Saturday, 28 February 2009

Art and Photography - Instruction and Inspiration

Over the last forty years or so I have occasionally read books on art techniques to help me with my painting (not that I have done much for a decade) and have read a few photography technique books. (Does anyone remember all those black and white – with a red cover – booklets on photography from Focal Press in the fifties?) Few of the former helped me much and of the latter only Heather Angel and a North American whose name I’ve forgotten (but who Helen may recall) inspired me at all.
However, over the last year or so I have learned an enormous amount and been truly inspired by fellow bloggers.

Digital photography concentrates less on skill (or lack of it) with exposure settings and focussing but those skills are still there and knowing how to alter them and use your camera to the maximum remains an important part of getting a really good shot.

What digital photography seems to have done is inspire people to find that better angle or that more unusual subject. Since so many people have good photos on their sites it seems invidious to single any out but I’ll do it any way –Sandi at Pixel Queen Photography, Lisa alias Bluestalking, Cloudscome , and Jen. (And I’ve mentioned my Finnish friends a few times).

For some real skill with a brush see Jeannette St Germain and Frances.

This darned rain

Friday, 27 February 2009

What I need

There is a meme going around whereby you put your name followed by the word ‘needs’ into Google and see what it comes up with. You then take the first ten things and comment upon them.

I put in ‘Scriptor needs’ and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it only came up with ‘Scriptor needs an image’. Not much scope for playing when you’ve used a Latin name.... So I put in my real name and it told me I needed –

Gee thanks. That’s a wonderful way to start the day. Just because I’ve taken bits of computer off and half your innards are hanging out there is no need to be offensive.

badly to impress
The day is getting worse...

a map
That’s more like it. I love maps. I often used to read maps the same way people would read books - see my Thwaites posting for an example. The best bit of any geography lesson in school was when a map was handed out. I would tune out the drone of the teacher and read my map. Very symbol on the OS maps was a whole picture in my mind’s eye and the contours showed the landscape. I don’t know if you have ever seen the TV programme Time Team but I always find myself hoping Stewart Ainsworth (the landscape man) gets one over on the technological team.

OK. But what sort of help? I could do with a handyman right now but there is something slightly sinister about just saying I need help!

to be visible
Untrue. I much prefer being invisible. That way I get to see what humans and wildlife get up to when they are interacting with each other and not with me.

In what. Perhaps if I retrained I wouldn’t need help.

a helipad
I wouldn’t mind having enough property to have room for a helipad but unless it came complete with helicopter and chauffeur I’m not sure the helipad itself would be much use. Is there some visitor out there stuck in the sky because I haven’t got one?

That’s just like help – I’m not counting that one....

a hug
Don’t we alll.

thirteen bottles of water
Now that really is weird. I admit our tap water tastes pretty horrible – full of chlorine and flourine and all sorts of things, but why 13?

attention for his bloody head
Am I to take that literally? It’s not bleeding that I’m aware of but I did have a migraine coming on at 2 am. So I took some sumatripan – does that count as attention?

What do you need? Apart from the time to play silly games?

The Liver Birds

This is the Pier Head, the famous Liverpool waterfront.

The Liver Buildings – the sooty one which has since been cleaned up - has the two famous Liver Birds on top. (Note that whilst Liverpool is pronounced as in the part of the anatomy, the Liver birds are pronounced to rhyme with driver).

The birds are the most evocative symbol of Liverpool (and equally importantly of Liverpool Football Club).

To quote the Great God Wiki -

"The bird's species has long been the subject of confusion and controversy.

The earliest known use of a bird to represent the then town of Liverpool is on its corporate seal, dating from the 1350s, which is now in the British Museum. The bird shown is generic, but the wording of the seal contains references to King John, who granted the town’s charter in 1207. John, in honour of his patron saint, frequently used the device of an eagle - long associated with St. John. Further indication that the seal was an homage to King John is found in the sprig of broom initially shown in the bird’s beak, broom being a symbol of the royal family of Plantagenet.

By the 17th century, the origins of the bird had begun to be forgotten, with references to the bird as a cormorant, still a common bird in the coastal waters near Liverpool. The Earl of Derby in 1668 gifted the town council a mace "engraved with ...a leaver" - the first known reference to a liver bird by this name. A manual on heraldry from later in the century confuses matters further by assuming this term is related to the Dutch word lefler, meaning spoonbill - a bird rarely found in northern England.

When the College of Arms granted official arms to Liverpool in 1797, they refer to the bird as a cormorant, adding that the sprig in the mouth is of laver, a type of seaweed, thus implying that the bird's appellation comes from the sprig.

