I have had to lever myself out of bed twice this morning. The first time was to do the usual Monday morning tidying up. I had to compromise with myself though. I had set the alarm for 8.20 but it felt far too soon when it went off because I needed more time to adjust my mental shielding for what was coming after the tidying. I reset the alarm for another five minutes which of course went too quickly as well. The compromise was that when I go up I decided I was going to tidy in my pyjamas rather than the gear (often cycling) for my next activity. Since my pyjamas are currently the only time I wear long trousers this is hardly a difficulty.

Due to our mutual exhaustion last night there was however a few things to tidy up before the real tidying up could be done. In this household, real tidying up is when one makes progress in removing the accumulated clutter of our lives, whilst everyday tidying up is doing things that happen daily like washing dishes, clothes and putting said things away. I was all for doing some decluttering until I saw the state of the kitchen and changed my mind. I spent the next twenty-five minutes at the kitchen sink washing up, paying particular attention to three oven trays. There was still some tidying up to do from yesterday when I fitted the new A/V receiver but that would have to wait for now it was time to take a passport photo; the reason for my gathering together of my mental strength in bed this morning.

Taking pictures of people is fraught with difficulty because people often don’t like what they look like, often the image they have of themselves is different from what the camera presents. Now there are all sorts of techniques to make your model look better and the package that can do all of them has entered common language. An image that has been “Photoshoped” is an image that has been manipulated to make the subject look better. The truth is that every image is manipulated from the raw data the camera captures. If your camera gives you a picture in JPG format then the hardware of your camera has manipulated the raw data captured to produce the image you see; the software package called Photoshop just allows a human to do that manipulation (assuming your camera allows access to the raw data).

My remit was to take a passport photo and if time allowed, a portrait for business use. These are very different images and no matter how good your photoshop skills are, getting a passport photo to look like a business portrait is impossible. Within the EU, passport photos have been standardised to very strict criteria so that biometric data can be produced which in turn can be used by automated passport control barriers to speed up the entry into members of the EU from outside the group (in theory at least). Basically the head of the person has to fill most of the frame, the subject must be looking straight ahead, a neutral expression has to be put on, and eyes have to be clear of any obstructions. As you can image, this is not the most flattering of photo and indeed my sitter said he looked too tired and upset in the image I present, and perhaps we could try again tomorrow. I tried to point out that the image represented was actually pretty much how they looked but I don’t think that was wanted.

Next the business photo where there are no rules, but people do have ideas.  I went through a few photos before taking one that was acceptable: eyes were not the same (“a fact of life”, I say but too obvious in that photo), you are taking too many photos (“I am trying to get a photo where you are not blinking”, I say), I don’t feel relaxed and happy (“I know”, I think, “there is a reason I am not a portrait photographer”). I am not confident in dealing with people, I don’t tell jokes or amusing tales, my humour needs the moment that I cannot create, I concentrate more on the job than the person in front of me so all-in-all, I am not good at putting a model at ease and getting great portraits. Still I manage to get a satisfied response and a thank you, but my trial is not yet over. I attempt to say “it’s alright” in response to the “thank you” but it comes out something like “itzolerit” in a mumble. I am asked to explain this indistinct sound which I do trying to clearly enunciate and the receiver seems satisfied.

I, on the other hand, are not alright. This last challenge feels like a step too far; I can’t even get the standard “thank you” protocol right. I take my camera, go to my bedroom and sit on the bed trying to work out why I feel on the verge of tears. It feels like nothing I say is right and this is triggering childhood memories I realise, when nothing seems right I learned not to say anything. More than that though, it was considered boastful to acknowledge a thank you because you were standing out from the crowd and in some contorted way being arrogant. Accepting a thank you was seen that you were looking out for praise, and a good person didn’t do that.

I was sitting on my bed in my pyjamas feeling sad and because nobody else wanted to go out for either a ride or a walk, I decide I would curl up under the blankets and let the world pass me by whilst I was in a warm cocoon. Eventually though my mind came to the conclusion that if I didn’t get up soon, I would be in a stupor all day which would inevitably lead to depression. I though I would do some writing, but I also remember that I needed to walk the dog and do more tidying up.

I pushed myself out of bed and thought I would start with the clean clothes piled up in my room. There wasn’t that many and I refolded my shorts and t-shirts into the right sizes and put them away. Next I thought I would have a cup of tea and write a bit, but I remembered the A/V leftovers and tackled that. I make a cup of tea and sat down with my laptop and started writing this in the kitchen. After two paragraphs the cleaner arrived and so I felt I had to stop. The dog was pawing me for attention and so I agreed with him that we would go for a walk.

It was a good walk up a hill and through some woods. I took photos of things I found interesting to my eye but the further we walked the more isolated and sad I felt; I missed my friends. Today I won’t eat until 7pm tonight in a fasting kind of thing and today is also a day I could do with some comfort food. Rather than focus on my loneliness, I thought about making dinner tonight something a bit more interesting. I stopped off at a supermarket on the way home and wandered around it until something appealed to me that I thought would also be acceptable to my family. Maybe I am reaching out to my family through the food I cook but I am also really looking forward to a good meal.

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