Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic road-races

The Olympic cyclists have spent this weekend racing on my local roads. It's been rather odd seeing roads that I cycle commute on (although only when I'm taking a detour due to deep snow or a quest for post-work BEER) shown on international TV and lined with cheering spectators.

On Saturday we headed down to Denbies' Vineyard where there was a cycling festival, beer, wine, and a big-screen TV. Also, a lot of sun. We watched the race on the TV, and rushed down to the road to cheer the cyclists past, before returning to the TV and beer.

The breakaway

The main peloton - Team GB working hard!

Today, the weather made Denbies' less appealing, so we stayed at home watching TV, and ran down to the High Street at the crucial point.

It's easy to tell when the peloton is approaching, because one of these appears overhead.
Some spectators had clearly made an effort
Lizzie Armitstead in joint lead
Nicole Cooke with the main peloton
Those struggling at the back got just as much applause as the leaders
The attitude of some local businesses has been a bit odd - my yoga studio (which does a "yoga for cyclists" class) has shut for the weekend, despite not even being on the Road Race route, saying that they don't think people will be able to get to the studio. Other shops (such as the mini supermarket) have opened extra late to deal with the increased and erratic demand. The pet shop next-door to the supermarket was unusually shut today. The bike shop was unusually open, and had a big screen TV inside (plus all the computer terminals on the tills were streaming iPlayer) showing the cycling. Most cashpoints in Dorking were empty yesterday, and the Penny Black seemed to have run out of beer. The Thai restaurant was serving beer from the Duke's Head next door. So it's all a bit odd with the way that business-owners seem to have not anticipated that ten thousand or so people coming to Surrey might want to spend money. Or maybe people just wanted the day off to watch the Beach Volleyball.

Edit: I've just heard that Lizzie Armitstead lost her "lucky Oakleys" on the ride (due to the rain) and would like them back. I'll keep my eyes open, though if she got a silver medal without them, she can't need them too much!

Olympic opening ceremony

So anyway, as I mentioned earlier, I went and had a sneak preview of the Olympic Park and the opening ceremony last week.

The janitor-type actors were all referred to as "Mario"s for their dungarees

The Olympic Park seemed perfectly adequate and fit for purpose - vast acres of concrete and food concessions (and a wonderful technique to tackle public drunkenness, because the only beer available was unremittingly awful). But there were lots of flowers and riverside walks which looked rather lovely, and the RAF who searched my bag (eventually - you could tell they felt awkward about it, because the RAF are Gentlemen, and a Gentleman Does Not Look In A Lady's Handbag) were impossibly polite and declared me the Official Olympic Confuser of the RAF because their scanner was thrown into confusion by one of my camera lenses. In fact, they were so polite that it made me realise that the normal levels of surly rudeness we take for granted by those in authority are utterly unnecessary, and I contemplated writing to The Telegraph about this.

Anyway. The ceremony itself was fantastic. I'm assuming everyone now has seen it on TV, and I have to say it was a privilege to be able to see it live and on the tellybox. Live, it was like a circus. We were surrounded by the action, and the Industrial Revolution sequence felt so realistic that my brain was utterly convinced that the Olympic Rings were freshly-forged steel, and not just clever pyrotechnics.

The drummers were all around us, and the entire stadium was shaking, and when the nightmare-creatures ran on during the NHS sequence (which was by far the best of the three sections) we were surrounded by screams and shrieks, and it was rather terrifying. I also utterly failed to recognise Kenneth Branagh or JK Rowling.

Bells. Some tubular

When it all goes wrong in the NHS, send in the Private Nannies!
 Because we only saw a dress rehearsal, the show was incomplete and a bit disjointed, and there were times when all the screens would go black and just play music. We worked out that James Bond would be arriving by helicopter, but we had no idea that he would be accompanied by Liz, playing herself.

The "House Party" sequence made a lot more sense on TV - live, it was a rather incoherent (if enthusiastic) jumble - possibly not helped by the fact that we hadn't been equipped with our 3D glasses.

On the whole, that was a lot of fun, and I'm glad I went.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic spoilers!

That nice Mr Danny Boyle kindly invited me to see the Olympic Opening Ceremony Preview on Wednesday night. I know he asked us not to show anyone the photos we took, but I can't help it. It was so fantastic, I've got to share this with someone!

I just hope I don't get in trouble for letting you all see this.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Less dirty insects

Very well, here's some PG-rated ones:

Longhorn beetle

Flower beetle
Butterfly. I don't know what type, because butterflies are boring.
Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)
I also tripped over a deer whilst I was snapping the above, but unsurprisingly had the wrong lens on.

Love is in the air!

Where do baby gall wasps (I think) come from?
 ...and on the grass stems and the flowers...

Flies. Which continued to copulate in a remarkable display of synchronised flying.
Soldier beetles
Longhorn beetles. Rutpela maculata, I think


It would appear that this sudden sunshine has brought on bouts of frenzied insect activity.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Always be yourself

It is important to always be yourself.

Especially if you happen to be Spider-Man.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Crochulhu LIVES!

Since I discovered the Cthulhu Crochet pattern, I have finally found time to get my crochet needle out and play. And behold, the awesome terror of a creature from before-the-dawn-of-time; a creature so horrifying that your puny mortal minds would SNAP if they tried to comprehend its TRUE GRUESOME GLORYIn plushy four-ply wool with sad button eyes.

Also, the green one squeaks if you squeeze Mighty Cthulhu's tummy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Low-light childcare

I really like my Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens. It was by far the cheapest lens I bought (ignore the £130 price tag on that link: various well-known online retailers will sell it for much less - I think I paid £76 last year), and yet it's probably taken all my best "people" shots - not to mention some lovely nightscapes.

It's great in a pub: people don't realise they're being photographed because there's no flash going off, so everyone looks relaxed. And it's really great at capturing children in pubs - though I haven't quite worked out why, or what this says about my approach to child-care.

Everybody appears luminescent and warm. And much though I'd love to claim that it's because I'm a great photographer, I don't think it is - passing the camera to other people gives just the same results:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Oh, and while I'm on a roll...

I've finally finished sorting out the photos I took in Paris.

Mostly, I'm saving the one below for when I need a more cultured Facepalm than Picard.

Apparently it's Cain, having murdered Abel. I'd always thought that he'd be quite upset about the whole mark-of-Cain and curse thing, but apparently the sculptor felt that his emotion was best expressed in a "Doh!" pose.

Always wear clean underwear when photographing insects!

Sorting through some photos that I took quite some while ago (you can tell it was a while ago, because it's sunny!), I realised that one has to be very careful when snapping shots of insects with shiny elytra:

Melanic evil invading Harlequin ladybird

Yes, that is me reflected in the wing-cases. But I'm pretty sure I'm decent.

I think I'll stick to non-reflective insects in future.

Far less reflective native British seven-spot
Flutterby. Probably a Meadow Brown, but I'm not as good at butterflies.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Big pants!

If one is a regular or frequent cyclist, then one develops a keen awareness of the state of one's nether regions. F'rinstance, after a lengthy day on the bike in the rain, with no mudguards, and the chamois padding in one's shorts slowly becoming saturated with gritty water, the realisation dawns that the greatest thing in the world is not Universal Suffrage, or equality, or the invention of the electron microscope. Nope, a far superior thing is this: a pair of clean, dry pants.

And, trying to avoid going in to too much detail regarding saddle-sores and chafing, loose-fitting pants of a French knicker variety can be rather comfortable post-ride - not to mention the convenient lack of VPL that they provide when worn with a skirt. So it came to pass recently that I found myself in need of more pants (mostly due to the cats installing a mouse in the bedroom, which set up home in my underwear drawer and chewed up a number of garments to construct a nest), and went shopping.

I'm British, so naturally my first port of call for underwear was M&S. Much to my surprise, they didn't have any French knickers in the Kingston branch, so I looked online. Even more of a surprise was to discover that they only sell one style of French knickers, and they are a limited edition which are totally out-of-stock. Even so, that's a higher big-pants quotient than any other high-street shop.

Having failed in Real Life, I took to the internet. Surely, I thought, I will be able to find some suitable undercrackers there! Well, it being the internet, rule thirty-four applied. Once I had eliminated all the crotchless peep-hole feather-trimmed cheap nylon varieties of French knickers (and confirmed that no, I did not mean "French Maid's Outfit"), there really wasn't anything there. In fact, the only knickers available were all terribly skimpy and high-cut. This got me thinking. Without going off on a hairy-legged-feminist rant, we live in a society which deems pubic hair hanging out of the side of a bikini or underwear to be disgusting - and yet there are no kickers for sale which fully conceal the pubic-hair region. Are the manufacturers of knickers* in league with the makers of hair-removal products? The people have a right to know! <waves conspiracy theory flag furtively>

Anyway, back to my personal Persnonals hunt: eventually I found some French knickers online. They appear to no longer count as "underwear" and have been reclassified as "nightwear". Irritatingly, this means that they are not available in specific sizes, but are only sold in "small", "medium" or "large" sizes, with a thick elasticated waistband which is not so invisible under dresses as some of my older pairs I am trying to replace. And also, they seem to cost about £80 per pair for silk ones, which is a tad steep.

So if anyone knows where I can buy some non-porno non-pyjama French knickers I'd appreciate being told. Ta. :)

*And the "Smooth Groove Fanny Minimiser" - an hysterically funny product that you didn't even know you needed!