Friday, 10 April 2020

AMEENA ROJEE - Take a Look at my Life

Yeah, an old man takes a look at his life but with a superb artist like Ameena to show him the way. Ameena likes these shots; she likes the darkness and they are dark, in both colour and mood. And yet, the shoot was uplifting as has always been the case with Ameena. This is the fourth time she has photographed me - she sent me a message suggesting that it was time for another shoot which coincided with Asia Werbel approaching me to take part in her @12smallpieces project where she would photograph me on Skype.

As always, Ameena's response was positive and enthusiastic although she had doubts about the likely quality of the photographs but I love the grainy texture which seems to hark back to the old prints of movies such as "The Dead" (John Huston 1987) and to place me in another age.

Also, for some reason, the words of Neil Young's plangent song "Old Man" come to mind -

Old man, look at my life,
I'm a lot like you were...

And I am a lot like I used to be except for a deep seated anxiety which I don't seem able to shake off in its almost daily conflict with my desire to 'go further' on my journey of discovery of my true self. Is this of any interest or importance in today's world? I dunno but it can be interesting trying to find answers and shoots with Ameena (and the others) offering a different perspective help enormously. 

Apart from that, Ameena is jolly good fun to work with. We have enjoyed a very relaxed friendship from the start. She is perceptive and knowledgeable with a good sense of humour. She can be serious though and her direction is clear and astute.

There is more to come - how good is that?



Wednesday, 8 April 2020

OLGA SECEROV - Short but sweet

Olga is a friend of Asia Werbel who has instigated the 12 small pieces project whereby photographers
will reach across borders and communicate the connections we have across the world with people of all backgrounds. Asia has said "Covid-19 is a terrible disease. It knows no borders, it preys on people of all nations. Despite the indiscriminate nature of the disease, it has been used as an excuse to divide, to conquer, to separate east from west, north from south, city from country, rich from poor.

12 small pieces is a project that seeks to break down these artificial borders. At a time when people are in isolation, under lockdown due to Covid-19 restrictions, the only form of communication is through digital platforms. In 12 small pieces, photographers, artists, and members of the public from around the world create images of the person they are digitally communicating with. It’s a project which recognises a world without borders, where the ties between us, even when only digital, are stronger than those who would break us apart."

Olga, who is originally from Sydney, had met Asia when they both attended Central St Martins School of Art in London and have been friends ever since. Asia introduced Olga by email and asked if I would be willing to be photographed again for this project and I readily agreed particularly after looking at her excellent work online. Olga and I spoke by skype and she asked me to place my face as close as possible to the screen which I did and she clicked away. It must have only taken ten minutes and afterwards we chatted a bit and she told me that her interest was in Fine Art photography and that was it. Certainly the quickest shoot I have ever had
I'm not sure what the photographs say about me. The fact that I did the shoot says that I am willing to have a go at anything where photography is concerned and, notwithstanding the speed of the shoot, I found Olga to be a very friendly and warm person. This is a very interesting and worthwhile project but, for me and I guess for the photographers too, there is no substitute for meeting and working with the photographer and subject respectively face to face and having time and space to explore different ideas and angles. Of course, that is simply not possible at the moment but in this digital age, such an idea as Asia has conceived and put into practice emphasises the necessity to continue to communicate with each other and the benefits which follow.

 Yes, very interesting and credit to Asia and Olga for putting it out there and I am most grateful to them for inviting me to take part.


The project:

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

AND FAR AWAY : A Continuing Journey

(c) Rachel Maloney

From. 2007 to 2016, I was photographed by 425 photographers. Some of them photographed me more than once. Between them, they took thousands of photographs in different styles, using different camera and ideas and concepts. I called this project "Over the Hill". I did not have one bad experience. I could have gone on and, as Rankin said, go for the 500 but I felt that there had to be an end point - I wanted to put it all into a box, tie it up with ribbon and put it on the shelf and, every so often, take it down and marvel at all the wonderful people I had met and experiences I had had and places I had been.

However, I did not want to stop seeing these guys but I wanted to try a different approach which was not all about numbers and choosing one image from each shoot. I wanted to go further (whatever that meant). So, I continued approaching photographers but with a view to examining the whole shoot and also the intellectual and emotional connection with the photographer. So began "And Far Away"......

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

The Marylebone Cricket Club - the MCC

(c) Pedro Paz Lopez
I first went to watch cricket at Lord's in 1962. I was 11 years old and my cousin, Ian, took me there. I remember that he bought a scorecard and filled it in with green fountain pen ink. My memory says that we sat on the grass within the boundary rope in front of the grandstand. All the greats were playing - Dexter, Trueman, Lock and Colin Cowdrey for England and Hanif, Imtiaz and Javed Burki for Pakistan. At one point, much to the amusement of the crowd, Fred Trueman chased a white paper bag which had blown on to the field and later, the captain, Dexter, took a marvellous catch in the deep over his shoulder. At the close of play, the Pakistan fielders and the two English batsmen disappeared into the Pavilion which, even then, looked like a building full of secrets, a tabernacle containing the blessed host of the game of cricket.

