Sunday, December 30, 2007

The delights of modern shopping

One of which is having a special card which lets me scan my own shopping with a gadget I collect when I start and then hand in when I'm done so I don't have to queue up and wait for the girl at the till to scan it for me.
All well and good.
Barney has caught 'the cold' and is depending on a concoction involving ginger wine and rum to help him endure it. We ran out of rum and I went to Waitrose and using my personal scanner, collected a new bottle for him. As they do, this bottle had an electronic security tag on it which, usually, the girl at the till clears and removes for you (tag in the form of a cover over the whole of the top of the bottle). However, on this occasion, I forgot I had it and the electronic tag apparently doesn't tell the computer it's there once it's been scanned. So I brought home the bottle of rum still tagged.
Barney says "Oh good, you've got me some more rum".
Only, we can't get the tag off!

Well not without the help of pliers, wire cutters, knives and finally, with much cursing, a hacksaw.

I'm afraid I laughed quite a lot. He didn't see the funny side much but I bet he tells the story to everyone tomorrow :)

I am a bit surprised that the tag didn't tell the whole shop I was walking out with it. In fact I'm surprised the tag doesn't tell the till that the customer has an item that needs desecurifying. I'm also quite surprised that I've never bought a security tagged bottle there before!

Well. Tomorrow is the last of the events in this year's Christmas festivities and the last one of the year...NYE party. I need to do something preparatory. Not quite sure what but no doubt I'll think of it all soon.

In case I don't get round to any blogging tomorrow, Happy New Year to you all.

Untitled meditations upon dishwashers, dogs and the common cold

The dishwasher has been replaced, courtesy of Youngest's partner (Oooh, no, Fiance :) and the new one is doing its thing for the first time. Course, as it was a hand me down, we had no destructions so had to ring up and ask how to start it. (Now if it had been Barney's Mum, she would have just beaten it into submission. She had an unparalleled way with domestic machinery. If it wouldn't open, shut, start or stop she'd just push, pull, twist or turn HARDER. Many machines caved in under this treatment over the years including my spin dryer - safety brake broken - my washing machine, well the door wouldn't normally open until the machine was empty - flooded kitchen - some other appliance with a slidey door - pulled open with firm persuasion - that one had to be replaced). Oddly enough, Barney's mum would have been fine with the dishwasher, you just had to pull harder :).
And now SiL has taken Nutmeg and her dog, Muffin, out for a last quick wee. Nutmeg has run off into the dark (I can tell because SiL is calling him). Wicked dog! Muffin of course has stayed close to SiL and is now concerned because it's not right for dogs to go off into the night and not come back when they're called. she would never behave like that as she is a well behaved dog.
The new doshwisher has done a wish and the doshes are all clean. I forgive Fiance2 for giving us his cold. (it wasn't either kind of flu as it turned out).
Tomorrow I shall have to go shopping again.
How is it possible to go shopping so often, to have so much food stashed away around the house and still to have to go and buy more?
And I must be swift and efficient about it. I mustn't stop at the gate and leap out of the car because I saw a rain drop with the sun caught in it*Nor must I crawl about on the lawn in the hope that the camera will see all the raindrops on the grass.Certainly I mustn't stop on the way into town and admire the pale blue winter skyAnd it would be quite self indulgent and would make me late home if I stopped on the way back as well to catch the sun going down
So it's just as well I did all that last time I went shopping isn't it :)

I must take my cold to bed.
Sleep well :)

*You have to look at the bigger version as it's a very small raindrop with a very tiny sun in it. This reminds me of Spike Milligan's immortal words :-

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.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

peace, perfect peace

They've all gone home, Fran to work, poor love, Youngest to prepare for the descent of us, Great Grandad, Sister in Law and SiL's lovely daughter, for dinner on Friday. Also to feed soup and pharmaceutical stuff to her partner who has flu - either of the man kind or the other kind.

Youngest and partner took their three children to Lapland to meet Father Christmas just before his busiest day. Apparently a very good time was had and the children (got up at four in the morning in order to catch their flight) were convinced that the whole trip was MummyDaddy's idea of a fun way to go out for breakfast until they actually arrived in Lapland. I believe the reindeer rather gave the game away :)
Well and while having a great time in Lapland, Partner proposed to Youngest :) Presenting her with an enormous diamond in a glass of champagne (in lieu of doing it under the Northern lights which regrettably failed to materialise on time)!
If you have the money, it's easier to do the thing romantically I guess but full marks to Partner for making sure the children didn't have any noses put out of joint.
Sadly the whole family failed to notice the amazing ring when they came over for Christmas. We all had to be told. I think she's forgiven us :)

We tried very hard not to over-eat yesterday. I don't think we quite succeeded and certainly there was some overindulgence of the alcoholic kind. Whatever the reason, I had to go and have a little (2 & 1/2 hour) nap after dinner. Well it did take me till 2.30 am to finish wrapping the presents and do a quick round of all my flickr contacts and blog friends on Christmas Eve so maybe I can be excused.
The dog and the cats got Turkey giblets for their Christmas treat. This was a risky undertaking as far as the dog's concerned...he has a delicate stomach (and a quite indelicate way of revealing any unsuitable eating). However, he was fine. Though during the afternoon there was some of that happy, family business of "Pfooar!! Who did that?!! " No smug/guilty/smirking faces round the table but a small, pointy innocent one underneath said table. Hmm. Worth it for his happiness when he got the treat.

