They say there aren’t many of us left. We’ve had a bad press, it’s true, camouflaged in the bushes and aiming a telescopic lens at our prey. And the youngsters don’t care, they’d never take it up. They can get all their thrills on the internet – and everyone’s a photographer these days – damn Instagram. See that Kate Middleton topless? I could have had that shot. I’ve got the gear and the patience. I was out the other day too, setting up my tripod near the beach. Waiting silently for this bird. Migratory species. The paparazzi of the curlew sandpiper.
Wearing this jacket, which bears witness to the grand public schools, the British Empire, Kipling and Kitchener, Ypres, the Somme and the Western Front, brassy medals, Chelsea bombings, fighting in Norway, Palestine, South Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans, the Order of St Patrick, the ‘Troubles’, Brian Boru, the kid cadets still named ‘mini Micks’, Passchendaele, Jacobites and the Battle of the Boyne, the bear-skin hats, the Stuart dynasty, postings in Belize, Cyprus, securement of the British Sector of West Berlin, Kuwait, Basra, County Fermanagh, Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, the freedom of Liverpool, with thousands upon thousands dead and mutilated, I thee wed.
That summer, cauliflowers and cabbages landed in our garden, gifts from next door’s vegetable patch. Maybe we played army in the fields. Post-Lennon, pre-Falklands, before the first CDs, just after the Toxteth riots and ahead of Sadat’s assassination. Retro styling meant Shakin’ Stevens and the future was the Commodore 64. There were street parties while plans were hatched, affairs were had, lies were told, while you were a sudden shudder, engendered there – and then… the burning truth, the broken car, and your mother dead.
And, well, we used to talk over the garden fence; now we do it across firewalls.