2 April 1994, London
It had been many months since I had seen my Susie. She was visiting from Dublin where she was working as a nanny and taking advantage of the wild 90s club scene there. Up until yesterday, I would have described her as a “party girl” but having only just learned this has pejorative connotations, courtesy of an episode of Madmen, I had better not. She has always loved people, fun and up until recent years, big eyebrows. Stop the plucking and bring ’em back, Sue-poo, I miss them.
This is the first of many occasions when I have been photographed in a photobooth with my darling baby sister. We were at the post office at Charing Cross on our way to meet our parents, who were visiting London for the first time together. We each took two of the strip of four pics.
Del was my landlady in London. She is also Rosie’s mum. Del took in boarders for many years. I think I was the only one they were never quite able to get rid of. Living with the Holbrooks meant fraternising with diverse people through a succession of boarders of many nationalities and with their friends from all over the world. Del and her spouse, Lindsey, were the epitome of hospitality and generosity, often, with patience and humour, putting up with the foibles and troubles of, mainly female, under 25 year old strangers.
I cannot list how many times Del collected me or dropped me at train stations or airports and offered me other kindnesses and support. In 1989, I contracted hepatitis from another boarder who had just returned from Africa. I was admitted to a distant hospital, yet with all Del had on her plate as a mother of two young kids, I received regular visits from her. I was at Hither Green in the infectious diseases isolation ward. One day she brought the kids, Ros and Rich, with her. They were only allowed to stand outside the door and wave as I was still in quarantine. It was such a lovely gesture and a massive boost to my morale. Also, due to her thoughtfulness, I did not die of starvation on the ghastly NHS rations and was also saved from 10 days of boredom due to her lending me a tiny portable TV. All that love, along with magical Christmasses, birthdays and many other fun experiences plus their continuing friendship, makes me count all the Holbrooks as a very special part of my extended family.
April 1994, London
I had finished my studies in Annecy and was back in the UK to get a new French visa and find myself another job, aiming for a situation in Paris, doing what, I wasn’t yet sure. Moana was also back in the UK and working in Blackpool in her profession of journalism. We met up in London so I could catch up on all the gossip that hadn’t been revealed in the copious long letters we had written to each other in the previous 9 months.
Home was once again West Norwood. I was accepted back into the Holbrook fold where I was relishing the friendship and comforts that always welcomed me there and the fun and games that living with two kids always offered.
This strip of Moana and I was taken at Oxford Circus tube station on April Fool’s Day. It must have been windy as both of our “coifs” are standing on end in a bizarrely similar way. What else was achieved that day? I have no idea. Whatever it was, what mattered, for we erstwhile Latin American adventurers, was that we did it together.
These two strips of undated photos from my mysterious French lady show her with the second and last of her lovers in the series of photos in my collection. Is this the man she stayed with? She certainly looks very happy with him.
I first met Rosie in London, when she was 7 years old. I was one of the many boarders from around the world that her mum took in. Although none of the above photos are dated, the second pic is how I remember her looking at that age. Ros came to visit me in Australia when she was 16, for a one month stay and we catch up via email and whenever I visit London. I think of her as my second little sister and love her dearly. When she was ten or eleven she gave me a new nick name, Kitty. Ros was the first person to call me that, which I found delightful! She more often calls me Kit-Kat these days.
Now in her early thirties, Ros is newly married and a successful academic. She still has the same cheeky sparkle in her eyes that she did when she was little.
Part of my fascination with photobooth photos is that they are one of very few types of informal photography that consistently isolates the image almost exclusively to the sitter’s head and shoulders. Therefore any changes to the person that have happened over time are immediately apparent. The images condense these changes over a period of months, years or decades and each set becomes a personal time machine. Sometimes the changes, from one shot to another, are minute or only apparent in changing modes of clothing, hair and occasionally, make-up. In other sequences of photos, the jump from one image to the next could be twenty years or more, showing the ravages of time or the subtly developing features of experience and maturity, depending on your perspective.
The category Photobooth Images 1973 to Present is my time machine. For everyone else, I have a new category showcasing small progressions of change over time, of friends, family and other unidentified people from my vintage collection as they grow, develop and evolve.
Here is my lovely French lady once again. I gave up trying to guess what order the photos were taken, so have just selected them randomly. I don’t think it really matters what order we see them in. She is photogenic and interesting in any of her snaps, no matter when they were shot. There are two more strips to show you before the big reveal about how she came back into my life. Stay tuned!
These are the last two strips of my beguiling femme fatale. Tomorrow I will conclude this series with how ma belle dame mystérieuse re-entered my life earlier this year.
February 1994, France
When this photo was taken in Argenteuil, which is just outside Paris, I had been studying French for 4 months. It has been so long since I used that language that every word I drag from my memory, I now doubt. Is “vivant la bonne vie” the correct way to saying “living the good life”? No matter, as I really was! Living as a student again, so soon after the experiences of Guatemala, was a great joy. I was meeting wonderful people, speaking mostly French and flying through my exams with top marks, not to mention the availability of wonderful culinary indulgences that the country has to offer. To supplement my income I was again making greeting cards, but instead of spruiking my wares to gift shops, I found a ready market in my fellow students.
This photo was taken on my way to visit a family friend of Del Holbrook, Georges. I bought the tulips for him and gave him one of the photos from the strip in exchange for one of his photobooth photos.
I do not know much about tokens for photobooth machines but they are highly sought after by collectors. They were used to replicate the size and weight of an American coin in countries where they were not used as currency i.e. everywhere other than the USA. I presume it saved the manufacturers of the booths having to adjust each machine for the varying coin sizes in each destination country. It seems there were many types of token available in each country, this one having been made for the Nouvelles Galeries (now Galeries Lafayette) department store in Paris.