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October 2011 Archives

October 24, 2011

John McCallum: an obituary


Last Friday, I was privileged to be included in the family funeral gathering to celebrate the life of this great British hero - an intensely private, modest man. John McCallum's extraordinary story could not be told for decades because of the Official Secrets Act, but finally was published in his book The Long Way Home (Birlinn, 2005). It's an account of an incredibly daring escape by three Glasgow-born prisoners of war, by chance taking them through Zagan on the day of the famous (and tragically unsuccessful) "Great Escape" of 25 March 1944. It is also the moving story of his intense, doomed romance with a very brave and self-sacrificing German woman.

Today's Herald carries the obituary that I finished writing yesterday. I had started with 500 words, fearing that they would cut it severely, but in the event they telephoned to ask for more. In my professional career as a writer, I've never ever had a newspaper ask for more words before, so I was delighted to extend it. You can read it here.

There are details of his book on Birlinn's website (link updated for the new edition in 2012). He made a posthumous appearance on TV in David Jason's Great Escapes, aired on ITV1 on Armistice Day this year.

It's almost exactly five years since my father died, and although they were from very different backgrounds, he and John McCallum had a number of admirable personal qualities in common: integrity, stoicism, longevity and great resourcefulness. Although both are now dead, their lives and our memories of them will continue to affect those of us who were lucky enough to know them.

October 26, 2011

A blue tit rescued

A feature of living at Landrick is the proximity of wildlife, not always at convenient times. Today, a bird had somehow got into the attic above our kitchen and, hearing its frantic flapping I opened the hatch. A beautiful blue tit emerged and vigorously tried to beat its brains out against an unopenable window. It took Keir's gentle touch to capture it in his cupped hands while perched dangerously on a stool. I suggested the table outside as a safe haven for it to recover from its trauma.

And then I remembered that I had just bought a lovely, lightweight telephoto lens (45-175 mm) for my G1 camera, so I dashed to the office and stalked the bemused bird, gradually closing in from a long distance. Here is my best effort, taken from just a metre, the beautiful bird filling the frame. That's what I call payback! Immediately after this snap, the bird flew off as if nothing had happened.


October 31, 2011

A really good teacher: Dave Willis

I'm proud to be a member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild and have just spent the weekend with my colleagues at our AGM at Plas y Brenin. I wasn't well organised, and it was only when my friend Sheila (who has a nearby cottage in Capel Garmon) asked me in the car on Friday what I was doing the next day that I remembered I had opted for a workshop on hill-walking photography. And had managed to leave my G1 camera behind ...

This was friend-in-need time, and once I realised that her recently-acquired G3 was in the car, she appeared to accept that my need was greater than hers. Her printed manual wasn't to hand but the interface wasn't too far removed from the G1 and I got through the next day managing (just about) to complete the range of tasks set, from slow shutter speed to fast, shallow depth of field to large, with panning, differential focus and creative placement of a figure in a landscape.

Dave Willis led our workshop, and he is not only a talented photographer but also a really good teacher. To most people, a grey, drizzling end-October Saturday morning would seem unrpromising photographically, but Dave took a dozen of us out walking, mixed-ability landscape photographer wannabes, put us in pairs and put our camera skills through our paces. He also gave us the great benefit of his handouts, and since they seem to be publicly available I see no reason not to share them: see part 1 and part 2

Thanks, Dave, for sharing. And thanks, Sheila, for sharing your camera, although it turned out to have been a more expensive weekend than I realised, because I've just bought a G3 which (apart from its battery life) is better in several ways than the G1.

About October 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Jacquetta in October 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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