Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dreams, holidays and hats

click photo to enlarge
I sometimes can't decide which is worse - listening to someone telling me about their holiday or hearing someone recount the dream they had last night. On balance I think I'd rather be exposed to the workings of a person's subconscious because then I might hear something that I haven't heard before; something that is unexpected, unusual, odd, weird or surreal. Though it has to be said that frequently dreams are none of those things and are just plain daft. But holidays, well, people invest so much in them in terms of cash and expectations that their reports tend to emphasise how wonderful it all was. But hearing the minutiae of travelling, sightseeing, eating, and the rest, as someone who wasn't there, makes watching paint dry seem interesting. Only occasionally do you hear a report that takes the opposite tack, that the holiday was terrible, and they wouldn't go there again. But, it's even rarer that anyone says what is usually the case - that it was everything that was expected i.e. entirely predictable.

It seems to me that much of business is involved in selling us entirely predictable experiences. Places like Macdonalds or Starbucks, and manufacturers like Coca Cola or Cadburys have business models whose very aim is to do just that. People seem to want this, and are prepared to accept the safety and certainty of the anodyne, the tedium of the foreseeable, rather than enter into the possibility of getting something worse, or better. The same is true of holidays, with travel companies, businesses and national tourist authorities in holiday destinations striving to ensure that every traveller has their expectations met. You're going to East Africa? Then we'll make sure you see lions and elephants. Spain? Flamenco dancers will be provided. Scotland? Pipers in kilts will feature at major sight-seeing venues. Travellers are complicit in this cult of predictability, wanting to tick off the mental checklist of places, sights and "experiences". Even those who make their own travel and accommodation arrangements, seeking to rise above the derided "package tour", nonetheless, tend to seek out the expected and predictable when going their "own way".

I don't imagine that the three men in today's photograph were discussing either holidays or dreams. I photographed them last year at an event where old farm vehicles were being used and displayed. Perhaps the conversation centred around the steam threshing machine, or one of the old traction engines. Whatever it was, they were bringing not only their collective wisdom to bear on the issue, but also a fine collection of hats!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On