Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Hang 'Em High (The Tinsel And Baubles That Is)

Morning Folks - in the words of me old mate Noddy,
"It's KERRISSSSSTMAAAAAASSSSSSSSSS!"



and the time is ripe for the peculiarly Antipodean Ritual of . . . Mulled Beer!
Actually that's just paraphrasing Pete and Dud from a Private Eye magazine flexidisc from the 1960's:
". . and the wife plunged a red hot poker into my ice cold jug of beer . ."


So, sit yourself down, get that poker in the coals and crack open a bottle of the finest Winter Ale in the world - Broughton Brewery's Old Jock, and away we go!



Well, to a man and woman the epic strain that is T' Festive Season is upon us again and the big question everyone is asking is where the hell did that year go? 
It's been quite a year actually, not just for me and mine, but for the world in general. 
Chaos, madness, intolerance, bigotry . . and that's just the journey into work on the bus in the morning! 
A wise man once said that there was enough good stuff in the world to outweigh the bad stuff or something like that, and there sort of is. But then again is there?
Well, I'll follow the wise man's advice and hold my bile in a special Chrimbo Bile Bag (available from Amazon Reseller Gǒu shǐ huò) and keep my fingers crossed that what seems to be a gradual re-awakening (with regard to political machinations and especially the environment) continues.
Hope springs eternal - that's what my old Mum used to say, and God bless her soul for it.

Anyway, enough o' t'guff, because the round robin (that is starting to flesh itself out): 

Ye Annual Olde Sheephouse Yuletide Newsletter 

has creaked its way off the digital presses and is ready to be stuffed through letterboxes - please feel free to read it, tear it up, set fire to it, feed it to the chimp or whatever . . but it is here and it is now
Strangely we had a convo at work recently about 'round-robin' Christmas things and the general concensus was that they were overwhelmingly crap, narcissistic and all about Me Me ME!
Well, that is true, but, in my defence, The OSYN is also a way of getting a lot of stuff that hasn't been written about during the year up there, so stick that where the sun don't shine (and a Merry Christmas to you too 😆).
You came here for photography didn't you? 
Well, by jingo, that's what you'll get . . . but not nearly enough!
However, ahem, despite the lack of output that hasn't stopped me thinking about it and indeed writing about it.



JANUARY

The year started off with a bang, not a real one, but the intent of doing MORE this year, so, 3rd of January, there I was with t'Asselblad, round t'back o' t'Art College, taking (ahem) Vintage Sheephousian photos in dark dull weather . . 
I really wish I hadn't bothered actually, because the results weren't great. 
I did discover though that with a decent shoulder bag, it is quite feasible to rest the Hasselblad on it, lock the mirror up and take a 1/2 or 1 second photo though, so I suppose something was learned.
FIlm was ancient TMY 400 at EI 200 in Pyrocat




Weird Afternoon
Hasselblad 500 C/M, 60mm Distagon, TMY 400, Pyrocat HD



Did You Book Us For Your Kids Birfday Party?
Hasselblad 500 C/M, 60mm Distagon, TMY 400, Pyrocat HD


FEBRUARY

Ah yes, February wasn't as cold as previous years and the prospect of longer days made me feel optimistic about photographing lots and printing lots and maybe start gearing myself to thinking about doing an exhibition . . . but it was not to be. One can only dream!

I discovered a weird haze in the finder on the Summaron, so knew I had to get it sorted, but such things require thinking - I had to mull it over first.
Anyway, amazingly, in examining the M2, I discovered I still had a forgotten, half-finished 35mm film from September 2016, which I duly processed. 
The film was FP4 at roughly EI 50
I tweaked the development in Pyrocat and wasn't really chuffed with the results - to be honest they were droppings - not the development, but the photos - a more insipid and uninspired bunch you could not find!
Should have opened the bottom of the camera and exposed the lot.



The Caged Birds
Leica M2, 35mm F3.5 Summaron, Ilford FP4+, Pyrocat HD


MARCH

The Summaron finder - not a job for the faint hearted - beware - there are two lenses in the finder - one normal convex and the other a weird bridge-like convex arching over the other one. When you've broken your way into the rather precisely machined 'holder', taken the screws out, and been astonished at the use of shellac, you come across two lenses, held in a holder, fixed together at the edges by shellac!
Triple gulp. 
Clean (I used residual oil cleaner and some stuff designed for telescopes) and reassemble, but don't assume that when you've put them back together they'll be fine. It took several goes involving a tripod and a tape measure!
Close up focus was spot on, but from about 50ft to infinity, it seemed out again on the lens scales - and I wonder if this is a 'thing' of wides? Obviously you don't need to be too spot-on at greater distances with a wide because of the inherent DOF . . just a thought.
Anyway, I had to test it out, so parked up and did my Blinshall Street Triangle blog photos - it was a fun session, blazing through a whole 36 exposures in about an hour and a half and the chaps standing around outside , smoking, waiting for news, were relieved to hear that everything was fine.
4 year outdated TMX 100, EI 50 in Pyrocat again.




