On the train to Liverpool. No plug sockets on this train but in the window is the surprisingly versatile PowerFilm USB + AA solar charger from @Select_Solar (www.selectsolar.co.uk) When it’s not hanging in the window of a train it’s normally hanging off the front of my bike (@Bikeumentally). Handy for charging all my mobile devices.
I have spent a good chunk of the night going through a pile of prints and negatives dating back 10 years or so. Wrapped in their paper envelopes with the negative in little plastic sleeves.
I must have taken these two shots on the end of a roll just to finish it off. I hated wasting film and would often shoot whatever or whoever was in front of me just to make sure I was getting 36 prints back.
I don’t recall taking these two images. I know I did as there are a couple of images on the roll showing Mini Coopers racing that I do remember taking. That said, I don’t remember the day or any of the locations that filled the rest of this roll of film.
That makes the finding of these two images all the more special. Not just because they are of my Mother. But when she died a few years after these photos were taken, I honestly thought I had all the photos I’d ever shot of her scanned in and stored in a safe place. There were very few images. Not enough to fill a CD.
This for me is like finding treasure. An extra couple of moments of my Mothers life I have not only found, but moments I captured that now show me more than any other photos exactly how I remember her in my minds eye.
On this particular day I must have been passing my Mums house on the way home and popped in for a cup of tea. I am so glad I did.
A couple of months ago I took delivery of my Snowsled Wilderness Jacket.. just before the good weather settled in. Whenever we had a few spots of rain I would run outside with the dog but it’s not until this last week I’ve had any decent ‘bad weather’ in which to test the jacket properly.
I have owned all kinds of jacket technology in the past, Gore-tex, eVent, Paramo, you name it. This was the first Ventile Jacket I have ever owned and it really is in a class of it’s own.
Strange when you think about how long the material has been around.
Invented in Manchester during the Second World War, Ventile is a high-quality natural fabric made of tightly woven cotton. It’s both breathable and waterproof adding a huge amount of insulation. I find it warmer than Goretex, yet nowhere near as hot as I have found Paramo jackets. It’s pretty tough and I have trawled through dense bramble with no issue. Something I wouldn’t dare do in a synthetic fabric jacket. Also, found the camp fire, embers just seem to fall off it rather than have you fear spontaneous combustion should you get too close to the flames as with other jacket types.
It’s no surprise that Ventile is making a comeback with Bushcrafters. The fabric is incredibly soft and quiet. I was amazed when I first put the hood up. I am so used to the rustle of a synthetic jacket that i was not prepared for the shock of still being able to hear what was around me when hood up, I walked through the woods in the rain. The wilderness jacket also has a wired peak making the hood easy to fix behind me should I want to don my Tilley hat and play English Gent Cowboy.
To be really waterproof ventile garments are made in two layers, as the outer one soaks up the rain it forms a barrier stopping more getting through. Interestingly though, in light rain the weave is so tight I found that the rain sat on the surface in droplets.
It takes a severe downpour for you to really test the waterproofing. This of course adds weight to an already mid weight jacket. I can’t see an ultra-light backpacker going for a Ventile jacket but I also can’t see them needing much of the many extra benefits you gain from wearing Ventile. Ultra-lighters tend to be racing through the country. Not always needing a jacket for life or wanting to be apart of the countryside around them.
This Snowsled Wilderness is one of many jacket and smock designs hand-made by Snowsled. It is also the longest walking jacket I have ever owned and I can’t see myself ever wanting anything shorter. The extra protection you gain from the jacket dropping past your bum means I have not needed waterproof trousers in all but the severest weather.
Add to these mounting benefits that Ventile does not need to be constantly reproofed, is easily fixed and is as comfortable as you expect cotton to be and I seriously think you cannot find a better jacket for enjoying the outdoors. I certainly feel more a part of my natural surrounding when wearing it.
They are not cheep mind. They are also not fashion jackets meant to be cast aside at the end of the year when a new model is out. This is a Jacket for life. If you live and work in the country and feel like you deserve the best, I’d go so far as to say you need one of these.
Snowsled has an impressive history and to this day design and make equipment to be used on international Antarctic & Polar expeditions.
I have a pile if reading material by the bed. Jupiters Travels, Chopra, an iPad packed full and The Invisibles to name a few. @onmejack reminded me of both the latter and this pictured graphic novel (Transmetropolitan) that he sent me so they’re now on top if the pile.
My first Tilley hat travelled with me to over 50 countries including 2 wars and an attempted coup (not my doing). Two years ago it vanished with my bio-diesel landrover which was stolen and never recovered.
I was more upset that my size 7 & a half Tilley T3 hat had gone than the truck. The hat had been a great traveling companion. Outside of protecting me from the sun and rain it also was a great talking point and as other Tilley owners will know the hat’s little secret got me out of trouble more than once.
(Eating a chilli filled carott, India)
I have a new Tilley hat now. Not faded and worn-in like my old one. It will take me a few years and even more miles to get it looking and feeling as good as my lost one.
As my address and phone number is inside the stolen hat I still hold out a hope that someone will come across it and return it. It’s travel stories span two passports. It’s strange how we get attached to inanimate objects. Especially clothing.
My new hat has a memory card stashed inside with return details, email address, an offer of a reward and a small video of me asking nicely for the hat back.
Geeky yes.. but it’s my own kind of insurance for a piece of kit that has more than the obvious uses and once again was easy for me to grow attached to. Incidentally Tilley Endurables off you their own insurance of 50% off a new one should yours get robbed or lost.
I recently spotted a new Hemp Tilley hat on the head of @MarkSpoff & I am sourly tempted to grab one for the summer months when I try to pack light. The softer hemp hat would fold up into the smallest of places.
In the meantime, I am sure there is a head somewhere out there adding new adventures (possibly some of them less than legal) to my old hat as I add my own adventures to my new one.
(Eating raw sugarcane, Zaire)
Not enough people wear hats. I am glad that they don’t look out of place in the rain or out in the wilds. It’s just a bonus to me that a hat offers you protection.
As Margo Nickel said.. “Whenever you wear your hat, your day will be special.”
I found these old photos while looking for something else.
Once upon a time in 1996, to earn a bit of extra cash whilst traveling India, I worked in Bollywood. I had a few bit parts and more than my fair share of dancing extravaganzas that I was told in the auditions were going to be simple adverts.
As I was on the road few years at a time, I never got to see any of the parts I’d played.. that is apart from a little known Channel 4 drama called Bombay Blue where I was an extra and worked for one day in 40 degree heat to appear for a few seconds as a meditating Sadhu. I caught it by accident years later when it was repeated.
I have no idea who this actor is next to me in the photo but I did get to have lunch with Donald Sumpter. I was just happy to be earning enough in a day to keep me traveling a month.
Now I have found the series I may watch it in it’s entirety to see if I can spot my few glorious seconds. I would have had more screen time but the baking sun had changed my meditation chant into mumbled expletives which could apparently be lip read.
Dear BT this is my internet connection. How can I be using 180GB a month?
I am paying around £100 per month to British Telecom as for the last few months BT Broadband have told me I have used more than the allowed 100gb (unlimited) broadband allowance. I really don’t see how this is possible. My wifi is secure & I don’t stream movies. I browse the Internet & email for about 6 hours of the day. That’s when I’m home.
I have tried numerous times to get this sorted by phoning BT. All that happens is I get passed from billing, to customer options, to technical and then to complaints.. Until my phone mysteriously gets cut off. I feel that BT are mugging me monthly and there is nothing I can do about it.
Having traded in my BMW GS650F for a Triumph Scrambler 900 I have not missed anything other than the capacity to carry my tech. I have got round this in two ways. One is to fit a removable tail pack to the rear rack which can carry all my camera gear and lenses. And the other main solution which is all I need 90% of the time is to buy and fit the official Triumph Scrambler 900 Pannier.
It’s effectively a thick leather briefcase large enough for a 15” laptop, small camera and cables etc. More than enough should I be off to give a presentation or consultation for the day.
It’s not cheap mind. Around £200 from @PureTriumph but this includes the bracket that fixes to the bike allowing quick attaching and disconnecting. It’s probably the most well made bag I own which is saying something what with my present bag fetish.
High quality, big enough for my tech and comes with a rain cover should you find yourself in a torrential downpour. I thought I’d feel weird having a bag on only one side of the bike but it off sets the twin pipes nicely and reminds me of the saddle bag on the classic triumphs in the film The Wild One.
It’s also the perfect size for me as with other bikes, if i have the space to carry stuff.. I tend to go crazy.
I was stood at the counter of a respected Leica dealer today with the intention of selling my precious Leica M6.
I couldn’t do it. Even though the camera sits wrapped in a cotton cloth hardly used, I couldn’t bring myself to sell it. Especially when the dealer told me my 35mm f2 was a seriously sought after version of a classic lens & worth way more than the camera itself. I’m in a good mind to buy a film tomorrow to put through it. Especially as today I was in the London HQ of Magnum Photos. I could not help but feel inspired. The photos on with this post were iPhone snaps taken inside. The woman in the photo below is Jinx Roger the wife of one of ‘the original founders. I got to chat with her and posted the audio on www.Audioboo.net
Flexible Solar Charging With @Select_Solar & @PowerMonkeys
This morning the PowerTraveller In-Car charger arrived in the mail and all of a sudden my mobile solar solutions have become even more versatile.
I can now use a large selection of lightweight folding solar panels as supplied by @Select_Solar and use them to power my favourite mobile power solutions, the MiniGorilla and PowerGorilla from @PowerMonkeys. In my mind, this little adapter really does make the PowerTraveller kit much more flexible as you may already have solar panels in your kit. I have the SolarGorilla already and used it extensively in Africa recently. Still, I feel that this kind of tech that you come to rely on in the field should be able to be hacked together with as many combinations of panels and power packs as you need. You never know when you may have to set up an emergency power solution on assignment or if you are an NGO/charity out in the field. The panel in the pic is the ‘My Mobile Power MM16’ rated at 25w supplied By @Select_Solar plugged in via the Powertraveller In-Car charger to the PowerTraveller MiniGorilla with the iPhone charging in at the same time via the USB output. There’s lots of new solar tech on the horizon from both these companies and in the coming weeks I’ll be sure to have a play with various combinations of kit in order to see what works best with the minimum of fuss.. without breaking your back. (I’m @Documentally on Twitter and this post was compiled on a solar powered iPad. I’ll be sure to add links to this post when I get to a computer that can format text easier.)
After my initial harsh comments about the Holiday Inn in Stoke-On-Trent, due mainly to the high internet access prices.. I think this may well be the best Holiday Inn i have slept in.
Why? Well i had a silent night’s sleep for starters. Six solid hours (a luxury now a days) from 3am to 9qm without so much as a door slam in between.
I guess all i really want is a decent night sleep and a hearty breakfast in these places and the photo above is the view from the latter.
All we need now is free Internet access in al hotels and I will be more than happy. With an internet connection being considered a human right in some countries It makes sense to offer it as free as you would the water in the bathroom. After all the main use for hotels like this one is business.
Both mobile wifi devices have been on constantly for 9 hours but have no devices connected to them.
I’m not sure what this test proves but interestingly the Vodafone with it’s 3.7v 1400mAh battery is slightly smaller than the Three 3.7v 1500mAh and yet is still showing two thirds battery capacity to the Three device which is at a quarter & nearly empty.
I got my hands on a test unit of the PowerFilm USB+AA Solar Charger from @Select_Solar.
It’s about the size of a wallet when rolled up and as well as a USB socket it has a holder for two NiMH or NiCd AA batteries. It comes with two 2000mAh AA Sanyo batteries and states that it will solar charge the batteries in around 4 hours. Which is about the maximum amount of decent sun we get in a day so that’s pretty handy.
It fits in the smallest of pockets, weights only 140g but still provides 1.4W (0.4A @ 3.6V). The panel tech inside this small unit seems to allow decent light absorption from even the cloudiest of days.
So far I have tested it charging a Three MiFi while simultaneously providing a WiFi hotspot.. Charging the batteries for a Kodak Zi6 HD camera and all versions of the iPhone. If you are going to use USB equipped solar panels with your Apple devices always use the white apple cables where possible. Third party cables sometimes just don’t work. I’m sure this may keep Apple busy selling over priced cables in bulk but it’s hardly handy if all you have to hand is another make of cable.. It seems pretty shot sighted when the rest of the world seem to be moving towards the standardised Micro-USB. I am sure you will have no trouble charging other types of phone.
There are some smart electronics inside this unit. Couple this with the extremely robust rollable solar panels and you are looking at a high quality bit of kit with a price that reflects this. You can look at paying between £70-£80 online. The military are snapping them up. There is even a video online of a Powerfilm panel riddled with bullet holes and still working. But it’s a flash video so i can’t embed it here (Why do people do that?)
I also have my hands on some slightly larger solar tech big enough to comfortably charge/power an iPad but that’s going to take a little more testing till I can publish my findings.
For it’s size and weight, this incredibly versatile little panel is really impressive and could well make it into a future blog entitled ‘BushTe.ch survival kit.’
I’m @Documentally on twitter and I would like to thank @Select_Solar for the loan of the PowerFilm USB+AA Solar Charger.