Nige' Ollis

Photographer and Writer

Posts from the ‘Photography’ category

Don’t Turn Your Back

A modern dilemma…

Since the end of summer, with increasing frequency – a tucked away rock overhang where I drop down into the woods to walk along the river with Willow – piles of litter. Not just any litter, of course, but a curious mix of hard drug remnants [blackened foil], wet wipes, empty crisp packets, sweet wrappers and lollipop sticks. Just how young are these users?

The rock overhang is only just out of view of a public footpath, before a steep tumble down into the valley, but would otherwise only be sparsely frequented by the intrepid dog-walker, or possibly kids looking for a den in the holidays. Suffice to say, without the occasional black sack intervention by myself and another regular dog-walker, it would otherwise be an indescribable shite heap by now.

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Don’t Turn Your Back

As I say, the frequency had been exponential – in line with a growing addiction? – and the inevitable happened: I bumped into them. The penny dropped with an incredulous clang. A guy in his mid-20s preparing his next fix; a woman, of similar age; and four kids chomping on crisps and sweets, aged maybe 8, 5, 3 and a baby in a buggy. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I doubt I would’ve believed it.

The guy quickly scampered from view, leaving me to say to her, ‘Unusual place for a picnic?’ [It was close to freezing and light rain fell from impending twilight.] We had a brief conversation about ‘rubbish in the woods/kids’ laced with metaphor. I’m not sure she grasped the desired references. Then he returned, shielding his face with high collar and hat and they hurriedly left.

I wondered what might happen? If I should do something?

Throughout the following week, the ‘littering’ continued for a handful of almost consecutive days. The inevitable happened again. The eldest child’s rushed voice, ‘Someone’s coming!’ The man runs around the overhang from view. The mother is scrunching up tin foil into balls and the kids are ‘playing’ Who can throw the rubbish down into the valley the furthest! There’s another fractured conversation – she glibly suggests the wind will deal with any of the litter.

It’s another cruel winter’s day. She breaks away from the awkwardness of our conversation and prepares to leave. I fix the eldest child with the softest expression I can muster and ask him what he thinks about coming into the woods to play such games. He shrugs his shoulders, but there’s far more than a child in those sad eyes.

The man returns again in a flustered rush, she says, ‘Let’s go kids, we’ve got to pick up Mary from school.’ Shoulders are nudged, a hand is grasped, and a flurry of muddied feet and the mud clogged wheels of buggy melt into the narrow path. The smallest boy turns in my direction, “I’m not your friend,” he says . The man briefly meets my eye from beneath his wintry disguise; a connection. I know him. He knows me.

We don’t know each other by name. But he’s grown up around here. I recall the teenage, slow-witted demeanour from years gone by; he’s cuts a desperately sad cliché.

So… What would you do?

A direct report to the police/authorities now, and the source is probably clear. He/they know where I live, and walk – often in isolated darkness. Ramifications are a distinct possibility – they’re certainly from the rougher side of the tracks. But I can’t ignore this completely, can I?

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UPDATE:

It’s now one week down the line since my intervention – and a number of days since this blog post. It’s been invaluable to gain other people’s thoughts [notable thanks to my Instagram followers], and it might have been considerably more helpful to have put it out there earlier[!], therefore saving a lot of personal soul searching and wandering of thoughts.

I discussed the scenario with a couple of colleagues in school [I work in a high school environment, in case any reader isn’t aware]. And it’s an important distinction to draw, simply for the reason that in my position as a teacher I have a responsibility for safeguarding and child protection. Effectively this means, had, say, a child come into our room and made reference to potentially going down into the woods with dad/a man while he does drugs, then it would be professionally incumbent on me to report this to the head of safeguarding. So, as you can see, there was always thinly-veiled semantics, as far as my experience and professional obligations were concerned.

In school, I spoke to both a support tutor/counsellor, the latter – known for quite strong opinions – suggested How would I feel if something happened to one/some of those children? [Something alluded to during the discussion on Instagram, too.] A slightly brutal analysis of the situation; at the end of the day, it’s not me who should be responsible for the welfare of those children; and my discovery was purely accidental. But it did make me feel less comfortable about doing nothing, or delaying any further.

In the end …

I came up with my own compromise solution. A compromise in the sense that I had, at least, done something, while also hopefully protecting myself against any potential repercussion.

I researched and located Bristol Drugs Project and Frank . “There is no easy way to pick up that phone or knock on that door but take that step and you’ll find knowledgeable, free and confidential help…”  I photocopied their main website pages and inserted them into a couple of weatherproof sleeves. I then wrote a personal, handwritten message headed with a loud THINK! [Slightly annoyingly, I didn’t keep a copy of it, as it was simply a stream of conciousness – but it referred to BDP and Frank and assured the reader, if they were open and ready for help with their addiction, that they were great people; I also posed a question, referring to my own connection with safeguarding/child protection: If you were me, what would you do? I closed out with further encouragement to seek help, but at the very least, to take this habit away from the children and think what they might be doing to them.] I added the note to top of one of the clear sleeves, went down into the woods and cleared every scrap of ‘litter’ [again!], before placing them on the ledge, held in place by two large stones.

The following day [last Saturday], I returned to the spot. There was a single discarded cigarette paper on the floor and the remains of one of the man’s distinctive roll-ups on the ledge … the sleeves were gone. I had a good look around, they had seemingly been taken, rather than discarded in the immediate surroundings, at least.

The addiction-driven habit, since just before and across the Christmas period, had become almost daily – certainly every other day.

It’s now one week down the line … and absolutely no sign of any return. I can only hope there was an impact, on his/her conscience and awareness of the children, at the very least.

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2017 Calendar & Print Offers!

Inertia Creeps …

People who know me well will be aware that I’ve suffered with a chronic health issue for more than a couple of decades. [I don’t propose to bore you with the details here, but you can read a related blog should you wish to enlighten yourself further here.] Essentially, this has resulted in me working part-time and finances have always been … tight.

In 2012 my friends and family generously contributed to a surprise Oklahoma Tour Fund [for my 50th birthday], which enabled me to fly to Tulsa for the opening of the Where The Land Meets The Sea exhibition with artist Michelle Firment Reid.

Time has drifted on and my ability to create images has slowly been suffocated, mainly due to having a steam-driven computer! But after another year of stuttering [and spluttering], I have been driven to action. By the time spring rolls around I hope to have a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign up and running. Unlike the time I relied purely on the generosity of my friends and family with nothing in return except my immense, humbled gratitude, this time I will be offering prints, books and other assorted planned ideas in return for contributions.

So, I’m beginning the process by following on from last year’s wonderfully successful single 2016 Calendar Auction by offering two new 2017 A3 Wall Calendars, alongside a choice of 10×8 inch fine art print.

The Calendars:

Street Photography

To The Dogs [A Tribute To Elliott Erwitt]

I’ve carefully selected a set of personal favourite Street Photography images, as well as a To The Dogs set as a personal tribute to Elliott Erwitt, whose images proved to be the gateway drug to my true love of photography.

There are THREE options for each calendar, as well as different prices to suit either UK or International shipping:

Option 1 : Street Photography OR To The Dogs A3 Calendar ONLY:

UK: £29.99

International : £32.99

Option 2 : Street Photography OR To The Dogs A3 Calendar PLUS 10×8 inch fine art print of your choice. [You can choose any of the images included in the calendar to have as an individual print.]:

UK: £49.99

International: £52.99

Option 3 : Street Photography AND To The Dogs A3 Calendars PLUS 2 10×8 inch fine art prints of your choice. [Choose one image from each calendar to have as two individual prints.]:

UK: £79.99

International: £84.99

IMPORTANT: All above prices include postage, packing and shipping. Preferred method of transaction via UK-based BACS system or PayPal. Please use the Contact details at the foot of the Enquiries page to order these items, or if you have any queries. Thank you!

Completion of orders to hopefully ensure delivery before 1st January 2017:

UK: 21st December 2016

South America / Asia / Eastern Europe: 7th December 2016

Australia / New Zealand: 10th December 2016

Western Europe / USA / Canada: 15th December 2016

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The Reality

It’s morning. And Donald packs up his briefcase, affectionately grabs his wife’s pussy, pats his lovely daughter’s ass … ‘If only,’ he thought … yells at Juan, the gardener, to stand on the other side of the ornamental wall he’s asked him to build, and sets off for his new work experience placement at The White House.

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Curtains?

At 70-years-old it’s relatively old to consider starting a new career for which you have absolutely no experience but Donald has ambitions to one day become an intern.

Unfortunately, when Donald later bursts into the Oval Office without knocking he’s immediately shot in head, many many times with an assault weapon, due to the country’s lax gun laws. “I thought he was an intruder,” Mr Obama later explained. “This orange face suddenly burst into the room and my first instinct was to protect my family … all Americans.”

Ahhhh, wait a minute. Is that an alarm? And all America then woke up to find themselves in the shower with Bobby Ewing.

Or did they? …

Who Are We Now? 

One of the most dispiriting phrases you can hear is, Oh, I’ve always voted this way. It’s like bearing witness to some socio-political lobotomy scar; a myopic tribal ritual. And I live in a land where you can actually have more than two choices!

 

Mother?

 

Well, it’s still ultimately two choices really [if you exclude the Liberal Democrats – seemingly marginalised for potentially trying to change things for the better and blamed for everything that wasn’t; and UKIP feeding off the increasingly rotting carcass of migratory fear], albeit Old, uh, New, erm, Socialist, umm, The Labour are attempting to devolve government to one … think, level playing field with an impenetrable wall built across the entire width at one end paid for by all the other parties and voters who get to do little more than prod at it with a toothpick. [Yeah, just the one. They were rationed by the Conservative government at fear of an uprising, in 2046, following their 7th successive term in government and the cancellation of the Great British Bake Off.]

Noa… uh, Nige’s Ark

I pull onto my driveway and the girl visiting next door greets me with ‘Are you the bird man?’ An unusual beginning to a conversation. And the beginning to an unusual day…

It seems I have a reputation as someone who charms the birds from the trees – especially since rearing my first successful brood of robins. [Okay, so robin mum and dad probably helped quite a bit, but with a constant supply of mealworms, I’d like to think I had a significant hand!] One of the regular visitors to the garden are a pair of collared doves, and while I was out one of them had apparently been attacked by magpies. The new neighbour, Margaret, pulled me into her garden “I don’t think it can fly. There were feathers everywhere,” as she led on. “I managed to shut it in the cupboard at the end of our garden.” [Uh, don’t ask!] She slowly opened the mirrored door to the wardrobe lying on its side to a sudden blast of frantic grey wings spiraling around my feet. I calmly, but swiftly, reached down and gathered up the flapping wings. I held it quietly to my chest, the bird’s heartbeat almost as swift as my own. “I knew you’d know what to do,” said Margaret. I have no idea why she thought that. And I now stood there mostly not really knowing of what to do next!

The bird calmed and I gently fanned one wing at a time; the left wing had lost a number of significant flight feathers, as well as a number from its tail; a couple of puncture wounds, from what I assume to have been the beak of the magpie, oozed a small amount of blood. 352

But its eyes were bright and otherwise seemed surprisingly well. Margaret went and found a cardboard box when I noticed the other one of the pair looking down from the fir tree in my own garden. Can birds show concern?

What now?

I tracked down a wildlife rescue centre, Secret World, and gave them a call. They would take the dove but didn’t have anyone in the immediate area today – could I get it to them by any chance? An hour’s drive away, we reached the compromise: they would try and arrange for someone to meet me somewhere en route for an exchange. An hour passed … no call. I called again, and somehow, a few minutes later I found myself agreeing to pick up two more injured animals from a vets on the opposite side of the city!

Another hour later and my cramped car held a small menagerie.

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The Ark [and the fated gap in the box!]

 In the footwell, my collared dove had been joined by a hedgehog and, tucked snugly behind the passenger seat, a very excitable jay! I’d somewhat inexplicably become a wildlife rescue driver for the day!

 

The drive wasn’t uneventful. I’m sure we’ve all suffered those moments when a large fly or even an insect of the striped stinging variety becomes an irritating distraction as it zigzags across the windscreen. So, imagine, then, should a collared dove decide to leave the confines of its cardboard hospital and aim at the sky! Fortunately, I was actually stopped at a junction when it happened and managed a heart-palpitating recapture … albeit to the bemusement of the car driver waiting behind and the lady with the pushchair waiting to cross the road, as my arms flapped as wildly as the car-entombed bird.

I finally pulled into the rescue centre’s car park and walked into the reception to be greeted by a wildly enthusiastic hug from the cheekily persuasive Ann, one of the women manning the phones. I glanced up at the whiteboard behind their heads and laughed …

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Secret World Rescue Driver: “Nice man! : )” 

I’d hopefully earned that enthusiasm and the accompanying tea and biscuits – although I declined the gentle persuasions that I might like to volunteer on a more regular basis. [The persuasion had already got me this far!]

 

Marlies and I slowly checked in the new patients, including the sickly little hedgehog

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A relative of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle

 and the excitable but finally exhausted young jay, which may’ve simply left the nest too early.

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The exhausted jay

Secret World was a new world to me. But after this experience I was really moved by the dedication of all the staff involved – many of them volunteers – seemingly open to taking in any distressed critter. There was certainly a moment this morning when I really felt the options for the collared dove were limited.


So, that was yesterday, and having just spoken to Diane at the centre there appears to be some hope the collared dove will recover and could therefore be returned to the wild – something I’d particularly like to do, given that its mate has cast a slightly forlorn figure outside my window on and off for much of the day.


A testament to the work done at Secret World can be seen on this sign …

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… and last month alone they took in 1,011 sick and injured animals. You can donate and support the work to rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife at Secret World Wildlife Rescue here.