Saturday, 31 January 2009

Update on The Boiler

Update: There is no update.

The boiler is languishing in the corner, refusing to work.

The boiler fix-it man is nowhere to be found - he went home to his warm, cosy, HEATED home yesterday (probably to have a HOT shower) instead of coming to fix our boiler.

We have no hot water.

We have no heating.

Temperatures are expected to dip below zero over the weekend with snow showers predicted.

I am in a state of numb* incomprehension.

I tried to express my incomprehension to the lovely (very understanding) telephone operator at Vokera (the boiler manufacturer) this morning. She could not help me. They contract their work out to Crystal Heating Ltd. It was Crystal Heating who deemed it acceptable not to bother turning up yesterday. Extraordinary. Perhaps Crystal Heating is unaffected by the recession and can afford not to provide any iota of customer service.

Vokera have no "out of hours" contact number for Crystal Heating. I have searched the Internet but am unable to find a mobile and/or out of hours number for Crystal Heating.

We are, apparently, unable to contract out to any other boiler fix-it company. It is an insurance claim and under the insurance policy, Vokera must carry out (or organise) any repairs.

Tension in the Messy household is at an all-time high.

*caused by freezing conditions within the Messy household.

On a more important note, spare a thought for the people who are living rough on the streets of London who have no home let alone any heating or hot water or a comfortable bed. It is going to be a cold few days out there and it reminds me how lucky I am to have a roof over my head, blankets etc. And also for all the Aussies affected by the shocking heatwave hitting the country right now: tough times on both sides of the world...

Photos are of the Seine in Paris (last September) and baguettes from Paul (bakery) in Bordeaux- happier, sunnier times :)

Thursday, 29 January 2009

The Boiler

Most Excellent Blog Fans (c'mon- I know there must be at least 3 of you out there!) your blogger has been absent for the last couple of days (actually, is there anyone out there reading this? has anyone realised little 'ole Messy has been absent??) BUT, for once, I have an excuse: DISASTER has struck the Messy Household (cue Dah Dah Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaah music).....................


No! I hear you gasp

YEESSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I reply (as an icicle slides it way down my right eyebrow, off my nose and into my coffee cup)

Our freakin' naughty boiler has had a tissy fit IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER and is not working. For those of you Aussie Blog Fans who aren't familiar with the role of the boiler, it basically creates the hot water, the heating, everything HEAT related in the flat.

To say I am unimpressed with this turn of events (it happened Tuesday) would be a MAJOR understatement.

This is what I wrote in my diary on Tuesday night:

"The boiler has blown up
Situation: NOT GOOD
Messy Mood: NOT GOOD
I can't have a shower, I can't wash my hair, it is 3 degrees outside but feels like minus 3 degrees inside the flat....I can't wait till I tell Mr Messy about this....

(Messy tells Mr Messy about the boiler)....

Mr Messy Mood: NOT GOOD
Situation: DIRE"

I have, of course, declared a STATE OF EMERGENCY (since we have been without hot water/any form of heating now for 3 full days) in the Messy household although Mr Messy tells me I am overreacting and that this happens to people ALL the time and that we aren't the only ones suffering right now.... To say that I am currently unimpressed with Mr Messy would also be an understatement.

As for morning ablutions I described it to a friend as thus: "Imagine , say, a pelican (the largest bird I can think of right now) trying to bathe itself in a teacup- and you have me trying to have a "shower" using a glass bowl, a kettle full of water, a washer and some soap. It is as unpleasant, ineffective and ridiculous as it sounds."

Apparently the nice little boiler fix-it man (well, I assume it will be a man but maybe there are boiler fix-it ladies as well) will be arriving on our doorstop tomorrow somewhere between 8:30am and 5:30pm to fix the blighter. I am remaining hopeful that the boiler can be coaxed into working again tomorrow- I cannot even begin to imagine, don't want to imagine, what my mental state will be like if it cannot be fixed on the spot. Situation will be: we are moving into a hotel. STAT.

postscript: I have just picked up a copy of the London Lite paper. It reads "Icy blast coming in from Russia: Freezing air from Russia will bring another cold snap to the UK early next week. Heavy snowfalls are forecast for Monday, and Tuesday in the South-East, with temperatures expected to drop as low as -4C, while icy winds are likely to make it feel even colder".

The boiler will be fixed tomorrow. Period.

If your wondering about the photos, I didn't have a photo of a pelican having a birdie bath in a teacup on file, so you're getting Bordeaux (top) and Paris (bottom).

Monday, 26 January 2009

The Kodak Carousel

I haven't got time to post a long-ish post today (instead I am sitting at the computer procrastinating over an article I should have finished 2 days ago!). Oh, and um, watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall tackling Tesco on the rearing of poultry (I love his comment about one punter "wanting more cluck for her buck!!" )

This photo (another of the merry-go-round in Bordeaux) was inspired by the anonymous blog reader who posted a comment last week on da blog re the hit US show, Mad Men. I confess I hadn't heard of this show before reading the comment and watching the YouTube clip- but now I am intrigued. The show is a drama series set in the 1960's in New York and explores the high pressure, high octane world of advertising. It looks HOT, HOT, HOT. I will definitely be watching the new series when it hits our screens in mid-Feb.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Place des Quinconces, Bordeaux

The French Circus, Arlette Gruss, just happened to be in Bordeaux at the same time we were there (I think the season runs from 16 January to 8th February, 2009). The tent looked magnificent, particularly in the late afternoon sunshine, in the Place des Quinconces- the huge square in the centre of Bordeaux.
The square is the 2nd largest city square in the EU (according to wiki) and is dominated by a large column on top of which sits a statute representing the Spirit of Liberty (I will post photographs tomorrow).

The monument was erected between 1894 and 1902 in memory of the Girondists who fell victim of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. These sculptures (below) sit around the base of the column in two large basins.

And because a Messy post isn't (usually) complete without a stranger, here is a lovely gal and her new puppy I photographed in the Place des Quinconces.

Is there anything cuter than a new puppy tummy???!!!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Musée des Arts Décoratifs and Chez Karl, Bordeaux

Continuing on the salon de thé theme in Bordeaux, two more places to rest, regroup and sip a milky café au lait or sinfully rich chocolat chaud (and maybe sneak a flaky pain au chocolat) are the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (the courtyard of which I photographed above and below) and Chez Karl.

The Musee Des Arts Decoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts) is located in the Hôtel de Lalande, a beautiful 18th century building, and houses an exquisite collection of furniture, 18th and 19th century porcelain, glassware, ceramics, silver and wrought iron work. The building was designed by the famous Bordeaux architect, Etienne Laclotte, for the Marquis de Lalande and was completed in 1779.

Hidden in the pretty cobbled courtyard of the Musee Des Arts Decoratifs is an elegant salon de thé - you can take tea sitting at the outside tables during fine weather or tuck yourself away in the tiny tea room if the weather is unbearably chilly.

Plus, and this is very secret squirrel, the courtyard houses a scrupulously clean toilet if you are, umm, caught short and really need to go! If there is one thing I appreciate when travelling, it is a clean toilet with toilet paper that flushes reliably :)

Musée des Arts Décoratifs

39, Rue Bouffard 33000
Tel : 05 56 10 14 00

Chez Karl is a buzzy little cafe in the historic Saint- Pierre District. The food isn't extraordinary but it is a nice airy space which looks out onto a pretty square. I had the "Petit déjeuner du Boulanger" for 5 euro which consisted of a wonderfully crunchy baguette, slices of rye bread, preserves, nutella, butter and a café au lait. The staff are friendly and the servings, plentiful. It would be lovely in summer when the tables are set outside on the square.

A waitress at Chez Karl, Bordeaux (below)

These young chaps were sitting at the next table- they were being mischievous with the pepper grinder and had me and a couple of other patrons in fits of giggles. They were Tae Kwon Do students on tour from Korea and wolfed down a huge cup/bowl each of chocolat viennois.

Chez Karl
6, place du parlement 33000

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Le Samovar - Salon de Thé, Bordeaux

Two hip strangers I managed to snap in the late afternoon in Bordeaux (above and below).

