Monday, 28 June 2010

Men with forward facing haircuts....

This is a day or two late but I was really sad to hear,  on Friday 25/6/10, of the death of Alan Plater.

He has written many, many programmes for television as well as plays, screenplays and books.  I remember watching his Trinity Tales in the '70's and the wonderful Beiderbecke Affair in the 1980's, plus the two follow up series, The Beiderbecke Tapes and the Beiderbecke Connection.  

It was in this Trilogy that he referred to "young men with forward facing haircuts" - a description that may be difficult to explain but which gives a very clear picture of the type of person being described!  I still use that phrase (in my head) when dealing with cold calling sales types.

 Barbara Flynn and James Bolam in The Beiderbecke Affair

Alan Plater also adapted Fortunes of War for BBC and wrote the screenplay for A Very British Coup.  A recent very fine episode of Lewis was written by him.   If Alan Plater's name was in the credits then I would watch whatever it was because the quality of writing was guaranteed. 

I hope that some of his programmes will be repeated now to give those who missed some of the early ones a chance to enjoy them.  Personally,  I'm going to watch the Beiderbecke Affair again, enjoy the partnership of James Bolam and Barbara Flynn for the umpteenth time and remember a very, very fine writer.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Not here today......

.......but find me here! 

The guest post that I have written for Vision and Verb is published today and I'm very proud to have been asked. 

I've just got back after spending a couple of days away and will catch up very soon.  Just one quick picture from this weekend - the colour of this flower does my heart good :)

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

by the way

While I was answering Flighty's comment on my last post, I was reminded of one of the most fearsome places I have ever been.  I have a terrible fear of heights and when we visited the North Antrim coast a few years ago I decided to "face my fear" and go across the Carrick A Rede Rope Bridge.

 image from wikipedia

We (my husband, son and I) got across, but I was only able to come back with my eyes tight shut holding on to Mr Pugh's coat, with my son behind me encouraging me on!!  I actually had flashbacks about being on the bridge for days afterwards, especially when drifting off to sleep at night.  Being a rope bridge, it moves you see, and people in front of you make it bounce and then stop to take photographs leaving you in the middle of a moving few pieces of rope and planks!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Optical Illusion

I've used this title because I can't think of a better way to describe the National Trust house that we visited at the weekend.  We spent Friday - Sunday afternoon on the North Coast of the province, near Bushmills.  The weather was GLORIOUS and on Saturday we walked for miles.  It was the mix of weather and location that can make you feel glad to be alive and to feel that you could do anything.

We went to The Downhill Demense and the walk through the estate itself is lovely.  To reach the remains of Downhill House you follow the paths cut into the meadow upwards towards the cliffs overlooking Downhill Strand.  Firstly you pass the Mausoleum, the top part of which was blown down in the Night of the Big Wind in 1839.

The views are beautiful.

You can see by the grass in the photograph above that there was a very strong breeze and it got stronger the higher we went.  Some of the pictures might be a little fuzzy - at one point the breeze was blowing straight on, making me take a step back as I tried to take a picture!

Approaching the house, this is what you see -

It looks as if there's just a shell of the front left and although it is very imposing, looks as if it will take maybe 15 minutes to see all there is to see.  

This is the house from the side -

My jaw dropped as we went through the front gate.  Because of the slope at the back you have no idea from the front of how large it actually is - the people in the picture above give some idea of the scale.  From the front entrance you walk through the centre down through to where the courtyard and stable yard were towards the back.  

The back looks like this

And a path from the rear entrance leads to the Mussenden Temple, possible the best known landmark in N.I after the Giant's Causeway.

This is on the edge of the cliffs looking over the strand at Downhill.  The picture below was taken from the side of the temple (you can see the wall on the left).

Again, for scale, the shapes on the beach in the distance are cars.

Most of the way round the estate, the wind blows off the ocean and you can see how it has affected this tree!

A lovely day!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

holy crunching wasps, Batman!!??!!!

Sneaking around the Euonymus shrub in the garden, as I do, looking for hiding snails, I was a little puzzled to hear a scratching noise - quite a loud one at that.  

