Tales of the unexpected with a Rolleiflex T

by Jim Graves on 25 June 2011 -

Rolleiflex T

Technology’s remorseless and rapid advance ensures that one decade’s marvel becomes the next decade’s period piece.

There was a time when the classic TLR was an object of envy. To judge from this year’s experience I fear that my venerable TLR has become an object of curiosity. But thereby hangs a tale, several tales in fact.

On my way to a market in my local town recently, I heard sniggers from a passing youth and it was apparent that the sight of my Rollei was the cause of his hilarity. I’d made his day it seemed.

Reaction of a different sort occurred at a steam railway weekend. Admittedly steam railways attract their fair share of odd characters and there are probably more film cameras to the square yard at a gala steam festival than anywhere other than a camera fair, but not many Rolleis. I have come to dread the guy who looks one’s way and utters the words “I used to have one of those, but I sold it” He clings to one like a limpet for ten minutes telling me that he bets I get better pictures with a Rollei than he does with his digital, and so on…

Not so long ago, on foot, I paused at a busy crossroads carrying my Rollei with its front flap down. The sight of my camera had stirred nostalgia in a driver who had stopped at the lights. Unbeknown to me, he had wound down his window and tried to attract my attention. The sound of honking from other drivers first drew my attention. The lights were at green, but the driver wanted to have a chat. Who needs an ex-prime minister to stop the traffic I thought!

A less hazardous occurrence took place when I was travelling home on a near empty bus. A lady on the opposite side crossed the gangway, sat down next to me and drooled over my Rollei. Out of politeness I showed how it worked but there was a nagging doubt in my mind that I was on the receiving end of a subliminal version of the mating call. I was glad to get off the bus!

This Christmas I shall be in London and I shall renew my acquaintance with an octogenarian who to his credit still revels in, to quote Harold Wilson, “the white heat of the technological revolution”. In practice this means that I shall have to submit like the wedding guest in the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and be shown his latest pocket gizmo. I shall hear how this marvel of digital technology can surf the Internet; find me the satnav route to Vladivostok; give me a certain winner for the 2.30 at Newmarket; suggest a cure for haemorrhoids and tell me the time of the last bus to Muswell Hill. I shall listen patiently, making suitable flattering remarks. When he has finished I shall say in all innocence: ”Ah, but can it cause a near pile up of traffic at a crossroads and help one get lucky on a Stagecoach bus?”

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