Friday, April 27, 2012

Drink Entire Against The Madness Of Crowds

Greetings m'Dearios, for 'tis time to straddle your nadger and prepare to gallop across the bacon counter . . . yes, another Weekend FogBlog is upon us and in an unashamedly commercial manouevre, I am going to urge you all to purchase a copy of Ramblin' Syd Rumpo In Concert.
This album of greatness from the 1960's meant one thing in the Sheephouse household . . . Fun.
And yes that is Fun with a Capital F, because such is the genius of it, the sheer eloquence and power of the English language contained therein; the oppulence of innuendo and the mind-bendingly weird words quothed, that should you not laugh at all upon hearing it, you are officially dead.
Remember, this is the record that circa 1965 (as far as I can work out) gave the word GRUNGE to the English language .
It is one of the things that has made your Ol' Uncle Sheephouse who I am today, and I will "tether my nadgers to a grouting pole, because the old grey mare is a grungin' in the meadow" such is my pride at being associated with it.

(To the right of this page you'll find a 'Sheephouse Approved' item. I am sorry to put a blatant plug on something like FB, it is an experiment really . . . for the price of a pint in these parts, you can experience what I am talking about. Ignore the terrible, shameful cover, also I urge you to ignore Track 17 onwards, as they are just supposed vfm add-ons. Up to Track 15 you have the whole album and it is pure comedy Gold.)

Anyway, commercialism out of the way, basically the above had a huge influence on my love of language. I pinched my brother Chris's copy when I was about 8 and never looked back. At that tender age, I couldn't believe anything could ever be as funny, and you know for all the 'sophistication' you supposedly get as you get older, personally, there's still a wee boy happy to play this on a hand-me-down Dansette and listen to it again and again and again, laughing out loud the whole time.
There are still people in the world today who would consider Syd to be too risqué!
So I urge you to laugh in their faces before hitting them on the grommet with a wrought-iron splunger.


This aside into the well-tilled earth of childhood is a way of leading you into the main point of this FB. Basically, a myriad things make up you as a person, but one of the deepest (besides a knowledge of yourself) is a sense of place and it is something we as modern and mobile citizens of the 21st Century have almost lost.
Having lived for so long in a city (and truly being a country boy at heart) sense of place means more to me now than it ever has. It has led me in my photographic adventures to try and find small, quiet places that have a sense of depth to them. That depth of feeling from such places has become a substitute for a longing which entirely takes me back to living in an ancient old cottage in the middle of nowhere with my Mum and Dad. The cottage (and I'll give it its full original name - Three Wells Cottage) was on a site above a steep drop down a riverbank. There were three natural springs on the bank as well as a river and (to me) there was a feeling about the place that it had long been a stop-off point for thirsty travellers. The water from the springs was sweet and good and there were well-trodden paths down the steep incline. I was incredibly lucky - I had a riverbank of some 2 miles to play along, I could walk and talk (to myself) and above all watch and listen. That powerful solitude (and it was incredibly lonesome at times) formed a deep well-spring of feeling for nature within me which I have never lost.
Being city-bound though, it is difficult to fully experience the country life (to say the least!), but as they say, where there's a will there's a way, and in my own inquisitive way, I have discovered places both nearby and further away which sort of have that same quiet solitude to them.
Maybe you are fortunate enough to have discovered such places in your life. They are to you (in a way) secret. It could be a room where you can be alone or a small corner of a field, an old graveyard or a mountain, but wherever it is, it is yours (for a while). It feels good doesn't it!
(Now the following little bit will take us away and on a slightly circular path . . but don't worry fearless FB'ers . . we'll get back on the main path in a minute!)
It was quite the thing in our ancestors day to travel little further than the fields surrounding the village. Some daring souls risked the next town on a market day. Long treks were considered gruelling and dangerous and populations generally stabilised themselves to certain areas. Obviously this all changed with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, and though the said change was inevitable it wasn't necessarily for the better, because something was lost.
I've never read about anyone thinking this way before, but it's my opinion and I'd love to know what you think:
Back in the mid-1990's I started thinking about my ancestors* and how their lives might have been and I realised that with all the movements and upheavels of modern society something incredibly important has been lost to modern man - namely . . .wait for it . . . the hearth.
Now that to you dear reader will sound totally bonkers, but the use of the word hearth doesn't just encompass the actual physical fire-burning centre of homes for millenia, it has become in my mind a concept which encompasses home; the feeling of being at home; somewhere with a rich loam in which one can root one's soul; and, vitally, one's family. My hearth is my family: my wife and my son, they are where I want to be, but strangely and contrary to this too is the feeling that before I die I have to live once more in the countryside, which is where my true roots are. The countryside is also hearth to me.
So, whilst my family and I have to live in the city for work and education, when we escape the hamster wheel we go to quieter places.
One day, God willing, we will uproot ourselves from the city and find somewhere quiet and with a sunny aspect.
But for now, we have to make do and make the efforts to find places that are brimming with solitude.
Places that could be called hearth.


Having a love of hillwalking I have lugged photographic gear to many different places, some barren and wild with no trace of any feeling at all and then, some that are extraordinary.
One of these is below.

(My notebook says: "This is the weirdest most secret place on earth. Can't help feeling that in wading in, I violated it - there is a strong presence to the place that is haunting. I did say thank you though!")

I simply would love to tell you where this is, but you see dear reader I am being selfish, and I cannot. It is not far from where I live, but it is a convoluted journey. Wending your way along quiet and ever-narrowing lanes you really feel like you are heading into the depths of nowhere. The crazy thing is, it is a popular destination for visitors of a Vibram wearing persuasion**, and yet I wonder how many have actually seen the place like this.
I have visited it in all sorts of weather, from bright sun, to mist and slight snow, hard perma-frost, to high white cloud cover, and every time it has looked different. It is a very secret place. To me I can well imagine it being a spot where the spirits of nature were worshipped in ancient times - it simply has that feel to it. Being there in the early morning, and hearing the sound of rushing water, it is quite easy to be carried back millenia.
The photo was made with my beloved Rolleiflex in early October. I was knee deep in icy mountain water but I didn't care. The Rollei was on a tripod, and the tripod took days to dry out properly, but it was worth it. I had no towel with me so ended up removing my trousers and drying my feet on them!
I think the spirit of the place has been captured sufficiently on a humble roll of Ilford FP4+.
It is a full-frame photograph, no cropping and the FP4+ was rated at EI 64 and developed in 1:3 Ilford Perceptol.
I wish I could use FP4+ more often these days as it is an incredible film, and especially so with Perceptol.
The print is un-retouched and was made on Grade 2 Ilford Galerie, developed in Moersch Eco print developer.

* Inspired by a marvellous short story from the Master . . Mr.Frank Herbert.
If all you've ever read by Frank is Dune and the billion awful follow-ups to the original genius novel then I highly recommend reading his other books!
** Hillwalkers

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