Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Why walk when you can run?

Kids love to run. They run to the ice-cream van, to their friend’s house, to the swings, to the garden, etc, etc. Basically, anywhere they know they are going to have fun, they race to get there as fast as they can! I took my cousins kids swimming and to the park on Saturday and I couldn’t help noticing how fond of running they are.
I was in charge of a four year old called Ella and my other cousin, their uncle, was in charge of a three year old called Joseph. We’ve been doing our bit to help out, as their parents are attending church every Saturday morning for a month, in accordance to the baptism rules. Their youngest child is soon to be baptised.
So, on Saturday I helped Ella undress and change and looked on with words and expressions of encouragement, while she swam her little heart out, with a teddy shaped float to assist her. The instructor barked out orders, while I looked at her perfectly toned figure with envy, and ticked myself off for eating too much cheese the night before. One of the loudest orders was, "Don’t run, walk!" when the pupils left the pool. See, I’m not alone with this observation. One little boy took absolutely no notice of this instruction, he ran, slipped on the wet floor, fell over and burst into tears. This running lark is all very well, but it can be dangerous in the wrong circumstances.
After Ella’s swimming lesson I took her outside to play on the swings and the round-about. She ran (excitedly) to the swings, despite me asking her to wait. She tripped and managed to mark her new jeans with grass stains. Whoops. Luckily it was just grass stains and no injuries. (Sorry about the extra washing mum!) We had fun together at the park. We played the toadstool game, jumped up and down on the alphabet snake, and I helped her climb, like a cheeky monkey, on the climbing frame.
When Josephs swimming lesson ended, uncle called us both, announcing it was time to go home. “Ella, don’t run to the car! Watch out for the other cars!” I heard myself saying.
If only I had her energy. Imagine if us adults ran everywhere. Okay, sometimes I may run towards the train if I’m about to miss it, but it’s only if I have a spurt of enthusiasm and if it means I could be very late for work. Crikey, I barely run on the running machine at the gym! It’s more of a fast walk, followed by a slow jog.
After swimming and the park, it was back to my cousins house to celebrate Ella's 4th birthday. The lounge was covered in brightly coloured balloons, presents and gooey looking cakes. Aren’t kids birthdays great. Ella's friend came round to join in the celebrating and the kids decided to take their birthday food out into the garden, so they could sit in the playhouse, eating and playing. I opened my mouth to say something but my uncle, their granddad, beat me to it. “Don’t run with your food! You’ll only drop it in the grass!” He took the words right out of my mouth!
I watched the kid’s exasperated faces as they slowed down, to prevent spilling sausage rolls and ham sandwiches onto the lawn. I expect they were puzzled at us grown ups slow reactions, how long we sometimes take to walk somewhere and do something. I’m sure they were all shaking their heads in disbelief and thinking – why walk when you can run?

Picture of the day:

How fast can I go?

Friday, 26 September 2008

Rose-tinted glasses

In my younger days, I used to love receiving post. Sad but true. I would look at my parents mail enviously and wonder when it would be my turn. How important I would feel when I was handed an envelope with my name on. “For little old me?” I used to think. How innocent and debt free my life was then! The letterbox was not brimming with my bills back in the good old days, it would be the odd bank statement and perhaps a letter from my friend Catherine.
Remember when people used to write letters? In pen! Now it’s all emails and texts, if you wish to catch up with someone. In fact, I was scribbling something in the hen weekend book last Sunday, and I was questioning the last time a pen had formed so many words, and why my writing was not as neat as it used to be. Yep, writing seems to be a dieing tradition. Good old-fashioned hand written letters go way back to the days before those evil temptations entered my life. You know the sort - visa card, store cards and bank loans. The days when opening my post was a pleasure and not a pain.
In my older days, I despair at the amount of bills I receive. It seems the Royal Mail refuse to deliver anything positive. Don’t you think life would be far nicer if your post consisted of a heart-warming and entertaining letter from a dear friend. Or vouchers to spend in your favourite store, as a thank you for your valuable custom. Or a notification from your company praising your hard work and commitment and rewarding you with a pay rise. Or a brochure from a travel firm whose annual profit was so high they were offering holidays to the general public, for a fraction of the recommended retail price. Imagine it! But it never is anything remotely like this. If it was, the world would be a far happier place, I’m convinced of it.
It’s like the news on our television screens. I tune in to see what’s going on beyond my bedroom and my work desk, and then I shudder at the financial mess, shootings, robberies, death and destruction that this world is faced with. Is it really all that bad? A girl could turn to Prozac after watching the news. Why can’t we hear about the boy who has been reunited with his long lost twin brother. Or the childhood sweet hearts who married in an enchanting castle. Or the man who was walking down the road and one hundred and fifty pounds fell out of an oak tree and into his hands?!
Maybe I’m seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses, but do you know what, I much prefer it that way. And on that note, I might nip to the opticians to see if they're promoting any. With a bit of luck they'll be selling a pair for half price in their autumn sale.

