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Hillplodder (Essex, UK)

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Painting and Understanding Abstract Art
Painting and Understanding Abstract Art
by John Lowry
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect and inspirational, 24 Aug. 2016
I knew I was going to love this book the moment I first opened it. Randomly opened on a page with an exercise in abstracting the shapes between trees, which is basically what I've recently been working on in art class. I could immediately pick up ideas for next steps from the pages either side. A quick flick through yielded many more new ideas.

I saw another review which described the book as superficial - in one sense it is, as it offers little in the way of instruction of painting techniques. But this is the whole point of the book - this is not really a book to teach a beginner how to use their chosen medium, and doesn't try to be. This is a book for those that know at least the basics of their medium, and want inspiration for composing and executing abstracts. Or in short, this is a book about how to make something abstract rather than how to apply the paint. Personally I found it hugely refreshing not having to bypass a large chapter on materials and basic techniques at the start - there isn't one. The most instructional it gets is a good chapter on colour - seeking to explain how colour is perceived and what that means for making a good piece of abstract art.

As someone who started out on the abstract journey a few months ago, having spent a few years doing more traditional art classes, I found this book a timely purchase. Having recently had some success in taking a real photograph and abstracting it, and executing a number of related pieces, I found myself asking "what next?". This book neatly answers that question and provides loads of ideas of subject matter and approach for creating abstract art. It also shows that you can create a viable abstract painting from almost any start point, given a few simple ideas for direction.

This is easily the most pertinent art book I've ever bought.

MusicMan TXX3786 BassHead Stereo Headphones (rechargeable battery, MP3-Player, FM Radio and MicroSD card slot) - Black
MusicMan TXX3786 BassHead Stereo Headphones (rechargeable battery, MP3-Player, FM Radio and MicroSD card slot) - Black
Price: £31.50

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic value and decent sound, 27 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was looking for a pair of wireless headphones with integrated MP3 player but didn't want to spend a lot of money, and these seemed to fit the bill. At £23 these were a bargain, and if I didn't get on with them at least I wouldn't have spent a load of money.

I needn't have worried, as they've been great and rarely off my ears since I got them. They charge in around 2-3 hours and the charge seems to last for ages - typically I use them for the commute which is a couple of hours a day and they were lasting over a week - in the end I thought they must be getting low and charged them, but haven't actually had them die on me yet.

Volume is controlled on the left ear with a simple rocker/dial switch, which when pressed also controls the equaliser (although to be honest I don't bother with that). On the right there's a slider on/off button which is pretty near impossible to accidentally move. A rocker/dial here looks after moving between tracks (next/previous only) and play/pause (by pushing)

The package includes a USB charging cable and a standard headphone jack that allows you to use them as wired headphones with your phone, computer etc.

The microSD card sits in a secure slot on the top of the left ear. This does mean it is at risk from the elements, but no more so than the whole unit. Simple drag and drop from your music collection onto the MicroSD card is all that's needed to load it up so it can be read by the player.

The sound produced is good, but if you're one of those people who take these things really seriously, you'll probably want to look to spend more money.

I only have one gripe with them and that's that the unit will play the tracks on the card in the order they were put on. I'd really have liked a shuffle feature, or even for the unit to automatically shuffle play by default. So I tend to use smaller capacity cards with this, each one containing a playlist or selection of albums. This is really no more inconvenient than the old days where you had to think about the order of tracks when making a mixtape. Given this is my only gripe and they're such a good price, it seemed a bit mean to knock a star off, so I haven't.

The Five People You Meet In Heaven
The Five People You Meet In Heaven
Price: £5.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Only moderately uplifting, 4 Feb. 2012
This book was recommended to me by a work colleague, saying it's his favourite book. The premise sounded interesting and other reviews were generally good. But it fell a bit short of the high hopes I had, and can say I won't be recommending it as my favourite book.

The story starts on Eddie's 83rd birthday and, unknown to him, he is going to die that day. It starts off with a countdown to his death recounting the various happenings of his day - in an attempt to help establish the central point of the book which is about the interconnection between everyone's lives.

I actually think the best part of the book is his death itself - not because it is especially funny, gruesome or otherwise entertaining, but because it's probably accurate, and because it leaves him for the rest of the book unclear as to what happened and whether the little girl he was trying to save made it ok.

Unlike some reviewers, I can see why the 5 people were chosen. To simply choose members of his family and circle of friends would have been too obvious and wouldn't have helped the book's central message at all. The whole point was that our lives intersect with others' in ways we aren't aware of, and we don't always understand the consequences of our actions because we've moved on by the time they play out.

Eddie's first person illustrates this perfectly, and I was (temporarily) hooked at this point. Eddie's second person made sense too, but during this part the story seemed to jump around a lot and it seemed to take a long time to get to the point. Eddie's third person was a clumsy and roundabout way of him being made to face up to issues he had with his father, but the best thing about #3 was the link back to this person revealed in the twist at the end of the book.

Person 4 was the obvious one, his wife, but because of this it didn't really help advance the book's message, and the main purpose of her seemed to be to make him feel good before throwing him into confusion when she disappears just before he meets the 5th person.

Person 5 was a surprise, and forms the key twist in the book, and having already given so much away, I'll leave you this bit as a surprise. But the encounter seems short and before you know it the book's done.

I found the overall writing style a bit muddled. It starts out very simple and straightforward, almost like reading to a child, which I was ok with as it seems in keeping with what the book is trying to do. But it became disjointed in places and seemed to lapse a bit much into "American dream" mode, which is a complete turn-off.

To me the central message was put across very clumsily, and what could have been a beautiful and thought-provoking work if more care had been taken with the writing, turned out awkward and lost much of its impact. It was a bit reminiscent of a child writing an essay, as it lacked atmosphere and the characters seemed a bit one dimensional.

Overall, I'm glad I read it, if only to see what all the fuss was about. But it's a long way from being my favourite book, and I have plenty more uplifting titles on my bookshelf.

World of a Wainwright Bagger
World of a Wainwright Bagger
by Chris Stanbury
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down, 2 Oct. 2011
This is probably the best book I've read about "doing" the Wainwrights apart from AW's own guides.

Now it's important to note that this isn't, and doesn't try to be a guidebook, so don't expect it to be. This is one man's story of his love affair with the Lakeland fells. The best time to read this book is when you are far from the fells and it's best to just let the tale seep into your head and mix with your own memories of great days walking in the lakes. There's so much in this book that echoes how I feel about Cumbria - the affinity the author has for the more desolate hills, in particular - and reading this book just makes me want to be there.

This is the book I would write about the Cumbrian mountains, but he does it much better than I could ever do.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 3, 2011 3:52 PM GMT

Olympus SZ-30MR Digital Camera - Black (16MP, 24x Wide Optical Zoom) 3.0 inch LCD
Olympus SZ-30MR Digital Camera - Black (16MP, 24x Wide Optical Zoom) 3.0 inch LCD

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glad I bought it, 21 Sept. 2011
I love this camera because it does everything my old Olympus SP-560UZ and Sanyo HD1010 did, with better image quality and in a much smaller unit. There are reviews out there saying that the image quality isn't as sharp as it could be - maybe true if you're a professional, but for most people I think it's good enough.

Particular things I like:
1. the sweep panorama.
2. the ability to take two shots at once - for example a still and a video, or two stills with different settings.
3. The magic effects settings. Ok most of these are just gimmicks, but I do actually find the sketch and watercolour settings useful. As a very amateur artist trying to improve, taking a view normally and with these settings has helped me with my composition a lot.
4. Its size. Anything that reduces weight on a hike is welcome.
5. The ability to do a 16:9 format shot at a decent resolution, which is useful for converting pictures into a video.

There's only really one downside I've found - the battery life. All of the features above eat power so I'm finding I'm draining the battery in a single day and so need a spare. My old cameras would both go for days without needing a charge. But that's not enough of a problem to affect my rating.

Derwent Graphitint Tinted Water-soluble Graphite Pencils Tin (Set of 24)
Derwent Graphitint Tinted Water-soluble Graphite Pencils Tin (Set of 24)
Price: £23.91

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Versatile, 16 Jun. 2011
These are good, especially for landscapes and other "natural" subjects as the colours, whether wet or dry, reflect more the muted and subtle colours you actually see, rather than the "children's paintbox" range of colours you often get in a set of watercolour pencils.

