Play back Posted on December 10, 2012

Remember when we got our first Camcorders? It was in the late ’80s or early ’90s. It was thrilling to be able to film our surroundings so easily without fussing about camera settings. The way the new device adjusted to light conditions was uncanny: you could almost film a rabbit going down its hole.


The results have been standing, all but forgotten, on a bookshelf here for 20 years or so, hard to look at without resurrecting ancient technology. So have our video tapes in different formats, in many cases our only real record of what was happening in the garden at the time.


So we have had them converted to CDs (by a firm called Snappy Snaps) so that we can look at them on the television set or a computer. Even perhaps edit them – if I knew how.

How much better this garden looked 20 years ago. It was in its heyday then, 20 years after planting. Our original intentions were clear, unblurred by failures and over-exuberant successes. Compromise, I’m afraid, leaves indelible traces, and compromise dogs us as we settle into middle age.

But our most exciting rediscoveries are the films I made of our new property in France, lingering lovingly on every detail of abandoned farm buildings, manure heaps, overgrown ponds and rows of hideous telegraph poles. I was so absorbed, it seems, that I forgot to provide any commentary: the pans and zooms are all  performed in solemn silence, broken only by the cuckoo and the nightingale and the tinkling of streams – the perfect soundtrack.

The films record, spasmodically, nearly ten years of development. I even found my tongue along the way, and started to reveal, in a stuttering sotto voce, what plans I was hatching for ponds being dug and streams redirected, copses planted and alleys aligned. I could not have been given a more exciting present than my own past, my projects unfurling, succeeding or failing. Where is that old Camcorder? I must get it out and dust it off. No, I forget: almost any camera can film things today.

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