Friday, November 26, 2021

Balls to Black Friday

The week started with a timely reminder that nature still has some semblance of grip on the seasons.  The temperature plummeted, we had our first significant frost and Autumn's glorious display is hanging by a thread.

On Monday, a large part of my day was taken up with screen time, finishing off a total of six images I have decided to turn into sets of postcards.  I've chosen an eclectic mix and selected a company that appears absolutely dedicated to ensuring that its products are, as far as possible, sustainable and eco friendly.  Finally, when they were press ready, I hit SEND and crossed my fingers and toes that they turn out as I envisage.

As seems typical these days, by Tuesday, I was already overwhelmed by the news.  Our NHS is struggling now in the face of what is being called "a pandemic of the unvaccinated" and with two friends now being directly impacted by the pressures on our health service, I am all out of patience with the anti vax movement.  I switched off, decided to face the gloom head on and took myself off through the garden gate for some self-prescribed nature therapy in the form of an afternoon walk in the wood.

En route to the garden gate, I made a mental note to commence the Autumn clear-up operation and rake up the remaining leaves carpeting the patio and garden.  I have been trying desperately to capture Lotte (who really should have been christened Autumn), camouflaged amongst the russet coloured leaves.  Unfortunately, she either runs away and heads for one of her favourite spots on top of the Rover P6 or snakes around my legs, rendering the possibility of obtaining a decent photograph impossible.  Here's the best I could do to show off her own unique Autumn display.  




Ridgehill Wood as it's now known, is often referred to as "Cally Wood" locally.  I never really questioned why and it wasn't until we bought our house in the late 1990s that we spotted the woodland  referred to as "California" on our deeds.  One theory is that the crop of pines, planted shortly after the first world war echoed the woods of California with their statuesque silhouettes pinned against the ridge's horizon.  This was once my view from the bedroom window.  The pines were cropped 2 years ago now and have been replaced by a mix of broadleaf trees.



Just an hour in the wooded area so familiar to me (as a child I used to call it "the plants") and all is well in the world.  Even though we have exhausted every route around and through the wood, it is still possible to see something new and I strive to capture it differently every time.

For example, the elements and wildlife have taken their toll on some of the trees and I was captivated by these exposed and ghostly branches.





The golden pathways won't last for long, but they give the area an ethereal glow.



The remaining leaves are sparse now, but beautifully highlight the shapes of the trees.




Nature inspires romance.



Don't forget to look up!



In other news, on Wednesday we all had our flu jabs as per the Government's recommendation for our first winter of freedom since Covid struck.  All was fine until I crashed at around 9 pm with overwhelming tiredness.  I stuck it out until 10pm, but slept like a baby - for once.  I felt better, but still quite tired on Thursday.

By Friday morning, I was back to normal, but the day delivered yet more bad news with reports of a concerning new Covid variant.  It's all too reminiscent of early 2020 and the writing's on the wall I fear.  Nature beckons (not that I ever left her).   Black Friday is living up to its name in every sense.

Instead of embracing the planet polluting Black Friday, the Woodland Trust are encouraging us to "Make Black Friday Green" and plant a tree.  We have more than enough trees on our patch, but here's the link if anyone's interested.  Delivery is free.  Even if you're not in the market for one, scrolling through this site is good for the soul.

British Trees For Sale: Buy Trees & Packs - Woodland Trust | Woodland Trust Shop

I also spotted that ethical menswear brand Brothers We Stand have closed their platform for 24 hours with this message.  

Ethical men's clothing | Brothers We Stand

With inclement weather setting in for the next couple of days, I shall focus on sorting out my wardrobe and maybe supplementing it with pre-loved bargains.  Having decided that I needed some new ankle boot wellies for monsoon season (much easier to pull off), I settled upon a pair of Crocs wellies in cherry red I spotted on eBay.  I made an offer, which was accepted and these shiny lovelies are on their way to me.  


My old knee high Hunter wellies have been retained for those occasions when the wood identifies as a swamp (usually by mid January) but given that I almost put my back out getting them on and off, the Crocs boots should be much easier to manhandle, not to mention more stylish.    

I have to admit, that when I started trawling charity shops for second hand bargains in my late teens, it was out of necessity, but I can honestly say now, hand on heart, I find it way more fun than the instant and short lived fix of buying new.  So balls to Black Friday! I'm advocating Second Hand Saturday!


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Autumn's Swan Song

Well, we've had another odd week (is there any other kind these days?)  It started well enough, with the arrival of a parcel from Vix containing "Slammerkin"- a recommended read, accompanied by a postcard featuring one of my favourite photos by Steve McCurry.

On the same day, Gareth discovered that the pond level had dropped dramatically.  He decided to monitor the situation for a couple of days, but upon further investigation, it was clear all was not well.  

Meanwhile, I was having my own problems, as my editing software was at best, exceptionally slow and at worst, unresponsive.  I was forced to seek help via an online chat.  When this failed to fully resolve matters, I agreed to allow the technical assistant to share my screen.  I still find this concept quite bizarre.  The issue was identified within the hour, but somehow, 3 hours later, Sandar, my virtual companion, was still in my screen, randomly asking me questions about the format I shoot in and my storage system, his cursor hovering over certain experimental photos of mine which perhaps would have benefitted from an explanation....(what's with the ear?)...

...and occasionally issuing me with instructions.  

I confess I reached a point where I thought that we would be trapped together in a virtual world forevermore.   He was oblivious when I did break off to make some tea and seemed happy beavering away in cyberspace.  But eventually my technical trauma came to an end.  But before I could fully relax, Gareth decided to tap on the patio doors and, under torch light (it was now dark), showed me a rather large toad, which seemed to  be resting contentedly on his hand.  On closer inspection, there was something very wrong about the toad's prone position and milky gaze.  Plus it wasn't just large, it was bloated and the stuff of nightmares.  No surprise that I needed an Advocaat to calm my nerves (well, it's nearly Christmas).  

The pond, it transpired, had been punctured by an unknown party.  The chief suspects are:-

1.  Next door's dog.  

Evidence:  Our neighbours had recently been working on their fencing and there was a stray tennis ball next to the pond.

2.  Heron.  

Evidence:  None needed.  Mr H is always in the suspect line up in these circumstances.

3.  Moles. 

Evidence:  We have periodically been plagued by moles.  We always elect to ignore them and they usually move on, but there are currently three mole hills triangulating one corner of the pond.  Could it be the result of over zealous digging?

The frogs and remaining toads were temporarily relocated while Gareth put down a new pond liner and re-filled the pond.  The plants and pondlife are now back in position.  Luckily we're not particularly overlooked in our garden.  If we were, I'm not sure what the neighbours would have made of a man, seemingly covered in mud, standing in and swearing at a hole in the ground at 1 am.

In other news, I was finally able to watch The Colour Room, a film directed by Claire McCarthy, whose credits include the mesmerising TV adaptation of The Luminaries.  

The Colour Room, starring Phoebe Dynevor, Matthew Goode and David Morrissey, charts the meteoric rise of ceramicist Clarice Cliff from factory floor girl to owner/artist.  


I was fortunate enough to do a stint as a filming assistant on this earlier in the year when the Black Country Living Museum was used as a location.  The film didn't disappoint.  

If anyone has any spare Bizarre range items lying around (now commanding prices upwards of £200 on Ebay), I'd be more than happy to take them off your hands.

The vibrant colours beloved by Cliff are evident all around us right now.  I'm estimating that we have perhaps one more week of falling leaves and Autumn colours before winter's shades of grey colour palette takes over.

The oak tree leaves - always the last to fall - are rapidly turning now.  They won't be long.


The ferns and bracken are enjoying a final flourish.


The trees golden tips are scorched orange and red now and the slightest whisper of wind will take them.




Seed heads are adopting their final poses.


But there are still pops of colour evident in the yellow lit gorse bushes.

All aboard the Autumn Express!  Here's a timely shot of a yellow diesel engine on the Severn Valley Railway passing through the autumn landscape captured on our walk yesterday.

This distant shot of a sailing yacht on Trimpley Reservoir taken through the trees from a nearby hillside was barely edited - just look at the colours in that landscape!

The journey home made for some challenging photography conditions.  These photos taken with my Nikon from the passenger seat of a moving car through a dirty windscreen, are my attempts to capture the fiery glow from last night's sunset, lighting up the trees.






This year's colour display has been late to arrive and all too fleeting, but so inspiring.  


Sunday, November 14, 2021

Where It All Began

How's your week been? This week I have been mostly working and despairing at the news, particularly the summary of COP26 by one climate change professor on TV who described the assembled world leaders as "tinkering at the edges" and suggesting that we should be taking to the streets in our millions.  Was I alone in naively thinking that COP26 was the first of its kind? I mean obviously the number 26 is a bit of a giveaway, but why was has there been an apparent news blackout of this crucially important event in previous years? 

In the midst of this s*!tstorm, our esteemed leader saw fit to take a private jet from Glasgow back to London, whilst studiously ploughing through another kind of storm; this one created by the gathering clouds of sleaze currently permeating the UK government and Conservative Party in general. I read an interview with writer/actor Mark Gatiss recently in which he claimed he no longer watches the news. I can relate.  I'm conflicted by the desire to be kept informed and the abject horror at the relentless pile on of bad news. 

To distract myself this week, I've been considering my lifestyle and asking myself whether I'm doing enough. The short answer is no. None of us are, although I'm sure the majority of us are trying. 

To break it down, we recycle, try not to waste food, don't leave taps running and are trying to find ways to make our 1930s property more energy efficient (this is quite a big ask). 

Typical 1930s properties captured in a neighbouring street, Nikon D7500 50mm lens

We work from home, at least give consideration to the car journeys we take, rarely fly and I think I have perhaps bought no more than two items of new clothing this past year. Similarly, our home is furnished with an eclectic mix of second hand finds and antiques. Any new purchases have always been made with our hearts and have therefore stood the test of time. We're not consumerists; we don't redecorate annually or slavishly follow interior design trends. 

In addition, Gareth, a former product designer, has long detested plastic and I recall us wrestling with our consciences over the number of plastic toys our son was gifted throughout his childhood. We've since donated many to charity or retained them, to delay as far as possible their inevitable landfill demise. 

But fear not, I'm not about to start polishing my halo. We need to make improvements. We're driving around in a dirty diesel (bar the occasional and perfectly legal cooking oil refill)... 

Our car unsuccessfully trying shadow puppetry


...and there are times when the cold really starts to bite and the heating's on, that I think we would be no worse off if we had all the doors and windows open. The problem is in order to effectively insulate our house, we would need to carpet (eek!) everywhere. Apparently cavity wall insulation is not really an option for us and in any event, is not always 100% effective in older properties. We could clad the outside of the house or install solar panels but at what cost? We have a couple of open fires, but we're in a smokeless zone (not that anyone around here takes any notice of that) and much of the heat escapes through the chimney. 

But these are considerations for us to mull over during the bleak winter months, so to lighten the mood and to keep me on track in terms of buying pre-loved items of clothing, I thought I'd share with you a few of this week's charity shop finds. Yes, I braved a few this week in my vaccine weakened state, as cases of Covid in the UK do now seem to be declining. Hurray! 

First up this mohair vintage jumper from one time High Street staple, British Home Stores, which is in remarkable condition and cost me all of £3.95. I handed over my money and wrestled it into one of my "handy" tote bags, which, it turns out, wasn't so handy. I carried the bulging bag across town and when I met up with Gareth, he asked me why I was carrying a small dog in a shopping bag. 



The remainder of this week's purchases are all non vintage but caught my eye for various reasons. I tend to gravitate towards a certain colour every season. This seasons's colour, orange, is quite Autumn appropriate. Having bagged an orange polo neck jumper a couple of weeks ago, I spied it's fair weather sister garment, originally from Warehouse.  Here it is, teamed with a Zara denim jacket I bagged for a fiver. Forgive the double denim/make-up free sleep deprived horror show - I just happened to throw it on for a photo over my existing jeans.  I love the textured pattern and given that we seem to be experiencing a relatively mild winter so far, it should see some action. 


Inspired by Ann and her eye for a great print, Polyester Princess: True colours (polyester-princess.blogspot.com), I was on the lookout for a snazzy (yes, I appear to have reached the age where "snazzy" is an acceptable adjective) printed blouse and this caught my eye. 


The label read Numph. The quality was good and whilst I couldn't think of anything in my wardrobe it would work with, I didn't let such a mere trifle stop me from making the purchase. I discovered later that Numph is a Danish label designed from hand drawn prints. According to the website, "Numph embraces our dreams, personalities and creativity: the whimsical and strinent, the feminine and cool". Sold! 

One item that is currently eluding me is a corduroy dress. I have a thing for corduroy. Last year, one of the few new items I bought was black corduroy dungarees. I found them so much warmer than denim and wore them repeatedly. I was recently outbid on a Justine Tabak corduroy dress so my quest continues. In the meantime, I decided to layer my new blouse over a white polo neck jumper to make the colours pop a little more and teamed it with my dungarees and a pair of recycled metal earrings. I think it works, although I always think there's an air of pre-school TV or Changing Rooms about dungarees. Still, I'm available should Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen's colleagues stage a walk out. 



On Saturday we decided to take a trip to the place that served as the catalyst for climate change, Coalbrookdale/Ironbridge. I selected a wide angle lens to best capture the gorge and the hill flanked multi layered buildings that make up Ironbridge, but sadly, as we rounded the windy approach to Coalbrookdale, I discovered that I had forgotten my memory card. The pain! So events were instead viewed and recorded through an iphone lens. 




Ironbridge is wonderful for an Autumn day out. The newly painted bridge, transitional Autumn foliage and orange tinged pewter skies made for some nice moody landscape shots.






Signs of the area's industrial heritage are everywhere. 




The Christmas shop was full to bursting. 




I would happily live here, being a fan of high ceilings and Georgian architecture.



Whilst I feel fortunate to live so close to a World Heritage Site, we are all now also sharing the guilt that maybe the Industrial Revolution wasn't the best plan in retrospect and the devastating flooding experienced here in recent years is testament to its impact upon our climate.
 


I love the steep steps and passageways that criss-cross this town.


Naturally we had to visit the town's only charity shop. We left empty handed but not before I'd captured the till area. What a clever idea!


I had more luck next door in the bookshop on The Square.


Having recently read a positive review of Candice Carty-Williams' debut novel Queenie by Sophie Dahl, this book was languishing on a books of interest list in the back of my mind...and there it was, sitting in a basket outside the second hand bookshop...next to Carl Chinn's Peaky Blinders; The Real Story. 


A couple more for the pile, which also includes this separate purchase "Violet Bent Backwards Over The Grass" by singer Lana Del Ray, who appears to have stolen one of my backburner ideas and created a photo book with poetry! 


Signs of the forthcoming Remembrance Sunday were everywhere, the town having been decorated with randomly placed giant poppies. 



So as I finish this blog post, we are experiencing a minute's silence to remember the fallen. I wonder what they would make of the current state of affairs...? I dread to think. 

Ironbridge featured on the local news recently given its role in the industrial revolution and ensuing global warming. The item ended on a hopeful note, with the town's delegates insisting that we humans are resourceful and adaptable and that perhaps one day, someone with a link to the town might become part of the solution. I'll finish with a photo I took a couple of years ago after a visit to a poppy field. In a sea of red, this solo white poppy stood proud. I saw it as a symbol of hope. 

Please feel free to leave a comment below with positive vibes, your latest read or news from your part of the world.  Take care all and see you soon!


She's a Rainbow

I'll start this post with the meteorological phenomenon that is a rainbow, shot both from the door step and through the rain-soaked loft...