Now For The Hard Part

It’s twelvety-seven weeks since lockdown started, and over the last few weeks it’s felt like I’ve run out of words. Whilst these months of isolation have been far from easy, they have at least been simple. Stay home; don’t go near anyone; try to at least wear some underwear during Zoom calls. But as we ease out of lockdown, the long slog back to normality has become ever more apparent.

Like America, we’re realising a global catastrophe is not the best time to have a morally bankrupt leader in a dysfunctional relationship with the truth. But unlike the US, where people can solve the problem in four months’ time, it’s hard to imagine what Britain will look like after the remaining four years of this Government.

So where are we? Well, by the weekend the vast majority of shops, restaurants and pubs will be allowed to reopen. Providing they adhere to the strict social distancing regulations, that is. The same goes for offices, although like many people working from home, it’ll be months before I’m compelled to go back. And in many cases, two households can now act as one. On a personal level, this means I now get to spend time at Jane’s house. My gain is her loss.

As the UK flounders around the top of the worst affected countries, even the Government’s most outwardly ardent supporters no longer trust it. We’re told to rely on ‘Good Britsh Common Sense’ (none of that foreign rubbish), but there are 65 million different versions of Britsh Common Sense in this country. As Bournemouth beach filled up with thousands of sunseekers last week, the council declared a major incident. The city of Leicester is now forced to extend its lockdown based on infection data two weeks overdue. As well as a failure of competence, even more crucially, we’ve seen a failure of leadership. We have a Government whose main claim to fame is the ability to come up with three-word slogans. The country’s being run by a third-rate PR Agency.

You probably wish I’d shut up for another month now.

In an attempt to start the return to normality, I decided to go up to central London for the first time since this all started. I live right by the station, so can leave my house and be on the South Bank in under an hour. Masks are now compulsory on public transport. I’d expected things to be much busier now, but of course, there are none of the tourists that would normally pack this part of London. Even after everything that’s happened, it’s still a strange experience.

A person who is tired of London is not necessarily tired of life; it might be that he just can’t find a parking place.

– Paul Theroux

All photos Nikon F100 / Ilford Delta 100 / Developed in Bellini Foto Eco Film Developer

Waterloo Station looking uncharacteristically quiet

I’m seeing lots of good mask etiquette

The London Eye still has no reopening date. Disappointing for those who want to pay for a panoramic full HD view of London, and then watch it through a six-inch phone screen.

The Houses Of Parliament. The only time I’ve seen Westminster Bridge this empty was during the Rage pandemic of 2002.

Winston & Abe, still looking on from Parliament Square

Normally these steps opposite the National Gallery would be packed with people chatting and eating

And you’ll never see Covent Garden looking this empty during waking hours

Not much movement on the Thames

Hand sanitisers! On the streets!

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds

When we’re out for our daily walks, Bertie and I see little evidence that Chertsey was almost destroyed by Martians in 1897. The town has put things back together pretty well (although Simpson’s Fried Chicken is still looking a bit worse for wear). Fortunately, local writer Herbert George Wells was on hand back then to document everything:

“Here they are!” shouted a man in a blue jersey. “Yonder! D’yer see them? Yonder!”

Quickly, one after the other, one, two, three, four of the armoured Martians appeared, far away over the little trees, across the flat meadows that stretched towards Chertsey, and striding hurriedly towards the river. Little cowled figures they seemed at first, going with a rolling motion and as fast as flying birds.

Then, advancing obliquely towards us, came a fifth. Their armoured bodies glittered in the sun as they swept swiftly forward upon the guns, growing rapidly larger as they drew nearer. One on the extreme left, the remotest that is, flourished a huge case high in the air, and the ghostly, terrible Heat-Ray I had already seen on Friday night smote towards Chertsey, and struck the town.

These are strange and unprecedented times. As I walk across those same flat meadows, my overactive imagination finds it easy to picture those vast Martian fighting machines stomping across the river, trampling everything in their path.

…higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder.

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds / Chertsey Meads Meadows / All photos Nikon F100 / Ilford Pan F Plus / Developed in Bellini Foto Eco Film Developer

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds


Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds

Chertsey & The War Of The Worlds

Bertie News | Episode 03: 12-14 Weeks Old

These photos might give the impression that Bertie’s a sleepy, placid puppy.

What they actually demonstrate is that it’s only worth trying to get a decent picture when he’s sleepy. True to the working cocker spaniel breed, Bertie’s energy levels are off the scale. The good news is that now he’s had all his vaccinations, he can burn some of that energy off outside in the fields.

Nikon F100 / Ilford HP5 / Developed with Bellini Foto Eco Film Developer (Liquid Xtol)

Bertie the working Cocker Spaniel Puppy

Bertie the working Cocker Spaniel Puppy

Bertie the working Cocker Spaniel Puppy

Bertie the working Cocker Spaniel Puppy

Don’t worry Coco – you’re still top dog

Coco the working Cocker Spaniel

Thoughts On Ilford HP5

I’ve probably shot most of the popular black & white films over my four decades of shooting film. In more recent years I’ve tried to whittle my choices down to a handful of films that give me consistent, predictable results. The downside of this is that I can’t always remember why I might have previously discarded certain film stocks. And so it is with Ilford HP5. Seeing Jim’s recent appraisal, I thought it was time to give it another go and refresh my memory.

You can only draw limited conclusions from one roll shot under one set of conditions. Grain is more controlled than Tri-X, with a flatter, less-contrasty look. That said, the highlights were blown on quite a few of the frames. I suspect this was down to over-development rather than poor metering. I’ve just started using Bellini Film EcoFilm Developer. It’s supposed to mimic XTOL and use the same times, but I had a similar issue with a roll of Tmax 100. I have one more roll of HP5 to shoot, and I’ll probably decrease the developing time by ten per cent. Let’s see how that goes.

Check out all episodes of Bertie News here