Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Snail's Pace

Twee? Or not twee? That is the question.

I've just popped up today to say hello.


Done that.

Having a rest from blogs. Need fresh inspiration on all fronts.

Back later.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Intrepid Explorer

There aren't a lot of wild animals around these parts. Sure, you might get a nip from a bothered badger if you happened across one but they're mainly nocturnal and we don't go out walking at night much. Still you can't be too careful and that's why Pixie is sporting the full protective gear - long sleeved top, hat, stick and boots - for a walk up to the top of Fladbury Hill.

Yes, I know teasels are vicious, like hundreds of hedgehogs on sticks, so I agree, better safe than sorry. And the boots - never know when an earwig might slip into your footwear. Bare legs - not on your nelly!

Incidentally: - number of species of poisonous spiders in the UK - nil; number of species of poisonous snakes - 1 (very timid, generally not lethal but you wouldn't enjoy the experience). Still there's always a first time.

The white headgear sported by my beloved is a Tilley Hat. These are very comfortable and fold up into almost nothing. The company claim that their hats could pass through an elephant and still be wearable. That prompts a number of questions:

1. Why would you feed your hat to an elephant?
2. Why would you want to
wear a hat that smelt of an elephant's bum?
3. Where can I find an
elephant in the Vale of Evesham so that I can experiment with Pixie's hat?

The Tilley Hat is Canadian and is actually a damn fine product if you like hats (which I don't - loathsome objects that make your head hot and stop your hair wafting freely in the breeze). We bought a couple of them in British Columbia and, surprise, surprise; they were half the price they are in England. So what, I hear you say, they on home ground, stands to reason.

No it doesn't.

A piece of Nikon camera equipment in the USA might cost $100; in the UK the same equipment would cost me £100. I know we got very close to parity with the dollar in the early 1980s but now it's closer to $2 to £1. Someone somewhere is getting ripped off and I've an idea it's me. This pricing policy is the same across a wide range of goods.

No doubt someone will point out to me differences in standards of living, wages and other excuses but it doesn't wash. When it comes to pricing consumer goods in the UK, someone is having a laugh.

And it isn't me

(Two blogrants on the trot - shall I go for another tomorrow or will it be Tweeville again? Watch this space.)

(No, not literally. You don't have to sit there glued to the screen. Go and do something creative. Then come back and see if it's changed, or not. Tomorrow, maybe. Or after the weekend. Your choice.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Broad Sweep

It's a while since I posted a wide image, a broad sweep of landscape. I felt the urge this evening. I feel I'm suffering from a surfeit of detail.

I avoid committees. I think it would be fair to say that nothing useful is ever achieved when a group of people get together to decide something. Every member has a point of view, an axe to grind, a corner to defend, self-interest to satisfy. Compromise is inevitable and the outcome always something less than it might have been. In my (not very humble) opinion, decision making should be a solitary activity - one person's vision. By all means consult - no-one knows everything. But do it one-to-one - question, discuss, listen - then decide - alone.

Now this isn't advice from some lifestyle guru I've been reading; I don't go for that sort of egotistical word vomit. This outpouring was triggered by my attendance at a meeting where everything was discussed in minute detail, every nit picked. There was no grand vision, no golden path, and no march towards the sunny uplands.

And tea. No committee can meet without tea.

So it was not all bad.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pair of Poppies

Yesterday Susan accused me of veering of into 'Tweeland' again so I thought, why not, go for it.

This year has been my 'Year of the Poppy'. I went to France in May just as they were coming into season and took countless photographs of them in swathes, groups, threes, twos and singles. If anything should have cured my 'Splash of Red' obsession it was that. But it didn't.

This pair were photographed 'contre-jour' a few weeks later as Peter and I were walking down to his local, the Swan at Birlingham. I tried to resist but it was to no avail. It was the light, the light, I must stay away from the light!

The world does not need any more poppy images. Enough is enough!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Teapots & Thatch

The British are well known for their love of tea – it’s one of the things that keep us toddling along our merry course through life.

To get the full, unrestrained flavour of this restorative substance, it should be brewed from leaves that are unfettered by the confines of a perforated bag, and in a teapot, not directly in the cup.

The picture above is a little deceiving as, despite the eccentricity for which our island race is renowned, it is not normal practice to keep the teapot on a shelf outdoors, nor is it necessary to possess more than one of them (unless, of course, you keep one for best).

Tea can be served at any time of day and many people cannot start their quotidian routines without a cup; personally I prefer coffee with breakfast as I feel that it is more efficient in burning a path through the detritus of the night.

Obviously tea is forever associated with tea-time when the British drink copious quantities of the brew, accompanied by scones, jam and clotted cream or toasted tea-cakes; posh people may have cucumber sandwiches. Very posh people may shoot something to put on toast or send out to Harrods or Fortnum & Mason's for a suitable relish.

