My Dear Reader, welcome to yet another article where I will try to find something interesting or witty to tell you. I have neglected you over August, but as most French people do, I closed shop and was on holiday. Since Covid and the world going base over apex, my company has decided that we only need three weeks’ holiday in August compared to the more traditional four weeks. I am about to sing the praises of my wife, so for those of you who hate the luvvy-duvvy side of things, turn away now. I take it you have all turned away.
For the first ten days of my holidays, I was camping in my living room. My wife and I literally carried our bed downstairs and set up camp. That was the less agreeable part of those first ten days. However, my wife had decided to decorate our bedroom and change all the furniture and replace it with nice new furniture from the infamous Swedish flat-pack place that we all know. I have a love-hate relationship with flat packs. Firstly, they’re heavy and hardly fit into the car without all the seats down and your wife in the back of the car telling you how to drive, you bloody moron! Secondly, they take up an awful amount of space in the garage whilst your wife gets to grips with decorating the room. Painting the ceiling, putting up wallpaper you agreed to ages ago because it’s easier and you love avoiding conflict. You don’t sleep well because everything feels strange in the living room and it’s hot too. Thirdly, they have to be taken upstairs to be put together and there’s always something missing, and you know it’s going to be your fault, you useless fool!
Anyway, with the help of friends, my son, and a mad screaming bitch, sorry, wife, we now have a haven of peace. We not only have a haven of peace, but fitted wardrobes that took three days to put together, but look great, and I have a cabinet for all my photography gear and, most importantly, a desk.
She is a champion, and let me assure you all, she has become human again! It has been a life-changer.
During the pre-let’s get this done otherwise I’ll go mad, clear out, we found some films that needed to be developed. You do not know what might lurk on those reels of film, but you tell yourself that you must have taken them, so it shouldn’t be too bad. I took in 9 rolls of film in. I was told by the amiable lady that if any of them hadn’t been exposed that there would be no charge for the development. Seems fair.
I returned to get the films and the contact sheets. That still sweet lady told me I would be in for a surprise! She was right. I looked through the sheets of paper and saw images of my son, who was still a toddler, and having baths, and being dried by his mother and his godmother. It took me right back to the end of the last century! My beard was in colour in those days!
Encouraged by all this photographic success, I went out and took even more photos. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, or Instagram you will have seen the stories and saw the cameras for the day: the Mamiya C220, and the Pentax ME Super, which were both gifts from a former teacher, and now a friend of mine! Merci Mr McM!
I do like taking photos and using cameras. There’s something I don’t think you knew!! It was good to be back out. I am now double jabbed. Thank you to that lovely lady at the chemists who reassured me and said that I wasn’t the only guy in the world that has a phobia of injections. Not only am I double jabbed, but I also have my Covid Passport, so I can go to the pub again without having part of my brain scraped out by a nurse with a long plastic thingy! I have rejoined the general population.
If you’re wondering what the French title of this article is doing there, let me explain. Quickly though, I’m already at 750 words here. The Rentrée is the re-entry into normal daily life after the summer holidays where people just weren’t there. The children go back to school. Those of use in employment, go back to that employment. Our extracurricular activities start again. Last night was my first wind band rehearsal in over a year (thank you, COVID), and it feels as if some relative normality has come back into my life.
Back to the photos. I shot the square photos on the Mamiya C220, using Ilford HP5+ film shot at box speed, developed in Ilfosol 3, and I took the other photos on the Pentax ME Super, using Fomapan 100 film developed in the same chemistry. Fine grain with the Fomapan and not something I’m used to, but a change is good, right? Oh, and I took them at the Hangar à Bananes, and HAB Gallerie in Nantes.
It has been a quiet three weeks over here in France. I went to see my wife’s family in Brittany, and strangely enough I could go out, take some pretty photographs, and not get any grief from my mother-in-law. Yes, miracles can happen.
England and football had definitely come home just before buggering off to Rome. Those three poor lads who missed penalties and got so much flack for it. Disgusting. I listened to the match on the radio in the car on the way home, but got home before the penalties, which would have been too horrible to listen to. At least we got further than France, and beat Germany. Small mercies, people, small mercies!
My eejit son got back with his ex-girlfriend, but apparently with “different rules,” and “different bases,” and asked me to accept everything wholeheartedly. Very optimistic, that boy! There are more red flags in that relationship than in the last Congress of the Chinese Communist Party… And to quote the genius that is Forrest Gump, “and that is all I have to say about that…” I’ve been forbidden from saying anything else. It happens, I suppose…
They have jabbed once me. I think there is definitely a conspiracy about the COVID vaccinations. Why don’t the injections hurt like hell, the way they used to when I was a child??? What is this utter madness? As of the 21st July, the “passe sanitaire” has been imposed, firstly on theme parks, cinemas, and libraries, where more than 50 people can gather. As of the 1st August, you cannot go to restaurants, cafés, shopping centres, and basically anywhere where everyday French life happens. The President sounds like a scratched record, vaccinnez vous, vaccinnez vous! Strangely enough, people are starting to feel a little iffy about the whole situation.
There are now huge demonstrations against this “passe sanitaire” and people are comparing it to the “Ausweis” that people had to carry about during the Occupation. Has Macron committed political suicide? Many are hoping so. I’m for people being vaccinated but want it to remain a choice. Aren’t we free to refuse a medical act? Have Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité, just disappeared from France? Many think so.
A friend had his 26th birthday, so the weekend before, I took him up to Nantes to buy him his present. As we are still allowed to frequent cafés etc, we enjoyed ourselves and only had two teas, and one visit to the pub. Such restraint! I was amazed. I could have taken him to at least another two places. He dared to tell as we were ordering tea number two, that he was no longer hungry! I quipped, you don’t need to be hungry to eat this… These youngsters!
I am still allowed to wander the streets of France, and might keep doing it and my goal, this week, is to take some photos of the Voyage à Nantes Art festival! I might not be able to sit down and have a pint, but I’ll be a brave boy about it! Yipeeeeee!
Sometimes you read an article, or watch a YouTube video that makes you sit up and think, yeah, that person’s right about that. Why do I even bother? Is it about self-validation through the Gram? Is it the process? Is it to provide a document?
Watch the video first and then we’ll come back and have a chat. OK?
So why do I bother taking photos? Well? Have I slipped into the “selling myself” on the Gram, and also trying to find a social acceptation and validation through my photography? Quite possibly, but not solely, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t give a damn about the likes. I love it, but despite that I would still continue. This past week I have been on holiday. I have been looking at the weather to see what kind of light I could get, but more importantly to see if I would get rained on! Sgt Gilbert once told me dinnae worry Petal, your skin’s waterproof. And he was, of course, right. But I do prefer being dry, the way I like my Martini.
So why do I do I bother? I could go on about my fascination with cameras that started at an early age and developed as time went on. You can read about all that on my About Me page. I still get off when I go into a camera store, but strangely more when I go into a film camera store and see all the historical models and stuff from another era, que les moins de vingt ans, pourraient jamais connaître, as Aznavour said in one of his songs. But it’s not just the kit, despite having spent a certain amount of money collecting. I have to justify each thing I buy and it has to allow me to progress. Sure I’d love a Leica, and maybe one day I might acquire one, but I don’t need one to progress. But above all, I love the process. I love the process of going somewhere, getting my camera out, and just taking a photo. It’s amazing. My OCD loves doing film photography, because there are more steps to getting the photo and you have to go through more hoops to get there. Choosing the film you’re going to use, putting it into the camera which will shape the photographs you will take, and winding on the film after each shot. I also love the sound that the camera makes. The click and hearing the mirror going up and smacking back down telling you that you have just created and image. I don’t get that with digital cameras, but I still love Digital. It really is getting out, and just seeing what you’ll get. If I want more control over the outcome, then I’ll be in my studio where I can control everything. But isn’t leaving it to chance so much more exciting?
So does this still mean that I’m an amateur photographer? Can I still take photographs just for me? Yes, but I do like sharing them with you. But as I’m not selling my photography as a professional, I have this freedom to take photographs on my own terms. I can choose to go where I want to go. I can choose what is important to me especially when I’m out. This is what I did in that first outing of my holidays. Showing them here is like my Latrigue albums. Sure, I share the hell out my articles, but it’s not like putting everything on the gram, and I know well that not a tremendous amount of people will see them. Here people generally look just at the album at the end of each article. And you know what, that’s great!
Social Media will change, and so will Instagram. Some would say it has changed hugely from its inception. Facebook, has morphed into this enormous monster too. But they are only temporary. Art, if I can be as bold to call what I do, art, has been around for centuries. Photography is starting to get established after 150 years. People did it before Instagram, and will still do it when Instagram no longer exists. Will I still be doing it? Possibly. I have this need to create images. I have this desire to record the world around me. If people didn’t see them, would it stop me? Probably not. Is it part of leaving a legacy for my children’s children, sharing events and places from my relatively short time on God’s earth? Definitely. A picture can tell a thousand words. I can see one of my photos, and remember what was going through my wind when I took it. It brings me right back to that instant.
