Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Blue Suburban Skies

Hill Lane

On some days, the light, the weather, and my mood find a perfect alignment, and pictures are everywhere I look. Luckily, this camera [1] was in the right mood, too. Trust me, cameras are capricious devils, and may decide not to be co-operative on the nicest of days. Half of the art of photography, IMHO, is keeping your cameras sweet, which – assuming you have more than one (polycamerous?) – means taking each of them out regularly, in an equitable rotation. They notice these things, cameras, and are prone to sulking.

Pewsey Place

Such blue, suburban skies... Now, if forced to choose a side of that peak-Beatles double-A-sided single of 1967, my preference would always be for "Strawberry Fields", but whenever I hear the piccolo trumpet solos on "Penny Lane" I am transported back to the summer months of 1967, which is a pleasurably bittersweet sensation. There were some perfect, baking-hot days with pure blue skies that year, and I was free to do pretty much whatever I wanted, but I was also very lonely. A couple of years earlier we had moved away from the part of town where I had spent my first decade; this, combined with the transition to secondary school, meant that I had no friends living nearby. Then my much-loved older sister left home under a bit of a cloud, and my parents – both of whom were at work all day – seemed suddenly to age [2], and became rather unavailable, emotionally. 1967, as it turned out, was also the last summer we were to spend in a house with a garden. Stevenage council used to be quite flexible about tenants moving around within the New Town, especially if it freed up family-sized houses, and so – this latest house now having become both too large and rather blighted by unhappy associations – we moved to a two-bedroom flat. Which would, in fact, be my fifth, final, and probably happiest address in town.

So, that trumpet's shrill perfection – so reminiscent of swifts and swallows exulting high over the rooftops in a clear blue sky – evokes one 60s latchkey kid's long summer holidays, pottering about or simply wandering the streets, free but alone, with a door-key and a half crown in his pocket to buy a chip-shop meal at midday, or maybe get a bus into town. Just some ordinary boy, checking out the passing scene, noticing things, invisible as a cat or a crow. Which, now I think of it, is still pretty much how I like to spend a day, whenever I get the chance. Minus the pie and chips, of course, and with a camera for company. Talking of which: Now, let's see, whose turn is it today?

Hill Lane

1. A Fuji X70, a very nice camera and something of a rarity, as Fuji stopped producing them quite soon after they were introduced, apparently because Sony suddenly stopped manufacturing the sensor used in them.
2. They weren't yet 50, though a sixties 50, which was rather older than 50 is now... I was amazed (and alarmed) to discover that no male forebear of mine had lived to see 60, although reassuringly Dad did make 89. It is one of those paradoxes, that one never seems to become older than one's parents or teachers.


Huw said...

Lovely pictures, Mike, especially that second one: the two perfectly placed puddles offsetting the blue sky graphically and meaningfully (if that's not too woolly).


Mike C. said...


Glad you noticed the puddles! One thing about the X70 is that its wide-ish fixed lens (28mm equivalent) forces you to compose around the main point of interest. I saw that amazing tree dominating the end of a cul-de-sac, but had to include more in the frame -- those puddles (and the fan-shape of wire shadows, which may not be obvious in this JPG) actually made the picture.