Tales from Fraggle Towers ~ Pesky Scots.

A tale of ups and downs.

It began as a 1980s government- sponsored pensions revolution: contract out of your company pension to potentially boost returns on your state second pension – a basic pension top-up – by investing in a personal pension. Armies of commission-driven salesmen then went on the rampage to convince the public their valuable final-salary occupational schemes – guaranteeing set sums at retirement – should be ditched in favour of riskier personal pensions based on stockmarket returns. Disaster ensued as vast numbers of people traded generous and safe pensions for riskier alternatives“. From The Guardian June 2009.

Dear reader I was one of those naive people who in 1991 ditched the best pension in the UK, the NHS pension, and signed up with the nice Scottish chap from the Scottish Widows Financial company, who came to visit one day. Eventually it came to light that I was mis-sold the SW pension, and I gave it up and went straight back into the NHS scheme. Apparently you were supposed to get compensation for the mis-selling, but I don’t remember getting any, and it’s a bit late now anyway.

Imagine my surprise, if you can, when earlier this year Scottish Widows tracked me down and asked me to get in touch with them. I did. I had to send my marriage certificate to them to change my last name as I was not with Phil back then, so I did that too.

Imagine my even greater surprise when they sent me a statement telling me what my pension with them is now.

£38,404

Oh my goodness, some of what I paid in was left behind and hey presto 25 years later I have 38K!! I was a little bit happy as a pig in poo I can tell you! They asked me to think about what to do, take some, take it all, leave it in etc, and Phil and I had some discussions and I decided to take it all out and pay the tax, which would leave me with about 25K and keep it in with our savings, but use half of it to retire at 65 instead of 66. Yipee!!

So I got in touch with them and they organised a phone call with one of their chaps, which duly happened. For 90 minutes! Lots and lots of questions and making sure I knew what I was doing but also information that actually my pension pot was not 38K, but was going to be a wee a bit less,

going down

Oh well, that would still be about 22K in my hand after all the t’s and i’s were crossed and dotted. OK said the guy on the phone, the money will go into your bank in 8 days time.

8 days came, and 8 days went, then the Queen died and the country came to a standstill for 10 days, so I hung on until that went by and phoned to find out what was going on. “I’m sorry all our operators are very busy at this time, you can call back later or stay on hold. The current waiting time for on hold is 40 minutes.’

I held dear reader. Sure enough 47 minutes later I spoke to a nice Scottish lady, explained what was going on and she put me on hold for another 10 minutes while she went to speak to someone else about it. When she came back she told me there’d been some error or somesuch on the amount and someone would give me a call on Monday in office hours between 9 & 5. I told her I’d be at work and not able to answer so leave a message with a number I coud ring back directly on.

Someone rang me on Monday, Tuesday and left a message with the number on. I got round to ringing it today on my day off. “I’m sorry all our operators are very busy at this time, you can call back later or stay on hold. The current waiting time for on hold is 40 minutes.” SIgh.

I held. 47 minutes. Eventually spoke to I think a nice Asian lady, (not Scottish as I’ve got the hang of understanding the Scottish accent now,) who then went off to find me a nice Scottish lady. She then put me on hold for another 5 minutes whilst she went to speak to someone else. It had already struck me after reading an article in The I that maybe something was afoot.

So I’m thinking, hang on, the figures I got, the chat I got with the guy, the 8 days up when the money should be paid in, all happened before the mini-budget when everything changed, they must have known what would happen in the budget so they’ve hung on to mine (and probably others) waiting for this so the payouts could be even less! Greedy corrupt Fat Cats at the top making decisions that stuff the little people.

The nice Scottish lady came back. Yes I’ve got your revise pension pot figures she said, £7,603. Wait what?? I replied. Where’s the rest of it?? Are you telling me this mini budget has wiped £23,000 off my pension?? I didn’t swear dear reader, as it isn’t the nice Scottish ladies fault. But I was quite staggered and informed her of my staggering. Oh no, she said, this is nothing to do with the budget, the initial forecast was a mistake. Someone made a mistake at the outset and I’m very sorry, would you like me to pass it on the complaints department and they’ll get in touch with you? Please just put me through to them I asked, I don’t want to go through the rigmarole of them phoning me to no avail, and me being on hold for another 47 minutes 3 days later getting nowhere. Oh sorry again, the Scottish lady apologised, the complaints department doesn’t have a phone number, we do it all by email. I kid you not dear reader, my staggeredness was off the charts at this point.

I gave up. And now a few hours have passed and I can’t help laughing. This wasn’t down to FatCat sneakybeaks, but to a monumental cock-up by some pesky twit who needs a bloody calculator for Christmas in the add-up-the-numbers-department of Scottish Widows.

Pesky Scots.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 🤣

Tales from Fraggle Towers ~ Sept 2022

Into Autumn now, the tree leaves are beginning to furl and change colour in places, though nowhere near photographic delight yet. Sophie is back (I think) for a while, but has family health issues to contend with now, involving her spending a lot of free time in London with her Mum, so we won’t be doing many photo outings because obviously priorities!! Hopefully this weekend though, weather permitting.

The first week of September was just quiet but then in the second week our Queen died (which if you haven’t been living under a rock you couldn’t fail to know). I think everyone except ardent royalists were fed up to the back teeth of all the relentless radio, newspaper and TV coverage, which wiped football out (haha, tee hee, sorry, not sorry) I imagine soap operas and other things were cancelled as well but I wouldn’t know about those as we don’t do much TV. More annoying was any news about anything else going on in the world was completely ignored. Even more annoying was having my blood work appointment cancelled when they decided to Bank Holliday the funeral. I didn’t even get a free day off work as that was my holiday week! Pfft!

We have been entertaining the troops Chéz Nous, firstly we had Cal and Liddy for a sleepover

Liddy snug as a bug

Liddy saw this on our dining room ceiling and wanted to know what it was

it’s possibly a Daddy Long Legs spider or a Harvestman spider, not sure and I don’t really care so long as it”s gone!

We also had Paul and Lorraine over for dinner, a Persian banquet, which I hadn’t tried doing before, but it all came together quite well. The Ottoman Puffs went down extremely well, and whilst they may resemble sausage rolls, really they are not. In spite of having sausage meat in them.

Ottoman Puffs. Really!

It was a good night, good food, plenty of liquid refreshment, a lot of laughing and music. Phil entertained us with his bass playing, but Paul let the side down by forgetting his guitar.

We had our trip to Scotland which I posted about a few days ago, click HERE if you missed it (looking at you Dix) and Phil has a brand new car which I drove to get us there. So much tech in new cars! There’s a huge screen on the front dashboard with buttons under it for Sat Nav, audio, and other stuff I didn’t bother with. It has automatic straightening if it senses you veering off the road (!) and beeps at you for this, that and the other. It’s a Nissan Juke and so quite big but only has a 1L engine, so you would think it slow to drag the weight of it about, but you would think wrong, it goes like the proverbial poo from a spade. It was a nice comfy drive, 6 gears no less, but I wouldn’t swap my 500 for it, it has no character. It was a sunnyish day so I took the scenic route up the A697 through Coldstream. Glorious scenery the whole way, passing by lush green hills and rolling fields of crop type things. Or grass. Whatever, it was totally green. Our hotel, The Murrayfield is only a long stones throw away from the stadium and was very nice. It’s restaurant ‘The Bothy’ was quite pricey, which we wouldn’t have minded if there’d been anything on the menu we’d really fancied, but there wasn’t, it all sounded a bit Masterchefy so we wandered down the road and got some good Scottish fare from Tang’s Take Away.

We snuck it back into the hotel and had it with some vino delecto and watched Andor, a Star Warsy series on Disney + that was much better than I thought it would be.

The cats are still assassinating the local rodent population and when we got back from Scotland on the Saturday evening there was a fair amount of bird poop to clear up as Winnie had a lady blackbird trapped in the conservatory. It was a bugger to get it to escape as she kept dashing into the big umbrella plant we have in there, and behind the furnitures, and the whole performance would probably suffice as a Youtube comedy sketch had anyone filmed it.

Of course I have cat pictures…

Winnie has taken to coming in to my study when I’m blogging and I have to quickly shift the keyboard so she can lie down for tickles. Her claws get stuck in the mat I have down to stabilise the keyboard so I’ve replaced it with some beautiful patchwork placemats (that I hadn’t been using as I don’t want to spoil them) that my friend Connie from the Adventures in every day life blog kindly sent me from over the pond, and Winnie is happy with them, and I get to enjoy them every day now.

Lord Vincent does not like the rainy weather, and spends most of his time asleep!

So September is just about over, and it’s chucking it down with a hoolie of a wind going on whilst I’m writing this. I was going to write about the sad and horrendous state of government here in the UK, but this chap says it so much better. There are 2 swear words in it so if you’re a puritanical type you’ve been warned. He’s a comedian ostensibly, but this isn’t funny, and it’s the truth of things here.

And so, on to October, fingers crossed for some sunny autumn days with lovely colours to photograph, preferably not on days when I’m at work!

Stay tooned dear reader!

The Corona Chronicles ~ 2

Well that’s my first week of isolation done, and no symptoms so my clients at work were presumably all clear, at least when they saw me. Phil of course is still going into work. Although there have been 3 C19 deaths at his hospital so far they haven’t had to use the Operating theatre staff, but they are wearing protective eyeware, plastic aprons and gloves to deal with the emergency operations they have to do. When he gets home he heads straight to the shower, puts all his clothes in a bag and they go straight in the washing machine. I open all the doors so he doesn’t have to touch the handles. Any shopping is disinfected and decanted into clean pots where necessary, and the kitchen surfaces disinfected afterwards. Bags all discarded, hands scrubbed with soap. I haven’t been out except once to the local shop and though we shoppers stood 2 meters apart, the corridors are thin and the lad filling the shelves brushed by everyone on his way, sigh.

Last week the nation stood outside their houses or leaned out of their windows and clapped and wooted and banged saucepans to applaud our NHS staff. When we heard it was going to happen Phil said he didn’t need people to clap for him, he needed the NHS to be better funded, have personal protection kit, and for people to stop voting for the Tory Bastards as he calls them. But when it kicked off and we could hear the amount of people on our estate who participated he was quite surprised, and a little chuffed I think. It IS nice to be appreciated.

Luckily we have had some sunny days, even though it was too cold to bask in it, and I turned my camera on now and then and took some photo’s. My blossom tree is shedding petals now in the wind and looks a bit bare, but it was lush when it reached full bloom and I sat and waited for the blutits to come so I could get a picture of one amongst the blossom.

bluetit and blossom

I turned the Helios loose on the tree too,

Last year I bought a Japanese maple which doesn’t like wind and as we had a surfeit of that last year it promptly died, or so I thought, but it appears to be working again so I thought I’d best catch it quick.

Resurrection

Mum’s plant is firing up, I can never remember the name of it, though someone tells me anytime I post a picture of it, it will always be just Mum’s plant in my head.

Just before the red leaves appear, it produces tiny bell shape flowers which the bees seem to love.

Bee bells.

There’s a lot of huge bees around this week, mostly getting trapped in our conservatory and having to be rescued and released. Maybe Queens looking for places to nest. I found one in our water barrel on it’s back, flapping it’s wings and buzzing for all the world like it was having an angry swimming session, I rescued that one too. 🙂

The conservatory plant, another resurrection, is up and running with new leaves

Wait for me!!

and my Mothers Day flowers from Shelley and the kids are still going strong after 3 weeks.

Phil finished his labour-of-love tank last week, most of you have seen the work in process shots I’ve taken along the way last year. He photographs it against a white card backdrop which he tapes to the conservatory table and pegs up on the clothes drier. On Thursday he went to take his shots of the finished tank, and when he’d finished, cleared away the drier having forgotten the tank was still on the table. ‘Oops’ was not the word I and the rest of Gateshead heard as it shimmied off the paper and crashed to the floor.

He’s had to put it all back to rights of course, but was not a happy person for a few days while doing so. All done now though, and the little men in, I’ll get a shot of it when it’s sorted and on the base, (before he drops it hopefully 😀 :D)

At the weekend we had a video call with Phil’s son and daughter which lasted an hour. It’s a good way to keep in touch and just have a chat and a laugh.

I’ve decided to work on a couple of books of photos I’m planning on doing, and that will take some time to sort, so I’m definitely making the most of the lockdown, just got to decide what I’m going to do, I’m thinking of a book on the castles I’ve photographed for one, arty farty flowers for another, and maybe Newcastle, but I’m not sure which to choose first, if at all. I don’t suppose it matters, they’re only for me.

I am restricting my input of news, reading the paper each morning and hear the odd snippet on the radio, is bad enough and I may have to stop reading the paper and go straight to the crossword, as mostly it’s bad stuff and there’s nothing much I can do about it. Instead of the 6 o’clock news we watch Narcos on Netflix, before that it was Narcos Mexico so I’ve learned a lot about how not to run a drug cartel 🙂 and am not adding Mexico or Columbia to my list of places to visit before I die. Though at this rate I won’t be visiting anywhere except the back garden and my shed.

I started doing excercises last week. Most of the country and lots of people in other countries have been doing the Joe Wicks live stream excercises on Youtube at 9am here. He started doing it for kids, but because he looks like a cross between Jon Snow, & Heathcliffe all the Mummy’s hearts went a-flutter and now everyone’s joining in and he’s getting famous. Yes he gets revenue from adverts on his channel but he’s donating 100% to the NHS so he’s nearly a saint now. I did his workout last Tuesday afternoon, and couldn’t walk without ouching for 3 days, sitting down and standing up was like a knife sticking in my bum, and I’ve just about recovered enough to sit on the sofa and watch him! 😀 😀

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=joe+wicks

So week 1 over, and as Phil is not at work today we are planning a walk into the greenery around where we live this afternoon, if the rain holds off, and I’ll take a camera with me. Hope all my pals who visit here are keeping well and sane,

stay frosty my friends!

Day 196 & tales from Fraggle Towers

It’s been a little while since I wrote anything, I seem always to be busy, or having nothing to say! We’ve finally had a sunny day all day! Of course I’m back to work so missed most of it, but it was a nice evening at least. Life here is quite mundane at the moment, but the garden is looking lush with all the rain we’ve had, the buddlea has become a monster

shed and buddlea

I’ve got a Begonia this year, which I have no idea about, it’s my first. For some reason all the flower stems bend over and the flower faces downwards, which seems odd, (yes I have watered it!) but it looks really pretty when you can see it.

begonia

Very excited as my pre-ordered-several-months-ago bluray arrived today, which means that Saturday Night movie night is taken care of already.

marvellous!

We’ve babysitted grandkids and not only survived but had fun, we’ve ‘done lunch’ Phil has been working on his latest tank (not allowed to photograph it for the blog yet) and I’ve been quietly doing a photography course- I say quietly as there is a forum for all the members on Facebook, but it’s all a bit bonkers and not really me, but I’m doing the practice and the lessons. I can’t post the pics as they’re in colour :). The evening news is mostly distressing, and it drives Phil mad that with the womens football, tennis and cricket taking up to 15 mins in poll position at the start of the programmes, what’s the point of having a sportsday programme to follow the news, and, where’s the bloody news?? He becomes very Alf Garnett about it. 🙂 I reckon they’re trying to do a ‘feel good’ thing to take our minds off the state of this nation, but it isn’t working here! Luckily Euronews is also on Sky and they do proper stuff.

I can’t help feeling most of the time, when I do see the news, that I live in a broken country, in a broken world. Very little I can do about it except to vote when needed, recycle stuff, go to work, suck ears, and take photographs, so I try to keep my thoughts in check, and simple, but it’s hard work sometimes!

Movies we’ve watched of late- Dot Zero 30, we started that on Friday, but it was supposed to be happy-movie night and after 20 mins we decided to postpone it to a ‘grim-movie’ night! The Last Post, with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks was absolutely excellent and fascinating to find out how The Pentagon Papers got out ( shades of Assange, Snowdon and now Kim Darruch) and horrific at what they found in them. Wonderful acting by Meryl, such a joy to watch her work. Pete- I know you’ll read this and probably didn’t see it because of Hanks, but mate, this is right up your street. We’re in the last 1/3 of Schindlers List which, believe it or not, I’d never seen. What a staggering piece of work, the photography and lighting is sublime, I am fangirling Speilberg, or at least his lighting director. The acting is SO good, Ralph Fiennes! Amazebobs! We’ve re-done Private Ryan and Band of Brothers series, so we’ve been very military in our choices. I’m quite looking forward to a break from it all with Captain Marvel. Oh wait, I think the universe is having a war in that! 🤣 Well I can’t do daft horror movies, and romcoms are just urk, I prefer superhero’s to most of the rest of the world. Family and friends excepted. 🙂

Enough blathering on, leaving you with my fave shot of the day

Day 196 ~ Hanging on.

Tales from Fraggle Towers

It’s been emotional in Fraggle Towers this week, as both Phil and I have said goodbye to our old cars and got newer ones.  Cars, of course, are just tools of transport, but dafty us got emotionally involved with ours.  🙄  Phil had his Hyundai coupe for 10 years, and being a bloke bought her for her stunning good looks & curves rather than comfort or ease!

Phil’s Little Bluey

I was a field dispenser when I got my Toyota Rav 4, which is now 17 years old, and needed something that could cope with carrying a load of equipment and driving up farmer’s tracks and through snow in the Northern countryside I worked in, as well as be comfy for the long haul trips over to Cumbria and the west. I’ve not really photographed it, it’s more a Mrs. Doubtfire than a Pamela Anderson, though bits of it have appeared in some shots.

 As Phil’s was too low down to see over hedges or much scenery at all and was also quite a bumpy ride, we always went on our Europe trips in the Rav.  But when it reached 16yrs old we had to get a special breakdown cover to go abroad, as cars over 15yrs are not covered by most policies.  So it was decided,  that we would upgrade the Rav 4 to something similar, but newer. When you’re not really bothered about cars per se, it’s not easy to choose a new one. Phil goes for looks more than I do, (won’t have red/yellow/black/white/etc) and didn’t want us to get a ‘washing machine on wheels’ as he thinks of most cars.  We agreed that we could both cope with a Nissan Juke.  

In the meantime, the rear wheel arch on Phil’s little bluey was starting to rust.  It had already been to a body shop a couple of years prior and had it ‘sorted’ but back it came and Phil decided to fix it himself.  Unfortunately, when he prodded it with his finger a huge hole appeared where the rust fell in.  He had to pack it with newspaper and chicken wire before using a ton of filler and respraying!

At that point, it was decided that I wouldn’t have a new car, but Phil would, as he knew the bodywork was going to be a big problem on his.

In truth I was quite happy with that, I loved my Rav 4 and the version of it that I have is obsolete, so it was a bit special.

After we got back from Europe, we started to have a look around the internet and take advice on cars. Phil’s daughter swears by Seat, our mechanic wasn’t happy with Jukes. So we went off to a big used car dealer near us to see what else there was Phil might like, and got the worst ‘used car salesman’ ever! Never mind looking at cars he took us into a cubicle and started talking about finance right off the bat!  We eventually got to see some cars, but nothing floated Phil’s boat, and it seemed the little salesman was never going to let us get away, so I invented a dental appointment and we made our escape. 

Disheartened we went home had a cup of tea and had a think.  We decided it was too hard to choose a car without having one in mind, so went back to our original idea of a Juke and the next day went off to the Nissan dealer. A completely different experience, the salesman there saw us looking around, came out and introduced himself and told us to give him a shout when we’d finished looking around. To cut a long story shorter, Phil found a Juke that fitted his criteria (blue 🙂 ) <pause> am being unfair here, he really wanted metallic grey, but they only had those in diesel and Phil will not have diesel <continue> and we took it for a test drive. Then we went to do the paperwork.  We had thought that as in days of yore (pre-little bluey) you put the biggest deposit down you could muster then do the rest on hire purchase, and had planned financially accordingly. But since the crash in 2008 things have changed, and in order to sell cars (which had a big wobbly due to the recession) financing them has changed. Now you do something called a PCP, where you put a small deposit down, have small monthly payments, and at the end of 3 or 4 years trade in for a new one. That’s a bit simplified, but ostensibly it. We’d always wondered how poorer people than us could afford new cars!! 🤣

While we’d been wandering around looking at the Jukes, I spotted a little Fiat 500 parked in the For Sale spot.  I’ve always had a soft spot for these and even more so since my friend Helen drove me around in hers. I fell for it. 😍 When we got home after Phil had done all the paperwork, I told Phil I thought it would be a great idea if the deposit he hadn’t had to put down on his new car was put on the 500 instead, as we didn’t both need a big car, and especially as I no longer drive around the North for work anymore. Cutting an even longer story shorter, that’s what happened.

The leap in technology over the past 10 years is quite surprising us We are used to a gear stick, steering wheel, lights and a radio.  The Juke especially has all sorts of warnings and guides, beeps and buttons, it’s like flying a plane. There’s a screen that comes on when you are in reverse, and a camera shows you where you’re reversing, with guidelines to help.  I’m so old school I couldn’t get the hang of it and quickly reverted to using the side mirrors before I crashed!  Even the 500 has stuff in it I didn’t even know cars had. They tell you when to change gear!!!   I’ve been driving 41 years and I learned when to change gears and how to reverse from my driving instructor, before I was let loose on the roads! WTF do new drivers learn if not how to drive?? 🙄 Mine is more like driving a smartphone than flying a plane.  All good fun, but it was painful saying goodbye to my Rav, we’d been on so many adventures together. A lot of history and memories wrapped up in her.  Phil was quite upset about his too, he did like looking at it! 

So here we are dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, goodbye our old friends, and hello to the new.

Rav 4————————————————Fiat 500

Wednesday 7th November

I’m away yet again from tomorrow for the weekend. Travelling down to Shrewsbury and staying in a Tudor guest house (must take my breeches and doublets 🙂 ) for a night so I can photograph Shrewsbury on Friday, then to the National Model show held in Telford, where Phil will be entering models for the competitions. Especially his latest Brumbar

The Brumbar at SMC Eindhoeven

Our club has a stand where members show their models which is fab as I can sit behind it and read books! 🙂  

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been using this new Gutenberg editor on this blog.  I originally had it on the Universe blog but had to go back to the old editor there as the new one is missing some features I liked to use and need for the Fraggle reports.  I’ve kept using it though on here, as I like to persevere with something until I either get it, or don’t.  I’ve been using PC’s since the advent of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum in 1982, so I pretty much understand development, and take on board new stuff really easily, and I reckon I’ve given Gutenberg a good try out.  I’ve come to the conclusion it’s a pile of shite. There are bits missing.  Especially annoying to me is the inability to link to a prior post by way of a pop-up list like in the old one

In Gutenberg, the pop-up list of previous blog posts doesn’t appear, so in order to link them in Gutenberg, you’d have to go to each blog post and get the url from the browser, which is just too time-consuming if you want to add Part 1, Part 2 Part 3 etc. 

Also, when you set a featured image IT DOES’NT COME UP ON THE BLOG AS THE FEATURED IMAGE!!! That really naffs me off. 

Also when you go to ‘Add new post’ in the admin menu you have to first go to ‘all posts’ then on to add a new post, if you just do ‘add new post’ you get a white screen.  Anyway, I won’t bang on about all the stuff I’ve found, in the end, it’s still easy enough to use,  I’m still actually doing blog posts on it, I’m just not liking it as much.  The old editor will be taken over by this apparently, maybe I need to start a referendum to keep the old one, WPrexit!

This weekend is Remembrance Sunday here.  I’ve read in the papers that some people don’t want to wear poppies as the far right have appropriated it (along with the Union Jack) and they don’t want to be associated with that group of people.  I WILL be wearing my poppy badge, my Grandad served in WW1 and I am remembering him this weekend. No Far right group will take that away from me or those of us who want to show respect… unless we let them by NOT wearing the poppy. 

Interesting times over in the US of A, and am pleased for some of my American friends who are not too keen on the Republicans, actually all my American friends, I don’t have any Trumpskins that I know of anyway. The House is going to be a pretty place with all those ladies of different colours and creeds, lots of new young people too. Lovely to see the diversity that gives America it’s strength, or used to.  Not sure how all those white middle American men who love their Trump are going to cope!  Fingers xt it happens again in 2 yrs time, but in the senate too. Long way to go. 

Anyhoo, it’s time to get packing and get my cameras ready for action. 

Laters Gaters

😘

Thursday Thoughts

Easter is nearly upon us, so for those of you into the resurrection thing, Happy Easter! and for those who are otherwise inclined, Happy Ēostre!

Good news and bad news from Fraggle Manor, the good news being I purchased the new macro lens released by Fuji I think back in February.  I didn’t think they’d ever get round to it, and their 60mm macro lens that I have been using, was a disappointment to me after having been used to the Nikon 105mm, which was just awesome. I am chuffed as nuts with the new Fuji 80mm, so much better than the 60, it’s bigger, and heavier, but it’s quality all the way.  It has OIS for the shaky-hand brigade (moi) and a minimum focus distance of 25cm and full-scale 1:1 reproduction ratio. It’s a bit slow to focus (as was the 60) but that doesn’t matter, macro isn’t about speed shooting. I love it already and here are some test shots

and yes that is my cherry blossom tree’s first lot of flowers, might be a tad early as we’re forecast another few days of bitter weather, but the tree doesn’t seem to care.

 

So whats the bad news? Stress has arrived at Fraggle Towers in the shape of a new kitchen. When Phil semi-retired he decided to get the house into shape, and has decorated a few rooms himself, but we came to the conclusion that as the fridge freezer was in death throes, and other bits of the kitchen were in a poor state, we would go all out and have a new kitchen. It started this week on Monday, with the kitchen stripped out, first phase electric and plumbing (i.e shutting everything off) and plastering. Today was to be floor- levelling day, with the new kitchen units due at 7.30am on Tuesday after the bank holiday, and the fitters following hot on their heels. But the leveller hasn’t turned up. Neither has the plumber who is supposed to remove a floor heater thingy that’s still plumbed in so the concrete can be poured.  Of course I’ve been in touch with the project manager guy, and he’s passed on my number to the plumber and leveller to have them ring me when they’re on the way, but it’s 5.30pm now so I think they won’t be here today.  Phil thinks they’ll come tomorrow or Saturday, I hope he’s right or Tuesday morning is going to be a right palaver.

In the meantime, we have converted our little conservatory into a mini kitchen, microwave, breadmaker, kettle, cool~bag as a fake fridge and our little chest freezer all in there, and prior to this week I spent a day cooking lots of different dinners for us so we don’t have to rely on take outs.  Sweet & Sour chicken, Chicken in black bean sauce, lasagne, Chile con carne, spaghetti bolognese, portions of spaghetti, rice, mash.  We’re eating better than we normally do when we had a kitchen! My mosaic shed is now a storeroom for all the kitchen stuff, most of which we didn’t know we had 🙂 Tonight though we’re going to see Phil’s sister and have dinner there while we do a load of washing in her machine. Nice to have family nearby.

Hopefully everything will sort itself out with the kitchen, and then it’ll be a good news day! Luckily I have a magic button which should make everything OK, feel free to use it yourself if you have a need!

scary biscuits! 😱

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Friday Fraggle

This week I participated in a photography course that one of my blogging photographer guru’s, Michelle, gave out. The premise being to take a photo of yourself each day following a prompt that would be emailed to you. Michelle explains that this is not the ‘selfie-stick’ images she wanted us to do, nor fine art self portraiture, but to turn the camera on oneself with intention. “My hope is that each of us will make time over the next few days to consider how we’re feeling, to note what we’re doing (or maybe not doing), to consider the way our outside and our inside play off one another.”  

Now you guys who are regulars know I’ve done tongue-in-cheek selfies, and the odd post where a shot of Phil and I are together in some foreign land over on the universe blog, but mostly I’m shooting places I go and things I see in my life.  (Lots of birds 😀 ). This was a different exercise, and I quite enjoyed working out what each prompt meant to me, and how to photograph it and include myself within the image. It wasn’t necessary to bang your whole body in, just parts of you were sufficient.  So this is how it went for me…

Day 1~

WARMTH

(noun)
the quality or state of being warm in temperature
the quality or state of being kind or friendly

What does the word (the idea) of warmth conjure for you? How does it feel? Does your mind immediately go to temperature, or does it go to temperament?

I wished we had a log fire in our house, but it is a modern house and whilst the radiators do a cracking job of keeping it at a comfortable temperature, they are not too photogenic so I decided a lovely candlelit bath would portray warmth for me. I covered my lampshade in a pink vest, 😀  set up candles around the edge of the bath, got in, and tried not to drop the camera whilst I took the picture. Eventually I found I’d taken one I like. To be honest I can’t remember the last time I had a bath, I’m more a shower kind of person, but doing this shot has me wanting to do it again, without the camera, it was so lovely to be in warm perfumed bubbly water, it would be fab to wallow and enjoy it.

Day 2~

STRENGTH

(noun)
the quality or state of being physically strong
the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force
the quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way.

Be bold in claiming your strength. If needed, be gentle in the recognition that today might be a hard day…but hold the idea (for yourself) that strength assuredly lies within. Show us (remind yourself of) your strength.

I have a rowing machine I bought because I’m getting older, and I wanted to keep fit, and strong. I liked the rhythmical rowing action, had my headphones and music on. But the seat broke a while back, so I haven’t been using it. I sat in it anyway to get the shot and now I’ve asked Phil to fix it so I can start again.

Day 3~

QUIET

(noun)
the quality or state of being calm or without noise

(adjective)
making very little noise
marked by little or no motion or activity

(verb)
to make (someone or something) quieter, calmer, or less intense

(adverb)
in a quiet manner

What does quiet sound like? How does it feel? Are you comfortable with quiet, or does it make you anxious? Is life quiet today? Are you quiet? Or is it a bit too loud?

Hah! I thought when I read this, my life is never quiet. At work there are machines, TV, and people. At home Phil has his rock music on most of the time. I used to go and sit by the sea to find moments to myself, but the North Sea is crashy, and the seagulls piercing cries don’t make it a quiet place. And then I remembered my shed, which I’ve neglected since December, where I do my mosaics, and there is only the sound of distant traffic, or tweeting sparrows and blackbirds and I get lost in cutting tiles and sticking them down. So I returned to my shed for this picture, and got all fired up again to get back to it.

Day 4 ~

Equilibrium

(noun)
a state in which opposing forces or actions are balanced so that one is not stronger or greater than the other
a state of emotional balance or calmness

What does a sense of evenness (a sense of equilibrium) feel like to you? Do you have tools and practices that help you feel this way? When you begin to teeter (because we all teeter from time to time), how do you return center? Does the evenness rest in your eyes? Does it make home in your heart?

This was the easiest to do, because I know I will never feel emotionally balanced.  My son and grandson live so far away, and I can’t see them very often, my heart is always aware of missing them, even when I’m fine and happy with life. I cried when doing this shot.

Day 5~

RITUAL

(noun)
a formal ceremony or series of acts that is always performed in the same way
an act or series of acts done in a particular situation and in the same way each time

(adjective)
done as part of a ceremony or ritual
always done in a particular situation and in the same way each time

What are the rituals and routines to which you turn frequently? Do they soothe you, motivate you, inspire you? Is the time of day important? Or a particular taste? Or a color?

This one really stumped me! Rituals?? Apart from getting up in the morning, having a wash, getting dressed, having breakfast I have no rituals. I could have used any of those, but they don’t mean anything to me, they don’t motivate, inspire, or soothe. They just are. So I contrived (again) a ritual I don’t have, of cleaning all my lenses for my camera.  I’m going out to photograph stuff with Sophie on Sunday, and I thought it was time to clean all my lenses in preparation. It wasn’t a ritual, but it will be now. It was so satisfying to make everything clean and shiny, and to know I won’t have to use the spot healer in photoshop to get rid of dirt spots on my lens!

So that was the 5 day challenge.  I felt I was a fake, apart from the equilibrium shot, nothing seemed to come from the heart, my photo’s all seemed so contrived, like trying to pass an exam. That’s given me heaps to think about regarding myself, and my photography.

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Thursday Thoughts

It’s all about the snow of course. The pesky white stuff that is inundating the British Isles at the moment. Facebook is full of camera phone shots of people’s back gardens or streets, the news is all about the disruption to schools and travel.  The met office is issuing yellow, amber, red weather warnings. (Don’t go out if you’re in the red area as you’re likely to die!). People went out and stock piled food items so nothing is left in the smaller shops. 20 vehicle crash on the A19, the A1 is closed now too and police warnings telling people to stop being stupid and stay home.  The whole of the North East is shutting down. People living in Canada, USA, Finland et al look at us and laugh at our inability to cope with this weather.  We have a few gritters careering about ineffectually, and there is a tractor company that turns them into snow ploughs for rent here and there, but on the whole we just shut up shop and hunker down until it’s gone. Disfunctional Britain due to snow.  Our excuse is that we don’t get snow very often, have even heard that we haven’t had it for over 30 years!  I must have been living in a parallel universe most of my life then.   This is me back in 1961, I’m the cuteypatooty on the right…

That white stuff  happened every year of my childhood, for a couple of months at a time, didn’t stop us going to school, we walked as we got older. Didn’t stop Mum from going to work in her car.  The roads were cleared every night and we had heaters in the classrooms. This was in Yorkshire by the way, I wasn’t living in the arctic. Oh but that was back in the olden days our snowflake (!) generation say, less traffic on the roads – what they really should say is less idiots on the road. I drove to work yesterday and the amount of stupid I saw had me swivel eyed all morning.

In 2009 here we had a month of snow, and I went to work as usual

 

but came off worse for wear when going downhill in Newcastle and an idiot in a great big Landrover pulled out of a side road and hit my car, knocking me into several other cars parked up on the other side of the road

I was really peed oft at the driver, he blamed me!!  The insurance sorted that one out so no harm done, and I continued to go to work in the replacement insurance vehicle.

The following year we had even more snow,

Herky 2010

Yoyo 2010

I went to work then too, without incident that year thankfully, but had to take Phil to work and pick him up a couple of times as his car couldn’t get off our estate, we live at the bottom of a little hill.  So why on earth everyone thinks we don’t get snow so it’s not worth investing in the equipment needed to keep the country going is beyond me.  I’m lucky to be off for the next few days, but come Monday I’ll be going back to work no matter the weather, if the roads are open that is! No metro service from here to there and the buses are irregular if at all. 🙄

Phil and I took a walk to our local shop this morning

for milk and vodka supplies 🍸 so we’re tucked up indoors with the heating on. Of course I’ve been taking pictures, (hasn’t everyone?!) mostly on film camera’s but also with the fuji,

night

and day

my bathroom window this morning

 

and I’ve been making sure to put food. out for the birds, they’re having a right old time at the Happy Eater tree, and I got some shots of our Bobby Robin in his element

Christmas card 🙂

snow bound.

and finally for a quick giggle press HERE

🙂

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Thursday Thoughts

This picture I took at about 1am last night, thats superbluebloodmoonlight through the window.  It’s a little bit fuzzy as I was in my jammies and didn’t have my glasses on & I may have had a couple of vodka’s previously too 🙂 .  I didn’t get up at 4am to shoot the red and bigger moon as for us it would be in the north west, and there’s a house in the way from my bedroom window. Also 4am, well meh! Maybe next time, 2037 will see me in my late 70’s and maybe 4am won’t be too bad then. (Hah!)

Phil got up at 4.30am to go to the loo and he checked and couldn’t see it so didn’t wake me up. He got up again at 6am and couldn’t find his way out of the bedroom as it was so dark, crashed about a bit and woke me up. “What are you doing!?” “Feeling unwell, gonna go and make a cup of tea, take some nurofen and then come back to bed, go back to sleep, I’m OK” He brought me tea at 9am, “I can’t believe it” he says, “I just got over the flu and now I feel like I’m back to square one!”  We sat in bed and had tea, read the papers, chilled out and got up. Down in the kitchen he tells me it hurts to cough, to breathe.  At midday he went for a lie down, thats a first, even with flu he didn’t ‘have a lie down’. At 1pm he gets up, comes down, is shaking and shivering and holding his arms across his chest. Sharp pains in his chest. Looks like death warmed up.  “I think you need to go to A&E”. “They don’t like it when you go there with flu stuff. There’ll be a long old wait to see anyone.”  “This isn’t just flu I think, this is sharp chest pain, maybe pneumonia or something” (thinking to myself I fekking hope this isn’t a heart attack).  “Maybe when I’ve had a cup of tea and let the nurofen work. ”  “OK, I’m gonna put a face on just incase”. I come back with a face on, he’s still shivering, shaking, breathless. “OK I’m gonna put some jeans on, we’re going to A & E”.

It’s a long walk from the carpark to reception, we have to stop a few times for him to catch his breath, I always have to walk fast to catch up with his long strides, but not today, I take baby steps and hold his arm. We get to reception, answer the book-in questions. “Go through those doors and take a seat, I’ll ring through.  Just as we sit down, “Mr.Hyslop!” a young chap nurse calls, and they take him off into a cubicle. That was astonishingly quick! I sit and read my book. I keep reading my book. I read my book some more. I keep looking up the corridor at every page turn.  I keep reading my book, then I look up and he’s on a trolley being pushed back into the cubicle. I go and see him to find he’s been off for a chest X-ray.   The nurse comes in and gives him a big syringe full of antibiotics into the cannula in his arm and sets up an IV with a litre of normal saline. “What’s happening?” “Just had an ECG which they say is normal..” (PHEW! no heart attack!) ” had blood tests, my white cell count is up and I’ve a temperature of 38 point something, (I forget) so they gave me IV paracetamol, and now just waiting for the results of the X-ray”.  “OK, I’m staying here now, got bored out there”. (I wasn’t bored, I was fretting, I needed to see/know what’s happening.)  A Doctor comes in, she’s at least 15 years old. Asks him about allergies – none, drinking/smoking habits – lots. Phil apologises for coming into A&E with flu, “Don’t, you did the right thing, your X-rays show there’s pneumonia.” Shock on Phil’s face, not so much on mine. “We’ll have to keep you in for 24hrs-” dismay on both our faces. “Can’t I be treated at home!!??” “We’d really like to keep you in, monitor your temperature and do more blood tests in the morning to see how the white cell count is doing.

I make to go home to get an overnight bag for him. I can’t find my way back to the carpark through the hospital so walk all the way round the outside before I find the car.  I come back park up, find A&E after a couple of wrong turns. He’s been moved to the Emergency Admissions ward. Can’t find it, I get directions from kindly nurse. Can’t get in, ring a bell. Wait. Wait some more. There’s a notice, ring bell and please be patient as we are busy. Wait. Wait some more. A Nurse coming on duty lets me in but says “only stay a few minutes, visiting time is at 7pm”. It’s 5pm. I find Phil sitting in a chair next to a bed, he looks OK, the IV drugs have helped, he’s not shivering and shaking, I’m relieved.  It still hurts him when he coughs, and it hurts me to see it, but I’m an ex–nurse, so I am stoic.

I try to go home to wait for 6.35pm. I can’t find my way back to the carpark through the hospital so walk all the way round the outside before I find the car. Again. I get home in time to eat a pasty and beans with sausages, (comfort food) and go back again. More doctors have been to see him, he has pneumonia and pleurisy, the result of the Aussie flu or whatever flu strain he had. More blood tests in the morning.  He’s in a 4 bed ward with 2 other chaps, but it’s roomy, not claustrophobic, I took him his biscuits, and chocolate, and he’s doing OK, but was flagging by the time I left. I found my way out through the hospital easily this time, and cried when I got in the car. It’s been a bit of a day.

 

 

Wednesday wonderings.

I trained as a nurse way back in the mist of time, 1978 to be precise.  Nurse training today is very different, but back then a big part of what we were taught was that it did not matter whether a person was young or old, black, white, any colour you like, smelly, drunk, irate or suicidal, gay straight or undetermined, we should treat them all as if they were our mothers, fathers, brothers or sisters.  Any pre- existing prejudices or assumptions we had were to be replaced with compassion and kindness, no matter what,we were healers, not judges.  Training in Luton had me come into contact with most of the aforementioned, and the teaching stood me in good stead.  It is a way of being that has stayed with me through the years, in my personal as well as professional life, though it is sometimes really hard when your client/patient is an obnoxious git with too much money and so feels entitled to treat you like dog poo. That doesn’t happen very often I’m glad to say, and when you’re sucking wax out of someone’s ears, they soon shut up and do as they are told :D.

Today I met a client who is outside any experience I’ve had before, a transgender person, who booked in with a lady name, but was in body at least, a gentleman.  I didn’t realise at first as at a distance in the waiting room, the long blonde hair and nice make up convinced me I was just about to de-earwax a pretty young lady.  She had an androgynous uniform on so clothes didn’t give anything away, but as soon as I took her in to my clinic I knew she wasn’t a she, I have to position the head to get the ear at the right angle and I could feel the slightest of stubble on the chin, even see it.  In spite of the hair and make up the masculinity of her features was apparent at close quarters.  All this going through my head as I prepare to do the procedure. She had never had it done before so I explained everything I was going to do, and she was lovely, a little shy, but so polite, and thanking me at each stage.  Of course I was professional, and she got my best care as do all my people, but I find myself conflicted about the whole thing.  Not with the person herself, but with how hard I find it to think of her as a she, and when I asked our office manager to give her one of our cards, I nearly said ‘him’ and only just stopped myself.  I’m even struggling to write ‘she’ and ‘her’ in this post because my mind won’t accept she’s not a chap.  Of course in her mind she isn’t a chap and I can’t even begin to understand how that happens, or what that must be like for someone.  I know some people think it’s a ‘lifestyle choice’, but I can’t see how or why anyone would deliberately choose a way of life that involves such a cataclysmic change.  The difficulty in being accepted, in finding a job, in just living a life that you want and being what you want to be.

I wiki’d the term transgender, and learned it’s nothing to do with sexual orientation, you can be gay or straight as a transgender person. You can also be non-binary, including bi-gender, pan-gender, genderfluid, or agender.  There’s a whole herd of human beings who are not men or women as I think of them. Aproximately 1.5 million across Europe.  1.4 million across America. Of course I’ve read a bit in the newspaper here and there, seen a bit on the TV, there’s a film called The Danish Girl (I haven’t seen) about a chap who becomes a woman.  But today I have had to really think about it,  wonder what it all means, what’s it all about?  In the end, it doesn’t matter to me, whoever comes through my clinic door will be treated with respect, and I have always loved the diverse nature of humans, and known that when the skin is peeled away we are all the same underneath ( operating theatres teach you that one). We all need the same things to stay alive, oxygen, water, food, shelter, sleep, and we all want to love and be loved.  I hope the person I saw today has a happy life and gets to be what she wants to be, I don’t understand it, and have no life experience comparable that enables me to empathise, but everyone deserves acceptance as a person, as a human being, and I can at least do that.

Thursday Thoughts

It’s taken me a while to get back here to The Other Place while I’ve been concentrating on getting 2017’s posts up on The Universe blog.  I didn’t know what to do with this place either for 2018.  I kept reading other people’s posts about exciting goals/resolutions for their blogs in 2018, but couldn’t really get enthused about any for my own. I didn’t want to keep doing the same old thing, but couldn’t get inspired or think of a project.  On top of the creative limbo, I’ve had and still have the damned flu thing that’s sweeping the world. Phil has it too, so we are a sorry pair at the minute,coughing and spluttering and sniffling our way through the days wishing it would go away. :/

I have though now found a little project I’ll share on the blog.  Last year I wrote a post on the Hipstamatic app on the  iPhone (HERE) and I’ve just bought the latest new lens/film pack for it.  When I looked at the ‘my gear’ section I find over the years I’ve built up 87 different packs, that comes to about £86! Not much in the grand scheme of things, (I’ve had the app since it came out in 2009) £9 per year really, but I’ve never really used the packs purposefully.  I’ve taken pictures with it of course, and then faffed about with the ‘lenses’ and ‘films’ to process the shot, but never chosen a pack first for a specific shot. So this year I’m going to take a picture with every pack, and see what each one does. Monday Mobile Moments will be resurrected for the project.

I still do the Sunday Challenge over on Ipernity photo site and I thought I just might post those shots here too. Probably on a Sunday 🙂

For regular visitors, you’ll remember last year I decided to grow my own veg, and what a disaster THAT turned out to be (goddamned horrid worm thingys) though I did get a few tasteless potatoes  and a good crop of herbs. So this year I’m just growing herbs, building on success and ditching the failure seems a good way to go 🙂 . Instead of trying to grow food, I’m making the effort to cook it instead, not that I don’t already, but I’m trying out lots of new recipes I’m finding on various cooking blog sites, and I might feature the good ones on here, I could do with some practice on food photography.

I love reading blogs where people review books, TV, movies etc and I’m not very good at that so I’ve been thinking I might have a go now and then, but I’m blowing hot and cold on it as it doesn’t involve my camera!  I think my pictures are much more interesting than my words.

So we will see. There’s not much structure in this is there?  🙂 but I’m OK with that, I’ll post stuff willy nilly as and when and that’ll do.

Last night my dear husband woke me up at 1am to tell me it was snowing 🙄 and though I’m eye-rolling, really I was pleased and stayed up for half an hour watching it come down in big fluffy white blobs.  I took a shot of it with the iPhone which came out pretty rubbish

but this morning I set the alarm for sunrise time and watched the transformation

Here comes the sun doo-dn doo-doo

Most of it’s thawed now, yet again a one day snow day for us, though the west of the country still has swathes of it and no doubt Scotland has a good share.

Oh and one more thing, for Frego fans, she got a gorgeous box of chocolates for Christmas, which she didn’t share at all! I imagine she will be popping up in the blog now and then.