On Friday, Eldest took a photo of a bagged cat*
On Saturday, I offered sausage roll to a blackbird (Mrs Blackbird, hence a brownbird) while shopping. Fortunately I took the photo first because as soon as she'd got her goodies she hopped down behind a bin and wouldn't come out again,

On Sunday, We met Thursday and Joe Brown (and a few other people...well quite a lot of other people really) at the pub. We spent some time outside in the smoker's corner.

On Christmas Eve I went shopping and there was a big moon in the car park. (I wonder if it'll be in the sales?)
And on Christmas day after dinner there was a rather steamy sunset. I can't think where all the steam came from unless Barney was boiling a kettle for coffee?
Oh or maybe it was all that washing up :)
Now I'd like to do 12 days but a) there haven't been twelve days yet and b)it's time for dinner.

And now it's a bit later and we have to get ready for the next wave of visiting family tomorrow :)
Happy Boxing Day :)

*The self bagging variety

Aaah! All done and gone to bed :)

End of a lovely day. Lots of noise, fleeting visit from little babes, longer visits from grown up babes (mostly now sleeping upstairs - but isn't it different when they're up there sleeping with their partners instead of their teddies :) Different but nice. A feeling of life moving on over the humps and struggles of growing up).
More than enough food and drink. Everything washed up and tidied and total peace in this house.
Outside a moon sailing on a sea of pale clouds and a small dog sniffing the stories on the wind.
Time to turn off the Christmas lights and lock out the wild things before going up to dream of new days.
I hope you all sleep well tonight. We will.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Wishes. I cast them on the virtual winds.


Barney's a frying pan short of a steak. He put his head through the door to the dining room and said "I need another frying pan" looking accusingly round the room as if it might be lurking in here somewhere.
The sun is bright on the frosted lawn and the trees are as sharply outlined against blue skies as if they'd been cut out of black paper and stuck on. Soft mists rise and swirl, revealing distant horizons and blue hills.
I see from a quick trawl round blogs and flickr sites that we're all getting a little bit in love with winter's romance after an initial huddling down under the lengthening nights. And now the nights are getting shorter, and the weather (here anyway) is getting festive. No snow yet, or even likely but the fresh, bright crispness is good enough.

I wish you all unexpected joy and hoped for peace.
I hope for you all to spend time with loved ones and good friends.
May all your promises be fulfilled and all your wishes made possible.
May the winds of fortune blow kindly and fair on all that you attempt.

Happy Christmas to all my blog friends, acquaintances and lurkers:)
xxx (((((((everybody)))))))


done at last!

What? the Christmas presents, wrapping, labelling, shopping, organising, meal planning..all that?
Oh no. The Christmas Cards of course! All gone. hooray!
And I've bought the goat.
It's a new thing I started last year. You pay online for a useful thing to send somewhere in the world where life is really hard and then you send a card to whoever's present it's replacing.
Only in the end I decided to buy a greenhouse instead and it's replacing bought Christmas cards and presents for family members who we usually buy knicknacks and bottles of wine and smelly stuff and all sorts of things which...well I'm getting bored with them. They must be too :)
It's done. (I must remember to send texts to some of them to tell them to look at their email, they don't often :)
And today, Eldest arrived. lovely Northern Girl can't come this year and they're away over Christmas and New Year so he came today. And I got two whole day's warning. So we went Christmas shopping and struggled with Argos catalogues and came away with not very much. But two or three presents better off than when we started. Now I have to do a bit more wrapping and labelling and then a lot of the same and then I have to do a last minute Christmas Eve panic and then hooray, it'll be the day and I'll have done it all.
Oh and I'd better tidy up a bit.
It's all a bit like this at the momentPrickly bits, pretty bits, tangled bits and sharply urgent bits,bright bits and distant hazy bits.
But I'm sure it'll all be good on the day :)
Hope you're all having a good time getting ready.
Have a lovely weekend anyway anticipating the fun and frolics and hopefully some peaceful bits too :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ah! Save the planet...yes

Well actually, no, not really. I haven't seen the programme yet but tonight Dr Ian Stewart is going to tell us* we needn't worry about the planet. It'll be fine, long after we have gone.
There's a trick, used in advertising a lot, where, if you aren't buying the product, the advertiser suggests that there's something really quite irrelevant that might benefit you if you did buy the product. Ah! You hadn't thought about how the latest electronic egg beater might improve your sex life had you! (I suggest you don't - in only one second I've had some slightly alarming thoughts on the subject).

Similarly, when concerned people realised that the masses weren't really getting properly anxious about spending the planets hoarded resources like water, and it's rich stores of water as if it were air, and it's precious air as if it Might be a goodish supply of that around in a year or fifty. Yes well, when they realised this, they leapt on a tried and tested bandwagon and pointed out that we might be hurting the 'planet'. I mean, like, the 'planet'. You know, the whole PLANET.
Don't you get it you morons they say (only a little more politely)? You might be hurting good ole Mummy EARTH. Well, like, Gaia then. Oh and all it's other little furry, scaly and chitinous denizons. Think about that!

Now, if you sneakily push a few thoughts about sexual desirableness in with whatever ideas you may ever have had about egg beaters (really, don't go there) it no doubt all wanders around inside your limbic** centres and fuzzily combines with ideas of happiness and comforting food and other nice comforting stuff and maybe a touch of evil and you might even look slightly differently at the next eggbeater you see. Especially if it's the battered old thing you've had hanging in the kitchen for 20 years and never use any more because let's face it, a fork works awfully well and is much easier to access. It isn't really an object that's at the centre of your universe. It's not part of the backbone of your existence. It doesn't really matter to the security of your Id. It barely relates to common sense especially after it's been treated to advertising slogans.

The planet though. That's quite important isn't it. Golly, should you be thinking of it as a sentient, nurturing, possibly exasperated, parental being whose feelings have been hurt by the way you've been taking it for granted. Perhaps you should get some kind of image in your mind of a big, sore, angry Mommy getting fed up with the way the kids are behaving.
Or maybe you should be taking a parental, caretakerly view of your responsibilities and add the whole world to those responsibilities (along with the kids, the dog, the car, the spouse, the house, the mortgage, the shopping, and great old traditions of your country). Maybe you should be suffering empathically with the ground under your feet, Buddha-like. In fact maybe it really is time you learnt to walk on water or at least levitate a bit by meditating and purifying your grubby mind of daily mundanities and distractions.

Hmm, already you can see why selling sensible conservation as sentient-planet-saving isn't going to work on a global scale. Who needs to add the whole world to their emotional baggage? Only those who harbour no resentments against Mommy, who already shoulder responsibility willingly or who are already enlightened enough to float.

A good few SF writers have taken the sentient planet idea and run with it to marvellous places far out of time and mind. Sensibly most of them started somewhere pretty far least in another galaxy or under another sun. For the fact is, if you look at the ground under your feet, common sense will tell you it's not hurt by your trampling. Experience will tell you that it's bigger than you are by a very generous margin. If something goes wrong with the way it's arranged, you might get buried. It will stay on top. Cities built on rock may fall, but the rock will still be rock. Cities built on sand or water may...probably will...sink. But when they're gone there will still be sand and water. Grass may die, potatoes may blight and brassicas may succumb to fungal infections but something else will grow. Probably not something you would like to eat but something will eat it.

My point is, it's not time to worry about the future of earth. It's time to worry about us. Puny and insignificant though we may be in the cosmic scale of things, we still want somewhere to live. Preferably a place where eating, drinking and breathing without soul destroying effort can still be organised. Preferably a place with space in it for caring about each other and understanding something other than the sheer difficulty of staying alive. Perhaps even a place where art and sport and play can flourish. Somewhere that the ideas of a philosopher can be as valuable as those of whoever gets the dinner in and keeps the cold out.

It seems to me that if you want to prod the people into living more sensibly, there's no point in using a worn out advertising technique to disguise the problem as one in which the Earth needs to be saved. I say we need to go the same route we went during the cold war...scare people rigid with the truth. Oh and tell them how to build an ice age shelter under the dining table and give out instructions on how to build a biosphere out of plastic containers, safety pins and sellotape. That'll make them think twice.

Oh and on a lighter, but delightful note, I'm just re-reading "Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin. It's very good. I'd forgotten how good it was. I bought it in a 'withdrawn from stock' sale at the library a few years ago. There's a horse, a foundling, set adrift in a model boat, gangsters, a love story, with Manhattan as both backdrop and central character. All writ large and lyrical in glorious technicolour. The characters glow. It's too rich and colourful to seem real but too detailed and intricate to be imaginary. Yet, clearly and brightly, it's both.
There's also a very funny exchange between the author and a fan here. After the synopsis for another of his novels. I think I'll try and get hold of that one too.

*Earth:The Power of the Planet, tonight @ 9pm on Beeb2. I watched it. It was very good and he made the point much more succinctly than I did. However, he had to squeeze it into the last five minutes while standing on top of a rather splendid ruin in the middle of a South American forest on a mountain top whereas I had to fill up a whole post :)
**Not sure about limbic. Maybe some other part of the brain? Any suggestions?

