On a more serious note

I read this article on the CNN website and felt it summed up these extraordinary times very well.

Now I finally understand what my grandparents knew

Opinion by Allison Glock

Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT) March 28, 2020

“Allison Glock’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Esquire, ESPN, Rolling Stone, GQ and many other publications. She is the author of seven books, including the Whiting Award winning Beauty Before Comfort and is presently a senior staff writer for ESPN, a contributing editor for the southern lifestyle magazine Garden & Gun, and a writer and consulting producer for NBC’s The Blacklist. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)“In a dark time, the eye begins to see.” — Theodore Roethke

“I feel like there is nothing left to look forward to.” My 19-year-old daughter is sitting across the table from me, her eyes heavy with dread. She’s been struggling, like all of us, with the existential purgatory we find ourselves wading through. The not knowing of when this will end, or how, or what we as a culture, a country, a community will be when it does.

Along with her sister, who is 18, she’s moved back home from school, school that is now over in a practical sense for the foreseeable future.

My girls, like countless of the world’s children, have been wrenched from routines and friends, the architecture of their lives dismantled and replaced with a return to the orbit of parents who themselves can’t say what’s coming, our ability to comfort muted and undermined by the speeding train of the virus and the whirlwind of devastating news.

My kids read the papers, the breaking alerts that flash across their phones. They personally know people who are nurses and doctors in the most perilous wards. They know people who are sick. They feel the dismay in the air. Their suffering is not unique (nor does it compare to the horrors unfolding for so many), but it is the suffering in front of me, and so I do what I can to ease it, the only job that feels worth doing at the moment.

I tell my 19-year-old that I understand her feeling lost, empty. I remind her how lucky we are. To be together. To have dogs. To love each other. To be able to hug.

I tell her I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandparents. How when I was her age, I’d watch them play cards, do crosswords, dance together in their cramped living room, taking care not to topple the miniature, boxy television set that was only ever turned on for baseball games.

My family comes from Appalachia. My grandparents spent their lives in a tiny house in a tiny West Virginia factory town, walking the same sidewalks, sitting on the same porches, their parents only a few houses down. They cooked Sunday suppers, sang as they hand-washed the dishes, groused and gossiped and generally found contentment in the simplest of lives, one necessarily small because of poverty and lack of opportunity.

Small as it was, that life held beauty. And I realize now, that in my own life — winnowed and shrunk into a similar tight routine; taking walks, piecing together puzzles, teaching my girls how to make pie crust, to plant okra — along with that beauty lives profound meaning. My grandfather served in the war. So, too, did everyone he and my grandmother knew. They’d seen death and futility and heroism and loss. They knew what mattered.

We will need to find our purpose in the minor things, I tell my daughter. The moments. Moment by moment. We will need to become more like dogs, giddily hopping into the car when we have no idea where it’s heading. And in those long, vacant hours, free of clutter and busyness and traditional validation, we will have to learn how to sit with ourselves and discover the glory and meaning in that stillness. Or, at the very least, accept that tomorrow was never promised. In some ways it’s no different than it always was, I explain, we just have fewer distractions to hide behind.

“But for how long?” my daughter asks, fighting back tears.

“I don’t know.”

I tell her I’m sorry, that I love her. I ask if she wants me to make her a grilled cheese. She shakes her head, retreats upstairs to cry, maybe. Or smoke and blow the evidence out her bedroom window. To get away from me and my hastily assembled life lessons.

I understand. Am envious, even. I’d like to cry, smoke, ball myself into a knot of grief. Instead, I take a shower, make a coffee, put on lip gloss like it matters. By the time I emerge from the bathroom, my daughters are in the yard, lying on a blanket together, reading.

I watch them from the window, hip to hip, both prone on their stomachs, knees bent and feet circling in the air, like they did when they were still children. Which of course, they still are.

The sun shines bright on their skin. The birds chatter above. The buds bloom on the trees around them. As if to say, we can’t be contained.

A trained seagull

It’s a first for us – a trained seagull. Every day this bird turns up at the same window of the building across from the hotel at the same time and waits for its dinner. We know it’s the same bird because he’s clearly lost a foot sometime in the past.

The apartment owner leaves the window open and the bird stands there and waits. Eventually it gets something to eat – much to the disgust of the other seagulls – and then it leaves. Until the next day.

Normal transmission resumes

After finally getting to Rome, yesterday we travelled north by train to Florence and then drove to our hotel in Chianti – Relais Vignale.

And it felt like the holiday had begun.

There’s nothing like a quiet drink in the evening before heading out to dinner.

 

Colourising old photos

I’ve been playing around with colourising old black and white photographs using Photoshop. The technique is quite simple – if a little time consuming – and makes use of various blend modes to overlay colour on black and white while retaining the detail of the photograph.

Rather than trying to mimic a colour photo, the technique replicates the days when colour photos were simply black and white prints that had been hand coloured. Part of the fun is selecting the colours for clothes, backgrounds and the like. There is no reference colours so it’s all up to the imagination.

Below are a few examples of what can be done – using shots of various members of the family – well mainly me from many years ago.

 

Puppy memories

Two weeks ago my iMac’s hard drive “spat the dummy” and required replacing. Apple were fantastic and covered the cost of the replacement drive and I was left to restore my files from backup.

Yes, as I’ve said before – always back stuff up because every hard drive will fail at some point and it would be tragic to lose photos and movies and all the other stuff that we accumulate on computers these days.

As I was looking through my restored movie files I came across one of Bella as a very young puppy making her first journey down the stairs at home – just to get to Poppie and jump all over her.

I’ve posted this movie before but I think it deserves another airing.

 

I’ve always wanted a Leica camera

LeicaI’ve been an SLR camera guy for as long as I can remember. Ever since I bought my first camera back and lens – a Ricoh KR10 with a 50mm lense – I’ve relied on the control and quality a good SLR provides. The downside of an SLR is the bulk of the camera and various lenses – my current camera bag weighs around 6kgs. There is nothing subtle about taking the camera out for the evening and nothing subtle about using it.

I’ve always wanted a compact camera that could go anywhere, which still took great pictures, and which gave me the ability to control things like depth of field and shutter speed.

I’ve also always wanted a Leica camera but have always been put off by the prices – particularly in New Zealand.

The opportunity to get both came my way when we stopped to browse at the Leica shop at Hong Kong airport. Leica’s range of compact cameras have always got good reviews and their latest mid range compact – the D-Lux 6 – has been no exception. And there sitting in the display cabinet was one calling my name.

Now the geeks among my readers will know that the D-Lux 6 is essentially the same camera as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7. There are some minor cosmetic changes – like the addition of the round red Leica logo – but the cameras are one in the same. Leica have been working with Panasonic for years, using Panasonic’s hardware but then writing their own software to control image capture and processing.

This is where the two camera’s differ and the results are impressive. In fact it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between a shot taken on the Leica and a shot taken on my Nikon DSLR.

The Leica version of this camera carries a price premium but it seems worth it – for the added image quality as well as that small red circle on the front.

The Sicilean All Black supporters kit

AB KitToday the All Blacks played the Wallabies in the second Bledisloe Cup test. Despite a TV with over 500 channels these Sicilean AB supporters could find no TV coverage of the game.

Compounding this, the villa internet connection is the narrowest broadband connection in the world and so video was all buffering and no streaming.

But the saviour turned out to be the Radio NZ iPhone app which streamed the radio commentary of the game perfectly. And when broadcast through our portable JBL bluetooth speaker it gave us stadium quality sound.

And what an All Black victory – 51 points to 20 – tutto bene.