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The hidden mystery of the undeveloped film

An intense earache and sinus pain leaves me miserable

I’m up at 2.35 a.m. uncomfortable in bed. I itch in spots about my body and the heel of my right foot feels as if acupuncture needles are being driven into the bone. I get up, it is cooler downstairs. My left ear is in pain, I seem to have water lodged in it still from yesterday’s swim. I drip ‘Swim-Ear’ into it hoping to dry it out (it contains Isopropyl alcohol and anhydrous glycerin) and helps dry out excess water in ears. I take a cup of soluble Paracetomol for the pain. I don’t settle; less than an hour later having dozed on the sofa I get up, first grabbing some notes from the ‘Norman Mailer’ biography I finished last week,

4.30 a.m. Dawn approaches

The wind whistles a little across the balcony. Looking out towards the sky above cliff Tops of the South Downs I see a crescent moon so fine it could be a big-toe nail-clipping of someone who clips there nails every weekend. There’s a little cloud, like a strawberry birth mark drifts in from the East; I don’t know what kind of day it promises, the prevailing wind comes off the English Channel to the South West.

Then I turn my attention to the fifteen sets of photographs I had developed over the weekend

One film was duff; I had feared there would have been more. I recall the camera jamming on more than one occasion and opening the back of the camera when there was still an unexposed film in the back; not problems you face with a digital camera, but I use a 700mm zoom and an extreme wide-angle ‘fish eye’ lens which aren’t accessories you get with a digital camera – yet.

The earliest set of photographs were taken almost exactly five years ago in June 1998, the day today TBT was born. The most recent set of pictures I took ten days ago at Zozo’s Seventh birthday.

The others include:

A family summer Visit to Barrowby July 1998. All the cousins are there including my step-brother and his daughter.

New Year’s Eve Barrowby 1999

Then one set of photographs that in 36 + pictures captures our ten day Christmas perambulations, starting here in Seaford, East Sussex then going 154 miles to Barton on the Heath, Gloucestershire back home to Seaford, then 1978 miles north to Barrowby, Lincolnshire. .

This could be the structure for a short story (or chapter), how a box of undeveloped films reveals a story.

Christmas 2002

Seaford Wild Seas

Waves breaking during a south westerly gale against Newhaven Breakwater. I took this near to Christmas, possibly on Christmas Eve or early on Christmas Morning. Of the 12 frames I took one is badly framed, in five I miss the action, the wave hiding the lighthouse at the end of the pier rather than highlighting it (most of these are overexposed too), of the remaining six three are over exposed; of the three remaining, a sequence of three caught in rapid succession only the first would make it into the album and of these, the second is better, though it still lacks contrast and depth to make it a more than average picture; I caught the atmosphere better in words (see diary).

Christmas Morning 2002

The first picture after this shoes Zozo in bed (top bunk) surrounded by wrapping paper, she has just opened her stocking on Christmas Morning and showing off a soft toy the size of a baby guinea-pig – it is a unicorn. She looks tired, it was probably only 6 in the morning. All of these pictures are washed out, something I often get using flash. The film has been universally developed for too long perhaps. These go in the album as a record, not because the pictures are any good. In the set TBT too, on the floor holds up a multicoloured pencil, on the duvet surrounding Zozo there are unwrapped gifts, as well as a Satsuma, a Christmas tree stencil and an assortment of spectator teddies. They shift their unwrapping presents activities to the sitting room, TBT pulling off the wrapped to a Micro scooter in front of the Christmas Tree. The remaining two pictures of our early Christmas morning in Seaford show Zozo dressed in her Christmas clothes (we are off to Barton) holding up a young male guinea-pig she calls Cracker.’ He is a reddish brown colour all over with a white mop of tufty hair in the centre of his head. TBT meanwhile has commandeered my present, ‘Age of Mythology’ and is playing it on the ‘main computer’ in the study on the ground floor.

Christmas Lunch 2002

Six hours later the children are still unwrapping presents, this time 250 miles away on the sitting room floor at their grandparents. As I have done for the last six years I use a fish eye lens on my Minolta to get everyone on the room, the floor scattered with assorted colourful wrapping papers.

None of the other pictures come out

Hating what my flash does I tried taking portraits of the family in low light they don’t work.

In the next film I begin with a sequence of five pictures of TBT and Zozo sitting on the back of the sofa in the ‘snug’ or ‘TV room’. In each there is something amiss, the lighting is fine, but one of the children is either looking away, caught in a squint, making a silly face or waving their legs in the air. I decide I can live with three of them; while TBT is posed and still, smiling happily towards me, in each Zozo is being silly or has got her face behind the shadow of TBT’s head.

My efforts to get pictures of the family as we walk along a narrow Cotswold lane in dreary weather are even worse

Everyone looks tired, aging or literally ‘under the weather.’ Although out of focus, or more likely blurred if I was using the long lens on a slow speed setting, I keep a picture of TBT in because his face is the smiliest of everyone’s he gives me a bright, loving smirk. TT is there, a woollen hat pulled over her ears, talking with her father, and I have the children climbing on an aluminium gate to look at some Jersey cows. The sequences ends with TBT cocooned amongst the deep cushions of the sitting room sofa, wrapped like a large and precious present.

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