Happy Birthday Wife!

Today is the 13th of May 2022 and is my wife’s birthday. It is also Friday the 13th, so I don’t know how I should be feeling, happy for my wife but slightly preoccupied by lady luck deciding to have fun at my expense. Strangely, in France, Friday the 13th is considered lucky. What a peculiar country!

But what a strange coincidence though? But little did I know that 30 years ago, almost to the day that we first met how many coincidences there actually were…

She is born on the 13th, and me on the 26th. 26 being the double of 13. As a Catholic, yes, it happens, I have have always felt close to the Virgin Mary. My mother is Anne, the mother of Mary, and my beloved Grandma was called Mary. My wife is called Virginie… But you could argue that a lot of Catholic women were called Mary or Anne. We also live in the Vendée which has the number 85 – 8+5=13.

Today is also the feast of Our Lady of Fatima who appeared to three children in Fatima in Portugal in 1917.

Can you see a pattern developing here?

Anyway, it doesn’t, in any form, detract from the fact that it is my wife’s birthday today. I used to be great at thinking of presents for everyone, be it Christmas or birthdays. I just knew exactly what to look for and where to find it. Now, as in a lot of things, I now know nothing. What do you get for the person who has everything, including Yours Truly? My dream solution, my daughter seems to have stolen my talent and also seems to be very good at spending my money, but this time it is for a good cause.

Tomorrow, we will celebrate in a dignified manner with friends and have a barbecue, with salads, meats, and sausagy things that have been drawn up on the famous shopping list. It is a long shopping list and in a sudden and surprisingly rare instant of genius, I dared to add, don’t forget the charcoal Darling. The charcoal had been forgotten? I had’t saved the day, but I think I scored at least one brownie point.

So now you know what awaits le this weekend. Last weekend was a little more musical. When I first arrived in Vendée just over 20 years ago I played the horn for the local wind band in Montaigu. It was local and it got me out of the house and introduced me to local people who would eventually become friends. After a certain amount of time I got bored and didn’t feel challenged which is not a good thing to happen. You find that resentment can build and boredom never helps. I eventually stopped playing the horn and felt I had had enough, and then in 2009 a friend from the band said that’s had started playing with the windband in Cholet and I played with them from then on, even getting to the point of trying to get my French teaching diploma, but with burnout, and a change of horn teachers, that idea fell by the wayside. I cut music right back to the basics.

Durning Covid, the old conductor from Montaigu died, and within the year his wife died too. At least they’re together now. The band in MOntaigu had wanted to have a concert to remember them by, and last Satudray, after a lot of work by the band committee, they managed it. As an old player, I was invited to join in, and it was a lovely experience.

During the rehearsals, I received news that my boss in Cholet was resigning at the end of the year. Certainly unexpected, but I think I know some of the reasons why. All of a sudden, choices opened up to me. The band in Montaigu found out, and I was told that if I wanted, they would be happy to have an extra horn player. Not an easy decision to make, and I will certainly think about it. It would certainly mean less driving, and with the price of petrol, that is one huge argument. I feel a certain loylaty for the boss at Cholet even more so than for the band itself. not only is he my musical director but has over the years, become a friend. I’ll keep you posted.

Sunday was going to be about rest and relaxation. I felt I couldn’t face Nantes, and would be going to mass there anyway later on. So I went to Clisson instead. We all have those pretty towns just near us. In Hull, it was Beverley, in Noisy le Sec, it was Paris, and in Saint Hilaire it’s Clisson. I’m not denigrating the places that I have lived, but they were also slightly cheaper places to live, but that’s by the by…

I seem to be getting back into using my Canon DSLR and loving it too. It’s the 16-35mm lens that does it. And as you can see in the photographs from that day, Clisson is very photogenic, almost more than Nantes, but let’s not tell everyone, or they’ll all want to go there…

Palm Sunday Photography

Last week I wrote about Palm Sunday and the importance that it has in the liturgical calendar.  Today I would like to talk more about photography.  In my article about the Canon 6D Mark II and the 16-35mm lens, I talked about how it seemed to be a less productive day, and it was indeed, and that next time would be possibly different.  New day, and different light, by definition.  Well, it was.

Spring has sprung, we have changed hours on the clock, and the weather seems to be a little less despicable with some nice sunlight, whilst still having some lovely light fluffy clouds to be amazed by.  Whenever that happens, I know how I want my camera.  I want it, firstly, with me, otherwise, photography becomes a more laborious pursuit.  Secondly, when doing my editing, I want to reproduce the effect of putting a red filter on my lens as if I were doing black and white film photography.  The blue skies become darker and the fluffiness of the clouds just seems to pop out.  Add a little contrast, and bob’s your Aunty, or Uncle depending on his or her pronouns…

It might seem slightly old fashioned to you, but I find very this type of image very pleasing, and it gives off a certain old-timer vibe, and as an old-timer, at least compared to the young timers, I’m more than happy.  Everything is relative anyway.  Maybe I am of the age where I no longer care about impressing people and just want to do things my way.  I’m not saying I don’t love a compliment either.  All men do.  Ladies, never underestimate the power of a compliment to a gentleman.  We may seem cool on the outside, but on the inside, this compliment will boost us for ages.  Try it.  I dare you!

I parked the car at the Feydeau underground car park, and just walked along towards the castle, and for me as an introvert, actually dared to ask somebody if I could take their picture, at least a picture of their shoes.  The young lady was most obliging and said yes.  Thank you.  One of my favourite photos of the day and in “colour!”  Then the famous Miroir d’eau, which is more subtle than Bordeaux’s water mirror, but in Nantes, you get the reflection of an enormous castle, which is where I went next.  Don’t worry, you won’t have to follow each and every pace.  You can do that by looking at the photos at the end of the article.

I parked the car at the Feydeau underground car park, and just walked along towards the castle, and surprisingly for me as an introvert, actually dared to ask somebody if I could take their picture, at least a picture of their shoes.  The young lady was most obliging and said yes.  Thank you.  One of my favourite photos of the day and in “colour!”  Then the famous Miroir d’eau, which is more subtle than Bordeaux’s water mirror, but in Nantes, you get the reflection of a huge castle, which is where I went next.  Don’t worry, you won’t have to follow each and every pace.  You can do that by looking at the photos at the end of the article.

To sum up, a very fruitful outing, with a break at the pub, so, even more reason to describe the day so worthwhile.  Thank you for following and feel free to share your impressions.  I promise not to bite!

How was your weekend?

Well, on Friday night we had the consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  As a Catholic, and, as somebody who has actually been to Fatima, and knows what a big thing this is, it was a very moving and special moment.  The majority of us wish peace for Ukraine and wish for an end to Putin’s invasion, and anyone who says it’s just a special military operation is in serious error!  Since the beginning of the invasion, this is a start of hope in this grizzly war.  Let’s keep praying for them!  What else was Pope Francis supposed to do?

I’m sorry if Catholicism isn’t your thing, but it is mine, and I wanted to get that out there.  You can hate me later.

On Saturday, I felt slightly out of it, especially after the emotion of the previous evening.  I felt tired and just wanted to sleep and rest.  During the week, I had started reading up on using an ultra-wide lens as a portrait lens.  As it happens, I have one for my Canon 6D Mark II.  The infamous 16-35mm.  If you look at previous articles and on my Instagram feed, you can see the results that I have managed to get from this setup.  I love the distortion that this lens gives me.  It allows me to create images that although taken in real life seem to have an otherworldly feel to them.  “They” say it’s all about creating images that “stand out” and I’m all for that! 

So instead of just reading up on it and wishing, the best thing to do is to pull the proverbial finger out, get the kit out of the camera cupboard and use it!  I’ve been using my Fuji camera systems lately and I thought it would be good to have a change.  I’ve been so happy with the Canon and the 16-35mm lens in the past, and have had such great results with it, so I was feeling really geared up and positive. 

Then I got out and for some reason, I just couldn’t get into the zone.  I was fortunate enough to get a couple of half-decent photos, but I certainly wasn’t feeling it.  I kept at it with my legendary stubbornness, but I knew it wasn’t a good day.  I know you can’t have a good day every day, but I usually do better than that.  Let me assure you, however, that this is only temporary, and that next Friday afternoon I will have another go. Not every photo was useless as you can see in the gallery, but you do feel a certain frustration.  You’re all geared up to create and then you get performance issues. Still no idea why, but it could always be worse. I could have given the booze up for Lent and therefore not be able to have a pint of Guinness to console me. Oh, wait…

There’s a difference between knowing the theory, having practised, and being able to reproduce great results every time.  That is probably the reason that I am still an amateur and not a pro.

I will not let this discourage me and next time is next time.  If this ever happens to you then please don’t fret about it.  Sometimes it’s just not your day.  It doesn’t mean that you are a bad photographer, it just means that it’s not a good day on a given day.  Be stubborn.  Keep going.  Don’t give up.  Show the buggers what you can do!

Here are the photos.  Not all of them were horrible, and one or two shine out, which is actually quite good. Tell me what you think.  How should I change my approach for the next time?

COVID

COVID-19: I tried it so that you don’t have to!  As with most things, I always seem to be late getting “on trend” and with Covid, I was beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, I had got through it without catching it.  Little did I know that the next day, Covid would come along a smack me about the face!

It was a Tuesday.  A rough day at work.  The sort of day where you feel shitty all day, but are still vertical and not horizontal, and therefore not ill.  Serves you right for only 4 hours of sleep last night…  Wednesday.  A really rough day at work.  You slept a little better but are still tired.  Coughing a bit.  Must be just the sleep thing.  Exhausted and not hugely productive in the afternoon.  I’ll just check my temperature, you never know…  35.4°C.  Could be worse, I suppose, but wow, not felt this bad for a while.  Vive la “going home time.”  Yay; I got home in one piece, and let’s just go to bed.  An early night won’t do me any harm.  It’s freezing in bed and I can’t get warm.  I have the covers on, and my dog is next to me, but I’m absolutely freezing.  This is not good.

Day 1.  Thursday morning.  I get up at the usual time.  Not one for pulling a sickie, I seem to have the do I, or don’t I debate in my head.  Well, I didn’t.  My wife said to do a Covid test last night.  Didn’t feel up to it.  But this morning I plucked up the courage to stick something uncomfortably far up my nose.  Had great difficulty reading the tiny printing, but worked out how to do everything, and how to do the test. Two lines appeared and usually mean pregnancy, but it can’t be that. I’m just fat.  No, I was Covid positive and positive that I had Covid.   Out came my phone, first, to write the mail to my bosses informing them I will not be there today, and second, with blind optimism, phone the local nurse to get something else poked up my nose, but officially this time.  Could I come straight away?  She didn’t have any patients that morning.  Yes, I could.  Told my son where I was going and was asked if he could come too.  We were both in the car with our masks on, drove to the nurse’s office, and got poked right up the nose.  I was now officially positive, and my son was officially negative.  Did he realise how many points he had just lost in the favourite child competition?  No masculine solidarity at all.  He was actually looking quite smug!  The cheek of the boy!

Back home to work out how you do everything for the Social Security, and how you get your sick note.  It would appear that you have to grass up anyone with whom you were in contact for over 15 minutes without wearing a mask.  The only people were my daughter and wife.  And of course the dog.  A miracle happened.  To finish on a high note, I got all the French Covid admin done from my phone and could enjoy being ill at last.  I was still chilling and felt cold, and coughing, and put on Netflix and get back into bed.  It would appear that I have drifted off… Again…

My daughter was tested later that day and became my Covid Buddy.  She also gained points and won the coveted favourite child position.  The day was spent sleeping, and feeling awful.

Day 2.  Friday.  Much the same as Day 1, still with the coughing and feeling cold.  That beautiful doggy dog didn’t move one inch from my side. I tried taking paracetamol to see if it would do any good.  Who was I trying to kid?  It was about as useful as a bicycle for a non-cycling fish! Kept trying to drink lots of fluids.  I had a goodies parcel from the UK and was gradually working my way through glasses of orange and lemon barley water.  I still had good taste.  Which is something just not worth contemplating losing. If it were to make me pee during the night, then I could just sleep the next morning.

Day 3.  My wife became a Covid Buddy too.  She had vainly tried sleeping on the sofa downstairs last night, thinking that this would protect her.  Well, it didn’t.  She was quite worried about phoning her boss, but I reassured her saying that Covid is Covid and so is the week off you get as a consolation prize.  Full pay too!  Less coughing.

Day 4 and 5.  Much the same.  Bed.  Snoozing.  Feeling pretty crappy.  During the night, suffered from horrible muscular pains in my thighs of all places!  Stopped me from sleeping, but I knew I could snooze later.

Day 5.  If I were Covid negative, then I could go back to work.  But despite the mail from my boss asking how I was and possibly hoping that I would be back, it wasn’t going to happen.  Back to bed, and snoozing.

Day 6 and 7.  Much the same, but by the end of Day 7, I was starting to feel nearly human again!

Day 8.  Back to work, but not necessarily bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but definitely vertical again.  During the whole Covid experience, that dog never left my side for over 10 minutes at a time!  She got loads of brownie points.

Rating.  2 stars.  Nice to have a fully paid week off work, but not nice being too ill to get the most out of it.  Wouldn’t recommend it to a friend.

February Continued…

In my last article Dear Reader, I promised you some colour photography and in this article, you’re going to get it.  The sun was still warming my back and it felt good to be alive again!  I talked about missing out on the Jaune in the Grue Jaune, but not this time.  Shorter article maybe but some great colour for you.  When I bought the Fujifilm X100f one of the things that had was the Classic Chrome film simulation, which was supposed to emulate Kodachrome which of course died in 2009 and can no longer be processed.    The X100f of course has other film simulations, which you can look up on the web, but that Classic Chrome look just got me.  A slightly more subdued colour range with a certain warmness and something that you just can’t quite put your finger on, which reminded you of an age gone by in photography.

