Life, photos but not the universe

mist, mellow, music.

We had Mr and Mrs and Little Middle to stay on Friday.  It’s completely confused me, I no longer know whether it’s Saturday or Sunday, bed time or waking up time, going out or staying in time.  It’s definitely coffee time though.  Possibly going out with the camera time too.  That would tend to make it day time (though at some time over the weekend I did feel tempted to abandon sleep and go out with the camera in the moonlight which would have made a pig’s ear of sleeping time so I didn’t).

Yes well I did the weekend and now it seems to be Monday.  Blogger is having a day off as well I notice, three times it told me it couldn’t grant my request.  No Comment.  No comments, that is, till it’s back.

As I shall be babyminding again this week and then going out on a boat for a few days (Not our own one twelfth but that of Marvellous Mr and Mrs M and their Dog Jacko) I feel that there are many tasks looming ahead which must be done quickly.    Things like shopping, washing and packing.  Ooh and I must nip next door and ask if the neighbours will feed the cat.  Also I have had a request for a list of things I’d like for my birthday.

One of them is a Kindle.  I know I want that but I also know that Mrs Middle has this in hand and that it is a thing that will not inspire Barney.  Also I realise that he has no more free time in which to buy anything unless he gets something online.  This would fill us both with anxiety since he  (officially*) hates the computer and I worry that he might not have the patience or concentration necessary to avoid buying too many or the wrong thing or forgetting a password or staying logged in to some evil and rapacious site or any of the myriad little things that can cause stress.  Anyway I’ve just had a look at a few interesting sites and after lusting after a number of  really beautiful silk scarves I’m rejecting them on the grounds that it’s almost immoral to pay £50 for a scarf however silk and designed it may be.  Almost.

This reminded me of the Harry Potter book on Antiques Roadshow last night.  Ok, it may have been an earlyish edition (not first) and signed by most of the cast but £600?   Hmm.

That reminded me that my Fiddle Wizard once told me that any old violin (as opposed to a new one) is valued not according to its playing qualities but as an antique.  So while it’s not likely that you’d find a Strad in a junk shop you might just possibly find an old fiddle that sounds like a Strad.   Actually that’s not likely either.  The makers whose work was prized because they made the most beautiful sounding fiddles long ago are still prized today by dealers because of their antique value.  The ones that sounded like strangled cats probably got binned when their owners  died and only the ones that sang like nightingales and everyone fell in love with were kept to be dealt today**.  Still, it’s worth considering that when you go to a violin shop looking for a good fiddle, you’re essentially talking to an antique dealer who isn’t necessarily a violinist or even a musician.  (Fiddle Wizard plays the violin a little and is a very good lutanist.  He also makes rather wonderful lutes)

Another thought that occasionally makes me seethe a bit is that there are a good number of very lovely and hugely valuable fiddles which live in bank vaults because they have been bought as investments.  One of these was played by my fiddle teacher when she was a child prodigy and when it’s owner died it was taken away from her by the inheritor and banked.  For some reason I feel really strongly abut buried fiddles.  I can just about cope with books kept under glass and lock and key since, by their nature books are a repeatable phenomenon but each violin has a unique voice which gradually fades and rusts when it’s not used.  Would you shut Maria Callas or Kathleen Ferrier in a vault?????  I can hardly bear to think about the paintings and the other beautiful things that no one ever sees but at least they don’t die in the dark.

Oh well.  My gig fiddle came from Fiddle Wizard and cost £60.  It has a warm, deep voice with dark undertones but according to him it’s a horrible thing with ghastly red varnish and clunky workmanship and he was going to throw it in an auction bin – in fact he could hardly bear to be associated with it at all.  Well it isn’t very pretty, true, but it does the job and I’m fond of it the way you love an old, ugly mongrel with bad breath and a heart of gold.

My other fiddle came from my half sister’s family and may be worth a few hundred pounds or an appalling number of thousands but only the latter if an appalling number of thousands were spent on restoring it first and then only if an expert would be prepared to certificate it***.  It is somewhat fragile, having a crack across the pegboard which has needed repairing twice.  It has a sweet voice but wouldn’t stand up to heavy work.  I love it the way you’d love a beautiful old thoroughbred which has damaged legs but still loves to run and gives you affectionate breaths and a warm silky nose to stroke whenever you take it out.

