Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Odd looking cat

On yesterday evening's dogwalk, out along the cemetery run, I spotted a bit of movement about fifty yards away at the edge of a field. Looked like a cat so I put Sprocket on his lead. Luckily the dogs couldn't see it from their lower vantage spot. Kept right on walking, thinking it would spot us and scamper off. But it didn't. Just carried on sniffing around in the grass, totally oblivious to our presence. Then, amazingly, I realised it wasn't a cat but a badger. Strange to see one in broad daylight. Thought they only came out at night. Took the camera out of my pocket, slowly, so as not to frighten the animal off (had to do it one-handed - t'other hand was gripping Sprock's lead). Managed to switch the camera on, flick to bigger size and zoom in a bit (with just one hand) without gaining the badger's attention, then rattled off a couple of snaps. Typically, they were rubbish. All that was visible above the grass was the badger's back. But then it moved a bit and sort of faced our direction, so I hastily took another shot in the hope that it wouldn't be ruined by camera shake. By this time Sprock had spotted the animal and was tugging at the lead, eager to attack (like me, he probably thought it was a cat - hates 'em), but the badger just kept right on badgering. With all the kerfuffle we were making, it was surprising that he (or she) didn't spot us. Anyway, job done, I put the camera away and dragged Sprock off up the track, leaving the badger to continue his evening stroll. Arrived home, downloaded the pics and was surprised to find that the badger was actually visible in a couple of them. Would have been miles better though with a proper camera, a telephoto lens, a tripod, two hands and Sprock tied to a tree with a blindfold. (Click photo to enlarge.)



Painting again

Haven't done a painting since last September. Lost the inspiration due to not selling any in a couple of exhibitions some of my stuff featured in, over winter, back in the UK. Came to the conclusion I must be rubbish at this painting lark so I sort of gave up. And besides, the prospect of standing at an easel during winter's freezing rain, sleet and snow, sploshing greys on canvas doesn't exactly drive me wild with enthusiasm. However, the wounds of this very public rejection and humiliation have now almost healed and the countryside's come alive again with the bright colours of spring. So I decided to go painting again. Dragged the easel and painting equipment out of the indoor shed about a week ago and ambled off up the old orchard. Spent a couple of evenings trying to capture the sunlight dancing through the trees. Then it rained (see previous posting). Needed a third session the following evening but... no sun. Went up there yesterday evening to finish off but the trees had exploded into leaf and my subject apple tree was entirely in shadow. So, I either leave it as it is or wait 'til next year to get it right. In the meantime, I've bought some more turps and another canvas and am toying with the idea of painting another orchard view. The shapes and colours up there really are brilliant. Might be a complete waste of time due to a distinct lack of commercial success, but I still rather enjoy it. After all, one can only improve.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rain at last

Bugs invaded the old laptop last week-end so took it up to the local computer shop. Resident boffin wasn't in but his wife said she'd get him to look into it and perform a clean-up operation if necessary. Faced with the prospect of being without a computer for a week or two, I casually enquired about the various laptops on display. Walked out with a brand new HP item costing €399. Really wanted an Apple but the one they had cost €999. Spent the last few days trying to figure out how the damned thing works. Somehow, and I'm not sure how, I've managed to get set up and online. Haven't a clue what 'Windows 7' is but it seems to operate completely differently to whatever system is in the old laptop. All very confusing. As is this French layout keyboard. Totally different to an Anglais one.

Anyway, been a funny old week. Started off sunny (come to think of it, it's been blistering hot for about a month now) and ended up rainy. Mind you, we've needed that rain. Scorched earth out here. Been sploshing about six buckets of water an evening on all the new green things that Georgie planted when she visited over Easter. Now, after all that rain, I suppose they'll be swamped by fast growing weeds. More work for this caretaker gardener.

Rain arrived on Wednesday night. Big storm at around 2am. Thunder and lightning. Didn't wake me up but the dogs did. Both hyperventilating and scared stiff. Sprocket (who kips on my pit) ripped my arm with his panicky scratching. Burrowed under my chest for shelter. Jock would have done the same if his legs were long enough to spring onto the bed. But they're not. So I left him to fend for himself in his pit on the floor. Storm lasted for about three hours. Eventually nodded off.

Woke up to sunshine and a mid-morning dogwalk. Splashing through puddles and breathing marvellously fresh air. Bit of a shock when I spotted a viper about six feet away out in the woods. Slithered off under a fallen tree. Sprock spotted it too but I grabbed his collar. Close shave. Then saw a bunch of swallows chasing and dive bombing a sparrow hawk. A brilliant sight. Then came across a herd of cattle newly parked in a field of fresh grass. Loads of new calves so I put Sprock on his lead. Jock, as usual, went off to investigate (unlike Sprock, he has no fear of cattle so doesn't bark at them). Cows immediately formed a ring around their calves while the matriarch cow bellowed a warning and gave a little charge. Jock high-tailed it outa there. The lone bull did nothing. Guess he knows who's really the boss. Later, during our night time walk around the garden, I almost tripped over a big hedgehog. Must have been out drinking rain and dew off the grass. Probably his (or her) first drink for ages. Surprisingly, Sprock merely gave it a cursory sniff. Must be calming down in his old age. Had Jock seen it, there would have been bedlam. Barks his head off at hedgehogs. Not good late at night.

Shall now attempt to load up a couple of photos. Not particularly interesting ones but at least I'll discover if this new system works. Or not.


Sunday, May 8, 2011


Apparently I reach retirement age in August (thought I'd retired years ago). To celebrate this milestone, Georgie suggested I book a week's holiday for us both anywhere I fancied. Having not had a holiday in years (some would say I'm on permanent holiday), I didn't really know where to begin. Some time ago Georgie mentioned something about renting a boat and cruising along the mid-France canals, which sounded rather fun. However, when 'holidays' are mentioned I immediately think of the seaside, not mid-France. So I started searching seaside hols on the web.

Years ago, we'd visited Cephalonia (or Kefalonia? - seems to be spelt differently every time I look) before that film 'Wotsisname's Mandolin' made it famous and we'd had a rather jolly time. While we were there I wanted to visit the neighbouring, and relatively unknown, isle of Ithaca but didn't quite make it. Ran out of time, as usual. So I put it at the top of my list. Checked a few websites and found a number of relatively cheap rate, self-catering villas and then checked availability. All fully booked. I keep forgetting that my birthday falls in the peak holiday period. Eventually ruled it out. Beautiful, lazy and devoid of discos as it undoubtedly is, Ithaca didn't really grab me. Don't know why. Maybe it was because I didn't manage to get there all that time ago so imagined it to be a far more wonderful place than it really is. Ho hum.  

Then checked Formentera, a small island off Ibiza that we'd visited decades ago. Same result. Nowt cheapish available. Seems Formentera has now been 'discovered' by the jet-set and prices have risen accordingly. Also, I imagine the wonderful Mitjorn beach (which I remember as being almost bereft of hotels and crowds) gets a bit overcrowded in high summer. Anyway, I had this holiday vision of pottering a tiny rented boat into a sheltered bay with an almost deserted beach that wasn't accessible by foot or car, which, again, ruled out Formentera. Great shame. Maybe 'hippy-type' places (which Formentera certainly was) no longer exist.

Next, Paxos. We'd been there years ago and, ideally, I wanted to go somewhere new but I thought I'd check it out anyway. Last time, we'd stayed just outside Gaios (now seems a lot more popular and pricey), so this time I searched around Loggos, a quieter village further up the coast. Found a cheapish villa in the hills overlooking Loggos bay, described as being 'quaint' and 'simple'. Sounded ideal. Then checked availability, fully expecting it, like most of the others I'd searched, to be fully booked throughout August. Was amazed to discover that the one remaining unbooked week was the very one I wanted. Booked it immediately. Then the flights etc.

Am now looking forward to a bit of swimming and snorkeling followed by a few leisurely beers in Loggos bay while idly watching boats bobbing in the picturesque harbour. And... renting a little boat and pootling off to Anti Paxos (a tiny island south of Paxos) for a few dips in the crystal-clear, turquoise sea that gently laps onto the pure white sand of Vrika beach. Sheer heaven. But hell if the crowds are there.