As old school family businesses go, “Lakes for Volvos” in Wyboston, Bedfordshire is a true gem. I have recently become the proud owner of a rather old 2.3l Volvo 850 T5 (T5 being the fast one, the one used by the police in years gone by) .
More often than I’d hoped in the last couple of weeks I’ve visited Wyboston in the hope to find the fix to my ongoing breakdowns and too frequent calls to the fourth emergency service.
Whilst there yesterday and talking to the owners I thought they deserved a piece being written about them so I returned this morning with my camera.
All day long the phone rings, it was never off the hook while I was there this morning and the stream of visitors through the door kept part-owner Barry at the office.
The place is run by Barry and Bernard who have run their business at Wyboston for nearly 30 years. Bernard’s Grandson Ethan (18) was busy breaking an 850, he works weekends in the workshop while he’s at college studying Economics and Politics “A” Level, he’s got his exams this summer and is expected to pass with As all round.
Barry is very proud of the fact they work in an “old school” fashion doing honest and fair business with customers who return time and time again.
Hundreds of protesters turned out in Trafalgar Square in London last Saturday (01/03) to demonstrate against alleged corruption within the government. Marches took place around the world for the same purpose – to raise awareness and spread the word about the belief that world governments are corrupt.
The crowd moved off to reconvene at the Ecuadorian Embassy where Julian Assange is holed up in asylum limbo – the Ecuadorians offered the founder of WikiLeaks sanction while Sweden try to extradite him there on rape charges.
Members of the “ANONYMOUS” Movement wore masks showing their support for the movement that is planning a lot more demonstrations and action throughout 2014 culminating in Project V planned for early 2015 – “We are Anonymous, we are Legion, We do not FORGET, We do not FORGIVE, EXPECT US” is their strapline.
… Luton in Harmony. The Mall in Luton was alive with some of Luton’s hottest talents today. Coming together to support the Luton in Harmony movement – their website describes the movement – “Its aim is to celebrate the diversity and unity of our communities, and to build a positive reputation for our town.” Lots of the town’s positives were on show belting out tunes and flinging themselves through somersaults and spinning on their heads.
This time last year I was working in Brixton and chatting with people from the area. When they found out I was from Luton they gave me funny looks and asked how things were up there. I didn’t really understand what they meant – I knew there had been some trouble in Luton over the previous months but didn’t realise it was far reaching. The news of gang rivalry between the Marsh Farm and Lewsey Farm Estates (where I grew up) of Luton had travelled to, and shocked the people of, Brixton. I was amazed that the people of Brixton (somewhere I had always associated with trouble, the riots of ’81 and “Bloody Saturday” considered Luton to be an unsafe place to be, whether living there or visiting – “I’ve got friends up there and I won’t go there !” was just one comment) would be interested or shocked at little old Luton.
The idea of Luton being a rough, but more to the point, unsafe, place to visit surprised me. I gave it some more thought and started a photodocumentary on the area where I grew up. Lewsey Farm never seemed unsafe to me but maybe that’s because it’s where I grew up, it’s where I played knock down ginger as a kid, I knew the area and I knew the escape routes should I need them, so maybe my familiarity with the area was giving me a false sense of security. I decided to get around and meet a few shop owners in Dominic Square – you know the type of place, local shops, small supermarket, a betting shop and a bakery, where Grandad gets his paper in the morning and where kids in hoodies on BMXs sit around and talk when it gets dark.
I spoke to 3 or 4 of the shop owners and they all confirmed what I thought – that Luton and more to the point Lewsey Farm was not full of racketeers and gangsters terrorising the local people. So had the press blown things out of proportion ? This was very possible but there was evidence to back up the bad stories the people of Brixton had heard. On 5th September 2012 Delaney Brown, a 19 year old man from Lewsey Farm was mown down by a car mounting the pavement and knocked off his bike, he later died in hospital. This sparked a number of tit for tat attacks and fatalities between youths from Lewsey Farm and youths from Marsh Farm. The trouble and tensions went on for about 6 months, there was a lot of news coverage and sitting down to watch the 6 o’clock news I would be wondering what the next Lewsey/Marsh Farm story was going to be.
Over the first few months of 2013 there was a huge police operation and it combined with community leaders in and around Luton to combat crime on the two estates. Armed fire arms officers were patrolling the streets during the day and at night, community leaders were out and about on the streets talking to kids, the local radio got involved and ran programs dedicated to the subject and a rally was held in Luton Town Centre to bring awareness of the troubles and the ongoing fight to bring law and order to the streets of the town. All in all a huge effort was being made to calm things down.
A year on and I think things have calmed down, Luton is very rarely on the 6 o’clock news so I no longer have that dreaded sinking feeling when it starts. I had a cup of tea and sat and talked to Kath who works in the bakery while I was at Dominic Square yesterday. She’s been working at the bakery for a year, she’ll be 60 next month and would have been looking forward to retirement if the retirement age hadn’t been extended to 67 by the government. She gets up at 6 every morning to be at the bakery for 7 to arrange the loaves and cakes for the days trade, she lost her husband after a long illness 4 years ago after nursing him for 10 years and has been forced back to work but as most people around here she would rather get up at 6 and trudge through the rain and snow than sit at home and claim benefits. And I think Kath is the type of person that sums up Lewsey Farm, hard working, honest, tough but all the time doing it all with a smile on her face. I take my hat off to Kath and all like her in and around Lewsey Farm.
As mentioned last week I’m trying to photograph, and document through photography, where I grew up and what I’ve been upto in the last 45 years – in 15 to 20 photographs. I was out and about with the Mamiya C33 this morning in North London, where we lived between 1973 and 1976, after Dad left the army and worked at the Mount Pleasant Sorting Office.
I bought this beauty a few weeks ago off ebay – I’ve been out with it a couple of times and so far I think it all works as it should. The C33 is a late 60s Twin Lens Reflex (TLR – view through the top lens and take the picture through the bottom lens) medium format professional camera manufactured in Japan – it uses 120 roll film and produces square negatives 6x6cm in size. It doesn’t have any metering and is fully manually operated, so to take a picture you either fly by the seat of your pants and use your best guestimate to choose aperture and shutter speed or you have some kind of light meter. The thing to the left of the camera in the picture is a 1950s Weston Master Universal Exposure Meter (another ebay acquisition), I’ve had it checked out and it works fine.
The plan, oh yes, there’s a plan, is to produce a body of work (15 to 20 black and white pictures) that I shoot, develop and print myself. The project will be loosely based on who I am and where I came from. We moved around quite a bit before the family settled in Luton in December 1976 – remember that hot hot summer of ’76? We lived in Milton Keynes for 9 months in 1976 before moving to Luton, before that we lived in a high rise block of flats (almost) overlooking Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium (and now even closer to the Emirates Stadium), before that we lived in Army Married Quarters in Bushey after moving back to England from Germany where Dad was stationed and I was born.
So that’s the plan – I’d like to think that by the end of 2014 I’ll have that set of prints that I’m happy with. It’ll take me to places I’m guessing will look quite different from what I remember. I’ll try and keep the blog updated with a few pictures along the way but the main aim of the project is to produce those pictures through film, negative, wet print and probably a few headaches from the darkroom chemicals – can’t wait !!
I was in the Navy with Mandy, we first worked together down the bunker at the NATO HQ in Northwood, Middlesex. I joined Northwood on 28th November 1988 – 3 days before my 20th birthday. With the words “don’t go down the hole hungover” from my PO at Yeovilton, Lindy, I was down the hole, hungover, within days.
Mandy’s getting married to Tom in April next year and they have asked me to do the photos – I’m delighted that they like my style and feel honoured they want me, and my style, to capture their special day.
We met at the wedding venue, Risley Hall Hotel, Derbyshire, yesterday so I could meet Tom (and Thomas), catch up with Mandy and get a feel for what they wanted from the photos. And of course it was a great opportunity to capture them relaxed before the big day …
Tom and baby Thomas are the 7th and 8th generation Thomases of the Nottingham Andersons. My rough maths makes a generation around 30 years so the family name of Thomas Anderson has been going for approximately 200 years – well done Thomas Anderson (all of you !!).
I’ve always been a big believer in black and white photography but while editing yesterday’s photos there was something about the colours the guys were wearing and the backgrounds. They were a lot of reds and greens and that made for some great edit opportunities …
Tom works in Aeronautics and is based in Kassel, Germany – they’ve been back in the UK for Christmas and have been busy making the wedding arrangements – I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to going home for a rest.
It was great to meet Mandy and Tom yesterday and with the addition of little Thomas, they make a lovely family. They are all off back to Germany in the next few days for some well earned rest – oh yes and work of course. Drive safely and see you all in April guys !!