The concept, post university, of marking years by dates and not by term starts took some time to sink in. It was a shock to the system, despite having had jobs since my teens, to have to work a whole year and only get 4 weeks holiday. I was aghast at the notion of the world not working like that, giving everyone regular breaks and a lovely long summer holiday. I’m laughing a lot at my naive early 20’s self, by the way, there’s no need for you to do it for me.
As I don’t have children, yet, the notion of half terms and terms has, by and large passed me by of recent years. I might notice the traffic go up and down, or the fact that a teacher friend is not able to go away somewhere due to term time, but that’s it.
The modern half term seems to be catered for so well. Round here signs have sprouted over recent weeks, advertising activities, play groups, sport activities, a positive cornucopia of opportunities to relieve parents of their children and their cash.
I remember half terms of holidays in the Yorkshire Dales, running about with my brother building dams and climbing hills, usually in the rain, before heading back for cake with Granny. Or going to an arts group at the local college with my best friend, where the most memorable activity was making ice-cream sundaes out of candle wax and washing powder. One half-term we were signed up for a day in Grassington where we were forced to paint our faces green and wander round pretending to be aliens, only ‘beeping’ at each other not speaking. It took a long time for me to recover from that one, I tell you. Or sports camp, which seemed to be made up of never ending swimming and rounders. One big treat was to go to Daddy’s work and play offices, which involved being very quiet for the day and cutting up lots of paper before using half the Tippex supply to stick it back together. A couple of sleepovers usually snuck in there as well, involving much giggling and many midnight feasts, eaten at I would guess around 10pm before we all flaked out.
Yet one of the biggest realisations I have had looking back on all this is that I didn’t make these choices. They just ‘happened’. If the local sailing club had a free day, off we went with a packed lunch and instructions not to drown. If the weather was nice, out we were thrown with our bikes and a promise not to talk to strangers. Being of a less athletic frame of mind and body than my brother, I usually had a book packed in my rucksack and quite happily whiled away a couple of hours with my nose stuck in a story whilst he flung himself down hillsides and slogged back up again. Then we both ate our sandwiches, and returned home.
My parents weren’t complete autocrats, there must have been some element of discussion, but what wasn’t up for debate was doing nothing at all for the week. Both my parents worked, my father full time and my mother part time, and we were very fortunate to be able to do all these activities. It must have taken hours of research and planning to make it all happen, in those pre-internet days. By the time we got to senior school, we were more settled into our individual pursuits.
Who knows what the future holds for me, and what decisions and compromises will be made about work and childcare. I hope I do as good a job as my parents did of trying to give us loads of experiences and then letting us choose our own paths and find our own passions.
One thing is for sure. There will be no beeping alien activities.
*Disclaimer, I am rubbish at maths so this figure may be more than a bit inaccurate
It’s a cliché really, remembering parts of your life by the songs you were listening to, but in these days of instant access to online music it is easier than ever to reflect on music and days gone by.
I have been a music fan for as long as I can remember – I have seen the transition from 8-track (ask your parents) cartridges in the car, through getting my first record player, tapes, CDs and, most recently, the MP3. Yes I am actually that old (although if you believe this article turning 40 is nothing to be afraid of any more!) and I find myself appreciating the music of my youth even more nowadays, even listening to things I would not ever have admitted to enjoying “back in the day”.
The soundtrack to my life is an eclectic mix, ranging from the classical, Beethoven’s 5th Symphony on CD when I had my first sports car – a Toyota Supra when I was 25 – to Sinead O’Connor’ s Nothing Compares 2 U (although not a patch on the Prince original) when I was going through my military basic training at the tender age of 17 (the video seemed to be on constant repeat on MTV!). I can tell you what I was listening to when my daughter Emilia was born (Coldplay, a compilation I had made and my wife wanted on repeat for the 5 hours of labour!), the song I asked the DJ to play on my 18th birthday (New Order – True Faith) and the first dance at my wedding (Robbie Williams’ Angels)
Certain songs remind me of places; You Oughta Know by Alanis Morrisette reminds me of being stationed in North East Scotland, Propaganda’s Duel/Jewel of driving back to Peterhead from the North East of England to see my then girlfriend. Runrig and Caperceille will always remind me of my 2 years in the Shetland Islands and The Brand New Heavies version of Midnight at the Oasis will always conjure up images of dancing round a pool table with a lit candle strapped to my head in the Falkland Islands in 1994 (a long story that needs lots of beer to understand!).
Some songs remind me of people, Ace of Bass – All That She Wants of a neighbour who only seemed to own one CD (although after a good night out with friends in Gothenburg last week this association may change). But the associations are always there, provoking my memories and often raising a smile (Arctic Monkeys version of Love Machine)
The digital music age has become my diary, my memory device to remind me of times good and bad in my life so far. Maybe it is because I am approaching 40 that I am taking time to pause and reflect on how important music has been in my life, maybe I knew it all the time and actually take great pleasure in being a music geek – able to chart my life through the medium of song. I get depressed without being able to listen to music; I cannot pass the radio in the morning without switching it on and often fall asleep listening to my MP3 player (Guillemots’ Redwings being my tune of choice this week!). My wife despairs – if I am cooking the first thing to be put in place is my iPad for some tunes (Arcade Fire – Rebellion/Lies is particularly good for chopping carrots). If I go away anywhere with work the first thing to be packed is my laptop and hard drive full of music. What the digital age has saved me from is storage issues – my 2 Ikea racks full of CDs have been faithfully converted to digital then stored in the loft (just in case…) but my obsession is real. I will take hours making a compilation CD for a car journey (don’t have MP3 player connection in the car yet!), sometimes taking longer to sort the soundtrack than the journey takes (Manic Street Preachers – Small Black Flowers for my first trip away with my now wife).
Some songs will inevitably remind me of sadder times (plenty of imploding relationship stories here) like Steps – 5, 6, 7, 8 when I came around from a coma in 1997 (my nurse was obsessed and sang it all the time – she also used to sit on my bed and watch Top of the Pops but that’s a story for another day!).
So I urge you, whatever your age, take the time to sit down and work out what songs mean what to you – you may find some pleasant surprises lurking in your CD rack.
A fellow photographer recently shared a letter from one of her clients. The letter started talking about the price of photographs, and how it had put her off having them taken. But as we read on, we found out that this client had been diagnosed with cancer with just weeks to live and was filled with regret. She said how sad it was making her to think that she was leaving her husband and kids without a pile of amazing family photos. How her kids will only have few photos of their mum to remember her by. For her, the photographs were a way of leaving something behind for your loved ones that had only become so important when she had become ill.
But is the photograph really that powerful? For me it is. And not only because I’m a photographer – I have thousands of photos printed and framed on my walls at home. They remind me about all that happened and made me who I am now. When I come back from holidays there are always a few pictures that get printed and go on the wall. When people come to my house they straight away get an idea about me and my family, they see the places we visited, they see the photos of my daughter, they can see my and my husband’s home towns back in our separate home countries.
Years ago we went with my husband to Barcelona where my bag was stolen). What was gone was my brand new bag, my film camera (yes, back in 2005 I was a proud owner of a film Samsung;)), wallet with all my cards, money and…pocket size photos of my parents from the times they were teenagers, photo of baby-me with mum & dad and a photo of me and my best friend. Since then I have bought myself tons of new bags (my second hobby after photography), my camera is now a digital Nikon and I have new bank cards. But I will never be able to get those precious photos back.
So for me, photographs are more than just a piece of paper, more than just an image on the camera’s memory card. When it comes to my clients they are very excited while booking the session. But the next time I see them on location they are often stressed, shy and they seem to have an expression on their faces saying: “Uhm, overall I don’t think it was a good idea cause I’m not photogenic and my child is all over the place, etc, etc”.
But let me tell you, the excitement from the beginning is back the moment we meet up for photo viewing, that special moment they see the photo of their newborn, or of themselves being all glowing and happy. They start to understand what is important about photos, the smiles and love, not how much they weigh and if their makeup was all in place. Tears come to their eyes.
So once you finish reading this article, can I please ask you to switch your computers off and grab your camera, go and snap some cute photos of your kids (if you need some tips head over
here) Go and book that family photo session that you always dreamt of at your local photographer.
And the next time people are taking photos near you, don’t hide behind the camera saying you will just take a picture, don’t hide behind the sofa (seriously, I’ve seen this happening once). I have a quote on my site which is very close to my heart: “A photograph is a pause button of life”
Oh, and before you switch your computer off, share your views on this topic in the comments below. Have you got a story showing the importance of photographs? Have you got a way of presenting your photos? Blog? Website? Frames in your house?
Do you need inspiration to snap more photos? Then join me and Camel’s Hump in our Facebook photo fun Shoot That. Each month we will ask for photos on a selected theme, and the best will be showcased on the Facebook pages and here on Camel’s Hump. This month the theme is “green”. Come over to our facebook pages and join in today…