Personal history

Portrait of the Artist

Photographer's self portrait

The Monday Photo

Here I am, at dusk, on my own doorstep. This photo was taken as part of my Distance Project. I’m affected by the lockdown just like anybody else, so like many of my Distance Project photos, there’s a good two metres either side of the subject, myself.

Quite a lot of my photos from that project were taken while down on one knee, so I’ve duplicated that by setting the tripod to the same sort of height.

The project is going well, and I have a list of subjects still to cover; the list keeps growing as I’m given leads by my subjects, and when lockdown restrictions are changed. In years to come, this is going to be a strange set of photos to look back on, but I’m hoping this project will be a useful historical resource.

I have little idea about how this project will end; that’s not really under my control and neither should it be. I will just keep taking photos until it’s all over.

This, by the way, is one of the few self portraits I’ve made in years. It’s a selfie, I suppose, and I used to make them quite often with my film camera and a nice wide lens, held at arm’s length. The lens and camera were not too heavy, and it was easy.

When I went to digital photography in 2009, this all stopped. I soon found that the camera and lens combination I’d bought was much too heavy to hold at arm’s length, for a self portrait. That’s when I stopped taking selfies, long before they were even called that.

I will be showing you new photos from the Distance Project on Thursdays, as long as the lockdown and its effects continues.


Armchair Exploration 3

School photoThis is your humble scribe, aged five. How do I know how old I was in this school photo? See below.

Exploring Your Own Past

I’m so glad my mum was so good at getting things organised. All our family photos are sorted out, captioned, and in albums.

I’m glad, because Mum passed away two years ago, and it’s too late to ask about them now.

The albums are named. She named the biggest album “Photographs From 1959” and in it are all our childhood pictures, including at the back our school photos.

The captions tell me who is in the photo, where it was, and when it was taken. Sometimes the exact date is there. In our earlier childhood photos Mum has given our ages. Mum passed away two years ago, so now I’m looking after the photos; I’m the eldest child.

At some point, all the people who knew about your family photos will be gone. So if they are all piled randomly into a box, or perhaps sitting on a computer hard drive or filling up your phone, maybe it’s time you sorted them all out.

Continue reading "Armchair Exploration 3" »


Armchair Exploration 2

Still in that armchair? Had enough of television and the same old view from the window?  Time for some more armchair exploration, with a look through your old family photos.

What might you find? Perhaps you don’t realise it, but things change all the time. If it’s something you see every day, like your garden or the clothes you wear, the change is so gradual you might not notice it at all.

But start exploring the past by looking through those old photos and you’ll soon start to remember. When I looked through my family photos again I found a few things that jogged my memory; things I hadn’t thought about in years, or had never noticed before.

For example, this is what I found...

Church Street  WinslowAround 1962. I’m 3.

Continue reading "Armchair Exploration 2" »


Nice Job!

Quainton  Orchard Cottage

I was amazed to find that it’s been a whole year since I stopped at Orchard Cottage in Quainton, to watch the thatchers at work.

It isn’t nice working at height in the winter; I’ve done it. Just a few feet up a ladder, the breeze at ground level becomes a wind that goes straight through you. But they did a good job; the cottage looks great. They rebuilt the chimney, too.

The cottage was first built in the 17th Century, and later enlarged. From what the listing says, (it’s Grade 2) the 18th Century extension is on the end furthest from the road, on the right of the photo. My aunt and uncle moved into that end in 1955 when the cottage was divided into two. I wrote about the cottage and what it was to live there in the 50s last year.

Thatching is a highly skilled job, but If you fancy giving it a go, this is the book for you!


The Year in Pictures

Here we are in 2020, a new year but not a new decade, no matter what they tell you! Today we are having a look at some of the highlights from the last twelve months, and a few photos from the archives.

The HighlightsWeeding on the allotmentNew Year’s day last year was a fine day for a motorcycle ride. Though not too warm, it was dry and sunny. I rode up to the classic vehicle show at Stony Stratford, and when it finished just before lunch time I took to the back roads and ended up in Olney.

On the way I stopped at Stoke Goldington when I saw this fellow working on his allotment. I think he was starting the year as he meant to go on...

Detail  Earthly Messenger statue 03The only statue of David Bowie in the whole world is in Aylesbury, and it was a year old in March. There were strong links between Bowie and Aylesbury’s Friars music venue, and when David Bowie passed away in January 2016 there was a memorial event that drew over 3,000 people. A petition to create a Bowie statue was started that day…

Continue reading "The Year in Pictures" »


Boy on a Tricycle

Boy on a Tricycle  Summer 1962Summer 1962 in Church Street. Left is aunt Peggy's eldest, my cousin Jayne. Right is my brother Alan. I’m in the middle, on that tricycle. I was three.

My previous post about the MK Heritage Open Days for historical places in North Bucks reminded me about my life in Winslow, when I was a boy. At first we lived in Church Street, close to the Brownie and Guide Hall; it’s one of the Winslow buildings that’s having an open day.

Church Street is a cul-de-sac that rises quite sharply up to the churchyard. Cars were not often seen there in the early 1960s, so I was allowed to play in the street. I had a tricycle, and this is what I did with it…

I laboriously pedalled the tricycle up the slope. At the top I turned the little machine around and began to pedal downhill. I was soon moving at great speed, steering slightly left all the way down to follow the curve of the narrow street.

The end of my run, the much bigger Horn Street, came into view. I made ready for my last manouvre; it was coming up quickly now and I didn’t want to shoot across Horn Street at the bottom.

At the last moment I swerved skilfully left on to the footpath and came to a halt. I turned the tricycle around, and started back up the slope.

Our kitchen window didn’t look out on to Church Street, so Mum couldn’t see me as I shot past. But Aunt Peggy’s kitchen window looked out on to the street. She saw me hurtle past, and went straight round to knock on our front door. Mum opened the door.

“Vera, he’s doing it again” said Peggy. Mum came out straight away and confiscated my tricycle. I wept and promised to reform and never to do it again, and pleaded to keep the lovely machine. Still she took it away.

When my toddler brother Alan later asked me where the tricycle was I just tersely said, “It’s gone”. So he was surprised and pleased a few days later to spot it in the corner of our unused top floor bedroom.

He was up there helping Mum to hang up clothes for drying. He pointed at the tricycle again and again and tried to tell her he had found it, but was puzzled because Mum just didn't seem to see it there.

Eventually I got the tricycle back, but it wasn't too long before temptation struck again and I began to make my way to the top of the slope for another run.

You’ll not be surprised to know that I later became a biker.

Church Street  Winslow  Summer 1961Around Summer 1960. Too young then to ride a tricycle with pedals, but you can see how steep Church Street is.

Church Street  Winslow  Summer 2019Here’s Church Street now. The nearest window is much smaller, front doors have been moved, and what used to be old boxed in thatched roofs are now tiled. The building on the right has been extended.