I finally realised that it was a wasp scrunching on the dead fennel stem (I leave it because the snails seem to like it, and the new growth isn't tall enough yet). There are creepy crawlies that I don't like to go near, but I am actually scared of wasps and forget that I am hundreds of times bigger that they are.  They make me leap away and poise myself for panic stricken flight with a bit of hand flapping in case one is near my head.  I did steel myself to take a picture

at arms length, so that I couldn't even see if it was focused.  It wasn't!    Apparently wasps chew wood to make pulp to build their nests - the amount of chewing needed must be intense, and after reading about them I've gained a little more insight into the benefits of having wasps around to prey on other pests.  Mind you, they really do bring out my flight reflex, and fighting is forgotten about completely.

Having survived that encounter, I carried on with some work for the Creativity Boot Camp.  There are not many more days to go, which is kind of sad because I really feel that I've been able to try different things and be inspired by other people's work.  

Day 9's prompt was drizzle.  I immediately thought of rain - this is Northern Ireland after all - and this was my image

We were also challenged to try something in a medium that we don't normally use, so I had a bit of fun with soft pastels and did some leaf prints.  

I won't give up the day job just yet :)

Just to prove that snails love fennel, dead or alive (the fennel that is), here's an example.  His/her shell looks a little the worse for wear, but still climbing that fennel stalk like a champion.


Sunday, 13 June 2010


I learned a valuable lesson yesterday - if you would like to take good photographs, in fact ANY photographs, make sure you put the battery in your camera before leaving the house.  Imagine my surprise when, having arrived at our destination,  the camera wouldn't switch imagine what was said when I realised why!

Oh well, as Homer says, "I am so smart, S.M.R.T, d'oh, S.M.A.R.T."

To catch up on previous posts, I have finished reading Dracula and am kind of in between books at the minute.  There are quite a few on the bedside table which are on the must read list, but I can't really settle to any of them at the moment.  Instead I've been dipping into essays by James Thurber which have been known to make me cry with laughter.  If you haven't come across Thurber, I highly recommend his stories and cartoons.  Here is a list of Thurber's books on Amazon.

Creativity Boot Camp is still going strong and there have been some challenging prompts!  My brain is starting to hurt a little, but that's because parts of it are being used that have been inactive for a long time.

Anyway, the prompt on Day 6 was fluid.  This is my image

Day 7's prompt was fly.  This became a little more difficult because of the no battery situation when we were out!  However, I collected some fallen petals, leaves and flower heads and for the first time in YEARS made a collage.  This is it (after messing about on picnik)

Day 8 has been much more fun.  The image came much more easily this time, because the prompt was ornament - there are such a lot of different bits and pieces that I have collected since childhood that have enormous sentimental value, even though some are a bit the worse for wear.  The finished article 

was so much fun to do and of course took much longer because of having to look through EVEYTHING, and remember where I had got them.  Look here for a list of what the different items in the collage are.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Dandelion Treasure

A quick post to add a link to a treasury on Etsy called make a wish.  

Liz Hutnick very kindly included one of my photographs, but check out some of the paintings that have been included - I want them all!!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Water, water everywhere...

I saw this insect today in the garden. It may be something quite common, but none the less I have no idea what it is.  If anyone recognises it, please let me know.  It did look a little freaky to me :(

Yesterday's  Creativity Boot Camp phrase was "heavy metal" and today's is "grow".  

Both challenging and very good at making you "think outside the box".  I found yesterday's the most difficult so far, probably because of the musical connotations (I REALLY don't get the music) and also partly because I kept thinking of "heavy water" (I may have watched the "Heroes of Telemark" too many times).

Anyway, after thinking on and off most of the morning and afternoon, and repeating the phrase to myself under my breath, because that really helps (!), I came up with this

(semi) heavy metal

I found metal buttons decorated with anchors, that have been around the house for years.  I thought if I put them in water I would get some interesting reflections.  I did NOT expect one to sink and one to float!  The result was a little more abstract than I expected.

Today's prompt was "grow" and because I photograph a lot of plants and flowers, which were my immediate thought, I wanted to do something different.  So it was "grow, GROW, grow, gro-o-o-w" all morning (under my breath, thankfully).  

I got to thinking about what makes anything, in particular plants,  grow and finally came up with this shot

It's a shot of my favourite bowl filled with water which is rippling in the breeze outside and reflecting the sunlight - water, oxygen, sunlight - what makes plants grow!  Soil is the fourth requirement and that's what the bowl is sitting on!  No, not cheating.  

This shot turned out to be very abstract, much more than I had intended, but I liked the colours and refractions so this is the one that's been posted to the CBC Flickr group.  It's well worth a visit to see the many interpretations of the various prompts and also to see some outstanding photographs. 

One of my favourite blogs is Vision and Verb which I read everyday.  There are such a variety of interesting, thought provoking posts there, with some great pictures.  I was very surprised and really honoured to be invited to write a guest post for them.  With a mixture of excitement and trepidation I agreed; it's been sent off and I really hope that it is up to scratch. Time will tell......

Thanks to Marcie for issuing the invitation and if you haven't visited the site, it's really worth a look.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A lot of hens?

Boot camp Day Three and the creativity muscles are getting a fine workout!
The theme for today is "multilayered" and it took a little time to think about how I could interpret that.  

People immediately came to mind because we all have layer upon layer that rarely get completely peeled away.  Having a teenage son was very helpful - someone who doesn't reveal himself very easily as well as actually dressing in many layers of clothes.  So both a literal and metaphorical interpretation!!  I have to thank him for posing so patiently (I used a shot where he isn't rolling his eyes).

I also apologise for the terrible joke in the title although part of me (the part that watches Carry On Films) still would like to submit that shot - hens....multilayers....geddit??

Monday, 7 June 2010

Boot Camp Report

Day 1 -  Ivory

Thanks to a link on Maisey's Attic I found out about the Creativity Boot Camp.   

In the introduction, it says that this course "will be an intensive two week course designed to deepen and enrich your creative spirit. You will be asked to perform outward projections of creativity as well as examine your inner creative soul."

Now, I'm born and bred in Belfast and although times are changing, these are not expressions that come naturally!  However,  I loved the idea of facing some challenges and combining that with taking photographs, which I do every day.  

You can get so far by yourself and then you need a little outside input to help you move on to the next stage.  The course is free, lasts for 14 days and is a safe, friendly, nurturing place to try to kick start the creativity which, I'm sure, is in all of us.  I'm excited about taking part :)

The course (second day today) has involved creating, in whatever medium you have chosen to use, images that show some aspect of a particular word.  There are also written exercises that are, of course, much more difficult!  I don't think that I'll be sharing much of the written work - whenever I finish it of course - but the photographs will be appearing here. 

The image at the top is for Day 1 - Ivory. The reason that I chose this particular subject for the theme is perhaps not very easily explained, other than the colour of the papery skin and stem. 

Day 2 had the theme of picnic and my photograph of an indoor picnic is below.  

 Day 2 - picnic

I'm aware that there is not a lot of food on offer, but wine is good too.  The fern like plant is actually fennel so that could be eaten if neccessary.

Check out the Boot Camp - it's fun!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

In the right light, at the right time...

 In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary
Aaron Rose

Extraordinary things can be large or small, vital or unimportant.  It all depends on how we see them at any given time. 

These are some pictures that I have taken over the last eight months, through the autumn, winter and into summer, of things that I thought were extraordinary.  Most of the opportunities came as a result of being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.    Some were as a result of just being lucky!  I could wish that the photographs themselves showed more skill, but hopefully with practice that will improve.  The subjects of the pictures are what interested me and experimenting with the camera is always fun.

The colours on the leaf shown above, floating in water (in an old bucket in the garden) were beautiful even as it started to decay.  The leaf below was frozen in the same water later in the winter.

One or two, like the one below, are down to sheer dumb luck - being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to point and shoot.  The cloud formation changed within a minute of this picture being taken; until I saw it on the computer screen, I had really no idea of the shapes that the light made.

 Raindrops  are tantalising - I've ended up with so many little glowing blurs on a variety of objects!

Fennel is one of my favourite things in the garden.  It goes through so many transformations throughout the different seasons and the colours are gorgeous.  The plant below is just starting to grow up the old stem.

The hypericum shown below grows in a corner of the garden that is quite neglected and overgrown.  Today I noticed that the buds are just starting to form; when they open,  the flowers are yellow and when the flowers die the flower heads form berries that turn from green to red to black.  The dried leaves are very aromatic.  It never receives any care, it just reappears year after year, with its beautiful display, in a place that you have to go to specifically to see it.  It is extraordinary, in the right light or not.

And in case you're wondering, the top picture shows the handle of the metal trolley that my husband uses to move boxes.  It was sitting in our hall on a Sunday morning, when it was caught in the sunlight along with its shadow on the wall.  This has had some processing after I downloaded (saturating the colours a little).  All the other photographs here are untouched, other than being resized.