It’s birthday season in our house, which has meant another busy weekend for us. I’m currently surrounded by various noisy gadgets and a TV that is way too loud – what is it with children – why must everything be so very, very loud with them? So, not sure what this week’s blog will be like…
Seven years ago after four days and nights of lying around in hospital trying to convince Son No 2 to come out he finally emerged, after what I must say was a pretty traumatising few hours. He was most reluctant to leave the warmth and comfort of my uterus and even today if he’s able to the first thing he does when we get home is climb into his duvet like a burrowing fluffy rodent – and I mean into the duvet cover not under the actual duvet, a sort of replacement cotton amniotic sac. Do you think this behavior is a continuation of his reluctance to leave the womb in the first place? At the end of my maternal spell in hospital he was three weeks late all in all, which is pretty late indeed. Huge and very well cooked: as you might expect from a baby who wouldn’t come out into the world in a timely manner.
Today Son No 2 is ridiculously skinny and sweet and when I look at him my heart often melts, as I just want to protect him from all the knocks and bumps life can throw at a person. That’s not to say there aren’t times when he pushes me to the absolute limit of rage and fury but I think I’ve been giving him a bad press in my head for a while – I always thought he was really naughty but since Son No 3’s personality has started emerging so forcefully I am beginning to see Son No 2 was just being a typical child. Oh, my goodness, the youngest is a naughty one sometimes. Son No 2 is also incredibly clever but lacks any arrogance about it whatsoever, and I mean none. For his birthday he wanted nothing more than a few more characters for his computer game plus to be allowed to stay in pyjamas all day. Easily done – shame the smallest one had destroyed the disc for his game so in the end he couldn’t actually play with the new characters I bought him. Son No 2 though was incredibly patient and understanding about it when I explained I’d need to send the broken disc back to the gaming company so they can send a replacement – although he did then crawl back into that giant cotton bag of his.
So after all that, it’s been a loud and frantically busy weekend and I have lots of college work to be getting on with plus a couple of portrait shoots coming up which I need to think about. My head feels horribly cluttered at the moment and I am wondering how to go about getting hold of some of that mindfulness stuff everyone keeps going on about nowadays.
In the absence of having a calm mind I thought I’d go for a calming treatment. I was very lucky to be given some vouchers for a massage for my birthday last week and I managed to escape this morning to be treated by Liva Mezjane at Neal’s Yard Therapies on Northcote Road in Battersea. It was bliss! I love massage and over the years I have had quite a few treatments. Some people are excellent technically and with others you sense a wonderful healing energy, like being enveloped in something incredibly warm and lovely (perhaps another metaphorical womb so beloved by Son No 2 and me it turns out). Liva had both of those qualities. I loved that she used pressure points in a way that reminded me of how a Shiatzu therapist would work, and combined that with traditional massage techniques. I could have had double the time easily!
So, now thanks to Liva, a good night out on Friday with friends who reminded me I was a good enough mother (I’ve been feeling anything but recently) I should be well prepared for a school trip tomorrow (yikes) and a photography shoot with a therapist as well as some further work for my studies this week. Sure I’ll need a glass of wine or two too – not sure how else to deal with the never ending loudness of three small boys! Thankfully there is a little break before the next busy birthday weekend.
Have a great week. SJx
Some photos of the lovely (currently being extraordinarily loud) Son No 2.
First of all I must apologise to the all the people who are over 44 years old – I am about to have one almighty moan about having turned 44 yesterday. I’m not sure why I should have found this particular birthday so upsetting as I’ve never worried about getting older before. In fact, I have always quite welcomed it as I have, foolishly it turns out, always suspected that with every year that passes another tiny modicum of maturity must surely emerge.
Earlier Son No 3 asked me, “Are you growed-up now, Mum?”
“So they tell me, I answered.”
Maybe that was not the correct response. Maybe my baby son needs to know that the person in charge of him knows exactly what she’s doing and is absolutely as growed-up as it is possible to be at the grand old age of 44.
The thing is despite no longer being in my early 40s but now very much in my mid 40s I do without any doubt feel ‘not-even-remotely-grown-up’ and have no idea when one begins to feel such a thing, because sometimes you meet people and you think, goodness, they’re very sorted and grown-up and then you get to know them and it turns out, either because they are grown-up enough to admit it or because they aren’t but their behaviour kinda gives them away – that they seem just as perplexed and un-grown-up as you do! So now I am fairly certain that the notion of ‘grown-up’ is rather like Father Christmas – something that, as time goes on, you might begin to suspect is a little fantastical perhaps.
