Saturday, 6 February 2016

Photocard faff

I begin my two-week stint as a juror on Monday 8th February, and I've been making some preparations. There are five main things to consider:

# Getting to the Crown Court at Hove.
# What to wear.
# Eating and drinking during the day.
# Passing the time when hanging around.
# Things the Court Rules prohibit.

I'll cover the travel aspect - the guts of this post - further on.

What to wear might seem obvious: comfortable things. And yet I want to make a good impression, and be taken seriously. So I think it would be a mistake to dress too informally. On the other hand, I don't want to look like Lady Melford turning up in her best frock to watch the polo at Cowdray Park. I'm thinking then of the sort of clothes that would be OK in a smart office environment.

I've had fair warning that catering facilities at Courts will be meagre. I suspect that there will really only be some kind of vending machine. The Court notes for jurors admit that there are no handy lunchtime eateries just round the corner. So a yummy packed lunch would seem essential. I've been getting in a store of cold meats and so forth for home-made sandwiches. To these I might add an apple or two, and maybe a fruit yoghurt also. All in a plastic lunch box. Plus a bottle of water. Hmm! I'll need to take a shopping bag, as well as my red handbag, to carry all of that.

Passing the time, if not involved in a case on the day, will be a test of endurance! A couple of books to read, then. I began to read Ellis Peters' Cadfael novels a while back, and I've reached number fifteen in a series of twenty that she wrote over the years. I'll probably finish the whole lot in my time at Hove.

The Court bans photography, so the Panasonic camera must be left languishing at home. Nor does it want anyone using a mobile phone, so that will have to be left at home too. But since I refer to my phone for telling the time, I've had to bring my trusty Timex wristwatch out of semi-retirement, and fit it with a new battery. I must also be careful not to take anything sharp with me. So I must leave behind pins, and anything with a point or an edge to it.

As for getting there and back each day, travel by train is the best solution for me, and fits best with what the Court can reimburse in the way of expenses. They are happy to refund the daily cost of a second-class return ticket. I could therefore turn up to my local station every day - early of course - and (to save queueing in the main station buildings on the going-to-London side) buy a ticket from the machine on the going-to-Brighton side. But it would be nicer to have a weekly season ticket, and avoid the scary possibility of missing my train if there are several people in front of me, all wanting to use the ticket machine. Apart from which, I always find machines like that desperately difficult to use - as I do the insane self-service machines in superstores, and some cash dispensers. (I don't think I'm stupid, just human)

Anyway, buying a weekly season ticket two weeks running would save the Court some money, as well as removing a certain amount of hassle from my daily journey. So I enquired at the station two days ago. The cost was about £26. Could I buy one, please?

Ah, not so fast! There were Rules. It was too soon to buy a ticket starting on Monday 8th. I'd have to come back nearer the day. And I'd need a Photocard.

A Photocard? Really? I used to have one of these during my commuting days way back, when I carried an annual season ticket, renewed each year for years on end with the same old Photocard. But creating a fresh one for a short series of rail journeys to Hove seemed over-fussy and unnecessary.

I tottered off, saying I'd be back, but wondering whether I could really be bothered. But of course it was worth bothering with.

They would quickly create a Photocard for me at the station ticket office, but first I'd have to get some passport-sized pictures taken of myself. Now how to do that at minimal cost and trouble? Going to a studio would be expensive. A photo booth, then? But it struck me that I'd not noticed any around for a long time. Perhaps there was one at a big station like Brighton, but offhand I wasn't sure where to look. And when I got the Photo-Me website up, I saw they wanted me to phone them on an expensive number, just to be told where their local booths might be found. I wasn't going to play that money-wasting game. I could of course whizz off on a wild goose chase, looking for a photo booth at shopping centres, or in a superstore perhaps, but that seemed a senseless waste of car fuel.

Besides, I remembered that photo-booths used to turn out mediocre results that at best made people look like convicts, or at least desperately ill. Perhaps the modern booth did it all digitally, and the results would be more flattering. But how much would a set of pictures cost? £5? More perhaps?

So I decided to do my own pictures. Just as I had when applying for my last passport in 2010. I couldn't quite remember the precise technique, but it could be rediscovered. And at least I'd have some decent shots from it. One or two little prints of myself, 35mm by 45mm, were all I needed.

It was in fact all simple and obvious. I pegged up a cream king-sized duvet cover as the required neutral backdrop, and placed a chair in front of that, with myself facing the Panasonic (tipped 90 degrees) on a tripod, focus set manually, and a ten-second self-timer.

My camera didn't have a flip-up back panel, so it wasn't possible to remain seated and see what kind of shot would be taken of myself. I had to get the manual focus right by trial-and-error, leaping up and down several times until satisfied. It was harder than you might think. The light level indoors this morning around 10.30am wasn't brilliant, and I was having to to use full aperture - f/1.7 - which meant a shallow depth of field and critical focussing. But eventually I got it spot on, and took a series of shots with a straight face and minimal reflection in my glasses. This was the best result:

I've noted before that a plain red top is good for pictures like this. I cropped in to arrive at the end product:

Finding how to print at the right size was not obvious, but I managed it. And so, as I go to bed, I have three little pictures just like the one above to take to the station tomorrow. They will presumably use one of them, leaving me with two spares.

I do hope, after all this effort, that they find no fault with that shot, and accept it as a true likeness and good enough for their precious Photocard. I shall feel seriously miffed if they don't.

To end, I'll show for comparison my 2010 passport photos. Bear in mind that I was six years younger, decidedly thinner, and that the designer glasses I wore then did me no favours:

Gosh, I looked awful - sunken cheeks, bad hair. All you can say is that the 2010 me had smaller bags under the eyes, and some sort of waist. But you know, despite being overweight, I vastly prefer the 2016 version!

1 comment:

  1. I vastly prefer the 2016 version! So do I! I do hope that, after this inordinate amount of effort, they give you some interesting cases to cogitate.


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