Friday, 18 October 2013

Making a Difference

It was a Friday afternoon, the end of a mentally tough week. I don't know why it had been so difficult, nothing particularly unusual had come my way. My head was just full of unwelcome thoughts, mainly centering around a very tragic tale of a student who had taken his own life after getting poor exam results.

I cannot begin to understand what drives a young person to such desperate measures. Moreover as a parent myself, I can't even start to imagine what this poor young man's parents must have gone through. Life is tough, life is unfair and yet we still heap pressure upon ourselves and our friends and family. It's an old adage, but no parent should ever bury their children.

So with a mind in turmoil, I left work a couple of hours early. I had my camera in my car and wanted to take advantage of the late afternoon sun. I decided to head out to Windsor Great Park, it's always been a favourite spot of mine, a vast area of carefully managed parkland on the very edge of London. Once part of a huge Norman hunting forest, it now covers an area of nearly 5,000 acres. A small corner of this parkland is enclosed again as a deer park, and it was to here that I went.

Passing through the gate into the deer park felt like I was leaving the world and all of it's trials and tribulations temporarily behind. The road on which I walked was deserted, it seemed that aside from a few young stags lying in the long grass, I was alone... completely alone.

My mind, started to wander. I looked at the thick banks of trees, wondering. If someone were to decide that here was the place to commit a final act, how long would it be until they were found? What were the chances of being disturbed? How easy would it be?

These thoughts and others came to me in rapid succession, flying in and out of my head darting and shouting as vividly as the parakeets that flew in and out of the trees around me.

On top of Snow Hill is a statue of King George III mounted on a charger. It is at the top of a straight road which leads down to Windsor Castle just over 2.5 miles away. From this vantage point one can clearly see the skyscrapers of London's financial district. Closer in Wembley Stadium and Heathrow Airport.
I sat on the rocks at the base of the statue and looked over the city. Watching as aeroplanes spewed out of the airport, taking hundreds of unseen people to all corners of the planet. Far away there were 6.5 million people bustling around, not one of them with the slightest idea that someone was sitting, watching, wondering about them.

Then I was no longer alone. There was another man there, with a camera, shooting the scene down to the castle as the shadows from the trees lining The Long Walk gently stretched their fingers out across the manicured grass. We got chatting as we both took photographs. We spoke about the city and the life within, the beauty and ugliness that made is interesting. It transpired that my companion lives there. Not far from the most recently opened skyscraper, The Shard.This lead onto a discussion about our favourite and least favourite buildings in the city.

As we sat, two strangers with a common interest a young lady walked up to near where we sat with a German Shepherd dog. They sat a little distance from us, both looking out at the view. It struck me that the dog sat upright and alert, looking out as if to protect it's mistress from harm. The low sun shone through it's groomed coat creating a light around it, almost like a halo. I had to leave, but as I stood, I called out to the girl to ask her if she wouldn't mind if I took a photograph of her and the dog, explaining that the light from behind and the alertness of the dog made a good shot. She said she was happy for me to and turned to me with a smile. I fired off a couple of shots and then lowered my camera to thank her. At that moment, she let her guard down and gave the dog a hug, laughing, "Hey, Max, we're going to be famous." I took another shot.
Thanking the girl and saying goodbye to my unknown companion, I headed down the hill, back the way I had come.

Walking back to my car, I realised that I was in a very different frame of mind to the one that I had arrived in. It was due simply to those two people. One who shared a bit of himself with me, who gave me an insight into his life, who took me at face value. The other, who happily responded to an unusual request, but appeared flattered and amused to do so.

It's not the greatest photo I've ever taken, but it is one of my favourites. Why..? Because it's the moment that I made a difference.