Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What? Another year gone?

Here we are at the end of 2008, marked, as every year, by Savannah’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Sugar).

As well as the usual births, deaths, marriages and haircuts, the past 12 months has seen quite major changes in the lives of some of the bloggers who frequent this place:

Pat completed her book by instalments via her blog and is now compiling and editing it into shape suitable for publication.

Mary has moved to yet another country to become a new Resident Alien, with yet another language and culture to adapt to.

Eryl has followed her passion and is doing her post-grad degree in creative writing.

Charlie is still alive, much to everyone’s amazement, including his own. However, he still hasn’t got his book ready for buying yet, which I really would like to read while there’s still a chance I can tell him what I think of it.

Hangar Queen had the final op and is now the woman she always knew she was.

Tom has taken his video business in a direction that he finds infinitely more creative and rewarding.

FLG is over 80lbs lighter than he was this time last year, and is becoming an inspiration to many.

A few bloggers have drifted away, stopped blogging or found more interesting things to do with their lives, while others now use Facebook as their primary form of Internet Socialising.

My personal achievements this past year include major leaps forward with my photography; a gradual letting go of the idea that somehow I have to personally save the universe; and probably the biggest accomplishment of all – I managed to get a Christmas Present for Maggie that a) was a surprise and b) she was delighted with (I’ve always told her she can either have one or the other, but not both).

2009 promises to be a year of great potential as Maggie continues to grow in skill and acclaim for her artwork; we are going to see if we can get to Nova Scotia, Canada, to put on an exhibition; and I have my mind slowly focusing on setting up a part time photography business.

There are fears and worries aplenty, but I’m determined to ignore them for at least a few more days.

May 2009 be more fun, more interesting and more rewarding for you than 2008.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Damage Limitation

I hope everyone has survived Feastmas more or less intact!

I've been asked to Guest Blog over at MizFit. I guess it must have been because of my understanding of fighting the multiple reasons I yearn to over-eat, rather than any expertise in exercise and fitness (hahahahahaha).

My approach in this season of Xcessmas is one of Damage Limitation - I know I'm going to over indulge, but if I eat healthily at every other opportunity, and only indulge on the food I love, rather than any old thing just because it happens to be there, then the physical damage will be limited by the time we crawl into January.

So if I only put on 5lbs instead of 10lbs, then I can see this as an achievement, rather than a reason to beat myself up, feel depressed and eat even more to comfort myself (the overeating cycle familiar to anyone who uses food as their main drug of choice).

So if you'd like to follow my thoughts, or even contribute your own, do pop over to see MizFit and leave a comment on the post Damage Limitation:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Festivities

Whatever religion, nationality, species or level of cynicism, I hope you manage at least a few smiles this festive season.

If you click on the photo below it takes you to a place you can print off a larger one, if you want a copy for your wall or mantlepiece.

Wishing you all the best!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Baby Cormac

On Sunday we drove up to see the latest addition to the family, young Cormac.

Needless to say I filled the entire memory card with photos, but here are a small handful I edited:

Mother and child

Looking up at his Uncle Rogan

A healthy appetite

Grandad and Grandson

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Intimate Portraits

What I love about portrait photography is it’s like having a dressing up box, only with facial expressions rather than costumes.

I love faces; or perhaps more accurately, I love the way people inhabit their faces.

And I find my own face an endless source of fascination too, though not in a narcissistic way. Maggie is constantly surprised I will take photos of myself with quite unflattering expressions. Perhaps it’s a more female thing to want to always look your best – younger, thinner, smoother skinned, more alluring. But I’m enjoying my face more as it ages: the lines, the skin, the shadows, all make for an infinitely more interesting photograph than some plastic skinned, “perfect” yet immensely dull 20 something model.

Or perhaps it’s just I’m so secure with Maggie I don’t have to worry about impressing anyone else. Either way it makes it considerably easier to try out different photographic and editing techniques, because I’m always available when I need someone to experiment on.

The idea, “the camera never lies” is one of photography’s biggest cons. “The camera never tells the truth” would be a far more accurate saying.

A photograph is a single instant in a continual movement through time. Our faces rarely stay still for more than a few moments, so no one position can accurately embody all the others. It would rather be like hitting a single note and somehow thinking it represented an entire opera.

So what are we trying to convey in a posed photograph? A feeling, a mood, a story, a narrative – something far more than just a brief visual representation (which is the purpose of a passport photo, not a portrait).

Like anything, practice is the key: the more I do this, the better I’ll get.

So, if anyone fancies their photo taken in the near future, I’ll do it for expenses only. This means if you live within easy walking or driving distance, it will cost you a mug of coffee and a blether. If you live in a different country and want to fly me out, put me up for a few nights, feed me food and coffee and fly me home, that will be fine too :)

I’m particularly pleased with the photo below. Don’t be concerned by the expression – it’s an example of what I mean by playing in the costume box. And it has considerably more impact if you click on it for an enlarged version.

What do you mean chocolate's not good for you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Grandad III

This is it folks, I am now a Grandad three times over.

On Monday 15th, at 4.45pm, my grandson, Cormac, was born, weighing in at a respectable 9lb 8oz.

He’s gone from this:

to this:

I would like to claim all the credit, but to be honest my stepdaughter, Layla, did most of the work. OK, all of it, if you’re going to be insistent about it. Can’t a grandfather claim a bit of reflected glory?

Both are healthy and doing well. We’ll be going up to visit at the weekend.

For those who are wondering what I'm doing being a Grandad at a mere 42 years of age, please refer to this post, and this one.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy Midwinter Celebrations*

Santa, reindeer, stockings, trees with lights and baubles, acquisition of material goods to be had under said tree, turkeys, honey-roast parsnips, brussels sprouts, mince pies, dense dried-fruit puddings with rich brandy cream, roasted chestnuts, advent calendars with chocolates, eating to excess, snow, mid-winter, robins, tinsel, cards and exchanges of gifts.

I have, in fact, read the bible from cover to cover and none of these things are mentioned anywhere in relation to Christ, his birth or his teachings. Oh, I know he was given gold, frankincense and myrrh when he was born, but he didn’t hand the 3 wise men an X-Box, a pair of slippers and a DVD of High School Musical 3 in return.

With the exception of the obligatory primary school Nativity Play, and the name of the festival, Christmas has very little to do with Christ and/or Christianity.

And I think this is where the embarrassment and confusion for non-Christians, agnostics, Christened-but-only-go-to-church-for-weddings-and-funerals and other never-really-thought-about-it pseudo Christians comes in: how to celebrate it without causing offence to people of other faiths.

“Season’s Greetings!” “Happy Holidays!” and “Mine’s a sherry!” we say, worried about how anyone who is not Christian but cares about their religion might take it if Xmas is mentioned (and isn’t X-mas a great get-out of mentioning Christ too?).

Alternatively we might feel a tad hypocritical yelling, “Merry Christmas!” if we’re not actually Christians ourselves. I mean, how comfortable would I be saying, “Happy Hanukah!” to Jews, “Merry Ramadan!” to Muslims or “May your chalk circles keep your demons in check!” to Satanists?

As non-Christians it wouldn’t matter to us what it was called. The reality is we enjoy this time of year as a family, with it’s little rituals, sparkling lights, excited children and tasty food all happening when the nights are long and the sun is rarely seen. In fact, life would be a great deal easier, and certainly less hypocritical if the Christ bit was dropped.

I can fully understand why more committed Christians bemoan the fact their celebration of the birth of their saviour has been hijacked and turned into something nothing to do with His teachings, because it has (even if the early Christians hijacked the pagan mid-winter festivals in order to assist the spread of their own religion).

But I can also sympathise with everyone who wants to have a warm cosy family time with gifts, comfortable rituals and a bit of excess, without having to worry about religious overtones.

Given the real heart of Christianity lies not in the birth of Jesus, but his resurrection from death on the cross, perhaps the big Christian festival of the year ought to be Easter, rather than Christmas, and December 25th ought to be abandoned to the revellers.

However, that particular Spring festival seems to have been hijacked by chocolate eggs and bunnies…

*Or Happy Midsummer Celebrations to our friends south of the equator

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

TV – choice, choice and more choice

Around the middle of next year, this corner of Scotland is having the analogue TV broadcasting transmitter switched off. Subsequently we will only be able to watch television if we have either digital or satellite receivers.

With ever increasing channels, more entertainment packages, more personalised recording and viewing options, when the switchover happens we are going to be faced with considerably more than the 4 channels we currently have. Indeed, depending on what route we take we could have anything from a dozen to several hundred to chose from every time we sit down in front of the box.

And yet on average we watch only between 1 and 3 programmes a day. Some evenings there’s nothing on at all. So, much more choice should be a good thing, right?

But as a rule, we don’t watch game shows, “reality” shows or soap operas. We don’t watch daytime TV, sport, makeover shows, or even the news very often.

Occasionally we watch the odd drama or documentary, but mostly our television viewing habits consist of one or two comedy programmes, Dr Who, and Rogan and I make time for Top Gear and Heroes. Meg’s a major fan of Strictly Come Dancing, but basically, that’s it.

So what will 600+ new channels offer us, other than more game shows, more reality shows, more soap operas, more daytime TV and many, many, many, more repeats?

Faced with so much choice we’re wondering whether to make one that’s never mentioned: drop it completely.

We can still keep the screen for watching videos and DVDs, but once the digital switchover happens, if we don’t buy/rent/install the appropriate hardware, live TV becomes a thing of the past and we no longer have to pay £139.50 a year for the licence.

Programmes we feel we really, really don’t want to miss could be watched afterwards via the Internet. BBC iPlayer provides almost all of its major programmes for up to a week after they have been broadcast, and the other major channels tend to do the same.

In some ways I can’t believe I’m even considering this. Not have a TV? Does this mean we’ll have to tune the piano and make our own entertainment?

But then again, how about spending our evenings reading, talking, playing games, sitting in front of the fire, having friends round and occasionally watching a DVD?

There’s something awfully tempting about it.

Strange how we never see this option advertised on TV…

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Brain Fu.n..c...t....i.....o......n........

Parts of my brain no longer seem to function to anything like the degree they used to.

It’s a worrying trend.

In some areas it’s different only in so far as I wear out much more quickly. I can’t cope with a great deal of activity – physical or emotional – without quickly becoming a zombie.

But dealing with this is largely about accepting my limitations and trying to balance my energy levels; being aware of when they begin to drain and stopping before it goes too far.

However, the bit I’m becoming increasingly concerned about is the processing part slowing down too, not just the battery life. It’s not just that I don’t last as long, but unless I’ve had a coffee my brain just doesn’t function as quickly either.

If I were 30 or 40 years older, perhaps I’d accept it as part of an inevitable process.

But I’m not. I’m only 42.

And sometimes, it’s just a little bit scary.

Still, on the bright side I’m not needing incontinence pants.