The bird thus appears to have originally been intended to be an eagle, but is now officially a cormorant. Many modern interpretations of the symbol are of a cormorant, although several - notably that on the emblem of Liverpool Football Club - distinctly show the short head and curved beak more readily associated with a bird of prey."

According to local legend, the one looking out to sea is female and is watching for the seamen to return safely home whilst the male looks towards the city, making sure the pubs are open. In addition local myth says that if the pair ever mate and fly away the city will cease to exist. A further saying is that whenever a female virgin passes by the Liver Buildings, the Liver Birds will flap their wings. (A similar story in Nottingham suggest the pair of lions outside the Town Hall will roar!)

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Following (part 2 of 767)

OK – so I now realise that I have to sign in (again) to all the people I follow (each one at a time) and then I can tell next time I visit, if I am following them. So how was I supposed to know that without playing around?

And, when I logged into followers on my own site I found I had joined the blog 'Life Goes On and On and On'. No disrespect to Cloudmaster whose blog is probably excellent but I have never even seen it before, let alone joined it! The problems obviously haven’t been sorted – it has just been made far more complicated and unreliable....

Such is computing life...

Been busy

Been busy the last couple of days and decided to take a morning off. Won’t bore you with the details but my heart (the physical one) told me it would be a good idea. So I caught up on some blogs. In the process I noticed that Google Blogger had sorted out the Followers problem but in the process had lost two important facilities.

Firstly one can no longer display all one’s followers in the sidebar – you have to move from page to page of them. Secondly, when you visit someone else you no longer see automatically if you are following them since it gives you the options Follow or sign in irrespective of whether you already follow them or not.

So, I have a question. Why oh why, whenever software engineers (or whoever is responsible for these sort of changes) 'improve' things do they have to get rid of aspects of the service that folk found useful? I liked seeing at a glance whether I was following someone and I also liked seeing all my followers displayed in one window.

And while on the subject of followers to this Blog can I just say – welcome! I don’t know how some of my new followers found me but I’m glad they did and all are welcome.

Dutch Elm Disease

These are some of the saddest pictures I have ever taken.

In the 1970s Dutch Elm Disease hit Britain and wiped out all our Elm trees. Not only were they an important part of our countryside and hedgerows but they could be found in parks and roads throughout our towns and cities. The disease wiped out 25 million of Britain’s trees. This row of Wheatley Elms was alongside a golf course and no sooner had one died than the rest all followed suit.

In 1981 we went on holiday to a farmhouse in the Midlands. At one time it had been surrounded by trees but this was the only one left – all the rest were stumps and this one was about to be taken down.

Nowadays the famous ‘tweety-pie’ shape of the English Elm is only to be found in old paintings.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Posting of the Day, I mean Month, I mean Year...

Actually never mind Posting of the Year - this has to be the posting of the Millenium.

You just have to see this! (If only to understand why I've used the label vacuum cleaner)

(Thanks to Lisa for bringing it to my attention.)


My scanning of slides has slowed down a bit - and not just because of decorating. Firstly I realised that a lot of them had dust on them that was ending up on the scan. I now brush each one with a soft brush before scanning them. Secondly, I found lots of other things were getting behind. Like washing the dishes! There is only so you can leave the baked bean sauce on the plates to develop penicillin (and despite what Son thinks it is less than three weeks!) And thirdly, and most importantly, my labelling of the resulting photos was fairly haphazard. I wasn’t bothered about typing errors or putting in dates. In conversation (e-mail conversation, that is) with Younger Daughter, I realised the importance of labelling them a bit better. So I am doing that.

Still, I always knew it would be a long process and I am thoroughly enjoying it. After that, it will be back to scanning in our photo albums and the boxes of odd prints. Wow, what a task I have set myself. I’d better not be claiming on that life insurance just yet...

Some of the photos are ones I haven’t looked at for years. All in all the standard is pretty satisfying but many of them are little more than blurred mementoes. What has really delighted me has been the memories of things that I would have completely forgotten without the photo to jolt my memory - like Older Daughter helping in the garden in April 1980.

During the first few weeks of Helen’s life I stayed home, using my annual leave (no paternity leave in those days), so that I could look after eighteen month old Bryony. It was May 1980 and the shone almost every single day.

Older Daughter and I played out and gardened for much of the time. A safe and easy birth (I can say that; it wasn’t me that did it), a healthy baby and sunshine almost every day – great memories.

This photo is a classic sample of Helen being watched by Bryony as she did her wibbly wobbly crawling act. She would crawl great distances shaking her head from side to side in a manner designed to create automatic neck ache in any watching adult.

September 1982 and Younger Daughter demonstrated her ability to fall asleep anywhere in almost any position. In this case with one foot in a welly and one in a slipper – we’d been trying one her footwear when she fell asleep.

