Mar 202018
 

Part One – Feel

I was watching a news story where an amputee (one leg) used his disability to raise over a quarter of a million pounds for charity and go some way to finishing his Fifty-Two by Fifty-Two bucket list, which included such things as climbing Everest etc. And while I applaud the guy for his commitment, (he’s got so much commitment that he’s actually up for a nationally recognised reward), and his support of others like himself which he uses to help raise money for other amputees to get their own cool, well fitting legs so that they can too can also follow their dreams. And yet I sit here day after day, legally disabled and I’ve got no commitment. No commitment for anything at all.

I wondered why would the public get behind the afore mentioned amputee so much yet I can’t get five likes on a Facebook post about mental health and I can’t get more than three comments on a post asking my friends to sign a petition against Terry Richardson, an awful (read bad) photographer that shoots for magazines like Vogue yet uses his celebrity to sexually abuse models, and the media that uses his work (and supports the #metoo campaign) knows this yet hypocritically does or says nothing? And I also wondered does the above amputee’s amputation make him more disabled than I, and if so, why so?

They say that perception is 9/10ths of reality. I’ve said it before about photography: The worst photographer in the world can spend money to turn up to a gig with a quality DSLR, a few spare professional lenses, a fake Rolex on his wrist and a MacBook Pro and the client sees a professional photographer. I could (the pre depression/anxiety me), (not trying to big myself up, but rather trying to illustrate a point) probably turn up with an iPhone and take better composed and lit photos, make the customer feel more comfortable and give that customer an overall better and professional service than the bad photographer with all the gear.

So an amputee looks disabled whereas someone with mental health problems looks like you. (Unless so severely mentally disabled they’re ‘window-licking’ and riding the special bus) Generally though, a person with mental health problems looks like the person next to you on the tube, or the person opposite you at the bar. Being mentally disabled generally has no outward sign, no ‘look’, you don’t get a cool, Terminator style, carbon fibre leg. You certainly don’t get people saying about you; “he’s so brave, motivated, strong, admirable etc” and sure, I’ll back his attempt at Everest because of that cool leg.

As a ‘depressive’ even your best friends shun you eventually let alone workmates and the public. I can think of many friends lost to my depression. Even one that said she’d love me forever (platonically) and we’d always end writings together with the phrase ‘to the moon and back’ avoids me now. (Like the last friend that ‘loved me’). She disappeared from social media one day, from other friends of mine as well, she was well loved, but she had her demons too… Disappearing like she did, for so many years now, she might even have died, or maybe she moved from California to Sweden to be with the man she loved? No-one knew. Until recently. I found a live profile of hers on Instagram. It wasn’t there while I was logged in, but there it was updated two days before when I was logged out. Her photographical style was unmistakeable. The profile was from Sweden and I was blocked from it. Now I end things with ‘to the moon’. Nothing is going to come back from it. The only happy thing to take from the story is supposedly the move from Cali to Sweden happened and I pray that she found her happy place.

I’m happy to lose people to their own happiness. I’m sad when they just shun me because I’m toxic. I’d like to think she found her happy place.

I’ve said many times to my Dad that I’d rather have lost a leg than feel like I feel all day, every day.

Reading that, how does that make you feel about me? That I’d ‘honestly’ rather lose a leg than suffer acute depression and anxiety, Asperger, self-harm and be ‘actively suicidal’. (Actively suicidal: A medical term meaning to have a plan (method) with which to commit your suicide and you think about committing it more days than not.)

But me, I’m not trying to climb Everest, walk across the North Pole, cycle across America. I’m not asking for your money. I’m asking for your time and support so that I can write a book that tells my own story and maybe helps others in a similar situation. Sometimes I’m just asking you to sign a petition or react to a Facebook post.

The loss of a leg means coming to terms with many things: Home as a confined space; Maintenance of symmetry and dignity in social relations; Reconstitution of bodily confidence; Hope and willpower as driving forces; Establishment of a meaningful role in life; Dependence on care and rehabilitation initiatives.(1)

Depression, anxiety and Asperger combined lead to similar symptoms, similar but different. So let me tell you what depression means to me if you can be bothered to read on and how it affects my daily life. But it’s going to take some work from you to fully appreciate what I feel. To understand. Or, like signing a petition, is that too much to ask from you?

I need you to think back now, here and now, to the loss of that ‘one’ special person in your life, be it a lost love or beloved relative. I mean that really special one, the one that still hurts, the one you still miss. The person that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with or the relative you turned to when no-one else would listen or could help. In my case I have both, a girl I wanted to marry with all my heart and my Grandad, one of the last few ‘Gentlemen’, who’d suffered at the hands of the Japanese and still came back a respectful man who held down high positions at work, supported his family, doffed his hat at women in the street and to passing funereal processions and taught me chivalry amongst many other things on our early morning walks through Spanish fish markets and along Mallorcan streets during our many holidays together.

I fucking miss them both. The lost love, and my Grandad.

Think about your own similar losses and imagine them freshly minted. Remember how they left a numb feeling in the pit of your stomach that boiled and roiled, That even though numb was also too a physical pain. It physically hurt knowing you’d never share closeness with that missing person again. Take that pain now! Relive it, roll it around in your mouth, taste it. Feel it churning the pit of your stomach, let yourself well up with tears remembering again all the things that person meant to you but most of all feel that painful numbness in your stomach, feel it tightening your diaphragm and making it hard to breathe, making you gasp for breath Feel that pain once more and start the circle over again. ‘Know’ in your heart that life will never be good again, you’ll never feel happiness again, life has been as good as it will ever get and it only goes downhill from here. LIVE that pain.

