Sunday, 10 April 2016

Me and my old college mate, Charlie Windsor

I can trace my interest in photography to when I started at Aberystwyth University in September 1966. I shared digs (Sunny Side, Sea View Place, just in case you were wondering) with, amongst others, a very keen photographer, Howard Bagshaw (currently chair of the Royal Photographic Society), who took me through the basics of do-it-yourself developing and printing. I honed my skills through hours spent in the Photography Club's darkroom buried deep in the cellars underneath the then Theology College on the seafront. Much of what I did is a lifetime away - a technological lifetime as well as a human lifetime. Apertures and shutter speeds, ASA ratings, hard and soft papers; it's all the stuff of museums today. For some reason in early 1969, I ended up taking a series of photographs of those who had put their names forward for election to the position of Lady Vice-President of the Students' Union. I suspect I was the only one they could find at the time who had a camera and who could process the films quickly. I've just come across one of the shots I took almost fifty years ago and, as a bit of portraiture, I don't think it's too bad. The hairstyle, dress and casual cigarette are all dated but have a nice retro appeal. Sadly, I can't remember the subject's name but I do remember that she wasn't the winner. That honour went to Jo somebody or other and all I can recall about her was that she had short-cropped blonde hair and wore an impressive Afghan coat. It's funny what sticks in the mind, isn't it?

I mentioned that they wanted the photographs of the candidates processed quickly and there was a good reason for this. In the spring of 1969 the future Prince of Wales spent a whole term at Aberystwyth as part of a plan by officials to make him seem more in touch with the people of Wales before his actual investiture. During his time in Aber, not only did he learn a bit of the Welsh language but he also managed to irritate a lot of people by the intrusive security that accompanied him. Granted that this wasn't down to him but we felt that he didn't have to go along with all of it. Come on, commandeering the entire beach at Borth so that he could enjoy a dip in peace? Moans aside, the interest in the Lady VP's came from the fact that the winner was going to be his official partner at formal college events. Lucky Jo, we all thought. Sometimes it's best not to be the winner. And, for historical interest, here's a clip of Charlie's arrival at Aber. How times have changed: the cars, the fashions, the students... Don't bother looking for me in the welcoming crowds, I was taking part in a protest sit-in at the time.

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