Colchester Zoo

Ok three new blog posts in a day today with more to come as I dig into recent archives from this summer that I’ve not yet written about or posted on this blog to date. I finish off with this post for today….

Yesterday we went to Colchester Zoo, as Tina unbelievably turned 50 not so long ago and between myself, Tim and Alice we bought her a really awesome present and that was to take on the role of being Zookeeper for the day! Thankfully she loved it so much, she asked if we could do it all over again! We may just do that but for now, here are some photographs from the day out.

Tina went behind the scenes and we caught up with her here and there. So Alice and I joined three good friends of ours (David, Sam and their little daughter Freya), whom you see in some of these photos.

Colchester is a great Zoo by the way, never been there before and most of the animals are clear to see albeit behind glass of course for everyones’ safety as you can imagine. The only problem with that and this is the only grumble, it’s a bit awkward for photography due to it’s reflective nature. So I’ve only filtered out the shots where I had an uninterrupted view of the animals.

Country Lane, Ovington

A week ago Tina and I were driving around Hampshire in the worst weather we’ve seen in ages, it was pouring down and we didn’t want to be cooped up indoors all day. It was really quite dull outside but we hopped in the car nonetheless. We weren’t really sure where to go but decided to head in the general direction of Winchester. The roads were flooded in places and I had to take it a bit easy as we made our way southwards. Storm Callum was lashing Great Britain that day and other parts of the UK really suffered rather badly with widespread damage to property and people.

We at one point decided to turn off the main road to go and find a place we’d seen some time ago but daftly we couldn’t remember the name of the place, was it called Ovington? In fact later we realised it was in fact Avington, we were looking for but in the meantime we got fantastically lost!

We took a turning down this glorious road, it looked stunning even in the constant torrent of rain that was cascading out of the clouds up above. We didn’t stop because I didn’t have my camera on me, plus the dry comfort of the car was far more appealing, however I made a note of the location to revisit. We ended up in Winchester and had some lunch there in a great place called Forte Tearooms.

Fast forward one week and this morning I went back on what has been a gloriously warm day for this time of year. In fact the whole weekend has been delightful.

Side note – I have started putting together a new way of tracking locations and ideas for future photography outings, which invariably end up turning out to be great healthy walks too. I found some more locations today that I didn’t want to forget about, so they’ve been duly noted 🙂

Hampshire Harvest Festival

It’s a wet, cold and utterly autumnal afternoon but we didn’t want to let that stop us and we knew that the Hampshire Harvest Festival is on this weekend, so we hopped in the car and drove down there. Sadly the weather seemed to have put off many people, as there were some good things there, just not an awful lot of people compared to normal.

I tend to use auto ISO mode on my camera and generally shoot in aperture priority. So it has been interesting to see how my ISO performs, as today it varied quite dramatically but the end results are none the worse off for it. The above shot could have been shot in ISO 100 for all I know, it remains crisp and well detailed.

Sounds like I am writing a camera review but I’m not lol!!

Here are a few of the shots I took whilst we dodged the heavy rain showers. The whole event was situated around the Cathedral with a dozen stalls or so.

Many of the images here have had very little post production applied to them but in this case I did use a Lightroom profile on some of the images to boost them a tiny bit, not really necessary but I fancied trying it out. If anyone is interested, I may write some articles on my techniques.

I used a radial brush on the eyes of the owl because of the low light, they seemed underexposed but were the sharpest point. A little boost made all the difference in LR.

A decade as a kidney transplantee

Life is full of milestones, trials and tribulations. We all face them. We overcome them. Sometimes we fail and other times we conquer. These events shape us, a hypothetical ebb and flow of cause and effect.

Today is a significant day and I dedicate this post to my Dad, my family, my wife and the staff of St George’s, St Helier and Frimley Park hospitals. So many people to mention, all of them heroes in their own right. Ten years ago today, my Dad and I underwent what is known as a live kidney transplant. I thank my Dad for what he did for me that day and the incredible team at St George’s. It was an extraordinary procedure and thanks to Jiri Fronek the talented Czech surgeon and his team (quite a big team I believe they were too), I am still a living, breathing, fully functional human being, apart from when I have my moments but we are all allowed those aren’t we!

On the day they booked out two adjacent operating theatres where for more than seven hours, whilst under general anaesthetic, we lay oblivious to the fact that there were incredible things happening, high risk, yet well rehearsed, highly experienced and with hundreds of such operations under their belts, we couldn’t have wished for a better team of specialists led by Jiri.

My Wife and Mum were facing the toughest day of us all, as patients we had the easiest bit (almost!) and for the medical staff, just another day at the office you could say!

My Mum facing the fact that both her oldest son and husband were in the operating theatre undergoing cutting edge surgery, with the thoughts going through their minds of what could happen if it went wrong and at one point they had to deal with a member of staff who couldn’t help them with the rather abrupt, what do I care response of, “I don’t know! How long is a piece of string”. All they wanted was some form of progress report, as we had already been down for several hours by that point. It must have been hard, really hard for them, so much so, neither my Dad nor I could really comprehend. After all that story was told some weeks later and Jiri himself phoned my Mum to ask if she could identify the staff member. She asked what would happen to the person concerned. Jiri merely responded with the stern response, “I take such things very seriously”.

However despite all of that and a few hiccups in the first few weeks when we thought at a point it (the transplant) may have rejected, it all worked out. My Dad left hospital after 3 days and convalesced for a month. I left after 7 days and had to take 3 months off work to recover, everything was painful, I could only walk short distances and gradually built my strength back up in the months that followed.

You may have never read my old blog posts, they are all here on this site and I wrote most of them on an old Sony phone of some sort, it was just before iPhones were released, the letters all grouped on single keys but I faced quite a lot of boredom and sleepless nights. I became quite adept at writing with the most awkward tool known to man. I read some of them back recently, some entries were a hard read, since I didn’t spare many details!

Dedications go to the following for their support both in the past and current:

Dr Micklethwaite, Dr Peter Andrews, Christina Ho, Jiri Fronek, Dr Jonathan Kwan, Dr Mike Bending and all of my fellow transplantees, many of whom I’ve stayed in touch with – Sue Beesley, The Spensleys, Kevin Lofthouse to name but a few. I would also like to remember those people whom we have sadly lost along the way, Scott Morrow, Margaret Simpson and Debbie Debono. All of whom were fighters and some of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met.

It is important that we all help find ways of combatting kidney disease, so that other people can be given a second chance to live their lives. So many sadly die whom could have had a transplant and then there are those who are dependent on dialysis who could swap the hours they spend on machines for a better way of life. Do you have a donor card? If you don’t maybe you should consider it?

Happy 70th birthday NHS, I quite literally love you! I would be dead if it wasn’t for you and the great people you employ as your nurses, phlebotomists, surgeons, consultants, porters, ambulance transport drivers. I could go on and on singing your praises forever. We must protect you and all that you do for us.

Finally let me finish on a high note. Life is precious. It isn’t always easy. However it is full of love and joy that makes it all worthwhile. Here is to the next ten years of the greatest gift ever given.

Thanks Dad for a life twice given.

Love Nick.

Exbury Gardens

Exbury Gardens is a famous garden in Hampshire, England, which belongs to a branch of the Rothschild family. It is situated in the village of Exbury, just to the east of Beaulieu across the river from Bucklers Hard.

The garden is well known mostly for it’s Rhodedendrons, Azeleas and Cameleas. It covers a phenomenal 200-acre and belongs to part of the Rothschild family.

We had a fantastic walk around there on yet another really warm day, so I didn’t take a huge number of photos, however I was pleased enough with what I did take.