Monday, September 29, 2008

First Cherry

AA Pic of the Week Apart from this blog, I also keep a photo blog where I display some of my many photos. They are always paired up (on the odd occasion there are three) with something they have in common, like shape, colour or concept. But I keep coming across the odd photograph; interesting, beautiful, funny ..., and I do not know what to do with it; so I have decided to launch a new feature here, Pic of the Week. I hope I can keep it up and do it regularly, hopefully weekly, as the name indicates.

My first picture is one from my childhood in 1955, and I just love it for being such a superb example of a middle class family on a Sunday stroll in the park. It is like out of a social history book. It depicts my mother with us three children and her own mother. I have just sent a paper copy of it to my mother, now 85, who did not remember the occasion when we spoke last night. I seem to be the only one who is not dressed up. Both adult women look elegant and my sisters have dresses and handbags. Did we really walk in the park in such style or was it indeed a special occasion? Maybe the photograph will trigger my mother's memory.

PotW cr 01

Friday, September 26, 2008

From Summer to Autumn

We have left summer behind, but I still have some photos from when we were in the Loire valley and enjoyed some fine food and weather.

One day we visited a small town by the Loire river, Montsoreau, where there was some sort of cyclist event. It was not anything like the Tour de France but more a keen-amateur convention on wheels. The town was completely dominated by people of all ages in those reveal-it-all, cycling shorts. Say no more!

The townspeople, shopkeepers and restaurateurs had done quite a lot to welcome the cyclists and make them feel at home. On entering the town it was soon obvious what the theme was. Some had been rather imaginative. Take a look!

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But autumn is upon us, and it also has its definite charm and beauty. Mushrooms grow, sometimes to considerable sizes, and the sunshine highlights the beautiful colours of the autumn leaves. Cue for a song...?

IMG_6299 cropped Autumn leaves


Thursday, September 18, 2008

From Lo-Tech To Hi-Tech

I have had one of those philosophical moments thinking about technological development. I thought of my grandfather, who was twenty years old when the brothers Wright managed to fly an aircraft for the very first time on 17 December 1903. Well before he passed away in 1976 he had also seen the first man on the moon. Isn't that a wonderful, fantastic thought? In his lifetime mankind developed the technology to put a man on that mysterious round disc illuminating the night sky. However Leonardo da Vinci, that multi-talented brainbox from half a millennium ago with his many ingenious ideas, did not always get it right. Like this one ...

da Vinci flying man

So I started thinking about technological milestones in my own life, so far. Typing this draws my mind back to when I was a little boy. Then I used a pencil for most writing; on the odd occasion we used metal-nibbed pens in school for handwriting practice. Later the fountain pen, despite the danger of making a mess of your shirt pocket or your pencil case, made it much more user-friendly since you did not have to dip the nib into a bottle of ink every five seconds. My first fountain pen though, was of the kind that you had to fill, sucking the ink up with a pulling movement. When the ink cartridge was introduced some time later you felt that things were really moving on. Then there was the ballpoint pen, the greatest of them all. How that has revolutionised writing by hand! They were initially not really affordable to the average person, but these days most people would not care if they lost their ballpoint pen.

Long before these relatively modern writing tools, the quill pen was the only alternative, the forerunner to the metal-nibbed pen. I still remember how, when I was thirteen, I had found a big wing feather from a buzzard or similar bird of prey, and I made my own modern ballpoint quill pen out of it by inserting the ink tube with ballpoint into the shaft of the feather. Genius, I thought.

Typewriter cr

As a lucky seven-year-old I was sometimes allowed to use my fathers typewriter. Remember them? When the ribbon got stuck, entangled and messy? And the arms with the letters on them jammed completely if you tried to type too quickly! Much better when the electric ones with the spinning ball were introduced. There was no stopping the world's typists then. The employers could demand even higher speeds, as long as you did not forget to put in the carbon sheet so you got a copy, because this was when photo-copying was relatively new and expensive. Do you remember those days?

