It was 1962 and I was 14. My father, mother and I set off for a great adventure, driving down to the South of France. We took plenty of English tea and a contraption to keep the foreign flies off our sandwiches and with our multi-coloured tent we set up a holiday home in Juan-les-Pins. Unfortunately we didn't take any sun-cream and my poor father spent most of the time sheltering under a suitably placed railway tunnel. What an adventure.
Saturday, 30 April 2011
Friday, 29 April 2011
In 2005 I eventually decided to close my European Social Policy business down. The growth of the Web had fundamentally changed the way information was available, and the need for the kind of service I had provided was no longer necessary. To celebrate my new found freedom I took a few days off in Budapest, reading novels, writing about anything but European politics, and taking photographs of the fabulous buildings.
Wednesday, 27 April 2011
The picture shows one of those paradise beaches you can find all over the British Virgin Islands. The time is the early 1980s and the GLW and myself are visiting my brother and his family who were, at the time, living on the island. Not only is it paradise, but it is a paradise thousands of miles away from the world of my everyday life : quiet, isolated, remote. There is hardly another human being in site : just the sun, the blue sea and the occasional tropical bird. Seconds after I had taken this photograph a figure emerges, walking down the beach towards me. As he gets nearer I see a man wearing shorts and wearing a Panama hat. He strides up towards me, purposely, a practiced smile on his face, hand outstretched in greeting. "Donald Thompson", he says, "Tory MP for Calder Valley".
I never discovered what particular shaft of fate threw me together with my local Tory MP on a desert island thousands of miles from home. My brother, knowing well my aversion for all Tories, insisted on inviting him to various parties during the rest of my stay, but I managed to avoid him. But die-hard Tory and friend of Margaret Thatcher that he was, you have to admire the ability of a man who can spot a potential constituent thousands of miles from home and glad-hand him accordingly.
Tuesday, 26 April 2011
I have hundreds of photographs of the Panama Canal : photographs of massive locks and ships in transit, but this photograph taken in a canal-side market in Cristobal at the northern end of the canal seems to bring the memories flooding back. I suppose one could go on and on about the false nature of t-shirt tourism : but if one of those shoppers had turned around and taken a photograph of me, they would have captured an image of a little fat man wearing a Panama Canal t-shirt taking a photograph of them. People who live in cotton shirts shouldn't throw pineapples.
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Posters roughly pasted onto lamp-posts often provide perfect conduits to time and place. Even if the details of the exhibition were not on this most striking of posters, I would remember where it was taken : indeed I am sure I could take you back to the same lamp-post. I spent a couple of days in Amsterdam, and whilst I didn't get to the Theatreschool Festival, I spent long and happy hours in the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum.
Tuesday, 19 April 2011
This one was a bit of a struggle. It is a city alongside a major river, a city in Europe. It could be Cologne, it could be Basle : I visited both during the early 1980s. It took a modest Googling of hotel names to pinpoint the Swiss city of Basle. Our next door neighnours in Sheffield had moved to Basle and we went to stay with them. Once I have pinpointed the city the flood gates open and the memories come flooding back.
Monday, 18 April 2011
It is the summer of 1968 : the summer of protests. Three members of the Labour Party Young Socialists - Darrel Oldfield (left), Dave Hebblethwaite (right) and myself (behind the camera) - are hitch-hiking through Europe visiting the various sites of student protest. Often we could not pick up lifts as a group so we would vaguely arrange to meet up in the next city on our tour and take to the road independently. Here we had just met up in Amsterdam. I seem to recall that we pitched our tents in a muddy camp site just outside the Ajax football stadium. Memories, memories, memories.
Friday, 15 April 2011
I was scanning some old negatives the other day and came across this one and decided it would fit nicely in my "Around The World" mini-series. So here is a photograph of a place that doesn't actually exist : the fictional town of Weatherfield which is the location for the longest running TV soap opera in the world - Coronation Street. It was taken in about 1991 and shows my parents just entering the corner shop. Although the picture was taken at the Granada studios in Manchester, the passing crowds help to give it a realistic feel. All we need now is the theme music ....... dah, dah da dadah dah.
