Count TheSteps (a work in progress)

I was tidying up the laundry,
When I caught him unawares,
He was hanging from the rafters,
The vampire under the stairs.

Nobody knows how he got there,
And nobody really cares,
But it isn’t normal to be able to say,
There’s a vampire under the stairs.


Mental balance

A while back I came across Gravity Glue by Michael Grab, and it inspired me to start balancing rocks as a form of meditation. I’m nowhere near as accomplished, but I do find it relaxing to balance stones when I’m feeling stressed.
Earlier today I went down to the thunderstorm swollen creek and balanced a few piles by the torrent of brown flood water.


Balance @ Pohick Creek, June 23, 2016

Review: Renault Captur

I recently got to drive a 1.5l diesel Renault Captur for a week, and thought I’d post a review of my experiences. The car was a 2015 model with the  Dynamique Nav trim.


It didn’t scare the sheep.

My first impression as it drove up was that it was a rugged looking, city car. It looked like someone had inflated a Renault Clio, and it gave the car a fun personality, like a Tonka toy for grown-ups.


However, as soon as I got behind the wheel I discovered that the cute, toy car looks were matched by a cheap, toy car feel inside. The plastics were very plastic. The washable seat covers are an extra provided by the trim level, but their bulky zippers and poor fit made it feel like cheap aftermarket covers had been put over the otherwise comfortable seats. Most unfortunate of all was the fit and finish of the controls, with wiper and indicator stalks having sharp edges of plastic as if it was part of a model kit that hadn’t been properly cut from the sprue. The air-conditioning and satellite navigation were both functional and effective. The 7″touchscreen used for navigation and entertainment was bright and clear, and the DAB radio functional. In use though they all felt a bit slow to respond to user input, and juggling between navigation and radio did not become any easier as the week wore on. I’d expected parking sensors and a power driver’s seat to be standard in a car costing over £16000, but the seats were actually from a left hand drive vehicle. This left the manual recliner wheels wedged uncomfortably next to the seat-belt sockets. There was also no rear camera, or parking sensor.

The gearbox was firm, and the clutch nicely balanced, but both suffered from the under-powered 1.5l dCi 90 power unit. For a car that looks like it could charge through the countryside it would sometimes struggle alarmingly with hills, unless you were willing to shift gear frequently. The stop and start functionality seemed to have a mind of its own, never once cutting in during long inner-city red traffic light sessions, but deciding to cut the engine at a t-junction on a hill when I stopped for the briefest instant. The car then subsequently stalled as it could not restart itself on the hill.

It may be unique to my Captur, but stalling a car with a push button to start the engine, and stop/start technology is an interesting experience. As a driver that grew up controlling the engine myself, I expect to press in the clutch, turn the keys again to restart the engine, then lift clutch and continue merrily on my way. So I try a logically similar process, depress the clutch fully, and press the start button. However, the car has already decided to restart itself, so my press of the start button STOPS the engine. There then follows a brief moment as I trigger the hazard warning lights, because you never meet anyone on this hill under normal circumstances but when you’re stalling a rental car there is suddenly an audience behind you. This was followed by another short interlude as the car argued with me over which of us should restart the engine, which was finally resolved by me sitting perfectly still and waiting for the car to give up. I could then begin completely afresh, and with much revving drag the poor thing over the crest and through the junction.

So overall, it looks like a toy car, feels like it was made like a toy car, and has some “entertaining” driving habits. It was fun to tootle around the countryside in, but I’d suggest a more beefy engine, and by that price there are better soft-road choices to be had!

Renault Captur Dynmique Nav 1.5l dCi eco  4/10

Innovation 4/10      Handling&Performance 4/10       Safety&Comfort 4/10


At the Alte Nationalgalerie

I went for a wander around the Alte Nationalgalerie this afternoon. Normally I wander from room to room, finding works I find inspirational or beautiful, and I become overwhelmed. By the time I leave I’m lucky if I remember a single name of an artist, let alone a painting. So this time I did something different, I took notes as I went.

So here are my favourite works currently on display at Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie!

John Constable, Mill on the river stour, the gate invites you in to this peaceful, bucolic scene.

Gustave Courbet, the wave, the dark power of this image is incredible.

Anton von Werner, Im Etappenquartier vor Paris,the light! This painting sparkles like crystal from its own candle light!

Franz von Stuck, Tilla Durieux depicting Circe, her expression and the contrast of the vibrant red of her hair and the colours of her dress.


Franz von Stuck, Tilla Durieux depicting Circe

Carl Schuch, Toter Fuchs, the fox fur looks like you could reach out and stroke it.

Hans Thoma, Sommer, the blue of the sky is magical. This scan does not do it justice.

Karl Buchholz, Frühling auf dem Dorf, you can hear the birdsong just looking at this picture.


Franz von Lenbach, Lady Curzon (study), her eyes, her expression. You almost expect her to suddenly step out of this sketched study.

Gustav Spangenberg, Der Zug des Todes, haunting, terrifying, and magical all at once. The train of death!

Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Der Morgen, the light again is unbelievable. The sun rising behind a copse of trees is captured brilliantly, and stops the viewer in their tracks!


Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Schloß am Strom, the stag, the castle, the water, the light. Amazing!

What amazed me was what didn’t make the list; the cast of Rodin’s The Thinker, works by Monet, Degas, Renoir. Don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful and I stand and gaze at them in wonder but they don’t seem to stop me in my tracks like these images did today.