These Recent Things (Cemeteries, Cakes & Cars)

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I can’t possibly begin to tell you all the things that have gone on in the past month. It’s been a bit crazy, and at some points I’ve found myself looking at soft gaps in hedgerows, or dark spaces under tables, and wondering if I could make a cosy nap nest there.

We launched the GIRL TOWN exhibition at St Margaret’s House in London. It was the most awesome night, the room was full of brilliant people and so much energy. Kate gave a speech, and then I grabbed the mic to thank everyone and announce that just that morning I’d been to Tate Modern to meet with Doron Polak, the curator of Water Institute Gallery in Givatayim, Tel Aviv, and… he wants us to take GIRL TOWN to Israel. People cheered! It was wonderful. Then I went on to make a few bad jokes (one about the call for entries not being up someone’s street, and that maybe he lived in a cul-de-sac, called Bell End), before offering to sing us out.

In other good news I met a man who was so beautifully tall that a squirrel once used his head as a stepping stone between two high hedges.

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I popped down to Brighton for the Photo Fringe, I did some portfolio reviews with Metro Imaging in London and selected the recipient of the Shutter Hub PHOTOMASTERS Award at the Old Truman Brewery. The award was given to Giulia Berto for her really quite beautiful, gentle, and sentimental series, and I am really looking forward to working with her.

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I visited 3rd year BA photography students at Staffordshire University to help them put together their first portfolios. One guy said I had a good aura, which was nice. (The first time I visited Staffordshire Uni I actually put out a small fire!) and I travelled up to Leeds University to speak to a full house of 120 people at Media Futures (you can read some of the lovely feedback here, go on, indulge me!)

Then I was back in London, in the charming little chapel of St Margaret’s House for the Jane Bown talk and panel discussion with Luke Dodd of the Guardian and Observer. We had a Meet Up event the following morning, but I had to travel home and back, I was so tired I wished I’d taken my duvet and camped out under the alter.

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Somehow I managed to fit in a super lunch (and a lot of laughs) with Jo at The George at Maulden in Bedfordshire. It’s a lovely village pub with great decor and a church in it’s back garden. There are plenty of local walks, but I prefer to drive the winding roads – the only downside of that is not being able to fully justify choosing the Black Pudding, Ham Hock & Sweet Potato Hash (with a fried egg on top… errr, yum!) over the salad. Still, I reckon laughing uses a lot of energy.

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The clocks went back and we eased ourselves into the day with cheese on toast, special style, a treat from Woodall’s.  Black Combe ham with Caledonian Cheddar on white bloomer bread. Yum, double yum. I’ve mentioned Woodall’s before, their smoked pancetta is delicious. I really like their black pepper and garlic salami too.

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I did a shoot down in Guildford, with the wonderful charity Family Fund. I drove down the night before and stayed at the Aspirion Hillside hotel. I was shown to my room by the duty manager who told me about dinner, breakfast, the honesty bar, the room, the front door, pretty much everything, and then he asked if I had any questions. Yes, yes I did. ‘How good is your local cemetery?’ I asked.

I’d passed by Brookwood Cemetery just before I reached the hotel, the name rang a bell, and as I drove alongside it’s mile long wall and huge trees, I realised, this is the place that fellow cemetery enthusiast Becky had told me about. The largest cemetery in Western Europe!

I went down for dinner, sat alone, lured a lady called Amanda to sit with me, and then told her about the cemetery as well.

I slept badly. The people in the room above me were really noisy, they left at 5.30am, but I couldn’t get back to sleep for fear of missing my early morning cemetery visit alarm call. At breakfast I met Amanda again, by chance, and we both announced simultaneously, ‘I had a terrible nightmare last night!’ and then looked at each other strangely. I wondered if we’d had the same dream (because I am odd like that!) but neither of us dared tell the other what we’d dreamt, so it went unsaid.

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I was there as the cemetery opened. The mist hung heavily between the trees, my breath caught the air and turned it to steam. I met a man – at first I thought he was the ‘Get off my train!’ man from the film Ghost, but then I thought he must work there (but now I’m not actually sure). He told me that the cemetery covered over 500 acres, it was the only cemetery to have had it’s own train station, the line came out of Waterloo, and that’s where people reached the end of the line. He said he’d been there for years, 10, maybe 13, he wasn’t sure. He said he came and went.

He told me that some of the trees are so soft you can punch them, and he’s punched them before. And then he showed me his vigorous punching motion in the direction of my un-tree-like face and I demonstrated that I was most impressed by this, but also had had somewhere to be very soon.

So, I spent a couple of hours wandering the cemetery, alone, in the mist, on the crunchy path and through the wet grass. It was peaceful and still. Every now and then the wind would whip up and scatter tiny leaves from the trees. I said hello to a squirrel and I saw the most beautiful mosaic covered grave of Guilio Salviati, 1898, from his wife Henriette. Then I punched a tree and it was soft.

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Too soon I had to rush off and collect Harriet from the station so we could fulfil our days work – which basically entailed me getting punched, licked and strangled, before going for pizza. We also eyed up a Ford Consul and went to Croydon.

October ended with the last Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship sprint of the season, on the epic Brands Hatch Indy circuit. It was an amazing place to drive. We ate lemon drizzle cake and had a marvellous time. I wrote about it here, it’s quite a fun read, I think.

The competition was much tougher this year. If I’d been getting these times in my first season I would have been getting podium places. Still, I am chuffed with how both Adam and I have done. Overall for the year I came 14th out of 38, and 6th in the class I was competing in – Production. (7th in Production and Production Modified combined). Adam came 4th… overall, in the combined championship results, 4th out of 38. Pretty decent!

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I don’t know, but maybe you’d like to hang out some time? If you’re interested in meeting up with photographers and other creative people, and you’re in the Cambridge area, we’re holding the last Shutter Hub Meet Up of 2016 at the Green Man at Granchester on the 1st December. You’d be more than welcome to join us.

I’ll also be reviewing portfolios with Photomonth (and an AMAZING photography industry line-up, seriously, check it out) in London on the 26th November, if you fancy that.

4 thoughts on “These Recent Things (Cemeteries, Cakes & Cars)”

  1. I’m exhausted just reading this Karen. I also enjoyed your post about the driving even though I’m not the least bit interested in cars and racing. You write so well you make everything sound interesting!

  2. What work involves getting punched, licked and strangled?! No, wait… I’m not sure I want to know!

    Our village cemetery is always open… Not that I’ve been there are night as that would be a bit creepy. I like a wander around a churchyard or cemetery (it’s the genealogist in me).

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