The question raised in this video for me was about the process of photography, and would I still do it if nobody was to see any pf my photographs? Yes I definitely would. This photography lark has provided me with a kind of therapy which allows me to stand back from the world and observe it. I am no longer an actor, but merely an observer and I can press record if I want to. It gets me out of the house and outside trying to find new places and visit old places too. It has given me an opportunity to learn new techniques and offer myself different options to allow my creativity to manifest itself. There is still something so magical about creating an image that excites, and enthrals me. Yes I will keep going.
Thank you for perusing moments that no longer exist. Just as an afterthought, I should probably tell you where these photos were taken. Trentemoult, just opposite Nantes, on the south bank of the Loire river. And taken on my Canon 6D Mark II, with the 16-35mm lens.
At work lately we’ve been having four day weeks and it’s wonderful! There are slightly fewer orders coming in but that’s OK. There’s enough to keep everything rolling by. And who doesn’t love having a day off? Those who said not me, are either liars or simply mistaken.
So that Friday I decided that I wanted to stay away from the house and get my booty off somewhere to take photos. But where? While I was edging closer to be a full time professional musician I did a spot of teaching in a place called Vihiers. It’s miles away, but still a nice drive out. I stopped edging towards music, and photography has taken over. One of my pupils talked about the Abbaye de Fontevraud. I looked it up on the Internet and started learning about it.
I’m half English and part of that is being real with the French. They need this. During and before the Hundred Years War, this area of France was English, and our King was their King. Those of you who aren’t English might have heard of Robin Hood, who looked just like Kevin Kostner and had a mate who looked strangely like Morgan Freeman. There was the Evil Prince John who became King when Richard the Lionheart (who looked really badass and you could mistake him for Sean Connery) went off on a Crusade to show just how badass he really was. Their mother was Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor, her Husband Henry Plantagenet, their son Richard (the famous badass), and Isabelle d’Angouleme who was married to John. Her bad… We all make mistakes.
So this is kind of crazy for me who enjoys history and discovers more of the Anjou region which is just down the road from the Vendée. On the way I recognised a place where I used to buy foie gras when we first moved here. I called in on the off chance of being able to make a purchase and take something good home for my family. It’s changed a bit since 15 years ago, and offers different products. I left some money there and felt happy about buying something directly from the producer that was made on site etc. And it tasted really good too.
Sooooo… I turn up in the Village of Fontevraud l’Abbaye and I even managed to find the said Abbaye. 11€ for the entrance ticket, which seemed reasonable.
A bit of history here for those who can’t be bothered to click and have a read. Basically, the abbey was founded 1101 by the itinerant preacher Robert of Arbrissel. It developed and flourished during the Plantagenet era, went downhill after the Plantagenets were no more, however by the Hundred Years War things were going downhill, and during an inspection in 1460, the abbey was found to be barely inhabited. Fast forward to 1457 reforms were introduced by the then abbesse Marie of Bretagne. Louis the XI gave the place his blessing and the place started to really try to get back on its feet again, but without a huge amount of success. In 1491 there came Renée who was from the French Royal family (the Bourbons, french royals and not the rather tasty biscuits or whiskey). I’m not going to translate the whole of the French wikipedia article but you get the gist right? Things got better, and by the time the French decided that Royalty wasn’t for them during the French Revolution, things were OK!
However as the revolutionaries weren’t into Royalty and because of the so called “Enlightenment” philosophies, they weren’t into religion in a big way either. That continues to this very day. I promise not to get political! They basically get rid of the nuns, and by 1804, Napolean, yes him again, decided to make the place a prison, and it remained so until 1963.
When I went there I wanted to feel the Royal side with Richard the Lionheart and feel the medieval legends in the walls. But I’ll risk being contraversial, and say that I felt more the “prison vibe” and it might be because of the less than sunny autumnal weather, but I could feel the buildings being a place of great suffering. Quite ominous in fact.
Since 1975 it was converted from a prison into a Cultural Centre for the Region. You can see a few “colour” photos of the latest art installation which was very impressive.
It was a Sunday after a night celebrating a friend’s birthday with a “couple” of drinks. Which meant I was a tad on the tired side. Not hungover of course. Let’s just say that I needed to move my booty and air my mind.
