Metelkova is an area in the centre of Ljubljana that was originally a military barracks, then was squatted in the early 90s when the Yugoslav army pulled out after Slovenia declared independence, and is now full of social centres, workshops and gig venues. (And a hostel where I stayed overnight before crossing the border to Klagenfurt for work).
I’ve got three new zines out- one about France, one about Italy, and one about film photography
So I’m back in the UK. For good now. Most of this week has been taken up with house-hunting, arranging vans etc. More on that soon. I don’t like to count my chickens before they’re hatched.
However, I was tidying up the folders on my computer this week, and found these miscellaneous photos of Vienna from February.
So I’ve finally put up all the photos I took in Japan. Below is a summary and links to each post. I have also created some designs for gifts and homewares over on Society 6 with my photographs from Japan. You can find them here.
Here’s a Spotify playlist I made while I was in Japan, of Japanese artists and music that matched my mood at the time. (All the Japanese bands are marked with a J).
One of our final stop-offs in Japan was Hiroshima. Hiroshima is most famous for being the first city (and so far 50% of all cities) to be nuclear bombed. Nearly everything in the city was destroyed, and at least 50% of the population died, with the survivors often suffering extreme health problems afterwards. Nearly all the buildings in the city are modern- the Atomic Dome pictured above was one of the few old buildings standing. Visiting Hiroshima has only increased my belief in nuclear disarmament. (And I’m for unilateral disarmament- something the UK government had the chance to do last year but didn’t, with choosing to renew the Trident missiles).
An important aspect of Japanese shrines and temples are ema plaques (the name 絵馬 literally means “picture horse”). These are small wooden signs with a picture on one side. You write a wish on it and hang it up (or take it home as a souvenir). Each site has its own design, so I made a collection of photos of different ones I saw in Japan. They are originally a Shinto tradition, but can also be found at Buddhist temples. At bigger sites you can find messages written in a lot of different languages.
While we were in Nara we also visited a traditional Japanese tea garden. Unfortunately the tea house was shut, and it was raining, but it was still a lovely garden.
Our final stop in Japan before flying home from Osaka was Nara. In the 700s it was the capital of Japan, at the time when Buddhism really became established in Japan. Nowadays as well as Buddhism, it’s known for the tame deer who live in the forest park surrounding the temples and shrines. We stayed in a hostel in the forest. It seemed a short walk from the train station, but we ended up walking along dark forest paths dragging cases seemingly forever, with deer staring at us accusingly like something out of Princess Mononoke. (The hostel turned out to be a pretty weird place too).
While I was in Japan we visited the island of Okunoshima. In the Second World War it was a top secret chemical weapons plant, but now is a nature reserve famous for its free-ranging tame rabbits, who are probably the descendants of the lab rabbits.
I have a zine of articles about children’s writer Diana Wynne Jones (of Howl’s Moving Castle et al) I wrote this zine in 2011, also managing to interview her before she sadly died (you can also read the interview online here). The original edition was 1/6 of an A3 sheet, made on a Risograph machine. This was great when I still had access to an A3 Riso machine, but after I didn’t it was very expensive and difficult to reprint, so it went out of print. Recently I did a new edition, with all-new illustrations, in a much more convenient standard A6 size
Benesse House on Naoshima doesn’t allow photos of their modern art collection, so here is a selection of works I like by some artists I saw there. I though the space of the museum was wonderful, but the fact that there was no information about the artworks was a letdown. If you didn’t know much about modern art already, you might not have got much out of the visit, which is a bad thing for a museum, seeing as one of the main reasons to go is to learn new things.
Naoshima is tiny idyllic island in the Seto Inland sea devoted to modern art. The opening of the Benesse modern art museum (owned by the same organisation as Berlitz language schools) revived the island’s fortunes, although it’s still a small and quiet place with only a few villages and a lot of old people.
Kyoto is famous for its Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, many of which are UNESCO world heritage sites. There are so many in the city that even though I spent a whole day walking round different sites, I only saw a small percentage of them. People place stones on these Shinto torii gates for good luck. You can also see my photos of ema good luck plaques here.
Here’s some more photos of Kyoto. I have split the pictures up into several entries. You can see more photos from Kyoto and other cities in the Japan category, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote. Kyoto is famous for its cherry blossom, but sadly we were there a couple of weeks earlier than it comes out in full bloom. You did see the odd bud here and there though.
When I was in Japan I went to the Studio Ghibli Museum just outside of Tokyo. Sadly pictures were not allowed inside, but I wrote about it in my zine of the trip. I highly recommend the museum, it’s magical. The bookshop was also stocked with Miyazaki’s own favourite books, as well as books related to the studio’s films. I didn’t buy anything, as they were all in Japanese, and it would take me forever to read anything, but I noted down a lot of less well-known books I saw in the shop to compile a reading list (helpfully the copyright tends to list the author’s names in roman text rather than try to make it fit katakana). Unfortunately I wasn’t able to write down the Japanese author’s names in most cases as reading unknown names written in kanji is very tricky. However Miyazaki made a list of classic children’s books (including a lot of the usual suspects like The Secret Garden) elsewhere which also includes some Japanese recommendations.
