Twenty - five years ago I was taken out of primary school in London and went with my mother to my grandmother's cottage in Scotland. Whilst there, I had to do exams sitting at my grandmother's table supervised by whomever happened to be around, with an old Bakelite alarm clock as the timer.
It was boring not only for me, but for my mother and grandmother, and they decided (rebels as they were) that instead of doing a whole three hours at once, I could do 40-minute bursts. So the rest of the time was spent reading, playing with a model boat, or hitting a ball attached with a rope to a pole. That summer I learnt to make a bow and arrows out of hazelwood, mend a broken boat mast, play tennis (alone), love reading, and hate scrabble. While I pressed flowers, my mother managed under the hypnotic spell of summer, maternal love, and her own mother’s perseverance, to get up the hill in front of the cottage, marking her return to health.
I look back at that summer with love and anxiety. Apparently I was my mother's shadow and would not leave her alone for a second. Which is why she probably bought me so many books, the tetherball pole, and allowed me to use her camera: a Vivatar 110. She must have wanted to breathe for a minute without my anxious face always at her side. Once my exam sessions were over, my mornings were completely free again, and I would wander through the woods, down to the loch, back up the hill, and down again via a waterfall.
I saved my camera film for the best thing I found: amanita muscaria, or in layman's terms, a small red toadstool. This discovery occupied me for two weeks. I was completely convinced that fairies would appear near it, and I was going to document them when it happened. I took 24 pictures of the toadstool going from a tiny speck through to its decay. Most of the pictures were terrible: shaky, unfocused, underexposed, and the only unexplained occurrence was an occasional finger in front of the lens. None contained a fairy, but of all the terrible photos on that first roll of film, this is the one I choose to recognize as my first ever photo.