Monthly Archives: June 2012

What in the hail was that?! AKA – WPC: Fleeting Moment

Yes, I have read the remit for the WordPress challenge this week, and I appreciate it’s supposed to be street photography. But my take on that is, if you want it to be street photography, then call the challenge “street photography.”

Today, the sun was shining, when all of a sudden, the sky became dark as a very dense cloud came over. Expecting one of the wierd short-lived deluges that we’ve been getting lately, I just turned on the reading lamp and thought myself thankful for being indoors. But the rapping on the window was harder than rain and I grabbed the camera and went to the back door where I was greeted with a hailstorm!

Granted, they weren’t the massive 2-3 inch hailstones they apparently got further south, but hailstones they were.

The cloudburst was a short-lived affair, a couple of minutes at most …… and then the sun shone again and the ice melted away!

Now you see it ….

Now you don’t!

I’d call that a fleeting moment.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2012]

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For those of us who’ve ever tried to make smoke rings …

Found this doing the rounds on YouTube. I’m no scientist, but like the video title says, I find this extraordinary.

So that’s what sea creatures do to keep themselves amused …

Categories: Alice's world, Pictures | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The slow implosion of Alice

Alice sits on the settee and surveys the disarray around her, the broken phone beeping softly, its pieces scattered across the living room floor.

Numbness has consumed her body since the primal scream that accompanied the jettison of the phone against the brick wall. The cocky young upstart on the other end of the phone had told her they would be charging her £35 to cancel her car insurance, and the withdrawal from her bank account would be immediate. She doesn’t have £35 in her account. She had tried to reason with him, asking him if the charge could be postponed until her normal debit day after payday – but he said “the computer’s already registered it now, and it’s automatic. Nothing I can do.” Alice felt the smugness in his voice as he probably leaned back and crossed his feet on the desk while he gave her the bad news, and she imagined herself reaching through the phone and ripping his face off. Instead, she hung up.

Now she has to find money to buy a new phone too…

Earlier that day, Alice had taken her “new” car to We Buy Any Car. It was a nice car; she’d only bought it six weeks ago, and she wished she didn’t have to get rid.  But despite it being in very good condition for its age, even receiving the approval of her very picky pubescent son and his friends, it killed her on petrol mileage. She’d worked out that it was costing her £1 every three and a half miles, and it was bleeding her dry. Easier to get a bus pass and a railcard. She’d tried to sell the car on E-Bay, but nobody bid at the price she’d requested. Her £1000 overdraft limit was being severely tested, as her account currently stood at precisely £999.60 in the red. So she had no choice.  A massive downpour as she drove to the buyer gave her some hope that the salesman might not want to go outside and look too closely at the vehicle – but even with the rain he managed to drop the offer to well below what she was hoping for. Even with a refund on the tax disc, she would still take a substantial loss on her original purchase. But desperate times … The money will be in her account in about a week.

Alice tried to catch the bus home. To her embarrassment, she realised she had brought last week’s bus pass with her, and with no cash on her, she was forced to walk two miles to the nearest bank. There, she felt further humiliation when she had to convince the banker to extend her overdraft by a massive £10 (!) in order to have enough chump change to pay for another bus to take her the other six miles home.

Alice believes in destiny. She truly does. In her view, everything happens for a reason. She is just part of a bigger plan, and so far, the puppeteer has never let her go completely under. But sitting on the bus, she reflected on her current state and felt fat, hideous, useless, broke, exhausted, alone, and completely lost. Her life was on a knife edge, and she felt like just letting go.

The boss is visiting her tomorrow with the HR manager. She’s been off work now for nearly five months, and yet again, her mood has plummetted. Is it a turn in her mood cycles or just an adverse reaction to the growing stresses that engulf her? It’s not just the money, there are other issues too … issues that, even in isolation, could easily bring a person to their knees.

But Alice knows if she is to ever come back from this, she’s going to have to return to her job soon. The thought petrifies her. It’s not easy work and involves high levels of stress at the best of times. She suspects the job was probably a major contributary factor to her breakdown in the first place, and the idea of returning to the same gladiatorial arena frightens her. The union rep is unavailable to attend the meeting, and Alice is feeling increasingly anxious at the prospect of dealing with this alone.

But that’s how it’s always been. Everything Alice has ever done in her life, she has done alone: travelled the world; obtained degrees; embarked on exciting adventures; gave birth to and raised a child; made many, many mistakes; and survived.

And here she sits once again … alone… surveying the damage.

No money. No phone. No escape.

But strangely, no tears.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2012]

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Wee beasties #57 – Giant house spider

Not such a wee beastie was lurking in the shadows between a soap jar and a blue pottery cat on my bathroom ledge yesterday. It had to have been at least two inches long, and not the prettiest of creatures, I have to say.

When I pulled the cat away, I found that this female Giant House Spider had been weaving an incredibly dense, complicated series of webs that crackled as they stretched and snapped.

Note to self:

Dust more often.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2012]

Categories: Alice's world, Bug-a-day, Pictures | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

They wrote songs about him, you know…

OK, granted, it’s a little more political than the post about the torch relay … but listen if you will:

Chumbawamba wrote a beautiful folk one.

Gil Scott-Heron wrote a jazz-fusion one (lyrics start at 0:56):

And, of course, UB40 wrote one or two reggae ones – this being the more well-known.

Interestingly, the lyrics talk of it being “five years”. For the record, it’s now been 38 years!

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2012]

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Free at last?

He always had a feeling it would always come down to just one person. One governor to agree to sign the release. One judge to admit his mistake. One man to cleanse his soul and confess his sin.

On Monday 25th June 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States of America held that “The Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders.” He was a juvenile when he was sentenced for a homicide. The state mandated that he had to be sentenced to death or to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. This ruling applies to him. Five Supreme Justices concurred; four dissented. One vote separated the ayes from the nays. One person decided that potentially he can finally be free. If one person who said aye had said nay, this too would have been a dead end. But they didn’t. Five to four. The ayes have it.

His juvenile years are long gone, as is much of his adult life. His once defiant dreadlocks  thinned and turned to grey many years ago and have since been shaved off. But devotion to maintaining a disciplined regime to keep body and soul healthy has kept the spirit alive. His eyes still hold that flame of defiance.

For 38 years he maintained his innocence, but since the youthful age of 16, Gary Tyler has been imprisoned. Contained. Caged.

“Just say you did it, and we’ll let you out,” they teased. He would have none of it.

Three separate pardon boards recommended release. The state of Louisiana would have none of it.

Stalemate. Standoff. Each party digging in their heels and refusing to budge. The man refusing to admit any guilt; the state refusing to accept they may have made a mistake.

Now the Supreme Court has offered both parties a compromise. A win-win situation. Louisiana can release Gary Tyler from his nearly four decade long nightmare on a technicality. Louisiana won’t have to admit they made a gross error in legal and moral judgement, and Gary Tyler won’t have to rollover to the establishment. The Supreme Court, the highest court in all the land, has decided that sentencing a child under the age of 18 to a sentence of life without parole is “cruel and unusual punishment.” Nobody can contest it, because there is no court higher to lodge an appeal. The Supreme Court has decided that the cases involving all those children that received life without parole as a result of their state’s mandatory sentencing rules should be revisited. Neither party has to admit their failings. Neither has to admit any guilt.

The standoff can end.

 

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Probably won’t see that again …

My little village played host to a section of the Olympic torch relay this morning. The kids were allowed to stay out of school until 11am to watch the torch bearer run through the town en route eventually to London town for the Opening Ceremonies in approximately 31 days.

Residents lined the streets of the village as the cavalcade began to wheel its way through.

Even the police were in good spirits as they “fived” the crowds.

Then the vehicles came through. I didn’t realise until today that the torch is not carried on foot all the way down the country. When they are not actually running through a town, the flame is transported by coach!

This coach, in fact:

Then came the Samsung truck with some very animated dancers on top:

Then the Coca Cola truck that handed out bottles of Coke to the crowd:

There were a few other vehicles following through … but obviously we were most interested in the runner.

I wish I’d volunteered to run myself now, as none of the runners were actually from our village … Each runner only has to run 300 yards! And this one definitely pulled the long straw, because her route was completely downhill. Besides that, they each get to keep the tracksuit and the torch they carry (as the flame is transferred with each new runner), and I would definitely have loved to have that as a quirky plant pot!

Then before we knew it, it was all over.

 

The end.

 

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2012]

Weekly challenge

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I’ve been busy … WPC: Create

I wanted to show people what I’ve been up to lately. I had been gripped by a diabolical downturn in my mood for the best part of four weeks – weepy, hopeless, helpless …. hapless, in fact. And this horrid mind warp not only disables me, but it creates a living hell for my son too.

That said, in my absolute anger towards what was going on, I went over to a couple of people who were knocking an old outhouse down and asked if I could help.  The act of hitting an old wall with a very heavy sledge hammer proved quite therapeutic, and I discovered, quite by accident, that extreme physical exertion has helped keep my tensions isolated towards things that are less likely to have their feelings hurt by my actions.

Having knocked down the old building, I asked if I could have some of the bricks, and I proceeded to load up three car loads full and dump them in my very small back yard.

About ten years ago, I had my back yard block paved, thinking I could get by with pots and containers for colour. But I have always wanted a raised bed, and when the next door neighbour started digging up her own garden, it prompted me to start working on mine. During the last couple of weeks, I have been out there every day doing something.

The bricks are from Victorian times, so they are not the lightweight bricks of today: they are large, solid clay bricks, and very heavy. They needed the old mortar taken off as much as possible, so I had another reason to bang something with a hammer.

Then I built the wall. At first it was just a straight line between two oak half-barrels that I already had out there, but convention has never been my strong suit, and I changed it to a more wavy pattern, incorporating a massive wooden “reel” used to carry steel cable in the deeper curve (don’t know why yet, but I’ve had it for years, and I just wanted a reason to use it).

All in all, it looked quite good in the end.

Obviously, on block paving, drainage would be an issue, so I dug up some of the blocks within the bed and dug down. Of course, it wasn’t going to be straightforward, because below the block paving is a layer of sand, then clay … then coal! (For God’s sake! Shouldn’t be surprised living in an old mining village). But I’ve put lots of chisel holes through the hard stuff and hope the water finds a way out.

Started off using the neighbour’s dirt to fill the bed. As she dug, I transferred the dirt to mine. But she gave up and hasn’t been back to her garden since last week, so I had to order a ton (literally!) of the stuff from elsewhere. Transferring a ton of soil from the tipping point to my garden was made all the more fun when the predicted “three months of rain in three days” started to fall. But actually, having a mini Glastonbury mudbath in your own back yard has its fun side too. Luckily, another neighbour came out and helped me with the last third of the mound – because I’m not sure I’d have made it on my own. That said, earth moved that day 🙂

I moved a few plants and trees around that I already had in the barrels, and then took a short walk to the local Cash and Carry, where I spent the princely sum of £18 on a massive number of plants, dug up some gorgeous poppies from the nearby train tracks, and scattered a bunch of assorted seeds I’d collected over the years.

It’s still very much a work in progress because I have to do the other side, using bricks to create various levels, paint and mosaic some pots and recycle stuff I have, including an old Butler sink, a wooden lamp stand, two chimney pots, some old rusty bed springs, and various tins of paint. I’m even tempted to build a bottle wall!

I’ll post pictures as I get to stuff, but for now, this hard work has definitely kept my tensions at bay.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2012]

Weekly photo challenge

Categories: Alice's world, Just me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Wee beasties # 56 – Spiderlings!

I found these little sweethearts clustered together, suspended from a multitude of web strands between a brick and, of all things, a Disney DVD that had been thrown into my garden by the next door neighbour’s daughter. This, I would say, is the epitome of “close” in the weekly photo challenge sense. I took many pictures as I prodded the ball of babies and watched them spread out along the webs – but they always returned quickly to the safety of the mass.

They are the offspring of the Garden or Cross spider – but if you look at the link, you will see they look nothing like the parent … so I guess the changes occur with each shedding of the skin as they grow.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2012]

Categories: Alice's world, Bug-a-day, Pictures | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Weekly photo challenge: Close

Good grief! I can’t believe (yet again) that it’s been a week since I last posted anything on my blog.

Life is still a mixture of chaos and uphill climb at the moment … but that is little excuse for my complete absence.

Having said that, this week’s challenge gives me an opportunity to post my favourite picture that I have ever taken. Forget apertures and focal lengths and focusing and composition and perfection. This is a picture of my little boy when he was about two years old. He had a elephant called “Nelly,” a Ty stuffed animal given to him by his nursery worker for his first Christmas (3 months old) when we lived in the States. Since that time, Nelly was never out of his reach. Nelly came everywhere with us, only ever losing his grip when my son fell asleep, and I occasionally managed to put Nelly in the washing machine.

Sadly, we lost Nelly somewhere after a trip to a playground after moving to England. It seems they don’t sell the same Ty elephant here in England, and the loss was a source of anguish for many months afterwards. Even now, as an eleven-year old, my son looked at this picture, and, just for a second, that muted look of separation registered on his face.

© Alice through the Macro Lens [2012]

Categories: Alice's world, Pictures | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

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