Today, my daughter achieved something that I always wanted to but never managed – a Blue Peter Badge. For those not aware of Blue Peter, it is the UK’s longest running children’s programme; a magazine show for kids fronted by an ever-changing line-up of presenters. Blue Peter do not give out their badges to just anyone. You have to write in and show that you have earned the accolade. My daughter got hers for writing a poem about the seasons. She sent it in months ago and to be honest we had all forgotten that she had send it in at all. But this morning the badge arrived together with a nice letter explaining how much the Editor of the show – and the presenters Andy, Helen and Barney – enjoyed reading the poem. My daughter is of course glowing with pride whilst my son is glowering with jealousy. As a kid I always wanted a Blue Peter badge but was too lazy to actually do anything to earn it. I too am insanely jealous. What’s more is that Blue Peter badge holders get free entry to museums, galleries and stately homes the length and breadth of the country. So that is one less entry fee to pay. I have told her to look after it and keep the letter as it will be something to look back on and cherish; not to mention the fact that the Blue Peter badge never goes out of fashion or loses its caché. I am currently in negotiations to get her to write another poem. Is that so wrong?
What is a Go-Go? Well here are two of them. The latest craze to sweep through my children’s school, hot on the heels of Silly Bandz, Doctor Who Monster Invasion Cards, Match Atax, etc. Of course Go-Gos have been de rigeur before and faded from memory; but now there are furry Go-Gos (do you see what they did there) and the craze has started again. I think they must be Japanese (like Pokemon, another craze that baffles adults and obsesses children) and allegedly you can play a game with them although I have never seen my two actually do this. It seems to me that what they are actually for is to clutter up every work surface and provide moment’s of exquisite pain for adults, especially when trod on in the middle of the night. Not as painful as standing on a three-pin plug or a Lego brick but certainly up there. What was wrong with Panini sticker albums? Kids of today, etc, etc
Photography wise, another example of the wonderful bokeh produced by the 50mm prime lens, here attached to the macro ring to get very close up. They look sweet don’t they? Don’t be taken in.
I have just been trawling through old posts (pardon the pun) as I was sure that I had blogged this image before but it seems not. It was taken on the harbour wall in Craster, Northumberland, which is one of my favourite places in the world. I like the texture of it, especially the ropes in the foreground. Craster is famous for its smoked kippers but these are lobster pots. Bit of a celebration tonight as I have finished the wedding photographs and its taken less than two weeks – all thanks to a lot of help with my processing and my guest blogees. Much appreciated. I now need to get back to taking some new pictures for myself, i.e. for pleasure. I am starting to get a feel for what sells in my Society6 studio [free worldwide shipping until Sunday folks] and what doesn’t and my strategy is now to plan my photographs more rigorously and maybe even come up with a long-term project or signature. We’ll see how it goes. It will be good to get back to taking pictures for myself. It’s far less stressful.
Bit of a strange photo today and the title of the blog pretty much says it all. We are currently in the middle of my home city’s annual festival. Today saw the midsummer watch parade through the streets, vaudeville and street cabaret, a mystery play and, somewhat bizarrely, a painted van outside the town hall promising an insect circus like something out of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. We queued to enter the van anyway and whilst my son was very disappointed to find that it was not a genuine bug circus (i.e. with real trained performing insects) I found it to be funny, quirky and charming. It basically took the form of various boxes - a bit like old seaside ‘What the Butler Saw’ peepshows – that illuminated when you looked through the peephole. I’m not sure why I thought I’d place my camera lens against the viewing window to see if I could catch anything but I did and this is the result.
I have given it a cyanotype tint to try and fit in with the old-world feel of the whole experience and it kind of works. But I must admit of all the photos that have gone up on this blog before this has to be strangest.
Gerald seems an unlikely name for a boat. I mean, why would you call your boat Gerald? It’s more suited to an elderly gentleman. Unless this boat was named after an elderly gentleman. Anyway, this is a picture of a boat called Gerald, as indicated by the painted metal buckets (?) perched on its roof. Most narrow boats seem to have these but I have no idea what they are used for. Perhaps someone can enlighten me? I always thought that they might be fire buckets but I have seen them with flowers in. Or are they just to carry water? I took this picture very early in the morning and I think you can tell. The muted light from the sun rising in the distance gives the colours a bit of a boost – they wouldn’t look the same in bright sunlight. So, another canal picture… maybe I am turning into a waterways photographer if such a thing exists? Too many questions in this blog for my liking already so I think I’ll stop there. Next challenge is to avoid pictures of canals, particularly in black and white, unless that is I decide not to…
This is a piece that I worked on over the weekend for a collaboration titled ‘Whiteout’ for Society6. The brief is to produce an image, in any media, where white is the prominent colour to extent that detail is lost with the best ones being picked to appear in a limited edition magazine. It’s the first time that I have created a piece from scratch with a view to fulfilling a brief and I really enjoyed doing it! The picture is one of my daughter’s old dolls; one that has seen better days after being left in the garden over a long period of time. I think it works quite well but I have been told that it is, well how shall I put this, creepy.
I am lucky enough to have no serious phobias – apart from fear of death but everyone has that. I’m not bothered by heights or flying or spiders or any of the classic phobias. I don’t like clowns but I’m not phobic about them. But I have met more than one pediophobic in my time; that of course being someone who has a fear of dolls. I had a friend at school that was terrified of Victorian porcelain dolls, which was very amusing as another friend’s mum collected them. I’m not sure what it is about dolls that freaks people out; they are a toy after all – a toy that is designed to bring pleasure – and my daughter has boxes and boxes of them. However, she is yet to be exposed to the way the doll has been heavily exploited in popular culture as an empty vessel that can be inhabited/possessed to wreak havoc. There are countless films and television programmes – from Michael Redgrave’s ventriloquist’s dummy in Dead of Night to The Terror of the Autons in Doctor Who to the Chuckie films – in which a seemingly harmless doll has become a sentient being bent on destruction. Whether this happens through magical spells or random chance, there is no escaping the fact that a child’s plaything has become deadly, usually accompanied by the strains of a music box or a nursery rhyme.
Anyway, please don’t have nightmares. It’s just a doll. But if you are a pediophobe I apologise for any stress this image might have caused.
Kids. Who’d have them. No, don’t answer that as I have two. It is an old trope that ‘kids these days don’t know they’re born’ probably going back 1000s of years. I often wonder what it must be like growing up in a world where the internet is the most natural thing in the world. I, on the other hand still marvel that something like the internet could have even been invented, let alone come into fruition. But then I suppose the Victorians marvelled at Stephenson’s Rocket. Technology marches onwards. We keep up until it deserts us and leaves us scratching our heads at the side of the road and watching the cloud of dust head over the horizon. But yet some things endure and appear to be timeless; such as Lego.
When I was a child the most you could hope for on the 363 days that weren’t your birthday or Christmas was the occasional free gifts/bribes that came attached to the front of comics. There were also collection cards – football, Star Wars – and Panini sticker albums that you had no chance of ever filling on 5p a week pocket money. These things are still very much in evidence today but there are a whole raft of other crazes fighting for the attention of our children. I blame Pokemon. I don’t understand it but I still blame it. Pokemon passed us by and I breathed a sigh of relief but then there were Go-Gos… and then Bakugans… and then Silly Bandz. But the current craze du jour in our house is currently Lego mini figures of which there have now been three ‘waves’. Each figure comes sealed in a packet and there are 12 to collect in each wave. There are a mixture of sexes and genres from Traffic Cop to Pamela Anderson Baywatch babe to Mexican to Vampire to Zombie and my children are obsessed. Of course, you never know what you are going to get until you open the packet and this is the problem. Some appear harder to come by than others, usually the ones that they really, really want.
So to say my son was less than impressed to unwrap a Lego Geisha would be an understatement. He immediately tried to swap it with his sister (she had an ice hockey player) but she was having none of it. Even if she wanted a Geisha, which secretly is probably very likely, she was never going to swap because he wanted what what she had. It’s how sibling rivalry works. I know from experience. If you have something your brother or sister (brother in my case) wants to hold onto it. It makes it more precious even if you don’t really want it. Personally, I quite like her. She has class. Unlike the Lego werewolf.
It’s been a while since I have posted a more intimate, still life sort of picture so here is an attempt from earlier this evening. This is a picture that tells you all need to know about why every photographer should have a 50 mm prime lens in their armoury. Not only are they very cheap, they are also very fast which results in this marvellous depth of field from front to back when you have the camera’s aperture wide open. Obviously, if I had planned in advance I would have perhaps ensure that the two halves of the front doll were actually aligned but maybe the fact that they are not adds a bit of camera. I am sure that I have mentioned this before but there is a word for this wonderful blurred effect when opening the camera’s aperture as wide as it will go. It a Japanese word (of course it is) and the word is bokeh. Translated literally it stems from the word boke, which means "blur" or "haze". The Japanese term boke is also used in the sense of a mental haze or senility which is kind of apt given my ramblings.
As for the Russian dolls, they were a present from the in-laws who are recently back from a round-the-world cruise; the sort of thing you can do when you are retired. They are from St Petersburg apparently and are quite beautiful. At the moment I am finding it rather difficult to compartmentalise the different parts of my life – work, family, running, photography, etc; certainly they no longer fit snugly one inside the other. At the moment, the photography aspect is probably the tiny blurred doll at the end but I hope to change that soon. In a few weeks time I am heading out into the wilds of North Wales again with the hope of catching some more wonderful landscapes. But at the moment it is the more mundane that is dominating and by that I mean work. After a two 4-day weeks and one 3-day week in April, it is going to be difficult to readjust to normality. I’m not wishing my life away (OK I am) but I am envious of the retired and the moneyed; whoever came up with this system – The Greeks? It usually is, certainly if you listen to Melvin Bragg on Radio4 – of the 5-day week could at least have given it a little more thought.
Is it still only Monday?
The long weekend closes. And to be quite frank with you I have reached the point of no return. You know when you have overindulged when you are ready to go to bed before your children. And I have reached that point. But, what a weekend. Great food, great company and great music. But far, far too much alcohol. This is a get well soon to myself and to my visitor from South America who has now moved on in his whistle-stop itinerary. Normal service will be resumed but only after the sleep of the just.
Trip to Liverpool today with the family and came across this touching scene on the way back to the station. All that’s missing is the ‘hungry and burrow-less’ sign. Of course the children wanted to keep him but my wife and I argued that whoever had lost him might come back. Besides he looks quite happy. So there you have it. The Easter bunny, out on the lash in Liverpool and making the most of the sunshine. And who can blame him?