Monday, 21 January 2019

ASTIGMATIC OBSERVATIONS: A RARE MOON

I was awake at 'stupid o'clock' this morning, snatched the camera and snapped away on various settings. They are by no means perfect, but here is a selection of my results. I was SO lucky to see it at all! The conditions were almost perfect: clear, cold skies; brilliant stars and hanging - strangely at odds with its companions, - this extraordinary rust-coloured globe.







I photographed what I could see for about one hour, and the last one was taken through the closed window as I was feeling the chill, hence the 'echo' effect. The sky was also beginning to mist over with streaks of cloud.


If you didn't manage to see this marvellous event, I hope you will enjoy my brief glimpses.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

PASSING BRENTOR IN JANUARY


We took a different route to visit my brother earlier in the week, and it's one I love because it passes Brentor. Even in January the little church perched on the tor looks solid and reassuring, especially through the skeletal patterns created by the bare and lovely trees below. Brentor plays a cameo part in my writing, on a much more inclement day than this, and here is a little teaser: 

‘Earlier she had pulled up the hood of her coat, but rain was now dripping down off it on to her face and when she looked at Titus he was soaked, his hair plastered on to his scalp and his eyes screwed up against the newly-awakened wind. The fog was beginning to clear, but sheets of rain were creating a similar obscurity.
The mound of grass and granite rose up quite steeply, the walls of the church high above and beyond them disappearing into the grey mist. Without speaking they concentrated on their footsteps, walking and occasionally scrambling their way up the climbing path which wound around and back on itself. Eventually they stepped through an iron gateway into the churchyard area which surrounded the building. They staggered across to the church door, which was where fate held another little trick in store for them: the huge old wooden door, built to withstand centuries of exposure to the elements, was locked.’ Extract from ‘Stopping Time’ by P R Ford ©2018


The photo above shows a darker view from last March, as we returned from Okehampton in late afternoon. The church is recognisable from miles away.

Finally, a view of the moor beyond Brentor looking East. The glimpse of blue sky did not last, unfortunately, and our return journey saw a far gloomier Dartmoor. Wherever you are, enjoy your day!


Sunday, 13 January 2019

A CHANGE FROM GREY

My garden in January changes from day to day. There are almost monochrome mornings, blanketed in gloom, and then there are brief bursts of low sun which change everything. Here are some glimpses of colour to brighten your day:


   
The succulents are overwintering in the greenhouse, as are the gorgeous multicoloured pelargonium and the little viola. Outside the 'mop' heads of hydrangeas have dried to crisp Winter displays, still holding their own against the weather. I will cut them down once Spring arrives and the new shoots are safe from frost.




The sight of primroses is always heartwarming, and these have suddenly appeared - I'd forgotten they were tucked into this corner by the steps. 

  

My Hebe is still flowering despite some very cold nights, and its pretty pink colour shines out from the faded green leaves. The few roses I did not dead-head have rewarded both me and the birds with fat, juicy hips which glow in the sunlight. Finally, a surprise in the hanging baskets which I planted up very quickly in the Autumn for some colour - these plants are still flowering!

On the Home Front, I'm waiting for an examination of my 'new' eye this week, when I hope to hear how much longer I will have to wait for the second cataract operation. Meanwhile, I muddle on! I hope the photos will bring you some pleasure.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

I love Christmas. This flashy, over-hyped season can be deemed tiresome, frantic and worrying for many people. My message is simple: STOP!
Stop overspending, stop overworking, stop worrying and quieten down: or you’ll miss it. Listen to the bells and smell the oranges!
Yes, I know it’s raining and cold, and you haven’t bought your presents yet. But look: the Christmas lights reflect like jewels in the wet streets. 


I’m experiencing a surreal double-vision festive season. It’s a little challenging, because with my in-between-cataract-op eyes things take much longer to do. But oddly, this is changing my attitude.
Writing the Christmas cards – always a bit of a chore – made me sit and think about each recipient, and attempt short, possibly illegible messages on their cards. Presents have been kept to a minimum, and I haven’t tried wrapping them yet. Cooking… taken slowly, it will be fine. I’ve already made some cranberry sauce, spilled in rather too much Maraschino liqueur and stood back as it steamed gently into something which tastes wonderful!


But the best part is the brightness, the shining star-lights and twinkling decorations. They’ve taken a magical turn which I’ve attempted to reflect in some hit-or-miss photos.


This blog post is shorter than usual, but I’m adding more of the bizarre photos. I may not manage another article before ‘the day’, so here is my Christmas wish to all my readers: good health, happiness and blessings on you all.




HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

A TEMPORARY DISTORTION OF VISION

Last month I wrote about the importance of sight in the run-up to my first cataract operation. I am delighted to report that the operation went well and I am now two weeks into what can only be described as a ‘no man’s land’ of very weird vision. My ‘new’ eye gives me almost perfect sight, brilliant clarity and new, vivid colours – but there is a power struggle being fought with the unoperated eye, which stubbornly returns fuzzy, myopic and astigmatic vision. In brief: I can’t really see very well, which limits my ability to write, read, drive (an absolute no!) and many other normal everyday pursuits. This is temporary – or so I keep telling myself, as I contemplate the number of days which might lie between now and the other eye’s operation next year. In the meantime: a shorter blog than usual! Here are the beautiful flowers sent to me by my family.