Possibly I ought to admit that my contribution so far to saving us amounts to recycling paper and cans, grudgingly composting veg waste (cos it's a long way to the compost bin on a cold wet morning) and ranting occasionally. Oh and gradually replacing lightbulbs with the low energy kind. Well I try and turn stuff off as well. And sometimes I coast down hills instead of using the's absolutely amazing how much petrol you can save like that. Also amazing how far you can travel without using the engine if you don't mind going very very slowly now and then.

Now there's an energy saving gadget they could install in cars. A governor which puts the clutch in neutral every time the car is pointing down hill.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's my printing day

It is the day for printing everything.
100 Christmas cards, two pics of Fran's wedding dress for the MiL-to-be, a whole lot of versions of an advert Barney wants in a trade mag, some more brewery cards for the lovely Magg's, several lists, and maybe, just because I'd like to, a couple of pictures to frame. A purply sunrise, maybe and perhaps a few dancing leaves :)
Tomorrow I will be courting Word Rage again by attempting a mail merge.
I have managed to achieve one or two mail merges in the past but I think those were in a different version of Office so without doubt the procedure will now be different (and anyway it was unrepeatably baffling then)
I have re-writtten the lost Christmas card list. It's still awfully long. (You'd think I might have lost a few in the re-write)

So many tasks - so little time. Well actually there's lots of time. What's missing is, how shall I say? 'Time management skills'? No? how about, 'sufficient investment of hours' ? No?
OK. 'Get up and do' is what's missing (particularly the getting up part).
Put it this way, If I arrive somewhere, you know I was really really keen to get there (or I suppose, really really convinced I needed to be there).
I was musing on my resistance to 'doing' while having a ('nother) last cup of tea and cig in the middle of the other night (anything to delay getting on with getting ready for bed) and I found myself wondering why I have such enormous resistance to 'doing'.
After all, many of the things I resist doing are quite enjoyable, give sometimes satisfying and often useful results and aren't really all that hard.

Getting up
Brushing my teeth
Taking the dog out
Going out
Cleaning things
Putting on my shoes and socks
Changing to go out
Hanging up the washing
Doing the washing
Sewing up the multitudinous garments which are currently held together with safety pins
Getting ready for bed

You'll maybe have noticed that it's quite a mundane, if slightly odd, list.

So there I was, smoking, sipping tea, eyeing the last fifty pages of the new Terry Pratchett and occasionally thinking "I really MUST go to bed now - soon - before 1.30 - 2.00 .....".
And then thinking, Why do I resist putting my shoes and socks on??? Teeth? Getting ready for bed - I really would like to be asleep now !? (although I really would like to read the last fifty pages....)
And then I thought some more. And then just now I wrote some of those thoughts down. Then we had dinner and I came back and read it all and thought "OMG that's so boring" and deleted the lot.
It's far more interesting to follow the draught of cold air that reliably freezes my feet when I'm at the computer and to discover that it's coming in through the window and that if I arrange a number of garments* along the bottom of the curtains it is hugely reduced. (As long as the fire is lit, because if the fire isn't lit you could practically generate electricity with the draught that comes down the chimney. And then, of course, you could run a little heater off it and keep your feet warm that way. Maybe. My stepfather used to keep a little fan heater under his computer desk.)

Right. Well. there's a cracking frost developing out there tonight and I'd quite like to get up early and take some frosty pictures. So I must go and do some of those things on that list of resistable things. So that I can go to bed soon.
But first, I'd just like to something else for a little while. Not long. Just a quick, er, something or other.

G'night :)

*scarves, fleeces, socks etc. And a woolly hat.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007


Is that the opposite of disgruntled?
Just a little thought to throw around.
Here's the rooty old tree.

I've had a lot of discussions over the years about blogging and 'how can you know people you've never met'. Haven't we all :)
Well I was thinking it seems as if often, blogging is an outlet for creativity and expressiveness. Perhaps for people who don't have an audience in daily life for the flow of their consciousness. People who aren't geniuses* but who, nonetheless have some pretty lively and interesting stuff going on in their heads. And before blogging most of it tended to stay in their heads.
But then blogging appeared on the virtual horizon and suddenly it was possible, not only to express thoughts (that might not go down awfully well at home or in the work place) but also a to enjoy a swiftly responsive audience. Which, in a way is even better than writing a book or producing a work of art . So many great artists, after all, never got any appreciation at all till after they had died. And instead of living, most vividly, alone inside their heads, blogging people could make a few ripples and splashes of colour in the consciousness of the wider world.
And though you can't tell by reading a blog, if a person is nice to live with (f'rinstance) you get to know quite a lot about why they might or might not be.
Then, in the same way that a conversation with a friend can help you to define your ideas about something, writing a post will often clarify issues that have been flopping about like stranded fish in the back of your mind for ages.
I know quite a few people who think blogging is 'sad' and only for those who 'haven't got a life'. (That's partly because of my age group :). All I can say about them is it's very easy to dismiss something you haven't tried. And secretly to wonder if they have a bit of sour grape stuff going on because a lot of them are quite unable to come to terms with computers. A bit 'sad' and behind the times you might say, only that would be unkind and mostly, unkindness is not what blogging is all about.
Well it's very late and I don't seem to be arriving anywhere with this train of thought. It can go rattling on into the night. Who knows, it may collect a few passengers before I next board but for now I'm getting off.
Sleep well all my blogging friends. Have a good weekend. I shall look forward to the next instalments of all the stories which touch me when I'm here.

*which is to say, they don't wish to abandon normal life entirely in order to dredge up the 99% sweat that has to be added to the 1 % inspiration.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Glorious Morning

And the ever helpful man told me about the dawn when he brought in my cup of tea, so I caught it. And then I made my little flask of coffee, rolled a pair of cigs, fed the cats and set off into the frosty sunlight to take pics. The computer's still downloading them.
But there might be a frosty dawn and some sparkly melted frost. There might be a marvellous old rooty tree. (Not ready yet)
There might be all sorts of stuff. I'm a bit high on lots of coffee and having discovered I've got 2 new photos on Explore in Flickr.
Now I'm having a lot of trouble deciding what I really must do next! Eat I suppose and tidy up and get the bins in and take a CD to the lovely Maggs's and do some shopping and make a Christmas 'to do' list (and a present list and a food list and a shopping list and a ... 'nother two or three lists).
Only I keep having a quick look at the downloading. It's taking forever (It always does). I ought o do some useful things while it's busy. Really.
Gaah! Only 148 of 182 and another memory card to put in!!!!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Life wouldn't be the same

Would it, without a series of minor crises from which to lurch, one to the next?
(Inserted update - the Christmas card crisis has been solved thanks to the entirely wonderful Thursday).
Even if I wasn't fed up already with the whole Christmas card thing (I've been doing Christmas cards in their hundreds for the last 50 years) and with word (I've only been doing that for about fifteen years but I'm getting wise to this kind of thing now) I'd be screaming blue and purple comments at this time of year anyway. (Did I mention that I've mislaid the neat, efficient black file, entitled appropriately enough, 'Christmas Files' which contained the list of cards* we've sent and received over the last ten years or so?)
Why why why does everything happen at Christmas?
And why do we have to fill the whole freezer up with a lamb just before the dreaded CH word????
(Because Russell sold Barney one at the pub, that's why. One Russell had organically and free rangedly reared himself, see)
But as, yesterday, Thursday hadn't come up with the solution I wasn't quite ready to give up on a quite satisfying and energising ferment of Word Rage. (Is there a syndrome called that yet? There should be. Oh YES! Word Rage should be documented and researched - Oh bother the cooker is beeping - time to go an cook again)...So here I am, was,** occasionally saying inarticulately furious things to the dog (who follows me in and out of the kitchen in evergreen hopefulness and pretends to misunderstand exclamations like GAHH! and DUHHH! and S***T - idiot! He thinks that because I'm being particularly communicative and incomprehensible tonight I'll drop some meaty morsels on the floor. Oh Ok. He'd think that anyway.)

Umm. I've lost something. Oh yes. a thread. Right. I'm feeling quite cheerful. Could be to do with the three glasses of wine or the imminence of a possibly delicious (but despised because of the freezer thing ) dinner. Or the fact that while Thursday is busily solving my problem for me I can still, at intervals, rush to the computer and try another tack and then when it fails, rush back into the kitchen, muttering expletives.
Bugger. The cooker is pinging at me again! More cooking! (been doing that for 50 odd years too).
I think it (the cheerfulness is because in spite of having gone to bed at 4 am (so Barney tells me and who am I to argue - I was the one who was awake after all) and having got up at 7.30 am to take a picture of a sunrise which may or may not have been worth the effort, I have done at least two Christmas related jobs today and have practised my fiddle to boot. Better than to boot. To reasonably good effect. (remember? Everything happens at Christmas including having to play duets and other stuff in little but somehow terribly important concerts)

*Duh! List of people to whom cards have been sent and from whom, received, of course!
**I started this post while cooking yesterday's dinner and while Thursday was carrying on with the CH Card/Word conundrum and finished it this morning after Thursday had solved the Ch Crd thing so my tenses will be thoroughly scrambled. The effort of trying to follow what went when may possibly be good for your brain. I've given up, as today I have a whole new set of computer related games to play.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The word is


I am trying to print a christmas card straight from MS word.
Like, a picture on one side, with a space so you can fold it when you've printed it and you get a picture on the front and nothing on the back. So far so good.
Then an inside with some text. This will of course need to be printed on the reverse side of the picture in such a way that the two sets of printing mirror each other's position on the front and back of the paper.
Simple ? (avert your eyes Mel)

F*****g impossible!!!!!

