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Powercuts, Floods, Roast Goose, and *glug*… Goodbye 2013

Powercuts, Floods, Roast Goose, and *glug*… Goodbye 2013

Well, good Lord, 2013 is over, and while it has been a great year for me in terms of my business and as a new family man, it very nearly ended in disaster. In fact, so dastardly was Mother Nature’s ploy, Christmas would’ve been all but ruined were it not for my award-deserving quick decisions, and the steely British resolve of those around me foolish enough to follow my lead at the first hiccup.

We started the CHristmas festivities with a trip down the road to Winter Wonderland. We thought our daughter Lillibete would love it, but alas, no, she just wanted to chill out in the pram. We tried to put her on a few rides, but she screamed every time, so instead, my girlfriend suggested I used the tokens to ride this:

Me, about 200ft in the air, thankful that the terror on my face was invisible, given the bravado I displayed before boarding.

Me, about 200ft in the air, thankful that the terror on my face was invisible, given the bravado I displayed before boarding.

 

 

I have to be honest about places like Winter Wonderland – I really don’t like them. I’m not sure if it’s always been this way, but I have vivid memories of being able to afford loads of rides when I was a little boy. My parents earned very little money, but a few quid could get you at least an afternoon’s fun. These days places like this seem to operate purely as businesses, with no intention made to actually give people a good time, or any sense of value. Tokens were extremely expensive, and all rides were a minimum of three tokens. You’d need At least £50 per child if you wanted to spend a day there and keep them completely occupied. More if you wanted to eat or go on rides yourself.

Oh, yeah, should probably mention our entry into the Parents Of The Year awards..

Early one morning just before we left for Christmas, my girlfriend was getting Lillibette ready for a day out, when, while loading her pram, Lillibette decided to step back into the flat and then close the door. The door was locked tight, and Becca hadn’t yet got her handbag. Becca called me, obviously distraught, but there was little I could do in time, as I was 20 miles away on location shooting for a client. She was hoping I had left out a spare key, but alas, no, so she called the police afterwards, who duly arrived and then used a battering ram to smash the door open. Amazingly, Lillibette, despite being an uncontrollable 15 month old, decided that this would be the one time she would patiently just wait by the front door for the Police to arrive. They bashed it open and she just strolled out and stood by her pram as if nothing had happened. Obviously you can imagine the state Becca was in, so that needs no description.

 

Probably time for a new lock...

Probably time for a new lock…

 

 

 

Anyway, cut to the 20th, when I, realising that people probably didn’t need a headshot photographer in the 5 days before Christmas, and my girlfriend, hoping that nobody needed legal advice, decided to abandon our posts in London, whip thine daughter from extortionately fee’d nursery, and head down to my girlfriend’s parents’ cottage in Elstead in order to soak up a few days of relative luxury (They have a bath, we, only a shower, and dodgy boiler to boot), as well as palming off aforementioned daughter whilst we sodden ourselves among their excellent wine stash. It was a remarkable plan, by all accounts, and one that went off without a hitch. We spent two days at the cottage, eating good food, and even took a day out to visit my mother a few miles away, who would also be spending Christmas at Becca’s parents’

 

Mother picture frame

We arrived to find my mother wrapping gifts, and she saw absolutely no problem with her framing. Alarmingly, she also briefly mentioned that I got my photography talent from her. Which doesn’t bode well for my business.

 

 

 

Anyway, like I say, the early break was going brilliantly, that is until the 22nd, when I offered to drive Becca back up to Kensington to attend Carols by Candle Light at The Royal Albert Hall. Since we live a couple of minutes from it, I figured I could spend the evening doing a bit of work before picking her back up and driving back to the cottage. Becca’s mum warned us of a coming storm and some apparently worsening weather, but I brushed it off by declaring myself an “experienced wet-weather driver”, in what was at the time, a hubristic homage to Ayrton Senna. Becca pointed out that he died behind the wheel, I told her to stop being negative.

We left the house in the early evening darkness, and were immediately aware of the severe weather conditions before we’d even completed the walk across the drive. The wind was kicking up quite a fuss, and the rain drops seemed to take particular umbrage at our presence, retaliating by riding the wind directly into our faces from the side. It was a horrible, horrible evening, the worst Britain had offered in some years, but we decided to push on. The drive up the A3 will now rate, in terms of panic, fear, and outright danger, secondly only to the drive back. Strong winds buffeted the vehicle from the side, while rain hit the glass at an intensity that the wipers couldn’t match even on their highest setting. I kept it slow, but even with complete focus, found myself sliding the vehicle whenever we emerged from a clearing on the road, or whenever we overtook a lorry, where winds are often strongest. It was obviously clear at this point to the pair of us that my claim to being an “experienced wet-weather driver” was complete bollocks. We aquaplaned across the road a few times, and our arrival back in London was with faces ghostly white.

The drive back home: worse. Everything mentioned, times ten. Arriving back at the cottage, I realised that it was probably not worth the one image I’d managed to retouch in the time Becca had watched a couple of carol singers belt out a few classics. We could’ve stayed at the cottage and got drunk.

We awoke the next morning to discover the real extent of the damage from the previous night’s storm. The fence in the garden had blown down, which might not be that amazing, until you consider that it was actually knocked down not by wind, but by an eight-foot concrete post that had been blown from its home in the ground, carried a good 5 feet, before smashing the fence down and embedding itself in the ground.

Oh, and we had no power..

Neither did 100,000 homes in the south-east, either..

And large swathes of the county were also flooded…

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The next morning, the humble brolly’s reputation lay in tatters, unable to defend the good citizens from mother nature’s onslaught.

 

 

 

Worse than all of this, though, was the question that burned brightly at the forefront of all of our minds: How were we going to keep the Christmas goose cold?

Making a quick decision, we packed up everything into the cars. Goose, wine, and presents, and all other non-essentials such as vegetables and children and hightailed it to my mum’s house and announced our plan to have Christmas there instead. She’s a lovely woman, but her view of Christmas decorations is Dickensian, to say the least, so the house wasn’t exactly filled with the spirit of the season. The alternative was a freezing cold, pitch-black 16th century cottage, though, so we kept our mouths shut.

We spent Christmas eve preparing the gravy, vegetables, and a few other bits, before retiring to the living room to get drunk.

Becca had spent weeks dousing this little beauty in all manner of high-strength spirits. Hangover-per-bite territory, but delicious.

Becca had spent weeks dousing this little beauty in all manner of high-strength spirits. Hangover-per-bite territory, but delicious.

 

Christmas day was brilliant, with gifts all round, a perfectly cooked goose (on reflection, a little chewy), and an amazing port and red wine gravy.

Me, enjoying my new tablet. Notice the complete lack of decorations. For shame, mum..

Me, enjoying my new tablet. Notice the complete lack of decorations. For shame, mum..

 

My little girl got an absolute ton of presents, and it was probably our first Christ together. Last year she was only a few months old, and as such, not possessing the faculties to really know what was going on. She mostly just shit her pants a lot and cried. This year, though, having discovered “happiness” about six months ago, set about the day with aplomb.

 

 

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Her rocking horse, which she despised on first viewing, then loved on the second. 2nd shot: Chilling on a little seat waiting to open her presents. 3rd shot: Striking a pose. I think this might be from Shakespeare, or something..

 

 

All in all, it was a brilliant day, which is amazing, considering the nightmare that it could have been if we hadn’t all acted fast. Jaws of defeat and all that.

Boxing day was spent in the tradition of the last few years: Namely, a taste-off of the various sloe gins Becca and her father make. I have to admit, this year, the winner was probably Becca’s dad who managed to rustle up some 1997 sloe gin. It was like syrup. It’s the Gordon’s bottle in this shot:

Varying vintages of sloe gin, ranging, all equally capable of getting you drunk.

Varying vintages of sloe gin, ranging, all equally capable of getting you drunk.

 

 

Taste-wise, perhaps Becca won with her Cinnamon, blackberry and something-I-forgot gin. It was delicious.

2014 is looking pretty solid business-wise, too.. I’m going to be upping my game this year, offering new looks, new lighting, and tons more variation in my headshots.

Oh, yeah, had a tidy up of the studio, too.. Check it out:

I even cleaned the floor for a change!

I even cleaned the floor for a change!


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