Thursday, February 25, 2010

Choices, choices.

Some updates that downloaded themselves yesterday have furnished us with a panel and even a little shortcut icon suggesting we make a choice as to our browser and offering information about the options.  As I've said before, I'm really very shiftless when it comes to anything like this, generally taking an 'if-it-ain't broke...' line over them.  I knew about Firefox, but felt, perhaps wrongly, that the security issues with Internet Explorer which led people to recommend it before had largely been ironed out now.  I was momentarily tempted by Google chrome, but then I read up on the reviews, found it very easy to focus on the negative ones ( which derives from a personality trait which extends to other areas of life...), and decided not to bother.  Rosie uses it and swears by it all looks a bit newfangled to me.

However, on having the choices arrayed before me, I was intrigued.  I didn't know there were so many.  Sleipnir immediately appealed, with its Norse mythological equine associations, but on examination looked strictly for the geeks.  Greenbrowser claimed to be, well, green, and we all bite at that bait, don't we?  But how is it green?  I read somewhere the other day that even medium-sized server farms are using the energy of small cities, or something like that, and while we all think we're being good sitting at home not going anywhere and reading on-line instead of chopping down trees (not that I would necessarily be chopping down trees if I wasn't reading on-line, but somebody might in order to provide me with books and newspapers), and only worrying a little bit about our stand-by lights, when the chips are down on our energy supplies, the internet isn't sustainable either.  (Guess where I read that, on-line!).  Flock promises to help you 'get the most out out of Facebook and Twitter', so they can flock off somewhere else, but Opera looks quite interesting, as does Avant ...

So here I am, in the second week of our winter holidays, and it's raining ropes outside.  I've attempted to make a couple of business calls and sent a business e-mail, but everyone seems to have headed off to the mountains for winter sports.  Dog-walking is pretty much out of the question, despite the recent arrival of Molly's new raincoat - I'll feature this with a photo another time - so I have the afternoon ahead of me,  I could spend it researching, installing and learing how to use a new browser...

Or I could do a number of other things.

I shall put my reviewed options before you (yes, yes, I know by the time the votes are in the afternoon will be over anyway, and probably our internet will go down in the wind and rain anyway, as it does, but this is a flimsy, thumb-twiddling kind of post not rooted in any spirit of serious enquiry).  I did consider finding one of those free on-line widgets to offer you a multiple choice questionnaire, but they all look complicated and likely to involve me in some Faustian bargain, and probably it would take me all afternoon to work out how to do it.  I could:

1) Mess about installing a new browser, experimenting with which might lead me to catch up with some of your blogs, a desirable bi-product.

2) Read Jane Smiley's 'The Greenlanders', which I first read years ago, and which being snowed in last month reminded me of, so I bought a penny copy on Amazon to read it again.

3) Cut up the last of the old sheepskin coat to make soles for the slipper socks I've made out of a felty old sweater.  Maybe make some pompoms to adorn them.  Mmm, this one's looking quite good, doesn't require too much specialist equipment, unlike...

4) finally making up the cushion covers I knitted at least a year ago but never got around to sewing together. Tom complained that his pillow was getting lumpy from washing, so I bought some new ones, which frees the old ones up for sofa cushions.  Involves making available large surfaces, heating my room, getting out the sewing machine, and probably quite a bit of head-scratching.  I could listen to something while I was doing it, though the sound of the sewing machine is a bit intrusive, and my room would like to feel useful again, I'm sure.

5) Watch the DVD of '84 Charing Cross Road' which I got  for Christmas.  In fact though, I find it very difficult to sit and watch a film on my own of an afternoon, unless I'm ill, or ironing, but then really one misses bits.  Might be better to save it and persuade the Saturday Film Club they want to watch it.

6)  Ironing.  Enough had accumulated that really needs it, especially in the damp weather when it serves to air things too.  I could listen to Proust, which I've recently taken up again and am enjoying all the more for the break.  The Balbec interlude in the middle of the first part of 'Sodom and Gomorrah' was so haunting, and I've had that dream he has about his grandmother being still alive and abandoned somewhere, and what must she think of him...