I was a newly appointed deputy head teacher when my head teacher said I needed a calculator for my work. I would be reimbursed, he assured me, otherwise I might have hesitated. This one had solar cells, and I was so impressed by the whole idea that I asked the shop assistant how long the solar cells would last?! I still use my second calculator, which must be at least twenty to twenty-five years old; and the cells have not given up on me yet!

Thinking of sunlight, makes me think again of my grandfather, how he went about taking photographs. It was a slow process; at least that was what we children thought as we stood there waiting to have the group picture taken. The technology in my digital camera is quite different.

Old camera cr Canon Digital IXUS 400

Then we have communication technology; remember telex machines? The sender had to either type, punching a tape that then (I think) was put into another machine producing typed text, or it was received as it was typed in at the other end. After telex came fax; what a revolution! You could send any document over the phone?! Unheard of! Put the sheet in the facsimile machine, watch it being pulled slowly through and then phone to check that it had been received alright. You could not really trust the fickle fax!

telex fax

These days we just attach a document to an email, but hey, that was almost surpassing the computer! Young folk nowadays have little understanding of how quickly things have moved on with computers. The computer on the first lunar landing craft, The Eagle, had less memory than a modern mobile phone. I remember buying my first PC nearly twenty years ago, how I said that I did not want to become a second class citizen, I had to learn about this new technology. How things have moved on since!

In the beginning the features of a computer were extremely limited and when the internet started up it was a desperate struggle to find anything since search engines were in their infancy as well. Those of you who also know the whole development would probably agree when I say it has been mind-boggling.

I must not forget to mention mobile phones; texting, sending pictures, taking photos ...

We have come a long way from the bricks of the eighties to the iPhones. It is amazing; and you wonder what will come next. Did I forget the iPod?

And here I am blogging about it all in my personal little space in the blogosphere.

C u l8r!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

River Music in Cologne

We have just come back from Cologne where we strolled along the river bank just like a thousand other people on this sunny afternoon taking in the atmosphere. Oh no, don't start thinking about the old Kinks hit from the sixties, if you are old enough to remember or know, but it was one music scene after the other. Within a few hundred meters we came across these four, it has to be said, rather good groups/artist, all playing different kinds of music. We stopped and listened to a few numbers from everyone, tapping our feet with a smile on our faces most of the time.

Why do these guys make me think of ZZ Top?

01 ZZ Top gone silver

This gentleman played some lovely light classics.

02 Grand piano

After that we were treated to both Bamboleiro and Guantanamera.

03 Spanish guitar

The fourth outfit was a group of young jazz/blues musicians with the lead guitarist earning special praise.

04 Jazzy bluesy

Then I spotted this example of the dangers of long-term parking. Not much for the poor owner to collect! Maybe she (I think) could find some consolation in the nearby chocolate museum as advertised.

05 Choc bike

Saturday, September 13, 2008

French Farmer's Fête

On a very hot day about a month ago we went to the Grand Fête de la Moisson at a small village called St Denis de Gastines. These rural people are very good at keeping their traditions alive, and this particular fête is well-known and very popular, not only with farmers but also odd people like us. Apart from what you can see examples of in the pictures below, there was of course food and drink, and in the big tent restaurant there was a dance floor where young and old alike moved to the music from a young woman who played all the old French songs on her piano accordion. Fabulous!

You could say that it was all an exercise in keeping the tradition and farming work methods alive for the adults and to introduce them to the young. There was a wonderful and friendly atmosphere and it seemed everybody had a lovely time. We certainly did!

(Click on pictures to enlarge and enjoy better!)

There were different kinds of pulling power...

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... and wondrous working machines...

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... and the old guys showed how to do it.

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Tractor drivers proudly showed off their vehicles.

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And there were plenty of tractors, all dolled up and some with rather faded colours.

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We were treated to mobile entertainment as well, and when we returned home the sun also needed a rest.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Same Procedure As Last Year

What does this title make you think of? Well, if you are Swedish (possibly Scandinavian), German or watch German telly, you might know what I am referring to. You see, we stayed in a chateau in France when we went on a little mini holiday during the stay in our house. It was in the Loire valley and this chateau had once been a hunting "lodge", a rather grand one, which belonged to one of the most famous castles in France, Chenanceau. This grand chateau strides the Loire river and is a real tourist trap. Even on holiday I do not want to waste time standing in line for hours on end to get a look. Life is too short. Better google and look at the pictures there!

