Back to normal life?

The arena is empty and receiving a good dose of watering

The arena is empty and receiving a good dose of water

The last few weeks have rushed past in a blur of taking photographs, selecting, editing and uploading images to various online albums, drafting articles and posting blog updates about the Cape Town Military Tattoo 2014, and re-connecting with many of the amazing folk who work tirelessly for long hours behind the scenes to make this glorious spectacle happen, often for no reward other than the satisfaction of a job well done and the joy of being part of something bigger.

In-between, one has to squeeze in preparing meals, feeding the cat – and the husband, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, watering the wilting pot plants, picking up bare essentials from the shops, and trying to clear one’s inbox of an avalanche of non-Tattoo-related emails.

Now that the Tattoo is finished, and the last of the photos have been assessed, deleted or edited, and forwarded to the relevant people, I feel almost bereft.

It’s not as though my work is finished yet – there are still blogs and articles to write about the 2014 Tattoo and about some of the other events that happened at the same time (i.e. a Remembrance Day service at the Red Cross hospital, a poppy run at Fort Ikapa, and the unveiling of a special plaque at the Castle to commemorate Victoria Cross recipients…). Never mind my actual work, which was put on the back burner for the duration of the event.

And yet…

I miss having tea and chatting with my fellow photographers Brent and Lorraine at the Castle before the start of the show, finding out from the friendly production team and sergeant majors whether there were any changes to the acts, and strategising our optimal positions, given that we all have different cameras and lenses and photographic preferences.

I miss going walkabout with my mates to capture some images of whatever was happening – whether it’s the arrival, announced by an escort of sirens, of the 25-pounder guns of the Cape Field Artillery Saluting Troop, or the arrival of the heroic white shepherd dog Goofy and his fellow sniffer dogs, or supper in the mess tent or the dining room with the performers, crew and officers.

They indicate where the seating stands stood

The dry patches indicate the locations of the seating stands and ramps

I miss standing quietly on one of the roofs overlooking the arena, watching the spectators arriving and finding their seats, and feeling the mounting buzz of pre-show excitement. I miss talking with the many friendly people I met at the event – from ushers and security guards, musicians and performers, to NCOs and high-ranking officers.

I miss the sense of anticipation, as the hands of the clock moved closer to 20h00 – and the start of the show. And I miss coming home at the end of another long night, with my head full of memories and storage cards full of images.

I headed down to the Castle at mid-morning of the Monday after the final performance, in the hope of taking some post-Tattoo photos of the team from Gearhouse dismantling and removing the seating stands and 3 Electrical Workshop taking down their lights and loudspeakers… Much to my amazement, the front arena was already empty.

They must have come in early on Sunday morning, when everyone was at the Remembrance Day parade in front of the Cenotaph in Heerengracht, pushed a button or two, and collapsed everything into neat piles for transport. I know, it took more than pushing a button or two. But they sure were quick!

As the first tourists and visitors of Monday morning milled around, ground crew from the Castle were busy watering the grass that had been damaged by the motorcycle act and crushed by the weight of the stands and the lighting towers. They seemed to be manually aerating the patches of flattened and dead grass by means of pitchforks. A couple of the guys I spoke to said that they would be adding fertilizer and lots of water, and they were confident the grass would be as good as new in a short while. And, I suppose, they could always encourage the resident flock of Egyptian geese to do what they do best – eat and… um… fertilize the lawns for free.

Standing on the roof at the Captain’s Tower, I gazed down at the now empty arena. It felt unreal. The only evidence that a spectacular event had been held here just a few days earlier were the small flattened squares of grass dotted all over the arena.

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