Currently loving – September 2018

Zoe, over at Splodz Blogz, has a monthly feature called ‘Currently loving’. The idea is simple, she shares a list of ten things she has been enjoying during the month. Everytime I read her posts, I want to write one but as you’ve seen, it has never happened. Until today.

More than a list of stuff gathered together, ‘currently loving’ posts represent a slice of life and a record of a time of year. So in that spirit, here is my first list. I will attempt to post a new one halfway through each month.

1. Moleskine notebook and pen

I know this is technically two items but as they constantly live together, I count them as one.
Since the beginning of August, I’ve decided to make more of an effort to write the daily things I notice. They are usually small, a snapshot as I cycle past, a feeling emerging from a view, etc. They are quick, meaningful in the moment and gone the next. It felt wrong to always let them escape so quickly as they tend to make me smile. So I’m capturing them in daily(ish) poems. This blank, soft cover, pocket-size Moleskine and the accompanying personalised red pen are the perfect tool for that. Smooth, light, strong, and easy to carry everywhere.

2. Photobooks


If you’ve read the latest posts here or follow me on social media, you already know that I’m falling in love all over again with photography thanks to film cameras. Part of this rediscovered love has been leading me to the photography section of the library, borrowing more photobooks than I can carry. The latest one I have been reading and learning from is Imogen Cunningham Portraiture by Richard Lorenz.

3. Hoodies

I have a love of hoodies. They are so comfy and warm, a perfect combination for the chilly evening we are experiencing. This particular one was a birthday gift from my mom last year. Custom-made for me, it’s the best hoodie I’ve ever had. It’s long, fits brilliantly, and the hood is so huge it’s like being a cosmonaut when I put it on.

4. Cables


A bit of a weird item to love considering how much chaos they can create, but I do really love those cables. As I rediscovered film photography, I remembered my old camcorder. Unable to get the tapes I’d recorded onto my laptop with the original cables, I went on a quest to find how to save my old footage. After too many hours spent online, a few misbuy and refunds, I finally found the right tool for the job. Not only can I view my old footage once more but I can start filming again! Don’t ask me why filming with an old camcorder feels more right than using modern equipment. I’m still mulling over that one.

5. GB Kershaw 450 camera

When I began shooting with film cameras, I stuck to 35mm because I didn’t know about all the other formats available. I soon learned about 120 and became slightly obsessed over it. I love the square format it provides and the beautiful cameras that use that film. A lot of them are very expensive, but a lot of them are also very cheap. As I have no idea what I’m doing with 120 film, I purchased a cheap folding camera to experiment with. I am still waiting to get my first shots back and I can’t wait to see them. Shooting with this camera has been a lot of fun.

What are you currently loving this month?

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The chant of the waves, the warmth of the sun

The clouds hung low over the earth and I struggled to remember what the sky colour was. It had become an undulation of white and grey, shadowing the sun and darkening the nights. The calendar had ticked into Spring and apart from a slight warming of the air, it was difficult to tell winter had gone to other latitudes. I had resigned myself to a long wet spring, hoping summer would be worth the wait. Until, one day, unannounced, the clouds parted and the sun began to bathe the earth in its warmth. May had arrived.

I hoped on the bike and pedalled to the Cycle Touring Festival, I lazed in the garden after work switching my black uniform for summer clothes, I rode into Lincolnshire to reach a sunny work festival in Yorkshire before coming back home with a head full of microadventures plans. June was going to be a month spent outdoors.

I was sound asleep when the phone rang. It was work. I hesitated before picking up, but I did. It had been a long week since coming back from the festival and it was possible my colleague needed some genuine help. Instead of the familiar voice of my co-worker, it was the stressed out voice of my manager than reached my ears. Nobody had showed up in the shop that morning. Left with no solution, I had a quick shower and cycled the fastest I’d ever done to work. Phone calls after phone calls only lead to my colleague voicemail. The day went by and my worry grew. Nobody knew where he was or why he wasn’t picking up his phone, until 9pm when my manager texted. My co-worker had resigned, leaving me the sole employee of a shop about to enter its busiest period of the year. I felt all my energy drain out of my body as my microadventures plan slid away from my grasp. There was nothing for it. I would have to work almost every shift until we could find some help.

Day after day, I harassed the recruitment agency who kept sending unsuitable candidates. I was left with no choice, I had to hire the least worse person so I could get a  day off at least. A day of intense training took place before I was able to crash into bed. I had not had a proper day off for two weeks. I turned off my phone that day, resolute that I would not be dragged into work.

More frenzied phone calls with the agency followed. I had a holiday coming up for the end of the month and no plans to cancel it. I spent my days sifting through CVs, while trying to run a shop and train useless staff at not messing everything up. Until, three days before my flight, the agency called. They had found the perfect candidate, or so they said. I went through the formalities of the interview, knowing beforehand that if the person could talk and presented well, they would be hired. They were. Not only could she talk, presented well, but she had lots of desirable experiences and a strong work ethic. I knew then the agency had finally found someone reliable.

Three days of full-on training followed until 5pm rang on that Sunday. I rode back home, each pedal stroke pushing me away from work and shedding every thought of the shop behind. I was on holiday. At home, I packed my bag, checked-in my flight, and slept like the blessed.

The following morning could not pass fast enough but finally it was time to get to the airport. I emptied my bag for security, chatted with them about recorder music and licorice while they scanned my items repeatedly. Eventually, they found I carried no deadly weapon and let through. The plane journey was uneventful and I lost myself in ambient music, dozing off to sleep every now and again.

We flew over the clouds, over France, over the Alps, and finally we looped around Nice before descending over the sea to the airport. There was not a trace of clouds in the sky. The heat struck me as I took a step out of the plane. The thermometer was a lot higher than what I was accustomed to but I embraced it. The warmth was all-encompassing, like a hug from the arms of the sun, and after months of dreary grey and cold, I could not moan about it.

My friend was waiting just outside the security gates. We had not seen one another for three years. I could not believe this amount of time had elapsed. She is my muse and inspiration. Ideas and creativity flow inside of me like a raging torrent every time we meet. It is easy to live with her around, chatting endlessly into the night, walking miles after miles in cities, and eating all the good food. Life is better when we’re close.

We drove to her apartment and I met the new addition to her family, Hawaii, a beautiful gentle English cocker spaniel. I dropped my bag, emptied its content, and forgot about the world in Bristol. We talked, we walked, I met her friends, we made plans to go to the mountains and to the beach. Life was easy. We could just follow it wherever it lead us. Work that had been so difficult and tiresome seemed to be a distant memory as time stretched to the rhythm of my body.

A week passed and it was time to go back to the UK. I did not want to leave, not so quickly, but time was not my own any longer. My boarding pass dictated I had to sit in a plane that day. We said rapid goodbyes, better than lengthy embraces, and I fell asleep in the plane. Drifting into sleep was much easier than having to think about leaving my friend behind.

Late, we landed in Bristol, the clouds had parted and it was like I had brought back the embrace of the sun with me, a trace of my friend. My partner was waiting in the car park, ready for our holidays. We drove home, my head full of Nice, the mountains, and the seaside. I threw my clothes in the washing machine, hung them up, and packed them again the following morning. It was time to head to Devon.

The sun seemed to settle in the sky as we drove south and west. The drive was uneventful, a straight line down to the coast. Needing a break from the road, we parked by the seaside, ordered fish and chips, and settled on a sandy beach. It was all a bit cliché but we didn’t care. The food was good, the sand was comfortable, and the sun soft on our skins. I dipped my feet in the sea, the temperature so much colder than in Nice but I didn’t mind. I crouched, getting more of my body in the water and began to swim. A part of my brain was going berserk, imagining every shadow on the sand to be a monster, every wave to be part of a hand ready to cling around my body and drag it into unknown depth. I resisted the urge to scramble out of the sea and kept on swimming. One stroke at a time, I silenced my brain. I swam a length, another, another, another, and I began to enjoy the caress of the sea.

