A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Routine Redux
Monday, October 13, 2008

A constant theme here has been my harping on the wonders and benefits of routine. In particular it is an association of routine with custom and tradition. My wife Rosemary is a creature of routine as are both my granddaughters Rebecca and Lauren. It is never more evident than when we go to visit Ale in Lillooet. The girls expect my home made pizza in the car by the time we get to Chilliwack on our way North. They expect to be exposed to new music on the CD player yet Rebecca wants some of the oldies such as Oscar Peterson playing the Work Song.

Of late I have been thwarted by oposing routines to my peril. When I print a b+w negative in my darkroom the emulsion (the matte side of the negative) is always facing down. When I scan that same negative the emulsion has to be facing up. Over the weekend I took some photos of Leo the horse to his owner Lloyd McNary. It was too late to re print them when I noticed I had printed them backwards. Luckily McNary did not notice.

Routine in a darkroom is important. When the lights are out I instinctively know where everything is and when I go to grab this or that I find it. The opposite of this routine is similar to working on someone else's computer and navigating with an alien mouse!

Sometime around 1965 I was visiting my first cousin Inesita O'Reilly Kuker in her home in San Isidro and she instructed me to buy her some sliced ham at the local almacén. I asked the man behind the counter for 350 gramos de jamon cocido (cooked ham). At that point the man began to shout at me, "I have mortadella, prosciutto, many varieties of cheese and you dare to ask me for sliced cooked ham?" He shouted and almost went beserk. I turned tail. My guess is that he was finally done in by customers' routine.

I have a fondness for listening to live performances of Vivaldi's Gloria and part of my routine is to bring along a stop watch to record the variation in length. It would seem that my love for routine sometimes involves a variation of it.

Going to visit Ale is all routine. That routine was broken by bringing The Flight of the Red Balloon. This is an art film that is as slow as watching red paint dry. An 8 minute long one camera take may delight a film aficionado but it did not delight anybody even though I had fallen for the review of the film in the NY Times which was glowing.

Another routine, the taking of a photograph in the same place, but months or years later brought tears to Rebecca's eyes who flatly refused to pose by Lloyd McNary's gate. Ale stressed the idea that I was trying to record how time changes things and people so Rebecca reluctantly posed with Sunny. The little girl that faced my camera in the spring seems to be an entirely different one that posed for me on Saturday.

Another routine that was modified to the better was that I was less critical with Ale on her rustic living and I did my best to praise the relief we feel in spending a couple of days "en el campo" as Argentines say.

But I think that what is best about routine is the realization and sadness of knowing that all routines must end. It is part of the pleasure to savour them as if each time were their last.


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The History Boys & Fine Teachers Remembered

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