Well, maybe that's not true. But I do believe I've searched nearly every possible command in page layout and print layout without, yet, succeeding in doing it.
I may be reduced to measuring margins with an old fashioned six inch ruler!
I'm a very cross bunny indeed.

(I knew this was going to be a ridiculously stressful thing to do, that's why I've left it till it's almost too late to do it)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Gypsy nights

The thing about fancy airy fairy dinners that cost arms and legs is, however much fun and deliciousness they are, you come away feeling faintly guilty and feeling that yes this was very very good and enjoyable but food means something quite different to millions of people.
I suppose the only way to balance this feeling out is to contribute something equivalent to somewhere it'll do some good.
Right then. A small task for the near future.

Tonight's entertainment was a quite different kind of thing. Fran's birthday present was a gypsy violin workshop followed by a concert with the London Gypsy Orchestra. I recommend them for a thoroughly joyful, foot stamping, hand clapping evening. Grrrrreat stuff.
The workshop was very good fun too...25 or so people clutching fiddles and being taught a gypsy tune (with all the twiddles and slidey bits) by the lovely, talented and vivacious Gundula Gruen, a marvellous fiddle player with a delightful accent ( Eastern European I would guess since that's where the music comes from). I can't say I remember the whole tune but that's no problem since I bought the book with hundreds of tunes and a CD :)
And the concert was brilliant. Both my girls came with me (there are great advantages to having a daughter in the press) and we bopped and clapped till our arms ached. (well mine did). Ate noodles at a fast noodle bar across the road and had a last pint at the pub next door and agreed that Gundula was the sort of woman who, as well as leading the orchestra (on violin) with immense grace and style and having a delightful accent and speaking several languages, probably has dozens of children, at least two full time jobs and could most probably leap over multi storey buildings in a single bound.*
In short, we were quite impressed with her. We were particularly impressed with the way, when the fiddling was too fast and furious for her to conduct with the bow, she did it by leaping into the air!
No photos alas, as cameras were strictly verboten and handbags searched before we were allowed in the concert venue.
Lovely birthday evening thank you Fran :)

*Ah! now I've read my own link, I see that we were quite right about her.**
**Well not about the dozens of children or the leaping of buildings. That was just poetic license.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Bring on the bouncing birthday bears!

Bears? what bears? Birthday? O that birthday!
I think the blue and grey and white and black striped sky outside the window has gone to my head. I see no bears.
Ooh! It's cold. I just went out to take a picture of the above mentioned sky.

the day before yesterday I suddenly decided it was time to play with my Ikea desk. the one that was in stock and we did bring home. Thursday, kindly and helpfully agreed to abandon what she was doing and came over and we spent several happy hours fixing the obliging Ikea puzzle bits together to create a desk! It was one of the most difficult Ikea puzzles I remember doing so it really was great to have both the company, the help and the extra brain for moments of complete bafflement since I'd decided to make the desk with a left sided drawer instead of right sided which meant every time we moved onto a new part, we had to reverse the destructions. There were one or two times we had to reverse our constructions too but finally it was made. And it all worked! I have to say that me and Thursday ROCKED at making desks. Sadly the next one will only be a table top and two trestles so probably not challenging enough to need a pair of Ikea experts.
The night before last, we went out with youngest and her partner for a birthday dinner. It was a real blast! One of those very fancy swanky places where the door opens as you arrive and minions flock to whisk away any garments you wish to dispose of and gather round to offer drinks and stuff. And then the table has great big blue swirly glass plates apparently ready for you. But when your dinner arrives, these are whisked away (they were just to make the table feel dressed) to be replaced by plates decorated with food! plates of all shapes and sizes...square ones, oblong ones, pointy edged ones, oh all sorts. And you're allowed to eat the pretty food too! Food arranged in castles and towers and turrets and swirls and splashes with creamy bits and foamy bits and chunky bits and airy fairy floaty and pointy bits. And when they bring the food they remind you what you ordered. Not as silly as it sounds because even when you know what it is, it takes a minute or two to work out which fluffy bit is the herby creme fraiche and whether the creamy bit was the horseradish parfait or would it be the bit that trails off the side of the little mound of haddock and mustardy potato and draws a neat little circle round the whole plate.*
Barney came away minus some arms and legs but he said that was ok. He wasn't so keen on having his napkin replaced on his lap every time he left the table but he didn't mind having his glass refilled the minute it looked a bit depleted.
And since Youngest and her partner own the house where two of the chefs live (and anyway she knew them from when they worked at the local gourmet pub) we got an extra little terrine served on a square, glass plate edged in fiery red, with a tiny criss cross of something crispy and delicate, all courtesy of the chef. Or was that topped with some small succulent fruity thing? I'm not sure.
And there were little tiny cups of foamy pre starters (delish) and a little foamy pre pudding cup and on my plate, a sugar crystal circle with happy birthday written on it in red. Which was then wrapped in tin foil (arranged by one of the waitresses as a sort of swan for me to take home:)
It was a bit over the top. But all such fun!!!! And all quite utterly delish. (As so it should be at that price)
Youngest said they were saying in the kitchen that we were a nice table...I think that was maybe because of the squeaks and general enthusiasm as more and more pretty, fancy, fairy tale food arrived! there should probably be a moral ending to all this but I'll try and think of one of those another time. You can't always be moral, I find.
It's suddenly very late.
Have a lovely weekend everyone and enjoy whatever you can. Hope you cope with the rest. I say nothing about never comes. Like Father Christmas. Not to be waited for.

