I ask people to say, ‘sausages,’ if I’m taking a posed picture. It makes them giggle, look at each other, appear more interesting.
I prefer people pictures when they’re odd, casual, quirky.
Catching an elusive moment. And anonymous.
Like these, from Southport Air Show in July.
So I rarely take pictures of people posing. Rarely take pictures of humans at all, come to that.
But something’s been happening lately.
My re-loved camera appears to have a mind of its own.
It lives in an old leather case. Hangs round my neck, looking borderline professional. Attracting attention.
It keeps finding me interesting subjects. Or making them find me.
Strangers sidle up and ask, ‘Seen anything interesting, have you?’
Or, ‘got some good pictures, did you?’
But so far I’ve only had this demand once:
‘Tek mi picture!’
That was my (pathetic) attempt at a Yorkshire accent with a …
No, I’ll leave the rest for later. When this post has given it some context.
Instead, let me take you on a short ride.
If you’ve read many of my posts, or visited my other site, http://www.maidinbritain.com, you’ll know I like engines.
Steam engines, mostly. And steam trains.
On a less than perfect summer’s day, in August, then, what better way for the prof and I to spend holiday time, than afternoon tea on a steam train?
The station was a-blossom with flowers.
The train had a restaurant car.
We sat at a table, decked with a linen tablecloth, set with linen napkins. We ate scones with jam and clotted cream Drank cups of tea.
Not great tea, but tea.
It’s a short journey, on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway (KWVR), from Oxenhope, via Haworth, to Keighley. And a return ticket nicely whiled away a less than perfect afternoon.
I took my camera, not planning to take many pictures, having ‘done’ steam trains before.
But I hadn’t counted with two – no three, really – things:
1 the engine
3 his dad.
I can’t remember now who started the conversation about trains and his badges, me or William. But there wasn’t a hint of shyness, just sheer joy at being so close to his beloved steam engines.
His little cap was covered in badges, including one of ‘big Jim,’ the engine pulling our afternoon tea.
The engine was part of the USA’s war effort in Europe. Built in 1945 by Lima of Ohio, for the US Army’s Transportation Corps, it was shipped directly to Poland.
After the war it was absorbed by Poland State Railways, until it was withdrawn from service and went to the Polish Railway Museum in Warsaw. It was bought by KWVR and arrived in Haworth in November 1977.
It was a little hard to hear the tune coming from under little William’s hat amid the hissing, puffing and clanging, but he was plainly proud of his effort.
‘I’m surprised he didn’t do the dance as well,’ grinned his dad, later, when I told him.
Now that would have been worth a video.
As it was, we parted for separate carriages on the platform at Keighley and chuff-chuffed our way back to Oxenhope.
Where we were reunited.
William (with his brother, who had now taken a shine to the prof) was lucky enough to get into the cab with the driver.To see the glowing coals in the firebox.
To chat with a volunteer down on the track.
And before I left, I felt I had to ask if I could take a proper picture.
The uninhibited joy that shone from his face was captivating. I wanted to put a drop in a bottle, cork it up, save it for brightening dark winter days.
You can see where he gets it from in this picture, can’t you?
Well, it was, as Wallace and Gromit might say, a Grand Day Out.
Next day, a trip to Bradford. A re-visit to the new Hockney Gallery.
And an even less summery morning.
It didn’t sound quite so inspiring.
And, in fact, I’m not sure I’d call it inspiring. But it certainly turned out to be thought-provoking.
Not just for me, I dare say, but for two more boys, introduced to me – yes – by my camera.