Life, photos but not the universe

soup and fish and chips please

Last night we had the delightful experience of having dinner with our recently wedded couple.  They made us a delicious Cacciatore and some wonderful, crusty beer bread with parfait for starters.  During the course of a fairly hilarious evening we invented a name for a pop group – Cats on Fire – and then googled them.  And they exist.  A rather sweet group of four Swedish (?) boys with something of a retro rock style.

And Barney did the deaf old Dad thing for all he was worth, producing rampant mispronunciations and chinese whisper type utterances with complete conviction.  It was all extremely funny and silly and very nice indeed 🙂

And the night before, the stars were out in glowing brilliance.  I tried very hard to get a photo of them but only produced a muddy fuzzle effect.  However, some time later this year, I may be going to The Isle of Sky for a week with a group of really good photographers!!!!  I shall ask them how to do stars.  And other things 🙂

I notice that the weather forecast for the next several days (including all those that we plan to spend on the boat) is for rain and then a bit more rain and then a lot of rain.  Did I get my wires crossed?  Did I offend someone up there?  It’s not St Swithin’s week or anything like that is it?

Well today’s shopping included a lot of soup.  Always good to hand a cup of hot soup up to the person shrouded in rain clothes and peering out from under a dripping hood, especially if you are one of the persons who has opted not to do any steering :)*

So now I’m hoping to take a lot of heavily atmospheric photos, using borrowed tripod, an umbrella and goggles. Actually, joking apart, this sounds like quite a lot of fun.  I’m also hoping for fish and chips.  Don’t know why, I just had this pleasant vision of sitting around in a steamy cabin with golden crispy stuff and greasy newspapers**.

And I’ve decided to diet.  I’m fed up with my burgeoning (not to say, fast vanishing) waistline and my feet are fed up with carrying me around. And it’s ever so difficult and stressful getting in and out of the car with extra winter layers and extra fatty inches.  (Don’t worry about the fish and chips – as far as I can tell, all foods are guaranteed to help you lose weight when they are part of a calorie controlled diet***)

Speaking of food, it’s time I made dinner.  One big one and one small one 🙂

still hoping for something like this

still hoping for something like this

Anyway, I wish you all a happy weekend.  A satisfying weekend even.  See you when I get back.  Keep well and look after all of yourselves ok?

*Or lock operating or indeed anything that makes photography, restfulness and keeping dry, difficult.

**Not that you ever see fish and chips wrapped in newspaper any more 😦

*** I’m not actually planning to count calories.  I’m pretty sure that I eat so much more than enough that all I need to do is make the plate look less full to make quite a difference.****

****Of course it doesn’t help if you later have a smaller plate with several little heaps of cheese on it.   Even if you skip the plate and just eat it straight from the cheese box.  This dieting thing may require a bit more practice?

November 28, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Howling gale

Just thought I’d mention there’s one outside.  So I’ve got stuff cooking slowly in the oven and stuff drying in the tumble dryer and I’m hoping the cats don’t choose to go in or out and let the cat flap blow open.

I can’t remember if I have to go out today.  Rather hope not!

Anyway, this evening, I improved the shining hour by making an entirely new potato curry. (Slight hiatus there while we ate it. It wasn’t quite as expected – a bit gluey.  Never mind, next time I shall add more yoghurt or water or something).

Well the next few days are going to be horribly busy.  I have to address 60 invitations, get the house in order and prepare to abandon ship for the weekend.  Well, no, not abandon, join ship.  Barney’s brother’s timeshare boat on the Grand Union Canal.

Also I have to prepare for another year.  Another one of mine.  Shortly (while we’re on the boat in fact) I shall turn 58.  I would appreciate it if the powers that be could be kind enough to mark the occasion (and the preceeding days) with a lot of sunshine.  Possibly a dash of snow (about six inches, lasting, oh three or four hours at most, would be ideal) and a touch of frost.  A few wisps of not-too-early-morning mist would go down well too.  No rain please and no wind.  A couple of rainbows would be perfect.

Oh and I wouldn’t sneeze at the odd brilliant full moon 🙂  I think I’d like the snow and the moon at the same time if possible 🙂

Not asking much am I?  Could be a Birthday/Christmas present?

