Friday, March 24, 2017

Time for a little privacy: I shall be starting a new, wholly private blog (but see crucial note in italics below), which you will not be able to read. And the photography thing goes on

I have to say that I have been a more regular blogger over the years than I have been recently, and I think I know why. When I started this blog, and I’ve said this before several times, it was intended to take the place of a ‘diary’ I kept for about 15 years. That diary was handwritten in hard-cover A4 ledgers - I still have them somewhere. It wasn’t just a record of my private thoughts, but also somewhere where I could have a good laugh and, in the manner of a ‘commonplace book’, record what I had come across.

Within what seemed like just minutes of posting this blog, I received an anguished phone call from a loyal reader pleading with me not to go private, but to carry on writing the bollocks I record here. It was then that I realised that I had inadvertently given the wrong impression.

So: this blog will carry one, fear not. It’s just that I shall be starting a new one, for my eyes only, in which I shall detail the kind of minutiae which usually blight yer’ average diary - what I had for lunch, my bowel movements, who didn’t ring but should have that kind of thing. And here I shall carry on bringing reports of the wisdom of Vic, Tim and the rest from the public bar of the Rat & Ferret about what is going on in the world and isn’t that Theresa May a right cow/simply quite, quite marvellous and aren’t the Tories lucky to have her.

In other words, this blog is still ongoing (and if one of you would care to alert Her Majesty the Queen, who - whisper it - is also a fan, that it will do so, I shall be very pleased. I could do so myself, of course, but as my English readers all know - and sadly Johnny Foreigner doesn’t, it’s not quite the done thing for me to tell her, as we haven't yet formally been introduced. It has to be someone else).

Given that I believe that much of our justification for bothering to record our thoughts in writing, whether handwriting or typed, is that it can be read by others, the internet blogs were a God-send. In one sense writing for others and communicating your thoughts is pretty much the whole raison d’etre of a blog. On the other hand, there is close to absolute zero that my A4 ledgers will be read by anyone. For one thing my handwriting is incredibly difficult to read. To show you why, I have written a few words and scanned them to produce a jpg: £10 to everyone who can tell me what I have written. Christ, all too often even I can’t read my writing.

Now here’s the problem: for many years, until quite recently, in fact, I was wholly convinced that anyone who claimed they just ‘wrote for themselves’, whether it was poetry or a diary, was being disingenuous. ‘Why’, I would think, ‘go to all the bother of actually writing it down if you don’t want anyone to be privy to your private thoughts? Surely the very act of recording those thoughts in writing indicate that you, possibly secretly or unknowingly, hope they will be read by someone else?’

Well, that was then and this is now: I have changed my mind. I do now feel that sometimes we want to record our thoughts, for one reason or another, but really don’t want them to be read by anyone else. And I have changed my mind because I want to do exactly that. Why? Because I’ve found that I can often clarify what I think and feel in words, whether in conversation or debate, or by writing them down.

On the other hand and for a variety of reasons, I don’t feel I want to share those thoughts. Because what I wanted to post was rather more private than the usual stuff I publish here, I always stopped myself writing it. So I shall be starting a new blog which will - I never thought I’d say it - really is for my eyes only.

. . .

There is another reason why I haven’t posted here as much recently. Even though in the past I have joked that at the end of the day my general observations and thoughts about current affairs I record here are of no more worth than those of your local barroom bore, it also happens to be true. When an economist or someone from the world of politics blogs (here is a good example, the blog written for the Financial Times by some bod called David Allen Green and here is a very well-known UK political blog written by ‘Guido Fawkes’, they do so with authority.

When I or any other barroom bore takes to the net to record their two ha’porth, it is pretty much pot luck, with the emphasis being more, I suspect, on the ‘pot’ than the ‘luck’. Above I point out that I find I can clarify my thoughts when I get them down on paper (and, incidentally, if you try and write something and can’t find the words, the chances are that haven’t at all thought through what you want to say. The solution is to put down your pen/shut your laptop and spend more than a few rushed moments deciding what you want to say).

. . .

Like pretty much everyone else, I take snaps and still do. Although I try and take interesting one and tend to dick around with them to crop this, improve that, they are pretty much just snaps. There was a time, however, when I was rather more serious about photography, and I must admit that interest has not gone away.

In the 1970s most people took with them on holiday a 110 camera. These were shite cameras, with shite lenses and produced more than shite pictures. But they were 
cheap, although just now looking up 110 film on Wikipedia, I’ve discovered thatseveral manufacturers did produce rather more expensive models with better lenses. Be that as it may, the 110 camera your average punter chose to take on holiday to the Costas was shite and produced shite cameras, mainly because the film strip, which came in a cartridge inserted into the camera, was tiny.

I can’t remember ever having one of those, but I did eventually by some kind of cheap camera or other and was immediately always disappointed that the picture I had taken - or rather had wanted to take - was never the picture that came back from the chemist’s. A lot of it had to do with technique, of course, and committing basic errors: taking a picture of something or someone with the light source - usually the Sun - behind the thing or person, so that what you wanted to take a picture of was underexposed.

Bit by bit I learned the hard way what to do to try to make sure you had a sporting chance of taking a good photo, and soon cottoned on that if you wanted to take half-decent photographs, you pretty much needed a half-decent camera with, crucially, a half-decent lens. And before the ‘digital age dawned’ (I have to put that in inverted commas because I simply could not take myself seriously if I didn’t) it meant using 35mm film and a 35mm film single lens reflex (SLR) camera.

My first ‘serious’ camera was a Pentax MX, though I quickly also bought a Pentax K1000 and found it, despite being less sophisticated than the MX, was the camera I

always found myself using. (It was and extremely simple camera, but very good, so good, in fact, that Pentax produced them for more than 20 years and only stopped when the market for 35mm film cameras collapsed and everyone wanted a digital camera. When I bought mine, I scoured ads for news ones and discovered a shop in Loughborough selling it for £60, at least £30 cheaper than anyone else. The useful thing was that I could use my lenses on both the MX and K1000.)

Then, for a while, I went crazy, buying myself lens upon lens, a decent flashgun, a light meter, the whole gamut of equipment needed for developing film and printing pictures, and I don’t know what else. Finally, I decided to go to photography college and this I did. But I ran out of money after just two terms and had to knock the course on the head, although I did learn quite a bit of theory in that time. I could at the time explain to you what a lens with a longer focal length gives you a shallower depth of field, though I must admit I’ve since forgotten a lot of the theory, although I’m still convinced I could explain photography to a reasonably intelligent six-year-old with once resorting to any jargon - f-stops and ‘film speeds’, that kind of thing.

Several years later, my extensive collection of photographic gear - and I did have a lot - was stolen in a burglary. I eventually bought a secondhand 35mm Canon and a useful flashgun, but there was nowhere in the house to set up a darkroom and then digital photography replaced film stock photography and there was no longer a need for a darkroom.

That is a bit of a shame because although digital photography has much expanded what you can do with a camera, there was a definite pleasure to be had from developing film and printing pictures (although for both practical and aesthetic reasons I only took B&W (‘monochrome’) pictures. And still will: because, dear hearts, in about an hour’s time I shall drive to Bodmin and collect a spanking, brand-new Nikon D3300 digital SLR. Then I shall see where it will all lead.

Pip, pip.

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