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Saturday, 29 August 2015

Portfolio of C.A. Powell (Retro Brit)



Selfie of me and a work mate in the Fens

I work at Fenland District Council on the waste disposal and have worked at various district councils in south east England. Before this I was employed by Royal Mail for twenty years. I love my life but find it full of so many interesting things to do. So many, in fact, that there is not enough hours in the day to take on so many fine endeavours. 

I enjoy being out doors when working, though I'm happy at home when writing in a relaxed atmosphere. All this new multimedia thing is very compelling to me and I'm delighted with my gradual build up of knowledge, trying to plug my books. I know I'm often 'not seeing the wood for the trees' but then it makes the pursuit more enjoyable when I stumble upon something new.

Writing fiction and making up stories is something I find compelling. I've been to writing classes when I lived in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. Here I learnt the value of constructive criticism and received great encouragement from many people who attended the class. I also indulged in my own constructive criticism and praise of other author's works. These were good times, but writers can't rely on other writers to sell books. Indie authors must learn that for themselves. 

My choice has been a blog. This has been a very rewarding experience in ways I did not think possible. Now my Retro Brit Blog has become as precious a tool, to me, as my novels are. Retro Brit continues to grow and the visitors are now approaching three quarters of a million. I get anywhere between 500 and 1,500 visits a day. This all started from very humble beginnings. The blog remains a continuous learning process too in the world of multimedia and blog marketing.

I'm a dreamer and go through life dreaming about fictional circumstances and what might be or might have been if... ?

I find contentedness and am happy with my out of doors work and my work friends too. I live in a small market town in the Fenland where we are surrounded by fields. Agriculture is a very prominent part of the Fen.

At home and outside of work, I delight in experiencing all sorts of things. This is why I keep my blog Retro Brit up to date with new and variable topics of interest. It is also a fine opportunity to plug my novels. As one can see below.

This novel publishing has also been a learning process. One BIG piece of advice to any would be indie author: 

Never publish without a credible editor going through your work. It will cost, but don't allow a well intentioned friend to do it. Look for the certificates and licences and make sure they do samples before you choose an editor. Don't get too upset by a bad review. Its part and parcel of the book world. Some reviews are good and encouraging, some can be stinkers. Take it on the chin and move on.




Friday, 28 August 2015

Why You Should Watch The Bridge - Swedish/Danish TV Crime Drama.


My wife and I always get into crime dramas and we enjoy nothing more then a gripping plot with twists and turns. In Britain we have had a number of good ones like Morse, Frost, Cadfael, Endeavour etc. The list is as broad as it is long including the Victorian Ripper Street drama too. They are all wonderfully entertaining. 

We had heard a lot about Henning Mankell crime fiction but did not find the British version with Kenneth Branagh very attractive. If a story is set in Sweden I prefer to see Swedes speaking in their own native tongue. I want to feel as though I'm in that country and prefer to read sub titles. Therefore, we decided to watch the proper Swedish version. The whole lot was watched by us over a period of time and we thoroughly enjoyed this gripping Swedish crime drama.

On the strength of this fine Swedish TV production we decided upon the Bridge. 'We'll give it a go." we said to each other. This was a joint Swedish, Danish and, I think, German collaboration. It was remarkable. Within the first few minuets we were hooked. 

A body of a lady dumped midway upon the giant  ├śresund Bridge. Half of the lady is in Sweden and the other half is in Denmark. Both police forces must unite so solve this perplexing murder case. From Sweden we have the character called Saga Noren. A homicide detective in Malmo police and then from Denmark we have Martin Rohde of the Copenhagen police. 

The Swedish detective, Saga Noren, is right off of the radar - an almost dysfunctional person when it comes to social etiquette. In short, she completely lacks any form of polite make-up. She has an almost naive sense of irony and takes everything literally. She can't handle any type of small talk and finds any form of indulging someone, while waiting for the person to get something off their chest, very irritating and totally unecessary. 

The Danish detective, Martin Rohde, seems to pick up on this straight away. He is an easy going and more lay back character and finds Saga's strange ways amusing. He sees how very perceptive she is as a police officer and how lacking she is concerning some victims. In short Saga Noren is brilliant and very flawed too. It makes her this wonderful interesting character. Her head of department also recognises these short comings in his detective and, to a degree, seems protective of her short comings. Those who work around her are used to her being a bit odd. She gets results. Martin Rohde is able to get these short comings across to Saga on occasion. He becomes an officer that she confines in, even though she'll ask completely inappropriate questions of him at times.

Martin Rohde is also a very flawed person. Again, a good policeman, but a failed husband and father, though his intentions are decent and well meaning. He just has a knack for getting himself into domestic trouble where his family and failed marriages are concerned. The whole set up is great. The people are very real with gremlins and flaws like so many of us, and they have their areas of excellence that overshadow their short comings in life. MOST OF THE TIME.

You can't have a good story without bits outside MOST OF THE TIME. I think this is what makes our characters in the Bridge very compelling. Very compelling indeed with a rollor coaster of a ride storyline. Murder and intrigue its all here. 

Well worth a watch!


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Giving You a look at Pastiche novel of HMS Thunder Child

If you live in the USA; download on kindle for a cool $2.99.

Go fot it...







Sunday, 23 August 2015

Lone Star - She Said, She Said (Great Rendition of a Former Beatles track)



I know this song is originally by the Beatles, but this rendition by Lone Star really flicked switches for me when I first heard it. It was a very long time ago, about 1979 I think. I was around a friend's house and he put the Lone Star album on. It started with this song; She said, she said. I thought it was fantastic.

I later found out that it was a Beatles track. Not taking anything away from the Beatles; the were a great band, but this one track redone by Lone Star is the better in my opinion. It has a great dreamy effect. Especially when chilling out.






Giving You the New Sci-F- cover for Kindle USA

Kindle USA & Paperback









GO, GO, GO, with HMS Thunder Child.

The Last Days of Thunder Child is sporting a new front cover for kindle download only. The book image remains the same.




Giving you a wonderful pastiche of the old retro Sci-Fi story you all know and love.

An adaptation of War of the Worlds - a minor pastiche of H.M.S. Thunder Child and her mythical battle against three of the Martian edifice fighting machines.

The pastiche story is called:

The Last Days of Thunder Child.
        
           By C. A. Powell

It takes the reader aboard the Victorian ironclad and is set in the year of 1898.

You will be taken on adventure by sea and across land with Mister Albert Stanley, the ministry of defense man who delivers Captain McIntosh his orders.

The old English civil servant and the Scottish captain of Thunder Child embark upon a journey of dreadful discovery and cold realization.





Get it now! $2.99 download KINDLE USA on Amazon.com



Is the UK is playing a part in Reforming the EU or are we highjacking it? (Professor Stephen Haseler makes good points)



There is so much about the EU that I find annoying. I don't like the idea of the UK being in it. However, when I stop and take a pause. I am forced to think logically. I'm not impressed with the way we get the unelected leaders via a committee inside a closed room. At the moment there is a democratic unaccountability for it all. Its creating all sorts of problems.

Then I find myself thinking of the consequences of the UK leaving. I don't think it would be disastrous but I do think long term we might come to regret it all. This EU is very flawed and does need to change. I don't think its just the British who are screaming this out. I do believe the EU can and will change in the long run.

Viviane Reding is interviewed at an Oxford University gathering. Some of the questions are tough and I think Viviane Reding did moderately well. However, the BIG and SCARY let down was when she spoke briefly on EU foreign policy. I thought Professor Stephen Haseler made a good point of past UK foreign policy being nothing more than agreement with American foreign policy. Viviane Reding was well supported by this remark, but then blew it all away by not knowing the name of a young Italian lady who is responsible for the EUs foreign policy.

As an EU citizen who was not given a chance to vote about the EU commission in charge of us all, I'm not too impressed that an unknown young Italian lady is responsible for the trading blocs foreign policy. Many EU members accuse the UK of not taking the commission seriously. I would argue we do and raise strong views on the organisation's many short comings.

The saving grace for this debate was Professor Stephen Haseler who did manage to point out good reasons and arguments for the evolving EU. I think we must UNDERSTAND that the EU is evolving. Also, there were occasions when Viviane Reding made some poignant points.

I thought UKIP raised good points but they are anti EU through and through. Is that the long term solution for the UK? We know the internal workings of the EU will and must change - ie evolving. The long term future is what we make it. Is the UK is playing a part in this or are we hijacking it? 





1960's Great Britain






I can't believe how everything has changed since this time. I was a kid born in 1961. I remember thinking everything was futuristic with colours and TV because my Mum and Dad, plus my Grand parents, would say how none of these things were about during their time. There was a feeling that everything was new and vibrant with things on the media.

