Archive for the ‘ flowers ’ Category

The School Walk

I’ve been doing “school mornings” for five years now. Had I been doing the same task for five years at work I would have it down pat by now. Why, then, are schooldays still so fraught, so likely to spill over into disputes, shouting matches and fights? It seems so easy to come up with a winning formula.

The trick, obviously, is to get as much done as possible the night before, thus reducing the risk of it all going wrong during that tired, difficult hour before school.

I once had a night-time checklist. I typed it out and everything. It was brilliant. (By the way, if you’re super organised and always do all this stuff anyway, and never have a fraught morning, and get yourself and four kids off to school and work with ease, then please stop reading now. And know that I hate you.) My list went something like this:

Check and hang up school uniforms, including pants and socks

Check for PE kit, swimming kit, forms to return, letters to read, money to hand over

Make sure the doings for breakfast and packed lunches are ready to go

Rinse water bottles and leave by sink to refill

Woolly hats and gloves and coats on radiator to warm for next morning

Put car and house keys ready in case we have to resort to car dash

Put own outfit ready to throw on

I had everything covered. Fifteen minutes effort, tops. Sadly, I’d lost the checklist by day three of the new school term, and it all slowly unravelled from then onwards.

The reality of life in our household most mornings is that somebody has always lost something vital or suddenly remembers to tell me that I was meant to make Angel Gabriel’s costume (due in today); somebody else wants to lie in and then shouts at everyone else when they realise how late it is; somebody else feels sick/has headache/hurts knee in karate demonstration or jumping off settee onto beanbag; and somebody always loses the car key/house key/urgent form (me).

As a result we are, more often than not, cross with each other by the time we get out of the front door. My eldest is particularly cross if we leave the house a minute after 8.20am, as that means the  gaggle of mates who he walks the last 100 yards to school with will have left without him; the youngest is cross because we are walking at all; and I’m cross because I look like shit, having failed to find time to drag a brush through my hair, never mind put on any lippy.

On these days I harbour a dream. All parents harbour the same fantasy, I’m sure.

It’s the one where everyone tumbles out of bed gracefully at the allotted time, showers without fuss and dons perfectly ironed uniforms/outfits before assembling around the breakfast table (laid the night before). There we all exchange stories of the day ahead, discuss last night’s TV/family board game, while tucking into a hearty fresh breakfast. There is cereal (only healthy, non sugary brands), toast in the rack, juice (freshly squeezed), bacon grilling, eggs poaching, tea in the pot. We depart for school on time, without hassle, walking hand in hand. In some versions I think we are even skipping and singing Climb Every Mountain from The Sound of Music. I am also two stone lighter in this adaptation, but that’s another story.

This fantasy has actually happened in our family once or twice. Possibly. Though that might have been another dream.

Until I put in the effort to make this a reality, I’ll settle for just getting them to school with food in their bellies and in clean(ish) uniform. This morning was, actually, a nice, stress-free one. So much so that, on the way out of the house, I even took the time to snatch up my camera, with a vague plan to take some pics on the walk back. The images above and below are some of the results.

If you follow my blog occasionally, you’ll know I encourage myself to celebrate the mundane and simple wonders of life. It’s a bit of a theme in fact. More of a “memo to self” than to you, but here it is again: we all recognise the standout special moments – the fabulous holiday, the brilliant achievements of our loved ones or ourselves, the magical days when everything just falls into place – but these come along rarely and are generally accompanied by a loud fanfare and spotlights, so we can hardly miss them. What makes for a happy life, in my humble opinion, is appreciating those everyday moments, and realising amid the routine and the trials and tribulations of life just how blessed we are. Without these regular pick-me-ups I reckon life could soon become a despairing grind.

The walk to and from school, five days a week, is a case in point. I usually spend the best part of the 1km route trying to de-stress after the hassles of the morning, shouting at the kids to keep away from the kerb, and planning the rest of my day in my head. I’ve even been known to text or email while walking along in a bid to get a jump on the day.

We walk along a busy road for the most part, but the last section takes us down a narrow hedge-lined alley, with the school and fields on one side and a play park, football pitches and patch of marshland on the other.

This morning, the mere act of picking up my camera meant that I spent most of the walk there looking out for photo opportunities to snap on the way back. I noticed the deep blue of the wintery sky. The way the moon looked incredibly close, hanging like a globe in the empty sky. The way the light flitted through the stark trees. The long shadows cast across the playground. The frost on the ground, like a Christmas carpet. I talked to the kids about what we saw, and they spotted interesting stuff too.

I would probably have been oblivous to all of this normally; too busy plotting ahead to appreciate the here and now. Sure, I’d have noticed what a crisp, bright morning it was – but then my brain would have switched off and zoomed in on my to-do list.

I know what I’m saying is hardly rocket science – Buddhists have been practising the art of “mindfulness” and living in the moment for centuries – but I realised some time ago that I was spending large chunks of the day thinking about the next thing on my to-do list while doing something else. It’s a road that leads only to stress, stress and more stress. My life improved dramatically once I started to accept there was ALWAYS something else to do and I would NEVER be finished, if I lived to be 500. I learned, slowly, that it was definitely better to go with the flow and focus on one thing at a time.

The photos I took this morning are not of the most dazzling places in the country, nor are they the best composed, nor are they taken during the “golden hours” of sunrise and sunset, when proper photographers are out and about plotting the perfect shot. They are quick snapshots and sometimes I get lucky.

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Among the things I noticed this morning was the way a weeping willow’s leaves shone gold against the blue sky; the contrast of the last remaining red berries on a tree against the azure; a bird perched on a tree branch, soaking up the warmth of the sun; the way the sunlight fizzed across a patch of ice. I noticed how my younger son made a trail through the frost on his scooter, then tried to painstakingly retrace his track, without success. I saw my older son play wrestle with one of his pals before they all broke into a laugh about something one of them had said (probably about a girl; they are at that age).

They and these things would have been there anyway, being beautiful, whether I had noticed them or not. I’m glad I noticed them though; glad I spent a few minutes watching my sons finding their way, glad to watch that proud bird getting some rays. That’s the thing about ‘ordinary’ special things – nobody points a big arrow at them and yells: ‘look at me!’. They are just there waiting.

Here Comes The Summer (Or Was That It?)

Sunflower in a field, Dienne, near Poitiers, France

So, that was summer then. Farewell, dear thing. You were rubbish. Again.

We went to France for our hols this year, visiting the Loire and Brittany. The weather was a mixed bag – some cloud, some rain, some perfect blue skies, but mostly the temperatures were on the right side of 70 and it was dry, which is all I need for a great camping holiday.

We returned last Sunday, pulling in to Portsmouth quay to lashing rain, misty grey dampness and news bulletins awash with flood warnings. The sun has since deigned to poke its way through the clouds occasionally to give a last blast of heat, but otherwise it’s been overcast and a bit chilly.

Fortunately, I’ve been stuck indoors for the best part of the last two days, working my way through mountains of washing while also transferring the contents of my kitchen out of storage boxes and into freshly fitted new cupboards.

Today I finally felt I’d earned a break, so took the kids bowling before beginning the long trawl through the too many photographs I had taken on our gallic sojourn.

I had briefly fallen out of love with photography as a pastime earlier this year, but really enjoyed snapping away during this holiday. I still find the task of sitting at a computer and post-processing them all a really boring chore. As a result I have limited my “photoshopping” to some amateurish fiddling about with a few sliders to increase or decrease the contrast, colours and brightness, plus a bit of cropping.

That said, a few of the pictures I took this trip are, I think, in their current unadulterated form, among the best I’ve ever taken. They are mostly of my beautiful boys but also of some of the places we came across, including “the most visited tourist attraction in France outside Paris”. But more of these another time.

In the first batch I went through today I stumbled across a set of sunflower pictures.

They were taken in Dienne, a small village 20km south of Poitiers, on a gloriously sunny morning. The temperatures here regularly hit the high 80s, and sunflower fields abound.

In this particular field, most of the flowers were already beginning to wilt and drop their pretty yellow heads. But from the roadside it was easy to see that one or two of the flowers were at their most majestic. I climbed across a ditch, camera in hand, to get up close to this particular specimen.

