Friday, 27 November 2015


The Rest of the Day

After the sunrise walk with Dr Lucy and a 2nd breakfast (the full English Monty) I had a gap several hours before the afternoon lecture and discovered through chatting with other group members that there were two free entry workshops taking place at 11am.  So I headed along to the first one, an exhibition space run by Oliver Lang on mobile photography.  This included a detailed look at water microbes subjected to a laserbeam of light under a microscope that were then projected onto a wall, making viewing easier.  Also within the space was a projected light beam appearing to split the visible light spectrum and a display of light and colour with polarising filters entitled 'In/Visibility' by Vinita Khanna. In all the effects of this mobile exhibition space were quite astounding.  Please follow my numerous orange hyperlinks if you wish to find out more about each subject, but remember to come back here!

Water microbes laser light projection

In/Visibility by Vinita Khanna
  I met and chatted with a visitor here too
that had to be the most appropriately dressed guy
for not only the event but also the weather!

A photo posted by Antonio Cabrera (@antonio_cabreraseville) on
Oliver Lang has since put up a short instagram video of the mobile space.

A short walk along the corridor and I found the Ultraviolet Art workshop with Labern & Lloyd of The Drawing Shed.  Inside there was a range of very old-fashioned typewriters fitted with UV ribbon and a number of people were seated getting creative with the typewriters, black light torches and UV pens. Obviously I had to have a go at this!  My result was I'm afraid very sparkly: 
Twinkle's contribution to the UV Art workshop

To one side of the typewriter area was a large blackboard covered with a variety of drawings and equations fronted by two men talking animatedly to those seated informally on leather cubes and bean bags.   What a great hangout!

This was a very cool area where Q&A and general discussions on light, dark matter, dark energy and the cosmos was taking place to a captive audience. I sat here whilst Toby Shannon from The Institute of Physics relayed his knowledge on light, debated why blue LEDs should win the Nobel Prize as we all got very heavy duty with the cosmology questions for the scientists and they in turn gave us answers on the concept of 'nothingness'.

It was in this room that I first noticed a subtle, sometimes sub-conscious thing happening when the organisers and speakers were talking.

One of many wall messages viewable
with a Black Light torch
Labern & Lloyd artwork display
This thing was very visual in it's subtlety and in fact Toby Shannon actually described it in the same manner that I have always imagined it to be, he stated:

Dark matter could be viewed as if it were a piece of foam, with all the bubbles holding the galaxies, stars etc and the foam itself being the tendrils of dark matter connecting everything around it.

Mind map! Shocking to discover you're on the same wavelength as someone with much more education behind them.

Although not part of the exhibition, I am including below a black and white picture of a piece of foam I have at home, the type used to transport say a hard drive in the mail (two pieces fitting together forming a rectangle).  For a sense of perspective, this object measures 1.375 x 5.5 x 12.375 inches.  I'll ask you to come back to this foam picture later on.

Piece of foam on my kitchen worktop
After the engaging discussions with the Institute of Physics scientists, I headed outside to grab some lunch and air near the Christmas market in front of the Tate and here sampled some hot non-alcoholic Gluhwein, which was just as tasty as the alcoholic version.   The sun was out dancing between racing clouds, lots of people were walking along the river, shopping in the market or huddling beside hot food counters.  Just before entering the Starr Auditorium for the afternoon event, I purchased a couple of books from the Tate shop as stocking fillers for Christmas.

Although the auditorium filled quickly, I was able to obtain a seat to the left with a clear view of the panel just 4 rows from the front.  Asif Khan opened the proceedings with a short quote from Tanizaki's 'In Praise of Shadows' essentially an essay written in the 1930s comparing light and darkness to contrast Western and Asian cultures.  A candle was lit on the panel table with the 'scent' of space, one of Katie Paterson's creations.

The panelists Catherine Heymans, Katie Paterson and Dr Marek Kukula each gave a brief resume of themselves and their field of work and study before taking questions from the audience.
As an artist Katie Paterson draws inspiration from light and visible matter around her, but is also intrigued by the visual expressions possible from the invisible such as dark matter and dark energy, because I also engage in art this was perfectly understood.  Dr Marek Kukula explained that we don't as yet fully understand dark matter but we create images of beauty to describe it, this may be the result of not yet having the words to describe it hence the artistic connection.

In 2012 Catherine Heymans and Van Waerbeke led an international team of astronomers that mapped the largest ever scale of dark matter to date.  The ongoing project is the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Lensing Survey (CFHTLenS). 

Catherine Heymans referred to this image of dark filaments in the Tate lecture,
this was when I mentally made my connection to the foam.
A computer simulation of dark matter filaments

This mental connection was further reinforced when Dr Marek Kukula talked about the image below

Webs of dark matter, from Dark Universe part of
the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium show
Back to that foam...I've always struggled with understanding and visualising Einstein's Theory of Relativity and comfortingly, I learn't this week on the 100th anniversary of that theory, he too struggled to describe it!

To date my own view has been based on that piece of foam with the 'whole piece' existing in the same moment in time across all sides.  A person standing in one part of the foam sees an event say in the middle, another person on the other side sees the same event but possibly the event is seen to them at a different point in time due to disproportionate distance.  But..the event happens in one moment (a unit of time) and is then gone.  This is how I understand the phrase 'everything happening in the now' and why 'time' cannot go backwards, only forwards for everyone, no matter where they are in the universe.  In just a few minutes, the quantity of dark matter particles that pass through a fingernail is in the billions.  Think of how much then there is between you and the computer keyboard, the computer and your window, your window and the outside world.  It's almost like a never ending reflection in a mirror but instead of getting smaller, the particle quantity is growing.

Asif Khan showed the audience a relatively new substance in a round sealed plastic container able to conduct heat, block light particles and not reflect them.  The substance is called Vantablack and although I had heard of it, I had never seen it up close, something he gave us the opportunity to do after the talks. After asking the question, I was intrigued to discover the shape of the particles were like hexagonal nanotubes, neatly fitting together to form a shape so tightly packed that light cannot get through. Applications for this substance could be camera equipment and telescopes to name a few.  When drawing with graphic pens I've often been frustrated by not being able to achieve a complete black block of colour, maybe one day pens will be made of this stuff too!

The Panelists
By the time all the questions had been answered in the audience and the lecture was over, I was beginning to feel the effects of rising at 4.00am with very little sleep beforehand. 

Needing coffee badly I said goodbye to the people I had met along the way this day and headed for my car back through Borough Market to St Thomas's Street. 

Just before going underground to the car I caught sight of the Moon just escaping the clutches of The Shard.

All round this was a very entertaining day out and I really hope that Tate Modern do more of this collaboration with science again.

I hope this has given a small taste of Light and Dark Matters to the reader who might be encouraged to research further.

I make no apologies here for incorrectly theorising anything, that is the freedom of personal thought.  Where possible I have tried to link, embed and credit those involved with this wonderful day.

With the greatest thanks to Tate Modern and The Institute of Physics.


The Sunrise Walk

On Saturday 21 November 2015 I spent the day at London’s Tate Modern for a series of walks, talks, events and workshops staged as part of the International Year of Light.  The fact I made this event at all was due to seeing a tweet fly past on my timeline detailing the event a week earlier, but I’ll come back to that.
On 17 November I bagged the last ticket to take the 7.15 am sunrise walk with Dr Lucy Green of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL’s Department of Space.  In addition I booked the afternoon Tate session entitled ‘Are we darkened by light?’ with Catherine Heymans, Katie Paterson and Dr Marek Kukula chaired by Asif Khan.
In order for me to arrive on time for the sunrise walk I had to rise at 4.00am travelling in from Essex. The journey along the M11 in the clear twilight was uneventful until I reached the brow of the hill by North Weald airfield, where as always I was struck by the dancing array of lights from the skyscrapers of London on the far horizon.  Within 12 miles I knew I would be bathed in megawatts of light.

Having booked a parking spot near London Bridge, it was just a short walk through Borough Market and along Jubilee Walk on the Southbank to reach Tate Modern.  Seems quite early I guess but in fact I ended up with just minutes to spare after a series of spanners in the works including being woken up 3 times during the night, one of which involved disabling our home fire alarm at 3am and another on arrival in London when the entrance to my parking area was blocked by a fire incident truck.  All designed to throw me off kilter I guess but these are the reasons for time management and planning!
It was a bitterly cold morning with a persistent north wind blowing and although I was wrapped up, I had failed to check the wool beanie was inside my trusty flying jacket, so my head was resigned to exposure.  At first I couldn’t manage to raise anyone at the front entrance to the Tate, so I tried the staff entrance and within a minute Dr Lucy appeared in that reception accompanied by two helpers armed with a bag of headphones and receivers.  We then trooped round to the Turbine Hall entrance to wait for the other walkers.
Our first stop along the walk from Southbank was approx. 50 yards along the Millennium Bridge where in the biting wind Dr Lucy had hoped we would see the sunrise; however the UK weather had other plans.  Here Dr Lucy discussed our knowledge of the Sun, it’s dynamic internal convection process, the magnetic field and particularly the ability to recycle turning hydrogen into helium at the core with heavier elements such as carbon, oxygen, neon and iron being formed by stellar nucleosynthesis.  The Earth’s relationship with our Sun being that most of us and it have at some time been formed from these elements when the solar system was born and will continue to do so for another 5-7 billion years, when the Sun recycles again, becomes a red giant followed by a planetary nebula and finally a white dwarf.

