The BBC’s Mark Easton published a report this week in which he revealed the extent of perceived mental illness within England that is treated with anti-depressants. It seems that in several areas of the country prescription is the first response to any sort of anxiety is to prescribe. Surely anxiety is ok when you have something to be anxious about? Anyway, since 1991 there has been a 460% increase in the prescription of anti-depressants in the UK, despite the fact that they are supposed to be a tool of last resort. In Sunderland and Durham the prescription rate is approximately 1 in 6 of the population. Hmmmm. Just moved from Sunderland to Durham!
Best be on the lookout for eccentric behaviour then.
I mentioned a while ago that I wanted to photograph Penshaw Monument, a replica of a Greek temple, that sits atop a hill overlooking the A19. Appropriately its inspiration, the original Temple of Hephaestus, was dedicated to the god of industry and metal working. When it was built, the monument would have overseen a great deal of this will colliery workings in all directions. I’d abandoned plans to photograph it previously because there were too many people clambering upon its pedestal to bask in the sun during the recent heatwave. No such problem on this occasion, for as I set out on this evening the rain was torrential, and though it had eased slightly by the time I arrived it was still necessary to swathe my camera in polythene and myself in gore-tex. The more sensible people were heading directly home.
The collieries that once surrounded the structure are long gone; the gentle landscaping of Herrington Country Park replacing one, though this too seemed devoid of life. Apart from a crazy photographer, who else would venture out in this dreek weather?
Well I was not alone. Three young women were running on the hillside. The first, wearing an improbably amount of make up given the conditions and her activity, ran up the hill half heartedly and soon retired. The second appeared more determined and was running the tracks that traverse the mound, but the third was something special.
Running straight up the hillside, her hair plastered to her face by the rain, she ignored the lactic build up and the stinging rain to descend the hill, only to turn and run back up again. In all the time I was there she kept going and was ascending once more as I left.
But what of the monument itself? Its dark towering gritstone columns contrasted strongly with the cocoon of off-white cloud around it, cloud whose tendrils could be seen reaching into the interior of the structure as I worked, still in the rain, but thankfully not as torrential as it was. It was once possible to reach the top to the building via a spiral staircase concealed within one of the columns, though this has been closed to the public for decades after a child fell to his death from the walkway.
I got my wish to shoot undisturbed then.
But the best was yet to come…