7) Bake something.  Flapjacks - we've gone off porridge for a bit so oats and syrup are available -, scones, soda bread (I've a mix) all spring to mind.  It will warm the kitchen and downstairs, fill it with sweet aromas, and generate unnecessary carbohydrate which we will eat and then we will get fat.

8)  Write a ghazal.  Haven't done that for ages.

9)  Draw/paint something with Inktense pencils, like the pigeon that sat in the eucalyptus tree on a misty day and I photographed it with a view to this, being all subtle blues and greys and greens and mauvey colours, and very pleasantly shaped.  It wasn't any good as a photo, the composition was all to bits and there was a branch across the pigeon's body.  Haven't done that for ages either.

10) Where sackcloth and ashes and mortify myself that my life in this Vale of Tears is currently so easy and pleasant, and that although it contains all these wonderful possibilities, I fritter it and achieve so few of them.

Ten is quite enough to be getting on with.  Your votes please, brothers and sisters.

And because you shouldn't have to labour through a daft post like this without some pictorial reward, here are some competitors in the Tredaniel Seagull Winter Olympics figure skating. 

And now it looks as if the sun will come out and the rain may stop after all.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The other morning...

...just a couple of days ago.  Sat where I am now, I looked aside through the back doors and saw the sky like this.  I might have missed it, it was there for just a couple of minutes, no more.

If I hadn't gone outside I wouldn't have heard the thrushes either.  They sing all the time now, as if amazed they've come through.  Perhaps they are.

The night before, we'd gone outside to look at the glowing tangerine dot that was Mars - 'Follow the side of the Plough nearest the handle,' says Tom, 'straight down to the bright star in Leo, that's Regulus, then take a sharp right'.  An owl called, perhaps to say she was the baker's daughter.

 'Oh look at the fire-folk sitting in the air!'

The sky and its people - birds and stars.  There is not a comfortable thing about them, only beauty, and in this, they offer comfort. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Being noteworthy, a mixed blessing. Not wanting to be churlish or anything...

Last week I got made a Blogger 'Blog of Note'.  Three and a half years ago, when I was just a little blogger (I am still a little blogger, but slightly sagging and a little overweight with age now), I secretly wanted this so much.  I used to look down at the Blogs of Note when I signed in, and wonder if I would ever be noticed like this.  In truth, I rarely visited them, though I do remember one rather good themed one about 19th Century Moustaches, but it still seemed like a good thing to be.

Of recent times however, I had pretty much forgotten about the existence of the thing, that I even could scroll down from my dashboard and find the list of recent Blogs of Note.  However, statistics being what they are, the time had to come when, simply by dint of having been around this long and still posting, and of Blogger needing to find a new one every day, my number was up.  Now I'm not saying the accolade is simply bestowed in some totally randomly, electronically generated way, I'm sure there are human beings involved, and that they have genuinely looked at Box Elder and decided that recognition is in order, but the longer I went on, the more likely it was to happen, and that, truthfully, it can't be much to do with quality and more about the need for quantity.

I always assumed one would be notified by the authorities in question, but the first I heard of it was from a hitherto unknown commenter congratulating me about it.  I received a handful of visits, comments that is, from people who haven't been here before, which was interesting and gratifying, and I have very much enjoyed visiting them back, they are proper, talented bloggers doing great things, so thanks to them for that.

My Followers have doubled in number.  Unfortunately, I don't and won't (at least for the foreseeable) subscribe to Followers myself, and unless you do, as I've said before, Blogger won't let you see who your followers are.  I daresay my stats have increased, at least temporarily, but as I don't and won't have any form registering or counting of stats on this blog, then I don't know about that either.  So the benefits there are equivocal. 

And then, there's the spam.  The spam creeps obviously pay more attention to Blogs of Note than I do.  Two of them were in non-Roman characters, I didn't bother to find out what language, and blitzed me heavily, so I had to go back and scrape them off a dozen or more posts, and one of them was Portuguese, urging me to 'make money on-line!'. He seemed to be a sort-of-real blog, with some profile information and posts about commercial webby matters, but I flagged him as spam anyway because I didn't like being harrassed by him, and he'd hidden the bar thingy with the 'report abuse' facility on it, so that indicated to me he had something to be ashamed of.  I copied and pasted his blog address into the relevant Blogger form anyway.  But it just kind of wasted my precious time.

Which brings me to the question of spamming on blogs.  What I've heard, from people who should know, is that once you follow a link in a spam comment or to a spam blog, you are risking being jumped by malware, viruses etc, even if you take no further action.  However, the other piece of advice, and one which I always tend to follow on principle, because it gives me some satisfaction to do so, is that spam blogs should be flagged and reported as abuse.  Now, how can you flag them if you don't follow the link?

Some of the spam is anonymous, I don't want to ban anonymous comments, for reasons I've given before, I've had some I wouldn't have missed for the world, and occasionally someone I know, without a Google account or just not logged-in, might use the facility.  So far, apart from the spam, I've not had unpleasantness from anonymous commenters, most of what I post here is fairly anodyne, I don't imagine many people would bother reading or looking here to take issue with anything.  Though now Blogger has brought me into the temporary and very dingy limelight, who knows...  This anonymous spam I delete straight away, but as the comments themselves are full of links, sometimes you can click on it inadvertently, in ignorance anyway.

Any information or advice here would be welcome. I really don't want to have to use moderation.  I know many of my best friends do, and it doesn't bother me to go along with it, but it would just seem to spoil something for me somehow, and ditching spam is still a chore, what ever stage you have to do it.

But, I must stop this graceless griping.  It was very nice to get noted, and welcome to any newcomers it has brought.  As you may have gathered, I am very comfortably ensconced in an evolutionary blind alley here; basic Blogger blogging without too many trimmings is really all I do; my life is free of stats, Followers, I've even ditched most of my feeds.  I don't have any truck with Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, or any of those things, because at heart I am a technophobe suffering from accidie (though at least I know how to spell it, which I probably still wouldn't were it not for blogging).  Even my Flickr account has fallen into desuetude, and my attempts to have a second string to my bow or possible bolthole with Wordpress also fell by the wayside on account of the accidie thing.  I only have Picasa web-albums because as an editing tool it's easier than Photoshop.

Now, enough blogging on about blogging.  I seem to have been doing rather a lot of that lately, and I think perhaps it's a bad sign.  A tendency to get self-referential is bad for any form of expression, I think.  (Or do I? You see I'm far too uncertain what I think about anything to get in any fights...)  So last night's 'The Virtual Revolution', and the question of whether we hedgehogs are an endangered species, about to be gobbled up by the youthful little foxes, will have to be shelved, or left to more trenchant minds than mine.

So now I'm off to whittle a stick-calendar, or perhaps finish illuminating a codex, if I've got the time.  Or else continue to shuffle and snuffle, hedgehog-like, through my blogroll.  But before that, a few abstracts of home, garden and compost heap, because I'm like that. ( In the one below, you can see my blue Nepali felt slippers, which I love with a passion, but which are already going into holes.)

Oh yes, and I meant to say, Crafty Green Poet got Blog-of-Noted too, and she does deserve it!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Penetrating the Périphérique - the delights of Rennes.

I like Rennes. Rosie, bitching about Brittany, and hankering for real city life, says there is no city worthy of the name in this region, though she concedes that Nantes, which is arguably not of the region, might have its charms.  Indeed, compared to the better known glittering metropoli and capitals of the world of which she has been the habituée, Rennes is really just a sedate big town, albeit withoug too many tractors in the streets, which brings it a step above the usual for Brittany.  But as you might agree, there are some lovely buildings, and emerging from a rustic winter, it's town enough for me. 

Barrett Bonden, on the other hand, whose only experience of the place has been negotiating its ring-road, the périphérique, sees Rennes as something akin to the Seventh Circle of Hell, without the benefit of Virgil to show you round.  Happily, coming from this direction, one does not have to undergo the ordeal of it at all, but can cruise into the centre almost effortlessly. We used to go round the périphérique to visit our friends in the Sarthe, however, and it took us a few goes to crack it.  It can certainly be confusing and unnerving, though compared with the périphérique of Lyons (I like to put the 's' on, it has a bit of retro cachet I think...), it's a walk in the park.

And a walk in the park is something we have to do here, the park being Les Jardins du Thabor, the on in the black and white at the bottom of the collage.  I put it in black and white because I was influenced by 'Last Year in Marienbad' which was the film of choice for the previous weekend's Winter Saturday Film Club - a few friends and myself gathering here every couple of weeks to watch the kind of things we've got hanging around on DVD but don't get round to watching on our own, because they're too weird and arty or long or because our menfolk wouldn't watch them or all of the above, and because no one else has such a good telly as we have, Tom's choice not mine, but one might as well enjoy... 

I wrote about Le Thabor before with more pictures here a couple of years ago, it was later into spring then, greener and more flowery. 

Before the walk in the gardens however, our first and foremost destination was curry.  Yes, I know, 80 km is a long way to go for a curry.  But sometimes these things just have to be done.  I checked out the website of 'Le Gange' restaurant and it was open and promising.  When we entered, a handsome, smiling and somehow familiar man came towards us with a very friendly greeting.  As I have mentioned, I am hopeless when it comes to recognising even people I know quite well in any setting other than that which I usually know them.  I think perhaps there is a name for this condition,  I'd like to think so anyway, as this would make me feel better about it.  Fortunately Tom is the Jack Spratt other half of this and is capable of identifying and contextualising almost anyone anywhere, for example obscure actors in films from before they were famous, had nose jobs, grown or shaved their beards or dyed their hair, though he frequently can't put a name to them, which I'm better at.

'Ah' he beamed at the friendly handsome man 'Dinan!'

Previously when we felt the call of an Indian restaurant lunch, we would drive about half as far, to Dinan, where there was a nice one.  Indian restaurants in France are often run by people from Pondicherry, where there was a French colony and hence they have the language.  The food is, to a British palate, somewhat delicate, creamy and lacking in bite.  However, beggars can't be choosers, and I'm not particularly a heat freak in spicy cooking anyway.  But one day we went to Dinan, without telephoning the 'Taj Mahal' first, and there it was gone.  Our fists in our eyes, we resorted to a rather pretentious and expensive mediaeval themed place where they offer you raw meat to cook on a stone, or to impale on a strange heated device that looks like an implement of torture.

We always wondered how that Indian restaurant kept going, as it was never very full of people, and wasn't  expensive.  It was light and pretty and pleasant but rather quiet and without much buzz.  But now the chap who ran it, the handsome friendly man, has decamped with his his French wife and young son to Rennes, and is now working at 'Le Gange'.  His colleague there is an older man, tall and distinguished looking but vivacious and funny and slightly chaotic.  They seem to be a good team, and despite the older man's faulty French and slight air of chaos, the service was spot-on. The decor was less reserved than the dusty pink walls and prints of Indian miniatures of the Dinan place; there were those, but also more photos of scenes of modern Indain life, and a lot more sculpture and carzy woodwork.   It was busy, with a very mixed clientele, groups of presumably working adults, one family group, an older more staid-looking couple deep in conversation, some student-looking pairs - they do a good student menu including wine - there was a  lot of chatter and smiling going on.  And I realised afresh that of course much of what I like going out to eat, and in which I'm rather often disappointed, is being among other people enjoying themselves, being able to observe and soak up the the conviviality without having to socialise and perticipate directly . 

Though when the little onion bhajis - more like spicy gram battered onion rings than the big spiky oily pompoms we knew and loved - and the fluffy cheese-filled nan-bread, the basmati rice, much more fine than I can ever get it, with deep gold saffron-dyed grains scattered among the white, and the aubergine curry - they mince the aubergine too fine, I'm afraid, so it loses its identity and disappears into the creamy sauce, though it's delicious anyway - and the aromas of cardomon and fresh coriander pervaded the air around me, I wasn't inclined to compain about the food either.

I took a quick wonky photo of the place, top left in the collage, but didn't want to intrude on the other customers, and I've upped the shadow in it to keep them more anonymous.
Unfortunately, I was certain I knew my way around well enough to navigate to the gardens afterwards, a notion in which I was sadly deluded.  We ended up driving round in circles and asking one person after another the way, then finally giving up and parking miles away anyway.  But everyone we asked was friendly and did their best to be helpful, and we probably needed to walk off the curry.

I think we'll go there again.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Rennes, Jardins du Thabor.

I wonder if I lived more among people, if I would get used to the idea of taking photos of them.  I always feel more comfortable if their backs are turned, or if they are far off, figures in a landscape.  Generally I don't seem very oriented towards them visually, am poor at recognising people out of context, and find it difficult to know how to look at photographic portraits and street photgraphy.  I liked the way the colours of the children's clothes mirrored the birds, and their attitudes.  The girl's brown hoody under her coat was lined with canary yellow - I was sorry I missed that.

More Rennes pictures later, or sooner.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why I'm not charging for my photographs, or anything else here. Unless someone offers, in which case I wouldn't say no...

Lizzie, who I've not heard from before, left a comment a couple of posts back about the photo that the woman from the  Regional Council asked for from my Flickr account, to the effect that I should insist on a credit for it (I had asked for that), and ought really to ask for some payment for it (I hadn't and wouldn't).  She raised the whole question of organisations and companies getting photos for free from the internet, and where it leaves people who are trying to take them for a living.  I started answering her comment and found I had quite a lot of ideas about it, so thought perhaps I'd air it in another post.  Then I talked with Tom about it, and it turned out he agreed quite vociferously with Lizzie, and I realised that my thinking was clouded and cluttered with some fairly woolly notions. So this isn't any kind of cogent essay on the matter, just kite-flying.

The matter of how the internet and all the free stuff available thereon has changed the whole landscape of copyright and intellectual property, and its effect on how people make a living and how information and images are transmitted, is hardly a new area of debate, but I suppose this is the first time it's impinged on me directly.  I remember a while back Dave saying in effect, he was abandoning all attempt to prevent anyone from reproducing anything of his anywhere, that all he could do was ask them please and nicely to acknowledge him for it - or I seem to remember that's the gist of what he said, correct me if I'm wrong. (Please, anyone, any time, correct me if I'm wrong. I don't like it but I need it...)

I have to say I was inclined to take the old, morally lackadasickal, and sometimes indefensible, line, that if I didn't do it, someone else would.  Had I said no, you can't have my photo, unless you pay me, or go and find a professional photographer and pay them properly, they would presumably have replied that they didn't have a budget to do that, and would simply pick up another free image elsewhere, from someone who would be happy just to see their work recognised.  And at least they were good enough to ask - it seems to me once you put a photo into the public domain, not watermarked or otherwise protected, you are effectively making it fair game.  I upload small, here and on Flickr, mostly to save time and space, but that's all.

Mostly, I guess, it's a question of vanity; of all the wealth of material being circulated freely on the web, having something of mine singled out for notice or considered useful by anyone is an ego-boost.  If I get a poem accepted at Qarrtsiluni, say, (which is about the only place I submit them), it's an unequivocal honour as far as I'm concerned;  plenty of serious, established writers have been published there for no fee, and I'm gratified to be alongside them.  And a poem takes a good deal more effort and skill than a snapshot. 

Also, I've had so much for free from the internet - from photo-editing tools to English teaching worksheets to dear friendship, that I don't mind giving something away on it myself from time to time.  I quite like the idea that we can all live on a bit less because things are being shared round so generously. That said, if I was continually being peremptorily asked to spend time ferreting around on my back-ups for high-res images for no pay and little thanks, I might get a bit pissed off and tell them to be likewise.  I know too that I'm in a privileged, dilettantish position to be able to be above needing to make money.

So on the matter of people like photographers losing a living frorm people like me giving stuff away, which is the thorny part of the matter, I'm not sure.  It's a truism to say that photography has changed, irreversibly.  Among my photography books is one by a very successful commercial photographer who started his career in pre-digital times.  His photography is beautiful, staggering in its proficiency, sunny and bright and eye-catching.  I find it a little lacking in depth, but perhaps that's just sour grapes.  His creative tips are sound and interesting, but I just got slightly fed-up with his continual self-congratulation about how much money he'd made on the sale of his pictures to advertising stock agencies, and how if I was as clever as him I might even be able to do the same.  I found myself entertaining a degree of petty-minded shadenfreude that, to some extent, his glory days must be at an end with the availability of huge numbers of free images on the web, and with the fact that one no longer has to have complicated mastery of the technicalities of photography to produce a reasonable picture.  People have lost their jobs in film factories with the advent of digital photography, as they always do when technologies change, which is regrettable, but then all those dusty piles of mediocre prints clogging up cupboards, drawers and albums being a thing of the past is no bad thing, to my mind.

Having said that, when it comes to the area of people's voluntary journalism, photography or reporting, taking the place of the paid kind, it's a different matter.  If we want proper information about what's going on in the world, we need people who are contracted to work full-time at it, to undertake risk and boredom and legwork if necessary and to be paid properly to get hold of it, relying on people to do it out of love or public-spiritedness or vanity  is not enough.  Which isn't to say that the kind of spontaneous, on-the-spot recording and commenting on events that takes place thanks to camera phones, networks etc aren't invaluable.  But we also need people whose job it is to seek it and sort it, because there's just too much of it otherwise, and to be able to find it in visible and accessible places, rather than buried in a welter of less reliable and important other information and noise on the web.  So being a professional now doesn't only involve getting the stuff yourself, it means finding it elsewhere, knowing where and selecting it.  At one time the Conseil Regionale would have commissioned a photographer to go around the region taking pictures, now they employ Cindy, who also takes very good reportage photos herself, I checked her out on Flickr, not only to do that but also to look around for other people's work, like mine, to supplement it.

On the other hand, in employing a special group of people to acquire, select and and transmit our information for us, we are engaging in an act of trust of which those people are not necessarily always worthy.  Free public journalism, blogging, twittering and the rest can be a tool to redress this.

There are, of course, things you just can't experience fully from the web anyway, though it can help you to access them.  With music, downloading, legal or not, has changed the way its made and consumed, and it appears that the days of the few millionnaire rock stars with their enormous sales and recording contracts, are over (is that so bad?), but the attendance at live performances is increasing.  Photography may be something that has become so ubiquitous and democratised/commonplace that professionals are finding it hard to make a living, but other forms of visual art - painting, sculpture, printmaking, mosaic, embroidery, whatever, seem to do quite well from the internet; they can't easily be stolen or replicated  (though I suppose imitation might be a problem), they can be viewed by and sold to a wider public, techniques and materials can be shared, but nothing takes the place of the real thing in your hands or in front of your eyes, and that will always ahve a value. Even the commercial photographer I mentioned earlier has adapted; he writes books, and does on-line and other courses; his work will always have the stamp of virtuosity that all his years of technical training and experience have brought to it, and he still had something to teach those who want to get beyond the Intelligent Auto and other pre-programmed settings on their cameras which are my main area of operations.

And many writers, whose life is writing, write on-line too, and blog, and draw more readers than ever, and aren't grudging about sharing their talent for free, but rather welcome the opportunity to do more of what they love to do, and to be available to their readers in a more direct way, which astonishes and delights me as someone who benefits from it.  And I often end up buying the book anyway, because, again, there's nothing like being able to hold it in your hands and carry it off with you.

Coming back to my defending my decision to give the photo away, I was inclined to say that I might feel rather differently about a commercial concern wanting a free image from me than I did about a public body like the Regional Council.  We have a good quality of life in this region, and I'm not averse to studying and promoting it, so I didn't begrudge someone else doing the same, for a living.   And yet I felt slightly disgruntled, firstly that their manner of asking, though correct according to the formalities, was brusque and impersonal, and secondly that I felt they chose an image which, on its own, was not particularly original or interesting, that they could have found in a number of places, and I suppose I rather thought that, of all the images of local interest I've produced, they could have chosen better.

However, by a pleasing stroke of coincidence there was a further development: a comment left on a November post from someone called Claude, asking me to e-mail his friend who was the skipper of the Aztec Lady, about the pictures I'd taken, mostly abstract and of the rust and peeling paint on the hull of said vessel while she was being refurbished in the boatyard at Granville.  I seem to have made some new friends; Pierre, said skipper, asked me if he could have the pictures to put on the website and even perhaps to print and hang in the boat's cabins, and invited us to look in if we were passing Granville, and maybe I'd be interested in an exhibition of drawings and photos some other friends were putting on at the boatyard... 

I was pleased beyond measure at this, more than happy to think it might help them to sell voyages to magical places on their beautiful ship, because their approach was warm and friendly and personal, and because they are clearly enthusiasts who do what they do for love as well as a living.  From the point of view of gratifying my vanity, I was charmed by how they were charmed images which were odd and abstract and not what anyone else had thought of taking.  They haven't so far offered me a free trip to Norway on the Aztec Lady, but I'm quite glad really because it would be difficult to refuse and I don't know how I'd square it with my other commitments...I urge you though to go and look at the slide show of photos of the boat at the Esprit Grand Large website.  It's something to dream into.

Well, all this seems a lot of words about one small photograph, but it raised some questions, all of which I am aware have been raised before and discussed at greater depth.  I'm not unreservedly singing the praises of the internet and all the changes it has brought, I know about the evils of it too.  However, I found myself wanting toget my tuppence-worth in anyway, because this space is here for me to do that.  I appreciate that too.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


There are catkins, blurred, behind the withered hazelnut.  Morosely, I choose to focus on dead things.  Call it a question of style.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Just a wittering kind of post really

Don't tell Rosie I'm here.  I'm supposed to be finding model business letters of introduction to our services in French on the web, for our new venture (which is nothing as risqué as that might sound).  Our husbands are beginning to suspect that our weekly business meetings are largely a pretext for walking the dogs, which we do indeed do, but we talk business too.  There are so many things to think about.  I have a book of business French which I've been looking in, but then I saw that it was nearly twenty years old, from the time when we first were considering moving here, and I was led to wonder if even French business language may have changed a little in that time; we don't want to sound like something out of Molière...

In fact I've had quite a good day in the office; I actually made a list of Things I Wished to Accomplish and have achieved most of them, (save for turning out a credible sounding letter of professional introduction in French for Rosie's Darling Daughter to peruse and correct...).  It's true that a number of them were rather frivolous.  Such as taking out a year's sub to Jacquie Lawson's e-cards because I'd almost missed my Australian brother's birthday and wanted to send something other than a colourful e-mail, and I've been meaning to get onto them for a while.  I'm not going to give a link, because if everyone does it, they'll lose their appeal, you can Google if you want.

Another thing was to go back through my external hard drive and find the high res. copy of this photo.

This is because a woman with the very non-Breton sounding name of Cindy at the Conseil Régional de Bretagne saw it on Flickr and wanted it for a study of the region they were doing.  She was rather disorganised, kept asking me to sign a release for and send a full-sized copy of a photo without telling me which.  I was a bit disappointed it was this one; she could have found a similar image in a number of places, it's nothing special or original, an image of an image from fairly well-known place.  I had to go to the trouble of looking it out, printing, signing, scanning and returning the release with the larger copy... and if that's not acceptable presumably I have to provide the stamp.  All to gratify my own vanity to have a photo in public that probably won't even have my name on it.  Also it would have been churlish to say no, and she could have just nicked it and I'd never have known.

By coincidence, and really rather more gratifyingly, I picked up a comment on the post where that photo was first shown from someone who said they'd found the piece very helpful for a course they were teaching on church architecture, specifically about the dark ages.  I love those kind of rare comments on old posts, like the woman who would might have eaten horse chestnuts (conkers to fellow Brits) if she hadn't Googled and found my post about chestnut trees.  I have contributed to global knowledge of ancient Christendom and saved someone from unpleasant indigestion!

The other thing I had to do was organise some photos I took yesterday of E.'s house.  She is, after 7 years here, thinking of moving back to Holland, and wanted some shots for an estate agent's website.  E. is the most willfully uninterested, I might say ignorant, person I know, worse by far than Tom or my brother, about anything remotely digital.  She still has dial-up and was perfectly happy to give a home to our elderly Canon SLR film camera, which was quite nice really, as we didn't know what else to do with it.  So I agreed to take the pictures, though I warned her that since we don't want her to move away one bit, I might do my best to take really horrible ones so that no one would want to buy the house.  A., who had just arrived for our weekly yoga session, suggested a bit of judicious photoshopping to superimpose an image of a horrible pig-farm right next door, with perhaps some vile green poisonous seaweed lapping at the door.

Unfortunately, the morning sun came out and flooded the place, and I was unable to make it look very ugly at all.  In order to avoid E.spending all day waiting for even greatly reduced versions of them to crawl through her dial-up connection, I edited, reduced, exported and organised them into a Picasa web album, gave her the link, and told her just to click on them to enlarge, which might be a bit slow but should be possible, then she could choose the ones she wanted to use...

A breezy e-mail finally arrived in her peculiar pidgin combo of Dutch, English and French done on an AZERTY keyboard with the bare minimum punctuation or upper-case, saying yes, very beautiful, thank you, but 'I don't manage to make them bigger next time I see you we might find out which ones are the best,ok?'

Impossible woman.  I don't even bloody want her to sell her house.  I'm hoping her total uselessness is in part affected because she doesn't really want to sell her house either.

Anyway, since this has been some of the only photography I've been doing lately, I quickly scrambled a collage together of some of the pictures.  Not because I'm trying to act as an estate agent, but because at least here people take the trouble to look at my photos.  And because her house is full of charm and colour and light and life.  If by any chance any of you  did want to come and be my neighbours and buy an old Breton three-storey mill house with an acre or so of woodland garden, potager, sunny terrace, views to Moncontour which is a short (steep) walk away, all for about the price of a one-bedroom flat in the south of England then let me know and I wouldn't be averse to a commision.  However, you would have to guarantee to teach me yoga, keep wonderful dogs, play the piano and the accordion, make me laugh with your sometimes use of an unpredictable amalgam of several modern European languages, henna your hair and dress like a slightly demented retired ballerina. 

I'm not quite sure if I'm going to invite her to read the above or not.  She'd probably claim she couldn't get the link to work, anyway.

It's possibly worth enlarging the collage even a little more, since I didn't take the time to see that the best pictures were the biggest.


Well, considering this was only supposed to be a quick post, I seem to have rattled away at some length.  And I haven't left time for my original purpose which was to ask if anyone knows why when I open an e-mail photo attachment with Picasa (my default viewer), it then opens up a whole load of very small 'temporary internet explorer content' files.  It's creepy and weird and I don't like it; has anyone else experienced this and should I be worried?

Must go.