Tuesday 4 August, 2020

Sheep safely grazing

Seen on our walk this evening as we passed a large meadow containing lots of contented sheep.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Bach: Sheep may safely graze. Piano adaptation. Played by Alessio Bax. 6 minutes.


One of my favourite Bach arias. Triggered by the photograph above.

A photographic gift

After breakfast this morning, I found that someone had left a gift outside our front door.

It was a beautiful book of photographs by a friend and former colleague, Michael Dales: a record of a trip he and his wife made in the US four years ago. Micheal is an Über-geek who was the CTO of one of the companies that my friend Quentin and I co-founded many years ago.

The story behind the book is that Michael and his wife, Laura James (also a very talented geek), discovered that they both had to visit California for work in 2016. And so they decided to make a holiday out of it. They flew to Dallas, rented a car and drove 1800 miles across Texas, through New Mexico, Arizona and into Utah. At Salt Lake City they swopped the car for a berth on the California Zephyr, a sleeper train with diner and observation lounge that took them 700 miles across Nevada, through the Sierra mountains of California to Oakland, from where they both disappeared into the Bay Area for their respective work-engagements.

The book is a photographic record of the journey. It opens with a street scene from downtown Dallas…

… and ends with a photograph of Michael reflected in the door of a laundromat in Mountain View.

It closes with this lovely Epilogue on “the one picture I wish was in this book, but isn’t”.

At Goulding’s Lodge, where we stayed overnight next to Monument Valley, there was a Safeway. It was your normal, small, worn supermarket where tourists and workers could get their dinner or toiletries or whatever you go to a small supermarket for. We were there to get some things for our onward journey and for breakfast the next day, as we had an early start.

In this Safeway, as you walked through the aisles, you could have been anywhere. It was the same as the small supermarket around the corner from where you live, that you go to and don’t notice, as it’s not a place to be noticed. But then in this particular Safeway you head to the checkouts, and there you’ll find one of the most surreal views: in the foreground, the dull grey humdrum everyday checkouts you find in in any supermarket; through the large storefront window behind them, the giant, vivid red buttes of Monument Valley jutting up from the land with the blue skies behind them, radiating a geological magnificence.

The juxtaposition of the mundane and the spectacular was almost overwhelming. Here I was thinking about whether I should have got milk or yoghurt, and there was nature putting on one of its best shows. Perhaps we were just lucky with how the setting sun caught it, but it’s an image that I’ll not readily forget, a near perfect visual metaphor capturing how in life we get caught up in the necessary mundanities of life but out there is the spectacular waiting to be discovered.

Unfortunately, we were in the supermarket to get some shopping, and so I hadn’t lugged my camera to the store to capture this. Perhaps I’ll have to nip back to the shops at some point.

In the note accompanying the book Michael had written a note. “Thanks for the part you played in getting me to pick up a camera”, it read. And then I remembered that when he started to work with us I had noticed that he was beginning to take photographs, and that he had what photographers call “a good eye”. And so I encouraged him to continue. And he really started to blossom after he bought a digital SLR — from memory I think it was a Canon EOSD which was marketed in the US as the Digital Rebel. For many photographers it was the gateway camera that persuaded them that digital photography could be almost as good as analogue photography. (The equivalent for me was the Nikon D70.)

The book was a lovely gift from a lovely colleague. And it made my day. But next time I see him I’ll suggest he also carries an iPhone 11 Pro because — as the saying goes — the best camera is always the one you have with you!

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