Lockdown 2.0

The government has decided that we have all been very naughty and have to go back into Lockdown. That was the end of October.  And we’re waiting until the 1st of December to see how everything will pan out.   The numbers are going up, as is the amount of testing.  I remember once hearing the quote, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics!” I have just been accused to talking utter codswallop and the colleague was saying that if we catch it then it is our fault.  She heard somebody really important speaking on the news last night etc.  And me, as an obese person, would be up a certain brown creek without a paddle etc.  I replied, “Well at least like that would be one problem solved.”  She really got on my nerves.  I hate dealing with these self-righteous people who think they are always right.  I am fully convinced that the treatments of this pandemic is as much medical as political.  I think that governments are fully disarmed and have no real idea about what they are doing, but have to be seen to be doing something so as to quieten the hoipoloi and keep control over them.  I am not an anti-masker even though I hate these bloody masks with a vengeance.  I follow what “they” ask me to do.    I wear them at work.  I wash my hands, and the alcoholic hand gel really shoots me up when I smell it on my hands.  I wear my mask if I’m out.  But I’m buggered if I will wear it at home and wear one in the car.  I have my state authorisation to go to work and help the economy. 

I don’t understand how this government is functioning.  I’m not waiting for somebody to inform me either.  Certain policies seem completely incoherent.  I am allowed to to go to my supermarket to buy food, but not allowed to buy a book while I’m in there.  Before this latest installement, I was allowed to go to the pub.  I gave my name when entering and leave my phone number in of contact with somebody who had COVID .  I would order my drinks at the bar (mask on) and would be able to go to a table, take my mask off and then drink my pint, then put my mask back on, and buy another one.  There was hand gel when you entered the bar.  And people used it, and would obey the rules.  The bar staff had had to position tables to abide by social distancing regulations, and people had to be sat down, and this was enforced with great tact and gentleness.

Man is a social creature.  He needs the contact of others, or at least the social interaction that come with being around others.  Do “they” realise the damage that will be done on society?  Do “they” realise the damage that is being done to our children?  Do “they” they realise how nefarious this climate of fear is on humanity?  Do “they” think they will be re-elected when they seem to be heading for cancelling Christmas? I am not Q Anon.  I am not a conspiracy theorist.  But I do have a problem with the incoherence of all these policies, be it here in France, or in my own country!

STOP PRESS

The vaccines are being tested and will be here in time for Christmas.  It sounds like a sales pitch for turkeys!  Get yours today!  You’ll feel so much better afterwards.  You’ll only feel a little bit of a prick.  Nothing new there then!  It is of course some very good news and gives us a glimpse of hope in these dark times.  We have been told how the Pfeizer vaccine has to be kept really jolly cold, and I’m not talking about a winter chill in the North East of England, or even a Canadian Winter.  It has to be kept so chilled, that it sounds like a hippy in California after having smoked some really good weed back in the day…  And how their share prices have risen faster than a man’s penis after having taken Viagra! 

What else is new in the world?  Apparently there has been an election on the other side of the pond.  Biden and Harris have won, but Trump hasn’t lost yet!  Go figure!  The country has been divided by this humungous buffoon.  And to quote Oliver Hardy, “That’s another fine mess you got us into!”  Some votes have to be counted but others have to left well alone.  I almost feel sorry for Trump.  Hang on, before the accusations fly, I did say “almost!”  Here is a man with his model wife, who seems to be wanting to get out of her marriage of convenience.  Women and proximity to power.  She’s a gold digger, but should have divorced the Donald before he became the President.  For once in his mediocre life, he has realised that despite the 70 million voters who liked him, an awful lot more thought slightly less of him than he did of himself.  That must have been gutting for him.  And now he has his eviction notice from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  For once, he’s the one being evicted from a property.  He has failed.  Which in Trumpism is the worst thing that can happen.  Now he’s behaving like a little hateful boy who doesn’t want to leave the park, throwing a wobbler, but is being manhandled by the nanny to get the little merde out and away. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Biden and Harris are great people either.  One is a lawyer and the other a career politician who has finally landed the dream job before having to retire.  There is so much hope pinned on this guy, and I fear that although he will be able to repair some of the damage done by Trump, he will not be able to do as much as his voters thought he would do.  The man, like me, is a moderate.  That has become almost a dirty word in modern politics, where everything has to be polarized.  One is not allowed to say that despite Black lives mattering, in fact all lives matter.  Even blue ones.  There is no place for nuance.  There is no place for subtlety. I see the infamous AOC, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the poster girl for the more extreme left wing in Democrat circles, saying that now Biden is President Elect, the gloves are back off, and that he’d better support her politics.  I find this whole situation very disheartening.  Yes, I believe that universal health care is a right, and that in the US, it’s a shambles (understatement of the year material I think), and the new Green Deal is a pretty good idea and will help reduce the consequences of Trumps mismanagement of the environment, and that the US has a unique position in the world despite Russian and China. But that doesn’t give you a free pass.  Extremism is never good, be it left or right.

Wow, that got slightly political all of a sudden!  How did that happen?  Back to photography.  I had started to go out on Fridays and take photos in some of the Chateaux of the Loire, and other places like Fontevraud, but with lockdown that ain’t happening no more.  It’s deader than flared trousers and hang glider collars, deader than the hope of me getting laid, deader than the hope of a family Christmas with friends and mas etc. (thank you, you little President).  Which is a shame, because I thought it was a really good idea.  I would have been able to visit castles, take photos, maybe even taste some of the local wine production etc.  I could have waxed lyrical about history, take a few digs at the French.  Easy to do and so satisfying, so very much like the French then!  As I have said before, it’s not a good day if you can’t take a dig at the French, or make a small child cry.  Insert evil laugh here.  I’m just going to mention a guy that I have mentioned before.  Paul Taylor.  The guy who left Apple to go on the road as a comedian, and has as great YouTube channel.  That takes balls.  Not only that, but a comedian in France, which takes even more balls.  This man’s balls are obviously huge, and he can obviously outman even the most manly of manly men who have just been doing some very manly things, like being mean about the French and making small children cry.

Life will get back to normal one day.  One day.  Until then, keep your pecker up.  Chin up, chest out, and thumbs in line with the seams of your trousers.

The Lockdown Diaries Part I

Now I realise that this title might sound like the beginning of a series of posts that will have even more episodes than the Avengers film franchise, or for those of you who are my age, even more films than in the Sly Stallone Rocky series, minus the boxing. And I’ve purposely not indicated how many episodes there might be, so like that I’m covered and I know you’ll just keep coming back for more.

As you might have guessed, and I think I’ve already said before; let me just go back and check… Yes I have said before, my big lockdown project was to eat cake, drink tea, take a couple of photos and get this film photography funk over and done with, like flared trousers in 1980.

With the help of YouTube, calming myself the “f” down, and a couple of purchases on Internet, I sorted myself out. Now I knew that I could take a reasonable photo. But developing was a different matter. I had lost confidence, and it was time to grab the bull by the horns, which is easier than grabbing it elsewhere, and just start at the very beginning, which as Julie Andrews reminded us, is a very good place to start.

When you take photos with an analogue camera, you need an analogue camera, check, some film, check, and then you load the film into the aforementioned film camera, and go out and take some photos. I did this in my village, and you’ll be able to see where I walked: the vines, the park, and the prairie where there are lots of ponds, with lots of ducks who had been doing what ducks do in the Spring and swimming with the ducklings and being fed bread by my daughter. The noise of the frogs, the animals, and not my fellow villagers from the Vendée, was deafening!

When you get back from your walk, you disappear into your bedroom and set out the developing kit, minus the chemicals, on your bed, and hope that you still remember how to get the film from inside the film canister, onto a plastic spool, which goes into a drum, and then a cover goes onto the drum to keep everything away from any light. Oh yes, you do this by putting everything you need into a developing bag, and doing all this by touch and without seeing what you’re doing. If this sounds like a lot of faffing about when you can just use your phone to take “pics”, well you’d be right, but I’ll get back to you on that, later on.

You take this “drum” into the bathroom, and put it on a shelf and then prepare you chemicals. You will need a developer, a stop, and a fix, and I’m not talking about smoking a cigarette that makes people laugh. The developer will make the pictures (in negative) appear on the film. The stop, you’re not going to believe this, will actually “stop” this process, and the fix, will fix the image on the negative by disolving the excess emulsion that was on the film. Then you have the cleaning process which will allow you to have some wonderfully clean negatives that will dry, and then can be cut up into strips, and then put into sheets that will protect the negatives.

But enough of all this negativity! Let’s make those negatives into positives… Bloody hell I’m sounding like some American self-help book! I do this by scanning each negative which will make a positive, and I end up with a picture on my computer. Yayyy, go me. Good job I’m not called Nads!

As you can see I’m really into recycling in a big way, because I’m sure I’ve used that joke before.

I then class these photos by camera used to take them, and by date. It’s my OCD going into overdrive again. My house is untidy despite the efforts of my long suffering wife, but my hard drives are so well organised, that a librarian would be proud of me.

After this I get to play with the images on my computer and then after minimal editing, I publish them, either on Instagram, on Facebook, or here.

So I have these images ready to share with you. But further up I talked about faffing about and why don’t I just used my phone like everyone else. Well? Firstly I’m not like everyone else as my parents will tell you. Some people will say the film photography is about slowing down. You take your time to think about the shot, you look at the scene before you and take the time to decide what elements are interesting, what to include and what not to include. You think if this picture that I can see I my mind’s eye is worth taking and worth the expense and time to develop it. But that’s only part of the story. I like the process of capturing the photo with film. You click the shutter, wind on the film, don’t look at the back of your camera to check if your picture turned out OK or not, and hope for the best. With time, this becomes “normal” and might teach you some patience. I also like using the old camera. It’s looks better hanging around my neck than my phone. When people see you using a film camera, people look at you as if you are more worthy, and a craftsman exercising his craft. There’s the touchy feely side of actually going through an analogue process and manipulating something tangible and getting a result from that process, instead of just creating an electric image. The quality of those images with the famous “grain” may not be as sharp as some digital images, but they have a certain quality about them that cannot be produced digitally. There’s also the thing about converting nearly all my digital into black and white, so why not just cut out the middle man and do everything on black and white film?

The two main film cameras that I use are the Canon AE1 Program, and the Pentax ME Super. I have others of course, but these are the main two and the following photos were taken on the Pentax using a 50mm F1.7lens and Ilford HP5 black and white film.

I hope you enjoy my efforts.

The end of lockdown in France

As of midnight the confinement is officially over in my area of France. We are green and not red. Were we to be red, then we would still be up the Covid Creek without a paddle, but as we’re green, we’re good to go.

What I have just said might seem strange. And of course you would be right. It sounds like a British Army exercise, but it’s not. Nooooo! This is France after all. The country has been divided into green areas on a map, where the virus is less prevalent, and red, where people are still up to their necks in it, whatever “it” may be.

The Reds, and the Greens

Today, I need to fill in a form to say why I am outdoors and I have a document from my firm saying that I have to be at work. Otherwise I have to stay in, except forgoing to work with the right authorisation, shopping, going to see my doctor, going to see my family for vital reasons, or for childcare, exercise, but only for one hour, and within 1km of my house, if I have to appear before a court, or the police, or the participation in an action of national importance.

Tomorrow, I will be allowed out without an authorisation, but only in a radius of 100km from my house. If I use public transport I will have to wear a mask. If I go to the barbers, I have to have an appointment, usually taken online, pay by card, and wear a mask. I will experience this next Saturday when I might just be able to stop looking so unkempt.

Certain restaurants will be open, but for click and collect and using online payments. The Pub is still shut. Almost seems a waste of time going into town… But I still will go. I need to take a camera in to be repaired.

It’s going to be the end of lockdown, but not back to normal.

I remember the joy of being able to go back to work. I’m hoping to really appreciate having some more limited freedom back too. My daughter will be going back to school physically for two days a week and working from home for the rest of the week with lessons being sent in by her teacher.

My wife will be going back to work in a week’s time, driving her school bus, but it won’t be in the same conditions as before. Masks all round.

Lockdown is over, and we’re entering a new phase, but it’s far from over. It’ll be nice to get out though.

Confinement – The Endgame

Yes, I said Endgame. Well, kind of. My confinement started on the 17th of March, and I go back to work tomorrow morning, the 20th of April. You know when you were at school, and your teacher gave you the “and what did you do during the holidays?” essay. This is the more modern equivalent. Also I’m now 48 and no longer 8.

Did I go to the zoo? No, they’re shut. Did I visit my grandparents? No, they’re dead. Did I buy any sweeties? Just a couple. Where did I go? Not very far believe it or not. I stayed at home. It’s the destination that seems to be in favour at the moment, at least for the large majority of the population. Except for those Keyworkers!

The keyworkers, of course, have our admiration, not just because they have new celebrity status, let’s hope that one day they receive not only the recognition they deserve, but also maybe some financial reward. I think that we secretly admire them because they are allowed out. Maybe societal values changed in some way. Maybe our priorities have changed. Maybe our goals have changed. Maybe.

So. I was going to be stuck at home for a while. With my family. With my family, two cats, and my son’s girlfriend! With my family, two cats, and my son’s girlfriend, and not being allowed to go off to Nantes to escape and have some “me time.” Yes my own personal time to do the things that I can only do on my own. I’m not talking about masturbation, although it has become very fashionable, the sale of sex toys having exploded, much like the genitals of the owners of said toys. No. I’m talking about photography. Wandering around aimlessly (or Flâner in French) just taking in the scene, and recording it in a hopefully artistic manner.

All of a sudden I have the luxury of time. The question is, how am I going to spend that time. After the initial novelty had worn of, and having enjoyed laying in bed, I had to get up and do something, even out of pure boredom. I’m not one of those people who did sport, or made videos playing my musical instrument, I’m me. I do what I can.

I decided to sort out my camera gear. First my digital systems. Sorted out by cameras in two bags, with lenses, batteries, and other accessories. I have a Canon bag, and a Fuji bag. Then stuff for video, including tripods. I saw what I had done, and it was good. I entered smug mode. But there was the question of my film photography gear.

I have been in a film funk for what seems like ages (2017). I just couldn’t get my film development right. It was annoying me more than a mosquito on a hot summer’s night. But I had time, and decided to tackle the problem head on. I still had chemicals, and my development kit, and some films that hadn’t been developed. Good heavens, it worked!!!! I didn’t mess it up!!!! I believe in miracles, Baby. Where you from, you sexy thing? You sexy thing yeah.

Soooo, I sorted out all my film gear, and got that special smug feeling again. I still had some film and dared to dream. I put in some film into one of my most idiot proof cameras and took it out for spin. It is allowed after all. I am allowed out for “exercise” and those of you who know me, know how sporty I am. IE not sporty at all, but I needed to get out for my mental health, and they say that walking is the best kind of sport for fat people like me. I just took my camera with me.

Once back, I got my act together and set up my darkroom. It worked! And a friend on Instagram helped me out and I took his advice and the results were great. I was over the moon, and my film funk was over! Since that first day I have taken more photographs on film and think it will now play an increasing part of my photography. We’ll just have to see Dear Rader.

I started feeling guilty for not raising money for the NHS like Captain Tom, feeling guilty for not giving nightly concerts on the French Horn, feeling guilty for not baking fresh bread every day, and yet I did what I could. I have actually baked a cake, which was very nice, and my daughter seems to have the baking bug. She spent time making cakes, and various biscuits. My wife has taken time not only to tidy, but organise the house. I have taken time, not just for photos, but also for cooking for my family. We have all taken time to get to know our son’s girlfriend. The girlfriend, and son have taken time to be in their bubble and get to know each other in a way that only confinement can offer.

That word, time, seems to becoming ever present. Time. Just take a little time to let that sink in. We haven’t been on holiday, but we have been blessed with time off, to spend time on the more important things. Our lives have had a parenthesis. Time out to decide on how we really want to spend our time. The question isn’t , “will we change?” but how have we changed. We are living in strange times. A before, and an after.

I’ve enjoyed spending some time with you Dear Reader, but it’s time for me to get back into the kitchen and make something lovely for lunch.