A timeline of the Sun’s life (Credit: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory)
The Evolution of the Sun is a fascinating subject for anyone wishing to explore further please use my orange hyperlinks in this blog, but remember to come back here!  
Our little group bravely moved on across Millennium Bridge to the framed view of St Paul’s Cathedral for the next stop where Dr Lucy discussed further the Sun’s magnetic field, it’s influence on Earth and the rest of the solar system and our first real understanding of that far-reaching process when space travel began in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  We were shown and able to hold a primitive early edition of a radiation detector used aboard aircraft and later developed for space travel.  Had we then not been interrupted by everything mother-nature could possibly throw at us including thick sideways blown blobs of snow, I might have had a nice picture of this object to include here.
We moved onwards towards the Bank of England, stopping just before under an arch by King Street.  Here we shook off the accumulated wet stuff and listened to Dr Lucy talk about the economic impacts of the Sun.  With the advent of electricity and technology in the 20th century the economic risk factors have increased.   When our nearest star decides to cough large quantities of matter and electromagnetic radiation out during the course of a CME or solar flare with the solar wind, it doesn’t just produce aurorae displays for our pleasure.  The subsequent shockwave of a CME or flare when it reaches the Earth causes our own magnetosphere to compress on the day side and stretch further out into space on the night side.  The magnetosphere works to protect us to some degree from solar storms, but there are other initially invisible reactions at work.
One such solar storm occurring on March 13, 1989 initially caused short wave radio interference with the arrival of x-rays and ultraviolet light ionizing the upper atmosphere, then aurorae recorded as far south as latitude 19° (Grand Cayman) followed by a total blackout for around 9 hours to the province of Quebec, Canada as a result of magnetic field changes giving rise to underground electrical currents that then interacted with the local igneous rock sending the current through power lines to ultra-sensitive transformers.  To avoid further damage to the transformers the grid was taken down.  The cost in damage to Hydro- Qu├ębec was circa C$10m with almost 10x that amount to end-users. Across the US within minutes of this solar storm there were over 200 power related network issues.  In space, satellites had electronic issues with some tumbling out of control for a while.  A further solar storm in August that year brought trading on the Toronto Stock market to a halt.  It is easy then to see the economic impact of a major solar storm.
On route to the next stop I discussed briefly with Dr Lucy the differences between now and 200 years ago when the world was not so reliant on the electricity grid for daily life and therefore the subject of solar storms and their impacts were not on the science discussion agenda.  A repeat of the famous Carrington Day event in 1859 would likely disrupt our modern technically built world to such a degree it could take a decade or more to recover from it.  This is why solar studies and monitoring of spaceweather events are so very important to prepare and minimise the risk to infrastructure on Earth.
We carried on walking through the unfailing cold wind towards Walbrook stopping briefly under an archway to listen to the sounds of the sun through our headsets.  I have heard this before but it’s always nice to reacquaint yourself with the unusual.  This video has a small clip at the end of the sounds.

Unfortunately our next stop was blocked at Walbrook Wharf river walk by a 58 minute estimated wait for the crane to finish unloading city waste onto a barge.  A detour was organised to take us across Southwark Bridge to The Globe on the Southbank, our final destination before returning to the Tate.  Here Dr Lucy spent a short while reciting a poem by Simon Barraclough inspired by the Sun and Shakespeare taken from his collection book Sunspots .  It was a very fitting end to our walk and her tweet is shown here on the left.

Detour of our group walking along Cousins Lane

I think we were all a little relieved to be back in the warm confines of the Tate Modern where we were led up to the 6th floor for a breakfast of tea, coffee, cake and fruit.  During the walk I had chatted with many others in the group including several artists and these informal chats continued over coffee.  As an amateur astronomer I take a great interest in our Sun and regularly observe sunspots and finer details of our nearest star using safe white light filters and a Hydrogen Alpha eyepiece.  I showed one of these images detailing a solar prominence to a lady artist who was interested and it is reproduced here.

Nice clear curling prominence feature on the Sun's West limb - 8 Oct 2015

My interest in the subject of light and dark extends further to the stars outside our solar system and I have been following one variable star in particular now for a year whilst it displayed increasing light curve variations in the form of a Nova, observing this through the iTelescope network and collecting data myself.  This week I have chosen to ‘adopt’ V5668 Sgr for a year via AAVSO.
I would like to pass a huge thank you to Dr Lucy Green for taking the time to travel into London so early, braving some pretty extreme weather conditions to talk us through one of the most fascinating objects in the Universe, an extremely enjoyable Saturday morning all round.  I’m always looking to learn from such events even with subjects I’m already aware of, there is always more to take on board.

Friday, 12 September 2014

The Art of Trolling and other Social Media Nasties

Anyone who reads my Twitter feed, see's my Flickr and 500px pages and is my friend or family on Facebook knows that I love photography and that it goes hand in hand with my other love of astronomy.

Anyone who has ever tried to combine the two will also know that IT IS NOT AS EASY AS IT LOOKS.  Hard work, hours at a time and energy are put into both and I share it with like minded people because they understand the process only too well.

So...when I've given permission for use of my photography to anyone, I've done so in the knowledge that those people are trusted with correct usage whether they have paid for the photo or not.

