Friday 3 September 2010

The story behind the SkyWatch Friday photos

The photograph here is different to the SkyWatch Friday photos – honestly! Okay, it's not a lot different to the untrained eye (that's supposed to make me sound as though I know something about astronomy – I don't!)
Anyway, yesterday was a very busy day, tidying, cleaning, repairing, painting, gardening. All this untypical, even unprecedented behaviour is because we are having company on Sunday and one of the party is coming to our house for the first time. Yikes! Suddenly, all the nose smudges (from the dogs, I hasten to add) seem even more noticeable, and the mud splatters where the canines have shaken excess water from their coats have put a delicate finishing touch to the side swiped patches from muscular bodies (again, from the dogs, in case you're wondering.) Aesthetically, in a painting, say, it looks quite attractive. (Who am I trying to kid?)

We can't do much about the chewed stair treads and the frayed carpet that successive dogs, but mostly Gus, have munched. The dust of what seems like ages but is in reality AGES can be removed fairly quickly, making a few spiders homeless until they take up residence in the downstairs loo again and have to be persuaded elsewhere. (The vacuum cleaner seems a perfect des. res.) The quaintly named dust bunnies, which in our abode are more akin to amorphous dead creatures of uncertain lineage, are swept up or vacuumed several times a day, and still they come. Perhaps I should shave the animals? I'm sure they'd be cooler and feel fresher. White hairs from the Dalmatians cling to every dark surface while the Labradors' black hairs collect on the paler furnishings. Dust, dust everywhere and equally is it shared.

I'm told that having a companion animal lowers blood pressure and steadies heart rate. Pet owners are calmer, happier, live longer. Has anyone researched the effect of several animals on health and temper? I digress – one of the few things the only thing at which I am expert.

We stopped for lunch – a proper cooked lunch, quite unheard of at this address – and Barry said, 'It's going to be a lovely clear night. I think we'll do some astrophotography.'

I thought, 'H'mm, that means we'll be eating a late supper.'

After lunch we did a lot more clearing and hammering and glueing and pruning and felt satisfied by early evening that we could congratulate ourselves. To our eyes, the house is transformed. A stranger coming in would wonder how anyone could live this way. Notwithstanding (I love that word – so grown up!) Barry, happy, content, at peace with the world, began to assemble the things he needed. The handbooks – where were they? Of course, in one of his camera bags or maybe the large trunk-like box that contains other camera equipment. They were not there. For two hours we searched the house, upstairs, downstairs, dining room, conservatory, bathroom, bedroom, en suite, loft, study - back and forth we went, fruitlessly searching the same places over and over again. Barry's bonhomie began to dissipate. These were not, after all, the original handbooks – they had disappeared long since. These were the ones he had downloaded from the Internet and carefully assembled and put safely in his camera bag/box/trunk – only he hadn't! Eventually, he decided to download them again. He calmed down and Gus, who had been very disturbed all day by the unwonted activity, and even more so by the 'atmosphere' began to settle once more. All was well again.

Barry set up the tripod and camera and star tracking device and we had our very late supper. The camera was controlled by computer and we were going to stack the photos, taken every few minutes, to get an in-depth image. As we were looking at them and I was editing them, trying different processes, we heard rain falling, only it wasn't rain, it was the computer-controlled garden spray which had been moved and had decided to play its part as well and interfere with the photographic process.

Suddenly, the air was blue and Barry's face grew increasingly stony as he dismantled the dripping wet equipment. We dried it with towels and tissues but water continued to gather and drip from every tiny orifice. My hairdryer, which I use only occasionally, was brought into play and for the next three hours, it was used to blow hot air into every crevice. Gus was once more anxious and worried, though the others paid no attention and continued to snore. I made a pot of tea for Barry about 1:00 am and went wearily to bed with the dogs. He said he would come upstairs soon but eventually appeared about 3:00 am. We slept soundly, if briefly, and rose to a bright, sunlit morning.

With rest and sun came clear thinking. House insurance! We pay our house insurance premiums regularly and have claimed possibly twice in all the years we've lived here (Admittedly, one claim was for a rather nasty house fire but that was a long time ago before Bethan was born and she's over 25!) Barry found the documents and checked with the insurance company that we were covered. So, along with the sun has come a measure of peace of mind though I shall continue to worry quietly until everything is resolved.


  1. Amazing night sky photo! I could never get it - i console myself thinking it is the pollution which is the culprit.Good that the house insurance papers were not misplaced! Thanks for visiting my blog.

  2. Sorry, I am bad, but I am still laughing about your cleaning descriptions and your worried husband and dog, hahaha ! I think it's just the moment to come over and check if everything is OK now. I usually clean AFTER my guests, I just rush through the house so that it looks clean and tidy at a first glance. Cat hairs I brush away although when Arthur crosses a room it looks as if it had snowed ! Only the toilet I clean thorougly because it is the only place where people have time to look in the corners !
    So if ever you come to Waterloo, you are warned !

  3. Maybe you found a lucky star after all - at least as far as the insurance claim goes...

  4. LOL about your house cleaning. You've described exactly the state our house is usually in. With three big black labradors, 4 cats and people walking in straight from the HUGE sandpit we have (the one we ride our horses in)... yep, I can totally relate. I too have those brownish stains and more animal-leftovers on the walls. But jeez, I'll hurry through the house with a vacuum cleaner and clean the toilet one extra time, and that's about it when we have guests. The moment they come in I give them something deeply alcoholic and hope that it will blur there vision enough to not notice the state of our house. Thát and the three very enthusiastic black things jumping so high and trying to land in their necks usually do the trick.

    Sorry about the soaked camera equipment. Happy about the insurance coverage (is that the word?). Anyway, I've enjoyed the story more than you enjoyed the live version I'm guessing ;-)

  5. Oh, poor Gus, of course he was worried. He's probably never seen you and Barry act that way before.
    So glad the cameras were insured. Computer-controlled cameras sound very expensive to me. And layering (oh, no, you said stacking) the photos - that sounds complicated but such a good idea for sky shots. I can see we have a lot to learn. I can't take many pictures these days because my hands shake, but Dick is learning about composition (and horizons - took me ages to get a retired teacher to understand about horizons) and his hands don't shake.
    I could envision so clearly the panic when a first-time visitor is expected. I panic and Dick looks at me blankly. "Well be outside, we're just going to use the hot tub," he says. "Yes," I reply, "and then you'll have to use the bathrooms for showering and changing." Oh, he forgot about that.
    Thanks for a good chuckle. I needed that. And your sky photo (is this one stacked?) is beautiful.

  6. Thanks, all :-)
    lotusleaf - if we can do it, so can you :-)
    Gattina - that's okay. We're laughing today (rather tiredly, though ;-))
    Jinksy - go to the back of the class ;-)
    Carolina - I agree with your philosophy regarding something deeply alcoholic but I think he is driving and as it's my youngest daughter he's driving, I'll stick with the cleaning (ugh!!)
    Kay - sadly, the frenetic hunting is a daily occurrence. I sympathise with you though over the cleaning - the men always see just the immediate picture. (The photo is not stacked - merely meddled with . . . )

  7. The photo is great, but so sorry about the equipment. I hope the house insurance comes through.


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