Picture of the day.

What colour is the sky in your world?

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Dear George

I’m loathe to admit it, but it’s becoming increasingly trickier for me to defend you.
Since your latest antics at the weekend, I have been bombarded with emails, questions and opinions from friends and colleagues. Even the nice man in IT and my editor have queried your actions and your reasons. “I hear George has been up to no good again,” were amongst a few of the comments. I tried to deny it at first. “It wasn’t him. It was an impostor. He was actually at home with me, playing bridge and drinking herbal tea.” Nobody believed me - I don’t know how to play bridge. Oh except for the nice IT man, he said it could be possible, but he hoped I politely declined any offer of ‘sugar’ with my tea.
You could argue, “What has my weekend activities got to do with you, your colleagues, your friends and the rest of the world?” The answer is, it has nothing to with us. Who am I to tell you what to do, where to go and how you should spend your money? Goodness gracious, we haven’t even met! (Apart from in my dreams.) But the problem is this; you are an established and respected writer, singer and performer whose life is in the public eye. You are also an intelligent human being who knows how the media works. They’ll sell their grandmothers and their souls for headlines and circulation figures. So why do you continually do this? You know the risks, you know the consequences George.
I can’t pretend to know you, I have never had the fortune to meet you or even become your friend. Regardless of what some people may think, I refuse to become an obsessive fan who stalks you and hunts you down until you have no alternative but to notice me and fall hopelessly in love with me. (I’m the wrong sex anyway!)
However, since the early Wham! days I have enjoyed your music and I have read and watched countless interviews. I’d like to think I know a part of you. Not the part behind closed doors, obviously, I don’t know how you like your eggs cooked or what shampoo you use. But over the years you have opened your heart in interviews regarding love, loss, drugs and fame. You’ve written meaningful lyrics about life and love, and in my humble opinion I think you are a sensitive, creative, rather deep person, who has led a privileged life, but a life that has also had it’s fair share of pain and suffering.
A recent sell out world tour, respect and patience from adoring, faithful fans, a loving partner, a wide circle of friends and more money and talent than I could possibly imagine. Sounds ideal doesn’t it? And yet is it enough? Why the need for the casual, risky sex and class A drugs? Again you could question what your sex life and drug use has to do with me and the public. But last Friday you were reported to have begged the police, with tears in your eyes, not to charge you with the drug possession. This would automatically result in a ban from entering the U.S.A, and therefore be impossible for you to perform at the concert arranged and being held to raise money and awareness for AIDS. So you see, I’m afraid your actions, moments of madness, or whatever you call them, do directly affect others. Others who have paid money and are donating time to see you. That’s why the media love to knock you down, that’s why everyone seems to have an opinion. And that’s probably why you had tears in your eyes, as I'd like to think you care what certain people think of you, and it’s these people that you do not wish to let down.
At the risk of sounding like a Verve song - the drugs don’t work, George. Are you really in control of them, or are they controlling you? It’s a slippery downward spiral which can destroy relationships, finances and lives. Believe me, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Still, I’m sure you don’t need me to point these facts out. Please don’t ignore the signs though. The warnings are there for a very valid reason.
I just hope Ken is as understanding as he seems. I would hate to see you loose your, and I quote, “Amazing American cowboy.”

Be safe. Be strong. And search inside yourself for your inner peace. Xx

PS How do you like your eggs cooked and what shampoo do you use? I'm just curious!

Monday, 22 September 2008

The hen weekend

A 16th century, grade 2 listed house, situated in a pretty Cotswolds market town, surrounded by luscious green country side and special friends. Sounds perfect hey. It would of been had I not been ill! But I’ll get back to that part.
It all began on Friday morning when my friend Helen picked me up. Off we set to collect the bride-to-be and meet the rest of the hens. Two and half hours later we arrived at the charming four bedroom accommodation, and sent the bride-to-be and two others to the pub (they weren’t complaining) while we decorated the rooms with balloons, streamers, banners and posters. Once our work was done we allowed the bride-to-be to enter the house, presented her with a bouquet of flowers, and sipped champagne in the garden. We were ever so fortunate with the weather, the sun was beaming down on all of us.
After the welcome drinks, and tucking into the lemon cake which the owner had kindly left us, we vacated to the lounge for wine tasting. My kind of activity! Wine was sampled and origins, years, prices and aromas were guessed and noted on our forms. When the scores were added together I discovered I’d come joint second in this activity. I may have lost a point for describing one aroma as a certain piece of George Michael's clothing. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist it!)
A Chinese take–away and karaoke were next. I sang along to Careless Whisper very dramatically and very out of tune. Up until this point all was well with my general state of health. I’ll spare you the details, but I must have picked up a nasty bug which meant I spent a vast amount of time in the bathroom and all of Saturday in bed! And no, it wasn’t too much alcohol, believe me I know my limits and they are pretty high, this was another sickness altogether. A couple of the other hens complained they felt a little delicate after the Chinese meal but I must have had a super sensitive stomach or a super strong germ. I was not amused. I missed out on the jewellery making course the next day as I still felt unwell. Bless my friend Helen though, she made me a stunning turquoise necklace so I wouldn’t miss out completely.
I just about made it out for the Saturday night meal. As you can see from the below photographs it was a very grand and impressively decorated building. We had a private dining room where we played the body parts quiz, took it in turns to tell funny and embarrassing stories of the bride-to-be (there were a few!) and ate our three course meal. I sipped water throughout the meal and took bird like nibbles of my food. “You must be ill,” the bride-to-be commented. “You’re on water and usually the life and soul.” Sigh. Of all the times to be unwell!
I awoke Sunday morning feeling back to my normal self, although I felt as if I’d been in a boxing ring for twenty two rounds with Mike Tyson. He won by the way.
But enough of my whinging. The main thing is the soon-to-be bride had a happy and memorable weekend, and everyone played a vital part in making it as special as possible for her.
Five weeks until the wedding!

Pictures of the day:

The house we stayed in. Incidentally it's recorded as haunted. Fortunately we did not experience any supernatural or spooky atmospheres.

The lounge.

I wouldn't be surprised if there had been a few accidents on these stairs.

The bedroom I shared with the bride-to-be.

A pregnant hen, me and the bride-to-be.

Pre-sickness and smiling.

The restaurant.

The private dining room.

Chocolate mousse.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Burnt tables and other cooking skills

Another day, another cookery programme. My television guide is bursting at the staples with them. If I could earn Michelin stars by merely watching cookery programmes, I would be a top three star Michelin chef. The crème de la crème of fine dining.
Alas, I am merely an observer. It’s kind of hard to chop, stir and experiment when you no longer have your own kitchen. On the rare occasion I cook in my mothers kitchen, she can’t help standing over me and adding her pearls of wisdom. I always insist she sits down and relaxes for once, she always insists that she finds it virtually impossible to. I predict that she doesn’t like to take her eyes off me in case I set fire to my hair / the kitchen table / the house.
Okay, I did burn the kitchen table once, a very long time ago. We now have to dress the table in a checked tablecloth, full time, so the burn marks do not show. Holy Moses, I was not a popular daughter when she first discovered the burn marks on her relatively new and very expensive pine table. “You wait until you buy a house with nice things, and someone ruins your table!” I remember her saying. She was right though, after purchasing a newly varnished coffee table, when I finally left home, it lasted all of two days before it was permanently damaged by a very careless individual. I was hopping mad! My mothers words and my clumsiness came back to haunt me.
I have a certain friend who allows me to cook in their kitchen and we have conjured up a few roast dinners in our time. Please note there is no kitchen table in this friends kitchen and the dining table is always smothered with place mats when I arrive. I love cooking roast dinners - chopping, peeling, boiling, stuffing, roasting, seasoning, stirring, checking, and sipping wine whilst it’s all going on. It would be fair to say our roast dinners are HUGE and take AGES and we drink ENOUGH wine in the process. We always cook tonnes of food. I’ll be found with my head in a cookery book saying, “Let’s try this!” and finding a novel way to cook carrots or anything else we can lay our hands on.
The other night I was watching the classic roast dinners on Master Chef. “Look at those tiny meals,” I thought to myself. “I know it’s fine dining but I’ve roasted bigger King Edwards than the entire size of that meal.” I even texted my friend to see if they were watching, stating, "Have you seen the size of the roasts on Master Chef? We could show them how to cook one! My dolls house meals are larger than theirs.” On the other hand, maybe our roast dinners are too big. They could feed an army of one thousand hungry men, with one over-flowing, full to the brim plateful. Phew, that's a lot of food.
As well as Master Chef I have been tuning into Come Dine with Me, Step Up to the Plate and The Restaurant. The Restaurant is the latest culinary reality show, starring Raymond Blanc. Nine couples open their own restaurant (courtesy of Ray) with a different concept per restaurant, and each couple compete for the chance to work in Raymond Blanc's legendary dining experience Le Manoir. Wow, check out the establishment here: http://www.manoir.com/web/olem/olem_a2a_home.jsp
If anyone cares to escort me to Le Manoir and has lots of spare cash (3 Michelin star establishments are not cheap) I would happily oblige!
Anyway. There are tears, tantrums, back stabbings and gas leaks in this programme. Not to mention some impressive cooking skills. In fact, I’ve been invited to a friends house for dinner tomorrow night and I couldn’t stop myself from emailing her to enquire whether we could tune into The Restaurant. After chatting and eating, of course. It would be rather rude and odd to enter my friends house and plonk myself in front of her telly for the night, avoiding any conversation or eye contact with her. Unfortunately we won’t be viewing The Restaurant, we’re going to watch Celebrity Come Dine with Me instead. Even better. Famous and not so famous, but they think they are famous, contestants allowing the viewer to nose around their homes and watch them cook and entertain other famous and not so famous stars. This is the perfect escapism after a busy day in the office. No doubt my friend and I will be shouting comments at the screen, and adding our opinions to the menus and the attention grabbing hosts.
And you never know, maybe one day soon I’ll have my own kitchen table, to entertain on and burn to my hearts content. Hey, there’s always checked tablecloths to hide the damage.

Picture of the day:

