The Exile Files

Raging Against the Outrageous. Laughter and Insanity Abound.

Who are you?

Posted by Exile on June 11, 2020

Have you ever wondered about the reply you get to that question? Or, indeed, about the answer you give?
Ask people this and they will generally reply by telling you their name and, almost invariably, their occupation. I have never allowed what I do to become who I am, so I rarely mention it. I don’t care what you do. I ask who you are.  Your occupation is of little or no interest to me.

These days people are completely consumed by the apparent need to identify themselves as something instead of being more involved with, or aware of, who they are. They are vegan, gay, black, brown, white, trans-sexual,  muslim, christian, republican, democrat, socialist, atheist or whatever.

None of that interests me either.  You were born with your skin colour. That can’t be changed. So what? It isn’t relevant to who you are. Religion? Believe what you like. I don’t care. What you eat is none of my business either. Your sexual orientation is your business. I don’t need or want to know. How you vote is between you and the ballot box. It makes little difference to me.
We are, each and all, a complicated mix of all these things. They represent markers in our way of life, not the person we are.

So, who am I?
I am father to my daughter and grandfather to my grandson. I am husband to my wife. I am friend to my friends. I live by a few simple rules. I try not to directly offend anyone and I expect the same respect from them. I try to help those who are less fortunate than I, but I cannot save the entire world, so I won’t try. I believe one should attempt, at least, to look after oneself.  Charities won’t help but simple charity can. Live and let live is my policy. My father once told me that life is best tackled by valuing three things. “Be honest, fair and reasonable, son.” He said. I try to live by that. It was good advice. Treat me with respect and I will return the favour.  Behave properly around me and I will also behave properly.

My sexual preferences, diet, beliefs and political orientation are none of your business.
My skin colour, gender and nationality was not a choice  I was allowed to make, nor was it yours. I believe one cannot help being what one is, but one can decide who one is and how one behaves.

I am aware of the things I value and the things I believe to be right, or wrong. I am aware of the choices I made in becoming who I am at the moment.
Therefore, all these things are a part of me. I cannot be just one thing or identify myself as a single part of who I am. Doing so would show a great lack of respect for myself.

To those who identify themselves as being the one thing, be it a colour, sex, occupation, by political orientation, diet or religion, or anything else, I have only one thing to say:

I identify you immediately as being thoughtless at best and, probably, stupid.

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The New Tripod

Posted by Exile on May 12, 2020

I needed it..

See, my old tripod couldn’t take the weight of a Sigma 150-600 mm lens. No matter how much I tried to tighten the head it drooped ever so slowly downward and became very irritating. It had to go..

The internet is my friend and if I couldn’t go out to investigate the possibilities then I could sit here and explore. I went to my “go to” camera supplier. They had a huge selection. I was looking for something that would hold the 4½ Kg that the big zoom lens weighs and yet still could be brought up to a good working height. I’m a six-footer and I hate having to bend over too far to see what I’m shooting at. The camera has a screen on the back, fully articulated too, but I do like to use the viewfinder where possible.

I found two or three possible candidates.

Let’s be clear here, We are in a crisis situation thanks to some vile disease brought to us by our Chinese chums. Again. They gave us SARS, bird flu, MERS and more bloody bird flu. Apparently they weren’t happy with the result of letting that lot go, so they let Corona Virus loose on us, finally getting a world wide response. Talk about attention seeking. Now, the world’s enconomies are shot to bits they can cheaply buy up half the industry on the planet at bargain prices. Sneaky, eh? Guess what. I’ve given up buying Chinese goods. I don’t care if it is cheap. I won’t buy it any more.

Unfortunately almost everything you can buy these days is made in China. I needed to do some weeding then. And my candidate list withered away very quickly. Finally, the one that stood out was Italian made. Italy needs our help now. They suffered badly with Corona. I decided to go with that.

Manfrotto-Element-Traveller-Big-with-Ball-HeadIt’s a Manfrotto. The Big Element Traveller. Not ideal for those who shoot video but I don’t shoot video. I do stills. The thing can hold up to 8 Kg. It comes with a ball head. The legs will fold out to three different angles. One can invert the centre column, hanging the camera under the tripod and inverting it. One leg will screw off and, with the ball head, it becomes a monopod. There are 4 different colours of decoration on the jointy bits. I went with grey. Red, blue and yellow aren’t that prominent in nature as a rule.
The ball head will also tilt 90° allowing the man behind the camera to shift from portrait to landscape format. There are four different fixed heights according to normal leg adjustment but in reality, the adjustment is infinitely variable according to terrain. It’s light enough to be carried easily and really compact when folded up. Only 42 cm long. It stands solidly.
It has spirit levels in two different orientations on the ball head. Exchangeable feet, rubber or pointy pins. A carrying bag. And adjustment tools to maintain the thing. I couldn’t ask for more. Price? Reasonable. Less than £100,00.

Can’t wait to try it out. My living room isn’t the ideal place… Maybe in the garden!

Bugger China.

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Going for Gold..

Posted by Exile on February 24, 2020

..and getting it!

I had a busy and interesting weekend. The Danish National Championships (Masters) in Odense.

Odense is around a hundred miles away and I didn’t relish the thought of driving 100 miles to get there and then have to compete all day in what promised to be a long competition, judging by the amount of competitors. I decided to drive down to the island of Fyen on the saturday and find a Bed and Breakfast to allow me to meet up somewhat fresh and well rested before battle commenced. The drive was atrocious due to the remains of storm Dennis, or whatever it was called but I arrived safely and spent a relaxed evening at my lodgings, slept like a baby and started the big day with a huge breakfast.

I was there to compete not just in the individual event but was teamed up with two others from my club in the team event. We were fairly confident that we could win that because there was little opposition and we even knew who they were. We knew we were better than them from the outset. The individual competition was the interesting bit..

As usual we started with the qualifying rounds. I started strongly and improved on my own personal best. After the two rounds I had done well and found myself in 6th place on the leader board. Good. I was in the finals then. 13 of us left.
The top 3 were allowed a “bye”, which meant the bottom 10, including me, went to knock-out to thin it down to 8 combatants.
This is normal and I’m used to knockout tournaments, so, I thought, all to win and nothing to lose. absolutely thrashed my first opponent. Knockout is five rounds with three arrows. Win three rounds and you’re good. We only went three rounds… and I was in the quarter finals.
I was a bit worried that if I won this next round I might have to shoot it out with one of my team mates. He was up there too..
Unfortunately for him, he lost his quarter final while I managed, after four rounds, to defeat the man put against me.

I’ve never made it to the semi finals before. I was feeling quite pleased with myself. The opposition was getting tougher though and despite going the five rounds, I was eventually beaten by the silver medallist. He looked relieved when it was all over. I congratulated him and wished him luck in the final. He admitted I’d shaken him though and promised to do his best.

So I was in the bronze medal area now. My opponent was a guy I’d been following all day. We were very evenly matched and scoring consistently, there were very few points difference between us. This was going to be interesting.

I took the first round. He took the second. I took the third and he the fourth. So we’re even at the final round.
The fifth round was a corker. Both shooting the best we could, we scored even points. 
Shoot out it was then, One arrow and the best man wins. We toed the line and took aim. Just as I was about to release what could have been the deciding arrow, he let loose. I held mine. He scored a five. The red mist was upon me now. I took another breath, relaxed and let fly. I hit the eight ring and knew I had beaten him. It was an exciting match and we even recieved some applause.
I had the bronze.

So far so good.

So on to the team finals. There were only two teams. Not many clubs can get a whole team together in our class so the competion there is never prolonged. This was going to be quick and we decided it was going to be short and sweet and merciless. Two men, one woman on our team. She is the current holder of the Danish record for her class and we two men had done very well all day. It was in the bag, as they say.
It was. We floored them in the opening round, which shook them up a bit and continued to punish them in the following two. No contest. 3-0.

We had the gold.

I’m still getting used to the idea of officially being no.3 in my age class for the whole of Denmark. And a gold medallist to boot.
I think I’m actually more proud of the bronze. I had to get that myself.

The results stand for themselves. Our lady partner took a gold in her class and set a new Danish record in the qualifiers, beating her old record by a considerable margin. We were three that entered and we came home with 5 medals.

Not bad for a club with limited resources and difficult training facilities.

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Not Seeing the Woods…

Posted by Exile on October 31, 2019

..for the trees.

We had a rather nice break in the autumn rain the other day. We’ve been having some lousy weather lately so I decided it might be a good idea to get out while I could and take the camera for a walk in the woods. Everything looks nice in the autumn colour chart so I reckoned I’d be alright snapping away at the pretty bits.

I started on the tracks but soon digressed off into the wild and woody part of the local woodland. It’s called Kongelunden. Which means it was probably in royal posession at some point. I don’t know if it still is. Either way, it’s still a very used and well trafficked area with joggers, idiots on bikes and horsey types galloping about the undergrowth. I wanted to get away from them so into the woods I went, off the beaten track, which can be a dodgy affair if your navigation isn’t up to scratch.

I soon realised that I wasn’t particularly well equipped to do traditional woodland photography. My lenses have too little a field of vision. Not in depth but in width. I was getting what I call keyhole shots. Nowhere near broad enough. Although, one or two came out quite well, as you can see below.
I need something bigger, which I don’t have. Well, not yet at least. I was a bit despondant at that point but then I realised, that if the devil is in the detail then maybe I should concentrate my efforts on just that. Detail. There is more in the woods than trees. So I started looking a bit closer to my feet instead of into the distance. And hey ho, a whole new field of choice opened up. If you can’t shoot the big game, shoot the little stuff instead.

Here are some of my results. Click on the pictures for a larger view.



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Fire in the Hole

Posted by Exile on October 22, 2019

I took my grandson out into the woods again last weekend. He’s getting used to tramping about out there and he enjoys being there with me. At least, I think he does. I try to show him stuff that I know he can do and last weekend it was time to teach him how to get warm, cook and boil water. In other words, get a fire going.

The woods here are not generally dry. Even in summer. Some preparation from home is needed. I had bought a folding saw and a ferro rod and striker for him. I had collected dry wood shavings from the shed and cut some small pieces of wood into strips as kindling. All that went into a bag for him. He has his pocket knife in his pocket and so we set off. I explained that we had to find some dry fuel in the woods. Preferably something dead but standing. He scurried about and found a dead standing sycamore sapling. We cut it down and sawed it up into six inch lengths. I then showed him how to split the wood using his knife and a heavy-ish piece of wood to use as a baton to drive his knife down through the length of the firewood. Soon, he had a pile of the stuff. The inside of the wood is dry even if the outer surface is wet.

So, we’re ready. By now we had an audience too. Others had seen us at the firepit and wondered what we were up to…

I showed him how to strike a spark with the rod and started with the shavings. Instant fire. Then it was his turn. It was with some trepidation and doubt as I watched him take his first ever attempt at making fire in the woods.

He got it at the first attempt. The attending crowd was very impressed.

He piled on the thinner stuff we had brought with us and continued to add the larger pieces he had cut for himself as the fire grew. Soon, he had a real fire going. Thoroughly pleased with himself he sat back and warmed his fingers.
I sent him off to find some thin sticks to skewer sausages with and we ate a small, if not hearty, lunch.

I showed him how to place his firewood to dry it around the fire and how to heat small rounded stones and use them as hand warmers in his pockets. He soon realised that a slightly larger stone could be used as a body warmer inside his jacket. He tried. It worked. A whole new world opened up for him right there.

There are other things to show him with regard to tinder, fire starting and what to put in his fire kit. A lighter would be a good thing. Matches. Cotton wool soaked in vaseline, charcloth and other stuff. But at least now he has tried one of the more difficult of all these options and he succeeded.

On to the next lesson at a later date….

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The Ups and Downs of Shopping

Posted by Exile on August 30, 2019

I don’t often venture into the world of procurement. My wife is the shopper. I only go out if there is something I want or need and, due to the technical nature of what I usually go to buy, it is easier for me to do it myself. I usually spend a little time researching products and venues before sallying forth. That way, I know what I want, where to go and what I can expect to have to pay.

Here’s a tip. Experience tells me that a man will pay a little more for something he needs. A woman will buy anything, needed or not, if there is a minor reduction in the usual price. Remember that if you send her out for something.  She’ll come back with loads of stuff you neither need nor wanted.

Anyhow, my needs this day revolved around a lens for my camera. I had found an outlet or two and the nearest was a large store in the local mall. It’s called “Elgiganten”, and despite the very Danish name it is actually owned by Dixons in the UK. According to their advertising blurb they do price matching. The lens I was looking for was priced at DKK 999.- but I had found one at DKK 850.- on the internet.
Time to test the water then. Off I went.

efs50I found the lens in their display. I contacted the salesman, (or is that salesperson? It was a bloke, so it’s salesman for me. Screw the PC.) and ventured the idea that I should be able to purchase said lens at the reduced price. He looked surprised but agreed to look at the competition. Sure enough, on the website I’d shown him, there was the lens at DKK 850.-
At this point I was fairly confident I would go home with said lens. Also at this point, the chap made his mind up that I wouldn’t. He looked at his version of the lens on the company website. The nomenclature was identical to the one I’d shown him. He then said that he couldn’t be sure it was the same lens. I told him Canon only produce one EF 50mm F 1.8 STM lens. Of course it was the same. He disagreed. Then he found the product EAN number on his own website. He couldn’t find it on the competitor website. He then insisted it was not the same lens or, at least, that he couldn’t be sure it was the same. No EAN, no comparison. I tried again, he refused to budge. I asked him if he knew anything about the products he was selling and how could he not see it was the same lens? At this point he started to get a bit shirty about the whole affair so I told him to forget it. I was going to the other place and screw him. No point in trying to do a deal with a “jobsworth”. Or an idiot, for that matter. I will try to avoid that place in future.

Later I discovered, that if the chap on the floor goes along with a price match, the difference comes out of his or her provision. So much for that then. Any excuse will do. No matter how little or obtuse that excuse may be. Piss poor company policy, if you ask me.

I went to the nearest competitor, where the cheaper lens was to be found. A dedicated camera business called “Kamerahuset”. Yes they had the lens. Or, rather, they did have, but the last one from that particular store was sold just an hour ago. They could have one for me by the following day. The chap took my telephone number, offered me a coffee and chatted about his stock. What camera was I using? What else did I need? Or want? All in all, a pleasant interlude. I left as a happy man.

He rang me up the following day. “Your lens is here.” Service with a smile. I now have the lens and have found a place that will be receiving my patronage in the future, even if it is a little further away. And the free coffee was OK.

My next experience was simply serendipity. My mother-in-law has reached the age of 92. A spry old bird she is too. Unfortunately she can’t get about as well as she could so we need to help her out with the weekly shopping. She enjoys doing it herself so we simply collect her with the car and take her to the local supermarket. They know her, she knows them and she enjoys the expedition. I usually set her free and go and wander about the store comparing the provincial prices to our local prices. I keep an eye on her but I don’t interfere. They have a huge wine selection. They also have some big, well made, wooden wine crates. Transport crates.

Some of these empty crates, with the lids, lay discarded at the back of the wine department. I thought, “rubbish?” An idea was forming in the darker recesses of my mind…
I asked the shop assistant. Yes, he said, we throw them out. They get crushed. We pay a man to collect them.
Could I take a few of them and what would it cost? Take all you want, he said. Saves me having to carry them out. Free.
Thanks, I said with a huge smile and removed the three crates and lids to my car. They will be ideal for storing my root vegetables for the coming winter!

See? You have to be a bit cheeky. If you never ask, you’ll never get something for nothing…!

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A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Posted by Exile on July 31, 2019

Or so they say..

In my efforts to use my time productively and enjoyably, I have decided to try my hand at photography. I’m not Rembrandt, nor am I particularly artistically inclined but I do know a good thing when I see it, so why not try to capture it? Sounds simple enough.

But no…EOS_1200D_Default_tcm81-1125480

I have a camera. I think it’s a good camera too. Nothing for a professional, I’m sure, but then again, I am no pro. It’s a Canon EOS 1200D. It came with a “kit” lens. Which means it will do the job but it isn’t fantastic as far as objectives go. (Objective; posh name for a lens!) It didn’t cost a fortune and it has served me well in the past but now I need to find out what this thing can do apart from take happy snaps in automatic mode. It can do much more, if I can learn how to do the job…
Reading the manual is a drag. One needs to be a lawyer to follow the not-so-clear instructions or, at least, have someone who can translate the written word into some practical pointers. I have no person on hand to do that so there has been a lot of Youtubing going on.

Apart from all the automatic functions this camera offers there are three ways to ‘improve’ your pictures. There is “Shutter speed mode”, “Aperture mode” and “Manual”. The latter putting the man behind the camera in complete control of the beast. I’m not there yet.

Shutter speed mode means that you control how quickly the camera opens and closes its eye thereby steering the amount of light one lets into the camera. So, low light, long open time. Really bright light, short open time. Which appears fairly logical. This means you can get the exposure you want, lighter or darker depending on what one chooses. The camera looks after the rest. Bravo. So far, so good. But you do have to be aware of how sensitive the light sensor inside the camera is. Enter ISO. You can set that too.. Low ISO value, high sensitivity. High ISO value, not so sensitive. That complicates things again. High sensitivity means you can get away with faster shutter speeds. Even at low light. Confusing isn’t it?

It gets worse.

Aperture mode means you can control how wide the hole is that lets the light into the camera. Low aperture number (or “F”, as it is called) lets a lot of light in. High F value, not so much. F also determines the depth of field that remains in focus. High F leaves a lot in focus, low F means a very short amount of field depth. The camera takes care of the shutter speed and allows for the correct ISO. More jiggery-pokery if you ask me. However, I do get good results with this way of doing the job. I just need to perfect the other settings to get it absolutely right.

Manual mode is just that. One sets everything up exactly as one wants it, setting the speed, F and ISO and hoping one guessed right in all three cases. This needs a lot of playing with and I’m not that good. Yet. I may get there but I’m autodidactic at the moment so it’s a steep learning curve and it’s all up hill.

Throw in the vagaries of white balance, flash lighting and fill lighting and one has a vast array of stuff to worry about before getting the perfect shot.
Stressful? Yes and no. If the piccy didn’t come out right, delete it and try again. Pretend it never happened. The one truly simple thing about digital photography.

There is one thing I haven’t yet mentioned. RAW.

RAW is a way to get the camera to record all the data that comes into the camera. Pictures are compressed as a rule, meaning that some of the data is reduced to a basic form. RAW lets you keep it all. The only problem with that is that one cannot simply print or share the picture in the normal way as with a .jpg or .png. No. The picture needs to be converted to these formats, so one requires photo editing software to edit and convert the data before sharing. I have such software. It came with the camera. It is as confusing as everything else. It does work though and I can embellish my photos if I am not fully pleased with what I shot. Again, a steep learning curve and, again, it’s all up hill.

Luckily, I have the time to play with all this stuff. I might eventually get good at it. Let’s hope so.

Anyway, all this is very entertaining and one may laugh at my preliminary efforts, but here are a couple of my shots, taken in my garden, just to get me started.

Behold and wonder..;

IMG_1005 (2)

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Trench Warfare

Posted by Exile on April 15, 2019

At least, it felt like it…

I’ve been busy in the garden. It desperately needed cleaning up in what I call “the North end”. Overgrown with brambles and the heaps of old clippings from the hedge, not to mention the footpath which needed expanding to some degree. I’ve been at it for a week. The footpath has now expanded with the laying of flagstones and the clippings and brambles have all been sent through a compost mill. I have accumulated a lot of topsoil from removing and relaying the path and cleaning out an old flowerbed where the new path now lies. All this got dumped in “the South end” of the garden. Where the root crops generally go in. Now it needed to be really dealt with.

Man_DiggingI decided to take my fathers approach to all garden rubbish. He would bury it. The clippings will rot away forming new soil and the earth it replaces can be used as new topsoil. All very ecological and probably good for the garden. Dad, lord rest his old bones, would dig a trench at least twice the depth of his spade and twice the width all across his garden. I decided to do likewise. He was a gardener, not like me, so imitation seems to be the way forward. It worked for him. 
I marked out with string and sticks and proceeded to dig.

In my soldier days, we were used to digging trenches. Well, we called them trenches. They were fire positions. Dig a hole approximately your own height deep and hide in it in the event of airstrike or stand in it and shoot back at any oncoming enemy. It would also serve as your grave if the need arose… So digging is in my bones, somewhere.

The topsoil has been tilled before by own labours, so that came out pretty quickly. I placed this to the right of my digging activity. It was going to be the first soil to be poured back into the trench. The next layer was not so easy. Compacted by nature and never removed before, it was heavy going. I was soon wheezing from the effort and sweating profusely. It took an age. Finally I had a trench. I got down to the clay base that my garden lays on. Claggy grey stuff that won’t move. It is the reason my garden never truly dries out. The lower, new, earth was piled up to the left of my trench. I want to spread this out over the garden. It’s probably never seen the light of day before. It has a nice earthy smell about it.
So far, so good. Time for a brew and a ciggy…

Filling the trench would be easy. Well, one would think so…

I managed to get the huge pile of vegetable rubbish and milled compost material into manageable heaps and shovelled away at it with my usual gusto. It all went in with room to spare. I trampled it down into the bottom of my trench. I then decided that my genuine compost heap, which hasn’t really composted fully, could also go in. More heavy stuff to move then, but probably worthwhile as it will create new space in that area. By now, the blackbirds had discovered my earthworks and were having an impromptu feast of worms and grubs. They are not afraid of me. I mean them no harm and they know it. They live here too.

I was wearing thin by now, I needed more tea, so I left them to it.

Fortified with tea and biscuits, I returned to my labours. Satisfied that all that needed to be in the trench was indeed in the trench, I started refilling with the old topsoil. More shovelling and trampling down. I was surprised as to how much rubbish had gone in. By the time I had poured the old topsoil in, the trench was very nearly full. It needed very little of the stuff from deep down to get back to the old garden level. I finished levelling with the garden rake and admired my handiwork. It looks fine.

I have a heap of new soil to spread over the garden. I have more topsoil from the removal that was necessary to expand the path. This will doubtless help with the turnips, beetroots, swedes and parsnips that I intend to plant in that particular area of my garden. I have no garden rubbish left to deal with. Win – win.
But that’s enough for today. My back aches, my hands are sore and I’m worn out.

All I have to do now, is dig the rest of the garden. That will have to wait, at least, until tomorrow.

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My First Target Tournament

Posted by Exile on February 4, 2019

I would have written this up yesterday but I was worn out after a long day. I’ve been to 3D tournaments before but never a target tournament. Shooting at the big round things has never really been my preferred form of archery. I’m better at objects. Well, I used to think I was. That may have to change…

I never expect to win anything. I turn up, do my best and enjoy the experience for what it is. Meet people. It’s as much social as it is competitive. It’s a fun thing.
Yesterday, at the Frederiksborg Cup meeting, I didn’t quite know what to expect. One thinks that all the best of the best will be there and my expectations of achieving anything even mildly spectacular were not exactly high. There were many classes, ladies, men, youngsters, Subdivided by bow types, longbow, recurve, barebow and compound, subdivided again by classes, masters and seniors. I was in gents longbow, masters.

frpokThe whole shooting match gets underway with what is known as ‘qualification’. Two rounds of thirty arrows to make the best score you can. If it’s high enough, one goes through to the finals. There were a lot of archers on the ranges. It took time to get through that bit. Too long. Lunch was reduced to ten minutes. I managed to go and pee, smoke a cigarette, eat a big ham and cheese bun and drink a cup of tea in the time allowed. Amazing what one can do when under pressure. I thank my old army experience for this sense of urgency and the handling of it. Others were not so fortunate.

The qualification continued and I learned that the scoring system, run by an app (it had to be an app didn’t it..) and a wi-fi link, had failed miserably (predictably?) during the proceedings. We were now reduced to good old pen and paper. Thank heavens for scorecards. This brought the time frame crashing down and the day began to drag out. Progress was now painfully slow as the judges were also reduced to paperwork and somehow had to keep track of who scored what and where did that put them in the current rankings. So why had we needed to rush lunch? I don’t know.

I’ve been to Africa and had the chance to see a cattle market in Kenya. 2,000 animals, hundreds of people, noise, heat, dust and endless confusion. Looking back, it seemed more organised than what I was presently experiencing…

Qualification over, we took a well earned break and I discovered, to my amazement, that I had qualified and was now in the finals. 32 archers remaining and I was among them. So, now it’s knock-out time.

The masters and seniors in the longbow section had now been thrown together as a result of the failed scoring system.
We were now known as ‘gents, longbow, 18 metres’. This was annoying to me, because at that point I was in second place in my class and had a good chance of winning the damn thing. My blood was up. I smelled victory. The red mist descending…

Now, suddenly, I was up against a whole different field of combatants. Younger, fitter, better eyesight. The list is endless. Still, no excuses.
Disappointment is one thing, but being deprived of my chance at glory through no fault of my own is another. Oh well….
Luckily, one of the ladies from our club had made cakes. I fortified myself for the coming challenge. Tea and cake. A godsend in these difficult moments.

Knock-out is a simple procedure. Two archers face off over the best of 5 rounds of three arrows. If you win three of those rounds, you proceed. Otherwise, it’s goodbye and thanks for the match. Obviously, that continues until there are only two left. One wins, the other doesn’t.
I made it to the quarter finals. Eight of us left. And then I got my arse kicked. I didn’t make it easy for him though, I took it to all five rounds…

So, what did I achieve? The experience, I suppose. I was doing well amongst my peers in the master class until the judges couldn’t keep track of it any longer. I was one of the final eight gentlemen longbow archers out of all those that took part and there had been many at the start of the day.
Perhaps I should be happy with that.
I think I am.
I sent others, more experienced than I, out of the competition. Not bad for a newbie.

Will I do it again? I don’t know. It was a long and sometimes confusing day. My back ached from all the standing about. But it was a bit of fun and a day well used.

Can one ask for more?

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Beginners Guide

Posted by Exile on January 31, 2019

Well OK, it’s a honing guide if I have to be honest. But I am a beginner, so…

I bought a plane to go with my chisels. Not the aircraft type. When I told my good lady I had bought one, she nearly had a fit.Irwin-TSP4-Baenk-hoevl She works with aeroplanes. An air traffic controller. She’s easily confused. Well, she is around me. I’m not always clear about what comes out of my mouth…

Anyhow, here it is. An Irwin Record no. 4. A smoothing plane. Probably one of the most popular models in the world.

Like the chisels, one would expect it to be ready to go when it comes out of the box. Just like the chisels, no it isn’t. It’s all there, but it isn’t really sharp yet and although it will take a shaving off the wood the result is not exactly pretty or smooth.

Stripping the thing is a doddle. One removes the locking plate on the front of the plane and the blade falls out nicely into your hand. The blade is bolted solidly to the chip breaker and needs to be freed from that. Again, that’s easy. So, finally, one is left holding the business part of it all. The blade. 50 mm broad and not blunt by any means. Just not yet sharp enough for the job it is intended to do.

Sharpening this blade is similar to sharpening a chisel. The back of the blade has to be dead flat and the bevel, on the reverse side, equally flat. The two should meet at 30° all along the edge.
guideNow, my fingers are strong enough to steer a chisel on the grinding surface but not for a 50mm broad piece of steel. I know I’d get it out of square and render it useless as a cutting instrument. There are things that are made to help with this. Hence the purchase of the honing guide. A lovely little piece of kit designed to hold the blade in a set of mini-jaws and a wheel on the other side to enable one to push it backward and forward over the abrasive surface. The protruding blade is set to hold the required angle on the abrasive. For my purposes, that protrusion is 37 mm with the guide that I have.

The one pictured here is upside down as we look at it. I don’t know why but I couldn’t find a picture of one the right way up.

This one will also take chisels as well as plane blades. Handy, I thought. Two birds, one stone. What’s not to like?
I had to try it. Off to the I-Shed then. (I built the shed, so it’s an I-Shed. OK? Screw Apple.)
I stripped the plane and polished the back of the blade on my plate glass and the abrasive paper. It polished up nicely, flat to the edge. Then on to the bevel. I took the guide, fitted the blade, measured the length and got back to the abrasive. Heave-ho and run the thing over the wet and dry 500 grit for about two minutes. Soon, I had an edge. I then went for 1000 grit and really polished it up.

After about ten minutes work I reassembled the plane, took a piece of scrap wood and set it in the vice. A deep breath and push. Whooosh!
Curly shavings all over the place! Hosanna! The thing works.

It’s not often one buys something cheap and cheerful from China that actually does what it says it should. This thing worked a treat. Even if I did have to wait for a month for delivery.

How does one say ‘thank you’ in mandarin?

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