Thursday, 16 December 2021

Will This Ever End? Good Luck Folklore, New Photos, Xmas Prep, ASMR Noises and Podcasts...


Todays prompts, my lovely fountain pen, leftover stickers, folklore good luck leaf 

One of my favourite images from the film I took using a cheap plastic camera I bought from Primarni in the 'before times' - the camera has a fixed no focus lens, no iso setting or anything fancy about it all - it's just a shutter. I used 35mm Kino film from Lomography - which is film I got for xmas or birthday I can't remember which a couple of years ago. The image itself is of the stone bridge over the beck in Meanwood Park taken on a sunny day in late November 2021.

As I write this I am struggling to manage my anxiety about the seemingly exponential rise of the new strain of Covid, the terrifying predictions of the numbers of infections, the uncertainty of what Omicron might mean on an individual level and the impact of what large groups of people having to isolate might mean. The fact that it's Thursday and so it's blog day is a good alternative focus.

I am in the fortunate position of having had both my jabs and my booster but the uncertainty of the effect of the new strain has meant that the beginnings of confidence I was starting to work to reclaim a couple of months ago and the tentative steps I was taking to get back to a bit of the normality of a bit of the 'before times' has been replaced again by the fear, uncertainty and at times sheer terror of the start of the pandemic almost two years ago.

I can hardly believe I have just written the words 'two years ago' but it is almost two years now.  Two years of stress and anxiety and now it's back at the highest levels and having had a teeny bit of respite from it it feels all the more heavy and all the more difficult. And having stopped feeling quite so anxious and then that feeling being racheted back up again just shows to me how tiring it all is and what an impact it has and continues to have on so many people to say nothing of its effect my own ability to concentrate and complete tasks. 

It also makes the feeling of when will this ever end all the stronger and heavier. Plus I know people who are extremely clinically vulnerable and on a personal level as an asthmatic who has been hospitalised in the past with a respiratory infection I'm very frightened of becoming seriously ill. But I am ever mindful that I am in a comparatively really fortunate position compared to so so many and I remain incredibly grateful for that and fingers crossed that continues. 

Vaccine provision aside I say no thanks whatsoever to our shitshow of a government who continue to both disappoint and enrage with their staggering levels of arrogance, incompetence, corruption and mixed messages. And now so many of their crap decisions are coming back to bite them (not sacking Cummings for instance, the shortsighted stupidity of making masks optional, the awarding of contracts to cronies with no oversight to name but three) but also sadly us in consequence on the arse. 

So on a happier note I learnt a new piece of folklore whilst on a walk this weekend round the bridlepath with a friend - namely that if you catch a falling leaf it will bring you good luck, and I managed to catch one. I try not to be superstitious but I think despite my conscious brain being fully behind rationalism and atheism it's partly a subconscious throwback to my strict roman catholic upbringing and its attendant belief and hope in things you cannot see and do not exist.

Plus when things are bad - as long as you are doing the rational things what harm can it also do to touch a piece of wood or cross fingers? I am still resisting the lure of submarine catholicism (ie it surfaces when you are in trouble) as I do not believe in it and have zero time or respect for any kind of organised religion apart from the Satanic Temple. 

Anyway I caught a leaf (pictured above) and wished whatever good luck and fortune it may hold to my two friends currently dealing with serious illness - same as I did with the penny I found on the floor and picked up mentally saying 'see a penny pick it up and all the day you'll have good luck'. 

Its the same when I see a robin.  Robins are supposedly carriers of loved ones souls as in the rhyme 'when robins appear, loved ones are near' and whilst I know each time I see one that it does not contain my Dad's soul or the soul of other dead loved ones I do find it a very very small comfort to even think that the belief is that it could. Oh how I wish it was actually true.  

What is a comfort though at the moment is slowly but surely working my way through my pre xmas preparation list which along with organising presents and food also involves a deep clean and sort out of the house. Last week I sorted out my workroom over two afternoons. The bookcases are still double stacked but now much more neatly and in much better groupings - most of the photography boooks are all together in one corner, though the death, gothic and victorian studies are still spread over two bookcases. Fiction takes up the rest of the shelfspace.

There are still piles of equipment and materials on the floor next to the bookcases but it's all been sorted into much neater piles and I know what is in each one and where to look for things. Plus a bag of stuff went in the bin, a bag of stuff went into the recycling bin and two bags of stuff were dropped off at the charity shop on Tuesday morning. Imposing a bit of order makes me feel a bit better, as does looking at the pictures I took using the really cheap plastic camera (example above) as they have mostly come out exactly the way I wanted them too - I hope that viewers also see elements of creepiness, melancholy and old looking-ness. I'm looking forward to using some of them either as stills in a short film or as image transfers onto material. 

Whilst doing this I will probably be listening to one of my favourite podcasts which I am finding very comforting (either the Boulet Brothers Creatures of the Night, Peaches Christ Midnight Mass, The Uncanny on Radio 4 or the soundtrack album from Dark Shadows which I got as a birthday present last year. I've now watched 910 episodes and I remain as much in love with Barnabas Collins as played by Jonathon Frid as I was just over 2 years ago when I first started watching it. My curiosity aroused by what I'd heard of a gothic horror soap opera featuring a sympathetic vampire. Hearing the theme tune has a kind of ASMR effect on me and my husband - it's a real kind of 'aah deep breath calming' kind of effect and for the next twenty minutes we can get lost in and be distracted by ghostly, vampiric and time travelling goings on the Collinwood Estate. 

Thank you for reading and I hope you too have something that you can find solace in and some distraction and calm escape. 


Thursday, 9 December 2021

If It's Thursday It Must Be Blog Day, Nostalgia, Groundhog Covid-ness, Distraction Working


Out of focus digital image taken at St George's Field on Sunday 5th December,
post processed to monochrome - it's been a while since I've been to St George's Field for fresh air and for picture taking and making. My plan wasn't to do a 'proper' photoshoot as really I just wanted to wander but I popped my favourite digital point and shoot in my pocket in case there was anything which caught my eye. 

Many things did catch my eye as I ended up taking 91 images (oh the clicking freedom of digital as opposed to the measured use of film) - some of which I'm really pleased with and others are much more meh.  It was balm for my soul though getting back in the picture taking zone as the last few days have and continue to be a time of great worry about seriously ill loved ones and here is hoping they'll make a full recovery.

As a space St George's Field remains one of my very favourite places to be and one of the best for recharging my mental batteries. I continue to research its history and that of its occupants and make work in and of it.

It can be hard to take an out of focus image with an automatic focus point and shoot digital camera and there's something serendipitous about this image - I meant to take and subsequently did an in focus image of that tombstone grouping too but there's something about this out of focus one that really speaks to me as I think it accurately reflects my current state of mind and the ongoing uncertainty and disconcerting nature of covid times.

Once I'd had my booster (again thank you NHS) I'd started to feel a little less frightened and a little more positive and open to the idea of going out a bit more and socialising in person rather than through a screen but the events of the past few days, the emergence of a new Covid variant and our ongoing shitshow of a government and their crass incompetence and corruption has made me feel less light at the end of the tunnel but more light of an oncoming train again.

So this image accurately reflects the way I feel about things which I had been able to take for certain in pre-covid times are now jolted and jumbled and no longer reliable. 

My beloved digital point and shoot Lumix - the camera I used to take the picture above and which remains my go to point and shoot digital if I want high resolution in focus images, a backing card for 'Fashionable' buttons which makes me smile as if there are 'fashionable' buttons then is somewhere selling buttons labelled as 'unfashionable'? , an old receipt for something I didn't buy from Binns Ltd for £1.90 on 21st August 1975 (that would be approximately £16.50 in todays money) that I found in a book I bought from a charity shop a while back and despite it having no personal meaning for me I can't bring myself to throw it away.

If only I had telemetric powers then I might be able to discern who it was that made the purchase and what it was. Binns was a department store that became part of House of Fraser and I'm wondering what kind of things would have cost £1.90 in the summer of 1975 and would have been sold in a department store.

