Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hallo Hallo

"Leesten vurry carrefullee, I shall say theese unly wunce"
... did you see the documentary about the sitcom last night?
I thought it was good to see some of the actors back on
screen again after so many years - excellent acting and
comic timing from them all, but a poor script -- too much
present-day padding for me, with Rene talking about his
war-time diary with the other characters, interspersed with
clips from the old series -- the programme makers set about
making nearly two hours of telly time, when I think one hour
would have been enough. I was entertained, but if I'd
videoed it to watch later, I would have skipped over a lot
of the padding.

Mrs C and I have been busy in the past week or so altering a
few things in our garden. Our overall plan is to make it
safe for toddlers to play in, so we decided to get rid of our
pond. We gave away our goldfish "Jaws" to a neighbour, and
our massive water lily to a couple on Nottingham Freecycle.
They said they'd split it into 8 plants with view to keeping
a couple themselves, and giving the rest to friends and more
folk on Freecycle. What a brilliant idea.

I was very lucky to see some landscape gardeners working at
the bottom of our road, who were filling a skip with a lot
of garden soil -- and to be brief, I've brought up eight
barrow-loads of soil to fill up the pond - another 4
barrow-loads to go, I reckon. I'll wait for another neighbour
to do the same, so I can ask for some more.

Our garden is more or less level with the first floor of our
house, as it was built into an embankment. So at two sides
of the approach to the garden we've got precipitous drops down
the hillside, which we're going to fence off. We've asked the
landscape gardeners for a quote.

Our other project is to re-decorate our ground floor hallway
-- after months of indecision about what colour paints to use
to match the wallpaper we've bought, we've finally bought some
paints. I'm making a start this morning by painting the hall
ceiling and that of the staircase.

We'll spend a few weeks doing all this gradually, so as not to
knacker ourselves. I would have made a start yesterday, but we
had family round for part of the day, and also we went into
town for a bit of shopping and for a stroll around in the
lovely warm sunshine.

As you may have heard, the UK has had the warmest and driest
April for about 150 years -- it was 23 deg C in the Midlands
yesterday, a gorgeous sunny day with a lovely cool breeze --
ideal for walkers. Temperatures are going up to 28 deg C today
-- a good day for staying indoors to do the painting. :)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

How creative are you?

I've been reading a good post by Andrea, "Maslow meets
the parents on Parliament Hill", which has several
themes in it, all centred around the arts. (Andrea
posted this on 16 April, BTW.)

Many years ago now, my parents steered me away from any
career in the arts, such as painting, and encouraged me
to choose between medicine or law as possible future
careers. They reckoned that I’d face years of poverty
trying to earn a living from something like painting or
similar creative work, though they both highly valued
the arts – they both enjoyed looking at modern and
classical painting, writing, reading serious literature
and listening to classical music – their main interests
outside work. In their retirement years they took to
travelling abroad quite a lot, to soak up European
culture (which is something I like doing).

The basic messages I received and took on board were to
find a job with good financial security, and in my spare
time to develop similar interests to those of my dad and
mum. And with a wife and four kids to see at home after
work, plus the maintenance of the house and garden, most
of my artistic/creative interests were shelved.

My dad was a keen photographer, which is something I’m
very keen on too. As I use mainly the automatic settings
on the camera (a Canon Digital Rebel), I focus my
attention instead on the composition and lighting,
especially when I’m taking portraits – people don’t like
to be standing around for ages while I’m fiddling with
the camera controls. I would like to go on and take
black and white portraits of people in subdued lighting
– to do more creative stuff. I like the way you can get
more or less instant results with photography, whereas
with painting I’d be spending 3 weeks plus on just one
painting. Who’s got the spare time to do that? :)

I have spent some time learning to play acoustic and
electric guitars on and off over the years … I’m not
very good at playing, but I get a lot of pleasure out
of jamming along with a couple of mates. I’ve
occasionally thought about writing books for children,
(like Harry Potter), but I haven’t hit on any original
characters as yet.

I see blogging as fairly creative and challenging
(especially when it comes to looking at and using HTML
code – which looks like hieroglyphics to me). I didn’t
start off blogging with the thought that I’d carry on
for any length of time, but blogging’s become
addictive and I enjoy reading other people’s comments
(and adding my own).

In recent years I’ve become a lot more sociable than
before, and less shy when meeting people – I now get
more of a buzz from chatting with folk, which I now
like more than sitting at home reading something, or
playing guitar or doing jobs around the house (all of
which can feel like solitary confinement at times).

Coming back to Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs, and looking
at Maslow’s triangle/pyramid shown in Andrea’s blog, I
would put the top three items all at the same level
with each other ... for me, they’re all equally
important, though others may not agree with me.
What do you think?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Adam and Eve

I heard a somewhat feeble joke today from one of my
daughters who attended a wedding last weekend (she
plays the traditional harp at such events). It was
the vicar who told this joke to everyone present in
the church, so it must be kosher.

