South London Photographer: Shopping or not as the case may be

Christmas, commercialism, and consumerism.  They’re all tied up together and I can’t help feeling disappointed that Christmas is more about shopping than anything else nowadays.  Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the mid-winter festivities, feasting, imbibing, socialising and gift-giving.  Not to mention the sense of bittersweet nostalgia that these weeks bring with them.  It’s lots of fun.  Or it ought to be.  But I’m really not keen on the intense shopping aspect to it all.   So I tend to ignore it for as long as possible.  However, I wouldn’t advise anyone else to follow my lead.  Since I leave everything until the last minute, I quite often can’t get hold of the gifts I know people in my family would like.  A few years ago my mother had to do with a promise of a Kindle on Christmas morning which wasn’t due back in stock until mid January.

This year I have told the boys I am not able to spend lots of money on presents although I’m pretty sure I say that every year and then a sense of guilt sets in and somehow I forget my intentions and still manage to get out in time and buy a whole load of ‘stuff’.  But I’m going to be strong this year and try to stick to my guns.  Perhaps it can be a sort of old year’s resolution and unlike a new year’s resolution, where you have a full 365 days ahead of you in which to fail, there are only a few weeks left, so surely I can do it.  Not only do I want to avoid buying lots of junk, I’d really much rather give experiential presents.

Even before I mentioned this Son No 1, he totally surprised me when said for Christmas he would like a photography shoot of us all in Richmond park.  He has decided he’d like a framed print to put on the wall of his room when we move.  Obviously he’d also like a TV, sofa, sound system and coffee table, because at the tender age of 11 he is fantasising about turning his room into some sort of bachelor pad.  But thankfully he knows there isn’t a chance in hell of getting any of that stuff from me for Christmas, so not only is he being delightfully unmaterialistic by asking for something so personal, he’s also being a realist, which is an impressive development, I must say. I was, nevertheless, quite gobsmacked.

“What?” I said, “You want a picture of your family?  And you want me to take it?” Wow  – all those anger-fuelled insults during the last couple of years about my photography being rubbish and how much he hates his brothers and me suddenly dissolved in a moment on uncharacteristic familial appreciation.  I’m not sure it will last and I suspect he’d be rather disappointed on the morning of the 25th December if there wasn’t any junk at all to unwrap.  Oh, no!  I suddenly feel so full of love, awe and motherly pride, prompted by his wanting one my photographs on his wall that I’m starting to feel compelled to go out and buy him lots of expensive stuff which I can’t afford, such as a special fruitily named watch I know he’d be extraordinarily pleased with …. goodness, what a slippery slope that could so easily be.  And how short my old year’s resolution nearly lasted.  Yikes, it’s hard to resist the pull of commercialism.

Son No 2 has not yet learned the art of subtle manipulation so there are plenty of straightforward “I wants” coming from his direction.  To be fair to him he has said he is perfectly prepared to pay for the plastic arsenal he is so keen on acquiring with his pocket money savings. Sadly for him his concept of what £20 can buy has yet to reach anything approaching reality so it’s a constant circular discussion right now.  Thankfully, the youngest still doesn’t really know what any of it’s about so his needs and wants are more immediate and often easier to satisfy.  I want a funny yogurt he’ll wail from time to time.  By that he means the ones that are half pink and half yellow for anyone wondering how yoghurts ever get to be humorous.  Easily sorted though!  Although it does require actually remembering to order a shop from the supermarket occasionally.  My poor kids – in fact it seems, all they might really want is a mother who can get it together to make sure there is milk for breakfast in the morning! (I’m not that bad really – all in the name of hyperbole, honest!)

I know this whole present buying conundrum is felt by most parents nowadays.  Kids have so much stuff it’s often quite difficult to work out what to buy them; how much to spend; what if anything do any of them even need.  I’m not sure how everyone else goes about solving it. If you have any ideas, do let me know!

This week I’m posting some images from a family shoot that was given as a Christmas gift last year.  If that’s the sort of thing you might be interested in then do get in touch and I can arrange a voucher.  Alternatively, there is still a little time left to organise a shoot and print photographs before Christmas.  I also have framed prints of images ready to go or which can ordered in the next couple of weeks.  Check out my website for details.

Have a  good weekend all.  I’m looking forward to a PTA organised quiz at the kids’ school!

SJ x

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South London Photographer: Matriphagous spiders and other little monsters

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.

Happy New Year! xx

A stunning sunset in Wandsworth just before Christmas

South London Photographer: The end of the year and Christmas

I suspect this will my final blog post before the New Year. I can’t quite believe the old year is nearly over – what happened, where did all that time go?

Son No 3 is really no longer a baby – there is no denying it anymore. He had his hair cut this week and he looks like a proper little boy now. His naughtiness levels have shot up exponentially all of the sudden too.

It’s his table manners that are most alarming. Two minutes into any meal he stands up on his chair and holds his arms out to me saying, “I want you”.

“Sit down and eat,” I say.

“I want you!” I eventually give in because despite the fact I am trying to eat and it’s irritating having him on my lap while I do so, it’s more irritating having him standing there wailing and not finishing or even starting his meal.

When I offer him his plate he might push it away or even slap me in the face for daring to suggest something so audacious. I suppose it all makes sense to a two year old.

Son No.2 has an even worse emerging habit. He seems to think it’s very funny to stand up on his chair in the middle of supper and take his trousers down for absolutely no reason. The other boys think it’s too funny, of course. There are times when I would like to pick up the ketchup and squirt it at Son No 2’s face from across the table, but I’m guessing that would just heighten the sense of chaos and the mother is probably meant to resist the urge to join in with general juvenile anarchy.

Currently at mealtimes Son No 3 is really only interested in discussing what he might be getting for Christmas. Oh! There, I’ve said the Christmas word so I guess I ought to say a little more about it now.

I love Christmas. I love the presents, the lights, the food, the mulled wine, the excitement. I love the tree and the smell of old decorations and spices, and the presents – oh yes, I’ve said presents already haven’t I? I really love the table cloth with a Christmas tree on it that my mother digs out each year, which she had as a child and which I remember from my own childhood. I love the bittersweet nostalgia that Christmas brings with it. I really look forward to the drinks and socialising and cheesy Christmas songs that make you feel warm and slightly icky at the same time. But, and it’s a fairly loud BUT, I cannot abide the fact that Christmas starts around about the 27th July thanks to the shops desperately needing us to start spending after whatever event failed to deliver their summer sales numbers. It drives me insane!

So, the boys try often to discuss what they want for Christmas from about the 27th July and I always say, “Not until the 1st December. I will absolutely and categorically NOT discuss Christmas until then, alright!”

“OK, Mum,” they groan.

I tried that line last week on about the 7th December and Son No 1 looked at me like I was an imbecile.

”You’re going to have to face it, Mum,” he said, “It’s December and Christmas has arrived!”

Tomorrow we will head out to buy our tree and I’ll drink some mulled wine while we (I) decorate it and listen to those cheesy songs (I’ve got a very well worn CD of them), although this is the first year where Son No 1 is so vocal about his musical likes and dislikes so I’m not sure how they will go down. Nope, I do know.  He’ll hate them and try to insist on something much cooler.

I can’t help wondering how the boys will behave at Christmas lunch this year. The “I want you” phrase two minutes in after I’ve been cooking for hours is not going to go down well with me and if Son No 2 drops his trousers again I might force him to sit through the Queen’s speech. Son No 3 will hardly eat and be desperate to get back online for something or other, I’m sure. And my mother may have had a little too much wine. These are the realities of my life!

In any event, Christmas for me is about wrapping up time as the year comes to an end. And when it is wrapped, and has been transformed into the gifts that we give the people we like and love, we say good-bye to all that has past and make space for the new. Present giving is a universal and important human activity that cements and reaffirms relationships, family and otherwise. So, however you celebrate the festive period, I hope you and yours have a wonderful time and I’ll see you again in the New Year. xx

None of my recent jobs are either ready or appropriate for here so I’ve posted these lovely doggies waiting patiently this week. Shooting into the sun is always tricky and I’m not sure how I feel about it but I like this anyway. I’m sure and do hope these hounds will be spoiled rotten at Christmas lunch.

©Sarah-Jane Field