Earlier this year in February 2014 I had a run-in with two major daily UK newspapers that had used a photo which they swiped from another paper that already had my permission.  The result being they agreed to pay costs and damages.  This was settled amicably on both sides.

Last night I was given a heads up by a family member about a local paper that already had my permission to use the same photo (originally correctly credited) that had of yesterday been re-posted on their FB webpage. Unfortunately, the link to the FB page showed a distinctly pixelated image with no credit; once you clicked on the news item it did indeed take you to the local paper's website where the image was correctly displayed.

  1. It would have been nice for the local paper to just ask again for it to be used.
  2. I will always now question that integrity originally proferred to me by this paper.
  3. The resulting reply comments on the paper's FB page under my comment querying the issue are the product of ignorance from a mass audience that refuse to check their heads before opening their mouths because...well it's easy to do so when that person is not in front of you eh?
Now I'm guessing you're all thinking "Crap...whose been having a pop at Twinkle?!" and "Where's the link to this, I wanna dive in?!" have been warned...


Silly isn't it?

Now if this 'item' belonged to any one of them, they would be up in arms and all over it like a rash, but because the author made comment they feel disconnected in some way, so that's alright then we can trash and troll away to our hearts content right?  Wrong.

Facebook has it covered if you are not clappy happy:                                                             Standards

I'm guessing that these type of people don't have much experience in life, have never done any real hard graft, grown or created anything from scratch, never come close to death, stood 200 yards from a 1 ton bomb going off and never had to make their way home through that carnage, never cared for an animal or much less a human and never stood in wonder at nature or the planet we live on.

At the time of blogging this issue isn't really a problem since I'm not feeling harassed...however it could go completely pear-shaped, you just never know.  Interestingly the local paper's webmaster hasn't responded back since the reply last night.

I don't use FB particularly often or extensively for this very reason and I'm only connected to people I know, can trust and are also my family (and believe me, I get hacked off by family too at times!).

Social media is great for debate and comment and really should be used for such as if you had that person standing in front of you..e.g. would you really call that lady a c**t to her face?  Many of us think that is OK on a keyboard but you'd likely get a black eye in reality.

On Twitter I can block those who are downright stupid, arrogant and full of nastiness, it's a simply click and I actually prefer debate on this medium.  However, I generally love all of my followers and the people I follow, it's rare I have to block anyone.  In future I'll just be asking the FB webpage owners to remove any of my stuff or links to it if such a thing is abused.

If you're hoping to see Aurora (the Northern Lights) in the North or South of England tonight or tomorrow as predicted may happen due to the G3 solar storm, my advice is.....get checking the NOAA website, get off your butts, get outside, get away from street lighting, get your eyes accustomed to the dark (30 mins minimum) and get looking for yourselves.   In the words of Paul Newman:

"Stop feeding off of me!"

Friday, 11 April 2014

Today I have earned my wages tri-fold..

I always look forward to Fridays...don't you?  Why, because usually I can slow down the work pace a little.

No such luck today, needed a brain, a heart, courage and distinct yellow brick road instructions.

I have been trying to update one of our software programs, Sage Payroll 19.02.157 for best part of a week without success, each time I kept getting this at the end:

After which, the Sage program did not update to version 20.01.  If you're not familiar with RTI (Real Time Information) this will mean nothing to you suffice to say that due to collaboration on an unprecedented scale with HMRC, without the update I would be unable to a) post our company wages in the new tax year and b) file RTI submissions to HMRC, the latter whip out penalty letters faster than you can access their online services.

Then when I tried again to re-install the update I got a different message asking me where my installation was as it now couldn't locate it (nuts since I had the thing open!).

Now I'll have you know that .Net 4.0 WAS installed, I checked.  I also checked my Windows Updates....hmmm what's this then?  I'm pretty sure I have seen this message from time to time:

And this one..

Uh oh..haven't seen this one before...

In fact, the windows update service WAS running according to the administrator console.  In the middle of all this I have a guy from Sage emailing me back and forth telling me things I already know how to tweak and at the same time failing to properly read my email responses back to him.  Doh!

I must have restored the computer to a previous moment in time about 5 times as one tedious trial and error fix after another failed to work.  The best one was when I tried to uninstall Windows .Net 4 Framework and then re-install it to which I received the message 'cannot complete install : HRESULT 0x80003f3 error'.   Binary, if I say so myself Watson.

Something just wasn't right...

Then I found this beautiful thread which if you click and scroll down to Kumar12337 you'll see a nice simple set of instructions.


1 hr later after restoring computer back to 8 April and any other shenanigans, re-booting for the umpteenth time, and taking another restore point (just in case) I followed Kumar12337's instructions to the letter.

It worked...except...I ended up with 64 Critical Windows 7 updates that had quite clearly failed to ever update before, despite said machine saying it had.

In the meantime, the boss (hubby) arrives home; yes I know what you're all thinking and yes...he drives me round the bend too, all day and night.