Wednesday, 13 April 2011
It is November 2002, the era of cheap European flights. For a few pounds you could get on a plane and fly to some of the most exotic European destinations. I would pack a bag full of books and my camera and see where the cheap ticket lottery sent me to. In this case it was Venice and it was an almost perfect time to visit. The summer crowds were absent and the November light seemed to bring out the Venetian colours to perfection. For three days I explored the twisting alleyways and marveled at what must be one of the most beautiful cities on earth. At peace in Venice.
Tuesday, 12 April 2011
It was June 2001 and the EU Summit Merry-Go-Round had worked its way around to the Swedish city of Gothenburg. It was to be a special European Council meeting which would involve the participation of all the new candidate States from Central and Eastern Europe. It was also special because the American President George W Bush was going to be attending the meeting and this meant that, even more than ever before, the meeting became the focus of widespread protests against everything from Globalism to GM foods. The police quickly decided that the majority of the protesters were staying in the area of the city close to the University and therefore decided to seal that part of the city off with massive containers brought in from the nearby docks. As a tactic it was fairly effective, the only problem was that the hotel I happened to be staying in was in the same street as the University. Thus, each morning, clutching my official press pass, I would walk down to the bottom of the street and begin what was a perilous climb over the container barricade (they are bigger than they look), and each evening I would have to make the return journey. Ah, you can't buy memories like that.
Thursday, 7 April 2011
Sweden has a famous Ice Hotel, and for the May 2001 EU Summit meeting the Swedish Government got them to establish an Ice Bar in the grounds of Stockholm Town Hall for the formal reception for the world media. Everything was made of ice : the bar, the fittings, the glasses, the tables (although I did find a convenient block of granite to rest my glass on). Although it was May, little melted other than the hearts of the grateful, and rather inebriated, journalists.
Wednesday, 6 April 2011
I seem to recall that when I launched this mini-series I promised there wouldn't be too many palm-fringed beaches. So how about a palm-fringed plantation house? It is January 2001 and we are in Barbados (a holiday not, I assure you, another EU summit meeting). It was our first day out there and we were still getting used to it not being January in West Yorkshire. Sipping rum cocktails and allowing your eyes to scale a majestic palm tree up into the bright blue sky is a pleasant way of getting used to this particular form of climate change.
Tuesday, 5 April 2011
It is Spring 2000 and I am at another wonderful EU summit meeting, this time in Lisbon, Portugal. Back in those days the location of the six-monthly summit meetings used to rotate through all the Member States : these days it is much more boring and they all take place in Brussels. The photograph shows the media centre (you can tell they are journalists, they are playing computer patience). Of course I didn't kill time whilst waiting for the final press briefing by playing card games on the computer, I escaped the building and caught a train down to the lovely seaside resort of Cascais. I remember walking on the beach in the Springtime sun giving thanks to Jean Monnet for coming up with the idea of a united Europe.
Monday, 4 April 2011
It is April and it's still cold outside. There are no holidays planned for a couple of months and therefore I thought I might run a short series featuring trips gone by. Don't automatically expect imposing cityscapes or palm-fringed beaches, these are pictures that incite my own memories of places. Se welcome on board as we take off to go around the world in twenty memories.
No 1 : Finnish Dancing. It is December 1999 and I am Helsinki, Finland covering the 1999 European Union Summit meeting. Helsinki was cold and coated with alternate layers of snow and ice. To keep spirits up, the Finnish Government organised a party for the visiting media at the headquarters of the Finnish Radio and Television service. Somewhat bizarrely the musical entertainment was provided by an all-female 1930s swing orchestra. The Finnish journalists and media representatives all turned up in ball gowns and tail suits and danced the evening away. The rest of the world's media turned up in jeans and thick pullovers and drank the evening away. And as you will have guessed, I was in the latter group.
Friday, 1 April 2011
Chapter 1 : Boiler installed
Chapters 2 - 35 : Boiler fails and is repaired thirty-odd times.
Chapter 36 : Gas engineer comes on Wednesday and says "I know what the problem is, we need to replace all the left side of the boiler, I will need to order parts, back tomorrow"
Chapter 37 : Gas engineer returns and replaces all of left side of boiler and cheerily says - that will be all right now". Five hours later, boiler fails.
Chapter 38 : Gas engineer comes on Friday and says "I know what the problem is, we need to replace all the right side of the boiler, I will need to order parts, back later today"
.... to be continued, and continued, and continued.