These are my 5 intentions for 2016. Hopefully they will not pave the road to Hell.
Drink more water – because water is not only essential, it is good for us. The body of an ‘average’ adult – whatever an ‘average adult’ may be – is composed of approximately 65% water. Just fancy that. No wonder we’re so heavy. As we don’t want the same old stale water swishing around our internal waterways, it must be good to keep it freshly supplied. This interesting article knocks on the head the dictum that we should all be drinking half a gallon of water a day, but I don’t think I intake sufficient liquid, so I’m going to make a conscious effort to drink at least a few glasses every day.
Stop being angry – I’ve already started that one! Currently on Day 5 of the Negative News Detox and it’s working.
Finish the Kenyan safari book – It’s taking longer to finish the first draft than I anticipated. As well as all my handwritten notes, I use the several thousand photos I took as aide memoires. Once I begin looking through them my mind drifts away, and I start going through all the photos that bring back such beautiful memories, and before you know it I haven’t written a word. So I’ve myself from looking at the photos again until I’ve finished the first draft based on my notes. Just one more peek first.
Improve my photography. I only became interested in photography when I bought my first micro-four-thirds camera three years ago. I’d tried my husband’s Canon DSLR and found it too awkward and heavy, so when I wanted to move up from a point and shoot, the tiny Olympus EPM-1 mini-Pen was my choice. It’s a gorgeous, versatile little camera that takes beautiful photos. I had no idea what all the knobs and buttons meant, so I joined our local camera club and have since learned how to move beyond the ‘Auto’ setting to obtain the required image. I later bought an Olympus OMD EM-10, another micro–four-thirds camera that is a joy to handle and produces high quality images. Through the club I now understand the elements of photography and using post-processing software, but I have been using the ‘hit and miss’ approach and taking far too many photos in the hope that some of them will be good, and relying on processing to refine them. I enjoy that aspect of photography, using Light Room, but for speed and simplicity, Faststone is my pick of the free image manipulation software if you want to view your files really quickly and make basic adjustments. It is invaluable for calculating the size of a high quality print you can get from a digital image.
Last year I spent a day with Marian Brickner photographing the bonobo chimpanzees who live a few miles from our home. She was gracious enough to share her time and photographic wisdom with a very raw amateur. When we were discussing a particular shot, I mentioned that if the exposure wasn’t quite right, I could tweak it with software to achieve the correct result. Marian looked at me over the rim of her glasses and asked: “But why don’t you get it right when you take it?” Indeed, why not?
Find out more about my grandfather. Who and what was my Irish-American grandfather? My quest is to try and uncover more about his life, particularly his activities in WW1. Why did he have two names Vincent Kelly and Frederick Mannering and how did he marry my grandmother under both names, at the same time and in the same place? How did he have at least three different and disparate wartime occupations, including fighting with a South African kilted regiment? So far the trail runs out at his death in 1932 and I’ve been unable to find any information regarding his siblings. They seem to just fade into obscurity. A surname like Kelly doesn’t help. I’ve spent rather a lot of time on Ancestry without achieving very much. My lovely friend Jenny who is clever found several family photos and other information on the site, so I’m hopeful that if I keep going long enough I can find out at least a little more about this mysterious character.
These are my three best finds of 2015:
Replacing fabric softener with vinegar. It’s better for your health, better for your clothes, better for your pocket and good for your washing machine. And it’s vegan, too.
Our rescued Vizsla Tommy, is beautiful, and wilful. He will walk quietly on a lead for only as long as he wants to, and then he’s off and hard to hold. We tried various Haltis, Gentle Leaders, an expensive harness, all of which were ineffective. He continually scraped at the halters until he either caught his claws in them or pulled them off, and in the harness he hugged the ground to get his centre of gravity right down and then pulled like a train. Taking him out was exhausting and unsatisfying.
I read an article on one of the dog owners’ fora, where somebody recommended the Infinity Collar (now renamed the Perfect Pace) as being the first and only means she had found for stopping her dogs pulling. I ordered one – they are made in the US – and was somewhat bemused when it arrived, because it was a simple plaited cord of soft but strong material, with a fixed loop for a handle at one and, and a variable loop at the other. It took me a while to work out the mechanics of it, but it’s absolute simplicity. You make a big loose loop and put it around the dog’s neck. Then you twist the loop into a figure 8 under the dog’s chin, and place the resulting second loop over the muzzle. Tighten the loop behind the ears, and keep it in place with the sliding leather toggle. Voila! There is nothing more to it than that. No straps, buckles, Velcro, just a narrow, gentle figure 8 over the dog’s head. It doesn’t ride up. It can’t come off (unless you use the optional attachment for fixing it to the dog’s collar, because if the dog backs out of the collar, it will take the loop with it.) Tommy made a half-hearted attempt to remove the loop over his nose, and then trotted happily and quietly beside us. If he does suddenly lurch – as when the dog at the end of the lane leaps up at the gate – the lead checks him. Best buy!
I hate my hair. I’ve always hated it. And I’ve hated it most when people say: “Aren’t you lucky to have curly hair!” No. Curly hair is not lucky. It is unruly, sticks up and out, and frizzes at the sight of a weather forecast predicting even a mildly damp day. I’ve tried various techniques for taming it, from having it short cropped to growing it below shoulder-length, encouraging it to go its own reckless way by spraying it with water, and sleeping with my head in a tight-fitting cap to clamp the unruliness to my skull. It’s been a life-long battle between us, always ending up with a 1-nil victory to hair, apart from occasions when I’ve managed to iron it into flatness with tongs which generally burnt my ears and neck. I could never get curlers to stay in place, nor manage a hairbrush in one hand and a hair dryer in the other.
Since I discovered the Babyliss rotating hairbrush, with just a minimal effort I can get my hair looking like hair and not a ball of tumbleweed. Take that, hair!
This is my one material want
This isn’t a need, and I know it’s shallow, and that photography isn’t about your equipment – people take sublime photos with iPhones or disposable cameras – but I WANT one of these. I already have the 40-150mm f4 to f5.6 zoom which is by far the favourite lens in my collection, but this would really put the cherry on the cake.
It’s extremely unlikely I’ll ever be able to afford it, so I’m thinking about asking for somebody to give me one. Maybe Olympus would. I know someone who was given a Nikon lens costing over $10,000 – just for asking. Or should I try Just Giving? Any ideas?