This was New Year’s Day 1983 – a rocking horse day for Younger Daughter.

Have a nice day!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Guess what? - The Answer.

The answer to yesterday's "Guess what" was a fly's footprints on the inside of a steamed up car window. It's amazing what you can find to photograph when you are sitting in a car in the countryside, waiting for the rain to clear so that you can have a walk.

Followers, comments and chaos

Google is currently working on itself.

As a result the comments facility is playing up. If you have word verification switched on people cannot comment. Followers are disappearing left, right and centre. And there is general chaos.

Worry not. Google say it will be fixed shortly and all the followers will return.

Trust me, I'm a computer man.

Wonderful Creatures

These are some of the creatures I consider to be the most wonderful in the world -

Sea Slugs
Polar Bears


"Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see." ~ C.S. Lewis

What would you add to the list?

Monday, 23 February 2009

Guess what?

The next few days will be pre-scheduled unless I get the chance to wake up my Laptop. Scanning of slides will also be in abeyance but here’s one to be going on with; all you have to do is guess what it is.

The answer will be published tomorrow but in the meantime the wilder the guesses the better...

Devil’s Thumbprint

Still scanning my slides before dismantling my desktop computer. I came across this one which I call the Devil’s Thumbprint.

Any ideas how I created it?

The answer is that I got a torch and shone it through a red camberwick bedspread. Inventive days the 1960s!

The Word Verification Spectre strikes again


Sunday, 22 February 2009


Tomorrow I begin the job of decorating the study. The wallpaper was inherited from the previous owners of the house - I would have preferred it if they had taken it with them! Decorating it is not a major task since the study is only 9 foot by six foot. However, it contains a bed, a full size desk, a computer, three bookcases, a video, a radio/CD player, two CD wall racks, two tables, a bedside cabinet and a few dozen other odds and ends. I exaggerate not...

Therefore the task becomes big by virtue of dismantling things and finding somewhere to put all this stuff while I do it. Add the unreliability of my health and it could be a couple of weeks.

I have yet to decide whether to set up my computer elsewhere or rely on my laptop in the interim. If I do the latter there may be a reduction in the number of postings for the a little while. We shall see. I think I’ll have to set up the desktop to avoid getting withdrawal symptoms.

I would love to find a better way of organising the room and making it look less cluttered but I suspect that’s impossible without removing the door and raising the ceiling...

Sleeping in the car

In the early 1970s and then again in the mid 80s I had spells of holidaying on my own and sleeping in the car – in the 70s in my Mini Traveller and in the 80s in a Marina Estate. Neither was the most comfortable of beds but the locations in which I slept were wonderful.

One summer I parked in a lane in the Newlands Valley in the Lake District. There was a stream in the trees and I kept the window open all night listening to the restful sound of running water.

I awoke very early and went up Maiden Moor to watch the sunrise over the mountains.

This was by the side of Loch Lomond on the way up to visit GB in the Outer Hebrides. Again, I woke early and was on the road before almost anyone else was awake. I picked up a hitch-hiker, a rather scruffy Scot. It was the first time I realised that there really were some Scots who put ’Jimmi’ at the end of every sentence. “Yor rite Jimmi”. Since neither of us could really understand each other it became a fairly quiet journey until I dropped him off in the absolute middle of nowhere – his choice, not mine!

Another Lochside overnight stop on the way to the Hebrides another year. When I came through with Jo a year later I noticed this picnic site had ‘No Overnight Parking’ notices all over it. I expect camper vans had found it an attractive spot and begun to flood the place.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Button Box

We had a box of old buttons that has gradually grown over the last hundred years as it has been passed from my grandmother down to Jo. I have always loved playing with them. The box is now used for something else and the buttons are contained in a Fortnum and Masons biscuit tin - a reminder of my nephew Andrew and a Christmas hamper he sent us one year.

Jo uses them in her therapy sessions as well. I think we usually forget its original purpose as a sewing aid!

An Interview with Me!

I offered to be interviewed by Sandi, at Cheaper than Therapy.

1. When did you start blogging? What caused you to start?
I had to check back to see when I started blogging. It was July 2006. I was inspired by my younger daughter’s blog and the first posting had a Word, a Butterfly, a Moth and a Flower for the month’. The word was Drndl or Dirndl. Whilst the latter spelling is more correct the former is more fun because it has no vowels and that is the way it was spelled in a novel I had just read about the seventeenth century... A dirndl is a type of traditional dress worn in southern Germany and Austria, based on the historical costume of the Alpine peasants. It became popular in Austria as a fashionable dress among the upper classes between 1870 and 1880.

