A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times

One of the things I’d most like to do is force the people on Desert Island Discs each week to actually live on a desert island with nothing but the music they select. Then we’d be able to see how wacky and interesting they feel after 20 years of Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris and the Love Song from Sanders of the River.

We see a similar problem with those who make wild and stupid claims about what they’d save should their house suddenly be on fire. By all means tell your mates over dinner that you’d rescue the onyx cufflinks bought for your 18th birthday by a long-lost girlfriend. But don’t come crying to me when the firemen are removing the soggy and charred lump of meat that used to be your dog.

I’ve always said that if a giant meteorite were to be heading for my house, I’d save my copy of Monty Python’s Big Red Book which was signed in 1976 by every member of the team. That, however, is a lie, designed mostly to reveal that I have such a thing. The truth of the matter is that it would be left behind. Because what I’d actually save are my photograph albums.

If they were to burn I would feel a biting sense of loss. And that’s strange because I haven’t actually looked at them since 1979 and I’m fairly certain I never will again. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I haven’t looked at any picture I’ve ever taken more than once. And I bet you haven’t, either.

How many people — hands up — have ever watched their wedding video? That’s, let’s see . . . none. And think how much effort you made on the big day. You paid a man in a cheap suit to come along. You allowed him to jostle your friends and relatives out of the way. You sacrificed an hour of perfectly good drinking time so he could get some nice angles of you on the swing, under the weeping willow tree in the churchyard. And where’s the video now? I bet half of you don’t even know.

It’s the same story with pictures. In the olden days our SLRs were the size of Bibles, but we’d lug them around with an assortment of spare lenses and flash guns and we’d move people out of the sun and make everyone smile and we’d take the film to the developers and we’d pay a bit extra for a fast turnaround because we were desperate to see how everything had turned out. And then we’d leaf through the finished shots in 10 seconds, put them in a drawer and never ever look at them ever again.

Today, things are very different. Because you have a digital camera on your phone, you take pictures of absolutely everything and on YouTube every day’s a wedding day. You used to come back from your holiday with 24 pictures, because that’s how many were on the film. Now most people come back from a trip to the shops with about a billion. The other day I took a picture of the sky simply because it had no clouds in it. And yesterday I caught my daughter taking a picture of a pair of scissors. Our three cats, meanwhile, have had more portrait work done on them than the Queen.

Because cameras are effectively free and because there is no longer any developing to be done, photography no longer has a cost. And without a cost it has no value. It’s much like the music you can buy on iTunes. It’s not music at all. It’s just millions of people, making a noise. You may say this is a good thing. You may say it was unjust that in the days before photography only the rich could afford to immortalise themselves on paper. And now everyone can. But down the line I can see this causing all sorts of issues.

Let me explain why. This morning I decided to transfer all the pictures of the sky and our kitchen scissors from my iPhone onto my computer. This is easy enough if you have about four spare weeks, the temper of someone who’s actually dead and a master’s degree in American business-speak.

The problem is that over the years I have owned many phones and many digital cameras. So when the computer detects that it’s been presented with some pictures it stores them in the electronic equivalent of a dusty box, in the cellar, behind the gas meter. Finding them again is an absolute nightmare.

But find them you do and then what? Do you delete the ones that have no meaning or which are out of focus? No. You either leave them all where they are, in which case they will be lost for all of time when your hard drive crashes. Which, one day, I assure you it will. That, of course, is not as disastrous as losing a photograph album because you will also have put them on Facebook in the mistaken belief that the rest of the world will somehow be interested in what you did on holiday. Frankly, I’d rather look at someone’s piles than their holiday pics.

Or you carefully move them to a disc, which involves going into town, buying a packet of three, coming home, finding out you’ve bought the wrong ones, going back into town again and then finally getting everything transferred. It would be easier to set up an easel and break out the oils.

But before you do any of these things, I bet you have a little fiddle with the computer’s Paint Shop program. You start out imagining that you’ll put everything the right way up and maybe get rid of everyone’s red eye. But pretty soon you will be giving your children massive noses and making your family pets sepia. I always give my partner some horse’s ears, which makes her very angry.

And therein lies my problem with all of this. At the moment, when a historian or a genealogist uncovers a faded picture from Victorian times he will know it was a special occasion and that the person with his unsmiling face and ramrod back must either be important or have done something worthwhile.

But what will he be able to deduce when he leafs through the pictures we take today? Nothing. Except that we had machinegun trigger fingers, enormous comedy noses, monochrome pets and we all got married in a fog of Vaseline on a swing.

A SNAPSHOT OF ENGLANDSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


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Its my own fault really, its all about what I see in the world, and how it all translates for me.

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