Friday, November 21, 2014

Autumn Gold

I took some photos at work earlier today, as I thought the late afternoon light looked particularly appealing. For some reason, Google Plus has automatically tarted two of them up. I've no idea why and can't be bothered to find out.

My workplace isn't exactly glamorous, but even the most mundane features seem to acquire a strange beauty when the setting sun highlights the rough contours of the surfaces of buildings and objects:

I must bring a proper camera in one day and capture the post-apocalyptic splendour of my farm.

It has been an annoying week at work. A courier lost a bag of orders a few weeks ago - something I didn't discover until customers started emailing to ask where their books were. After a three week tour around the Midlands, the parcels were returned on Tuesday in a large box, along with a packet of 10,000 staples.

I think the staples were another mistake, rather than some form of recompense.

I have now switched to Royal Mail. They may have an online ordering system that makes the Enigma machine look simple, but at least I know that the books will reach their destination instead of sitting in a warehouse in Leicestershire.

I enjoy working in the countryside, but can't quite get over its oddness. On Monday a stranger asked me if I'd like to see his puppy (you could get arrested for that in London). He opened the back of a car and handed me a beautiful 13-week-old spaniel, with adoring eyes. Later, on the way home, I saw a man standing on the corner of a road with a falcon perched on his hand. I've no idea why.

On other days, I'll suddenly see a succession of people ride past in horse-drawn carriages, or spot someone casually carrying a rifle with a telescopic sight.

It's only a matter of time before I go native.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Yesterday and Today

I've started to get into the habit of taking a regular 'constitutional'. I particularly like going for a walk in the late afternoon, when the light is failing and the shadows are long. The highlight of the journey is usually a flock of sheep, but yesterday I saw a familiar-looking figure:

It was one of several effigies made by a Lewes bonfire society, ready for last night's procession. This year, they managed to alienate a sizeable number of people in both Russia and Scotland. They did  Kim Jong-un last year. I think they're gradually working their way around the globe.

I have mixed feelings about Bonfire, as it's known here. On the one hand, I enjoy the sense of anarchy and the sheer spectacle, but it also reminds me how isolated we have become as a result of my older son's difficulties. When we first moved to Lewes, I assumed that one day we would all dress up as a family and join the procession. I now realise that will never happen.

This morning, my wife and I took our younger son to the Museum of London, where he was supposed to be studying the Romans:

I don't know why, but I just can't get excited about the Romans. They came, they saw, they conquered. Then they left.

On the other hand, the prehistoric gallery was surprisingly fascinating, reminding us that elephants once grazed by the banks of the Thames, whilst people lived in straw huts in a landscape that was mainly marshland and forest. A flint tool from around 450,000 years ago was genuinely awe-inspiring.

Every gallery was really well curated and arranged in a way that created a strong sense of a narrative. My son loved it and we all resolved to make a return visit.

After the Museum of London, we walked to the Tower of London through a particularly ugly area. This picture is from Wikipedia, as I forgot to take one:

A combination of bomb damage and bad planning has largely ruined this part of London, but it's a thriving business district and we walked past countless glass office buildings, watching a succession of very earnest-looking people having meetings. In one office, the computer screensavers said "Client Focused", as if it was something special.

The thought of having to sit in a meeting, listening to humourless people talk complete bollocks on a daily basis, sent a chill through my heart. I remembered being subjected to 'brand wheels', KPIs (key performance indicators) and 'upskilling' (training). It was awful.

Fortunately, just as I becoming a little grumpy about the business world, we arrived at the Tower of London and saw this incredibly moving tribute to those who died in the First World War:

880,000 artificial poppies. One for each person who died, painstakingly placed in the ground by volunteers. 

I was also extremely moved by the huge crowd of visitors (there were several thousand when we arrived), some of whom had travelled a long way to look at the display. A few had simply come to see the spectacle, but I suspect that many were paying tribute to a lost grandfather or great-uncle, and felt that one of the poppies was theirs.

I certainly did.

N.B - Click here for some stunning photos of the full display.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Steel Works

The best book I found today almost ended up in the bin, as it was hidden away in a box of Reader's Digest titles. Fortunately, I spotted it just in time and a brief flick through confirmed that I'd found a gem. It's a collection of photos of the northern industrial town, Consett.

To quote from the book's blurb:

"For 140 years Consett in County Durham was synonymous with iron and steel. Then in 1980 the works were shut down and subsequently dismantled by the largest demolition projection in Europe. The town was left with a 650 acre hole in its centre, not to mention a legacy of unemployment and demoralisation."

I hadn't heard of the book's editor, Julian Germain, but as soon as I visited his website I recognised his photos of classrooms around the world, from a book that has been featured in several weekend supplements. I shall be adding that to my Christmas list.

Steel Works is divided into two sections. The first features photographs from Consett when it was a thriving industrial town in the 1960s. Contributors include Don McCullin and Tommy Harris.

The second part looks at post-industrial Consett, a town that seems abandoned even though its inhabitants still live there.

Here is a selection: