I returned late yesterday afternoon, and would have been home half and hour earlier were it not for uncaring drivers blocking the road, queuing to get fuel from the local filling station. I'd driven 230 miles from Great Torrington in North Devon - seven and three-quarter hours on the road - and despite refreshment stops was feeling pretty tired. This kind of hold-up was the last thing I needed. And as I had the caravan hitched behind me, I couldn't do a nifty three-point turn, and go back the way I'd come in search of a clearer alternative way home. I was trapped in the tailback.
Eventually a gap appeared, and, assisted by a kind bus driver in the oncoming lane, who held back traffic for me, I snaked car and caravan through that gap and into the completely clear road beyond the filling station. And was home within five minutes.
This was all because BP had shut a few of their filling stations a couple of days earlier. Publicity had done the rest, creating a situation in which everyone, daft or sensible, rushed to secure a tankful if they possibly could. Fortunately, I'd been able to top up in North Devon but 230 miles of towing uses up a lot of diesel, and I barely had a third of a tank left when I hit this unwelcome hold-up. It was hard not to experience a degree of 'range anxiety', even so close to home. Certainly, watching the fuel gauge had been a preoccupation on the return journey.
I don't altogether blame people for getting fuel, whatever the inconvenience or frustration for others. We so depend on our cars.
It did cross my mind, of course, that an electric car owner would laugh at all this queuing for liquid fuel, and simply get home using a route that did not pass a filling station. Then plug in.
After unloading the caravan, and before having my evening meal, I did go out again to check out the filling stations in Burgess Hill, drawing a blank until I reached Tesco, where there was a queue, but it was moving. Tesco had stewards directing drivers to a suitable pump, depending on the fuel they wanted and how they would be paying. It was most efficiently done. I filled up, and will be fine now for the week ahead.
And I assure my readers that the tail end of the holiday wasn't at all spoilt by this experience. I had a very good three weeks, with plenty of fine weather, and all of it beautifully recorded by Lili, the Leica X-U camera I bought on 20th August. I took 2,776 photos while on holiday. And, counting today's batch, 4,493 since purchase on 20th August. Lili is a joy to use, and very rewarding.
But I went on holiday with a few questions in my mind. These were all to do with having bought a camera with just one fixed lens, no zoom, no macro mode, and no quick-access special scene modes. In fact no gimmicks at all, just the essential controls. Would Lili feel slow to use or adjust, and her picture-taking abilities limiting? To ensure that I gave her a proper chance to prove herself, I deliberately left the cherished little Leica D-Lux 4 behind. I would rely on Lili only, and if I hit an issue, then I'd be forced to find a workaround.
I'm glad to say that there were no issues. I solved all the operational glitches that came up. For example, using the flash, which is designed primarily for underwater conditions. But it produces good results on dry land too - you must however first change the White Balance from 'auto' to 'flash'. I don't think this point was picked up in any of the online reviews of the X-U that were published from 2016 to 2019. Their writers, no doubt pushed for time, condemned all out-of-water use of flash on the X-U, dismissing it as poor, giving flat, no-shadow illumination. But it's not so. This negative comment must have put off more than a few potential buyers.
Let's run through some of those questions I had.
Lili's fixed 23mm lens, matched with an APS-C sensor inside the camera, behaves as a 35mm lens on a 'full-frame' camera. 35mm is fairly wide-angle, but not as wide as the 24mm lens on the little Leica D-Lux 4. Would I miss a wider field of view, and the compositional possibilities it afforded?
Well, there were occasions when a really wide-angle lens would have been nice to have. But I can't say I felt frustrated with having 'only' 35mm available, rather than the more extreme 24mm. I just got used to composing 'tighter' pictures with no space around the subject. Or worked harder to simulate a steep perspective, or a great sense of depth. These shots of a river bridge in Looe in Cornwall, and the harbour at Ilfracombe in Devon, do I think demonstrate that 35mm can supply oodles of depth if carefully used: