Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Just to live up to my name!

A touch Bill Sykes, perhaps? Well, The Other Half did think it "spooky and Dickensian", and it isn't Nancy, that's for certain.

The new avatar was one of a series of projects undertaken on a remarkably busy day off.

There was shopping and washing first – both of which had been missed at the weekend because of a hop to Salford for a meeting, followed by attendance at Old Trafford to watch the Rugby League Super League Grand Final in the flesh for the first time.

Which was enjoyable enough in its own right: for those of you who don't know, Leeds Rhinos beat Warrington Wolves to retain the title.

It was an uncompromising affair – for goodness sake, Warrington's Paul Wood had a testicle ruptured by someone's knee early in the second half, but played on until the 57th minute. It was removed in hospital later that night.

Leeds deserved their victory: they had far more invention and variety, and the Wolves' ill discipline cost them dear, as well as their over-reliance on what legendary commentator Eddie Waring would have described as the "up and under".

I do want to add a comment on Hayley Westenra, the singer hired to lead the crowd in the pre-match singing of Jerusalem (well, there are still a few of those "dark, Satanic mills" nearby). But while she sounds much better on YouTube, her performance at The Swamp left me wondering what the fuss was about.

And Haley, love: if you're going to walk down a red carpet, don't wear fuschia – they clash dreadfully.

The trip's food was nothing to write home about, so I won't. Although I should say: Chiquito – nachos do not benefit from sitting in a puddle of liquid.

Anyway, back from The Dark Side (I had warned The Other Half as the tram had taken us from Piccadilly to Salford Quays), the remainder of Sunday was spent doing little, followed by a day of playing Occupy the Sofa yesterday, aided and abetted by the cats, as we hid away from a grim, grey day.

Today, fortunately, dawned bright and clear. And so, after nipping up to Broadway Market, it was a case of getting down to some autumn cleaning in the garden.

Over the last couple of weekends (preceding the one just gone, of course), we'd done damned well to do most of the garden clearing.

I'd pruned roses properly for the first time, together with the jasmine, which runs rampant. I'd trimmed and tidied, while The Other Half had nailed plastic strips against the base of the fence that runs along three sides of the garden, in the hope that this will prove a good snail defence mechanism.

He'd also used the same stuff to create deeper 'beds' around the base of the pyracantha, the jasmine, the rose and the bay tree.

Today, I emptied the pots that needed emptying (well, apart from the tomatoes, which will be done this weekend), took down the frames for the beans and cleared all the remains of the beans away.

And then, as if that wasn't enough, I took the riddle and cleared about two square metres of the rest of the bean bed of stones and other debris that I don't want to be around when I extend my planting next year. There's loads more to do, but it's not a task you rush at.

With all that done, it was time for a bit of long-planned photography.

On a technical level, it was the Canon 40D with a Sigma macro lens and a Manfrotto tripod. Matters were changed a tad by the discovery that my release cable doesn't fit this model – which tells you how often I use such an accessory.

Lighting was simply the lighting in the hall, plus a small lamp.

No make-up – except eyebrow pencil, because they're getting a little light.

Plain t-shirt, leather jacket, my most recently acquired hat, 20 minutes of attempts and half an hour of photoshopping (no airbrushing the face, though) and voila! The new avatar for all social media was ready to go.

Whether I caught something of the style or not, the influence was Irving Penn, the American photographer who died in 2009, and whose work formed an exhibition, a year later, at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The idea of self portraiture is fascinating. I've not done many, but they do tend to surprise you in ways that seeing other people's pictures of you don't. There's an intimacy that is completely different.

Anyway, in this case, all that's missing is a cudgel, a dog and a burst of "strong men tremble when they hear it!" from a certain Dickensian musical.

Okay; maybe not.

* Click on the photo to see a larger version (if you want).

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