Thursday, April 17, 2014

In the gutter.



This blog guys, I don't really know what to do with it. I kind of love it but it's becoming increasingly alien to me. I feel like maybe I should just admit that it's over, that we had some good times but that we're really ready to go in different directions - like my friend C went and did. I was kind of mad at her when she did it, how dare she break up with her blog/Me The Reader? But then today she wrote about her reasoning over at her new place and I thought 'shit, that's exactly what I want to do.' I mean, not *exactly*, I don't want to write about soup, (I'll eat it if you have any, but I don't want to write about it) but the breaking up part. I'm too chicken though.

Historically this blog has been where about 25% of our wedding photography work comes from and in these lean times when we're still bouncing back from moving the business 500 miles, it seems crazy to cut off any source of potential clients. And then there's this other um, thing, which I'm hesitant to even call a 'thing' because well, it's not really a Thing yet. I'm sort of maybe working on perhaps writing a book. And apparently the people who publish those book things are a whole lot more enthusiastic if you have 'a platform', ie a blog with readers and twitter followers and all that shit. Breaking up with the most established part of that platform at a time when even real writers who have published stuff struggled to get book deals seems a lot like the definition of Shooting Oneself in the Foot.

And so I remain in the limbo that I've been blogging/not-blogging in for about three years; wanting to write Proper Stuff but mired in a history of rambling about wedding decor and dogs on trampolines; knowing that my kids are my prime material but aware that they're getting bigger and bigger and less and less likely to want to be material; kind of interested in gardening and cooking and travel and knitting, but not really enough to write about any of it. And writing posts that start somewhere, or at least within sight of somewhere, and end absolutely nowhere at all.




Thursday, March 27, 2014

what else?


Nye has gone off mountain biking in Scotland for a few days, to 'train' for the 30km downhill race he's taking part in this summer. Because apparently breaking his collarbone this time last year wasn't enough to put him off. I love my husband but he's a moron. He has left me alone with W&P for five days and I know that looking after your own children for five days is nothing to congratulate yourself about, I really do, except that IT FUCKING IS. 


Five days with no pre-school.
Five days with no adult company.
Five days preparing every meal while two people sit in kitchen doorway asking 'what are we having for breakfast/lunch/dinner?' incessantly, repeatedly and increasingly loudly, no matter how many times you tell them the answer and then once you've made the meal having not one single person appreciate it.
Five days of showering with 'help' and then wondering how to deal (naked, wet, covered in shampoo) with the child who has an epic tantrum because while she was leaning into the bathtub to collect water from the bottom, YOU got her wet.
Five days of 'help' getting dressed, meaning that every day you have to explain that no, you will not be wearing the pink, silk, feathery mini dress today, and no, probably not tomorrow either.
Five days of having no one to reassure you that at least they like you, when your kids are making it perfectly clear that they think you are a total dick. Or to give you a hug when one of them punches you right in the face as you're tucking them in at night.
Five days with no one to direct your kids to for answers when they've asked you for the 17th time in the 5 minutes since you got up 'what are we going to dooooooooooo today?' 




That said, we're doing okay. Granted, he hasn't been gone 24 hours, and yes, W&P had so many time outs* this morning that they spent more time out than in, and yes, I forgot to do any laundry last night and am currently wearing Spanx** because I don't have a single pair of clean knickers, but aside from that I think we're managing. 

Looking after children full time is (needless to say) very very different from the two person juggling act that is parenting with a partner and running a business at the same time. It's more focused and although I miss Nye, my children drive me fucking crazy and there's no way I would want to do this ALL the time, it is nice to a) know that I'm capable of looking after them alone and entirely (about 90% of the time I am certain that we would sink if it weren't for Nye) and b) to spend a day doing one thing - looking after the kids - instead of skittering between work and family and self like a squirrel on acid. 


I made a rookie mistake though; I played all of my good cards in the first 24 hours. We have done both messy crafts AND baking, and now they want to know 'what else?'. There is the play park but it's raining. We can't go to the library because I have books that are six months overdue. I'm not taking them on public transport because I'm just not. So, before I become the most hopeless parent in the world and google 'things to do with three year olds',  I ask you, what else? 




*'Time out' is ostensibly a way for them to learn that punching mummy isn't okay, in reality just an excuse not to have to deal with them for a few minutes while you breath deeply and slowly and tell yourself in a comforting voice that no, you can't have a glass of wine because it is 9.30am, but yes, you can have one later, once you have put them to bed. 

** wearing Spanx on a school day sucks and does nothing for one's irritability levels. There's a good reason that they're supposed to be worn with party wear and that reason is liquor. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring! And a name change.

It's spring! In the south east, I imagine that in Scotland it's still eternal winter. But down here, spring! 

And do you know what spring means? Spring means time to put your pretty dress on, take your shoes off, blow some bubbles and splash in a public fountain. Oh, and hire me to photograph it. 

That's right folks, it's family photography season again! 

The old business is no more: apparently there is a wedding photography company somewhere on the other side of the world with a similar name to the old B&B, and they weren't willing to share. So, we are now Bluebird and the Bear, which is good too. 

Prices are £300 for a two hour session, which typically results in 50-100 high-res images. 

Call me! 

(peonies@btinternet.com) 





Monday, March 10, 2014

Things, thoughts.


Hello. It is March. I don't know how that happened. I took these photos in January and February, they're all old old old now. I've written three blog posts this year which is a new low. I blame instagram; no one blogs any more, no one hardly even tweets any more. (That was the most hideous sentence I've ever written, I want you to know that I know that.) 


I started a writing class in the hope that it might prompt me to write more, it didn't. I asked Nye for a film camera for my birthday in the hope that it might prompt me to photograph more, it didn't. It did not help that he bought me a film camera but no film. Remember the Christmases when you would get a battery operated toys but no batteries and there were no shops open that sold batteries on Christmas day, so instead of playing with your new toy you spent a lot of the day picking it up and looking at it from different angles, testing the buttons to see if maybe they would do something anyway, trying hard to look grateful for your new - temporarily useless - toy?



It's okay though, my aim for this year was to do not a lot of anything and while that has only really been a success in regards to writing and taking photos (the very things that I was making space in my life to do more of) everything else feels less pressured when my general philosophy is one of Do Very Little and when the work and the meetings and the family commitments are brief interludes to the eating and the sitting and the listening to the radio. 

I'm gradually settling into the weirdness that is W&P being at pre-school and Nye and I having time to ourselves. We are mostly getting on with business in this new way that means we can both work at the same time and that we have to share an office (THE HORROR) but there is also gardening and lunching and childless trips to ikea and Nye preparing to take part in a week long  mountain bike race in the Alps and me preparing to go to New York all by myself in the Autumn. A year ago both being left alone with W&P for a week or leaving N alone with them would have been unthinkable, now it seems eminently doable. I call that progress. 




W&P love pre-school, P bursts through the door in the morning with her arms spread wide and announces to the room "I'M HERE!", W smiles secretively at the end of the day when I ask her what she's done and says nothing. They adore their teachers, one in particular whom P assures me 'does good look aftering'. 

We are lucky that it has worked out so well, we weren't exactly proactive when it came to choosing an educational establishment. Our technique was thus: search nearest pre-schools on google maps, peer through the fence of the closest, see incredibly beautiful outdoor play area, download application forms, leave application forms sitting on desk for three months, send them in in a panic a few days before the deadline. W&P's first day was the first time we had seen further than the front desk and we were prepared to admit that we'd made a stupid, lazy mistake and to start looking for somewhere new. Amazingly, we didn't need to; laziness, last-minute panic and a total lack of research served us pretty well. (Relief sighed)


The thing about sending my children somewhere else for half of the week is that I enjoy the other half that I spend with them so much more. Or I do now that they have settled the fuck down. They were really quite horrible for a few weeks there and I was genuinely worried that pre-school had broken them. They went from enjoying each other's company and disappearing to play together for hours a day to fighting (both physically and verbally) from the second they woke up in the morning until the minute I switched the light off in the evening. The moments that they weren't brawling they spent either shitting in their pants or whining 'what are we going to dooooooooooooooooo mummy?' with absolutely nothing but 'go to nursery' deemed by either of them to be an adequate response. 

They seem to have finally settled to the fact that at home no one is willing to give them a bag of flour, a bowl of water and a wooden spoon, or to let them loose with a litre of green paint and 8 feet of paper. They are accepting that home is boring and that that is okay because in a day or two they will get to go back to that magical place where they can do pretty much whatever the hell they want and someone else will clean up after them. 




I'm trying to be better about playing with them, but the thing is; I don't really like playing. (There, I admitted it. Call social services.) I like watching them play but I do not want to play myself; I want to get shit done or do nothing and three year olds (TWO three year olds) are conducive to neither. Yesterday I let them help me fill up seed trays with compost in preparation for sowing. I gave them a couple of teaspoons and a bag of really expensive seed compost and I only snapped 'stop spilling it on the grass' three times in the space of an hour. Yes, it took an hour. Everything takes 16 times longer than it should when you let three year olds help. The rest of that hour I spent saying in the sort of voice that you would use to talk someone off the ledge of a tall building 'slowly, calmly, gently', ostensibly to W&P but I think everyone knew that I was talking to myself. (Apropos).  I find myself appreciating my own mother and the hours that she spent sitting on a bench in the play park or traipsing around the Museum of Scotland behind me. She hated both the play park and the museum but significant portions of my childhood memories take place in one or the other and I don't remember her complaining until I was old enough for the appeal of both to have worn off. Cheers mum. 




As deeply boring as I find 'play', I love spending time with W&P reading and chatting. Those kids crack me up and my mother in law confirms my suspicion that they are in fact significantly funnier than most children. I have no particular feelings beyond wonder about their intelligence, beauty or developmental pace but my pride in their sense of humour goes for miles. I couldn't have had un-funny children, it just wouldn't have done.

I'm sure that there were other things I've been meaning to write here. At least once a day I compose a new and different blog post in my head. Sadly thinking about doing things isn't the same as actually doing them. This is a notion that I struggle with a lot; I am only just recently, after two years of gym-going, accepting that thinking about running does not have the same physiological benefits as actually running.  Similarly; knitting, writing, blogging, conversing with people. It's really quite unfair.

For now though, I'm off to pick up W&P. Every time I want to burst through the door, throw my arms wide and yell "I'M HERE!", just to see what it feels like. But I cannot conceive of a world in which I have the sense of presence, confidence and abandon that my three year old does. 


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bill Cunningham New York.


Recently, since I discovered Netflix, I've been watching tv while I work. I usually watch fairly mindless, dialogue heavy tv series, seeing as how I am am mostly looking at my work while I'm working (honestly) and anything more subtle gets lost on me, but today I watched something different and it was so good that I had to share it with you. 

Bill Cunningham New York is a beautiful, gentle film about a beautiful gentle man. Cunningham is an octogenarian fashion photographer who has been taking pictures on the streets and at the parties of New York for the NY Times since the 1970s, and that is as much as I knew about him before I stumbled across the film and remembered that someone somewhere a long time ago had said it was good. 

Despite what you might expect, the film is not about photography and it's not about fashion, it's about a gentleman and an artist, striving to make pure work in a desperately commercialised industry. Bill Cunningham is a quiet, infectiously cheerful, unassuming man who until he was evicted lived in a tiny kitchenless and bathroomless studio in Carnegie Hall, sleeping on a camp bed, surrounded by filing cabinets full of his negatives. He travels around New York on his bicycle, with his old Nikon film camera slung around his neck, wearing a blue jacket that he first spotted on some Parisian street cleaners and thought looked both practical and was a nice colour. He is 84. 

The film is about him in the simplest way that a film can be a portrait of a person; it follows him working; interviews him about his thoughts, life and ideas; speaks to the people who know and love him, (which seems to be everyone, he is an immensely lovable man - something that becomes apparent almost as soon as the film begins) and leaves the viewer to fall for and feel for the man as it goes. There isn't much that I can say about him or the film that doesn't feel inadequate; it's quietly moving and inspiring and if your heart isn't a little bit broken by that interview with him (you'll know it when you see it) then you might want to get your heart checked, because it's likely defective. It's been 3 hours since I watched it and I still feel tearful. 


*image Bill Cunningham by The Sartorialist

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Very London Maternity Shoot.


A few months ago I got an email from Bridget asking me if I would take some pictures of her and her husband Rory, partly to document this stage of her pregnancy and partly as a record of their time in London. Bridget and Rory are from South Africa but have spent the last year here and have completely fallen in love with the city. 

My first impulse (as is always the case when someone asks me to do something new) was to say no. The truth is, I'm fairly of scared of photographing grown ups unless they're distracted by something small like getting married. I photograph kids, kids like my jokes and share their cheese with me, adults tend to notice that I talk too much and walk into inanimate objects, frequently. But I said yes, because, well, do things that scare you. I needn't have been such a pansy. I had the loveliest morning with Bridget and Rory, who despite being a little nervous themselves were an absolute delight to photograph; their love for each other and their excitement about their impending arrival being huge enough to overcome any camera-shyness. 

It was the perfect January morning when we met up, every single day in London should look this crisp and clear and bright. (It doesn't, but it should.) Rory works right by Westminster and he and Bridget live right by Tower Bridge, so they really wanted to take in some of the sights that are part of their every day in London. We started at Waterloo and walked along Embankment towards St Thomas' Hospital where Bridget will be giving birth and which was bathed in the most perfect light that morning. I would be willing to bet that no more beautiful photographs have ever been taken in front of what might be the ugliest hospital in London.

After walking across Westminster Bridge we hopped in a taxi to the Tower of London and meandered slowly across Tower Bridge, the light and colours blowing me away. I'd kind of fallen out of love with London recently (winter, flu, noisy neighbours) but all was forgiven as I stood on that bridge, drinking in that crazy beautiful view. Finally we picked up Bridget and Rory's two pugs and strolled through the streets of Bermondsey, an area I'd never been to before but which felt spookily familiar, looking as it does distinctly like bits of New York

As I said goodbye to Bridget and Rory and headed off towards London Bridge station, I felt a hundred times lighter than I had in weeks. The sun, the sky, the incredible landmarks of this amazing city that we have found ourselves living in and the excitement of two people about to have their first baby; all of those things felt like a shot of something invigorating to a body and brain bogged down in the damp, dark gloom of winter and introspection. I left feeling so grateful to these two for letting me document such a beautiful blessed time in their lives and for waking me up to the joy of living where we do. And more than a little pleased with myself for getting better at saying yes to the things that scare me.