Anyone For A Solero?
Leica M2, 35mm F3.5 Summaron, TMX 100, Pyrocat HD



Mysterons Attack Phone Box
Leica M2, 35mm F3.5 Summaron, TMX 100, Pyrocat HD


At the end of the month, I went mad, smashed the piggy bank and bought myself something I have been promising myself for YEARS. A decent Carbon Fibre tripod - a Gitzo GT3530S. As new condition with a tripod bag from Ffordes for a small amount of money. I was chuffed as hell and celebrated with more Blinshall Triangle photos. 
If you've never held a CF tripod - try and do so. Having lugged large and small metal ones for a long time, being able to feel your fingers and not ending up looking like a soldier crab makes a massive difference. Oh and fixing the Arca ballhead atop it, not only made me feel rather special (??!!) But the two of them went together like cheese and pickles . . . made for each other and solid as a rock.
4 year old TMX 100 - EI 50, Pyrocat.




The Area Is Really Coming Up These Days - Dundee 2017
Hasselblad 500 C/M, Hasselblad 60mm Distagon 


APRIL

Ah season of mists and mellow fruitlessness - yes it's April, beloved of fools and me. 
Had a bloody good hillwalk, lugging MF gear. 
It was peasy-pie with the CF tripod, the easiest fully laden hillwalk I have ever had and I documented it HERE
A really wonderful day out.
I managed to take 2 films, both fresh Delta 400, shot at EI 200 and once again developed in Pyrocat.





Contact Sheet 1


Contact Sheet 2


Abandoned Caravan
Hasselblad 500 C/M, Hasselblad 60mm Distagon, Delta 400, Pyrocat HD


One thing the hillwalk did point out to me, was the need for a backpack dedicated to a format!

"Oh you BIG BABY", I can hear you saying, but, in my defence, when you have optimally configured your backpack for your camera (and in the case of my 5x4 Tamrak backpack, that included camera, lenses and film holders, loupe, spare outdoor gear, dark cloth . . och you know the list goes on) anyway, to accomodate the Hasselblad I had to rip the inserts out and redesign! 
NEVER AGAIN.
If you ever find yourself in this position, take a picture of your optimal set-up. It is never easy to repeat. Failing that, save time, and buy another one - it's going to take you three days at least to get it back to normal.

Anyway, not long after the Araldite had set on the piggy bank, I smashed it again, bought a Kata HB 305 backpack and whilst I was at it and because they had one in stock with a 1 year guarantee, a 150mm Sonnar CF.

The Kata was designed for video and broadcast professionals - it has a great, comfortable harness, proper good protection where it needs it and, after a good bit of rejigging, fits the Hasselblad kit very well.

The Sonnar - well what can you say - the 'bokeh' on this lens is like nothing else through the VF - you can stand and look at it all day. I detailed the lens HERE

At the end of the month, me and t'missus had a short weekend break in my most favourite of places. We ate like kings, visited the usual spots and shook our fists at the weather, which was OK, but not great. It was darn cold actually. 

I took 2 MF cameras and shot 4 films - the whole thing was detailed (extensively!) HERE




Abandoned Van
Hasselblad 500 C/M, Hasselblad 150mm Sonnar, Ilford Delta 400, Pyrocat HD


MAY

Major DIY started and as with all DIY it takes far longer than you ever expected it would.
No photography done, but plenty of thinking about DIY. I did discover though that the nicest, easiest to use house paint I've ever used is manufactured right here in Scotland, by the esteemable (and very long established) company of Craig and Rose in Dunfermline. 
B&Q used to stock it, but never promoted it, so now (pending a Homebase contract) they sell directly. Postage is reasonable. 
The paint could be considered expensive, it isn't as much as Farrow and Ball, but it is more than Dulux or Crown. This is more than compensated for by a superior finish in the acrylics. Goes on like a dream and highly recommended. 
Their website is HERE
I have no connection, just like the paint!


JUNE

Ah, June, loveliest of months - not too hot, not too cold, just right. Well, June saw us accompanying my parents-in-law to the wonderful city of Dubrovnik. If you've never been, you should, if only to get utterly exhausted and suffer heat-stroke from walking the City Walls. Seriously, start as early in the day as possible. That way, when you get to the end and are gasping for a pint, you can marvel at the hardy souls who are just starting out.
We had a marvellous time and whilst I chickened out and only took the Sony A6000 with a 35mm Nikkor-O, I took plenty of photographs, some of which I actually liked.




The Pavement Cat
Sony A6000, Nikkor-O 35mm f2

Weird Museum In Montenegro
Sony A6000, Nikkor-O 35mm f2

Peace For A While
Sony A6000, Nikkor-O 35mm f2

Rush Hour
Sony A6000, Nikkor-O 35mm f2

The Defences
Sony A6000, Nikkor-O 35mm f2

Small Stitched Sony A6000 Landscape
Sony A6000, Nikkor-O 35mm f2

Beautiful Evening In Croatia
Pie Phone 4S

We flew back through incredible thunderstorms over Germany - absolutely astonishing and completely beautiful. The power of Nature firmly cemented my respect for her.


JULY

Coo - disappointed by the POV of the 35mm lens on the A6000, I hunted around and found an incredible 1971 24mm F2.8 Nikkor-N - it's single coated and bloody marvellous. Nikon's first lens with Close Range Correction and quite an optical marvel for the time. It also takes a really nice photo.



24mm f2.8 Pre-Ai Nikkor and appropriate Nikon F
Yes, I know that's a pen lid supporting the camera

Sadly for us this month our trusty old Honda Jazz (or Fit as it is known in the rest of the world) came to the end of its life. It had been starting to rust (not from itself but as a result of some poor accident repair work courtesy of a well-known Scottish car retailer) and there were a few things starting to get the better of it. We were about to head off on a long journey, I checked the levels as you do and discovered that there was no coolant, nor was there a puddle in the garage, or anywhere I had seen it, so can only assume we'd lost it in the month or so since I'd last checked it! So, driving around in traffic, with no coolant at all and the engine was as smooth as a baby's bum. Not only that, but in 11 years of ownership the only mechanical fail was one wheel bearing. He had 120,000 miles on the clock, 98,000 of those driven by us. Remarkable. Oh and he was called Chaz.
This is the only photo I have of him from 2009 . . .



Chaz The Jazz And Us


AUGUST

August is one big blank in my notebooks, so, referring to a calendar I realise that I spent the whole of my weekend spare time decorating!


SEPTEMBER

You know when you overcompensate for a lack of something - well, the month of September was mad camera overkill whilst on holiday.
I packed a 2 lens Hasselblad outfit, a Rollei T, a Nikon F with a 24mm, two tripods, 2 cable releases and a dreaded digicam - the old Panasonic (which I realised this morning is surprisingly about 10 years old). I took about 12 rolls of 120 and 5 rolls of 35mm . . . for a seven day trip!  Oh and backpack, large shoulder bag and a small one too . . . 
Every day had a photographic element and I ended up exposing 4 120's (2 in the same epic session) and 3 rolls of 36 exp - this all despite the fact that it rained fairly solidly (no exaggeration) for pretty much the whole week
I also utilised an ancient PiePhone and made some more videos (you might need to be sitting for these).








A Pie-Phone Video Is Worth A Thousand Words . . . . Or Something Like That



I had a number of adventures in the rain at dusk-ish, which I thoroughly enjoyed - the simplicity of navigating to somewhere you've not really been, having an explore and getting back home (albeit in the near dark) is something I would thoroughly recommend (though obviously, be judicious!). Oh and because of the nature of t'PiePhone's auto-exposure thing, I know that the videos above look like they were taken in bright light . . .they weren't.
I was pleased with the results from the holiday though, especially the two 120 's shot over an epic 2 hour session on a waterlogged, abandoned railway line - it was great to be 'in the zone' as it were. The railway wasn't a Beeching-abandoned one, but had been running up and into the 1970's. It is incredible what 40 years of wild growth can do, transforming a neat little cut of about a mile long into an abandoned portal, overgrown with trees and redolent with the overwhelming smell of fallen crab-apples. IT WAS HEAVEN!

Sadly though, apart from contacts, none of the frames have been printed . . remember that DIY stuff? Yep . . me too.

The images you'll see below, are direct scans off the contact sheets (resin coated paper too, so none too exceptional on the fine details) - I've isolated each frame and scanned them individually at 3200 dpi. 
Normal printing will be resumed as soon as possible, but given I am under the self-imposed cosh to get this done for Yuletide, then scans it'll have to be. 
A modicum of very light light adjustment and retouching dusty bits has been done with Apple's Photo.



Flooded Abandoned Railway Cutting 1
Hasselblad 500 C/M, Hasselblad 60mm Distagon,  Pyrocat HD



Flooded Abandoned Railway Cutting 2
Hasselblad 500 C/M, Hasselblad 60mm Distagon,  Pyrocat HD



Flooded Abandoned Railway Cutting 3
Hasselblad 500 C/M, Hasselblad 150mm Sonnar, Pyrocat HD



Where Walls Collide
Hasselblad 500 C/M, Hasselblad 150mm Sonnar, Pyrocat HD


And the 35mm ones - all Nikon F and 24mm f2.8 Nikkor - a right nice early 1970's combo! I actually reckon with a slight tweak in film, ie. not FP4, but something more gritty like Tri-X, I could get that lovely late '60's/early '70's photojournalist look. What a great lens, and especially for a tad under £100 . . .well, try buying a Leitz or a modern plastic wonder for that price . . . .
Oh and the heft of the old F really makes a difference in light conditions like I had that week - most of these were on a 1/15th. I did utilize the Leica TTT as a body brace.



Eagle-Eyed Readers Might Recognize This Boat Shed
Nikon F, 24mm f2.8 Pre-Ai Nikkor, Ilford FP4, Pyrocat HD


The Most Other-Wordly Place In Scotland
Nikon F, 24mm f2.8 Pre-Ai Nikkor, Ilford FP4, Pyrocat HD


That's A Rowing Boat, In The Middle Of A Vegetable Garden
Nikon F, 24mm f2.8 Pre-Ai Nikkor, Ilford FP4, Pyrocat HD


A Chambered Cairn With A View Of Heaven On A Dreich Day 1
Nikon F, 24mm f2.8 Pre-Ai Nikkor, Ilford FP4, Pyrocat HD


A Chambered Cairn With A View Of Heaven On A Dreich Day 2
Nikon F, 24mm f2.8 Pre-Ai Nikkor, Ilford FP4, Pyrocat HD


Bridge Reflection On A Dark And Rainy Afternoon
Nikon F, 24mm f2.8 Pre-Ai Nikkor, Ilford FP4, Pyrocat HD


OCTOBER

Well, I finished off a roll of FP4 which had been in the Nikon with the 24mm, and realised that in the 24mm I had a bloody fantastic lens!




Visceral Phonebox 0
Nikon F, 24mm f2.8 Pre-Ai Nikkor, Ilford FP4, Pyrocat HD


Verdant Works
Nikon F, 24mm f2.8 Pre-Ai Nikkor, Ilford FP4, Pyrocat HD


Posh And Peeling Phonebox 1
Nikon F, 24mm f2.8 Pre-Ai Nikkor, Ilford FP4, Pyrocat HD


Posh And Peeling Phonebox 2
Nikon F, 24mm f2.8 Pre-Ai Nikkor, Ilford FP4, Pyrocat HD


Visceral Phonebox 0.1
Nikon F, 24mm f2.8 Pre-Ai Nikkor, Ilford FP4, Pyrocat HD


Visceral Phonebox 0.2
Nikon F, 24mm f2.8 Pre-Ai Nikkor, Ilford FP4, Pyrocat HD


The Chinese Are Coming
Nikon F, 24mm f2.8 Pre-Ai Nikkor, Ilford FP4, Pyrocat HD



The results were developed in December in my usual Pyrocat, 1+1+100, 21 Centigrade and 22 Minutes (standing from 17 minutes).
It has seriously made me wonder why I've bothered to invest so much in a Leica system when a lens that cost 10 quid shy of £100 (with postage) can deliver such stunning (to me) results.

Anyway, after I finished the film in the F I thought about it, and realised I hadn't used the M2 in a while, so took advantage of some bargain Tri-X (£4/roll!) and loaded it and fitted the old Canon LTM 28mm with Finder. 
It's a compact little package, and I had a good tootle around with it in St Andrews and Perth, didn't finish the film and like I say, time being time . . . .


NOVEMBER

The Tri-X was STILL in the M2 (on about frame 25) but time being time I had no time to finish it - the push was on, like the Battle Of The Bulge, but in DIY terms. I had to throw everything I had at it.

I was however heartened by the fact that the BBC's Blue Planet II has made people start thinking and talking about ocean-borne plastic pollution - thank goodness - wrote about it HERE FIVE long years ago.


DECEMBER

Well, that's now isn't it!
I finished off the roll of Tri-X I had left in the M2 . . . and had something happen to me that has never happened before - you know that cold snap we had? I'd rewound the film, taken it out of the camera and was putting it into a canister with the end bent over (I do this to distinguish that I have actually exposed that roll) and . . the leader snapped! I was really surprised - imagine if it had been colder and that had happened mid-roll. I've read about it happening with sprockets tearing through film like it was nothing, but, like I say, it was new to me.
Anyway, here's the pics - usual developer . . .




I'm Sure I Widdled Here Recently
Leica M2, Canon Rangefinder 28mm f3.5, Kodak Tri-X, Pyrocat HD


Visceral Phonebox 1
Leica M2, Canon Rangefinder 28mm f3.5, Kodak Tri-X, Pyrocat HD


Visceral Phonebox 2
Leica M2, Canon Rangefinder 28mm f3.5, Kodak Tri-X, Pyrocat HD


Mennies On A Cold Morning
Leica M2, Canon Rangefinder 28mm f3.5, Kodak Tri-X, Pyrocat HD


Some Bloke And His Dug
Leica M2, Canon Rangefinder 28mm f3.5, Kodak Tri-X, Pyrocat HD


St.Josephs RC Primary Dundee - R.I.P.
Leica M2, Canon Rangefinder 28mm f3.5, Kodak Tri-X, Pyrocat HD



The results weren't too bad - quite like the Visceral Phonebox ones actually, but how much of that is Tri-X at work?
When I started using the M2 again, I also discovered that the vertical alignment of the rangefinder is a bit out . . so . . a trip to the doctors methinks . . or else sell it. But then again, the tactile experience you get from using a camera like a Leica . . well it goes a bit beyond the bounds of pounds and pence doesn't it? 
Doesn't it??
The money tied up in that camera and all the lenses I have for it, could buy me a Rollei 2.8F. 
Hmmmm - (mad) thoughts for the New Year.

Oh, and before I go, I've discovered there's one word I truly find objectionable in photography . . .
Ready?
WORK!

"His work is great!"
"If only I could organize my work better."
"Can you justify spending so much money on your work?"
"You have to be careful with juxtapositions within your work; you don't want it to seem too linked to the past, and yet getting your own work confused with someone else's work is all part of the nascent regeneration necessary in any art construction . . ."

You know what I mean?
Unless you really are scraping a living or earning mega-bucks from it, it isn't work, it's a hobby, it's FUN; it is enjoyable
It's not work - the connotations of that word are so tied up to me with doing the do:

9-5
Digging holes in roads
Shifting dustbins
Wiping bums
Sitting at a PC for 8 hours
Working on a till
Welding
Feeding cattle
Brick laying 

 . . . you know WORK, not tripping a fecking shutter (fer goodness sake) and then organizing your photographs into some semblance of pleasing order!
Work indeed, he said, muttering and cursing . . . 

Anyway on a final note I will leave the final words as something we should all strive for as photographers, not just the making of images, but the making of images that can alter perception, that can live with you and make you think and feel. 
For myself, with my deep love of the natural world, my viewing of this image turned my thinking on its head. It is so quietly powerful in ways I can't even being to understand.




Del Monte Forest, 1969
© Wynn Bullock Estate


And a statement from its creator and discoverer, Wynn Bullock:

"The work of the last two years is more archetypal than my previous work. I think that it comes from a source that I feel deeply, that I myself can't rationalize and have no particular urge to rationalize. I just feel it. I'm still exercising the disciplines that I've given myself in terms of how I spatially arrange events, use tones, and so on. Therefore I can let myself go in this new way. I feel that I'm getting nearer to some of the things that I never [have fully] understood about myself and the world about me. Many of those…relate symbolically to some of the deepest [realities] of life: birth, death, order - the universals. These are Everyman's - not just the way in which I see them personally, but perceivable by all of us."



And that's it folks - thank you for reading!
As a New Year approaches will it be chaos and doubt, fear, hate and mistrust? Or will it be, as a wise man once said, time for change, time for truth, time for love and time for action.
Only you can decide, but remember, Many a Mickle Maks a Muckle, even one small, positive step in the right direction by anyone can lead to a better place.

To all regular (and irregular) readers, friends, commenters and general odd-bods (well you must be if you read this tripe!) TTFN, have the most peaceful and wonderful Festive Season and remember to keep eating your peas.







Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Old Polaroids And Lost Souls

This was written a while back when I went through a phase of 'getting it down on paper' as it were . . an aid-memoire for the braincells . . .

I'd recommend doing this, to everyone - you won't know what you've got till it's gone . . . and even then, well especially, even then! 
 
Be warned though - it's a lot of reading . . . especially if you can't be arsed . . . but if you can, sit down with a nice 'holiday' of Soma and let's get on with it . . .

Morning Choppers - I hope you are all well today - it is jolly cold here, about minus 5 actually and yer Sheephouse Studion is filled with the chill of early morning and memory, because further to the last FB about my youth (which was bloody ages ago actually) I find myself in a reflective state of mind.
As Ali and I sat and did our usual, post film (or in this case post Series 4 of The Tudors) trawling through fun music videos and Sunday night Y'TUBE-ing (surely everyone does this . . a form of free thought scatting [loosened by wine of course] through musical memories and new discoveries) I was reminded that I was once told at Lockerbie Academy that I looked like Meatloaf.
Combine this to archetypal Scots' insult of the late-70's ("Y' Tube" - and no, I have no idea why people called people Tubes, but it was damned good and funny) and the tumblers tumbled and the locks opened.
Then, throw in a viewing of Meatloaf's performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test, circa 1978 and you have a lovely set of ingredients for a reminisce.
The performance he and his band gave on "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" caused quite some comment at Lockerbie - it was bombastic, over-acted, over the top and downright suggestive to a bunch of kids whose rural (semi or complete) upbringing had brought them little more than visits from the vet, lambing, tractor graffiti (a true thing) and the quiet (and often boring to a kid) niceties of a childhood raised in small towns and villages and fields.
Re-reading that, it sounds like I am slagging them - far from it - they were damn lucky to have had such childhoods - in truth I reckon most people would give their right arm (albeit unknowingly) to be raised in the freedoms a rural setting can furnish.
But fecking Meatloaf!
Needless to say, I looked nothing like him, not even in the dark, but it was one of those casual kid throwaway things that damn well hurt.
My self-image at that point, as an ex-fat kid trying to make good by starvation and exercise, was I was still fat.
So it was just what I needed - a barbed comment, tossed like a random hand-grenade before the trip home on the school bus.


