in 1973 I was on holiday with friends in Barmouth, Wales. There was
nothing much to do - the average age of the local inhabitants then was
about 80 and there was a distinct anti-tourist (maybe even anti - English)
feeling to the place. The pubs closed on Sunday, too. I'm still
not sure why we chose it.
One day I walked with
the others along the esplanade (which was totally deserted - we were the
only visitors) and I saw one of those "instant" photo booths.
I was willing to do anything
to alleviate the boredom, so initially I thought about taking some "straight"
photographs since I hadn't had my picture taken in quite a while (largely
because I never seemed to take a "good" picture).
I dropped some money
into the slot, and sat on the stool with a fixed grin on my face.
I waited. And I waited. And I waited.
Finally, in utter exasperation
and thinking that I'd lost my money I leaned forward to see if the machine
was even switched on.
Flash! Oh, no.
One wast... Flash! Damn, I wasn...Flash! Drat this... Flash!
All four wasted.
I stood outside the booth
in the chilly air and waited for my useless photos to be developed.
When the strip of four finally came out of the machine, every shot was
terrible and out of focus or only the bottom half of my face or the top
half of my head.
At first I was annoyed.
But then my special idiot gene kicked in, and I had An Idea. I pulled
out all the change I had - enough for about twenty photos - and went back
into the booth, armed with my old fishing hat - pressed into service to
try and protect me from sunburn (not that there was much sun around) as
Boy, did I have fun.
I contorted my face both with and without the benefit of the hat - I could
have won first prize as a gurner (except you really need to take your teeth
out to do justice to true gurning).
By the time my friends
had become aware of my absence and retraced their steps, I was waiting
for the last of my works of art to come out of the machine. I spread
my body across the delivery slot so they couldn't see what was being printed,
which aroused their curiosity so I was unceremoniously dragged away from
The results were pretty
awful - but for the next three days, whenever the tone seemed to head towards
morose silence, all I had to do was pull out the strips of photos and hand
them round. Instant merriment, courtesy of Pete's ugly mug.
A little later, when
I looked at the faces more closely, it was possible to see a sort of family
resemblance, and so I gave each one a name, a title and a relationship.
Some even had an air of femininity about them - as long as you classify
the hairy weightlifter look as feminine.
From time to time over
the years I would whip the photos out at parties and other gatherings,
mostly as a test of people's ability to continue standing relatively close
to me after seeing the images.
The results were interesting
- especially since I seemed to gain a reputation for being stern and authoritarian-looking
in later years, and the photos provided concrete proof that there were
in fact a few bats playing skittles up in the belfry.
A couple of the photos
ended up in birthday cards, to underscore the fact that there are not only
screws loose but a veritable hardware store Up There, and so those are,
alas, missing from the cast of synaptically challenged misfits that constitute
Dodger Bogbrush's extended family.
Just recently I fished
the photos out to give them an airing and realised that maybe they could
form the basis for a really dopey story - a sort of Dude, Where's My Brain?
kind of opus. The family tree can be seen here.