The Blog of Zakspade
March 2016 Archive

 

Budget
Wednesday 30 March, 2016

Oh dear. Mother booked seats on a budget airline to Ireland. Unfortunately, she opted to watch the pennies and ended up seriously out of pocket.

The airline won’t be named by me, but from the rest of the sad tale that will follow, I am going to guess that it won’t be hard to determine who they are.

They charged vastly different rates outbound and inbound to the UK. Okay, not rare - international airports the world over add different costs to fares through their governments’ stance on taxes, pollution etc. However, the last time I looked, Ireland were part of the same EU as the UK. What caught my eye was the £80 difference.

Mother rang to ask me to confirm the luggage size and weight limits.

I thought it odd that she rang to ask me as she had already tried to check with others closer to home. I jumped online to take a peek at their website and what I read horrified me.

Buried quite deeply on their website it transpired that there was NO luggage allowance. The only thing the fare paid for was the passenger and a small cabin bag. Anything that needed to be carried in the hold was to be paid for as an ‘optional extra’ (their term - not mine).

It gets better. It does, really - NOT!

To add an up to 15kgs baggage allowance costs (off-peak) £20 EACH WAY. Okay, so not too unexpected, but it was the £30 charge to pay for the alteration. It was applied to EACH PASSENGER and EACH LEG (there AND back - despite it being ONE change.

The cost of two passengers is now an extra £200.

If a proper airline had been booked originally, then it would have been a great deal cheaper. The problem is that the airline in question seems to work on the basis of displaying an incredibly cheap price but adding to it so that by the end it is not good value for money.

And it’s not just me who thinks so. The European court have had dealings with them over their disregard for the law over the years as they ignore everything and everyone while their owner shouts about how everyone else is wrong but him.

Budget airline? More like the owner has an Irish budgie brain.

 

Cat Food
Monday 28 March, 2016

The residents of my household are: wife, daughter, me, cat, dog.

Nothing too challenging there, except the dog isn't exactly a dog - he is a hound.

Actually, not just a hound - he is a beagle: probably the reason gets on so well with the cat.

The beagle is a breed that will eat themselves to death. An owner cannot put food down for them to eat when they wish. Beagles want - always. There is no let up with their desire for food. They are not the same as Labradors and suchlike. They won't merely eat themselves into obesity - they will eat until they are so ill that a one-one trip to the vet is called for.

So my beagle gets two feeds each day. His food comes out only at feeding time.

On the other hand, the cat has 24/7 access to his own food. A dispenser allows him to eat when he feels the need. The result is a cat that is healthy and fit. He eats what he requires and not just for the sake of eating.

Two animals with very different approaches to eating.

The cat feeder is positioned behind a dining chair up against a corner. The beagle cannot get to the cat feeder because it is known and accepted that he will empty it. The cat is small enough to get to his feeder and the chair is wedged so as the dog cannot muscle it out of the way.

Not everyone is aware that dedicated cat food is generally not too good for dogs because it may contains additives specifically for felines. This is something that I know through seeing subtle changes in certain - er - 'presents' left in the garden for me to admire from time to time.

Recently I have again witnessed those same alterations to the 'packages' along with a more laid back approach to his running around in circles at feeding times.

And I notice the chair is slightly away from the corner. And the cat has increased its food intake by 1500% over the last couple of days. And the curve of the rear legs of the chair mean the food dispenser's tray is reachable by a beagle should they crane their neck.

Ah, the delightful victuals known as cat food!

 

Posting
Saturday 26 March, 2016

I was relieved to have to post some stuff at the local post office today.

With it being the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, trying to food shop was a challenge. However, there were no crowds of people milling about wondering what to buy next as I waited in a very short line to post two parcels.

However, when the nice lady behind the counter asked what was in each parcel, I was clueless.

Well, not totally as I knew they were going from Bijour Bears Jewellery. That rather narrowed it down so I plumped for 'jewellery' as they seemed much too small to contain tractors or bicycles.

Of course, to casually dismiss tractors and bicycles might be potentially cramping Bijour Bears Jewellery's style. After all, who would have thought that ornamental eggs from Peter Carl Fabergé would have become so valuable in the jewellery world - even when it wasn't Easter time? Could it be possible that bejewelled bicycles and tractors are the next big thing in the world of fine decorative craftsmanship?

Were that to be so, then a dismissive remark from me mentioning them might preclude any future financial speculation or supply in the future.

As it is, Bijour Bears Jewellery do not list tractors or bicycles bedecked in gems and covered in gold, or otherwise. However, just in case the market should change, one ought to keep a close eye on their website at www.bijourbearsjewellery.co.uk!

 

Human Shields
Thursday 24 March, 2016

Anyone who knows the town where I live will be aware that as a market town it is not very car-friendly. To that end it features both lines of stationary vehicles as they ignore the bypass, and very narrow pathways alongside those very busy congested roads.

Someone in a vehicle might not be local. It is possible they chose to drive through the middle of town because they didn't realise they were going to become part of a very long and slow line of traffic.

I can understand the mentality that makes people think they know better than anyone else when faced with signs but no actual evidence, example or experience of what they are trying to convey.

However, cyclists are less likely to be from out of town. They seem to be unaware of the fact that the footpaths are narrow.

Their vision need not be brilliant to ensure they don't hit walls and lampposts, but their brains seem unable to comprehend that they are not immune to bouncing off dogs, children and adults and into the busy road when they ride at breakneck speed along footpaths.

The suggestion is that those who ride their bicycles so recklessly are devoid of any caring genes - either for those they intimidate, or themselves.

However, there is a local pedestrian type that confuses me. They profess to being very protective and caring to anyone who will listen. I refer to buggy-pushing parents.

These are people who walk at other pedestrians with their baby ahead of them to take any impact. I wonder if they think someone falling into the buggy that just rammed them will not possibly result in injury to both the victim and their child?

Walking along a narrow path enclosed on one side by a wall and the other by a wooden fence, two mothers approached me pushing their buggies side-by-side. The look I got when we met and I stopped but didn't attempt to grow wings and fly around them was interesting.

That same pair seem highly representative of those who tend to thrust their delicate babies out into streams of moving traffic ahead of them; using their little ones as human shields

 

Mapping
Tuesday 22 March, 2016

In a past life I worked in IT.

It was an interesting time. I saved many a hair from being pulled out. However, in my own time, getting things to work isn't always at the top of my list of things to do.

There are a number of machines in my household. One resides in an outbuilding and is used as our Pink Pig Photography data backup. I ensured it has no sight of the Internet but can be accessed by all the machines that need it back inside the house.

Except my laptop cannot see it.

That is a pain because I intended to administer it from my laptop rather than popping outside each time I need to tweak that computer.

Unable to remote control the machine, I tried mapping a drive to it just to check I had visibility of it. That didn't work.

I stood back and took a breath. I was able to access it from any other computer in the house, so I relaxed a bit and just worked around the issue for the time being.

A few days back, a client came to our studio at Pink Pig Photography for a photoshoot. They were slightly late and ended up having to park some way off because their Sat Nav tried to direct them through a road that has never existed.

They are not alone. We have been visited by many who have suffered from the same Sat Nav mistake. Delivery drivers end up phoning to ask where we are. However, it doesn't affect ALL users of Sat Navs - just some makes and models.

It would appear that certain manufacturers really need to take better care with their mapping so as to avoid messing things up for users. I guess I really ought to sort out the mapping issue at home before it, too, messes things up for me.

 

Spring
Sunday 20 March, 2016

According to Facebook, today is the first day of spring; a claim also made by the bods at Google. And my calendar.

In fact, everyone; their close relations, friends, pets and hangers-on are saying the same thing - SPRING IS HERE!

Everyone and everything - except the weather.

Sure, the sun came out and showed its face earlier today, but it seemed to take fright and go hide behind some nasty tough-looking clouds. It is safe to say that today is not one that causes one to think of the word 'spring.'

That said, I recently managed to get to see a doctor about the condition of my fingers. To claim they have been transformed in little over 24 hours since starting the application of the cream he prescribed, is not hyperbole.

They still look a mess as skin is either discoloured, hanging off, or as hard as a slice of lemon drizzle cake left on a window ledge over a weekend. However, what is very different is that when something falls, flakes, or breaks off, what is left behind is not turning bad and immediately setting about joining in with the 'pain game' that seems to be so popular with my digits these last couple of months.

For instance, I woke this morning and didn't have a single open wound on any of my fingers that would normally have had me wincing every time I picked up an object or tried to twist a handle. That, by itself, was different.

The change in such a short time from constant pain and discomfort has been so dramatic that it has me full of the joys of spring, even if the threat of rain about me seems intent on driving away any thoughts of summer.

At the moment, the only spring that I am aware of is the one in my step.

 

Unreality
Thursday 17 March, 2016

After much nagging, I finally stopped in at my doctors' surgery to make an appointment regarding my dry skin.

Dry skin? A visit to the doctor? D'uh, hello! What a waste of NHS resources, I hear you all cry.

Well, I tended towards that line of thought myself. However, it was when my fingers started bleeding each time I gripped something, or attempted to lift my wife off the floor when she takes a tumble and her walking stick isn't close, that I got serious and called into the surgery on my way walking into work.

The problem isn't limited to my hands. It is arms, legs and - painfully - my feet. Unfortunately for them, my daily walk to and from work is about two-and-a-half miles. Great for exercise and helping me with my aim to live to 150 years, but excruciatingly uncomfortable when a toe splits and I end up limping home and peeling a sock off while hoping not to take lumps of skin with it.

So, the bloke side of me says this is a waste of my time, the time of the doctor, and a general waste of resources. The pain tells me that it is about time this was sorted once and for all.

Imagine my delight of securing an appointment for Tuesday 12 April to see a doctor. Don't bother with trying to do the maths - it is 26 days away from the moment I stepped inside the surgery. Or, to put it another way that might satisfy the sensationalists amongst the Public (and tabloid journalists) - nearly FOUR WEEKS AWAY.

As I type this, another finger has just split near a joint. That's another plaster to cover the weeping and bleeding so as to not scare the kids at work.

Am I a needless drag on the NHS? As a man, I still think so. When I consider the unreality of what is taking place, I reckon someone other than me is taking the mickey.

 

Ignorance
Tuesday 15 March, 2016

Another funny thing happened to me on the walk to work.

Well, maybe not exactly me, but as near as can be - given that it wasn’t me; I didn’t say the words; and I wasn’t part of the incident. But I was nearby!

A car was parked on the pavement ahead of me. The person I was walking behind clipped the driver-side door mirror as they passed the car. The driver was sat in the car and he immediately stuck his head out of the already open window and shouted at the pedestrian gruffly to state they ought to watch where they are going.

My involvement at this point was to jump at the sudden appearance of the man’s head from the side of the car to which I was approaching.

The woman who had knocked against the mirror turned and responded that she was sorry and asked whether it might be better if she walked down the middle of the road to avoid the ignorant who park on pavements.

She had stopped and now stood waiting for a witty repost from the ‘ignorant’ driver who had berated her in the first place. He waved his hand dismissively and mumbled something very offensive that I am sure the woman wasn’t able to hear, but was very clear to me as I was much closer to him.

I carried on walking, and had I really wanted to be part of the exchange, I would have told the woman exactly what the driver had quietly called her. However, I was up against time, so I passed up the opportunity to create a possibly highly entertaining conversation between two strangers.

Continuing my walk down the path, the car that contained the ‘ignorant’ person sped past me as if the driver were trying to attain 90mph down the 30mph residential road. The manner of his passing suggested he was rather peeved.

Looking back at the woman who was now behind me after her pause to engage with the man, I could see the expression upon her face. The smile told me that she considered herself to be the victor and that if I had stirred things up by telling her what he had said, then I would surely have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

 

Blinds
Sunday 13 March, 2016

I had put off the job of putting up vertical blinds across the patio door for a good few weeks. Having taken a cursory look at the task, I had not relished the drilling up into the recess and possibly encountering the lintel.

A number of options had crossed my mind. The idea favoured was to secure a wooden baton the full width and depth of the recess and screw the track to that instead.

Finally, after weeks of procrastination, I unpacked the parts and sized up the fittings only to discover that provision was there to mount the brackets to the wooden patio door frame with L-shaped attachments; thus negating the need to screw directly into the wall above. Result!

Once that was all established, the whole thing took on the air of plain sailing - until it struck me just how long the drop was...

The track had been securely mounted after cutting and configuration. However, getting each blind to the right length was painful. There was a 1cm ‘runout’ between each end of the opening. To cut one blind to length, then use it as a template for the other 22, would have resulted in closed blinds running noticeably at an angle close to the floor.

So as to avoid a rubbish appearance, each blind was offered up and the length set according to the floor and its neighbouring blind.

And therein lay the problem I hadn’t spotted from the outset: I had to stand on a step stool to reach the blinds track and could not see, nor judge, the match (or otherwise) of the length because it was too far away and I was at the wrong angle.

This is where a wife is a useful tool to keep in the garage, for it was she who issued instructions such as, ‘Up a bit, down a bit, a millimetre now, nearly there, you got it.’

All trimmed and bottom cord attached, resulted in blinds that look good closed or open.

An unexpected benefit is the amount of light reflected back into the dining room. Previously the bulk of the wall was glass. The colour was down to how dark it was outside. The blinds now reflect a good deal of light back inside and it is as if the lamp is fitted with a bulb many times brighter.

In fact the effect is blinding.

 

Surroundings
Saturday 12 March, 2016

Well, this morning has been fun!

During the week, the studio has been used to photograph inanimate objects. That is not to say dead dogs and cats, but whatever was being photographed really didn’t care how things looked the other side of the camera.

However, this morning at Pink Pig Photography we have a living, breathing client who CAN see what is on the other side of the camera. So a clear up has had to take place.

Whilst pairs of boots might need to be the subject of careful placement of studio lights, and delicate jewellery is in need of intense light levels; neither are going to comment or react to lenses, backgrounds, reflectors, snoots, camera bodies, tripods and their like, strewn about the place; ready and to hand for a quick switch between items being shot.

No, today’s client will receive refreshments, be indulged, be asked to stand/sit/lie just so, and nothing will be anywhere other than where it is supposed to be. That means all the shelves for photographic equipment will be full of photographic equipment and the floor, set and seating will be just the floor, set and seating as opposed to temporary storage for various accoutrements linked to getting that perfect picture.

Pet portraits might suggest a hybrid approach, except that it is probably even more necessary to store things away. Pets have owners and at Pink Pig we know it is the those humans who don’t want to see all the paraphernalia required being laid out across the studio so as to be immediately to hand. Added to that, we don’t want doggie kisses on a £1,500 lens, or drool over portable flash units.

It is anticipated that today’s human client will not be chewing any expensive equipment found lying about the place. That said, I have spent the morning rushing about ensuring none of it is out of place.

Whilst the aim is to get that perfect picture - and get it we do - the fact is that the surroundings have to be right as well.

 

Remote
Thursday 10 March, 2016

Sometimes I fantasise about living on a desert island, or somewhere equally remote; cut off from everyone and everything. Then I end up wondering where my next burger will come from and the thought evaporates like a morning mist in a badly written novel.

A short while back I was asked about an email that had been received by someone I know. I asked them to forward it on to me so I could take a proper look. Oh what fun that was!

It took quite a while for them to identify the cross in the top right of the email. I had decided to use it as a reference because they were unable to find the ‘Forward’ button (I knew the email client they were using).

I was very close to driving out to them and sitting at their PC and forwarding the email to myself so as to take a proper read later.

However, eventually it was forwarded to me and it is all now sorted.

What it made me realise was that I really need a remote tool to access that PC in real time - and visibly so that the person at the other end can be confident that something is being done to help them.

A search ensued and I came across a delightful tool. So impressed with it, I investigated purchasing it. It was free for private and non-commercial use, but had a few extras I fancied playing with when properly licensed.

I checked their website and found it was a mere £29.90 - and I nearly grabbed my debit card.

Then I spotted that was for a subscription. I suppose £29.90 a year wasn’t too bad - although I have an almost pathological abhorrence and dislike of subscription-based services and applications.

Then I read further - per month.

I decided to stick with the free option as it will do what I originally set out to do. With that pricing policy I will be not be remotely interested.

 

Parking
Monday 7 March, 2016

I walk to and from work each day. On the way I tend to see and hear many interesting things.

Yes, well, I find them interesting.

Every day I pass a car parked up against a wooden pillar. The front bumper is touching the hefty square-section post and the driver parks their car by nudging it. I know this method because I used to employ it myself back in the day when I used to own and run a Vauxhall Viva HC estate.

Just in case one doesn’t know the HC, the front bumper has a crease in the middle which juts out. I used to pull into where I used to park my car and give the low wall a gentle dink.

It was something I eventually stopped doing - not because it marked the chrome bumper. No, this car was covered in the names of people who had ridden in him and even had big lipstick marks on his wings. Oh, and a big dent on top of a wing when I used it to support something I was hammering with a mallet...

Eric (for that was his name) was not a showroom vehicle.

Back to the reason for stopping the practise of bumping the wall to ensure I was as close as possible. One day I spotted that the low wall was cracked along the bottom where I was rocking the whole section each time I clunked into it.

Oops.

And the reason for noting the car that parks up against the wooden post? Well, obviously the driver isn’t too concerned about damaging their car against yielding wood. However, I see that the post is leaning further and further nearly every day I walk past.

One day they are going to bump into that Post and come to what they think will be a stop but will end up with them riding up over and onto what will have become a prostrate post.

THAT might cause a little pain to their wallet, methinks.

 

Mother's Day
Sunday 6 March, 2016

What with today being Mother’s Day, I had decided to take my Mum out yesterday. It’s something to do with being a bloke and being logical. I think.

Logic, yes; it is all about being efficient with the logistics side of things.

Having made plans, I woke up on Saturday morning with my wife pointing out that we had a transport issue because our car only seats four people. No problem there, thought I, what’s the problem?

The list was, wife, daughter, Mum, me. I counted it over a couple of times and came to the exact same total of an astounding four. NO problem in my book of inescapably faultless logic.

Then my wife pointed out the need for her wheelchair to be taken with us. Carrying it in the car requires half the rear seat being folded forward - resulting in a car that only manages to seat THREE people.

As I pondered, my Mum rang to check details as we needed to drive to another town to collect her. I told her of the hiccup and said I’d ring her back in about 20 minutes, after which time I would have had a chance to try and shoehorn the wheelchair in the boot without having to fold down part of the rear seat.

Trying to fit the wheelchair into the confines of the boot alone was a futile exercise and stupid things like wheels and stuff kept getting in the way. Before ringing my Mum, I ran through Other Options.

I spoke to our 11 year-old daughter and asked if she wouldn’t mind running along behind the car as we drove out to collect my Mum and take her onwards to eat. That resulted in rolled eyes but no agreement. The suggestion of using bungee ropes to strap her to the roof of the car also caused similar eye movement. Ideas were being dismissed as soon as they came to me.

The solution ended up being that of meeting my Mum near where we intended to eat. Thank goodness for OAP bus passes.

I wouldn’t have worried so much if everyone adhered to MY day each week: Sunday.

 

Priorities
Friday 4 March, 2016

‘Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans,’ is a quote often attributed to John Lennon.

While it is wrongly attributed to him, it does form part of the lyrics of his 1980 song, Beautiful Boy. What seems to be correct is that it is most certainly something that seems accurate to varying degrees throughout one’s lifetime.

I have promised to write a Blog. Not only have I agreed to write this Blog, but I had to modify the contributions commitment resulting it an every-other-day-or-so update as opposed to daily. This is because I realise that Life is full of other things besides writing a Blog.

One would think that leading a life that has many things going on would make finding content for a Blog quite easy. Well, that supposes a number of things - one being that personal and intimate experiences are fair game: they’re not. Were I to write about such things, then I am sure I would run out of places to hide bruises and then there would be only so many doors I could have walked into...

It also supposes that those other things that can be written about take place in a parallel timeline - thus allowing me to experience the Blog material while writing, editing, transferring it to the web pages, then uploading it all for no one to read.

Here is an example: while I am writing this, a very tasteful, high quality and expensive piece of photographic wall art is propped up against an armchair in my living room. It is waiting for me to mount it on the wall. The spot on said wall is ready. The art piece is ready. The tools are in the garage are ready. Meanwhile I am upstairs on a PC writing this Blog entry.

The opening quote was seen over 20 years previously in a 1957 American edition of Reader’s Digest. Even then, it may not have been the original, but it seems likely. However, what can be stated with certainty is that the phrase has never been allowed to settle since that time.

Much the same as the best laid plans of mice and men - Robert Burns, 1786 and not John Steinbeck, 1937 - in case anyone wondered.

 

Stephen
Wednesday 2 March, 2016

I received a nice email from a chap called Stephen last night. Polite and informative, it was, along with offering his services as a website designer and builder.

The problem was that he seemed lost on a few details. Had he not only obtained the email address of the business I help run, he would have spotted that not only do we already have a website, but it is noticeably better than the examples he cited as his previous work.

Oops, I read his email and was turned into a website snob. Probably because our www.pinkpigphotography.co.uk website is something we are proud of - not only because of the content and what it offers, but the way it looks as well.

Still, it was a nice email. It seemed to not be one of those automated mass mailing types of communication that seemed destined for the bin without a glance. Indeed, it was nice enough for me to write a reply that I hoped would be helpful and positive - based on my own experience of running a website company in the past.

In my experience, checking out the current website is always a good thing. Talking to someone about moving away from their current site and on to something less classy-looking for a cost is likely to be ill received. Strangely enough, owners of a really shoddy, but home ‘crafted’ website are equally likely to take umbrage at any suggestion they could do better.

No, the real potential lies in approaching those with websites that are clearly below one’s own offering with respect to standard, but not of the ‘home-grown-and-proud’ variety, OR those without a website of any sort in the first place.

A business lacking presence in the connected world needs to address the issue. That is a case worth making if one is offering to build websites. In fact it is worth taking the time to sell the idea and then capitalise upon establishing that need.

A polite and well written email will not and cannot create a sale if it misses the point.

I researched into the company and discovered it was relatively new. The examples appeared to confirm that view. The lack of any links to opt out of receiving any further communications could potentially lead to a complaint of spamming being upheld.

Simple things, but it is those simple things that make things work.