The joy of macro.

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Staedtler Mars micro 0.7mm mechanical pencil

Who doesn’t love a mechanical pencil? I already have several but could not resist this one when it was less than half price in our local Rymans.

Recently, I have been enjoying a revitalised enthusiasm for photography, prompted by the acquisition of a new Nikon Coolpix A900. New camera day! I was attracted by a host of exciting features, particularly the articulated screen, the ability to shoot macro from 1cm, a massive x35 optical zoom with Vibration Reduction, (Nikon’s anti-shake), 4K video, 20 million pixels, Wi-Fi connectivity and many more. It was some years since I last bought a new camera, if you do not include mobile phones and things have move on a lot in that time.

There are a few things that it doesn’t have, such as the ability to shoot in RAW, or a touch screen, which I decided that I could live without. Exposure compensation settings are readily to hand, as are white balance settings and colour adjustment. It is wonderful to be able to have white paper looking white, even if taken under artificial light in the depths of winter.

It is the ability to take macro shots with such ease, that I have found most exciting. Even hand-held shots seem acceptably sharp but with a small tripod, combined with a two second self-timer delay setting it is better still. Here is my new pencil again.

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Getting up close with the Staedtler mars 0.7mm mechanical pencil.

Here is the production date stamp on the elegant black and chrome guilloche Cross Century II fountain pen:

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Date stamp on the collar of a Cross Century II fountain pen.

Obviously it is tempting to try the other extreme and see how the telephoto performs. I tried a quick shot of the moon, with a manual exposure and a few stops of under exposure. This was the result:

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The moon over London. The farthest subject that I have photographed so far.

Finally, one of the subjects that I wanted to photograph better, was paper. Not ideal with a mobile phone. I wanted to be able to capture the texture that you see, particularly under high magnification and with a low wintry sun slanting in to add contrast to the ups and downs of the paper surface. I shall continue experimenting with this but am always impressed and appreciative of the professional looking close-up photography that I see on fellow bloggers’ sites. Working during the week, there is limited time to enjoy the daylight hours at this time of year but sometimes it all comes together with a bit of sunlight at the weekend. Here was one of my early efforts. I used to think that Paperchase soft flexi notebooks had very smooth paper but under high magnification, the surface looks more like a newly plastered wall. Most of my fountain pens love it.

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Paperchase note book. Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler, with Jinhao X450 medium nib and Aurora Blue Black ink.

 

Remembering Mr Chiu Fa Chan.

 

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Today marks the second anniversary since my father in law, Chiu Fa Chan passed away on 29 July 2015. He was in his 90th year.  He had been fit and active, but died after a short stay in hospital from complications following an operation.

As a young man, growing up in China, he went to sea, working on cargo ships and travelling the South China Seas. He rose to second officer. Later, in China he was to become a respected lecturer in navigation. He was still in touch with some of his former students from decades ago, now all elderly. He enjoyed a reunion with a group of them when he last visited China.

For the last twenty years of his life, he and his wife lived in London, not far from my wife and I.

He knew of my interest in fountain pens and I would sometimes show him my new acquisitions. He once told me the story, that with his very first month’s pay at sea, when going ashore at Singapore, he had bought himself a new Parker 51. Unfortunately the story had a sad ending as it went missing from his cabin not long afterwards. I don’t think he bought another one.

Last year at the London Pen Show, I bought a Parker 51 Aerometric in cedar blue which bears the markings Made in USA, 9, which I think dates from 1949 and so would be a similar age to dad’s pen if we still had it.

People often remember what they bought with their first earnings. In my case, after some temping work in my college holidays in the late 1970’s , I bought a portable typewriter and a book Teach Yourself Typewriting and laboriously set about learning to touch-type, (up to a point), little knowing that I would be spending such large chunks of my working and leisure hours at a keyboard in the years to come.

This morning my wife, her mum and I visited the peaceful gardens of the Golders Green Crematorium, North West London to see dad’s memorial stone and leave some colourful flowers, which my wife had brought from his own garden.

 

 

 

Off topic warning: the story of an unexploded bomb.

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Today I was asked to put together some notes about an unexploded bomb which had remained in the family for over 40 years before moving to a museum.

It seemed impossible to tell the story without saying a little about my late father, who died in 1983.  It is not about fountain pens but there is a little about collecting things. And so here is an abridged version.

The story of dad’s bomb.

My late father was born in Ealing in 1929, and grew up in Hangar Lane, West London. He was ten years old when the Second World War broke out in 1939 and remained with his parents throughout the war.

From the 1950’s until 1974 (when made redundant) he worked for Ultra Electronics, in Perivale as a general and electrical maintenance engineer. He then moved to a similar position at EMI in Ruislip. He had left school with minimal qualifications but was very practical and experienced at making and fixing equipment.

One of his main hobbies was target shooting. He had a firearms licence and always kept a variety of pistols and rifles, which he would shoot at Bisley or our local gun club, often bringing me with him from a young age. He also had a few old muzzle-loading flintlocks and percussion cap pistols and one which he had built himself. He enjoyed casting his own bullets in lead, in his garage. He also built a small cannon on a wooden carriage, which he fired in the garden at midnight every new year’s eve to see the new year in.

He collected old incendiary bombs and tall, brass anti-tank shell cases, which, along with his cannons and large jagged pieces of shrapnel, were arranged on the floor around our TV set.

Against this background, the largest item in his collection was an unexploded German 500 pound bomb. As I recall, he got this in the mid 1970’s from an industrial estate, possibly near Perivale or Kew, West London where, probably since the war,  it had served as a speed limit bollard, standing upright by the roadside, with its base set in a car tyre filled with cement. It was painted white with the speed restriction painted in black figures, for vehicles entering the estate.

I remember going in the car with him, to collect it. I have a vague recollection of him telling me that he had heard the bomb fall during the war. I suppose if you heard a bomb falling, you would wait for the explosion and if none came, you would be curious to find where it had landed.

I cannot recall now how he knew it was there or why it was being disposed of. Perhaps the site was being redeveloped and he might well have simply asked whether he could have it.  I believe we went there in his grey Vauxhall Cresta Deluxe, a 1966 model, which he had bought second hand with part of his redundancy money and so it would have been around 1974 or shortly after.  The bomb went in the large boot of the car. I imagine we left the plinth behind.

At home, he set about cleaning it up, at the back of the garden, near his bonfire patch behind the garage.  He was confident that it was safe. The cylindrical metal detonator device had been removed. He had read several books about the various types of detonators and tense stories of bomb disposal work, on UXB’s (unexploded bombs).

Originally there would have been metal tail fins on the bomb but these had long since gone. He was able to access the inside of the bomb case, through its base. It was largely empty, the explosives having been removed but there were vestiges of this (TNT perhaps) around the inside, which he chipped away and which came out in thick, rusty brown clumps. These, he assured me, were quite safe and he chucked them on his bonfire, where they fizzled and spat a little.

Once satisfied that he had got the inside as clean as he could, he gave it a new coat of paint, in British Racing Green. He then made a sturdy wooden cradle for it and a bench seat at the top (pictured). For the next 15 years or so, it remained in our house in Ickenham, either as a seat around the dining table or latterly, in the hallway beneath the coat pegs.  We enjoyed having it. It was a rather different and eccentric, to have a 500 pound bomb in the house.

Dad died in 1983. The bomb stayed in the house until my mother moved some six years later and since then has been in the wider family, in the custody of my aunt until she also moved house in 2016 and then my cousin. Now, having survived for over 70 years in these various unexpected roles, it will be great for the bomb to move to a museum.