They spoke of the past war and the bombings. My parents spoke of being evacuated with my mother not knowing who her mother and father (my grandparents) were until she was six years of age. She was born in November 1939 and only remembers her sister. Both lived in a Roman Catholic commune run by nuns and away from London. 

Their mother, (my grandmother) was injured during the bombings right at the end of the war. A doodlebug down Hobday Road, Poplar, East London. My grandmother was taken to the neurological part of a hospital when she was dug out of the debris barely alive. Her house had collapsed upon her, my uncle (who was a baby in her arms amid the debris.) and also an aunt who was a teenage girl at the time. Fortunately all three survived but all had to be hospitalised. 

My mother was not sent home to her mother until 1946. Their outlook was different. I think my mother enjoyed the 1960s because she was still a young woman in her 20s during this time. She liked the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers etc. I don't think she was too fond of the Rolling Stones, but is now days because of the nostalgia.

I loved being British and was so very proud of my country. I still am, but things change and must change. I can remember this all being new and the elders not liking it. Now we are the elders and do not like the changes of today. 

Why?

I'm not sure because there are so many wonderful things in this time. Like laptops, the Internet, mobile phones etc. I think when we put on the brakes - STOP - THINK!

Well... all of the retro above was fine, but it was of its time and there was always problems with trade unions, Northern Ireland and many other types of thing. It does make me think that we like to cling to the nostalgia, but also we must learn to let go now and then.

It is fun looking at the above clip and touching those moments for a while now and then.




Saturday, 22 August 2015

What the New TelePhoto Zoom Lens was Like.

I have been looking for a good zoom lens to attach to my Nikon D3100 DSL camera. I have been going to the bird hides in Manea, Cambridgeshire to watch the various birds of prey we get over the fenland at this particular spot.

The trouble was; how much to spend. The cheapest I saw was on Amazon and EBay. Cheap is not always good and there are, of course, drawbacks. 

My zoom lens that I got with the Nikon D3100 only goes up to 200mm. This is of little use when Marsh Harriers come over the fenland at distance. Therefore, I decided to chance £70 on an adaptable and compatible zoom lens called a TOP MAX 420mm to 800mm.

There were a number of very important things I had to learn in order to make the best of this lens. It is not a Nikon product but is adaptable to fit on the end with a screw on piece which comes with the telescopic lens. Unlike the Nikon lens' there is no computer bar chip on the telephoto lens to connect with your camera. In short there is no communication. Therefore, the one touch focus button is no use once the telephoto lens is screwed onto the Nikon. That first little touch as the focus becomes clear is not there. You are back to basics using the hand turner at top of the telescopic lens to focus upon a topic. Once you get the hang of it, you'll find it is rather easy and, in my opinion, enjoyable.

You will need a tripod because of the wobble when shooting and focusing at distance is more extreme. With birds of prey in flight, you have a battle on your hands with focus and wobble, but its great fun when you get it right.

My biggest problem was not taking into account the light deficit upon the telephoto lens. My first trip ended in disaster because it was a glorious day and I got some wonderful shots with the lens and was able to focus well. However, when I got home and inserted the photo chip into the laptop, every single photo was dark. In some case pitch black.

Back to the drawing board and a very knowledgeable work friend who I explained my dilemma to. On the Nikon, there is an ISO sensitivity function that is accessed via the menu at the back. It comes up on the screen. The light needs to go up to 800. I think the automatic setting is at 200. This is no good for light exposure. Some would say 400 is good, but I went to the next setting on 800. Just below this there is the shutter speed. This must also be increased considerably too.

When this is done, just go outside the front of the house and take a few shots and then look at the light improvement when you put the memory card into the laptop. The results were very pleasing. 

Below are some of the shots I took out front and across the fields to my house. I was able to focus in on a combine and tractor. Happy with the result, I went back to the bird hides and tried for a few things across the fen. There are shots of a heron with swans, a hobby (small hawk/falcon) and a marsh harrier. They are not perfect shots, but I'm sure one will say the light is better. 












Thursday, 20 August 2015

Anand Menon - Brexit or Business as Usual? Results of the British Election


This is a smashing debate held in Sweden about the potential of the UK leaving or staying in the EU. What the implications are? Why Brits have a detached outlook from a lot of mainland Europeans. It is very entertaining and interesting to watch. It lasts about one and a half hours with panel questions. The answers and talks are very good.

It is also becoming obvious that some of the arguments about Brits being detached from the EU are very relevant from the point of view about wealth distribution. Basically, the British electorate will gain nothing from the EU or an independent UK. Its something for the the elite 1% who might lose if the Brit electorate decides to leave.

Immigration is becoming the antagonistic issue that seems to be getting under the radar of the pro-EU Brits. They have no control of the electorate concerning this. The only weapon the pro-EU 1% have is fear of the unknown if we leave. This fear is being diluted among an electorate who gain nothing from staying in, where wealth distribution is concerned. They don't care about global influence either. It seems the UK will probably stay in the EU. However, the immigration argument could still win the day for the anti - EU.

Its a very good debate and questions, TV show, but I still think the audience was largely well educated and academic. This doesn't count for the more common plebiscite view concerning immigration fears. This taboo subject is still not handled full on and people are generally sweeping the issue under the carpet. At one point the Swedish lady on the panel mentions how the UK depends on 40% of health workers being from abroad. As though the UK are reliant on this type of immigration with no choice.

The Swedish ladies rhetoric does not allow for the alternative perspective view of successive UK governments not training National Health workers from its own country to do the health care job in the first place. Instead the government recruits from abroad to get cheap workers. This is what fuels British people's fears of mass migration in the first place. Anything can be made to look good and progressive. Its what we are not allowed to bring into the debate that makes the unheard (and often less academic) electorate vote in strange ways.











Sunday, 16 August 2015

Do you remember The Jam in 1977? (All Around The World (HD) )





When I left school in the year 1977, I went to work in the city of London. It was in Re-insurance down St Mary's Axe, working as a coding clerk for an Israeli company. I was 16 and loved going out to all the various record shops during my lunch break. They seemed to be every where in London. It was a very vibrant time and the music industry was going through a new metamorphosis with Punk Rock and New Wave bands. This was the beginning of the new music growth in the UK

I liked the Jam because they had that neo-mod look from the early retro sixties. This was the first song of theirs that I remember buying. I thought they were a wonderful blast of fresh air coming out of the already dead glam rock era. 

The old early seventies glam rock had gone and all sorts of different style were exploding upon the Brit music scene. It was a prelude to the forth coming 1980s decade and the Brit music industry was getting this wonderful second wind after the 1960s and early 70s. Something new was coming and this Jam song: All around the World - I've been looking for a new... 

Youth explosion!








Saturday, 15 August 2015

What we Dared to do (at the Raptor Centre.)

At the raptor centre, I watched the falconry display. I was in awe of the shocking, wicked and vicious magnificence of the fine bird of prey. It is an apathetic cruel creature that oozes a wicked beauty of nature's adaptations. It has no appreciation for the fine being it is and does not understand people's wonder for its untamed beauty. It just sees food. Its loyalty in coming back is food and it will eat until it is fed up.

Fed up is used by people to describe boredom. It comes from falconers in Medieval times. When the bird was gorged, it was well and truly fed up and would respond to no more commands and become disinterested in eating rewards.


















What was at the Raptor Foundation?


Imi and a Barn Owl
Took a trip today to the Raptor Foundation with Carole and two Granddaughters, Imogen and Jessica.  It was a nice drive across the Fens towards Huntingdon where the sanctuary is located. Many of the falcon, hawks and owls etc. Most are rescued and cannot be returned to the wild. One was a long horn eared owl that had lost its ability to fly. It was allowed to wonder around the centre among the visitors. At first, I thought it had got out of the compound that most seem to be in. I decided to find a steward and inform of the owl’s escape.

When I found a foundation worker and informed him of the owl wandering about the place; he smiled and replied. “That’s just Leo. He can’t fly and is used to people.”

I went back to see Carole, Imi and Jess and told them that Leo is doing nothing unusual. He often leaves his abode and goes for a wonder around. The owl even stopped and allowed us to photograph him for a while. He attracted a rather large gathering and then grew tired of us and walked through our gathering and onto the grass, where he made his way towards an open cage, which I presume he lived in.


There were also many raptors (birds of prey) that are not from Britain, living at the foundation. Some as far flung as Asia and the Americas.  The entire centre had many features and some wonderful looking birds. I managed to photograph many of them. I have, of course, put a small selection of them with this little blog. The others are for another time.

Leo just strolls about not taking too much notice of the visitors. He can't fly and because of this handicap, the owl has freedom of the compound and gets to roam where ever he wants.

He seems contented and does not get flustered by the attentions of the visitors. Even stopping for the odd photo shoot.

When he gets fed up (which is a bird of prey turn) He'll amble off towards his own private quarters until the pandemonium of visitors dies down. Then he'll venture out and about again.

At a certain time in the day; the visitors are invited to a falconry display. This was very interesting and a variety of different raptors were brought out and released. The birds would swoop towards the falconer and then swoop of and perch somewhere around the seating area. As this was done, the falconer would be telling us of the bird's various habits and where it lives in the wild.

I brought my camera and was able to get a number of very good shots of the various birds. The two granddaughters enjoyed the display as we walked about the foundation grounds and towards the end of the falconry display, we were treated to a group of rescued Barn owls. 

In the Fenland, where we live, there are loads of Barn owls because there has been a concerted campaign to put up owl boxes all over the Fen farm lands. This has brought about an increase in numbers of recent years,

Many of the children were invited to put on thick falconry gloves and allow the Barn owls to land upon their outstretched hands. Imi and Jess got to give it a go too.

Below are a few shots of many I took during the visit.






























The were a number of other photos that I'll use for a different blog in the near future. Mostly of the owls and hawks in flight during the falconry display.


Sunday, 9 August 2015

What Happened On the Way to the Bird Hides? (A result along the way)



This morning, my wife (Carole) and I were driving along the country lane towards a small village called Manea. There is an RSPB sanctuary there that looks out across the marshy fenland towards the town of Ely, where the Cathedral towers stand out in the summer haze. It is also the place where Oliver Cromwell was born.

It is a place we often go to just to while away a good few hours in the bird hides. We take a picnic box filled with coffee sandwiches and a few goodies on top. We also have binoculars and the Nikon D3100 camera with the 55m to 200m lens. This is inadequate for what I like to photograph, but I’m learning this slowly and surely.

I’ve sent off for a new zoom lens of 420m to 800m. It is, of course, a cheapy and I’ll have to use manual setting upon a sturdy tripod. This is because the camera adjustments don’t work with the particular zoom lens. I’ll have to learn by hand. If I can do this, I’ll think about a more expensive one with better connections between camera and lens during automatic adjustment setting.

In the meantime, we are making do with the max 200m on the Nikon and as we were driving along, Carole spotted a bird of prey circling majestically above the fields whilst travelling through the farmland fen. Good fortune had a gravel layby close at hand so I pulled in and got the camera ready. I took a string of shots but the hawk was high up. I could not make out if it was a marsh harrier or a common buzzard.

The under wing seems to look like that of a marsh harrier and the head seems white. I was so pleased to get this bird before even arriving at the hide. What a fabulous start. Carole has eyes as good as any hawk. I would have completely missed that sight as I drove along the country lane.

Most of the shots are at distance but with the new zoom lens, I’ve ordered; I’m sure I’ll get better quality pictures. However, the snaps were still pleasing to me.

I got back into the car and proceeded towards the hides. I was saying to Carole that this was a perfect start. I was harking on about it as we travelled through the village of Manea. We turned down a country lane that led towards the bird sanctuary when she told me to stop the car suddenly. It was a deserted lane going through the farmland towards the canals, marshlands and hides, with reeds growing high along the dyke that ran next to the lane.

“What is it?” I asked excitedly. Carole’s eyes never miss much. I often say she could spot a pimple on an elephant’s backside at two miles.

“Just slowly reverse the car,” she instructed.

I complied and then she said. “Stop.”

On a fence post, looking straight at us was a kestrel. I think it was a male and how the heck she spotted it was beyond me. We were close up and the kestrel was staring straight back. I knew I’d have to be quick before it got spooked. However, I had time to lower the window and, for once, get a good few shots at close range. I was thrilled we still had not arrived at the bird hides and already we had got a few nice results.

Once we got to the hides we saw marsh harriers and many other types of bird. The marsh harriers were circling high with Ely Cathedral in the background. Our binoculars focused in on them, but they were too far for the 200m lens. Still, can’t get too spoilt, we still had a great morning in the hides and walked along the dyke to try out several locations. 

There was also other types of bird, but I'm more switched on by the birds of prey. It's what I like about fenland. I've never seen so many raptors since moving to this place.