Done it? Feeling it? Good!

‘That’ is what depression is. Forget ‘woe is me’ as you put the back of your hand to your forehead like a parody of a bad period drama and state “oh, I’m so depressed”. Depression feels exactly as I’ve just described, that gnawing pit of hell boiling in your stomach where the only light at the end of the tunnel is a train heading at high speed towards you and you ‘know’ with all certainty it will hit you as there isn’t enough room to the sides of the tunnel to escape it. And far from killing you, it’ll only leave you more disfigured, broken and disabled than you already are. Death is for the suicidally brave or the lucky and I’m far from that lucky. Depression is the absence of hope. A black sticky mire. Little wonder Churchill called it his ‘Black Dog’.

Even my close family and friends know that one day I might kill myself and not to blame themselves because they all did the best they could. Some, my Dad for example did all he could and more, has been the most surprising support of all. The least likely yet the most caring. He’s gone above and beyond what anyone could ask for yet still he knows that one day I might find life unbearable and take my own, end the pain in one extra large dose of Tramadol, Fentanyl and Morphine washed down by a bottle of ‘overproof’ rum. (My actively suicidal’ plan). Forget all that bull about suicides go to hell. I’m a Christian and believe and regularly ask forgiveness for some of the shitty things that cause my PTSD and anguish. That belief and asking for forgiveness is enough to get me into Heaven and its promised happiness. But. If I’m wrong and religion is just a man-made fantasy to give us hope then I’ll just sleep forever free from dreams and pain. Suicide is a win-win situation. I can’t go wrong with suicide and Pascal’s wager. I’m certainly brave and willing enough but Sid (my dog) needs me at the moment. I’m his friend and his Alpha. The number one in his life and he’s the only one that won’t understand my death. He’ll not grasp the concept of release and will only feel loss at my absence. How could I do that to my best friend when all that he’s ever given me is love and he’ll only feel the sense of loss that loss brings? I just can’t…

So if my day to day existence is one of that roiling pain at the very centre of my core, what does my head do? Where is my head at and how does it try to make sense of that pain and deal with living with it? Every day. Living with that pain not until I get over my lost relative or meet my next special someone but all day, every day for the past fourteen years. Fourteen years of that pain that I asked ‘you’ to remember and feel again but that is already subsiding in ‘you’ but never me, once more.

<edit>Actively suicidal: For the first time ever (20th January 2018), I’ve just finished writing my last will and testament and my suicide note? I’ve never felt depressed enough to write a suicide note, but now I am, and have.</edit>

Part Two – Me

I’m currently (at the time of writing this) letting a friend down, I owe her some photos. I’ve taken them but for the love of God I can’t post-process them no matter how much I want to. It’s easier to sleep all day every day or play video games. The last time I went out and did something positive was exactly a week ago. In the seven days since, I haven’t showered, washed, changed my clothes or shaved. I often sleep in my unchanged clothes in a bed that looks like a tar pit due to the fact a muddy unkempt dog sleeps in it too. I’m hating every advert for Christmas with a passion. I’m scared of everything. Even when I do go out I take a combat knife big enough to skin an elephant because of my anxiety. Yet inversely I’m actually scared of very little and certainly not scared of anyone that might try to hurt me or mine. The saying to never corner a wounded animal rings so true as I wrote that. Never antagonise a man with nothing to lose. What ‘have’ I got to lose if I stab a would be attacker in the head? What is prison to someone with suicidal tendencies? Prison is just another cage no different to my self imposed one. At least in prison they’ll control my diabetes rather than letting me slowly use it as a long and painful way to die by not having the commitment or willpower to control what I eat or drink, at all.

I steal when I’m out. Not from friends or people, never from friends or people, but from organisations, shops. from Oakley and Starbucks only. Only but always. Not because I need for anything but because the rush of adrenaline changes my mood for a short while and because it amuses me that I focus on just two brands, one of which is pointless. How many fucking Starbucks cups and beakers is too many? At least I like Oakley sunglasses.

I self harm, blatantly by cutting and inadvertently by my lack of care of myself. The cutting is never for sympathy, it’s often on show but I never bring attention to it, it’s just because my inner forearm is the easiest place to cut. People that know me pay no attention to it and know that I abhor platitudes and sympathy. I do it because like the adrenaline from theft it makes me feel different. Cutting and often a spray of aftershave or squeeze of lemon causes a bright flash of pain, the complete opposite of the numbness I feel all day every. Clean, bright, white, shiny pain that overrides the numb. The cutting is never uncontrolled, never done in anger. It is controlled and deliberate. Cross hatched to fit as many cuts as possible on my forearm and cross hatched to overlap and cause slightly deeper welts at the points where the cuts cross. Never too deep but never quite superficial either. Think of the depth as somewhere between a paper-cut and a slash. I’ve always got a blade sharp enough for control. Whether it’s the eponymous box cutter or a scalpel blade. Never cut with a blunt knife! Never cook with a blunt knife either. You’re more likely to hurt yourself with a blunt knife, amusingly enough.

