Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cherishing the past

click photo to enlarge
It's interesting how the "futurologists" get it wrong isn't it. As a callow youth I remember being told that when I was a man my working day would be shorter as machines removed the drudgery, that we'd all have flying cars, that colonies of people would be living on the moon and nearby planets, that my clothing would be a sort of all-in-one jump-suit, and my food would be a manufactured gloop that contained all the calories and nutrients essential for health. At the dawn of the computer age a sage was heard to pronounce that the UK would never need more than 3 of the machines. Then, when computers were becoming common we were told that offices would become "paperless". It's predictions of this sort that make me think I could be a futurologist.

One of the predictions that I never saw made was that the more we travelled into our future, the more we would cherish what was left of our past. This seems to be a fairly widely held view, at least in the UK. It's also a view that has positive and negative consequences. Let's start with a negative. Ask most people what kind of house they would really like and they'll tell you about some old, romantic looking building, wearing a patina of age, set in a rural idyll. The idea of an energy efficient, modern structure that effectively meets the needs of modern living is the dream of few. On the positive side, this affection for our past means that enough of it is preserved and remains for us to place ourselves in time, and so better understand where we are by where we've come from.

I was thinking about this when I visited the North Norfolk Railway at Sheringham recently. The Victorian station of this preserved railway has been restored and fitted out with original signs, advertisements, luggage, trolleys, weighing scales, etc. The volunteer staff wear old-style uniforms, and all this makes the perfect setting for the steam trains and early diesels that travel over its tracks. Standing on a platform I took this shot of the opposite platform and its adjoining buildings. The overhead glass and metal canopy was filtering the light that fell on the lovingly restored and preserved artefact and people. You'll notice that the two prominent, original, enamel advertisements are for cigarettes. Another thing I never saw predicted about my future was that cigarette smoking would be banned in public buildings, and that's a development that has pleased me mightily.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 48mm (96mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/320 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On