Change of Pace….

The past few days have been a bit intense so today, this being a day of rest, I thought I would try a little bit of painting with my trusty iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and Procreate. As a result of this diversion I have completed another painting in my Women of The World series.

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Round, Round Round…

There was a time many years ago that I could set my watch by the RAF. 14:55 hrs every weekday, the RAF at Cottesmore* didn’t fly on weekends nor bank holidays, three tornadoes would come shouting up the Mease valley towards the base some 10/15 minutes flying time away.

The USAF were also flying around. This was the 1980’s, height of the cold war and all that. Back then it was A10’s out of Upper Hayford I believe but they too would be putting on their magnificent acrobatics. Anyone who has seen A10s slowly swooping through the countryside will know it is magical – the long slow loops round and around. I was once walking through the countryside towards the east of the county and I swear these two pilots were flying around and around me through the fields.

Then came Glasnost and suddenly the wall was gone and it was the end of history. It wasn’t, of course, but in the heady Clinton days who knew?

So what has all this ancient history got to do with taking photographs of birds in my garden this morning? Well it struck me the flights are back. It no longer is the RAF from Cottesmore nor the A10s from Upper Hayford but rather F15/16 flying back from Wales after honing their skills. You can always tell when they’re flying over – they go the wrong way and make such a racket about it. Where I live the predominant flight path is NW/SE but the Americans are usually East/West that is if it isn’t the spy planes out of Fairford which, in that case, is SW/NE. The F15/16 don’t fly as low as the Tornadoes but they seem to be louder. Perhaps I have got used to the quieter modern commercial aircraft engines , I don’t know. What I do know the USAF out of Lakenheath (or is it Mildenhall?) also like to be home for for afternoon tea as they fly back around about the same time as the RAF all those years ago.

It is amazing what you notices whilst sitting on a bench in your garden watching birds flutter about.

  • I know technically it wasn’t the RAF but rather the instructors and students from the joint training base teaching pilots to fly the Tornado but I have been on the base and it was an RAF base.
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Another Month Gone….

My friend told me the other week that when it comes to calculating how manys years such and such happened you must always remember to add one to your estimation because we all seem to have mental blockage about 2020. Now for some 2020 was, for many reason not just Covid, simply the worst year of their life. Fortunately, for most of us 2020 was a year to forget- hence the need to add a year.

So how has 2021 been for me? I find I am having difficulty thinking about the year at all. Some things have returned to a strange normalcy but yet very different. I know I have changed – much more cautious, much more likely to prefer the comfort of home to going out. This, of course, could be also part of the aging process, which I have to admit is starting to creep up on me. Every day my joints complain just a little bit more and the mirror shows that I am losing the fight with gravity. One of the greatest conceits that the young hold is that they will never get hold nor will they ever die. One may be correct but in the end we all die. Whether any part of our life lives on beyond those who knew us on a daily basis is not in our control.

This brings us to Kedleston Hall. When the grounds were laid out in the middle of the 18th century the then owner of the house would never have seen it as we now enjoy it today. He might have an idea and Robert Adams plans and descriptions but that is all. No doubt by the time he died it would have matured but the plan was for generations to come. As a member of those future generation I would like to thank them for their foresight: It is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year and I find it especially good at lifting the morale when the grind of life is just a little too much to bare. We all have those days/weeks/months and the unfettered air of Derbyshire helps me purge the heavy metals of life away for just a while.

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Living in a land of confusion….

Do we or don’t why? That is the question

At the moment the jury is out on the best way to live your life in this Pandemic/Post Pandemic world. Now I understand the government’s predicament – they had claimed, well Boris had claimed, that when Freedom Day arrived we’ll all be, well free, to carry on our lives as if the pandemic had never happened. Only it did and is continuing to exist and people are still getting sick and some of those are dying. So we are in the crazy position that we can do all the things we did before but the government would appreciate it if we didn’t because, you know, Covid. I could bang on about the inept way that this government has handled things but too many words have already been written. The government has, many people have died possibly as a result of this ineptitude and no amount of well deserved praise for the vaccine roll out will replace the site of those crammed trains just before Christmas as a result of failure of the government to get a grip. Shortly after this we started to suffer the worst wave of the pandemic. Are these connected? I don’t know but I do have my suspicions.

The vaccine roll out has been world class; The science has been world class but so have the death rates. How many of these deaths could have been prevented by a better government? It is impossible to say but it is not a difficult counterfactual to consider.

So do we continue to wear masks? Well I do and in the strange middle England, National Trust world I inhabit so do most of the people I come in contact with. Is this wise? I suspect from a purely epidemiological assessment it probably doesn’t make that much of a difference as the people I come in contact with no doubt are double jabbers so don’t really present that much of problem. I suspect this is a microcosm of how the world has changed: we now go about our business with a sense of insecurity. I know I have changed my behaviour and no longer undertake things I did before. Will I change my stance? Well that depends on how the pandemic develops but the one thing I don’t believe is that this is anywhere near over and I do suspect that we will have to endure further restrictions in the future when the inevitable new variant appears.

Still it does give me time to work on my Women of the World series of paintings.

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Melting in the heat…

I know this is a view that could get me cancelled (not sure from what?) but I don’t like the summer heat. “Sacrilege”, I hear the hoards shouting. It is an act of faith that we must get out and enjoy the sun! Well I don’t. The best part of a hot summer’s day is early morning other than that you’ll find me hiding in the shade.

For many creatures though the summer is all they’ll ever know as their lives are short so I guess for them the heat is fine. Not me.

Roll on a great autumn morning: Mists and mellow fruits.

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Garden Bench Photographer….

Sunny summer morning. Feed the birds and time just to relax on the garden bench, watch the world go by and perhaps take a few photographs. The usual suspects devoured the mealworms then the Wren started to put on a show.

For such a small bird it has a remarkably loud voice.

RSPB Website

The Wrens really work hard to bring up their brood. I know there are at least two chicks in the nest because, like their parents, the chicks have a remarkably loud voice and so I can hear more than one crying out for food when one of the parents arrive.

The photographs are ridiculous close ups as the birds themselves are no more than 10 cm in length so the photographs above, depending on the device you are looking at these images, are way bigger than the bird itself.

I have been trying to capture some interesting images of the Wrens ever since they took up residence in the hydrangea on fence and from time to time I have been successful. Today the lighting was perfect and the Wren just decided to put on a bit of a display – I couldn’t believe my luck. Of course it could be argued that I might be disturbing the birds whilst feeding but that isn’t the case. They fly in and out all the time whilst I have been sitting on the garden bench without giving me a second thought. I guess they’ve just gotten used to me or frankly they don’t care. Whatever the reason it was just a privilege to spend a short amount of time with one of Britain’s smallest yet loudest birds. Not a bad way to start the day.

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Black Widow or the tail of two Fridays

Two Fridays; Two days under the weather and Two movies. There reaches a point in life where you start to realise that your body is now starting to pay for all those years of abuse in the past. I think I might have started to reach that point. Of far more importance – what were the movies?

Last night I thoroughly enjoyed Blackwidow. It is nonsense with plot holes large enough you could stick the Stark Tower through but that is not the point. If you want gritty reality then a Marvel movies is not for you. No instead they have become some of the best ever popcorn movies. I no longer have the bladder to endure them in the cinema anymore (forgetting for a moment any concerns with Covid you might have) so enjoyed Blackwidow at home and what a treat it was. The casting was perfect apart from Ray Winstone and even that didn’t distract from the movie.

Much of the criticism I have seen so far has been about why it has taken so long for such a movie to be produced? This may well be a valid argument against the system but it should not put off anyone going to see the movies in whatever form is most appealing to them.

To compare and contrast Blackwidow one only has to watch the unwatchable nonsense of The Tomorrow Wars. This is another huge Sci Fi movie again with a plot that makes no sense only this time everything is so bad that I found myself counting the number of nonsensical plot twists. Perhaps the biggest hole is the saving of the world thanks to someone who Chris Pratt’s character meets professionally (I don’t think that is a spoiler but if it is then I’m sorry). Having just read the Wiki entry for this film it would seem that many people may well disagree with me and that, of course, is fine. The most dispiriting thing is that there is talk of a sequel. Hollywood knows no depths of shame. Perhaps the two are the antithesis of one another: One has a plot, humour, characters who you can root for and polished production values. The other is The Tomorrow Wars.

I hope I feel better by next Friday as I don’t think there is another blockbuster to watch.

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Testing Times….

I spent most of yesterday testing new focusing setting on my camera to see if I could improve things. I learnt a lot.

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Windows Fanboy….

I have been a fully paid up member of the Apple walled garden for nearly 12 years now. Before then I was a Windows fanboy. Perhaps the most ludicrous thing I did was drive forty miles to buy a copy of Windows 95 on the night it was released – god I’m getting old. Yes those were the days: knocking up small programs in Visual Basic to met my needs; slamming in new hardware into the inevitable Dell I owned at the time just to make things go a little faster – they rarely did. It was a crazy time and the thought of using a Mac left me feeling bemused. What would I do that when windows can do everything a Mac could do and was so much cheaper?

These memories came flooding back the other day when I saw that Windows 11 was being announced to muted fanfare, certainly compared to the whoop fest that is an Apple event. Then the down side of running Windows became apparent too. We who live in the walled garden are used to getting upgrades for free and that they will work on older iMacs for a number of years. We don’t have to worry if it is capable of running this driver or that software or whether it has a TPM2.0 chip. As I understand things few Windows users even know what a TPM2.0 chip is and so they will have to suddenly dive into the system specs of their machine to find out. I don’t miss that at all.

The last thing I want to do nowadays is working out whether I have a TPM2.0 – I just need to know which year my machine was made and usually Apple support their machines for at least 6 years usually a few years longer afterwards with security updates even if they can’t run the latest version of the Mac OS. Am I an Apple Fanboy now? Yes and No. Yes I have an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and iMac and yes I do watch the latest Apple Event. But no as I still see Apple for what it is – an unbelievably rich tech company that comes across very very smug. Do I regret my Damascene conversion? Not a bit of it. I enjoy my life in the garden – the flowers and beautiful and the scent of manure is just the slightest hint smug. And just to ram the point home I thought I would use some images from our recent trip to Hidcote Manor. Too obvious? Don’t care.

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Already Brushing off the Dust…

So after several weeks I’ve got my digital brushes and pallet out and made a painting. It is great using a different side of what is left of my addled brain.

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