Something else hauls me through the air

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All Hallow's Eve rainbowFlyKite on Hampstead Heath

November: on the Welsh border there’s a rainbow for Hallowmas, and a flock of birds takes flight. Kites and fiery leaves fly through the air on Hampstead Heath.

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A straight run in the other direction

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Anybody who also thinks the above quote is quite inspired might enjoy this collection of films about changing London.

Because Britain also produced Michael Gove and the Daily Mail, I am in no mood to celebrate. Instead, today we are going to Paris. There are scooters, trees in bloom and, for a moment, you might escape.

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Waiting in the wings…

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Sometimes you look up and wonder what the dog is thinking.

Perhaps it was the lamp cables, or the glow from the fire, but I saw a wistful, unassuming little character, waiting in the wings of the theatre… perhaps the props man, a star without a stage waiting his turn…

‘That Weimaraner’s always goin’ to steal my light…’

Synchronised dreamscapes

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Tim Walker - Devon cream

Postcards from an exhibition of Tim Walker‘s photographs, which was held over the summer at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle. All the images were displayed in light boxes, so the darkened room created a night-time setting to make the experience entirely dream-like. I like the above image particularly, because it must have been projecting quietly in my mind when I was transferring my parents’ slides from the 1950s here. It’s also called Devon Cream, which I didn’t know until I drew it out for this post. Synchronicity indeed…

Tim Walker - It rained outside

The above image is called It rained outside so we camped indoors.

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Snow in Summer (above).

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And another hunting image – Flying Saucer with members of the West Percy Hunt. All these photographs are constructed, using props, and are not the product of digital manipulation… to quote the essay, “To reveal the ambition of photography as an integrated, collective undertaking where the pressing of the shutter on the camera is the closing moment in the creative process”.

I’m not sure how many exhibitions work so successfully, when small elements sit quietly in your mind and then crystallise a particular moment in your own history – my parents, Devon, and the 1950s – a time before I was born. I’ve looked at my parents’ slides many times over the years. They’re blueprints in my memory of a time I never knew, acting like gentle magnets, as I drift along.

An Exmoor September

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Tangled wood: Horner, one of England’s largest oak forests.

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Coming down like the wolf on the fold, cohorts gleaming purple and gold…

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Church of All Saints, Selworthy. A gleaming monument from across the valley, an iced confection when face-to-face.

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A little too much confection for some, but it’s too pure not to be enjoyed…

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Exmoor is even more special because the ugly signage frenzy has yet to reach it. Black and white metal-embossed roadsigns abound, as do National Trust signs of the same vintage – beautiful, timeless lettering and craftmanship.

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Or this plaque on a seat at Webbers Post, originally a viewpoint once used by a local huntsman to watch his hounds.

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Memento Mori in Stoke Pero churchyard, although he didn’t follow his wife so soon, having another 20 years in which to wander free…

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Now to savour the time-worn signwriter’s art. Make the most of it while it lasts…

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North Devon, 1950s

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In the 1950s my parents moved all the way from Yorkshire to North Devon and bought a new bungalow on the edge of Tiverton. Not long after they went to the railway station to collect a puppy, a cocker spaniel who had travelled by train, in a wicker basket, from a breeder somewhere up country. I can’t imagine if the basket was shut or closed on the journey, but assume the breeders knew what they were doing for the time.

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The puppy was called Sherry, after the drink which matched her fur, but her kennel club name was the grander Gatehampton Caroline (although no-one would have any interest in dog shows).

These slides were taken on a camera which never worked by the time I was born, but I loved the beautiful brown leather case (which led to me choosing my current camera over ones which were probably much better value…) Taking photographs was much harder in the 1950s, and I’ve found the guide to ‘successful photography’ which must have been bought in an attempt to make sense of it.

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Some of Sherry’s walks in these days look impossibly idyllic, and this picture of Bickleigh looks like a stage set. The blossom at the end of the road looks as artificial as Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson’s cottage in the 1940s film Random Harvest (I know this because it was my grandad’s favourite film so have watched it again). Here’s a hastily found Youtube clip, and the scene is around 8 minutes in…

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It looks a particularly lovely moment in time, but my father could never settle in one place and Hollywood films are artificial for a reason, though I can’t imagine Yorkshire stock being under any illusions about this.

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North Devon and Exmoor is still, and always has been, organised around hunting and shooting. I’m not sure what Sherry is making of this sign, but on Boxing Day she may have gone into Tiverton to see the spectacle of the hunt meet. I’m sort of ambivalent about hunting, despite a gut reaction of repulsion, because there’s something primeval and ancient about it: a dreadful fascination. These photos from 1958 look so vivid I can imagine every sight and sound in the town square, and the colour of the winter light is beautiful.

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And then perhaps another walk over Tarr Steps, washed away and replaced time and again over the centuries…

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