The other day I rang my dear friend Rachel. She is awesome and gorgeous and has a wonderful husband called Ross and they have a baby I am yet to meet and another one in the post. They, like us, eloped from the UK for a few years over to the States, but are now firmly back in the UK, living the dream and happy.
And Rach said something that really rang true with me. I missed it all. She wasn’t saying it in a bad way – but I missed the whole thing – I missed them moving home, I missed their visits back, I missed their birthdays and I missed the pregnancy…and now their first boy Niels is going to be nearly two years old when I finally meet him.
I have also missed so much of my other friend’s paths – becoming teachers, actors, writers, performers, managers, cowboys (seriously) and everything in between…and I have no idea of their journeys…And I, like them, kissed and waved them goodbye 6 years ago – on a path to become a self-proclaimed literary genius, and am set to return a fully fledged photographer…how the hell did that happen?
Well, if you would care to indulge me, I hope to share the last six years of our somewhat crazy lives in a few paragraphs. If you have come here for a few pretty pics, please, go ahead and check them out – I am under no illusions that the autobiography of a tubby balding Englishman may be deemed as tedious to say the least. But for those of you still with me, I thank you, and promise to keep it brief.
When I left university, a glistening eyed 22 year old whipper snapper, I had grandiose plans to become the next Anthony Nielson. A genuine bad boy of the theatre world, I loved his writing, and I adored his approach. He does everything. He writes and directs, and sometimes performs, very gritty, very witty, and all round awesome plays. This was my plan. And by God if, by the age of 22 I wasn’t on my way. I was crazy lucky enough to work with some wonderful people in the Scottish Theatre scene, and after assistant directing Petrol Jesus Number 5 In the time of The Messiah at the Traverse with Philip Howard – a wonderful man, and amazing in the rehearsal room – I was offered a paid assistantship with another upcoming production.
I was ecstatic.
But then we got a phone call that changed our lives.
A family crisis and we had to drop everything in Edinburgh. I tearfully spoke with Philip, who, as Philip does so well, listened and gave advice and told me that we were doing the right thing. We left Edinburgh within two weeks, and moved into a small house in Bexleyheath with our little nephew Ryan who was only a few months old, and Sarah, my wonderful sister in law. I kidded myself that I would be back in Edinburgh, working with Scotland’s New Writing House again in the future, and that all would be fine in the end. But in my heart of hearts, I knew that I would be closing the door on that particular adventure…
…And so a new adventure began.
I wrote and emailed and scribbled my new ‘masterpieces’ to whoever I could think of, whilst Sian (then my girlfriend) worked a horrible job in the city she abhorred.
All for me.
What a lucky, lucky man I have been.
Rejection after rejection after rejection; the only saving grace of this time was that, for three days a week, I got to be a full time uncle. Sarah and Sian would leave early for work, and from Monday to Wednesday I got to look after the two month old bundle of joy that was Ryan.
It was – and still is, the best thing I have ever done. He was awesome. We would go to parks, and go to library readings and play on the sofa, and make tea together, and whilst he napped, I would open the stream of rejection emails and letters; some of them hard, some of them soft, but all of them as gutting and upsetting as the next. Until one day, I got a commission, and all was well with the world again.
Ironically, the play I had been commissioned to write was to be premiered back up in Edinburgh – the very city we had left a year ago. Sian, stoically said she would work more hours to pay for my full-time writing shenanigans, and somehow we got by and I finished my play.
Two weeks before we opened, the company that had commissioned me went bust. I had not received a penny for the year’s worth of work I had put in, and now it looked like I would have no production, no money, and all of it had been for nothing. Worse still, the company had invested a crap load of other theatre companies for the Edinburgh Festival, but as they had gone bust, there were no venues for them to perform. Not only my play was in jeopardy but so were another 80 odd companies’.
Things were not good.
We went back to Edinburgh anyway, and by hook and by crook, we got our show on. The cast were great, as were a lot of the people who had been let down by my previous employers…it was not the nicest of times, but we got through.
On the 14th August I got a call from my friend Keara. She told me the saddest news I have ever heard. A very good friend of ours, Evren, was murdered back in London. We hadn’t seen dear Ev for a good few years, but he was one of the most gentle and kind human beings you would ever be lucky enough to meet. It was unjust, unfair, and Sian and I decided enough was enough, we would have a better year next year; we would run away.
And that’s where it all began. Fired by a want to escape – a need to find something good and happy, we left shitty, cold, unkind Blighty for a life of sun drenched dreams and frivolity.
Well kind of. We worked on the cruise ships.
And this is where it all started for us. I quickly forgot about my literary ‘masterpieces’ – my obsession for good reviews (Google them, I’m sure you will find quite a few unkind ones) and yearning to work stupid hours for no money, and I fell in love with the instrument of our new profession. I loved the cameras. I loved learning about aperture and shutter and ISO.
True, in the beginning, I learned very little very slowly and my first few years as a ‘photographer’ yielded embarrassing results to say the least. I was great at portraits and gangway and everything else, because my manager would set me up with the settings, and off I would go. Getting people to smile and look happy was easy for me, and then the camera did the rest.
But left to my own devices, I sucked balls. Big time. So much so, that I do not want to share any of my photos from the first year we were away with you..but I would like to share this.
This was the very first time I used my camera in manual, where I am proud to say I knew what I was doing. And I sold a crap load of them, and every time I did, I felt like I had got a 5 star review for one of my now forgotten about ‘masterpieces’.
The Great Pyramids – Egypt
And it got very addictive, very quickly. Every port we got to, I would take my camera out, and try and find the photo that would sell…and would be better than everyone else’s.
Because that’s all photography is really, showing off.
And I do love to show off.
You will probably notice that my earlier stuff is a lot more heavily processed than the work I produce now. That’s because in the early days I really had very little clue what the flash I was doing. But I have always been pretty handy with a computer, and when we first joined ships, I had a pretty solid grasp of Photoshop.
The Great Mosque – Istanbul
And as the years went on, I read and read, and shot and shot and shot.
An amazing room in the Lavadia Palace – Yalta
One of the millions of gondolas in Venice
Three years on the ships and I had worked myself up to Photo Manager. When we were offered our position in Barbados, we leaped at the chance.
Sian and I at The Cliff – Barbados
And here we are now nearly six years later, and looking at returning to the UK next year. We have seen so much, learned so much, met some amazing people along the way, and spent a disgusting amount of money on cameras, lenses and everything else that this career demands.
And to think, if we hadn’t had that phone call all those years ago I may have been a struggling director living in soggy Scotland.
If we could do it all again?…We wouldn’t change a thing 😉
Thanks for reading guys, puppies to come next – promise!!