Sparkleupalot:  "Er...would you mind going for a drive?  Take the ol' racing pigeons for a spin up the road for me?"

Twinklespinalot:  "If I must...."                                                           *rubs hands with glee* I don't have to watch a spinning blue circle for an hour updating Windows 7.

A quick white van run up to Steeple Bumpstead and back with birds in tow and lo and behold the 64 updates have finished. Another couple of re-boots and I was ready to try installing Sage Payroll V20.01 again.


And now....I'm going to polish off a glass or two of wine, my day is done.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

End of a Photography Era?

Late last night on return from my weekly tap dancing session, I logged onto my laptop to get a better view of a friend's excellent photo of the planet Jupiter on the Flickr website, of which I have been a member for nearly 2 years.

Immediately I was struck by the sudden enforced change Yahoo had made whereby the Beta 'Photo Experience,' which up until that point had been optional, had now been foisted on all Flickr members.  It was horrendously messy to say the least.  I could not immediately see anyone's comments on my own photos, leaving me wondering how to respond to people.  Furthermore when I tried to share a photo directly to Twitter social media site via the Flickr share button, it appeared that the ampersand we all use freely to shorten the word 'and' was not in Flickr's dictionary and therefore couldn't handle it.  The resulting protest tweet made me look like a fumbling numpty:

Like others I took to social media for a good ol' rant, because like it or not, this is what we do on occasions like this, right? I wanted to throw buckets of paint around, chew on my own intestines, smash a thousand plates and worse, I wanted to do this:

'Change' as a way of naming something is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as:

"An act or process through which something becomes different" 
Most people associate change with the adjective 'better', which is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as:

"More desirable, satisfactory or effective"
Arguably one of the most popular photography sharing sites on the internet suddenly overnight became neither desirable, satisfactory or effective; it was disagreeable, unacceptable and feckless.

Take the Flickr group for example which I know many have found most useful in identifying astronomy objects and which I use in some of my own astrophotography efforts.  You might be asking at this point "where have all the machine tags gone that this group made on my photos?".  This morning it took me a lot of help forum searching to work out that scrolling down to the tags section on the new Flickr sidebar and hovering over astrometry's star notes produced a single square annotation on the photograph in question. This completely dumbs down the idea of learning from your own and other's photographs as to exactly what you're looking at if you have to singularly keep hovering over the tags on the right bar to produce individual answers!'s Pollux!

From my point of view Flickr was all about a central, clean and easy to use site for showcasing my amateur photography and viewing other members photography progress in a fascinating hobby which has captured my imagination since I first played with an old Russian Zenit EM camera at the age of 12. As my hobby has grown over the years, technology has moved on to the digital age bringing new insights and huge learning curves.  As the internet has grown both technology and information have exploded into our lives to the point where we believe at times that we cannot be without something that connects us to it in a user-friendly manner.  It's what we expect from advances in technology and when it fails to live up to expectations, as users we are capable of upping sticks and looking elsewhere.

Step away, sit back and breathe have a choice as to where you put your faith and support in technology and there is more than one road open for the ride today.

The official help forum thread on the new 'Photo Experience' interface says it all and the responses on it makes for some interesting reading, notable feedback so far:

"With each design change, the site gets more and more inconsistent"
"Sorry, I cannot thank you for something I never wanted.."
"You guys don't seem to understand some very basic, simple rules of photography and displaying images. The large size image needs to be framed all the way around. Not just on two sides, or three sides, but ALL FOUR SIDES!! The portraits are clipped on the top and bottom - no framing whatsoever. The landscapes on the right have a very narrow margin, and no margin on the left. This is so basic, I cannot comprehend how anyone would allow this to happen."

It is supposedly faster they say...well speed is what you make of it and getting there quicker doesn't always mean the destination is tourist spot of the month. Besides which if you don't have super-duper 20Gb Broadband or 'BT Infinity' (when it works) then nothing, not even stone tablets thrown by a Guinness World Record Breaker is going to make viewing photographs load any quicker.

I tried to view a solar image on Flickr this morning from one of my favourite photographers, Mr James Lennie, 5 mins had gone by and .....only half the solar image was showing.

For some time and also since the last lot of changes were rolled out on Flickr in 2013, I have been toying with abandoning the site and joining 500px. Although 500px is free to use, the $25 a year 'Plus' service appeals more to me now following copyright mis-use of my photographs by two well-known national newspapers in late February 2014 (that's a good blog for another day folks!).

I need protection and ease of use if I'm to continue sharing my photography, it's taken a long while and a lot of effort to get to where I am with this hobby and I'm very proud of my achievements in this field so far as I know a lot of my friends online are of their own efforts.  To have a large corporation take it's users and affront them in this manner with a confusing hotchpotch of their own ideas on how a social media sharing site should look does not endear me to publishing my work any further with them.

Social media, whether we like it or not is an important tool for the whole world and beyond.  It connects us to like-minded people, provokes debate, provides insight and lets us view the world from wherever we are at that moment.

Imagine for a second you are bound to your home, unable to travel outside those confines for health or personal reasons.  Now imagine your only contact with the outside world is online.  With vast streams of content and access to trillions of places via photography, video and live news the world opens up into your psyche and you now feel a part of that world just by being able to view it.  Before long you are connecting with people and places you never dreamed of.

It's not hard to also imagine how depressing that might end up if you spend all your time trying to figure out the tools and navigation elements to get there from one day to the next.

It will be sad to leave Flickr as I follow a lot of great photographers, but I think letting it be for a while and going elsewhere is the best thing to do.  We've all talked about it before and we've all hung on in the hope no-one tinkers further with it, but that day has come for me and I'm moving on.  I'll check back with my Flickr friends from time to time and I'm sad for people who only yesterday just started following but I'm already in a new pasture.

A change of field definitely should be for the better.

I'll leave you with this view because it was the first thing I saw on 500px most popular and it really did sum up today's thoughts on the Flickr changes:

Friday, 5 July 2013

I'll be back Greenwich....smoke me some whitebait for breakfast

When you take a trip to London from the 'sticks' of the UK, the 1st thing you notice is how everyone is in so much of a rush.  So it was no surprise to me that when I drove down the M11 and parked my car at Debden central line station, Loughton, I was almost floored walking into the station by a young girl steaming full tilt out the entrance, phone in hand, eyes down, oblivious to the world around her.  The 'tut tut' under her breath was all the more remarkable since she had bolted straight into me!  I think I said something like "Perhaps you ought to slow down a bit".  That fell on deaf ears completely.

So my trip on Thursday 27th June to the Big Smoke had a two-fold purpose.  One to meet the requirements of my appointment at The Arthur Steele Clinic on City Road with Mr Julian Stevens MRCP, FRCS, FRCOphth., DO and the other to catch up with my good friend Ric Barham for lunch, then both enjoy an afternoon at Greenwich with our cameras and hopefully get in to see The Visions of The Universe exhibition.

Travelling on London's Tube is always a fascinating experience and for many years I did this every day without a thought commuting to work.  Even as a child, I had to use the Tube living in the suburbs of London and was once stuck underground going home from a dental appointment at Wimpole Street escorted by my heavily pregnant mother, sweltering for 4 hours between Stratford and Leytonstone where some inconsiderate lady had decided to end it all on the tracks, but hadn't quite managed it.  In case no-one is aware of this fact, it was procedure on London Underground then that if a 'jumper' was not dead, they couldn't turn off the power and let everyone walk through the trains to safety, the heavy lifting equipment had to be brought in to hoist the train off the track so they could retrieve what was left of the unfortunate person.  I also recall waiting for an eastbound train on Embankment station in the mid-1990s when a briefcase bearing gentleman decided to step straight off in front of me on the other side, just as the westbound train pulled into the station.  A sure-fire way to quickly clear 2 platforms of commuters if ever there was one.

But on Thursday last the trains were looking good, it was 10.00am so all the rush below street level had dissolved into a few late risers and eager tourists.  Between changes at Bank for the Northern Line I even had time to let a train go in order to try out the sports mode on the Canon 700D.

Northern Line at Bank
As always the Tube is a warm place. The deepest part of the underground system is on the Northern line just below Hampstead Heath where the rails are over 220 feet below ground.

At Old Street station I was pleased to see the little dress shop that I like still there, although disappointed at the range of clothing currently on sale.  I emerged into breezy daylight and headed to my appointment at 11.30am.  Had a little trouble trying to get the receptionist to answer the intercom, but then realised I was on the wrong floor!  It's been a while since a checkup so I went through an eye test and lots of staring through expensive and futuristic equipment before I got to see Mr Stevens.  I had my eyes treated here in the 1990s under Moorfields excimer laser photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) surgery programme.  My eyes were treated separately over a 6 month period, costing £500 each.  During 2007 I was treated a second time by LASIK on my right eye as it had slightly reverted back, this time however Mr Stevens had reverted back to the private clinic and the cost was significantly higher at £800 per eye.  Since that time I have had 20/20 vision, although due to my increasing age, I use reading glasses of +1 just to help nature out a bit.  I have never regretted having the surgery as contacts and glasses were just as expensive.

Thankfully my 2 hour stint in the clinic turned out fine and all was well with my eyes, just a little massage needed to get my oil glands going (who knew you had oil glands in your eyelids!). I was very hungry having resisted the temptation in the clinic to help myself to Hobnobs and other treats on offer.  I then headed over to London Bridge to meet my friend Ric who manages a number of buildings around St Thomas's Street for Great Portland Estates.

The Shard

I can never get the whole of this building into the frame!  A much wider angle lens required I believe....sigh, all these hobbies cost dosh, dosh and more dosh.

A short drive to Greenwich ensued and we parked close to The Trafalgar Tavern.

