Here is the third and final (for now!) photo from my day out with Missy. As regular readers know, it’s very rare for me to show my belly – I much prefer to focus on my arse and legs, which I approve of much more! – but I really love this shot so here I am turned towards the camera for a change.
Photo courtesy of Discovering Kink
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Here’s the second in a series of three photos I’m posting from my recent photo adventure with Missy. This photo was taken in the same location as this weekend’s post from her. We were so lucky to have this all to ourselves!
“Out on the wiley, windy moors
We’d roll and fall in green” Kate Bush, Wuthering Heights
As I’ve said here before, I am called Catherine because my Mum was reading Wuthering Heights when she was pregnant with me. So it’s not surprising that an outdoor shot on the wiley windy Yorkshire Moors has been on my blog bucket list for years. A rainy cold Saturday in November may not seem like the best time to make it happen but Missy and I are dedicated to our art so off we went. And actually I think it strikes the perfect bleak mood.
“Photography is an art of observation. It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” Elliot Erwitt
Usually when I pop up on Wicked Wednesday it’s to respond to the prompt with some big thinky piece about relationships or bodies or something I need to get off my chest. Not so this week! But the prompt is ‘observe’ and as I’m halfway through a six week course at the Photographer’s Gallery that a few of you have I asked about I thought I would do a bit of a diary entry…
The Possibilities of the Photographic Body is a six week course led by Tom Lovelace. In case that link gets killed at some point in the future the blurb reads: “This workshop series examines contemporary approaches to the compelling and ever-present subject of the human body and how it is represented in photography. Using the body as a starting point, participants will explore contemporary photographic practice through a range of themed sessions including the digital body, performance, architecture and gendered forms.” Reading the programme there wasn’t a single week of the schedule that left me feeling ‘meh’ so without much more than a minute’s thought I’d signed up.
Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that the cycle of my professional life is working like a dog for nine months of the year and flitting around during the summer enjoying photo adventures, gallery outings and lazy lunches. The summer months offer a welcome opportunity to recharge and I could never go back to 9-5 life but that doesn’t make the winter months, and in particular the slog up to Christmas when we’re churning out fundraising appeal films at a ludicrous rate, easy to cope with. As much as I hate to admit that age becomes a factor in our physical and mental resilience, I have noticed over the last couple of winters that 12 or even 15 hour days are not quite as easy to tolerate or bounce back from as they were even five years ago. Last winter I got sick and the viruses I picked up had me rundown until well into July.
This winter I resolved to take more care of myself. And taking care of myself means carving out time where I am not working. Working at home is great in numerous ways, but when you register no more than 100 or so steps in a day going bed to desk to sofa for a late night bowl of pasta and back to bed, via the kettle and bathroom a few times, it’s not so healthy. Fern’s fitness challenge where I’ve pledged to five bouts of exercise a week is one thing that’s making me break from work. This course is another. The very simple act of turning off my computer bang on 17.00 so I can be out of the house and in town by 18.30 makes me feel more in control of my ‘downing tools’ time than I have in years; it’s amazing how not needing to catch a train can make the end of the work day slide.
What a joy it is to sit and listen to an engaging and down to earth (no old school or patronising arty snootiness here!) course leader who really knows his shit talking enthusiastically about fascinating photographers. I have so many new names scribbled in my notebook that I just know that I am going to go down a rabbit hole of research during that twilight period between Christmas and New Year. In week one we visited and discussed Shot in Soho, in week two we took our own shots in the streets of Soho and this week we used the gallery as our playground.
Our group is made up of professional photographers, Masters students, a curator, a gallery agent, an academic and a drag queen from Brazil. We have an opportunity to share our work with the group and this week we saw a work in progress that is about the expression of chronic pain, a stunning series that explores a genetic flaw and political commentary through cabaret. It’s so fascinating! I can’t wait to see more of the work next week. I also talked about Exposing40 and shared some of my favourite photos from the last five years. It was particularly fun sharing this image; this friend and I have visited the Photographer’s Gallery more times than I can remember over the quarter of a century since we met at Uni and I honestly never thought I would be stood up there talking about a photo I had taken of her.
What I am loving most about this mini adventure is that it is completely without agenda or expectation. There is no set homework, there’s no exam at the end, no investment beyond the time and initial fee. I am not planning a career change. I have no intention of making Exposing40 anything more than the fun hobby project it currently is. I don’t want do anything more technical than use my iPhone or my small camera on auto setting. I am not doing it for any reason other than it’s interesting. It is just time spent with talented people and learning for the pure pleasure of it and that feels like a real luxury at this time of year.
“Some people are born for Halloween, and some people are just counting the days until Christmas.” Stephen Graham Jones
I don’t dislike Halloween and I’m perfectly happy getting into the spirit of things (excuse the pun!). In fact, the gaggle of primary school sized witches and ghouls who appeared at my door on Thursday evening were a delight. Also, babies dressed as pumpkins…🧡
Still, all that aside, for me Halloween has always just been that little distraction before bonfire night and once that has gone? Well it’s full throttle to Christmas. I’m definitely a counting the days until Christmas kind of girl.
As you can see, I already have my Christmas Day hairband. I may tone down the eyeliner for family Christmas lunch though; I don’t want to frighten the nieces!
“I am not an angel,” I asserted; “and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself.” Jane Eyre
I am many good things: I am fun and funny, I am generous and kind, I am thoughtful and loyal. I can also be mean and spiteful, needy and angry, I lash out at myself and others. All of these things are entirely in character.
When someone is described as behaving ‘out of character’, unless it’s a portent to a medical calamity it is usually used to describe the less pleasant aspects of their personality. I wrote at length earlier this year about a period of my own poor behaviour. Until this morning I hadn’t revisited it since writing it. It was hard to write, hard to post and while still experiencing the aftershocks of that chapter I had no desire to reread my analysis of it. I only read it again just now because I thought to myself “I wonder if I used the words out of character in that post?”
The result of that ‘get it off your chest then put it on a high shelf’ purge means I had blanked out much of what I written. Until now I hadn’t appreciated how tangibly I’d described my behaviour, the examples I had given or how much thought I had put into articulating why it happened and how we can stop it happening again. I am belatedly very proud of how well I wrote in the face of adversity!
And I was pleased to see that I hadn’t used the words ‘out of character’. Because I don’t think we behave out of character. We can’t behave out of character because our character is hardwired into us. I learnt this week that the word comes from the Greek work kharakter, an engraved mark, symbol or imprint indelibly stamped on coins. Our character is indelible.
The sides of our character we typically celebrate are the attractive aspects that make our loved ones relish our company. But the other bits are equally valid and rather than brush them off as ‘out of character’ I think our job is to understand what triggers them. In the same way we understand what brings out the best in us we must understand what brings out the worst.
I watched a talk the other evening where the speaker said: “We assume that if we have characterised someone as good they can’t be bad and vice versa but if we see character as behaviour on a continuum then when people act in ways that surprise us maybe it is not that surprising.”
For the sake of our own mental health and the health of all our relationships – familial, professional and personal – we need to understand our own continuum and take responsibility for it. That responsibility is to help others to understand how their behaviours create an emotional response and activates the different facets of our personality.
In affairs of the heart, if I feel threatened or usurped I will lash out and speak cruelly about the person who I believe to be a threat. But I shouldn’t just lash out, I should explain why I am feeling vulnerable and help my partners to understand that I need complete honesty and I need reassurance. They may not like that part of me as much as the part that’s independent and ballsy and generous, but there you go!
If a member of my family shares different political beliefs then I need to be explicit that teasing me needlessly and endlessly about Brexit is deeply upsetting. I didn’t help my Dad understand that and the pressure built and built until the valve exploded. I was angry and I said terrible things that hurt him. He called my response immature. He was right. The damage has been fixed now (although I need to work on his declaration last summer that “if this is what politics does I am never voting again”) but had I just had the difficult conversation to start with, months of family distress could have been averted.
Like everyone, I evolve with every experience and I am a work in progress but I like learning about myself and I like to understand my emotional responses and what triggers them. I like learning how to manage myself so I am as best as I can be. I enjoy enhancing the bits of me that make me fun to be around and quelling as best I can the parts of myself that can make me difficult.
“The green autumnal parks conducting
All the city streets a wondrous chorus singing
All these poses oh how can you blame me
Life is a game and true love is a trophy.”
Poses, Rufus Wainwright
I’ve had the above lyrics on my ‘to write’ list for getting on for a year now. Last December there was a lyrics prompt on Wicked Wednesday and not knowing what to choose (I love too many songs for that to be an easy choice!) I asked Exhibit A to suggest some. He offered three and these were the lines that spoke to me. I didn’t make that prompt deadline and at points over the year I’ve returned to the lyrics but never found a good enough reason to get my words down. But this week’s relationship prompt ties in so closely to what I wanted to say that I find myself making time – after midnight and with a (disgusting marmalade flavoured) gin and tonic by my side.
The point I had wanted to make about the words above is that for me true love is not a trophy. At least not in the way that ‘true love’ is sold to us as the ultimate goal. I don’t want a big love, a trophy love (in the most positive meaning of the word trophy!) and I don’t feel like my life is less for not having it or wanting it. Yet, also, love is a trophy and it’s one I hold up and am very proud of. Love is so very important to me and my life is full of it. I give it freely and I take it with delight. I love my family (most of the time!), I love my friends and I love (some of) my partners. Some of them I just like but that’s ok too. For me, love is not the cherry on the cake, love is hundreds and thousands; smaller and singularly less spectacular than a big glossy fruit, but collectively so much prettier. To me.
And this is where my thoughts on love dovetail with my thoughts on relationships. The word relationship is often default taken as being a reference to the ‘one you love’, your intimate and sexual partner. But to me all my significant relationships make me who I am and I invest in them equally. If my oldest friends and I didn’t all show up for our annual gathering I’d be concerned that our cadence was out of step. If any one of Jedi Hamster, Charlotte Brown or me ceased to appear regularly in our WhatsApp chat or were unenthusiastic about our quarterly cards and Camembert meet-ups I’d worry about what was awry. If somehow mine and my business partner’s shared view that the business is both the most important thing (it funds life!) and the least important thing (it’s only work!) became unbalanced then that would be a problem. If my most important partner and I fell out of our monthly routine of good food, wine, sex, chat and music then we’d be cutting our red thread. If @19syllables and I didn’t seamlessly segue between winter coffee and summer naked adventures and back then that would be perturbing…
I could go on – there are many more to mention but I need my sleep and I’ve made the point. In short, I don’t need a big love because all my little loves colour in the lines of my life. And all the different relationships fit together like a jigsaw puzzle that has all of its pieces.