“Our Time Is Indestructible…”

Music is emotion. Music has often sustained me during my lowest ebbs, when a pulse of rhythm, anthemic soar or lyrical flourish can lift me up and even give me the belief I could build a ladder to the stars.

Music itself has suffered its own high profile tragedies in recent months. And although I knew this was coming, it’s been an extraordinary couple of days…

I first saw School of Seven Bells live on a boat permanently  moored in the harbour of my home town during the summer of 2010. It wholly cemented my affection for the band. A couple of summers later and Benjamin Curtis, the multifaceted driving force behind the band, began writing their fourth album with Alejandra Deheza [and soul mate]. But as time ticked into 2013 Curtis was suddenly diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma. In November, the usually private Curtis confirmed via an open message on the band’s Facebook page that the initial diagnosis had since progressed to leukemia. He signed off with a determined “In the meantime, please know that life is amazing, and I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.”

Curtis remained resolutely creative throughout the intensive treatment, even in his hospital bed – a recording of Joey Ramone’s I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up) was made entirely on his laptop in the room with Deheza later recording her vocal in a nearby studio with him directing via Skype! – fighting the aggressive cancer with equally aggressive spirit until his untimely death four days after Christmas. Benjamin Curtis was 35-years-old.

Finally, early last year, Alejandra Deheza found her own resolve and reopened Curtis’s laptop of demos and archives. And with the help of M83 and Beck producer, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, completed the love letter from start to finish that became SVIIB and finally released a couple of days ago.

 

 

With its release, alongside Bowie’s posthumous Blackstar, they share the passionate living embodiment of the emotive, lingering power of music. SVIIB is a joyously life affirming triumph over life’s innate and ultimate adversity.

I’ll leave you with the heartfelt words of Alejandra Deheza:

Friends, Benjamin and I wrote this record during a tour break in the summer of 2012. I can easily say that it was one of the most creative and inspired summers of our lives. What followed was the most tragic, soul shaking tidal wave that life could deliver, but even that wouldn’t stop the vision for this record from being realized. This is a love letter from start to finish. It’s the story of us starting from that first day we met in 2004, and that’s the story of School of Seven Bells. So much love to all of you. Thank you for being a constant light in our lives. This record is for you.

-Alejandra

David Bowie and Hylda Payne

“Look up here, I’m in heaven…”

It’s Friday 8th January 2016. David Bowie is 69. Hylda Payne is 84. They share a birthday. A few days pass and other common threads reveal themselves.

I wrote this on my Instagram feed the morning I wake to the shock of David Bowie’s death: ‘I think many people believe I possess a questionable sense of humour, at the best of times. But, I don’t know, sometimes my humour can go where even angels fear to tread. And you can find laughter in darkness. I have a family friend who I’ve known for more than 30 years; she’s dying of cancer; initially liver but now significantly metastasized and told last week she might have weeks not months. She was finally at peace with the diagnosis, both relieved at having had a very good reason for feeling so lousy recently but also content that she’s had a good life. 

IMG_20160108_161304366-04
Hylda Payne : 84th Birthday : The nurses brought in cake!

It was her birthday on Friday [the same as David Bowie!]. There was much fun and laughter on the ward … and many tears; not from her, she kept up the laughter. 

She’s still doing pretty well; the pain is being managed. I glance at my watch as my wife leaves for a visit “Tell her she might not want to hang about. She could be on the same coach as Bowie!”

I last saw Hylda on Friday [15th January] afternoon. She’d been granted her wish a couple of days earlier and been moved to an end-of-life bed in a beautiful care facility run by St Monica Trust.

It was just Hylda and I, revisiting old memories and laying down some new. Her infamous smile, laugh and notoriously expressive face were never more than a moment away. As I went to leave she puckered up. I don’t think I’ve ever kissed an 84-year-old woman on the lips before. “No tongues!” I said sternly. “And I don’t want to hear you’ve been running up and down the ward as soon as I’m gone either.” As last words go they’re not exactly up there with the most memorable, but I’ll cherish that final memory and that look upon her face.

Hylda went downhill surprisingly quickly the following day. And at about 12:40am on Monday 18th January she slipped quietly away surrounded by her daughter, two granddaughters and my wife, Sue. ‘Her skin went pale, like porcelain, and as her final breath rose to her mouth she opened her eyes briefly before gently closing them again … and was gone. It was so peaceful.’

A fittingly beautiful end for a beautiful soul. And typically of Hylda she had captured the hearts of the nursing and care staff at Garden House in just a few days, as she had done from her admission to the Bristol Royal Infirmary on New Years Day. It essentially speaks volumes for the cheeky, warm personality it’s been a pleasure to have known for 34 years.

Hylda Payne 1932-2016 RIP.

It’s been a curious symbiosis, of sorts, living through the infamous Hylda’s passing alongside that of the slightly more famous David Bowie. We are all so human, so fragile. The world keeps spinning and you’re left caught in this limbo state and the sense that our time here on earth is so relatively fleeting; specks of stardust, we come and we go.

I would never have classed myself as a huge Bowie fan – let’s say he didn’t always take me with him. [Although Heroes is one of my absolute favourite songs by anyone.] But as an artist and a creative he’s had nothing but my complete admiration. And witnessing the release of the Lazarus video early last week [and that extraordinarily apt opening line: “Look up here, I’m in heaven…”] … not only will it live in my memory forever as a testament to his genius right until the end, like Hylda, it serves as a reminder to not waste time: the end will come and there will never be enough.

In his passing the Lazarus video is as compelling as it is mesmerising in its potential symbolism. And there’s that moment at about 2’45” …

 

 

…where the pace has quickened and he grabs his pen. He begins to write animatedly. Ideas and thoughts begin to pour onto the page … I’ve so much more to say, so much more to do … until the moment is snatched from him by time; the pen trails off and down the face of the desk. And he’s gone. You’re gone.

Perhaps Bowie offered a final salutary warning, a potential gift to those of us left behind. There will never be enough time … get busy with living.

Where are we now?
Where are we now?
The moment you know
You know, you know

As long as there’s sun
As long as there’s sun
As long as there’s rain
As long as there’s rain
As long as there’s fire
As long as there’s fire
As long as there’s me
As long as there’s you

David Bowie. 8th January 1947 – 2016

Hylda Payne. 8th January 1932 – 2016

The Calendar : 2016 : Final Update

G’day folks. The final post and the final day of bidding for The Auction of my 2016 calendar of street photography with, as I write, approximately 36 hours of time remaining to make a bid…

 

The Calendar 2016 Jul-Dec
Images July-December

 

Note: You can see the images for January-June here.

Just a reminder that there will be just ONE of these objects circulating in the proverbial wild and will probably set to become one of the most collectible objects since a car made from cheese was bought by an obsessive cheese enthusiast. [Although, in a moment of weakness, I understand he subsequently ate his investment.]

I will be posting any relevant updates on the bidding process at the foot of this post and via Instagram, Flickr, F*c*book and Twitter. You can make bids in any location or via email and text and I will keep all locations up to date with the prevailing highest bid.

I propose to end bidding at 11:59pm GMT on 21st December and will ship the calendar with its heartfelt personal message the following day – hopefully this should ensure delivery by the New Year anywhere in the world.

 

Current Highest Bid: US $150

[Approx. conversion: Euros 138 and UKP 101]

[Bid by Christa in AmericaNote: If you’d rather not have your name publicly announced with any bid please let me know.]

The Calendar : 2016 : Update

Hey everyone, just a quick update on The Auction for my calendar. These are the first six months of images to be found on this highly desirable unbridled joyous “astonishingly excellent”* … uh, too much?

 

The Calendar 2016 Jan-Jun
Calendar Images : January-June

 

*  “Astonishingly excellent…” Yes, dear reader, not my words but the words of Donald Trump’s personal physician, Harold Bornstein. Admittedly, he was actually describing Donald Trump’s alleged physical health rather than, well, either his presidential campaign or my calendar, but I’m confident he would be equally eulogising. Meanwhile, Trump’s barber was said to have declined to comment.

Imagine being Donald Trump’s personal physician. I’ll, uh, just leave you with that thought for a moment …  …  … Okay! Okay, you can stop. It makes the prospect of, uh, unwrapping the calendar after it lands in your mailbox more appealing now, though, eh?!

The above images will furnish the eyes with pleasure between the months of January-June. You can read the full introduction to this auction idea by reading the accompanying blog/video here.

Current Highest Bid: 47 Euros

[Approx. conversion: US $52 and UKP 34]

[Bid by Valeria in Italy … Note: If you’d rather not have your name publicly announced with any bid please let me know.]

 

Kick-starting One’s Arse [by holding out a hand … and a cap]

I don’t intend to bore anyone with tales of my traumatic childhood … when I lived in box in the woods and was raised by wolves and the occasional elf. Or how my life as one of the world’s top sportsmen and a fully functioning member of our consumerist society was curtailed and largely hindered by … my personality.

But my prevailing reality is such that I’ve been unable to process images in anger on my computer for approaching three years; essentially, I’ve become as effective as a photographer who leaves the lens cap on. So, I want to plunge into, not so much the brave new world, as simply a world where memory intensive processing becomes a smooth reality and not simply a further drain on already shredded frustrations and thinning hair. [And actually share finished images with the friends and family of now two-year-old weddings!]

I had hoped for a fair financial tailwind that would’ve allowed this long before now but inertia has steadfastly refused its creep. So, with time sliding into the abyss of procrastination I’ve decided it’s time to allow my photography to raise the funds it needs.

Early in the New Year I will be looking into forms of crowdfunding with a view to raise money wholly for a new computer – and hopefully a portrait lens; and should too many of you go berserk: new camera body – by rewarding contributors with copies of my work in what might well prove to be utterly outrageous as well as contemporary photographic forms. [If you have any ideas, wishes or questions feel free to hurl them my way in the interim!]

To kick-start the idea I’m making available just ONE copy of The Calendar : 2016 featuring my street photography images, which I’m going to auction to the highest bidder from today! I’m one part excited, one part fearful that it’s going to end up costing me money to send it!

When I’m famous this will be collectible!*

I will be posting updates on the bidding process at the foot of this post and via Instagram, Flickr, F*c*book and Twitter. You can make bids in any location or via email and text and I will keep all locations up to date with the prevailing highest bid.

I propose to end bidding at 11:59pm on 21st December and will ship the calendar with its heartfelt personal message the following day – hopefully this should ensure delivery by the New Year anywhere in the world.

{ Doffs cap }

* Guarantees of fame are not included. Neither is the towel seen in this clip.

 

Current Highest Bid: 47 Euros

[Approx. conversion: US $52 and UKP 34]

[Bid by Valeria in Italy … Note: If you’d rather not have your name publicly announced with any bid please let me know.]