Publicly Speaking : The Fear

For the love of sponge! I possess an almost pathological fear of public speaking. I’d rather plunge my face into a hive a bees – who are known to adopt a rabid stinging frenzy at the merest hint of the smell of jam – while wearing a face-mask … made entirely from jam!  

So, when I was approached  last summer by the steeped in history* Bath Photographic Society asking if I would consider giving a talk during their up and coming season of lectures, why exactly did I say yes? I know why… it was in part down to me going through a phase of accepting every opportunity, while also subconsciously safe in the knowledge that 27th May 2014 was not only forever away, but would most probably never come. Clearly, there was at least one serious flaw in my logic: that of the inexorable march of time.

Time waits for no man.
Time waits for no man.

* Bath Photographic Society shares the same birthday as Kodak Eastman in 1888; a year before the invention of the first flexible photographic roll film!

Essentially, I’m an observer, not a talker. [Although my closer friend’s might doubt that assertion when I’m talking all over them! The fear has always been associated with public speaking. I have inevitably had a couple of brief experiences feeding the pathology; predominantly recalling levels of hyperventilation in danger of sucking the entire audience from the room!] And now I’d committed myself to talk to a roomful of people for a mind-boggling hour and a half! So, how did this curious alignment even occur?

During the previous season of lectures my ex-friend Dave Lewis-Baker gave a talk on the History of Street Photography. “You’ll be fine,” he assured me. That’s … early retired Professor of Politics at Warwick University David Lewis-Baker: the professional lecturer! Since first meeting Dave about 5 years ago he’s been very supportive of my photography; and slipped two of my images into his own talk amongst the historical great and the good. It was in the aftermath he persuaded their secretary, Liz Bugg, to approach me.

Still, at least I had 9 months to prepare, right? Ah. See, there’s another flaw in the logic associated with hoping time stands still: fear induced procrastination. So it was probably less than 9 days before the talk when I finally began to select images and order a brown paper bag** from Amazon; which isn’t necessarily as crazy as it might sound, as I generally respond well to deadlines. But things did get a little hectic in the last couple of days, with the format only decided upon the preceding day – a hastily borrowed laptop [Thanks again, Dave – well, it was all your fault!]; realising the planned use of PowerPoint was completely impractical; writing onto cue cards; mysteriously losing an entire batch of images only hours before; a late morning timed run-through that hinted I might overrun – but with tweaks still to make; a subsequent timed run-through that hinted I wouldn’t overrun so long as I didn’t breathe, waffle and nobody so much as looked at me. It was too late to change anything now. I was halfway up the stairs to shower and make myself beautiful when I suddenly turned on my heels, returned to the slide-show and took out 20% of the images! A few minutes later I sat under the shower and wondered … at this late stage, would faking my own death be seen as an overreaction?

** One of the best concise pieces of advice had appeared on my Instagram feed from a virtual stranger no longer than 24 hours earlier: Let your work do the heavy lifting. Know what you want to say, but approach the whole ordeal with a relaxed, devil-may-care attitude. Mind the speed of your speech, and pause and breathe often. What’s the worse that could happen?” I did reply “The worst? .. I forget to breathe often enough.” Scott quickly retorted “Alright, so you pass out. Just make sure there’s a great image on the screen… no one will notice.” I pondered the eventuality and thought of a backup plan: maybe, like the bus in the film Speed, if the images drop below a certain rate, the slide-show switches to auto… and the remainder of the speech is written on the souls of my shoes. Simple. What could possibly go wrong?


Street Photography. Following the gut feeling last moment 20% untested reduction in images the talk runs for... almost an hour to the minute!
You get the point: Street Photography. Following the gut feeling, last moment 20% untested reduction in images the talk runs for… almost an hour to the minute. Gasp!
Seascapes : The ethereal use of light in my coastal images.
Seascapes : The ethereal use of light in my coastal images. [Don’t give up the day job, Rob! 😉 ]

In the cool, relaxed light of reflection… it was a lifetime pathological fear duly exfoliated. I may well have forgotten to breathe in the first few minutes, but the warmth of the reception carried me through. And the subsequent feedback [anonymously requested], so far, has been truly humbling, as it is equally encouraging … now where did I put the jam?!

Feedback from past day or so:


Me attempting to get my head around new technology with the ever resourceful and helpful Chris. Dave Lewis-Baker looks on.
Me attempting to get my head around new technology with the ever resourceful and helpful Chris.

“…we saw a very personal exploration and a piece of your soul. You were articulate, thoughtful and thought-provoking.”

“It was wonderful to hear the how-where-when-why, for each shot, from the horse’s mouth – it made such a difference to my appreciation of what you have achieved.”

“Overall, the evening was excellent and ranks among the best that we have seen this year.”


It's getting serious now! [Dave Lewis-Baker looks on.]
It’s getting serious now! [Dave Lewis-Baker looks on.]
“While you are not familiar with public speaking, you clearly prepared very well and this delivered a top-notch presentation.”

“A very enjoyable and informative evening, up there with the best of them.”

“… well-balanced great presentation …considering it was you first talk your passion came through…”

View from the cheap seats.
View from the cheap seats.

You were funny, very open and informative.” 

Excellent evening. I think your imagination and creativity are very original.”

“One of the most interesting evenings we have had.”

“A very inspiring and entertaining talk.”


Taken towards the end of the break. They seem happy enough?! And still awake!   [I also had prints, books, etc at the rear of the room.]
Taken towards the end of the break. They seem happy enough?! And still awake! [I also had prints, books, etc. at the rear of the room.]
“… your knowledge of and passion for your subjects [made for] an amazing first ever presentation.”

“For me, you should have no qualms at all about your ability to talk publicly. Your knowledge and sincere enthusiasm with excellent images speaks volumes!”

The calming presence of BPS president, Geoff Wood
The calming presence of BPS president, Geoff Wood.

“The photography was brilliantly original, esp. the street photography. I know of no photographer who can spot visual puns like Nigel…  [the] street photography is a very personal development of Cartier Bresson’s concentration on people in their own environment, and can be viewed in the same context. He has the very rare ability to photograph people unexpectedly without causing offence.”





I’m indebted to… Dave Lewis-Baker for the initial shove and subsequent support; my great friend Rob Jordan, who filled the car journey to Bath with distracting laughter, helped setup and took a few photos as evidence; my wife, Sue, for agreeing not to come [maybe next time!]; and all at Bath Photographic Society for the opportunity [especially Liz Bugg for my exponentially frazzled emails and texts!].

And… breathe…



Man Ponders Potential Of Own Vagina

It’s the kind of headline that would grab anyone’s interest. Well, it especially peaked my interest for a great many scientific and sociological reasons. And also as I’ve had a great deal of accidental, erm, exposure in this niche area of the blogosphere.


Doctor's Implant Lab-Grown Vagina
Doctor’s Implant Lab-Grown Vagina

If I’m honest, my immediate thought was… I want one! Just imagine… I’d be able to have full sex with myself. Whenever I wanted. And in the afterglow, I could whisper breathlessly to myself ‘How was it for me?’. Not to mention what a great comeback it would now be for the person that shouted at me the other day when I criticised their shoddy parking ability with a cultured “Ahhh, go f*ck yourself!” Oh, yeah? Well… I might just go do that… uh, and enjoy it… so the joke’s on you buddy!


You may notice the Related Stories link at the bottom of the screenshot here:

HandsAnd I couldn’t help but imagine a future where men simply disappeared from sight in our allegedly advanced society.

Because, let’s face it, any man in this technologically enlightened future that found himself with the possibility of having his very own lab-grown vagina, breast implants and four hands… well, frankly, they’d never get out of the house in the morning.

And I know what you’re saying, this is all quite amusing, but where’s your hard evidence that man doesn’t simply sit in front of a computer all day utilising broadband to its full natural potential. And it’s simply wrong to characterise this brave new world in such a way. Sadly, the evidence is right here, on this very website…


Those of you who know me well – and are perhaps now looking at me with mildly disconcerted sideways glances – will know my passion for photography; and also my occasionally distracted written musings, with a soupçon of humour. [He is joking, isn’t he? Please tell me he’s joking! Or, more importantly, please tell me this isn’t purely autobiographical writing today?!] The reality is, my truly treasured followers and friends, that my website is almost never found for any of those things.

I once wrote a blog called The Man With Two Penises. Most of you who read it, doubtlessly chuckled at my discomfort. But I now feel I must apologise for all those people who stumble across my website with what I feel must be entirely different agendas. Here is a list of statistics of All Time search terms for discovering my site:



Stop laughing at the back!

And this isn’t an exhaustive list, this is just the top end of search returns. It’s almost reassuring to see my name actually nestling in at No.3 – albeit well down in the percentiles from the preceding man with two penises / man with two penis! And equally nice to see nige ollis photography sitting underneath skinless penis.

The list on these subtle variations is almost endless. And I’m now beginning to wonder just how many disappointed faces, quite possibly typing with one hand [who admittedly might now be cheered by the latest health news that more hands might become available in the future!], actually curse the accidental discovery of my photography.

As I say, the above list isn’t exhaustive, and the further down the returns you go the search terms that  send you stumbling into my room become increasingly entertaining. My personal favourites, in descending order of returns are:

  • man with two pennis : Not sure if they’re dyslexic perverts or coin collectors?
  • man with two fully working penises : Well, if you’ve got a second one, I guess it should earn its keep, right?
  • mouldy penis : I’m slightly bemused by that one, both in search reason and returning my site!
  • dog barbed penis : Your guess is as good as mine!
  • my friend’s hot mom catch me in bathroom masterbating : Uh, I think both searcher and myself might want a word with Google about that one!

And finally, the people who used these two search terms must’ve been incredibly disappointed: one man have two penises huge and dual penis and nurse.

Of course, hopefully, those of you reading and chuckling almost as much as when you read of my unfortunate operation will also now realise that this blog is purely a commercial sell out to get more hits. I mean, there must be enough keyword returns in here to send my server into virtual meltdown! Oh, and to anyone who might actually be interested in my photography, it’s over there —–> [pointlessly points]. Yeah, like they read down this far, eh?


Making A Show Of Myself

Skydiving, food poisoning and photographic exhibitions.

You should always be prepared to try something new. As I get older and wiser [it’s all relative], the phrase: The Bucket List looms ever more prominently. Especially when a new Instagram friend of mine [‘Hello, Claire’] crosses off two from her/my[!] list in one go:

1. New Zealand
2. Skydiving

…and she’s barely 20-something! When did 20-somethings begin bucket lists? I must’ve missed that memo 20+ years ago! Now I find myself in a race against time. [Well, when compared to Claire, certainly!] So, this week I attempted to remove something memorable from my list. Both of the above are quite near the top of mine. Much further down, at No.197, is Self-Inflicted Food Poisoning. It wasn’t until later, when I looked at my list more carefully, I realised I’d actually been looking at the wrong one; I’d actually been reading the companion list I made due to my deeply inadequate pension provision: the How To Kick The Bucket List. [No.1 One way ticket to Switzerland for lovely fresh snow, excellent chocolates and the clinic.]


Note: This bucket doesn't appear in my previous blog: To Pee Or Not To Pee... it's merely your warped imagination
Note: This bucket doesn’t appear in my earlier blog: To Pee Or Not To Pee… it’s merely your warped imagination

My wonderful wife and gifted cook went to London for a couple of days. The ingredients for the feast were inadvertently set. Simply add me and some haphazardly prepared chicken breast fillet, thawed from frozen, leaking more juice than a bulging melon suffering water retention.

The stomach pain began later that evening. By morning my body was wracked with pain through every sinew, rolling its eyes at itself with hands on hips wagging an accusing finger as it began the arduous task of expelling the invader from all available, umm, ports.

It must be said, the human body can be a wholly remarkable thing in the face of adversity, or even idiocy, given the chance. Essentially sidelined by its impressive intervention, I was a mere spectator. I just wish I could’ve also been stood a bit further back. Instead, it dragged me along too, out onto the high seas in a Force 9, breached above and below decks for close on 48 hours. It wasn’t pretty out there, but we finally made it back to the harbour, an arm draped around each other’s shoulder, feeling like we’ve learned something from the experience. We’ve really bonded, and forgiven ourselves, especially since all the leaking stopped.

The moral of this story? If ever I invite you around a for a chicken dinner… wear a disappointed expression and a hazmat suit bearing the logo Nil By Mouth.



Altogether a more satisfying Show Of Myself. I was really delighted to have another image in the latest MA Doran Gallery exhibition Valentine’s Group Show 2013, deepening and/or broadening my metaphorical American footprint. And I can now also confirm my involvement in F-Number at The Grant Bradley Gallery, which opens with a Private View on Friday 8th March 6 – 9pm, then runs until the end of the month.


F-Number at The Grant Bradley Gallery
F-Number at The Grant Bradley Gallery


I will be showing 4 images from the Where The Land Meets The Sea series; as well as the [rather gorgeous] large landscape book produced for the joint show in Oklahoma with Michelle Firment Reid and a full set of the companion individual note/gift cards; the large framed version of The Falling Leaf; and a further 20 16″ x 10″ prints culled mostly from my street photography work.


“Accidents that never happened
Loves that never could have been
Falling from a rock onto a soft place
Fall somewhere in between”

– ‘Show Of Myself’ : Nick Kelly [The Fat Lady Sings]



Electric Sander Fitted With Silencer Hinders Builders’ Progress

Following complaints from neighbours in the sleepy town of NothingBetterTo Doville-on the-Wold, builders renovating a historic property have had to use electric tools fitted with silencers and hand tools made of sponge. The contract, which was originally scheduled to take 3 weeks, will now continue for the next 3 years. This follows on from last year’s high profile trial when a local woman was convicted for turning the pages of a book too loudly in the library on Insanely Quiet Street.

More local news tomorrow… Main headlines: Man Loses Hat