Sunday, February 28, 2010

Water Reflection

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Initially it looked nothing like this to me as I was walking along the river Mayenne in France last week. First of all, when you walk along a road or path you look at the opaque surface in front of you and your eyes adjust to that optically, if you see what I mean. If you then let your eyes move sideways to look at the water, you tend to focus on the surface just like you did on the ground. Sometimes in order to see the reflection you have to refocus, something the brain does somehow, as if there is another layer under the water surface.

Still my eyes could not pick up the vibrant colours like the camera did. Perhaps my eyes are getting old, or it may be that I am just human, but the camera eye is far superior to any human eye. I was very pleased that I interrupted the walk to take this photo once I saw it on the camera display. I was even more surprised when I saw it in full on my computer screen.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nothing Much Happened

Our week in France was dominated as ever by walks, reading, my photography, log fires and lucky weather. We also managed to see friends and go for a restaurant meal.

The weather steadily and slowly got warmer, so we ended up with a feeling of spring almost. I never had to use the snow shovel, which I had put on top of all the luggage, just in case. The car journey was comfortable and uneventful, helped by the iPod on full random! It's really great to have sudden switches between music styles, from Mozart to ZZ Top for instance.

On our walks I always carry my camera, and once I actually carried my tripod with the mounted camera, because I had seen nature photographers do that on TV, on your shoulder like any other long-shafted tool. I thought I would get sharper pictures if the camera with the long lens was not in my sometimes unsteady hands.

I anticipated finding myself short of time when the target was moving, since it takes a few seconds to spread the legs of the tripod and put it down, but it was not too bad. I even managed to capture two French jet fighters thundering over our heads. I found to my great surprise that it was not too heavy either.

I won't show you the jet fighter pictures, but I leave you with some others.

As we started to heat the house, and before it had dried out, we had quite a lot of condensation on the windows.

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The rising temperature indoors made this beauty turn up, totally out of season.

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Outdoors we came across a flock of lapwings taking off in their typically chaotic way.

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And then there were signs of spring.

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(Some of these images might appear later on my photo website Pictura Digitalis.)

Now I just have to work a little on the rest of the pictures and update Pictura Digitalis.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Do You Feel Like This?

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I could not resist posting this before I take a week-long break from blogging. This fluffy, feathery ball is a male bullfinch trying to save energy and keep warm. (Taken yesterday in our garden.)


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Sunny Normandy

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Later today we're off to Normandy. Our neighbours sent us this picture from yesterday of our house, all dressed in white and bathing in sunshine. I bet it feels warmer outside than inside, so when we get there we have to turn on the electric radiators, stuff the woodburning stove and have a roaring fire to expel the damp air and dry out the stone walls, and THEN it will be cosy. Good thing we had these four stères (cubic metres) delivered just before we left last time.


As always we have plenty to read, and I always pack my netbook as well as my camera so I can transfer my photos there and then. I can of course also use my netbook to do some e-book reading and some writing. But we have no TV, phone line or internet.

I have considered getting mobile broadband, but I have been told it is rather expensive in France. I wish there was a European network so I could use the same dongle in more than one country without having to pay ludicrous sums of money for it. Does anybody have any ideas?

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Internet And Home Security

A blogger friend of mine said that she and her husband were going on an extended weekend trip somewhere, mid-week! So more like between two extended weekends then? I thought it was a rather funny way of putting it. This coming weekend I myself am going to France to burn up a lot of firewood in the wood-burning stove and just chill out. That would constitute two extended weekends AND the days in between.

Have you noticed how I have not mentioned who this blogger friend is? I have done that out of consideration for her security. One should not let the whole world know when one's house is empty so web-surfing burglars can plan their activities and serve up a surprise for when you return. That seems to be common-sense advice in most people's minds.

However I have a somewhat different situation, living on a NATO base. It is populated by military and attached civilians of various kinds, among them teachers. Security is high, as you might expect, and burglary is almost unheard of. Although the roads actually are German public roads, the armed guards at the gates require you to identify yourself and state the purpose of your visit.

There is a German bus service which terminates here. The front of the bus displays "Hauptquartier", so it is no secret what this funny place is, but every bus passenger has to be questioned by the guard who walks down the aisle checking IDs.

Every time I return to base (ha ha), after having been into Germany proper, I have to produce my special ID or my passport. Sometimes the guard says "Boot 'n bonnet, sir!" Which means I have to personally open and show I am not hiding anything dangerous. Likewise all delivery vans have to be searched for obvious security reasons.

Both German police and British Military Police patrol the area, as well as a security force whose vehicles regularly come down even the smallest side street. So we should be able to feel extra safe and protected. Therefore I don't mind mentioning that I am going away, being under the protection of armed guards!

So even if you should forget to close your front door properly, the only real concern would be stray animals having taken up residence in your house while you've been out.


Friday, February 05, 2010

In Winter Shroud

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The snow has all but gone now, so I thought I'd better put this picture up to represent the unusually long spell of wintry weather we've had here.

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Many of the children in particular have never seen so much snow before, and not just for a brief spell, but for a prolonged period. There was more earlier, but most of it disappeared before we had this top-up.

Children have made snowmen and igloos in many gardens. They have had snowball fights on their way to, and especially coming from school, our Italian neighbour mum exchanging snowballs with her oldest son, both laughing and shouting, ducking and diving.

People have actually started wearing proper winter clothes, yes, even Brits! But many of them are still reluctant to treat their cars with winter respect. Some still pour hot water down their windscreens; others nip out midway through their morning routines to start the car engine and leave it running to do the snow and ice clearing job for them. They'll do anything to avoid clearing the ice and snow with scraper and brush. So it's not unusual to see people on their way to work in "igloos" with a little peep hole to look out through. Dangerous!

Otherwise I think this picture is one of tranquility. That soft white snow mutes all sounds and brightens up the landscape and it also creates natural harmony and beauty, even in our somewhat monotonous neighbourhood.

Monday, February 01, 2010

My Grandchildren - The Duracell Bunnies

Get up and go!

My son, Boy H (17 mths) and Girl A (4 3/4 yrs) have been and gone back to Sweden. In just one magic moment our house was turned into a playground, an obstacle course and a food outlet.

The newly bought bucket of LEGO (4 yrs+) was very popular, the two carpeted flights of stairs proved to be perfect training for Boy H and both ate with a good and healthy appetite. My machine-baked bread disappeared at a good rate.


I wonder where they get their energy from? Some preferred to use up some more of it while others were charging up with power naps. After a picnic snack it was back to base and more fun.


A household with children never stands still, as all parents know. It's one thing after another. You just manage to empty the dishwasher in time to put in the next lot. And before you know it, it is time to eat again. Exhausting!

But just to see two smiling faces coming down the stairs in the morning to see if "the old people" on the sofa bed are awake, makes it all worth while, kick-starting you and getting you into gear. A new day awaits, full of fun and exciting stuff.