Category Archives: Hobbies

Some People Call Me The Bowls Cowboy!

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Well, ok, nobody calls me that but at least they don’t call me Morris either!

What am I on about? Well children, I have taken up playing bowls (or old man bowls as the missus calls it!). I have vague recollections of watching old people play bowls on the lawns at my local park as a kid. The lawns are still there but I suspect they’re mostly used for dogging now. My most vivid memories are of nicking off school with a mate and hanging out at the bowls green where I went to school eating Scotch Eggs from Morrison’s.

Last year they had an open day at the local club for new members but I was too busy. This year, as part of the whole relocate anywhere but here project, we discussed moving back to Yorkshire where I could take up outdoor pursuits like bowls and cricket. Once we had decided against that I decided to try those things here. Why wait? I could die tomorrow!

So back to the local club, no open day until September but I was invited to just drop in and try out. There is no lawn. It’s an indoor bowls club. A most peculiar thing indeed! It wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it does mean I can bowl all year round. I had my first coaching session and proved to be a bit of a natural and then joined the other teams for a game. I’ll tell you summat for nowt, old people are insane when they get together! They’re like schoolkids in the playground as they yell at each other 25m away!

I always thought bowls was a quiet, peaceful game. Not in the South it seems. There are a number of gestures you make during play and these are supposed to be made unaccompanied by words, but that’s not the case here! Yell away!

I’ve been playing for a month now. I have my own set of bowls, shoes and other associated equipment. Last night my team was 2 points down, it was the last end and the other team had stolen our 4 wood hold with two perfectly positioned bowls. I was the last bowler and I couldn’t get my first two anywhere near. I took my last bowl, I raised my hand and I yelled “FIRE” before launching my bowl at full speed down the centre. It held its line and smashed first into the front bowl then off into the second, sending both into the ditch. This cleared the block and we scored 5 points, ending the game with a 3 point lead and the general opinion that I fucking rule!

I love it, it’s such a fun game and I’m even considering playing competitively. Didn’t see that coming!

In other news, I got a Samsung Note tablet thing through Orange which I’ve used to write this blog, including taking the picture. On Saturday I’m flying out to Washington DC for a work conference. I’m very excited about this! I’m going to try and fit in a miniature Dave Grohl history tour. See you on the flipside!

I can haz a birthday!

That’s right and not just any old birthday for today I’m 30! Whenever I’ve thought of turning 30 it’s been with the same horror and disgust as Baby Spice in the Spice World movie.

Now, if you’ve been around a while, you will remember this post. My bucket list of Fings To Do Before I’m Firty! So, how did I get on?

Well, firstly, and this isn’t an excuse, well it is, but y’know, in the last year my career took a rather unexpected but pleasant turn. I became a Senior Consultant at my firm. The Most Senior Consultant in fact, if you listen to my boss. Essentially I’ve been incredibly busy and therefore incredibly lame at completing this list. That said, in the last year I’ve felt an incredible sense of personal growth. Certainly more than in the last five years I reckon.

1) Australia. Yup, we did that. It was amazing! I can’t wait to go again.

2) Skydiving. Fail! Just haven’t got round to it and didn’t see an opportunity for it in Aus. I did contemplate hot air ballooning over the MCG but we didn’t have time. Went on the Neighbours tour instead!!

3) Get a tattoo. Fail! I got as far as deciding what I want. I was supposed to go yesterday but the studio couldn’t get their shit together via email so I will have to go in and see them. They’re in London so it’s not like I can just walk in and I refuse to go anywhere else. They really are the best.

4) Give blood. Fail! But oh dear Lord have I tried! First time I booked I ended up with flu on the day so had to cancel. Second time they came I was in Aus and then had to wait 2 months after getting back. I went on Tuesday thinking I’d make it just in time. But then it went horribly wrong. I got through the assessment and sat in the chair. The nurse did all the prep, in goes the needle and suddenly “Oh dear, I need some help over here!” and cue two other nurses rushing over. Not really sure what actually happened but I left with a big bandage:

and now I have some crazy bruising!

This has not put me off trying, I’ll go when this has healed.