Just after God had created Adam, God tempted him with
a lovely vision of what his future partner Eve could
be like: "She could be divinely beautiful, and be a
brilliant companion with a fine intellect and a GSOH.
She could be totally submissive and attentive to your
every need, and look after you superbly well if you
became ill and when you become frail in old age".
"Oh, gosh! She sounds wonderful," said Adam, "but what
would she cost?"
"Ermm," said God, pausing to think for a few moments,
"Well, she would cost you an arm and a leg".
"Oh dear," said Adam feeling disappointed, "I can only
spare you a rib."

There was a slight titter from some members of the

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Lives of Others

Mrs C and I went to see a superb film today at Nottingham's
Broadway Cinema. It's called "The Lives of Others", set in
East Berlin back in the 1980s, when the Communist Party
imprisoned any dissidents. Here's a link to it on the
Broadway site, where you'll find an outline of the plot.
We both thought the acting was excellent.

I was totally gripped by it -- but not by the ITV drama that
was on later: "Kingdom"... I slept through most of it,
despite the fact that one of our best actors, Stephen Fry,
was in the lead role as a country solicitor who gets involved
with several mysterious goings-on. Perhaps it was the glass
of white wine that made me feel sleepy, but I doubt if we'll
be watching any more episodes.

I missed "Dr Who" yesterday evening unfortunately ... not that
I usually watch it, but I would like to see the return of the
Daleks. Particularly evil and scary creations as you'll know,
though if you get back to reality - suspend the fantasy, it's
quite silly to think of actors imprisoned inside them, feeling
hot and sticky, and moving around with all that cladding on.
Tricky if one of them wants to nip off and have a pee.

Friday, April 20, 2007

banner problems

I've spent about another six hours on this banner, attempting
to improve the resolution of the print I've put on the photo.
My latest idea is to put text onto a transparent background to
create a jr logo, and then to put it onto the photo in Photoshop.
It works well when I just post it onto my dummy blog, but when
I put the jpeg code into the banner section, I just get the
slightly blurry print edges time after time (despite varying a
whole host of things).

I think the problem lies with Blogger compressing photos down
too much, and when I attempt to magnify them for banner purposes,
the resulting resolution is poor. I think my next strategy will
be to put the banner up on a completely different website (not
Blogger), and then to import the code onto Blogger from there.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

new banner

Yes, it's time for a new banner. I spent a few hours
last night and first thing this morning, tinkering
with Photoshop and then on my dummy Blogger site, where
I uploaded several versions of this photo.
My most successful version was starting with a 2MB photo,
which Blogger shrank down to about 11kb, but then I
clicked on this uploaded photo to see the larger Blogger
version, to obtain its HTML code. Bingo!

The view is a cityscape of Nottingham, which I took
yesterday evening from the top of St Ann's Hill/Mapperley
Park. I felt inspired to get this view, when I saw
Petite's view of Paris, on her blog.

Nottingham ... Nottingham ... Paris ...
... where would you rather be in Springtime?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

spring cleaning

It's official. Spring has arrived early.

There was an item on Radio 4 this morning about the fact
that you can now see hawthorn trees out in flower, when
their usual flowering time is mid-May. Also the swifts
are back in the UK from their winter travels in Africa,
which is exceedingly early -- all signs of climate change,
or just a one-off? It remains to be seen if we are in for
a more temperate Riviera-style climate in years to come.

You'll see that I've been sprucing up this blog with a
few changes in my sidebar. I've tidied up the archives
section, which was long overdue... and have deleted
"Recent Posts", which stopped working when I was obliged
to sign up for New Blogger. I spent some time comparing
my HTML code for "Recent Posts" with that of other
people's blogs, and gave up -- I couldn't be arsed
sorting it all out, so I've lobbed it. Good riddance,
I say.

One problem with the new style Archives, is that using
the mouse wheel afterwards can have some bizarre results
-- you can end up scrolling through previous webpages --
that is if you don't click on the webpage straightaway
after looking at the Archives, to stabilise the webpage.
Which makes sense when you think about it.

That's enough nerds-stuff for one day, I think. It's time
to get a life, as one of my daughters keeps telling me...
"Da-a-a-d. Get a life!"

Monday, April 16, 2007

a few pics of the canal and the kids

family get-together

Yesterday, Mrs C and I went to Leicestershire (south of
Nottingham) to see a couple of elderly relatives for
coffee and lunch with them, plus a walk along the
canal-side at Barrow-on-Soar, and early afternoon we
sped back to Nottm, to join our 4 daughters, 1 neice
and 3 kids for a big birthday celebration (our second
daughter's 31st birthday).

Oh my God -- 31 years -- I'm starting to feel old (well,
not all that old -- I don't think of myself as an old
git yet).

Mrs C and I set to making the birthday tea with the help
of one of the girls ...
A starter of melon, black grapes, tomatoes, (with a honey
vinaigrette and roasted sesame seeds on top). It was
supposed to have fresh mint leaves on top as well, but
there weren't any available
New potato salad with avocado and cress (with a lemon and
olive oil dresing).
Broad bean salad with a yoghurt dressing (with chopped
Bulgar wheat salad with chopped spring onions and
parsley, plus a light vinaigrette.
Freshly made scones with Mascarpone and strawberry jam.
Chilled white wine and Tropicana orange juice.
Mrs C had made some lovely refridgerator chocolate "cake"
(with dark chocolate, digestive biscuits, apricots, prunes,
stem ginger and brandy in it) -- but we were too full to
eat it.
(Are you starting to feel hungry? ... well, I am).
I took a load of photos (as I can't miss an opportunity to do
so)-- I've posted some of them above.
It was a great day, but we felt exhausted after everyone had
gone. We're were both nodding off in the first part of
"Foyle's War" on the TV, so we set the video machine going
and went off to bed (at 9.30pm).

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Would you fancy eating some fantastic home-baked bread at
breakfast, and also waking up with the gorgeous smell of
bread baking in your house? We've bought a magic pixie -
the Panasonic S252 breadmaker, which bakes the bread for
us overnight.
The last one we had lasted about 11 years, and was used for
making loaves, and also the dough for pizza bases and bread
rolls. For the first 5 years of the breadmaker's life, we
lived with an extended family of 10 people in all, so it was
used every day.
I usually use a mix of strong wholemeal and white flours (the
latter about 25%), to get a good rise and texture -- a very
simple recipe is provided with the machine, and it's
easy-peasy to set up. You just press the start button if you
want a loaf baked in 4 hours' time, or extend the time using
the timer. Using white flour in the mix creates a Viagra
effect - brilliant rises every time. :)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Our holiday

I don't wish to bore you with the details of what we did on
holiday, but I'll tell you a little bit about it. We got
recommendations from local people about their favourite
coastal places to visit, which included Bucks Mill,
Hartland Point, Bude, Tintagel, Ports Isaac & Gaverne,
Polzeath, and Padstow. I've put photos of some of these
places up on my Flickr site.

Padstow was one of my favourites - my first visit there - a
thriving village or small town, which seemed to be part-owned
by one of our celebrity chefs, Rick Stein. I can see why he
loves the place, and why he chose to go and live there. We had
some of his fish & chips, which were well worth the wait -
grilled fresh plaice, the best I've ever tasted, and excellent
chips too. I see on Wikipedia that someone's renamed Padstow
as "Padstein". Some of you may be wondering what happened to
Chalky, his dog, which we saw a lot of on the TV programmes.
Unfortunately, Chalky died in January.

When we go again, we'll visit Clovelly and have a closer look
around John Betjeman's favourite haunts.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Another go at the painting

Mrs C didn't like my first attempt at this painting -- she said
it looked at though there were tiny bits of tissue paper
scattered all over it, and that it also looked like one of those
painted over photographs. Well, she's right as usual. So I've
had another go at it. However, it still looks as though
someone has painted over a photo (but then that's what it is).

My Photos

"Woke up this morning" ... duh, duh, duh, de, duh ...
... far too early, so I've spent the last 5 hours updating my
Flickr site with most of the photos you've seen already, plus
a few more. I felt inspired to do so, by a lovely comment
from someone who'd found one of my photos 6 months ago
on Flickr -- and I've only just seen her comment!

I've put up several of my Devon and Cornwall pics, if you'd
like to take a look. I've also put on some recent family pics,

and a "painting" of Baby India, which I'm very pleased with
-- I'll put this on today's post for you. I hope you'll like it.
The painting is not quite finished -- I created it with the Art
History tool in Photoshop, in about half an hour.

Having said that I'm very pleased with the result, my opinion
of what I think is good art can be completely different from
someone else's, very much like people's differing tastes in
music -- don't you agree?

For a year or two now, I've been thinking about getting some
large prints made of some of my photos, to put up in our
house. I've bought a large wooden picture frame from Ikea,
but Mrs C and I can't agree on what would be suitable to go
in it -- so my photos remain on CD-Roms and a few Flickr
sites. Oh well, I've got a nice big screen in front of me, to
look at my photos from time to time.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Happy Easter

Happy Easter, everyone!
How's your holiday been so far?
Mrs C and I have just got back from a week's holiday in
Devon & Cornwall. Fabulous warm weather as you UK readers
will know. I feel sorry for the 2.5 millllion Brits who went off
abroad this Easter for some warmth and sunshine, when they
could have had a great time here. To be honest I don't feel
sorry for them -- I'm pleased they went, as the major roads
here would have been clogged up with motorists.
I read in The Times the other day, that the hottest Easter on
record was in April 1949 when the temperatures reached 29.4
deg C in London -- the following summer was very hot too,
and there was a drought.

I've saved over a hundred photos from our holiday, so I'll show
you some of them over the next few posts. I took a few pics
of these ducklings, which were on our holiday site. The
following photo is the best shot I got of them, as they were
constantly on the move (and I didn't have a zoom lens, to get
a closer view of them).