This photograph contains two much loved and much valued friends, neither of which are now with me.
In the background is Keith my beetle. Named after a character in Mike Leigh's film Nuts in May, this car has served me well, and though I have only owned him a short time, it feels like much longer - the last two years being full of all sorts of significant events and changes. It do feels like longer because my last beetle was almost the same - if a few years older. Keith felt like not do much a different car, but a reincarnation of Oscar, my previous one. Sadly missed. But replaceable.
Which brings me to the other subject in the photograph. Abigail the cat has been with me for almost twenty years. In 1992 I started my first teaching job at Newbiggin Middle school, and one if my pupils, Jen Ridley, said her cad had given birth to a litter of kittens and they needed good homes. I was recently married and living in Lynemouth with Antonia and my cat Garfield. We jumped at the chance to get a kitten. After a very sad false start with Emily, a kitten who died of stomach complications after a few days of adopting her, we took in Abigail, her sister.
Abigail has been there in the periphery vision if my daily life for half of my existence. She has always been very affectionate and vocal. As a young cat she enjoyed annoying much older Garfield in much the same way young Sparky teased her in her old age.
Also as a young cat she would carry around a small length of chain that came from a whistle I got from York Railway Museum - and this chain would go everywhere in Abigail's mouth, swinging and glinting as she trotted from room to room, and frequently left in her food bowl. She would even fetch it if thrown.
As life went on, and in 1995 we moved house to Newbiggin, Garfield grew older and the two cats never really became close or very friendly toward each other as we hoped they would. so when in 2000 Garfield died (a very sad day indeed and I found myself unable to speak to the vet to make the appointment to bring her in to be put down) we wondered if Abigail would like a little friend.
Ginger came along and layer Sparky - both boys and both considered themselves superior to Abigail, the thin old cat. But she was always really in charge - she just didn't care to exercise her right to show it.
Over the past 5 years or so, she has been very reclusive, very seldom venturing out if doors, and living almost exclusively in our kitchen and utility rooms. Last year, her right eye became clouded and infected, and after a spectacular incident involving what seemed like 6 litres of blood, her damaged eye was removed and she became all the more reclusive after the trauma of that operation at such an advanced age - then 18.
Then earlier this year things changed. She suddenly became a little more adventurous and would ask to be out, and enjoy lying in the sun. She would also spend more time with the children and in the living rooms and even on occasion upstairs. It was like she was trying to relive a memory of her younger years.
Then last week, becoming more and more croaky and frail, she changed again, and went into hiding. She preferred the out of the way places, behind the settee. Then on Friday she asked to be outside, and went straight into the garage and refused to come out. Early Saturday morning I checked on her and she was very weak, so u carried her inside, despite her feeble protesting, and put her next to food and water, but she wasn't interested at all. Her last journey was to her little bed, where later in the day she died in her sleep. She looked calm, relaxed and happy. She will be sadly missed. I can still hear her shrill miaow in my mind - the greeting I have heard on entering the kitchen for a good deal of my life. Bye bye xxx
Once upon a time there was a small fluffy kitten. It was a white fluffy Persian that could fly. It's name was Cheese Plinth.
One day Cheese went on a walk out side in the park. He went into a park then was mugged by some weird people. They were singing the Lloyds TSB tune thing while stamping on his tiny chicken flavoured kitty glasses. He later found out who had sent them. It was Voldemort. About five minutes after that he found out they had actually been sent to stamp on Harrys glasses, so Voldemort and Cheese Plinth became friends, daily sending Lloyds TSB people to stamp on glasses.
These are the names of my imaginary children from Catalonia that I have collected from old stamp museum. I keep them warm with hot juice and one day they will have cried enough to evoke into the pepper pots they are inside.
I am human Scottish hybrid.
As I write, I'm sitting on the floor at the back of a conference suite in the County Hotel, Newcastle. there are about 50 managers here for a corporate briefing, and my job is to sneak around and take candid photographs of the event for a couple of hours. I like doing this.
I like being here, but being outside of the event too. Most of the documentary jobs I do allow me to access all areas, but not be a real insider. I have to capture the mood of the people and place, and this is often best done if they forget I'm here.
Most people can ignore me - as they are far more interested in their event. But there is a marginal group of people at every event who at one end of the spectrum try to hide from the camera, and at the other end, seek me out and play up to it.
I like to take shots that are natural and tell a story. to find an expression or composition that helps you feel like you're part of the group, and relate the message of the organisation. not always easy.
Lighting and the ambiance of the venue help - and hinder - to a very great extent. Very often I'm taking photos in dark, dreary rooms lit by fluorescent tubes. Not good. My favourite is a strong light source from one wall - particularly rooms with one wall of windows letting in natural light. That let's me choose the angle if the light, mostly from behind or the side. front lit subjects usually look flat and uninteresting. I love the halo of light s back lit subject has, and sometimes you can catch sun rays through a dusty atmosphere. Like the old advert for finger of fudge.
Today is ok - nice room, could be lighter, but one wall is all stained glass windows. Nice. Now u just need to find the shy folks off guard, and avoid the camera hoggers till they aren't expecting it.
When I was young there was a girl in my class. I can't remember what she was called. I was making a plasticine sculpture when she started annoying me about something I also can't remember. She eventually annoyed me so much that I grabbed a big lump of the plasticine and shoved into her hair. After that I covered it some other bits of her hair then started kneading it in. She had to have that section of hair cut out to get it out. I deeply regret that act and if I knew her contact details I would email her a long letter of apology. I advise you not to copy my childish actions.
A tidy workplace makes a tidy mind. I'm sure that's not a proper saying but there may be a similar one. Anyway. I believe that to be creative and that, my head needs to be focussed on the work in hand, and I don't know about you, but I can't work in a place that needs sorting out. And for weeks my office had been in dire need of sorting out. So today, after completing some essential updates, I got stuck in and tidied it up. I can't wait to go to work here tomorrow!!
My photography work has recently taken in a couple of very enjoyable and interesting jobs relating to photographing bands and musicians - something I really enjoy doing. It's always good to photograph people related to entertainment or performance, because for once, they understand that they need to be photographed and to look good.
Most people view being photographed as a vain ordeal which they must endure, and it's actually all rather embarassing. However, those in the public eye need the images to feed to their public, and so the levels of co-operation and feedback are usually much higher.
Last week I was at The Cluny doing the stills photography for a special gig by singer-songwriter Evan Dando, from The Lemonheads. He's a friend of my mate Clive Jackson, whose video production company was filming the gig for a forthcoming DVD. The day involved a signing event at a local record shop, then on to the venue for sound check and gig later in the evening.
The Cluny is an interesting venue, and usually throws up some good shot opportunities - I have photographed a few events there, including some local bands, bigger names, and even the famous Jeepers Peepers burlesque performances on one occasion. The Evan Dando crowd was a large and friendly bunch, and the evening was a superb gig that began with Evan asking me if he could use my iPhone to tune his guitar, and me snapping away at him in the tiny dressing room with Clive and a couple of the other film crew present. I only learned after the gig that Evan doesn't usually allow people to photograoh him offstage like this, so was chufed that he felt so comfortable with us!
I'd never heard much of his music, but really enjoyed the gig, which was 110 minutes of outstanding acoustic guitar songs, with intelligent, thought provoking lyrics. Evan doesn't perform over here all that often, and his fan clubs were present, hanging on every note - he was a little nervous he told me, but the gig soon thawed him and the crowd were so enthusiastic, it was wonderful to be part of such an intimate, family-like gathering.
I was pleased with the shots, and can't wait to see the resulting DVD once it has been edited. More news on this in due course.
The other musical photoshoot was for folk-pop group Prelude, who are probably most famous for their hits in the seventies and eighties After the Goldrush, and Platinum Blonde. They are still together and doing what they do best, and a friend of mine has recently taken them on in a managerial role, so we need to get them promoted and back into things in a big way, including new album and publicity materials.
I set up a photoshoot in three locations, a run down farmhouse, some woodland, and the rocks and beach on the Northumberland coast. They and I really enjoyed the day, and the result was a great portfolio of shots that will serve the web site, CD cover and inlays, posters and any other promotional materials they may need.
That evening, we went with them to a local gig, and heard them perform live - which was wonderful. Excellent close harmonies, and the guitar and bass playing were top notch. Proud to be part of their publicity machine, and looking forward very much to hearing the resulting album.
Colin Woodcock Colin Krusty Woodcock - potter and painter extraordinaire - dweller of Tiree and bearded man.
Ruby Riley Ruby is a writer and blogger who makes what I do in this blog seem as tame, boring and facile as it actually is. She's from Hollywood and so is probably unimpressed by the concept of celebrity, and sunny days.
Mr Andrew Mavin Singer/songwriter and adopted Belgian Mavin has a blog here that tells the world proudly about his shameful musical activities, for which he is wanted by InterPol.
The Liz Teacher, painter, woman and rodent-murderer Liz goes to church regularly.
John Cooper His name is John, he's got glasses on, he sometimes surfs, he hates the Smurfs, he cooks in pans, and has big hands. Probably.
Tim 'The Enchanter' Sokell Tim is a friend, colleague, mentor and Norwayphile. He is an wise man, and we would do well to listen closely to all he has to say.
Andy Curtis The original and best - after 40 years as the top internet blogger, find out here what started it all, and why the rest of us will struggle to catch up with a genius, legend, and quite possibly, the finest intellect the world - any world - has ever known.