Saturday, 30 March 2013

Paris Photo Shoot


Le Raboteurs des Parquet

First up was a re-making of this painting by Gustave Caillebotte, which I believe is in the Musee D'Orsay.

After clearing away the furniture we made some wood shavings by curling strips of paper, and then set the scene with these, some tools, the bottle of wine and glass and some bags at the rear.

Sam was photographed with his shirt off in the three positions and the photograph was then assembled in photoshop and processed to give the monochrome look. The angle of shot is not quite correct but this I think is the best I can do in a room this size.


In this version Niamh and Ella play the role of the 'scrapers'. The natural daylight is better in this one. I blame Sam as his shot was made later in the day when he got home.


Glen Baxter

Niamh went through a series of postcards to find a pose to copy. I can't remember the name of this one. I'll find out and update this later. When Niamh turned up after school with her friend Ella it was easier to get them both to pose in the same, but opposite, way.

They were just sitting on the floor, which was still clear from the previous shot, and the white wall. It was tricky balancing the natural light with the flash so that they didn't throw up harsh shadows. I tried with a warm gel on the flash, but I liked the colder light better.

The idea to make a sort of Glen Baxter cartoon came about later when I was messing around in Photoshop. So I just masked them out of the room and searched for a suitable background to drop in behind. I liked this view of the Seven Sisters on the South Downs in England. I used a painterly effect to make it more 'cartoony' and this meant I didn't have to worry about the exactness of the mask either.


On this pair I dropped in a photograph of some old tree roots. This tree has subsequently been cut down. Like many Beeches in the park at Hof ter Saksen they became diseased. They have been replace though.

You'll have to excuse my poor excuses of captions. They are not as 'off the wall' as the real Glen Baxter would have done.


The Arch

For this shot I simply dropped in a couple of borders around Niamh and Ella. It's a nice and relaxed shot.


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Baking in Paris


Gingerly: A Solid Cocktail

I spent another long w/e in Paris nominally in charge of a couple of kids whilst the parents were off gallivanting.

I might add that it was not 'baking' in Paris it was perishingly cold. Spring, I am reliably informed, is still weeks away and we can look forward to a White Easter and April snow showers. Great!

To ease the pain I ransacked the larder at the said establishment and thought I'd lessen the future possibilities for food poisoning by using as much of the beyond the 'sell by date' stuff as I could find.

Unfortunately this left me with the need to use Custard Powder and Jellies.

First up then was a Solid Cocktail. That is a cocktail made with Jelly but something more than an American College style Jello Shot. I only had two flavours to choose from, Orange or Raspberry. A deflated bottle of Ginger Beer was languishing in the fridge and of course the house was not without a bottle of Gin.

Method: the jelly was melted with as little boiling water as possible and left tio dissolve and cool. A good shot of Gin was added and topped off with the remains of the Ginger Beer. Two tall glasses were found and the cocktail was poured into these and placed in the fridge to set overnight.

The glasses were tall Mort Subite glasses: this is a Belgium Lambic or Geuze fruit beer which comes in Cherry, Raspberry and Peach flavours. The beer is sold in a traditional cafe of the same name in Brussels where the beer is sold on draught by suitably moody waiters.

When examined the following day the cocktails had set and a taste of one revealed that they still had a fizziness captured within. The second cocktail was then left outside the fridge until it melted to the extent that the bubbles were starting to be released and it was then placed back in the fridge so that the bubbles, now enlarged and visible, were captured in the set.

Kit-Kat Kustard Kake


My current favourite baker is Dan Lepard. His 'Short and Sweet' book is genius.

This recipe is based on Dan's Apple, Walnut and Custard Cake, which is from the book mentioned.

The recipe is really three recipes in one.

First make a custard using the custard powder and make it using half the quantity of milk specified and pour it into a shallow container and leave it to cool in the fridge until it is set solid. You should be able to cut it up into wobbly blocks.

Second make your sponge mixture. Whatever you favourite proportions are, cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, and then stir in the raising agent and flour.

Third make your topping. Dan caramelises apples with sugar and walnuts. You could use anything. We used Kit-Kat Balls which are like Maltesers. Which to use? Unfortunately K-Ks are Nestle.

Final preparation is to cut up the wobbly set custard and stir the blocks into the cake mixture gently and then pour into a cake tin and then poke in as many chocolate balls as you can. In retrospect we think a more gooey chocolate ball might work better, Rolo's perhaps.

Bake in the oven at 200c for 50 minutes or whatever.



By special demand I was asked to make doughnuts. Not a bad idea as we could make a huge batch of dough and use some for doughnuts and some for pizza. I also reserved some for Croissants but the less said about that the better. Croissants! in Paris? What was I thinking?

Meanwhile we rustled up a dough and put most of it aside for pizza later.

After the usual palaver the first rising was knocked down and divided into 9 balls: 3 doughnuts each. A hole was punched into each to make the classic ring shape and these were left to prove a second time.

Next up a frying pan was filled with a 2cm depth of sunflower oil and these was heated to a dangerous temperature and tested by dropping a small piece of dough in. If it fizzed and browned immediately it was hot enough. The risen doughnuts were dropped in, two at a time, and browned on each side, before being lifted out and drained on a napkin. The hope was that they were sufficiently cooked on the inside without being scorched on the outside. A tricky business.

The next problem was getting the sugar coating to stick. Who knew this could be a problem? We had to brush them with sugar water before rolling them in granular sugar. (An attempt to colour this sugar was a failure). The doughnuts were then iced with a paste of coloured icing sugar. Again it was difficult to colour and the icing ran straight off the doughnut.

So the presentation of the doughnuts wasn't really up to standard. However they were piping hot, were sufficiently sticky on the outside and gooey in the middle and gave an immediate sugar rush which migrated to a sugar migraine which remained for the rest of the day. Nice!

In future I'll take the kids to a funfair (preferably in Belgium) where you can observe a machine automatically make the mini-doughnuts which are dropped into a canal of oil where they float along as they cook, are flipped over half-way along and then tipped out into sugar quarry before before served in paper cones.

A Jelly Trio


This dessert took three days to assemble and also made use of the out-of-date materials.

The bottom layer was a Raspberry Jelly dissolved in the usual way with boiling water, but then diluted with only half as much cold water specified. A stronger jelly resulted. This was placed in a series of glasses in the fridge.

The middle layer was made by mixing up a custard using the custard powder and sugar and adding an equal amount of drinking chocolate powder. These were creamed together using some hot milk and then diluted with the rest of the hot milk. Only half as much milk was used as per the instructions on the box. Some real chocolate was thrown into the mix to give give an extra chocolate lift and deepen the colour. When this was sufficiently cool and gloopy it was poured on top of the set jelly in the glasses.

The top layer was the most problematical. What we wanted was a Pink Blancmange. Once again however we were foiled  by the uselessness of our colouring agents and the milk resolutely refused to go pink even after we added some strawberry cordial. To make the milk set we dissolved some sheets of gelatin in cold water and then wrung them out before mixing them into the warmed milk. In future we would probably use agar as our setting agent. It took an age for the blancmange to start to set but eventually we risked pouring it on top of the jelly and chocolate layers already assembled and left it to set overnight.

It turned out very well, though of course the Blancmange was NOT pink.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

House Light Gallery

House Light Gallery the Photographs of Steven House

New Web Site

The House Light Gallery web site has been given a re-design and moved to a new host.

The new web site provides the following:

  • a way to browse through Galleries my Photographs in a number of different ways
  • a way to order Ready-Made, but Hand-Made Mounted Prints from an on-line shop with a check-out via Paypal
  • a way to order Hand-Made Custom Prints where you specify the print, the size and the details about any Matte and its Mount
  • a way to order some prints from Third-Party Printers
  • a way to order Books of my Prints

Any feedback on the look and feel of the website is welcome.

The website is accompanied by a new House Light Gallery Page on Facebook too. Any 'likes' would be appreciated.

Other shenanigans are at the House Light Galleries at Google+, Tumblr and 500px, and of course at my own faithful Flickr.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

New Zealand, South Island - Cycle Tour Map


A Summary of the South Island Tour

Overall distance was about 2500km or 1500 miles, between February 3rd and March 20th 1993.

Finished off with a w/e wandering around the Marlborough vineyards with Jo. We did this on foot starting with a champagne breakfast somewhere (getting there by taxi first) and then visiting a string of different vineyards until I was carrying a case of a selection of wines. I was intending to have these shipped home but when I enquired after the costs of shipping and the duty I would have to pay I decided against it. They were eventually drunk at a party at Jo's place, in Wellington, before I left.


Here are my cheats:

1) Rode on the Kingston Flyer Train, about 10 miles
2) Accepted a lift in a pick-up for the last few miles into Te Anau, may be 15 miles
3) Took the bus from Te Anau into Milford Sound, 80 miles
4) Took the bus out of Milford Sound to the tunnel, 30 miles
5) Rode the "Southerner" train from Invercargill to Dunedin, 120 miles
6) Rode the Taieri Gorge Railway from Dunedin to Pukerangi, 50 miles
7) Rode the Post Boat from Nelson to Pohara, 60 miles



1) I should have ridden to Christchurch
2) I should have gone to Stewart Island
3) I should have rode the train over Arthur's Pass to Christchurch and then ridden back over it
4) I should have found someone to go on a sea-kayaking/camping tour in Abel Tasman National Park
5) I should have gone back!
6) I should have done some 'tramping'







Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Abel Tasman and Queen Charlotte


To Abel Tasman National Park and back


This morning I did some shopping and then collected my bike. From the docks in Nelson I caught a catamaran water-taxi to Pohara, the other side of the Golden Bay Park. Like Milford Sound only one road goes out to Abel Tasman National Park and back and I thought I could avoid riding it both ways by going by boat on the outward journey. I was the only passenger on a trip which took four hours. Mostly we had parcels to deliver. At Pohara the camp-site was only minutes away. I was greeted by extremely inquisitive ducks and during the night, when it was raining, my tent was visited by a hedgehog who made a hell of a racket rummaging around my rubbish bag in the tent foyer.


The next day it rained on and off all day. All I managed was a short fifteen mile ride to Takaka where I did some shopping and watched some cricket in the pub. It was also a very dreary drizzly evening.


At last the sun came out and I had a chance to dry the tent. I continued my ride along the northern coast of South Island and found another camp-site on the sea. After setting up I continued by ride, without panniers, to Farewell Spit the westernmost point on this coast. I also travelled a bit south on an unmade road to Whanganui Inlet. This was very isolated. In the afternoon I sunbathed and walked along the beach. It was a beautiful and hazy evening.




Today was another perfect and cloudless day. My ride was back along the way I'd come to Takaka, with a side-trip to Collingwood. At the base of Takaka Hill I stopped at the Rat Trap Inn and had a beer whilst watching some cricket. It then took me an hour to ride the five miles to the top of the hill. Definitely the steepest climb yet. After that it was an exhilarating downhill ride until I discovered one more hill to climb before reaching the camp-site. I had a couple of beers in the Paradise Cafe that evening.

Marlborough, Vineyards and Queen Charlotte Drive

The ride to Mapua was a short one of about two hours. Once again I spent the afternoon in the sun and walking around the beaches. This is a very antiquated place with a fifties feel.


The following days ride took me through Nelson and then over two steep climbs to Pelorus Bridge. The camp-site was peaceful and quiet, apart from the sound of rutting deer. I took some nature walks through the forest.

The next day was also a short ride to Havelock, but after setting up camp I rode further on to Renwick and visited several vineyards. It was a bit of a struggle cycling back.

My final days ride in the south Island took me along the Queen Charlotte Drive into Picton. The road itself was atrocious but the views were very picturesque over the sounds. I found a motel in town and booked in for the week-end as Jo was coming over from Wellington.

Monday, 4 March 2013


To Greymouth

The ride from Ross to Greymouth was fantastic. I had a tail wind all the way and managed an average speed of 18kph for the ride. After a huge lunch at Hokitika I continued my ride up the coast across several bridges shared with the railway. At Greymouth I called on John and Clair west and their daughter Rachel. These are friends of Dale and Sandra's who they met in Brisbane in 1984. In the afternoon we went for a drive to Lake Kanerie and a walk through the 'bush'. They were kind enough to put me up for the night. I remember we had whitebait for supper, but instead of being small fish an inch or two long, these were a a mass of fish fry. Delicious.


Pancake Rocks  and Cape Foulwind


Next up was a long ride up the rocky coast to Panakaiki. I walked out to the famous pancake rocks and also saw a blow-hole. The coastline continued in an up and down fashion until the road cut inland across the hills to Charleston. From here I took a lonely road to Cape Foulwind. I wasn't that bleak actually and I was amused by several Waka wandering about. This is a curious flightless bird. In Westport I stayed in a rather scruffy bunkhouse in the camp-site all by myself.



Up the Buller's Gorge

The next days ride took me up the spectacular Buller's Gorge where I bumped into Terry who shared the ride with me for some of the way. The day was sunny and bright and we enjoyed the sunshine all day. At one point we took a break and walked across the river on a rope-bridge. That night I camped next to a graveyard.

Nelson Lakes

The following day I continued up the Buller's Gorge, but the weather became cloudy and the landscape lost its lushness. I found the terminus of an old railway line and spent an hour or so wandering along the disused track and wandered through s disused tunnel as well. That evening I camped in Nelson Lakes National Park and was immediately plagued by wasps. The evening was spoilt by a couple of young lads breaking windows in the Picnic House. I surreptitiously sneaked out to the Rangers Lodge and called the emergency number. About half-hour later the rangers came and arrested the lads, All this was a bit scary happening as it did in the middle of the night.

The Golden Downs to Nelson

The next ride took me over the Golden Downs to Nelson. This was a beautiful ride until I reached the main road where the traffic became quite heavy into town. In Nelson itself I put my bike in for a service - a place Vic had suggested - and spent the afternoon wandering around town. I stayed at a backpackers place.


Sunday, 3 March 2013

Over the Haast Pass and Riding the West Coast


The Haast Pass

It rained heavily in the night and I woke to an almost flooded tent. I spent the hours in the morning attempting to dry my tent and trying to decide whether to go over the Haast Pass that day or not, In the end the sun came out and I decided to go.

On the pass itself roadworks were holding up the traffic which was only being let through on the hour. Luckily I only had to wait ten minutes. The climb, on the final stretch of gravel road, was relatively short and painless, though one of the workmen did shout out to me that it was another five miles to the top. It was in fact only a few hundred yards!


Once over the pass you enter the West Coast of the South Island which is part of a huge National Park. It is also a temperate rainforest, with about seven metres of rain a year! I wasn't surprised therefore when the rain returned, and didn't stop for the next two days. Once the traffic had gone I had the road to myself for hours at a time, and although it was difficult to admire the mountains, the forest, the river and the waterfalls in the driving rain it was a fabulous downhill ride.

On the way I passed an American couple and rode with them for a while. After an hour or so of incessant rain I was soaked, but not cold. However when the valley flattened towards the coast this cold biting wind started blowing in our faces and almost brought us to a standstill. At Haast village I didn't fancy camping. The camp-ground looked waterlogged, but the two motels there were fully booked. I looked a right sight wandering into these, dripping wet and squelching everywhere.


Eventually I had to face a further fourteen miles down the coast to Okuru where I managed to share a bunk room with some Austrians. I bumped into one of them again in Auckland. The room had a small heater so I managed to dry everything off. I'd ridden sixty miles in five hours today, mostly in the rain.

A Temperate Rainforest to Fox Glacier

Today was worse. Eighty miles in seven hours, all of them in the rain. Almost everything survived dry, except the clothes I was wearing and my diary. The rain washed out the bottom four lines on every page! The ride was exhilarating though. After riding back to Haast village I rode up the coast through rainforest most of the way. I had three steep climbs in succession along the top of cliffs overlooking the crashing surf swirling around rock pinnacles, and around headlands where the strength of the wind almost stopped me. Through the forest the sounds of the birds and frogs was incredible. Not many people out on the roads in this weather.


When I got to the village at Fox Glacier I was lucky enough to get the last bed in the bunk-house. Everyone was very subdued here though. Many people had been trapped by the rain-storms for several days and hadn't had the opportunity to go hiking up the glaciers and mountains.

To Franz Josef and beyond

The next day was a relatively short ride, but this included three steep climbs between the Fox and the Franz Josef Glaciers. Finally the rain stopped and I had a chance to admire the fine views of the snow-clad mountains and the forest. After a short break at the Franz Josef village I continued onto Whataroa where I stayed in a motel. I spent another evening drying everything out.


Onto the Empire Hotel at Ross

The day after that was also up and down, especially over Mount Hercules. The rain managed to hold off and I stopped for lunch at Harihari and later, at Ianthe I chatted to an old couple who were also cycling. At Ross I decided to stay at the Empire Hotel, a pub really, and spent the evening at the bar chatting to the locals. The highlight was the fact that my room had a bath. After improvising a plug I managed to enjoy a long soak after drinking a couple of jugs.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Go West


Over the Hills to Wanaka

As we packed in the morning we had an audience marvelling at the compactness our our gear and how it fitted into our panniers. This was hilarious. Then they gave us a royal send off!

The day was again bright and sunny although later we had a strong headwind to fight. The road up to the dam was steep and then we followed a newly flooded valley up to Cromwell. I'd been here before, two weeks ago! After a stop at a road-side fruit stall we continued onto Wanaka. Whilst we were pulled over brewing a cup of tea a tandem approached. We waved it down and offered them a brew. They were from England but had emigrated about a year ago, and were doing a day trip with the baby in tow. They caught up with us later at a small cafe.

The final run saw us riding down the hill into Wanaka. This was great, with the mountains in the background and the forest surrounding the lake in the foreground. We found a hostel overlooking the lake and booked ourselves into the bunk room. We took a walk around town in the evening. Everything is much greener here after the brownness of Otago.


Dusty Roads with Spectacular Mountains and Lakes

I road alone today as Stefan decided to stay another day. I briefly bumped into him again  months later in the North Island on the Coramandel Peninsular, but we were going in opposite directions. This day was very hot and I had to be careful not to burn my arms. The ride took me along the side of Lake Hawea before crossing over back to Lake Wanaka. Parts of the road here were also gravel and quite treacherous. In fact it was so dry I had to stop every time a car went past as they kicked up such a cloud of dust.. Fortunately this wasn't very often.


The camp-ground at Makarora was small and mostly catered for people staying in 'A' shaped cabins. The kitchen area was very roomy though and the atmosphere relaxed.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Into Central Otago


The Brown, Dusty, and Rutted Roads

I left early the next morning and agreed to meet Rick and Jen later in Ranfurly. The countryside here is very brown and dusty and the road often degenerated into gravel and mud. This made the going slow and dangerous. It took me about four hours to go forty miles. I stopped for lunch for a long while, sitting in the sun, expecting them to catch up, but they didn't. Eventually I got to the small town of Ranfurly and after a tea and a sandwich I found the camp-site and set up.


Later I rode into town to do some shopping and whilst hosing the dust off my bike at a local garage, they turned up. Apparently Jen's bike had broken a couple of spokes on those tortuously rutted roads. This town didn't have a bicycle shop, but I had a couple of spokes to give them. Unfortunately it was also the back wheel and none of us had the right tools. Rick just hashed it up enough to last until the next town.


That evening we went for a drink in the local pub. Saturday night out!

Cricket and Gold

Rick and Jen decided to stay in Ranfurly that day so I left alone. Just out of town though I bumped into a Swiss guy, called Stefan, and we rode together for the rest of the day. We took a small by-way down this valley, climbed a steep hill out of it and then had a great downhill ride to a pub on the far side. We sat in the sun and had a sandwich. My odometer went through a thousand miles today.


After stopping off at another small town for a break we continued up the valley to a town called Clyde, near the dam of the same name. The camp-ground was right next to the cricket ground, and, it being a Sunday, a game was in progress. Stefan was mystified but I gained a few brownie points by enquiring after the score. This proved useful as we were invited into the club-house for a drink. I also met a chap from Riverton who knew Graham Robertson (Jo's Uncle). Small World. He also gave me a drink!

We camped beside the river listening to the sound of a dredger. Gold?