Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cool Water

This week I give you a picture of what this planet is all about, or at least what makes life possible, water. This week the G20 countries will meet in London and environmental protest organisations will be there to remind the delegates of the climate situation.

So I thought it might be appropriate to display an image of free-flowing water that has kept a nearby watermill wheel spinning for centuries. In particular if you enlarge the picture you will see all the wonderful colours reflected in the water. Water is beautiful.

(Click to enlarge)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Saturday Browse

One of our favourite pastimes on Saturdays is to go to Düsseldorf and stroll in the modern city centre with all its shops and then head towards the old town for a fish meal at the Fischhaus. We went yesterday, and as always we were sucked into the Kö Galerie with all its posh shops. Just watching people there is entertainment in itself. Germans still love to dress up, put their Sunday best on, and go window shopping. It's just like theatre. In particular the older generation are guilty of this.

Some of them find a stool in the wine bar in the mall and sit there sipping wine, chatting and watching others. Many of the women have several layers of makeup, overdone hair and even fur coats. Yes, proper fur! The gents of a certain age mostly have old-fashion mustaches, jackets and ties. And everybody is watching everybody!

D 1

For some reason, which we never found out about, old cars were displayed in some spring-like, flower arrangements.

D 2 D 3

But what was the hidden meaning of the ornament on this one, a child doing a one-arm handstand? Is that to warn children playing in the street, that they might end up on the bonnet of this car if they don't behave?

D 4

Friday, March 27, 2009

Forest Photo Walk

My new camera and I just went for a short walk in a nearby forest. Light conditions were not the very best for photography, but I gave it a go anyway.

I first walked past a recycling container which had a beautiful, faded blue colour. The buds on some of the trees were in their very first phase but the forest floor looked as dead as in late autumn. Not many signs of spring just yet, dead bits of tree and old dry leaves still hanging as a reminder of last year.

As I walked back some dogs came out of their kennel and saw me off, walking along the inside of a long fence surrounding some riding stables. A group of cheerful spring flowers greeted me as I returned home, telling me it was spring after all.

Recycling bin Bud 1
Bud 2 Forest floor
Broken twig Last year's dry leaves
Three dogs Garden flowers


(Click to enlarge)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Greenfinches - Feeder Fight

As you might understand I was very keen yesterday to use my new camera. I have not reported much on the bird situation in the garden of late, but there are plenty of them and it is getting to the busiest period of the year now. Many different species visit regularly and they all squabble a little and some bully others from time to time. But the most aggressive ones are definitely the greenfinches. They always fight each other, competing for space on the feeders. I have witnessed many acrobatic aerial confrontations, and now also managed to catch some of them with my camera. So today I give you an example of my first shot at it (no pun intended), and there may be more to follow. In the future I will also use my photo blog to display many more.

I took this picture yesterday in rather dull light and without a tripod, but with a surprisingly steady hand, in particular since I used a heavy 200 mm lens. If you enlarge the picture you will see much more detail.

(Click to enlarge.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My New Camera

I have been somewhat absent from the blogosphere for a few days due to work and my new little pet, a digital SLR. At last I have made up my mind and bought one. I threw in a tele lens for good measure so I could get closer to objects without too much effort.

There is a lot to learn, although there is fully automatic and also various settings to give you easier options. I am getting to know my new friend and will in the future practise a lot to master the ISO, aperture and shutter speed for perfect results. In the meantime I give you a small collection of various shots I have managed so far having a lot of fun.


Lens cap Colourful garages and bins
Green Woodpecker Sunlit wall
Sun rays Tulips

Friday, March 20, 2009

Follow The Trail

At Your Feet 175 w

I wrote about the pilgrim trail in a previous post, but there are also more modern trails you can follow. If you look down as you walk in Liège, Belgium, you might see one of these little brass circles.

George Simenon Liege

My first thought was "Oh, so he lived here! I had no idea." George Simenon, the author of the books about detective Maigret, was from Liège. I remembered watching the TV series based on his books many moons ago in Sweden.

I instantly recognised Maigret's trademark pipe and hat, and I also understood that the small arrow was pointing in the direction you ought to walk if you wanted to get to the next place of interest. Putting down little markers like these is a simple but clever way of both leading people along the trail and bringing it to the attention of somebody who happens to come across it, like in my case.

We never had time to follow the trail, but we did find Mr Maigret sitting on a bench. Looked like he had been sitting there for a while, possibly trying to find a solution to a particularly tricky case.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Explain This! - The Update

Yesterday when I went for a run I heard the skylark for the third time and also saw lapwings for the third time this season, so it must be spring, which some flowers also indicated.

daffs spring flowers

Having nearly finished my morning exercise I simply had to stop at that tree. I was well equipped for the occasion; I was not only wearing (clipped on) my iPod Shuffle with a magical mix of music - James Morrison, Oasis, Seasick Steve, Amy Winehouse, Corinne Bailey Rae and Adele, but I had my camera!

I examined the rim again, more thoroughly this time, and could not find any crack, split or obvious welding. It was just a little buckled at one point. I tried to pull it against the tree to see if there was any hidden opening; I twisted it and pulled, twisted it and pulled, many times. Nothing! I simply could not figure out how the heck it had ended up like that.

There was no corrosion, because it was made of non-corrosive light metal. Had the tree had time to grow so tall from a time when such wheel rims were manufactured? I do not know. I cannot believe it is not a practical joke of some kind, but I cannot figure out how it has been done. To show you how tall the tree is I used my camera, and can now show you a 40-second video clip. See for yourself, what solution is there to this impossibility?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Explain This!

Bike wheel rim

A metal bike wheel rim round a tree? Had to get my camera out! The tree was very tall; I promise it is no trick on my part, but somebody with a wicked mind must have arranged this, don't you think. I did not inspect the rim in minute detail, but I did have a quick look all around it and could see no break or split anywhere. Ideas?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sunset Sevenfold

AA Pic of the Week 125 w

Pic of the Week this week is in fact the same picture, but in seven different edited versions. I was playing around with one of the photos from Thursday's sunset walk and put them in a Smilebox. Some of them really look like oil paintings, and I thought I would show how much fun you can have with a photo editing program, if you did not know already. Just a little playfulness!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Sunset Sevenfold
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Walking Into an Oil Painting

Ten minutes through the woods takes you into a big open space with farmers' fields criss-crossed by narrow roads. We went for another relaxing walk last night and I just wanted to post some of the pictures quickly for you to enjoy. The sky was stunning and even pools of water reflected the sky in an interesting way. As a final treat we saw eight deer in an open field. Just beautiful!

IMG_7713 IMG_7716
IMG_7720 IMG_7730
IMG_7733 IMG_7739

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Did I Really Do That?

IMG_7707 fxd I am not a chef, but I can cook, perhaps down to the fact that I am meticulous, organised and read what it says on the packet. I do a mean salmon on pasta with prawn sauce, which varies according to what is available in the kitchen. I try to balance salt and sweet, garlic and any other ingredient.

We sometimes buy fresh chilis, which invariably dry after a while, but we keep them like that. A few times I have used dried chilis in my prawn sauce to add some kick to it, which Mrs S in particular likes very much. I did that yesterday as well.

I am a keen washer-upper, even during cooking, which is particularly good when you handle both onion, garlic and, in this case, chili. I always clean any board straight after use; I am funny like that. I also wash my hands regularly during the process, which is extra prudent handling the chilis.

Yesterday I did the usual, used my fingers to remove the seeds and tear the chilis into small pieces. Then I washed my hands thoroughly, several times, with washing-up liquid.

I managed to get the meal ready for the important European football game between Liverpool and Real Madrid and sat down to enjoy a sporty meal. My favourite team, Liverpool, outplayed Real from the start and I felt I was in for a memorable European evening, which would turn out later to be true, but in a different way to what I had anticipated.

After a thoroughly thrilling first half and a lovely salmon dish (if I may say so myself) I realised I had been staring at the TV screen without blinking perhaps for too long, so my eyes were a little itchy. Then I did it. To an observer it might have looked like I could not believe my eyes. My team had been outstanding and outclassed a formidable opponent after all.

I took off my glasses and RUBBED MY EYES! Need I say more? I had washed my hands a thousand times in warm water with soapy stuff; the chilis were dry, etc.. etc..

I thought my eyes would burn to slushy mush, melt, disintegrate, explode, run dry or .....  I honestly thought my hands were without any trace of the hot chilis, but some oil or microscopic particles must have lingered on my fingers to set my eyes on fire.

It took all of the half time interval to rinse my eyes in water, first under the tap, then using the eye cup Mrs S rushed upstairs to get from the medicine cupboard. Perhaps I should have taken a photo of my eyes then, but that might have scared some squeamish readers. The fact is that I said to Mrs S, "It's crazy, I am standing here thinking I have to blog about this", and laughed about it.

How sad is that, inflicting pain on yourself in order to have some blogging material? I would certainly never do this again. Next time I will be using my trusted rubber gloves or something.

My eyes still feel a bit swollen today, but what the heck, Liverpool progressed to the quarter finals of the European Cup.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Was That a Compliment?

Mrs S and I attended a work-related meeting not far from Hannover at the weekend. We set off on Friday afternoon as soon as possible, because we were having a social (= meal in a Mexican restaurant) with other delegates later that evening. I was going to pick up Mrs S from work as quickly as possible to begin the several-hour-long journey. But I ran out of time for various reasons; so much so that I forgot to do that last thing you always do before setting off on a car journey of uncertain duration. Yes, I forgot to go to the loo.

We set off on the motorway; traffic was heavy and weather atrocious; wind, rain and spray impairing visibility down to dangerously low levels. Then we had the not-so-good fortune of hitting plenty of road works. Time passed and I was getting increasingly desperate to relieve myself. There were no service stations, picnic areas or even protective vegetation, and I was getting really uncomfortable. There was nowhere I could pull over to let nature take its course. I was close to panic.

At last I saw signs saying there was a big service station with all facilities possible in 15 kilometres. Must make it, must make it, was my mantra for the remaining distance. It turned out to be one of those places with money-operated turnstiles to access the toilets. Luckily I had the required €0.50 on me.

Despite my discomfort I believe I had that slightly pathetic smile of relief on my face as I stood there, feeling the pain ease off gradually. When business was nearly finished I heard a loud voice from the next cubicle (in German), "That's what I call a bladder!" I tried desperately to control my laughter not to make a total mess in my cubicle. The old English expression "to spend a penny" should really in this case have been "to spend a pound". Never in my life did I imagine I would get a compliment for the size of my bladder!

Hannover receipts - sanifair

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Too Multi-National For My Own Good?

Samsung-Z560 fxd When we left the UK to move to Germany I kept my English mobile. I had been with the same network for many years, although they became T-Mobile instead of One2One (the only low-cost alternative at the time).

I had joined One2One in the days when they still had sales reps who made home visits to convince you to buy their services. In this case a young woman came to my flat one evening. I was living on my own at that time, and I have thought many times how inappropriate and unacceptable that would have been today. No company would send a young female rep on her own to an unknown man's flat at night time these days; that would be irresponsible company behaviour. But this happened in the late eighties and was not considered a problem.

Sometime after the move to Germany I thought it would be best to have a German mobile, which obviously would cut down on costs. As I was considering this, my son and partner gave me an old (Swedish) phone with a pay-as-you-go SIM card, which would save both caller and receiver money when we were in Sweden. (Otherwise they would have to pay for calling the UK and I for transferring the call from the UK to Sweden!)

The phone was an old Sony Ericsson, which had seen its heyday. Often it was impossible to scroll up in a menu, because of a worn-out button. So I had to go back one level and start all over again. But OK, I could live with that.

Then it struck me that I could get a German SIM card and use that with the Swedish Sony Ericsson. Yeah! But NO! It just would not work. That's when I learned about how telecoms lock their phones to their networks. What to do?

I think I did a bit of googling and came across the phenomenon of unlocking the phones via the internet, to free them of their crippling chains. I used the service of mobileunlocked.com , and for a modest fee they liberated the handset. So, now I could use two different cards for two different countries in the same old knackered phone. Brilliant!

But I still had my old English one. One day I needed to ring their customer service regarding some matter or other, and to my great surprise the lady asked me would I want to upgrade my phone. Upgrade my phone? Yes, have a new one. I can see that you are out of contract and have not had a new phone, she said.

Then it dawned on me; I had never had a second phone from them, although I had bought one myself years ago, and I had been with them for close to 20 years!

To some younger readers of this blog, that seems a lifetime. How many phones could I have had over the years, I wonder?

So they sent me this spanking new Samsung Z560, with camera and the lot. (Read about it here.) It seemed to be state-of-the-art, but I really only used it when we were in France since we don't have a land line there. Can you see where this is leading? Unlock it, of course, thought I!

Oh no! It had only been on the market for a short time so nobody had had time to create a code to break the lock. Sigh! I had to wait for a long long time, but now, nearly two years later, I have just received the magical code. It took exactly 2 days 13 hours and 16 minutes to create it!

I feel, in my own modest way, slightly ecstatic to have just the one top-of-the-range phone (still, I hope) that allows me to use three different SIM cards for three different countries. And I hope my son will forgive me for saying this; no longer will I feel embarrassed, having to answer a phone call or receiving a text message on the worn and tired old Ericsson in public, but can now proudly flaunt my foldable friend for anyone to see. Does that make me vain or just practical?