Berlin, a conker and the oddest of nostalgic moments


    Berlin! Berlin!

    A fortnight ago, I was in Berlin. I love that city. Over the last year, it's become my most visited city, and I enjoy every single trip. It has an edgy, interesting feel - like everything's changing, but nobody's quite sure what the finished product will look like. It's just fun.   

    But, oddly, while walking in a Berlin park, I had my first moment of nostalgia for my old job and office. You see, when autumn arrived in Sutton, the conker tree between the car park and the office shed its bounty of conkers, and I was the only one who seemed to care. I stuffed my pockets with them, satiating the desires of my inner eight year old, and built a little stack of them on my desk. It was a beautifully organic counterpoint to the digital focus of what I was doing. 

    There are no conker trees around where I live, or the various places I work. And so, I've missed those moments this year.

    Until a Tuesday afternoon, in Berlin, in a park, when those moments all came back. A single conker, lying in the leaves, in the crisp German early autumn. A world - a life - away from where I was then, but the feelings came flooding back. It's a mark of how happy I am in my new life that the principle emotional callback I've had to my working life of six years is a single conker in the leaves in a park.

    Life moves on. There are conkers everwhere - and I'd rather encounter them in Berlin than Sutton. 

    There was only one thing for it: head off and kill the nostalgia with a lunchtime currywurst


    Mmmmm… currywurst


    A photographic method and a career, in the rear view mirror

    Portrait of the blogger as a young hack

    I've been scanning again. One of my redundancy resolutions has been to use my sudden increase in available free time to catch up on some projects, including the digitisation of my own negatives and old family photos. 

    The image to the right comes from a set of negatives I shot as a university student - probably in the spring of 1993, although exact dating is hard. I'm not quite sure who took the photo of me above - but I do know they took it with my camera.

    The thing that has really struck me about this film in particular is how darn grainy it is. Honestly, I'm not sure if that's an inherent characteristic of the film - Ilford HP5 Plus - or some poor darkroom discipline on my part, effectively "push processing" shots that didn't need it. 

    Or, am I now so used to using digital photography (which I've been doing since late 2001) that I've forgotten how much grain was an inherent quality of silver halide photos? I suspect the coming weeks of scanning will answer that question one way or another.

    The other thought that occured to me was that, as these photos from the student magazine office remind me, I'm not involved in the production of a journalistic periodical in any way for the first time since probably 1987. School magazines, student newspapers, my professional journalistic career… It's been over two decades of continuous involvement brought to an abrupt end by redundancy.

    And you know what? I'm amazed by how little it's affected me. Perhaps sometime in the last year I passed the point where I'm truly more a blogger - an online content afficicnado - than a journalist.

    Where does that take me next?

    Glorious sky over Shoreham this morning…

    beautiful sky over Shoreham-by-Sea

    It was a glorious sight to start a rather busy day, bouncing from Shoreham to Sutton to Lancing to Exeter

    Still, the near four-hour drive along the south coast to Exter was absolutely stunning and well worth the experience. I'm so glad that my entire life no longer revolves around London. It boosts my quality of life so very much…

    Shoreham-by-Sea Farmers Market

    It has, to put it mildly, been a little busy of late. I've been rushing around the country for various events, I've been helping family members move. I have, in short, been having a hectic time of it.

    Time for some time out. I am off work next week, with no major plans other that visiting my brother, some belated birthday drinkies, and a party on Saturday. And, this weekend, I'm back in Shoreham. And it's my favourite weekend: the farmers market.

    Have a little video:

    [vimeo []( w=500&h=281] 

    I managed to spread my purchases a little wider than the beer and sausages that dominated last month's purchases. :)

    I expect you might see some more photography and video that's been lying around my hard drive over the week to come…

    Meandering down Exeter memory lane

    Today has been something of a stroll down memory lane. I'm in Exeter for a conference (which I'm busy blogging), but it's taken me to places from one of the most important few days of my life. For example, the hotel where this morning's immersive session was held:

    Exeter 3That'll be the hotel that Lorna and I were staying in the weekend we got engaged. And the restaurant for the lunch session?

    Exeter 1
    Yes, it's where we ate the evening of the day I proposed.

    The Cathedral I proposed in front of? 

    Exeter 2

    Under renovation. There's probably a metaphor there somewhere… :-)

    Enjoying the Downbeat

    When I was growing up, I remember vividly my Dad choosing to absent himself from the living room when a depressing, downbeat or tragic fils, show or documentary came on. "I know these things happen," he would say. "But I don't need it rubbed in my face."

    Like the teenage tit that I was, I found this annoying. I was still stuck in the mindset that sad or bleak = "deep". My father was clearly not as deep as me. 

    Roll forwards a couple of decades, and I'm beginning to see his point. It's been a rough seven or eight years, with illness, mental health issues and death rocking the family. And now, in my precious leisure time, I've become somewhat adverse to stories tinged with bleakness and despair myself. Real life has plenty of that, thanyouverymuchindeed. Which is why I found myself a little thrown after we watched A Handful of Dust on the AppleTV last night. 

    Kristin Scott Thomas in A Handful of Dust.-003a I'm not sure where our copy came from - a free DVD with a newspaper possibly, or inherited from my mother. But a while ago, I ripped it, stuck it on the AppleTV and charity shopped the original, intending to watch and delete the digital copy. And last night, at a loose end after Science Online and a trip to B&Q, we finally got around to watching it. 

    I admit: it's been a while since I read any Waugh. And I do feel that this adaptation, as enjoyable as it was, lacked the satirical edge of Waugh's writing. But it was enjoyable, the characters believable and the acting uniformly great. But, my goodness, that ending was bleak. We spent the best part of two hours watching a decision, born of boredom, destroy a family completely. And what was the point in that?

    Sleeping on it, I realise that I've slipped into too much of a goal-focused mindset in recent months. The point of the movie, as in so much of life, was the journey, far more than the destination. Did I enjoy the process of watching the film? Yes. Very much? Did I enjoy the ending? No - but that doesn't diminish the enjoyment of watching the film. And, in a sense, the ending wasn't final. It was an endpoint to a certain situation, a certain voyage in the characters' lives, but for most of them, there was life left to live. I'm a long way short of being a person who heads straight to the misery memoir section of the local bookshop, but perhaps I'm crawling my way back towards enjoying some of the more downbeat aspects of art.

    The start of something new…

    Evening light on the Adur

    The Tiled Owl

    My late mother loved owls. And here's one she painted on a tile. We just found it while sorting though some of her old stuff.

    It's quite lovely.

    Portrait of the Blogger, Unshaven


    I love this photo of me Lorna grabbed earlier.

    Fleeing to the Country

    This, or something very much like it, is my dream for the near future:

    We are moving out of our two-bedroom flat and into a proper house with an upstairs, a garden and sheds. More than that, we are leaping from the edgy Islington/Holloway borders (within shouting distance of the Arsenal stadium and the prison) to a Surrey village with a lively parish council. I'm excited, but I'm also terrified we're making a huge mistake.