Friday, 30 June 2017

Welsh Humour in Picture & Verse

There's a famous seaside place called Barry ' 
Thats noted for sand and for sun.
And thousands of 'valleys folk' flocked there. 
To join in the frolics and fun.

There's a lovely big beach and a fun fair 
And when the full seasons begun.
There's cockles and winkles and ice cream .
And laver bread sold by the tonne.

The trippers all make for 'The Island'.
( Which isn't surrounded by sea ).
While the visitors book for a guest-house.
For a week on full board (with high tea).

There are plenty of cafes and chip shops.
And amusment arcades in galore.
Gift shops and bingo and discoes.
And buses will take you on tour.

There's donkeys and deck-chairs and boat rides.
But nobody swims in the sea.
They say that it rots your bikini.
Because most of its second hand pee.

But mam has her lager at lunch time.
Dad his Allbright or S.A.
The kids drink a coke or a pepsi.
And seem to be eating all day.

You can play 'pitch and putt' in Porthkerry Park.
Or go for a walk to Cold Knap.
And see Barry Castle on top of the hill.
( From 1066 and all that ).

But things don't seem right in 'fun city'.
The 'laughing man's' wearing a frown.
And seeing the change in the people.
Is like seeing the tears of the clown.

The choirs of the Valleys are muted.
No coal wagons shunted around.
The old pit wheels are not turning.
And there's few other jobs to be found.

Soon the dust will be washed from the hillsides.
Grasses will clothe them in green.
The scars will be gentled by nature.
There'll be nothing to show what has been.

But what of the people who live there.
Shall we no longer hear their sweet song.
Like the churches and chapels and co-ops.
Will they disappear before long.

Barry is not really an island.
Nor the Valleys alone in their plight.
It's all Wales, all Britain, all Europe.
Its the whole of the planet in plight. 

-And who may we turn to for guidance.
Religion it seems is in doubt.
They keep killing each other in thousands.
In the name of 'Our God' they all shout. 

And what of the maharishis and yogi.
The sects from the east or the west.
They claim they can teach us "Enlightenment".
But first we must feather their nest.

So where are our great moral leaders.
Not many about you'll agree.
And the ones who preach loudest their principles.
Will ditch them real quick for a fee.

In truth we must all pull together.
Be tolerant, patient and care.
Or we'll always have discord and trouble.
If we don't seem to get a fair share. 

But this world has no time for such talk.
Grab all you can seems the ploy.
So the rich rob the poor without thinking.
And only to buy some new toy.

They've sold off the family silver.
Exported our jobs and our skills.
Sold most of the oil from the North Sea.
There's not much to sell but the hills.

Our mineral wealth has been squandered.
Assetts that belonged to us all.
Have all been sold off in the 'share out'.
That wasn't a share out at all.

Yes the new robber barons are with us.
Despoiling our lives with their greed.
Captains of industry we call them.
Fat cats, financiers or such like all practice their "Mafia creed".

How soon shall mankind be kind man.
To bring back some hope to the place
And instead of greed and of meanness.
Lets work for the whole human race.

It seems a tall order to start on.
But will come if we all play our part.
And the guide that we need to achieve it ?
Well of course its right there in your heart.

Then joy will return to the Valleys.
The choirs will resume their refrain.
And lets hope they come back to Barry.
And pray its not raining ... again!

Ewe'll find a welcome in the skip-side

Monday, 26 June 2017

Update: new look Usky

Had an appointment at the hospital again today; they removed the 'temporary' cast and dressing to check the wound, redressed the area and wrapped me in a new cast...

New Cast
Rather a fetching shade of blue don't you think? Sorry I couldn't actually show you my thumb, it was too hard to get it in shot since I was using it to help balance my new Canon G9 X.

So this is how I'll look for the next couple of weeks... well no, not exactly, I will of course be changing my shirt!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Jostaberry fruit - yummy, but beware!

We've been trying to cultivate a Jostaberry bush for a couple of years now and although we get plenty of growth we haven't achieved much fruit until now. This summer one side of the bush has successfully produced berries while the other has none at all... very strange!

For those who don't know the plant, the Jostaberry is a complex-cross fruit bush in the Ribes genus, involving three original species, the black currant R. nigrum, the North American coastal black gooseberry R. divaricatum, and the European gooseberry. I'd heard of these and thought the idea sounded interesting so when I saw a small plant at the local garden centre I thought we'd give it a go. Well let me tell you I'm glad we did because the fruit are simply splendid!

Jostaberry Fruits
Rich in Vitamin C the berries are smaller than a gooseberry and larger than a blackcurrant. Flavour wise they tend to favour European gooseberries when under ripe, but are very much like blackcurrants once fully ripened. The birds love them and so do I.

Something I've just recently found out, which I don't remember seeing in any brochure or gardening website... a handful of jostaberry fruit makes an excellent laxative! 😮

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Father's Day

Today is Father's Day here in the UK, so I expect to be treated to all kinds of nice tidbits and waited on hand, foot and finger... yeah right! 😆

It's not going to happen because my one and only daughter is miles away at university doing the education thing and can't be here. At my age I'm way past the days of disappointment, it suffices me to know she spares me a thought now and again. 😉

Were I the parent of small children, or grandparent to small children come to that, I might well spend some part of today rescuing this little beauty from life in a skip and putting it back into commission.

Dumped Kiddie Car
Kiddie cars never looked like this when I was an ankle-biter, no indeed children's pedal cars were far more boxy and a lot less flash looking. With a little tender loving care I'll bet this sporty little number would soon be haring along the pavement with some giggling brat behind the wheel attracting the attention of her/his peer group, leaving them swooning in the kicked-up dust. 😆

So anyway, to all the other Dads out there:

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Update: surgery one week on

It's a week now since I had the trapeziectomy on my right hand and I have to say thus far it feels like the surgery was a great success. I have far more use in the hand than I had been led to believe and am, thankfully, pretty much pain free despite having now halved my prescribed pain relief.

Am I pleased with my progress? Yes I most certainly am. I'm much further forward than I expected to be at this stage.

I'll be returning to the hospital on Monday 26th June to have the initial plaster cast removed and to have the hand/wrist redressed. I'm expecting this to be my next real milestone since I'm not sure quite what to expect in the way of a new 'dressing.'

You shall not waste!

There are some wonderful flowers on our courgette plants this year...

Courgette Flowers

Courgette Flowers
Really must make more of an effort to use them instead of letting them go to waste. Never tried stuffing courgette flowers myself, but I think now might be a good time to start. 😉

Friday, 16 June 2017

Campanula revisited

I was having a look at the capabilities of my Canon PowerShot G9 X yesterday and was somewhat disappointed with the results... disappointed in my inabilities that is, not necessarily the camera's. Having had another play this morning I'd have to say I'm rather happier.

Campanula Flowers
There's still room for improvement of course and I will be practising more in the future, but right now I'm about to be glued to the TV to watch the All Blacks v Samoa game live from NZ. 😃

Thursday, 15 June 2017

More practice required!

It's been such a long time since I took any 'serious' black and white images I'd forgotten just how hard it is to get any real depth of greys...

Take these Campanula flowers for example. If what you want is a colour image, all you really need to do is wait for the time of day when the sun gives you reasonable light, set your camera to 'automatic' point it at the plant and press the shutter, as above. The result may not be the best photograph in the world, but it will be acceptable as a simple colour image. In the world of monochrome photography that doesn't quite work!

Campanula Blossoms
I wanted my black & white image to show a cluster of Campanula flowers. A shallow depth of field is important if you want the background to appear out of focus, which I have taken care of adequately. However to get really good results when photographing flowers in black & white you really need to get the light right, which I obviously failed to do today. There is not enough contrast between the flower heads and the stems. Also the composition of the shot is all wrong; the image is far too 'busy' to be of any use. As one of my school teachers used to say on a regular basis, "Not good enough boy, go back and do it again!"

I'll wait now until tomorrow morning to see whether I can capture a better image in natural light. If the lighting is still wrong or for some other reason I can't improve on today's effort I'll have to rig up a reflector to bounce light back around the flowers... no-one ever said photography was an 'instant' art, knowledge, technique, practice and patience are required.

Yummy, it's almost Tayberry time!

I'm a bit of a pig when it comes to summer soft fruits, but without doubt the Tayberry is one of my favourites... and the ones in my garden are ripening nicely.

First cultivated in Scotland the Tayberry is a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry. The fruit is sweeter, larger and more aromatic than that of the loganberry (also a blackberry and raspberry cross) and can be eaten raw or cooked.

My Tayberry bush is heavy with fruit; these berries are perfect when they are just turning purple and I am looking forward to bowls of sweet colourful berries served with rich vanilla ice-cream as an evening treat. 😋

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Sage: how do you use yours?

For me Sage is an indispensable culinary herb and not only when combined with onion to make a stuffing. We grow two varieties in our garden, Garden Sage (the common green leafed variety) and Purple Sage, which works wonderfully with pork.

Medically, I was well aware of the benefits of infused Sage when used as a gargle to treat coughs and sore throats, but I read recently that Sage had been used by the Ancient Egyptians as a fertility drug. Intrigued I decided to find out more.

The Greek physician Dioscorides reported the aqueous decoction of sage stopped bleeding of wounds and cleaned ulcers and sores. He is also listed as recommending Sage juice infused in warm water for hoarseness and coughs.

Sage leaves were used by medieval herbalists to externally treat sprains, swelling, ulcers, and bleeding. Sage was taken internally for rheumatism, excessive menstrual bleeding, and to dry up a mother's milk when nursing was stopped. Interestingly in the middle ages Sage was particularly noted for strengthening the nervous system, improving memory, and sharpening the senses.

To modern herbalists Sage is known for its natural antiseptic, preservative and bacteria-killing abilities in meat. Volatile oils (distilled from the blossoms) contain the phenolic flavonoids apigenin, diosmetin, and luteolin, plus volatile oils such as rosmarinic acid, which can be easily absorbed into the body. Medicinally used for muscle aches, rheumatism, and aromatherapy, these oils also contain ketones, including A- and B-thujone, which enhance mental clarity and upgrade memory, as evidenced by clinical tests comparing tests scores with and without the use of sage. This knowledge has been extremely useful in treating cognitive decline and patients suffering from Alzheimer's.

Sage Blossom
Further reading suggests Sage has been prized for its mental attributes for over 1,000 years. In fact a drink from Sage leaves, has been called the "Thinker's Tea" and is even supposed to ease depression. Given I am at the age when things come and go from memory more or less at will, perhaps it's time I started brewing the odd pot of Thinker's Tea for myself!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

On the way at last

I spent most of yesterday in Nevill Hall hospital, Abergavenny, where I had the first of my planned surgeries. Yesterday they worked on my right thumb/wrist and I'm happy to say all seems to have gone well enough. I'm home now of course and have a hard-shell cover with a bandage wrap over my right thumb and part of the wrist covering the area when the surgeon cut away the bone. I'd have to say it was an 'interesting' experience laying there wide awake while they worked. I watched some of the procedure, but admit to turning my head away when the boss started using a hammer and chisel to smash through the thickest part of the bone... it was bad enough just listening to that!

The recovery process has started now and hopefully in six months or so I'll be able to get my left hand fixed. All being well I'll be playing these again by this time next year. 😉

Strat and Tele must be feeling unloved

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Tilly's Wall

One of the local attractions Tilly likes to visit is the Roman city of Venta Silurium at Caerwent and since it is one of those places that drains quickly after wet weather it seemed like a good place to go for our morning walk today.

Much of the old city has been built on top of, but fortunately some of the ancient stonework has been revealed and the site has many interesting features including a rather impressive manor house with courtyards.

Manor House & Courtyards
You can get an idea of the scale of this building from the 4 bed-roomed cottage in the background. Obviously whoever lived here was a person of some standing. Several of the rooms still show the remains of the hypocaust.

Living-space Hyocaust
Venta Siluriu also features an early shopping mall, several smaller dwellings, a forum with adjacent basilica and a Romano Celtic temple.

The Basilica

The Forum
No-one seems to know who the temple was dedicated to although some think the original Roman construction was a Temple to Mars.

Temple of Mars?
Alternative thinking says the temple was really dedicated to the Celtic God Ocelus.

Temple of Ocelus?
Christian worship was certainly taking place here in the 3rd century, so it is possible the temple was dedicated to various deities over a period of time.

Perhaps the most impressive structure at Caerwent is the Roman city wall, much of which is still standing and can be walked around and along the top of.

Tilly's Wall
Given the number of mice, moles, rats and voles that live in and around the wall this is definitely Tilly's favourite part of the tour. With nothing to stop her running free she can sniff and explore to her heart's content.

City Wall adjacent the West Gate
The height of the wall varies, many of the original stones having been removed over the years to provide building materials for cottages and houses. It is a massive construction though with faced stone encapsulating a rough stone build some 2 to 3 metres wide at the base. One thing is certain, in its hey-day the city wall at Venta Silurium would have been far more impressive and indeed more formidable than it appears now.

City Wall looking towards the South Gate

Poppies gone wild

There's a railway embankment close to my home that has been festooned with thistles and wild poppies for the past couple of years.

This year however the wild flowers have been joined by a couple of self-seeded domesticated poppies.

They've taken a bit of a battering from the high winds and heavy rain of the last 48 hours, but are still doing their best to enhance what is essentially waste ground; aren't they lovely?

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Typical British Summer!

It's been horribly wet and windy here the last 24 hours or so and Tilly is less than impressed... she really does hate the wind and rain... consequently we haven't been out walking, or even outdoors other than for her to perform the necessary tasks. So given the weather I've been denied the opportunity to get outside and further explore the features of my new toy, but I have played around a little with it indoors. It's dry now though and the sun has broken through the clouds so we're off out and I hope to capture something interesting before the rain reappears. Before we leave and in true Blue Peter style, here's a little something I prepared earlier....

Arty Grass

Monday, 5 June 2017

Usky's indoor mountain

Many years ago, in an hour or two of abject boredom, I hacked away at an odd piece of wood in an effort to keep my idle hands from becoming the Devil's playthings. I had no initial concept of what I might create, but eventually decided my masterpiece might be a miniature wooden mountain... or at least a wood sculpted rock formation. This is what I came up with:

I was relatively pleased with it, so I kept it and my little sculpture has sat in the house ever since.

Nothing is ever left to just gather dust in this house, but I had no idea all those years ago that my singular decorative masterpiece would actually become useful!

Jewellery Holder

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Candy Striped

Saw these a couple of days ago and the colour of the red and white petals reminded me so much of the hard peppermint rock we used to get from the seaside shops here in the UK I simply had to photograph them. 

Back in the day the sticks of rock were white with a pink outer crust and the name of the seaside town would be written through the middle...

It seems these days single colour is a thing of the past... you can even get personalised rock with your name/logo in it and as for flavours, well how about 'Beer Flavour?' No, it doesn't appeal to me either!

Dog Roses

I thought it was appropriate to grab a few images of one of my favourite wild flowers while out walking the dog...

Dog Rose - rosa canina
 I've always found the humble Dog Rose attractive, I think because of their simple beauty.

Whether white or pink these little flowers always bring me pleasure and that's especially true of the 'in bud' form.

The stems can hide some vicious thorns, but the flowers pose no danger to the myriad of insects that visit on a daily basis.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Rusty Usky - a blast from the past?

People who know me well will appreciate my love for all things rusty... I have have taken literally hundreds of photographs of rusty items over the years, but none recently until today.

I knew the vivid colour blow-out feature on my new Canon G9 X would be useful for something!

An example of a Rusty Usky
I may have to use this feature exclusively for Rusty Usky shots from now on. XD

Friday, 2 June 2017

Just because they're there...

Chive Heads
...and just because I can 😛

I have a new toy

I'm going into hospital next Friday for surgery on my right hand; this will be the first of two sets of surgery to fix my thumbs. I could be incapacitated for months so I decided to give myself an incentive to speed my recovery... in the form a new pocket-sized camera. I'm certainly looking forward to the day when I can get a DSLR back in my hands, but until then I'll be using this:

This dinky little chap is a Canon G9 X. It's not the latest in Canon's stable by any means, but when it comes to pocket-cameras it is certainly one of the most versatile and best.

The various available modes will allow me to shoot in fully automatic, semi-automatic, programmed and fully manual modes, as well as shooting high-quality 1080p full HD video for those occasions when only moving images will do.

There's a lot of technology in this little package and I expect to have a lot of fun with it. 😉