I hadn't tested this particular watering hole before, but we were both more than ready to eat.  I should mention that Ric recently went through an amazing operation that resulted in extreme weight loss, so he warned me that eating lunch would be a slower affair than usual.

Ric Barham

I'm impressed by the progress Ric has made in the last few months and he's looking very healthy and a lot happier for it.  It's been a long road psychologically too, I applaud his determination and bravery for going through such a hard few months.  Well done mate!

Oooh, what a view of the O2 from the Tavern:

Feeling quite adventurous, I chose Greenwich Whitebait from the pub food menu with a side of fries, I had never tried that fish before.  We sat down and pulled out both our cameras, fussing over this setting and that, comparing apps on iphones too.  I'm a newbie with my iphone, so all assistance helps!

Ric has been interested in photography, particularly the wildlife sort for a long time.  I've always been interested in taking pictures on holidays, day trips and the like, but never really seriously.  I learn a lot from my good friend this particular day, in fact I'm shown an amazing trick to widen the angle of my Canon 700D 18-55mm IS II lens as he quickly pulls out a small 1 inch deep adaptor and screws it onto the front of my lens..."now look through that" he says:

As I look through the viewfinder, I am blown away by the difference, even taken through the grubby glass of the Trafalgar Tavern on a less than bright day, this is impressive for me.

I'm sold!!

This adaptor also doubles as a macro lens


The food arrives and initially I look pensively at the breaded deep fried whitebait in front of me as I can see two little eyes peeping through the batter....ah well, in for a penny in for a pound.

Twinkle before the food
I've tried fish from many countries, even gone deep sea fishing off the Florida Keys twice now, where I hauled snook and snapper for my dinner up from 80 feet of seabed, single-handedly and simultaneously providing the ocean with fresh bait for the next customer shortly afterwards.  Excitement, Dramamine, egg-sandwiches, sun and good beer are always a good recipe for sea sickness.

The whitebait at the pub came with a lemon and paprika dip which served for me to ignore the eyes a bit.  However, on reflection now I have to admit one of them did taste a bit....strange.  But, I had already swallowed it.  I think I looked quite happy before lunch in this photo!

We left The Trafalgar after about 2 hours and headed across to our destination, the Visions of the Universe Exhibition at the Maritime Museum.  The museum was a short 15 minute stroll from the Tavern.  Just before entering to purchase our tickets, Ric commented that the running waterfall outside close by the ship in the bottle would make a good photographic shot.

Was this deja vu?

At the desk we were told we could not take photos inside the exhibition.  Our tickets purchased, we strolled inside with much anticipation and I nabbed a snap of Ric under the banner with my phone.  The first photograph you are confronted with inside the dark room is that of Sir Patrick Moore.  The exhibition is dedicated to his memory, I will always remember him with much fondness as he provided my first interest in astronomy and space at the tender age of 8 with The Sky at Night programme.  There are over 100 fantastic images of the cosmos at this exhibition and I thoroughly recommend a visit.

I was a bit peeved that some guy was snapping away with his 'point and shoot' at the photos inside and made a point of informing the security guard, to which she replied "Yes, you can take pictures, I'm sorry you were mis-informed".  Had I known this, I think I would have asked Ric to take a picture of me sat in front of Mount Sharp with what happened next.

We had only been inside the exhibition 10 minutes when I began to feel very hot, particularly on my hands and feet.  They were on fire and I was scratching frantically.  It was quite dark inside the exhibition so I couldn't really see what was going on, but after a while I had to find a seat.  That seat happened to be slap bang in front of the massive panoramic photo of Mount Sharp on Mars.  My sandals came off and I rubbed my feet on the cold carpet, I must have looked quite a sight scratching like some bear against a pole.  At the end of this seat a young far eastern girl was coughing and spluttering constantly and I hastily shifted away from her.  Ric kept asking me if I was alright and clearly this wasn't the case.

I managed this quick snap inside but, after 20 minutes I couldn't stand it any longer,  In a quiet whisper that felt more like a roar in my head I said, "Ric, I've got to get out of here NOW, I'm really sorry".  I think I almost ran out, calling over my shoulder for him to grab me a coffee.  Out the front door by the Ship's bottle I sped towards the running water exhibit and stood in it, much to the amusement of a group of school children.  The cool water was a blessing, but my hands and feet were red raw and blotches were appearing on my knees and legs.  I sat on the cold stone wall and waited for the coffee.  When Ric saw my hands and feet he couldn't believe it.  The only explanation was an allergic reaction to something, but what???  I was breathing fine, no swollen tongue, lips of any other body part.

"Right, let's go find a chemist for some Piriton", he said.

"But, I want to go up the hill, this is my day out", I wailed.

We waited 20 minutes and I began to feel better, despite the misery,  my feet were cooling and I put my sandals back on.  We walked no more than 100 yards and I had to sit down as the whole itching thing started again.   In the end this is all I got to see of the Observatory:

A cute blackbird also popped up in front of me whilst I pondered whether or not I could go on or go home.

