I got a few strange looks. This didn’t surprise me, because my activity was a wee bit unusual. Photographers tend to be forgiven their abnormal behaviour, but in my case, today’s photographic expedition had been to get pictures of some of the locations I had been writing about in my blog. Equipped with a handy, but unprofessional, digital camera, I’d been out taking pictures of a traffic island, a park bench, an entry, a launderette. Not all that exotic. In the car, between sites, I was listening to ‘Meddle’ by Pink Floyd. As I turned left off the Ormeau, and up past the Asia Supermarket, the CD was playing ‘San Tropez’: lush, decadent, laid back, summer music. I was feeling good, basking in the 1971 Riviera sunshine. I parked up near the top of Agincourt Avenue to get my next set of pictures. A woman with long dark hair and two bulging bags of washing was coming out of the entrance to the Wash ‘n’ Tumble launderette. She glanced at me with a mixture of curiosity and disapproval as I got my photos, one of which unintentionally featured her.
From there I’d walked on up the road towards the Botanic Gardens to get some more photos. Approaching the gates of the park I noticed a black dog squatting outside someone’s front gate, squeezing out a shite. I could see the owner lurking behind one of the broad stone gate pillars; a bloke, probably in his early twenties, wearing jeans and a grey hoodie. He had short black hair, and sideburns, and was listening to music through earpieces. When I got into the park, he had climbed onto a tree stump just inside the gate. I wondered what he was doing up there, and briefly contemplated a conversation, and maybe even taking a picture of him. It would be a good, quirky, picture, but I decided not to bother. Close up I could tell that the dog was old; it was walking shakily, slowly, away from me. After a moment the lad jumped down from the stump and they wandered off slowly in the direction of the Rose Garden.
It was freezing, and I regretted coming out without my coat. I retraced my steps from the previous visit. There were more fallen leaves now; the last visit with my daughter had been a late summer’s day. The sun had been warmer then, and there had been more people around; they’d still been wearing light clothes, and rolling on the grass. I took a few shots of the area around the bench where we had sat and had our picnic, then considered moving down the path skirting the lawn, but there was a noisy group of drinkers there and one of them, a girl with a skinhead, was blocking the path with her legs. Even though she moved out of the way to let someone else through, and I knew they weren’t going to give me any bother, I still went round the other way to get a pic of the Palm House. I was happy, but mellow, and not in the mood for their sort of banter.
Coming back onto the path that led back to the gates, I could hear another sound over the top of the half-blocked slagging, and turning the corner saw a family on the lawn: mother, father, and two girls aged around six and seven. The mother was taking pictures while the girls and their father were throwing handfuls of leaves into the air. A fleeting jealous thought pinged into my mind: I wish I was doing that with my daughter right now. The girls were kind of old-fashioned looking, wearing woolly hats and duffle coats. Their father was really enjoying the day. As I passed by he suddenly took off and ran to the other end of the lawn. Ignoring the dampness of the grass, he laid on his back under a tree, piling fallen leaves on top of him. The two girls came running, laughing, and scooped armfuls of leaves on top of him, squealing in delight.
I walked back to the Launderette smiling. Even the glistening dog turd on the pathway couldn’t annoy me. Who needs San Tropez? I thought, as I climbed back into the car.