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INTERESTING WEEK

My wife Julie started a new job on Monday, after a long while looking the right opportunity came along.

This has made a great change in all our lives as now I have a lot more leisure time and Rosie the dog has had to get used to just me being around. Fortunately with me being retired she almost always has company which means she has the ideal life for a dog.

Each morning I take her for a walk in the countryside where we both get lots of exercise, she gets to have a swim and I get to take pictures of the birds and wildlife of which there are plenty.

I even find time to sit down and write, I am even thinking of getting back to writing another book, I have started two or three over the last couple of years but never got realy going on any of them, we shall see!

Managed to get a picture of a Jay as it exited an oak tree with an acorn in its mouth, this type of shot is almost entirely luck as I could never know which direction it would leave the tree in, as it happened it flew straight at me low and fast. I had the camera on half zoom so I could get it in picture and focus it all in one go.jay-in-filight-with-food-2-e

NATIONALISE THE RAILWAYS?

Certainly a subject that has been discussed for many years and on reflection many would agree that the privatisation of the railways was probably one of the governments worse decisions ever.

With the passage of time we can see that the many sections that make up the railway of today has caused a disintegration of the network. Well to call it a network at all is not the word that should be used in this context.

What a day of joy it would be when the prime minister announced the re-nationalisation of the railways. A strong PM could do it but I am afraid what we have today is never going to make a decision on any matter let alone such as this.

The efforts of one company to force engine drivers to operate doors and be solely responsible for the train iis another matter where the minister of transport should move in and make a decision. The company is looking at the problem in totally the wrong direction. There should be more staff on the trains not less. Look at the way the coach companies have approached the problem. A great example is with Berries of Taunton. They have invested heavily in brand new vehicles, they provide an efficient service from Somerset to London at an affordable price. They have the driver and a courier. The couriers provides hot drinks and snacks and ensure every passenger is seated in there correct seats (something the railway companies  find difficult to achieve)

In my view each train should have a driver, a ticket inspector/seat organiser and a train manager to ensure the efficient running of the train. Carriages should have efficient areas for luggage, at present the room allocated for luggage is sufficient for four to six cases which is illogical when each carriage can hold more that 50 people, many of whom will have luggage. Coaches and aircraft all have luggage areas why not trains. Years ago we had a seperate carrage for luggage and cycles etc. The whole rail setup should be nationalised and rationalised into one quality unit. Take a lot of effort and money of course it will but it could be the envy of the world and better still provide a service for us the public!

TIME TO SAY NO TO NUCLEAR POWER

I recall quite a few years ago now, must have been in the early 60s how we many of us thought that Nuclear Power would be the solution to our needs for centuries to come but as time and events have shown us this is not and never was the case.

The terrible accidents that have already happened and the potential for future accidents have brought the whole process into question. A new fear that has manifested itself over the recent years is the one of terrorism and the possibility of one of the power stations coming under attack has cast a shadow over the whole Nuclear programme. Hard to imagine the the outcome that just one rocket could produce, for a start the installation would be knocked out of action probably for years and of course the unthinkable of nuclear fallout over vast swathes of country.

One hidden cost of the new Power station at Hinckley Point has not even been mentioned and should be a major concern is of protecting the facility against armed attack. To protect such an area will require a small army of well trained and well armed police or soldiers, knowing our government’s desire to privatise everything, probably a private contractor, to make the site secure. Not only for now while it is under construction but for the next FORTY years. I estimate that a troop of about 20 men covering 24 hours and seven days a week will require five shifts to cover holidays and sickness  5 x 20 men works out at 100 staff on security duties continuously for a total of 50 years! What cost I shudder to guess at but no one can doubt it will be very expensive.

I strongly believe it is time for us as a county and government as the enabling force to consider the alternatives. Technology advances in solar power have and will over the next twenty years produce systems that will cost less , be more sustainable, ready to produce electricity instantly  and have no security implications.

I have estimated that if just half the houses in  Somerset (home of Hinckley point) were fitted with solar panels they would produce as much as a nuclear power station.

In addition if the government insisted that every new house built had a solar panel system fitted within twenty years we would  have somewhere in the region of another half a million systems producing electricity to the nation grid.

The only solution to our electricity needs has been with us all along, it is the SUN

Time to look forward not back!!

