The Distance Project 18

Social Distancing Project 154In the church hall at Little Horwood, the sub-postmaster from Deanshanger provides a post office service for a few hours, one day a week. The table helps to ensure customers stay back, and provides a place for them to use the card reader while still keeping their distance.

Carrying on With the New Normal

Here’s a few Distance Project photos from a month or two ago that I haven’t shown you before. The first two are from Little Horwood, and the others are from Winslow. I’ve shown you photos from both places before, but these were all taken on a later date.

As the lockdown rules change, behaviour has changed. As I wrote this, I heard on the radio that the government are considering stricter lockdown rules. They say they want to prevent a second wave.

Just when I thought I would soon be running out of things to photograph for this project, it looks like there will be more to come. I didn’t think the pandemic would last this long, and I’d rather photograph something else now. But I have to carry on.

My other photos from the Distance Project can all be found here. The project is to photograph what people are doing differently under lockdown.

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The Distance Project 16

Social Distancing Project 137I followed some of the temple folk up to the pagoda. In any other year I would have expected at least a hundred people. Officially, there were just ten.


The Day the Bomb Dropped

The 6th of August is a day burned into memory. On that day in 1945, the first atomic bomb used in war was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan.

That’s why on the 6th of August every year there’s a ceremony at the Peace Pagoda in Milton Keynes, to commemorate the victims of that day. Volunteers at the Buddhist temple call it the Lantern Ceremony.

After prayers and chanting, peace lanterns are carried down to the lake and floated out across the water as the sun sets behind the pagoda. The light in each lantern is meant to, aided by prayer, guide the souls of victims in the right direction, in order to ease their suffering.

Buddhism is a most compassionate religion.

Six weeks earlier, I’d gone, for the Distance Project, to see what would happen on the day of the long planned 40th Peace Pagoda Ceremony. I was surprised and pleased to find a very small, invite only ceremony, although the event had been officially cancelled because of the lockdown. It was all they could do.

I expected a similar scene when I went to the Lantern Ceremony and that’s what I found, but a few more people had turned up to the pagoda on the off-chance, too. Still, there were nowhere near as many there as usual. All around were other groups and small gatherings doing their own thing; exercising or picnicing in the public park.

This week I’m just showing you the first part of the ceremony, up at the Peace Pagoda. I’ll show you the second part of the ceremony down at the lake, next week.

All the posts from the Distance Project can be found here. The project is to photograph what people are doing differently under lockdown.


Social Distancing Project 138Setting up was still going on. Chairs were well spread out. I think that’s a tai chi group in the background.

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The Distance Project 15

Social Distancing Project 127If the ceremony had gone ahead as planned, this scene would have been packed with hundreds of people. The low platform, recently rebuilt for the ceremony, would have been filled with Buddhist monks and nuns, some from Japan or other countries with peace pagodas.
The man beyond the platform wearing dark trousers and a white shirt is from the Parks Trust; it’s their land. Like me, he was there to observe, but not participate. Anyone else you can see here is just a passer by.

The Peace Pagoda Ceremony

It’s been forty years since the Peace Pagoda in Milton Keynes was finished. This year’s ceremony, the 40th at Willen, was planned to be an important milestone event. Hundreds of people from all over the world would attend and I was looking forward to it.

But the lockdown put paid to that idea. Officially, there was to be no ceremony at all this year. But I turned up to take photographs anyway, to see if anything would happen.

I thought I would perhaps see a monk or a nun chanting for a few minutes, or I would be sat there all afternoon on my own. Either way, I would take photos, if only to record an absence.

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Pancakes for Everyone

Pancake racers  OlneyThe four legged race team.

If it wasn’t for the old vicar of Olney, the town wouldn’t have its yearly race on Pancake Day. Back in 1948, the Reverend Canon Ronald Collins found some photos from the 1920s or 30s in an old cupboard.

The pictures showed women running down the street with frying pans; they were running in the pancake race. He decided to revive the old custom and called for volunteers.

On that year’s Shrove Tuesday thirteen women lined up at five to twelve and the 415 yard race began. Nellie Bosworth was the winner, and the Olney Pancake Race has been held every year since.

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Pop Goes the Church Gun

Preparing the Fenny PoppersA waxed wooden plug goes into the touch-hole.

It’s Noon on Monday, the 11th of November and half a dozen loud bangs echo across Fenny Stratford. St Martin’s church have fired their ceremonial cannon again.

The six small cannons are the Fenny Poppers. The poppers have have been fired on the 11th of November, St. Martin’s Day, since around 1740. I went to watch. At the far end of the graveyard off Manor Road, four men were preparing the poppers.

Loading the Fenny PopperJust under an ounce of Pyrodex is poured into the cannon by Peter White.

Each one is shaped like a tankard, but they are made of gun metal with thick walls. There’s a touch-hole near the base for the fuse. Each popper is just seven inches long, but weighs 19 lbs.

Peter White of the church loaded them one at a time with just under an ounce of a gunpowder substitute, Pyrodex. It’s more stable than gunpowder, but like gunpowder it produces quite a lot of smoke when it goes off, as we will soon see.

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