Blog, Photography, Travel

France, explained in panos

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A couple of weeks ago I got back from a road trip through France. A road trip sounds terribly exciting, doesn’t it? Think Sal Paradise in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road; beat generation, young and free, blasting down some long, straight highway shimmering in the midday heat. The top of your 1969 Mustang down, cool rock music blasting from the speakers.The destination? Who cares, it’s all about the journey. Experiencing life at its raw edge; pushing the boundaries and teetering between glorious discovery and stupidity: the very definition of living.
Fast forward to the 21st century, where cars are made mostly of plastic and while we now have air con (delicious air con!) we also have congestion, sky high petrol prices, a worthless economy, overflowing car parks, service stations rammed with cheap plastic chairs, angry overweight people, horrible toilets and confusing coffee machines, congestion, that special kind of rage only summoned by an apparently mutinying sat-nav, congestion, and did I mention the sky high petrol prices. The trip to France was a bit of a reality check for me in this sense. I think I was born in the wrong era, or perhaps I’m just a pessimist with high expectations. Is that an oxymoron? Wait, I don’t even care.
Alas, there was no journey of self discovery or late night campfire societal epiphanies. There weren’t even any camp fires. We did, however, spend the trip camping in our mighty Eurohike Avon DLX (not a promotional plug, just highlighting the funny name), camping being both amazing and terrible. Part of me loves the camping life, nature being only a flimsy door zip away, but my body doesn’t love the shoulder-crumpling sleeps, I’m not a fan of the sudden fear of bears (and, yes, there are bears in the Pyrenees) and nor do I like having an ant infestation in my porch. I’m not kidding, the bastards took my apple pie! Still, we timed it very well because the weather was perfect – cool enough to sleep at night but quickly getting hot during the day. And by hot I mean it was 37 degrees on some days. Camping in early September in the UK is often a different story – gale force winds and frost not being out of the question. Nonetheless French campsites are generally very pleasant; two we found were amazing (one in a pine forest and the other on the top of a hill in the Pyrenees), two were a bit shit and the rest were nice. Win some, lose some I suppose. I have to say, the Hossegor area is phenomenal. It’s a sublime mixture of pine forests and some 200 kilometres of golden sandy beaches. Now we’re talking! I also enjoyed the cheap beer in France. That doesn’t exist in the UK anymore. Hello, inflation.
So I guess the trip was about experiencing nature, which is what I love to do anyway. I may have learned that France is probably not the place for me, but it’s good to find out what you like and don’t like, arriving at your ideal destination by a process of elimination.
The next trip? I’m not telling you. It’s a secret.





February Photos

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This month I give you a little photoset. I love daffodils. They’re the cheeriest of all the plants, bobbing away in the spring breeze (or, well, perhaps gale force winds if you live in the South West) and they’re tough, too, surviving even the chilliest of frosts. I learned, though, that it’s quite hard to take photos of my jolly yellow friends, not because they refrain from keeping still (they do) but because it’s difficult to capture their colour properly. My pink orchid decided to flower for the first time in years and it’s looking delightful, if I may say so myself. Here again it’s amazingly difficult to capture its true pink on camera, so I challenged myself and my partner in crime (also a keen amateur photographist) to take a photo of it. The last time it flowered, back in 1987, I really struggled to get anywhere near the true pink but this time I think I nailed it, both the daffodil and the orchid. It’s a nice feeling to see, literally, how you’ve progressed.

The sun finally came out and it dissolved us all, our pale skin unable to cope and our tiny mole eyes blinded. Actually it was magnificent, and at the weekend we insisted on being outside all day in spite of the almost sub-zero temperatures. And when I say sub zero I actually mean about 7 degrees, which is cold enough if you ask me.








Further To My Post…

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I take back what I said last week about there being nothing to photograph except wet leaves. The universe must have read my article because the very next day I looked out my window to see a thick autumn fog looking back. I grabbed my camera and rushed up to the moor before even having breakfast. I needn’t have rushed, though, because the fog hung around for another three or four days. Regardless, it was quite amazing to wander around in the heavy silence; a couple of joggers and dog walkers emerged from the mist – I heard them approach long before I saw them – but other than that there wasn’t a soul around. It was interesting taking photos of stuff shrouded in stratus cloud, what with all the whiteness everywhere, and I don’t have much to show for it, but, hey, here’s my attempt at fog photography.
In other news, a wet storm this morning blew away my hopes and dreams of some crisp autumn scenery this weekend (again), and my mum is getting fed up of me writing ‘snakes’ on her shopping list.



Blog, Culture, Photography

Gourd Artist

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Happy autumn, my friends! I wanted to get out and take some photos of beautiful, crisp autumn scenery this weekend but it’s been raining all week and the only thing to take photos of is a heavy grey sky and wet leaves. And who wants to see photos of wet leaves? I hate wet leaves. They’re slippery and they stick to your shoe and if you kick a pile of them you’ll regret it.
I’m being a halloween scrooge this year, not participating in any festivities – I haven’t even purchased a pumpkin to deface! Which is probably an attitude quite common among the wider public but doesn’t sit well with my philosophy for celebrating every season and occasion. Oh well. If you don’t feel like celebrating then I suppose that’s fine – no one should force themselves to carve triangle eyes and a half moon mouth into a vegetable, especially when secret gourd artists suddenly appear all over facebook revealing their pumpkin rendition of Bruce Willis in Die Hard 2. Quite frankly it’s wasteful. Poor pumpkins.
Well anyway, I’ve learned to appreciate autumn (in spite of halloween). I wouldn’t like to live in a place without seasons, and I think we in the UK forget how beautiful our little island is and how amazing our spring and autumns are. Permanent summer would be boring, so with that logic one must appreciate the season even when it gets dark at five in the afternoon and wet leaves get stuck to your shoe.

It feels wrong to post a post without including any photos, so here are a couple I took earlier in the month before the rain came. If you’re feeling the autumn blues I highly recommend getting out for a walk in the countryside. Even if it’s raining! Nature always makes me feel better, plus I’m fortunate enough to live in the Westcountry – a beautiful place to experience autumn.



Culture, Photography

A Complaint About August

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What the hell happened to August? And why are we tricked every year – by ‘them,’ whoever they are; the combine; the machine; the turner of the hamster wheel – into thinking it’s going to be ‘the hottest August on record’. Perhaps more importantly, why do we fall for it every time? It starts off on BBC Radio 4, I reckon, where the stuffy BBC elite decide it will be fun to  trick us common folk who can’t afford a holiday to Gibraltar or Dubai or wherever the hell they go on their summer holidays. “It’s going to be the hottest August on record” they snigger live on air, “be sure to book your camping holiday in Cornwall”.
The ‘wettest August on record’ would have been more fitting and I think I speak for most of us here when I say we’ve been throughly let down by the weather-makers and, dare I say it, by BBC Radio 4.

Besides, even when they predict the ‘hottest August on record’, the South West is in some sort of good weather exclusion zone where it never, ever, gets above 19 degrees. Us lot down here, then, should exercise extra caution about falling for the annual good weather false hope conspiracy.

Anyway, during the two or three hours of nice weather this month I managed to get some decent snaps. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about photography – actually, it’s pretty much the only thing I’ve learned about photography – it’s that if you see a shot, RUN for your camera. And I mean RUN, because for some reason nice shots don’t hang about for long. That, and it’s kind of fun to suddenly sprint somewhere – appearing to everyone else like a magnificent blur.

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The moon at midday (well, just after 11.00)