Playing detective on my own past

I’m busy scanning some negatives from nearly 30 years ago. Now, it’s not uncommon to find things in old photos or negatives that you don’t really remember. But this batch of scanning is particularly bad for that because this is from a time of my life I spent a while trying to forget.

It’s not that it wasn’t a fun period — it’s just that it ended badly, and that tainted it for me for years. Yes, inevitably, it marked my first big relationship breakup, my first real heartbreak. And yes, I left that rather late: most people get that unpleasant experience over with before their early 20s. But it also was marred with fractured, difficult politics in the Student Union I was working with that made my last few months there stressful and unhappy.

I got my first job, moved away, and threw myself into a new life, severing ties with that period for a couple of years.

Oh, and I buried the photos and negs from those years completely away from the rest. I wanted to forget. I preferred not to throw away those images. But I wanted to avoid seeing them.

But now, 30 years on, it’s all good. And when I found them hidden in a box of old hardbacks, I was positively excited to see them again. This rather silly photo of me was one result.

The inexplicable photos

But then these photos started emerging:

A chest of drawers in a Sardinian bedroom

A… chest of drawers?

That’s the sort of photo I might start a film with, or end it. But in the middle? Odd.

And then, a rather generic flower pic:

A flower in a Sardinian villa garden

This is not the sort of thing I cared about photographing back then. And I don’t seem to have any prints of these images. It wasn’t like me to chuck photos away.

And a view of the garden of the villa we were staying in?

A villa garden in Sardinia

What the hell was I thinking? Not something I’d shoot — but not something I’d chuck away, either. And this is nearly half a film’s worth of inexplicable images.

I was a student back then: buying and developing film was expensive. None of this made any sense.

The clue that cracks the case

And then, right in the middle of these inexplicable images, I find this:

Adam Tinworth in Sardinia in the early 90s

A photo of me.

And then the penny drops. These photos weren’t taken by me.

I had clearly lent my camera to my girlfriend of the time, who was taking photos of the state of the villa and its grounds to send to her parents. It was their property we were staying in, after all.

That’s what I don’t have any prints — I clearly gave them to her.

A small mystery solved, a small piece of my past reclaimed.


Bottoming out

On Wednesday morning, I hit a low. My family has been lucky during the pandemic — none of us have caught the virus (as far as we know), and we haven’t lost anyone. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been an impact. For me, the main impact has been on my mental health. 

The near-destruction of my business a year ago has shaken me profoundly. It’s eroded my sense of self-confidence more than it should have, and left me prone to bouts of bleakness. I hesitate to call it “depression”, because I don’t have a diagnosis, and I know people have it a lot worse than I do. But it’s there, I need to acknowledge it and learn to live with it, because I don’t think it’s going away any time soon. 

Some frustrations that morning — a couple of pieces of work I thought were in the bag turning out to be far less so — sent me spiralling downwards. One situation in particular felt like a very personal rejection, and was probably what triggered my bleak mood. I can still feel it haunting me a couple of days later. 

I had to pull away from social media — Twitter especially — for a while, because it’s not good for me at the best of times. I toyed with the idea of starting to look for a job again — something I haven’t done seriously for nearly a decade.

Living self-employment

And then, I remembered that I am self-employed, and that I am so for a reason. I really am my own boss, and I can take time off if I need it. I declared the rest of the day a mental health day for myself, and took myself off to Worthing to do a couple of chores. 

Once they were done, I gave myself permission to just wander, explore. To see new places I hadn’t seen before, something I haven’t really done in over a year now. I followed the main street in Worthing far beyond where I’ve every gone before, and after I passed the tertiary retail and the empty units, I started finding some interesting wee shops off the side-streets. 

Found, a shop in Worthing

Badgers Books in Worthing

And, my goodness, did I feel better afterwards. I hadn’t realised how much I missed exploring for its own sake, going new places and finding new things.

That made me realise that maybe I need to rebalance my time again. As a natural result of the pandemic-driven downturn in my business and the lockdowns, my world had pretty much shrunk to my work, my family and my neighbourhood. It’s not any slight on those three — all of which I love — to say that I clearly need a little more than that in my life right now. 

Perhaps, if I invest a little bit more time in things I enjoy, and in some of my personal projects, I’ll be a lot less vulnerable to bad days in the the day “job”. 

It’s certainly worth a try.