Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gaslight Alley Revisited

Currently I'm working in Mayfair, an exorbitantly over-priced area in the West End of London. Not far from my location is an abandoned Underground station at Down Street, closed in the 1920s because of lack of custom - even then the inhabitants were too well-heeled to contemplate travelling on a public transport system.

I was going to initiate a diatribe against the parasites on society who live here with their personalised car number plates and private clubs but I can't be bothered. People sponge off society at both ends of the spectrum and that will never change so I'll not waste my breath.

Despite the fact that I'm working to past two in the morning, I've still found time to visit some of the attractions of the big city. Yesterday I went to the Tate Britain to reacquaint myself with the highlights of late eighteenth and nineteenth century British Art, a period when the craft of the artist was paramount.

Today I visited Tate Modern. It was a brief visit and, as in past visits, I searched in vain for something that was more than 'The Emporer's New Clothes' and something that demonstrates the craft skills of the artist.
Still I'm sure there are enough people living in Mayfair with money to waste who can keep these modern paint daubers in the substances of their choice.

Anyway, just to emphasis how essential light is to a subject, be it in painting or photography, I revisited the small square with the gaslight that I photographed at night recently. Not too exciting now, it is? Where's the atmosphere and the drama? It's as flat as the proverbial pancake.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gaslight Alley

I was wandering the streets of London on Monday - actually trudging would be a more accurate description of my activity - when I came across this Dickensian alley close to the busy throughfare of Piccadilly. Although I'm used to seeing gaslights in use close to home in Great Malvern, I hadn't realised there were still a few left in the Great Wen. What's more it wasn't in a particularly touristy area; it appears that this minor public right-of way, and the courtyard it leads to, has escaped the passage of time and the onward march of progress.

Which is jolly nice.

Added November 12th.

I've now identified exactly where I was standing when I took this picture. It was in Pickering Place,
off St James's Street. It was home to the Republic of Texas's embassy until it joined the US union in 1845. It also has two claims to fame - it is the smallest public square in Britain (I can attest to that - cat-swinging was not an option) and it was the last place in England where a duel was fought - walking back twenty paces would have been a bit tricky.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Two Forks

I'm at an age where I am easily confused and one thing I expect from an eatery is that if they're going to label something, they get it right. Fortunately I was so engrossed in my newspaper (and the exquisite taste of the ham, cheese and mustard panini I was eating) that I didn't have chance to commit the faux pas of pushing a lump of food into my mouth on the end of a knife. There's no doubt it could have easily happened.

You may have noticed that there are a couple of items left on my plate. The tomato is a question of texture as much as of taste; I'm happy to eat them cooked (and so long as they no longer look like tomatoes) but raw, or even worse, from a can, is beyond the pale.

As for the cucumber, I imagine there are people who would stand up for this ridiculous vegetable, poor misguided individuals that they are, but I'm not one of them. If you must buy them, I suggest you clean them thoroughly and then slice them carefully with a sharp knife into thin roundels; there's no need to pare off the skin.

Once you have completed this process, gather the slices up in your hands and throw them in the bin. Then go and find some real food - almost anything else will be more appetising (except raw tomato).

And cabbage.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Caught in a Tune

Peter and I ventured south today atop the tortured tarmacadam of the M5, Britain's premier route for caravans and camper vans, sloth-like incarnations of a living hell driven by bespectacled denizens of late middle-age, arrayed side by side with their feverishly knitting spouses.

We went, with just a minor deviation via Severn Beach, Gloucestershire's lost (or last) resort, to Clifton. Here, amongst the trendy delis, antique shops and intermittent signs of the Belle Monde, we fell into a guitar shop.

I am not a frequenter of such places; they belong to people of Peter's digital dexterity, whose fingers need to do more than just press a shutter release. But they are wondrous places, full of shiny toys and all-enveloping sound.

Guitars are an image-makers dream, emblazoned with reflective surfaces, often crafted from natural wood, full of arboreal depth and grain.

And they work well in black & white. Yet more hearkening for a lost age.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Words Lost on the M11

I suppose I ought to be making the most of this undoubtedly brief respite from blogger's block, or so I thought as I was driving down the motorway early this morning. And, just at that moment, a subject came into my head and I roughed it out in my mind, ready to commit it to digits later in the day. It was a cracker with the potential to be both provocative and witty.

Yet now, when I'm not dodging the traffic on the A12 and I've time to write it down, I've absolutely no idea what it was that I was thinking about - not an inkling.

Incidentally, an inkling; it's a strange word and nothing to do with diminutive inks - they would be, I imagine, small, dark, dank creatures that lived in wells and, despite their unprepossessing looks, essentially friendly so long as you didn't give them a nib in the groin.

Anyway, I'm digressing from my digression. The word 'inkling' is usually taken to have come from a 13th century original spelt 'ninkling', meaning an indistinct hearing of the use of one's own name. I often get an inkling that Pixie is calling me but I can usually move out of range - the garage is fairly soundproof.

Later today I found myself in Epping again, looking for somewhere to eat on a busy Saturday night. As I passed the Raj, the Indian restaurant I ate in last week, I noticed there was a table for one left in the window. I entered, sat down, and, just for a change, ordered exactly the same meal as I had last time.

It was delicious. Again.

The image has no relevance to today's touch of nonsense. Nor should it have. It's still nominally a free country.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Almost Monochrome

I spend an excessive amount of my working life in enclosed, dark spaces; it's a bit like being a coal miner but without the physical labour and the danger. It is not a career choice for claustrophobics or for those who cannot find ways of amusing themselves during the long periods of time when everything is running smoothly and there are no knobs to be twiddled or lamps to bash.

Today I had my camera with me so that I could download some images I'd knocked off during a meal break. Sitting at the other end of the lighting box, my colleague, Craig, inadvertently presented me with a glowing bottle of orange, neatly back lit by a desk lamp and contrasted against a monochrome DVD image on his computer. Why it should grab my attention, I don't know but I can only say that after several hours of watching pictures of people playing poker, any diversion is welcome. I wound the ISO setting on the camera up to 3200 (I told you it was dark in there) and this was the result; it's a bit noisy/grainy but I like it. With these exquisite little pleasures, the long day passes.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monochromatic Urges

I was sat in my hotel room, having finished one book and picked up another but barely started it, when suddenly this compulsion came upon me to make a monochromatic image. No idea why. Some people feel the urge for a pint of real ale or a chocolate hobnob. Not me; I'd been to the gym earlier for 30 minutes of sweating and limb creaking and all that blood swirling around had opened up a black and white pathway.

There it is. Hardly earth shattering but gently pleasing in a bucolic, rural sort of a way - a misty vista and a group of three.

And then there's this, photographing a platelayer's hut in a reed bed by a railway line in Norfolk. Obviously something else I felt was a better use of my time than sitting in a waterside hostelry with a foaming glass of Adnam's best and some sausage and mash in a rich onion gravy.

I really must get these aberrations looked at.

(Second blog this month - whoa)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Far Eastern Semi-Solids

For many years I've had a fondness for what an old friend of mine called 'Far Eastern Semi-Solids'. By that he meant food from India, China, Thailand, etc. Unfortunately Thai and Chinese, as least as served in the UK, are not to my taste but Indian or Bangladeshi, that's the business.

I had my first curry, a chicken biriani, in a restaurant in London Road, Leicester. That was in 1970 so quite a few more have passed my lips and lined my stomach since then. Over the years I have developed a standard by which I judge all Indian restaurants. It consists of a chicken dhansak with pilau rice, a bombay aloo and a stuffed paratha. By these dishes I measure the desirability or not of a repeat visit.

This less than perfect picture (taken on my phone - you get some funny looks if you start photographing food in an Indian restaurant with an SLR camera) is of the offering at the Raj in Epping, Essex. It's probably my fifth visit. The same meal every time. Enough said.

That last sentence worries me a little because, as I've mentioned before, I'm paranoid about slipping into ruts, even fur-lined ones. It's bad enough that Pixie and I almost always have a home-cooked curry on a Monday. Reluctance to embrace change, particularly once you've entered the bus pass years, is the slippery slope to mental decrepitude.

So many people are reluctant to welcome something new. For me the ultimate shock/horror headline in my local paper would be one that read 'Local people welcome new town/wind farm/supermarket/red light district'. It doesn't matter what is proposed, the human instinct it to resist it. Occasionally this is the correct reponse but not always, or, I would argue, in general. Resistance to change is not the recipe for a secure future.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Next in Line

Narcissus strikes again. Must be my theme this year, getting my ageing physog in every one of my meagre outpourings. Still there is a younger component - Pixie by a smallish and undisclosable margin and Tiggy, my first grandchild, by about 59 years, 7 months.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Radiant Patch

I had to use a devious route back from Cheltenham today owing to an outbreak of horse racing at the local track. The weather was on the gorgeous side of acceptable so I sidetracked myself down to the Saxon chapel at Deerhurst.

I was lucky that I had one of my favourites models with me. He's quite happy to trot back and forth and take up any sort of a pose (within the confines of decency) and asks for little other than the occasional coffee and a good fry-up on a Saturday morning. Unfortunately, as he'd be the first to admit, he's not the most photogenic of creatures and the upturned collar on his coat hides a multitude of chins.

So there he stands, apparently warming himself at a sunny window, bathed in a soft glow, surrounded by one thousand-year-old stonework. Take off the coat and he'd freeze to death - the deception of a winter sun.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I spent ten days in the Bahamas earlier this month working on yet another poker tournament. How exotic, you might think! Unfortunately not. This is where I spent up to seventeen hours a day. What is more, where I'm sitting is actually a corridor. I'm facing an identical wall to the one behind me - a wall of beige. Also the carpet comes with its own health warning.

The banana is my attempt to prove to Pixie that I eat fruit when I'm away from home, rather than hash browns and pizza. Obviously this is unbelievable.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Smooth Operator

And a Happy New Year to all.