Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Fence Post

I take photographs for the simple pleasure of capturing a moment, a view or maybe a special occasion. Something that might invoke a memory when viewed back at a later date. I have no preferred theme to my shooting such as landscapes, wildlife, or street photography, I just snap whatever I think is worth a shot.

Occasionally, a photo may stand out for a particular reason, and this happened today. Mrs H and I went for a walk this morning to get out and about before the weather got to hot, and on account that we're going to be busy later having a BBQ in the garden and a few shandies as it's our daughter's 23rd birthday.

We walked up to the Wenvoe Castle golf course, a place we've been many times over the last couple of months, although it's now open to golfers so we had to be wary of flying golf balls. Actually, the place seemed fairly quiet, and judging by the shots I saw being hit, it was evident that no one-s played for almost three months. There were golfing singletons about (currently rules in Wales allow you to play alone or with one other member of your household) and I did see a woman apparently caddying for her husband which seemed to be a marvellous idea!

Anyway, we walked through the course and then down a lane that splits the first nine from the back nine, and it was along this lane I took this shot of a fence post.

Now ordinarily, a photograph of a fence post is nothing to get excited about. It wasn't until I got home and was flicking through today's shots that this one stood out to me from amongst the landscape views of the Vale, a couple of squirrels and a distant woodpecker.

Initially the reason I took the shot was because of the bright morning sun on the vividly yellow lichen. But the more I looked at this shot, the more intrigued I was. I thought about the passing of time, and specifically ageing. The lichen on the post is itself the obvious indicator that this post has been here for several years. But it's also fallen at an angle over time. I don't suppose it was put into the ground this way, unless the person doing it has DIY skills like me! That's two indicators of the passage of time. And then there's the rusting barbed wire, slowly oxidising over the months and years.

Looked at from this perspective, this photo now means more to me that just some yellow stuff on a concrete post, or a colourful snap on a walk. It's got history - perhaps not decades worth, but it's certainly been there a while, and the three things that pull that together - the lichen, the subsiding angle and the rusty barbed wire make me think that for all the wildlife and magnificent views we saw on our four miler this morning, this for me, was the shot of the day.

Until tomorrow....


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Cheque mate

Apologies dear readers for my tardy, brief and frankly lacking posts of the last couple of days. I've had other things on my mind (mostly trying to quell my anger around politicians and their aides).

However, it's a new day and I have something else to rant about 😀

Cheques. Remember them? About 10 years ago there was a plan to phase them out in 2018, but that got pulled when people realised that a lot of people, and primarily the elderly were, and were likely to continue to be dependent on them. You don't see them very often these days (we even pay our window cleaner and milkman via online banking (OLB) and Direct Debit respectively), but when you do the circumstances fall into one of two camps. You're either a payer or a recipient.

As a payer you have to pay for something via cheque. "What?" I hear you say. Surely there aren't places that don't accept card payment these days, and where the amount is too great for cold hard cash?

Leaving aside the increasing distaste amongst most people for coins and folding paper in favour of contactless - I last withdrew cash at the beginning of March and still have all of it in my wallet),  it's true that some places still don't or won't accept card payments. Primarily the reason given is the setup and fees associated with managing card payment that means that some, often smaller companies don't like the financial hit. However, this has been offset in recent years by systems such as iZettle that run off credit card sized readers that can attach to you phone (think Christmas market traders for instance). These can be set up at low cost although I accept there's usually a "per transaction" fee. So the argument that it's too expensive to take card payments doesn't really hold water.

The second scenario is when you're lucky enough to be the recipient of a cheque. If you're unlucky, this might be to offset payment you've already made, but the best occasions are when it's someone just giving you some money - it happens! But then the realisation hits you, that you've got to pay the darned thing in before you can get hold of that lovely moolah. and that's where things might become tricky.

I've recently been sent a cheque as a donation to the cricket club where I'm secretary. A lovely gesture (thank you to the donor, even though they're unlikely to be reading this). I'm also expecting a cheque from someone who doesn't do online banking so bank transfer is out, in respect of payment for something that I've already paid for on their behalf.

I've been a customer of my bank's OLB system almost since they rolled it out years ago. Despite some of the scare stories, I'm an advocate of OLB. I find it incredibly convenient, easy, safe and secure and increasingly feature rich. However, they don't cater for the paying in of cheques which feels like a big gap in their offering. I tweeted their customer service Twitter account this morning to enquire whether there was any likelihood of them having such a feature in the foreseeable future. To their credit they responded within minutes, but their response was negative - it's not something they are planning, at least any time soon.

They did suggest, not very helpfully, that I could visit one of their branches or pay it in via a Post Office, but obviously that wasn't my point. For one thing this would entail a physical visit to said branch or the Post Office, which rather flies in the face of encouraging online banking. But a visit to a bank it will have to be. However, with increasing branch closure (not to say reducing Post Office branch closures) and currently reduced opening times due to the Covid-19 pandemic, visiting branches is becoming increasingly challenging, especially if you have to work. It's a good job I'm retired and have the time to go.

Some banks do have this functionality within their OLB offering - it usually requires you to take a photo of said cheque and attach as an image, but that's got to be easier and quicker than getting in a car and driving to the nearest branch. Assuming it's still there and open of course.

Out of interest, a quick Google can return a list of banks that do allow the depositing of cheques via phone. 

Banks where you can pay in cheques with your phone

  • Halifax
  • Barclays
  • Lloyds
  • HSBC
  • Bank of Scotland
  • Starling
Banks where you can't pay in cheques with your phone
  • First Direct
  • Monzo
  • Nationwide
  • Natwest
  • RBS
  • Santander
  • TSB
Until tomorrow.... 



Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Better late than never

I’m writing this at half past ten in the evening. I’ve completely forgotten to think about writing a post today even though I have a reminder set on my phone, and in all honesty there hasn’t been anything particularly urgent occupying my mind  today, well not worth blogging about anyway.
Maybe it’s a more general reflection on my current state of mind, which is being bloody fed up of all this coronavirus malarkey. 
Sure, it could have been a lot worse. We’re all fit, well and comparatively unaffected by the virus (other than the frustration of lockdown). My son returns to work (virtually) tomorrow after several weeks on furlough. 
I’m looking forward to the Welsh Government announcing something positive tomorrow at their breifing, although the news tonight reported that any changes are likely to be ‘cautious’. 
Hopefully I’ll have something a little more constructive and positive to post tomorrow.

Until then


Monday, May 25, 2020

Broken Britain

I'm angry. Still angry. I don't often get angry. Grumpy yes, angry no. The Dominic Cummings affair though has pushed me over the edge, and judging from what I'm reading, hearing and seeing, many, many others.

How can BJ and DC now see the anguish, hypocrisy and anger they have caused over this matter? Although they probably have, but are choosing to ignore it. I'm not going to go on at length - there's enough information, analysis and opinionating out there to go around with lots to spare.

And now Boris tells "England" that non-essential retail will be opening from 15 June, whilst here in Wales we remain ostensibly in lockdown.

I give up.

Until tomorrow....


Sunday, May 24, 2020

I've hit the wall

I've got nothing to blog about today. I'M FED UP and frankly I just can't be arsed.

I can't write about the garden (again). WellI could but you might be getting bored of that. I haven't taken any photos today (although I might have a blog plan for June based on photography). I certainly can't write about the current Dominic Cummings situation. Well again I could, but it'll just make me even madder than I am about it already, and I'm already taking medication for blood pressure!

So sorry folks, you're going to have to wait until tomorrow when hopefully something might have inspired the embers of an idea for a post.

Until tomorrow....


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Incredible bird photography

Yesterday a picture of a swift appeared on my Twitter timeline. As most tweets contain a photo, that fact in itself is not particularly interesting, although I suspect that not everyone is familiar with the swift, a summer visitor with its beautiful scythe like wings. Famed for allegedly being able to sleep on the wing, and rarely coming to ground, you know it's summer when you see these birds flying high chasing insects.

No, what really struck me was the photograph itself. It's an astounding shot of a swift heading straight towards the photographer, it's wings like razors.  A copy of the image taken by Somerset based photographer Carl Bovis (@CarlBovisNature, website) is below, but go to the tweet link above and open the image for a full view.

Swift - Credit Carl Bovis (@CarlBovisNature,
As a very amateur photographer and nature lover myself, I'm absolutely taken aback by this image on a number of levels. Firstly taking pictures of any bird in flight is a feat in itself, evidenced by the number of times I've shot some lovely branches of a tree but no bird! To get your camera settings right to get a clear, sharp shot AND manage to get the bird in the frame takes incredible skill, and no doubt patience (and you have to have the right gear). Carl undoubtedly has all this plus bags of experience taking these sort of shots. Secondly, swifts generally fly quite high - I did tweet Carl and ask him about this, and he graciously replied quite quickly telling me that on this occasion the bird was quite low - nevertheless a head on shot of a swift must be quite rare! And thirdly, to capture this bird so precisely head on makes this image all the more stunning. Its wings are like knife edges and in the image you can immediately sense the manoeuvrability and speed of the bird.

Intrigued, I immediately started following Carl on Twitter and looked back through his timeline. The images he takes of birds are quite remarkable. They put my feeble efforts of a wildlife to shame, but I guess I take comfort in that I love taking photographs however they come out, and eventually, with enough practice I may one day take that real "keeper" shot!

