Wednesday, 31 December 2014

iPad in the morning.

It's the last day of the year.  

Whatever happened to my resolve twelve months ago to take a photograph a day, wherever I happened to be?  Well, better late than never, I have got my foot in the door just before it's locked forever.

This was the view from my bedroom window when I got up this morning, 31st December 2014.  It was too beautiful to miss.  All I had was my iPad.  This is the result.  Thus was born an idea that I might, just might, carry through.  Take one photograph, just one, with my iPad, every day, wherever I happen to be.  

I wonder how long I'll last with my Old Year's Resolution?  

Monday, 29 December 2014


One of my Christmas presents as a fridge magnet.  I love it - mainly because it was one of my gifts from my younger son, but also because it says "I am a book hoarder", with 'hoarder' crossed out and 'collector' scribbled underneath.  I suppose 'collector' is more polite and acceptable than 'hoarder'. But of course the truth of the matter is, I do hoard books.  I think it may be a certifiable disease.

If I'm feeling down, a visit to the bookstore usually cheers me up.  But not my husband - when I come home laden with new books, all he feels is burdened with the knowledge that he's going to have to build another bookcase.  

My grandfather was responsible for my love of books and reading. One of my earliest memories is of sitting at their dining table, 'reading' a large Andy Pandy picture book, the kind with a big picture and a few small sentences on each page.  I knew it off by heart so it wasn't really reading.  And I was VERY young. But one day there was a visitor. And my grandfather wanted to show off my supposed skill.  Out came the book. A table was pulled up to the sofa. I remember kneeling on the sofa and starting to 'read'. The visitor, clearly a man not to be trifled with ( remember I was way too young to be able to read), stopped me and took the book away.  He put it back in front of me, with a paper covering the picture, and said, "Now read it."  I remember ( it makes me feel excited even now) looking at the words and realising that I could indeed READ them. I didn't need pictures. I didnt need memory. I could read. Anything. 

Then I understood why my grandparents' bedroom walls were made of books. There was magic. Everywhere!  And that excitement has never gone away.

"To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for oneself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life."  Somerset Maugham.  That was printed on an old broken bookmark in the only book I managed to salvage from my grandfather's vast collection after his death. 

I collect bookmarks too. 
Thanks Grampa. 

Monday, 22 December 2014


My brother and my husband are, it must be said, the most heterosexual men I have ever met. However, they do have a very special, close, (some would say too close) relationship. 

I won't spare you the details. It involves sheep, a river, a tripod and many cameras.  Oh, and wet trousers. 

It was a wonderful day. Sunshine, the Welsh mountains, our cameras, a hill walk along a river, waterfalls. 

Perhaps I should explain. One of my favourite activities is, with my brother, climbing up or down to very secluded waterfalls, along sometimes death-defying rocky precipitous 'paths', across rivers, through satisfyingly gloopy mud.  In the Welsh mountains.  With heavy bags of cameras on our backs. Preferably very (very) early in the morning.  It's great fun and we laugh a lot. 

On this particular day, husband John decided to accompany us, and we promised that the day would not be too boring for him. And it wasn't. Cross a river. Bit of a climb. Beautiful little waterfall. Another climb ("that looks interesting up there - there, look, just through that cloud cover..."). We got some lovely photographs. 

Then we climbed down. All well. Until we got back to the river. There was some discussion about the best way to cross. My suggestion was dismissed. They knew best. Nick set off into the water, balancing on the stones. D'you know how slippery ancient (literally - these mountains are millions of years old) ancient algae-covered stones are?  And the water was running very fast of course. 

You know when you see something happen and it looks like it's in slow motion?  Well .. that. Nick slipped (rather gracefully I thought) and fell face down in the water (this was important - on his back he had a bag full of thousands of pounds-worth of camera equipment!). He was clinging on valiantly to whatever he could find, to keep those cameras dry, but he was losing the battle. 

"Save him," I shrieked. "The cameras!" I shrieked. 

So my gallant husband waded in, on the same stones ..... with the same result. Not so gracefully this time, but he did land in exactly the same place, so right on top of my brother. Etched on my memory forever (if I get Alzheimer's I really think this is the one memory I will keep) is the sight of my husband looking extremely intimately connected to my brother. 

I think it was the flailing arms and legs and the grunting that did it. I confess that even before I knew they were safe the giggle started in the pit of my stomach. I think even the sheep were laughing. They certainly stopped eating to watch. 

When I at last stopped crying with laughter (it was like watching two Charlie Chaplins without the stick - but there was the tripod) and knew they were okay, I walked a little further down the riverbank (to the place I had suggested and they had dismissed as a crossing point) and crossed safely to the other side, dry. Except for the tears flooding down my face. 

John and Nick didn't talk to each other for the rest of the day. There was no need. 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

A break on the Gulf of Mexico. 
We arrived at sunset.  But we were so excited to see our friends we forgot about the sky outside. Then suddenly someone realised what we were missing. 
Isn't nature truly amazing? 
I must never forget to look up.


Revamp. Revitalise. Prettify. Now that sounds like a good idea for my life as well as for the blog :-). Especially the prettify bit.
Watch this space. 

Monday, 8 December 2014


My favourite 'pastime' (shouldn't that really be passtime if it's to mean 'the way I pass my time') is reading. So I think that this blog should also include books. 

For some years I thought about writing a blog dedicated entirely to books and reading. But I never got around to it ... I was too busy reading. Or maybe I just never had enough to say. Or maybe (!) I was just too lazy. 

I regret that I didn't ever record the books I've read (imagine how many pencils I'd have got through!). I think it would be interesting to know what I'd thought on first reading certain books. And what I've actually read. Yes I have thousands of books on my shelves, most of them already read, but there are also many many books I've read that I've either never owned or I've given away. 

So an occasional book blog will now happen. As a start .... I'm going back to Barnes and Noble today. Officially to look for certain films my son Sam would like for Christmas ...  

I have my discount card :-)

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Space: the Final Frontier

Apparently it will take thirty years for anyone to reach Mars from the earth.  I've always been fascinated by space and the Space Program, and I thought that going to investigate distant planets would be the perfect job for me.  

I have changed my mind.

Today we got up at 4.30am to drive to Cape Canaveral.  The chance to see the launch of the Orion, the beginnings of the long program to get people onto Mars, was too good an opportunity to miss.  The launch 'window' was between 7.05 and 9.45am.  At 6am we arrived at a perfect viewing spot.  We chatted with people from all over the world, even a couple from the next town to us in the UK!  Excitement filled the air.  One person was in text contact with one of the space engineers at the launch pad (friends in high places, indeed) and another with an engineer in Houston.  So we were well informed.  I was so excited I felt sick!

Tripod.  Camera.  Correct lens.  John had a camera too.  I had my iPad ready to video the whole thing.  (You can see where this is heading, I'm sure.)  I had my binoculars, and I could clearly see the launch pad and the rusty rockets that would push Orion into space.  I was there.

I remember watching on television with my dad the first moon landing in 1969.  He was even more excited than I was.  If he had been with me today, I think he would have been in danger of having what my brother delicately calls 'a trouser incident'!

It was all set to go on time.  The fog had cleared.  There was no wind.  Everything was perfect.  The countdown was set to start. Suddenly a helicopter swooped down towards the water.  Suddenly everything stopped.  There was a boat in the 'zone'.  The launch had to be delayed.  The countdown would start again in 25 minutes.  

In all there were three starts and stops.  The boat.  Some valves. Then the 'window' closed.  It was all over, but nothing had actually happened.  Come back tomorrow.

Deflated but determined to get something out of the day, we decided to go home the long way, and take some time to walk along the Atlantic coast.  We eventually got home nine and a half hours after we had left.  That's the length of a flight from the UK.  As I heard myself moaning about the journey, the smallness of the car (it isn't), why hadn't we brought more water with us, moan moan moan, I realised that I was never cut out to be an astronaut, shooting off to Mars in a capsule the size of my kitchen.

It's very disappointing.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


Armed with three cameras, assorted lenses and filters, FaceTime instructions from my teacher (my brother), and a photographer's assistant (my husband), I set off, intrepid explorer that I am, to explore the deserted interior of central Florida.

We drove on straight roads (it's as if the Romans had been here) and tracks, into the sort of areas you see in films - depicting strange families, inbred for generations, staring menacingly, undoubtedly armed to the teeth with the latest weaponry available to them.  The kind of people you don't want to stare at, or even look at actually in case you catch their eye ... much less stop the car, get out the camera bags, the tripod, etc etc to take photos of their houses!

So the cameras stayed in the boot.  I didn't get any decent photos of their houses - you know, those shacks with a porch and granny snoozing in the rocking chair.  We saw them. Briefly as we sped past.

My brother thinks I am a coward.  In this case, he is right.

Monday, 1 December 2014

At home?

Last week I found a local quilt store.  This is like finding a rival to Barnes and Noble; just as relaxing, and just as dangerous to the pocket.  The main difference is that all is silent and solitary at B&N, and all is raucous laughter and sharing at the quilt store.

As in the UK, quilters are the friendliest people, sharing skills, stories and snacks.  Today, at the morning 'sit and sew' I have been shown how to use a long-arm quilter, been given some help with machine embroidery, and sampled some Cuban food.  Once again I have been made to feel very much at home.  And that's exactly what I wished for.

I even had a long conversation, in German, with a lovely German couple there, thus proving that, even though I forget where I've put something or what someone is called, the German part of my brain has fully functioning cells, still fired up with the language.  This is very reassuring (but maybe means we should have moved to Germany for our dotage!)

However (and there had to be a 'but'), in the two hours I was there, John made a trip to Home Depot (UK readers, think your biggest B&Q x10) and then to a car showroom!  Fortunately all he bought was a 'damaged screw extractor'.

Please note I didn't buy anything.