Sunday, 24 October 2010

Buried treasure

I have whinged in a few sympathetic ears recently about my frustration with the limitations of my Canon PowerShot point and shoot camera and my lust for a brand new digital SLR.

I'm an SLR girl at heart. I used to have an ancient Zenith SLR and a 135mm lens which I took all my pictures with in my youth. I even had it with me when I photographed the Queen on her visit to Solva many years ago. My main camera that day was the newsroom's Canon EOS and it's that one I used to take the shot of Her Majesty for the front of the paper's Royal visit supplement - a copy of which is by Royal appointment in the Buckingham Palace album.

Then our lovely friends Nicola and Andrew lent us a Canon EOS to take photographs on our honeymoon in Scotland which was fantastic. I really didn't want to give it back and today my love affair with the Canon EOS remains undimmed but unrequited.

When the girls were babies we sold all our SLR equipment to a camera enthusiast and used the proceeds to buy a digital point and shoot - which was entirely the right thing to do at the time - but I miss my SLR. I wanted to take pictures of the diamond-like raindrops on the fennel seed heads. My point-and-shoot managed this on its macro setting after several hundred attempts.

Nearly - but not quite - what I was after.

So yes I've been whinging. Have you seen the price of digital SLRs? The current entry level digital Canon EOS is £343.70 on Amazon which isn't horrendous but I haven't got that sort of cash for a camera at the moment.

Then my mother, who is probably immune to most of my whinging after 44 years, suddenly had a lightbulb moment.

"I've got a Canon EOS," she said.

"You've got a WHAT???!!!!"

She then rummaged in the space underneath the stairs and produced this little hoard of buried treasure*:

A Canon EOS 650D and on the left a Canon T70 attached to its macro lens. Oh joy! Neither of them digital, but I had a roll of film left over from pre-digital days and batteries and Bob's your uncle. I have already been out to photograph the fennel with the T70. I can't show you here, of course, because the film has to go to be developed, but it's an SLR (or two) and so many lenses I don't know what half of them are. They'll keep me quiet and stop me whinging while I save up for a digital. All I have to do now is remember how to work them...

* The EOS belonged to Mum's late partner Michael and was put away - as things are - after he died in 1997. I don't think he'd mind me using it now. The T70 is Mum's.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


I've been meaning to take part in Tara Cain's Gallery over at Sticky Fingers for ages. This week I finally got my act together. The theme is red, meaning Halloween which isn't really my thing, or just red, which is.

Clockwise from top left they are:
  1. Me in my running vest at last Sunday's Cardiff Half Marathon.
  2. The doors to the lambing shed and the old dairy.
  3. My back door. We have a new door with a stained glass rose panel waiting to go on. One day.
  4. One of my blueberry bushes. Lovely fruit in the summer and gorgeous autumn foliage. They need acidic soil to grow which is why they do so well here in the Preseli hills.
  5. The old churn shed. Nature is taking over here now but this a a relic of agricultural history. This hasn't been a dairy farm since the early 1980s. A stream runs through the bottom of this shed and after the cows had been milked the churns of milk would be placed in the running water to cool them before they were taken to the bottom of the drive to be collected by the lorry.
  6. Hawthorn berries. We have a bumper crop on this tree in my garden this year.

Monday, 18 October 2010

A Premier run

Cardiff swans completely unaware that 15,000 runners are pounding past them.
That that was the weekend that was. We went to Cardiff, stayed in the City Centre Premier Inn and I ran the half marathon on Sunday.

This weekend is becoming a favourite family annual trip. We do Cardiff, have pizza, watch the X-Factor on the hotel TV, fall asleep ridiculously early and wake up to scoff a hotel breakfast. Then I run for a bit while Brian and the kids watch, hang around and do stuff and then we all go home.

Last year I dithered over entering the half marathon and by the time I did city centre hotels could not be had for love nor money - unless you were a single smoker which as a non-smoking family of four we weren't. This year I didn't dither and I booked the whole thing way back when, including the room in the Premier Inn having seen Lenny Henry on TV promising comfy beds and a good night's sleep.

Admittedly parking was costly but for the convenience factor it was worth it. The car, hotel and John Lewis were all cheek-by-jowl with just a short walk down to the Bay area for the start of the race.

The hotel was lovely which came as a huge surprise. Last year's Express by Holiday Inn was a bit University Hall of Residence by comparison. The room was quiet and comfortable - especially the beds which were a double and - hallelujah! - TWO singles. My children hate sharing a double and it usually involves some kind of bed swapping in the wee small hours. They didn't budge out of the Premier Inn beds and neither did I having fallen asleep somewhere towards the end of the X-Factor when Tesco Mary sang something soporific.

Breakfast was good too, properly good, so Brian ate two.

R6 said, surveying the room: "Can we come and live here?"

The pizza the night before was good too. We had planned on Pizza Hut but Pizza Express was but a short escalator ride so we plumped for that instead. We were attentively waited on by friendly staff. H8 knocked her knife on the floor and a clean one magically reappeared seconds later. I like restaurants with that sort of service. It had proper front of house too and the food was lovely. I'm sure the bambinocinos contributed to the kids' good night's sleep.

Race day was sunny and cold - perfect conditions. A happy crowd of runners walked in an orderly manner to the start, queued and ran. The race with a field of of 15,000 runners is like a tube train emptying at rush hour through an underpass at running pace. An interesting experience but you get used to it.

I ran the 13.1 miles in two hours 17 minutes and nine seconds which is eight minutes faster than last year. If I could have found those two extra minutes to finish in two and a quarter hours I'd have found them but I spent too much time looking at the view from Cardiff Bay barrage and dodging slower runners.

I collected my medal and goody bag and even found the jumper I threw at a tree just after the start. The 'tree' turned out to be a whopping street lamp which proves just had madly hallucinogenic the start of a half a marathon can be.  I was convinced it was a tree...

I was proud of my time though. I ran the first three miles in a burst of enthusiasm in 27 minutes which is an unheard of turn of speed for me. If I had kept it up I might have caught up with Chris who was in her usual position which is in front of me. I narrowed the gap this year though - if I do the same next year I might just catch her up...

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Wake up with an old friend

Me and Olay go back a long way. All the way, in fact, to when it was 'Oil of Ulay', a pink liquid in a glass bottle.

I remember seeing an advert for it back then. A woman talking to her friend while their children played in the background. The friend complimented her on her skin which, naturally, was moisturised with Oil of Ulay. "Of course," said the woman wafting perfect skin past the camera and looking at her daughters, "I should have started using it when I was their age."

I remember that I immediately looked at my teenage skin in the mirror, thought 'Holy Cow!' and bought myself a bottle of this miracle stuff. Such is the power of advertising.

I've been hooked on it ever since.Moisturiser that is. I fell out of love with Ulay when it became Olay and changed to funky black urban packaging. I prefer my skincare to look a little more medicinal. Give me Clinique or No7 and I'm happy.

But when Olay offered me a trial bottle of their Total Effects wake up wonder who was I to turn down an old friend?

It came with seven promises:

  1. To visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  2. Hydrates for a healthy radiant glow
  3. Firmer skin appearance
  4. Improves skin surface dullness
  5. Smooths and evens skin texture
  6. Minimises the appearance of pores
  7. Helps to prevent damage to the skin's surface.
I decided it needed a proper trial, so I ceased use of all my other serums and lotions and devoted myself to the Olay. First I had a long scrutiny of the State of Things in the mirror in bright light. Not good but not too bad either.

The first thing I noticed about Olay was the smell. I hate perfume in cosmetics and this one was no exception. To me it smelled like perm lotion and ancient gone off perfume. It made my skin tingle too and after a few days my skin looked silvery and dried out. Not good, not good at all, but this was a trial so I decided to persevere.

Then things got better. Perhaps I got used to the new stuff. My skin smoothed out and I began to see the effects of numbers one to six of Olay's promises. In fact I began to quite like the stuff. My skin feels better and I think it looks better too. Olay isn't the pink liquid of days gone by. My old friend has grown up, gone all high-tech and it seems to work.

Sponsored post: Or, in other words, they gave me a bottle to test.

Monday, 11 October 2010

A berry good harvest

We have a bumper crop of elderberries this year. Hefty clusters of the purple-black berries are weighing down the trees so much the branches are bending. The birds love them too but there's plenty for everyone this year. It would be a crime not to do something with them so I'm making elderberry cordial which is reputed to help ward off coughs and colds.

Drip, drip. drip... and everything nearby turns a deep and fetching shade of purple. I put on an apron to protect my clothes - and immediately splash my sleeves. The juice smells richly fruity and I have to leave it to drip now before squeezing all the lovely purpleness out of the bag, mixing it with sugar, boiling for 15 minutes and putting it into bottles.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

After the rain

We had a huge downpour at six o'clock this morning so after the school run I went looking for the rainbow.

My little camera doesn't nearly do it justice, but it does show that it has, from a very unpromising start, turned into a lovely day.

I realised that my blog has talked a great deal about 'life' recently but not about the Preseli Hills. They are still here and beginning to look autumnal.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

While we're on the subject of hair...

... look at this lovely 'do' courtesy of Kew (not the gardens, the clothing retailers). The catalogue, which was stuffed into my November copy of Red magazine, is full of lovely floral dresses, floaty cardis, chunky knits, thick tights and boots. A city idea of what one should wear in the country while wafting around decoratively with a Labrador.

I'm rather taken with this. I'm not sure if it's an unfinished hat or somewhere useful to keep one's knitting. Like my knitting it's rather coming undone too and it's a bit tangly.

Perhaps the poor love decided to have a go at knitting to while away a boring moment, failed, but decided to wear it anyway.

Either way I think it would turn a few heads on the school run. I suggested that idea to my children who supplied a three word reply: "Don't. You. Dare."


Monday, 4 October 2010

Hair to dye for

There we were in Carmarthen on Saturday having the thoroughly delightful experience of visiting Christine Stovell of Home Thoughts Weekly who was in Waterstones for her first book signing.

Carmarthen has had a bit of a facelift recently with a shiny new Debenhams, new cinema and a plethora of new shops. It's also been given the best multi-storey car park in the world. This one has huge wide ramps, spacious alley ways and it's one of those pay after you park things so you don't have to estimate how long you're going to be and then find the right change.

It being the first Saturday in the month we had lots of Things to Buy. Like new work clothes for Brian and a much sought-after denim waistcoat for H8. R6 is in love with anything with a cheetah print on it and I meanwhile am banned from buying anything except essentials since purchasing FF Superboots last month.

In Boots I bought some hair dye, a temporary sort just to hide a few greys and was idly standing in the queue with it and my sister's birthday presents in my basket when a hand appeared from behind me and pointed at my hair dye.

"Would you buy that stuff?" asked Unseen Woman's voice loudly from behind me.

"Oh no," said Unseen Woman's Companion peering into my basket. "I wouldn't dare." Pause for effect and to form a sneer. "I'd rather pay to have it done professionally... if I had to have it done."

UW and her companion then proceeded to bitch about home hair dye and how awful it is. It was a long queue and they had lots to say on the subject.

a) Charming.

and b) How rude.

It raised the following points:

  1. Is it really the done thing to talk about the contents of another shopper's basket in a loud voice in public? I suggest not. Of course one looks, it's a national sport, but one does it surreptitiously. Then one sniggers about it later.
  2. If you are going to criticise someone's choice of hair care one should make sure that one's own hair and that of your companion does not resemble dry straw. (Or in other words, madam, if you paid for that 'do' you were 'done'.)
  3. There is absolutely nothing wrong with colouring one's hair at home or otherwise and one shouldn't pretend to the rest of the world in a loud voice that you don't 'have' to dye your hair when it is quite obvious that you do.
  4. All UW got from me was a brief Paddington stare because I am mild mannered and polite. Others might have told her where to stick her opinions.
  5. It's UW's own fault that she turned up beside me outside the store after we'd all paid and I was slagging her and her companion off to my husband.

Just out of interest what should one do in such situations?

Should one:

i) Rise above or
ii) Tell UW and her companion to bugger off out of one's shopping basket?

Answers, not on a postcard, but in the comments please.