The answer was obvious really but I didn't want to admit it.  Ric really wanted to take me to A&E, but I firmly refused.  Done enough time there in the last 12 months, thank you kindly.

Hello little blackbird
We turned around and headed back to the car.  On the way back I managed two half decent camera shots of Greenwich and the City of London in the distance, in between hopping along with swelling feet and tearing at my hands.
Canary Wharf
In the early 1990s I worked on the 36th floor of One Canada Square in the left of this picture.  From that point you could see for miles, watch aircraft pass close by and land at London City Airport, that view must be very obscured by the new buildings now.  Standing at the window edges on our floor used to make me feel giddy.
Old Royal Naval College

Walking down the hill on terra firma I felt very giddy indeed.  But managed somehow to take a picture.  Spots of rain were beginning to fall as well.  Could this day get any worse? It's now 5pm.

By the time we get back to the car and Ric ploughs through the rush hour traffic heading east to find a pharmacy, I can no longer bear sitting up front in the warm car.  He stops down a side road, finds a chemist and I woof down a piriton tab with some water, climb into the back of the car and lie down, middle seat belt awkwardly stretched across my stomach.  I remove my sandals again, lie down with my hands up holding my phone and feet raised, pressed against the passenger window in 1st position (ballet term for the uninitiated).  This cools them down considerably.

What a sight, I take to Twitter on the phone to distract me from the itch and this was the photo I posted before both feet were back on the glass.  I joked with Ric that he'd have to clean the footprints off before Aunty Pat got in the car or there'd be some interesting conversation going on!

Ric wanted to drive me back all the way home, but my car was at Debden Station.  Providing the tablets kicked in I could then drive back home without incurring a clamping.

I became aware of landmarks passing by as we crawled through the traffic, and at one point as we came out the Blackwall Tunnel into 3 lanes of queuing traffic, Ric stated that we were passing a police car at which point I momentarily moved my feet in case they thought he had a dead body in the back. 

I knew roughly where we were by raising my phone up to take this of the Olympic park.  We finally arrived at Debden and grabbed two teas, I sat up and waited for the inevitable flush in my extremities.  Thankfully it had eased.  Yes I could drive!

Instead of taking the M11 as usual, I headed back through Abridge, Chipping Ongar, and The Rodings, a route known as "The Rat Run" as it runs parallel with the motorway through fast country lanes and sleepy villages.  Arriving home, I headed straight to bed but not before I had taken some Ibuprofen as by the time I reached home, something else was starting to happen.  The itching had died down, replaced by joint swelling, making my hands and feet tight and difficult to move without considerable pain.  My 16 year old daughter was away in Devon so I slept in her room for fear of my husband rolling onto my painful hands.  He had to be up at 5.00am and in London the next day for 7.00am.

In the morning my hands were solid rocks and communications with them were very slow, I had hardly any motor control at all.   Alone in the house except for Oscar the ever cantankerous labrador, ("Err...yes I still want my breakfast woman, get to it!") I struggled around willing everything to work properly.  Even holding a mug of tea was surreal, like it was half floating in zero gravity in my hand.  I had an appointment with the nurse at 8.45am so I made sure our doctor came in on that to examine my problem.  I was dispatched with some anti-histamine that "Will not make you sleepy".  I had 3 VAT returns to complete in the office and upload to HMRC, plus a host of other typing, the last thing I needed was dropping off on the keyboard.

Everything that day took forever, my vision was intermittently blurred by staring from screen to paperwork, it was clear "Will not make you sleepy" actually mean't "Will make you dunk your head in your tea numerous times".  My 8 hour day turned into 14 hours as the following stilted conversations took place between my head and my hands:

"Hello hand, Twinkle here do you think you could type a little quicker?".

2 minute pause....

"This is Hand, take a hike Twinkle...I'm busy down here".

"Well Hand, I'm a little up against it here too and I need your help PDQ".

2 minute pause....

"Twinkle this is Hand, look there's a major offensive going on here right now, the macrophages, leukocytes and me have got more pathogens, anti-bodies and white cells than you can shake a stick at (sorry you can't shake a stick right now either)".

"Hand, this is Twinkle, you've got to try harder, I mean it's not like you haven't had help with drugs or 8 hours straight rest because you HAVE".

2 minute pause....

"Twinkle this is Hand, don't get shirty with me madam, I wasn't the one who munched on some untried fishy, I'll get to moving when I've neutralised all these enemies".

I don't know how I did it but I managed to file 2 of the 3 VAT returns late that night, one had queries I couldn't resolve immediately.  Even a week later, my right hand (the worst affected) is still stiff.  I've since looked up this kind of allergic reaction and the most likely scenario is scrombroid food poisoning.

It's amazing what you can't do when a vital body part refuses to work properly.  I don't blame a soul.....

But.... I'll be back Greenwich, you are not dismissing Twinkle the Wanderer that quickly.

With thanks to Ric Barham, ex-army medic on the spot and kind permission to use his noodle on here.