I’m back in London for the last two days of my stay in the UK. It’s mostly been about family, meeting old cousins and an aunt whom I last saw 20 years ago. It was a good blast into the past while also reminding me about how time changes us all. My most vivid memory of my cousins 20 years ago is waking up to see three pairs of eyes peering down upon me, waiting for me to wake up and come out of bed to play with them. Of all the things I must’ve done in London back then this is the only incident that I remember as if it was yesterday. Today, the same cousins of mine are all grown up, just like me, and have become individuals with their own distinct personalities. Seeing them and talking to them makes me realize just how much I’ve grown up too. From being a child travelling across a different country with my parents to now visiting the same country while treading my own path, it’s been a long journey and the story has only just begun.
Spent the day visiting Birmingham. Not many words to do the talking today, just some photographs.
Lacock is a tiny village near Chippensham in North Wiltshire. It is located off the main motorway and the countryside views en-route are as interesting as the village itself. My drive took me through many narrow B-roads in England, passing many towns and a few hamlets. The weather being what it is in England, the sun never appeared during the day. Rain was intermittent but never caused a hindrance.
The village, as you walk through it, seems a little familiar at times. It’s not too difficult to ascertain after a while that you’ve seen something from here, somewhere. Sure enough, after I came back home in the evening Wikipedia confirmed that BBC’s Pride and Prejudice was filmed here, along with some scenes from the Harry Potter movies, episodes of Robin of Sherwood, and various other movies and television series.
Walking the streets of Locock is a great way to get transported back in time after the bustle of urban England. The empty lanes and stone houses may not speak, but a little imagination (and even a mild dose of experience with English literature) is enough to conjure images from fictitious worlds, and times long past. I have harbored particular fascination for medieval English history, and creating scenes of life during such times was something that came readily to my brain. J As it turns out, most of the houses in the village are of 18th century construction, or earlier.
It doesn’t take a lot of time to explore the village, being as small as it is, but take interest in the details and you’ll soon find yourself running through two-three hours without breaking a sweat. The Fox Talbot Museum of Photography was of particular interest to me but it was closed while I was there, as was Lacock Abbey whose interior was featured in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
Moving east, Avebury is another tiny village that happens to be famous, but for reasons unrelated to movies. The UK appears to have a large number of places where stone formations exist, and Avebury is one of them. Not only are the stones found here in a standing state, there are three circles that the henge at Avebury contains, one of which is the largest in Europe, 427m (1401ft) in diameter. Reading about the history of these circles, and Avebury, is an adventure in itself. Two good sources of information about these circles are –
The rain kept me in today, again. This seems like some sort of conspiracy to keep me from shooting. I’m not sure what’s more depressing though – the fact that I can’t get outside to salvage something after the death of the D50, or this persistent feeling of inaction, not just because of not being able to shoot, but also the gnawing realization that I’m shortly about to finish the first third of this three-month journey. It’s the same kind of feeling I suffer from when I realize that Saturday is half-over and I’ll need to go back to office the following Monday. Not as strong, but very similar. The weirdest thing, though, is it doesn’t seem to make any sense. I’ve been having a great time so far, and don’t see why my stay in the USA won’t be good. Scotland was great, and I hope I’ve learned stuff through the workshop that will help me become more focused in my shooting.
The thought of planning my stay in the USA has occurred to me a few times, and having worked though an unplanned trip (in the UK) I’m not sure doing the same across the pond will be equally beneficial. It’s possible to travel across the UK in a relatively small amount of time, but I’m fairly certain it won’t work the same way in the USA where distances are large, and the places to be visited are numerous. The idea of visiting various photography institutes across the country to figure out whether or not doing a course in any of them is a good idea, as an idea in itself, is starting to fall out of favour with me. I can’t really put my finger on why and how that change in mindset is coming about, but I can feel it getting stronger. It’s not like I’m considering dumping photography as a career option completely, but the thought has got more airtime in my head over the last few days. Maybe it’s because after the workshop I find that commercial photography is not really what rocks my boat, but I already knew that.
Oh well, no point spending too much time thinking about all this stuff now. There’s more or less no way to really find out what’s going to happen before it does, and I think I’m going to let things take me wherever they want to and then figure out where to go from there.
Drove down to an area close to Birmingham called the Stepping Stones today. It’s in a national park in England, a couple of hours from Solihull. It’s not much in terms of adventure, but is a good way to spend some time walking around rural England, allowing yourself to be regaled by not just the geography of the area, but also by the weather that keeps you guessing.
All I did was walk up and down a small hill in the glorious sun, which had decided to make an appearance after all these days of rain and an impermeable cloud cover. There were many families who also seemed to be making the best of the weather. Unhurried and completely relaxed is how I’d describe the day. No real sightseeing done, but the journey across various country-roads on the way from, and back to Solihull more than made up for the slow pace.
Another uneventful day today as I stayed indoors for most of the time. The weather has been quite uncooperative along with the dead camera, so the number of images I’ve been making has dwindled drastically over the last few days, and I really can’t see that changing in the next week either. In a way I’m relieved that the camera made it through the most important part of my UK visit, in Scotland. It would’ve been better if it had kept working, as that would’ve allowed me to make more of my time here. As things are now I’m not very keen to send it in for repair here, not knowing how long it could take. Moreover there’s only about a week remaining till I get to Boston, and it might be better to get it done there.
Additionally, I find that not having a camera with me seems to have slowed everything down, though it’s hard to explain. I seem to have more time for everything, including going to the market, or just doing pending edits to the images I shot in Scotland. I guess I needed this time too, and it might end up being useful for my upcoming tour of some photography schools I’ve been looking to visit while I’m in the US.
All the same, I’m starting to wonder whether my this trip will give me any useful output at all, in terms of my career. Having started off almost a month ago, I had hoped for a pattern to emerge, thinking that maybe I’d realize something is more apt for me, but I’m presently no better off than I was back then. It’s not scary. Not yet. I know I have a lot more time remaining, but the thought does keep creeping back in to my head – what if I get back to India and I haven’t managed to figure out anything at all? Does that mean I go back to my horrible job? Would it mean I’ve wasted three months and gobs of money to achieve absolutely nothing? That can’t be good. I then catch myself thinking of all this and more, and tell myself to try to take it easy. I have some time to go before this hypothetical tragedy befalls me and my life goes down the gutter. Fate might have something else in store for me that I’m still unaware of. Give it the time it needs; the time that had been promised. Things have a way of something falling into place in the most unexpected ways and in the most unexpected places imaginable.
Drove down to Oxford today. It’s about 65 miles from Solihull and took a little over an hour to get to. Silverstone, where the British round of the Formula 1 world championship is held every year, lies on the way and I was extremely tempted to ditch Oxford and head over to the track instead. Not knowing whether they’d have a track day today, and also not having much money in the wallet did convince me to keep driving without turning off the motorway though.
Oxford is a student city and feels like one. Everywhere you go, you’ll see somebody walking about with a set of notes or a pack of books in their hands, while others scurry about going from home to their college or vice versa. Of course you can’t help but also feel a bit of nostalgia about your own college days when you look at all of them, and it’s a good feeling to be reminded of those relatively carefree days. The college buildings are great to look at from a design point of view, as are the streets and small alleys between them. I mostly walked around and didn’t bother with any of the touted tourist attractions that I find to be trite in a place such as this. Spent a couple of hours walking the streets and came away with a good feeling inside, of having visited what is possibly one of the most revered cities, educationally, in the world.
Not much done today. The guys at Jessops say it will take two weeks for Nikon to tell them what the problem is and if any repairs are possible. Unfortunately, I neither have two weeks here, nor am I convinced it will be reasonably cheap. The second point is debatable, but I could check the same when I land in Boston, and I’m certain it will be easier on the wallet there.
I spent the remaining time of the day first at walking along the banks of Lake Derwentwater, shooting with the LX3, and then drove down to Lake Ullswater. Only, it was raining all the way through, and didn’t stop even when I reached Greenridding where the Youth Hostel is supposed to be. I say supposed because even though there are map entries and a few signposts on the road, I couldn’t really find it. Blame it on my lack of observation skills, if you must, but that’s how it was. Combined with the dreary weather and the rain that wouldn’t stop, along with a dead primary camera, I figured it might be better if I went back to Keswick.
Driving back, I was thinking if it would get better tomorrow and I’d have a better day at Windermere than I did today at Ullswater. The area at Ullswater is very pretty, and the road runs low by the banks of the river, but it was difficult to enjoy it in such pelting rain. Somewhere between Ullswater and Keswick I decided it might be better if I went to Solihull, near Birmingham, where a friend stays. Lake District is beautiful, but after the witnessing the splendor of the Scottish highlands it doesn’t inspire much within. Additionally, being close to a big city might give me a chance to get the camera checked and possibly repaired. So I turned the car around, and drove to Solihull. 197 miles in 2.5 hours. That was short journey, but felt really long because of having to struggle with the car on the motorway with the heavy crosswinds and the lashing rain almost all the way through. Got there safely though, and I hope something works out.
I took a train to Carlisle this morning, where I’ll be getting off and picking up my rental vehicle which will serve me for the next four days in the Lake District in the north of England. I finally decided to make my way down south, out of Scotland, despite wanting to visit the Dumfries and Galloway area in the southwest of Scotland for a few days. The accommodation and travel options there were becoming a pain to pin down, so I dumped the entire thing. I may try to visit this area some time later, if possible, although the chances look bleak.
Leaving Scotland is making me feel strange. I’ve had such a wonderful time here in the last few weeks, and to leave it now to go into what is most certainly a more crowded region seems counter-intuitive to what I want to do. I’m guessing that will change once I get used to being in the Lake District after a couple of days, hopefully.
Reached Keswick a little after two in the afternoon. It’s a small town and looks like exactly the kind of place where you could get lost within the small lanes, only to find yourself out of the town after 15 minutes of walking in any direction! As a result the number of commercial establishments is fairly low, and so are the number of people who throng the streets of the city centre, especially compared to a big place like Edinburgh. It’s pretty in it’s own right, set in a great location close to Lake Derwentwater and in the shadow of the fells that surround it.
It’s been raining again today, especially later in the day, and I’m starting to get a feeling as if I’ve somehow lost the plot when it comes to photography on this trip. The first few days/weeks up in the highlands of Scotland were great, but ever since the workshop has ended I find that I’ve made much fewer photographs, and it’s starting to bother me a bit. The weather doesn’t seem helpful either. I’m going to try to push things a bit tomorrow to get the imaging engine back into high gear. Hope it gets better.