A bright sun streaked through the trees and across the frosted lawn this morning. It was still pretty cold, so, although I am beginning to feel like taking a reasonable walk again, it probably wouldn’t have been sensible and my rambling was done through my photographic archives.
A task I have been putting off ever since I acquired my iMac, had been to rescan all my old slides and negatives. I made a start on my very first colour slide, taken in August 1963.
Vivien and I had married two months before, and, whilst searching for our first owned home, lived in my parents’ house at 18 Bernard Gardens, SW19. Ever since his birth, as Jackie and I were to do later, she and I had taken my young brother everywhere with us. It is perhaps therefore appropriate that I begin this renovation process with a picture of Joe on a seesaw in the garden of that Wimbledon house. Mum is doing the seesawing by the side of an unidentified friend.
Only one of our honeymoon pictures survives. It was probably taken with the Box Brownie my grandfather had passed on to me some years before. I am not sure where the print is now, but, like most amateurs in those days, I didn’t keep the negatives. Colour slides were different. Unless you had them made into prints, which rather defeated the object, you couldn’t view them without a projector shining light through the positive film. That is why my collection for posterity began with colour slides.
The colour of the original fifty year old slide has deteriorated into a monochrome pink sepia. There were also numerous little black specks and tiny hairs on the scanned image. With the marvellous iPhoto application, I have managed to get some of the pristine picture back. No doubt, my friend Alex Schneideman would have improved it still further.
Having been encouraged by the honeymoon photo of a Cornish fishing village I had decided to upgrade my camera and begin with colour slides. That is when I bought my Kodak Retinette 1b, which is what I would have taken the August picture with. Although it had a good lens for the money, in keeping with those days, there was nothing electronic or automatic about the device. In particular you had to work out your focussing by estimating the distance between you and the subject. This was aided later by the purchase of a rangefinder which you clipped to the top of the camera body. Even then a calculation was required. It will be apparent from the said photograph that I had some improvement to acquire in that department. A knowledge of depth of field might have been useful. For the uninitiated this is the range of the picture that will be in focus with any specific combination of lens aperture and shutter speed. This meant that even if Joe had been in sharp focus, Mum was not going to be. Not that anyone has to worry too much about that now. The factors are more critical when taking close-ups, but the modern camera does the thinking for you.
This afternoon Jackie drove us through splendid forest roads glorified by the strong, low, winter sunshine, to Calshot to show me Henry VIII’s small castle. No doubt, like the nearby Hurst Castle, this was part of a warning system and a minor defence against a possible Spanish invasion. Today there is an observation tower equipped with modern technology alongside the Tudor building. Passing the castle was the oil tanker ‘Sovereign’, another symbol of modern life undreamt of by the sixteenth century holder of that title.
Gulls, rounding the castle, hovered on the gusts of wind that tore across Southampton Water, just as their antecedents have done for more than half a millennium.
Choppy waves sped across the channel separating us from the docks and Fawley refinery, and slid up the shingle beach and back down again. The wind that urged them along and held up the gulls provided exhilarating power for a number of kitesurfers, one of whom had to stop to blow up his kite.
Although, at high tide, we saw only shingle today, judging by the rows of beach huts lining the shore between the village and the castle, Calshot Beach must be sandy. Jackie managed to pinpoint on the map exactly where we were and therefore to identify the docks; the refinery; and the Spinnaker tower on the far shore opposite the castle. Realising how close, when parked near the huts, we were to the Isle of Wight, she also identified Cowes and Ryde.
A cyclist taking his two Labradors for a walk wheeled through the car park, across the road, and back the way he had come.
We dined on Jackie’s juicy chicken jalfrezi and savoury rice, followed by sticky toffee pudding and cream. I drank a glass of Via di Cavallo Chianti 2012. Perhaps a little light for a fiery curry, this was nevertheless an excellent wine and just right for my head this evening.