Tuesday, 25 September 2012

New Scanner Arrives

Phew! I can now start scanning again as my new scanner has arrived.

I wasn't actually sure that it was the scanner when it arrived - the box was big enough to hold at least half a dozen...

But after digging through all the shredded cardboard packaging inside I only found one box!

It's a Cannon 9000F flatbed and film scanner all in one, so I've been able to replace two separate scanners with just the one. Meant I had to tidy up my desk... duh!

So now I can scan not only my 35mm negatives and slides but the 120 roll film ones as well. And (pauses to let you get a bit excited) Miss Jeannie has given me a box of her father's 120 negatives showing Blackpool properties from the 1960s.

I might work my way slowly through those and take some photos from the same places for comparison with today! But of course I did have to have a go to see if it worked, so to compare yesterday's shots of Marsh Mill, Thornton, with the same place before the craft village was built, here's a shot from 1983/84.

Oh yes! It works!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Breakfast and a Windmill

Yes, you don't often see the two words "breakfast" and "windmill" together, but there you go...!

Saturday started with a celebration.

Miss Franny has finished work in order to be able to look after our granddaughter, Grace, once Gill goes back to work. So the day after the slightly tearful goodbye at Sainsbugs - it was more the rest of the staff than Fran I think - we met up with Eddie and Gill and David and Jeannie for breakfast at Quilligans.

David and Jeannie had phoned to pre-order a bottle of cava and some orange juice and we enjoyed a Bucks Fizz breakfast! Love you guys!

Later in the day we were round at Gill and Eddie's and walked round to the Marsh Mill craft village, where Fran and Gill wanted to buy some things.

I took the camera along to get some shots of the windmill.

And speaking of photography, I'm afraid I bust my film scanner one night this week. So if anyone was wondering why it had gone slightly quiet on my Flickr site, then that's why. It's going to have to wait until I find a replacement.

Considering how long I have had it though, I should think I could probably get an upgrade in quality or at least size resolution. And I'm looking for one that can do my 120 roll film negatives and slides too.

Large versions of the photos: the windmill photos can be found in the Windmills and Windpumps set at Flickr.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

1,000,000 Views at Flickr

Well, you did it! I've been checking the view statistics at Flickr throughout the day and when I looked at 20 minutes past eight o'clock tonight I had topped the million mark by a hefty 115!

A few minutes later when I snatched a screen grab it had gone up a bit more...

The photo with the most views during the day was this one with just 9 views - so it's place in the day's listings could change very quickly!

A massive thank you to you - my readers and viewers.

Get Me To A Million!

I'm getting all excited. This morning as I checked the statistics for my Flick account I found I was just 1000 views short of one million!

So this is a plea - help me reach the magic number today by having a look at a few photos on my site. Here's a few tasters of what you might find...

No surprises to say there's a few of Blackpool! In fact there are 20 sets of photos with almost 1400 photographs to choose from.

There are also 21 sets of photographs of different parts of Great Britain. All the countries and regions of Great Britain have their own set and there are sets of holidays we have taken in the UK plus sets for such things as bridges, rivers, canals, roman remains and pubs!

There are 22 sets with over 2700 photos of our travels abroad. Mainly of Europe, though there are 164 photos of a trip to Orlando, USA in 1993. Places include France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Greece, Croatia, Egypt and Turkey amongst others. Lots of cruise ships to look at too!

If it's animals that you like there are 12 sets containing over 500 photos of domestic pets, farm animals and zoo animals.

There are almost 5000 photos in a collection called simply Other. It houses sets on things like academic buildings, portraits, family, churches and religious sites, coin operated machines such as inball, jukeboxes and arcade games, celebrities, toys, night shots and my sketches.

There are two sets in the above collection of all of my black and white collection. These also appear in some of the other sets but the B&W sets bring them all together. Note also that a photo of a bridge will appear in the bridges set but also in the set for the region of the uk or the set for the holiday if it's abroad.

In the Curiosities collection you will find 22 sets of photos on such topics as castles, hillforts, stocks, crosses and memorials, legends, stone circles, statues and windmills. 1200 photos await you there. Again, they will also be in other relevant sets.

In all there are currently 8379 photos altogether - blimey! If you try hard you could have me well on the way to two million views!!!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Model Trains at Fleetwood

Today I took myself off to Fleetwood High School to see an exhibition of model trains.

I never put so much effort into model trains myself. I was happy if I could set up a track and got one end to meet the other so a train could go round it instead of all this fiddle yard nonsense where you send a train from one end to the other and then send a different one back...

But if I'm totally honest, I never bothered much with scenery either... The front of the sofa was a mountain range and I had couple of plastic Airfix platforms and a few buildings, none of which in a real town would have stood anywhere near each other...

This one was modelled on a container yard. The crane gantry went up and down and the crane came down and picked up containers from lorries and placed then on trains or vice versa. The modern diesel engines made quite realistic sounds too - an innovation that was quite missing from the train sets of my childhood.

But I couldn't help feeling it was a boring setting for a model railway... sorry guys! Get some trains going, never mind all this fiddling about lifting boxes up and down... Still... whatever floats your boat I suppose!

And talking of things that I never had as a kid - this stall (Kytes Lights) had LED lighting sets for emergency vehicles and platform lighting etc. Brilliant! Really realistic too - model ambulances and fire engines had blue flashing lights behind their grills!

There was a large Scalextric track in the main entrance. The trouble with Scalextric was always two-fold: you needed a space the size of your entire home's footprint and the cars move at a scale rate of something roughly twice the land speed record and therefore fly off at corners far too readily...

I used to have a OO scale set called Minic Motorways which was excellent and you could have trains and cars going and both scaled the same! There was even a level crossing so you could crash them into each other!

Chesfield Tramways represents a 1950s town with Blackpool trams running through it. A brilliant set with copper wires strung over the roadways and mostly scratch built trams running up and down. There were Glasgow and Sheffield trams in their fiddle yard I noticed so they weren't just Blackpool trams. The trams actually do pick their current up from the overhead wires too.

A massive layout and N gauge trains allowing for a really intricate and detailed scenery layout. Or a lot of grass... The river crossing was good but not enough trains going for me. Surely that's the point of model trains? I can't be doing with all this bell clanking and lever pulling and signal setting - just get some trains going! Heh heh - ain't I a stinker?

This one was good - I loved this scenery! The setting was Arizona and there was a wrap-around layout with operators standing inside. There were more buildings on the other side so I wondered if we were seeing the back of it, but there was a train going round all the time, so top marks. The loco was making all the right noises too, including a deep hooter blasting out to wake the folks in the nearby reservation...

But for the best ever train sets you need to watch an old Addams Family episode. Two trains would be on a direct route to collision and the watching guest would say "They're going to crash!"
"You think so?" Gomez would say, pressing the plunger to blow up one of the trains!

Large versions of the photos are available from this set at Flickr

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

"King And King To Be" Poetry

I've received a few nice emails recently complimenting me on the few bits of poetry in my King Arthur book, King and King To Be.

There are several sections of poetry, some of which move the story along, being flashbacks and some like the following sung by bards in the hall of a king.

In the starlight, elven twilight
Wood and water silver seem
In the deeping, softly sleeping
Lies a woodsman lost in dream

Under skies he closed his eyes
No roof for the travelling man
In ferny nest he finds his rest
Sleeping where and when he can

With a shake he comes awake
His faithful steed had called and shied
As he laid, the fairy rade
Set out on their night time ride

Wraps cloak around from off the ground
The misty rain is cold and damp
A flickering light off in the night
Approaches on his hidden camp

Woodsman watches fairy torches
Held up high as voices sing
Eyes open wide, as past him ride
The court of the Fairy Queen and King

King And King To Be, Chapter Nine.

The book is available for Kindle only at the moment, but I am looking to get it out in paperback. This is going to involve getting more artwork done for the rear cover and spine so will take a few weeks yet.

You can download a sample 10% of the book at the Amazon page linked above to read either on your Kindle or on your PC screen and it's also possible to read on other devices too I believe.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Wedding Singers

Last weekend Creeping Bentgrass played for the wedding celebration of Pat and Beryl Masters.

This took us back to our very early days as a band of four, as we were playing in the Stumble Inn at Myerscough College. Pat and Beryl are both members of staff at the college.

When we first started out at Christmas 2000, we were all four, members of staff at Myerscough. Today we are down to just the two of us and of the original four, only David still works at the college.

We did a lot of our early rehearsing in the Stumble Inn, so it felt like coming home for us to play there again.

These days we play together so often that "rehearsing" tends to be an afternoon at John's house whilst we work out a few new songs. If it works after two plays then it stays in! The third play will be in front of an audience. I have been known to spring a new song on David in a live gig but only if I know it's going to be something he knows. Cliff's The Young Ones and the Kinks' Sunny Afternoon both started out like that and we've never looked back from those two! So despite David's fondness for saying we've never played a song before, it's very seldom true!

Ah yes - formal gigs like weddings usually merit a costume change at half time when the food is served. If we stop at all, it's normally just to suck a lemon or something...

Friday, 7 September 2012

Ortisei in the Italian Sud Tirol

Friday 17 August. We were on the return leg of our trip to the Italian Dolomites and made a stop at the town of Ortisei.

This was a beautiful Tyrolean town, full of painted murals on the sides of hotels, flower boxes and sunshine. We parked in a large coach and car park next to a cable car that headed off up a mountain.

We had to cross the river to walk into the town, which we did by means of a foot bridge. The huge spa in he background is the Cavallino Bianco, it prides itself on its facilities for children and in fact at certain times you cannot book into the hotel unless there are children in your party.

