Rest and Recuperation

Rest and recuperation, or R and R for those who know, is so underrated in these modern times where being busy is seen as being a virtue and shows how very productive you are, and yet it is vital and something we so badly need.  Yes, I’m talking to you burnt out millennials who are just seeking validation by being so into your careers to replace the love you didn’t get from your baby boomer parents.   You’re still not as screwed up as Generation X who are experts in coping with mental health. When we were kids, we just didn’t talk about it and it has led to a generation of very “interesting” people.

Anyway.  Rest and Recuperation. The clue is in the name.  For those who don’t know me, I’ll bring you up to date.  I suffer from Arthritis in my right knee and have been limping for what seems like forever, and it hurts like buggery.  I gradually have got into CBD oil in a big way and enjoy the relief it gives me, but it’s just enough to keep me vertical.  I know I’m rambling, but I want to give you a little context, or even a large context, for the rest of this article.  I also live in France and we enjoy quite a few public holidays, a majority of them being religious holidays, which I always found a tad strange for such a fiercely secular country where “laïcité” is the national religion!  So the 1st of November is All Saints’ Day, where the French will go to the cemeteries to put chrysanthemums on the gravesides of the dead, and remember what the people were like and reflect on their own personal histories.  Note to self, if I ever get flowers for my mother in law, it might be wise to get anything but Chysantemums…  I might be sending the wrong message otherwise.  In the UK, they’re a flower like any other but here they’re just for dead people.  Halloween isn’t as big over here as it is In Ireland, the UK, or the US, but Gen Z have worked out the trick or treat thing and are well into it!  So it might decide to stay after all.  In the John Mc Byrne pub, they had a right old knees up and were all dressed up!  I decided to decline.  I was resting.

Now we’re getting to the crux of this article.  As of Thursday, I have been suffering from a cold.  That’s bollocks, I’ve been dying of Man-Flu.   My nose turned into a water fountain, and for two days the tap was open and I felt awful.  Thank you brothers for your solidarity and good wishes.  But I was able to get into the car and get to work and therefore not dead, and able to work, even off my head.  Fortunately, I wasn’t working on Friday afternoon, so, was free.  My wife had left on Thursday morning to go and see her mother, minus the chrysanthemums, and would only be coming back on Sunday.  Feeling like death I thought the best thing was just to go to bed and stay there for as long as possible.  Fortune shone on me again, and there was no Friday night OHC rehearsal (insert plug here for our concert “the Planets” on the 14th of November, tickets still available here, and don’t forget the comfy seats…)  I had my dog sleeping next to me in her basket on my bedroom floor.  I would go down from time to let her do her two p’s.  Pees and poops. 

I had a call from my son asking if he could come home with a couple of friends for a soirée.  I agreed on the basis that there would be no noise and they would leave the living room (which was to become the drinking room) spotless the next day.  The friends would kip on the pull out sofa in the living room.  At least nobody would have to drive.  I drifted between sleep, going to the loo in the middle of the night, and then back to sleep.  I had a Vicks vapour stick, and by then my nose was leaking less and was staying relatively dry.  I took the dog down at 10 am to let her do her business and saw two of my son’s friends asleep on my sofa and I could not get into the kitchen.  The huge sofa bed takes up quite a lot of space.  It’s always delicate when people are staying over…

I went back down at 3pm feeling a little peckish, but they were still out for the count.  There was only one thing to do.  Get in the car, and go to MacDonalds to get my lunch.  I got back and saw my son coming out of his room looking somewhat delicate, he asked where I had been and explained why, and he just said, oh yeah and went back into his room.  I must have gone back to sleep because when I woke up they had taken the dog with them but the living room was spotless!  #DadGoals!

My wife and daughter arrived on Sunday at what seemed like mid-afternoon, and so it passed.  The house was no longer quiet.  I still rested though.  My daughter went out with some of her friends in the quest for sweets, and my wife filled up a whole bowl with sweets for children coming ringing at the door.  I was shouted at for eating some of those sweets but the return to childhood was immediate.  Emotion and food isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Monday came around and I was worried about going to work, and not feeling up to it.

Monday came and went, and on Monday evening that I wasn’t limping and hadn’t taken any CBD.  Maybe Rest and Recuperation go together

The Phenomenon that is Johan de Meij

For my many sins, I am a musician and not just a depressive dude with a camera.  I play the French horn.  Some might even say that I’m a French French horn player, without being corrected by my autocorrect.  So this music thing…  I play the horn in a Wind Band, in Cholet, in the Anjou region of France, with good food and wine.  I wonder what decided me to join them…  There are a series of concerts every year with each concert having a given theme.  This next concert’s theme is about the planets.  The programme will be The Planets, by Gustav Holst, and the third Symphony by Johan de Meij, Planet Earth.

If you want to read Wikipedia to tell you about the Planets by Holst, then you can click here.  I will now give you my version of events.  Gustav Holst, a man with Swedish, German, and Latvian origins but born in England, wrote a series of pieces that made up the Planets Suite.  His ancestors must have settled before Brexit!  This was ground-breaking stuff, akin to Stravinsky and his Rites of Spring.  However, this program is about the planets, so we’ll leave Spring to Igor, the composer and not Frankenstein’s whacky assistant.  As any trailblazer will tell, they just weren’t ready for it man, and that it was ahead of its time, which to be fair, it was.  He started writing the suite in 1914, and the first movement was “Mars, the bringer of War.”  Quite eerie when you think about what happened in 1914.  Composing finished in 1917 and the première took place at Queen’s Hall, on the 29th of September, in 1918.  There were seven movements, and when I was a child, I always wondered why the planet Pluto wasn’t included.  What did they have against Mickey Mouse’s dog???  Then I learnt Pluto was only discovered in 1930.  The poor planet was demoted in 2006 and is no longer considered a planet but is still a heavenly body…  Just like Yours Truly!

This music that first disturbed people, has, over time, and thanks to John Williams, become the music of space and the stars, wars or no wars.  Some have accused John Williams of nicking everything in the first movement, Mars the bringer of War, and using it to compose the music to Star Wars.  I’m not saying he nicked it, but… A nice American gentleman, Charles Cornell, has exposed his point of view in a YouTube video 

When you look at it like that you can get where those people are coming from.  But in a completely nonpartial way, I couldn’t give a flying fart.  Both composers’ music is wonderful, and I think one could call it more homage than pilfering. Mind you, there are certain similarities.

When you look at the Planets Suite, you notice the Earth isn’t mentioned.  One person that noticed this and who could do something about it, is a certain Johan de Meij, whose name is engraved on a plaque on our rehearsal room in the Cholet Conservatoire.  A Dutch trombonist, he moved into composition, arranging, and conducting.  In the Wind Band world, he is very well known and respected.  Nearly all of us will have played some of his music at one stage in our careers.

The third Symphony takes us from the beginning of our Lonely Planet, Planet Earth, ending with Mother Earth.  It isn’t as much a narrative, but a more auditory exposition of ideas in an abstract form.  A soundtrack with electronic sounds helps the symphony become one musical experience as opposed to the classical three separate movements.  Planet Earth really is a continuation of Holst’s Planets.

It’s a whopping significant piece and a joy to play despite a few difficulties to challenge the horn player.  We were very fortunate to have Johan come and visit us, not just to say Hallo, but to explain the piece to us, conduct us and rehearse us.  The poor lad was full of cold, but shared his wisdom and experience with us, which I’m sure will prove itself invaluable for our performance on the 14th of November in the Théâtre Saint Louis in Cholet.  We worked on aural skills listening to the chords and listening to them to adjust the tuning and seeing where we fit into those chords. It might be an insignificant detail to you, but the seats are very comfortable and the acoustics are pretty damned good too!.  Holst couldn’t make it. Must have had something else in his diary for that weekend! 

