Around The World In 80 Words : 12. Washing

One of the great delights of travelling around the world powered only by eighty word changes to your what3words geolocation code is that one minute you can be contemplating a volcano in far flung Lombok, and the next you can be strolling along a French boulevard contemplating nothing more challenging than a champagne supper. My faithful companion, Lucy the Labradoodle, and I had travelled half way around the world by doing nothing more than changing ///ironing.basket.shirt to ///washing.basket.shirt. We had been gently lowered to earth on the edge of a field near the village of Creney-pres-Troyes in the Champagne wine region of France, and we headed for the centre of the village with a feeling that, if we were not actually home, at least we were within an exploding champagne cork of home.

There was an easy familiarity about the place: we had never been there before and it was hundreds of miles away from our normal stamping grounds of West Yorkshire, but to veterans of the Arctic Circle, the Turkmenistan desert, and the Angolan plains, such as ourselves, it seemed comfortably normal. As we walked along the road, I remarked to my canine companion that we could have been walking through Gomersal or Batley. All such thoughts were rapidly removed from our minds when some blithering idiot, who was clearly driving on the wrong side of the road, nearly run us down.

Creney-pres-Troyes was quiet, indeed it was slightly sleepy, so we pressed on through the village and heading for the nearest town – Troyes. The town itself is about ninety miles south-east of Paris, and parts of it date back to Roman times. During the 12th and 13th centuries champagne fairs were held in the town and these attracted merchants from all over Europe. The British King, Henry V, married Catherine of Valois in the town in 1420. The town centre still has a wonderful collection of half-timbered houses that date from the 16th Century.

It was towards one of these half-timbered buildings that Lucy and I headed to enjoy our promised champagne supper. All this travelling is all very well, but sometimes you need to just sit down and enjoy the finer things of life: a decent steak, a glass of champagne and a bowl of water. Lucy didn’t seem to like my proposed sharing of this supper, and whilst I was distracted looking at the fine old buildings in the town square, she jumped up and gobbled down half my steak.

It should have been Lucy’s turn to choose the next word, but naughty dogs don’t deserve treats, so I decided to choose for her. As I sipped what was left of my champagne, and tried to pull one of her whiskers from the remaining piece of steak, the decision was made. It’s goodbye to France and hello to ///washing. whisker.shirt – wherever that is!

Endless Days

I used to live next door to this imposing building. At one time it was a church, at other times it has been everything from a pathology facility to student accommodation. Each day I would climb those stone steps heading for the bus shelter and then …. to life.

Annie Moore – Auntie Annie – was my father’s sister and one of the funniest ladies you could hope to meet. Given different times and different fortunes she could have made a good living as a stand-up comedian. She wasn’t: she led something of a sheltered life, but her humour lives on in my memory.

This is a photograph of my niece, Diana, with her grandparents on some holiday beach or other. I have no idea how I came into possession of the tiny half-frame negative this is a scan of – but it found its way to me and now warms up a cold winter day.

Parade Through History

I was asked for more photographs of Northowram, so I dipped back into my archives of dusty old negatives and found this picture of a parade passing down Lydgate in Northowram in the late 1960s. It looks like the crowning of the Village Gala Queen, or some such event, and I suspect I took the photograph in either 1967 or 1968. The scenery is full of memories for me, having walked up that road, walked in the shadow of that monumental stone wall, hundreds of times on my way to school. The greengrocers is long gone, but the buildings still remain -much more sedate and domestic these days.

Making The Best

Not all photographs are good photographs. These days we get instant results from our digital cameras and smartphones, and those that are out of focus, under-exposed or decapitating the heads of relatives, can be instantly deleted. Back in the Film Age, however, the seasons could change between the shutter clicking and the prints arriving. This means that half a century later you come across an old, under-exposed, scratched and out of focus colour slide, and you have to try and make the best of a bad job. The best I could do with this photograph of the old railway sidings near North Bridge in Halifax, is to turn it into a nineteenth century painting.

A Visual Thing

There is a joy in found photographs – a combination of the satisfaction of discovery and the slightly guilty pleasure of historical voyeurism. Take a crumpled old photograph from who knows where. The subjects are nameless and the location is placeless. In scanning the photograph you are preserving it for the future, but, at the same time, you are getting to know the people, stepping into their world. Words don’t really do it justice – it’s a visual thing, it’s the joy of found photos.

More Days

More days – three new calendar pages.

The Black Brook runs through West Vale without causing any fuss. It is not a pretentious river: even its name conceals the fact that it is full of Autumn colour. This was taken on Friday during one of our regular Greetland walks.

The stained glass window in Cleckheaton Town Hall commemorates Spenborough Urban District Council which was established in 1915 and which was based at the town hall. It ceased to be the local seat of government when Kirklees Council was formed in 1974.

This is a more recent adaptation of a photograph I took back in the 1970s. It was the distinctive brick gable end with the inscription “1885”, that obviously attracted me, but I have no memory of where it was.

Around The World In Eighty Words : 11. SHIRT

The Story So Far …..

It started as a harmless question during one of those long lockdown days: was it possible to travel virtually around the world in just eighty word changes to my what3words geolocation code and return to my starting point? For a companion I had my six year old labradoodle, Lucy, and seeing as it is a virtual trip I allow her to speak occasionally (although she never makes much sense). My starting point was the what3word location code for my desk at home – /// – and so far our travels have taken us to such diverse places as America, Australia, Africa, Ireland – and precariously balancing on a floating plank in the middle of the North Sea. Somewhere along the line, we invented a rule that we take it in turns at choosing a new word which will take us to a new, unknown, location. Our last stop was on the plains of Angola in Africa (///ironing.basket.quite) at which point Lucy chose the next of our eighty words – shirt.

“It’s called Lombok”, I said to Lucy as we walked through the rice fields of the Central Regency of the Indonesian island of Lombok. “That’s a silly name,” was the only response I got from my dog who was busy sniffing around to check whether any hyenas had followed us from Angola. “Well, no doubt Huddersfield is a silly name to people from these parts.” I continually tried to fight against the xenophobia of my canine companion, but it wasn’t easy, she was a quarter Labrador after all. Our eleventh word change had taken us to the other side of the world and landed us on a volcanic island east of Java. “Wasn’t there a film with a title something like that?” I asked my dog. She didn’t reply, which is all too often the case.

Lombok is one of the Lesser Sunda Islands which form part of the West Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia. As if being part of a chain of islands known by the term “lesser” wasn’t enough to give you an inferiority complex, Lombok is generally described as being “next to Bali”, which is a bit like being described as being the unknown brother of the famous whoever. It even capitalises on this reputation when marketing its tourism, describing itself as “The Unspoiled Bali”, which is a bit like Cleethorpes calling itself the “Unspoiled Las Vegas”!

Dog and owner had come to land in the middle of a rice field, a mile or so away from the Pendem highway in south-central Lombok. There was clearly plenty of farming going on in the area, and there was a fair amount of variety, so I made efforts to discover what was cultivated other than rice. “They seem to have become fixated with the letter C,” I said to Lucy, “like parents who call all their children names starting with the same letter.” “There’s coffee, cotton, cinnamon, cocoa, cloves, cassava, corn, coconuts and copra,” I said, reading from the guidebook. “Not much chance of sausages,” said Lucy, mournfully. “Nor beer,” I added with equal dismay.

Having reached the main road, we were trying to decide where to go. To the west there were beaches, to the north there were monumental volcanoes, and to the south and east there were …. cloves, corn, coconuts and copra. “Do you think they will have any cinnamon rolls?” asked Lucy. I ignored her question and continued my efforts to educate her on the wondrous features of all the exotic places we were travelling to. “Lombok changed the world in the thirteenth century,” I said. Lucy yawned. The 1257 Samalas volcanic eruption was perhaps the biggest eruption in recorded history. Its after effects helped trigger a mini ice age with famines and crop failures throughout the world. There is still volcanic activity in the north of the island, with the most recent eruption having taken place in 2016.

“And there are earthquakes,” I continued enthusiastically. In 2018 there were massive earthquakes in these parts, with hundreds of people being killed.” Lucy had stopped yawning and I detected a return of that troubled look she displayed when we heard the hyenas in Angola. Yet again I was forced to question the suitability of my companion for a life of international travel. We decided to head for the nearest city and find a luxurious hotel, so we could forget about our fears. A quick Google search found that the nearest suitable candidate was the Hotel Queen in Praya, and so we headed for that with a song in our hearts and a purposeful stride in our steps.

When we finally arrived at the hotel, we were a tad disappointed, to say the least. As we stood outside, I read Lucy some of the reviews that had been posted online. “Location is very strategic and pleasant,” said one. “The waiter is very friendly,” said another. “So what’s it to be?” I said to Lucy, “do we take advantage of the strategic location and risk the very, very friendly waiter, or do we choose a new word?” Lucy shrugged, as only a dog can. The decision was clearly mine. “Right,” I announced with a degree of conviction I’m not sure I could justify, “Let’s pick a new word and head off somewhere else, somewhere we can find a decent hotel, a quiet but well-stocked bar, and perhaps even a cinnamon whirl.” “And someone to do our washing” added Lucy as she sniffed my socks.

So off we go again. We’re heading for ///washing.basket.shirt. See you there.

Day After Day

Three more days, three more calendar pages.

I took this photograph back in the 1980s. I am almost sure it was taken in Stocksbridge, just north of Sheffield. The pipework belonged to the steelworks and the houses inhabited an hinterland between industry and snow covered hills.

This image is based on another pf my photographs from the 1980s. We were staying in Robin Hoods Bay and I was walking early one morning. Some fishing boats suddenly appeared from the mist-covered sea.

The streets are covered with leaves: green turning brown turning black. This one has been scanned, reversed, reimagined and recovered.