After two evenings of taking photographs in the dark, I thought I had better have a look at the pictures I had captured. I had just returned from the mornings recorder playing with friends and sat down at the kitchen table with my laptop and camera. I lifted my camera up and turned it over to open the flap that covers the battery and memory card. To my dismay the flap was missing. I had noticed before that it seemed a bit flimsy but it never occurred to me that I could lose it so easily. I thought back to the night before.

I suspected the incident happened when I had changed batteries on the camera. This is one of those problems with night-time photography, the long exposures and cold temperatures tends to eat through batteries and that is what happened shortly after arriving in the countryside. One minute the battery seemed three quarters full, the next it was flashing red. I took three more pictures but when the exposure is around 20 seconds long and the camera uses another similar time period for “noise reduction” (I assume on the jpeg files), I felt I didn’t want to risk it.

I had prepared for this to happen. I had a spare battery in my coat pocket and I had screwed the baseplate of the tripod on so that the battery cover would still open. I remember changing the battery inside the car so I could see what I was doing (or did I use a headtorch?) and placing the used battery underneath the radio. I also remember struggling to reattach the camera to the tripod. It was dark and I knew the lip that needed to slip into slot on the tripod head was 90 degrees to the camera lens so it could only go on one way or the other. It didn’t want to sit down though and I had assumed that it was the locking mechanism in the way. I fiddled with the catches and eventually everything seemed fine so I carried on snapping away (slowly).

I didn’t take the camera off the tripod until I was back in the house so I knew that flap had to be either in the car or on the edge of the road where I had parked. There was a break between discovering the issue and going to look for the flap. In between I looked at the photos I had taken, possibly eaten lunch and did an internet search to see if I could get another flap (didn’t look like it). I think it was the latter that finally made me decide to try to find the flap. It was a lovely afternoon and I had time to spare, what was to lose?

That morning I had chatted to one of the few people I know that reads my blog. She acknowledged that she was going to ask a difficult question and then did “how are you?”.  I paused as usual, then tried to answer in a truthful manner. I think my answer reflected my confused state and the anxiety I felt over the community mental health interview, and about the conflict between the guy society expects me to be (or my interpretation of it) and the guy I feel inside. Whilst I am generally pretty good at pushing conflicts aside, the honest conversation brought the difficulties to the surface which I believe is good in the long term but leaves me rather anxious and unsettled for a bit.

Driving out to my photography spot I resettled my equilibrium by singing along to Depeche Mode songs. One seemed particularly apt “Walking in my shoes” off the “Songs of faith and devotion” album. The song basically challenges the listener to live the life the singer lives before judging the vocalist for their actions. I first heard this song when I was heading towards a liver transplant, when I looked completely normal from the outside but inside struggled to keep going; it seemed so relevant then. I guess I used to interpret it looking at the physical difficulty with life but nowadays I would see it more in the light of mental illness (though life is never as black and white as that).

I have a good pictorial memory and sense of direction. I drove immediately to the spot where I had stood the night before and indeed found the plastic flap undamaged. Driving back, I continued my singing therapy. There were times when I could feel the tears screaming to get out but I kept my focus on getting the best economy I could out of the engine and singing songs. Near home I was stopped in a queue at traffic lights, people were on the pavements within listening distance of the car’s audio system. I got a bit conscious of people watching me sing, but I was enjoying the moment too much and so I continued singing whilst looking at the stream of traffic in front of me. I felt strong and I felt good.

A few minutes later I was back home and reversing onto the driveway. The car automatically reduces the audio’s volume when I am reversing which was a bit annoying since I was in full flow. I stopped the car in its parking spot and sat in the car singing and listening until the track was over. I pulled out the key from the ignition and opened my door. As I put my right leg onto the blockwork, it was as though I had shifted into a new world (or was it shifting back into the old one?); my escape from anxiety and confusion was over and once more I was plunge back into my real life.

The camera is whole once again though, even if I am not.

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