New Forest Show: An overpriced market with some horses in the middle

Having lived in the New Forest for six years we had never been to the New Forest Show. Now I know why. We had been deterred by stories of horrific traffic jams but when we went on the first day of this year’s show the traffic was light mid-morning but that sadly was the best part of the day.

We parked easily but unfortunately it was in Wales, given that it was over one and a half miles from the show ground gates. My wife’s pedometer gave us that number in case you think I’m exaggerating.

The event itself is a mixture of farmers and pseudo-landed gentry strolling about in yellow corduroy trousers and checked shirts and chavs from the local campsites stopping to eat ‘Ye Olde Hampshire Sausage baps’ every thirty yards.

But we came to see the animals, so were guaranteed to see some. The Pig enclosure had one sad sow and her brood in a small pen surrounded by camera phones. We couldn’t get to see the cattle and frankly we could get closer to horses on the road home through the forest.

But you ask, the displays must have been great. Yes, the dressage and old milk float display were OK. Slightly more interesting that queuing for a miniature coffee sold by itinerant Latvians but my real complaint was the Metropolitan Police display team.

I’m from London and my idea of a Met Police Mounted Team is a group of mounted police with riot shields kettling Anarchists in Trafalgar Square. No prissy trotting for our fine boy in blue, full gallop with batons raised. Atomkraft Nein Danke, I think not sonny Jim; if you go back that far.

P7260254Here we saw some well trained boys and girls trot over faux-hedges at knee height. The horses were probably missing the smell of dope and kebabs in the air. It was billed as thrilling and exciting but it was SO dull. They set the odd arch on fire and the horses jumped through these but I think the horses were as bored as the spectators. The ‘highlight’ we were informed was when the police riders took off their jackets and THEN PUT THEM ON AGAIN. I’m not a horseman but if your job is riding horses in stressful urban situations this seems a useless skill. Tasering a demonstrator at full gallop while strapping on a flak jacket, now you’re talking urban policing.

So like everything at the New Forest Show, this display was rather tame, over-priced and not worth waiting for.

 

Spring and Summer Photography 2016

web_update-6I’ve had a busy few months on the photographic front after getting back from the US/Caribbean cruise in January. The first project is Ferry Tales more of which is in an earlier blog post.

As that was getting underway I went out at dawn one morning to a eel trap on the Test river near Longstock. The image above shows the scene which was pretty idyllic complete with hunting Barn Owl which,naturally, I was far too slow to catch.web_update-7

Then it was off to Berlin for a few days and I’ve shared some of these images but here are a few more.

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web_update-16 So what of the rest of the summer? Lots of Ferry Tales and Lymington Camera Club walks plus some assorted side trips no doubt. Looking good for some material for my PAGB advisory day in October/November.

Ferry Tales – a long photographic commission

13310430_224797594571059_7035204963894275067_nA good friend and poet, Robyn Bolam asked me to join a project called Ferry Tales which is a group of poets, musicians, writers and a photographer (me) in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight who are running events, exhibitions and workshops for local people on the theme of arrivals and departures in their lives.

The plan is that I take photographs which acts as stimulus for the poets and musicians and we run a series of workshops and exhibitions from now until 2017 in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight showcasing the work.

You can follow us on Facebook at ferrytalesproject and please like/follow us. I’ll be growing the body of photographs as the year progresses but here are a few to get you started including a girl on her way to the Isle of wight Festival.

Our web site is at http://www.ferrytales.org

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Newtown Park – Nothing nasty in the woodshed

Newtown Park

If you’re a fan of Cold Comfort Farm you’ll get the reference in the headline. If not, don’t worry and enjoy the photographs. I was lucky enough to recently go on a private tour of a fabulous Georgian country estate near Lymington. The house is managed by a trust who spend a great deal of time, money and energy keeping it in spectacular repair. However, Palladian architecture to one side I was fascinated by the woodshed stuffed as it was with wonderful old tools.

Sadly, it is not open to the public but it was a privilege to see it despite the typical English spring weather.

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Berlin: A remarkable story of courage and politics

 

The last time I was in Berlin was 1975. I was a fairly fresh faced fifteen year old on a school trip. A day trip to Berlin was the wonderful excuse for skipping lessons for the day. We flew from Gatwick with Freddie Laker at the crack of dawn and arrived in Templehoff in pouring rain.

We were driven around West Berlin in a coach while the terribly eager tour guide told us how many more trees there were in the West than the East. She even claimed ideological superiority on the basis that West Berlin has more dogs than East Berlin.

This reminded me of a meeting I attended at SHAPE where a US Army colonel explained the mineshaft theory, claiming the Soviets would ‘win’ because they could hide more of their population in mineshafts than the US to avoid nuclear armageddon .

Eventually we were dropped at Checkpoint Charlie and literally moved from a world of colour and neon to black and white. East Berlin was all grey concrete and most of the shops were closed. I remember going into a book store that seemed to only carry every word written by Marx or Lenin in every language known to man. I bought a hard backed copy of Das Capital in English for about 20p.

A gang of us school boys went into a foreigners store with visions of cut price caviar and vodka on our minds. Strangely the only things they had was picked cucumbers and Cadbury Dairy Milk.

Despite the gloom there were no street lights on and the whole of Unter Den Linden looked like a set from a spy movie. Which in many ways in was.

We came back through Checkpoint Charlie and as the only kid with an American passport mine was held back for checking. I made some quip about them not having to worry because I was a spy. That went down like a bacon sandwich at an ISIS convention. But I was 15.

Then back to West Berlin and the lights came on. Neon spewed from every bar and shop front. Our teachers foolishly gave us an hour to explore so a bunch of chums found the nearest bar where the staff were only too happy to sell us high tar German cigarettes, Rott Hande, from memory and we fired up these super cheap gaspers while guzzling our beer.

So Berlin was part artificial capitalist shop window and part hideous endorsement of the failure of the Eastern Block. Both sides maintained a high state of tension secure in the fact that West Berlin was capable of being over run by the East in about fifteen minutes.

Fast forward thirty five years and I’m back in Berlin staying in the fabulous Hotel Adlon in Unter den Linden by the Brandenburg Gate in what was East Berlin.

Yes it’s changed out of all recognition but the reason for this post isn’t the physical changes it is a salute to the politicians and people of Berlin.

Most cities suffer catastrophic upheaval maybe once in a century. Berlin had it twice, in 1941-45 and 1961-1989. However, it’s not the destruction that I want to focus on but the spirit of the city.

Germany as a whole has been very upfront about acknowledging it’s Nazi past. Hard not to. Berlin has many powerful memorials to the Jews of Europe who died.

The Holocaust Memorial is particularly powerful as you walk between concrete blocks all of different heights symbolising the individuals who died. The unnerving bit is that you hear voices in other rows rather like the voices of ghosts. Go. And take your time.

I was expecting the Nazi past was going to be the most central theme in Berlin but of course it couldn’t be. The division of the country from 1961-1990 was the greatest wound the country suffered in many ways and the supreme act of political will in reunification it’s greatest triumph. The sensitivity in which the city has both commemorated and celebrated the wall and it’s fall is an object lesson to cities everywhere.

wp-1463514479108.jpgThe path the wall took is remembered by a double row of bricks that snakes around the city pavements in a seemly never ending band. In places single sections of the wall remain with plaques explaining the history. It is a remarkable and powerful reminder of the division that effected not only city but the country.

So visit Berlin but understand that this is a special city with a unique history and set of challenges. But the effort required in reunification was immense and I applaud them for their success.

wp-1463514437264.jpgNow onto the political bit. I am by nature a glass-half-full person so the idea of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union depresses me beyond belief. If you want to effect change then roll your sleeves up and try and change things from within rather than stand on the sidelines chucking rocks. Or come to Berlin and see how politicians with vision and people with courage can effect change.

What the bleeping hell is wrong with kitchen appliances

microwaveI’ve been thinking about the way modern kitchen appliances have gone mad. I mean seriously mad.

In the old days, like three years ago, you bought a washing machine or an oven and it just did its job. No alerting, no insane bleeping, it just did what you asked of it.

Fast forward a few years and the average kitchen device has become a health and safety Nazi. If I get too close to my oven it bleeps so that I don’t charbroil my genitals. My gas hob won’t start unless I sign a consent form and our washing machine ends its cycle with a cacophony of bleeps and chimes that go on longer than Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

My only friend in the kitchen is a fifteen year old microwave that just does what it originally promised.It heats food by the use of a simple timer. It doesn’t weigh the food or calculate the cooking time based on orbit of Mars, it just heats stuff. Given it’s age it probably irriatiates my genitals but that’s a risk I’m happy to take.

So now I’ve decided that I will keep every kitchen appliance until it explodes or simply gives up because the new ones are wonderfully sophisticated, but totally useless.

Black & Decker: Industrial design in the hands of five year old

Black-Decker-Screwdriver-1024x1024If you asked an alien to design a sex toy or five year old to design a spacecraft, you’d end up with a similar design.

Luckily for Black & Decker this creates a host of new ideas for their latest crop of insane home ‘improvement’ gadgets. Not only do these products looks like the bastard love child of Anne Summers and the Transformer they are also about as easy to use as a Rubic’s Cube on a unicycle.

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This little beauty is some sort of cutting devise but surely the five year old in charge thought it should looks like a character from Nemo .

It matters not, as the life cycle of these products is the same as a Mayfly, and each insane model will be replaced by something equally bonkers in three months .

My advice is, if you think you are Luke Skywalker and are 5 years old; buy Black & Decker. If not, don’t and enjoy life as a grownup.

 

 

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