Saturday 24 October 2009

I've Arrived

I'm now in New Zealand.  There's a fair bit to do today getting all my stuff out of 'The Cupboard' and settling in and catching up with the family.  I hope to start blogging on A Hebridean in New Zealand tomorrow.  I hope you join me there.  Bye for now.

Thursday 22 October 2009

A Wonderful Flight

Yesterday I travelled from Stornoway to Glasgow: a journey I have made many hundreds of times over the last 35 years.  There are four seats on the plane from which decent photos can be taken.  I was lucky enough yesterday to have one of those seats.  The Captain had spoken to us before we took off and she said that she would be flying lower than usual because it was such a wonderful day that she wanted us to enjoy the views.  I thought that I had become blasĂ© about the beauty of flying.  Indeed I had.  But yesterday was magical.  I took 203 photos.  They may not do the scenes justice because they were taken into the sun through a fairly dirty window.  But there are five of them:

Looking south down the east coast of Lewis

The Schiant Isles off the east coast of Harris

The rest are over the west coast of Scotland and the Inner Hebrides

Wednesday 21 October 2009

The Journey Across The World

Today's journey is the 284k/177mile flight from Stornoway to Glasgow. I shall stay with friends John and Sue near Glasgow Airport tonight and Gaz will come tomorrow and spend some time and take me to the airport.

Tomorrow I travel from Glasgow to London Heathrow (556k/345m) to arrive there early afternoon.

Later in the afternoon I start the 26 hour flight to Auckland in two legs: 8751k/5438m from Heathrow to Los Angeles and then after a 1 or 2 hour stop for refueling 10360k/6437m across the Pacific to Auckland.

By that time it's Saturday morning and time for a 335k/208m flight from Auckland to Napier.  I always feel very emotional on this flight.  I just know that this Saturday it's going to be even more emotional than usual.

I don't know whether I'll have the opportunity to blog whilst I'm in transit.  I may have a chance in Heathrow.  We'll see.  I'm looking forward to 'seeing' you all again soon.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

A New Moon

I usually concentrate on taking pictures of the full moon.  It's more photogenic.  However a few days ago it was the new moon and I realised that I could not recall when I last saw a new moon.  So I thought I'd share it with you.

It Always Happens!

I was so organised.  Good job too.

The central heating boiler is playing up and this morning when I woke the smell of oil in the house was bad enough to filter through to my bedroom which, in air circulation terms, is as far away from the boiler as one can get.  So I went into town, met Pat (who had just finished walking Briagha in The Castle Grounds) for a coffee at The Woodlands and then went to sort out a new boiler which will go outside the house.  So I'll have yet another appendage stuck on the outside!

Then I got an email from Air New Zealand saying that there was a change to my flight plans for an internal New Zealand flight early next month when I go away to a tournament.  Needless to say the printer chose this moment to malfunction and refuse to print out my new e-ticket.  It didn't help that I pressed the accept button too quickly before I realised I now have a 4 hour wait in Wellington Airport.  Oh joy.  Six hours and I could have gone into Wellington and seen the sights.  But four hours is waiting around time.

Lunchtime and we had a power cut.  It wasn't a problem.  I had plenty of things to do that didn't need electricity.  I have gas for cooking and secondary heating anyway.  I thought I'd use up some of the eggs and have an omelette for lunch.  I broke the eggs into the bowl added milk and some pepper and got out the whisk.  Put in the whisks.  Switched it on.  Yes.  You are right.  What was I thinking of?  So I had a flat rather than a fluffy omelette with parmesan and chedder melted in it.  Freshly made warm bread complemented it.  Lovely.  But how could I have done that?  An electric whisk!  Duh.

The rest of the afternoon went smoothly - Pat came round to make sure all the things to be kept an eye on were sorted (and have a coffee of course).  Tonight I've vacuum cleaned the carpets and washed the kitchen floor.  That just leaves the bathroom in the morning.  I am now waiting for a visitor (it's 8.30pm - we visit late around here) and relaxing.

My plan is an early night and an early start in the morning to get the bed changed and the washing done.  Let's see if it works out that way.

Monday 19 October 2009

A Good Day For Boats

Today has been a good day for boats.  If one can call the cruise ship Queen Mary II a boat.  She's on a cruise around the British Isles at the moment.  The little sailing boat, on the other hand, was just out for a wee sail in the sun.

To The Other End of The Earth - Again

It is Monday night here in Eagleton.  I am almost packed.  Tomorrow I should have a relatively straightforward day cleaning the house and emptying the freezer and suchlike. Well I've said that before.  There are so many things that just pop up unexpectedly.  But, hey, life's too short to worry about them.

So I have two more sleeps before I leave here on Wednesday to stay with friends near the airport in Glasgow.  Gaz will come over and take me to the airport on Thursday.  That'll be good.

On Saturday at 1000 hrs New Zealand time I should arrive in Napier having travelled from Glasgow to London to Los Angeles to Auckland to Napier.

You just sort of get used to it really.

I've Decided, and Acted.

I wondered a while ago what to do about my New Zealand Blog: A Hebridean in New Zealand.  I decided yesterday to amalgamate both the blogs into the blog I used last year and continue just as one blog.  I'm not really sure why I started a new one last year anyway.  I've also altered the format a bit so that I can use large photos if I want to.  I have to be conscious though of the fact that some people are unable to get broadband (especially in rural areas of New Zealand).  I cannot get terrestrial broadband at The Cottage and have to use a NZ Telecom Mobile connection which is quite expensive and limited to 1Gb a month.  After that the cost soars even higher.  So I hope that you will continue to keep in touch when I traverse the globe later this week.

There is a link at the side of this blog but if you want to go and have a peek now then it's here: A Hebridean in New Zealand.

The Farming Of Fences

Crofting is often described as the farming of fences.  This is part of the view from my Study window.  I can understand how the description came about!

Sunday 18 October 2009

The Road To Stornoway

The peninsula on which I live has a low ridge down the middle.  I live on the East side of the peninsula.  The main road into the town of Stornoway is on the west side of the ridge.  So my journey into Stornoway involves a trip of a mile or more across the moor and the ridge.  This week I took the opportunity to try out Sony with a panorama of the view I see every time I make the journey.  Well every time the weather is sunny!

Saturday 17 October 2009

It's All The Little Things

It's all the little things that take the time and make me just that little bit anxious when I'm about to leave my Eagleton home for my New Zealand home in The Cottage.

What little things?  Well the one that always arises ('cos one cartridge has just run out!) is that if I don't take the cartridges out of the printer before I go and leave them for 6 months then they are useless.  But worse than that the printer doesn't think they are and gets its knickers in a twist and I have to spend ages trying to fool the electronics into releasing it.  And printer cartridges are expensive so taking all four out and wrapping them in cling film saves me buying four new ones when I get back.  As well as the hassle.

Spraying my tools so they don't go rusty over the winter.

Trying to make sure that the contents of the freezer have been eaten so that I can de-frost it before I leave.

Setting the mouse traps so that I don't have the garden shed (or, worse still, the house) completely over-run with the little people as it was a few years ago (the shed not the house!).  The irony is that I love mice but they are dirty little critters.

Making sure that the floor's clean under the fridges and so on.  After all I'd not like to come back to things growing out from under them! 

And there are so many more but I'm sure you get the picture.  I started a list earlier in the week and every time I manage to cross something off it I seem to write two more on.

Oh.  And then, of course, there's the big things like putting up the storm shutters over the door and window between the house and the conservatory.  Another hurricane may do no damage but I'm not taking any chances.  The last one was just too scary.

I don't travel with much luggage because my life is pretty much duplicated but last year I left the cable that joins the Olympus to the computer.  What a hassle (and expense) it was getting a replacement.  So I'll try not to do that again. 

Oh well.  Only 4 more sleeps and then it'll be too late to worry.