TIME

THE JOYS OF GARDENING

This week I picked the first handful of runner beans from my garden. There is something unbelievably satisfying about picking the product of my hard work in  gardening and I never tire of watching nature at work as the seeds and plants develop almost by magic into the full grown fully developed vegetables and fruit

. Over the years I have lived in many places even other countries but wherever I have had the opportunity I have attempted to grow my own produce. You would expect that after so long, probably fifty or more years, that I would be good at it but not a bit of it, I manage to make the same mistakes as a complete novice probably more because I forget the basic details and curse myself for forgetting this and that. Not watering enough, watering too much, using the wrong compost. Planting too early, one of my wife’s observations each year I hear” right this year you will wait until April anything outside” . So what do I do in my impatience, yes on the first sunny and warm morning I manage to plant out my runner been seeds. I always plant plenty in the greenhouse so that I have enough if something goes wrong! sure enough when the seeds in the ground poke their heads out of the soil along comes a late hard frost and kills off most of them.

of course next year I WILL leave them until after the last frost!!

One observation I have made over the years is the changing of the seasons! I t is not my imagination for sure as this week I picked a bowl of blackberries and the bushes in the countryside are heavy with fruit. When I was growing up this was something we did in late September and through October never in July. The hazelnuts are fully formed and will be ready to pick in another month and the evenings are getting cooler, certainly not my imagination. Summer is now what we call spring and autumn is what we once knew as summer. Spring flowers are out around Christmas and we have lovely warm days in February.

Interesting! Well I think so!

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PHOTOGRAPHING SWIFTS IN FLIGHT

Taking pictures of moving objects can be quite straightforward if the object, say an aircraft is travelling in one direction and at a constant distance,  but when it comes to a bird as agile as a swift that is another matter.The first thing to consider is the camera, if you don’t have a camera with a viewfinder you might as well forget it! I have a modest priced DSLR with 75 – 300mm zoom lens.

Not called swift for nothing this amazing  bird can change direction in a split second while travelling in excess of 60 km per hour at the same time. Two problems to overcome in taking a still picture are the focus and speed of subject.  As I want to get as close as possible I use the zoom lens. This adds to the focal problem because  if you set the focus to a distance that you think might catch the bird clearly it will for certain never appear at that point. What to do about it? Well you can set the camera on auto focus and let it set the focus for you but I  found the problem with that is unless you have an exceptional camera the auto focus is too slow to achieve the result.

I have found that if I set the speed manually to say 4000th of a second and set the focus to manual I can with practice get a reasonable result. I focus in on an object, say a tree, at what I consider the optimum distance and  wait for a swift to start  a run towards me with luck I can press the shutter at the precise time that the bird reaches that point and by keeping it in the centre of the viewfinder, bingo, missed it again, but with practice I will get maybe one out of five shots in focus.

WHAT A WEEK AND NOW SUMMER!

An amazing week in politics, I don’t think there has been an so much happening in such a short time during my lifetime. I am sure I will have to give my two pence worth before long but I am still considering what to say about it all so I will just chunter on about the weather!

Weeks of solid cloud and low temperatures and then suddenly blue sky and 334 deg C yes that was yesterday at 3 p.m. according to my weather station, which I have to admit is in a bit of sun trap being on my shed roof, still it gives an accurate recording and 334.5C is quite warm enough.

This morning Monday we understand it will be even hotter so we forced ourselves up at 7 a.m. and got out with the dog before it got too hot for her (and us) A good hour walk around Netherclay conservation area was most enjoyable but I still can’t understand why so many people refuse to pick up there dog shit. I could rant on about that for pages but come on you people, surely if you have a dog you know you have a responsibility to pick up after it. Not a lot to photograph this morning either it was as if the bird population were having a lie in!

Have had a couple of good sightings lately though a young Green Woodpecker on the path ahead of us last Friday and a little Egret wading in the river Tone, normally 2 meters deep is down to a centimetres. A green damselfly stopped to sunbath and give me a chance of a picture.

SUNDAY AN AMAZING DAY OF SPORT

Sunday will be remembered by me as the most  amazing day of sport. In the morning I noticed that the under 20s rugby final was being replayed and I enjoyed seeing England slaughter the Irish team for a change. That was quickly followed by the start of a T20 cricket match and the run up to the F1 British grand Prix.

The final of the singles tennis with Andy Murry  and the Tour De France reaching an exciting stage and the grand Prix all at the same time!!

On another channel the athletics ( lost my train of thought as the sun is out and I have to go outside every few minutes heh) how to cope? Have to skip the athletics I think.

Flicking channels is the only option although it drives Julie mad it is the only way to get it all. Remember the days when we only had the radio? probably not that is another story.

Totally exhausted must be in for an early night, Oh No the football final, another cider is called for! Extra time I don’t believe it!

That is what I call a day of sport. Although I hope we don’t have a day like that again for a while.