Culture

Culture, Photography

A Complaint About August


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What the hell happened to August? And why are we tricked every year – by ‘them,’ whoever they are; the combine; the machine; the turner of the hamster wheel – into thinking it’s going to be ‘the hottest August on record’. Perhaps more importantly, why do we fall for it every time? It starts off on BBC Radio 4, I reckon, where the stuffy BBC elite decide it will be fun to  trick us common folk who can’t afford a holiday to Gibraltar or Dubai or wherever the hell they go on their summer holidays. “It’s going to be the hottest August on record” they snigger live on air, “be sure to book your camping holiday in Cornwall”.
The ‘wettest August on record’ would have been more fitting and I think I speak for most of us here when I say we’ve been throughly let down by the weather-makers and, dare I say it, by BBC Radio 4.

Besides, even when they predict the ‘hottest August on record’, the South West is in some sort of good weather exclusion zone where it never, ever, gets above 19 degrees. Us lot down here, then, should exercise extra caution about falling for the annual good weather false hope conspiracy.

Anyway, during the two or three hours of nice weather this month I managed to get some decent snaps. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about photography – actually, it’s pretty much the only thing I’ve learned about photography – it’s that if you see a shot, RUN for your camera. And I mean RUN, because for some reason nice shots don’t hang about for long. That, and it’s kind of fun to suddenly sprint somewhere – appearing to everyone else like a magnificent blur.

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The moon at midday (well, just after 11.00)

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Blog, Culture

Self Portrait


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How do you view yourself? It’s a big question, one with no right answer, or any answer at all, in fact. I do think, though, that the British are quite good at not taking themselves too seriously – we love to take the piss out of everything and, happily, that includes ourselves. (Which is more than can be said by, say, I don’t know, *cough* the Americans). And this is great, because it means that I can now lead seamlessly into laughing at myself – or, more specifically, laughing at a self portrait of myself. I’m sharing this with you because, well, quite frankly I think it’s hilarious, but also because it’s so important not to take yourself so seriously. It’s taken me years to get to a space where I can do that, and, alas, there is still work to do. But I would hate to be the person whose perception of themselves is such that they can’t laugh if they make a silly mistake or do something embarrassing in front of their boss or trip over the shoelace of their super-cool Nike’s, fall arse over head and look like a twat.
You have to laugh and, I’m sure you’ll agree, life’s more fun if you do!
I drew this picture of myself – the image of the lovely lady at the bottom – with my best-friend-parter-in-crime, who also drew himself – the handsome young man at the top with the curly hair. The point was that we share a disliking of our side profiles (if it sounds trivial, it’s because it is). I can say with confidence that everyone has something they don’t like about their physical appearance, but often this thing is something that no one else can see because that person has spent so much time looking at it that it becomes this huge thing to them. Yet, all their friends and family have never even noticed because they (I hope, anyway) don’t cast such harsh judgment on someone they love.
So, what point am I making? It was fun and funny to draw my side profile because doing this made my harsh opinion of myself seem silly because my exaggerated drawing showed how untrue my perception really is. Likewise, I could laugh at my companion’s self portrait, because that’s not what he looks like either.
Well, actually, you know what, he does have a huge triangle erupting from his forehead at 80 degrees… I’m kidding, of course he doesn’t.
And now I’ll encourage you to do the same, if you want to. Or, at least, have a laugh at mine.

Oh, and don’t worry about the guy with the huge lips on the left. I’m not sure what he represents, but, damn, just look at those lips!

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Blog, Culture

Mister Valentine


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So Valentine’s day, eh? Four years ago I was reflecting on this day on my old blog, and the topic is still as divisive as ever. Some people love it, some despise it, and others couldn’t give a devil’s umbrella. The question I had this time, though, is – and it’s a genuine question – what is the generic men’s gift on Valentine’s day? We all know chocolate and flowers are the generic purchase on the holiday of love, but I don’t think many men would expect or even appreciate this gift – at least, not outwardly.  So what do we buy them? Cheese? Beer? WD40?
Seems a bit odd, but there are a million (boring) reasons about why we have ended up where we are with this particular holiday – what is masculinity and why can’t men receive flowers; what does it mean to be successful/loved and how people need to prove that on facebook; how capitalism has shaped the way we view many holidays; how capitalism has shaped the way we view ourselves… it could go on forever. I don’t have the energy to launch into a discussion about these theories, but what I do like to wonder is that maybe the original meaning wasn’t very clear in the first place and therefore what you do with Valentine’s day is completely open to interpretation. Such is the way with so many elements of life – you don’t have to be a slave to the way you think you should be! And anyway, the cause of where we are now with this particular holiday is layers of mythology, misunderstandings of events and much story-telling (in other words, history). So why only buy into one version of the story? This is where I’m at in my life – with these kinds of (boring) thoughts.

I’m sure you’re wondering what I did this year – was I a hater, popping heart balloons wherever I saw them? Was I showered with gifts from my partner in crime? Did I hatch ambitious plans in my secret lair to take down the meaning of this Mister Valentine? Well, no, as much as it pains me to admit that I don’t have a lair, my long-suffering partner in crime and I went for a walk around the arboretum and looked at some cool trees, and then we had a coffee at the cafe. It was excellent.
It’s difficult to avoid those pangs of envy, though, when I see men everywhere carrying bunches of flowers. I’m secretly a sucker for romance, or, at least, the romanticised idea of romance – which, as we all know, doesn’t actually exist. So, although walking and looking at trees in February in England isn’t the most exotic or exciting or passionate thing to be doing, it makes us happy and who gives a shit what any one else thinks! Besides, I can always buy myself flowers.

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How I spent my Valentine’s day