Posted on October 31, 2011 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay21 Comments »

I’ve had a nice little break from Macro Monday, but I think it’s time for me to begin teasing you again, don’t you?

I took this photo quite late last night, and there was a horrible orange cast on it (mainly because I didn’t bother to drag out the little studio lights) and I couldn’t get the colour balance right, so I made it black and white. Nice, huh? Nostalgic. Do you remember the days when it was all we had? Yeah, me too.

We had these things back then. They’ve been around for a very long time – as long as I can remember. This one is photographed from an unusual angle, but if you’ve ever handled or used one, you should recognise it, given enough time to think. As far as I know, they are exactly the same all over the world – the design hardly varies, although other factors like colour can change.

Is it useful? Or decorative? Well … it can be both. Does everyone have them? No, but I’d be surprised if those of you who don’t use them have never even seen one! They seem to be everywhere, and at the moment are enjoying a revival of interest.

Since it’s probably going to turn out to be difficult to guess (despite being SO obvious to me, tee hee!), I’ll give you one more clue: it’s no use just as it is. You need what might loosely be called ‘accessories’. Also, if you like to use them, having just one isn’t going to do you a lot of good, you’ll need more.

Oh, alright, that was two clues. What is this – the Spanish inquisition?

No, it isn’t going to be three clues. Off you go and scratch those heads until the answer falls out, why don’t you? Post your answer in the comments, and I’ll pop back tomorrow evening and add the answer to the bottom of this post in the form of a picture link.

The winner gets … a link back to their blog along with the answer!

See you all tomorrow! Meanwhile, check out more Macro Monday contributions at Lisa’s Chaos.

And the time has come to divulge the answer! Go here to see what the mystery object was.

Jeni of JenisDollz was the first to guess correctly again this week – well done, Jeni! Shooting Parrots also got it, and Kala and Carol Lanctot jumped on the bandwagon and agreed with our winners! Well done, all of you – I’m very impressed.

Thanks for playing – and do pop back and join me again next week for another puzzle, won’t you? It’ll be fun!


Well, here we are again on Sunday, and it’s shopping day!  This here is a computer bug, you know.

If you remember, I promised you a weekly feature to help you with your shopping by finding you some neat stocking fillers gifts for your family and friends.  Not for Christmas, ohnononono.   I know it’s too early!

Oh, alright then. It is for Christmas.  But you know what?  It’s only a matter of weeks to the last posting date for some countries – in fact, if you were thinking of sending anything surface mail you’ve already missed the chance for some destinations.  So if you have people to buy for on the opposite side of the world, you’d better get thinking!

So today I bring you some really neat gifts for men – and we all know how hard they are to buy for, don’t we?  But I found a really cool Etsy shop for you, with a number of original gifts for men under £10!  The computer bug, from Clone Hardware, is only £9.54, can you believe it?  I think that’s really good.

How about a keyring?  Not just any old keyring, but one he’ll really like!

That one is from Clone Hardware, too.  Fun, isn’t it?  Costing a whopping great …. £7.63!

Talking of keyrings, here’s another shop with a truly original one.  You know men love the kind of stuff which is made of other cool stuff?  This keyring, from Nollie Designs, is made of a piece of recycled skateboard, so he can relive his mis-spent youth.  Unless of course he IS a mis-spent youth. Or even a perfectly well-behaved one who happens to like skateboarding.  I mean .. um … oh, forget it.  Anyway.   It’s only £4.45, so you really can’t go wrong for a stocking stuffer.

But let’s go back to Clone Hardware for a minute.  If he reads a lot, you could get one of these fun book marks


Good, eh?  And only £3.82!  I can’t believe how many nice things I’ve found for so little!

How about jewellery – does he wear jewellery?  I can imagine youngsters really loving this one – it’s made of that flat cable stuff, whatever the hell it’s called.

And how much is it?  £9.54. Still under a tenner.

And by the way, ManGifts have some great cuffs for under a tenner, too – in fact, they’re only £6.36, and they’re leather, too.  Go check them out.  They also have tiny little leather bound notebooks.  They’re all hand-made, so you won’t be buying mass-produced crap, and you’ll be helping a small business, which is always worth doing.

I dunno why, but these leather cuffs are all the rage right now.  Perhaps it’s Johnny Depp’s influence?  After all, look what he did for hats!!

One more?  OK, let me see…  How about a little set of desk toys for his inner child?  How could you possibly go wrong with these little cuties?

Fun, aren’t they?  They’re from Super Sock, who also do some really fun 4 and 8 GB flash drives for rather more than £10.  But you should take a look at the comic book wallets – oh, and those wonderful recycled comic book coasters in stone.  Some of those are under £10 .. the postage is a killer for the UK, but some of you live in the US, I know you do!

There you go!  Stocking stuffers for the men in your life, sorted.  Oh, and let me leave you with something to raise a smile (tee hee). 

Click if you dare!



Yes, you can laugh .. at me, or with me, whichever seems most appropriate!

You see that thing? Weird, isn’t it? Looks like the product of a 60 year old teenager on acid, doesn’t it? But it was me – I did it. There were no ‘bigger boys who ran away’ and it was not sent to me anonymously in the mail, or dug up in the garden by one of my dogs.

No, this is my first attempt at wire-wrapping a piece of sea glass, and … well, I suppose I got a bit carried away.

When we were in Italy we spend some hours walking along beautiful sandy beaches enjoying the hot sunny weather. It was particularly nice to break a long journey to find a parking spot by the coast and work up an appetite with a gentle stroll on a long, flat, sandy beach and then sit and have lunch somewhere overlooking the sea. I spent a lot of time on those beaches picking up sea glass, because it’s actually quite popular for jewellery right now and I thought I could have a go when I got home.

And here you see the result.

Observe how I’ve struggled so hard with the thing that I’ve left quite a lot of silver on the beach glass, and on the tiny blue beads!

See, the thing about wire wrapping and irregular shape is that you can’t really follow a pattern very easily. You start off, and just wrap. You try to make sure that the corners of the glass are covered so the wire doesn’t slip off, but you also want to make it interesting, so you wonder if you could perhaps weave some contrasting beads into the mix, and then the wires aren’t as tight as they might be so you add a few twists with the old piers to cinch things in a bit, and …

… And before you know it, your creation has passed from ‘tasteful’, through ‘artistic’ and out the other side to the place where people look at it and want to take blood samples from you to see if there’s a chemical reason for your vision.

Ah well. Maybe the next one will turn out a little less … busy? A little less neurotic looking? One can only hope.

By the way, if you happen to be on my Christmas list, be afraid. Be very afraid!

Posted on October 26, 2011 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay12 Comments »

Bergamo … home of one of Milan’s international airports.  So, it must be boring, huh?  Over populated, busy, grubby around the edges, perhaps?  Well, not in the old part, Bergamo Alta!  And that’s where OH had found a hotel for us for those first couple of nights after our arrival in Italy.

I don’t remember much about the airport itself.  Airports are airports, if you know what I mean, and only the unusual ones stand out in my mind – like Las Vegas, where you can be off your plane and standing on the pavement in fifteen minutes flat*.  But we picked up our hired car, struggled with the Susan-the-GPS for a few minutes, and then we were away.

Bergamo Alta is built on a hill, like so many of the older settlements in Italy.  It’s a walled town (which says much about the conflicts which were rife in the days when it was built) and as you drive up to a gateway, you might say (as OH did):

‘Fuck!  You want me to drive in THERE??’

Driving into one of these hill towns can be terrifying.  You can’t see what’s coming round the corner, and even if you manage to identify which roads are one way, there’s no guarantee that Italian drivers will honour that instruction.  In fact, it was in Bergamo that we met a little old lady sailing down the middle of a one way street towards us, waving us off as we honked at her.

Eventually we came to a piazza.  Susan said we’d arrived, but could we see the hotel?  We could not.  OH turned to me and said:

‘OK, you’re going to have to ask someone where it is’.


OK, so I’m learning Italian, but it’s one thing to be quietly chatting with friendly, helpful people on Skype, and quite another to flag down a passing Italian and ask for directions!  But I did it.  I collared a nice looking middle aged man and asked.  He looked panicky and quickly told me he didn’t speak English, but then relented and listened patiently while I told him the address I was looking for.  And once he realised I could actually speak a little of his language, and understand his replies, his face split into a grin and he couldn’t do enough to help.  He even walked me into to a side street and pointed out where the hotel was (yes, we were that close) and where we could park while we unloaded our bags.  Big (short-lived) sigh of relief.  Short-lived because the hotel didn’t have a car park, so once unloaded, OH had to go and find somewhere legal to leave the car. After much huffing and pessimism from the ‘glass-half-full’ man, he did find a slot about five minutes walk away – at the top of this street.

The Hotel Vecchio was lovely.  The guy on reception was lovely, too, but he didn’t speak English so it was up to me to translate again.  The room was spacious, spotlessly clean, and had a little balcony where OH could smoke.  What it didn’t have was Wi-Fi.   It had cable, but sadly my laptop does not, and the only place I could get a signal was downstairs in the breakfast room.

On the second morning, OH went down first, and when I went to follow him, the lift wouldn’t work.  I walked around the corner looking for the stairs .. and there weren’t any.  Rooms, yes.  Door to the balcony, yes.  Stairs, no.

I went back into the room, rang down to the desk and in very bad Italian told the lady who answered the phone that I couldn’t call the lift.  In perfect Italian** she replied that I should wait there and she would come up.  Turned out that the lift was having maintenance work done – which seems to happen an awful lot in Italy.

Anyway, after a wonderful breakfast of local cheese, bread, yoghurt, and fruit – with a good cup of English tea – we set out to explore.

Bergamo is pretty.  It’s full of shaded narrow streets and unexpected cobblestoned squares, and specialist shops of the sort that we don’t seem to have anymore.  There are fountains, churches, restaurants .. and zillions of dogs.  Dogs everywhere.  Dogs on leads, and off leads. Big dogs, small fluffy dogs … but surprisingly little evidence of their passing, if you’ll excuse the pun.  I guess the Italians pick up.

Bergamo is pretty, but it’s quite small, the streets are (as I’ve said) narrow, and everyone has a car and/or a scooter.  Parking isn’t just at a premium, it’s practically a blood sport.  And so it was with some trepidation that we decided to drive out for the day.

When we returned, naturally, the five-minutes-walk-away parking slot was gone.  We drove around the town a couple of times (I mean literally, all around the town) and finally, by driving down a ‘forbidden’ street through an archway, we found a spot right opposite the local Carabiniere office and left the car there for the night.

And that’s probably when they started following OH all over Italy.  We got pulled over by them for the first time the very next day.


* They want your money, and they want it NOW.

** Perfect Italian, for me, is beautifully pronounced, without strong regional accents, and sloooow.