The Home Made Dark Room

IMG_0034_v2The Homemade Dark Room.

Where we all had to go to the bathroom before we started, as no-one could use the toilet while we were all in there!

I was thirteen when I really noticeably got into Photography. At the time, my parents attended a church. They ran an award scheme for the children, it was a bit like after school clubs, or youth clubs for all the kids in the church. It was called the Kings Award Scheme and upon completion of the course, which was usually 4-6 weeks duration, for a couple of hours per week, you received a certificate.

Since such certificates of merit were not commonplace or even given out in our school. It gave me a real sense of achievement back then to be able to do something useful, and practical.  It also gave the people in the church with practical skills, the opportunity to teach them to the kids. It also meant that if someone wanted to have something done on their house, they were able to get it done by someone in the church and a team of kids for the price of materials and refreshments. It is the place where I learned to plaster a wall, lay and point bricks to build a barbeque and develop photographs and later Mum and Dad decided that they wanted to have a go too.

So that is how we decided to turn our family bathroom into a temporary Dark Room, in the evenings while my sister, who was a toddler at the time was sleeping upstairs, we trooped into the bathroom. You see we had to have somewhere with a water supply and there was way too much light in the kitchen. So ever the practical ones, we created this space. A bright orange gloss painted door was placed over the bath, this was now surplus to requirements and the only thing large enough to so that we could lay our trays of developing fluid on it and the wash. On the cupboard in the corner, we placed the photographic enlarger, and the plug for it went through an extension lead which went out under the door. We tried to cover all other light sources with a bath towel so that small shaft of light could not seep underneath spoiling our efforts. The final addition was a large blanket covering the window. We also had a torch, for when we needed some light, since the light switch was on the outside of the bathroom door.

We were limited in our prints, to black and white and I noticed that if each process was prolonged there were interesting effects upon the printed results. The negatives had been selected beforehand in a room with the lights on, so we knew which ones we wanted to do. But that is how we spent several evenings, the three of us cramped in the bathroom, whilst my sister was sleeping soundly for the night. I loved those developing sessions. The smell of chemicals was heavy in the air and probably encouraged at least some of our artistic outcomes, but it was a time when I was able to bond with both of my parents simultaneously and also have a physical memento from it.

It also gave us the opportunity to go through the slides, which were the only film my father used to take photographs on when I was a small child. There were a few cine films too of other family members. But save for the school photographs, all the childhood pictures from when I was a baby were on slides, which meant we rarely got to see them. Unless the slide projector came out for an evening, which was too much hassle. I remember one time they did get the projector out though and being absolutely mortified when in a room full of people suddenly I was confronted with an image of me as a two year old sitting in the car seat in the back of a Morris Minor, absolutely covered in chocolate. I asked what had happened. Mum explained that “Daddy had given me a 2 finger KitKat and was surprised as to just how far it had travelled on a sunny afternoon” He was taking the photo, when Mum asked me to give him a cuddle, so there I was ear to ear grin and arms outstretched to greet him. I was so embarrassed that the memory of that has stayed with me. It is quite an innocent image, so I cannot understand why. I was too young to remember the actual memory of that day.
Other than that I did enjoy the nights when either cine or slides were set up in the lounge, the slides would allow us a peek into the family history, people from the past and happy occasions, holidays, parties and relatives.
I have been trying to encourage my parents to allow me to borrow these, so that I can see them again. Show them to my partner who has never seen them. Unfortunately neither parent is particularly keen to assist with this. My aim is to get be able to photograph them as they appear on the projector, so that I can turn them into a family album that can be shared between us all in years to come. No-one else seems bothered to do it, or even bothered that they may never be seen again. I am the sentimental one of my siblings, the others have their moments, occasionally we share in a memory, my sister being several years younger than my brother and I, has slightly different memories as we were so grown up when she was still small.

Some of the past it would be nice to keep alive. It shouldn’t all be buried and forgotten, there were good bits.

The Wedding Speech, that hasn’t quite happened.

I was watching the tail end of a film last night. It got me thinking and also a bit tearful. There was a wedding scene. I know it’s OK to cry at a wedding, if you are happy for people. I wouldn’t want to be crying out of sadness after all.

In the last few days I have been thinking about the wedding dress and bridesmaid’s dresses safely stored up in the loft. I have often thought of getting it out and looking at it, my own dress. I think about the fact that we came so close to it, becoming husband and wife before my partner became ill and we chose to postpone it. We haven’t rebooked the date. There have been several opinions as to how we should have our wedding. Having booked the church years ago we planned it around places which held some sentimental attachment to me and it all having gone rather wrong we thought about having an extreme opposite to the Church Wedding and thought about a Beach wedding somewhere hot. A friend of ours recently suggested that she and her husband could meet us a Gretna Green on the way up to our house and they could be our witnesses, then we could have a party. I also favour a wild Scottish beach, with our wonderful dog as ring bearer and our friend the laird to take the ceremony with a small celebration in a country house afterwards. But my partner is not so keen.

But, it got me thinking watching that wedding scene, of a chap who had been rather out of the picture in his daughter’s life, her parents were divorced and the Mother had remarried. It would have been rather nice to see the whole film, but we had been watching Saturday Night Dross instead and didn’t know it was on, however since it was TV, it is bound to be on next week or again soon.

It was time for the speeches at the reception and the groom handed over to her step-father as her father to speak. Suddenly, her birth father stood up and asked that since he was her Father, he might speak. He said some beautiful things, like how proud of his daughter he was how beautiful she looked there in front of her family and friends and then handed over to her step father to also speak, it was very civilised. It was lovely to hear and I started to bawl. Somehow it was like flicking a switch to me.

The last wedding that I attended, the bride’s father’s speech had me weeping like a child, it was many years ago and before we got engaged. I had no idea that my own love would ever ask me at the time. Her father took us on a real journey through her growing up and what a wonderful person he thought that she had turned into. Unfortunately we saw a very different side of her later that evening when she wasn’t getting her own way and was screeching at him, but he could see no wrong, totally blindsided. The poor man, but it must be nice to have someone that can see no wrong and I hoped for him that it was just the emotions of the day which had her overwrought.

What got me thinking last night though as I wondered if we ever get married, was whether my own father would be there, what he would say about me if he got up to speak. If we had the beach wedding somewhere, then he might not even attend. But I genuinely do not know whether he has any wish to make a speech, or even be there if or when it finally happens. I would not want him to be there out of duty alone, I only want the people who are happy for us and want to be there, at our wedding.  I am reminded, by my conscience that I promised my partner’s Mother when we got engaged that she would see us married, she wanted to speak, she was very pleased for us and knew that we loved each other so much. It pains me that she didn’t get her wish, she loved a party and was looking forward to it, before Alzheimers’ took her from us. She will be there though, in spirit at least when it happens and we will drink a toast to her. Unfortunately, I will not get to wear her beautiful necklace that she wanted me to on the day, she had wanted to me to wear it and intended to bequest it to me when she had gone. Alas someone else got there first and it disappeared.

The bridesmaid dresses in the loft may have become outdated, they would suit the beach wedding idea perfectly though, with the backdrop of a bright blue sea behind them. But despite me buying an extra one in case they outgrew them, ten years have gone by since and I think the ladies for whom they are intended may want to choose something a bit different now. Like mine their figures have changed in that time. Hmm, maybe I should try on the dress again too, but since there is no date planned at the moment there’s no rush.

As for my own Dad, well I guess that only time will tell and I hope that when we finally get married, if he wants to be there, he will find something nice to say.

When Will It Be?

I wonder when the notes we’ll send,
Or when we get to see our friends.
When the time is right and we are able
To gather them around the table.
To celebrate with us in the here and now.
A dearest wish, no it’s a vow!
So open your diaries, save the date
It’s time for me to marry my mate.
You see there are some plans in place.
A smile planted firmly on my face.
An occasion that’s usually lent,
To conversation and merriment!
You wanted to marry by your 60 years,
That day will come with Happy tears.
We’ve waited so long for this time,
To show in front of the world, you’re mine.
So open your diaries, save the date
It’s time for us to accept our fate.

We had booked the church and hired the hall,
But Nature was harsh and so very cruel.
So the date was put off, just postponed,
And to our surprise, nobody moaned.
The dresses packed up safe and secure,
Shoes in the box, an exciting lure.
Our lives are filled with much emotion
A light never dulled with such devotion
So here you have stayed and we have lasted,
Through sickness and health we haven’t parted.
We just put it off till the time was right
It will be soon, Our Day, Our Night.

In my head just think of the party we’ll plan,
In a beautiful place, along with my man.
A place to sit with our friends who will dine,
At the end of a day that’s filled with sunshine.
A day that’s long we’ll enjoy to the end,
a meal so grand the occasion to lend.
We are all seated down by the river,
I’m there in the moment, it sends a shiver.
With music and dancing and happiness too,
Conversation and laughter between the few.
This is my wish and I must believe,
That it’s one for us, that we will achieve.