A matter of life and death

As I sit here on a Bank Holiday Monday evening, I can see the wildlife through the study window. The badgers are late today and several lucky squirrels are demolishing the peanuts. On the lawn, two enormous rabbits are hopping around and for a moment it brings a smile to my face. Then I remember that Merlin cat had one of the babies this morning and I feel both sad and guilty. We do everything we can to stop the cats from hunting. They wear collars to keep them safe and on our property and the birds are fed outside their boundary. It works well and I can’t remember the last time they had a bird, either large or small.

I had photographed that baby rabbit only two days earlier. He was right outside the study on the lawn and looking through the lens, I had a sinking feeling that he didn’t have the sense to stay alive. The rabbits that will survive to pass on their genes are out munching grass in our fields. The cats are too fat or lazy to go out there now and anyway… they can be seen coming a mile away. They know it’s not worth the bother and as a result the rabbits are breeding out there like, well… rabbits really and one field is almost devoid of grass. We had to open up the other field yesterday to give our two llamas and pig better grazing.

Life can be so beautiful, but it can be so incredibly brutal too. My mind goes back a few years to a bitterly cold winter day and I wanted to go to Camden Town with my camera. I was just getting into street photography at the time and it seemed the perfect place to give it a whirl. I was still using my old film camera, a 1980 Olympus OM2n – it has served me faithfully for many years – why on earth would I want something newer? We arrived in Charing Cross and took the tube to Camden, but for some reason the station was closed and we had to get out at Mornington Crescent and walk.

By the time we got to Camden we could see there had been what police describe as an “incident”. A large area had been cordoned off and the place was filled with uniforms and flashing lights. Then I spotted a tent, hastily erected in the road outside a local pub and we heard whispers that a young man had been murdered. I had felt cold outside, but it was nothing to the chill that ran down my spine. This was real – not some television programme. There, on that very spot, a young man had lost his life. I’m not good at dealing with these things at the best of times and even now, I can’t say that I got my head around this. I did what I often do in difficult times. I kept a tight hold on my camera and leant heavily on my photography.

As we passed the murder scene, the police were waving the crowd through a narrow alley. I think it must have been an entrance to one of the markets, but now it was the only way through to Camden. I could see this image start to unfold in front of me, so I leant against the wall and took a deep breath before pressing the shutter. This photograph reminds me of how I felt at the time…

3 thoughts on “A matter of life and death

    • Right – I had to go away and Google Joy Division. I really am old enough, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what they did. I see what you mean though and there is one particular black and white shot that appears to have been taken on the Underground. Actually… all the images are B&W which is rather odd, even for the 1970s.

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