Before collecting our new wheels, we spent 10 days in Edinburgh. There were 2 Six Nations rugby matches on consecutive weekends which we attended with friends. The first one took place while there was still some snow on the Pentland Hills.
We met up with several friends and did some trip planning. One other thing I did manage to squeeze in was a trip to the City Art Gallery which had a couple of photographic exhibitions I had wanted to see for a while. The first was Robert Blomfield’s Street Photography which continues until 17 March 2019. He was a doctor but managed to pursue street photography from the 1950s to the 70s. It was only brought to an end when he suffered from a stroke in 1999. His son spent a lot of time sorting out the huge amount of film his father had at home.
The other photographic exhibition was ‘Scotland in Focus’ which included the galleries collection of Scottish photographs from the mid 19th century to the present day.
The final exhibition we saw was ‘Another Country’ which explored contemporary immigration to Scotland, including themes of integration, nationality and identity.
It included work by eleven leading artists from distinct ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds, all born or currently living in Scotland and using different media.
As photography is not allowed in the galleries, the images are from the gallery website. The exhibitions are free, and the gallery is very central and close to Waverley Station. The adjoining café provided an opportunity to top up the caffeine levels.
On our last morning we were up early to take the train to Leuchars and then a taxi to Anstruther where our vehicle, a van converted to camper was made. We then drove home and for once there were no major motorway problems. The seemingly eternal SMART motorway works on our nearest stretch of the M6 and are due to be completed soon. At last we could see some parts completed since the last time we drove back in early January. At the moments we are kitting out the van and will probably have a trial run in March before starting to tour the coast of Britain. This will be done in stages, fitting around other commitments but we will set off at the beginning of April, starting in Fife and travelling anti-clockwise.
We spent our first evening in Adelaide with friends and the following morning set out to sample a little of what the city has to offer. Nearest to our hotel was the Central Market which has more than 250 stalls. The Mettwurst Shop satisfied James’s craving for kabanos. In addition to food, fruit and vegetables, there are others. I had to stop at the pop-up bookshop and found one to buy.
On North Terrace there is an old and antiquarian bookshop and several others around the city. Walking north we reached the South Australian Museum on North Terrace. It is exhibiting the entries and winners of the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year which accepts photographs taken in Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and New Guinea. I could not select one I like best out of all those on display but there is a public vote for their favourite. After the exhibition we looked at one of the other galleries: The Aboriginal Cultures Gallery. As you enter, Norman B Tindale’s map of Aboriginal Australia is on display.
It shows the territories of over 250 Aboriginal groups at the time of European arrival and took him 50 years to produce. It was published in 1974 and challenged the myth of terra nullis. The boundaries are fluid and have changed over time, but it was an extraordinary achievement.
Nearby is the migration museum. This has a number of displays illustrating migration to South Australia from the earliest European contact to modern times. The impact on the indigenous people is not forgotten. For example, this description of the experience of the Kauna people who came into contact with the first European settlers. They thought they were visitors like the whalers and sealers they had met before. However, the Europeans fenced in and claimed land and excluded others. They destroyed the food sources and brought their own animals, alcohol and disease. After 10 years the immigrant population was 23000 and the Kauna reduced to 300. This was replicated in numerous communities.
By the rear exit is a sculpture by artist Tim Thomson created in 2007: the British Child Migrant Memorial to those shipped to SA between 1912-1970. Prior to our visit to Australia in 2011 I had read the book by Margaret Humphries ‘Oranges and Sunshine’. She was the British social worker who in 1987 had uncovered the forced child migrant programme while working in Nottingham. Many children, often those of unmarried mothers and broken families, were shipped to Australia and often subject to forced labour or sexual abuse in workhouses. Parents were told their children had been adopted. I met someone on the Indian Pacific Train who told me that he was one of those children. I had not expected to meet one, but he did not want to talk about that: he was a Jehovah’s Witness who asked me if I had read the Watchtower.
The art gallery is nearby but I needed to get outside for a while so we wandered back towards Victoria Square where 19th century buildings sit amongst the modern ones.
Our evening meal in a no frills restaurant in Chinatown which was very popular with the Chinese Community. I had a glass of wine with my food and a guy at a neighbouring table gave me the rest of his bottle when he left. There is no end to Australian generosity. Back at the hotel it was time to get organised for the morning departure to Kangaroo Island.
We drove to the station for an early train while it was still dark. Some people still had their Christmas lights on, visible through the mist hanging in the fields. Euston and the Royal Society of Medicine where we were staying were very quiet. The main reason for coming down so early in the year was to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum but I had booked that for the Monday in the hope it would be quieter. This turned out have been a good idea as the woman on the desk said that it had been full over the weekend. The museum is a wonderful building with the obligatory dinosaur hanging in the main gallery.
