OH ( my other half) and I are just returned from a trip to Mauritius. We met in Mauritius 44 years ago as students, and OH was keen to revisit the beautiful island that holds many happy memories. Memories of spending afternoons on the beach snorkelling over an incredible coral reef, listening to a young boy lying in the sea playing his trumpet. Of a bed and breakfast accommodation complete with cockroaches and geckos, and a cyclone that brought 60 inches of rain in just 14 days. It was so wet that we ended up travelling around the island in our swimming costumes, as there was no point wearing clothes; we were completely soaked within seconds.
I am not a fan of heat, or of beach holidays. I am no longer able to lie for hours perfecting an unhealthy tan. I am a restless individual who can cope with no more than 30 minutes lying on a sun bed before craving some action. OH, on the other hand, likes nothing better than to lie for hours reading a good book, barely bothering to swim or to stray from his lounger. We are incompatible in this respect.
In the past we have chosen activity holidays such as hiking or sailing. But this was to be a regular beach holiday. The potential for activities was there, but the heat of the tropical sun is more than I can bear on my ageing skin, and I can only be happily active before the sun reaches any significant height in the sky.
So, determined to get some daily exercise, I got up at 6.30 every day to walk before sunrise. I left OH in bed and crept out with my camera and a desire to explore.
Our first location was a beach hotel. I was not the only one walking very early in the day. The sand was heavily foot-printed, and the beach pleasantly shaded.
I searched for things to photograph. Mostly I was drawn to the dead corals, lying on the white sand along with sea urchins and a few shells.
Sadly, most of the Mauritian reef coral died after an extreme heatwave a few years ago. Snorkelling over it made me feel very sad, as I have memories of extraordinary beauty just off shore in the shallow waters protected by the outer reef.
But the remains of coral washed ashore held me captive with their extraordinary patterns and variety.
It is illegal to remove coral and shells from the beach, so I took only photographs.
Every morning I walked, often passing the same people going in the opposite direction. When i tired of the sand I walked on the road to the village. A village that didn't exist 44 years ago. Everything was so different. A large part of me prefers to remember it as it was rather than how it is now.
I passed many coloured food trucks beside the road, closed up for the night. I was thinking of Ed Ruscha's photobook entitled '26 gasoline stations'. I envisaged my own version...... '26 food trucks'.....
But I never completed the series. I was with OH, and we were on the move, so the opportunity didn't arise.
After a few days at a beach hotel we moved to an airbnb in a small town.
I was beginning to feel restless and frustrated with the heat. My morning walks became even more important. This time, along a busy road with no pavement until I reached the beach.
I passed gateways to homes of many types, and tried to avoid being killed by the crazy bus drivers hurtling along the road at break neck speed.
Here was another potential series; the contrast between the old and the new, but I would have needed much more time walking the streets before breakfast., gathering more images. We were only there for 4 days. Not nearly long enough.
I started taking videos instead of photographs.
They seemed more able to capture my mood. The word 'indolence' kept passing through my mind.
I was conscious of a slow changing of my mood. Seven days into the trip I was irritable and wishing myself somewhere cooler. But as we settled into a routine of beach visits and snorkelling, people watching and novel devouring, I started to feel calmer. I spent long minutes watching palm trees swaying in the breeze, and the locals standing in the shallow water chatting for what felt like hours.
We moved on to our final destination; a fancy hotel in the east. Fancy and expensive. This was a birthday treat and another chance to revisit old memories. The son of our B&B hosts all those years ago was a chef at the hotel, and we dined there as his guest as students. I just remember a clean, white modern dining room, far beyond our budget. I have no idea what we ate.
This time we were able to stay and make use of the beautiful surroundings, but my morning walks took an unexpected turn for the worse. I could either walk up the long drive of the hotel to the main road in blazing sunshine ( no thank you), or stroll along the local beach , which was not very far. I gave up this option after one day due to encountering a large amount of litter as soon as I left the main hotel grounds, and the distance not being far enough to call it a 'walk'.
So I settled into a state of indolence, and carried on making videos and some cyanotypes with paper brought from home.
I got better at it day by day.
I watched clouds, and the weaver birds building nests. We took a boat to an island beach and lay under the trees drinking ice cold water.
And when I got home I made a very short video of calmness. It is far from perfect, but my first photobook course is starting this week, so I wanted to make it while I had time and was fresh from the trip. No more indolence now........
OH won't like it, as the music is too melancholy, the sun isn't always shining. there are no pictures of our adventures together, and it isn't a rip roaring ride through 14 days of sun and sand.
For that he will have to wait......... patience is a virtue. Some of us have more of it than others!
Christmas has taken most of my energy for the last three weeks. For the first time in a number of years, both my children and my daughter's family were staying for Christmas. One from Vancouver, and one from the French alps.
Recent Christmas's have involved long journeys to the mountains of Canada, and epic organisation by my daughter. This year she did the travelling, and I did the epic organisation using a large spreadsheet of days, activities, meals, ingredients and a shopping list.
It worked. We were ten for lunch on Christmas day, preceded by a pantomime trip on Christmas Eve, and a visit to more family on Boxing Day. Two cars, three trips around the M25, 16 people for Boxing Day lunch, and a lot of lego. No snow, no skiing, but some good muddy walks and lots of meals.
I was prepared. The freezer was stuffed, and I was able to enjoy the few days without having to do endless cooking. I even did some knitting in the midst of serving Christmas lunch, to untangle some dropped stitches for my grandson who was entertaining himself between courses.
And now they are all gone. The house is uncannily quiet. The lego is all cleared away and there is a pile of washing to work through.
It was a very special time. So special that I didn't stop to take a single photo. Not one. I will have to rely on my memories, and the new decorations on the Christmas tree, including a brown bear with a fishing rod, to remind me of my camping trip in Washington state with family last May. I was the only adult present on our pitch who was able to set up a fishing rod. That surprised everyone! A childhood spent casting endlessly on the River Wey was not wasted. I don't remember ever catching a fish, but that's not really the point.
The first thing that I did when the house was officially empty was to go for a walk in the woods. I left OH ( my other half) pondering the puddle that keeps appearing in the middle of our kitchen floor during the night ( AAAARGGGHHHH...........), and escaped.
I tramped through the mud, passing many dogs and bobble-hatted children.
The low winter sun was just breaking through, and it felt good to be out and able to think in peace. I filmed things that caught my eye as I walked; catkins, leaves, birch bark, the stream, the mud, some crows, bobble-hatted children, and more mud.
You can see all of these on my Instagram feed here
I then returned home, ate some more left overs and chucked the remains of the Yule log into the food waste bin, as there was no one left to eat it.
It was time to get back to my normal life.
So what next for my creative endeavours? I have been working hard on a book for my FRPS, and am now awaiting feedback, to see whether it is up to the required standard. Being all about litter on the beach, it is somewhat unusual, and I don't want to say too much at the moment. Every time I look at the layout I seem to change it, so I am leaving it alone for a week or so.
The image below is currently 'IN' the draft book.
None of the images work well as stand alone images, which means that the book structure is vital to bringing them together. It has made me think about how and why I make images. Working in a series is, for me, more satisfying than single stand alone images that might be framed. In the middle of arranging my book I received notice from the Royal Photographic Society that a book for submission should only contain 20 or 21 images. That threw me somewhat, as I have never before had to work to a certain number of images when making a book. I am not sure that I agree with a restriction for this particular submission format, but will keep going for now. One way or another, a book will come out of my months of trawling the beach for litter and items washed up from the sea.
I need to move on. I don't want to spend the rest of my life photographing litter, even if I do keep picking it up. I am ready for a new chapter.
Caroline Fraser - an ordinary life
on life, suburban living, art, creativity, photography, book art and travel.
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Welcome to Caroline Fraser Photography
Colourful abstracted and traditional photographic landscapes, book art and workshops. Capturing the moods and beauty of nature whether in wild open places or in small sanctuaries in suburbia.