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Sunday tomorrow, the last day of my long vacation. Back to work on Monday. I can't say I feel overjoyed at the prospect, but neither do I feel dismayed. It'll be good to see my workmates again.

In the meantime, on this unseasonably mild St. Louis day (81 F), at 7 in the evening but with a mind and body that feel it is 1 a.m., I'll tap a few more things that struck me about my holiday.

As I said earlier, I had very little internet access. This meant I got most of my news from newspapers. Or should have – in fact, all the British newspapers were largely filled with comment and speculation and precious little of the hard stuff. In every case, their websites prove to be vastly superior. This was a little dismaying, I guess real news does not sell. Regardless, I came away deeply unimpressed with the state of print newspapers. Nor was the BBC TV much better – same story, website is good, broadcast news mostly drivel.

The food in England was very good. Dairy products in particular have a richness and flavor that is not found in mainstream American offerings. Cheeses, cream and milk put the US to shame. The standard of cooking in the pubs and restaurants was overall excellent – as I said earlier, you usually had to pay a lot for it. After a while, I got a little tired of seeing a whopping bill for a smattering of food placed on a large plate with a few swirls of some sauce and a dusting of icing sugar for decoration.

Beer was still good, if also very pricey. Worth it.

I lugged ten lenses, two camera bodies, flash unit, tripod and ball head, laptop computer plus filters and other accessories as hand luggage all the way there and all the way back. All I lost were one puffer bottle and a hex wrench. I regard this as something of a miracle. My hand luggage weighed more than my main check-in luggage, but I managed to move it about. Lots of bumps, scrapes and scratches on my stuff, but only cosmetic damage. Everything worked – almost – and I used it all.

What failed was the hard drive on my laptop while I was in Scotland. However, I had prepared and brought with me a second drive preloaded with Windows and all necessary programs. Using a pair of nail slippers as a primitive screwdriver, I was able to swap out the corrupted drive with the good one and save the day. No pictures were lost; the boot drive failure was due to a corrupted Windows start-up file. I simply used it from that point onward as back-up drive. One case where obsessive preparation actually paid off!

But now I have an astonishing almost 8000 image files to go through, many of them duplicates of the same scene with slightly different camera settings. That will keep me going for a while.

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