Sunday, 27 September 2009

Wide angle photography

You may remember that my colleagues from my last school very kindly bought me a wide angle lens as a leaving present when I moved on from there. I spent some of my time over the summer playing with it to see what kind of results I got. I told you that I would be showing you some for the bad shots I managed to take along with some of the not quite so bad ones.

I think that some of the indoor shots that I took were quite reasonable, but I have noticed that the lens produces shots which are considerably darker than any other of my lenses and that vignetting (a darkness around the edge of the photograph) is a constant problem with it.

I have come up with a couple more problems as you can see below:

Unexpected shadow

When I took the night shot of a medium sized oleander I thought the wide angle would be perfect because I could be quite close to the plant but still get it completely in the frame. What I hadn't expected was the effect of the flash. I have used the built-in flash on my camera and you can see that this has cast the shadow of the lens on the side of the photograph. Of course I held the camera vertically, had I held it horizontally the shadow would have been on the bottom. Clearly the built-in flash is not going to work with the wide angle lens - but this is perhaps not a bad thing as I have already started dropping hints to Mrs QB about the possibility of a separate flash gun as Christmas present!


This one wasn't a mistake, I knew what I was doing when I took the photo. I wanted to have this amount of distortion. The corner of the pool is actually a right angle and I think this amount of distortion is quite amazing, though my framing is not as good as perhaps it should be. I did take a somewhat unflattering photo of Mrs QB but I would not dare put it on here! It was a photo of some yachts with Mrs QB stood on the harbour wall looking at them. Mrs QB is at the edge of the photograph and is subject to a similar amount of distortion as the swimming pool. I have learned that being close to your subject but putting them at the side of a photograph is a recipe for a disaster!

Depth of field

I don't often take photographs of people and I very rarely put them on here, but the photo of Captain Jack and Sarah (as before, names changed) demonstrates a good use of the wide angle lens - you get shedloads of depth of field, huge amounts of landscape and at the same time can get quite close to your subject without distortation (as long as you put them in the centre of the photograph!).

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Are we ever going to do any real work this year?

This has been a strange year so far. We arrived in Qatar on the night of the 1st of September and have had precious little work to do since then! A decision was made by the school last year (before I joined) that we would not start teaching during the Holy month of Ramadan this year but would instead start after Eid al Fitr. Fair enough, the decision is made and that is fine. To be honest, Eid seems to have dragged on a little longer than it used to in Dubai but the kids are due to start tomorrow. Or to be more exact they were due to start tomorrow.

Then, as reported in today's Gulf Times the start of the school year got postponed! This is due to worries about the H1N1 swine flu virus.

Oh well! I guess I shall just have to do even more lesson planning!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Everything, including the kitchen sink

When we left Dubai on the 26th of June, we had the opportunity of shipping all our worldly goods to Greece without incurring the wrath of the Greek taxman - so we did. And while we were about it we bought a complete new kitchen including a huge fridge, a dishwasher, a huge gas cooker, a load of units, a new washing machine and a new kitchen sink!

The lot arrived about 2 days before Mrs QB's brother and sister-in-law arrived to stay with us for three weeks. 197 boxes of our personal effects and 2 days to unpack them all, three weeks after we were promised them by the movers who shall remain nameless but whose name rhymes with brown and describes a kings best hat. What a ball's up that was. But, suffice to say. Mrs QB and I did not manage to get all the boxes unpacked and Captain Jack and Sarah (names changed as usual) arrived to find the house an absolute tip!

They spent the first few days of their holiday helping us to unpack... then the hard work started. Captain Jack and I started to build the kitchen. I am so grateful to my brother-in-law! Honestly, I think Mrs QB and I really would have struggled to do the job - and I don't think we would have been able to even lift the sink, much less plumb it in and fit it properly. Captain Jack and I dug in hard and spent 4 solid days (possibly 5, time is beginning to blur) grafting away and these are a couple of photo's of the result:

The kitchen

The kitchen

The second photo gives a better view of the sink which is honestly big enough to bath twin toddlers in simultaneously should you want to do such a thing - Mrs QB and I will not be putting that to the test any time soon.

The funny thing is, although we have more cupboards and drawers, a bigger fridge than before, a bigger cooker than before and a dishwasher which we didn't have before, the kitchen looks bigger than before! The only thing I don't like about it is the strip light - I haven't yet decided what to replace that with yet but I will, eventually.

Anyway, the kitchen is done, so thank you Captain Jack for all the work you put into the kitchen and thank you Sarah for letting him!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Visiting Friends

We arrived in Qatar twenty-one days ago and this weekend we had some friends from Dubai over to stay with us. What a super weekend! Bob and Carol (no, of course that isn't their real names, but I'm not going to tell you who they really are, am I) arrived on Thursday evening and left today (Monday) - we dropped them at the airport at about 5pm.

Bob and Carol are very good friends of ours and it was absolutely great to see them again. On the Friday evening we had a dinner party - Me and Mrs QB, Bob and Carol, Ted and Alice and Steve and Shirley (no, none of those are real names either) spent the evening eating, drinking, chatting and generally enjoying ourselves and a lovely evening was had by all.

Bob and I are war games fans and spent three days playing a single game of Axis and Allies (the anniversary edition if you are familiar with it). It models the 2nd World War from 1941 and in this particular game Bob resigned after Germany had fallen to an overwhelming Russian assault on the fatherland - a brilliant game and the first time that Bob and I have had a 3 day game! I'm not entirely sure what Mrs QB and Carol did whilst we were war gaming but I know they enjoyed the weekend every bit as much as we did.

We were very sorry to see them go home to Dubai this afternoon but, of course, all good things inevitably come to an end. We are now looking forward to repeating the weekend as soon as possible.

The summer modifications

Over the summer we did some modifications to our beautiful home in Skopelos which, we think, make it more beautiful than ever. Two of the major modifications were the opening up of the top floor and the fitting of the kitchen.

Our top floor was two separate rooms and a corridor between them leading to one of the balconies. The rooms were bedrooms and each had a huge, homemade cupboard built into them. The rooms were small enough, but the cupboards took up way to much room in both of them and one of them was just too small to be used properly. Mrs QB and I decided to have the walls taken down, have the cupboards removed and turn the space into one open plan lounge with absolutely loads of light in it.

I didn't take and "before" pics because I have already got loads of them - on my computer which now resides in Skopelos. Unfortunately, I'm not in Skopelos so I can't put them up. Way back in September 2008 I started putting some pics up but I only put two and they were pix of what was the lounge at that time (it's now a bedroom). However I do have the "after" pics.

The new lounge

The new lounge

The new lounge

As you can see, the room now has windows on three sides and so catches light all day. It is right at the top of the house so other houses in the area don't take any of the light away from it and the noise from the street is not so obtrusive up there. It really is a beautiful room to sit in and, having put a fridge for our beer and wine up there, Mrs QB and I love it and spend most of our time in it.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Time to start blogging again

So, apart from the odd entry here and there, it has been quite a while since I did any real blogging. Mrs QB and I have settled into our mansion here in Qatar and are finding our feet. I finally start teaching again next week (and I'm looking forward to it!), we are finding our way around our new country and I think it is time to blog again.

You may recall (assuming that you have read recent posts) that the ever so kind people I used to work with in my last school bought me a wide angle lens when I left (amongst other things I might add). Now, I have often wanted a wide angle lens but until now have never actually used one. I started playing with it over the summer in order to get used to it and find out what it can do and what limitations it might have.

I will show you some of the results - good and bad - over the next few entries. As you know I like to do available light photography and I am going to start by showing you a couple of the pics I took at night. One of them is with my standard lens and the other with the new wide angle one. For those of you who know Skopelos, the pics were taken from Braxos (pronounced Vrakhos) Bar which overlooks the Paraleia (harbour road).

Skopelos by night - normal lens

This is taken with my standard lens.

Skopelos by night - wide angle lens

And this one with my wide angle lens.

For the technically minded amongst you, both photo's were taken at f/5.6 and ISO200, the normal lens one had a 22mm focal length and an exposure of 0.8 of a second whilst the wide angle had a 10mm focal length and an exposure of 4 seconds. Both photo's were taken on my Canon EOS 400D and the wide angle was taken approximatley 20 minutes later than the normal.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Dubaibilly is dead. Long live Qatarbilly.

Many thanks to The Media Junkie who very kindly gave me detailed instructions on how to change my user name and email address from dubaibilly to qatarbilly, now I will start getting emails again when people leave posts on the blog - hmmm, perhaps that wasn't such a great idea after all. Whatever, I am now finally in as qatarbilly and will remain so for as long as I stay in this place.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Great advert

Mrs QB is sat next to me in the internet cafe as I am doing this blog. She has just shown me an advert for The Garden Restaurant in Skopelos Town. Their tag line...

International Greek Homecooking

I leave it to you, dear reader, to fathom that one out!

More modifications

So, today we have got Janis the carpenter in!

We are redesigning the entire top storey of the house - it is too big a job for me so we have got a carpenter in who is knocking down walls and taking out cupboards as I type (well, not really as I type 'cos he has just phoned me to tell me that he is knocking off until tomorrow.

It's dead exciting seeing the walls come down and a new bigger open plan room rise pheonix like from the ashes of the old two rooms and a corridor.

Really looking forward to him finishing and to all our furniture arriving from Dubai - it is currently clearing customs in Athens so should be here in the next year or two!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Refurbishments and other stuff

Well, we have been here for two weeks now and Mrs QB and I have been working... well... not far away from flat out. The front balcony floorboards are now ready to be put down, the balusters have been repainted and a new top rail has been made. The new top rail just needs one more coat of paint before it is ready. We should be in a position to put the boards down and the new top rail on on Saturday. After that I will need to make a cover board for the bottom rail but that is a fairly small job.

This afternoon we are going to paint the balusters on the other balcony, I'm not putting new floorboards down on that one this year, that will be my project for next summer. Similarly, we are going to paint the top rail this afternoon (after the balusters), but I will leave off replacing it until next year.

One of the jobs I have been putting off for the last four years finally got done this year! One of our interior walls was in terrible condition - the previous owners had replastered the wall and, presumably, painted the plaster before it was properly dry! Result - a great chunk of plaster fell off the wall (well over a couple of square metres by the time we had finished getting the loose stuff off). So, this year I finally bit the bullet, went to the hardware shop and bought plaster and the relevant tools. Looked in my DIY manual and found out how to mix plaster and how to put it on the wall. I have to say that I am dead chuffed with the result! Yes, I can afford to be smug about this one - plastering no longer holds any fears for QB!

Mrs QB has also done her share of the DIY - she has been painting window frames that were desperately in need of painting and she also had a go a plastering!

So, today we decided to try to get Mrs QB residency status - not quite as easy as one would hope. Firstly I have to have residency and then Mrs QB can have residency based upon mine. This is because I am European and Mrs QB isn't. The problem is that I have to have some kind of a card which (apparently) all EU citizens have which allows them reciprocal Social Security and Health insurance benefits. Well, I haven't got one of these (I don't think they had them 14 years ago when I left Britain) and I have no idea how to get one. At the moment then, unitl I can find this stuff out we are somewhat screwed, Mrs QB and I cannot have Greek residence. Ho hum. The big problem with all this is that Mrs QB's Shengen Visa runs out on the 10th of August, so she has to leave the country and come back in again. What a pain - fortunately she has a visa for the UK, so I think she is going to go EasyJet from Athens to Luton and back in order to prolong her stay. I guess that we will sort out residency for her some other time.

That's it for now. In a couple of weeks Mrs QB's brother and his wife arrive to stay with us for three weeks and we are going to have a complete rest during the time they are here. In the meantime it is time to get back to the grindstone.

See ya.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Qatarbilly and Blogger

OK, so I am not in Dubai anymore. I have decided not to be Dubaibilly anymore. My email address (which was no longer works. But Blogger won't let me change any of this. I have tried to change my email address which is associated with the blog, but Blogger simply refuses to do it. I still have to sign in as dubaibilly and use a non-existent email address to do so. And I don't understand why.

If you have anything to do with Blogger (rather than just using it) or if you happen to know how to make blogger do this mundane thing, please tell me.

I guess I could set up Waiting for Skopelos 2: The Qatar Years, but I don't want to.


At Home!

It is the 2nd of July (I think) and Mrs QB and I are at home in our lovely little house on our beautiful island of Skopelos.

We have been here for a few days and the work has started! We decided that one of our balconies (how about that for a bit of one-upmanship then!) was in need of some fairly urgent repairs - particularly in view of the quote last year of 14000 Euros to replace them both!

So we have decided that we are going to replace the top rail and the floor boards. I have cut the floor boards to length (3.69 metres)and have sanded them, undercoated them, sanded them again and undercoated them again. Tomorrow they will get their final sanding and then I will apply two top coats before I take the old ones up and replace them with the new.

Our house is white with all the exterior woodwork done in that beautiful rich blue that says to eveyone - Greece. You know the one. It is the same colour as the Greek flag. Vathy Ble Arithmos 2 - Greek speakers please excuse me not using the proper Greek characters, and Kat, can you translate the Vathy bit - I think it means Navy Blue number two but I'm not sure. Anyway, that is the colour the balcony floor boards and the top rails will be.

Other jobs on the cards for this holiday:

Mrs QB wants a corner shelf making and putting up in the bathroom.

The other balcony is in better condition than the one which is being refurbished, it just needs a light sanding and repainting.

Three sets of shutters need taking down, sanding, repainting and re-hanging.

We have bought a new kitchen in Dubai and shipped it out (it is due to arrive with lots of other of our possessions on 5 July). It is currently flat-packed so I will have to build that!

We want to take down two stud walls on the top floor - it sounds easy enough, but it isn't. Quite apart from disposing of the detritus, the walls are 4 and a half metres high and I can't get up to the top, plus, in taking them down we have some wiring that needs re-routing. There is a professional coming round to take a look at that job tomorrow afternoon. If we can afford it, and if he can do it quickly, we will be changing the use of the top and middle floors of the house. This involves in the sub-job of taking beds apart, moving them downstairs and rebuilding them.

Other than that, it should be a nice restful holiday!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Last day in Dubai

Well, it has finally arrived, my final full day in Dubai has dawned - am I ready, packed andwaiting for my flight - not exactly! Still got lots to do before we go. The kennels are due to come round this morning to collect Baggins who will spend the next two months with them prior to his being flown to Qatar in early September. The maintenance people are coming round to do an inspection in a few minutes. I've got to cancel Etisilat and Showtime, Mrs DB has gone to the physio, we haven't finished packing and we are going out tonight with Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice! Oh boy, roll on 10:05 tomorrow morning. DXB terminal 3, Emirates Airlins to Athens! Wish I was there already!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

This has to be the best sign I've seen for a long time:

Sadly, I didn't have my camera with me, but a building near to the Bur Dubai bus station is sporting this wonderful sign:



And the web address is real!

Makes me smile anyway!

Last day at school

Well, today was my final day! I have now left Emirates International School - Jumeirah. Is it time to dish the dirt? Not a bit of it, I have had ten years there and during that time I have risen from being a Maths Teacher to being a Deputy Principal, learned a hell of a lot along the way, made some wonderful friends who are scattered around the world (with many of them still being at EIS, others being in Dubai and still others in far flung places such as Madrid, Azerbaijan and Australia to name but a few. There is even one who is going to the same school in Qatar as I am!

Anyway, over the last few days friends and colleagues have been showering me with leaving presents - I have had some lovely gifts, but today the whole staff clubbed together and gave me some gift vouchers for the Mall of the Emirates. Mrs DB and I toddled off over there after work and I bought something that I will treasure for many years. I bought a wide angle lens for my camera and so you will soon be seeing my efforts of photography with a wide angle lens - I have wanted one for years but never got around to buying one - now I have finally got one and I will have to start learning how to use it! I have already realised that I now need to buy a proper flash unit, so that can go on the Christmas wish list for Mrs DB!

Anyway, to all my friends at EIS, past and present, and I know there are some who will read this, I just want to say, thank you to all of you, for your wishes, for your kind words, for your thoughts, for your prayers and for being my friend during the time that we have been colleagues together.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Some Good News at Last

Well, it has been something of a longtime, hasn't it! You may recall that I have been job hunting and I didn't want to tell you anything more until I got a job. Well, I've now got one!

In the last few months I have been all over the place - I've had interviews in Bangkok, London (twice), Bratislava and Munich, I've had references taken up by schools in Vienna, Rio and Quito amongst others, I've had telephone interviews for schools in Egypt, Sao Paulo and Shanghai and I've been totally ignored by schools in Sweden, Beijing, Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam, Shangai and Scarborough!

Now, after being at times totally demoralised, I have finally secured a position just a few hundred miles away in Qatar!

I am just totally relieved because we are out of Dubai on the 26th of this month and I was expecting to have to go back to the UK to supply teach. Now, Cher and I are really looking forward to our holiday on our wonderful Greek island of Skopelos. And it is going to be a great holiday! Because of Ramadan, I don't have to start at my new school until sometime between the 4th and 12th of September (not sure of the date yet), but, and I've never heard of this in any other school, I get paid from the 1st of August!!!


Saturday, 10 January 2009

What a Waste of a Day

Mrs DB decided that we were going shopping - she wanted to leave early so that we would get back at a decent time. 6 and a half bloody hours and three different shopping malls and all we got was our usual weekly groceries!

We could have done our grocery shopping in one place in less than an hour. I am now sat here at the computer wondering why I have been dragged all over Dubai for absolutely nothing!

She bought a Nintendo Wii with her accumulated air miles - fair enough I have no problem with that - it may be a source of fun but she wants the fitness suite that can be purchased as an accessory. Again fair enough. Off we go to the Mall of the Emirates (one of my least favourite places on the planet!) Start in Carrefour (another of my least favourite places on the planet) - they only have NTSC versions and the version we need is the PAL version. So we walk the length of the Mall to Virgin - they haven't got the PAL version though it is, allegedly, on order and will be in next week. Now, I don't know about you, but the message I am getting is "There aren't any, give up now, come back next week." What message is Mrs DB getting? "There might be some in Geant in Ibn Battuta Mall about 20 km away!" Where that idea comes from I do not know! Maybe they have some in Abu Dhabi!

Whilst we are in Mall of the Emirates she decides to have a look at coats - to be fair, we are going to London in February and she will need a warm coat - so we went to Debenhams - they didn't have anything neither did somewhere else, but I can't remember where. Next stop - Ibn Battuta Mall.

So we drive to Jebel Ali and go to look in Geant - guess what, they only have NTSC versions of the fitness suite (well, quelle surprise!) We tried several shops for coats - nothing. Mrs DB decided that I needed some new white shirts for work - this involved walking half the length of the mall only to find the shop we went to didn't have quite what I wanted (apparently). But never mind, as we've come this far we may as well try Sharaf to see if they've go the fitness suite. Have they buggery!

And so to Mercato.

Now Mercato was always on the cards 'cos we had a complaint to make to our bank. Which we duly did - only to discover that our bank was doing nothing wrong at all - the fault lay, and still lies with our insurance company's bank. So our bank could do nothing about it. No joy there then.

So we went in to Spinneys and did the shopping and came home.

Six and a half hours after we set out, with nothing to show for it except some groceries!

What a bloody waste of a day!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New Year

Who ever you may be, whether you are a regular reader, someone who leaves comments, someone who just lurks or even if this is your first visit to my blog, Happy New Year to you. I hope 2009 brings you all that you wish for. Sadly, I don't think it will... but what the heck - enjoy the good bits of it.