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Later that evening, we made it to our accommodation. Both too tired to do anything, we had a quiet dinner inside and an early night. The following days we explore the South Devon coast, dividing our time between hikes and sea swimming. The chant of the waves was our constant companion, one that I sometimes greeted with a song or two from my recorder. Time stretched on again as we forgot the hands of the clock and lived to our rhythm.

Eventually time caught on and it was time to head home. I had forgotten about the troubles at work, my ex-co-worker a distant memory of another time. The sun, the seas, the mountains had taken away my stress and worries. Ten days had elapsed but I felt like a month had gone by. I was ready to face whatever had happened in the shop in my absence. But nothing had happened. Everything had rolled smoothly and the shop was not a disaster. I slid back into my role, my shoulders relaxed, my smile fresh and genuine. Life was good.

Sound photography – Morning dream

In February of this year, Stuart Fowkes from the website Cities and Memory sent out an open call for sound artists to take part in his latest project. The idea started from a question:

What is the relationship between photography and sound? In today’s visually-dominated culture, how can we use sound to respond to what we see around us?

Stuart first asked for photographs, and received 100 from six continents and more than 30 countries. Those images were then made available for sound artist to create a piece based on one of them.

I responded to the open call and found myself immediately attracted to Mala Foar’s image:

Mala Foar – Sunrise in Toulouse

I found the shot very soothing but also unsettling.
The sunrise, the clouds drifting, and the bird made me pause and relax. But the fact that the photo is upside down brought another dimension to it.

Before working on the track, I spent a lot of time with the image, letting a story unfold in my imagination. I pictured the scene and music, and when I had the track in mind, I began composing. I worked with a lot of field recordings and Roli Lightpad Block to create the feeling the image left with me. When composing, I seldom looked at the photo, relying on my feelings and memories of it to guide the track.

I imagined a gap through time. The bird would be the messenger and anchor, bringing the observer into another era. Beyond the gate, I pictured a palace or a mansion, and people of the past listening to music. Gradually, the sun would rise enough to light up the park, and the spell would be broken with a beat of the bird’s wings. The park was just a park. The magic of dawn replaced by everyday life and the need to leave the bench for work.

Find out more about the Sound Photography project https://citiesandmemory.com/sound-photography/
Find out more about Mala Foar https://mala-foar.weebly.com/

Credits:
Field recordings from Freesounds.org:

Riding and mourning

My grand dad passed away. It was mid-April when I learned the news. It didn’t come as a shock. For the last few years, his health had been worsening with every passing month. So when I learned he had pneumonia, I had little hope of seeing him again. I was right. This didn’t make it feel any better. So I did what I knew best to clear my mind. I packed my panniers and went cycling for a couple of days.

I locked the front door of the house and pedalled away on my local Sustrans route. I began to cry as I exited the city, thankful for how few people were wandering the path in a mid-week morning. By the time I was out of Bristol, my tears had stopped and I was feeling a bit better. The route was going up and down and required no navigation. I knew this stretch like the back of my hand. There was a farm on the right, and then to the left a view would emerge through the leaves of the trees but I wouldn’t get to see it for long. The downhill was too much fun. A few more stroke of the pedals and I had to navigate the always muddy stretch of road. A down, an up, another down and I was at Chew Valley Lake. The sky was grey and I knew it was going to rain. It didn’t matter.

I stopped by the lake, sat on a bench, and munched on a cereal bar before cycling away. There was nothing to keep me around the water that day. Lost in thoughts, I took a wrong turn but soon realised it and turned around. I pedalled on, the rain beginning to fall. I didn’t bother with waterproofs. There was a couple of big hills coming. They would keep me warm.

