Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Mixed bags ...

Thankfully, due to my daughter's incredible strength and determination to overcome her latest dark phase, she is mending and coming out of relapse.  She seems to have patched things up with her partner and has a cheerful attitude - she is even talking about going back to work, which is always a good sign she's feeling mentally stronger.  It's a big relief and she has learnt some hard lessons this time (so too has her partner).

I'm going to have the dressings changed on my leg today (have to drag along my grandson, who's been ill just as long as I've been recuperating from surgery but I can't leave him at home all alone and mum/dad don't have anymore leave left).  I'm not looking forward to this trip, it's going to be exhausting but has to be done - for one thing, I can't wait to be able to have a shower - I think hoping for a bath is still too premature.   Anyway, cross thumbs they give me waterproof dressings.

I am pushing all thoughts out of my head about the results of all the tests, there's not really any point in speculating on future outcomes - although in the dead of night, when the phone is lying there next to my bed, I can't help Google for information and end up getting myself into a right panic in the process.   I have support from family and friends, near and far, that's something a lot of people who have had a cancer diagnosis don't have and I'm so grateful for that.    The information that's provided by the NHS and hospital staff at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is amazing but it still doesn't answer the really hard questions - like what happens if the results are positive, or even worse, false negative?  I read tons of information bytes, with phrases like 'survival rates' ... and that's when you realise that this thing is actually not a joke, it isn't just a mole, it has gone into my body and it may end up killing me.  There is not very much in-your-face information on how to prepare yourself for that and what to expect down the line - so I will just have to be optimistic and take each day at a time I guess. 

It's only human nature that you will speculate about the worst scenarios though, isn't it?  I just wish people would stop telling me not to think about what it will mean to get a positive or false negative result ... God forbid the shoe was on the other foot ... you can't tell people not to imagine the worst when you've been diagnosed with cancer, it's not something a person can actually get their head around for the most part.  You are trying to understand how it has happened, you are processing the implications of further tests, you can't even begin to talk about treatment until you've had a battery of tests and this can take weeks or months to complete. 

My mother went through a masectomy, albeit I was there to help her recuperate for a very short two weeks but she still had to deal with all of that emotional and physical upheaval when I went back to work and left her on her own.   She was in her Seventies when all that happened.    I know she thought about death a lot of times during those months whilst she was recovering, it's not something a person can avoid and I never once told her not to think about it or to stop speculating about the worst.  Yes, I thought that she shouldn't dwell on the negative things and I encouraged her to think positive and to take each day as it came but I never told her not to imagine the worst, I didn't think it was my place to do that.   My mother-in-law also had the same surgery, I understand and that was when she was a relatively young woman.   There's always hope, there's always someone who has it far worse than you. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Muddled.

Having someone close to you who has a severe mental disorder is no joke.  It's no joke for her either, obviously.    I have attempted many times to write about how the mental illness of my daughter has affected me, as her mother and by extension the rest of her siblings and family members.  I got quite close to putting it all down into what I thought was a coherent tome but with each day that goes by, more can be added, it's never finished.  Also, this is such a difficult topic to write about when you are so close to the centre of it, as I am, without coming across as lecturing or hysterical.  There is only so much humour one can inject into recounting the daily ups and downs of life with a mentally ill person.   This is a subject also that publishers don't want to touch with a barge pole and I can easily understand why.   It takes a brave publisher to want to tackle this sort of thing head on but really more should be written, more should be published!  Maybe I'll publish my book through Kindle myself, who knows?  It's not going to happen just yet, I know that now. 

I was watching a movie last night called "The Finest Hours' starring Chris Pine (Commander Kirk to all you trekkies out there) and I couldn't help feeling after the end credits rolled, that this movie parallels how my daughter's life has been since she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2002.   She is at constant battle with the elements, sometimes she is engulfed and turned topsy turvy in a dark ocean (like the tiny coastguard boat in the movie), submerged and drowning in a cold, raging torrent of dark black emotion,  other times there are moments of clarity and an illusion of calmness.  But it's still pouring with rain.   

The terrible mind illness that has consumed my daughter has a dramatic impact on all of us - it trickles down into our lives, it permeates the structure of our days and fills me, and those most closest to my daughter, with dread.  There is tension, anguish, horror even at the contemplations we all have - yes, it's normal to feel that your daughter might commit suicide and how would that make you feel?  Sometimes in the dead of night, I lie awake and wonder whether it would be better for all of us, my daughter included, if that were to happen.  If it would put us all out of our suffering once and for all.   The emotional turmoil that this illness has brought about, not only in my daughter's life but in mine and my family's lives, is so palpable and vicious.   I'm horrified by this feeling, I'm sick at the thought that I could even consider this as a solution. 
  
This horrible illness forces us to all come to terms with those very real and very savage emotions, to put them somewhere we can all understand.  But we can't understand.  We are only suffering the residual fall out of what this illness does to a person, how can we even try to feel things the way the sufferer does?


Thursday, October 13, 2016

garde à l'eau



I’d just sat down on the loo, the phone rings – I pull my stuff up and go to the phone, it stops ringing.
As I’m walking back to the toilet, I see through the glass window in our front door that a big grey car has pulled up outside.    I open the door and it’s the taxi man.  So I go to the car and tell him sorry but I phoned, spoke to your receptionist and cancelled the taxi yesterday morning.   
He shrugs, says it’s okay and something about the office needing to sort themselves out. 
I go back inside and it’s only when I get in the house that I realise my skirt is hoisted half way up my backside.  Luckily, nothing was on display but for goodness sake, a person can’t even go and take a dump anymore.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Cutting edge journalism, not.



There are some newspapers that seem to be hell bent on promoting so-called aliens/UFO encounters almost to a point of hysteria.   The Express, Sun, Independent and Mirror all publish the most ridiculous stories Every Day – 

Examples:

Shock Nasa Images: Amazing 'walled city' found on Mars could PROVE aliens lived there - Express.co.uk

'Robot and bizarre UFO' mysteriously snapped by static camera - Express again. 

WARNING: Rising sea levels threaten to WIPE OUT Spanish holiday hotspot - yeah, you guessed it, Express again. 

Aliens built space base on Earth 7,000 years ago and discovered PLUTO, minister claims ... The Sun 

Super 'devil' termites on way to Europe to EAT your home - Mirror

Earth heading for ICE AGE as sun goes blank: Analysts reveal shock SUNSPOTS discovery - yep, that illustrious bastion of scientific endeavour, Express.co.uk 

NASA UFO COVER -UP: Claims agency cut ISS live feed again YESTERDAY after 'mystery ...'
 who else but the blasted Express 

For Fucks Sake ... there are far more worthy and credible scientific things happening around us to publish stories about than bollox like ‘NASA switches off live feed because of aliens flying around the ISS’ … and stop with the bloody scaremongering, putting stuff in CAPITALS ... people aren't morons, we can read, we don't need everything in bloody capitals. 

Jesus wept. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Writing ...

I'm always nervous of stating outright that I've come up with some kind of solution to help me with the writing process, because invariably it bombs out and I end up just diarising or writing bollox again.   But I am quite encouraged with the methodology I've stumbled upon - I've  started dictating my 'story' ideas or passages of rough drafts to voice recorder and then listening to it until it's how i like it.  After that I transcribe the audio (which is what I do for a living anyway), editing the text here and there and voila! I end up with a half-decent finished draft of a completed section, ready for proofing.  
What makes this really interesting (for me at any rate) is that I seem to be able to get a better grasp of where I am with the overall content.   I was finding that re-writing just wasn't helping me, I was getting lost in the details or facts - now I can concentrate on looking at my notes, extracting the bits that I need and going with the flow.  Also speaking the words out seems to translate to making it easier to read when it's typed out later on .. if that makes sense, it has a more chatty vibe to it, which is what I'm going for with my latest project.        

Friday, September 23, 2016

September 2016, where are we then?

Some astonishing scientific news items have been released into my newsfeed this week. Notably,  Titan, Asian hornets in Britain, Aboriginal Australians and my personal favourite this week ...

Tool using Crows
I have slowly begun to fall head over heels in love with crows ... there are hundreds of thousands of them in Britain, you can watch them at any time of the year and they are amazing creatures.




It's been known for some time that New Caledonian crows (native to the South Pacific) could use tools that they form into hooks to fish for food.   New research has discovered that Hawaii crows also use implements.   What's even more poignant, as far as I'm concerned, is there are only 131 Hawaii crows left alive today (according to the article that I link to in the heading above) and it appears that all are in captive breeding centres or zoos. 

I try not to follow the main news feeds anymore and I've completely given up on so-called 'entertainment' news.    More and more I'm finding that my clicking habits are focusing on science based news artices.   I wonder if other people are doing this as well? 


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

crash and burn ...

Yeah, so my old Dell vostro decided to give up the ghost last weekend ... rather annoying and couldn't have happened at a worse time.   Any case, aside from now having headaches retrieving some lost data, I got me a new HP yesterday - the Pavilion model.   So far it's okay and is doing the job - have to test with audio and express scribe later on, to make sure I can actually still  continue working!  

I feel a rant coming along ...

I remember back in the Eighties when the music industry had disco-danced so far up its own arsehole that  life as we know it, ceased to exist.   It was a horrible time for people like me who don't fancy wasting any time at all listening to middle-of-the-road schlock.  I hated the disco era.   Radio, particuarly, made those days intolerable.  Absolutely nothing got played that wasn't 'easy listening' and the Eighties was also the period when punk started forming, so there was plenty of new cutting edge musical ideas being formulated.

Fast forward to our present time.  Simon Cowell should actually be shot, or it would be better to hang, draw and quarter him - this accountant has systematically destroyed the music industry and it's to him that I fairly and squarely lay the blame.   R&B, Motown, Rap, Hip Hop, all these styles of musical expression have their place and we wouldn't have had a band like Rage Against The Machine without them.    But for God's sake what about the rest of it?   So-called 'Alternative' music has cowed down to economic pressure and become down right boring and formulaic ... everything it tried to kick in the teeth in the early nineties.   It grew up and became its accountant dad.   Metal and all its offshoots is and alwas will be  just metal, grinding away in the cupboard like a delinquent psychopath chewing on its own foot.  Don't look for anything innovative there, it'll be years before any of that type of stuff evolves into something different and exciting.  

BUT if radio actually got on the game, like it did in the Sixties, Seventies, Nineties and actually gave air time to people who are trying to do something different things might actually change.    Switch on your radio, doesn't matter what channel you listen to, any time of the day and you'll get the same crap force-fed down your ears.   That's why I refuse point blank to listen to any radio - and UK radio stations completely SUCK these days.   Anyone remember Radio Caroline?  I heard Pink Floyd for the first time on pirate radio, that was in 1966!!!  

I used to think South African radio was crap but it was on a local regional radio station where I heard Nirvana's "Polly" ... long before anyone played "Smells like teen spirit" ... I almost had a stroke right then and there, had to pull off the road and just turn it up to listen.  Radical!  Brilliant!   

Radiohead (and many hundreds more absolutely amazing bands of this day and age) have just released a seminal album, with a brilliantly 'radio friendly' tune on it but do you think radio will play "Burn the witch"?   the day I hear that tune playing on local radio, I'll eat my car exhaust. 




Monday, June 27, 2016

Public speaking 101



Thank God that’s over with! 

I was asked to do a talk to just over 35 kids at my grandson's school this morning about the differences between life in South Africa and life in Norfolk.   I spoke for just under 50 minutes - thankfully my little grandson stood by my side the whole time for moral support.   I could feel my face going blood red as I started but by the end, my ruddiness had calmed down to just pale panic pink.   My throat kept drying up but otherwise I think I got through it okay.  

The kids all seemed engaged and interested - kept asking questions and interacting with what was on my presentation board or with things I said in my talk.   The three teachers present said they were impressed and that it was most interesting.  I had them laughing a few times (the kids and the teachers) and my grandson's teacher asked me to leave my presentation board behind this morning, so she could show it to the kids who weren't able to see it properly.     

I take bookings.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

God I'm such a plonker


There I go emailing and messaging Canon and SLRHut in my usual hysterial out of control frantic mode, after I received my brand new shiny Canon EOS 1200D with accessory bundle - 'cos the extra lenses they supplied wouldn't fit the body of the camera.  
I was right downpressed.  Disappointed.  Pissed off.  Now I had to find a bloody step up or step down ring adaptor, to fit the lenses to the camera, didn't I? 

Wrong.

I'm lying in bed just now and it hit me ... the fucking lenses screw into the Canon kit lens that came with the body of the camera!    They are EXTENSION type/format lenses.    So I get up, put the lights on wake up the house, try out my new theory and voila the lenses screw in just perfectly fine onto the existing Canon lens!

Bloody hell, I can't believe how much of a newbie twit I am and I'm embarrassed.

But delighted at the same time! 

'Cos now I can get to play with the wide angle and the telephoto lenses ... whoopy dah. 

As you were.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Post-production - exercises - before and after

This course I'm doing includes substantial Adobe Photoshop tutorial and post-production of photos.  I've done a couple of tweaks of some existing photos that were very flat and hadn't come out the way my eye actually saw the scene when I took the photo (a common problem I have with this Nikon of mine).  So here's a few examples of post-production editing of my photos  - one or two are extremely over-edited but I am learning, so leave me alone.

Auto-levels adjustment only and tiny crop:

Straightening, auto-levels adjustment, saturation and hue, substantial crop

Auto-level adjustment, hue and saturation, brightness and contrast, slight crop

Auto level adjustments, brightness and contrast, hue and saturation, save, then more contrast adjustments



Thursday, June 16, 2016

Can't bloody well help myself, can I?

I started my digital photography course and by module two it was quite perfectly clear to me that there ain't anyway I am going to be able to do the projects/assignments/exercises properly without a DSLR camera.  So a ...


Canon EOS 1200D/T5 Digital SLR Camera with 18-55 Lens + Accessory Bundle

is now on its way to me, courtesy of Barclaycard.    Yes, I know it's entry level but I'm entry level, give me a break.    

Oh SHITE, don't tell anyone, I'll get into so much crap!   I have absolutely NO money to my name but if you are dumb enough to give me a credit card, I'll find a pressing need to buy something, sooner or later.  Oh dear, what have I done?!    

Too late.  
I'm supposed to have ordered all this stuff (per below list), although I'm suspicious that I'll get the full Bundle, just seems an awful lot of kit for what I paid :

Manufacturers Box Includes:
Canon EOS Rebel T5 DSLR Camera with EF S 18 55mm IS II Lens
EF S 18 55mm f/3.5 5.6 IS II Lens
Eyecup Ef for Digital Rebel Cameras
RF 3 Camera Cover
LC E10 Battery Charger for EOS Rebel T3
LP E10 Lithium Ion Battery Pack
E 58 II 58mm Lens Cap
Lens Dust Cap E (Rear)
Battery Cover
IFC 130U Interface Cable
Bundle Items Include
0.45X Wide Angle Lens
2X Telephoto Lens
3 Piece Filter Kit (UV CPL FLD)
16GB Memory Card
High Speed Memory Card Reader
Slave Flash
Mini HDMI Cable
Flexible Gripster Tripod
Table Top Tripod
LCD Screen Protectors
Cleaning Kit
Carrying Case

- my order still has to be 'approved' whatever that means 'cos the payment's gone through ??? Grrr.
You never know, maybe Karma will step in and save me from my credit card splurges.   Yikes.   (Shoves credit card in secret hiding place, so's can't find it again for at least six months).  

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Beach hangovers ...

Yep, I'm back - couldn't get rid of me that easy.
Whilst I had to leave landscapes like the one in the above photo behind, I'm glad to be home.  It was worth the long flight and travel hassles but saying 'see you later' to my sons was so unbelievably hard this time - even though I know that there are very good possibilities they will visit me in the UK soon.      It's just one of the prices you pay when you emigrate.

I have discovered ASMR on YouTube ... it's not something new, been around for years and some people say it's a load of old baloney but it works (so far) for me - although I only tried it for the first time last night.  I immersed myself in a few videos to first find my 'trigger', which for me appears to be the sound of paper - i.e. pages being turned in books, newspapers, magazines, even Bibles! and also the sound of paper being crinkled up, folded or used to wrap Christmas presents.    I switched off my tablet at about 10pm last night and was immediately asleep.   I had a good deep sleep, the first in a very long time (although I did sleep well on holiday).  For anyone who suffers from insomnia this is a boon - and I'm not just talking about a couple of sleepless nights here folks, I mean consistent insomnia every night no matter what happens during the day or evening, to the point where you dread going to bed.     I really hope these ASMR things get me out of the insomnia rut.


During my quiet time on holiday at the beach, I decided to focus the next few months on improving my photography and actually do some additional semi-formal learning.  There is so much I don't know or understand and it's hampering my creativity and spoiling my photographs.  I've been interested in photography since I was a teenager (we're talking more than 50 years here) when I got my first Kodak Brownie (what a brilliant little camera).   My 35mm Asahi Pentax was divine and I used it primarily for astronomy shots, with tripod, time-release shutter cable and actual film stock - what a pleasure that was!  I miss using actual film rolls.  I've used various point and shoot cameras, the best was the Sony Cybershot (most reliable rendition of what the eye sees, colour and light wise, with no fiddling about).   My first bridge camera was a FinePix and whilst it wasn't the greatest lens on the planet, it felt like I had come up a notch and was actually doing 'real photography'!     I've had my Nikon Coolpix P510 with the diabolically efficient zoom lens (in its class) for over three years now and I still don't know how it works!



(hand held zoom also)

I was very frustrated on holiday because I really battled with low light shots or trying to capture the essence of a particular scene the way I was seeing it.       It was just too much pushing and shoving, fiddling about and very little of worth coming out at the other end (sound like Shirley Valentine hey?).    So I came home with the best intention of buying a new camera and getting stuck into DSLR right away - SLRHut have a great deal on Canon at the moment.    After a long time trawling the internet and YouTube for camera reviews, I realised it's not the bloody camera's fault, I'm just expecting it to do stuff the lens is not designed for.     If I had more knowledge, I'd get a lot more out of my existing camera, which wasn't cheap at all when I bought it.     It's time to improve my knowledge and actually understand what I'm doing - I'm tired of a hit and miss approach.   I am very interested in low light photography, portraiture and also landscapes and want to get much better at taking those types of shots.

So I've invested in a photography course, which is in hard cover book format - so I can constantly refer to it whilst I practice.   I have tried online courses before but I battled to remember the stuff, 'cos we all know I have the memory of a pea.    This is also one of the reasons why I don't want to attend a person to person course because I can't trust my memory and all the hot shot young dudes and dudettes will think I'm a fossil and should be doing a knitting course, or something like that.   

I'm supposed to get the book today - so for the next 20 weeks (that's how long they reckon it takes to finish the course), I will not be painting or doing other creative things.  I am going to concentrate on my knowledge, so that I can get me an entry level DSLR - I've got my eyes on the Nikon D3300 but I might end up getting a Canon ... going to need unbiased   :) advice on which one to look at.  No, won't be going mirrorless, too many cons.