'All Quiet on the West End Front:
It's Monday the 15th April and I'm at the end of a 300 mile drive from Cumbria to my home somewhere behind Park Lane in London. Jack the Cat is in the back of the car and he's had enough of the traffic complaining about conditions and the need to pee at sub M40 speeds (he falls off his loo at anything over 30mph ... well you would).
I crawl along Bayswater Road North of Hyde Park and its clear all is not well ahead as Black Cabs are making U-Turns in front of me. I see the issue: 'Protesters' I tell Jack and he responds with a low pleading groan and a tentative scratch in his mobile w.c.
I U-Turn and follow the Cabs, cross the Park and make it under the Knightsbridge Tunnel into Mayfair before traffic armageddon occurs: and it occurs in a major way. London stops as Marble Arch, Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge are turned into the front line against something ... I still don't know what: I don't care, its just another protest. 'Trump' 'Brexit' 'No' 'Yes' 'Maybe' 'Who Cares' ... we get this every weekend only this time its Monday and this can't happen on Monday and worse, Jacks seriously pissed off and that one does it for me so without any delay I pick up a camera and head back to Marble Arch briefly taking some background info on board. Its a Climate Protest and the group is called 'Extinction Something' and they want to get arrested ... 'well fine I'll go out and help them' I think as I charge (slowly) up Park Lane (Bad Knee).
I reach the beginnings of a camp at Marble Arch: piled ruck sacks and a rough and ready stage mounted on a 7.5 tonne truck and I'm looking for Rebels without a clue dressed in 'Les Mis' cast offs, wielding pieces of traffic sign from the summit of a pile of burning tyres but all is quiet on the West End Front.
There's a large white poodle straining at the leash as its spied someone eating a sandwich from Pret over the way: The dogs owner is all serious on a mobile phone. Its hardly 'Robert Capa at Omaha Beach' but on this day in History, I'm on the Front Line so I throw myself onto the road in front of the baying hound and shoot the pictures. Bemused, the Poodle wanders over to have a sniff around at which point I pause to view the World, flat on my back in the sun in the middle of a closed road in W1 with a large white dog staring me in the face as if to say ... 'what you doing down there' and 'got a sandwich by any chance'.
I wind myself back five days and the start of my journey home towards London. I'm in the Indian Ocean and on a yacht (its alright for some) and I've been looking at the effects of the most recent Coral Bleaching: In 2016 I was at the same site and that time it was 'Crown of Thorns' devastating the most fragile of the Worlds marine environments: before that, Tsunami powering through and breaking the delicate 'table coral' fields. This time its more simple: its raised temperature over a period of time. It might be only a few days, thats enough to drive the algae from the coral. It turns white, hence the 'bleaching' term, and it dies. I'm in the water every day a number of times a day on different sites looking at the same story. Its Omaha Beach only its Coral and an unstoppable force has killed it by warming it up.
I'm winding back further as I lie there: Its 1987 and I'm living in the Whitsunday Islands in Australia just off the Reef. I'm at the beginning of my working photographic journey and I take pictures of the tourists by night and sell them by day for $4.85 in Airlie Beach. We all take the Reef for granted. So much so that I don't bother going as part of my job has me on a fast boat in the Whitsunday Channel during the day shooting Charter Yachts for another $4.85. When there are no yachts I'm in the water spearing Coral Trout. Its illegal but there are thousands of them and its dinner in 1987. The Corals in the Channel are vibrant and alive with activity and colour, its magical, every day and without question indestructible.
I fast forward to last year and David Attenborough is telling me through the dark arts of broadcast, that the reef has all but gone. I can't take this on board. I don't bracket the Great Barrier Reef with the Indian Ocean and the environment I have been observing there over the past ten years. Its another World: another Ocean ..... but its not. The 'Crown of Thorns' journeyed to the Maldives clamped to the bottom of container ships. At the end of their journey, they fell off or were cleaned off and dumped into the sea where they bred like marine rabbits devouring everything colourful in within their range. Think 'Alien' and you will not be far off.
I rise to my feet as a slightly feeble PA system scratches itself to life from the stage on the truck. The sound check of the Revolution is under way as a young man in a bandana with a guitar which has seen better days asks for 'more treble ... I like more treble with my vocal' . I wander over now calm expecting nothing from this performance, but he's brilliant and I get in close thinking, I wonder if the photographers at Woodstock knew what Jimi Hendrix would be in 2019, so I take more and use all that I have to record the emotion driving out of a pair of speakers powered by a line of car batteries being charged by a longer line of solar panels (these revolutionaries have thought about this one).
The performance ends and I take a look at the gathering numbers. There are two green aliens and a vicar, there are some younger people finding their pitch and perhaps wondering what to do next, there are the representatives from the MET Police in high vis, in two's and they are all quiet too. Just doing the job they were asked to do. There are a load of 'just people' of all ages. They don't have a bolt stuck through their noses or Ziggy Stardust makeup and they are not wielding pieces of the highway furniture. They are just there as maybe they are thinking 'we have to do something and this is the best on offer on the 15th May 2019 as the clock ticks down and the Oceans warm up.
So I think forward: where is this one going. We're going to have massive traffic disruption and a news story based on super glued protesters being dragged up the street by high vis Police Officers. What I don't think is that Notre Dame is going to burn down halfway through the week finally punctuating the painful pages of Brexit. We love France and want them to have their Cathedral back. I watch the news and the fire and then the next feature from the West End of London where we have the view of the Black Cab driver and for once I feel sorry for them. Their new battery cabs bought for vast sums are idle (better than idling .. those old diesels do stink no matter what your views on all of this) They do however offer a similar story every time anything happens here and its based on misery and depression, only this time its static misery and depression which is bad news if you are hanging on there in the back listening to it all whilst trying to plot a route to Heathrow on the tube. Then I see my protesters being lifted into a Police van
I start to shoot more pictures and my working mode takes over ... 'just shoot the pictures' forget everything else' the fish the reef the lot, just shoot the pictures, and when I come to edit what I have shot later that evening I see more or less what is below. On Tuesday I go to Waterloo Bridge and I have 'Waterloo' on my headset (You can't blame Abba for all of this). I'm introduced to someone who has super glued their hand to a truck. This one has me thinking. On Wednesday I do Oxford Circus which brings us to now and I'm out of time on this for this week at least.
Next we will have the Climate Wars; More inconvenience as the pumps run dry and there's no tuna left: Or maybe in 2019 we are ready for the big change as we sit in the queue of traffic with the pissed off cat thinking ... maybe I should join them, Jacks no Vegan but neither's that big white poodle.
Travel Photographer: Mayfair London.