At that time, I lived with my mother and my four siblings in Finchley. My father had died in 1953 when I was two years old. I played some cricket at my prep schools, Dalkeith in Hendon and Holmewood in Woodside Park but, although I enjoyed playing, I wasn't very good. I had caught Polio in 1958 and it affected the muscles in my right hand, as a consequence of which I batted right handed and bowled left handed. My theory was that the disease in fact disturbed the balance on the whole of the right side of my body and that, but for this, I would have played cricket for Middlesex or football for Tottenham, or both! In 1964, we moved to West Wittering in Sussex and, although I went on a school trip to Hove to see Sussex play the Australian touring team in 1963, I did not see much cricket until I  returned to Lord's many years later after I had qualified as a solicitor in 1977. One afternoon, I caught a late train from Haslemere to Waterloo and then the underground to St John's Wood and then on to Lord's when I caught the last few hours of a Test Match, sitting in an almost empty stand opposite the Pavilion. As I sat there, I listened again to the ball hitting the bat, the sound of which was magnified as it bounced off the almost vacant stands and the romance of cricket began to work its magic. I stood and clapped at the end as I watched the players dressed in white, walk through the gate held open by a steward, up the steps and into the Pavilion.

After that, I decided to go to Lord's to watch cricket as much as I could and I went with professional colleagues, including solicitors, accountants and estate agents, clients and bank managers and friends and family. One particular friend, Peter Herga, was a member of the MCC and he very kindly proposed me for membership and suggested that his father should second his proposal. His father insisted on meeting me before he agreed to do so and over a couple of pints in the Tavern Bar, my application was sealed. I was placed on the waiting list and was informed that I was likely to be about 80 years old when I would become a full member. However, the MCC devised a registration scheme which had the effect of removing from the waiting list those applicants who had died since the submission of their applications or those who did wish to pay a registration fee. As a result, I shot up the list and became an associate member in 1986 and three years later a full member.

I went to the first match of the season in 1989 and proudly flashed my membership pass at the steward on the door. From that day onwards I have enjoyed many wonderful days at Lord's. In particular, meeting my niece's friend (and now mine), Izzy Duncan, in the Long Room, indeed seeing the wonder on the faces of guests at county matches walking into the Long Room for the first time, watching Darren Gough, Jimmy Anderson, Devon Malcolm, Dominic Cork and Shane Warne coming into bowl, the first ball of the 2005 test against Australia bowled by Steve Harmison and centuries by Gooch, Vaughan, Trott and Broad, often listening to Test Match Special.

In 2005, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease but I continued to come up to London for County games and Test matches at Lord's sometimes with relatives and old friends, sometimes on my own. This piece is dedicated to those friends who, in no particular order, include John Dalby, Bryan Farley, Roddy Playfair, Peter Ford, Brian Marshall, Richard Baylis, Mark Sobey, Nicholas Harding, David Lawes, Colin Dodge, Francis Martin, Alan Perry, Richard Brimacombe, George Vellam, Lin Conway, Linda Kelsey, my brother Anthony, Gary Gilhooly, Andrew and Susan Meehan, my brother-in-law Grant McLean, my son Tom, my cousin's husband, Andrew Ogden, Michael Rutherford, Gordon Woodman, Chris Cargill, Richard and Neal Jones and Michele Johnson.

iN  2014, I underwent Deep Brain Stimulation surgery which significantly improved my symptoms. However, in recent years, I have found the trip to London more of a chore and the cost of the annual subscription did not justify only a few visits per year even though a very good friend had been extremely generous and very kindly paid the last two years' fees. Also, I have become increasingly anxious and so on 17th March, with a heavy heart, I made the decision to relinquish my membership of the MCC. My last visit was for the second day of the Ashes Test on 15th August 2019 enjoyed very happily and appropriately with John Dalby, with whom I had also watched the World Cup Final earlier in the season. As we left the ground together, I had no idea that it would be the last time I was there as a member.

I am proud to say that I was a member of the MCC for thirty years and I am grateful to all the stewards, the restaurant, ticketing and membership staff for making that time such a pleasure. I also  enjoyed my chats with other members; most were very friendly but some, thankfully only a few, could be rude and snooty.

