2022 July

July 2022 cover
July 2022 calendar

Emerging from the 3 months of extra energy demands … in July we hoped for an energy rebound and to emerge refreshed and ready to enjoy the summer with our usual annual visits to our favourite spots both inland and along the coast. But I had forgotten just how long it can take for ‘recovery’ with ME/PVS.
So July was a struggle to recover any energy at all.

The biggest impact on my health and energy levels is always STRESS and this year stress has been all around me.
For as long as I have had ME/PVS I have tried to ignore external stresses, as they can be the most damaging, as chances are that I can’t do anything about them. So a somewhat selfish, blinkered approach to the wider world has proved therapeutic for me! Not what I want … as I studied politics, economics, sociology and social philosophy at university back in the day! But I live as carefully and patiently as I can with ‘Post Viral Syndrome’. Stress is the most difficult problem to control – I can stop myself from overexertion, work to improve my sleep pattern, make sure I eat wisely and take my essential NADH. But external stresses can be like trying to catch the mist in your hand!
Incidentally I see Long Covid as just the latest Post Viral Syndrome, and maybe the one that will wake people up to the wider picture!

This entire year has seen a steady increase in stressors – levels of Covid infection with Omicron running unchecked – the war in Ukraine – Spring and summer droughts that are getting worse each year – spiralling inflation with food, petrol, and energy costs increasing. And as the summer continues we are promised heatwaves, wildfires and water shortages.

So my focus has been on the smallest of things! The world of home and garden, and of course, expressed through photography.

yellow potentilla

Bringing in flowers from the garden to shoot together with my collection of miniature Japanese vases is a way to celebrate the joys of having a good size garden.

The potentillas are all colours, and form colourful hedges throughout the whole garden. These are mainly hardy Abbotswood, and seem to thrive even in our cold northern climate.
And the miniature vases I have collected are beautiful hand-thrown, glazed gems by Yuta Segawa . I have an album of photos using these vases on my Flickr site here

white and pink potentilla

More potentilla, this time edging a path, and also softening the lines of the small walls that divide the front garden into 3 layers. They flower well into autumn.

white fuchsia in a vase

A great delights this year is the addition of a white fuchsia bush. I’ve tried for years to grow fuchsias and failed, but this hardy Hawkshead variety has withstood frost, heat and drought! Here with a Yuta Segawa vase.

daisies and grass

It may seem silly, but you really start to appreciate simple grass when the drought begins to bite! Luckily we have had enough nights with mist and morning dew to keep most of our grass green!

The entire summer in the garden has been dominated by the drought. Not as severe as in parts of England, but our local river, the Ythan, has been flagged as in danger. Farmers have been warned about taking water from it for irrigation. No hosepipe ban, but we have a routine for collecting any useable water from indoors into buckets and using it to water plants and planters. As long as it doesn’t have detergents, soap etc. we can use it! Yes, it takes time and patience, but it has helped the garden to survive thus far!
And indoors, with my cameras?

cherries

Well, anything and everything that catches my eye.
I use Flickr challenges to keep me looking for interesting ways to shoot the daily events and things around me.

push-pins

I frequently shoot with macro lenses, and they can give an interesting perspective on even the most mundane of items! Add a little sunshine and a reflective surface …

gladioli

And yes, I do still sometimes buy flowers from the supermarket. But as the inflationary spiral continues, it is an occasional indulgence. I admit that gladioli are one of my weaknesses! They are so amazing …

dried hydrangea petals

But a dried hydrangea flower found under a bush can make a wonderful macro subject! Again with added sunshine and cast shadows … just as beautiful as when it was ‘alive’.

And of course I never stop shooting the landscape. We have wonderful skies, and I can capture both sunrise and sunsets even though we are in the howe (valley) of the Ythan.

the colourful sky
playing with the colourful evening sky

Here I played with a sunset shot, using Photoshop (yes – post-processing is a vital part of digital photography!) Transforming the sky with imaginary colours of the aurora borealis. Great fun!

