Saturday, November 28, 2009

On the beach

click photo to enlarge
A while ago I was talking with some friends about the sort future that was held out to mankind in the 1950s. We could all remember looking forward to shorter working hours, greater leisure, longer life-spans, limitless energy, automation, flying cars, interplanetary settlement and travel, the conquest of disease, and consumer goods and food a-plenty. Some of this future has certainly come true for those of us fortunate to live in the "developed" world, but much has not, and the time of plenty that was foretold is beginning to increasingly look like a transient period.

But memories are selective. Because what my friends and I had all forgotten - or perhaps repressed - was the other 1950s vision of the future that was no future at all. During that decade the possibility - likelihood even - of nuclear war was an ever-present subject in the newspapers, on television and in the cinema: the idea that the nuclear-armed nations of the world would destroy not only each other, but the rest of mankind, kept re-appearing. Novelists took up the theme too. Only after I'd given the title to today's photograph did I realise that it is also the title of the bleakest "post apocalypse" novel of the 1950s. "On the Beach" was written by the British-born Australian writer, Nevil Shute, in 1957. It imagines a group of people in Australia waiting for the radiation of the nuclear wars of the northern hemisphere to be carried on the wind to where they are waiting. When I read it in the late 1960s it seemed a grim, but not impossible, vision of the future. In the 1950s it must have appeared all too plausible.

So, if you want an antidote to the unrelenting Christmas jollities that will soon descend upon us you could do worse than dig out a copy of this novel, or find a DVD of the film. However, if the prospect of time spent reading or watching is just too much for your busy schedule Wikipedia can oblige with a helpful synopsis. Happy reading! :-)

The photograph above dates from early 2007, before my re-location to Lincolnshire. It shows the beach at Cleveleys, Lancashire, with Blackpool in the distance. I was reviewing my shots from that year recently, and I thought this was one worth posting for the brave dog walkers, the litter of gulls, and the nice way the spray and haze gives a blue cast to the scene and makes the distant Tower and cliffs almost disappear.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E500
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 118mm (236mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/1250
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On