Having tried to get by with a cheap tin of watercolour pencils while I've been learning the ropes of sketching and painting, I felt now was the time to get something decent. Like another reviewer I really wanted something to bridge the gap between drawing and painting, and specifically something I could take out hiking with me.

Because the range of colours is so good, these are ideal for taking on a walk with me, and now all I take on a trip, even those lasting several days, is these pencils, a brush and sketchbook and for the small scale pictures I do on these occasions these enable me to draw, do line and wash or even a full watercolour.

How to Become a Pro Pencil Drawing Artist: Learn the Qualities of a Professional Artist
How to Become a Pro Pencil Drawing Artist: Learn the Qualities of a Professional Artist

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your money, 30 Dec. 2010
You'd have thought that this book would actually offer some guidance on drawing, including some worked examples. Actually all it amounts to is 20 pages of text full of patronising comments about artists accepting the consequences of their actions !!?!? There is not a single diagram or picture apart from the cover image.

I actually feel that I've been mis-sold this book and it is a complete waste of even the small amount of money it cost. Don't buy it.

The Hills Are Stuffed With Swedish Girls
The Hills Are Stuffed With Swedish Girls
Price: £3.49

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit unexpected, 30 Oct. 2010
I bought this anticipating a laddish tale of a long walk, which of course it is. What I didn't expect was for the book to evolve from comedy into something much more serious. Having finished it last night I'm still slightly puzzled and I guess the sign of a good book is one which leaves you thinking - which this one certainly has.

And it's fair to say that the Kindle sample does a really good job of not letting you know this evolution is coming as it focusses on the comedy part at the start of the book with no warning of what is to come.

The style of the book is a series of diary entries by the 3 lads: Macrae (the tough nutter), Wentworth (the uptight anti-outdoors one) and Fitch (the more normal one who's gone a bit off course). The story starts as Macrae's idea to get Fitch out of his depression following his break-up with his girlfriend - walking the West Highland Way where they will encounter hordes of Swedish girls and consequently Fitch will get laid - thereby solving the problem.

But - this book is really about Fitch's journey from the dark place he is in following his break-up to its resolution (sorry I'm not going to give away what that resolution is!), and only superficially about walking the West Highland Way, which is just a vehicle for the real story. So don't buy it purely for the walking aspects.

Some will take this book at face value and see it as mixed-up drivel, others will call it a masterpiece. You will have to make your own mind up, and frankly I'm still making mine up too.

Mutiny On The Bounty
Mutiny On The Bounty
by John Boyne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but..., 3 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Mutiny On The Bounty (Paperback)
I bought this ages ago and it has sat on my "books waiting to be read" pile ever since. This week I picked it up and finally read it and I wasn't disappointed. A good read, a good tale and just enough historical detail to interest me. However, there were a few instances where it looked like anachronisms might be creeping in - the best example being the mention of Trafalgar Square which didn't exist under that name until the 1840s, which seems later than the narrator is telling the tale - although it is a bit unclear. My Boyne seems to have a bit of a fixation with "whistles" too.

Having read a certain amount of historical fiction, much of it naval, set around this era, there were a lot of other terms that I'd not heard before in other books.

Overall though, enjoyment of the tale outweighed these niggles.

Sea to Summit Event Compression Dry Sack ADCSS Small
Sea to Summit Event Compression Dry Sack ADCSS Small
Offered by Adventure and Outdoor Store
Price: £24.99

5.0 out of 5 stars They do exactly what it says they do, 10 July 2010
I bought one of these (medium) a few months ago, and liked it so much I bought two more - a small and extra small. I've now taken these on two 5-6 day treks and I'm pleased with my purchases.

I was keen to get something that was both waterproof and acted as a compression sack. These do both well.

The combination of medium, small and extra small works perfectly for me and has enabled me to ditch my 50 litre rucksack in favour of my much-preferred 35 litre rucksack.

I've been out in some severe weather with my stuff packed into these bags, and not a single drop of water has got through, although the map I had right next to them was utterly ruined.

The only thing I can fault them on is their colour - it would be useful if the different sizes were different colours so I could tell them apart more easily (most other manufacturers do) - especially as I have three consecutive sizes. But this isn't enough of an issue to mark them down.

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