One mine, and one society’s
I camped solo this weekend as I wanted to spend time attempting some unusual wildfowl photographs. My location was Nene Park in Peterborough because the wildlife there is used to people and would therefore be slightly easier for me to approach.
Before I talk about my trip though, I’d like you to meet Val,
she’s 74, she’s mad about dogs, and she’s a mother and a widow.
I’d already parked up for the night when a little blue car pulled in beside me and parked up. Initially I didn’t pay it too much attention, just another evening dog walker, I thought. It was about ten minutes later when I realised that the driver was still sat in the driving seat.
I started to pay more attention just to make sure she was ok but then I noticed two suitcases and a stack of black bin bags on one side at the back, and what looked like a makeshift bed on the other, and I realised that this little old lady intended to sleep in her car that night.
I offered her a hot drink, some sandwiches and soup and we sat chatting until it started to get dark.
It was shocking to hear her story and to realise just how easily people can fall through the ever increasing gaps in the social care safety net. I learned how the death of her husband and then a recent stay in hospital knocked her life out of balance just enough to set her on the path that ultimately ended with her sleeping rough for over three months. Val was quite pragmatic about her situation but desperately missed the company of her beloved dogs, which she’d needed to re-home due to her circumstances.
This is Marley, one of her 15 long haired dachshunds who achieved a ‘Very Highly Commended’ at Crufts.
We talked a lot about how she came to be in such dire straits and her plans for the future. Val told me that she had been in and out of various shelters and temporary accommodation, but as each one had limits about the length of time people could stay there, she eventually ended up homeless in April this year, and has been living in her car ever since. I asked what the local authorities were doing to help her and she told me they had recently written her a letter telling her they wouldn’t help her at all because, in their opinion, she had made herself voluntarily homeless.
I appreciate that I’ve only heard Val’s side of her story, and I’m sure the local authorities would tell a different story but, the simple fact remains, a 74 year old woman is living in her car in 2017 in the UK and I believe that is wrong!
That is a failure of the society we live in!
Now onto failure No 2, mine.
I want to get better pictures of wildfowl so I made myself a ‘Getting Better Photographs of Wildfowl’ machine Mk I, and here it is,
and the inside looks like this. The six milk bottles are the adjustable ballast system which can be filled or emptied depending on how low I want it to sit in the water.
consisting of a separate waterproof box with camera supports and tilt system
The clear lens at the front is perspex and sealed with two home made rubber gaskets and flanges.
To control the camera out on the water I have fitted a remote control servo which operates micro switches for focussing the camera and the shutter to actually take the picture.
The back of the ‘Getting Better Photographs of Wildfowl’ machine Mk I, contains the electronics, as well as two big batteries and four water pumps which, via a complicated plumbing system, quietly propel and steer the box when it’s on the water.
Now to the reasons why this is a failure, first of all, it weighs a flipping ton which makes it hard to launch and even harder to get back onto dry land afterwards. Secondly, although on a quiet still pond with no wind the pumps control the box perfectly, as soon as there is the slightest current or a gentle breeze the box becomes uncontrollable and just drifts away across the lake. I’m glad I tied a long piece of string to the back, ‘just in case’.
Here’s one of the first pictures from the ‘Getting Better Photographs of Wildfowl’ machine Mk I, and the ‘new’ and ‘improved’ Mk II is already taking shape.