Photo Diary

Archive for November, 2008


Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

DSC_0005.JPG, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

And here it is. This morning’s proof that winter is genuinely here. Frost all over the bracken.

And my central heating’s ON!


Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

DSC_0034.JPG, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

Seems like it was only last week we were off planning to buy a Christmas tree – and now we’re off to do it again soon. Bloody ridiculous how quickly this year’s flown by. Sadly it looks as though next year will be even faster, if excitement, panic, fear and doubt lead to time passing more swiftly!
Still, the good thing is, that all the deadlines were met this year. So now all I have to do is sit back and cogitate on book 28, along with what I will be planning for books 29 and 30. Scary to think that Baldwin and Simon will soon have to contend with the invasion of England by Queen Isabella and her lover, Mortimer. Still, where there’s an ill-wind blowing towards one character (Edward II), there’s a favourable result for me. The worse things get for people, the better life is for the novelist!


Thursday, November 13th, 2008

DSC_0008, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

There are few things which are quite so lovely as a good pen, good paper, and a steady flow of real ink, to a writer like me. I am a mad keen Apple computer user, but that doesn’t change the fact that I appreciate and enjoy the use of the older technologies.
Some while ago I bought my second Conway Stewart. Admittedly there had been a gap of about thirty five years between purchases – the first one was a rather heavily beaten up pen that expired, sadly, mainly due to the unreasonable demands placed upon it by this clumsy and rather careless scribbling student – but I always have appreciated pens and finer writing instruments.
Some years ago (Dear God, it’s a quarter of a century now) I began to invest in Cross equipment. When I was a kid, the exceptionally narrow Cross biro was a piece of beauty, and thus it was given out by firms like IBM to respected clients. That was why my dad had one. It was also how my brother got one, I think – although he was an employee and not a buyer!
But the sight of those lovely gold biros appealed to me enormously, and while I worked for Wordplex I bought a biro. Then, when slightly richer, I bought a fountain pen. Later, I got a second fountain pen, this time in red metal rather than gold. Later still, while I worked for Bluebird Software, I got myself a propelling pencil in the same style. And I still have them all.
Both fountain pens have failed on me, and it is a matter of enormous importance to me that both of them have been mended free of charge under the superb Cross lifetime guarantee. Very impressive, too, that when the pens could not be mended, Cross offered me new pens in exchange – and then sent me my old pens anyway, with a nice note saying that they felt sure that the old pens would have some sentimental value, so would I like to keep it.
The black pen here, though, was my second Conway Stewart. I didn’t migrate from Cross because of any annoyance. No, this was a good year and I had earned some money, so I thought I would celebrate with an expensive pen. So I bought this one.
Why this model? Well, first, I am always keen to buy UK produce. So I looked for an English supplier of pens. To my surprise I learned that there are still some UK manufacturers. And then I discovered that Conway Stewart are now made in Devon, here, only a few miles away. And this pen, strictly Edwardian in outlook, was named the “Churchill”, because Winston used a Conway Stewart all through the war (it didn’t look like this, but what the hell!).
This Churchill has served me enormously well. I love it. The looks are delightful, I think, and the size is gorgeous. I have used it for four years now, and have used it to sign almost all my contracts from Headline since buying it.
So why get another pen?
Well, this year has not been a particularly good one from the point of view of work. I have had to make some difficult decisions – one of which was to stop shooting airpistol. I was a very keen practical pistol shooter until the British government managed to force through an absurd knee-jerk piece of legislation in 1997 and banned all real handgun shooting. Since the confiscation of my guns, I’ve been shooting airguns, but to be quite honest, there is not enough pleasure for me in punching holes in paper targets. It wasn’t so boring with .22 pistols, but airguns are not for me. So a month or two ago I decided to sell the airgun, but to replace it with something that would be as well made, as beautiful, and would last as long or longer.
And I found my Conway Stewart Francis Drake edition.
The first motivator was, that my Churchill developed a fault – just some crud in the feed mechanism, I think – it happens sometimes with pens using older inks – and I had to send it back to CS for their fellows to look at it. Again, under their 100 year guarantee, all the work was done free of charge. Wonderful service.
But then I mentioned to them that I was considering a Drake, but didn’t know what nib type to buy. Suddenly the company kicked in. They arranged for me to visit them, and set up a test with a Drake and a variety of nibs. That, I thought, was helpful. Then they offered, if I wished, to alter the nib on my old Churchill. That, I thought, was service over and above the call of duty.
But it wasn’t all. Oh, dear me, no, Laddy.
Then they arranged for me to visit them and I was given a full factory tour with their enormously helpful Marketing Manager, Sean. He showed me (and my family) all around the place. And then, astonishingly, he gave small leather pouches to my two children. Both contained a pair of beautiful little “Dinky” biros from forty years ago. And my daughter left there saying it was the best day of her life (well, she’s clearly had a depressing life until now!).
And the really good thing is, the Drake is every bit as delicious to write with as I had hoped.
Many thanks to Conway Stewart for all their help!


Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

DSC_0004, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

Devon is lovely at all times of the year, but dead Heaven, it’s been wet this in 2008! The land is just about waterlogged all over. This photo is from the north of Exeter, Stoke Woods. The dogs love the place, because there are good tracks and smells everywhere, but the scenery west and north is as good for a human. But this year, as you can see, the fields are completely flooded. The fields there bound the River Exe, but although farther up I’ve seen them pretty soggy before now, this picture shows just how sodden the land all it.


Thursday, November 6th, 2008

DSC_0183.jpg, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

Oh – and Deb’n Volk being Deb’n Volk, why have tug o’ war on land, when you can do it over a river (the Taw) and get the losing side wet?


Thursday, November 6th, 2008

DSC_0153.jpg, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

And once the hogs were eaten and (most) of the booze drunk, what better way to enjoy yourself than trying to yank some other poor devils off their feet?


Thursday, November 6th, 2008

DSC_0108.jpg, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

The second hog was almost ready. This is why we stop there in the middle of the moors. Beer, wine, cider, and hog roasts make a good reason to halt!


Thursday, November 6th, 2008

DSC_0094.jpg, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

And there, in the distance, is the place to halt a while.


Thursday, November 6th, 2008

DSC_0077.jpg, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

This is a cheat, really. The ceremony on the day includes bouncing the youngest member of the parish – and the oldest – on the boundary stones so that they too remember the boundaries. But the youngest lad was done before this shot. Anyway, he’s the second youngest, so who cares!


Thursday, November 6th, 2008

DSC_0092.jpg, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

A key part of the Beating the Bounds is to make sure everyone is aware of where the stones are which mark the limits of the parish. And the Councillors have to carry a pot of black paint to mark in the T for Tawton again. Just in case Belstone claim it as theirs (you can’t trust foreigners from Belstone, y’ know!).