Sunday, 20 May 2012

Tales from Elsewhere - The Birthday Present

When Clare and Paul moved into a gracious and leafy neighbourhood in Bristol they felt they had 'arrived', and things got even better when they met their next door neighbours Sue and Dan. Not that they became best buddies straight away or anything, but Clare certainly hit it off with Sue, particularly when they found that they celebrated their birthdays the same day.

As the day drew nearer, Clare confided in Sue how she had been hoping to get a brand new Peugeot 206 for her birthday. She had had one previous car, an old rattletrap which gave up the ghost the year before, since when she had had to rely on public transport and Paul on weekends. They could now afford it, she thought.

Sue was all solicitude and complicity. Over numerous cups of coffee they planned the campaign on how to plant the idea in Paul's head in a subliminal manner so that he would think it was his own idea. So far she had been congratulating herself on the subtlety of her approach. She would consult with Sue on the right technique - what to say, what not to say. Sue obligingly would try out the carefully crafted 'spontaneous conversations' on Dan and come back to tell her how he reacted. This was Sue's idea. A generous friend, she told Clare that she thought nothing of being used as a practice ground.

On the night before her birthday Clare got up in the middle of the night to answer nature's call, and to her speechless delight she saw through the window a beautiful brand new Peugeot 206 parked in the drive, sparkling red in the moontlight. Not to spoil his surprise she said nothing about it and went back to bed, thereafter unable to sleep thinking about the places she would go with her new car.

The following morning she was a little disappointed that he hadn't presented it to her by the time they sat down to breakfast, but recognised his cunning in presenting her with a lovely birthday card and a generous Marks & Spencer voucher. She smiled to herself as she guessed that he was trying to throw her off the scent. Not bad, she thought.

The drive was partly visible through the kitchen window, and she suddenly noticed their next door neighbours Dan and Sue getting into 'her' car and driving away, and her coffee cup came down with a clatter.

"They're taking the car away! Look!" she screamed, scraping back her chair.
"Don't worry love, it's alright" her husband replied from behind his newspaper. "I forgot to tell you that Dan was surprising Sue with a new car for her birthday today, and to help cover up the whole thing I told him he could park it here." He lowered his newspaper "I've just remembered you both have birthdays the same day - what a coincidence!"
Their friendship was never quite the same after that.


Photo Finish -
from Lonicera's digital and non-dgital archives

This week - a bit of Photoshopping

Next week I am getting an early birthday present from John:  he is paying for me to have a 4-hour tutorial session on my own with a Photoshop Elements tutor.  It's something I've been dying to do for some years now, ever since I bought myself a machine which can scan the thousands of slides I've taken over the last 15 years with my Canon EOS100 SLR camera.  Since going digital I've wanted to experiment a lot more but there's only so much I've been able to teach myself.

I thought I would show you some examples of what I've taught myself on Photoshop - and I hope as from next week I shall be much better at it.

In a church there is too much contrast in lighting - the interior is dark, the stained glass windows are burnt out, so I've tried to redress the balance by bringing out the black ceiling, and particularly rewarding, putting the colours back into the stained glass.

This gorgeous little girl was a bridesmaid at a wedding I went to recently, and I was trying to cut out the busy background full of people drinking and dancing.  I blurred some of it and in the end opted for a smokey blue surround to make her look a bit like a princess in a fairytale.

The cake was set up by the venue organisers, and I wanted to try making an image which didn't contain the two champagne bottles.  So this is the 'before'...

...and this is the 'after'.  I sort of ghosted the candles over to the other side.  No doubt from next week I'll be able to make a much better job of it.

John took this picture in the late fifties when he was living in Penang, Malaysia, and it represents the early stages of the construction of a dam.  I tried to turn it into a more normal looking picture.

The sky was the obvious section to change, and the greenery had to be brought back to green.  The plant in the foreground and the other one to the left of it had to be coloured practically one pixel at a time.  I'm sure experience will teach me there's a much easier way to do it...

Taken by me in the nineties, a series of duck pictures which were very underexposed, and it's only thanks to Photoshop that I've been able to see them at all (I'm amazed and grateful that I was too lazy to throw away all the slides which weren't good enough...)  This one doesn't respond well to enlarging though - too much grain.

These last three are digital, taken with my new camera:

A glass ornament resting on my window sill, and with some experimentation I changed the grey day to blue, and the net curtains in the background into clouds - I need practice at that, because skies are the biggest problem for a photographer in the UK - they're always grey or white, and fluffy clouds don't come to order.

Not changed - I think I chopped off the top when I was taking it because the flowers had died off and didn't look so good.

I'm a sucker for rich reds.  All I've done here is lighten the bottom left corner to bring up the leaves a bit.


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Updates, and baring one’s soul

Taken in the Canary Islands

I’ve lost a follower – it makes me sad but I don’t blame them, in fact I apologise for letting them down.
Most of my followers are bandits, and if they’ve been following my blog it will not have escaped their notice that I don’t often post about weight, the lapband and food generally – and getting stuck.  It’s just as important to me as it ever was, but it’s harder now because I’m not as successful as I was at the beginning.  I’m not in denial, I’m not avoiding it:  I vowed when I got the gastric band that those words would no longer form part of my vocabulary. 
The bloggers with the most followers are the most inspirational, the ones who prompt you to eat less, exercise more, have faith in the band – and I’m not one of them because (and I humbly apologise to each and every bariatric surgery blogger who reads this) I’m bored with writing about it.  This is NOT meant to sound condescending – if for example the blogging topic that glued us all together were exclusively about my favourite hobby, photography, it would be the same.  Single-mindedness has never been my strong suit.
True, there are details that disappoint me a little – the newbies who ask the same questions but want to be told the answers afresh because scrolling back to the myriad of solutions offered by all the bloggers is too much trouble, the bloggers who never acknowledge a comment at all, ever... but I continue to follow a lot of bariatric bloggers anyway.  None of this puts me off writing.  Writing is psychological food and drink to me.  It’s just the subject that had to change.
What you will find here is honesty.  I may not inspire you, but I would hope to strike a chord in you if we’re both going through the same difficulties and thought processes, whatever the subject.  Inspiration in my experience never lasts very long, but the benefits of therapy generated by common problems, do.  If I thought I could coax just one silent blogger out of being only a reader and joining in with the group therapy that blogging can be, then that would certainly inspire me to redouble my efforts.  I sometimes look sadly at the blogs I used to follow all the time and wish the writer would come out of retirement...
I have no idea if I have followers because of my stories and photographs, but hope that I do.  Together the two elements are meant to be half way between entertaining and thought-provoking, and every so often there’s something different:  a piece of me in an update, or – as is the case at the moment - a story coming up soon,  a tale of 19th century Bristol told partly in verse (by my partner John) and partly in prose (me). 
“Write about what you know” they say.  And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do, at least most of the time.  Some of the posts are quite long and I think bloggers prefer bite-sized ones, but you see I’m writing for me too – it’s the only thing I have to offer that will live after me.
So here are some updates for you –
Lapband:  I’ve had .75 cc removed and it’s now gone the other way.  It was lovely at first to be able to eat a proper meat-and-two-veg meal, but now there’s room for all of it, plus a pudding as well...  Yes, it’s still better than no fill at all, but I’m not losing any weight, in fact I’m gaining, so I’ve got to go back to Taunton and have maybe a quarter put back in.  The only problem might be the number of pills I’m taking at the moment, and their size.  It’s been great to be able to have them one after the other at the same time and then not think about it for the rest of the day, but if I have a fill I shall be back to taking one an hour (there are 6 at the moment).  However the problem as always, is in my head, and though I ask myself the question when confronted by a desirable item of food “Yes but are you really hungry”, answering “No, I must admit I’m not” makes no bloody difference whatsoever.  I have concluded that I therefore need a lobotomy.
Tales from Argentina – The Rail Crash:  (Click on the link if you would like to read it).  Mechi continues to struggle with the aftermath of having survived Argentina’s worse rail crash in February when 51 people died and over 700 were injured.  She went into therapy for a while, and when she returned to work her first journey took her as usual into the railway terminus at Once and she saw with shock that the destroyed train was still on the same platform and looking exactly the same as a month earlier, and she realised she was nowhere near climbing out of the pit.  Since then she has gradually crawled back out, as it were, and what was a great help to her was a memorial at Once station set up for those who died, with names and photographs, much frequented by their friends and relations. 
Mechi would sit cross legged on the floor silently observing, and one day someone asked her “Are you a relative?” and she replied “No, I was on that train.”  It was at this point, she says, that she truly became aware that she was not one of the dead or injured – she was alive and well.  She realised she had changed sides, and was ready to move on.  We have asked her why she does not take the bus instead, and aside from the fact that it is four times more expensive and she could never consider it on other than a short term basis, during the time she did she was involved in the same crushing queues, with anger and shouting arguments on the crowded buses – as many other commuters had had the same idea.  I hope in time there will be an alternative solution for her.
Meanwhile the president of TBA (Trenes de Buenos Aires) has declared at the tribunal that the maintenance of the trains has nothing whatsoever to do with him – he runs the company and does not supervise the maintenance of the rolling stock.  This, he says, is up to the Operational Managers.  The Senior Operational Manager has advised that most unfortunately he is unable to appear before the tribunal yet because of date clashes in the diary of his solicitor.  Nuff said.
Selina, 2005

Selina – Recovering from her road accident last October:  I have mentioned her twice on this blog, here and here.  She is still at the rehabilitation centre in Buenos Aires, with her mother (my friend Michèle) in attendance 24 hours a day.  She is in a minimally conscious state responding correctly to questions using a thumbs up or down procedure, showing signs of affection towards her family and strengthening her muscles through exercise, though she is as yet unable to stand unaided or speak.  There are small weekly advances and her team is pleased with her progress; it’s not yet known how long she will be in the rehabilitation centre. 
A further complication has arisen which has made day to day living stressful – the centre insisted that there must be two patients to a room, and a patient and her mother duly moved in to share a 7 x 3.5 metre space, with a flimsy curtain down the middle.  Four women therefore live and breathe in that room 24 hours a day, with no privacy except in the bathroom, and no more peace and quiet.  This would be half way to bearable if they each respected the other’s space or got on well, but the other mother believes her daughter needs constant noise and activity, so the television is on loud during waking hours.  Little respect is shown for Selina’s tracheotomy, which requires high levels of hygiene, their belongings get ‘borrowed’ and the untidiness is such that my friend started out tidying up after her but has since changed tack and got fierce about these three issues, which is very contrary to her nature.  The organisation offers no advice, help or recourse, and neither anger nor persuasion has worked.
That’s it for today, and once again may I thank you for reading my blog, whoever and wherever you are.
Photo Finish

- from Lonicera's non-digital archive

The remains of the wreck of the Júcar,
on the Western coast of Fuerteventura, Canary islands

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