Reading was the first challenge in this new state, but I soon found that by increasing the font size on my Kindle to ludicrous proportions, both eyes manage to return some kind of image to my brain. This system forces one to become very selective. At the first hint of tedium in a paragraph, the book is put ‘on hold’. My target of reading 80 books this year has been abandoned! Opting for thrillers, I hurtled through Robert Galbraith’s ‘Lethal White’ and have just started Michael Connelly’s ‘Dark Sacred Night’. Unfortunately, I had to set aside Faith Martin’s penultimate novel in her Hillary Greene series (Murder in Mind) which I’d been looking forward to, as she spent far too much time introducing old characters.

I miss rushing outside with my camera. I’ve taken a few odd photos of the garden, but actually the weather hasn’t been very conducive to such pursuits. The fun of uploading the results to the computer has dissipated: it’s now hard work. Luckily there’s no-one around to watch me gazing at the monitor through my old glasses, from which the left lens has been removed, but which are more of a headache than a help.

This is not meant to be a catalogue of complaints! Bear with me, dear reader, as I set out for you the reasons why my life is a little different from normal. On the positive side, I can still touch-type, and although I may seem a little crabby now and then, I count my blessings every time I glance across at the clock and find that if I close my bad eye – yes! I can see the time!

P.S. Please tell me if I’ve made any mistakes…

Friday, 9 November 2018

SIGHT

As the day approaches when my first cataract operation will forever change the way I see everything, I find myself surrounded by an Autumn of wondrous colour. For a while now I’ve been attempting to manipulate photographs which demonstrate the blurred world in which I exist without glasses, and the ones I’m attaching to this article may give you some idea of how beautiful it can be at this time of year.



I was five when my poor eyesight was first noticed and the only remedy was the device I still use: glasses. For a young child wearing glasses is a burden because it immediately attracts unwanted and often cruel attention. In the nineteen fifties the choice of frames was severely limited. They were provided by the NHS, ugly and unflattering, the only concession to one’s youth being the choice of colour: blue for boys and a hideous shade of pink for girls. From the outset my lenses were thick and heavy, and inclined to break the moment they fell off onto unforgiving playground surfaces. When this happened at school, a friend would be delegated to take me home because I couldn’t then and still cannot see to cross the road without my glasses. When I was nine my exasperated mother marched me to the optician where I was prescribed a set of ‘games glasses’. These were blue (no concession for girls) round-eyed things, even heavier and not a million miles away from the ones John Lennon subsequently sported, at which point – of course – they became fashionable. Eventually even these broke!

Me as a bridesmaid, 1970!
As time moved on and fashion changed, opticians introduced ranges of non-NHS spectacles; trends were set and prices began to rise. The sixties saw heavy dark frames which grew enormous in the seventies and early eighties, changing shape many times over subsequent decades. Metal rims grew in popularity and colours exploded. One of my favourite pairs was a huge, clumsy-looking affair which from today’s viewpoint when I look back at photos of myself wearing them, appear hideous!

I’m looking forward, not to the operations on my eyes, but to the difference it will make to my life – from waking up in the morning (presently attempting to find out the time and more often than not getting it wrong) to reading a book before going to sleep. Eyesight (poor or otherwise) is a gift, one which we take for granted, but without which our world – and the way in which we inhabit it - would be a very different place.



Saturday, 27 October 2018

LATE OCTOBER UPDATE

I’ve received a date for my first cataract operation! In fact, I’ve received two, but they are the same. (Why did the NHS waste money on sending out two identical letters to me?) Anyway, the date is an odd one – Sunday 11th November. As most people know, this is Remembrance Sunday, which this year is quite important as it will mark one hundred years since the end of the First World War. I double-checked the date on the letter(s) with my diary, and in the end I rang the telephone number specified if you need to change the date. The cheery receptionist was ‘not in her office’ and when she rang me back in response to my message, she mentioned that other people had called with the same query: is this the correct appointment date? Well, it turns out that it is correct. It would seem that the consultant and his staff, and all the admin staff, will be carrying on as usual on that day. I am surprised, but I applaud them for their dedication, and I confirmed that I do NOT want to change the date, I’m anxious to get this first operation out of the way!


It’s been a strange week: a funeral and another death. I’m getting sick of funerals – I seem to have attended rather more than my fair share over the years, but one reason for this is that at one point in my life I sang regularly in a Church choir, and we were often needed to sing at funerals. I used to enjoy that, because it felt as though the lovely old hymns and music we sang held a healing quality unlike that of words alone.

These days, losing friends and family members is very depressing. This funeral commemorated the life of an old and highly valued friend who, with his wife, lived in the same village in Mid-Devon where we used to live. Going back there for the service brought with it a host of memories. The day was bright with Autumn sunshine, warm and mellow with those unmistakable greens, golds and russet browns of trees beginning to lose their leaves.

The other death has been more sombre – if this is possible. It has stirred up a past I would prefer to forget. As I said to a friend: ‘I feel as though a door in my mind has been blown open and I can’t close it.’ For two days I fretted and struggled to cope, until my husband mentioned our dear old friend and mentor Mrs S. ‘Think of her,’ he told me, ‘and what she might have said.’ And I knew exactly what she would have said, in her wonderful down-to-earth Devon tones, scolding and yet comforting: ‘Gad… stop thinking about it! Get on with your work!’

I’m not writing much at the moment. All my writing ‘energy’ went into finishing ‘Stopping Time’ which I published in September. Some ideas are stirring for another book, but such is the way of this incredible muse, I need to wait until they become clearer before I begin to set them down. In any case, I’m hoping to get my eyes sorted out before I start another book!

Final thought: if my operation is at 11.00 will the surgeon keep the two minute silence?