Monthly Archives: January 2016

Open up your eyes

A bit of soul to start a Monday… and a bit of Everlasting Love… Don’t we all need a bit of that?

Yes, I’ve had this song as my Much Love Monday song before, but I don’t care. I can listen to it forever. The U2 version is my favourite, if only because of what it means to me, but this one is just as good.

My snowdrops are already starting to appear in patches – which is a little earlier than last year I think. It’s been a mild winter – milder even than last year I think. You just never know which way the year is going to go.

In 2015, it looked like this:


And 2014








And I can’t go back any further than that!

This year it’s been easy on the frosts and heavy on the amazing sunrises



I’ve picked up some onions this week to plant – I think this year will be the year I bring the polytunnel back to life. I was trying so hard to get the convolvulus under control, but it’s a lot better than it was. I love my polytunnel. All-weather gardening. I’ve been pollarding a few of my bigger hazels – one of them is entirely spectacular this year and I can only think that this was because I pollarded it three or four years ago. It’s always been pretty spectacular though. The tomato seeds have already been through the propagator and sprouted. Aubergines in this week, I think.

The week is bound to be a busy one with lots of errands to run. I have three kitties needing vaccinations and hopefully being rehomed by the end of the week. It’s harder having the kittens in the house – they’re in the spare bedroom as it’s too cold for them to be in my usual kitten rooms – but of course, they are either up to mischief or having to be kept in the crate. These are by far the healthiest and happiest kitties I’ve had in a long time. Wednesday is going to be the killer – leave the house at 9.15 and not a break right the way through until 10pm. I’m not relishing walking the dogs at 8am, let me tell you!

Hopefully the weird atmosphere that has been dominating life of late will lift as well. It feels like there’s a universal grump at work. Everybody is crabby.

So what am I loving this week?

♥ frosty mornings

♥ photoshop tutorials (I’ve been spending every spare minute on Coursera, Udemy and Youtube watching photoshop tutorials – it’s a bit obsessive)

♥ propagators

♥ snowdrops

♥ aubergine curries

♥ Good books (and not loving the lame ones I’ve been working through of recent times)

♥ those friends who always, always make you smile and are mad as a box of frogs but cool as ice

♥ hot Vimto. None of your cherry Vimto rubbish. None of your fizzy Vimto nonsense. Hot Vimto, the delight of northerners. Did you know Vimto was invented in Manchester? That’s another of Manchester’s contributions to the world. No need to say thanks. That’s just what we do. Someone once tried to give me Ribena instead. It wasn’t the same and, frankly, I was quite insulted that they thought so.

♥ Full moons. Last night, we even had a moon-rise

Have a very lovely Monday. I’m out early doors four mornings this week. I’ll be glad when the week is over and I can start my days in a more leisurely way again. The dogs will too. Heston’s always itching for a walk first thing.




The Freakiest Show

Things wouldn’t be right in the world if I didn’t pick a Bowie song for this week’s Monday Tune… and this is my favourite of all, though not a joyous choice at all.

When Lou Reed died a couple of years ago, the songs I picked were one of the musical threads that held my life together. Lou Reed wasn’t so much a singer I’d picked myself, but the music that had been a kind of theme track to some of my life. David Bowie was never that. I loved David Bowie, but he was never in the background to my life. Bowie was one of those singers, like Lou Reed was at the beginning, then John Cale and Leonard Cohen, that you pick for yourself even though your friends are kind of ambivalent.

By the time I was a teenager, Bowie was in his kind of stadium rock days… it was all Mick Jagger and Dancing in the Street. I don’t care much for that, although it was for a great cause. Bowie had passed over into that kind of 80s middle ground of grown-up Phil Collins and Queen Dad Rock that just wasn’t particularly cool. Let’s face it, Tonight and Never Let Me Down are never going to make it on to someone’s top 5 Bowie albums are they? I don’t even think I put two and two together when I found a copy of Life On Mars at the flea market in Bury as a 7 inch. I still have it. It was the very first time I really found music that I chose for myself. I asked a friend if she’d tape Hunky Dory on to a cassette for me. She had to borrow it from her parents’ record collection and I’m pretty sure she thought I was crazy. That album is one of the central albums of my teen years and it’s one of the only albums that I still play just as regularly. In fact, when I saw a list of people’s favourite Bowie tracks last week, I was amazed that Life on Mars wasn’t on there. I was kind of glad though. It makes it all the more personal. It’s the piano that makes it what it is for me… Rick Wakeman at his best. I can’t tell you how many times I listened to that tape.

