Tuesday, June 27, 2006

...and Then It Gets Better

I spent the weekend being the official photographer for the Muddy promotions Grass Roots festival (Photos here). I took over 1500 photos over the three days including 320 of a Slovakian wedding.
What to tell you first... I turned up at 8:00am at the grooms house only to be presented with a glass of Vodka. I protested that it was too early to start drinking. They put on the offended faces. These were paying clients so I accepted the Vodka and as instructed said "Dastravia" and downed it in one. Cue warm glow at 8:05am.There was a band in the back garden. Accordion, clarinet and Violin. They started playing after having several Vodkas. I took photos. I was offered more vodka. I declined saying I was working for them.
"You take better pictures with da Vodka no?"
I had another Vodka.
We drove to the brides house. The band set up on the pavement outside and started playing whilst school children made their way past, giggling and laughing. The brides mother gave me Vodka. It was getting silly.
Then we had the ceremonial fight with knives as the Groom fought for the right to remove his bride from her house. His helpers pulled him out and gifts were exchanged instead. Big bottles of... yep Vodka. Then the father of the bride made a speach imploring the brides mother to let her daughter leave the family home and set up with his son. Real tears flowed, and I'm capturing all this on my camera.
The brides mother agrees hands shaken, kisses exchanged, and more vodka drunk.
We al drive to the registry office. The band starts playing in the car park. More Vodka is handed out.
Finally we are allowed into the registry office. every one lines up in twos boy girl boy girl and the band strikes up in front of the processional and we all march in. We're told to wiat in the recption area where there's a party, more Vodka and the band playing, people are dancing. Hardly any of them speak english so we have to have a translator.
We go into the room for the wedding itself the band plays until they are told to shut up. The translator gets us through the ceremony and the band strikes up again. We go outside. There's an English party waiting for their turn. They are given Vodka. A professional photographer stands there with his fuck off camera and tripod he's being paid £400 I'm being paid a quarter of that and I think "Who's having the more fun?" That'll be me then.
We retire to the reception where the feasting begins. But not before plates are broken stamped on and swept up. Immediately the band starts up and every one is singing and dancing. I've never been to a wedding quite like this. I don't know anyone but they are all my best friends already. I haven't a fucking clue what they are saying to me but I know it's nice. I am part of their family. I am fed and watered, and I keep on taking photographs. They are so polite to me. They say something in slovakian followed by "please" and "thank you".
I leave them about 1:45 while they are dancing.
I come back at 6:00 and they're still dancing. I come back to witness the pinning of the money onto the brides dress. I stay til 7:00pm because it's such great fun.

Then I drive to the music festival. As I arrive at the site someone shouts at me "There's a mention of you in the programme"
"that's nice" I thought as I had my wrist band stapled on me.
Jody gives me a programme, she grins. I took it and wandered off flicking through the pages. Site rules. List of bands, bands profiles, paragraph each, where's my mention? Then I turned the page and then I find a whole page devoted to me. "The man in the Hat" I read on. I was filling up. I'm overwhelmed by the nice things they say about me. Every one else has worked so hard taking the week of to set up the festival builing tents erecting the security fences, digging trenches. What have I done? Nothing except take photos. I was almost in tears.
Nine months ago when I first started this I was worried that I wouldn't fit in because I'm an old guy of 47 and everyone else was in their 20's. And now?
I could cry just now thinking about it.
The muddy festival was like going on a huge picnic with music and 499 of your best friends. I'm not going to write anymore just now, or else the tears wil just flow.

I'm still being evicted. I still have nowhere to live. My business is still going downhill faster than a speeding bullet. But shit! What does all that matter? There are more important things in life than the material.

Rock on dudes

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