Panting my way up the last hills into the Mendips, I began to feel numb. I wanted to turn around and go home. I wanted to wrap myself into my partner’s arms and cry my heart out. It was stupid to be here, struggling up a hill in the rain. Why was I always assuming that a bike ride and sleep outdoors would make things right? I pushed the thought away and absorbed myself in the looming fog. Soon, all views disappeared. The landscape that I had filmed almost a year before was now gone. I stopped to put on lights around the bike. I couldn’t see much further than my front wheel. It was like the landscape was engulfing me in its own embrace. There was nothing to be distracted by. I let go of all thoughts, pushing away my desire to go home, and focused on the turning of the pedals.

The time was soon approaching twelve and I was feeling hungry again. I ignored my stomach for a while knowing a picnic area with a view of the Somerset Levels was coming. I had no illusion about the view but at least I would have a table and bench. The rain had stopped and the sun was slowly chasing the fog as I arrived at the view point. There still wasn’t much to see but I carried with me last years Summer expanse of green and blue in my mind. I ate a quick lunch before freewheeling my way down the Mendips. From there on, it was going to be flat.

I passed through Wells, stopping at a sweet shop for some on the road fuel, before settling on a bench on the outskirts of town. I got my eReader out and began a new book, Maigret chez le ministre by George Siménon. It had been my grand father who had introduced me to the detective. I can’t claim that I knew my grand father well. All of our conversations combined wouldn’t even fill a week. And yet, he was not unknown. He had often shared his love of woodwork and Maigret in his own way. I remember going in search of wood in the Jura mountains for his workshop. I remember being shown into his workshop, allowed to sit at the side while he operated his machines. I remember the dark blue covered books lining his holiday house in the Jura. All Maigret stories I was allowed to read when he wasn’t. I remember him bemoaning Bruno Cremer’s interpretation of the detective and praising Jean Gabin performance. It had been one of the rare time I’d seen him so passionate. I felt like crying again. I shut off the eReader and went on.

The land around me was wet, damp, and still resolutely winter brown. The weather had been incomprehensible this year. I wandered what my grand father would have made of it. A farmer for most of his life, his livelihood had depended on the whims of the weather. I used to climb in the tractors with him sometimes, but being a girl I was never initiated in the secret of the land. That was knowledge of the men.

I arrived in Glastonbury and stopped for a moment to decide which way to go. Home was no longer an option. I’d gone too far and I didn’t want to climb the Mendips Hills again. I settled on a loop around the Somerset levels. I pedalled away from the city, passed sodden fields and noisy agricultural machines. Wealth was gone from my surroundings. Houses began to look sad and abandoned. Few cars passed me by and I wondered if life was as bad as it looked here or if the long winter was making it look that way.

The route took me along a river and I was surprised to see it still sitting in its bed, just. Houses were brighter here and garden bigger and well maintained. But the land was still desolate of people. I don’t know much about agriculture but I know there was nothing to be done yet. The frenzy of spring had not began and wouldn’t until winter decided to loosen its grip.

I arrived at a crossroads and was about to check my map when I saw Burrow Mump. A low hill I had climbed a year before on my way to Exmoor National Park. I had wanted to sleep on top of that bump in the earth ever since. It was early still but I didn’t care. I would sleep in the ruins of the abandoned church standing on top. There was a pub not far from it. I parked the bike and order a pint of ale. I almost ordered a cider in memory of my grand father but didn’t. He used to make his own. Every year the taste differed but it was always very homemade. I couldn’t remember him drinking any other cider.

‘Where have you come from,’ a man asked seeing my helmet and the bike.
‘Bristol.’
‘On that?’ He pointed at the bicycle.
‘Yes.’
‘But there’s no motor on it.’
‘I’m refuelling the motor now,’ I said pointing at the beer and smiled.
He laughed and we began chatting about his life as a farmer in the Somerset levels. I wondered how his parents lives would have compared to my grand dad. They probably had had a similar story. The man eventually left. The clock ticked on and I judge it was time to haul my bike and camping gear up the mump to settle for dinner and sleep.

My tent put up and dinner on the go, I observed the scenery in front of me. As far as I could see the land was flat and full of fields. This would have been a place my grand dad would have understood and I was glad to be here.
‘You would know this land,’ I said aloud. ‘What it all means and how to live of it. You would have soon argued with tonton (uncle) on how to best manage the fields.’ With those words, I realised that he had passed away on the eve of Spring. His body would be carried into the earth as everything was about to be reborn. I’m not a religious person but that thought comforted me. I smiled a true smile for the first time that day and felt a weight lifted of my shoulders. I went back to my stove for diner, and spent the rest of that evening nestled in my sleeping bag reading Maigret chez le ministre. I fell asleep with the book by my side.

—*—

The sky was still overcast when I awoke but at least it wasn’t raining. I ate a cereal bar, and boiled water for tea as I packed my belongings. Once everything was in the bags, I sat on the broken wall of the church and watched the morning scenery with my cup of tea. I felt rested and calmer. I wasn’t happy but I was good.

Tea finished, I carried the bicycle down the mump and began cycling. The road I needed was flooded over 100 metres. I sighed at the idea of getting my shoes wet so early in the day but there was nothing for it. Carefully, I pushed on, my feet dragging into the water and pushing me forward. What had been a desolate landscape the day before began to take on some colours. There were subtle buds of green and quaint villages. One even had a fancy village shop and café. I stopped in need of some fruit. I didn’t plan to stay long but the café was too alluring and I ordered a second breakfast of cream tea. I settled on an outdoor table with my book. It was a little too cold for that but I didn’t care. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts.

I savoured the scone and tea, slowly sipping at it. My grand father never told me what he thoughts of my journeys. I wondered if he approved. A part of me wanted to think that he did, but another suspected he didn’t. I had never asked and never would be able to now. Second breakfast finished, I hopped back on the bicycle and followed the road as it wound its way upwards. I struggled up the hills, getting down to push the bike at regular interval, the efforts obliterating all thoughts from my mind.

On top, I sat at the edge of the road and looked down. The sky had cleared and everything was springlike now. The trees were still bare, but the grass was resolutely green and higher up, the land was saturated with water. I closed my eyes, tilted my head back, and enjoyed the shy warmth of the sun. On a day like this, my grand dad would have headed to his garden to tend to his vegetables. He was so proud of his tomatoes, the one crop he was able to grow in his last years. Memories of my childhood flooded me. I smiled at them, my eyes shining with happy times of spring and summer at my grand parents house. There had been barbecues, homemade alcohol of all sorts, an endless freedom to roam, and my grand father always there overlooking the family quietly while everybody babbled away happily.

‘I love you,’ I whispered.

I looked up at the sky, as if this link between England and France could carry my words all the way to his village. He wouldn’t be able to hear but I wanted the words to brush his ears anyway.

I left the side of the roads and went back on the saddle. The road continued rolling up and down along gentrified villages and national trust properties until I emerged on the edge of Yeovil, crossed a park, found the train station, and booked a ticket back home. The landscape I had cycled the day before rolled at speed by the window and I felt content. I now knew this land better than I had the day before. I could name memories and places that people around me couldn’t. And I could trace the shedding of my tears and sadness along the roads, a last goodbye to a quiet man I’ll never see again but who had left a strong legacy in me.

Queer Out Here – Co-editor interview

Back at the beginning of the year, Jonathan and I launched the first issue of Queer Out Here.

I wrote about what Queer Out Here before, but that was a long time ago. So here’s a recap:

Welcome: Audio Introduction to Queer Out Here from Queer Out Here on Vimeo.

We’re about to open submissions for Issue 02, so we thought it would a good time to talk about the zine again. But rather than write about the concept, we wanted to give you an insight into what it’s like to be a co-editor of a zine with this interview. You can read my answers below, and find Jonathan’s answers on his blog, In Which I.

Did you have any expectations for the zine – and how did they match with the reality?

I’m not sure I really had expectations for the zine. I had no idea what people would be comfortable sharing and if anyone would pick up a microphone and record.

I knew we would have an issue of sort, if only with submissions from friends and acquaintances. That was as far as my expectations went. I didn’t want to set my hopes too high or think about it much to avoid being disappointed. I also didn’t want to shape the zine in my mind to be able to let it develop organically as we received submissions. That way, I didn’t end up wanting to mould the first issue into the idea in my head. In that regards, the result far exceeding the reality. We received submissions from people we didn’t know and we received so many, the issue ended up being 1h40 in length!

If you ask me this question again after issue 02, my answer is probably going to be different. I have more of an idea of what we can do, what people are happy to submit and share, and what we haven’t achieved.

What has been the most interesting thing about making Issue 01?

I enjoyed the whole process but the most interesting for me has been the audio editing (which probably doesn’t come as a surprise). I had never put together a project like that, and finding out how best to do it with my software ended up being a lot of fun.
There was a fair share of Googling problems, but I loved seeing the different audio files come together to slowly become the issue that is out today.

What has been the most difficult thing about creating the zine for you?

Surprisingly the entire process has been a lot easier than I expected. What I found the hardest was time management. I had other projects on the go and a full-time job (I still have that one) which sometimes made it difficult to get home, open the laptop and get to work on the zine when all I wanted to do was slouch on the sofa.

But like most things, the hardest was starting. Every time I opened the laptop and got to work on the zine, time flew by and I enjoyed every bit of it. So now, I know that what I need to do is get to work. The rest (mostly) flows from there.

How did you go about organising the pieces into a coherent whole for the issue?

This was surprisingly fun to do. I listed all the pieces with notes such as (male voice, American, diary, interviews, themes, etc.) and tried to find a coherent whole without too many repetitions for the listener. For example, I tried to avoid having all the interviews together. I decided very quickly on the opening and closing pieces (which ended up being the one you hear at the start and end of Issue 01) and worked from there. It involved a lot of moving contributions around and seeing how they worked together. I never listened to the entirety of potential order for the zine. Having listened to all the pieces multiple times beforehand, it was easy to remember them.

After that, Jonathan and I had a chat, compared our notes, discussed our choices, and tadam! The order was decided. We settled for loosely themed block of contributions, trying to avoid repetition in voices and formats. In the end, this was almost an arbitrary way to organise the issue. We discussed other options, and there definitely were many different ways to organise the issue, but I’m happy with the choices we’ve made. Let us know if you’re think otherwise.

Are there any podcasts (or other media) that inspired you more than others for the creation of the zine?

Probably but I’m not aware of much.
A lot of what I listen to is very different what we wanted to achieve with the zine. It’s often short (under 30 minutes), highly produced, and overall not that outdoorsy. In a sense, you could say that it inspired the zine because nothing like it existed.

What are your hopes for future issues?

In short: more submissions!

I would love a range of submissions that keeps being more and more varied. That includes, the files themselves – we didn’t receive music for the first issue so it would be great to have some in the future. But it also includes the people submitting. Issue 01 is a representation of white Western experiences, and that is limiting.

I would also like to have more contributors exploring the question of being queer out here. As much as I would like it not to be a question, it is. The answers to it can be as varied as there are people answering it. From political and social issues to ecology and adventures, I would love to hear more of what being queer out here means to queer people.

On a personal note, I’d love more play with sounds and field recordings but I also understand that this is a more daunting sort of contributions to make if you have never created anything in an audio format. That being said, if you’re reading this and you’re thinking of giving this a go but need some support, get in touch.

You can listen to Issue 01 here, and on iTunes, PlayerFM, Stitcher and a few other places. Let us know what you think! Submissions for Issue 02 will open in May 2018.