Having wandered the streets of Bordeaux for a few hours, and fuelled only by my early morning baguette and Café au Lait, I was delighted (as were my aching feet-all those cobblestones are hard work on the tootsies!) when I stumbled across a quirky little Salon de Thé, Le Samovar, in the quartier Saint Michel.
It is a cosy space filled with hundreds of second-hand books, lots of mixed matched sofas and chairs, throw rugs, kitsch objet d'art, and vintage lamps. It feels very much like taking tea in your Great Aunt's cluttered living room, um, except without your Great Aunt hovering about offering stale Rich Tea biscuits and unwanted advice on the state of your love life.
The coffee was, well, average, but you don't go to France for the coffee (unlike Italy!). You go to sit in cafe's like this one to soak up the atmosphere, to eavesdrop on conversations, to write, and to dream a thousand dreams.

Le Samovar
rue camille sauvageau, st Michel, 33800 Bordeaux

The photos below are of some lovely students I met while dreaming my thousand dreams :)

p.s. I do put spaces between my paragraphs-but then then they disappear when I post! arghhhhhhhhh
See, this is when an IT guru would come in very handy to hold my little hand

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Bordeaux Photos

Just processing a couple of photos of Bordeaux while I watch my absolute favourite program of the moment- Heston Blumenthal's revamp of Little Chef. It is like watching a car crash in slow motion - mesmerising and horrific all at once.

For all you Aussie peeps reading da Blog, Little Chef is a roadside cafe chain here in the UK which hasn't had its food or decor updated since, well, errrr, a very long time (but not in a nostalgic good way!)

Brilliant, captivating viewing

p.s. I am dying to eat at the revamped Little Chef- I have read super things about it. Anyone been to one since the makeover?

The Merry- Go-Round of Life

Sometimes it feels like life is just one big merry-go-round... endlessly turning and turning and never really getting anywhere - or maybe that is just my life!

Starting a new venture and changing careers (particularly in these uncertain economic times) is scary- there are days when I think of packing it all in and going back to a secure, office job as a lawyer where a nice little paycheck comes in each fortnight, with 4 weeks PAID holiday leave, PAID sick leave, an IT department (oh how I wish I had an IT guru to sit by my side and hold my sweaty little hand when things go awry with my computer), a speaker phone (anyone else get slightly frustrated sitting on hold for any length of time on a land line with no speaker? arghhh, the frustration blog fans, the frustration!), free stationary (not that I would ever advocate using office stationary for personal use 'cos that would be just plain wrong ;), nice office toilets (not that our toilet isn't nice but, well, it is rather lovely to be using somebody else's toilet paper and squirty soap- not to mention the Dyson Airblade hand dryer-instead of my own) and most importantly, other humans readily at hand to listen to my moaning, share a giggle and office gossip (not that I would ever advocate office gossip of course!)

But then... I stop and give myself a long hard talking to, NO!, I don't want to get to 60 and not have followed my dream because it was just too much hard work, because it required too many sacrifices, because it was too tiring, because everyone else said not too, because I was too scared, because I didn't believe in myself, because because because.....

So on I solider.
I leave you with a Dr Seuss quote which I really like:
"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know.
And you are the one who'll decide where you'll go.
Oh the places you'll go" Dr Seuss
Photos are from Bordeaux

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A- Ring- a -Ding- Ding!

Spotted these two Cats while I was wandering the streets of Bordeaux. I clocked the girl first with her fab headgear (I thought she was wearing it just to be hip-I didn't realise it had a practical purpose!!) and then saw that she was heading towards the guy on the bike. Quick as a flash, in my very poor Frenglish, I asked if I could take a photo. Luckily her English was très bonne, she understood what I meant and jumped on the bike.

I only had about 20 sec to get these shots before they ring-a-ding-dinged off into the afternoon on their little moped :)

p.s. My drowned mobile has been resuscitated. Phew!

Monday, 19 January 2009

The Curious Incident of the Maxie Cat

This is a little shout-out to Max the meow (whose human parents are Ms Ewah and husband) who was adventuring around the house on Sunday and had an unfortunate incident with a packet of laundry detergent. Despite some rather mournful meowing and protests at being given two painful injections by the vet, Maxie is thankfully now on her way to a full recovery.

