Monday, November 29, 2010

The Sex Pistols Experience

I am an anti-christ
I am an anarchist
Don't know what I want but
I know how to get it
I wanna destroy passer by
Cos I...
Wanna be...

Just over a week ago, Rogan and I were up in Bathgate, Central Scotland, backstage with The Sex Pistols Experience - a tribute band to perhaps the most well known of all punk rockers.

Rogan with "Paul Crook", "Steve Clones", "Johnny Rotter" and "Kid Vicious"

As Dave, the drummer and founder of the group was keen to point out, the difference with a “tribute” band over a “cover” band is the effort is made to perform in the style of the characters of the original group as well as the music.

I’d noticed this when we saw them back at the Wickerman Festival in July. We’d been impressed not just by the quality of the playing, but by the theatre of their performances – swearing at each other, goading the audience and the attention to detail in their clothes and sneers.

Dave had found my photos on the web and, as the band had recently acquired a new guitarist, and most of their photos featured the previous guy, he wondered if I’d be ok if they could use my images on their website and poster in exchange for being credited and a link to my website.

After a few email exchanges with images attached, I suggested next time they were in Scotland they should let me know and I could take some proper photos of them. And so it was, in the middle of November, Rogan and I found ourselves invited to join them in Bathgate.

The backstage area given over to them turned out to be a barber's shop just round the corner from the gig (owned and run by Skid, the lead singer in the support band, Cash from Chaos), as the only available space at the venue was too small to fit everyone in. It was warm, dry and had mirrors so was ideal.

Relaxing before the gig

Getting the expressions right

No holding back

Faithful renditions

I don’t know if I should say they’re a great bunch of guys, as that might appear to undermine their stage personas, but we had a wonderful time. And for a brief moment, at least, I think I managed a small amount of “cool dad” in the eyes of my son for taking him along.

I took quite a few more photos both backstage and at the gig, the best of which I've uploaded to my Flickr account, here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Maggie's New Calendar

Over a week since my last blog post and I haven't even been away on holiday.

I've been busy with a couple of photoshoots - more of which will be blogged about later - and putting together a calendar book for Maggie.

We'd thought about making a calendar for a while, but couldn't find a site online that would create them where the quality justified the price and offered the possibility to sell it to anyone interested anywhere in the world.

Then I thought of

After being so impressed with the quality of my book accompanying the Staring Back exhibition, we had the idea of creating a calendar book that could be left on the desk, on a shelf or carried in a handbag, rather than the usual hanging on the wall.

So Maggie chose 12 images and set me to task to design page layouts and to construct the book using Blurb's Booksmart software.

Once uploaded, we ordered a copy to check the quality and are absolutely delighted with it.

You can click on the blurb widget below to preview the whole calendar book.

2011 Calendar by Maggie Ayres

And if you're interested in buying a copy (or several - blurb does a 10% discount for 10 or more) then follow this link:

Maggie's also blogging about it (click here)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Romantic Celebration

Given the blanket media coverage currently smothering every other news item, from wars and poverty to political shenanigans, you might assume from the title of this post that I’m adding my voice to the sycophantic hysteria surrounding the announcement of a royal engagement.

Well I’m not.

So is this post to be a diatribe against monarchical hierarchies and the utter bewilderment that in the 21st Century the British still put store by the idea of birthright enabling a tiny minority to have all the status and trappings of vast wealth, power and superiority over the rest of us plebs?

No, I’ll leave that for another day.

Is it about my bafflement that the new princess-in-waiting is being declared an ordinary girl next door despite meeting her husband-to-be at an elite university and having millionaires for parents?

Not really.

Perhaps then, my real beef is with the obsequious, smarmy, kowtowing, brown-nosing reporting of this event by the cringe-worthy fawning of TV and radio presenters who clearly have an eye on their CBEs, OBEs and knighthoods when Prince Willy is crowned King and are busy trying to ingratiate themselves in the most sickeningly toadying ways possible?

Tempting. But no.

Actually, all I want to say is today Maggie and I celebrate 20 years together! And as my stepdaughter, Holly, is happy to baby-sit, we’re heading out to an Italian restaurant for a meal tonight on our own.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Woods and forests are magical locations - places of mystery and faerie tales; wildlife and free food; pleasant walks and sustainable resources.

“Woodlanders” is a new book all about life in Britain’s forests, with writings and photos about the use of wood in ancient and new eco-buildings, the people who live and work with wood, and the community projects replanting native species and introducing new generations to the wonders of the woodlands.

With sections on everything from craft workers to compost toilets and even a recipe on birch sap wine, it’s the kind of book that makes you want to surround yourself with trees and breathe in moss, leaves sweet sap.

Featured in this book (pages 150-154) is an article about willow sculptor, Trevor Leat, whose amazing creations I’ve photographed several times (see Burns Light Festival and Wickerman posts, for example). And to accompany the article I was asked if some of my photos could be used.

Although you have to search through the small print of the Acknowledgements at the back to find my name, it is there, meaning I’ve not only had my images in magazines, I’ve now got some in a book that wasn’t even produced by me. Which is rather nice.

For anyone interested, it can be found on Amazon here.

Or for a peek at some of the pages and an interview with the editor, visit the publisher's pages here.


Friday, November 12, 2010

The Self Aware Universe


The atoms that make up every single part of our brains and bodies were created in the centres of stars billions of years ago. Each person may well be a unique configuration of those atoms, but these building blocks are older than the Earth itself.

As has been said, we are stardust.

But we are conscious stardust. Unlike the chair we are sitting on, we are aware of our surroundings and are capable of thinking about, reflecting upon and learning about the universe in which we exist.

We are the consciousness of the universe. We are the universe discovering itself.

We are not separate from it. We are it.

And if we look with powerful telescopes and understanding, we find in every direction the universe is expanding away from us. This means we are the centre of the universe.

But so is everyone and everything.

We are a unique collection of mindbogglingly ancient particles that have become self aware.

But most of the time we just get annoyed with people on the telly...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Smells like new carpet

This is it! After 2 years of being cramped in a small corner of Maggie’s studio, I now have my very own space again.

With Maggie recently settled in her new studio in Kirkcudbright (see Studios), we’ve been revamping the room she vacated.

The yucky green carpet that was here when we moved in has been rolled up and put in the attic; the walls have all been given a fresh coat of white paint; the creamy-yellow ceiling, door, skirting board, window frame and radiator have also been painted white; and finally, on Monday, a new carpet was put in.

Click on images for larger versions

I’ve also installed a set of white venetian blinds in the window (which I discovered too late are about 2cm too narrow for complete comfort, although the next size up would have been 28cm too wide).

The reason I wanted venetian blinds is it means when the sun is coming through the window, I can play with the wonderful effect of the shadows created by them – all very film noir.

Now all I need is some people to photograph...

Friday, November 05, 2010

That sinking feeling...

When I first went to the doctor complaining of feeling excessively tired, 4½ years ago, initial tests revealed a B12 deficiency. All it would take would be a series of injections to get me back to normal then 3-monthly jabs for the rest of my life to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

I wasn’t happy at the idea I would have to have these injections forever, but I was looking forward to having my energy back.

A year later nothing had changed. I was still easily exhausted after comparatively little exertion. After a series of tests failed to discover any reason for this I was given the label CFS – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

But this brought no comfort – all it really meant was I’d been given a label meaning “We accept you get fatigued easily but don’t know why.”

I was told some people get better, and some don’t. But there are things you can do, like graded exercise and cognitive behaviour therapy, which, while they won’t cure you, should help you to cope better.

I found this difficult to accept and insisted on seeing some kind of specialist. After several more months I saw one who thought it was probably just Depression. When being on anti-depressants made no difference to my fatigue he just shrugged his shoulders and said there was nothing more he could think of.

Still, I refused to accept the idea that no one knew what was wrong with me or could come up with any kind of solution. When something was spotted in a blood test that lead to the discovery I have haemochromatosis, I thought this could be it, but it turned out to just be a coincidental condition.

I pushed to have some kind of sleep study done, but after several months to get the appointment, 8 months more to get the results and 10 additional months to try out a CPAP machine for sleep apnoea, it was concluded that probably wasn’t the problem either.

Earlier this year I saw a different doctor and went through the standard blood tests again in case anything was missed first time round but the results were the same – apparently I’m perfectly healthy and they have no idea why I get so tired.

I even went through extreme diet changes for several months to rule out food intolerances, which made no difference whatsoever.

The CFS has not gone away on its own or with the help of the medical establishment. Finally, nearly 5 years later, I’m coming to the sinking conclusion that it’s not going to. All along, I've been clinging to the hope that this condition will pass sooner or later. But now I have to face the fact I’m highly unlikely to ever return to having the energy levels that would allow me to live in the way most other people do.

Maybe I need to let go and grieve for the loss of the life I thought I was going to have, and only once I’ve been through that process will I be able to properly move on with the life I actually have.