When last I heard, the death toll from the Beijing flooding had reached 77, which is really terrible. I’ve been keeping a watch on the BBC’s Chinese services and it would seem that several urgent reviews are under-way. I just hope that everyone involved in building and infrastructure over there takes note of the tragedy and that they design around it for the safety of future generations.
Regulars will remember that I recently tried in vain to purchase a Bluetooth ear-piece. Well, I was up in Oxford Street last week and as my meeting finished much earlier than advertised, I decided to have a walk back towards the east. It was the first Monday of the Olympics and the place was deserted. The sun was also putting in a rare appearance.
Isn’t it odd how these phone shops all seem to cluster? Nothing for a quarter of a mile then four in the space of 150 yards! Being an Orange subscriber, I went into their emporium – it also happened to be the first one I came to on the south side of the street!
There was only one other customer in the shop and they were at one of the tiny consultation tables with one staff member. The remaining two staff were trying their best to look busy. One of them (a rather nice South Asian girl) came over to me and gave me a smile as wide as the River Thames and asked if she could be of help? I explained what I was looking for and she led me over to the display with the items on it. The choice was limited, but already the experience was way above that of my local branch.
I selected my purchase (a Samsung, for reference) and she led me over to the counter. After scanning etc she asked how I wanted to pay and I offered my card. Her look changed from happy to fearful in a nano-second. “Oh, there might be a bit of a wait, we are having problems with our tills” she tells me, full of apologies. I remember closing my eyes and counting to three. I told her (and her colleague) about my previous experience and they were now both in full apology mode.
Normally, I’d get the hump and go elsewhere. But, it was a nice day, I was in no hurry and she was being so nice and friendly that I elected to wait whilst she wrestled with the technology. It was like going back 20 years, they had to ring up and get an authorisation code for the transaction. Apparently this had been the case since some time in the previous week – I could not help but wonder if it had been going on longer than that. We chat about nothing in particular, as you do when in these situations; after about 10 minutes she gets the code and the transaction can complete. With the biggest of her smiles she gave me back my card, my purchase in a bag, gave my hand a squeeze and thanked me for my patience. Chuffed? You bet your life I was! So much so, I walked all the way to my next appointment with what must have been a grin that would have put the Cheshire Cat on notice – it was commented upon by an old mate when I met up with him!
The upshot is that I’m no longer getting my ears ripped apart by the old wired kit, which, after all was the object of the exercise! I’m also surprised at how little the devices cost – when I bought my first one back in 2004 it was the thick end of £50. This one, at £15, is much smaller, lighter and can be paired with 2 devices at once, which is useful. If I had two phones. Which I don’t.
For some reason, I was suffering a bit of a crisis of confidence vis. my photography. It got to the point where I was going through the motions, rather than getting anything out of it. Certainly, the will was still there as the recent “fish-eye” day proved. However, I was starting to wonder if my work “cut the mustard” both technically and creatively. I had a wander around a couple of museums but that didn’t seem to do very much in terms of inspiration. It was whilst browsing through a Pentax user site that I noticed a thread related to a local camera club. A quick bit of research and I discovered that they met on Wednesdays and that the first 4 weeks were free, after which you either join or jog on.
I arrived at the venue in good time but had no idea where to go – they hold meetings in a community centre which is a bit on the large side and was being used by many different groups. There was also no one in reception to ask. I felt a familiar twitching of the schnozzle which can only mean one thing – there is a bar in the building! Having an infallible sense of direction where matters of libation are concerned, I quickly found salvation in the form of the barman. I enquired as to the location of the club. He didn’t know, but two guys who were stood at the bar did – they were also going and were already members. We had a brief chat and headed on to the meeting room allocated for the group.
You’ve all seen the films where someone walks in to a bar or a room and the place goes silent? That. I was addressed by someone sat at a table which seemed to be the one where people paid subs and those “in charge” resided. I was told by two different people about the 4 week rule, the charges and such like – all of which I’d gleaned from the webiste! I was also told that “we do not bring cameras to meetings; this is not a tutorial or workshop”. Okay, I’m beginning to feel “really” welcome by now. As it so happens, I did take my camera bag along, because I was new to it and did not know what to expect – a point which I felt justified in making. After these “pleasantries” had been exchanged I was advised that the speaker which had been booked to appear had cancelled at a very late stage, so there was to be a hurriedly arranged group critique of the Chairman’s body of work. Now, the chairman is/holds LRPS (“Licentiateship of the Royal Photographic Society”) which means his work has been judged to be worthy of the moniker.
The process for the evening was – he puts a picture in the lightbox, talks a little about it and invites criticism or comments on the image from the 20 or so members present. It was the first time I’ve ever been in a room where someone stands up and invites a group of others to pass judgement and it was fascinating to hear other people’s opinions on the various images. This went on for about 45 minutes and then it was declared “half time”. There was a mad rush to the bar but I decided to stay put, as did a few others. One or two had spotted that I was new and came over to talk to me – one of them had been a member for 30+ years and I was told there were one or two others that had been there longer! The second half was more of the same, however, Mr. Chairman then started to put up images of places that 1. I knew and 2. I’d also photographed! A couple of them could easily have been mine, given the position of shot and the angles used. Now it was getting interesting! A few of these were shots he’d put forward in his LRPS submission and they had been praised. Suddenly, the cloud I’d felt under for the past few days started to lift a little and I felt a bit of the “hunger” returning. I felt my work was equally as good as his and started to feel a bit daft. Before long the session drew to a close, I chatted briefly to a couple of people and then left, some went to the bar, others home. I was in the latter category!
When I got home it was just under 11pm. I made the obligatory mug of tea, put the radio on and started to look back through some of my images which I’d not done anything with. Come 3.30am I’d been through countless folders and selected a number with which I wanted to try something different – it still amazes me how two hours can change one’s perspective. I’ve not had the opportunity to do too much since then, but hopefully that will be redressed soon.