Perhaps it’s time to leave you in the woods again and go and play for half an hour.

Oops, Monday’s slipped away and Tuesday has arrived.  Better get a move on.  I have arranged cat feeding with the neighbours and made a shopping list but I’ve also done a whole lot of other things that weren’t on the original list so it doesn’t look much shorter than it did this morning.   Typical.  Never mind.   I hope your list is short and all crossed out.

*Well he hates it when it doesn’t do what he want immediately or tells him something new or asks him if he wants to do something he doesn’t understand or if I’m using it for myself and he wants to sit and look at his email for a few minutes.  He likes it when people send him nice emails or I make him a few stamp pages or he can look up an online auction.

**The fact that some violins were preserved for centuries isn’t a good yardstick for sound quality either since the workman and tools saying applies to musical instruments as much as any other creative instrument.  Some fiddle players can make a piece of old fencing sound as if angels were singing and some people can only get a strangled squawk or two out of a Strad.

***And I only have the word of an enthusiastic and slightly mad young Belgian maker for it’s possible provenance. 

November 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

The season of mists

After a hectic two days of  Grandbaby minding last week  and having family to stay at the weekend, I took a couple of afternoons off.  Mist, occasional hints of sunlight and blazing leaves.  Nice.

Oo-er.  Wordpress has  redone the gallery thingie.  Very nice.  (and it’s got an escape button which could be useful if you get lost in the woods)

Grandbaby is wobbling about on all twos and offers me “chiz” but though she’ll wave a bit of “nana” in my direction she has no intention of letting me have any.

I’ve done something bad to my right elbow.  Oddly enough, this doesn’t seem to make it impossible to pick up the Grandbaby but it does mean having to lift kettle and saucepans and such like with the left hand instead of the right.  And I’ve had to adjust all sorts of angles with the camera.  About half the photos I took today had leaning trees in them and had to be straightened in photoshop.  How long does one wait before going to the Doctor to be told that it’s just worn out joints and offered an excercise sheet  I wonder.

I don’t really seem to have anything much to say.  I think I’ll go to bed.


November 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Invisible YODEL

Monday 14th

I’m waiting in for a new shower pump to be delivered, sitting here looking out of the window at a damp grey afternoon and thinking it’s just as well the pump will be coming today since it’s such a miserable day.  Or alternatively it’s just as well it’s such a miserable day or I’d be fed up with staying in waiting  for etc etc.  No problem, it’s been a good day for sorting out winter clothes and generally pottering about.  I can do the shopping tomorrow.  Actually, the emails and tracking information I’ve been sent are a little ambiguous about where it’s going to be on which days so maybe I should call the delivery company, fight my way through the automated system and check that it really is coming today.  Because if it’s tomorrow I need to shop today and John needn’t come round to fit it this evening.

Yes, definitely on it’s way and will arrive some time before 5.30.  A real person told me so.

There’s a school bus and a calor gas tanker attempting to pass each other outside our drive.  Sadly neither of them seem to be delivering a new shower pump to us but it does remind me I need to check how much oil we have left and that reminds me I need to feed the birds and that reminds me …..  Better stop here and get some of this stuff done.

Tuesday 15th

Later it turned out that although the YODEL* man was attempting to deliver our shower pump at the very minute** I was watching the School bus and the tanker through the window, “nobody was available to sign for the goods”.  But I was!  I would have done!  I know it was then because they sent me an email saying that he attempted delivery at 4.05, which was the time at which WordPress said I last edited this post.  So I must have been sitting right here by the window next to the front door as the invisible man backed his big, invisible van into the drive, walked past the window, silently rang the door bell and then went away again, no doubt scratching his head after posting an invisible card through the letter box.

Today I made a number of slightly snappish phone calls and spent a great deal of time pressing # in order to bypass the automated lady who had a somewhat hectoring voice, repeated herself a lot and demanded that I quote a number from a calling card of which none had been left.  Eventually I got through to a real person – the right real person as opposed to the other two who couldn’t help – and was assured that the pump was going to be delivered today between 4pm and 5.30.  It was 2pm by the time I finally got through to the right person so I rushed out to get the shopping done and was back by 3pm (to be on the safe side) to find a box sitting in the porch, presumably unsigned for.

It was a lovely afternoon.  This was an afternoon last week but today was just as nice.

Oh well  it’s arrived.   Mustn’t grumble (any more).  Indeed as I write, it’s being fitted by John who was kind enough to come back again this evening.  We’ll say nothing about a wasted (sunny) half day shall we?  Certainly we won’t wonder why it was ok to leave the parcel without a signature today though it wasn’t yesterday.  And we won’t mention that no calling card was left yesterday when no one was available to sign for the parcel.  Ahem.


*Would that be YO! DEL(iveries) ?  Reminds me of a time when my Dad, being pressed to give a yes/no answer in a hurry, looked harrassed and said  “Y… N … Yo!”

November 16, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments


Some time ago I bought a camera from a charity shop.  Since then I’ve been sporadically wrestling with the differences between film and digital.  After working my way through various expired and cheap films (with appropriate results) I finally decided it was worth getting some better film and also that since the film that had been recommended was a fast film I ought to stop waiting for magical light to appear just when I didn’t have time to stop and take photos.  Instead, I should make art out of whatever happened to be lying around.   Like I was taught at Art college years and years ago.

Which really meant going out on a dull day and finding a rather stunning bit of woodland to play in.  Fast film I thought – it’ll pick up all the natural colours without creating noise and stuff.  I’m a bit hazy about tecnical stuff but I think I have the general idea.  So I dodged drizzle and used up a whole film and then used the little digital camera because there were still trees and stuff (they didn’t go away just because I’d run out of film!).

Anyway, the next day there was glorious sunlight and all the autumn colours positively glowed and I couldn’t go out because I’d procrastinated over the fly hoovering already and needed to get the job done.  And because it’s film I haven’t had a chance to see what came out either.  Certainly a lot of the settings on the little camera were all wrong!  (The little camera does have a live viewing screen but unfortunately it lies.  What comes out at home isn’t nearly as sharp and bright as it says it  will be)

So although a very patient person (honest) I’m practically jumping up and down with frustration because I still haven’t had a chance to take the film in to be developed.

Meanwhile, I’ve been to see Bill Wyman and the Rhythm Kings at the Anvil in Basingstoke which was very nice.  Gorgeous blues and tremendous musicianship.  Some things (and people just don’t age at all at least not in the ways which matter).

And spent a lovely day visiting a friend and catching up – it seems to be forever since we last got together.

And driven home watching a huge pale moon rising over the hills.  Followed a bird along a narrow lane with high hedges – I think it might have been a swift or a nightjar; it was definitely in the wrong place, lots of swooping and dipping but seemed to have no idea of how to get out of the lane and away.  Eventually it went through a gap in the hedge and I was much relieved.

And ordered a new shower pump.

And without quite  noticing I was doing it, went into a charity shop and came out with  £10 less than I had before and one film camera more, a Canon EOS 1000F. . …  I still haven’t noticed that but I might just be getting another battery today.*

Quite a productive day or two really.

And now I’m going  to do a bit more jumping up and down.


Ok, jumping up and down over.  It was a very dull day.  These photos needed a lot of processing and I’m not so impressed with the film.  The colours were very flat and I hadn’t realised that fast film is quite so grainy.

Yesterday it was not dull so I went back with the big camera.  One reason I wanted to try film is because the DSLR either over- or under-does the colour.  More processing.

Beech trees and swooping valleys feature a lot at the moment

And a bit of Autumnal while the leaves last.

It was quite hard to tear myself away.

Anyway, today is dull again.  I may go shopping for batteries and little halogen bulbs (for the dining room, not the camera).  Or I may wait in for the shower pump to be delivered.  I’ll have another coffee. Would you like one too?

*I looked it up when I got home and read a review that said don’t pay more than £100 for it and another which told me all sorts of things about how it works – very little of which I understand.  The internet is a wonderful thing.

November 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 6 Comments

There is a season for all things

Well…. ok.

Currently it is the season for all kinds of wildlife to want to move into the warmth of  a house.  Winter quarters so to speak. Large spiders run across the floors clearly thinking that I’m in the way and wondering whether to run across my book or round it.  Two very big ones constantly fall into the bath and poise themselves balefully, one at each end, waiting to be rescued.  Ladybirds in tight little clusters of hundreds, have taken up residence in corners of bathroom* bedroom and loo ceilings and also snuggle into the creases of the curtains and under the windows.  Two peacock butterflies are rustling their dry wings under beams and shelves in the attic room and the music room.