Blimey!  It’s taking me nearly two days to finish a post.  I must be slowing down in my old age.  I need some coffee. (It’s brewing) And heart burn stuff (yuk) and a shower (brrr). And I have an appointment with my favourite dentist later so I need to eat and scrrrrub my teeth with a wire brush.  It’s ok, he’s only my favourite because he’s the only one I have (and for as long as he continues to say “nothing to do to these teeth”).  Also the only one around for hundreds of miles who still takes National Health patients.  Which in theory, means he’s cheaper than all the others.  In practice I wouldn’t know.  And I have to ask my ex boss (fiddle repairer) if I can borrow his tripod for the weekend away and also give him some money for repairing my fiddle and re-hairing my bow.  (his tripod is much quicker and easier to adjust than mine.  And look – you cn do this with it)

what's all this about then.


Yeah, like I was born yesterday.  No I haven’t won eight hundred and fifteen thouand euros in a lottery for which I didn’t buy a ticket. But just in case, I looked it up and it’s a scam.  Quite a neat one too.  the point being that with exboss’s tripod, I can have the camera directly above the peice of paper instead of trying to get it all in at an angle. And had I been a spy, photographing secret documents, I could have done it without having to use a revealing flash. (As long as there was some light in the place) Of course I might have a bit of trouble getting two feet of folded up tubes and knobbles with a camera on the end into a place of secret document storage without calling a bit of attention to myself but these things aren’t meant to be easy right?

And if I wanted to photograph a butterfly in a bush, I could poke the camera on the end of the bendy arm into the bush without having to poke my head in too.  Of course I wouldn’t be able to see what the camera was taking a photo of as the viewfinder would be in the middle of the bush with the camera but let’s not be picky.  Actually I think you can get attachments for looking through the viewfinder at funny angles but they cost arms and legs and aren’t exactly little, delicate pieces of equipment.

Now I’m imagining having the camera leaning out over the edge of the boat taking pics of ripples from new and previously undiscovered angles.  But this thought makes me nervous.  I may not bother with trying that.

Oddly enough there’s a thread joing the two ends of this post*.  It goes – tripod – birthday – present – AHA!

I shall leave you with this thought

it's chilli in winter

chilli in winter


And let the dog in from the cold.

Keep warm.

*yes I know the birthday part wasn’t at the beginning but if you’ve read this far, hopefully you’ll have forgotten where the beginning was.

November 25, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Eclipse rocks (.co.uk)

They’re one of our Internet providers.

I got a sudden panic yesterday that I might not have paid them.  So I rang them up (www’internet is all very well but it has many wwways to get me lost and confused.  I like voices!)

Oh no problem, they said, you’re all up to date.  And by the way, I notice you’ve got a very, very old, slow and expensive package.  Would you be interested in changing to something cheaper and faster.

? I said dubiously.  (haven’t wwwe all heard that before!) But the nice young man spoke English, clearly, not too fast and sounded quite as though he was actually there in spirit as well as in money grabbing intent.  Possibly as though he was also in England*)

He described the package, assured me that I wouldn’t have to change anything at all at my end (no new passwwwords or settings, no screaming with frustration at wwweird instructions, no interruption to the service – Wwwow!)

Just, he’d send me an email when it was done and I’d reply and confirm and then my internet would get faster, our bill would get smaller and everything in the garden would be lovely.

Could you resist that?

I couldn’t.

Should get the email some time tomorrow.  I’m quite excited.  Oddly enough I’m inclined to trust Eclipse.  Eldest set us up with them quite a long time ago and they’ve always been very helpful and easy to understand and available on the phone.  I don’t think they’re the cheapest but the new package is fairly competitive.

Funny that when the vodafone person rang back the other day, I just couldn’t be bothered to pick up!

Home with hips (rosehips)

Home with hips (rosehips)

Sunrises on the oak tree

Sun rises on the oak tree

purple sky at night - photographer's delight

purple sky at night - photographer's delight

Enough!  On with the rest of the day.  The sun just came out and I’ve got things to be, places to do and I’m going to be late (as always 🙂 And I’ve got a perfectly boiled egg waiting – may all your eggs (and popcorn) be perfectly boiled and may the sun shine on you too.