Our little castle was somewhat more modest and was situated in the countryside ten or twenty kilometers away. It was privately owned, had vineyards and a few rooms for guests.

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When we arrived at the time agreed, there was nobody to greet us. Mrs S went to investigate while I was on the look-out in the car. Mrs S could not find anybody anywhere. Several minutes went by and we were starting to wonder what to do. Suddenly two young girls in swimming outfits appeared from somewhere on their way to the swimming pool which we had spotted behind a hedge. Mrs S spoke to them and one of them dashed off to fetch what we believed was her mother.

It did not take us long to realise that this landlady must have had a rather liquid lunch and had been sleeping it off on a couch somewhere. She duly showed us our room, The Yellow Room, but was not, shall we say, over-informative. It is a not uncommon phenomenon in France, having to ask about everything since they do not volunteer the information. Luckily Mrs S speaks rather good French, so we managed.

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We stayed three nights and we had the pleasure of studying Mrs Landlady's progression through the day. In the mornings she was fine, a clear eye and a steady foot. In the afternoons she did her best to hide her state of inebriation. In the evenings, well...

We had signed up to do some wine tasting one late afternoon, and after that we were having supper in the chateau. The tasting was very enjoyable. Their viticulturist told our group of about ten people all about it and took us through the different types of wine, talking about soil, climate, weather etcetera.


Then came supper. There was a young French couple with their three-year-old and Mr and Mrs S, and we were served by our lovely hostess and landlady. The table was set in the beautiful dining room among all sorts of old artifacts and objects. On it stood one half-empty bottle of white wine and one half-empty bottle of red, quite obviously left over from the earlier tasting. Then the show started. Now think "Same procedure..."

All the courses were cold but for the dessert and were quite delicious, but we only saw the two half-empty bottles all evening. She started by talking at length about the homegrown beef tomatoes, just like her mother used to make them. They were good, but c'mon, not that good. We figured out that she had not actually cooked anything herself, more likely been to the butcher or delicatessen and bought ready-made food.

She was drunk when the meal started, and I believe she kept filling up her glass every time she was in the kitchen. What a sight she was! When she appeared in the kitchen door you could see how she concentrated, aimed for the table with great determination and holding the plates with a desperately firm grip. Just like the butler in the TV show referred to in the title, she kind of leant forward to propel herself across the room, trying to focus on not tripping over the edge of the big rug. And all the time she had that oh-no-I-am-not-drunk smile on her face accompanied by those alcohol-heavy eyelids. Hilarious! But we all kept our cool and did not comment at the table. Mrs S and I saved it all for later, and then we laughed like mad together.

As I mentioned before, all the courses but for the dessert, were cold. The dessert was served to one person at a time. Reason? The well-known ping sound from the microwave oven gave it away. She put some sort of fruity sponge pudding in the microwave, one at a time! Then PING ... and in she trotted and put one small plate in front of one person, then she repeated it, ... PING ... next one, and so on.

The whole meal was an absolute farce, a travesty, a comedy performance of great magnitude, so great that we never for a second thought of complaining or commenting. We had the best seats in an unforgettable show.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

At long last!

I am back! Sorry to keep you waiting, but I have been busy. I have not been part of the blogging, or even the internet, world since I last posted. Computer access has been practically non-existing, so there is a lot of catching up to be done, both reading blogs and posting here.

I will start from the beginning with my visit to Stockholm, to my son's family and their new house. It was a week of mostly work and some pleasure. Have a look at the Smilebox, which I have prepared especially for you. ;-)

(There are 15 photos; pay no attention to the fact that it says 15/20 when it stops. Just look how sweet they are together!)

Click to play The New House
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In a later post I will tell you about our French holiday including a very "eccentric" landlady at a chateau and other hopefully entertaining facts and pics. Till then, cheeriooo.