A Sense Of Place part 1

Not a quaint English village but a museum. The Weald and Downland Museum at Singleton in West Sussex.

 

The other night I had trouble getting off to sleep so I had a look at Australia’s National Broadcaster’s – the ABC – catch up TV service on the internet which is called iView. I was looking for something not too exciting, that would be soothing and comfortable. So I was trawling through the arts documentaries and I found a program called the Repair Shop and the one particular episode that appealed featured the restoration of a 1930’s portrait of Shihan Yukio Tani who is the man largely credited with introducing and establishing Japanese martial arts in England so I tuned in to watch. The history of the painting and its restoration was vaguely interesting but it was the location of the filming that was particularly engrossing. It was filmed at one of my favourite places – The Weald and Downland Museum in Singleton, West Sussex, England. The museum is comprised of a collection of fifty vernacular buildings from the south-east of England that were built between 950AD and the 19th century, along with gardens, farm animals, walks and a mill pond.  I was last there in 1991 and so the the TV program was a huge nostalgia trip for me.

 

The market square with from left to right Horsham Medieval Shop, Titchfield Market Hall, Crawley Hall and North Cray Medieval House.

 

As a consequence I started thinking about the museum, the village it is based in and when I worked there in 1981. The next morning I scuttled off to look at my photo archive and find some pictures that I took on my last visit. It was really nice to revisit through those photos, it was almost like reliving the past. Gerry Badger the photographic curator and critic in his 2007 book “The Genius of Photography – how photography has changed our lives” said that there were “basically three photographic subjects – people, things and places” (page 131). So obviously my photos of the museum fall into the places category. However Badger goes onto quote from the American landscape photographer Robert Adams who said:

“Landscapes can offer us, I think, three verities – geography, autobiography and metaphor. Geography is, if taken alone, sometimes boring, autobiography is frequently trivial, and metaphor can be dubious. But taken together … the three kinds of representation strengthen each other and reinforce what we all work to keep intact – an affection for life” Robert Adams (p 154, Badger, G: 2007, The Genius of Photography)

 

The mill pond

 

The geography is simple the museum is located in Singleton which I’ve always regarded as the quintessential Sussex village. Well it was until the mega rich started buying rows of cottages and knocking them into one large house only then not to live in them but visit once in a blue moon. The village is roughly seven miles north of Chichester, the town where I lived from age 10 to 23, on the South Downs. The autobiography is that I went to work at the museum as a summer job in 1981 with my then girlfriend. She worked in the tearooms and I was a general dogsbody. It is the job I’ve enjoyed the most out of all the jobs I have done and I really enjoyed working with the people there. The dubious metaphor I suppose is that the museum presents an idealised view of what the ideal English village should be like – quaint old buildings nestled among bucolic rolling green hills inhabited by happy people. But all that doesn’t matter in many ways because to me it was and is a special place and the fact that 57 year old self still appreciates it as much as my 18 year old self is important.

 

Bayleaf Tudor Farmhouse

Time

Sorry for the absence of a post last weekend – my trusty laptop had pass away and gone to Silicon Heaven. It may come as a shock to many people that there is an afterlife for electric and electronic appliances.

So I had to get myself another computer, this time I bought myself a desktop. All very swish looking with lots of brushed aluminium and shiny glass. The OS interface is all very futuristic looking in that sleek modern shiny way. Of course it wasn’t just a straight forward turn the thing on and then install my apps – no my last machine was a little on the ancient side and things had moved on and I had to search for updates, patches and firmware revisions. It’s amazing what a time sink a computer can be, I first started working with them in the mid 1980’s and we were promised a lot of things like they’d make us more efficient and we’d have a paperless office. Well thirty years on the paperless office still hasn’t arrived and anything involving a computer still takes longer than it did without one. In 1985 2013 sounded so futuristic and full of possibilities, yet now we’re here it is all a bit of an anticlimax. Whatever happened to the 3 day working week we were promised? I distinctly remember watching a TV program aired on the BBC called Tomorrow’s World which said that we’d all have flying cars. I suppose somethings did change – if you’d have told me thirty years ago I’d be taking photos with a phone I’d have thought that:

  1. you’re nutty as squirrel pooh
  2. I’d need a jolly long cable just get the phone out of the house

Well here I am and although it is possible to take photos with a phone I’m not actually doing it because a smart phone would be pretty pointless as there’s no 3G coverage where I live. I suppose I could get one just to take photos with, then it would become a camera with an optional phone built in.

Talking about all things “timey-whimey”, as Doctor Who might say (you can see from this post that I spend too much time watching sci-fi from the BBC) the town of York in Western Australia suffered a huge temporal disturbance and was transported back to the middle ages, and more to the point it wasn’t Medieval Australia but Medieval Europe. I walked down to the park besides the River and there were all manner of people walking about in suits of armour,  there were jesters hey nony no-ing and all manner of other Olde Worlde frippery. I quickly came to my senses and realised that it wasn’t a temporal disturbance after all but the 2013 York Medieval Fayre.  There was a Medieval market where you could get the latest in Long Bows, armour, heraldic devices and even toys. I avoided the stall selling Medieval German sausages as they were probably past their sell by date – I know I know that was the wurst joke ever!!! 🙂 There were the good people of the Grey Company who put on displays of historical re-enactment focusing on the Dark Ages and Medieval times. Then there was the The Free Company who’re a group of biffologists who dress up in armour and give each other a serious belting as the YouTube clip below shows.

 

I fear that at this point in time I must make a confession – I strayed from the  micro four thirds path and returned to full frame goodness. I broke out the 5d and the 70-200 f2.8 IS L because I knew that it would be difficult to isolate subjects from crap distracting backgrounds with the smaller format but easy to do with the larger format and fast glass.  Does this mean that I will stop using m4/3? No, I’m just using the appropriate tools for the job. If anyone would like to see the stills outside of the video clip they can be seen here.

 

20131103-York_Medieval_Fayre-3077 by Paul Amyes on 500px.com


20131103-York_Medieval_Fayre-3077
by
Paul Amyes