TWTW # 100

Life’s a beach as they say…


Work has been fairly quiet this week, with a few queries about on going projects and potential new ones. Not much to report on that front.


I’ve been reading Rowland White’s – Harrier 809 as mentioned last time. I enjoyed it, but perhaps not as much as I thought I was going to when I wrote about it last week. I would recommend it though if you have any memories of that quite iconic airplane or that time of history.


I did get back one of my rolls of film this week, I expect to get the other one shortly (they had a problem matching the developing liquid to the film, so we’ve gone for a work around). I was pleased with the results. There’s a little slideshow of some of them below.


Our government doesn’t seem to care about child poverty and hunger.


There’s not much else to say this week. The week ahead looks like it’s going to be a bit busier work wise, but other than that I have no specific plans.

Take Care and Stay Safe.

Memories of Jumping Jets TWTW # 99

I seem to have packed quite a bit into this week, including a trip to the seashore. Here are some highlights.


I’ve been reading Colin Dexter’s – Last Seen Wearing this week, an Inspector Morse novel. I finished it yesterday afternoon and immediately picked up Rowland White’s – Harrier 809 (Britain’s Legendary Jump Jet and the Untold Story of the Falklands War. A bit of a contrast in reading matter. The Inspector Morse was a good read if a bit convoluted in plot terms towards the end. It’s a bit early to say much about the Harrier book, except that it is already bringing back memories of watching Harriers practice ski-jump take-offs and vertical landings at RNAS Yeovilton. There’s an aviation museum there and right alongside it is/was the airfield where you could go and stand against the fence and watch the aircraft. In those days mostly Harriers and helicopters. They also had a Concorde in the museum where you would walk up a stairway at the tail of the aircraft and walk along its length to end up looking at the cockpit. You can probably tell that I’m looking forward to reading this book, and in truth have had it on preorder for a while.


We’ve had a number of lovely days this week, and on Friday the nice weather coincided with an opportunity for me to take my film camera out again. In truth I took two film cameras, and a digital out. One film camera loaded with a partially exposed roll of black and white film and the other with a new roll of colour. I finished both the rolls and they are now on their way to be processed. I’m using a new company to do this, but they seem to be well recommended so hopefully I’ll have something to show for it in a week or so.

I was a bit undecided as to where I was going to go. I’d been thinking about trying to get some photographs of the autumn leaves, but the colours aren’t really there yet so in the end I went to Royal Victoria Country Park. It’s the site of an old military hospital, has a military cemetery on site and is right next to Southampton Water so there is a land / sea interface to play with photographically. The bulk of my pictures are on those rolls of film although there are some digital ones shared here.


My car passed its MOT without requiring any work other than a couple of advisories. I was worried that I might end up with a big bill for repairs, but other than anything that might need doing in the meantime we’re all good for another year. I’m hoping that my next car will be electric but at the moment the prices are still prohibitively high so I am trying to make what I have last a little longer in the hope that those prices may fall.


I’ve been digging and manuring on the allotment this week, nothing very exciting, but essential work to prepare the ground for next year.

I gave a talk via Zoom to a horticultural society on Thursday evening. There were about 25 viewers, which is about half what they normally get for an in person talk. It’s strange giving talks this way. They need to be revised as some of the things that I can do in person don’t work via Zoom and you don’t get the same feedback as you do when you’re there in the flesh. It is however keeping something going.


Covid-19 lockdown rules are pretty much a mess here in the UK at the moment. Summed up pretty well by Jonathan Pie


A Rare Look At a Bobcat Family


My friend David has a new article up at Lit Reactor on Modern Western Films. I love his selection and would also recommend watching In a Valley of Violence and Jane Got A Gun if you haven’t seen them.


Well I guess that’s about all I have for this week. Take care and stay safe!

Porridge Days TWTW # 96

Greetings from the allotment where I’ve been preparing the ground and planting out kale plants and sowing broad bean seed.

It was the autumnal equinox this week, and for the first time in a while I felt a little cold wearing shorts and swapped them out for a pair of jeans and socks. Porridge has returned to being my breakfast staple of choice. We’ve had some clear nights and it won’t be long before we have some frosts I think. I’m getting the plot ready for winter and this is probably the last planting round of the year.


I got all my rolls of film back from processing over the course of the week. Disappointingly my roll of infrared was heavily underexposed. I was using a filter to totally block visible light, and long exposures (40 secs) to try and capture images, but probably the exposures needed to be maybe a minute or longer. The roll of black and white that I had, which was over 16 years old and date expired back in 2004, produced some good results. As far I can see there was only one frame on the roll that looked like it might have deteriorated with age, the rest were great and some very pleasing images.


 

It was my Mum’s birthday this week, because of the new covid restrictions the care home she is in has gone back into lockdown and so visits are not possible again, but we dropped off some presents and a card the day before and had a good chat on the phone. She had a good day by all accounts with a tea party and cake on the afternoon of her birthday.


I was sorting through some books at my Mum’s house this week and found an old bible. When I looked inside I saw the inscription in the picture. My assumption is that it was presented to me, but I never knew I owned it. The day I found it was also the 24th September. Very strange coincidence. If you’re interested the verse referenced reads:

 

“And now, my friends, all that is true, all that is noble, all that is just and pure, all that is lovable and gracious, whatever is excellent and admirable-fill all you thoughts with these things”


I’ve been reading Desmond Bagley’s – High Citadel – this week, originally written in the 1960’s and despite a slightly unbelievable closing, it stands up well, unlike some other books written in the same period.


I’m reading less “news” nowadays. I just find the latest screw-up by our government or Trump outrage something that I just don’t want to know about. I think this probably means that I am missing some other interesting stuff but to be honest I think I’m better for it. It does mean that these posts are a bit more, me, me, me, rather than a broader view, so apologies for that.


That’s it for this week, stay safe and take care.

Hard Words TWTW # 95

Sometimes these words come easily and sometimes they don’t. This week the words are a bit lost. I’ve had quite a busy week, although much of it was mundane things and really there should be many, many things I could write about but the words just aren’t there, so sorry if this weeks post is a bit on the boring side.


 

I thought I was going to have a quiet week workwise this week (see below), so I booked a day in my diary to go out and take photos. Something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. No pressure, just take some gear and go and shoot some roll(s) of film. I took two cameras and three rolls of film. One infrared, one fast colour negative and one slow black and white. As with all of these trips so far this one was experimental, particularly with respect to the infrared. I used a filter on the lense that blocks all visible light, and will only allow infrared through to the lense / film. It meant that taking shots took a lot longer to set up and I was playing with ISO settings and the length of time that the shutter was open. I’ve taken some quite detailed notes so I can understand what was more effective (or not) when I get the pictures back. They’ve all now gone off to the lab to be processed so I might get them back in time for next weeks post or I might do a separate post depending on how technical it might get.


The lense convertor for using my old Minolta lenses on my Canon digital camera arrived. I’ve only had a chance to check it fits and take a few test shots, but it works within the constraints of matching two different types of hardware. So physically everything works well, but not unexpectedly things like the autofocus doesn’t, so manual focus will have to do but beyond that shooting purely on manual works really well, and that is what I do most of the time anyway.


I’ve been reading Robert Harris’s new book –  V2 , which I enjoyed. It’s a good mix of fact and fiction over the Vengeance weapons used at the end of WWII, it wasn’t amazing but it was entertaining.


I’ve been planting garlic and overwintering onions on the allotment this week. It will be another nine months or thereabouts before we’ll be eating those. I’ve also been doing some of the more mundane jobs like weeding and tidying and getting the plot ready for winter. There’s always plenty to do.


It’s been an interesting work week. All quiet until mid-week when I had a call from a client asking for some help. Not quite sure where this will go, and I have a follow up call booked for Monday to work out what they need and how/if I can help. It’s good news so far and hopefully will turn into something concrete.


That’s about all I have for now. Take care and stay safe!

Do As You Would Be Done TWTW # 94

I’m getting this ready to go out a day earlier than planned and writing this on Saturday. I doubt that I’ll do much more this week, that I can’t tell you about next week, so I will be hitting send sooner rather than later.

This week has been pretty busy for me but it’s mostly been mundane things rather than anything exciting. It’s just been a week about getting things done, rather than doing things. If you know what I mean? I did take a film camera out mid-week, but that roll of film is only half-exposed so there is nothing to show for it yet.


The comedy wildlife photography of the year finalists have been announced. I particularly like the swinging monkey.


I’ve been reading some H P Lovecraft this week and then moved onto rereading Alistair Maclean’s HMS Ulysses, a book that I read back as a young teenager but haven’t picked up since. I think the copy I have might even be the one I read the first time around. It stands up really well after all these years, and you can really feel the cold of the North Atlantic convoy to Russia during WWII.

 


My last regular piece of work came to an end this week. I still have an open contract with this particular client but I can’t see them wanting anything more for the time being. There’s been a long tail impact from coronavirus to my business and it’s really only now that I’m starting to feel it.

I have plenty of things to keep me occupied, so I’m intending to concentrate on those for the time being.


Speaking of coronavirus, the restrictions are tightening again here in England as numbers of infections rise. It also means that the care home that my Mum now lives in has gone back into lockdown, at least temporarily. This means that the visit I had planned for my Mum won’t now be able to happen. I was expecting this so it didn’t come as a big surprise but it is still a disappointment that I won’t be able to see her anytime soon.

The reopening of sectors of society has impacts on other areas. I’m not sure we can continue to have bars, restaurants, etc open if we also want schools and other areas. There are still some sectors of society that haven’t fully reopened – I’m still not able to go back to giving talks for example and theatres and some other performance venues are not yet open. It will be a balancing act for many months to come I suspect. I’m not sure that the government is truly on top of things.


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I was sorting through some things at my Mum’s house this week when I came across an old battered suitcase that had a label on it – “Toys” – it said. I was intrigued as I was pretty sure that despite keeping a lot of things, I don’t remember any toys being kept. Inside were a number of different things. A carrier bag full of badges, including those from two of the “fan” clubs that I belonged to as a child. Some plastic toy soldiers, some Star Wars figures and a few other things. It seems a little like a random collection of things that were kept and I’m not sure why, but they have some happy memories associated with them.


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I’ve been thinking how well my journaling setup has been working this week. The last few years I’ve had one book (a lined A5 hardcover) which nearly everything has gone in – my diary entries for each day, drawings, copies of photos that I’ve taken and any momentos – tickets, ephemera etc – these books become quite fat and often more than one volume for a year. I’ve kept a smaller notebook for making notes from books I’m reading – quotes etc – normally a smaller Field Notes or similar, this also goes to multiple volumes.

This year I’ve tried something a little different. I’ve kept the journal in the same style of book (this year a lined A5 Leuchtturm1917) and the smaller Field Notes and an A4 scrapbook for all of the photos and ephemera. The way things are going it looks as if the main journal will also go into a second volume for this year, and possibly the scrapbook. I’ve also used lots of additional Field Notes style books for different things – a lockdown log, a back pocket carry everywhere, a meditation log.

Both of these systems have worked well, and I’m not sure that I have a preference if I’m honest. I will most likely keep this years setup into next year, I might vary the manufacturer of the main journal, although I really like the Leuchtturm.


Got a bit lost in this YouTube rabbit hole this week.


Well that’s it for this week. The week ahead is looking quite empty, at least as far as my calendar is concerned but I am expecting to get more things done, much like this week that’s just gone.

As always stay safe and take care!


Shifting Focus TWTW # 93

Greetings. The photo above is one from the roll that I sent off to be developed last week. This weeks blog is a bit image and camera talk heavy, so if that’s not you bag, feel free to skip those bits.

