt compelled to sit still till the end. I must find something which contains the station's listings. I know they are in the daily paper, but not in my handy 'week's guide'.

What a poet? Which reminds me that tomorrow starts W.H.Auden's centenary celebrations. He of the extremely wrinkled face, about which I remember Dylan Thomas saying "If that's his face, what must his scrotum be like?" Mind you I can't see that being quoted by the current literati.

Before I leave quotations I would like to share this great Bertrand Russell quote which I came across at the top of a google page this morning -

....."I would not give my life for my beliefs, because I might be mistaken".......
Picture 2 is really for Bungus's Sandra. I know she dislikes purple crocuses (or croci for our resident pedants) and I wondered what her reaction would be to these tricolour jobs !

The Magnesium Sulfate has done the trick with my 'whitlow' which is correct according to ManxIslander who kindly included a 'link' in his 'comment' telling me all about them. In my conversation with the pharmacist I mentioned 'Tiger Balm' of which we had a tin for ages and which cured most things. Debra brought it back from her World Tour all those years ago. The pharmacist said that they used to stock it, but sadly no longer.

I think my incorrect 'wicklow' must be confusion with a place in Ireland. North or South I know not, without getting up to look.

When I spoke to David this morning we were talking about books and Libraries and I told him about the brilliant TFC link in WUforum please click here about podcasts etc. He told me that both the girls love the library and are voracious and quick readers. Twelve books a week was mentioned. Something else genetic? No I guess strictly environmental. I told him about Ashbourne Library which was up a little yard at the side of The Town Hall and how small it was. And that when I was 10/11, certainly less than 12, something like that, I semi-panicked with the thought "What shall I read when I have read all these books?" mistakenly thinking that the Ashbourne Library stock was the lot. I also used to get snooty looks for taking books back at lunchtime which I had taken out in the morning, 'cos I'd read 'em. Do you remember those little buff coloured cardboard envelopes, open down two sides, that they used to put the ticket in?

Y's faux-suede box is a success. I quite like the idea - It's like buying something for our new home - incurable romantic that I am.

The stew was even better today - they invariably are. And there are still 2 portions left. OK, I did put a lot of vegetables in it, but I only started with 300grms of beef. Not expensive for 6 portions, and not bad for us either. We are freezing the rest though and will have something different tomorrow.

......I don't think I've forgotten anything....

Saturday, February 17, 2007

7C - New Coat - Shopping - Beef Stew

Sharp crocuses were promised and violá. A very dull day again though and they weren't open yet, but they are the same two, honest.

Quite chilly but nowhere near as wet. We had lots of things to do round and about and while we were in Eastwood I bought a new coat from Sanders. A very reliable old-fahsioned firm, and I wanted something not heavy, big pockets for notebooks, compact camera, mobile phone, gloves etc., and they found me just precisely the right thing. I tried loads on but this one we both liked. Y said, "It looks as if you've had it years". I have this effect on clothing - I could have walked out of the shop wearing it and no-one would have been even slightly suspicious. Except for the cardboard labels which festooned, that is.

In Boots I showed the Pharmacist my 'wicklow' or whatever they are called and she prescribed me some Magnesium Sulphate Ointment which I gingerly rubbed on around 1pm and already (at 8.30pm) it seems to have eased the pain considerably.

Then we went to Heanor because Y wanted a fairly large storage box and we found an ideal one in In-Store in faux-suede. It is so realistic I'm half convinced it IS suede. But, at the price, it couldn't be. I also bought a black canvas type shoulder bag for my camera stuff, slightly larger than the one I have been using. Lots of zipped pockets and internal compartments etc. The price, amazingly, was £3. And Y has been using a similar one from the same shop to take her essentials on the train to London. She loves it and pronounces it 'robust'. Who needs a Billingham camera bag at £75 minimum. Anyway it would look like a camera-bag and I'd prolly get it nicked.

Then we did routine Lidl and Morrisons and, as always, seemed to end up with a car-full.

Picture 2 is some daffodils which are going to be at least a month early. The year John was born, as 28th March approached, it was a toss-up whether he arrived before a daffodil in the border opened. They arrived on the same day.

I had decided to make a beef-stew and as we had veggie shopped I had a frugal use-up of odds and ends. Some swede (turnip to us northerners) a celery stick, a leek, an onion, a carrot, some potato to thicken it. Plus some fresh button mushrooms. As I had run out of beef-ctock cubes I used chicken. It didn't seem to matter. Plus a bay leaf and some fresh thyme. And Y made some dumplings - due to my 'wicklow' I couldn't roll dumplings with one hand! Accompanied by fresh broccoli and some fresh Charlotte potatoes. And, even though I say it myself, twas delicious.

The Culture Show was so boring we switched it off after 15 minutes. They had some weird art-critic reviewing the Gilbert and George exhibition and we just wished it had been Andrew Graham Dixon whose opinions we rate. We prefer Verity Sharpe to the current presenter who, as Bungus perceptively pointed out, never seems to listen to the answers the people she interviews give her. The architecture chap hasn't been on for weeks. If it doesn't improve I think we shall stop watching it.

I'd had problems downloading some firmware update for my Nikon D80 but a friendly expert on the Amateur Photography forum soon sorted me out. I don't know where I would be without my forums.

....Catch you tomorrow.

Friday, February 16, 2007

8C - Heavy Rain - Fence - Rest Day

I know I promised crocuses, sharp front-to-rear but I certainly wasn't going to stand outside in the pouring rain to set up a tripod etc.. So they will have to wait for better weather.

It really has been appalling and Alex was halfway through the fence repair. Bless him, he worked through it, saturated, but I suppose when you are young.

He has done a super job and also has lopped the tops off the conifers at the rear of the garage. We've kept him liberally supplied with tea and coffee and at one stage I offered to wring out his woolly hat. Anyway, as you can see from Picture 2 that aspect of his various jobs is now completed. The fence panelling is 'treated-wood' and doesn't need painting, thank goodness. It will just weather and blend in.

My competition pictures failed again. They really don't like that portrait. Apart from the portrait I would have been a strong contender, he said. It wasn't just me that suffered. A fellow member had submitted an excellent panel including a strong picture of two men on a building-site. The judge, from Leicester again, said "They don't look very cheerful". Then he rabitted on endlessly about "the rule of thirds" having not the slightest that what he actually means is "the golden-section" which is subtly different.

Not to worry; I'm still enjoying the club very much and the camaraderie.

Had somewhat of a triumph with NTL. The bills this month, particularly for the TV and Broadband seemed very high, so I rang up and did "reasonable but firm" fairly well. End result :- £20 credit to the account for this months bill and the monthly amount in future reduced from £42.03 to £20 on a regular basis. Lots of people on WUforums have reported that if you ring NTL and whinge convincingly enough you always get a refund. Y said that I dealt with it all rather well. (Wowee - Praise indeed) There is actually a website called NTHell but I haven't used it. Perhaps things will get better now its Virgin.

Being Friday we had fish, chips and peas. They were lovely (recipe not published) but I find I have gone off tartare-sauce. Strange. And thanks Bungus but I think we also can survive without Nigel Slater's recipe for Cabbage on Toast.

We have enjoyed our Rest Day so much we decided to put-off shopping till tomorrow. No doubt we can find a few scraps to survive on.

Out of the options Y has decided on toasted Pain de Campagne (it makes beautifully crisp toast) and crab paté. I atcually remembered how to do the accent - Alt Gr plus the letter at the same time.

.....Time to do tea.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

12C - Mount cutting - Alex and Fence

This 'photograph of photographs' isn't brilliant but it will convey an idea of my panel for the competition this evening. The rules ask for 4 pictures of different genres or techniques i.e. you can't enter 4 portraits if you happen to be good at them. So I'm hoping that the portrait, the sports, the sunrise, and the interior church door by flash, will fill the bill. I've marked on the backs that they must go on the easel together and in this order. Because I like Lisa looking inwards, the white-water shot moving right, the sunrise pointing back to the centre, and finally the old church door to leave by. ! I guess that if you've followed the Blog you will have already seen them. Hard to believe but the Blog has its first aniversary next month !

Y returned on time, tired but happy, and she's gone off to Burton Joyce for more granny duty today. So I dropped her at the tram as usual, but we are both looking forward to a rest-day tomorrow.

Yesterday I bought a bevel-cutter at Maple Framing and I'm quite glad I had lost my old one because this Logan is much much better. Once I had started cutting, 'how to do it' quickly came back to me and I only messed up one mount by accidentally cutting an inward-facing bevel instead of an outer.

Picture 2 is some brave little purple crocuses just peeping through. The yellow ones have been out for some time. It isn't sharp but tomorrow I'll use my tripod.

Alex has been here all day repairing the large wind-damaged fence at the bottom of the garden. 2 whole sections needed replacing with new.

Vic finished his fence yesterday and I though "Whoopee a day free from banging" and then Alex turned up. His work-flow seems much quiter though. Perhaps its my imagination. He really is great; he takes everything to the tip in his trailer. And point-blank refuses to count such trips into his 'working time'.

A most useful 'comment' yesterday from our architectural-correspondent. About the technical term 'pile-driving' into the Venice mudflats. Previously I had mistakenly thought that a 'pile-driver' was the name of a punch in boxing, like a 'haymaker'.

....I'm off for a kip. Might be back later.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

7C - Super Venice Class - Y back 10.30pm-ish

Super session of our Venice class. We moved onto how they managed to build the city at all, in the sea. Basically 'wooden posts driven into mud-flats' with the buildings on top.

This prescribed the weight and therefore the height of possible structures. It also explains why, and I'd never thought about this before, there are such a lot of windows. They are much lighter than stone. Or 'brick' in fact because, very much like today, the buildings are mostly brick with ornate stone fronts.

Picture 1 is San Marco and St Mark's Square which dates back to the 9th century. Napoleon described it as "the drawing room of Europe".

We then covered the architects, from Bellini onwards till the arrival of Palladio. And also the later people.

Picture 2 is a Palladio Church - The Church of St Giorgio - and it is easy to identify his influence across Europe.

I shall stop rabbiting-on about Art and Architecture because it doesn't interest everyone. We then covered the arrival of the printing-press from Germany and how Venice became such an important printing and publishing centre. One reason is that the city was prosperous with a big P and people wanting to set up businesses had access to venture capital.

The publishing house Giolito began in 1490 something and is still doing well. At that time they had a reputation for being unscrupulous i.e. if a book was banned they would stick it in another cover with a different title and bang it out again.

Lets hope that in 500 years they have mended their ways.

My day has been busy. I decided to visit Maple Framing in Stapleford and buy some big boards, to cut into 40x50cm mounts for tomorrow night's competition. Then there was lunch at the Mechanics (haddock and chips I'm afraid, although the salads looked very nice ha ha!). The my class and then home to start mount-cutting. All to save 'a couple of bob' rather than have Brian cut them at the shop. I must be potty. Mind you the 'sweating' must be good for me - do they call it 'anaerobic' or something ?

I've just had a text to put a tape in for 'Dangerous Housewives' at 10pm, then it will be off to collect Y from the tram. It will be nice to have her home on Valetine's day.

It's nearly 7.30pm and I haven't done the crossword yet.

....See you tomorrow..

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mansfield Court House - Tesco Restaurant

Not such a good photo as yesterday's goldfinches but today the chaffinches appeared accompanied by cousin sparrow. I wrote a poem once which began "The Chaffinch is a dapper bird, called Gerald........." I can't remember how it continued and I certainly can't find it. But they always look so well-groomed; a sort of blazer and grey-flannels sort of bird. I think the rather blurry one on the left is Mrs. Chaffinch.

The meal-worms went down a 'storm' the in-word for 'a success' according to TJ, although it sounds just the opposite. I put a handful in the blue pottery dish and they went in minutes. Mostly the blackbirds, and I had intended them for the Robin who didn't get a look in.

I had a lovely time in Mansfield. Nice time in the Library and a nearly new book (only issued once before) about landscape photography by Joe Cornish and others, all of whom I rate. Then to W.H.Smiths etc., and finally to the CourtHouse to meet Bungus whose bus was slightly delayed due to a serious, road-blocking accident between Ollerton and Mansfield. Bob had a pint, which he needed and I had a J2O (I really am becoming the sort of person I used to avoid) and then to Tesco for the all-day breakfast. It was a good meal but, although we sat well away from the smoking-area, I was very aware of the fag-smoke drifting around. When I finally returned to the car it was lingering on my coat. If the weather is OK in the morning, before I set off for my Venice class, I shall hang it outside for an hour. Bob said he didn't notice it.

Picture 2 is a larger version of the Witch Hazel which I published before. I've tidied the background up a bit but the shrub and flowers are 'as is'. Bob showed me his new Sony compact and it looks and feels a lovely piece of kit. It sits comfortably in the hand and feels solid and reliable. He had bought it at Currys as new and when he got it home in was sans manual, said inside the box 'pre-owned' and in the memory were 2 photographs of women Bob knew nothing about. I assume they were fully clad or I'm sure he would have mentioned it. Curry's have printed off the missing manual and made him a vouchers offer. And, of course, it will remain under the same warranty as if it were new. And, as he obviously likes the camera, he has decided to keep it.

I took him over a book about PhotoShop Elements. Even if he only uses it to clone out stuff to tidy up, it is worth having in one's armoury. I picked up a copy of The Evening Post because of a big photo inside taken at Hannah's dance school in Burton Joyce. She is on the front row and looks lovely.

I've just changed head to toe, because of the lingering smokey smell. It is a fact that "there is no-one so prudish as a reformed prostitute". When I've finished this I'm heading for the shower.

...If I've forgotten to deal with 'comments' please excuse me. I'll catch up tomorrow.

Monday, February 12, 2007

8C - Cold W wind - Prints for Competition

It hasn't been quite so 'springlike' today and there is a cold west-wind plus showers of rain. To be honest I have welcomed the rain because Vic, the other side of the footpath, has been constructing a new fence, which involves merry banging-away only interrupted by the weather. The old one was badly vandalised and he does like to have things 'right' bless him.

Hope this doesn't tempt providence but our side of the footpath seems to be too overgrown with shrubbery to permit of a good kicking. It would be good if something could be done about it though because it is a definite minus point to a potential buyer.

Picture 1 shows how prolific the catkins are this year. There is some folk-lore which predicts how the summer will be from them. But I can't for the life of me remember if 'prolific' leads to a good summer or a bad one. Perhaps one of our 'nature correspondents' knows.

Picture 2 shows how quickly the goldfinches have returned as I only I topped up their thistle-seed container yesterday. Since the level dropped below the little holes where their perches are, we have seen no sign of them whatsoever. Do you think they just cruise around 50 feet in the air keeping a beady eye open for refilled thistle feeders?

And they didn't rush away. I had time to set up my tripod, change to a longer lens and fit my remote controlled shutter release.

The were later joined by guests who also settled down for the 'taster' menu. Thistle seed followed by thistle seed followed by thistle seed................ I won't tell you what they had for sweet, or on the cheese board.

I've had a busy day messing about as usual. I installed a Greeting Card Maker programme. It was so awful that after a couple of aborted attempts I decided to uninstall it and bin it. It only came from Lidl anyway for a couple of quid and you could tell. But it was reluctant to leave via 'add/remove programmes'. Fortunately I had heeded the advice of Ray, and others on WUForums, and created a System Restore point before I installed it. All I had to do then was a System Restore and 'hey presto', Greeting Card Maker' bit the dust.

I'm meeting Bungus for lunch in Mansfield tomorrow and our scheduled venue is 'The Court House at Noon'. Why does Gary Cooper spring to mind?

Jill's references to slides in the playground brought Church Street Infants to mind where the boys with hobnails in their boots were much envied for their prowess on the slides. But Jill probably went to a much posher School. And Bungus's reference to the correct expression for one and a half pence. In Ashbourne it was definitely 'three 'ay pence'. But not having watched the relevent episode of Foyles Law, I don't know where it was set. Following on from the unnecessary school-closures due to the weather; as a letter to The Telegraph perceptively pointed out "They didn't close any shops or supermarkets..........."

My 4 prints for the 'Print Photographer of the Year' competition on Thursday are done and I'm quite pleased with them. I shall leave mounting them till tomorrow when I'm sure they are completely dry. It's rather like the lies adults tell you - this 'instant-dry paper' isn't !

......Going to catch up with my reading..

Sunday, February 11, 2007

9C - Sunny Afternoon - Messing About

It has been a warm day and a sunny aftenoon which tempted me to Moorgreen Reservoir where, as you can see in the foreground, there are still sheets of unthawed-ice. They are too tidgy to qualify as ice-floes. I thought the odds, of 4 gulls preparing to disturb 2 moorhen was a bit much. But they were too far away to 'shoo' and in anycase one shouldn't interfere with nature. Red in tooth and claw and all that.

Glad Jill's Brighton trip was a success and I would love to Blog a picture of all that lovely colourful wool. Everyone I know agrees how outrageous it was to close Schools just because of a little snow and ice. Playground slides and snowball fights are part of childhood and should not be denied to youngsters. They wouldn't dream of closing Schools in Russia, Scandinavia, Canada etc., under conditions far worse than we experience would they?

Picture 2 is not one of mine (sorry to say) but by Annie Leibovitz, of Nicole Kidman. It breaks all the rules (so called) - the subject is looking out of the frame not into it.

She's got burnt-out highlights. 'Blocked' shadows in the curtain. The little door on the left and the assorted stuff on the right would be described as 'distractions' which should be cropped out. Actually, if they were presented with the picture they wouldn't dare say any of those things. Or would they?

But "Wow" what a brilliant photograph. If you've got it, you've got it and Annie has always had it in spades. She was born in 1949 and has been highly regarded in the photography world for the past 30+ years. This picture is in an exhibition of her work in San Diego so I'm afraid I shan't be going.

When I spoke to David this morning I asked if Sky had enjoyed her 'read in bed' with the 'book-chair'. Apparently Brooke has highjacked it! Nothing for it but to order another.

...Must go, at least for the moment. E-mails etc.....