5) Buy a digital SLR. Score! I’d actually already done this but I’ve definitely kept up to this as a hobby and even launched my first exhibition.

6) Take a picture of myself every day. Score! I’m also creating an art piece from it as I found it became a really interesting project. As I mentioned, it has been useful to track my mood swings. You can tell when I’m normal, genuinely happy, faking the happy and even whe I’m down. It’s all the eyes. For that reason, I think it’s worthy of the Saatchi gallery!!

7) Go on a photography course. Score! Well, I went but it didn’t pan out. The college was useless so I quit and got my money back.

8 ) Ride a motorbike. I used the money from the photo course and rather spontaneously booked my CBT. That was a fun day!

So not a bad end to my twenties. On the final day, I had bacon butties for brekkie on the BBQ, bacon fajitas for lunch and pigs in blankets for tea. Score!

Wordless Wednesday (10)

Almost wordless. This one has words!

This summer has been our first with a proper garden. With space. And sunshine. So we grew tomatoes. The missus’ mum sourced some baby tomato plants and after a couple of weeks, we upgraded them to a grow bag. Apparently specially treated for tomato plants.

After a few weeks of love and affection, a ton of watering, an upgrade to a hosepipe, attacks from spiders and frogs, the progress was encouraging!

Finally we got a whole bunch of green ones and we thought they would turn red pretty quickly but they didn’t. We had just one turn red:

So I picked it:

And then I fried it for breakfast!!

It was delicious.

I don’t know if it’s because I grew it rather than bought it, but it was sooo much better than the ones we get from our veg box people. It was firm, fresh, succulent.  Nommity!

Since picking that one, we now have a few more turning red which is nice. I think various tomato based recipes are being concocted by the missus as I type.

Next year, I’m going to flip it all on its head and try growing them upside down. That’ll be fun if nothing else!

Too much detail?

Still getting to grips with my new camera but I figured I’d post about my lenses in a little more detail.

This is the standard Nikon 18-55mm that you get as part of the kit:

It takes some cracking shots. It’s really light, fairly quiet, good close up range. I’ve always been a fan of Nikon lenses. It’s one of the reasons I bought a Nikon body. However, they tend to be quite expensive.

This is why I’ve had to settle for a Tamron telephoto macro lens:

I was never a fan of Tamron lenses. Build quality and most importantly image quality were usually quite poor. Things have improved over the last few years though. It’s not a great lens by any means but it will suffice. It did only cost me £120 as part of the deal.

As a telephoto it’s pretty good. I can totally spy on the neighbours!! I’m currently working on a series of bird shots for a post I plan to do. We have a tree out the back and it’s a good roosting spot. I have a clear vision from the bedroom window. At 300mm the tripod is a must. I’d be no good as a sniper!

The macro kicks in at 180mm. One slight annoyance is how far away you have to be from everything. It’s about 95cm but then you do get a good picture from it. I think that coming up from a compact and being able to get really close to the subject in macro mode, I’m finding it a big change setting up so far away. But on the plus side, it means less flash interference, no camera shadows, more prep and organisation. I’m sure I’ll get used to it.

The on board camera flash is pretty powerful and lights quite well even at a distance.

It gives a 1:2 ratio apparently. Not sure what that means though. Need to read the manual more. I also just got a copy of the Nikon D5000 for Dummies which should make some good reading.

As you can see here, it really picks out the details:

In case you’re wondering, that’s my leg.

And as a teaser for something that’s coming up soon, how about this:

These little guys are only 25mm at the base and the goblin is just over 10mm high. With the Tamron lens, they fill a frame.

With that, I bid you farewell…

And it’s obvious that you’re dying, dying

Just living proof that the camera’s lying!

So, following on from my post on Friday, I mentioned I had bought a new digital SLR. For those not following closely, photography is a passion that has dominated my 20’s. I’ve used various bits of kit and pieced together bits and pieces but never actually owned my own camera. I’ve never seen the point in owning a compact for myself and I’ve never had the money to buy an SLR. Until now!

Of course, I’m working on the concept of abundance to pay off my credit card!!