I love the way its head is straight and proud. One could almost believe it knew it was king of the hill, top of the heap. A bee buzzed in to join me in my admiration.

I’ve reproduced two of the images here, but also had a play around with those sliders in Photoshop to produce a couple of alternative super-saturated images, which appeal to the pop-art fan in me.

I hope they serve as a reminder that summer was here, if only briefly – and, fingers crossed, it might yet make a comeback before August is over and done with.

A New Beginning – and Golf Balls

I tend to write my blog while I’m either a, overtired; or b. slightly inebriated. Tonight I’m both. I’m guessing this can affect the quality of my ramblings, so I apologise. This too will be a disjointed affair.

I have spent the evening contemplating my future. This is a very useful exercise while feeling upbeat and optimistic. At times like this I remember that my potential is immeasureable; that I am capable, bright, witty and confident; and, with effort and derring-do on my part, I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. I vow to always seize the moment; to act, not procrastinate; to live, not exist.

This activity is less useful when in a melancholy mien, when the unknown, the unfamiliar and the challenging become things to avoid, run from and make excuses about. If I’m honest, I think that’s what I’ve been doing recently – looking for the easy option, rather than opting for something that will truly test my ability, my stamina and my guts.

It might all go pear-shaped, might all end in tears, but this time I’m going to ignore the naysaying section of my brain and focus on the bright and breezy zone which tells me to go for it; nothing ventured, nothing gained; and my favourite lazy cliché – feel the fear, and do it anyway.

So, with thanks to input from trusted friends and some very helpful mentoring from someone who has been there and got the t-shirt, I have taken the first steps today towards launching a new internet-based venture. Not much to tell at this stage but I have bought some domain names, sketched out some logos, straplines and content ideas, and have a clear idea of what I want to achieve. Now I’ve just got to knuckle down and make it happen.

At the same time I’m also speaking to “people” – they are suitably shady – with a view to turning something else I’ve been doing in a voluntary capacity into something more substantial. It’s all looking good and could be a really positive beginning, so right now I’m feeling scared, apprehensive, doubtful – but mostly excited, excited, excited!

I’d forgotten what it was like to do something for myself, all by myself, and I can’t wait to really get started. Financially, both of these ventures could flop – but I believe in both of them, so here goes!

My other half Richard is being his usual supportive self and is not remotely concerned that pursuing these ideas might mean I won’t be financially contributing to the household for a while, despite our tight budget. His first question to me is always: “Will it make you happy?” If I say yes, I think so, he will go out of his way to help me make it happen, whatever it is. If I waver before answering, he tends to suggest I think about it again. To Richard, life is pretty much black and white; it either makes you happy, or it doesn’t – and if it doesn’t, what are you doing it for?

We all have to endure some things that don’t fill us with joy, of course – much of life is mundane and routine after all – but his point is that if it isn’t taking you to a happier place, or doesn’t allow you time to enjoy the good things in your life, then you really are wasting your precious time. Management gurus refer to the “golf balls and sand in a jar” effect. For those of you who’ve never had to endure management bulls**t seminars, it goes like this: the golf balls are the good things in life that you love doing (spending time with your kids, playing football, going to the seaside, dancing to loud music, whatever…) and sand signifies the “rest” of life (household chores, being at work (unless this is one of your golf balls), washing the car, doing the shopping, etc). If you put the sand in first and try to squeeze the golf balls in on top, you won’t get many in the jar. The trick instead is to cram as many golf balls in as possible, and let the sand trickle in between. I’m sure you’ve got the message, but just in case: fit the necessary evils around the good times, not the other way round.

Thinking about Richard’s simple outlook on life takes me back to the first time we met. Rock House was the journalism training centre in the heart of leafy Wolverhampton where we were both trainee journalists, aged 21 and 22.

We were among 12 wannabes who had been selected from more than 1,000 applicants for a prestigious year-long internship, in the dimly distant days when the newspaper industry had money to burn. Our number included a lovely ex-Wolves footballer Robert (if he ever made a mistake his first news editor thought it hilarious to storm out of his office and issue him with a red card); a vegetarian who only ate Pot Noodles laced with vodka; a religious zealot; a mad teenager who threw tantrums; and two old people (they were over 30).

For that first social gathering, one of our number, Sarah, sat cross legged on a pub table, espousing the merits of Marxism and how she saw it as her job to spread equality through journalism. Richard, an ex public schoolboy who lived in a country house with a swimming pool, suggested all nations would actually be better off under dictatorships and that all girls should be sterilised at birth, with a reversal only if they passed a state parenting test. The battle lines were drawn. I then spent an uncomfortable few weeks trying to deny any interest in “the fascist”, as he was dubbed.

Two months later he threw a fancy dress party at the house in salubrious Richey Street in Wolverhampton that he shared with his best mate, also Richard. They lived in the coldest house I have ever had the misfortune to visit. On entry I was always handed a jumper and told the heating could not be switched on “because we are on a budget”. I think the house was kept cold deliberately to encourage women visitors to get into bed. Funnily enough there was always enough cash for beer.

Anyway, I turned up at the fancy dress party as a pirate, complete with false beard, eye patch and false leg. By this point, our relationship had defrosted – I quickly realised he was a lovable wind-up merchant rather than the awful Toryboy he liked to imposter.

At some point in the evening we ended up in the same room, slightly drunk, my beard by now askew, my eyepatch lost. Romantic as ever, Richard chatted me up by post-it note. I still have them. He even asked to kiss me by post-it. Then someone wee’d into a sinkful of washing up and Bugs Bunny had a fight with Cleopatra and the moment passed.

Somehow, that innocent moment led us to where we are now – 20 years together, married, two beautiful kids. He still makes me laugh every single day. And he still occasionally writes me a post-it note, just for old time’s sake.

And finally…

As usual, this blog has absolutely nothing to do with photography, even though it was originally set up to follow my attempts to become a better amateur snapper. As probably every photographer and camera club in Wyre Forest and beyond knows already, judging by yesterday’s turnout, a field of poppies has burst into life along the Bewdley bypass, just beyond the West Midlands Safari Park. When I turned up there last night it was peopled by lots of folk with very fancy cameras, long lenses and tripods. My little lenses seemed pretty paltry by comparison, and I was bereft of a tripod and a zoom lens, thanks to foolishly breaking the former and dropping the latter (breaking it also). But I had an hour to kill so did the best I could. Hope you like one or two of them. More on my flickr account if you’re interested.

And finally, finally…come on Ingerland! Roll on Sunday. England into the last eight of the World Cup? That will definitely be a golf ball moment.

Field of poppies, Bewdley, Worcestershire

Field of poppies, Bewdley, Worcestershire

Poppies in field, Bewdley, Worcestershire

FADING BLUEBELLS

There is something wonderfully liberating about walking in woodlands. The towering trees stretching up like advanced yoga practitioners towards the taunting sky; the way shafts of sun slice through boughs; the dramatic contrasts of light and dark; the twittering of birds; the scratching of hidden beasts in the undergrowth. It’s enough to turn me all poetic.

I try to make at least a weekly pilgrimage to one of the forests of the Wyre. I find being among the ancient oaks, burly beeches and towering pines is a great place to dwell on life and the universe and everything, to contemplate, to cast aside woes, and to revel in the simple yet incredibly intricate wonders of our amazing planet.

And in the middle of the Wyre forest, if you really are desperate to let it all out, then go ahead – no-one can hear you SCREAM!

Anyway, I find myself with an unusual amount of free time on my hands at the moment. My littlest man has started at nursery school four mornings a week and I currently have a fair bit of time to myself, especially as this freedom has coincided with me deciding I don’t want to “do” P.R. work any more (although always willing to reconsider if the offer’s right!) Problem is, I’m still undecided what to do next. My husband calls my current work-less state “living the life of riley” or “being a lazy cow” (said sweetly) – I like to think of it as taking time out to discover my true purpose and calling. “Only in the midst of silence can we discover our true selves.” Someone must have once said that, surely?