I've also jumped straight in to buy Carl's book because if this one image is anything to go by I'm going to love leafing through his book to see the photos and learn more about how, when and where he takes these amazing shots.

Finally, and on a serious note, it appears that someone used (whether intentionally or unintentionally) a photo of Carl's on a Twitter post without crediting him. The net result is that many of those viewing that tweet believe the poster to be the photographer especially as their profile picture showed them holding a camera. Unlike many photographers, Carl does not watermark his photos, but to use his or indeed anyone else's images without crediting the original photographer is a big no no.

Twitter, as I've mentioned on many occasions before, can be a pretty unpleasant place at time, but when you find jewels like this, and are able to communicate directly with people that until that day you'd never heard of before, it shows the platform can be used for. It certainly made my day.

If any of nature, photography or birds are your thing, give him a follow. You won't regret it!

Until tomorrow....


Friday, May 22, 2020

How quickly will we forget?

To say it's been an odd few months is no understatement. Before Christmas we were all concerned with  the trials and tribulations of Brexit (remember that?), Boris finally having got his way to "Get Brexit Done. Blimey, if that was all we had to worry about! Looking back now, we can see how the Government loves a soundbite/message and was perhaps a foretaste of what was to come with "Stay At Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives", shortly followed by "Stay Alert (I still don't know what that means"), Control the Virus (I still don't know what that means either), Save Lives".

Anyway, fast forward to the start of the year and we all watched from afar as the coronavirus spread westwards at a rate of knots, blissfully going about our business as usual, before it was too late, and we were suddenly in lockdown (or a lighter version of it, because let's face it we were never in real lockdown).

During the last couple of months, we've (mostly) seen people being nicer to each other, helping neighbours and friends out who are isolating or shielding, clapping the NHS and other key workers. We've left notes and sometimes gifts for our postmen/women, refuse collectors. We've seen business models change to adapt to lockdown. We've learnt to work from home, obey social distancing rules and live without things that previously we might have seen as "essential". We've done all those jobs we've been putting off for weeks, months, or even years. we've de-cluttered, we've learnt to cook. We've possibly exercised more, perhaps not because we wanted to exercise per se, but because it was an excuse to get out of the house, but hey, let's not decry the fact that we are at least exercising! Many of us have discovered more about our local area than we ever knew before, and probably would never have known if it weren't for this pandemic.

Sure, we've missed (and continue to miss) many things. Popping round to a friends house, or the pub, or going to a restaurant, theatre or on holiday, but we've survived.

At some point though, things will start getting back to some sort of normality. In some places in the UK (England I'm looking at you), this has started sooner than for the rest of us. Having said that, despite Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland continuing their stricter lockdown approach, we do have coffee shops, garden centres, fast food outlets, DIY stores, car washes, etc open, and we do have people using them, almost certainly on non-essential visits. We also have people getting in their cars and driving to places for exercise, or just because they want to.

Let's not kid ourselves here. Whilst in Wales, at least locally, we're not seeing the mass migration to beaches and parks that are happening in some parts of England played out across news and social media, we're not holier than thou. When a picture of a packed Southend beach from last weekend was posted on Twitter alongside an photo of an apparently empty Whitmore Bay at Barry Island as a comparison, along with the predictable comments, what you might have missed were other comments and reports on other social media timelines saying that actually, Barry Island was busy that day (not ridiculously so, but it wasn't empty either. Apparently Cardiff Bay was also packed. Anyway, I digress.

So, the question I have is this. When we do see lockdown lifted, and restrictions eased, how much of everything that we've done and adapted to in the last two to three months will remain, and how much will we quickly forget as we rush back to our cars and self centred lives? Will we continue to talk to our neighbours over the fence, or check in on that little old lady at the end of the road? Will we not moan about queues, or take public transport instead of jumping into our cars, or God forbid even carry on walking? Will we stop appreciating the NHS, and all other key workers we've been so resolutely thanking and applauding these last few weeks? I'm not suggesting we continue clapping every Thursday - that needs to end sometime.

Will we all flock back to Wetherspoon's for our cheap beer after decrying them so vehemently for not paying their workers early on in the crisis and saying we'd never visit s 'Spoons again? News reports of massive queues at recently opened McDonalds for example (or let's face it, anything that opens - Starbucks, recycling centres, garden centres - God knows what will happen when the high street shops open), suggest that however much we say one thing, as soon as the opportunity arises, we instinctively resort to our previous behaviours, and will do anything for a soggy burger and fries, or cup of coffee. In a nutshell, how easily we forget.

I'd like to think we won't, but I'm not holding my breath.

Until tomorrow....