Some years ago we had an invasion of blow flies in the attic room.   Gradually, I’ve managed to reduce the numbers of their annual reappearance by tens of thousands and then thousands and then hundreds and then tens and last year they didn’t seems to be there.  Silly me, I thought “thank heavens we’ve beaten them”.  No such luck.  They’re back.

So yesterday I did the first fly spraying thing and today I did the first hoovering.  Then another dose of fly spray and tomorrow some more hoovering and then probably it’s just a question of picking off the survivors ten by ten.  That should be sufficient until the weekend, when Youngest and family will be sleeping up there.  I will probably have to do it all again in a week or two and again just before Christmas.

When they first appeared, apart from wondering if  ‘Lord of the Flies’ had come to life in our spare room, I looked them up.  They appear in their many thousands for no obvious or known reason, usually choosing a single room  to colonise and can take years to eliminate.  No one knows why they choose a particular place or how they survive all attempts to kill them off.  Are they like salmon, returning to their birthplace to spawn?  (Oh, no signs of egg or maggot, so whatever they do about reproduction, they don’t seem to do it here)  I don’t much like the idea of them having an ancestral memory of our attic!  Maybe they just winter here like swallows and martins (we have them too) and spend Summer outdoors.

Still, it could be worse.  Some friends of ours had bats in their roof.  Not only remarkably ugly (almost spine tinglingly so) but flea ridden, shit dropping, insect attracting, noisy and not removable since it’s illegal to do so.  I like to see bats on a summer evening, swooping and flittering.  But I’m seriously NIMBY about them.  (Actually NIMAR, I wouldn’t mind them in the back yard)

Meanwhile I feel as if my hair is full of  creeping things and my skin is prickling and I’m just a trifle pissed off.  And I feel ever so slightly guilty – they (the flies) no doubt have a good ecological excuse for settling in our attic (Native pests always have a good ecological reason for being there!) but you just can’t offer a bedroom to people which hums and buzzes with little black clusters as soon as you turn on the lights. So the pesticide had to be wielded whatever the cost to the ecology.   And OMG I just remembered the peacock butterfly.  Multiple guilt.**

I wish I’d done the flies before cutting back the lavender – I could do with a dose of garden air and lavender scent just now.  Never mind.  I’ll make some curry.


Um, a little procrastination over the second hoovering.  I went to Sydmonton instead and discovered a rather splendid bit of  wooded road and hillside.  You have to a bit careful walking round there because the huge estate belongs to Andrew Loyd Webber (Sir?  Lord?  I’m never sure about titles)  and when he first moved in a few years back he caused a lot of bad feeling locally by objecting to the use of public footpaths past the frontage of his mansion.    I expect it’s all forgotten now but since a friend of mine lost his job as a result of the publicity at the time I’m a bit cautious about where I point the camera.

No signs of any mansions here though.  Just Autumnal excesses of colour.  Lovely.

*I’ve always assumed because of the ladybird cluster in the bathroom, that spiders don’t eat them but maybe they were trying to reach the ladybirds and fell off into the bath.

**I suddenly thought, instead of rescuing the giant spiders to as the bathroom floor, maybe I should exile them to the attic room, as soon as the fly spray has evaporated or dissipated or whatever it does.  Umm.  Does it?  I hope so.

November 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Catalytic things.

The combination of the concentrated reading of two and a half AS Byatt novels, a day’s Grandbaby minding and driving Barney’s little toy car home along the A34,  assaulted in the dark by rainspeckled headlight glare had me compulsively telling stories to myself about what might happen next.

In the just finished novel, one of the protagonists was killed by an unearthed Fridge and in the current  one, another is most inventively attacked by her husband.  It’s a quartet and I happen to know that the beaten lady will survive because I’m fairly sure I’ve read the fourth book.  However, when GB was putting fridge magnets underneath the fridge this afternoon and then very cleverly retrieving them so that she could do it again I had an internal argument about whether modern fridges were definitely earthed and anyway there wouldn’t be any live bits under the front of the fridge.  Would there.  No.

So I removed her from the area and read her the story of the Sly Young Fox and the Little Red Hen.  She wasn’t really listening so I got all the way to the end where I was somewhat shocked to learn that the Sly Young Fox and his Mother died horribly by being scalded.  This didn’t at all soothe my inflamed imagination.

The toy car is quite fun to drive on a sunny day but a very different proposition on a wet night on the A34 with lorries thundering past your ears and one-eyed cars peering balefully into your rearview mirror.  The slight shuddering which makes you feel ever so sporty in town means it’s hard to make out which of the headlights behind are in which lane since they’re all juddering about in the dark.  The light handling on bendy lanes translates into “this is just a tiny tin box on wheels with a bleary plastic rear windscreen” on a nasty two lane speedway on a rainy night.  However, the automatic gears are nice in the traffic jams.  And I do like changing down by flooring the accelerator.  And it turns out that we’ve been driving the big car too gently –  a little flooring of its accelerator will be needed to keep its catalytic convertor working properly after we’ve had it fixed.

I didn’t know it had one of those.  I thought they were the things that made car exhausts smell sulphurous.*

A whiff of brimstone about Donnington castle in black

And a fairytale hut in the woods – wolves?  Sly foxes?

Ah!  Back to the high hills and sunshine and wind.  (Could be a haunt of hobbits or rabbits**)

Oh well. Me and the Babe survived the day and I’ve finished the book and it was ok in the end.  So I can go to bed now.

*Oh ok.  I’ve looked it up.   I wonder if the little car has one too.

**Not a hundred miles away from Watership Down – or the Shire, probably.

November 4, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments


Every so often, Picasa has a housekeeping moment and decides to update all the pictures in its library.  This is a lot of pictures and seems to take it several hours.  Meanwhile, all the exciting new photos from the weekend aren’t appearing.  It’s making me a bit cross.  Suddenly I wonder if it’s changing the hour on them all.  I’m not sure it should be allowed to do that.  No, surely it can’t be doing that?

Well the computer, the car and the shower have all recently been showing signs of stress.

The only thing to do with the shower is wait till it stops working and call on John who comes and fixes it on his way to the pub.  The car is booked to have its ‘engine systems fault’ light investigated on Wednesday.  As far as a driver can tell this warning means nothing at all except possibly, “be very scared!” and Paul at the garage didn’t seem particularly concerned.

The computer – well it’s about due for a breakdown and it’s been having a few hang-ups and virtually stubborn moments recently.  So I must do a bit of diligent backupping as soon as I can bring myself to wrestle with all that copying and pasting and the new back-up hard drives whirring loudly and the fan going into overdrive and all that.  And then I can call Mr Treasure, my excellent computer man and  see if he can clean up the existing system. I might spend the extra money on a complete overhaul if it includes getting most of my programmes back afterwards.

Meanwhile, Picasa has taken on itself this task of updating thumbnails and no doubt will keep doing that till I’ve got completely fed up with waiting for it or until the hard drive falls apart.  A quick glance at the current icons suggest that it’s working its way through all the photos since January 2010.  That would be about 50,000.  It should only take an hour or three.

Here’s one. (photo, not hour)

Taken in Enfield at the weekend.  It’s  a surprising place if you’re used to thinking of the outskirts of London as a concrete desert.  Enfield makes me think of rifles and motor bikes and looks as if it’s going to be a thoroughly depressing place to spend an hour while your other half burrows into the papery depths of a stamp shop.  But behind the busy shopping facade it’s all green.*  Oh well apart from the man eating his lunch and gravestones and the rest.

WordPress tells me repeatedly, that if I ‘upgrade to pro’ (at a small (!) monthly cost) I can be Master of my own blog but I think I’ll continue to be mistress of the one I have until it runs out of space.  Then I’ll have another free one.  I can be mistress of lot of blogs if I keep going long enough.

*Which is a bit ironic since we were there to chop the top off an oldish tulip tree growing in Brother-in Law’s tiny garden.  If the tree survives it will almost certainly get even bigger so we’ll probably have to do it all again in a year or two.

November 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Love to Ziggi

I think it says something about what a lovely person she is that when, after a very long blogging silence she told us she has cancer, there was an immediate response from lots of  bloggers.

If you didn’t know (most of the people who come here already do) do go and give her a hug and a thumbs up at 123 123.

We’re with you Ziggi as much as you can be over a keyboard.


November 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments