Friday, 30 October 2009

Good Times in the Big Smoke

These are the results of some headshots I did for my cousin, who’s getting into acting. We shot these after scarfing down a delicious take out lunch from a small vegetarian and vegan place on the Portobello Road. I was a vegetarian for six or so years, but this is still the only food I’ve ever had that can make me understand how anyone could be vegan for more than three days without breaking down and running amok at a cheese counter.

Having picked our way around the window shopping tourists littering Portobello Road, my cousin took me on a tour of his old stomping ground. We took in some advertising installations for MuTATE Britain, a skate park, where tried rather unsuccessfully to shoot some action photos, and a selection of tatty graffiti. I couldn’t resist the contrast between the faded Mars awning and the bright tags on the shutter.

Or the escaped from an interwar comic book pub sign.

The rest of the day was spent just chilling out and eating delicious food, and it really was the perfect balm for my soul.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Sarf Coast

Like many seaside towns, Worthing sports a pier, and on the end of that pier sports a nightclub. Having been a regular for years, I haven't been know for at least a year and half. Obviously that's partially due to having spent a significant portion of that time in Asia, but what really vexed me last time I went here was, when we stepped outside to get some air and have a chat, as we'd been doing for about nine years, we were corralled into a tiny roped off area along this window. Once we's wedged ourselves into the crowd, we had to dodge cigarette's being waved around with drunken abandon and were jostled and foot trodden on more than we had been inside. That was the point were I thought 'I am too old for this'.
This reflection of the suburban south coast in the blacked out windows caught my eye, even if I did have to stand an extreme angle to get it 'just right', which annoyingly means that I get stuck with underside of the balcony in one corner.
By the way, this photo looks much better enlarged!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Doorways: Dolphin Cottage

As I got ready to photograph this rather striking doorway, in an otherwise somewhat rundown street, a couple in their fifties stopped so they didn’t intrude onto my shot. Knowing my propensity for fiddling around with different settings, I said something like ‘come by, it’s no trouble, I might be awhile’.

There was then a minute of British ‘no, no really, it’s no trouble’ on both sides, to the point where I just wanted to say, actually, it makes me quite uncomfortable having two people standing and staring at me whilst I’m trying to take a photo.

Although obviously, not as uncomfortable as it would’ve done before I went to China.

After this polite agonising the couple went to walk past me, and the man asked what I was photographing. ‘What do you want to do that for,’ was his response. His wife then made a spirited defence of the merits of the door as a photographic subject, and, standing right in front of me, they had a self-contained, but rather heated, argument about this.

I had a few minutes of thinking, ‘well, this isn’t a situation you find covered in photography books’ and feeling exceptionally awkward, before they moved off without acknowledging me.

So far, I’m feeling that this incident sums up my week: things almost go right, and then…

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Photo Fishing

If you’re peckish, Worthing beach offers you a choice between ice cream and raw fish. Not a sushi bar, but fish from the independent fishermen who sell their catch from stalls next to where they land their boats. For me, indifferent to the pleasures of piscine dishes, the fishing ephemera offered a suitably engrossing photographic subject.

On a wonderfully sunny afternoon, the winches, buoys and nets gave me a good opportunity to experiment with the manual settings on my camera, and I happily lost myself amongst apertures and exposures. Contemplating a photograph you are proud of is satisfying, but what I love about photography is the way that it offers me a sense of peace, a complete absorption in what I’m doing that drowns out my mental background noise.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Just Looking

Yesterday I hung my first ever photography exhibition. It might be at the main library rather than a gallery, but I still had to audition (is that really the best word? would perhaps 'videtion' be better? that from the Latin videre 'to see' rather than audire ' to listen'. Yes, I am a geek AND rambling off point) to get a spot, and the person in charge of exhibtions liked my work so much that she offered me two dates, rather than the one I originally asked for.
It was slightly strange but definitely good to see my photographs, framed and mounted, hanging on the wall. Even more importantly, people were actually, definitely stopping to look at them. I think the word I'm searching for is fulfilling.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Emotionally Honest

I’ve realised that I haven’t written much over the last few weeks. Although this week I can blame last weekend’s cold, which has developed into a delightful chest and sinus infection, I know that there is another reason. It’s one that I have been so busy avoiding that every time I sit down to write one something else, I’m so busy pushing it out of my mind that there’s no energy left to write about everything else.

Simply, I am very unhappy.

There, I said it. Just by saying it out loud makes me feel a tiny bit better, as then it becomes an acknowledged problem to be addressed rather than a dark shadow I’m trying to pretend isn’t there.

The source of the problem? The job that, in the summer, I was looking forward to starting. The proverbial alarm bells started ringing on my first day when I was told variously that ‘my job was simply to survive’, it was ‘the worst job in the school’ and that I was ‘at the bottom of the hierarchy’ and the kids would treat me accordingly.

Over the last two months, these cheery snippets advice seem, if anything, to have been erring on the positive side. I’ve tried telling myself that there’s a recession and I’m lucky to have a job at all, but, unsurprisingly, this has only made me feel more trapped and miserable.

I’ve felt my enthusiasm for working on learning web design, taking photographs, meeting my friends and my voluntary work fade away too. Things that would normally make me feel proud and excited, like being told I’m doing an excellent job with my voluntary work and the photography exhibition that I’ve snagged for the next two weeks and am putting up today, barely lift my mood for a second.

I need my life back.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Autumn Sky

Skywatch Friday.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Doorways: Arcade

This week's doorway is a seafront amusement arcade, snapped whilst the early morning clear up was still going on.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Sweetly Sleazy

Sweetly sleazy: this defines the appeal of British seaside towns for me, the dichotomy between the for-the-tourists-and-municipal-brochure attempt to tart up and gentrify and the pervasive reality: the cheap and not always cheerful-ness, the homeless sleeping under the pier, the down at heel amusement arcades filled with the poor and desperate, the atmosphere of ‘this is as far as you can go’.
Echoes of Georgian and Victorian propriety vie with shadows of insalubrious raffishness – the seaside is where a young lady might elope with an unsuitable chancer, an adulterous couple might hide out, Mods and Rockers would have street battles and hen and stag parties descend for ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ weekends.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Chicken Soup Days

I keep meaning to write an interesting blog post, but no sooner do the thoughts form in my mind than they appear to get gobbled up by the improbably, surely-against-the-laws-of-physics amount of mucus currently inhabiting my facial cavities. And my mind will wander somewhere else for a second, and then somewhere else again, not taking anything in, resulting in a jumble of half formed thoughts, plan and images cluttering my mind and whingeing for attention that I’m completely able to provide.

It’s the sort of day when I go upstairs to get my camera, and come down with a glass of water, then spend a couple of seconds staring dumbly around me thinking ‘what have I forgotten’.

Or spend over an hour writing two paragraphs, because I keep flitting off to half read stuff online, or find that it takes ten attempts to write a sentence. If any of you see my brain, could you please direct it homewards?

Thursday, 15 October 2009


I think this gorgeous sunset is the perfect way to celebrate my 200th post, and a good reminder that you should never forget to look up. I was beavering at the computer one evening when I realised how stunning the sky was. Unfortunately you can't get a great view of the sunset from our house, mainly owing to someone down the road who thinks that 30ft trees are a great idea in a suburban garden. Luckily my dearest chauffeur (otherwise known as mother) did her duty and ferried me to a nearby hilltop, that has rather more spectacular views!

Skywatch Friday

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Doorways: To My Grandmother's

Monday, 12 October 2009

Sheep Gazing

One of the startling things about Sussex, is despite being so crowded along the coast, once you get into the countryside, even when you're still able to hear the dim and steady roar of the dual carriageway, you are presented with views like this, which you suddenly realise has probably looked relatively similar for the last few hundred years, or longer.
Although perhaps slightly maudlin, I find myself inescapably returning the idea of those who've stopped to linger here before me, and inevitably, those who'll linger after me. Perhaps I'm becoming obsessed with mortality, but sometimes a tree and a sheep make me realise that I'm not going to have forever to procrastinate about life.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

On Seeing Cucurbits

Pumpkin, squashes and gourds are one (or three?) of my favourite autumn aspects. Their colours and shapes would, I think, enamour me of them anyway, even without their heart tie.

The displays at West Dean, and later at a small specialist grower of what, thanks to Kew Gardens website, I now know are members of the cucurbit family, produce this odd splitting sensation. On one level, I am admiring the composition of the piles of produce, noting the differences in texture and colours, knowing that under hand their skins will be a mixture of smooth coolness punctuated with gnarled scars.

On another, I am back in my grandfather’s small holding, perusing the lines of that season’s fantastically shaped squashes in the honeyed late summer sun, their appearance over the summer quite magical; then admiring them, piled up in his shop, inviting to be touched or carried home and drawn in oil pastel; then using a giant almost white squash as a seat, no longer finding Cinderella’s coach outlandish.

Even in these photos I see two things, maybe three things: the photo, it’s contrasts and colours; the now memory of photographing them experiencing past and present at the same time; and hovering behind it all photographs of my childhood memories, fading slightly and fingered at the edges but solid even in intangibility.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Colour Infusion

After a rainy, greyey week in which temperatures have reached the level where it's a battle been the evident need for a coat and my refusal to admit that not only are we being surrounded by mists and mellow fruitfulness at every turn, but they are soon going to be giving way to November gloom, I felt in need of soaking the eyeballs in some colour, thoughtfully provided by this dahlia.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Apple Skies

Yes, we're still at West Dean College and the Apple Affair event. I hope I'm not boring you with what has turned into my theme for the week, espcially as I couldn't decide between these photos. Which one is your favourite (and least favourite!), I'd love to know.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Doorways: The Secret Garden

I adored Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden when I was a child, and walking around the walled gardens at West Dean College at the weekend made me feel as if I was in that mysterious Yorkshire garden. The feeling was cemented when I came across this door, guarding realms forbidden to the hoi polloi. What interesting items are hidden away out of site?

Monday, 5 October 2009

Apple Affair

Yes, that is the title of the event I attended yesterday. As it suggests I was a celebration of things apple, with sprinklings of stalls and a chance to wander around the garden and orchard of the private West Dean college, which is normally closed to the public. We were incredibly lucky to have a October day that varied from chilly to warm every twenty minutes, but was blissfully dry.
After peering at the table with samples of rare and unusual apples – some of which were quite outstandingly ugly – and no doubt annoying the people behind me by stopping to take photos, we browsed the slightly pricey wares for sale, sampled some English wine (which is more delicious than most people give it credit for) and finally found the apple samples.

Until I went to China I was convinced that I disliked apples, and was quite surprised when I found Chinese apples to be juicy, crisp and flavoursome, as opposed to the pappy, mushy but perfectly spherical and colour balanced apples on sale in British supermarkets. These knobbly, spotty, lopsided apples were a revelation and I took as many slices as I felt was within the bounds of decency.

Oddly though, there weren’t actually any of the small breed apples for sale, which was a bit of a disappointment and perhaps a missed sales opportunity.

The grounds, orchard and walled vegetable and flower gardens were beautiful, and I took so many photos that I’ll be sharing them with you over the week, as I’m far too indecisive to cut them all down to fit in one post! I’ve been thinking of how else I would describe the day apart from the shop worn ‘nice’: serene, relaxing, interesting, heart warming, toothsome…

I know they look I bit skanky, but I promise you, they taste delicious!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Pick and Mix Wishes

I stole this idea from BakerGirl who writes the immensely readable An Extended Vacation, about the trials and triumphs of seeking your own way, and who originally posted it in the spirit of Yom Kippur. As soon as I read her post, I knew I needed to do something similar, and so here it is:

I want to have the self belief to follow my own path.
I want to find a balance between my creative, analytic and business interests.
I want to design my own kick ass self hosted blog site.
I want to make the people I love proud.
I want to make people laugh.
I want to learn and create, and then show other people how to do these things.
I want to make a living doing something I enjoy and that fulfils me, rather than something I find insufferable.
I want this to involve elements of design, writing and photography.
I want to be a fantastic Publicity Officer for Worthing Samaritans.
I want to go back to China. I want to travel to India.
I want to be curious about my everyday surroundings.
I want to be curious about everything.
I want to be willing to eat donkey chow mein, and sparrow, and to try all sorts of new things.
I want to do things even if I’m scared. (Apart from stuff like jumping into shark tanks at the aquarium, where clearly you are scared for a good reason.)
I want to offer to people the emotional support they’ve shown to me.
I want to concentrate on opportunities rather than bewailing misfortune.
I want to spend time in nature.
I want to have my own business.
I want a functional, supportive and honest relationship.
I want to seek out and get to know people with whom I have real interests in common.
I want to be in control of my life (as far as is cosmically possible).
I want to enjoy my life.

Strangely, I found writing this quite liberating. Aren’t so many of us told as children that ‘I want doesn’t get’ and not to nag for things, and then as we become adults (perhaps a slower process for some of us than others!) are told that we should put others first, or learn that saying what you really want from life is likely to met with derision at worst and a well meant attempt to talk you out of it at best.
I need to say I want out loud and have the conviction to follow through with it, even if it risks failure and embarrassment.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Cat and Mouse

He's trying to work out how to use our credit cards to order himself and Pumpkin (our other ginger feline) smoked salmon and cheddar cheese...

Friday, 2 October 2009


Pretending to be some sort of amnesiac kidnap victim inside a sealed room isn’t what I normally do on mid week evenings, but in the seemingly never ending whir of the last week, it happened. No, this isn’t (yet another) drastic change of direction that is going to see me turning all thespian on you. It was part of a course run for people interested in social and creative entrepreneurship by a life coach. I’ve been considering life coaching, although I may also have to consider selling my least favourite internal organ to pay for it.

So, back to the point where I’m lying on the floor, trying not to giggle at someone making fake snoring noises and thinking ‘oh my god, what kind of bizarreness have I got myself into and do I really have to stay here for TWO HOURS’, whilst having flashbacks to the seemingly endless ‘PE’ sessions spent at first school pretending to be tree, accompanied by exceptionally insipid music. And I hadn’t finished my cup of tea too, but somehow felt that consuming it would be against the spirit of the activity.

The scenario developed with the discovery of a ‘dead’ body. I suggested we could eat it, and then stood around with my retrieved tea, feeling like a bit of a plonker.

We moved onto an improvisation based around pretending to be a gang of criminals whose leader has been betrayed and killed. Let me tell you know: should you ever find yourself in this situation, with a group of complete strangers, enthusiastically volunteering to play a hitman might get you a few strange looks. After reminding myself to try not to scare my fellow improvisers I actually started to enjoy myself.

I’d done something a bit scary, going along to group where I knew no one and then doing the only drama exercise I’ve ever done in my life, and far from going horrifically wrong, it was fun.

One thing I’ve missed since coming back from China is spending time with people who have aspirations and interests, and here I got it in triple scoop portions. Despite being so tired by the time that I skulked up to do my one minute personal presentation that I could have been filmed for an online dictionary as the definition of logorrhoea, when I left I felt more energised than I had done in a while.

I’m glad I pushed my earlier doubts to one side and got involved: there’s definitely a lesson there for me.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

A View With A Room

Skywatch Friday.