|Me and my friend Mike McCartney|
Inevitably, there were one or two teething problems on the way but they were sorted out by way of compromise and a hug and over the next few weeks, I contacted those photographers whose work had not been shown in Guernsey, to ask them to supply a print for the show in Southport. A couple of photographers were unable to do this but, when they backed out, there were others to take their place and, in the end, we had 55 photographs to display.
I had a shoot with the lovely Pat Moss in Preston in late March and, afterwards, she very kindly accompanied me to see the Framer, Robin Carter, whose shop is also in Preston to discuss how everything would be framed and mounted. That was extremely helpful because l had never hung a show of any kind, anywhere, ever.
The weather on the way up to Southport on Sunday 29th April was appalling - driving rain and a howling, blustery wind. I had to change at Wigan and cross the road to take a train on a more local route to Southport. I almost took off because l was carrying a very light but quite large polystyrene notice board which flew up into the air with each new gust of wind. Anyway, I got there in the end and, at about 6pm, I was welcomed at the door of the Ambassador Townhouse Hotel which I can say quite confidently, is the best B&B l have ever come across. It was very clean and comfortable, had a nice atmosphere and the food was good. I mean, what else do you need?
|''the best B&B ever"|
I decided to explore and had a look around Southport and then eventually wandered into a nearby restaurant for a chinese meal. As is often the case with oriental restaurants, they were charming and welcomed me warmly with the slight bow to which I am now becoming accustomed. The restaurant was empty apart from two women at one table and the waiter put me right next to them (not on the same table, obviously) which l thought was a bit odd. He then took my order for a drink and spread my knife and fork to the sides and smoothed the table cloth in the process and unravelled my napkin and spread it across my lap and bowed again as he took two steps backwards and then turned on his heel in a very well practiced manner and shimmied off returning a few minutes later with my lager to take my order. All very slick and smooth which made it all the more surprising when two of the waiters rolled a bloody great table top down past me and the two women huffing and puffing and groaning as they went, followed a few minutes later by another waiter dragging a large broken fishtank in the opposite direction with more huffs, puffs and groans and the odd hernia thrown in for good measure. I had no-one to talk to so I asked one waiter how long he had worked there and his immediate response was a rather defensive and suspicious "why do you ask?". He seemed satisfied by my limp "I was just interested" reply but obviously took an intense dislike to me because after l had paid the bill, I asked for a finger bowl and he looked at me reproachfully as if I was trying to get an extra dish for nothing - maybe they drink hot lemon water in his homeland. I imagined him smiling wickedly to himself as he listened to my stifled scream as I dipped my sticky fingers into the hottest finger bowl ever served in Southport, Merseyside or anywhere else for that matter. I should have noticed the scalded lemon sizzling in the water when he brought it to the table wearing asbestos gloves. Still, the food was quite edible although a bit loaded on the heavy side with MSG. I went back to the B&B and watched Spurs beat Blackburn on Match of the Day and then fell into a deep sleep dreaming of the Chinese Opium Wars.
Full English Breakfast started off the morning and hop skippity jump to the Wayfarer's Arcade where I met the lovely Yvonne who let me into the unit which had only just been repainted and looked wonderful. Within a short time, the framer, Robin Carter and his assistant Wayne, arrived and we sorted out the where the photographs would all go, the plan which I had prepared earlier only being slightly altered due to one picture having been printed in a landscape format which I hadn't expected. I felt slightly bad that some of the photographs were larger than others bearing in mind that I had requested uniformity, particularly in the case of Pat Moss whom I realised could have printed her triptych much larger but unfortunately......it was too late to change anything now.
The first Photo to go up was Mike McCartney's "Peter's Friend" and over the next 6 hours or so, Robin and Wayne expertly hung the remaining 54 and by about 4pm, it was all done and looked great. During the morning Joanne of Parkinson's UK, turned up and helped me with this and that including the labels which looked superb if I don't say so myself, which I do. It was a very easy day in that we all got on very well and Joanne and I particularly so as we shared a similar schoolboy (schoolgirl in her case) sense of humour although I wasn't too pleased when she kept referring to Astrid Schulz' great photograph as ''that camp one''. We had a drink together afterwards in Wedderspoons during which not only I remembered (thank goodness) I had a dinner date later with an old client of mine, Anne Green, but also we heard one of a group of youngsters on the adjoining table utter the immortal words ''I gotta get me hair cut for court in the morning''.
|Robin and Wayne|
Later that evening, I met Anne for our meal at a local brasserie which she had described previously as one of the best restaurants in Southport - not sure either of us agreed with that sentiment when we woke up the next morning with funny tummies. After an extremely convivial meal, I returned to my room to watch City play United in a ''top of the table clash'' which City won rather comfortably. I fell into a broken sleep dreaming of lavatories.
|Me and Selina Mayer|
The day of the Private View. I woke up feeling somewhat ''liverish'' as my mother would say and left a message on the proprietor's answerphone foregoing the Full English or indeed any other nationality of breakfast. I went back to bed for a couple of hours and woke up feeling much better. I wandered into town and bought a paper and did the Idiot's Crossword over two rounds of toast and a pot of tea. I returned to the hotel intending to have another nap but after writing some notes, I realised that it was past 3 o'clock and so I showered and chose the black tie over the spotted grey one and ambled slightly nervously down to the Arcade where I met Nicola and we each gave the other the hug we had promised to each other. Jenny arrived full of bonhomie and efficiency followed by Joanne and her boyfriend, Damian, whose name I proceeded to forget until I said goodbye at the end of the evening. Joanne had brought a bloody great Parkinson's UK flag-come-banner which Margaret sensibly ordered outside for the duration of the Private View - I think she foresaw Health & Safety issues possibly arising (almost wrote Health & Efficiency - ho hum, those were the days, my friend). We put two flags in the window ("less is more" as Jane always says) and we ditched the balloons.
As we got nearer to 6pm, the guests began to filter into the Arcade including the lovely Linda Lieberman, the beautiful Jill Jennings, the gorgeous Pat Moss, the handsome Jules Holtom and plain old Mike McCartney. The Speeches went very well, including mine (well, it was brief) ; first Nicola spoke very eloquently and reflected on the history of the Arcade and briefly on the project. She then introduced the Mayor of Sefton who gave a very amusing and laconic speech and finished by declaring the exhibition open. I was next up and it was mainly a collection of thank-yous. Mike McCartney brought up the rear and gave a quietly witty speech in which he ended by saying that, if anyone had a cure for Parky's they should come to see him and then we could all go home. Nicola then closed the speeches with an exhortation to the guests to ''go for it!'' She is a lovely person with an attractive dry wit.
|Left to right - Robin Carter, Jules Holtom, Linda Lieberman, Me, Mike McCartney, Pat Moss and Jill Jennings|
Of course, the evening sped by but l had the chance to speak to all the photographers above mentioned and also to Selina Mayer who arrived later. Before Mike left, he gave me his promised rendition of "Is everybody happy? You bet your life, we are".
Slowly the guests dwindled and disappeared into the night. Nicola very kindly invited me to join her for dinner together with her husband, her mother and brother Tim and Yvonne and it was very relaxed and enjoyable. I staggered back to the hotel and fell asleep dreaming of Kings and Queens, of Beatles, Ancient Philosophers, Flour, Yellow Roses, Cowboys, Paper Clippings, Peter Pan, Pigeons, Fish, Tottenham Hotspur, Madness, Pumpkins and Love and Pain and the whole damn thing.
All right boys, this is it - over the hill.