Goodbye summer

I like it in Scotland when you can talk about a season with no reference to the weather. Summer is a strict MayJuneJuly affair, rain or shine (or rain). So now that it is just at its end for the 2011th time this epoch, it should be celebrated. Not to say that the sun and games are at an end, contrary, August in Edinburgh means just that, but its nice to take a little time aside and revel in the sun we did have and all the deviancy it brings. This is no time for writing, there is weather to be had…


How can I not thank Ollie, Elaine and the wonderful S for all the sun times? I cannot!


The run

Since there is still so much footage i am sifting through from my visit to Paris this spring, i am never going to get it all out at one time. So i wanted to share some pictures that sit very high on the nostalgiometer and score an epic 10 on the fondoscope, as it were.

As i write this i am currently in the throes of needing a hobby. I’ve been talking about it for some time but, tragically,  there are some unfortunate self-imposed criteria that give me ample opportunity to procrastinate. What i need, what i really need, is something wildly exciting, yet on my doorstep. Something complex and technically brand new, yet requires minimum expensive specialist equipment. Something that i can take anywhere with me, yet does not necessarily require a car (but maybe a licence -whoa!). Something that pricks up ears at the dinner party, yet is not pursued by the man on the street. You know, a hobby? I think if i fed these ludicrous demands into some hobby screening database the result would deservedly be Extreme Ironing or some Cross Country Ostrich Farming. I think i need to lower my expectations but, at any rate, i could probably use the ironing practice.

The point is that in my search i have settled for an unsurprising compromise. I run.

I cannot really remember how i started running. One night, when i was much younger and able a night owl than i am now, i put on a pair of shorts and took off in a single direction without any idea where i was going, what my motive was, or what people would make of such a sleeveless wreck wheezing through their housing estate under the cover of darkness. I made this a habit and while i got a lot fitter i didn’t get better, necessarily, at running. I try to run all the time now and how wonderful it is to get into the rhythm of things. I have clothes and shoes, bottles and playlists, and it is all just distracting enough that i only rarely remember what i thought on the first chilly evening i went out:  this is so dull.

Despite my wholehearted agreement with others who say running clears their heads, breaks up their day, relaxes them, gets their thoughts in focus, i must admit, so does a bath. And at least in the privacy of your bathroom you are safe from an inventory of headcolds and arthritic knees if not, least of all, kept from committing sartorial sacrilege. See him now before you… forties, bright pink futuristicfabric vest stuffed over a hoody. Mismatching matching neon lime shorts that stop mysteriously skin-tight below the knee. The brightest trainers at one end, bobbing luminous road-safety beanie at the other. A beacon of aesthetic profanity. And in-between? Facial expressions that shift between narcolepsy, disbelief, and the most piercing grief. With mouth swinging wildly agape punctuated by manic inhalations through gritted teeth. All this offset the whole time by limp, dangley arms that throttle back and forth like a tranquillized T-rex. Well imagine this poor man out in the street busy violating the eyes of all and think: Wouldn’t you rather him enjoying the comfort of a bath?

How i feel about these poor people is that, like me, they need a hobby. I don’t plan on getting lost in self doubt here, because 1) i have thankfully never seen myself run and 2) i ran in Paris.

The breathy beauty of the banks of Seine and the wonderful poetry of early morning Paris will have to wait for another post though, spectacular as is. I went for a run with my pal and roommate Karen one afternoon. Neither of us were game really, it was that or a hangover if i remember correctly. I even brought along a roll of film to document the grimness. But, as we searched for some secluded paradise garden, the low clouds gave way to their carriage, and lo : downpour and delight. What we actually had was very real fun with an enormous sense of achievement. We got ourselves hugely lost,  with everything brand new, our eyes wide open.

So the next time you run ask yourself “what do you want to see and where will you take yourself?” If you just want a quick sweat with your eyes glued to the ground, why not just walk…or have a bath? Get out and lose yourself.


The Fountain

I took this photograph last night. It marks the most recent advance in a long list of failure.
Failure isn’t something widely talked about, especially by those fraught with it. And especially not, by photographers. I am lowering the tone but after all my recent grand successes and fruitions, it is only to strike a balance to write about that which is forgotten when fortune rides around. Success itself is a frustrated process, only so because of defeat and disappointment. But there are no moralistic preachments here today, as i’m sure i normally would have it. I have no words to turn vinegar to wine. This kind of failure is failure complete, from which there is no turning around and any lesson learned is a false compromise. This failure is the failure to act, and here no one wins.
Above is the folding façade of the Fountainpark Brewery. Closed in 2004, before i ever arrived on the scene. Some rusting megalith to values and industry of a forgotten past. Having never lived more than 10 minutes from the site, I walked past it so many times it became invisible. It wasn’t until tiny protrusions of scaffolding and  jet-black hoarding began to appear that my ears pricked up. In an area now overrun with clean, new, polished, empty apartment complexes, i saw the inevitable in the old brewery. What was actually a skeleton of a once enormous brewery was due to start full demolition September last year. Nearly a year on, and it is all but razed to the earth.
 When i found out for certain, i’m not sure what stirred me, but i felt hugely sad that I was on the doorstep of a chapter of history closing. I discovered on an old map drawing from the 1870’s that the Fountain Brewery was indeed writ large. As was Edinburgh, with huge thanks to its brewing industry arm. Exporting  internationally and competing in the elite, it was young muscle on an economic ledger. Here now is the great symptom of modernity. Forgetfulness and thanklessness of our past. In Leith, in Slateford, in Canongate, in Craigmiller, here at the canal, old terraced houses built for the families of the factory workers. Roofs that weathered the storm of paucity and hardship to ferry their families to a more comfortable future. And a promise fulfilled.
Kicking my way down Gilmore Park some freezing night, looking at my breath against the blinding fluorescence of the wrecking crew lamps, I realised there was nothing i could do, and i was out of my element even trying. So i did nothing. I took a few choice pictures of the outside and gradually the sensation of calm and curiosity i enjoyed when i took a shortcut past and smelled the canal and the old stone and metal, became replaced by guilt. In the final months of college I launched a feeble project to document  the structure’s demise. I focused on recognisable markings of the plant that had been marred by the demolition. I never approached anyone about access to the inside. Maybe they would have said yes?  Either way, the photos are not very good. But they draw on a power that dictates all of photography, the power of time. That soon all will be gone and the photos will age, showing an old place where a brewery once stood.
But this is no documentary. In these photos you cannot feel the heritage and age of this old site, the frantic activity of the canal, in a time long ago enough to be a foreign land. You cannot imagine the faces of the workers, and their expressions when the doors closed and their overalls hung up for the last time. You cannot feel the change and the time that has seen this thing through. You only feel the empty silence of an old utility plant crumbling down.  And you cannot feel the strange romance i have developed for the place over the last 4 years, all falling away.