Five Happy Things We Did On Jane’s {Redacted}th Birthday Weekend

Two weeks ago it was my birthday weekend. This weekend it was Jane’s turn. Here’s what happened:

All photos Fujifilm X100T

1: Curry and playing games with friends. I’m officially the world’s worst Uno player, although it doesn’t help when everyone gangs up on you. But hey, I take it in good humour. Bastards.

2: Watercolours!

3: Chilling!

4: Sunday afternoon in the pub with friends, for the sole purpose of showing the kids how not to behave. Children’s education is so important.

5: Lots of walking with the dogs.

Coco’s recovering from an operation, so she’s wearing a très chic little French number she just threw on. This is far more fashionable than the usual cone of shame. Is cultural appropriation OK when it’s dogs doing it?

Four Happy Things I Did On My 53rd Birthday Weekend

1: Hung around with small humans and small animals

2: Got taken to Wagamamma. Other restaurants are available, but this is my favourite. I am unsophisticated.

3: Walked to the pub and back for Sunday lunch

4: Walked the dogs on an autumnal misty morning

All photos taken with Fujifilm X100T

Bertie News | Episode 05: 22 Weeks Old

I’ve just arrived back home after another trip to Baku.

There’s been a real change in the weather since I’ve been away. Autumn appears to have officially arrived, neatly coinciding with the end of British Summer Time today.

There’s been a change in Bertie, too. He’s had another growth spurt and is clearly really a golden retriever who’s been disguised with a set of stick-on comedy spaniel ears.

But Coco seems to think he’s a keeper, so I guess he’ll be sticking around.

Bertie the working cocker spaniel puppy at 22 weeks / Midhurst & Pound Commons / Fujifilm X100T

Working Cocker Spaniel Puppy 22 Weeks

Working Cocker Spaniel Puppy 22 Weeks

Working Cocker Spaniel Puppy 22 Weeks

Working Cocker Spaniel Puppy 22 Weeks

Working Cocker Spaniel Puppy 22 Weeks

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Bertie News | Episode 01: Eight Weeks Old

After much anticipation, Bertie the working cocker spaniel left his siblings and went to live with Jane at 8 weeks old. His new family now consists of two dogs, four chickens, one cat, and two children. I got to meet Bertie on his second day with the family and had a very happy weekend.

Over the years, Cocker Spaniels have been bred into two different types of cockers – the ‘working’ cocker and the ‘show’ cocker. Although their temperaments are very similar – both are very gentle and soft-hearted – the working cocker is a natural and eager field dog and is almost tireless. Coco is also a working cocker and it’s impossible to wear her out. These are not dogs for inactive people with little free time. It’s going to be interesting to see if Bertie will grow up to have the same amount of stamina as Coco.

Even though Bertie’s tiny at the moment, he seems to be a robust little dog. He’s curious, gentle, and self-contained. I think he’s going to have a very happy life with his new family. That’s a wonderful gift you can give to any animal.

Bertie the working cocker spaniel at 8 weeks old / Fujifilm X100T

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It’s not always easy bringing a new puppy into a household that already has a dog. Coco has had to put Bertie in his place a few times. But Bertie’s a resilient little chap and bounces right back. And I think Coco is starting to realise that Bertie’s not here to steal all her food. Although clearly the same can’t be said about her bed.

working cocker spaniel puppy at 8 weeks

working cocker spaniel puppy at 8 weeks

working cocker spaniel puppy at 8 weeks

working cocker spaniel puppy at 8 weeks

working cocker spaniel puppy at 8 weeks

working cocker spaniel puppy at 8 weeks

working cocker spaniel puppy at 8 weeks

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Not everyone was quite so pleased to meet Bertie…

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Baku In Two Hours

Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan, the largest city on the Caspian Sea, topped and tailed by Russia and Iran. The name Baku is derived from the original Persian name, Bād-kube. This broadly translates to the rather catchy ‘Place Where Wind Is Strong And Pounding’. Which is fortunate, as when I was there it was consistently above 35℃. The breeze definitely kept things bearable. In the winter it can get quite severe.

Baku was part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991. Russian is still spoken by a proportion of the population, and there’s definitely a slight soviet flavour. But the city also has both a European and a middle-eastern feel. If Paris and Dubai had an illicit fling, and the love child was shipped off to a Russian Uncle, then that’s Baku.

Baku / Fujifilm X100T

Baku

Baku

Baku

Baku

Baku

In spite of what the title says, I actually spent five days in Baku. But most of the daylight hours were spent working at the airport, and consequently I had just a single afternoon to look around. Ideally, I would’ve liked to take my Nikon F100, but I knew there’d be few chances to use it. And I didn’t want to put my film through at least two x-ray scans without even having used any. Instead, I took my compact and perfectly formed Fujifilm X100T.

The X100T was given to me as compensation a reward for 10 years service with the company. I don’t normally get on with digital cameras, especially compacts. I don’t even like using my smartphone for pictures. I assume they chose it based on its vintage styling. But Fuji’s camera has many of the things you normally don’t get in a compact. A viewfinder, for one thing. And ‘real’ controls; an aperture ring and a shutter speed dial. Best of all for me, it shoots natively in black and white, and crucially, the photos rarely need any editing. I shoot it much the same way I would any film camera and don’t need to spend hours editing in front of a computer. Just like film, all the choices are made before and not after I press the shutter. Oh, and it also features a fixed 35mm (35m equivalent) lens, the same focal length I use on my Nikon F100. I feel right at home.

Baku

Baku

Baku

Baku

Baku

I see that some sources refer to it as the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, but my visa just said the Republic of Azerbaijan. Democratic in a country’s name is always a bit of a warning sign. Yep, I’m looking at you Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Anyway, I’m not going to make any comment on the state of Azerbaijan’s democracy. But it’s worth mentioning the 2013 election, where the incumbent Government won with 72% of the votes. The one problem? The results were accidentally released via a mobile app the day before voting started. In the words of one of our greatest philosophers: “Doh!”

Baku

Baku

Baku

Baku

Baku

Baku

Baku

Baku

Baku

Baku

Baku

Baku

Baku

Go and visit Baku. It’s warm (in the summer), the food’s great, the people are lovely, the city is safe, and the atmosphere is relaxed. And even though the driving’s vaguely disconcerting, it still only scores about 5/10 on the Cairo Brown Trousers scale.