Helle Thorning-Schmidt is Denmark’s first female Prime Minister, which seems strange to one who has closely followed the exploits of Birgitte Nyborg for some time. Certainly, before this week, the fictional politician played by Sidse Babett Knudsen was probably the better known in this country. That all changed in an instant this week when Thorning-Schmidt, seated between David Cameron and Barack Obama at the Nelson Mandela memorial took a self portrait on her smartphone with her political colleagues squeezing in from either side. The action proved controversial with some labelling it disrespectful on such a sombre occasion, whilst others pointing out that some elements of the memorial were anything but serious and that world leaders are only human too.
So there we have one reason for including a self portrait this week, but there was another.
Collecting my daughter Megan from university this weekend, I spent the evening in Slough, a town that gained notoriety for being the home of Wernham Hogg, the paper company that employed David Brent in The Office. Another fiction of course, but Slough has never quite managed glamour. In contrast, its near neighbour Windsor exudes it aplenty. Eton, the Thames, the castle, and the Great Park all provide photographic opportunities, but I had something very specific in mind. The park is vast, over 5000 acres of it, and as I’m unfamiliar with the area I set off early to find my location, which meant I was there to capture the sunrise.
All very well, but I was some distance from my objective so I returned to the town, parked my car and walked back to the spot that I was seeking. Appropriately this is The Long Walk, a driveway of over 2.5 miles that leads directly to the castle, but I didn’t need to cover the whole distance; I wanted Her Majesty’s second home to feature, and it was still early enough to erect my tripod and pose for a few shots without much interference. The driveway itself creates great leading lines to the vast fortified palace.
With still more time to kill to give Megan enough time to overload her suitcase I returned to my original location and focused my attention on the skies, partly for the cloud formations, partly for the passing air traffic, and partly out of a sense of curiosity created by the birdsong from the many trees in the area. Most of the sound was familiar; crows, wrens, tits and more competed for my attention, but there was something incongruous amongst them. More squawk than song. I waited patiently to see if the culprit would reveal itself, but it wasn’t happening so I crept forward in the direction of the tree that I believed to the source. My movement must have spooked the occupant, because a flash of green went shooting past me. I fired off a few frames and there was my answer. An alien visitor. Or so I thought, because when I told Megan about it she was unimpressed, telling me that the area has flocks of green parrots that are numbered in the thousands. Well I was surprised anyway.
So back to the self portrait. As this year comes to a close, I’ve moved house, taken on a new job, but more than this my year has been defined by my search for romance. Consequently I couldn’t resist the opportunity to recreate the cover of Elton John’s 12th album. Not his greatest, but the title says it all. A Single Man.