I only saw Bowie once in concert – the Sound + Vision tour in 1990. He played at Maine Road in Manchester and I had to drag Henny with me. It was entirely at odds with Metallica and Megadeth.

Funny though that I picked this song – I just did a search and realised that Starman has been my Much Love Monday song twice – there aren’t many songs that I’ve played twice! And it was one of my eight singles that would have made up my Desert Island Discs. I think I’d have to change that now and put Under Pressure on. Freddie Mercury and Bowie together: Dad Rock at its best.

Much Love, Mr Bowie. The stars do look very different today.

I’ve been trying to spend a little time on a 366-photo project (a photo a day, of course!) and spend a little time on Photoshop. I learned Photoshop by way of Fireworks back in the day, and I’m glad I had the foresight to do so. To be honest, some of it is very similar to actual darkroom stuff, like dodging and burning, but way, way easier. I’ve been looking at a lot of ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots that professional photographers have taken, including those shots that have been competition winners, and you can see most of it is just a combination of a great camera and some Photoshop magic. I’ve never been anti-photoshop where images are concerned (other than those of ridiculously perfect people that are promoting make-up!) It seems a little hypocritical to be against any kind of artistic adjustment when the moment you pick up this camera or that camera, you are making a difference to what image you get out. I used to only use Fujifilm because I love the brights, their greens and their blues. It’s very contrasty film. As soon as you make a choice like that, you’re impacting on the image. In fact, as soon as you use your viewfinder to frame an image, you are making artistic choices, so I don’t see why a bit of editing offends so many purists. Most of them have polarising filters or the likes, or tripods. Those all affect the image you can take.

Anyway, I’m doing a 10-minute-a-day photoshop enhancement on each image – it can’t be more! – and I’m finding myself re-invigorated.

You can find a perfectly nice image…


And a give it a bit of a once-over…


Adjust the hues a little, sharpen the eyes, remove any distractions and re-centre the image a little. It does bring out the inner critic, which is all good.

The aim of the project is not to go overboard on minor tweaks and fiddles – these are not for sale as high-quality reproductions, just mini-projects to bring out your critical eye. I was quite pleased when looking at some people’s original images that my unedited images were much more thoughtful than theirs, but their photoshop skills were far superior to mine! That’s why this year is all about Photoshop!

So what else am I loving this Monday morning?

♥ AC/DC – there simply isn’t any better music to rev up your engines to.  Thunderstruck and Hells Bells are always good to get your motor running.

♥ Having a bit of frost – the cold snap didn’t last long and it’s the first morning all winter that the living room has been 12°C first thing.

♥ All the refuge staff and volunteers. Last week was a shit, shit week. Arnold still isn’t moving and we’re waiting to see if his morphine/anti-inflammatories can get him back on his feet again, but it’s not looking good. The vet said his herniated discs can’t be operated on, so it really is a week of hard, hard decisions. Jerry the pointer was found dead of a stomach torsion as well – he was 4 weeks out of surgery to remove his leg. We had a parvo death, a dog who died as the result of an accident and several dead puppies. There is not much by way of light in a week like that.

♥ How fab my new lens is. Photoshop aside, look at how lovely this little face is!


♥ The joys of Picmonkey. When I need something quick and dirty, Picmonkey is there for me. Forget Lightroom. Picmonkey is 50000000000000 x more ace.

♥ The Amigo-Beego. I don’t get many good photos of him, but I’ve had loads recently. Love him. He is such a gentle old soul. He must find it very traumatic living with a house-full of maniacs, my little Richard Briers dog.

Right, have a marvellous Monday. I’ve got a list of chores that’s longer than this blog, so I had better get busy!





Fighting on the dance floor

A bit of political Mondayness for you. Here’s The Specials with Ghost Town. 

Seems only fair since I had Bananarama a couple of weeks ago. Ironically, it feels a little like France and a lot like La Rochefoucauld, my local town. I walked past the bookshop the other day and it was closed up. I don’t know how I’ll cope if they take the wool shop away.

To be fair, it’s a great little town and the high street shops are fabulous. We have three or four shoe shops (on account of the fact that the town is known for making slippers) as well as a few antique shops (on account of it’s high tourist chic to shop in La Rochefoucauld. There are several estate agents (including one that closed its doors last year) and banks, but the rest are interesting shops that sell the kind of things you really want to buy. I bet there can’t be more than 100 shops in the town, but there is a haberdashery AND a wool shop, and a shop that sells nothing but stuff to kill other stuff. Those kind of shops are hard to find.

Anyway, what am I loving this week?

