Light, Camera, Action!

25 03 2012

So Second Born takes her driving test on Thursday. She drives way better than First Born (who already has her license!) and is calm and measured (unlike a certain parent).

Anyway, she’s just got back from a 2 week trip to Panama, so we thought we’d have a drive around and reacquaint her with the car. She’s the artistic one in the family, and she’d expressed an interest in my older Canon film camera. I found a roll of ISO 200, and there’s a vague chance it might not have gone off, so we loaded for sunsets and set off for Crescent Beach. I took along my DSLR, and set it all up for grainy, high contrast B&W just for a bit of fun. By the time we hit the beach though, she’d already burnt through the 24 exposures on the film, and so I let her muck about with the DSLR too.

Between us we had some fun, got to know each other again after the break, and she got to practice her driving to boot.

I hope you enjoy some of the results… the ones you like are almost certainly by her!

Degrees of Separation

17 12 2011

So it’s well accepted – at least in the chattering classes – that we all have at least some bigotry lurking in our psyche. The more thoughtful of us will regretfully admit it (though occasionally only after having it pointed out by a trusted friend or colleague), the rest (being bigoted) will simply blame others.

Being a child of the ’60s.. 1960’s, just to remove any ambiguity there… I have no less bigotry than most, more than some, and less than a few. I was brought up in the UK with an unquestioning assumption that the United Kingdom had been always thus (united). The violent political unrest of the early 70’s gave me an uncomplimentary opinion of Ireland I am ashamed to say, and regret never having visited its reportedly lovely shores prior to moving over the pond. Wales was where people went to have their holiday cottages mysteriously burned down (See Ethnic cleansing the Welsh way – The Independent), and Scotland was where men wore skirts and ate dodgy food out of sheep stomachs (which in fairness is actually quite tasty – the food not the hairy men in skirts.) Thankfully as I grew older and relied less on assumptions and “truths” passed down by family and society, I began to seek out and acquire my own versions of the truth. I’d like to think I’ve become more questioning and less assumptive. It’s a work in progress. I intend to never quite finish.

I’m always interested in how one comes by new information – all part of the building blocks of ones reality. Information is really just the current opinion of course. As you acquire differing views and opinions one is forced to reevaluate the previous “truth”.

All this preamble just to say that I recently learned something! I was writing a previous post about Dame Margot Fonteyn, and discovered she lived and eventually died in Panama. Interesting enough, but then I learned she had a peripheral role in an attempted coup there in 1964. In an attempt to learn more about THAT, I discovered that in the 1690’s Scotland had a colony in Panama. Huh – imagine that! The Darién scheme was a complete financial disaster, not least because something like 25% of the entire Scottish available currency was tied up in the scheme.

Wikipedia: New Caledonia

Wikipedia: The Bay of Caledonia, west of the Gulf of Darien

At the demise of the scheme, the hitherto independent kingdom of Scotland succumbed to the  Act of Union in 1707. So it wasn’t through the might of the English redcoats… it was more due to an unsuccessful financial gamble. Obviously the real history of the uniting of the kingdom of the UK is much more rich and a veritable tapestry of different threads – but this part at least was utterly unknown to me prior to this morning.

Long live the internet! Long live learning!!

Fonteyn of Youth

17 12 2011

Christmas is almost upon us, and the shopping frenzy is reaching its peak. It’s also a season where the great unwashed dabble in culture. There’s music everywhere – from Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” (biggest selling single of all time apparently!) to Lennon’s deeply poignant “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” and McCartney’s equally banal “Wonderful Christmas Time“. It’s also a time when the ballet comes to town and The Nutcracker is performed  to various degrees of success. I have a vague recollection of seeing Swan Lake danced by an all male ballet company many moons ago, but I’m vague enough that it might only have been someone I know who told me about it. Either way, it wasn’t particularly memorable… despite the all male company part. Let’s just assume that, for all intents and purposes, I haven’t seen a ballet being performed. I have however seen a world class ballet dancer. Up close and personal. She even shook my hand and spoke my name. Dame Margot Fonteyn was her name. A more elegant and poised person I have yet to meet. She was 66 at the time, and as delicate and willowy as… well a willow I suppose. (Just as an aside – did you know the Latin name for willow is Salix, and Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid – ASA) was isolated from it? No, I didn’t either. Then I read it somewhere. And now you have too!)

Dame Margot wasn’t just a Prima Ballerina in her day. Oh no… the Queen made her a Prima ballerina assoluta – and there’s only been 11 of those in the last 110 years, the last being Alessandra Ferri in 1992 – at least according to Wikipedia, which has no obvious reason to lie. At the time, Dame Margot was the chancellor of Durham University in the north of the UK. It was an interesting time and place in modern history, with Maggie (The Iron Lady (film)) setting about the dismantling of the power base of the miners’ union, with the Durham/Newcastle area being historically dependent on mining, and a bit of a stronghold (well, after Yorkshire, of course…). If you’re into dance and music, check out Billy Elliot the Musical. The miners’ strike is the back story. Anyway, the other Maggie – Fonteyn – began her dancing career in the 1930s, but in 1962 she danced with a newly defected Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev, and began a magical partnership – both on and off stage that lasted their lifetimes. She was 42 at the time, he 24.


Wikipedia: Margot Fonteyn in the 1960s

She retired in 1979, and took up professional handshaking as Durham’s chancellor in 1981.

Illness cut both their lives short – cancer for her in 1991, AIDS for him shortly after in 1993. There’s controversey about whether they had a physical relationship but their unwavering loyalty to one another is beyond doubt.

Dame Margot was implicated and arrested in a Panamanian coup in 1964, so controversy wasn’t something she shied away from.

The year I graduated, 1985, I spent the summer at my girlfriend’s summer cottage in Kent. It was the year that Live Aid launched the greatest music event the world has ever seen, to bring famine relief to Ethiopia. The Previous Christmas, Midge Ure and Bob Geldhof (who got most of the praise) penned “Feed the World” and got all their singer mates to lend a voice or two. How many faces do you recognise from the YouTube video?

So, as Christmas approaches, I respectfully ask two things of you, honoured reader: (i) remember to buy lots of batteries ahead of time and (ii) be grateful for what you already have, rather than moan about what you didn’t get.

I like the quote at the end of the Lennon video too: “An eye for an eye will make us all blind” – Mahatma Ghandi. True that.