or my personal attempts to stop being stuck in the rut
Hertfordshire-based, I work for the National Health Service but try and fit in some photography on a regular basis. Not so much during the recent lockdown era, but here's hoping things can only get better in 2021....
One of our “neighbours’ from post too much food walk this morning. His face is nowhere near as muddy as our boots are now, and that’s before the promised storm and rain to come….. we are discovering the joys of living in the countryside!
I’m hoping that we’ll get some decent frost soon – not only will that dry up the mud, but I think with all of these trees nearby it has the potential to look spectacular.
Not sure there’s much new to be said really; we knew things were getting worse and now it’s more about quite how much worse and quite how long for. At least today is the Winter solstice so we’ve got some longer days to look forward to.
In the meantime, some images from yesterday’s sunny lunchtime walk around the Wall Hall estate in nearby Aldenham. At the start of the 20th Century the estate was leased by JP Morgan (yes, that one) and after his death it was used for the residence of the USA ambassador (Joseph Kennedy). Subsequently used as a teacher training college it has now, inevitably, been redeveloped into very expensive apartments – offers in excess of £3.5m for a 3 bedroom one currently on the market. Thankfully, the estate has been preserved for anyone to walk through, without charge.
The light yesterday was lovely too – really nice warm tones and a combination of blue skies and dark clouds which lifted nice but unremarkable scenery into something quite dramatic.
The garden is starting to look a little bare now; the leaves have fallen after a glorious but fleeting blaze of gold, yellow and red. The seasons are turning and one senses that Winter is rapidly approaching. There’s been a light covering of frost in recent mornings and I suspect that, even though we are only a relatively short distance from London, the move away from the city has seen our temperatures drop just that little bit more. It might be time to light our fire for the first time soon.
A couple of plants are left flowering now, one them being the fuschia pictured here – nicely positioned in view of the kitchen window, the flowers are just about hanging on through the lockdown and worth a snap especially given that photo-wandering has really not been a priority recently.
There are a few shoots of emerging optimism that maybe things will turn for the better come the Spring; new life in more ways than one perhaps. In the meantime, best to celebrate what we still have right now, even if I’d ordinarily pass it with barely a second’s thought.
We talked about it earlier in the year and hoped it wouldn’t happen. But when I started writing this post yesterday afternoon I stopped; the Downing Street press conference had just begun. Deja vu all over again.
There are some changes since the Spring of course, including glimmers of hope that more is known about how to treat Covid-19 successfully, but it can hardly be positive that it has come back just in time for the winter ‘flu season – a time when health services are already under enormous pressure when things are running to plan. And we are still facing the same policy dilemma of health vs wealth. I suspect the debates in Parliament early this week are going to be tetchy.
Changes closer to home for me too – both in terms of work (I’ve been seconded to work as part of the national NHS team coordinating the NHS work to increase Covid testing capacity) and home. A previous lockdown view would have been of terraced Victorian and Edwardian houses in SE London, where I’d been living since the 1990s. But now we’ve moved North of the river, indeed North of Watford as my parents (who live North of North of Watford) like to remind me and don’t actually come within the Greater London boundaries any more.
This means plenty of farmland and countryside nearby, so here’s a quick snap taken a few weeks ago before the Autumn arrived, of local Hertfordshire countryside. Quite a change and I’m looking forward to exploring more of our new locality. I suppose one thing about the current situation is that it does encourage you to appreciate everything at home and nearby that you’ve got, even though you can also miss all the other stuff you can’t currently do.
We’d planned this year to drive through the Alps to Italy and Sicily but, as for us all, the plans needed to change. There’ll be other opportunities I’m sure, but in the meantime here’s a post from a narrow boat on the Monmouth and Brecon Canal in Wales. A fabulous time we’re having too – a holiday which almost enforces social distancing, travelling through beautiful scenery and lovely autumn light (although tomorrow’s weather forecast suggests I shouldn’t count on more of that.
Interesting too that capturing the right view or moment is surprisingly difficult even when you’re only travelling at 1-2 MPH! Just when you’re ready to press the shutter another hedge, tree or power cable jumps into the foreground.
There’ll be more pictures to come once I get home, but preserving the camera battery means no more reliance on transferring over WiFi while we’re away.
My sourdough starter appears to have…started. Obviously in desperate need of moving into a larger jar and not heeding instructions about social isolation. Let’s hope that bread flour doesn’t run out though otherwise it’ll be a wasted effort. This is my first photo since COVID-19 came to town. Difficult to get the motivation in the current circumstances. Keep well.
It’s not often that I’ve visited new places and come away thinking that, however interesting they may have been, I wouldn’t really mind if I didn’t go back. Well that’s just happened, which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy my trip; but I really don’t need to go back to Marrakech.
What a setting though, surrounded by mountains and full of those famous pink/red buildings. No high rises at all, and the minarets are the only buildings with more than a few stories. Shame the early morning calls for prayer felt like they started at yesterday o’clock!
Many of the locals were lovely, helpful and wanted to show off their town. But you need to be alive to the scams too – the countless number of times we were advised that places or roads were closed with an offer of assistance to go another way eventually became quite an irritation. Luckily I’d read about this before we arrived, so perseverance paid off (which is not to say that we didn’t get lost – we did; often! ).
It was a cheap trip though. Even browsing in the souks is a complete non-starter as the high pressure selling starts when you’ve not even stepped over the threshold. Apart from food and museum entries, the result was that we didn’t spend a dime (well, dirham).
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There were some nice items on sale though – if we weren’t travelling light it would have been tempting to come back with all kinds of locally-crafted rugs, cups, leather goods and some of the gorgeous Moroccan lamps.
I think a relatively recent development has also been the arrival of scooters and motorbikes which mean a relaxed wander through the souks or the medina is completely impossible – walking next to each other is only achievable if you maintain constant vigilance and listen so you can jump out of the way every few seconds. The bikes should be banned. It would do wonders for the pollution in the city too; it seems so odd to come from London and notice how polluted another place is, but Marrakech is that place – the smell of two stroke engine smoke was pervasive, and the thick layer of resulting smog easily visible from the roof of our riad.
There is respite to be had though. The Jardin Majorelle next to the YSL Museum was lovely, and one of a number of highly praised gardens in the city So nice to see them in this weather too given the winter floods back in England.
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It was interesting to see there is a small remaining Jewish presence in the city, with a nicely preserved synagogue and huge cemetery (there used to be an enormous Jewish population here before the establishment of Israel when things became rather more difficult) which is now being very carefully restored. Also fascinating to hear more about the Berbers from the nearby Atlas Mountains.
No visit to Marrakech is complete without visiting the Jemaa el Fna square – full of traders (and snake charmers) during the day, and a massive multi-stall BBQ at night.
So that’s it, a short note of a short visit. Perhaps we didn’t do Marrakech justice. I suspect more to the point Marrakech probably doesn’t do Morocco justice – I think getting into the mountains and heading to the coast may provide quite a different experience. A very interesting visit, but not one that I need to repeat.
Is that it’s so easy to leave. At least that’s the view of one recent forum post on another photography website. Somewhat cynical, even for a Brit.
And plenty of us do, not least because our climate isn’t exactly reliable or generally all that good. Couple that with a desire to experience things that are a little more exotic and unfamiliar, drink cold beer and eat food with flavour and it’s easy to understand why many of us enjoy our foreign travels.
However a recent all too brief road trip to The Lake District, Scotland, Northumberland and the Yorkshire Moors brought back home some of the joys of staying at home. I’m sure I’m not alone in probably spending as much vacation time travelling outside the UK as I do within it, and this trip left me wondering why – although escaping from our broken politics for a couple of weeks is certainly one strong motivator.
You can see from the photographs that we were certainly lucky with the weather, erm thanks to global warming, and by keeping off motorways and planning routes along smaller roads we had a fabulous time. The scenery is both beautiful and varied (no USA-style driving spending hours going through landscapes that barely change) and it’s surprising how empty parts of our little overcrowded island actually are.
A few more images…
The Lake District
Berwick and nearby
A couple of panoramas….
So all in all a lovely scenic trip. Not only that, but also – particularly for those who’ve heard different from foreign climes, some very good food too. I think I may need to do some more of this staycation malarkey.
How things have moved in a decade in the camera-world.
It’s just over 10 years since Olympus launched the E-520; a camera which was pretty well specified for its time. Relatively compact (smaller than many current mirrorless bodies) to take advantage of its Four Thirds sensor and yet including image stabilisation, live view (very clunky compared to what we expect now) a decent amount of control for those who wanted it, and plethora of scene modes for those who didn’t. It’s 10MP sensor is no great performer by the latest standards but as is often the case for Olympus, it can certainly churn out beautiful colour.
So why mention it now?
Because old cameras like these can be picked up for a relative song these days. In this case I was looking for a camera for my partner Elena’s 13 year old nephew who wants to study photography. £100 bought the E520 complete with 14-42 and 40-150 kit lenses, plus the Olympus FL36 flash. All in superb condition – looks like it has taken around 4,000 images from new. You’d struggle to buy a single lens for a modern camera for that kind of money.
Before handing the camera over, I thought I’d better check it out so these are just some quick images taken around London a couple of days ago – it was a breeze to use, small enough to barely notice when carrying around, and an awful lot of fun.
I suspect there are rather a lot of mid level cameras gathering dust as their owners have moved on to better things, which is rather a shame really – time to get them out and see if someone else can put them to good use. In modern throwaway society it’s a great pity that the lifespan of so many of our possessions is measured in such short time spans, especially when, if considered objectively, they still more than serve our needs.
Oh well, sermon over, at least for now. A few more images below which probably get bigger if you click on them – I’ve never used the E520 or 14-42 kit lens before, but they certainly didn’t hold me back on this occasion; I hope their soon to be new owner feels likewise!
And one final image to sign off – I rather like this typical quiet side-street view: