For my friend, Pat Coakley, of Singleforareason
For those of you who haven’t yet come across Pat or her photography and philosophy blog, Singleforareason, you should visit it right NOW. If I ever finish writing my foodie memoir, I’d love Pat to illustrate it – her photos of plants and fruit and vegetables and other fridge contents really get me going. She also takes the most eerie photos whilst driving, and this inspired me to attempt the same while Monsieur and I were in Maui earlier this year. The only difference was that Monsieur was driving whilst I was photographing. Pat manages to do both at the same time.
Some of my novice drive-by-shooting results are here:
Those clouds above the mountains stay above the mountains. Down on the West coast, where most of the main resorts are, it hardly ever rains.
All the palm trees in Maui are bent in the direction of the dominant wind. The first bent palms we saw were just outside the airport. This one was a bit lonely, stood by the side of the road in the middle of sugar cane country.
Sugar cane and ominous clouds that threaten but never quite reach us.
The Maui skies are huge and the landscape dramatically craggy from its volcanic heritage.
The sun sets early here. It’s already hiding behind the mountains but hasn’t quite gone.
Just south of Lahaina the hills are terracotta and ancient-looking. The sky begins to blush as the sun drops closer to the horizon.
Its glow bounces off our shiny red Mustang as we head back up to Ka’anapali Beach and our hotel. It will be another postcard perfect evening for us as we watch the colours change around the neighbouring islands.
Monsieur thinks I’m nuts to sit in the car taking photos as we whizz around the island – nothing new there. I think it’s fun and will definitely do this again. It gives a whole new perspective on our surroundings. Thank you, Pat, for the inspiration.
It’s official: I need a waterproof camera. When Monsieur and I were caught in a Sicilian deluge in the little town of Trapani, I couldn’t help myself; I kept on snapping. Even in the grey of the downpour, shooting Trapani’s buildings was worth getting a little wet. Or so I thought. Meanwhile, Monsieur’s camera stayed safe in a dry pocket. Ah, such wisdom.
Everything seemed fine until we got back to the hotel that evening. I tried to take a shot of our room, only the LCD screen on my trusty little Canon Powershot SD870 IS started to act up. First it went pink, then dark, bit by bit, kind of like those black spots that appear before your eyes just before you pass out. Then there was nothing. The lens was open but no one was home. The screen showed nada. Oh, hell.
Taking my camera to hospital was definitely in order, but we wouldn’t be able to do that until we got to Taormina the following evening. And that evening would be New Year’s Eve, so I was likely to be without the ability to photograph anything until the New Year rolled round, IF I could even find a photographics shop that was open over the holidays. Monsieur scolded me. “You shouldn’t have used it in the rain. It’s probably got water in it and that’s going to take a while to dry out.” Bummer.
Periodically, I’d get the camera out and try, try, try to get some sort of image on the screen. Sometimes I was rewarded for my efforts, but everything would appear tinged with a strange purply pink before going dark after a mere few minutes of action. Still, some of the shots turned out quite interesting, so I kept them. Here are some shots of Sicily through rose-tinted lenses.
This was our room, with Amityville lampshade, at the moment when I realised that something was wrong.
In Taormina, things seemed to return to normal, for a moment or two. Then suddenly, THIS:
Miraculously, a photographics shop was open in Taormina on New Year’s Day. I trotted into the shop, offending camera in hand, and in my best Italian explained that it wasn’t working. To demonstrate, I pulled it out of its case and turned it on. Wouldn’t you know it? The screen showed a perfect image, no pink anywhere. What a stupid ‘Inglese’ I was. As I left the shop I could still hear the three assistants laughing at my error. Hrmph.
And so, for the next day or so, the camera behaved just as it should, but on the drive back to Palermo, it had a relapse. As we stopped to photograph Etna, all was going well:
But minutes later The Canon and I were once more tainted in our outlook:
It seemed we were into apocalyptic-style photography now.
By the time we got home, the camera was perfectly happy once more, doing precisely as it was told at all times, so I put its pink episodes down to internal damp and a change in air temperature around Etna.
And so, months and much use later, Monsieur and I sat in the sun on our first day in Sardinia. I took out my camera, turned it on and BOOM it went all pink on me again. Perhaps it’s something about these Italian isles that makes it blush so. This time it only lasted for a minute or two before behaving perfectly for the entire trip. I guess it must have been disturbed by the in-flight air pressure. What a delicate little thing my camera is. Lesson learned: never, but never should I use my Canon to take photos in the rain.
(I’m considering my next digital camera as this one is going to die soon. Its LCD screen is growing a big black hole. My previous powershot was bulky and needed batteries but had one of those little turn around screens on the back so when you weren’t using it, you could close it up against damage. Any recommendations you have for the next Epicurienne camera would be most welcome!)
Pat Coakley keeps her readers busy. There’s no excuse for boredom with Pat on the case, inventing new homework for us all with astounding regularity. One of her recent challenges was photographing manhole covers. At the time I took up Pat’s challenge, Monsieur and I were in Nha Trang in Vietnam. Easy peasy, I thought, I’ll find some great Vietnamese manholes for Pat. But it wasn’t that easy. At first, I couldn’t find any manholes to photograph. Not a one. I started to doubt that Vietnam had a sewer system.
Our last Vietnamese city on the itinerary was Ho Chi Minh City so when we arrived I immediately started watching the ground. “What are you doing?” Monsieur asked, forehead rumpled. “Photographing manhole covers,” I replied, as if it were the most usual thing for me to be doing on holiday. “Why?” asked Monsieur, confused once again by his UNusual travelling companion. “For one of my blogging friends.” I told him. Another frown. The blogging world is still a bit of a mystery to Monsieur.
After a while, and only looking up to dodge oncoming motorcycle traffic, I found a Saigonese manhole:
The following day, I photographed a different sort of manhole, this time with a man IN it! That’s right, people, this manhole was so well disguised by dead leaves and undergrowth that I had to find a local model to demonstrate it. Unfortunately, Monsieur and I simply would not fit down the teeny weeny manhole made for teeny weeny Viet Cong, so this chap, with the hips of a Barbie doll, obliged instead. This shot was taken at the Cu Chi Tunnels, just outside of HCMC. The Cu Chi Tunnels were a sophisticated network of underground tunnels and chambers created by the Viet Cong in the late 1940s and of particular strategic influence during the American War.
The tunnels included kitchens where cooking smoke was vented through a type of hole that dissipated it prior to releasing it into the outside air. The Viet Cong also made false tunnel entrances so that anyone trying to infiltrate their underground home would be greeted by a welcoming committee of fire ants, scorpions, snakes and other pain-inflicting creepy crawlies. In spite of the amazing creativity and intelligence behind the creation of the Cu Chi Tunnels, two thirds of the Viet Cong using them would be dead by the end of the war.
When Monsieur and I finally made it back to London, we found grey skies, cold air and constant drizzle. As my mother said: “you and Monsieur have missed nothing weather wise. It’s rained almost non-stop while you were away and there have even been floods.” Yep. We’re back. On Sunday I braved the rain on my way to the supermarket to re-stock our fridge. Naturally, I took my camera so I could photograph a London manhole cover. For some reason, I hadn’t noticed that in our ‘hood they’re all square or rectangular:
The Manhole Mission also made me think of the manholes in Rome, which are emblazoned with SPQR, Senatus Populusque Romanum, or Senate of the People of Rome. SPQR has been knocking around since the time of the Caesars, quadrigas and laurel leaf hair accessories, so this has to be one of the best manhole covers in existence:
Isn’t it incredible how something we walk across every day can become an object of interest once we decide to photograph it for Pat?
This is a photo of a quote by the late writer, Tiziano Terzani, whose book The Fortune Teller Told Me, has made quite an impression on many who’ve known the Far East. I can’t quite make out all the words on the hoarding in the photo, but towards the end he says something about “reaffirming the way to silence, in order to feel oneself again, to reflect and find a bit of sanity once more.” Sounds like wisdom to me. There isn’t enough silence in this mad world. By the way, if anyone knows the exact translation of this quote and where it comes from, please let me know. In the meantime, I think I’d better send an e-mail in my terrible Italian to the TT site.
I was reminded of this photo at the weekend as I was browsing the net and found a blog called Cafe Selavy. On the site, a photography book called I Viaggi di Tiziano Terzani (The Travels of Tiziano Terzani) was reviewed. It sounds/ looks amazing and is top of my library wish list, even if it is only published in Italian for now. Still, I can handle a bit of Italian, especially as a picture’s worth a thousand words and there are plenty to be found in I Viaggi. By the looks of things, this book should make the itchiest of feet even itchier as TT travelled a huge amount in the course of his life and now the photographer, James Whitlow Delano follows his tracks, of which there were many. Born a poor Florentine, TT ironically worked for the Italian typewriter manufacturer, Olivetti before turning to journalism and travelling throughout Asia as a foreign correspondent. He came to know the region intimately and lived there for most of his adult life. Everything I’ve read by or about him makes me feel internally enriched so now I’m getting curious. I want to see where the self-labelled ‘traveller’ went that I don’t already know about.
TT passed away in 2004 but not without a following and a terminal illness couldn’t prevent him from writing. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he wrote a book about coming to terms with his imminent end. Called Un altro giro di giostra, or One More Ride on the Merry-go-Round, this has yet to be published in English.
Today, I thought I’d google him. This is what appeared. It’s called Letters Against the War and is dedicated to TT’s American grandson, Novalis, ‘that he may choose peace’. I haven’t read it all yet, but I do think it’s interesting that no publisher in the USA or the UK wanted to touch it, even though Terzani offered it to them for free and yet it has been published in Italian, German, French, Spanish, Japanese and Slovenian. The only publisher who ran this book in English was based in India and now, 6 years later, I see you can order it online in English. Yet you can also download it for free from the TT website (see previous link) I am guessing that the reason for this might be so that we can read it, too, regardless of political feeling in the world. The copyright on the English download simply states that the treatise may not be modified or sold, but otherwise may be distributed as long as the copyright statement is included. It seems that Terzani really wanted this out there, especially in the warmongering territories of the USA and UK. This man who travelled the earth and witnessed so many war atrocities wanted us all to understand that war begets war and only love and forgiveness can stop it. It’s not a bad sentiment, in fact, it’s admirable. If only more people wrote like he did.
A while ago I wrote this review of A Fortune-Teller Told Me by Tiziano Terzani
A Fortune-Teller Told Me is a book that I’ve seen in the shops for some time, but always passed over in favour of something else. When I finally bought it and started to read, I wondered what had taken me so long to bring it home.
The author, Tiziano Terzani, visits a fortune-teller in Hong Kong in 1976. He warns Terzani not to fly in 1993, not even once, for if he does so, he runs the risk of dying. Terzani puts the premonition to the back of his mind for the next decade and a half, but as 1993 approaches, he returns to the question of travel. Should he take the risk? Or should he swear off flying for a whole twelve months?
In the end Terzani decides not to tempt fate and tells his employers at Der Spiegel that he won’t be rushing off anywhere by plane or other flying device for that entire year. This poses some difficulty as Terzani is a foreign correspondent and it’s his job to get to the site of newsworthy stories as quickly as possible. Still, Der Spiegel obviously wanted to keep their man because after a bit of cursory grumbling, they grant Terzani his wish. He can use alternative transport for the whole of 1993 and try to show a different side to breaking news, as viewed from terra firma.
Wherever Terzani travels during 1993 he consults a soothsayer or fortune teller and this book documents the likelihood of their predictions along with opinions on cultural influences on their given fortunes. It’s at times deeply personal, written from the perspective of a man who readily admits his successes and human failings. At other times he writes with wisdom about political influence. Throughout, he shows care and acceptance of both his adopted continent and its people.
By the time I turned the last page I admired the author to the point of sending him fan-mail. Determined to do just that, I googled him, only to find that Terzani had died of cancer aged 65 in 2004. I felt shock and then the fact that his death had such an effect also shocked me. How could this be? I so seldom want to write to an author, to tell them how their writing has touched me. The one time I decide I must, I’m too late.
Not long after I read The Fortune-Teller Told Me, Monsieur and I found ourselves in Rimini looking for lunch. We’d parked in Piazza Ferrari, where a muralled fence hid some restoration work from view. As we walked back to the car with our paper bags of panini, I noticed a section of mural where someone had painted a Terzani quote. I photographed it and smiled. Suddenly, he didn’t feel quite so far away.
And that would be the photo at the top of this blog…
Some of you have been asking me where this photo was taken. (In case it looks familiar, it’s the one at the top of my blog page). It was taken from a rest-stop between Nice and Monaco on New Year’s Eve last year. We’d been hugging the coast so we could gawp at the views like this and what finer day could we have wished for to bid farewell to 2007? The sea sparkled, the sky was cloudless blue and the earthy tones of the Mediterranean houses warmed the scene. All the colours seemed so intense that day.
The village in the picture is Villefranche-sur-Mer, which, at different times, has been home to various famed figures, such as Jean Cocteau, Isadora Duncan and The Rolling Stones. Monsieur and I gazed down from the top of the cliff, wondering how impossible the roads would be if we returned one summer with more time to mosey. Whenever I look at this picture, it makes me smile and remember the warmth of the sun – something not to be sniffed at in a Northern Hemisphere December. It really was quite the perfect day.
This is another fantastic place for sunsets – The Bay of Naples. Monsieur and I had been to Capri that day and decided to overnight in Sorrento. We hadn’t booked anything so called a few hotels in the guidebook. I was scared that with my bad Italian I’d misunderstood the hotel manager who said she had a room for us. Did she say 90 Euros or 190 Euros? Luckily it was the former for a double room with aged shower, whitewashed walls and simple linoleum floors. But when we opened the windows, this was what we saw. Even though the room was basic, I’m sure a lot of people would pay a lot more than 90 Euros for the view we had that night.
In January, when Monsieur and I were staying in Cannes, we decided to drive along part of the Route Napoleon. The day had started quite nicely, but by mid-afternoon, it was as if someone had turned off the light. The clouds rolled in off the sea but in spite of threatening major precipitation it didn’t rain on us.
We stopped along the vertiginous Route to take these pictures. It was chilly, Monsieur was struggling with a nasty cold, and looking down at the steep and rocky drop by the rest stop, I realised how important it is to only drive on this particular road with someone you really trust. It’d be all too easy to shove someone over the edge…
I’m not getting much time to write at the moment, so I’ve decided to post some of my favourite photos.
In Langkawi, Monsieur and I experienced some of the most astounding sunsets imaginable. It’s as if the earth is on fire all around you, with a blaze of colour hanging in the sky and tinting everything in sight. It’s impossible to describe in words, just that the intensity of such natural beauty makes you stop and think that the best things in life really are free.