There's also a photo of me meeting Father Xmas mostly likely at Lewis or Kendals in the early to mid 70's. I am wearing a kind of sailors outfit which my Mum loved and used to dress me up in all the time. I don't remember loving my sailor suit but I do remember loving my red boots and I also had a pair in white, there's also a ticket to Sometimes Always Never that I saw at the Hyde Park Picture House in the before times (Friday June 28th 2019) that fell out of a pocket of a handbag I hadn't used for a while and made me feel very nostalgic for carefree last minute trips to the cinema.

The Hyde Park Picture House have been posting photographs of the things they've found as the refurbishment continues - so far I've seen an old packet of Woodbine fags, a card from a box of Needlers chocolates and a wrapper for a Zoom lolly from the mid 70's.  You can see them if you look them up on their socials.

There's also this weeks post it note and a blue bic biro - one of the survivors from my sorting out my pen pots on my desk earlier this week - the imprints of the other survivors can be seen scribbled on my beloved green and white lined proper old school computer paper.

Still enjoying my renewed blogging mojo and it does now seen to be a bit more of a habit again - hence if it's Thursday it must be blog day and in the midst of ongoing uncertainty and distress having fixed points is something of a comfort as is Buffy the Vampire Slayer which I missed first time round but am now catching up with thanks to its showings on E4 at 6pm. I know I could download it but I find it easier to watch it on a live broadcast - in part because it's a full stop to the chores of the day and permission to wind down by collapsing on the sofa and watching some flawed undemanding brain fluff that takes very little effort to watch.

I am still watching Dark Shadows too but that does take a bit more of an effort at times as periods of what appear to be the writers treading water whilst deciding what to do next (it didn't begin with a grand overall story arc are then followed by rapid plot twists and turns which can be so lightning quick they're a bit  disorientating. Continuity and logic are not one of its strong points but no matter I remain completely in love with Barnabas Collins and who in episode 1112 is back to being a vampire with a near uncontrollable thirst for blood. 

I increasingly carry out the chores of the day - be that cleaning, cooking, food shopping, christmas preparation, creative work, life admin to a soundtrack of either Radio 4 Extra or a podcast. The podcasts I'm especially enjoying include Peaches Christ Midnight Mass which examines various cult films by talking to performers from it or people who just absolutely love it. The enthusiasm of Peaches and Michael is infectious and it's by turns insightful and revealing, as is the Boulet Brothers Creatures of the Night podcast.

Just as enthusiastic and revealing is Danny Robins Uncanny but by far the most disturbing thing I've listened to this week is The Haunted Generation by Bob Fischer. It's an audio recreation of my 70's childhood with a mix of evocative tv theme tunes, folk songs from the time *shudder*, 70's adverts, and is mostly gentle and lovely (so most unlike the 70's then really - but hey that's the rosy tint of nostalgia for you)  but most terrifying of all in the midst of rosiness there is a clip of the soundtrack to the public information film narrated by Keith Baron detailing the perils of grain silos and how easy it is to drown in them. Til I heard that bit I had been merrily thinking about Fingerbobs, Wombles and the like - a lot of public information films were just short horror films weren't they? I like my horror cosy and as an asthmatic anything where it sounds people are struggling to breathe really unsettles me...hence my ongoing fear re Covid and its potential effect on breathing ability. 

I've often used creative work as a distraction rather than just as an end in itself  - either reading or watching someone else's creative work or making my own. This week I have mostly been distracting myself with the creative work of others but I have also done some photograph editing and workroom tidying and my plan is to start making some image transfers with some of those photographs tomorrow, as well as think about about another possible exhibition submission in January. 

But here's hoping for better news all round next week eh? Thank you for reading. 

Thursday, 2 December 2021

Knickerbocker Glories, Time Uncertainty, Changing Consumer Habits, Podcasts and Haunting.


this weeks post it note, list of books on loan from Leeds City Council Libraries which I am slowly working my way through, my journal that I write in every few days or so with fountain pen with black ink, new (to me) purse which made me smile so I bought it although I was really supposed to be buying presents for others at the time which I did as well - I haven't included the things I've been working on as they are presents and so I don't want the people they're for to get a chance sneak preview... 

giant knickerbocker glory which lives on Cleethorpes front - pictured earlier this year - I wonder if it survived Storm Arwen? I hope it did and its owner took it inside for the duration...I am jonesing for a day at the seaside (even if I almost freeze to death in the process) and in particular for a knickerbocker glory made for me by someone wearing a tabard and looking a bit bored - the best I've had has been in Brucciani in Morecambe and Pacittos in Redcar.
My mouth is watering at the memory of them.

