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Posted on February 6, 2011 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Wildlife by Jay12 Comments »

LW-600P_ASAh, this is fun! I get to dig out a few almost-forgotten pictures which I’ve always meant to post in some form or other, and you get another insight into the dark mysteries of my psyche!

For Sunday Selections this week, I thought I’d find you some insect photos, and I thought I’d start with a pretty one or you’d all run away screaming. It’s a lacewing fly – a beneficial insect since they are voracious predators of greenfly. See? It’s even a gorgeous emerald green so they can’t see it creeping up on them – clever, huh?

Now, these pictures were each given a little filter treatment to bring out some aspect of their … um … personalities or characteristics. The lacewing was done with a dry brush filter plus ‘angled strokes’ to try to emphasise the delicacy of their bodies and wings. Look at his little copper eyes! Aren’t they sweet? I photographed him inside a lightbox, which I think works quite well, since the texture of the background seems to fit with the gauzy theme.

Here’s another green fly, this one a little less lovable.

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This is Lucilia Caesar, otherwise known as a greenbottle. He’s a degrader, of course. He doesn’t catch and eat other creatures, but he’ll demolish them once they’re dead. We need degraders, or the world would be full of dead bodies, now, wouldn’t it? You don’t have to like them particularly (although he is a beautiful shade of metallic green) but they are useful. This one is making a meal of some left-over dog food.

For this little buzzer, I used a heavy ‘poster edges’ filter, to bring out the dark side of his nature.

Who is this?

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Well, I confess I don’t know. I found him on a wall in Italy, he’s a member of the Orthoptera order of insects, and I’m thinking he’s a locust. They’ve been having trouble with them in the vineyards lately, I’m told. He was filtered with a very fine posterise filter, which I think did a nice job on the stippled plasterwork and kept the detail in the insect. Whatever he is.

Pretty though, isn’t he? No, I didn’t squash him (or maybe her), so you can blame me if you’re a couple of grapes short of a Barbera for your Sunday lunch.

Hmm. Who’s next?

Well, I almost hate to do it to you, but I’m going to finish with a rather nice Common Cross garden spider.

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I was pleased with this shot. It was taken through the garage window, from the inside. I was able to actually lean the camera on the glass to steady it (giving myself a horrible crick in the neck in the process) and use a macro setting which blurred the background beautifully. Look at the delicate scribbly lacework of that web!

I used the plain ‘posteriser’ again for this one, but a little more of it. I think it brings out the detail in the arachnid beautifully, while further blurring out the background. It’s kept her sharp and dangerous-looking, and shows the white cross which gives this spider her name.

But hey – do you want to be overrun with flies, midges and mosquitoes?

Of course you don’t!

Pop on over to Frog Ponds Rock for more photos! Chances are there’ll be quite a lot without spiders in them!

Posted on February 4, 2011 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay16 Comments »

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Do you remember, you ladies and gentlemen of more (*ahem*) mature years? Do you remember how, once upon a time, every town of any size had a hardware shop?

Notice I do not say ‘hardware store‘, which suggests a B & Q or Sainsbury’s Homebase or the like. No, these were family-owned shops catering to the needs of the community with paraffin oil, paint, nuts, bolts and screws, rat-traps, batteries, candlesticks, candles, string, and possibly sealing-wax as well, for all I know. When you went in the door – which always went ‘TING!’ – you could smell the heady mixture of fumes and wood-dust which would have told you exactly where you were if you’d been blindfolded.

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You took your own can along for the paraffin, didn’t you? And you could buy a single 2 1/2 inch screw if you so desired, or half a yard of chicken wire.

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I don’t know about other countries, but here in Jolly Old England, the old-fashioned hardware shop has been disappearing like snow in the springtime, as have so many other little specialists. There were two in Peterborough that I knew of, and they’ve both been closed for years now. But over in Stamford and up at Bourne it’s another story. In those two towns the family-run hardware shop is thriving – they tell me that people come from miles around and I can well understand why!

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The pictures scattered throughout this post were all taken (with kind permission) inside the Stamford Harrison & Dunn shop in the space of about half an hour as I wandered, drunk with nostalgia, among the stunning variety of goods on offer.

Look – you can still buy a single candle!

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And single doorstops, split pins, hooks, and a hundred other things that only come in packs of five or ten in Those Other Places.

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My advice to you, dear readers, is to find out where the nearest real, old-fashioned, genuine hardware shop is, and patronise it before it’s too late, because without our custom, they’ll go under. If you think you might ever need one furniture castor or three four-inch nails, go and buy other stuff there as well, now and then, and keep them in business!

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And no. I’m not getting a percentage for the advertising … but I probably should, don’t you think?

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Which is, I believe, Italian for ‘what a pity’.

And it is, isn’t it? This wineglass is one of a set – and I use the term loosely – of Royal Brierley lead crystal claret glasses. Royal Brierley being the oldest name in English lead crystal, bar none. The company was founded in 1776, for goodness’ sake.

You see what happened was this: OH, wandering the streets of Oundle on a lunchbreak at work one day, spotted four extremely pretty wine glasses in an antique shop. It wasn’t just the pattern, but the shape which appealed to him, so he popped in and bought them. And for many years we used these glasses without having a clue what they were, but simply because we both loved them.

And then one broke and we lamented it sorely. So sorely did we lament that I did my research and found out what they were called, scouring the net for a picture of the right shaped, right patterned wineglass with only the clue of ‘Brierley’ engraved on the bottom. Eventually, I found four for sale on eBay and ordered them and lo! They arrived safely and so we had seven!

The fact that we ended up with seven is now very important, because that wineglass up there is our second casualty. It happened last night and caused a collective gasp and much lamentation.

Oh well. At least we still have six, huh? A good thing too, since ‘Winchester’ is a discontinued pattern.

So … who can hazard a guess at how this particular accident happened? The only clue I’ll give you is that it didn’t happen on the glass hob where it was photographed.