Feeling Gravity's Pull.

Ok. Sunday. A day for lounging around, mowing the lawn and slamming in the lamb.

Or, if you live near Cookham like we do, it's also the opportunity to watch some insane locals take part in the Gravity Grand Prix - basically, a build-your-own kart time trail down a steep-ish hill in which one attempts to not die horribly in front of ones neighbours.

Run since 2007, the Grand Prix is driven only by gravity (huh) meaning a quick push and that's it. This means some karts with a little more, shall we say, 'engineering' get much better times down the course. For instance, the low profile handmade by yer actual Jaguar cars team did a significantly better time than the two naked blokes in a trolley surrounded by some cardboard.

It figures.

Still, none of this really matters as most of the fun is watching to see if anyone comes a cropper around the chicane (they did) and if any carts break halfway down (they do). Awards are given for fastest time obviously, but they're also handed out for Best Novelty Kart as well so everyone can be a winner.

It was our second year watching the Grand Prix and it seemed busier this time around. I also noted the appearance of a Costa van and a National Trust tent amongst the bar and the bbq indicating it's becoming a 'thing' on the circuit. Hope it doesn't spoil it.

My favourite kart this year was the John Player Special one (memories of the 70's and 80's Lotus cars I guess) but special mention to the little VW van you'll see in the pictures below, not least because post-race some idiot local kids nicked and trashed it. This is why we're not allowed to have nice things...

So, the perennial fun day out for all the family (including plenty of dogs for some reason) with thousands of quid being raised for Thames Valley Air Ambulance and other local causes at the same time.

Check out some of the karts below and let me know your favourite...


Tech corner:

It was all about a quick telephoto - step forward Batis 85!

High flying and the risks involved.

Brrrrang....newaaaar....

Yes, sounds filled the sky yesterday in London to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the RAF (or Royal Air Force for non-UK types). 

Despite being neither a particular fan of fighter planes, war or armed forces in general - a bit of a pacifist really - I was glad to be in town to see the impressive flyover of various RAF planes from the past and present. 

It wasn't just me - thousands of people from everywhere in the world were on The Mall leading to Buckingham Palace to greet each passing plane with an excited roar while getting even more excited at the sight of the Royal Family (another thing I'm not too bothered about... wrong gig, eh?)

Despite taking a few shots of the various Spitfires, Tornado's, and everyone's favourite Red Arrows, I was actually more interested in getting images of those around me and they certainly didn't disappoint - because while I might have been here or there about some of it you could tell for a lot of people this was A Big Deal.

Hats (and goggles, chaps) off to the organisation though. Having read up on the flight path, amount of planes and timing precision, the risky flyover went off with without a hitch.

What I was really impressed by was the RAF brass themselves, who could have been a bit snooty, but on a big day for them clearly spent a lot of time chatting with visitors walking down The Mall after the flyover giving off an excellent impression of England at a time when we need to show a decent face to the world.

Before all these high flying shenanigans I'd popped into the Serpentine Gallery to have a look at this year's Pavillion designed by Frida Escobedo. 

Somewhat like my visit to see the Christo sculpture floating nearby, I was a bit underwhelmed. Whilst from a photography POV, the 'slats' allowed me to peak in and get some great candids, and the reflective ceiling gave some whacky distorted shapes, I can't help feeling it was it all a bit meh - I didn't get the story and as a public space it felt very enclosed and not inviting to relax in. Mileage may vary of course!

Back to The Mall. What was a highlight was the opportunity to walk right down the middle with the Palace right behind you without getting mown down by cars or horses. A real thrill. 

Once I got to the end, I made my way back up via Soho to Oxford Street and down to Tottenham Court Road - shooting all the way - and on for a nice cup of tea and some final shots with a cup of tea, hanging out with Mrs W in the V&A garden (which is always a pleasure on both counts!)

So what did I learn? Well, planes and the RAF mean a huge amount to people - with good reason - and seeing the machine in action is pretty impressive, so you don't need to be a military type to appreciate it or indeed not understand all the risks involved to those who've served.

Secondly, whilst I applaud the Serpentine for getting on board with the world and hiring a young, Mexican female architect to produce this year's Pavillion, I think they need to rethink and reimagine the brief for next year - it needs to be expand and grow a bit and be less about making just a statement, but really being an amazing place to be. Saying that, it's always brave and I come back for a look every year, so they must be doing something right. 

Like high flyers from all walks of life know, a risk is usually worth it.

 


Tech Corner:
A little bit of Voitglander 40mm f1.2 (review to come!) but a load of Batis 85mm to get all those lovely planes and fair away looks.

A typically British beer garden - Pub in the Park 2018.

All told, last weekend was pretty 'Best of British'.

Now, that's in danger of becoming a dirty word at the moment (stop that, Ed.) but with the sun shining down on a slightly bonkers Royal Wedding - complete with top draw US pastor and Wembley looking resplendent for the FA Cup Final it was all very pleasant on Saturday. 

For me, this just set the stage for Sunday. If you've not been living under a rock for the last few years you'll have heard of Tom Kerridge, a top-drawer UK chef who whilst not dishing out the dinners has a sideline in BBC TV shows and cooking books. When he's not doing all that guff, he runs several eating holes around Berkshire way including the Michelin stared gaff, 'The Hand and Flowers'

Phew. 

But there's more! Every year, he throws a mini-festival in Marlow called 'Pub in the Park' which is loosely described as 'a mix of gourmet food, cracking music and lush vibes'. Well, camera and  AAA Press Pass in hand, we drove the 10 min journey to Marlow to check if it ticked those boxes.

First thing to note is that PITP is split into afternoon and evening sessions (so they can clean up and restock the food tents, and presumably some people can have a tea and a ciggy).

The afternoon session is really laid back. Full of kids, but for those worried, not in an annoying way. There were tonnes of stalls with yer actual artisan fare from fudge to gin which Mrs. W wasn't short on sampling. 

Photography wise, work was brisk - it being a captive market for people, it suited my particular street style down to a tee and I got loads of shots of people enjoying those very real 'lush vibes'.

The proper food available is pretty much fantastic. It's all grouped around staff and chefs from particular local-ish top drawer restaurants including The Hand and Flowers. One dish in particular - a pulled pork affair in a taco - had us umming and arrive for ages. Nom nom indeed.

Tom Kerridge himself did an excellent and amusing talk, during which I managed to get in close for some action shots. Some bacon got stuck to a grill at one point, so I hope I didn't put him off. If that's the case Tom, my apologies. 

The big man himself.

So, what else is there? Well, there's the music. During the afternoon slot, there were various acts pitched into the burning sunshine. Among others were Exeter based duo Sound of the Sirens whose folky stompers and banter got everyone going, plus 80's ledge Roland Gift who reeled out the hits for the 'older' members of the crowd, although the youngsters seemed to be enjoying it too.

AFTERNOON SESSION SHOTS.

After a brief but enjoyable half time pint in The Chequers, we headed back onto site for the evening session. Less kids about, but we noticed a more 'poshed up' vibe for the evening. 

Naturally, the evening session seems to be a bit more about the music, but perhaps as we'd done the stalls we naturally found ourselves around the main stage area. Unlike the afternoon shoot, the evening 'pit' area was a lot more crowded with VIP's, so I couldn't get as close as I'd like (and I didn't want to upend anyone's tea!) but none the less I got loads of shots of the two headliners. 

Suddenly she sees.

We've seen KT Tunstall before and she's a really enjoyable live act - even more so when she's using the guitar as percussion and looping it without a full band to be seen (and yes, she was doing that before Ed Sheeran...). She did a pitch-perfect 30 mins and left the crowd plenty of time to get to the IPA tent before the main act. 

Jumping for 'Joy'. That's a song based gag. Right there.

Now, I'm not actually much of a Will Young fan. He doesn't appear much in any musical Venn diagram I might have, however I was pleasantly surprised. Firstly, he's got far more hits than I remember and secondly, he's a real proper bouncing up and down full-on performer with a great voice. Plus, he had a fantastic band, some of which I recognised from the The Voice house band. 

An hour whizzed by and the crowd lapped it up. Along with the lovely food and drink, music, talks etc they'd been doing that all day. 

So, did Pub in the Park live up to expectations? Oh yes. Sure, it's easy to be snarky about the general vibe and perhaps middle-class nature of it all if you're a bit cool for school, but ignore that and what remains is a lovely small-scale celebration of national food, drink and cooking with added tunes in a beautiful setting. 

And that my friends, is a real reason to be proud to be British.

EVENING SESSION SHOTS.

Tech Corner:
Travelled light, but mostly the Batis 85mm and the Sony 55. 


Many thanks to Stevie-Jayne Mather and the rest of the SwitchedOn PR team for press pass assistance.