I’ve rediscovered what Welsh-speakers call “hiraeth”. The word has no direct translation into English, but “homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed”, or “a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness” are definitions I found on the web, and both convey it well.
I’d literally just returned home from six weeks in Chamonix, in the French Alps, when I penned my last blog. I’ve now been home a week. I need to write this piece to help me settle, because it ain’t happening of its own accord at the moment!
There was a time when I did this fairly often. At least twice a year. I had a routine, and a proper job to return to, which was sufficiently manic that it helped make my trips away become distant memories very quickly. Life is different now. Up to a point.
The idyll of several weeks galavanting around the mountains is great for getting you fit. Carrying a rucksack full of camera gear is great for getting you strong. But if you have my half-a-lifetime of back trouble, there’s often a payback. Mine came a few days ago. I got out of the car and suddenly realised my back had gone into serious spasm. No sudden thunderbolt; I just seized up completely. I was fortunate to get an early appointment with my good friends the chiropractors at Southcote Clinic (thanks, Ben) and functionality has been restored, though I am “fragile” and aware that my new-found fitness is ebbing away. This isn’t how it should be after six weeks of the very best kind of altitude training.
I grew to like the apartment in Chamonix a great deal. It was simple but adequate and unlike a room in a hotel, I could close the door at the end of a long day and really sink into my own thoughts. Routine was simple: up early (very early a few times!), eat etc, and out. I’d be home by late afternoon most days, which always gave time for a quick stroll through Chamonix. If the weather was up to it, and it usually was, I’d end up in the japanese garden above the town. This is a superb spot to watch the changing light on the Chamonix Aiguilles as the sun sets. Right now, I miss those peaceful twenty minute breaks on my wooden bench possibly more than anything else.
I’ve started work sorting and editing the 6,500 or so photos I took while I was away. Hmm, more than 1,000 a week doesn’t sound many when I reflect that I regularly shoot 1,000 a day and more at a big track and field meeting. I have the tough job coming up, which involves scanning more than 200 large negatives from my big old film camera. I saved that camera for some of the best stuff, on days with a guaranteed good weather forecast, and the negatives look great. I’ve not started, though, because we have the bathroom fitters in at home, and it’s amazing how much dust there is. I’ve put the film scanner under cover and will fire it up next week, I expect.
The digital shots I’m two-thirds of the way through sorting have been trial enough, though. I have an interim “100 best photos” from the trip here on my website. As I was working through the shots, every so often, memory would transport me right back to the moment the shutter was pressed. These feelings were vivid, believe me. Even if I was left with a heavy heart when the feeling passed, I hope the ability of these photographs to do that to me never fades.
Having the builders in has required me to be at home almost all week. That too is about as different from time in Chamonix as it’s possible to get, and I feel really rather imprisoned. It’s helped me focus on getting the photo jobs done, though. I’ve used the Pomodoro Technique to get me through. This has helped my concentration, but has also been vital in ensuring I don’t spend too long sitting down. Thus it helps prevent my back from locking up. I’ve become a very adept tea-boy, too.
In theory, I start training again next week. Or at least, I start that little, very useful phase of training for training. It’ll be the opportunity to see how/if my foot is recovering, and it’ll get some dust out of my lungs. Somewhere deep down inside them is the fresh air from Chamonix….
(And once more, the title’s a song track. This time from the Albion Band with John Tams)