Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas one and all, nursing a slight hangover is only natural for the festive day but no time for sympathy its a quick bacon buttie and pack all the prezzies in the car and off to Leek to celebrate with family. And more booze no doubt. Merry Christmas.

Strike Day

so its been strike day today and across the country thousands of people have down tools and walked out of work in protest of one thing and another. Because i work in education i too have had the the luxury of having a day off, unpaid of course but instead of marching with my fellow brothers and sisters i have gone out and done something that i enjoy completely unrelated. Now whether they are right or not to strike you cant argue that its done some good in areas they didn't expect. As i walked through central station this afternoon it was packed out , the town was busy and the shops full but not with the commies, no. but with families out shopping in the run up to Christmas, everyone i saw had a shopping bag or bags and was ether with their spouses or children and instead of a hostile crowd there was a merry family atmosphere that was almost festive, not seen or felt for some time. If this is the result of the strike, that people pump money back into our economy and spend time with family and friends then bring it on.

Zenit E

Its official i have an addiction and not of the drug kind, alcahol i already have but this new addiction is much much worse. Its ebay, and in particular its film cameras. I have have started to mont up quite a collection of 35mm cameras some slr, some point and shoot and even an half frame. Im shure i have enough but the urge is still there and seeing as i very rare spend above a tenner for each one it wont see me out on the streets robbing from my mother just yet.
I have started to buy faulty cameras too, ones that are not working at there best so that i can break them down have ago at fixing them and increase my understanding of how different models work. It rather enjoyable and if i mess it up then its only a small price to pay.
My latest fixer upper is this mighty fine Zenit E SLR, made in the USSR its chunky and heavy but the best thing i like about it is the sound of the shutter, sounds like a Russian slamming the hammer down. This one had a problem with the shutter in that it needed tensioning and the light meter was faulty. so i stripped it down cleaned all the lens and mirrors tensioned the shutter and replaced the lightmeter from another Zenit E that i got for 2 quid. Gave the cosmetics a bit of a spruce and bobs your auntie. I replaced the lens with my Yaschica 50 mm which takes awesome pics. I tested this out on a recent visit to Rome which you can check out on my Flickr. Absolutely love this camera and will use it as much as i can. Its funny now that work has given me a new Cannon 400D you would think id be playing that but it just doesn't have the appeal like these old cameras do.

Lasers at the ready

Being a bit of a technology freak loving my toys and anything that is a little bit space age i jump at the chance to make things, although its seems I'm going backwards in the context of photography as yet again i bought another camera off ebay the other week. However I'm a practical person and love to make things whether its using technology or my own two hands. My recent little creative spell has been for my brother in law Thud, using a design he found in one of his many books on old building i designed two Gothic arches for two of his rooms. The process is quite simple and watching the laser cut them out is hypnotising. Just a few little finishing touches tomorrow will have these looking top notch. I wonder if Mrs Monkey will let me have one of these, along side the 3D printer, darkroom and workshop hmmmmm think I'm gonna need a bigger boat...or a shed.

Picking up the Leaves

Its very mild for this time of year and I'm desperate for the frost to really start as it always gives that winter feel and a sense that Christmas is approaching. Myself and Thud racked off the first of our cider this weekend with quite a few little surprises. the clarity and the difference in taste between the different batches. Anyone would have thought we knew what we were doing as we discussed the readings from our scientific specific gravity reading. Later i took a little wander around the garden taking the last of the apples from the trees and just taking in the immense rich colour of the garden. with some trees keeping a firm hold of their leaves the change from green to deep red then brown is striking and even though no frost or deep cold this some how makes me feel festive. After this mild sense of contemplation is was time for the long task of scooping them up and burning.

Lomo Film

I have recently been dabbling in out of date film both colour and black and white. Iv kind of got to grips with developing my own film but found printing to paper costly and time consuming so i recently got a negative scanner for ones birthday which cuts out both those factors and fits into what i want to do. I had My first attempt at processing colour film, something that most people seem to think complicated and yet its nearly the same at processing B+W with only a little more care time and temperature. I love using this out of date stuff has your never to sure as to what your going to get from it when you process it. the results have been great so far like taking your images back in time, saturating the colour and giving small imperfections which i really like. I love my digital camera but my film cameras have personality and their own style which some presets cant beat. These images were not touched or altered in any way and taken on my Rollie xf35, processed in my kitchen.


Turning the big 30 this week and my lovely wife dropped a great surprise on me last Sunday. She took me away to Rome for a few days, a place that i have always wanted to go and it without doubt held nothing back and lived up to my expectations. The city is not ruined by modern architecture or mindless initiatives. Its kept in time and all the buildings are the same and go together like a finely composed painting. Everywhere you look there is some sort of hidden detail, craftsmanship and pride. Its a beautiful city and I'm really lucky to have seen it with my own eyes. In complete contrast i then went to Glasgow which there are no pictures off as of fear of getting my camera robbed by a smackhead. It was entertaining and to be fair people were polite, a comedy club and a Celtic game (pretty much the same thing really) helped.

she's a Waterfall

Yesterday the Stone Roses announced their getting back together, never actually seeing them perform when they were together this has made me very excited and will definitely be looking for tickets to go see them. I just hope they don't fall out in the mean time.

Chocolate Fondant

Watching a cooking program at the weekend gave me the urge to have ago at making a chocolate fondant. For no real reason apart from it being kind of tricky. So tonight after tea i threw together the ingredients and voila it only bloody worked. it tasted like chocolate heaven very rich and in desperate need of ice cream.....i forgot that part but still its the thought that counts and for once Mrs Monkey actually liked my desert.

Laser Cutter

Today I took delivery of our brand new laser cutter/engraver. Its a beast of a machine, in fact its quite a bit bigger than I thought it was going to be and the original place it was going to go has had to be changed but never mind its bloody awesome. I will be spending the week playing around and getting use to its capabilities and generally lasering anything I can get my hands on. I love getting new toys me.

The Unseen Sea

Iv been to San Francisco quite a few times and feel like i know the city reasonable well, and every time i return home and talk to people about the city and the Bay the first thing i mention is the Fog. The Bay has with out doubt some of the most amazing fog that you could ever imagine, and it is literally like a tidal wave hitting the bay stretching out in land as far as the cool air will allow before the Californian sun burns it away. My mother saw the bay recently and she finally understood why i go on so much about the fog.

The Unseen Sea from Simon Christen on Vimeo.

Pizza with an Egg on

After a stressful couple of weeks I took Mrs Monkey out to our favourite Scouse Italian. What you can see there is an empty plate where my favourite pizza with an egg on once lay, no in the bottom of my tummy I feel complete. Roll on the weekend.
Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from Virgin Media

Sunday Roast

First Sunday roast since being back from the States but what makes it even more special is that every thing that is on the plate with exception to the chicken has been grown by myself and Thud. The carrots, parsnips, runner beans and King Edwards even the onion in the gravy all from the veggie patch. Although i say veggie patch it was more like a weed patch when we got to it this weekend, but after a couple of hours labour we finally found our crop.
I got my annual dose of fruit while walking round the garden as the apples, plums, damsons and pears all seem to be coming on nicely and i just cant help but sample as i walk. I do love England even though it was windy and rained most of the day i cant help but be outside looking at nature do what it does best.


Spending the day with family celebrating and getting to know each other, some things we take for granted and some things we let pass by easily. I stopped to think of the poor souls lost 10 years ago to the day and thank my blessings. They will never be forgotten and I'm thankful to all those since that have put their lives forward so that i can be free to live mine.

Home we go

In a couple of hours we will be on our way back to sunny England, which means our epic summer is over. After a christening, wedding, birthday and anniversaries I'm all partied out but we have both had chance to sit back and relax in between all that. Thank God. So its back to England and back to work, yet again Thud and Family OTW have been great hosts and looked after us well with a little help from vinogirl and vinomaker supplying great BBQ and Excellent Wine. We have great memories of this summer to be told for years to come.