Le recipe box

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Counting the bacteria

Can you remember your first day at school? I can't remember my first ever day at school. Crikey, sometimes I fail to recall what I had for dinner last night, let alone what happened one day thirty years ago. However, I do remember my first day at senior school.
Why are you reminiscing about your school days, you may be wondering. Well, September not only means the beginning of autumn, but the beginning of a new, fresh, school term. And two of my friends daughters have began their long journey at senior school, and three of my friends have children who have started school for the very first time. So I think it's quite feasible that my head is full of such things as reliving my school days.
Green blazer, green skirt, white socks, black shoes, white shirt, red and yellow tie and black bag. I'd dressed for the occasion! This is what my senior school uniform consisted of, and this is what I wore as I nervously rang the door bell on my friends house, on my first day. We walked along the road, feeling very small and new, until we reached the bright green gates of the big school building.
"This is it," I remember thinking to myself. And then I looked at my friend in horror as I realised she had fastened the buttons on her blazer. The ultimate cardinal sin at senior school! I knew this vital piece of information as it had been passed on from a reliable family member. "You must not, under any circumstances, do your blazer up, otherwise you will be known as a boffin," I was told.
Back in those days I wasn't quite sure what a boffin was, but one look at my family members face told me I did not want to be associated with this name, and I thanked him for this important piece of advice. Now I was only too pleased to pass this knowledge onto my friend.
She thanked me profusely for warning her, undid her buttons, and we made our way to the big hall to learn our fate, ie what form classes we were to be placed in for the next five years.
As luck would have it, I was placed in the same form class as my friend Claire, who used to attend the same junior school as me. She who I used to swap shoes with, and she who married an MP whose political career and days of freedom came to an abrupt halt when he set fire to a hotel. Of course we both did not know about the MP at the time, we were only 11 and marriage and other disasters were in the dim and distant future.
Claire and I giggled our way through five years of form classes and English lessons, but we were separated in our other classes after the first year. Not because we were naughty (we had our moments, mind you) but because we were placed in different bands, depending on our levels of intelligence. Ahem, she was slightly more intelligent than me. We would still hook up every break time and lunch time, and we even became librarians so we could escape the rain and sit in the library scoffing chocolate and reading books. I wore my librarian badge with pride, not every one had those special privileges.
On the whole I didn't mind senior school. I learnt to cook jam tarts and chocolate gateaux and was called "You with the hair!" by my home economics teacher. During this period I had very long hair which I used to hide behind if I didn't know the answer to a difficult question, or if I was feeling particularly shy. I was hiding behind my hair one home economics lesson, and the teacher wanted my attention but she couldn't remember my name. Thanks Mrs Fowler. I never managed to live that episode down. For the rest of my school days boys would point at me in the corridors, snigger and shout "Oy! You with the hair!"
I was also called "Miss Chatterbox" by the art teacher. Me, a chatterbox? Whatever gave him that impression? Maybe I used to talk so much through his lessons as every lesson he gave us cheap paper to draw on (which rather resembled the cheap toilet paper we were supplied with) which would tear if we rubbed anything out. And we were always told to draw whatever we liked, and if we were good we could leave early as it was Christmas Day in Wales (he was Welsh). I would always draw my house, which got kind of repetitive, as did the Welsh Christmas Day thing, so I began talking to anyone who listened about anything I could think of. Hence I had to stand in the corner with my arms folded, for "Talking again!" for a whole double lesson. From that day forward he referred to me as "Miss Chatterbox." Still, there were worse things to be called.
When I chose my options, which meant the subjects I would be taking a GCSE exam on, I had a new art teacher who was very scary indeed. I was too petrified to talk in his classes. But behind his terrifying exterior was a sad tale of death and desperation. Apparently he lost his wife and daughter in a car crash in the 1970's. Which was apparently the reason why he still wore 70's style suits and side burns. AND as the rumour went, he'd ripped out the back seats and passenger seat in his car, in morbid dedication to his wife and daughter. I'm quite dubious as to whether the ripped seats story is true?! It seems a tad far fetched to me?
What I do know is true, is this, anyone who dared to talk, laugh or even breathe in his class, would witness his face turn deep purple and he would shout and scream at you and order you to count the bacteria on the walls.
My little cousins have not long left the same senior school, and the last school conversation I had with them I discovered this mentioned teacher is still teaching art, the ripped seats rumour is still floating around, and he is still insisting pupils count the bacteria on the walls. Some things never change hey.
I'm just glad I made it through five years of remembering not to do my blazer up and therefore was never called a boffin. "You with the hair!" and "Miss Chatterbox" yes, but boffin, no. Not ever. Maybe my school days were not so unsuccessful after all.

Picture of the day:

Tropical flower.

Monday, 8 September 2008

The day I went to BirdWorld

I’m sure if we’d packed one more item in the car (the kitchen sink perhaps) the contents would have tumbled out of the misty windows and onto the wet road, leaving a little trail behind, from my house to BirdWorld.
But it’s always best to come prepared, don’t you think? Picnic hamper, cool bag, picnic rug, large umbrella, small umbrella, trainers (if only I'd worn mine), jackets, directions, spare picnic rug, sweeties, more food and drink, camera, and everything else you would need for a day out looking at birds.
Yep, it was another weekend and another day spent with the animals. This time the chosen destination was BirdWorld. Again, the clue is in the name - BirdWorld has 26 acres of aviaries and beautiful landscaped gardens. You can adopt an animal, feed the penguins, walk with llamas, and hire the whole place out for a mere £500.
Or you could just walk around in the rain, taking photographs and feeling sorry for the birds. This is what my lovely friend and I did on Saturday. There were all sorts of brightly coloured and unusual looking feathered animals. I even had a conversation with a parrot. Well we said hello and bye-bye, and I think he said a rude word but I can’t be sure, I could of imagined the rude word. But it didn’t feel right, staring at their beady eyes through the wires in the cage. Okay, some of the cages were pretty big, but not quite as big as a jungle where they are free to spread their wings and fly around, perching on trees every now and then to rest and watch jungle activities.
I much preferred looking at the flowers and the farm animals, I didn’t feel so guilty looking at these.
We also had a picnic in the rain. Beef sandwiches, a selection of strong cheeses, pates, cold and spicy sausages, strawberries and cream, and other yummy picnic type food. The good old fashioned English picnic, with the good old fashioned English weather.
There’s plenty to see and do at BirdWorld, we walked around admiring the animals, and feeding some of them with dried worms (rather them than me) and at the end of the day I realised I had a good old fashioned blister.

I hope you all had an enjoyable weekend dear readers.

Pictures of the day:

The pink flamingos.

The greater rhea.

That's what I think to your dried worms. You could of saved me a fairy cake!

Hello Mr goat.

Oink, oink!

The flowers.

Thursday, 4 September 2008


"If you could have one special power, what would it be?" my friend asked me the other day. Oh goody, I thought to myself, I can't resist questions like this.
Hmmm. I started to think carefully about my choices. We already have the super heroes, Superman, Spider-man and Wonder Woman, and their powers allow them to fly around the world wearing a red cape, jump over large buildings with the aid of a spiders web, and demonstrate the strength of a thousand men whilst wearing hot pants.
These powers are all very well, but would they really be beneficial to me? Do I really need to fly around the world, jump over large buildings, and prove I have the strength of a thousand men?
Actually, the flying part would be rather useful. Imagine it - New York for a morning wake-up coffee and a marmite bagel, followed by a spot of retail therapy. Rome at lunchtime for a cheeky little pasta dish and a glass of wine, then off to The Maldives to stretch out on a sun-drenched beach, relaxing and topping up my tan (which is non-existent at the mo). Then perhaps I could zoom to New Zealand to absorb the magnificent scenery and take pictures for FPE. I could be back in my bedroom and under my duvet by 10pm, with an interesting book.
Or even better, I could fly around the world visiting my blogging friends. Hey, I'm starting to like this flying business.
However, there is something that has crossed my mind before, something I wished I had the power to change, slow down or speed up. This power would be....to control time. Imagine it. I could be Timewoman.
How many occasions have you thought, if only I could go back in time and erase that comment / action? For instance, asking a lady when her baby is due, only to witness her burst into tears and say there is no baby, it's her ever growing appetite and obsession for chocolate fudge cake with double cream and ice cream! Or you forget to drive to the supermarket with your lottery numbers, only to see your numbers flash on the television screen, and you scream in horror as you realise you could have been a millionaire and be purchasing your own tropical island by this time next week. Or you could have least have won a tenner and treated yourself to a bottle of Pinot Grigio, a chicken tikka masala and a trashy celebrity magazine.
Then there's speeding time up or slowing time down. Perhaps you could possess a watch with gadgets to do this. For example, you've let the cat out, wearing your dressing gown, but somehow the dressing gown cord becomes tangled up in the door. You've managed to rip the gown and close the front door in the process. The scenario - you are locked out, completely starkers (the dressing gown is useless now), your partner is not home for four hours and you live in a middle terraced house, on a main road, and there's a traffic jam outside your house. Help! Oh hang on, you're wearing your time watch, so you can move time forward by four hours or go back ten minutes and make sure you didn't make such a hash of letting the cat out.
Can you see the advantages of being Timewoman and possessing the time watch?
Of course I wouldn't be selfish with this power, I would use it to help others too. My friend may be watering her window sill plants one day, and then, ARRGG! She knew she shouldn't have tossed that banana skin so carelessly towards the dustbin and not bothered to pick it up off the floor. She's slips on the skin, looses her balance and falls out the window (which is open due to a sticky, humid evening), still holding the watering can. She lives on the tenth floor in a block of flats. This is a very dangerous situation indeed. But if I was Timewoman I could make everything safe by going back in time, picking the banana skin up, and telling her not to bother watering the plants. I'd ensure I'd been invited over that evening for a lamb casserole and a game of scrabble, so I could carry these actions out.
And just in case anyone gets any funny ideas about kidnapping me and stealing this watch, or try to bribe me into illegal and dodgy time action changes, the watch is invisible to the naked eye and will burn any ones naughty fingers if they attempt to steal it from me.
See, I've got it all worked out. I am Timewoman and time is my special power.

Picture of the day.

What time is it?

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Seeing the world through a camera lens

Despite the down pour of rain on Sunday, I dragged my friend to a place called Tropical Wings. As one would expect from a place called Tropical Wings, it houses and breeds tropical birds and butterflies. But not just tropical birds and butterflies. Oh no, this place went on and on, and on. Room after room, garden after garden of birds, butterflies, flowers, monkeys, horses, donkeys, goats, giant rabbits, giant tortoises, meerkats, wallabies etc etc.
What educational fun we had! Not to mention the suffocating heat in the tropical rooms. "How hot is it in here! My camera lens is all steamed up!" and then walking around the grounds in the pouring rain. "I'm soaked! I wish it would stop raining!" But I was determined to take suitable snaps for the next photography club meeting, the intense heat and wet conditions had to be tolerated.
The next photography club meeting was last night and it was the half yearly photo competition. As I failed to meet the members in the woods - can you believe they all turned up at ten am and I missed them?! They must have all met as I walked to the second car park to see if they were waiting there. We must have missed each other by seconds, and then kept taking different paths in the woods so we didn't bump into each other!
Anyway, if I had seen them on the walk, I would have discussed the competition and realised it meant printing, enlarging and mounting your pictures. I brought mine on a CD, as last time digital pictures were displayed on a slide show. However, I know I have a long way to go, and a more advanced camera to buy, before I reach their level.
I was very impressed. The competition pictures were out standing, and I would have been happy to pay good money to display them on my bedroom walls. Moody boat scenes, romantic reflections on the river and lonely beach pictures.
After the competition, and after praising and congratulating the winners, I had a chat with the judge who was a very friendly chap. He commented on the high standard of the pictures and how photography can change the way you look at life. I totally agree with him on that one. I know I've only just started taking a more serious outlook on photography, but he's right. Photography can open your eyes, you can look around and notice things you may not have noticed before, wishing to capture them and enhance their beauty. I'm definitely loving seeing the world through a camera lens.

Pictures of the day:

The delicate decorated butterflies.

The Mouccan Cockatoo. Unfortunately this fellow has been mis-treated, and as a consequence suffers with physiological problems. Apparently he has chewed his wings, suffers from balance problems and lacks confidence to fly. What a sad story. But since living at Tropical Wings he is said to have improved.

I wonder who lives here?

The Sulcata Tortoise. The third largest tortoise in the world, which can live up to 200 years. Imagine living for 200 years?!

He was my favourite - The wallaby. I wanted to take him home and feed him more carrots.

Monday, 1 September 2008

The unexpected night out

I thought I was going to have a quiet night in last Friday. The most challenging decision I thought I would be facing would be whether to have a bath before watching the television and reading my book, or after watching the television and reading my book. It was going to be a tough decision. And then there was the toe nail dilemma, should I paint them bright pink or dark red? Hmm, decisions, decisions.
But then I received a telephone call from my friend who lives three train rides away, which is about an hour and a bit in the car. She was staying at my other friends house, who lives only ten minutes away in the car, as the nice mechanic man, also known as friends hubby, was fixing her car Saturday morning. "Are you free for a bite to eat?" she asked. The toe nail painting and Friday night telly could wait. A meal with my friends was far more important and rewarding.
A table for three was requested in a local French restaurant. The table we chose was outside, so we could watch the ambulance, police cars and young girls in very short dresses stagger by. (Not quite the French Riviera but at least it wasn't raining.) "I'm sure girls in Essex wear shorter dresses," was my friends observation. I think she could be right there. Or maybe we're getting older and dresses are looking shorter?
Anyway, I nearly had a fit when I scanned the menu and saw the prices of the main courses. Luckily the owner pointed out the three courses and a bottle of wine deal for £15.99. That was more like it!
I ordered the warm goats cheese salad, poached salmon with hollandaise sauce and garlic mushrooms, and apple sorbet to cleanse and freshen my palate. Delicious.
A friendly couple sat down near us and we started chatting to them about their grand children, great grand children and second marriage. The restaurant owner then joined us and free champagne and baileys with ice was appreciated. Not bad hey.
We ended up behind the bar at the end of the night, taking pictures, and I was pretending to serve invisible people. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but one thing was for sure, it was anything but a quiet night in. Don't you just love unexpected nights out. And free champagne.
I arrived home at an undignified hour, pretending to walk in a straight line, my mother complaining I reeked of garlic and alchohol "That's because I had a good night," was my reply, as I wobbled up the stairs to my bedroom.
Well, it beats staying in and painting your toe nails.

Table for three please.

With lots of wine.

What would you like to drink sir?