Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Whitethroat...

I was on my way to the Lakes, though I stayed near Lancaster last night. Having discovered one tyre had a slow puncture, I wanted to be first in the queue this morning at the Kwit Fit workshop in town. 

I took a stroll along the Glasson Dock branch of the Lancaster Canal. It didn’t look to have much boat traffic, with water lilies in flower, and flags and rushes along the water margins. A buzzard soared and skylarks sang. A heron lifted off laboriously, and, from the top of a bush, a whitethroat sang its scratchy summer song… loud and determinedly unmelodic. The grassy towpath was a pleasure to walk along, because someone had kept the grass cut with a gang-mower, leaving a cut swathe, six or seven feet wide, for walkers. It’s hot… even at 9 o’clock in the morning, and the temperature is set to keep rising.

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal near Barnoldswick...


Sunday, 28 June 2015

Party...

Went to my nephew’s surprise 40th birthday party at Darwen Cricket Club, a green oasis in a small northern town. It was good to see his face when he came through the door, and 70 people started singing ‘Happy Birthday to you’.

A cricket game was in progress. The scene reminded me of the places where I’ve played cricket down the years. All the elements were in place… Cars parked around the ground. A few scattered spectators, mostly old guys. Lots of kids. Perimeter wall painted white, to act as a sightscreen. Wall covered in advertisements for local sponsors: bakery, Chinese restaurant, dog-grooming salon. Practice nets. Little brick-built scoreboard, with hooks for scorers to hang the numbers on. A big bar (where we were).

After the game, kids took to the outfield. Playing football. Playing cricket. Just running around with helium-filled party balloons (stopping to look skywards when they forgot to keep hold of the balloons). From the number of kids I saw playing, Darwen’s breeding programme seems to be well on track…

I had an early night, due to a surfeit of drum ’n’ bass being played by the DJ; from under my duvet the music sounded better, more like a lullabye. I woke up this morning, and the place was empty; the covers kept the wicket dry, in light drizzle. Darwen looks to be a busy club, so they’ll have a First XI, a Second XI and maybe a youth team too. I imagine there’ll be another game played today, as long as the weather improves…

Skipool Creek, on the River Wyre, Lancashire...

Friday, 26 June 2015

Solitude...

I’ve been asked “Doesn’t it get lonely, being on the road by yourself?” Well, yes, it can… but only occasionally. Once a month, on average, I may have a day when I feel unsettled, rootless, just plain pissed off… but the only amazing thing is that this doesn’t happen more often!

I’ve lost the concept of going home… or, rather, I have many homes. The vehicle itself is home, in the sense that’s it’s where I go back to, at some point, every day. When I pull up the blinds, the Romahome feels like a very private space… even if I’m parked on some busy street in town! But other places can feel like home too, if only for a few hours or days. Visiting family and friends creates more opportunities for feeling at home. Home really can be wherever you hang your hat (on those once-a-month gloomy days, on the other hand, home is just where you hang your head).

Instead of home, in the sense that we usually think of it, I get to see different places every day. They may not always be beautiful, or dramatic places, but they give me strong impressions, when I keep my eyes and ears open, of what life is like in the year 2015… even though it’s still only a very partial view. When I got the Romahome I imagined being mobile for maybe five years. But, apart from poor health, I'm not sure what set of circumstances would make me want to give up the nomadic life and stay in one place.

I’ve had bouts of mental ill-health over many years; now that is what loneliness looks like to me…

Semerwater and ruined barn, Wensleydale…


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Wensleydale...

Wensleydale is looking very colourful, with all the wildflowers...





Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Time...

On average, people watch about four hours of television each day. Having thrown my telly down the cellar steps more than ten years ago, in a fit of self-righteous indignation, I’ve freed up a lot of time. Four hours, seven days: yes, I’m gaining one extra day every week just by not watching people getting their antiques valued or trying to buy a house. However bad the programmes were ten years ago, I’m pretty sure they’re even worse now. I’m grateful not to have to watch celebrities eating grubs in the jungle, or anything featuring Simon Cowell (I’m proud to say I don’t even know what his voice sounds like).

I keep myself acquainted with TV trends, mostly so I can keep up one end of a dull conversation. But, from brief viewings, TV seems ever more intent than ever on insulting the viewers’ intelligence. I don’t think I’m missing anything of value (apart from cricket). So what do I do with those extra four hours each day? Well, this morning, I put new laces in my boots, a job I’d postponed for weeks. Time well spent, I think. And I need to sew a button onto my trousers. Maybe next week…

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Writing...

Writing on the road is fine; any place will do. It's more a matter of ‘when’ than ‘where’. Early mornings are best, when the mind is fresh and clear. I’ll open up the laptop at any time of day, and get some ideas down. But when I need to edit what I’ve written, mornings are the time. The elusive word pops into my mind, unbidden, when it wouldn't come to me the previous evening; sentences rearrange themselves. It’s friction-free. It just happens. With two articles to write over the next couple of days, I'm making an early start...

One year on...

Today may be the longest day of the year, but it’s cold and rainy, so I’m parked up at Wood Nook campsite, near Grassington. It’s my ‘go to’ campsite in the Yorkshire Dales when, about once a month, I give the onboard batteries an extra boost (which enables them to hold a better charge from day to day). Also an opportunity to get dependable wifi and a shower.

I’ve been on the road now for exactly a year, and, on the whole, I’m happy with the way it’s gone. I’m able to do most of the things I planned to do… specifically to shoot pix, edit them ‘on the road’ and email/upload them to publishers, magazines, agencies, etc. Writing is simpler; I can write just about anywhere, and email an article in a fraction of the time it takes to email a photo. I bought a small mifi gadget, but there are so many sources of free wifi these days that I don’t use it very often.

It’s a basic existence. I eat when I’m hungry; I drink when I’m dry. There’s no routine. I’ve had a few miserable days, when I’ve wondered what the hell I’m doing… but I’d be surprised if I didn’t!  I have plans and itineraries, but they’re subject to revision if another, better plan appears.

Another night in Skipton, North Yorkshire…


Friday, 19 June 2015

Socialising...

Saw chums last night in Scarborough, and will see other chums tonight in York. It’s good to do a bit of socialising… maybe not so good to be putting so many beers away.

Kitch on the promenade in Bridlington…




Thursday, 18 June 2015

Rudston...

In the village of Rudston, near Bridlington, is the tallest standing stone in the country: 26ft high. Dating back to about 2,000BC, the stone was quarried in nearby Cayton...


Monday, 15 June 2015

Leeds...

The Leeds-Liverpool canal in a more urban setting: the centre of Leeds... with a train pulling into the station...


Sunday, 14 June 2015

Muggy...

Left my camera behind and took a stroll along the Rochdale Canal, near Littleborough. Weather warm and humid - ‘close’ and ‘muggy’, as we say in Yorkshire - with a thunderstorm likely, later on. Time seemed to stand still. The water in the canal was black, like pitch; it looked thixotropic, as much solid as liquid. Plenty of people on the towpath, all ready to stop and exchanges a few words… about something, or nothing…

Friday, 12 June 2015

Thursday, 11 June 2015

A night out in Skipton...

Had a night out out in Skipton with a couple of old friends (and dog)...




Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Small talk...

One good thing about travelling is the reduction in small talk. People have no real interest in your welfare, and I’ve slowly come to realise that the opening gambit of “Are you OK?”, in the places where I hear it, isn’t a question at all… and can safely be ignored. The answer to this pseudo-question is “a Big Mac, please” or “a pint of bitter”, rather than sharing intimate details about my health or finances.

I was in a branch of McDonalds this morning (hey, don’t judge me: clean toilets and free wifi), and the girl at the counter asked what I wanted. “A bacon roll”, I said, “with ketchup”. “Would you like ketchup with that?”, she asked brightly, before correcting herself. A curse on the managers, who hide in their offices, far away from the punters, and make the McDonalds minions parrot these scripts like robots. I ordered a cup of tea as well, which immediately initiated another question: “Would you like to make that a meal?”. McDonalds is the only restaurant I know where the addition of a hash brown magically transforms a bacon roll into a meal. And is it even a restaurant at all if there’s no plates, no cutlery and you’re supposed to tip your personal detritus into a bin on your way out?

A few weeks ago, while enjoing the clean toilets and free wifi in another branch of McDonalds, I asked for a cup of tea. “I’m sorry”, said the girl at the counter. “The tea machine is broken”. I spotted a box of tea-bags, and another source of boiling water, and wondered if tea-bag and hot water could be brought together in a paper cup, given a stir and - voila - a cup of tea. “You don’t understand”, said the girl, pointing behind her where an engineer had the front off the machine and was ferreting around inside. “The tea machine is broken”.

Time to stop sniping at McDonalds, perhaps; they’re losing customers, around the world, as bargain basement burgers don’t cut the mustard any more. Kids no longer get taken to McDonalds as a treat; a visit to Ronald McDonald is now a punishment for bad behaviour. I wonder, idly, what the future might be for a global franchise whose food is crap, and whose reputation is shot. Soon the only customers left will be businessmen with laptops and spreadsheets, who need clean toilets, free wifi, a sit-down and a cup of tea… provided the machine is working…

Monday, 8 June 2015

Shooting stock...

I’m not a ‘natural’ stock photographer, but, then, who is? Does anyone harbour childhood dreams of taking pictures and adding therm to a great big pile, in the hope that the people who buy pictures will look through them and pick yours? I don’t think so. I’m also a writer and, over the years, writing ‘on spec’ has always been understood as the mark of a rank amateur. Proper writers follow the pragmatic advice of Samuel Johnson: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money”. That’s changing too, of course, as an increasing number of people seem happy to write for nothing, or ‘peanuts’, and plenty of people seem happy to give their pictures away too (or post them online, which can be much the same thing)…

So how is it possible to make a living out of stock photography (or, more likely, make a supplementary income)? I joined the world of stock photography about five years ago, from a standing start, knowing next to nothing about the particular and peculiar requirements of the stock market. It’s been a bumpy ride, watching my favourite pictures fail to sell, while other pix are, bafflingly, licensed again and again. I had to rethink so many aspects of photography, it was like starting afresh…

Acorn Bank...

Better weather... more like summer... broken cloud. Should have a productive day of photography today... after I visit the Leisure Centre in Penrith for a shower...

Acorn Bank...


Sunday, 7 June 2015

Remote firing...

My Nikon 610 (a full-frame replacement for my old D200) is performing very well. My one quibble is the remote cable, which attaches to the left-hand side of the camera and sticks out a bit. The 10-pin cable for the D200 was in a more convenient position, and had a screw collar that allowed it to be firmly locked in place, so it wouldn’t work loose or fall out. So I got myself a cable-free release for the 610, which fires the shutter by infra-red activation. I changed the shooting mode from ‘single’ to ‘IR remote’, but it wasn’t working properly. I bought a new battery; still no good. Then I did what I should have done straight away: I read the manual, and discovered there was a setting that needed changing via the menu.

Sorted. The remote now works as it should, though it needs to be pointed at the IR receptor on the camera body… which takes a bit of getting used to. The remote is tiny; my main worry is losing it. I’m happy to retire the cable, which was always getting in the way, or tangled up with the camera strap…

Lowther Church...


Friday, 5 June 2015

Seeing...

Photography’s been a bit lacklustre since my Hebridean trip; I’m just not seeing the pictures like I’m accustomed to. It’s usually effortless… just grab the camera and go. Maybe I’m trying too hard. So many things can get in the way of seeing clearly: ideas, memories, impatience, feeling under pressure, feeling rushed, having targets, needing to get results, feeling under the weather, etc. A camera can help us to see… or it can hinder; it depends on how we use it. Is it a barrier… or a window on the world?

Jervaulx Abbey...


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Dales...

Had a good day at the cricket, even though England subsided tamely after tea. Now I’m off to Wensleydale and Swaledale, to do some pix. The weather is good, and I’m hoping the wildflowers will be out by now. I need to get back into picture-taking mode…

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

England vs New Zealand...

Saw both ospreys on the nest at Loch Garten yesterday; tried to spot a crested tit, but no luck. Siskins on the bird-table were spectacularly green - the colour of green fruit gums, but brighter. Drove from the Highlands to Leeds in one go… through wind, hail and rain. I’m going to have a day at the cricket in Headingley. England may just be holding out for a draw, but it will probably be my only opportunity to see international cricket this summer. It will only cost £5 to get into the ground for day 5, so I hope Headingley fills up with other cricket-loving cheapskates. May get some good pix too…