My hand is slowly recovering from the surgery of a fortnight ago, although it is still quite difficult to achieve the careful manipulation which is required for such tasks as typing, writing Christmas cards, driving and washing up! Whilst this means that I have to be driven to all those endless Christmas get-togethers and visits to the pub (at which, I am happy to report, determined physiotherapy has already resulted in my ability to lift a pint glass), it also means that my end-of-year blogging has been, at best sparse, and at worst as fecund as the generosity of spirit of a Daily Mail editorial. For this I apologise and promise to improve my productivity (and my similes) in the New Year.
As always, breaks in routine provide opportunities for allowing my imagination to wander down slightly different byways; and I have become a little obsessed by a small batch of old medium format negatives I recently bought on eBay. I have no idea who they belonged to or where they came from, now have I any clues as to the identity of the subjects: but in restoring some of these old photographs such ignorance can be a kind of bliss. My guess as to the period most of the negatives were shot is the immediate post-war years, and they were obviously taken by someone who had a significant degree of photographic skills (anyone who went to the trouble of keeping their negatives is likely to have been a keen photographer).
One of the great joys of working with old negatives is that you can bring to them all the digital tools of the Photoshop age, tools that would have been beyond the imagination of the amateur photographer of fifty or seventy-five years ago. As an old negative appears on the scanning screen after probably half a century of dark slumber, you almost feel as if you are bringing something back to life, waking an image up from a lengthy hibernation. You look into faces that have been unlooked at for generations and read dreams that have already run their course. There is something rather magical about it : especially when you are sat at home with a bandaged hand and only a limited supply of real ale for company.
So I would like to leave you with a final image, one which seems to sum up everything I love about old photographs. And with it I would like to wish each and every one of you a most enjoyable Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year.