Yet another set of photos that never got blogged at the time of taking them back in January (don’t ask, it’s been a very strange year) which is a shame as I was, and am, very proud of these London beauties. Many were taken from the top of Tower Bridge; I paid my tenner AND got to see some Martin Parr prints that were exhibiting there at the time.
The social calendar for Hastings continues to grow and grow, and with each event comes the opportunity to get all dressed up. Maybe preparing for the Zombie Walk is not most peoples idea of making an effort before you leave the house but it was great fun. Unfortunately, I got there too late to secure a good view of the rendition of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. If you’d like to get involved, 1066 Walk of the Dead have a Facebook Page here.
Now that my stock sites are up and running, of which the most active is https://www.shutterstock.com/g/sixpixx , I am venturing out further. Having dipped my toe in the water of http://photo4me.com/profile/sixpixx to deal with the supply of a print to anyone that might possibly want one, I found the upload laborious and the pricing structures ambiguous – this is a shame because it is a smaller, local company and, ideally I would like to use them more. However, even at these returns, it would seem the marketing is still down to the photographer being very organised on social media sites and promoting their own portal (hello – haha) so, I had another look around. I have looked at, but eliminated Smugmug, Zenfolio and Shootproof and eventually settled on (and not because there may be unicorns) Pixieset where my first albums, including this collection of Zombies, have been posted.
A warning that some are quite graphic but, I hope you enjoy the photos:
Well, it took me over an hour to walk the few hundred yards that is All Saints Street in Hastings. It was resplendent under the mid afternoon sun – not the best time to take photos but sometimes you have to before everything disappears into shadow.
At least, this time, I managed to stop myself for a while before being drawn over the road and onto the beach. But that’s another post.
Posts are pretty random at the moment as we have had a disjointed house move that saw us sell one without having secured another and therefore spending a couple of months in temporary accommodation. However, we have now completed the purchase on a new home and are expecting Open Reach to come and install our phone line and therefore our internet at the end of the week – we will have only had to wait nearly 4 weeks. Ggrrrrrrr!!!!!
Anyway, just because I have only been posting randomly from various open Wifi spots across town, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been out and about, taking photos.
This first set were taken at daybreak up at Lady’s Parlour near Hastings castle on the West Hill where some of the dancers, the bogeys and some members of the public gather to watch the sun come up and have a jolly good dance about.
Then, from 10am, starting at the Fishermans’ Museum, the procession passes, loudly and joyously, through the narrow roads of the old town and back up the hill towards the castle where Morris Dancers from all around the world perform in some sort of Folk dance off before the Jack is slayed around 3pm.
Despite the cold and the catastrophe that is the British Rail network at the moment, I braved the odds and took myself off to London for the day this week.
Amazingly, the trip was an absolute success both because I got to see 3 of the 4 exhibitions I had on my list for this winter and, I didn’t have to stand, bemused and confused, on any train platforms due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’. The grande finale was getting a few night shots on the way back to Charing Cross station along South Bank.
So, totally out of keeping with any of the photography I saw at the Magnum gallery, at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition or at the wonderful exhibition of Elton John’s fine, eclectic collection of photographs, here are some of my efforts of the day:
We took ourselves down to Alleppey (or Alappuzha) with a view to spending a couple of nights on a rice boat in the back waters. Little did we realise that it was a national holiday in India and the place would be heaving. After elbowing our way through the other tourists along the quayside where the houseboats were moored and speaking to a couple of captains, we agreed that it may not be quite the unique, romantic, enlightening experience the guide books would have us believe and therefore, opted out.
The host at our homestay had said he could organise a day with a backwater village guide and so we arranged that instead. And, what a pleasurable experience it was. My only regret is to not have spent more evening and morning time on the water when the villagers are going about their daily chores on the rivers.
Fort Kochi, Kochi or otherwise Cochin; a lot of the towns we visited had two names such as Alleppey and/or Alappuzha but I never did find out why. So, to differentiate, I choose to use Kochi for the fort area and Cochin for the district.
Kerala, like many places in the world, is a melting pot of genes and mores left behind by invading societies and no where is this more evident than in and around Fort Kochi where the Arabs left Islam, the Chinese left their nets, the Portuguese left Catholicism, the Dutch left a cemetery, the Jews left trade and the British left Willingdon Island and everyone took boat loads of wonderful spices away.
It feels cosmopolitan; not like London or New York might feel cosmopolitan with their stylish business people and modern architecture but in a gritty, pragmatic, impoverished way, Fort Kochi with its varieties of peoples engaged in varieties of activities feels bustling and cosmopolitan but without the first world sparkles.
WARNING – LONG POST!!!
For the second main stage of our travels to India, we found ourselves heading out into the Arabian Sea with a boat load of middle-aged, middle-class domestic tourists. And I make this distinction because I feel it impacted greatly on the impressions we were left with – still the same kindness and friendliness yet totally different to the fishing community at Cherai Beach.
Leaving from Willingdon Island near Fort Kocki in Kerala, we were embarking on a five night adventure which would include a day visit to 3 of the 39 islands of this archipelago located to the north of, and a geographical extension of the Maldives. The ship that would take us out was, primarily, the ferry and service boat for the locals of the island. And, to help finance the running costs, 200 berths have been made available to tourists. The islanders, generally, are not wealthy people and many of their young depend on jobs on the mainland. Using tourism to help finance this facility that keeps the islands in touch with the mainland seems good business.
On this trip, our first stop was Kalpeni Island – I believe the itinerary may change depending on weather, tides and the needs of the islanders. Here, I had a very brief conversation with a man about how more tourism could help improve the lives of these people. I was quite surprised, from a gender perspective, to be approached; it seems still a very patriarchal society where men talk to men. I’m not sure of the motivations of the SPORT people and their promotion of tourism on the islands; it was quite complicated to make this booking and spaces are limited; it would seem that, rightfully so, access to the islands is being kept in check.
After a comfortable nights sleep in our bunks on the ship, we awoke on the second day to find the ship had already moored off Minicoy island. After a basic but nutritious breakfast, we were again loaded into the local fishing boats and ferried ashore.
The final island we had the good fortune to visit, Karavatti like the name of the ship, is the capital of the Lakshadweep Islands and therefore a little more populated, but not visibly any wealthier. I should have liked to talk more with the locals but they seemed quite shy, keeping away from the hoards of tourists. And, I was surprised the Indian tourists didn’t try to engage with them – again it made me think about the class system in this country and wonder how things work.
We did get a little insight into the psyche of our upwardly mobile travelling companions on this day. Having had a drink in a paper cup, my other half wandered towards the rubbish bin, on his way collecting a few cups, as you do, that had been dropped on the beach and, having placed them all in the bin, thought no more of it…. until. After lunch, a woman came up and said how she had noticed him collecting some of the litter and explained how it ‘almost’ made her consider doing the same. Later that evening, on the boat, after dinner, a couple of the men came over and there ensued a huge discussion on why they could never be seen to be picking up litter. And it was that conversation that, for us, clarified a little the class system in the country and how closely linked it is to the huge litter problem they have.
And I am so terribly behind with posting. Not that I’m complaining after having spent a month in India for which I feel privileged, dumbfounded, enlightened, heartbroken, joyous, humbled, confused, enriched…. I defy anyone to come away from India and feel they have an understanding of how they feel about that place and its people.
Our trip was restricted to Kerala and a little of Tamil Nadu as we didn’t want to spend our month traveling long distances (although I do regret missing the experience of the trains) and we planned a gentle introduction to the country, its people, its food (no global fast food chains here) and the climate by spending several days at Cherai Beach on Vypin Island.
I guess, unless you travel with one of the big tour operators where tourists may be somewhat shielded from the raw everydayness of Indian life, there is no gentle introduction to this enigmatic land. The first obstacle we encountered was how to eat – we were traveling cheaply (lots of homestays and small, independent hotels) and food wasn’t part of the accommodation – mainly vegetarian meals and curried vegetables for breakfast didn’t take too much getting used to and at least, near the beach, there was a wonderful range of seafood.
The seafood leads me onto the second dilemma we encountered very early on during our stay: the Indian’s relationship with the sea. We are avid swimmers and love to get in the sea (yes, even the English Channel) but were unnerved to learn, on the day of our arrival, that a lad had gone missing in the water. Then, after a couple of days watching the domestic tourist buses turn up late afternoon, we realised that the Indians just don’t swim. Some male youths may get in the water properly but as soon as they get beyond chest depth, the ‘lifeguard’ blows his whistle and they come back to shallower water. And, to be honest, although there are miles of beautiful golden sand, the litter and other pollution (yes, it is true, there is still some human defecation in places of extreme beauty) are not particularly inviting. As mesmerised as we were to watch the romantic scenes of the cast net fishermen every morning, it was also dumbfounding to watch them return to the sea the plastics and other refuse they had just dragged ashore in their nets – probably to then drag it all back ashore the following day.
But the landscape was beautiful and the people, whether on the street, from the accommodation or working in the eating places were friendly and helpful and pleased to share insights into their culture.
This is our photo journey of Vypin Island:
Domestic tourists would arrive by the bus load towards the end of the afternoon and then disappear again after sunset:
Very few Indians got into the water when they came to the beach and often, if they did, they would be fully dressed:
It was fascinating to watch the cast net fishermen each morning:
A sight highly recommended by the tourists books, these static nets that are raised and lowered by a series of boulders working as counter-balances and purportedly introduced by the Chinese, are best seen on the north tip of Vypin Island.
As well as the lone cast net fishermen and the small crews that work the canoes, Kerala has a considerable fleet of deeper water fishing boats:
It was on Vypin Island that we first met some of India’s animals – domestic and wild:
And started to become aware of the spiritual diversity of the country. Christians, Hindus and Muslims live their daily lives, side by side, in seeming peace and understanding of one another.
And finally, a few photos for no other reason than to celebrate how wonderful the light is in this part of the world:
Spent mostly in the middle of the Arabian sea on a little archipelago of islands which extend northwards from the Maldives and are an Indian territory known as the Lakshadweep Islands
(If it was week 42, there could only have been 10 weeks left of this year….? Noooo!!!!! And I’m posting this 3 weeks retrospectively so….. 7 weeks? Noo, noo, nooooooo!!! )
Anyway, the Lakshadweep Islands and then back to Fort Kochi: