Friday, March 02, 2007

We Live In Sad Sad Times

They say that the days of innocence have long gone and that nowadays everyone is so concerned about personal safety that a simple smile in passing can be construed as sexual harassment. I'd have to say THEY are right.

I decided to be lazy and drive the short distance to Roundhay Park and instead, get my exercise walking around and taking photos of whatever caught my eye. I walked down the steps of Hill 60 and came upon the small childrens playground across from the fire damaged cafe on the lake.

I really wanted to experiment with the various settings on my new camera and I especially wanted to take action shots to test out it's ability to keep the subject in sharp focus no matter how fast and how erratically it moved. A playground would've been a great place to do this testing given the various swinging, sliding, and generally moving children on display there. But I knew that standing there taking photos would've probably made the parents uneasy and so I decided not to bother.

An ice cream van was parked at the side of this playground and this I DID want to photograph as they are not common in America and so I wanted it for this blog. I set up the tripod and was sorting out the camera when I noticed a park warden approaching me. He asked me what I thought I was doing and I politely told him exactly what I thought I was doing........taking a photo of an ice cream van. "So you're not taking photos of the kids ?" he said. I felt my face going red......not with embarassment but with anger.

"Well if one or two happen to go to the van for an ice cream just as I snap the photo, then maybe" I replied. "Are you accusing me of being a paedophile or something?" He went on to say that taking photos around a kids playground is not a good idea and even that parents do not like photos being taken of their kids without permission.

Now while I agree with the basic premise of his statement about photographing kids, it's a sad sad situation that today makes a decent honest and trustworthy person feel like a social outcast simply for wanting to take innocent photos in a public park. I'm not sure to what lengths he would've gone to stop me, being that I WAS in a public place after all, but I didn't want any more people staring at me and so I just said I'd move on and if it was ok with him, take photos of the ducks and swans.

As an act of rebellion against Mr. Jobsworth Warden of Roundhay Park, here is that ice cream van complete with kid and mother - both of whom were in no danger from yours truely at any time. Mind you, I really did fancy a cone and having taken no money with me, I did think about mugging the kid for his.

Oh I'm joking.....I'm joking. For goodness sake, people.

Mr. Warden would've been better off sorting out the numerous dog owners who let their unleashed animals roam all over the place peeing and crapping at will AND the litter louts who continue to think that their pockets should never be soiled by sweet wrappers as long as grass and concrete alternatives exist. Grrrrrrrr.

While on the subject of 'the times we live in', I went into a local pub last week to ask for a copy of their meal menu to take home with me. Being a cold winter's day and given that I've only a few more hairs than Homer Simpson, I was wearing a comfy and practical baseball cap. When I went up to the bar I was immediately asked to remove it. I said I was only in to get a menu but Mr. Barman insisted I take off my cap or leave. I left.

I was passing this unnamed pub the next day (The Bull on Harrogate road) and went in (capless this time) and asked why I'd been effectively asked to leave the day before ? Mr. Barman said he was only following orders. Where have I heard THAT excuse before.

Anyway he said it was a security directive from Head Office that all peaked caps had to be removed so that the cameras could better 'see' everyone's face just in case it was needed for a subsequent appearance on Crimewatch UK. I asked if he'd have refused admission to some old Yorkshire codger with a flat cap if he'd been determined not to part with it ? He umm'd and ahhh'd and said probably not. Baseball cap discrimination I shrieked. Well I didn't, but I thought it.

The thing is, I'd have taken my cap off out of good manners if I'd been stopping for a drink or a meal but all I wanted was a menu !! Sad times indeed.

But back to happier times and my stroll through the park this afternoon. The sun made brief but very welcome appearances from time to time and cheered up an otherwise dull and slightly miserable park. Parks never look their best in winter as there are few colourful flowers to perk up the huge expanses of greenery.

I did find some flowers though.....near the park entrance. Not being a green fingered expert or anything, I've no idea what they're called but in an otherwise world of green, they provided a lovely contrast.

Being mid afternoon on an early March weekday, I pretty much had the park to myself - well apart from the pre school kids of course but lets not go THERE again, officer !

So there was no one around to tick me off for stepping in amongst the flower beds to take these shots. However I can categorically state that no flowers were hurt in the taking of these photos. Well maybe one or two but, hey, they were slightly drooping anyway so I really just did them a kindness.

These white and purple ones were very nice and if anyone knows what they are called, please feel free to add a comment and I'll edit the text later.

Oh but before I leave Roundhay Park, I'd better include a photo of a swan seeing as I told Mr. Warden that I was heading off to photograph one.