*I really have a problem with overseas call centres.  I don’t mind us using them in principle (though I do wonder if I should worry about a) exploitation and b) depriving our own economy of the income and c) depending on cheapskate organisations for essential services)

It’s just that they all speak so fast and have such impenetrable accents.  It’s also possible that they don’t fully understand what they’re telling me but since I can’t understand the half of what they’re saying I wouldn’t know.  Calls may be monitored for training purposes but if they are I don’t imagine much training results from it.  Surely I can’t be the only person in the world who’s calls are peppered with, “What??” “Can you repeat that?” “sorry, I didn’t quite catch…?” “how many did you say?” “who did you say you were?” “what did you say you were selling me?” “WHAT ARE YOU SAYING??????” “Sorry – I CAN’T UNDERSTAND YOU!!!!! ” “GO AWAY!!!!”

Further, if there was any training, shouldn’t it include a lesson on how not to sound bored, impatient and offhand and how not to give the impression that you are only talking to this idiot because you might get  paid if you can successfully con them into buying something – anything, regardless of whether it’s what they want or need?

It’s all about money and change, incomprehensible, meaningless changes for the sake of nothing but some poor sod’s extra few pennies/rupees/yen/er…other foreign currencies? rubles? sol? Oh and, of course, some multi-national’s huge and horribly growing tentacular influence and profit.

Is it obvious that I’m getting old and crusty?  That I listen to music with an ear trumpet pointed back to front and say things like “I can’t understand the words!  It’s too loud!  turn up the volume, I can’t hear!”  I think it’s obvious to the kids in those call centres.


By the way, did any of you ask to be my friend on facebook last night?  I’m not sure if I recognise the name or not!

November 21, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments


I’ve been one as long as I can remember.  Socially that is, not physically.

Something to do with having parents from two wildly different backgrounds (Victorian v Elizabethan, 1st world war v 2nd, Leisured and landed v working class and ladder climbing, atheist v religious, judgmental and authoritarian v sensitive and artistic – blimey, whose idea was it to get them together????*)

Hmm well.

I’ve moved through protected middle class Surrey, via freedom of the Wilderness Devon and Street wise dirty North Country city to middle-artisan-class, tame but beautiful Berkshire.

And all the way I’ve had to learn to fit in with whoever I fell in with.  I’m awfully good at it and though it means I’ve had to learn to mimic different accents and views of the world it’s pretty much a part of me now.  Only as I get older I find it more and more tiring – not so flexible in the head any more.  There are times when I listen to a conversation and all the places I’ve been and all the people I’ve fitted in with are busily arguing away inside my head and putting points of view to each other which in no way fit whatever is being said right now.  One reason why I find it much nicer being with one person at a time.

And the computer age is no easier!  Blog people use one language, all warm and cosy* and careful (with excursions into some pretty sharp and colourful humour and language).  Flickr people use another, all superlatives and excessively complimentary and photographers use yet another, thoughtful, cool and measuring.  And that’s only in the generalised broad spectrum of virtual places! And indeed , only from a limited selection of the places I visit.

It would be so much easier to just be myself – if only I could work out whoever that is! Then I could work from a single viewpoint instead of hundreds!

My dearly beloved step father once told me a story of a friend of his who when asked for advice on an important decision, said, ask five people who know you quite well (so not family or close friends)  what you are going to do – not what they think you should do, what you will do.  They will probably give you a more or less accurate assessment and then you can just go and do it!   I strongly suspect that if I did that I’d get five completely conflicting answers 🙂

And now I see that the sky is going an interesting colour and also the dog would like to come back in the warm! Further, I need to go shopping (again!!! really I do far too much shopping)

where I went yesterday

where I went yesterday

riot and rampage

riot and rampage

nice place to park while shopping

nice place to park while shopping

I should say however, that all the viewpoints in my head completely agree that you are all completely lovely.  I just checked and there was a positive chorus of warm and fuzzy stuff 🙂

*The gaps in spellcheck’s knowledge never fail to amaze me.  Cosy?  No, never heard of it.

November 20, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

First rule of thatchers (and other site workers)

Never turn down a cup of tea.  You might never be offered one again.  It’s the first thing they teach a new apprentice.

I’ll add to that, never tell nice Paul from the garage not to bring the car back for half an hour.  He might never appear.  It failed its MOT and has had loads of work done to it.  Amazingly it was finished today and Paul rang to say he’d bring it up in  a few minutes.  Unfortunately, I was on the mobile when he phoned, to someone else, so I said can you give me half an hour?  Oh yes he said.  See you in half an hour.

That was an hour ago.  I could have had my shower, walked the dog and enveloped a dozen addresses by now!

Still it was funny to find myself waving a mobile (with a vodafone person on its other end) in one hand and the landline phone (with Paulfromthegarage) in the other and switching from suspicious, cautious and concentrating to cheerful, jolly and casual and then back again.  Just like a highpowered busy person!* (I don’t think I told Paul to ring me back on Monday or the vodafone person to bring me the new phone in half an hour????)

My offer from vodafone, should I choose to accept it, is £5 a month cheaper, gives me less free calls and texts and a new phone.  But the nice man assures me I use the mobile a lot less than that.

However, it’s an 18 month contract instead of 30 days, my current phone is neither old nor battered and works fine and I ought to be using it instead of the landline – it’s got lots of free minutes on it!  And I’ve only just worked out how to get it to talk loudly to me!  It’s possible, if I used it more I would save the £5 a month on landline calls?  Mind I’d only be saving the business the money, so maybe that’s not economic either.

I felt sure if I rolled a cig and sat down to write, Paul would immediately appear, such being the way of things.  But no.  Of course, if I started my shower or walked the dog he most certainly would appear!

*No?  Not enough phones?  Oh well.

November 15, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

I had plans for November

But I forgot that Barney will be 60 next year.*

Two of the plans involved visiting people and some of them were about having a pleasantly organised (peaceful) Christmas.

None of them involved lengthy phone sessions, orchestrated by himself but requiring my constant attendance and outlook address book.  None of them involved anxious thoughts about extreme clothing to be worn in extreme climates and none of them were expected to include long conversations with grown up children about each other’s lack of care for each other.  Neither was I expecting to have old skeletons dug up and discussed (but that’s an undiscussable issue (why, oh why did I put my real name on this blog and why, oh even more why, did I think it would be a good idea to let all my family know about it!!!!)

And though it’s less important in the general scheme of things, why did I accept an invitation to a busy, demanding, interesting flickr site which I now have barely time to flickr through every day, never mind understand!

Further!  I can’t see that the wonderful new camera has improved my photography at all!  Even, I wonder if it’s got worse!

Well, the sun shone today.  And I got a new tailpiece on my fiddle and new strings.  And, who knows, tomorrow the car may pass it’s MOT.  Stranger things have happened!

gorgeous colours.  Makes me happy just to see them.

gorgeous colours. Makes me happy just to see them.

Sleep well 🙂

*No of course I didn’t forget but I didn’t think about how much time it would reqquire to organise.

November 12, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Il Pleut

Il pleut

Il pleut

Goodness, how those two words take me back. To a grim, grubby classroom, with walls painted a strange, yellowish shade of green and wooden desks with names and strange hieroglyphics carved in them and Mrs Woolcott.  Who, in spite of her name, was French.  With an impenetrable accent and masses of French chic of the petite and pretty kind (as opposed to the sultry and glamourous kind).  Think, navy pencil skirt and white blouse with a ruffle down the front and a touch of red somewhere in the outfit. (belt?) And perhaps a matching navy jacket, elegantly tailored.  High stiletto heels and very neat legs.  Also flashing eyes and red lipstick.

It mattered not what the weather was doing outside the windows of the nissan hut in which we were learning French.  Inside, il pleut.  I have a feeling that ‘it rains’ is the same as ‘it rained’??  Oh I’m going to have to look that up now!  Oh no – I’m quite wrong.  Il pleuvait.  In the classroom, whatever the weather in the real world, il pleuvait toujours.

I remember not being quite sure which was more amazing, that the unknown Mr Woolcott should have chosen to marry a woman who could be barely be understood in English or that the impeccably smart, red-haired, little foreigner should have chosen to marry a man who lived in this wet grimy country and should then compound her error (surely an error) by choosing to come to this miserable excuse for a classroom and try to convey the glory of the French language to a group of uncomprehending, sulky, small teens!

A later French teacher was Miss Axe.  Actually not at all fitted by her name.  (though naturally we called her ‘the battleaxe’).  She was a jolly lady with short dark hair and a little bit of a weight problem.  When I took my O level French oral (the trial run – I forget what they were called) I flummoxed Miss Axe by getting a fit of the giggles.  We agreed that our giggles were very french even if they contained no actual french words!  She was rather nice, I realised 🙂

Anyway.  Right now, il pleut.  Quite a lot.  So I won’t be going out with the camera today and as it turns out, Barney won’t be going out either so here we are sorting stamps and blogging while I’m attempting to halve my carbon footprint by drying the washing in the tumble dryer and hoping the heat from it will warm us up.  At least it doesn’t leak though it does cover the windows with condensation.  Not sure how effective the warming will be as a result.

Now I’m going to be even more frugal and warm myself by hoovering.

washing away the last leaves

washing away the last leaves

leaf layers

leaf layers

A blessing

A blessing of light

And blessings on you all.

(It’s stopped raining by the way 🙂

November 11, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments


When I played the violin a lot (as opposed to five minutes before a lesson and during the lesson and at gigs) I used to fall asleep to the sound of unwritten music in my head.  Eventually I had to start writing it down which is why I bought a computer (which is another story).

when I was learning to drive in a car that was losing third gear, I half-dreamed of the exact process required to double de-clutch (you won’t understand this unless you are old enough to have driven cars that did that sort of thing – I’m not sure it works on modern cars)

When, even longer ago, I rode ponies and indeed owned a small, argumentative and sulky, liver chestnut, Dartmoor cross with a touch of Arab (only observable when he lifted his tail which he did with truly Arabian panache and usually when he was about to decline a halter)…um…oh yes, then.  Then, I fell asleep to  images of softly thudding through the woods and across the moors or wonderful half passes and amazingly un-bumpy leaps over brightly painted poles.  Pricked ears and gleaming shoulders passed before my closed eyes.

When I was very small, I dreamt of flying.  Down the stairs.  Naturally I tried it.  Um.  It didn’t quite work.

Now, delicate friezes of trees parade across hillsides and autumn leaves dance, held momentarily by a lens against beautifully soft dark backgrounds.  Water ripples and reflects and white escarpments frame black, flashing wings.  As I fall asleep.

So where are they in the daylight?  The music got written, the pony got to win gymkhana events and even learnt to do a passable half pass (once).  I learnt to drive without third gear.

But the picture dreams?  Where can I find them?  I want those pictures – the ones I’ve seen when half-asleep and dreaming.  The camera can only record what is really there and I need to find those places so I can make pictures of them.

D’you think they’re like the flying dream?

It’s a hard one.



leaf dream

falling leaf dream



Today, I retraced a route that I drove along yesterday because I thought the light was a bit better.  Yesterday I earmarked some places that might be good pictures.

Of course, when you stop every ten minutes and run backwards and forwards taking pictures it takes a lot longer.  The light faded before I’d got halfway!  So tomorrow I may have to do the rest.

And, I really really must get into the habit of using the tripod!!!!  Tripods are good.  I repeat – GOOD!  they are not a nuisance and a pain to lug around.  Right?  Right.  (Because then you can keep the camera still and take long exposures that will not have lots of fuzz and noise in them.  Dammit!)

Now I am going to attach the camera to said not-a-pain tripod and pack my swimming and fiddle lesson gear and get ready to hurtle out very very early (sunrise is at 7.15ish – not so bad really).  Then I shall go to bed all eager to fall asleep and wake up early.  Um.  maybe.

G’Night 🙂

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Phew! Can we breathe a sigh of relief?

I don’t do politics.  I’m far too ignorant.  But I believe I’m grateful, for the world, that the Bush camp appears to be out.

Let’s hope the inexperienced lad will do better with his position than any of our (English) heads of state have done in the last few years.  And maybe better than his predecessor.  What he does will change the world all over again.

Let’s hope.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

All Hallows and beyond

I regret to say I saw no ghosts on All Hallows Eve.  But we did go to a party (not a thing we often do but it was a friend’s 60th and though there were no ghosts at the party, there were a good number of witches and devils).

And very good music.  Among the musicians was one Andy, a mandolin player and singer who asked to be remembered to ILTV, with affection.  His children still remember how to tie up their shoelaces and who it was that taught them, he says.

Then yesterday we had the whole collection of Youngest, Partner and three GBs for dinner, fireworks and the night.  There has been a good deal of family speculation about the venue for their forthcoming wedding (announced after they returned from taking the children to see Fr Christmas in Lapland last year).  Would they go to Bhutan (the happiest place in the world) for a Buddhist wedding?  would they go to a Pacific Island and dance on the sand?  Well it turns out that they would like to get married in an ice chapel in Sweden under the Northern lights!!!!!


And, (OMG, I can hardly contain myself) We are invited to be witnesses!  Yay! and also Wow! and also Oooh!

Well it’ll cost several arms and legs and I’m not entirely sure that I really need a specially organised extra night so that we can experience a night in the ice hotel – really, there seems to something totally perverse about the idea of trying to sleep on a block of ice in a room made of ice.  I’m just not convinced that reindeer skins work when they’re no longer attached to their original, warm owners.  (I wondered if we could ask for a couple of live, fully clothed reindeer to sleep with us?)

But we can hardly refuse to go can we?  Especially as we’re needed to babysit for the happy couple when they spend their nuptial night in the ice hotel.  So I’m wondering how to keep my camera warm enough to keep functioning at -30 degrees.  Ought maybe to consider keeping self functioning too!

Youngest intends to be dressed, Narnia style in a purple dress (sleeveless!!!!) with a white, hooded, fur cloak.  And she has decided the blokes will be dressed in Russian furs.  Have my girls got style or what!

Anyway, moving right away from Fairyland to England, last night, the plan was to go to the local firework show and eat burgery stuff when we got there.  All afternoon it rained and then it poured and winds howled and the roads ran rivers and to my complete astonishment , the general consensus was that the children would enjoy a wet firework display and we’d go.  So we set off (forgetting the big umbrella) into town and parked in what looked like a lake, and heads bowed against the gale, fumbled our way into the grandstand at the racecourse and amazingly, it was suddenly dry!  More amazingly, the fireworks went, with lots of bangs, like clockwork!  True, my feet disappeared some time during the hour we were there and the hot dogs were a bit damp.  A few drips found their way from the grandstand roof onto our heads and Barney had to go down into the rain to watch because the fireworks went up out of sight above the grandstand roof.  but really it was brilliant! and then we came home, found my feet in the warmth and tucked the children up and had a lovely evening with a takeaway Indian (dinner).

The only fly in the ointment* was literally, flies!  Barney thoughtfully turned on the heating in Youngest and Partners’ room and we’d both forgotten that that’s the room where the flies hibernate.  Why that room I don’t know.  We don’t often go in there and so it’s always an unpleasant surprise when we remember that annual fly hibernation starts there!  So Partner goes up to deposit the overnight bag and returns to say that due to the buzzing and black clouds they probably wouldn’t be able to sleep there!  Alternative sleeping place was found and all was well.  I hope they didn’t have nightmares!

Now, I suppose I’d better go and deal out wholesale flyocide with hoover and sprays and dustpans and other weapons of mass destruction.  I may be gone some time.

On the other hand, maybe I need more coffee before starting a war? And a quick look at some firework and Halloween photos?

A white horse for I.  Maybe he’s a little grey and faded and hiding in a fold of the hills but nonetheless quite ancient and magical.  (You need to view the larger picture to see him probably)

The Cherhill White Horse

The Cherhill White Horse

warming their roots in the sun

warming their roots in the sun

Autumn sun

Autumn sun

And fireworks!!! (The hallloween party photos didn’t come out 😦

Bang! Fizzle! Pop!

Bang! Fizzle! Pop!

Dancing in the rain )

November 3, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments