Apparently this was what I was drinking by choice a decade ago.

This was my birthday activity ten years ago - taking myself off to the Southampton Airport flightpath to photograph aircraft on approach. Don't get me wrong, this is still something I would enjoy now, but it it surprising to see how things have changed in ten years. In some ways so much and in other ways hardly at all. One thing that has definitely changed is my taste for alcohol. Back then I must have only just found that I could actually buy drinks for myself at home (I can't remember drinking anything much before then), and clearly I was only on the level of enjoying cheap and fairly nasty cider (at least it's not Blackthorn). Around this time I also discovered wine, red wine in particular and remember a few Friday evenings when I retired to my bedroom after Film & Chips to find the whole room spinning quite swiftly round and discovered to my surprise that it is possible to fall off the floor. The joys of youth. Now I enjoy real ale and gin from The Cambridge Distillery.
Lembas donughts. © Nick Bailey
drinking habits a decade ago - almost an Andy Worhol of cider
Lembas donughts. © Nick Bailey
a rather beautiful rich sunset
Lembas donughts. © Nick Bailey
the first plane approaches (quite exciting)
Lembas donughts. © Nick Bailey
birds gather in the fading light
Lembas donughts. © Nick Bailey
like a scene from many a film

Birthday Treats for the Office

For work today I fulfilled the tradition of bringing in some goodies for the office by providing a hobbit-appropriate second breakfast of crunchy nut cornflakes (which I'm not sure people totally appreciated) followed by a second lunch of mini mince pies with Baileys cream and lembas donuts - which were simply a donut wrapped in one of my office grown leaves. I though it was fitting for a hobbit who has just come of age.
Lembas donughts. © Nick Bailey
lembas donuts and some mini-mince pies with cream for my office
This evening Dr K and I went out to watch the final The Hobbit at the lovely Arts Picturehouse in Cambridge. I was able to make use of both Orange Wednesday and a members ticket = free cinema for the both of us. Great seat right in the middle middle of screen one. Not quite the impact of the IMAX at the weekend, but a good place to watch a film. The film itself was good and enjoyable but not really a scratch on the original LOTR. I fear that perhaps Peter Jackson isn't a very good story teller preferring instead to make superfluous sweeping camera moves rather than focus on character development or plot. I think the films were seriously hampered by being split into three making them oddly both overly long and waffly and yet unsubstantial. The music didn't compare anywhere near as good as the original sound track (which reminded me to play it tomorrow at work). I shouldn't be too hard on the film though, it was fun and after all the book is itself a much softer version of the tome to come.

Just Before I Come Of Age (as a hobbit)

What to say on the eve of my coming of age as a hobbit? I stumbled across my post that I wrote this time last year in which I expressed my like of the number 32 and less so of the number 33. However, that second number does have the Middle Earth significance, which is good, and as such I'm going to have a little hobbit celebration tomorrow by going to watch the final Hobbit at the Picturehouse in Cambridge with Dr K after a curry somewhere in town (perhaps Cocum, the South Indian restaurant up Castle Hill. The other hobbit influenced celebration will be at work where there is a tradition of providing some sort of stackable sustenance on your birthday. I'm going to provide second breakfast in the form of some crunchy nut cereal and then second lunch in the form of mince pies with cream.
We had a mini early celebration at the weekend by watching the new Christopher Nolan film Interstellar at the IMAX in the Science Museum. it was a really good film and thoroughly enjoyable, but sadly I was suffering from a severe migraine so was a little throwy-uppy (the sick bay had kindly given us a couple of sick bags to make use of). The science museum itself looked most exciting and it was a shame we didn't have more time to enjoy it. We will have to go back soon.
Tonight has been a nice evening. After cooking a vegetable rich evening and updating the Christmas tree with an additional set of lights (LED fairy lights, nice but a bit cold overall), I had a good potter in the shed fixing Dr K's puncture and swapping both her tires out for new Continental Gator Hardshell Duraskins which will hopefully hold off the sharp flints of Cambridgeshire slightly better. She's had a very bad run recently with multiple changes on some days. I also gave the old girl a clean and de-grease (by which I mean her bike). Mine is in need of some desperate cleaning and TLC but that will have to wait as instead we settled down in the lounge to watch the new Black Mirror by Charlie Brooker. It was yet again an excellent piece on the future of the future including a small warning flag for the smart home.

A bun in the oven // #realbread

Yet again I find myself sitting at the oven (or near the oven right now) waiting for my bread to finish baking. I started it late this evening and only got one rise in before the prove. I did try something a little different in that I started the yeast in a sugar solution to give it a kick start (it was a mix of old dry yeast and frozen fresh). This I then loosely mixed into the flour with the water before leaving almost as a 'sponge' for an hour or two before needing and then rising. Hoping for as a delicious loaf as my last near disaster as the parentals are visiting for the weekend so a nice fresh bread for the morning will be nice.

real bun in the oven


Doges ajumpin'

doge jump
such jump

Original photos by Julia Christe as appeared in the centre page of the Guardian on Monday 24th November 2014

Autumn light on the some of the few trees in Histon, Cambridgeshire

I took the opportunity of being at home in the afternoon while it was actually sunny to nip out and enjoy the delicious sunlight sifting through the nearby beech trees. There's not many trees round these parts - we are the least wooded county in England, so you take what you can get. These beautiful trees used to have a companion, but the Council seem intent on deleting as many of the few remaining trees as possible (it's almost as if they fear the trees somehow, Ents perhaps?).
Autumn beech trees. © Nick Bailey
low sun in autumn
Autumn beech trees. © Nick Bailey
lighting up the beech trunks
Autumn beech trees. © Nick Bailey
shining through the leaves
Autumn beech trees. © Nick Bailey
silhouetting the leaf fallen
Histon. © Nick Bailey
the village of Histon

Sunrise is wasted on commuters.

Joining the 07:45 to KGX this morning I was again struck by how wasted sunrise is on the average commuter. It would be far better saved for more people by bringing it later in the day (perhaps, shock surprise, by keeping BST all year?). I enjoyed it at least, but didn't really feel comfortable on a packed commuter train to go all soppy and start taking photos out of the window of the overcrowded train.



Before the Off - My Mini Void Moment [@HellointernetFM]

If you've not yet discovered the wonderful podcast Hello Internet, then please let me recommend that to you. I love it. I have (well, had) no idea who CPG Grey or Brady Haran are, but their opposing characters are a source of such insight into the human condition that makes every episode enjoyable. Just two guys talking; well worth a listen. Recently they've brought up the notion of 'the void' - those times when people on a ship late at night feel drawn to jump into it for no good reason. A more everyday scenario they came up with was the posting of a letter. More specifically that moment just as your fingers are about to let go of the envelope into the post box. As it dangles there on the threshold there is that small voice saying 'do it, drop it in' which is countered by a nagging doubt that you've incorrectly addressed the envelope.
My void-esc moment comes when I turn the TV off (technically my Toppy PVR). There is a moment after you hit the button in which the TV remains on for a small period of time as if nothing has happened before the inevitable does happen. It strikes an odd chord with me, as if I feel some sadness that the TV is about to die, its fate is set, but not yet realized.
If I wanted to ponder deeper I'd bring up the documentary "Choosing to Die" that Terry Pratchett made a couple of years ago about Dignitas and assisted dying. That film really struck some part of me, not because I want to die (quite literally the opposite), but for that moment portrayed after the chap took the poison in which the inevitable is inevitable but before that inevitable had happened. Further back there was a Tomorrow World I remember which covered an Australian computer-assisted suicide (recently appears on QI). I can't think of the word to describe it, but both these states have the same flavour - that lingering moment of continuum before the change. Perhaps even the changeing of the seasons can exhibit the same temporal conditions. It's not quite 'the void' as such, but seems to me somehow related.
widescreen CRT with dust pattern. © Nick Bailey
my old wide-screen CRT with exciting dust attraction quality

Two photos from Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire [@AngleseyAbbeyNT]

Here are just two photos I came across on my photographic ramble recently. Both taken in the National Trust garden at Anglesey Abbey on the outskirts of Cambridge in the village of Lode. Well worth a visit if you're passing though. This dogwood looked resplendent in the glorious winter garden. Visit between Dec and Feb to catch its peak, while at other times of the year the wonder is surprisingly dull (not in a bad way, just comparatively).
Anglesey Abbey dogwood. © Nick Bailey
bright yellow dogwood at Anglesey Abbey
Anglesey Abbey ladybird. © Nick Bailey
ladybird on an Autumnal ramble

Purple/blue calendula on the slopes of a Jeju Volcano, South Korea

This glorious bright blue flower (some type of daisy or calendula?) was on the Korean island of Jeju, which is a volcanic playgroud. Something like 130 volanoe cones in an island not much bigger than the Isle of Wight. A fabulous place to visit, also for the tasty and cheap satsumas that grow there and the island culture which is quite different from mainland Korea.
. © Nick Bailey
blue daisy on a volcano on Jeju Island in Korea
. © Nick Bailey
at least I think it's some sort of daisy (or perhaps calendar)
. © Nick Bailey
Jeju Island is littered with extinct cones, a geographers playground

Clematis on a Pallet Fence

I found this image recently on my ramble through the archives. It was a clematis that I set loose on the pallet fence back in Kitchener. The last time I stopped by to visit it was still growing so one day I hope it will have become a lovely hedge.
. © Nick Bailey
clematis joy

A Spot of Astrophotography

I saw an advert in the paper this week for tips on astrophotography brought to you by Cannon. So I took my Nikon (ha! take that advertising) out into the evening chill and snapped a few shots of the sky. The darkness wasn't incredible and the haze was building, but it was good enough. Actually what first got me outside was the terrific sound of some military jets flying around. I thought for a moment it was the Avro Vulcan which I once saw fly over Southampton, this had the same gravity, but by the time I was outside the lights were on the horizon. But looking up I noticed the Pleiades glowing attractively in the early darkness so I popped back to get my camera for a few test shots.
Some experimentations this time - high ISO, shooting RAW and Kelvin rated white balance. The high ISO ~1250 was recommended in the advert, but having read some astro photo websites such as Deep Sky Stacker [thanks to @cawhitworth] their conclusion is that high ISO doesn't help more light enter the lens so it a false economy. However, this time I wasn't going to be taking multiple identical shots to superimpose - might try that at the New Moon this weekend. The Kelvin white-balance was a discovery I made in Croatia this September and is a much more sturdy way to get the colours closer to what you see than any of the pre-sets with their +/- offsets. I have found that working around the 6000K level gives the best night-time recreation of the colour. As for shooting RAW - my aging 4-year-old MacBook Air can't really handle such mega files. To be fair it does do rather well, especially since the replacement of the SSD with a higher speed and capacity one shipped from OWC. But I can't afford 0.5 GB per mini shoot of only 20 files.
Wide Field Pleiades. © Nick Bailey
wide view East towards the Pleiades : 18 mm | f5.6 | ISO 140 | 30 sec
Pleiades. © Nick Bailey
Pleiades comparison : 70 mm | f7.1 | ISO 1250 | [L:5 R:2.5] sec
Pleiades. © Nick Bailey
Pleiades comparison : 70 mm | f7.1 | ISO 1250 | [L:10 R:5] sec
Pleiades. © Nick Bailey
Pleiades comparison : 70 mm | f5.6 | ISO [L:1250 R:100] | 30 sec
Pleiades. © Nick Bailey
Pleiades comparison : 29 mm | f7.1 | ISO [L:1250 R:500] | 10 sec
Capella. © Nick Bailey
Capella with shorter exposure and low ISO : 70 mm | f7.1 | ISO 100 | 10 sec
Capella. © Nick Bailey
Capella with longer exposure and high ISO : 70 mm | f5.6 | ISO 1250 | 30 sec

I'm Fine for Ducks

Ducks are one animal I think I have enough photographs of now. I've been browsing back through my photo catalog recently, now that all 14 years of digital photography are on my one MacBook Air, and at various times I've photographed ducks in varying surroundings but not with varying degrees of success. None of the photos of ducks looks anything special. I think I might be fed up of trying to make ducks look interesting in photographs. So I'm done with ducks. Sheep and swans also.
ducks like all other ducks. © Nick Bailey
an example disappointing duck photo

Chesterton Tower Cherry Tree Blossom, Cambridge

Part of my recent photographic exploration I found this set of images from spring a few of years ago. We watched this cherry tree explode into a riot of shocking pink like I've never seen. One evening the light was just right after a Sunday of rain and so I popped out to shoot these. The photograph of the bike leaning against Chesterton Tower is my favorite and very Cambridge.
cherry pink. © Nick Bailey
cherry blossom explosion
cherry pink. © Nick Bailey
shocking hot pink
cherry tree with green. © Nick Bailey
the low light beautifully illuminated the fresh green leaves
cherry tree with background light. © Nick Bailey
background lit blossom
cherry tree, bicycle, Chesterton Tower. © Nick Bailey
a classic Cambridge sight

5-Day Proved Bread, Tastes Like a French Baguette @realbread

This was utter magic. A mix of error, indolence and forgetfulness on my part resulted in a half kneaded dough sitting in the fridge since last Tuesday. I knocked it up after having cooked a rather delicious lasagna (actually, make that two, something deep within me is unable to cook in small amounts). My aim was to make the most of the oven while it was on but it got late and I couldn't be bothered. So it was popped in the fridge over night.
Finally, today, Dr K took it upon herself to sort out my mess. Adding a little more flour and giving it a rise in the warmth, it began to look a little more like a workable dough, if a little loose. A single rise the a prove on the tray before being popped in the oven along with a water tray at ~220 degrees. We sat down to watch Transcendence on the recommendation of the other Dr K and rather enjoyed it. Afterwards we checked on the cooling loaves which had a good squeeze to them. Slicing in with the knife revealed a surprising holey texture surrounded by a tough but stretchy shell. We tasted. A look of shock was apparently visible on my face - we had not only rescued a loaf from the brink of failure, but created something quite special and the closest to our Valhalla - a French baguette - than ever before. Literally delicious with a crunch chewy texture.
't really do recipes.

  • 1 kg flour mixed 7 to 3 white to brown (all strong from Daily Bread and Arjuna)
  • 600ish ml water (slightly warm I recall)
  • <20ish g sea salt
  • >10 g yeast fresh from Arjuna
  • mixed & left, then half kneaded and left in the fridge
  • leave for 5 days
  • add in a bit more flour
  • rise
  • shape and prove
  • bake for ~10 mins at ~220 degrees then lower for longer

real bread. © Nick Bailey

real bread. © Nick Bailey
real bread. © Nick Bailey
glorious bread

Trees on the Roman Road at Wandlebury, Cambridge

I too the opportunity of a warm sunny evening to explore somewhere that I had been alerted to on Twitter. The prospect of finding actual trees in Cambridgeshire was too strong to resist. Plus in the ludicrous Autumn warmth we're experiencing I would have been silly not to. I was pleasantly surprised by the Roman Road along the back edge of the Wandlebury manor (which itself looked worth a look had the sun not set). I nipped home via Waitrose, so good times all round.
Roman Road Wandlebury Cambridge. © Nick Bailey
tree lined avenue with delicious hints of autumn
Roman Road Wandlebury Cambridge. © Nick Bailey
as you might expect, it's quite a straight path
Roman Road Wandlebury Cambridge. © Nick Bailey
certainly one of the more attractive parts of Cambridgeshire
Wandlebury Cambridge. © Nick Bailey
Wandlebury at sunset

100 Years (Not Quite). #silence

Silence at 11 am on the 11th of the 11th (or the 11th of the 11th if you are American). Hard to believe that 100 years ago there was still 4 years of war still to play out. Many dead, many not from my nation, many from the "enemy". War should cease, but I fear fighting never will, it seems so much an integral part of life. Sadly we are just exceptionally good at it.

Dahlia, Cosmos and Kale

Until recently this was the lovely display of autumn flower power that came together rather unexpectedly this year. I'm especially pleased with the purple kale which works really well with the purple hues of the dahlias and cosmos. Plus we'll get to eat it all winter in (no so) green smoothies.
dahlia cosmos and kale. © Nick Bailey
autumn display of defiant colour

Forget the Balsamic

This combination is almost divine - light soy and sesame oil. Wrap rice and some raw vegetables (ideally include pickled radish) in seaweed leavers and then dip it in this and enjoy. Mouth joy. Note that the sesame oil should be good quality - not the typical rubbish you find in the Amoy range at Sainsburys - just like with olive oil, the oil quality is paramount.
sesame oil and soy. © Nick Bailey
oil and soy - the Asian equivalent of balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Dodgy Cup Game on the South Bank of the Thames near London Bridge opposite HMS Belfast. #avoid

Back in the summer we were in London visiting a friend for the day. We met at London Bridge for an explore of Borough Market, which turned out to be quite marvelous (in particular the Hampshire cider man at the back). The weather was a little off and on, but pleasant enough to make for a fine day. One thing stood out in our wondering - coming across what is often called "the cup game" on the bank of the Thames. None of us had seen this before and frankly were a little intrigued, so we gathered around one of the two gaggles of tourists to take a closer look. One person lost a couple of tenners and I was shocked that anyone would bet even ten pounds on some silly little game (even if the odds looked good - one in three base chance and sometimes 50:50 after the first reveal) - but I suspect this shows more about my upbringing and tradition in the value I attribute to money*.
Next up this woman started to bet, £10, £20, £40... loosing each time and each time being given the option to double or nothing. We soon realized that she was with her daughter and the daughter was getting twitchy. £80 went down - she literally handed him another £40 - my hands went sweaty. She picked a cup, the guy revealed one of the others - she was down to 50:50, then bang. Lost. At this point her daughter started to drag her away. The guy offered again to double or nothing but thankfully the daughter won this round and dragger her mum away. We walked away, stunned, past a second cup game set.
Dodgy cup game on London Southbank. © Nick Bailey
First game with the unlucky mum on the right
Dodgy cup game on London Southbank. © Nick Bailey
50:50 - good odds
Dodgy cup game on London Southbank. © Nick Bailey
shocked onlooker
Dodgy cup game on London Southbank. © Nick Bailey
some tentative interest on the second mat
As we walked we chatted, and as we chatted we realized it must be a scam. We discussed and worked out how the betting must work: the game runner only ever risks the equivalent of the first bet put down, as from then on in the cupist's money all comes from the better except that initial fraction. So even if he makes a mistake at some stage into the game and looses a bet, his loss is negligible. And once a player is in, all their money is invested and the desire to get that back is strong. So all that is needed is a punter. How to get one of those? Stooges. We walked back along the footpath from having a look at The Shard and were surprised to see the guys still there, still playing. Yet this time there was a large crowd formed:
Dodgy cup game on London Southbank. © Nick Bailey
a large crowd and some punters playing
But this time we were not only aware of the scam, we were familiar with the players. Look again at the man and woman betting in this game - they're the same people from the first games. This time we noticed how these stooges were playing and loosing small bets of ten or twenty pounds in order to entice real players. Thankfully they were not being successful despite their insistent fakery.
Being me I started to join the crowd and loudly start telling people how the whole show is a scam and that the two playing were fakes. I walked behind the cuppist and proclaimed the nature of this game and how they can not loose. One stooge tried to pretend to loose to show that it is a real game. But then in a flash the little carpet was gone, the cups were stacked and the ball disappeared. One guy collected all the ingredients into his rucksack and everyone dispersed to the wall.
Dodgy cup game on London Southbank. © Nick Bailey
what cup game? We're just tourists...
Dodgy cup game on London Southbank. © Nick Bailey
discussing their options
Below are some close ups of the people I could tell were involved. If you see these people in London please do not be tempted to give them any money - you will loose. I would suggest that you call the police, but quite frankly I doubt they will do anything. The best you can do is to inform anyone in the area that it is a scam, get your camera out to take evidence and watch as they disappear like smoke.
Dodgy cup game on London Southbank. © Nick Bailey
shocked lady not very good at acting a mix of expressions
Dodgy cup game on London Southbank. © Nick Bailey
camp smoking man, a bit like a dodgy Mr Bean
Dodgy cup game on London Southbank. © Nick Bailey
which cup, guess a cup, fifty fifty, loose it all
Dodgy cup game on London Southbank. © Nick Bailey
texting woman, standby stooge
Dodgy cup game on London Southbank. © Nick Bailey
who I originally thought was the godfather
Dodgy cup game on London Southbank. © Nick Bailey
the scout and possibly the ring leader
In other news I came across exactly the same game in a park in Budapest recently. Was I walked past yet again there was someone already playing the game and winning as I was invited to play. I immediately told them I new it was fake and got my camera out. As I continued through the park I came across their lookout who frankly scared me and tried to shut me up. When you next see this game make a noise and look out for all the various members of the gang.
* probably a subject for another time.