You could spend hours looking at all the exhibits but we confined ourselves to the photographs which were outstanding.
Oxford Street still had its lights up, the same ones that I photographed a few years ago but not all were lit.
We found some bargains in the sales although James’s search for a particular style and colour of sweater proved unfruitful until the last afternoon. Another interesting find was that Waterstones in Piccadilly has a floor of Russian books. I had only on Friday morning put a stressed Russian translation of Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ on the bookshop internet sales site which I thought was a little unusual for us. Having done our little bit to help the economy, we spotted Joe Lynam and a BBC film crew setting up to report next to House of Fraser presumably on seasonal spending. Just before our evening meal in a local restaurant we had a drink in the Cock and Lion pub in Wigmore Street. The walls are covered with photographs of Edwardian London. James however, was a little more interested in the live sport they show.
James wanted to look at the market in Camden Passage. We had coffee in a boulangerie where frangipane tarts decorated with crowns for on sale for Epiphany. The bakery across the road had to stress that it was an English one. Only in Islington do you find a gluten-free bakery shop and the charity shops very few clothes in sizes above a women’s 10.
Later, en route down Regent Street to Liberty we passed the Canada Goose shop which opened its UK flagship store in November 2017. Then, there had been large crowds of animal rights activists with claims that coyotes and geese are mistreated to make the brand’s products. They have been accused of producing parkas with trims made from coyote fur. PETA claim the coyotes are caught in the wild in steel traps. On the day we passed by however, there was only one man demonstrating. In Chinatown where we ate on our last evening, the protest was about banning live organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners. The RSM had an exhibition entitled ‘Women and their olive trees’. The paintings were produced by an art class in Israel of 35 women aged 17-80 from Lithuania, Umm al-Fahad, Tiberias, Romania, Nazareth, Isfaahan, Argentina and the Caucasus who were from a variety of religious and backgrounds.
The exhibition has travelled throughout Europe and is due to travel around the UK. All too soon it was time to return to the station and I was coming down with a virus so needed the comfort of home for a while.
For the last two days of our trip we were happy to dispense with the car. On the first morning we had a couple of things to do downtown so took the Muni from outside the motel, it is a very good, cheap way of getting around town. The city was still cool and grey. I did the obligatory pilgrimage to City Lights Books and found Robert Moor’s ‘On Trails’ which had been on my list since I read a review a few weeks ago.
The following day we walked through Golden Gate Park to the Botanic Gardens. There were the usual joggers, cyclists and a few people doing Tai Chi. I saw a Stellar’s Jay but didn’t manage to whip the camera out in time. At the gardens we enjoyed a couple of hours there. Sunset Piano had created a sculpture from three pianos, one of which can be played and it is installed at the entrance. There are ten pianos placed around the garden and recitals take place at various times over the next couple of weeks. When there is not formal concert, anyone is welcome to come and play. We heard several people playing well and one excruciating rendition of the Moonlight Sonata. Afterwards we visited two local bookshops: one sold new and used, James found something there. At the Great Overland Book Company I found a couple of books and we had a chat with the proprietor who, like many of the people we have met along the way, wanted to talk about Brexit. In the afternoon I did some beachcombing as the fog had gone and we had blues sky with only a little light cloud over the ocean. I took some bird photographs including these long-billed dowitzers. There are numerous small pieces of plastic waste on the sand but no sea glass. I did find some intact sand dollars.
A local guy told me that he had just seen a young seal and that the sea just off the beach was a rich fishing ground. He also said that he had seen whales from the shore. Gulls were eating crabs on the shore and the dowitzers were probing the wet sand. I had hoped to get some sunset shots that evening but the fog returned a couple of hours before sunset and the strong wind was blowing sand around. The total miles walked that day was eleven. Yesterday it was time to fly back home. At San Francisco airport the police patrol the terminals on Segways. I noticed on Facebook that the London to Sydney Overland trip we were hoping to do in 2018 is ceasing after 2017 so 2018 might have to be the Big Lap in Australia. On the plane I watched as we crossed the Sierra Nevada, desert, the Rockies and sunset over Canada. The sun rose soon afterwards over the mountains, snow and ice of southern Greenland. As we started to descend over Ireland, I found it hard to adjust to seeing small green fields again but glad to be back home among them again for a while.