Here’s some photos of details of the Zen moss gardens of Kyoto.
Here’s some photos of Kyoto. I have split the pictures up into several entries. You can see more photos from Kyoto and other cities in the Japan category, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote. While I was there I also met up with local zinester and researcher Kiyoshi Murakami (村上 潔), who kindly took me to some of his favourite places in the city:
Here’s a selection of instagram photos I took in Tokyo. I felt I was giving it short shrift only having one post with a few photos. You can see more in the Japan category, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote.
I took a lot of photos in Japan, and it’s taken me a while to sort through them. I’ll be spreading out the posts over this week to avoid having one giant pile of photos at once. I wrote a zine (available here) about the trip to Japan as well, so I’ll save blog posts for the pictures (which you will be able to find under the Japan category).
These are from Tokyo. I didn’t actually take that many DSLR photos in Tokyo, mostly film and phone photos. You can see the phone pictures on my Instagram account, with all of the neon skyscrapers you’d expect from Tokyo. The gate above is in Taito, an area further out of town where we stayed.
So I haven’t updated here for over a month, and updates have been thin on the ground all year. That’s mainly because I spent most of January and February working in Austria, most of March in Japan without a computer, and have been busy since I returned just over a week ago.
I have been in Austria for a week and a half now for teaching work. I meant to update last week, but some brutal 7.30 am start times, heavy snow, a lot of planning to do outside the classroom, and a diet of pure stodge in a small town with few dining options (and even fewer options for vegetarians) tired me out. It feels strange to be in small-town Austria, where not much tends to happen, while political turmoil with dire consequences for many vulnerable people goes on around the world.
I’m in Brno in the Czech Republic for a week before starting work in Austria next week. The Czech Republic is having a much colder winter than usual, with heavy snow. Yesterday we went down to Brno Resevoir, which had unusually frozen over.
This March I’m going to Japan for two weeks with my friend Vicky (also of Pen Fight zine distro), co-inciding with her 30th birthday.
A little while ago, I won a competition I’d entered at a food fair run by Japan Centre food halls.The top prize was two flights to Osaka courtesy of Air France KLM, five nights stay at the Hyatt hotel in Kyoto (way, way out of my normal budget), and a free tour of the Gekkeikan Sake Brewery. The runners up got free sake. I’ve entered this kind of competition before, but only ever won the free booze at best, so I was astonished to hear that I was the winner, and didn’t quite believe it was real until the whole trip was firmly booked yesterday. So a big thank you to Kim at Japan Centre (and also for the delicious free lunch at the company’s restaurant when I collected the prize).
After Malcesine, Limone sul Garda and Riva del Garda, I present to you Torbole. I went to Torbole just because the boat from Riva del Garda to Malcesine stopped there along the way, and I’d never been there before. It was a weird little place. Like Riva, it used to be in Austria until 1918. Everyone except the staff of the restaurants seemed to be German, and really into intensely staring at you in the street. The light and the way the water looked along the harbour front was beautiful though, and I spent most of the hour before the boat back sitting on a bench soaking it in. I don’t think this is a real place, I think it’s a screen from one of those new-age computer games from the 90s like Myst.
So far I’ve shown you Malcesine and Limone sul Garda. I also took the boat to Riva del Garda at the northern end of the lake (which is also in a different province- Trentino). It was raining all day, so I figured I might as well go to the colder, rainy end of the lake and visit the museum, and save the outdoorsy stuff on the southern end like archaeological sites for a sunny day.
Now I’m heading over to Limone sul Garda on the other side of the lake. I didn’t spend much money while I was in Italy, but a hefty chunk of the (tiny) budget went on ferry tickets. Boats constantly criss-cross the lake to all the towns, and it’s the most scenic way to see the area. If you’re in a hurry, you can take the bus on land, but I was on holiday, so by definition, not in a hurry.
At the end of May I went on a last-minute trip to Italy by myself. I had given up my tenancy in London, because I was fed up of paying a small fortune to a landlord who was unwilling to fix the serious leak in the ceiling that was probably going to bring the plaster down sometime soon, and a relative asked me to house-sit. The house-sitting date then changed, but it turned out to be cheaper for me to visit friends in Yorkshire, and then go on holiday for a week than it was to extend my tenancy, which shows how ridiculous the prices are in London now. As it was a last minute thing, I had to go on my own. I don’t mind travelling solo though, I used to do it regularly for work, and travelling alone is better than going on holiday with someone who doesn’t want to do any of the same things as you. (In my case, wandering aimlessly for hours and hours, taking hundreds of photographs and eating a lot). I also got to re-read The Name of the Rose in peace.
