The abbey is known for its many carved decorative details, including likenesses of saints, dragons, gargoyles and plants. On one of the
abbey’s stairways is an inscription by John Morow, a master mason, which
says, Be halde to ye hende (“Keep in mind, the end, your salvation”). This has become the motto of the town of Melrose. She looks pretty good for being born in 1146!
There is a bench on Byres Road which is usually occupied by old men, and I’ve found that, whenever I have half an hour to kill in the area for whatever reason, sitting and listening to them talk is a worthwhile way to spend it.
Tommy’s stories were largely of his time in the army and his memories of the war.
“I’m not just a hairy face, you know. I’ve seen me sitting here and people coming over and putting a ten pound note in my hand, like I’m a beggar! … History is my subject, I did my degree in it. I’ve studied it. I’ve lived it! I was born on the day that Lenin died (that makes him 86 in 2011). Everything you see around us now, it’s all history to me.”
“I’ve travelled all over the world, over eighty countries. But that’s all past me now. Of course, I’d love to travel still, see all the beautiful chicks, but I can barely raise my little finger these days, let alone my… well, that’s all done now. Maybe a boat to Orkney or something.”
We were for a time joined by another old chap whose breath smelt like alcohol and vanilla. I must have looked out of place, sat quietly between them while they waved their canes and argued loudly about history and politics, and certainly some passing pedestrians and drivers stuck in traffic seemed to find the spectacle amusing. When the other man left - “I’ve got to get to this fucking bank” - Tommy remarked “Oh, here we go! A bank! He’s one of Maggie Thatcher’s men.”
This photograph is really more an exercise in postprocessing than anything else: I was photographing into direct sunlight, and so to bring out the tones and the detail here was a hell of a task. Perhaps I’ve overcooked it, but it’s the best I could do.