Early this morning, Jackie read out extracts from a debate on the BBC News website on the subject of municipal Christmas decorations. Opinions concerned comparisons of the quality of those of today, when we are all strapped for cash, with those of yesteryear, when our memories are possibly coloured by the glow of childhood magic. Between now and 25th December I will feature a daily picture ‘I made earlier’, so my readers may judge for themselves. I did, admittedly, focus on London West End’s Oxford and Regent Streets, some of whose cast-offs seem to turn up later in our small towns. A little late in starting, and possibly finishing early if I don’t find enough subjects in my archives, let us think of it as my advent calendar.
This year’s Regent Street display, albeit in the dull light of late afternoon, was featured in my A Double Six post. It seems to me that it loses out to that same street’s decoration of December 1963.
It was Mike Vaquer, a colleague in the Yorkshire Insurance Company for which I worked in 1963/4, who recommended the Kodak Retinette 1b, introduced me to the pleasures of colour slides as a medium, and took me with him for a year or so to photograph the West End decorations. The two of us eagerly awaited these annual trips, each descending on the capital from our respective suburban homes. Mike was a little older than me, didn’t have a family, and could therefore invest in a top of the range Pentax. Mind you, he still needed a rangefinder attachment. I photographed him on our 1964 expedition.
For those of my readers unfamiliar with them, an advent calendar consists of a scene printed on stiff cardboard containing 25 little doors, one of which is opened each day from 1st December until 25th. They enthral children, and adults who haven’t forgotten the eager anticipation that comes with them as the great day beckons.
We spent the morning making, writing, and addressing Christmas cards.
This afternoon Jackie drove us up to Abbotswell car park at Frogham. She stayed in the car whilst I wandered across the heathland. I walked in the opposite direction to my journey from Godshill, along a wide track behind the strip of mostly comparatively modern houses in the village. Eventually the path met the road and I took a narrow footpath down the flinty terrain to the left. This area was criss-crossed by such paths, generously signposted by cairns of pony droppings, and often leading to houses perched on the slopes and enjoying marvellous views across the forest.
The acoustics in the scooped out valley were such that sounds carried across the bowl, and I could hear conversations before the speakers came into view. At one point, two voices belonging to a couple concealed by scrub above me descended in my direction at the same time as hidden others penetrated the branches of trees below. Something told me there was a potential photograph waiting by the bed of a stream. Poised, I focussed my lens on a gap in the trees and waited for the shot. Two riders, who eventually proved to be three, emerged and trotted, chatting, up the slope. Soon after I pressed the shutter, a young couple with a golden retriever appeared from the higher ground. During our ensuing chat they told me that a herd of deer were often to be seen where the riders were. They are identified by one which the young man called an albino.
Some time after my two conversationalists had left, they came into view by a house on the same level as the stream. Unfortunately, I hadn’t anticipated that, and, needing to be quick before losing sight of them, snatched at the camera, and took an out of focus picture.
Shortly before sunset we repaired to The Foresters Arms for a drink before returning home, ready for our evening meal which consisted of chicken marinaded in lemon and piri-piri sauce and roasted with red and yellow peppers; ratatouille; roast potatoes and parsnips; and brussel sprouts, followed by lemon meringue pie and cream. I drank a glass of Roc de Lussac Saint Emilion 2011.