It’s not all been cameras this week, if I was still working, I would have said that it has been a short working week because of the Bank Holiday but I don’t really pay that much attention to those now. I was reminded that I haven’t reviewed my goals and targets yet this year. They were set before coronavirus was a thing so looking at them I’m surprised just how much I have achieved, but they still need a little bit of a reset.


I’ve been listening to podcasts this week, trying to catch up on a bit of a backlog. I enjoyed Tim Ferris’s discussion with Hugh Jackman.

 

I am also reminded of the post on Tim Ferris’s blog about why not to become famous.


I’ve been reading quite a bit of Thomas Merton this week. I’m still working my way through his journals which has been a multi-year experience (I think I started back in 2014 or 2015), and I’ve now just finished the 5th volume (of 7) which has taken me about 18 months to read. I have the remaining two volumes on my bedside bookcase and I’ve bought the next volume to the top of the pile so I might start that sometime soon.

I’ve also been reading The Cloud Forest by Peter Matthiessen which I read many years ago and recently found a copy in a box in the loft, so bought it out to have a reread.


I’ve been getting the allotment ready for it’s next planting phase. It’s coming to that time of year when over-wintering onion sets, garlic and broad beans need to be planted / sown. I’ve been getting the ground ready and they’ll be going in over the next few weekends.


Another trailer for the new James Bond movie dropped this week. I think I’ve seen the majority of the Bond movies in the cinema since Moonraker, but I’ve no desire to go and sit in a cinema and watch this new one just yet. So I guess I’ll be waiting for a DVD release.


I got my developed roll of film back this week. I was testing an old camera as much as I was taking pictures. The above panorama has become a bit of an obligatory test shot for me, even if I have to stitch it together manually afterwards, this one is six individual shots. The pic of me and Wilson at the top of this post is also one of the roll (thanks to Ann for being photographer). Here are a few more.

I’m pretty happy with the overall results and that the camera is working well for probably 50+ years old.

By a strange quirk of fate I also seem to have bought a new (secondhand) camera. I was actually looking for a lense and found a couple but they were at the upper end of what I felt was a realistic price. I then found a camera with the lense I wanted in an ebay auction. For some reason it wasn’t getting a lot of attention so I watched it, and bid at the last minute and got the lense and the camera for a good price, well below what the other lenses were on offer for. The seller stated that it was untested, so I was expecting it to not be working, and unsurprisingly the camera is dead but the lense works well. I’ll have a look at the camera when I have more time to see if I can make it work again, but for now I’m looking forward to trying out my new lense.

I’ve also been investigating what I can do with my old Minolta DSLR that no longer works and I also think I’ve found a solution for that. I’ve found an adapter that has good reviews that will enable me to use those lenses on a Canon body (which I already own). I won’t have all of the features but I’ll have enough that I should be able to use them. I’ll have to wait for it to get here before I can see whether the reviews are accurate.

I’m enjoying getting back into photography, and in particular film photography after all these years. I still need to brush up my skills but I’m pleased with some of the results I’ve been getting.

I haven’t forgotten digital either. I took Ruby out for a long walk this week and we went down to see if we could find the Swans that normally nest behind the old gravel works. Because of lockdown we weren’t able to do this when the penn would have been sitting on the nest, so I’ve no idea whether they bred this year or not and if they did whether they were successful, and we didn’t find any evidence that we could definitively say was them. There were however a lot of swans at the head of the creek and we took a few digital pics. Funnily enough this was harder than it sounds due to the hazy sunshine and not being able to use a viewfinder and having to rely on the camera’s screen. Some of them came out okay though:


Well that’s it for this week. Sorry this one’s been a bit image heavy, but thanks if you’ve made it this far.

Take care and stay safe.