Sorry, I’m digressing again. I’m easily distracted these days. It might be early onset dementia. Or I might be pre- menopausal, and therefore set for an early descent into night sweats, forgetfulness and wrinkly hands.

Where was I? Oh, yes, extolling the virtues of walking in pretty woodlands, with time on my hands, no deadline approaching, no work woes to clutter my little head. And of course it’s also a great place for taking photos.

So this short blog is just to give me the opportunity to post up a few pix taken this weekend in Wyre Forest, near the Discovery Centre, while out for a short walk with my youngest (the evil genius one, as opposed to the good genius one).

We spent a very pleasant two hours in the park, eating icecream and walking the yellow trail, following a series of “egg-straordinary” information posts.

As usual when out walking, we had to go off trail, thereby following one of the many Wrekin Mountaineering Club/Bob Mitch-isms  by which we live our lives. In this case, “sheep follow tracks – lions make their own.” This philosophy has been known to lead to people landing in trouble (falling off cliffs, getting lost, tumbling into hidden mineshafts) but on this walk our only risks were from hidden tree stumps or dog pooh, so it was a risk worth taking.

(Incidentally, another Bob Mitch-ism, often cited when a late night party is getting out of hand, is: “He who hoots with the owls can’t hunt with the larks” – but this one has been proved wrong so many times as to be deemed invalid.)

On our little sojourn we came across the last remains of the bluebells, and I did my best to capture their fading blueness against the overwhelming green of the groundcover. I was advised to visit Shrawley Woods as soon as possible, where the show of bluebells has been particularly wonderful, so maybe I will squeeze that in to my busy, busy working week. Anyway, must go – it’s time for my pedicure. Life is hard.

TWITTERING AMONG FIELDS OF RAPE

Rape flowers

I am what is known as one of life’s “flitters”. Or, as my mum used to say, “jack of all trades, master of absolutely nothing.” Or just downright lazy. When the going gets tough, I’m first at the exit.

If I can’t master something pretty much instantly, or if I sense that continuing involves a degree of effort and pain, then I will usually find some excuse or other to abandon ship.

This flaky approach to “knuckling down” explains my inability to speak any Italian beyond ‘ciao bella’ and ‘il mio asino a guasto’; or to have got beyond mastering a shaky rendition of “Hong Kong Garden” on any of the five instruments I’ve attempted to learn. This includes recorder.

If something does manage to grab my attention for more than a nanosecond, I do tend to embrace it rather too wholeheartedly – and inevitably run out of steam long before the finish line.

This loving embrace quickly turns to indifference and ultimately hatred – ergo, my short lived love affairs with wild camping, house renovation, growing vegetables, running (currently rekindled), having a dog, blogging (still at early lust stage) and Iain M. Banks sci fi novels (don’t ask).

Imagine my delight then when I finally got round to activating a Twitter account last week. I thought it was going to be hard for a Luddite such as I to master, but I found it incredibly easy. And what a buzz!

Some of my favourite media writers, comedians and indie pop stars are regular Tweeters – and now I too could join the armies of followers hanging on their every word.

I am now following 67 people – pretty much all of them minor celebrities, indie pop stars, media types, comedians and a couple of politicians, and almost all of them London-based. Most of the people I follow seem to know each other and appear to watch an insane amount of telly.

In return I am being followed by 11 people – these include one friend who never uses it, a couple of record labels who want to promote their artists, and weird people from Japan who have discovered me through random generators.

I have fallen out with my husband, who got so sick of trying to get my head out of my phone or computer that he threatened to divorce me (by text, no less – he claims he tried to tell me to my face but I was too busy laughing at the latest witticism from @gracedent). The kids have asked if there’s any chance they can have some tea tonight “or will you be too busy again?”

I’ve had three direct “contacts” – where I’ve engaged in a conversation of sorts with people I am following. For the record these were with @campbellclaret (former Labour spindoctor Alistair Campbell) @tracey_thorn (one half of Everything But the Girl, who provided the soundtrack to my life through much of the 80s and early 90s) and @martin_carr (former leadman in 90s indie pop band Boo Radleys, now solo, making luscious music).

I have attempted to engage with a few other people by sending witty retorts to comments they have posted, only to be IGNORED. (I mean you, Stephen Fry, Boy George, various comedians.)

And that’s the unnerving reality of Twitter. It is essentially a small nucleus of celebrities, pop stars and media movers and shakers, each with thousands upon thousands of followers, being pursued avidly by the rest of the Twitter community. We circle around them, desperately tweeting undying love, jokes, or trying, like me, to be aloof & witty and so demonstrate that I am somehow ONE OF THEM.

My tweets so far include the following:

“Furry Vengeance = rubbish movie of the year. Nasty developer v nature shtick. HILARIOUS. Kids seem happy. They r easily pleased.”

“Is it too early to start on the vodka?The kids won’t notice, I have drugged them with pineapple upsidedown cake & Wipeout.”

And, in response to Alistair Campbell revealing that his last thought before being anaesthetised before an operation was of Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams:  @campbellclaret Thought u were meant to think of yr nearest&dearest before going under. Oh, right. You poor man.

I’m also following Ed and David Milliband (didn’t want to show favouritism at this stage) and have signed up to @nickclegg and @downingstreet by way of political balance.

Twitter is a stalker’s dream come true – an open window with the curtains flung open, and a great way to boost your name dropping potential.

It can also be a force for good. The most followed celebrities regularly post up appeals or direct followers to news reports or websites to highlight human rights abuses, missing people or worthy causes.

Twitter has exposed ills and raised awareness of injustices – for example, an anti-BP ad which had been rejected by the Financial Times yesterday was tweeted and facebooked across the world within minutes.

Record companies, bands, book sellers, photographers and the like use Twitter to reach their fans direct, offering followers the chance to buy records, books, concert tickets and so on first. Only last week Lucy Mangan, a Guardian columnist and author, offered to post a copy of her new book direct to the first person to tweet her back.

It can also, I am told, be a great way to link up with like minded people locally, especially if you have a special interest or hobby. This I have failed to do so far, despite searching by location – so if there are any Kidderminster/Worcestershire based tweeters out there who want a new friend to follow, tweet me! @janemomma

Then again, you might not want to bother – for after a full on week I fear I am out of lust with Twitter already. It’s like shouting into a black hole. Nobody can hear you. I will be advised, I’m sure, that I need to follow more and more people, and so encourage more people to follow me, to become a real part of the community, but I already feel my indifference rising.

You know that feeling that life is short…well, I’m beginning to have that thought whenever I consider checking my Twitter account or clicking on the Tweetdeck app on my phone. Life probably is indeed too short to be twittering it away with people I don’t know and who don’t care about me. Just think, I could instead be on the phone or even spending actual time with people who actually matter to me. But then again, they wouldn’t be able to tell me what Al Murray had for lunch, nor where was the best cafe to eat in if you happen to be in Sloane Square. Mmm. It’s a tough call.

Anyway, in between Twittering on about nothing much to nobody, I also picked up my camera again. My photography had reached that stage of indifference, mainly because I had come to that moment where I felt I had to either give myself over to it completely or back off.

My gut instinct, as you can guess, was to back off, retire and give up on it. After all, life is short, etc, etc, and maybe I didn’t have the time to dedicate to it, nor the skill to make it worthwhile. It will certainly not pay any bills.

But then I realised I missed it – so I slung the camera in my car when I went to drop my son off at the in-laws for the day. On the way there I couldn’t help but notice the stunning yellow fields of rape dotted among the green and brown between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth.

So on the way back I pulled into a country lane and spent a happy hour walking around a farmer’s field, before heading off and stopping again at a field where I could not only capture more rapeseed scenes but also photograph my son’s favourite tree – the lightning tree – so called for obvious reasons.

It cheered me no end when I got round to sorting through them and putting them on the computer yesterday. I hope they make you feel sunny and warm too! Photography – my current favourite waste of time. Beats twittering hands down.

