Monday, 29 December 2008


Quiet christmas, back at work today.

Alice gave all appearances of having guessed her christmas present - a DS Lite - beforehand, I don't know if she'd gone rooting or not. I used to have great fun doing exactly the same as a kid.

So anyway I came home early on christmas eve and christmas officially started at about 6 o'clock. I must say that I couldn't have felt less "christmassy", a main reason for this of course is that I am basically working through this year. I have big tax bills I need to pay, plus I suspect the client is grateful to have a technical expert around as most of their other "tekkies" are taking holiday.

Christmas Eve itself was quiet, surprisingly we managed to get Alice to bed at a reasonable hour, and not too excited. There has been decidedly little talk of Father Christmas this year, I reckon she thinks she knows what its all about, but she doesn't come right out and say anything just in case she wakes up and there are no presents! So we got Alice's presents wrapped (organised, that's us!) and had a relatively early night ourselves.

The downside of going to work each day was that on Christmas Day, I was awake at six o'clock. This was partially due to forgetting to switch the alarm off, but also due to Maisie deciding it was time for breakfast. So I got up the enjoy the quiet, although not for long as Alice came into the lounge with armfulls - and sackfulls - of presents. All very exciting as I watched her open her presents. There was the DS Lite and a couple of games, also some jigsaws, DVDs, vouchers (iTunes and Vodafone) from us, plus a load of craft stuff from Santa. There was even stuff from other people. Of course, when you see it piled up it is all way too much (not least Jacqueline tells me she was moaning today that she was bored!). Apart from this, Jacqueline cooked a delicious, traditional Christmas Lunch, though we are all a bit health-conscious at the moment and really the only unhealthy thing we ate were the roasties (unhealthy indeed, since Jac had bought goose fat in which to roast 'em!). Aside from this, Alice verged on the unbearable all day - she was understandably excited but I drew the line at some of her cheek. Still, we cut her some slack and I think she got sent to her room just the once.

The TV on Christmas Day seemed very poor, so we treated ourselves to a Box Office movie after lunch - the Indiana Jones film from last year. I thought it'd be difficult for a sixty-plus Harrison Ford to carry the role, but in the end it was nicely entertaining and a good film. Aside from that I had the laptop on my knee and was sorting out all the photographs that I hadn't bothered processing yet. As well as a few hundred from the trip to France, I also found loads from days out that had never made it off the PC.

As regards the photographs, the French ones in particular were taken in dull, grey skies and were totally underwhelming, though I did a bit of playing with the software and discovered that these same pictures, when passed through a black and white filter, took on a new lease of life. Quintessentially Parisien, even though I do say so myself.

[La Tour Eiffel, viewing from the Panthéon] 



[Place de la Contrescarpe] 

Having said this, one of my favourite photographs was when Sylvain (Isabelle's husband) hit the shutter release by mistake, resulting in a delightfully blurred photograph which could only ever come about by accident.

Despite the generally more pleasant weather in Rouen, I tried the same black-and-white technique with some of the photographs, and in fact while we were there I did do a quick tour around the city centre with the fish-eye lens, to add a little spice. I've included a couple below (all of the "presentable" photos are in the Family Album section if the site, if you want more).

[L'Eglise Saint Maclou] 


[Place de la Cathédrale] 

And there we have it - Christmas Day. I was clearly so inspired by the excellent quality of the photographs that Boxing Day (with Jac still in bed and Alice watching the TV) I took advantage of the glorious, clear skies to go out for a walk down by the river. Beautiful "winter" shots of the River Avon, really worthwhile despite the bitter cold. Here's why:


I'm afraid to say, however, that that was pretty much Boxing Day for me - we all stayed in the rest of the day, Jacqueline with a dicky tummy after her Christmas extravaganza. By Saturday, though, she was right as rain and in fact it was she who was out early, to West Quay shopping centre in Southampton. She was back by lunchtime - with shopping bags galore - telling me how wise she had been to get there early, as the traffic she saw when coming home was horrendous. Still, she'd obviously had some degree of success because the clothes she'd bought were all rather good. She's really chuffed (sometimes to the point of obsession) that she's lost so much weight in the last few months, and of course being able to buy sexy, elegant clothes is all part of the dividend.

As if one lot of shopping wasn't enough, we went into Salisbury this time, somewhat later in the afternoon, primarily so that Alice could spend some of her Christmas money. As it happened, our first stop after parking the car was to visit Great Western Outdoor where both Jacqueline and I got some bargains in the sale. In particular, Jac got hold of a couple of pairs of summer walking trousers which were really good quality (North Face) and outstanding value. But as I say, this trip was really for Alice and so we visited Woolies and then the Entertainer, but she found precious little of interest in either.

We hatched a plot, then, for Alice to visit Toys 'R Us in Southampton on Sunday, and fortunately here was somewhere she was able to spent her dosh! (I happened to get a remote-controlled helicopter also, but we'll say nothing about that!) We'd spent so much of the last three or four days just lazing around, however, that we really felt we needed some fresh air, so we hit one of our favourite New Forest locations at Bolderwood. Another photo opportunity, this time I walked around with the big lens to see if I could catch any distant deer. I did, fortunately, but even more spectacular were a couple of robins I managed to photograph. Now they look really good - I take lots of photographs and most of them are average, but every now and again one pops out just perfectly...

I had to do quite a bit of post processing on these photographs, because at the shutter speeds I was using (I was shooting handheld so needed to shoot quickly) the results tended to be quite dark. I'd love one day to get one of the really fast Nikkor zoom lenses, but these things cost thousands, would end up being very little-used and all in all would be a frightful waste of money!

So, back to the client's today. Very relaxing, with no-one faffing about, plus I actually achieved something I'd been trying to get around to for a while. 'Course, the "getting up" bit at the very start was painful, but I compensated by leaving early.

And the reason for this? Well, dear reader, today is my birthday and a (hopefully) delicious supper awaits me. Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me...

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