A funny old week…

It started with a 1000-mile round trip to deliver a presentation in Derby, the place I grew up in. The talk was attended by an old school teacher of mine and a smattering of friends and family huddled on the back row (there were others there too you understand!) Weird.

Tuesday brought about a meeting to secure the 2020VISION roadshow in The National Forest – this from discussions that have stretched over the best part of 2 years. Relief.

Wednesday was a relatively normal day in the office although we did buy 5 Highland Cows as conservation grazers. Daunting. I also met with a mate of mine who revealed insider knowledge about a rather exciting reintroduction project about to be unleashed. Intriguing. This was also the day I heard the news about the Manchester police women being shot. Shocking.

Thursday took me to a photographer friend’s for an update on various matters and contrary to the usual frivolous nature of our discussions, today was more sombre as a member of his family is very unwell.  On returning home I was greeted with the news that our old Highland pony (he’s not ours actually but he lives with us) was lame and would need to be put to sleep. Sad and Sobering.

An early call yesterday created a meeting with a local landowner about a potential commission documenting a massively ambitious restoration scheme in the Highlands. Inspiring.

As I sit here writing, Amanda is busying around getting stuff together for our holiday to Yellowstone. Bizarre.

So what’s all this got to do with a photographic blog? Well if truth be told, I’m feeling a bit emotional; high emotion has been the common denominator throughout this last week. The more I think about the state of the natural world and what can be done to right some of the wrongs, the more I become convinced that we don’t use our unique capacity for emotion creatively enough. I read a while ago that generally speaking, people’s relationship with nature isn’t rational or scientific; it’s emotional. And it’s true. You can peddle all the ecological science, all the socio-economic data, all the conservation buzzwords you like, but for most people, nature is something they ‘feel’. Great photography is something that makes people ‘feel’.

As a nation we’ve done a pretty good job this summer ‘feeling’ the Olympics and Paralympics and what high emotion reigned for those few weeks. But spectacular as they undoubtedly were, these are transient events, moments in time. If only we, as a society, could harness that Olympic energy, that high-octane emotion and mobilise it for nature. That would be something worth getting up on Monday morning for. And Tuesday. And Wednesday.

A.M.A.N.D.A. Sept’12

Blue or black jeans? It’s a crucial question!

Last weekend was a first for Pete and I – we went to see the “mighty” Status Quo in Inverness. 30 years ago when Cairns had hair down to his waist and his neck and back joints were just a wee bit looser, he’d have been in there with the throng of headbangers in their stonewashed denims and black waistcoats. I never fancied it way back then but hearing endless tales of Quo gigs from Hammersmith Odeon to Manchester Apollo, I’d imagined that 30 years on, little would have changed. Wrong!

Yes there was a hardcore of slightly overweight and balding Quo fanatics with denims that had frankly seen better days and rarely a washing machine, but the majority opted for black jeans, an altogether more sensible, contemporary look. The gig was outside and it rained constantly. I know that in yesteryear Pete would have shrugged that off and wouldn’t be seen dead at a Quo gig in waterproofs but he, along with thousands of others, went for the very middle-aged option of goretex to go with their black jeans.

Even Quo (Rossi minus his legendary ponytail and Parfitt with a few extra pounds) had been told by their PA that faded blue denim was no longer a look befitting of an ageing rock band. The headbanging was slightly reserved (more of a head nodding and foot tapping really) and the whole affair was more rock than roll. The band, I have to say, were superb and if you closed your eyes, it could indeed have been 3 decades ago. It was great to switch off for a night and wet and weary, we returned not to the gutter or railway station bench that would have historically provided post-Quo accommodation, but to a rather plush hotel nearby. We enjoyed a nice cup of tea before turning in and you’ll be glad to hear that Pete’s black jeans dried very nicely overnight (in case you were concerned about his arthritis). I wonder if Led Zep are still touring?

A.M.A.N.D.A. August ’12

I don’t get out much. That’s not a complaint simply a consequence of rural living and middle-aged indifference. So when I was alerted to the upcoming opening of the 2020VISION exhibition in Edinburgh, it was gladrags and mascara time for me!

Breakfast time came and went. Lunchtime came and went. It was a busy, busy day. But tea…tea was something I could catch up with during the ‘nibbles’ session that all these events provide. “A glass of wine madam?” Now I’m old enough to know that an empty stomach and alcohol only leads down one road, but before I knew it, there was a glass in my hand and I’d set off.

The location was stunning, the exhibition well received, the speeches inspiring and I have to say, the serving staff were VERY efficient. “Another wine madam?” And so many people I hadn’t seen for ages. “Another glass madam?” And the music was so uplifting. “A top up madam?” Oh what a wonderful evening. And then, a burning sensation in my back: Pete’s eyes. OK, I knew I was tipsy but his glare suggested something on an altogether different level.

Do you remember the Dick Emery show? Do you remember the old woman who used to smirk and utter the words “Oh you are awful but I like you” before pushing some unfortunate soul into a ditch? Well according to Pete (and he claims to have witnesses who will testify at my trial) that’s who I resembled. As many of you know, he’s prone to embellishment but he might have a point!

So here I was, 130 miles from home and with Pete staying in Edinburgh for the night, my taxi driver was tapping his fingers waiting for me to stop blethering (have you noticed how it takes an hour to leave a party when you’ve had a few?) My driver in this case was Andy Parkinson, one of the 2020VISION photographers and guide (the very next day) for our Shetland tour. Pete got weary of glaring and Andy replaced him. “Are we going yet Amanda?” Can we get off now Amanda?” “It’s a long journey and I’m up early Amanda.”

A quick stop at the services and a bag full of munchies later, I was feeling much better and Andy and I enjoyed the journey up the A9 having a good old blether. For the record, I dropped him at the airport nice and early and felt fine!

So the moral of the story? Do you know what? Stuff the morals, we all had a great time and the fact that I don’t get out much made it even better! “One for the road madam?”

“Actually no, I’ve probably had enough now thank you.”

A.M.A.N.D.A. July ’12

Now I’m not complaining but I rarely get to go on a proper holiday. I don’t mean a pseudo photo tour or an extension to some business conference or other, I mean a holiday where I can take time off and relax.

Last New Year’s Eve in a slightly inebriated state I was telling my friend my tales of holiday woe when Pete walked in also slightly worse for wear (he’d just jumped in the River Feshie which is never a good idea in the middle of winter). I think the cold water had fuddled his brain because before I knew it, Old Grumpychops had promised me not only a holiday, but a holiday in Yellowstone in autumn! And not only for me but for our friends too! As insurance I announced this bizarre yet welcome generosity to the assembled throng. There would be no going back now.

Our friends are non-photographers and although I’ll be going armed with my Baby G (aka Canon G10), regular readers of this blog will understand that this hardly qualifies me as a ‘photographer’ (having not even managed to download one picture since it arrived in 2009). So to all intents and purposes, we are traveling bereft of cameras. And begrudgingly (read after several protracted arguments), Pete has agreed to leave his gear at home too.

I can see it now. Hiking, horseback riding, white-water rafting, skydiving. We’ll be doing it all with not a picture being taken. Not a custom function mentioned, not a megabyte to download, not a chimping session to be seen (Yes I do know what chimping means!).

But what if he misses a winning shot? What if he suffers a mental breakdown without his camera? What if he becomes so depressed he offers himself up to the nearest grizzly bear? What if…? What if I don’t give a damn?

Could I be that cruel? Oh yes, just watch me!

A.M.A.N.D.A. May ’12

It’s not unusual for people to walk straight into our house but when I heard the door go at past nine o’clock the other night, I did wonder who was calling. And there she stood – my Mum, on one of her unexpected, unannounced, and as Pete would have us believe, unwelcome visits!

For fear of misrepresenting my husband I should add that for him, a visit from the Mother-in-law is in fact welcome as it means ironing getting done on an industrial scale. Pants, socks, and hankies – nothing escapes her hot steamy iron. But this is no ordinary iron, this is a rocket-shaped, turbocharged, steam-spluttering iron that gurgles away for hours on end. Her bedroom door remains shut for days, the only sign of life being the steam creeping out from underneath the threshold and then, as if by magic, there appears a pile of ironing the likes of which our house rarely witnesses. She even puts it away!

Nobody is allowed to touch the iron in my Mum’s absence (it goes away in the ‘stuff’ cupboard until her next visit). I have to say that for me, ironing is a luxury that demands time and inclination that I simply haven’t got. So if anyone spots a strange human form that kind of resembles either Pete or Sam but obviously can’t be with clean ironed clothes like that, it is indeed life – just not as we know it. A week or so from now, their usual vagabond appearance will be resumed.

Of course they could always do their own ironing. Hmmm…

My mum headed off home this morning (looking very smart) and as I left for the station I heard my first cuckoo of the year. Life is good with or without ironed clothes!