Not as bracing as you might think: a day out in Skegness

Skegness Beach: July 2018

The resort town of Skegness, on the coast of Lincolnshire, is famous for the slogan: ‘It’s so bracing!’. Not so the day I visited the place. In the middle of that long, hot summer of 2018. The view from the shore is dominated by a vast wind farm; on this day of heat and little breeze it was as if cooling fans had been laid on for the benefit of visitors.

Pleasure Beach Amusement: July 2018

It would be fair to say that us Brits enjoy our Costa del Sol temperatures in small, package-deal doses; not a couple of months of them. I base this observation on a switch – from, ‘it’s too wet’ or, ‘it’s too cold’ to, ‘it’s too hot’ – in conversations about the weather. I sympathised with the parents of the youngster above as they tried to work up some enthusiasm appropriate to the moment. I had chosen the first day of the holiday season – the day after the schools closed for the summer – but there were surprisingly few souls walking about.

Donkey Delivery Vehicle, Main Beach: July 2018

I walked north along the promenade. Once I had left the main beach I had the route to myself and, as the sun beat down, the phrase ‘mad dogs and Englishmen (go out in the midday sun)’ came to mind. The closest thing to alternative activity was encountered as I passed some bowling greens:

Skegness Town Bowls Club: July 2018

There was even less evidence of man a little further on as I arrived at the North Shore Golf Club, though the fairways were crying out for some rain:

North Shore Golf Club: July 2018
North Shore Golf Club: July 2018

The chap above was probably looking for the ‘nineteenth hole’ I imagine, lol. I’d have joined him, but I needed to press on. I managed another couple of kilometres before I decided to return to the main road. My water bottle was empty, I was quite some distance from the town by now and I felt uncomfortable.

The road to who knows where?… I never found out: July 2018

In my explorations of my home county, Lincolnshire I always use public transport. If that’s not available, I walk. I was overjoyed to find, at the end of an overgrown pathway from the shore, the main road into town and, importantly, a bus stop. The couple in the shelter were not only preoccupied with themselves, they were in full sunshine. I lurked in the shade behind. By the time I boarded a bus I felt like someone with a bizarre fetish:

Bus Stop, Skegness: July 2018

And that was that. Alighted the bus at the railway station and made my escape after a lengthy wait in a long queue of hot and irritable fellow travelers. ‘It’s far too hot’ – If they weren’t saying it, they were thinking it.

North Beach, Skegness: July, 2018

Thanks for visiting this, my 30th blog. The camera I used for the pictures was my trusty Olympus OMD.


My most familiar 400 metres: A personal street challenge

Day one: Home Guard

It has been just too hot to be out and about lately. And there is only so much scanning of old negatives I can take before the novelty wears off. I needed to be out but I also needed a retreat to the comfort of fans and air-conditioning. I decided to spend some time on my street. Three days, in fact.

Day Three: New build, unoccupied and new build, occupied

My street is quiet. I walk it many times: 300 metres from my house takes me to the point I turn off when taking my daughter to school, 100 metres in the opposite direction takes me to the other end of the street where it joins a busy road. I have walked the street many times as part of my daily routine over the past ten years. I know that there is a solitary pineapple plant on a spot of wasteland and some gorgeously colourful cockerels that peck along the roadside.

Day One: Can he fix it? Yes, he can

I have also noticed recently three new builds. Above are photographs of two of them, the third:

Day One: All will be revealed, but not yet

There is also a house I had never previously taken much notice of that has just undergone a facelift; the choice of colour makes it a stand out attraction now…

Day Two: Yellow house, early morning

Despite the lack of the presence of human activity in the street, there is plenty of evidence of it. I never actually saw painters in action at the house pictured above, but their pots, brushes, rollers and ladders bore testament to their handiwork. I never saw builders as I was taking photographs, but the building progresses daily. It’s almost as if there is a secret world, conspiring to starve me of its portrayal.

Day Two: At the crossroads

The cultural evidence in the street is abundant. This hadn’t really occurred to me until I began to look closely, without the need to get to school on time or buy a bottle of milk before the kettle boils. I find the Buddhist ‘Spirit Houses’ fascinating:

Day Two: Spirit House

In desperation, and needing to find some action, I loitered on my street corner. I was having a cigarette – a favourite (but not recommended) ploy when my intent is a candid photograph – and made this shot between drags:

Day Three: The end of the road

So there you have it. I enjoyed the exercise and was never far away from my front door, water, coffee and fan. I made a photograph of the pineapple plant but didn’t like it. The cockerels ran away at my approach. There was an old car, though:

Day One: Parking space, early morning

Thanks for visiting my blog. All photographs made with an Olympus OMD and a Zuiko short zoom lens.

Shooting dogs for dog’s sake? Merely incidental!

Sakhla, Thailand: 2018

It is difficult to avoid the occasional dog when you spend your time out and about. Here in Thailand dogs are everywhere; in my other stamping ground, Lincolnshire our canine friends are less frequently encountered. When the noted photographer, Elliott Erwitt went through his huge collection of snaps (his term) he noticed this too, eventually working the theme in one of the most marvelous books of photographs. Unlike him, my photographs are pictures of dogs rather than pictures with dogs in them. For dogs’ sake if you like…

Louth, Lincolnshire: 2016

I have to admit that I am a ‘cat person’. I can tolerate dogs and have grown to not be intimidated by them during a face to face street encounter. Despite the barking, snarling and threatening behaviour of some dogs – particularly the strays – they will generally allow you to carry on with what you are doing if you ignore them.

Bang Sue, Thailand: 2019

I have, oddly, formed a brief but rewarding relationship with a dog on occasion. I have talked to them even. In the following photograph I put this down to self-preservation; ‘if I’m friendly with you, you be friendly with me…yes?’

Ayutthaya, Thailand: 2016
Suphanburi, Thailand: 2018

There are cute dogs:

Lincoln, UK: 2014

…and there are not so cute dogs (my opinion only, lol):

Grimsby, Lincolnshire: 2017

Of course the fact of the matter is that life, for all living things, is finite. I felt a moment of sadness for this late dog, thrown up by the waves. The rockabilly classic, ‘Endless Sleep’ by Jody Reynolds occurred to me….

Petchaburi Province, Thailand: 2019

My final offering is my favourite and is another dog I talked to. I felt he needed a friendly word and I believe he enjoyed the company, if only for the briefest time:

Petchaburi Province, Thailand: 2017

Thanks for visiting my blog. The camera I used for these photographs is the usual Olympus with a Zuiko lens.

Old School: Contact sheets and a lesson learned too late…

Contact sheet: Badminton Horse Trials, 1980

As a photography student in the seventies I learned to make contact sheets; negatives sandwiched between glass and photographic paper in a frame purpose-built for the job. In the years following I continued the habit, though I used a heavy piece of glass instead of a frame. The above is an example. Scrutinizing these ‘proofs’ with a magnifying glass in one hand and a china-graph pencil in the other was a satisfying occupation, even better if you discovered you had a half decent photograph to work on. In the case of the above it appears that I found one – outlined in red – and which portrayed Princess Anne with her then husband, Captain Mark Phillips. I happened to pass them whilst strolling through the park.

Kay: Scunthorpe, 1984

In my defence, I never made contact sheets of the many rolls of film I used for a portrait project I undertook late 1984, early 1985 because I couldn’t afford to. The project, which was intended to reflect youth culture in Scunthorpe – an industrial town in the north of England – was done using a borrowed camera. Any money I had went on buying film and ensuring that final prints were made on paper with a heavy silver content, Ilford Galleria. These final selections were made by reading the negatives as best I could; the 6cm x 6cm format I opted for made this relatively easy. But then…

Kay, 1984: ‘Contact’ sheet, produced 2017 using a light tablet

I thought I’d lost the negatives for this project. Many moves to distant places meant that a lot of my stuff had been consigned to various lofts and garages. When they turned up in 2016 – my brother was renovating his garage – I was really pleased; that they were all in perfect condition was a lucky break (mice had once nested in the box and had damaged some of the other negatives stored in there).

Kay: Scunthorpe, 1984

Three years ago I set about making proofs of all the negatives using a light tablet; I laid them over the flicker-free surface and photographed them from above with my digital camera. On seeing the results I discovered that I may well have made alternative choices for my prints (I had a modest exhibition in the local art gallery in 1985); I also discovered that subjects I left out of the final selection may have made it after all. Above is an alternative shot of Kay which I prefer to the one I chose. The same goes for Paul, below: (original choice, contact sheets and revised selection)

Paul: Scunthorpe, 1984
Paul: Contact sheet, produced 2017
Paul: Contact sheet, produced 2017
Paul: Scunthorpe, 1984

On a few occasions I found that my original choice was, for me, the correct one. This is Lisa:

Lisa: Scunthorpe, 1985
Lisa: Contact sheet, produced 2017

All in all, I made around 80 portraits. Thanks for visiting this blog. The camera I borrowed for the project was a Mamiya C330.

O, Porto: a turn of the century memoir. Part two…

Facing the Douro, Porto: 1999

As well as walking around Porto, I’d occasionally venture further afield. You don’t have to travel far to reach the countryside: wooded slopes heavy with the scent of eucalyptus, vast beaches baking in the sun, the small coastal villages with houses of weathered stone, the marvelous churches and quintas – all within easy reach by bus or train.

Ovar: 2000
Ovar: 2000

Ovar, around 45 kilometres south of Porto, was a favourite place for a day trip. It struck me as a ‘sleepy’ town (although classed as a city) and I rarely bumped into the locals on my midday strolls (mad dogs and Englishmen). I remember that in the cafes wine was served in earthenware jugs…

Quinta de S Thome, Ovar: 2000

On the coastal railway line, between Porto and Ovar, was the lovely town of Espinho – another regular haunt. A seemingly endless beach were you could watch sardines being caught using tractor-hauled nets. I once tried fishing for bass on a rocky outcrop here; I caught nothing…

Local fishermen, Espinho: 1999

Going north from Porto, along the coast, brings you eventually to the Minho. Walking in the fabulously diverse countryside here was something I didn’t do often enough. I remember one occasion, on January 1st 2000, when I had to hang onto my camera whilst slipping over icy rocks to get this photograph:

New Year’s Day in the Minho: 2000

You cannot walk far in any Portuguese street before you stumble across some beautiful tilework; in particular the hand painted blue and white azulejos:

Leça da Palmeira: 1999
Espinho: 2000

Tiles depicting symbolic icons, scenes from legend and historical story telling are found everywhere, alongside those that are merely decorative. Here are some that caught my attention while exploring the Porto suburbs:

Tile work, Porto: 1999

I hope you have enjoyed my Porto blogs. Thanks for visiting. The photographs, scanned from my original Kodachrome slides, were made using an Olympus OM1 with Zuiko lenses.

O, Porto: a turn of the century memoir. Part one…

Sandeman Port Wine Boats on the River Douro, Porto: 1999

When I saw in the new year, 2000, I was living in Porto. The fireworks overhead reflected on the Douro, close to the Ponte Luis I which can be seen in the background of my photograph above. A river which shares with the city a splendid history and which has been so vital over the centuries to the development of the port wine industry.

Parque da Cidade do Porto: 2000

When I first moved to Portugal I lived in Matosinhos which borders the north of Porto, separated by the Parque da Cidade, above. I would often take a short cut through this vast, green space on my exploratory walks, the best way to really discover a city. I would eventually come to the Avenida da Boavista, a broad thoroughfare that ran straight from the seafront to the heart of the city.

Monumento a Dom João VI , at the western end of the Avenida da Boavista: 1999

The celebrated Portuguese architect, Álvaro Siza Vieira was born in Matosinhos; half way down the Avenida da Boavista is the Museu Serralves, a superb contemporary art gallery he designed, set in beautiful grounds. This place became one of my favourite haunts.

Museu Serralves, Porto: 2000

I moved from Matoshinhos to Foz do Douro which is situated at the point where river meets sea. One day I came across a statue of the Portuguese writer, Raul Brandão. Born in Foz, his book, ‘Os Pescadores’ was the first Portuguese book I attempted to read (the second was a book on Portuguese cuisine, but that’s another story).

Foz do Douro, Porto: 2000
Rua Nova Da Alfândega, Porto: 2000

As I said, walking is a grand way to explore a city; combined with local buses (which I would board simply because I was attracted to the name of the destination) I broadened my horizons, ending up in attractive, quiet suburbs with interesting names. São Roque was one of them:

São Roque, Porto: 2000

Fontainhas, which sits on the steep bank of the river behind the Luis I bridge, is another area that fascinated me. A place where every building had an individual character and where the steep lanes offered a challenge of endurance, particularly on a hot day.

Fontainhas, Porto: 2000
Fontainhas, Porto: 2000

There are many things I liked about Porto: the citizens, the history, the bricks and mortar, the cafes, the river and the sea. But the one thing I really miss is the food. All of it. I found many fantastic eateries in out of the way places, restaurants hugely popular with the locals, always full and satisfying in every way. Here is a spot I found in Senhora da Hora. Cabrito Assado No Forno on a Sunday. Beautiful……

Senhora da Hora, Porto: 2000

Thanks for visiting; part two is on the way. The photographs were taken on an Olympus OM1, with Zuiko lenses. I scanned my original Kodachrome slides as best I could…..

‘Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside’: part two….

Ice Cream, 2016

Continuing my home town blog and a thought or two about childhood. One thing that struck me last summer (odd that it never really struck me on any of my other annual visits) was how much the place has changed over the years. Growing up in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire during the sixties was fab. Particularly out of season when my pals and I seemed to have the place to ourselves. The season had its attractions too, watching the mods and rockers on the promenade, beatniks up for the jazz festival, dads (handkerchiefs on heads) snoozing in deckchairs: days when an ice cream was the treat it doesn’t seem to be nowadays.

Moonbeams on Tour, 2018

Many of the wide open spaces of my youth have succumbed to the sprawl of urbanisation; places we would fish for newts and sticklebacks, country paths winding through fields of barley and potatoes, small woodlands that seemed infinite and slightly dangerous to a small person. Pockets survive and I am always pleasantly surprised when I come across them.

Town Limits, Cleethorpes, 2018
Boating Lake, Early Morning, 2018

As I mentioned in part one of this blog, early mornings are a favourite time for my photographic expeditions. Aside from the odd dog walker or jogger, I have the place to myself. Looking for evidence, sometimes finding it….

Construction made by surfers, 2018
Holiday Homes, 2017

Attractions look neat and tidy, too. There was a seafood bar in exactly this place when I was a lad; my dad offered me a whelk to try once – never again:

Daisy’s Seafood Bar, 2016

Some, not quite so perfect:

Seafront Pub, 2017

I’ll end it here. This summer will be my final holiday in my home town as the following summer my family and I are expecting to relocate there. Back to my roots after many travels. I’ll sign off with a photograph I made last July – I wanted a different view of the Red Arrows (the RAF display team) – and chose a place not changed much. A boy hurried past and it occurred to me that, 55 years ago, it might have been me – homeward bound and slightly late for tea – in his place.

Homeward, 2018

As usual, hats off to my trusty Olympus OMD camera….