I have a new scanner. Not only does it now take less time to scan an image than it does to make a cup of tea, but it also makes half-decent copies of slides and for the first time in years, I've been able to look at the photos I took as a child in the late 1970s.
I don't think many schoolchildren were into slide photography in those days, but my father had access to a steady supply of slightly out of date films and in the void left after my all-consuming obsession with Marvel comics, I needed a new hobby.
As luck would have it, my Auntie Nance died and left me the princely sum of £30. I used it to buy the latest Abba LP and a no-frills 35mm 'manual focus' camera. It was money well spent.
Looking at the pictures over 30 years on, I have no idea why I took most of them. I can only assume that a trip to London was so exciting (despite living a mere ten miles away from Hyde Park Corner) that even the most mundane features warranted a photograph:
At a glance, the Waterloo station of 1979 doesn't look radically different. In the background, you can just about see the brown and orange livery of WH Smith and the font on the signs seems to be the same, but you'd search in vain for a cappuccino or a pain au chocolat.
However, if you think Waterloo station's boring, try this for size:
High Street Kensington. From a modern perspective this photograph has a timeless dullness, but the advert for Silk Cut cigarettes clearly dates the image. It's also nice to see a poster for Pernod after my recent experience with a bemused barmaid.
I haven't been to Earls Court for a long time, but I remember the blue signs with illuminated arrows that indicated where each train was going. During many a long wait for the Richmond line, I developed a deeply-rooted hatred for Ealing Broadway and Wimbledon, which seemed to have more than their fair share of trains.
London seems more drab in these photos and if I remember correctly, parts of the Thames were lined with disused warehouses and gaps left by bomb sites. I wish that I'd had the sense to photograph that aspect of the city rather than waste film on shots of Big Ben and the Tower Bridge.
Home: the dreaming suburb of Teddington, with street upon street of semi-detached Victorian houses. I never liked it that much and couldn't understand why Teddington became a property 'hotspot' until I started visiting other London suburbs. When you've been to Sidcup and Perivale (not to mention Ealing Broadway), Teddington suddenly looks very attractive.
Twickenham riverside, taken from the bridge to the once famous Eel Pie Island, where the Rolling Stones used to play at the now defunct hotel. As a child I took this area, with its parks, stately homes and Georgian buildings, completely for granted, but by the time I bought my camera I was beginning to see it differently.
The Richmond May Fair, 1979. Interestingly, I don't think it's the man in the bow tie that dates the photo - you'll probably still see people like him wandering around Richmond - but the woman on the left, with the long dress.
I used to dread going to this fair because my parents invariably bumped into people they knew from their childhood and I would have to listen to one conversation after another. In the 1980s something changed - perhaps the advent of the Yuppie era - and it was as if the area had been ethnically cleansed. The last time I went to the fair with my parents, they didn't meet a single person they knew.
When I tell people that I grew up in Richmond-upon-Thames, their reaction is usually something along the lines of "Oooh, la-di-dah!", but it was a normal place in those days. Like Hampstead, Richmond had more millionaires per square mile than most London suburbs, but there weren't many of them by the gasworks where my mother lived.
In many ways I prefer the London of 2012, but I wish that the local communities hadn't been destroyed by the vagaries of the housing market. Today, Richmond feels soulless, almost like a gated community for the very wealthy.
I went to school with over 1000 children, but could spend a week walking the streets of Richmond and Twickenham without bumping into anyone I know. Where did everyone go?
In addition to photos of London and Richmond, I also found a few from trips to the west of England (including the picture at the top):
This is a medieval barn in Bradford-upon-Avon, Wiltshire. It has an ingeniously-designed feature where, at a certain time of the day, the setting sun produces a golden cross on the floor. By sheer chance, I turned up at exactly the right moment:
Further west, the photo below of Dartmoor makes it look even more desolate than I remember:
For a cheap camera, manufactured in one of the lesser regimes of the east, these photos beat the Kodak Instamatic hands down. If only the pictures hadn't been quite so dull. Why did I take photographs of Brentford high street, mallard ducks in Bushy Park and a blurred shot of a train entering Twickenham station?
Thank God there were no digital cameras in 1979. If I'd been let loose with 8GB of memory, then there's no telling how far I would have gone. Bus stops? Lamp posts? It makes me shudder to think of it.