Oh, no, three weeks since the last entry. I have to write something now else I run the risk of skipping February altogether!
Ironically, I've been quite busy. I do find it typical that the more I'm up to, the less inclined I feel to write about it.
The new car is settling in well, Jacqueline likes it very much and I find it a lot more responsive than the old car. I have invested some more by getting hold of a trailer off eBay - it has already made three trips to the tip to dispose of garden waste.
This would have been impossible beforehand - I'd have needed to hire a shredder for the weekend just to reduce the volume, then bag everything up to take it to the tip. With the trailer, I was able just to lift six-foot branches onto the thing without any faffing about. The only thing not quite right about it is the electrics, with the plug/socket connection between trailer and car very sensitive. I think it may be prudent to rewire the thing, just to be sure. So, not quite so much of a bargain as I first thought, but still a good saving on a new trailer.
Of course the next step is to go start clearing out the garage, there's no excuse now!
Next, a belated christmas present to me. I've had my eye on a particular camera lens for months now, but the > £400 price tag (even from Hong Kong) has put me off. Again on eBay, I just happened to be browsing and saw someone in the US selling the lens - brand new - for around £300. So I weakened. Arrived last week, and I took the opportunity to try it out over the weekend.
Actually, we've had a few days out over the last couple of weeks. Its always nice when we get the "crap" (i.e. the supermarket trek) out of the way on Saturday, to leave Sunday free.
So, a couple of Sundays ago we went for a walk into the forest. For the first time I used my Christmas present (software on my PDA called Memory Map, which contained an OS map of the area, and which worked in conjunction with my GPS receiver) to plot our course. Great fun (well, for me!). Actually, having a map to hand did have one advantage - we were able to wander more off the beaten path and actually had a really good "deer" experience. We spotted one stag in the treeline, no more than 20 yards away, then as if that wasn't enough two enormous stags crossed our path even closer to us. They really are magnificent creatures. I did get some photographs and will put them on the site at some point.
Last Sunday we again visited the New Forest, but this time to the more controlled surroundings of the Otter and Owl Sanctuary in Ashurst. So, looking like a total Dick, with this foot-long telephoto lens sticking out of my camera, off we went. An excellent time, the place not only houses otters (which are amazingly playful) and owls, but also deer, wild boar and wallabies (plus a host of other animals). Some of the deer are tame and simply roam around the place, so Alice was in her element petting these creatures.
And the lens? Well, after I'd realised obvious things like (i) it is difficult to focus a handheld 500mm lens, and (ii) trying to get a crisp focus by shooting at 1/1000th doesn't allow much light into the lens! I actually got some half-decent photographs. The lens itself is very crisp, really good value I think for the money. Plus, digital cameras are so forgiving, in the sense that one gets immediate feedback via the LCD display. Sure, the display is nowhere near good enough to spot a brilliant photo, but any obviously bad photos (e.g. out of focus or massively underexposed) can be spotted straight away and corrected.
Anyway, after leaving the sanctuary we went for a bracing walk along the coast at Lepe, with some good views both across to the Isle of Wight, and eastwards to Portsmouth. Again, good practise with the new lens, although really the sky was too grey for any of the pictures to be classics. The strong, biting wind certainly gave us an appetite to the cream tea we later enjoyed at Burley!
And that's about it. Work is work, Alice is Alice, life is life. Jacqueline is away this weekend so I need to think of something to do with Alice, although to be honest she's got her own project at the moment (along with next door's kids, she's building a den in the trees opposite the house) so will probably be happy just playing out. But if the weather is good, the Spinnaker Tower looked quite impressive...