The optimistic pessimist

Box of dreams

Wardrobe to other worlds

Part of the gang

We wave at our own

Like crazy people

Because we know

We share the joy

Perfect joy

Of freedom

On wheels

Where every day is perfect

Every meal the most amazing

Every moment with you

In that perfect little place

To keep us together

Trapped in the same room

Never bored

Always happy

Happy like

You can’t remember

What sad feels like

Just filled to brimming

With joy.

© Jennifer Winterburn

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I don’t have a lot of time for blogging at the moment – the weather is superb for walking and photography but unfortunately that means it is also ideal for some much needed ‘tender loving care’ for Lofty, our beloved VW camper. However, having just cooked and eaten the obligatory full English breakfast I thought I’d use the 15 min ‘digestion’ pause to get this off.

The Romanians are almost uniquely able to have a joke on themselves and, being far better generally educated than the majority of people coming out of UK schools, are able to do it with a wit and substance sadly lacking in much of what we see from British commentators. I just love the poster campaign launched by the Romanian paper Gandul (‘The Thought?) in response to that from the Guardian. The posters are in English so English speakers can understand them even if the accompanying text is in Romanian.

So here are some of the Romanian poster words, each of which has a postscript “Why don’t you come over. We may not like Britain but you’ll love Romania”. There are many more gems. (more…)

As those of you who read my 1 July post will know, my recent attempt (first for a few decades) at ‘street photography’ ended in disaster but, inspired by

I’m determined to use an imminent trip to Romania (which I know to be a photographer’s dream for almost any genre) to have another go. What is more, away from distractions of work and other things in the UK, I’m aiming to wander further down the path of ‘picture haiku’, trying to create haiku and picture at the same time. I’ll aim to post regularly from Romania though I won’t have the opportunity to develop film so I’ll be using the Lumix for that.

I was excited to receive seven B&W 35mm cassettes in the post yesterday morning. If I could have found my reloadable cassettes (buried in the mounds from a house move a year ago) I’d have loaded up from an unopened 50m reel of Agfa APX. As it is, I bought two rolls of Rollei Retro 400S, which I believe is an equivalent, and five rolls of Kodak 400 Tmax.

For the ‘street photography’ the B&W will go in my Bessa-T, most often fitted with a 35mm Voigtlander Color Skopar. I wish I had a longer lens for some ‘studied’ portraits – there are some wonderful character faces in Romania. (But see below for why I’ve inserted the picture above).

Persuaded by Marie in Sweden to take some of my discontinued Astia

I’m asking myself whether I can carry another film camera for colour. It needs to be as small and light as possible but the Bessa is my only working rangefinder so it’ll have to be an SLR. I’m wishing I’d kept my long gone Olympus OM. But the Contax 139 isn’t so big. If I take that I’m tempted to pack a Zeiss 50mm Planar, either the 1.7 or 1.4, and the Yashica 55mm f2.8 macro and an extension to give me 1:1 (in fact a bit more as I don’t have a 27mm tube, I have a 32mm one).

I’ll be taking the Lumix GF1 anyway and, with 4/3 to C/Y adapter, can use the Zeiss and the Yashica on that, though it will usually have the Pani 14-42 zoom on for snap shots.

Having gone through all that, I just took a break from writing this to look for the Yashica right-angle finder in case I do take the SLR and macro lens. And I came across the Olympus XA, not used for two years as it seemed to have jammed. I knew it had a film inside which had come adrift from a reloadable cassette so, seeing the dark bag also, decided to take the naked film out.

Wonder! The XA is now working. (You may deduce that I sometimes write in ‘real time’, as I did while doing the post on fast food – now a page under the ‘Food’ menu).

Complete rethink. B&W in the XA; with its discrete small size and 35mm Zuiko lens it’s just the job for ‘street photography’. The light seals seem a bit sticky but, with one week to go till I leave, there’s time to renew them.

Now, shall I forget the macro and just take the Bessa, adding one of the only longer rangefinder lenses I have which will work on the Bessa, a Russian 50mm f2 Jupiter or a 52mm f2.8 Fed? The collapsible Industar lenses (which look like the Leitz) will not go to infinity. I can put a cheap C41 film through with the Jupiter and three Feds I have, developed locally in 1 hr, and see how they are. I’ll do the same with the XA to try to ensure it really is working now.

It’s tempting to leave the heavier stuff at home; we’re off to Cornwall in Lofty, the VW camper, for the rest of August when we get back on the 12th. He won’t mind the extra weight and the beach might offer some good macro opportunities.I might change my mind about it all before I leave next Saturday. Any suggestions gratefully received.

As I’ve commented somewhere here before, I’ve never really succeeded with ‘creative’ writing but I do believe myself to be ‘creative’. One way I express this is by cooking, leaving the recipe books (and recipe blogs) aside sometimes and cobbling something together with whatever happens to be in the fridge and the store cupboard.

I think I eat healthily (having reached well over 7 decades, never in hospital, only ‘sick’ days were a bout of Asian ‘flu and shingles, I can still walk 20 miles without a problem and there’s no power steering on my VW camper), but I deplore much of what is promoted as ‘healthy eating’ nowadays. So, eg, margarine, a dreadful chemical concoction only a molecule link or two away from plastic, never enters my home. My staples are olive oil, sunflower oil (margarine without all the chemicals and the large quantities of water) and English or Irish butter (or Welsh), with corn oil for frying fish and chips – you can make it hotter than sunflower. And I deplore the fact it’s now almost impossible to find good sirloin steak (if I could afford it!); it should look like a piece of marble, with fat everywhere – it’s essential for taste and tenderness.

Another excuse for eating pre-prepared junk from the supermarket or fast food outlet is “too busy”. I don’t believe it. Yes, some of the classic recipes take a while to do, but good food can be quick and easy.

So, I’m writing this while I throw together this evening’s meal. I reckon it’ll be take about 20 mins tops – split between now and this evening.

Plate of thrown together food

Here’s the finished dish at 6pm. You might see that at the last minute I decided to add some petit pois. My wife’s verdict – “delicious”.

What did I find in the fridge today? A dozen good-sized mushrooms, a couple of Spring onions (scallions to our USA friends), about a dozen thin slices of Spanish chorizo and half a dozen of Italian pepperoni, half a lemon over from making gin and tonics last night, and half full tubs of double cream and whipping cream over from something. I know there’s half a packet of fresh pasta in the freezer and there’s a basil plant growing on the windowsill.

So, I’ve peeled and sliced the mushrooms (couple of mins) while a dollop of olive oil and a knob of butter get really hot in the frying pan (when the butter foam subsides it’s hot enough). If it’s not hot the mushrooms will boil in their own juice rather than saute.

When the mushrooms are done (5 mins?) I squeeze over the juice of the half lemon, lower the heat and add the sliced Spring onions; cook for another 2 mins.

While that’s happening I stack the chorizo and pepperoni and cut into strips, throw this in the pan.

Cook another couple of minutes while mixing then turn it off till when you want to eat – for me about nine hours in the future.

I wrote the above while doing the cooking to this point – less than 15 mins.

At about 5.45 I’ll put a big pan of salted water on the hob to boil. At around eight minutes before six (we eat around six) when its boiling I’ll tip in the pasta.

At a few minutes to 6pm I’ll heat up the pan with mushrooms, pour in the two creams and stir till it’s hot. Taste and add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste (all about 2 mins).

Drain the pasta, toss it in a little olive oil, divide onto the warmed pasta bowls (there are two of us), spoon on the mushroom concoction and sprinkle with shredded fresh basil leaves (and I might grate over some parmigiano reggiano, which is in the fridge). Depending on how we feel at the time, there might be a side salad.

I guarantee it’ll taste good and the longest part of the whole thing is waiting for the pasta water to boil. It doesn’t even need a sophisticated kitchen – it’d be just as easy in Lofty, my VW camper.

When it’s done, if I remember, I might take a picture and add it to this post.

No time to think about something ‘interesting’ to say today but I didn’t like the ‘thing’ which came up as my gravatar as I hadn’t myself chosen an image.

So, as I’ve declared my interest in VW T2 campers but not written anything about it yet I chose to put up a picture of my 1972 ‘crossover’ van. His name is ‘Lofty’.

Lofty, my VW crossover camper, enjoys a picnic between Bolton Abbey and Embsay.

Lofty, my 1972 VW crossover camper, enjoys a picnic between Bolton Abbey and Embsay. There has been some sun in 2012!