As those of you who know me might have guessed already that meant making sure I was fit to drive. I was fit to drive. Grabbed my Canon 6D Mark ii and stuck on the Helios 44-2 58 mm F 2,0 lens.
At 58 mm we are leaving the standard focal lengths and heading off into portrait lens territory. How bold of me! Especially as I would be using it on the streets of Nantes. It’s a M42 screw mount lens and therefore needs an adapter in order to work on my modern DSLR. Manual focussing and without focus peaking and with my bad eyes is not easy unless yon use the flippy outy screen and zoom in,which meant that even I could get some in-focus images.
The Helios is a Russian lens from the Soviet era and the build quality could be described as slightly solid. When I first bought it I had placed it on my dining room table. It fell off the table onto the tiled floor and damaged a tile… But you dear reader are sensible and don’t do that kind of sh*t so you’ll be fine.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the bokeh that this lens gives out. If you like creamy bokeh goodness with a bit of a swirl then you won’t be disappointed. Try and spot it as you look through the photos. The bokeh whores amongst you will not be left wanting.
I am truly blessed. I have some very good friends that are wonderful people. Jean Guillaume is one of those people. He personifies kindness, gentleness and positivity, and an example for us all. No wonder he got to marry Stephanie who is just as wonderful! You may remember in a previous article that I went to Paris with my daughter. It was a great day out, but I of course had to put my daughter first. So I did, but I did say that I would go back to do some photography on my own so I could concentrate on capturing images and not to have worry about somebody else.
Now some of you may know that I frequent a certain establishment in Nantes and some of my friends seem to hang out there too. Some are in front of the bar and others behind the it. I was sitting outside talking and Jean Guillaume comes along to meet up with his wife who is with us. We’re all talking and I let loose that I’m going to Paris on such and such a day and he says he’ll be in Paris with his Mum and that we should hang out. What a great idea. Sounds like a plan. I needed to go to the barber’s and he should probably come along with me. We are men, but sometimes we need pampering too.
It’s decided we’ll go and get ourselves done at the barber’s. I look up various addresses online and get us booked in to Grizzly Barbers. The name sounds fun and I get him the works. He deserves it. Self care is important and it’s good to be good to a friend when you can.
My wife and daughter had gone off to see a friend north of the Loire and it was half way to her mother’s house so they went up there too.
I was a “free man” but used this freedom to get myself sorted out. So Thursday came around and I headed up to Nantes to get the train to Paris. 1st class was only 5€ more so decided to treat myself. Slightly larger seats and a bit more leg room. And you get to feel extravagant.
I was on time for the train except my electronic ticket didn’t want to work. I tried pushing up the luminosity of my phone but to no avail. The departure was getting closer and the guard called Rennes, who told him that my ticket was valid and I was allowed on the train accompanied by the guard. The train journey itself was fairly uneventful which is a good thing and my friend asked which wagon I was in and that he would meet me off the train. I arrived and headed towards the top of the platform, and after showing him a photo of exactly where I was he said turn round and saw him! My first stop would have to be Marks and Spencers to get a picnic lunch. They have sandwiches which are like having a bite out of my childhood and spark so many memories. He knew the area and we went off to eat in a park. It was wonderful just chatting and sharing.
Sitting in the park chatting.
After we had eaten he showed me around the Montparnasse Quartier where he used to live and hang out. It was all very beautiful and very Parisian. I explained that the only imperative that we had was to be at the barber’s for 1pm, and prepare ourselves to look great afterwards. It felt good to back in Paris and it was great being there with a friend. I knew a little of the area but was far from knowing it an intimately as Jean Guillaume. There were some great photos to be had and he was so patient waiting for me each time and telling me that I was about to be run over etc.
With time flying by we headed to the car and drove to the barber’s and managed to find a space just outside. I was amazed! I would be scared poopless driving in Paris by my friend seemed to thrive on it. Maybe the fact of it being August and really empty helped. They had all gone on holiday! A word of advice to anyone visiting the capital. Go in August, half the people aren’t there and the half that are still there seem to just want to chill!
and managed to find a space just outside…
When you enter Grizzly you can tell that it is a very high end and high quality barbershop and the service was excellent. My barber and I talked about our mutual passion for photography as he shaved my head the old fashioned way, and then proceeded to do my beard. I made sure my barbershop virgin friend got the whole whack. Hair cut, beard cut, getting his nostrils waxed, and a neck massage to finish with. He deserved it. It’s important for guys to have a guy place for being pampered. Even if you don’t go every week, it’s worth it maybe every three months. It wasn’t cheap, but so worth it, and worth every cent! I’m looking forward to going back. Definitely an experience. Jean Guillaume was certainly more than happy with the whole shebang and felt fabulous, and looked great! What more could you ask for?
felt fabulous, and looked great!
I spotted a camera shop and we parked up and went in. It was like a child entering a sweet shop with many things of great beauty. I saw a 15mm lens for my Pentax ME Super, but at 1350€ I thought it might be difficult to justify spending as much. And my wife would kill me! I did however come away with a little Olympus Pen EE S half frame camera which is something I’ve been looking for for such a long time. An amazing find, and the day I go back to Grizzly, I may have to go back and visit that little shop. It was turning out to be a great day.
I was asked where I wanted to go, and I said the Marais, aiming to get to the rue des rosiers which was, and still is, the epicentre of the Jewish community in Paris. It’s an amazing place and on Sundays it can get very busy. I went into a Jewish bakery. Jean Guillaume had never had Strudel! I was about to correct that. We had been in book shops with art, we had sat in beautiful gardens eating chocolate covered raisins. We even got as far as Beaubourg. Time was still flying by, and we had to go and see a friend and give him his flat keys. Another good deed for the day.
Jean Guillaume had never had Strudel!
The last stop of this epic day was going to be WH Smiths on the rue de Rivoli. Bookshop, with such a great choice of books. I ended up buying The English, by Jeremy Paxman, and a couple of books to give me some light reading about what it means to be English, and Irish. They also have some food essentials for anglophiles like Yorkshire tea; I already had some but still came away with a few goodies for my wife and daughter.
We sat outside the café where we had parked. Wine for one, and a pint of 1664 for the other of the two friends. They discussed everything and more. They were chilling as friends do and looking back over the day they had shared together with new and old experiences for both of them. It felt good to be alive.
They discussed everything and more.
The last stop was Gare de Montparnasse where the trip had begun. We headed off to Marks and Spencers to get our evening meal. I had selected a few sandwiches to eat on the train, and a few more goodies for home too. We headed up to the platform to where my train was to leave from. Little did I know then that I would not be getting on that train. Jean Guillaume waited with me for my train. There had been a blue Adidas bag that had been left on the train and over the loud speaker came the announcement that the person who had left said bag should come and get it and that the train was being delayed.
After a certain time, soldiers had got onto the train, more police had come along. Things weren’t looking good. Crunch time came when I got a text message from the company to say that the train had been cancelled. My friend was still with me and explained what they had just said over the tannoy. I had my bags with me and my walking stick over my arm. Apparently they were gong to try and sort out hotels for us and allow us to take the train the next morning.
Now whilst listening to this i turned around and hit somebody with my cane. Not hard, but enough to get “the look” so I very quickly apologised and with Jean Guillaume we diffused the situation. But we got talking to the lady I had just agressed with my cane. Then all of a sudden he said, “I can take you back!” My first reaction was to say no, but the idea worked it way very quickly into my head, and we would drop off our new friend Annie on the way back. I phoned Virginie to prepare a bed for our guest and I knew we had what we needed in our bag to make a wonderful breakfast.
The decision had been made. We would drop off Annie in Angers, and then head home to Nantes. We found a corner shop that sold us some water, and a couple of chocolate bars for Jean Guillaume for energy, and then a café that would sell us a coffee. Those little Parisian coffees that just wake you back up. We said that we would pay gas money and road tolls. It was out of the question to leave our friend out of pocket! I also said I would do some of the driving if needed to help out.
The trip back was quiet, at least for some of it as I had drifted off to the land of nod. I was woken up and asked to just chat to our heroic driver. It was a pleasure and we looked back at our day, and how wonderful he now looked, as well as plans for the future, and we put the world to right. I took over the driving, and when we needed more petrol we stopped off and I filled up the tank. We got to Nantes station a 3.30 am, and I found my car. The machine to pay for the ticket didn’t seem to want to work and neither did the interphone when we tried to talk to a technician. There was a homeless guy sleep with his girlfriend sheltering out of the rain who lifted up the barrier for me to get out of the car park, but I still paid at the exit and thanked him for his efforts.
I thanked Jean Guillaume, my hero, for getting me back to my car, and he went home to his hunny to surprise her, and I drove the last kilometres to get home to my wife and daughter. Heroism is when you go above and beyond the call of duty, and Jean Guillaume was a true friend and a true hero. So thanks once again, Jean Guillaume, ce héro!