We were driving to Nottingham today to visit my aunt. It is a familiar journey in addition to family visits, for many other reasons. Our favoured route is the scenic one over the Staffordshire Moorlands, which gives me a fix of the uplands before dipping down into Derbyshire. Passing through Derby, there are still a lot of Georgian buildings on the west side of the city but very quickly we are on concrete dual carriageways and a short stretch of motorway to get to my aunt’s part of Nottingham. A brief respite from the rain in what promises to be the wettest June in living memory, made the driving easy. Passing through moorland villages, many hedges were adorned with ‘Vote Leave’ posters, a reminder of the great uncertainty facing the UK in the next week about the outcome of the referendum and if we do vote to leave the European Union, even more uncertainty about what will happen then. Brailsford, a village straddling the road between Ashbourne and Derby, also has an uncertain future like many in the UK, as it is proposed as a site for more housing. ‘Save our village’ notices were everywhere.
During our time with my aunt we inevitably ended up discussing family history as I have been researching this since I was at school and was given a lot of material by my grandmother, some of which remains a mystery. She is always available to fill in the gaps and dispel some myths but some still remain. These photographs remain a partial mystery. They were among my grandmother’s photographs and her handwriting on the back of the first says ‘American oil man, distant relation’, the second ‘Arbor Lodge’ and the last has ‘Humboldt Oil Field 1923’ on the front. I sent them to Arbor Lodge, Nebraska which is now a State Park and they confirmed that the second photograph is of the house and that the Humboldt Oil Field was several miles south of there. They forwarded my e-mail with the photographs to their historian but I am still waiting to hear if they have identified the man and then I can try and identify whether he is a distant relation or not. Some of my Irish ancestors did emigrate to the USA so he may be related to them. The mystery remains.
A late train on Tuesday evening got us into London in time to find our hotel and crash out. On Wednesday morning we were out reasonably early and walked down to Millbank to the Tate Britain. I was keen to see the Painting with light exhibition which explores the relationship between photography and painting in the UK in the 19th and early 20th century. I loved it for a number of reasons: I am the curator of family photographs dating from the 19th century, use photography as the basis or to assist in painting and the exhibition had some familiar paintings and many that were new to me. I loved the old sepia prints of Edinburgh taken in the 1840s and the move to landscape painting. There were Pre-Raphaelite works, early 20th century landscapes and some from the Glasgow boys who had a more decorative approach influenced by their travels to Japan. Photography was not allowed in the exhibition so here are a couple from the exhibition website:
There had been a lot of storms all around the country in the last few days with flash floods in places and people struck by lightning. Heavy showers had been forecast for London later in the day but the downpour happened while we were in the theatre so we escaped it. On our way back to the station we saw two cyclists knocked over by cars in the space of a few minutes. Fortunately, no-one was hurt, they cycled off after an exchange of angry words with the drivers and we did not need to do any first aid. Our train was delayed but at last we were home.
Despite working in Liverpool for almost seven years, there are still many sights I have not had the chance to visit so when James announced that he was attending a course there, it was a good opportunity to use some of my hotel points to get us a free night there. As the brief of summer weather had ended by Tuesday evening, we had a wet walk from the hotel to Panoramic 34, a restaurant at the top of a building. The views were indeed extensive and the food very good but as all the windows were covered in rain spots, photography was not an option. We ate our meal watching the Mersey and Isle of Man ferries departing.
This morning, I left James at the course venue and after a coffee, wandered down to the Pier Head to visit the Museum of Liverpool which I had never been in before and which is in a striking building. There were lots of things I had not known before and I learnt a lot about the city I have come to love. The photojournalist Lee Karen Stow, had an exhibition called Poppies: women at war which was very moving as I have had a number of patients who have escaped from war zones in several countries and are seeking asylum in the UK. Much of combat history is devoted to the men who are fighting so this was a refreshing change.
Afterwards I took a few photographs around the Pier Head and then visited one of the city’s secondhand bookshops, Kernaghan’s, in the Bluecoat. It was quiet so I had a good chat with the owner, his wife and her father covering caffeine metabolism, the school they used to run in Nepal and trekking in the Himalaya. I bought two books, one by some guys who did an overland trip in a Trabant. Their route covers a lot of the London to Sydney overland route we hope to do in a couple of years so it should be interesting. The other is on American myth, a topic of interest for this summer’s drive.
After lunch, James headed back to his course and I walked up the hill to visit 59 Rodney Street. Edward Chambré Hardman was a 1950s society photographer who lived and worked from the house for many years until his death in 1988. The National Trust have now taken it over and it is a fascinating insight into that era of photography and the Hardman’s lives, as they threw very little away. After the 90-minute guided tour which is a must for anyone interested in photography, I looked in both cathedrals as I had never been in them. I then walked back down Brownlow Hill towards the station, just as all the students were pouring out of the universities. On the short train journey back to Crewe, one of the staff was telling us which end of the first class section to sit in so that we had time to down the drinks and eat before we disembarked.