Brexit Time Capsule

As I write this, it’s 1000 days since the UK voted to leave the European Union. And it seems fitting that I was wandering round a cemetery whilst considering those things I’d bury in my Brexit time capsule. You know how this goes. You gather the things that are important to you, and wrap them up carefully. Then you bury them in the ground, the hope being that some future generation will discover them, and marvel at the way we once lived.

We’ve come along way in the last few years. In 2015, front page news was a picture of then-Labour Party leader eating a bacon sandwich. By 2016, the country was on fire. Here are four things I’m going to miss and fear are gone forever:

Polite discussion on the internet

OK, this one’s not exactly new. Failing to tell someone you disagree with that you hope they die of cancer was made illegal by an Act of Parliament sometime around 1998. Nevertheless, things have got exponentially worse in the last few years. So I’m shoving this one in the Brexit time capsule.

All photos Brookwood Cemetery / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4 / Stand developed in Kodak HC-110 1+160 for 45 minutes

Brexit time capsule

Brexit time capsule

Brexit time capsule

Satirists

They say that satire is dead. Not true. It’s just that we no longer have the need for satirists. Politicians and public figures are now self-satirising. They’ve cut out the middleman. Take Member of Parliament Jacob Ress-Mogg, for example. Here’s a man whose idea of kicking back at the weekend is to wear a top hat and speak Latin. Who happily admits that even though he has six children, he’s never changed a nappy. Who since convincing the public to leave the EU has made seven million pounds by investing in funds in….er… the EU. Yet this multi-millionaire has managed to convince a significant number of people that it’s everyone else who’s the elite.

Or how about Brexit minister Stephen Barclay? He presented the government’s case for an extension to Article 50 in the Commons last week, saying it was for the good of the country. Then promptly went through the division lobby and voted against the amendment himself. But not to fear, this week he’s being sent to Brussels to argue for an extension.

So sorry satirists, you need not apply. Into the Brexit time capsule you go.

Brexit time capsule

Brookwood Cemetery

Brookwood Cemetery

Shame / Honesty

These two go hand in hand. Because once politicians and pundits dispensed with shame, they realised they could lie without consequence. In days gone by, a person in a position of authority would have had to resign if they knowingly told the public a bare-faced lie. These days they can stand up and say the exact opposite of what they said before, without any recourse whatsoever. You can even show them the video of them saying it and they decry it as fake news. The truth has evaporated into steam.

We used to say that everyone was entitled to their own opinion. Now it seems that everyone is entitled to their own facts. And that’s whats truly terrifying; that the people believe the lies, in spite of all the evidence. I had to go back to my copy of 1984 and check exactly how Orwell defined Doublethink:

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

I think they call it cognitive dissonance these days.

Brookwood Cemetery

Brookwood Cemetery

Brookwood Cemetery

Brookwood Cemetery

Nuance

You’ve probably come to some opinion on my political views from reading this. And you may well consider me either a hero or a monster, depending on how you perceive they align with you’re own. But in fact the only point I’m making is for people to be nicer to each other.

It’s possible to not be responsible for voting in the most shameful government in my lifetime, without being a supporter of the most incompetent opposition I’ve ever known. It’s possible to have views on our current political situation without being on one extreme on the other. Yet everything appears to be binary these days; black or white. You’re either a leaver or a remainer. A communist or a conservative. A traitor or a patriot. A libtard or a fascist. But there are very fine people on both sides. Well, OK, not always. And those people with sticky-out rather than sticky-in belly buttons are kinda weird, no?

Brexit time capsule

Brexit time capsule

Brexit time capsule

Brexit time capsule

I’m of an age that grew up without the Internet, and yet was quite an early adopter in my early twenties. I remember being very pleased when I had my first email address, before realising I didn’t actually know anyone I could email. That optimistic sense of a Brave New World seems almost laughable to be me now.

