THOUGHTS 12 – SOME CHILDREN IN ENGLAND TODAY ARE HUNGRY

 

Mother and baby: love, compassion, kindness:  are these emotions considered relevant by England’s Conservative government?

I have spent a long time in the Third World and seen total, abject poverty.  But then – and this is a shocking thing to say – that was the Third World and such sights were not unexpected.  Those countries face enormous challenges in the modern world, and many of the amenities, commodities, values and lifestyles that we in the developed West take for granted are simply not available to millions of people towards the lower levels of the prevailing social hierarchies.  Seeing such hardship has had a lasting effect on me, it has really altered the way I look at the world in general, and I am grateful for that – albeit it is enlightenment bought at the price of witnessing the plight of others.

But when I returned to England in 1989, at the end of the Thatcher Years ( an earlier Conservative government), I had thought that I had left all of this dire poverty behind me – so that I was all the more shocked and saddened to see people begging and sleeping out on city streets here.

Because it is a simple fact that although the UK is a developed and wealthy Western nation, there are still large numbers of poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged people here – a fact that was further driven into me as I then worked for 20 years in Social Services Departments, collating and analysing service user data.  During this SSD work, I came into contact with the Free School Meals Service, which provides free school lunches for children from deprived social backgrounds.

And now, as well as lunches, many schools are providing breakfasts and other food for their children.  A friend of mine is a School Governor, and I have become involved in this crisis in a small way by donating funds to be used to help this school’s most needy families.  On asking what sorts of things the money would be used for, I was told that it would buy “luxuries” that these families could not usually afford – like biscuits and fresh fruit.  Well, what does one say?  This is the UK in 2020 and, to some, such really very basic items are luxuries???  I have to admit that all this has affected me deeply, and the more so since many families are now also being ravaged by both the covid pandemic and the consequent rising unemployment.


Father and baby: love, compassion, kindness: are these emotions considered relevant by England’s Conservative government?

The government in England has now voted – disgracefully voted, in my view –  not to provide needy children with Free School Meals over the imminent Half-Term Holiday – and this has prompted Marcus Rashford, a famous footballer from a deprived family background, to campaign to overturn this government vote – as he has affected these issues in the past and been awarded an MBE for doing so.  Even if the vote is overturned, that this Half-Term starts here tomorrow will mean that the U-turn, one of so many that this really incompetent English government has made, will not come in time for these children.  But of course the longer Christmas school holiday is rushing towards us, and it may well effect things then.

These events have prompted public uproar.  700,000 have signed a petition against the government’s decision, and 800,000 have signed another petition, to remove public subsidies on the cost of Members of Parliament’s food and drinks.  Many local councils, businesses, cafes and other food outlets have said they will provide free meals for children if the government fails to.  Over 2,000 top children’s doctors have signed an open letter to the government, condemning their policies.

If you would like to know more about these issues, here is Marcus Rashford’s twitter address; please have a look: @MarcusRashford .  And you can also of course simply dial marcus rashford into Google.

Thank you.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 97 – HOUSE ON A FARM

 

 


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House on a farm near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.

These are Luo people who live in the immensely fertile far west of Kenya, not far from Lake Victoria – a vast body of water that supplies them with vast quantities of fish, and with frequent thunder storms which keep their land totally green.

The structure consists of mud walls, above which a conical thatched roof is mounted on a great mass of wooden poles. There is quite a gap between the roof and the walls but, in this hot, equatorial area, cold weather is not an issue. This hut has at least two rooms: the doorway to a second room is to the left of the people. The mud walls have decorations drawn straight onto them, and there is an oil lamp hanging up. Notice how everything, including the chest of drawers and some of the pictures hanging on the walls, has cloth covers.

Food and water are not an issue for these people, they live in a wonderfully fecund landscape. But there are diseases – it was here that malaria first got its claws into me, despite my using mosquito nets and prophylactics.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film, rated at 64 ISO.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 79 – BOYS FISHING 2 (MONO)

 

 


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Boys fishing at Dunga, near Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria in western Kenya; April 1979.

A moment 41 years ago, frozen in time, and to me, now, many of these children seem like statues – they have a simple and unknowing grace.

Photographing dark-skinned people on any sort of bright day can be problematical if any kind of detail, facial features, etc is required.  In such a situation, its best to seek out some shade or to use a little flash.  I had neither of those options here – and I probably wasn’t even thinking about them anyway – so, decades later, I’ve used a high key preset to strain every last bit of detail out of the scene.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended .

Technique: OM-1 with 75-150 Zuiko lens at 150mm; Agfa CT18 colour slide film, rated at 64 ISO; converted to mono with Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the High Key 1 preset.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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ARCHIVE 559 – OUR FRIEND, AGED THREE (MONO)

 

 


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One of the wonderful little girls in our lives – aged three and giving the camera a fleeting look.  9 Sept 2012.

I suppose this is high key mistiness – good old Minimalist “less is more” maybe – and I want to try more images in this vein.

I’ve used the Antique Plate II preset in SEP2 as a starting point, and converted its rectangular vignette to a circular one.  Her eyes were a little too sharp – that 105mm is really something else! – so I’ve reduced their structure and added a little blur.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: D700 with 105mm Nikkor lens; 6400 ISO; converted to mono in Silver Efex Pro 2.

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OUTER SUBURBS 271 – COMING TO A BUS SHELTER NEAR YOU …

 

 

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I’ve posted pictures like this before.  They look at the remains of ‘good nights out’ in the Outer Suburbs.  I see scenes like this every day as I trek the early morning streets.  And so to this one – here in a bus shelter, in amongst housing estates, at 0615 on the morning after, a Tuesday morning as it happens.

And so, on the night before, an indifferent Monday evening, to sitting in a bus shelter beside a busy road, sniffing the gas and swigging the (really not very nice) booze.  Here are the metallic canisters that contained the gas, nitrous oxide aka laughing gas, and the empty packet of balloons into which the gas was squirted before the youngsters got a brief high by inhaling it.  And also the empty bottle of Lambrini (oh dear!!!) from which they were no doubt delightedly imbibing.  But Lambrini?  Makes me wonder if I should go out on nightly tours of the bus stops and similar venues, dispensing bottles of Duvel … a sort of benevolent if uncertain Florence Nightingale figure …  portly, but with far more hair than is immediately apparent …  and making with the top quality Belgian beer … gratis …

But can I judge these youngsters?  No, not at all.  In “my day” we had no gas its true, but we made up for it with rough, cheap Somerset cider.  In many ways, as much as everything changes, everything stays just the same.

Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours of the day.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: TG-5 at 25mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Vivid profile; south Bristol; 18 Aug 2020.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 68 – ON A FARM IN WESTERN KENYA (MONO)

 

 


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Luo people on a farm near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.

I love these portraits.  The man is at ease with me and my camera, he knows me well, and in his expression we see nothing contrived, just a calm and direct gaze.  The little boy is nervous, but is being reassured by the man’s closeness – while the little girl’s radiant smile is a delight.

This smile reminds me powerfully of African children in general!  I was often in out of the way areas in Kenya, often far off the well beaten tourist tracks, searching for unusual birdlife.  And I can remember entering villages where white people were only infrequently seen – and being beset by a tide of brightly smiling little children like these, chanting “mazungu, mazungu!” – swahili for “white man, white man!”.

And sometimes they were so curious to see me, maybe not having had close contact with a european before, that they came and wondered at the pale hair on my pale arms – and touched my arms and head as if they couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing – it was a real, uninhibited examination!

I like children anyway, I vastly enjoy interacting with them – and especially so when they can talk – and these were simply wonderful and fascinating experiences.  And I also want to mention here how friendly Kenyan people were in general, throughout my years there – friendly, hospitable and humorous.

On the negative side of things though, it was on this trip that I first contracted malaria – and that is something truly unpleasant.

Click onto the image to open another version in a separate window, and click onto that version to enlarge it.

Technique: OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO; converted to mono in Silver Efex Pro.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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ARCHIVE 532 – LOOKING INTO A TABLET – AND A MOMENT OF MAGIC (MONO)

 

 


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Mother and daughter gaze into a tablet computer; 24 Jan 2014.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: D700 with 105mm Nikkor lens; 3200 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2’s Warm Tone Paper preset.

A MOMENT OF MAGIC

We popped over to see our friends and their two wonderful daughters last week.  As usual, I completely let myself go with the two girls, and we went through all sorts of stuff and nonsense.  In common with other parents here, my friends have something called the Thinking Step which, one of the bottom steps of their stairs, is where the girls are sent to sit and think over their behaviour when it oversteps the mark.

And, old friends that we are, when my behaviour became too boisterous, the girls’ mother condemned me to the Thinking Step, and the two girls took me out into the hall, to show me where it is.

And then the moment of magic happened.  As I sat there, the four year old looked at me seriously, went upstairs, and returned with one of her dolls – which she sat on the Step beside me, so that I wouldn’t be lonely sitting there on my own.

