Thursday, November 18, 2021

Around The World In Eighty Words : 10. BASKET

The Story So Far …..

It started as a harmless question during one of those long lockdown days: was it possible to travel virtually around the world in just eighty word changes to my what3words geolocation code and return to my starting point?. For a companion I had my six year old labradoodle, Lucy, and seeing as it is a virtual trip I allow her to speak occasionally (although she never makes much sense). My starting point was the what3word location code for my desk at home – /// – and so far our travels have taken us to such diverse places as America, Australia, Libya, Ireland – and precariously balancing on a floating plank in the middle of the North Sea. Somewhere along the line, we invented a rule that we take it in turns at choosing a new word which will take us to a new, unknown, location. Our last stop was in the middle of the desert ion Turkmenistan (///ironing.wink.quite) at which point I chose the next of our eighty words – basket.

“Can you stop whistling that tune?” If there is one thing worse than a talking dog, it’s a whistling dog. Lucy ignored me and continued with a somewhat tuneless rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. “And as I have already told you, there are no lions around here – I’ve looked it up”. Lucy continued with her whistling – “..In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight”. She was feeling pleased with herself as it had been my choice of word that had propelled us into the Bundas municipality of the Moxico province of Angola. In our quest to go around the world in just eighty word changes to our what3words geolocation code, we had come to ///ironing.basket.quite which was a kind of scrubby plain with not many people and a lot of zebras and wildebeest.

Angola, sadly, is as famous for its long running civil war – which came to an end in 2002 – as most other things. The country itself, and Moxico province in which we were, are equally famous for one of the most destructive and terrifying legacies of that war – land mines. Someone has calculated that there are still between 10 and 20 million unexploded land mines in situ in this wretched country, a couple for every living citizen. Each day, each week, each month they provide a harrowing reminder that the price of war can be as enduring as the metal caskets that were buried in the fields, along the paths, and by the roads. As Lucy and I walked across the open plain we might have been risking our lives much more than when we flirted with the murder capitals of Honduras, or the deserts of Turkmenistan.

But, Lucy and I were lucky. We inhabit a virtual world – a world in which children maimed by exploding land mines can be conveniently sidestepped, a world in which poverty can be forgotten about, a world in which deforestation is rarely seen. And so we walk on, trying to spot wild animals, or, even better, a decent hotel with rooms for the night. So in this virtual world of ours there  were zebras quietly grazing, wildebeests getting wild over nothing in particular, and the odd hyena casting a curious glance or two in the direction of my travelling companion. I tried to distract her with information.

 If you look this area up on Google, you see it is famous for the Tsessebe, which is a large antelope. We watched one or two pass by but Lucy was unimpressed. “They seem to have far too many “s”’s and “e”’s in their name for their own good, she remarked as she kept a weathered eye on a gathering pack of hyenas.

I delved back into Google and did an image search for Bundas Municipality, Angola, and then quickly wished that I hadn’t! (Don’t try this at home if you are of a nervous disposition!). I managed to clear the search results before Lucy managed to see it. She was more interested in the hyenas. She’d obviously attempted to engage them in canine conversation – saying something or other about her Aunty Miriam having been descended from a hyena – and it hadn’t gone down well. The pack of hyenas seemed to be viewing her more in terms of lunch rather than a visiting celebrity taking part in a dog version of “Who Do You Think You Are”

“Let’s go,” she whispered. “Where to?” I replied. The nearest town of any significance was Lumbala, the administrative centre of Bundas, but in terms of fine hotels, posh bars, and entertaining nightlife, it would come a distant second to Cleethorpes on a wet Tuesday in February. The alternative was to cross the border (only five miles to the east of us) into Zambia and then head north to the town of Zambezi. It didn’t take much thinking about. Lucy started whistling “Zambezi” and we started for the border. The eighty mile walk to the town of Zambezi would have been arduous if it hadn’t been for the fact that we were doing it virtually, and therefore it was virtually over before it had begun. Before you could say “open sesame” to a Tsessebe, we were unpacking our suitcase at the Royal Kutachika Lodge Hotel overlooking the Zambezi River and trying to decide whether to book a day trip to see the Victoria Falls or go Tiger Fishing in the river.

We decided on neither but went to the bar instead for a well-earned drink, but for the first time on our trip around the world I was met with canine discrimination. “Sorry sir, no dogs allowed,” the doorman explained. And so we finished up at  the appropriately named “Poorman’s Restaurant” – who, since 1984 have been “striving to offer satisfactory service to people of all status in life.” If you visit the restaurant now, you might notice that someone has amended the proclamation by adding “… and dogs” at the end of the statement.

As we returned to our hotel room we ticked off another word, another country and another continent on our round the world adventure. “Your turn to choose our next word”, I reminded Lucy. “What do you want to put in your ironing basket? “Shirt!”, I think she replied, although I couldn’t be sure because at that precise moment we heard the call of a hyena in the distance. So, for whatever the reason, that’s where we are off to next – ///ironing.basket.shirt.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Day By Day


The project I started almost a year ago - producing a daily calendar image which sits on top of my desk - has continued throughout 2021, although I don't always get around to sharing these online. Here, however, are the last three :-

A rare early colour photograph of mine from the mid-1960s which shows Market Street in Halifax. Back in those days, colour film was something that had to be saved for the annual summer holiday, and this must have been am exercise in using up the last few frames of the film.

One of the great advantages of taking photographs is that you can mostly avoid having photographs taken of yourself. This, however, is a rare excursion into the realms of selfies and as a selfie-stick was not available, I made use of a shop-front mirror, which, like me, had seen better days.

This is another of my late-night experiments into the effects of different single malt whiskies on the creative process. This was a photograph of an abandoned car I took back in the 1980s, reimagined with the help of Photoshop and a 12 year old Old Pulteney.

Monday, November 15, 2021

The Rise And Fall Of The Crown

I had an email last week from someone who is writing a history of the Crown Brewery in Northowram, asking permission to use some of my photos of the building from 45 years ago. I was more than happy to grant permission as this was a building that I grew up with, living, as I did for twenty or so years, just a few hundred yards from where it was situated.

When I knew the building in the 50s and 60s it had long ceased to be a brewery, and was the works of C&R Construction who manufactured asbestos sheds and garages. When I took these three photographs in 1978, the old brewery building had been partly destroyed by fire and asbestos garages were rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

The old brewery building was replaced (probably in the 1980s) with a new furniture showroom and then that later became a showroom for a flooring company, and it was at that stage that I again photographed the building in 2015. Before sending these photos off to the person researching the brewery building, I decided today to drive to Northowram and check the latest status of the building. To my surprise, I discovered that the new building that replaced the brewery building has itself been demolished. Hopefully I will still be around when the next building goes up on the site, so I can continue to document the rise and fall of the Crown. 

Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...