I mean the whole camera seems to have a certain vintage vibe to it despite all the technology hidden away inside.  The little knobs and buttons everywhere just remind you of a film camera.  How was I supposed to resist?  As you can see in various articles and various photo galleries, I didn’t resist and I’m still OK with that!  I even went on to acquire an XT2 with interchangeable lenses, which offer me more variety in the kinds of shots I can take, as well as keeping the same feel to my shots. 

Everyone says to shoot in RAW.  I can hear them even now saying, “Shoot in RAW you fool!”  Well I do, but I also shoot jpegs to have those images already colour edited to fit that Chrome feeling.  It’s consistent and I still have my RAW files to fall back on if needed.  The Fuji Jpegs are amazing and it helps me to cut down on the amount of editing that I have to do.  I’m basically lazy, so if I can avoid doing something and yet get a perfectly satisfactory result, then I’m going with the path of least resistance. 

On this outing, I was using the 18mm (24mm equivalent) lens with the XT2.  Again, I’ve talked before how I decided to go wider instead of longer, and if any of you are laughing at this point, get your minds out of the gutter!  I’m talking photography!!

So without much further ado, let me present you with some colour photography taken on the XT2 in Nantes.  

P.S.  I think I found the banana….

Hello February

I hate you January.  What a month for depression, for shitty and pissy weather!  Christmas is a souvenir and we have all recovered from the hangovers from New Year’s Eve.  Why can’t the year start in mid-February or even in March?  You bring darkness and cold with you, and with Covid we’re not out all the time huddled together enjoying ourselves even if we have had three shots!

IJM Photography

February, on the other hand, sees days getting longer and slightly brighter, but with January’s rain still lingering like a hard to treat MST that you just can’t get rid of.  But the sun is starting to make an effort and poke its head through the clouds.  Sometimes it even manages it!  You can see daffodils growing and want to flower.  The hedgerows are green, but only with evergreen plants.  The blossoms have yet to come but won’t be long.  First is the blackthorn, which ironically has white blossom.  Nature seems to get its backside in gear during March.  But even now we have milder weather…

The French government, in its infinite wisdom, with only the very slightest whiff of irony, has decreed that from the 2nd of February, face coverings no longer need to be worn outside.  The French government, again, in its infinite wisdom, with only the very slightest whiff of irony, has also decreed that from the 16th of February we can stand at the bar to get drunk and no longer have to sit.  We can also go to nightclubs. Although not my scene at all, I could go if I so wished.  COVID isn’t over but it would appear that party time is starting once again.  A little later than in number 10, but starting anyway.  That there is an election in May and the fact that the governing party doesn’t want to look like party poopers has nothing to do with it.  Boris didn’t let it impede his partying.  Boris is also a self-righteous buffoon.  Don’t be like Boris.  I remember when Boris used to be a rather rotund Russian chap, fond of promoting vodka and heart surgery…  Those days are long gone…  But he certainly seems to have had more fun than Vladimir, which is not surprising when you’re not at all planning on invading Ukraine like you did in 2014… Keeping the peace? More like taking the peace!!

But let’s get back to France, Nantes, and photography, or rather me I, France, Nantes, and photography.  Since the beginning of the year, we have been granted our Friday afternoons off by the company I work for.  This allows me time to get off my rather large backside and go out and take some photographs.  Sometimes, I have my daughter with me, and sometimes I’m just on my own.  Like that, she doesn’t eat my cake!  SO, I walk around in the sunshine and feel alive again.  Don’t be jealous, this last week has been very rainy and depressing, but it should be fine tomorrow and next week looks OK.

I usually hang out in the centre of town but for the last couple of weekends, where it has been sunny, I walked along the river Loire in the infamous Hangar à Bananes which is lovely during the day, but not so much at 2am when the bars throw people out.  I’m not saying that it’s a magnet for crime, but I would say that during the day and early evening, it’s lovely!  Take from that what you will.  Far be it from me to infer insecurity where the city council says there isn’t any and we’ll fight it with culture.  You can lead a horse to culture, but you can’t make it drink unless it’s an Irish horse, which would make things easier.  And you don’t have to get a seat for your horse now.  It can drink at the bar without being judged. Wonderful isn’t it!

Right.  Time for the photo bit of the article.  You’ve been very patient and now you will be rewarded!  The photos are a mixture of the two weekends, and a mixture of colour and black and white photography.  It would be a shame to miss out on seeing the Jaune in the Grue Jaune.  And although you can get some beautiful images in the rain and even difficult light, it is so much more agreeable to not have to deal with it! The photos are taken on the Fuji X100f with its 35mm equivalent F2.0 lens, and the Fuji XT2 with its 16mm F2.8 lens.  I’ll let you have a look at the photos now.  Thanks for reading this far! I’ll leave the colour photos for another post. Let’s not get mixed up now… won’t be long. I’ll soon get it sorted.