Difficult to get enthusiastic about the physical exterior of the NEC, the national exhibition centre conveniently located in the centre of the UK and so accessible by rail and car without too much difficulty. Nor really much to enthuse over at The Photography Show 2017 inside Hall 5. Some talks about techniques, motivational speakers and many gadgets and hardware. There are stands of the makers of prints and then the exhibitions of finished prints which have been laboured over by fellow photographers. It seems a pity that so little attention is given to them but images have become cheap, not just in cost to produce.
Was it worth the day trip outside the M25? Yes I flashed my card a couple of times in response to some juicy discounts but it's the chats with people that have been the value in my trip, chats with suppliers, face to face meetings with a couple of friends and serendipitous browsing which has maybe stimulated some ideas to move my photography forwards.
The glint of the copper coloured panels on the side of a neighbour’s CBR600FW springs to life in the sunshine of the morning of the Equinox in Barons Court. Not the glint of the Wagner’s Rheinmaidens’ gold in the Rhine but for me a reminder of a powerful allure.
The allure that I first saw one spring dawn on my way to a breakfast television studio in 1998, which led me to buy the exact same model and colour, then leathers to match. Not at all my first bike, that 600cc bike took me to the Swiss Alps, Tuscany and above all to discover Provence and Marseille. In between trips, the orange bike took me faithfully to studios to work on major national television programmes.
I had chosen the registration mark, that bike meant a lot to me after riding it for so many adventures. I was considering retiring it and holding on to it as a classic. But it never came back from a ride across the Northumberland Pennines in July 2013, written off by a collision.
My CBR600FW has gone, now also my red CBR600RR (in much happier circumstances), so seeing again the alluring copper colours of that bike is simple nostalgia. Isn’t it spooky that there's one so similar as mine parked on the way to my local tube station!
Rest in Peace R669HGX.
A short spin to Cassis to enjoy the spring sunshine!
Midday pause travelling in the Alpes-de-Haut-Provence. This is St-Étienne-les-Orgues and maybe you wouldn’t make a journey specially to come here. The population only just exceeds the altitude, 703 m. Michelin’s green guide mentions the church and the town as a XVI and XVII century centre of production of herbal remedies grown on the slopes of the Signal de Lure. These days that means just lavender. There’s a jazz festival in the summer but otherwise it’s a quiet place.
White bike, white leathers riding through hills of limestone bleached white by the strong sunshine, plus the ever-present distraction of white snowy mountains in the far distance, the Allos range above Barcelonnette.Bonding with my new bike.. riding out from Marseille to the fine, clear roads of the Alpes of Haut Provence. Not La vie en rose as Edith Piaf sang her words but much the same story, just the colour is white.
Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose ...
Invited to a club day at the newish track, the Pôle Méchanique d’Alès in the Cévennes; an eye-opening introduction into the self-contained and passionate world of the track riders and their supporting mechanics etc. Self-contained because at least some of the outfits live in their motor-caravans and travel from track to track. I first touched upon this world at the Bol d’Or 24-hour race on its return to Ricard track at Le Castellet on 2015.
Cranes building the new development over the railway line on the boundary between at Earls Court, Brompton and Hammersmith in West London. This crane, massive even by London crane standards, is the solution adopted to spread the load to avoid damage during construction to the rail lines of the Overground, District and Piccadilly lines underneath.
This picture’s about awe, the huge size of the steel engineering being used to construct this new “village” within the urban environment.
I’ve looked after this bottle for more than thirty years since my Father gave it to me, unceremoniously saying “Keep this a little while, it’ll improve with age”. His gift wasn’t linked to anything specific but I now realise that buying a number of these bottles had been his own way of marking his sixtieth birthday.
Shap is a Cumbrian byword for “cold and bleak” - the highest point on the A6 trunk road over Shap is 426 m. altitude. The area marks a sharp change in the geology which is exploited by several prominent quarries each with different specialities,
Shap granite is famous for large grains of reflective minerals, Shap pink granite looks good polished up and constructed as a kitchen worktop, Shap Blue granite is used as an aggregate for road surfaces. Exposed within this small area there are almost the full range of rocks found in the Lake District.
Shap Wells is a feature where the Blea Beck falls over a geological unconformity, a time jump in the geological layers. There’s a conifer plantation, habitat for a thriving colony of red squirrels, undoubtedly an attraction for the hotel in this remote location.
Hiking on the frosty ground at Wet Sleddale, the high valley of the river Lowther; I enjoyed my picnic lunch on a boulder of Shap granite with typically large crystals of pink orthoclase feldspars and quartz, comparable in size to a 20p piece. This reservoir is part of the complex of water works feeding Haweswater and, ultimately, the water taps in urban Manchester, 100 miles to the south. It’s home to a variety of water birds as well as red squirrels and otters.
The Brighton Philharmonic gave us much sparkle and snap this New Years Eve afternoon in the Brighton Dome Concert Hall, a full house despite fog and train difficulties outside. The Brighton Dome predates the popularity of the Strauss dynasty in Vienna and most of the music in this programme, its Regency curves were converted to a fashionable concert hall which opened in 1866 and was refitted in Art Deco style in 1935 and refitted most recently in 1999-2002.
Stephen Bell’s acrobatic conducting style brought us a fizzing Entrance March from Johann Strauss’s operetta of 1885, The Gypsy Baron. Much precision and enthusiasm from the back row, the brass, percussion and tympani, which was matched from the front desk with fine string ensemble led by principal violinist and leader, John Bradbury.