I impulse buy, not because I need anything new but because knowing something new is coming through the door tomorrow is a short lived salve for my pain. The same endorphins released by gambling and serial dating are released by impulse buying. It’s an addictive, seemingly harmless way of self medicating but just as addictive as drink or smoking. And just as hard to give up. You could say that compulsive (let’s really call it what it is) buying is harmless where drink and cigarettes actually have a detrimental affect on your health. While that’s true, the money could certainly go to better uses. I could save it, I could use it to pay for dog walking and sitting, I could eat more healthily and I could certainly do with the space that buying shit all day takes up. You can only play so many games a year, I think if I never bought another game for the next year I would have enough games to see me through the next twenty years if I aimed to complete everything.

My garden is more often than not overgrown and my flat remains undecorated even after three years in London. When I say I don’t go out I mean I don’t go out. Not even into the garden. Not if I can help it. Both the front and back garden need attention. The front garden is a bone of contention as there are three people in this building and no-one cares what the front looks like seemingly apart from me. When I have brought it up with them, that from the steps down to my basement is my responsibility but the stairs upwards and the shared area would be theirs I am met with blank stares and outright refusals. How does that make me feel? I already struggle but to be ignored when all I want to do is improve the front for all of us is freakily annoying and makes me rebel and not do anything. Perhaps we all feel like me and we’re all tramps? A building full of mental health sufferers that refuse to tidy the front garden. One day we’ll be fighting our way through empty crisp packets and nine foot tall Buddleia trees. At least the butterflies will be happy!

The back garden is mine and mine alone to deal with. Even so, I find it so hard to go out there. It isn’t like my Cornwall garden where only one house overlooked me and the garden was big enough to find privacy if I wanted to. In London, at least a hundred windows (I counted) overlook my property and again, unlike Cornwall my garden is paved, doesn’t overlook the Percuil river and the sun is mostly blocked by trees of some description and the houses next to and behind me. In Summer it isn’t a garden for sun-lovers, it’s a garden for digging weeds from in between the paving stones. In fall it isn’t a pretty garden with an Acacia tree changing colour, it’s a nightmare of wet leaves and hidden Sid poop. Even the most diligent of gardeners would struggle with the amount of leaves that get deposited over my few square meters. I tried originally to have an area that would be similar to a mulching/recycling plot. It filled after the first winter and tree/rose pruning. Now, in my aim to look after the environment I have an area overflowing with leaves and branches. So much so that the bench I used as a boundary has now become part of the mulch and is slowly rotting away. It’ll make a great home for stag beetles eventually.

My sleep-hygiene is absolutely screwed, I sleep at odd hours (I’m editing this at 03.09am) or don’t sleep at all. At this very moment I am awake since 4 am and a Paloma Faith concert on BBC catch-up. I feel that I’ll have to go and give the garden a quick go over after writing this if I don’t go to bed (I didn’t). Yesterday I woke at 9.30 am when Lolita dropped her dogs off. I went back to sleep until 11.30 am, fed Sid and the girls, played some Destiny 2 on reset day, went back to bed at 4 pm. Woke at 7 pm to feed the dogs again, Lolita came and left by 10.30 pm and I fell asleep. As already stated I was awake again at 4 am, sore from being asleep on the wooden floor. This was a pretty average day. Some days I might sleep for a full 24 hours only waking when Sid feels like eating (I keep the backdoor open for him for toilet) or I might be awake for 24 hours. It seriously makes you tired even when you spend so much time asleep. It’s no lie that we need eight hours on average and at regular times. I feel like I live in a world of permanent jet-lag. I’m never quite sure what time it is apart from being guided by what’s on the TV. If I’m watching Jeremy Kyle it’s generally morning, if I’m watching Jeremy Kyle and there’s a guy in the bottom right signing for the deaf it’s between 12 am and 9.30 am. If someone is quizzing or selling their old shit at auction it’s some time during the afternoon. It’s no way to live a life.

My health lies in tatters. Eventually my hope of having a limb amputated will come true. The dietician I should be seeing refuses to see me until my mental health is sorted. In the mean time I live on a diet of chocolate, cake, processed scum with chips and beans and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. Plus more coffee with a side order of tea. The diabetes were it human would be having a field day. Crisps, chips, battered fish, pizza, burgers, sausages, milk shakes, chocolate ice cream, nothing is off limits to the depressed and slobified diabetic. My blood sugar level reads like a darts score card (180!) but due to the 30 odd tablets I take a day my cholesterol level is apparently brilliant. The diabetes and the neuropathy are the main worries though. Neuropathy is dead nerves… The same thing as missing limb syndrome. Because the nerves are dead the brain gets confused and makes them hurt or something. The same as if they were actually missing. This pain is like burning pins and needles although parts of the limb actually don’t feel anything. Confused yet? To combat the burning pins and needles, so the pain doesn’t become a distraction and the only thing I concentrate on (it’s THAT painful at times) I take Tramadol by the bucket load. At least sixteen 50mg tablets a day. I’ve actually taken thirty-six 50mg tablets in a day just out of curiosity. As an experiment the results were inconclusive: I actually felt no different to normal. But. Even 16 a day must have some negative effect? Even the Dr. at the pain clinic this week said that sixteen would put a horse to sleep so must affect the way I move through life and think. I think she was saying that I’m the equivalent of always being on an opioid bender. As opium is a narcotic the likelihood is that my mood is completely suppressed. With the help of a rehab clinic she wants me off of the Tramadol or at least on a licensed dose; two to four tablets a day. Maybe it’ll make a difference especially if another pain killer with anti-depressant effects is doubled it might have positive results. I’ll have to wait and see.

My career lies in tatters due to my inability to commit to anything or complete anything. My book remains partly written, the photography for it mostly unphotographed. My portfolio remains old, I have few fresh ideas anymore and the ones I do have remain just that, ideas. I feel like the media, however respectful I am has made it hard to approach new models without seeming creepy. I do lack a few things, lights and back-drops for example that are beyond my means that would enable me to control light well enough to be seemingly little more than a man-with-camera. I thought about a go-fund me page but seriously, if I can’t get people to sign a petition how am I going to persuade people to give up £3000 or so? Especially when ‘friends’ have recently made a mockery of the GoFund me site (similar funding sites are available) and such by asking for leisure products and holidays from myself and mutual friends.

I’ve been on my own for about seven years now, not because I want to be but because I want a partner not a nursemaid or someone to heal me. I want to be an equal part of a relationship and not the lesser half. Even there I sabotage myself because truly, the girls I fancy are the same ones I’d photograph. Women of my own age I see as friends only, not as potential partners. Women in their mid 20’s to 30’s appeal to me far more. Perhaps I don’t want the same baggage as I come with or perhaps I need the same spontaneity that I come with. Perhaps I need a Tekken competitor as much as I need a bed-partner and travel/life companion?

Bear in mind please that these effects of my depression are only skimming the surface. If I were to write everything I feel I’d be writing a book. Wait… I am meant to be writing a book on this. But maybe, just maybe, if you read this far you’ll have a better understanding of me and what I say and do. Sure, I’m not politically correct but I don’t care for political correctness. It makes me feel icky. I’m respectful and polite in my own way, a way that was taught to me by my Grandad. What was good for the 40s and 50s when men were gentlemen is good enough for me today. I might make the odd off colour joke about a particular woman but never in bad taste or meant to offend. I might make racially/physically/religiously inappropriate comments, but again, never to offend and often because I believe we have become TOO politically correct and I’m never going to stop calling wusses gay. None of my gay friends are wusses and very very few of them are camp. They know that my use of gay isn’t so much an insult to homosexuals and lesbians rather it’s an insult to people that I believe are the caricature of camp gayness and as such get the gay moniker thrown in their direction. I’ll also never get why black people can use the word ‘Nigger’ but white people can’t or why freedom of speech only applies to those that generally lack it. Let Muslims tear down a Christian religion or burn the UK/US flag outside the US embassy but question whether Sharia law is relevant in Manchester and the thought police will be knocking at your door at four in the morning and ‘racist scum’ will be sprayed across what remains of that same kicked in door.

If I jump into the Thames or steal deck-chairs/sunglasses or use an inner tube to fire conkers at people on a river path you have to cut me a break. Sure, I’m probably in the wrong but I’m also probably having a ‘manic’ moment (meant psychologically) where my thoughts translate into actions I cannot control. I think, therefore I am. I think, therefore I say. At these times no offence is intended but I’m doing/saying the only thing I can even if you personally feel it’s wrong. Please cut me a break. It’s physical Tourettes. Cuntprickballsacks!

Part Three – Bleeding…

So there you have an Andy breakdown. I am FAR from perfect. I value each and every one of my friends and take people as I find them. I judge by my own standards. We all do. If you’re a woman and want to grow a beard or have hairy armpits, have hairy armpits (just don’t show me). If you’re a male plus size model I don’t give a toss. Be a male plus-size model (just don’t eat my cake). If you want a diet coke. Have a diet coke. I believe in freedom of speech. Even the Social Justice Warrior and the Bedroom Cyber-Bully should have free speech. But with a caveat: There was a description suggested this morning for internet etiquette that I loved: 1) Would you say what you’re saying online to the same person face-to-face? Pretty much ninety-nine times out of one hundred, if I say something negative online I’d rather be saying it to your face. 2) Is the article that you’re going to comment on clickbait designed to elicit a negative response? If yes, don’t click on it and deny the owner of the site the financial marketing/advertising revenue generated by your click. If enough people remember this the demographic of internet marketing will change. 3) Just think before you get involved in an online debate. We unfortunately live in a decade where people are offended or triggered by everything, even by being offended. People are thin-skinned and our overt political correctness has led to virtually any speech becoming un-pc in some way. If you’ve nothing nice to say, say nothing. This won’t apply to me as I’m Aspergic but not all of you will have this excuse. Try to be kind. Even to the spazzers like me.

I’m definitely not saying be sympathetic or patronising to me. Even last night my dog sitter asked me what makes me so special when we all have problems and are all dealing with our own demons. Nothing makes me special. My only failing is that I’ve been knocked down so many times that this time I’m finding it hard to get back up again. A friend once said that that was what she most admired about me; my ability to get back up and reinvent myself slightly after every knock-back. Only an idiot would try the same thing time and time again and expect a different result. No? Isn’t that the definition of a moron? Keep repeating exactly the same thing expecting a different result? While a true genius is someone that knows a little about everything not everything about something.

This time, after selling everything I hold dear after a business failure, the loss of all my syndication money after my blasphemous stint, a search for redemption and faith ending in a proposed exorcism, the loss of an important long-term relationship, the loss of four important friendships, the miss-reading of four potential (in my head only) relationships with girls I really (really) liked, a total relocation from one of the prettiest places ever to somewhere not pretty at all, (for work and bucket-list reasons that so far have failed) and chronic illness. I’m finding this one extremely hard to bounce back from. I’ve also lost the support of the people that would normally help me bounce as even the best of friends have limits. It fucking hurts. And as that hurt becomes deeper it becomes a depression. It’s more than a sadness; far deeper down that dark pit or despair and far less forgiving.

Since 2004 it’s taken it’s toll. It’s cost me jobs and businesses. I been precious about my work to the detriment of a business, I’ve nearly worked with Santa Cruz surf and skate, I would’ve been the first person in the UK to shoot advertising for them. I’ve worked with some great models, some became friends, some of those friends I’ve lost, I’ve dated some real stunning girls and lost them, I recently found I was shooting glamour before 1986 but didn’t become a photographer for real until about 20 years later. I’ve met a bunch of my punk heroes, most are amazing but John Lydon was a prick. Good or bad I’ve stopped bouncing back for a while. I cycle and swim for my health but think cycling is a waste of time; riding in circles with no purpose. And swimming will only benefit me (really benefit me) when I’m back home in Cornwall or can effectively do the front crawl again, (where did that ability go?) I don’t think London will ever feel like home again unfortunately but at least I recognise that now. Cornwall has become my spiritual home. I want to be back by the sea. I want to be able to take someone back home with me and start again. But only after I’ve been able to finish what I started here. In London.

I pray for my depressed friends to recover, those that I know of at least (Richard), I pray for my lost and nowhere to be found loved ones (Zana) and I pray for my friends that no longer want to be friends; (Gayle and Hollie but especially Kate). I often pray for them more than I pray for myself. I pray for those that have helped me along the way (Jo, Di, Ros and Pete). In fact, at one time of another I pray for all of you.

Pascal’s Wager again… What do any of you have to lose if I pray for us all? Bear with me please.

(1) Living with clipped wings—Patients’ experience of losing a leg: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3797366/


Mar 232013
 

So many things are going on in my head right now. I’ve been reading teh interwebs for two days straight and I’m feeling like my dislike for people in general is justified. Of course, ‘teh interwebs’ (sic) is where the trolls live so I’m probably being unjust if I base the whole of humanity on a few, but still.

What made me write this post is a thread I read on an IMDb forum regarding the film ‘Monsters’ [2010] written and directed by Gareth Edwards and shot for around $15,000. It’s an awesome movie considering the low budget.

Filmed on a Sony EX3 with a Nikon 50 MM Lens the director used natural light almost exclusively except for a couple of tiny LED lights for when it was pitch black. The effects were done in Adobe CS4 and the editing in Premiere. The majority of filming was shot with just a sound guy, the director and the 2 main leads. Most of the extras were locals and a lot of the scenes and locations were shot opportunistically.

Awesome! But by fuck were the trolls out to get this one on the forums.

I replied recently to another thread on another site I use to people who were criticising a short animation. Most of them were not criticising the story or the characters, they were criticising the actual cinematography and the techniques used. This was on a gaming site.

My comment was simply; “if you can do better go out and do it. If not, have respect for the man that did. If you actually have the skill to do a better job and think that the film maker could have done things better or improve on his technique, send the director an email and offer to help him.”

Constructive criticism is welcomed by all. I know I welcomed it as a photographer. If someone obviously had more talent than me I learnt from them if I could and listened to what they had to say. I ignored the ‘I could do that’ trolls. If they could, they would’ve and I would be copying them

The two things that got to me on the ‘Monsters’ forum were 1) the thread criticising the lead male for portraying a professional photographer badly and 2) criticising him (the photojournalist) for going with the girl (that he didn’t know) in the first place (into territory infected by the ‘Monsters’ of the title).

Amongst the many reasons Scoot McNairy was criticised for playing a photojournalist badly was that in one of the last scenes he just stands and watches the monsters rather than shooting them (with his camera). That led me to thinking about the incident I was involved with only two days past. And. Bear in mind I ‘am’ (or was) a professional photographer.

20 March 2013. I was on the King Harry Ferry (a chain ferry) crossing the river Fal when I watched a car roll off of the concrete slipway, onto the riverbank and stop with it’s front wheels in the water. I was on the opposite side of the Fal. The driver, an elderly male had apparently (I was later to learn) stepped out of his car to take a photo and either didn’t apply the handbrake properly or the handbrake failed. As of writing there hasn’t been any more information.

The driver and one other male seemed to dither about by the car, one of them wandered back across the slipway to a moored and beached dinghy with an outboard before sauntering back. Neither male looked overtly worried in so much as they weren’t about to get their feet wet. As we (the people on the ferry) watched, the car began to slide into the water. The driver looked panicked and the skipper of the ferry was already on the radio and the phone to the emergency services. A manager from the ferry company had got into a small boat and was making his way across the river towards the scene of the accident.

A disabled woman was trapped in the car! With two dogs. As it slipped under the water.

When the ferry was about thirty feet from where the car had probably settled underwater I was begging the guy in the boat above the car to throw me a rope so that I could dive down and see what I could do for the woman in the car. He refused and refused. I begged. His reasoning was that the water was too deep, 25/30 feet at that point, and that the visibility was nil and that the river was tidal. I knew it would be too dangerous without some kind of safety line myself and was feeling awful and frantic that I wanted to help but wasn’t being allowed to.

When it was obvious that the ferry could dock and cause no more difficulties to the car it pulled onto the slipway and having the only four wheel drive with a tow bar (I drive a Land Rover) I figured that if a rope could be hooked onto the car I might be able to tow it out of the river. The guy on the small boat was desperately trying to hook the car, which he couldn’t see, and was only approximately sure of it’s location, with his anchor. If he could manage it, I could try to tow it.

Two inshore lifeboats arrived. Neither having a diver they agreed that trying to hook the car with an anchor and me towing it was probably the best idea available at that time.

Two offshore lifeboats and a helicopter arrived but still no diver. The best shot was a local mussel ‘free’ diver named Matt Vernon, (a fucking hero!) he spent ages in just a wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins diving down in the nil visibility, and near freezing water trying his best to get some kind of line on the car. At one point he did and the line was tied to my car by the coastguard on the shore and I was instructed where to drive and how slow. I moved perhaps 15/20 feet before the car got stuck (I was later told) on the ferry chain and my clutch began to burn out.

The rope was then tied to the winch of a fire engine and at that point it couldn’t tow the car out of the water either.

This was perhaps three quarters of an hour after the car had gone into the water with the woman.

This is a précis of the whole story. There had also been an off duty policeman directing traffic, a community police officer trying to co-ordinate things on shore. The ferry standing offshore with two ambulances and a fire engine. A fire engine on the submerged cars side of the water with two coastguard trucks, four police cars and an ambulance.

Including the emergency services on the opposite side of the river, on the river and in the air there were eighteen vehicles. Not one of them had a trained and equipped diver.

Cornwall has the most coastline of any UK county and this local region, Carrick, is one of it’s most coastal with tourism and fishing both playing a major role. The nearest major town; Falmouth (along with the Carrick Roads area where the river Fal and river Percuil meet) has the third deepest natural harbour in the world.

EIGHTEEN emergency vehicles, at a coastal emergency, and not one diver.

Again, this is a précis. I struggle to think about that afternoon and have prayed for the man that lost his wife and dogs. For the woman that died and for the dogs and for all that were involved and that might be feeling a little raw for their involvement.

As a man, I hope I did everything I could to help. I beat myself up for not getting into the water and forcing the issue of the ferry guy giving me a rope but I know he did the right thing by refusing; while I was giving a statement to the police the officer said that the only thing more galling than losing someone to an incident like this (and he’d never, in ten years been to an incident like this) was losing two people when the person that tried to help ended up dying too. It’s a sobering thought.

As a photographer. As the only photographer on the incident side of the river. I actually considered being able to get photos that no other journalist would be able to get and wondered the financial value of said photos…

Ultimately, I decided against it. As a photographer I decided against it. This wasn’t a tsunami or 9/11 where the disaster was worldwide news. This was a local, personal tragedy and as such my role was to help and not to document a media event that would not have world wide ramifications and photography would not be part of it’s history.

Thinking about the forum comment that sparked this blog post, unless you’re there, unless you’re a photographer you have no idea how you’re going to react to a situation or whether you feel the need to document it. By saying that ‘not taking photos’ is a bad representation of a photojournalist the troll has no idea. I was there and I didn’t take photos. To not take photos shows humanity in some situations and an actors job is to be as naturally human as possible.

Troll… You have been pwned!

As for item #2. Why did the photojournalist decide to go cross country (across a monster infected area) with a girl that he’d just met?

I’d like to think that all things being equal. In that situation, I might make that decision too. Like Luke Rhinehart. The ‘Diceman’, sometimes you have to throw the dice and take a risk. Even if the dice are metaphorical, sometimes you have to roll them and do something unexpected. As the events of the 20th have shown, life is too often, too short. We have no idea when ours will run out and one has to make the most of each moment. One minute you can be admiring the scenery and within ten minutes either yourself or your family and pets can be dead.

Dead is forever. This moment, this life is fleeting. Even your allotted eighty or so years, seen in perspective, in time, is but an eye-blink. What percentage is your allotted life, of time that has gone before, since the beginning of time until the end of time with the implosion of the universe? It is an infinitesimally small amount of time. That’s all you have, all you will ever have and you don’t even know how long that time is.

Live! Live in the moment. Live for today. Take risks, take calculated gambles and live. Experience life. Enjoy life and if you don’t, find a way to. Find someone to share it with. Take a risk and talk to the girl you feel you’ll have no chance with because the chances are she feels just as insecure as you do. Take that walk in the countryside. Stop and smell the flowers. Play with your kids and pets. Take a holiday. Spend some money recklessly, swim in the ocean, hike cross country. Talk to a stranger. Look out to sea and smell the salt. Tell your folks you love them, eat ice-cream in the winter, try sushi for the first time. Just fucking enjoy and experience life because it is too fucking short not to.

Why did the journalist go cross-country with a girl he’d just met (but probably fancied)? Because he could!


Mar 312011
 

If my life were a Role Playing Game, right now I’d be levelling up in photography and my relationship status would be set back to zero: +4 commitment to life, -2 happiness, +8 peace of mind and +/-9 positivity.

Finally, along with causing abject depression, my commitment to photography and a photographic career has cost me my six year relationship. My partner decided enough was enough and were I to continue along the path I have been walking she’d walk herself; Thus, she’s left me for someone else more stable. Leaving me with a rented property I can ill afford and our dog.

I got the dog! You have no idea how happy that makes me. Sid (my orange coloured Cocker Spaniel) is my rock! We shared pancakes today, sat on the sofa, scratching our fleas, catching up on the past few episodes of The Event.

I read an article the other day on the theory that time seems to speed up the older one gets.

We’ve all heard that, right? Okay, according to a study done by the University of Cincinnati some time in the seventies this effect is so pronounced that if you’re twenty today, in terms of your subjective experience, you’re already half way through your life even if you live to be eighty. If you’re in your forties, (again assuming you’ll live to the ripe old age of eighty) your life is seventy-one percent done.

So my life is (subjectively) over seventy-one percent finished, my career hasn’t started yet, I’m broke, I live in rented accommodation in purgatory Cornwall, my family have all but disowned me, my daughter lives back in London, I’m in ill health and my partner has now left me. But, I do have my dog.

I have my dog, a portfolio of work I’m quietly pleased with, a nomination for a photographic award I’m not allowed to talk about as I’m far from a finalist yet, an article published in a professional photographic magazine this month and a plan.

+9 positivity indeed! Life could well be worse… (that wasn’t an invitation).

Actually, for the first time in my life I have three plans. I have a plan A, a plan B and a plan C. Plan A is my master plan. The one I’m not discussing yet apart from to very close friends and the one member of my family still talking to me.

Plan A is my career saving plan. However, if I fail to define myself as a photographer is my life really over? According to studies by the University of Cincinnati blah blah blah it already is so why worry?

I’ve still got roughly twenty-nine percent of my life left so I might as well make the most of what little time I have left, possibly, (probably), I should stop being a depressive drama queen and start making the most of what I do have. Hence; plan B and plan C.

Reading this back to myself to spell check and proof, perhaps I’m actually an undiagnosed manic depressive and this is one of those bouts of unbridled mania that comes before another big low. It certainly sounds like it might be. Next time you’ll be reading my obituary!

If plan A fails I could? forget being a photographer and accept that my lot in life is that of an ex-pat living in Cornwall. I could get a minimum wage job flipping burgers for one of the chains or get a job in some extreme sports or surf shop and in my spare time make the most of what this (don’t believe the ‘sunny’ hype) rainy county has to offer.

I could finally learn to surf. I could visit (with my dog) the three hundred or so beaches I have yet to see including that blasted Kynance Cove I’ve failed to get to for two and a half years now.

I could visit some of the beauty spots I have still failed to visit and I could walk the moors (again with the dog and wearing those very expensive walking boots I bought pre-Cornwall convinced I’d need them and that I’d be walking the moors all the time although as yet I’ve failed to do anything but drive through them very fast in an attempt to get somewhere else).

I could fly my kites, I could take up bird watching, I could regain my fitness and by working that minimum wage job perhaps enjoy being self-sufficient again albeit on a reduced budget.

If I were sensible this life might even offer a way to come off of my blood pressure, my cholesterol and some of my diabetic meds. I’m sure it’d be on the right track to coming off my depression meds and might even be an incentive to give up smoking if fitness were a way forward to happiness. Who’d have thought it? If not gushing I do sound vaguely positive.

But wait, there’s more! I did say there was a plan C no?

If, upon reflection, plan B seemed too mundane were plan A to fail plan C would be to sell everything I own barring the dog and take to travelling.

I’d be like those intrepid photographers of old… Just me, the dog and a trusty Leica. Travelling the world (rabies shots permitting (me not the dog)) and documenting the sights. Sure, pretty much all the sights have been documented, but not by me. Have you ever seen a Pygmy wearing a gas mask or a Inuit gimp? Neither have I!

I have friends across America, I could start there by bumming some accommodation; New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and San Francisco. That’s a start no? Is the French Quarter of New Orleans still standing?

From the US I’d like to see some of the Caribbean, I’d like to travel to North and South Vietnam and I’d like to see the Killing Fields of Cambodia. I guess I’ve seen too many war films. I’d like to go to Thailand and Japan. I’d like to visit Prague and  St Petersburg and (vaccinations permitting again) maybe hook up with some of those beautiful East European prostitutes one reads about.

If I get bored or too despondent I’ll buy myself a drug overdose in Phuket, wander off into the jungle and never be heard from again. Leave ‘em wondering. It’s a good job that my model release forms state that my beneficiaries can gain monetarily from the sale of my pictures. A dead artist is often seen more favourably than a live one.

It all sounds good on paper. However. There is still the not-so-small matter of my crippling procrastination to deal with.

As a brief aside; I do this a lot don’t I? I recently came across a theory that if you have to make a choice, flipping a coin is a good way to make it. Not as random as it may seem, the theory goes that once you’ve attributed your choices to either heads or tails and while the coin is in the air you instinctively know which way up you want the coin to land. THAT is the option to pick. Forget chance. You just go with that gut feeling.

Hmmm, if only I could find a three sided coin… In the meantime I think I’ll just sit here and procrastinate writing about how good life could be if only.

Oct 182010
 

One of my most admired business models is that of Coffee Cake and Kink in London;

Coffee Cake and Kink online

Partly for the great coffee, partly for the great cake but mostly for their warm greetings, tolerant non-judgemental advice, great customer service, superior product lines, adult art and for creating in London a space where all of the above can be enjoyed by anyone of any gender, mix of gender or sexual persuasion.

Whilst I was still living in London there was nothing better than spending a sunny afternoon, drinking coffee, sat at one of their outside tables, watching the world go by or chatting to other customers about everything from Eastenders on TV the previous night to the best way to bind the breasts of a willing female slave and what rope to use.

If money were no object and I could open a business in Cornwall tomorrow I’d be phoning Alana and asking if I could either franchise or borrow their name and business model to open a similar shop to CCK down here in Cornwall. In fact, had my studio not closed it would have hopefully evolved into something very similar to CCK.

That would have, could have been the social enterprise aspect of my business; to promote safe and healthy sex and tolerance of all sexuality in Cornwall. (You have to remember that Cornwall often seems to lag a little behind the rest of the country and that Truro only held it’s second Gay Pride this year).

Cornwall, at least as far as the Cornwall I have seen, isn’t too big on sexual tolerance. Hence this post.

On the 11th of October this year, St Austell town councillors met to discuss the councils position should it receive an application for a sex shop, cinema or sexual entertainment venue. The result, pending approval by Cornwall Council was that a ‘zero tolerance’ policy should be implemented.

Apparently 90 streets were ‘blacklisted’ (those that contained any thoroughfare for children and stores that children or their parents may use, other entertainment venues or religious meeting places). Councillor John Stocker thought even more streets should have been included on the list.

The deputy Mayor Sandra Heyward (who was responsible for the groundwork prior to the meeting) insisted that the plan for zero tolerance was not decided on a ‘moral basis’.

During the meeting, examples were given citing why a zero tolerance plan was best, including; an Ann Summers store in Cardiff, six doors away from a Disney store, a sex shop in Truro having been granted a license next door to school uniform shop and the fact that a sex shop that opened in St Austell several years ago was forced to close after only six weeks because “concerned parents protested and it became a ‘bit of an embarrassing’ place to go”.

The above was taken from an article by Dominic Howell in the Cornish Guardian dated the 13th October 2010.

Zero tolerance huh? Well, it looks like my plans are scuppered! I wonder how old the councillors are, what businesses they personally represent and what the demographic of the shopping public of St Austell is?

I can (sort of) see the councillors point of view if they were objecting to the sort of sex shop that existed in the 1970’s that only appealed to the ‘dirty Mac’ brigade. But, since the internet that kind of shop has largely vanished. Firms that synonymised that kind of sex shop like ‘Private’ have moved online and there is no longer a need for blacked out windows and screens between the shop door and shop proper. Sex shops by today’s definition are often stores for women who want to experiment with their sexuality actually run by women.

Jacqueline Gold’s clever re-branding of the Ann Summers chain paved the way for this and brought sex to the high street although when they tried to open a shop in Tunbridge Wells they were accused of ‘degrading’ marriage. Perhaps it is fashionable to move to St Austell for retirement from Tunbridge Wells?

Firms like Sh! Harmony, Coco de Mar and Organic Pleasures took Ann Summer’s ball and ran with it, proving that women actually liked sex and that the problem with sex was (probably) the male’s perception of ‘sex’. This was largely typified by shops with blacked out windows, rows and rows of magazines and films featuring big breasted, vacant eyed never-to-be starlets on the covers and blow-up dolls in boxes with a lurid red, gaping hole where the mouth should be and legs akimbo held apart by hard plastic seams that grazed your skin. (Allegedly).

In an area like St Austell that has problems with it’s youth, with drug use and teenage pregnancy is zero tolerance the best policy?

I know for a fact that when I opened my studio for it’s short lived stint in St Austell that people in the LGBT community, the transgender community and the BDSM community were crying out for somewhere they could shop, drink coffee amongst their own and have somewhere to meet on a day-to-day basis.

I know of a schoolgirl lesbian that was bullied into leaving her school when she ‘came out’ even though it is fashionable to be bi-sexual in the same school.

A middle aged lesbian complained that nowhere in Cornwall was there anywhere she could turn to for advice on lesbian pornography or sex toys without being part of the ‘LGBT’ culture, something she felt she didn’t ever want to belong to. Her sexuality she explained, was her own private business and not a statement. She lived alone she told me.

I know that people in both the Transgender and BDSM communities in St Austell didn’t always want to have to travel to Truro for a monthly structured meeting (munch) or have to go to Truro’s ‘gay bar’ for a drink.

On Facebook, there are Ann Summers ‘groups’ (with plenty of members) based in all the major Cornish towns. Ann Summers parties are therefore big business locally which by association would imply that there was a need for sex toys and sexy lingerie. As my own modelling groups on Facebook and these Ann Summers groups often shared the same ‘friends’ I can safely say that the demographic for both was in the age range of 14 years old to around 22.

Councillors and parents in Cornwall. Wise-up! Your children are having sex! Your constituents and shoppers are having sex. Your children and constituents may be gay or not adverse to wearing a little latex while strapped to a St Andrews cross being flogged enthusiastically about the buttocks with a leather riding crop or bamboo cane.

One could argue that given the propensity of ‘online’ shopping there is no need for physical sex shops?

I would say that since the days of the ‘ivory white’, ribbed, nine inch plastic vibrator (sorry; massager) are (mostly) dead and that since sex toys now cost often into the region of hundreds of pounds that physical shopping and sensible, adult advice are completely warranted.

In my opinion a store running with a business model like Coffee Cake and Kink is almost a necessity in all major towns. Cornwall could benefit with a similar shop in Penzance, Truro and St Austell with Plymouth (pun intended) bring up the rear.

Where better for the coffee drinking, cake eating, youth and the sexually diverse to get sensible, non-judgemental advice? Are they going to get advice on safe experimentation in sex education lessons? The family planning clinic? The doctors or from a teenage mum that to supplement her minimum wage income is running Ann Summers parties for her mates? I think not.

Zero tolerance? I think that the councillors of St Austell need to re-think their policies or at the very least have someone on board to play devils advocate and help bring Cornwall (kicking and screaming probably) into the 21st Century.