I shall never forget that day when I first presented myself at the back door of the pavilion and showed the steward my membership pass and he thanked me and stood aside to let me pass and I asked him where I could sit and he replied with a warm smile "Wherever you like, Sir". I walked up the stairs and into the Long Room. On the wall hung a painting of WG Grace and opposite was the beautiful portrait of the Earl of Winchelsea, the soft grey of his wig matching the colour of his coat. I walked out past the writing room and up the staircase past the astonishingly powerful painting of Viv Richards and saw the door of the home dressing room. Then down the stairs and through the Long Room Bar and then, eventually through the double doors to the white bench seats. I sat down and watched some play and the ghosts of the past, Hobbs, Bradman Compton, Marshall, Larwood, Benaud, Rhodes skipped down the steps, their boots clattering against the concrete until the sound was muffled by the rich green sward of the field of play. I leaned back against the uncomfortable slats of the bench and breathed it all in and thought of the words of CLR James "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?" And, for the first time, I truly understood their meaning.

Later, during the lunch interval, I went to the Bowler's Bar and bought a pint of beer and stood for a few minutes looking out from the balcony, my favourite view, and then returned to my seat and took out a pork pie from my plastic lunchbox and I ate it. Perfect.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

ASIA WERBEL - Pushes me into a corner

I met the photographer, Asia Werbel, at the annual Photo London exhibition in 2017. She was there with Genevieve Stevenson who had photographed me as part of "Over the Hill" a few years before. We bumped into each other quite by chance and, incidentally, we also came across another of 'my' photographers, Liz Orton, that day in the book shop. As I recall, Asia took this shot (below) when we had a cup of tea but spoke about a proper shoot in the future.

However, although we communicated on and off by email a couple of times, it never happened.  Nevertheless, fate in the form of the Corona Virus intervened and prompted Asia to start a project where she would take portraits on Facetime and she tweeted me to suggest that. A day later we 'skyped' and off we went.

Asia is a lovely person, chatty and open, with a twinklet in her eye and we got on very well. We were rather stuck with a location because I don't have a smart phone or a laptop and so it was the desktop computer in my study or nothing. She asked me to sit in front of a poster on which was printed one of Jane's paintings from her series "Stations of the Skirt" and she asked if I could find a skirt to put on. I said that I had a large black cloth but when I went upstairs and retrieved it from my dressing-up box, I saw the piece of dark pink gauze material which Asia preferred over the black.

Already, I had been feeling a little conspicuous as my study is over looked by our neighbours to the rear. But when Asia stupidly agreed to my suggestion that I remove some of my clothes (I mean, how did I know she was going to say yes??), I felt the eyes of the world on me and so I retreated into a small corner hardly big enough to accommodate my no longer sylph-like body now even more bulked up by the addition of a long length of pink gauze.  For some reason, Asia found this terribly amusing and, actually, it was quite funny.

Then, at the last minute, I realised that the blind of the window facing me was down and when it was pulled up, it gave a much better light and Asia took a few more shots of me this time with my trousers on and without the pink gauze and these were the shots which I think Asia (and probably my neighbours too) preferred over all.

And here is the shot that I have just received from Asia - I love it! Isn't it good? A Norwegian would say so - in fact anyone would.


This project:

12 small pieces
Communication across borders

12 small pieces is a global online portrait project intended to reach across borders and communicate the connections we have across the world with people of all backgrounds.

Covid-19 is a terrible disease. It knows no borders, it preys on people of all nations. Despite the indiscriminate nature of the disease, it has been used as an excuse to divide, to conquer, to separate east from west, north from south, city from country, rich from poor.

12 small pieces is a project that seeks to break down these artificial borders. At a time when people are in isolation, under lockdown due to Covid-19 restrictions, the only form of communication is through digital platforms. In 12 small pieces, photographers, artists, and members of the public from around the world create images of the person they are digitally communicating with. It’s a project which recognises a world without borders, where the ties between us, even when only digital, are stronger than those who would break us apart.

Friday, 6 March 2020

A Day Out

48 years ago, l went on a pub crawl with someone who will remain nameless in order to protect her previously unsullied reputation. In order to celebrate that event, I invited Carol Booker, who drove us that night, to join me this afternoon in retracing the steps which my companion and I took that evening in September 1972. We agreed to start our pilgrimage in The Chichester Pub (formerly called The Castle) although I now realise that that was in fact where we ended our original crawl after consuming 19 Gin & Limes EACH on the way.

