She sells sea shells in her sea store
Of course it wasn't all cockles and cock-a-tails. Long periods at sea shoved about in the community petri dish.
I saw a road sign today I've never seen before 'Adverse Camber'. A good phrase. Abject camber, I expanded as the bend worked against me. There were a few of those alright. The worst of times. Barely a third of the way around Africa and already the ship was leaning the wrong way to me.
In Walvis Bay I'd been plotting an 80km cycle along the Kalahari Highway for a beer in the last big town before the Angolan border 1000km beyond that. But when it came to it I didn't have the heart for it. All the way to Namibia just to be irritable and disinclined. I managed to drag myself down the gangway for a run with the Mju before sailing. A deserted pier guano-caked was all I deserved that day. Runners know all about camber and nasty pulls too.
I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it.
Norwegians are fabulous. And what makes them so fabulous is that they don't know that they are. Or if they do they don't let on. They point a lofty pragmatism at most things and are generally nice and tall. And just when you begin to suspect that they are too sensible for their own boots you notice that their eyes are grinning so you're not sure where you are. And they live in one of the most extraordinary landscapes in the world. It's dark half the time and the beer's a bit pricey. Oh and they do terrible things with knitwear and mustaches. But not all of them it has to be said.
And half the year it's not dark. If you go far enough north into the land of the midnight sun, it simply refuses to get dark at all. It's thrilling and rather handy, but also throws one right out of kilter. When we sailed north and the sun ceased to disappear the ship's community would slip into an eerie un-routine. People fail to go to bed. Passengers dander about decks at all sorts of ungodly hours. Often dressed for bed. Which only adds to the confusion for everyone. Most inconvenient too for the Pakistani sailors trying to hose the place down in their itchy sweaters.
As for below decks. Well I have to tell you that's a restless place at the best of times. All sorts of comings and goings. Stir in relentless daylight and it's a pot boiler down there. Anywhere there's a port hole there is sure to be a good time that refuses to extinguish. Crew wander alleyways not quite sure what to do with themselves. Avoiding good times or looking for one. It just seems a terrible shame to go to sleep.
By day we point at waterfalls in big anoraks and shake our heads at impossible log cabins perched on the foreshore of fjords.
Nossi Be, Madagascar. The pasajeros come back aboard tutting and form long queues to complain and pass the time before dinner. The Mud! They bunch together to mutter. The Uncomfortable Buses! That tender ride was far too choppy. Those bloody people had no shoes! An Inadequate Lunch Altogether chime a huddle.
There There we say brightly. Soon be in Singapore.
It's a story by Frank Collymore from The Oxford Book Of Caribbean Short Stories. Is it true? I don't know. There's a little bit of truth in nearly everything isn't there. Perhaps in this little chattel house. Out the road from Mullins Bay in Barbados, heading for Speightstown. I pass it and wonder who lives there every time. Such a preposterously small abode. One day on local leave we're flip-flopping back to Bird and Delias. I'm admiring the blue house as we approach. Suddenly a preposterously tall man throws his bicycle against the white pickets and let's himself in under the tiny front door. I'm quite thrilled. The tallest man in the West Indies lives in the smallest house in Barbados. Now what were the chances of that happening. I want to knock his door and demand to be asked in for tea so that I can look at him properly.
Chattel House is Bajan batter for small moveable wooden houses that date back to the plantation days. Chattel being moveable property of course. Assembled without nails and set on blocks rather than anchored to the ground they could be disassembled quickly by their working class occupants in the event of a dispute with the landowner. Then moved right along to the next place flat packed on the back of a cart. The original Ikea. There are wonderful chattel houses all over the island. Often carefully tended in terrible colours. Some people were meant to live alone and some Little Sheds were meant to move along.
Later we are chewing the jaw with Bird and Delia on the warm drive. The Palm trees look down sternly. Then like the fall out from a bomb blast that's a hundred miles away there is a quiet implosion in the air pressure. A swoosh you feel rather than hear. Instinctively we all look up and silently see two unseasonably large blue birds fly right overhead taking the warm evening air with them. Time stops. It's a pair of parrots they tell us. Off to who knows where. Then goodness me if the tallest man in Barbados doesn't cycle up the path and disappear around the back yard. It was turning into rather an unusual day altogether.
Whilst we're cross-processing our film's I remembered my outdoor barbers from Acapulco oh about a hundred years ago.
I had to run the slide film through the C41 on board when the boss wasn't about as he didn't like it. He caught me pushing this one. That was another 16 stone of Australian Ire my way then. He didn't like much to be fair.
There's Bergmans film of course, and Susan Sontag called the second section of her seminal tome On Photography "America, Seen through Photographs, Darkly" I've lost count of the copies of this book that I've thrust upon wouldbe wantobe photographers, urgently believing that all photographers should read it. Although written in 1977 and imperfect, it is nonetheless striking and relevant.
Sontag's "chronic voyeuristic relation" that photography causes society to have with the world could not be more pertinent as we wave our mobile phones at reality. Says the photographer stalking.
Photo; Agia Galini, Crete. Cross-processed slide film.
Oft quoted from Corinthians and interpreted that humans have an imperfect perception of reality. I'd say we make a decent stab at it considering what's thrown at us. And what we throw at each other.
And some days we have a painfully lucid grasp of reality and all its grim carnival.
Barbados, West Indies. The Four Square rum factory. It's my favourite rum. Spiced and Just Perfect with a fist of lime wedges and ice. It was late in the day and we were the only people there. There didnt even appear to be anyone making rum. Certainly noone that took issue with us wandering about the place. The light was about to fall right out of the Caribbean sky that way it does and was Just Lovely. It's all about light.
Pride, like a goldfish, flashed a sudden fin
Squinting over my green tea, there's been a development. Investigation reveals a breach. I'm trying to think of the word I want. It isnt rip or vent. Thesaurus comes to the aid of the party with rent.
The phrase 'now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party' has always been in my head - from my Mother, along with 'the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog' Typing exercises that have become confused up in my memory with the childrens books we read. I almost remember an Aessop's fable about good men assisting a party. I can almost see the illustrations. I feel sure I recall the tale of the fox and the dog. With a clackclack Clack clackclackclack accompaniment.
As it's been a morning of etymology and typography already I've discovered that the phrase has fallen into clackclack vernacular because it was lifted from the morning's newspaper (Wisconsin Union Telegraph Office 1867) during a demonstration of the new typing machine. Which is funny because the illustration I have in my head is of skinny tall men in dark suits arriving to murmur amongst streamers and gauzy summer frocks to chinks of of tall glasses on a lawn. Not portly politicos at all.
Look at their little feet! Amsterdam. Never liked that pretty city. Seedy diaspora and sorry lives lived under the blink of neon. Once I cycled away for the day. With a book and a picnic and found a wonderful park. I can't remember why it was so wonderful, but you know what, I think there may be a story scribbled about it somewhere. I might look it out. In fact I might make that the next order of business. Instead of wittering on about the pictures, I'll go back to the writing and then see if i can find a picture to match.
I like it when people make an effort. Nothing schmancy, you know, just a simple matter from the heart. Puts me in mind of the naive painters. Prize bulls with outlandishly delicious flanks hinds briskets & shanks. Such as thon beast from the 19th C. English school. I like to think of grown men in long aprons somberly assembling that agricultural ensemble.
Death of a NaturalistApproached by nature bearing something I greet with repulsed fascination I am always put in mind of Seamus Heaneys Death of a Naturalist. I seem to recall clumsy essays about adult awakening and a passage from innocence. Mostly what I recall though is that the poem perfectly captured the idle introspection and sunny back fields of a County Down adolescence silently buzzing with midges. And poking something pretty with a stick. Then finding something repugnant under it. So much so I could barely contain myself from bursting upright in class and blurting excitedly I Know What He Means Mrs O'Toole! From jampots full of jellied specks to slime kings blunt heads farting.
Some red onions bolted in my cupboard which is a great gardeners word altogther. I can barely contain myself from typing 'some red onions bolted from my cupboard' Something of an optimist I plant them outside to see what might happen next. And they grew. And they grew. And they grow. And every day I observe thick green shafts which have erected another two inches in the night. A head appears, I think to flower. But this morning I peered closer and recoiled with glee at a fat pod of seeds, a shiny taut sack ready to explode.
On the pier
Some weeks are just one long game of Keepy Upsies. We're so fried here at FAI I tried to think of the simplest shot I could post. St Helena in the Atlantic. It's not even near Africa. They pickled poor Napolean and sent him off in a casket of liquor. I think we went there for the Very Old Tortoise, and the Big Set Of Steps. At the top of which Gibbs and I found this wall. With muddy football prints. That's all she wrote.
Fine Art Imaging. Keeping the ball in the air.
Wee RabinBird hops about then throws itself over the fence into next doors. "Dezzie, Dezzie, wee rabin" says her. That's nice, I think, minding my own lettuce. Sometimes it's not all god's own garden over the way though. Every few weeks The Racket will go off and go on for three or four days. Vile things are flung, the things that people should never say to each other. Relentless, The Racket. Doesnt let up. Doors smashed, whore's named, desperate things vowed to. I want to go around and knock their front door and remind them that one day we'll all be dead. But sure what would be the point whilst they're locked in the mortal combat of a marriage. They do the garden together on the Sundays that arent inclement, he works nights there's never been any children. She doesn't drive. They giggle away he finds her funny and I like that bit. Big man guffaws. She chuckles with satisfaction and pretends not to know her own wit. Rackets to Rabins. The things people do to each other.
Fine Art Imaging. Creative License
Hey there you Down ThereI'll tell you now I've sunflowers on my mind again because I've just planted almost 200 around the place from last years harvest. I don't think next door will be pleased with the burgeoning jungle they run a neat lawn. My seven-footers peered over their wall and picked on their begonias.
Could do with a bit of a paddle and a laugh in me Swimmin' Sari meself. I was reminded of this series of images because a lovely lady was in the gallery today after it. Her husband grew up in India. Glorious place, we agreed.