But to end on a more serious note. I was thinking about the stresses of not just this month of July. A very personal stressor for me has been the supply of my essential ME. ‘medication’. In recent months supplies of the NADH dried up, and I could not find supplies anywhere.
It is an enzyme that affects every cell in the body, enabling the ‘food’ to cross the cell wall from the blood stream, so the cells can work as normal. Without this enzyme my body can’t operate, and my energy vanishes, and I return to the early ‘hell’ of barely being able to lift my head off the pillow, and not being able to think, or digest my food. It is quite simply my lifeline!

NADH or ENADA

Years ago I found out about NADH and have supplies of the one product that works for me. There are others on the market, but after trying one, and coming dangerously close to a relapse I have stuck with my trusty MoJo ….

This sudden drying up of MoJo supplies left me in a panic – I had to try and find an alternative! The only way to discover if a brand will work for me is to stop using my MoJo completely and replace it with the new one … for an entire week. By then I will either feel OK or crash completely into the beginning of a relapse. A dangerous tightrope to walk!

Through June and July I tried out 3 products that I can source in the UK. The first 2 proved to be good, and could give me energy close to my MoJo. As July started I was testing out the third one – and by day 5 of the trial I was struggling to get out of bed in the morning. So I stopped, and returned to my dwindling supplies of the MoJo!
It meant that the first half of July I was feeling very low and struggling to get back to my ‘normal’ equilibrium. I had to rest a whole lot, I found my hands were shaky so I couldn’t hold a paintbrush, or use a camera without a tripod. I had to monitor food, only eating easily digestible food, and in small quantities – too much and I break out into a cold sweat, and must lie down until my body can digest the food. Loud music, or bright lights on the TV screen were both painful …. it was a salutary reminder of what ME had originally done to my life – eating up whole decades!
[see the page on “ME and me” here. Although written a few years ago, it is still true today! ]

So on to August ……. and it gets really hot!

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2022 Vision

Happy New Year
My New Year greeting Card for 2022

So, we look forward to 2022 with hope, but tempered by the sense of Deja Vu – that we have been here before! Last year we were facing the first big Covid variant, called Delta – and wondering if the newly tested vaccines could help us through. This year we are triple vaccinated, and facing the next major Covid variant – called Omicron – and wondering what the variant will throw at us, and how we will cope!

Scotland begins 2022 with the promised ‘tsunami’ of new infections. Omicron is highly transmissible, but seems to be ‘milder’ in that the symptoms can be quite like a bad cold, and it doesn’t seem (so far) to be damaging the respiratory system as badly as Delta does. Omicron has been circulating mainly among younger adults and children, as they are the most socially active, and the least vaccinated groups. It remains to be seen how badly it will affect the older age groups, and how well the vaccines will protect us. Being among the most vulnerable group, we are especially cautious when leaving home!

For us, the ‘Pandemic Reality’ has limited us physically. There are shops and locations we haven’t visited since 2019. The shops and locations we do visit are ones we have become happy with in terms of the protection they offer. They form our new ‘comfort zone’. Wearing masks, physical distancing, limiting number in a shop at any one time, spacing while queueing, paying by card and screens at checkout points. All these are the pandemic ‘normal’. Open air or good ventilation are very important … so grocery deliveries to the gate are safest (we take items up the drive in the car, or by hand ourselves) again masks worn even outside now. Omicron is many times more transmissible than Delta, so we are super-careful!

The year and the day starts with the usual daily pattern of checking for cases in our local area, especially when planning to go out. But the numbers now are so far beyond anything we have encountered before – so we no longer feel that anywhere is ‘safe’ or ‘low risk’. So we feel we are in new and uncharted territory once again – which raises the anxiety level.

So… on to the monthly record of our journey through these partly familiar, partly uncharted waters:
January – and the 3rd year of the Covid-19 Pandemic begins, and I have a new lens to play with in my photography!
February – and the winter of storms continues. From Arwen to Franklin, we have clocked up 7 storms dangerous enough to be named!
March – and a new variant, Omicron BA.2 sweeps through Scotland. The government acts as if the pandemic is over, and number soar locally!
April – the most volatile month as winter finally gives way to spring.
May – which brings Spring and Laurie to visit from Texas!
June – as summer blossoms, we are in recovery mode.
July – summer and the world around us gets madder!
August – and it gets really hot!
September – when the world here cools down!
October –

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2022 January

calendar January 2022
My Calendar cover for January 2022

Yes. Year three of the Covid-19 pandemic begins. It has been such a long journey since November/December 2019 when we first read about a virulent new virus causing concern in Wuhan, China …. then January 2020 when we found it was here in Aberdeenshire, brought back from Italy by someone returning from a ski holiday in the Italian Alps.
It is hard to recall just how innocent, how ignorant we were of what might lie ahead as the new decade began! So how does the world look as 2022 begins?

In pandemic terms the Westminster government is yet again trying to suggest that the pandemic is over … well NEARLY. Desperate for some ‘good news’ it is repeating the mistakes of last year by trumpeting the next “Freedom Day” of no face masks and back to work in the office.
The reason for this (looked at with a cynical eye) is to divert the populace away from the ocean of lies, corruption and sleaze that is engulfing Boris Johnson and his government. It is difficult to find a way to summarise this … Partygate, lying (both to the Commons and the people), bullying and intimidation of MPs … just a tiny taste of the sewer that the ‘national’ government has become. It is being revealed day after day. Desperate attempts to shore up the government mean that throwing vulnerable citizens under the Covid bus is just one plan to divert attention away from the mess they are in. Declare the pandemic over – compare it to a winter ‘flu once again.

And where am I personally as the year begins? Well my energy seems to have shrunk to the size of a walnut! I guess 2 years of constant stress and anxiety would be enough of a problem for the ME/PVS (Post Viral Syndrome) my body has had to live with over the past 30 years. I used to avoid the annual ‘flu jab because it took months to recover from the after-effects. But Covid has redrawn the map! Now I have had 2 ‘flu jabs and 3 Covid jabs. I guess the answer is right there! And since the booster jab of Pfizer I have had some strange side-effects such as alterations to my sense of taste. Nori, which I love, became quite horrible. This winter’s ‘flu jab was administered at the same time as the booster shot, and the arm muscle involved has remained painful – even now – 3+ months after the jab.

So I find very little energy for my creative drive. Even back-pedalling on the housework, and neglecting the garden, I find myself sinking into watching DVDs or recorded TV programmes rather than beginning my painting for the year! And endless card games on my iPhone take the time I used to spend reading poetry, or books on Cezanne, or my only magazine on B+W photography. My eating is chaotic, with far too much sweet (cakes and chocolates) and little salad and fresh fruit! So I have a mountain to climb to get myself back on track!

It is only slowly, as the end of the month approaches, that I feel able to take some tentative steps towards what was ‘normal’ in 2021, or further back in 2020, and even pre-pandemic times. I sourced a ‘new’ vintage lens on eBay, and now have a second Meyer Optik Gorlitz lens – this time a closer Domiplan 50mm. Not expensive, and very like the Helios range, but giving an hexagonal bokeh light ball. And I am beginning the year by brushing up on my photographic skills.
Something I can do every day, especially in the early morning, is to step outside and shoot the dawn from the garden. It is often the most interesting and colourful time of the day.

morning sunrise

In winter a stunning dawn like this can resolve into a grey, overcast day. So the zoom of my RX10m3 is by the door, to catch the ‘lightshow’ that welcomes the morning!

Misty winter world

The other photogenic morning offering is the early mist. Here I tried out the new Domiplan 50 lens outdoors. Focusing on something as insubstantial as the mist across the howe is quite demanding of any lens!

And indoors I’ve been using the Domiplan 50mm as my ‘go-to’ lens. I find it’s the best way to learn a new lens, to have it to hand as much as possible, and shoot anything and everything that catches my eye. Looking at the results later on the PC monitor I can discard disappointing shots, but all of them build up my knowledge of what are the strengths and weaknesses of a lens.

fading yellow tulip

The remnants of a vase of yellow tulips, caught in the sunshine and reflected on the wooden table surface.
The hexagonal bokeh in the window was a delight.

glass and light

A ‘grab the camera’ moment as the sun caught some glass photo props before I put them away! I was about to finish for the day … and prepare some lunch.

One of the few remaining ‘normal’ activities we have is the weekly shopping trip to Inverurie. The range of shops we visit is reduced to just two, and has been since the early days of the pandemic. It makes for a quick ‘exposure’ with masks and sanitiser …. early in the day before the shops are crowded. But there is a bonus to the early start, especially in the winter, as it means we drive through the dawn! We drive into the sunrise as we go, and the sun is behind us as we return. Both effects can create beautiful photographs!

January dawn

As the daily ‘light show’ of the dawn unfolds before our eyes, there is the chance of the sky silhouetting the trees by the roadside. Irresistible for me with my Sony RX100 – which is perfect for such ‘drive by’ shots.

On the road with lenticular clouds

By the time the shopping is done, the day has opened up, and with the low winter sun at our backs we can take in the full glory of the world we live in. I’ve recently learned that the clouds we often see here are called Lenticular and can look like rolls of cotton wool.

By the middle of January we made our first (short) trip to the coast – the first since last April! The day was grey and cold, but we missed being able to walk by the sea and enjoy the freedom to exercise in fresh air, walk on the sand, and feel the power of the sea as it meets the shore. The damage inflicted by Storm Arwen has closed our local exercise places, Fyvie Castle and Leith Hall, so the sea is the only space that is open to us.
As it turned out we found that Storm Arwen has robbed us of our usual seaside spots too! The road to Banff Scotstown was closed off, with nowhere to park. so we couldn’t even park and investigate on foot!

Banff Bay January 2022

I had to shoot Banff Bay from above, fighting a gale as I tried to catch the sea with my new lens! It was beautiful, but I couldn’t stay long, as standing upright was a battle in itself!

We decided to try Portsoy, further up the coast. If the sea was too wild and windy, then the shelter of Little Loch Soy might be a place we could stretch our legs and get some exercise. We discovered that Storm Arwen had marked even Little Loch Soy, with trees destroyed, and only freshly cut tree stumps remaining in some places.
I had decided to take my Lensbaby Double Glass lens with me, as it too had been languishing over the past few months. At least I could try for some interesting lens effects, if the day was grey and the lochside walk was dull!

Little Loch Soy with Lensbaby

As it happened the Lensbaby did transform the dull day into something more magical! Back home I took 3 Lensbaby shots and wove them into a wintery wonderland. It is amazing what the Lensbaby can create!

tulip petal

Back home I played with the Lensbaby indoors. With macro rings I can get in really close. There are lovely swirling patterns the lens can create with a fallen tulip petal and stamens, on pebble glass.

As the month progressed we continued to slowly clear up the damage from Storm Arwen. So many branches brought down in the garden, and debris together with leaves needing to be hauled up to the recycling centre in Turriff. As the month drew to a close we were warned of another severe storm arriving. The closing weekend was going to be graced with not one but two storms – Storm Malik and Storm Corrie. So before the worst began to hit Aberdeenshire we returned to the coast and treated ourselves to fish and chips by the sea at Whitehills.

Banff from across the Bay

The weather was already becoming wild and stormy, so we ate in the comfort of the car before venturing out to catch the surf breaking on the rocks. As it happened this was the quiet before the real storm arrived!

Storm Malik

An online capture of the two storms! We waited for power cuts, and for trees in the garden to be brought down, but we were lucky and survived with just more debris to clear away!

