Two photos from our time exploring The Lost Gardens of Heligan. Taken at different times, but that is what is special about revisiting a location, it is almost new but each visit seems to make more and new connections and memories.
The first photo is of the gardeners office, in itself I may not have taken this although I am glad I did. This is a photo with a story and a very strong emotional connection. Towards the end of our stay I had half a day to wander the gardens on my own, in truth I find it very difficult to take photos with Melody or Monet following, I just don’t focus, ha! ha! couldn’t resist that.
At the time of this visit they were celebrating the First World War and the staff who had gone to fight and give their lives. As I arrived at the gardener’s office I found a large photograph outside with a write up of why this was there. The photo had belonged to the elder brother and had been on his wall until his death, he had survived the whole of the war and beyond, but his younger brother had not been so fortunate.
The photo and write up described how the younger brother arrived towards the end of the war and was a picture of him dressed in uniform and ready to depart. This young man, to the best of my memory, was under 5 feet tall, he had a back pack that would have weighed over 80 pounds and a rifle with bayonet attached that was so much taller than him that it was almost comical. He didn’t survive long and was never found.
So, as I entered the gardener’s office I was quite emotional, brought up on stories of the war that my grandfather told me. Perhaps it is a good thing to connect with a subject, not that you would have guessed the story from this photo.
My other photo is close to this and I am trying to remember if it is the outside of the office, but I am not sure, I think not. We do love visiting Heligan, it is such an inspirational place and draws you in, as an engineer I love the Victorian ingenuity, no electric heaters or other modern answers, theirs were simple yet brilliant.
Well usually we have our caravan, what luxury, as comfortable as home maybe even better. This year I had asked for a tent for my birthday, why, I almost shout at myself, well I have found that I want to get places to take photos but it is just too far to travel for a sunrise or sunset.
The caravan is great and would be my first choice, but you can’t tow a caravan into the middle of Exmoor, so a tent seemed to be the answer.
So late October and I decide that if I am going to try it out this year then now is the time. On a lovely day I set out to Wimbleball Lake. It takes a while to translate the minimal instructions but eventually the tent is up and looking good.
Let me suggest to anyone thinking of using a tent for the first time in years, they re not naturally warm, I woke a few times in the night realising how cold it was. Surviving until the morning and emerging from my tent I realised how cold it had been as the ground was white with frost and the tent was covered in ice.
At least it got me up early and I watched the sun rising over the misty lake, it was spectacular and it is in those moments that the effort is worthwhile, of all the things I see or watch on television this was a moment that I could easily have missed and yet here I was watching my own personal show.
Later on I walked around the lake and that is when I found the canoe sitting under a tree surrounded by autumn leaves. I was an interesting walk, the lake which was formed as a reservoir during the 1970s was very empty with one section being almost completely empty. I didn’t manage a full circuit, it is probably about 10 miles, partly because I stopped and took photos on the way and just enjoyed the day. I did make it to the dam, to be honest it wasn’t the most scenic dam I have seen, but the lake was lovely and except for a few walkers and a group of fishermen I had it nearly to myself.
I must remember this day when I next plan a stay in my tent, it was certainly worth a bit of discomfort and I got two photos that I have now printed and framed. Some days out, even if well planed, end up with none, so this was good.
As this is a few days before Christmas, may I wish anyone who reads this a happy Christmas and new year.
Did you see Ed Sheeran on television speaking about the arts in schools? What a breath of fresh air to see someone who gets it, who has some understanding of how art benefits the country financially, culturally and humanly.
Let me explain my background and how I arrived at similar views.
In my teens I trained as an engineer, later for my career becoming a telecoms engineer. When I was at college I would look at the art students and would think what a waste of money, why not close it down and spend the money on important manufacturing and engineering works, something that would benefit the country.
Of course, I have come to understand that this was a very narrow view, but never the less some 40 years later a very popular view among our politicians.
Meeting Melody when I was just 40 has changed my view and given me different insight into the hidden values of art. Ed Sheeran also spoke of the financial returns that art brings to the country, I am somewhat aware of this, but it is not my main concern, it would be interesting to know what the financial benefits are, but not today.
So, what have I seen over my years as a photographer and supporter to Melody? What I have noted that in general terms when I met people as an engineer I would talk about things, problems and solutions. We did not enter other areas, who are you, what do you think, how do you feel and so on, these are still areas new to me and still somewhat out of my comfort zone.
What I noticed when I have worked in our gallery or studio is how different the conversations are. These may be the same people I have encountered in a work environment, but now we are somewhere else, something else is going on and someone I have never known is emerging.
Quite often I have seen people suddenly overcome by emotion, tears appear and somehow or another a few colours on a canvas have connected with their subconscious to expose and perhaps bring healing to troubles and difficulties. I keep thinking of things as I write this and I am reminded how we were approached by a local hospital to supply art, this wasn’t just to make the place pretty, this was the stroke and dementia ward and studies had shown how important colour is in aiding recovery and healing in these circumstances.
So, what are my thoughts in this? In very simplistic way I think it is how the brain works, we can view the brain as being two parts, the dominant side which is our day to day and the artistic side, which I think for many if not most is the less dominant. I am still an engineer and I think things through simplistically, but it seems to describe what I have experienced.
In our day to day we deal with pressure, life, problems, we get up and go to work and it seems our society leaves little space for the artistic and yet to do so leaves us unbalanced measuring ourselves and society against a distorted set of values. Perhaps there are a lot of issues in this that need exploring, one sees people struggling with stress making ends meet, they are doing all that society demands but never achieve a sense of peace or happiness.
Yesterday I had a funny conversation with Melody, I asked her what she would want to happen if I came home and found a box too big for her to move at the bottom of the stairs. Her reply is still causing me difficulties to comprehend, she said she was more interested in me being empathic than in getting the box to the top of the stairs. Of course, my engineering thought is that we need to get the box up the stairs and solve the problem. Later when she came back in the car with the seat belt not working, we both sat and cried, and I told her how I understood the upset and emotion that this caused when she couldn’t take her mum shopping, she loved it, repairing it was incidental, but it did allow her to go shopping with her mum, Melody wanted me to add that I have embellished this a little we didn’t really cry, well she didn’t.
In another anecdotal way I see it that we are a society that has focused on exercising our right legs while neglecting our left, our society wanders around with a limp always going in circles. So, like Ed Sheeran I wonder if it is possible for our politicians to get out of the materialistic circle they are forcing us into and to realise that life is about more than this, it is about our care for the society we live and for each other, about service and not just profit about the person and our humanity.
My daughter who did teacher training in Sheffield described how a lesson consisted of 55 minutes of crowd control and 5 minutes of teaching, except when she introduced some element of art when the class would become manageable, surely this must be well known and worth consideration.
So, I do hope his voice is heard and I do hope other artists join in speaking in support of what he has said, and all this comes from a reformed engineer.
Not entirely randomly I have included pictures of bridges, Pink Tarr Steps an ancient clapper bridge on Exmoor, Landachre Bridge a lovely sweeping bridge, both of these by Melody and finally Relax At Withypool Bridge a black and white photograph by me. All three are bridges over The River Barle and are within a few miles of each other. I thought mixing pictures by Melody in her colourful arty style and a b&w photo by me in my engineering style symbolised the connection of two sides of the river, the arts and the material world and perhaps they can be linked.