Category Archives: Life

Default category and posts where I just talk about life in general

Slowing Down Time

So it’s 2016, which is as much a surprise to me as it is to anyone.  Where does the time go?  A few years ago now, David Gemmell told me about a friend of his, an elderly gentleman, who suggested that we feel time passing more quickly as we age, because we experience less new stuff each day.  As children, everything around us is new, or we’re doing new things, exploring and discovering new knowledge.  As we age, in general, our days are filled with very similar things, and there’s little new or surprising in each of them.  So our experience of time is based on the density of our memories for any given period.  More memories of different things and the passage of time feels slow, fewer memories and the passage of time feels quick.  The aim then, is to keep doing new things, discovering new things, experiencing new things, and thus, slow down the passage of time.

I don’t know how true it is, but I don’t see the harm in trying.

I pay lip service to new years resolutions usually, if I go that far, and although I’d like to think this year is different it probably won’t be.  However, even in the face of obvious failure it’s usually still worth having a shot, so here are my new years resolutions for 2016.

  • Drink more.
  • Eat more.
  • Photograph more.
  • Watch more films.
  • Be happier.

I know that being happy is not really something you can choose (others might disagree), but you can take steps to increase the chance of it working that way – if you have the energy (there’s the kicker).  I don’t drink much alcohol any more, partly because we’re not in the situation where alcohol is often consumed very often, and partly because of the diabetes.  There’s a lot of sugar in beer, and alcohol screws with your blood sugar on top.  However, I do like a bit of whiskey and people keep buying it for me.  So I really should drink it.  I resolve, within reason and within sensible measures, to drink the whiskey I have in the cupboard and to bloody enjoy it.

I already eat too much so the second one might seem odd, but I tend to eat too much low quality food.  What I want to do, is eat too much high quality food (or, a more sensible amount of high quality food, as an alternative).  I want to eat more exciting things and less boring things.

I’ve struggled with getting out to take photographs in the last few months.  Part of this is because my sister died in the latter part of 2015, after a short and devastating battle with cancer.  I was on the road a lot visiting her, and while my battle wasn’t anywhere near as hard as hers (clearly), I pretty much expended all of my energy and had nothing left over.  Most of that travelling took place at weekends, which was the only time I really had for photography, so it took a back seat.  Then Christmas was upon us faster than we could imagine, we had a lot of work to do helping Greté’s mum and step-dad move house, and now it’s the new year.  So, in 2016, I will take more photographs (and I will try and be less negative about the output).

I love films, I should watch more of them.  I will watch more of them.  You can’t stop me!

Part of being happier means expressing myself again, writing, and that means blog posts.  I like writing them, because they help me understand how I feel, even when they’re about nothing more than how my day has gone.  So, I intend to overhaul the blog, replace the template with something a) cleaner, b) less black, and c) easier to maintain.  And I intend to blog, to alleviate stress, to ramble, to solidify my thoughts and to share (maybe) my photographs.

Here’s a funny picture of some cats.

Street Photography

So to my great surprise, I seem to enjoy ‘street photography’ more than the other kinds of photography I’ve tried over the last few years.  I’ll be the first to admit however that much of my street photography is ‘photographs taken in the street’, rather than the more classic street photography.  By that I mean, the form is really about capturing ‘decisive moments’ in a candid way, usually at quite short focal lengths.

At the moment, I tend to use longer focal lengths, and often my results are more candid street portraits than actual street photography.

Despite that, and with all the respect due to the real tradition, I’m enjoy what I do none-the-less, and over time hope to improve my confidence, and my technical ability, to switch to shorter focal lengths and capture more moments rather than interesting faces.

When I bought a DSLR, I really thought I’d be spending my time shooting pictures of animals and wild life, and early on, I did that.  However, wild life photography (good wild life photography) requires a large investment of time, spent waiting, watching, and planning for the moment in which to capture the animal.  Taking a thousand pictures of swans, however beautiful they are, isn’t in the long term wild life photography.  As such, I haven’t invested the time, or found a place in which I want to invest the time, to carry out high quality wild life photography.

Landscape photography is as time intensive as wild life photography, and certainly requires just as much planning.  Taking an occasional picture of a stream, and capturing a brilliant image of a landscape are two different things, and the latter requires a lot of planning, preparation and timing to get the right light and the right shot.

Portrait and event photography both interest me, probably for the same root reason as street photography – they’re about people and I find people fascinating.  However, I don’t have the confidence yet to take portraits and I don’t have the opportunity to take shoot many events (although I take the chance whenever I can).

So I’ve found the immediacy and unpredictable nature of street photography to be the most engaging activity I’ve been involved in since getting the camera.  I love looking at the pictures and finding hidden gems of human behaviour that might not have been obvious at the moment I pressed the shutter button (see the guy on the left in this picture, https://www.flickr.com/photos/eightbittony/19423003901).  I love seeing the emotions of people’s faces, and I love building a narrative that may or may not be real based on the instant the picture was taken.

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that truth is based on your perception at the time, and street photography really encompasses that philosophy for me.

Hopefully my confidence will increase, and I’ll get better at shooting at short focal lengths.  I’m not going to stop trying to improve at wild life, landscape, event, sport, portrait and the other forms of photography of course, it’s just that street photography is both accessible at any time, and more thrilling so far than anything else I’ve tried.

MCM London Comic Con – 2013 – My experience

In 2013, I started writing a blog post about my experience going to the MCM London Comic Con 2013 in May.  However, I started it in such a way that it took far too much effort to finish, and hence it languished here in my drafts folder.  Rather then let it rot, I’m just posting it as-is, without any additional editing.  It’s all over the place, out of sync in terms of timelines, and a bizarre mix of narrative styles.  I make no apologies (except for this one).


The quality of the light outside has changed.  Gone is the pitch dark of night, replaced by an ever hopeful dawn glow.  The much promised sunrise is not far away now, and the birds are all poised, ready, waiting.  Two cats begin to stir; confident another day will begin much like all the rest.

But this is no ordinary dawn, this is will be no ordinary day, and 20 minutes before the sun rises properly the silence is shattered by an alarm clock.  Harsh, electronic, loud.  From beneath the duvet, hidden from the cold of the previous evening, a hand snakes out.  It would be easy, once the noise has stopped, to pretend it had never started.  To hide, to retreat, to leave the dawn to the cats and the birds.  So very easy.  On any other day perhaps.  On a week day, or a normal weekend, at 7:00 maybe, to wait for another 10 minutes before the alarm goes off a second time.

But not this day.  After the hand, an arm, and following the arm, a torso, and before you know it, an entire person has crawled out from beneath the duvet’s warm refuge.  Blinking in the dim, but increasingly confident dawn light, barely able to make out the digits on the alarm clock, the voice that belongs to the face, that is attached to the body, which has just emerged, croaks out, “Four thirty, time to get up.”

Silence.  A pause, a breath to speak again, but just then, a response, “okay”, voice muffled by the same duvet, another person speaks out.  Another arm, some legs and then another entire person escapes from the captivating duvet.

It’s 04:30, and our trip to Comic Con is about to begin.

I’ve never been to a comic, movie or anime convention before.  I’ve been to a board game convention, but it was a while ago, and it was quite small.  I see pictures of the San Diego Comic Con or DragonCon each year and suffer pangs of jealousy.

So I was happy to go with Greté to this years MCM London Comic Con (2013), to see what all the fuss was about, and maybe take some photo’s of people in impressive costume.  Overall, it was a mixed experience, enjoyable, but with other emotions smushed in.  Here’s how it played out!

Firstly, the actual tickets are very reasonably priced, we wanted to go only for Saturday, since we couldn’t stay over anywhere, and the only real things we had on the agenda were a chance to see Mark Meer (the voice of Commander Shepard, among other things) and for Greté to meet Emma Vieceli (illustrator of the Vampire Academy graphic novels, among other things).  However, in terms of cost, the actual event tickets are the minor part.  The travel (train) was £140 for the pair of us, despite booking around 6 weeks in advance.  Some of that is because we wanted to be able to go early, and come back any time we liked without being tied to a specific train.  Our tickets also included all travel across London.  Still, that’s a fair whack for a day out.  The other issue, and this is something you can mitigate if you plan better than I did, was food and drink.  We were in London all day, and either in the convention or in train stations, let’s say that just ‘having a bite to eat’ was a rather expensive process.

The sun eventually rises.  The cats have been fed and are clearly confused, it’s too early for them to even beg to go out, so they put themselves back to bed, oblivious to the fact that they’ll be indoors all day.  Bags are packed and ready.  Two sets of tickets (self printed at home, two sets in case one set is lost), train tickets, portable pharmacy, cameras, extra batteries, a kindle.

The streets are empty, it’s 05:20 and no human in their right mind is out wandering this early on a Saturday morning.  The sun has risen, and the sky promises a dry and bright day.  We stop at the road before crossing, a habit, a good one, but wasted this early.  There are no cars, I wonder briefly if I am in Shaun of the Dead.  There is anticipation now, a definite sense of something about to happen.

Early entry tickets allowed you to gain entry from 9am, two hours before the general opening times.  We had to get from St Pancras to the Excel by tube.  Greté doesn’t like the tube, I hate being in a rush, and we didn’t want to get stuck in a huge queue at the event – and that meant only one thing.

05:35 train to London!

So we got up at 04:30, put on our favourite genre t-shirts (no costume for us, this year at least, because 6 weeks isn’t enough time to do anything justice), and headed south.  The train was almost empty (although there were more people on it than I thought there’d be) and we arrived on time, in London at around 07:30.  We grabbed some (expensive) breakfast, and got the tube and DLR over to the Excel.  We saw one person on the tube we hoped was in-costume (otherwise her working day must be exciting), and by the time we got onto the DLR it was clear we were going the right way.  Our carriage was shared with some anime characters and at least one superhero.

Once we arrived the Excel station, it was obvious we were going the right way as a sea of humanity, heroes, comic book characters, computer game characters, movie heroes and who-knows-what-else slowly streamed in to the Excel halls.  We followed the crowds, had our tickets scanned, and stood in a designated row of people, near the entrance.  We’d made it, in good time (~08:30), and were near the front of the queue.  A steady stream of people followed us in, and as time wore on, that became a flood.  I’m glad we made the choice to head out early.


 

Added today: We queued for a while, we finally got in.  We met up with friends.  We spent so much of the day walking around that I litterally had to go and see the doctor a week later because my little toe on the my left foot was still numb.  I took a lot of pictures, some of them were even okay ( https://www.flickr.com/photos/eightbittony/sets/72157635466091441/ ).  It was fun, but very hard work, and although I’m not sure I’d look good in *any* costume, I think if I go again, I might make the effort.

A year behind the wheel

I thought I’d come along and write a witty and insightful post about what it’s been like driving for almost a year now.  But when I got here, to this blank white box I find I don’t have much to say, and what I can think of saying isn’t that funny.

My first driving lesson was on the 8th May 2013 (http://perceptionistruth.com/2013/05/fear-of-4-wheels-part-1/) and I passed my test on August 14th 2013 (http://perceptionistruth.com/2013/08/fear-of-4-wheels-part-18-the-end/).  Since passing my test it’s been okay.

I’ve done a lot of driving since then.  I did all the driving over the Christmas period (we travel a long way to see our folks), I’ve driven to work most days, and if myself and Greté are going somewhere, I drive for the most part.  I think she’s probably driven about 10 times since I passed my test if we’re both in the car (obviously, she drives when I’m not in the car).  So in that respect, it’s been very successful, after a long time being the designated and only driver, Greté is getting some time off.

As well as that, I’ve been able to nip out in the car and take photographs, or go shopping, or take stuff to the local recycling centre when in the past it would have meant both of us going, or both of us deciding not to bother, so it’s definitely ‘freeing’ in that sense.

One thing I haven’t done yet is any long trips on my own; no motorway driving on my own either, and the time is fast approaching where that will have to change.  I should imagine it’ll be pretty hairy the first few times, but I’ll get over it.

I don’t feel like life has changed dramatically since I passed my test, but a lot of things are just a bit easier, or a bit more convenient.  I’m just still pleased that I can get Greté where ever she needs to be, whenever she needs to be there.

A Month Behind the Wheel

It’s a month since I passed my driving test.  Four weeks of legally being allowed to drive anywhere I want on my own.  Overall it’s been very successful, including being able to pick Greté up from the railway station after midnight and a long train ride from London.  It might not seem like much, but to me, it’s priceless knowing I could get there and get her home safely.

