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That Christening...

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In his weekly Ward's World column, John Ward looks back at his days as an event photographer...

It was a chance encounter the other day with somebody who mentioned something in passing that reminded me that with Christmas approaching, that comedy for me was ‘on the festive menu’ before the event itself some years ago.

At the time I was performing in my wedding photographer role plus anything else that twitched basically got snapped that produced “a wonderful photographic image of the event to cherish forever” as one client put it – I was more down to earth and considered that I just popped along and clicked the shutter, but there you go.

Columnist John Ward (53713340)
Columnist John Ward (53713340)

I was asked once if I enjoyed doing the job (!) and the answer being yes but it was not the sort of ‘nine to five’ and clockwatching sort of thing as you need a certain attitude considering what the occasion is and importantly required of you to which the person replied that he was “thinking about giving it a bash myself” which sounded encouraging to say the least.

It was mind numbing that somebody was “thinking of giving wedding photography a bash” as it means dealing with a couple’s ‘big day’ and not just something to bore your chums with in the pub later.

I then explained I liked commercial – or industrial – photography as it was more controlled as in my experience I found that you didn’t have to ask, say, a rotational plastic moulding machine to smile, get its finger out of its ear or face the right way round as it was a static object so I didn’t have to waste time talking or instructing it to do as required.

Anyway, enough of the boring stuff: I had photographed a couple’s wedding and like most of the other engagements that came my way I was then referred to a friend of theirs who wanted somebody to attend their child’s Christening to record the happy moment but it was intriguing to think there would be a ‘happy moment’ but like all engagements, you thought positive – at times it was quite hard, believe me, based on past encounters at such occasions.

One event I attended was much like an Ealing comedy as the term raving madhouse could have applied quite easily – half the guests or section of one of the families turned up at the wrong church (yes, really) but once they arrived at the ‘right one’ or where we were all assembled and waiting, it was then cries of “sabotage!” or “this is the sort of thing her lot gets up to!” but they were more vocal with earthy language-wise so I have cleaned it up a bit.

What intrigued me was the fact that somebody went to the other church instinctively to see if they were there, so just how did they know where to look as there were three other churches to pick from in the area? So I attended this one with not really knowing the people involved as this was really at short notice, other than it was a referral situation: with weddings I met the bride and groom weeks/months or years beforehand to meet or know them but importantly to find out what they wanted etc, otherwise it could be a rather demanding time for all concerned ‘on their big day’ ultimately.

I arrived at the christening early and got the general impression that everybody involved, from families, relations and friends (plus their milkman) were all present but there was only the one venue booked as in the church so no sending out scouts to bring the lost and bewildered in as before.

The Christening went as planned both inside and outside the church as far as the photography side was concerned with the vicar being really helpful and telling me or suggesting where I should be for the ‘best viewpoints’ based on his past experiences – a really nice, helpful chap, I thought.

However, the bubble soon burst as we got to the venue after leaving the church as from the polite crowd they were at the church, it was like a first day January sale with a discreet shout of: “Get in there girl and find out where the booze and grub tables are!” being very memorable, hence you reading it now.

Once the advancing hordes had all got in – plus Terry their milkman – and sorted out who wanted what sandwiches plus the pineapple chunks impaled on cubes of cheese by toothpicks, the fast shrivelling up slices of pork pie and the jar of gherkins nearly empty, it was about half of an hour after this circus that the focus was actually on the newly Christened child or “Wotsit” as one guest called the baby – and he was an uncle.

One of the guests was heard to say: “Had our Marjory been here, her butterfly cakes would have knocked them for six,” but sadly they missed out on Marjory’s baking as she had died three years previously so perhaps had the best excuse for not being there.

This was now the part of the proceedings where said baby was handed around like some surreal game of ‘pass the parcel’ with the traditional game of assorted family based phrases being uttered as: “Well! – Whose eyes does she have then?” to “I can see she will take after her father, that one!” (?!) but that observation was based upon the baby having her nappy changed.

The nappy changing involved one of the grandparents wading into action with those immortal words that seemed to sound like a medieval battle cry: “Right then! – Just let ME show you how you do it properly! It worked for your Nigel and you married him, my girl!”

The room rapidly filled with a white fog as the baby powder was flung around in the air like confetti at, well, a wedding but in this case it seemed it was much like the whole can of it had to be used up in one session but Terry the milkman said it looked like a sand storm in a film he saw once.

Next somebody said as this was a week before Christmas, could this be an “omen”but this was dismissed by one of the grandparents who said it was due to a cancellation by some club or other who wanted the centre, so I finished taking the photographs and left before another jar of gherkins arrived.

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