It’s been a hectic couple of weeks. The weekend before last, I was down in Brighton, to attend the conference of the Public Sector group of the PCS union. I was there for two reasons – firstly, to take photographs at the request of the group President; and secondly to receive my Honorary life membership certificate from the General Secretary, Mark Serwotka. I managed both.
I was also sent on a mission to find a chocolate shop that rejoices in the name of “Choccywoccydoodah“, which my other half had seen on tv. I found it, procured chocolate, and took a few photographs as evidence. The Goth wedding cake was exceptionally noteworthy.
Normally, I would have gone home via the Bluebell Railway. I wanted to, because I have a mind to hawk some photographs to them; but under the circumstances, I wanted to get home as soon as I could, what with my poor little house being compromised in terms of security. So I left the Bluebell for another time. I did manage to get some good pictures around Brighton’s Lanes, as well as some interesting night photography.
I got back on the Tuesday evening, and had a day to collect myself. Then on Thursday, I was off to Manchester, to attend a seminar run by Redeye, this time on the subject of exhibitions and self-generated projects. This was of interest because I’m in discussions with a former union comrade about mounting an exhibition, “Birmingham – City of Protest”. I came away with some good ideas; and I took the camera with me, too. So I got some material out of that trip.
Then on Friday, Cathy and I went down to That London. Cathy had to go to a conference session, so I took the opportunity to engage in some photography. Well, I took a few pictures on the Friday evening around Shaftesbury Avenue, but everywhere was so thick with office workers celebrating the end of another week of toil, plus all the tourists getting underfoot, that it wasn’t really practicable to get decent pictures. However, on the Saturday morning, I was able to get out around the Cavendish Place area and get some nice material, including the blue plaque on the home of H.H. Munro, who wrote Edwardian social satire under the pen-name “Saki” and who some rate higher than Wodehouse.
Then I met up with Cathy and we returned to our hotel and checked out, enabling me to take some pictures of Marylebone station on the way; then we headed off to the major exhibition of science fiction books, manuscripts and other materials at the British Library – Out of this world – which I highly recommend to everyone with the slightest interest in the field. It was fascinating to see the exhibition so packed with people with a genuine interest. The exhibits were quite fantastic (literally!); highlights included Arthur C. Clarke’s original papers for the British Interplanetary Society on space stations and geosynchronous satellites; Olaf Stapledon’s handwritten timeline for Last and First Men; and some of Angela Carter’s exquisite hand-illustrated manuscripts. It was also an opportunity to spend some time in the British Library itself, which at the time when I was a humble student librarian, way back in the mid-1970s, was just a pipe dream. The building is an interesting contrast to St.Pancras station next door; it is finished in red brick, and has a clock tower; and its overall shape echoes that of its more ornate neighbour. But nothing can out-Gothic St. Pancras – so we took the opportunity to cross the road and take a few pictures of the exterior, much to the chagrin of the walkie-talkie wielding hotel security guard on the gate. Someone needs to be told that we are still a free country.
The interior of the British Library is an interesting mixture. On the one hand, it has the ultra-modernist clean interior of Art Deco; yet some of the detailing is very 1950s Austerity Britain. On reflection, with the huge scale of the vertical rise of the atrium, it was a bit like stepping into the future city interior in Alexander Korda’s film of H.G.Wells’ Things to come.
Since then, I’ve had a week of recuperation. My new alarm system was fitted on Monday; I’ve managed to trigger it inadvertantly twice out of two disarmings. The new computer is on order and under build. On Saturday, I shall be doing the first in a series of craft and antiques fairs selling prints. The idea here is to offer for sale more of my landscapes and general pictures; sadly, what with all the disruption of the burglary and my hectic timetable, I haven’t been able to get as many generic pictures printed out as I’d like, nor have I been able to get any of them mounted. Ah, well. All things in good time.
Then on Bank Holiday Monday, I shall be attending a railway exhibition at Middleton Hall, between Tamworth and Coleshill. Middleton Hall is a privately-run stately home, rescued by local residents when they found that the company who bought the estate to extract gravel from the grounds had no plan for the house other than to let it decay. I’m attending as a member of the Sutton Coldfield Model Makers, with my friend and colleague Jim Bell, who will have some of his German engines on his ever-popular engine shed layout. I shall take some Austrian stock as well, just as a contrast and to put my photographs in context.