holidays

Don't panic Mr Mainwaring!

This is not 'stop press' news: I'm no fan of the over romanticising of the past. And this is especially true when it comes to the period covering the World War Two period.

Harking back to a hypothetical bygone era when people were dying by the thousand and acting like it's some sort of jolly theme park is not something that sits too well with me.

Keep calm and don't carry on.

However, putting slightly curmudgeonly moral issues aside and sticking them in a Jerry can inside an Anderson shelter, I shuffled off with the family to Hughenden Manor in Wycombe to take in their 'living history weekend'.

Now, thankfully Hughenden has plenty of actually non- rose tinted WW2 history being the centre of a secret mapmaking operation during the war.

But also - rather thankfully - my concerns about it being a bit of a theme parky sort of the day really didn't come to fruition as it was actually pretty tastefully done. From beautiful vintage cars to painstakingly put together military re-enactments to a thunderous Spitfire flypast, even this old cynic got vaguely in the mood.

Quite aside from all the 1940's stuff, Hughenden Manor is really worth a visit to find out more about it's most famous occupant Benjamin Disraeli - and this part of its history is - in usual National Trust style - fantastically told throughout the building.

The family (including visiting Grandpa who really can just about remember the war) seemed to have a jolly time, especially when the dressing up box was found, and if nothing else i had plenty of opportunity for an interesting shot or two (hundred) as it felt not unlike being on a movie set for the day.

So there you go. Cynicism put aside, it was a really well put together day with minimal romanticism and plenty of heart, although one wonders what decade the NT could do next - surely a 90's weekend with dodgy Vauxhall Corsa's on show, a re-enactment of the Poll Tax riots and a set from Toploader?

Ugh. Maybe not...


Tech corner:
Usually people capturing stuff so the Zeiss 85mm was out to play along with the old dependable Sony 35mm f1.4 for indoor shots.

All roads lead to Brighton.

One of the added benefits of being self-employed is school holidays. So long, difficult logistics of child care, and a big hello to impromptu road trips to the seaside.

We'd not been to Brighton for ages, but after an afternoon spent putting pins and twine into a wall based map of the south of the UK (ok, we didn't. We spent 5 mins on Google), it was decreed that an enjoyable 2 hour drive in the morning rush hour was just what was required of Dad to revisit one of the UK's most famous seaside towns.

Gaff of Pink Floyd guitarist, David Gilmour. 

After parking in Hove - Brighton's 'posher' sibling - enjoying a caffeine boost at Hixon Green and me being disappointed I couldn't hear any guitar noodlings whafting from David Gilmour's house on the seafront, Shortround and myself took the long walk along the prom past beach huts and angry seagulls to our main attraction stop of the day, the slightly controversial "British Airways i360"

A 531ft observation tower on the seafront, the i360 is a fully enclosed pod which goes up a tall tube making it look not unlike an olive on a stick. Built by the same people who brought you the London Eye, the idea is a 'vertical pier' and while I think that's somewhat cobblers - my idea of a pier would involve at least one ride with a horse and kiss me quick hat monger - it does involve getting some fantastic views of Brighton, the South Downs and as far away as Beachy Head.

Apparently, the locals are a bit sniffy about the i360. It does rather stand out on the seafront, but my feeling is that change is always met with that sort of opposition and the longer it's there the more it will be accepted.

The British Airways i360.

As ever some people seemed more interested in just looking at their phones during the 30 min trip (why go up?) but for the sights you get it's definitely worth a visit, although £25 for myself and one smaller one does put it at the upper end of 'affordable' during the wallet-emptying six week school holiday.

Post olive stick ride to the heavens, we decided that a trip to Brighton wouldn't be the same without fish and chips on the beach and a dip (her, not me). Apparently, it was 'so cold', which considering our recent stratospheric temps of late was a little surprising. 

Avoid the advancing gulls on the poach for our leftover takeaway, we escaped into town for a whirl up The Lanes, with its colourful shops and locals before we trooped back down to Hove for another rush hour drive.

My one take out of being back in Brighton for the first time in a few years is that it's got a bit more confident and grown up. Hard to articulate this really, but there's a more polish in the shops, bars and restaurants than a couple of years ago.

What I was surprised about was that the beach was quite light on people considering the time of year. But perhaps they've got somewhere else to go, and other road trips of their own to have.


Tech Corner.
Majority combo of the Zeiss 85mm and Sony 35mm f 1.4 on this trip.

Four go mad in Devon.

When you've got a family, how do you fill those half-term hours? 

If you're lucky you might have a bundle of cash to fly off somewhere posh, but we have a just-as-good alternative to that - dear old Devon where we can very luckily hitch our horses with my welcoming father in law.

Being based just outside of Exeter that allows us to hang out at a multitude of exciting places, and this time in four days we packed 'em in.

Down in the dark at Kents Cavern.

Day One featured a trip down to Torquay, to visit Kents Cavern which bills itself as a Step into the Stone Age. Well, it's certainly pretty interesting and the guide was super - kept the little 'uns entertained and informed - and even though it's pretty dark down there I managed to squeeze off a few shots in probably the lowest lit venue I'd ever had to work with - like it was pitch black at times.

Back above ground, we hit the beach for the first time in 2018 at Meadfoot, which whilst a bit chilly still allowed for some tea and ice cream action, and due to the lovely light ensured I got some nice sun-down images. Nobody got soaked too which is always a bonus.

Topsham.

On Day Two, we dropped in on friends in Topsham with its ever lovely windy streets, Dutch style merchant houses and views of the River Exe. Can also recommend 'The Cafe' for lunch. 

So, to Day Three and we really maxed out with an early start to Killerton House - a lovely 18th century National Trust place which is currently running a really nicely arranged through-the-house exhibition on the Suffragette movement called 'Votes for Women' - which while well laid out, thought-provoking and interesting, also allowed the usual family 'dress-up' routine which is always a photography fave.

Gorge Walkers.

From there we soldiered on to Lydford Gorge - another NT place but with a spectacular 30-meter waterfall at the bottom of a medium walk down. Well, it seemed 'medium' until we had to walk up again. Worth it, but I'm not sure my knees are in 100% agreement. They hate me now.

We had planned to do a bit of Tor visitation, but with the light fading we had a cuppa in Tavistock and turned our thoughts to going to Sidmouth for a quick sea view the following day instead.

And visit we did, however Sidders was not giving us the blue skies of previous days - less blue and more white fog with a swirling dark sea and a keen cold wind. Didn't seem to stop somebody getting co-opted into some nonny nonny Morris dancing on the seafront, however. Those shots will be corkers for any eventual wedding slideshow I need to put together...

So four days, lots of photos and plenty done. I think I might need another holiday soon though - when's Easter?


Tech Corner:
All the usual subjects, although the 85mm Batis stayed mostly in the bag this time out.