Shadows and Reflections: the annual collection of postings where Caught by the River’s ever-reliable contributors and friends old and new take a look back on the events that have shaped the past twelve months. Today it’s the turn of Mat Bingham:
This has been quite a year for me, I have had some amazing new experiences, met some great new friends and experienced far more sadness than I would have liked.
I started the year in a rented house with my family whilst we renovated the house we had bought. The renovation was carried out by my brother and his friends who did an amazing job whilst I went to work each day and made trips to DIY stores on the way home. Its funny that in my day job managing multi million pound projects to a budget is pretty routine, trying to manage the renovation of our house was an all together much more difficult task. Having to temper my families enthusiasm for the latest fixtures and fittings was so much harder than saying you can’t afford it to a multi national company. Still, the house was finally completed in June with the budget blown by 50%, I would have got my P45 for that at work!
I spent most of my free time at evenings and weekends in the spring and summer in waders waiting for a moment I had seen only once before, a female damselfly completely submerging to lay eggs in a river. Right when I was about to give up and add it to a long list of missed photographs I suddenly got what I wished for. That half hour of summer is still clearly burned on the back of my mind and is one of the highlights of the year for me, something I will always remember.
I turned forty in the summer so I felt I should keep with tradition and have a mini crisis, I decided to take up a new hobby, caving, not to everyone’s taste I know but I like it and I went and got a tattoo.
In July I took a trip to the Isle of Skye, the first time I had been there and it made a big impression on me, it’s an amazing place and one I shall return to. Whilst I was there my granddad passed away, something I was prepared for as he had been fading for a long time and although all my family will miss him dearly in some ways it was a relief for us to not see him suffer any longer.
My granddad was fond of picnics so our family decided we would hire a canal boat one Saturday in September and have a picnic in memory of him. We had a lovely time messing about on the river, my granddad would have had fun if he been there and it was something my dad had always wanted to do.
The day after that canal boat trip my dad collapsed and died at home leaving my mum heartbroken. Dad was always the one we went to for advise, he was optimistic, nothing got him down, even cancer earlier this year didn’t dampen his sprits. He had beaten the cancer so things were on the up, or so we thought. People tell you that grief gets easier with time. It doesn’t feel that way to me, maybe the people that say that are just stronger than I am.
I have thrown myself into work since that day in September to distract me and as the weeks fly by, Christmas is looming. The 25th December is my son’s birthday so I know I will have to make an effort for him but its hard without dad around, he always loved Christmas.
I have been working on some new ideas for photography projects for next year. My granddad left me some land in his will which appears to have come with its very own Barn Owl which should give me a unique photographic opportunity. He is a truly wild Barn Owl with no rings on his feet and gaining an insight into his life for me is a really exciting prospect. I also have a trip planned to photograph Mountain Hares in Scotland next February, which will be a new one for me.
The passing of my dad has made me realise that I need to focus on the people that are important to me and make the most of every day. I have decided I can’t put off any longer the things that I have always wanted to do. As I write this I also have a web browser open looking at the cost of trips to the Himalayas.