Sunday, September 30, 2007

Red Three

A return to the passion for red, in fact a third-class return. And a pair of threes. You lucky people!

That last phrase, a saying of the mid twentieth-century British comedian, Tommy Trinder, is one I must have picked up from the radio in the 1950's. It intrigues me that it's still in my brain and ready for deployment fifty years later. Another favourite of mine, which I use far too frequently, is 'deep joy'. Only this week I discovered that it’s attributable to another entertainer from around the same period, Stanley Unwin. All those hours listening under the bed covers have left their mark.

A further catch phrase, which both Pixie and I use for no good reason, is 'Right, Monkey', made famous, in the UK at least, by the northern comic, Al Read. We normally reserve it for when we're in France where we've loosely translated it as 'D'accord, Singe'. Meaningless to anyone who actually speaks French but it gives us pleasure to utter it whenever we have to deal with any particularly obstructive facets of the culture on the other side of the Channel (and there are plenty of those). It's an up-and-at-'em phrase, perfect for stirring our Anglo-Saxon blood to greater endeavour in the battle against the old enemy, even if Agincourt is long gone and all we need now is two grandes crèmes and a couple of croissants.

Since the last part of my surname is Norman in origin I can’t really say too much. In my defence I would point out that they were descended from the Vikings, the backpackers of the Dark Ages, roaming at will across the globe, discovering America, and generally having a good time (or at least a better time than some of the people they visited). I suppose the modern-day equivalent would be British lager-louts and their trollops vomiting their way around Spanish seaside resorts.

Or any of the local towns.

Bike Light

Chromium plated,
Beacon of light,
Guiding, warning,
Dimly bright,
Pushing the rim
Of darkness, away,
But never turning,
Night to Day.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


British television companies have been in a bit of trouble recently and not just for producing excruciatingly bad programmes like 'Big Brother' and anything else to which the word 'reality' is attached. No, instead they've been caught engaging in plain honest-to-goodness deception.

The children's show, 'Blue Peter', asked viewers to name a new cat and then rejected their choice (which was 'Cookie') in favour of something more trendy and today. The production team, using their 'just-out-of-media-college we-know-best' brains decided to call it 'Socks'; so much more BBC HQ, so much less everywhere else. In addition several companies have been caught fixing competitions, taking millions of pounds off of viewers phoning in after the winners had been chosen but before the phone lines have been closed.

I'm not sure why all this is such a big thing. The media has always manipulated what it feeds its audience - canned laughter on situation comedies is a classic example, some of which couldn’t get a real laugh out of a guy high on nitrous oxide. It's the way it's done - these people are the modern day gods and our entertainment is in their hands. Picking a winner out of the studio audience and feeding her the correct answer after the phone-in has failed (another BBC gaff) is par for the course - all television must look perfect, failure is not to be tolerated, nothing must be seen to go wrong. If it does, your nice little media career could end up with you working as an advertising copywriter for the Balsall Heath Free News.

Anyway, I can hear you say, what has all this to do with the image above and why is he droning on anyway, hasn't he got a bed to got to? A legitimate query and one which I'm happy to answer. It’s about manipulating the image.

I thought the gravestone motif looked quite interesting with its channels of water glinting with reflected sky. Then I thought, wouldn't it look more interesting with a leaf? So I went and found one and placed it in an appropriate position and lo, it looked better and I took the picture. Then I thought, wouldn't it look even better if the leaf was more central? That thought was immediately followed by another one which was, wouldn't life itself be better if I went and had a piece of Orange & Almond Cake? So I did, leaving the even more perfect image as a figment of my imagination.

If there's a moral to this tale, and you’re going to be hard-pushed to find one, it is probably that while perfection is worth striving for, it’s not worth your soul, nor is it worth anything near as much as a good slice of cake.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Heading into the Sun

I've just returned from setting up a TV programme in Holland. It has been three days of almost unremitting tedium, the sort of days that start at about eight in the morning and seem to end about a week later. They have only been enlivened by flashes of wit, cameraderie and the occasional piece of lighting that I'm almost pleased with.

I think I've got a high threshold of boredom. Without it I wouldn't survive in my job; it's not all glamour, parties and fine living at the viewers expense. Often there's a lot of hanging about. Actually I'll reword that. There's always a lot of hanging about.

When it comes to setting up a venue, lighting is the first thing to go in. The sparks and I then have to wait while everything else is built, rigged, aligned and generally fettled into shape. Finally we go back in before the show kicks off to set the lamps for whatever function I've assigned to them. Consequently I'm usually to be found still on the set at the last minute with the stage manager breathing very closely down my neck - we have an interesting relationship in which I have the upper hand; it's difficult to televise something if it's having to take place in the dark.

This job had plenty of tiresomeness but it was also next to a railway station, a chink of light in an otherwise stultifying experience. I took myself off there during a break from hanging around. Low sun straight down the lens and the 18.58 to Rotterdam Central poised to gallop off into the sunset.

Back home, a strange moon, with a halo. First frost of the autumn?

Thursday, September 20, 2007


1. Favourite past-time? Sitting in a coffee house with a latte, a copy of the “Times” and an almond croissant, either alone or in the company of Pixie, Cath, Lou, Niki, Peter, Jane, any of the people whose lives enhance mine. I apologise to those relatives/friends that I’ve left off the list but the deciding factor is the croissant sharing experience (although please don’t get the idea that any actual sharing of pastries take place or that I necessarily put my paper away).

2. Favourite item of clothing? A blue moleskin jacket made by R M Williams of South Australia that I bought several years ago in Leura in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales – sorry about the detail but I felt the urge.

3. Favourite jewellery piece? I don’t do jewellery. When I started work I was shown a safety film which included a lovely shot of a finger, a gold ring and a length of tendon – the point was taken.

4. Favourite month? March – the awakening (northern hemisphere readers only).

5. Favourite number? 4651.

6. Favourite year at school? All years indifferent and marred by unrequited love.

7. Favourite season? Autumn, a time of smells.

8. Favourite hair length? Whatever makes me look most distinguished, a difficult task.

9. Favourite expression on self? Never looked.

10. Favourite expression on others? Contentment.

11. Favourite chips flavour? Plain.

12. Favourite ice-cream flavour? Caramel, from Morelli's in Broadstairs, Kent.

13. Favourite time of day? Midnight.

14. Favourite day of the week? I’ve worked for forty years in an industry where all days are treated equally so I’ve never had one.

15. Favourite movie genre? Anything which moves slowly, gives you time to think, is romantic and/or humorous and possibly features Penelope Cruz, Sophie Morceau, Kate Winslet, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Bill Murray, Juliette Binoche, Kevin Spacey, Patricia Clarke, and numerous others about whom I could rabbit on for hours.

The quintet of images of threes comes from a recent visit to the county of Kent in south-east England.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Fading to Amber

Just a quickie tonight as it's late and I need my ugly sleep.

Recently I made a slightly derogatory comment about the light in the UK during the summer. Now it's within a gnat's whisker of autumn and things are on the change. Pixie and I decided to have a trip out last Friday up to one of the jewels of the Cotswolds, Chipping Campden. The light was stunning, kissing the warm limestone with tones of amber velvet. A glorious evening.

Later on we sat on a bench on Dover's Hill, looking out at the dying day. It was here, twenty six years ago, that we decided that somehow or another we were going to spend the rest of our lives together.

A special place.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Narrow Vista

Vistas seen through openings - aren't they grand? This one is taken from inside the redundant church at Earl's Croome in Worcestershire. It's one of those locations that I return to on a regular basis, a drawing-to sort of place. Some people doubtless get up in the morning and think about going to work, nipping out to do a bit of shopping, maybe a dose of ironing, cleaning the car; I get up and think 'the light looks interesting, I'll go and find a church'.

So I do.

I've been assured that belief in a god is not necessarily a pre-requisite for a career in the clergy these days. So I thought I'd get in a bit of practice. There are lots of things that appeal - the element of performance and theatre, the dressing up, the sense of place, the reasonable working hours (I've always worked Sundays so that isn't a problem). Difficult to think of a downside, really, other than some of my flock might actually expect me to believe in something. And that would be a real drag.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bits of Chairs

We took a trip over to Hay-on-Wye yesterday, the book capital of the UK, to look for a birthday present for a friend of ours. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny with just the merest hint of autumn. As in past visits, I was overwhelmed by the number of books available and suffered the usual lack of will to search miles and miles of shelving. Fortunately I quickly found a specialist shop with just the sort of thing I was after. This saved a lot of tramping around and grumpiness and allowed a lot more time for eating and image-making.

Today's picture, taken looking through the door of an empty pub, does not shriek 'art' at me but it appeals on some level. It has diagonals (which must be my 'Theme of the Year'), reflections and an example of bounced soft-light (the lightening of the area under the window). Simple elements but inherently satisfying, to me at least. Also I find chairs photogenic which just goes to prove that there's nowt as queer as folk.

And here's a group of three plus a gargoyle with a Churchillian cigar.