Photography Sunday #7: Where I Walk 11 Miles

2017-02-17 London_102Last week I had to go to London for a spot of work. That completed I went for a wander around and about and took some shots on my Fuji X70, which is rapidly becoming a permanent fixture in my bag. I am not well versed in the geography of our great capital city, but decided I would just amble around the place and follow my nose if I found something interesting. It was a glorious spring day and I found myself meandering in the areas of St Paul’s, Holborn, Fleet Street as well as along the South Bank. It was all very pleasant indeed. I shot a lot of photographs and had to stop when both my batteries were depleted. I was a little shocked when on the train home to find that I had walked 11 miles!

I have realised that photography is becoming much like reading for me. I am starting to integrate it into my daily life and it broadens my view of the world, which is no bad thing. It also opens up conversations that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. At one point I was reading a sign outside a church I had found down a quiet side street. Seeing my camera, a chap stopped and told me that if I walked to the end of the street and turned right there was the most amazing view of the church with great shadows when the sun came out. Then he went on his way. No idea who he was, but it was a nice interaction. I like to think he was a spy with an eye for photographic composition on his way to a dead drop. More likely he was an accountant, but why spoil a good story eh?

Anyway, here are my favourite shots from the day. 2017-02-17 London_124

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens

Stevens - First Class MurderI might be a teensy-weensy behind on my reviews… never mind, better late than never, eh? Today’s literary delight is First Class Murder by Robin Stevens, the third in the Wells and Wong mystery series. Now I will admit that I approached this book with some trepidation dear readers. The reason? Well, this is a book which pays homage to Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Now you can imagine how I might feel about someone trying to reflect Christie can’t you? This, however, is a Robin Stevens book, and therefore there is no need for panic. In fact, there is need for tea and buns and enough time to sit and read it from beginning to end.

Daisy and Hazel are off on their holidays with Hazel’s dad, and they are travelling on the Orient Express. Hazel’s father is a little bit concerned that the friends have got into the habit of tripping over dead bodies every ten minutes, which is not at all becoming for young ladies. He makes them promise to be good, and not get into any trouble. Well, it isn’t long before a body is found in one of the cabins, completely locked from the inside and the girls set out to solve the mystery on the quiet.

There is as cast of characters  including a psychic, a magician and a Russian princess. There is  also the added bonus of a young American lad who takes a bit of a shine to Hazel. The resemblance to the Christie classic is clear to see, but it’s so deftly done, and handled with such devotion, it’s a joy to read. The friendship between Daisy and Hazel is developing nicely, and really has some depth. I can see these two aged eighty, knitting together whilst chatting to the vicar about the recent murder at the village fete.

It’s a truly glorious read, and as with all the Wells and Wong books, there is a proper mystery with red herrings, twists, turns and clues to indulge the reader. The books may be aimed at younger readers, but there is no shying away from what murder means.

This series is fantastic, and even if you don’t have a Hazel or Daisy in your life to buy a copy for, pretend you do, and read it yourself. You won’t regret it.

Photography Sunday #4: Where I Have Now Read The Manual

When the Delightful Mr F first taught me how to use an SLR camera about 20 years ago, there was relatively little to learn once you had your head around the aperture, shutter speed, ISO triangle. After that it was all about practise and learning to “see” photographically. Now though, it is a whole different world… My first SLR, a Nikon FM2,  was completely manual, manual focus, manual settings, not an automatic widget in sight. In fact it was so manual it would work without a battery.

My lovely new Fuji cameras can do everything apart from actually walk out the door and take the photos themselves. The risk is that the camera doesn’t quite do what you expect and you end up with a photographic dog’s dinner. Even if you are photographing a dog’s dinner you want it to be in focus and properly exposed don’t you? Why am I rambling on about this? Well, on Monday I had my first one to one photographic mentoring session with Kevin Ahronson. We talked about my homework from the first course lecture. I had five photographs for him to review, all of the Delightful Mr F doing some karate training. Three of them I was quite pleased with, one I couldn’t quite work out why I wasn’t so happy, and the final one I had struggled with getting how I wanted it.

It turns out dear reader, that I had fallen foul of the autofocus system. The reason I was so dissatisfied with one shot was that the autofocus system hadn’t quite got things right, so The Delightful Mr F was looking somewhat blurry around the edges. I am so used to focusing manually, I hadn’t quite cottoned on to what was happening with the automatic functions.

So, on Wednesday lunchtime you would have found me reading the manual which came with my camera. Yes, the actual manual, which to be fair didn’t help a great deal, so I resorted to the wonder that is YouTube. I think I now have it nailed and so The Delightful Mr F need not be in fear of being blurry again.

The one to one mentoring is extraordinarily powerful. In half an hour Kevin had shown me where I had got things right, and where the others photos could be improved. I doubt I could have worked it all out on my own. I also met his cat, who is super cute.

So, here are a few shots of The Delightful Mr F. After almost six years, you must all be wondering what he looks like. Happy Sunday!

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Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

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Edith finds herself at the Hotel du Lac, on the shores of a Swiss lake, having been advised by her friends to go away and think about things for a while. The reasons she needs this break are revealed as the book progresses.

Edith is a serious, woman, not yet married, who find herself in a hotel with a cast of characters she enjoys watching. We have a mother and daughter, Mrs Pusey and Jennifer who are hopelessly devoted to each other, the charming Mr Neville, and Mme de Bonneuil and her little dog. Edith is a romantic novelist and decides to use her expulsion from her social circle to finish her next book, but the words won’t flow. Instead she starts to mope about, and so Mrs Pusey decides she needs taking out of herself.

The prose is wonderful, there are very sly observations on the characters and the small talk is painfully accurate. It isn’t a fast paced read, but then it doesn’t need to be. I found myself slowing the pace to reflect the setting, a slightly old fashioned and snooty family run hotel.

This book came in for a lot of criticism when it won the Booker Prize in 1984 when many thought that The Empire of the Sun should have won. I haven’t read The Empire of the Sun, so can’t comment. What I did like about this book is the theme that a solitary life, when chosen knowingly, is a fine life.

Photography Sunday #3: Where I Talk to a Cow and Nearly Fall in a Ditch

It was pretty chilly here at Fennell Towers this week, it has been as low as -6C, which for the South East is darn nippy. Despite the cold, it has been sunny, with beautiful blue skies, so with several layers on, plus some gloves and a bobble hat* I went for my daily walk in the woods. It. Was. Freezing.  I am nothing if not intrepid, and so I pressed on, camera in (cold, gloved) hand. 

There was a low hanging mist still and I got this nice general shot of the woods with the sun breaking through the trees. 

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In the woods are a herd of highland cows which graze and keep everything under control. They were close by, so took a photo of this handsome chap. When I walk in the woods during the day, I don’t often see anyone else, and so tend to assume that I am on my own. Imagine dear reader, if you will, there I am, taking some photos of the cow. As a photographer you want to make your model feel relaxed and I was chatting to the cow, only to realise that six feet away was a couple, looking at me like I had gone mad. I brazened it out with a cheery “good morning!” and went on my way.

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Having got a good distance and some trees between me and the couple who now thought I was potty, I came across a ditch with some frozen water in it. The water had made some lovely patterns. I took this shot, balanced precariously on the side of the ditch, not entirely sure the ground was solid. Can you imagine what those people would have thought if they had rounded a corner and seen me sprawled in a ditch having been talking to the cow minutes earlier? I am sure they would have assumed I had been on the orange squash…

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After the ditch shot I decided to head home, as my fingers were turning blue. On my way I saw this toy rabbit tied to a lamppost. I have titled this shot “Lost Bunny”. I considered calling it “Lost Bunny Tied To Lamppost”, but decided that was too much, it is always better to give the viewer somewhere to go with their own interpretation, don’t you think. 😉

Lost Bunny

*A bobble hat is an essential piece of photography equipment

Where In The Literary World Are You Today?

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Today I am with Andy Barber, a DA, whose son, Jacob, may or may not have killed his classmate by stabbing him in the chest and leaving him in the woods.

This is the book I am really struggling with. I am about 100 pages in and frankly I just don’t care one way or the other who did what, when and why. I will struggle onwards as it is a book club read. Has anyone read it? Does it get better?

By all accounts William Landay has written two other very well received books, so there is hope!

– Defending Jacob by William Landay

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

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The Moving Finger is a Miss Marple mystery. Well, almost. Miss Marple does appear, mostly drinking tea and knitting and mumbling on about this person and that she is reminded of. To be honest, it would have worked as a plot without her.

The true stars of the book are Jerry and Joanna Burton, a brother sister who have moved to the small town of Lymstock. Jerry was a pilot in the war and is recovering from serious injury, and the pair thought that the quiet life in a small town would help his recovery. Anyone who has lived in a village or small town knows full well there is no such thing as the quiet life in these places, and that’s certainly true of Christie’s fictional world.

No sooner have they got rid of the last packing case and found the kettle, they start to receive poison pen letters accusing them of not being brother and sister, but lovers living in sin. Being Londoners and therefore far more sophisticated than the locals, as far as they are concerned, they burn it and think no more about it. The trouble really starts when it transpires everyone is receiving this nasty letters, and Mrs Symmington, the solicitor’s wife commits suicide after receiving one. Not long after their maid is found dead too.

The murders seem to put a metaphorical spring back in Jerry’s step, and he sets out to uncover the wrongdoer.  It truly is a tangled web, and the culprit isn’t that easy to spot. I liked Jerry and Joanna very much, far more than I liked Tommy and Tuppance, and as with all Christie’s best works it has that juxtaposition of comfy English country life and cold blooded murder.

I remember this story from the marvellous BBC adaptations with Joan Hickson, but not sure how many will have heard of it otherwise. It’s a hidden gem.