You might ask if I ever had a disaster. Thankfully, only once. I had taken several motor garages around the county for an advertising feature. I failed to press a lever to protect the film when I changed lenses on the old Mamiyaflex I was using. Luckily I was able to go back and do them again. But I did have a near disaster. A picture was needed of a large round table in the middle of the conference hall at Templeton College when it was on the Kennington site. With help I rigged up a camera in the ceiling and used a fisheye lens. After I’d finished I put my stuff on the roof of my car to search for my keys. Back home I realised I had left the lens behind. No, they said, I had definitely taken it with me. My heart sank. The lens was incredibly expensive. Half an hour later Mac, one of the Oxford Mail photographers, rang. He said: ‘I hear you were using the fisheye lens today. Have you lost it?’ Amazingly, he had seen the casing glinting beside the roundabout on the Southern Bypass, recognised it, parked on the verge and retrieved it. How spooky is that?
I was doing some work for the Minns building firm in the Botley Road. They wanted me to take my stills and cine cameras to a site in Appleton where they were building a little estate of prefabricated houses being put up in a week. I had to show the progress twice a day. Interesting, as it was a novel idea then. Later they asked me go to the stately home Longleat where the firm was helping to build up the tourist facilities in 1966. After photographing the new dining room they suggested we go home through the new safari park. I was in Michael Minn’s very nice sports car. We were admiring the wildlife when suddenly we realised we had a lion clinging to the soft top. I could see the claws actually coming through the material. We tried all ways to shake him off. Luckily in the distance we spotted a ranger who managed to call for reinforcements. They surrounded us with their vehicles and enticed the lion off our roof with some food. Needless to say all soft-top cars were banned from the safari park from then on.
I had a friend who was a wedding photographer. He lost a whole day’s pictures. He hadn’t bolted the door of his darkroom and someone walked in when he was developing his films. A nightmare. He was so traumatised he asked me to mock up some more pictures of the bridal party, when the not so happy couple returned from their honeymoon. He never did another wedding. Occasionally I did press pictures of newsworthy weddings like Agatha Christie’s son and several friends twisted my arm but I never enjoyed them. It involved interrupting the flow of the wedding to get good pictures.