These photos are not of Max but of a very friendly cat I came across in Bordeaux.

p.s. Max the meow is actually a girl cat (despite her name). When we picked her up (read: rescued) from her former home, the lady assured us she was a boy cat. Errr... and then Ms Ewah went to the vet- and found out that Max was actually a girl, not a boy! Maxie, the tranny cat.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Le Plan B

Bonjour Most Excellent Blog Fans, your blogger has returned from Bordeaux, France.... home of great food, even greater wine and perhaps one of the greatest urban renewal projects completed in Europe in recent times.

The last time I was in Bordeaux was in late 2003 and the city was so tangled and consumed with construction work as part of the urban renewal project that it was difficult (if not impossible) to appreciate its beauty. Roads and footpaths were ripped up, construction safety fences were everywhere, traffic was regularly gridlocked, the noise of jackhammers filled the air, the Notre-Dame Cathedral was covered in scaffolding, facades of buildings were caked in dust and grime, and the city looked, well, just plain messy. Residents and tourists alike lamented the project, and when enquiring about a completion date, locals would give that wonderful very French gesture which involves simultaneously raising the eyebrows, a downturning of the mouth, shrugging the shoulders to ear height and emitting a small "pppppffffffffft" sound-which translates (in this circumstance) to "I don't know, it will take as long as it will take"!

Thankfully, the makeover of Bordeaux is now complete and the results are stunning. It is hard to describe so I will post photographs when I have a chance, but the designers/town planners/architects have managed to redevelop the city centre and quays so that the new high- tech tram line, boulevards, bikeways and pedestrian footpaths are in complete harmony with the classical and neoclassical architecture- a successful marriage between the old and the new perhaps. So successful has the redevelopment been that Bordeaux was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

If anyone is thinking of heading to Bordeaux this year, I would highly recommend at least a couple of nights in the city centre, or if you are doing a wine tour, perhaps basing yourself here. The charming Hotel Majestic is centrally located and is a superb, relatively inexpensive (although the fall of the pound against the euro makes travelling on a budget difficult) place to lay your head after a long day spent photographing or wine tasting (depending on your particular-but both very expensive-vice!)

Apart from the extremely efficient tram system (1.40 euros a trip) walking is easy as most of the city is flat and the pedestrian walkways are extremely wide. Hiring a bike would also be a great way to spend an afternoon and see more of the city and my understanding is that the Vélib bike hire scheme (similar to that in Paris) will be launched shortly in Bordeaux.

I will continue posting about my adventures in Bordeaux over the next couple of weeks.

p.s Two rather unfortuante things happened to me on return to ye olde London town. 1. my new mobile phone (which replaced my dodgy old mobile phone) dropped in the toilet (don't ask!!!) and drowned on Saturday night :( I have spent the last day feverishly scouring Internet sites on how to revive a soggy mobile. Tips include taking out the battery and sim card and laying the phone on a bed of dry rice, blowdrying it with the hairdryer set on "cool", putting it on top of the TV for a few days, putting it in a sock and resting it on top of the radiator (actually this one was suggested by the ever helpful Mr Messy;-)). All suggestions are clear on one thing- DO NOT get all shouty-cracker-impatient and try to reinsert the battery/SIM card prematurely before it has had a chance to dry out- patience is a must (which is terribly inconvenient for an Aries like moi!)

2. I went to the SWPP&BPPA Convention yesterday at Hammersmith to check out album and framing options for clients. Unfortunately I happened upon the Nikon stand. Unfortunately I spied a D3. Unfortunately I asked to try it out. Unfortunately the sales rep let me.




That camera ROCKS!

In continuous high speed mode it is like a machine gun, pounding out 9 frames per second. The low noise at high ISO's (would have been great in the Notre-dame cathedral in Bordeaux), the full frame, the 51 point auto-focus, the round optical viewfinder- I could go on and on about this camera. The only downside that I can see is the weight (dang, it is heavy with a 12-24mm wide angle lense on it) and the sensor cleaning (full frame cameras are a lot more expensive and difficult to clean apparently), oh, ummm and yeah the price- currently around £2800.

