Hayling Island 1933

These images are taken from the same album as Gosport 1936.  Dad was born late 1920 so this summer on Hayling Island he would be 12 years old.  He is responsible for the delightfully composed first image.  His dad, Alfred, looks like a prohibition gangster but nothing could be further from the truth – a builder by trade and a lifelong teetotaller, he was raised in the village pub at Fyfield , Hampshire.  He knew the consequences of the demon drink and passed this valuable knowledge onto his son.  The message was too watered down by the time it reached me.

There is telling detail in the first image – the picnic basket, the football and camera case lying on the sand.  Alfred is deep in thought and stares out to sea.  Agnes appears to be asleep but look closer and she is shading her eyes from the sun with a newspaper. Perhaps she is peering at the camera – “Please Kenneth – do not take me like this! The twelve year old schoolboy labelled this image: “Hayling Forest – Edge of Desert”.

The second image must have been taken by Agnes and the “One and a half dreams” are placed dead centre – Alfred has removed his hat, a too heavy coat is draped over a deck chair and an itchy wool bathing suit hangs to dry from the beach tent; one summer long ago.

Hayling Forest ... Hayling Island ...

The fascination with these images is not confined to the past. In these eyes and the shapes of these mouths, I see not just myself but my boys.

The Week …


This gallery contains 7 photos.

This is a collection of images posted on www.polaroidblipfoto.com over the previous week.  I first started submitting to Blip in late 2013, the central idea being that you take/publish a different image everyday (I ocassionally cheat a little :-) ).  It has … Continue reading

Trainspotting …

… not so much Irvine Welsh, more Jonathan Meades.  As a child,  Meades made lists: “Why were people called Salmon, Pike, Gudgeon, Whiting, Chubb, Grayling, Roach, Haddock, Spratt, Bass? But not Tench, Minnow, Eel, Lamprey, Perch, Carp, Huss, Plaice … I was adjudged tiresome or frivolous or time-wasting. Thus adults masked their ignorance and, worse, their incuriosity.”

I made lists too but mine were numeric, all of them attributes of steam engines, the occasional diesel and electrics but never multiple units.  We made lists to bring order to a chaotic, disinterested and judgmental world.  Trainspotting might seem harmless enough but to those in authority we were at best a nuisance, at worst dangerous. Eviction from railway stations was an occupational hazard; men of a certain age and ex-military rank, imagined or otherwise, simply didn’t like us and we them.

Dylan filled my head with verse, Raymond Baxter talking over grainy 405 lines inspired a passion for fast machines and steam trains spawned an interest in industrial archaeology, the remains of a revolution. Abandoned mills, derelict canals and the traces of long-gone railway lines still intrigue.  There must be others of a certain age who take delight in spotting the abandoned sections of the Lancaster Canal from the M6.

It was therefore inevitable that having ‘collected’ one example of the very fine signal boxes along the Newcastle to Carlisle line, I would have to go and ‘bag’ the other two award winning examples.  On Monday morning I rode the Ducati up to Wylam, stood on the footbridge and captured the last.  As a boy I would have taken great delight in being enveloped in steam by a train passing underneath – along with Castrol R, engine steam is the best smell in the world – Givenchy should bottle it.

In order of capture: Hexham, Haltwhistle and Wylam (the last is an extra of the best – Haltwhistle, stately as a galleon):

Hexham Signal Box ... Haltwhistle Signal Box ... Wylam Signal Box ...

... stately as a galleon

Visions of Johanna

My internal roadmaps contain a section dedicated to the streets of Manchester in the 1960s.  Most of these monochrome memories start from Oxford Road station with its three wooden conoid roofs, a remarkable building for its time with echoes of the Sydney Opera House.  Even a self-absorbed teenager noticed such things but when it came to railways, I had previous.  An avid trainspotter from the age of eight, what else was there to do, I knew Manchester’s stations intimately: Manchester Central, Piccadilly, Victoria and Exchange – all of them dark, filthy and rundown – hell’s Cathedrals.  This was the norm, this was all I knew – smog, steam and rain – the assumption was that this was the way everything ended, Oxford Road included, the station where most of our journeys on clackety closed compartment trains from Altrincham would finish.