Err, no, I don't want to go to Aberdeen



Ah, the rural school bus . . . sweet exquisite pleasure and pain wrapped into one.
Ours was typical of the one you see above; a Bluebird apparently, quaint, coach-built with leather seats and a driver called Davey (who was not only all right, but kept an eye out for me too).
I lived approximately 13 miles North of Lockerbie Academy, so shared the bus with the kids from Johnstone Bridge, Wamphray, Beattock, Moffat and all points inbetween. There were a fair number of us on that daily trip, from seniors down to first years, but the problem for me was, though I might have lived there and shared the same incredible landscape and weather, I wasn't of the place, and therefore was anathema
(You can come from, or be from a place, but if you weren't born there, you couldn't be OF the place.  That is simple fact. 
It used to be commonplace in Scotland, but has been diluted a bit in recent decades . . . however please note [from a friend who moved to rural Ayrshire] . . . it still exists.)
This resulted in me (for pretty much two years: '77 and '78) being totally ignored and sitting on my tod.
Usually I just stared out the window or read; other times I thought about guitars and music; other times I bit down the loneliness in my soul, uncocked the mental Uzi that made me want to spray the back of the bus full of condescending bastards, and just kept my head down. '
Cause y'know, shit happens.
You get things chucked at you.
People talk about you in the seat behind you . . .
So I ignored them.
It sort of worked.

Quite how much it worked, was brought home on the bus last night when I was told off by the conductress (honest, pure mortification!) which set a drunken bloke to laughing and then staring and shouting at me (in a totally pissed Dundee accent):
"Mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate . ."
so I ignored him too and eventually he wandered up the back of the bus swearing and bemoaning his lot in life.

Anyway, ignoring shite got into me and for a while I ended up quite a solitary person - worlds away from the semi-gregarious soul I'd been at Harrow.
My best friend Steve recently reminded me that at school, we'd had a circle of friends - not the high achieving sports kids and academics, but the B-Team - who had (ahem) followed us.
Now I have no recollection of this other than some memories of having friends at HH other than Steve.
Oh, like a gatecrash at a funeral, here they are:

The Obvious Benefits Of A Private Education.
The B-Team In All Their Glory!



But back to solitaire.

That sort of (voluntarily-imposed) removal from the usual scrum of teenage life can end badly sometimes, if you're a teenager (which I strangely enough was); the world looks a blacker place than it really is, with isolation and little hope of kind words and friendship.
I've detailed what happened to me when I first got to Lockerbie before HERE where you can read the whole sorry tale.
Unfortunately, to dig the solitude even further, the kids that had befriended me (down to earth, pretty rough, yet lifesavers) didn't live in my neck of the woods, and whilst nowadays I love Moffat, back in the day the kids came across as snooty, unfriendly and downright condescending; the kids from Wamphray were  . . . well . . . let's just say not my sort (though they could have been had they tried).
So it was Me vs. Upper Annandale!
But against the odds, I survived that first year, until the ones I had made friends with in 1977 left after Summer term in 1978, and I had to reconfigure friendhips again

I know, where's the Kleenex . . . 

Now fortunately this is where my guitar playing paid for itself.
I wasn't much of a guitarist in those days, but I did have a 4 year, totally obsessive headstart on the kids who were being swept up in punk and unwittingly (and by default) became a bit of a gear-guru.

Parents, don't tell your kids that their obsessions are a waste of time - all those hours spent staring into music shop windows in Harrow had paid off and I was able to help people!

My new friends from Lockerbie and Langholm and 'Fechan (names withheld to preserve the innocent, but you know who you are, and THANK YOU) were furnished with my in-depth knowledge gleaned from Beat Instrumental, Guitar and International Musician magazines.
It was a wonderful time to learn an instrument actually - with the feeling that literally ANYONE could do it. They all got the bug and became caught up with trying to sound like The Stranglers or the Pistols or even Pete Townsend (!) - impressive idols.
For myself I was in love with Andy Summers of the Police and Jeff Beck and Mick Ralphs of Mott.
With hindsight (and a smug, congnesceti look at things) I still think that gave me an edge in the guru stakes, because I had a foot firmly in a rock past, but was willing to learn and listen to new stuff.
And what new stuff!
I did my best to listen to it all, from borrowed records and John Peel every night; to the Friday Rock Show, Fluff on Saturday afternoon, Whistle Test and of course the all important Birthdays and Christmas (new records!) 
Along with my rock leanings, I developed a deep love for early Wire, Radio Birdman (Australian and more like the Stooges than the Stooges), Dead Boys (RIP Stiv), Richard Hell, The Rezillos, The Human League and a whole gamut of smaller indie bands producing 7" singles in gargantuan quantities week in, week out.
Reading Sounds and NME in the library at Lockerbie became a frustrating experience.
I had hardly any money to deal with the vast 'must-hear-must-own' sea of music exploding around me.
There was no weekend job; in fact nothing except full-time employment in the Summer.
Oh, and I got virtually no handouts from Mum and Dad, simply because they didn't have it.
So there I was with less than two brass farthings to rub together.
It really was Church Mouseville.

Anyway, if you're lost in a spiral of "where the feck is he going?" please bear with me, we might well get there if you stop throwing nuts at me from the back seat . . .

Now, these days you can buy a really decent/excellent guitar for well-under £100, it's incredible really; back in my day you could also buy a guitar for that price (though £100 was a huge amount of money) but they were mostly shite.
So there I was Mr. Gear-Guru and what did I have?
I had a Vox Clubman II - arguably the worst production guitar ever made - currently priced around £200 as a 'vintage' instrument, the Clubman gave the expression "all fur coat and no knickers" new creedence.


Where's Yer Knickers?
GGGRRRRRooovy Daddio!



Mine cost me £20 in 1975 - oh boy did I think it was the bees knees!
But then I grew as a player and realised (rather like the late, great Gary Moore) that having a Clubman II as a first electric (yes, he did and hated it too) really did make you yearn for the finer things in life.
In two words, it was utter cack - hell it was a struggle trying to fret anything on it - the action was a rough 1/2" at the 12th fret, and no I am not joking.  As a design it was a catalogue of errors - one only has to look past the rather super-groovy Red 'POP!' finish to see - hmm, yes a bridge that came off an Archtop; NO TRUSS ROD!!!; a plywood body; and the cracker - instead of the bog (and industry) standard 1/4" jack socket, it had a male/female UHF socket (the sort you find on TV aerials) attached to another 'groovy' artefact . . the microphonic curly lead . . . but I suppose what do you expect for 1963 . . .
So there I was - way ahead of my time with regard to vintage chic, but waaaaaay behind the times with regard to a playable instrument . . . 'Mr. Experience', toting the crappiest guitar ever made and all these lads coming in to school with their new fangled Ibanez' and Yamahas and Fenders and Hondos - it was totally embarrassing!
And so it remained, until 1979 when Dad died, the world fell apart, and Mum insisted I go to London for the Summer to work.

Stick with it . . you're doing well!

Much like the summer of 1978 where working for the Forestry Commission had enabled me to buy a stereo (OK, I couldn't stretch to speakers but my Sennheiser phones were just fine) so, the Summer of 1979 meant working for Michelin on what would become the 1980 Michelin Hotel and Restaurant guide. Yes that guide, you know, Michelin Stars, lunch at La Gavroche, etc. A remarkably civilised Summer job which enabled the purchase of a rather nice secondhand Chris Eccleshall Les Paul Junior . . .
Suitably bouyed and with a Summer spent becoming enthralled and obsessed with the burgeoning rock scene (proto-NWOBHM) I returned with some credibility, and chops
If you're not interested in guitars, chops will make you think I had brought my Mum back some lovely bits of meat from London, but actually in guitar terms chops means playing ability.

So, some credibility, a head start in instrument knowledge and interested disciples (haha!) - I was all set!

Well, actually what happened is that my now firmly established friendships were just that, and interest and enthusiasm were traded around in a lovely sort of muso-bonhomie - the guys were real lifesavers to me - they brought me out of a s(hell), which had been firmly cemented on by circumstances:

Moving from London (and my best friend) to the middle of nowhere.
Starting in 5th year, but on receipt of my exam results being relegated to the 4th Division (year).
Living in the middle of nowhere with nothing but sheep, fish and cows as friends.
Dad dying from cancer (the biggest thing of all).
Being pretty much ignored by anyone my age that lived within 10 miles.

As I have said before, we might not have stayed in contact (these things happen) but they really helped, even though it might not have been obvious at the time. So, chaps of Lockerbie Academy, circa 1978-1980,  thank you.

My time at Lockerbie was, sort of like a death and a rebirth. 
I think it went a long way to contributing to who I am today. 
It gave me, though not obvious till years later, a thick skin and a general attitude that if people aren't prepared to accept me on my own terms then that is their lookout. 
One thing I'll say about myself is that in my 50's I am still pretty much addressing the world in a way that isn't based upon what I would consider compromising myself.
Of course, it is easier to be like that (mostly) these days, but it's also incredibly hard too: men are still expected to wear suits, women are still expected to wear heels - it's a dress code that I think is incredibly old-fashioned and narrow-minded.
OK, I am probably looked upon as a scruffy oik for wearing hoodies and combats all day, every day, but my Dad wore a suit to work (even operating a machine with a brown overall over the top!) and I hate the bloody things - they're suits fer Gawd's sake!
Self-expression (though it was to an extent denied them) is a freedom my parents fought for. Were it not for the guts and privations of their generation we might well all be working in state factories dressed in grey, so there.