In general the actual driving is still hit and miss.  Some trips are great, some aren’t so great.  I drove to Twycross Zoo and back on Saturday and the whole journey was brilliant, confident, smooth and safe.  Some mornings the drive to work feels like I’ve only had 1 lesson and driving is some alien skill I’ll never acquire.

Oddly, I seem to drive better in my walking boots, despite having almost no tactile feedback from the pedals because the boots are massive and rigid, than I do in my regular boots in which I can feel the pedals much more closely.  I was sure it would be the other way around, perhaps it’s related to thinking about it all too much.

Sometimes I think the person behind me must be incredulous at the lack of skill I display, and then I try and remember that I hardly ever analyse the skill of the driver in front of me.  With L plates, you just assume the driver behind is cursing the bloody learner, but without the L plates I’m not sure anyone even notices the mistakes.

Eventually, people assure me, it’ll all just fade into the background and driving will be like everything else, just something you do without thinking about too much.

But those folk don’t realise how much I think about everything I do …

Pointing and Shooting for 32 years (warning – photo heavy)

I had a camera when I was a kid, or maybe I borrowed my mum’s or sister’s camera, I’m not sure.  I know that it used 110 film though, because that I remember very well.    At some point, we changed to a 35mm instant camera, and I remember finding the film depressingly complex compared to the 110, and blew a few trying to wind it onto the spools and failing (before any of that stuff was automated).

I enjoyed taking photographs, and remember one school trip to Warkworth Castle, or maybe it was somewhere in York, when I took lots of photographs, mainly of ducks.  One teacher had words with me, about wasting film on ducks, but I quite liked the idea of taking some wild life shots.

Continue reading Pointing and Shooting for 32 years (warning – photo heavy)

No Fear of 4 Wheels

I’ve been allowed to drive now, on my own, for 6 and a bit days, and I’ve done plenty of it.  I’ve driven myself to and from work (alone) a few times, driven to Tesco’s to pick up food, and done a lengthy trip back from Tamworth (with Greté in the car).  We also did a short section of M1 on the Tamworth drive on Saturday, and then J25 to J28 on the M1 and back on Sunday going to Alfreton.

Driving on my own wasn’t as weird as I expected it to be, or as scary as other folk suggested it might be.  I didn’t really feel nervous about it because I was already comfortable driving with Greté along (rather than my instructor), and it never felt like she was overseeing or watching my driving (although she was obviously aware of the road conditions).

It did feel very strange at work however, knowing that I could leave whenever I wanted without having to either wait for someone else or make someone else late.  That felt pretty damn good.  I’m also now officially a member of the ‘where the hell did I park my car this morning in that massive car park while I was half asleep’ club.

The motorway driving was a mixed bag, I’d already done some stretches of A road with 3 lanes at 70, but 4 lanes on the M1 was a little daunting.  To add to the excitement, while I was travelling at 70mph in the 3rd lane overtaking some stuff, someone undertook me.  Someone else sat on my shoulder while I was approaching a lorry (I was in the 2nd hand lane already), and despite my indication and speed changes they seemed intent on remaining glued to me, so I just had to move over and let them worry about it.  Lastly, we had a car towing a caravan make a very abrupt lane change a few cars ahead of us, and then slowly swerve across several lanes for half a mile while it corrected itself.

The drive back down the M1 was less eventful!

I wouldn’t say I was happy with how I’ve driven short journeys, and I definitely feel longer trips give me a chance to ‘warm up’.  Hopefully as I drive more and more though it’ll get smoother and easier.  I’m still too fast on some roundabouts, too slow starting from stopped, and prone to stalling when under pressure.  I’ll get there.

I wouldn’t say I feel some massive sense of liberation, or some huge feeling of freedom.  I do feel some increase in freedom, and definite feeling of being more liberated in terms of when and where I can go.  For me though, the most obvious sensations are relief, that I can help Greté out with driving duties, and an actual feeling of pleasure when I drive.  I like driving.

