Friday, April 20, 2012

The Divisive Moment

Good morning fellow sailors on the seas of fate (oh how I loved Michael Moorcock when I was young). This weekend's super-tooty, nice n' fruity Weekend FogBlog is about capturing a photograph where all is not quite what it seems.
Our lab-rat primed pinned down and ready for dissection is a photograph by my Dad - Charles Rogers. 
There is something very unusual about this photograph, which eluded me for a while, until I realised that proportions-wise, he wasn't using the Instamatic!
I know, your teeth have shot across the room and lodged in your partner's copy of the FT haven't they?
Yeah mine did the same too.
So what the hell was he using? Well, it was either the old 127 Brownie that seemed to be kicking around our house all of my life, but more than likely (knowing Dad) he will have borrowed my Uncle Trevor's camera.
Now this is where the dogs get separated from the pups, because I cannot for the life of me remember whether it was a Kodak Retina or a Braun Paxette. If I were asked to bet my cheese sandwiches on it, I would definitely go for the Braun. I just seem to remember a nice leather never-ready case with Braun embossed on it. The Paxette was a very decent little range of cameras as far as I can see. Not that I remember them obviously, however now the nodes are being tickled I do seem to recall some extra lenses he had, which would fit in with the Paxette.
Anyway, what is wrong with this photo other than a disruption of comfy, familiar photographic proportions? For all intents and purposes everything is present and correct. 

It is a child's party, the sun is shining and one of these children is wearing a costume. This was I believe my seventh birthday party. 
I loved my childhood birthdays because we had a nice big garden and it was July, so we were pretty much guaranteed sunshine in those days. My Mum used to put on the most incredible spreads of food you could imagine - none of this popping off to Iceland (sic) it was all proper homemade stuff.
In this photo we are having an après (it could have been pre too, knowing Mum it probably was) birthday tea snack of bananas, which weren't exactly everywhere in the late 60's, but I'll put that down to the fantastic fruiterers we had in 'Victors' at the foot of Field End Road** which was an old style fruit and veg shop.
My mouth is stuffed with said delicious fruit and everything should be lovely . . however I can recognise in myself a look. Maybe you can see too that all is not right in Happy Birthday land.  Why am I looking most dischuffed at the camera when I should be happy? I am eating - it was my childhood hobby so I should be ecstatic, but I am not. 
(You shout across the table and gesticulate)
Why is the podgy little boy not happy?
I'll tell you why! 
(And my teeth are gritted as I write this) because that was my new Coldstream Guards outfit that Martin is wearing and my new rifle that Martin is holding and was I happy about it? . . .Was I hell! *
That to me is the genius of this photograph my Dad made - he has captured a moment, a divisive moment, at just the point that realisation forms and incredulity sweeps aside everything else leaving outrage to walk abroad. Apparently, I did make just a bit of a song and dance about it, but as with all childhood spats it passed over pretty quickly.
I wonder where Martin is now? We had a strange relationship. Was he my friend? Yes and no - in the ever changing world of childhood friendships not really and yet . . . 
Daryll Botshon was really my best friend, but he moved away. 
No, with Martin things could be difficult. He once jumped me on the way home from school and tore some buttons off my favourite shirt, so I picked him up and threw him (boy did I have some strength). We made it up, but then at my 10th birthday, when he was the only person who came round, we (incredibly) had a game of fencing with two real (Rogers of Sheffield) hunting knives! Believe it or not I nearly managed to chop his finger off (or so it seemed) and he fainted flat out. My Mum had to do a quick emergency sort out but seeing as she'd been a wartime nurse at Ashridge Hospital dealing with burns victims, she was utterly unphased.
Martin and I made it up again, till I went round to his house and his brother was a total B to me, and I never went back. 
Back in sunny 1968, quite how my Dad managed just to catch me at the exact moment I'll never know. Good luck and anticipation I suppose. However he did it, the photograph is, in its own surreal small-town little way, a decisive moment. My sheer outrage is writ large for all to see.
I wish I could take photographs like this.
Now where did I put my Bearskin hat?

* My Mum actually let him wear them apparently, so I think she was trying to instill a little life lesson into me - be kind and generous to others. If his brother was anything to go by, I don't think Martin's home life was all that rosy.
** Just take a moment and savour that name: Field. End. Road. The road at the end of a field. I have Google mapped Northolt in researching this (haven't lived there since the 70's) . . oh my goodness every bit of green has been built on. What a shame. Whilst it wasn't exactly the country back in the 60's and 70's there were plenty of green spaces . . RIP Figure Of Eight Pond.


  1. Ahhhhhhhhhh weekend FB has provided annother interesting and amusing read, thank you sir! :-)

  2. My father's name was Charles - another parallel in the ongoing photographic annals of life!

  3. Exile in Kernow.A beautiful piece of prose full of photographic knowledge and a love of the English language.So well written thAt one is in the garden with the writer.