'The man' is still about though - tales of Alec Turnips daring-do in his weekend job tell me that - plus ca change . . .
In fact, thinking about it,  have things changed much since I did my own bit of fighting him?

I dunno - I looked unconventional (though very tame by modern standards) in the 1980's when I squared up to him, but I am sure if you trawl the law books, you'll find somewhere how one little man with long hair kept a QC working for Alf Rice Music tied up with the truth and a meticulously kept diary for months.
Oh yes, Sheephouse vs. The Big Machine . . . been there, flew my freak flag high too.

Not had enough yet? Blimey - you're a glutton for punishment!

Do you want the story? 
OK, here goes (in a nutshell):

General buyer/stock processor for Virgin Records in Dundee.
Virgin's smaller shops sold to Alf Rice.
Alf Rice management keen on "rules and procedures' and dislike the 'freedoms' afforded Virgin employees.
Virgin employees slowly picked off by ramping up pressure. Good men and women picked off like chickens in a tiger's pen.
I served customers one week (with hair at chest length) and was told I looked "dirty" and could no longer serve people the following week without getting it cut, because I might offend them.
[Honest, a girl who worked with us (a proto-Goth) was sacked for wearing too much black!]
"You can't do that!" said I quietly to myself, and after a week hiding and getting more and more riled and extremely stressed, I did the correct thing and resigned.


And I think I had that whole "You can't do that!" attitude to thank Lockerbie for.

Initial circumstances there made me tougher (though I could never have thought of myself as tough in the slightest) but I ended up tough enough to say ENOUGH! to the lovely people from Alf Rice.

CODA: In the end curiously, after fighting my side for constructive dismissal (which it was) I settled out of court and spent most of the proceeds on a guitar (thus nicely tying this blog together . . . oh the joy of the syzygy!)
It was a mad thing to do, I know, but I still have it, and it plays like a dream.


Anyway, like I always say, this wouldn't be FB without a modicum of photography (PHEW! AT LAST, the nuts have just run out!) . . .

. . . and here it is, courtesy of my old Polaroid camera and my Mum.
Happenstance too, for there is my old Eccleshall Les Paul Junior, and a proto-mullet.

What you sadly can't see is my amp - our old stereogram with Jensen speakers (weirdly with a jack input custom added to the record deck's amplifier).
Oh yes, pure rock n'roll - imagine the Clash in '78 playing the Hundred Club or the Marquee with a backline of old stereograms! They would have set the 'retro' behemoth into motion a full 10 years before Guitar Player magazine started it.
It (Garrard record deck and Hacker radio/amp in a teak cabinet) was right up there with the best amps I have ever played. 
The whole thing vibrated in a synergy of rock crunch and noise and I loved it and wish it still existed on this earth.
Sadly it went to landfill decades ago.


Meatloaf and his Axe
Autumn 1979
That's a genuine Parker-Knoll chair y'know . . . 





The Collection
Left to Right:
Vox Clubman II
Chris Eccleshall Les Paul Junior (wonderful vintage brownburst)
(Borrowed) Baldwin 12String - back finished in Artex (I kid you not - back was white and rippled, front of guitar was red)
Epiphone FT 150 (Spruce top, so, yellow/brown)
Front: Dulcet Classical (very orange - like the Dale Winton of the classical world)




Spring of 1980 - amazing the changes a hard Winter can bring.
The mog is my beloved Cookie (RIP)



So, where has that ramble got me?

Well, I suppose at the time, my incarceration at Lockerbie seemed like a form of hell, till I made (albeit briefly) friends that were on my level, and then everything seemed a lot more rosey. So unexpected was their friendship that I guess the old turn of phrase 'every cloud has a silver lining' has a real ring of truth to it, and no matter how black things seemed at the time, there was something solid in those friendships that helped to make me more resilient, after the rug-pulls mentioned above.

And where has this ramble got you?

Well, no doubt everyone has a similar story to tell, but that's mine.
Unexpected friendship is a great and welcome thing in what can be a cold and lonely world.

Anyway, enough, you're tired and the Soma has begun to wear off.

I know there's been precious little photography recently, but time really has been at a premium, however I will get there, fear not, and anyway, there's still a tiny bit of photography in here courtesy of that proto-nascent cult item which is making a comeback  with 'The Kids'  (courtesy of the Fuji INSTAX) . . the instant camera! 

Is FB 'On Trend?' . . to quote a hero of mine Mr.Arthur C. Mullard . . OH YUS!

Oh and as I have explained on FB before, there's nothing special been done to those polaroids - they're the best part of 35 years old and were stored scattered in a uncovered tea chest in my Mum's loft until I found them again.
Quite amazing really.

TTFN and remember, keep on truckin'!