Last weekend I made my first real visit to Bristol, our city to the North. Like many British cities, it dates from pre-historic to Roman, Medieval and Modern. In the 18th and 19th centuries it became a city of incredible wealth gleaned from trade with the West Indies – sugar, rum and slaves. I am told that most of the major fortunes of Southwest England began in the slave trade, a fact historical societies are only beginning to acknowledge.
Modern Bristol is a center for arts, industry and the real rocking city in Boris Johnson’s Britain. Although it was heavily bombed in WWII, a good many historic buildings survive and lots of small local parks create a sense of space and quiet in an otherwise crowded city.
Brandon Hill Park is one of the highest and most beautiful parts of Bristol. From this tower it is said you can see a panorama of the Somerset skyline. Couldn’t prove it by me because the tower was locked, but it certainly was a peaceful place.
The canal follows the River Avon out to the Bristol Channel. Its a busy commercial area that still finds place for pleasure boats and private narrow boats that provide cheap housing. This particular one, The Bristol Packet, is a tourist attraction that allows for a waterside view of old and new Bristol.
This photo was taken about 8:00 on Friday evening at Castle Park. People were everywhere enjoying a break from what had been a very hot day. Someone was playing Carribean drums nearby which added exactly the background beat matching to spirit of the evening. Old Town is the Medieval Bristol. The city looms over dark, narrow streets with romantic names. The area is home to St.l Nicholas Market, a large indoor market featuring recycled and handmade items. It was a pleasant place to wander around on a rainy Saturday morning. Bristol has become famous for its graffiti. Banksy, the famous graffiti artist lurks around here from time to time and his presence seems to have inspired an outpouring of artistic expression. Huge examples like the one above are all over the place and after a while I cam to think that no wall would be left undecorated. I plan to do a whole post on this subject because the range of artistic expression in Bristol graffiti is simply staggering.
The Royal Cornwall Show is an annual event in our county. Usually we get a visit from one or more of the Royals – this year Prince Charles and Camilla, but for the last two years the show has been cancelled as a result of Covid. So you can believe we were all well ready for this year’s version. On Friday I woke up early, ate a good breakfast to prepare myself, grabbed my trusty camera and off I went.
One of the first events I encountered was a womens’ drum corps from somewhere down West. The ladies all dressed in red and drummed with pleasure and expertise. Their spirit kind of sums up the show for me.
Of course there has to be a fun fare at every show – scary rides, games that cost a lot and rarely pay off and, yes, a carousel which often draws as many adults as children. But not on Friday.
Then there is the dog show – breeds I have never heard of, but I do know these two beauties. Two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels who posed so beautifully I could not resist a show. Now come on, don’t you want one?
Animals are at the very heart of the show – pigs, rare breeds of sheep, horses and goats. This is the parade of champions leaving the show ring for their stalls where they can relax and steal each other’s hay. The white coat is de rigeur for anyone showing animals.
I found this woman spinning her wool in the Rare Breeds tent of the show. She loves her craft and produced all the beautiful items in the background. It was such a pleasure to see an old craft being preserved.
One of the major events of the show is a shetland pony prace. The riders must be female, less that 14 years of age and under 5 feet tall – that is, shorter than me. The girls are part of a national team which competes at shows all over the country. Their stalwart steeds are various types of shetland. Note the white pony is called a grey. All white horses are called grey over here.
This weekend marks HRH’s 70th year as our Queen so someone decided to declare the Platinum Jubilee so we would all have something to celebrate. Cities, towns and villages all over the country were expected to take Thursday and Friday to hang their bunting, polish up their band instruments and prepare Jubilee cakes and puddings. Crackington Haven took a somewhat low-key approach to the whole project. There was some bunting, but not much. Across the valley in Dizzard they lit a beacon bonfire, joining similar efforts all around the coast of the UK. Over here on this side of the valley we had a Friday evening concert by the St. Genny’s Silver Band complete with a sausage sizzle to raise funds. No event is complete in this village without a fund raiser.
My neighbour summed things up pretty well when he said, “I respect the old lady and wish her well, but monarchy has had its day. It does too little and costs too much.” I couldn’t agree more although as an American expat I have learned to keep my mouth shut on the subject of monarchy and the royal family. So I keep thoughts like Prince Andrew belongs in jail and the rest of the royals ought to find gainful employment to myself.
As I said, not much bunting in the village but there was some outside the public toilets at the beach.
The Silver Band in their nice blue uniforms and highly polished instruments serenading us with a little night music for a summer evening.People lined up on the wall outside the pub, overlooking the beach and sea front. People gather here whenever the weather permits to enjoy the view, company and a pint or two. Its a village custom.
Penkenna Cliff overlooking the Haven beach. You can hear the music down here and enjoy the incoming tide at the same time. The light was lovely Friday night, the sun warm and skies fairly clear.
EXETER PART TWO
The four photos above were taken over the last year. A man and his daughter at a street fair, a young woman walking down Gandy Street, one of the old streets that survived the Nazi bombings in WWII, a man begging in an alleyway and three woman reading the news in a small cafe on the High Street.
In the winter of 2021 when the pandemic seemed to be ebbing, I began looking for a site for my next project. I wanted to resume streetshooting for which I needed an urban environment. Since I live in a village of 600 people at the end of the road, I would have to travel. The choices were Plymouth, Turo and Exeter – all equidistant from Crackington Haven. I settled on Exeter which is about an hour and 15 minutes by motorway. Its an old city, founded by the Romans as their southern most outpost. The old Roman wall still stands later joined by a medieval cathedral and wonderful Tudor buildings. Unfortunately the bombings of WWII destroyed much of the central city, but what remains in scenic and evocative.
I wanted to spend a year shooting life on the streets. My goal was to provide a look just beneath the surface of central Exeter at the people and things that compose street life there. The year is over now and I have 1,165 photos to sift thought, edit, discard or keep. This post begins the first of that process
This man is one of Exeter’s many rough sleepers. He sells a weekly magazine called “The Big Issue” which is produced by the homeless community as a fundraiser and news source. Over the year we became acquainted over our common interests in birds and photography. His kindness and composure always impressed me.
I passed this woman in an alley – one of the millions of people hanging on their phones. On my year in the streets I noticed that cell phones were the most common accessory to be seen. People talk on them, gaze at them, curse them but never seem to put them away. During my year I saw only one person in a public place reading a book.
This man was begging for money. I gave him a £5.00 note and asked to take his photo. He seemed anxious even though he readily agreed and seemed to enjoy my company. In my year on the streets I noted that people who beg are often eager to talk about me, about themselves and the world in general. They want to be noticed and so often they are ignored.
I don’t think this man lived on the streets. My guess would be he came shopping with his family, got tired and bored so he took the fastest way out. It was a sunny summer day, the High Street was busy but not packed and because he had a middle-class look to him the police were unlikely to disturb his rest. As for his wife…….
Spring brings a profusion of flowers to the British countryside, the most beautiful of which is the bluebell. This year we went to Lanhydrock, an old English estate dating from God-Knows -When and owned by the St. Aubyn family. The property consists of a grand house, formal gardens and fields and woods, all built on the shoulders of serfs, peasants and slaves and flourishing during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries but fell to the National Trust in the years following WW II. The Respryn river winds through the woods at Lanhydrock and it was there that we chose for our walk.
Path through the Forest
Christmas, or Xmas if you prefer, was 4 month ago and many of us may be relieved to past the seasonal surfeit of overeating, excessive drinking and on-demand joy and fellowship. But I’d like to return, just for a moment, to Exeter’s annual Xmas market and some of the people it attracts. Although its called a German Market, with its mulled cider, cakes and ale, it seems quintessentially British to me. These photos were taken in a cold night in December, Exeter was heaving with people and spirits seemed high. People were out and about for the first time in several months and seemed delighted to be circulating in the fresh air. Even an old grump like me got caught up in the fun and got caught my Santa Claus.
Boy Buying Candy
Santa Found a Friend
I was in London for the first time in almost three years. After all this time in a small village, I hungered for noise, crowds and action. Boy did I get it. On my first night I joined an old friend to go shooting on the South Bank. We started at London Bridge and made out way to Tower Bridge – not a great distance but it took us two hours of leaning over walls, running from guards and gently pushing past crowds of drunken people.
Bus in Motion
The White Tower