Painting by camera

It is not uncommon in photography to create your own frame. Here are two examples.

The first is a statue of a Buddhist figure set back in a niche at Angkor Wat. The top half was almost invisible in the dark but I have used the magic of Lightroom to solve that problem. The stone surround and the top of a fence formed a natural frame when I looked through the viewfinder.

Angkor Wat

This is the old ‘through the window’ trick. A little Lightroom trickery was used here too. I exposed for the distant steps and used software to lift the deep shadows and enhance the natural frame. The dynamic range of a modern sensor is remarkable.

Through the window

I’m back at work for a while and my evenings are spent reading an 800 page biography of Van Gogh. Until anon.

Wheear ‘ast tha bin sin’ ah saw thee


According to Google Translate this means ‘where on earth have you been’. Not an unreasonable question. Well I have been in a dark place, fighting dragons and demons and indeed SAS airlines and the Norwegian airport system. The last few months have not been happy ones. Even my garden let me down or I it. Most of my beloved roses were reduced to skeletons by (probably) sawfly larvae. One died. Alas poor Winchester Cathedral. One flourishes – Rosa versicolor.

The house still is not finished. Close but not there yet. After the scheduled completion date we embarked on a trip to Svalbard or Spitsbergen. I still have not grasped the difference. We went looking for polar bears, walruses, whales, seals and of course birds. I felt a bit like Irving Berlin at the end of the trip:

We joined the Vavilov to see the world. And what did we see? We saw the sea.

We saw only one PB at close quarters. A rather undernourished looking female ambling across an island devoid of ice. Much of our trip was spent looking for ice that seemed to be constantly moving ahead of us and breaking up as it did so. Polar Bear face

Arctic Landscape

Getting to and from Longyearbyen was an assault course designed to test the mettle of any traveller. Short connections, bizarre customs rituals and Oslo airport that could double as an obstacle course in case of need. You have 55 minutes starting……. now. Oh sorry, we are running 45 minutes late. But never mind. Give it a go.

I foolishly assumed that by the time we returned summer would have started. Alas again, we appear to be bypassing it altogether. A few stubborn and resilient plants have popped their heads up. Many have succumbed to slugs. What the garden needs is a hedgehog that I can unleash at dusk. Maybe a whole family of hogs, craving for gourmet sluggish sustenance. Slug en croute perhaps. Or Slug meunière. Slow-cooked of course. Pulled Slug.

As seems to be happening increasingly frequently I started something (this post) and then forgot about it. All sorts of things intervened. One of the GPs at our local surgery saw me at short notice when I returned from Svalbard. Or was it Spitsbergen. I entered the NHS lottery and got a ticket for 2 weeks later so I did what everybody should. I went to the surgery and demanded to see someone. Rather surprisingly I was given an immediate slot. The doctor peered at me intently and largely dismissed my worries. Don’t fret pet, she said. Take a bucket of steroids for 5 days and it will go away. Probably an allergy. Oh and that looks like a skin cancer on your arm. I used to be a dermatologist you know. This meant entering another NHS lottery and drawing a ticket to the hospital in a few months time. Or I could go to a rural outpost and see someone in only 7 weeks. So I am going to the wastelands of Eastleigh soon to see if my arm has to come off. I wish I were ambidexterous but sadly I’m still officially CofE.

As I write today St. Theresa, patron saint of bodily ills, is about to be anointed as the country’s PM. I have rather robust views on what has happened in Britain recently. I was out of the country for the stitch up referendum and my plan is to spend even more time outside Little England before long. The neo-colonialists should all get a 1930s map of the world and some red crayons to colour in the bits they want back. Then I hope St. Theresa sends them off to be missionaries in Equatorial Guinea or Strasbourg. Originally I thought only the cast of Coronation Street had voted leave but it seems Costa Geriatrica did the same. We had some dreadful people from Gosport on TV this evening bleating on about how they wanted a Leave PM. I expect I will upset a few people if I carry on so enough on this matter. As they sew, so shall they reap. I hope St. T does a jolly good job but I doubt if she will bring in the necessary experience to deal with the likes of the knife-wielders. I think Ken Clarke should have stood. A seriously good man. Very strong on birds. TM appears to be the first person since LBJ to become leader by doing absolutely nothing. Cameron’s suicide was heartily welcome but to see the Leave lemmings then hurl themselves onto their swords faster than you can say Christiano Ronaldo would have been even more entertaining if there had been someone with an ounce of charisma to take over.

And that is a neat segue into the joys of Euro 2016, which was won by a moth called Autographa gamma, or Silver Y. Had Wales played in the final they would have won I am sure. Ditto Iceland. I was lucky enough to meet Chris Coleman on Saturday and buy him lunch to say diolch. The Welsh team played entertaining soccer and that of course goes against the entire ethos of the tournament. I hope Chris takes us to greater glories in the next World Cup. As Iceland managed to do so well I hear that Waitrose may enter a team too.

At this point I am wondering, as no doubt are you, whether there is a point to this post. And that is precisely why I have been silent so long. All my good ideas vanish the moment I become conscious. The good news is that we are back in HK next month and I am going on to Sydney. Then we come back only to hot foot it to Venice again. Although I do wonder whether Britain will be just as much under water as La Serenissima by then.

And with that I think it is time to hibernate again. Be careful out there.





Sunday, Balmy Sunday.

Yesterday I capitulated. I have packed my 2 pairs of good binoculars not thinking we would face months living out of a suitcase. The frustration of birds just out of eyesight was too much for me so in the afternoon I bought a pair of Vortex Razor HD bins. That meant I had to try them out. The forecast was for a cold, sunny start to Sunday. And so it proved. We went out earlyish when it was -6c.

This week we did a slightly longer walk and with my bins I started to tick off more birds. In fairly quick succession I added the following to my bird walk list:

Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail, Chaffinch, Redwing, Kingfisher, Little Egret, Song Thrush, Water Rail and Grey Heron.

I was delighted with the Water Rail, a skulker of the first order. The star however was the Kingfisher. We stood on a bridge and I saw it flash past and land, perched on an overhanging branch. A man gazed down the river, clearly not seeing the Kingfisher. I simply said “Kingfisher” and pointed. After a few seconds he became quite excited. He admitted he had lived locally for 50 years and never seen one. We talked for maybe 20 minutes and it transpired he knew Hong Kong reasonably well. His first visit was 1949 and he recalled the HMS Amethyst incident. I am not sure he was old enough to have served at that time but he certainly knew his stuff. We bumped into him again later and he was telling us about the heron he had just seen. “You’ve got me going now on this bird lark”, he said. You are never too old.

Here are some images from the walk. Nothing special. Just snaps.Fullers

Across the river

Jane Austen wuz here?Jane Austen

Close entrance


Riverside walk

We wandered back through the town, bought some chops at The Farmers’ Market and stopped for a brunch in a local cafe. And there we found something once made famous by Our Gracie:

When father’s had a snoot full at his pub, ‘The Bunch of Grapes’
He doesn’t go all fighting mad and getting into scrapes
No, you’ll find him in his bear-skin playing Tarzan of the apes
Off the biggest aspidistra bacon sandwich in the world

Yes, I am reasonably confident I battled my way through the biggest bacon sarnie I have ever seen. Mrs. Ha settled for a more modest salmon bagel. And that was enough to warm the cockles until we reached home. Rain is forecast after lunch so it will be time to snuggle up with Lulu and dream of Water Rails.