Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A New Beginning.

I have moved to a new blog site on Wordpress so if you'd like to follow me over there, I'd be delighted to have you accompany me on my future blogging journey.

                      Click Here :

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Season Of Mist And Mellow Mistiness

Blimey it's been 2 months since my last post.  Clearly trying to post a photo-a-day didn't stir my blogging gene and even more clearly, I don't live an interesting enough life to blog about it regularly, so what to do ?   Post when the mood takes me ?  Give up completely ?

For now I'm taking the former route and today I'm posting because I got up at 8:10am and so I'm grumpy !

Being up and about......well up at any rate as so far there isn't much "abouting" going this ungodly time of day has only served to push me further into my SAD state of mind.

SAD is Seasonal Affective Disorder and according to my font of all things medical, Wikipedia, the symptoms may consist of  :

- difficulty waking up in the morning. Absolutely.
- morning sickness.  Thankfully not at all.
- tendency to oversleep and overeat. Definitely.
- a craving for carbs leading to weight gain. Oh hell yes.
- lack of energy. Can't be bothered answering that one.
- difficulty completing tasks.  Ha !  I don't even start tasks.
- withdrawal from social activities.  See above.
- decreased sex drive.   Decreased ? Mine is in neutral and heading for reverse. 

So with all this in mind, I woke at 8:10am and decided to get up and see if an early start would help my mood. Now you need to bear in mind that I never go to bed before 2am and never go to sleep before 3am so rising around 8am is VERY unusual for me.

Has it helped my mood ?  Not so much !  All it's done is give me more hours to be SAD !!

It's October.  It's cold and damp and, this morning at least, very very misty.  So misty in fact that I can barely see the house across the road.

And no, I don't live out in the countryside where my neighbour is 3 miles away and yes, I have opened the curtains.  

It's just freakin' misty.  Proper pea soup misty.  Foggy even.  Yes it's foggy.

And I can't even look forward to the sun burning it off anytime soon.  We probably won't see the sun here again till next summer and even then, only for a fortnight before the nights draw in and it starts all over again. Don't get me started.

As if I needed more reasons to be SAD, Virgin Media has given me one.  They provide my broadband, tv and landline phone service and last weekend, just before midnight on Saturday, the broadband part of this service went down for about 30 hours.  I say "about" because I was asleep on Monday morning when the service returned so I can't be more accurate. But it was over 28 hrs for sure.

Everytime I rang them, I got a recorded message acknowledging the outage in my postcode area, informing me that an engineer was on his/her way and that the approx time for the service being available again would be XX:XX.......a time which kept moving along with each phone call.  Then after 18 hours the message was updated to inform me that the engineer was on site (he/she must've been flown back from their foreign holiday) and they stopped giving an availability time !  

Since its return on Monday morning, I've been trying to find out what caused this outage and why it took so long to fix the fault. I pay Virgin Media £1200 a year for this service and I feel it's only right that they explain such a long break in said service.

I've written to them twice but my emails go to India where their support people live and I think we all know what that means.  I get polite, stock replies which have been pasted into the email and are full of "we understand your concern" and "we are sorry to hear this" type sentences but never do they answer my query. The latest one was a gem.........

"As we're an e-mail support team we do not have the necessary expertise to be able to offer technical advice but we have a technical support team of specialised advisors who will be happy to help you out".

Brilliant. This coming from the contact address on their web site that you are supposed to use for broadband issues.  Don't have the necessary expertise ?  So why is your email address on the web site !?!  And anyway, I'm not asking for technical advice.


So yes, this morning I'm SAD and grumpy and frustrated and even a tiny bit angry. Not good reasons for posting a blog but as I can't shout at the Indian call centre staff, I'm using Blogger as my escape valve.  And do you know,  it's working.  The steam is slowly escaping with every letter typed.  

Of course it could be the neat Amaretto in my coffee that's slowly making me more mellow.  Or pissed.  Probably both !!

It's now 10:10am so basic maths tells me 2 hours have passed since I got up and what's occurring ?  Well I've had my coffee and my date & coconut porridge but I'm still half asleep, still half pissed and still can't see the house across the street.  

On second thoughts, I think the mist has gone and I can't see the house across the street because my windows are filthy.

I'd clean them but as you know, I've no energy and can't complete tasks.

That's so SAD.  

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Is It Monday Yet ?

Well, thinking that uploading a photo a day from my extensive collection would get my blogging juices flowing again clearly didn't work very well !

I'm pretty much the same with most things I do.  Take exercise for example.  For 3 weeks in July, admittedly when the weather was fantastic, I went out for a 50 minute walk EVERY day and it was great.  The idea was to take it steady and build up my speed and hopefully I'd get fitter AND lose some weight too. Then I missed a day and I totally lost momentum. I've not exercised now for over a week.

Converting my VHS home video to dvd ?  Yeah that also started with great enthusiasm but after creating 7 or 8 dvds, I lost interest and am still stuck back in 1991. 

I've thousands of photos to name and catalogue because if anyone asked me for a photo of Whitby Abbey, it would take a day of searching to find one.  Same with music.  I've hundreds of downloaded albums but many need to be edited so they can be quickly found.  
The list of things that need to be done around the house grows and grows.  I've needed new curtains for 20 years; a new fireplace is on the list, not to improve the look of the living room but because the current fire is so old, British Gas won't service it anymore and on full power it puts out less heat than a candle.  A small candle that only gets lit on a Tuesday. 

It was in my yute that I took the maxim "never put off till tomorrow what you can put off till the day after" and merged it with the old song lyric "till the 12th of never" to create my life mantra.

So what to make of all this ?  Am I lazy ?  I think that much is clear.  

I also like to start projects but quickly lose interest in them.

So I'm going to make a start on things again.  But it's Thursday so no point in doing so this week.  I mean, it's nearly over.  So Monday it is then.  I'll go and check out new fire places.  Pop into a curtain shop and see what's what.  I might copy another vhs tape to dvd.  That'll be enough for one week I think.

Just not sure which week !

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Photo-A-Day 16th June 2013

As I stated in the previous post, most of the Farne Islands are actually just rocky outcrops and the low lying ones make navigating around the area very treacherous indeed.

After many discussions and requests, the Longstone Lighthouse was built in 1826 and was manned by William Darling and his daughter Grace on 7th September 1838 when the paddlesteamer "Forfarshire" hit the nearby rocks at 3am in terrible weather and broke in two.

Knowing the weather was too bad for the lifeboat to leave nearby Seahouses, William and Grace set off in a 21ft rowing boat to help the survivors. They returned to the lighthouse with 4 or 5 survivors (reports differ) and while Grace remained with the sole female survivor, William and the other 3 (or 4 !!) went back and gathered up 4 more.   

There were other survivors who managed to leave the ship in a lifeboat but a total of 42 of the 62 people on board, died that night.

Grace Darling, whether because of her age (22) or the fact she was female, became an instant heroine and was praised by the nation and received a large financial reward for her courage.

Last week we passed close to the lighthouse on the boat trip to see the birds on Inner Farne and despite the choppy waves, I managed to get my own photo of it.

The name of Grace Darling is almost as well known here today as that of nursing pioneer, Florence Nightingale but while Florence lived to the ripe old age of 90, Grace died of tuberculosis at 26.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Photo-A-Day 15th June 2013

Well I've been back a few days after my "sudden impulse" 6 day tour around the NW of Scotland and what a trip it was. The weather was perfect every day and the scenery was absolutely spectacular.

In all, I took 624 photos and video clips so for the next few blog posts, I'll put up a photo from the tour despite putting most of them up already on my Facebook page.  I know there are blog readers who don't use Facebook so for those who do, sorry that you have to see them again !

Actually this first photo is from the first day of the tour before I actually reached Scotland.   I went up the east side of England, through Newcastle to Whitley Bay, a seaside resort I'd last been to about 30 years ago. Then I drove on to Seahouses where I'd booked online to go out on a 2.5hr boat trip to Inner Farne, one of the many Farne Islands that lie just off the coast of Northumberland.

These islands are famous bird sanctuaries and my main reason for going on the boat trip was to see some puffins as it was breeding season and many thousands were on Inner Farne.

The boat was due to set sail at 2pm and after spending too much time in both Newcastle and Whitley Bay, I only just made it.  Once onboard I was able to relax and soon we were passing the smaller islands, just a collection of rocks really, which were covered in both birds and their poop.  A LOT of poop.  In fact from a distance it seemed there was snow on the rocks !

As we approached Inner Farne, I wondered why the people from the previous boat trip were waiting at the dock with umbrellas up and wearing waterproofs. Then I noticed the people on 'my' boat were doing the same and as we disembarked, I found out why.

All along the edge of the long wooden pathway up to the main viewing area, Arctic Terns had nested and while one sat on the egg(s), its partner would dive bomb anyone passing by. They used their long needle like beaks to stab any part of our bodies that they could, usually our heads, and if that didn't work, they'd follow it up with pooping on us.   

It was like the school hill scene from "The Birds" except in our case, ALL the birds were real.  Parents covered their kid's heads with anything they could and I was glad I'd taken a baseball cap and a light hooded rain jacket (a golf jacket actually as I thought it might rain) as I needed both !  Maybe it was the jacket's black colour but in any case, having run the gauntlet twice, I was relieved that I avoided any poop and despite some close calls, my head was intact.  Others were not so lucky and many were liberally covered in the white stuff.    

Up at the viewing area on the very edge of the cliff, birds were everywhere, on every surface.  From Cormorants to Black-Headed Gulls, Guillemots to Razorbills, it was a twitcher's dream !  Of all the breeding birds on the Farnes, Puffins are by far the most common with over 36,000 pairs last year. There were several Shag fights going on over nesting areas and some were pretty vicious.  Eggs were bumped out of nests as parents fought for possession of a nest and residence was no guarantee.  The noise was deafening and off to one side, the superior Puffins were keeping their distance and did not want to be involved with the rough stuff.  Being burrow nesters, they didn't need to.

They were settled quite some distance away but with my 200mm zoom lens, being able to rest it on a solid fence and then enlarging the resulting photos via Photoshop, I got some decent photos.  This one is my favourite.

Being on the rocks, the Puffins were all adults as the Pufflings would've been safe in their burrows further away. I really wanted to see and photograph Pufflings but it was not to be. 

Surviving the fierce Terns on the way back to the boat, we headed to shore and then I drove up the coast and crossed into Scotland. A couple of miles further on I got to my b&b by 7pm. This was the only one I'd pre-booked as I knew they were plentiful in Scotland and I didn't want to be tied down each evening.  I'd just start looking from about 6pm or 7pm and that way I was free to go as far along the route each day as I wanted.

That plan worked out perfectly as I got great b&b's every evening ranging from £25 to £35 which I thought was excellent value for money.

More tomorrow.............  

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Photo-A-Day 4th June 2013

No time for much of a byline today as I'm getting ready for a sudden departure in the morning as I'm off on a road trip to the tip of the UK, John O'Groats at the top of Scotland.  

The weather forecast is semi decent for the next few days so I'm being all impetuous and just going !

Anyway here is a photo I took yesterday inside the ruins of Fountains Abbey on a glorious day which wore me out as I walked miles.

That's it.

Donno when I'll be back so there may or may not be regular posts or "photo-a-day" posts for a wee while, the noo.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Photo-A-Day 3rd June 2013

The following is a classic example of how, when I'm leaving some 'exotic' location, I sometimes say "well I'll never be back here again" as those words seem to ensure that I will be !

In December of 2005, Deb, Den and I went on a cruise which took in 9 Southern Caribbean islands.  One of the first was St. Maarten or to be more accurate, Sint Maarten as we went to the southern half which belong to The Netherlands and not the northern half which belong to Ze French !  Zut alors.

With our cruise ship berthed with several others at Wathey Pier, we got a water taxi across Great Bay to the capital 'city' of Philipsburg. We strolled along the main street with all its gaudy tourist shops and then hit the beach for a spot of R&R before heading back to the ship.  

You don't get much time when visiting 9 islands on a cruise !

It was only when we were sailing to our next destination that I remembered the main claim to fame of Sint Maarten, namely Princess Juliana International Airport, or more precisely, its airstrip.

Yes this is the airport where pilots have to come in so low over the beach that lies just by the start of the airstrip that those on the beach can almost touch the undercarriage.  Then when large jets are taking off, they use the same airstrip and as they increase power for the start of takeoff, the hardy, or foolhardy souls on the beach line up to be blasted back down the beach and, in some case, end up in the water.

None seem to care that a stone or other object could also be blown back at them with potentially fatal results.  This is the jackass generation after all and they live for the thrill.

So in 2005 as we headed towards another awesome Caribbean sunset, I uttered those infamous departing words as I really did want to return to go onto that beach when a large jet was landing. I really didn't think it would happen though.

Ha !

Fast forward to April 2010 and as part of a more relaxing cruise (only 4 islands this time), we were back in Sint Maarten.  This time I wasn't going to miss the opportunity of going to the airport and Maho Beach and so we hired a taxi and went straight there. As they approach the beach, car drivers have to look carefully to make sure no planes are about to take off or else they could end up closer to the beach than they'd like to be. 

Our driver dropped us off at the Sunset Bar, just past the beach and we walked back to the mid point to wait for the Air France jet that was due to land just after noon.  As the time approached, the word soon went around those on the beach and all eyes scanned Simpson Bay towards the horizon.  Suddenly a sharp eyed kid next to us said he saw it and in no time the dot became a recognisable plane.

I was poised with my still camera and passed my video camera to Deb so we'd be sure to record the event one way or another......or even both.  I wanted to pan around to follow the plane to get the classic view I'd seen so often on the internet.  I also wanted to zoom in as much as possible so the plane would fill the viewfinder but in doing so, I overcooked it and chopped off the tail of the plane !

I was so annoyed with myself and although I fired off a series of photos, this was the side view I really wanted to be perfect. Hey ho.

Maybe third time lucky !  Who knows.

 Not long afterwards, a large jet taxied to the end of the airstip close to the beach, turned around and lit up its afterburners !  From the relative safety of the side of the beach, we watched dozens of people lining up to be blown away and getting their wish.  Some did in fact get blown into the water but I think theyere showing off and did the last few yards themselves with no help from the rapidly departing jet.

It was quite an experience and one I'll remember for a long time. Worth going back for !

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