Breaststroke in the Goldfish Bowl

I’m totally out of touch with the lesbian scene at the moment. Asides from a freak trip to Popstarz a couple of weeks ago (which was rather fun, thanks), I’ve not been to a lezzer club for bloody ages. And before you question that statement, my favourite lezzer cocktail bar, The Star at Night doesn’t count – it is neither scene, nor heard of…by 99.5 per cent of the lesbian population. It’s like the classically well behaved child in that respect, not too noisy and available when you want it to be – you can almost always get a table. It doesn’t have a prestigious claim to fame like the Glass Bar, which boasts it’s status as the only female only bar left in London. Thus, it remains blissfully unobvious to all but the most well-refined lesbian eye, or those in the know. Not bad for a Soho bar…

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that I’d like to think that any ‘style’ or dare I say it, ‘fashion,’ that I might associate my wardrobe choice with at the moment, is completely uninfluenced and thus unrelated to, the London Lesbian Scene.

However, as ever, something has caused me to question this bastion of self, and I feel compelled to share. Last night I was out at a magazine launch (cool, huh?) in a Covent Garden bar. I do the mag’s PR (even cooler, huh?) so naturally my attendance at said launch was expected, if not compulsory. But that aside I wanted to go – the magazine in question, Brand, is cool. It markets itself as left-of-the-crops, daring and edgy – a bit like myself, I suppose. So, I turned up, got myself a glass of wine and mingled before the performances started.

Glancing around the nicely filled bar, I quickly noticed the higher than average lesbian attendance record. If the one in ten theory is a go-er then we were hitting the cube function on the calculator. Good stuff – it’s always pleasing to see the Wah Wahs out and about, especially when it’s at an ‘unbranded’ (if you’ll excuse the pun) lesbian event. Both the Editor and Poetry Editor of the magazine are fans of the rug, but that’s an aside…

The next sight to meet my gayley tuned eyes was that of a pair of matching lezzers. Predictable, yes, but in this case, cool too. For both matching lezzers were dressed in a manner that could be described as being ’embarrassingly similar’ to myself. Pointy shoes, preppy-Gap-type shirt and slim jeans. Hell, one of them even had a black low collar jacket, zipped up to the chin, just like mine had been before I entered the bar. It was disturbing to say the least. I’m not sure what I’d have done had they had similar hairstyles to me – as it was they were sporting a longer, darker, off-the-shoulders look.

This was nothing compared to the shocking realisation that one of the aforementioned matching lezzers was a recent dalliance of a good chum of mine. I found myself in that rare state of bemusement when she came over and introduced herself to me, contextualising herself with a reference to said good chum (she recognised me from MySpace, I think) – I honestly struggled to string a sentence together.

The Goldfish Bowl that is the London Lesbian Scene never fails to shock and surprise me. I’m convinced that it really is true that you are never more than two lezzers away from touching minge. My aforementioned pal reliably informed me a while back that this dalliance of hers was acquainted with my Evil Ex. So there, two touch already for me. The disturbing regularity with which such ‘coincidences’ occur almost sends a shiver down my spine.

Dating the London Bike for a year or so, as I did, to my great cost, not so long ago, doesn’t help this. Hence last night’s little swim in the Bowl being a bit of a shock to the system. Fortunately on this occasion I was most definitely not doing the breaststroke in the Pond, if you see what I mean. However, my point is that if I was, I’d struggle to swim into clear water. I’m sure it’s the same for most London Lesbians.

I’m not sure which has perturbed me most – meeting my mate’s latest ex so randomly, or discovering that my shirt-skinny-pointy-jacket combination isn’t quite as unique as I thought it was.  

Another day, another camera (or two)

I’ve told you about the charity shop near where I work before – it smells of wee and is operated by an old man, who seems to run the place without ever leaving the little stool he sits on in the middle of the shop. It is also a great place for sourcing retro cameras on one’s luncheon break. Today’s Trip (you’ll see what I did there shortly) to the Wee Shop yielded yet another photographic treat.

Check this out:

Olympus Trip 35 camera

The Olympus Trip 35 camera, a 70s classic. In it’s heyday this puppy was endorsed by the great David Bailey and came with the promise that it would produce images to match the best SLRs around at the time. Having grown up with one of these cameras – my parents were the proud owners – I have to say I’m not yet convinced about this. All the family photographs I’ve ever seen are typically blurred affairs with heads lopped off as standard and facial expressions that are only believable because they are caught on camera (and therefore, in the pre-digital Kodachrome era, must be true, even if it doesn’t rhyme).

Nonetheless this was the first camera to catch my attention. I’m not sure if it was the fascinating looking Selenium light metering ring around the lens, the satisfying shutter noise or the interesting dials around the lens with a strange sequence of numbers on it, but I remember being extremely interested in the family camera. I also have vivid memories of being told repeatedly, not to touch it – it was expensive. Just FYI – the man in the Wee Shop charged me the usual £2 for mine, with the standard guarantee that if it didn’t work, I could have my money back.

So now I’m the proud owner of a Trip 35, which I can touch all I want. Obviously since returning home from work I have had to Google the Trip 35 and let me tell you, it was no surprise to find that someone had dedicated a whole website to the little camera. Well, a whole Homepage, anyway.

This included a range of very informative tips on how to get the most out of my new toy. By opening the film compartment and carefully removing the pressure plate on the back of the door to reveal the ‘secret’ serial number, I’ve already worked out that mine was made in March 1974 (B34). What fun! Can’t wait to try out those modifciations that will allow me to shoot at different shutter speeds…

Now I’m going to go and join the other 436 members of the Olympus Trip 35 Flickr Group

Death to the Polaroid

Sad news on Planet Instant Film this week as the chaps at Polaroid have decided that they no longer want to make film for the select group of anoraks that still use the stuff. If you thought it was bad when they stopped making SX-70 then this will be intolerable. Neutral density filters will not help you out of this one. Seriously, this is a sad day.

My obsession with camera film tends towards the medium format but I love a nice Polaroid as much as any hardened film fan, if not a little bit more. So this is terrible. But, it’s not a shock – the signs have been there for a while. As soon as God gave us the digital camera, in all it’s pixelated point-and-shoot inducing vileness, the end of the Polaroid phenomena was sighted by the centries scanning the perimeter fences of Fort Film. Apparently the existing stock will run out by 2009 – hello eBay…

I have mixed feelings about Polaroids. Growing up I always coveted the beautiful little white-bordered squares of photographic goodness. The self-developing ‘600’ style Polaroid pictures had a special quality about them that meant no matter how terrible the photograph, throwing it away was just not an option. I’m trying to think of a suitable metaphor to help me explain this better, but there isn’t one. Suffice to say it’s the only possible justification I can find for owning a blurry picture of my ex-girlfriend’s bald eagle. Ugh. Polaroids are quite unique in this respect, if not rather sinister.

Anyway, a few years ago I met this girl who was rather fond of Polaroids, became rather fond of her and received an SX-70 Model 2 camera as a birthday present from her.

SX-70 Model 2Cool, huh?

However, as with all good wholesome lesbian relationships things eventually went tits up (not in a good way) and for a while I couldn’t stand the sight of the beastly little things. Polaroids, that is, although, for a while I had to suppress the gagging reflex when near lesbians also. So I stuck firmly with the ‘normal’ film and went on to buy my beautiful Rolleiflex 3.5F Planar with 75mm Zeiss lens. Fit. It was only recently that I dropped my guard and allowed Polaroids back on the radar. It was only even more recently that I let a few swim through the shark-infested moat that surrounds Castle Shaz and make it into one of my cameras.

Perhaps that’s why I’m not quite as sad as I should be about what really is quite a serious tragedy for photography. As I said, the current stock will be gone by 2009. There’s a small part of me that thinks good riddance to those fucking cameras and their tacky instant gratification film. It’s the same part of me that thinks good riddance to the fucking ex-girlfriend.

The other part of me is considering where I should start stockpiling film. I wonder how much a small external storage unit would cost per week…?

Body odour and love poems (for lesbians)

“…Was it then I bought a peach?
That’s as I remember.
From a stall near Charing Cross Station.
It was the first peach I had ever tasted.
I could hardly believe how delicious.
At twenty-five I was dumbfounded afresh
By my ignorance of the simplest things…”
TH

I’m ever so slightly in awe of people with the ability to write things like that. I’m a relatively recent convert to Ted Hughes, having spent most of my adolescence obsessively absorbing Slyvia Plath’s contorted pearls of angst-ridden wisdom. Like any other self-respecting well-read lezzer. Now I feel like I am learning the other side of the story, and very interesting it is too.

Re-reading Ariel umpteen times without dipping into Hughes’ Birthday Letters made it all too easy to assume that poor Slyvia was royally shitted on by a two-timing love rat, end of story. Now I have a little more time for old Ted and dare I say it, am even sympathising a little with his cause. If nothing else I genuinely believe he fell off his chair when he met her and that counts for something, doesn’t it?

“…On a bombsite becoming a building site
We clutched each other giddily

For safety and went in a barrel together
Over some Niagara falling…”
TH

Everyone should know that barrel racing is a dangerous sport and falling long distances is not advisable if you value your kneecaps. And if you’re not prepared for the undesirable side-effects of both of the above, should you have a less than smooth landing, it’s going to be uncomfortable, if not excrutiatingly painful. Poor Ted. Poor Sylvia. And poor anyone else who’s barrel has split, whether it’s through no fault of their own or otherwise. Ahem.

Anyway, onto more graceful matters. My recent regular trips to the Tate Britain on my work lunch breaks have afforded me the opportunity to absorb the marvellous neoclassical sculpture on display in the great hall of the gallery. In particular Antonio Canova’s Three Graces which dominates the end of the hall. He knocked this one out (of a large slab of marble) circa. 1815-7 for the Duke of Bedford, following an earlier work of the same theme he did for Napoleon’s one-time wyf Josephine. And very nice it is too. Beauty, joy and elegance, all rolled into three.

After wondering into the hall and chancing upon this exhibition a few weeks ago, I’ve been back numerous times to stare in awe at the superbly lit collection of figurines. It really is good -and that’s coming from somoene who’s not generally a fan of anything that pre-dates colour TV. Ho hum.

And so it was that I found myself choreographing three young ladies into a pose somewhat reminiscent of the aforementioned graces as I art directed a group portrait earlier in the day. Today was Day 2 of my photography course (the one I mentioned I was doing) and yet another gloriously sunny Saturday spent indoors – using studio lighting – Tungsten and flash – to illuminate my fellow course-goers and create square format works of portait-o-graphic art.

It’s fast dawning on me that I’m a natural daylight photographer. I LOVE the sun – thrive off it. So being in a little studio with a pack of sweaty men with intolerable body odour is not cool. In fact it was far too hot for my taste. The resultant photographs had better be worth the pain my olfactory system had to put up with today. The world would be a far better smelling place if testosterone and Lynx body spray didn’t exist.

Photographing People, a lesson

New year, new photographs…and just to keep my mind fresh and breezy I’m employing the photographic equivalent of the tumble dryer’s sheet of Bounce by putting myself through a photography course. A Photographing People course at City Lit, to be precise. Having done a couple of such courses before – albeit at different venues – I think I have a fairly realistic expectation of what to expect.

Generally they are slow-starting affairs, with the first couple of hours dedicated to painfully fracturing, before hopefully smashing the ice with a bunch of fellow snappers. This is usually done by looking at a range of photographs taken by a range of photographers. Both ranges are just the right size to ensure that everyone sees something they like, yet nothing they are offended by. You can never rule out the possibility of the presence wholesome Christians, active grannies, homophobes, racists and youthful prudes on these courses.

Another thing I have come to learn about such groups is that they will invariably contain at least one, if not all of the following:

i) A nutter, junkie (either ex- or current), drop-out or retarded person of some description – part-Government funding of the course depends upon their attendance.

ii) A foreign person with very limited grasp of the English language, often French (although I’m yet to figure out why).

iii) An Utter Cock – and by this I mean the bloke who thinks he knows what the pretty girl sitting next to him needs to know about her camera; it’s not what the tutor is talking about, so he’ll fill in the gaps for her, loudly, while the tutor is talking about something Utter Cock deems to be ‘irrelevant’.

Normally this sort of ensemble would be enough to make my blood wince, recoil and boil, all at the same time. However, on photography courses it’s absolutely perfect – there’s nothing better than a bit of tension and a few weirdos to stir up the creativity.

It also provides a particularly welcome diversion from the slow and arduous process of hearing about everyone’s favourite photograph (from the selection provided) and the ineviatable questions about apertures and f-stops from point-and-shoot Shelly, who’s trying out her husband’s expensive digital camera for the first time. I often wonder whether the course directors strategically place these units to stir things up, thus ensuring maximum output from all course attendees…

(For those who don’t know, f-stops and apertures relate to the same thing – holes – but have an inverse relationship with regards to size, obviously).

It seems that even when the minimum course requirement is to know how to use an SLR camera, some people still slip through the technical knowledge net and arrive with the ability to do nothing more than press the shutter (provided they know where it is on the camera).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not beginner-phobic (or xenophobic, or any other phobic, for that matter). And as I mentioned already, the delightful tutti-fruity flavoured soup one finds oneself swimming around in on these courses has a tendency to lead to very interesting photographs, which at the end of the day, is the reason for my attendance. After day one of my three day course, I’ve already found a most exciting project to photograph and have been actioning my Rolleiflex accordingly.

Now, on a separate (and slightly more lezzery) note, I read a most entertaining Lesbian-interest blog on the Times website (who would have thought it?) this morning. It refers to an undercover (no-pun-intended) affair conducted by crime writing lezzer Patricia ‘Patsy’ Cornwell and an FBI Instructor called Margo Bennett, whom she bumped into while researching one of her books.

That Cornwell purportedly used the phrase, “not even two trips over the rug” to describe the affair, makes her worthy of a ‘see what I did there’ honour of the highest order. That was a stroke of genius from the old carpet muncher, and was no doubt as cleverly thought-through as one of her finest murder plots.

Her admission to Vanity Fair in 1997, that the affair was “very brief in every way you can imagine,” is equally cunning. Most spiteful lesbian ex’s on the wrong end of ‘the dump’ would sell their cat for the chance to have such a satisfyingly cutting comment published in the international press. ReSpeck to you PC. My ex-bashing blog is but whitebait to the whale that is your far-reaching voice.