#26 Still Bullet Time

It’s a fast city, Amsterdam. Cyclists, on their battered bikes, weaving through pedestrians, bells ringing and crashes averted at the last second. If feels young, even though its old. And there’s no mid-life crisis in sight; it wears the tourists’ khaki shorts pulled up high and the socks in old leather sandals in knowing irony. The coffee shops and the red lights summon tittering people, alive with the feeling of freedom and not-quite-safe pleasures. It has what people call, an ‘atmosphere’.

But we took it slow. We were bullet time. Detached from the rest of the world as it revolved around us in a blur. We had our own world. We had each other. We were tourists yes, but we walked to our own tempo, following the rhythms of each other’s feet. And we haven’t stopped. We still walk to our own beat. We’re still bullet time.

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#25 Looks Like a Smile


She just wants to play, she’s only three. She has a favourite ball, it’s still just about yellow, despite all the scuffs and the dust. Really, it’s still only just about a ball, it’s certainly not round, it probably wasn’t designed for feet like hers. She throws it around anyway, up in the air, along the ground, towards anyone who she thinks might want to play too. And who wouldn’t want to? She’s beautiful. Her eyes sparkle with a mischievous intelligence and when she reaches out for you, it is as though you’re being blessed.

She throws dirt up in the air just because she can and she knows she won’t be told off, not with that smile. It looks like a smile anyway. It’s certainly easier for us to think that way. Because she’s chained. Tethered to a wooden post with metal links. Still, it looks like a smile.

#24 Normal

I didn’t know I wasn’t normal until I was five. Until then I thought I was funny, I thought I was popular. I’d tell a joke, people would laugh. I’d make a rude noise, people would laugh. I’d pull a face, people would laugh. But then I realised they’d still be laughing even when I’d stopped. They’d laugh when I spoke. They’d laugh when I walked into a room. They’d laugh when I cried.

I looked in the mirror then. I let my eyes explore my face. I had a nose, two eyes and lips hiding some teeth. Not so different really. Except my lips didn’t cover my teeth, and my nose was off centre, and one eye wouldn’t open like the other.

Mum said it was a dog bite. That I hadn’t even been one and I wouldn’t remember.

True; but I still feel the pain.

Sci-Fi Saturdays: Bangkok Runner

Over the Christmas – New Year period I was lucky enough to go to Thailand with my loving and very patient girlfriend and her family. We did many amazing things and I have lots of happy memories I’m sure I will end up writing about, either directly or by weaving them into a story. In this vein, on the last night, when we were staying in Bangkok, we went up to the top of the Banyan Tree Hotel to the Moon Bar. It was sunset and the views were spectacular, (the massively overpriced cocktails not so much).  As I mentioned yesterday, I’m an avid photographer and I believe my number of shots was in the hundreds by the time we’d left the roof, less than two hours after getting the lift up. Some of them really reminded me of one of my favorite films; Blade Runner.

If I’m honest, I only watched it for the first time last year, (shameful I know), as part of a very interesting module about literary adaptations. I’m so pleased I did. In terms of plot and characters, I prefer Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the novel Ridley Scott’s film is, (very loosely), based on. But the visuals and the look of Blade Runner are so stunning, so striking, that I became an instant fan. 

This sci-fi Saturday isn’t about the film though, (although I’m sure another will be in the future and I will definitely be writing about the sequel when it comes out), but about a photo and a story. The image at the top of the page is one I took from the roof of the Banyan Tree and I’m planning on using it as inspiration for a short story. The fact the setting grabbed me as one suitable for a sci-fi tale was certainly inspired by Blade Runner, but it isn’t my intention to write fan fiction, rather I’m aiming for something more original in a somewhat similar setting. 

I have no clear idea what exactly I’m going to write just yet, so I have no clear idea when it will be done. This post, therefore, is only short and is more of an introduction to an idea than anything else. Think of it as a teaser trailer aimed at getting my vast two-person-strong readership ready for what is to come. I hope you’re both excited.

Going Analogue

img_3204I’ve always wanted to be more creative. My drawing ability reached its peak when I was about 7, nothing I drew was particularly good, but it looked like a 7 year old had done it. My drawings still look like a 7 year old did them, which is a bit embarrassing for a 23 year old. I’ve never been able to sing, when I auditioned for a part in the school production of Around the World in Eighty Days, the pained expression on my music teacher’s face made me feel so guilty I stopped. My dancing makes most Dads look like they should audition for the Bolshoi and the less said about my musical abilities the better.

I’d like to think that my writing isn’t bad though, and I’ve always been proud of it, but in many ways, I think photography might be what I’m best at. I have no real technical skill, but I can frame a shot, (look out for tomorrow’s Sci-Fi Saturday for an example). I’ve always felt this has stood me in good stead in my writing because I can frame a scene in my mind as I write. Today’s post though isn’t about writing at all though, but photography. More specifically, it’s about a camera.

My loving and very patient girlfriend bought me an amazing present a few months ago that I’ve been waiting until after exams to build: the Lomography Konstruktor build your own 35mm SLR camera kit. Yesterday I sat down and made it. It took me around 2 hours and I filmed the whole thing as a time lapse. I couldn’t be happier with the result, (of the camera at least), and I’m looking forward to seeing the photos themselves whenever I fill the roll of film and get it developed.

Although my first camera was film, like most people of my generation, I’ve pretty much always been a digital only photographer. More than this, again like most in my generation, the majority of my photos are taken on a smartphone. I do have a micro four thirds camera which I love, but day-to-day, my iPhone does all my photographic heavy lifting. This is fantastic in almost all ways; my phone is always with me, the camera is just a swipe or a tap away and it is remarkably good quality. Basically, it is instant and good enough. When I move up to my proper camera, the quality jumps up a notch, but the instantaneous nature remains. I can see the result of any shot almost as soon as I take it. If it is out of focus or under exposed, I can make a correction and try again. Even if I don’t quite get this right at the time, with editing tools available at my finger tips, I can improve things after the fact. There are problems with this though.

With everything being instant, it is very easy to not spend the necessary time thinking about a shot before taking it. In the past, with the expense of getting prints, it was necessary to make sure what you were committing to film was just what you wanted. Now, given digital cameras essentially allow for an infinite amount of photos to be taken, you don’t need to take so much care. I think this is a shame.

I have over 16000 photos in my library. They form a record of my life that I would be crushed if I lost. But I hardly ever look at them. There is just too much noise, (hopefully not in the pictures themselves). Also, a lot of them are distinctly average. Many probably aren’t even as good as that. This is in many ways a good allegory for writing, both mine and others, (okay, so this post might be a little bit about writing). It is easy to commit thoughts to paper now, or, more pertinently, the binary memory of whatever digital device I’m carrying at the time. This is great, it means I don’t forget ideas when I’m on the go and makes editing easy, but, like with the photography, I think something can be lost too. Why take the time to make sure every word and phrase are constructed just as they should be when it is so trivial to go back and change it later? How do you avoid the temptation to skip the editing process entirely when it is so easy to share your thoughts with the world as soon as they have spilled out of your brain, through your typing fingers and onto the screen? Instant and good enough.

Thoughtless and mundane might be another way of putting it. I never hand write anything, I hate my handwriting, (I can’t read it a lot of the time), and I love my iPad Pro, it suits me, so I’m certainly not advocating for a return to the written word being just that: written. What I do think though, is just because the world has become digital, doesn’t mean the good practices of the analogue world should be forgotten.

And this is why I’m looking forward to playing with my Konstruktor camera. I’ll have to think about each shot carefully, (film is even more expensive now than it used to be thanks to Mr Supply and Mrs Demand). I’ll have to be patient before seeing the results, so I’ll get to think about what they might mean. When I do get the film developed, I’m sure I’ll want to scan the best pictures so I can add them to my digital library and when I do, I’ll be taking the time to look at them again properly, remembering the moment. I’ll be getting more from those 30 photos than I might from the next 500 I take digitally and it is this care and thought I want to carry forward into my writing.