For decades, my father stopped off in the pub on his way home from work for a pint or two and a pipe. More recently, since his retirement - over twenty years ago now - he took to going out from home, either driving to a pub near Wimbledon Common, or waling up the road to the Swan or, more frequently, the King of Denmark, for his drink and smoke and a quiet read - anything from Henry James to - today - a P. D. James novel. But the King of Denmark is now defunct and boarded up, and the Swan full of guys watching soccer on TV and playing video games and Being Loud. So now he's taken up residency for an hour every evening in a space that he's cleared at the end of the over-crowded garage.
This is, in fact, a posed photograph - not that he hadn't been sitting in precisely this position, but when I dared enter the sanctum, it was to tell him that a neighbor had called round to see if he would cat-sit this weekend (the delectable Bear and Thistle), and I had to ask him if he'd stay in position whilst I (camera in hand - I was in the middle of photographing my parents' own new cat) took a picture of him. It's deliberately taken from behind, to emphasize the self-contained nature of this nightly retreat, but nonetheless it's a collaboration, a piece of British quirky suburbia that's a far-distant relative of Larry Sultan's photographs of his parents. I can well imagine my father - like Sultan senior - saying very gruffly that this isn't him - it's my version of him. Which is indisputably true - what, though, isn't apparent without the accompanying narrative that I've given here is that although I've seen him retreat (wearing an old duffle coat in winter), and have smelt pipe tobacco seeping thickly into the house, this is, in fact, the first time that I've intruded on this privacy.