Monday, 20 April 2009


Its summer and I know this not just because there is actually sunlight! Not only because everyone is out in vest tops even though there was a frost this morning. Not only because someone actually nodded a greeting at me but essentially because my neighbour opposite has begun to 'share' his music. He does this each summer placing his speakers carefully in his windows and pushing the dial up to G20 riot police mode. Luckily his taste is not as bad as the Status Quo fundi down the road or the ghastly fizzy popped mass produced puke flooding from most radios (At the moment it's Red Hot Chili Peppers; last summer it was endless Mark Ronsen remixes. )

Annoyingly it is still loud enough to overpower my TV even with all the windows and doors shut. There will be reaction. There is every year. Most of my neighbours have small children and after 9pm a lone voice will begin screaming at the neighbour's open window. Sooner or later there will be screaming back and then potentially - should he not turn the volume down- the low explosion of an air rifle fitted with a nappy silencer.


I’m keeping a low profile today as I also upset my neighbours this morning by stomping in a showy kind of way around the block several times holding onto a man who in turn was wearing a dog harness. A nice thick leather harness with a sold lead and chunky silver studs…..and a long yellow handle. Fetishism and all before lunch time…

Luckily I had already been through this ritual humiliation back in 2005 when I first thought about a guide dog so I was ready for the gasps and tutts, the dragging away of the children, the stifled giggles of the crowds around the supermarket. The idea is that the Guide Dog Man (or woman – they call them ‘beetches’) knows the guide dogs are worth a phenomenal amount of dosh what with all the breeding, training and vet bills and so before handing one to a ruffian such as myself they do an assessment of MY walking speed, ability to learn basic instructions and –obviously- ability to ignore a taunting mob. This is to ensure the dog doesn't end up with the wrong human.

'Wait.' I say firmly holding the yellow handle and therefore the nice Guide Dog man. The man waits by the kerb. A passing granny falls off her zimmer frame. I take a step back, raise my arm, gesture . 'Forward!' I command, my voice ringing out above the ice cream van and the open mouthed children. I tug the harness and the nice man crosses the road. 'Good boy.' I say. He is well over 6 foot tall or I would pat his head.

'Straight on,' I call and on we go, a trail of curious teenages following. He is walking too fast. A sharp tug on the harness and a warning ‘Steady’. He slows and I reach for a biscuit.
You think I am kidding.
I am not.

At least he didn't need to pee................

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Hot Cross Buns.

Easter weekend: part one:

I can see the pavement at my feet in a clear oval of sight, pale, yellow, paving stones, some cracked and dirty, some shifted and sticking out of alignment. My oval of sight is about ten inches across right in front of my nose. Like all tunnels it expands outwards and by the time it has extended to the pavement it is about five to ten feet across.

That’s enough to see paving stones, edges of pavements, white lines on the road but to see who is coming I need to relinquish my grip of sight on the pavement and like a mountaineer snatch a visual handhold of what is going on ahead. I straighten my head and I can see all the way to the horizon. All the way to the horizon but down my restricted tunnel of vision; thousands of feet of streets and leaves on trees and … a cyclist explodes past me on the right emerging from my clouded peripherals. Traffic booms on my left. I scan trying to grab that visual handhold but my vision slips. I stagger and stop, pretending to look over the bridge at the river below. For some reason I am so tired today I feel like sitting down right here on the wide, pale pavement of the flyover bridge. I could lie down. The paving stones look warm..not too dirty. I know I would sleep.

Its been like this on and off whilst I try and adjust to my changing vision. It is a lot of work walking along a pavement when you can either see your feet or ‘ahead’ but neither of the two together. If I were a cyborg I would have constant data flooding across my monitor. ….humanoid 50 metres ahead…collision possible… possible canine attached..warning warning loose toddler alert loose toddler.. BICYCLE…abort! Abort!...
I find myself rubbing at my neck where the tendons have tightened, constantly rolling my shoulders to loosen them. Sometimes I get home and crawl into bed fully clothed too tired to even undo my shoes – just leave them sticking out of the duvet, fall into deep unmoving sleep for 40 minutes and then get up adjust make up and get on with the evening.

Easter weekend: part two:

On Friday night my Dad’s partner rings from Zambia. She sounds fraught, her New York vowels rise. ‘I tol’ him! He won’t listen…I’m putting you on. You gotta tell him T, he is driving me crazy.’

My father voice comes over the phone line, clear but with a double echo. ‘I’m fine!’ he snorts. I did a malaria test. Its not malaria.’
He is shaking so much he can’t hold the phone.
‘Call a doctor.’ I shout.
‘I am a doctor’. He hisses.

The next morning he is on an IV line battling septicemia bought on by a gum abcess. He is still insisting all is well.
‘Ok, yes I was sick..but I am FINE now.’

‘I tol' him. I'm tellin' you, I told him..’ His partner’s voice echoes on the line. She is relieved but still furious.
It was a big scare for everyone.

In the background I can hear him ringing the little bell she has given him from the bedroom. The ringing is insistent.

By the next time I call she has confiscated it.

Easter weekend: part three:

‘Why can’t I see the village? According to this map we should be in a village.’
There is no village. We are standing in a wide, stubbled field without a barn, let alone a village in view. I am walking with my aunt on Easter Monday. We are both wincing slightly as we stride. I, trying to impress a supercilious Australian gym instructor, over did my weights in class and pulled something in my thigh. My aunt went horse riding out of the blue after many, MANY years and her butt is..well… you get the picture. Undeterred by our twitching muscles, we have been walking for a couple of hours and are happily lost but running out of ibrufen and in need of a pint.

The sun shines hazily, flickering through the budding trees, glittering along the river by the ancient mill. The open fields are almost empty of other people, grassy and lined with trees with paths disappearing off into the distance. There is so much beauty here that my eyes cannot grab it all fast enough. Taking out my camera slows us down, gives me time to look up from my feet and watch it all.

Isn’t it lovely?

And the pint? We find Horningsea and the pub has just opened and has golden ale on tap and ready salted crisps.

(All Cambridge/ Hornigsea photos (c) Tanvir Bush 2009)

Monday, 6 April 2009

Shooting Fences

Over the past couple of weeks I have started at least five blog posts…I tried writing about my interview at Bath Spa University, the week of training workshops in London, the film I saw the other night, the fact that my local supermarket has started selling the incredibly delicious bison grass vodka for a mere £15 a bottle.
But no matter what I wrote I have felt it to be silly and weak. My writing has been sulking.

Stumped on Saturday I went to visit my dear friend C, 88 years old blind and partially deaf with razor sharp wit and vampiric astuteness. We had been talking for about ten minutes when she stopped me and leant in close to my face, peering.

‘You look ten years old today,’ She said.

Amazed I realised that that was how I felt. Confused, baffled by the world, child-like. Not in control of my destiny.

‘I have writer’s block.’ I said.

She nodded and patted my hand.

How did she know that?’ I wondered.

C is pretty remarkable. Previously I had been telling her about my hopes and fears for the workshop I thought I might be facilitating, teaching blind and visually impaired people in London about photography and last week she suddenly announced that she wanted to have a go.

‘I keep seeing fences I want to shoot.’ She told me firmly.

Given that C is marvellously fierce I wasn’t sure if she meant with a camera and breathed a sigh of relief when she accepted a trial with my digital point-and-shoot Sony as opposed to me having to go out and score her a Colt revolver.

We went for a walk around the block. She gripping her wheeled Zimmer frame with my camera slung around her neck and shoulder like a gun.

‘There.’ she said. ‘I don’t know why I need to take its picture but just look at it. It…it ..makes me …’

She couldn’t finish but she didn’t need to. We both stood blinking at it.

The white picket fence gleamed in the sunlight- all sharp lines and severity. A dark shadow stretched tentatively from a nearby tree edging into the open gate.

In our conversations we often touch upon how dispossessed she feels by age and mostly by her deafness. How people talk across her, tell her what to do, what she can do, pat her and tell her ‘you’re a good girl’ when she is an 88 year old woman.

And this picket fence seems to capture something in its bright perky rigid gleaming.

She felt the edge of the fence to get an idea of distance and balancing the camera as we had practiced on her chest she took a couple of shots. Then we discovered the Zimmer frame had a seat so she could sit and get a lower angle.

C can only manage the walk around the block but in that short 40 minutes we saw so much and as the light in that soft, spring afternoon changed so everything changed. I knew we could come back here a hundred times and each photograph would be different.
Back at the house we were both energised and inspired. I rushed home to load the pictures on to my computer and I asked her if I could show you all couple.

The beginning of some really remarkable dialogue with light and emotion I think.

Thanks C.

(c) C. Rawlinson 2009

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Its all about the interpretation.

Please do not adjust your sets...normal transmission will begin again shortly. I promise.

Inspiration got sucked away last week in a flurry of London commuting and misguided miscommunication but have ordered some more on the internet and am told it will take 3 to 5 working days.

In the meantime, as I cannot show you MY interpretive dance, here is a photo of a Makishi dancer to convey my current mood!
I'll be back as soon as possible!

Makishi Dancer: Livingstone '09: Tanvir Bush (c)