Sunday, December 31, 2006

Odd Ends / Poisoned

Odd Ends, New Year's Eve 2006

This is my final blog of 2006 and to reflect on the end of an odd year I have garnered a selection of my favourite odd ends of photography that I have taken over the past couple of decades.

Image of Fiat car standing on water in Cambridge, UK

If your photography began in the digital age, you may not even be aware of the natural flaws that film photographers encounter. Growing up using 35mm film, the aim was to get as many shots as possible from your usually 36-exposure strip of film. The by-product of this was that the first shot was generally only half or three-quarters of an image, as the rest had been fully or partially exposed while the film was loaded into the camera.

I love these shots with their jagged yellow and red lines and other interesting effects, such as a cigarette stain yellow sheen with much of the initial image silhouetted beneath it, false lateral dawn or a weird, surreal collage of hues and shapes.

Beheaded deaf comedian Steve Day at the Edinburgh Fringe

These images were taken by me in locations as diverse as Athens, where orthodox clergy anxiously awaited their leader; Cambridge where a little Fiat car appeared to be standing upon the water of the Cam while we punted past (a prank by engineering students, I believe); at a boathouse in Ecuador where the 'odd-end' enhanced the image with its brilliant 'sunrise' glow; inside the Vatican at the Beatification of Mother Teresa; the Edinburgh Fringe with a beheaded comedian; Robert Maxwell's grave in Jerusalem, and many others.

However, I enjoy them just for their odd looks and hardly think of where or when they were taken.

Sisters of Charity at the Beatification of Mother Teresa

2006 has been a very odd year. I cannot hand on heart say it was a particularly good one for me. One of my New Year's Resolutions is to get on with my life.

In terms of other endings in 2006, an old friend, Sam Towers of Cotesbach, died in October. After Sam's funeral at St. Mary's, Cotesbach, I wrote a poem about him, Do A Little, and also a blog, Sam Towers 1918-2006 (16 October 2006).

Recently Sam's son kindly emailed me to say how much he had appreciated the poem which he had read on this site. A friend from Cotesbach Hall told me on the telephone that she had been read it to Sam's widow, Dorothy, who had been moved to tears.

A couple swapping clothes in a nightclub in Benidorm, Spain

On Christmas Eve, my great aunt Aenne died in Bremen, Germany, at the grand age of 93. I felt very sad; she was a kind and serious lady who always made me and my brothers very welcome in her home. I am told she felt ready to go. She certainly enjoyed a long life.

On Christmas Day, the Godfather of Soul James Brown died, aged 78. I interviewed 'Mr Brown', as everyone who met him was instructed to call him, twice and found him polite and friendly, although you felt he was always far more interested in the young ladies in orbit around him than your impertinant questions!

Big Ken the Leamington Spa town clock

I have greatly enjoyed the Christmas season. It has been a relaxing time. 
Image of boathouse in Ecuador, South 

The derelict tumbledown pier in Brighton, Sussex, UK

Image of Robert Maxwell's grave in Jerusalem

 And now it is New Year's Eve 2006. Strange, it does not seem long ago we were celebrating the turn of the millennium, or the end of the Eighties. I even clearly remember how I spent the night when the Seventies became the Eighties (drinking at the Stepping Stones pub and then yelling: 'Good riddance, Seventies!' across the playing fields of Broadstone, Poole, Dorset.

Image of waterfall in Austria

As well as odd endings, this year has seen odd beginnings. This was the year I did my first poetry gigs, the year I moved to Leamington (part-time), and the year I conceived, designed, launched and developed the Oliver's Poetry website.

Oliver's Poetry has been a wonderful journey although I am still not quite sure why I ever embarked on it.

I suppose that because in my first year as a poet - 2005 - I wrote 52 poems, I felt I needed an outlet to display some of them, along with soem of my photographs and the work of like-minded poets and photographers. It has achieved that.

It is fair to say that, although visited and appreciated, Oliver's Poetry is yet to find a mass audience. However, I would prefer it that way rather than compromising my vision for the site by turning it into a commercial enterprise.

In 2006, I believe I wrote 35 or 36 poems. It is hard to be precise about the number because I am not one of those people who sits down in the morning with a pencil and a particular pad and writes for two hours and then carefully transcribes the work.

I am far too busy living. I write on trains and planes and inside buses and on park benches in my lunch break, while waiting in queues at shops and just about everywhere else.

I also write on the back of parking tickets; in scrawny notebooks, exercise books, shorthand pads; on receipts, napkins et cetera, and with chewed biro, fountain pen, pencil, crayon, or whatever comes to hand.

The 2006 work is generally either more thoughtful or funnier than the 2005 canon. One of the things I am trying to do in the dying hours of 2006 is to find and transcript my poems of this year (most of them unfinished and in dire need of revision) onto my computer in case I lose them. Much time in my traditional booze-free January will be spent, I suspect, reworking them.

I have a list of New Year's Resolutions the length of my arm with which I won't bore you. One of them is to spend less time worrying about and working on the website (and its blog!) - and more time writing, learning and performing good poetry.

I wish you all a happy, peaceful and fulfilled New Year!

Odd Ends poem

Poisoned (Flashback to Maundy Thursday, 13 April 2006).

Leamington Garret. 6.58am. Overcast. I should not have gone out last night. I feel poisoned by the smoke, and all the booze didn't do me much good either. Why do I do it?

Greek Orthodox clergy in Athens, Greece

I was beaten up in my nightmares. I was making an off-the-cuff leaving speech in a room where half the people were sectioned off by a glass partition and would not stop talking. I was most upset.

A play I had written was performed in my honour by the staff. It was atrocious; the script was terrible, the acting worse, and somehow the audience had become soaked during the performance. Certainly they were covering their faces with red towels.

Worse still, live horses were being used in most scenes and kept bolting and throwing their riders. I watched it all in dumb-struck horror with a profound sense of shame.

Weird white, red and yellow image

Leamington Garret. 4.42pm. The Town Hall Clock is bathed in bright sunshine while braving gusty winds.

As I was driving down Leamington's Parade a few minutes ago, a horrible yob shouted really loudly into my ear through my open car window. Boy, it hurt. I have a headache now. Why is there such thuggery instilled in the young in this pretty little town?

Yesterday, a teenage girl spat on my shoe as I was returning from the shops. Her punk boyfriend laughed. The day before, a huge 'yoof' called me a 'wanker' in the street. For absolutely no reason! I was walking along minding my own business. Unbelievable!

I must type out my new poem.

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