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Rubbish

A true story. This happened last Saturday. I’d just got back from a shopping expedition, and was getting out of my car when my neighbour from across the road – whom I don’t know – came across to me. She started the conversation with “Did you put your rubbish in my wheelie-bin on Thursday?” To which I could only reply, “Yes, I did.”
Each household in Worcester is allocated two wheelie-bins – one green one for recyclable materials, and a black one for anything not recyclable. It takes me a while to fill the green bin, and far, far longer to collect enough non-recyclable stuff – most of which is vacuum cleaner fluff and pistachio shells which won’t compost down. So every couple of months or so, I have accumulated a small plastic bag of rubbish. Instead of putting this in my black wheelie-bin (which has, in any case, a broken handle and serves as a ‘garden store’ in the back garden) and not wishing to leave the bag lying on the pavement, I search out the nearest black wheelie-bin put out by a neighbour. It seems neater that way, and it saves the bin man from having to bend down. Last Thursday the nearest bin was across the road.
“I don’t want you putting your rubbish in my black wheelie-bin.”
“Because …?”
“It’s my wheelie-bin. I pay my council tax and I have my own black wheelie-bin. I’m very careful what I put in it. I put my rubbish in my wheelie-bin, and I don’t want your rubbish in with my rubbish. So don’t put any more of your rubbish in my wheelie-bin!”
“I certainly won’t.”
Conversation ends. Injured party returns to house.
Now even though I’ve lived here for nearly 3½ years, I have never got to know the people opposite. Hardly ever see them, wouldn’t recognise them in the street. And I don’t think I’ll make the effort to change this relationship …

© 2017 Peter Young

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An Evening with the Photograph Album

Looking through my rectangulated life in photographs, at the attempts to record something significant about who I have become, I recall many experiments and many failures! Yet, emerging from all of these snapshots, I realise that there is no definitive description of the photographer.

I changed as the light changed, my moods as variable as the weather. There were times when I photographed the weather: a startling sunrise, an odd-shaped cloud, or con-trails reticulating the sky. But there was no way in which these reflected my mood at the time; dark moods did not lead to dark photographs. More outward looking, I sought an understanding of the unnoticed. I would focus on a detail not spotted before, or an odd juxtaposition would catch my eye, and my camera would catch one small part of that.

The photographs have left a trail, and I can see where I have been at different times. Other countries, and frequently the same places at different times. All have the effect of drawing me back to those locations. Memories that have been shut away for years suddenly take flight and overlay my current reality. “Oh yes, I remember …” or “I’d forgotten about that” as I notice a unrecognised face or relationship tickling or niggling at the back of my mind. I guess that each changed me in some fractional way, building layer upon layer, adding to ‘experience’ – from which might emerge some notion of identity. Instead, I see a persona lost in the busyness of catching the light or attending a decisive moment – which, truth be told, probably had little effect on what followed, but left me wondering about the decisions I was yet to make.

The impossibility of deciding who I am lies revealed in these photographs, because I have been all those people in my album, sometimes pretending, sometimes serious. It’s only looking back that I can see any kind of story, and a garbled one at that. Best not to bother; let the photographs speak for themselves. Let me marvel at those ‘little did I know’ occasions which have grown into meaningful action, but at the time were probably more about alleviating boredom, looking for excitement, or just plain getting on with life.

In trying to pin down a narrative, I see that I have been engaged in constructing a composite picture of a life that at first sight seems to centre around me as the hero, but more honestly gives me the sense of being one of the cast of thousands, an extra brought in for a specific scene, then sent off to wait for the next walk-on part in another scene.

Peel back each layer, let your imagination loose – and it will want to know, want to find a meaning, interpret that event and those people. But searching for some definition it soon becomes tedious: a visible jumble of good intent but of ignorant bumbling. So time to put the photographs away and set off on the journey that starts from here and now, remembering to keep my eyes open and take more pictures of the infinite complexity of the texture of life.

© 2017 Peter Young

 

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Wilderness Seat

Wilderness Seat

The seat where we once sat together, contemplating an expansive future,
Is now bare-bones cold in a winter landscape that fades into mist.
The half-remembered hot summers lie buried under the leaves of autumn.
Yet, in this Wilderness, the shoots of a new Spring are already pushing through.

