Shipping Forecast…

I remember getting my first ever digital radio alarm clock as a teenager, way back in the late nineteen-seventies. I remember lying in bed late at night with the soft green glow of the numbers making everything in my bedroom look quite ethereal, listening to the Shipping Forecast at precisely twelve minutes to one. I’d have the volume really low, and almost have to strain to hear, but it was always so soothing to listen to. ‘Sailing By’ would play, and then the forecast would begin, with the same introduction, the familiar names and rhythmic tones lulling me softly to sleep.

I remember a male voice, strong and sedate, booming deep like the waves yet resounding clear as a bell… gale warnings first, then Viking, Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger, Fisher, German Bight, Humber, Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland, Plymouth, Biscay, Trafalgar, Finisterre, Sole, Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea, Shannon, Rockall, Malin, Hebrides, Bailey, Fair Isle, Faeroes, Southeast Iceland… wind direction, strength, precipitation, visibility, each called out singly, or sometimes huddled together in similar swell or squall… a strange spell of magical incantations recited daily, a prayer for protection, wrapping words of weathered wisdom around our jagged little island and keeping those of us ashore safe from harm as we lay tucked up cosily in our warm beds.


Photographs Never Taken…

The idea of street photography fascinates me, and I’d really love to build up my confidence enough to always have a camera on hand to capture the moment as those blink-and-you-miss-it shots arise in everyday life – I know that even my camera phone would do the trick. I often see something and think – that would make such a great shot – but nine times out of ten I’m too shy or embarrassed to stop, even momentarily, frame the image as unobtrusively as possible, and click the shutter button. Even when I do decide to go for it, more often than not I dither too much, take too long deciding, and often I find the moment has already passed.

I do feel a bit uncomfortable capturing people in such candid shots, and I know there are lots of rules and regulations about what is and is not permissible these days, but it’s quite hard – in fact nigh on impossible – not to have any people at all in shot when photographing in a big city. So surely it seems sensible to use that fact to your advantage, rather than trying to avoid the possibility altogether?

I’m definitely becoming a lot more daring when it comes to including members of the public in my images, but almost as anonymous bodies, included for balance and capturing a mood rather than as the main subjects in their own right. So I have lots of images of people’s back views, relatively unidentifiable but in real situations, and I suppose that compromise has to satisfy me for now.  river-ouse-yorkb&w

Nevertheless I have a growing ‘regret list’ of real-life, public-place photographs of people never taken, and here are my top five to date…

1. A rough sleeper curled up in the doorway of a church I once passed on my walk to work – in my mind’s eye I saw a black and white wide-angled shot, showing the huddled figure and the doorway and the steps and the long, early morning shadows, a graphic portrayal of sanctuary. But I felt uncomfortable at somehow benefitting from someone else’s misfortune, and the shot remained untaken…

2. A scaffolder at work in central London – teams of men work together in the cramped streets, passing each individual scaffolding pole up through each level manually, and one day I witnessed one taking the pole from the guy below him, then reaching up dramatically, scaffolding pole held erect high above his head, he shouted out ‘By the power of Greyskull, I am the power…’ in his best He-Man voice. Lots of passers-by looked up, and he laughed out loud, holding the pose momentarily for all to see. It would have taken me no time at all to point my phone and click, but for some reason I didn’t…

3. A cat on a leash out for a walk with his owner – in central London again – both strutting their stuff like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever as if they owned the place. I noticed both animal and owner walking towards me from quite a distance away, and was intrigued to see what small breed of dog had such supreme confidence – I was so surprised to see a cat I didn’t actually think to capture it on my phone…

4. A group of five workmen in yellow hard hats, heavy work-boots and bright orange hi-visibility vests, sitting in a row on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral eating their packed lunches in the sunshine. Their hard hats and vests marked them out from the more usual throng of tourists, and I skirted around them a couple of times trying to pluck up the courage to take the shot. But all of a sudden the sun went in, two of them put way their lunch and stood up to go, and the moment was lost forever…

5. A young couple saying a passionate goodbye to each other on the very crowded concourse of London King’s Cross Station. I was unsure about the legality of capturing such an intimate moment, but someone next to me walked directly in front of me, made a big show of framing her shot, and took several images from quite close up – with a very loud phone-camera shutter noise. And again I found the moment had passed, while I just stood there, watching, feeling very uncomfortable at the photgrapher’s obvious intrusion into that young couple’s very private, yet so public, farewell…

So if there are any street photographers out there willing to share their tips with me, please do feel free to suggest how best to approach what seems to have become quite a contentious topic. I do want to record public life in real time as I see it, but I also want to respect people’s individual privacy… Thank you for all potential advice and suggestions offered! 🙂


Weekly Photo Challenge: Dialogue

Slightly different DP photo challenge this week…

‘Dialogue is an engaging conversational exchange. When it comes to photography, dialogue can be perceived as a consensual interaction between two images. Placed next to each other, each photograph opens up to meanings that weren’t there when viewed alone. Each composition reveals the photographer’s specific sensitivity to certain content or visual elements’

Looking through my archives, I’ve found reasonably similar views of London’s ever-altering skyline taken from Tower Bridge four years apart – different cameras, but same photographer. For me they highlight both continuity and change, sameness and difference, then and now, and show the almost invisible ease of everyday evolution within a thriving, thronging city 🙂

Shard-city-hall-2014City Hall, with the Shard in the background, first in 2010, then in 2014

Gherkin-2014The Gherkin (actually 30 St Mary Axe), first in 2010, and now in 2014 dwarfed by the Cheese-grater, and also the new Walkie-Talkie building

A Long Time Dead…


There’s an old Scottish proverb that says ‘Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead’. It’s such a lovely sentiment and I do understand the common-sense truth of it. But somewhere between my head and my heart, between thought and feeling, that simple message loses its way, and that loss, that lack, truly saddens me.

I don’t know why I just don’t feel the same about life as other people seem to. I don’t know why depression dogs me so determinedly. I don’t know why I struggle so much with everyday living. But like it or not, I just do. I so badly want to feel differently – to enjoy my life, enjoy living – and I never stop trying to fix whatever is broken within me.

I hold on to hope for dear life, and hope beyond hope that one day I can finally say to myself – ‘Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead’ – and truly feel it at long last… 🙂

The Black Dog… (Reprise)

I wrote this poem back in March, at the tail end (no pun intended) of a particularly difficult depressive episode… I feel life beginning to weigh heavily on me again right now, and I feel my black dog hot on my heels, hounding me once more… Can I outrun him this time? Who knows…

The Black Dog…

Devouring all in its path

The black dog bites deep and grips tight.

It leaves you flayed and exposed,

Ripped ragged through to bare bone.

You endure, raw and ravaged until

insensible with pain you cease to feel.

Nothing stirs but shattered echoes

And whispers of what once was.

You heal in time, though jagged scars

Run deep through your damaged soul.

But still it stays close – a shadow demon

Suppressed, prowling and pacing.

It haunts you, it hungers after you,

Skulking and stalking.

And in your darkest dreams you feel its pall

As the black dog hunts you still…

Share Your World – 2014 Week 34

What is your favourite smell? What memory does it remind you of?

My favourite smell is probably the smell of babies’ heads – the warm smell of delicate scalp skin and baby shampoo in their feathery downy hair. It reminds me of my own precious babies, and now my beautiful grandbabies…

Name a song or two which are included on the soundtrack of your life?

Meatloaf – the entire original ‘Bat out of Hell album’, in sequence – we were definitely an album generation, and I just adored this one from start to finish. It still gives me goosebumps today…

Do you play video/ computer games? Which ones or most recent?

My kids used to have a Sega Megadrive, with cartridge games that had to be loaded each time you wanted to play anything – we spent many happy hours as a family playing ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’, and for that reason alone it will always hold a special place in my heart ❤

Which of Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs describes you best? Plus, what would the 8th dwarf’s name be?

I asked my husband – he said I’d be Bashful, and I have to agree… But as for the 8th dwarf, I have no idea – I’d probably rename them all!

Click here for more answers to Cee’s Share Your World for this week 🙂