Breaking News… Again

So I was driving my car this morning when I drove past an accident… then 500 yards away there was a second accident at the top of the same road.  I, of course, being the heartless photographer that I am, lamented not having my DSLR camera with me (with the telescopic lens) and instead only managed to snap a few terrible shots with my cameraphone.  It was a fairly minor accident in the end although the cyclist looked unconscious when I saw him, so maybe he was going into shock (I don’t actually know the gender but I suspect male).

Anyway, I contacted the local paper where I was driving and sent in my photos – and this afternoon, they’ve published one of them with the updated article. Turns out they’d only been aware of one of the accidents before I called.  You can read the article here (mine’s just the second photo):

The article with my photo.

Eek I used my real name. Am I ready to link the two together indelibly??? I figured after I accidentally linked you a webcomic (which I’d written my name on when I was naive and thought that was how copyright worked), either y’all don’t care or my stalkers are biding their time. Either way, for the record, Jasmine Honey Adams are all legally parts of my name. Sorry to be a bitch but for future employment purposes, any comments using my real name will be deleted for the time being.  Sorry folks, I had to delete the link as someone’s getting obsessive a few days after I joked about stalkers.

I guess I just keep being in the right place at the right time.

How to Choose a DSLR Camera

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” 
― Dorothea Lange

Cameras are a complete minefield once you want to do more than take family holiday snaps.  I was really squinchy about spending money on an expensive DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera, and when mine arrived I was really excited to try it out, but I hated using it at first (I was terrified of breaking something) and it took me about 1,000 photos before I actually knew how to adjust the settings without having to take loads of sample pictures.  After a weeklong trip to Aberdeen, however, I was completely in love with the superior picture quality of the DSLR compared to my old Fuji Finepix-S Bridge Camera, and after a few months it became second nature to get the settings adjusted perfectly.

1. Identify your budget.

What can you reasonably afford to buy?  Are you looking for the cheapest thing that takes pictures (in which case you might like a bridge camera)?  Or are you making an investment in a potential future career?  Do you want something with all the features or do you just want the pictures to look like they weren’t taken on a cameraphone?

DSLR cameras start at around $399 for the Canon EOS Rebel T5 1200D which is an entry level DSLR and is missing a few features you might require (such as a lens), and prices go up to $3249 for the Canon EOS 5D Mark III which comes with one lens and is generally agreed by photographers to be the very best camera that Canon make.  On top of these costs you will need lenses which I will write a separate post on.

2. Identify what you’re going to use it for: video or stills?

Some cameras don’t do video or don’t do it well – some don’t have microphones, or don’t have a jack for your microphone to be attached.  The Canon EOS 600D, 650D and 700D are all good for Youtubing but some of the older DSLR cameras don’t record video at all, so would be a complete waste of money for a Youtuber, however, they still take great (not outstanding) photos so a secondhand older model could be excellent for a budding photographer who was strapped-for-cash.

3. Take a look online to see what you can afford.

Amazon.com is a good place to see how much the different cameras cost.  Canon and Nikon tend to be the most expensive but they have the best features and are compatible with a wider range of add-on equipment.  I haven’t seen anything done by a professional photographer who didn’t use a Canon or a Nikon camera.

4. Read reviews.

I was on the verge of buying the Canon EOS Rebel T5 1200D before I read a review saying that the viewfinder was fixed, not movable.  As someone who does self portrait, timed shots and presents Youtube videos, this was unacceptable to me, and I’m glad I found this out before I bought the wrong camera for my needs.  I finally settled on a Canon EOS Rebel T5i which is everything I want it to be.  Your mileage may vary, and that’s what’s so wonderful about the sheer amount of choice on the market.