We have around three quarters of an hour free time here - sounds a lot but it's not that much really! There's lots to see and many cafes to tempt you. One with a loo would be quite good actually... ahem... excuse me...

And then, just drink in that scenery. Absolutely gorgeous! Leaving the mirror behind, we venture down the hill into the town itself.

There's not as much wood in evidence as there would be in the Austrian Tirol, but apart from that the style is very similar.

It has large wood carvings, all dried and cracked and gnarly (was he one of the seven dwarfs...? Or "dwarves" as Disney thought it should be...)

And this gorgeous and very quaint small clock tower made of blocks of wood and roofed with a steep slated roof a little like a steeple. There were too many people about to stand back and get a decent picture of it.

Fran optimistically buys a fridge magnet. I'm not sure there actually is any space on the fridge to put any more magnets. I reckon the weight of the fridge with all its decoration make it a good job we have solid floors on our ground floor... The 45 minutes is up. We return to stand by the coach, reluctant to board it until the last minute so that the air-con can cool it down a few hundred degrees to a level of merely sweltering...

A final photo from the coach as we cross over the river. I'm a Pisces... we just like water!

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Thursday, 6 September 2012

Our Last Night at Lake Garda

21 August 2012. We take a last look round Riva on Tuesday night before we are picked up first thing in the morning for our transfer to Verona Airport.

We walked around the front of our hotel, Hotel Sole, and past the entrance to La Rocca, the castle and museum. This brings you to a small piazza.

In the building on the left was Reptiland - a zoological presentation of reptiles and snakes. For some reason Fran didn't want to go in...

Carrying on round the moat of La Rocca, the moored boats and view down to the lake is very pleasing. There is a camp site behind the lights to the left and the thump thump thump of loud music came from that direction. We weren't tempted to go closer to hear it properly...

We made our way back through the back streets and past pavement cafes. We weren't particularly wanting a late night as we had to be at the pickup point near the ferry ticket office by 7:00am.

So we arrived back at the main piazza and Hotel Portici, seen above and then skirted round to spend a last hour or so with a drink or two at the Cristallo bar and gelaterie. We would have quite liked a last ice cream too, but after our excellent dinner at the hotel, I'm not sure we would have been wise to have done so!

A last look at G.Zanardelli, the paddle steamer, all tied up and secure for the night at her berth.

I have to say that spending a week at Riva is very relaxing. There's no rush to get anywhere. If you miss a ferry there'll be another one sooner or later and there's enough bars to be able to sit and wait in comfort and with your favourite drink to hand.

So that's our holiday over. In the morning we get up bleary eyed and knowing the breakfast room will not yet be open. However the night porter at Hotel Sole makes us a cappuchino and brings a selection of breakfast bars (some nice and some like nothing I have ever tasted before or wish to again...!)

The coach turns up on time and Verona airport is small but ok. There's not a lot of food available there though - a tip for anyone who might be going there!

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Monday, 3 September 2012

Last Day at Lake Garda

Tuesday 21 August 2012. It's our last day in Italy and we decide to take the ferry back to Malcesine for the morning.

It's a last trip on G.Zanardelli, the paddle ferry, which drops us off on time just over an hour after leaving Riva.

We follow our footsteps of earlier in the week and arrive at the castle, having pressed ourselves to one side to allow a little blue golf buggy bearing yet another bride and groom come past on their way up to the castle for their wedding. I'm not sure where these came from, but we were spared having to listen to the speeches for this one over our evening dinner!

An art gallery near the castle. Not having a window turned out to be no problem at all... I was surprised really at the scarcity of art galleries and artists. The place is really made for painters. In Cornwall in England you trip over their easels all the time and every second shop is an art gallery, yet here, with all the lovely scenery and all the good weather, I don't think I saw anyone other than myself sketching or painting all week! Very strange!

Maybe the artists were all indoors, painting ceilings? We walked past this beautiful hall on our way back down the hill. At the far end was a glorious view of the lake, but the difference in lighting levels outdid the camera's best efforts! I'm not sure what this place was, but the door was open and inviting and I allowed myself to be invited!

A Kodak sign! Snap them while you can... Technology is wonderful - but it has consequences for anyone who worked in areas being obliterated either through alternative digital ways of working or through automation.

We spend the morning and have our lunch in Malcesine at the rear of the little square harbour.

Sitting to dine al-fresco with a pizza followed by a fruit-laden ice cream dish, being entertained all the time by the arrival and departure of ferries and the goings on in the little harbour is a lovely way to spend an hour or so!

Then we catch the ferry back to Riva via Limone and Torbole, passing by our hotel, the Hotel Sole.

We arrive back to dock next to the Brescia. We spend the rest of the afternoon lazing and reading, drinking Aperol Spritzes and then heading back to the hotel to pack for tomorrow's very early start.

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