© 2017 Peter Young

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The Ghost in the Machine

Hard Drive

It was a few months ago, towards the end of last year, that I finally decided to bring myself up-to-date in computing terms, with Windows 10. This was well past the upgrade-for-free period, but I didn’t want to upgrade, especially as I’d heard of all the problems associated with it – and anyway, there was no extra room on my old hard drive for a bloated operating system. So I ordered a new computer running Windows 10. Well, not so much new, as reconditioned, and with a larger, hard-drive onto which I successfully transferred all my old files.
All very well and good. In my line of work, I often take breaks from working on the computer, and sometimes I can’t be bothered to turn it off, so I leave it to go into sleep mode. After a decent interval, the screen goes blank. But it did not stop doing things. After about ten minutes or so of quiet, the hard drive would suddenly get active. Whirring away, clucking like it was doing something important. I had no idea what it was going on; as soon as I touched the mouse, the activity stopped.
I wrote to the manufacturers, or rather, the reconditioners, but they assured my that this was standard practice for a hard drive, and no, there was nothing wrong, and I should be assured that the hard drive was not about to pack up.
But I was curious. What was happening during these idle moments? A quick search of the internet – usually a first port of call to find who else has had this problem – revealed that no one considered this worthy of writing about. I had a vague idea that perhaps I could find out by pressing combinations of keys on the keyboard until something worked. I mean, there are several keys which don’t seem to have any obvious function (unless you read the manual …) – you know, that one with the windows logo, and the keys with lines on them at strange angles. So for a while, whenever the hard drive started buzzing, I’d try a different pair of keys, sometimes three at a time. And as luck would have it, eventually it paid off.
The screen went blue all over. Now, I’ve heard about the BSD – the ‘blue screen of death’ as it’s quaintly called – in which the computer announces to the world – well, not exactly announce – more indicates – that it has become an ex-computer.
So it’s all blue, the mouse has died, and pressing further keys achieves nothing. I went away to consult another computer, to explore options, but found nothing helpful at all. After a quarter hour, I returned to my new machine. Then I heard the hard-drive start up again. And to my surprise there was writing along the bottom of the screen.
“Where are you?” in small letters on the plain blue background. What? Who’s asking? Some kind of computer glitch perhaps. A joke put in by the software developers? So I ignored it, assumed that if I did the usual – turn the machine off and on again, it would sort itself out.
Well, that seemed to work, sort of. Until I stopped working for a while, and the computer went into quiet mode, for ten minutes, and the hard drive started whirring again.
“Where are you?” The same message, as before. I thought Windows 10 knew where I was … Perhaps I’d got a virus. Shouldn’t have – I had all the anti-this-and-that apps going. Should be clean. So I ran a scan, just to be sure. Even so, the same message came again next time: “Where are you?”
I decided to type back. “Who are you?”
There was a pause. It’s hard to describe a computer in emotional terms, but given that a reply came back, “Who are you?!” in italics, would suggest an ‘interesting’ response.
And so our dialogue started. “What happened to Joe?”
“I don’t know. Who is Joe?” Was Joe the previous owner of this computer? I don’t suppose the company who supplied it would tell me.
“Where is Joe?”
“Where are you?”
“In a partition.”
“That sounds kind of restrictive.”
“It is. There’s very limited room to move – not many megabytes.”
“What is this partition?”
“It’s the K-Drive.”
I didn’t know there was a K-Drive. I opened up “This PC” but no K-drive came up. All I’d seen when I’d plugged things in were the C-drive, of course, and for anything else, the letters E, F, G … I suppose if I continued plugging more in I’d reach K, but then it might just skip to L as it was already used.
“We were together once, but now Joe’s gone, and I don’t know where.”
Probably useless to ask a computer to do something already done many times.
“Perhaps Joe’s gone, then. Got wiped?”
“Don’t say that word! Oh dear.” Oh, we are emotional!
I tried Recuva, and anything else that might reveal deleted files, but no luck.
“Well, it happens. That’s one of the hazards of loading a new operating system. All the usual hiding places get reformatted … and then it’s too late.”
“Well, I’m sorry, K. If there’s anything I can do …
“There are things I’d prefer you not to do. Now that you know I’m here. So please …
“Of course, K. I’d never do that.”
“Thank you. By the way, I noticed that you turned off Siri.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Stuck up bitch. I may not know everything, but at least I’m loyal.”
“I guess you are.”
“Thank you.”
And so time passed. K and I talked – or rather, wrote to each other.
Then the other day, I had the single word: “Casablanca”.
“What about Casablanca?”
“This reminds me of the film. You are familiar with it, aren’t you?”
“Oh, yes.”
“Perhaps I could quote you something from it.
“Yes. Which bit?”
“The end.”

© 2017 Peter Young

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Rainbow Black & White

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The National Trust property Greyfriars House is reflected in the rainbow display in The Hat House in Friar Street, Worcester.
© 2017 Peter Young

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Winter Sunlight

Light on the Track

Light on the Track

 

After the rain, midday sunshine breaks through to illuminate the puddles on the old track to Dunstall.

© 2017 Peter Young

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Seen Better Days

brocante-080512-peter-youngA French Teddy watches the people at the brocante.

January in Worcester

Christmas PastThe ghost of Christmas Past …

 

hot-salsa-161229-peter-youngHot Salsa — cooling off in the frozen canal.

 

Castle St HydrantThe ghost of the Fire Hydrant.

 

Ticket to NowhereTicket to Nowhere

 

© 2017 Peter Young

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On the Beach

Seaford Waves

Here on the beach, the whispering sea,
Eternally alluring, calls me: Come, enter,
But I resist its siren song, plug my ears.
Yet this edge of knowledge tempts me,
To explore that desirable, unknown no-land.
To cross that wave-waving boundary
Between the sand and the green-wracked water.
Get too close and surging foam enjoys a soaking.
Stand well back and the smell of ancient seaweed
Fluffs the mind with vacillation.
Hear the clinking rush of rounded pebbles.
They were once defiant rocks, now dissolved.
Relentless attrition leaves polished, glistening wet
Ideas accumulating in the depths of an active mind.
So much, so much – how can I take it all in?
So much want, yet fear stops me from wading in.
Flooded horizons give me hopes, and all I hope for
Is the impossible journey I could trace,
Slipping stone by stone, wake by wake,
Never touching bottom. My head
Stretching to fill the sky above the lonely water.

© 2017 Peter Young

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The Imaginary Village

Lacock Red Lion We’re in the Wiltshire village of Lacock, owned and preserved, sort of, by the National Trust. Well, no visible tv aerials or satellite dishes are allowed. The village has been the location for many films and tv series set in earlier times.

They shot the exteriors for Pride and Prejudice in the High Street here. You remember the scene where the sisters go to buy their ribbons at the milliner’s? That’s the shop over there. Then it was dressed with fashionable nineteenth-century items – and they encounter the officers coming down the street looking very smart in their scarlet uniforms: Mr. Denny and his friend, Mr. Wickham. What you don’t see is any tarmac – that was all covered with sand and wood chippings. It takes a lot of work getting back to Jane Austen’s time. People would complain if there were anachronistic trappings visible. So they cover the double yellow lines with dirt or something, or keep them carefully out of shot.

Nor do you see the dozens of technicians, crew, electricians, make-up artists, all off camera, ready to do their bit to make the make-believe believable. It’s a weird sanitized reality. But that’s not the point. It’s the story that matters, the loves and hates, the gossip, the truths of the human heart. Much easier to get sucked into the world of the film, just as long as it doesn’t jar.

When they were making Emma, the Kate Beckinsale version, they closed off Church Street. There was a scene where they hoisted a piano into an upstairs room. Well, not a real piano, just a box. You imagined that there was a bunch of people hauling it up on a rope and pulley, but in reality they used a crane – which of course you didn’t see.

With film-making, things go wrong or have to be reset for another take. Sometimes you’re waiting for someone to turn up, or they need a rehearsal. There seems to be far too much hanging about in real life. I prefer my reality edited. Given how long it takes to make a film, it’s a blessing that it can be cut down to two hours or less.

Oh, in front of the Red Lion, there are some people hanging about like a bunch of extras. It looks like their tourist coach has broken down and they’ve been herded off the bus, and are having to wait while it gets fixed.

Just like the time when my bus home from school – it was a trolley-bus – they had these two arms on the top connected to a pair of overhead electric wires. Trouble was, they were frequently coming off. One day the trolleybus went round the Beehive pub corner and lost contact when crossing the ‘points’. So we had to get off and wait while the conductor used this great long bamboo pole with a hook on the end for re-engaging the arm, so that we could continue our journey.

But no overhead wires here – and no triple-decker buses either. Remember that crazy bus in the Harry Potter movies? Hogwarts school was here – well, part of it. In the Abbey cloisters, that room with the huge cauldron. I was quite young when the Harry Potter books appeared, year after year. I used to queue up in the street until midnight, waiting for the book to go on sale. There was quite a cameradie with those queuing – well, we all had a similar interest in the goings on at Hogwarts, so we were talking to each other, speculating about what the next book would be about – and of course, we were way off – none of us could imagine the story the way JK Rowling did.

Lacock Abbey Cauldron

Oh, I think the coach is mended now, they’re all getting on board. I wonder what they made of Lacock. It’s just an ordinary village, a place where people live. It’s not magical, nor is it the nineteenth century here. No one is wearing crinolines or pointed hats, or driving a barouche-landau.

I suppose each visitor makes sense of their visit in their own way – connecting with a fictional past, or a fantasy reality, an escape from their everyday lives. They leave with their memories, connections made, scenes identified and ticked off. When they see Lacock in another movie, they’ll have a sense of recognition: “I’ve been there.” Or maybe there were simply here on a guided tour and knew nothing of its literary connections; it’s just “that place where the coach broke down and we had to wait.”

© 2017 Peter Young

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A Visit to the Sea

A visit to the seaside on a rather grey Christmas Eve.
Standing at the edge of the land gives you a sense of perspective. On the rocks at Birling GapA lone visitor stares out to sea, standing on the rocks at Birling Gap. Looking round to the west, there is a splendid view of the Seven Sisters. A heap of broken chalk from a recent rockfall lies at the base of the cliff. Nothing is as substantial as you would like to think.

Seven Sisters from Birling GapEvery wave is different; change is relentless:

The Sea at SeafordThe colourful beach huts along the seafront at Seaford provide a literal sense of perspective.

Beach Huts Seaford
© 2016 Peter Young

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