Category Archives: life

Clevedon Pier

My wife had broken her foot just before we were due to head off to Bath for a few days. So with a non-cancelable hotel room in our name I decided to shoot off to Bath and then onto Clevedon for a spot of photography.

Clevedon is a funny little Victorian seaside nothing, famous for its Grade 1 pier and from what I can see very little else. It’s an hour west of Bath and in addition to the pier it has a marine lake – basically a sea water pool.

I arrived intending to shoot the pier a sunset but with a couple of hours to spare I shot the marine lake in what started as overcast conditions and moved swiftly onto rain and then torrential hail.

Just before sunset I moved onto the pier and met a strange bloke who shoots the pier every night and claims to have over 14,000 images. It’s good but let’s be honest not that good.

Sanctimonious, Self-righteous, Groupthink

sheepI’ve noticed on Facebook in particular and to a lesser extent on Twitter a tendency towards a hideous self-righteousness that is driving me crazy. My town of Lymington has a Facebook page called Lymington Rumour Control that is supposed to be a lighthearted watercooler (or village pump if you go back that far). The plan was that local people could gossip about local events in a lighthearted manner, share a joke and generally get along with each other.

However, in the past year a hideous form of groupthink has arisen whereby you must agree to the following tropes or be denounced and verbally shat on by the scores of mouth-breathers who inhabit the site

  • Our local community hospital can do no wrong
  • All local shops and business are exemplary and must be supported even if they are feckless rip-off merchants
  • The armed forces are saints
  • Fireworks emanate from Satan’s darkest nether regions and should be banned as they scare dogs, cats and most importantly horses
  • You are a Nazi sympathiser if you don’t wear a poppy for Rememberance Day
  • Cyclists and gypsies should be banned from the New Forest
  • …and the list goes on

What I particularly dislike is self-righteousness of these opinions. Who would want an animal to suffer ? therefore no fireworks for anyone. If we don’t support local businesses we will end up with 23 branches of McDonalds in the High Street.  It is so thoughtlessly binary; A or B, if you criticise the hospital you de facto want to destroy the NHS. There is no debate or nuanced discussion; just for it or if not for, against.

Our local hardware shop Knights closed and people rung their hands in nostalgic outrage. The fact that the owners plan to sell the land to a property developer to build retirement homes is conveniently overlooked. The news was greeted with the same degree of shock as if the National Anthem had been replaced with Gangnam Style and Winston Churchill was gay. Now we have Screwfix, a national chain, that are open longer hours, seven days a week and are, as a result a great deal more convenient. But God forbid you should mention the fact as you’ll be denounced as some disloyal, bourgeois interloper who’s only aim in life is to destroy our precious High Street which as it happens is filled with charity shops and coffee bars.

So my message to the pseudo-outraged of Facebook is calm down and get some perspective or as they say so eloquently in the United States. Take a chill pill.

 

 

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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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.

The strange world of profile pictures

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After a few years away from Facebook I reluctantly returned. One of the things that struck me is the change to the humble profile picture. Gone are the days of a passport style, head and shoulders portrait and hello to an often disturbing look into the personalities of people you think you know or more often than not you don’t.

I believed, mistakenly, that a profile picture was intended to help others identify you but how wrong I was. For many people it is about projecting an image of what they’d like to be rather than who they actually are. It has become two dimensional cosplay and a chance to let your inner exhibitionist out for a walk.

So if you are a shop assistant living with your parents this is your chance to look like a Goth hooker or a sponge. But more of this below.

In an attempt to delve into the phenomena I thought I would catagorise the main types of profile pictures.

The ‘I’m Available’ Shot

This is best defined as trying to put your best side out there. The most common example is an overhead shot looking down at cleavage and the shot is then rotated by forty five degrees to give it that fashion look. In fact it just looks like eleven million other shots. Best taken in the bathroom before you get too drunk, have a fight with your boyfriend and your mascara runs.

The ‘I’m in a relationship’ shot

Where me became we. The relationship shot shows the subject with their latest partner looking smug as if to say “look at us we’re happy….no really we are”. The implication is “I’ve finally found someone who doesn’t look like a convict” be happy for me. The main audience for this is shot the ex who is hopefully green with jealousy. Best taken at a glamorous event, foreign beach holiday or night club for maximum wounding effect. Remember to take it down in a month when the object of your affection has left you for your sister/brother/mother or best friend.

The ‘Which one is me’ shot

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This one I find particularly strange. Often a shot of two women and the reader is supposed to know which one is Kylee or Simone rather than the girlfriend. So as you don’t know either person, you set about trying to decide which one is the subject and which is the stand-in friend. Is it the ugly one who has roped in her better looking friend to bolster her self-esteem or is it the prettier one who is trying to say “At least I don’t look like that”.

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This is an almost exclusively female phenomena. Heterosexual men are too sexually insecure to pose with another man in case they are seen as gay. If they do pose with another man they need a prop to explain the shot. This is often the dead fish they caught, a replica of the Eiffel tower in beer cans or a waitress from Hooters.

The ‘I’m ready for my close up, Mr De Mille’ shot

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If the subject is either very shy or staggeringly ugly they go for a close up of a body part. Often eyes or lips. Imagine if you went to a dating site and just saw an eyeball. You’d run a mile certain that the person in question was either a 300 pound biker, a serial killer or has suppurating facial warts.

The ‘Love me, love my shoe’ Shot

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When the person is either too strange looking for even the eyeball close-up, the only recourse is some random object like a shoe. This is supposed to say ‘I’m a Christian Louboutin kind of a girl’ but probably means they are more like an old Nike found in a dumpster.

The ‘this is really me… honestly’ shot

I came across this one recently which I loved. The profile was for a woman named something like Amina Sutia Prakesh and she worked in a shoe shop in Jaipur. I’m guessing this isn’t her.

The ‘I’m so funny’ shot

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An alternative is to use some wacky image you nicked from the web or took one drunken night, to show what a cool and crazy guy/girl you are. Fine when you’re seventeen but do remember to change it before you apply for a job. Nothing says ‘We’ll get back to you’ at a job interview more than your profile picture being a S&M dominatrix, a Gremlin or pretending to eat a kitten.

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The ‘I used to be cute’ Shot

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Having decided that the you of today isn’t really you, people decide to show pictures of themselves as babies in the mistaken belief they will then look adorable. As we know babies are not adorable or unique and so all the shot says is that I used to cry a lot and wet myself which come to think of it may be their status quo on a Saturday night. This technique also works if you are a bank robber on the run who only wants your mother to recognise you.

So there we have a it. A short boat ride down the river of weirdness that is profile pictures. What about my own profile picture you ask?You can see it in the About Me section above but naturally I cropped out the pink tutu and roller blades as this is a serious blog post.

Second hand tourism and the rise of the selfie stick

SelfieOn a recent trip to Venice I noticed the staggering number of people using selfie sticks. These had become the top choice of must-buy Venice kitsch. Say no to plastic carnival masks or gondoliers’ hats and spend your hard-earned holiday money on an old car aerial with a clamp at the end.

As a keen photographer, I’m only too aware of the dangers of experiencing new places through the viewfinder and seeing the world in terms of exposure and composition rather than simply being there. But selfies mean that you don’t even look at the Grand Canal, Grand Canyon or Renaissance cathedral directly, you experience it with your back to the view you traveled all that way to see.

This led me to wonder of there was a new form of tour company that catered for people who wanted to go to a county but have second-hand experiences.

Welcome to Vicarious Tours. “We have the experience, so you don’t have to”

Vicarious Tours will be founded on the principal that getting to the place is tiring enough but having to actually listen to the concert, get up at sunrise or queue for the art gallery is actually a waste of your valuable time. So we’ll do it for you.

Here are some of the tour option.

Culture Vulture: You want to impress the folks back home that you actually saw all that art and culture rubbish, but need proof. We will lovingly Photoshop you into shots featuring the top three museums and against at least one world-class painting. In the evening we will attend a concert for you (please state preference classical/religious/ethnic) and take six minutes of shaky hand-held video on a camera phone. If you buy Culture Vulture Plus we’ll even write a Facebook post for you explaining what was played at the concert and how moving/crazy/magical/awesome it was (please state preference).

Food Lover: Let’s be frank most of the food abroad just isn’t McDonalds. In France they eat offal, in Japan poisonous fish and you don’t even want to think about rural Chinese food. So why not let Vicarious Tours have dinner for you. We’ll go to all of those restaurants the local visit and order the most weird and disgusting food imaginable and then photograph our plates. You can then tell your friends that you ate sweetbreads, Fugu and chicken embryo and have the shots to prove it. For our premium customers we’ll post on Instagram with a suitable caption. (No vegetarian option)

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Vinophile Delux: As it’s a sunny day you’d rather to be sitting in a cafe having a beer but everyone says the wine here is great. So do you spend the afternoon in a cellar sipping indifferent wine? Why not let us do the tedious tasting for you. We’ll take various blurred shots of wine labels and even put two bottles of undrinkable local plonk in your suitcase to take home and bore your friends with.

Lazy Boy Special: You’re on a cruise and arrive in a port at 6am. Do you really want to get up, disembark, get on a coach with similarly jaded,fellow shipmates only to be carted off to a series of whistle stop photo opportunities at the local ruins. Of course you don’t. You can have a lie-in, gorge yourself once again on the lunchtime buffet and have a well earned afternoon nap knowing that the crack team from Vicarious Tours is doing all the hard work. We’ll take the tour for you and upload pictures to your phone (password required). Package includes  a set of ten images of you and your partner lovingly Photoshopped into the most popular sites. It’s just like being there!

So there we have it. Vicarious Tours will make even the selfie sick redundant and I can get back to looking at the world through my viewfinder.

Does yourself find this awesome?

   

I happily accept that language is an organic and evolving thing; that’s why we don’t say five and twenty to five for 4.35 any more. I like ‘my bad’ and I can tolerate the odd street speak without being violently ill. But two phrases have been cropping up in my life that drive me into a, foam-at-the-mouth, rage.

The first is the use of yourself in place of you. “Is there anything else yourself would like with that washing machine?”. “Would yourself like extended insurance”. No, the only bloody thing I’d like Mr Illiterate Call Centre person is for you to use the English language properly. It is like a knife stuck in my ribs and the next person who does it will be forced to sing the following Stevie Wonder song….after I’ve explained who Stevie Wonder is.

Yourself are the sunshine of myself life
That’s why I’ll always be around, 
Yourself are the apple of myself eye, 
Forever yourself’ll stay in myself heart 

The next one is AWESOME (always over emphasised). This is a hideous Americanism and actually means cool or excellent. However, it is used as an equivalent of a pause. US radio journalists will listen to a three minute opinion piece on net neutrality, the abolition of female circumcision or particle physics and with nothing to say just spout out…. awesome.

Speaker “…so in conclusion my belief is that if the funding for the LHC is approved we can reduce global warming and provide food and water to 90% of the starving world and it will cost 1% of GDP for most developed nations”

Presenter “………….AWESOME”

Awesome should be reserved for things like fill you with awe, like the birth of your first child, a stunning sunset or Zeus flinging thunderbolts from Mount Olympus. Not some app for your smartphone that makes fart sounds.