♥  The Specials. I’m up to A Message To You, Rudy and I don’t think I’m going to get off the Specials vibe this morning.

♥ The fact that March is only weeks away and I have the shoots of snowdrops appearing. That’s wishing my winter away, I know, but I’m wet enough now.

♥ House MD. I’m watching them all from the beginning again and I had forgotten just how good that series is, even if every single one is practically the same. Hugh Laurie is a comedy God.

♥ All the support for a dog called Arnold. This old dude was the subject of a seizure and came to the refuge practically unable to walk after years on a short rope. 48 hours after his trial adoption and he’d lost the ability to walk. A 2000€ estimate later and he’s waiting in Bordeaux Vet Hospital for treatment. To see so many people help out and donate is just wonderful. It hurts more for me because he reminds me so much of Ralf. He makes the same noises. He is, truth be told, a better kisser than Ralf, but he doesn’t say his own name. Ralf always managed a big old RAAAAAWWWWWWFFFF. I guess Arnold is a bit harder to say though.

♥ My new 50mm f1.4 lens. It is simply amazing. There aren’t words for how much I love it.


♥ The Tobbymory. It was his 9 month anniversary yesterday. He’s been a bit off his food – not sure why. He enjoyed his anniversary sausage buttie yesterday though. I can’t believe he’s been with me a whole nine months. Every day is a gift when you’re his age.

♥ Kittienesses. I picked up three on Friday night. That’s a full six days that I didn’t have any. I missed them. These ones are long legged and scrawny scaredies, but older than the others I’ve had.


I’ve started a Photo365 project with a photo a day. I’m enjoying it very much so far. I might never take this 50mm lens off my camera though.

Have a lovely week and may your Monday be void of idiocy.

Checking out a new sensation

To go from Simon and Garfunkel to 80s glam metal is a bit of a leap, but hey ho. Here’s 80s cheesy rockers Enuff Z’Nuff with “New Thing” which seemed kind of appropriate for the new year

Last night was the first night in ages that I spent with only five heads under the roof. In truth, I’ve turned into a bit of an obsessive head-counter not unlike Tobby, and I got up four or five times to check on kittens without remembering that I didn’t have to. Most of the day it persisted down, Manchester-style. I hate these weeks, where there is nothing to be done but staying inside clearing up mud. I guess it is a necessary fact of life though. So what am I mostly loving this fine first new Monday of the year?

♥ The peace and quiet after a busy time and the fact that four dogs seems like none at all, especially when they’re all asleep in front of a fire.

♥ Rainy days which force you to go inside and do indoors stuff.

♥ Knowing all the kitties are safe and well and that they’ve found good homes.

♥ New lenses.


♥ Willing photographic assistants.

♥ Picmonkey – lovely for quick and dirty processing and no mucking about like Photoshop.

♥ Me for having the foresight in 2006 to get funky with Adobe Fireworks.

♥ Mums and Dads and families and stuff.

♥ My new pink hat from my sister for my birthday. It might not be Kangol and pink and fluffy, but to be honest, it looks less like a foreskin, less like Nana Moon and more like an appropriate winter hat.

♥ Friends who turn up with bottles of Vimto and boxes of teabags.

♥ Peaceful Sundays where there is work to be done but nothing so pressing it can’t wait til Monday… hopefully not the last Sunday I’ll have like this until next Christmas!

♥ Looking through my old photo albums and seeing shots that are great photographs, and reading books about analogue photography, remembering how I never thought digital photography could ever do what we did. I miss you XP2 and HP5, Superia and Neopan. I miss you gold toner and lith printing. I miss you darkroom and dryer racks. I don’t miss getting dust on the negs when processing, I don’t miss fastidious cleaning of enlargers. I don’t miss the wait for development. I miss those days where you spent all evening developing one image and getting it just right. Funny to think that when I went to Morocco in 2009, I was still happily shooting film, and the black and whites I got there are some of the best photos I ever took. 72 photos and every single one was epic.


You didn’t waste film in those days.



Nobody cared about grain, and my aim was huge, big globules of grainy, grainy super-photographic murk. Grain and contrast and nobody cared. The slide-lovers won in the end, with their ISO50 and 100 and tripods, I guess. Now if you post a grainy image on the internet, everyone thinks you’re an amateur, rather than an artist making a choice.


I’m glad I got to be in both worlds.

Anyway, have a very lovely Monday and hopefully I won’t have floated away in the rains during the week. You may get lucky and there may very well be another photography project coming up. It seems rude not to. It may or may not involve dogs. If it does, they won’t be purposeful dogs, just accidental ones.