Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Pond

Now this is compulsory viewing. John Gossage talking to Toby Jurovics of the Smithsonian about his landmark photobook The Pond. Look and learn, my friends, look and learn. It's 51 minutes long, so you'll have to set the time aside, but it will be time well spent, if you want to understand the thinking and the process behind what is probably one of the most significant photobooks of the last 20 years. I insist that you watch it.

As it happens, I own two copies of the first edition of The Pond. I was in Hay-on-Wye some years ago (despite being in rural Wales Hay is famous as a centre for second-hand books -- a curious story) and stumbled over them, sitting forlornly on a shelf in one of the back rooms of a bookshop. I'd never heard of John Gossage at the time, and both copies had torn dustjackets, but I was so bowled over by the contents and the graphic appeal of the cover that I bought them both. At £10 each, how could I not? You may hear a reference to the value of these books in the introduction to the Gossage interview. I doubt mine, with their damaged dustjackets, are quite that valuable to a collector, but they are definitely "pension fund" items.

my pond -- the Pentagonal Pool

Talking of pensions, I have been on strike today. Our union, the University and College Union, is trying to bring the employers back to the negotiating table over changes they are unilaterally trying to make to our pension scheme. Grrr. So, I spent 8:00 - 9:30 am this morning standing on a picket line, propping up a placard, and handing out leaflets and waffles.

Waffles? Yes, I was surprised about that, too. But Heidi, one of our colleagues, is Norwegian, and she had made several trays of waffles filled with cream and jam -- apparently in Norway you simply can't have a strike without waffles. Obviously. It does sort of take the militant edge off the occasion ("Care for a waffle, you strike-breaking scab? No, I insist, have two!").


Mauro Thon Giudici said...

Ha ha ha your collegue may have found the ultimate workers weapon. I was just wandering a train conductor burping (to exemplify) and having some problems to stay awake while digesting ...

"strike breaking scab" ? Don't you have a specific name for the category ? Here we use the word "Krumiri" just curious.

Mike C. said...


Well, actually a "scab" is a strike-breaker in British English, but with my international audience in mind I thought a little descriptive redundancy might be helpful.


Martyn Cornell said...

You can also say blackleg, as in the dirty blackleg miner, though this appears to be a vanishing term.

Waffles: likely to lead to too many bad puns on a British picket line, I'd have thought: "waffling lefties" and so on. A happy ten minutes with the online OED informs me that waffle "batter-cake baked in a waffle-iron" probably has its etymological roots in a word for honeycomb, while waffle "empty verbiage" ultimately comes from a word meaning "bark like a small dog or puppy". That's à propos of nothing at all: I just thought I'd throw it in to the conversation.

Mike C. said...


I've always thought of "scabs" as workmates who are union members who work during a strike, and "blacklegs" as outside, non-union workers brought in to keep an enterprise going during a strike, but that may be inaccurate.

On reflection, I would have relished the opportunity to shout at various academic staff, "Why, th'art nobbut a blackleg, tha scabby strike-breakin' scum!" It would have felt more appropriate than handing out waffles.

Funnily enough, the Vice Chancellor actually came over to our picket to tell us how much he respected what we were doing, before vanishing into the Admin building. We were so gobsmacked, no-one had the presence of mind even to hand him a waffle.