Down Station Approach to the left was the Corner House Cinema specialising in ‘adult entertainment’ and to the right, along Oxford Road, was the Family Planning shop, nothing more than a hut beneath the railway bridge. I had no use for either of these services but like forbidden fruit, they intrigued.

The main attractions were the musical instrument shops that lined the south side of Oxford Street, full of guitars and drum kits well beyond our means.  At the junction with Portland Street was a sheet music shop, another frequent haunt – we were as likely to buy the sheet music as the vinyl.

St Peter’s Square is dominated by Manchester Central Library, no longer the blackened cake tin of my youth, it roughly marks the point where Oxford Street becomes Peter Street.  Less than 200 yards further on is the Free Trade Hall where, on May 17th 1966, Dylan had his confrontation with Judas – “I don’t believe you”   ……..  “You’re a liar.” 

This goes some way to explain an obsession that has not left me.  My head is full of disturbing verse, none of it attributable to Wordsworth:

Inside the museums, infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles

So when I create an image such as this, inevitably it is Visions of Johanna that conquer my mind:

And these visions of Johanna ...


“Bob Dylan – Visions of Johanna”  Director: John Hillcoat

Gosport 1936

My dad kept a photograph album from the age of nine until he was fifteen.  There is a gap and then pictures of him courting my mum start to appear in other albums; they married in 1943.

His earliest first pictures are accompanied by quirky observations in a clear precise hand that remained constant throughout his life, he was never destined for the medical profession.  As he approaches his later teens the comical asides disappear and the serious older boy simply writes pertinent information on the rear of the photographs, something I didn’t know was there until I pulled out the images for scanning.

All of them are roughly 55mm x 80mm and I assume contacts derived from 120 roll film. Despite his lifelong interest in photography there are not that many pictures in the album but film processing and printing costs would not have been cheap for a schoolboy with empty pockets.

On 31st May, Whitsun 1936, my dad, not yet sixteen, stood on the seafront at Gosport admiring the view across the water to Portsmouth.  Such was the scene that he was inspired to take a photograph.  In the foreground are local boats anchored near the town while in the distance can be seen the Naval Base and a warship moored in front of the Semaphore Tower Building.Dad's album ...

On this warm Whit Sunday he is feeling extravagant, turns to his left and captures the view northeast, towards Cosham:
Dad's album ...

A few months short of eighty years later, on a cold day in January, his son realises what he did at that precise moment in time and with a machine unimaginable in 1936, zips the two images together to see a scene that only previously existed in his father’s memory:

Dad's album ...

(click on the images to enlarge – but not by much – something has changed in WordPress and not for the better :-( )

Slow TV

This is my personal contribution to the current trend for Slow TV – a routine drive out to Corbridge for petrol (and back).  It may not be as good as a canal trip along the Kennet and Avon, nor as engrossing as the Sami and their reindeer but there are highlights – a friendly postman, kamikaze pedestrians and an ancient tractor – see if you can see them before the motion sickness kicks in.  Has Beethoven’s 9th (royalty free) ever sounded better 😝

Corbridge ...

This is really just an exercise in testing and getting used to a GoPro camera which is small enough to put anywhere – on the dash, attached to a crash helmet and one day, maybe, mounted on a drone.

In the meantime enjoy the continuing diabolical weather in Northumberland and the heavy mist along the Military Road – the prayers have yet to be answered 😡

Plus ça change …

… plus c’est la même chose.  I posted this image on Blip this morning with the title “Praying for snow” :

Prayer candles ...

I had a vague recollection I had used the same title on WordPress and a search brought up a post from exactly the same day two years ago – almost spooky 😳  The words could have been written today:

Things can only get better – the UK weather at the start of 2014 has been dreadful, a combination of high winds, high tides and endless rain … The bike remains on charge in the garage, the golf clubs hide in the boot of my car and the cameras remain on the shelf – too dull/wet/cold to venture out.

The only change is that there are now two bikes sitting idle and on charge in the garage – “when will they ever learn