From 2009 until now, I have posted many series of wide-ranging photo essays. Â A total of 72 of these essays - surreal and otherwise, and consisting of just over 1,000 photographs - were devoted to Western Australia.Â Another 58 photo photo essays - surreal and non-surreal, and comprised of some 1,800 images - focused on America.Â
I reckon that for a while people have seen enough of my take on slivers of experiencing life in Western Australia and North America.Â As a complete change, let's bravely have a bit of a gander at what it's like to engage in what I've loosely termed as the Surreal English & French experience.
It is a surreal look in that every one of the 634 photographs in this series has been altered. This has been mainly accomplished by using Picasa but sometimes by also using Microsoft Paint as well to manipulate the images.Â Not a single image is as the eye would ordinarily see it.
We are taking each country in turn, beginning with England.Â And we kicked it all off by using shanks ponies and train to travel to London.Â It was a kind of reconnoiter, if you like ... very much a case of tentatively dipping our big toe into the murky waters of the English experience.
Emboldened by surviving unscathed our first excursion from our home base at Sunningdale, we then journeyed by car along back roads and country lanes to see what the heck is within a couple of hours reach of home.Â We got to see lots of snug pubs with pints and pints of frothing cold beer ... oops, I mean hot cocoa in hamlets and towns that soon floated by in a hot chocolate haze but I kind of remember Henley-on-something-or-other, Oxford University's bicycle racks and Guildford in vain search of Charles Dickens.Â In the following expedition we ranged much farther, driving to Dover and catching a train to St Ives in Cornwall.Â Just because, really.Â We had no plan in mind other than to go look.
Once we'd returned to Sunningdale and recovered from that coastal ordeal, we headed off to Windsor Castle.Â It is not only Europe's largest but is actually also the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world.Â We put our feet up for a day or two and then caught the train to Waterloo Station to go exploring the Westminster area, including the knock-your-socks-off Abbey.Â A few days later we caught the train into London again to go see the bustling river Thames area.Â Some days after that, we once more caught the train to London, this time to trudge on blistered feet all about Trafalgar Square and then route march to Buckingham Palace.Â Liz and Phil didn't invite us in for a cuppa.
Let's not live in bitter memories of royal slights in the past.Â Today's trip, as with all of our expeditions, necessitates beginning as soon as it's light enough to head off and then not putting our feet up until well after dark ... the daylight hours here in late-autumn and winter are quite short.Â And the light for good photography is fast fleeting and very brief.Â It can be said that at this time of year, England is a very dark experience.Â Perhaps the same can also be said for France.
Enough of this gibberish by me!Â It's absolute rot!Â We've got to get moving!Â We're driving all the way to the coast and from there, sitting in our car, we'll speed by train through the tunnel - dubbed the Chunnel - under the English Channel!Â So no more of my dreadful drivel.Â Mercifully, I'll keep my inane commentary very short.Â However, I will scrupulously cite any references, meticulously following the petrified encyclicals in the Dead Sea Scrolls Style Manual that detail the turning-to-salt procedures for use on defrocked scholars.
The British are so clever.Â Here their meteorological people use a wonderfully thick fog to allow the ordinary Englishman to see that the English sun is a perfect orb.
Hmmm .... stating the obvious as we speed down the express motorway towards the coast and Chunnel entry.Â
Validate your Chunnel boarding pass here.Â But the pigeons aren't having a bar of it.
Here we can do some Eurotunnel shopping.Â Not that I know why we would.
Of course, Bob has the answer - we shop for piping hot coffees to drink on the way under the Channel.
Not exactly all French to me.Â I can kind of work it out.
(Source: photograph courtesy of the Dead Sea Scrolls and therein used by courtesy of the French Foreign Legion Handbook, illustrating the Roman Army's touring guidebook with English-French translations designed for the Ninth Legion's professional development programme for centurions on study leave from Britannica to attend burning and pillage workshops in Gaul.)
And here we wait, and wait and wait and ....
Ahead in those hard to read white letters it says: The Most environmentally friendly way to cross the Channel by car.Â And so we sit in our cars and wait for the red traffic lights ahead to turn green.Â And we even get out of our cars to stretch our legs in an environmentally friendly manner.
How wise of Bob to lead us into the temptation of buying hot coffee.Â No wonder she's smiling at the idiot standing peering through a camera in the bitterly cold wind.Â Get in the car, you damned fool!
The resigned queue waiting behind.
There's no doubt about it!Â It's black and white that we have movement.
The hills are alive with prancing graffiti horses.
And yet again we sit and wait.
Ah, the hungry mouth of the beast.
Into the belly of the beast we go.
Abandon all hope ye who enter here.
Come a little bit closer.
Daddy's little man has a yawn and look around.
Bob goes exploring as the train heads into the Chunnel.
Oh, dear!Â Sacre bleu!
(Source: definition of this archaic Gaulish expression is given in the The Dead Sea Scrolls Unorthodox Hebrew edition, translated into Latin and transliterated into English, with sacre bleu defined as meaning sacred blue.)
While the little man clutches daddy, Hans snores as he meditates in black and white.
It's black and white that Bob is so very excited to be on the way to France.
Cross?Â Cross?Â This sounds ominously like some sort of crucifixion.Â
French fog with fashionable panache leaping at the eye.Â .
But dreary when closer.Â Even the guys look downcast.
Ah, but it is a pink champagne moment to be driving onto French soil.
We have 150 metres to decide which way to go.
My second will call on your second - ciggies at dawn!
And still more signs ... but only one arrow.
Ah, one of the huge drill bits used to carve out the Chunnel.Â But we will follow the blue arrows to happiness.
Could use it to till Bob's garden.Â I wonder how much they want for it?
The open road ahead.Â But that's a 50 kilometres an hour speed limit, not miles per hour!Â Never mind, the fog is lifting.
Which way to go?Â Decisions, decisions.Â Where the hell is that English-French dictionary?
Ah, the fog is almost gone, the sun is shining and touring life is good.
So this is what they do to complaining tourists.
(Source: image by courtesy of the French Foreign Legion Handbook, which borrowed the illustration from the Roman Army's touring guidebook - having Latin-French translations designed for the Ninth Legion's skills enhancement workshops for tribunes on sabbatical study leave from both Britannica and Gaul.)
And this is what French seagulls do.Â They have circle time in a paddock.
Surreal English & French
003 Dover & St Ives
004 Windsor Castle
007 Trafalgar Square