I should never have tried it as now I want one more than ever. Hmmmm Le Plan B- how to get my hands on a Nikon D3....

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Gone Fishing

Most Excellent Blog Fans- your blogger has gone fishing*

Messy transmission will resume in a few days -hopefully with a lot more photos and some interesting tales to tell :)

*hee hee, haven't really gone fishing (bait = ick!)

Photos are of Valencia, Spain, October 2008

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Horses For Courses

The Nikon had to go for a beauty treatment today- a full sensor cleaning at Fixation in Kennington. One of the "problems" associated with a DSLR (with interchangeable lenses) as opposed to a point and shoot camera (where the lense is fixed) is that the sensor can get dirty with dust particles. This shows up as grey, fuzzy, blobby spots on photographs- most visible on areas such as the sky or light coloured areas.
The sensor can get dirty (and trust me it WILL happen to you sooner or later- even if you practice DSLR-Hygiene 101) just through normal use of the camera e.g. changing lenses, putting a dusty cap on the camera body, using a zoom lense in a dusty environment. You can take precautions such as cleaning your lenses and caps regularly, always keeping a cap on the camera body when it is lense-free, pointing your camera body downwards when changing the lense so that dust particles are less likely to fall into the mirror box, vacuum your camera bag regularly, change your lense in a "clean and sterile" environment as possible (helllllloooo I am hearing y'all groan that this just ain't practicable most of the time!)
You can get kits to clean the sensor yourself (which obviously works out a lot cheaper) but the words SWABS, FLUIDS, CARTRIDGES, GUN and SPECGRABBER cause my bowels to turn to water and my head to develop a major brainache. Basically if you get it wrong (and I have read horror stories of people who went down the DIY route without proper instruction) you can stuff your camera royally. Hence I left it to the techies at Fixation to do it for me. It costs around £28+VAT (for a DX sensor) and they do it while you wait (about 30-40mins or so).
If you are handy with tools, have great eyesight, steady hands and lots of patience then I suspect DIY sensor cleaning would be the way to roll-but not for me :) horses for courses.

Now to the photos, I snapped these while on my way to Fixation. The horse in the top photo is 16 years old! Okay, so apparently horses can live to 40-45 so I guess at 16, he is just in his horsey-prime!

The gentleman above had never been on a horse before today! He was lovely enough to pose for me despite probably feeling a bit nervous on his mount. He was such a beautiful horse- that be his rear end (below):

This was my first shot with my new squeaky clean sensor (below)- no dust bunnies!

p.s. remember you can click on photos to see a larger version :)

Sunday, 11 January 2009

London Strangers

Thought you might like a peek at some of the "100 Strangers" I have been photographing recently....

First up, Polly and Dave from Australia and New Zealand, respectively. I photographed them in Hyde Park near the Pond...they were sitting, quite peacefully, enjoying the sunset until I blithely blundered onto the scene with my camera ;-)

Polly and Dave were travelling the UK (Polly is still here but Dave has returned home) when they met and a romance developed (we love that!!) We had a chat about the state of Cadbury chocolate in the UK (I am not a huge fan of the English variety but apparently the Irish bars are smashing), Flight of the Conchords (as you do!), and coffee in London. They were a lovely, lovely couple and I hope they give me an update when they meet up again back home in Aussieland.

Next up is Issy who I met last week with her friend Heinrich in Soho. I think (and I hope I haven't mixed the story up!) that Issy is the daughter of Gina X, the late 70's, early 80's electro-pop singer. She and Heinrich were filming a clip for an art college project about the song that Gina X wrote about writer/actor Quentin Crisp called "No GDM" (which stands for No Great Dark Man). I couldn't resist a photo of Issy in her 80's-inspired outfit.

Next is Winifred, who I photographed last year at TomTom coffee shop (above). This was just one of those moments which "just happens" and can't be planned! I love the way she is peeking around the counter at me :)

Lastly, is Mr El-Kadhi who has exceptional taste in coffee and is a regular at TomTom coffee house in Belgravia.

Thank you to all my strangers for bravely offering themselves as subjects for my "100 Strangers project"!