Interior of The Chichester
In The Chichester
Today, the barman looked bemused when I asked him for a Gin & Lime; clearly it is not a today drink  Undeterred, Carol shocked us both by ordering a pot of coffee for herself. It was brought out to us on a tray with one mint chocolate which we shared. We looked about us and really the only thing missing from our memory of the place was the bar billiards table and 30 or 40 mutual friends from the Seventies .We made up for their absence of the latter by recalling some of them - Malcolm Eldridge, Simon Peskett, Ally Matthews, Neil Buffee, Susan 'Woman' Brown, Susan's ex-husband Paul Besley, smiling red-faced Willy Bissett (both my predecessor and successor in her affections), Harry Simmonds, Phil Windsor, Sean and Jessica O'Connor, Queen Janice of the Voles, Keith Moger, Phil Windsor, Clifford Cropp and his sister, Gina, Noddy Warren and his sister, Angela, Judith Atkins, Beanpole, Ruth Sander, Ron Dark, Jim Dick, Min Hill, Clive Butler, Sally 'Swash' Buckle, Rick Stearn and, of course, the lovely Pete Clausen.

We paused briefly outside Number 55 West Street where I was articled to Rodney Underhill, senior partner of solicitors, Raper &Co, and continued crawling to some more pubs. However, the Duke and Rye seemed to be shut and we found the Wetherspoons in the Dolphin & Anchor (next door to the boarded up Morants, later the House of Fraser) too much to bear  - bit like the owner - so we swept through with our noses in the air and fortunately found a rear exit which avoided the embarrassment of having to re-sweep back through again.

We passed the empty shell of the Coffee House which I believe used to be run by the mother of actor, Michael Elphick. It was there at the age of 13, I uttered, out loud, the immortal words in the form of a question to Janet, my older sister (by six years) - "I know what lesbians are but what do they do?"
In Prezzo

I persuaded Carol to have 125mls of 'Pinot Grigio' with our lunch at The White Horse (or Prezzo as it is now known) before we both overstepped the mark with a mug of coffee and a mini-pack of biscuits each in The Eastgate, a much more pubby pub than The Chichester. Carol had a fag there, in the patio area apologising for allowing the smoke to blow in my direction but it only served to remind me of my mother's mantra, "It gets rid of the germs". Maybe, by chance, Carol has found the vaccine to the Corona Virus. By the way, is it really true that 38% of Americans have stopped buying Corona drinks since the outbreak?
Little me outside The Eastgate

It was a good day. It was a very good day and, after watching a guy pee in the urinal of the Gents loo on Chichester railway station and walk out without washing his hands past another guy who was allowing his spit to drop onto the yellow line, I caught the train back to Brighton and told Jane about my day.

Oh alright, it was Carol who had 19 Gin & Limes that evening with me in 1972 and she drove -  yet she was always such a good girl.......

Tower Bridge

Friday, 21 February 2020

Richard Brimacombe

On 20th February 2020, a noble soul passed away. His name was Richard Brimacombe. He was my friend and he was my partner in the firm of solicitors known as Burley & Geach. I joined the firm in 1977 and in about 1978, I was asked if I would like eventually to take the position of partner dealing with Private Client work at Haslemere then held by the senior partner, Brian Hunter, on his retirement. However, I wasn't sure (a) that I wanted to continue to work in the Law and (b) that I was capable of taking on such a position especially in succession to Brian who was a superb lawyer. 

So, the firm advertised the position and appointed Richard. Gradually, our friendship grew and I began to feel more settled in the firm and so stayed on and became a partner a few years later. I was never really cut out, academically, to be a lawyer, but I worked hard and conscientiously.  On the other hand, Richard was well-read, fastidious and painstakingly accurate in his work. He had run a branch office in his previous firm and enjoyed dipping into different types of work. Unfortunately, this placed a huge amount of pressure on his shoulders and this resulted in a breakdown. He recovered and came to work with me at the firm's office in Grayshott. He was determined to prove to the partners and his clients (and to himself) that he was capable of dealing with legal work and to the same standard as before and, for a short while, he succeeded. Unfortunately, he was then diagnosed with Stomach Cancer and he decided to retire although, eventually, he made a full recovery following major surgery. We met from time to time and enjoyed a good chat whenever we did.

So, how would I describe Richard? He was a very loyal and loving husband to Julie whom he had met when she worked as a secretary at the Haslemere office. He was a kind, caring and proud stepfather to Julie's son, James, and step-grandpa to James' children, Bethany, Harvey and Lauren, about all of whom he spoke with such love and admiration. He was generous with his time when, on many occasions, I approached him with a legal problem with which I was having difficulty and needed another view. He was well-liked by his clients and professional colleagues but equally, he would spend a long time getting it right and it was his that maybe contributed in part to his breakdown. However, he did not believe in compromise and despaired of people who cut corners.

He bore his last illness with great courage and, at times, with dry humour. I had the honour to interview him about his life a few months ago and found him to be completely honest and open and totally in love with Julie. After the interview, I filmed them dancing in their garden - it was a special moment.

On a personal level, he was a good friend. He had a certain swagger and a lovely sense of humour and we enjoyed some fun times whether over lunch, in the pub, on the golf course or just sharing a pot of tea. 

He will be greatly missed.

Richard and Julie in 2019