We used to say that a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on. These days, a hateful ideology can travel to the moon and back whilst common decency is still lolling around in its gingham nightshirt. I’m not hopeful for the future.

Sorry. I probably should have ended on a song.

The Serpent Trail

One weekend of warm sunshine in February is a surprise.; two consecutive ones is jaw dropping. Making the most of the weather, we took an eight mile walk along two national trails, the New Lipchis Way and the Serpent Trail. The latter is a is a 64 mile long path through the purple heather, green woods and golden valleys of the Sussex greensand hills.

This was another opportunity for me to play with stand development in HC-110, this time with Ilford FP4. I’m particularly pleased with the results of this combination.

This is the walk we did. Fancy Free Walks is a really good resource for walks in the South East of England. I’ve probably done about 30 over the last five or six years.

Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4 / Stand developed in Kodak HC-110 1+160 for 45 minutes

The Serpent Trail

The Serpent Trail

The Serpent Trail

The Serpent Trail

St Mary’s in Chithust is an 11th Century church, probably built after the Norman Conquest. Chithurst has probably always been a sleepy place, but a note of high drama was sounded in 1757. The rector, Rev John Denham, was stabbed and murdered. A man named Aps was tried at Horsham and convicted of the crime. He was hung, with a contemporary report saying that he ended “his wicked life without the least sign of repentance”. We thought that’d be a good place to stop for lunch.

The Serpent Trail

The Serpent Trail

Just because I’m biased doesn’t mean that Coco The Cocker isn’t the world’s most beautiful dog. She hardly ever sits still, so a photo of her taken with a manual focus lens is a rare occurrence.

The Serpent Trail

The Serpent Trail

The Serpent Trail

The Serpent Trail

The Serpent Trail

There’s a certain type of weirdo that enjoys cemeteries. I’m one of them. This little isolated cemetery was a final treat for me near the end of the walk.

The Serpent Trail

The Serpent Trail

The Serpent Trail

The Serpent Trail

Brookwood Military Cemetery & The Omen

When the Jews return to Zion
And a comet rips the sky
And the Holy Roman Empire rises,
Then you and I must die.
From the eternal sea he rises,
Creating armies on either shore,
Turning man against his brother
‘Til man exists no more.

Question: What do 1960s anthropomorphic pop group The Banana Splits and the Antichrist have in common?

Answer: They were both directed by filmmaker Richard Donner.

All photos shot with Mamiya 645 Pro TL on Ilford FP4. Developed in Rodinal 1+99 for 60 minutes

Donner would go on to have great success with action blockbusters such as Superman (1978) and Lethal Weapon (1987). However, back in the early 70s he was known as a safe pair of hands with a solid body of TV work under his belt. He started his career in the late 1950s, gaining a reputation as a reliable TV director. Get Smart and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. were a couple of the shows he worked on. Possibly most memorable, at least to those of us that grew up watching (reruns of) The Twilight Zone, was Nightmare At 20,000 Feet (watch). William Shatner, flying home after recovering from a mental breakdown, is the only person on the flight who can see a terrifying creature on the wing. Fearing the monster will bring the plane down, and realising everyone else thinks he’s crazy, he starts to wonder if he’s having a relapse. Air travel definitely hasn’t got any less stressful in the intervening years.

Although Donner directed a few features in his early career, it was the release of The Omen in 1976 that, in his own words, changed his life. David Seltzer was approached to write the screenplay in 1973. The Exorcist had been a huge commercial hit that year, and other studios were looking for their own supernatural horror to be The Next Big Thing. But although The Omen purported to be based on biblical prophecy, you’ll struggle to find verses like the one at the top of the page in the Bible. Seltzer made them all up.

American diplomat Robert Thorn is in Rome where his wife Katherine gives birth to a boy. Tragically, unknown to Katherine, the boy dies shortly afterwards. The hospital chaplain comes up with a cunning plan for Thorn to secretly adopt an orphan whose mother died giving birth to him. Thorn’s up for it, but thinks it’s best not to mention it to his wife. They name the child – insert thunder roll and lightning strike here – Damien. Thorn is later appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, and moves to London with Katherine and Damien. After a series of grisly events, Thorn comes to believe his son is the Antichrist. Something I’m sure most parents can sympathise with.

There were a number of notable actors up for the part of Robert Thorn. William Holden turned it down, saying he didn’t want to be in a film about the Devil. Ironically, he went on to play Thorn’s brother in the 1978 sequel. Charlton Heston didn’t want to spend the winter in Europe. Roy Schneider was in the frame at one point, as was Dick Van Dyke. Van Dyke didn’t accept, undoubtedly fearing reprisals due to his appalling cockney accent in Mary Poppins. However, I was pleased to note his apology in 2017. Presumably there’s now an amnesty and it’s safe for him to set foot in London once again. Charles Bronson was another contender, although that would have made it a very different movie. “Charles Bronson would have made it a joke”, reflected screenwriter David Seltzer in 2014. No, what was needed was someone serious. An actor with gravitas and dignity, someone that could make this admittedly far-fetched script believable.

Gregory Peck wasn’t initially that keen. He didn’t like the idea of a horror film. Besides, he was battling his own demons at that point. His eldest son, Jonathan, was found dead in his home earlier that year, in what authorities believed was a suicide. But his friends, and particularly his agent, were worried about him and keen to get him working again. Donner pitched it to him as more a kind of suspense picture than a horror. There are no explicitly supernatural events in the movie. Everything that happens could just as easily be the result of tragic coincidence and religious mania. Thorn, driven mad by the horrific deaths of people around him, is convinced by some religious nutters that his adopted son is the Antichrist. We’ve all been there.

Peck loved it, and filming began in England in October 1975.

brookwood military cemetery the omen

brookwood military cemetery the omen

brookwood military cemetery the omen

brookwood military cemetery the omen

There are some striking scenes in the movie. David Warner’s character getting a permanent cure for headaches, for one (watch). But like all the best movies, it’s the final scenes that’s are some of the most memorable.

In the penultimate scene, Thorn is confronted by armed police as he attempts to kill Damien on a church altar with a set of sacrificial knives. He raises the dagger, plagued with self-doubt, unclear if he’s looking at an innocent child or the Devil.

“Please Daddy, no”, pleads the boy.

“Stop, or I’ll fire”, yells the cop.

With final resolve, Thorn grits his teeth. He plunges the dagger down. A shot rings out. The bullet leaves the gun barrel in slow motion. Fade to black.

brookwood military cemetery the omen

brookwood military cemetery the omen

brookwood military cemetery the omen

The final scene was shot in Brookwood Military Cemetery, but the initial version is not what made it to the final cut.

The US president is presiding over a burial ceremony with three coffins. One each for Robert, Damien, and Katherine. When Alan Ladd Jnr, President of Twentieth Century Fox, saw the footage he asked if there was any to do it and keep the boy alive. No problem, said Donner. This required a pickup 1 shot that was filmed on the green at Shepperton Studios. In this final shot we see just two coffins. The camera pulls away from the backs of the President and his wife, revealing Damien standing between them. He turns to look directly to camera, before smiling and creating one of the creepiest moments in cinema history. Good call, Mr Ladd.

Watch the final scene with Donner’s commentary here.

brookwood military cemetery the omen

brookwood military cemetery the omen

Here is wisdom, let him that hath understanding, count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man and his number is 666.

– Revelation 13:18

1. A pick-up is a small, relatively minor shot filmed or recorded after the fact to augment footage already shot. When entire scenes are redone, it is referred to as a re-shoot. Both types of shots usually occur after continuity, logic, or quality issues are identified during the film editing process. In other words, such shots occur months after the sets have been struck, the costumes and props have been stored, and all the cast and most of the crew have moved on to other projects. If the issues had been identified during principal photography, the director would simply have asked for another take.