He’s well used. He’s my everyday ride and since converting to LPG last December he’s pretty economical. He’s also my ‘bed & breakfast’ as I work away a couple of days a week and he’s comfy and costs me nothing.

Difficult this gravatar thing. I don’t think my mugshot is of interest to anyone, and certainly doesn’t say much about me. So, a picture from Yorkshire? Well, I’ve got that in the header of my blog.Then there’s Lofty’s little sister – Mini, born in 1975 – but she is laid up at the moment (dreaded SORN) and needs some TLC so I didn’t think she’d be too happy to be made public. A pic of some of my ‘classic cameras’, which range from a pre-war  Zeiss Super Ikonta (battered!) to an engineering wonder, the Contax AX (with its equally wondrous Zeiss Planars); or the simplicity of the massive Mamiya Press or, almost as simple, the Voigtlander Bessa T (can’t afford a Leica M4) with its wonderful 35mm Color Skopar (the digitals, a Canon 5D and a Lumix GF1 are useful, but not so interesting). On the other hand, I did think of taking a pic of my vinyl collection of the complete works of Beethoven – but that really needs some audio. And, of course, there’s the food – maybe I should have chosen a Yorkshire pudding.  

So, for the moment, Lofty it is. Now the sun’s come out he might actually get a few bandaids on the holes in his non-structural bits, and so get his steps back on. The wrap-around bumper looks a bit sad without them.

and losing pages

Just succeeded to add some menu items, and even a sub-menu, thanks to advice from a member on the forum, but I still cannot get a page I’ve created to show up. It’s on five years volunteering in Romania.

Picked up the Bay (‘Lofty’) from the garage this morning; thought it was a major problem but in fact just the collapse of a tyre wall (but on the inside so I didn’t spot it). Another was on the way out so that was changed too. Bloody expensive these tyres, but at least it wasn’t the major mechanical break I feared. Drives like a dream now.

Just tussling with a private hospital – referral from the GP. When it’s sorted I’ll have something to say about this in my ‘politics’ spot, and letting the Minister know.

Bear with me till I sort the workings of this site out.

I created this blog around four years ago. I’ve never posted to it till now but my initial comment in my profile, disappointment about what has happened to British society in the more than a decade of absence, sadly remains as true now as it was in 2004. Basically I catch up on politics through three tv programmes, all on BBC1: This Week, which would be much improved by eliminating the childishness – journalists dressed up as maids or milkmen – and the often (usually) excrutiating, embarassing links (I really watch it for Michael Portillo who often provides a fascinating insight into how politics works and insightful comment on recent political happenings); the Andrew Marr Show, despite Andrew Marr (ugh!), to remind myself just how disastrous it would be to have a Government with the likes of Balls, Milliband and Harman in it; and Sunday Politics, which would be much improved by cutting the time Andrew Neil is on the screen and doubling the time the three young  journalists – Isabel, Janen and Rowenna – have to comment on current events. I often don’t agree with them but they are intelligent and knowledgeable.

I didn’t vote for any party or person in the most recent general election; I voted against so called ‘new labour’ by voting for the candidate most likely to get them out. It worked. The result overall was I think the best I could have hoped for in our very flawed so-called democracy – a Conservative majority government party held in check by an otherwise ineffective bunch of Liberal Democrats. As a former life-long supporter of Labour until Blair got at it,  I can only rejoice that the likes of Milliband, and particularly Balls, were kept out, despite the many failures of the present Government.

But what really sickens me is hearing politicians of all persuasions and nationalities bleating about the failure of the Euro, about the starving children and adults in Africa, about the horrendous excesses of the Assad regime in Syria and other Governments which have massacred sections of their populations, etc, etc, and almost never doing anything effective about it – unless of course oil is involved.

What has the VW camper got to do with it? Not a lot but given the above it does seem a lot more important than politics. So, in the future I might just be having a gripe about anything (like the crap service being delivered by some private sub-contractors to public sector services – possibly my next post) but I might, from time to time, be commenting on how sorting out my 1972 Bay camper – my daily ride – is going, what a camp site I’ve parked up on is like (aiming for Cornwall in August), and even about Romania (having spent over a decade in that country I understand very well why Prince Charles is making his second home(s) there!).