THE CAMERA NEVER LIES

How I treasure old photos. They feature a bygone age, with bygone people that I loved so much and still miss.

Here are my great-grandparents with six of their seven children, including my grandmother, great aunts, and great uncles.  As usual, my great-grandfather wore a fez.

My great-grandparents Abdullah and Aspasie with their two eldest children

A fez was normal headgear in Egypt at the time. Until the revolution in 1952, it was essential in the civil service, the armed forces, and the police. Worn at an angle, it could cut quite a dash, until a gust of wind made off with it. My grandfather never took to it. He’d say, ‘As a hat it is completely useless. It neither keeps off the sun, nor the rain, nor does it keep the ears warm in winter. It is like a flowerpot, that is all. You can’t even use it to hide from someone you want to avoid.’

Still, it suited some, like my Uncle Aziz.

Looking at more recent photos, you may gather that I liked food, swans, and my aunt Muriel. None of that has changed one bit.

My mother took a lot of pictures with a bulky Kodak 35mm that accompanied her everywhere around Alexandria. We lived in Alexandria but occasionally went to Cairo to visit an aunt who had, in a moment of madness, decided to move there. Alexandrians and Cairenes generally held each other in the kind of esteem that Oxford reserves for Cambridge.

In Alexandria with my best friend, also called Carol, the camera case, and Boogie the dog

Sometimes we travelled further afield, especially in summer. This was when hordes of Cairenes arrived by train, bus, or car, bringing their children, their nannies, their cousins, their baskets, their suitcases, and their ruckus. The government, too, moved to Alex, and not an inch of beach was left. Ugh.

Mother always travelled with the camera. I remember the case as if it were yesterday. Made of brown leather with a fuzzy lining, it was an object of fascination, and now I realise that it appears in over half the pictures from my early childhood. I don’t recall what the camera itself looked like, and obviously there are no photos of it.

Lake Geneva, I think. Who cares where you are when you have a cuddly camera case?

No toy stood a chance when pitted against the appeal of the camera case. The doll was soon chucked on the ground by the deck chair.

I didn’t have a comfort blanket. With that camera case to hand, there was no need. However, as with many comfort objects, it didn’t last forever. My mother took a trip to Thailand. She returned to Alexandria sans Kodak, having dropped it in the Mae Klong river. I don’t remember what she bought to replace it. It just wasn’t the same.

Do you have old family photos? And, if so, do you enjoy them as much as I do?

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If you’re interested, there’s lots more about twentieth-century Alexandria in my forthcoming book The Girls from Alexandria.

The Rise and Fall of the Selfie

selfie
Pronunciation: /ˈsɛlfi/.  Noun (plural selfies). Informal
a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

‘Selfie’ has been named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries Online. And no wonder. Anyone who’s anyone is taking selfies, and a whole lot of nobodies are too.

Originally ‘selfie’ came from Oz, the land that brought us barbies, tinnies, dunnies, and ‘dry as a dead dingo’s donger.’   But the point was, did I want to be left behind by the rest of the world?  By Rihanna, the Pope and the Obamas?  Too right I didn’t.  So here are my selfies.

Me getting ready to go out: getting ready to go out

OK, that wasn’t great.  I had another go.

getting ready

Maybe next time I’ll get my whole head in.  Me at the gym.

at the gym

You didn’t think I would actually go inside, did you?

Frankly the cat could have done better.  And promptly did.

kitty's selfie

See, my problem is that my phone doesn’t have a mirror.  Maybe I need one of those little makeup mirrors that you can stick up on surfaces like the kitchen cupboard.  Much loved in the 60s, they helped the suburban housewife remain perfectly coiffed at all times, even when slaving over a hot stove.

Before you ask, my phone doesn’t have a forward-facing camera.  It’s the kind of phone that makes my sons double up with laughter and give themselves hernias.

Perhaps what I need for the perfect selfie is a kind of stand in front of my face to position the phone.  Of course I wouldn’t be able to see where I was going, but at least I’d get some great selfies of tumbling arse over tit.

Luckily Oxford Dictionaries Online doesn’t just define ‘selfie’.  It tells us what to do

occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary.”

I think that’s my cue to bow out gracefully.  I’m middle-aged now, so even by my mother’s admission I’m practically an adult.

So long, selfie.  I’m going to use my phone for its original intention.  As an alarm clock.  And a torch so I can see my way to the loo in the night.

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