January Photo Challenge

This months challenges are “My Favourite Thing(s)” and “Abstract”. Abstract photography seems to be straightforward and I worked on the basis that if you can tell what it is then it isn’t abstract. Apart from the obvious, see below, it is difficult to imagine several favourite “things”.

Cars and House

I can only submit two images under each category. My preferred abstract image is going to be difficult to select.

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Kia Niro EV4

I have taken possession of the all electric Niro EV4. I was pleasantly surprised by the colour because my recollection thought it was quite a dull blue however this has a sparkle to it that I like.

Setting up with all of the apps and linking it to the charging unit is proving challenging because there is no internet connection when the car is parked in the garage. There’s more research to be done before I’m fully conversant with all the tech.

There will be more photos and comments after I’ve had time to assimilate the driving style.

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Seven Years On…

After the enjoyable day I had on last year’s anniversary of Jane’s death I decided to do something similar. I drove to Willingham Woods and with camera in hand I strolled through the woods.

It was very peaceful and conducive to meditation… getting my thoughts into perspective and at one with nature.

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December Photos

Last month’s photography challenges were Red and Back lighting. I took several approaches to the back lighting of portraits using candles and a lamp but none of them captured the essence of what I was looking for so I abandoned them. My final submission wasn’t that good and the competition proved to be better than my efforts. To see the other u3a photography group efforts click here…

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Festive Season

The festive season is over and in some ways I’m relieved that life can go back to normal.

Helene and I went to Burghley House to meet up with some of her friends, her daughters and her friends’ off-spring.

The grounds were open to the public so we had a walk around in a biting cold wind before heading for the William Cecil Hotel in Stamford where we had a very good lunch which lasted several hours. A memorable day when I made some new friends.

We had a great New Year’s evening hosting dinner for Dave & Lucie and Val & Nick which lasted until 1am. By the time we had cleared away and completed the admin it was after 2am. Needless to say we didn’t get up early on New Year’s. We eventually emerged and headed over to the coast to see the grey seals at Donna Nook. The breeding season is virtually over but there were a couple of hundred seal pups visible. It was quite cold and wasn’t the weather for standing around but I managed to get some decent photographs using my 100 – 300 mm telephoto lens.

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Christmas Day 2022

I cannot remember when I had so many presents under the Christmas tree.

I received, among other things, this fabulous cushion from Helene. It’s like a cubist painting in the style of Picasso. It has pride of place on the settee.

Another present was an RSPB bat box from Caitlin and Tessa. I gave the positioning of it some considerable thought before deciding to put it high up the wall above the north facing bedroom balcony.

I helped my brother build something similar when I was staying with him in California many years ago. I’m not sure whether he ever got any bats roosting. I often see bats hawking over the vegetable plot in the summer so I can only hope they find my bat box and I can watch them from the bedroom patio door.

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Christmas Greetings 2022

We all deserve to have a wonderful festive season

And Be Grateful for Good Friends

Love and Hugs to All

Steve xx

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Oxfordshire Winter

The country has been experiencing a very long, cold snap as you will see in the photos below. I visited my good friends Gary and Caroline for a few days and they took me out into a winter wonderland.

There was a lot more snow in Oxfordshire than in Lincolnshire.

We visited Batsford Arboretum where the trees were hanging with snow and the typical Cotswold church looked very seasonal.

On our way back we visited The Roll Right Stones. A fascinating ancient monument with a very friendly (possibly hungry) robin too. The late afternoon winter sun created an eerie scene.

No visit to G&C would be complete without having dinner out. Having tried Voujon and The Cinnamon Stick in the past this time we went to the Pie Pub or The Marlstone Tavern, to give it its proper name.

As you can see from these beauties, they know how to make pies.

On my final day we braved the traffic to go into Oxford. The Park & Ride was very efficient going in but unfortunately the bus got stuck in traffic on the way out.

After a wander around John Lewis we went for lunch at a Mowgli which is always a great curry and rapidly becoming one of my favourites. I think Lincoln maybe too provincial to ever get one.

Gary and I left Caroline to Christmas shop whilst he took me on a whistle tour of the city centre (Radcliffe Camera) and a couple of bookshops. I had a great time.

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EV Ready

I had a phone call from the Kia showroom two weeks ago to tell me my Niro EV had been shipped and should be arriving mid January. Thankfully I had already ordered the charging unit.

The chap came to fit the Ohme last Tuesday and it all went very smoothly. It’s inside the garage on the back wall. The 5 metre lead will reach the back of any vehicle, not that it matters because the Niro EV has the connection at the front.

I’m looking forward to getting the new car and experiencing range anxiety for the first time.

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Christmas Comes Early

Helene couldn’t be with me on Christmas Day so we agreed to have our own special day this week. We put the tree up together the day before.

I had decided on the menu and did a lot of the preparation before hand. Christmas is largely about food these days.

I baked an olive loaf and sausage rolls a few days before hand. I also whizzed up smoked mackerel pate the night before. On Christmas Day we had Shakshouka and bucks fizz for brunch, watched TV, chatted and then had the smoked mackerel pate on olive breast followed by duck breasts with all the trimmings and Helene’s home made profiteroles, washed down with the remains of the prosecco from the morning.

We had a really special day. The following day we went for a walk in Whisby country park then had hot soup at the café. It was a very cold day so the soup was essential.

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Garden Changes

The border along the drive is great when it is weeded however it has been a lot of work.

I’ve had a gardener looking after one section but there was still a significant area that needed attention.

Finally I decided I had had enough so decided to have some turf laid to take one more chore off the list of garden work.

I found a Landscaper who gave a reasonable quote and within 3 days of starting, the turf was laid. I think it will add about ten minutes to my lawn mowing which is a lot less work than the hours I put into weeding this space.

At this time of year the vegetable plot needs some attention. I’ve been digging and preparing sections to plant garlic, onions and peas. A week ago I planted broad bean seeds in pots in the greenhouse.

When the soil is wet it’s quite heavy going and I cannot dig for too long before the back starts aching. It’s a lot easier than digging clay.

The newly sown areas need to be covered before the woodpigeons and squirrels start to peck at them or dig them up.

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Photography Brief

It’s nearly the end of November so I’ve been busy taking and editing photographs that meet the brief of Food and Shallow Depth of Field. I’m allowed to submit 2 in each category so I’ve got to make a final selection in the next few days.

I’m not sure which of the egg images or honey drips I prefer.

This is a much harder choice. To meet the brief exactly there should be a very little in focus and the rest out of focus.

We can select our favourite photo of the month. This is mine, taken on my Samsung S22 phone at Battersea Power Station.

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London Visit

At this time of year I travel down to London to visit Jane’s brother. For the second year it was Helene and I. In the past we have booked a Shakespeare at the Barbican but there wasn’t anything we wanted to see.

We did go to the local cinema to see “Living” starring Bill Nighy. A very poignant film.

On Saturday morning we walked to Tate Modern to see the Cezanne exhibition. It was an interesting show but a little crowded. Shuffling around is quite thirst making so coffee is always on the agenda.

After Cezanne we caught a river boat up to Battersea. The waterfront is very interesting with superb ancient and new buildings. Buying or renting a flat here is undoubtedly very expensive.

It was an enjoyable journey up river.

Battersea Power Station has been completely refurbished and is a majestic building. As a shopping Mall on a Saturday it was heaving. All the eateries had queues outside and to get a late lunch we walked into Battersea park, found a food shack and sat on a park bench eating cheese sandwiches and sausage baps.

Part of the power station have been retained such as the control room. This has been converted into a café with all the original banks of dials along the back of the area.

As you can see from this image there are sales outlets underneath.

We travelled back to R&N’s home on the bus along many of the main shopping streets adorned with the Christmas decorations.

On Sunday we visited the Natural History Museum to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. It’s always an amazing event and the dedication of the photographers is mind-blowing.

After a very busy few days we headed home from King’s Cross with plenty to talk about.

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Gadgets Inside & Out

I first bought Dyson stick vacuum in 2016. Apart from replacing the battery after 3 years it has performed really well but some of the attachments were showing their age.

It was time for a new one. This one has a laser light for smooth surfaces which shows the dust and measures the size of particles it is collecting from dust to microbes.

It is very effective, quieter than it’s older brother but a little heavier.

I recently broke my 45 year old garden spade and replaced it with a standard spade. I used it to reposition a rhododendron however it was hard work digging through the tree roots than run everywhere. I decided I needed something sharper and built for the purpose. This spade has a saw edge along one side and a handle that absorbs the impact when driving into roots.

I look forward to giving it a test in the garden when the weather improves a little.

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Photo Themes October

This month’s photo challenges from West Wolds u3a are self portrait and cycles(bikes/motorbikes). There’s also the chance to submit a favourite photo of the month. We’re restricted to two in each category and only one favourite. Choosing is very difficult however I’ve come to the conclusion not to think about what others will like but which ones appeal to me.

Here are my choices for the month.

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Birthday 2022

For my 73rd birthday H and I went to stay at Rushton Hall and Spa. This was a complete indulgence and the most expensive hotel I’ve ever stayed in.

We had the swimming pool to ourselves and the food was superb. I’m afraid I ate far too much and put on 1.5 Kgs in two days.

We drove up to Harringworth viaduct for a walk and to get some views of this magnificent structure. It is the longest viaduct in the UK.

The weather was excellent for October so we had the Porsche roof down with the heater on.

A perfect day.

Since we joined English Heritage when we were in Pickering we are constantly looking for places to go. Bede House at Lyddington was in the area so we had a pleasant wander around this very old building which came under the control of the Bishop of Lincoln it it’s day.

It’s difficult to imagine how people survived these conditions of cold and damp.

I finished the week with a camp fire. We had the usual B’s – burgers, bangers, beans and baked potatoes. A no frills meal.

The weather stayed kind and the rain held off until we had packed everything away.

As always it was a smoky evening but I think everyone had a pleasant time.

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Leeds City Break

Many months ago I arranged for Dave & Lucie, Helene and myself to see James Taylor at First Direct Arena Leeds. We stayed at the Novotel Hotel because it was on the edge of the city centre and a short walk from the venue. Due to roadworks and closed roads getting into the hotel was challenging. I’m glad Dave was driving.

I haven’t been to Leeds for over 30 years and all I could remember was that it had some lovely Victorian arcades. The city is a delightful blend of old and new.

Prior to the concert we booked a table at Mowgli. H and I had tried to go when we recently stayed in Nottingham but due to a kitchen flood they cancelled us. As a consequence of the cancellation we were given 50% off our food. The food was very good and we will definitely go again if we’re in a city which has a Mowgli.

The corn exchange was a particularly beautiful building. The old corn merchants’ offices had been converted into small shops. There were market stalls and on the lower floor was a café.

We wandered around soaking up the friendly atmosphere and browsing the stalls to see if there was anything worth buying – cards, jewellery, etc.

The highlight of the weekend was seeing James Taylor alongside 10,000 other fans. At 74 his voice isn’t as smooth or strong as it was when he started 55 years ago. Despite that he soon warmed up and delivered several hours of his classic songs.

It was an event that will live long in my memory.

We finished the weekend visit with a superb breakfast at Olive & Rye. The café is in the Queen’s Arcade and we could sit outside and under the canopy of the arcade. The food was very good and the service was excellent.

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Home & Garden

I did undertake a deep clean of the double oven (gas) a few years ago but I thought it was time to get a professional to give it a good going over. They took the doors off and cleaned everything. It does look very clean.

I don’t particularly like the oven for a number of reasons. It doesn’t indicate when it’s up to temperature so I have considered replacing it. I’ll leave it to get dirty again before thinking about that.

Out in the back corner of the garden I came across this little chap scuttling about near the compost heap. Although nocturnal I think they are trying to fatten up as much as they can, ready for winter.

After a good summer of colour the bedding plants in the various pots needed refreshing. I always feel safe with pansies and cyclamen.

They will need a week or two before they fill out the space provided the local squirrels don’t dig them up. Twenty-four hours after planting them there were several pansies that had to be replanted.

Autumn is upon us and I’ve started organising the strawberry bed. It has been over run by borage plants so rather than try to weed them out I’ve decided to dig up the whole bed and move the strawberry plants to the back of the bed.

Helene suggested I cover the empty space with black plastic in the hope the borage won’t grow back. The roots go a long way down and snap off very easily so any small pieces of root will probably try to grow through.

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Whitby 2022

H and I booked a week away in Whitby. It was a small fisherman’s cottage 5 minutes away from the harbour and it has a dedicated parking spot.

On the way there we stopped off in Beverley and did a tour of the town and minster.

The first couple of days were very windy so our walks down to the harbour were quite breezy with waves crashing over the harbour walls.

It was great to be out and about without worrying about jobs to be done in the house or garden.

The last time I was in this part of Yorkshire was in 2008…

Whitby being famous for its fish & chips we just had to test it out. We managed to get into the renown Magpie Café and they were so good we made a second visit later in the week.

Our night time saunters around the town also allowed me to take some photos which was very convenient as the photography group theme this month is night photography.

Here are a few of the night shots I took of Whitby.

We visited Staithes on the Monday of the Queen’s funeral in an attempt to get away from the monarchic nonsense.

There are a number of delightful fishing villages along this coast and it was wonderful to spend some time in this quiet place.

A day on North York Moors Railway with a steam train at the front of the carriages was great. We spent 3 hours in Pickering having lunch and visiting Pickering Castle where we were persuaded to join English Heritage. The argument was we would reap the cost of membership when we visited Whitby Abbey and Rievaulx Abbey in the next few days.

With the weather being so bright we drove to Robin Hood’s Bay, donned our walking boots and set off for Boggle Hole along the cliff top. After lunch at the YHA café we headed onwards to Ravenscar. Plenty of ups and downs. We decided to walk back along the old railway track to RHB however it was a little further than I remembered and we cut it short by walking along a road to Boggle Hole and then along the beach and up to the car. By the end of the day we had walked over 11 miles.

By the end of the week we had seen some beautiful skies, many ancient buildings and had a memorable time.

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Hospice Garden

In 2016 St Barnabas hospice received an RHS gold winning garden donated and designed by Caitlin McLaughlin. Over the past 6 years the garden has moved on and the hospice decided to give it a makeover. I received an invitation to see the revamped space.

With support from Riseholme agricultural college (affiliated to Lincoln University) the garden has been transformed. The rabbit fencing has been removed and the borders have been joined with the rest of the gardens.

Jane’s ashes are around the trees and it was delightful to see the silver birches thriving despite this year’s drought.

I was quite emotional during the visit.

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