I kept the lens safely pointed out onto the lake so as not to risk a kid sneaking into the frame and causing me untold grief. I took several shots of the swans gliding serenely along - as they do - but the one I like best is the one below, when one swan had finished giving itself a good clean and raised itself up to give it's wings a vigorous air drying.

It was quite a sight and was all over in a few seconds but thanks to the camera's ability to take 3 frames per second, I got the whole sequence. This is at the mid point of the procedure and also provides the most dramatic shot.

It reminded me of one of those water rides at Alton Towers or some such theme park where the customers climb 'into' a swan boat for a self propelled paddle around the lake.

As usual, nature provides a much better spectacle and I'll stick to the real thing.

I crossed the road to Tropical World but as it was just after 3:30pm, it was closed for the day. Thankfully I hadn't wanted to go in anyway but I think it's pretty miserable that it closes so early in winter.

But as the lemurs are outside the main 'world', I was at least able to take a few pics of them. At first glance they look like cute little furry critters but if you click on this photo and examine it's teeth, you'll see that they could give you a nasty bite if you were stupid enough to poke your fingers through to them.

Ok so the glass makes this a very unlikely occurance but the point is, IF you ever come across one out in the wild, say whilst shopping in Sainsburys or next to your table at a McDonalds, then do NOT go "awwwww look at the cute little furry thingy" and stick a digit near it's mouth.

It'll have it off faster that you can say..........ohhhh that'll sting in the morning !

But they CAN look cute so I've included a 2nd photo of one that tried to stare me down - and succeeded.

Well actually I let it win as it's a dumb animal after all and needs to feel a bit superior now and then. It can dine out for a while on the story of the day it stared down the stupid looking, non furry, not at all cute human and kicked ass.

Next to the lemurs there was a small pool with huge fishy things passing their lives away without the need for tv or the internet or anything good really.

Right above them, literally, were several colourful ducks. I use the general term here as I'm sure someone will point out that these are not ducks at all - but this is a blog people and I'm no David Attenborough or even Rolf Harris. I do have a beard though, oh and glasses too. I'm a bit overweight and I do have a hard to understand accent. And I can't sing. Hey maybe I AM Rolf Harris. Nah, I KNOW I can't sing.

Anyhoooo, back to these ducks. See, this is what I meant by wanting to take photos and not having to worry about who or what is in the shot - except when I want them to be.

Yes the shot of the duck alone would be quite nice. It was posing as only a duck can.

But click on the photo to enlarge it and have a look at the face of the little boy. You can't pay for that kind of childish reaction. Is it dangerous ? Isn't it pretty ? Will it fly away if I get closer ? Should I run away if IT gets closer ? Would it go better with rice or a baked potato ?

It's all there on his face and I never asked for permission. I'm a rebel.

The next 2 photos are really just your standard shots. The first one I like as this duck had just had a shower under the water that was pouring out of a pipe that was keeping the pool levels topped up. The droplets are still on it's head and seconds after I took the shot, it shook it's head and the moment was gone.

This is the 'after the moment had gone' look !

I've included this final photo for those of my American readers who will know all about the 'Aflac' duck. I need say no more but it's obviously retired, got a new look and moved to Leeds !!!

By now it was 4pm and getting cold and so I headed back to the car and home.

Mr. Warden hadn't exactly RUINED my afternoon out but he did make me think about a few things and the changes I may have to make when taking photographs in future. As his very first question to me had been "Are you in the media?", maybe I should invest in a long black coat and a black hat with a PRESS ticket stuck into the brim.

But even if that would ensure I could take photos of parked ice cream vans without being suspected of being a potential paedophile, it still wouldn't get me into The Bull.

We do live in very sad times.


Daphne said...

The flowers are crocuses - always good at this time of year.
The Bull of course used to be the Chained Bull but someone was murdered there (probably after asking an innocent customer to remove his baseball cap) so they changed the name and refurbished it all and I was just about to try it out after the refurbishment but your baseball cap story has put me right off, so stuff 'em.
I wonder if I'd get the same reaction from Jobsworth if I tried to take a photo of the ice cream van, what with me being female an' all? Infuriating. There is too much "only obeying orders" about and too little intelligent thought.

Karina said...

i'm doing an architecture project where we have to design a 'space' for people to talk about art and architecture. I had to create a sheet about the time people spend in Roundhay and stumbled across your blog in a google search. i've now got you bookmarked so i can read all the blogs as the one i have read are pretty damn funny! I am going to use a few of your photos as well because they are really very good. Your name is at the bottom of every photo used!

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