Well we’re at the end of those surreal two weeks during which the world seems slightly different. Christmas for us begins with going to see the pantomime at the back-end of November and culminates with New Year. We hadn’t intended going out on New Year’s Eve but a power cut at tea time plunged our street into darkness, so we had a couple in the White Swan hoping that the leccy would be back on by the time we rolled home. En route back there an engineer brightly informed us that though they were working flat-out they were unlikely restore our supply until after 9pm, and he kindly offered us a free torch. We ended up going to bed and falling asleep until light was restored and we saw 2015 in with BBC2. The stroke of midnight was the point where I realised that possibly, just possibly, I should have married someone my own age.
“I do miss Kenneth McKellar and Moria Anderson,” I lamented to Heather. “New Year just isn’t the same.”
“Oh,” came the innocent reply. “Who are they then?” You mark my words Heather will one day feel exactly the same about Jools Holland.
Since Thursday the electricity engineers have been working to establish permanent repairs, necessitating in further breaks in supply but during daylight. As we had a couple of good books we didn’t particularly care. We’ve especially enjoyed two thrillers by a new author called Paula Daly, ‘What Kind of Mother Are You?’ and ‘Keep Your Friends Close’. Pager turners as they say.
My Christmas present was an SLR camera – a joint gift from Heather and the rest of my family. My brother Roger is thirteen years older than me, and by the time I was twelve he was teaching physics at Whickham Comprehensive School. As an additional subject he taught some of his sixth formers how to develop and print black and white photographs. I used to go and stay with him at his house in Rowlands Gill, and he would black out his bathroom and teach me how to process and print photos too. I took up the hobby enthusiastically, and my Dad, cottoning on to the fact that this occupation had the potential to keep me out of my mother and his hair for hour upon blissful hour, and that this must be encouraged at all costs, willingly built me a dark room in the garden shed. All of my pocket-money went into photography, and I continued the hobby throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Of course in these days of camera phones everyone carries a camera most of the time, but it was an unusual hobby in 1973, particularly for a kid. I didn’t go anywhere without my camera even then.
In 1981 I met my best friend Irene and she asked me to teach her photography rudiments. I did so, but I would become exasperated by her questions concerning the various chemicals and how they worked. Because I’m incredibly stupid, certainly too stupid to ever query anything, I’ve always been content just to potter along. For Christ’s sake you stick the bit of paper in the developer and it develops. I learnt to deal with her curiosity by always keeping one step ahead. Whenever Irene asked a question I’d pretend I needed to go to the loo, look up the answer in my book, and then return with an authoritative reply. She’s since told me that this used to impress her no end, but she worried a lot about my bladder.
Irene and I toured the countryside carting with us zoom lenses and tripods, and the photographic results would be turned into slide shows. which we egoistically billed as “Slide Spectaculars,” and inflicted them upon any audience whose governing committee was unguarded enough to book us and pay travelling expenses. However at the 1988 Tall Ships Race in Newcastle I realised that I simply wasn’t enjoying the event because I was lugging two stone of camera equipment about. There was also a little misunderstanding when the police were called to arrest us because we thought we’d have a walk over the roof of HMS Calliope to bet a better picture of a ship moored on the other side of the Tyne. Thus we called it a day and since then I’ve used compact cameras. Over the last year or two I decided it was something I’d like to get back into, so I’ve got some smart new equipment, just not as heavy as before. Incidentally, my arthritic knees and I often have to walk past HMS Calliope, and every time we do I stare at the roof in wonderment; Just how the hell did I ever get up there?
My new camera gear has already had a few outings, including to St. Jame’s Park last Thursday where a steward ordered me to put it away. Not wanting to be arrested again I did as he asked and contented myself with a couple of snaps of Heather and our friend Cahl (over from Australia) during half time.
Facebook can have its downsides, one of them being friend requests from people you haven’t heard from since you were twenty five, and who, quite frankly, you hoped you would never hear from again. The wonderful thing about it though, is getting back together with people whom you very much do want to see, and find out about the lives they’ve led during the time since you last met. This was the case last week when Heather and I went to see my friend from school Trish, her sister Eunice, and their Mum. Forty odd years shrank away as we reminisced about our time at Ryton Comp. Do you remember those old flat cassette tape recorders? I was desperate to own one, and so, fed up with my banging on about it, parental permission was granted for me to raid my post office account. I set about producing my own “radio” shows, basically just tape recordings of the 12 year old me chattering excitedly into the microphone and commentating on whatever was going on at the time. Much to my chagrin, not only does Trish remember these recordings, but she can also recite all of the words to a song I wrote and performed myself called “Time”. It ended with the sound of my alarm clock going off. I never really say on here what it is that I actually do for a living, but suffice to say it’s not singing.
Perhaps this is because I didn’t enter myself into the Ryton Music Festival. The 2015 syllabus is available now. Keep an eye on Ryton Festival and Ryton Festival Facebook. I’ve signed on as a patron (it isn’t expensive) and I’m very excited about witnessing budding local talent over the next few weeks. You never know who it might turn out.