Sunday, January 07, 2007

No aspic to be seen

click photo to enlarge
"Towns and villages in aspic" are proliferating in the UK and across the western world. You've perhaps visited the sort of place I have in mind. The population of the settlement has reached the point where the well-heeled middle-classes are in the ascendant, if not the majority. They decided to live there because the town or village is "pretty", and they have spent a considerable amount of money to enhance the prettyness of their own properties. Additionally, they have brought their considerable pressure to bear to ensure that the public areas of the place are "made-over" to complete their picture. The result is a pastiche of the past that satisfies the ignorant and bumps up property prices - the latter being the unspoken driving force behind much of this sort of thing.

I first noticed this process starting in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1960s when I saw old stone cottages having the traditional style of mortar render hacked off to reveal the outline of every stone in the wall - rough-laid stone that the builders never intended to be seen. Then the mortar lines were neatly pointed, and voila, an "olde worlde" look that conformed to the owners' image of a traditional building rather than a real traditional building. Nowadays many new houses in the Dales are built in this false "olde worlde" style! I suppose that one day in the future it will be traditional!

Why does this matter you might ask? Isn't it everyone's right to make their corner of the world as they would like it? Well, I believe towns and villages should be living, growing, changing places. The old that is worthwhile should be properly conserved: the new should be sympathetic to the old, but importantly, should be of the time in which it is built. There should be no place for the ersatz, the sham, or worse still the genuinely old that has been "antiquified"!" What has this to do with a photograph of the Fleetwood-Larne ferry tied up at its berth on the River Wyre at Fleetwood, Lancashire? Well, one of the good things about a port is that the sort of falseness noted above is nowhere to be seen. Utility is the driving force in the docks area. Yes it's grubby, but it's interesting. And, the old remains only if it has a continuing purpose (which it often does), sitting alongside the brand new that is there because it needs to be, not because it's "pretty". A visit to the docks is just the antidote to cure the blues engendered by a "village in aspic"!

This photograph was taken in the afternoon as the sun was starting to go down. I used a wide zoom lens at 26mm (35mm equivalent) to include most of the rope that secured the bow to the shore, and to allow the various angles that run through the image to work together. The camera at Aperture Priority (f7.1 at 1/250 sec), ISO 200, with -1.0EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen