Posted on March 20, 2011 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay8 Comments »


I was actually looking through my picture folders for something entirely different when I came across this frivolous little collection of images, but I thought they might be perfect for the Sunday Selections meme.  I took these shots for fun and in a spirit of experimentation, but of course they had no other purpose, and they don’t it into any other kind of post at all, do they? The only time I’ve managed to use a similar shot is when I was linked to a ‘Fourth Picture’ meme.

So today, for your delectation, I present a handful of fun ‘painting with light’ photos.


These were made in the dark with an ordinary Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot camera.  All except the last one* were taken at night on a long journey home from a distant town, when I was bored and wanted something to occupy my mind.  I set the Lumix on the longest exposure it would allow, rested its little bottom on the dashboard, and clicked.


What happened was that while the exposure was being made, the camera bounced up and down because of the motion of the road and spread squiggles of light all over the place.  Naturally, I tried to choose colourful areas, and if these areas were at the side of the road and I had to hand hold the camera, so much the better!  I could try deliberate circular, wiggly, or up-and-down motions while the camera’s shutter was open.


Of course, when you look at what you’ve done there will be a lot of wastage.  Some will be good as they are, but others will need cropping, or the contrast might need a little adjustment – and you can always skew the colour balance too, for a little more interest.  Give it a go!

I do hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these little ‘arty’ shots as much as I enjoyed making them.  And don’t forget to pop over to Frog Ponds Rock for a whole lot of different takes on the Sunday Selections theme.  Maybe you’d like to join in?  All you have to do is post a handful of pictures which have not yet seen the light of day for some reason.   And you know you have some – we all do!


* Christmas tree lights


Hello, fellow ABC Wednesday folks! It’s me, and I’m back – well, for today at least. I thought I’d tell you about my efforts to learn Italian – or ‘imparare l’italiano‘, as they say in Italy.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a boastful post full of ‘look how much I’ve learned and how clever I am’. Quite the opposite. I thought I would impart to you, for your amusement, a few of the incredibly funny mistakes I have made.

I studied using podcasts (loaded on my iPod, naturally) but you see, once you get to a certain stage in the learning process it’s time to try your skills.  What it comes down to is this;  you can study all you like, you can fill notebooks with intellectual looking Italianate scribble, but if you won’t speak it, you can’t learn it. And the best way to practice is with a native speaker.


So I went to the internet to find me some Italians. There are several good language exchange sites, and I chose one called Conversation Exchange, and quickly found half a dozen friends to chat to via Instant Messenger.

Now. Instant Messenger, as you know, is … well, instant. And the trouble with ‘instant‘ is that you have no time to check the finer points of grammar or even to look up a word. You simply have to dive in and immerse yourself in the experience. And this is where it gets interesting.

One day I was trying to tell my friend on the island of Sardinia about how we ran out of oil for the central heating. Naturally, ‘we ran out’ doesn’t translate. But that was the least of my problems. I told her:

” … ma non possiamo usare il caminetto quando c’è molto vento, perchè la fume vene in soggiorno”

Which apparently means something like –

” … but we cannot use the fireplace when it is windy, because the veins in the living room fume”


Needless to say, that is not what I had intended. Look below at footnote 1 to find out what I was really trying to say.

Ah, well.  That’s not so bad. After all, most people like a good laugh, don’t they? Whatever nationality they are. But in trying to apologise for my bad Italian I said:

“Ho tanti problemi anche con i prepositi” Footnote 2

And I’m sure she wondered why I was telling her that I had many problems with the Provosts. Possibly that’s why some of my language partners no longer bother to talk to me. I wouldn’t blame them, would you? Particularly when one of my online friends is a member of the carabinieri and probably all-too-familiar with people who get into trouble with Provosts.

And who knows what insults I may have unwittingly uttered?

Like, perhaps, the time when I told someone:

“Sembra una carota”

Which means ‘it looks like a carrot’.


I can’t even remember what that was all about. I can only hope I wasn’t trying to comment on someone’s baby photos.

Sometimes, when I’m desperate, I’ll quickly run my Italian through Google Translate, which is reckoned to be the best of the free online translators.  It’s not perfect, but it does at least give you an inkling.  Well, it does most of the time, but sometimes it has a wee bit of a fit and throws out something completely random … though sometimes eerily apposite, like this:

“We have no hot water, electricity only in the rainforest” Footnote 3


And I know I wrote the Italian correctly for that one.  I checked later with a genuine Italian person.  So there!

Anyhow.  Remember, ladies and gentlemen, it’s never too late to learn a language.  You can introduce yourself to new friends across the seas, learn about new cultures, broaden your interests … and instead of coming over as intelligent, look like a complete idiot in the process!

Do pop on over to Mrs Nesbitt’s place for more ABC Wednesday entries.

1- ” … but we cannot use the fireplace when it is windy, because the smoke comes into the living room”

2 – ” I also have a lot of trouble with prepositions”

3 – This was supposed to be: “We have no hot water, only in the electric shower”.  “Doccia elettrica” does not mean “rainforest”.  Really.

Posted on March 14, 2011 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay13 Comments »


Yoo hoo! Here I am, back again with a new handful of previously unpublished photos for Sunday Selections! I’ve missed a few weeks, but I just about have time to fit them in today. Lucky you! Or perhaps not.

This time I have found for your delight some snapshots I took of a rather bizarre sighting at a local country park. It’s a beautiful, serene place, as you can see. Ducks to feed, paths to cycle, you know the sort of thing.

But as I took that picture up at the top there, I noticed something odd in the background. We strolled nearer. I took a picture of OH with Sid so as not to be too obvious about my interest in the .. humungous see-through balls.


But .. to heck with it. Nobody was watching me. Why would they? There was something much more interesting to look at!

See, they were zipping people into these humungous see-through balls and pushing them out onto the water! And they were mostly children!!


Nobody seemed to mind. In fact, there was a queue, and what’s more, people were paying to have their children zipped into humungous see-through balls and tossed into the lake – and the children themselves actually seemed quite keen!


And I must say it does look a lot of fun! All the joy of walking on water, without getting wet. I’ve never seen anything like it before, though I bet some of you have. I lead such a sheltered life.

Anyway, there seemed to be a lot of falling-over-without-hurting-themselves involved, which always seems to be fun when you’re young. Not sure I’d be quite so keen these days, even inside a .. um … humungous see-through ball. But there you are.


Call me an old fuddy-duddy if you must, but the guy holding the tether didn’t seem too excited, either.

Oh, and don’t forget to pop along to Frog Ponds Rock for more – probably even better – Sunday Selections!

Posted on March 13, 2011 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay8 Comments »


Well, in the last couple of days the world has seen one of the very worst disasters in recent history. Who knows how many are dead, injured or missing in Japan today? Nobody. And it’s not over yet.

What we do know is that this country of hardworking people has been hit very very hard. So hard that I’m reading news stories suggesting that Japan has been shifted 8 feet by the earthquake which caused the devastating tsunami and destroyed so many homes and businesses and so much of the infrastructure. So hard that the earth itself has shifted on its axis, and our day just became a microsecond or two shorter as a result.

And yet, even as the aftershocks shudder through the land, a relatively new charity called ShelterBox has quietly swung into action.

ShelterBox is one of the most ingenious ideas ever to be put into action by a charity. Sometimes the simplest notions really are the best, like Oxfam’s brilliant wheeze of providing people with the means to live by digging wells for them and giving them farm animals and tools instead of merely providing food and money short-term.

What ShelterBox does is to provide immediate help for disaster-torn areas. They pack a simple green box with life’s essentials; a tent providing shelter for up to ten people, a multi-fuel stove, cooking utensils, thermal blankets, tools (including a shovel for digging latrines) water purifying kits etc., and they even include a very human touch – a pack of colouring books and pencils for the children. And the box itself can be used as a cot or for food storage.

As soon as the green boxes arrive, people are a little bit safer. As soon as they unpack the box they have shelter, warmth, a way to cook their food, and the means to provide themselves with clean water. Can you imagine the relief? Can you imagine the sense of security, however tenuous?

While writing this blog, I’ve learned that there has been an explosion in a nuclear power plant at Fukushima. Though they believe that the fuel rods themselves are still safely contained, and they’re desperately trying to keep it that way by flooding the structure with seawater to cool it, there is a radiation leak and tens of thousands have been evacuated, adding to the long list of homeless people.

If you feel moved to donate money to help the people of Japan, you could do a lot worse than donate to ShelterBox, through Just Giving. You don’t have to buy a whole box, which costs roughly £490 GB (so we’ll leave ‘whole box’ donations to the big boys, huh?) just give what you want and they’ll add all the smaller donations together and send as many boxes as they can.

And just think: if 490 people each give a single pound (or 1.6 USD), ten Japanese people will be provided with a gift which will keep them in relative comfort for weeks – or maybe months, because I’m betting this mess isn’t going to be cleaned up very quickly.

Can you afford one pound?

Anyway. Just so you don’t go away from here feeling totally depressed, pop over here* and take a gander at how the good citizens of Christchurch NZ coped when their recent earthquake disrupted the plumbing. I guarantee you’ll smile. I love the Kiwis!


*Link courtesy of Katherine at The Last Visible Dog