Fear of 4 Wheels – Part 18 – The End

IMAG0378I had my first ever driving lesson, and my first go behind the wheel of a car, on May 8th 2013.  Today, August 14th 2013 I passed my practical driving exam (at the age of 42), and am now allowed to drive a car on my own, including on the motorway.

Twenty six hours of formal lessons (mostly 2 hours at a time), over 16 weeks.  Don’t let anyone tell you that getting older means you can’t learn to do something new, or that it’s going to take much longer to learn to do it.

But if you are going to learn to drive, get insured in someone’s car (partner, parents, friends), and get out as much as you can between lessons.  In lessons, you want to be focussing on the high level stuff like handling traffic, manoeuvres, anticipation, planning, etc.  You don’t want to be worrying about what your feet and hands are doing with the actual controls – you want muscle memory doing that as quickly as possible, and that’s what practice outside of lessons will give you.  I drove almost every day between lessons, certainly as often as I could, because I have a patient and understanding wife who gave me all the support I needed.

I won’t insult people and say ‘if I can do it, anyone can’, because I hate that phrase.  But if you’re thinking of learning to drive but you’re worried you’ve left it too late – don’t worry, give it a shot, I’m glad I did.

I drove to work and back today, without L plates, and it felt pretty good.  The drive home was rubbish of course, crunched the gears, stalled it once, and then stalled three times trying to put the car on the drive.  In all the time I’ve been learning, I’ve only stalled once getting the car on the drive.  Typical – but I don’t care, all that matters now is that I remain safe and considerate on the road and that my skill level can only increase going forward.

It’s been fun, terrifying, hard work, I hated the hours before the lessons, enjoyed the lessons for the most part, and then felt like an idiot for the hours after them, but it’s all over, and with luck, I’ll never have to do it again.

If you’re learning, or thinking of learning, good luck, try and enjoy it, and I’ll see you on the roads.

Fear of 4 Wheels – Part 17

In part 16 I wrote this, “I can drive.  I really can”.  In the lesson after that one, I proved to myself that actually, I couldn’t drive.  It was rubbish again.  I won’t list the full litany of mistakes, but let’s just say that it sucked.  I was over it by the following Thursday morning though, and with my nephew due to visit a few days after the lesson (i.e. for all of last week), I didn’t have time to dwell on it.

At the start of this week I drove to the station to collect my nephew, and drove home with him in the car.  That was freaky, seeing someone in the rear view mirror for the first time – every time I checked all I could see was his head, a fresh and startling reminder of his presence.

Then I had a lesson on the Wednesday, and it went really well overall.  There was a minor incident where I basically went through an amber light, then decided to stop, then decided it was too late, and then pulled away, but hey, who doesn’t do that.

The highlight of the week in terms of the car though, was driving back from Chester zoo (A roads only of course).  It should be a 2 hour drive, but the traffic was heavy for quite some time after leaving the zoo, so it took more like 2 hours 30 minutes.  That’s the longest I’ve driven in one go, even the lessons are only 2 hours, so it was a good test, and other than some roundabouts I probably took too quickly, it was a safe drive all the way.

My nephew managed to sleep for most of it, so it can’t have been that scary.

And so today is Tuesday, and tomorrow is Wednesday the 14th August.  Which means tomorrow is my driving test.

One more hour with the instructor, before the lesson, and then 40 minutes of pure terror, followed by either cheering or sobbing.

Whatever happens, it’s been an interesting journey to get to this point.  I’m sure I’ll post an update to Facebook or Twitter when I find out the result of the test.  See you all on the other side.

Pond – day 2

We popped to the local garden centre, marking us officially as ‘getting on a bit’, and bought some plants for the pond.  As it turns out, I think we bought marginals which are too big – I suspect the soil is going to wash away and they’ll die.  However, this kind of thing is a learning process, so we’ll see how it goes.

Here’s how it looks with a few pebbles and the new plants.

Close-up of pondPond with plants

Hopefully overnight the soil will settle and we’ll get to see how it looks without the water being a murky brown (moments before it goes murky green and fills with algae).

We also bought some ‘succulents’ for the house, in homage to our parents and grandparents who always seemed to have cacti around the house.

Like a rose Little bubbles Slightly purple Small hedge Like a fern

They look quite nice on the window sill, next to the orchid.

Lined up