*It would have suited you Mel, hardly any of the food touched any of the other food, mostly it just floated about elegantly!

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Monday, December 03, 2007

The computer is having a joke on me

The nice computer man came round and told a lot of programmes to stop running in the background (don't ask!) and now he assures me all my little problems will stop happening. And he said it's quite a powerful computer. And yes, that is a lot of photos. And why not get rid of Norton which is a large, expensive, interfering programme and install AVG (?) which is free, small, quick and efficient. When my Norton expires that is! Er - not for 465 days!
Anyway, he also suggested backing up a different way so I started doing that. and the computer chirped and chuntered to itself, like they do and then said brightly "13 minutes and 3 seconds". After a bit more chuntering it said "40 minutes and 12 seconds". Then variously offered 2 hours and 10 seconds, 5 hours and 40 seconds, 13 hours and 55 seconds and Oh! - 0 seconds. Done. In about 3 minutes. Mind, it always does that. Built in sense of humour maybe? Some geek in programming or engineering having a laugh at us out here?

Mel asked for a demonstration of the magic photomatix. See, it takes this photo, in which you can see quite a lot of detail in the shadows but the sky is dead and white

And this photo where the shadows are all black but you can see the glorious colours in the sky
And puts them together to produce this photo which has detail in the shadows and a nice bright sunset.
Which is pretty much what the scene really looked like if I took my glasses off.
Clever or what !
(I did cheat though because the sky went a bit garish and pale and odd, so I cut out the sky from an in between photo and stuck it on top of the finished one. I think photomatix works better with several different exposures, not just two.)

Now I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself. A few...lot of....months ago, I had to go on bended knee to Eldest to ask him, yet again, to show me how to update Barney's website. Because the editing window is, to my mind, quirky. That means it's not like all the other editing windows I use regularly and does a bit more and if I don't do any for a while, I forget how.
Eldest agreed to teach me again, Barney got in a strop because he didn't understand what was going on with HIS* website (a bit like you would if your son and your wife got together and started fiddling about under the bonnet of your car which wasn't working and you didn't know why and you didn't know what the hell they were doing in there either and they kept trying to explain the incomprehensible, calmly and firmly thus underlining that you had to depend on people who couldn't even tell you what they were doing without resorting to incomprehensible jargon).
So Eldest made me promise faithfully to keep practising the website editing so I wouldn't forget again. I did for a while.
Anyway, last night I thought I'd better just check that I could still do it.
I couldn't.
Searched all my files for the instructions I'd surely saved somewhere????
Couldn't find them.
Went to bed dreaming of uploads and resizes and thumbnails and links.

Got up this morning and tried something and it worked :)
Ineffable relief :)
I've now written a post, on the website, carefully hidden from public view, detailing the process. With pictures.
And I've checked with Thursday that the post works properly if it's public and vanishes when I tell it to (wouldn't do for the first thing anyone sees on the website was a detailed explanation of how it's done).
I am that website manager. After all.

Oops, now our house is upside down in a puddle. No problem...a website manager can do a simple thing like turn a house rightway up surely. Just a bit of wiping and drying needed to set it to rights again.
Yes I am being very silly :)

*That is, HIS in that it shows his work and his roofs and his materials and how thatching is done and all that. It may be a thing he can't use without help from his friends but it is HIS!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Owl magic

Earlier today, which was a thoroughly unphotographic sort of day, being wet, windy and mostly gloomy, Barney said, " you ought to wander down the road some time, I keep seeing an owl perched on the fence just down there".

Hmm. Good idea.
So just now, thinking, really it's time Barney was back from the pub I'll just check he's not on the way already before phoning him, I opened the back door a crack and peered out into the windy night. Lights across the valley but no pickup headlights weaving over the hill and along the the road by the river.
And an owl flew past the back door.

Happy Birthday.

