La Rentrée 2021

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.

Persona Non Grata

This article is an opinion piece and might be contrary to your own opinions. If that is a trigger for you, then wait for the next article where I will probably talk about walking the dog and show photos from the village. If you’re fine with that, however, then read on.

In many ways, this will be a mere annoyance. If I really want, I can have the famous PCR test and have a probe inserted into my nostrils and then receive a code that I can scan into my phone, to show everyone how safe I am. I can then go to the pub, and even have dinner in a restaurant. Not the most pleasant of medical procedures, but it will afford me a certain liberty and normality. But I also have a healthy disrespect for authority. Sorry Mummy!

For the moment, these nasal insertions have been free, or rather covered by the Social Security and Health Authority contributions that come off my salary each month. Also, it has allowed people to be tested for Covid and know if they are infected or not. As the President said on the 12th of July “Cet automne, les fameux tests PCR seront rendus payants, sauf prescription médicale, et ceci afin d’encourager la vaccination plutôt que la multiplication des tests.” This Autumn, the infamous PCR tests will be charged, except with a medical prescription, to encourage people to vaccinate instead of having multiple tests.

I get the logic behind this. They will bill each test 50€ to the Social Security, and they want to reduce costs and get people vaccinated. I, unlike others, have nothing against vaccines, except for Astra Zeneca and Johnson and Johnson, where being a Catholic I can’t support something that used aborted foetuses to make them. However, I am against the obligation to vaccinate, and wish it could remain a choice. In France all Medical staff will be required to be vaccinated by law and those who wish to exercise their right to refuse a medical intervention, will be declared inapt to work, and will be eventually fired.

It’s so easy to get on your soapbox and talk about all kinds of codswallop. Words like dystopian society spring to mind when I read governmental policy. Another would be coercion. The authorities can be there as a guide, but as soon as that guidance translates into a more interventionist policy, maybe the authorities have overridden that guidance role. When governments get that far, are they serving the population that voted them in, or are they serving themselves? I’m not just accusing Macron and his government. The finger could be pointed just as well to Boris… then there was the evil villain Trump, followed by the rather weak Biden. I am worried about this becoming a global political trend.

The next statement will be the most controversial in this article. I believe most of humanity has the same goal, which is the desire to look after his family in the best manner possible. I am a father, living in France, and I bet that a father living in Afghanistan just wants the same thing for his children that I do. IE that they will be happy and live in a world of peace.

Wow, that wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. For the more liberal of you, you could insert community, etc for family. I’m a moderate conservative. I like to think that just because I don’t fully espouse your views; I don’t hate you. This can be quite a radical notion in a society that likes to pit people against each other. Read a newspaper and you will see that through its reporting of events that it is trying to divide more than unite. This is impervious to the political leaning of the publication. I think it’s even worse on the Internet. There are so many videos from the very conservative that are there telling how to destroy a liberal through argument. How awful is that? Why should I seek to destroy my opponent? Should I not try to convince him of my position respecting him as a human being, just like me, with dreams and hopes for the future?

Sorry

Hello Dear Reader from a rather sunny corner of France! My mood is like the weather. Warm and blue skied, and my disposition as sunny as you could wish.

I have had it said to me that my last few posts have been far too inward looking and intopestcive. So if you’re reading this then it means you have been patient with me and I would like to thank you for it. One person even said that “I had flogged it to death!” Again fair criticism and with hindsight this is probably true. Thank you for being honest enough to tell me. Tough love…

I would however like to try and explain myself. To start off with this blog was going to be about photography and showing photographs from when I went out every week with my camera. It was going to show the photography that doesn’t get shown anywhere else.

Like most creations it seems to evolve and change over time. The Covid19, the crazy bat fuelled light beer disease came along and changed all our lives. The writing, as a creative experience, evolved too. Then I wrote my first article with no photos. Wow, what a rebellion against my original goal.

So, when writing, one can have a tendency to write what one knows the most about. Well,for me, that would be me, my past and present and what I hope my future might look like. Stuff came out of my head and onto the screen. I would write with no censorship. It became a therapeutic exercise.

The article I wrote in November was a liberation for me and a new experience. Ok, a bit dark, darker even than he dark side with their cookies. But over the next articles, with some ever so important therapy, it has allowed me to heal and has given me so much peace of mind. I would even say it has helped me vanquish my inner demons, that have been there for far too long.

It’s like I’m so happy that I want to share this happiness with you too. It’s new for me so just let me get over the novelty value of the whole shebang, and then we can go back to boring photos of cats, Nantes, and other places. I might even share some of my photographic processes with you.

When this person told me all this, I was furious, although calm. But in retrispection she wasn’t all wrong. We all have issues, all of us. The past always creeps up on us and can shout “Boo!” at the most inopportune of moments. And let me assure you, this has happened. But, evacuating and exorcising these troubles has been a revelation to me. I have been told, “we don’t do therapy.” And I get that. Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone. I’m lucky. But you don’t have to cry alone, I had help, and this help has changed me, and I like who I am right now. Not perfect, but perfect enough for me.

Thank you for bearing with me up to here. Again I would like to offer my apologies for making anyone uneasy, or even shocking you. It is my story, and I accept each and every detail of it. I possess it and it no longer posesses me. Let’s hope my story can have a happy ending, but get this people, it’s not over yet. And that’s great.

Blue Monday

Saw a quote that said, “Be the adult that you needed as a child” and it has changed my whole perspective.

Anon

A friend has shared that on Instagram in his stories and it did strike a certain chord.  As somebody who has had a certain amount of baggage to deal with, especially as a child this particular phrase struck home. 

People often have the misconception that an abused child will become an abuser in his own right.  This is, as applied to my life, a complete fallacy.  I have taken the conscious decision to become that adult, that adult that I wanted to be able to have as a child.  Some of the adults in my entourage were that person and some rather less so.  That’s what really made an impression on me, especially looking back as an adult. 

It has helped me heal just thinking of that child, and adolescent that I was all those years ago.  That child is still a part of who I am and yet I am no longer that child.  I have, over the years changed into a man, with a huge sense of empathy.  This empathy has served me well but it can also be a curse.  Over time, I have learnt how to manage it and I have learnt to protect myself from those who would take advantage of it.  I am no longer a people pleaser.  Sure, I love it when I “can” please people but if I don’t then that’s OK too.  I have learnt to say no.  If empathy, which is a great quality, and a sign of emotional intelligence, is a blessing, when left unchecked it can destroy you.  It very nearly did.

Since the beginning of 2021, my emotions have been generally positive.  Maybe the fact that Trump is on the way out might help, as well as the rolling out of the famous vaccine. I have been making a real effort with my  sleep.  On the night from Friday to Saturday I slept 11 hours.  My body must have needed it.  Over Christmas and New Year I rested also.  I am wary of busy people.  When one is too busy isn’t it a sign of something else?  Isn’t it a sign of trying to run away from something?  Isn’t it a sign that we are not being true to ourselves.  Even God rested on the seventh day.  If He needs a rest, then is it not normal that we mere humans might need one too?  I keep coming back to Covid, but I think this might be one of the lessons that we can take away from all this.  We had the luxury of time.

It also gave us time to reflect on our present lives.  Should Social media have such a large place in our lives?  Mind you, I have been making an effort with the ‘Gram.  It’s like my hobby if you wish.  I have found ways of making short videos illustrating my photography, and giving extracts from the blog.  I have tried new ways to plan my feed.  Not trying to blow my own trumpet, but I seem to be OK at photography and I have seen my photos regularly on the explorer pages  of the various hashtags I use, much to my daughter’s amazement.  She was well impressed being the number one photo out of 6 million photos for a particular hashtag.  To those who couldn’t give a flying fart about Instagram and who don’t even know what it is, this will all sound like complete codswallop, but for an 11 year old girl, it makes her old Dad look a little less “ringard” as the French would say.

If you have been living under a rock for the five years you might not have heard of Brexit.  You have obviously had a sheltered existence.  When Brexit was first mentioned my Anxiety went into overdrive rather quickly, like the fast German car that I will never have. I don’t really care, I have a French one which is comfortable, that gets me from A to B and sometimes even C!  As a British subject living in Europe for the last 27 years, wow it really have been quite a while,   I will be allowed to stay in France under the withdrawal agreement.  I just have to acquire a Carte de Séjour, which will show the authorities that I would quite like to stay living here.  I also have to renew my passport, and my father told me to “GET IT DONE,” which is very good advice that I am following.  I love my home country, but am also happy just to visit as a tourist.  The weather is also better over here, and the food is wonderful.  When I arrived, I was fairly lean.  I am now somewhat less so.  My downfall was when somebody said taste this and this was really very nice…

This blog entry is meandering again as random thoughts seem to seep out of my mind.  OK, it’s a bit random, but I’m fine with random.  Especially on a Monday afternoon!  Have a great week everyone, and I’ll be back later with another entry…

Merry Fu**ing Christmas

I’m presenting another entry for the « Understatement of the Year 2020” competition.  It’s been a strange kind of year.  I’m wondering how I am coming out of it.  Trigger warning, I may talk about mental health in this article so get over it pussies!  Normally at this time of year, I’m never really good and this year is no exception.

