Archive for the ‘ Photography ’ Category

Three years later…

We’re always saying how time flies (we being middle aged people). Digging around in this old blog has brought that into sharp focus. It’s been three years since my last post confession, though as I sit here with the fire burning low and the gentle sound of  The National playing on Spotify and a glass of merlot to hand it feels like I’ve never been away.

And yet, and yet…life has moved on; leaped on. I have a teenager in the house. My baby boy will turn nine before the year is out. I am a co-director in a proper company and am working close on full time. We have today been visited by a retirement planner and have discussed aggressive pensions and venture capital. My hair is less glossy, my tummy thinks I’m having a baby, well, twins. I have friends of my own (not my parents) who are in their 50s and 60s. I’m in a choir, I enjoy a knit and a natter, and I frequently forget that the 1980s is a foreign country not just to my children but also to co-workers. I’ve discovered Hendricks gin with slivers of cucumber and get cross with regret at all those years drinking the far inferior Gordon’s and lemon. When I go to pubs I rate them on the availability of seats and whether the music is suitably in the background, rather than how busy and noisy they are. Fuck, I’ve even started listening to The National.

I’ve also started enjoying books again. One of three I’ve currently got on the go is Andrew Marr’s A short book about drawing, which is more an instruction manual. It’s a really sweet book, particularly when set against Marr’s recent stroke and his rehabilitation, which he says drawing has helped inform and inspire. He’s not a great artist but that’s why I especially like it; it gives me heart. I like taking on new hobbies and interests and drawing is one of the newest. I’ll see how long the drawing thing lasts, vying as it is for my attention with so many other distractions. andrew-marr I don’t think life has ever been this busy, but also so interesting.

Tomorrow is fairly typical of life at the moment…I’ll be up about 645, prepare breakfast, get eldest to his 730 train, do littlest’s lunch and help him get ready before the school run, followed by a quick dash to the physio to be reduced to tears by his deep massage on my poorly plantar and told off for not keeping my foot in a bucket of ice or resting it like he’s ordered.

Then back in time to make a 10am call to a designer who’s got to try to make sense of my lengthy notes and scribbles as we create a new website together for a client. I’ll just have time to make quick calls to the plumber and tiler to book them in to finish off the bombsite that is the bathroom before dashing to a school where I’m putting together a communications strategy and a school magazine.

I’ll spend around three hours with them before dashing off to an emergency dental appointment, then back to the office to put together some of the reams of new content needed for the aforementioned website.

Collect the kids from train station and childminder, back home, chat to them while preparing tea, eat together, then try to get a bit of glossing done to advance the bathroom project. Once the kids are in bed the hubby will hopefully be back from a day in Stafford with another client, and after a quick catch up with him I’ll be back to website content writing. I’ll ring my mum and dad for a catch up, and suddenly remember I’ve yet to book a Mother’s Day meal somewhere and everywhere will be full, so everyone will end up here, without a functioning bathroom. Oh joy.

Despite appearances, I’m really not complaining about my lot, far from it. Both our household incomes depend on us making a success of our business, so being busy is necessary. Thankfully all the work we are doing at the moment is enjoyable and creative, and we are working with and for some amazing people and organisations. I love nearly everything on this busy little list but I do long sometimes for the luxury of empty days. They will no doubt come back soon enough…

So, time for bed. Here’s a lovely night-night tune…it’s from a new LP from Johnny Cash of rediscovered work from the 1980s. This is a top tune, beautiful and strong and poignant. Enjoy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwRScXqKoXY

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Teenager alert! (and he’s only 10)

Things my 10 year old son claims he no longer likes that he used to:

*Night-time cuddles and stories – “yeah mum, like I want you in my face before I go to sleep – not.”

*Super Furry Animals, Radiohead, Wedding Present, Smiths, any of the many bands with guitars I indoctrinated him into liking as a child – “they’re, like, so old fashioned. Haven’t you even heard of Bruno Mars? Or Chase & Status? God, you’re so ancient.”

*One or two of his childhood friends – “mum, they’re so immature. And they don’t even know it.”

*His dad – “I sometimes think you just haven’t taken to me.”

*His brother – “Sometimes I wish you hadn’t been born, you’re THAT annoying.”

*Me – “Did they have exams when you were younger to get into university or were you just allowed in even if you weren’t clever, like you?”

*Having his picture taken – “If you take one more picture of me without asking my permission first I’m going to sue you.”

Things I love about my 10 year old:

*The way he insists on wearing aftershave (Lynx Africa)

*The amazing cuddles he gives me – they may be loads less frequent but when they come they are so worth it.

*The way he flicks his head to get his new fringe out of his eyes

*How he loves horror stories, even though they frighten him

*The brilliant way he amuses his brother with silly impressions and crazy voices to cheer him up if he’s sad or hurt.

*His lovely caring nature; he may try to act tough but he gives it away every time

He no longer allows me to take his photo, unless it is for a very special reason, like he’s engaged in an unusual activity like flying down a zipwire. Instead, to feed my desire to capture his lovely face as often as possible, I have to devise cunning and sly tricks.

Due to computer problems I can’t seem to upload an image to the blog today, but suffice to say they are of a “blurry/arty” nature – where he has moved suddenly on realising his picture is being taken. Several of them were taken inside the Pompidou Centre in Paris during a trip yesterday. We took part in an art project, called Inside Out. The artist, called JR, has set up a giant photobooth in the centre and each person enters the booth, sits still and an image is taken. During the process a bindi mark is placed on every person’s forehead. The resulting images are printed out onto giant sheets of paper – mine is nearly as big as me – which are ejected from a huge slot high up at the top of the giant photobooth, from where they flutter to the ground, to excited squeals from the people waiting below. It is great fun and you can see the results at http://www.insideoutproject.net/pompidou

Behind the fun lies the incredibly powerful idea that everyone is beautiful and unique. As someone who constantly struggles with self image, it was interesting to note my own reaction. While everyone else in my family ooed and aahed over their posters and laid them out on the floor to take in all their glory, I couldn’t wait to roll mine up and hide it away. Participants are urged to put their poster faces up in their own community – while I can think of a million places I’d want to display the giant faces of my sons and husband, I can’t imagine being comfortable placing my own giant face anywhere other than in the back garden. Funny how a bit of fun art can make you stop and think and analyse your own vision of yourself, isn’t it? I’ve certainly embraced one of the stated aims of the project – “to discover, reveal and share your untold story…”

You don’t have to visit France to join in – visit http://www.insideoutproject.net to find out how to submit your own portrait and receive a poster back in return.

Next to the giant photobooth were traditional, smaller versions, which produced 7x5inch prints. Felix had to kneel up to get to the right eye level for his pic – and while he was doing so I snapped a couple of candid pix. He will hate that I photographed him without him knowing it, so am I morally right to do so? It’s a tough one – I know I’d hate it.

As my son enters into the twilight world of teenage insecurity, I’m sure he, like me, doesn’t see and appreciate his own beauty, and that’s probably why he constantly asks me to erase the pictures I’ve taken of him. I won’t though – I want him to know that he is beautiful and amazing, if only he’d open his eyes to it. A lesson there for me too I think.

Crisis? What Crisis?

I’m 43 years old. Blimey.When did that happen? In my head I’m still just a flibberty-gibbet, a teen angel, a babe in arms. But I’m not; I’m 43. Bloody hell. When I got caught smoking at school, aged 15, I had to take a letter home to my parents. I recall being terrified about my parents’ reaction, and dreaded the sound of them coming up the stairs on their return home from work to confront me – yet also recall, really vividly, that in the midst of my telling off all I was thinking was how OLD they looked, with their disappointed faces and angry folded arms. And how superior I was, with my youth and brilliance.

They would have been at least five years younger than I am now, so God knows how my kids see me when I’m laying down the law. Youngest inexplicably thinks I’m 29. He has no idea about age; he thinks his granny (70) is 43.

So, like it or not, I’m officially middle aged. The least I can do to mark such a momentous event is to take up hang-gliding, take a lover, or take a dive into insanity. I have no desire to do any of these.

I’m writing this in a French forest, at a picnic table outside our holiday home in a Yelloh! village an hour and a half’s train ride from Paris, in the complete darkness, drunk on wine and contentment, while my beautiful family sleeps and snores feet away. The thrum of busy insect life is occasionally punctuated by a scurrying beast or the incredibly loud thwack of acorn against roof. It is amazing here; a place of complete and utter tranquility. I am at peace.

It was not always thus. Three years ago, approaching my 40th birthday, I did go a tad insane. For people who have read my blog for a while, or who know me, this was proper off the rails – for a couple of weeks I was barely able to get the kids to school of a morning, let alone be much good for owt. (By the way, I’m not from Yorkshire, but it does seem to be my default setting when merry to get all “owt” and “twas” and “twat”.)

But – and it took a while admittedly, and needed the support of my ace family  – I got through it. I still have my moments of stress and anxiety, but mostly I am totally sane. (Hahaha-hahaha-hahaha *runs like loon around holiday park dressed in nothing but a figleaf and elf ears*)

The last three months have tested my sanity to the max. I have taken on a trying new role (part time, they said – part time, my arse) combined with looking after the kids, house and family stuff, and trying to drum up a bit of business of the PR variety. If I was going to lose it, I probably would have by now. Admittedly, I’ve come close once or twice. Only two weeks ago I was so caught up with juggling work demands, childcare, general household responsibility and a million other things that, in the midst of rowing with my 10 year old, I drove off after filling up with petrol at my local petrol station without paying. Thankfully a nice policeman and the garage manager trusted in my innate honesty and recognised my misdemeanour for the absolute mindblock that it was, and let me off.

Other than that blot, I have generally remained calm and collected in the face of considerable pressure. Now, finally, three years on, I feel a corner has been turned, a hurdle cleared, a lesson learned. It seems I can cope after all; I am not destined for the loony bin just yet.

I can, it seems, do a job that I am falling in love with, despite its excessive demands on my time and brain power, while also caring for and spending quality time with my kids and family. Friendships have definitely suffered along the way, but I’m desperately planning to make amends on that score over the next few months. Generally, though, I feel I have survived a tough few months and things can now only get better.

So, now what? What have you got planned now, middle age?

As increasing numbers of friends and acquaintances face up to illness and disability, to loss and pain, it’s obvious that becoming middle aged brings increasing vulnerability to the rigours of being a mere mortal. I used to feel I was immune, infallible, that somehow I was one of the chosen ones who would not succumb to such boring rituals as getting ill or bereavement. I don’t feel like that any more. It’s a shame, losing that carefree notion of a carefree life, but there it is.

Middle aged suggests midway. If that’s true, that means I will pop off this mortal coil at about 86. Now, that actually sounds like a fair deal, speaking from my 43 year old berth. I’m pretty damn sure that when I’m 85 it will be a less attractive proposition. However, I also know too many people who have breathed their last long before getting close to middle age. It is something to celebrate you know, getting this far intact!

Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips had it about right when he sang “Do you realise everyone you know, one day, will die…” I mean, it’s hardly a revelation is it, yet we all block it out, and avoid thinking about it – but we are all DOOMED.

Time really does go fast; and it is hard to make the good times last. All we can do is appreciate every drop of goodness, every day of happiness. We can watch the sun set every night, until the day we die, but only if we also remember that the sun going down is just an illusion, caused by the Earth spinning round.

My family is still sleeping. The forest is still alive with rustling and creaking and scuttling. I feel like I am the only person awake in the whole of France. A candle burns fiercely beside me, my glass of wine stays resolutely filled up, as if by some magic hand (mine, if truth be told) and the air is still. The stars are shining bright in an arc over my head. It’s a beautiful evening, still warm enough for me to be sat here on the laptop outdoors at the midnight hour. I could be in paradise. I’m not, it’s only France, but I’ve got everything I need right here, within feet of me. But most of all, right now, today, I may be middle aged but I’ve also got peace of mind and a happy heart. Who could wish for more?

 

 

Sunny Day

only cloud in the sky

It was nice today, wasn’t it? This series of pictures was taken today in my back garden. It’s a rather unloved place; it lacks order or definition. But on a day like today it is a great place to hang out.

Eldest son and his dad spent the previous night in Hurcott Woods on a survival adventure with Wyre Forest’s rangers. The boy came back a man; full of tales of derring do, tree felling, sleeping on a bed of ferns under a hastily constructed shelter, burning sausages and fighting off bats and mice.

By the time they dragged their exhausted bodies homeward this morning, me and littlest were already engaged in our own battle against the encroaching weeds and ivy that have joined forces to strangle the life out of anything remotely recognisable as a flower in the back garden.

Three hours, two tip runs, busted nails and hedge-backwards hair later, and I was ready to down tools. It looked alright. I probably won’t do any gardening for another two months, but at least today we got to enjoy freshly mown lawn, tidy beds and neatly coiled hosepipe.

Watching the kids squealing in and out of the paddling pool and playing tig; and joining in with the lego-building and odd game of tennis; got me all nostalgic. This was what I used to do when I was a kid, when the sun shone and the summer holidays stretched endlessly ahead – it is what I hope my grandkids will do too. We had nowhere to be, noone to see – just a lovely simple day. The tunes we put on reflected the nostalgic mood – Cafe Bleu, Boat to Bolivia, Architecture and Morality, Rattlesnakes – interspersed with some Nick Drake and Scott Matthews. As I said, very chilled, very simple.

Getting my shit together

It’s been  ages since I blogged. In fact, funnily enough, my absence coincided with starting a new job. Mmm – odd that.

There just aren’t enough hours in the day any more. I used to have time to decide not to clean the bathroom and go and do something more exciting instead; now that choice has gone.

I used to have time to stop and chat – now I always seem to be rushing off somewhere. I used to have time to go for long walks and to take photos and to just do stuff because the sun was shining. I used to be able to take on work projects I liked and ignore stuff I didn’t. Now I have annoying “commitments” all week round. S’not fair. It’s like being a growed up.

The great news is, though, I think this is short lived pain; of that I am sure. Starting a new job inevitably involves upheaval and working too many hours; now I’ve got things a bit more sussed this should ease off a bit. Hopefully a bit of routine will return to my life and I’ll find time for the lovely stuff again soon. If not, well, I’ll just quit.

In the meantime I’m blessed with an amazing family who make sure I don’t let it all get too much. Here are three of them – Richy, Felix and Oscar. They make me smile all the time; they love me and I bloody adore them. They are gorgeous, even with a distorting wide angle lens…

Red Sky

Red sky over Kidderminster

I have set up a highly efficient office in a room in my house. It’s got all mod cons – computer, laptop dock, printer, scanner, speakers, filing cabinet, cupboards, bookshelves, phoneline. There’s a nice picture on the wall, a big map of Shropshire and a giant whiteboard where I can plan work and cross things out when I’ve done them. I like this bit best.

Yet after three weeks of working as close to full time as is possible with two kids to pick up every day at 3pm, I’ve already decamped with laptop to the dining room table at the back of the house. Sometimes I end up on the settee, hunched over the keyboard. The lovely oak desk with its posture-friendly office chair is abandoned.

I’ve ended up with a crick in my neck and sore shoulders but, despite realising the stupidity and wastefulness, I can’t help it. I live in a house, you see, with two distinct climates. The front of the house, where the office is, gets the morning sun and is flooded with light until about 11am, when the sun moves round and it falls into shadow. By midday the back garden is bathed in sunshine. Thus, the back kitchen and dining room are lit up, warm and welcoming, while the study turns dull and cool.

I was in the back room the other night; I’d returned to my laptop to finish something off while Richard put the boys to bed. Then I became aware of this bright red glow. When I looked out of the patio doors I was convinced something must be on fire nearby, so intense was the red sky. To one side was bright blue sky; to the other ominous dark clouds; and betwixt was this sweep of fluffy, swirling scarlet mass. I grabbed my camera and took a few snaps. It was weird, and eerie, and amazing, and lovely, all at once.

Just relax, take it easy, you’re still young…

Son one

Son two – “that was AWESOME”

My boys. Still so young, but growing up fast. Too fast. One of the reasons I take so many photos of them, to their complete and utter dismay, is that they are so beautiful, and pure, and innocent. One day they probably won’t be (innocent that is). But until then I do my best every day to celebrate their childish ways.

Just before these pix were taken, on the beach at Woolacombe, eldest was in the doghouse. He’d challenged his dad’s authority – again – and been dealt an appropriate punishment (no swingboat ride, no icecream). The day’s not too far off when punishments of this sort just will not cut it. When the arguments are long, and loud, and involve tears and breaking things. We’ve already had some taster sessions. He is stubborn, and refuses to take the easy option. Just like his dad. There will be trouble ahead.

But until then we will revel in his cuteness. In those wobbly teeth, and band of freckles which burst out, like snowdrops, at the first sign of spring and sunshine.

His little brother has it easy. He can’t do much wrong right now. We try not to let him get away with anything, but he makes it hard with his ready laugh and cheeky wit.

These photos were taken after a particularly exhilarating bodyboarding session. Littlest boy had taken a full head dunking dive off the board. As he surfaced, I ran to him to ask if he was all right. “That,” he declared, “was AWESOME! Can I go again?” and off he shot, back into the waves.

Big brother was equally happy. Staying close to shore is not his thing anymore; he likes to paddle out to the furthest surfers, in deep water, waiting to catch the big one. Time after time he misses the wave – then he catches one just right and swoops into shore. Less effusive than his brother, this grin captures the ride’s awesomeness all the same.

What a great time of their lives. But I wouldn’t hold back time, even if I could. I can’t wait to see what kind of men they turn into.