Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Re-invention

 I first became aware of Irish singer Imelda May a couple of years ago when she was a guest on this Jeff Beck album.

Back then she was a bit of a rocker with a blonde quiff and heavy make up that paid homage to earlier years.

As the parents of any daughter will tell you, these magical creatures go through as many reinventions as a butterfly progressing from egg to fully fledged beauty.

And so it is with Imelda.

I enjoyed her performances on CD and DVD as an Ace Cafe favourite but wow! Look what happened when this superbly talented artist reached 40'ish and grew up!

I would not have recognised her at the Brit awards a couple of days ago. The voice can still evoke emotion, softness, and full tilt bravado with more talent than most of the bimbo wannabe's and one-hit wonders. Guess it's because she has served her time and learned her craft.

You will have to wait until April to buy her latest CD of self-penned songs. Two tracks have been pre-released.

Here, if I am allowed and able to insert it, here is one of them which has surely got to become a number one ... Black Tears.

As a judge on one of those endless TV talent shows might say, 'Do you know what? She totally nailed it. Put her stamp on it. Made it her own.'

Except of course that she didn't because it was already hers from the start! And yes, I have put my money where my mouth is and have pre-ordered my copy.

Jeff Beck plays great guitar [as always]on the CD and instantly reminded me of a 58 year old rendition of Sleep Walk by Santo & Johnnie.
Happy listening I hope ... and if the link is broken I apologize and hope you will pop over to YouTube yourself to see and hear what I mean.

I will do another post immediately for audio version.

Meanwhile, as I used to tell my life coaching clients ... if you are not happy with yourself or your life, you can change it. Imelda has done just that!

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Can this old sea dog learn a new trick or three?

Now Flats after rebuilding a few years ago - this maybe 1970?

Margate - Back in the 1950s maybe - John Hinde Photo

As February draws to a close I will attempt to create some logic or flow around this assortment of pictures from the internet. Yes. Chaotic. But that's the sort of month it has been.

As for the young lady above, I might explain her presence later.


This week's TV Choice came up with my horoscope just 21 days after I had signed my pact with the dark forces of technology by buying my first ever 'smart' phone. Ah well, better late than not at all I guess.


The French flavoured 'Maison du Marin' print was for sale in a charity shop and it appealed to me but, as we have nowhere to display it at home, I whipped out my trusty compact camera and grabbed this picture just because I could. 

This is the same camera that I pointed at my laptop screen to see what it would make of this open book shot via YouTube.




Ah. That 'smart' phone which was just a tad too smart for me and my lady. After a week of getting increasingly frustrated at making it actually do anything basic I managed to wipe it clean and start over using a very useful manual that I found on line ... why should I have to? Couldn't the maker have popped it in the pack?

Eventually we booked an appointment with 'An 02 Geek' [The name is theirs not mine, which says it all really!] as it was included 'free' with our purchase. Now we know more than we did before and will, I suppose, learn its crazy little logics before our grey cells give up in distaste.

Then, I figured that as I am on this vertical upward learning curve anyway, I might as well chuck another tenner into the 'investment' and grab a five-in-one lens adapter kit for the phone.

Back in the day I was well used to swapping lenses on my SLR camera so this shouldn't be too hard to grasp. Apart from its minuscule meniscus. Each component appears to be glass and metal which makes me wonder why those converters for 35mm cameras cost hundreds of times more?
Yes, I enjoy handling prints but never need to go above A4 size and, for this, 4 megapixels are totally adequate as offered on my new phone. Another example maybe where megapixels are advertised as the next big thing to feed a gear acquisition syndrome ... hot air and GAS!



My goal for March - weather permitting - is to spend at least one full morning on the seafront and learning by playing. That's what the dame who headed this post was doing I suppose. I hope it isn't compulsory to squint and wear my RayBans on the top of my head.

If I get results I'll share them here.


Thanks for coming along for this ride, now what are your personal goals for next month?










Friday, 24 February 2017

Frugal Friday Free Fotos


I have always found that magazines are a pain-free way of earning a living, learning, acquiring a veneer of knowledge and relaxing.





With the prices of mainstream Photo magazines hitting the upper limit of acceptability I have had to let this pleasure slip away, for good.

This means that I have to overcome my dislike of reading on a screen if I am to get my fix of information from others.

Take this for example, which I discovered on an amazing site called www.photowhoa.com which seems to emanate from Bana India. WARNING! HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS OUTFIT. I SPENT £19 to download a Movavi Photo Editing Studio and received only adverts for more products.
AVOID AVOID AVOID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[Updated 27.02,2017]

There you can find several hundred FREE interviews on line along with a couple of dozen FREE handbooks to download.

All the photos on this post came from Photowhoa and these last two are from a blog interview with Satoki Nagata who has taken the street-photography genre to new levels. His technique is to use an off camera flash mounted on a tripod, a slow shutter speed to record the snow, sleet or rain and I suspect a bit of careful photo montage.

If I thought I could even begin to approach taking pictures like this I STILL wouldn't venture out on the streets after dark, in the snow and loaded with gear.

I have downloaded a free book on Street Photography ... a 62 pager with plenty of examples and supporting text and, so far no annoying pop-ups or advertisements. I may even print it out ... in fact I shall do so right now for reference during my next camera playtime mood.

Thanks for being here.


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Time of my Life!

The late 1950s were good for me. I was good at my job, I had fun in the USA, the American Dream looked as if it really could come true, red and chrome were dominant features in my life and I had money in my pocket and some very pretty young ladies to escort.

Of course there were also tough times and many disadvantaged souls but these were off our radar.

I was reminded of this when reading of the movie The Founder which is now playing at various UK cinemas. I am tempted to see how well it recreates the fabulous fifties when Ray Kroc screwed his partners. left his wife, stole the McDonald's name and concept from Mac and Dick McDonald and the created the fantasy that he was the 'founder' of the Golden Arches empire. [He wasn't - they were]

It is many years since I last visited a cinema and I plan never to do so again. Guess I'll wait until it is released on DVD ... if I remember.

As for my 1950s lifestyle ... the cars, boats  ladies, burgers, coke [Coca Cola!] and the invention of Rock n Roll ... all now just gently fading sweet dreams when I am sittin' on the dock of the bay here in Margate ... or at least I will be when the weather warms up and the wind drops,

When were your 'happy memory years'? If there weren't any, then set about making 2017 your first.

Meanwhile, there are some interesting links in the weekly newsletter from CJChilvers.com
Still from 'The Founder'
Other pictures on this page via Glastron Boats PR materials

Monday, 20 February 2017

Its the business

Many moons ago I subscribed to the US magazine Entrepreneur and yes, it is still going although my subscription isn't.

Two of their earlier regular columnists were Jay Conrad Levenson and Ted Nicholas who were also prolific business authors. Although most of their output was in the pre-digital age, their fundamental marketing strategies still hold good. I learned more about this dark art from their columns than from any text book.

One of them, and I forget which, suggested the concept of a 'fire sale' to clear dead stock at rock bottom prices. Keeping old stuff occupies valuable real estate space which is a cash outflow, selling it, even at cost, is a cash inflow. 

During the early 1980's we would have a queue outside our wool shop waiting for us to open for our 'One Day - Once a Year Penny Sale' when we would sell odd remainders, patterns, needles and accessories at 1p per item. The stuff flew off the shelves and left space for exciting new stock. 

I note that Holland & Barrett now run regular 'penny sales' but theirs are simply variations on the Buy One Get One Free principle.

Last week I received an email from a small family run publishing house that I once used. It was headed 'Fire Sale' and explained how the proprietors wanted to recoup some hefty losses incurred when their website hosting company did the dirty on them and pulled the plug.

I found the offer irresistible ... a one year, non recurring sub to their excellent photography magazine at a full 50% off the usual price. Of course I went for it! I got a bargain, they got an instant income of cash up front for products not yet printed so  I guess it was win-win.

I have made two references to different magazine subscriptions and yet I really dislike the idea. Another photo magazine changed ownership and then called in the receivers so I never saw my money or any magazines again. A US fine art magazine totally failed to deliver any issues at all and after a long hassle sent me a refund cheque in US$ which would have been  reduced by 50% in value by bank charges for depositing it in UK.

Generally I hate paying for subscriptions to anything in advance because my tastes and obsessions and interests may well have changed long before the promised goods are delivered ... and usually the special offers to encourage new subs are worth very little over the length of the agreement [and especially beware 'automatically renewing concepts']

If you must subscribe to anything, I suggest you do so by a one-off payment and do not get involved in direct debit arrangements or standing orders. At least with standing orders YOU are in full control. With direct debits the vendor is in control.

Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

What the ****

Please do not adjust your set ... or ... it's probably not you, it's me.

I proudly present my first ever photograph taken with a mobile phone.

It is through a window because it was cold and windy outside. The horizontals and verticals go every which way because I wasn't holding the damn thing correctly.

I still haven't  figured out how to send it from phone to laptop via bluetooth ... and as for getting the phone to access the internet ... well I STILL haven't found the correct bit of magical geek talk or logic.

Mmmm. Cannot see me abandoning my camera any time soon, in fact it is more probable that you will see this distinguished gentleman shouting obscenities to the seagulls as he tosses this 'smart' phone into the sea at high tide from a great height.

I've seen grey haired old grannies doing it on the bus. I've seen three year old kids doing it on the bus. How hard can it be?

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Traveler's Notebook Olive Edition


It has been some time since I caught up with the Traveler's Notebook company.

I took a look at their official site [www.travelers-company.com] and was surprised to find that they have done a lot since my last visit. They've even opened an on-line shop!

The first two innovations for 2017 are a new collection of brass stationery accessories and this Olive Edition TN.
[Photo from their website]

Now I can see the appeal to genuine jungle explorers who want to carry their TN around in their low visibility tracking suits ... but would they really?

From checking out a few favourite blogs it appears that most TN enthusiasts are probably female, aged 20-30 and obviously with significant disposable income. It's a helluva long time since I met one of these delightful creatures although I remember them with love, even so I cannot really see them queuing up to get their hands on one of these olives.

Being a gentleman of a certain vintage my immediate reaction was that it reminded me of army issue and wartime austerities and atrocities which was not a happy thought. In fact it was totally negative.

Then I remembered how Flying Fortress Sally B needed an olive paint job to protect her former unpainted aluminum body ... and how this was used to enhance her role as a flying memorial to more than 72,000 USAF lads who sacrificed their lives on our behalf during WWII. I even had passing thoughts of pre-ordering a TN Olive to 'customize' as a Sally B special. Then I remembered that it is not a good look for elderly gentlemen to even think about recapturing their past ... even in a notebook.

Of course, the TN team see it differently. Well they would wouldn't they? Here is their take on the colour choice. It seems this 'collector's' item will be available in the UK during April 2017.
From Travelers Company Blog

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

From Elsewhere

With half an hour to spare I visited a few blogs that had been ignored since the end of last year.

That's how I found this item at baum-kuchen.net which is an extract from a book which was suggested by their guest blogger Trina O'Gorman on July 29 2016.

"The biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of a swing on a summer's day. ages 6,4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, what we talked about and how they sounded and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in a hurry to get on with the next things; dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less"
-Anna Quindlen from her book 'Loud and Clear'

OK. I leave it there for you to think about.

Meanwhile I have been catching up with the January issue of the USA magazine Success featuring an interview with, and a free cd by, Tony Robbins. I met Tony 17 years ago when he visited London and he revitalized my interest in Personal Development, Public Speaking and Life Coaching just when it was waning. Tony is a charismatic showman, salesman and mentor.
Here is my daughter keeping warm earlier this month ... is she running towards something or away from it?

Can't tell you 'cos I didn't take the photo.

Always found it difficult to keep up with her!

Monday, 13 February 2017

February Book of the Month

Photo earlier today with myCanon IXUS70 compact digital camera
Poirot and Me by David Suchet
Headline Books 2013 
ISBN 978 0 7553 6419 0
£20  [But my copy was £2 from Charity Shop]


This may seem an unlikely candidate and yet it is highly appropriate, especially given my fascination with many aspects of show-biz.

Sure, we caught the odd TV show in the Poirot series from time to time [although we were never avid compulsive viewers] and like many of my contemporaries we went through phases of reading paperback detective novels.

Going gently back through time, I had my own version of 'Wilderness Years' following a totally different lifestyle from what went before and what has transpired since. Those 20 years more or less spanned the production periods of the Suchet / Poirot filming.between 1988 and 2008.

They also included a couple of visits to Totnes in Devon to meet a client author and to visit a publishing house when a boat trip to Dartmouth revealed some tantalising glimpses of author Agatha Christie's house named 'Greenaway' on the bank of the River Dart. I hear it is now owned by National Trust and is open to the public ... but it wasn't back then.

Set designer Jeff Tessler and the production  team of the TV series chose to set all 70 shows in 1937-38 for recognition and continuity instead of the more accurate 1927-47 when the novels were originally published.

And that's the point for me really. As I was born in 1938, the first ten years of my life [in a dozen or more addresses] were mostly in houses furnished in what is now 'art deco' period style. The decor and fittings are still so familiar to me.

Finally, I checked to see who created the title sequences for the shows. His name was Pat Gavin and you can find out more about the ethos behind his designs and more of this specific style of graphic design and artwork at www.artofthetitle.com

Title image by Pat Gavin [more and video on line]
Back in 19th July I posted some photos of a few of the art deco style homes that I inhabited in Brixton and Streatham and that were still standing last time I looked.

There is a wealth of on-line location information and 'behind the scenes' revelations about Poirot and David Suchet. Happy Googling!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Weekend Blog Wanderin'


Last Sunday I promised to let you know how I got on with my bargain 'compatible' inks for my Epson printer. I have now used two of them, one black and the other coloured. I am truly happy to report that they both worked perfectly and the  results are indistinguishable from the Epson brand at many times the price.



Whilst on the money saving kick, there was a time when we had an expensive newspaper and magazine habit. Each day a newspaper would be delivered and each week we'd pop into the newsagent shop to 'pay the paper bill'.


Then deliveries stopped due to lack of demand and ever escalating charges. Then the shop shut down.

So I would buy a paper 'as and when' and maybe grab a couple of titles on Sunday along with TV Times and a local paper.

Then their prices headed for the stratosphere ... especially our local paper which isn't even locally produced and where proof reading, sub editing and professional journalism are all seen to be lost arts. [Despite all the 'meejia studies' degree courses?!]

On Friday, with a few minutes to spare, I collected these two magazines and freebie newspapers from Tesco. Metro is a free daily that can be downloaded unless you find a print copy on our local Loop bus... or by most London railway stations It has a great pair of crosswords too.

InPublishing is a free controlled circulation trade magazine as I like to stay in touch with some aspects of my former working life.

TV programs are mainly so crappy that we just flick thru the channels for nothing.

I guess we were spending at least £10 a week on printed media. By simply eliminating the paid for titles totally with each price rise, we are happily able to save around £500 a year which has to be good.

Last week I said I'd report back on getting to grips with a smartphone. This  cartoon courtesy of execupundit.com says it all.

Stay warm, stay happy and be positive.
Thanks for stopping by.



Thursday, 9 February 2017

Small Business Stuff

As I couldn't find an appropriate picture for the rant in this post, I figured on using a jump for joy shot from my daughter's portfolio.

There have been several media stories about certain UK banks letting down small business customers and, in some cases, pulling the plug on them and then stripping the assets to add millions to the bank's profits. Guess this has been going on for years with several entrepreneurs being forced into bankruptcy.

Most banks offer  the services of a small business adviser and yet the few of this ilk that I have encountered are either so fresh out of university that they have no REAL business experience or, are so institutionalized that they are climbing their way up the hierarchical structure ... fueled by demands to attain sales targets ... that they probably cannot even spell entrepreneur, let alone be one or have any idea of the creative small business mind set.

My wife and I have been there and speak from experience. Our first business was a holiday chalet. It made money. Next was an hotel and it lost money. Then we bought a shop  and it made some money but not enough profit so I became a private hire minicab driver. Then a writer, then a magazine editor ... then a life coach ... well you get the point. We have been around the small business block a few times and have a few scars.

I had been self employed since the 1960's,providing interim management and trouble shooting services to clients in the public and private sectors. The other ventures were to provide income during 'between assignment' periods and to allow use to spend time with our children whilst still earning some loot.

Which is probably why we can now look at some local retail start-ups and almost always predict those which will fail within the first year. This has nothing to do with bank rip-offs, domestic strife or a culture of blame and everything to do with their ignorance of the most basic of business fundamentals,

Next time I am in this 'bah-humbug-old-man mindset' I shall list my top ten indicators of business failure that are so obvious that we wonder why they are not common knowledge. No MBA is required to understand them.

Unlike our recent acquisition of our first 'smartphone'. A week into ownership and even after locating an on-line manual that is about as useful as a chocolate Stanley knife ... I have only one word to describe our experience so far ......
AAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

All aboard


It was my  birthday on Friday and I was thinking back to the one ship that I served on which was even older than me ... if only by one year!

I served as First Mate aboard SS Herriesdale which had quite a history since being built on the Clyde in 1937 when she was launched as Cromarty Firth,

At just 538 gross tons she was requisitioned in 1939 and employed for 18 months as a supply ship for the Royal Navy at Scapa Flow before becoming involved in The Norwegian Campaign of April 1940 as an ammunition ship  narrowly avoiding attacks from the German Fleet. In 1942 she supported the invasion of North Africa. In '44 she returned to peacetime freight around Scotland and was sold and renamed Herriesdale in 1957.

She was so tiny and under-powered that we spent much of my time aboard sheltering from gales as a strong headwind would prevent us making any forward progress.

She was scrapped soon after I left her to return to deep sea service on modern supertankers. During recent Southerly gales our Margate Roads anchorage offered shelter to around 14 vessels of various sizes, several looking no larger than Herriesdale.

Back in the day I spent many anchor watches looking at Margate, never ever dreaming that one day, fifty years later, I would be on that same shore looking out to sea on a daily basis.


Photo: Sea Breezes magazine May 1959

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Frugality


My Epson Printer, an XP-312 if you're interested, is around three years old. It is easy to use and, so far, reliable. It works well on documents, photographs and scanning as well as printing the odd sheets of A4 graph paper on demand.

It has one drawback. It is thirsty. It is VERY thirsty.

I could tolerate this while Wilko had genuine inks at around £25 for this pack of four. Since Christmas the price has increased to £32. In Argos it is around £36 and in WH Smith it is impossible because they don't display any prices beyond 'Take this card to the till and buy two to get one half price'. {Seriously! What's the point? Don't they WANT to sell anything? And why are their staff so gloomy?]

Epson have a neat trick. If you buy 'compatible' inks the damn machine locks up and plasters an on screen message threatening a fate worse than death if you continue. Then I read in Computer Active magazine that this can be defeated by simply pressing 'OK' and then'Continue'.  Remember that the original Epson  branded inks are circa £30 for four cartridges ... which made my on-line purchase of a pack of 10 for £11.23 seem like a real bargain. Instead of adding £3.90 for postage I bought two and garnered 'free' postage.

I guess this will last me until my 80th birthday which is now one year away.

Haven't tried them yet ... but I shall post an update when I've had a go.

Although I dislike the Amazon marketing and business model, I cannot fault their speed and efficiency ... ordered the ink at 1100 Hrs on Feb 1 and it was delivered 24 hours later!

Finally, enjoy Margate but please treat the sea with respect. I took this reminder photo a couple of years ago.




Friday, 3 February 2017

Notebook Musings 4

I present three boxes, each containing three pocket notebooks from Writepads.com in Baltimore who have just celebrated their first birthday of the launch of their 'me too' version of Field Notes. More about that shortly.

It is now five or six weeks since I received my Field Notes size 'fauxdori' style cover from Start Bay Notebooks, beautifully Crafted in Britain. It still smells delightful, like the leather clothing stores in the casbah in Tangier ... or the upholstery in your new Ferrari ... only better.

Here you see it loaded with four of the superbly made Writepads which come in a variety of the usual page prints.

I love that they are perfect bound instead of stapled and that the paper seems good. I have just two problems with them ... the UK cost and the suggestion that  their pack designer may have a colour blindness issue!

Each pack of three is priced at a typical $10 which translates [today] to about £8.
However, there seems to be no UK stockist and postage from the USA is a whopping $20 [£16] bringing the total cost of each notebook up to £8 a time. And that is why I shall not be accepting their offers of any new editions any time soon and certainly not their $99 a year subscription scheme. [Which may well attract import duty too?]

The idea of a cardboard sleeve for each triple set is cool although a thicker guage of board would allow them to be  used by those souls who love organising and archiving.

But the colours are so ... so ...YUK!  The 'Royal Blue' edition has muddy blue covers and the box is closer to a dirty nappy than it is to gold. The muddy green covers on the 'Pines' edition are enclosed in a white glossy carton. Why? I guess they had a bit of gash silver and white stock left over from a wedding contract. As for the basic '3 subject notebooks of quality' well again, the last time I saw books with these colours on the covers was in primary school during World War II [I'm talking about 1942 here!]

Fullest possible praise ... and then some ... to Start Bay Notebooks. As for Writepads [not to be confused with scouring pads or sanitary wear of similar designation] they show promise but until they can sort out international pricing and mailing costs they will be a no-no hereabouts. Which is a shame.

OK, so I know that colour is a matter of personal taste and that here in Margate we enjoy a truly colourful world that so inspired JWM Turner's paintings which may not  be replicated in Baltimore, so maybe they just have a more gloomy environment out there?

Note how the top edges of the box tuck-in-flap have dented after virtually zero use.

Below, the brilliant feel-good hues of Baltimore.









I WILL be happier next time out, I promise. Thanks for reading this far [if you have been!]

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Utopia or Distopia?

Whilst looking around for information about smartphones I came across this slender book by American Arthur J. Squiers. Intrigued by the outrageous claims on the back cover blurb I punted out eight quid on the off chance that it might help me understand a bit more.

After getting used to the authors rather schoolboy style of writing and a plot so thin that you can see through it, the first 80 or so pages are quite page-turning in a strange way and present what is, to me, a fearful image of dependency on mobile phones at some time soon ... some has already happened in the two years since he wrote it.

You can skip the last 70 pages entirely as they are about investing in stocks US style and may have little or no relevance in Britain ... but how would I know, having never had funds to 'speculate to accumulate'?

On the day that this post is published I am acquiring a smartphone to see if this time, with my wife's assistance [she is 8 years my junior] we can master it despite, as I suspect any type of manual or instructions to help.

I will certainly let you know how we get on ... but don't expect to find me on all those social media platforms any time soon, if at all.

Meanwhile, if you can recommend a good, basic, printed book about Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so on, strictly for beginners who are too old to learn fast ... then please let me know. My email address is at the top of the page.

Thanks and please have a nice day.