Tea also goes well with the sort of food eaten by the rude mechanicals, like sausage, egg and chips; here it is usually served in large vessels called mugs and imbued with copious quantities of sugar. There are few taste sensations more meritorious than a bacon sarnie and a mug of sweet builder's tea.

It is possible to find tea while out walking the hills around the area where I live - here the passer-by on a long-distance footpath is directed towards a farmhouse serving the amber nectar and other, inferior beverages.

I quite fancy a brew now myself but as it's after midnight, I can't risk the nocturnal side effects - which is a shame.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Time Rusts On

Somewhere deep in rural France, this clock looks down upon the decaying, crumbling platform of a country station. It stopped at 11.40. Was that morning or evening?

Did anyone notice when it uttered its terminal tick, marked its final passage of a moment of time? Had the last train departed, the platform swept bare of the gossiping locals off to market, the chickens cooped up in their crates, the silvery churns brimming with rich, full-fat milk?

Nature is at work now, claiming back its own. The clock faces west, towards the setting sun. It has seen many flaming skys, its mechanism warmed by the dying embers of a summer's day. And many cloud-enshrouded horizons, storms sweeping in from the Atlantic, winds lashing its forlorn countenance, drenching, freezing, rotting.

Forty years ago, give or take, it stopped. Since then it has slumbered, screwed resolutely to the cement-rendered wall. A wasting disease is creeping across the dial; its numerals have been shed - were they Romanesque or something more prosaic? Eventually holes will appear, a latticework pattern of rust eating away at its underlying structure, bit by bit, until the clock crumbles away to red dust.

Then all that will remain will be a circular, streaky stain and, perhaps, that pair of grey pointers, fashioned from sterner, more resistant material, markers of a past function, the hands of time.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

White Van

I try to complete all journeys of up to ten miles by bicycle, whatever the time of year. It's the only way I can convince my body and my mind that I really need to eat so much food. Obviously if I've got to collect something a bit unwieldy, like a grand piano or a barrel of beer, I use alternative transport.

I cycled extensively in my thirties but lost the will when I had to spend the best part of a winter in London - I was beset by traffic, snow and excess chocolate. I came home several stone heavier and a lot less enthusiastic about pounding the pedals.

I took it back up in my early fifties, in the hopes of staving off the inevitable decline into decrepitude. It's been reasonably successful although I'm out of the saddle at the moment with a defunct left knee. It's frustrating to be car-bound, as well as expensive.

The photograph is one I took last winter as I cycled into Pershore and narrowly avoided the back end of this white van. It's part of the 'Splash of Red' series which I might have contributed to if I'd not braked in time.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

First Sitting

I've never had the luxury of eating in a dining car. Even during a period when my employer allowed me to travel first-class, I could never bring myself to indulge in such extravagance - I just settled for a pork pie, some crisps and a cheese baguette, washed down with a bottle of Coke. (That was in the days when I still bought products made by the Coca-Cola Company - I have since boycotted them as I do all companies whose policy is to achieve world domination in their field and who engage in the exploitation of the weak).

The idea of on-train dining is part and parcel of the romance of railways, along with sleeper cars, something else I've not tried. In part this is because they too are fiendishly expensive and also the fact that British carriages are of very restricted width. This means that I would need to knock a hole either through into the corridor or into the outside world in order to accommodate my long legs. My feet would be exposed, tickled all night by passing ladies in feather boas, bent on trysts with travelling salesmen in second class, or turned to blocks of ice in the great outdoors.

I hope that one day I will experience the pleasure of lying in a bunk listening to the clackety-clack of the rail joints and the mournful echo of the horn, and realise the pleasure of watching the world unfold through a dust-smeared window. There are two railway journeys in particular I'd like to make - The ‘Canadian’ from Toronto to Vancouver and the ‘Indian Pacific’ from Perth to Sydney. Both pass through great tracts of sameness. What could be better than that for cogitative pursuits?

Who knows? It may happen, given a following wind and a fast get-away car.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Vestiges of Power

Swan's feather floating in the sun? Pretty high score on the old Twee-O-Meter yesterday.

So something a bit more macho today.

It may come as a surprise to many of you that Great Britain still has a navy. Admittedly it's now't but a mouse compared to the behemoth it once was. But it still exists, ever ready to provide humanitarian aid to people in distress, to police the seas against rapacious over-fishing, or thwart the efforts of the scum who profit in human misery through running drugs. Of course it does these things only as long as they're in the interest of the government of the day. Give us a change of the party in power and the navy could be knitting baby bonnets, painting their ships pink or organising exciting raids on small defenceless colonies of penquins.

This is HMS Somerset. She is moored, lights ablaze, on the River Dart at Kingswear; obviously no-one has found out where the off-switch is yet. Still it makes for a bold reflection.

Light pollution is a serious problem in the modern world. There are people living in towns and cities who probably only see stars when they bang their heads on a door lintel or the power fails. Even out in the country, the rampage of poorly controlled security lighting through every village ruins the night sky - a romantic stroll in the garden with your loved one and a glass of Sauvignan Blanc takes place under more illumination than the Strip at Las Vegas. Major motion pictures have been shot under less lighting than there is in some back yards.

It's all to no avail anyway; it just lets intruders see where they're going and stops them making a noise tripping over the cat or the dustbin (trashcan to speakers of other forms of English).

So bring back the darkness - let the night run free.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Feeling Feathery

Some days my writing muse, a small unnamed entity, stays in its box, fingers in ears, eyes closed, fiercely mouthing the opposite of sweet nothings at me; it doesn't want to come out to play.

Today is one of those days.

So instead of some waffle, here's an image of a swan's feather, floating serenely in a sunbeam.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Five Sets of Panes

Windows are such irresistable subjects and so I make no apology for featuring them two days running. Yesterday the window gave us no inkling of what went on inside, the heavy drapes creating an exclusion zone with only the merest hint of the life within.

Today, looking from the inside of a space, we have some idea of a world beyond. We can see that it is green, bedecked in foliage and gloriously sunny - some of that glory has penetrated within through the five stone-mullioned windows. We could be in a church, a school, a university, a country house; the windows are of an ancient design, universal to the architecture of their period.

I love the way the lead framing and the glass mediates what we see beyond - we're not getting the whole picture, there's still a little leeway left for the imagination.

We may not notice the sombre effect of a passing cloud, the darker vision beyond, the gloomier aspect within. What is certain is that, when the sun reasserts itself, the benevolent burst of golden light through those panes of glass will be as if the world has suddenly smiled.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Return of the Splash

The splash of red has taken a bit of a back seat recently but now it's back.

This Georgian window fronts the White Lion in Upton-On-Severn, an inn dating back to 1510. I've never been inside so I can't comment on the ambience, the breakfast, whether they serve real ale or if the beds are comfortable and the hot water hot. Others will know and they may tell.

Nevertheless, it's painted a pleasant shade of yellow and someone on the first floor likes to keep their small change in a miniature Royal Mail postbox.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Anchors Aweigh

Yesterday I dipped my toe into the techniques of film and television production by waffling on about how we could tell dawn from dusk in visual terms, the answer being 'it's all in the words, lovey' or, as Peter pointed out, in the sound effects. This leads us untidily onto lens filters.

Pixie does not like being photographed (and neither do I) but I was quite keen to get a shot of the two of us together during our recent visit to St Tropez. The straight on 'would you mind taking a photo of the two of us' photograph taken by a Dutch, Japanese or German tourist was not on the cards so I needed a device to lower the whinge factor from her ladyship to a level where image making became a possibility. Incidentally I should point out that I think she looks lovely as she is but I'm obviously not using the same grade of mirror in the bathroom - mine must be on the Snow White setting while hers is set to Wicked Witch.

There are a number of techniques I could have used in order to soften off any images I made of my little soul mate but none of them were readily available. The Hollywood methods involved things like smearing Vaseline on the lens or using white nets. On this particular day I was a bit short of anything smeary although I suppose I could have nipped into an epicerie and picked up some butter or a tub of fois gras. Similarly although St Tropez is an active port, the nets available were a bit on the large size, very damp and smelt of fish.

So I was forced to compromise. The anchor channel on this rich man's toy had a lovely reflective surface. It was uneven enough to provide a perfect distorting filter, removing any signs of blemishes, zits and spots from my beloved's visage and preserving her film star qualities.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Time of the Day

This picture was taken earlier in the year on a misty March evening. It could equally well have been a misty March morning. Visually, what's the difference? If you were woken up from a deep sleep lying in this field, dressed in only your pyjamas or a nightie, how could you tell, within a few seconds, if it's 06:00 or 18:00 (and no cheating by waiting to see if the sun's moving up or down)?

The birds will be singing at either time (bless them) so what other pointers could there be? Some of my thoughts (and you're welcome to them):

It will probably be colder and damper in the morning.

If you're by the sea you might be able to tell by whether the wind is blowing on or off the land (no good in a storm).

If you have a hangover it's probably AM rather than PM but this isn't a reliable indicator (similar scenario if there's a strange woman/man by your side).

Are you carrying a compass? If you forgot to take your watch off before falling into this deep slumber and it's an analogue one, you're laughing. You'll need to be able to see the sun and remember which hand to point where.

Do you feel an overwhelming urge for a bowl of cereal followed by two fried eggs, bacon, mushrooms, sausages, hash browns and thick granary toast? Or a curry?

I was asked this question once at an interview for a TV lighting job. The answer they were looking for was 'It will be in the script'. Yes, folks, we lighting chaps don't have to worry ourselves about this intractable problem because one of the characters is going to poke his head round a door and say:

'Morning, George, who's the bird in the pyjamas? Boy, you look rough! Fancy some breakfast?'

Scriptwriting? It's a doddle.