Time Out

Five days of not working weekdays have now passed. It's a very unfamiliar situation for me, as I have been lucky enough to have been continuously employed for over thirty years (in the same field - even more unusual nowadays, I'm told). However, this change was very much my decision; after a tough few years, including a breakdown earlier this year, I desperately needed some significant time and space to heal. Counselling has been a huge help and has given me a lot of tools to help with my anxiety and I believe I am no longer officially depressed, which is great. Just the anxiety then… Something had to give and the only thing it was easy/practical to remove was the day job, so I did. My employer was great and worked with me to expedite my departure. I have promised myself at least six months of not even thinking about working - and yes, I'm fully aware that I'm very lucky to be able to do that, as not many people are. I suppose I could have taken more sick leave, but underlying that is always the worry of going back to work, as well as that of feeling a bit like a fraud - I'm old enough to have the view that being off sick should mean in bed, unable to function completely, otherwise one struggles on.

Anyway, the decision was made and here I am at the end of the first week. Already I am more relaxed, although I know that my instinct is always to look for something to worry about, so I am making a conscious effort to be aware of that; I don't intend to replace work worries with fretting about when I go to the supermarket (yes, I do that - I did it last night, until I gave myself a mental slap). I have spent a couple of days being ridiculously tired, but then I have been surviving on an average of 5.5 hours sleep per night for the last five years.

I have set some goals for myself - only loose ones, no pressure.

I want to develop some of my artistic/crafty skills, which essentially gives me permission to draw, knit, crochet, paint, make cards, carve wood and anything else that takes my fancy. Ideally I'd stick at one thing and become very skilled at it, but I've always been a bit of a butterfly mind - good at most things I turn my hand to, but not brilliant at any one thing.

I want to increase the amount of piano/organ time I have - already I have made myself more available for Sunday services at the local parish church, so that's in progress. Add to that I'd quite like to improve my guitar/mandolin/ukulele playing, too.

I want to get fitter (and, hopefully, slimmer as a result). I'm walking more, because I'm not finishing work at the last minute before I go out, and because I have the time in the day to do so. I prefer to take specific walks, not least so that I can take my camera(s) and I have resolved to get out in the misty Autumn mornings, to see what I can photograph. How long the walking lasts when the winter chill arrives remains to be seen. Although, I won't have to fit my walks into weekends, or early morning/evening.

I want to learn something new (-ish), whether that be picking up some more Esperanto, or refreshing my last-century programming skills. At the moment I haven't decided what the new thing will be.

All very introspective and probably quite dull to the outside world, but I thought if I published this to my blog it might act as a kind of contract with myself and it also serves as a starting-line against which I can measure my progress.

New Ink

Fountain pen ink, not a new tattoo (yet).

A new, brass, fountain pen, snapped up at a discount, naturally turned my mind to my brownish inks…

I have a few:-
Diamine Autumn Oak, Ochre and Chocolate Brown;
J Herbin Lie de Thé;
Waterman Absolute Brown;
Monteverde Canyon Rust, Scotch Brown and Brown Sugar and
Akkerman SBRE Brown.

As I chose an extra-fine nib I initially opted for Ochre, which looked fine, but, of course, I wasn't entirely satisfied.

I considered KWZ Honey, and some of the Robert Oster inks, but then my mind turned to L'Artisan Pastellier Califolio ink. I love their Andrinople, so I thought I'd give some of their others a go, and selected Inti and Heure Dorée. I thought the latter would be too pale in an EF nib, but I liked the look of it. It is now in the Namisu Nova, although Inti will get its turn. Very nice inks.

A little doodle done on Tomoe River paper:-

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Handwritten/splodged sample:-

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Wildflowers

This morning I took some flowers over to the burial ground where my parents’ ashes are interred. It’s a beautiful setting, a woodland burial ground. This time I took the new camera and was very pleased to find a bank of wildflowers by the entrance. Yes, more photos of poppies…

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Whew, it’s hot!

Let's go for a walk, they said. In the morning, before it gets too hot, they said. The car told me the temperature, wherever it measures it from, was 91 F (32C). We decided on Kingston Lacy, a National Trust property about 20 minutes away; only problem was that the gardens don't open until 10am, by which time it was already pretty warm (for the UK). We did take the woodland path, which was nicely shaded, and managed to grab a table with a sunshade when we stopped for coffee. It was hot, though, so factor 50 and a Tilley hat were deployed. The light was almost too bright for photos, particularly with my fast lens, but of course I managed…

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We passed a rather spectacular fallen tree, which had some beautiful, huge fungus on it.

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At the end of the walk, we approached the house from a less-familiar angle.

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The roses were out, some of which are the older ones, with a beautiful damask scent. Some weren't, but they still looked very pretty.

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By the end, we were ready for some lemonade and a cheese scone - and the air-conditioning in the car on the drive home!

Changing Domain

Well, I think this has been probably the easiest thing I have done on the internet.
I got a “.me.uk” domain based on my Twitter handle some years ago, as it was the only vaguely appropriate one available. Recently I had an email to say that the corresponding “.me” domain had come available: I resisted until yesterday.

I asked Jason, who runs the platform where this blog is hosted (10centuries.org) if it would be possible to move it to the new domain. Turns out it was very easy: I ran it through Cloudflare, changed where it pointed, let Jason know and moments later everything appeared on the .me version. I still have the other one, but I’ll probably not renew it, although that’s not due for some years yet. Still, I’m pleased to have another place on the web without too many sets of dots in the name.

Testing out the new camera

More photos taken with my new Fuji X-T30. Very impressed with its capabilities. All these are with the XF 35mm f2.0 lens.

Today I tried out the Velvia film setting, followed by the black and white + "grainy" effect. Doesn't look all that grainy to me, but I like the results.

Back home to some weeding, planting out of a new rose bush and a spot of watering - although the sky decided to help with that. In the back garden I spotted that my much-neglected clematis has come good again, although it still seems to prefer to twine its way through the cotinus, rather than go up the trellis I try to convince it to use. Nature at its best, bright green leaves, big purple flowers, contrasting with the dark smoky red of the bush.

All in all, a pretty decent Sunday.

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Exbury Gardens

Had an amazing day out at Exbury Gardens today. Although not far from me, I had never visited before. This is the best time of year to see it, as long as you like rhododendrons and azaleas, as the place is full of them. It was owned by the de Rothschild family, who cross-bred a lot of varieties over the years - this year the gardens celebrate their centenary as functioning gardens (rather than wild woodland).

It was almost impossible to capture the splendour of the flowers in photographs, but, of course, I tried…

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Eventually I deployed the macro mode for some close-ups:-

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Although I went to see the rhododendrons, they also had what must be the most spectacular wisteria I have ever seen, which grew over a frame to create a wisteria house, almost. Simply breathtaking.

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Royal Mail Track and Trace

Excellent service, very handy to know when one can expect delivery of an item - except it's not. Not handy at all, not any more.

Go to website, enter tracking number. On mobile Safari and Chrome, nothing happens. Most likely because of pop-up blockers, or some ad detection software I have; doesn't everyone, unless seeing ads is your thing, Off to my Opera browser, enter tracking number and, yaay, little sodding pictures appear. Captcha loads, asking me to identify traffic lights. OK, not too difficult, despite the fact that the traffic lights seem to be in mid-air, not where I'm used to seeing them. Sometimes it asks for "crosswalks". I assume they mean the white stripes on a road. Crosswalks, not a British thing. Thank you, Google. Today it was "buses". Not a red double decker to be seen. Some yellow things, some coaches (I think), but nothing particularly bus-like. Round and round we go, with more and more pictures. Fire hydrants - lumpy things at the edge of roads, I presume.

Yes, I'm being flippant, as I have been sufficiently exposed to US culture that I am aware of these things. (i still find a lot of the pictures impossible to decipher, as they are such poor quality).

I logged into my Royal Mail account, hoping that might prove I'm not a flippin' robot. Whether by chance, or by design, the Captcha was easier and I got it right first time. To be met with a message telling me that the "system" can't give any information about my item at the moment.

I expect that I will sail through Captcha and be able to discover the whereabouts of my item at some point - most likely after it has been delivered.

Pebble Stationery Co Tomoe River Pocket Notebook

Firstly, I haven't had these notebooks for very long and started my first one at the end of January, so this is very much an initial impressions post.

I spotted these on the Instagram feed for Nero's Notes, my notebook supplier of choice, as I am in the UK.

Nero's has a great blog post in which they get to know the owners of Pebble Stationery Co, worth reading.

As soon as they were announced I put in my pre-order for a couple of packs.

As ever, the notebooks arrived quickly (I got lucky, putting my order in just as they arrived in stock) and beautifully packaged. I was just coming to the end of my previous notebook, so a Pebble went straight into my leather cover.

The notebook

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The cover is a discreet-looking pale grey, textured a bit like linen. The inside cover is a pale duck-egg blue and has the usual name, contact, dates and content sections. The inside back cover has some information about the company, including the fact that for each pack of premium notebooks sold they will donate pencils to children in need, to help their creativity and learning. A nice touch. At the bottom there is information about the notebook: 52gsm Tomoe River paper, 80 pages, in a 4mm dot grid.

The pages are stitched rather than stapled. The stitches are really very small and nothing shows on the outside of the cover, so I wonder if they are stitched to an inner cover which is then bound to the grey outer. My eyesight isn't good enough to figure this out - not in the gloom of winter, that's for sure! Suffice to say these are well made.

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The price at the moment for a two-pack is £11.50, just a bit less than a three-pack of Field Notes special editions, or a few quid more than a three-pack of standard Field Notes. As these come from Australia, I imagine international prices will vary.

As I said, it's early days for me with these notebooks. Despite keeping my pocket notebook in a leather cover, I have separated some Field Notes from their covers before finishing the book. It can take me a couple of months to get through a standard pocket notebook, so a notebook with a lot more pages runs the risk of becoming even more battered, as it is likely to be in my pocket for longer. That said, there's a much greater desire to write things down on such lovely paper. It handles all kinds of pen, though pencil and ballpoint will crinkle the paper because of the pressure. Not that I'm particularly bothered by that, but generally a brass Kaweco Sport rollerball lives with my pocket notebook. It is nice to be able to use my fountain pens in it, too.

A rainy trip to Norway

My first ever cruise, and first holiday in a very long time. Breathtaking, despite the rain.

First stop was Stavanger, where I took a trip to Sør-Hidle to see the Flor og Fjære gardens. Tropical gardens on the west coast of Norway. Quite a feat - and quite a sight!

Early morning arrival in Stavanger.

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Some photos from the tropical gardens.

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The afternoon was spent wandering round Stavanger, unfortunately getting wetter and wetter. It's a lovely place, though.

After Stavanger we sailed up to Flåm, arriving there in the early morning. As this was my first trip to the Norwegian fjords, I got up early, to see what the views were like. Misty and a bit wet - not as wet as later in the day. Sadly for my cameras there were no picturesque sunrises and sunsets to be had.

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I took a full day trip in Flåm, which involved the railway trip, plus a coach tour to Voss, via the very steep and twisty Stalheimskleiva - complete with fallen rocks at the apex of one of the hairpins, which our intrepid coach driver managed to haul to the side of the road. It rained, a lot, but that just made the waterfalls we saw even more spectacular. First was a stop to look at Tvindefossen:-

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Followed by a stop during the train journey from Myrdal to Flåm to admire Kjossfossen:-

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Prior to picking up the Flåmsbana, we had taken a train from Voss to Myrdal, having had a traditional Norwegian buffet lunch in Voss.

I did manage to get a few shots of the area from inside the coach and train - the advantage of having a long zoom.

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The next day saw us arrive in Olden in the morning. I enjoyed every day and every excursion, but I think this was the one that surprised me most; I wasn't sure what to expect of Olden, but I found the surrounding area to be so very beautiful. I was quite taken with Stryn and some of the scenery we saw during our trip was just breathtaking.

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Jostedalsbreen Glacier National Park:-

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Oppstrynsvatnet:-

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After a stop at the national park for pancakes and coffee, we made our way back down the valley, making a slight detour to the tiny town of Hjelle, which looked very much like a place one could stay in for a while and simply soak up the scenery.

Hjelledalen:-

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My final stop in Norway was Bergen, a town I would have liked to spend more time in, but after a week of getting soaked every time I set foot outside, I wasn't really in the mood to walk round the town. I would like to go back there, though. I had booked a trip out to Troldhaugen, to see Edvard Grieg's summer house and the place where he wrote a lot of his music. It was a superb excursion, which enabled us to see a decent amount of Bergen from the warm and dry coach. We visited the museum at Troldhaugen, had a tour of Grieg's house and finished with a piano recital in the concert hall built there in 1985. The hall has a glass end wall, so the view the audience has while listening to the music is just amazing. The hall was built with chamber music in mind and has a crystal clear acoustic. It was very moving to hear Grieg's music while looking out at the views he saw when writing it.

The view from Troldhaugen:-

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The Troldsalen:-

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