I think I may have given you the image of my mental health being like a wave.  At the moment I’m going back down.  People try to practice gratitude for everything as a way of ‘curing’ depression as if it were a rather fine ham for the Christmas table.  Well not me.  I should be happy.  I’m on holiday in 2 and a half days’ time for two weeks.  I should be happy, but I’m not.  I have a loving family.  I should be happy, but I’m not.  I have a roof over my head, and my family wants for nothing.  I should be happy, but I’m not.  When I think back to the ‘actual’ Christmas where Joseph was carrying his pregnant wife to Bethlehem, and couldn’t find a place to stay.  Air BnB hadn’t been invented, and he shouldn’t have been happy, but he was.  There was joy in his heart.  I should be grateful for all I have, and yet…

I have food from home.  The kind of stuff I can’t get over here, and I should be happy, but I’m not.  It’s awful.  Yeah, I forgot the Bisto for the Christmas dinner, you useless fool.  You have so much to be thankful for, and because you’re an ungrateful little shit, you feel even more guilty.  I can’t go to mass.  Last year I could and did.  I went to the Cathedral in Nantes and remember crying with joy at hearing the beautiful music from the organ.  I remember feeling physically moved and the music just passed right through me.  But not this year.  A Rawandan immigrant had been refused a residency permit, and the Bishop though he would employ the man as a janitor, and the guy who would lock the place up every evening.  The guy got rather upset about getting kicked out of the country and decided that he would burn the place down.  That beautiful 400 year old organ is no longer there and it breaks my heart.   There’s an article about that somewhere here.

That was last year.  This year is slightly different.  This year we discovered a virus, named after a light beer, and then the aforementioned beer producer found an other name that wouldn’t hurt its brand.  I present COVID 19.  A crappy name with an unobvious prime number.   We found out what it was like to be under house arrest, I mean lockdown.  We were told not to touch people and avoid people.  An introvert’s dream you might say, but I still maintain that we are a social animal, and when you take that away, we suffer mental health consequences.  Then they decided that, “oh shit, the economy is going down the drain, so you all have to go back to work, but have to wear shitty masks that you will end up becoming allergic too, whilst looking as if you have a speedo on your face, and when you beard pokes through, it looks as if you have pubic hair that needs clipping.”  You are not allowed to congregate at the coffee machine, and not allowed to stand next to eachother.

Then Summer came along, and the government said you can all go off on holiday, and so it seemed that the virus had done the same.  People felt as if the phoney war had ended and that it would all be over by Christmas.  I still can’t remember what I did this Summer.  Not because of Covid, but my brain just went on strike.  I know I got some good photos, and apparently, I went to Paris, but it’s all a blur, and I’m not talking about the band from the Nineties!

We could even go to the pub.  Then they said, that you still had to wear masks, but as soon as you sat down you could take them off etc.  This Covid Prime can’t infect you if you’re sitting down, having a pint and financially supporting the Guinness family!  Height restrictions and all that.  They had to move tables further apart, and then the Government said you had to close at 10pm and take a register of clients, with their phone numbers.  This was of course done, and then the G man said, well, you’re going to have to close anyway.  We’re going to launch the sequel to Lockdown, to be known as Lockdown II, the Sequel, not coming to cinemas near you because they’re shut too!  But for all those people not working in offices, you can still go into work but you have to come home straight away afterwards and you can’t meet up with your friends, etc..

Then they said OK we’ve finished messing with you.  Lockdown II is over.  Yayyyy, I can go out where the heck I like and don’t have to have a piece of paper saying where I’m going.  I can go to anywhere in the country I like.  I still can’t eat out of have a drink, or do anything remotely cultural, oh and the twist is that I have to be back home by 20h and can’t go out before 6h.  Bastards!

In other news recently in, a vaccine has been discovered.  Hang on, no that’s not right.  Three vaccines have been discovered.  The Chinese and Russians even have one, but they don’t count apparently on the news.  Not only have they been tested, but they have been approved!  But you can’t have one you fat slob.  Stop eating, and exercise, and loose weight!  You’re way down the priority list.  Nope, they’re for care workers, old dying people, the older people who aren’t dying yet, and then slightly less old people that aren’t dying, but not dead yet, and so on.  If you’re already dead, then you’re not eligible, oops…  #toolatemotherfucker  It’s either a very sick joke or somebody, somewhere, knows something.  And what is Bill Gates going to gain by being able to remotely control old people from a distance anyway?  Are they going to get uppity and rebel when the tea trolley doen’t have any more Chocolate digestives?  Other digestives are available, just not for the old people!  They’re probably going to go strike and die just out of spite.  We went through the war etc!

Now they’re talking about bubbles.  Bubbles are no longer about blowing, but are about families without the blowing.  All depends on the family I suppose.  I can have people in my bubble over for Christmas.  But not because the government said so.  I live in France, and they said that the curfew wouldn’t be enforced on Christmas Eve so people could gather, but only six adults at a time.  But if you think you can meet up for New year’s Eve, then you’re buggered!  So, you can officially celebrate a Christian Religious festival, and yet not the secular piss up at the very end of the Year.  And all this in an extremist Secular country, that is being mean to the Muslims, to stop those naughty Islamist shooting an beheading us when we make a joke about the Prophet (pbuh).  Double standards or what, even for French politicians.  But as that Luvvie Noël Coward said, there’s something Vichy about the French.

Don’t get me started about Brexit!  Biggest mistake since the French thought they could fish in another country’s Sovereign waters and get away with it.  Oh wait…

On a more positive note, Trump has officially been voted out by the Electoral College in the United States of America.  Let’s hope that the new guy will be better than the last President.  

I still feel pretty shitty despite the Christmas music on BBC Radio 2, but at least I managed to get some of my frustrations down on paper.  It’ll get better by Christmas…

The obligatory bike shot in the streets of Nantes

To start off with this was just going to be a short preparative article before I publish my the photos from my night time article about night photography in Nantes. I was going to start off by talking the pubs opening in England and Ireland tomorrow. I wanted to show you the way that the new normal isn’t like the old normal but it’s still OK and that you can still enjoy meeting up with friends and rediscovering each other after lock down. Our bars reopened on the on the 11th of May so we’re kind of used to the whole thing. We put on our masks if we have to move around the bar. I might be half English and half Irish, but after a certain quantity of ale we all have to visit and inspect the plumbing. Just put the mask on and don’t forget to wash you hands afterwards;

So I’d finished work at 11h45, and was free for the whole afternoon. When I go to Nantes I always park in the same place. I’m a creature of habit. So, I park, and as soon as I come out of the car park I put my camera to my to check my settings. To start with I had the Helios M44-2 55mm lens on the XT2. It’s a lens famous for its swirley bokeh, but on the APS-C captor it’s more tricky to get, but it’s still a beautiful lens. I take a few shots of Bouffay. The bikes, the tramlines.

I wanted to capture the textures of the street. In black and white one can’t capture colour even if that colour information is present in my RAW files. I was looking for repetition of patterns, wanted to to get depth of field, wanted to play with the light reflecting off the street and capture people coming through the pool of light.

Strangely the pub isn’t very far away from these photos and I strangely I found myself sitting down with a Guinness in my hands… I had my mask on, and my hands have never been cleaner. It’s good to be amongst “my people” once more. I think that’s what I missed most about lock down. Having this social group of people who are good to me and make me want to be good to them. They know their names, and I love them dearly!

Well I wasn’t expecting that to go there… I’m such a sentimental old fool. I have hugged them and have made a real special effort not to break their ribs whilst hugging them.

So here are the photos of the pub where my “people” seem to congregate.

So it was already a great night, but I wasn’t there just for a good time despite rumours in certain quarters that I will always deny of course! I wanted to take even more photos. I had the Fujifilm XT2 and the 7 Artisans 35mm F1.2 lens which turns out to a be a manual focus, 50mm equivalent. I usually like to go wider, but that’s my little secret!

When I’m next in Nantes, hit me up! I’ll usually tell people on my Instagram and come up and say Hi! I might even buy you a beer. If we talk, be ready to talk about photography and this fair city of ours. If you have any questions about the photos in this article then just ask! I don’t bite.