5. Buy camera.

Buy it from a reputable store which you’ve heard of or which has a physical location.  There is a LOT of fake crap on the market and some of it is VERY convincing.  I’ve not seen any fake camera bodies or lenses, but when you’re spending that amount of money you need to keep your wits about you.  I love ebay bargains, but I’d never buy a DSLR camera from ebay, or any website where the description is written in broken English, because you need to buy it from somewhere which will take action to sort out a bad transaction.  A second hand camera can be a great bargain, but it’s very easy for someone to sell something because (for example) they dropped it, and you won’t know it doesn’t work until you’ve handed your money over, at which point they can claim you dropped it.  For this reason, if you are buying a secondhand camera, get it from a physical shop and test out the camera before you buy it.  If they’re giving you excuses such as “the battery isn’t charged” then walk away from that purchase.

6. Write a review so other people know how good (or bad) it was.

If the site doesn’t accept reviews, unless it’s the official manufacturer’s site, I wouldn’t buy from there.  A good review lists two or three good points and two or three bad points.  Why waste time even writing a review that looks like any of these:
“Great thanks”

“Arrived ok.”

“Havn’t tried it yet but I’ve still givn it 5 stars.”

Have you got any other tips for buying a camera?  I’d love to read them in the comments!

Add photojournalist to the list.

In the peculiar way my life works, today I can add freelance photojournalist to my list of jobs.

I’ve sent some of my photos to one of the editorial (news) photo companies, and I’ve sent samples in to another, and one of them (Alamy) accepted and approved several of my photos of the York floods and they’re now available for news sources such as the BBC and worldwide national and local newspapers to use.

This isn’t the first time my photos have been in the news – I was at the scene of a very dramatic-looking car crash a couple of years ago (nobody was hurt though) and I took a photo on my phone. I wasn’t sure what to do with it though so I sent it to a local newspaper – at first, they used it without even crediting me, then they put my name to it but never paid me or informed me they were using my picture, which was annoying – I found out by searching their site for news of the crash. I think using a site like Alamy is a much better way to get into freelance photojournalism, although I’m not sure my creative pictures would cut the mustard because the standards are different.

There was a lot of faffing around to get the pictures ready and they don’t accept pictures older than 24 hours (so ;my pictures from Sunday; weren’t useable) for editorial work.  I had to edit the digital data (IPTC data) for the picture to add headline, caption, image owner etc – which it turns out you need professional picture editing software to do.    Well I had no idea what I was doing with that and all the tutorials seem to focus on what to do once you’ve got the menu in front of you, with no regard for those of us who don’t use Photoshop on all our pictures, and therefore don’t have any way of accessing that digital data.

Queue long downloads and frustration – first I downloaded a program called PhotoME which totally lied and can’t edit IPTC data if you use a Canon camera.  That was a HUGE waste of time when my images were close to timing out.  Luckily I found this 15 day free trial of something called BreezeBrowser Pro which enabled me to get the digital details in perfect order to make the pictures saleable without having to spend money on photo editing software.  It’ll at least last me until the floods and Storm Frank are over.

Those of you who have been following Invoke Delight for a while will probably remember that I’m generally against photo editing because it creates an unrealistic view of an event, and I am heavily fond of natural shots in photography (which means I resent having to own photo editing software since I prefer to get a good picture first time, every time).

If I’m ever at the scene of an event in the future, I’ll be sure to take photos just in case they’re newsworthy.

In Pictures: The York Floods 2015, Sunday 27th December

I went around the town on Sunday 27th December (yeah it took me FOREVER to upload these to WP) and just took some photos of the damage and of the things I saw. We even saw some looters trying to get into some abandoned vehicles, but they ran away when they saw me taking photos of nearby things with a professional looking camera (pro-tip – don’t photograph the looters if they’ve noticed you; they’ll probably take your professional looking camera then resume looting).  Click all of these to enlarge if you want to see them up close.

York flood 2015 cars underwater
Your typical flood photo of some decent cars submerged in water.
York flood 2015 recycling bins underwater
Nobody will be recycling their glass bottles for a while – unless they can throw them really far.
York flood 2015 Melrosegate road underwater sewer bubbling up water.
This was around the corner from my house – the water here has flooded even worse than it would have done from the stream, because the sewers are overwhelmed and it’s bubbling up (front centre).
York 2015 floods lols stupid flood people salt bags ASDA.
This is hilarious – apparently nobody told the manager of this ASDA store (Wal-Mart) that salt will dissolve when it is mixed with an excess of water. He would have been better off using bags of gravel.
York floods 2015 james st gypsy site caravans trailers washed away by floodwaters
But it’s hard to see the funny side when your home has literally been washed away. This is the gypsy site (trailer park for gypsies) which is usually crammed end to end with mobile homes (trailers).
York Floods 2015 December police line
A somewhat redundant sign urging people not to venture beyond this arbitrary line. I did hear that North Yorkshire Police ran out of “Road Closed” signs.
York floods 2015 car stranded water level rising december
Another stranded vehicle outside a car showroom. They moved the rest of their cars over the road. Guess this one was from the bargain bucket and deemed not worth saving. The silent tragedy of being an older, reliable motorcar is that you will be sacrificed at the first sign of trouble.
York floods 2015 drama ambulance lost roads closed
An ambulance races to hospital with a patient on-board. Trouble is, it’s heading straight for flooded roads, delaying lifesaving treatment.
York floods 2015 ambulance lost stranded danger death
The same ambulance, several minutes later, has turned around and is racing to find another route to the hospital – this is the REALLY long way round. It puts the siren on, but that’s not going to part the unrelenting water.
Nobody is going out for ice-cream today, as the island of safety surrounding Frankie and Benny's diminishes.
Nobody is going out for ice-cream today, as the island of safety surrounding Frankie and Benny’s diminishes.
York floods december 2015 foss islands road
This is Foss Islands Road, one of the main roads in York, usually gridlocked at this time of day, I don’t even think pedestrians could safely get across.
York flood december 2015 boat river rescue water mooring bridge foss islands road
To the left of the bridge, the River Rescue boat is listing because it’s been moored too tightly and cannot rise with the water levels. The bridge itself being pretty superfluous given that it currently crosses from one river to another. Given the amount of people who have been evacuated, you’d think they’d retrieve all the boats they could get so they could rescue people instead of leaving them to get damaged like this.
York flood december 2015 stupid driving road
There are a lot of vans and campervans on the road, and many people driving round and round looking for a way out of the city. I think some people have used the flood as an excuse to bug out rather than because they really need to risk life and limb making journeys on flooded roads. They’ve missed the fact that the rest of the county is underwater too. There is a lot of reckless driving going on today – like this converted campervan who is doing a U turn but doesn’t slow down enough, ending up in a car park then having to back it up.
York flood december 2015 stupid driving road campervan
Suitably stuck, now they have to back that “campervan” up like a Tonka Truck.

So some laughs, some drama, but most of all, I’m just very glad that my house isn’t flooded at the moment, and I hope to goodness it stays that way.  I think this has justified the expenditure on my 40mm prime (non-zoom) lens for my camera – it’s performance in low light is absolutely stunning – these pictures are actually a little brighter than my eyes were able to see these scenes, because it was going dark as we left the house. If I go out photographing again tomorrow, I need to try and overcome my fear of photographing people because I saw some fantastic human-interest scenes today such as a family pushing their salvaged possessions in a shopping trolley, and some others standing outside a supermarket in their pyjamas waiting for friends to meet them and take them to somewhere dry, and the aforementioned looters although I wasn’t going to snap them in a million years, they were paying too much attention to my camera (although I couldn’t have photographed people very well as I didn’t have my zoom lens with me because I didn’t want it to get wet since it’s bloody expensive – I took my standard kit lens but it was just shockingly crap in the light levels so it captured NOTHING).  I always worry that I’m imposing on others’ private emotional dramas by photographing them; I guess that’s why I’m not a “proper” journalist/photojournalist yet.

Astrophotography in the Scottish Highlands

I thought I’d share some of my exciting lunar photography from last night’s nothing-special-moon (it’s the one that comes shortly after the full moon – it’s that not-quite-full moon that everybody doesn’t care about and which is never the subject of flowery poems or beautiful artwork).  If you’re after my quote for today, it’s at the end of this post.

If this moon shape needs a nickname (which it does) it’s the Underdog Moon.  It’s technically a waning gibbous moon (in the same vein that the crescent moon is really the waning or waxing crescent moon depending which side of the New Moon it is).  I’m very excited because I managed to get some pictures of stars too.  Better than the last ones, although I could have got better pictures if there hadn’t been a streetlight outside my window where I was taking the pictures.  Grr.

The Underdog Moon, taken by me last night out of the bathroom window.
The Underdog Moon, taken by me last night out of the bathroom window.

I am particularly impressed with my handiwork in capturing the above picture, it took about 20 attempts to get the camera settings right: The first photo of the moon that I took last night came out like this:

The moon when I first photographed it.  I played around reducing the ISO and increasing the shutter speed for ages until I got the picture I showed you first.
The moon when I first photographed it. I played around reducing the ISO and increasing and decreasing the shutter speed for ages until I got the picture I showed you first.

Even MORE exciting than that phenomenal moon photo, was this picture of stars.  STARS!  I’ve never had a camera that could photograph stars before and it was such a clear night last night that I know that if we didn’t live in a city I would have been able to get some stunning star photos with this new camera lens because it has the zoom for it!  This is the second time I’ve photographed stars, the first time I’ve tried with the new (second hand but new to me) lens I bought at the start of September, and this stars pic came out a LOT better than the last one:

Stars!!!!  Click to enlarge, I'm not sure whether its remotely exciting to anyone else but I'm so excited by how this pic came out!
Stars!!!! Click to enlarge to see them all (there’s about 10), I’m not sure whether its remotely exciting to anyone else but I’m so excited by how this pic came out!

And for the end of my 3 days 3 quotes (interrupted) challenge, I give you The Galaxy Song from Monty Python:

Here’s the lyrics:

Whenever life gets you down, Mrs.Brown
And things seem hard or tough
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft
And you feel that you’ve had quite enough

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned
A sun that is the source of all our power

The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour
Of the galaxy we call the ‘milky way’

Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars
It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick
But out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide

We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point
We go ’round every two hundred million years
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, the speed of light, you know
Twelve million miles a minute and that’s the fastest speed there is

So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely is your birth
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space
‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth

In Pictures: Urban Industrial Decay by the Sea in Aberdeen

How long has it been since I last did a travel/pure delight article??  It feels like forever!

While I was in Aberdeen I saw some awesome decaying industrial objects which reminded me of Natalia Goncharova and Futurism here’s some inspiration pictures:

Giacomo Balla's Velocity of Cars and Light, 1913.
Giacomo Balla’s Velocity of Cars and Light, 1913.
Natalia Goncharova: A Factory (1912).
Natalia Goncharova: A Factory (1912).

I’m sure people much more accomplished at Art have commented on these pictures to death.  To me, they remind me of the opening minute of the song “Breathe” by Pink Floyd on The Dark Side of The Moon album.  It all links together.  In that vein, of industrialization and movement and life borne of machines and future provided for by machines, there’s little room for the question of the inevitable death of those machines.

When I came across this bounty of stimuli just abandoned on various plots of land in Aberdeen, I was reminded of the inevitable omega – the end of all things.  So I took lots of pictures of these industrial objects because their death masks were so beautiful, and I included the surroundings in some of them because their burial sites were often in direct contrast with their tortured metallic endings.  Such an unnatural and contrived resting place for what was once some chemical elements separated from base rock by a blast furnace.  Abandoned because their ferrous surfaces have combined with too much oxygen.  One question which I cannot answer is: “How sustainable are these burial sites where we lay out our expired machinery?”  There was a LOT of stuff like this in Aberdeen.

I felt sad that such amazing and titanic objects had been abandoned.  There were far more pics than this but I decided to just share this set of 11 in this article, paying particular attention to texture (especially rust) and unusual focus length.  I’ve written my own criticism by them in places so you can see what I thought of how my pictures came out.  I’m a crap photographer but I’m trying to learn, so any feedback would be appreciated, positive or negative.  This was before I bought my amazing new lenses for my DSLR, and I’d had the camera maybe 4 days by this point, so all pics here taken with my 18-55 kit lens on 100% manual camera settings with no autofocus (c’mon, autofocus is for wimps).  Click any image to enlarge.

A laburnum growing up a fence on a backdrop of rust.  The astigmatism and slight vignetting bugs me.
A laburnum growing up a fence on a backdrop of rust. The astigmatism and slight vignetting bugs me.
I really liked the texture.
I really liked the texture.
Some containers looking very tall and thin.
Some containers looking very tall and thin.
A metal thingy.  The sea is behind this wall.
A metal thingy. The sea is behind this wall.  I like the contrasting texture of the lichen, the wall and the metal thingy.
Is this a bunch of Johnny 5 lookalikes at an audition???
Is this a bunch of Johnny 5 lookalikes at an audition???  Apparently they’re lifeboat launches?  ISO too high.
More delightful texture.
More delightful texture.  Not level (argh).
Rusty giant chain.  Each individual link of this chain was bigger than my torso!  I wonder what it was used for...
Rusty giant chain. Each individual link of this chain was bigger than my torso! I wonder what it was used for…
The rusty textured giant 30 foot maw of an enormous digger, with laburnum growing near it.
The rusty textured giant 30 foot maw of an enormous digger, with laburnum growing near it.
barbed wire
Barbed wire and concrete textures contrasting with roof tiles.  Horizontals not straight.
Crane and sky.  I know my angles are awful I was playing around with my settings to try and get the clouds visible and the crane non-silhouetted.
Crane and sky. I know my angles are awful I was playing around with my settings to try and get the texture of the clouds visible and the crane non-silhouetted both at the same time and forgot to level it out.
Texture tyres.  I know the commonly accepted way of doing this image would have been to blur the tyres and focus on the background, but I wanted to show the texture of the tyres as I thought it was a really nice texture (I love the kitemark, bottom right).  I did one the other way around but thought this was the more interesting shot as it forces the viewer to notice the gargantuan tyres (tractor tyres??  What has tyres this big??)
Texture tyres. I know the commonly accepted way of doing this image would have been to blur the tyres and focus on the background, but I wanted to show the delicious texture of the tyres as I thought it was a really beautiful surface (I love the kitemark, near bottom right). I did one the other way around but thought this was the more interesting shot as it forces the viewer to notice the gargantuan tyres (tractor tyres?? What has tyres this big??)

I don’t know what to say to sum this post up, so I’m going to let you do it instead.  Feedback please!

8 Pictures of Pretty Flowers

So I thought the world needed more pictures of things, and decided to post these pictures of flowers to inspire and delight you all (and me, I like looking at pretty things too).

Dandelion clocks, on the verge of telling the time.
Dandelion clocks, on the verge of telling the time.
A dandelion clock.
A dandelion clock.
Another dandelion clock.  I love this moment in time, when such a delicate natural process is taking place.
Another dandelion clock. I love this moment in time, when such a delicate natural process is taking place.
Bluebells in a forest.  I was amazed at how the depth came out in this picture.
Bluebells in a forest. I was amazed at how the depth came out in this picture.
This is another moment in time that I really love - that brief time of year when the bluebells come out.
This is another moment in time that I really love – that brief time of year when the bluebells come out.
Bluebells in the forest from a different angle.
Bluebells in the forest from a different angle.
They're prickly to touch but beautiful to look at.  Although, unlike Eeyore, I don't think I'd want to eat thistles!
They’re prickly to touch but beautiful to look at. Although, unlike Eeyore, I don’t think I’d want to eat thistles!
Another set of thistles.  The pink is so striking against the green that I had to get a picture.
Another set of thistles. The pink is so striking against the green that I had to get a picture.

Like with the pictures of clouds and sunsets, please link back to my site if you borrow these pictures as they’re copyright Invoke Delight/Mama Adventure.  I don’t modify or retouch or colour-up any of my photos, this is just how they looked in real life.

Twelve Inspiring Sunsets

To follow up yesterday’s post, I thought I’d post some sunsets today.  I wanted to write about Newgrange but the hundred or so photos I’d taken have all mysteriously disappeared.  And I’m probably not going back any time in the near future as I have a LOT of other places on my 30 list (a list I wrote when I was 18, of all the things I want to do before I turn 30) to go to.  So, instead, here are lots of pictures of sunsets I’ve collected from England and Scotland (the last one’s from St Paul’s Cathedral, Vatican City, photographed from Rome).  Enjoy.

sunset2

sunset07

sunset1

sunset08sunset3

sunset09sunset4

sunset71sunset5

Sunset behind Ben Nevis (obscured by clouds), Scotland.
Sunset behind Ben Nevis (obscured by clouds), Scotland.
My mum used to call this colour "sky blue pink."  It was her favourite colour.
My mum used to call this colour “sky blue pink.” It was her favourite colour.
Sunset behind St Paul's Cathedral, the Vatican, Rome.
Sunset behind St Paul’s Cathedral, the Vatican, Rome.

All these photos are my own, and you can use them for whatever you like (please consider acknowledging that you found them on Invoke Delight).  I did stamp the Vatican one because I’ve used it a few times before; it’s one of my favourite travel photos.

10 Pictures of Pretty Clouds

Today I wanted to share some pictures of clouds, all taken in York, UK, where I live.  I feel Invoke Delight has been a sombre place of late and I want to make sure it stays a place to inspire delight in the world around me, which was its original remit (inspire delight was already taken when I registered the URL, so I went with invoke, instead).  Click to enlarge, I haven’t watermarked the pictures so you can do what you want with them if you want to use them for things:

clouds1

clouds2

clouds3

clouds4 clouds5 clouds06 clouds07 clouds08 clouds09 clouds10

I hope these pictures of the sky on an English summer’s day will brighten your day.  I will continue to talk about serious stuff on my second blog.

Mirabell Gardens and Palace: Breaking all the rules.

Mirabell Gardens and Palace: Breaking all the rules.

Mirabell Fountain
The curious origin of the streams of water…

It’s bad form to start at the beginning when you write a travel piece. This is the special exception: The fountain, facing away from us as we entered Mirabell Gardens, was a half naked woman who appeared to have two streams of water pointing in opposite directions around her chest area. It looked like her tits were leaking. I got two or three photos because I thought it was so bizarre. I walked around the fountain and when I reached the front, I saw there were actually her hands, directly in front of her chest, and she was holding two bluebirds, who were facing away from each other. The water was actually coming from their mouths. It does raise some questions about why anyone would just loll around half naked in a pond with birds in their hands at chest height, but we’re taught not to really question it if it’s Art, and this had at some point been Art. I could imagine the Georgian upper classes viewing this fountain with the same disdain with which recent audiences have treated work by Damien Hirst. Having said that, there’s a lot of stuff like this dotted around Western Europe.
The mystery thus solved, we moved on, into the gardens. Needless to say there were flowers everywhere; flowerbeds formed geometric patterns. Sitting on a bench to eat lunch, we were treated to being harassed for money by a beggar.

“Haben sie zwei Euro?” A man asked with a Turkish accent. He didn’t look particularly poor, but clothing obviously isn’t the best indicator. He waved a paper at us.
“No thank you.” I replied. The beggar glared at me, then did the one thing that guaranteed he wasn’t getting a sale from either of us. In a Western country, with (almost) equal rights, he ignored me and looked to my husband, waiting for an answer, still proffering the paper. We both stared at him in disbelief.

“NO THANK-YOU!” My OH said loudly and slowly.
“You want to buy a paper? Two Euro?” He asked, in English this time.
“NO…THANK…YOU.” He repeated, even more loudly and slowly. My other half has no compunction about talking at people in English until they’re imbued with the gift of speaking his language. It’s usually incredibly humiliating for me, as I’ll try to speak someone else’s language and fall silent before submitting to requesting if they speak English. This time, however, I just let him get on with it. After all, the paper that the guy was flogging was still in German, no matter what language he tried his sales pitch.
“You got a Euro for the bus?” He asked, still not taking the hint.
“No. Go away.” My OH replied loudly. He’s usually very polite but I think the man’s sexism had rankled him.
“Fifty cents? Fifty cents for bus?” He shook his coffee cup in my OH’s face, at which point my beloved just turned towards his sandwich and resumed eating.

The man started shouting a tirade of abuse at us, then walked off and started the exact same routine at the very next bench. I wondered, with his amazing command of colloquial English expletives, why he was wasting his effort trying to sell German-language papers to English tourists instead of making a mint teaching at an English Language School. I felt a little dirty inside, having broken my personal rule of letting my OH act like a tourist.

After lunch we decided to check out the famous Mirabell Palace, mentioned in guide books and internet must-see lists as “Mirabell Palace and Gardens.” Disappointingly, it turned out to be a council offices, which wasn’t open to the public. Not even a toilet to be had.

There was a thoroughfare which was quite pretty, and which led us across a car park and ultimately caused us to end up at the Austrian Hair Supermarket, which was as it sounds – a shop the size of a supermarket that only sold hair products. A self-inflicted platinum blonde, I just love hair products. I love finding new ones that do good things to my hair. I had bravely left home without so much as a hairdryer, let alone straighteners or a curling wand, so anything that would improve my hair’s appearance was very welcome. Thank-you, inaccurate travel guides everywhere; the hair supermarket was one of the shopping highlights of the entire trip. Across the road, there was a toilet.

I’m breaking another travel writing rule here, but I have to tell you about this toilet. As I was approaching the toilet, an older woman barged right past and into the toilet. The door swung closed and I wasn’t sure whether it was a single toilet inside or many. I decided to wait for her to finish, even though I didn’t see any lock on the outside of the outside door.

A good ten minutes later, I was still waiting. I decided to check inside. There were two cubicles, as I suspected. The older woman was sitting on one of the toilets, trousers down, cubicle door wide open, bags, rucksack and hiking poles spread about in front of the sink. I decided to step over the bags and I went into the other cubicle, as she kept speaking an unidentifiable, possibly Eastern European, language at me, getting louder. I locked the door and started cleaning the toilet seat, as she kept banging on the cubicle wall and shouting at me from the next toilet. I came back out again to see what she wanted. She just kept shouting in a foreign language.

Eventually, she declared, “Pissing!” at the top of her voice and I just gave up and left. I waited for her to be finished as she clearly wanted the entire toilet block to herself for some bizarre reason that I couldn’t fathom. Some people just can’t share toilets apparently. When she was finally done, I burst into the cubicle I’d prepared earlier and locked the door firmly. I breathed a sigh of relief. I’m sure you know the kind I mean.

Later, when I was washing my hands, I thoroughly checked the cubicle containing the toilet she’d used. The lock worked perfectly, there was plenty of toilet roll. The outside door also happened to have a bolt on the inside that she could have used for privacy, presumably in case women wanted to use the baby change station on the opposite wall to the sink. I couldn’t help but wonder what she would have done at a pay-per-cubicle toilet, where people would have been more reluctant to leave, as it would have meant forfeiting the toll paid for use of the toilet. I still can’t work out what her problem was. Tourists.