Field of rape, near Bridgnorth

Field of Rape, near Kidderminster

Oscar's lightning tree by a field of rape, near Dudmaston Hall

Rape flower in field

PHOTOSHOPPING THERAPY FOR DAFFODILS

Daffodils in the breeze at Dudmaston Hall

Daffodils at Dudmaston Hall, Easter 2010 - original, untouched version

As Mr Wordsworth sort of put it, there’s nothing that screams “Spring is Here” here in the UK than a host of golden daffodils.

There are literally thousands of images of daffodils littering the internet at the moment, from masterful macros of every conceivable part of the daff, to bright and beautiful landscapes showing fields of waving yellow heads swooping off into the distance.

So when visiting Dudmaston Hall on the Shropshire/Worcestershire border for an Easter Sunday egg trail I just had to get down close and personal with a small patch of daffs on the hill just below the main house, blowing gently in the breeze, begging to be photographed.

The results were, I thought, okay in their original state, as shown here. But I decided to have a go at processing it using Photoshop, the most popular of the many post-process software packages for photographers.

Now as my use of Photoshop is in its infancy I merely tweaked the contrast, brightness, hue and saturation levels up and down a bit on the original Raw image, and cropped most of the bottom off. The end result is here. I think it’s marginally better than the original.

Had I been more skilled on the old computer, I could have further upped the yellow of the daffodils, got rid of the woman in pink had I so wanted – maybe even increased the number of daffs through some careful layering. I could have improved the sky – it’s a bit dark on one side. I could have even removed the tree altogether so it was just an image of bright yellow on green on blue.

But that would hardly, in my opinion, have stayed true to the original image. If I wanted to invent scenes then I would be practising my painting skills instead.

This will probably come back to haunt me once I am Photoshopping like a pro, but I want my photos to be a record of the life lived by me and my loved ones and of the places I visit, not a falsified version.

“Life isn’t all ha, ha, ha!” a friend’s mum once said, when my pal was complaining about the effort involved in sorting out some domestic task or other. Well, she’s right – and in the same way I want my photos to reflect, as closely as possible, the reality I viewed through the lens of my camera, for good and for bad.

That isn’t to say it’s not fun to create pictures as “art” once in a while. I also have no problem with people layering, enhancing and fiddling with the levels to their heart’s content, as long as they are honest about what they have done.

I went along to a local camera club one night for a competition night and was amazed at the quality on show. I got chatting to the gent who had produced a wonderful picture of the inside of a cathedral. He explained how he had used a long exposure and a small aperture to capture the detail in the ornate woodwork, and how he had carefully timed his shot to maximise the light coming in from the setting sun. I was keen to soak up as much information as possible, with a view to replicating his efforts myself.

I then asked if he had enhanced it much after taking the photo – and he revealed he had spent nearly two hours on this one image to get it “just right”. He had removed a fire extinguisher which had been on the wall, had layered out some shadows on the right hand side, had boosted the brightness here and reduced the contrast there. He had boosted the light from candles at the top of the picture. The result was lovely, and I’ve no doubt an improvement on the original – but is it still a photo or a piece of artwork? Does it matter?

Perhaps I’m just cross. When I adopted photography – or was it the other way round? – some months ago, I hadn’t realised how expensive it was going to be, what with lenses, tripod and a load of other paraphernalia that I don’t yet know I need. But I had also not appreciated how much time was going to be spent sat indoors on the computer, and it is slowly beginning to dawn on me what I have let myself in for.

I’ve been told about a professional photographer in Kidderminster who regularly exhibits his “as taken” shots, completely free of any post processing. They are downloaded and printed off with no additional processing. He instead spends a lot of time framing his shots just-so and ensuring the lighting and exposure are spot on to start with, instead of turning to Photoshop or its equivalents to sort out any anomalies when he gets home.

Whether I follow in his footsteps or go for the more travelled Photoshopping route, I am well and truly hooked on this photography lark. I can’t stop taking photos and feel bereft if I happen across a lovely scene and realise my camera is not by my side.

We are due to go on holiday shortly to the north Devon coast. Normally I would be happily researching places to visit for family entertainments, and checking out the best eateries and pubs . Instead I’m looking up photos on Flickr of the area we are visiting so I can head off to do my own take on an oft-photographed scene. I look forward to sharing the results – Photoshopped or not.