Thursday, August 31, 2006


Yesterday I had a wander across the infamous Greenham Common. Cruse missiles have been replaced by cattle and Exmoor ponies. Bunkers have been replaced by heathland and shallow gravel ponds.
The ponies seem to be growing fluffy winter coats and the hawthorne bears extravagantly abundant fruit. It seems early in the season for this preparation for winter, especially after the lateness of Spring this year. Traditionally this means a hard winter but I can't help wondering if there's something they know that we won't acknowledge. Like......


Sorry about that. But did you know that Horse Chestnut Trees are going down like nine pines under the attack of some new blight. It's possible they will disappear from our landscape as thoroughly as the Elm. And even faster. Show your children some Horse Chestnut trees this autumn...if there are any left...and show them conkers. They may be the last generation to see any. Look at any of the hedgerows and woodland silhouettes when you go into the countryside. The dead limbs of oak trees spike up into the sky everywhere. They are fighting a variant of Dutch Elm disease and there are more dead oak trees every year.
I heard once that under desparate stress or trauma, tree grow little shoots along their trunks while the tall tops die off. Look at the big trees and you'll see knobs and gnarls all along the big branches and up the trunks, whiskered with 'fear shoots'

You don't care about trees? You're a city bird? You like breathing though, don't you?

And, right on cue, the heron leaves, flapping slowly with great effort to lift himself from the ground.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


In case anyone's interested, this is my second attempt at Kevin Day's layering method.
It's amazingly clever and works a lot better if you do use a tripod and a cable shutter release!
The method is described in detail here.

Basically, you take several different exposures of the same shot and then copy them all into one picture in photoshop. Then remove the bits you don't want from each exposure. So you end up with one picture containing all the best exposed bits.
Not a bad result when what I started with was a choice of these!
Then I played with the final one a bit :)

.Kevin's pictures are amazing, a guaranteed delight to visit.

Yesterday Barney and I went for a wander round the Cotswolds. Picking a place at random from a coffee table book of Britain's countryside, we started with the Westonbirt Arboretum. Fortuitously there was a national tree festival going on so we got to look at stalls with wood turning, carving, assorted craft and arty stuff and some giant sculptures. As well as some aged and splendid trees. Pics another day.
Then we went to the Golden Valley near Stroud (apparently golden with daffs in Spring). Oddly enough, ths was part of the route of an abandoned canal and we explored as far as the Daneway end of the Sapperton tunnel and then drove to the other end of the tunnel (it's collapsed somewhere inside but as it's 3 miles long we didn't get to see the collapsed bit).
Another time I'm going to take the camera and just take pictures of wonderful old Cotswold stone buildings. There are so many you couldn't fail to see something lovely.

Altogether a nice way to spend bank holiday (if you're middle aged, have no small children to tow around and like wonderful views with canals, wood, trees and tunnels :)

ID please anyone?

Spot the birdie.
Tha cat brought this little chap in this morning and he escaped into the waste paper basket. So while he was catching his breath (after being rescued from the among the paper) I took a quick picture. He wasn't flying very well though all his wings and things seemed fine. So I thought he might be a youngster. Slow developing and quite large for a baby. Cuckoo? any suggestions?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Great balls of perspex

I have this perspex ball. Me and the children bought one once for Barney to juggle with. I liked it so much, I put it on my next Christmas list.

When it's on front of this stripey thing it looks as if it might suddenly go *%###!!&*. Or Bzzzt. Or Boing!Boing!
Went for a quick photo detour yesterday and tried out a new layered exposure technique. It didn't come out quite right because I didn't use a tripod so the two layers don't match. But it's still rather fun.

And today I went for a walk in a park I haven't been in for a long time. It's a very nice park.
Have a nice bank holiday (if you get one tomorrow, otherwise have a good start to the week).

Friday, August 25, 2006

A blue and green post

Well yesterday, me and my fiddle teacher went to Bristol to buy vast qauntities of sheet music and to window shop. I love Bristol. Lived there for a year or two in my post student days and still love the hills and cobbles and the suspension bridge. And the shops are pretty good too.
We (she actually) spent a small fortune on music and then we trailed up and down Park Street looking at nice things and then we went to the Bristol Glass shop.

Isn't it just dazzling? I promised to give it a plug because it's so gorgeous and bought a small pair of earrings. Ooh, blue glass!

So, inspired by all that reflection and colour, when I got home, I bravely cornered the Gamekeeper in his cottage and asked if I could go and take pictures of the overflow pond from the reservoir for the bore hole where we get our water. (None of that Thames water for us...the lanes round here are riddled, literally, with springs and our water is privately owned and tastes a lot nicer than Newbury water!)*

He said that was ok as long as I didn't disturb the pheasants or the deer and even promised to take me to see the kites if they nest on the estate again next spring! Wow! Nice man, I haven't met him before. Much nicer than the previous gamekeeper who was done by the RSPCA for shooting and trapping owls and buzzards.

So this morning, I actually GOT UP EARLY. (6am looming for you Frangelita) and laden with tripod and camera, wandered up to the pond and took pictures. About 250 of them. But these will have to do for now. (well I had to wait quite a while for the sun to get through the clouds and the woods are very gloomy so a lot of the earlier pictures were a bit nothing)

The woods are not very inviting and the pond is quite filthy and stagnant. It's only when the sun comes through that the reflections bring it to life. And the whole place is a tangle so the reflections are quite weird and baffling.
The gamekeeper told me I might see a heron and there was one when I arrived but flew off as I was unwinding myself from camera etc. Tomorrow I'll have it all ready before I go into the woods.
This pheasant on the other hand was lurking through the trees and though deeply suspicious, stayed long enough to have his pic taken.
And then this afternoon I had a fiddle lesson and we played some of the Bristol music and it was very nice! All in all a very good few days.

Have a lovely weekend.

*The downside is that when there's a power cut, the pump for the bore hole stops working and it takes a good couple of days to get the resevoir filled up again. And the cattle get their water before the houses which is fine except when they trample through the pipes and all the water rus away into the fields!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Fairy whatsits

I looked out of the bathroom window this afternoon and saw these white blobs in the orchard (no glasses on). Went to investigate and look!!! Mushrooms!
Lots of mushrooms.
I swear they weren't there this morning!
We had them for dinner and so, I hope, did the neighbours. (I gave them half in return for the steady stream of marvellous fresh green stuff that appears on our doorstep of a morning.

some more pictures

Because it's been beautiful out there.

The wolf inside

This was going to be a response to this post by Frangelita, but has turned into something else, triggered by her comparison of us in terms of ambition and our places in the world.
When I was little, grubby, skinnny and a right royal pain in the sedate, middle class* arses of my parents I was a walking, talking stream of demands. Argued constantly, demanded lots of cuddles and toys and as time went on, lots of pocket money.
My father frequently said "you spend money just for the sake of spending it." I knew this was not the case but I couldn't at all explain what I did spend it for. Well I knew it was because I wanted the THINGS. The glorious tiny bits of something or other (whatever I was currently fixated upon) which would briefly satisfy the whatever it was I wanted all the time....most of my life revolved around some kind of vast inchoate WANT. Occasionally it would errupt into episodes of shameful theft (of small teddy bears or tiny bits of jewellery, from small friends) resulting in awful embarrassment and cringing returns.
I partly wish I could point at my (beleagured) parents and demonstrate that they were in some way responsible for this huge unsatisfied appetite. But I suspect it's quite normal for small children to feel like this and most of them just grow out of it sooner than I did. Or find a satisfactory gobstopper. Or whatever. Or learn something I never did.
As I got older I added the urgent and consuming desire to be staggeringly good at something, not just 'quite talented' or 'quite musical', 'quite intelligent' or 'not bad'. And fortunately came upon the discovery that making things was as good as having things. The fly in this ointment was that I couldn't WAIT for the making process nor for the necessary learning process that would enable the making. And the other downside was that I could tell when my efforts weren't right. I made innumerable crap bows, useless arrows, limp sails for unpondworthy boats and tumble down structures. (I did make some quite impressive dams and tiny gardens though) . And the pictures and plasticine models I made were clearly not right. But nearly, Oh so nearly. There is no joy in the world like that of making something right, be it a picture or a house or a machine.

So I was this small passionate person struggling through life with an insatiable growling inside, wolfing down lovely things and gorging on moments of creative epiphany. ** Later disguised as a plump teenager who wasn't very good at making friends!

It did rather cramp my social and emotional style. Far from having a hidden thin person trying to get out of a fat one, there was just this wolf wanting something so intemperately that I had to keep it well under wraps. I never learnt to feel the warm emotions that other people seemed to feel so easily towards each other. For years and years I wondered if I actually had a 'heart' at all. I had no doubt that something pounded away inside me but it didn't seem to do the stuff that other peoples' hearts do.

I had the vague idea that if I were very very good at something I might become famous and that might be rather nice and in some way satisfy the WANT. But I had a shrewd suspicion that a) it wouldn't be as easy as that because b) you have to be quite specific and focussed on something outside an errant wolf in your innards to be good enough at something to be famous for it.
I had another vague idea that I really wanted to be the heroine of all the millions of books I read. Or the hero, since it was a few years before any really interesting heroines appeared in my reading matter. Common sense only applied to this yearning in that witches, dragons and desirable men were clearly in short supply in the real world. As were flying horses and telepathic cats that wanted to communicate with me and only me. I choose to remain open on the subject of unicorns OK?
During most of the years I wandered around with my head in a series of fairy tales, my heart in thrall to the pleasures of creativity and a wolf in my gut, my mother was battling depression and religious crises while my father was battling old age and an unwelcome modern age (he would have loved computers though). A couple of nights ago while sitting on the loo I suddenly thought actually it's no wonder I didn't take to emotional reality, there was far too much of it going on right beside me. More than enough to go round our little family. I've no doubt at all that if I could have talked to my parents after I'd had children they could have told me about their own wolves. But they both died too soon for that. I've never worked out what it was I wanted so much. Perhaps right from the start it was for someone to stroke the wolf instead of trying to feed it.***

I usually end up after one of these lengthy, self-disclosure warblings with some sort of homey 'pearl of wisdom'. I don't seem to have one. The wolf still rumbles on a bit. We've had our moments when one or other of us nearly vanished but I guess she's an integral part of me.
But maybe, look at the clear eyes of a child and bear in mind that the person in there may know at least as much as you do about passion and desire. Or, look at an old, old person and wonder if there is still a wolf in there.

As for ambition and my place in the world, well I never had time for the one and where I am now is the place I've arrived at. It's good enough for now.

Have an apple?

*This is actually a calumny upon my mother who was in fact irreverant, funny and somehwere between some sort of Dutch aristocracy and the descendant of a dutch pirate...well both in fact...but never, ever middle class. Or sedate. I just liked the way the sentence went.
**not sure about epiphany. I think that's what I mean.
***Or maybe a good kick up the arse. Several.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Just a quick one

Cos I've been struck with an upset tum. Last night I came and looked at blogs sadly as brain refused to consider anything other than lying down quietly (and it's really hard to comment or indeed reach the keyboard from a horizontal position). But today it's working a bit faster and by tomorrow I expect to be functioning more or less as normal.

The sky is full of little holes
To let the rain come in
The little holes are very small
And that's why rain is thin

(Spike Milligan, bless his manic little socks)*

Clearly you need a big hole in the clouds to let light come in.

*This is not meant to be unkind...I absolutely loved Spike Milligan.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


The rain threatened all weekend but held off till the end of Saturday evening as the festival ended with Fairport Convention (and it seemed like most of the other performers from the whole weekend) playing 'Meet on the Ledge'. We'd been bringing plastic bags and brollies and all kinds of stuff and hadn't needed them till the trek back to the campsite on Saturday night.
Then it rained alright. Wind howling and crowds trudging, and my goodness, finding the way through the campfield to the loos was a bit of fun!

Swarb's Lazarus were brilliant. The immortal Swarb, risen from the oxygen mask and wheelchair (seven years after reading his own obituary in the daily telegraph) and still playing the fiddle as though he was laughing at demons. He has a right to laugh at them.

It got quite cold and windy and Barney was persuaded that he should go and buy warm patchwork trousers (at a fiver, what person with cold legs could resist). he was deeply upset that they were now only reduced to a tenner. Well me and phriend told him he should have got them the day before. So we had warm, matching legs.

20 years ago I bought this rug at Cropredy for the huge sum of £30. I really just wanted the pleasure of bringing home those rich colours so it seemed like a wild extravagance. But it's still warm and thick and dense and the colours still glow.
Many times I've stood and listened to 'Meet on the Ledge' at the end of the festival, with it draped round me or the children. And hours and hours, lying on it, protected from the damp grass, reading or dozing while music filled the air. 30 quid's worth of warmth and good memories.


Breakfast of cheese toastie and real coffee by the Oxford Canal

12.00, Shameless Quo.
and shameless shopping and guinness.
Bodega were pleasant but not world shaking..a bit samey and ballady. Then Came the Wheel, hmm, I don't remember them. So not actively unpleasant. Rainbow Chasers, probably very good but we got a bit tired of the big I AM MODEST BUT YOU KNOW HOW BRILLIANT I AMness of Ashley Hutchins. Deborah Bonham was lots of fun, bluesy and rocky. Very nice with Tartiflette.*
8.35 pm. John Martyn and band. Well I enjoyed them from various queues and stalls. Couldn't decide about the silver flower earrings. Very pricey. DONUTS. hot fresh and I love them. With cappucino again.
10.30, 10cc. YEAH!
OK, they're middle of the road and old hat but they were tight and sharp and we liked hearing all the old stuff. And no self indulgence, no interminable ramblings. Just good fun. Just as well because it was getting a bit cold.
And so to bed. Cosy :) (but no teaspoon and it's really hard to squash a teabag with a small wooden stick filched from the coffee stall!)

I wish I'd been able to take a picture of the obedient and well behaved crowd heading back to the campsite. We were let through the gate in huge groups to avoid crushed bodies in the narrow bits and there were all these people laden with bags and chairs, babies and paraphanalia quietly ambling past the quiet site , over Emma's Bridge, through bright lights and deep shadow all talking softly so as not to wake the locals (too much) over the canal bridge and dispersing in the dark and wind through the field of tents. Shepherded to the side of the cattle grid so as not to incur drunken broken ankles. Very good.

*Tartiflette is a wonderful concoction of potatoes, garlic, onion, cream and smoked bacon, originating in the Haute Savoie and making a first, welcome appearance at Cropredy. Served with a sausage cooked in white wine and dribbled with winey gravy. Perfect for a cold stormy windy night. (though it was only stormy in the song)

Music, the love of food and shopping...with clouds!

5.45pm, Feast of fiddles.7.30, Chris Newman and Maire Ni Chathasaigh (guitar and harp)
9.15, Steeleye Span
Have to say, Maddy's kept her voice. Barney had mexican, I had carribean dumplings and plantain. Needed a bit of juice but yummy all the same! Phriend bought a pair of shell earrings and we both bought patchwork warm trousers reduced to a fiver! What with the fiddles, totally an excellent feast.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Compote of rhubarb and wasps

One of the last things to happen before we left for Cropredy, was a sudden loud bang in the kitchen and a powerful fruity, yeasty smell. I looked round but couldn't see anything obvious. It was only later that I saw this (the cloud of wasps caught my eye)

and still later, this.

It seems a plastic bottle of grapefruit and mango juice had fermented quietly away to itself while waiting to be thrown away. It must have got bored with fermenting so exploded noisily. I think the penguin mug was a bit surprised :) And I thought the rhubarb stewing on the stove had caused the smell. We were going to have it with mackerel but the various smells and stuff were all so exciting I forgot it (now safely frozen away so we won't have exploding rhubarb).

It's amazing how quickly fermented fruit juice sets hard onto ceilings and plastic penguin mugs' heads. Fortunately I had help (phriend, the photographer, cleaned it up for me) as, what with packing and mackerel there seemed to be quite a lot going on.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's got to stop

Umm. that's about as far as I've got.

Well, basically I'm spending too much time on this. My elbows have seized up, my mouse wrist is getting shooting pains, my thumb aches and I can only sit here for about ten minutes before getting pins and needles in my arms. And my eyes are sore and itchy every morning! (but smut's gone thank heavens :)
Further, I am usually still up at 2 am thinking, Oh just a quick look at so and so's blog, just one more picture, wonder if so and so has put any more pictures up.....until about 2.50 when I suddenly think, got to stop NOW! Set the alarm to give me at least six hours, oversleep, stumble around zombie like, thinking if I'd got up earlier I could have gone to the woods to take early morning pictures.

See? It's got to stop.

The trouble is I have no self discipline. Midnight witches along, glances at me, shrugs and carries on past. Chores leap into view hopefully and then fade under the seductive glow of the computer screen. Morning glimmers through the curtains, raises it's eyebrows and leaves me (snoring, no doubt) to dream. Not, oddly enough, of blogging, though sometimes of pictures or music. More often of having got up and found a thing I'd lost or done a task that I didn't look forward to or of having missed something I was supposed to be doing....that usually gets me up and out in a single bound!

The organisational feat of the family party was mostly to do with keeping myself on the job. The temptation to reward myself for each ten minute task completed, with a couple of hours playing with pictures or blogging required a good deal of metaphorical backside kicking and scruff of neck grabbing. My internal language index went blue with the mental effort. (under stress, I tend to swear at myself a lot; the inside of my head was peppered with F's and B's)

So. I've hidden the RSS feed and the bookmark sidebar and made a plan.
Blog one day, flickr the next and everyone else the third (only I'm sorry, we're away on thursday evening so I may not have much time for everyone else this week).

And I shall do it in the morning so I can play with pictures in the evening.

I do apologise for rabbiting on about this subject yet again...I know I'm entitled as it's my blog etc but it's probably geting a bit repetitive.

A bit of evening sun.

Meanwhile, I'm scouring the local charity shops for 'loose, comfortable, well worn' clothing. It has to be cool, and mustn't be brightly coloured. Shades of khaki, brown and navy are going to feature in the selection along with a dark brown hat. Comfy sandals? Walking boots? trainers???? I'm so glad I got a black camera and not the silver one! Wouldn't want to frighten off the big game!
And tomorrow the new freezer might arrive. That will be a relief. I'd better clean out the cobwebby space it has to go in.
As if this wasn't enough, my friend the photographer is coming to stay to give me lessons in those things I don't understand, about cameras. F stops and apertures and um...focussing fields?? Then we're all going to Cropredy for the weekend for the Annual Fairport Convention Reunion to eat amazing food, shop madly in festival stalls and Oh, yes, listen to music.
Now I'm starvin'ungry and must have breakfast and get on with the day. If it takes me this long every morning to do a bit of blogging I may have to rethink the whole plan!

*the glasses are only relevant in that I took the picture in the middle of the night.