Hounslow revisited

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Forty-three years ago I stood more or less exactly on this same spot working on a mildly novel process to produce the dye for the blue-rinse vital to the elderly ladies of Tory persuasion, along with running tests on Kipper Brown, the kind of chemical nightmare that put me off those fish for many years (and according to Wikipedia, is banned in the European Union – except for the UK – Australia, Austria, Canada, United States, Finland, Japan, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Norway.)

Among the workers on the factory floor were quite a few Sikhs, and in the packing department in particular they could be found stained every colour under the sun depending on which particular product they were handling. I don’t know if it was Health and Safety laws or simple economics that led to the closing of the factory – I returned rapidly to twentieth century chemistry elsewhere, though there had been a certain fascination in handling dyestuff samples in bottles signed personally by Sir William Henry Perkin, the founder of the modern chemical industry with his synthesis of mauveine, the first synthetic dyestuff, in a crude laboratory at his home Cable Street in 1856 when he was only 18 – though our samples were from his later works at Greenford on the sometimes curiously coloured Grand Union Canal.

For whatever reason, the dyestuffs factory is long gone, and in its place is the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, and I was there to photograph their Vaisakhi celebrations.  I walked in, took off my shoes, put on a saffron rumāl (headscarf – something extra for my camera bag at this time of year) and went to the Gurdwara office and told them I would like to take photographs in the Gurdwara. Of course, they said, that’s fine. You can photograph anything you like, anywhere. If only everywhere was like that.

And it was true, I could, and everyone seemed to like being photographed. You can see the results on My London Diary in Vaisakhi in Hounslow.

It was hard to refuse all the food I was offered and by the time I’d finished taking pictures I was rather full, and I hate to think what my blood sugar was, although I did refuse most of the sweets.  Working with the SB80DX was a little tricky too, and not all the flash exposures were exactly what I expected. The last time I was without an i-TTL flash unit I managed to work out a fairly reliable method to do it, and I really should have revised from my Using Your Existing Flash with a Nikon before leaving home!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.