I’ve been busy again. “What do you call busy?” I hear you ask. Well, lots of things, most of which might well have been done in half the time by a person who was twenty years younger. But that is just the point. I am not twenty years younger.
One of the biggest surprises of my few years of retirement has been just how quickly one slows down, physically and mentally. It is hard to believe that only a few years ago I was still working, albeit part-time, while also racing to renovate and repaint our previous house inside and out, and to do the same to our outbuildings, as well as tidy a very large garden as best I could while disposing of a twenty-year accumulation of rubbish and other surplus goods, and packing the rest (far too much of it as it turned out) ready for our removal. I must have had some energy then and, even more to the point, stamina.
Now, two or three hours of not very heavy physical work per day is quite enough thank you and a garden overhaul for a neighbour has provided much of that work during the past couple of months. Then, on rainy days recently, I started the overdue task of painting our living/dining room and it should be finished within a couple of days. Yes, it could have been done more quickly had it been possible to empty the room first. Instead, I have had to insert myself, complete with retinue comprising step ladder, dust sheet and large pot of paint, into the barely large enough spaces between major items of furniture which seem to be observing the proceedings with disdain.
Then there is regular violin practice, up to an hour or so at a time though not every day. Even this begins to feel strenuous. Scatter a few daily domestic chores into the mix and add a nap for a couple of hours on alternate days and you have some idea of how I have occupied my time lately. That’s what this 70-year-old calls busy.
It is not “all go” of course. There is a lot of daily reading to be done – several online newspapers, emails, blogs, twitter etc., all of which have the potential to produce further distractions.
A few weeks ago I was getting nicely into my stride with the portrait painting. At last I was beginning to feel that I knew, more or less, what I was trying to achieve and how I was going to do it. I have forgotten now exactly what it was that broke the spell but other activities had to take priority for a few days and that was that.
I will get back to the painting soon when it becomes possible to give it a higher priority so that it can continue, daily if necessary, over a longer period. Meanwhile, I look online at what others are doing. In general this, to me at least, is not encouraging. I look for realism in portrait painting because it is what I like – and I am not about to get into a debate about “why paint realistically when we now have cameras”. I also like to see simple sketches employing line and wash, pen and watercolour, call it what you will. This, done well, appears to be very scarce. To me, “done well” means a few well placed lines indicating the main outlines of the subject plus a little colour. Too often the main fault in what I see is that it is overworked, whereas in my opinion this technique should demonstrate the principle that less is more..
The artists’ links on this blog are long-established for a reason and I will be delighted to find others to join them. William Whitaker’s link has remained despite the fact that he has not updated his site for a couple of years (I imagine that he is now retired – happily and healthily I hope). His style and his attitude to painting etc. are both absolutely right in my opinion and I think his work is outstanding. In my book he is proving to be a very hard act to follow. Do I hear any suggestions? I have a few potential candidates in mind but none has convinced me yet. Mind you I have no intention of replacing Mr Whitaker – while his website stays online the link remains on this blog.
At last I have fitted a new keyboard to the laptop and changed to black keys with white letters for greater clarity and a more restful experience for the eyes. As you can see, the original keyboard had lost several letters (they wore out many months ago as I reported here at the time). Granny Anne has a black keyboard, which is only a few months younger than mine, with no wear at all. Admittedly my typing style is a little more… …aggressive, shall we say!
I have also bought myself an electronic notebook in the shape of a Dell Axim X51v. This is an obsolete “Personal Digital Assistant” which was arguably the best of the bunch when Dell discontinued it about five years ago. I remember admiring them at the time but I didn’t need one then. Its primary role for me is that of a notebook in which I can make notes, write blog posts, essays, books if necessary, and synchronise them with – or transfer them to – my laptop computer without further typing. It will do a lot more of course – like surfing the Web, playing music, showing pictures and videos, playing games, reading ebooks (in particular the “.lit” variety) running an assortment of software including Microsofts Office suite, genealogy software, a calendar, address book and appointment diary, a calculator etc. etc. but some of these functions (such as connecting to the Web) will be used rarely, if at all. Even so I am quite happy with the new toy now that I have figured out how to persuade it to work with Windows Vista.
What I actually wanted was a single, pocket-sized, device that incorporated a proper word processor (rather than the memo facility found is many mobile phones which is even more limiting than Twitters 140 character limit); that would read ebooks and PDFs, that did NOT include a camera (as I have a very good one of those plus a decent one in my phone), and that contained a replaceable and rechargeable battery, and came with a mains charger and AC lead. Not a lot to ask but who makes such a thing?
I wonder whether it ever occurs to manufacturers that not all of us want these amazing multi-function devices that they insist on pushing at us. For one thing, they cost more than they need to. For another they run their batteries down at an alarming rate when continuously in use – which they are more likely to be (especially when away from home) when several functions are used. I now have three pocket devices, all of which are likely to accompany me on my travels and all of which will play music and probably radio stations if required. Two of them will play videos and surf the Web. Surely there is a market for simple devices; say, an ebook reader that incorporates a word processor. Surely simpler devices could be cheaper, equally or more compact, and have a much longer battery life?