Sunday, 29 March 2015


I wake at about 5.30am and take my medication, "my little beauties" as I used to call them, I go downstairs to watch the highlights of the England football game which was played last night but which I missed, willingly sacrificing the pleasure of watching Harry Kane, "one of our own", making his debut in order to take Jane out to dinner and have a serious talk. Of course, our 'Arry scores. I creep back upstairs to wash and the bedroom door is open. Jane wants to be sure that I say goodbye before I leave to catch the train to Birmingham.  I wash, I shave, I clean my teeth, I dress and I smell the soft familiar mugginess of sleep on Jane as she stretches up that elegant neck of hers into a soft farewell kiss. There is wisp of warmth in the air as I step outside and run to catch the Number 6 bus to the station where I collect my tickets to Birmingham New Street.

Why Birmingham? Because over the past few weeks I have nagged away at Marta to photograph me again. She photographed me in 2011 and we had such fun that day with flour and water and complete and utter abandon. Yet, no matter how delirious the shoot is with Marta, she is always running to a well thought out plan; a plan that still allows some improvisation, some high jinks and laughter. 

The rest of my journey is unremarkable except that I read that the Agnes Varda is coming to the Brighton Festival and I try in vain to book some tickets over the telephone. 

As I emerge from the packed New Street station in Birmingham I feel Marta pulling me to her like a magnet. I am a little lost and so I ask a flower seller to direct me to Snow Hill where I am to catch the Metro to the Jewellery Quarter. A man handing out MacDonalds vouchers near a surprisingly small cathedral redirects me (in return for a voucher) and, for a return trip to the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, I pay the princely sum of £2. It feels like a special gift to me to charge that small amount to travel where I want to go. I arrive and share the lift with a fellow passenger, an old woman, whom I ask to direct me to Vyse Street - it is the road abutting the station exit. I find the address within moments and Marta comes tumbling down the stairs to hug me. She shows me into her studio and immediately it feels right. She introduces me to Barbara, another Polish photographer, who shares her studio and I accept her offer of a cup of tea. As I settle down on the bright green setee, the tea arrives in the most exquisite cup and saucer with jug and sugar bowl to match. Marta explains that these were a gift from her grandmother and immediately I want to be transported to Poland to meet her and the rest of Marta's family. Marta is ready to go but she has allocated time to catch up on the last four years. She talks about the development of her work and finding the studio with the magnolia paint on the ceiling and I talk about the the progress of the project. Marta asks after Jane.

But we both want to get started. Marta has asked me to bring a coat and a hat and I assumed incorrectly that some of the shots would be clothed. However, she asks me to undress and, as four years ago, I do not put on my clothes until the last shot is taken. Every shot is pre-planned and logged in Marta's head and she introduces each pose with a glint of delight in her eyes. She loves what she does. She talks intermittently of directing clients who come to her studio and I realise that the student I met before has become the teacher. Marta Kochanek was always going to succeed. I make the odd small suggestion after she shows me how she wants me to sit, to stand, to lean, to lie, to look whilst she and Barbara move props and platforms, a curtain and the setee around the room. 

Marta and me by Barbara Gibson

There is nothing negative about Marta - everything is possible. We have a cup of coffee, again served in her grandmother;s cup and I make a joke about stealing them before I go. It is time to go and I hug Marta once again, even harder than before. I need to take some of her positive energy away with me. I hug my new friend, Barbara, too and wish her well with her English which she is slowly but surely finding the confidence to speak. As I leave, Marta asks me to give her love to Jane whom she has never met although I know they would like each other. I arrive home and text to tell her that I have reached Brighton safely as she insisted I did. Before I turn off the computer, there is a rush of tweets with two photographs of the day and then, in the morning an email with her thanks and, as she promised, a photograph of the cup and saucer. The wind rushes and whistles against the window as I write this. Marta is waking and maybe has already got up to look at the photographs from the shoot that she has decided to edit. I feel a connection across the country from my brain to hers. I feel a deep friendship. A respect. Love and understanding.
Our Selfie

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