I have to say that I was immensely touched by the kindness and simplicity of what she had done – for there, in microcosm, was one of the things that make Life lift and soar, one of the truly great things of this world.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 42 – BODY LANGUAGE

 

 


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OK, so which is the precocious one??? – youngsters on a farm in the far west of Kenya; Apr 1979.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was over in the far west of Kenya – around Akala, Kisumu and Lake Victoria – in 1979, visiting my friend’s father’s farm.  I was an out and out birder in those days, and I was in this area looking for birds only found, in Kenya at least, in the very far west – which birds? >>> Eastern Grey Plantain Eater, Brown Twinspot, Shoebill, Splendid Starling and many more.

I was a curiosity anyway of course, because these far western areas were way off the usual tourist trail, but in particular I attracted droves of children, which was fine with me as I love kids – but not so fine when I was very quietly trying to spot rare and shy birds in dense vegetation.  Ever humorous, my companion let it be known that I liked eating children, but even that had little effect.

Anyway, above are three of this farm’s throng, and which is the forward, lively, cheeky one? (First prize: an evening with me in a top class Bristol restaurant; second prize: two evenings with me in …).

Let’s start with the non-contenders.  They’re seated neatly on either side, arms and legs in, respectful expressions – as if they’re in school maybe, or church.

And between them … limbs insolently wide, provocative, questioning, a slight smile, head forward, big eyes looking up … “Its me … and I’m not afraid of you and your camera … so what are you going to do about that then?! … “.

And after 41 years I can still remember her – always up at the front of the crowd of kids, always questioning, laughing, clamouring for attention – a wonderful character, a lot of fun.  But I wonder if these three made it through to adulthood, life in the Third World can hold uncertainties after all.  I hope they are all fine – they’ll be around 45 now, probably with children of their own.  Time – or, as a friend perceptively puts it, “the conveyor belt” – moves on.  You think about these things more when you’re older.

Click onto the image to see a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film rated at 64 ISO; Dfine 2; Color Efex Pro 4.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 37 – BOY ON A FARM

 

 


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Young Luo boy on a farm near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; Apr 1979.

He is standing in front of the painted mud wall of a hut and is vastly amused to be having his picture taken – what a pity that those weren’t digital days, so that I could have showed him the result – or that I didn’t carry a polaroid camera with me.

Looking for rare birds – I was an out and out birder in those days, photography was very much a subsidiary thing – I remember entering villages deep in the western countryside where the africans seldom encountered white people, to be greeted by little children running at my VW Beetle, shouting “mzungu, mzungu!” – “white man, white man!”.  They crowded around me, looking at my skin and touching it with wonder and great curiosity – and all around were excited grins and smiles like the one above.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: Olympus OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO.

UPDATE: this picture was taken 41 years ago and, getting older as I am, I find myself looking at this broadly grinning face, a face from my distant past, and wondering what has become of him.  For a start, is he alive, has he survived?  This is after all the Third World, and an area brutally infested by malaria – which I myself was struck down with – so that nothing can be guaranteed.  Assuming that he is still alive, he will now be in his 40s, perhaps with a family of his own.  So has he stayed on these far western farms, or maybe been drawn by the lure of the cities – nearby Kisumu, or even far off Nairobi or Mombasa?  I can have no answers here but am nevertheless left with one certainty: being a geologist and naturalist, most of my Kenyan photography was of the spectacular landscapes and wildlife – but now, with hindsight, I wish that my photographs had a more of a human element, that I’d taken more photographs of the Kenyans themselves.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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OUTER SUBURBS 238 – THE MORNING AFTER SATURDAY NIGHT

 

 


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Walking early on a Sunday morning – my favourite morning for walking in the lockdown because everyone else is enjoying a cosy lie in, and the streets are particularly deserted.  I’m often walking down the middle of empty roads, something which brings a strangeness of its own.

Just before 7am I found this tableau amongst run-down garages on a crowded housing estate.  I’ve posted about this drug before, but I can’t resist this example >>>> its even colour coordinated!  So what do we have?  Well, the remnants of a good night out in the outer suburbs.  The empty box contained little metal canisters of nitrous oxide or laughing gas, which is supposed to be used for making whipped cream in a dispenser – but the fact is this gas also gives you a high, and its now the second commonest recreational drug in the UK after cannabis.

An empty canister is up at top right, and I won’t say that the streets I walk are littered with these, but its very common to see them.  And bottom right is the balloon that the gas is squirted into – for ease of sniffing.  Altogether there were four balloons and seven canisters.

So, a Saturday night high amongst the derelict garages for some local kids.  And in these troubled times, presumably no thoughts of social distancing.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: I passed this way again the following morning, and all of these “artefacts” had been cleared away by some dutiful citizen.

Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours of the day.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: TG-5 at 65mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Portrait profile; south Bristol; 7 June 2020.
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