The Contradictory Contradiction

I have a friend here who said that I am always contradicting myself and that it isn’t logical and how can I say two things at the same time, and I replied that the two things, although contradictory in appearance, are both as true.  That person is a production of French education with philosophy as the subject that all French teenagers go through to learn how to think the way the Education Nationale tells them to think, under the guise of learning all about freethinking and critical thinking.  I, however, am a lot less French despite what some people might like to think, and I will think any blooming way I desire, with or without contradictions.

I’m not talking about my mental state, for once, but photography.  I love both digital photography and analogic photography.  I am bewildered by modern technology and could be classed as a geek, and yet the experience of using old technology that is obsolete for some gets me all excited as a small child waiting for Father Christmas, but being told by their mother to go to bed, otherwise, he won’t come.  It didn’t stop me from waking up at the crack of dawn, and I think my parents might have regretted the decision to buy me a guitar for Christmas and hearing me playing at some ungodly hour of the morning.  As a 49, fat middle-aged gentleman, I can understand them, but my 6 or 7-year-old self didn’t and couldn’t imagine the disturbance that I had caused them.

Oh, how times change!  While I’m on the nostalgia train going to the “good” old days, I have vivid memories of a drawer at my grandparents’ house, where my mother was brought up, and in whose room I would be staying.  Inside this drawer, many “old” things just fascinated me.  It could be my grandfather’s old plumbing ruler or golf tees.  It could be anything but it was an entrance into another world for me.  My grandmother’s kitchen, because at that time, my Grandfather wouldn’t be in the kitchen, was a place where everything was from the 1930s and it all just fitted together.   There was the Anderson shelter, which had been turned into a proper pantry, was a relic from the Second World War where they would have sheltered from German bombs falling on the town and trying to stop my Great Uncle’s shipyards from operating correctly.  My Great Aunt would drive around in an ambulance taking care of casualties.  Amazing people from an amazing time. 

What does this have to do with photography?  Not a huge amount, but is that a problem?  Oh yes, it tells you about my fascination for the old and very new.  I have “a number” of cameras, the eldest being from the 1940s and the newest from 2021, with nearly every decade being represented in-between the two dates.

So I was going somewhere with all this.  Ah yes, lately I seem to be getting back into film again.  In the last but one article, you may have seen the photos from the Mamiya, which is a relatively modern camera being from the early ’80s.  Well, this time, I’m still using a camera from the 1980s, the Pentax ME Super.  For once, I wasn’t using Ilford HP5, which is my “go-to” film.  No, I decided to be different and get out of my comfort zone, and use a new film.  I say new film, I mean Rollei has been around for donkey’s years, but this was a “new to me” film.  May I introduce you to Rollei RPX 100.  I never use 100ASA film, but was turned by Fomapan 100, which you can see in the photos from the Hangar à Bananes.  A fine-grain film, especially when you compare it to the grain from HP even when shot at box speed, let alone 800ASA or even 1600ASA.

The film was developed in ILFOSIL 3, and I thought it was great.  I tried in town and country and was thrilled.  The thing that pleased me the most was that it kept flat, which means a lot to somebody who has ever tried to scan film. The last time I bought a film I played wild cards, and it was also a lot cheaper than HP5 which is a very convincing argument.  I still dream of Kodak Portra 160, but it is getting more and more scarce, and therefore more expensive.  A beginning of the month kind of film.  Oh look at that, my pay has just gone in…

So yesterday evening I was scanning a film my son had shot on a 1960s Kodak camera, and thinking about how he has changed since 2016 when I picked up my Fuji XT2, a slightly more modern mirrorless digital camera. I hadn’t used a modern camera in quite a while and it almost felt foreign to me, and yet familiar at the same time. My fingers seemed to find the controls without looking very far, and it felt very natural.  Maybe my love of digital and analogue isn’t that contradictory after all?

Now it’s time to show you the results of the Rollei RPX 100.  I liked it and am happy I bought more than one roll.  The camera, as I think I said earlier, was the Pentax ME Super.

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?

Hello Dear Reader

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!