Winter fires burning low but warmly

Well it was a very good start for a new year :)
First there was freshly squeezed orange juice and then there was emptying my rooms of surplus furniture so that I can start assembling desks and work tables.
Then there was music group and a new very competent lady who played first fiddle with me. What a delight to have a partner who plays in time and knows where we are and agrees with me about the difficult bits. I think she must be a regular player in an orchestra and perhaps a very good one. I do hope she comes again.
And then a really nice 18th birthday gig with a happy small crowd of teenagers who danced all night, giggled and shrieked and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Such pretty and lithe creatures. Lovely altogether :)

I've been trying to invent Christmas photos for cards. What do you think? paste some berries in? or not?
More Photomatix stuff :) when you've got a birthday pesent you've got to use it, right :)

My cold has turned into a good old-fashioned smoker's cough. And now it hurts. This is unusual and last night I wondered if I'd pulled a muscle or broken a rib! And naturally I also wondered if I'd suddenly got that nasty cancer thing that we don't like to mention out loud even though we all know about it. Especially if we do regular abuse of the poor old body and are over fifty. Damn it all. I haven't got time for cancer. I'll assume aching muscles for a couple of days. Then I'll go and get it checked out if it hasn't gone. (The thing that worries me if it's a broken rib - not unheard of with severe coughs - is that not only do they take a long time to heal but they get worse before they get better. I know this because Eldest broke a rib once, mountain biking and it was a week before I agreed with him that he really was damaged and took him to the doctor. Who said, yes it was broken, no, I was quite right they couldn't have done anything to help it and Oh well hard luck but as it heals it grows lumpy bits and hurts more and more for quite a while.)

Every so often my body points out that a) it's not as young as it was (can't quite remember when) and b) I treat it badly and one day it'll break down. (Like the car). I try and be reasonable about it. The inconvenience varies from quite big (being laid out by a cold for three days) to small (having to spend whole minutes scrubbbling about amongst my teeth every day twice a day and going to see the horrible hygienist regularly).
Overall I'm very lucky about my body and I have to assume that a lot of its complaints are shared by millions of ageing bodies all over the world! And of course, however many hours you spend sweating in the gym or smoothing nice smelling stuff over it in the bathroom it will eventually wear out. It may look a bit better than, for instance, mine :)* But we haven't yet found a way to live and be beautiful forever.
Too many warnings and too many promises from the 'health' industries may make it look as though old age can be staved off but goodness! Life's too short to spend in the bathroom applying potions and in the gym fighting the inevitable. Old age is just another compromise. When you get to it, you have to accept some limitations and then carry on with whatever you were going to do anyway. There comes a time when looking beautiful isn't an option but looking forwards is always available.
I say nothing about giving up smoking or eating less or going to bed earlier. Because I probably will do nothing about them either.**

Umm. Have a nice healthy happy day tomorrow :) You deserve it.

*Ok, probably a lot better than mine. There's no need to go into detail about the fat bits and the lumpy bits and the scraggy bits. Or the wrinkly biotas (some typos have to be left just as they are) thank you very much.
**Actually, in the interests of avoiding the six month tickly cough, I've cut down cigarettes by half. Not enough, apparently! Pooh.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bless me!!!

I just had a sneezing fit.
Everything has gone a bit kaleidoscopic. (Wow! I am amazed - Spellcheck thinks it knows how to spell that).
Well, for the last 2 hours and 20 minutes, I've been fifty seven. How about that :)
And since becoming fifty seven, I've been playing with my birthday present, drinking unwisely, smoking a bit too much and now (under the influence of extreme sneezing) shut the dog out. (I couldn't stand his excited, hopeful expression when seen thorough a sneezy haze - of course, now the sneezing is over I regret letting him out but it's too late, he's gone off into the night.)
Woohoo! I have photomatix. This means I have to search my photo files for times when I went out with a tripod, took varied exposures and it wasn't windy. When it is windy, you get 'ghosting' when you combine several pictures, like here - I did tell photomatix to remove the ghosting but apparently it was too much! You can see at least one extra set of branches floating about. So what. It's my birthday and I'll ghost if I want to.Me and the dog are similarly a little overexcited. I don't know what his excuse is but mine is just old age :) So he is bouncing up and down (which he shouldn't be doing at his age and at nearly 3 in the morning) and I am ignoring the fact that tomorrow I shall regret this excessive behaviour as I have a birthday, some shopping, music group and a gig to deal with. Whatever. I have bought chocolates to take to music group, I have played my fiddle and I shall oversleep. It'll all be fun. Some time next week we are going out to dinner with youngest and her partner and some time in between then and now I shall go to Ikea* and get my card making desk. Meanwhile, I may go out with the tripod and be extraordinarily disciplined about exposures and stuff. I wish you could see some of these typos but unfortunately, I have a thing about them and spell-check will obligingly remove them for me :)
Here are some photomatixed pictures which were taken when it wasn't windy. (and now I have the full, licensed version they don't have watermarks)
I'd better go to bed. Barney is going to bring me freshly squeezed orange juice tomorrow morning!
Have a very nice day if you can...let me know about it..I'll be checking blogs tomorrow :)
Have a lovely day/weekend.

*If you want another Ikea trip Thursday.....