My hobbies include Art, Birdwatching, Chess, Ham Radio, Photography, Stamp Collecting and Folk Music.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Tuesday, we went birding to Carsington Water, a local reservoir.

We did not see any really exciting birds, but at lunch time we called at the local pub called The Nockerdown.

The landlord keeps a couple of pet Ostriches in a field behind the pub. So I took this pic. At least there was one unusual bird species to show for our day out.

There was a bit of snow on the ground. Our first for the year.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ham Radio

Wilst in QSO (talking to) a radio ham N3ATV,
Fom Baltimore, I used Google Earth to find his QTH (location).
His house is the large white building near the highway.

Ham Radio is a great hobby. You can talk to people all over the world. I used to have lots of radio equipment to do this. Then I discovered internet radio.
I mainly use a program called EchoLink. You must have an Amateur Radio Licence to do this.
There is also a program called InterAce which again is for Licenced Amateurs only.

This evening, I went onto EchoLink and noticed a station G3XII, that is X-Ray, India, India, not the roman numeral for 12. He lives in Layland Lancashire. Although I now live in the Midlands, my Lancashire origins prompted me to call him.
I found he was already in QSO (having a conversation) with a station N3ATV from Baltimore.

Using Google Earth, which is a wonderful 3D satalite program of the world, I was able to locate his house. He talked me through it and we got there in about five minutes.
You can pinpoint any location you wish in Google Earth so I made him my first entry. I should be able to have a collection of my contacts on the map eventually.

Although we are talking on the internet, we still use all the same procedures that we would use on HF or VHF radio. In fact our licence requires us to do this.

The Q codes which I have used, QSO, QTH etc. were originally designed for morse code, but we tend to use them also in phone conversation.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Folk Music

Mick Ryan and Pete Harris performing at The Brewtown Folk Club

Star & Garter

Friday is Folk Club Day, We call ourselves The Brewtown Folk Club.
We meet in a function room at a pub called The Star & Gartar

Tonight we have a Singaround, this is where we all take it in turns to sing or play. The others join in if they wish.

Alternate weeks we have professional guest artists. Recently we had Mick Ryan and Pete Harris; see above.

I will take along my Martin Accoustic Guitar and also a selection of harmonicas. I use Blues harps which are tuned to the keys of LowF, G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb and E.

I also have a chromatic harmonica which will play in all the keys.

This afternoon I will be doing some pracice. I intend to do the following tunes.

Leaving on a Jet Plane, written by John Denver.

In the Old Bazaar in Cairo, written by Charlie Chester, Ken Morris & Clinton Ford. This is a music hall song and quite funny.

Freight Train, written by Elizabeth Cotton, but made famous by the Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group. I shall sing their version, although many of the lines are different from the original. This often happens in Folk Songs and sometimes causes arguments.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Stamp Collecting

Today is dull and rainy and I am working on my stamp collection.

I am a Stamp Collector, not a Philatelist.

Philatelists study stamps in great depth, looking at watermarks, perforations etc.
They usually specialise in a single country or period and are prepared to spend lots of money to obtain a rarity.

Stamp Collectors, like myself, usually collect stamps from most countries of the world and swap them with other stamp collectors.
I mainly do this on line, using a Yahoo site called StampSwapClub. There you can post emails about the stamps you have to swap. Or you can respond to emails from the other club members.
You automatically receive such emails. The membership is about 350 so I am not bombarded with emails.

I am currently working on the stamps of France and putting them in a new stamp catalogue.
I mount the stamps using traditional stamp hinges and write the catalogue number under the stamp.

I find stamp collecting a very relaxing hobby.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Most days I play a few games of Chess on line. I mainly use a site called instantChess.
Here is what it looks like.

In chess, everyone has a grading. This site has about 10,000 members from 140 countries, so there is always someone of a similar grading to play against.

I used to play with a chess club in the Derbyshire League. We would travel all over Derbyshire through the winter months to play other clubs. Now I can play from the comfort of my warm living room.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Bird Watching

I am a birder, not a twitcher.

A twitcher will travel many miles to spot a rare bird. When he gets there he just ticks it and off on his way to find another rarity.
You normally see them in long lines, jostling with their telescopes to get a view of the rarity.

Instead a birder normally visits his local bird reserves and gets whatever turns up.

Today we have been out to a reserve called Drakelow, which is a disused power station.
Near the hide, they put out lots of food for the birds during the winter months.
Our first bird was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, feading off a lump of fat.
Then a Willow Tit kept nipping out for a seed or two. They do not stay long. Instead the Robin was posing in the winter sunlight. Below the hide, we had a view of a Water Rail, popping out of the reeds. Then a pair of Reed Buntings. The far side of the water, a grey heron stood motionless, waiting for a fish. Cormorents were perching up in a tree. On the water there was a pair of young GoldenEye, Gadwall, Teal, Pochard, Wigeon and a shoveller.
A Kestral perched in a treetop as we walked around the reserve. Then in another hide we saw an adult GoldenEye. A Kingfisher flew right in front of us, like a firework flashing in my binoculars.

After our birding outing we called at the Village Club for a welcom drink and a couple of games of chess.

On returning home I made myself a nice hot Chicken Vindaloo Curry.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Art Exhibition

Here is a pic of our Art Exhibition.

I took the picture using a Canon digital SLR camera, with a 50mm f1.8 lens. This is equivalent to an 85 mm lens with a normal SLR.
I set the vertual film speed to 1600 ASA and the White Balance to Tungsten Lighting.
So, I was able to take the pics without flash, even though the light level was low.


Just been watching a program called Most Haunted, which featured Tutbury Castle. The orb pics in the program were no where near as good as the ones my cousin took on the occasion of her visit from Canada last year.

Wish I could insert a pic. How do I do that?

Painting as a hobby

Today is the first day of my blog-life.
I paint with a local Art Club and we have our Winter Exhibition opening in an hour's time.
A glass of wine and a chat with other club members and hopefully, some people to buy our paintings.
Another of my hobbies is photography, so I will be taking my camera along to get some shots.