Friday 16 October 2009

Promise of Things To Come

Today dawned (a rare sight this autumn) and showed great promise:

Across The Island

I went across to the West side of the Island a few days ago to see some friends before I poddle off to the other side of the world.  Sorry, technically I think it should be the other end of the world.  It was a pretty yucky day:

Shakespeare Imortalised in a Glasgow Loo

When Anna and I went to The People's Palace I answered the call of nature and was most impressed by the fact that the loos were pristine and pretty much original in their decoration (no, I don't have a thing about public toilets!).  The tiles forming the frieze were scenes from Shakespeare:

Thursday 15 October 2009

I'm A Sony Man Too Now.

It arrived late yesterday afternoon.  My new camera. I've not really had an opportunity to use it yet but I had to go to town today so, naturally, it came with me.  It is very intuitive and much easier to use than the Olympus although the eyepiece (which I uses a lot) is smaller.  So far I am delighted.  I met Pat for coffee at the Woodlands Centre which, despite the rain, looked quite picturesque in it's autumnal frame.  I even had a quick try of the panoramic function in the third image.  The cormorants were quite far out at sea on the Braighe so I was pleased with the definition.


Wednesday 14 October 2009

The Doulton Fountain

The Doulton Fountain was gifted to the city by Sir Henry Doulton, and first unveiled at the Empire Exhibition held at Kelvingrove Park in 1888. The fountain was then moved to Glasgow Green in 1890.

A sculptural extravaganza, the fountain was designed to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee of 1887, and celebrate Britain’s Imperial achievements - the fountain is crowded with figurative groups representing Australia, Canada, India and South Africa.

The largest terracotta fountain in the world and the best surviving example of its kind, it has five tiers, is 46 feet high and 70 feet across the base – the third of the width of a football pitch.


I Made Time To Stop And Stare.

Yesterday I put into practice that which I had written in June in the post Making Time.  I went to see friends on the other side of the Island.  I had intended to have morning coffee and then come home and 'get on with the things I have to do' before I leave for New Zealand next week.  But I didn't.  I stayed for lunch and got home mid afternoon.  I had a lovely time.  So I decided that for most of the rest of the day I would continue the theme and do things which I wanted to do and not things which I 'had' to do.  So I read blogs.  I wrote blogs.  I wrote emails.  I made cornflake crunch.  I made phone calls.  I stopped and I stared.  And today I am the better for it and I shall get on with the things that I need to do.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Morris Thompson Edwards

Morris Thompson Edwards - CJ's and my Dad - died on this day in 2001.  He would have been 102 this year.  Last year on this day CJ posted a number of photos from Dad's youth. I thought I would post some today from a little later in his life.  The first one is of  Dad with me taken when I was, at a guess, three or four (I'm not too good with ages).  The rest were taken by me in the Sixties. Dad was rarely without his pipe (or  his camera).  The third photo includes CJ. 



The People's Palace

Last Thursday I went to The People's Palace and Winter Gardens in  Glasgow Green which is the oldest of Glasgow's parks.  I've seen it many times and the last picture below was taken on Saturday from a friend's flat where I was had lunch.  Despite all that I'd never been inside.  So I remedied that and Anna and I did the tour.  What a wonderful place it is. 

The buildings are a museum and glasshouse and were opened on 22 January, 1898 by the Earl of Rosebery. At the time, the East End of Glasgow was one of the most unhealthy and overcrowded parts of the city, and the People's Palace was intended to provide a cultural centre for the people. Lord Rosebery continued: "A palace of pleasure and imagination around which the people may place their affections and which may give them a home on which their memory may rest". He declared the building "Open to the people for ever and ever".

Originally, the ground floor of the building provided reading and recreation rooms, with a museum on the first floor, and a picture gallery on the top floor. Since the 1940s, it has been the museum of local history for the city of Glasgow, and tells the story of the people and the city from 1750 to the present day.


Monday 12 October 2009

An Empty Table

When CJ and I go to Linghams for coffee and to do the crossword we sit at a particular table.  When we went there a few weeks ago Jo joined us and we chose a more comfortable place for the three of us.  It was odd sitting looking at the empty table.

Sunday 11 October 2009

Pink For Men?

I thought it was supposed to be blue for boys!  Or does someone in the cafĂ© in Princes Square, Glasgow where this is situated just have a really odd sense of humour?

Good News

I have just posted A Good Day And Some on A Life in the Day Of.  It's a slight expansion of this posting and there will be a follow-up over the next few days.

I had a Really Good Day on Friday. I went to Ayr to see the oncologist.  The consultation lasted all of 30 seconds. He asked if I had any lasting ill effects from the radiotherapy (I have not) and then said "Well the PSA count is about as good as it gets. I'll see you in 6 months when you get back from New Zealand." All this way for 30 seconds! I had a longer chat with the nurses afterwards because one of their number (who was at lunch) is shortly off to live in New Zealand. The others didn't know where though. By coincidence I have a theatre nurse and her husband living in The Cottage at the moment. They love it so much they don't want to leave! I can see me ending up in my own spare bedroom when I get back!

All the travelling on Friday (from 1015 until 1630) enabled me to do some reading and I managed the Times 2 Crossword (not cryptic!), the Codeword and the Polygon. I only failed on 1 clue in the crossword: Picasso painting inspired by a bombed town. Even with half the letters I just didn't know. Otherwise I was quite proud of myself.

So I bought a bottle of Champagne on the way back to Anna's. All in all it was, as I said, a Very Good Day.

Keeping Promises

Many of us have made promises that we have, at some time and for some reason, broken.  I promised ''...'till death us do part."  But I am divorced.  I'm sure there are many others but that's the one that still haunts me.  So now I try never to make a promise that I can't keep.  I never make a promise I don't intend to keep.  So yesterday when I received an email from a beloved God-daughter asking if all was OK because I hadn't emailed for well over a week when I was down in England and stayed with her, I was mortified.  Had it really been that long since I'd emailed?  And why did it matter so much?  Well it did because I'd made a promise once upon a time that I would email her every week.  I'm pretty sure that give or take a lost day here and there when I've lost track of where I was never mind what day it was, I've kept that promise.  This last fortnight when I've been away as well as here, every time I thought about it I thought "That's ok there's no news I've just seen her.".  And so the time passed. 

Last night I made a list of emails and phone calls and letters to be written today and her name was at the top of the list.  I still had to tell her my Good News 'cos I hadn't texted.  I make lists in order of who's up in the morning (Europe) who's next (Canada/USA) and who'll be picking them up latest (New Zealand when my this evening is their tomorrow morning).  And vice versa when I'm in New Zealand.  Life's complicated in my world.  Or perhaps I just make it that way.

So first thing this morning I wrote my weekly message.

Then I got to thinking about promises in general and other promises I've made and can remember.   I think I've only made one recently.  It's to someone amongst whose friends I am privileged to be counted.  It made me realise just how few promises I do make and just how very seriously I take promises: whether they are made by me or to me.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Return From A Temporary Absence

I've just spent a few very enjoyable days in Glasgow catching up before I leave for New Zealand - I have 10 more sleeps in Eagleton.  I caught up with Gaz who, yesterday, went to Egypt to kite surf.  I stayed with a friend, Anna, and 'did' things on Thursday (A blog posting on that will doubtless follow).  Yesterday I went to Ayr to see the Oncologist and I'll blog about that tomorrow.  Today I returned via lunch with an old friend.  What is amazing is the circular links between us all and the smallness of the world.  I met Anna in New Zealand but she lives near Glasgow.  The friend I lunched with is also part of my New Zealand world although we knew each other many years before either of us had ever set foot in the Southern hemisphere.

So tomorrow normal service on this blog will be resumed.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Potential Disaster: How Could I Do This

 I cannot believe that I have done this.  I have forgotten Samantha's feeding bag.  Hmm.  Just realised that many may not realise the significance of that remark so I looked it up to see if they are still around.  They are.  Many years since I saw one.  So what am I talking about?  I've left the battery charger at home.  Bummer.

Explain This Then

I had another dream this morning.  I can recall nothing - in fact there may have been nothing - more than the following:  I was watching two insects, one of which was a brown beetle about 3" (7.5cm) long and one of which was more like a large locust of similar size, fighting.  Suddenly the beetle ran towards my bag which was on the ground near me.  As it did so it exploded leaving a pool of green goo on the floor and spattering everything including my face.  I don't like dreams like that!  I certainly don't understand them. 

Wednesday 7 October 2009

A New Bird Table

On Monday I decided to clean the bird table using the pressure washer so that any muck and so on that could harbour disease would be cleaned off and sterilised.  Anyway without going into details the old bird table is no more.  So yesterday I made a new one.  I can't have my birds without food over the winter.  I think it's rather smart!  The birds were on it as I was fixing it to the post.  No familiarisation period needed here then!


Requiescat in Pace - Again

I'm sad to announce that my Pigeon pal died this morning.  Perhaps he wasn't so tame perhaps he was just so unwell that he couldn't be bothered flying off.  Perhaps he thought I could make him well again.  Do Pigeons think to the point of reasoning?  Anyway just before lunch I went to put up the new bird table I made yesterday and there he was outside my Study.  There was no sign of injury of any sort and he'd not been dead very long.  I say that not because I have any special knowledge of the period at which rigor mortis sets in but because I saw him feeding earlier on in the morning.  So I've made a note of his ring number and I'll see where racing pigeons are registered and let them know.  I don't like Pigeons in general but I'd grown quite attached to this one.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

A Replacement for My Olympus SP550UZ

A few days ago I dropped my Olympus SP550UZ with fatal results.  It had served me well for over 20,000 images over the last few years.  Fortunately it's not my only camera but it is the one that I use the most and for all my telephoto shots - it had an 18X optical zoom giving it a 28 to 450mm lens in conventional lens terms. Sandy of It's a Jungle Out There was wondering with what I would replace it.

What indeed?  I've been very satisfied with the Olympus with certain reservations: the lens is long and has a fragile and loose feel about it (mind you few camera lenses would survive a direct 1 metre drop onto a solid wood floor!)and the manual focussing was never entirely satisfactory.

So what are my requirements now?

Size is of paramount importance.  In this case small is good!  I would love (and have toyed with) going back to a full blown SLR with good telephoto and wide angle lenses.  In reality my lifestyle completely rules that out.  I travel a great deal by air.  Putting thousands of £s or $s worth of equipment in hold luggage is a lottery and virtually uninsurable.  My old camera and lenses weighed far more than my carry-on baggage allowance which has to include my lap-top as well as things I need on my journeys and my camera.  And the international carry-on allowance is generally 6 kilos (I don't travel first class!).  So I have restricted myself to a cross-over digital.

After size the optical zoom (focal length length equivalent) is very important.  I would like at least 560mm equivalent.  Good manual focussing (for flying birds) is on the agenda.  An in-camera panoramic ability would be good too. I also prefer re-chargeable AA batteries as a power source because one is always guaranteed power.  As all the following are fairly similarly priced price is not an issue.

So the question is "which one best satisfies those criteria?".  On the short-list are:

I tried the Canon SX!-IS because I am quite pro-Canon but  I absolutely could not get on with the manual focussing system.

I liked the Nikon Coolpix P90.  It has a 24X optical zoom giving a 26 - 624 mm equivalent. It has good write-ups and I liked the feel when I tried it.

The Olympus SP590UZ has a 26X optical zoom which is apparently very good.  Reviews criticise the noise when anything over ISO 200 is used and the fragility of the lens mechanism.  I have reservations as to whether the manual focussing system has been improved over the 550.

The Panasonic Lumix DMCFZ28 only has an 18X optical zoom but the lens is very much more compact than the Olympus and most of the others but at over a kilo it is very heavy. It does have excellent write-ups however.

CJ/Scriptor and Helen are Sony fans.  This is the DSC HX1 which CJ has.  I've tried it.  It is very intuitive and comfortable to use (though not, for me, as comfortable as the Olympus)  It meets most of my critera and is the only one with an inbuilt panoramic function.  It uses Sony-only lithium ion batteries and dedicated data cards and does not use mini-USB which most manufacturers have now agreed upon I am told.

So, on the basis that it is the only one with the panoramic function and meets most of my criteria, I have ordered the Sony.  Hopefully it will arrive soon.  The spare battery pack has already come.  So watch this space.