Tuesday, February 28, 2006
The woollen trade in this part of the country succumbed centuries ago to competition from the mechanised mills of Northern England and later from abroad. Now the town is a centre for retirement, arts and crafts and expensive dwellings for the affluent workers of nearby Cheltenham.
Right, that's the educational bit done.
I went to Painswick today to pick up a book. As luck would have it my visit coincided with a flurry of snow. The yew trees took on a delicate frosting and, despite the dull light, were worthy of a few shots with the Silver Snapper.
Two of my current themes were satisfied - a splash of red from the church clock and one I suppose I should call 'Mysterious Passages' or some such nonsense. I love these dark enclosed pathways through the yew trees and the striated effect from the snow was a bonus.
Monday, February 27, 2006
That should concern us on so many levels.
Mechanical signal arms on railways come in two basic varieties - upper quadrant that lift up in a snooty fashion to let the train pass and lower quadrant that drop as if on one knee. The latter gesture always seems much friendlier somehow. Now they both are becoming rare having been replaced by the baleful and uncompromising glare of the colour light signal.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
I’ve taken many pictures here over the years and, in fine weather, it’s a very rewarding location. Under the conditions pertaining on this occasion, it would be fair to say I struggled. I would like to say that I struggled manfully, with dogged determination, eager to succeed against the odds, to triumph where none had triumphed before. But I didn’t. I gave it about ten minutes than headed back into the town to meet up with her ladyship and a mug of hot chocolate.
I posted an image of one of Whitby’s heroes, Captain Cook, a couple of weeks ago. He was made of sterner stuff than me. Incidentally the town also claims an association with Dracula, not because it’s an outpost of Transylvania (although some of the guest houses might give that impression) but because the author, Bram Stoker, wrote the book while living there in the late nineteenth century. I don’t imagine vampires have much time for hot chocolate but who knows? Perhaps it’s a tasty alternative to rhesus negative.
(By the way, as you can see the picture features rust, a splash of red and a group of three so I was trying a bit).
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Yes, mate, I thought, that's the reason why Helmsley is one of the most attractive towns in the British Isles. If you want to get involved in watching other people play sport, do so in the privacy of your own home (and keep the curtains closed).
*William Peachey was born in Cheltenham and is probably a very distant relative of mine (which is nice).
To be honest this is a longstanding interest going back thirty or more years. Occasionally I’ve been called upon to light scenes from television dramas on steps and I’ve always attacked them with relish. Get the lighting just right and they’re deeply satisfying. If I had my way all the action would take place on them (or alternatively involve couples sitting facing each other in front of a window or a roaring fire). Doubtless once again I’m revealing something deeply Freudian about myself but who cares?
I took this photograph with the Canon Ixus 50 on its auto setting. I could have done with using a slower shutter speed and getting a better sense of motion from the passers-by. Still, what do you learn from perfection? Nothing, just an uneasy feeling that there’s nowhere else to go.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
The even numbers are striking back with a vengeance in this image - bikes, wheels, red headgear. I feel the need for a three.
I've heard there are still three-seater privies (dunnys to you, Lee) mouldering away in Cotswold back gardens, albeit disused - it must have been an interesting communal experience. This trio of butt supports are attached to an agricultural implement used for setting out plants in furrows. Doesn’t look like a comfortable way to spend the working day but no doubt the occupants could enjoy a good gossip.
I managed to hang onto my own personal chair for years when I worked for the Beeb* - had it refurbished twice. It’s those petty triumphs that make being employed worthwhile. It’s not the same when you’re freelance and you have to buy your own.
*British Broadcasting Corporation
Monday, February 20, 2006
A few days ago I published a picture of a path passing through a grove of yew trees with the prospect of sunny fields beyond. As this was far too jolly, I've searched out an image with a more sombre aspect to counter it.
I often return to this flight of steps in Great Malvern to make images. Local photographers sometimes pose wedding couples in front of it - perhaps to symbolise the uphill struggle they have in their lives ahead (what a cynical point-of-view, Bush - shame on you!).
For me, they offer a prospect of mystery. The steps turn right around a blind bend at the top. As you mount them, your destination is invisible. They are steep. Little old ladies stride past as you fight for breath - you have to be tough to live on the slopes of the Malverns. For some reason, which only evolution will determine, it is a town popular with retired people.
If you survive the steps, you emerge onto a steep path which winds up through overhanging trees to an ancient well. Cool, clear water spurts out from the hillside into a limestone basin, housed in the entrance to a cafe. Inside kind people will sell you the best apple and almond cake* I have ever tasted. It's worth every step.
*Please note, Dad, that your's is the best Apple Cake (without almonds).
Sunday, February 19, 2006
'I'd like to get some stuff on Ebay today'.
I was stuffed. There were no drains that needed rodding, fish that needed gutting, insanely deep holes that needed digging, nothing, in fact, that could be an excuse for not getting involved in an Ebay day.
I'm not against Ebay in principle although, for greedy business practices, they take some beating. Any business that has a monopoly on the means of sale and, to large extent, the means of payment (PayPal) is automatically suspect.
The issue* I have is with the photography which, not unreasonably I suppose, I'm expected to provide. For some reason Pixie has a lot of items for sale in shades of red and maroon, things like handbags, scarves, etc, the colour of which none of my cameras will reproduce accurately (I’ve tried Sony, Canon and Nikon)**. The discrepancy between my efforts and reality often leads to flashes of temperament, fits of petulance and bouts of irritability. This is not conducive to my preferred state of peace, calm and idleness.
These outbursts can, to some extent, be alleviated by copious amounts of tea and crumpets, cheese and pickle toasted sandwiches and other comfort foods. Even so, by the end of the day we are mightily relieved that this self-imposed hell is at an end.
Of course we can now look forward to a week of thinly veiled misery as no interest whatsoever will be shown in the items offered to a gullible public – although they’re not my items, being a caring husband, I like to share in the woe. Next Sunday, waves of disappointment, and perhaps occasional elation, will attend the closing minutes of the auction.
The following week, assuming some of the delights offered on this internet gateway to riches have, contrary to expectation, sold and been paid for, I will spend an large amount of unproductive time in the local post office. There I will stand behind someone trying to send a bag of hamsters to the Galapagos Islands or individually stamping three hundred and seventy seven invitations to a faggots and peas evening. I will not enjoy it.
(* Issues must be a modern invention. We didn’t have issues when I was a kid. Now everyone seems to have them. I wonder if you can get them at the supermarket)
(** Poor rendition of colours at the red end of the spectrum is a continuing problem with image sensors. It started in film, continued when tube technology was developed and is still with us in the age of the chip. Using post- production programs like Photoshop does not usually help as the problem is inherent in the camera).
Metaphor for a blog. a vent, for anger and irritation
Saturday, February 18, 2006
The townships are mainly clustered along the eastern slopes and, in winter, lose the sun soon after midday. The air rapidly chills. As evening draws near, darkness wells up from across the vales of the Severn and the Avon, dispelling the pastel hues of the dying day.
Friday, February 17, 2006
On the way back, we were chasing the sun, leaping from the car, plummeting down muddy banks, struggling through impenetrable thickets, striving to catch the last gasps of the day slanting through the trees. At one such leap I took this reflection shot. Just for the fun of it (we live on the edge here in Worcestershire) I've inverted the image. Quite like it the wrong way up so that's where it will stay.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
'Will the family of a little boy named Percy please come to the reception desk?'
I'm afraid I was forced to add,
'And explain to us why you have given this child of the twenty-first century such an awful name'
(with apologies to all Percies everywhere)
I quite like what's happening under the bridge, image-wise. There are good strong diagonals including the shadow of one of the support girders (diagonals always seem to work well). More interesting is the soft warm light that's bouncing off the brickwork, illuminating the girder under the bridge and lifting it out from the gloom (I once lit a police officer in a drama production by bouncing a light off a brick wall - an unusual approach which even in my business would be regarded as eccentric but it was the only way I could get a light onto him; I liked it anyway)
As a structure I think the aqueduct photographs well despite it being nothing more than a long iron trough filled with water. Fortunately it was built at the beginning of the nineteenth century when the engineers, and the companies they worked for, had pride in what they were building. Even the most humble structures were imbued with dignity and grandeur.
The second image also shows a strong diagonal and a hint of arches - I love arches - I need to go back with some stout trousers, climb a barbed-wire fence and get the right angle on them.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
'Crawl through that drainpipe, you horrible man!'
'No way, sarge, can I put my hand in the bag of snakes instead?'
But generally I feel under-resourced in this area. Then today I remembered my biggest phobia of all - a fear of telephones.
It's a strange one, this, as it only affects me at home. I used to be on the phone all the time at work, arranging meetings, sorting out transmission circuits, lining up contributions from outside broadcasts, and the like. No worries. But they were different. It was my job and I'd been trained in the actions I needed to take if it all fell apart. There were plenty of surprises but none I couldn't deal with.
At home, it's a whole new ball game. If the phone rings I jump. Who the hell is it? What do they want? Why are they ringing when I'm eating? And because I don't like answering them, I don't like speaking on them either - ask anyone who's tried to have a conversation with me on one. And it's not just phones. Back in the days when I was a keen radio ham, did I use voice? No, sir, but I was a dab hand on the Morse key, rattling away at 25 words a minute.
What brought this all to mind was Lee's reference to Skype, the free Internet telephone service (now owned by Ebay, one of the most avaricious companies in the world). The question I asked myself was, would this appeal to me as a better communication medium than the conventional phone?
And the answer?
I’d still have to talk to people.
The photograph today is from another recurring theme, backlit gateways (and three's).
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
This weir is on the River Alne in Warwickshire, a few miles from Stratford-Upon-Avon. No doubt there are locals who claim that William Shakespeare fished here when he was a lad - he seems to have covered every stretch of water within thirty miles of his birth place, when he wasn't poaching deer or getting drunk, that is.
It's a beautiful calm setting by the side of a minor road. The river splits in two here to feed a mill leet, the flow controlled by the sluice gates. As there's little call for water-driven milling these days, the system has fallen into disrepair although it still does a good job at holding back the water.
Much as I'd love to be at Tofino in British Columbia watching the waves roll in from the Pacific or at Cape Leuwin in Western Australia, enthralled by the tussle between the Indian and Southern Oceans, I'm stuck here in the middle of England. I must be satisfied with what I have - a light breeze, winter sun with just a trace of warmth and the gentle murmur of a shallow stream.
(If I really had to choose, I'd be sitting under the ruins of the castle at Tokavaig on the Isle of Skye, looking out across Loch Eishort to the Cuillins, enshrouded in mist. The wind would be whipping the sea into white horses but I'd be sheltered by the broken granite walls and totally at peace).
Monday, February 13, 2006
Nothing. Just liked the way it was lit. As simple as that. No more, no less. An upstanding shaft of weathered timber, emboldened with iron hoops, grasping to its bosom, a length of galvanised barbed wire. A vertical croquet lawn sans mallet. A spiral staircase for ants. Somewhere to lean and admire the view. Something to snag and rip your cardie.
No more to say.
Flags represent this tribalistic desire to be different, to be competitive, to maintain the petty interests of nationalism over the greater needs of globalism. But not all flags flutter in the breeze, stirring the emotions of the morally destitute. Objects can be flags, controlling the undesirable.
Here are two examples of flags fulfilling that function in image making. In the first, taken a couple of days ago in Ludlow, Shrophire, I'm using a shop awning to not only flag the sun off the lens and get rid of unwanted flare, but also to remove the bright sky which might otherwise overpower the image.
In the second, the flag is a crocketed pinnacle. I tried hard to make a three-shot out of the pinnacles and the weathervane post but I couldn't get the spacing to my satisfaction without leaping off the tower and shooting it as I went down. I'm not prepared to suffer that much for my art.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
One that has got through is this reflected image of three willows. Reflective surfaces are my theme this month. I think the vertical landscape format suits trees but I don't know what my excuse is for employing it for the majority of my other countryside, wide-angle images. It must be something miss-wired in my brain.
The intrepid duo set off for the wilds of Shropshire, an English county on the boundary of civilisation as we know it. They are accompanied by their minders, Pixie and Sparkly. While Peter and Dave scale sandstone towers and scavenge the mean streets of Ludlow for door knockers and gold cockerels, this doughty pair will forage for shoes. Both groups will meet with success.
In a dark, sepulchral bell chamber, high above the bustling town, P & D meet a shaft of sunlight and a padlock. Against all odds they capture several images. They are trivial conquests but deeply satisfying.
Friday, February 10, 2006
Quickly discarding other plans, an essential component of which was spending the morning lazing about, into the trusty Honda and away. Cloud cover at zero octas but some hint of cirrus on the southern horizon, speed of the essence.
Several irritations on journey viz: set of roadwork traffic signals, two tractors, three old dears in Nissan Micras, large Spanish truck lost trying to deliver latest consignment of forced asparagus. Usual stuff.
At church, snowdrops in full swing and Peter up top. Had daft conversation with him on mobile while I could hear every word direct from his lips - must stop doing that as increases phone bill somewhat.
Entered church, greeted by Theresa, sent to tower. At top, very narrow. Strong prospect of stoppage, could see item on news later - 'Fat Man Trapped on Spiral Staircase, Church Demolished'. Sure Peter has a photo of me emerging like a portly cork from a slender bottle.
Fine views, crisp envigorating air. Aren't people strange seen from above?
Return to base not so traumatic as knew what to expect. Welcomed by Mary who offered tea and cake to adventurous spirits. First rate coffee sponge. Took pictures of mate, Peter, being gnomic on font step - will publish in revenge if image of me above appears.
Excellent outing as a result of day seized.
I took this photograph today in a small village called Rous Lench. For me it's a very compelling subject. A dark, somewhat forbidding passage leads through a grove of yew trees, and beyond, the prospect of sunlit open pasture - once you have negotiated the gate; triumph through adversity, maybe. In music this image might be represented by a modulation from a minor to a major key, an aural transition to the sunny uplands of C or E major, perhaps. I'm not sure where the gate fits into that simile though.
I imagine that there is some deep Freudian significance in my interest in doorway/tunnel images but it's best left unexplored.
Blogs (an appalling word) are doorways into peoples lives; they can be closed, ajar or open, depending how much of your soul you're prepared to reveal.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
"religions must be exposed to relentless criticism, like all non-rational traditions and beliefs."
How true that is.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Well done, chaps.
I wish I could remember the name of the business concerned but they change their name every few months and I've lost track.
This afternoon we popped over to Alcester. I managed to sneak off to a tea shop while Monica went shopping - this is the ideal scenario and we men should encourage it at all times (if you're not driving, a pub is an alternative). While slurping away at the British national drink, I spotted some very tasty curtain material in red, gold and rust. Yes, I know, exposing my feminine side again. I can't help it. I like material. I like the colour, the designs, the textures.
In a perfect world I would run a shop which sold curtaining, oriental rugs, antique Royal Worcester Porcelain, chutney, real ale and model railway stuff. It would also, like the shop in Alcester, have an area serving damn good coffee and exquisitely fashioned cakes, like my Dad's apple cake (made from a recipe in a gardening magazine but not at all earthy). There's probably a few other things I should stock; I'll have to think about it.
A one, a two and a three, in a three
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Too right they should be offended. It's about respect. They have none.
RULE 1 - YOU DON'T WEAR SPORTS CLOTHING WHEN YOU'RE NOT PLAYING SPORT.
How difficult is that to understand?
So today, with a strong sense of purpose and a little dread, we decided to move the coffee maker. Now I thought this would be simple but I'd reckoned without the impact it would have on the fruit bowls and the radio reception. There was also a knock-on effect on the china chicken. I tried the chicken next to the Christmas Cat on top of the fridge but it looked terribly out of place. The fruit bowl crisis was unforeseen and would have benefited from some forward planning. In moving them to make way for the coffee machine, we had to break up a group of three with the attendant psychological repercussions. This impasse is still unresolved but one of them (the tallest) has now been cast out and, as like as not, will end up in a cupboard, along with the Aussie cheese board, also relegated to a dark place.
That trauma aside, we've now got a pleasing little group of kettle, coffee maker and grinder in one corner and I've found a new place for the radio (which involved moving Mon's tray to join the chicken which is now next to the fridge but not on top of it). The radio is really too close to the door to the microwave – I will need to monitor the situation during the next defrosting exercise. By the way I hope you're all following this as there will be questions later.
Anyway it was all far too exciting and delayed our cup of tea (which we usually have at five-o-clock).
The River Avon flows through our village on it's way to join the River Severn - a restful scene with just a few fisherman contemplating their navels.
Monday, February 06, 2006
There's plenty of music that brings on the tears (and none of it, Lee, is by Mozart). You can't beat a good requiem for a saline face-wash; try 'Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit' from the Brahms. 'Erbarme Dich'. Bach's 'St Matthew's Passion', is always good for a tear duct cleansing. Listen to the voice of the late Sandy Denny singing the folk song 'The Banks of the Nile' - sales of man-size tissues hit the roof.
But a musical. It's got to be some sort of hormonal thing, probably brought on by the aging process. I remember getting a bit worried when I started to like opera back in my forties - can't shake it off now; plenty of tear jerkers in that repertoire.
I wonder if I can find a cure before I get any older. I don't want the shame and degradation of finding myself queuing outside a theatre for a performance of 'Guys & Dolls'. Though I might for 'West Side Story'. That's were the song that triggered this disgusting lack of self-control came from, the 1984 performance of 'One Hand, One Heart', sung by Kiri Te Kenawa and Jose Carreras, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. I must make absolutely certain I never listen to that again. Unless I reclassify it as an opera.
I thought this image of a frozen moorscape in Yorkshire suitably illustrates my feelings.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Anyroad (Yorkshire expression, allegedly), we used the Park & Ride. This is a scheme operated by many places in Britain where, in exchange for providing a bus service into the centre, you get to leave your car in a remote wide-open space so that it can be vandalised at leisure while you're away (Sorry, Bath, please don't sue - I've had no trouble in your car park - yet).
The big plus is that I get to ride on a double-decker bus, not just on the top deck but also at the front (I had to elbow some small kids out of the way for the privilege). You've no idea what a thrill that is to the school-boy-in-short-trousers that still rides along in my brain. I tried to take a picture of Monica but she has a strictly no-photographs policy so this is the best I could get - it's just an impression of my soulmate.
Trips to Bath involve progressing around a series of eating-places intermingled with shopping. I had a quest. There's a manufacturer of chutneys, relishes, aniseed balls, etc in the English Lake District called Hawkshead Relish that are at the top of the tree for these type of comestibles, as far as I'm concerned. The Bathwick Deli stocks some of their products although not the Westmoreland Chutney that I was after. This was not a problem as there were plenty of other delights to choose from (I’m food blogging again, becoming obsessive). Loaded up with glass jars, I set off once more through the Georgian splendours of Great Pulteney Street. Halfway along, I clocked a truly Bryentonesque image waiting to be captured. What is more, it fits beautifully into my ongoing 'a splash of red' theme.
(Sorry, many apologies, beginning to sound like Dave Junior who suffers from a barely controlled football obsession.)
The journey home was marred by a succession of poor drivers (not an unknown phenomenon in the UK). The worst by far and my 'Crap Driver of the Month' award winner, was a car with the registration VX51AG* (because I've got a compassionate streak I'll keep the last letter secret - but you know who you are!) - 25mph in a 50 zone, braking for every bend, braking for every car coming the other way (on a wide road) - it was insufferable. If a mouse had dared to stick a paw out on the road, we (there were many others in the tail back) would have been straight into multiple vehicle pile-up territory. Where are the forward firing aerial torpedoes when you need them?
Still it was a grand day out