Where Is Everybody?

The place is here. The time is now, and the journey into the shadows that we are about to watch, could be our journey.

A man in an Air Force flight suit is alone on a dirt track, with no memory of who he is or how he got there. He stumbles into a nearby diner, and although the jukebox is playing, there are no customers. In the kitchen he finds a pot of hot coffee and freshly made pies, but there are no other people besides himself.

He wanders into a nearby town. Like the diner it is also deserted, yet he has the feeling that someone’s around and he’s being watched. A telephone rings in a phonebox, but when he rushes to answer no one is there. In the police station, a lit cigar is in the ashtray. In the cells, a recently used shaving brush and razor. In the ice cream store he finds a rack of identical books, each one titled The Last Man on Earth. As he wanders around he becomes increasingly distressed and anxious to find someone to talk to. He thinks he’s dreaming and wants to wake up.

I’d like to wake up now. If I can’t wake up, at least I’d like to find somebody to talk to.

As nightfall approaches, he becomes progressively paranoid and anxious, eventually running and stumbling through the town in a blind panic. Finally, he comes upon a pedestrian crossing and desperately pushes the call button again and again, begging for help.

The call button is revealed to be a panic button and the man is actually in an isolation booth being observed by a group of senior servicemen. He has been undergoing tests to determine his fitness as an astronaut and whether he can handle a prolonged trip to the Moon alone; the town was a hallucination caused by sensory deprivation.


Where Is Everybody {watch} is the first-ever episode of The Twilight Zone. It was first broadcast way back in 1959, but I probably saw it in the late ’70s when the BBC ran the series late at night. It was one of a handful of episodes that really stuck in my head. Little did I know that 40 years later I’d be living it.

Things in my little town are desolate. As I go for my Government-mandated daily exercise each morning, the streets are pretty much devoid of people and cars. There are more joggers around than usual, however. Nevertheless, the number of people jogging is expected to reach a peak in the next two weeks, after which the curve will flatten and eventually 80% of the population will develop lifelong immunity.

For most of my daily walks and runs I’ve been taking my Polaroid SX-70 Sonar. But I wanted to capture the emptiness of the streets, and so for the last couple of days I’ve taken my beloved Pentax KM with the ultra-wide Miranda 24mm F/2.8 lens. I bought the lens from Dan James for a snip. Whilst not a great performer, stop down to f/8 and beyond, slip on a lens hood, and you’ll get some decent results. That’s the lens, not Dan.

I’m a bit of an introvert and I’m used to living alone, so I thought I’d get through this fairly easily. But it’s week three of not physically interacting with another single person, and I’m finding it a bit harder than I thought.

The barrier of loneliness: The palpable, desperate need of the human animal to be with his fellow man. Up there, up there in the vastness of space, in the void that is sky, up there is an enemy known as isolation. It sits there in the stars waiting, waiting with the patience of eons, forever waiting… in The Twilight Zone.

Chertsey in lockdown / Pentax KM / Kodak Tmax 100 / Developed in Kodak D76 1+1

Chertsey in Lockdown

Chertsey in Lockdown

Chertsey in Lockdown

Chertsey in Lockdown

Chertsey in Lockdown

Chertsey in Lockdown

Chertsey in Lockdown

Chertsey

Chertsey in Lockdown

Chertsey in Lockdown

Chertsey

Chertsey in Lockdown

Chertsey in Lockdown

Chertsey

Chertsey

Chertsey Lockdown

Chertsey Lockdown

Chertsey Lockdown

Chertsey Lockdown

Chertsey Lockdown

Chertsey Lockdown

In An Instant: Lockdown Edition: Mini Me

And on my latest day release exercise, I swung by……. the cemetery. Again.

I’ve no idea what sort of meter the SX-70 has. But with this very white monument and the bushes behind, I was kind of hoping the meter would tone down the whites and render the background completely black. And it so very nearly did.

Chertsey Cemetery / Polaroid SX-70 Sonar / Polaroid Originals SX-70 Black & White Film

Chertsey Cemetery


Prior to this pandemic, thanks to Brexit and the ensuing culture war, Britain has been engulfed in political turmoil for three years. Each day seemed to bring a new political calamity, which was then promptly forgotten when the next one happened 24 hours later. Weeks felt like months, months felt like years. I really regret not keeping a simple note of events as they happened, just so I could look back and try and make some sense of it all.

So during this period I’ve decided to sum up the weekly events that have struck me the most, from the deadly serious to the absurdly ridiculous. If my tone seems flippant at times…well, we all have our own way of getting through this horror.

See all previous updates here

This week in The Coronapocalypse:

  • UK testing policy under severe critiscism
  • Astrophysicist gets magnets stuck up nose whilst inventing coronavirus device to warn when touching face
  • Video conferencing app Zoom valued at 50% greater than total of all US airlines combined
  • Google reports ‘How to cut men’s hair at home’ is last week’s top ‘how to’ search
  • Wimbledon cancelled for the first time since WWII
  • Endinburgh Festival cancelled
  • Basically, every cultural event for this year cancelled
  • Covid-19 claims its first democracy, as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán suspends Parliament and elections indefinitely
  • Contactless payment limit raised from £30 to £45
  • Number of confirmed worldwide cases passes one million
  • British Airways suspends 30,000 staff until the end of May under the government furlough scheme
  • British Airways staff serve breakfast for NHS employees at Whittington hospital
  • Britons once again take to their windows and balconies to clap, cheer and bang cooking pots for the NHS workers
  • Prime Minister still in self-isolation
  • PM’s pregnant partner also confirms she is recovering from Covid-19
  • London’s ExCel Exhibition Centre converted into 4000 bed temporary hospital in nine days
  • Health Secretary sets aim of 100,000 tests a day by end of April
  • Mobile phone masts torched and engineers abused over baseless theories linking coronavirus to 5G
  • President Trump announces latest infection figures top 8.5 million. Oh, sorry, that was actually his press briefing viewing ratings


    Worldwide cases: 1,203,109 (previous week 664,891)
    Worldwide deaths: 64,743 (previous week 30,893)
    UK cases: 41,903 (previous week 17,089)
    UK deaths: 4,313 (previous week 1,019)

    source

In An Instant: Lockdown Edition: Double Exposure

Eleven days into lockdown, and I’m safe, well, and still have a job. At least for the moment. However, I am supremely sick of the idiot I’m forced to spend every waking hour with. Which is a shame really, as I live alone.

Today’s daily exercise Polaroid was taken at the local cemetery. I pressed the shutter and got that wonderfully evocative Polaroid ejection sound. But no picture. So I pressed it again and got a nice double exposure.

Three things The Coronapocalypse has taught us:

  • We need to properly fund the National Health Service
  • We’ve learnt the value of those people previously dismissed as ‘unskilled’
  • With a bit of effort, we can get the homeless off the streets

Let’s try not to go back, please.

Polaroid SX-70 Sonar / Polaroid Originals SX-70 Black & White Film

Chanctonbury Ring: Hiking & High Strangeness

The South Downs are a range of rolling chalk hills that stretch across the south-eastern coastal counties of England. Inhabited and settled for thousands of years, there is archaeological evidence of Neolithic mines and Iron Age forts scattered throughout the green hillsides. One of these forts, known today as Chanctonbury Ring, sits at a height of 782 feet and is marked by a peculiar clump of beech trees. Many of these trees, originally planted by local landowner Charles Goring in 1760, were destroyed in the hurricane of 1987 and subsequently replaced in a replanting programme. Along with nearby Rackham Hill and Cissbury Ring, the three hills are said to have been created by the Devil. Scooping up mounds of earth and chucking them aside, he attempted to create a valley and flood the local churches. But as is often the way, the Devil’s work was interrupted by the crowing of a rooster and he scarpered, leaving behind a large valley known as Devil’s Dyke.

But then the Devil has always had a dark association with this area of England. The northern doors of many local churches were bricked up to keep out evil forces. Infamous occultist and self-confessed ‘most evil man in Britain’ Aleister Crowley, was said to have practised his dark arts on Chanctonbury Ring in his 1920’s heyday. Run anti-clockwise six times round the ring, local folklore says, and the Devil will appear and offer you a bowl of soup in exchange for your soul. The Devil does indeed drive a hard bargain. Throw in theories of ley lines, UFO sightings, and tales of Saxon ghosts, and the Ring pretty much runs the entire gamut of ‘High Strangeness’.

It was a glorious Sunday two weeks ago that Jane, myself, the Nikon F100, and the dogs took an eight-mile hike there. Little did I know then, that thanks to The Coronapocalypse it’d be the last time I had any human contact for the foreseeable future. We started off in the Anglo Saxon village of Steyning, right by the church. Dedicated to St Andrew and St Cuthmann, the church is largely Norman, although its history goes back further than the conquest. Sometime around the 9th century, St Cuthman is alleged to have arrived here pulling his sick mother in a cart. When the tow rope broke he naturally assumed that this was a sign from God that he should stay put. So he stuck around, built a wooden church, and administered to the needs of his adopted flock. Everyone needs a hobby.

All photos: Nikon F100 / Ilford FP4 / Developed in Kodak HC-110 Dilution B

Steyning Church

Steyning hurch

And after two miles we get our first glimpse of Chanctonbury Ring. It’s that little mohican of trees atop the far right hill. Still a long way to go.

Chanctonbury Ring


The footpath goes right through a farm….


…with cows!


This shed looks like it was built by the same person who put up my shelves i.e. me


This could be the final push. But if there’s one thing I hate when struggling to get up a hill, it’s being passed by someone on their way down.


Bertie & Coco make it look like a piece of cake, though.


Almost there. Just need to get past these vicious looking cows…

Chanctonbury Ring


And here we are: Chanctonbury Ring.

Chanctonbury Ring

“Naturally the Ring is haunted. Even on bright summer days there is an uncanny sense of some unseen presence which seems to follow you about. If you enter the dark wood alone you are conscious of something behind you. When you stop, it stops. When you go on, it follows. Even on the most tranquil days when no breath of air stirs the leaves, you can hear a whispering somewhere above you, and if you should be so bold as to enter the Ring on a dark night, as my wife and I did… We never shall repeat that visit; some things are best forgotten if they can be.”
Dr Philip Gosse, local resident, 1935

Chanctonbury Ring

Chanctonbury Ring

Coco & Bertie: Running scared? Or running with joy?

Chanctonbury Ring

In these dark days of isolation, it feels like it could be a long time before any of us can do simple things like this again. But it’s looking at these pictures, and the memories they invoke, that’ll get me through it. After all, that’s ultimately the real reason we take photographs, right?

In An Instant: Lockdown Edition: Pylon

I’ve now shot two packs of Polaroid Originals colour film in my SX-70, and I’m starting to get a feel for what works for me: simple compositions, muted or restricted colour palettes. Yellows and blues tend to look nice.

Now it’s time to try some black and white, and I didn’t really know what to expect. I went down by the river on this morning’s walk and shot this. Based on my extensive experience of one shot, the black and white film seems to be a very different beast. A touch more ethereal, a bit more flaky. I’m quite excited to get out and shoot some more. I guess that’s what house arrest does to you.

Pylon, Chertsey Meads / Polaroid SX-70 Sonar / Polaroid Originals SX-70 Black & White Film

Polaroid Pylon


Prior to this pandemic, thanks to Brexit and the ensuing culture war, Britain has been engulfed in political turmoil for three years. Each day seemed to bring a new political calamity, which was then promptly forgotten when the next one happened 24 hours later. Weeks felt like months, months felt like years. I really regret not keeping a simple note of events as they happened, just so I could look back and try and make some sense of it all.

So during this period I’ve decided to sum up the weekly events that have struck me the most, from the deadly serious to the absurdly ridiculous. If my tone seems flippant at times…well, we all have our own way of getting through this horror.

See all previous updates here

This week in The Coronapocalypse:

  • UK officially in lockdown for minimum of three weeks
  • Nation celebrates Mother’s Day by not visiting mothers
  • Most vulnerable told to isolate for 12 weeks
  • Prince Charles tests positive
  • More than 700,000 heed the call and volunteer to help the National Health Service
  • PM Boris Johnson leads by example and tests positive
  • Oh, and the Health Secretary. Oops.
  • Clap For Carers: households across the UK stand on doorsteps & balconies to applaud efforts of NHS. Grown men weep get something in their eye.
  • Situation stabalising in China….
  • ….whilst situation in New York and Spain looks ever more grim
  • Government declines invitation to participate in EU scheme to get desperately needed ventilators because ‘We are no longer in the EU’…
  • ….and then following national backlash ‘clarifies’ by saying ‘We didn’t see the email’. Yep, the grown ups charged with getting us through this crisis basically used the Dog Ate My Homework excuse. Lordy.
  • Off-licences declared ‘essential’ and allowed to stay open. Draw your own conclusions about us Brits.
  • Self-employed to be paid 80% of previous year’s profit.
  • Gatherings of more than two people outlawed. The Nation’s introverts cheer.
  • US now country with most cases
  • Britsh Summer Time starts and clocks go forward one hour, meaning nation has one less hour of weekend to enjoy / endure (delete as appropriate) with family members before…
  • …spending every waking hour of forthcoming weeks with family members…


Worldwide cases: 664,891
Worldwide deaths: 30,893
UK cases: 17,089
UK deaths: 1,019

source