My mother lives in a small town in Northern France called Lassay-les-Châteaux. For a few years she’s had a holiday caravan in a park nearby, and at Christmas she bought a house in the town. The English version of wikipedia has practically nothing to say about Lassay-les-Châteaux other than showing photos of two of the three local castles- one in the town centre, the other two just outside. (The town’s name also sounds like it means “leave the castles” in French). The French entry doesn’t tell you much more, except that a lot of people were guillotined there in the Revolution, the local mayor doesn’t belong to a political party (after a long line of right-wingers), and that Victor Hugo visited once. It’s just not a place where things happen. If you want the quiet life, you can find it in Lassay.
I love to travel, but I don’t have much money. Although long-haul flights and luxury holidays are out of my reach at the moment I’ve managed to see a fair bit of the world for not very much, and perhaps my budget limitations have meant that I’ve seen some interesting places I might have otherwise missed out on.
I find online budget travel tips not that great though. They seem to swing from “save money by only eating ityereal bars and sleeping on trains on your trip” to “cram in thirty museums in one day with this special ticket” to “get this special Air Miles credit card only available in Florida, and book your flights at 3am on Thursdays Alaska time”. I want to eat nice food from the cuisine of the country in question; sleep in a clean, safe and comfortable hotel room in a convenient location; and get a chance to explore and see things properly, not treating sights like a tick list to complete as quickly as possible. I don’t want to be cold, hungry, exhausted, or put myself in danger; this is supposed to be fun. I just don’t have a lot of money to spend.
I went to Mont St Michel last week for the first time in years. It’s a medieval abbey on an island on the border between Normandy and Brittany, about an hour’s drive from my mum’s house in France. We went there a few times when I was a kid, and the last time I was there was in the late 90s on a school trip. It has dramatically changed since then.
There was something a bit seedy and cynical about the place in the 90s despite the spectacular town itself. Buses and cars drove over the causeway to the island, and parked in a decrepit carpark on the shore, which had a tendency to flood. As you made your way up through the snaking medieval street to the abbey at the top of the peak, there were endless shops selling cheap replica hunting knives, saucy postcards and boxes of firecrackers. It must have been a nightmare for teachers supervising school groups.
My daytrip round the Øresund in Denmark and Sweden.
About 6 weeks ago I went on a short break to Denmark and Sweden. It shows how busy I’ve been lately that it’s taken me so long to post these. I unexpectedly had some extra holiday days I had to use up quickly before the end of my work contract, and none of my friends were free to travel on the specific weekend I had to use them, so I went by myself. I saw cheap flights to Copenhagen, and booked them on a whim, on the grounds that I’d never been to Denmark before, and it was also easy to visit Sweden from Copenhagen. I also have a danish friend Sanne I used to work with in London, so I arranged to meet up with her while I was there and drink some Mikkeller beer at normal prices (rather than the exorbitant prices they charge in the UK). (Good luck with the PhD viva Sanne!). I liked Denmark a lot, although I’m not sure if I’d want to live there. They seem very set in their ways. In fact it reminded me a lot of Austria, but with sea rather than mountains.
Tomorrow I’m going on holiday to Copenhagen for 5 days, somewhere I’ve never been before. I’ve visited Iceland, Finland and Estonia before, the outliers in the Nordic group of countries, and all in the winter, but I’ve never visited the core three Scandinavian countries in their famous long-dayed summers (although I’ve been in the Highlands of Scotland in the summer before, which is very similar). Copenhagen is within a short train ride of Malmö in Sweden (in fact Scania used to be in Denmark at one time), so I’ll kill two birds with one stone and visit Sweden too. As well as Copenhagen, I’m going to try to visit Roskilde, the Louisiana Art Museum and Elsinore, which are all nearby. (I’m not going to Legoland because it’s at the other end of the country, and I’ve been to the UK one loads for work anyway).
Here’s an interesting place just outside Rabat in Morocco. Chellah was a Roman city, which later became a necropolis for the tombs of marabouts, wandering Sufi holy men, who often take on the role of saints after death. I took these pictures over a decade ago, when digital cameras weren’t as good as today, so apologies for any burnt out highlights or other optical issues- the rest of the photos can be seen here.
Here’s some photos from a trip to Morocco I’ve dug out of the archives from when I first got a digital camera in 2004 (you can see the whole album here). I was in between my first and second years of university, and bought a cheap digital camera from Aldi, it was surprisingly decent though, and it’s hard to take bad photos in Morocco because the light is so clear and the colours are so vibrant. Most of these pictures are from Rabat or Essaouira.
I used to do a lot of photography, but I don’t do half as much now, which is a bit of a pity. My flickr account (which I started in 2007) has 376 albums and 4976 photos. I thought I’d do some regular posts with photos from some of the older albums. I’ll tag them as “from the archives”, especially as a lot of them are from well before I started this blog, or moved it from blogger to wordpress. Here are some photos from a trip to Whitstable in January 2008. It was my birthday, and I went on a trip to the coast with my friend Bryony and our then boyfriends. I had this Kodak slide duplication film I’d got in a giant bag of expired film I’d got for 50p per roll a few years earlier, and kept in the freezer. I’m not sure if it was taken with a Lomo LCA or an Olympus XA2. I had both at the time. I still have them in a box under the bed, but they’re both slightly broken, because I got them very, very cheaply second-hand (I think they were both about £15). I should get round to fixing them at some point. I think they’re fixable. These pictures were cross processed in C41, and then scanned. The pictures on my flickr account are a little small by modern standards, but screens were smaller then, and storage space on Flickr limited. I still have the negatives filed away, anyway.
I had two never-before-seen zines to bring with me to the Sheffield Zine Fest (photos of the festival coming later in the week). Issue 22 was new, whereas issue 14 has a bit of a history. I made no. 14 a few years ago, mislaid the pages, found them again last year and finished some bits off, made a few copies, mislaid them again moving house and then found them again recently. Now they’re safe in a folder with all my other master copies, scanned to a pdf, and available to print whenever I want.
I often like to get some fresh air in my lunch break by walking along the canal near my work. There’s not a lot there, just some houseboats and a small lock, and a lot of lunchtime joggers and the odd person eating sandwiches on a sunny day. I’m a big fan of canals, and I think I’ve walked along pretty much the whole length of this one at various points.
Here’s some more photos from Paris (again taken with a Pentax ME super and expired Poundland film with a strange red cast), from my general wandering around. Wandering is one of my favourite things to do. In French it’s flâner, and someone who wanders around a city, observing things and casually exploring is a flâneur or a flâneuse, much celebrated in literature. I did a lot of that on my recent trip, both because I was on such a tight budget, and also because I was on my own, so I was free to spend my time as I liked. I’m in the middle of writing a new zine about the trip. Hopefully I’ll have it finished by the Sheffield Zine Fest next weekend.
Here’s some more film photos from the Jardin de Luxembourg in Paris. (Luxembourg is one of those words I always have to look up the spelling of, otherwise I’m tempted to insert all kinds of extra vowels).
Here’s some more pictures of Paris, this time of the Canal Sainte-Martin, once again taken with an old Pentax ME Super from the 70s. The film was expired and from Poundland, and went through the x-ray machine at the airport, which resulted in it having a red cast. I colour corrected it out where I could, but the pictures don’t quite reflect the aqua green water as I saw it. I also took some b&w pictures of the same area, which I’ve developed but not yet scanned.
I actually attended this funeral/memorial for children’s writer Diana Wynne Jones over 2 years ago. I had meant to write about it for a long time, but I didn’t want to write anything without having the programme of speakers from the event to hand, and it stubbornly disappeared until recently when I had a big clear out of papers (and faded with some print rubbed off after 2 years), so here it is.
When I was in Liechtenstein, I went to the Modern Art museum there. I was really impressed with the quality of the museum, especially in such a small country. They had a special exhibition about Swiss artist André Thomkins (whose estate had donated his works to the museum). I hadn’t come across him before, but I really enjoyed what I saw (and his large array of German puns), especially the short film where he was talking and demonstrating how he made marbled paintings by floating lacquer on top of water, something he started experimenting with after washing a brush he’d been painting furniture with.
While I was in Paris I visited the famous Père Lachaise cemetery, and took a lot of photos both monochrome and colour, which I will post later. One roll, however, turned out to be half-used already and I ended up with double exposures. It turned out I’d already taken photos of a place called Domfront in Normandy with it. Domfront is a bit of a ghost town, which made me laugh to get double exposures of a literal graveyard over a figurative one.
I wandered up from near the Opera (where the hotel was) through back streets up to the top of the hill, where the church is. I think it’s a much better route. You see lots of interesting tucked-away things, and avoid crowds and having to climb lots of steps.
I used to go to Austria quite a lot to run workshops in schools, travelling from school to school each week. I started writing this zine after my first trip to Vienna in 2010, didn’t finish it, and then finished it off a couple of years later. I made a few copies at the time, but then mislaid the pages again when moving house, so barely anyone has read it. I recently found them again, and scanned them, so people can order it now!
My university library had a massive stack of printing industry annuals from the 1890s through to the 20s. I always enjoyed looking through them because the illustrations and articles they chose to showcase new printing technologies were often really odd, and were good to photocopy for collages and zines. Next to them on the shelf was a strange little book called Professor Knatschke. It’s a comedy book written and illustrated in 1912 by Alsatian satirist Jean-Jacques Waltz, aka Hansi, about a clueless German professor and his daughter’s trip to Paris, mocking both the French and the Germans (but mostly the Germans) in a more innocent pre-WW1 pre-Nazi era. I always really liked the illustrations (and Elsa K’s obsession with making gifts embroidered with “inspiring” mottoes) , and now it’s available free online as a copyright-free ebook.
In other old photos I’ve dug out recently, here’s some photos of Liechtenstein from last summer. I’m currently writing a zine about that trip, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here.
Liechtenstein is a very weird place. It’s one of the smallest countries in Europe, and is essentially a small Swiss town that is a separate country by historical accident, and now stays a separate country because they have a nice income from being a corporate tax haven. The entire country has one high school. I was working at a school just across the border in Austria, and there were a fair few students from Liechtenstein at the school. The capital Vaduz has a small parliament building, an impressive castle, a small museum like that of any small town, a really big and impressive modern art museum, a big post office that does a roaring trade in souvenir stamps and a town square with some expensive cafes and assorted useful shops. There’s, Schaan, a suburban town where most people live, a couple of other villages and a big supermarket, some lovely mountains and that’s the whole country really. I saw pretty much most of it in an afternoon, which you can’t say for most countries.
In the days when I worked at Hampton Court I got to go to quite a few of their special events. They had a roster of actors who could portray the various monarchs who had lived at the palace (and two Henry VIIIs) and would do special days with re-enactments based on various time periods or themes. On one of the days they had a day based on science in the time of Charles II. I found some photos when I was tidying up the computer the other day.
A little while ago I went to visit my pál Erika (sorry, can’t resist the terrible pun) in Surrey for blackberry picking. Her friends Stephanie and Katja came down too, and we went out on a sunny day into the woods and picked some berries and had a picnic and drinks (for N. American readers, British woods aren’t very wild). Blackberries grow everywhere here at the end of August and most of September. They don’t belong to anyone, and it’s safe and legal to pick and eat them. I used to pick huge amounts of them when I was growing up. They’re also good for jam, pies, crumbles, coulis and wine-making. We made jam this time. Foxes also like them as much as humans.
I went to the Tate Britain the other day. I went there planning to go to the Folk Art exhibition, but realised I didn’t have the time or money to do it justice that day, and what I was actually in the mood for was post-war modern art. So that’s what I looked at.
A while back I went to Fishbourne Palace. In the 1960s engineers digging a new drain in a village just outside Chichester discovered some Roman mosaics. When they were excavated, they turned out to belong to the one of the largest Roman palaces outside Italy. My thing I wrote for Storyboard this month is based on it (and yes, the building really does look like a swimming pool). No one is one hundred percent sure who it belonged to, the most common guess is Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus, the local chieftain / Roman ally / client king, but there are no inscriptions or historical records either backing it up or proving otherwise.
I also went to the Library of Birmingham. Initially I went to see the Daniel Meadows exhibition, but the building was so large and impressive that I ended up spending a lot of time there, and didn’t end up going to the City Museum. It has nine floors, multiple exhibition spaces and two roof gardens.
While I was in Birmingham, I visited the Pen Museum. Because I gave a small donation, one of the kind volunteers essentially gave me a personal guided tour.
While I was walking around the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, I saw the most amazing car park inside a demolished building. The roof and front wall were gone, but the side walls and floor were still there, with fire exit signs hanging off the walls, and cars parked on top of chipped floor tiles.
Last week I went to Birmingham for the day. I got some cheap train tickets in the sale, it was only a fiver each way. I had bought them at the same time as my tickets for my ill-fated Glasgow trip the week before (got tickets to see my friend Chloe in Glasgow for £30 return, missed the train by 1 minute due to transport holdup, and Virgin wanted £140 for a new single, so I had to forget about it). Every time I’ve been to Euston recently, I’ve thought “hmm, I haven’t been to Birmingham for over a decade, it’s not far away, I should go there”. So I did.
Last month I went to visit my mum in France. She lives just outside a small town called Lassay les Châteaux. It does indeed have several ruined castles. It’s on the Pays de la Loire / Normandy border, and most of the houses in town are old stone cottages. She considered buying one, but it was too damp. When people are thinking of France being cosmopolitan and chic, they are not thinking of rural Normandy. It’s a lot like Derbyshire, but without the mountains. The local cuisine is heavy on tripe, bacon and sour cream, served with teacups full of cider (there are two rival triperies in another nearby town). While I was there, I mostly ate my own weight in brioche and sour cream, and sat in the sun reading a book about the post-war political history of Europe. I took quite a lot of photos on film, so I’ll wait until I have those developed before writing more.
On the way from Niederösterreich to Vorarlberg I stopped off alone in Salzburg along the way. I had to change trains in Vienna, and after a week of hearty, dairy-laden alpine food I was very, very thankful to eat some dhal and chapattis at the station. I really, really liked Salzburg and would gladly return there. I don’t know what it is about the city, but it just had a really nice atmosphere. I arrived at about 5pm, found the hotel really easily, and dumped my stuff and went for a wander. It’s an old university town, with a castle perched on an outcrop of the mountain looking down. There is a stereotype in Austria that people in Salzburg are snobby, but I found them friendly enough.
While in Kirchberg-am-Wechsel we were given a tour of a disused church perched up on the mountainside. It has suffered a lot of misfortune over the years (if you can read German there is a wikipedia article here), it burnt down and was rebuilt twice, and is furnished with all kinds of leftovers from other churches, which makes it more interesting.
While in Kirchberg am Wechsel I also got to go on a tour of Hermannshöhle with another teacher. It’s a series of caves inside one of the mountains, with lots of stalactites and a bat colony. Usually the tours are at set times and only in German, but we got a private tour in English, which was really nice.
Last Summer I spent a week working at the junior school in Kirchberg am Wechsel, a tiny mountain town on the eastern end of the Alps on the border between Lower Austria and Styria. It is essentially one long street between some mountains, with “Lower Austria’s finest stalactite cave” (more on that later) and a yearly Wittgenstein festival. As mountains go, by Austrian standards they are pretty tame, mostly being below the tree-line. When I said something to the kids about the mountains they basically went “what mountains?” and when I pointed out of the window they went “oh yeah, those, there are much better mountains in other places”. Still, I like any kind of mountains, and the Wechsel is still 1,743m high, so it’s hardly a hill. Mountains/hills and water, that’s what I like. I wouldn’t do well somewhere like Kansas.
I spent a lot of last summer travelling up and down the Alps by train. Here are a couple of pictures I took out of the window. Taking photos from the window of a moving train can be very frustrating, you see a spectacular view, but by the time you have taken a photo something like a fence is in the way. I like long-distance solo train trips, especially ones with spectacular scenery and no stress or time pressure when it comes to connections.Both of these pictures are somewhere near the Austrian/German border. Interestingly German for nightmare is Alptraum – “Alp dream”. That alp is a night time incubus type thing, not the mountains, but it gives a strange mental image if you’re an English speaker. An Alp dream would probably involve frolicking with goats in a sunny mountain pasture. I clearly read Heidi too often when I was younger.
We also went to the baroque St Nicholas’ church in Prague. I’m not at all religious (and it seems neither are the Czechs), but I like visiting churches for the art and architecture. I really liked the faces of the statues inside, especially this bishop type who seems to be going “who? me?”.
The pavements in the Old Town in Prague are all decorated with mosaics. Perhaps they’re not so great for the feet, or people with wheelchairs or buggies, but they do look good.
Puppetry is a big thing in the Czech Republic. As well as being the home of Jan Švankmajer and Jiří Trnka, there are a few puppet shops in the Old Town in Prague selling the work of local puppet artists. I’m afraid I didn’t get the names of the artists who made these ones I photographed. I really wanted to buy a small puppet, they weren’t hugely expensive, but I didn’t have much chance of getting it home in one piece, so I reluctantly gave it a miss.
We didn’t have a long time in Prague, so we didn’t get to sample that many places, but the ones we did go to all seemed to be based on books. Fun, and a little strange. (And the beer in the Czech Republic is both very cheap and very good).
After a week in Dresden at the end of August, I went to Prague for the weekend with my work colleague Hazel. We both had to go to Vienna en route to our next assignment, so it made sense to fit in a quick trip to Prague on the way.
I spent a week in Dresden. When I wasn’t working, I was exploring, either alone, or with my co-worker Hazel. The city was completely flattened in the Second World War (pointlessly in my opinion- it happened right at the end of the war, and Dresden wasn’t an industrial target). The DDR regime didn’t do much to restore the old town centre, but after reunification it was all put back together as much as possible as it was before (they kept a lot of the stones in a warehouse). The the city is a strange mix of restored Baroque, super-spruced up restored buildings, dilapidated buildings waiting to be restored, and randomly spaced gaps of bomb sites that haven’t been built on yet. The setting of the city is along the River Elbe- you can see the wide banks left empty here- it’s prone to flooding. The local accent also sounds very much like a Brummie speaking German.
I’m fascinated by the history of the Cold War. Both the political side, and the social history of people’s everyday lives. I’ve always been extra fascinated by the former DDR, both because I can speak the language and because they tried so hard to be a “model” Iron Curtain society. You read about people being “internal emigrés”. Being a good comrade and worker on the surface, but internally escaping to their own world via drink or just plain daydreaming. I suppose that’s what I’d do in the situation. I have a lot of thoughts on the subject, but I’m currently writing a zine about the trip this summer, so I’ll save them for there.
When I was in Dresden, I bought a photography book by a local photographer. Günter Starke lived in Dresden Neustadt, the area just across the river from the historical centre, in the 70s and 80s, and took a lot of photos. Despite the name, Neustadt is full of old buildings that escaped bombing during the war (it’s only new compared to the baroque city centre), and in the communist days, the local council concentrated on building blocks of flats and housing estates to house families.
I’ve spent most of the past month travelling around Germany and Austria teaching. It’s for an extra-curricular school programme. You do activities to boost the children’s speaking confidence in English, work on creative projects, and put on a show for the parents with presentations of the projects, and drama written by the students. You don’t need to speak German to do the job, and you never speak German in the classroom, but of course it comes in useful to understand if the kids are being naughty, and in your time outside the classroom.
I’m currently in Kirchberg am Wechsel, at the eastern end of the Austrian Alps for work. I didn’t really have much access to the internet last week in Dresden, so I haven’t updated properly. I saw most of the sights, also went to the DDR Museum in Radebeul and ate a lot of pastry and spätzle.
Flickr have massively changed their website recently, and I took the chance to go through all my old photos and re-organise them a bit, so I’ll be digging up various things from the archives over the next few weeks. Here’s some of Bracknell from 2005.
The other week I went for a walk along the eastern end of the Regent’s Canal with my dad. I used to live down the other end of it, and I’ve pretty much walked the entire length a lot of times. It’s one of the few short canals around here, most of the others are long intercity ones.
Earlier today I met up with my friend Chloe on her way up to Glasgow, and we went to the Souzou exhibition with her old flatmates. When she went to catch the train, I decided to fit in a visit to the Petrie Museum round the corner in UCL too, which I hadn’t been to for a long time. (I tried to say hi to Jeremy too, but his box was closed).
I have been busy recently, and the ever-present backlog of photos and so on I mean to post gets ever longer. Here’s some photos I took of Brighton Pier at some point. I have no idea when I took them, probably when I lived in Brighton, but I scanned them the other week.
Every so often I like to write on here about things I like, and why I like them. I’ve (finally) been finishing my zine about Vienna, and there’s a section about Hundertwasser in there, but I didn’t really have enough space to say everything that I wanted to say, and in a b&w zine obviously you totally miss out on the colours, which are a major part of his work, so here is a longer thing about him and his work. I’ve visited the Kunsthaus/Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna quite a few times, and I wrote about one of my visits here. I first came across his work in 2001, when I was 16/17, and bought a £3 book from a discount shop because it looked interesting from a quick flick through. I’m glad I did! All the pictures in this entry are either taken by me, or come from hundertwasser.at. I don’t feel like I’ve really caught my exact favourites here, but collecting images from lots of different sources and making sure they were all credited properly would have taken a long, long time. Here’s an overview of some things.
I found this film at the bottom of a plastic sleeve full of collage stuff. I’d carefully cut round each picture on the negative, so it was individually cut out with a neat border, and I have absolutely no idea why I did it. The orange mask on c41 film makes it impossible to see the picture unless you hold it up to the light, and cutting the pictures out individually from 120 film is a stupid idea, and I would have known better since I was about 16. I first started using medium format film in 2004, when I was about 20, so I really don’t know.
Last night I scanned about 20 rolls of film. Here’s the first one, some pinhole photos I took in Cornwall a few years ago, using the Diana + (you can remove the lens and use it as a pinhole camera). I think they’re of St Ives and Mousehole. They’re pretty soft looking, because I just rested the camera on a wall rather than use the tripod. Here are some I took using the tripod and with colour film with the same camera, they’re much sharper. I like these monochrome ones though, they’re quite eerie looking.
I’ve been sorting through my things, and found some old negatives. I’ve already scanned the one from Italy in the late 90s, and here’s some more. (There’s a lot more to come). In 2005 I went camping with my mum in Yvelines, just outside Paris. You can get into the city in about 15 mins on the RER, so it’s a good combination of camping and sightseeing. Versailles is just down the road too. I took a lot of photos there, but I can’t find the others right now. These are taken with an Olympus XA2 and some cheap expired Kodak slide film, cross-processed.
Here’s some black and white photos I took in Palma de Mallorca in the summer, and developed the other day. There’s no real reason for me to return there. I had one lovely trip there, and one horrible one, so that balances out. I can’t say much for the quality of the company, but Mallorca is a beautiful place (minus Magaluf of course). I took these on Ilford HP5 with my Pentax ME Super (my favourite camera). I also had a roll of 50s style Efke film, but something happened to it, either moisture or humidity. When I opened it in the dark bag and tried to load it onto the reel, the cartridge was all full of goo, and the emulsion came off in a big clammy mess onto my hands. The film was unloadable, and unrescuable, so I’ll never know what was on it.
I was tidying up recently and found these photos of Lake Garda. I’m not sure when I took them, because I’ve been there a few times, but it must have been between 1998 and 2001 when I was 13-16.
Here are the other photos from Whistable. I took more of the boats, seashore etc with my wide-angle lens on film, and I haven’t had it developed yet. I much prefer my film SLR to my digital one (70s Pentax cameras just feel so nice to use), but I’m too broke lately to use much film, and I still have 5 rolls sitting around that need developing. I didn’t eat any oysters while I was there, because I’m vegetarian, but I did have a really great mascarpone, truffle and rosemary pizza.
These are from some photos I took in Whitstable a few weeks ago, a pretty oyster fishing town in Kent (and sometimes *too* popular with the daahn from londons for the taste of the locals). The roofline of the school took my fancy.
I’ve always had a soft spot for 30s suburbia. These two pictures are a place called Twydall, near where my mum lives. I went along there to buy some wool, and I wasn’t disappointed, the area is full of old ladies. Also, the fact that the wool shop is called World of Woolcraft and is run by what could be the brother of the Comic Book Store Guy made me laugh.
Here are some pictures from the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton. It used to be an almshouse, and is now a museum of furniture and interiors. They have rooms set up showing typical London living rooms in various time periods from the 1600s onwards for families with a medium income, with information about all the objects in the room. They also have a historical garden and restored 18th century almshouse interior, but I didn’t get a chance to see them this time. In the run up to Christmas, they’d arranged each room to show how different winter festivals were celebrated in each era (until the 1800s New Year and Twelfth Night were much bigger than Christmas).
I set myself a project recently of doing mock book covers. First up is Death and the Penguin, by Andrey Kurkov. I did both English and Russian versions of the cover. I’m not sure how successful it is, though. The map I used in the collage is of Kiev.
I was doing some residential teaching for the last 2 weeks. A group of year 9s from Chile came on a school trip, and I gave them lessons about English and British History/Culture and took them to various historical places like Cambridge and Canterbury. I was working in the middle of nowhere, in this old manor house in the middle of a national park. The house had been a boarding school from the 1920s to 2005, and the company I worked for was only using part of the building. We were the last school tour to be there before it was going to be handed over to the new owners, who no-one knew much about, but didn’t seem to be using it as a school. There were lots of locked up rooms that had been used by the boarding school, but weren’t used for the language holidays, like the science lab, and they had piles of school stuff lying everywhere. The attitude was pretty much feel free to explore, just make sure the kids don’t get into anywhere that could be dangerous.
I took these couple of pictures on a visit to Portobello Market a couple of weeks ago. The film was expired slide film anyway, and it went through the airport xray machine twice on my way to and back from Bulgaria, and it ended up with a large red section. Not an attractive red tinge, a muddy red effect that blew out highlights and blurred details. I took more pictures at the market, but they ended up unusable. That’s expired film for you.
Film photos of Bulgaria
Last week I was in Bulgaria teaching. I didn’t have too great a time, because all of us teachers got food poisoning, and there was one particular class of kids who were a pain, and due to all round tiredness and illness, I didn’t get to leave the dull suburb we were staying in and venture too much into Sofia. I went twice, and here are some phone pics. I’ve got some 35mm ones too, which I need to scan, and some diana ones, which need developing still. I think if I went again to Bulgaria I’d go somewhere in the mountains or coast. Sofia isn’t their top tourist destination, it’s really more somewhere where people work, and the natural scenery of the country is stunning. I’m in the process of writing about the trip in more detail for my zine.
These are some photos I took in Little Venice with my old Pentax film SLR a few weeks ago. They call it Little Venice, but it’s really just a canal basin out the back of Paddington Station with lots of houseboats, some nice pubs and a cafe and a puppet theatre on boats. I guess “Little Holland” or “Little East Anglia” don’t sound as exciting. The slide film was much more out of date than I realised, but I like the orange and purple impressionist look I ended up with, some of the photos look more like paintings than photos.
I got some films developed a little while ago, and it turned out some of them are from quite a while ago, and had been lurking around in drawers for a long time. This one is from 2006. I’m not sure what camera I took these with, some kind of box camera or Diana or something.
In September I returned to Vienna to teach another English in Action programme. I’ve got photos of galleries and exhibitions I need to sort out still. Here’s some odds and ends of photos of other stuff.
When we were in Mallorca, everyone did their best to ensure that we were stuffed at all times. The big curly pastry is an ensaimada, a Mallorcan speciality.
We went for a drink at this place. At 11.30 on Fridays they shower you with rose petals from a balcony. The whole place is decorated like some kind of baroque stage set from a Fellini film. In fact the whole place is like a Fellini film. They don’t allow cameras inside, but I took some photos on Marcos’ phone. Instagram photos look amazing on the screen of the iphone 3, but they don’t always look so wonderful on the computer.
I haven’t posted here for a while because life has overtaken me a little, and I’ve been dashing from place to place. I’m in Palma de Mallorca right now visiting Marcos’ family, with a permanent move to London on the cards for the end of the month (it can’t come too soon). I’ve got a backlog of photos to work through.
This is another ancient film scanned. It’s definitely from 2008, but it skips about all over the place, there’s shots of Medway and ATP and Brighton, but I didn’t move to Brighton until the August of that year, and ATP was in May, and I have no idea when the Medway pics were taken, so it seems to have been hanging about in my camera for quite a while. I don’t even know what camera I used. I think it might be a Lomo LCA, the one I got in an Estonian junk shop for £20. It’s since half fallen apart, so I’m glad I didn’t pay those Austrian rip-off merchants much money for it. Whatever camera I used, it’s some really grainy 400asa cheapo Ferrania marked film, prob from poundland