Highclere

Foolishly arriving on a bank holiday weekend, we lay low with The Son and his wife for a couple of days before collecting a hire car (Golf, atrocious gearbox, no power) and heading north for our first stop: Highclere castle; the shooting location for Downton Abbey and therefore on she who must be obeyed’s “must do” list; along with needing to visit a massive shopping centre and some other things I conveniently forgot before we even arrived.

My cameras for the holiday were the E-M1 with a couple of lenses, plus the dinky 1951 Leica IIIC and a bag of film.

Here’s Highclere with the E-M1:

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and here it is again with the Leica:

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We’ve certainly come a long way photographically in 66 years….

After paying most of our holiday funds for entry, we made a tour of the house where photography was not permitted. Pretty enough, and cleverly peppered with production shots from the TV series in various rooms so you could recognise where each room featured in the series. The rooms were also cleverly peppered with photos of the current aristocratic living in the place; so we wouldn’t feel to bad about giving all our money to the already obscenely rich.

After parading through the small portion of the house open to the public; we were ejected into the grounds and gardens.

Highclere

Highclere

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Pleasant enough, and at least it didn’t rain like it did for most of the rest of the holiday.

September 23rd, 2017|0 Comments

You did what?

Full story to follow.

September 21st, 2017|1 Comment

Up in the Airbnb

For part of our grand tour around the UK we were to be joined by The Son. Two hotel rooms would have been an expensive option, so instead we decided on a series of Airbnb rentals; three country cottages and one city apartment. They were all good, but two stood out.

Manchester’s Northern Quarter is the place to be in the north west (allegedly); and for one night our home was an apartment slap in the middle of the action. It was an unremarkable space; but what made it stand out was the fact that it was positively stuffed with stuff; as if the owner had furnished it, not for rental, but for him to live in. The lady who showed us round confirmed that the owner had spent months buying items to furnish and decorate the place. Very trusting, it would just take one dodgy renter to come along and completely fuck it up.

I rather liked the view out of the window too.

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The other special place was a cottage in Northumberland. It was similar to the other cottages we rented, walls a metre thick, quirky ceilings, log fires..

…but it also offered access to a private estate (with fishing rights if desired). This read a bit like sales talk, but the reality was far grander than we had imagined.

This was just some of the land, part of an estate surrounding a beautiful house which was presently unoccupied; which meant we had the grounds to ourselves and could also stare through the windows at the opulence contained within the mansion.

I came over all socialist for a while, but then wandered off and consoled myself by picking apples from the private orchard.

There were deer and red squirrels to be seen on the estate, so I was out every morning with my camera, but never saw more than a rabbit.

This cottage also won our award for the best welcome pack:

I am sure that an Airbnb experience can go horribly wrong, but it worked well for us. You can choose a hotel room and whatever horrors await for breakfast; or dine in your private estate with Prosecco, toast and honey for breakfast.

September 21st, 2017|0 Comments

The wanderer returneth

The many some one outpouring of concern has been noted (thanks Pete); but worry not gentle reader, I have merely been away for a few weeks well deserved holiday; taking a break from the constant pressure of watching Netflix and dicking around on the computer here in Pattaya.

And where have I been?

Yep, she who must be obeyed requested a return to my motherland and was duly rewarded with buckets of rain and continual cold. Still, it was August, what else would you expect?

Now we are retuned, lighter of pocket and loaded with photos and memories, some of which will not doubt be heading this way.

September 19th, 2017|2 Comments

Clown control to Major Tom

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August 20th, 2017|Comments Off on Clown control to Major Tom

The watch shop

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August 19th, 2017|Comments Off on The watch shop

A face only a mother could love

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August 19th, 2017|2 Comments

220 kilos

Our house has a large and pleasant garden, at the front. To maximise frontal space, the rear is a narrow lane, partially covered in white pebbles, with brown pebbles and paving slabs supposedly indicating a pathway. It is also home to three aircon units and two septic tanks; and it looked (and slightly smelled) like shit.

As mentioned in a previous post, over time, the brown pebbles had mixed with the white pebbles and an insufficient initial covering had resulted in the blue plastic beneath showing through, accompanied by abundant weeds. The walls were peeling and the overall effect was one of urban desolation. A bit of an embarrassment, and it was fortunate that the area was rarely visited other than by septic tank emptiers who were too busy avoiding covering themselves in poo to notice the surrounding mess.

She who must be obeyed announced a desire to install some plants in this alley of sorrow, so that when we looked out of the windows we would see green rather than peeling paint. This triggered a response from me.

“Before we buy any plants, we have to make the alley look better”.
“Shall I get a quote to do the work?”
“No, no, no; I’ll do it”.

I was to regret those words for the next two weeks.

For several days I sat on a little stool, picking out brown pebbles by hand and transferring them to a pile with my wheelbarrow. Then I picked up the white pebbles and moved them to a separate pile. Finally I was allowed to stand in order to power wash the walls, apply a sealing coat to the exposed brick, followed by two coats of paint. Then I laid some new plastic matting intended to prevent weeds growing, and picked up the brown pebbles by hand and put them in the area around the corner of the little lane. I was already heartily sick of picking up sodding pebbles, but time to attack the white pile and move them back to the long lane. Given that the initial pebble covering had been insufficient, of course I ran out of pebbles, so it was off to a local garden centre where we paid an outrageous 60 baht a 5KG bag for 10 bags. I laid them out, measured the area covered, measured the area remaining, and calculated I need another 2,200 kilos to complete the job. After a period of breathlessness I realised I had more zeroes then necessary and confirmed I actually needed to purchase 220 kilos of pebbles; 44 bags.

It was at this time that I also calculated that I had hand lifted more than a tonne of pebbles out of the alley, and hand lifted them to put them back again. No wonder I was sick of pebbles.

Some forum searching indicated that best place to buy pebbles was at Ang Sila, a bit of a drive up the coast. My wife had other ideas.” We can go to Sattahip, plenty of shops there”. So we did.

We stop at the first gardening centre we come to and she who must be obeyed heads inside to negotiate a price, She returns and reports 45 baht a bag, discounted to 40 baht if we buy 44 bags. Sounds like a bargain; but the gardening centre owner says that she buys her pebbles from a nearby wholesale centre; so why don’t we go there. Very kind, if not very businesslike.

“So, how do we get to the wholesaler”, I innocently enquire?
“Turn right at the junction.”

Easy, so off down the road to the junction where turning right would not take us anywhere.
My wife expands the directions. “Not this junction, Phlu Ta Luang junction”, which, after a search of Google maps, turns out to be some distance away. So we go there and turn right but can find no sign of a pebble outlet.

My wife expands the directions. “Turn right and then across the next traffic lights. I think; I am starting to forget what she said”. So we do that and find ourselves on the road to U-Tapao airport, surrounded by navy land.

My wife expands the directions. Then contracts them. Then gets totally confused; and an hour and a half later we have covered every road in Sattahip with no sign of a significant pebble outlet, wholesale or otherwise. Tired, irritable, hungry (and that’s just me); we stumble across a shop that will sell us pebbles at 43 baht a sack. She who must be obeyed suggests we could return to the original outlet and pay 40 baht, but I have had enough and gladly hand over cash for 50 bags; wanting a bag contingency because no way am I going out on a trip to buy pebbles again.

Back home I cast my final batch of pebbles and stand back to admire the result. Certainly an improvement.

A couple of learning points from this experience:
1. When my wife get directions she must write them down before we go anywhere.
2. When my wife says “shall I get a quote?”, the answer is always “yes”.

August 15th, 2017|4 Comments

Locked guru

Although I would never tell him to his face, I really admire Rick@Knees. He’s a chain smoking old fart, but with an enthusiasm and passion for photography that makes him an interesting companion on outings. His technical proficiency is peerless, and watching him smoothly operate his various cameras is impressive; usually.

We met up at the Million Year Stone Park which I last visited some time ago. The entrance fee was a 150 baht (with a driving licence) and I was happy to find that they have significantly increased the number of stones (whatever their age) since my last visit, with only the occasional concrete animal nonsense to spoil the surroundings (take note Nong Nuch). The handbag production facility is still in full swing, but the hourly crocodile show can be avoided. Good photo location.

Rick@Knees modus operandi is to move from shot to shot, occasionally checking the screen on the back of his camera and muttering modestly “God I’m good” whenever anyone is in earshot. But this morning was different. There wasn’t a lot of moving; instead he was just staring at his camera muttering “Locked”, with an added “fuck!” for emphasis on occasion.

I gloatingly enquired as to the problem.

“It says ‘lock’ on the screen, and I can’t change anything”.

“Take out the battery and then replace it” I suggested, bringing to bear my extensive technical knowledge”.

“I did”.

Well, you’re fucked then, serves you right for buying a Fuji” I offered in my most helpful tone; and I wandered off to take some photos with my non-locked Panasonic.

Eventually he resorted to looking up the manual on his phone to find a solution, but the damage to his reputation had been done and I had mentally downgraded him from “supreme guru” to “guru who fucks up and locks things when he doesn’t mean to”.

Some unlocked Panasonic Infrared shots:

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August 13th, 2017|5 Comments

Ends with a zero

Up at 0600 this morning to take she who must be obeyed to present various food offerings to monks. I don’t normally get involved with such adventures, but it was her birthday so I made an exception. Being a lady, it would not be polite for me to share her age, but telling you that it ends with a zero and should be a time when life begins is giving nothing away. After the monk food thingie, I spent the rest of the day in a rather hot garden, painting walls, moving pebbles, and cursing the day I bought the sodding wheelbarrow.

Also ending in zero is my photo total on Flickr, 10,000 to be precise; with the 10,000th shot being that of the head monk receiving alms this morning.

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August 8th, 2017|Comments Off on Ends with a zero