Over the last year or so, I’ve been using the missus’ camera. A really snazzy Canon Powershot A590:

It’s been a surprising little beauty. The macro is good, the reaction to low light is impressive and the speed is top notch for a compact. As you’ve probably seen from previous posts it’s produced some rather good pictures.

But now is the time to move on. I went out and bought myself a Nikon D5000 for my birthday. I’ve been geeking up on it for the last few months to make certain it’s the one I want. It so totally is!!

I love how small it is. It fits really quite snugly into my hands. It’s also very light. I believe one of the lightest of its peers.

So, how about using it?

Hmmm…well actual photography techniques aside, it’s really very easy. If you’ve used any compact that has the program dial with MASP on it then you can pretty much just jump in and get going. The auto mode is very good and doesn’t just dish out bland photos. Stick it in scene mode and it becomes very interesting. It looks like Nikon have really made an effort here to cover plenty of scenarios. Instantly for my main usage there’s indoor, pets, vivid, food and flowers. Looking forward to trying some night photography with it too.

The LCD screen on the back is nice and large and quick for zooming in and checking the finer details of an image. It also rotates in almost every direction which is super handy for high sunshine shooting.

Picture quality, this is good. My best test of a camera is to take a picture then stick it straight into your photo editor and run an auto levels on it. If there’s no change, you’re on to a winner. I’ve seen some truly awful results using this method. The camera does RAW shooting and combined RAW and JPEG shooting. JPEG’s on high quality come in around 6 Meg though! Ouch! I’m going to cane this memory card!

The packaged lens is the 18-55 VR DX. I’m a big fan of Nikon lenses. There is nothing better. I just wish I could afford them for every lens I want. I really wanted the Nikon 105mm macro but I don’t get paid nearly enough so have settled for the Tamron 70-300 macro. It macros at 180-300 and is actually pretty good. There’s a bit of camera shake and blur on some of the first images I took but using a tripod I got much better results. Plus it’s dual use as a telephoto which might be handy.

I got a good deal with all that in the end and got a case, memory card and some other stuff. Came to a nice sum of £777! Happy Birthday me right?!

I’ve used it for a couple of days now, had a good session today trying out different things. Most of it is being saved for upcoming Wordless Wednesdays but here’s a sneak peek of some of my favourites from today and yesterday.

Mr. Park looking beautiful as ever.

Miss Aurora. It took 17 shots to get this. She’s so fidgety!

An amazing orange flower in the garden. Looks like lava!

A nice purpley/pink flower. This is part of a cool sequence I have planned for this week.

So that’s it for now. I’m back at work tomorrow but I’m hoping to spend some of the evenings out and about while we still have good light. For the winter, I’m going to get me a studio kit and spend a lot of time fine tuning my macro skills and working on night photography. I’ll also be doing a course to really push my skills to new levels.

Fings I Like Friday (5)

It’s been a stressful week this week. Big project deadline looming today.

1) Programming. I love how when something goes wrong I can quickly whip up a solution. VBA is a really useful tool to have and I’m glad I bothered to teach myself, it’s been super handy this week!

2) Gardening. As you can see from my last post, we did some gardening at the weekend. I love all the cool flowers and veg we’re growing. Despite working for a garden centre for two years, I never really became green fingered. I sat in the IT office most of the time. That said, some of it must’ve sunk in!

3) Noodles. I love noodles. They’re one of my favourite foods. I like plain noodles, sauced up noodles, fried noodles, all kinds of noodles man!

4) Breakfast. When the missus and I moved in together on March 1st 2007, we had this tiny kitchen but we managed to get a foldable table that we’d open up every morning and sit down for breakfast. It was a nice way to break up the madness of getting ready for work and just chill for 20 minutes. I’m pleased to say that three years on, we still have that table and we still sit down every morning for breakfast. It’s lovely.

5) Which brings me on to my regular feature. The missus and the cats. The cats less though this week as they keep chewing all my damn wires. I have an expensive electronics bill this month. The missus however, well she deserves a freaking medal! She puts up with so much of my stressy tantrums, smiles, brings me a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit and takes time out to talk to me when she has a million and one other things to be getting on with. I love her so!

Enough sap, BACK TO WORK!