Friday, May 28, 2021

It's a Wrap

 It's Friday and finally the weather forecast is something I'm happy to come out from behind the sofa to watch.  Ever late to the party, I considered today - on the brink of a heatwave - that we really should have bought a water butt to enable us to safely refresh the pond water.  Can I blame my idiocy on this morning's second dose of AstraZeneca?  I reckon so.

Much of this week has been clogged up with admin and other mundane activities.  However, we did have a knock on the door from a local former musician who now supplies vinyl wraps, requesting to purchase some of our rust paint to add a creative final flourish to his VW T5 in the form of a rusty bumper.  Gareth willingly assisted, showing him the best technique for texture and depth of colour, much to the bemusement of the neighbours, who are very much a part of the manicure your lawn/rush-out-and-sweep-a-single-leaf-off-the-drive/clean-and-valet-your-car-every-Sunday brigade (they don't get it).  This prompted an amusing conversation about gorilla rust painting and who would make the most amusing victims.

Anyway, this van is purple, with a Marvel's Suicide Squad-themed wrap.  It was simply too pedestrian as it was.  It needed a rusty bumper to make it stand out.  

A couple of days and a few photo messages later, the customer is really happy with his "swampy, rusty looking bumper" and dropped off a crate of Thatcher's cider as a thank you.

You think the man on the van looks insane?  Here's my latest self portrait or postcard from the edge, taken during one of our recent cold, wet, housebound days.  My other accessory is a latex Elf ear (I have no memory of why I purchased Elf ears, but I knew they would come in handy).  I shared this with a local Facebook photography group.  No one mentioned the obvious.  Perhaps they were afraid to ask.  Eventually, one tentatively commented "Elvish...?"

Our daily exercise has taken us to Kinver this week and after a lifetime's knowledge of our local area, it's always exciting to discover a new route.  We started at the usual viewpoint and I took my usual silhouette shot of whoever happened to be passing at the time.  The greyhound threw some cool shapes.

One of the best views from the top.

Eventually we wound down and back to a different car park at the far end of the National Trust's land and followed a different footpath.  This one took us away from the Edge and through an area of enormous Beech trees, leading to this stunning bluebell woodland glade....

...and onto a beautiful cabin in the woods, complete with woodcutting tools...(see inside),

....past an interesting farm/commune...

and back through some wonderful Hobbiton-like scenery...

and this glorious rapeseed field.

Back at home, I soaked up Rankin's Great British Photography Challenge.  I was initially sceptical that it was just another formulaic show and a direct copy of Masters of Photography.  However, there were some key differences.  First up, no one goes home.  Secondly, Rankin really seems to take an interest in the contestants as people and artists, nurturing their talent and sharing the benefit of his experience.  One thing I was very pleased about was when Rankin congratulated Jackson on his submission for the "Nature is Fragile" challenge.  It was a badger skull in woodland, with foliage placed in and around it. In true Blue Peter style, here's one I took earlier.  Genuinely, I took this a couple of days beforehand.

Sadly I don't have access to Anna Friel (the Celebrity challenge), but maybe I can count this portrait of Flynne, a well known Irish local VW enthusiast with ankle bothering dreadlocks.

On Monday evening, we also paid a visit to the local fair (it's been years!)  We didn't go on any rides (some of the most terrifying experiences I've had have been on fair rides), but happy to capture events for posterity.  Despite the sometimes questionable safety of these ride and terrible, pumping music, I think I would miss them if they were gone.

For some reason, this reminds me of Happy Mondays' Step On video.  I kept imagining Shaun Ryder's profile to pop up above the Blizzard sign.  (Just me?)

Back to reality and garden-wise, I've photographed some of the latest garden visitors,

Honey Bee

Brown Butterfly

potted up some pretty annuals,

a Dahlia...

...and some gorgeous black Violas.

We've also transformed the rusty old wheel barrow buried in undergrowth at the top of the garden, into a herb garden.  I may have mentioned that we don't have many sunny areas in our garden.  This way, we can chase the sun!

Included in this arrangement is a Bronze Fennel from The Hairy Pot Company, the brainchild of Derek and Caroline Taylor, whose hairy pots are planted directly into the ground with zero waste.  You can read about them here.  Kirton Farm Nurseries Ltd home of the Hairy Pot Plant Co

The wisteria's also out and smelling wonderful.

And so as another day comes to an end, feast your eyes on these images taken two nights ago, during the rise of the May full moon "Flower Moon."  The cloudscape was incredible.  I was disappointed not to see a UFO dropping below it.

Bank Holiday looms.  Ours is to include a National Trust visit with friends and a picnic. I have a blanket and some G&Ts.  The rest will come together I'm sure.  Have a good one!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Origin of the Species

 I feel a bit like a time traveller at the moment, having spent any spare time in the last several days immersed in the past, searching for solutions to long held secrets.

It started with the Shropshire building I mentioned.  It seems the older I get, the more curious I become.  Either that, or I now have the balls to ask questions!  I'm no longer content to ponder the whys and wheres of something that piques my interest - I need to know.  The owner of said building has now made contact and hopefully, time permitting, I will be able to share its story (or elements of it) very soon.

Shortly after, my Mom finally unearthed some old French postcards (blank) she had discovered buried in a drawer when she was sorting through my grandmother's belongings after her death in 2013. 

The postcards name the artist as Lambert and originated in Paris.  All carry the instruction: "Work a light in front of figure" in French and English.  The illustrations appear to be paper cut figures adhered to the cards.  

Mom mentioned them to me in passing at the time, as a couple were a little risque, but we both promptly forgot about them with so many other important issues to resolve.

We are both mystified as to the age and original owner of these postcards.  My grandad served on the Arctic Convoys in the second World War, but was not the sort to seek out such cards, let alone buy them.  That leaves my great grandfather.  Again, it doesn't seem to fit.  I know he served in India and I've found his draft records from New York City.  Did he make it to Paris?  I don't know.  Were they even purchased in France or were they gifted to someone in the family?  We'll never know, but I love them.

Within 24 hours of first laying eyes on them, here they are, framed and on display.

A little research suggests that they are hand cut and the artist was working from circa 1900 - certainly into the 1920s. 

I also revisited a few old photos from the family album that had seen better days and used what Photoshop skills I have to restore them.  Sadly many were blurry to begin with, so the best I could do was remove the blemishes, brighten and sharpen them a touch.

Here's my great grandparents, unceremoniously identified by blue biro....

...and now

This is my late Dad jumping on a horse called Premier....

...and now.  He's still barely identifiable, but I know it's him and at least the photo appears intact.  

Finally, here's my Uncle Terry at a Gymkhana event, looking no older than 11 in this photo, clutching what would be one of many trophies and a rosette in his teeth.  It's sad that this part of the family history is confined to a handful of photos.  When my grandmother died, there were numerous trophies and rosettes and many were simply thrown away.  In their heyday, the brothers were a force to be reckoned with in equestrian circles, so much so they were on the radar of a young British showjumper, Paddy McMahon, who went on to be European Champion.

I think that this photo appeared in the local newspaper at the time.  Terry, who would always be of fairly short stature, was christened "Jack the Giant Killer" by the local press.

Here's the photo after my efforts.  Not perfect, but better.

Inspired by these activities and at the encouragement of blogger Vix Vintage Vixen: Family ( decided to join Ancestry.  I'm so glad I did.  I have disappeared down so many rabbit holes.  It's unlikely I will share much on here, as I can see it's going to take many hours to decipher and absorb my ancestors' stories.  That said, I'll just throw a couple of names out into the ether:  Charles Darwin and Wedgewood.  Ever heard of them?  I find this highly amusing, given that I always thought my Mom's Wedgewood to be boring and old fashioned and we have a Tortoise in the family (Fred, still living at the parental home). As an aside, we always used to wind up our late friend, Ed, by mispronouncing words.  One example was "evoluted" which we would use in many a conversation, much to his disdain.  He could never not correct us, but to this day, I'm not sure if he thought we were serious.

Finally, with a nod to the future, I've received the news that one of my photographs has been shortlisted for The Hive's Reborn Exhibition in Shrewsbury later in the summer.  Fingers crossed.

How have you been whiling away the hours on these rainy May weekends?

Saturday, May 15, 2021


Let me start by asking who has been doing a rain dance?  I know the gardens needed watering, but really, it's getting ridiculous now.  Can we please have some semblance of summer and stop with the crazy weather?

Monday marked the date of Lotte's second jab.  As usual, she was the perfect travelling companion, making absolutely no noise and not attempting the splits when I placed her in the pet carrier.  Sadly, that is where the straightforwardness ends.  My attempt to resolve the chip number debacle failed miserably.  The vet scanned her, confirmed that the number was indeed the one on my records, but that she is registered under a totally different name (yet another one!)  Frustratingly, when I attempted to change the official microchip records online, none of the names I have match Lotte's number, so I'm unable to register us as her keepers.  Her previous owner is just as mystified, so for now, the ball is back in her court.  

In other news, her climbing skills know no bounds.  This week, she has added the following skills to her repertoire:-

1.  Running up the trunk of an oak tree and backflipping out of the tree onto the ground.

2.  Climbing the wisteria to roof level and sitting, like a big furry owl, keeping watch for birds, as per this rather hastily taken mobile shot - taken from the landing window.  

She is almost certainly unhinged.  Last night she woke me up by jumping on my pillow and chomping through the alarm clock aerial.

Wednesday marked a day of appointments; routine eye test at the local opticians and a visit to the chiropractor (turns out they know each other).  Like Lotte, my back is also unhinged - literally.  It's been playing up a lot lately and due to the pandemic, it's been 14 months since my last visit.  As a result, I now have one leg shorter than the other, which is kind of sexy.  Apparently this is a common and thankfully fixable complaint ("Just mechanics!" I was assured), but it can cause referred pain in addition to the usual back pain that causes me to walk like a scarecrow for a couple of minutes after sitting for too long.  I will have to re-mortgage at this rate or move to Cornwall, where chiropractic treatment is available on the NHS.

After a tip off from Vix, I ordered a home trial selection of glasses from Glasses Direct, convinced that my prescription had changed.  For once it hasn't, so, despite having fun posing in a selection of posh bins, I won't be needing them just yet...although I did sit on my other glasses once and Gareth had to glue the arm back if the fix doesn't last, I know where to go.

The moody weather has been great for photography.  I cut short my evening walk through the woods on Tuesday night after a couple of very loud claps of thunder.  However, here are the resulting images.   An Instagram follower tipped me off that the first photo had been featured by Shefali on the late BBC Midlands weather bulletin.  

There has been some debate online recently about the bluebells in the wood with some people mistaking the prevalent Spanish Bluebells for English Bluebells.  We have an area of our garden, which at this time of year, is totally dominated by Bluebells and White Bells.  However, they are Spanish.  But, an eagle eyed local pointed out that there appear to be hybrids springing up now and she's right.  Sometimes, it's quite tricky to identify with any certainty which are which.   

There's also a patch of wild garlic growing in the wood, which I'm very happy about.  Last year I made some wild garlic pesto and with that familiar aroma on the storm front breeze a few nights ago, I think it's time to harvest some for this year's pasta dishes.

When the rain finally stopped, Gareth started on the patio walls, finishing the first coat on the longest wall last night.

I put our Hollyhock seedlings out in the late afternoon sun and celebrated the opening of the first of the last batch of tulips.

The woodland ferns are popping up in all the right places this year and have started to unfurl.

The Laurel blossom is exploding like fireworks...

...and I just can't get enough Forget-Me-Nots... much so that I created this experimental image, which in retrospect, looks a little like the rear of the female form.

After a tip off from a friend, I've also submitted a photo to another Exhibition, to be held at The Hive in Shrewsbury later in the year.  Fingers crossed.

I'm expecting some much anticipated news this weekend on the interesting building I mentioned in my last post, after a Twitter user put me in touch with the owner.  Twitter isn't all about trolls - there are some great people on there.  

Have a wonderful weekend!

A Balancing Act

  I always find myself in a reflective, pensive mood at this time of year.  Life moves at pace and I'm finding it increasingly difficult...