Another Year

It is the 7th January as I write and Christmas already seems long ago.  The decorations have returned to the loft and it is as though it never happened.  Except, sitting in the dining room/study/my playroom (note the evolution) the evidence is there for all to see – a half built Tamiya Monster Beetle which will eventually play host to the GoPro camera and, a stack of new books.  As this is part personal diary, I will use this as an excuse to list them – they reflect my passions and tastes in a way that nothing else can.  I am grateful to a well-informed Santa (and friends and relations 🙂 )

  • Alan Bennett’s Keeping On Keeping On – because I have read everything else he has produced;
  • John Simpson’s We Chose to Speak of War and Strife – as above;
  • Damon Hill’s Watching the Wheels – because his dad was a childhood hero and this most thoughtful of racing drivers promises an intriguing insight to his and his late father’s character;
  • Rick Broadbent’s That Near-Death Thing – Inside the Isle of Man TT – no explanation necessary;
  • Julian Ryder’s MotoGP Season Review 2016 – again, no explanation required;
  • John Berger‘s Here is Where We Meet – a late convert to this man’s fine work, I have some catching up to do;
  • Colm Tóibín’s Mothers and Sons – anyone who has read Golf in the Wild will know why this title resonates;
  • Robert Marshall’s The Haunted Major – a comic golfing story first published in 1902. This wasn’t actually a Christmas present but, ordered in August, it didn’t arrive until January 1st, thanks to the neighbour’s offspring – bless ’em 🙂

There is a vaguely amusing story attached to this last book.  A friend who looks after the feet of the Newcastle United players loaned the Haunted Major to Kevin Keegan, explaining that it was the story of a sportsman who thought himself much better than he really was – “Are you trying to tell me something!” was Keegan’s immediate response. Within a week Keegan was gone from Newcastle, along with said book.  Once read I should pass it on as compensation.

The one passion not covered by the above is photography but I tend to just do it rather than read about it.  These are the Blip images from the first seven days of 2017:

... Fourstones

... at Hexham Golf Club

... Heavenfield

... Tyne Green, Hexham

... Planetrees farm, near Chollerford

... screen grab from a timelapse GoPro video at Beaufront Woodhead

... back at Green Rigg on the Scrambler.

This is the video used for grabbing the moon rising image – more fiddling about with the GoPro in the adjacent field.  Keep an eye out for the good lady feverishly cleaning the porch – Spielberg would have fired her on the spot 😀

Must stop now, I have some reading to do and a Beetle to build.

Autumnal skies

The leaves may have left the trees but the skies still entertain. Now that the UK’s Met Office and Met Éireann, its Irish equivalent, have taken to naming ‘storms’ that blow in from the Atlantic, the weather has suddenly become more personal.  First there was Abigail who didn’t make much of a show in Northumberland – stood up by a storm.  Then there was the remnants of ex-hurricane Kate, and now we await the arrival of Barney, followed by Clodagh, Desmond and Eva etc.

According to the Guardian: “To avoid confusion, if a storm is the dying gusts of a tropical storm or hurricane that has crossed the ocean, it will still be styled according to the current convention of “ex-hurricane X”, as chosen by the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami”.

The list alternates between male and female names through the alphabet. Sadly for all those Quillans and Xaviers out there,  Q, U, X, Y and Z will be omitted, in line with “the convention for official storm naming in the North Atlantic”.  Nice work if you can get it 🙂

Call them what you like, they have provided some spectacular autumnal skies over Hexham these last few days, with or without a little post-processing 😉 :

Pink puddles ... Ominous ... The view from ...

Cruel sport

For years they have ignored me, now they want to be friends.  It started as an innocent discovery – I was walking to the end of our driveway to put rubbish in the bin.  It was carried in a stiff plastic bag which crackles in the wind and this sound must share the same properties as the bags used by the local farmer to carry their feed. This sudden friendship feels a little sinister, like something from the mind of Guillermo del Toro (his Pan’s Labyrinth period)  – click on the image to get the full cinematic effect:

Sheep selfieI can now summon them from across the field at will but of course it all ends in disappointment – it is a cruel sport:

The Monster & Me….ad infinitum

Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie – this is a cropped version – the original can be seen on the smartphone which is taking a live feed from the camera via a wifi connector which then fires the shutter.  The Monster’s pipes are visible on the phone but not on the cropped image. In theory, this goes on forever, or at least until I am reduced to a single pixel 😦

The Monster & Me

There is a delay between firing the shutter and the image appearing on the smartphone, so it is the non-flash image that you can see on the phone’s screen.

Re the clips below – mute the sound on the Youtube clip and let the SoundCloud track play over the video.  I think it works better and changes the mood of the piece – but not quite as significantly as it does in the Adam Curtis ensemble – While the Band Played On (I am persuaded @smallhours2 🙂 )

Juniper

In another attempt to dust off the cobwebs and stretch the trousers we embarked on a walk around Juniper on New Year’s Day; it was a dull morning threatening yet more rain across the Shire.  Juniper is a delightful, rural hamlet which achieved some local notoriety in 2010; this article appeared in the the Hexham Courant on 1st April of that year:

A Hexhamshire hamlet is changing its name in order to cash in on the millions of a sixties superstar. The tiny community of Juniper will in future be known as Jennifer Juniper, following a request from hippy hero Donovan. Cash-strapped Northumberland County Council is understood to have agreed to the name change in return for a £5 million donation to council coffers. The denim-decked singer made a fortune in the 1960s from songs like Catch the wind, Universal Soldier, Mellow Yellow and Sunshine Superman, but his personal favourite was always Jennifer Juniper. He took a tour of Tynedale whilst staying at Slaley Hall and fell in love with the quaint hamlet of Juniper. He spotted a dappled mare grazing in a field and just wanted to be part of the place. Villagers have reported being offered large wads of cash for their properties but no-one was prepared to move out of the close-knit community. A consultation exercise on the name change is being carried out by the county council, but comments had to be in by noon yesterday.

It was a quiet morning, just one horse and rider struggling up the steep bridle path from Devil’s Water and in the woods, evidence of avian tragedy:

The woods near JuniperThe woods near JuniperThe woods near JuniperThe woods near JuniperThe woods near JuniperThe woods near Juniper

(click on images to enlarge)

The Baltic

In March 2004 I found myself in Tallinn, Estonia presenting at a pre-accession IT conference. Nearly spring at home, the temperatures remained determinedly below zero throughout as the streets rattled to the sound of studded tyres on tarmac. On one of the short days we escaped to Kadrioru Park by the shores of the Baltic and walked upon the water – the sea was deeply frozen as ferries navigated in and out of the port through roughly carved channels.

The return flight banked over the Baltic and some years later we returned by a defrosted sea on our return from St Petersburg. Thus I have floated on the Baltic, walked on its waters and flown over its deep seas. A couple of weeks back I even went inside:

The Baltic

Actually, I have been inside the Baltic Mill, Gateshead on many occasions. It is a wonderful building but the content rarely lives up to its fine exterior.

(this is another image courtesy of the smartphone).

Weekly Photo Challenge: Let there be Light – the sequel

According to Wiki:  The Gateshead Millennium Bridge is a pedestrian and cyclist tilt bridge spanning the River Tyne between Gateshead’s Quays arts quarter on the south bank, and the Quayside of Newcastle upon Tyne on the north bank. The award-winning structure was conceived and designed by architects Wilkinson Eyre and structural engineers Gifford. The bridge is sometimes referred to as the ‘Blinking Eye Bridge’ or the ‘Winking Eye Bridge’ due to its shape and its tilting method. In terms of height, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge is slightly shorter than the neighbouring Tyne Bridge, and stands as the sixteenth tallest structure in the city.

This Let there be Light sequence was taken, handheld, with a Samsung SII smartphone, so less than ideal for the task. Watch and wait for the colours to change; in real life they do this on a much slower cycle – you get bored and very cold in November, standing, waiting and waiting for the next colour shift:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Travel theme: Connections

As we travel, we make connections all the time. There is a connection with my previous post – when I climbed in the car and took this series of phone images the route was inevitably the one I use out of habit nearly every day.  

There is a connection with one of my followers who uncannily observed that this road would be “precarious if icy” – suddenly it is there the next morning, an Olympic, winter sports grade, skating surface.

When I arrive at my destination, there is the wind turbine with the sun rising over the hill behind – it has a connection to the National Grid although on a day like this, what’s the point.

Golf is all about connections – hands to club, club to ball, ball to hole….or ball to rough, never to be seen again.

There is the connection with another recent post – More notes from the Madhouse – you have to be slightly unhinged to play golf in these conditions, some might say at all.  Finally, to make one final connection – in answer to the question, Golf? What’s the story?……sorry Mark, I haven’t a clue 🙂

All images taken on a Samsung SII smartphone and then over-saturated in Photoshop 🙂

Travel theme: Wild

This post could be more accurately entitled Messing with Vine.  Since I downloaded the app to my iPod Touch I have been taking short movies of the inquisitive neighbours, a herd of restless bullocks in the adjacent field – turn on the sound and you will hear that one of them is quite vocal:

They don’t seem particularly wild but they do get annoyed when I try to stop them from consuming my hedge.  So in the spirit of this week’s theme I travelled a little further, to the front garden, and shot some wildflowers dancing on the wind.

I appreciate this is not Oscar material but I am thinking about entering the Turner Prize. Vine is a passing fad, I am sure I will get over it :-).  Click on the image if they stop moving/looping and/or run your mouse over the blank image if nothing appears – it seems a bit flaky at the moment.