Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Hold it! Flash, Bang, Wallop!

I was reading a photography magazine the other day and was struck by how much processing gets done to pictures after they've been taken. But the article gave some great tips on how to do the same things to your own photos.

So I decided to have a go with a few of my own pictures - and took the liberty of playing with a couple that I found on my Mum's Flickr Photostream.

I was amazed at how easy it was. Most magazines tell you how to achieve results using Adobe Photoshop. But that's far too expensive for my wallet and I've always found that there are plenty of ways of achieving more or less the same effects in JASC's Paint Shop Pro for much less money (although it now appears to have been taken over by Corel!).

Here are four examples of the sort of thing you can do. It's all very simple indeed. Click on the photos to see them larger.

Avignon Sky


River Thames at Sunbury


Fishing on the River Vistula


Kathleen in the Snow



There are a few more examples in my Treatments set on Flickr.

Saturday, 25 March 2006

Finally. I am Man.

Today I finally became a full-grown, adult man.

No, not my bar-mitzvah.

Rather, I just achieved one of those milestones which separates the men from the boys. A rite of passage which means that I am now qualified to drink strong lager from the can, while standing around at a family barbecue with my shirt off, proudly displaying my beer belly.

Yea 'tis true. For today... (drum roll please)...

I took delivery of my first skip.

Thank you. Thank you.

Now I can stand in the pub, supping my ale, holding forth about cubic-yardages and regaling my fellow quaffers with the riveting tale of how I had to guide the skip-lorry driver down the narrow lane so that he didn't demolish any garden walls.

And once that is done we will finish our pints and go out hunting deer; driving them over cliffs with pointed sticks before howling at the moon and smearing the blood on our bodies...

Ah. It's good to be a bloke.

Wednesday, 22 March 2006

Get A Move On

Yes, I'm sorry. I've not been around much, have I? It's not my fault.

I had to do some work away from the office last week, starting on Tuesday. It was supposed to be 1.5 days (2 at the max) stuck in a soulless building in soulless Hounslow, restoring a database onto a UNIX server.

It turned into 4 days (and several evenings, it felt like) of unmitigated hell.

But I'm not saying any more. I'm putting that subject behind me. Like toilet paper.

I've also been busy getting ready for the first rehearsal of the play I'm directing. Which was tonight. Yes, it went well, thanks for asking. Only another 10 weeks of rehearsals and we can put the show on for the delectation of the paying public. That'll be another week that I don't get any postings done!

So the occasion of my 2,000th visitor passes with nary a word, let alone a celebratory glass of Pomagne. Ne'er mind, eh? Maybe on the 3,000th.

Normal service will be resumed next time something pisses me off...

Oh, MaryB asked for the Worst Movie Remakes ever:

Perm any 1 from these 3:
  • The Ring (awful US remake of creepy Japanese original).
  • The Vanishing (awful US remake of scary Dutch original).
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice (awful US remake of excellent US original).

Thursday, 9 March 2006

You Know You're Spending Too Much Time On Your PC...

...When you only hear about a scandalous story from the family's past when you read about it (tantalisingly) on your own Mum's blog.

Monday, 6 March 2006

Ramble On

On a recent visit to Chertsey Musem I picked up a couple of leaflets entitled Runymede Rambles, published by Runymede Council. More recent research indicates that you can download the leaflets (though the quality is not as good as the original printed material).

So, this past Sunday, The Wife and I decided to do walk no. four. An easy 4 mile stroll around Ottershaw, Brox and Rowtown.

We started off in The Castle. Probably the best pub in the area (though I should keep that quiet, otherwise it'll get crowded and then we won't like it so much anymore!). Leaving the car in the car park at around 10.45am we planned to work up an appetite with our walk and return here for lunch before heading back home.

Pausing only to take pictures to document our adventure, we crossed the road and headed off down Brox Lane.

There are plenty of nice houses in the area - and some nicely extravagant price tags to go with them, no doubt. One day, one day, I'll be able to afford to live around here.

We headed down Brox Lane, past the thatched cottage and the private fishing lake where several men were cutting down trees and painting fishing jetties (or are they called 'landings'?).

The lane winds about before cresting a hill and looking out over acres of farmland. But even up here there were houses dotted about. It's a long old walk to the nearest bus-stop and the buses in our neck of the woods aren't too reliable, so you won't get about very easily from here if you don't have a car.

Trudging down the hill, past a mobile home park and some old farm buildings, brings us to Rowtown.