It's Thursday so that means it must be go to local shops for bread, fruit and vegetables, possibly the library too and then come home and do a blog post day. It's been another week in these ongoing unsettling and challenging times. I remain very grateful that the pandemic has not affected my finances and that I do not have the kind of job that means I have to leave the house, use public transport to get to it and interact with others in the flesh (especially those who no concept of keeping distance or wearing a mask ) but otherwise it continues to have a frightening and damaging and pervasive effect over everything else.

Almost two weeks on from my booster jab (thank you NHS) I was just starting to feel a little less anxious about going out and meeting up with folks and doing things from the 'before times' but I'm afraid the latest Covid variant Omicron emergence and uncertainty around it has ramped my anxiety levels right back up again. This coupled with loved ones currently being very poorly with it and with other loved ones that are having treatment plans delayed or derailed because of Covid is just making me feel rather despondent in a when will this ever end kind of way? Please join me in keeping everything crossed for their full recovery and that eventually this too will pass.

The when will it ever end feeling also chimes in with the general feeling I have of losing all track of time, things feeling like they happened years ago but in reality were only months ago or were years ago but feel very recent. I don't think I'm alone in the feeling but it is kind of disconcerting too. Like part of me just cannot believe that this is the second xmas season under the heavy, horrid long reaching shadow of Covid. Is it really almost two years since I've been on a bus - something I used to do regularly in the before times? and yes, it is.

I've made most of my xmas presents this year, something I often do anyway but my purchasing habits have changed considerably in Covid times, partly due to some of the shops being closed for some of the time (I do buy some things online but not many) but also because until recently I didn't feel comfortable going into shops unless it was for immediately necessities ie bread and milk type stuff.

I still don't feel entirely comfortable browsing and so I have mostly stopped making impromptu purchases. When I do go to the shops now it's just local ones and with specific purchases in mind or a list. I haven't had a wander round the city centre just nipping in wherever takes my fancy for almost two years. A sentence I cannot believe I am writing and yet it is true.

I recognise the enormous privilege I have in being able to decide not to purchase stuff as well as purchasing stuff as well as a comfortable space to call my own to be in. However I did treat myself to the little purse on last weeks shopping trip  tho I'm not sure if I'll actually use it for physical money as I so rarely use actual cash these days, I mostly just wave my contactless card at a card machine. On checking my bank statement it seems I've taken cash out of the cash machine twice in the last year. TWICE when it used to be a weekly event. I also recognise how lucky I am to have a bank account with the privileges that brings when not everyone does. I might just the purse to keep my earrings in or a lippy and little mirror when I next have a night out - tho as that hasn't happened since March 8th 2019 I won't be holding my breath til it happens again. 

Am awaiting the return of my 35mm film with some anticipation - I so hope there are some usuable images on it but it won't have any of the recent snowfall. I failed to take any pictures of the recent snowfall, not even quick digital snaps out of the window. Tho please accept my assertion that the back garden looked very pretty under it's snow coating. I'm glad it melted fairly quickly tho as like many others I do not want to slip and hurt myself or make ongoing existing niggles with my ankle worse.

I've been listening to the very marvellous Peaches Christ Midnight Mass podcast recently as she and her podcast partner filmmaker Michael Varrati talk about some of my very favourite films and filmmakers. Plus even if I'm not familiar with the film they're talking about their love, enthusiasm and insight is infectious and I am adding lots more films to my want to watch list.  I especially enjoyed their episodes on Ed Wood and The Bad Seed.  Creatures of the Night - the Boulet Brothers podcast is also one of my current favourites.

One which encapsulates some of the aspects of my seventies childhood and which I listened to this week is The Haunted Generation podcast by Bob Fischer which for me veers between enchantingly nostalgic, unsettling and downright terrifying. The snippet from a public information film warning of the dangers of drowning in grain silos is truly horrific and will continue to haunt me for quite some time. Be warned if you listen for that may happen to you too and things that you thought you had easily forgotten just may come back to haunt you too.

                                            Thank you for reading.