And so the month draws to a close with us feeling battered and bruised and very tired! Anxiously waiting for both storms to pass, and wondering how we could run our generator with 70+ mph gales battering us. We look forward to a more peaceful February, and are in need of time to rest and recover!

On to February, and the hope of calmer weather!
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2021 December

calendar December 2021
The year ends with a feeling that little has changed

As I began my Journal for 2021 I looked both back and forward, as Janus, the two-headed does! Looking back to the 2021 cover page I wrote:
“2021 and we are in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. 2020 began with hope and a sense of a fresh start to not only a new year, but a new decade. Hopes were quickly dashed as the virus spread across the globe, and we all struggled to handle the new reality. It changed the shape of our lives!”
I envisaged 2021 in month blocks, defined by protective vaccinations, and the year has been punctuated that way, February and April for the first 2 vaccinations – and October for the booster shot (together with the annual ‘flu jab). So we face the new year with the maximum protection that our amazing and wonderful scientists can provide!
And there is an ominous sense of repetition as we look forward to 2022.
2021 was spent battling the Delta Variant of the virus, 2022 looks to be another battle year, with the Omicron variant … which might prove to be less damaging, but is frighteningly more transmissible, doubling numbers every few days.

But as December began the immediate battle for us was to recover from Storm Arwen.
We began December cold, hungry and with freezers full of partially defrosted food! 6 days of basically camping out in our own home, in the middle of winter, had taken every ounce of determination and energy.
We are no longer young, fit and healthy … and the experience has proved to be very hard to recover from. Throughout the month we have tackled a long list of ‘Lessons learned from Storm Arwen’ that covers ways to ensure we can survive better next time an extended power cut happens. And we can expect more power cuts, either from climate change events, or from lack of planning by the UK government regarding energy supply resilience! ‘Resilience‘ is a big buzz word these days, and we have learned that in the event of a major weather event we can rely on NO-ONE except ourselves and our neighbours!
So our month has been very unlike previous years when December is our month-long celebration of birthdays, anniversaries as well as Christmas and Hogmanay.
As I write this December is closing, and we have achieved our goal of having as much ‘resilience’ as possible organised and available. From extra clothing, sleeping bags and blankets …. to extra camping stove and fuel …. to a working generator and prepared open log fire …. to battery supplies and Power Banks to recharge various devices. All of this has replaced personal presents, but it has given us some peace of mind as we approach 2022.

shadow play

We spent long hours in the dark with little lighting except for torches. If we aimed a powerful torch at the ceiling it lit the whole room enough to see by. And I shot some of the shadows making shapes against the ceiling!

alstroemeria in the dark

There was a vase of flowers that I could place close to the torch, and take photos, as well as their shadows on the ceiling!
Yes, my trusty Sony RX100 had enough battery power to keep me shooting throughout the power cut.

shooting ivy

As soon as we had power back on, and the house was warm and light enough to move about, I started combining the fleeting sunlight with some artificial light …. and colour returned to my world!

temari and ivy

One of the indoor survivors was ivy that I had growing in small pots. So it was the first subject I could find to shoot when light returned.
Here combined with a temari ball the echoes the colours of the ivy.

eggs in black and white

But the experience did leave me with a sense of the world in black and white, so I kept processing some shots in monochrome.

freezing fog in B+W

And it was winter … and that is the time when the world naturally turns to mono! Once I had recovered from the cold experience, I ventured out into the white world.

freezing fog

Mid December and some spectacular days of fog, and even freezing fog. This morning the fog slowly rose, and the sun began to break through. The birds collected on the restored power lines.
Then the fog returned, and froze the world once more. The trees were coated with hoar frost and the view across the howe vanished into whiteness.

dawn on the road

It was the end of the month before we could go shopping, and replace some of the freezer-damaged food stores. Here morning breaks as we make an early trip to Inverurie and our local supermarket and stores.

Hogmanay card
Hogmanay card 2021

And finally the month and the year ends. Hogmanay celebrations are muted, and we have been so exhausted by the last 2 months that we are content to sleep our way into the new year of 2022!

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