But while the mind might not grow up in quite the way my 2, 7 and 10 year children probably imagine it does, the body on the other hand certainly does with or without the person inside onboard. As was so clearly and kindly pointed out by a young and oh, so trendy hairdresser I went to see a while ago, but not since he said the following,
“Well, I don’t think I can let you leave the salon without doing something about these greys…”
I said, “No thank you!”
Because I am actually quite interested in my hair going grey and I want to see it happen, not cover it all up. Admittedly, I am fortunate as the greys are appearing quite slowly and they look OK. I’m quite vain though so if that weren’t the case I might have said, “Yes, please!” (And I’m certainly thinking about a jar of Jolen because no one wants a ‘tash? Well, no one like me that is.)
As it was I ended up agreeing to have some entirely colourless thing which cost just as much as the colour thing plastered all over my hair and nearly doubling the bill because I’m a twit and not grown-up enough to say,
“Do stop trying to sell me stuff and just cut my hair, please!”
Thank goodness a friend now just sends me a text to tell me her home-visiting hairdresser is due to come along and would I like to pop along too? It’s all much easier; no-one tries to dye my hair or points out the greys, or sells me the most expensive conditioner in the world and I don’t even have to come up with the idea of actually getting my hair cut in the first place – just answer yes, or no. Much like someone who isn’t very grown-up at all. Phew!!
Turns out I haven’t moaned about being 44 in the least. Just about not being very grown-up but undeniably ageing nevertheless. Maybe that is what’s depressing me in the end. The fact that I still feel about 17 years old, make the same bloody mistakes as I did then and always have done, still can’t find a way to deal with said mistakes as I’d like to, but am anyhow getting creakier, (would love to say leakier because it rhymes but it’s not actually an image I want to promote) greyer and a little bit more decrepit by the day. Aaaaaaaah! 44!
Son No 1 has decided he’s going to MIT – Yup, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I’m not one to thwart or discourage his ambition so I said, “Ok, Lovely, that sounds nice.”
Son No 2 told me he’s going to be a YouTuber. “Really, darling?” I said, “That will be fun!”
“I’m going to throw this sweet at you!!!” said Son No 3. A slightly less ambitious aim in life but at least a highly realistic one – however, I did manage to persuade him to aim for something less aggressive that time but I’m sure he’ll return to the candy violence at some point.
I’d just like to remember to take the washing out of the machine before feeling I should probably put it through another cycle because it’s been sitting in there for several hours. I don’t think it’s very ecological or economic to keep washing everything twice (sometimes three times – oops!) My solution this week seemed to be to forget to switch it on at all – I had a mini-internal celebration every time I went into the kitchen saw the washing in the drum, thought, ‘bugger I’ve forgotten to take it out again’, and then realised it hadn’t been washed in the first place! Oh, the joy at not having to drag it out and hang it up straight away.
I imagine the mummy in this week’s photographs needs to be a bit more organised than me. Her baby is only 10 weeks old and lives on a Barge with his very lovely parents, which made the work really good fun to do. It was a very relaxed shoot – and I loved meeting this little boy and his family.
I’m sure Sons No 1,2 & 3 and I have too much stuff to live on a Barge – but we’d certainly have to get rid of all the toys in order to fit in and that is nearly a good enough reason to go for it!
So this week I woke up with a particularly annoying earworm wriggling round my hormonally weathered brain. Have you heard It’s my Belly Button by Rhett and Link, a couple of Internet celebrities the boys enjoy who also sing I’m a Textpert (Epic Rap Battle) and Nerd vs. Geek (Epic Rap Battle), both of which I was surprised to find in my iTunes collection one day? If not, the chorus goes “It’s my belly button, my belly, belly button, I won’t pretend like it’s nothing because my belly, belly button’s really, really something, something I want to show to you”.
It’s one of Son No 3’s favourite songs although he also seems to enjoy Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon as well and I have to say listening to a two-year-old sing Bobby Hebb’s Sunny is ineffably cute. The least edifying of the boys’ favourite songs has to be Yoghurt which Son No 2 thinks is marvellous, although it’s certainly rather dubious and thank goodness he is actually too young to pick up on any of the truly revolting connotations. It’s pretty far from my idea of a song worth listening to I have to say.
Despite the fact that It’s My Belly Button was festooned inside my soggy head for longer than I would ideally want, I think Rhett and Link are OK as far as Internet celebrities go – they’re certainly amusing and seemingly don’t use bad language which is more than I can say for me. But of course, what the boys are absorbing online is always a worry. And apparently what I’m absorbing too because I without a doubt wouldn’t have consciously chosen It’s My BellyButton to be my head’s lift-Muzak of the day.
“Don’t let them go near YouTube!” was the alarming warning we received when attending a talk at school last term about secondary school transfer. What? No YouTube at all? Really? No – apparently according to the teacher YouTube is just too dangerous by far. Oh! Oh dear – “I don’t really use the Internet, Mummy,” said Son no 2, “I just go on YouTube”. Well, I’ve got that one catastrophically wrong then, haven’t I?
Regular readers of my tiny little corner of the blogosphere may have picked up that I have some ambivalent feelings about the Internet. On the one hand I appreciate so much about it; I’ve been able to share my photography and therefore spread the news which means people get in touch with me when they want portraits done. This week I was asked to supply something for a magazine for the first time and I was also asked if one of the images I created for some college work can be reproduced, both of which are things that came about because of the Internet. Goodness, I doubt I’d even have been able to study at all right now if it weren’t for the Internet. Added to that I have had some really useful conversations online with photographers whose work I like and respect which again would not have happened at all if it weren’t for the World Wide Web. And I am here right now banging on about my concerns about the Internet thanks totally to the Internet without which these thoughts would just go round and round incessantly inside my head alongside songs about belly buttons –whether this is a good thing or not is debatable, of course.
There is so much that is positive and good about the Internet. But it doesn’t come without its costs. Nothing ever does.
A while before Christmas an article about the Internet NOT being a harbinger of narcissism was doing the rounds on Facebook. In it all the Internet’s fabulous points were raised and many of the negative things that people have suggested may be worth thinking about were dismissed.
(“Mum” said Son No 1 “You should be a YouTuber, because all they’re doing is ranting too and if you’re going to rant you may as well be like the YouTubers! And make some money. And get rich!!!”
“Really, Son No 1? Really? You actually want your mother spouting off on YouTube – I don’t think you do, my darling – In fact, I think that would be absolutely the opposite of what you want!”)
Anyway, so I was saying…
…But and this is most important, the article was looking at things in quite a limited way – i.e. A has an effect on B and therefore A is the cause of B’s potential problems or wellbeing. This is kinda crazy thinking. The world just doesn’t work like that. The Internet and the World Wide Web did not suddenly appear out of a vacuum. The Internet isn’t some entity that was just dropped on planet earth to wreak havoc or induce some kind of miraculous change in society, democratising information and power. The Internet and all the information we share on it started to develop when it did because it is an expression of our collective consciousness and its seeds are routed in various places – how it impacts on us and us on it is a continual back and forth, inside and out, up and down dialogue between us and our expressiveness, which in this case manifests itself as the Internet. And our collective consciousness according to some academics was becoming more narcissistic towards the end of the 70s just as a tiny number of counter-culture members in San Francisco, presumably reacting against the seeds that generated any narcissistic epidemic that may exist today, were creating a small, pioneering online community which was the precursor to all social networking sites and which are such a huge part of our lives today.
During this period extended families continued to become less economically viable and the cost benefit ratio of smaller nuclear families had over time driven a sea change in how we Westerners chose to live. Out of that inevitable fragmentation of community a need for connectivity arose and the Internet provided it in the shape of social networking. Social networking does indeed provide people with a way of staying connected to other human beings and thank goodness for that – our individualism and subsequent isolation is deeply intertwined with the wellbeing or not so well-being of our society; neurosis, anxiety and depression are all growing problems for us and have been for some time. But the Internet, and all its benefits comes at a cost, some argue adding to the erosion of society’s well-being. Societies are constantly addressing, judging, adjusting and readjusting their relationships in accordance to the cost benefit ratios within their cultural structures.
The costs of the Internet for now are deemed acceptable by our society but risks included amongst many are: the feedback loop of narcissism that is according to some fuelled by people constantly self-publishing (oh, the irony!), and expressing thoughts that were once ours alone; the need to live up to the online persona that we all create every time we use social networking; apparent difficulty in shutting out and keeping the world at bay – I totally get how teenagers are driven to suicide though online bullying – how it can be pernicious, devastatingly demoralising and seemingly impossible to ignore; existing in a paradigm were voyeurism is simply accepted as the norm – this article explores that in a very amusing way; and by the way the Internet allows very destructive ideas to be spread quickly and efficiently seeking out people ripe for attaching themselves to those ideas.
Added to that every time we use a search engine we allow ourselves to become a commodity; we the users become the product as our data is traded and we just accept that as perfectly fine.
But the greatest cost as far as I understand it is the Internet’s power to inform and form who we are. By handing this power over so freely we risk losing not only the ability to be authentic, but even the awareness that it might be possible.
Douglas Rushkoff is a fantastic theorist whom I first came across when I watched a documentary about the Internet on BBC 2 a few years ago where much of what I’m summarising here was explored quite brilliantly and of course in far greater detail, called The Virtual Revolution, which was incredibly well researched and presented by Aleks Krotoski. Search it up on the Internet if you’re interested, it really is fascinating (and if it weren’t for the Internet I would have had to say in this post that I heard some guy say something rather clever on some documentary I watched some years ago, but who knows what any of that was called or about).
So, in The Virtual Revolution Rushkoff talks about how online companies capture our clicking habits and then feed back behaviourally targeted advertising, which in turn eats away at our authenticity by telling us who we are and thereby disallowing us from actually finding out who we are organically. I have retained this message and kept it with me and even so it is still fabulously difficult to maintain a clear sense of self that delineates from the person the advertisers want me to think I am, or from stopping myself from being influenced by other Internet users from all over the world in a way that is so incredibly instant. Visit Rushkoff’s site if any of this is something that interests you – it’s definitely worth a view.
So why am I banging on about all of this – because I have three kids who I am pretty much solely responsible for bringing up. They are learning a language that I don’t really get and will never speak as well they do – the language of the Internet and social media. And sometimes some really distressing and upsetting things happen in the world which our culture now reacts to with such immediacy that it can be very difficult indeed to maintain a sense of self within the cacophonous reactions all played out online. I suspect in the past we have witnessed, discussed and debated events with a great deal more time for reflection and thought whereas today – it’s all NOW, NOW, NOW. And I think this is going to make it hard for the next generation to exist peacefully. I wonder when or if society might evaluate the cost benefit ratio differently to how it does now. For the moment it looks like the benefits will be valued far more than any costs might worry us, whether you buy into the narcissism argument or not.
I have to say, as much as I could have done without It’s My Belly Button wandering around my brain, I wonder if Rhett and Link have something to say on the matter of never being able to turn the world off, of everything happening in the present, of there being so little space where you can curl up and switch off in today’s world, because they’re pretty astute on a lot of things which have made the kids think. For example the middle class problem of not being able to get any Wi-Fi in the kitchen – a satirical poke at our ridiculousness which Son No 1 in particular finds very amusing.
However, next time I have an earworm I do hope it’s Muse, Miles Davis or perhaps a bit of Mozart instead.
Information in this post gleaned from BBC 2s The Virtual Revolution, Our Babies Ourselves by Meredith F. Small (published 1998 by Random House) and of course once again, The Narcissism Epidemic By Jean M. Twenge, PH D and W. Keith Campbell PH D (published by Atria 2009)
Have you heard of matriphagous spiders? There is an Australian example who gives birth to her babies and then begins to liquefy so that they can feed on her, starting with her legs and working upwards, finishing their meal of Mum with the protein-rich eggs she keeps in her belly especially for their grisly pudding. I think about this spider often as I meander through motherhood trying to partition my time, internal resources and headspace fairly for all of us but also realistically.
Like most mothers and many fathers it’s not always easy getting the balance right and I seem to swing between ignoring the feral ones rather too much whilst getting on with my own stuff or abandoning my studies and neglecting myself periodically to concentrate on them. Christmas, of course is about my boys and that along with my own need to have a bit of a rest means I am consequently rather behind on college work, which needs addressing as soon as the New Year begins. All of this lies heavily on my very poorly head as I lie in bed with the most terrible cold for the second day running.
As colds go it’s a pretty bad one and I’m reminded of the spiders eating away at their maternal parent. Finding time to rest isn’t always easy (as I type a small person is clambering all over my legs telling me all about a book I’ve read to him at least a million times and now he’s hugging or should I say head-butting that poorly head of mine). They certainly are quite demanding little creatures but at least they aren’t literally eating me up alive. However, I do currently feel a little like I might have forgotten to look after myself in some way.
While it may be an economical albeit rather gruesome solution to the spider’s evolutionary needs there would be an awful lot we’d miss out on if we procreated in the same way.
Like how Son No 1 was determined to make sure I received an extremely special present and so badgered his father to fund his extravagant gift. Or the beautiful photography book that he and my mother chose for me which actually bought tears to my eyes when I opened it… (I do wonder if I’m heading for the menopause because I seem to well up at the slightest thing in the same way I did during my pregnancies). Or the wonderful get-well card they decided to make me yesterday (again, I got a little teary)because I was stuck in bed all day drifting in and out of feverish sleep; that is when when Son No 3 would allow me and thank you to my mother for removing him for the afternoon.
I’d hate to miss out on Son No 3’s solution to the fact he’s not allowed to use swear words and so instead yells, “what the thumb!” when something irks him or simply because he can. How awful not to have the hugs that all three boys shower me with, although not so much the eldest now truth be told (weep, weep). On Christmas Day I did a jolly good impression of a post menopausal elderly Aunt by falling asleep on the sofa at about five pm surrounded by chaos and noise, and I was woken with the slobbery kisses from a two year old which if you must be jolted from a post-prandial doze then I’d say it’s one of the best ways to go about it. And the joy in Son No 2s expression when he opened his present – I really got that one right – was definitely something worth not being eaten for.
“Mum, mum! Son No 3’s got no trousers on!” is something that gets yelled at me fairly regularly. He is very good at going to the loo on his own but it’s all too much trouble getting dressed again, which is usually fine at home, although as you can imagine has its occasional perils, but at a Christmas party in someone else’s home it is probably best to retrieve said child from the wriggling mass of small people and replace his underwear at least.
I love those moments. None of these happenings are earth shattering on their own but add them up over time and the whole mothering thing, tiring, tricky and trying as it can sometimes be, amounts to something pretty special and makes our own evolutionary path extremely worthwhile.
Being a human being rather than a self sacrificing spider means being deeply embedded in a sophisticated culture and one of our cultural mores is recognising time passing and marking it in some way. Generally we like to start a new year by giving something up or attempting to better ourselves. I’m not sure what I’m going to give up but if I could convince myself to do without my smart phone I certainly would. It drives me mad. My own madness with it drives me madder. And there are only so many stories about animals being nice to each-other on Twitter a person needs to read and then weep about. So I think, my New Year’s resolution is going to be about being more present in the here and now!
As the sun sets on 2014 what are others thinking about giving up or taking up in 2015? Whatever it is, good luck! I hope you all had fabulous Christmases and have the sort of New Year you’re hoping for. I’m going to get over this hideous cold, tidy up my home, which is what I normally do with much gusto during these in-between days and then catch up with my studies. And I shall always try to remember; at least I’m not a matriphagous spider from Australia, even though metaphorically speaking it can sometimes feel that the little monsters are indeed devouring me.
We’ve got mice. I tried to convince myself we didn’t but the slightly subliminal darts across the floor are becoming too hard to ignore and the other day I knew the time had come to open up the grey envelope filled with traps which was delivered some time ago. The thing is I didn’t want to come downstairs in the morning and see their little dead bodies, certainly not before breakfast. I needn’t have worried though because those mice are probably just laughing at my incompetence. Following advice from a friend who had the same problem I dutifully popped some pet food on the little spikes one evening because she swore this was the only thing they went for. And the next morning I came downstairs and the cheeky buggers had eaten the food and not set off the traps.
My oldest friend and general adviser in life says the only way to keep mice at bay in these old Victorian buildings is to have cats. We actually had a visiting tabby recently. I was sitting here, as I do, writing my blog when there was a loud crash from the kitchen. I checked it out and noticed something had fallen from the windowsill. Assuming it must have just been the wind or something I went back to work. About 10 minutes later a very insistent “miaow” gave me the fright of my life and I turned round to see a beautiful cat sitting on the wooden chest that houses our vast collection of Thomas and his Friends paraphernalia. As lovely as he was I of course took him down to the garden below and told him to go home. Now, what with the mice and all, I kinda wish I’d invited him to stay for a bit longer, but as far as I remember kidnapping someone else’s cat even for the best of reasons isn’t ideal. And he most certainly had a label on his collar so I couldn’t even have pretended he didn’t belong elsewhere.
And then there’s the problem of my little dog Poppy. Being the Jack Russell/Border Terrier with more than a smattering of Paterdale that she is, she’s rather partial to small fluffy animals and has to go out and about looking a little like Hannibal Lecter, so I’m not sure a cat would last that long with her around. (Don’t they say that the dogs we own are reflective of us in some way? I’m sure I don’t need a muzzle but perhaps I’m blissfully unaware of that side of myself!) Unfortunately, she doesn’t catch the mice but instead sit and stares at the floorboards, whining for hours on end when she knows they are there.
So, getting a cat is a bit tricky, but then cats are funny creatures anyway, aren’t they. They sit on your lap purring loudly and then for no reason at all start repeatedly and rhythmically plunging their claws into your thigh! When you kindly put them down (or throw them off in alarm) they very haughtily saunter away with tails and superiority complexes high in the air as if it were you who started the painful poking.
Son No 2 has asked for a kitten for Christmas though. Mercifully the ex husband said, “As if I would buy a live animal without asking first…” Phew! That’s a relief then.
The thought of any more animals to add to the mix of small boys, mice, a dog and then this imaginary cat as well, begins to sends my crazy hair just a little crazier. I mean, why not get a couple of birds in here too? Actually, come to think of it, we have had those in the house. One instance was the morning after I found out my father had died and a pigeon very bizarrely crashed through the window in the front room leaving a cartoon-like, open-winged-bird-shaped hole in the glass.
“Now don’t go thinking that’s your dead dad visiting!” said Mr X.
“Course not,” I replied although as the poor slightly lame thing was set free I couldn’t help thinking “Bye, Dad!” The crazy hair was no doubt and quite understandably completely bonkers that day.
Who knows how I’ll eventually deal with the mice… sure it will get sorted soon. Somehow!
I have too much editing to do now so best stop blathering on about the various animals (two-leggers and four-leggers) in my life. Just a photograph of a chair this week. I was working at a corporate party recently and in between snapping photographs of workers dressed up in their finest drinking champagne, I couldn’t help but find moments of magic and mystery.
I think Son No. 1 has realised, as every child eventually must, that his mother is sometimes not the all-knowing godlike creature he once imagined. To be honest, I think it’s been dawning on him slowly over the last 12 months or so but this week as we drove somewhere together he looked at me aghast.
My fingers sometimes, although really only occasionally, when I’m a bit tired or distracted, do this funny little dance on the steering wheel as the Satnav tells me to turn left or right. Up goes the right hand, and if you were quick enough you might notice it miming as if it were holding a pen, confirming in my mind that the Satnav means I need to turn in that direction, and most definitely not the other way because that would be quite wrong and I could end up adding another ten minutes or so to the journey – I imagine. And then my left hand, if you looked fast enough, does another little movement forming the shape of an ‘L’ – imperceptibly because I don’t really need to do it because I know the difference between my left and my right because I’m middle aged, of course!
“You don’t know the difference between your left and your right!” he said.
“I do,” I said incredulously.
“I can’t believe I’m trapped in a car with someone who doesn’t know the difference between their left and their right!” he said.
Perhaps I should have taken that opportunity to tell him, actually we’re all flawed, a little or a lot crazy and that’s just how the world is, so get used to it! And, I could have added, no one knows as much as they pretend to know and mostly everybody is making it up one way or another as they go along, although to be fair most adults do know the difference between left and right and in fact my two year old, Son No. 3 already knows but you get my point. But why make it easy for him?
It’s taken me my whole life to realise that some people are just better at making it up than others; and anyway perhaps it’s best to discover all of that yourself, slowly over time otherwise the shock might be too much. He probably wouldn’t believe me anyway – a form of protective denial. Surely, he would think, someone in charge must know what he or she is doing. All those grown-up people doing important grown-up things like running the country and starting wars and making me go to school every single week day! (And he’d be so wrong on that count because there are some very long holidays.)
On the same journey he also gave me a good talking to about mates rates.
“You charge them WHAT?”
I’ve got to make him my manager; he’s far shrewder than I will ever be.
And he described how to envisage distances as I drove past another turning I was apparently meant to go down. I must say though, I’m sure that when the Satnav politely says, “turn left in 30 yards” it actually means “TURN LEFT NOW, NOW, NOW!!!” I mean if it weren’t so very ambiguous all the time then it wouldn’t need to keep saying “recalculating route” so regularly, would it now?
I remember becoming aware my own parents were actually human beings, although I didn’t realize just quite how human they were at the time – wow, that would have been a shocker at ten. It was an important moment. It was about the same time I kept thinking why don’t they put any clothes on? No! They weren’t nudists or anything. It was just at that time when you begin to comprehend that you have bits and they have bits and being fully clothed at all times is really best all round for everyone. Oh, my goodness, I’ve just realised, he’s been like that for ages. Has he known I wasn’t a godlike creature for ages too?
Whatever the truth, it’s good for these kiddies to get to grips with such things. With luck he will learn to accept the fact that his mother is flawed (quite considerably in fact), and then that other people are flawed and then when he finally understands just how flawed he is it should certainly make it easier for him to forgive himself for not being the genius, hilarious godlike male creature he currently pictures!
Here are some photographs of two adorable children who still have some way to go before the truths described above begin to become apparent.
I am rather conflicted about the Internet. There are some fabulous aspects to our relatively new virtual world that contribute usefully and even wonderfully at times to the real world. Take Internet food shopping for instance, although I’m quite sure there are many more worthy and altruistic examples. Can you believe I recently discovered some friends that hadn’t yet experienced the joys of Sainsburys Online! Sure, there are occasional annoying moments when ordering online, like when you accidentally order 22 bottles of bleach or a single banana instead of a bunch of them – although to be honest one is probably better because they always end up going off and I’m too busy nowadays to make banana muffins. Basically though, some very nice delivery people actually bring your shopping to your kitchen table before breakfast so the fact you’ve run out of milk AGAIN is brilliantly solved, which totally overrides anything negative about that experience. Clothes shopping on the other hand is very much a real world must for me. I like to pick up, touch and feel things before buying them – sending things back is just annoying and time consuming.
Another thing I love about the Internet is the fact that you can go back and correct spelling mistakes. I really love this because I am not terribly good at catching my errors and often no matter how hard I try, I don’t see them until after I’ve published something. As soon as I press the publish button they jump out of the screen and my inner child, overly sensitised to acute criticism, screams, ‘Aaaaaah!’ at which point I spend the next few minutes hurriedly correcting all the errors before too many people see the post (or most of them at any rate – do let me know if you come across any because I do hate to look stupid and we can just keep it a secret between ourselves…). Or on occasions I might think something is extraordinarily funny, post it and then after sitting in my discomfort for a little while realize it was actually rather misjudged and thanks to the immediacy of the Internet I can go back in and delete whatever hideous carbuncle of self-expression needs killing off. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that in real life – go back and delete or alter all our mistakes? If ever I were badly behaved (and I have been once or twice, you know), imagine how great it would be if I could go back and just press a button rendering it no longer real or present or actual. Sadly for real life that isn’t possible, is it?
Feral son no. 2 was being rather badly behaved for a while. He seems to have settled down now but it’s still on my mind. (Or is the fact that feral son No. 3’s naughty side which has suddenly had some sort of awakening, somehow rendering No. 2’s behavior less troublesome, making me just think it has settled down – so hard to tell?) No. 2 has always had the ability to get me so riled that I am truly amazed by and grateful for my extraordinary self-control because he really can trigger the most violent and quite frightening impulses in me. We had a conversation the other day where I asked him why he was being so naughty at the moment and he said, “because I’m the middle child.” Great, so with the help of a little cultural joke I have saddled him with the expectation that he is, should and will be naughty. Nice one! I can just picture myself leaping over the sofa one day like some sort of demented flying homunculus and landing on him while he twiddles away on some device or other, grabbing his collar, shoving him down and growling through gritted teeth, “Now look here, little boy! Stop being so naughty. It doesn’t pay to be cruel to other people, especially the people you love. A) You hurt them. B) You get into trouble and C) you end up not liking yourself very much either. So stop it! Stop it now! BUT…” because I’m a very fair minded homunculus and I don’t want him to be pummeled by someone one day and feel he can’t fight back, and as I know life is often terribly complicated, I’d have to go on to say, perhaps having let go his collar by then, “…you should also know there are no moral absolutes. Yes, little boy, the whole subject of ethics is actually fraught with complexities. But basically – do your best not to hurt people, OK!” Even in my fantasy I am glad to say I refrain from calling him a goddamn psychopath because I can see he does feel guilt and knows that his behavior is troubling. Best to avoid any more wildly general and overused labels since he’s taken to the middle child one with such alacrity.
Either way he just shrugs and carries on playing on my phone. I look at him and see his bare legs swinging as he continues wiping out, chasing and deleting small objects on the screen and I see that he is a little boy just trying to get the balance between his chimp-like impulses and his human rationality right, which let’s face it is difficult at 43, never mind aged six.
What I don’t like about the Internet is how very powerful it is, and how it starts to take precedence over real life. Most days and far too often I can look around my front room and see three little boys all engrossed in some virtual game or other. “Heh!” I try to get their attention, “shall we switch off the computers and go for a walk? Maybe a coffee (they’d obviously have hot chocolate and if it were the right time of day I might even have a glass of dry white wine, not Pinot Grigio though because I really don’t like it)”. Generally they ignore me to begin with, hardly noticing my existence. At which point I should really yell -“I AM NOT A VIRTUAL REALITY FIGURE. I AM A HUMAN BEING!” in order to get their attention. (One who quite likes David Lynch films.) And then my oldest son might, you never know, grunt and sort of turn towards me, offering a slight acknowledgement of my place in his universe, ‘YouTube’ pixels dancing out of his eyes, and say “OK, mum.”
“Come on boys, we’re going to go out into the real world where there are real trees and real sky and real people and we probably won’t see anyone being destroyed, with any luck – it’s fun, I promise, you’ll see.” Sometimes they come without too much fuss but there are moments where I am forced to turn into a banshee, yelling and screaming, snatching their small electronic comfort blankets off them or just unplugging the computer in the middle of some ridiculous virtual-world video of someone else playing a virtual game. (Oh, I’m so very annoying, I know!) But it’s worth it. We generally always have a good time once we’re out because in the end reality is much, much more satisfying than the virtual world, wouldn’t you say? Whether or not they would is another matter entirely.
The photographs this week are from a christening. The children aren’t quite old enough to be Internet crazy just yet… but in time!
At the beginning of this year I didn’t really have a blog to speak of, now I have two! This one plus the learning blog I must keep for my studies. I have to write quite a lot about my work and how I reached certain images and series’ of images, which is great because I really enjoy writing. However, I’m still finding my way with this blog.
Primarily this site is for promoting my photography, whereas the other is for recording my development as a photographer. Having read a little about managing a blog where the purpose is to drive traffic to your site, I have understood that to simply show off one’s work without any chat and conversing at all isn’t the best way of going about it. One helpful marketing site I visited suggested it would be like sitting next to someone at a party who only speaks about themselves – a little dull and tedious. I think this is probably unfair since for some people and scenarios there is no reason to say anything about the images they produce – however, here perhaps showing off my work isn’t the aim really since I have a website to do that. Perhaps here I am generating a sense of who I am so that potential clients will be able to make a more informed choice about whether or not I am the sort of photographer they’d like to work with.
The whole self-promotion thing is a minefield and one that is taking me quite a while to get to grips with. Once moment I feel I’m becoming comfortable with it, the next I’m cringing in my boots at the thought of posting yet more thoughts and words out into the ether to be read or not read by someone or no-one.
Nevertheless, I keep going. I’m sure I’ll get there in the end. For now though the two separate blogs feel a little like a fragmented Me. As does the work I do in either sphere – work and study. I’m beginning to find something that feels very exciting in the way I’ve been working in my studies although am not sure how to maintain a sense of moving forward without simply repeating myself; and I’d love to be able to bring a little of that sense of creativity into the paid portrait work I do, but for now I am not sure I know how or even if there is any room at all for it. I’m certain each side of my photography practice influences the other but they still feel like very different aspects. Like the two separate blogs perhaps, I’ll simply get there in the end, where ever there is. Or perhaps not!
In the meantime I must prepare for a number of jobs at the end of the week and get on with my next study project involving colour.
I’ve included a few of the photographs I took for my last assignment here. They’re rather different to the portrait work I normally post but offers a flavour of the sort of work I’ve been enjoying.
Today I am photographing some children for a surprise gift. I won’t be able to post the images here for a while because even though the likelihood of the recipient stumbling across this blog is probably rather slim – you just never know!
However, I have been thinking a lot about all this online self-promotion stuff, Twitter, blogs, Facebook and the like and I think I’ve really got to start getting to grips with it a bit more. A fellow art student recently commented that it was very time consuming and I guess it is but it seems an integral part of any photography venture if you want to get your work out there for any reason, so rather than see it as a distraction I think it helps to view it as crucial. So with that in mind I am going to aim to post a bit more often and also go for a rounded approach – i.e. not just posting examples of work but also personal photos, thoughts about my learning process and decisions and updates on the my development.
Last night I felt compelled to sign up for the advanced wedding module with The Photography Institute. I have one, possibly 2 weddings coming up – something I never really thought I’d end up doing at all to be honest. But it seems like one of the hardest type of photography to get right so I felt the additional cost and work would be justified. I did the main course with the institute last year before signing up with The Open College of the Arts in January to study The Art of Photography. I can’t guarantee all this studying will make me a better photographer, although I sincerely hope it does (and think it has already done so!) but it certainly demonstrates a level of commitment on my part to be as good as I possibly can.
The photo at the top here is of my youngest son. Again, I’ve decided to leave his face as it was rather than wipe away the dirt in Photoshop. For me this will be a genuine memory of how he was when I look back in years to come. I love the lighting and mood in this photo – it really captures his soft and tender side.