Thursday, 15 September 2011

THE URBAN SPACEMAN by Abbie Trayler-Smith

THE URBAN SPACEMAN by Abbie-Trayler-Smith
Abbie is Harry Borden's partner and it was Harry, I think, who told me that she was interested in photographing me. l wrote to her first in 2010 but I wasn't aware that she was pregnant and so it was a while before I wrote again and she replied explaining about the baby but confirming that she certainly wanted to photograph me. That was in January 2011 but it wasn't until eight months later that we finally arranged a date for the shoot - 15th September 2011.

On that day, I arrived at their flat in South London. It was part of a block which had been purpose built perhaps in the 1960s? I'm not very good with modern architecture. It was an unimposing building and the lobby was nothing special but I was about to be amazed. I went up to the sixth or whatever floor on which they live and Harry answered the door explaining that Abbie was out with their new-ish baby. I followed him through the small hall and into the kitchen and it was then that I was amazed. The kitchen was quite large with double aspect windows the views from which were incredible. You could see from Wembley Stadium in North London right round to Clapham in the South and, furthermore, the streets immediately surrounding the block were mostly tree lined and heavily laden with dark green leaves even as we were approaching Autumn so it looked like we were surrounded by forest and then, to cap it all, almost right next door was an enormous Victorian building which Harry said had been some sort of institution; it was quite gothic in style and, if I remember correctly, was cream with dark roof tiles and topped with turrets and spires. The whole outlook really was astounding and I laughed when Harry explained that, of course, their block was the blot on the landscape for everyone else living in its environs - poor sods.

Harry made me some toast with honey (yum) and then Abbie returned with baby in buggy and her assistant whose name I cannot recall I'm sorry to say. I'd like to blame Parkinson's Disease for these frequent memory lapses but I have always been bad with names. Harry was chattering away delightfully but eventually was banished by Abbie with a polite request that he took his time going for a walk with their new charge so that she could concentrate on shooting me.

I had told Abbie that I had seen on her website a beautiful photograph of a curtain blowing in the breeze that had brought to mind Lee Miller's photograph, "Portrait of Space" and I suggested that perhaps she could shoot me behind a blowing curtain. She had been quite enthused by this idea and so we tried a few shoots inside with me topless against a wall on which there were shadows created by me and then again with shadows on my skin reflecting the design on the curtain by the sun. After about two hours, we called a halt and, by that time, Harry and baby had returned from their exile and I bade the happy family farewell. Abbie walked me to my car and gave me a warm hug before I got in my car and set off with a big smile on my face.

The smile returned when I received the photographs of which this was one - good, isn't it?

I wake up every morning with a smile upon my face
My natural exuberance spills out all over the place
I'm the urban spaceman, I'm intelligent and clean
Know what I mean?
                                                             - Neil Innes and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band


  1. Tim "Norton Folgate" - Happy 3-year Anniversary of your time on the Fourth Plinth! 15 August 2009

    From BrainBlog at

    1. Thank you so much - how kind of you to remember! lt was good fun that day. Hope you are well and happy. l am!
      Tim x