It’s raining in my coffee cup Comin’ down since I got up today – cold and gray And lookin’ in my rearview mirror I could be anywhere but here I am – traffic jam
All these people without names Every day we face the same routine Waiting for the light to turn green
The lady in the blue sedan Combs her hair and steals a glance at me – who is she? Does anybody hold her tight Or does she spend her days and nights at home all alone
And over in the passing zone All wrapped up inside their own daydreams They’re waiting for the light to turn green Do they wonder who I am Do they know I’m not some damn machine Waiting for the light to turn green
What about the love I long for What about the child I want someday – where are they? What about my heart’s desire What about these four bald tires I’m on – how long?
I’ve been goin’ nowhere fast Runnin’ out of time and gasoline Waiting for the light to turn green I’ll be damned if I’ll grow old Waitin’ for these wheels to roll, not me Waitin’ for the light to turn green
from The Secret of Life, released June 4, 1996 written by Gretchen Peters and Suzy Bogguss
2021 and we are in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. 2020 began with hope and a sense of a fresh start to not only a new year, but a new decade. Hopes were quickly dashed as the virus spread across the globe, and we all struggled to handle the new reality. It changed the shape of our lives! 2021 begins with a new and more transmissible variant of the virus threatening to overwhelm our medical services, with another lock-down across Scotland, indeed across the whole of the UK, and a small glimmer of hope as the first vaccines are rolled out. So the question I ask myself is … what will the shape of 2021 look like? At the moment, as the year begins, I see it defined by the monthly blocks of vaccine jabs … we are being divided up by age and vulnerablity, and will be allocated a vaccine slot accordingly. So the months will be blocked out for me as I wait my turn.
So I am starting the new year as I always do, with the one resolution, to see clearly! To see with camera lens – and hopefully with the paint brush too this year. There is something magical and paradoxical about the camera lens … when I look through it I can somehow see more than I can when looking around with just my eyes. I guess there is something about the narrowing effect of the frame together with the extra concentration demanded to frame and focus the shot. But the world can surprise me through the camera lens. And increasingly I find I can ‘see’ the reverse process … I look around and can see the potential photograph or painting that is there. I guess that the two sides of the coin are gradually coming together! My ‘canvas’ has been radically and progressively restricted through 2020 – as the pandemic has developed my freedom of movement has been curtailed. Add to that the way that the pandemic has also taken so much of my small energy store away from anything creative, and focussed it on the increasing challenges of simply getting through the day/week/month. And so the 2021 journey of discovery begins:
January – and the pandemic worsens, forcing another lock-down. And I try to keep focussed and creative. February – the roll-out of the vaccine, and the worst snowstorms in years. March – and has Spring finally arrived? And my painting picks up momentum. April – Still no Spring, but we do get our second vaccine shot! May – and finally Spring? And lockdowns are gradually eased once more. June – and who has heard of the ‘Delta’ threat? July – and the world shrinks as we tackle health issues August – and summer is overshadowed by a 400% rise in Covid-Delta cases September – and it’s all about shortages! October – where Covid-19 meets Beowulf! November – winter creeps closer and we meet Storm Arwen December – recovering from Storm Arwen, and meeting Omicron.
Yes, it is month 9 of living with the pandemic, and it seems that the promised winter ‘second wave’ of COVID is here. Once again we are struggling to contain the impact on the NHS as the numbers hospitalised and in intensive care rise. The naive view of the ‘experts’ that somehow older people could be ‘careful’ and not be infected by younger members of their families has been revealed to be the nonsense we always knew it to be! Grandparents were called upon to undertake childcare, and free up younger adults to return to work, while also being exhorted to protect themselves as they are the most vulnerable group. Square that circle if you can!!
Here, we find ourselves sitting on the fringes of the medium to high infection areas, and quite well able to continue to ‘self-isolate’ together. For us the problems are all practical. Adjusting to not doing our own shopping, adjusting to so many functions of daily life moving online, and finding ways to keep active and engaged with the world beyond our gate!
Winter is really closing in, and we have had some wonderful misty nights and mornings to shoot.
They can be difficult to shoot, as the camera struggles to find a focus in the misty morning.
Night shots can be very intense with big light contrasts
One area that has gained massively in importance is the technical. So much has moved online this year due to the pandemic, the lock-down, and the need for physical distancing in shops and work places. Living in rural Aberdeenshire we do most of our shopping online, and have for many years. Grocery shopping in winter months moves online every year – so it is not so strange to move all our local grocery shopping online. But I miss being able to see what is available in the shops – to choose fresh vegetables, fruit and meat – and to buy luxuries such as flowers regularly too! The pandemic has brought into sharp focus just how important internet connectivity is for everyone! Many people relied on the local library for internet connecivity, but the libraries have been closed here since March. And now banking, booking recycling slots, dental appointments and much more are reliant on the internet and smartphones.
Our biggest technical development has been in mobile phones. I’ve had a ‘smartphone’ for a while, starting with a neighbour’s old iPhone 5. Being a long time user of the iPad and Touch (which is really an iPhone without the phone) I was familiar with the computer system, so it was not a big adjustment. Even before the impact of the pandemic we realised that more and more functions depended on SMS messages to a mobile phone (for verification, identification and information).
My smartphone can and does track my sleep, alert me to deliveries, connect me to the emergency breakdown service for my car, bring me the news, take excellent photos and check I’ve cleaned my teeth properly! The least used function is making phone calls!
In our village we have very poor mobile coverage, mainly intermittent 3G which is affected by massive wind turbines across the howe. So adjusting to the new reality has been a bit of a bumpy journey and an expensive one! Smartphones are not cheap – especially if you don’t want a contract attached. The pandemic has accelerated the pace for us, and made us aware that we both need the skills and confidence to live with a smartphone by our side. The more we rely on it, the more important it has become that Mike has his own 21st century connectivity, and gets familiar and confident with using it. It seems that the days of having a mobile phone that is only a phone are consigned to the past! And the reality is that the longer we delay it, the harder it is to learn the increasingly complex little computer that accompanies us everywhere. And so November draw to a close, with ever decreasing hours of daylight, and the first deep frosts and snowfalls ……
Time to look out the de-icers! And I’ll end the month with a second collage, of sunrises through November. We live in quite a deep valley, the Howe of the Ythan, which is the small river that rises quite close to us, and runs into the sea along our North sea coast. The steep hillside of the howe means that the sun has to be quite high before it lights us up …. dawn gives us a black silhouette and a sometimes dramatic sky! So mostly I shoot after the dawn display has dispersed.
But the skies can be so beautiful – vast open skies that the camera can only hint at! The colours are breathtaking, and it is a wonderful way to start any day! The selection here includes two shots I took after the sun reached us, and the black hillside has resolved into the familiar world of trees, fields, fences, sheep grazing, and the croft on the opposite hillside. And so, on to December, which heralds the much discussed dilemma of how to minimise the spread of the virus as Christmas approaches … and more! Back to Journal Page Back to Notebooks cover
A little out of season with Shakespeare, as it is only March! But the rough winds are shaking the delicate first flowers on our Japanese plum tree!
One of the early signs of Spring here in northern Scotland is the plum blossom. It comes out before the leaves, so the tiny flowers make the branches look pink. Here a gale was blowing, and I used a Sony NEX-6 with my old Russian Helios 44-2 lens. It’s frozen at F2.8, but it takes lovely shots with a special bokeh. On Flickr you can find my Album of Helios 44-2 photos