More Than Meets The Eye TWTW # 90

Hot enough for you? This week has been a little bit unbearable at times, at times it reached 36.6ºC in our back garden, it’s a bit of a sun trap but that’s a bit ridiculous. Then again I’ve been talking about climate change professionally for most of my career to date so it comes as no surprise, unfortunately the time has really passed when we could have done something about it. The best we can probably hope for now is working out how to live with it. That and the other extreme weather; rainfall, flooding, landslips, lightning strikes, high winds, hurricanes and wildfires. Three people died this week as a result of a landslip, many older people will probably also die as a result of the high temperatures (or with them as a contributory factor) and that’s after coronavirus.

I feel a bit like I’ve been wasting my time all these years, there’s been a lot of talking the talk, but little walking the walk. So much opportunity has been lost.


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My infrared film came back from being processed. For a first attempt I’m quite pleased with the results. So much so that I’ve ordered some more rolls of the same film and I’ll be having another try when it arrives. I’m going to try an even darker filter this time, one that blocks out even more visible light. This will be more of a challenge because I’ll need to set the camera up first, and then add the filter (you cannot see anything through it with the naked eye), and it will also need longer exposure times.

The flowers are the most impressive. As you can see from the photo’s above the three infrared images are of the same plants of the normal regular colour images. I took some landscapes too. Again for comparison you can see the images of Portsmouth Harbour taken from the same spot with infrared and an iphone camera.


I fell down a bit of a YouTube rabbit hole this week, watching the videos made by Beau Miles. I started here:


I’ve been reading all sorts of things this week, more of what I was reading last week with London War Notes, but also some Sherlock Holmes short stories. I also have the next in the Jackson Lamb series – Joe Country – queued up on my kindle to read.


I’ve not spent that much time on the allotment this week, it’s been too bloody hot. I have been going down in the early hours of the morning to water, and spent a bit of time there at the weekend when it was a little cooler to pull some weed and do a couple of other small jobs.


That’s all from me for this week. Stay safe and take care.


It Could Be Gas Masks TWTW # 89

It’s been a hot week, temperatures in the high 20’s and low 30’s most of the week, and also humid. At the time of writing we’ve been waiting for forecast thunderstorms, but haven’t had any. We did take advantage of the hot weather to wash some of the dogs toys. It confused Ruby a bit as she couldn’t quite work out why we suspended them from the washing line – was this some new kind of game?

This week has been a bit busier than last. I took Wilson back to the vets at the start of the week for his repeat blood test. This came back later in the week with a slightly surprising result of being back in the normal range. This of course means that we have to go back for another test at a later date – around two months time – this means that we don’t have to change his medication for now, which is a good thing but doesn’t explain the reason for the earlier high reading, so that will have to remain a mystery.


I finished my roll of infrared film this week, and have sent it off for processing. I parked on top of Portsdown Hill to expose the last couple of frames and took some more panormas of the harbour. While I was there with my old film camera on a tripod another car pulled into the layby behind me and out jumped another photographer with a modern DSLR with an enormous zoom lense on the front of it. We said a quick “Hi”, and went on with our respective photos.

I haven’t had the developed images back yet, but should get them this week I hope.

I took out my oldest DSLR to take some photos this week. I have a sentimental attachment to it because I’ve had it for so long. Most phone cameras have a higher number of megapixels on them than this old camera, but we’ve taken a lot of images together. I started taking some pictures in the garden and when I looked at them on the LCD they were very underexposed. I thought it might be the display but they were the same looking at them on a computer. A bit of research on the internet showed that it’s a known problem with that particular model, and either I am lucky that mine has lasted so long without the problem appearing or I’m unlucky because it didn’t fail while the camera was still under warranty.

Either way the camera no longer takes photos properly but I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it. I have a number of lenses for it and they will still fit one of my old film cameras (which I haven’t used in a very long time, so I’m not sure what condition that’s in either). There’ll be some experimenting ahead.


My allotment time has been limited this week because it’s been so hot. Most of my time there has been spent watering. I did plant out some leeks mid-week, which seem to be doing okay in the heat. We also had a significant number of cauliflowers this week, and are still working our way through the mini-glut.


People have been receiving mysterious packages of seeds in the post.


I’ve been reading a couple of different things this week. I’m slowly working my way through London War Notes by Mollie Panter-Downes, reading a bit most days. These are a collection of articles that the author wrote for The New Yorker during the Second World War on her observations of reflections and observations of what was happening in London. There are some significant historical moments covered, and it’s interesting that whilst so many poor parallels have been drawn between WWII and the coronavirus pandemic, there are some genuine comparisons. Think gas masks instead of masks in shops and on public transport and rationing instead of panic buying and shortages. There is also a fascinating comparison between what the media is reporting and what Panter-Downes is actually observing. It also makes me think twice about using those phrases like “the new normal” and “the before times”. Assuming that we as a species can wake up to what we need to do to save our planet the period of the coronavirus will also pass and like WWII those people still alive who can remember it will diminish and we will only have these sorts of accounts to remind us what it was actually like. In the meantime I’m likely to be keeping to a diet of minimum external media.

I’ve also been reading A Man Without Breath by Philip Kerr – in reality I’ve only just started this but I’m enjoying it so far, a crime mystery set in Germany (& Russia) during WWII.


Worth getting up early on Sunday morning to photograph Uranus, even if the picture does look like I’ve captured a spec of dust on the lense.

That’s it for this week, take care and stay safe.

Annual Trip, New Procedure TWTW # 86

Well hello again, welcome!

It’s been a busy week for me, there seems to have been lots happening, some of it important and some less so but it has filled the time.

We had a trip to the vets for annual check-ups and vaccinations. You no longer go into the practice, but let them know that you’ve arrived via the reception window and then when it’s your turn the vet comes out to the car park to see you. If needed they then take your pet inside for whatever treatment is required. This of course pre-supposes that they can of course get your pet into the surgery. Neither of our dogs were keen to enter (they’re not at the best of times), and it took me walking across the car park with the vet to the door to convince them. We had some unusual test results for one so will have to repeat the exercise in a months time (assuming that the procedure is the same).


I’ve read a couple of books this week. Spike Milligan’s excellent Hitler, My Part in his Downfall which was a quick short read, and another Brother Cadfael. Ellis Peter’s The Pilgrim of Hate. I’ve since started reading the next in the series – An Excellent Mystery – these more recent books don’t seem to be as good, and so far there hasn’t been the usual medieval murder and I’m a third of the way through the story.


I’ve been taking a few photos this week, and my roll of infrared film arrived so I’ve loaded that into a camera and have been experimenting. I’ve read a few different articles about getting the best results and so have been trying a few different approaches. Ultimately I’ll see how the roll comes out but I’m about two-thirds of the way through it.


I’ve been enjoying see the world through other people’s views with Window Swap. Touring the world one window at a time.


I went to see my Mum on Friday. It’s the first time that I’ve been able to see her in the care home since she went in there. They’ve opened up to socially distanced visits in their garden just this week. Although the visit was short – only 15 minutes allowed – she seems to be settling in very well.


Thanks to the person who bought me a virtual coffee this week, I won’t name them as I don’t feel like I have their permissions to do so, but they should know who they are. Your generosity helps offset the hosting fees of the blog and is very much appreciated. Thank you.


Yellowstone’s Zone of Death where you might just be able to get away with murder.


Newsletter author David Charles is currently cycling around Britain and recording a daily vlog on YouTube. In part because in a world without Covid-19 he would be cycling to Athens on the Thighs of Steel fundraiser for grassroots refugee projects, but for obvious reasons that has been cancelled. so instead he’s heading out into the “post-Brexit, mid-Covid pre-apocalypse Britain”.

He’s just passed through my neck of the woods, and by the time this post goes live he’ll probably be somewhere in East Sussex / Essex I’d guess.


Our broadband upgrade didn’t happen as it was supposed to, so I’m scheduling this post ahead of time so that the internet can do it’s thing in case something happens next week and I’m unable to get online to hit the post button myself.

Stay safe out there and look after yourself.