2. I'm in awe at the number of blogs you have. Which one is your favorite and why?
That’s a difficult question, Sandi. I suppose it has to be the “Rambles from My Chair”. It’s my ‘main’ blog and its also the one which allows me to wander at will from subject to subject. “Words, Words, Words (and Phrases)” is probably the most useful one I do as people seem to appreciate the opportunity to learn the occasional new word or phrase in what I hope is a fairly easy-going manner. The other great thing about “Rambles from my Chair” is that it has a list of my blogging friends down the side and that’s very important to me.

3. If you could take one person to dinner, either alive or dead, who would it be and why? Where would you eat?
I love writers and poets who are slightly eccentric and have a mind of their own. So I would like to take Oscar Wilde to dinner and hear at first hand some of his outrageous views and humour. I would take him to a Chinese restaurant and have a banquet. Hopefully that would be a fairly novel experience for him and I find the relaxed atmosphere of slowly arriving courses a good way of combining dinner and conversation.

4. What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Smoking. Actually, most of my ‘pleasures’ are guilty ones because I love cheese, liqueurs, chocolate and strawberries and all of them are migraine triggers!

5. You are stranded on a desert island and have the option of keeping just one personal belonging. What would it be and why?
The logical part of me wants to reply with something useful along the lines of a Swiss Army Knife but I would really want a photo of my family. My elder daughter got married last year and there were some wonderful photos taken on the day and this one would be my desert island choice.

(My brother - GB; son - Richard,; me; daughter - Bryony; son-in-law Mark; wife - Jo; daughter - Helen; and her partner - Ian.)

Thanks to Sandi for not making the questions too searching. (I was dreading ‘most embarrassing moment’ type ones. Actually, one advantage of getting older is that one doesn’t get so embarrassed about them any more and I may blog about it one day. It’ll give me a chance to tell you about Jo’s most embarrassing moment, which is hilarious!)

Friday, 20 February 2009


It's boring being in bed...

But at least Bryony had the good manners to put her hand in front of her mouth when yawning - even when she was only two months old.


The things that one grows tired of -- O, be sure
They are only foolish artificial things!
Can a bird ever tire of having wings?
And I, so long as life and sense endure,
(Or brief be they!) shall nevermore inure
My heart to the recurrence of the springs,
Of the gray dawns, the gracious evenings,
The infinite wheeling stars. A wonder pure
Must ever well within me to behold
Venus decline; or great Orion, whose belt
Is studded with three nails of burning gold,
Ascend the winter heaven. Who never felt
This wondering joy may yet be good or great:
But envy him not: he is not fortunate.
             Robinson Jeffers

(Thanks to Bibliolatry for bringing this to my attention.)

Thursday, 19 February 2009

A load of coo

I just read GB's posting about a town valled Bull. When I came to comment look what word verification word I got -


I have spent most of the last 48 hours in bed. Having what Jo calls a ‘catching up’ period. She likes to have a positive term for everything! I call it feeling like hell (and that’s the polite blogging version!). I find it very hard to be positive about lying in bed in agony, too exhausted to sleep in more than snatches, too unwell to get up, and generally feeling that I would like the world to disappear up its own mineshafts.

However, I’m now getting back to normal; which means passable levels of pain, only moderately shattered and able, with effort, to vaguely focus my eyes. Yesterday’s blog posting appeared by Google-magic having been pre-posted. If the day gets even better I may manage a sensible post later today....

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Flesh-forming Cocoa

In the Royal Academy Notes that I reviewed the other day there is only one advertisement. That’s a shame because I do love Victorian adverts – such a source of interest and amusement. This is the advert – for Cadbury’s cocoa.

At the time there were lots of posters advertising Cadbury's absolutely pure Cocoa - sustains against fatigue - increases muscular strength - with admirable nutritive, flesh-forming qualities. I’m not quite sure what flesh-forming properties were but they were obviously considered very important in 1890!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Days gone by

Yes, I'm still scanning photos into the computer. Here are a couple I just couldn't resist showing you.

Bryony aged 20 months on holiday at Dolwyddelan, July 1980.

Helen aged two in the back garden in Formby on 30th May 1982..

This one of myself, Richard (aged 9) and Jo (aged 21+) was taken by Dad on his ninetieth brthday in December 1997.

Do You Like Butter?

As children we used to ask a girl that we were fond of 'Do you like butter?'. The way to tell was to hold a buttercup under their chin and see the yellow light reflected there.

It seems the idea goes back a lot longer than our nursery play days. I came across this sketch in the Royal Academy Notes for 1889.

There is also this well known work by Charles Burton Barber (1845-1894) entitled ‘Do you like butter?’

I wonder for how many centuries children have played that game.

Monday, 16 February 2009


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