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No-one knows who they were or what they were doing, but their legacy remains…
There are only two neolithic stone circles remaining in Shropshire, and by far the best is Mitchell’s Fold. (The other is the nearby Hoarstones)
It’s not like Stonehenge, it doesn’t have the enormous and technologically impressive trilithons, and it’s not like the village encircling stones at Avebury – it’s a lot smaller (about 25m across), and the stones aren’t nearly as impressive.
The circle dates from about 4000 years ago, and sits 330m above sea level, with some great views. Some of the stones are 6ft tall, most a lot shorter. Some have fallen over. About half of them are missing. One seems to be buried in the centre of the circle (and is a petrified witch, if you believe the rather fanciful local legends).
No-one has any solid idea what it was for, only guesses.
I’ve been meaning to visit for over a year now, but always things get in the way. Mostly weather. I’ve been trying to interest friends into coming along, and this week the stars aligned and I had both beautiful weather and (beautiful) friends.
It got off to a bad start when the sat-nav insisted we travel most of the way down single-width country lanes – dodging the many and seemingly suicidal baby pheasant – when there was a perfectly good A-road to take us 95% of the way. When we finally got out of the car we decided to take a shortcut that involved hacking through head-high bracken straight up a steep hill, although we eventually realised the shortcut took four times as long as the route would have taken otherwise. We’d have been faster without 3 children and 2 dogs. It got a bit chaotic.
When we finally got to Mitchell’s Fold, we found a small herd of cows grazing between the stones, and in some cases using them as scratching posts.
We ate our picnic, then spent the afternoon up there chatting and throwing balls for the dogs. We’ll definitely be going back.
Shrewsbury is a small town, and you’re never too far from the countryside, but I didn’t realise just how close. Follow a narrow track from the town’s large Frankwell car park, past the cricket ground, and you are in fields, and following the Severn Way.
Your path leads you through meadows along the river Severn, past black cows blithely chewing, through gates, past allotments, along the ends of gardens, up stone steps that seemingly go the wrong way, past the back of the garden where Charles Darwin grew up, through green tunnels barely wider than your shoulders, along the snaking and winding river, all with the faint rumble of traffic only 2 or 3 fields away.
The path peters out after a few miles, and it’s possible to return to your start point in a fraction of the time, as the road goes in a more-or-less straight line. Or, do as I did and retrace your steps. Things look different going the other direction, anyway.
All photos taken with Lomo LC-A
I’ve discovered that some of my rolls of film are waaayy past their use-by date, sometimes by ten years or so. So now my project this year is to use all the really old films before they’re unusable. They are mostly B&W, although there is some colour slide film.
The roll of Agfa APX100 here should have been used by November 2010.
Some film forums advise shooting expired black and white film as if it were half the advertised speed to compensate for the changed film chemistry. I recently shot some seriously expired Fuji Neopan and found them to be too dark, so this makes sense. As it turns out these shots mostly came out too bright! Luckily film is fairly forgiving.
The main problem was half of the film being blank – the batteries were failing, so about every other shot the camera’s shutter didn’t open (I didn’t discover this until I got the developed negatives back). Some of the shots look a little soft, that’s a ‘feature’ of the lens on the Lomo LC-A.
Here then are a few shots of Shrewsbury.
One of the drawbacks to collecting old film cameras – apart from expense of film processing, and the risks of buying old things – is that the light seals disintegrate in a really unpleasant way. The light seals are the foam strips around the film door and hinge to keep stray beams of light from buggering up your lovely photographs. After 30 years or so, the foam turns into a nasty sticky, staining, black gunk.
Not all cameras need light seals, depending on how the camera was made, but most do. Some older cameras, made before plastics and foam were common, use wool as a light seals. I’m replacing these defunct seals with embroidery yarn, as it’s cheaper than foam, and a little easier to work with.
Cleaning this mess up is a time-consuming job. I’ve just cleaned up the light seals on my new (for me) Yashica 72-E, and it’s taken me hours. My prefered tools are:
- lighter fluid (great multi-purpose solvent. some people use isopropyl alcohol)
- toothpicks (the wood is unlikely to damage the paintwork on your camera)
- cotton buds (for wiping away gunk. watch for stray fibres in the camera)
- kitchen towel (to catch the gunk before it stains carpet, furniture, etc)
- sharp knife (for when toothpicks just aren’t enough)
To replace the seals I use 1mm foam (bought in a sheet from eBay) for the hinge area, and 4-ply black embroidery yarn (for the narrow slots where the door edges sit). The foam is self-adhesive, and there was enough sticky residue left in the door slots to stick the yarn in place.
So now, I’ve loaded the Yashica with some black and white film, and I’m ready to start shooting. Only when I get the developed film back will I know whether I’ve done this job properly. If so, I’ll post results here.
Yes, I’ve bought another ‘new’ old camera. A Voigtländer Perkeo.
I’ve been after one of these for a few years, but the prices on eBay are either too high, or the camera for sale doesn’t look in very good condition. Here I was extremely lucky: the camera is in perfect working order* and I got it for a song, and I managed to snaffle it before anyone else saw it.
£20 plus £2.80 postage – it’s a steal!
“But why Andrew? Why? Don’t you already have enough cameras?” I hear you cry. Well, a number of reasons:
- It shoots medium format film**
- It’s really quite small (Perkeo means ‘pigmy’) when folded up
- It has a case (and the case is in really good condition)
- It’s more sturdy than some of my other folding cameras
- It has a better viewfinder than some of my folding cameras***
- It has double-exposure prevention
- I like to shoot square photos sometimes
- I wanted one
This afternoon – it’s my day off, even though it is a Tuesday – I went the long way to the supermarket, a route taking me along the river Severn. I took the Perkeo, loaded with Fomapan 100 Black & White film, and reader, I shot it all****.
I took photos of Tudor-era buildings, a dragon, and a couple of bridges.
The film went in the post to get processed late afternoon, so assuming the shots come out ok, I’ll be posting them here within a week.
Original Voigtländer Perkeo Invoice from 1955 (I’ve blurred identifying information)
There is a small hatch inside the case lid, where I found this: the original invoice. I’ve blurred the name and address, but the writing’s so bad that probably wasn’t necessary*****.
£13 in 1955 had the purchasing power of about £325 in today’s money.
*It looks hardly used, except for some paint worn from the front edge and some chrome missing from the accessory shoe on the top
**120 (medium) film shoots negatives 6cm across, they capture an enormous amount of detail. It’s cheaper to shoot 35mm, but it’s nice to shoot some 120 as a treat.
***I have 3 cameras from late 30’s/early 40’s and the viewfinder is merely a frame to look through, no glass in it at all!
****The Perkeo takes twelve 6cm by 6cm shots, easy to take all 12 in a short space of time.
*****There is still a photography-related business at this address, called ‘Snappy Snaps’
Securus. Just seeing that word can make me smile.
I cannot now recall where I first saw or heard it. But I rushed to note it down (all the better to capture it and keep it close?) once I read its gloriously uplifting definition:
securus (latin; adjective)
– free from care, fearless, composed, cheerful, bright, serene, safe.
Have you ever heard a more perfect description of a good life, a happy person, a wonderful aim?
My blogs are usually wordy, but this one single word, this marvellous little dose of lexical soul-medicine… well, I reckon it can just be a blog in its entirety. Because I can literally add nothing more to a word like securus.
May the good people of this world be forever securus.
PS. please, Latin purists, please don’t get on my case about cases. I know. But right now, I only want one version of securus. Because life really is too short, too important, and too complex to be fretting about case-determined inflections. This time, grammar can wait.
(photo by Daisy – no reproduction without permission, please)
After the synthesiser phase I went through just before Christmas, I’m back playing (mostly) acoustic instruments. I find mandolins to be a bit fiddly sometimes, so I thought I’d get a bigger version of the mandolin, the mandola. Except I’ve never seen a left-handed version of one, but I did find a lefty octave mandola (aka octave mandolin*). So I bought that.
An octave mandola is tuned the same as a mandolin, but an octave lower. Mandolins are tuned the same as violins, so the octave mandola is between a viola and a cello in pitch. The tuning is not the same as guitar tuning, so it takes a bit of mental adjustment to play if you’re coming to mandolin playing from guitar, as I am**. None of the usual chord shapes or scale shapes work.
Another big difference is that mandolin family instruments have 8 strings, 4 courses of 2 strings tuned in unison. That can be quite painful on the fingertips to start with. And can take an age to tune up.
Anyway, here is me improvising/twiddling. Sorry for the darkness and bad framing!
I’ve not given up on the synths, my next move will be trying to include them on recordings made with the octave mandola. That should be quite interesting.
*The reason for the confusion (short version): When Gibson made mandolins in the early 20th century, they made a larger version tuned a fifth lower (C-G-D-A-instead of G-D-A-E) which is the same as a viola, and they called it a Mandola. In Europe, there already had been a Mandola (mandolina means ‘little mandola’) so the C-G-D-A instrument became known as an alto-mandolin. In UK and Ireland, the smaller instrument is often known as Tenor-Mandola, the large as Octave -Mandola. I hope that’s all clear now.
**After a month of playing nothing but mandolin instruments, the guitar suddenly seems huge.