This is another leafy area and pretty area of the borough and we walked past the Bourne Valley garden centre, up the hill towards The Cricketers pub.

This is a pub that used to be quaint and snug many years ago, but last time I frequented it the place had been modernised and was full of families.

[Here's a hint for landlords, breweries and patrons alike: Pubs are for adults. Adults who like to drink and joke and swear and get away from kids. When you have children you have to make sacrifices and one of those sacrifices is having to avoid going into pubs with your brood! And anyway, what happened to the law which forbids children under 14 entering licensed premises - I don't remember it being revoked...] Rant over!

The footpath behind the pub took us across to Hare Hill Open Space (an awful name for a lovely patch of woodland and meadow), then across busy Murray Road and across some fields of horses and over another hill with a tiny copse of trees atop it.

From here the view is down across St. Peter's Way (leading to the M25) and over the office buildings (including EA's European HQ) to St. Peter's Hospital. Although, as you walk along the footpath the occupants certainly try to freak you out by staring at you in a most threatening manner...

A mad dash across the road (the local authority don't seem to have provided for pedestrians here - it's a terribly American state of affairs) takes us into Homewood Park. This is an area which used to be called Botley's Park, after the large palladian manor house whose grounds it once was. Then, before the war, St. Peter's Hospital was situated here. Now parts of the area have been re-landscaped and prestigious offices (including the one mentioned above) are set in a verdant parkland with streams, ponds and huge fir trees. It's all slightly artificial, but very nice nevertheless.

Skirting around the manor house brings us to Stonehill Road - the main road from Chobham to Chertsey if you don't want to negotiate traffic lights and roundabouts. This is what I see in my mind when I think of Surrey woodland. Although it's probably as artificial and managed as Homewood Park when you consider that most of the trees simply hide a prestigious golf and country club from the sight of those of us unable to afford membership!

A left-turn up Foxhills Road brings us to Ottershaw Memorial Fields - the start/end point of the walk if you're following the leaflet properly. Which we weren't.

We walked across the playing fields - being careful not to get involved in a game of football inadvertently - and entered the mature woods at the top of Ether Hill.

Down the other side of the hill, through some thick mature woodland and across Chobham Road. To our right was Ottershaw Chase; another ancient thicket of trees. Past more large houses (one named the Gatehouse was very charming indeed) and we plough on uphill, emerging at Christ Church on the top of Timber Hill.

Now we're on the home stretch. We crossed the road to the car-park and entered the woodlands down the hill, picking up the footpath back to Brox Road and our destination: The Castle.

With a warm welcome from John, the landlord, a pint of London Pride and some great food, it brought an enjoyable couple of hours walking to a hearty conclusion.

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

Bits 'n' Pieces

Too Quiet

Sorry I haven't been around much. We've been rehearsing a show; but it's not one that I'm allowed to mention in public because it's so rude that we can't have all-and-sundry turning up to be offended. So - sorry - unless I know that you've got a filthy mind I can't sell you a ticket.

My Mummy

She's not been well, bless her. But she's better now. She must be or she wouldn't be complaining that I never took her chicken soup. But now she's preparing for her stage debut at the weekend. This from a woman who said she'd never set foot on the stage, no way, not in a million years. Good luck!

Pointless Game

Here it is - the most pointless game on the Internet.
Found at Money Saving Expert.

EDIT: Oh, OK then. Here's an example of one of the songs we'll be singing this weekend. Please look away now if you're easily offended. Blame Mary and Allen otherwise! The words are ours; the tune will be recognisable if you've ever seen The Pirates of Penzance:

When a felon's not engaged in fornication,
Or fiddling with a fellow felon's bum,
He can while away the hours with masturbation,
But a policeman's knob is not a happy one.
We are hedged about with tiresome regulation
And uniform too thick to cop a grope;
Inside of which I'm stiff with agitation.
A policeman's knob is throbbing without hope.

Whilst pornographic folk are having fun, having fun
A policeman's knob is not a happy one (happy one).

When the enterprising burglar's not a-bonking,
When the cutthroat isn't occupied with clap,
He loves to be the centre of a threesome,
And thinks himself a lucky little chap.
When the coster's finished jumping on his sisters,
He likes to tan his scrotum in the sun.
And so my sad refrain it kinda lingers;
A policeman's knob is not a happy one.

Lyrics by Graham Botterill, Music by Gilbert (or is it Sullivan - I can never remember!)