Chevrolet HHR

Alot of people back home in the UK have this things about American cars, they are too big, slow, drink too much fuels and generally don't go round corners. However we have been to the US a few times now and every car we have had or been in has been more than if not better than the cars in the British market. We have mostly been driving around in whats probably the largest SUV's on the American market the Ford Exhibition. this has taken a family of 8 around California and further for the past 4 weeks with no problems at all and sitting right in the very back is just as comfy as the front. However my praise has to go to the Chevy HHR, this stylish station wagon has taken me and Mrs Monkey and plenty of long drives up and down and around California with trips to Vegas to boot and although its not as luxurious as the Ford its sure left a craving impression on me. just hope with the growing market of Chevy's in the UK they decide to bring this beauty over.


yosemite falls by monqey
The Picture above is of Bridelveil Fall in theYosemite Valley. Mrs Monkey and i took the long drive back to Walnut Creek from our Honeymoon in Malibu, up the through 178 on to the 395 passing by the sierrras and then acrosss west on the 120 through Yosemite. An epic drive it was and even though we only had a couple of hours in yosemite ( no where near enough time to experience the beauty of yosemite) we got to see sights that will stick in our memories forever. This is such a beautiful country and so very large it kind of upsets me knowing that i will never see all of it in my life time but i will do my very best in seeing the most possible.

Mr and Mrs Monkey

Wooo whooo its been fun and very hectic but we finally did it and on the 10th of August 2011 Tenbellies became Mrs Monkey and made me the happiest man on the planet. After getting all the family and a few special friends out to Sin City we tied the knot and celebrated in style. As a new major part of my life begins I'm blessed with great family, awesome friends and a beautiful amazing wife.
cheers "clink clink" people.....

That's the champagne glasses not the links on my ball and chain.

The Detail Above

The Detail Above by monqey
The Detail Above, a photo by monqey on Flickr.

A trip to San Francisco today, the weather was really good for the city as it can sometimes be a little nippy. I got a little camera happy as i just love looking at all the side streets and the hills as there is always something to look at. The girls enjoyed the shopping where i just enjoyed looking up at the parts of the city that most people walk by unnoticed every day. A beautiful city even with its tramps. i will be going back a couple more times before we leave.

American life

Danville by monqey
Danville, a photo by monqey on Flickr.

Im a little slack on the posts since leaving the UK on Monday but then i have been getting use to a little thing called summer sun. yes unlike the UK, California definitely has a real summer with hot weather and sun shine instead of the usual cold damp dark summer back in the UK. Sitting in starbucks having breakfast watching the world go by and driving down to Danville for lunch is enough to keep thoughts of blighty at bay. This weekend my new nephews christening in St Helena what better way to spend a day with great family.....ah American life.

How hard can it be?

this is only part of a post that i will pick up when i get back from my hols but i had to get this posted as im just pleased as punch with my outcome. im really getting into my photography at late and starting to play a little bit more with film rather than digital, this is time consuming and unpredictable but its also very rewarding and being someone who loves processes i get a buzz out figuring out how things work and having a go. So i built a camera, it is in a sense a pinhole camera but after finding the P90 on the net i have adapted it to take medium format film. at this point i have mostly been testing it with photopaper to get the exposure times and work out the fstop on the camera, once i have this down perfect i will start to put in the film.

what you got under ya hat?

what you got under ya hat? by monqey
what you got under ya hat?, a photo by monqey on Flickr.

8 days left at work, 13 days until we fly off on our holidays and boy am i ready. i cant wait to to wake up and not have anything really to do apart from sit in the sun and relax. all the work over the past year will all be soon worth it and we will both be starting a new chapter in our life (cheeeeese). i just have to get through the next 8 day and ill be rocking.

Paul Trevor

I’ve had relaxing couple of days and took some time to go and see the Paul Trevor exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery. Those who don’t know who Paul Trevor is, he is a Photographer who in 1975 came to the city to document the deprivation of post war Liverpool instead what he captured was something quite different. There backdrop may be the dereliction of post-war Liverpool. But these images go beyond this bleak cityscape and get close to his real subject: families and children.
His honest street photography shows life as it was lived in a community defiant in the face of poverty, unemployment and the state of their surroundings. He depicts a place where the streets and wastelands became playgrounds, the family was a constant, and where children seem fun-loving and free.
Now we live in a city which has changed dramatically since these times, on the surface it looks rich and affluent but I’m pretty sure underneath its quite different a once safe place for children to play is now a secured monitored playground and high walled back gardens and our streets are silent from the sounds of children playing. If anything these photos are priceless as never again will people let alone a young man take photos of innocent children playing and being. Oh how things have changed, look at how we have evolved.

strike strike strike!!

lazy times by monqey
lazy times, a photo by monqey on Flickr.

errrrrr not really, as much as i understand that it’s going to be crap working till I’m 65 having a miserable pension and being paid a not so great wage for the enormous hours we both put in, i am also young enough to make changes in my life to compensate. Too many people look to the past for answers for modern day problems and it’s this that is more often than not the cause of future problems. I opted out of the union a few months ago when i came to my senses; being bullied and scared into joining a union from when I was a student reminds me of films such as goodfellas and protection rackets. Taking money off me each month to keep union bosses in pork pies and flat caps and after attending my very first union meeting and being stuck in room full of people I despise I realized then this was not for me. And it was not something I was brought to believe in especially when our union boss Christine Blower takes a pay rise straight after telling us that our pay will not rise, her pay would pay for 4 new teachers and 4 teaching assistants. Something is not quite right there but hey that’s unions and they come hand in hand with corruption and back hand deals.
Today I will have the day of work and why not, ill put my feet up go out for lunch and enjoy myself with tenbellies but not out of protest more out of my selfish need to take a day off.

slight relief

potato by monqey
potato, a photo by monqey on Flickr.

After the past three or four weeks I’m more than ready to take a break. The weekends are my relief and coming over the water to spend time in the garden usually on the veggie patch is kind of therapeutic in weeding out the stress of work. The veggies are coming on well and the potatoes as you can see are full and flowering. Thud says we have planted them a little too close together and I’m starting to think he is right, its like one huge potato bush but it promises a fine yield. Getting outside is important to me as I think good English fresh air is good for the soul and mind, although the weather doesn’t bother me as much as others I would like a bit more sun and some of the veggies could do with it too.

home brew

home brew by monqey
home brew, a photo by monqey on Flickr.

After a reasonable attempt at making elderberry wine last year i have decicded to give elderflower champagne a go (not supposed to call it champagne though). The edlderberry came out reasonable well and got slightly more alcoholic as time went on, the plum wine that i did off the cuff turned out to be rocket fuel and undrinkable so im sure to give that one a miss this year. Anyway the elderflower is sure on its way and unlike the the berry the flower smells alot nicer and less intrusive to have in the house. Thud and i will be making an attempt at cider this year once we return from our hols so there will be plenty of the home brew floating about come christmas. the recipe for the the elderflower champagne is below which i got off the internet, i wanted to use the simplest method as this was what i did for the berry.

•35 elderflower heads – pick the ones with the strongest scent
•2.5kg granulated sugar
•2 proper tablespoons of white wine vinegar
•5 litres boiling water & some cold water
•Juice and grated skin (zest) of 5 lemons – unwaxed if possible
•Juice and grated skin (zest) of 1 lime – also unwaxed

Read more:


i dont blog about technology very often but because of my job a regularly read several design sites, some daily to keep myself on the ball and my mind fresh with new concepts and ideas. working with students you find that they are very much about whats new and what come out in the future so its important to try and be on the same wave length even if i do listen music older than them and smell of old spice.
reading through one of the sites today i dropped on this little gem, as it seems as smartphones are the way forward these days, all the kids have them, i have one and the internet is even more accessable. mobile devices are becoming even more compatible with everyday life and i can see how they could easily do away with thing we take for granted like cash and keys.
what is a little unrealistic in the video is this device being compatible with such tech like Apple, apple only likes apple.

Rimino - A Human Touch on Mobile Experience from Amid Moradganjeh on Vimeo.

hope theres enough water in that kettle

As i have said before its busy busy right now but yesterday we (the cool gang) took time out during the day to go and have lunch up by the ship canal. the weather was good, nice and hot so sitting on the jetti with our sarnies we made a small fire and had tea. im lucky in my job to on rare occassions get times like these (the boss was away on this day) and we make the most of it afer an hour or so it was back to the hectic asylum that is my job. five more weeks to go and away it is for the summer.

Choo Choo

20110609-_DSC0229.jpg by monqey
20110609-_DSC0229.jpg, a photo by monqey on Flickr.

Its back to the train for me as a regular lift to work is moving from a very convienient next door to chester. As much as i enjoy getting a lift to work and it saves alot of hassle and money i kind of like the train journey too. Im not really a huge morning person and i often just need to sit in my own little bubble until i get to work where i have to be socialble as soon as i walk through the door, i like to sit on the train and feel i dont have to speak to anyone or listen to anyone and that can make a huge difference to my day, its just unfortunate that i have to pay extra for these simple things.