Le Concert

As I said a couple of articles ago, for my many sins, I am a musician.  In 15 minutes I will be on stage playing in a concert.   It’s almost an other-worldly experience.  Random thoughts wondering through my mind.  I know I turned off the iron, because I did my ironing yesterday.  But on the 45 drive minute drive to the theatre I was just taking in the landscape and the colours of Autumn, telling myself that “that” would make a nice photo. Capturing the autmnal colours of the trees, seeing those that were in all their warm coloured glory.  Wondering if I should use a 50 or the 16-35mm zoom.  Well in that very instant the answer wasn’t a problem.  I was driving and not taking photos.  Michael Ball was on Radio 2 talking about Children in Need and giving praise to those fund raisers that keep the UK going.  I was there and yet so far away in my mind. 

I was sat down on stage at the correct time, secretly hating all those who were there before me making me seem late. 8 minutes to show time.  Thoughts in my mind telling not to screw up such amd such a passage.  And thinking that in Mars I start the concert with a bass horn solo.  So no pressure then.  Once it’s  over I’ll be in the action and not thinking anymore.  Looking forward to the horn section solo in Jupiter.  No need to play too loud, but on the contrary, just be present with a large sound and enjoy the shit out of it!

Time to go and I’ll  finish after the concert or maybe at half time.  I don’t  know yet…  You’ll just have to see.  It’ll be a surprise. 

Well that could have been worse.    I mean it wasn’t disastrous, but little details could have made it better.  Lack of concentration maybe.  It’s  a long hard slog after all. 

I’m not saying that I feel like death, but….  I tried to die quietly which is all anyone can ask of you.  The cold seems to have to descended onto my chest, so thankfully no sneezes but quite a few coughs.  Each one on a down beat of course…

Next up is the de Meij Symphony.  Let’s  hope we give proper tribute to the composer that introduced us to the inner workings of his composition.  After that home time, and if I have the energy I might develop some film.   I have a backlog of films to get through. Just arrived in the car and the choise seems to be pub, or home…. Decisions, decisions

It ended up being home. See you next time for an other enthralling episode…..

Facebook went down on me!

Hello Dear Reader, maybe you don’t know what Facebook is, or Instagram, or WhatsApp, but yesterday they went down on the entire world, but not in a sexy way. Facebook is the Face of Social Media, Instagram is the camera of Social Media, and WhatsApp is where we tell everyone what we are doing by private message.  Twitter was where we were all taking the piss out of the aforementioned Social Media outlets last night.

This is a big thing in an ultra-connected world.  At work I listen to the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2, and they spent 30 minutes talking about it.  It has featured on all the news bulletins that I have heard today.  This is a big thing!  So many of us have mobile phones, and I’m not talking about the indestructible Nokia phones, whose batteries are still working.   I’m talking about “smartphones” that are so smart that they have degrees in smartness from Smarty-pants University.  They are capable of so much more than the computers that sent men to the moon, and they fit into your pocket! 

Some people with depression and social anxiety called in to say how they depend on Social Media to have a manageable contact with the outside world, others who use it to advertise their small businesses to those of us scrolling through, and others of us who are addicted and can’t put our phones down, because of the dreaded FOMO, or fear of missing out.

Whilst at work, my mind can wander, and something that comes back regularly is the desire to go back to my prep-school and tell them what the world is like in 2021, or forty years from now.  Some of my masters were WW2 veterans, others were baby boomers, and some of them weren’t actually that mad, despite appearances.  I remember one Maths lesson where the teacher told us to find arithmetic patterns in our times tables.  I got three and had to find the pattern.  My first algorithm.  Now these algorithms are omnipresent and artificial intelligence is using them and running the world, especially on these platforms.  Think back to Brexit, or the 2016 American elections. 

Smug people came onto the programme saying how we had lost the power of conversation, or how come people just don’t pick up the phone.  Some talked about the wake-up call.  Others were talking about Gen Z, who have lost the power of communication.  However, there is nuance everywhere, which is something these platforms like us to forget.  I see people like my daughter, who is always on her phone, but she is conversing and communicating non-stop with her friends at school or a version of her tribe.  My son does the same thing.  They communicate differently.  I often wonder what my First Form Master, Fr Gerald, would make of it all.  Now we use emoticons to reply to some of our messages.  Have we gone back to using hieroglyphs?  Is that a problem?  They say a picture can be worth a thousand words. 

How did I manage?  Not too badly.  To begin with, I was worried that my Internet might not be working. But I soon found out what was happening.  It wasn’t much of a hinderance.  I still had my music on Amazon Music, and I was scanning negatives for my son.  They were from 2016, and he shocked to see how he looked just 5 years ago.  I think he used the word cringe.  I missed putting them on Facebook to share them with the rest of my French family.  Maybe Facebook has its uses after all, and shouldn’t the rule be able about moderation?  Use it by all means, but don’t let it become your master.  I’m still glad that they’re online again…

The Father

I’m not going to talk about the new film with Anthony Hopkins, where we see the effects of Alzheimer’s on an elderly man.  No, I am going to talk a little bit about my own father, as everyone in the family knows, is destined for the Sainthood.  I have been made to swear by my mother not to talk about private lives of family members, so I will try not to give too much away.

I phoned my parents on Friday and everything was great at home, my mother going out to play golf, and my father going out to play bridge with the boys.  I said I would phone them later during the week. I hear people complaining that they haven’t seen their parents for x months over COVID.  I haven’t seen my parents since August 2019, so please, for the love of God, stop complaining and count your blessings!

On Tuesday night, after work, I called home.  My mother answered the saying how they had had a bit of an“eventful weekend”, and that my father had had a heart attack.  So having stolen my father’s thunder, she said she would pass him over; John do have the phone upstairs?  He did, and we started  talking.

As you may know, I live in France, and I don’t think I’m giving too much away saying that my parents live in the UK.  In some respects it could be on the other side of the world, seeing as how we can’t see each other.  But over lockdown we have “heard” each other.  But what about the now ubiquitous “Zoom” meeting I hear you saying.  You can “see” each other with that.  My mother, bless her, is a technophobe and zoom is something from the realm of science-fiction. 

So, I was allowed to talk to my now thunderless father, and asked, what did I just hear?  Have you been trying to be interesting again?  I was given the low-down and got all the medical details.  I still don’t get it.  He was a high level athlete as a young man, not a huge drinker, nor a total abstainer, we seem to mistrust them.  He is not what one could call a “big lad” as I am.  He eats very healthily.  It was just bad luck, and blocked arteries.

It’s the kind of situation that puts you right up against your own mortality, and I have friends of my age who have lost their parents, and not in the fishing aisle in the sports shop. I am constantly aware of how far I am and how helpless that makes me feel. I love both my parents with all my heart, and dread “that” phonecall and hoping that althought enevitable, I will never have to face it. I asked as politely as I could if he could possibly refrain from dying please, until I actually manage to get over to the UK for my next visit, next summer.  He said he would try and I hung up, knowing that everything was fine with him.  It was as if the weekend had been less eventful, verging on the boring.  But it does give you a bit of a scare.  It’s not always nice living so far away.

Post Scriptum

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

A certain Ben Franklin

The envibility of death is ompnipresent in our world, some being closer to it than others. Do I want to die? Not really. Am I ready to die? As a Catholic I woud prefer to get to confession first. Some see death as a deliverence, and I think it was Voltaire who said, “The man who, in a fit of melancholy, kills himself today, would have wished to live had he waited a week.” I think he also said it was the only real way to say Merde, to God. Death is part of life and I think not to be feared. But I would prefer that certain people would hang around for a little longer so they can share even more of their wisdom, their sense of justice, and above all, their love!

 

It pays to be a winner

At school I wasn’t a winner.  Not really.  There was one time at prep school when I won the First form prize, which was a book about birds.  I still have it! I once entered a competition to win a first day cover of stamps featuring various fish native to British rivers, and won the first day cover as well as postcards of the stamps.  I wasn’t a great sportsman, something which seems to have followed me through my life and therefore didn’t have the chance to win a cap for my school.  Whilst I used to wear green for a living, I would often hear the phrase, “It pays to be a winner gentleman,” being yelled by certain junior NCO’s.  I was of course never that winner, so would have to repeat the exercise with all the other losers.

You get used to being a loser.  In certain respects, it’s great because you don’t have to bother yourself with that maternal ambition that was imposed on you.  It lowers your expectations and you get used to accepting your fate in life.   You ramble along, as you may have seen and read Dear Reader, I am a rambler.  I was fine with that.

Then of course I moved to France.  Try being English in France.  Then again maybe don’t.  It’s worse than being French in the UK.  They lost WW2, yet celebrate VE Day every 8th May.  Oh sweet Caroline, I mean irony!  But that’s fine.  It’s in their mind-set of being the inheritors of the Glory of France.  Then the bastards went and won the World Cup in 1998.  They are ghastly when victorious, and I remember saying to myself, they’re going to talk about this for 20 years…  20 years came and went, and they only went and won the bloody thing a second time!!!

Whenever they beat us at rugby, I am inundated with mentions of how great they are, and yet when we beat them, I am allowed to remain silent and hide in my office!  This losing does have a tendency to teach you about humility.

Now I will talk about the B word, yes, Brexit.  As I may have let slip, I am a remainer, and therefore “lost” the vote in 2016.  Since that time, my life here in France has been in suspended animation, suspended rather than animated.  My future was dependant on a “deal”.  Then Boris came along.  I was going to be buggered one more time, yet despite the odds, we “won” an agreement that would allow me to stay here.  But knowing the French, nothing was certain.  That uncertainty doesn’t help a guy’s mental health and Brexit has taken it’s toll on me.  But less of the grumbling. 

On the 22nd June, 2021, I receive an email from the prefecture telling me to come and see them on the 9th July, with this mail, my old carte de séjour, my residency card, which allowed me to remain in France, and will allow me to remain further.  I arrived here in France on the 9th of July 1994, to start the rest of my life.  I got that mail, read it, and had tears welling up.  For the first time in 5 years, I was turning into a winner.

That week I entered a competition on Instagram.  One of those things where you win a basket full of samples from a shop, and you have to like the post, post the names of two people on the comments, and they will announce the winner in a story.  This was for a shop that sold CBD products and I thought why the hell not.   Well when the story came out announcing the winner you’ll never guess who won.  Yes me!!!  So for a perpetual loser like me, this was amazing.  I was high on the positive vibes.  Things are calmer at home and at work, and I have less pain in my arthritic knee.  Maybe it does pay to be a winner after all. 

I am not a fan of Shadenfreude, except when France is the cause of it.  In the Euro 2020 competition, happening in 2021 because of Covid, no winners there really, France was knocked out of the tournament by Switzerland. I haven’t said a word about it at work.  Wouldn’t be cricket after all.  Oh and we beat Sri Lanka in the Cricket too!  On Tuesday night there was the fateful match, between Germany and England, and I don’t want to hear anything about two world wars and on world cup!!  Even though…. We beat them, for this first time in a tournament in the knock out stages since 1966 when we beat them in the world cup…  The English side of me was very happy, and yet I have been gracious in victory and not mentioned it at work to my French colleagues despite the desperate urge to do so.  Even if I were to mention it, it would be wasted on them and wouldn’t be cricket!  Damn you gracious VICTORY!

Hello everyone

Hello everyone, and by that I mean people who actually read this blog and seem to enjoy it. Here I will not be facetious or try to be funny, but in the contrary be deadly serious. Well, maybe not deadly, but definitely a little serious.

I have a question for you. Why do you follow this blog? It can’t be for my great looks, charm and obvious charisma! I’ve been looking at my stats and have found the article I wrote about the X100f to be very popular. And I have to admit to being surprised. It was an article that was too long according to my mother, so that has to be true. It may annoy the shit out of me, be she is often right about these things, but I see people coming back to it again and again.

Is that kind of thing interesting to you? Is it the camera, is it the way it makes feel when using it? What about using different kit? I’m talking about the helios lens, or maybe the 16-35mm lens. Would you like to hear more about that too?

These are sincere questions and I’m interested in what you might have to say. Are there any other subjects you would like me to talk about?

Yeah, I know, it’s all soul searching, but if I can share things that interest you, then it might be a more pleasurable experience reading me as I ramble on. The idea after all is to write something that will interest you, interest me, something that I have a minimum of knowledge of, maybe have a laugh together, etc.

So, give a shout in the comments and let’s try and make this, whatever it is, a two way, sharing, experience that can benefit us both.

As I said, this is an article, hors du temps, and is trying to strike up a conversation. Don’t be scared, firstly because this is the Internet and people can, and often do say what they think in a most forthright manner, and secondly, I don’t bite. Thanks for stopping by…

PS your weekly article will be out on Friday 2nd of July at 17h French time. It pays to be a winner…

Beauty of the Mundane

Every now and again you come across an article in a newspaper or a video on YouTube that makes you think in a way that a cute cat video won’t. Sometimes it might be a new newspaper with just a different look or feel to it. Or a new book from an author that you don’t know. As a child I discovered the Independent newspaper being delivered all of a sudden and falling in love with the photography inside it. Looking at these images and being touched by them. Not just the subjects, but the pure beauty of the images. At that time journalism in the newspaper industry meant black and white images taken by people in the field, film cannisters being sent back to the newspaper, people editing the photos in the darkroom, and then either being scanned on drum scanners or plates being made which were then incorporated into the different page layouts and then printed on the presses.

Wow, that just took me back to having breakfast with my father every day as a child before school in the sun room gazing at the newspaper and the garden. The smell of coffee on my father’s breath, and him looking so dapper in pyjamas and his dressing gown. Amazing how one can time travel in one’s mind in a split second. Radio three on the radio which gave such a calmness to the whole situation.

But onwards and upwards! Recently you discover a YouTube channel that makes you think… I have a few that I watch on a regular basis, mostly about photography but I suppose that’s not a huge surprise to you! If I’m not mistaken, then this is the video that made me think a little further. I’ll just let you watch it first and then we can continue.

Seeing is so important in photography as it is in any visual art. I’m not going to pretend to be some wonderful artist. I will have a go at being a visual documenter, and I think I may have already touched on this in a previous article, but I’m going to do it again. Couldn’t find the article so it must have been a discussion on a comments section from a Facebook post. Anyway….

To me, Photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found this has little to with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them

Elliot Erwitt

That resonnated with me. It made me want to explore the idea of photographing the ordinary, but trying to see how light treated those scenes or things, and try to capture the beauty in it. Having worked recently with artificial light, I have become a lot more aware of light in my photography and how I might use it to get the most out of an image. The brief is to try and take a few photos a day of my ordinary every day life and the objects that are in front of my eyes, and publish them on an Instagram account.

Julia Margaret Cameron: soft-focus photographer with an iron will

From her housemaid to Alfred Tennyson, the indomitable Victorian wrestled everybody into her studio, dressing them up as characters from Shakespeare and the Bible. For years, these tableaux have been out of fashion – but two new shows cast this pioneering photographer in a new light

So let’s welcome Beauty in the Mundane, the new IJM account! This is a side project and will have it’s own little feeling to it. There is a new profile pic, or auto portrait for those who like think of themselves as better than the rest of us. One kind follower pointed out, “Hello ton autoportrait est flou🤔,” to which I replied, “Je sais. Mais ce n’est pas le fin du monde…. ça donne une impression de l’irréel or ce compte est que du réel. Mais merci de m’avoir prévenu.” O Irony! I then pointed him to an article from the Guardian, and started talking about the need to embrace imperfection.

So there is this new project to try and see this ordinary and try and see its inherent beauty, be that by form, shape, light, the was the light creates form as it falls on an object. Don’t expect huge landscape vistas, or portraits. It’s not that kind of thing. It might be utter bunkum and look like three shades of crap, but then again, it might not. There will certainly be an evolution as there should be be always. I don’t don’t where it will lead, or if it will be nothing more than just a personal photographic exercise. It might provide some high art. I don’t know yet,

I’ve just started. But if you don’t follow then you won’t know. Don’t want you missing out on anything do we….