Looking forward to my 60th birthday at the end of the month I spent some time browsing Internet sites for music I might like and came across a blogger called Xandi. He (I’m guessing it’s a ‘he’) publishes links to music videos of a wide range of genres from all round the world and I enjoyed exploring this uncharted world of music. One artist with an unpronounceable name cropped up a couple times and one track in particular grabbed my attention. In fact, I bought a CD on the strength of what I’d seen and heard. I didn’t regret my purchase and felt as though I’d discovered a star of the future.
For our first taste of something new this year I dragged Mary onto the York wheel. I won’t deny it was a little scary, but we enjoyed it nevertheless.
Reluctantly, I had to stop following the Xandi blog because I couldn’t keep up with his postings. However, I Googled for the artist I’d discovered a few weeks before and was astonished to discover that the track that prompted me to buy the album was number one in the UK singles chart that very week! So it seems I wasn’t the first to discover Gotye and his track, “Somebody That I Used To Know”, after all.
In late October last year we ordered a new bathroom: shower/bath, toilet, vanity unity and tiled floor & walls. The company couldn’t install it until the very end of January/beginning of February, when it was absolutely freezing outside. At times the central heating had to be off and the front door was more often open than closed as they took the old stuff away and brought new things in. I gave up trying to work at home on the Thursday; it was just too cold. They did a good job, though. The bathroom seems much bigger, lighter and more appealing now.
As part of my birthday present Mary booked me on a photography workshop with the opportunity to shoot from the roof of the Mansion House in the centre of York. Squeezing past each other on the narrow ledge we got some lovely pictures of the minster as the light faded and then walked through the streets for some night shots. I’ve selected just a couple for this year’s retrospective. A few days later there was an unusual configuration of moon and planets. Having learnt how to take photos in low light conditions I was able to capture an image of the moon and two planets. (I’ve forgotten which planets, though! Venus and Jupiter, I think.)
On a sunny Spring morning we got up to find a fox asleep on the back lawn. Grabbing the camera I took a couple of shots with the standard lens through the study window. The fox barely stirred. Switching to the telephoto lens and using the tripod I waited and was rewarded with several nice pictures.
At the start of May I decided to collect the articles I’d written for the ACCU’s Overload magazine and re-publish them under the ‘Software’ category on my blog. Reformatting them took some time, but I completed the job in July.
Our main holiday this year was a cruise along the fjords of Norway calling at Stavanger, Flåm, Olden and Bergen. The old part of Stavanger has quaint little streets of fisherman’s houses, all in white painted wood. The railway line from Flåm climbs through the mountains providing spectacular views of snow-capped peaks, rivers and waterfalls. A short coach ride inland from Olden is a beautiful valley leading to the Briksdal glacier. Bergen has the Briggen – former fisherman’s houses converted into shops selling a variety of crafts – and a funicular railway offering stunning views over the town and harbour.
Summer wouldn’t be summer without visiting the Himalayan Gardens at Grewelthorpe near Ripon. This year, in spite of the wet Spring, the flowers were as colourful as ever and there were some lovely new sculptures, too. If you’re in North Yorkshire in May or early June it’s not to be missed.
Mary’s sister and daughter had a day out in the pleasant market town of Knaresborough, which is not far from us, so we met them there for lunch. It was a cool and cloudy day, but with enough sunny intervals for a few pictures. Here we see a wall painted to show a king looking out of a window and the classic view of the viaduct over the river from the castle grounds.
This year it’s 800 years since York received its city charter and it celebrated with a variety of events. On a very warm, sunny day in July there was a concert in the Minster gardens in which the Shepherd Brass Band played The York Anthem, a piece especially composed for the 800th anniversary. As we stood listening to the music a few people began to walk onto the grass where the band was performing. As they approached the rows of musicians and formed up behind the players more people drifted across to join them. Then they began to sing. The Anthem was a choral piece and the choir had been masquerading as ordinary members of the audience. It was an uplifting experience.
We visited the Ryedale Folk Museum at Hutton-le-Hole on the N. Yorks. Moors for the first time. It has a dozen or so buildings dating from the Iron Age to the early 20th century, all furnished appropriately for their respective periods. We missed the blacksmith working in his forge, but met him as we were leaving and he told us all about his work. Another good day out.
Having lunch in the Treasurer’s House (behind the Minster) after the York 800 concert we saw a picture of St. Michael’s Mount that we thought would look good above our new fireplace. It was a bit dirty behind the perspex so we had it re-mounted with glass and a couple of weeks later hung it up in the lounge. Out latest round of home improvements were then complete.
We invited a friend from the East Midlands to come and see the York Mystery Plays with us. This year they were held in the Museum Gardens where the walls of St. Mary’s Abbey overlooked the stage. The language is mediaeval Yorkshire (‘mickle’ and ‘muckle’) and the costumes this year had a 1940s theme. I particularly liked the fallen angels – attractive young women dressed in smart black suits always there in the background threatening to stain the mortals with their evil intent. No photographs were allowed during the performance itself, but I did get a couple of shots at the curtain call.
As part of Mary’s birthday present I’d given her a voucher for a Segway Rally, which we booked for 20 August in the grounds of Ripley Castle. It had been raining for several days, but there were just a few spots during the morning as we were taken through the safety rules, told how to ride a Segway and ventured out onto the wet grass to get a feel for our mechanical steeds. Then the six of us were off across the grass, along the path and into the woods, dodging low branches and trying to avoid skidding in the muddy patches. There were a couple of minor spills but we all enjoyed ourselves immensely.
After the rally the weather brightened up and we went to Newby Hall for some lunch and a walk round the gardens.
The following week there was a flotilla on the Ouse as part of the York 800 program. It was originally scheduled for June, but was postponed because of floods! (Some of the boats wouldn’t get under the bridges and there was potentially dangerous debris in the water.) Mary and I went down to the embankment and watched the paralympic flame float by as we had lunch by the river’s edge. Then we moved to a better vantage point and I took photos of the boats as they passed. There were hundreds of them (over 200 according to our local paper). There were canoes, rowing boats, barges, pleasure boats and lots of private cruisers from the marina. We were there most of the afternoon just watching them all go by.
We returned from the flotilla via Rowntree park where I managed to get this picture of a dove as it took off and flew away.
At the beginning of September, Fangfoss, one of the local villages, had their annual fair. There’s a famous rocking horse shop there. Last year they had an over-sized rocking horse on display that they called Big Bertie. This year they had an even bigger one, called (of course) Bigger Bertie. There was also a classic car show, craft stalls, food & drink and an exhibition of flower arranging in the village church.
The following morning we got up to find that Persephone had brought us a ‘present’. It wasn’t the first time she had caught a bat, but this one wasn’t flying around the house. Persephone wanted it to play with her, but sadly it couldn’t do that any more.
The arboretum at Castle Howard held their Wild About Wood event over the weekend of 15-16th September and they managed to pick a dry, sunny Saturday in this very damp year. It’s one of our favourite outings and I made the most of it by paddling a coracle on the lake. There was a bit of a breeze that kept pushing the boat to the edge of the roped-off area and it took a while to feel I had things under control. At least I didn’t capsize like one unfortunate woman! Of course, Wild About Wood was another opportunity to take some photos. Here’s me messing about in a coracle and a picture from the birds of prey display.
The following Saturday I cashed in my voucher for another session with John Potter, the professional photographer running the March workshop. I met John at the whalebones overlooking Whitby harbour from where he took me around Whitby town and Saltwick Bay, returning to Whitby harbour for the sunset. I got some nice photos, but I’m not sure if I learned very much.
Making the most of another of the few fine days this year we went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in October. Our first stop was the cafe for a cup of tea and a ‘nibble’. It was so hot in the sun on the terrace outside that we retreated inside again just as soon as we were fed and watered. After wandering around the park, taking more photos along the way, we returned to the cafe in the afternoon and I was astonished to see a young woman (probably a student) sitting in the sun on the terrace and wearing a woolly hat! How she didn’t roast I’ll never know.
I took lots of photos that day. It was hard to see the camera’s LCD screen in the strong sunlight, but when I got home and transferred the photos to the computer I could see they were all badly over-exposed. I’d set the camera to +1.5 stops for my last shot in the fading light in Whitby and forgotten to reset it! Still, it produced some unusual effects, as you can see here.
The Internet can be a dangerous thing. You never know what you might find out there. Idly browsing one day I came across an Open University course called “My Digital Life”, which provides an “introduction to the next twenty years of computers and the internet”. It sounded fascinating and, after some hesitation, I signed up for the February 2013 course.
We had already decided to bring our technology up to date by then and we started by buying a wireless router to replace our old ADSL modem. I powered up the router and all was well. Then I tried to switch on our trusty Dell PC and nothing happened. After a few basic checks I phoned Dell and they told me it needed a new motherboard. Furthermore, Dell could not supply one because it was too old. As a temporary measure I set up Mary’s work laptop to receive emails and installed the hard disk from the Dell in a caddy for use as an external drive. The laptop runs Windows Vista and it’s excruciatingly slow, so…
The following day we went to Stormfront, the Apple computer shop in York, half hoping we could walk out with a new Apple computer. As it happened they didn’t have a suitable machine in stock, but a new range of iMacs was due to be available in November or December. We decided we’d wait for the new model and the variant we chose was expected to be in the shops by the end of the month.
On the last day of November the Internet said that Apple had announced the new iMac and I went hot-foot into town to order one. Apparently, mine was the first order the Stormfront company had taken for the new iMac. A couple of weeks later they phoned to say it had arrived. I wasted no time in collecting it, unpacking it and switching it on.
As I’m sure you know, Apple products differ from the more common Windows-based PCs in many ways and the printed instructions were very brief, but it wasn’t difficult to get the iMac up and running. It took a little while to get used to the unusual keyboard layout and the different look-and-feel of the operating system, but apart from that it all seemed straightforward and intuitive. The 21.5 inch wide-format screen is very easy on the eye, the applications look pretty, everything runs quickly and so far it has recognised every device I’ve attached. Am I pleased with it? Oh yes, I am!
The first of December was a Saturday. Mary and I were in town for some Christmas shopping and our thoughts turned to the other items in our planned technology upgrade. I felt it was time to get a smartphone and Mary wanted a tablet computer. We both wanted the various devices to work well together so iPhone and iPad seemed the obvious choice. But we’d just spent a substantial amount of money on the OU course and the desktop computer. “Oh well, it’s Christmas”, we thought, as we visited Stormfront again and came out with an iPad mini. Mary has hardly stopped playing with it since!
After spending our money it was time to see the ice sculptures that form part of the annual Festival of Angels. There were more than ever this year.