Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Bleak beauty

I went quiet last week when, for the first time in my life, my day job genuinely took over. I am still struggling to accept this happening, and to accept that I accepted it. It is often the second order worries about first order concerns that get to me the most.

Instead of boring you with the details, and believe me, they are boring, I dug out the photos I got developed recently. I had set these aside while I got over the usual disappointment, and sure enough, I like them more now I can see them for what they are, as opposed to images unrelated to what I perceived when I took them.

I cannot bear the feeling that I am missing an opportunity, and living in London with a full time job, snow tortures me in this regard. The best I could manage before I sloped off for Christmas was a tramp across Hampstead Heath and then a gloomy tour of the old filter beds by the canal in Leyton/Clapton. There's a spooky atmosphere there at the sunniest of times, but in failing light on a Sunday afternoon in December, everything muffled in Miss Haversham cobwebby white, it was quite unnerving.

The first photo (above) was the only one in which Diana achieved what I hoped she would, loaded with an Ilford XP2 Super 400 film which is supposed to give pale elements in a picture a supernatural glow. Not exactly blinding, I admit, but at least the contrast is there.

That was at lunchtime though. I suppose at close to 4pm my eyes adjusted to the winter gloaming and I stomped around forgetting that Diana needs help to let the right amount of light in. What she gave me, though, is a much truer representation of the atmosphere where I was.

This picture perfectly encapsulates my mind's eye memory of walks around Hackney Marshes and the canal at Leyton: creepy, washed out, low on contrasts, with a pylon in every frame. That's not to say I don't enjoy walking there; there is beauty in all that bleakness if you know where to look.

For once the canal water did look beautiful, black and glowering under the bowers of brightness that hung over it. The stoic flotilla of canal boats was still huddled together by the lock, as if proximity to the pub and human beings would warm their icy bottoms.

Being overwhelmed by my wage-earning work has inevitably led to more and more wild escape fantasies, to the point where even the job of heating a snow-covered barge has become appealing. Instead I intend to load Diana with a colour-saturating, light-loving colour film and take her away to a place where my thumb will be warm enough to wind her on without hurting us both.

Thanks for the destination suggestions in response to my last post; I am now investigating opportunities on www.workaway. info in the hope that I can swap accommodation in a beautiful place for working with nature in some form or other. That, and the chance to plough my mental energies back into writing fiction instead of emails. I will, of course, blog from the wondrous habitat in which I find myself when the time comes.


  1. Starkly beautiful, best of luck with your investigations.

  2. There are people who walk under pylons - they follow the cables for miles, determinedly trespassing to stay as close to the power line as possible.

    There is even a pylon appreciation society, membership £15. And no, I am NOT a member. But see here: http://www.pylons.org/

    PS I like the first picture best - it reminds of the illustrations in old entomology books - and yes, I do have lots of them.

  3. Work coming first?
    I loved what I did and still miss it...it informed my life to a great extent.

    Whatever you do, don't fall for the volunteer scams in Costa Rica.

    And now I've forgotten the poem of which your photographs reminded me...and even the poet.
    Something about calvinist love...
    I hate not having all my books about me...I often think I should go on holiday with a pantechnicon containing them following the bus.